I peeled my trembling carcass away from the moistened cotton t-shirt sheets, immediately feeling disgusted by the wetness. It was an uncomfortable way to wake up. However, when I bitterly threw back the sky blue sheets and rose further, I discovered it. There was blood everywhere.
It caked the inside of my thighs, ruining my shorts. Still wet enough to feel, but just dry enough that when I shifted sideways I had to tug to separate skin and fabric. It was clinging to me like paper mache. I desperately needed a shower.
My appearance in the bathroom mirror was despicable, but also as familiar as it was expected. Red hair sprung out in all directions as the curly mass refused to tame. There were dark circles nestled in beneath my eyes which only showed after nights like these. Fortunately, I would be able to mask it with some makeup.
This wasn’t how I wanted to feel on the first day of school.
I stepped lazily into the shower and worked to purge myself of the dried blood. Standing there with a loofa in my hand after loading up with Old Spice body wash I curse silently that I had not taken the time to remove my sheets. The longer they marinated, the more the stain would fight to remain.
“Whatever,” my voice croaked out the first word of the day.
After toweling off, moussing my hair into cooperation, and doing my makeup, I retreated back into my room where I then removed the sheets and tossed them over the staircase banister. I’d take them to the laundry room on the way down.
Within the mountains of boxes in my room, somehow I was able to easily find where my clothes had wound up. I dug out the first outfit my hands touched from the top box of clothes. It was a white, floor length dress with thicker lace straps. It was a little more glamorous than I felt, but I hadn’t the time nor the patience to put together a whole different outfit.
“How was your sleep?” was the first thing my mom said to me as I slunk into the kitchen after descending the stairs. I wondered if she was asking because she actually heard, or if she was just curious. It was our first night in the new house, after all.
“Nothing to report.” I lied as I held my ruined sheets out in front of me, careful not to get blood on my fresh outfit.
“What happened?” I was hopeful that she would either not notice the sheets, or not care enough to ask, but she did on both accounts.
“Bloody freakin’ murder. . .” I mumbled under my breath in response. At least she didn’t hear that. I hadn’t the time to run a load, so I scrubbed at the bloody spots with a toothbrush and some bleach and left them for after school.
“You look nice. Are you ready for today?”
“Thanks. I just need to eat,” I retrieved a glass from a box on the counter, careful as I tore away the newspaper used to cushion.
“I mean, are you ready for school?”
“Of course, I have everything I need.” It was true. I did spend a significant amount of time packing my bag for the next day. I had not been very proactive when it came to unpacking at the new house, but I at least wanted to be prepared at school. It would make adjusting a little bit easier as long as I had one thing organized and under control.
“Rory,” her voice became more stern and I realized I couldn’t avoid the inevitable. “You know what I mean.”
“New school, new people. I’m looking forward to it as much as I can. It’s gonna be hard. You know, I don’t do well with new people and friends,” I went to take a sip but she kept talking.
“Oh, but you get along with people so well.”
“Yeah, I get along with people,” I lowered the glass, partially frustrated, “but just because I can maintain conversation doesn’t mean they’re lining up to be my best friend.”
“I’m just saying, be positive. You’re so negative.”
“Yeah, well, don’t ask me if I’m okay, and then act unsatisfied and disappointed when I tell you I’m not.” At that point, I was done talking. What a note to start on, but at least it shut her up.
As soon as the water touched my lips I could feel an imminent headache from dehydration and annoyance die away. At least, I hoped I would not be terrorized by a migraine anytime soon. They come from stress, and I had expected to get one during the move since my mom had been yelling at me the whole time. It was surprising and refreshing, but it left me with a sense of impending doom. I knew I would get one sooner or later. As long as I could get through today I’d be fine.
The first day of school, and it made sense that I would have an attack the night before, the bloody tide the morning of, and the possibility of a migraine looming in the short future. Just my luck.
I cracked two eggs in a skillet and made them sunny-side-up with some toast to soak up the runny yolk. It was my favorite. I figured I’d start the day with something of a small victory. Today was only going to be as good as I made it.
