Laurelia was in the library when the lady found her. She was deep into the science section, reading up on botulism and how to avoid it when your only food source was Mystery Cans Of Food From Before The War, taking notes and wishing (privately, because she’d never admit it out loud), that she’d paid more attention in class before the school blew up.
The polite clearing of a throat was so out-of place, she didn’t register it as real at first. It was her imagination, a librarian who was offended at her note-taking or the way she’d made a nest out of the books. It was that teacher she’d been ignoring back in classes – Mrs. Enil.
The second throat-clearing made her look up. There, in clothes that were clean and tidy – brown pants and a white silk shirt, boots and a jaunty hat – with her hair pulled back in a low bun and even her make-up perfect, was a librarian, offended at her note-taking.
Laurelia went back to her book. Clearly, she was going nuts.
“Laurelia Dziedzic, daughter of Amie Sanchez-Dziedzic?”
“Hallucinations are not supposed to know my name,” she informed the librarian. “Much less my… do you know where my mother is?” If it did, she could forgive it being a clean and well-dressed hallucination.
“I’m afraid not. However, your mother, when you were born, signed you up for an exclusive school some distance away from here, and, as fate would have it, the school is still intact.”
She looked up at the hallucination. She might not have imagined a librarian with such a wild look about her, just held in by the professional outfit. She might not have imagined an exclusive school. “Slavers.”
“I promise you, there are no slavers working for or employing my school, nor working with them.”
Promises were important. “Is there food?”
“There is good food. Safe food.” The librarian looked both amused and concerned. “Will you come with me, Laurelia?”
“You promise on the food?” She was already shelving the book on botulism.
“I promise there is good and safe food where we are going.”
“Then let’s go.”
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