~ x ~
"Oh my ghoul oh my ghoul oh my ghoul."
As Frankie turned the corner, she flung out her arms in a in a desperate attempt to keep herself from going flying. Her heels squealed to a halt against the linoleum floor, and her hands fluttered to her chest, shaking as she attempted to catch her breath. Inhaling deeply, the ghoul clutched her purse and planted her next step—sloowly. When Lala had texted her during Dead Languages that Abbey was in the nurse's office, having passed out, the lab creation had slipped out of Rotter's class under the pretense of getting a drink of water and had taken off running. As she powerwalked down the hall, Frankie lamented her decision to wear her five inch designer heels that morning.
Arriving at the nurse's suite, she threw her hands through the door and stepped inside. "Where is she?"
"Frankie!" her best ghoulfriends Draculaura, Cleo, and Lagoona chorused. Frankie blinked. Nearly all her bloodies were there, huddled around Abbey like children around campfire, seated or standing around the office's many chairs. Abbey herself was laid up in the tiny bed in the center of the office, swathed from chin to toe in a white sheet.
Abandoning her handbag to an empty seat, Frankie elbowed her way over. Geez, how did everyghoul get there before her? Draculaura, Clawdeen, Cleo, Ghoulia, and Lagoona all were there; Heath, of course, sulking by the nightstand; but even Gil Webber hovered behind Lagoona's shoulder, and…Jackson Jekyll. Giving the Normie boy a small smile, Frankie pulled up a seat beside Abbey and looked the ghoul up and down. The Yeti's cheeks were pale, a light blue color, and her lips were slightly parted, revealing her long fangs. Her chest rose and fell in steady rhythm, and her forehead shone with sweat, a limp washcloth perched atop her brow. Frowning, Frankie looked over to her friends. "How is she? Has she woken up yet? Has anybody talked to her? Somebody…what happened?"
"No idea." Clawdeen shrugged, cinching her arms tighter around her waist. The werewolf shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Heath just said they were talking, and then, boom—" She snapped her fingers. "Passed out."
"Oh my ghoul." Frankie lifted her hand to her mouth. She turned to interrogate the fire elemental. "Heath…talking to her about what, exactly?"
For some reason, the boy blushed, looking away and pretending to study the windowsill. Clawdeen rolled her eyes. "Heath lost her necklace, and Abbey flipped out."
"Oh, no…" Frankie glanced down, and she did notice that her friend's neck looked unusually bare, absent of her token gems. She pulled on her knuckles. "Well…I'm sure she'll have plenty to tell us once she wakes up..."
While they were debating, Abbey groaned, tossing and turning in her bed. Her eyes fluttered open, and she frowned, squinting at the ceiling. Immediately upon hearing her, Heath spun around, kneeling down by her side.
"Abbey! Are you okay, ghoul?" Frankie placed a hand on her friend's. "Heath said you passed right out! Is everything all right?"
Abbey groaned, struggling to sit up. She narrowed her eyes at the ceiling. "Mmm…n-necklace…"
"Oh, Abbey..." Clawdeen uncrossed her arms, settling them on her hips. The werewolf fiddled with a strand of her hair. "We can get you a new one, honey. It's just jewelry."
Abbey shook her head, her silvery tresses bouncing. "No, no, no—you all not understanding." The Yeti sighed, then endeavored to sit up again, struggling against her pillow. Once she had gotten settled, she met the eyes of each of her friends. "You see, parents—they were ones who made necklace for me. Necklace, it…keep my body cool…much like the jacket, for you all, in winter. It keep your body warm, yeah?" Frankie and a few other of the ghouls nodded. Heath raised his eyebrows, studying his ghoulfriend. Abbey continued. "Well, outside of mountain, in Down Below land, Yeti die if body get too warm." Beside her, the fire boy grew pale, and he swallowed. "That is why I need necklace. It keep my body cool." Abbey cocked her head to the side, scratching her cheek. "Is this all making sense?"
