Alice tied her thick chestnut hair back into a ponytail, frowning as she got a bump in her hair. She quickly smoothed it out and re-tied. Maybe growing out her bangs had been a bad idea. Her wisps of hair hadn't reached full potential yet.

Her perfectly manicured, brown eyebrows wrinkling in concentration as she applied black eyeliner above her green eyes. She dusted powder onto her cheeks and reapplied her red lipstick.

She frowned. Her hair wasn't working for her. She pulled it down and let the thick ringlets bounce down her neck to her shoulder blades. Her hand reached for the hair tie…

"Alice!" He mom called from downstairs. She paused.

"What?" She called back, annoyed.

"School." She shook her head, even though her mom was far away. Her fingers clasped around her custom designed hair tie, pink with white zebra stripes. It had, in small print, her initials.

"No." She called back down. "I've got to do my hair!"

"No need to shout." Her mom's voice startled her from the doorway of her pristine bathroom. She jumped and whirled around. "Mom!"

The pale face was stern, blonde hair down, and gray eyes blazing. He mom looked down at her before grabbing her and whirling her around. She marched her down the stairs, kissed her cheek, shoved some toast and lunch in her left hand, a water bottle in her right, and hugged her before she knew what was happening. Alice took it all to be polite, but inside she seethed. She slipped her hair tie onto her right wrist. She could put it on on the bus.

Her mother kissed her again and looked into her eyes. "Alice…" There was something like regret, or worry, or maybe even patronizing in her eyes. Alice rolled hers. "What?"

Her mom's voice became hushed, and definitely worried this time. "There have been some… bad people about this place, honey. I'm sure your principal will tell you about it… just be careful, alright?" Her words stirred distant memories of blurry headlines, people going missing. Young girls, only 14, her age.

She shook her head. "Stop being silly, mom." She spared her one last glance and then hustled out the door, closing it behind her. She skipped onto the yellow bus and headed to the back. Her eyes didn't even wander as she raced down to the second-to-last row, on her left, and plonked down next to her BFF, Abigor Ravana.

"Hey, Abi." She said, pulling out her binder. They loved to draw together on the way to school. "Want to work on that forest today?" There was only silence. She looked over at her friend for the first time, and almost fell backwards off her seat.

Just Thursday, Abi had looked pristine. Left school early for family reasons, not coming back on Friday, but that was usually nothing to be concerned about. Blonde pixie cut, blue eyes, soft face. A happy laugh. A smile in her eyes.

But now, her eyes were shadowed with black and blue underneath them, and her nose was red from crying. Tears streaked down her unkempt face, and her hair stuck out at odd angles.

"Abi!" Alice gasped, dropping her notebook and immediately hugging her friend. She remained unresponsive, staring out the window with blank eyes. She shook her, genuinely scared now. "ABI!" She shrieked. Some of the people on the bus were turning to look at her, but she didn't care. All she wanted to do was save her friend.

Abi finally looked over, eyes dull and glazed. She looked mildly surprised to find her best friend there. Alice gasped in relief.
"Abi." She said. "Abi, what's wrong? Abi, speak!" She continued when met with silence.

Finally Abi spoke. "They took her."

"Who?" Alice said, confused.

"The people- who buy people-" Alice's heart skipped a beat. "-They took Sarah, Ali. Sarah." And then she dissolved into a darkness of seemingly unconscious sobbing.