Chapter 1- The Quiet Girl’s Secret
There’s always that one girl in class labeled the ‘quiet girl’. The girl who is always there, but hardly anyone ever talks to. The quiet girl looks to be existing, just barely. She doesn’t have any friends that you’ve ever seen, or secretly texts anyone beneath her desk. She sits on the other side of the room, just out of direct sight, and only passes through your mind when you’re bored and happen to glance in her direction. Sometimes you catch yourself wondering, “What’s her deal? Does she have bad breath? Does she say weird things?” There’s nothing off about her looks and it’s not clear why she is shunned from having a good time, but for some reason everyone avoids her like she’s a walking plague. Suddenly, for some odd reason, you want to know why. Curiosity hits you, like a terrible, un-scratchable itch, or a good riddle waiting to be solved. You just need to know why. Then, suddenly, you’re blatantly asking her and she’s staring at you like you’re the odd one. She ignores you, but you persist. You think you want her horrible secret. When, in reality,
You really should’ve just kept quiet…
Jackson looked up from a pamphlet entitled “Teenage Suicide. Don’t do it!” in bubbly yellow letters, (as if that was going to stop him from possibly killing himself), to see a girl at the crisp age of seventeen was hovering before him, looking expectant. She had walked into the office of Willow Park High School and called out his name several times before he decided to acknowledge her presence. His first day of school was starting a month behind everyone else’s, so of course he was getting the new kid treatment. Escorts to classes, special arrangements, the whole shebang. Based on the pastel pink, goody two-shoes cardigan and secretary glasses this was the student elected official who graciously volunteered to show him the ropes of Willow Park, even though it was probably the same as every other high school in America.
“Hi! I’m the student council president, Melinda Warren. If there’s anything you want to know, just ask me.” the girl smiled, retracting her hand from her armful various papers and extending it out for him to shake.
“Thanks. Not my first time in the public-school system, though. I think I’ll do just fine.” Jackson replied, lazily. He swiped his schedule from her, noticing it had been carefully placed at the top of her stack, and left Melinda in the office. Jackson slowly made his way to the room his first class was apparently in, only slightly taking the new school in. It’s not like he’d be staying long anyway, or even bothering to attend classes.
Thankfully, the class hadn’t started and Jackson could discreetly slip into the crowd without making a scene. After briefly checking in with the teacher, she pointed him over to a desk in the second to last row. The only one sitting in the area so far was a girl with long auburn hair and vacant emerald eyes. She was already fully zoned into oblivion, even though class was not bound to start for another ten minutes.
“Is this seat taken?” Jackson questioned, despite the fact it obviously wasn’t. It was just a small talk starter, but the girl stared at him as if he had just tried to stab her. He was a clueless stranger and had shattered her oblivious escape from the world with a mundane question. “What’s the matter? Did I cut myself shaving, or did I forget my pants again—?”
“Aw sick! Did that really happen to you, man?” A scruffy guy who was sitting more towards the middle of the room had homed in on their conversation. He’d probably heard the last thing Jackson said and, even though he had no idea who he was, wanted the story behind it.
“Yeah, I was in going to school in Scotland last year and was unaware of beer being a common breakfast beverage. Showed up for my first day shitfaced drunk and pants-less.”
“That’s hysterical! Oh my god! You should come sit over here, new kid. There’s enough empty seats.” the guy laughed. Jackson was about to walk over and join livelier company, but his gaze accidently got caught on the girl in front of him. It was rude to leave her there, even if she refused to talk to him. She looked up at him for a moment and she might’ve actually wanted him to stay. Noticing Jackson’s hesitance, the guy stood up and escorted him over. He put a familiar arm over his shoulder, like they were already best friends, and led him away. “Yeah, I know the teacher said there, but trust me. It’d be a bore having to sit next to Sylvia all semester. She doesn’t talk.”
“Is she mute or something?” Jackson inquired, looking back as they left with a faint curiosity.
“Might as well be. It’s been so long since I heard her speak, I can’t even remember what her voice sounds like—”
“Thanks for the info.” Jackson, signifying he had heard enough and he really didn’t care that much. Although, that might’ve been a lie.
Jackson tried to shut off his brain for the next three periods, like everyone else, but the mysterious mime girl pulled at him. There was something odd about her that grabbed attention he thought was long gone. It had been a while since he had given something, or someone, so much thought. Thankfully, after 3rd period was lunch and he’d be able to forget about her. Getting out of the halls would help Jackson clear his mind. That is, if the school representative wasn’t determined on trapping him in.