Frankie nodded, but Clawdeen stepped forward, her yellow eyes zeroing in on the blue snowghoul. She cocked an eyebrow. "So, let me get this straight, ghoul." Abbey nodded. Clawdeen dropped her forehead and rubbed the bridge of her nose between her fingers. "You're saying, that without that necklace…you're gonna die." She raised her eyes to meet Abbey's. "Is that what you're trying to tell me?"
Abbey swallowed, growing pale. She nodded. "Things…not looking so good for Abbey, yes." Tears sprung to the ghoul's eyes, and they began running down her cheeks. Heath jumped up and snatched a tissue from the nightstand, offering it to his girlfriend. Abbey accepted it and blew her nose. "I would say, three...maybe four days, at best." Beside her, Heath grew white as white as her sheets, his lips disappearing into a thin line.
"Mmhm." Clawdeen maintained Abbey's gaze a moment longer. She then whirled on the fire elemental, holding her hand aloft.
"Heath, you fucking idiot—" she snarled, and the boy toppled backwards, holding up his arms in self-defense.
"No no no—it okay, he not mean it." Abbey held out her arms, swinging her head. She rubbed her hand against her cheek and sniffed. "Trusted him with errand I should have done myself. I just did not want to miss big—test…" Her eyes crinkling into slits, the girl's tears began flowing down faster. She covered her face with her hands. "Now I feel foolish…"
Frankie clasped her hands together, her mouth pulling into a frown. "Aw, it's okay, Abbey…"
Heath got up, dusting off his jeans after Clawdeen had backed away from him. He settled down on the bed beside Abbey, his eyebrows knitting together. "I'm so sorry, Abbey…I—I should've been more careful..."
"Ya think?" Clawdeen hissed under her breath. Frankie frowned at her.
Abbey sniffed and wiped away her tears, attempting to give her boyfriend a smile. "It okay, know you not meaning it. You were doing me great favor." She patted his jacket sleeve. But then she sighed, her shoulders inverting. "Just…little scared now, I admit. Not sure what to do." She collected her hands into her lap, her forehead furrowing.
His face twisted in concern, Heath leaned forward, settling his hands on top of hers. But Abbey gasped, pulling them away and throwing them over her face. Frankie felt her breath catch in her throat as she saw Abbey's skin had erupted into violent red boils, pink and scarred around the edges. A collective gasp raced around the room as the gathered ghouls realized what had happened.
"Heath!" Frankie shrieked, her hand rising to her mouth. Her voice hit an octave the complete opposite of her normal tone. "Gosh, stop—touching her! You irresponsible—freak! Ghoul, don't you ever think before you do anything?"
Heath's mouth dropped open, and he snatched away his hands, but too late. Draculaura, Clawdeen, and Lagoona murmured among themselves, and the vampire and werewolf shot him dirty looks. From the back of the room, Cleo stepped forward, her hands positioned on her hips. "Heath, I'm sorry…but maybe it would be best if you left for a while." She raised her eyebrows, her mouth cinching to the side. "You can come back and see Abbey later."
Heath sighed, turning away from his girlfriend and removing his hands to his pockets. He got up to leave, avoiding everyghoul else's eyes as he shuffled past. As he trudged by, Clawdeen and Draculaura glared at him, while Gil and Jackson stumbled out of his way, gluing their eyes to the floor. The fire elemental left without another word while Ghoulia bustled around the office, gathering supplies for Abbey's damaged paws.
As soon as the zombie girl had patched her up, Abbey turned her friends, shaking her head. "It okay, he not mean it. He is as harmless as the fly." She shrugged. "Skin just not react well to fire skin, is all. Not used to it." She then grinned, waggling her fingers. "Besides, now I am like Cleo de Nile, see?" Back in her chair, Cleo raised an eyebrow, sucking on her bottom lip.
Frankie didn't return the smile. She leaned forward, placing a hand on the bed between herself and her best friend. "Abbey, what can we do to help you? Isn't there anything?"
