Amanda walked into French the next morning wanting nothing more than to throw up, but she knew that would be physically impossible given that the last thing she'd eaten was one of Emma's chips at the Barden Grill last night. She'd been too nervous to eat. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to keep lunch down after the examination over worrying of how well or how terribly she'd done. Of all the languages Amanda had mastered, English, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Arabic, even, French had not been one of them. And there she was, studying for hours on end and still being unable to conjugate the verb 'to do'.
When she first looked up at the clock, her heart sunk. Thirty minutes had passed and she was only on the second page. In front of her she could only see rows of headless bodies, pens writing furiously as people raked through their minds to find the one word they hadn't studied - that was always the case wasn't it? The one thing you brushed over but didn't find important enough to put on cue cards always turned up in the test.
In the front row, with his hands folded under his chin and looking out the window, was Bastien. The French student. Amanda had never envied another student's abilities because there'd never been anything on offer for her to desire, but she wanted his brain in that moment. She wanted his ability to write fluently in French and finish the seven pages of translations, conjugations and writing exercises in but a quarter of the time assigned.
Silently groaning, she looked back to her page to where the translations begun.
"Translate the following texts from French to English or from English to French, using usual language and formal conjugations."
Amanda looked at the first question: French to English.
"I know what you are." It was a strange sentence to occur in a test. At least Amanda understood. Quickly, she jotted down the answer, misspelling 'know' in the hurry of getting it down in time. She continued onto the next question.
"I have a secret, too." Amanda paused and looked around. The teacher was having a whispered conversation with the French boy and nobody else seemed bothered by the peculiar translations. Shrugging, she continued on.
"You and your friends think you're safe."
She swallowed, her grip tightening around her pencil as she let her eyes fall onto the next sentence below: "But you're not. I know what you are, Amanda. We all do."
She jumped out of her seat, stumbling into the table behind her. Heads turned and the teacher and Bastien both gave her an odd look, surprised by her suddenly jolt of movement. Her hands were sweating and she gripped the yellow material of the bottom of her dress to stop them from shaking.
Were the sentences some kind of joke? Who was trying to scare her? Maybe she was crazy, maybe she was imagining things because she'd hardly eaten since lunch yesterday. The cold had gotten to her last night and her coat had exposed her neck to the wintery breeze, chilling her from top to bottom. Even her fingers had been cold, despite the pair of gloves she'd worn on the walk home.
'Amanda?' her teacher asked, looking annoyed. 'Is there a problem?'
Well, of course there was a problem! Those sentences were directed right at her, and Amanda and her friends. They were threats, dangerous threats that were probably a result of the loud fight the girls had had in the Grill last night. What if someone had been there and overheard? They hadn't said much, but for curious ears, they'd said enough.
'Erm,' she struggled. 'I . . . suddenly, I don't feel very well. I don't think I can finish the test.'
'Ok, but you'll have to sit it another time. Will you be at school tomorrow?'
She gathered her things quickly, shoving the test into her handbag with trembling hands. She'd never felt so unstable in her own body, like she didn't trust herself with walking in a straight line. Clutching the sides of tables, she stumbled to the front of the classroom. The student's eyes followed her.
Amanda felt the sweat drip down the back of her neck.
'Can I take another test to complete at home?' She looked down at her bag. 'My mind was so blurred through this one that I wouldn't trust my answers. I can get it to you by tomorrow.'
Her teacher smiled and slid her another test across the table, guiding her to the door. Amanda hurried down the corridor, stumbling in her boots as she raced outside for a burst of fresh air. She threw open the doors and tore open the blank test, reading through the translations on the second page.
They weren't the same, though.
"Yesterday, I was eating my mother's chocolate cake when my father yelled at me for not completing my homework." That was the first one. The second one was just as normal, just as bland as the usual sentences in a test.
Someone had made sure that that test had made itself to Amanda's desk. The idea seemed impossible - who could have found out about her and her friends in a world full of people completely unlike her? How had they managed to organise the test to be hers and how in the world had they managed to write in French?