chapter 1

life with cows


I sighed as I opened the doors to room 103, my new math class. It smelled like must in a basement, the room was too retro for its own good. Lines of desks occupied most of the space. It was a seemingly boring room. It was fifth period. At least 18 teenagers --I had recently mastered the talent of being aware of everything in a room, and enjoyed feeling like a ninja doing it-- were concentrating on their work, or at least pretending to, one grown man, clicking furiously on his computer.

I walked in sheepishly, like so many times before, I was the new kid. Again. Except now I was living in Seymour, Wisconsin, filled with cows, fields, and decrepit barns ready to fall down at a moment's notice. Right away, peoples' heads swiveled to the creaking door, all eying me. I walked over to the teacher, Mr. McKay, and gave him my excuse note.

He glanced up from his third round of computer solitary, and saw me. His wrinkled head reminded me of a raisin, wrinkled and aged by the sun. As his eyes jerked back and forth reading my note from the principle, his nose crinkled. "Class," he began. I held my moan. The introductions was one of the worst parts of moving. It was just unsettleing knowing that everyone was totally and completely aware of my presence, something I had grown used to evading. I used my peripherals to see the classroom put down their pencils, and listen to him speak. "This is Carla Jonas. She's moved here from..." he trailed off.

"Um, Sir, it's actually Charlotte James. I'm from New York." I said confidently.

"A sea port?" Mr. McKay asked. "Really? I've always wanted to live by the sea. What city, though?" It was a good thing he's not the Geography teacher or everybody would fail his class.

"Sir, I think she said New York," Said a male voice from the crowd of teenagers, saving me from another correction. I shifted in the general-direction of where I heard him and gave him a thank-you nod, and then turned back to Mr. McKay. He seemed unconcerned, impatient. Solitaire was timed and his score was getting worse by the second. I rocked back and forth onto my heels, playing the part of the new, awkward teenager.

"Oh, well. Thank-you, David." He muttered, just loud enough for the class to hear.

"City?" David asked inquisitively, "Or state?" My eyes slid to his seat. I had in-tented to glance at him, but it awed my enough to hold my attention for just a second longer than planned. That may not seem like an accomplishment, but any other straight female wouldn't have been able to look away. I just happened to find men unimportant and irrelevant.

He had a classically handsome face, certainly not the most attractive I'd ever seen, but right up there. His face was full of smooth features, a defined jaw, cheekbones that complimented cyan eyes that seemed to radiate like the sun. But even though his face seemed so filled fine features, it just made the roughness of him stand out. He has a strong build, enough not to want to get him angry, but not enough to be a full adult. The classic teenage limbs. He looked tough, but his eyes were gleaming with kindness. He had amazingly curly, deep, brown hair.

He inclined his head forward, urging me to answer his question I so easily had forgotten. I took a second to recall his words, though I was sure any less-conditioned girl would have totally forgotten any events in the past ten minutes. "State, actually." I said back, snapping back from my pathetic idling. I also remembered I had been waiting for Mr. McKay to give me or book or an assigned seat so I could move away from the front of the classroom.

A confused look crossed the face of a girl next to him with a face any female human being would kill to have. Her face was oval-shaped and resembled the classic Disney Princess. It held delicate features that still seemed quite sturdy, skin that seemed pore less and glimmering green eyes. She had a soft natural blush that only attributed to her slightly tanned skin and her hair had a thick, caramel color that had the perfect amount of wave. Her lips were smirking, a humorous expression played across her face. "Why the heck did you move here?" The class giggled.

Did everybody in Wisconsin have killer-good looks?

I glanced around the room, just to make sure, but the rest of class seemed to be pretty average. Then her question struck me, making me instantly lock up. My mouth opened and words easily flowed from my mouth. I bit my lip, "A family member got a promotion." After years of lies, every single word was smooth and completely innocent, my eyes staring right into her pupils.

"Which one?" She asked me, her tone meant to make me feel idiotic and awkward, but it failed to do any more than irk me.

"Sister," My voice was a little more irritated, which the entire class picked up on. I sent 'Do Not Ask' warnings to her with my eyes, making sure that I wasn't glaring. Being snoopy is not necessarily a good attribute, especially trying to be snoopy with me.

