It wasn't new. It wasn't shocking. At this point it wasn't even horrifying. It was four red letters spray painted on her locker for the small world of Little Rock Montana to see.
"Whore," someone shouted as they passed.
"Hey Bix I heard your old man was getting wasted at the pub this morning. How does it feel to be the daughter of the town drunk?" a boy shouted from his locker. He slammed it shut, grinning as he crossed his arms.
She said nothing. It's better to say nothing. If you say nothing they'll leave you alone. Rather than wiping it off, she opened her locker. Sibyl stopped, a paper taped on her locker door waving. How much for a little fun slut? She crumpled the paper, throwing it to the ground.
"Hell must be paradise," she whispered to herself.
Tossing in her bag, Sibyl grabbed her books for her next few periods. At least they didn't take the picture. She grabbed it, smiling.
In the picture was a woman much like her. But her golden hair contrasted with Sibyl's newly died ruby red hair. Long hair cascaded over her shoulders, a grin lighting up the room as she wore a Civil War era dress. Sylvia Bix.
Next to Sylvia was a man. Sibyl didn't know who it was, but he dressed in all black and had a small smile. What did it matter? All she cared about was Sylvia. Looking at it gave her hope and courage for better days.
She also pulled out some pills. A student gave her a strange look but she ignored them. Iron tablets were necessary when anemic. She swallowed two and took a sip of her water bottle.
"Did you hear about the new kids?"
"Please, Little Rock never gets new kids."
New kids? She lingered by her locker. Rumors couldn't be trusted. She knew that better than anyone. Yet her fingers tingled and her lips were dry. No one left Little Rock and no one came to Little Rock.
"No really. They moved from Oklahoma or something."
"Out of state? You're kidding."
Sibyl closed her locker, pocketing the picture and tugging on her scarf. No one came to Little Rock from out of state. As far as she was concerned there was no where for them to live in the first place. It had to be a lie.
"Yeah. Twins. There names are Aislig I think?"
Sibyl walked out of hearing range but brushed it aside. Aislig? Wasn't that an Irish name? She shrugged and walked into Algebra II. Sitting in the back, she pulled out her notebook and calculator. It was snowing outside. With a sigh Sibyl dreamed of brighter days. Spring was a dream.
She leaned back in her seat and stretched, resting her combat boots on the seat in front of her. No one would take it anyway.
"I'm sorry. I-I'm so sorry," fretted lanky Tanner Wells. He ran his hands through his hair as he tried to fix the chair he knocked over. Some of his blond hair stuck out and his face was redder than usual. His too big hands bumped against a desk and he fell into a seat, sweat beading down his face. He tugged on his collar.
What's up with him? Sibyl brushed her bangs out of her face, staring at her homework. A few more students walked in, all gossiping and whispering. Mr. Peterson soon followed, closing the door behind him.
"Is he hot?" one girl asked, close enough for Sibyl to hear.
"Smokin," her friend replied, flipping her silky black hair. "His sister's gorgeous too."
"So it's true? They're twins?"
She bit her lip, staring at the ceiling as she tapped her chin with her pencil. "I don't know. If they are they're definitely fraternal. I mean he's super tall and she's short. Well more average, but short compared to him. And he has these eyes..."
"Alright," the teacher began. "Take out your homework so I can check. Mary Chang stop talking." The black haired girl frowned. "And Sibyl Bix get your shoes off the seat." Sibyl obliged. He walked between the desks, checking homework.
Sibyl slouched, tapping her finger and observing her black nail polish. Mary leaned over to her friend, whispering, "They moved from Texas."
"Texas?" her friend asked, eyebrows furrowed. "What are they doing in Little Rock?"
"I don't know." Mary shrugged. "But I do know the brother's single." Sibyl stopped observing her nails. Why would anyone from Texas come to Little Rock?
"What's his name again? Asin?"
Mary giggled, covering her mouth and turning to Mr. Peterson. He gave her a pointed look before passing. Sibyl flexed her fingers, sinking deeper into her seat. She rubbed her arm and touched the picture in her pocket.
"Reeve," Mary whispered. "Reeve Aislin."
It shouldn't matter to her what the new kid's name was. Who cares? It wasn't like they'd talk to her. It wasn't like she'd befriend them. What did she care?
