Kylie lay on her bed asleep, while I put on my hoodie, jeans, and sneakers for the first class. I don't want to be late. Timing is everything. I thought of waking up Kylie and I did, but it was time consuming, so I left it to the alarm.
At the class, I occupied the middle last seat. Looking at the few empty chairs, I could say that I was a bit early. In a matter of time, the class filled up, and the teacher stepped in with a greeting. Mr. Salem thought us Physics, very tough Physics. I am screwed.
I found is weird about how presently, I am studying in a hostel, free of cost and.....free of past. But I have to move on, go with the circumstances, and adapt in order to live successfully. I would have a completely different fate if I had decided to stay back in the woods and not try. I then wondered if this perception about adaptability was a corollary of something my mother could have taught. Teachings from when I was a kid, that reflected now.
At six in the evening, the hostel students were all busy in dressing up for the party. I returned after a tough day at the school. I gave myself a peaceful mind by helping myself with the delicious tarts they served today.
Kylie looked graceful in her red formal frock, and a pair of leg warmers covering her sleek legs. With her blonde hair falling on her shoulders and bangs over her green eyes, she looked irresistible. I on the other hand, preferred to show less skin and didn't bother flaunting those curves as I let my dress rather loose on me. The lace work covered my arms as sleeves and it looked elegant. The back had a deep oval cut so it felt naked since I tied my hair into a bun. Whenever the cold air hit, I would shiver.
"There, you look gorgeous." Kylie said, applying blush on my cheek bones.
"This won't make me any prettier. I'm fine with the pale face." I said, as she pulled an eyeliner from the drawer.
"You look much better, though." Kylie said, after making a perfect line over the curve of my upper eyelid. I turned to face the mirror, and she was right. Better than ever. I couldn't look more appealing.
"Knock, knock." Cedric called from the open door. He wore a blue suit without a bow. He was handsome, enough to get the girls staring at him.
"May I, pretty ladies? " He mimicked a British accent with a slight bow, one hand on his stomach, other resting on his back. We both willingly locked our arms with his velvet sleeved arms.
"Let me escort you to the auditorium." Cedric said. Kylie chuckled, joining along in the formal play.
I could hear the loud music from the distance as we approached the auditorium, through the narrow hall. It's walls were dragged along with pipes. The gust of warm air stroked past us, when Cedric pulled open the metal door. It was crowded with all the students dressed in red and black, or other colours. The little spaces void of a person would be filled with the pumping music, from the refigderator-sized stereos.
"Kylie, Paige...." Someone was shouting over the noise. It was Noris with a tall, tanned boy.
"Enjoying the party already?"Noris said, with a smirk, looking at our arms locked.
"I don't have that many strong arms M'lady or I would have invited you too." Cedric said, mimicking the British again, noticeably, ignoring the guy standing beside Noris.
"You must be the new girl, right?" Noris's company asked, and I nod. I smiled and noticed his arm wrapped around Noris's shoulder.
"Noris mentioned me about you the other day." He said.
"This is Sean Acker." Noris said. I introduced myself, and just then Cedric pulled me aside and whispered, "He is Noris's date,'' with a straight face which might have looked rude to whisper in a gathering. I look at him gesturing towards perturbed couple staring at us. I smile at them and wondered if Cedric was troubled about the fact he just told me.
I excused myself and walked towards the laid buffet, enticing me with its aromatic appetizers. Kylie dragged all of the others with her two arms towards the centre of the hall. Then they all began physically moving their bodies to the rhythm of the music, which is known as dancing, and something I couldn't.
The music from the stereos grew louder, and the more I felt indisposed by the atmosphere. My hands would itch to grab a filled plate and stuff my face with those Italian cheesecakes, but I resist.
An unexpected hand reached forward with a glass filled with grape juice. I do not like grape juice. I promptly looked up to see a familiar face with whom I had an encounter with earlier and sure I didn't expect him to be here from about all the places in Redelf.
"I - Ian?" The first thing I noticed were his eyes. Unlike last time they weren't two 'ashtrays' in the socket. They were mesmerizing, pitch black with traces of....red? Well, I think I could blame it on the disco ball light here. His eyes were smoky and seemed to convey so much.
But why is he here? Well there could be two reasons; First, he studies here, as simple as that; second, he's around to confuse me with his eccentric claims again as in my fate.
''P- Paige." He mimicked, and pushed a grape juice glass towards me. ''No Thanks." I mindlessly turned down.
