The sky was a weathered grey in the midst of the smouldering heat. It was a fine day in the kingdom of Sailoren, for it was a day that caused for celebration despite the dim setting of the atmosphere. There was a lone body in the fields, a girl the size of a tiny colt, and hair a compilation of tresses as dark as the Elsystice Dragon. Her pale fingers were grasped around the stem of a flower, the pale green making her eyes shine in naïve innocence.
Her body swayed to the ground, giggling as she touched upon soft leaves. She was about to brush against the grass, only halting as she saw the figure of her mother standing near the outgrowths of the hill. She smiled as she struggled to stand, clenching the flower to eagerly run towards the welcoming form of her only parent. The girl ran until the green faded, grey and cold stone seeping in fizzles to create a new setting.
She was inside the castle halls, running, body much leaner and taller, her face pressed to a firmness and no longer holding traces of innocence and childlike wonder. The girl flashed past torches and statues of vague beauty, reaching for the iron barrier that served as a door to the King’s throne room. She pushed it open with a vehement grip, the colours of orange and grey a mass swirling until it settled into a bleak white, and a pervasion of a thick, abhorred mist…
“Your voice is quite annoying you know.”
Lena jerked up, the action too sudden that her feet tangled in the thickness of her bedspread, and a sharp pain shot through her temples. She groaned and fought the weary battle of opening her eyes, dropping back against the thinly prepared mattress. Her vest covered form felt sticky and hot, clammy as the wet from a sweat drenched dream – nightmare – could bring. There was a discontented hiss from her doorway, and she looked up to see her younger brother leaning against the brown frame.
“Seriously, you’re older than me Len. When will these annoying nightmares stop?”
Her eyes caught the bright flashings of the digital clock strategically placed on top of her wardrobe. It was a time just shy of their usual waking hour, but Lena could understand Gabe’s annoyance to the impromptu wake up call.
“Sorry about that,” she said finally, grimacing as she peeled off her blanket. It was just as damp as her clothes, and the disgusting feel of sweat upon her skin made her ache for a cold shower. The tan stretch of her legs touched unto the ground, lower body covered by cool cotton shorts that was purposely frayed at the edges. Lena heard a grumbling from her brother once more and forced away the pervading feeling.
“I’ll make it up to you Gabey,” she told him, eyeing the spread of her floor for her bedroom slippers. “Carry you out for dinner tonight?”
“Your slippers are by the door, right where I’m standing,” he stated blankly, shirt rising as he turned. His dirty blonde hair fell halfway over his dark eyes, and the thick strands brushed upon his collar bones in a delicate swirl. The thick mop of golden tresses he called hair was getting longer, but his stubbornness always won over her ‘mothering’ as he refused to cut it. “And I don’t know if I want to go out for dinner. I’m having friends over tonight. I told you this a week ago.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she muttered, pushing herself off the mattress. Her sheet dripped off the bed until it fell in a soft thud, and her bare feet padded across the cold floor to look for her slippers. Gabe scowled and his vaguely pink lips curled.
“Can’t you sleep in something remotely decent?” he barked out, backing away from the door way, fingers reaching up to tangle into grey highlights. “I’m a guy, you’re a girl…I don’t care if you’re my sister at least wear something that covers half of you!”
He was out of her bedroom before she could continue, and only a few seconds after she heard the loud slam caused by the door to his solace. Her hands were gripping her face and Lena let out a frustrated moan. She closed her door, albeit a bit softer than her sibling, and pressed against the hard offering to slide onto the ground. Her body curled and her knees were drawn up to her chin, face settling into the make shift embrace.
It would sound stupid to tell him the reason why she’d stopped sleeping with much clothes on. After years of waking up soaking wet, cloth upon skin as though the material was sown into her flesh, the musty harsh smell of a couple hours sweat – she’d long learned that the less cloth that touched her body, the better.
