A dark shape crouched in front of me, not five feet away, barring my path. I could see its unfamiliar human face, beautiful and deadly, its human hands, shaking slightly, and its human body, tensed to spring. But its yellow, glowing eyes weren't human. They were unmistakably the eyes of a hungry and triumphant predator.
And I was the prey.
Frozen into immobility, I tried to force my feet to move, to put distance between me and those cold, merciless eyes, but I couldn't seem to do it. I couldn't work up enough breath to scream. 'Deer in the headlights', came into my mind, and I laughed humorlessly in my head, knowing that I was about to die.Chapter 1
"My life is over."
"Aren't you being a little over dramatic? I mean it's not the end of the world, Alessa," Carly said, obviously delusional. It was the end of the world. Aliens could attack, destroying the entire human race and I couldn't possibly be any more devastated.
"I'm moving to Colorado. I am being thrown into the wilderness." I rolled onto my back on my huge queen sized bed. I'll probably end up living in a hut in the forest, sleeping on the ground, covered with bugs. I pulled my imagination in when my skin started to crawl, and tried to remember if I had ever been his depressed in my life. No, I decided, this transcends all other horrors, and I told Carly so.
"Of course you've been this depressed before. What about last week when you boyfriend broke up with you. Or the week before that when you couldn't get those shoes, or when-"
Okay, Carly, I think you've made your point. Could you be a little sympathetic please?" I sat up angrily when Carly rolled her eyes. This was serious business and Carly didn't seem to understand that.
"It's not like I don't hate that your going away, Alessa, but I've been here for two hours. I think I've heard it all." Carly flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder, trying to look aloof. My eyes narrowed. I see how it is, oh fair-weather friend of mine. When I need a shoulder to cry on, you remember that you don't want to ruin your designer shirt.
"Fine, leave then. You obviously don't want to be here." I said shortly.
"Look Alessa," She was angry now too, "This isn't my fault-"
"Oh, so it's mine? My fault my mom had to get a job in the middle of nowhere, my fault we can't afford to live in Los Angeles anymore, my fault my dad had to die?" I could feel myself falling apart, all my carefully built walls crumbling. I knew Carly was just the scapegoat for my unspent anger, but I couldn't stop. It felt too good to scream all the things that had been bouncing around inside my head for so long. "You think I don't know that?" I whispered, "Or do you think I don't care?"
"Alessa, that's not what I meant-" Carly looked sorry, but that didn't mean much. She would probably inform the entire city that I was unhinged and should be avoided as soon as she left.
"It doesn't matter. I thought I was going to be leaving something behind when I left, but I guess I was wrong."
"Alessa-" When I just stared at her, empty now of feeling, she made her escape, "I guess you'd rather be alone."
I watched her scurry through my rock poster covered door, hands itching to whip out her cell phone and call as many people as possible. "I don't have much of a choice." I muttered to myself. Why had I even bothered calling her over in the first place? Then I remembered: because no one else would come. Had I been so off the last couple months that no one wanted to be around me anymore?
Ever since dad had died my smiles had been a little too forced, my conversations a little too empty, and apparently my friends had noticed. Everyone started being 'busy' and stopped spending time with me. Josh broke up with me over the phone and now Carly was going pretend I didn't exist, just like the rest of them. I wasn't ever really popular, but I hadn't been a total loser. I guess I was stupid when I assumed my friends were real.
I heard the front door open and close, my mom returning from her million-hour-a-day, low paying job. I groaned, dropped onto my bed, and rolled over, hoping she would think I was asleep.
Her heels clacked across the kitchen floor, then turned toward my bedroom, until finally they stopped somewhere near my feet. Go away, I thought uselessly.
"What's wrong, honey?" I felt her sit down on the edge of my bed, wondering vaguely how she had managed to wade through all the junk on my floor.
"Life sucks." My neon-purple blanket muffled my words, but I didn't have the energy to repeat myself. Maybe she would leave now that I had proven I was incapable of speaking coherently.
"You know I'm sorry we have to leave, Alessa, but I have to take this job and living expenses are just to much in the city." She sounded so patient, but her voice was strained and tired.
When I turned over to talk, I noticed for the first time the extra lines on her face, the beaten look in her eyes and my heart cracked. My poor overworked mother. How could I lay there and look at her feeling sorry for myself, when I should be helping her? It wasn't a year ago she was insanely happy and carefree, but so mellow she could take things one step at a time, and now, working as a manager in some second rate restaurant, my mother had lost her sparkling personality.
She still had her same movie star face, although in my opinion she was more beautiful than any movie star I had ever seen. Her large blue eyes that I had inherited slowly acquiring crow's feet, her full mouth only now forming laugh lines, and her long voluminous blonde hair still the envy of anyone in the same room as her, especially me with my stubbornly wavy black hair passed to me by my father. My mother could have become famous, acting or advertising, but instead she had chosen to chase her dream of becoming a psychologist, only to fail utterly when disaster struck, forcing her into a dead end job to make ends meet.
I felt a tear slide down my cheek, thinking of everything my mother had given up just to make me happy. Would she end up just like dad, working constantly, losing sleep, and building stress until her heart simply couldn't take it anymore? I choked back a sob, panicking, until my mother rushed to take me into her arms, soothing me, gently as ever.
"It's alright, Alessa, it's okay. Sssh." Just like when I was three. I miss being three, I thought to myself sarcastically, but I only cried harder.
