The Raising

Chapter 1: Seraphina

Her wet chocolate brown hair fell down to her shoulders as she unravelled the towel on her head. It had been a long day and she was happy to be home. She slung the towel over her shoulder before walking into her bedroom. Sitting on her bed, the memory foam beneath her sinking, she picked up the pink and white dotted hairdryer, turned it full blast and started to dry her hair. Within ten minutes, her natural large ringlet curls dropped to her shoulders and she stood, ready to dress.

Walking around her room, Phina stopped in front of a large mirror that stood, tall, in the far corner of her bedroom. Staring into the mirror, her big, blue eyes glistened like the sun shining on a fresh pool of water in the tropics. She had a straight nose and very high cheek bones. Her lips were small but thick and sat on her fairly square and slightly pointed face. In fact, her face shape often reminded her of an animé character. Pale skinned, Phina was never in need of make up as her skin was fairly clear; that's not to say she didn't choose to wear it. Right now, she was applying light porcelain foundation, a little black eye shadow and bright red lipstick.

Once she finished her makeup, she moved her gaze away from her face and examined the rest of her body. She was wrapped in a blue towel that stopped at mid-thigh. Her body was slim and toned, curves in all the right places. Satisfied, she headed over to her wardrobe, picking up her hair towel and throwing it onto her bed as she went. She looked around her room. It was neat, everything where it should be. Phina hated mess; she hated the untidiness. Her bedroom was a small, green box. In the middle was a large, double bed with black and white striped sheets. A computer desk and chair, accompanied by the appliances, was located next to the bathroom door and her wardrobe was located opposite her bed, near the bedroom door.

She grabbed her strapless lace blue, size 34D bra and a pair of matching underwear from the drawer and dropped her towel to the ground. She put them on quickly and grabbed a short, black mini dress from her wardrobe. The dress was sleeveless and plain black. It stopped mid-thigh on her small, five foot four frame; it clung tightly to her body, showing every curve.

As she grabbed her two inch, black heels from the bottom of her wardrobe, her mother pushed her way into the room. She looked around before returning her gaze to Phina and her dress. She sighed.

"Phina, I love how clean you keep your room, I do, but what are you wearing?" Her mother walked slowly to the bed and sat on the bed next to Phina.

"Just a little something Carl bought me." Phina didn't look up at her mother and continued to strap on her high heels.

"Seraphina Lucinda Williams, you letting that boy dress you again?" Her mother said with an accusing tone and Phina looked up with an annoyed sigh.

"He's not a boy, he's Carl. He's my best friend. Why can' he buy me a dress?" She had had enough of this argument. Her mother was always accusing her best friend of wanting "more" but Phina knew that wasn't the case. They loved each other; not in a sexual way, or in the way that siblings do. Phina couldn't explain exactly what it was, it was just love.

"You're eighteen now, you need to grow up and realise that boys will do anything to get that."

"What, like every boy did to you? Mam, I'm not you an' Carl's different. He loves me and I him, just… not in tha' way." Phina finished strapping on her high heels and stood up. She walked past her mother and grabbed the black, leather jacket off the computer chair. Her mother was standing by the bed with a disapproving frown.

Phina's mother was a small woman of five foot two. She had matt-black hair and green eyes. Her name was Martha Williams. She was always a 'clean freak', as Phina would call it. If any room was a mess, Martha couldn't help but tidy at least some of it. She was similar to Phina in that way.

Phina heard the sound of a car horn and was about to leave, when her mother stopped her, "Where are you going?" She stood in front of the door, hands on hips and scowled at her daughter.

"Carl and I are going to Mark's for his birthday party; I'm staying over his if that's alright." It wasn't a question but Phina wanted to sound polite. Martha's expression softened.

"Honestly, Phina. All you've done this summer is go to clubs and parties. God knows where you've got the money from."

"Carl give it to me," Phina replied and knew it was the wrong thing to say.

"Carl just loves to give you stuff." There was a slight accusation in her tone and Phina became irritated.

"What's your point, mam?" Phina grew impatient. She needed to leave and she didn't need another lecture from her mother.

"My point is, darling," Martha began as she sat down next to Phina. "I know you're not going to uni and you want to spend as much time with your friends that are going. But, you will see them again." Although her voice was gentle, Phina knew her mother well enough to know she was disappointed.

