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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2. Mystery

“Who was that?” I hissed as Megan and Cindy—the girl we’d been waiting for—directed me to the canteen.

His image was imprinted in my mind, crystal clear. Every other memory faded, deemed fuzzy compared to this one.

                Megan watched me curiously, a tinge of bewilderment in her eyes. “Zane Wolf.”

                Cindy raised her eyebrows, genuinely shocked. “Five minutes in this school and you’ve already seen him?”

                “You know him?” I asked, rubbing my head. The image of the colors was lodged into my mind. I had never seen them with my eyes open before. Never. After four years of keeping it a secret from everyone, even the psychologist my Aunt and Uncle had issued to me for two and a half years, simply seeing them with my eyes closed was rare.

                Megan rolled her eyes. “Everyone knows him.”

                I gave them a puzzled look.

                Cindy shook her head, swaying her short flat-ironed hair. “He’s the hottest guy in this school hands down.”       

                “Hmm-mm,” Megan agreed.

                “Too bad he’s got baggage,” Cindy sighed.

                “Baggage?”

                Cindy’s dark brown eyes searched the perimeter before she leaned closer. “Zane’s been missing for the past three months. Not suspended or at home, missing. His parents never reported it though, and since he’s eighteen, the police didn’t do a thing. Apparently, he left on some kind of trip, but Katie Adams says she saw him at some motorbike store with some creepy guy but no one knows for sure. Everyone thinks he ran away, but came back because he ran out of money. Kinda like the prodigal son.”

                She gazed around again. “Then there’s the fact that he strangled a teacher once.”

                “He strangled someone?” I asked, shocked.

                She nodded. “It was Mr Carr. It happened in a class last year. Most people say they don’t get why it happened but Jane Valencino said that Mr Carr seemed to keep staring at him that lesson, with a weird look on his face. The strangest thing was though, he wasn’t expelled. Mr Carr brushed it off like he’d just slapped him or something, saying how it wasn’t his fault and all that. He wasn’t even given a warning.”

                “I don’t get it though. Why would he strangle a teacher?”

                For mine, I had a reason. Mr. Heron had been talking about human life. He’d overstepped. I knew that was no reason to attack someone, but there was always a reason. Always.

                I shook my head. I was assuming he was like me.

                Cindy shrugged. “You’ll have to ask him that.” Her tone implied that would never happen.           “Are you joining the line, April?” Cindy asked, gazing at the food stalls at the left end of the cafeteria.

                “Yeah,” I replied, massaging my temples as I worked off my slowly fading headache. “Yeah. You?”

                “Hmm-mm,” she replied. “Come on.” She strode towards the line, lithe in her ballet flats.

                I hesitated. “Megan?”

                “Nah,” she answered, dislodging a tiny chip from her coral nail polish. She wrinkled her nose as she looked up. “Cafeteria foods gross. I pack my lunches.”

                “Ok,” I grinned, walking towards the line.

                “Hey, remember to sit with us,” she called as I left.

                I nodded, continuing to walk.

                I stopped behind Cindy, who was craning her neck to peruse the menu.

                “Cafeteria food’s not all bad,” she said, “there’s a decent meal now and then.”

                “I smiled. “In Miami, it was all mush.”

                Cindy laughed. “Well, you should love it here then.”

                “Maybe,” I murmured.

                We stayed in silence for the rest of the time, shuffling forward whenever the line moved.

                “Hey, did you hear Zane Wolf is back?” I heard a girl hiss particularly loudly from behind me. A couple of people conspicuously watched her, listening in on their conversation.

                “Really? You’re not joking?”

                “Yeah, Ali saw him in homeroom. He just came back in like nothing ever happened.”

                “Wow. I wonder if he’s the same. Some of us might have a chance—”

                “Excuse me,” someone grunted from beside me.

                I looked up to see a hard face glaring down at me. Catching my eyes, his gaze turned confused.

                I glanced forward to see Cindy already several meters down. “Oh, sorry,” I muttered, scurrying towards her.

                Cindy hadn’t noticed, busy ogling a fried chicken morsel.

