Lost to the Flames

Meet Rune Oakes: notoriously badly behaved, too smart for her own good, and the new fourth year at prestigious Borthwick Academy Boarding School. But when you're told you're destined to be a murderer, how can you begin to fit in at a school for the best pupils in the country? And even worse, how can you stop yourself from getting close. As Rune tries to stop herself from getting too attached, she becomes caught up in a spiderweb of secrets, magic, and, perhaps most frighteningly of all, love.

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3. A Little Strangeness

 

For Rune, the day was a blur of people, sounds, noises, smells. Hundreds of faces to see and hundreds of names to hear, and a hundred reasons to wish she was back home. But she didn't bother trying to run away - it was useless. The students weren't allowed out of classes, and during the switch overs she could barely even find her way to her next class, let alone out of the school.

 

Truth was, it wasn't as awful as she had thought. Sure, it wasn't home, but it wasn't terrible, and though the work was far harder than she was used to, she managed. She struggled, but she managed.

 

When lunch came, she had gotten lost, wandering the halls, trying to find her way to the dining room again. Her English teacher had held her back to talk to her about work from her old school, and no one had bothered to wait for her.

 

So there she was. Wandering in the halls, her heels clicking on the wooden floor, as she tried to find her way out of the maze that was Borthwick academy. The ceiling above her was painted in one place, decorated with golden flowers and silver leaves, and a smile danced to her eyes.

 

Then, she heard a scream. Startled, she turn around, nearly stumbling over her feet. There was a flash of crimson in the corner of her eye, darting around the corner. She started to move towards the corner, but her heels made too much noise, so she whipped them off, racing around the corner. It was a narrower corridor here, and it didn't look like there were many classrooms.

 

Rune heard voices coming from one room, and so tiptoed quietly towards the door, almost slipping in her tights. Her heart thumped in her chest, an erratic beating that felt like her ribs were going to shatter with the strength of her fear. There was an icy, cold feeling, and it made her skin crawl with goosebumps.

 

"Hunter," a woman's voice hissed from in the room. "I told you to keep a low profile this year, for once."

 

"I was!" protested a boy's voice, which Rune assumed belonged to Hunter.

 

"You nearly tried to kill that girl, Hunter. And you would have done it, too, had I not stopped you. You're stupid, instinctual. Unreliable."

 

A sound of a fist hitting a table raged through the door, and Rune's breathing hitched. "I'm sorry, but she was -"

 

"Not supposed to be hurt, Hunter," the woman's voice snapped. "Now, I want you to go back there, now, and see that girl lying there shaking, and pretend you know nothing. I've already gotten rid of her memory - but you have to play your part, too. Got that?"

 

"Yes, I.." his voice trailed off as Rune started running again, back along the corridor, careful not to make a sound. Around the corner, she put her shoes back on, and went to where she'd heard the scream, finding a crowd already there around the shaking girl.

 

"What happened, dear?" Mrs Anderson asked. "Did someone try to hurt you?"

 

"Y - yes," the girl said, voice quivering in shock. "B - but I can't re - I can't remember who." Tears spilled from her eyes, falling down her red cheeks like waterfalls of terror.

 

"What did they look like?"

 

"They - they, I can't remember, miss, I -" her voice broke into a loud sob, and her eyes fell suddenly onto a boy who had just joined the crowd. He had alabaster skin, and golden hair, and his eyes shone with laughter. And then, the girl fainted.

 

Mrs Anderson's cheeks grew red. Her voice shook in the way that the ground does before an eruption, or perhaps a tsunami. "Whoever has done this to hurt Lindsey, will be found out, and will be punished." She looked as if she was about to burst into tears. "Borthwick Academy does not condone violence, if any sort. Now, lunch is nearly over. Please go to your sixth period class."

 

The crowd dispersed, and Rune took her timetable out of her bag. Sixth period, Monday. Maths, with Mr Stanton. She breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Avery would be in that class with her, even if she wasn't exactly sure where it was.

 

As if he'd heard her thoughts, Avery appeared next to her, grinning. "Serious stuff for a first day," he laughed, though it didn't sound like he found it funny. "Where did you disappear off to?"

 

"Got lost," Rune laughed truthfully. "Now a just hope a can find ma way tae Maths alright."

 

"Ah, yes, Maths. Your favourite class, I know." Avery began to walk, and Rune followed him, heels clicking on the floor. Maybe heels weren't the best shoes for wearing to school, but it was fine - she'd brought another pair of flats with her, anyway. "You know, Mr Stanton is actually a great teacher, once you get to know him. He's one of my favourites."

 

"Well, a guess a will just have to find oot fae maesel' what he's like, won't a?" Rune laughed, which made Avery grin widely.

 

"I'm sure you will. After all, you're sitting next to me, aren't you?"

 

Rune rolled her eyes. "Apparently so, aye."

 

"That's good, then. I always sit at the front."

