The world as we know it is not real. There were many things that Rune Oakes wished were true, but that was what she wished to be true the most. After all, reality was boring, the only thing that was never dull was pain.
And what fun was a world where all anyone could feel was pain? Rune knew that all too well.
That kind of world would not be pink and sweet, or blue and cool. It would be red; angry and sharp and vivid and painful. And that would be awful, so she couldn't let that happen. Red was the colour of fires too, and Rune didn't much like fire. Or boarding schools.
Rune gazed up at the old red brick building, squinting as the sun hung behind it like a painting. Her mother stood beside her, a hand clamped firmly on her shoulder, probably to try and stop her from running away. Rune had to resist the urge to roll her eyes. She wasn't an idiot: she knew there were far too many people around for her to be able to get away.
Rune sighed, as her mother, with her greying hair tied up into a bun, handed her two large maroon suitcases. She herself held one, in a shaking hand, tears beginning to forming in her steely eyes. Regretting her decision to abandon her only daughter at a fancy ass boarding school the the better part of three years, perhaps? Rune sure hoped so. It would serve her right.
Rune's mother waved her hand in the air suddenly, attracting the attention of an elderly looking woman, who smiled an all too sweet smile. Fake, then.
The woman bustled over to where the two of them stood, still with a smile painted on her lips.
"Hello, dears!" she sang, taking in Rune's dark hair and skin, almost shivering slightly at the way Rune's green eyes bored into her. Troublemaker, she decided. She needed to keep an eye on this one. "Are you one of our new arrivals, dear?" she asked, frowning at a far from interested Rune.
"Aye,"," she sighed, looking away from the woman. "Ma name's Rune Oakes - fourth year."
"Oh, yes, dear," the woman said, smile faltering a little. "Miss Oakes. Well, a fourth year, you'll be under my care, then. I'm Mrs Anderson." She nodded at Rune, and shook her mother's hand.
"Well, dear, it looks like you're sharing a room with Suzanne Foreman - a lovely girl, one of the school prefects this year - in room four two one, over there." She pointed to a large, white building on the Oakes' left. "If you just take the stairs - or the lift, if it's working - to the fourth floor, and go to your right, it's at just about the end of the corridor. Suzanne should be waiting for you, I'm sure and she'll show you around. If she isn't there, just knock next door, four two two, all the girls in there are lovely. Your mother can stay for a short time, if she wants to, but no longer than an hour, please, you need to take time to settle in. There will be cold dinner in your room for you to eat tonight, though of course there are hot meals the rest of the year, dear, just that everyone is always arriving at different times, it seems. Now, make your way to your room, I expect to find you there when I come round in a few hours, for lights out. Okay, dear?"
Without waiting for an answer, she shuffled off again, to talk to another family, one where both the mother and the father had actually bothered to turn up.
"Well, Rune," her mother said, voice wavering a little bit. "I suppose we should get going to your room now. I'll have to get going soon, anyway, put your father's tea on."
"Well, let's go then," Rune said in an affected accent, rolling her eyes. "After all, it really wouldn't do for us to keep father waiting."
And with that, she grabbed her cases and stomped off across the grass towards the white building on her left. Her mother took a deep breath, sighed, and followed her.
Suzanne was playing the violin when Rune and her mother opened the door. She jumped, startled at first, and laid her violin softly on the bed beside her.
"Um, hello?" Suzanne said, smiling warmly with reddish brown eyes. "Sorry, I didn't realise you were going to arrive so soon. You're Rune, right?" She gracefully looped a strand of black hair around her finger, smiling.
"Aye, a um," Rune confirmed. "And a take it you're Suzanne, aye?"
Suzanne frowned for a moment. "Yes?" she said finally. "I'm Suzanne. Is this your mum?" Mrs Oakes nodded. "Pleased to meet you. Now, don't you two just hang at the door. I promise, I won't eat you.
