Chapter 1: The New Kid
I am never quite sure how to tell people my story; because I am always afraid people will laugh and walk away disbelievingly. I am going to tell you straight off, reader, if you are thinking about closing this book, do it. Things are going to get really weird in this story.
I live in Alabama, one of the best states in my opinion. But my opinion hardly counts, right? Of course I’m right. I have relations in Alabama, part of the reason we moved. We also had to move because my dad’s work was coming to a close. My brother, Mike, is in college, and my mom is a housewife. Oh, right, my name. My name is Maren Nichole. Like May and ren combined, but not quite so stupid sounding. We were going to move today, and I wasn’t not looking forward to it. I wasn’t going to miss Oklahoma. There’s nothing I could miss. I’m part Irish, accounting for the fact that I have red hair, and my parents have abandoned all hope of staying that way. Not so with me. I spoke with a slight accent, not too boldly.
One thing I was famous for at my old school was swimming. I went to the YMCA to do it, but word spreads fast. When I moved, I was going to join the swim team with my cousins. Their names were Reyna, the oldest, Addie, the middle oldest, and Ollie, the youngest. Their ages were thirteen, eleven, and eight years. They were like my sisters, because they loved me like one and I them. My story begins on a Monday morning, bright and early. I woke up to my alarm clock, and mashed my hand down on the button. I wish I had super strength to crush my alarm, but I didn’t, did I? “That would be preposterous.” my aunt Heather would say. I lay in bed for a few minutes, and then finally got out of bed. I heard my dad making pancakes before he went to work, and smiled. He made some of the best pancakes in the world.
It was after the Christmas break, and it was still freezing out. I pulled on my green sweater my mom had gotten me a few years previously, and a pair of warm jeans. Hopefully, this will bring down the vibrant hue of my hair. Pulling on my shoes, I ran out into the kitchen. I wolfed down my breakfast, and then got in the car. I was anxious, this being my first time to move. When we got to my school, there were a few kids outside in this weather. (Ugh!)
Getting out, I went to the rear of our Suburban, and pulled out my books. I have a slight limp to my left leg, and it was noticeable to the other kids. They were pointing and laughing. I was one of those people that didn’t care what others think, that it was more important what I thought about myself and others. I slammed the car door, and waved as my mom drove away. As soon she was off of the curb, I turned, and went inside, shivering. I went to the main office, and was greeted warmly by the secretary, a pale, thin brown haired woman. She went through my schedule, then said farewell. I turned, and went to find my locker. Thankfully, I had a top locker, if I had had a bottom one that would hurt my leg. I dialed in my combination, and opened my locker. I decided it would be best to stow away my valuables, seeing as this was a public high school. I took my messenger bag, and swapped my laptop for my books. My first class, I recollected, was History. I groaned inwardly, and went on to my designated area.
Finally figuring out where History was, I entered, feeling the stares on my back as I took my seat. I made sure to sit in the back corner, not wanting to arouse attention, but I aroused it anyway. I looked around, and the only person not staring at me was sitting right next to me. The boy in question wore a blue shirt, and black jeans. His hair was a soft, brown color. He wasn’t very muscular, then again, neither was I. I pulled my books out, and waited for class to begin. When it began, I took notes, and paid attention, not wanting to fail my first class. I finally looked up for breath, and no one was taking notes; or, for that matter, paying any attention. I rolled my eyes, and continued. I thought I would never enjoy state history, but it was strangely interesting. (Not.)
All my other classes passed in the same fashion, breezing by without a second glance. Much like my life, I figured. After school, I heard my phone ring. I opened my locker, and put my homework in my bag. Only then did I look at my texts. There was one from Reagan, asking if I could come to Lakeshore. I texted that I’d be there when I finished my homework. I closed my locker, and there was writing in pencil on my door. “Kiss me! I’m Irish!” was scrawled all over the lower half of my door, as if someone shorter had written it. I rolled my eyes, and went out into the common area. Apparently, it wasn’t too common of a thing to have red hair, because there were all sorts of catcalls and jibes in here. I almost couldn’t do my homework. Almost. Finishing my homework, I pulled out my laptop. I had an email from Reagan saying she needed help coming up with stuff for her elite team of wheelchair basketball. I closed my laptop, and shouldered my bag. I went outside, and the bright sun played with my red hair. I was pretty much a beacon to the rest of the world. I pulled out my jacket, and pulled up the hood. I could run pretty fast if I wanted to. And I chose that moment to run like the wind. (Bulls eye.)
