I was stripped away from my wonderful dream about Hugh Jackman by the booming of my alarm. I tried to grasp the remaining segments of my dream but they all perished into nothing. I groaned inwardly. I tried to block out the loud shrill from assaulting my ears using my pillows but the jarring continued. I pulled my bed covers over my head but I could still hear the distant cry of the alarm. I sighed in defeat, my alarm was perched on my dressing table on the other side of the room. I had deliberately made this myself because I had a tendency of hitting the snooze button a lot. However, one day I accidentally clicked the wrong button and slept in. My mum wasn’t home either to wake me up, I learnt a valuable lesson that day.
I heard my door opening. I didn’t even bother to check who it was because I knew it was my mother. Besides, we were the only ones in the house at the moment. The ringing of the alarm came to a halt and I felt the duvet being pulled off my body. My body shivered uncontrollably to the sudden chill that tickled its way up my body. I cradled my body in attempt to warm myself up.
“Wake up, honey. It’s time for you to get ready for school.” My mum’s soft voice sounded from the other side of the room.
Suddenly a bright light flooded my room. I could feel its intensity against my eyelids in attempt to pry my eyes open. I slowly opened my eyes, to get used to the light. Mum stood by the window trapping the blue curtain between a wool curtain holder. She twirled around facing me. She watched me with an amused expression on her face. I’m sure, I looked horrible. I could see a few bits of hair sticking in front of my face. I smiled understandingly
“Good morning mamma.” I groaned before glancing behind her. The sun shone lazily. It was clear it wasn’t going to last the day.
“Get ready and come down for breakfast. You didn’t have any dinner last night.” My stomach grumbled in response drawing a chuckle from mum. She exited my room before closing the door behind her.
I groaned and dragged my cold feet to the bathroom. One thing I was grateful for. I didn’t have to go downstairs to use the toilet and bathroom there. I had convinced my parents to have my own ensuite built near my room. So they demolished the room that was next to mine and built my ensuite. The remainder of the other room became my own study room. It was small but good enough for me.
I was surprised when I glanced at myself in the mirror. My usual warm brown skin looked patched and pale. Dark rings shaped my eyes. My left eye was a bit droopier than the other one. I looked terrible, my body felt sore. After getting home last night, I had insisted on going straight to bed. Once I was lying in bed, sleep refused to claim me. So I stayed up with events of earlier that night replaying in my head none stop. I had made up scenarios of what the man wanted from me until my head started to ache. That’s when sleep decided to claim me into a dreamless slumber.
I sighed and turned on the water facet. I splashed some of the warm water onto my face. I instantly felt better. If this warm water made my face feel better, I guessed it was going to do wonders to the rest of my body as well.
After my shower, I quickly threw on some jeans, a pair of black flats and a long-sleeved t-shirt. I could feel my shoulders protesting as I pulled the shirt over my head. My so trusted warm water betrayed me. I rotated my shoulder blade in attempt to ease the pain but that only made it worse. I winced when I glanced at my shoulders in the mirror. Dark hand prints tattooed my skin. He must have grabbed my shoulders with all his might. Was this his way of branding me? Who was he anyhow? Who did he think he was walking around at night terrorising young girls? I quickly picked up the foundation sitting on the dressing table and rubbed some over the marks.
I quickly thanked whoever invented make-up because they had just saved my life from questions and glares from people. For some reason, I found myself biting my lip while thinking about the man’s enthralling cyan eyes. He had the most beautiful eyes. I shook my head in sudden realisation of what I was doing. I shouldn’t have been day dreaming of some uncanny guy. There was only one thing to be blamed for this sudden attraction.
I nodded my head in agreement with my brain’s analogy before making my way towards the kitchen. I picked my bag on the way and slung it over my right shoulder. When I reached the kitchen, I was welcomed by the delicious aroma of pancakes that mother was cooking. I hummed in reply to the sweet smell that wafted into my nostrils. My mouth watered in anticipation. Such a rare situation for me. I’m usually not attracted to food but due to the hunger carrying on from yesterday, I couldn’t help it.