At that, Rune barked out a laugh, which startled Suzanne slightly. "Aye, well yid better be keeping that promise, mind. Come on, Mum." Mrs Oakes shook her head, letting go of the suitcase she had been holding.
"Am sorry, sweetie," she sighed, "but a cannae stay much longer." Mrs Oakes grabbed her daughter's arm as she began to walk away. "Yi ken that a love yi, Rune." She tried to press a kiss to Rune's forehead, but she shirked away, angry.
"Bye, Mum," she sighed, though she hated the way the words fell from her lips. She took her case and gently pushed her mother from the room, biting back tears as she slammed the door closed. "Tell dad a hope he gets food poisoning."
Stomping across the room, she flopped down onto the empty bed, and sighed.
"Are you okay?" Suzanne asked, a tone of caution in her voice.
"Aye, am dandy."
Suzanne shifted from foot to foot awkwardly, like she was trying to dance but didn't actually know how to. "Do you need any help getting unpacked? I mean, I'm all set for tomorrow, so I don't mind lending a hand if you need it."
Rune blinked, frowning at Suzanne. "Well, aye, if yi really want tae, that'd be sound, aye."
"Awesome." Suzanne grinned, putting her violin back in its case. "This mean we're friends now?"
Friends. Rune frowned. Friends was a very permanent sounding word. Still, nothing had to be permanent if she didn't want it to be. "Aye. Aye, a guess it does. Can yi no get that wee yin over there?" Rune gestured to the small maroon case, the one her mother had been carrying.
"Of course," Suzanne said, already starting to busy herself. "You know, I didn't think I was going to have a roommates this year."
"Aye," Rune said, not really paying attention. "How come?"
"Well, I had two last year, but they both left - twins, you see, parents couldn't afford for the two of them to stay - and no one usually starts in fourth year here, unless they're scholarship kids, which you clearly aren't."
"Aye? How can yi tell, like?" Rune asked, as Suzanne laid a skirt onto the bed.
"It's hard toget books in suitcases, and you've only got fiction, but most scholarship kids bring non fiction - say the library doesn't have enough on their subjects. Also, no scholarship kid speaks like they don't know English is a language."
"Ay, what's that supposed to mean, like?"
"You're speaking Scots, not English. Nothing wrong with that, it's just that scholarship kids wouldn't be caught dead speaking like that. Most people here don't like it - one of the girls I used to share with, said it sounded like they were barbarians."
Rune decided to change the subject before she got angry. "So," she said, smoothing over her voice. "Are there a lot ae scholarship kids here? A mean, no that I think that it's bad or anything, it's just that it seems like you ken a lot aboot them, like the other kids ken a lot aboot them anno."
"Well, there are always a couple of kids from each year in high school that get in - we don't do scholarships for primary school, though. They all live over in the other white building - primary kids, not the scholarship kids - if you were wondering. I'm friends with one of the scholarship kids from our year, who's been with us since we were in first year. Scarily smart, I swear, he's got the highest marks in everything, out of all our year."
Rune nodded politely, though she's lost interest about halfway through what Suzanne had said. "Cool."
"He's really not, kind of a nerd. Nice, though." She laughed. "Most of the kids haven't quite worked out that he's a scholarship kid yet, though. Kind of a taboo subject, anyway. No one wants to know who's on a scholarship, it's just a depressing reminder that there can be people who are poorer than you who are smarter than you."
"Everyin here soonds lovely, like."
Suzanne laughed. "Trust me, we're not all so bad as you might think. In fact, deep inside, I'm sure you'll find were all just the same."
'Aye,' Rune thought. 'Am sure every single one ae these kids grew up off ae the money their da made fae daeing God kent what, and got involved in fights by the time they started in high school, and got excluded more times than they'd been able tae count.'
She laughed. "Aye, probably."
What a liar she was, she knew she was and how, she thought to herself, how did she manage to convince herself that these people here would care about her, would try and stop her from running away if they knew what Suzanne said was wrong, that she wasn't the same as them.
That she was a monster.
