Strangely my nightmare seemed to become a reality. Final tests and the last two weeks of school were already here. My best friend David was excited to get out of school. We had talked about our plans for over the summer and how we’d get together and do something special for our birthdays which were on the same month. We had been really good friends for the most part of the year. He had just moved here two months into the start of school from some foster home half way across the country. We were both excited for summer, though, this morning his large blue eyes reflected the downpour of rain with sadness. Lately, David and his girlfriend, Angela, were going through a tight spot and they were having serious relationship problems.
The school day lay ahead, almost disconcerting in its own way. I was not ready for summer yet. I wasn’t ready to move on. Besides that, summer held nothing for me but a long period of restless loneliness. My parents were of those who just couldn’t see their children happy so it seemed. I wasn’t a child; in fact, I was sixteen going on seventeen in August. But that didn’t matter to them. I was still under their roof and I still couldn’t pay the bills so I was subject to any and all of their restrictions and rules.
It seemed as if the school year had passed me by. Sometimes it had been eventful such as homecoming, the dances, the occasional football game, and other interesting things. It had also been full of tragic drama and on the opposite end of the scale; there had been some pretty exhilarating times as well. The rest was just boring lectures from teachers and stupid pep rallies that no one cared about. Now, looking back, I wonder about what really happened to me in those boring spaces of time. I wondered if I had missed something, somewhere along the way.
The next week would be full of intense cramming for the extra long tests that were an obstacle for everyone in high school. There were also parties and celebration promised to us by the staff of the school; last year it never happened, so I could only guess that it wouldn’t happen this year either.
Rain splashed onto the concrete beside the road, darkening the light gray to a blackish mess. The clouds were dark and ominous, already telling a story in the form of lightening bolts and thunder so loud you had to cover your ears so as not to go deaf. One lightening bolt struck rather close to the building and the crack of thunder startled everyone waiting outside for the bus to the high school. My mind cleared at once and I was brought back into the present.
I shuddered and backed up against the cold brick wall and watched David pace back and forth in front of me. He looked worried and he was frowning at the ground. Knowing better than to ask what was wrong, I simply watched him. Being unable to help infuriated me immensely. David was just one of those people who liked to figure things out for themselves and hated to show weaknesses. David was also my best friend, so how was I supposed to stand back and watch him kick himself repeatedly for something that was out of his control? How could I let things just happen to him and not step in and offer to help? Why? Because every time I did, he never wanted the help. I sighed inwardly and looked away from him. Now was not the time to worry about it. Even though my instincts urged me to help him, I had worse things to worry about for now. When summer came, I could help David deal. Now, I had to forget all of my problems and just focus on studying.
The rest of the day flowed on after that. I was just an object in a rushing river, not able to get off and not able to stop the current. Not much happened, well at least not enough to want to think about it any further. All day my mind was more interested on cramming and my final grade rather than on any problems, which happened to be my number one goal anyway. I kept to myself so I wouldn’t be bothered by my enemies and I shrugged off any one else who talked to me. When I wasn’t studying, my mind kept going back to the blanks in time that had been occurring quite recently. I had never really mentioned my fears to anyone due to the fact that I was already labeled crazy as it was. Besides, no one would understand anyway. The only problem that was caused from not telling anyone was a big gaping hole in my past. That hole kept drawing me in and made my mind spin with uncertainty. What is going on with me?
After school, I rode the bus back to the middle school building alone; David had gone with Angela and her best friend to Angela’s house. I got off of the bus and threaded my way through the middle school kids who were waiting in line for their ride home. One shouted at me for stepping on his foot, but I paid no attention to him. I had better things to consider than the foot of an annoying seventh grade brat who probably didn’t feel any pain but just wanted to start trouble. Today, I wasn’t gonna have any trouble. Not now, not ever, or so I thought. Others pushed past me and shoved rudely into the people around them, beside them, and behind them. I got out of the horde of kids as quick as my tired feet would carry me, and went around the library to get to the road that held peace and serenity.
Rain splattered me with its cold wetness and the clouds seemed as if they would never stop coming. As I started to go deeper into the quiet realm of Cedar Lane the canopy of trees got darker and the rain let up. The specific road I was on had but three houses, two of them were decrepit messes and the last one, was a sprawling mansion.
The mansion was beautiful even though it was not lived in. It was at least three stories tall and was encircled by well-trimmed hedges that in turn surrounded the driveway. I had found this mansion during the Halloween trek that I had with four friends of mine last year. I had never actually gone up to the house, but I knew it was there behind tall trees. I had always dreamed that I would be able to live there someday—or at least somewhere like it. I could live with that.
Cedar Lane ended about half a mile after the white mansion. I was just around the corner of the street when I spotted a peculiar looking yellow van parked in front of the entrance to the driveway of the mansion. I walked towards it and noticed that it was a moving van, sponsored by a major moving company that I recognized from when I moved here with my family. I stopped at the front of the van and peered down at the tags. They were unfamiliar, but who couldn’t have guessed from the picture of the Statue of Liberty on it?