''I study here, if that's what you are thinking, and I see you've joined here too!" He said, bashfully yet calmly and put aside the glass.
"Yeah." I said, fiddling with the lace material of my dress.
''You couldn't leave me alone, couldn't you?" He said. I blankly repeated 'Yah' before I could even realize. I heard him laugh.
"What? No! I should be the one telling that!" I said, glowering at him. But apparently, I was the one to join the hostel he studies in. In spite of what I said his lips rolled up into a facetious smile. Ignoring his taunt, I peep from beside his tall figure. I couldn't help but notice his beckoning attire. He had his dark eyes partly covered by his dark hair which looked more of messy than neatly parted, regardless of the occasion in here. He too had his navy blue suit slenderizing his figure, unlike me. It was then too late before I noticed that I was...
''Drooling over me?'' He mocked and I looked away again, this time blushing.
''Have a dance with me.'' He said. ''No. I'm good here.'' I replied, lacking enthusiasm.
''That wasn't a request,'' he said and pulled me off my seat. "Oh no!'' I resisted but it went in vain. In a few seconds I found myself moving apathetically around the floor after having a few spins. With all my restless moves anyone could state that I wasn't a really good dancer. The overcrowded hall and the muggy atmosphere was now making me lethargic.
''Excuse me,'' I said and raced off to the quiet and depeopled garden which lay at the back of the party hall. There was a sudden change in emotions from being excited to being restless and sickened. I would want to sit here on the frosted bench rather being in there. I wasn't even enjoying tonight for which I was so excited yesterday.
''Guess parties are not my thing.'' I mumbled as if to excuse myself for being out here or maybe to excuse myself for feeling incompetent. I felt tears filling my eyes. The cold brisk wind blew, freezing me and my tears. Right now I just wanted to return to my room, my own room back at home. The remembrance of home gives me warmth even though I've never felt the embrace of it.
''There you are!'' Ian called. ''Don't you want to dance- are you crying?''
"'No no, I just rinsed my face. I'm good,'' I lied.
"OK. But don't you wanna come back in?'' He asked. "No I'm good. You enjoy with your friends in there, I'm..."
"Hey, I know you're missing your parents." He spoke softly as I trailed off with my sentence.
" I know it happens but I thought you didn't like them, " he said, shrugging.
"I didn't say like that. " I recalled the made-up story I narrated him the other day.
"I just had family problems, that's all. " I explained. He slipped on the lacquer coated bench beside me. "You're not telling me something," he said blankly starting at the silver frosts settled on the patches of grass. I hadn't replied ,with my brain still processing his spoken words. "What?"
"You lied about your parents, right? " He spoke with apathy. But I was still puzzled.
"Your parents didn't die, didn't they? But you tried suiciding because of your personal problems in life..." He continued and now it all started to make sense. The two stories were fake, anyway, but no one needed to know that.
"Oh yes, I'm sorry about that. You were a stranger to me then, so I had to."
"What's the real story?" He demanded, and I felt puny at this matter.
I took a deep breath and started." It happened two months ago when my mom and dad died in a car accident." I pretended to choke up on my word words. " I was so depressed since then and I had absolutely no one to turn to...." I felt a Ian's frigid cold palm over my hand just like the breezing wind.
"And that's why you gave up and jumped into the Lake. " He continued.
"What?...Yes, yes. ...I..." And I have no idea when that happened. Ian smiled, leaving me confused for the purpose of it. Silence fell around us.
Why is this guy who I just met, taking so much interest in my life? He could be lying to me and at the same time planning 'some business' with a silver haired addle-pate. I wouldn't and couldn't let my guard down, not until I find my rightful place on earth; My parents, my friends and my home. The wind bit at my bare legs and swirled around us. It made the boughs swing violently and it felt as though every tree in the garden was whispering the same thing: home, home, home.
"Missing home?" he asked. It's seriously not going to help if he and every living entity on this place repeated the same.
"Let it out, you'll feel better,'' he said rather softly. Now what was he, my mentor? But spontaneous tears left my eyes on hearing the words. He wrapped his arm around me and I didn't seem to care. I carried on with my crying for a little while then pulled myself back.
''Ian, I'm alright." I said, whispering and he pulled his arm back. I avoided any eye contact and stood up to walk towards the restroom for another face wash. I decided to continue with Kylie and Noris anyway, without anything else bothering me tonight.
