Despite my best effort to show up to school I still am somehow late. I thought an hour and a half would certainly do it but in my spot across the street I can see that I am wrong. The windows are all lit up to combat the morning darkness yet it doesn't make much of a difference. Cars pull up to the school to release students but not one is a smiling face. This misery is not conducive to the growing environment.
I turn my head to see a strange Mr. Hugh at my passenger window with a smirk on his face as if he knows something I do not. I roll down the window a fraction to ask, "What?"
"Excuse you, young lady. I expect a little more respect than that."
"It's before school hours. Your expectations don't have to be met."
"Get away from my car."
"Actually I come with a warning."
"This is teacher parking only. You're in the wrong place."
I look up and down the block and see that whatever cars are parked do have a decal that reads: Columbus High School Teacher's Association.
"Come on. Let me show you where to park."
My brows furrow as I look to him. He's serious. This must be a cruel joke.
"I promise I won't bite," he grins as he pulls the handle of my unlocked door.
"Yeah, but I might," I snarl.
"Hey, Mr. Hugh!"
You've got to be shitting me. From nowhere I see Noah run up toward us with that pocketknife perfectly hidden in his palm. His heart is racing, face red from either adrenaline or the cold, but my eyes are emotionless and fixed on the teacher. He might have the makings of a ruthless killer.
"What is it, Lott?" Mr. Hugh snaps.
"You won't be seeing me in class for a few days. I've got ISS."
Mr. Hugh pulls on the door to open it wider and I can see Noah flip the switch of his blade.
"Actually, I'd prefer it if Noah showed me."
The anger that bubbles out of the man is nearly intoxicating and in his confusion the boy is able to slide right past him and into the seat. Mr. Hugh's hand is still on the door but I don't care. I push the emergency break down and put the car into gear as I speed out of there. The door slams shut and in my rearview mirror I can see Mr. Hugh has fallen into the street. I want to laugh but beside me Noah is freaking out in silence with his head pressed against the chair. His eyes are squeezed shut and he's trying to breathe in through his nose and out through his mouth but it doesn't seem to be working.
I slow my speed down and look over to him casually, "Put your seatbelt on."
"We're in so much trouble," is how he decides to respond.
I huff at the statement, "I'm not in trouble. I am the trouble."
I can see from the corner of my eye that his face is twisted to form the decade favorite abbreviation: WTF. I don't care. He's starting to calm down which is good since his heart rate is decreasing and I don't have to worry about him having a heart attack in my car.
I decide to take this time to ask, "What were you going to do with that knife?"
"I don't know," his face is red again.
"I didn't need you to protect me."
"You don't know the kind of asshole he is. Your lights aren't on."
"Neither is your seatbelt."
With my vampire sight I don't need lights to help me see but with his human feebleness he does need something to stop him from flying out the window. Though I pride myself in my driving skill I admit I am pretty reckless; I have been known to break hard.
"I really can handle myself. I don't want to have to worry about you stabbing people."
"What if they deserve it?" he counters.
I roll my eyes, "Then you wait till you're off school property and there aren't any witnesses, duh."
"Have you killed someone before?"
"Oh," I laugh, "This is not a conversation I want to get into so early in the morning."
Noah goes silent after that and in his silence I remember that I'm supposed to be talking to him. Patrick has high hopes for this kid but he doesn't look promising. He's wearing the same tattered converses, similar basketball shorts, and a hoody with the thumbs poking out of the sleeves. His hair looks less greasy now and actually smells fresh and clean but those bags under my eyes are killer. I can't blame him for that, though, it's the schools fault.
"He would have hurt you, you know."
I shake my head.
"It's true. They do it all the time. Especially to the new kids."
I note that he didn't say "new girls."
"What? Wanted to be my knight in shinning armor?"
"No," his face is serious, "I just didn't want to be another witness."
Noah's statement makes the situation suddenly much clearer for me. This boy thinks I am just a human like him and the others. My amusement for the situation is actually quite morbid all of a sudden. These are just children and they have come to accept the worst as an everyday norm. My family and I would kill at will but we never raped anyone. At the very least I never participated in any raping of anyone. Ever since my childhood that kind of thing always left a bad taste in my mouth. Sure we loved to inflict pain and hysteria on our victims but rape causes a certain death that I was never interested in being the cause of.
"Can't you just…I don't know. Call the police?"