Abbey sighed, her cheery demeanor deflating. She shook her head. "No. Well…some things help for short time. Ice pack, for example." The Yeti crossed her arm over her chest, positioning the other on her chin. Her face screwed up in thought, and her pink tongue poked out from between her fangs. But after a few moments, she sighed, shaking her head. "But nothing work as permanent. Only delay inevitable." Her posture collapsed.
But Draculaura leaned forward, her eyes sparkling. Her pupils grew wide. "But, Abbey—surely there's some way we could get a new necklace for you! I mean, that can't be only one in existence…" She glanced back at Lagoona and Cleo, who shrugged. "…Can it?"
Abbey blushed and looked away. Her eyebrows fell together. "Bat girl right." Frankie sat up, her ears piqued. Abbey's mouth cinched to the side. "But only place know how to make, is village." She raised a bandaged hand towards the window, pointing outside. Frankie and the gang's eyes traveled to the tips of the icy mountains, their peaks visible beyond the acres of woods that surrounded campus. "Mountain…top…" Abbey's eyes fluttered shut, and she fell back against her pillow, her breath escaping her lips.
"Abbey!" Frankie leapt out of her chair, flapping her hands in front of her friend's face. "Stay with me, ghoul."
Abbey's eyes fluttered open, and she shook her head, blinking. She settled back against her pillow. "But it dangerous journey." She pulled at a string on one of her bandages. "Not worth it, maybe…"
Frankie's face broke into a smile. She placed a hand on her friend's. "Abbey, of course it's worth it." She squeezed her hand through the bandages. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure you get well."
The Yeti girl lifted her chin, meeting her eyes. Her expression brightened. "Thank you, Frankie. That mean a lot to me." She rubbed the corner of eye, then looked towards the door of the nurse's office, pulling on her snowflake earring. "Tell Heath it okay too for me, please? Have him say bye to me before he leave today."
Frankie bobbed her chin. "Of course." She smiled, then swiveled around in her chair, facing her other friends. She slapped her fist into her hand. "All right, ghouls—so, what's the gameplan?"
Draculaura sat up, crossing one leg over the other. She folded her arms, her pink lips working into a tiny frown. "Well, first of all, I say we make Heath go, since this is all his fault in the first place." Beside her, Clawdeen, Cleo, and Lagoona nodded.
Frankie bobbed her chin. "Right. I'm going too, of course." She raised her eyebrows across the room, to where her not-quite-boyfriend, Jackson, stood lingering in the corner. "Jackson?..."
The Normie jumped, as if surprised he was being addressed. "Huh?" He blinked, pushing his glasses back up on his nose. "Oh, um—yeah, sure, Frankie…"
Frankie couldn't help but smile. From the back of the room, Lagoona pushed her way forward, throwing her hand up into the air. She flashed her pearly grin. "I'm going, too, mates! Don't even dream of leaving me behind."
Behind her, her boyfriend Gil's mouth dropped open, his eyes widening. "Lagoona!" he hissed.
"What, Gil?" The sea monster whirled around on him, placing her hands on her hips. She narrowed her eyes. "Abbey's one-a me best ghoulfriends. I'm not going to let anything get in my way." She crossed her arms over her chest, tapping her foot against the ground.
Gil peered down his nose at her. "We'll talk about this." He clapped a hand on her shoulder and began dragging her away. "…Outside."
As her boyfriend escorted her out, Lagoona attempted to plant her flipflops into the ground, but to little avail. She peeked over her shoulder, raising her eyebrows at her friends. She then pulled down one of her eyelids and stuck out her tongue, rolling her eyes.
Frankie grinned. "Great." She slapped her fist into her palm again. "I'll go talk to Principal Bloodgood and see if we can leave asap." She stood up, straightening out her skirt. "C'mon, ghouls—let's give Abbey some air. Maybe, one of us can stay with her in case she needs something?..." She glanced across the bed, and Ghoulia gave her a thumbs up, while Lala circled her thumb and forefinger, winking. Frankie smiled, then threw her arms around Abbey, squeezing her best friend into a tight hug. After letting her go, Frankie made her way out of the office, promising to Abbey she'd return later, with a Heath in tow. Clawdeen and Jackson fell into line behind her, leaving the Yeti girl to be attended by the zombie, the vampire, and their friend, the Cleo.
