Iliana hadn't the vaguest inkling of what the apple could be, though it was plainly out of place in the classroom, nestled in Jody's palm. There was something strange about it, apart from its luxury. If Iliana had been one to entertain these sorts of notions, had she been a poet or a theist or something equally fanciful, she might have hazarded that the ruby was otherworldly. But as it stood, she was none of those things, and possessed none of the spark that allowed those kinds of imaginings to flourish.
The sister, however, cocked an eyebrow and whistled, low. "I think it's an indication of your ambition. I was wrong, Jody. You don't want to live in a box after graduating. You aspire to prison. Who knew?"
Iliana didn't follow. What did the jewel have to do with prison? Jae wasn't suggesting that Jody had stolen it, was she?
The door crashed open, and Iliana spun to catch sight of their teacher storming into the room.
"My car has been broken into," he snarled, and Iliana had the uncomfortable feeling that he was looking directly at her as he spoke. Sitting straighter, she refused to shrink away from him glare -- she had nothing to do with this, no reason to hide -- until finally he looked away.
"The authorities have been called," the man continued, with obvious relish. Whatever had happened to his car, he seemed confident that no student could possibly get away with it.
As it happened, Iliana would never know, one way or the other, whether the police would have been successful. With a shock, a deafening roar, the shattering of glass, a powerful explosion rocked the building. Without thinking, Iliana dropped beneath her desk, covering her head and shutting her eyes against what was happening. As the rumbling died down, what seemed like hours later, she peered about the room.
There was dust in the air, obscuring the edges of desks, chalkboard, students, windows. The sky outside had gone dark, and with it the inside of the classroom; it was hard to make out what was happening. It was only that Iliana realized that she could hear nothing, no sounds of alarm or fear. Had the explosion affected her ears?
Still, she felt strangely calm. Calm. Yes, calm, but cold. Terribly cold, as though the dust was sheared ice. With each breath, she felt biting frost filling her lungs. She tried to breath less, with no success.
From out of Jody's knapsack, the apple rolled across the floor and bumped into Iliana's foot. It's colouring seemed the only thing real in the room, the only thing not grey and ice and dark. Beneath it's translucent surface she could see movement, words spun of letters in a language she didn't recognize. Iliana reached for it and immediately understood what Jody had meant about tasting the thing through her skin. The jewel's surface was smooth, and unfathomably sweet.