“Finally.” Mum sang when she saw me entering the kitchen. “Took you long enough.”
I smiled at her before dropping my bag on the bar stool next to me.
“It’s a bit chilly today. I hope you’re wearing a lot of layers under there.” Mum informed with a small caring smile.
I was so tired, I hummed in reply. I made myself busy by arranging my lunch for school. A simple sandwich with ham and cheese.
“When are you going to start putting veggies salad on that sandwich.” Mum laughed quietly. I laughed with her. She knew I didn’t like leafy vegetables because they always managed to make my sandwich soggy due to the water that remained after washing them.
“Since you came home yesterday looking like you just got attacked or something, I decided to make you something that will cheer you up. Pancakes!” She interrupted my thoughts and brought me back to real life.
I returned the thoughtfulness with a small smile. If only she knew that I actually got ambushed by some red-eyed man. I resorted in not telling her what happened to me. Well, firstly that man warned me to not tell anyone and secondly, if I had told her she would have freaked out and ordered the country’s defence force to search for this despicable man. I sent a quick prayer to God that I would never see that man again in my life. I sat on the nearest bar stool, hungrily eyeing the pancakes in front of me. For a few minutes I was going to forget about all my worries. Food was going to be my comforter.
"Eat up, you have school in a few minutes." Mum informed me placing her apron on the bench next to me. "I will go and get changed and then I will drop you off at school. It looks like it might rain."
She made her way towards the stairs, leaving a trail of Eternity, her favourite perfume by Calvin Klein. I dug into my pancakes covered in chocolate sauce and cream. As soon as the pancake piece with chocolate drizzle landed on my tongue, it melted against my tongue, letting all the sweet juice surround my mouth. It felt as if I hadn’t eaten for years. Well not really, but you can understand how hungry I was. I swallowed the piece of pancake and went for another one. In a few minutes the plate of pancakes was gone. I washed my plate and placed it next to the other dishes to dry.
“I’m ready mamma!” I shouted, swinging my bag over my right shoulder once again.
“Ok honey. I’m coming. Wait by the car!” Mum shouted back.
I grabbed my black jacket on my way out to her SUV. She followed right after locking the door behind her. I could already feel the drizzling of the rain as I stood in front of the porch.
You are probably wondering where my father was. My father was a chef and he travelled around the world for at least three months cooking for celebrities. When I said celebrities, I didn’t mean Justin Bieber kind of celebrities, but rather the president of the United States kind of celebrity. He was renowned for his amazing cooking dexterities. He loved his job and every time he brought a souvenir for both mum and I. He usually got to stay for about a month at home before venturing into his life of cooking. At this moment I was missing him. I wondered how mum managed to stay put for that long without him by her side.
"You got everything?" Mum asked while throwing her purple jacket on.
"Yes." I replied with a smile.
My mum was right. By the time we arrived at the front of the school, rain was furiously pouring down. I was sure by the time the rain seized, mum’s car was going to shine bright like a diamond. I laughed at my silliness. I quickly kissed mum on the cheek, braced myself before exiting the car in full speed trying to avoid the rain from ruining my hair. Being from an African background, my afro-textured hair didn’t comply with this weather. I raced to the main entrance of the school and was relieved when I entered the humid environment.
I gagged when I first took in a deep breath of teenage pheromones. I know, I was a teenager as well but the smell was just too much to bear in these teen jam-packed hallways. It didn’t help either that rain poured uncontrollably outside. It probably added to the humid effect. I squeezed myself between the crowd that flooded the hallways, trying not to keep myself in there any longer. I could feel myself becoming short of breath. Yes, I was claustrophobic. The crowd seemed to stretch the shorter my breath became. I could see the light on the other side. I rushed through and lunged at the light.
I was caught by two arms before my face kissed the ground. I looked at the crowd, I had survived. I smiled and whirled around to face my rescuer. I almost choked. A beautiful boy I had never seen before stood there smiling at me. He was about a foot taller than me or maybe a bit shorter than a foot. His eyes, radiant like the golden oak leaves in the spring weather. He was beautiful. His eyes matched his wavy, shoulder length ashy blonde hair.
