Luke Flynn stared at the teacher as she stood up from her desk, her legs slightly shaky, her eyes darting over all of the children as if inspecting them for every, tiny detail.
Luke watched alongside the other twenty-or-so children, all of them wondering why the woman was in such a state, though, all of them being five or six-years-old, Luke being on the younger side of the spectrum, none of them could even fathom to begin to understand what could have been wrong.
"We're going for an assembly," the woman informed them, clasping her hands in front of her, doing her best to force a smile through the ends of her black hair which curved towards the inside of her face, her bright, green eyes showing no happiness despite what her grin tried to convey.
"But, Miss Walters, we don't have assembly on Tuesday."
That was Sheridan, a girl whom Luke didn't know extremely well other than the obvious fact that she was slightly advanced for her age, smarter than the majority of the class. She was always one of the first children to throw their hand into the air whenever a question would be presented to the classroom. She was one of the first in the group to get her mind around simple multiplication, having come in the next day and boasted the fact that her father had taught her the three-times-table. Though Luke didn’t know every detail about the girl, she was sat at his table alongside two of his friends: Adrian and Benny.
"I know, Sheridan, but something has... come up, and Mister Andrews has something to tell you all," Miss Walters explained, forcing another smile which wasn't fooling many of the young students before she motioned towards the door with her right hand, urging for everyone to get up from their seats and to follow her out of the classroom.
Each student pushed their chair backwards on the worn carpet and clambered to their feet, most of the students slightly apprehensive to move as they'd spent the majority of the ten minutes before entering the building running around in the playground, playing tag or football, clinging to the last chance to have fun before their day of learning.
They began to make their way out of the room, guided by Miss Walters' hand as she told them all to wait in the hallway just outside of the classroom, wanting to make sure that she didn't lose any of the students. Once everyone was out of the class, she stepped into the hall and began to lead everybody towards the gymnasium where each assembly took place.
Luke dawdled slightly, distracted by the thought of what was so urgent that they were having an extra assembly.
"What d'you think this is about?" Came from beside him.
Luke looked up, raising his gaze from the smooth, glossy ground of the hallway, glancing at Adrian.
"I don't know," Luke replied, avoiding the chance to fantasise about an alien or robot invasion, the feeling that the situation was serious playing on his mind and distracting his playful ideas. "It seems... bad."
Adrian didn't say anything, just looked slightly solemn.
"Maybe someone's leaving."
"Mister Patterson?" Adrian suggested, sounding hopeful. "We might be having a party."
Luke rolled his eyes a little just at the thought of the man. He was grouchy and mean. He wasn't exactly someone who should have become a teacher. After Luke had mentioned the man to his mother, having heard horror stories from two of his friends in the man's class, she guessed that teaching had been a second or a third choice for him, that he didn't want to be there. That wouldn't make it impossible for him to have been leaving...
They filed into the gymnasium, most of the other classes already there, sat in their horizontal lines, chatting quietly with their friends. The class quickly formed their own line behind Mister Robert's class, keeping their heads down as they noticed the steely gaze of Mister Patterson on the side-lines, watching over the children. From the way that the man was staring at everyone, Luke guessed that he wasn't leaving.
It took another minute or two for the entire school to be present in the gymnasium, sat on the floor, the oldest year sat on the benches on either side of the room, making all of the other children jealous of their privilege.
Mister Andrews stepped in front of everyone, looking solemn. Everyone noticed and quieted immediately, watching the usually-cheery man as he gazed over everyone. He ran a hand through his greying, styled hair before he spoke.
"I'd like to start by reminding everyone to... keep out of trouble. Don't go anywhere that isn't safe without a guardian. Just... be careful."
The room seemed to buzz slightly, all of the children unanimously becoming scared. They hadn't seen Mister Andrews so serious since one of the older boys had decided to vandalise one of the toilets, having drawn a crude image on the inside wall of one of the cubicles.
Mister Roberts shushed everyone, the giant, echoey room becoming silent until Mister Andrews continued to speak.
"A student... Melanie Peters in Year Two has... gone missing."
The room seemed to jolt as everyone realised what that meant. She'd been classed as absent that morning, but Miss Walters had muttered something about having not received a phone call to say that she wouldn't be in school that day.
"Her parents don't know where she's gone, and if anyone here has any idea, please say."
There was only silence which followed that statement, telling Mister Andrews that no-one knew anything.
"We're going to be keeping a stricter eye on all of you, and I want to emphasise that you should all be very careful. Try not to stay on your own when going home. If you can, arrange for your parents to be able to pick you up," Mister Andrews continued, sounding slightly pained as he said the words. Even though Luke didn't understand his strained tone very much, he could tell that the man was under a decent amount of pressure.
The assembly was wrapped up fairly quickly, not much else being said. Mister Andrews had gone on to explain that all students were welcome to wait in the school for anyone to pick them up if they couldn't be picked up at three when the school day would end, had emphasised safety slightly more and, as a result of everything, had made the minds of all of the students buzz with petrified thoughts.
As the students dispersed, heading back to their classrooms, Adrian and Benny caught up to Luke and initiated a discussion about how Melanie had gone missing.
