Firewatcher

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Early Mornings

Early Mornings

The white fog was wrapping around her body, the tendrils creeping around her wrists, waist and neck. It was going to suffocate her, but she couldn’t move. A ball of heat was growing at the bottom of her spine, travelling through her body until it burst out of her fingers in brilliant white flames.

Mina sat up, gasping for air, frantic to escape. She could still feel the cold white fog wrapping around her body, wanting to suffocate her, but when she looked down she found that she was only twisted up in her sheets. She looked at her hands, expecting there to be burn marks on her fingers from where the flames burst out, but her hands were fine. She looked around, half expecting to still be stuck in that alleyway, but the posters of One Direction and Justin Bieber greeted her like they did every morning. She sat up, pushing the sheets away from her and bringing her knees up to her chest. It was just a nightmare, but it felt so real. She looked down at her wrists, half expecting there to be marks from where the fog got hold of her, but there was nothing wrong with her. She was being irrational, fog didn’t leave marks, and it certainly didn’t try to eat people. “It was just a nightmare,” Mina told herself, rubbing her forehead. She turned her head, her eyes catching a glimpse of the clock. It was five am. She was surprised that she slept long enough to have a nightmare, and that she actually slept. It was the first time she slept through the night since waking up from the coma and she didn’t feel any better. Her head was pounding behind her eyes and she wished she could go back to the inky black escape sleep offered.

Mina pushed her hair out of her face, falling back into the pillows and staring up at the ceiling, her dream replaying in her mind. She remembered walking home from the Jetty, and the way the white fog crept up from behind her. It was so thick she couldn’t see through it and she knew that it wasn’t normal fog. She had seen the fog before, she just couldn’t remember when. If this wasn’t the first time it happened to her, maybe it was a recurring nightmare?

Or was it really a nightmare? It felt so real, and she couldn’t remember coming home from the Jetty. Was it possible that she was actually attacked by white fog? Mina groaned, turning over and hiding her face in the pillow. Great, she was going crazy now. She couldn’t distinguish between dreams and reality anymore, and white fog tried to eat her. She was most definitely going crazy.

Mina wanted desperately to stay in bed today, she didn’t want to go to school or participate in life. She wanted to make a cocoon of blankets and hibernate until…well until September, but she knew her mother would never allow it. She had to get up, go to school and get on with life.

Mina sighed, pushing herself up and blowing a strand of blonde hair out of her face. She knew there was giant crow’s nest on her head and her face felt oily and sticky from sleeping with her make up on. She must have been so tired last night she didn’t bother to shower, or change out of her clothes for that matter. She still wore the black jeans and hoodie she had on yesterday, and she smelled like beer and salt.

Yeah, I need a shower, she thought to herself as she got up, her hand searching the wall for the light switch. She found it, turning the light on and almost diving right back underneath her pillow. The light was way too bright and hurt her eyes and head. She felt like she had a hangover, only she didn’t drink anything last night. Or did she? Was she drunk last night? Was that why she couldn’t remember getting home? It would have made sense if alcohol had any effect on her, but it didn’t. She tried drinking to pass out and get some sleep, but there wasn’t enough alcohol in the world. Her tolerance should have been shot, but instead she had super human tolerance. She didn’t like it one bit. She was definitely not drunk last night, just suffering from a hangover anyway.

Mina stumbled toward the bathroom, keeping one hand on her forehead as if to keep her brain inside her head. If only it were that easy. She switched the light on, stopping for a moment to let her eyes adjust before stepping into the bathroom. Her eyes landed on her reflection in the mirror hanging against the wall and she jumped back, her heart almost jumping out of her chest.

“What the hell?” Mina stared at her reflection, her fingers softly touching the giant purple bruise on her right cheek. “How the hell?” Where had she gotten a bruise that big? It stretched all the way from her jawline to just under her eye, covering most of her cheek. It was still tender and hurt when she touched it. What did she do to herself last night? She would have remembered getting a bruise that big. Something strange was definitely going on, and she didn’t like it one bit.

Mina bent down, pulling the top drawer of her vanity open. She needed to hide this bruise and put something on it to make it better. It looked like she got in a fistfight with someone.

“I hope the other guy looks worse,” she mumbled to herself as she found some ointment and straightened up. When she looked in the mirror again she froze, her blood running cold. She dropped the ointment in the sink, all the air knocked out of her. “This impossible…”

The bruise was gone. There was no trace what so ever of the large purple bruise that was on her cheek just a few seconds ago. Mina leaned closer to the mirror, pulling at her cheek. Was she seeing things? Did she imagine a bruise that covered half her face?

