The peppermint stick melted in my mouth as I tried to keep up with Marie’s skates. She was a better skater than I was and she knew how to avoid the cracks in the sidewalk. I cheated by holding onto the flyaway strap on her backpack.
“You’re won’t fall if you let go, Faith.” She glided to a stop at the crosswalk. “More mints?”
I looked at the half-eaten candy cane and broke off a piece from the untouched end. “That’s it.”
Marie grinned and popped it in her mouth. “Mmm. I love mint. It’s the best thing about Christmas. Are you going to stay at school this year or are you going home?”
I plowed into a gouge on the sidewalk and tumbled to the ground, aided by the momentum of my overloaded backpack. The river of busy people simply moved around me as if I were a rock. Thankfully, I didn’t drag Marie down with me and she skated back to circle around me.
“Yikes, girl.” She caught hold of a streetlight with one hand to steady herself before hauling me up and guiding me to the sturdy metal post. “Breathe. You okay?”
I wrinkled my nose in reply.
She watched me carefully for a moment and then offered her hand. “You look fine.”
“It hurts.” I retorted, taking her hand anyway and trying to keep an eye on the ground. “This is what, the seventh time?”
“You’re covered in layers. There’s padding.” She smirked. “So, are you?”
“I wanna go home.” I admitted, gripping her mittened hand a little tighter. “I hate staying there.”
Marie rolled her eyes. “Duh, we all do.” Her skating slowed to an easy crawl. “You’re supposed to hate school—it’s like, in the rulebook or something.” She tossed her head in the cool winter air. “You could always come with me to Jessica’s house. Her family doesn’t care who she invites as long as we’re quiet and don’t make a mess.”
“She’s really nice.”
“You don’t want to stay by yourself, but you don’t want to take any other available options.”
“It’s not that, I mean, I would if it wasn’t for-”
“Why don’t you like Jessica?”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with Jessica?”
“It’s got a lot to do with her!” Marie jerked me to a corner and into the brick wall of a street building. “You know, I put up with a lot of your quirks, but lately you’ve been really weird. Jessica is a nice girl! She tries really hard-”
I bowed my head, listening to the words that seemed to be passing right through me. “It’s not Jessica.” I mumbled, when Marie’s lecture was through.
“Then what is it?”
“Faith, if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’m going to-”
Marie blinked. “What?”
“Her dad.” I licked my lips. “You know all that talk going around school and stuff—people buying and selling things they shouldn’t?”
“My dorm’s all the way at the end of the hallway, near the stairwell and the window.”
Marie stared at me until the understanding finally sank in. “He’s one of them?” She clapped a hand over her own mouth as her eyes bugged out at me. “Did you tell anyone?”
“Who am I supposed to tell? I can’t trust anyone there!”
“Call the cops!”
“Who’d believe the word of an average student flunking her Algebra?”
“Bad point.” I corrected. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Did you do the prayer thing already?”
“What prayer thing?”
“You should be a little more like your name, Faith.” Marie sighed. “Praying, you know, talking to God?”
“Why would I do that?”
Marie rubbed her forehead. “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Too much trouble.”
“Can I email Him?”
“Can I put Him on speed dial?”
“Can I text Him?”
“No—and no twitter either, if you’re asking.” Marie tried to stomp her foot. The skate barely made a sound. I blushed. “Faith, really—you are so wired.” She huffed. “Praying. Have you tried just talking to God? I know you’re trying to be cute here, but this is serious stuff. Even I don’t know who you should talk to and—wait, is this why you want to go home?”
I looked away.
“Oh, Faith!” Marie sighed. “I’m sorry. But honestly, right now—I think we should pray and take it from there.”
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