"Sister?" She asked, eyes narrowing, "Did your parents move here just for her?" She looked doubtful, lips puckering just enough to make her match her bratty tone. Her eyes scanned me, looking up and down, as if she could see my avoidance. I could tell she was trying to humiliate me. And for some reason, it only made me more confident. I knew these kinds of people. I could tell this particular girl thrived on attention. Glancing back at the oblivious Mr. McKay, who was back to his Solitaire game, I took a deep breath.

"I highly doubt they'd care, they're dead." Even though I sounded casual and careless, I'd never really gotten over seeing them murdered. Shock crossed her face, her green eyes wide. She didn't bother trying to hide her surprise.

"I'm sorry..." She mumbled, sliding down into her seat, embarrassed. I'm pretty sure a few kids near her gave her glares. And that's what happens when someone decides to be snoopy around me. Nothing but backfire and embarrassment.

"Not everybody has a perfect family," I said, my previous words making it harder to keep a straight face. I looked back to Mr. McKay, still waiting for any direction; he was also an excuse to look away from the rest of the class. The boy named David must have noticed, because he spoke up, looking annoyingly at the girl.

"What's with the interrogation, Jenna?" He said, breaking that terrible silence. He then faced me defensively, "You shouldn't have answered that, and she wants to have all the dirty laundry on the new girl to gossip about."

She blushed, and then looked downward to return to her work. Thank goodness, the class was forgetting about me by now. I tapped Mr. McKay on the back, making him jump and quickly pull up a grading tool on his computer reflexively.

"Um, you can sit over there, Carlos..." He pointed to a desk to the left of David's sister and in front of a blond-haired girl with an over-joyed expression. I tried to cover my irritation by smiling, but I was sure I just looked like I was constipated or something. "Leyla, will you inform her on the assignment and make sure she knows how to do it?" He said, looking over to Leyla, to which the blond nodded enthusiastically back. I walked down the aisle awkwardly and slid into my seat, letting my messenger bag slip to the floor. A red haired boy to my right smirked.

"Hi ya, Charlotte. I'm Vern Allen, nice to meet 'cha." Vern held out his hand for me to shake. I smiled, unsure, and shook it. "So, ya gotta boyfriend in New York?" I sighed, forever sick of the male species. At least he didn't say anything about my parents.

"Shut it, Ronald." Spat the blond, Leyla, with the force that suggested close relation between the two. Cousins, probably. Or maybe it was just a small-town thing. Leyla scooted her desk next to mine, compromising with the math book in the middle.

"Whoa, Momma Bear! And the name's Vern to you." The class giggled again, but when Mr. McKay looked up everyone turned back to do their work. Ron was the one kid that could say some joke that would only be funny because he said it. There was one in every town, every school, every class, and could be shooed away from a straight face and no laugh.

The blond scooted her desk closer to mine and put her book in the middle of the double-desk. "Hi, Charlotte. I'm Leyla. I'd suggest ignoring all the guys in this school, especially Ronald."

"Vern." Ron whispered a little too loudly, Mr. McKay sent him into the hall.

She rolled her eyes and returned her attention back to me. "Have you taken Geometry II in your other school, yet?" She squeaked, perky-enough to remind me of a squirrel. A silly, shallow squirrel that I was trying desperately hard to be nice to. Call me what you may, but I could just tell when people were not worth my time.

"Yes, actually. Would you believe every time I've moved somewhere, the junior classes were all teaching Geometry when I got there?" My voice was hopeless, but it was all a facade. Except the Geometry, which was real and extremely wearing. It almost made me stop this whole I-Should-Still-Have-A-Decent-Education-Whether-It-Will-Be-Useful-Or-Not thing.

She muffled a fake laugh, "Really? That must suck." Leyla couldn't have cared less about my life and what sucked. "But you can't have moved much just in a semester, could you?" She sat up a little straighter, alert and ready to listen. After one barely conversation, I was already restraining my fist from meeting his face. This one thrived on gossip, backstabbing, and her popularity status.

I sighed, silencing all urges to ignore her. "Only four,"

Shock spread across her face, actually genuine. "But, it's only the first semester! You must have had to move about every month!" Her voice hit a decimal that only dogs could hear on that last word.

I smiled back sheepishly.

"Well, how long are you staying here?" Leyla smiled with high hopes, most of them in becoming my friend to up her number of friends. I'm not kidding when I say Leyla is literally an open book. No, an open children's book, filled with pictures and extra-big print for those just learning to read.

I shrugged, her reaction made me realize just how ridiculous it was.

