My elation was a little short-lived though. I hurried back to my room eager to tell Lizzy, being the only person I could think of. (I can hear Bairn having a go at me for all-work and no play again. I must do something about that.) But as the door opened I knew something was up. All of her stuff had gone.
Her shelves were completely bare—cleaned, dusted and polished to within an inch of their life and her bed stripped down to the mattress. In disbelief, I opened her wardrobe, still expecting to find her beautiful dresses there, but there was nothing. All her drawers were empty too, and as I gazed into the void, I knew I had to accept it.
Lizzy had gone.
A rush of inexplicable sadness—no ... disappointment, shot through me. I couldn't believe that she would have just packed up and gone without saying a word, especially after promising to talk this evening. I was speechless.
Heaving a huge sigh, I sat on the edge of my bed and stared at her bare mattress.
A noise roused me.
It was coming from under Lizzy's bed.
Cautiously, I got down onto my knees and peered under the bed, and then laughed. It was just a cleaning droid beavering away, cleaning and sanitising the carpet. The janitorial staff had obviously left it to its devices after Lizzy had gone, to get rid of all the stains that she had made. It was doing a splendid job too. Amongst the cleanliness and starkness of the room, I hadn't noticed it before, but the flooring was beautifully clean. Only the droid's track marks, still freshly laid into it, marred it.
But something was hindering it. I reached under the bed, pushed it to one side and reached out. My fingers folded around something prickly. It was a hairbrush—Lizzy's hairbrush.
Depression folded in on me as I held it in my hands, fiddling with the bristles. I wondered if she might come back for it. But no, that was a silly thought. It was only a hairbrush. Still, I decided to put it on one side for her and took it into the bathroom where I opened the drawer and placed it gently inside on top of the fresh towels. As I closed the drawer though, something else caught my eye.
Beside the sink sat two beakers. Usually they housed my toothbrush in one and Lizzy's in the other, but now just one toothbrush sat alone, but it wasn't my toothbrush. It was Lizzy's!
That was really odd. Why would Lizzy take my toothbrush and leave hers. Hers was cleaner than mine; I needed a new one, but she wouldn't leave me a second-hand toothbrush. Someone must have helped her pack and picked up the wrong one ... or maybe Lizzy didn't pack at all.
What if someone had packed up her stuff when she wasn't there? That would explain it. I sighed heavily. It looked like Lizzy had finally won and been expelled, but if she had, she would have said goodbye surely—left me a note at least. So I checked my mail, but there was nothing there.
I felt deeply unsettled. I knew it was silly, but I just couldn't accept that she had just left. It didn't seem right. I tried to settle down to my homework, but my mind wouldn't focus. In the end, I resolved that I'd make an enquiry with Student Services. They'd have an address for her. They would, at the very least, be able to forward a message to her for me. That seemed to work, and I was able to concentrate, but it was oddly quiet and lonely without Lizzy there, or her stuff at least. Our paths had rarely crossed, but she'd had such a huge presence in the room that her absence now reverberated through it like an echo in an empty tunnel.