This cannot be happening, she thought to herself as she took a few deep breaths, trying not to panic. She was probably still groggy and on edge from the nightmare, and it could have been a trick of the light. It was still dark outside, and the chandelier in her bathroom threw weird shadows on the walls. There was a perfectly logical explanation for all of this, one that didn’t include her going completely mental.

You’re fine, there is nothing wrong, she repeated the phrase like a mantra in her head as she got out of her clothes, throwing them in the hamper before getting into the shower. She opened the water, almost jumping out of her skin when the cold stream hit her back, but at least it woke her up properly. She stood there until the water got warm and steam filled the entire bathroom, convincing herself that it was just a shadow on her cheek.


“You look pale,” Cade said as Mina got into the backseat of his car. It was freezing cold outside and she had been waiting for him to pick her up for nearly half an hour now. Her mother failed to make it home last night, which was a good thing, since Mina wasn’t exactly sure how she got home herself and she didn’t want Catelyn to freak out.

“Morning Mina,” Marx greeted from the passenger seat, turning the heat up when he saw her shivering. It was one of those typical April days where the mornings were freezing and the afternoons were blistering hot. She never knew how to dress for weather like this. Both of the boys were wearing shorts with their school jackets, they were going to brave the cold this morning and avoid the heat in the afternoon.

“Morning guys,” Mina said, ignoring Cade’s comment about her being pale. After everything that’s happened last night and this morning she was allowed to be pale. Cade shifted the car into gear before pulling away, already speeding down the narrow streets.

“How was dinner with Vanessa?” Marx asked, turning in his seat to face Mina. Mina just shrugged, thinking it was best not to talk about last night ever again. She was thrown back into the seat as Cade rounded a sharp corner at about a hundred kilometers an hour, grabbing the seat belt hastily and putting it on.

“Entertaining,” Mina said, once she was secure.

“I’m sure it was,” Cade said, smirking at Mina when she caught his eye in the rearview mirror. He jerked the steering wheel hard as the car flew around another corner.

“Who the hell taught you to drive, the devil?” Mina asked as the seatbelt dug into her stomach, seeing her opportunity to change the subject. She grabbed on to the door handle to keep herself from falling around.

“Relax, I learned from the best. I know what I’m doing,” Cade said.

“There’s a fine line between cocky and confidant bro,” Marx said, turning to back to the front in his seat. Mina was relieved, she didn’t want to go into detail about her night with Vanessa, or what happened after. They wouldn’t understand any of it, she barely did.

“You’ve been riding with me for years now and you’re still alive aren’t you?”

“Just barely,” Marx smirked, punching his brother in the shoulder.

Cade just shook his head, keeping his eyes on the road. Morning traffic was crazy on Main Street because it went straight to Cape Town. They had to cut through the suburbs if they wanted to make it to school in time in the mornings, but the suburb roads could be slow as well. Luckily Cade knew which streets to take and which not to take, plus he drove like a mad man, so they made it to school on time.

“What does your morning look like Mina?” Cade asked as he reversed into a parking spot in front of the main building.

“English first, then accounting,” Mina answered as they got out of the car.

“They gave you your old subjects?” Cade asked, grabbing Mina’s bag before she could and throwing it over his shoulder. He locked the car behind them as the three of them made their way into the schoolyard. A few eyes fell on Mina, but she just ignored them. They should be used to her walking around by now.

“Yeah they did. It’s rough because I missed a term’s work already and more just keeps piling on.” Mina didn’t exactly try to catch up with all the work yesterday, although she should have, she was just too preoccupied. She made a mental note to start with some of the work tonight.

“I know the feeling,” Marx said as he fell into step next to Mina. She eyed the boys flanking her, her eyebrows raised. Something fishy was going on here.

“Are you going to escort me to class?” Mina asked slowly, almost as is she couldn’t believe they were trying to pull one over on her.

“Busted,” Marx shrugged. “It was Cade’s idea.”

“Thanks for throwing me under the bus bro,” Cade mumbled as Mina stopped walking and turned to face him.

“Give me my bag.”

Cade reluctantly handed over Mina’s bag and she threw it over her shoulder. She knew they were just trying to do the right thing, but it irritated her. She didn’t need to be protected all the time, especially by Cade. “I’m not some helpless little girl who can’t even walk to class on her own Cade. I can take care of myself. What did you think was going to happen to me on my way to class?”

Cade shrugged, looking unsure of himself. Mina knew he felt guilty for what happened to her, but she really didn’t need him to hover over her. Nothing was going to happen to her. “I just wanted to make sure you got there alright.”

“It’s ten steps away, I’ll be fine,” Mina told him before turning on her heel and heading to the class. “See you guys later.” She didn’t need a babysitter, she was fine on her own. If she stubbed her toe or tripped on the way to class then so be it, Cade didn’t have to be there to hold her hand and catch her.

