Briar Caspian wondered what it was like to be looked at by a human. As long as he'd been here, he'd seen humans look at another human and laugh, look at each other and sneer, look at each other and stick out their tongues. But he wanted to know what it felt like to have someone look at you… and smile.
He knew she couldn't see him, and he was forbidden to let her see him yet, but he always wondered. If Taegan Sanders saw him again, what would it feel like? He had been assigned to watch her since the day she was sent away. And soon, they were going to have her back. The day that she could finally see him was the day he would take her back.
Suddenly, she ran by him, missing him by mere inches. He blinked, stepping to the side. He would have to be more careful. When she returned, the thirteen-year-old girl was already carrying her backpack and had her shoes in her hand.
"Taegan, hurry up, we're going to be late!" he heard "Mrs. Sander's" voice call softly.
Taegan was panting rapidly as she tugged her shoes on, then ran down the hallway. She then paused, running back to her room. She took a quick look around the small space. She realized she had quite a lot. And all of it was important to her; her makeup, her jewelry, her plasma screen TV. She suddenly frowned. She felt an odd sense of goodbye as her eyes grazed over every object she had. She then quickly grabbed two objects, her favorite, and ran back out to where Mrs. Sanders was still standing, her arms crossed.
"Sorry, I'm a little out of it this morning," Taegan explained quickly.
Mrs. Sanders smiled, but for some reason, it didn't quite reach her eyes. "It's alright sweetheart; It is your birthday, so I guess I'll let it slide," she said with a wink.
Briar's heart skipped a beat. Today was her fourteenth birthday. It was her last one here.
Taegan smiled at her mother, sliding her backpack onto one shoulder and heading out the door. The slender, beautiful woman followed quickly after, shutting the door behind her. Briar ran to the back door, swiftly opening it and shutting it noiselessly behind him and running to the car. He then jumped in where Mrs. Sanders had left it open momentarily. Once he was in, she set her stuff on the floor and then slammed the door shut.
The ride to school was mostly silent. Mrs. Sanders seemed somewhat queasy and she squirmed in her seat. Suddenly, she sat up. "Taegan, sweetie, you know that whatever happens, we'll always be proud of you."
Taegan blinked, then rolled her eyes. "C'mon, Mom, you know I don't like all that mushy parent stuff-"
"Taegan, you know that, don't you?" Mrs. Sanders pressed.
This stopped Taegan, mid-sentence. She blinked. Something in the sound of her mother's was urgent. She took a deep breath. "Of course I do."
Mrs. Sanders nodded, letting out a deep breath. "Good, good."
"Mom, is something wrong?" Taegan asked as soon as silence had settled over the car once more.
Mrs. Sanders glanced into the mirror at her daughter. She smiled once more, but it had the same effect; her eyes didn't crinkle like they usually did. "Only a little bit; but don't worry, everything will be fine, I promise."
This kind of drastic understatement made Briar almost snicker. Taegan blinked. "What was that?"
"What? Nothing, I didn't hear anything," said Mrs. Sanders hastily. Taegan narrowed her eyes a bit, but said nothing more.
They pulled up to the drop-off at school. Taegan jumped out of the car and onto the sidewalk. Strangely, so did her mother. "Mother, what're you doing?" she demanded.
But Mrs. Sanders ignored her, and the honking of the unhappy drivers from behind her. "I love you," she whispered in her ear, almost desperate to get the words out.
Taegan's brow crumpled. "I love you too, mom."
And then Mrs. Sanders was gone, jumping into the soft blue Sienna LE and driving away.
Mrs. Sanders had shut the door on Briar. This was odd, because it wasn't something she usually did, despite the fact she wasn't even supposed to know he was there. Moments after she had hugged Taegan, she had jumped back into the car, practically breaking the pedal as she sped away. Within minutes, she had pulled into a gas station parking lot. And then she did the last thing he expected: She covered her face with her hands and cried.
He watched for a few minutes as she sat sobbing, her shoulders heaving heavily, when he finally couldn't take it anymore. He reached over the seat and rested a hand lightly on her shoulder. Usually, this soothed distressed human mind; but not this time.
The woman who liked to call herself Mrs. Sanders looked up, but not in his direction. "I can't see you, sprite, but I know you're there," she started, attempting to breathe for a moment. "And I know nothing I say can keep you from taking her. But I want you to remember this when you take her; and remember there is always a woman here who needs that girl to live. Please, all I ask is that you don't let her die."
Briar's eyes widened. Then, the woman looked into the mirror and looked directly into his stormy, sea green eyes. And for a single instance, she saw them.
. . .
It was another Monday. Taegan was as tired as usual, and she was not in the mood to deal with people. She trudged to her locker, opened it, and laboriously began putting her books in. The rest of the school was buzzing with life and excitement.
"Good morning, Teagan!" a familiar voice shouted. She jumped with a high-pitched scream.
"Conner, what have I told you about doing that!" she cried, irritated, whirling on him. Yep, that was her boyfriend. Her incredibly obnoxious, annoying, gorgeous boyfriend.
He rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, Taegan, cheer up. You're such a downer on Mondays," he groaned, like a child complaining to his mother that there were no more chocolate chip cookies left.
She narrowed her eyes at the blonde face before her. "And remind me how you're helping that," she inquired, the irritation in her voice noticeable, if not purposefully exaggerated.
There was a small chuckle from next to her. She blinked, moving her eyes to look in the direction of the noise, but there was nothing there. She frowned. The space was vacant.
"Well at least I'm attempting to cheer you up," he reasoned. And honestly, she was grateful for him. He put up with all of her moods.
"Yeah, well I think you could use a bit more practice," she offered, slamming her dull grey locker shut. And the noise came again. A soft snicker from beside her. She blinked, taking a step back and turning to walk off to class.
"I'll talk to you later, okay?" Connor called from behind her. She waved over her shoulder to him, not even bothering to respond. She could do that later.
. . .
It was later. After school to be exact. Taegan was walking home, making her way through the suburban streets, when she paused. There was a figure leaning against a stop sign, his back to her. He had on a strange blue-green cloth on his chest and he had on green-brown slacks. He had dark brown-green hair, cut short and spiky. Upon seeing him, her first thought was: porcupine. But it was quickly followed by the thought: Briar.
What? Briar? Wasn't that the thick bushes that grew around roses or something? What about it? Why had that thought come to mind? But, she realized, it was less of a thought, and more of a memory.
She continued walking towards him, but as she did, something was pulsing in her head. Something about the back of that head seemed… familiar.
To be honest, whenever she tried, she couldn't remember anything until she was about nine. Until then, whatever had happened was a blur. Her memories from age zero to nine years old were nonexistent.
And yet just the sight of this head of dark hair was enough to tug at something in the back of her mind. She continued to get closer and closer. For a moment, she considered stopping and talking to him, but decided against it. She attempted to simply skirt around him, without a word, but for whatever reason, she felt compelled to speak to him. And against all better judgment, she stopped. "Uh… excuse me?"
Wow, he was going to think she was such a weirdo.
But instead, the corner of his lips quirked up into a small, satisfied smile. "Ah, you can see me."
She frowned, and was about to respond, when he interrupted her.
"Hello there, Princess."
It wasn't so much what he said; his voice alone brought back something. The feeling of warmth and happiness; home. And what he said definitely wasn't what caused the feelings.
…Wait. Did he just call her Princess?