This is the second part in a serialized story. If you’ve missed any of the rest of it, you can find it here.
The next afternoon, Avdonina stood outside the door to the outreach center’s classroom, peeking at the group of children. One of the workers, Jeanie, patted a course papier-mâché clown with three eyes and a highly disfigured nose. Dollun huddled with another group and helped peel glue off someone’s fingers.
Quenden’s group had him wrapped in paper in the middle, them coloring him. He danced in circles, the paper crinkling around him like a dress. The other children giggled and screamed with delight as they tried to follow his movements with their crayons.
Avdonina smiled as Dollun’s glance fell on her and then quickly shifted away. The teacher imperceptibly shook her head and looked meaningfully at the corner of the room.
Shifting her position closer to the wall, Avdonina saw a man’s crossed legs with a clipboard resting on his knee. An inspector from the Child Determination office! Her heart sunk.
Dollun cupped her hands and clearly said “Potty break!” The small group of children raced for the door. Quenden tried to run, wrapped in the paper, but tripped and fell. His startled shriek ended when Dollun set him back on his feet and helped him shuffle across the floor.
Slipping around the corner, Avdonina ran ahead to the little girls’ bathroom. She heard Quen’s, “I’m not a girl!” as he shoved open the door.
Dollun followed and whispered, “What are we going to do? This is the first time the CD has appeared without an appointment. He watched the class for awhile and then tried to muscle Quen from the classroom. I put up such a fuss that he’s called for help and a warrant. At least it bought some time.”
Now Avdonina had no choice. She and Quenden had to run. “Dollun, I have to leave. We’re not coming back.”
Together they unwrapped Quen, and, grabbing one of the girls from the group, began to wrap her. When they were finished, Dollun looked at Avdonina, eyes suddenly filled with tears. “I’m going to miss you!”
Avdonina nodded, too choked up to speak. She hugged her friend for a long time. Then, Dollun pulled away and led the wrapped girl back to the room. Avdonina settled her jabbering brother onto her hip and pressed her finger against his lips. “We’ll play a game. How quiet can you breath? Can you hear your heart?”
He frowned and concentrated on his chest while she slipped out the door and jogged down the hallway. It was just a matter of time before either Quenden said something, or the inspector noticed the wrapped child was someone else. They turned the corner into the main hallway and were almost at the door when Quenden shouted, “I hear it!”
Avdonina barely slowed to turn and slam her back into the doors to open them. They’d almost made it. Just a few more steps to the waiting car. She pushed the doors open and turned to faced a squad of Child Determination officers.
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If you don’t want to wait to read the whole story, it’s available in “Sunlit Night, Coffee and Sweet Dreams“.