Seventeen-year-old Annaé sat in a desk at her school, listening to the new teacher's long, monotonous lecture about any new policies that were created during the summer, which she knew about already. Her mind slowly wandered off to a time three years ago, when her parents were alive.
She wished she had her parents with her at that moment, missing the way they made her feel better after something went wrong. They had creatively made up her name, and she loved its uniqueness. Now that her parents were gone, she could only look for protection from the head of the school and her godfather, Mr. Monona.
Many children lived at the boarding school; half of them had a strange problem that they must keep secret at all times, Annaé included. The only ones who knew of this problem were each other and Mr. Monona, who also had this problem.
The school was two stories high, covering more than ten acres. The living quarters were downstairs, and mostly gender split—boys on one side, girls on the other. The classrooms were upstairs and were Co-ed. There was also a very strict curfew; at 5 o'clock p.m., everyone had to be in their rooms before the doors automatically closed and lock.
As Annaé was sitting there, her eyes wandered off to a window, seeing that the world was continuing on as if it could care less for her or any of the other people like her. She glanced around the classroom, trying to find some familiar faces, before her eyes landed upon a boy that was of the same age and grade, looking at her coldly. She looked up slightly, trying to avoid eye contact with him, for she knew that he was watching what she was doing.
I wish he'd stop… she thought. He makes me so paranoid when he watches me like that.
Then, the door opened, and Annaé looked to see a tall man enter in with a smile on his face. This was Mr. Monona. He had skin the color of faded gold, which was mostly covered by a simple tan suit. His eyes were the color of milk chocolate, and shown with content, as he brushed back his red-rose-colored hair from his face. On his face was also what could have been a red-rose goatee.
He smiled at the class, before looking at the teacher and said, "Please excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Duntz. I hope everything is going well."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Monona," the teacher said, sounding a little bit dreary.
Annaé looked at Mr. Monona, finding a strand of her hair getting in her way. After brushing it off to the side, the head looked at her, smiled, and said, "Could I please have Annaé help me?"
"Yes, of course."
She stood, relieved to be getting out of class, away from the boy who was still watching her like a wolf watching its prey. Ignoring him as much as possible, she walked up to Mr. Monona's side and out of the door, following him toward the stairs.
After a moment, Mr. Monona stopped at an empty classroom, and said, "In here for a moment, Annaé, if you don't mind."
She nodded, and entered the room, before looking at him. "What do you need help with, Uncle Adam?" she asked.
"I would like for you to give a tour to two young men that have just applied; both are in the same grade, though one is older than the other, and neither of them have what we have."
"Just out of curiosity, why do you want me to help?"
"Well, for one thing, you're the most trustworthy student in the school—I can trust you more than I could any other normal person. And I also figured that you could get a break from being around Jacob."
She couldn't help but to smile. "Thanks, by the way."
"I'm just trying to help you out like I had promised your parents."
Before he could say anything else, they heard from the PA system, "Mr. Monona, you are needed in your office."
"That's them," he said, before looking at Annaé; she looked a tiny bit worried, and he offered her a smile. "You'll be fine, Annaé; just be yourself."
She nodded, and followed the head of the school out of the classroom, and to the office downstairs. Her thoughts ranged from what the two new students would be like, to, more importantly, how Jacob would react when he sees them. She figured that he wouldn't take too kindly if he saw them with her, so she decided to act her meanest, just to keep the boys safe.
Mr. Monona and Annaé reached the office, and he opened the door, allowing her to enter first. The first thing her eyes focused on was the long grass that was along the walls of the office, along with potted trees. At first, you'd think you had stepped in a lion's jungle, before you noticed the teacher's desk, a computer, and three chairs. One chair was behind the desk; the other two were in front, and were occupied by two boys—the new students.
The student to Annaé's left looked to be a well-rounded student; he wore a collared shirt, tucked into what looked to be a pair of jeans used for horseback riding and brown boots. His sandy brown hair was not too long, but long enough to where it swept passed his light brown eyes. The second student, however, looked to be a punk; he had a black mohawk with bright green tips, and emerald green eyes that looked as if they could glow. He wore a black leather jacket over a brown rock shirt, black jeans, and heavy black boots, along with many piercings.
Mr. Monona smiled at the boys, while Annaé just stood there, looking at them. "Welcome to our wonderful school!" he said. "I'm your head, Mr. Monona, and it's my pleasure to have you both attend this place. Could I get your names, please?"
The first boy stood, and shook his hand. "My name's Danny." Annaé couldn't stop looking at him—he looked so kind, so polite. However, when he looked at her, she looked away, thinking of Jacob.
The second boy just sat there, chewing on a toothpick. "Name's Jeff." Annaé stared at him, as well; he was awfully rude compared to Danny.
Mr. Monona, not seemed taken aback by Jeff's rude greeting, smiled even more. "Well then, I hope you two will be fine additions to this school." He looked at Annaé, noticing her lost in thought. "This is Annaé, one of your schoolmates; she'll be giving you a tour."
Jeff looked at her, but then looked shocked; Danny smiled, which made Annaé look at him. "Annaé? I never heard of that name."
She looked away, forcing herself to ignore her pleasantness for once. "I-it's a name my parents made up…" She looked at Mr. Monona, and he motioned for her to start. After sighing, she continued by saying, "If you both will follow me, I'll start…"
Annaé and the boys left the office, and she began to walk toward the boys' living quarters. Jeff asked, "Is he always like that?"
"Do you have a problem with Mr. Monona?" she asked in reply curtly.
"Oh no, of course not. Why would I have a problem with a man like him?"
Ignoring his sarcasm, she stopped at one room. "These are the living quarters."
Jeff looked around. "There aren't any windows, and they're downstairs."
"Why would you need a window for a room? Do you want people to see you changing clothes?"
"Then stop complaining." She opened the door of the room they were at, and said, "Well, this is your room."
"What?! This room's plain!" Jeff exclaimed.
"Why are you complaining? Didn't I just tell you…?" She was already tired of Jeff
"There's nothing here!"
"What do you mean? There are four beds, four desks, and four chairs. I wouldn't say that there's nothing here."
"But…but the head's place…it had trees!"
"What are you…a tree hugger?" Now it was her turn to be sarcastic.
"What the…? No, I'm not!"
"I think it's fine," Danny said, getting Annaé's attention.
She looked at him, and when he smiled again, she looked away in worry. I hope Jacob doesn't meet him…
After the tour, the three of them returned to Mr. Monona's office. "Well? How do you like the school, boys?" he asked immediately.
"It's great, sir," Danny replied; Jeff just shrugged, and Annaé kept her eye contact away from the boys.
"That's wonderful! Here we go…I've got your schedules…enjoy the year!"
Annaé glanced at their schedules; Danny was in almost every single one of her own classes, and Jeff was in half. Great…just what I needed…
"Annaé, could you stay back, please?"
She gladly obeyed as the boys left for class. Once they were gone, she asked, "What do you need, Uncle Adam?"
"I noticed that you weren't so happy…what's wrong?"
She hesitated. "Jeff is suspicious of everything…he complained the entire time…I think we need to keep an eye on him."
"That's not what you're worried about." He smiled when he saw a somewhat shocked look on her face. "Come on, Annaé; do you really think that I'd just stick with that?"
She sighed. "It's…it's Danny…He…I think that I need to be careful around him…I can't let anything like before happen again."
"Now that's what I was looking for…" He smiled even more, and gave Annaé a fatherly hug. "You know that if anything does happen, I'll be there to help you out, right?"
"Yes I know." A tear trickled down her face as she thought of her parents.
"Why don't you get lunch? You've been excused from the other classes."
"All right." She left Mr. Monona's office, and walked off to the cafeteria.
As she walked passed one spot, she heard, "Hey," and she jumped, seeing Danny waiting for her.
"What are you doing?!" she asked angrily. "I thought someone was going to attack!" She wanted to be nice to him, to tell him kindly that he started her, but she wasn't in a good mood, and she didn't want Jacob to know about him.
"Oh, sorry; I thought you knew I was there. I didn't mean to startle you, I swear."
Hearing him apologize made her feel worse than she was forcing herself to be mean. She looked away, sighed, and said, "I…I guess I shouldn't have snapped, either…This hasn't been a really good first day for me."
"I understand." They began to head toward the cafeteria. "Mr. Monona seems to be really fond of you."
"I…I guess you can say that…He tries not to, but it's hard, since he knows me so well."
"Is he of any importance to you?"
"Yes…He's my…my godfather."
She nodded. "He's my father figure, if that's a good way to put it."
"Do you even know your own dad?"
She didn't reply right away. "I…he…he's gone…and so is my mom."
Danny's smile faded. "Oh…I'm so sorry, Annaé…I shouldn't have…"
She only shook her head as she entered the kitchen, got her food, and sat with a group of students in a crowded area.
Later on that afternoon, Annaé had collected her things, and was heading out of the classroom, heading toward her room. She wasn't looking where others were, and had bumped into Danny. When she looked up at him, she looked away. "Oh…I'm so sorry, Danny, I…"
"Don't worry about it," he replied, smiling again.
When she saw his smile, she ended up feeling one on her own face. But then, she heard the PA dinged and Mr. Monona's voice was heard all over the school. "Attention, students, you have ten minutes to get to your rooms."
