Two Sides of the Same Coin
They held their breath as the footsteps outside grew louder, but the person outside didn’t walk into their room, just kept going with increasingly soft footsteps. When they heard nothing else after that, Lilac sat up on her bed. Leon, her twin brother, climbed out from under the bed to join her.
“Sneak out, get Golden to the forest, find his mom, drop him off, come back before school starts. Any questions?” Lilac asked.
“Must we find his mum?” Leon asked.
“Can’t we just let the professors deal with it?” Amber leaned her cheek against her palm and hid a yawn.
“But Professor Langrain doesn’t want the others to know. That’s why we need to help him,” Lilac pointed out, “Pets aren’t allowed after all.”
She woke to a heavy pressure on her chest and a stubborn feeling that something wasn’t right. It was a sixth sense that came in handy very often, but a depressing ability to possess. Experience had thought her not to ignore it, and she was a good student. With a sigh, Professor Rainwalker left her warm covers and dressed.
It was almost like the nature hikes they always had in camps, just that it was in the middle of the night, and they had a lion cub with them.
“Don’t worry, Golden, just follow us. We’ll help you find your mum,” Lilac whispered as they weaved through the large trees.
“And hope we don’t become lion food,” Leon muttered behind her.
“Can we even find her? Lions live in grasslands, don’t they? And you do realise that lions travel in groups, right?” Amber pulled her jacket tighter around her.
“She probably thinks that the mum will be too happy to get her cub back to bother with us.” Leon sighed.
The bed was empty. Fine. Maybe she went to the restroom. Just in case, Professor Rainwalker checked the other dorm. Two beds were empty. She groaned. What had those three kids gotten themselves into this time?
They’d found the lion, now all Golden needed to do was head over and he’d be free. No more cages, just the wide wild world of nature. Lilac was pretty sure that Golden would like being free a lot more than being caged forever in that zoo.
“Go on, Golden, time to go home.” Lilac nudged Golden towards the lion. The lion cub pressed back against her hand and buried his head in her lap.
“This will take awhile,” Lilac said.
“You think?” Amber replied with narrowed eyes.
“Err… That lion has a mane. Isn’t it the guys that get… that’s not good.” Leon scrambled from a crouch to his feet.
“What’s not… oh.”
A dead lion cub lay sprawled behind a rock. Another was not far off.
Professor Rainwalker knocked on Professor Langrain’s door. After a few minutes, the sleepy scholar opened the door.
“They’re gone.” She’d said it so often since those three kids started school that there was no need to say anything else. And more often than not, Professor Langrain had the answers.
“Toilet break?” He looked away.
She slipped past him into the room. Golden dashed over and pounced. She caught the massive lion’s forepaws and let Golden nuzzle her cheek.
“If only. Now stop stalling and tell me.”
People always said that one way to run faster was to imagine being chased by a lion. She could now back that advice with personal experience. Lilac couldn’t remember running faster in her life, and she was carrying the lion cub. Adrenaline. Powerful stuff.
“Left! Left!” Leon yelled and grabbed her elbow. They made a sharp turn and heard the lion skid behind them.
“This… is awesome.” Lilac grinned.
“Say that… when we’re get…ting punished… after this,” Leon said between gasps.
“Duck!” Amber yelled.
The twins bent down but continued running. Amber whipped around and threw a large rock over their heads at the lion.
“Right,” Amber said and ran. The lion roared. They leaped over a bush and slipped through the trees after her.
The three kids weren’t even halfway through their first school year, and Professor Rainwalker was already certain that she’d become an insomniac by the time they graduated. They always managed to get tangled up in something at least once a week.
“Meet me at the chemistry lab,” Professor Rainwalker instructed over the phone.
She disconnected the call and slipped her phone into her pocket, then she broke into a run.
Lilac tried to pull her leg free but it remained lodged between the branches. The sharp pain that shot up her leg made her want to just leave it there, but the lion was coming. He wouldn’t ignore such an easy prey.
For a fleeting moment, she entertained the thought of throwing Golden at the lion as a diversion.
The lion leapt over a large root and landed a few feet beside her.
Large eyes turned towards her. The lion opened his jaws and roared. Lilac pushed herself up, ignoring the tears that prickled her eyes from the lion’s horrible breath and made herself look as big as possible.
Then she roared back.
“Lilac!” Leon’s cry was a mix of terror and amusement. But mostly terror.
“Leave her alone!”
A stone hit the lion’s eye, followed by another that hit the lion’s nose. As the lion took a step back, Professor Lintspree came between them with a long stick in hand.