"Maybe she was taken by aliens," Benny, a slightly slower and more imaginative child stated, the expression on his rounded face showing his expectations that his theorisation was correct.
"Maybe she's moved away and her parents forgot to tell the school," Luke retorted, not wanting to believe that aliens were scouting the school for innocent children to abduct.
"No, the teachers would have called to ask where she is and her parents didn't know," Sheridan chimed in, pushing in-between Luke and Adrian, smirking slightly at the unimpressed look on Benny's face which she could only just see through his thin, blonde fringe.
"Of course you'd know that," Benny grumbled, rolling his brown eyes and staring at the ground, evidently feeling flattened due to his idea of aliens having been stomped on.
"Don't you have friends to geek-out, Sheridan?" Adrian questioned, raising a black eyebrow at her, one which was oddly slightly darker than his dark, brown hair. "Oh, wait, you don't have any friends, do you?"
Sheridan gave a slightly mischievous grin, one which she always seemed to adorn when talking to Adrian, and lightly pushed him. "That's better than who you're friends with, idiot."
And, with that, she pushed past them as they entered their classroom, Luke barely seeing her small figure disappearing into the room, her lengthening-brown hair flowing behind her as if she were an actress in a gorgeous film.
The trio's relationship with Sheridan wasn't as poor as it seemed. Adrian and Sheridan actually got along really well as Luke had discovered by accident one day, having walked onto the playground and seen them holding hands until Sheridan had noticed him and had abruptly pushed Adrian over. She even got on fairly decently with Luke, neither of them really clashing, but she had a distaste for Benny. Maybe it was because he wasn't as smart as she was and that she found how much he'd struggle with their schoolwork annoying. Whenever Benny was in her presence, she'd become more of a stuck-up brat, something which Benny had called her once, startling everyone who'd heard it, having sent Sheridan off to cry. Maybe that was why she didn't like him very much…
Everybody took their seats again, almost all of them much more silent than usual, though it didn't take long for some hushed chatting to begin which quickly evolved into a noisy room. Miss Walters hushed everyone, having taken a moment to stabilise herself before drawing their work on the whiteboard, snatching the attention of everyone in the classroom not long later with a light cough.
The day went excruciatingly slowly. Luke wanted nothing more than for it to end, slightly afraid that he would be snatched away during the day, believing that he would be safe at home. Lunch had come and gone with the entire school buzzing about the news regarding Melanie. Given that they'd all been told that morning, everyone had plenty of time to maul over the few details given, leaving everyone to fill in the blanks via theorisation, resulting in an almost instant rumour that she'd actually decided to run away, something which had gotten back to the teachers and had caused them all to tell the students off, explaining that theorising about such a thing was dangerous as the ideas could be perceived as facts. No-one had uttered a word about the situation after that, fighting through the rest of the day to avoid talking about it, scared of being shouted at but also much more terrified of having the same thing happen to them.
When Luke's mother, Poppy West, picked Luke up at the end of the day, she looked slightly distracted as Luke explained what had been going on, what they’d been told in the assembly that morning. He didn’t have to mention that Mister Andrews had instructed everyone to be picked up from school if it was possible given that his mother would collect him regardless, though Luke had initially wondered if explaining that Mister Andrews had said such a thing would give Poppy a clearer view of the situation.
"Uh-huh," she let out for the umpteenth time as Luke went on and on about various things, recounting that Sheridan and Benny had fought verbally over lunch about what had really happened to Melanie. Benny had somehow gotten it into his mind that Melanie was a secret agent and had disappeared because she was on a mission in America. "Listen," Poppy interrupted, cutting off one of Luke's sentences about aliens. "Your teachers are right. It isn't good to make things up about the situation," she explained. "For a little girl to... it's disrespectful to her."
Luke went quiet and nodded meekly as Poppy turned on the indicators to make a right-turn.
They turned into their driveway after five minutes of being in the car, Poppy parking the vehicle and turning the engine off before pushing the door open, Luke doing the same in the back seat.
They both clambered out, standing on the gravel of their driveway, stood in front of their small home.
Luke pulled his bag and his coat from the back seat and pushed the door closed awkwardly while Poppy unlocked the front door of the house, standing in the doorway and watching Luke as he made his way to the building.
"Don't worry about Melanie," Poppy assured, smiling at Luke, taking his coat from his hands and hanging it on the coat rack. She leaned over and rubbed his shoulders comfortingly, her shoulder-length, brown hair bouncing slightly as she did so. "She'll turn up."
Luke nodded lightly before he was pulled into a tight hug.
The relationship between Luke and his mother was a close one. Luke's father, Gregory Flynn- being where Luke had gotten his last name- hadn't been in Luke's life since he was a very young baby. Poppy hadn't explained why, had only said that he had to leave to live somewhere else for work and that neither she nor Luke could go to visit him. Luke hadn't questioned that but had questioned his mother as to why there would occasionally be another man in the house. The man hadn't interacted with Luke very much, but Luke had heard him rushing out of the house as he’d walked down the stairs to get breakfast one morning. Poppy only ever said that he was a friend.
Luke walked right to his room once his mother had broken the embrace, wanting to play on the gaming console which he loved so much, the memories of the day playing on his mind, frightening him slightly, but Luke quickly found himself distracted.