"What kind of job does your sister even have? To be moving that much!"

I bit my lip, and then remembered my story. "Flight attendant," It took me a while to figure that one out. I had to after realizing that, 'No clue, actually. I've kind of been stalking her elusive butt for the last couple years and I think she may be living her, however briefly, to do whatever the heck she does.' would work.

"Oh. I guess the airport isn't far away, huh? Well, that's cool. Kind of. Except the moving all the time part. She must not be home, a lot. That sucks. I would never miss my sister, she's such a..." Leyla babbled on, pleased with the sound of her own voice in a conversation of one.

I was getting sick of this. I cut her off, "Yup." I said short, sweet, and with just enough hostility to shut her up, but not insult her heavily. Leyla waited a minute before also sighing. Now that she knew I was done talking and slightly irritated.

I was going to be that way, then, I could almost hear her think.

"Page 608, problems 12-45." Leyla retorted, all faux emotion finally sucked from her tone, "The math books are over there. Ask McGay if you need any help," She scooted the desk back in place and returned to her work. Thank God, the world was much easier dealt with alone and devoid of concern of others messing up my life.

I stood up and walked over to a shelf crowded with unused books and was picky getting one with the least graffiti in it, when I felt someone standing behind me. I turned around and there was David, smiling.

"Wrong one," he said his cyan eyes humorous.

"How?" My voice was confused as intended. I looked down at the cover, there was Geometry II written across the front.

"It's the teacher's guide," He laughed, pointing to the italic specification under the title.

I looked down again and re-read the cover, Geometry II: Teacher's Edition. No wonder it didn't have much graffiti on it. "And here I thought no one would notice," I muttered, shoving it back on the shelf and snatching the next best one I saw. Too bad I still couldn't get away fast enough to avoid more socialization.

"Well, after repeating Geometry II three times, I can't help but think you wouldn't need it." He smiled jokingly back, but there was sympathy in his eyes. "Probably even correct some problems in it," Too bad I could care less about his flirting; this one came off as a little true to himself. A rare commodity in a world so filled with pretenses.

My eyes met his, eyebrows raised, "And after eavesdropping on so many conversations that don't involve you in them, you still have enough nerve to hypocritically scold Jenna when it comes to 'dirty laundry'." I smiled, twiddling my fingers in a wave at him and walked to my seat in attempt to extinguish my curling gut and annoyed mind. He was probably the last person in the room I should have snapped at, being as he saved me from more inquisitive minds, but couldn't help my irritation at school.

Why was I here, again? What good did education do a dead girl, anyway? I shook my head and slid as gracefully as I could into the seat, opening to the correct page number to begin my 'work'. Even though I'd come to class ten minutes after everyone else, I finished first.

Ronald, who had been allowed back in, leaned toward me and whispered, "So, do ya?" He wiggled his eyebrows up and down playfully, making my short temper shorter. Why do these immature people keep talking to me?

I leaned toward him, remembering his previous question and whispered back, "I do if you're asking." A couple kids who heard made a chorus of 'Oh! Burn!' and laughed. Mr. McKay jerked upright from his sleepy-position.

"Class dismissed!" He yelled drowsily and quickly shuffled papers to make himself look like the diligent worker he wasn't. Everyone cheered and made a stampede to the door. I scooped up my books and threw them into my book bag. I slung my bag over my shoulder and waited for the door to clear.

I turned when someone tapped me on my shoulder from behind. A short girl with extremely blond hair –contrasting extremely dark eyebrows- and a spaghetti-strap tank-top on was staring at me. She had large hoop earrings, big-enough to wear as bracelets. Her cheetah-print top was just a bit too tight and low-cut for my taste. Not that I even had taste except when it came to food. Her skirt was fake, black leather and just as skimpy, her heels looked at least 4-inch. And she was still a few inches below my 5' 7". She was just a bit to pudgy to pull it off. I'm not even sure anyone would want to pull it off. Her shoes would be terrible to run in, her clothes terrible to keep warm in this winter weather, her eyeliner putting shame to prostitutes. Once again, I was hit with a wall that screamed POSER.

"Hello," I said, lips attempting to resist a pucker. She looked sort of angry.

"Hi." She said short and cold. She and I just stood there staring -well, me staring, her glaring- at each other. After another awkward moment, I decided to break the ice.