My mom drove me and dropped me off at the steps of Hemlock Grove High School, and I barely took a moment to take in the view before heading on up the steps. It was just another school like the one I used to go to. Just people inside; girls with too much sass, and boys with sketchy, hidden agendas.
I’d been in the building only once before with my mom to register me where I got my ID photo taken, and recieved my class schedule. I marked out my classes on a school map to get my barings before hand, but paper is a lot different than reality.
Once inside, I got to see the place in full swing. There were students everywhere, and that all too familiar scent of school invaded my senses. It was sweet in a way, but also crossed with fouler smells that always contradicted each other. For example, the sickly aroma of a preppy boy wearing an entire bottle of cologne, and then another boy who had no consideration for personal hygiene at all.
It was at that moment that I realized I had forgotten an extra tampon.
“F**k me.” I stomped, and began my way to my first class: English. I would just have to worry about that problem later. It was not until I actually took a seat in the nearly vacant room that it dawned on me I wore the worst outfit possibly. Only the ballsi-est girls wear white on their period. And even then, it’s not ballsy, it’s stupid. Guess I was extra stupid today.
I crossed my legs and hoped for the best. God forbid I offend with some odor, or leak. My blue and white striped canvas backpack rested on the leg of the desk in front of me, and I eyed it thanking myself for making such a good choice. It was cute.
English passed fairly quickly, simply based on the fact that, like most high school teachers, no one actually does much work on the first day. It was syllabus day. Thankfully I did not have to waste much more time in the room before the bell rang and I navigated through the crowded hallways to the nearest girls bathroom on the school map. I high-tailed it inside and praised the Lord when my eyes landed on one of those tampon dispensers.
I dug into my backpack for my wallet and fished out two quarters, inserted them into the machine and turned the knob.
Nothing came out.
“Come on,” I furrowed my brows and jiggled the handle. Still nothing. With two firm hands I grasped the handle and began to pull back and forth with force until I lost my patience and punched the d*mn thing in anger. As a final consolation, I tried to hit the coin return level but it had already eaten my money. I sighed in frustration and headed back out into the halls, catching a discreet glimpse of my butt in the mirror on the way out. No blood. At least I was still in the clear. But I was not going to go the entire day without getting my hands on a spare. The first day is always the bloodiest.
“Oh. . .” I grumbled to myself and clutched my stomach with a hand as I tried not to make a face. It was also the most painful. I could feel an intense cramp coming on. All I could do was cross my fingers at this point.
I made it through two more classes, French and Physics before lunch broke out. Naturally, I knew no one, so when I made my way through the lunch line and scanned the room, I looked for an empty table to sit at. Maybe I could get a leg up on the homework my French teacher had been so kind as to assign, or start the book I’d brought with me.
On the far left side of the room up against the window I could see a few empty seats in the corner, so I made a b-line to claim the spot. I sat down in a hurry and tossed a dry carrot stick into my mouth as I reached into my backpack and dug out my French folder. I sucked at French, and I always had since I started in junior high like five years ago, but it was the constant studying that kept my head above water.
I flipped to the small French packet and tossed it on the table, clicking the eraser on my mechanical pencil. My lead barely hit the paper before someone sat down in front of me. I jerked my head up in a hurry as the clattering of his plastic lunch tray startled me.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out,” he laughed still standing. “Do you mind if I sit?”
“Oh, no I guess not. Go ahead.” I shrugged and thought I was either very lucky, or possibly the opposite. Although, as he took a seat and I looked him in the face, I thought the former.
He had shaggy, brown hair that hung down into his eyes, but didn’t hide them. Thankfully so, because he had beautifully blue eyes. Like the color of the sky when there are absolutely no clouds. So bright and open. He had a bit of stubble going, but nowadays that was both expected and welcome as long as it didn’t make you look like a creep who could only grow a thin mustache. His statue was medium, and he was fairly lean with some muscle. Altogether, if I had to say, 8 out of 10.
I made my assessment in about two seconds real time, so when I returned my eyes to my paper he asked, “Are you new?”