 

He stopped suddenly, and Rune's shoulder brushed against his slightly, as she stumbled a bit. "Thanks fae the warning," she grumbled, but Avery just grinned wider.

 

"My lady," he laughed, "we have arrived."

 

He swept open the classroom door, like he was some rich gentleman from the nineteenth century. A blush crept along Rune's cheeks, as sly as a viper. "Well, yes, my lord," she said, playing along. "I do suppose that we have." He offered his tanned hand out to her, and she took it with an almost taunting laugh. "Are you going to show me to my seat now?"

 

"Why, of course I am. Anything for you, my lady." She giggled as he led her into the classroom, which she found to be empty. "Now, you'll see we're the first ones here. That's how you get Mr Stanton to like you - get here early, and be prepared. Learnt that after two days."

 

He grinned proudly, drawing out a chair for her. "Oh really? Do you know how to get the other teachers to like you?"

 

"Of course I do. They all have things you can do. For example, Miss Inglis, Chemistry, she loves if you discuss something with her without being asked to, provided it's chemistry related of course. And Mrs Kay, Physics, if you joke with her and do a little extra studying, she'll never say a bad word about you. It's usually very easy to tell, for me anyway, and not just with teachers." He ran a hand through his hair. "Most of the kids here, if you say something about their new watch, and shoes, they'll take you as a mate. Flattery, I guess. Others, help them out, not doing their work, but helping them with it. Everyone wants different things. It's just a matter of working out what those things are, and how to be them."

 

Rune sank into the chair he was standing behind, and turned around to look at him. "What about me? How long's it taken you to work me out?"

 

Avery frowned a little bit, then cleared it by a laugh. "I have an idea, Rune, but I haven't known you for long enough yet. I'll work it out." He glided into the chair beside her, and began pulling his supplies from his bag. Paper and pencils and jitters and pens spilled out across the floor, and he cursed. "Crap," he muttered, bending down to pick his stuff up.

 

"Why do you have zebra pattern pencils?" Rune asked with a laugh, as she knelt to help him clear up the mess.

 

"Don't judge me," he laughed, placing his pens on the desk. "They were, like, fifty pence for a massive pack of them."

 

"Fair enough." Rune stood up, putting Avery's stationery on the desk before she got out her own supplies. By this point, there were a couple of kids hovering about the door, chatting. Avery noticed them, and waved at them with a smile.

 

"Those are the Baker twins; Giselle and Henry. They like friendliness, but not close friendship. Only really talk to each other, but I'm on fairly good terms with them. We did a group presentation in English last year."

 

A smile crossed Rune's lips, as she swung back in her chair. "Do you know what everybody wants, Avery?" she laughed. "You must spend a lot of time observing."

 

"Well, yes," Avery said. "I do. Observing is important in life."

 

Rune thought on that for a moment, as the classroom door swung open, and the Baker twins entered. "Afternoon, Avery," the boy - Henry, Rune remembered - said with a polite nod. The girl, Giselle, smiled at him, crossing the room to where Avery and Rune sat, with an almost swan like grace.

 

"Hello, Avery," she whispered, blue eyes wide and innocent looking. Immediately, Rune didn't trust her. "It's good to see you again. How were your holidays?"

 

Avery looked rather taken aback, and flustered, replied, "Yeah, they were good. What about you?" His cheeks were pink.

 

"Yes, I had fun. Met this boy while on holiday, he was lovely, but sadly things didn't go to plan." She batted her eyelids, laying a pale hand on Avery's desk.

 

"Really?" Avery struggled to say. "How come?"

 

A laugh rose in the back of Rune's throat. "Well," Giselle began to say, voice lilting softly like a song. "I realised there was someone else I liked. Loved, even." She moved her hand over to place it on top of Avery's, as his breathing grew erratic. "Avery, I love you."

 

Out the corner of her eye, Rune could see Henry smirking, and mouthed to him, "Shitebag." He snorted with laughter, as she turned back around.

 

"Giselle," Avery said, voice clumsy and almost tripping over his words. "I - um... Yes. I guess I um.."

 

"Avery," Giselle laughed. "Will you go out with me."

 

There was already more kids piling into the classroom, some of whom were listening in. Avery realised that, turning bright red. "Um... Yes?"

 

Henry wolf whistled, laughing, as he gave Giselle a high five. She grew pink, blue eyes shining with what looked suspiciously like tears. Throwing her arms around Avery, she was just loud enough for Rune to hear her say, "Thank you, Avery. I love you."

 

He nodded, and she unwrapped her arms from around him, turning to flounce to the seat behind them. Much to her visible annoyance, there were two girls already sitting there, giggling. Her shoulders sank slightly, but she went to where Henry stood, a couple of tables away. Rune laughed as she realised Giselle hadn't even bothered asking her name. She rolled her eyes in exasperation, just as the teacher strode into the classroom.