"But what if I don't?" The question made tears form in Phina's eyes. Throughout the summer, Phina had gotten upset over her friends leaving. What if they forget about me? What if we don't see each other anymore? Were only two questions of dozens that had passed through her mind. She had wanted to go to university, but she didn't believe she could cope with the workload. College had been tough enough; she even had a breakdown after her first year. She hadn't left her room that summer, not until Carl had stopped visiting and Phina, missing him, forced to leave. Only after the summer did he reveal it was his plan all along. This year was different, this year she made sure her friends remembered her, if only to give her peace of mind that even if this were the last time they saw each other, they had the best time of their life.

Martha stroked Phina's hair as Phina wiped at her wet eyes. "Sh, everything will be fine. Go to the party. Your father won't be happy, but have fun."

Phina's father, Jack, was a tall man. He had dark brown hair and dark blue eyes. Everyone would comment on how alike Phina and her father looked.

Phina nodded with a smile, kissed her mother on the cheek quickly, grabbed the plastic bag by her door and ran to the red Ford Fiesta, waiting at the front of her house.

She slammed the door shut behind her and looked over at the driver. He was tall; around five foot eleven and had golden brown hair with hazel eyes. His face was oval but thin and he had a slightly hooked nose. He had thin lips that fitted his face and his skin was pale like Phina's. His smile always made Phina smile in return.

"Carl!" Phina shouted and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging tightly. She pulled back and examined his outfit. Carl was slender and was often called a 'nerd'. He loved video games and anything to do with animé. He had broad shoulders and was slightly muscular. He was wearing black, skinny jeans, a black top that had pictures of multiple game console controllers and the words, Choose your weapon, written underneath. He was also wearing his black glasses.

"Excited to see me?" Carl laughed jokingly.

Phina jumped up and down in her seat. "Come on, let's go!" The car started with a jolt and sped towards the city.

Phina had always hated driving into Cardiff. The traffic was terrible, especially at five in the evening. People were leaving work as night clubbers were heading into the city for a night out. Phina's friend, Mark, lived in an apartment building on the outskirts of the city centre. It wasn't a friendly looking area, but it was cheap and if anyone knew Mark, cheap was exactly the word used to describe him.

The car stopped in front of a large, run-down apartment building. Several windows were boarded up, others smashed and the front door was looking rather dull. Their friend Mark was a large and beefy man with a gruff voice. He worked as a bouncer at clubs around Cardiff and often got into fights when chucking people out. Tonight, it was his nineteenth birthday and he was throwing a party for his close friends at his apartment.

Carl raised an eyebrow at Phina and asked, "What's the chances tha' the neighbours are gonna complain an' we get thrown out?"

Phina bit her lip and thought thoroughly. "Fifty/fifty, the neighbours don' tend to be in this reality most of the time." She laughed and looked at Carl who was frowning. Phina sighed. "Drugs Carl, they do drugs an' it'll depend on if they've had any tonight. My thoughts are, highly likely. Now, we ready to go in?" Carl nodded to which Phina smiled in return and headed out of the car.

When they reached the steps of the building, Phina was shivering. "Should've brought a warmer coat," she said through chattering teeth.

Carl chuckled as he pressed the button for Mark's apartment. "That's Welsh weather for you." They waited for several moments before the speaker buzzed and the door unlocked. Carl opened the door, Phina still shivering and the couple headed for the apartment.

Mark's apartment was on the second floor and was nicer than a lot of the others. The door was brand new since the neighbours had kicked it in the week earlier and the hallway was cleaner, thought the walls still looked damp, the beige wallpaper peeling off. Carl knocked on the door and waited.

A few seconds later, Mark appeared at the door. He had a huge grin plastered on his face and his buzz cut was covered in glitter. "Hey guys, thanks for comin'." He held the door open and the couple passed through the door. Closing the door behind him, Mark added, "Watch out, ma little cous'n's throwing glitter at everyone who walks through." He laughed and Phina grinned in return.

Carl was looking more worried. "Your cousin's here?" His face had drained of all colour and his eyes were wide.

The group were walking down the small corridor to the living room as Mark replied, "Yep, couldn' leave ma family out now, could I?" Carl gulped and Phina frowned curiously at him.

The living room was quite big but the amount of people in there made it look small. Phina looked around, her mouth hanging open and blinked. "I thought you said close friends?" She looked at Mark who was looking rather guilty.