As the three filed into the hall, Frankie glanced down the way, and she spotted Heath, leaned up against the lockers at the end of the row. His hands were shoved deep into his pockets, and his shoulders were bent over, almost as if he were suffering a bad stomachache. His eyebrows were knitted together into a nearly pained expression, and he stared vacantly at the bulletin board in front of him. Frankie sighed, fiddling with her necktie. Gosh, she had never seen the energetic elemental so—down, before.
The ghoul turned at the sound of her name. "Hm?"
Clawdeen's arms were crossed over her chest, and her lupine friend's brows were cinched together in a worried expression that Abbey had come to call her "Mother Wolf" look. The wolverine chewed on her bottom lip. "You ghouls sure you'll be all right?"
Frankie her away with her hand. "Aw, we'll be fine." She nudged the Normie boy beside her in the side. "Right, Jackson?"
Jackson blinked. "Oh, um—yeah, sure, Frankie…" He coughed and rubbed the back of his neck, glancing away from her.
Clawdeen's right ear twitched. She maintained Frankie's gaze. "Mkay." The werewolf turned her back on the two, facing the wall behind them. "Cleo, Drac, n' I will organize a search here." She uncrossed her arms, spreading her paws from side to side. "We'll post up fliers—the whole nine yards." She whirled around, smacking her fist into the center of her palm, her eyebrows gathered in a determined look. "I'll do my best to find that necklace, and hopefully save you ghouls most of a trip." She lowered her arms, settling one on her hip. She waved a finger at Frankie. "Now, I don't want any of ya'll getting eaten by hungry Yetis, ya hear?"
Frankie grinned. "You got it, Clawdeen." Her expression softened. "Thanks. That sounds awesome."
The werewolf nodded. "No problem." She sighed, returning her arms to her chest. "Poor Abbey…I had no idea that necklace was so important to her. I wish she woulda said something sooner." She shook her tresses, then lifted her head and narrowed her eyes at the sulking fire elemental down the hall. "And why she entrusted it to that idiot—well, I have no clue. C'mon, ghouls—let's deal with this piece of kindling." Cupping her hands around her mouth, Clawdeen inhaled deeply and let out a shout. "Hey, Burns!" Heath glanced up. Clawdeen snapped her fingers and pointed beside her. "Get your sorry tailpiece down here."
Detaching himself from the wall, Heath slunk towards them, his hands shoved deep into his pockets. Frankie's heart ached a little for him—it looked like he was dragging himself to get his head chopped off, or something. The lab creation looked away as the boy shuffled to a halt in front of them, his eyes fixated upon the ground.
Clawdeen stepped forward, pretending to brush lint off of his jacket shoulders. She straightened his uneven lapels. "You're goin' on a little adventure," she hissed into his ear. She took a step back, settling her hands on her hips. "Abbey says that the only thing that can get her well is that necklace, and that the only place you can find her a new one, is her village in the mountains." She extended a finger at him. "So, we've elected you to be the one to go get that for her." Heath raised his eyes, meeting Clawdeen's. The werewolf slapped a paw on Frankie's shoulder, nearly throwing her friend off-balance. "Frankie, Jackson, and Lagoona are kind enough to be accompanying you, so that you don't accidentally get yourself killed up there."
Heath narrowed his eyes at her. The fire boy crossed his arms and turned away from them, a light blush settled over his features. "I would've gone anyway," he grumbled, barely comprehensible. "I'll go by myself."
"Heath, no way can you go by yourself!" Frankie clapped her hands together. "It's really dangerous."