The door burst open. Mr. Peterson stood, rubbing his eyes. "Once the door's closed you can't come in. If you're late you're late. Go to the math study room-"
"Sorry to bother you," Dr. John, the principal, said with a shaky smile. "But we had a schedule conflict and a meeting. It's my fault they're late." He motioned to someone outside of the room. Everyone was silent.
Two students walked in. The first was a tall young man with a crooked grin and dimples. Wild green eyes scanned the room, falling on Sibyl. Her fingertips tingled. He was lanky, wearing a plaid unbuttoned flannel over a gray tee. Hell, he might even be taller than Sibyl.
Next to him was the prettiest girl Sibyl ever saw. Golden brown waves cascaded over her shoulders and framed a round soft face. Her thin lips smiled, lighting up the world. She wore a soft rose lace dress and white cardigan.
"Ahhh the infamous new kids Mary keeps chatting about," Mr. Peterson said. The class broke out in laughs. Mary buried her red face in her hands. Sibyl didn't laugh. She couldn't take her eyes off them. They seemed almost... otherworldly. And warm. A soft warm. Was that possible?
"Welcome to Little Rock High School," Dr. John said with a bright grin. He clapped his hands together. "Well I better go. I have a meeting. I'm sure you can handle it from here, Mr. Peterson?"
"Sure." Mr. Peterson waved him off. "Go ahead. Duty calls."
"And you two have your schedules?" Dr. John asked. The boy waved a paper. "Good. Well good day. Open your minds kids!"
"The better to let imagination thrive," the boy countered with a grin, looking at his shoes. His dimples were cute. But he wasn't good looking.
"I like you," Dr. John said, pointing before he left the room.
"Alright newbies, we have two seats in the back of the class. Don't mind Sibyl, she doesn't bite."
"That's what you think," a boy commented and the class broke out in laughs.
"I'll see you after class Mr. Jones," Mr. Peterson barked. He nodded to Sibyl then went back to his seat. The twins made their way to the back of the class. Sibyl froze, a sudden shiver running down her back.
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I'm Josephine," she said as she sat beside Sibyl. She held out a glove hand. White gloves? Inside?
"Sibyl," she replied, not taking her hand. Josephine didn't seem to notice, putting her hand away. Hazel eyes looked Sibyl up and down.
"I like your outfit. Very retro."
"It's vintage." Sibyl shrugged, tugging on the mod suit top.
Reeve took the seat in front of her, peering back and grinning. "I'm Reeve."
He exchanged a glance with Josephine who bit her lip. Reeve leaned over and whispered, "Mary. Is it Mary?"
The red half-Asian turned to him, peering over her shoulder. "Yeah. Hey..."
"It's nice to meet you. I didn't realize we were famous." He waved. She straightened, touched by courage. A large smile crossed her face.
"Well ya know if you're in my good graces you'll get along fine," she explained, her arm draped over the back of her chair. Reeve winked.
"Good to know. I'll put on the charm."
"Homework Mary? You can flirt later," Mr. Peterson snapped as he came to her desk. She turned around and pulled out her homework, sneaking a peek at Reeve.
Sibyl tried not to roll her eyes.
"Don't forget to write the new homework assignment on the board," Mr. Peterson announced. Sibyl pulled out her agenda and started writing, her hands throbbing. She rubbed her wrists and wiggled her fingers. It was a new sensation. Weird.
"Hand cramps?" Josephine asked while writing in her agenda.
"Something like that," Sibyl replied. She brushed her bangs out of her face.
"I like your hair. The bun's cute. Is it natural?"
Sibyl peered over to her. Why was she talking so much? She looked like an eager child waiting to open Christmas presents, her pink heels tapping the ground. Sibyl shook her head and forced a smile, putting away her agenda.
"Cool," Josephine said with a nod. She took a deep breath, writing the homework assignment in her new agenda. "So are you from around here?"
"Do you always talk this much?" Sibyl asked, arching one brow.
Josephine's cheeks flushed and she stared at her lap. "Well I'm sorry sugar-"
"You're not in Texas anymore. No one says sugar around here."
The pretty girl bit her lower lip. Reeve peered over his shoulder and glared. Ignoring him, Sibyl watched the snow fall. Her fingers flexed, still throbbing. Fidgeting in her seat, she tried to get comfortable. It was warm. Too warm. Sibyl pulled off her jacket and scarf. Why did it feel so stuffy?