Smoke in any unsupervised science lab was rarely good, but this was a chemistry lab, home to various forbidden chemicals that were forbidden for a reason. Professor Rainwalker spared a moment to brace herself, because trouble caused by the trio had a tendency to mutate like soap operas, and ran into the smoke-filled lab.
She spotted one of the trio unconscious against a lab table near the door and went for him first. He stirred as she called his name but his gaze was unfocussed. She pulled him onto her back and carried him out of the lab. She passed the barely conscious boy to her colleague and headed back into the lab.
The other two trouble makers seemed to be further in. Professor Rainwalker braved the smoke and went deeper into the large lab. The smoke filled her eyes with tears, making her vision close to useless. By now, the smoke alarm was ringing like no tomorrow. She yelled their names, hoping that the two students could hear her over the loud sound, and if they did, wouldn’t clam up out of principle.
Eventually, she found them behind the instructor’s table, surrounded by shattered glass and spilt chemicals. It wouldn’t be safe for them to get out by walking on the chemical covered floor, but the other side of the giant table was blocked by heavy equipment.
“Climb over the table,” she said, “I’ll catch you.”
Lilac’s eyes followed the stick as Professor Lintspree used it to beat the lion back. A strike on the nose, one on the paw, a jab to the flank, a swing before the lion’s eyes. The lion dug his paws into the ground, unwilling to back down, but the other professors finally arrived and stood beside Professor Lintspree. Outnumbered, the lion cut his losses and disappeared into the trees.
“I’ll leave it to you to handle the runaway lions,” Professor Lintspree said to the other professors. Then, she turned and crouched before Lilac. Liac cringed.
The two students looked a little sceptical at her words. She supposed she didn’t look strong enough to actually catch them, but looks could be deceiving, and people could do extraordinary things in life and death situations. Adrenaline was powerful stuff.
When the two kids looked ready to wait for the roof to fall on them before moving, she snapped.
Clara jumped. Vincent decided to climb down himself. Why hadn’t he done that earlier? She grabbed their arms and ran for the door. Another colleague took Vincent from her at the door, leaving Clara under her care. Despite her lungs’ protest, she kept running, only stopping when they were out of the building.
Professor Rainwalker placed her hands on her hips. Clara cringed.
“Lilac Rainwalker! What were you thinking?” Professor Lintspree clamped her hands on Lilac’s shoulders and shook her.
“Where’s that brain you’re so proud of?” Professor Lintspree demanded.
“Sleeping?” Lilac sent her professor her most charming smile.
Professor Lintspree sighed and released her.
“You will kill me one day.”
“Your daughter will kill me one day,” Lilac complained to her ex-professor.
“Sounds like someone I know,” said the now retired Professor Lintspree.
“She set the chem lab on fire. Again. That’s four times in five months!”
“Well then, it’s a good thing I asked you to be her guardian.” Professor Lintspree sipped her tea. Lilac scowled.
“You didn’t ask so much as blackmail me.”
“I think it’s only fitting, considering all the trouble you got yourself into when you were Clara’s age. Remember the lion? I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”
Lilac hugged a cherry pillow and muttered, “I was just trying to help.”
Professor Lintspree chuckled. Lilac’s hands itched to throw the pillow at her face, but if she did… the momentary amusement wouldn’t be worth the insane punishment the professor would no doubt cook up.
“So, what has Clara done this time?”
Lilac shifted into a more comfortable position on her retired professor’s couch. She let her legs hang over the armrest and tightened her hold on the cherry pillow. She didn’t care if she didn’t look presentable. Clara wasn’t around to see her in such an undignified position, and Professor Lintspree had seen worse.
“No one knows what actually happened. We think that your daughter and her friends accidentally knocked over a bottle of lithium, and with their terrible luck, had it land and shatter in a pool of water created by the one leaky pipe in the school. The two reacted, started a fire, which set off the rest of the chemicals they knocked over. The ethanol probably made things worse. Fortunately, the fire appeared to have died down quickly, so it was just the burnt tables giving off a lot of smoke. How they managed to burn the table so badly with lithium and water is another story we may never figure out.”
Lilac threw the pillow into the air.
“Well, that settles Clara. Now.” Professor Lintspree set her tea cup down on the coffee table and leaned forward in her seat. Her elbows rested on the table and she carded her fingers beneath her chin. Lilac gulped. The pillow bounced off her knee and tumbled onto the carpet.
“What’s this I hear about you charging in on your own?”