                “I can diet later,” she mumbled, scooping up several pieces of the heaped food, blatantly ignorant to the cafeteria ladies glare from beneath her hairnet.

                I quickly grabbed random pieces for a meal then paid at the counter. Cindy led us towards a table placed near a window. Megan and three other girls I vaguely recognized sat at it.

                Cindy pulled up a chair next to Megan, leaving me a seat between herself and a generously freckled girl with waist length red hair.

                “Guys, this is April,” Cindy said gesturing to me. “April, this is Ailey”—she gestured at the red-head next to me, who smiled shyly—“Helen”—she gestured to a girl with pale skin and sleek onyx hair—“And Catherine.”

My eyes were drawn to the last person characterized by a set of eyes burning into my face. I turned to meet dark green eyes which had taken an heavy dose of eyeliner and mascara.

Straight bangs cut off halfway through her eyes, brushing her not particularly long lashes. The rest of her hair fell in straight layers to the small of her back.  She was clad in all black and her lips were painted black, contrasting with her deathly pale skin.

And she was glaring at me.

                “Cath knows how it feels to be new,” grinned Cindy, oblivious to her glare. “She moved from Canada down here two years ago. Catherine is…what’s the word? Empathetic.”

                 I forced a smile. The deep ridge marring her pale forehead spoke volumes about what she thought of me.

Before anyone could part their lips to break the awkward silence, everyone froze. The girls’ eyes flickered to something behind me. Silence descended on the canteen.

I turned, the squeak of my chair the only noise that dared to make itself heard.

I felt my skin shiver as he walked in.

Zane strode into the canteen, breaking through the door like an otherworldly being. His hands were lost in the pockets of his tight black jeans while the sleeves of his taut black top were rolled up to his elbows, giving a glimpse of beautifully chiseled muscle. His silver eyes hid under his hair, but in the predatory way, a lion stalking behind concealing bushes.

                Whispers littered the room.

                Slowly, his eyes threaded through the room, pausing as they met mine. His gaze was icy, detached. My chest shook, my heart quivering. Then they left, a passing bird perching on a tree then taking flight. Looks like I was a tree now.

“Zane Wolf,” Cindy sighed, clutching her chest. “My hottie meter just broke.”

Megan pursed her lips. “It seems Zane has decided to grace us with his presence.”

“Has Andrew forgiven him?” Helen asked, leaning in.

“I think so,” Cindy gushed. “Jane said they talked in homeroom and got over it.”

“Hmm,” Helen hummed. “But is it just me or those Zane look scarier than before?”

“Andrew?” I asked before Cindy could answer.

Cindy hit her forehead with the heel of her hand. “Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you. It’s weird not having someone know about Zane. Andrew is Zane’s best friend. Look over there,” she inclined her chin to the center of the room, directed at a group of tables. “Do you see the blonde guy in the center?

The tall long-legged boy was sitting on a table top, laughing with two girls. His overgrown pale blonde hair flopped around his head and over one of his twin cobalt eye, the last lock inches from perfect pink lips. It was the kind of look that took hours to comb to that perfection. His T-shirt was slightly tight, outlining a sinewy upper body, while his dark blue jeans were loose, hanging on his lengthy legs in just the right way. From head to toe, he was clad in designer clothing.

“Apparently, Andrew is the reason everything happened,” Cindy continued. “They got into a fight, something about Zane’s ex-girlfriend Merci and Zane punched him.”

“Merci?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Catherine smirk.

“Zane’s ex. They dated for two years until she moved to England when Zane was sixteen. Apparently, Andrew made some stupid comment and Zane lost it. According to Jane, they made up this morning. Personally though,” Cindy leaned closer, “I don’t think that’s why he did it.”

                “Hey, new girl,” Catherine snapped. “Do you see that girl on his left?”

                I glanced at Catherine, confused. The table had gone quiet.

                I focused on her. Framing her face was the color scarlet, marked by her straight side fringe and the rest of her long hair in loose supermodel-worthy curls. Her eyes were light green, while her perfectly tanned face was showered in just the right amount of make-up. She wore a skin-tight tank top above painted on jeans and cherry wedge heels.