"As if they aren't apart of it. The principal's brother is the Sheriff and he's the biggest perv of them all."
"Maybe we should just kill them all," I mumble to myself.
"What like a date?"
My signature bitch-face kicks in, "You are so weird."
"Hey, turn on your lights. My friend lives down here. He usually wal-"
It all happens so fast.
Lights switch on.
Register the boy five seconds away from the grill of my car.
My hand reaches out against his chest to keep him in place.
The car stalls.
We stop moving.
Noah has pissed himself.
Heavy breathing fills up the car and when I take a deeper listen a panic fills me. Noah's heart is barely beating while the boy outside's is in hyper drive. Their eyes are wide open and glued to one another as if they are reliving every aspect of their lives until this point. I think they're in shock; they are definitely in shock.
"Noah. Hey. Look at me. Are you alright?"
He doesn't answer.
I get outside to check on the boy. He seems to be a little more attentive since his eyes are following me and he's got an accusing stare. His mouth opens part way as if to say something but stops.
"You're name's Brent, right?"
"Get in the car."
After a few shaky moments the boy nods his head, "Okay."
Back inside the car I can hear Noah's heart is barely starting to function again but his face has turned to snow, "Hey. Look at me. I made a mistake but everything's going to be fine. Brent's okay and you're okay. You got that?"
He begins to take shivering breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth. Brent follows the same routine. It's so strange how something so simple has affected them so strongly. I have literally hit Edwin with a truck while Patrick flew out through the windshield to land almost ten yards away. We laughed that whole night but this here is no laughing matter. If they don't stabilize they can actually die of fright.
"Hey," I call to them again, "Do me a favor. Tell me five things you can see."
Noah's WTF face is back along with some color in his cheeks. Brent also looks confused but he is breathing normal again. The possibly Vietnamese boy never did lose his strong color but his cheeks look rounder and much more full of life. He is tall but dangerously thin which surprises me since he is recovering much faster. He is actually the first to speak.
"Uh…trees. That yellow fire hydrant. Th-that red door on the house. Your hair. Noah's sweater."
"Good," I nod, "Now four things you can smell."
"The fucking pee."
I can't help but to laugh. Noah finally answered.
"The benefit of having leather seats is an easy clean up."
"I smell that," Brent chimes in, "the leather."
"Your fucking AX, dude."
"And your fucking BO."
"Settle down, boys," I warn, "Three things you can touch."
"The seatbelt," Brent laughs as he pulls it on.
My eyes turn to Noah who has his hand on his chest.
"I don't even know what to think right now," Noah shakes his head with that far away look and though he's responsive I can still see his muscles are tense, his abdomen clenching and unclenching.
"You need to think about those pee pants you have right there. You can't sit in one classroom all day with those," Brent kindly suggests.
Noah leans over with his face in his hands as he groans, "Fuuuuuck."
"Hey," I reach into the backseat for the bag of gym clothes I had brought with me today. "I grabbed some clothes from my brothers for gym. They wear shorts like those so you can have one of them."
I pull a pair out and internally chuckle. I'm offering one of Edwin's who would die if he smelled a human in something he owned. Noah takes the shorts with trembling fingers and it's only now that I catch sight of his wrist that has a brand of an "x" and above it a few thin lines that look old but can only mean one thing. He covers his wrist immediately before looking out the window. His face is red again.
"What's today? Thursday? Dude, the wrestling teams practicing today. The lockers are open. You can definitely take a shower."
"That's a great idea," I chime in, "We'll even stand guard for you."
"Exactly," Brent exclaims.
I turn the car back on and start our way back to school but Noah is still silent as he puts his face back in his hands. I can bet that he is embarrassed but he has no reason to be. Both he and Brent seem like best friends that don't hide anything from each other while I don't have a reason to judge; I literally shitted my children out over five hundred years ago. I'm past pride and humiliation when it comes to bodies doing what they will.
"So are you just a terrible driver or are you both homicidal and suicidal?"
I glance backward at Brent who seems to have mostly recovered though he is the one that almost died and not Noah. With a roll of my eyes I answer his question, "If I were either you would be dead right now and I'd be licking your blood off the floor."
"I knew you were insane," he laughs, "anyone that talks to Mr. Otten the way you did has to be. You're bad fucking news. Noah, stay away from her."
I tap on the break, "Get out and fucking walk."