He shrugged and stepped forward. "Yeah, well, ya know how it is. People like to bring people. It doesn' mean you can' 'ave fun, right?" He glanced at Phina with guilty eyes.

She laughed and tapped Mark on the shoulder. "Don' worry, the more the merrier."

Carl, who was stood next to her, sighed and added, "Speak for yourself." Phina nudged Carl and stepped into the room.

The room had dark navy walls and a wooden floor. The furniture had been stashed in the corner of the room so there was more room for people to dance and dance they did. Phina watched as the crowd moved with the beat of whatever music was playing. Phina didn't recognise the song but then, Mark's music taste was different from her own. Where Phina enjoyed music from most genres, Mark seemed to like one type of music and that music was electronic.

Carl nudged Phina forward and to the side, so that they were stood by a small, brown, tattered settee. "Can we sit for a minute?" Carl asked but Phina could barely hear him over the music. She nodded, barely knowing what she was agreeing to and followed Carl to sit at the settee.

Once sat, she looked at her friend accusingly. She shouted, "What've you done?" She didn't need him to reply to know he had done something; the guilty look in his expression made it clear enough.

He breathed deeply and turned his glance to his knotted hands on his lap. "Technically, I haven't done anything. It was Cara."

Phina's eyes widened and she shouted back, "Cara as in Mark's cousin? Carl, what happened?"

"I d-didn't do anything, she tried to kiss me an' I told her no… the first time…" Carl's voice faded and Phina strained to hear him. When he finished, he glanced quickly at his friend, who was wearing a frown that was purely made from the inability to hear and returned his eyes to his hands.

"What do you mean the first time? Carl, you didn' kiss her did you?" Although she was shouting, Phina's voice was still full of grace.

Carl closed his eyes for several moments, thinking of how to phrase his sentence and then began, his speech rushed, "I never kissed her willingly. Oh man, that sounds bad. What I mean is, you see, she was here not long ago an' I'd come over for a drink. She was quite rude to me 'cause I rejected her before, but then I go' drunk and Mark went to the toilet-"

Phina interrupted, "Carl! Really?" She was looking shocked and had to fight the urge to laugh. Phina knew it was bad but Cara was sixteen years old and Carl only eighteen.

Carl looked at Phina with a shocked expression. "No, not anything like tha'. I mean, she kissed me an' I kissed back, but only for a few seconds. When I remembered who she was, I stopped. I was just a bit out of it, y'know?" He stared at Phina for several seconds before she burst out laughing. "Hey, it's not funny!"

Phina, not able to stop laughing, lightly smacked his shoulder and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Oh come on, of course it's funny. Carl, you didn' do anything wrong, she is sixteen."

"Nothing but hurt a sixteen year old. You should've seen the look on her face when I pushed away from her. I've never seen eyes so evil before." Carl shuddered and Phina started to laugh again, so much that Mark appeared by their side with his familiar grin.

He asked, "What's so funny?" His grin growing as he continued to glance from Phina to Carl and back again.

Phina wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, smearing the black eye shadow across her eyes and looked up at the beefy guy in front of her. Through deep breaths, she replied, "Nothing, just a joke. So, where's Cara?"

Mark shrugged and looked around at the crowd of people. "Not sure, around somewhere. She was asking for Carl, but you weren' 'ere yet."

Mockingly, Phina asked, "Hm, I wonder why she was looking for him?" Phina looked at Carl with a knowing expression and winked.

Oblivious to the mocking in Phina's question, Mark answered, "I think she said sumin 'bout a new game. I'll go look for her." With that, he stalked off into the crowd and left Carl slumping in his seat.

Carl groaned and whispered, "Great." He dropped his head in his hands and let out a muffled scream.

Phina laughed slightly and stood up. "It's not so bad, at least she likes you."

Carl followed suit and shook his head before commenting, "I'm not so sure anymore. Wanna drink?" Phina nodded and the two headed for the kitchen.

Just as they entered the kitchen, a high pitched scream sounded and made Phina cover her ears with her hands. "Carl! Oh my God! I didn't know you were coming!"

"Um, hi Cara, how are you?" Carl stood statue still as Cara wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. When she let go, Carl continued, "Um, Cara-"

Cara interrupted, "Oh, you've got to see my new laptop. It is amazing and it has loads of games." She dragged him out of the kitchen, Carl looking pleadingly to Phina who shrugged in return. The kitchen door slammed shut behind them and Phina was left alone.

