'… What is it about darkness that is so appealing? Is it the way that the dark inevitably illuminates the light? For, unlike the relationship between Harry Potter and Voldemort, each is needed for the other to survive.'

I shut my notebook with a snap and laughed aloud, hardly caring that people shot me funny looks. Let them laugh and whisper about the strange, crazy new girl. There was no one here I was out to impress. Not a one. There was only one month before graduation. Before I even got the chance to get to know anyone, to make any friends, I would be gone from here.

Glancing around the cafeteria, where I was sitting alone and only feeling slightly embarrassed to be doing it, my eyes met a cold amber stare. The boy they belonged to flashed a charming grin. It was comical, the way his eyes warmed and turned welcoming.

I almost believed it.

Almost, but not quite. If this was a book, I thought, this boy would become an enemy until I found out that his unpleasantness was really because of some tragic even in his past, and that behind it all, he was really a good person. I didn't believe that he was for a second. Everything about him, from the clothes he wore to the tone of his voice when he said, "Welcome, new girl," screamed at me that he was churlish at best.

"Thanks," I said shortly, turning back toward my journal. I was feeling suddenly inspired to sketch a little devil, and fully intended to do just that until he sat down next to me. "Do you mind?" I asked, hastily turning to a fresh page so that he could see my art or read anything I'd written.

"Mind what?" he asked.

"Do you mind leaving?" I asked, frowning and doing my best not to glare. I might not have cared what people thought of me here so much, but that didn't mean I wanted to set myself up as a bad-tempered outcast. A month could be a long time and I didn't want this to be any more painful than necessary. The boy hooted, grinning.

"I have to respect your honesty, new girl." He shifted and rested his elbows on the table, making himself comfortable.

Oh, this wouldn't do.

Luckily, I was saved from an embarrassing display of temper by a perky little blonde girl approaching us. She smiled sweetly and twisted the boy's ear, yanking him out of his seat.

"Hey" he protested, "watch it!"

"Stop antagonizing the new girl, Pierce," she said with a no-nonsense tone. I almost laughed at the picture they made, the dainty girl and the brawny bully of a boy who scrambled to do her bidding. And scramble he did. He hurried away from me quicker than I'd have believed possible.

"Thanks," I said unwillingly, examining the girl.

She smiled kindly and held out a hand. "Marie Berry. It's a pleasure to meet you, Jade."

I frowned. "I never told you my name," I said bluntly, though maybe it was a little rude of me. Marie didn't seem to mind, though. She just smiled a little and shook her head.

"Oh, everyone here knows your name, Jade. I guess I'll see you later. Have a great first day." And with that, she was gone. I flipped a few pages, back to the last one I'd drawn on, and stared at the half-drawn devil. Hardly thinking about it, I tore out the page and tossed it in a trash bin as I walked out of the cafeteria.

***

"I don't like it here," I complained into my phone. Complaining, somehow, always made me feel better about whatever situation I was upset about. "I don't know anyone. I don't have anywhere to go. And I don't think the move has helped Dad feel any better. He's still moping around the house. He's still not living life." I paused as though listening to a response. No one was on the other line, so of course no one actually replied. It was all part of the act.

I liked to talk my problems or plotlines out with myself. It was a lot easier than just thinking things over. When I wasn't saying something aloud, my thoughts tended to wander and I never actually solved anything. I didn't want to look like too much of a loon, so I used my phone as a prop when I was walking around town, talking to myself. Besides, it was dark and the city was creeping me out. I could practically feel danger pulsing in the air, could practically see eyes following me.

I pulled my phone away from my ear and started dialing my brother's phone number, but before I could finish, there was a loud crashing noise, and the sound of glass breaking. Someone screamed, and it sounded like he wasn't so very far from where I was now. It echoed so that I couldn't tell which direction all of the noise was coming from

I froze and my heart started racing. Which way? I picked a random direction, hoping beyond hope that I wasn't sprinting into danger.

Another scream; I pushed myself harder, hurtling around a corner. Too fast. I tripped on something hard, and heard my jeans tear a little. I lay there, sprawled on the ground, and ridiculously thought, at least I'm not bored anymore. I was about to push myself back to my feet, but there was something glinting in front of me.

I picked it up, hardly able to resist, and fingered the swirling orb, the delicate golden chain. It was a necklace.

I heard footsteps behind me and launched into another sprint, throwing the chain around my neck without really thinking about it. Luckily, I hadn't walked too far from home yet. It didn't take more than a couple of minutes of running before I threw open the front door, hurled myself in, and slammed it shut behind me.

I snicked the lock shut and slid in the bolt. Only then did I allow myself to slide down the door and just breathe. My legs would be aching tomorrow, I thought ruefully. But I was here, safe at home, and nothing bad had happened.

I heard steps pounding down the stairs and, for an instant, my entire body froze up in fear, but then I saw that it was only my brother, Aaron. He paused and stared at me with raised brows.

"Do I even want to ask?" Mutely, I shook my head. No, he'd never let me out of the house again if he thought that there was any real danger around here. "You're looking pretty spooked."

"I just got a little freaked out in the dark, that's all," I lied, and my hand came up automatically to cover the necklace. I didn't meet his eyes, because if I did, he would know I was lying. We were close, Aaron and me.

He put his hands up and started walking away. "Fine, alright."

A couple of months ago, he would have probed deeper, I knew. But we were both learning how to give each other space. Ever since Mom left, we hadn't really talked to each other the same way. It was like we were both afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I shook my head and went up to my room. That was a problem for another day.

I switched on the light and examined the necklace and its strange pendant just a little closer. It was intricately crafted, with delicately twisting designs in gold encasing a round gem that was so beautiful, it was almost hypnotic to look at. It glowed a little in the light and glimmered when I moved it.

A knock on the door jerked me out of my reverie. "Jade?" Aaron's voice called.

I stuffed the necklace into my purse without stopping to wonder why I had the urge to hide it from him, before throwing open the door.

"Yeah?"

"Are you sure you're alright?" he asked diffidently. He was standing there with a plate of steaming cookies and two glasses of milk- our old tradition. Whenever we sat down for a chat, that was our snack. I grinned at him and opened the door farther.

"I'm positive. Why don't you stay a while? I never did get to talk to you about how your first day went." Aaron grinned and walked in, settling himself on my beanbag chair. And so we ate our cookies and talked well into the night, and for the first time in a long time, it felt like we were a family again.