“What gave it away?” I muttered without looking up as I wrote my name at the top of the paper.
“Either you’re crazy about your grades, or you’re new and that’s why you are doing homework. At lunch. . .on the first day of school.” He broke open the plastic-ware packaging and pulled out the fork and pointed at me to emphasize each word.
“Hmm,” I eyed him with a grin and pretended to think. “Guilty. I’m from Texas.”
“Yeehaw, I’ve been there a couple times.”
“It’s. . .” I tried to think of something to describe it, “f**king’ hot as balls.”
He laughed aloud before finally sticking the fork into some mac and cheese. There was a small pause in conversation as he stuck a fork full of food into his mouth and chewed. I finally dropped my eyes again and focused my eyes on question one. “What’s your name?”
“Only a woman with truly fiery personality has a name like that. It’s powerful, heavy.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Cuz. Rory. Like roar!” he gestured with clawed hands like an animal.
“Like a lion or something?” I raised a brow. It was entertaining just watching him talk.
“Something like that,” he smiled at me with a raised brow, then dug back into his mac and cheese.
“What’s your name?”
“Peter.” His mouth was full but he didn’t skip a beat. Charming.
“I’m sorry, that’s too boring for me. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.” At first he was petrified, as if he had no clue what to say or do. He didn’t break until I chuckled to myself. “I’m kidding.”
“Oh. Oh, thank Christ,” he ran a hand through his hair, his cheeks visibly turning red.
“How’d you know I was new? Really?”
“I’ve been the new kid more times than I can count. My mom and I move around a LOT. I’m new too, and you were cute and I just had a feeling.”
I didn’t know whether I should be embarrassed by blushing, but I could feel my cheeks turning red. I didn’t bother trying to hide such an obvious display. He sure got me back with that comment. I lifted my eyes to him to smile, but my focus was drawn to the movement behind him.
Like a tall shadow, a boy entered the lunch room and began his long stride across the linoleum floor. My smile must have faded, and my stare been transfixed for so long that I was only shaken from my stare by Peter.
“Oh. Keep your head down,” he turned his head to see the center of my attention.
“W-why? Who is that?” he was a giant, his brown hair was slicked back onto his head, and his dark eyes swept over the crowd as if scanning for something. We were far behind him by the time his gaze swept our side of the room.
“Roman Godfrey. I’ve only been in this building a day and I’m telling you, be wiser than I was.”
“Did something happen?”
“He didn’t like very much that I was speaking to his sister. Really protective,” he widened his eyes to make a point. “He’s also just an a**hole.” I didn’t know how to answer so I stayed quiet. “From what I’ve seen anyway, I don’t mean for you to get the wrong impression of me; I’m not a gossip.”
“Well I could use all the help I can get,” my eyes continued to track Roman as he made his way through the room until he disappeared through the open door on the other side. There WAS something about him. “You said Godfrey. Like Godfrey Institute?”
“Mmhm. Olivia Godfrey runs the place, that’s his mom.”
“That’s why we moved here, because my mom got an offer from them,” I explained to Peter.
“Your mom works at Godfrey Institute? She’s gotta be wicked smart then.”
“Yeah, she’s a doctor and she’s got like, three degrees. I think she’s the only person I’ve ever heard describe organic chemistry as fun.”
“Impressive. But be careful around him. With your mom working there, he’s bound to catch wind of you.”
“You’re making me worry,” I chuckled nervously as I fiddled with my pencil.
“I don’t mean to scare you. He’s just got a wild reputation. With the ladies.”
“Thanks.” I tried to smile but all I did was purse my lips into a harsh line.
I sat with Peter for the entirety of lunch, and by the end of it I could at least count on having one friend. We parted ways at the bell, me having not done much of my French homework, but I didn’t mind in the slightest. He was a good reason for me to not get work done. And he was pretty cute.
The rest of my classes went by smoothly, and to my surprise, despite not finding a tampon, I didn’t ruin my stark white dress.
I gathered up my things as the final bell rang, signalling the end of the day. Most students were in a hurry to either get home or go out with friends, but not I. I slowly placed all my things into my backpack and slung it lazily over my shoulder. I was the last one out the door.