Once alone, Phina turned back to the blue and white tiled kitchen and grabbed a beer that was sitting in amongst other drinks on the countertop. She opened it, took a sip and leaned against the counter. She felt hot and clammy; the crowd in the living room was only growing thicker and the kitchen was refreshingly cool. The beer was also cool and felt good as it made its way to her stomach, cooling her as it went.

When she finished her can, she squished it in her hand and threw it in the bin at the corner of the room. She was always good at aiming and the can landed inside the bin on its first throw. She gave a quick victory gesture with her arm and headed towards the hallway. As she was leaving the kitchen, a young man walked in. He looked around twenty years old and had mahogany hair that fell just about ear length, with a fringe that reached mid forehead. He was taller than Phina, around five foot ten and was wearing tight bright blue jeans and a short sleeved black top. He was also wearing blue converses.

He stopped short when he saw Phina, his eyes squinting in the bright light of the kitchen. "Sorry, didn' mean to startle you. I'm Dmitri." He held out his hand with a smile and Phina held out her own hand.

She smiled wearily back and replied, "Hi, I'm Phina. Sorry, but I've gotta ge' back to my friend." She tried squeezing past the stranger but he was in her way.

He stood smiling at her; no, grinning at her. "I'm sorry, it's just, I never thought Mark had any beautiful friends. I like your hair and those panda eyes."

Phina, looking alarmed, grabbed a mirror out of her pocket and checked her make up. Yep, just as he had said, her eye shadow had smudged from her laughing and had smeared around her eyes, giving her the ever famous panda eyes. She closed her mirror abruptly, dropped it into her pocket and looked at Dmitri. "Um, thanks, but I really have to go."

"Wait!" Dmitri grabbed her arm and pulled her to a stop. "At least have a drink with me."

Phina, irritated and angry at the assault, replied with a stern voice, "Why? Don't you have anyone to go to or would you rather assault random girls at parties?"

Dmitri looked wounded and taken aback. He quickly let go of Phina's arm and stepped away, arms raised in a defensive position. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to hurt you." He lowered his arms and watched as Phina rubbed hers. "And yes, I am here on my own, which is why I would appreciate it if you had a drink with me. Just one."

Phina squinted and sighed in resignation. "Fine, just one. My friend's probably busy doing something anyway." She walked back to the counter, grabbed two beers and handed one to Dmitri, before opening her own.

Four beers later and the two were still in the kitchen. Dmitri had attempted some light conversations, starting with asking about her family but Phina replied with one word answers. She wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone and she really wasn't in the mood to talk to Dmitri.

In the end, Dmitri had stopped drinking and said, "Fine. I said I'm sorry. Grabbing you was totally wrong and I should never 'ave done it. I hope you'll understand why I did it, but since you blatantly don't wanna be here, why don't you just get your friend an' go home?" With that, he threw his can in the bin and stormed out of the kitchen.

Phina stood with her mouth agape and staring at the door. She placed her can on the counter and headed to the hallway. She found Dmitri leaning against the opposite wall. "Hey, I didn' mean to come across like that. I was worried about my friend, that's all. If it's any consolation, I'm sorry." She laughed nervously and watched Dmitri's face softened into a smile.

He stepped forward from the wall and said, "It's okay, all my fault. I should've been nicer to you."

"Speaking of which, wha' did you mean you hope I'll understand?" She watched as the stranger shuffled from foot to foot uneasily.

He finally settled and replied, in a stiff voice, "Nothing, I didn't mean anything. Are you going home or you staying?" He looked at her with curious eyes with a hint of… was that worry?

Phina shook her head to clear the thought and smiled. "I'm staying, it's only seven, gotta stay longer, friend's birthday an' all. Haven' even cut the cake yet." She laughed then and so did Dmitri.

At that moment, Carl emerged from the door next to Dmitri. He glanced from one person to another before settling on Phina. His clothes were a mess, buttoned up incorrectly and his hair was dishevelled.

He smiled nervously at Phina, then said, "We need to go, you okay leaving now?"

Phina shook her head with an accusing smile and got a frown in return. "Not exactly, wha' happened?"

Carl looked worried, but soon relaxed. "Cara happened. If we can' leave, can we at least leave this hallway?" He looked at Dmitri then, frowning with confusion. "Who's this guy?"