“Want to have lunch together, Jackson? I can introduce you to my friends and some of the guys on the football team—”
“No thanks. I’m not really interested in making friends with the stereotypical airhead cheerleaders and the closeted jocks. I’m going off campus.” Jackson replied, shoving his backpack carelessly over his shoulder and almost slamming his locker shut on her face.
“Well, there’s no place out there to eat. I can guarantee you that.” Melinda reasoned, desperately. It was probably true considering this backwater town, but Jackson didn’t particularly care because he’d already seen the perfect place for him on his way into school.
“Never said I was eating. Later, pres.”
Jackson gave her a salute goodbye and pushed out of the nearest pressured school door. He walked a few blocks to a typical gas station quickie mart he’d passed by earlier, where most kids would be afraid to eat at. The quality of its content was obviously crap, but anything was better than the school cafeteria. At least here, the cheese on the nachos couldn’t be rolled up and bounced off the walls like a rubbery, bouncy ball. After a quick scan of the aisles, Jackson decided he really wasn’t in the mood for eating after all and that a slushie was going to successfully sustain his life for the next few hours. As he was filling up his cup at the bright buzzing machine of slushing blue liquid, he noticed the ding of the automatic doors announce someone else’s arrival. Sylvia, the school mime, was standing frozen like a deer in headlights as Jackson spotted her entering. He quickly topped off his drink and headed to meet her before she could run away.
“If it isn’t the infamous mime of Willow Parks. Tell me what brings you to this quickie mart on this fine lunch period,” Jackson inquired. A clear conversation starter this time. She stared at him. He was the embodiment of insanity with blue slush in his hand. “Right, right. No talking. You know, it’s none of my business, but personally I think that’s a pretty fucked up way to live your life. Being a loner is one thing, but you won’t survive in the world if you refuse to use your words.”
“It’s like talking to a brick wall…” he grumbled, taking a sip of his drink. The cold numbed his brain with the perfect mixture of pain and bliss. However, once the short feeling faded, he looked down into the blue slush with indifference. Jackson shoved the drink in her hands, seemingly temporary as he dug around for the loose money in his pocket. However, after slamming the money down on the counter, he didn’t take it back. “Here, freeze your brain for a little while, on me. I’ll see ya’ around.”
The rest of the day was naturally a bore, but Jackson endured the last three periods and was back out the second the bell rung. He rode back to his new house on sadly the only form of transportation he’d been able to keep throughout various moves: a dusty, chipping, red dirt bike. Everybody always though he was a big Star Trek fan because it had, TREK, in big bold letters on the side. Once he pulled up to the house, he left the bike carelessly on the lawn. They’d only been living there for a few days, but Jackson already knew it was the kind of neighborhood where it’d still be there in the morning. The house was as unfamiliar on the inside as it was on the outside, thankfully his father was there in the living room to assure him he hadn’t walked into the wrong house.
“How was school?” his father asked, cautiously.
“Same as the last one. All the cliché teen movie tropes are right in their places.” When Jackson moved to Willow Park, he wasn’t exactly expecting much out of it. Small town in the middle of Oregon full of tourist traps and bad Chinese food. He was set to live a couple of ordinary months there before his dad could no longer legally detain him there. He was just idly waiting by, until he was free to live a life he wanted and settle somewhere he wanted to be.
“Did you even try to make friends with anyone?”
“The school president was up my ass the whole day, I talked a little with the resident stoner population, and I bought a mime a slushie. Do any of those count?” Jackson replied, describing the day’s events with the most sarcasm he could muster up in the moment. His father just stared at him, like any exasperated parent would, “Guess not. Retreating upstairs now.”
“Just a moment,” his father said, suddenly. “Would you mind take these box cutters back to the neighbors for me? I want you to introduce yourself and at least try to be presentable.”
“Okay…” Jackson sighed. As much as he didn’t want to do the menial task, it wasn’t worth getting in an argument with his father over a few boxcutters. Going over there would only take about five minutes and then he could go back to his brooding solitude.
The house with the address his father gave him was more than a few doors down, along the border of still being considered a neighbor. It was an old house, but still in notably better condition than any of the other houses in the neighborhood. The paint was newer and it looked a lot cleaner than the second-hand abode his father had bought. Jackson knocked on the polished door for a split second and waited. No answer. So, he tried again. Still no answer.
