“Have a good day,” Jakob called through the open car window to me. “try not to start any fires.”
I returned his smile as he pulled away from the curb and drove away down the road. He had offered to give me a lift to school as it was my first day back after summer, and after contemplating the hassle I might get on the bus, I hastily accepted. Even though it had only been three days since the Linton House incident, news of what happened had been spread like wildfire (an actual phrase used by a BBC reporter) and by now the whole town knew what had happened; although I knew that whether it was the truth that had been spread around was another matter altogether.
Standing outside the school entrance, I wondered where the summer had gone. It felt like it was only the start of July last week, but here we were near the end of October. Emeli and Jakob had allowed me a few days off for obvious reasons, but seeing as I'd already played truant enough as it was this term, I felt like the longer I left it the harder it would be to go back. I hitched my bag on my shoulder more securely and gritted my teeth as I walked through the gate.
Before I had even reached my form room, I had received probably more than a hundred stares, glares and gawks. Not one person said a word to me, but I noticed plenty were happy to whisper to each other as I walked by. Twenty unbearable minutes later when form had ended, my cheeks were burning furiously as I leapt up from my chair and rushed out the door to get away from everyone and head to English lit.
I buried my head immediately into my copy of Much Ado About Nothing so I couldn't see everyone staring at me as they entered the classroom. I was just getting to Benedick's first soliloquy when someone plonked themselves down into the seat next to me.
“Back so soon, Udiya?” a familiar voice whispered in my ear. I turned to come face to face with Ivy; she was staring at me, her head resting on her hand and her blonde locks falling down against her arm and onto the table. I had always been jealous of the constant immaculate quality that her hair always seemed to possess, but of course I would never admit this to anyone. I turned my head back to my book.
“Well, it is Monday after all, Ivy. You may dislike my presence as much as I dislike yours, but this does not make my attendance any less mandatory.” I replied coolly.
“Is that so? Hmm, funny- your recent behaviour seems to prove otherwise. And what about your friend Luke? He does take English lit too, doesn't he?” she said in that infuriatingly patronising voice of hers. I sighed but couldn't help but look up; sweeping my eyes across the classroom, I felt an annoyed sense of defeat to realise that the lesson was due to start any minute and Luke still wasn't here. She chuckled softly into my ear, way too close into my personal space. “Looks like someone has been ditched.”
Just then Miss Haywood entered the room, striding straight to her desk with her book in hand and her long black cardigan flowing behind her. Her eyes squinted around the room and Ivy finally slipped back into her seat in the row behind me. Miss Haywood smiled out at us before hopping herself backwards to sit on the desk rather than the chair and crossed one leg over the other.
“Right,” said Miss Haywood. “I trust you all had a good weekend- not too much partying I hope?” There were a few mumbles throughout the class before she continued. “I hope at least some of you have had the sense to at least start your coursework. Sixth Form is not for the faint hearted, and you've got to work hard to get to where you want to be.” Her eyes flicked to me for a split second. “Now then, Act 2 Scene 3, where the tables start to be turned...”
“Psst. Hey, Krissy.” a voice whispered from behind me.
“What? And don't call me that.” I hissed back, turning my head a little to them but still facing the front.
“My bad. I just...wanted to say I'm sorry about what happened. You know, with Brody.” I recognised the voice at last as belonging to Charlie, who was the brother of Rose, a girl in the year below us who I used to share a room with at The Grange. They'd come over from Rwanda to live with their uncle after their parents had been killed in the genocide there, but their uncle had turned out to be a crap parenting figure and dropped them at the nearest orphanage before fleeing to somewhere in Scotland apparently. They took it all in their stride, however, and were two of the kindest people at The Grange. Charlie had moved out a few weeks ago after he'd turned 18 and went to live in his friend's flat.
“Thanks.” I murmured back. He patted me briefly on the shoulder.
“No probs. I heard Andrew is improving though.” Charlie said. I frowned a little.
“Where'd you hear that?”
“I took Rose to see him yesterday.”
I didn't know why, as Rose obviously knew Andrew from The Grange as well, but I felt a little uncomfortable about hearing this.
“Yeah, she said he seems to be making good progress. Anyway, you must be feeling a little outta sync with everything that's been going on... feel like a bit of excitement?” whispered Charlie. My stomach jumped a bit.