"Please…" Noah seems to beg as he drops his hands and falls backward with his eyes squeezed shut and head against the chair.
"We're just joking, No."
"Yeah," I agree, "I wouldn't really make him walk. He doesn't know how to stay out of the fucking road."
"I was crossing the street!"
"Whatever," I smile before looking to the boy at my side, "You're still supposed to show me where to park. Remember?"
"So that's what this unholy mess is about?" Brent scoffs, "Hugh tried to pull the old 'let me show you where to park' bit? The old 'right behind this bush with my hand on your crotch' routine?"
"Shit, can you be more desensitized? Is Noah the only one that gives a fuck?" I snap.
Silence fills the car. I look around and see the boys have faces filled with fear once again. They stare at me as if I am some strange being, which I am but as of now that's not something they should know.
"Where the hell am I supposed to park?" I grumble once I get onto the street with the school again.
"Behind the school," Noah answers, "It's called the Barrel."
"Who calls it that?"
I follow Noah's brief instruction and find that behind the school is wide-open pavement empty of any vehicles. I realize there is a small path that leads down to the parking lot behind some deli. Here there are a vast variety of vehicles and I calculate that for every three cars one houses an incident that should have been reported but never was. There are many trees that line the Barrel and hang over to make the place much darker than it should be. It certainly sets the mood. I wonder if Edwin scoped this place out.
"Park here," Noah says and I can see it is the spot closest to the stone steps leading up to the school.
"I suppose we aren't going through the front entrance?"
"No one goes through the front entrance," Brent's voice is foreboding.
"It leads to the Dead Wing and you never want to go through there."
"What the fuck," I mumble as I park the car.
The boys hop out while I grab my bag and follow them up the steps. Despite draining a deer and four raccoons there is emptiness inside of me that the school makes real. The fact of the matter is I don't have to be here. When I leave it will be a distant blip on my radar while everyone else…Well, I have high doubts they will become functioning members of society.
"Come on. Let's go this way."
I follow Brent and Noah through a lonesome door off the side of the building. When it opens I am hit with the smell of puberty and it is only then that I realize we have entered the Boy's Locker Room. From the other side of another door I can hear grunts and shouting from what I assume is wrestling practice but with this school who knows for sure. Noah dips through some lockers to another extension while Brent and I wait just outside that doorway leading to him. I wonder how many times something like this has happened. They seem to know what they're doing pretty well.
The shower goes on and immediately the overly tall and dangerously lanky kid warns me, "Don't fuck with him."
"Don't fuck with him."
"I'm not saying you have to marry him, you have to date him, talk to him. Hell, you don't even have to be nice to him. Just don't fuck with him."
"What do you think is going on here?"
"I don't think anything's going on. I don't think he's a smudge on your windshield but look at him. I love him but he's a dumbass. You can't look at someone the way you did yesterday and expect them not to notice. He's a sensitive kid. Just don't fuck with him. You know…don't even talk to him."
"What if I want to?"
I shrug, "It's my second day of school. I can use all the friends I can get."
"Fine," he huffs, "But I'll tell you this. He's going to be in love with you for a month, distant for a week. In love again for another month, heart broken for two weeks and THEN he'll be the best friend you've ever had."
"Looking forward to it. What about you?"
"I already have a family trying to kill me. I don't need a friend trying to kill me too."
The shower shuts off and beneath the noise I hear a sniffle. I didn't need Brent's warning. I know he's sensitive but from the way he handles that blade he's lethal too. It's as if there's the gentle nature in him warring with my deadly eyes for control. If history proves anything it's that I will win. I'm a cancer to society. It will take drastic measures to get me out of him and even then there's no promise I won't come back.
Noah's footsteps tell us that he is done and both Brent and I turn away from him to give off the appearance that we are in our own worlds. The boy clears his throat, "Alright. I'm done."
"That was fast," Brent comments.
He shrugs, "What can I say. Time flies."
"Yeah," Brent nods, "Now let's fly our asses out of here."
Because of Noah and Brent's ISS Home Room is slightly emptier though the class is allowed to speak. Instead of Mr. Otten's loud, controlling nature today he goes around chatting with students and helping with homework. In this light I can see how he could be a favorite to some but the door is still locked and his eyes do go toward the girls with their cleavage out. It's not their fault. This is their sexual awakening and while they are allowed to flirt a grown man—a teacher nonetheless—should not be allowed to respond.
