I walk down the empty corridor and even though I know I should feel afraid, I don't. Instead I'm aware of how calm I feel and how every step feels like I'm reaching where I should be going. I don't even know where I am though? But it's peaceful here. The walls are a blinding white and it seems as though I'm floating along in a euphoric state. That's when I see him. A black shrouded figure that is crouching down next to a single black candle. It all seems so ... wrong. Like the walls, my dress is white so the darkness of his clothes seems so out of place here. I watch his pale finger touch the flame and I no longer feel peaceful, but it's not enough to stop me from walking closer. I hold out my hand, my curiosity is stronger than the ability to run, but before I can touch him he disappears
The voice wakes me from my confusing dream and I sit up too quickly. All the blood seems to rush to my head and I groan as I rub my temples. When the dizziness subsides I reach over and grab my alarm clock.
It's still early, for a Saturday at least but I know I won't be able to get back to sleep. Not that I want to anyway, I've got a big day ahead of me and I can't actually believe it has finally arrived. I realise I've packed the few clothes I have so I rummage through my suitcase and grab the first thing I can find before making my way to the bathroom. I have a quick shower and throw my wet hair into a bun. I stare at my reflection as I brush my teeth and I wipe the condensation off the mirror with my hand. I look tired, the bags under my eyes are prominent against my pale skin and my jet black hair makes me look washed out. I sigh before rinsing my mouth out with water. Maybe eventually I'll have one decent nights sleep.
When I get downstairs gran is in the kitchen making breakfast, I grab the coffee pot before sitting down
"Hmm" Is the only reply I'm given. She hasn't spoken to me properly in a few weeks. Not since we got into the argument about me leaving for university. She really doesn't want me to go, I really don't want to leave her. But there's a part of me that needs to get out of here. Staithes is so small and I have a need to see ... More. My grades are exceptionally good and I know I will thrive with further education but gran doesn't see it that way. To her I'm a naive eighteen year old girl that knows nothing about life, it's been that sheltered up until now that I actually think she's right
"What time is Grace coming?" The sound of her voice shocks me, mostly because it's the most she's said to me
"She's getting here for ten thirty, it's a long drive. Nearly five hours can you believe!" Gran places my breakfast down in front of me and then walks out of the kitchen. I guess the conversation is over.
After I've ate I wash up and then go back to my room. I fold up the clothes I messed up in my suitcase earlier and then zip it back up. I look around my room but there's nothing else I need to take with me. When I turned eighteen a few weeks ago I inherited the money my father and mother left me in their will. I went out and bought some new furniture and fortunately Grace's parents took them to London with her things last week when they finalised the lease on our little apartment. The dorms didn't look so appealing and plus where we are going to be living is the same price anyway.
Grace always wanted to be an actress. Staithes has a really small population so the local community centre always sells out the performances it puts on. As soon as Grace landed the lead in Annie when we were nine she got a taste for fame and it went from there. I look up to her, she's everything I guess I wish I was. She's stunningly beautiful where as I'm sort of plain. Her hair is blonde and falls just below her shoulders, If her hair was to be compared to the sun, mine would be as black as the night sky. Her eyes are bright blue, where as mine are a dull shade of blue with a hint of grey. She's confident and popular, I'm awkward and somehow I feel different, I just can't put into words why I feel that way.
We might be total opposites of each other but somehow our friendship works. We decided when we were fifteen we would get out of here and some how the destination we chose just happened to be London. We both worked hard, studied constantly and in the end it paid off. We were accepted into Kingston university of theatre and media studies and for me it was she best thing that could have happened. I just wish my gran would agree. Just before grace arrives I grab my suitcase and go down to the living room to try and have some sort of conversation with gran
"Hey" I approach with caution and she stands up from her designated arm chair
"I have something for you" she walks over to the cabinet and takes a small key from out of her pocket. She opens the cabinet door and pulls some books out. I didn't know there was a secret compartment at the back of it but she's slides the key into a lock I hadn't known was there and opens a small door. She produces a black velvet box and hands it to me
"What is it?" I ask surprised and she sits back down, taking a cigarette out of the crumpled packet next to her and then lighting it. She lets out a stream of smoke and then flicks some ash into the ashtray
"It was your mothers. She wore it often but when you were born she asked me to keep it safe, she wanted you to have it one day" somehow this sends a shiver through me. It's almost like she knew she wouldn't be the one to give it to me but no one knows they are going to die in a house fire, do they? I slowly open the box and sitting perfectly on the velvet is a silver necklace. Hanging from the chain is a burnt orange circle and inside of that is a black triangle. It's oddly beautiful in its own way and I can't help but feel transfixed by it
"Gran, I love it. Thank you so much"
"I was going to give it you on your birthday but I thought I would save it for you as a leaving present. Promise me one thing Alannah"
I look away from the necklace and nod my head "anything gran"
"Wear it at all times, everyday. Do not take it off" I take it from out of the box and put it around my neck, clasping it in place
"I promise gran"
Grace pulls up and gran hugs me awkwardly. She walks me to the door but I don't give her a speech on how much I'm going to miss her, I know she doesn't want to hear it anyway. Grace gets out of the car and opens the boot ready to put my suitcase in. She waves at gran as I walk towards her
"Hey Mrs Hughes. I promise to take good care of Alannah" I turn to see how gran deals with this, she responds by shutting the front door
"Wow she really hates me doesn't she?"