Hearing this announcement, Annaé didn't think about saying good-bye to Danny, and in-stead hurried down to the first floor, and to her room, closing the door behind her.
The room was gigantic, and had grass covering the floor, like in Mr. Monona's office. There weren't any trees, but there were dim lights and a small, hidden locker where she and other students put their books. In the room were four other girls; two of them were in the same grade as Annaé was, the other two in lower grades.
"Hello, girls," she said as she put her things away.
One girl, the youngest out of the four, ran up to her happily after she turned around, and hugged her tightly. "Hi, Annaé!" the girl said.
"Hi, Sophie." She looked at the second youngest girl, who was a tad older than Sophie. "Hi, Faith." She looked around, seeing that one other person wasn't there. "I'm surprised that…"
"Surprised that I just got here?" said a deep voice, and Annaé jumped, looking at the door to see Jacob looking at her coldly. He had pale skin that was whiter than Annaé, who looked as if she wasn't outside for a long time. His hair was red, darker than Mr. Monona, and his cold eyes were the color of dried blood.
"J-Jacob, I…I was just wondering where…" Her voice quivered in her fear of him.
"Where were you the first half of class? What was Mr. Monona making you do?"
"I…was giving a tour to two new students…Mr. Monona is very busy, and…"
"Ha," said the oldest girl out of the four, Jane. "I can't believe that this school allows a lion be head…Didn't they realize how dangerous it can be?"
"That's why they have curfew, Jane," replied the fourth girl, Allia.
Before anyone else could say anything, the clock struck five, and all six students fell to their knees. Fur grew all along their bodies, each of them becoming a different color. Their arms disappeared, but were replaced by hind legs, and their backs became horizontal, while their necks and faces grew longer. Tails grew from their developing hindquarters, and their hair grew much longer, hanging over to one side.
Over by Mr. Monona's office, he hadn't even gotten in, when he fell to his knees, as well, but gold fur appeared on his body, and he didn't lose his arms, which instead became front legs and paws. His rose-red hair became a large, shaggy mane that surrounded his newly formed, cat-like face, while a long tail erupted from his own hindquarters.
This is the big problem that Annaé, Mr. Monona, and about half of the rest of the student body have. They are forced to become animals at night, at around five o'clock. This curse, as they call it, was slowly growing more and more common, for more people were born with it, and many normal people were getting the curse by kissing the cursed ones on the lips.
Annaé stood as a dark-yellow dun mare, with a star and skinny stripe, dark zebra stripes on her legs, and a dorsal stripe down her back. Her mane and tail were jet black, just like her normal hair color, and she still had her brilliant blue eyes. She looked around, not in control of her body, seeing the other students. Her first focus was on Allia, who was a black mare with a swirl for a snip, and two white hind legs. Her ears pinned back, for Allia was only two feet away, and Allia backed away, also without control of her body, respecting the lead mare's space. Jacob, who became a red sorrel stallion without any markings, glared at Annaé, still, but he was in control (more about him later). Annaé took no notice of him, focusing more on Sophie and Faith, who were standing together as a Palomino filly (Faith) and a white filly with a dark mane, tail, legs, and nose (Sophie). Jane, who was a dark gray mare with a circular-shaped star and was also not in control, was walking over toward the girls, her ears slowly moving back. Enraged, Annaé ran out toward Jane, not wanting her anywhere near Faith or Sophie, and pinned her ears back even more. Once she was close enough, she reached out to bite Jane, who in turn jumped, and spun to kick out. Annaé moved out of the way from the kick, and moved the little girls out of the way before Jane reached out to bite her, as well.
Jacob snorted, and through his mind, he said, "Stop!" Allia and Jane backed away from Annaé, as she stood over the fillies. Once peace was somewhat restored, Jacob stood over by Annaé for the rest of the night.
When the clock read 5 A.M., everyone became human. Once Annaé was herself, she grabbed her things quickly, and ran out before Jacob could talk to her. I hope Danny doesn't suspect anything… she thought.
She began to head toward the cafeteria, when he heard Jeff's voice. "It was a huge lion, and it had a red mane!"
Oh no... she thought as she found someone she knew, and asked, "What's he going on about, Melanie?"
"I…I think he saw Mr. Monona," she replied quietly.
Then, Jeff spotted Annaé. "Hey, Tour-Girl!"
Annaé looked at him. "I do have a name…"
"Whatever…You saw it, didn't you? Please tell me that you saw it!"
"The lion! There was a lion walking around last night!"
"Really?" Mr. Monona appeared from the crowds behind Annaé. "I don't think we have a lion here, Mr. Jeff."
"But there was one Mr.…Head, sir…"
Mr. Monona laughed. "I think you just had a crazy dream. Now, all of you get to break-fast! We have a good menu this morning!"
Annaé stayed behind while everyone filed out toward the kitchen. When no one was in earshot, she looked at her godfather, and said, "Uncle, I hope he didn't see you…"
"Annaé, don't worry; if he saw me, then most of the students won't believe him, or pretend that he saw nothing." He smiled when he saw Annaé's worried look. "Listen, Annaé, why don't you get breakfast, and focus on keeping yourself safe? I'll worry about myself."
She obeyed, but not before saying, "I just don't want someone else hurt, Uncle."
When she was in the kitchen, she heard, "Hey, Annaé," and she looked to see Danny.
"Oh…H-hi, Danny…" she replied, looking away guiltily.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm…sorry about last night…I just…"
"Last night? Oh, when you bumped into me, and then left without a word?" He smiled. "Don't worry about it."
She walked over to an empty table, with Danny following. She ate silently, until she eyed Jacob approaching her, and she gasped, forgetting that she had something in her mouth.
"Hello, Annaé," Jacob said as Annaé coughed to get the water out from the wrong pipe.
"J-Jacob…I…I didn't see…"
He glared at Danny. "Who is this?"
"O-oh…D-Danny, t-this is…this is Jacob, and…"
Danny stood, and held out his hand, waiting for a similar gesture. "It's nice to meet you, Jacob…"
Jacob glared, but forced a small smile. "You must be one of the two new students little Annaé here gave a tour to."
"Y-yes…are you a friend of hers?"
"You could say we're…pretty close…" He returned his gaze to Annaé, who jumped when his brown eyes met with her blue ones. "I expect you to sit with us at lunch…do you understand?"
She nodded, looking at the table while Jacob left. When Danny noticed tears trickling down her face, he asked, "Annaé? Are you all right?"
Realizing that he was there, she brushed the tears away, and said, "I'm fine."
"What was that about?"
"N-Nothing…It was nothing…don't worry about it."
"It didn't sound like nothing." He touched her shoulder, causing her to look at him. "You can tell me, you know."
Before she could be allowed to say anything, Jeff appeared. "I can't believe no one believes me!" He sat down and looked at Danny. "You believe me, don't you, Danny-Boy?"
Danny looked at Annaé, and then smiled, saying, "I don't know…I don't think I've ever heard of a red-manned lion before…I think you've watched The Lion King a little too much." This caused Annaé to smile slightly.
"Ha," Jeff replied dryly. "I'm supposed to be making the jokes…But I will find out about the lion!"
However, Jeff couldn't find out anything about this "red-manned lion," for everyone kept quiet about the fact that it was Mr. Monona whom he saw. Soon, a few weeks passed, and everyone ignored him, which got him annoyed. He did, however, begin to suspect the half of the student body who leave the halls right after the 10-minute warning Mr. Monona makes every evening. The one he suspected the most was Annaé because of her closeness to the head of the school, but he knew that she'd be hard to rat out.
In those few weeks, Danny began to grow more attracted to Annaé. However, unlike Jeff, he didn't ask her why she disappeared at night. He also noticed how Jacob controlled her; she'd look at him in fear, and do whatever he told her, such as not sitting in any other place, or when to see him, and this was a major concern of his, especially when he found her with tears trickling down her face.
Annaé noticed how Danny was getting attracted to her, and she worried about him, and thought of what Jacob would do if he saw him with her more. She tried to avoid him as much as possible, but found it near impossible when he was in all but one class, and he'd find her out of coincidence in the hallways. In a way to get him less attracted, she tried to snap at him at every possible thing, but it never ended the way she wanted.
One day, Jeff found Danny in the hall, waiting for Annaé, and getting an idea, he pulled Danny aside.
"Jeff, what are you doing?" Danny asked.
"We need to talk," was the reply.
"But…" Danny looked out longingly at the hall, seeing Annaé already gone.
"It's about you Danny-Boy…I know how much you like Annaé, right?"
"Y-yeah, I do, but I don't get…"
"Do you often wonder why she disappears every night once Mr. Monona gets on that P.A.?"
"Well, I try not to…"
"Do you, or don't you?"
"I…yeah, sometimes, but…"
"Well, maybe I can be a little bit of help to find out…If we just…get her to stay back, maybe she'll forget about that curfew, and…"
"W-what? No!" Danny got away from Jeff's grip. "I don't want to find out on purpose, Jeff." He walked off, leaving Jeff furious.
Annaé was sitting by herself at lunch, eating something small, when Jacob appeared behind her. Feeling his presence behind her, she froze, and looked up quickly. "J-Jacob…I-I was…"
"I've noticed that you've been accidentally bumping into that boy…Daniel, is it?"