Missy finishes her chapter then places a bookmark as she asks, "Did you eat breakfast today?"
I nod my head, pulling my bag out onto my lap, "I even got one of these and a lock."
"Good. Ms. VillaFuerte expects her book brought to class everyday. She doesn't like Book Sox either. Your best bet is to cover everything with a brown paper bag."
Missy is quiet for a few seconds as if she's deciding whether she should ask her question or not. The look on my face probably gives her the answer, "Is it true what happened with Mr. Hugh today? I mean, is it true what I heard happened with Mr. Hugh today?"
"That depends," I pause, "What did you hear happened?"
"I heard he tried to 'show you where the Barrel was' and you drove away while he was still holding the door. He fell into the street and you just kept going. He broke his arm. He won't be in today. He went to the hospital."
Missy's face contains a brightness I haven't seen in it before. Granted I only spent the day with her yesterday and some of this morning but still. She looks at me like I'm a hero and it's been a long time since someone has looked at me like that. I actually enjoy it.
I nod my head, "Yeah. He tried getting in the car but Noah came and distracted him so we got away. You should have seen him fall, that prick."
The hero look is gone at the mention of Noah. Her fingers grasp the book once again as if she's struggling with being polite or ignoring me outright. She decides to ignore me. What the fuck?
After homeroom Missy returned to her usual self, which I realized is a false statement. I know nothing about the girl except that she reads YA novels and is of Hispanic decent and even that isn't much to go on. Never once did she mention anything not related to school and because of her business in the Office that takes her away during gym and lunch she isn't given the opportunity to. As I thought before the girl is a mystery. I doubt I will ever know her truest self.
But the question remains: Do I even want to?
"You don't get what it's like. They hold hands, they go shopping, they make fucking dream boards of how they want the slaves chambers to look! They go shopping!"
"You said that."
"Yeah, because I'm very upset about it!"
I roll my eyes as I continue to eat the very large bowl of pork friend rice that Pat left for me while Henrietta hysterically continues.
"And don't even mention Edwin and Trace. I tried hanging out with them and all they do is speak Hindi!"
My eyes narrow, "You don't speak Hindi?"
"No," she says in her attitude.
"That's your husband's language."
"Like I give a flying fuck! He doesn't speak my language!"
"Yes!" I protest, "Yes, he does!"
"Whatever. They're still dead focused on making that dumb little river and raising the floor above it so the slaves can blah blah blah. I don't know where they got that dumb idea from but they're even thinking about putting fish in it. Whatever."
"Maybe some hard labor would be good for you."
"Look," her voice is on the edge of tears, "You're off in school doing whatever the fuck while I'm stuck here with no one. You're surrounded all day long while I'm isolated."
The reality of her words sets in upon me. We are social creatures evolved to believe that being alone means certain death. We don't know how to function without the presence of others and if things are as bad as she says they will only get worse.
"I don't want to be this way," she cries.
The door opens and we can hear the chatter of happiness wafting toward us.
Henrietta cleans her face as she bitterly calls out, "Oh, look who's here. If it isn't the fucking Rainbow Buddies!"
"Don't bother with her, Georgie. She's being a child."
"I'll show you a fucking child!"
Henrietta is gone and in her place is the sound of a loud boom from somewhere in the woods. Trace and Edwin emerge from the basement with mirrored looks of confusion. I shrug my shoulders as Pattie and George join us. We have no idea what that noise could b-
Trace runs to the window, "Is that our cars!?"
My brows shoot up, "She's blowing up our cars?!"
Edwin runs out after her with Georgette and Trace following, "That better not be mine!"
"I really don't know why she acts like this," Patrick frowns as he takes the seat she had occupied before.
"She feels alone. Edwin took Trace and now you're taking Georgie. She feels like she doesn't have anyone left," I try to explain.
Pat lets out a deep breath from his nostrils, "We invited her with us. Georgie almost begged her to come. If Henrietta really cared about her she would make more of an effort. George needs brightness and distraction from all the fighting and brokenness inside of this place. I'm basically keeping her together."
"I thought you wanted her to fall apart."
He shakes his head as his frown flows deeply over his features. I hate seeing his emerald eyes look so forlorn but I don't rush to make him feel better; I know he wants to speak.
