Lila narrows her blue eyes at my mirror. "You do know that we're not going to have the same dorm when we come back in the fall, so unless you take all your artwork off, it's just going to be thrown out by the next person."
They're just a bunch of doodles; sketches of haunting eyes, black roses entwined by a bed of thorns, my name woven in an intricate pattern. None of them matter except one: a sketch of an old friend, playing his guitar. I peel that one off, careful not to tear the corners.
"I'll leave them for the next person," I say and add a smile. "They'll have a predecorated room."
"I'm sure the next person will actually want to look in the mirror." She folds up a pink shirt. "Although, I don't know why you want to cover up the mirror. You're not ugly, El."
"It's not about that." I stare at the drawing that captures the intensity in Micha's eyes.
Lila snatches the drawing from my hands, crinkling the edges a little. "One day you're going to have to tell me who this gorgeous guy is."
"He's just some guy I used to know." I steal the drawing back. "But we don't talk anymore."
"What's his name?" She stacks a box next to the door.
I place the drawing into the box and seal it with a strip of tape. "Why?"
She shrugs. "Just wondering."
"His name is Micha." It's the first time I've said his name aloud, since I left home. It hurts, like a rock lodged in my throat. "Micha Scott."
She glances over my shoulder as she piles the rest of her clothes into a box. "There's a lot of passion in that drawing. I just don't see him as being some guy. Is he like an old boyfriend or something?"
I drop my duffel bag, packed with my clothes, next to the door. "No, we never dated."
She eyes me over with doubt. "But you came close to dating? Right?"
"No. I told you we were just friends." But only because I wouldn't let us be anything more. Micha saw too much of me and it scared me too much to let him in all the way.
She twists her strawberry blonde hair into a ponytail and fans her face. "Micha is an interesting name. I think a name really says a lot about a person." She taps her manicured finger on her chin, thoughtfully. "I bet he's hot."
"You make that bet on every guy," I tease, piling my makeup into a bag.
She grins, but there's sadness in her eyes. "Yeah, you're probably right." She sighs. "Will I at least get to see this mysterious Micha - who you've refused to speak about our whole eight months of sharing a dorm together - when I drop you off at your house?"
"I hope not," I mutter and her face sinks. "I'm sorry, but Micha and I... we didn't leave on a good note and I haven't talked to him since I left for school in August." Micha doesn't even know where I am.
She heaves an overly stuffed pink duffle bag over her shoulder. "That sounds like a perfect story for our twelve hour road trip back home."
"Back home... " My eyes widen at the empty room that's been my home for the last eight months. I'm not ready to go back home and face everyone I bailed on. Especially Micha. He can see through me better than a mirror.
"Are you okay?" Lila asks with concern.
My lips bend upward into a stiff smile as I stuff my panicked feeling in a box hidden deep inside my heart. "I'm great. Let's go."
We head out the door, with the last of our boxes in our hands. I pat my empty pockets, realizing I forgot my phone.
"Hold on. I think I forgot my phone." Setting my box on the ground, I run back to the room and glance around at the garbage bag, a few empty plastic cups on the bed, and the mirror. "Where is it?" I check under the bed and in the closet.
The soft tune of Pink's "Funhouse" sings underneath the trash bag - my unknown ID ringtone. I pick up the bag and there is my phone with the screen lit up. I scoop it up and my heart stops. It's not an unknown number, just one that was never programmed into my phone when I switched carriers.
"Micha." My hands tremble, unable to answer, yet powerless to silence it.
"Aren't you going to answer that?" Lila enters the room, her face twisted in confusion. "What's up? You look like you just saw a ghost or something."
The phone stops ringing and I tuck it into the back pocket of my shorts. "We should get going. We have a long trip ahead of us."
Lila salutes me. "Yes, ma'am."
She links arms with me and we head out to the parking lot. When we reach the car, my phone beeps.
"Why is Ella Daniels such a common name," Ethan grunts from the computer chair. His legs are kicked up on the desk as he lazily scrolls the internet. "The list is freaking endless, man. I can't even see straight anymore." He rubs his eyes. "Can I take a break?"
Shaking my head, I pace my room with the phone to my ear, kicking the clothes and other shit on my floor out of the way. I'm on hold with the main office at Indiana University, waiting for answers that probably aren't there. But I have to try - I've been trying ever since the day Ella vanished from my life. The day I promised myself that I'd find her no matter what.
"Are you sure her dad doesn't know where she is?" Ethan flops his head back against the headrest of the office chair. "I swear that old man knows more than he's letting on."
"If he does, he's not telling me," I say. "Or his trashed mind has misplaced the information."
Ethan swivels the chair around. "Have you ever considered that maybe she doesn't want to be found?"
"Every single day," I mutter. "Which makes me even more determined to find her."
Ethan refocuses his attention to the computer and continues his search through the endless amount of Ella Daniels in the country. But I'm not even sure if she's still in the country.
The secretary returns to the phone and gives me the answer I was expecting. This isn't the Ella Daniels I'm looking for.
I hang up and throw my phone onto the bed. "God Dammit!"
Ethan glances over his shoulder. "No luck?"
I sink down on my bed and let my head fall into my hands. "It was another dead end."
"Look, I know you miss her and everything," he says, typing on the keyboard. "But you need to get your crap together. All this whining is giving me a headache."
He's right. I shake my pity party off, slip on a black hoodie, and a pair of black boots. "I've got to go down to the shop to pick up a part. You staying or going?"
He drops his feet to the floor and gratefully shoves away from the desk. "Yeah, but can we stop by my house. I need to pick up my drums for tonight's practice. Are you going to that or are you still on strike?"