In a matter of minutes, I was at Lakeshore, a place originally designed as a rehab facility. Now it is a place where the Paralympics’ teams for the U.S. practice for upcoming seasons. I went up to the front desk, and paid twenty dollars to get in, saying I had a friend I needed to see. “Go right ahead.” the receptionist said. I really don’t know why I’m being asked by my older cousin to help her. She was eighteen, and she could do it on her own. Besides, I really wasn’t into basketball. I went over to where Reagan and her boyfriend were sitting, and Reagan and I exchanged an awkward hug. (She was in a wheelchair.) “How was your first day at school?” Reagan asked as her team played a scrimmage. “Well…” I said, and sighed. “How did you manage it? There have been stares from around every corner!”
She put down her score sheets, and pulled up a chair for her. “Often times, being the new kid is tough. When I first started, I lay low, and let them come to me. I didn’t try to talk to anyone until they were ready to talk to me. Just try to blend in. If they graffiti your locker, keep it on for the rest of the year. If you were to take it off, that shows you are giving in to all the things they’ve done. I texted you because I wanted to give you a word of advice. Cast a blind eye. Who cares if they stare at you? Who cares if they call you names? I’m one of those people who don’t aim to please. If the people are happy, then they are. If they’re mad, then they are. I have been through the same things you have, and all I can say is look past it.”
“You have it easy. You had your disability when you were born. I was in a freaking car wreck when I was four!” “I know, I know. Just be strong.” I nodded, and left. I passed the glass panel that looked out onto the pool area, and went downstairs to check it out. I found a lady who looked pretty muscular, and figured she was the swim team coach. I had trouble remembering names, but Reyna said this was her. I looked around for Reyna, and then went out. I got back home, and reminisced about the day. The boy in History seemed nice, but there was something about him– some part of his character– that seemed older than time itself. Maybe it’s just me looking for something to complain about.
At eight o ‘clock, we ate, and an hour later, I went to bed. I lay awake thinking. It started to rain, I think. A rhythmic sound. I closed my eyes, and listened. Reagan and I can both find the rhythm to things. Like the rain. I can picture individual raindrops hitting the window. As I was listening, I heard a loud thump. I opened my eyes. That was decidedly not a raindrop. And it wasn’t hail, because it was fall. I lay there in bed, not wanting to get up. I heard it again, and finally, I sat up. Whoever was banging on my window at three in the morning needed a serious talking to. I got out of bed, feeling the cold of the wood under my feet. It didn’t wake me up further. I had my curtain over the window, and a separate, translucent sheet underneath. I slowly drew them back, after checking that I didn’t look too embarrassing. I looked out, and saw a boy peering in. His face had dangerous all over it. He had straight brown hair, and bright green eyes that looked as if they glowed. They were much like mine, green with a tint of brown. He had somehow gotten up to the second story, and found my window. He was sitting in a crouch. And just staring.
I opened my window, and barred his way in, just in case. I gazed at him imperiously, and waited for him to explain. He didn’t, and I yawned politely. “What brings you to my window?” I asked, glaring at him with a superior look. He didn’t answer, just looked at me. I tutted impatiently, and closed the window. I think I heard him get off my roof, and I turned, and slept three more hours.
I woke, and got dressed in a red sweater, black skirt and leggings. I left my hair down, then tucked it behind my ear. I got my school bag, my lunch, and left after another of my dad’s superb breakfasts. I remembered as I rode to school the things Reagan had advised me to do. Lie low. Don’t give in. Talk to others when they’re ready. I shook myself out of my reverie, and got in the car to go to school.
When I got there, I could tell people were already getting used to me. I went inside, and crossed the adjoining hall to my locker. I opened it, and put my bags away, getting out the appropriate books. I turned, and the same boy I had seen at my window was standing behind me. “Hello,” I said. “Hi.” he replied. “I’m Derek.” “Maren.” I said. I extended my hand, and we shook. “I like your sweater. And your skirt. Your hair’s pretty, too.”
I smiled graciously. “Thanks.” “Are you going to History?” he asked. “Yes, actually.” Derek smiled. “So am I. Do you mind if I walk with you?” I shook my head. “No, not at all.” We started walking. He noticed my very slight limp. “Are you okay?” he asked, looking concerned. “Yeah, I’m fine. Car crash.” He understood, and immediately sympathized. “I’m sorry.” We got to the door. “It’s okay, it’s not like you did it.” He held the door open, and I thanked him. I sat down, and got my books out. Derek sat next to me. Opening my binder, I found a piece of paper with horrible names on it in the front of my binder. I scowled, and went to rip it out. Derek looked at me. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Nothing. It’s nothing.” He leaned over, and my efforts to dissuade him were futile. He grabbed the paper, and read it. His eyes widened, and I diverted my eyes to the teacher, trying to pay attention. Derek balled the piece of paper in his fist, and threw it away. I slouched in my seat, crossing my arms over my chest. I was out of the class first when the bell rang. I went through the same thing in my other binders, Derek also ripped these things out of my hands, and I exited the class before anyone else.