"That was when I didn't have any hope. Kimiko is capable of feeling empathy now. When I look the saddest she says my name and makes me feel alive again. I feel awful knowing I considered using her breaking down an advantage. Henrietta needs to stop being such a brat."
"Maybe she's afraid you're going to replace her? It's been us versus them for so long she might have forgotten how to look at us like an ally. Maybe she's forgotten how to open up to anyone but her best friend."
His emerald eyes gaze upon me as if they have uncovered that in reality I was talking about myself. As childish as it might be I know what Henry feels like. I might be occupied with school but the thought that Patrick can be happy without me is almost heartbreaking.
"No one can ever replace you, Marilyn. You know that," he smiles so truly there is no way I can doubt him.
I nod my head, "I know."
He straightens up as his eyes light up with that strange hope once again, "Did you speak with Noah?"
"I did. Right before I almost mowed down his best friend."
Patrick's face drops, "Explain."
"Well," I drawl, "Remember how I told you the teachers were all predatory ego maniacs?"
"Well. The gym teacher named Mr. Hugh this morning attempted to at the least molest me and at the most rape right before school."
His eyes go dark.
"Don't worry," I try to pacify before exploding, "It's fucking normal! What he commits is so lovingly referred to as the 'let me show you where to park' bit, the old 'right behind this bush with my hand on your crotch' routine, and '"showing'" you where the Barrel is.' How genuinely sweet is that?"
"Should you send him over here? I can promise the others will be more than thrilled to blow off some steam."
"No. He might actually be out of commission for a while. This morning when he tried to 'show me where to park' Noah came along with the intention of stabbing him but I told him to get in the car and he did. The only issue is that Mr. Hugh was still holding the door so when I drove off he fell into the street and broke his arm."
"Did you get into trouble?"
"No. Not one member of staff even mentioned it to me."
"Good. So did he want to be your savior?"
"No. He said he didn't want to be another witness."
"So he's seen it happen before and could do nothing?"
"I suppose. He seems to be one of the only students that don't think it's a joke."
"How did you almost mow down his friend?"
"We were talking, I was distracted, I turned on the light and he was crossing the street. It was a frightening experience. Noah didn't have his seat belt on so I had to physically prevent him from flying out of the window. He urinated on himself and he and his friend were in absolute shock."
"You do realize that is just about the opposite of what I told you to do, right?"
He's got that joking smile that already makes me want to laugh. With a false attitude I reply, "Yeah, I know."
"Please, Edwin! Don't hurt her so much!"
"No! It's time she learned her fucking lesson!"
Both Patrick and I stand as we watch Edwin drag Henrietta in by her hair. This isn't the first time Edwin has tried to discipline one of us but it is the first in a good long while. He pulls her across the broken floor while she helplessly struggles with her tear stained face.
"I'm sick of being the nice guy and getting no reward. You want me to be bad? I'll be bad!"
"Edwin, calm down!" I try to shout as I follow after them.
"You stay out of this!" he grunts before pausing and spinning his wicked eyes on me, "Actually, hold on a second."
He tosses Henrietta to me so fast I barely have time to catch her but I do. Surprisingly she holds onto me instead of running to Georgette or Trace. I don't push her away.
"From now on this reconstruction will be a family business. No more are I and Trace going to break our fucking backs with no help. I want everyone in the basement RIGHT NOW."
Everyone stiffens as they move to follow his instructions but I stay in the same place.
"No. I have homework. I can't help."
"Marilyn, you're a fucking vampire. Start acting like it."
By the time evening had struck the foundation was set and the chambers were in place for the slaves. The layout of the basement was completely changed to better accommodate our hefty hoard in addition to a few new rooms just in case. We set the foundation of our home six feet above the ground and along the far wall created a waterfall that flowed beneath the transparent floors of the slave quarters and the metal grate we installed for the walkway. We installed floor lights to give illumination but not too much so what remained was a dim glow. In the feasting area we reversed the lighting and ended the translucent floors in favor of an all white, polished look that gave the room a madhouse look. As always there was the metal table fixed to collect whatever blood that didn't make it into our mouths into a cylinder for later delights. The other section is fixed as our storage where our many items and many portraits wait.
Though I admit the place looks lovely it was not worth suffering beside Edwin with the rest of my family. His constant ordering and barking nearly drove me insane but Pattie's smiles got me through it. I don't know where I would be without him. He is my saving grace.