The Blackbird

Sayrie never remembered a time in her life that Dakota was not there. He was there since her earliest memories, even, everyone tells her, since before she was born. They were practically siblings, and were recognized by everyone who met them to share a bond that could not be interfered with. But when Dakota disappears and is replaced by a person Sayrie has never even met, no one except her seem to notice the difference. The only clues she has as to what happened to him is a crow that never wants to leave her side and a girl with Dakota's same startling blue eyes...
She doesn't realize she's in danger until it's too late.


2. Deskmates

Sayrie and Dakota normally walked to school together. In their matching uniforms and familiar manners most passerby naturally assumed they were a (rather mismatched) couple, but few people had made the mistake of calling them such to their face and had hastily been corrected. Sayrie, who was small and energetic, greatly resembled an elementary schooler, especially when placed next to Dakota. Tall and slim, with a stoic expression upon his face and the unusual coloring of blue eyes and black hair against clear pale skin, Dakota often seemed someone older than his actual age. At school last year, even girls above their year would giggle behind their hands and knowingly grin at each other when he passed by, but neither Dakota nor Sayrie noticed. Even if they did, neither would probably care. Sayrie had never been an object of particular interest before, her nearly complete lack of femininity and obscene bluntness had ensured that a long time ago, but this year even she had certain admirers that had gone unnoticed. Together, although it was well known throughout the school that they weren’t actually “together”, they were recognized to be inseparable, to share a bond that no one could break or even rival.
    “We’re juniors today,” Sayrie said cheerily as she skipped ahead of a rather tired-looking Dakota. Dakota was a year older than her, but for some reason he was in the same grade. He had always solidly refused to tell her why, but by now she mused she didn’t really want to know anymore.
    “Really?” Dakota muttered sarcastically. Sayrie glanced behind her at his grumpy reply and mischievously grinned. With a mock sympathetic face she simpered,
    “Aw, is wittle Dee tired? Didn’t sleep?.”
With a rather uncharacteristic snarl, he snapped back,
    “Yes actually, so shut up.”
Her face frowning disapproval at his sour mood, Sayrie turned back around and continued skipping.
    “Touchy, touchy.”
At school they received their schedules and the news that they were in different homerooms. Dakota really couldn’t care less about the matter, but Sayrie, who cheated off of most of his homework when they were in the same homeroom last year, was quite disappointed. Different homerooms (since this school, unlike most high schools, did not split up homerooms in different periods) often got different homework. As Sayrie reached her room, Dakota put his hand on her arm and opened his mouth as if to say something. She waited but nothing came. Instead he nodded, drew back his hand and turned on his heel.
    “Weirdo," Sayrie whispered after him.                                                             She was scheduled a seat, one that was gratefully placed next to a window, and quickly proceeded to sit down and tune out everything the teacher said. It was a beautiful August day, and even though it was only the first day and period of the school year, Sayrie couldn’t help but notice the gold and red leaves of the trees that were planted outside the window. Every once in a while a vibrantly colored leaf would spiral to the ground, and she would watch it as it swooped and curled...
A crow landed shakily on a branch and cawed, eyeing her. Sayrie, dazed, wondered if it was the same one as yesterday. It turned it’s head slightly, revealing two black eyes. Even though it wasn’t the one she had rather hoped it was, she smiled dreamily at it, still admiring the scenery.
    “It is rather pretty outside, isn’t it?” a hushed voice asked.
Sayrie nodded without turning.
    “Fall’s my favorite,”she heard herself mumbling. “All the sunset colors and clear skies.”
She heard the person who had spoken to her fall discreetly back into their- his, the voice was clearly male- seat.
    “Mine too,” they said.
They continued a scattered conversation for most of the period, most of it consisting of random comments about autumn or the scenery, until they were dismissed for their next class. Shoving her brand new textbook into her bag, she caught a glimpse of her conversational partner out of the corner of her eye. Tall and black-haired, he bore a startling resemblance to Dakota, only this boy had very dark eyes and a much more pleasant expression. He also appeared to be waiting for her outside the doorway. Her theory proved true when she walked into the hall and he straightened up from where he was leaning against the wall, flashing her a brilliantly white smile. 
    “Well hello again,” he said and held out his hand expectantly.
It took Sayrie a few seconds to get it, but eventually she flushed in realization of his old fashioned manners and clutched her schoolbag tightly across her chest.
    “Oh- no, it’s alright. I can manage,” she laughed nervously.
The boy’s smile didn’t falter, neither did his hand waver.
    “Please, indulge me,” he insisted, and lifted the bag with ease over her shoulders and onto his own.
    “Come along,” he said as she stood frozen, and started down the hallway.
Sayrie, by now relatively less stunned, obeyed. It wasn’t every day you met an attractive male who displayed a knowledge of some variety of manners. Although it was impressive, it was also rather unnerving, coming from someone who was hardly more than a stranger.
    “Um, I have Ms. Olson next period, if you don’t mind,” she called after him.
    “I know,” he replied without breaking stride.
By now Sayrie was frowning unconsciously. Trying her best to keep pace with this strange person, she opened her mouth to speak, then thought better of what she was about to say. 
    “Did you need to speak with me or something?” she asked, looking inquiringly at his towering profile.
He didn’t answer until they had finished navigating through the clumps of their classmates that littered the halls and arrived at the door of Ms. Olson’s room. With a flourish he swung the door open and waited for her to go in.
    “Want perhaps,” he said quietly as she walked past him and he followed after her, “not need.”                                                                              

