This was completely maddening. A few short months ago, my life had been completely normal. I'd had the typical problems and nuisances of a normal teenage girl. I worried about boys, clothes, schoolwork, keeping my secret, shopping, what color dress I would wear to the spring formal… Now instead I worried about my deteriorating relationship with my father, the fact that his new girlfriend was potentially trying to have me murdered, my slipping grades, my broken up group of friends, what color dress I would wear to spring formal, and boys. Maybe some things never changed. But the bottom line was, I was losing a lot of sleep lately.
Nightmares had been plaguing me ever since the accident. Actually, they weren't nightmares, it was just one nightmare, on repeat. The same horrific visions over and over again.
I'd be in a boiling hot room, a black room that was filled with sweltering heat. The room seemed to continue on and on into eternal blackness. I would always begin to run, to try to escape the boiling prison. As I was running, I'd always run into a girl who looked to be about my age. Her eyes were neon green.
"We have to get out of here!" I'd scream at her.
"Your eyes are like mine!" She'd say without fail.
"Yes, yes, we have powers, now we have to go, come on! Move!"
"My name is Annabeth. What's yours? You have such beautiful eyes! What does the blue mean?" She pondered for a moment, clearly not sensing the urgency that was consuming me.
"Come on! Now!" I shrieked.
"Yes, well I suppose you are right" She would decide with a pleasant look on her face. She always began to reach for my outstretched hand when the blackness of the room would reach out and grab her. She was always ripped away from my sight, screaming the whole time.
"Annabeth!" I called out to her as I ran in circles, anticipating the darkness to reach for me next, but it never would. I always ran, calling out to and looking for her. After what felt like hours, I'd hear chanting.
"Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn!" I could hear an entire crowd's worth hollering.
"Annab-" I'd never finish her name in any of the nightmares. It was always at this point that the nightmare turned from bad to worse, to sickening.
There Annabeth's corpse was always tied to a stake, as flames licked up at the charred skin and burned at her dead body. Her jaw hung open in a horrified "O" and her eyes looked glasses over and completely drained of all color. White.
I always woke up screaming.
Aside from the nightmares, the next few weeks went by without any event. The whole school seemed to have a dark shadow looming over it in the weeks after the accident. Students weren't as talkative in the halls, the counselor was constantly offering grief counseling, and Shirley was as cool as ever towards me. The two positive effects that the accident seemed to have were the Gemma was talking to me on a more frequent basis, and that Rita's death glares had substantially decreased.
"Clarissa," My father began in his 'I want to have a chat with you' tone. I looked up from my chemistry textbook as I lounged on the couch in my pajamas and snuggie.
"Yeah dad?" I answered.
"I just think…" he thought out and preplanned his words mid-sentence, "that maybe you should do something." Mr. Articulate strikes again… I thought cryptically. Perhaps eloquence wasn't my father's greatest skill as of late.
"Something?" I said as I raised an eyebrow, "Such as?"
"I don't know, go out or something. You've just been cooped up for the past few weeks." He said as put water into the kettle and turned it on.
"Dad… I just lost a bunch of classmates, and am constantly cheating death because someone's after me." I tried to remind him gently.
"Chris, I'm well aware that these past few months have been difficult, I just don't think it's healthy for you to be stuck going from home to school to home and just staying in and doing homework every waking moment-"
"When you're in my grade, homework every waking moment is just the sad reality." I interjected bitterly as I threw a glance down towards my chemistry notes. I looked up and could've sworn that my dad cracked a smile for a fraction of a second.
"Well, maybe you could just have some friends over for a movie night or something. I just think dealing with everything you've had to in these past few months you really need a break. No one your age should have to deal with this stuff." He said, his voice dropping lower on the last sentence.
I considered his proposal for a second and realized that it was actually a good opportunity for me to be a normal teenager for a little while again. "Actually… I kind of think that's a good idea…" I said as I began to close my textbook.
"Imagine that! Your old man having a good idea!" My dad said with a wink. I gave a small laugh. Maybe him and I could fix our relationship… maybe there was hope for us… I thought optimistically. I slowly detached myself from that little dream; it was a lot to ask for considering all of the recent events. We simply had been avoiding the subjects of Brenda, death, BEW, and all other unpleasantries for the past few weeks.
"Maybe could I just invite a few kids tonight?" I tested slowly.
"Sure, just to be clear though, no boys are sleeping over." He said as he narrowed his eyes. I sighed. I didn't really know what my father's opinion of mine and Graeme's relationship was, but then again, most fathers didn't want to even think of any boyfriends sleeping over… ever.
Boyfriend… was Graeme even that? That small word couldn't possibly begin to cover just how important Graeme was to me and how much he meant to me, and who he was to me, and yet that word seemed so… scary. Yes, a 9-letter word could in fact be very scary.