At lunch, I sat alone, as usual. Derek was with his friends at another table across the common, and I tried not to listen. But somehow, I could hear every word that was said. “Why did you do it? She clearly doesn’t fit in!” I heard one say. Derek answered. Hey, man. If you’ve got a problem with it, whatever. She’s just like us.” “She is not!” another said. “She will never fit in with our kind!” What on earth were they on about? Our kind? This was just too weird. After I finished my tray, I dumped it, and went outside in a hurry. I had super hearing. Oh, dear. That’s not good. I went around to the side of the building, and leaned against the wall. I heard footsteps, and knew that I would never get away in time. I pushed off the wall, and faced my doom.
“Hey, weirdo!” A voice said. The owner was a big, obese kid with curly dark hair. I stood my ground, and they said some other tantalizing things. I walked around them when the bell rang. When school ended, I went to my locker, and pulled out my laptop bag. I slung my bag and my laptop over my shoulder, bending slightly with the combined weight. I sat down at a table. I finished my homework, and then looked around. No one was here. At that precise moment someone came around the corner. Not bothering to see who it was, I got up. Their pace quickened. I left as they called my name. I got home, and then asked my mom if I could go to swim classes. They started today, and mom said she’d let me. I raced into my room, grabbed my bag with my swimsuit, and went over to Lakeshore, a smile on my face.
I went in to the pool locker area, and got changed. I was wearing a rich green swimsuit, one piece. I exited, and found Miss Katie, the swim coach. “Hi.” I said. “I heard there was a meet today. May I join you?” Miss Kate looked at me. “Well, sure. We’ll get you set up after practice.” I got in the lap pool, shuddering at the cold. I did a few laps, getting used to how the water felt. I stopped to catch my breath. Reagan’s cousin, Reyna, had just arrived. I got out to say hello. “Sweet! I can’t believe it! You joined?! Awesome!” She was ecstatic about the whole affair. When we got started, I was a little slow, still not quite used to the water. But as time wore on, I got very fast. I even beat Reyna. She was slightly less ecstatic about that. After about two hours, it was time to leave. My hair clung to my scalp, and looked to be a deep, blood red. I grabbed a towel from the stack, and followed Miss Katie to her office. After that, I went back in the locker area to get changed. When I was done, I left. My hair was drying now, and a after a few minutes of walking, it was dry. I passed a large, black house on my way home, and heard glass break. I stopped, and bent down, so it looked like I was tying my shoe. I looked at the window, and it was dark. I heard men’s voices shouting, and recognized Derek’s voice. Derek exited, and I ran, not wanting him to know I had heard anything. His dad must have been yelling at him, I wagered. I stopped, and looked back.
As soon as I looked back, I could have sworn I saw something, but I don’t know what. There was a small pile of wood near Derek’s house, and I think Derek must’ve set it on fire with a spell. He turned, and saw me. I turned, and walked on, scared.
When I got home, a sandwich had been made for me. A red apple sat next to it. I ate hungrily. After I finished, I threw it in my trash bin. I got on my computer, and searched for ‘modern warlocks’. A few websites came up, most of them not helping in the slightest. One of these websites was helpful, though. It had a list of names. Types of warlocks. Well, the things they studied, anyway. There were people called Elementals, and people called Adepts. I clicked on Adepts. Adepts studied strange things. It was hard to discern what the website said about them, other than they usually turned out evil. I chuckled, and got into bed. I had a very fitful sleep, with a dragon fighting a brown haired man throwing fire.
At six o’clock, I got up. I got dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt. I brushed my hair into a loose ponytail, and then went to school. Derek seemed unusually kind to me, helping me with my books, and giving me answers. (They were mostly incorrect, but you can’t blame him for trying.) I returned the favor many times. “You don’t need to help me!” I said, exasperated as he once again, held my locker open. He just looked sad.
At lunch, I sat down with my tray at the table in the far corner, away from everyone else. I watched Derek sit down with his friends. One of them said something, but my super hearing had left me, so I couldn’t hear what was said. It irked Derek, so much that he leapt up, and went over to my table. I blushed, as Derek sat down right next to me. “Jerks.” he growled. We sat in awkward silence for a while, and when I was done, I got up with my tray. Derek finished at the exact same time, and grabbed my tray before I could protest. I was for some reason perturbed, maybe because these acts of hospitality were more annoying than they were actually helpful. I didn’t cry, but my face got red. I jogged outside and went to my place of solitude at the side of the building. Derek soon followed, and I ignored him. I thought of a book to immerse myself in, and came up with Everlost, by Neal Schusterman.