Lena blinked back the last of her sleep fogged mind, shoulders moving to release the built up stress that had accumulated during the night. She didn’t need a mirror to tell how horrid her complexion must look, pasty pale upon a stretched whiteness. Lack of sleep had given her permanent dark circles, shrouds of grey that marred her prettiness with its boldness. It had been too long that the dreams started, and too long since she’d learnt to live with them.
Dragging her body upwards, she struggled off the icy flat of the floor that delivered a numbing cold to her backside. It was a struggle to make it to her bathroom, but she managed to lock herself inside the whitely tiled room, snagging her fair blue towel along the way. She caught a glimpse of herself as she entered, her reflection in the mirror staring back at her, watching, wide eyed, and waiting.
Her fingers trembled as her hand extended, muscles in her arm clenching as she shakily reached out to touch the glass. Sometimes she thought that it was another person in the mirror. Someone different. Someone that wasn’t her.
She blinked, and her reflection in the mirror blinked back at her.
“This is stupid,” Lena muttered to herself, wiping the flat expanse of the faint frost that accumulated from her harsh breathing. She didn’t need schizophrenia added to the list of disorders she knew she’d gathered over the years, even if she couldn’t shrug off the nagging feeling of her reflection no longer representing her, but someone else’s persona.
Her clothes, sticky wet from her habitual interrupted sleep, were quickly peeled off as she glanced at the clock hanging above the counter top. Her gaze unconsciously flickered back to the mirror, and she shivered at the sight of her face.
Lena hated what she’d become.
Orbs that used to be coveted by many with its’ olive green texture and hints of grey and speckled honey were now bland and unwavering, brightness no longer flashing, and the area beneath her eyes sunken and black with years of broken dreams and insomnia. Her cheeks were pale and flat, and to her, the flesh of her mouth was ugly and plain.
But she was good with art, and make-up had become a necessity as she went through high school.
The shower curtain tugged as she stepped into the shower, naked and cold as the water sprayed down against her skin. It was almost luck and a stricken curse that she had no one to look after her, to see her progression into what she’d become. Their parents had died since she was ten, and for the first couple of years after their sudden death, their aunt had taken them in.
Aunt Romenia was a beautiful woman with a disfigured life, and despite the outward appearance of delicacy, Lena grew to learn that their blood relative viewed them as anything but the same blood. The cruel words she had spewed against her and Gabe day after day became a mantra, and at that time, with her newly reoccurring dreams, it was a wonder that Lena had made it out alive. Made it out, just a little bit saner than she thought she would have been.
Four years after, when Aunt Romenia died – the cause of her death unknown – she found out that they were only adopted due to their parents’ money. She had been siphoning a large chunk out of their inheritance, in a greedy affirmation that she hated her brother, and doing a good deed as taking in his filthy children deserved such a reward.
Lena remembered grabbing Gabe and scowling down at her Aunt’s broken body. They had purposely skipped the funeral, and had left the neighbours and other, meaningless relatives to murmur and spread inconspicuous lies.
She hadn’t had the greatest of lives so far, but it wasn’t the worst. She was still young, and she knew about working towards the future, no matter how far it seemed. But every time she lay in bed to sleep at night, the dreams took over, and she was left pining for answers as to why the dreams did not stop, and when would they ever.
The lack of sleep for more than five years was beginning to drive her insane. Her demeanour was slowly dimming, and she had lost two good friends over the years, over her never having free time. Her friends didn’t know that her parents were gone, nor did they know that she ran the house herself. She preferred it like that. She did not like pity. She did not like it back then when her parents had died, and certainly, she would not approve of it at this age.
Picking at the loofah, she scrubbed hard against her shoulder, sighing in contentment at the warm water. Raising her brother hadn’t been easy either. Being a teenager, and having to raise another teenager, male at that, was something akin to an accident itching to happen. Lena did not want to count their daily arguments, but she didn’t think her brother hated her. Somewhere inside was a love for his sister, and he showed it to her, sometimes, when she was at her lowest, and when he helped her look after the house. As young and foolish as he seemed to be, he proved himself more mature than his average age in broken times.