The muggy end of summer breeze whipped around me, throwing my hair in all directions once I set foot outside. I frantically tried to pin it down with hasty hands, but it was of little use. It was in that moment that I saw Peter standing in front of a very notably tall girl wearing a skirt, leggings, cardigan, and whose dark hair fell over the right side of her face. She was easily over six feet tall. Peter was leaning against a concrete fence separating the pavement and the grass between the school and the street. He was making crazy hand gestures and laughing, and it appeared as if she was laughing as well in the silent heaves of her shoulders.
Suddenly, the familiar looming shadow appeared from the left and I slowed my walk when I saw the anger on his face as Roman stomped through clumps of students toward Peter, many frantically clearing the way once they saw him coming. Peter’s eyes shifted from the girl and landed on me as I walked in his direction about fifty feet back. He lifted a hand to wave at me. This single action caused Roman to pause and he followed Peter’s gaze to me, and I could feel my throat close up in fear, because our eyes locked. I felt stuck in place from just his side glance, and I had little understanding of myself as to why. I could see some diversion of attention in Roman’s eyes, as if he considered changing course, but he continued his raging path toward Peter. And Peter, who saw the fear in my eyes, diverted his gaze and saw Roman just in time. It all happened in a matter of a second.
“I thought I told you to stay away from my sister!” he shouted to Peter who slid back along the wall away from Roman. The girl, who I now assumed was the one Peter had been talking to earlier, reached her hands out as if to stop Roman, but he paid no attention to her. Instead, he stared down at Peter with a vengeance, those dark eyes on fire.
I couldn’t hear anything else from where I was, and I decided it was probably best that way. As much as I wanted to come to Peter’s rescue, I knew there was nothing I could do to help. And in all honesty, something stirred in my chest when I looked in Roman’s direction. I could hardly imagine facing him. I couldn’t figure out why he caused such a reaction. It could not possibly be just from what Peter told me earlier.
Without another thought or giving the scene a second look, I shielded my face with my hair and took a sharp left toward the curb where my mom agreed to meet me.
The first thing I did when I got home was change my tampon. I was squatting awkwardly over the toilet doing one of the grosser tasks of being a girl and for some reason all I could do was think of Peter and Roman. More specifically, the tension and the stress that had buried itself deep in my gut after seeing what had happened. I just hoped Peter was okay. I hated thinking that I just left him behind, and that I’d have to wait until tomorrow to learn how things played out.
The rest of the night was spent helping my mom unpack the house. Of course, I was unable to dodge the inevitable first-day-of-school questions. I started with the period troubles hoping that would be enough for her and maybe she would lose interest, but for some reason that wasn’t enough for me. I mentioned Peter.
“You met a boy?” it was the first time she’d made prolonged eye contact with me since she started on her fifth box.
“Y-yeah. Apparently he’s new here too so we had something to bond over. At least I didn’t have to eat lunch alone.”
“That’s great. See? I told you.” Here we go. . . “It would go fine because you make friends wherever you go. Maybe more than a friend?”
“Ugh. No, stop that or I’m gonna go upstairs and leave you here by yourself,” I tried to play off the conversation as nothing serious.
“Alriiiiight. I’ll lay off,” she dove back into the box and unwrapped one of her many glass trinkets from a piece of old news paper and placed it on the coffee table for the time being.
I glanced around the room and I hoped we could get this place cleaned up before I did manage to make friends. Every house we ever lived in was so small, I was always embarrassed to have company over. Now we had two stories and an open concept first floor. The house was built for entertaining. Maybe this could be the start of something different.
“I’m going to go upstairs and unpack a bit up there. Maybe get ahead on that homework I wasn’t able to do.” I stood and brushed myself off and made my way to the stairs.
“Okay, do you want me to order a pizza for dinner?
“That would be perfect. Yes.”
“Coming up,” she grabbed her phone off the carpet and googled a nearby pizza place. I could hear her placing the order as I climbed the creaky wooden stairs.
