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just a picture of a cloud
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There was something utterly devastating about seeing her like that. Seeing someone she knew lying alone and vulnerable, made the reality of the situation impossible to avoid. The numbness that had shielded her mind began to desert her, and a wave of dizziness swept through her. The ground seemed to shift under her feet, and for a moment Georgia Lee thought she would collapse.

She was in a lawless place, surrounded by terrible people, who had been instructed to hurt her. She was in terrible, inescapable, absolute danger. There were no teachers here, no police, nothing to help her or protect her or save her.

Georgia Lee felt herself enveloped by a yawning, hollow dread. She wanted nothing more than to collapse, in that moment. She wanted to lie back down amongst the weeds like she had run and hidden back in her bed when she was younger. Georgia Lee wanted to fall down, there on the bridge, and wait until the world forgot her.

Her breath was coming in shallow gasps, and her heart seemed to be trying to beat its way out of her chest. She felt herself sway, but caught herself before collapsing. People would watch this, she knew. Whatever happened, one way or another, people would see how Georgia Lee conducted herself, and she would be damned if they would see her fall. Her eyes returned to Fiyori.

The girl was sprawled out in the dirt, gangly limbs splayed out, face down and unmoving. For a moment she thought she might be dead, then the girl took a deep, rattling breath. Georgia Lee tensed for a moment, but Fiyori didn’t appear to be waking up.

What would she have done, if Fiyori had woken just then? Georgia Lee didn’t know.

She was utterly, dreadfully certain that the girl would attack her. She wouldn’t attack straight away, Fiyori was smarter than that. Even jumping on Georgia Lee from behind, Fiyori had come of worse from their last entanglement, and now she’d be groggy and disoriented too. But she would attack. She’d bide her time, she’d wait until Georgia Lee was vulnerable, and then she would kill her.

Leaving Fiyori alive, Georgia Lee realized, was suicide. The girl was a time bomb, or a homing missile targeted straight at her. There was no way she wouldn’t come after Georgia Lee, once she was awake and prepared, and Fiyori had friends, too.

Was this a benediction, then? Finding the girl like this, passed out and vulnerable? There were rocks scattered about the beach, and any one of them, she was sure, would be heavy enough to stave in that praying mantis head. Could she do it?

Georgia Lee looked inside herself and saw that she could not.

She pictured herself, kneeling over Fiyori, smothering the girl with her own stupid poncho, and the idea filled Georgia Lee with nothing but revulsion. How would that look, back home? Who would hire her, who would even talk to her? No, she couldn’t do something like that.

“You are never going back home,” said the voice in the back of her head, “nobody will ever get a chance to talk to you again.” Georgia Lee ignored it. This was the voice of defeatism talking, and she had long practice at tuning it out.

Fiyori stirred again and made a spluttering sound, and Georgia Lee realized the girl might actually be in real danger. Her face was down in the dirt – could she breathe? Unthinking, Georiga Lee crouched down beside her and rolled her on to her back.

There was dirt around Fiyori’s mouth and nose, but the girl seemed to be breathing clearly. She looked peaceful, almost pleasant. There was something familiar about Fiyori’s expression, and Georgia Lee realized she had seen it before, in detention, when Fiyori had taken off her glasses.

Her glasses! Where were they? Georgia Lee shifted back, making sure she hadn’t stepped on them, and her heart sank as she saw a glint of glass in her footprint.

They weren’t broken, Georgia Lee thought. The dirt here was soft-packed, and it seemed like she’d just pushed them under it, which was lucky. The lenses on those things were nearly a half inch thick; without them Fiyori would probably be totally blind. She’d be… helpless.

Georgia Lee couldn’t kill Fiyori, but she could make sure the other girl wouldn’t hurt her, make sure she couldn’t hurt her. She could pick the glasses up right now and toss them into the sea, and Fiyori would’t be able to do a thing. She’d never even know it was her.

But how would that look? What would people say? Nobody back home knew how Fiyori had treated her, nobody understood what this girl was capable of, what she’d do if given the chance. To anyone watching, it would look like a petty act of senseless cruelty. People would think she was the monster.

What was worse, Georgia Lee wasn’t sure they’d be wrong. It mightn’t have been killing her outright, but Georgia Lee had no doubt that she’d be leaving Fiyori as good as dead. Blind, alone and exposed? It was a death sentence that Georgia Lee would be rendering, regardless of whether it was actually her who swung the blade.

No, she wanted Fiyori helpless, but she didn’t want her defenceless. She couldn’t have her coming after her, but she also couldn’t just leave her here for who knows who to do who knows what to her.

They would have to stick together.

As soon as the idea came to Georgia Lee, she began to see the appeal of it. Fiyori was a predator, but she wasn’t incapable of reason. She’d might want to kill Georgia Lee – and indeed, Georgia Lee was sure of it – but she wouldn’t, not if it rendered her alone and helpless. She couldn’t make Fiyori like her or trust her, but she could make her depend on her, and a dependent Fiyori was… well, she was useful.

It could be done, Georgia Lee thought. People watching would just see her protecting Fiori. She’d seem a saint, in their eyes. If she could just take the glasses without them seeing, if she could somehow not let on what she was doing, she’d just be one girl looking out for another.

And she’d be safe.
Fiyori alone wasn’t the issue. Fiyori had friends, and those friends were the worst. All the thugs of the school, the psychos, the junkies, the bullies; all the kids who right now were hopping up and down in excitement at the chance to attack their classmates without consequences, all of them called Fiyori a friend. With Fiyori around Georgia Lee would be safe, at least for a while, and she could figure out just what she was going to do about this nightmare she’d found herself in.

She lowered herself to her knees, and bent forward, putting her head on Fiyori’s chest as if to listen to girl’s heartbeat, and concealing what she was doing from the cameras. Reaching underneath herself, she pulled the glasses from the dirt with two fingers and slipped them into her right boot, in the space behind the inside ankle. They were a snug fit and might well have been bent slightly, but the stayed in place.

Satisfied that Fiyori was at least for now not a danger, Georgia Lee straightened up and shook the girl awake.
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