Soft white covered her toes, and Lena watched it wash away as she turned the knob for the spray to increase. She was beginning to feel the cold now, but her skin was still hot, and she never went through a morning yet without scrubbing away what was left of the dreams and nightmare.
She met Gabe in the kitchen, bowl in front of him heaped in milk. He had an affinity for dairy, and Lena had never seen someone but him, who would take only a quarter cup of cereal and a full cup of milk for breakfast.
“Took you long enough,” Gabe muttered when she stepped in. His lips were wet, and he swiped it with the back of his palm. “It’s late you know.”
“I didn’t take that long to shower,” Lena spoke slowly, looking around for the clock that they usually had hung on the kitchen wall.
“The batteries are dead, so I took it down. And you took nearly a half hour in there. First day back means Mr. Greer likes to take his time in being a bastard, which means we have to reach before eight.”
“I know,” Lena said, rustling through the fridge for an energy bar, and grabbing a bottle of orange juice – the last of the batch. She had to make groceries after school, with everything finishing or near to finishing in the refrigerator. And tin supplies, she had to restock those. Batteries, she had to add that too to her mental list. She would buy a combo pack – those were cheaper.
“So about my friends,” he said, lifting his spoon, “Can they come over?”
“Yeah sure,” she told him, legs crossed as she sat on one of the two stools they had in the kitchen. The kitchen was sparse, with only a modernized table, a wooden chair, and two pretty stools that she and Gabe had chosen a year ago. She had made sure to buy proper appliances instead of cheap brands, and it served her well, not having to replace anything as yet. The cupboards to the left were elongated, with carved figures that she couldn’t read, but Lena loved the way it looked, and the mystic air it brought to the kitchen.
“You’ll make yourself invisible when they do?”
Lena crooked a smile, fingers clamping over the bottle cap to open her juice. “I’ll try.”
The smell of leaves, were probably her favourite on mornings. After her dreams had turned into nightmares of stagnancy, Lena usually spent her morning before school, trekking along the sidewalk and observing the sky and the line of trees that ran across from the other side of the road. Leaves had a sort of fresh scent to them, something earthy, something green, and she liked to pick at different stray ones, feeling them between the pads of her fingers. It was an odd comfort, but it never bothered her that the scent and sight of trees could bring her happiness.
There were already a few students walking in front of her, some, to the other school that was next to hers and Gabe’s, and then some that she knew, and did not know. It was her first time, having not met with her friends from school during the summer holidays, and Lena could not say that she missed them. Inconsequential things such as smiling and pretending to be happy around air headed teenagers and fanatical boys, didn’t appeal to her anymore. She had other things to worry about – Gabe, and running the house, and her dreams (nightmares).
But she knew how to pretend. She was good at it.
Everyone liked her, and she pretended to like everyone. Her pretence was the friendly sort, of a pretty girl skilled with make-up, and skinny enough so that the younger ones idolized her. Lena didn’t really understand why high schools worked the way they did, but she pretended to, and ignored it most of the time to catch up on sleep.
“This girl is front of me, and she hasn’t even heard me shouting for the past minute.”
Lena stopped, swinging her bag and craned her neck when fingers touched her shoulder. Blonde hair swept near her cheeks, and lips were pushed to smack a kiss at the flesh there.
“You ignored me during the hols and you’re ignoring me now Len?” Arms swung around her shoulder, and Lena groaned when the weight of her friend settled on her back.
“Thanks Jess, for trying to kill me on the first day of school. And I wasn’t ignoring you, I just didn’t–”
“Hear me, I know,” she said, sweeping her bangs to press her fingers to her forehead. “Come on, kiss me.”
“What?” Lena laughed, eyes squinting.
“Kiss me!” Jessica lowered her head, and sniggering, Lena touched her lips to her forehead and then to her cheek.
“There, happy now?” she asked her, fixing her bangs, thickly cut and blonde. She was pretty – Jessica. Fair skinned and blue eyed, Lena used to envy her beauty, but she didn’t anymore, not when Jess was the weirdest thing she had ever came to know, and genuinely came to consider her as a friend. She may not have told her about her parents, or her childhood, but Jessica was the only one she had kept in contact with during the holidays.
