Impulse (Young Movellist of the year entry)

April is strange from top to bottom, with her dyed red hair and unnaturally coloured eyes. Not to mention she gets impulses she can’t control. When an impulse brings her science teacher to a near-death situation, she knows to keep her secrets a secret. No one needs to know that when she closes her eyes, she sees things.

After moving to the small town of Cresten, all her adoptive Aunt and Uncle want is for her to be a normal teenage girl. April wouldn’t have it any other way, but the appearance of the mysterious Zane Wolf thrusts her in a world she knows deep down she belongs to.

Caught in a tangle of lies and unforgotten pasts, the question is no longer if she’ll be able to keep a secret, but whether she’ll stay alive long enough to discover the biggest one of all…

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1. Catalyst

Mr Heron’s neck quivered beneath the blade, red liquid pooling up where the tip of the knife barely pierced his pasty skin. A single drop of blood trailed down his neck.

My eyes snapped upwards, fixing on his transparent blue-green eyes. They sent a silent plea, begging for what I was about to rob him of. In them I saw everything: his year old girlfriend, his teenage daughter, his family. His life. And I was about to take it away from him.

I stepped back. The knife clattered to the ground, the sound of metal against cheap stone tiles echoing in the breathless silence.

Then there was chaos.

One hour later, I sat in a worn armchair set in the principal’s waiting room, lumpy stuffing rubbing against my spine through the rough material of the skin. The room was punctured with the sound of the assistant principal’s erratic typing, an undercurrent to the principal’s hushed voice. As if I couldn’t hear her.

“Marian, your niece is undeniably a talented girl, with an extensive future ahead of her. However...” She sighed, and I could almost hear her fold her hands onto her pencil skirt clad thighs, brushing expensive black satin. “Mabel high is an esteemed educational institution and we hold a no tolerance rule towards violence. This incident cannot be overlooked.” I imagined her lean forward, the enormity of the situation conveyed in her large dark eyes, her full lips poised to convey her disapproval. “She threatened to take a science teacher’s life.”

In. Out. In. Out, I chanted, counting my breaths. Mrs Veronica, the principal’s assistant, glanced up from beneath her thick rimmed glasses, watching like a vulture for any reaction. Caught, her eyes flitted back to her ancient desktop.

“There was no report of provocation or any other acceptable reason for her actions,” the principal continued. “We cannot uphold such disgraceful behavior, no matter how intelligent April seems to be. I am afraid we can no longer tolerate her in our school.”

 “I see.”

There was no fight, no indignant reply, just acceptance.

The principal supplied another sigh. “But next time you enroll your niece in a school,” she finally uttered, “I suggest you disclose full information concerning your niece’s mental state. Her anger management issues may not have led to this if the school had been aware of them.”

Silence.

The sound of chairs scrape against the ratty carpet broke the silence. The door swung open. Aunt Marian didn’t look at me as she strode out of the miniscule office, her aquamarine eyes pasted on the ground, her expression defeated. Lines marred her pale skin, and her brows were low set.

She walked towards the door, seemingly ignorant to my existence. Two sets of eyes watched me as I stood. Mrs Veronica surveyed me with wearily, as if she expected me to pounce on her, finish what I’d done to Mr Heron. The principal’s eyes were worse. They were filled with disappointment.

I’d disappointed her.

Funny, I could never stop doing that to people.

    

***

 

My eyes snapped open. My gaze flickered within the interior of the seven-seater, searching for the wide hallways of the school or the silver of Aunt Marian’s Mercedes. For a second, I was confused, wondering why I wasn’t tucked in the bed nestled in my vast bedroom, or hanging off the edge of my cousin Tracey’s couch. But then the puzzle pieces clicked into place: attacking Mr Heron—Uncle Mathew announcing that we were moving—speeding out of town in the black family car. Sighing, I flashed my gaze to the window.

Outside, the rain drummed the pavement. Through it, small inconspicuous houses rolled by, giving off a thin sheen of their small town glory through the near flood. Before them a few cars—Hondas, Toshibas, and the occasional pickup truck—crawled by at a speed that at most reached two miles per hour. Small town speed.

I looked up at the sky, waiting for the sun to pop out, declaring that this was Miami, Florida not a small Californian town lodged in the middle of nowhere. But it didn’t. I’d permanently ended that part of my life, the same way I’d almost ended my science teacher.

