The Beginning

This is the first part of hopefully a longer story...

The wail began, rising like floodwater through the building, louder and shriller, until it was time for Miss Estrella’s sixth grade class to evacuate. Annabelle turned down the corner on the page and closed the book. She took a big breath, just in case and pushed back her chair and stood quietly. Miss Estrella rolled her eyes, “It’s just a drill,” she said. “Calmly now, line up outside the room. Leave your bags and backpacks inside. Don’t bring your bags, just your bodies.”

There had been a warning in New York three weeks ago and even though they lived in LA, everyone was still on edge. That’s why Annabelle had printed out the maps, security precautions and police codes that filled her backpack. She would show all of this to Macenzie at lunch in the narrow outdoor passageway by the side of the building where Sarton once pulled down his pants.

Last week there had been 23 fire drills. Each time her class had lined up single file and pretended to evacuate. Twenty-three times they returned to their desks, which had been pushed out of their proper rows into a misshapen clump of metal legs and wooden table tops. There had also been an earthquake drill. Obediently, Annabelle knelt under her small desk, cupping her hands over her neck while granules of dirt lodged themselves into her bare knees, leaving small red dimples that itched when she stood up.

Annabelle joined the single file line forming in the corridor. The classroom door swung open as Eddie shuffled out and took his place at the back. Miss Estrella walked out behind him, checking the room once more before she pulled the door shut, causing a current of air that ruffled the map of the world, which was pimpled with pushpins marking recent summer vacation spots: Tuscany, Shanghai, Wyoming.