About an hour and a half and four slices of pizza later, I had unpacked a completely organized my desk. My homework was laid out neatly next to my laptop which I had booted up. I glanced at my homework while nibbling on a pizza crust when my phone vibrated.
At first I got my hopes up, but when I looked at the screen it was just a news alert. Nothing important. I sighed, and in my annoyance completely ignored my homework and pulled up Facebook. There were plenty of “first day of school” posts from my former classmates, all huddled together in front of my old school with one another. I couldn’t help but find myself even more frustrated by the fact that I hadn’t heard from a single one of my friends since I left.
No one checking to make sure we had made it safely, no one asked me how my first day was. Nothing. It was like I had died. But considering everything that happened before my mom and I left, it honestly wasn’t that surprising.
I slumped in my seat and cringed as a wave of cramps washed over me, I crinkled my toes and wrinkled my nose as I just sat in the pain. In the corner of my left eye I could feel the faint presence of that migraine tugging on my nerves, forcing the involuntary action of rubbing my eye.
Then there was a sudden wave of nausea, and I could feel the hearing in my left ear check out. My blood ran absolutely cold, and the urge to cry rushed my brain too loudly to overcome. Tears flooded my eyes to the brim and I fell forward out of my chair onto my hands and knees to the carpet below.
My back arched like a spooked cat, and with a great heave I vomited the complete contents of my stomach onto the floor in front of me. And then I was afraid to death for a reason my mind could not comprehend. I sprang backward in abrupt fear and crawled away from the mess I’d made with horror in my eyes. What should have appeared as scarcely digested pizza befell my mind as a sickeningly warm, expansive puddle of nauseating blood.
Staggering to my feet, I stumbled to the window in search of a release, air or anything. My nails gripped the pane and I forced the glass up and open and I heaved my body out the window into the night air. But as soon as the warm air smelling of flesh and blood hit my wanting nostrils, my vision blurred, my lungs seized, and I unleashed a screech into the night so ghastly, I lost consciousness. The last thing I remembered was another uncontrollable urge, but this time, to sing myself into serenity.
I remembered everything, which made not recognizing where I awoke, terrifying. The smell of decaying foliage was strong in my head, as I began to stir, it was a bed of damp leaves that I rose from.
My sinuses cleared from fear as I struggled to stand and catch my barrings. Wherever I was, I was nowhere near home. This was not my backyard; none of it was familiar. Everywhere I turned was dark forest. The only aid to my vision was the full moon overhead through the tree branches which somehow only hightened the level of my fear.
My fear bled out into the real world. I started to see things, and I couldn’t tell if they were real or not. There were teeth on my skin and growls in my ears. Something was out there. My panic grew so suddenly that I squeezed my eyes shut, and with the flap of a crows wing I found myself face down in my pillow feeling my throat trail off the end of another call.
There was no way of telling where the hours went, but when I rolled to the side of my bed and grabbed my phone it read 1:39 am. Somewhere I lost three hours.
My heart was pounding out of my chest, sweat covered every last inch of my body. I was almost afraid to turn around, but as I faced back to peer across the room I saw a single black feather of good size laying amid my sheets.
At first I thought I was still going crazy. Nothing made sense. It all had to be some stupid nightmare from the relocation and stress.
I brought the feather to my nose. Decaying leaves. . .
I sat as still as possible at the edge of my bed and waited silently for the sound of blood in my ears to subside. When I was finally able to move, I rose shakily to my feet and faced the wall to see the window open as I left it, and three more feathers scattered along the carpet. I narrowed my eyes at the sight, and gave the one in my hand another confused stare before crossing to retrieve them. Then I realized, the vomit was gone. Or rather the blood that I had seen had vanished.
The spot where I knew I had emptied my stomach onto was completely clean. My fingers came up dry as I rubbed them across the place, rubbing them together. Nothing.
A sound which I originally thought to be thunder sounded behind me, but as it rushed closer my heart began to pound again and I almost exploded as my mom burst into the room.
“What’s wrong?!” her eyes were wide and her voice was just as panicked sounding as I felt.