Uncle Mathew had described our destination as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ when he’d told us about it. I took in the scenery for a second time—the dark lumps of shapes, the oppressive clouds, the torrential rain. Yep, this was the crown of the world alright.

I closed my eyes for a second, trying to relax for the rest of the ride. As if waiting for a moment of weakness, vivid smoky colors flashed behind my lids, outlining the various bodies in the car. Aunt Marian’s was a reddish blue, frustration. Uncle Mathew’s was a calm teal, edged with dirty green, calm with an edge of his habitual anxiety. Cali’s was a sizzling red tinged with a whitish-yellow, anger and arrogance. Tracey’s was a whitish blue, fatigue.

I snapped my eyes back open, shaking off the colors.

Beside me, music leaked from Tracey’s headphones, needles of sound that pierced the quiet. Tracey’s dark eyes scanned a fashion magazine, her expression clouded in a haze-like state. She wasn’t conscious enough to notice when a lock of her short black hair fell from its carefully styled bun, brushing her high mahogany skinned cheekbone. Her dark glossed lips were pursed tightly with concentration, her manicured fingers brushing the pages as if it was delicately fabricated silk; one move and it would collapse into dust.

                The only other sounds came from the others in the car—the sound of Cali’s fingers tapping away on platinum phone buttons and Aunt Marian and Uncle Mathew’s hushed conversation as Uncle Mathew steered the car.

                Believing I was still asleep, their conversation deviated to me, what they were going to do with the poor orphan girl who had managed to ruin the world they had carefully fabricated for their family. I closed my eyes, finally drawing on the memory of the dream, a translation of what had happened just less than ten hours ago.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have walked out of the car during the car ride home. But, considering the circumstances—Aunt Marian’s condescending silence, her eyes ever pasted to a vehicle infested road—I loved the feeling. I loved the feeling of, for once, showing Aunt Marian that she wasn’t the boss, that she didn’t control me. She could yell, and she could scream, and she could hate me as much as she liked, but in the end I could still walk away. That’s what I told myself anyway. The reality of the matter wasn’t so pretty.

                Uncle Mathew and Aunt Marian were the closest thing I had to family. Though they weren’t related to me by blood, without them I’d be alone. A couple years back, on my thirteenth birthday, my mom—my only family—died in a fire, ripping me away from rural Wales, everything I’d ever known, and thrusting me into the urban packing of Florida. I could still remember their faces as I was practically dropped on their doorsteps. Uncle Mathew was excited, filled with glimmering hope for the future, while Aunt Marian was fretful but reluctantly merciful, as if she sensed my presence would bring about catastrophe. Her reluctant acceptance wasn’t what hurt me most though. It was the fact that just a few days later, I’d crushed any hope from my uncle’s eyes, pounding my chances at a normal life to dust.

                My first impulse was the catalyst.

                I could still taste the too sweet orange I’d eaten that day, still feel thick liquid matted in my hair, dripping down my face. I could still hear the barrage of insults, the mocking laughter. Then there was silence. Behind my lids, I saw a fourteen year old girl with blonde hair and a pristine tan lying on a kitchen floor, unconscious. Dark red liquid seeped incessantly from a gash in her stomach. On one side of her lay a broken glass cup, on the other was the knife I’d been using to cut oranges. It was dipped in red.

                I shivered, shaking the memory away.

                After the first impulse, life became harder. It was already hard for a girl with hair dyed red and too much make up to fit into a mundane school. Adding orphan status and a family that didn’t want her was just overkill. Then add in the anger management issues.

                When my mom was alive, I’d been home-schooled, saving me from all the angst that came with socializing with my age mates. In the new colder world after she died, there was no escape, and a handful of bullies were ready to pick on the new girl. I held my own, trying to stay strong, but I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have my slip-ups.

                My first impulse, the incident with the social queen bee at the time—Melissa Marshall—had quickly been swept under the carpet with my family’s money and influence. Melissa and her family moved across the continent, leaving behind the rumors that her dad had found a new job. The only witness, besides Cali, was forbidden to speak of the incident. That didn’t mean she couldn’t ruin Cali’s life. Social standing meant a lot at the time, and the people you were associated with were everything. Cali was cousins with the freak, making her a freak by association, turning Cali’s original indifference to hatred. Eventually, she became the queen bee, stealing hearts like a specially made robot, but her hatred stayed, a residue after a power plant leakage. You could never fully get rid of it. 

