Will wrapped his arms tighter around himself, shivering at the slight chill. His watch read almost one, the latest he'd stayed up in a long while.
Jimmy and Jan were fast asleep against a pillar, while he felt like an idiot standing there alone in the dark. Every minute there was this faint hope of hearing a sound, but nothing ever interrupted the steady hum of the air conditioning units.
"Must not sleep." he slapped his cheeks lightly. "Must not sleep."
He looked at the Secret Room, as if expecting it to burst open any moment. But like everything else, it remained plain and unassuming. Stiffingly boring, in other words.
As another yawn tried to force its way out, Will tried so hard to stifle it that tears welled up. He didn't want to sleep, but there was no way he could resist any longer.
"Oh man..." he slumped down against the door. "Just a short one."
And he fell asleep right in front of the Secret Room.
Some time later, he found himself drifting back into half-awakedness. Someone was tapping on his shoulder and calling out his name faintly yet firmly.
"Go away," he mumbled to himself. Then something stirred his mind. He had no business being near the Secret Room at an unearthly hour like this, what with Jan and Jimmy counting on him to keep watch! What if it was...Mrs. Banks?
Praying hard, he slowly opened his eyes. Please don't let those horn-rimmed glasses stare back at me. Please don't let it be Mrs. Banks.
"What are you doing up here at this time? I told you to stay away." He almost jumped for joy upon seeing that it was Stella. However, she didn't look that pleased either.
"Will, you promised me. Do you have any idea how crazily dangerous this is? You should be counting your lucky stars it was me who found you, and not someone else."
He hung his head in shame.
She grabbed him firmly by the shoulders. "Go back to your room this instant. And if I ever find you or your friends near the Secret Room again, I'll tell Mrs. Banks first thing."
"Stella, please," he suddenly begged, catching her by surprise. "I've never wanted to know something so much ever before in my life. If you would just tell me a bit more about this room and what happened to you years ago, maybe I would be satisfied. Otherwise you know I'd just keep coming back."
Her grip on him loosened. "All right, Will. I'll let you know all I can."
"The stories you heard are true, but they don't tell the whole story. I didn't escape punishment, nor was I the only one who got punished. My friends and I, all of us were made to bear the consequences. That's why I don't want you to end up like me, understand?"
"B-but...what? What consequences are you bearing? And who are those friends of yours? Where are they now?"
Suddenly Stella jolted straight up, her face filled with cold sweat. "What have I done? Dear me, what have I done? I'VE TOLD YOU TOO MUCH!"