“Much better,” she groaned, arm squeezing her shoulder. “I missed you. Phone calls aren’t enough and I couldn’t even see you because you refused to come out. What were you doing for two months that you couldn’t have hung out with me?”
“Trying to sleep,” Lena muttered, and Jessica vaguely heard her, crooking an eyebrow, some sort of practiced art that she couldn’t master. “I just…couldn’t, okay?”
“Parents?” she questioned, softly this time, because Jessica knew that she never liked to talk of her parents.
“Not really,” she answered her, and pressed her forehead to the side of Jessica’s face. Her lips were painted pink, similar to Lena’s rose colour, and she liked that they matched in some aspect. “I was just…really exhausted?”
When Jessica’s mouth turned sour, Lean kept her head there, hands on her bag. She really had been exhausted, with her dreams somehow becoming longer with her free days. Most of her nights were spent in her dreams, barely awake yet not asleep, because everything that had happened, that had occurred, from fighting to running to –
She had felt it. She had woken up, feeling everything that she had seen when her eyes were closed. She would remember faces, recall the touch of someone’s skin, remember the scent of the castle food and the morbidly sweet flowers the colour of ink blue. Everything that had happened, when she had awaken, she felt as though her dreams were in fact real – and it was when Lena knew that she couldn’t leave her house, not when she was in a state where she needed to curl into Gabe’s bed and pretend that her world was normal.
“Did something happen over the holidays?” Jessica’s mouth was soft, and it was rare, that she let concern lighten her face. “You have on too much make-up, more so than usual. You’re covering up dark circles.” Her face was too close. “Didn’t you sleep?”
Jessica’s hand was trailing in her hair, a rich black that contrasted to her fair lines.
“Why is that?”
Lena shrugged, as she did for everything else that she didn’t want to talk about it.
“You can…I don’t know…for once, tell me what’s bothering you? You’re secretive Len, and you never allow me to come over by you.”
Lena pursed her lips to lightly kiss her friend’s cheek, and her fingers tightened into a grip around her arm.
“I know. But sometimes, there are things that are hard to say, and explain. When I can tell you, when I understand what it is that has been happening, I’ll tell you, but I…” Don’t want you to think I’m crazy, because I’m being haunted by the same dream, over and over again, and it wouldn’t stop; it keeps progressing as though I’ve been living in another world all this time –
“I already think you’re crazy,” Jessica remarked, the blue of her eyes dark, and pretty. There was a soft paleness to her cheeks, just fairer than her own, and it was soft cream instead of flesh, nothing like her sallow colour from lack of sleep.
“You’re not the sanest bitch in the world,” Lena stated coolly, and Jessica grinned at her, purse clutched under her arm.
“And I think you love me for it.”
Her skin was cold. The weather, was a light tinge of what winter would bring, but nevertheless, the wilderness was a horrible mess of blistering cold and darkness. It wasn’t night yet, but she couldn’t see much at this time of day, and certainly, not this far in into the Gornet Section. Maybe she was lost, and maybe she wasn’t, but Lena didn’t think that it mattered.
She was running away.
The thought, of what she was doing, made her shiver. The cloth she had wrapped around her upper torso and legs was thin, but the cold didn’t hit her like the fear – the fear was eating away at normalcy and self.
It was only for today, just for an evening, that she wanted to be alone. She wanted to pretend, that what she had seen, hadn’t been true. But how could she, when she had seen it so clearly? The hidden room in which she liked to frequent where Kyra left her herbal mixtures in order for her to practice her batches, was just near to the throne room, a tall door that creaked, but never closed, and not exactly the entrance to where the King and the Prince sat. Curiosity, and boredom, were the two things that her mother usually nagged her about, and maybe, she understood why.
What she had seen, was something appalling. It had her curled beneath a tree, hands dirty from scraping it against the forest floor, and trembles, that would not stop from racking her figure. Her mother, her own mother, who prided herself in proper ways even after her husband had died, had been consorting with the King – all this time. The touches she had seen, the way her mother kissed their King’s cheeks, and soft beard, and hands, soft hands that her mother cared for daily, had been combing through the King’s raven hair, and stopping to cup just below his chin.