"Giving us a show Bix?" one boy whispered.
"Unce! Unce! Unce!" another sang under his breath.
"Leave her alone," Reeve barked, shooting glares their way.
"It's a bit warm in here isn't it? Maybe the heat is on too high." Josephine pulled off her cardigan, rubbing her arms. The boys stopped, admiring the bit of skin she showed. One sucked in his lips and turned around.
Sibyl watched with a growing smile, keeping her head down. "Thanks," Sibyl whispered.
Josephine turned to her, holding her breath. "No problem," she whispered back. "They were being jerks."
"Yeah um... Sorry." I was being a jerk too. "I like your accent."
She opened her notebook as Mr. Peterson walked to the front of the class and turned on the white board. Josephine smiled, pulling out her notebook.
"Thank you," Josephine replied. "I like your necklace."
Sibyl reached for the light blue stone necklace around her neck. The stone was cold against her fingertips. She didn't say anything, looking away so Josephine couldn't see her red eyes.
The final bell haunted her. It rang in her ears, a reminder her nightmare was over yet just began. Sibyl sulked to her locker, the world abuzz around her. It was alive and exciting and everything she couldn't be. Her world froze with Reeve Aislin at her locker. He was using wet paper towels to clean off the red letters. They smeared.
"What are you doing?" Sibyl asked in a small voice.
He peered back, surprised. "Oh I... I wanted to clean it. It's been bothering me all day." He winced. "Who would do this?"
"It's none of your business," she said as she came over and tried to open her locker. Reeve paused, staring.
"Oh it's... I'm so sorry. Whoever-"
"Again, none of your business." Sibyl said, brushing her hair out of her face. "Just leave it. They'll write a new one tomorrow."
Reeve crunched the paper towels in his hand as he stared at the smeared word. She opened her locker and grabbed her things, throwing them into her bag before peering at her picture and taking a deep breath.
"Is that your mother?" Reeve asked.
Sibyl glared at him, slamming her locker door shut. "What do you want?"
"Do you want something from me?"
Reeve blinked. "I was asking a question."
"I don't know what anyone told you but I'm not gonna give you a blow job or -"
"Woah!" Reeve's face burned red. "I wasn't asking that! I was just trying to be friendly." He turned to the words then back to her. "It seems like you could use a friend. And I could too."
Sibyl pulled her bag over her shoulder, looking him up and down. Reeve ran his hands through his hair with a crooked smile and dimples. The paper towels were still in his other hand. Sibyl flexed her fingers. Why were her hands tingling? It was the weirdest sensation.
"I don't need anyone," she said, bumping his shoulder and hurrying out. Not that she was in a rush to go anywhere. Sibyl stopped at the front hall. The doors loomed ahead, unreachable yet too close. Nothing made sense anymore. She sucked in her lips, daring to take the next step.
School was over. It's time to go home. Stepping outside, Sibyl was met with the brush of cool air against her skin. It stopped snowing. Not that snow bothered her. There was no need for a heavy coat or snow boots. It was never cold. Snow meant home.
Not looking where she was going, Sibyl tripped. There were a few laughs, but Sibyl didn't care. They could laugh and scorn all they wanted. All that mattered was she went home.
A hand appeared in front of her. It was gloved, Reeve's green eyes smiling down at her. Sibyl bit back her pride and took his hand. It tingled. Weird. Once up she yanked her hand free and wiped the snow off her clothes.
"Thanks," she muttered under her breath.
Rubbing her hands together, she averted her eyes. What should she say? Reeve opened his mouth but she hurried past him and to her truck. Comments and stares followed her but she didn't care. Once the car was on she stopped, gripping the steering wheel.
Sibyl opened her glove compartment. Scavenging through, she pulled out a picture and held her breath. It was of her in middle school wearing a dance uniform. Her face was caked in makeup, her arm around an older version of herself.
"Sylvia," she whispered. Closing her eyes and clenching her jaw, she threw the picture back in and slammed the glove compartment shut.
It took everything in her not to speed home. It's a good thing she's loyal to the law and knew better than to speed in the middle of February. That was suicide. She wasn't at that point yet.