Mina adjusted her bag on her shoulder, not looking back at Cade and Marx. The last thing she needed right now was to be babied. She wanted to get back on her feet on her own, without someone’s help. She needed to learn to adjust to this strange life she was living on her own so that she didn’t need to depend on anyone.

Mina rounded a corner, her eyes on the door of the classroom and not where she was going. Her feet got caught up in something and suddenly the ground was a lot closer than it used to be. Mina turned her body, hoping that her bag would break her fall, closing her eyes and bracing for impact, but she never truly hit the ground. A pair of strong arms wrapped around her, catching her before she fell. She was sitting in the lap of whoever caught her, his arms wrapped around her. She opened one eye, still not entirely sure of what just happened.

“Hey, are you alright?” A concerned voice asked. Mina frowned, sure that she’s heard that voice somewhere before, only now it sounded…South African instead of British. Her eyes flew open and she got a good look at the person who’s lap she was sitting on. He was noticeably pale with dark blonde hair and green eyes flecked with silver. He had a familiar face with sharp features, one she was sure she had seen before, but she couldn’t place it. He looked at her with concern in his eyes…the same concern he had on his features last night.

Mina gasped as the realisation dawned on her. She pulled away from him, scrambling to her feet as quick as she could. She must have looked like a wild animal trying to escape something because he also got to his feet, holding his hands up in a non threatening gesture. “Hey, hey, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to frighten you. You tripped over my legs and the least I could do was catch you.”

Mina took another step back, her eyes scanning the guy she just fell over. He was a good head taller than she was and not as muscular as Cade and Scott, but she could tell he was still toned. He was wearing a pair of jeans, black sneakers, and a very well fitted black sweater. He looked so different from the guy in her dream last night, less threatening, but that may just be from the lack of weapons strapped to him. The guy in her dream had light blonde hair and silver eyes that matched hers, but this guy had green eyes and darker blonde hair. His face was the only thing that stayed the same in her dream and reality.

She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. It was just a coincidence that he appeared in her dreams looking a little different. That sort of thing happened all the time right? She once dreamt that Vanessa was a mermaid, but she’s not one in real life. People can change in dreams. She was just tired last night and scared and her mind made up all these crazy things.

“Why would you sit there?” Mina asked, pointing to the corner she just came around. “It’s like you’re asking for people to trip over you.” Mina pulled her bag and her sweater back into position, her eyes never leaving him. She didn’t trust him.

“I’m sorry, it just seemed like a good place to sit,” he said, giving her a small smile as if te reassure her that nothing strange was going on here. Mina was about to tell him that he should find another place to sit, but she was interrupted by the first bell ringing, indicating that she was late for class.

“Shit,” she mumbled under her breath, not giving the guy she just fell over a second glance as she ducked her head down and ran for class.

She made it just in the nick of time, entering the beige classroom just behind Miss Khan. She made her way toward the back of the class, sitting down at one of the unclaimed tables. She dropped her bag on the table, pulling out a pen and notepad before dropping her bag on the ground next to her.

“Morning class,” Miss Khan greeted them, the class responding with groans and half-hearted ‘good mornings.’ “I think we’ll start the day with some poetry, since you’re all so enthusiastic to be here.”

Mina thought she saw the woman smirk a little as the class groaned again, but it was gone before she could be sure. Mina sighed, resting her head on the table and closing her eyes. She was not in the mood for poetry, especially after her rough evening and morning. She really wasn’t in the mood for anything today. Mina only listened with half an ear as Miss Khan started handing out the poem they were going to be discussing, her heels clicking against the floor as she walked. Mina didn’t even bother to listen to the name of the poem, she just wanted to disappear.

“Ah Mr Barnes, late as usual,” Miss Khan said as the sound of her heels against the floor came to a stop. “Did no one teach you how to tell time?” Mina could just imagine the dirty look Miss Khan must have been giving the poor sod who had the nerve to be late. She felt like Miss Khan would have been able to kill someone with just a stare, she was a no nonsense teacher.

“Apologies ma’am,” came a familiar voice and Mina groaned. Today was not her lucky day. Maybe if she pretended to be asleep he would just leave her alone. “I got caught up in something.”

“Sit down, Mr Barnes,” Miss Khan said, her heels clicking again as she finished handing out the poems. There was movement next to Mina, a chair scraping against the floor as it’s pulled back, the sound of someone sitting down next to her and pushing the chair back into place. Mina took a deep breath, counting to three before opening her eyes. A pair of green eyes stared back at her.

“Are you following me?” Mina asked and he laughed, shaking his head. He had a nice, genuine laugh, one that came straight from his stomach. Mina sat up straight, blinking for a moment before looking at the poem in front of her. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Could this day get any worse?