I had been to New York once in my lifetime before 9-11, before the war on terror, and before my dad lost his job. It was during the fourth of July Holliday. I had taken the ferry by myself to Liberty Island. It had been the best early birthday gift that I had ever had. Now, it seems like a bitter memory. Something else that I wanted to push away for a while. Even so, it was surprising to see someone come from New York to live here in Charlottesville, South Dakota.
“Hello there. Are you from the neighborhood?” A voice as soft as velvet asked curiously from somewhere behind me. I jumped, not expecting anyone to have been at the house. I shook my head at myself. Where did my sensible reasoning skills go? I certainly hadn’t heard anything. I took in the sight of dark gray and blue eyes. His shiny black hair was mid-length, with bangs to the eyebrows. His skin was light and his smile was cautious, but genuine.
“Uh…hi. No, I’m just passing through on my way home. I live on Main Street.” I gestured behind me to the road that would have taken me almost directly home. He smiled and nodded in understanding.
“I’m Adam,” he extended his hand and I shook it warily, “Nice to meet you, I’m Kate,” I said. Adam’s grip was firm. We let go at the same time and I took a timid step back. His clothes were all black and his overcoat flowed in the soft breeze.
“Hey Adam! Where’s the next box?” called another male voice. It was different than Adam’s whose voice was low and softly gritty. It sounded like someone of Adam’s age and I looked over Adam’s shoulder to the hedges. Adam blinked and turned around gracefully.
“Come out and get it! I’m visiting with a guest!” Adam called back. He turned to me and said, “I’m sorry. My brother’s rather rude at times.” I shrugged and looked at the new arrival. He was tall, lanky, had blonde hair all gelled up and silvery-blue eyes shining like there would be no tomorrow.
“Hello, gorgeous. I’m Neil Cretin,” He extended his hand.
“Hi…I’m Kate. Kate Garou,” I answered, shaking his hand. He smiled wide and looked back at Adam with a kidding look.
“Do you have any relatives in New York?” Neil asked me.
“No, not that I know of…why?” I asked, unsure of why he had asked me that question.
“Hmm…how about any relatives over seas?”
“No, I don’t think so. Do you?” I asked him.
He seemed caught off guard, but he didn’t let his smile waver. He straightened up and a sad look overcame his face.
“No,” Neil answered, shaking his head, “Not anymore.”
“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to’“I started.
“No, no. You’re fine!” Neil said and his upbeat energy was back and in motion. I realized that the funny accent was from somewhere over seas. Possibly British. I didn’t know and I wasn’t going to take a chance at guessing.
Adam cleared his throat, “I’m gonna take another box inside.” He threw Neil a meaningful glance, but Neil didn’t catch it because he was staring at me. I was getting anxious under his gaze, so I sidestepped him and went up the driveway a little bit.
“Would you like some help?” I asked, turning back to them after a moment of silence. Adam had gone to the back of the van; Neil was the only one who heard me.
“Sure, I mean…if you want to. You don’t have to if it’s any trouble,” Neil said. He was playing the perfect gentleman. Maybe even someone my parents might approve of.
“Yeah, I would love to help! I have a few minutes.”
Neil led me to the back of the van just as Adam was leaving. He smiled at me, but I didn’t like the smile. It was creepy and seemed almost mocking. I shrugged it off and looked into the back of the van. At first glance of the outside of it, I didn’t think that it was so big. By the look of it, with all of the items and boxes so carefully placed, the Cretin’s had tons of stuff. Lots of stuff to fit into a mansion!
I took off my backpack and set it on the curb. Neil had lifted a medium size box up and out of the center and he gave it to me, carefully placing it in my open arms. It was rather light and I frowned. Who did he think he was? I could take the weight of something else! He got a bigger box and started to walk away. See, he’s not a real gentleman! What happened to ladies first? I shushed my ego and followed him up the driveway.
We had rounded the corner and my breath caught in my throat when my eyes first laid sight on the huge house. It was beautiful…no, it was something more than that! It was majestic! The windows were huge and the light that came through the even taller canopy of trees sparkled in the reflections. The porch was even better. The stairs looked like they were made out of marble and the French glass doors were a sight to behold.
“So how long have you lived here?” Neil asked as we ascended the steps to the doors.
“About two years. It’s ok I guess…So, why did you guys move here? I mean New York’s a far stretch,” I asked him.
The box dug into my side on the way up and I shifted it into a more comfortable position. As we went through the doors, my heart skipped a beat. The ceiling was colossal and painted in maroon swirls mixed with a golden sheen. The entry way was crowded with a pile of mix-matched boxes, but I assumed that this space was pretty big as well.
Neil set his box down to the left where there wasn’t any and I set mine on top of his. When I straightened up, I caught sight of his face. It was once again contorted in agonizing sadness.
“Our parents died. We had no choice but to move to somewhere small,” Neil explained.