Jacob shivered when he heard the name. "I don't want you to get too close to him, lest something should happen like before…" Annaé's eyes widened and she looked away as her throat closed up. "You do remember what happened between us, don't you?" She closed her eyes, and nodded, as a few tears trickled down her face. "Good; so with that in mind, you'll stay away from him, before I accidentally let something slip about your existence."
As Jacob left, Annaé continued to cry silently to herself. I don't know what to do… she thought. He knows that I like Danny…I can't not be nice to him…it's practically impossible…
"I don't know what to do…" she said to herself aloud.
"Annaé?" She looked up, and when she saw Danny, she turned away quickly, hiding her tears. "What happened?"
"N-nothing…" she replied quite defiantly, wiping her tears away. "I-it's nothing, I swear…" She then began to cry some more.
"It's not nothing…not like before." He sat beside her. "I noticed that Jacob controls you… You can tell me, Annaé."
After wiping her tears away a second time, she shook her head. "I-I can't tell you…"
"Because…because if you knew, you'd never speak to me again."
"That's not true…What can it be that would make me not speak to you?"
Again, she shook her head. "I'm…I'm sorry Danny, I just can't tell you…" She got up, and rushed out of the cafeteria and to Mr. Monona's Office, knowing that he would be in there.
"Annaé, what are you…?" he asked when she hurried in. When he saw tears trickling down her face again, he stood from his chair, and approached her. "What's wrong?"
With a shaky voice, she told him Jacob's warning and of how Danny's gotten closer to her, and of how she was beginning to like him. "I-I…I do like him…I…It's like a repeat of what happened before…but…Danny's not like J-Jacob…He's not forcing me to tell him…he's…" A few more tears trickled down her face, and Mr. Monona offered her an embrace. "I don't know what to do, Uncle Adam…"
It was soon nearing the end of the day; Annaé was in class, lost in thought. She mindlessly grabbed her things, oblivious to the sounds around her. I don't know what to do… she thought, not paying attention to anything; she even missed Mr. Monona's 10-minute warning.
Danny, who wasn't in her last class, was walking passed the room, and seeing that she was still in there, he entered, and said, "Annaé? Are you all right?"
When she realized what the time was, she hastily got up, and said, "I'll see you…" before the doors locked themselves shut. Her eyes widened in shock, and her heart pounded in fear.
Danny looked at the door, trying to open it, when it didn't budge, he said, "What…? It's locked from the inside?"
"Oh no…oh no….no…" Annaé said in fear as she threw her things into a drawer in the teacher's desk.
"Annaé, what's wrong?" he asked her as she backed away.
"Danny, you can't be in here…It's—" Before she could end her sentence, the clock struck five, and she fell to her knees.
"Annaé!" He began to hurry up to her, but then he saw the dark golden fur appear on her body, and he stopped, looking at her in shock.
Before Annaé lost her consciousness, she thought, He saw…he saw me…it's all over, it's… Then she lost control, and her transformation ended.
She stood, looking for Sophie and Faith. When she saw Danny, her ears pinned back, and she backed away.
"A-Annaé…?" He said, slowly approaching her.
But then she suddenly reared, stopping his movement abruptly. She kept her ears pinned flat against her head, and when she crashed down, she backed away some more, hitting a desk. That caused her to jump, and swerve around, glaring at the desks.
"Annaé, stop!" Danny said quickly. "You're gonna get hurt!"
She turned back around, and then glared at him as he slowly began to approach again. That time, he stayed slow, and calmed himself down, so that he could get close enough to where he could touch her. "It's okay…I won't hurt you."
Hearing his voice, Annaé suddenly gained consciousness and control over her body. Disoriented, she looked around again, wondering, Where am I? Wasn't I with…? When she saw Danny, she froze in fear. No…no…not again…Not like last time… She backed away from him to the opposite side of the room; she hit desks again, and ended up getting her tail caught in between two of them. Why did Danny have to see me…?
"Annaé, it's all right…it's me," he said.
She just looked at him, seeing how he was acting opposite of how she thought he'd act. He's not…scared? He hasn't…tried to run from me? In her curiosity, she tried to walk back up to him, not realizing that her tail was caught. When she felt a tug, she looked, and then turned back to face Danny. Would he help?
Also noticing the tail caught, Danny slowly approached, and grabbed the first desk. "Please don't kick, Annaé," he said as he pulled it quietly out of the way, freeing her tail.
She walked away and then turned right back to him. How could I have thought that Danny would be like Jacob? How could I not trust him? Her sorrow hit her hard, and when he approached, she got closer to him, and hung her head over his shoulder. I'm sorry, Danny…I'm so sorry for not telling you…
"Annaé?" he said, confused.
But then, Annaé heard a low growl outside of the classroom. Oh no…it's Uncle Adam… she thought. He won't be in control…if he hears us, then… Not wanting to think about what her godfather could do, she gently nudged Danny closer toward the teacher's desk.
"What are you doing?" he asked. When he heard the growl again, he understood, and hid underneath the desk.
She walked over to the desk, standing right beside him; if Mr. Monona had somehow gotten in, then she would fight him off with a heavy heart. She knew that Danny had many questions, but they'd have to wait.
When she felt that it was safe, she left the area, and allowed Danny to get up. "Who was that?" he asked. She looked at him, before noticing the clock—it was already 11 hours past, and was just about to turn 5 o'clock.
When she was herself, she looked at him for the longest moment, unable to speak. Seeing that she was just standing there, Danny said, "A-Annaé? Are you all—?"
Tears trickled down her face, and she embraced him. "I'm sorry, Danny…I'm so sorry…" she said through a sob.
"You're sorry? What for?"
"P-please…please don't hate me…"
"Why would I hate you? How could you think…?"
They heard someone grab the handle on the door, and in her fear, Annaé backed away from Danny before noticing that it was Mr. Monona.
"Annaé? Danny? What are you…?" He looked at the clock, and his eyes widened. "Were you both in here last night?"
Both students nodded, and Annaé trembled. Thinking that she was in fear of getting in trouble, Danny said, "Sir, I…"
"No, not here, Danny…Come with me to my office."
The three of them headed toward the office. Annaé looked at no one, her tears continued to trickle down her face, and every once in a while Danny would look at her.
When they reached the office, Mr. Monona offered them seats before sitting himself. "Now, please explain what happened."
Danny told him everything; Annaé stayed dead silent, still not looking at anyone.
"The doors automatically close and lock on the inside because at five o'clock, what happened to Annaé will happen to about half of the rest of the student body," Mr. Monona explained. "It's to protect them from accidentally being out and about…where I might be out as well."
"Wait…that low growl we heard…that was you?" Danny asked.
Mr. Monona nodded. "I have that…curse as well. What Jeff saw was me, but, lucky for him, I had control of my body, so nothing happened." Knowing what Danny's next question was going to be, he continued with, "We normally aren't in control of our bodies except for once a month…every once in a while it'll be at the same time, but generally, it's on different days. From what you told me, Annaé must have gained control of her body when she knew that you were there…it was like you woke her up, because that's kind of how we sleep, by losing our consciousness at night. I make that 10-minute announcement so that they have time to get into their rooms, and so that if I can't make it to my own room," he pointed to the back of his office, "then at least everyone is safe by being hidden from me." He looked at Annaé, seeing that she kept her gaze away from both of them. "Annaé, please say something; you've been quiet this entire time.
Danny looked at her, as she muttered, "P-please d-don't tell J-Jacob, Uncle Adam," forgetting that Danny was there.
"Uncle Adam?" Danny said, confused.
"You know that I'm her godfather, right, Danny?" Mr. Monona replied. When he nodded, he said, "That's what she normally calls me; I've been in her life ever since she was born."
"And why did she ask to not let Jacob know? Did something happen?"
Mr. Monona hesitated. "Annaé, would you mind if I tell Danny?" She shook her head. "If it gets too much, just let me know, all right?" She nodded right afterward, and he returned to talking with Danny. "Jacob has known Annaé since elementary school, but he wasn't cursed at that time. Like you, he was curious as to why she disappeared at night, but was very demanding so he wanted her to tell him.
"One day, I think it was a year after they met, he took her to some place and put her in this pen, am I right?" Annaé nodded. "He had her stay there, and demanded answers, but she refused to say anything. When the sun went down and she became a horse, Jacob ran off in fear, leaving her in that pen all night, though her parents found her and got her out not that long later. When they met the next day, he again demanded answers, and both she and her parents were kind of forced to explain what happened, before begging him to not tell anyone.
"For a while, though, things went well…Jacob understood that she had to leave early, and she didn't think that anything would happen between them. She began to like him, but figured that they couldn't be together since she was cursed and he wasn't. But then he became very possessive of her, and didn't want anyone else to be near her, beside myself and her parents. Annaé knew that with the way he was acting, something bad would happen, and so she tried to avoid him as much as possible. One day, the day before her parents were killed, Jacob stopped her from leaving school, and kissed her on the lips."
"You say that as if it's a bad thing."
Annaé brought up some courage to speak. "W-when you k-kiss me…on the lips…you… you end up becoming cursed…"
Mr. Monona nodded. "When Jacob's parents found out, they panicked and then wanted her dead. The next morning they went looking for her, but her parents protected her with their lives."