Phina had forgotten about Dmitri and smiled apologetically. "Carl, this is Dmitri, I just met him."

"Meeting guys at parties, huh," Carl mumbled as he focused on re-buttoning his shirt. Eventually he looked back up at Phina with a smile. "Thought you'd given up on that?"

Phina's chest stung and her smile faded. Before Carl could apologise, his guilt evident on his face, Phina's smile quickly returned and she announced, "Time for more drinks. That and a snoop around Mark's place."

The threesome made their way past the dancers, drinks in hand, at times having to dance just to pass, until they reached the door that led to Mark's bedroom. It was a small room, a single bed at the far side, black sheets and curtains to match. He had a small set of drawers and there were a lot of clothes strewn across the floor. So much, that Phina couldn't guess the colour of the carpet. It was also dark, curtains drawn closed and as Phina tried switching the light on, the bulb flickered out with a 'pop'. No light either.

"Please don't go getting all OCD on us now, Phina." Carl laughed as he tiptoed over the clothes. As far as Phina could tell, or smell for that matter, the clothes were clean. Most likely, Mark had emptied his drawers to find something nice to wear for tonight.

Dmitri, being ahead of them both, turned and asked, "OCD? What, you're a clean freak?" He grinned and Phina blushed, though she had no idea why.

As they reached the bed and sat down, Phina almost slipping on a shirt, she replied, "I'm not a clean freak, that's my mother. I just like to be… organised."

Carl laughed. "By organised she means she once cleaned my entire room, hoover an' all, just because she spotted a little bit of dust on my shelf."

Phina opened her mouth with shock, her eyes smiling. "A little bit of dust? Carl, your black shelf was white. How is that a little?"

"Semantics," Carl uttered with a gesture as if swatting a fly. Something had caught his attention by Mark's drawer. "No way!"

Carl made his way over to the drawers, crouched next to them and picked up a purple game console. Phina couldn't quite see what it was and being no expert in consoles, asked, "What is it?"

With a grin, Carl almost shouted, "It's a GameCube; I haven' seen one of these babies in ages." He looked up at Phina, excitement covered his face. "I'm gonna ask Mark if he go' any games and if he'd let me 'ave a go. You gonna be alright on your own?"

Phina knew the question was just an afterthought, but she didn't argue. "Sure, go enjoy some, whatever tha' thing is."

Carl's grin grew wider. "Thanks and when we leave here, I'm gonna have to educate you in what this thing is."

Phina watched as Carl left the room, almost running and turned to Dmitri. He was sitting closer than Phina had realised and she scooted over slightly and slyly; she didn't want Dmitri to think there was something wrong.

Dmitri was looking bored. From his expression, Phina could tell he wasn't a gamer and for lack of better ideas for conversation, Phina asked, "How do you know Mark?" Her smile was genuine, but as Dmitri lifted his gaze to her, his smile almost seemed fake.

Dmitri shook his head. "I don't, a friend brought me. If I'd known it was a birthday party, I'd've brought a present." He laughed lamely and stared at Phina with glass blue eyes.

Phina frowned. "I thought you said you came on your own?"

Dmitri's smile grew and his eyes held a dark look. "What was your friend on about, when he said you'd given up on meeting guys at parties?"

There it was again, the stab in the heart. Phina hated the memories of him. Now, she hated Carl for bringing it up. She took an involuntary quick inhale of breath then stated, "You didn't answer my question." She had meant to sound stern, but was ashamed when she heard her voice quiver.

Dmitri's eyes squinted as he stared at Phina, as if he was trying to figure the answer without her answering. Instead of answering her question, he replied, "You didn't answer mine."

"I asked first," Phina stated, instantly regretful. She wasn't a child; she wouldn't have a petty argument over who asked what first. Instead, she added, "If you must know, I once met a guy at a party who turned out to be an absolute A-hole."

Dmitri stifled a laugh with his hand, but Phina could see his grin through his fingers and in his eyes. "An A-hole?"

"Yeah, you know…" Phina hadn't liked swearing. Growing up with the parents she had, swearing was the last thing on Phina's mind, although it did slip out every now again, such as with Carl and when she accidently kicked the table when walking. Her parents had taught her not to swear, although now they had no problem with her swearing she still couldn't bring herself to say the words, especially around them.

