Mikaela slept in, and when she finally did wake, it was to the sound of sweet little birds chirping outside of her window, greeting the noonday sun. It was a warm day, but with just enough of the crispness of morning to be invigorating. She remembered growing up, her father put the fear of the legal system into her, telling her it didn’t work for people like them, only against. But today her dad was wrong, and consequently, today, the world was right. Even waking up in yesterday’s clothes somehow felt right.
She kicked her feet out, found her shoes where she’d left them and began to tie them as she bounced happily on the edge of the bed to a song she couldn’t quite remember.
She even greeted the sound of her phone buzzing as a positive. It meant one of her friends needed her, and she had always appreciated being needed. The ID said it was Irene, and she answered. “Hey, Irene,” she said, the sing-song of her voice echoing the tune of the bird outside her window.
“He, uh,” Irene’s words came quick, punctuated, like she was trying to speak after a long sprint, or while being choked.
“Irene?” Mikaela asked, her pulse quickening. “Are you okay?”
“No,” she whimpered, her voice going higher. She made more noises that came out like grunts.
“Irene? Irene. I’m coming to you. It’ll be okay.” Mikaela grabbed her keys and wallet and ran out the front door, unlocking her phone as she went. She managed to tap off a message to Tucker to the speeding tempo of her pounding feet: “Irene called, freaking out, but can’t get a word out. Help!”
“She’s panicking.” Tucker’s text came back. “Having trouble breathing, and so, trouble talking.”
“911?” Mikaela texted back.
“No,” Tucker said. “Panic attack. Even if she manages to pass out, autonomic nervous system will regulate her breathing. She’ll be okay.”
“Unless the reason for her panic is an attack,” Mikaela said.
“She’s safe,” Tucker replied. “But she is going to need us.”
Mikaela didn’t have long to contemplate what Tucker meant as she leapt over a hole at the edge of a curb, landing on the sidewalk on Irene’s block. Tucker’s car pulled around the corner and parked in one of the spots in front of Irene’s apartment building as she passed.
“We need to be ready for a fight?” Mikaela asked, winded.
“You ran here? You made good time. And you do glisten pleasantly in this light.” Mikaela raised her eyebrows to emphasize her question. “Not inside, no.”
Tucker led the way up the stairs. He tried the door, and it opened. Irene was sitting in a chair with her head between her knees, gulping for air. “You okay?” Mikaela asked, dropping to one knee so she could rub Irene’s back.
“None of us are,” Tucker said, nodding in the direction of Irene’s laptop.
Scrolling across a screen showing video of the President, smiling as he walked past a line of flags, was a chyron that read, “Drump pardons militia who invaded Breed school.” “He’s declared open season on us,” Irene gasped. “We’ll never be safe again.”