“You’re the one who fell over me, and now you’re sitting next to me in class. I think I should be worried about you following me,” he said as he pulled out his own pen and notebook.

“Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 describes, what many believe is, true love. It describes a love so powerful that it can weather any storm and survive even death,” Miss Khan started, but Mina wasn’t paying attention. She was gaping at the guy who just had the nerve to call her a crazy stalker.

“You’re the one who was lurking around the corner like some weird stalker,” Mina whispered. “And this is English, it’s not like I have a choice to be here.”

“Yeah, but you’re sitting at my table.”

“I don’t see your name on the table.” It was a childish thing to say, but somehow it just slipped out. She knew he was teasing her, but she was already irritated with Cade and Marx and now this guy was just making it worse.

“You don’t even know my name,” he grinned, sitting back in his chair as if he just won the fight and it was over. He did have a god point though, she didn’t know the name of the guy who was bothering her so much.

“Fine,” she said, giving in. “What is your name?”

“Shane Barnes.”

______

After that the rest of the morning passed fairly quickly. Shane got called on by Miss Khan to read the poem, abruptly ending their conversation. Mina tried very hard to focus on the rest of her classes that morning, but her mind was filled with the images from her dream and the night before. She had dismissed the crazy idea that last night had somehow happened outside of her head, and that Shane was a part of it, but when lunch rolled around she started to question herself again.

She was sitting on top of the table, Scott and Marx working on their maths homework for next period next to her. Vanessa and Cade were nowhere to be found, but maybe that was a good thing. Mina didn’t think she could face either of them at the moment. The sun was beating down hard and the temperature had already risen into the high twenties. Luckily their table was in the shade so it provided a bit of relief. Mina played with the bright green apple she grabbed that morning, in case she got hungry at school, but her appetite was still non existent. She was only half listening to Marx and Scott as they debated about quadratic functions, her attention was fixed on Shane.

He was sitting at a table a few feet away from theirs, where the rest of the eleventh graders sat. It seemed like he was really good friends with some of them, as they kept laughing and making jokes. He looked out of place among them though, as if he was a lot older and more mature than any of them. It wasn’t just his pale skin that made him seem strange to Mina, everything about him shouted ‘weird’ the longer she looked at him. The way he acted and the way he carried himself, like he was fifty years old but stuck in a teenage body.

She was watching him pretty intently, over analysing every move and every joke he made. Even though he was sitting a few meters away, Mina could hear perfectly.

“Marx?” Mina asked and he looked up from his work.

“Yeah?”

“Who is the guy over there, the pale one,” Mina gestured in Shane’s direction, not wanting to point outright at him. Marx stood up, craning his next to look around Mina to where she was gesturing.

“Oh, that’s Shane Barnes.”

Mina had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes. “Yes I know what his name is, I want to know who he is. When did he get here?”

“He and his sister moved here a couple of weeks ago. Personally I think they’re a bit strange, but everyone in the grade seems to like them.”

“He has a sister?” Just as the words left Mina’s mouth a small red head came bouncing up to Shane, sitting down next to him. She was pale as well, but her skin had a slight olive tone to it. Her red hair was rolled into a perfect bun so there was no way of telling how long it was, and her soft brown eyes met Mina’s silver ones before she turned to her brother.

A chill ran down Mina’s spine. She didn’t believe in coincidence, the universe was rarely so lazy. It was like these two characters walked straight out of her dream and into reality. All they were missing was their swords, black clothes and silver eyes. Mina didn’t know how much of the weirdness she could take anymore, things were getting too much to handle. First the fog tried to eat her last night and flames spouted from her fingers, then she was rescued by some version of Shane and Chloe and then she somehow made it back home, only to discover a bruise on her cheek that disappeared seconds later.

“Yeah, Chloe Barnes. They don’t look related at all if you ask me, but that’s how it is,” Marx said as he turned back to his maths. Mina sighed, rubbing the back of her head. Now she was watching Chloe and Shane talk in hushed whispers, their eyes flickering up towards her. Mina strained her ears, trying to get a few pieces of the conversation, but they were talking too softly for her to hear. Chloe appeared to be lecturing Shane, he looked like a bored kid just nodding his head to make her stop talking. A sharp buzzing sound cut their conversation off and Chloe reached into her pocket, pulling out a cellphone. She was talking normally now, so Mina could hear again.

“What is it Zady?” Chloe asked, her voice still as regal as it was last night except without the Eastern accent. She just sounded plain South African today. The person on the other end said something unintelligible and Chloe nodded.

“We’re on it,” Chloe said as she ended the call, nudging Shane. The two of them got up, leaving the table, and Mina didn’t see either of them for the rest of the day.



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