Phina could remember when she first swore in front of her parents. They had been snuggled up watching a film when Phina had stood, tipping a hot mug of hot chocolate over her thin pyjamas, burning her and she shouted what her parents used to call "The F word". She expected her parents to be mad, but instead they laughed and returned to their film. Even now, Phina felt a little mad at them for ignoring the fact she had sworn, especially after all the emphasis they had placed on not swearing.

Back to reality, Phina peered up at Dmitri who was frowning. Phina realised she had zoned out and smiled apologetically. She was doing a lot of that tonight. "Sorry, bu' yeah. We dated for a while. He was sweet to begin with, or so I thought. It took me about a year to find out about all the others."

Dmitri's expression softened and his tone was soft when he asked, "Others?"

"Girls. Apparently he'd picked up about five girls at the party, seeing each of us on different days of the week. I felt like an absolute moron. If I'm honest I still do, I loved him an' I think a small part of me still does."

Dmitri remained silent. Phina had been staring at her knotted hands on her lap and decided to peer up at Dmitri. His face was blank as he gazed around the room. Phina didn't know what to say. This awkward silence was her fault and if there was anything worse than an ordinary awkward silence, it was one she had created. As she opened her mouth to apologise, Mark burst into the room, music and light pouring into the room. He was grinning and looked at them both with an accusing stare, though it was probably too dark to see them clearly. "Grab your clothes, time to sing me happy birthday."

The party lasted for hours, most of the people probably ending up sleeping at Mark's from being too drunk. They had sung happy birthday, cut the cake and eaten the entire food selection before Phina even attempted to grab some for herself. Hungry, a tad bit miserable from discussing the A-hole and exhausted, Phina went to find Carl.

It was now eleven at night and instead of Carl, Phina found Dmitri. After singing happy birthday, Dmitri had disappeared, leaving Phina by herself. She didn't know anyone else at the party and spent the last three hours sat by herself on the battered settee.

Dmitri was leaning against the hallway wall, looking nonchalant and as bored as Phina felt. As Phina approached him, Dmitri unfolded his arms, pushed off the wall and smiled. "In need of another drink? I know I am." He turned to enter the kitchen but stopped as Phina shook her head.

It hurt. The music had given her a headache and she was tired. Holding her hand to her head as though it would stop the pain, Phina said, "Not really in the drinking mood. I'm just looking for Carl and then we're leaving."

Dmitri looked uncomfortable. "You sure? I could always find some Paracetamols for you."

Again, Phina shook her head and winced from the pain. "I don' really like taking tablets. Have you seen Carl?"

Dmitri's expression changed, but Phina couldn't tell what it was. Maybe he was worried, but about what? Dmitri gestured his head to the door opposite the kitchen. Phina nodded as a thank you and knocked the door. She heard mumbled shouts from behind and soon, the door opened to a wide eyed, flushed Carl. He looked more awake than when they were arrived, but there were faint grey smudges under his eyes, indicating that he was getting tired and his eyes were bloodshot, most likely from staring at a screen too long.

Phina hesitated; her head hurt too much and was pounding. Every thought that had entered her brain had seeped out, leaving only a constant rhythm of pain in its place. Soon enough, after Carl's expression grew worried, Phina's thoughts came back. "Sorry, head hurts. Can we go?" She was squinting as though the light was hurting her eyes and even closed her eyes when the thumping in her head would grow stronger.

"Now? It's only ten, you usually stay longer…" Carl noticed Phina's expression of pain and nodded. "Okay, maybe some sleep will help that headache of yours."

"Thanks. I swear my head is trying to kill me." Phina gritted her teeth and groaned. The pain was growing worse with each second.

Carl emerged from the room with his coat and shrugged it on. Before leaving, Phina turned to Dmitri who had remained by the kitchen door, his expression full of worry. "Thanks," Phina whispered, unable to speak any louder without causing more pain. "For the company and the drinks." Dmitri nodded. He watched her leave then grabbed his coat.

The car was parked across the street by an alley that was pitch-black. It had started to rain and Phina was getting soaked. As the couple crossed the road, Phina spotted a figure in the alley. She whispered to Carl, "There's someone in the alley."

He frowned and whispered back, "Well, get in the car then. We should go." Phina nodded and got into the passenger seat, the loud bang of the car door sending pain shooting through her head. In fact, Phina's headache was growing worse, the pain almost unbearable.