Heath whirled on her, his nostrils flaring. Frankie's breath caught in her throat, and she stumbled backwards, taken by surprise. She felt Jackson place a steadying hand on her back. "You think I don't know that?" Heath snapped. The boy stepped backwards and turned away from them, rubbing his hand through his hair. "I mean, I know you all think I'm some sort of idiot, and that Abbey deserves way better, but obviously, she trusts me, so, she must see something—"
Frankie opened her mouth to observe that she hadn't said a thing about him not deserving Abbey, just that he had been kind of careless, but Clawdeen beat her to the punch.
"Well, obviously Abbey musta already feelin' sick in the head if she trusted YOU with something that important to her!" the werewolf howled, slamming her foot against the floor. She bared her teeth, and her brown fur stood on end. Frankie's bolts sparked in surprise, and her heart jumped to her throat. She felt Jackson beside her take a step back from the two ghouls. Heath narrowed his eyes at the werewolf, and Frankie could have sworn she saw tendrils of smoke starting to rise from his hair.
But Clawdeen defused, taking a deep breath. She settled a hand on chest, holding up the other before her. "But hey, I'm not here to play parent. Abbey's a big girl—she can make her own dumb decisions if she wants to." She narrowed her eyes at Heath. "But let me tell you this, Burns." She stepped forward, planting a finger into the center of his chest. She brought her nose so close to his, that they almost touched. "If you don't find that necklace? You're gonna have to deal with me. And if you have to deal with me, you're gonna be so sorry, you're go crawling to your mamma, begging her to take you back insida her." Heath maintained his steely stare, refusing to bat an eye at her. Clawdeen bore her teeth and snarled. "Got it?"
Heath slapped her hand away, turning his back on her. He crossed his arms over his chest, a deep blush settling over his features. An expression of shame crept into his eyes. "Yeah. I got it…"
Frankie sighed, wringing her hands. She felt badly for shrieking at the fire elemental earlier—it was clear that he really cared about Abbey, and that he was already beating himself up over his mistake. She had been so wrapped up in her best friend's feelings, that she had completely forgotten about his, too. She placed a hand on his shoulder. "C'mon, Heath—let's go talk to Principal Bloodgood, and see if there's a way she can get us off campus." As she and the two boys shuffled away, Frankie glanced over her shoulder, raising an eyebrow at Clawdeen. The lab creation shrugged and cinched her mouth to the side, turning back down the hall.
As the three walked away from her, Clawdeen sighed, her ears flattening against her head. She crossed her arms, scuffing her toe against the floor. She felt badly for ripping Heath a new one just now, but the fire elemental's token irresponsibility, and just plain lack of sense, had put one of her best friend's—his own ghoulfriend's—life in danger! What the hell did he expect? A friggin' cakewalk? She certainly hoped he took this mission seriously, because she certainly wasn't joking about what she had said. Clawdeen turned, planning to reenter the nurse's office, but pivoted abruptly, deciding to take a lap around campus to clear her head instead.
Principal Bloodgood stepped away from her window, her hands folded behind her back. She turned to face her three students, fidgeting underneath her gaze. Frankie had just related all her information to the principal, and now the three were silent, waiting on her verdict. "Oh my. I'm so sorry to hear that about Abbey. I had no idea her necklace maintained her body heat like that." She adjusted her collar, then focused her gaze on Frankie. "But don't you all think you should look around the school first? See if Mr. Burns dropped it somewhere?"
Frankie nodded. "Yeah, I thought about that, too. But, what if we don't find it? Abbey said so herself—she only has three days to live or so." Standing at the corner of Bloodgood's desk, Heath looked away, blushing. He scratched the back of his neck. Frankie turned back to the principal and continued. "We can't risk not finding it. Our best chance is to go straight to the source." She clasped together her hands and offered the principal her best pleading look.