“Are you alright?” His silvery and fruity voice brought me back from my trance.
“Oh yeah.” I stammered before removing myself from his embrace.
“Good, because if I hadn’t caught you, you would have kissed your pretty face good bye.” He laughed.
I blushed at his words shy all of a sudden. I muttered a quick thank you.
“No problem.” He beamed, proud of his actions. “Were you running from something or someone?”
“No.” I waved my arms widely in front of me. “I’m a bit claustrophobic.”
“Ah. That explains it. Your face was so pale and your expression, you looked as if you’d seen Satan’s butt.” He laughed, a deep and colorful laugh.
I joined him at laughing at his joke.
He paused before asking, “What’s your name?”
“Mary-Kate. Yours? I don’t think I’ve seen you here before” I replied watching him curiously.
“I’m Craig. I just moved here from Snag, Yukon in Canada.” He grinned.
“I’ve never heard of it before.” I replied confused.
“It’s a small town at the edge of Canada. Not many people know of it, so don’t worry your pretty self much.” He chuckled tapping my nose with his finger. I nodded in reply. “What’s your locker number?”
“320. Why?” I replied glancing at him for a brief moment.
Embarrassed prominent in his golden eyes, he spoke, “I’m not sure where mine is. I was given locker 330.”
“Well, that’s close to mine. Come on new kid, I’ll show you where it is.” I replied dragging him by the arm.
He chuckled before following my lead. “What grade year are you in?” He asked after a short time of silence. Well not pure silence since people were shouting from every angle of the hallway.
“Twelve. You?” I replied glancing at him. He looked around my age.
“Same.” He retorted, a small grin forming on his lips.
“Why did you move here while in twelve grade?”
“My father owns Italian restaurants across the country called Cibo Incredibile. You maybe familiar with the name,” I nodded, connecting the name with the big restaurant here in Amoris. “He came here to manage the restaurant until I finish senior year of course. He wanted to have a change in scenery. He was getting tired of the freezing weather in Snag.”
“But its no better here. Its always raining and freezing at this time of the year.”
He chuckled in response, “It’s not that freezing actually, compared to Snag. Besides, my father likes keeping a low profile.”
I smiled before turning towards his locker. “Here it is.” I motioned towards locker 330.
“Thank you very much Mary-Kate. I appreciate it.” He grinned, showing pearl white teeth. I noticed one of his incisors overlapped the other, but still, he had better teeth compared to mine. I had a few gaps here and there but nothing too embarrassing, as long as I was able to chew meat.
“No problem.” I replied. “I will be by my locker over there.” I motioned to my right. Only a few feet from his own.
He nodded before waving. I whirled around and made my way towards my locker. I quickly entered my locker combination and got ready for the next class. I had art first. My breath was knocked out of my lungs when someone hugged me tight from behind. Her squeal trying to lift me off the ground gave her away. As soon as she placed me on the ground she walked to the side to face me.
“Hey girl.” Tina, my friend sang before giving me another quick hug.
“Hey Titi.” I teased her. She frowned at the little nickname I gave her.
“Not fair. You know I hate that nickname.” She pouted but regained her composure as if nothing happened. “Any who, who’s that guy you were talking to?” She motioned behind me.
I glanced at Craig, he felt my gaze and turned towards me. He smiled and I returned the thought. I broke the connection and turned my attention towards Tina’s blemish free face.
“His name is Craig and he is in our year.” I whispered to Tina before noticing movement behind her. “And he is coming towards here.”
“OMG, really? How do I look?” Tina fussed, fixing her face and wiping of non-existent mascara residues from her face.
“You look fine,” I reassured her before turning my head towards Craig who was only a few metres away.
“Hey.” He called out behind Tina. She whirled around to face Craig. He turned his gaze towards her. I could see admiration in his eyes. Every guy always had that expression when they met Tina. “And you are?”
“I’m Tina.” She purred offering her hand towards his.
“Nice to meet you Tina. I’m Craig.” Craig returned the thought before turning his gaze towards me. “I have art first. What about you?”