"Isn't it a tad cold for that outfit?" I regretted the words; it was probably the worst thing I could have said to make a friend. But, then again, I wasn't here for friendship. I was here for… I really didn't know what I was here for.

She huffed, "No, I am perfectly warm." I saw goose bumps on her arms but didn't say anything. After a moment, she blurted, "What the hell was that?"

I opened my mouth, but said nothing and just gave her a confused look.

"Well. What was it? Why the hell are you effing flirting with my boyfriend?" Her lips were pursed, her eyes on fire. I almost laughed at the words you and flirt directed towards me in a sentence, but I resisted.

"Um.... Ronald?" I asked, completely lost. "I didn't flirt with him,"

She cut me off. "Hell no. Not Ron. He's a douche. David. My gorgeous David."

She didn't look like David's type, but I suppose I'd probably spoken four sentences with him, so how should I know his type? "Um... I didn't flirt with him either." I said, still holding laughs. "I actually kind of vilified him," She seemed a bit paranoid.

"Yes. You. Did." She looked like she was going to slap me, but it was a pathetic look, especially considering I could probably knock her out cold easily. I wouldn't even have to do a leg-sweep, just on side-step and a good elbow to the face, or maybe a classic fist-greets-face. Slapping me would probably be her last mistake.

"Well, then. Sorry, I didn't know you were dating him. I won't do it again." A smug and triumphant look flared in her eyes and I held back the laughter that was building in my chest.

"You'd better not. Or it'll be the last thing you thought about doing!" She stomped out of the room. I held my amusement as long as I could, but burst into a spasm of laughter as soon as the short girl had left the room. People stared, but I ignored them, chuckling every few seconds.

Ignoring the stares and obvious thoughts of 'Is she new here', I tromped through the halls, determined to discover no more names. After I spun in the combination to my locker and threw my Geometry book in, I headed towards my next class, which my schedule told me was Science in room 310.

The hallways were filled with chatter, a few people stared at me as I passed by them, but I kept my eyes on the checkered tiles I was walking on. The day was terribly slow; each minute taking it's time to pass by. Math had been the most exciting part of the day, which still wasn't saying much. I had Mrs. Langer for History, who wasn't too bad. She was in her fifties and didn't have pre-mature memory loss. Miss Taylor was a blunt, yet charming thirty year old British Science teacher who looked a little too much like Queen Elizabeth to have it be simply a coincidence.

I would meet the rest of my teachers tomorrow. I spun in my locker combination again, mastering its digits and threw in my books, having been able to complete all my homework in class like the nerd I was. I shrugged on my worn pea coat and slung my backpack over my shoulder.

I felt the brisk, winter air as I opened the doors to the outside. Tying the sash to my coat tighter around me, I began my eight-mile walk home in my chucks, wishing that this was all just a bad dream: that I was really just a five-year old again, I still had parents to take care of me, I still had somebody.


Once I opened the creaky door to my house, I tossed my backpack onto the out-dated counter top and flopped onto the floral-print couch, spewing dust into the air. I snatched the folders with info about my sister's possible new names.

Annabell was the one I knew her by, but by now she had to have switched it more than a few times, most likely proving my guess that she was doing illegal things. I scanned the words and descriptions thoroughly yet efficiently.

I went back to the memory that stole her away from me. But at least Annabell could be found. That same thing stole my parents, but they didn't have a chance at coming back. And I'd finally gotten over that a few years ago.

But that memory was forever burned into my mind. It was part of my being, part of who I was and it would always be.

* * * * * * *

I was 5. And Annabell was 11. We had both been very mature children, understanding more about the world than our peers. Our parents had always said it was our blood, that we were a very special heritage. But, of course, they refused to tell us why we were different. But that night gave us a little more understanding of why, though it would only make sense many years after.

A low series of thuds and cusses woke me up. My eyes flew open and immediately scanned the room. Annabell was sleeping soundly in the bed next to me, sheets slowly moving up and down, hair spilling over the edge of her mattress like ink.

Nausea and unease churned in the pit of my stomach. Down the hall, a scream rang through the halls, but was so short I almost didn't hear it. Something was very wrong tonight.

Be sneaky. Be unnoticed. I chanted to myself internally. Mommy always said I was a crafty little girl. This was my favorite game.

I got out of the bed as quickly as I could without making noise and tip-toed speedily to my parents bedroom down the hall. Their door was cracked only an inch, just enough to hear low thuds. I looked through the tiny crack and saw a dark room, with barely enough moonlight to see a man lying on the floor. He was motionless and wore a stripped pair of pajama pants.