"Yeah duh dad…" I awkwardly answered, letting the fact that Graeme had already stayed over (albeit in the guestroom) slide.
"Okay, good. I might go out for a bit tonight." He said as he turned his back to me in order to attend to the now screaming kettle. Convenient that he doesn't look me in the eyes on the last part, I thought grimly. He was most likely going out to dinner with Brenda or something equally sickening. Thinking of her name even brought chills to me, and the hair on the back of my neck began to rise. How did you convince the one you loved that the one they loved wanted you dead? Kind of a touchy subject.
"Dad…" I began, but I stopped myself before I said something that would ruin the nice interaction we'd just had. "Thanks for suggesting it." I finished lamely, pasting a 'toddlers and tiaras' fake smile on my face.
"No problem kiddo." He smiled a genuine smile as he poured his tea into a mug. I whipped out my phone and began to look at my contacts. It was depressing to realize just how few friends it seemed like I had. Suddenly the nightmare re-entered my mind. What if I died? Would there be anyone at my funeral aside from my dad and Graeme? Would people come merely because of sheer social obligation, or because they genuinely missed me? I choked back the morbid thoughts and walked into my room and changed into a medium blue tank top and dark jeans. I decided to leave my hair in its messy ponytail. It didn't really matter what it looked like.
In the end I decided on inviting Gemma and the gang, Rita included. I also extended an invitation to Shirley. I picked out a few potential movies and popped a bag of popcorn as I waited for my friends to convene.
In the end Gemma was the only one who bothered to show up. Rita and the other girls were already out shopping and seeing a movie tonight.
"Srry babe we're getting sum dressez 4 the spring formal 2nite" Rita texted. It took me a moment to actually understand what she was saying. It made sense that Rita was already looking for a dress. The dance was about a month or so away, and knowing her, she had to have the best dress that money could buy, and one that no other girl would possibly be seen in, and that meant that this dress had to be bought early.
"No Thanks I'm Busy." Shirley responded curtly. I wasn't surprised.
"Sorry hon, we're helping Rita pick out 'potentials' tonight. Raincheck!" The others answered.
Fine, whatever, Gem and I would just have a cozy little movie night.
"Chris, I'm leaving now okay?" My dad called out as I was in the bathroom putting in my contacts.
"Sure, when'll you be back?" I called back.
"Umm… I don't really know but it should be before 1 I'm sure" He answered. I tried not to roll my eyes at his response, because that would've definitely made putting in these little buggers a LOT harder.
"Okay, I'll be here I guess." I said as my eyes watered reflexively. I heard the front door open and shut, and with that my father was gone. I managed to put both contacts in when I heard my phone vibrate. It was a message from Gemma.
"Hey, I'm SOOOOOO sorry but something just came up, but we'll have another movie night soon okay? I promise!" The text read. I threw my phone onto my bed and sighed in exasperation.
Leper. I was apparently the newest social leper. God forbid anyone be caught dead with Clarissa Vincent. I cringed as I rethought that sentence. People who hung out with me actually did wind up dead a few weeks ago… perhaps I needed to rethink the way I was thinking. I began to over-think thinking. I was going mad. What the heck was wrong with me? Why oh why couldn't I have been born with normal eyes, like a normal girl?
I wished I were someone else for about five minutes, and realized just how truly lonely I felt, before I noticed my phone vibrate on the pillow beside me. As if he was reading my mind, Graeme messaged me. It was a simple message, and it was just nice.
"Want to do something?" was all it read.
"Sure." I replied.
"Want to come over and watch a movie?" I probed, still a little bit bitter over the fact that I had just been snubbed by all of my former friends.
"I have a better idea" was his reply. What a fool. Who just says something like that without following it up? Apparently Graeme.
"What?" I typed. I waited a few minutes but he never replied. Just as I was starting to get irritated, I heard a knock on the door. I crawled off of my bed and walked to the door and pulled it open.
There was Graeme, standing just outside of the apartment, with a few snowflakes perched on his jacket and strewn about in his dark hair. He looked absolutely breathtaking. All of my irritation melted away when I saw him. His gorgeous brown and amber eyes looked into mine and I felt my heart flutter.
"Hey there beautiful," He smiled before kissing me.
"Hi" I managed to squeak out after our kiss, I didn't think I'd ever be good with words after Graeme kissed me. He kisses always left me slightly incoherent.
"Let's go somewhere," He suggested as he put his hand out for me. I grabbed it instantly and smiled at the idea.
"Somewhere is kind of vague you know." I teased as I reached for my jacket off the coat hook.
"Well where do you suggest we go?" He laughed.
"Umm… I don't know." I confessed.
"I think going somewhere is better than going to 'I don't know'" He teased right back at me.