"I…I ran…" Annaé said. "I ran as far as I could…b-but J-Jac… he found me, and told me that they were gone…I…I begged for him to save me, because I thought he felt the same for me…but…but he said he'd tell his parents that I was dead, too, if I...d-did everything he asked…I said yes, and…" More tears trickled down her face. "I-I tried to stop him…I t-told him not to kiss me…b-but he didn't listen...and because of that Mom and Dad are gone…"
"I went looking for her, because I knew that she was still alive, and when I did find her, I brought her here, so that, I thought, she'd be safer, and away from Jacob. But then he came here, and now he tells her what to do…I want to do something…I really do…but…"
But then, they heard "ANNAÉ!" and she jumped in fear.
"O-oh no…" she muttered, as Jacob stormed into the office. She gripped the chair, feeling his cold stare sting her skin and thoughts.
"Mr. Monona, may I please see Annaé?" he asked through clenched teeth. Mr. Monona only sighed in sorrow, knowing he couldn't do anything. Annaé hesitated, not wanting to be near Jacob. Danny looked at her, seeing the tears roll down her cheeks, as Jacob commanded, "Annaé, come here now!"
She slowly rose from her chair, and with her body shaking in fear, she began to approach Jacob. Danny got up, and gently touched her arm. "Annaé, you don't have to…" But she gently took her arm away, and left with Jacob. He looked at Mr. Monona, and said, "Sir, why didn't you…?"
"You see, Danny," Mr. Monona said, sounding as if something hit his heart, "if she were to disobey him, or if anyone got into his way, then he will tell his parents, and they will kill her."
Annaé followed Jacob several feet from the office, her head hung low so that she didn't have to look at the one person that scared her. But she didn't notice that he had stopped suddenly, and bumped into him. He turned to face her, and with a glare still on his face, he grabbed her, and threw her to a wall.
"Why didn't you come to the room last night?!" he demanded.
"I-I didn't h-hear the…the announcement, a-and…"
"How could you not hear the announcement?! You hear it every day!" Before he could let her answer, he said, "You were with him weren't you?!" When she didn't respond, he shook her. "Tell me!"
"Y-yes, but it never meant to happen! I wasn't paying attention to the announcement, and I was still in class…he saw me, and asked me if…"
Jacob raised his hand, and slapped her with the back of it. A red mark appeared on her cheek, as she jumped. "Do you expect me to believe that?! I told you to stay away from him! You disobeyed me!"
"I-I never meant for it to happen, I swear, Jacob!" she cried. "P-please don't tell your parents, please!"
"Why shouldn't I?" He raised his hand again, and she cowered, fearing another hit on the face, but then a separate hand stopped it, and pushed Jacob away from Annaé.
It was Danny.
"You?!" Jacob said, glaring at him.
Annaé looked at him in shock. "D-Danny?"
"Don't you dare hit her again," Danny said, glaring at Jacob.
Jacob jerked his hand away in his anger. "Don't tell me what to do with her; she's simply paying off her debt to me. And you…" He glared at Annaé, who looked up at him. "Consider this your final warning: if you let him get too close, you will be known to my parents…they will find out about you."
When Jacob left, Annaé said, "D-Danny, I…y-you didn't need to…"
"Yes, I did," he replied as he returned to her side. "I wasn't about to let him torture you any more than he has." He looked at the red mark on her face. "Oh Annaé…"
She looked away. "I-I'm…fine…" In her pain and sorrow, however, she buried her face into him and cried.
Since it was Saturday, there were no classes to miss. Mr. Monona had Annaé stay in the office to stay away from Jacob; if he was about to enter the office, she'd hide in his room until he left.
Danny returned to his room to rest, and Jeff jumped out at him, asking him about Annaé; he told Jeff nothing, for he knew that Annaé's curse must be kept secret. This left Jeff infuriated, but then he thought of another plan…one that would possibly give him a new ally.
At lunch, Jeff grabbed a tray, and once it was piled with food, he sat in a chair with Jacob sitting in front of him.
"Can I help you?" Jacob asked, still not in a good mood.
"I…know that you and that girl…Annaé…are pretty close…am I right?" Jeff replied.
Jacob gave him a harsh glare. "You don't like her, too, do…?"
"Oh no…on contraire! I wanna rat her out…I know what she is…Maybe you can help me…" He pulled out a wallet, and showed Jacob a card of an organization that arrested/labeled the cursed people.
Jacob grinned. "I think I can help…Annaé isn't…behaving like she should be…"
That evening, Annaé left Mr. Monona's office to go to her room—she wasn't about to get into any more trouble with Jacob. On her way, she bumped into Danny again. When she saw who it was, she said, "Danny…I'm sorry, I…"
He smiled, and said, "Don't worry about it. Will you be all right, tonight? I mean, I could…"
She shook her head. "Thanks, but I don't want to get into any more trouble, nor do I want you to be up all night again."
"Well, if anything happens, then tell me, okay?"
She nodded, finally feeling a smile on her face. "Thank you again, Danny…you don't know how much that means to me…" He smiled some more, and they went their separate ways. Annaé smiled for a few steps, but then frowned, wishing to have Danny with her again.
When she entered the room, she was surprised to see it empty; none of the girls were there, nor was Jacob, but she knew he'd come later.
"Allia?" she called out. "Jane? Faith? Sophie?" Where are the girls? Did something…
"Well hello, Annaé," said Jacob's voice behind her. "I was wondering if you would be here tonight, since I couldn't find you in the halls."
"J-Jacob…I…" The door closed, and Jeff appeared. She jumped. "W-what's he doing here?!"
Both boys smiled, and Jeff said, "Why…I came to see you, of course."
Annaé began to tremble as the clock struck five. She fell to her knees along with Jacob, and, knowing that tonight was the night that she would have control of her body, she did what-ever she could to make the transformation go faster. No…Jeff's watching…Jacob's going to do something to humiliate me… she thought in fear. She tried to stand as the transformation ended, and as she did so, the first thing she did was back away from Jacob.
Jacob stood, and, glaring at her, he began to approach. "No…stay away, Jacob!" she cried. In an attempt to defend herself when he was too close, she spun around, and kicked out at him, barely missing him.
In his anger, Jacob got even closer and bit her neck. "Don't kick me!"
She ran from Jacob, finding herself in dead ends and warded off by Jeff. Whenever she was forced to stop, Jacob would either bite her or kick her, causing her even more pain. "I should've asked for Jake's help a long time ago!" Jeff exclaimed in his enjoyment.
When she stopped and Jacob looked at her, you couldn't even recognize her. There were bruises and bite marks all over her; her legs trembled in her fear and exhaustion; she breathed heavily; her head was low in defeat.
"Now you know what will happen when you disobey me again!" Jacob said to her as she stood there.
Then, she heard, "Annaé!" and the door opened. Danny entered, followed by a red-manned lion—Mr. Monona.
"That lion does exist!" Jeff exclaimed.
Happy to see both Mr. Monona, who was in control, and Danny, she walked up to them slowly, too hurt to move any faster. Jacob pinned his ears back, and began to go after her. Hearing him, she kicked again in her defense, that time hitting him in the chest. Ignoring the fact that the head of the school was there watching, he bit her neck a final time. "I told you not to kick me!"
Mr. Monona roared, as Annaé fell due to the pain, and both he and Danny ran up to her. Mr. Monona glared at Jacob. "Don't you dare hurt her!" he said in his own anger.
Annaé wanted to break down; she wanted to run away, to get as far away from the place as possible. She was in so much pain, that if anyone else would hurt her again, she'd feel as if she could never move again. Please… she wanted to say, no more pain…no more suffering… I'm hurting so much…Why does Jacob hate me so much?
The clock read five so soon, it felt as if no time went by. When Mr. Monona, Jacob and Annaé were themselves, Mr. Monona looked at both Jacob and Jeff. "Both of you…to my office now," he had such anger in his own voice it made Annaé shiver, which also caused her pain. She gasped as tears trickled down her face, and he looked at her. "Danny, could you take her to the nurse, please?"
Danny nodded, and helped her up. "Can you stand?"
As she tried to use her legs, she gasped again, before shaking her head. She stopped herself from letting out a sob, biting her bottom lip. Instead of just helping her walk, Danny picked her up, and carried her out.
Once they were away from Jacob and Jeff, Annaé asked, "H-how d-did y-you know…t-that I-I was in t-trouble?"
"Jeff wasn't in the room," Danny replied. "He was only out of the room once this year, and that was the first day, when he saw Mr. Monona, and when he wasn't there last night, I figured that he was going to do something that involved you, because he asked me about you all yesterday morning. I went looking for Mr. Monona when I noticed that he wasn't there, and when I found him, he was on the second floor, and I forgot about the bit that only once a month he has control."
"Yeah...he told me when I told him about Jeff. It was right before he became a lion that I found him."
They reached the nurse's office, and Danny put her on the first bed he came upon. When she was on the bed, she looked at him with tears still in her eyes, and said, "T-thank you, D-Danny…"
He smiled. "I'll do anything to help you," he said before leaving.
She lay there for a good half-hour, before the nurse entered. "My goodness, a patient at 5:30…what are…?" When she saw the extent of Annaé's injuries, she gasped. "Oh my…Annaé… What in the world happened to you?"