I felt my stomach twist. Was Catherine going to say this was Zane’s girlfriend and that they’d known each other since they were babies or something? Was she going to say they were an inseparable couple? Why did that even bother me? Shut up, April.

“Yes, why?” I asked calmly.

“That’s Cheryl Alston, Andrew Grayson’s cousin, their moms are sisters. She’s liked Zane for ages, everyone knows that, and he’s never given her a second glance.” The crackling of a can broke her monologue. “But, a month ago, a rumor went round that Cheryl met up with him. Not many people believe her, you know, at most she must have bumped into him.” Something whizzed past my head, landing in the bin few meters away from me. “But you never know.” She leaned towards me, her eyes almost hypnotic. “All sorts of things can happen when stupid girls have stupid fantasies.”

                I stared at the bin she’d thrown the can in, her words sinking in. Had I just been threatened?

                Flippantly, I raised an eyebrow. “Did I ask if he was interested in anyone?”

                Catherine’s expression tightened, silent anger burning behind the green  veil of her eyes. Yep, I’d just made an enemy.

                My mind was quickly taken off her, my gaze wandering to Zane, leaning against a table, arms crossed as he spoke quietly to Andrew. My skin still buzzed, an effect from his presence.  It wasn’t as bad as the first time. The colors hadn’t appeared. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Suddenly, Zane’s eyes snapped to mine, like I was a memorized location, he didn’t need to search. I felt my heart stop for a few seconds, before starting up again in double time. In that moment, the whole world evaporated. There was just me and Zane, and then it was like my skin was alive, burning against my flesh, quaking as if it was trying to rip itself from my bones and throw itself at the male figure that occupied my sight.

                That killed that theory.

 

***

 

     “Someone’s moody,” Tracey giggled, turning her rolling eyes from the empty driveway Cali had so easily sped out of.

                Tracey turned to climb the porch steps, rustling through her pockets for something, finally scooping out a key chain she’d discovered on a holiday we’d taken in France. “Driving into the driveway does not count as coming home,” she said as she fingered the odd random items on the key chain, eventually finding the silver key Uncle Mathew had given us the night before. She slipped it in the keyhole, unlocking the door. “Trust Cali to find a loophole,” she grumbled as she pushed the door open.

                Rolling my eyes, I entered after her.

                Tracey dropped her book bag on the floor next to the staircase, slipping off her heeled boots to wiggle her toes. She hopped to the kitchen, alternating feet over the cold bleached wood floorboards. I snorted at her vulgar display of disorganization before padding behind her.

                Tracey was fiddling with the kettle as I walked in, trying to figure out how to switch on the fancy ultra-electronic machine. I laughed, taking it out of her hands and setting the water to boil. She made a face, before turning to the cupboards in search of hot chocolate mix. She pulled open the cupboard on the other side of the kitchen to grab a bag of marshmallows and a tube of chocolate mix.

Tracey sighed, disgruntled. “Thanks, April, you’re a life-saver,” she said, placing two mugs on the counter.

Minutes later, we were sitting opposite each other by the kitchen counter, sipping hot chocolate. I stared down at mine as I drank, translucent steam billowing in my face like wisps of grey hair. I imagined my mom, telling me stories of when I was a baby during one of the afternoons we spent outside, drinking large mugs of hot chocolate, overflowing with sugar granules and scented by melting marshmallows. In my head, her soft oval face lit up with a wide grin, her sparkling teeth throwing light from the ever glowing sun. Her dark brown hair contrasted the white of her teeth, fanning over her dark brown skin.

She looked like an angel, laughing as I rolled my eyes at her, pretending I wasn’t hiding a smile behind my black mug.

That was one of the pure memories, before we made a slow series of mistakes, walking my mother towards her death. Correction, I made a slow series of mistakes. Blinking quickly, I went back to the image of her smile, rubbing my hand over where my heart warmed.

“So, April, meet any nice guys today?” I glanced up to see Tracey wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

I laughed. “Maybe,” I grinned.

Tracey raised her eyebrows. “Do I want to know?”

