Angelina slammed her laptop shut and pushed it off her lap onto the bed.
Naomi really hadn’t heard of the Borgo San Severino disaster? It had been the biggest disaster in Italy since the Brescia Explosion, and the biggest industrial disaster in Europe. How dare Naomi brush it off like it was nothing?
Everyone who lived near the accident remembered where they’d been when it had taken place. Angelina had been in school, watching some educational movie and drawing goofy stick-figure comics with her friend Luisa, when she’d heard a sound almost like fabric being torn, faint yet unmistakably wrong. The phone in the classroom had rang, and after picking it up the teacher had somberly switched the television to the news channel. Most of the class had stared in silence at the aerial footage of what had once been the town of Borgo San Severino. Luisa had broken down into violent, screaming sobs; her whole family had lived in the town.
Angelina hadn’t been able to watch as the teacher and another student carried Luisa from the room. She had stared down at the scrap of paper on her desk, at the unfinished grinning stick-girl she’d been drawing. It had looked so foreign, like an artifact from another era.
As they’d waited for the buses to take them home early, the students had united in a way Angelina had never seen before or since. Walls created by cliques, drama, and popularity, barriers that seemed so important and infallible to teenagers, had dissolved to nothing. The girls who passed mean notes about her and said her favorite music was merda had pulled her into tight hugs and stroked her hair as though they were comforting their best friend.
Luisa had been absent for a week after that. When she’d returned, she’d been completely mute for the rest of the term. When Angelina had tried to speak to her, she’d stared straight ahead as though she hadn’t even heard. No one had given Luisa a hard time. Even the meanest girls had had an unspoken understanding that she was off-limits now. Some of them had lost family or friends in the accident too.
The disaster had been one of the defining moments in Angelina’s life, something that shook her and so many others to their cores. So many people had died just a 15 minute train ride away from her. Luisa’s grief-twisted face, the news footage on the television, and that awful, wrong sound–all of it would be branded into her memory forever.
Though no one she knew well had died, the disaster had indirectly taken her best friend from her. The tragedy changed Luisa beyond recognition, and the two of them never spoke again.
Now the company responsible for that tragedy had taken two more of her friends from her, and Naomi wouldn’t listen to her or let her offer help.
It was just like Naomi to ignore her. She was always brushing her off, even now when what she had to say could be important.
It kind of reminded her of the US courts, the way they’d dismissed every civil and criminal case against Billy Clyde and his company, for some stupid reason that Angelina had never really understood.
Right now, Naomi was probably conferencing with Melanie, Dominic, and Jessica, figuring out a plan and getting ready to take action while Angelina sat in her room losing sleep and wondering what had happened to her friends.
Talking to Chelsea was always the highlight of her day, and now, if Falcon hadn’t messaged her to tell her, she wouldn’t have even known Chelsea was missing, let alone where she’d ended up.
It made her sick to think of kind, beautiful Chelsea all alone in some horrible pit full of monster women.
She slid out of bed and retrieved her school bag from where it had been hanging since she’d finished high school and dumped her books and papers onto the floor.
She scanned her room for anything that might be useful, then gathered a bottle of insect repellent, a pair of plastic binoculars, scissors, a notebook and pen, a box of adhesive bandages, a package of snack cakes, a candy bar, and an umbrella.
She picked the scissors up and held them up toward the ceiling.
“Armed with only her trusty sword,” she said, “the fearless warrior Princess Angelina ventures into certain danger in search of her new best friend.”
She placed the scissors back into her bag.
After a moment of thought, she picked up a disposable camera and placed it in the bag. No one ever believed her about stuff, so a little proof would go a long way if she found anything useful.
Finally, she threw in her iPod and earbuds. She’d need The Goldfish Technique’s moral support to keep her spirits up.
She pulled off her pajamas and threw them onto the floor, then selected a bra, jeans, and a t-shirt from the heap of clothes on her chair. She also dug a pair of sturdy boots out from her closet and tugged them on; she’d need them where she was going.
She crossed her room and picked up her lucky charm from her dresser. It was a cheap locket, on a thick chain with silver plating that had chipped to reveal the copper underneath, but what it held was more precious than 24 karat gold–a small piece of paper autographed by Jessica, Dominic, and Melanie, folded into a tiny square and tucked safely into an arrow heart pendant.
She put it around her neck, slung her bag over one shoulder and headed for her bedroom door.
Wait, she almost forgot.
She picked up a small handful of coins from the top of her dresser and counted them. Five euros and some change. Not much, but it was enough for a train ticket.
She stuffed the coins into her pocket and tiptoed out of her bedroom and down the hall toward the front door.
If Naomi wasn’t going to listen to her, she would have to take matters into her own hands and look for answers herself.