                I had more slip-ups after that—fights, arguments, and sometimes temporary exclusions—but nothing was as serious as the first. Not until the incident. The sparse hours separating now and then felt like days, years even, every second strained until its length inadvertently strangled me. I could still remember traipsing up the cobblestone driveway, noticing subtle problems—a scattering of pinecones, a single slightly wilted flower, the barest speck of dirt on a wall—problems that never existed with the expensive cleaner Aunt Marian had hired. I remembered the suffocating silence before Uncle Mathew explained our future, telling me hurriedly that we were moving to Cresten, California.

Yeah, that’s nice. Why don’t we just walk away like nothing even happened?

                My thoughts cut off as the car came to a stop. A sound went off in my head, something that brought me back to reality, told me that this was really happening. Uncle Mathew switched off the engine, my breath hitching with it.  

                I looked up as Uncle Mathew got out of the car, pulling up the hood of his jacket against the assailing rain. He ran towards the shadowed house, climbing up a classic wooden porch and unlocking the door to the new house. He then returned to open Aunt Marian’s door, a hand escorting her towards the house with tangible excitement.

                The third to leave was Cali, stepping outside with an assortment of annoyed noises and the slam of a car door. Her golden hair swayed in the unrelenting wind as she stalked quickly towards the house. Letting a small smile play on my lips at her performance, I shook Tracey. She looked up, removing an earphone from her ear. Her eyes swiveled around.

                “Oh! We’re here!” she squealed with bubbling excitement, rushing to move the two seats in front of us. Not bothering to pull up her hood, she pulled open her car door and jumped outside, running towards the house—though how she did that in six-inch heels and surrounded by a flood of rain was beyond me.

                I stepped into the enthusiastic rain, shutting the door behind me as I strode towards the building—my new home. Even in the miniature flood, it looked majestic. It was voluminous, but in an understated way that told you the family could afford much more. With reasonably large amounts of space between them, the other houses were similar, but I wouldn’t put it past Uncle Mathew’s architectural mind to make sure ours was the best. Beside the house was a elephantine garage, where I guessed the three other cars—Aunt Marian’s Mercedes, Uncle Mathew’s Lexus and Cali’s Lamborghini—would be parked when they were delivered here.

                The driveway was expansive, constructed with small identical pebbles. Bordering it were a few towering eucalyptus trees that inched close to the house, leading on to carefully styled mesh of brightly colored flowers and obsessively leafy plants.  

                The interior was the whole package—spiral staircase, upper floor banister, bleached wooden planks and walls orchestrated by stacked boulders.

                Awesome. I definitely was not going to fit in here.

                Closing my eyes, I stepped towards the kitchen. The sight of my aunt and uncle standing in the center of the pale beige tiles caught me off guard.

                “I love it, Mathew,” Aunt Marian murmured, pressing her face into his mahogany-skinned neck. Her pale snowy skin was dusted with a red that I rarely saw. Her usually neatly tied away hair was loose, blond curls cascading down her back.

                “I was hoping you would,” Uncle Mathew replied, chuckling quietly. “I know you don’t like this situation, but this town will be great for us. It’s cute and loving with a great reputation for breeding intelligent capable adults and happy families. Things will get better here, I promise.”

                Aunt Marian nodded. “I believe you.” Suddenly, she giggled. “Your promises always come true,” she said, “remember our honeymoon?”

                A smile played on Uncle Mathew’s lips. “Yeah. Those are nice memories.”

                Aunt Marian lifted her head up, her aquamarine eyes soft as they stared into Uncle Mathew’s. “Hmm-mm,” she hummed.

                Uncle Mathew leaned down, his lips touching Aunt Marian’s.

                Feeling as if I were intruding, I spun around, walking quietly towards the staircase.

The rain finally died down later that evening, and the first few rays of sunshine shone through the sickly sky. I sat on the back porch, watching as the sun attempted to apologize to the plants for the onslaught of tears.

“It’s gorgeous isn’t it?” Tracey said, walking up behind me. She leaned on the porch swing, rocking on her heels. “I’m starting to think this place is perfect.”