The following day was Christmas. We all wished each other heartily and Noris and Kylie left with their families for five days holidays. Only Cedric's family and few others didn't visit, obviously including me. He didn't really tell us the reason.
I had to walk to the morning classes alone as neither Kylie nor Noris were there to accompany me. Till we reached the fourth period, more than half of the class was asleep and no teacher seemed to care anymore. Teachers were busy droning on and on and I guess I was the only student who obediently took down the notes. Later at lunch, I sat with the only person I knew.
"Where were you last night? I didn't see you for about half the night," he asked after I sat down opposite to him.
"I didn't know how to dance and I..." I trailed of thinking it's best to keep my mouth shut about last night besides I didn't want them to think that I simply befriend any guy whom I just met.
"And you..?" he asked. "And me?... nothing." I blabbered.
"So whats with Noris and Sean?" I tried changing the subject. With the look that appeared on his face, hearing the name Sean, I could say that he utterly despised him.
"He is a jerk. He has his own business." He hissed and teared the chicken sandwich with his teeth like a wild animal. I kept quiet as to calm him down before asking him another enraging question.
"What sort of business, do you mean... um...d-drugs?'' I hesitated and then tried to stuff chicken roll into my big mouth. I keenly waited then looked up to see him staring at me. "Yes, drugs.'' He smiled, obviously meant to mock.
"Fine." I crossed my arms leaning back. He eventually sighed.
"He isn't a perfect guy, Paige." He said.
"Of course no guy is perfect, in fact nobody is perfect."
"I know....it's just that she deserves better than him." He said gloomily with more of envy and desire in his words. "He is the biggest player around here even though he has such a pimp ass baby face!'' He snubbed.
"He is a player? But hey, baby faces can look attractive sometimes." I offered my view in a mild protest. Then thought it's best to keep quiet. He shrugged his shoulders showing indifference.
"I simply don't prefer his company around us or around Noris." He frowned. I didn't reply. I heard other people around us shouting, giggling and munching. Students sitting in their groups with constant burst of laughter, some teasing and pointing at the less interactive groupies, while some with no care and intention to invite the newbies like me.
Cedric kept poking at his food and I cleared my throat ceasing this silence between us.
"Cedric, do you mind answering my question?" He lifted his eyes to me and shook his head. "How are the people in this city? " I asked. He took longer time then required to process the question. "Since I'm new here, I thought I might ask."
"If you ask me, I would say they all should deserve a reward for the most helpful City or something. Don't mean to boast but it's true."
I nodded cordially even though I was unsatisfied with his view. I didn't feel the same as him maybe because I'm an outsider and he just ought to have a protective and favorable instinct for his city.
"But frankly speaking, I don't find the same aura living in the city anymore. The last thing you would find now would be liveliness and peace." He said. I nodded. Now this seemed to suit the city's description more appropriately.
"Why do you get this feeling?" I found myself asking, acquiring curiosity. Cedric looked as though he was searching for an answer in his mind.
"I don't know, it's just no way to describe the mood around here. It has become more of a monotonous life in Redelf. Everyone's just living, just eating, just sleeping and just repeating. And the city's economic crisis isn't helping at all. How is it in your city?"
"Merrilea." I informed. "It was a...um..pretty great place to live, the people, the jobs, the friends, everyone and everything was great." Great, great, great. I don't have a clue about a single lane in Merrilea. Mitchville and Merrilea are some cities I wrote down from the tour pamphlet the day before visiting Mrs.Carol at the Hostel. All for making up a story of my past. In truth I have never been there.
"Have you suspected a change in Merrilea? " He asked. "No, I haven't. Not yet." I said, feeling strange and inquisitive about his question. I wasn't sure what he meant even though his words did form a meaningful sentence. Then I happened to realize that I hadn't asked him about his family. But I guess I upset him enough for today.
"Hm, it's the bell, catch you later." Cedric said and rose to his feet along with his tray and dumped it in the trash. I followed him and left for the classes.
Later I couldn't help but think about Cedric's words. He described like some wave of darkness, stroked by a bogeyman, engulfed Redelf. I don't believe in such mystic creatures or supernatural powers.
In the evening I quietly fell on my bed and pulled the covers over my face. It was too early to be asleep but I had nothing to do except silently weep wishing that I had my family today. Just for a day.
"Paige!" I heard a worried voice from behind my door. I jumped out of the bed as quickly as I wiped away my tears.
