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Cole Smith squinted across the street, looking at a weird bump at the curb. She looked at her watch then both sides of her. Seeing no vehicles were coming, she hurried across. If it was what Cole that it was, she’d be late for school. Slowing as she reached the lump, Cole bent lower to peer at the lump in the grass. Her shoulders drooped as she realized she was correct.
Straightening up, Cole looked around and scowled when she realized the street was deserted, no cars in sight. Looking down again, she sighed and, removing her scarf, placed it on the street by the curb and knelt on it. Pulling her phone out, she connected to a search engine. Detailing the tortoise/turtle, Cole found out it was a gopher tortoise, a male one to be precise. She looked up the diet and was pleased to see they could eat pawpaws, something she had for her lunch.
Pulling one from her bag, she wriggled it and tore off a piece, slowly sliding it in front of the tortoise. He waited for a moment before slowly reaching out and nibbling on it. Pleased to see he was alright, Cole looked up the nearest animal rescue and called the number. She glanced at her watch and cringed as someone picked up.
“Hello, this is the Gall’s Rescue center. I’m Torin, how can I help you?”
Taking a breath to steady herself (she was never good at talking with strangers), Cole answered him. “My name’s Cole. I was walking to school when I spotted an adult gopher tortoise. He’s really close to the road and I don’t want to leave him here.”
There was the sound of things moving over the line. “Alright, can you tell me where you are?”
Looking around, Cole leaned and squinted. “I’m near the Central and Adams’ intersection across from the Leonardo Gardens. The building has that huge purple thing on the front.”
The man made a noise of understanding. “Okay. I’ll be sending a rescue van there. Would you mind staying there?”
Cole grimaced at how late she was going to be to school. “I don’t mind- what are you doing? Stop that!” She yelped and flailed a hand at the tortoise, trying to shoo him away from her bag. “You can’t eat that! Take the pawpaw!”
Dropping her phone in the grass, she removed the two other pawpaws in her bags, placing the closer to the tortoise. Cole eyed it warily as she placed her bag on the road behind her. She picked her phone up again. “Ah, hello? Sorry.”
“Was the tortoise trying to bite your bag?” Torin asked curiously.
“Yes. Just think, instead of my dog eating my homework, it was a random tortoise.”
A chuckle was her response. “Well, the van is on it’s way, should be there in fifteen minutes.”
“Okay, I’ll wait for them,” she glanced at the tortoise, which was happily nibbling away on the pawpaw fruit. “I’m going to hang up now. Thank you.”
“Thank you for calling, have a good day.” The dial tone sounded and she pressed end, scowling.
“Good day.” She scoffed and glowered at the time, pulling her umbrella out and opening it, setting it upright in her bag to block the sun. “It’s in the high eighties, I have to watch a tortoise, and I’m late for school. My attendance record is ruined and I’ll probably be ground. Good day, hah!”
Blowing out air, she got in the grass beside the tortoise, avoiding the fruit and wrapped her scarf around her legs. Cole looked at the tortoise once more and settled beneath the umbrella, tugging her English book out and beginning the chapter they were to read in first hour. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the tortoise and held her leg out in front of it, treating it like her dog when he tried going after the mailman.
“Animals...”
Shaking her head, Cole refocused on the narrator. The breeze blew lightly, ruffling her hair. The air, surprisingly, was not as humid as usual so her hair wasn’t frizzing up like she got shocked. As she read, the tortoise could be felt along her leg, which she ignored as he wasn’t getting to the road. A few cars went by, but she never turned away from her book.
“Excuse me, are you Cole?”
Raising her head reluctantly, Cole squinted into the sun “Uh, yeah. You the people from the center?”
The man, blond hair glowing gold in the sun, nodded with a wide grin. “Yep! Is this the tortoise?”
She squinted at him. “.... yes.”
A snicker to the side caught her attention. “Do you see any other tortoise, Gale?” The brunet was pulling things from the center van.
Gale scowled at him playfully and moved back to help. “You never know, Jazz. There could be more.”
Cole looked at him wordlessly as she got out of the way, gathering her stuff and putting the umbrella away. She had to shield her eyes from the sun as she watched them pack up the tortoise and was a bit amazed they could pick up the huge reptile. Soon the tortoise was in the van and the equipment in the back with it. “Uh, hey...”
Gale looked at her, curiosity on his face. “What's up?”
Nervously shifting her feet and looking at her watch (Mr. Davis was going to kill her), she blurted out, “Can you guys take me to school?” Her face burned and it wasn’t because of the sun.
“School?” Jazz echoed in bemusement.
The teen nodded. “I, uh, was supposed to be there thirty-five minutes again.”
They gaped at her and then the three were in motion, Cole sitting between them in the van, Gale scolding her as Jazz started the van. “Why didn’t you say that on the phone?! Torin would have made us move faster!”
She sputtered as she swatted his hands away from her seat buckle. “How was I supposed to ask? We’re strangers!”
Jazz clicked his tongue as the van went into motion. “So? You just helped an animal for no reason, despite the possibility of detention. Pass it forward, you know.”
Glancing between the two, she hugged her bag. “I go to the Jensen High.”
Her brow twitched when Gale patted her on the head, teasing, “Was that so hard?” Jazz snickered when Gale yelped after she stepped on his foot.

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