“I have drama.” I could hear the disappointment radiating from Tina’s words, “But Mary-Kate has art too.”
“Really?” Craig asked glancing at Tina then back at me. I nodded in reply. I could see beaming in his eyes. Did he love art that much?
The bell suddenly rang sending Tina in panic mode. “I haven’t retrieved my books yet. I’ll see you guys later. Bye bye.” She ran towards her locker in the opposite direction.
“So which way?” Craig asked me as I closed my locker.
“This way.” I replied twirling around towards the art room.
When we entered the room, almost everyone was seated in their routine positions. I took a seat where I normally sat just like everyone else. Craig followed suit sitting next to me.
“Is there someone who sits here?” Craig questioned after catching me staring at him. I shook my head with a small smile on my lips. “Thank goodness, because it would’ve been so embarrassing to get up and find another seat.”
I chuckled in response and turned my attention to my desk. I had been shocked when he decided to take the seat next to me. No one had ever wanted to sit next to me despite knowing every single person in this class since kindergarten.
After a few seconds every seat was occupied in the classroom. The teacher, Mrs Jackson entered the room. Her frilly skirt trailing behind her. “Hello everyone! Today we’re going to start a new project.” She announced settling her mount of books on her wooden desk.
Someone at the back cheered. Everyone laughed at his bravery.
“Ok ok.” Mrs Jackson motioned for everyone to stop using her hands before continuing. “I thought that our next project would be a portrait of the person who is seating next to you. You’ll have to put some work into it after school as well as during classes. You’re seniors now and I trust you to do the right thing.”
It was about time someone trusted us, I thought. I glanced at Craig grateful he transferred here today, otherwise I wasn’t going to have a partner for this project. I smiled as Craig glanced my way and winked. I blushed from his gesture and quickly turned my gaze towards Mrs Jackson.
“You’ll each be provided with two canvas to work from. I also printed everyone’s school photograph so that it can be easier for everyone to recreate. I would also advice you all to do a draft in your books before drawing the final piece. Come up here and get your equipment and get started. Chop chop.” Mrs Jackson finished, clapping her hands.
I glanced at Craig at the mention of a school picture. He looked at me knowingly before winking, “I’ll provide you with one tomorrow.”
I flushed once again before joining the line that had formed to retrieve equipment. I made my way back to the desk, my hands full. I dropped the equipment on the desk before taking my seat. Craig followed right after. I didn’t know what to do with myself this lesson. I didn’t have a picture of him to study before transferring it into my book. I fidgeted in my seat before glancing towards Craig. He was gazing at my school picture, a big smile on his lips.
“This is a beautiful picture of you.” Craig breathed before gazing back at the photograph. For the third time in less than an hour, I felt my face heating up. I thanked the Lord for blessing me with dark skin that was able to mask the redness that formed in my fellow white skinned friends.
“Thanks.” I whispered darting my gaze away from him.
“You can study me, right now. I don’t mind having a beautiful girl staring at me.” His voice smoky and his gaze scrutinizing me.
I cleared my throat before turning away. “It’s fine, I have studied you enough and I can wait for the picture.”
“Whatever suits you, however, I prefer studying the real Deity before me than this photograph. I mean, don’t get me wrong. You looked amazing in this photograph but I prefer studying you now, with the natural light highlighting your greatest assets.”
I was out of breath by the time he finished, I glanced at my lap trying to shake away the effect his words were having on me. What was this guy doing to me?
“I’m just kidding. About studying you now I mean. Like you, I already have everything I need to get started. In my brain.” He laughed before turning his gaze towards my photograph.
He was such a flirt. I mean with his blonde hair and amazing amber eyes. Any girl was stupid not to fall for him. He was probably a player too. Considering how quick he managed to get comfortable with me. I shook my head. He was handsome and I couldn’t resist his charm. After all, I’m a girl. I shook my head again when I realised my teenage hormones were making me think of stupid things.