“What kind of excitement?” He paused and I could tell he was smiling.
“That's my girl. Well, Lucas is throwing a Halloween party down on the West side of town-”
“Oh, please don't tell me you're inviting her.” Ivy interrupted. I heard Charlie turn in his chair.
“Thanks for your most unneeded and unwelcome input; I will now be ignoring you.”
“Wherever she goes, freaky shit happens. I don't want her to ruin the séance, she might end up getting us all killed or something.”
“Wait, you're having a séance?” I said a bit too loudly. Miss Haywood looked up from her book.
“Uh, excuse me, little group in the corner there. I may not be able to hear every word you're saying but you shouldn't be talking in the first place. Especially you, Kristina- you've got enough work to catch up on as it is.” she said sharply.
I blushed and nodded at her before turning back round in my seat properly. After a few minutes of her continued reading, I felt Charlie jab me in the back. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him drop a note over my shoulder and onto my lap:
736 Melsetter Way on Saturday, 9pm. Don't leave your fangs at home ;)
My arms were aching by the time I had finally finished putting my dark hair into a side-fishtail plait. I shook them out as I slipped my feet into my black wedges and checked I had everything in my handbag that I needed. It was finally Saturday and after a little deliberation, I had decided to go to the Halloween party; Jakob was working late and at just a little bit before 10pm Emeli had gone up to bed to watch some films before going to sleep, so there was minimal risk of getting caught sneaking out. Or I hoped that was the case, anyway- I didn't especially wish to get caught breaking the rues of my grounding.
When Charlie first mentioned it, I wanted to go; I'd always been into trying new things and I'd never had much chance to go to many parties in the past, and it was bound to be fun. But then Ivy had said about the séance and that had just sealed the deal- I wasn't particularly into the occult, but what happened to Brody had haunted my every waking and sleeping moment. Maybe I could get some answers this way... it had to be worth a shot.
I gave my eye-liner a check and straightened out my dress. Taking Charlie's inspiration, I'd put on a vampire-themed outfit: a black turtle-neck dress that was shorter at the front, my black wedges (the closest thing to heels I could handle) and dark make-up with plastic blood stained fangs. At the last moment I had added a few trickles of fake blood down my chin to add to the supernatural effect. I nodded to myself in the mirror and immediately felt silly for it.
I crept as quietly as I could past Emeli and Jakob's room, the muffled sound of the TV just audible though the door, and down the stairs, being increasingly mindful to skip the second to last step that had the tendency to creak. Gently opening the front door, I was greeted by a tall figure outside leaning one arm on the doorway and I jumped back a bit in shock.
“Evening, hun. You must have read my mind- fancy a late night stroll?”
I pushed him backward and hopped over the threshold so I could shut the door before spinning round and thumping his arm hard.
“What the hell, Luke?” I said angrily. “You've been in school- what- once this week? And that was just to pick up your marked bit of coursework. Now you just show up on my doorstep late at night like this?”
The moonlight glinted off his red hair and he shoved his hands into his leather jacket, smiling.
“I didn't know you took so much notice of my actions, Krissy.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, keep your knicks on.” he tilted his head at me. “So where are you off to at this time of night? Not to burn down another old house, I hope.” I glared at him with all my might.
“I don't recall being the one who started that fire. You do know the police are looking for you, right?” he just shrugged.
“Already sorted. They're not going to press charges.”
“What? How...how on earth did you get away with that? I mean the truanting is one thing, but arson?” I said shocked.
“Don't worry about it, darling. And as far as I'm aware, your record isn't exactly pristine either.”
“That isn't the point, Luke.”
“So what is the point, Kristina?” he said, louder this time. My gaze dropped. “Charges aren't gonna be pressed, that's good isn't it? I got you out of there and out of danger, and that's what I care about. And in regards to school, I get the work done. Mostly. I value education, but maybe not the methods used. It doesn't work for me. But don't you go lecturing me about faults we share, life doesn't work like that.” I shuffled my feet for a moment, unsure how to respond.
“So you're going to stop me from going to the Halloween party tonight?”
“Hell no,” he said. “the party don't start 'til I walk in.”