Danny Hale woke from the hazy, confusing dream. He’d had nightmares before of course, nightmares of strange beings chasing him in the night. But this was different, too real and too familiar. Danny could still feel the throbbing of his once broken jaw. He held his arm up, inspecting it, looking for any sign of damage. There was none. Danny looked over at his clock, its red digits told him that if he didn’t get up now, he’d be late for school. He quickly pushed aside his pale blue covers and slid out of his old, creaking bed.
His room was a small one, with his bed in the centre alongside his surprisingly large chest of draws. On the far wall, there was a small, uncurtained window and a wooden study desk underneath. On top of all of this was mess. Clothes, books, pieces of paper, everything was shewn across the floor, his desk, its seat and a junkyard under his bed. Danny was a very messy person. Something he heard from his mum quite often, if not every day. But this was a habit he could not break.
Danny began his search for his school uniform over by his desk. That was where he usually threw school related items.
It was no secret that Danny Hale hated his school. His grades and his lack of friends proved that. It wasn’t that Danny did like learning. Because he did. He just didn’t like being taught. Or being taught in a classroom full of stupid, bullying students. Danny would have much rather picked up a book and taught himself everything he needed to know, that was just how he preferred it. He had enjoyed it more when Steven was still around though now he simply couldn’t stand it. But his mother worked all the time to take care of Danny and his little sister Mae. His father had left them years ago. Ran off with some hairdresser. The usual story, bleach blonde, 20 and one too many deep conversations, over split ends Danny presumed.
But Danny didn’t mind, he’d had never really liked his father, he barely even knew him. Even when Paul was around he had never really taken much interest in his children.
Apparently his was not a family man.
Maybe that was the reason Danny’s older brother Steven had run away. Because he needed a father.
Steven was three years older than Danny, who was now sixteen. Steven, despite his father’s disinterest, had loved him very much and the betrayal he had felt when he left was far worse than that of Mum’s hard-hearted acceptance. So two years ago when he was sixteen, he ran away, perhaps hoping to find their father. But while Steve was desperately looking for his father, Danny desperately waited for his brother to come home.
After a few minutes of searching, Danny found his shirt and pants on his swivel chair and his tie tangled in its wheels. He dressed quickly and ran down the stairs taking them two at a time. His mother was spoon feeding Mae who was sitting in her white high chair. When he entered the room they both looked up; contrasting emotions playing across their features. Mae squealed and held out her arms hoping he would lift her up so that they could play as Danny often did with his little sister. His mother, on the other hand, looked quite annoyed.
“Danny, it’s quarter to nine! You promised me you were going to try harder this year.” His mother complained in agitation.
“I am, I just had a bad dream and missed my alarm! That’s all, I didn’t do it on purpose!” Danny replied angrily. He understood how much pressure his mother was under, her boss was threating layoffs and the little pay she was receiving at the moment was barely enough to keep them afloat. Danny also knew how much of a burden he was when it came to school. He had offered to get a full-time job, but naturally his mother insisted he finish school.
But he hated it there. He really hated it. He dreaded each day as it came but he was in his eleventh year and he needed to pick up his game if he wanted to have any sort of future when he graduated.
His mother looked at him, concerned, and put the spoon she was feeding Mae with down; despite her look or disappointment.
“A bad dream? Are you alright? It wasn’t about Steven was it?” Danny often dreamed about Steven, all the different ways he imagined his glorious return. But last night was not about Steven, not about anything he had thought about before.
“No, it wasn’t about Steven,” Danny replied. His mothered looked relieved. She picked up the spoon and began slowly mixing the baby food in the bowl before her. Mae watched her eagerly, reaching her chubby fingers out as if to take the bowl and feed herself.
“Good.” She murmured, “Good.” Danny knew his mother missed Steve, but there was nothing she could do, the police in this small town were good for nothing. A few missing signs and that was it. Because everyone knew why he went and none of them believed he would come back. Some even thought he had found their father and was now living with him and the hairdresser. Danny didn’t believe it, although Steve did love their father, he loved their mother as well and would not abandon her like this. Eventually, mum began to believe them too. Danny looked back over to his step sister. She was the result of a small romance his mother had had almost three years ago. Perhaps another reason Steven left. He was a nice man, Robert came in from out of town to work to work for as a lawyer in my mother’s firm, who worked there at Haven Hall as a receptionist. Haven Hall was basically your regular small town bank with little money with big ideas. They were in trouble with another company; apparently their ideas were too big. So they brought in a lawyer and threatened to go to court. This went on for a while. During which Danny’s mother Jean and the lawyer Robert met.
He had already left on a mutual goodbye when my mother found out she was pregnant, but he had left no way for her to reach him. So again, his mother was left to handle things on her own. It made his mother unhappy, certainly, but she was in no way incapable of taking care of everything and everyone, including her, and knew it. So Danny had never really worried about her managing things. He just wished someone would come along who really did.
Danny moved around the table and walked over to the fridge pulling it open with great difficulty. It was fairly old and tended to desperately stay shut each time someone pulled on it. When it finally swung open, the whole fridge shook and glass bottles and other assorted products clinked together loudly. Which caused his mother to look around and glare at him.
“Careful Danny!” his mother cried and Danny glanced back sheepishly. He reached in a pulled out a few things, stuffing them into his bag for lunch. He closed the door quickly. Silently missing the cool air as the summer heat began to settle in the small town they lived in. the weather never seemed nice here. Sweltering in summer, bone-chillingly cold in winter which rarely even provided snow, just a lot of ice.
The bus ride to school was a long one, to him anyway. He didn’t live too far from the school. But the bus was free, owned by the school, and most of his classmates took it. Forcing the bus to stop at almost every house. Sitting up the front because of his mild motion sickness worked to his advantage. Most of the ‘popular’ and annoying kids who might otherwise bother him with their irrelevant and infuriating taunts stuck to right up the back away from him. He only had to up with the computer geeks, which were numerous at his school which prided itself on its skill with technologically bright students, but they mostly kept to themselves anyway.
The bus pulled up at the tall, black school gates and the bus slowly unloaded. The grounds of the school were well kept contrasting with the untidiness of the school building. It was an ugly structure really like four separate two storey houses joined by hallways and forming a perfect square. And all painted a ghastly yellow and maroon, the school colours. But really all you could expect from a small town school like this one.
To Danny this looked like it would be another boring uneventful day. That was of course before he spotted Riley, the girl from his dream striding confidently towards the administrative office accompanied by what Danny assumed was her father.