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by Linda L. – 8th Grade

“Deshi! Come back!”

Deshi stormed outside, fuming. Why did they have to stay here, of all places? At my house, with my family. Stupid lawyer and his stupid wife, coming here from Russia to “assess the situation here for an upcoming trial”. Idiots. She strode through the maze of tents in the refugee camp and ducked through the forest to a quiet, moonlit clearing. It was a place she cherished, a place where she could be by herself to think and rest, or to just be able to do her homework in peace.

“Hey, are you ok?” A voice sounded behind her.

Who’s that? She spun around, expecting to see one of the other refugee kids.

“Who are you?” she asked. He wasn’t anyone she recognized.

“My name’s Nicolai. What’s yours?” Nicolai. A Russian name. I should’ve known. I know almost everyone here. He must be the lawyer’s kid.

“Deshi.” She studied the Russian boy. He had short black hair and a pale face, with pale eyes the color of the sky on a clear winter day. He’s pretty handsome. For a Russian. “What’re you doing here?”

“I’m trying to find my cat. Have you seen her? She ran off as soon as we arrived. I’ve been looking for her ever since.” Nicolai watched the girl closely and took in her second-hand clothes, her scraggly hair, and her dirty face. She’s beautiful.

“She’s not here.” Talking in complete, perfect sentences? Definitely educated. Private school, of course.

“Are you sure? I could’ve sworn I saw her come in here.” He peered into the shadows at the bases of the trees, almost as though he expected his cat to magically appear out of nowhere. “Tsarina? Are you here? Tsarrrinnnaaaa!”

Suddenly, a streak of gray fur leaped into his arms. He caught the cat neatly, tucking her into his chest. He snuggled the cat in his arms and glanced over in time to catch Deshi roll her eyes minutely.

Deshi was unimpressed. Definitely rehearsed. Probably showing off. She could hear the cat–What was her name? Tsarina?–purring up a storm. Well, if his cat likes him that much, he can’t be that bad.

“Well, now that you have your cat, will you leave?” She crossed her arms and stared at him with piercing green eyes. The sooner he gets out of here, the better.

“Only if you come back with me. You’re mother’s worried about you.” She narrowed her eyes at him. Nicolai realized the mistake he’d just made and grinned sheepishly at her.

“How do you know my mom’s worried?” she asked.

“It was just a guess. You’re here all alone, and you look mad, so you probably didn’t ask your parents to come out here.” He avoided looking her in the eye and suddenly had a keen interest in his cat’s silver tabby fur. Liar.

He raised his eyes. “So… are you coming?” She stared at him for a few seconds more. He didn’t budge. Obviously, he wouldn’t leave unless she went with him.

“Fine. I’ll go.”

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