'So, you're saying that somebody knows about us and told this to you through a French exam?' Holland exclaimed, clearly in disbelief. She and Amanda were walking away from school, winding their way through the streets to the Grill for the usual after-school coffee. It was routine for the four girls to meet and to share their experiences of the day, to report anything unusual, but Victoria hardly ever showed. She was left out of most meetings.
Once they'd found a table, Amanda threw her handbag onto the long bench by the window and fished out the two exams - the one with the threatening messages and the one telling the sad story of a girl's everyday routine. Holland scanned them over, her eyes widening at the Amanda's translations.
'"I have a secret, too"?' Holland flipped through the rest of the pages, shoving the test in her friend's face. 'What do the other pages say?'
She gave her a blank look. 'Nothing, I already looked. They just talk about a girl buying stuff at the café and finding her money under the seat in her car.'
'Sounds mind-blowing,' Holland recited, lacking interest. 'What do these messages mean? We need to tell Victoria. This can't be kept from her.'
'Holland,' Amanda said, her eyes wide with worry. 'They know my name. How do they know my name?'
Holland looked at her friend without the words to form an answer. She didn't know how someone knew Amanda's name or how they'd managed to get that test to her desk.
'One double-shot flat white for you,' a male voice announced. 'And for you, Mandy, what would you like? Sorry, but you have to pay for yours. I only have enough money to shout for Holland.'
Matt leant on his elbows, stirring one sachet of sugar into Holland's coffee.
'It's Amanda, not Mandy, and I'm not drinking that.'
'What?' he said, offended. 'I didn't poison it, if you're worried about that.' He paused and ran a hand through his floppy, blonde hair. His eyes fell on the scrambled pages in front of the girls.
'What have we got here? Not cheating on tests are we, Mandy?'
Holland slapped his hand as he reached for the moderated test paper. 'Once again, her name is Amanda and it's just a practice test she needed my help with.'
Matt smirked, winking at her as he turned his head to look out of the window. 'Then why do you look like you just shit a brick? Seriously, I just gave you coffee. I'm not about to waste our first kiss in this clearly, imperfect moment.'
Beside her, Amanda giggled, but Holland just stared at Matt. She was not entertained by his flirting. She found it annoying and a waste of her fragile amount of time, especially with what had happened to Amanda. What did those messages mean for her and her friends? They'd done nothing suspicious, as far as she could remember. Her thoughts wandered to Victoria and her heart sunk. What had she done? Spilt their secret when she was drunk? Accidentally started to fly rather than walk when she got bored?
'I feel sick,' Holland announced, looking worriedly at Amanda. Her stomach was knotted and her head pounded with worry. You and your friends think you're safe. Whoever had plotted and created that test for Amanda could be anywhere, and she had no idea who it was. Maybe it was Victoria who'd done it to scare them - it wouldn't be the first time that she'd pulled a stunt like that.
But it felt different to Holland. It felt real. Victoria couldn't speak French.
'Come on, I was only kidding,' Matt laughed. 'I'm not going to kiss you now, but I will one day. I promise you.'
Holland glared at him from across the bench. 'Keep on wishing, bus boy.'
'The name's Matt. Or you can call me Matty, special admirers privilege.'
'You will never be more than bus boy to me so take back your coffee,' she slid it recklessly across the table so its contents spilled over the sides of the mug, 'and maybe smash it over your head to knock some sense into you, because I'm. Not. Interested.'
'Holland . . .' Amanda began.
'No, Amanda. We are in the middle of a crisis and I am not in the mood for flirtatious bar tenders who happened to just assume that I take sugar in my coffee.' Holland slid off the stool. 'Note to self, bus boy. I don't need sugar to lessen the strength of the coffee.' She smiled evilly. 'I can handle it.'
Matt smirked, throwing his tea towel over his shoulder. He couldn't stop looking at Holland, the way her cheeks reddened as she got angry and the way her chest heaved as she got out of breath.
'But - Where are you going?' Amanda grabbed her own bag. 'It's getting late. It's getting cold.'
'I'm going to look for Victoria. She has to see these papers. I'll take them with me as evidence. Find Emma, give her an apple and explain what happened.'
'Au revoir, ma cherie,' Matt cooed as he turned away and headed back to the bar.
Holland groaned. 'Don't even bother translating. I understood just fine.'
Amanda grinned and followed her out of the Grill. 'I think he's cute. Maybe you should give him a shot. Be a little less Holland for a while.'
'Are you not aware of what just happened to you? This is serious, Mandy.'
She winked. 'You just called me Mandy. Only Matt calls me that.' She poked her playfully in the shoulder. 'You like the way he flirts with you.'
'Excuse me while I go try to convince the inconvincible.'
Amanda snorted. 'Good luck with the beast.'