A/N: It has been awhile but THE PASSAGE is back! I took it down a couple months ago and I thought it was time to post chapter one. To those of you who've read this before I hope you return for a second read and for everyone else please enjoy!
The drive to hell was slowly killing me and I had no intention of releasing my resentful mood. I was in the process of being uprooted. Junior year of high school and I suddenly found myself pulled from a comfortable home on the west coast on the move to cold dreary New England. There was no reasonable explanation to the shift in our location. I was expected to accept it as an adventure and put on a smile or at least bottle up the attitude and let the anger fester within myself.
The road trip across the country was supposed to be a bonding experience for my mother and I, but only added to my irritability to the fact we were moving. More than that I couldn't stand how positively happy she grew the closer we came to our destination. I felt guilty I couldn't accept my mother's happiness and find a little of my own in the process. But I was never good when it came to change. I rarely had to face it -I'd lived in one house my entire life. Had the same close group of friends since elementary school. The move was a huge change. As silly as it sounded I could feel it in my bones.
The days on the road were long and the nights sleepless. As each mile swept by I felt more uprooted. By the time we were closing in on our destination my mind was a wreck.
I tightened my coat and maneuvered all the heaters in my direction. I despised the cold. Mother said the temperature did rise, along with the humidity, during the summer, but when we arrived in Trenwood –our large Sudan barely making it through the minute aged streets– it was as cold as ever. I grimaced as I imagined snow bordering the streets and sprinkling the sidewalks.
My reluctant response to our move had struck a cord in my mother's mood. Her knuckles were bleach-white as she clutched the steering wheel.
"This is downtown," she chirped as the vehicle straightened after the turn. She was desperate for me to like the alien land.
"Shannon," Over the ten day drive I'd began calling my mother by her name. I learned it irritated her beyond belief. "This is downtown? It's –it's" I couldn't find words. "It's one street!" I shrieked.
I had seen pictures but the size of Trenwood was downright depressing. Sure it was gorgeous –like an old fashioned movie set, the street was lined with brick buildings and cobblestone walkways –but it was one street.
She chose to ignore my outburst. "Look at the library, honey!"
The building towered over anything else downtown. It was beautiful. Ivy dominated the side of the marble structure. "Oh look," she added when I hadn't expressed any outward excitement for the library, "the movie theater."
"It probably seats fifty people tops," I snapped spitefully.
Shannon's lips twisted with weariness and I put a hand to my forehead.
"Lacey, please. Work with me here."
"What do you want me to say?"
"Anything." The exasperated word came out with a puff of visible air. She turned up the heat another notch and stopped for a family to cross the street. The little girl grasped tightly to her father's hand and skipped by his side as they crossed. My eyes flickered away. "I don't want the silent treatment anymore and I definitely am sick of the sarcastic commentary."
I glanced to her while trying out an apologetic smile. I wanted her happy. I did. And this, moving across the country to a town so small I wasn't sure it was on any map, was what she wanted. "I'll find my happiness."
"I don't need hallmark cards either," she deadpanned.
"I'm serious. I'm sucking it up. I'm a big girl."
She grabbed my hand. Then, noting how cold it was, stuck it against the heater. "It is a little cold, isn't it?"
She laughed and I tried my best to join her. I figured my best option for her sake and for my sanity was to at least pretend everything would be alright.
"Look at the trees," she lulled as downtown faded behind us. I looked to the magnitude of wooden arms and legs as the vehicle roamed deeper into unknown territory. The thick of winter had passed and the new leafs were in the process of reclaiming their sunlight. It was all so green and the foliage came in uncountable shapes and sizes. The vines and moss along the bases all growing sporadically like they didn't have a care in the world for order.
"We never had this in California," she continued.
As if having seasons would make this a better place than California, but I nodded anyway and said, "I like the yellow leaves," while spotting the single yellow leafed tree in the depths. We sped by fast enough I wasn't even sure if it was real.
The wooded land was beautiful, laced with meandering creaks and mystery. After many twists and turns, my mother pointed to our new house. I blinked for a moment at the gracious Victorian architecture set against the cloudy sky. It held a timeless appeal with sweeping arcs, creamy coloring and to top it all off a turret –the desire of all my childhood fantasies.
But happiness wasn't what my mind called for so at the sight of the house my spirits weakened, as it appeared to me only an abode of hell, wretchedness and a whole list of creative words. I hated how pessimistic I was being, but couldn't seem to block off negative thoughts. The car came to a stop in the driveway and Shannon killed the engine and pulled out the keys.
"Home," She murmured as if not to frighten me and exited the vehicle. I followed closely, coming to stand next to her in front of the Victorian home. I tried not looking too deep into what stood before me. It had aged stunningly. The structure had integrity. As my mother would no doubt say any minute, you could feel the spirit of the space.