"Don't take it personally, you know she hates everyone" I shrug apologetically and we both squeeze my case into the small space before setting off on our journey.
I flick through the radio and finally settle on kings of Leon. Grace laughs as sex on fire blasts out through the speakers and her eyes dart from me back onto the road
"Just think, you're free to listen to this music now. You're Nan won't keep on at you that it's satanic" she giggles and I know it's wrong but I can't help but grin
"I won't have to sneak over to your house to watch horror movies!"
"Ha exactly! I think your nan wanted you to watch Disney movies forever!" I shake my head disapprovingly, gran was set in her ways. She liked Irish country folk music and she wouldn't dream of watching a slasher movie "evilness on the T.V" she would say.
"You have a whole new exciting chapter ahead of you Al. We can drink, party, meet boys -"
"Everything you've just said does not sound appealing"
"Oh please how would you know? You've never been drunk!"
"That's a lie, I had a glass of white wine and lemonade with Christmas dinner last year"
Grace holds onto the steering wheel as her laughter takes over
"Oh Al, did even get drunk off one?"
"No! One was enough!"
She looks at me and smiles kindly as I pout defensively
"Ok, ok we don't need to get drunk ... Often. But we can at least do some boy hunting surely? I mean, you want to kiss a guy don't you? Unless you're lesbian? That's cool. Everyone experiments at uni"
I tut loudly and turn to face her "Firstly, you know I'm a not a lesbian! but thanks for the reassurance you would accept it if I was and secondly I have kissed a boy"
"Oh please Kenny doesn't count!"
"Because you were twelve and it was kiss chase. I'm on about the sort of kiss where you run your hands through the other persons hair, how you feel them against your skin, how a fire inside of you ignites and you know the only way to put it out is by feeling their hands on your -"
"Ok, ok I get it! We don't need to go into that much detail!" I put my fingers in my ears and look out of the widow. Thankfully by the time I pull my fingers away she decides not to tease me anymore
Five hours later we pull up outside our new building. The pictures on the internet made it seem more inviting but now we're here it seems somehow ... Colder. The street is lined on either side with big trees that conceal the sun and on the floor below the leaves have softly fallen. We walk to the entrance and Grace hands me a set of keys and opens the door with hers. We stand in the foyer and she looks at the small letter boxes that are lined up on the wall
"We're on the second floor. Let's grab our cases and go up?" she smiles at me nervously and I return the gesture. We aren't paying cheap rent but somehow the building doesn't reflect that. It seems dark and like the walls need a fresh lick of paint as they look old and tired. We get our cases and head back inside. I don't mention my apprehension to Grace, through her tough exterior I can tell she was anxious about moving out so I'm going to make the best out of the situation and enjoy this new adventure we are on.
We climb the stairs that lead us to our door. There's four apartments to each floor and we are in apartment eight. The light flickers above us and I shift uncomfortably. Grace does the same so she quickly opens the front door. When we step inside we both let out a long sigh of relief before looking at each other and laughing
"Ok, how spooky was it downstairs" she asks and I grimace
"It was pretty spooky, I can't believe this apartment is in the same building!"
It's all open plan and the spacious kitchen leads into our living room. There's a corner settee with a single armchair that could easily fit two people and a humongous curve T.V is secured to the wall
"My moms added some extra touches, hope you don't mind?"
I look around the room and there's photos of me and Grace on the mantle piece, some from school and a few from when me and gran went to their house for New Years. Everyone is beaming on the photographs apart from gran who sits on a chair with a sour expression on her face. This makes me smile "it's perfect, tell your mom thanks"
It's only a two bedroom apartment and both rooms are the same size so there's no grumbling about who is staying where. It takes me all of five minutes to unpack and I decide to drag Grace shopping tomorrow. I should really buy some new clothes and I have the money. It's just sad that I have it because I don't have my parents. The door gently knocks and Grace walks in
"Hey, wanna scour the area? We could find a pub, maybe get some dinner? I'm starved!"
I quickly get changed into my skinny jeans and a plain black T shirt. I plug in my straighteners and curl the ends of my hair. Luckily the bags are gone from beneath my eyes but I still put a little concealer on and some mascara. I grab my leather jacket and shoes on the way out of my room and sit on the couch to put them on. As I look up I groan
"I thought we were just going out for dinner?"
