prologue

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"WHAT DO YOU MEAN you just happened to hit her, miss Martinez?"

Ella leaned back in the black chair she was sitting on, the picture of calm even in the principal's office. It wasn't even ten o'clock and yet she was here again, in this unfortunately all too familiar place. She had known this would be the last time she would be here as soon as she had seen his face, but she couldn't bring herself to care just yet. Still, that wouldn't stop her from getting a rise out of him, just one more time.

"Exactly what I said," she replied innocently," I don't know how it happened."

The old, balding man in front of her seemed like he was going to explode any second now. Her principal had gained more gray hairs ever since she had first met him, scattered across the little he had left, and she wondered if the daily stress she caused him had anything to do with it.

"So you mean to say three of a student's bones and two chairs broke all by themselves?"

"For all it's worth," she said," those chairs weren't really that comfortable anyway. It's not a big loss."

The principal rubbed his temple then, closing his eyes against the starting headache.

"You're expelled," he said.

"And just when I had the feeling we were becoming close too," Ella said as she placed a hand over her heart, her voice tinged with mock sadness.

"You really should take this more seriously," the principal said," how many schools has it been now?"

Ella bit back another comment.

"Your mother is waiting outside," the principal said as he waved her off with a hand," go."

Ella didn't bother with a goodbye as she threw open the door. When she faced the completely pissed off woman in front of her, all her confidence immediately disappeared. Her gaze flicked back to the principal and she wondered how long the door would hold if she went back inside and locked it.

"Eleanora Maricruz Martinez," her mother hissed.

"Please don't kill me," Ella said as she inched closer to the fire exit," I'm too young to die."

Her mother's red-painted lips were drawn in a thin line as she watched her youngest child, murder flashing in those pretty, dark eyes. She had always seemed untouchable, even to time, and especially to her.

"Okay," Ella began as she stepped back once more," I know this looks bad, but -"

"The fourth one?" her mother screamed," how do you even get expelled from four schools, Eleanora?"

Ella ran.

And her mother, a slender, elegant woman who was one of the most revered judges in the country, took off her crimson heels, lifted them in her hand and sprinted right after her.

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