Taking that first general look at my new home and the multicolored trees around, I determined within myself to return to California; thinking it better to be there in the sunshine and sandy shores than to be in such a foreign place as this. I could live with a friend. Angela's family would welcome me in. It was a self explanatory plan.
I glanced to my mother, who was waving dramatically at our home. Her thick coat was squeaking with her grand movements. I could see the excitement bursting from her eyes. This was the perfect home for the artist she was.
"Isn't this lovely," she beamed.
"Yes," I said in all honestly. "In an antique-ish sort of way."
"Do you really mean that?" she was like a little kid sometimes, pleading for acceptance. In these times I thought of us more as sisters. And then I realized how selfish I had been. Mom had her dream job here –working at the local art gallery. Though it wasn't the highest paying job, she had said, it would sustain our needs. Not that we really had any financial worries. The child support came once a month, usually way over the needed amount. There was no other word from my father, though, just an abundance of unwanted money.
Mom put an arm around me. "This is going to be good, Lacey."
Upon entering the main foyer through the double arched doors, the first thing I saw was a beautiful staircase leading to the second floor. Mother looked around anxiously, as did I. The walls held in a congenial, tasteful and serene environment, enhancing the confused feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was pleased with the space yet… sad it wasn't in California.
"There are four available rooms upstairs," she said into the silence. "They are all empty. The movers won't arrive until tomorrow. You can choose any room you'd like."
"Thanks." I was unsure where to explore first.
I decided to follow Shannon. A smile was planted on her face as we ventured through the first floor.
However odd, the dinning room was my favorite. It offered massive window views in a quiet corner of the house. In a close second was the parlor. I snickered when mother said the word "parlor" but she chastised me with a smile and led me in. It was empty besides the overstated brick fireplace and a giant red rug with dark patterns fringing the bulk of it.
I went upstairs alone and picked the first room I entered –the one at the far end of the hall across from the entrance to the turret. I brought up my bag full of clothes I had worn on our road trip and other necessities and threw the sleeping bag and pillow in the center of the room.
I had my own bathroom. Everything worked –I double checked it all in fear it would be too old to function. But my doubts were proven wrong. The bathroom appliances appeared new.
I started when I came across my reflection in the mirror. I looked worn and exhausted, which made sense since I had barely slept on the journey here. To top it all off I believed the ugly frown distorting my lips was permanent.
I stood around in my empty room for the longest time after the showdown with my blank expression in the mirror. I kept urging myself to accept where I was. It was hard and I forced myself to repeat my location over and over until it resonated throughout my skull. My stomach clenched when the knowledge settled in. The ache for the sun returned and I ran out my room straight for the door to the turret in hopes it would unearth some childish happiness.
The handle was unlike any of the others I'd come across. It was a russet color and etched with vines. I twisted it but it wouldn't budge. I looked for a keyhole of some sort, and when it didn't appear I searched the faded white door for any reasonable explanation of why it wouldn't move. I twisted the handle again and again, adding my full weight into the push. Finally, I kicked the door. The instant pain through my leg didn't hurt as much as the realization that the force of my kick had rendered pointless. I stormed down the double staircase to the foyer.
Hearing me, my mother called from the kitchen. "Dinner will be ready shortly. We can eat by the fire!"
Once again all the will to be here had vanished. I was disappointed, grieved, vexed and straight out angered. Though I was some over sixteen, I cried.
With this fixed distress, I went out the open door, passed the driveway and raced for the unknown and dismal forest as fast as possible. In the moment it appeared better to be lost than be confined to such a place. Though I had a plan. I would find the yellow tree. It was the one sight that had brought at least a little joy into my bleak outlook. I didn't care how far it was. I would find it.
Ten minutes in and the trees around prevented seeing much of anything, in any direction. This was new to me since I had grown in a community by the beachside. All trees there had been cleared –besides the palm trees, though, I had a feeling, here at least, they didn't count.
The wilderness was untamed around me. Shrubbery had grown up within the wooden walls, making it hard to tell what was tree and what was not. The melted winter added the horrible mud element. To heighten my trouble, it was darkening. I felt childish for rushing into the woods. Being daring and belligerent had given me comfort for a moment but the rebellious mood was gone. I was coming to hate my recent polar mood swings.
I had already traveled much deeper in than intended. In fact… how far had I gone? I hadn't even been smart enough to bring a coat. I shifted a little in place, hoping I would eventually get use to the cold and then turned for home, but soon realized with a sharp pang that I didn't know which way to go.
I walked around for what felt like hours. I was certain I was walking around in circles, but all the trees looked the same so if I was, I couldn't help it. To my horror I walked right into a cobweb. I jerked to the side, stumbling over a fallen branch. My balance broke and only did I catch it after a moment. I flailed around in disgust, determined to get all the sticky stuff off me. What if the spider was on me now? I hopped around, squealing inwardly, before jerking off my shirt. I continued hopping in my jeans and bra, thrashing the spider infested fabric around.