The principal sighed, shaking her head. She turned away from her three inquiring students. "Frankie, you know I can't sanction something like that." Frankie's heart sank, and her eyes dropped to the floor. She hoped that the principal wouldn't see her disappointed look. This was going to be a whole lot harder than she thought. Bloodgood continued. "But I know that even if I try to stop you, you'll go anyway." Frankie lifted her chin. Bloodgood's mouth was twisted into a small smile. "So, I might as well try to help you as much as I can. I believe you can do it. And of course, I want to see Abbey get well." She stepped forward. "If you're absolutely positive, and you can promise me you'll do your best to stay safe, I'll talk to Hackington right away, and arrange for you all a way to leave campus this afternoon."
Frankie clapped her hands together, nearly jumping out of her chair. "Oh, thank you, Principal Bloodgood! It-it means a lot…" The principal nodded, the corners of her mouth turning upwards.
"Yeah, thanks, Principal Bloodgood," Heath mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. "It means a lot…"
The headless headmistress turned to raise her eyebrows at the boy. "Heath, I'm certainly glad you came to me as soon as you realized what had happen. That takes a lot of courage." Heath nodded. "But perhaps you should take this incident as motivation to think more carefully about your responsibilities from now on." Heath turned red and whirled away from her, throwing his arms over his chest. He retreated to the corner of the room to sulk. Bloodgood frowned, then turned back to Frankie and Jackson. "So, it's the three of you going?"
Frankie nodded. "Yes." Beside her, she felt Jackson shift in his seat. The lab creation tapped her cheek. "Oh! And Lagoona Blue."
"Wonderful." Bloodgood clapped together her hands. "I'll go talk to Hackington right now." She pulled on her blazer, making her way towards the door. She stopped short, turning back to Jackson and Frankie. "Let's plan to meet in front of the school's entrance as soon as everything's prepared. I'll make an announcement for you all to meet me over the PA system. Time is of the essence, so make sure you're prompt. Gather your things, say goodbye to your friends, and be ready to leave asap." Frankie and Jackson nodded. The principal looked to Heath, but the fire elemental refused to turn around, staring at the wall. The principal inclined her head, then exited the room, leaving the three teens alone.
As soon as they had filed into the hallway, Heath threw his hands up in the air, storming away from his friends. He slammed an open locker out of his way, causing two cyclops girls nearby to jump. Frankie made to follow him, but Jackson placed a hand on her shoulder instead.
"Frankie, can we—talk?..." Frankie turned around, and she met the worried eyes of her best guy friend.
"Oh, um—sure, Jackson!" Adjusting her skirt, she and the boy traveled a few feet down the hall, taking up a seat on the bench positioned just outside the principal's office. Frankie recalled this bench was where she and Abbey had sat a year and a half before, on the first day they had met. Jackson removed his glasses, opening and folding the frames in his hands.
"Frankie, you know I'd love to do anything for you," he began. He gulped. Frankie raised her eyes to meet his, studying him. "And of course, I'd really like to help Heath, too. And Abbey." He sighed, placing his glasses back on his nose. "It's just…" He wrung his hands. "I'm just not sure if I'm the best…choice, for this adventure." He looked away, avoiding her eyes.
Frankie's face collapsed, her heart sinking. "Oh." Great. Jackson was bailing on her. Again. She focused on her hands. "That's…fine…"
"Yeah." Jackson lowered his eyes. "I'm—sorry…" The two were quiet for a moment, gazing in opposite directions down the hall. Jackson shifted in his seat, the bench creaking underneath them. "…But, if it makes you feel any better…I think I know someone who'd love to go..."
Frankie lifted her chin. She raised an eyebrow at him. "Huh?"
Jackson frowned. "You know who I mean." He held up his black iCoffin, which Frankie had given him to match her own.
Frankie's heart jumped to her throat, but she instantly swallowed it down again, shaking her head. "Oh, but Jackson—I don't want to…"
"It's okay, Frankie." Jackson began untangling his headphones, straightening out the chords. He clicked them into their jack. "If I can't do it, then…well, I guess Holt has every right to take my place." He settled the device in his best friend's hands, folding her fingers around it. He offered a smile, attempting to catch her eyes. "Besides, you said so yourself—we're the same person underneath, right?"