Jackson was about to turn around and give up when he heard an odd noise coming from inside the house. It sounded like a mix between cicadas and a sonic boom. A mystical and otherworldly mess. Maybe they were watching the Labyrinth, or some other sci-fi horror, and had the TV far too loud to hear the pounding on the door. His dad probably wouldn’t accept that as an excuse and Jackson really didn’t want him further on his case then he already was, so he did the most sensible thing he could think of. Go to the window, with sharp blades in hand, and try to see if he could get their attention. Jackson rounded to the side of the house to find it was surrounded by thorny thickets. He used one of the box cutters to cut through and reach the nearest window, where the sound was loudest. Peering through the window, with intent on knocking to get their attention, instantly changed once he saw what was inside.
It was Sylvia. The room, presumably hers, was dimmed but her face shone clear in only source of light. She was talking. Not with a cellphone in hand or sign of anyone else in the room, but it was clear the girl who never talked was in the middle of a deep conversation. The only other thing Jackson could really see was the oddly circular lamp on her desk that shone so brightly it should’ve illuminated the whole room, but for some reason it stayed controlled in a bubble around her.
Jackson was about to turn around and get out of there, when his foot got caught on some thicket and he toppled over instead. He struggled for a solid minute, before he eventually got back on his feet again and attempted to leave for a second time. However, he was then impaled in the face by a pink hippopotamus and before he was able to process what was going on the quiet girl was attacking him.
“Get away, you perverted thief! I’m calling the cops.” she yelled, chucking anything she owned within grabbing distance.
“If I was a robber or a pervert, the last thing you’d want to do is open the window to throw things at me.” Jackson reasoned, trying desperately to reiterate he was in fact neither of those things. A purple hairdryer nearly missed his right ear.
“A hairdryer? Really?”
“You’re that boy from school.” she stated, finally coming to her senses and stopping the barrage. “What’re you doing at my house?”
“My dad borrowed some box cutters. I just came to return them—”
“—And you couldn’t think to knock?”
“I did. Turn down the new age hippie crap, why don’t ya’? It sounds just terrible.” he snapped, harshly.
“Sorry. My parents are out of town and I forget about it…” Sylvia mumbled. Although, a peer into the more lit room behind her, revealed she didn’t have a stereo or a TV. All Jackson could see was a desk covered in papers and a bookshelf overstuffed with over a dozen books. The living of your typical quiet bookworm. “Those aren’t our box cutters, by the way. I think you have the wrong house.”
“Son of a—” he was barely holding self back from saying the last word and conceal his frustration. “—Well, at least I got you to speak to me. I’d call that a triumph.”
“I can talk just fine. I just don’t…” she stated, weakly. She had her reasons, but it’s not like she would dare tell this strange boy who just rolled into town. If the people she’d cared about didn’t understand, there was no way he could.
“Why?” he asked.
“I’ve been tossed off the metaphorical lifeboat that is high school.” Sylvia sighed, wistfully. “Don’t try to follow me or I’ll drag you under.”
“Well, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a pretty good swimmer. I think I’ll do well even with an anchor.” Jackson answered, with a little more mischief in his voice then he originally had planned. It paid off though. The quiet girl actually smiled at him in earnest.
As he said this, the oddly orbital desk lamp flickered, reiterating its presence. Jackson hadn’t noticed it in his secret scope of her room before because, after it stopped shining, all that could be seen was the golden stand that the orb had sat upon.
“I’ve got to go now.” she muttered, suddenly, tensing up. Even though she had been fixed on Jackson, the flicker had not gone unnoticed in the corner of her eye.
“Yeah, I’ll see you later.” he mumbled back, already starting to make his way through the thickets. “What the hell was all that about?!”
The spark of light was to convenient to be just coincidence.
The quiet girl, the vague metaphor, and the ominous lamp all sounded like a fascinating mystery, that the younger Jackson would’ve loved to have solved. Before his rebellious teenage phase, Jackson was a kid who sought adventures and mystery. Superpowers, flying through space, fighting pirates and the forces of evil. Then, reality hit at the crisp age of ten that the adventures he wanted were only found in fictional stories and the closest he would ever get to an adventure was a trip to Europe. He’d succumb to what happens to most people when they grow up. However, this could’ve been the start of something new. Something he hadn’t come across in across in a long time. Something that held hold of his thoughts for more than ten minutes.
The quiet girl had secrets and Jackson Montgomery had taken a sudden vow to uncover them. She had intrigued him too much and he intended on finding out the key to her silence.