As Carl entered the driver's seat and closed the door, he looked at Phina, her expression full of pain. "What's wrong? Your headache can't be that bad?" He looked worried but Phina shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut tight.

She whispered, "It's okay, just need some sleep. You okay to drive?" She was always cautious when it came to driving and Carl wasn't always the safest driver.

He smiled and turned to the steering wheel. "Of course. Last drink I had was three hours ago."

As he started the car, Phina whispered, "Seatbelt." In return, Carl grunted. Phina always insisted he put his seatbelt on, to the point she felt like his mother.

As Carl reached up to grab the seatbelt, a hand smashed through the window and grabbed him by the shirt collar, dragging him out through the broken glass. All Phina felt at first was the shards of glass. Her head was pounding to the point she couldn't hear anything, not even the glass breaking or Carl's screams. Glass sprayed at Phina as she ducked her head into her lap, not wanting glass to land in her eyes and make her blind.

After a few small seconds, Phina looked up and screamed, "Carl!" Quickly, she unbuckled her seat belt and scrambled out the car. She stood in the rain, searching for her best friend who was nowhere in sight. Not knowing what to do, Phina ran to the edge of the alley and strained to see through the darkness. Her head was pounding and after being soaked in seconds by the rain, Phina tried to focus but the pounding in her head only grew stronger. She knew it was the figure who had taken Carl and as she searched for movement, she called out his name over and over, causing sharp bolts of pain ricocheting through her skull.

After a minute of no reply, Phina started down the alley. She heard the scuttle of rats and the noise of the rain hitting the concrete. Her hair was soaked in rain and was stuck to her face. Her body was shivering from the cold and as she wrapped her arms tightly around herself, the black mini dress clung tightly to her body, her head still pounding. Phina continued walking down the alley, desperate to find her friend.

A shadow passed through Phina's peripheral vision and she turned abruptly. Nothing, just an empty doorway. Surely she was seeing things? Phina felt as though in a horror movie and stupidly enough, she had been the character who went searching for a friend; the character who was first to die. The cold gave her goose bumps, but so did her fear. Was there something here with her? The thought of a human alone scared her, but the shadow she had seen was no normal person. A human could not move that swiftly, as if gliding. Water dripped from her fringe to her cheeks and streamed down her face. Every breath she inhaled caused a sharp pain in her lungs, like ice tearing them apart. It was the cold, as Phina had always felt the pain in the cold, but she did everything she could to stop it.

Her head was pounding more than ever. Even with her high pain tolerance, Phina had never felt so bad. Her mother had always commented on how she was different that most girls at "that time of the month" because she barely felt pain. In fact, her mother sort of congratulated her, in a way, and the other times, when she had had migraines and refused tablets. Phina knew her pain threshold was better than most people's, so what was wrong now? It was the only logical explanation of the pain in her head. Something must be wrong.

Another shadow and Phina turned. This time, Phina had not been seeing things.

There, stood in an archway was the figure; but, it wasn't a person at all. It looked like black smoke, in the form of a man. As the figure glided towards Phina, the black smoke began crawling away into the sky. No longer was it the form of a man but a ball of smoke and within seconds, it shot towards Phina.

Phina screamed, stumbling backwards, hands raised in front of her and as she did, the smoke entered Phina's mouth and into her throat. It tasted of sulphur, rotten eggs, and felt lumpy in her throat. As the smoke disappeared into her, she began to regain her senses. She looked at her hands and clenched them into fists, then out again. Phina let out a deep, inhuman laugh and she realised, she was no longer in control. That laugh wasn't hers but the thing that was inside her.

She felt trapped inside her own mind as the thing controlled her, moved her and even spoke for her. Her body moved to face the entrance of the alley where someone had appeared. Not just someone but Dmitri. His wet, mahogany hair clung to his face and his soaked shirt clung to his body. He looked angry and held a knife; a long, pointy knife that glowed blue.

Although Phina felt terrified, she laughed; the thing had laughed. She heard herself hiss, "What's that you got there? A nice toy for me?" With that, Phina felt her body lunge forward and try to grab Dmitri but was pushed back with so much force, that she fell on her back.

Dmitri appeared above her and peered down at her body. His expression was full of disgust and pity. "Don't worry, I won't kill you, but it will hurt." She didn't know what expression the thing inside her wore on her face but she knew she felt scared. She knew that at any second, he would plunge that knife into her body and whatever was inside her would die.

That's exactly what he did.