Frankie nodded, swallowing hard. Her mouth budged a little. "Yeah." Her heart raced at the thought of seeing Holt again, but Jackson was just, so sweet. So her speed. She withdrew her hands from his. "If you're sure."
"Yeah." Jackson nodded, his mouth settling into a frown. "I'm sure."
Frankie began shuffling around in her own purse, and she emerged with her iCoffin, a metallic grey device. "Actually, there's this mix I've been wanting both you—and Holt to hear." She began unwinding her own headphones. "It's this remix of classical and r&b my favorite artist, GhoulTalk, did a while back." She held up an earbud in each hand, as if a surgeon about to perform a delicate operation. She raised an eyebrow. "Does that sound cool?"
"That sounds awesome, Frankie." Jackson smiled. He then looked away, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm sure—Holt, will love it, too…"
Frankie nodded, chewing on her bottom lip. "Okay." Leaning forward, she settled an earbud into each of Jackson's ears. She took a moment to brush a tangled portion from his chin, then lowered her hands to her iCoffin, her finger hovering above 'Play' on her LCD screen. She looked to Jackson, whose eyes were screwed up in preparation, breathed out, and pressed the key. As the music began humming from his ears, Frankie held her breath and narrowed her own eyes, bracing herself for the transformation, which still startled her whenever she witnessed it take place.
A pop of green light blinded Frankie, and she turned away, throwing her hands over her eyes. The acrid smell of smoke filled her nostrils, and the peppery scent of body spray filled the air, stinging her eyes. When Frankie turned back, bright colors flashing in her field of vision, she found a grinning, blue-skinned boy seated in Jackson's place, his white teeth visible from ear to ear.
"FrankieFINE!" Holt shouted, throwing his hands up in the air. He jumped to his feet. "Long time, no sign, sweet ghoul o' mine." He dropped to his knees and took her hand in both of his, planting his lips against it. "Moo-uah!"
"Oh—heh, heh!" Frankie blushed, covering her mouth with her hand. She waggled her fingers. "Hiya, Holt. How's it going?"
"Eh…I suppose things could be worse." The boy hopped to his feet and sidled up on the bench next to her, snaking his arm around her shoulders. He pressed his cheek against hers, aligning their eyes, and Frankie felt his warm breath against her lips. "I mean, what can a guy do when he's half Normie all the time?" The monster boy then released her, leaning back and stretching out his legs. He rocked the bench back and forth underneath them. "So, what brings a pretty little ghoul like you out on a fine day like this?"
"Well, Holt…" She glanced away from the boy, pulling on her bottom lip. "You see, I actually…really need your help. Heath—um, your cousin—" She peeked at him, and Holt nodded, raising an eyebrow. Frankie continued. "You see, he and Abbey…they really need our help. What happened, is, well, Heath accidentally lost Abbey's necklace, and now she's in the nurse's office, and she's really, really sick…"
As Frankie related her tale, Holt's eyebrows retreating further and further into his hairline, until they had nearly disappeared entirely. When she had finally finished her account, the monster boy slapped a hand to his forehead. "Oh, boy! What an idiot! Can't say I didn't see that one coming, though." He threw his arm around Frankie's shoulder, squeezing her against his side. He shined his nails on his jacket. "Anyway, 'course I'll accompany you, FrankieFine. Anything for you." He grinned, bopping her nose with his finger. He then released her, rubbing the back of his head. "Oh, and uh—family, I guess."
"Oh—thank you, Holt." Frankie clasped her hands together, barely able to keep her voice from cracking. She looked away, a blush enveloping her features. "That…means a lot to me." She began picking at her black nail polish. "You see, Abbey…she's one of my best ghoulfriends. I couldn't stand it if anything happened to her. I mean, ever since she and I met, she's been—"
"Frankie," Holt interrupted. The boy pressed the tips of his fingers together, leaning in close to her. He leveled his eyes with hers. "Frankie, I love ya, doll, and please, don't take this the wrong way when I say this…" Frankie's mouth settled into a frown. "…but you seriously don't know when to shut. Up!" Frankie blinked, reeling back. "You honestly just talked for thirty minutes. Shouldn't we, ya know—" He grinned, placing a hand on her mint-green knee and shaking it. "—shake a leg?" He whirled his finger around.