She had left when they started kissing – and she had ran, and ran. One of the servant girls who had been with her since she was a child, had looked at her, so startled to see her running through the castle hallways at her age, but she didn’t care, and neither did she worry about the news being reported back to her mother. Her mother. She couldn’t believe it. She still couldn’t believe it.
Her proper mother with proper ways who loved the King in the manner that one would love a lord and superior – she never thought that it was beyond respectful love. The Queen…the queen had been away for a while, to visit her land and stay with her original people for some years. It had only been a year now, that she had left, and Lena didn’t know whether the relationship – or was it just sex – between her mother and the King – had started then, or from even before that. Her mother had been childhood friends with the King, even though she was without a dial, and had married his best friend, and right hand man.
Her father, her beautiful father, with hair, just as serene as the tiny strain of roses she had planted since she was young, had died in the war. War was not common, but it was not unheard of. Men, humans, she realized, were foolish creatures. To fight and ravage other lands, for the sake of pride and power – maybe it was because she was a woman, a female, but she didn’t understand the lure of it. She did not want to plunder. She wanted to create concoctions and potions that would help cure the people of Solace, and then maybe, she could just–
“You need a bath.”
The whisper, was said to her ear, breath just lifting the strands near it, and hands warm and heavy stroking her neck.
“I know,” she replied lowly, almost breathlessly, because somehow, as she had gotten older, the air in her seemed to dissipate whenever the fool was near.
“Then why are you quite out here?” The Prince, more beautiful than some of the court’s finest women, was a contradiction of fairly grey eyes in a midst of pale white, and he had hair the colour of the royals and of power, rich blue, dark but not entirely so. In sunlight, with his very soft tan, it seemed lighter, almost glinting.
“I…” She stopped, turning to meet his eyes. “Why are you here? Haven’t you classes now with Arec? You have yet to perfect the arts of battle. Did you follow me here?”
He laughed, in the rich, heated way that matched his hair, and the coolness of his eyes. “Not really. I was tired of fighting, so I ended up taking a walk out here. And I quite like to know my land, and the borders in case something should happen. I just happened to see you stumbling through the forest and hitting against leaves and bristles like a clumsy little colt.” The prince came closer, startling her with his clothed knees against the forest floor, dirtying the royal white garments, fairly made of silk and the land’s finest thread. “Did something happen?”
“It…” Lena cheeks pained as her lips curved, trying to place thoughts into words, and bravery, into spilling the secret she had just found. The prince, despite being a prince, was the closest thing she had to a friend, not when her dial was something akin to what the royals had, and because the other girls, be it of nobility or the lesser, held hate for her closeness with the prince. But they had grown up together, and the prince was the closest thing she had left, beyond her mother.
“You’re crying,” he whispered dully, lacking emotion, probably because he was surprised as his fingers, warm still, touched her cheek. “Why? Did someone hurt you?”
Lena began laughing, not because it was funny, the thought of what she had seen, but because it hurt. It had hurt. The King and her mother. Her mother.
“Yes,” she said quietly, cheek falling into his palm, and grasping at his wrist as she closed her eyes. “Yes, someone did.”
“Who was it?”
“Get up!” Jessica hissed, elbow jamming into her shoulder, and Lena whimpered when the blonde’s fingers stuck near her side. “I mean it Len, get up. Class is about to start.”
Wincing at the disorientation she felt, Lena peered through slits across at Jessica’s dewy face, and tried to lift her head. Her head felt heavy. The feeling, that she was only just in her dreams, was where the disorientation was coming from, and she hated, more than anything, thinking that her dreams, were some sort of reality when they weren’t.
