Light and darkness. Two opposing things, right? Always enemies. But what if they created something together? These would be little somethings called...
Shadows. Everything has one. Every person does too, right? Wrong. Not everyone. And I'd find that out soon enough. But one thing's for sure: you've never seen true darkness, nor have you ever seen true light.
I am Erika Clarckson. Age fourteen, wavy ginger hair and emerald colored eyes. I prefer to be called Era though. My mother, Mona Clarckson, pretty much obliged. Except when she's angry with me, then she calls me by my full name like parents do when they're ticked off.
My father? Well, he died in a war when I was just a kid. I was around three or four years old, maybe. My mom said he fought in a distant country, minor war though. You don't exactly hear the name Earl Clarckson in a random history museum. He was one of the unrecognized underlings, but a leader and hero all the same. At least that's what my mom told me.
So here I am. Ridger's School 8th grade student. Regular high school, regular routine, irregular habits and daydreams. Typical bullies and jocks. Populars and nerds. Me? I'm one of the "differents". The ones who don't fit in. When they say "differents" they refer to it as a general common noun. Each "different" is, well, different from one another. As I like to call it, we're unique. They just prefer the term "weird".
It was a regular Monday morning. The day all humans dread. I sat in one of the seats on the bus. I was one of the early ones. There were a few more stops to go before we finally get to the school. Kids were filling in by twos or threes. I saw this quartet of girls walk by and into the back seats, chatting loudly. They were some of the differents, always together. I respected them. When they hear bullies talk about them or say rude things to their faces, they simply laughed as if it was a joke. It made me smile. They were juniors, but still acted themselves- childlike and carefree.
Then after them, walked in a girl in a pretty pink tank-top and tight leggings. She had curly blond hair and piercing blue eyes and a face plastered with make-up. Typical popular kid. She spotted me in my seat, grinning slyly as she sat down next to one of her, ahem, minions who came early. I swore they were talking about me in their high-pitched gossip-voices.
"Don't mind Jessica." A familiar voice said as the owner slid in the seat next to me. Zach Maeston, my best friend since grade school. He had messy dirty-blond hair and crystal blue eyes that always twinkled with mirth. He always had his headphones around his neck but kept them away during class. But this day, he had earphones on.
"I hate her." I muttered.
"Trust me," Zach said. "Everyone hates Jessica Matteline. They just obey her 'cause she's rich."
"More like Jessica Bratteline." I muttered again. That just made Zach laugh loudly and causing Jessica to look at us suspiciously, eyes narrowed into a petty, disgusted glare. As long as you were talking about her, she had ears like a wolf's, and I knew what was coming.
"Thank you for scheduling another confrontation with her." I elbowed my friend harshly, but he only laughed.
"Don't worry." He said. "I'll be there."
I scoffed. "Oh, like the time when you blurted out my joke to the entire cafeteria, stood up after someone 'called' you, then left me alone to face Jessica's wrath?" I retorted, a little harsher than intended. I crossed my arms and looked out the window, facing away from him. "Honestly though, I feel like you've been avoiding me recently."
Zach didn't say anything, but I could tell he was frowning. I knew him like the back of my hand, and he knew me just as much, though he doesn't always understand me. "I have not." He defended. But he didn't even sound convinced himself.
The engine purred as the bus started up, causing me and Zach to lurch forward, but we composed ourselves immediately.
"It's just that," Zach tried to explain. "It's just that I... I have things to do." He concluded rather quietly. He's been acting very strange lately, I just pretend to not take notice.
"Yeah," I said rolling my eyes, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Important things, no doubt."
Zach simply groaned in exasperation. "Whatever. I can never explain stuff to you." He sighed. I turned my head slightly to see him tapping on the iPod on his lap. After scrolling through several playlists, he took out his right earphone and offered it to me, which I took without hesitation. The song that boomed in my ear was probably one of Greenday's. I love music, no doubt. But I don't exactly have a specific genre, singer, nor like to make it myself. Zach's usually the guitarist/ musician here. Me? I'm more of a bookworm. Typical bully targets, huh?
Sometimes I just wish to get out of this place. I just want to go somewhere much like my daydreams- wild, colorful, and filled with fantasy. Maybe not necessarily like that. Something... fictional. Different. Dangerous. Hey, danger's good for you too, the nice kind. Not the "car's about to hit you run!" kind. More of the "the palace soldiers are here even though you were just framed to arrest you, RUN!" kind. Some sort of adventure. But hey, you have to deal with reality one way or another, there's no escape, really.
The songs switched several times as Zach and I sat in silence for about twenty more minutes. Then the big yellow bus came to a stop just in front of the school gates. They were made of iron, painted black as coal. The grounds were mostly grass and tables. There were a few trash cans around and about four trees. The building was three floors high and painted a smooth shade of mocha. This was Ridger's School.
