A day late. Whoops.
Steven had disappeared. Roy glanced around for the other teen, finding Steven’s absence from the room unnerving, especially since he had just seen Steven after dinner last night. He wasn’t the only one who had noticed. The first words out of Eddie’s mouth as he had caught up to Roy were, “Where’s the giant?”
Roy could only shrug before turning in his seat to pay attention to Ms. Parker as she stood before them at the head of the class. Even her eyes darted toward the empty seat in the back, but she said nothing regarding Steven’s absence before beginning the lesson.
Near the end of the class period, Ms. Parker asked if there were any questions, like always. Roy raised his hand, but instead of asking about the lesson, he said, “Where’s Steven?”
Ms. Parker pursed her lips. “There was another opportunity for him, another place where he could learn.”
“He took it fast, then, huh?” Eddie piped up. “Good for him.”
“…Indeed.” Ms. Parker glanced around the room. “Now, are there any questions regarding today’s lesson?”
No one responded and Ms. Parker dismissed them before the bell rang for the next period. Eddie was thrilled.
“Dude, we got fifteen minutes to goof off,” he said. “Let’s go outside of Willow’s classroom and make faces at her through the window.”
“You go do that,” Roy said, quirking a smile at the other boy. “I’m going to head to the kitchen for some water.”
“Alright, fish boy.” Eddie gave him a wave as he sauntered down the hall.
Roy paused, watching him go, then went in the opposite direction toward their dormitories. It didn’t take him too long to reach the room where Steven had been, finding the door ajar. His stomach flip-flopped as Roy took in the empty state of the room.
The closet was flung open, devoid of any of Steven’s sports jackets and polo shirts. There were no sneakers haphazardly creating traps among the floor after being unceremoniously kicked off. Movie and music posters had been ripped off the walls and his shelves were missing the knick-knacks and mementos from his family.
Roy walked softly through the room, glancing down from the window at the mansion’s back gardens. As he turned, his foot crunched down on something. Roy’s stomach threatened to throw up his breakfast as he gingerly picked up the photo of a beaming Steven with his arm around his younger sister.
“He wouldn’t have left that behind.” Heather walked into the room, sidling up to Roy as she glanced down at the photo in his hands. Her blue eyes were glassy. “I don’t think he left on his own, Roy. He would have told me if he was leaving.”
“Maybe he couldn’t,” Roy said, trying to sound gentle and casual. He didn’t want someone else’s girlfriend bursting into tears on him. He was sure he’d do a lousy job of trying to comfort her.
Heather shook her head and the mattress creaked under her weight as she plopped down on it. “He was talking about how I would go and meet his family after we graduated. He wouldn’t have left me behind, not like that. You knew him, Roy. You know how honest he was.”
Roy put the photo down lest he accidentally rip it with the way he was wringing his hands. “Well… What else could have happened?”
Heather hiccupped and tears started to stream down her cheeks. “I don’t know. I just… Ms. Parker won’t say anything, either. I just spent ten minutes arguing with her about it.”
“You argued with Ms. Parker?”
“Oh, come on.” Heather scoffed between sniffles. “She’s not that scary.
“There were always rumors about this place, though,” she continued. “I mean, about what happens after this place. Students would be shipped to places unknown, places that could use their powers. I think that may be what happened to Steven, but… I didn’t think it actually happened, or that it would happen so suddenly.”
“I thought we would get help getting jobs or something,” Roy said, sitting next to Heather. “That’s what I thought those rumors were about.”
“That would have made sense.” She used one of the blankets that had been left behind to dry her face. “But… there were darker rumors, Roy. Ones that had to do with getting rid of students who had useless powers.”
“What do you mean?” Roy hadn’t meant to ask the question in a whisper.
Heather’s voice dropped too. “Supposedly, years ago, there was someone with the ability to create clouds. Like, that was it. If there was moisture in the air, the person could shape a little cloud and watch it float off into the sky with all the other clouds.
“Anyway,” she continued, “so this cloud maker was doing fine in school and kind of learning to do a few more things with the clouds, like maybe make them big enough for camouflage purposes, but the student wasn’t learning fast enough. One day, the student just vanished. None of the teachers said where the student went, and half of them even pretended that the student didn’t exist in the first place. It was said that the school board got rid of the student because she wasn’t up to their expectations.”
“That can’t be true,” Roy said. “This place is designed to help us with our powers, isn’t it? It can’t just… give up on us like that.”
Heather shrugged, her shoulders falling as she gave a long sigh. “I don’t know… I really don’t know anymore. With Steven just up and leaving… I don’t believe he would leave and take another opportunity as Ms. Parker said.”
“I’m sure it was just a last-minute thing,” Roy said, standing up and offering a hand to Heather. “He’ll probably contact you as soon as he can, letting you know all about where he is and what he’s doing and when you can go and meet his family.”
She took Roy’s offered help and gave him a smile that didn’t reach her reddened eyes. “I hope so, Roy…”
“C’mon,” Roy said, eager to be out of the room and the conversation. “We’re going to be late for Tech’s class.”