Then the tears returned. Full on sobs filled the night air. I sank onto the tree branch I'd tripped over and suffocated myself with the t-shirt before thinking better of it. I inspected the shirt as best I could in the moonlight, gave it a solid shake and slid it back on. I cupped my face in my hands and tried my best to think logically.
When I first left the house there had been a huge barely leafed tree in the direction I was running. I stood to find it, but realized from my angle all the trees were huge and barely leafed. I childishly stomped my feet in frustration and let out a scathing hiss.
It was then I noticed the shadowed figure. Strangely the first thought that hit me was embarrassment. Embarrassment hit my chest so hard I might as well have run into something. I turned to face him directly. He leaned against a tree truck indifferently, electric lantern by his feet and a thick notebook in one hand. He wore shades of obscurity –jeans, gray jacket and over-worn Vans – and a pitied expression, framed by beautiful deep red hair.
"Where did you come from," I blurted, voice cracking.
I jabbed my hand to my hips, embarrassment turning to anger. When I imagined meeting a gorgeous guy lit only by a glowing lantern, I did not want it occurring right after a childish temper tantrum.
The first sound from him was a silent laugh, all in the curve of his lips and the visible puffs of air coming from him. Though, among the darkness, his eyes were my new focal point, unusually gray and burning confidently into me.
"What?" I snapped spitefully.
"Are you lost?" he asked with a smirk.
"No," I declared, though, my voice raised and it was obvious I was.
He slid off his jacket, revealing a form fitting charcoaled v-neck shirt beneath. "Here," he said, handing me the jacket.
"Why?" The better question was why could I only spit out one-worded statements?
"Before your outburst, you were shivering," he said plainly.
"How long have you been watching me?"
Long enough? I eyed him and pushed away the offered jacket. "I don't need it," I informed.
"Alright, but it'll probably rain soon." He shrugged on the jacket.
"What makes you say that?".
He gave me a quizzical look. "Are you new around here?"
The situation suddenly struck me odd. I didn't know him. He looked like a...decent guy. But how was I to know? He could be some creep. Why was he out here? What was his name? "Does it matter?" I said quickly.
He pulled a pen from his back pocket and pulled off the lid with his teeth. I watched silently while he flipped through his leather-bound notebook. I couldn't be certain but it was filled mostly with sketches -some colored, some with words around them. He opened to a blank page. I couldn't see what he was writing but the graceful movement of his hand promised something beautiful. When he was done, he tore the page out and folded it quickly, into a little origami flower.
I stared apprehensively at his outstretched hand. The origami flower looked tempting, but...
"Take it," He said. "I have to get going."
"What are you even doing out here?" I blurted suddenly. "Who are you? This is my property, well, my mom's property."
"You live here?" he questioned with an unnervingly neutral expression.
"Yes," I said reluctantly. "Obviously why else would I be wandering around."
"You're not wandering," he countered. "You're lost."
I folded my arms across my chest, defensively. "Are you going to answer my question?"
"No." He stretched out his arm again, the origami message resting in the palm of his hand. "Take it," he urged again.
I took it, unhurriedly, unsure if I wanted him to leave. It was thicker than normal paper and had a creamy color to it, but I was only going by the moons glow and my acquaintance's lantern. Anyway, it could be any color and I would still be just as intrigued. I unfolded it, slowly, trying not to look too anxious and trying not to tear it. Though when my eyes flickered to his, he wasn't even paying attention to me, instead he was picking up his lantern. I gave up and with trembling hands unfolded it completely.
"It doesn't say anything," I said, dejected.
He shrugged and shoved the notebook into his back pocket, "Magic Marker."
"Then why did you write me something?"
He laughed at that, which was startling, and grabbed the crumpled paper from me. He rearranged a few of the bent corners, completely refolded others and handed the flower over. The way his eyes burned into mine, searching for something unknown was quiet unnerving.
"It will get you where you need to be," he said softly. "Don't go showing this around,okay?"
"Sure." With a surge of reassurance I clasped onto the flower.
He began to walk away. "Maybe someday you'll figure out what it says."
When I couldn't think of anything else, I called frantically. "I don't know how to get home!"
"Wait a moment. The way home will come to you."
As he was fading away, figuring I had nothing to lose, I said, "Do you go to the high school here? Will I see you again?"
"Probably not," He said and simply blended into the melancholy night.
I was angered enough to storm off in the opposite direction, more lost than ever. Who was he to create me an origami flower and then leave me lost in the darkness? I looked to the note in my hand, ready to crinkle and destroy the little beauty, when it hit me which way I should be walking. I pocketed the note absentmindedly and without knowing exactly how I knew, I headed in the direction of my new home.
A/N: Thoughts? What made you read this far? What do you think of the summary? Thank you for reading!