“Don’t think so,” I beamed.

Tracey giggled. “Over Devin already?” She giggled again. “I guess he isn’t as awesome as those girls said he was. Or maybe you’re just quick with forgetting ex-boyfriends.”

“No,” I shook my head, staring down at the thick liquid swirling placidly between my hands. “He was a really nice guy.” I shrugged. “He was good boyfriend material, but I guess he was probably like that with every one of his girlfriends. You know, he felt for people really easily, and he had this way of talking to you that was so magnetic. He wasn’t arrogant either, even with so many people at his feet.” I took a breath. “He was like the all-round perfect guy.”

Images flickered in my head, recalling memories of Devin smiling at me in the bleachers during football games, or his soft deep voice persuading me to try out to be a cheerleader. ‘Hell, no,’ I’d said, ‘unlike all those other girls, I don’t feel the urge to wear short skirts and revealing tops while bouncing around with a bunch of frilly things.’ He’d laughed, telling me I was awesome.

Our break-up had been painful. I could still remember the torrential rain, Devin’s figure stalking away, leaving me in the dark as his flame of happiness travelled elsewhere, to bless another soul. In my head, I’d matched him up with girls he’d soon be dating, girls that weren’t me.

It had rained that day. It had rained after my mother’s funeral. It had rained when we moved here.

I hated rain.

“Then why’d you break up with him?” Tracey asked softly. At my silence, she spoke again. “I mean, you guys were perfect together. A real life Romeo and Juliet.”

Ha. She’d slipped up there. One, that was a tragedy. Two, there was no such thing as love, just hormone craziness.

Despite my opinion, my lips decided to part anyway. “Feelings are diseases. Sometimes, you think you’re immune, that you’ve had your immunization needle with an ail of tears and screams, but then they come back, like a never ending cold, and you’re crying again, and wanting things that will only end up hurting you.”

Silence encompassed us for several seconds. “I love it when you do that,” Tracey murmured.

“What?” My eyes snapped up. She smiled, her eyes warming.

“There’s this moment where you just open up, no masks, no pretenses, and then you’re just so human, that—”

I snorted. “Yeah, right. Sorry, Trace, I gotta get changed.” I hopped off my stool, abandoning the remains of my hot chocolate.

Tracey didn’t call me back.

 

***

 

The sound of knocking alerted me from my reading. I’d been enclosed in my room all  day, holing up with a pile of books. “Trace?” I called.

Tracey opened the door, taking in my pajamas and books. “Dinner,” she chimed, leaning lazily against the frame of my doorway.

I raised an eyebrow, hoping she’d forgiven me for what had happened this afternoon. “Family dinner? Really?”

Tracey smirked, a light coming up beneath her soft brown eyes. “You know how Dad is.”

Rolling my eyes, I stood up.

Downstairs, our plates were laid out on the dinning table. Uncle Mathew was finishing up, placing bowls of boiled vegetables, fried chicken and a tray of crackers in the center of the table.

“So, girls, how was your day?” Uncle Mathew asked when we all sat, scooping up some of his meat casserole.

                “Great!” Tracey chirped. “I L-O-V-E this town. I’ve already made like a thousand friends.”

                Uncle Mathew raised an eyebrow. “All friends right?”

                Tracey rolled her eyes, refocusing on her casserole. “Yep. I have a new boyfriend.”

                Uncle Mathew choked on his food. Tracey and I struggled to hold back giggles.

                “I’m going to hope you’re joking.” Sighing in a self-pitying way, Uncle Mathew turned his gaze to me. “April?”

                Before I could open my lips to speak, Cali spoke. “What’s the point of asking her? We all know she’s not going to fit in.”

                “Cali!” Uncle Mathew protested, his fork and knife clattering against the porcelain of his plate.

                “What the hell Cali?” Tracey interjected.

                Cali shrugged, stabbing a slice of mango from her fruit salad and popping it into her mouth. She looked up at me, her eyes contemptuous. “We all know she’s a freak,” she spat. “It’s just a matter of time before she kills someone and gets thrown in jail.”