Leif, having been so long in his special forest, never had the chance to read any of Mary Hightower’s brilliantly instructional books. Most everything he knew about Everlost, he had learned from experience. For instance, he had quickly learned that dead spots– that is, place that only the dead can see– are the only places that feel solid to the touch. He could swing from the branches of his dead forest, but once he got past its borders to where the living trees were, he would pass through them as if they weren’t there- or, more accurately, like he wasn’t there.
He didn’t need to read Mary Hightower’s Tips for Taps to know that you only need to breathe when you’re talking, or that the only pain you can feel is pain of the heart, or that memories you don’t hold tightly on to are soon lost. He knew all too well about the memory part. The worst part about it was that no matter how much time had passed, you always remembered how many things you had forgotten.
The only pain I can feel, I thought, is the pain of my heart. Derek sat down next to me, and went to wrap an arm around me. He got closer, and the bell rang. Not wanting him to get any ideas, I shot upright, away from him, just as he leaned his head forward.
After school, I sat down at a table in the corner, and, seeing as I didn’t have any homework, I just wrote. I wrote to keep my mind off of Derek, and everybody. A girl sat down, and I looked up. She had brown hair, and pretty blue eyes. She was wearing a shirt with the name of some band on it. She smiled when I looked up. “Hi. I’m Taryn. I notice you sit alone, so I came over to keep you company.” Her teeth looked like she had bleached them. She wore light mascara. “I’m Maren.” “Nice name. Are you friends with Derek?” I shrugged. “More like he won’t leave me alone.” She laughed an infectious tinkle. Soon, I was laughing along with her. After we chatted aimlessly, Taryn’s ride came. “See you at lunch, okay?” I nodded, and after she left, people were watching me. I chuckled, and went back to typing. The story I was writing had to do with a young girl, who had a gift. She had the power to read emotions, and control both hers and others emotions. I wrote and wrote, every keystroke ebbing away my fear, and pain, and anger. But fear of what? Pain from what? Anger at what? I knew I was ticked off at Derek, but not angry. Angry at his friends, maybe? For writing all of those things? I just didn’t know, neither did I have the curiosity to find out. I got up after writing for an hour, and looked around at the empty tables. The silence was tangible. It was so quiet, it was loud. I had to make sure I still had my hearing. Yep. Still hearable. I stood there for a second longer, then went to the front door. The office door was open. I could see the side of Derek as he spoke to some of his friends. Their heads were bent forward, and their arms were crossed. They were having a heated conversation. Pain in my leg brought me back. I hissed in pain, and limped outside. I kept going, and halfway to my house, I collapsed. I was at the park, and I dragged myself over to a bench.
When I was in the car crash, I got a very large piece of shrapnel in my shin, and now I have a scar, and a crippled leg. My scar bugged me constantly, and this was apparently one time too many of me ignoring my pain. I rolled up my pant leg, revealing a long, shallow scar that ran from my knee to under my shoe. I kneaded the scar until it stopped throbbing. I covered it up again, just as three guys came around the corner. They had followed me. Derek had seen me leave, and collapse, and he was here to check on me. And his friends no doubt tagged along because they wanted to berate me more. I got up, and sprinted, running away. I heard Derek swear, and he tried to catch up. I got to my house, and doubled over. As I was resting, the guys came, running like heck. They saw me just as I entered my house. I closed the door, and went into my room. I practiced my guitar. Reagan had demanded I learn the guitar, and so I did. I liked Reagan; her perspective on life was unique. She disliked how people stared at her, and yet didn’t raise a hand against them. I strived to be like her. As much as I could, anyway. I finished, and set the guitar down. I lay in bed, still recovering from my run. As I ran, I heard the doorbell ring, and I heard our dog go tearing after the sound. Our dog was a husky. A pure white thing we called Shasta. It seemed like a good husky name. She was a very good guard dog. When I didn’t hear Mom or Dad go to the door, I sighed, and went out. I opened the door, and Derek was standing there, sweating slightly and very out of breath.
I rolled my eyes at his out of shape behavior. “Yes, I am alright, as you can clearly see. No, you probably don’t need to carry me around, and, yes, I saw you at the office.” He looked sheepish, and averted his gaze. “What were you talking about?” “Nothing.” he said. “Lying is a sin; you do know that, right?” “Fine. I was trying to dissuade them from hurting you.” There was an awkward silence after that, and I said, “I saw you, a few days ago. You threw fire at a pile of driftwood after your dad yelled at you.” He glanced up, eyes wide. “Wha- oh, ****! You weren’t supposed to see that!” “I gathered.”
I asked him,” So, do you have like this magical community or something?” He didn’t answer. Ever. Not for a very long time. I shrugged, and closed the door. He knocked, then banged on the door. I considered setting Shasta on him, but he was a friend.