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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Melissa told the story of her time on the island, and Jennifer sat and listened. It was one of the things she could do forever. It sounded like Melissa had had a fairly rough time. One of her friends had died in front of her, without any apparent cause. That was worse than seeing a friend murdered, Jennifer imagined. With a killer, there was a chance for closure, for revenge or forgiveness, for acceptance and glee as they, too, were inevitably listed on the announcements.

And then, Melissa's other dead friend was Aislyn. Jennifer could vaguely remember what the girl had looked like. Her killer, on the other hand, was something of a mystery; Jennifer hadn't been paying much attention, and the name had stood out only as sounding strange and foreign.

As Melissa spoke, she showed Jennifer the pictures in a yearbook. Jennifer hadn't gotten around to picking hers up yet; they'd been delayed and come out the day of the trip, so most of the Seniors hadn't had time to grab them. Seeing the faces pass by was almost too much for Jennifer. A good number were dead. Others had killed. Even those still alive would probably never look that nice and polished again. then there were all the people who hadn't made it to the trip. Fucking lucky, the lot of them. She had to work to avoid screaming.

And Melissa's other friend, Felecia, another person Jennifer could sort of recognize, had killed Sebastian, who she had no clue about. There had apparently been a big fight. Melissa had seen this all. It had scarred her.

Melissa kept going, talking about how it wasn't fair, how it didn't make sense, questioning why people still went along with the game, why Danya's people kept kidnapping students. All throughout, Jennifer bit back on the answers to Melissa's rhetorical questions.

People killed because they wanted to live.

The terrorists kidnapped students because it still worked.

But she didn't say anything, because Melissa was working herself up into some sort of frenzy, apologizing, breaking down. Jennifer knew exactly how she felt. She'd been there herself, again and again. So she didn't say anything at first, just scooted over next to Melissa and pulled her into a hug. Suddenly, she was in the position Nick had been in back on the logging road yesterday.

She tried to find something to say, but there were no words for this sort of situation.

"It's, um, it's okay, Melissa," she finally managed. "It's okay. We'll, um, we'll stay together, and we'll find somewhere to just stay safe for a while, and, um, and you aren't going crazy, and you're strong, and, um, and you're not stupid, and just, um, just... I'm glad we found each other."
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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A Day Late · Hall of Mirrors