But they felt like that. As the years had gone by, it was as though she had spent half her life living as that girl she had seen when she slept, drawn into an ancient, far away land where she was some sort of nobility, and close knit with a prince that was beautiful in a way she knew not. He was not beautiful in the common way, the fanciful way that most girls liked men to look. Her dreams, made him seem brighter, otherworldly, with blue hair so rich, that she remembered trailing thin fingers through them, and eyes, so deeply grey that they were silver, the colour of mercury. His nose had been sharp, jaw firm, and he was not beautiful in the pretty way. Beautiful in his aura and difference, and Lena could still see him, feeling the bit of relief that had come when she had seen him, curled underneath a tree with the shock of what she had just seen.
Trembling, Lena stared at her palms.
She was going crazy, wasn’t she? She was thinking now, of her dreams, as something real, and that, she knew, was where the line came, where she drew the line at insanity. It was a dream. A dream. Nothing but a dream that haunted her. What she saw, what she felt there, wasn’t real. She shouldn’t be thinking about it. But how could she not, when every time she closed her eyes, it came, seeping into her as though it belonged there.
“You’re pale, really pale,” Jessica was whispering, and pressed her hand against her forehead. “Feeling okay?”
“Just tired,” Lena murmured, more of a weak whisper, and gave her friend a shaky smile. “Really tired. Is the teacher here yet?”
Jessica smiled, lips and cheeks freshened, even though it had only been an hour since the first day had begun. “He came in just now. He went back out to meet with the new student.”
“New student?” Her eyes were sticky again, and she hated rubbing them. They helped with the skin beneath her eyes darkening and the dreaded wrinkles that came with lack of sleep, but most days she did end up rubbing her eyes, trying to wipe away the remnants of her dreams.
“Yup, new student – a boy. It’s weird he’s transferring in so late. Especially in our last year.”
“Maybe his parents had to move,” Lena said, still leaning on her table top, and scratching at the words she had written last semester with a correction pen. “That happens all the time.”
“Probably,” Jessica agreed, half-heartedly almost, as she looked across to the left side of the classroom. They both sat in the middle, more to the right and to the back where the wall’s decorations were – a few posters that had represented their likes and artistic abilities – and Lena craned her neck to see what Jessica was staring at.
To the left, where a few windows were left open, was Elroy, an English boy, with a mother whose family was made of old money, and a father, who was Scottish. He came into their classroom a year ago, when his father had come to work in America, and he had a sort of aura about him, with brown eyes that sometimes seemed auburn, and hair just as light, golden with streaks of darker honey. Most girls, found him attractive, and just like the others, Jessica liked him. But she always watched him from afar.
“Why don’t you speak to him?” Lena remarked, and appalled, with cheeks a fiery rogue that was not due to her crimson powder, Jessica spun on her with fingers clamping into her shoulder.
“Don’t say that so loudly!” she hissed frantically, eyes pretty with anger. “I can’t speak to him. It just seems so…I don’t know how to explain it Len. All the other guys, whenever they come up to me, it’s okay to turn them down, I know that I’m attractive in their eyes. But Elroy he…he seems so…I don’t know how to describe it just that he…”
“You like him,” Lena told her, raising her shoulders with a groan. “And stop pinching me. I can feel your nails, you know. They’re sharp. Why don’t you cut them?”
“No,” Jessica muttered, and Lena grinned, looking to where Elroy sat with his chin propped, and eyes to the flowers blossoming just outside their classroom. It was a sight of wonder, and it was pride that she felt, every single time she looked out herself, and saw it. She was part of the gardening club, and the knowledge, that it was her own hands that dug into the soil and gave life to something so beautiful, so whimsical, so…perfect, made her smile. Giving life to beauty, was something she loved, and she could spend her evenings tending to the plants and flowers, with her thoughts on nothing but wet coolness against the skin of her hands.
Gardening, was her only reprieve, and it was only then, that she could forget about her life, her parents, her responsibilities, and even, her dreams.
“But do you think I have some weird chance? You know…with Elroy.” Jessica cleaned her fingernails while staring at the bridge of her nose. “He’s just so…different. Not like the other boys. I mean, he’s not into sports, yet he doesn’t seem uncoordinated. And he likes books – it’s so rare to find a guy who loves books more than girls and sports and cars – and his speech is so proper, and guys who date me think that I’m all fun. I just want some quiet time. Being blonde and being considered pretty doesn’t mean that I’m like all the other girls.”