 

In a flurried haste, the class pulled their supplies out, as Mr Stanton surveyed them with beady eyes. His greying hair stuck up in awkward places, and he raised a dark hand to try and fix it. "Welcome back," he said with little enthusiasm, but cast Avery a glimmer of a smile. "You're mostly the same class as last year, but just so you all know, my name is Mr Stanton. These are your seats for the next year, or at least for as long as you avoid annoying me.

 

"I'll put notes up on the board for you to copy down, if you have any questions please raise your hand, but don't speak while I take the register, please. Thank you."

 

Mr Stanton sank down into his chair, and turned on the board, where notes flashed up. Rune frowned as the rest of the class began to copy it down, something about equations of straight lines. She already knew this, but didn't want to raise her hand while Mr Stanton did the register. Something told her that he wouldn't appreciate it.

 

Instead, she nudged Avery, and said quietly, "Av already done this, at ma auld school."

 

Frowning, Avery turned to look at her. "So? Just copy it down, anyway, like you're supposed to."

 

"Okay." Hastily, Rune began to scribble down the notes in the jotter that she'd brought from her old school, the one with its front cover covered in doodles.

 

Mr Stanton finished the register just as Rune was finishing with her notes, and got up in front of the class. Rune thought he was going to explain the notes, but instead he called her name. "Rune Oakes," he said, casting his eyes to her. "You're our new student, aye?"

 

"Aye," she replied, forcing a tight smile. "That's me."

 

"Good. Well, I see you've already made Avery here's acquaintance, but how about you introduce yourself to the rest of our class, hm?"

 

"Um..." Rune's stomach twisted - she didn't want to get up in front of all these kids, all these rich kids from rich families and rich towns. Looking at her. "Sure," she said. "That's cool, I guess."

 

"Great," Mr Stanton smiled, standing the side. "Take the floor, Miss Oakes."

 

Okay, she thought to herself. It's just like acting. I'm cool, I'm collected, I'm calm.

 

She took a deep breath, and stood at the front of the class. "Ma - my - name is Rune Oakes," she told the class, trying to avoid their eyes. "I'm from Liberton, in Edinburgh, and I used to go to Liberton High School. I like acting, dancing, and singing." Her voice shook, as three girls snorted in the back of the classroom. "Yeah, that's me, I guess. Hi." She gave an awkward little wave and ran to her seat, which made Avery suppress a laugh.

 

"That was spectacular, Rune," he laughed, as she rolled her eyes.

 

"Oy, shut up."

 

"Whatever you say."

 

Mr Stanton narrowed his eyes at the two of them, but didn't say anything about it. "Thanks for that, Rune. Now, please play attention while I explain this note."

 

Rune zoned out during his explanation, daydreaming and doodling, while Avery hung on to Mr Stanton's every word. Just as he was telling the class about why this would be useful to them in later life, Avery elbowed Rune in the ribs.

 

"Ow," she hissed, eyes on Mr Stanton, who fortunately was wandering round at the back of the class.

 

"Look, you weren't there at lunch, but we need to talk to you. The three of us, it's about last night."

 

Her stomach swam. "Why do you need to talk to me about that? We've already technically spoken about it. And that's all I want to say about it."

 

Avery sighed. "Then at least just come with us after eighth period - drama, isn't it?" Rune nodded. "Then I'll be there with you, I'll come with you, to the edge of the woods. It's where we usually hang out, don't worry. We're not going to kidnap you or anything."

 

A giggle nearly escaped Rune's lips. "Okay, a guess a'll go then. If yir definitely no gonnae kidnap me."

 

Avery grinned, just as the bell went, and they started clearing up their desks. "What class have you got next?" he asked Rune.

 

"Um, dance, a think. It just says the Dance Studio, but a umnae sure where that is."

 

"Oh, it's not far, I can show you there if you like. And I'll get you and take you to drama, too, if that'd help."

 

"Aye, sure," Rune said. "That'd be great."

 

Giselle flounced over to them then, to beside Avery. "Hi," she said, with a laugh. "What've you got next, Avery?"

 

"Uh, Chemistry, I think, but I've got to walk Rune to her dance class - she doesn't know where it is."

 

"Oh, well, Henry and I will walk with you two, then - I've got dance too, and Henry's got Art." Her brother nodded awkwardly from Rune's left, where she hadn't even realised he was.

 

"Oh, are you a dancer anno?" Rune asked Giselle, smiling.

 

"Yeah, ballet and contemporary mostly. My parents were massive ballet fans, named me after a ballet, in fact."

 

"Aye, a could tell." Rune smiled at Giselle again, as she leant towards Avery, who wrapped an awkward arm around her. "Ave done some ballet anno, but a dae loads ae tap and jazz. Am in musical theatre."

 

Giselle unwrapped Avery's hand from around her shoulders, as they arrived at a door which read: Changing Rooms - Dance Studio.

 

"This is us, Rune," she said, leaning to press a kiss to a rather dazed Avery's cheek.

 

Henry and Avery turned away, as Henry called to Rune, "Have fun."

 

An uneasy smile crossed her face. "I will."

 

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