"We are?" Grace replies confused. She's wearing a short black skater dress that show off her long legs and she's wearing killer heels that she finds super easy to walk in. In comparison I look short and dumpy, and also majorly underdressed
"Should I get changed?" I look down at my clothes embarrassed and I hear her heels hit off the laminate flooring as she walks towards me
"No, you look gorgeous! Our styles are just different that's all. Plus, I'm always on the prowl" she grins wickedly and I laugh. I'm definitely not thinking about boys, the only thought in my mind is food.
I stand in the hallway and tap the door frame impatiently
"I'm coming I'm coming" she yells and I lean against the wall. If I don't eat soon I'm going to get cranky. The door opposite ours opens and a petite girl with glossy brown hair steps out. Her cheeks look flushed and she wraps a scarf around her neck. She seems friendly enough, maybe she's our neighbour? She raises her eyebrows when she sees me and turns her back to me
"Will I see you tomorrow?" She says seductively and I know I should look away but I'm curious as to who she's talking to. He comes into view and I hear the breath hitch in the back of my throat. Low slung skinny jeans hang from his hips and the button is undone which shows off his Calvin Kleins. He doesn't have a top on and even though he's not overly buff his muscles are still sculpted beneath his skin
"Tomorrow" his voice is low and I know I'm intruding on their moment but I feel transfixed almost. He's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. His hair falls just below his ear and brown curls fall softly around his face. His green eyes meet mine and when I realise the girl is looking at me to I eventually look away
"Sorry I took so long, that bag just didn't go with my outfit and we are in London, it's the capital of fashion isn't it? Have you gone mute?" Grace looks at me confused and I look down at my scuffed converse. Her eyes finally look at the people opposite us and I watch her mouth slightly drop open which makes the girl we don't know look furious
"Hi, you must be our neighbours. I'm Grace and this is Alannah" she steps forward and holds out her hand. The girl lets out a small laugh but finally shakes it
"I'm Brogan. I don't live here, I stay here a lot though" she says with some authority in her voice like she's letting us know that guy behind her is hers and hers alone. Grace smiles and looks at the person who actually lives opposite us
"Do you have a name?" She asks with her most flirtatious tone and he lifts his arms and holds onto the top of the door frame
"Yes" he says with a clipped tone and Brogan giggles like a moron
"And it is ...?" Grace is undeterred but I can tell from her voice the guy is annoying her
"Lorcan" he frowns as he looks at me and I give a small smile. One which he doesn't return. He nods at Brogan and then slams the door in all of our faces.
Thirty minutes later Grace is still furious, I don't think she's used to a male not turning to putty in her hands. I flick through the menu and decide to have a burger and fries. I don't want to put on loads of weight now gran isn't cooking for me but I'm so hungry and boring salads can wait until Monday. I put the menu down and pretend I've been listening for the last half hour
"I mean can you believe he is so rude? Why do the good looking ones always have baggage? They either have a girlfriend, are gay or like the delightful Lorcan, are rude and have a girlfriend. Just because he's so good looking doesn't mean he can be so ... So ... Arrogant. What kind of name is Lorcan anyway?!"
"It's Irish I think?"
Grace stops talking and puts down her white wine "you're Irish aren't you?"
I nod and take a sip of my coke
"Well it can't be an Irish thing that makes him such a prick. You're the nicest person I've ever met. But Lorcan ... No no no! And to think he lives opposite us. Do you think he found me attractive?"
She sighs with hope and I look at her with a frown on my face
"Grace, we've just got here. There's plenty of more guys around, don't let him get under your skin" I say kindly and she laughs embarrassed
"Oh my god you're right. I'm acting like I'm on heat! Ok no more talk about him. Unless of course he starts flirting with me or something"
Two cokes later and two bottles of wine on Graces behalf, we go back home. I feel stuffed and all I want to do is get into my pyjamas and watch some T.V. The apartment is fully furnished but obviously we need to buy food, which we haven't done yet. I don't have anything to give my friend to sober her up so I put her into bed (after making sure for the hundredth time she isn't going to vomit) and leave a glass of water on her bedside table. I get undressed and throw on my old pair of pyjama bottoms and plain white vest top. I put my hair into a messy ponytail and get myself a glass of water from the kitchen. I sip the cold water slowly and look around the home which is ours. It still needs some personal touches so I've changed my plan of action for tomorrow. Instead of going clothes shopping I'm going to get groceries and a few bits and pieces for the apartment. I pour the remaining water down the sink and turn the light off. I'm halfway to my room when a voice stops me
The voice definitely doesn't belong to her but I check in on her regardless. She's sleeping on her stomach and her mouth is open. I'm pretty sure she's dribbling which makes me softly laugh. I shut her door and decide that I am officially losing my mind.
That night I actually sleep without nightmares. Instead I dream about flames burning all around me. But in my dream I'm not frightened, I know they are protecting me