At her mistrusting look he laughed, “Is that a crime?”
After a long, rather uncomfortable silence she finally asked, “Are you going to give my bag back?”                                                                          

Sayrie was beginning to suspect this was a ploy to look through her personal belongings. She couldn’t say it hadn’t happened before.                                

The boy whose name she still did not know grinned bashfully.

    “Are we not going to sit together?”
Um, no, Sayrie thought, her eyebrows raised. This boy was strangely clingy for a person she just met. Instead of thinking out loud, where she would surely sound incredibly rude, she just explained, “But we’re going to be assigned seats.” 
The boy smiled indulgently and said, “Nah, she’ll let us choose,” just as Ms. Olson herself came marching through the door, announcing, “Everyone find a seat, doesn’t matter where just as long as you don’t sit near any personal distractions.”
As she said ‘personal distractions’ her gaze had lingered on Sayrie and then sternly flickered to the person standing beside her, whose suddenly serious mouth did not fully mask the humor dancing in his eyes. Sayrie distanced herself from him. As soon as Ms. Olson turned away he put an easy hand on Sayrie’s shoulder, which made her tense uncomfortably, and steered her toward the back of the room.    
    “I think that you count as a personal distraction,” Sayrie said under her breath as he deposited her bag on what she supposed was her chosen desk.
    “Yeah, well, when she said don’t sit I think I’m permitted to interpret it as do, like everyone else.”
Sayrie looked around desperately and saw with a sinking horror that indeed no one had heeded Ms. Olson’s words. Everyone had, without even pausing, went to sit next to our near their friends, allies and/or significant others, while Ms. Olson sat calmly sipping coffee at her desk, seating chart in hand. Sayrie was forced to admit to herself that, under different circumstances, she would have done the same. Before Sayrie could escape off to another desk, Ms. Olson stood up and told everyone to sit down, she had checked off all their seats.. As Sayrie, groaning inwardly, received her schoolbag from her new desk-mate, she peered at him cautiously from the corner of her eye. When she realized he was doing the same thing, she instead fixed her eyes on the empty blackboard in the front of the room. Everyone fell silent as Ms. Olson stood up, still cupping her coffee in her hands, and started her famously lengthy introductory speech. 
    “You know, for all your familiarity I still don’t know your name,” Sayrie whispered, leaning sideways across her desk, eyes fixed on Ms. Olson’s wildly gesturing hands. Currently, she was describing the new cafeteria that had been built over the summer and the new set of rules that came with it.
The boy looked at her strangely, his eyebrows raised inquiringly.
    “What are you talking about?” he laughed, a confused look playing across his face.
    “I’m Dakota.”

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