Zach and I got off the bus after he tugged back his earphone. We walked side by side, talking about pizza. I do not know how we got to that topic. First we were talking about theories of death, and then suddenly- pizza. Anyway, we were currently talking until I noticed that Zach had stopped. I stopped too and saw that he was looking at something around the corner of the school. He stared intensely at whatever-it-was with his crystal blue eyes. I stared at him, and he didn't seem to notice that I've stopped talking. Then, still looking at whatever-it-was, he mouthed "No," and shook his head. I turned to look at whatever-it-was but only saw the trees casting their shadows among the grass.
"Era, listen, I have to go." He said urgently, cutting me off. Then he, very rudely, shoved his backpack into my arms saying "Cover for me, okay?" Then ran somewhere behind the school. I raised an eyebrow at his leaving form. He was getting stranger and stranger, always leaving me to cover for him when he had to 'do' something. Yet he never tells me anything, and it sucked.
I set his electric blue backpack in my right hand and shouldered my blue and violet one. I was just a few more feet away from the first steps of the school when I felt my hair suddenly pulled backwards and downwards. Painfully.
I let out a muffled scream, dropping Zach's backpack with a thump. I turned around, my ponytail now undone, and found none other than Jessica Brattelinestanding there behind me.She was smirking, her minions behind her. One had short blond hair and the other had long dark hair. Both had fake smirks plastered onto their faces like they were trained to do so, following Jessica's lead. I scowled at her, emerald eyes narrowing. "What do you want now?" I growled.
"Oh, me?" Jessica asked relaying fake innocence. "Just, you know, asking a question myself." Her minions snickered behind her, keeping their hands on their waists. "So, you said something on the bus, earlier?" She asked, fake innocence intact.
I tried to keep my cool, but she was getting annoying. "Yes. I was talking about pizza." I said through gritted teeth. She was getting on my nerves.
Jessica looked side to side to her minions. "Alec?" She asked the dark haired girl. "Didn't you hear her talk about something with little Zachie? Something about me?"
Alec tried to pull a confident smile and nodded. "Yeah, I heard it." She said. Then looked to me. "What did you say again, Era?"
I rolled my eyes at them, picking up Zach's bag from where it fell. Hey, he may have deserted me, but I'm not about to betray him and leave his bag. Besides, I can hit him on the head with it later. "I don't have time for this." I said under my breath, just loud enough for Jessica to hear. Then, the school bell rang, cutting the popular princess off. I grinned, turning on my heal. "Also, nice chatt, Jessica Bratteline." I said and ran inside the building as fast as I could to Mrs. Erlanda's English class, mine and Zach's first period. I could hear the populars growling in outrage behind me and the clicks of their heals as they tried to run after me. Ah, the perks of sneakers over Gucci shoes.
I rounded a corner and slowed down, finally reaching my classroom. I entered and found Mrs. Erlanda, early as usual, sipping coffee while waiting for the rest of the students. I sat down in the middle seat by the window and put Zach's bag in the seat next to mine. Only half of the class was present at the moment, and there were still less than fifteen minutes to go. I had to hope Zach would make it.
"Erika?" I lifted my head up as Mrs. Erlanda called me. She had a Latina complexion, her lips red with lipstick, and her hair up in a bun. "Is Zach late again?" She asked. I nodded, fixing up my pony tail which Jessica dragged. "He asked you to cover for him?" She asked again. I nodded again. She sighed. "That boy's been getting into too much trouble. Tell him if he keeps this up, he won't be passing the anything."
"Already have Mrs. Erlanda." I said truthfully. She nodded in reply and went back to sipping coffee.
I looked out the window resting my chin on my hand and elbow on the window sill as I waited. I could see a little playground outside for the preschoolers. There was a swing set of two, a low monkey bar, two slides and a see-saw. There were also two trees and a wooden bench off to the side. As the sun rose slowly their shadows adjusted following the light. But out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a part of a shadow of a tree slip out and into the shadow of the slide. It was kind of like seeing a drop of water escape from a glass only to join with the water in another glass.
The hairs on my neck stood on end as I watched out for another shadow, but when nothing appeared, I shook my head and tried to block it out, but I just couldn't. It was stuck in my mind for the rest of the day, mostly because I couldn't understand what it was. I tried to convince myself that it was nothing more than my imagination, but my immagination had it's own ideas. You can never keep your imagination caged, especially when it starts on something unexplained. It's just human nature to become so paranoid sometimes, to think and to make up theories of the unknown.
And sometimes, that's a bad thing.