Mr. Monona entered, looking stressed, but relieved. "She was attacked by another student."
"Attacked?! Who would want to attack her?!"
He only shook his head. "Can I speak to her alone, please?"
"Y-yes of course."
When she left, Mr. Monona grabbed a chair and sat beside her. "Are you all right, Annaé?" he asked, now sounding worried.
She nodded a little. "I-I t-tried to sto-stop him, U-Uncle Adam…" she said, tears trickling down her face again. "H-he w-wouldn't s-stop…h-he…"
"Shh…Don't get so worked up…you're in too much pain as it is." He gently brushed away a strand of her black hair, seeing a bruise right on her forehead and he jumped slightly, before sighing, and looking away. "I'm…not protecting you like I promised your parents, am I?"
She looked at him in shock. "U-uncle…h-how can y-you say that? Y-you've done th-the b-best that…"
"No…no I haven't." She saw a tear trickle down his face. "I knew that Jacob was tormenting you…I could've done something more than to not say anything…I was just…afraid that if I did anything, then his parents would take you away from me like they did with your parents…I lost my best friend…I wasn't about to lose his daughter, too…but…"
"U-Uncle…oh Uncle you…y-you did p-protect me…" He looked at her. "Y-you didn't… didn't do a-anything that…that would g-get h-him t-to tell h-his p-parents."
He smiled slightly, feeling better. "Well, I wasn't about to let you suffer anymore…I expelled him…him and Jeff."
Annaé just looked at him. "U-Uncle…I d-don't know what to say…"
"I just want you to get better." He stood, and then said with a smile. "If you'd like, after lunch I'll have Danny come and check up on you."
She smiled slightly as well, glad to know that Danny would return. As he left, the nurse returned, and said, "I still can't believe that someone so cruel would attack someone as wonderful as you, Annaé," before tending to her wounds.
Right after lunch, Annaé was sitting up in the bed, waiting eagerly for Danny to enter the room; she no longer hurt as much as she did before, and her speech was better.
When he did enter, the first words he said were, "How are you feeling?"
She smiled when she saw him. "Better…" But then her mind went to other things, and her smile disappeared as she looked at the ground.
When he saw this, Danny asked, "What's wrong?"
"Danny, when…when you found out the night before last, what…what were you thinking? Why did you stay?"
He didn't reply at first. "I…I didn't know what to think…I just saw you become a horse, and to see you rear up at me as if you didn't know who I was…I thought that something had happened. But…but I didn't run from you because…I knew that you needed help."
"But…weren't you scared to see me become something different? I mean, when…when he found out, he was terrified…he ran from me the moment my fur grew on my body…"
Again, Danny didn't reply right away, thinking of the right words to say. "I wasn't scared…I was more…surprised to see you become a horse…I didn't want to leave you, because of the way you were acting, and I was able to calm the horse down because I worked with horses before I came here. But what happened last night didn't change what I thought of you…I felt more obliged to help, especially when you broke down." He was silent for a moment. "When you had control of your body, you had hung your head over my shoulder…?"
"I…I was apologizing…" Her voice quivered slightly. "All that time I didn't trust you…I thought that you were going to be like Jacob…I thought you were going to be afraid of me, to the point where you'd never speak to me again…But when I noticed that you stayed with me, and that you helped me without being afraid, I regretted not telling you about me."
They were silent again, and Danny said, "Well, now that I know why, you don't need to apologize. I don't blame you for not telling me, especially after Jeff kept on complaining." Annaé smiled. "And…now I'm glad I found out; I've never seen a more beautiful mare."
She looked away, blushing. "Do you really mean that?"
"Yeah, I do."
Annaé thought of her parents. "My mom said the same thing one night when we were all in control…she told me that I look so beautiful…" A small tear trickled down her face. "I told her the same thing…and then my dad said that we both looked beautiful." She then smiled, and laughed a little. "He also told me that I'm really stubborn when I'm not in control."
He laughed, and they were silent again. "Just out of curiosity, what did your parents look like when they were horses?"
After a moment, she remembered what they looked like. "My dad was a huge black stallion…jet black...and he had a diamond-shaped star and snip…" She was silent for a quick moment. "My mom…she was a light gray mare, with a dark mane, tail, nose and legs…she didn't have any markings, for those who become cursed by kissing someone don't have markings…That's why J-Jacob didn't have markings…And she was always in control…that's another thing about those who kissed to get cursed."
"Your mom wasn't originally cursed?"
She shook her head. "She met my dad in college, and she kissed him, wanting to be with him for as long as they live."
After another moment of silence, Danny asked one more question. "Annaé, when we first met, what were you thinking when you saw me…I know that you looked shocked, and worried."
She thought for a moment. "Well, I thought that you were someone I had to be careful with…because I knew that you weren't cursed, and I knew what Jacob's reaction would be, and I wanted to protect you from him…that's…that's why I was trying to snap at you whenever you said hi to me…I didn't want to talk like that…I just didn't want him to find out about you."
They looked away from each other, staying silent again. After a moment, Danny looked back at her, and gently put his hand on top of hers. She looked at him, noticing that he was slowly getting closer toward her. Seeing the look on his face, she began to worry, and said, "D-Danny…no…n-no…you can't…"
However, instead of on the lips, she was kissed on the cheek. She jumped, feeling one more tear trickle down her face. He…kissed my cheek instead…
They looked at each other for a long moment, then Danny said, "Annaé, listen: I'll do whatever I can to keep you safe."
"Yes…and…and if I need to, I will allow myself to get that curse…so that I can be with you."
Annaé was released after that moment, and she spent the rest of the day thinking of what Danny told her…He really wanted to be with her, and would want to get the curse to be with her. Before they were about to part, she invited him to be with her in the room for that night.
"I…I don't know if I'll be in control or not…but, but knowing that you are there would make me feel better about tonight," she told him.
His response was a smile. "I'd love to."
When they were in the room, Annaé began telling him about what happens when she's not in control.
"From what I've gathered, I'm the lead mare," she explained. "Then it's the older girls, Allia and Jane, and last are the little girls, Faith and Sophie. The younger girls are like foals, and I'm possessive of them; I don't let anyone be near them, normally. If Allia or Jane gets any-where near, I chase them away." She trembled at the thought of how she acts different. "I'm not myself when I'm not in control, and it kind of scares me…" She looked at Danny. "Please, Danny, don't put yourself into any danger if I'm not in control…I'll regret asking you to come if something happens to you."
He smiled, and leaned into her. "Don't worry; I won't get myself into trouble."
For several weeks, things turned out better for Annaé; she was no longer tortured by Jacob, however she knew that with him expelled, he would no doubt try to tell his parents that she was alive. But since he wasn't there, she got to do what she wanted to do. She sat with Danny, and she was happier than ever.
Danny was now hanging out with her more and more. He'd be with her at night, and because he was there, Annaé would have control over her body. She'd protect him from Allia and Jane, who didn't like him there with them, and she'd stay close by him, like she would normally do with Sophie and Faith.
One day, Annaé was sitting in class, with Danny close by. The P.A. suddenly went off, and a voice said, "Annaé, you are needed in the office."
Funny…Uncle Adam doesn't normally call me out like that… She looked at Danny, unsure whether to go or not. When he nodded with assurance, she smiled, getting up to go to the office.
When she opened the office door, she saw two people occupying the two chairs in front of the desk, and Mr. Monona's chair facing away from the door, unlike how it normally faces.
"U-uncle…?" she said, sounding worried.
The chair turned around, but instead of Mr. Monona, Jacob was sitting in it. "Hello, Annaé…missed me?" he said as Annaé froze in fear.
"W-what are you…? H-how did you…?" she looked at the occupants of the chairs, as they turned to glare at her. They were Jacob's parents. No… she began to back away, but was stopped by a fourth figure, Jeff.
"How did you escape?" Jacob's father demanded as he stood. She didn't respond, trembling in fear instead. "Answer me!"
She felt Jeff's hot breath run down her neck, making her back hairs stand up. "You'd better answer him…he's much more violent than Jake."
"I-I ran off…I ran off!" she said, repeating it only because she thought she wasn't loud enough. "M-mom and D-dad told me to run, and that's what I did!" Tears trickled down her face, as she looked away, thinking of the day that her parents died. "W-why do you hate me so much?"
"Why? Why?! You cursed our son, that's why! It's because of you that he becomes a horse every night!"
"I never meant to curse him! I swear I didn't mean to! He kissed me; I tried to stop him, I really did, but…"
"Shut up!" his mother wailed. "Stop saying lies about my son!"
Jacob stood and approached her, and as she trembled, she tried to get away, but Jeff kept her still. Jacob leaned over toward her, and like before, she felt his hot breath run down her neck. "How do you like it now, Annaé? You got me and Jeff and expelled…this is payback."
The four of them took Annaé out of the office. She struggled to get free, and when she noticed a brown suit, she cried out, "Uncle Adam! Uncle Adam! Help, Uncle Ad-!"
Jacob's father covered her mouth. "Shut up!" he hissed. "Your headmaster won't be able to help you!"
What he didn't know was that Annaé did in fact see Mr. Monona—he was listening in on what was going on. When he had heard enough, he hurried up to the second floor, and entered a classroom.