“I’m sorry. Were those the same people you lost…over seas?” I asked, but instantly regretted it because that really wasn’t any of my business.
Neil nodded solemnly, but then brightened up. He reminded me of a bouncy ball with his highs and lows. Whenever he was low, he bounced right back up. I wish I had that skill. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to be involved in David’s business and maybe I would be care free.
“This house is so big! Do you have some more people coming or is it just you and Adam?” I asked as I did a three-sixty in the living room that we had just entered.
“No, no, no. We have more people coming; our siblings in fact. Also, Adam’s girlfriend is coming,” Neil explained, chuckling.
“Fianc/em>,” Adam growled from the staircase. My head whirled towards his voice. He was standing in the middle of the staircase that ascended up into regions unknown. The golden carpet seemed to flow down the steps, just like the golden curtains that hung in the huge windows.
“Oh, yeah. His ‘Fianc.” Neil said mockingly. Adam threw Neil a glare and descended the steps rapidly and was out the door before anything else was said. Neil shrugged and walked towards a set of open lawn chairs in the middle of the nearly empty living room. I followed, aware of the change from marble tiles to plush golden carpet beneath my feet. I sat beside him and looked around some more. I spotted a lone painting to the right. It was a portrait of a very beautiful woman. Her hair was silvery blonde, just like Neil’s. It flowed down over her shoulders and cascaded around her seat. Her dress was old and some foreign fashion that I had never seen before. Her face was pretty, her cheekbones high and her smile, small, but still so meaningful.
I let my gaze matched hers and was startled to see that her eyes were violet! Now that’s weird.
“So, what are their names?” I asked.
“What? Who?” Neil asked.
“Your siblings,” I answered, turning back to him.
“Oh, yeah. Well, I have three other brothers: Kiev, Tobias, and Jade. And then we have two sisters; Chamryn and Alyson. And Adam’s fiancis Sabra.” Neil finished. I nodded.
“Nine of you, in a huge house. Well, at least you have plenty of space!” I said, laughing. He laughed with me before I stopped to pull out my cell phone to check the time. It was 3:50.
“Oh no, I’m sorry, Neil. I gotta get going. I have to be home by four, um, I guess I should go.” I stood up and Neil followed suit.
“I’ll walk you out,” Neil suggested. He stuck his hands into his pockets of the pair of black jeans that he wore. The usually awkward looking converse looked fine on him. His were obviously brand new. Mine were too, but I had been walking a lot of places.
“So, how old are you?” Neil asked me as we walked slowly towards the door.
“16 and you”
“I just turned 17 in April. Are you going to be able to get home on time tonight? I can give you a ride if you want,” Neil said.
“Oh, no. Thank you though, but I shouldn’t. All I need is to arrive in a stranger’s car. My parents are pretty tough on those things. Thanks again though,” I said hurriedly as I went down the steps and looked over my shoulder.
Neil hurried down just as fast but with a lot more grace. “So, do you go to school?”
“Yeah, I’m a sophomore. What about you?” I asked in return as we had now softened our strides and we were just turning the corner of the driveway.
“Well, at least three of us do. Chamryn, Jade and I are going next year when the new school season comes around. It’s too late to register and well, we’re a lot smarter than they would think. And we don’t want to show off before school is over. It’s best to get them…when they are fresh and prepared. It wouldn’t be fair to them if we came in, aced everything and then left for summer vacation. Plus, we don’t need people sniffing around in our business. Not yet. You know how it is in small towns,” Neil finished.
“Yeah, I know all too well. There’s a lot of drama at the high school. My dad, he’s moving me to the Academy that’s like two blocks from my house. It’s an alternative school where nothing and everything impress them. Which is redundant, I know, but I think it might be better than what I have going for me now,” I said, almost wistful, but I didn’t want to think about the losses now.
“Well, maybe we’ll come to keep you company over there. It sounds like a rather nice place with little or no questions. How long is the summer break here?”
“Um, until mid-August. I’m not sure when the academy starts back up…I’ll find out about a week into August.” We had gotten to the back of the van. I reached down to pick up my backpack, but before I could move, Neil already had it in his hands and was holding it to me.
“Thanks…” I muttered, feeling rather strange. As I put it on, I felt Neil look me over. It felt even weirder, but Neil wasn’t an average guy. Neither was his brother.
“So, do you think you can back tomorrow? I’m sure we can sit down and have a more formal situation. Maybe lunch time?” Neil asked me, eyes open wide and hoping.
“Um, it’s Saturday, and I don’t really have that much going on. So yeah, I’ll ask my parents. They are pretty strict and I’m not allowed out much, so I’m not going to make any promises. I gotta go, and I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” I began to walk away, “It was nice to meet you Neil!”
“Nice to meet you too Kate!” Neil called out. I walked on, thinking about what had happened. Wow, two great new people in one big house. Well, I wasn’t so sure about Adam. He didn’t seem to take to me very nicely. The rain started back up as the trees began to thin out. I looked back, hoping to see Neil still there. But when I scanned the yard, he was gone.