"Touché." I muttered as I shut the door behind me. I looked up at Graeme and bit my lip, I didn't want to say it, but I felt it needed saying. "We're going somewhere not crowded right? Somewhere where BEW won't bother to track us right?" I clarified.
"Well the truth is Clarissa, I kind of prefer you alive, so I think I'll be minding where we go" He laughed. I felt a swell of relief.
"Then lead on," I said as we headed down the stairs.
"Come on can I at least get a hint?" I begged after about a half hour of driving. I looked over at the driver's side and saw that he was debating telling me more or not.
"I don't know if I can tell you anything" He said as he pursed his lips.
"Hey!" I said as it dawned on me, "I guess this like our first technical date…" I said as I looked towards the windshield.
"I'm well aware," He said. I could hear the excitement and the slightest tinge of nervousness in his voice and I couldn't help but smile.
"No pressure then, but it better be freaking AMAZING" I threatened playfully.
"I'll leave you hanging on that one, just think about all of the horrible things I could do." I joked as I stared out my window. "Seriously though… are we almost there?"
"Yeah, we're here now actually." Graeme said as he pulled the car onto a gravel road. I looked around in a bit of shock. It didn't look like we were anywhere really.
"Um, where exactly is here?" I said as I tried to see anything in the darkness.
"Look out my window," Graeme suggested. I saw lights close by, but I couldn't make out what they were illuminating.
"What is it?"
"An ice rink."
The old lights illuminated the outdoor ice as a bunch of people skated across the smooth surface. A small skate rental shop was perched in the snow just beside the rink. Graeme went inside to grab skates for us while I stayed outside and nervously eyed the ice. I swallowed the nervousness as Graeme returned.
"What's with the expression?" He asked as we sat down on a little wooden bench and began to lace up our skates. Confession time.
"Okay, I know this is completely ridiculous seeing as… well… you know," I muttered sheepishly as I gestured to my eyes, "But I actually have only been skating a few times when I was like five, so I'm really not going to be very good…" I finished embarrassedly. Graeme laughed and put his arm around me and gave me a comforting squeeze.
"When I lived in Canada I used to play hockey, you're in good hands" He said as he stood up and grabbed my hands. I realized that although it felt like we knew each other so well, we didn't know the little things about one another. I didn't know that he had been a hockey player. But I was sure that he would've been one hell of a good one, I smiled imagining him decked out in all of the gear. It made me realize that although he had the same secret as me, he was still a normal boy with normal hobbies. He pulled me up as I pretended to fuss over a lace that was already tied to perfection. I knew it seemed stupid, but I really didn't want to fall in front of Graeme, it would've been slightly embarrassing. Graeme gently pulled me forward onto the ice as I gingerly tested my balance.
"Ah!" I yelped as I nearly slipped. Graeme had me before I could fall though.
"Don't worry, I'll never let you fall." He whispered in my ear. I turned around to face him. I was suddenly struck by just how lucky I was to have him in my life.
"I know," was all I said before I wound my arms around him and kissed him. His arms encircled me, keeping me safe and close.
"NO! GRAEME DO NOT!" I screamed as he began to push me from behind. The ice seemed to fly beneath us. "Graeme I'm going to fall!" I squealed as I held onto his hands, which were placed on my waist. "Stop! Ah!" I laughed as we kept moving forward.
"You want me to stop? Okay." Graeme said mischievously. At that instant Graeme stopped us both, and I would've continued to go flying had he not entrapped me in his arms. I nearly had a heart attack, and yet I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face.
"Are you crazy?" I yelled as I turned into him.
"Hey, you're the one that told me to stop," He reminded as humor danced in his eyes.
We continued to skate for another hour or so before having some hot chocolate from the little concession stand and eventually returning our skates.
"That was really fun," I said as we walked back to the car.
"I'm glad you liked it," Graeme said as he grabbed my frozen hands and warmed them in his.
"I'm curious, what else did you do in Canada? Like hobbies, or here even? I guess we're always so concerned with serious stuff that-"
"We have a tendency to forget some of the fun stuff?" He interjected.
"I like astronomy, maybe we could go to a planetarium or something sometime?" He suggested. I smiled.
"I like the sounds of that."
"Honestly, as long as it's with you, I'm okay with doing just about anything," He admitted.
So maybe I wasn't a complete social leper. At least Graeme liked hanging out with me.
After we kissed goodbye I made my way into the kitchen and began to make myself a bowl of cereal as a midnight snack. My phone vibrated, and I assumed it was Graeme. When I opened the message, I didn't recognize the number. The message read:
"Hello Clarissa, it's Brenda. Your father gave me your number. I was hoping we could meet for dinner tomorrow night if you're free. I'd love to meet up with you, just the two of us."
I nearly dropped my spoon.