“Yeah,” I agreed sarcastically, “it’s been raining for like fifteen flippin’ hours and this place is perfect? I think, for once, your parents made a mistake.” Wrong, they made the first mistake when they took me in, and now they were stubbornly making a sequence of life altering errors.

Tracey laughed. “Why so grumpy?”

I frowned at her insight. The truth was that a melancholy feeling was starting to cling to my chest, and it was real, like a brace above my heart, as if probing me to offload the thousands of tears I’d been holding back with a steel dam for years. Problem was, April Kingston didn’t cry. Ever. The last time was a few hours after my mother’s funeral, when I realized she was truly gone, never to return. Since then I’d been tempted, but I’d realized crying helped nothing. If they saw you cry, you were just that much more vulnerable.

With a snort at how ridiculous I was being, I straightened my shoulders. “I’m fine,” I shrugged. “Mostly bored. It doesn’t feel like anything interesting will happen here.” I yawned. “We’re stuck in a fluff town now.”

Tracey laughed, and I imagined her rolling her eyes. “That sounds exactly like something you’d say.” Then she paused, sinking her ship of happiness. “But really April, you need to learn to show some feeling sometimes.” She smacked a noisy kiss on my cheek. “Now, off I go!” Her voice returned to its usual upbeat tone. “I have shopping to plan!” she giggled as she skipped away.

I swallowed the nausea her ‘feeling’ comment had raised. Deciding I no longer liked the sun, I stalked up to my room, clouding my mind with nonsense to cover up what she’d said. My room was perched in the attic, a tiny haven snuggled between an outside balcony and an extensive library.

I headed to my private bathroom, luckily blessed with a full-length mirror. I paused there.

Staring back at me was a five foot three seventeen year old girl with thick dark red hair and eyebrow-hiding bangs. The red fell down her back in a smooth vermilion stream, sliced short at her waist. It flashed against light brown skin, and then her freakiest feature, her eyes. Under the heavy eyeliner and the stifling mascara, they were large, but the strangest thing was the color: glittering amber jewels, reflecting the room like a crystal clear lake. They were the kind of eyes that made people walk up to her and ask if she was wearing contacts.

I sighed, finally letting my eyes run over the oversized top and jean shorts I’d changed into. They yelled casual, appearing so normal compared to the rest of me.

I tried to imagine what people saw when they looked at me, how all my new neighbors would see me. As if on cue, Tracey’s words drifted into my head: you need to learn to show some feeling sometimes.

Maybe.

And maybe my mom wasn’t dead. Maybe I didn’t have an absentee father. Maybe I didn’t accidentally stab people. Maybe I didn’t see colors when I closed my eyes.

Maybe I was normal.

Yeah, right.

 

***

 

I stood at the edge of the classroom, impatiently waiting for the crowd encircling my History teacher—Mr Carr according to the sheet stuffed in my bag—to dissipate. Occasionally, the odd person caught sight of me, staring in shock for a second then dropping their gaze. It was the eyes. They always had that effect.  Other than that, nothing happened, the half-filled classroom a jumble of murmurs and sedated sighs.

                Outside, the sun was relentless, stalking the scattering of overrated plants. Beneath the cloudless sky, the plant growth took on an almost neon shade, brushed by soft breezes and basking in the blinding sunlight.

                I’d already spent at least three hours in this school, and it was undeniably complete agony, however cute and pleasant.

                “Waiting for Mr Carr?” rasped a deep voice.

                Behind me, a girl leaned against one of the peach stroked plaster walls. Her hazel eyes ran down my excessively inconspicuous clothes with a raised eyebrow. Her blazing bleached blonde hair sported an over-grown shag cut decorated with generous streaks of bright pink.

                “Yeah,” I replied, taking in all five foot eight of her slender tanned limbs underneath an oversized t-shirt and half invisible jean skirt.

                Her pink lips pulled up in a smile. She held out a nimble fingered hand. “Megan.”

                I took her hand. “April.”

                “We know who you are,” she grinned, cocking her head. Her eyes took on an analytic gaze, narrowing just slightly. For a second, I thought I saw them glimmer. “April Kingston, previous inhabitant of Miami, Florida.”

                I blinked, shocked as a sudden fizz went up my arm. I tugged my arm away. “How do you know that?” My voice sounded grating to my own ears, too suspicious.