"Sorry for interrupting, but I need Danny, please."
Danny stood, wondering why he sounded so rushed and worried. He followed the head out of the classroom, and to the office; Mr. Monona was walking so fast, it was hard to keep up.
Once they were in the office, Danny looked around, expecting to see Annaé there, as well.
"Sir, where's Annaé?" he asked.
"That's why I got you…" he replied, sounding worried, still. He took a few deep breaths, before continuing. "Annaé was taken…by Jacob, his parents, and Jeff."
Danny's jaw dropped, as he stood there in shock. After a moment, he asked, "Are…are they planning on killing her?"
"I don't know…I'm positive that it is, but…" Mr. Monona took a deep breath, as if holding back tears. "Danny, you can drive, can't you?"
"Y-yes, I have a car in the parking lot…why?"
"Because I'm having you go find her, and make sure that she's safe."
"Me? Why not…?"
"It's too dangerous for me to go out…I don't know how long it'll take you to get her away from Jacob, but I suspect it'll be a few days, and I don't gain control of my body for another week…And I'm sure that you want to go get her, don't you?" Seeing this hesitation, Adam said, "Come on, Danny, you didn't think I didn't notice how you two act around each other….You're a lot like her parents when her mother found out."
Danny looked away, and then took out a thing of keys from his pocket. "I promise, Mr. Monona; I'll get her back…no matter what. I know where they live." He then ran out of the school and to the parking lot, determined to bring Annaé back.
I know he'll be all right, Mr. Monona thought. I just hope nothing happens to Annaé…if only her parents were still here…
Annaé sat in the back of a white van, trembling in fear. Jacob sat with her, making sure that she didn't do anything to escape, while Jeff sat in the middle, making crude jokes to heighten the mood; Jacob's parents were driving. Tears trickled down her face, as she thought of what may happen, and how she might never see Mr. Monona or Danny again. A few times, she felt Jacob touch her oh so gently with a finger, causing her to jump, and make a tiny sound that she never made before, only to torment her to his delight.
When they stopped the car, Jacob pushed her out and forced her to stand, making her look at his house, one she could never mistake for. It was a two-story home, with a lot of land; near the back, which was new, was a red barn.
Jacob's father went around, and grabbed her scalp, forcing her to look at the barn long and hard. "We had to build that because of you."
She was pushed through the doors, and into a small box stall, falling as she tripped over the doorway. The door was then closed tightly and locked, before she was left alone.
After they were gone, she leaned against the back wall, crying by herself. "I don't know what'll happen…" she said to herself. "What will they do to me? I wish I was home…I wish Mom and Dad were still here…I wish none of this had happened…"
For what felt like hours, Annaé sat there, letting the tears roll down her face. She was alone, and nothing could change it. After a while, she heard someone running to the barn, and, terrified, she looked away, thinking it was Jacob.
But then, she heard, "Annaé!" and she looked, seeing Danny running up to the stall she was in.
"Danny…" She approached the stall door, happy to see him there. "You're here… how…?"
"Mr. Monona let me come find you…" He tried to smile, and he gently touched her, to reassure her that things will be fine. "Are you all right?"
She nodded, feeling more tears trickling down her face. But then, she saw someone coming down after him, and she said, "Danny, look out!"
He looked, but didn't react fast enough; Jacob grabbed him, putting him in a headlock. "Did you actually think that you could come to Annaé's rescue like you did many times before, Daniel?" Jacob asked as Annaé backed away, trembling again.
Danny tried to free himself. "I won't let you hurt her again!" he said.
"You can't do a thing; you're stuck here, and Annaé will get what she deserves."
Then, his parents came rushing in, with his mother holding a syringe. "What's going on?" she asked. When she saw Danny, she added, "Who's this?"
Jacob looked at his mother, and jerked Danny around to have him face her. "He's here to save her."
She glared. "I bet he doesn't even know…"
"Oh he knows."
Jacob's father glared at Annaé, and she jumped a second time. "Well then, he's going to have to watch."
He opened the stall door, and grabbed Annaé, preventing her from moving. She trembled in fear, as Jacob's mother entered with the syringe. As she bent over to give the injection to Annaé, Danny struggled even more. "No, Annaé!" he yelled out, but that did nothing. She stuck the needle into her, pushing the liquid in all at once. Annaé flinched as the needle was taken out, and when she was released, she had to hold herself up with her hands on the ground.
Danny was released, and he ran up to her. Jacob closed the door after his parents left, and said, "Now she won't be the only one who'll suffer."
Danny ignored him, and tried to help Annaé stand. "Annaé, can you keep yourself up?"
She tried to stand, but the pain was so immense, that she gasped. "I-I can't…it…it hurts… so much…"
He gently brought her back down, and he had her lean against a wall, while he sat next to her. She breathed heavily, as she tried to fight back any more tears.
It wasn't even close to five o'clock, but Annaé suddenly yelled in pain, feeling her body change. Danny looked at her, seeing that her fur was growing, and knowing that he was close, she said, "Danny, get away!" as she felt herself losing control of her body.
He stood and backed away as the transformation continued. She cried in pain, as her transformation lasted longer than normal. As she lost consciousness, she thought, I hope I don't hurt Danny…
When she stood, she saw Danny and immediately reared, startled by his presence. As she crashed down, he slowly approached her. "It's all right, Annaé…I won't hurt you."
She stared at him, her nose flared out. When he touched her, she flinched, though Annaé didn't gain control. He continued to just touch her, until he got to the point where he could pet her neck. "That's right…you're okay…"
He continued to pet her until Jacob and his parents returned to the barn, expecting to see him on the floor with bruises. When they saw Annaé acting so calm, they jumped.
"It didn't work?" his mother asked.
Annaé looked at them, and pinned her ears back, charging out toward them until she was stopped by the stall door. She kept her head out, and kept her ears flat against her head. Watching this, Jacob said, "She's not in control…But how does she trust you?"
Glaring right back at Jacob, Danny replied, "I work with horses."
Getting an idea, Jacob's father said, "Well then, maybe you can be of some use to us…" He grabbed a halter from one of the stalls, and approached the one that Annaé was in. "Get this and put it on her."
Seeing him too close, Annaé reached out, trying to get her teeth near him. Not wanting her to get hurt, Danny approached, and tried to get Annaé to back away—she didn't move. "Come on, Annaé…back up," he whispered, gently pushing her. Again, she didn't move. "Please…I don't want you hurt…" After another push, she finally backed away, though kept her ears back as he grabbed the halter. Seeing the halter, she backed away even more. "Don't be afraid; it won't hurt you."
He got close to her, and gently touched her with the halter, petting her as she stood still. Once she began to trust him again, he gently lifted the halter to her nose, and slipped it through, fastening it. "See? That wasn't so bad." He continued to pet her, as five o'clock came.
Annaé suddenly flinched, gaining control. She looked around only vaguely, and, realizing that she had control, she stopped moving, noticing that Jacob and his parents had returned. Jacob was a horse, and was glaring at her, before his father told Danny, "You can be our stable hand."
"We can't let you leave with you knowing where she is, nor can we make you promise to not tell anyone. The only way is to keep you here."
Danny looked at Annaé, noticing that she had control, and then agreed. "But only if I can still be with Annaé."
"Fine, but if you try to escape, you'll never see her again."
They all left while Jacob went outside. Once they were gone, Danny looked back at her, and said, "When did you get control?" He took the halter off, and she responded by slipping her head back into it. He smiled, and then he said, "Your dad's right…you are stubborn."
She wished that she could smile, as she looked back at Danny, who was still smiling. After making sure that no one else was around, he told her, "I'll find a way to get us out of here; my own place isn't that far from here."
It is? she thought hopefully. In her excitement, she walked up to the stall door, waiting for him to open it. Sadly, he shook his head. "It's too early to do anything; Jacob's parents more than likely won't let me do anything, and the quickest way to get out would be for me to ride you…and I don't think you've had anyone on your back before, am I right?" She shook her head. "If we have to leave when you're not in control, then I want to make sure that I'm trusted."
Understanding, she returned to his side as he leaned against a wall. She lay beside him, and leaned her head against him. "I love you, Danny," she said, knowing that he couldn't hear her.
For several weeks, things became a routine; Annaé would wake up no longer in control of her body, while Danny took care of her as if she were a regular horse. He'd be watched closely by either Jacob or his father, while he pretended that nothing happened. At five p.m., however, Annaé would gain control, though neither Jacob nor his father would find out, and they would quietly spend time together. Then Danny got an idea—he would begin to secretly work with Annaé when she was not in control like he would a normal, green-broke horse. The only problem would be to take her out when no one was looking.
One day, he decided to risk taking her out. He entered the barn, and when she heard him, Annaé brought her head out, not in control. Knowing that she wasn't, he smiled, and whispered, "Today's the day," before grabbing a halter connected to a lead rope. He quietly opened the door, slipped the halter over her head, and led her out to a field he knew led to his property.
As he closed the gate, he looked around for anyone, and when he saw no one, he began to gently pet her, reassuring her that he wasn't going to hurt her. When he reached her back, he began to lightly add pressure to it, giving her a chance to get used to having pressure on her back. Annaé moved uneasily, looking at him with worry.
