The Thirteenth Hour
By Lady Glass
The large sign hasn't changed at all since I last remember seeing it, slowly fading away in the foggy morning. This morning almost mirrors that day, a thick fog rolling across the cool cobblestone driveway leading up to the old mansion that was turned into a boarding school for girls in the late 1800's. "Van Buren's School for Girls" the sign reads in large, bold letters. Van Buren's used to belong to the family who founded the town. Nearly everything I know of in Van Buren is named after the family. The cemetery, the lake, the school, the hospital, the woods. I used to hate it but over the years I have forgotten it. It wasn't until Rider and I moved out of Van Buren to forget the town and all our memories there that I realized how sheltered we were.
I take a deep breath as our car approaches the imposing building and my husband, Rider Harps, takes my hand and gives it a comforting squeeze. I smile gratefully despite the feeling of utter terror that seems to be tugging my mind almost painfully. I lean my forehead against the window and watch the trees that line the cobblestone driveway. Behind the huge building, I remember, are the woods that lead to Van Buren Lake, which is what separates Van Buren's School for Girls and The Didactic School for Boys, where Rider went to school when he was in school. I actually met Rider because of the lake, when Lillian and I were out for a midnight skate on the frozen lake where Rider was doing the same with a few of his own friends.
The car stopping rips my thoughts away from that night and from Lillian. Rider opens his door and smiles at me. "We're here," he says gently. I nod and open my door as well. We approach the school side by side. Even though Rider won't be teaching here, he's come with me and will be living with me on Hillside House which is nestled in Van Buren Woods, only a moments' walk away from the lake itself.
What used to be the entrance lobby of Van Buren Mansion is now the school's lobby, beautiful benches of rich wood lining the walls, ornate rugs that I cringe to step on lays grandly in the middle of the marble floor. To my right is a plump, but pretty woman sitting at a dark wood desk, smiling at me.
"Hello," she says in a kind voice. "Welcome to Van Buren's School for Girls. Can I help you?" I look at the name on the desk in gold letters, etched into a wooden rectangle that is nailed to the desk.
"Hello, Jennifer," I say, trying to mirror her friendly voice. "My name is Angel Harps, I'm the new choir director. Ms. Fayette is expecting me."
Jennifer smiles pleasantly and says, "Yes, of course, she mentioned you to me. Just a moment, please." Jennifer picks up the desk phone and quickly dials a number. "Ms. Fayette? Yes, it's Jennifer. Miss Angel Harps is here to see you, ma'am." After a moment, Jennifer hangs up and says, "Ms. Fayette's office is on the fourth floor, the last door to your left."
"Thank-you," Rider says and wraps his arm around my waist, leading me out of the lobby into the main hall. In front of us is the grand staircase. We go up the stairs and take the left stairwell. Ms. Fayette's office is the same room it was ten years ago. Rider is the one to knock on her door. Rather than getting up to answer the door herself, Ms. Fayette tells us the door is open.
Even Ms. Fayette herself hasn't changed in ten years. White hair cut short, piercing blue eyes, and probably the sturdiest seventy-year old woman I've ever come across, Ms. Fayette strikes fear in my heart every time I see her. She is sharp and strict, but fair. I don't think she ever knew me as a person, but more as Lillian's friend, or at least until my senior year. She smiles when she sees me and stands up to give me a warm hug. The gesture is both surprising and welcome. I feel as though I am greeting my mother and I realize that I used to wish Ms. Fayette was my mother despite her age and strictness.
"Angel, how good to see you again," Ms. Fayette says. "I never get any students back to teach anymore. It's good to see someone enjoyed Van Buren's enough to come back. I will admit though, you were the last person I would expect to see back here."
"I think I surprised myself," I admit.
"Well, I'm glad to have you back," says the headmaster, still smiling. "Now, I have your schedule all ready for you and Hillside House is ready for you and your husband." Acknowledging Rider, Ms. Fayette smiles in his direction and gives him a quick nod. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Rider nod back at her, his long, blond hair falling in front of his eyes. "Classes don't start until tomorrow but we do have a few girls here already. I think we have two or three of your girls here…" Ms. Fayette's voice trails off for a moment as she scans the list of my students. "Yes," she says, pointing at a few names on the list. "Morgan d'Rils, Rachel Valentine, and Ivy Christopoulos. If you want to introduce yourself, here are their room numbers and – oh! – your schedule, of course." Ms. Fayette hands me a few papers and the key to Hillside House and says, "Now, I do have a lot of work to do, you understand." I nod and Rider and I say good-bye then let ourselves out.
"I thought you said she was terrifying," Rider says with a grin.
"She was," I say with a laugh. "I don't know what happened but I like it."
"Maybe she just doesn't like the students." Rider shrugs.
I laugh and hit Rider playfully on the shoulder.
Hillside House got its name for the obvious reason that it is settled on the side of the hill leading down from the back of Van Buren's to the lake. There is a small dirt path through the forest that leads to Hillside House and continues down the lake so it's not to hard to find the lake, although the path is skinny and hard to find in the dark. Lillian and I often made our own path to the lake because we couldn't find the man-made one.
Hillside House is a small cottage with only three rooms, a small bathroom, the bedroom, and the kitchen. It is a plain house with linoleum floors in the kitchen and bathroom and dark blue carpet in the bedroom. The outside has a small garden that I hope to expand.
"Cute," Rider comments as we approach the small house.
I nod and pull out the key Ms. Fayette gave me. "I always thought so," I say. The key takes a bit of struggling with but the door finally opens. As I had thought, Hillside House is also exactly the same. This is one thing I have always loved and hated about Van Buren, the entire town never changes. Everything is always the same. It is both comforting and maddening.
"I'm going to start moving in some of the stuff," Rider announces. The real moving van won't arrive until tomorrow so we brought sleeping bags and some of our smaller things with us.
"Yes, I'm going to go down to the lake, okay? I'll be by to help you in a minute." Rider smiles at me and I give him a small smile back.
Following the dirt path seems easier than it ever was before. Finally I reach the end of the woods and the lake is there in front of me, glittering and black with the shadows of the trees of Van Buren Woods. I'm back. Lillian. The thought comes unbidden but it is there nonetheless and it disturbs me. I suddenly feel the urge to jump into the lake so I strip down to my bra and underwear and, without a second thought, walk into the water.
The shock of the coldness makes me gasp aloud but soon my body becomes used to the temperature and I swim with a newfound confidence. I flip onto my back and float lazily on the surface of the black waters until I feel something brush against my back. I gasp and sit up so suddenly I shoot down into the water.
Immediately I force myself back up to the surface and gasp for breath. Attempting to calm my nerves, I look down and see the stick that nearly made me drown myself float by. I try to regulate my breathing, meanwhile trying to shake the feeling that it was not the stick that had brushed my back so gently, but the same ghostly fingers that guide me up the stairs in my dreams.
Author's Note: This is the re-written version of my short story The Thirteenth Hour. I've kept the original version on here for anyone who wants to compare the two but I can assure you that I have made a lot of changes. So here it is, the first real chapter of the newly re-written The Thirteenth Hour! I hope you enjoyed and that you'll enjoy the chapters to come! As always, please review and constructive criticism is always welcome!