"Cedric? What's wrong?" I opened the door and asked softly. "Kylie called. She wants me to come over to her place. Her mother isn't well all of a sudden." He said. I didn't know what to speak so I stood there waiting for him to suggest something.
"I just want you to stay and write an excuse to the office." I nodded swiftly to his orders. But where is Kylie's brother Aaron? Wasn't he helping?
"Cedric, I wanna come along." I insisted, and he simply nodded.
Cedric drove his car to Kylie's. "Wait up Kylie, we are on our way there!" I exclaimed, when Cedric handed me his phone.
Like Cedric said this noon, liveliness was indeed the last thing noticeable in the city. It seemed like every person I passed by had a look of desperation and tiredness. The eyes had glumness and a tint of smoke no matter what expression they had. I hadn't noticed this before. I find some resemblance of such darkness in every one around me in college. Was it normal?
I traced my eyes to a man's finger pointing West towards a cluster of hills. He was clad in a dark coat up to his ears while holding a hand of a young girl. She looked at the hills in awe. They both stood strangely at the edge of the light from the lamp post making their features dull and shadowed. The hill looked far, beyond the city's proximity and white with snow under the Quarter moon. I swept my eyes back towards the man and the girl but they had disappeared. 'Left' would be a less eerie word. I shivered.
Kylie lived quite far from Redelf Hostel. We reached at Crossbone street in thirty minutes. Her house was at the dead end of the lane and was comparatively bigger than other houses. We scurried through the front lawn and reached for the door but until then Kylie opened. She rushed up the stairs, laconically, and we followed her. Her mother was rested upon the bed like a lifeless pale mass. I walked steadily towards the bed. Her eyes were closed but thankfully she was breathing. I noticed tears glistening from the corner of her eyes.
"Mrs. Bray?" I heard myself whisper and she opened her eyes to reveal her green eyeballs engulfed in black smoke. I gasped and fell back. Her eyes were darker than the other people's eyes.
"Paige, are you alright? " Kylie asked. "Yeah, I am fine." I mumbled and moved closer to her ear.
"Kylie, I want to ask you something." I said, and she nodded. " Did you notice the smoke over your mom's eyes?" I asked, but soon regretted it. Kylie's eyebrows knitted together. "What do you mean? I haven't seen anything."
"Nah, it's okay, I must be dreaming." I mumbled like stupid again. I helped Kylie comfort her mother and gave her pills for the moment.
"Doc said he'll be here in a moment." Cedric whispered to me after Kylie fell asleep resting her head near her mother's bed.
"Isn't Kylie's brother on a vacation too? Shouldn't he be here?" I inquired curiously. " I guess so, maybe he isn't..." he trailed off into possible thoughts.
Mrs. Bray's constants wheezes and coughs kept me awake and alert for any emergency necessity. I returned from the kitchen with hot water and noticed light escaping the room. I rushed to see a bright light lingering in the room which slowly burned darkness. I was aghast with shock and shook Kylie from her slumber. She had dozed off into a deep sleep, so did Cedric. I stood there defenseless, unknown of any harm it could cause. The black shadows ceased the light and whirled in the room like my reeling head now. It slowly seeped through the roof like a penetrant. I galloped out the house and focused at the sky but the shadows were hard to make out in this utter darkness. There was a sudden change in the winds and again silence. I stared blankly at the starless skies and sulked in a lawn armchair. What in the world was that? A ghost? Or a band of ghosts?
I know one thing for sure. It is everywhere.
"Paige, Why are you sitting here? It's freezing cold" Cedric asked, rubbing his eyes. "Sorry I fell asleep." He added.
"Everything's....fine." I lied. "We better have a check on Mrs.B-" I couldn't finish since Kylie's wail caught my words in my throat. We both raced to the room and saw her weeping by her mother. In one thought it was clear, she succumbed to the dark shadows. I looked at her body with teary eyes and hugged Kylie trying to calm here. Noris rushed in the room and gasped tearfully at one look at the scene.
"Mom, don't leave me, don't leave me!" Kylie cried. "I have no one, " she whispered, and I spontaneously led down tears. Kylie lost her mother, I think nothing is more painful than that. We let Kylie cry in grief and stayed by her side for a few hours. I still had my head reeling with all that just happened in one night. I really wished I could do something to help her. But I couldn't, no one could. Death isn't in our hands nor is it our choice.
"Everyone dies...everyone has to go." I said.