"It's all right," he said, not realizing that Jacob was walking out.
Seeing him, Jacob glared, and said, "What are you doing?"
Jumping, Danny turned around. "I'm working with Annaé…is there a problem with that?"
"For me there is." He was halfway through the fence when he stopped, not able to get any further. He was starting to become a horse.
Annaé gained control, and with both she and Danny finding an opportunity, she lowered her body for him to get on, and bolted as soon as he was situated. She followed the fence-line, for Danny had told her one night that there was a gate in the back of Jacob's property that connected his with theirs.
When they found the gate, without getting off, Danny opened it, and Annaé side-passed through, with him closing it right afterward.
"Okay…my house is…" He looked around, before pointing straight ahead. "…that way."
After he showed her the way, Annaé followed his directions and trotted straight ahead of them, getting out as fast as possible before Jacob or his parents could find them. We're out of there…finally, she though happily, as they came upon another gate. Again, Danny opened it without getting off and she side-passed through before he closed it again.
The house they approached was larger than Jacob's, and there was much more land. There was a larger barn that could hold maybe twenty horses, and the fields led all the way to hills.
Wow… Annaé thought as she looked over at Danny.
"This is my place," he told her, smiling as he got off. After putting the lead rope around her neck, he began to walk over to the barn. "I…I don't have any other horse…I sold them all so that I could go to school…my parents died not that long ago, and they barely left me with anything, so…"
Annaé stopped when she heard that he had no parents, like she did. Noticing this, he looked back at her and smiled some more. "I never told you that, did I? Yeah, my parents were in a car accident, and neither of them survived…but I haven't dwelled on it, because I knew that they wouldn't want me to."
Understanding, Annaé continued to follow him to the barn. She knew as well that her parents wouldn't want her to dwell on their deaths, but with Jacob constantly reminding her about her parents, she couldn't help but to dwell on them.
When they entered the barn, Danny had her wait in the aisle while he brought out a flashlight, not turning the lights on. Once he had it at hand, he had her enter the third stall down once he cleaned out and refilled a water bucket. Curious about the flashlight, Annaé touched it, and he answered with, "I'm trying to keep the barn as quiet as possible, so that neither Jacob nor his parents would think about coming here."
Again, she understood, and as Danny finished making sure that she was safe and comfortable, she lay down, and Danny joined her, leaning against her instead of the wall. As he fell asleep, Annaé thought, I hate the fact that I'm not becoming myself…it limits what I can do with Danny… She then thought of the afternoon when he had told her that he'd willingly get the curse so that he could be with her. He really wants to be with me…but he'd have to become cursed, and I don't want him to get it after what happened between me and Jacob. But…but I want to be with him, too. Then, her thoughts wandered off to a time when she had to ask her parents for some advice.
It was a year before her parent's death…Jacob had known about her secret for some time, and had just recently told Annaé that he wanted to be with her. She worried that they could never be together, since he wasn't cursed like she was.
"You know, darling, I wasn't cursed my entire life," her mother told her when she went to her and her father for help.
"You weren't, Mom?"
"No…I was like Jacob; your father would always disappear at night, and whenever I asked him out, he'd always tell me that he was busy. One evening, I found him waiting for Uncle Adam, and I end up finding out that night."
"I was horrified," her father added. "I didn't want her to know about me, because I was scared to think she'd never speak to me again."
"But I wasn't scared…I was surprised, sure, but I felt bad for him, especially when he just looked at me with fear. But I reassured him that I wouldn't leave him, and I fell asleep with him."
"After that night, she began to come with me every night, though I tried to discourage it; I didn't know whether I'd be in control or not, and I'm aggressive when I'm not in control. How-ever, whenever she was around me, all I had to do was think of her while I became a horse and I never once lost control."
He paused for a moment. "But…but there was one time that I almost lost control. I was having a headache all day, which normally happened when I wasn't going to be in control, and I was going to be more aggressive than normal. I begged for your mother to not be with me that night, and after a lot of persisting, she agreed to not come until five in the morning…"
He didn't go on, not wanting to mention anything else.
Her mother touched him gently, and then continued with, "Every night, I'd tell him how much he meant to me, and one time, I ended up kissing him on the cheek; I wasn't really thinking at that moment, but then I realized how much he really meant to me, and I wanted to be with him."
"I began to distance myself from your mother because I didn't want her to suffer with the curse. I loved her—I still do, and telling her that she couldn't be with me made me think that it would protect her from having to deal with becoming an animal every night."
"When he told me that he didn't want me to suffer, I told him that if I were with him, I wouldn't be suffering. Then I got as close as I could to him, and I kissed him on the lips…"
Annaé looked around, realizing that she was actually asleep, and she had dreamt some-thing for the first time in her life. When she saw the sun in the stall window, she was surprised to see that she had control of her body.
She looked over at Danny, seeing that he was still asleep, and she said, "Danny…" finding that words came from her mouth. As Danny began to wake, Annaé looked at herself, seeing skin instead of fur, and hands instead of hooves.
I'm human…I'm human! She looked back at Danny, who was looking at her in shock, and she embraced him, tears trickling down her face as she said, "Danny!"
They entered the house, and Danny called Mr. Monona, for he was unable to call beforehand.
"Thank God that you're both all right," he had said through the phone. "Annaé's not hurt, is she?"
"I'm fine, Uncle Adam," she replied, for the phone was on speaker.
There was a pause, before Mr. Monona said, "You don't realize how much I'm glad to hear your voice, Annaé…I've been so worried…"
"Sir, we can't get back to school…my car's still at Jacob's place."
"Right now, as long as you do whatever you can to keep Jacob away, then take as much time as you need to get back to school."
Annaé sat down on the couch in the living room while Danny hung up the phone. Finding her lost in thought, he sat with her. "Are you all right?" he asked.
She looked at him. "Last night…I had a dream…the first dream I remember having…and it was of my parents a year before they died. They told me how they got together; that was when I found out that my mom wasn't cursed her whole life."
"And what happened?"
"Nothing happened, but…but the more I think of it…I realized that we're a lot like them…but…" She stopped, losing her concentration. "…Before I fell asleep, I thought about what you told me that afternoon when you kissed my cheek…that you'd be cursed to be with me…."
"I'll still do it…I want to be with you."
Annaé looked away. "I…I was afraid of that…"
"What do you mean?"
"My mom said almost the same thing to my dad…He tried to refuse, because he didn't want her to suffer…And…and I think I have to refuse with you…"
"Don't get me wrong, Danny…I want to be with you as much as you want to be with me…but I just can't let you go through what I go through every night. I don't want you to suffer."
"Annaé, it doesn't matter if I get that curse; I'll be with you, I'll be happy. And I wouldn't suffer because I'll be with you."
A tear trickled down her face as she remembered what her mother told her father. "I just don't want another person cursed because of me… after what happened to Jacob…"
"It won't matter to anyone else…my parents can't object—they're gone—and I don't think they would have, either. I'm not going to flip out, because I know what's going to happen." He embraced her, leaning his head on hers. "Please, Annaé…please let me be with you."
She looked up at him, knowing that he truly wanted to be with her, that he truly wanted to get the curse so that he could be with her. He looked back at her, before they both got just a tad bit closer, and kissed.
A couple of tears trickled down Annaé's face, for she knew that this was irreversible. She began to regret doing this to her only friend. After a few seconds, they parted, and they looked at each other, before she leaned against him, saying, "I love you, Danny."
He smiled and returned to embracing her. "I love you, too," he replied, before he heard her deep breathing, and realized that she had fallen asleep. After checking the clock—and seeing that it was still very early in the morning—he had her sleep on the couch. I'll wake her up later.
Annaé woke up early in the afternoon, finding herself alone on the couch. Finding Danny sitting nearby, she sat up, stretched, and stood, walking up to him.
"Danny?" she said, getting his attention. He looked at her and smiled. Seeing that he had a book in front of him, she asked, "What are you doing?"
"Oh, I was just looking through some of my books on horses."
Annaé smiled. "A little excited, are we? My mom said that she looked up horses the day after she kissed my dad. She was really excited to find out what she looked like." She was silent for a moment. "Danny…what do I look like?"
He got off the chair, and embraced her. "You look beautiful," he said, smiling as he kissed her.
But then, they heard a car screech to a halt, and after that: "ANNAÉ!"
Annaé's smile quickly faded. "N-no…no…"
Danny looked around, and said, "Go upstairs…they'll look in the barn first."
They both climbed upstairs quickly and into a room where they could look out quietly to the barn. Annaé stayed in a corner, while Danny watched: Only Jacob's parents went to the barn. He began to worry. Why did only Jacob's parents go to the barn? Unless…
Then, they heard a house door open and they heard Jacob. "I know you're in here! I know you're human!"
Annaé began to tremble again, as she thought of how her parents died, and of how now Danny was cursed. No more torture… she thought. Please, no more…
"You'd better get down here! You don't have much time before the sun comes down!"
Danny looked at his watch—it was 4:15. "Annaé, I'll distract Jacob, you go and get yourself out of here."
"I'll come find you once I know that you're away from him and his parents."
Hearing him say, "I'll come find you," made her think again of her parents; they had told her the exact same thing…and they were dead because of it. Not wanting him to follow the same fate, she built up some courage to say, "No…I'm not leaving you here with them."