I had completely forgotten about what happened last night until Tina mentioned the bruises on my shoulders. How did she notice? I had tried my best to cover them up with foundation in the morning and mum didn’t seem to notice. I looked down at my shoulders and I noticed my shirt had slipped from my left shoulder. To avoid divulging about the red-eyed man, I lied that I had carried boxes on my shoulders at work. She didn’t look very convinced however she didn’t push it.
It was lunch time and we were in the cafeteria. I didn’t even know how the morning went by so fast. I had separated with Craig after art and hadn’t seen him since then. Right now however, theories about why that man attacked me and made me leave without a fight last night, occupied my brain. I couldn’t shake away the feeling of his chilly breath against my neck. I unconsciously rubbed my neck at the thought.
Tina waved her fingers in front of my face pulling me out of my thoughts. "Hello - earth to Mary?"
"Oh, sorry. What did you say?"
"I said. Did you hear?" she said smiling really big.
"Another new guy in school." She said bouncing up and down in her seat, like a fan girl going to meet her favourite superstar/dream boy. Her long and wavy auburn hair bounced against her shoulders, making her look like a small child.
Unlike me, Tina had flawless skin. There was no acne present on her face. Her heart-shaped face suited her very well, making her look like an angel. She was tall and had long legs that any guy would die for. Whereas I was a bit shorter than Tina, with dark, unnervingly curly hair that went down just below my shoulders. My thighs were a bit on the thick side but they still added to my womanly figure.
"And guess what?" Tina asked pulling me out of my thoughts, again.
"What?" I asked popping an m&m in my mouth. To be honest I wasn’t interested in boys at the moment. Well I guess you could say I was kind of interested in a certain man but I was sure he wasn’t the one she was talking about.
"He is from Yakutsk, Romania!" Tina shrieked in her seat. Her dark-green bizarre eyes sparkling like a field of grass on a sunny day. "You know how yummy-some European boys are."
“Tina, have you already moved on from Craig’s love trance?” I teased her.
“He was all over you and I can see that he likes you. Besides, this new guy is way hotter than Craig. He’s inhumanly handsome. He’s tall, has dark hair and his lean muscles are to die for. I mean, I only glanced at him from afar, but man that guy’s frame is gorgeous. I wonder if he is going to come here for lunch.” Tina finished, darting her eyes around the room in search for this ‘dazzling’ boy.
I sighed as Tina continued her gossiping. I really wanted to smile and gossip with her about boys, but my mind was not in the game. She must have noticed how unfocused I was, because she asked if I was ok. I tried to smile, but my head unexpectedly began throbbing. My shoulders suddenly became hot and painful. I could not grasp where this sudden sensation came from. I looked down at my shoulders, the bruises had a slight glow to them. However, they didn’t look like handprints like they did this morning but swirls of gold. I gasped at the sight. I turned towards Tina, she seemed to be in her own trance. What was happening to me? My stomach teased me and I could feel the food I had just swallowed slowly making its way up my throat. I swallowed it back before it splattered everywhere.
"I'm going to go to the bathroom, I don't feel so well." I choked grabbing my jacket from the table.
I tried to stand up, but dizziness flooded my vision. I grabbed the edge of the table to steady myself and Tina was by my side in a second. I felt like all of my energy was being drained away from my body.
"Sit down and put your head between your knees." Tina's voice was a little hard to hear, but I managed to catch what she said and did as I was told.
After a few minutes I was feeling better, but I still felt the need to throw up. I stood up again and this time I succeeded with the help of Tina. She helped me put my jacket on. We started towards the exit when suddenly the door opened and someone entered. I felt a chill go through me.
No, it couldn’t be.
Even though I couldn’t see who it was clearly, I knew it was him.
I looked up and met his deep, piercing blue eyes. He smiled, all whites wicked smile that sent more chills down my spine and all the way to my toes. I felt light-headed at the sudden shock. My vision became blurry. It was like the air in the cafeteria suddenly became too thick to breathe in. The room started swaying in front of me and I could feel Tina shaking me and calling my name. Her voice was fading away. I tried to hold on to it but it was impossible. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
My eyelids became heavy and I felt myself falling but everything went black before I felt the ground.