Frankie slapped her hand to her forehead, her eyes widening. "Ack! Of course, you're right, Holt." She snatched her handbag up from under the bench and jumped to her feet. "Every second counts!"
"That's my ghoul!" Holt grabbed her arm, and the two ghouls raced down the hall, leaving the empty bench behind them.
Three doors down and two hallways over, Toralei Stripe sat perched on the sink of the ghouls' bathroom, spinning Abbey Bominable's necklace around on her finger. Her feline companions, Meowlody and Purrsephone, crowed around her, their eyes aglow at the sparkling gems. Toralei smirked. "Yeah, so, anyway—I imagine Bominable and the gang are ripping Burns a new one right about now." She pulled on one of her whiskers. "They can't be too pleased with him."
Meowlody and Purrsephone smirked, exchanging twin grins. Two weeks ago, the fire elemental had bumped into their Mad Science project as the three were carrying it to class, accidentally setting it aflame and reducing it to a pile of dust. Hackington had failed them instantly without a moment's hesitation. Since then, Toralei had been gunning for a means of revenge against the walking fire hazard, and it seems she had stumbled upon the perfect opportunity this morning, when she had spotted the boy deposit a tiny, expensive-looking box within his locker door. As soon as the he had dashed off to class, Toralei had taken it upon herself to investigate, rifling through his things. And boy, did she ever hit the jackpot—his ghoulfriend Abbey Bominable's necklace, practically in plain sight! The idiot hadn't even locked his locker! He truly made it too easy to hoodwink him. In a flash, the werecat had snatched up the box and hurried down the hall, eager to boast to her friends.
Toralei sneered. "He can have it back when we feel like he's suffered enough." Meowlody and Purrsephone purred, chortling.
The orange-and-black cat stopped spinning the necklace for a moment, holing it aloft to the light. Even in the dim atmosphere of the ghouls' bathroom, Abbey's pendant sparkled, as if lit with a glow from within. Toralei's ear twitched. "It is beautiful, though." Leaping down from the sink, the werecat turned towards the mirror, modeling the jewels against her chest. "I must admit, that Yeti girl has style. Her parents must be loaded!" She glanced over her shoulder at her friends and grinned. "Wanna try it on?"
Meowlody and Purrsephone purred their approval, and they looked on as Toralei clipped the jewels around her neck, arranging them on the front of her outfit. The werecat ringleader turned from side to side, admiring how the gems caught the light—for a few moments, anyhow. For all of a sudden, a thin sheen of glassy ice sprung from the necklace's heart, enveloping Toralei and her entire body in a shiny coat.
"Yee-ow!" the feline screeched, clawing the air with her paws. "What the fresh hell?" Toralei ripped the necklace from her throat and flung it against the wall, where it shattered upon impact. Meowlody gasped, and the three cats watched in horror as the necklace rained in chunks and pieces upon the floor, scattering in every direction.
Toralei's eyes twitched. "…Crap," she hissed. She had planned on returning the necklace to Bominable and pals to their great gratitude as soon as Burns had been kicked to the curb. She hesitated, then yanked her jacket up around her shoulders, turning to leave. "C'mon, ghouls—let's bounce."
The twins exchanged guilty looks, then moved to follow their friend. But they both paused at the same time, peeking over their shoulders at the wreckage. Purrsephone turned on a dime and scurried over to the scene, cradling the shattered necklace strand in her paws, while Meowlody crawled around the floor, collecting the remaining chunks between her claws. After they had squirreled away the remnants of the necklace in their purses, they wetted down a paper towel and wiped up the remaining sparkles from the ground. The twin kittens threw away the paper towel and hurried out after their ringleader, straightening out their skirts. They hoped they didn't look too guilty as they strutted down the hall behind their friend.