                Megan tilted an eyebrow. “You guys are the topic of conversation. If you haven’t noticed, this town is devoid of excitement.”

                “Oh.” Relaxing, I laughed. “It’s no secret.”

                “No,” Megan beamed, displaying straight white teeth. “But seriously, what did you do to get stuck in this dot on the map?”

                My guard instantly went up. Trying to relax, I leaned against a desk. “If I told you then I’d have to kill you,” I said easily.

                For the barest second, something flickered in Megan’s eyes. A nano second later and it disappeared. She laughed. “Ok, forget I asked.” She inclined her head to Mr Carr’s desk. “It’s free now.”

                “Thanks,” I grinned, brushing past her.

                The man sitting behind the desk was young, but with a distinctly aged look dangling surreptitiously at the edge of his eyes. His hair was slicked back, and perched on his straight beak was a pair of black-rimmed spectacles.

                “A new face, what a shock,” he mused, peering up at me with green eyes. I blinked. There was something about the color, how it was more concentrated at the edges….

                Shaking myself, I slipped my sheet to him. “The office said this has to be signed.”

                He glanced down, dropping locks of his short brown hair into his eyes. “The usual, huh?” He tugged a pen from a mug reading ‘Best Teacher 2012’ tethering at the edge of his desk. “So what do you think of the school?” he asked dryly. “Pretty isn’t it?” He went on, not seeming to expect an answer. “In a place so gorgeous, how could you do anything but hate it?”

                “I don’t really agree,” I said when a silence descended.

                “Hmm,” he replied wryly, scanning the sheet. “Now, you wouldn’t want me to make you introduce yourself would you?”

                I tapped the desk impatiently, suddenly uncomfortable. “No, not really.”

                He looked up at me, catching my eyes. I blinked. One long blink. The colors were back, but they blazed brighter, stronger. It was different, like switching from cheap fireworks to a million pound light show.

                My eyes snapped open. Mr Carr was staring at me, his green eyes almost smug, a small glorified smirk on his face.

                “Well, lucky you, I’m in a good mood.” He handed me the signed sheet.

                Blinking to clear my mind, I turned and walked down the aisle. Megan, sat at a desk in the corner of the room, met my gaze, nodding at the empty desk next to her.

                Holding back a smile, I headed to  my prescribed seat.

                “That was an interesting lesson. Mr Carr didn’t take his eyes off you,” Megan smirked as we strode out of the classroom.

                I scowled. “Please don’t say it like that.”

                Megan shrugged. “He’s pretty hot.”

                “Urgh,” I groaned.

                Megan laughed. “Don’t worry, teacher student relationships are strictly with young teachers. He’s like thirty.” She made a face. “That makes it kinda gross.”

                “Kinda?” I questioned, turning in the direction of what I thought was the canteen.

                “Hey, wait.” Megan tugged on my sleeve. We have to wait for someone, she shad to talk to Mr Carr.”

                “Oh, OK,” I replied, leaning on the wall next to Megan. In front of us, most students had already dissolved leaving the few stragglers like us.

                They all stared conspicuously. One male waiting at a classroom gazing wide-eyed. Two brunettes whispering to each other as they shot daggers at us. Other than that, there was the odd curiosity, or frustrated arrogance.

                Dropping the analytics, I turned my gaze to the windows that ate up over half of the opposite walls, stretching as far as the double doors that marked both a stairway and the end of a corridor. Outside, groups of people walked, laughing amongst themselves.

                Then I couldn’t see them anymore.

                All I saw was him.

                My gaze drew to a body of its own will, cutting through the crowds of faces to one.

                He faced me, his silver eyes cutting through the glass, right into mine. Arched cheekbones, bronze skin, and a mop of raven black hair graced his face.  They beckoned, like a venus fly trap, petals beautiful and delicate, but one step too close equaled death.

                My gaze flickered, and suddenly he was surrounded by his own personal silver flame, smoky as it flickered and burned around him, deeming everything else non-existent.

                The other colors popped up, but they were no longer useful, dull watered shades compared to his own.

Fire raced up my arms, threatening to consume me.

                A gasp lodged in my throat, as everything seemed to fall away, till it was only his eyes that existed, locked with mine.

                Then the connection broke. A straggler strode in front of him, breaking our gazes. One blink and he was gone.

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