About a block or two in she realized she was being followed. Sibyl looked into her rear view mirror, the Aislins staring back at her from a small black car.
She blinked. The Aislins weren't following her. She was being neurotic. But when she turned a corner Reeve turned. Sibyl gulped.
Were they following her? Did they want something?
No, she was being stupid.
But when they turned onto her street, Sibyl had enough. She parked in front of a crumbling Victorian home on the corner. Sure enough, they parked in front of her.
Turning off the engine, Sibyl grumbled as she came out of the car and slammed the door shut.
"What the hell are you doing?" she shouted as they turned off their car and Josephine came out.
"What do you mean?"
"Don't play dumb with me. You're following me." Sibyl put her hands on her hips as she stood in front of her car.
Reeve emerged from the car. They exchanged glances. "Following you? We're going home," he replied. She sucked in a breath, chest swelling.
"Oh really? Then why are you parked here?" Sibyl challenged, raising her eyebrows.
Reeve pointed his thumb next to them. "We live here." She didn't need to look to know where he meant.
The old Victorian home was their home. Weeds covered the front lawn as vines climb the walls and clutched it with their long fingers. An extra compartment to the home crumbled with long grass poking out from the inside. Paint was peeling and dust accumulated on every inch.
No. That's ridiculous. Impossible. Inconceivable. Why would anyone live there? It had to be a joke. Sibyl burst into laughs.
"You've gotta be kidding me," she said between laughs, pointing to the house. "That has been abandoned since the 1800s. No one lives there. It's a dump."
"Well that dump is our new home," Reeve shot back.
"Yeah okay. Whatever you say." Sibyl brushed a stray hair out her face, letting out a few more giggles.
"No, we're serious Sibyl," Josephine assured. "That's our home. We moved in last night."
Sibyl stopped laughing. Her face fell and she peered at the house and the black car in the driveway, the same model as the Aislin's car.
"You... I... What?"
The twins exchanged a glance. "It's true. That's our new home. We weren't following you," Reeve replied.
Sibyl stood with mouth agape. Why would anyone live there? It looked like it'd topple over any minute. She rubbed her eyes.
"I can't deal with this right now," she mumbled. They were giving her a headache. These two didn't make sense. There was something strange about them.
"What'd you say?" Reeve asked.
"Nothing. Look, stay away from me okay? I'm," she rubbed her forehead, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, "I'm not in the mood for this right now."
"For what?" Josephine asked.
Sibyl waved her hands, gesturing to them. "This! I can't deal with you guys right now okay? So whatever it is you want, say it now." The two exchanged a glance.
"Who said we wanted anything?" Josephine asked.
Sibyl groaned, throwing her arms into the air. "If you don't want anything then leave me the hell alone. Stop talking to me and stop trying to solve my problems. I have enough going on as is."
"Like your mom?" Reeve asked.
Sibyl's arms dropped, her breath caught. Josephine crossed her arms, frowning.
"She'll be back soon, Sibyl," she told her. "Don't worry."
No. They couldn't be right. Her mother couldn't be gone. Her breaths came too quick, not satisfying her lungs. Sibyl ran into her truck. She started the engine and pulled out into the round, slamming on the gas and hurrying home.
They were wrong. Sylvia was there.
She tripped as she ran out of her car, skidding her way over to the door. "Mom!" she called, banging on the door. "Sylvia! Sylvia where are you?" Her hands shook as she tried to work the lock. "Come on... Sylvia! Mom!" The door unlocked and she pushed it open, falling into the house.
Sibyl looked around with wild eyes. "Mom!" she called. "Mom! Sylvia!"
Her home was dark and empty, the air dampened with loneliness. Sibyl rushed up the stairs, pushing the door to her parent's room open. It couldn't be true. Please no. Grabbing her hair, she tried to stop the tears that shouldn't be there. She shouldn't be gone. Sylvia should be here. At home.
It couldn't be true. Sylvia must have been out of the store. Sibyl grabbed the stone necklace. Sylvia never went a day without wearing it. Until today, when Sibyl found it sitting on her bed with a photograph now in her glove compartment.
Where is she?
No matter how many times she wanted to deny it, she had to face reality. The inevitable truth sank in, gripping her heart and making her shake from head to toe. It shouldn't be true. It couldn't be true. But it was.
Her mother was gone.