Just like my father's.

I looked onto the bed and saw my mother lying on crimson sheets. She was sprawled, her leg was in a weird position, and it wasn't supposed bend that way. That's odd; I'd always thought Mommy and Daddy had white sheets. A man, it looked like, was holding her arm, it looked like he was kissing her. Why wasn't Daddy the one kissing her? I couldn't see anything but his faint silhouette. He didn't move in what seemed like forever. I stood, frozen, peeking into the room.

The man finally and rose his head looking directly at me.

I covered my mouth to repress the building scream inside me. I turned my head and saw Annabell behind me, looking through the door just as I was. She'd seen it too. Her eyes were two large, black circles. She picked me up and walked speedily down the hall. Annabell twisted the knob to outside and flung open the door. The man was just opening the bedroom door, walking steadily towards us. I wailed and pointed to him. Annabell began a full-out sprint, though this wasn't very easy while holding a 40 pound little girl. She ran into the cornfield, making it to the dense woods Mommy and Daddy always told us to stay out of. I couldn't see the man anymore, but I could sense he was still close.

Annabell ran a few yards into the forest before stopping, gasping for breath. She knelt down quickly and whispered into my ear, "Run, Charlotte. Go to the Jefferson's. But be sneaky, don't make any noise. You know how to get there, right?"

I nodded. "What about you, Bell?" I asked, not understanding. The Jefferson's were a really long ways away; we lived on acreage, making them the closest neighbors we had. "What's going on?"

"Were having a race, but I'm going to give you a head start. Whoever tells them what you saw tonight wins! But you can't be seen by anybody, like our spy game. 1, 2, 3, go!" she whispered, ushering my forward.

I still didn't understand, but I wanted to win the race, so I ran as fast as I could. My little feet couldn't go very fast, but I was a silent as the night around me. It took me half an hour, but I finally got to the Jefferson's.

They were bewildered at first. Waking up to the doorbell at midnight and finding a five-year old girl alone on their porch, when the nearest house was a couple miles away. I told them about how a noise woke me up, how I silently walked to my parents' room, about the man I saw, how Daddy was on the ground, how the man was kissing Mommy, and Annabell telling me we were in a race to get here and tell them what happened. I'd been proud that I had one the race, and I waited on their porch for an hour waiting for Annabell to show up so I could scream, "I won!", and rub it in her older face.

But she never came.


The Jefferson's called the police, of course, but it was too late. By the time they'd gotten there they found my mother bled to death and my father had a snapped neck. Annabell had been cut badly, but the man was gone. No traces of him ever being there, not even forced entry. And my parents had always locked every door and window before going to bed.

Ever since our parents had been murdered she'd sworn revenge, even if she was only eleven, she made me swear, too. Though there wasn't much a five year old could do about a murderer. She didn't care how kids made fun of her about being cliché. It only egged her on, ever since that night we both woke together, feeling that something was wrong.

I shook my head slightly, coming back to the present. I'd absently skimmed over 4 pages without actually reading it. I had to go back to re-read them. I shifted through every piece of useless information.

After reading over 32 pages of names, identities, and addresses, I finally drifted into a tormented sleep, not waking until a full moon lit the sky.

Author's Note: Well, hello there! Welcome to The Hunted. =D Alright, so, you have assumptions already, I hope? I suppose I'm coming off a bit cliched, as well, but I promise the plot will become it's own, soon enough. I mean, it's a little more than a little obvious who's going to reappear. Why would I give two paragraphs of how gorgeous Jenna and David are if they weren't included in the later plot, for more than just my own shallow pleasure? But in my own defense, sexy people always make things interesting.

ANYWAY, I hope you like it so far. I would be flattered if you did, simply because it's only the first chapter! It must be some-what interesting if you're bothering to read this rambling author's note, right? ^^ You know what would make it even MORE interesting? Reviewing it. And, just in case that text is a little too small to read, or not clear-cut: REVIEWING THE CHAPTER WOULD BE VERY MUCH APPRECIATED/ ADORED BY THE SCHIZ AND SHE WOULD TOTALLY RESPOND TO IT IF YOU LEFT ONE FOR HER. So... REVIEW. XD

Hehe.... I'm so subtle, I shock myself. =p

Well, thanks for reading. And reviewing. Because you know you will.