So what was there to stop her, Rune wondered, as she lay awake in her bed long past midnight, listening to Suzanne's soft snores and he'd occasionally grumbling stomach and the parasitical words of her mind. What was thereto stop her from just jumping out the window and running?
Probably a broken foot, she thought. Or death.
The second one perhaps could be over with quickly, but a token foot probably would not. So, no, there would be no jumping out of the window for her. Her hand reached down lazily to the overnight bag that she'd kept packed, just in case. But she still just lay there. Thinking.
She wondered what her friends were doing back home. It was still the summer holidays for them. And even if it was a Sunday night, they'd be out. Chantelle and Brendan and Taylor and maybe some of the others too, all out drinking or smoking, or round doing both at Rachel's while her mum was working. And Chantelle would be all over Brendan, and Brendan would be all over Chantelle, and Rhia would - no. No, no Rhia wouldn't be doing anything.
Rhia wouldn't even be there. Rune was an idiot even for thinking of her.
She grabbed her overnight bag and stormed from the room, tears stinging her eyes as she pulled her phone from her bag, too distracted to close the door fully. Racing down the corridor, her heart hammered in her chest, head spinning with the adrenaline rushing through her veins.Idiot, she though to herself. Stupid, stupid idiot.
She failed to notice the shadow behind her, as a flame leapt into the palm of her hand. Rune sat down on the top stair, letting the flame hang in the air like a candle, and turned her phone on. An image flashed up on the small screen, of her and her friends back home, just how she remembered them.
Chantelle and Brendan with their tongues down one another's throats, Rachel with her hair ruffled and wild and a glass of what was probably Irn Beu in her hand, and Rune herself crushed up against Taylor's bare chest, while he grinned like a madman, and Rhia just laughed at all of them, her crazy, crazy friends.
Rune hated to think how things had changed. How Taylor had in an instant changed from a puppy to a wolf, how Rachel's preference for Irn Bru had turned to a preference to something more than a little bit stronger, and Chantelle and Declan not just kissing each other, but doing far more, and with anyone they could find in the long long nights, and how Rhia was gone and Rune wasn't a boarding school three hours away from all of them.
She let out a soundless sob, and felt a hand on her shoulder. Instantly, she turned and leapt to her feet, eyes flashing angrily.
"Who the hell are you?" she spat, in the general direction of the figure, extibguishing her fire in her haste. "And why the hell are you here?"
"I was wondering if you were alright," said the shadow, with a strange accent that was hard to place, but comfortingly familiar. "I didn't mean to frighten you."
"Well, hate tae break it tae yi, but yi did. As for am a alright, no, am not. Happy?"
"No. Why were you sitting on the stairs."
"Because am aboot tae leave." As Rune turned, she saw the light catch the figures eyes. They were harsh, a stormy grey like a howling storm was inside of them. "Bye." She smiled victoriously.
"And how do you plan on doing that, exactly? Do you have someone picking you up here? Or are you just running away?"
Rune bit her lip, clenching her fists. "God, you're annoying. And why dae yi even care, anyway?"
"Because I saw you come out of that room, and that room just so happens to be my friend's room, and although you are not her, it would be rude to just watch you leave." He spoke very fast, like the world was ending and he had to squeeze all that he could into the dying light. "I'm Avery Thompson." Avery stuck out his cool, white hand. "Pleased to meet you."
Rune rolled her eyes, but took his hand, gripping it tightly so that he winced a little bit. "Rune Oakes."
"Well, Rune Oakes." Avery let go of her hand. "Would you be so kind as to not run away tonight, at least? I really can't be bothered to inform Mrs Anderson of your escape; I have to study."
So this was the scholarship boy then, Suzanne's friend. Rune stared at him for a moment, before she started to clamber back up the stairs. "Where are you going now?" Avery asked, sounding tired.
"Tae ma room."
Avery started to smile then, looking triumphant. "So then will you be staying til the morning?"
"Aye," Rune said, with a faint smile. "Maybe I might be seeing yi then."
"Maybe you will."