                “Cali Marie Kingston!” Uncle Mathew shot up, slamming a hand on the table. “You will not speak to your cousin that way!”

                Cali snorted. “You can talk. You’re such a hypocrite. You and mom talk about April all the time. At least I have the guts to say it to her face instead of lying through my teeth.”

                “Do not call your father a hypocrite!” Aunt Marian snapped, eyes sparking with anger.

                Cali shook her head, her expression disgusted. “Now you speak? Don’t worry mom, you’re a hypocrite too.” Something close to guilt flashed in Aunt Marian’s eyes. “Whatever.” Cali stood up, picking up her fruit salad. “I don’t want to eat with liars.” She stalked out of the room, dumping her half-eaten salad in the bin.

                Silence encompassed the room, pressing down on the inhabitants. I tried to keep an indifferent expression on my face as I stared into space, refusing to glance at the others on the table.

                “You know what?” I broke the silence. “I’ll eat the rest in my room.” I stood up, picking up my plate and striding out of the room.

                After the sound of the kissing of teeth pierced the silence, Tracey appeared beside me, wrapping her arm around my shoulder. “Cali is such a baby.”

                I rolled my eyes. “You’re telling me.”  

                Deep down, I knew she was right.

                I went for an early night, curling up on my bed. After rolling for at least an hour, I finally got out of bed. I tiptoed down the stairs, treading carefully in the darkness.

                I paused as I caught sight of light dribbling into the foyer from the living room. Shadows paced the wooden planks of the floor. I inched closer, hearing the low voices.

                “What are we supposed to do?” I heard Aunt Marian’s voice as she paced the living room. “Can’t we assign her another psychiatrist? I thought this problem was gone. There was no incident for a year. For a year, she was docile.”

                Uncle Mathew sighed, his face unshaven as he gazed down at a thick liquid swirling in the wine glass he clutched between his palms. “Maybe she didn’t tell us.”

                Aunt Marian spun to face him. “What?”

                Uncle Mathew exhaled. “It didn’t seem like she stopped, just that it wasn’t as bad. I think she wanted it go away, just like the rest of us.”

                “You knew this?” Aunt Marian gaped. “And you didn’t tell me?”

`               “You would have reassigned her that psychologist.”

                “With good reason!”

                “At her own pain Marian,” he snapped. Sighing again, Uncle Matthew scrubbed a hand over his face. “She hates her Marian. You know that, I know that. All that psychologist did was tell us what we already knew: she misses her mom, she’s hurting, and she does things without meaning to. All those hypothesises she threw around didn’t help us. In fact, it possibly made her worse.”

                Aunt Marian sunk next to him. “But what do we do?” she groaned, her voice muffled as she buried her face in her hands. “I don’t want this Mathew, I never did.” She paused. Her voice lowered when she spoke. “June would never have wanted us to deal with this. She would never have put such a huge responsibility on you. I know you love your adopted sister, but—”

                Uncle Mathew closed his eyes. “Don’t call her that, not when April is just upstairs. You know we can’t tell her that her mother is adopted, it would kill her.”

                I smirked. I’d known for ages.

                “Besides, you saw the letter she gave us. You know just as well as I do what June wanted. She told us to stick it out, to treat her daughter like our own.”

                Letter? What letter?

                “But she’s not our own,” Aunt Marian snapped. “She doesn’t belong to us.”

                “But we’ll treat her like she is,” Uncle Mathew replied, his voice refusing argument. “I’m going to bed.” Uncle Mathew gulped down the rest of his drink, placing it on the coffee table. He paused as he headed for the doorway next to me. “Marian, have you given April the box yet?”

                Aunt Marian blinked, surprised by the question. “No,” she replied.

                “Are you sure you weren’t meant to give it to her before?” Uncle Matthew pressed.

                “No.” she’d answered too quickly. A blatant lie.

                Uncle Mathew nodded, his pupils dilated. Ignorance. He hadn’t noticed. He turned to the doorway. I slipped into the darkness as he walked past, staggering up the stairs.

                I sunk to the floor. A box? A letter? Why hadn’t I heard about this?

                I wasn’t the only one keeping secrets.

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