"Annaé, if you stay they'll give you that injection again."
"And if I run, something will happen to you…my parents told me to run…they told me that they'd find me when they get the chance…They never got to, because they were killed before they had a chance." She thought for a moment. "I'll go with you…and once we both get a chance, we'll run…the sun might set once we get that chance."
He thought for a moment, and then agreed. "But if he or his parents hint that they're going to give you that injection, then run, please." After she agreed, they both began to head downstairs, to stall Jacob so that they could leave.
Before they had reached the last few steps, Danny stopped, seeing Jacob waiting for them. Annaé looked, and just froze.
"I knew that you'd try to escape," he said, glaring at them both. He then looked at Annaé, and she jumped. "And I knew that you'd become human. You can't run from us now, and once he's taken care of, you'll be coming with us."
Knowing what he meant, Annaé quickly jumped out in front of Danny. "No…no…I won't let you kill him! I won't let you do the same thing you did to my parents!"
A wry smile appeared on Jacob's face. "What's this? A little bit of courage from the same girl who ran off when her parents were taken care of?"
Her fear was now replaced by the anger that was hidden for so long. "I won't let you hurt anyone else! Just because it was your fault that you're cursed doesn't mean that I have to suffer!"
"You still don't get it…I've wanted you to suffer! And I've had my wish all this time! Ever since I found out that you're a damn freak, I've wanted to find a way to torture you! I knew that kissing you would freak my parents out, so I did so, so that they'd try to kill you! When they didn't do it, I figured that I could give you hell every single day! I've waited for the chance to tell my parents that you're alive, but I never had a good reason to tell them!"
"So…you were just toying with my emotions?! You got my parents killed just because you found out?!"
"Yes, I was toying with you!"
"What…?" Annaé and Jacob looked over toward the kitchen, where there was a door that led to the barn; heading over toward them were Jacob's parents. "Jacob…you've been doing this on purpose?" his mother asked.
Jacob turned to glare at Annaé. "Look what you did!"
"It was your fault…again," she replied.
Jacob's father grabbed his arm. "You made us believe that she's done all of this on purpose…you've had us doing all of these things to torture her when she's done nothing wrong!"
Annaé watched this incident in shock. "They finally believe me…" she thought aloud.
Jacob's mother looked at her. "Why, Jacob?" his mother asked. "We've known how sweet she is…why did you make us think that she's been toying with us?"
Jacob glared at Annaé again. "Because I hate people like her! They disappear without telling anyone, and they're freaks! They become animals at night…they act like animals every day except for once a month! They never tell normal people what they are!"
"You should've known why ever since you found out," Annaé said. "People hate us for what we are…normally…" she added this to make exceptions for Danny and her mother. "Those who aren't cursed are the ones that are scared of us."
Even angrier with his son, Jacob's father took him out of the house, while his mother just stood there.
"Oh Annaé…" she said, jumping when she said Annaé's name. "I…I don't know what to say…I…I feel so ashamed for what I've done…"
Annaé looked away, thinking again of her parents. She noticed Danny checking his watch, and knowing that it was almost time, she said, "Can…can we talk outside?"
Jacob's mother looked at her own watch. "Oh…oh yes, of course!"
After letting them walk out first, Jacob's mother followed, apologizing more than once for everything she's done, but as she said all of those apologies, Annaé realized that all of those apologies could not repay for what was done to her physically and emotionally…nor could they bring back her parents.
Once they were outside, Annaé looked out at the sun, watching it slowly sink into the horizon. This also made her think of her parents, as Jacob's mother saw that she had to leave before her husband left without her. A tear left her eye, as she looked at Danny, and leaned against him. "Danny…I wish I could see my parents again…I…want them to let me know that everything will be all right, now."
Danny embraced her as the sun touched the horizon, and they both fell to their knees. Annaé looked over at Danny, seeing that red and black fur was growing on him, while his sandy brown hair turned black. As his longer face dished in the middle, he grew an extra pair of legs, and his arms and hands disappeared. Following this was his tail that grew out of his developing hind quarters.
When they stood, Annaé continued to look at him in almost amazement. "Danny, you look amazing…" When he said nothing, she began to worry. "Danny?"
He then hung his head over her neck. "You are still beautiful."
When the sun rose the following morning, and they were human, they were greeted oddly by Jacob's parents.
"There's…something that we need to tell you both," Jacob's father said, not sounding as harsh as he had been. "Well, it's mainly for you, Annaé…It's…about your parents…"
He nodded. "They…were never killed…they've been alive…but we had given them the same injection that we gave you."
These words took a long moment to settle in Annaé's mind. "T-they're still alive?"
"Yes…but they're still horses…" Jacob's mother replied. "I believe…I believe that they stayed as horses all this time because they thought that you were gone…so they had no will to return to becoming themselves. We figured that, since you have to get your car, anyway, we'd let you see them, and maybe give them a chance to maybe become human again."
Again, it took a long moment for Annaé to reply. She looked at Danny, and said, "They're alive…my parents are actually alive…" As a couple of tears trickled down her face, she and Danny agreed to have them see her parents. The drive to Jacob's house was a short one, but it felt like a long one for her.
Jacob's parents took them to a field that was separate from the one Annaé and Danny ran in the other night, and in there were two horses…one black, the other gray.
"It's them…it's actually them…" Annaé said as she crawled through the fence. One of the horses—the black one—looked at her. Too excited, she ran up to the horses—her parents—yelling out, "Mom, Dad!"
Her mother—the gray horse—looked up when she heard Annaé's voice, and once she recognized her, she galloped over to see her. When Annaé heard her mother whinny, she stopped, and let her mother continue her race to her. "Mom…" she said as her mother stopped right in front of her, and blew right in her face. She began stroking her mother's coat, feeling once again her soft fur as more tears trickled down her face. Then she buried her face into her mother's neck and cried. "You're alive…you're alive…! I missed you so much, Mom…"
When her father didn't approach, Annaé looked over, seeing that he wasn't coming any-where near her. "Dad…Dad, it's me, Annaé!"
Her father still didn't move; her mother looked at her, telling her to stay where she was, and then galloped over to her father, showing him who was there. He looked over at her, and then back at Annaé, who was hoping that he'd run up to her the same way as her mother did. Instead, he only walked up to her, as if unsure whether it was his daughter or not. However, when he picked up her scent, he ran up to her, overjoyed to see her there. He pushed his head into her, and she continued to cry. "Dad…oh Dad…"
Her mother returned to her side, and for a long while, the three of them spent time together, without saying anything. When maybe ten minutes past, she felt clothing instead of fur, and she looked to see her parents human. Her eyes widened, and she was speechless. Her parents looked at themselves in shock, and the first thing her father did was embrace her.
"Oh Annaé…you're alive!" he said.
She looked away, burying her face into him. "I'm sorry…I'm so sorry for everything…"
"No…No, don't be sorry. It's all right…"
After a moment of silent crying, Annaé looked back at her parents, and felt a smile light up her face. She embraced her mother, and then looked for Danny. Finding him, she looked back at her parents, and said, "Mom, Dad, I...want you to meet someone…"
She had her parents follow her to where Danny waited, and said, "This…this is Danny; he…" For some reason, Annaé couldn't continue; it felt somewhat odd to have her parents meet someone new to them that she loved.
Understanding, her mother smiled, looking at Danny. "It's so nice to meet you Danny."
He smiled, replying with, "It's nice to meet you, too." He looked over at Annaé, and smiled even more.
Danny drove Annaé and her parents back to the school. Even though she was excited on having her parents back in her life, Annaé sat in the front with Danny, keeping her hand near his. She wasn't as worried about her parents knowing that she was with him, and she wanted to let them know that he was not like Jacob. She looked back at her mother, and the response was a smile, showing her that her mother didn't object.
When they reached the school, Annaé went directly to Mr. Monona's office, finding him sitting in his chair.
"Uncle Adam!"she said as he looked up.
He stood up in shock as she ran to embrace him. "Annaé…thank goodness…" He embraced her and continued with, "You don't know…" He stopped, however, when he saw Annaé's parents enter the office. "It…it can't be…"
Annaé looked at her parents, and smiled even more. "It is, Uncle…"
"Oh…oh my…" He slowly approached his close friends, not believing that they were standing in his office. A smile appeared on Annaé's father's face, which in turn made Mr. Monona smile. "Ryan…Aubrey…"
Annaé's mother smiled again, and hugged Mr. Monona. "Thank you so much for taking care of Annaé, Adam."
He smiled even more. "It was no problem what so ever."
Annaé was never bothered by Jacob afterward; his parents forbade him from being near her, and he was never let out of their sight. They apologized several times to her and her parents, feeling that it was their fault for everything. It took a while, but eventually their apologies were accepted.
After the school year ended, Annaé went to be with Danny, who proved to her parents that he was nothing like Jacob and more like her mother. He offered her parents his own house so that they wouldn't have to go looking for a new one. They accepted, and when Danny and Annaé went off to college together, they stayed there for the rest of their lives.
Annaé was never tortured or hurt by anyone ever again. She was instead loved by those who cared about her: Her parents, Mr. Monona, and, especially, Danny. At night she always had control of her body, because Danny was always there, and he always stood by her side.