"I'm sorry, mom, I know you're trying. It's just so hard." I finally managed, hiccuping into her shoulder. I'm sixteen years old, this is pathetic, I thought, but the release was so satisfying I just hugged her tighter. I knew the emotions would just build up again, exploding uncontrollably at whoever was closest when I finally couldn't hold them in any longer, but for now my heart was clearer than it had been. I gathered my mental walls back together, shutting myself up in my own little emotional prison to save me from myself.
I nodded, "Mom, why are we moving to that specific town; Almont? Couldn't we just move to Denver or Colorado Springs?"
"Then we would have the same problem with housing costs. And this town was offering a job that I couldn't resist. The job and the salary are good." I questioned her with my eyes, so much like hers, and she continued, "They want me to be their school counselor and office assistance. And we can always move back to L.A. once we get our feet under us again if we don't like it."
"Mom that's amazing! You'll finally get to be a psychologist, just like you wanted!" Half my misery fell away instantly knowing that she would be happier if we moved. The crushing weight of my grief started to lift a little at the realization that things could get better. They have to, I thought, logically, they can't possibly get any worse.
My mom noticed my sudden uplift in mood and decided it was time to stop wallowing in self-pity, "You're a mess. Get cleaned up so we can go get something to eat. Maybe get some Chinese," She said matter-of-factly, holding me out by my shoulders, smiling.
"Thank you shrink. That was supportive." I jumped up, pulled on some ripped jeans and a T-shirt, then shoved my favorite sneakers on. "Ta-da."
"Amazing. Your hair still needs to be fixed."
I pulled it back into a ponytail, then considered putting some make-up on, but decided it wasn't worth the effort. "Good enough?"
"Let's go get some eggrolls."
There were only two days left until moving day, and I was surprisingly very calm. Once I had finished throwing my temper tantrums, I realized that living in Almont might not be completely horrifying. I mean the mountains are supposed to be beautiful right? Although I knew nothing could compare with the bright California beaches, I'd heard that the Rocky Mountains are wonderful and they've always looked pretty in pictures I've seen.
My mother seemed to like my newly found positive attitude enough to let me stay home from school the day before we left. I've always liked going through my old stuff, and knew it would take me forever to pack, so I was kind of glad I'd have a whole day to put all my crap in boxes at my own speed. I knew it would be especially hard going through my huge collection of memorabilia, because I'd have to get rid of a lot of it. We had limited space in the moving van and my mom had informed me, her packrat daughter, that we couldn't keep everything.
But however much I was looking forward to packing day, today I had my last day of school and I was forced to concentrate on my education so I could keep my grades high for when they transferred them to my new school. My grades have always been good so I wasn't worried about a few tests that had gone unstudied for and a few assignments left undone. Most of my teachers, at least the ones that had even a tiny fragment of soul left, understood that I was going through a tough time and gave me a break so I got off pretty easy. My only wish was that we could wait a few months longer to move, because the school year was almost over. Everyone notices the new kid that comes in the middle of the year more than the one that comes in the beginning. Not that I was too confident I wouldn't be noticed. After all we were moving to Nowheresville where everyone knew everyone else.
Lots of people said goodbye to me, but the problem was I didn't even know most of those who did. Only a few of my friends said anything to me all day and when I finally got home I was thoroughly gloomy. I had realized, however, that it was mostly my fault they had ditched me. I must have driven them away with my excessive self-pity and willingness to only talk about myself, two things I had discovered quite recently. I found that I didn't even recognize myself and wished that I had more time in L.A., time to convince my friends that I was sorry and not completely self centered. Unfortunately my time was up.
Once packing day arrived I actually found myself subconsciously excited about moving, but I made sure to keep up my depressed and dejected act, hoping futily at the same time that my mom might get a job closer to home. But she left for her last day of work at the same time as usual and I didn't recieve any phone calls so around noon I gave up lazing about and got to work.
My small room was already a mess and I considered that a plus, because I didn't have to waste as much time pullling stuff out if it was all already on the floor. Cardboard boxes were stacked on my bed and I was armed with tape and scissors to seal up my belongings. First I pulled all the concert posters and celebrity pictures off my blue walls, rolling them up carefully and sticking them into a box. My room in Almont would look as much like this one as possible. Next I proceeded to shove everything I absolutely could not throw away into the boxes in a very unorganized fashion, stopping every now and then to look at a photo album or read old notes from my friends. After a few hours I had a sizeable pile to throw away and did so, shoving it all into black plastic trash bags; clothes for the needy and trash for the trashman.
I took a break then began phase two of my packing; dumping everything out of the boxes again and narrowing down my holdings even more. Later, my mom got home and found me deliberating on keeping my old, beat up skateboard, since it didn't even fit in a box.
"Why would you even want to keep that thing? You don't use it." She stared at the chipped edges and worn grip, obviously wondering why she hadn't already thrown it away years ago.
"I broke my arm on this skateboard, mom! It holds memories!" I knew it was a lost cause.
"Don't remind me." The item was pried from my hands and put with the trash, my mom's eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter. My mood skyrocketed. I hadn't seen her this happy since… since before dad had died. The emptiness between the pieces of my broken heart started to fill as I watched her look at my handiwork.
My mom finished packing before I did, later that night, but I didn't mind because I had relived a lot of good memories today, looking through things I had lost or forgotten. I fell asleep on my sheet-less bed with just my purple blanket and an uncovered pillow. Early the next morning we would pack up the van and leave.