Mona glanced back at the group of kids behind her. She didn’t know them or like them, but she’d hadn’t realized how much she’d missed being around other people. Before being trapped in this place, she’d found most people irritating. These kids were undoubtedly irritating, but their presence was almost comforting just because they were a group. It had been so long since she’d been part of a group.
Her idiot nephew walked toward the front of the group with Chelsea, Naomi, and the Stanley fab who’d bleached his hair blond and traded his jumpsuit for an absolutely heinous loud-patterned shirt. Angelina and Jen had moved toward the back of the group with Sam and Lachlan, and Angelina was writing or drawing something on a notepad as she walked.
“Angelina, stop scribbling on that notepad while you walk,” said Mona. “You’ll fall and bust your head open and the last thing we need is another injury.”
“It’s okay,” said Angelina. “I’m super good at writing and walking.”
As if on cue, she stumbled over a cobblestone, then righted herself. Mona turned around again and raised an eyebrow.
“That didn’t count. That would have happened even if I wasn’t writing. That was just because I’m clumsy and this road is stupid.”
“I don’t think it’s the road that’s stupid,” said Mona.
“Get wrecked,” said Lachlan.
Angelina pursed her lips into a childish pout, then continued writing.
“What are you writing, anyway?” said Mona.
“It’s notes for our experiment,” said Angelina.
“We weren’t supposed to tell her about the experiment,” said Sam.
“Thanks a lot, you two,” Lachlan said. “Great job on the secret-keeping.”
“What do you mean ‘you two’?” said Sam. “I’m not the one who blabbed.”
“I didn’t blab!” said Angelina. “I just told her what we were doing.”
“That’s the exact meaning of the word ‘blab’,” said Lachlan.
“What kind of experiment are you trying to do, exactly?” said Mona.
“Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag,” said Jen. “Something really weird happened to us a little bit ago. Not just Sam, but all four of us. We’re trying to figure it out.”
“Just because you’re trying to figure something out doesn’t mean you’re doing an experiment. Do you even have a hypothesis?” said Mona. “I’d be surprised if you four could even spell ‘hypothesis’.”
“Um, H, Y, P…” said Jen. “O, T, H… A?”
“Wrong,” said Mona.
“Spelling is overrated,” said Sam. “You don’t have to be able to spell something to understand the concept.”
“So you do have a hypothesis?” said Mona.
“We’re working on it,” said Sam.
“So you don’t have one,” said Mona.
“That’s not fair,” said Angelina. “We’re still working on the… hypothesis.”
Mona noticed Angelina stumble a bit over the word, but she didn’t comment. While Mona’s initial impression of Angelina’s intelligence wasn’t favorable, Mona knew firsthand how hard it was to learn English without having grown up speaking it, and ‘hypothesis’ wasn’t a word that was likely to come up in Angelina’s everyday conversations with her friends.
Maybe she had been too quick to judge Angelina’s intelligence. After all, Angelina had not only learned a second language fluently, she seemed to understand things about this place that she shouldn’t have known.
Angelina spotted a fleck of purple glitter on her wrist and paused her writing to lick the glitter off.
Then again, thought Mona, sometimes first impressions are accurate after all.