I opened my jaw shakily to make words but I couldn’t. I craned my neck around at the window and it was closed, the feathers were gone, and when I peered down into my hands, the last feather was missing. I fell to my bed side, clawing for my phone again.
10:42 pm. I was relieved, confused, and devastated all at once because I knew what I saw, but there was no trace, and I had nothing to explain myself with now.
“I-I kicked the shit out of my foot,” I wanted to smile because I managed to choke out some words in the form of a lie, but words nonetheless. My mom eyed me almost suspiciously, but more worried than anything.
“Are you okay? You look like you’ve been crying.”
“I just tripped and hit my foot. I’m fine!” I tried to act nonchalent as I wiped at my face, then shook my hands at her trying to get her to drop it and leave.
“Okay,” she rested a hand on my doorknob, seeming somewhat satisfied with my answer. She gave me a last once-over before furrowing her brows and closing the door.
As soon as I couldn’t hear her footsteps anymore I sighed, and took a few steps backward just trying to catch my breath. I stopped dead and I could taste bile in my throat when my foot fell into something sticky and warm. Agape, my eyes fell back to the floor where I saw the pool of vomit, and my foot sinking in, and then the feather in my hand. A breeze blew into the room from the open window carrying the scent of blood, and at that moment I knew it had to be a nightmare.
There were still tears in my eyes, I gathered up the three other feathers and tossed them into the bathroom sink just off my bedroom. Without further disturbing my mom, I gathered a roll of paper towels and carpet cleaner from the messy kitchen and retreated back upstairs. I couldn’t help but taste fear as if something was chasing me, just on my heels as I clawed up the steps.
I scraped up the sick on the floor, no blood in sight. I sprayed the spot cleaner down and laid a thick layer of paper towels atop it, then went to the bathroom.
People say that if you stare in the mirror long enough you start to see things. I saw something horrid the moment I gazed upon my own reflection. My eyes were white, my hair was white, my skin was whiter than pale. I looked like a ghost. Whatever was looking back at me, couldn’t be me.
I dove my hand into the sink and grabbed a single feather. In my backpack I found a lighter from when I used to smoke weed like it was my religion. With two fingers, I held the jet black feather up to the light and flicked the lighter. My lips hung open as I brought the orange and blue flame closer to the feather, and as the tongue of the fire met the black fibers, the back of my left hand began to sting. At first it was barely noticable, but as the feather caught fire, I jolted so that I dropped both and had to clutch my wrist. It felt as if a seering hot brander had been pressed into my skin.
Along the back of my hand appeared the scarring of a burn mark. The feather which still held a flame touched the carpet, but it met its end beneath my foot.
I had to stop this.
If I had Peter’s number I could have called him. I needed someone. But at the risk of coming across crazier than even I knew I was, I shut off the lights, climbed beneath my covers, and prayed for the night or God to take me.
I would wake up the next morning at my desk because I feel asleep from exhaustion. Everything I had seen tonight would be a nightmare of yesterday. Or so I hoped.
But the longer I sat still beneath my sheets in the silent room, wind blowing through the window I hadn’t the courage to go close, the more my heart rate increased. I could hear my pulse in my ears, and felt it in my stomach. Anxiety crept in as if I hadn’t done something I knew I needed to. And in one quick instant I threw back the covers and placed my feet on the ground because for some reason, in that moment I wanted to.
I rose vampirically from where I sat, my gaze was fixed on the window. I felt all of the fear, curiosity, bewilderment vanish from my mind and become replaced with one final wanting feeling. My tongue slithered out from my mouth and moistened my dry lips, once more these tears damped my tired eyes as I passed over my room to the open window.
The night below me no longer seemed frightening, the blood on the wind aroused a hunger in my throat, and as I knelt and rested my arms on the window sill, I began to sing sweetly.
Agus a leanbh,
Cad a Dheanfaidh me,
Ta tu ar shiul uaim,
Agus anuiridh, nil duin ar bith agam,
Agus me lion fein,
Da mbeithea go moch agam,
Agus och, och, airiu, gan thu, gan thu.