“Talk to him,” Lena urged, but she said it in a whisper, and reaching over to touch Jesscia’s nervous fingers. “You and me, we’re so different. I’ve never really gone out with a guy before, except for Rayne, and that didn’t really turn out well.”
“What did happen that day?”
“I had to go home. Gabe was sick. My brother’s more important than some guy who just wants to be seen with me.”
“Rayne isn’t like that,” Jessica stated, but Lena shook her head, unwilling to agree.
“It didn’t seem like that, back then. He was angry; he had been so angry that I had just ditched him, and I hated the way that he took it, even though I tried to explain that my baby brother was sick.”
”But guys really like you…you know.” Jessica rubbed her lips, and Lena saw that she had taken out her notebook and mechanical pencil.
“They never approach me,” Lena retorted, laugh short as her lips quirked. “I just…don’t understand how you bridge that gap, the gap that separates friendship, and something more? How does a guy become your boyfriend? I’ve never had one, and the guys from our year group are just so…” She shrugged, trying to explain it.
“I know,” Jessica simpered, crouching down as she tried to find her pack juice from the front pocket of her bag. “I don’t know how to explain it either. It’s just that there’s this comfort I guess, or maybe, the reason why relationships fall short in high school, is that you just want a boyfriend, or any guy, and he just wants a girlfriend. A lot of times, it’s more for show, or just to get that feeling. Isn’t that what high school is about? Having no idea about life, or how you feel?”
Lena snorted, sucking in her lips and rubbing her nose. “I just feel that I’m in my last year of high school, and I’ve experienced nothing. Done nothing.”
“You’ve done plenty,” Jessica said, head thumping as their foreheads knocked together. “Don’t let it bother you. You don’t need to have a boyfriend to say that you enjoyed high school. Everyone adores you, you’re sweet to the kiddies below us, and guys find you to be adorable. It was just quiet…and I couldn’t have imagined our years without you. I can’t imagine life beyond high school without you.” Jessica smiled, sides of her eyes crinkling.
“Oh.” Lena poked her this time as she looked to the front of the classroom. Their teacher, a man in his mid-thirties, had come back in, arms folded, and spectacles a little fogged. He seemed to be more in his late twenties, much younger than his actual age, and Lena figured it was all those health products he seemed to be carrying around, always with a large bottle of water as he taught, and snacking on a container of fruit when they were working on assignments.
Lena liked him, the way he looked when he was teaching, and how he never seemed to be able to refuse students when they needed help. She didn’t exactly have reasons, solid reasons, why she felt such closeness for her teacher – because she never really spoke to him personally – but she just did, and he made her feel comfortable, and awake during class time.
“What happened to the new student?” asked Jessica, smoothing back her hair. “I thought he was supposed to come...in…” Just as she spoke, someone did enter the classroom. The creak of the wooden door, and footsteps, Lena saw long legs, just a bit fitted in sleek denim jeans, and a shirt, too formal for school and a brilliant yellow, and a jacket, black, dark enough that it blended with the colour of his hair, a spicy coal length. What Lena last saw, was what she regretted glancing at, because his face, the pallor of it, and the ridges of his cheekbones and nose and jaw, was identical, to what she saw in her dreams.
Feeling her throat tighten, and her cheeks pain, Lena eyes blurred as she stared – taking in his smooth hair and the way it fell, and the softness of his lips and the grey of his eyes. Everything about him, everything, as he turned to face the classroom, where the students sat, was a mirror, of what she had just seen. Of what she was accustomed seeing, every night, when she closed her eyes.
The new student, this boy, this man, he was an exact replica of the Prince, her Prince that the person in her dreams had grown up with, and loved. Watching him, with a soft sob catching in her throat, Lena didn’t know what to do.
Dreams weren’t real. So then why was she seeing an imaginary figure, standing just a bit away from her?