Chapter. 02 (Edited)
The beeping of her alarm woke Charla the following day. Even though she was a heavy sleeper, she always felt like she barely got any sleep. She hit the off button of the alarm that rested on the headboard of her bed. Seeing that it was seven in the morning, she groaned.
She got up and ran a hand through her hair. No matter where it was, she always seemed to have issues sleeping regardless if it was in her old home or here. With a yawn, she got up and did a few athletic stretches before taking her uniform and heading to the bathroom.
While doing her daily morning routine, she heard a knock at the door.
“Breakfast will be ready soon, so you know.” Nina’s voice came from the other side of the door before Charla heard the sound of feet heading down the stairs. She merely stood there, practically frozen while doing up her uniform shirt, amazed but dumbfounded, yet finding herself rather sad in response.
When she headed down the stairs, she saw that two plates were set up with toast, eggs and a glass of milk.
“The coffee machine is on, though I wasn’t sure if you drank coffee, so I thought you could decide yourself when you came down,” Nina said.
Charla stared at the food. “You made this all yourself?”
Nina nodded. “I know how to make sunny-side eggs, and I can toast bread really well, and sometimes, when Dad’s home, I make him coffee to help him wake up.”
Charla just looked at the food that was there.
“Is something wrong?”
She sat down. “No, it’s nothing. I just thought it’s amazing that you can cook breakfast for yourself like this. Normally kids would just make toast or pour cereal, and that’s it.”
“But you made that chicken curry last night,” Nina said as she sat down across from her.
“That’s only because I practiced, and it’s not like I started to do that when I was your age. When I did start, I think I was twelve or so. So you’re far ahead of me.”
Nina smiled. “Thanks. Oh, by the way, the news said that it’d be raining in the morning, so you should bring an umbrella with you.”
“Okay, I will. Thank you for making me breakfast.” Charla paused to take a bite of toast when she saw Nina blush. “Nina?”
“Ah, no, it’s nothing! I’ll keep doing my best!”
While eating, however, Nina asked a question.
“By the way, why did you open your window last night?”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“Last night, when I was heading to the bathroom, I heard you open your window. It was still raining, so I could hear the rain outside. Did you want some fresh air?”
Charla stopped eating, and a frown creased her face.
“Are you okay?”
Instantly Charla snapped out of it and shook her head. “Oh, no, I’m alright. I like the smell of rain in my room. It helps me relax and even sleep at times. Sorry if it bothered you. I’ll try not to do that.”
“No, it’s okay. Just remember to not leave your window open for long, or you might get sick. By the way, you don’t know how to get to school yet, right?”
“I have a map.”
Nina shook her head. “A map can only do so much. My school is on the way, so I’ll walk with you. How’s that?”
Somehow Charla felt like the roles were reversed entirely here. But seeing Nina smile the way she did, Charla couldn’t help but agree. “Sure.”
* * *
The two walked along a path near that of a small river. Nina then stopped partway and pointed down the road. “You keep going straight until you hit the next crosswalk, then you go right, and up the hill is your school.” Nina then turned and began to go the other way. “My school is this way, so I’ll see you at home, okay?”
“Sure you don’t want me to come and get you?” Charla offered.
“No, that’s alright. I’ll see you later!” Nina said and then ran off the other way down the road.
When Nina was gone, Charla’s smile fell as she looked to the sky, the sound of the heavy rain hitting against her umbrella. “It happened again, huh…?”
With a deep frown and a frustrated growl, Charla took the headphones resting on her shoulders and put them on her ears, scrolling through her playlist and finding the song she was looking for. She hit play before continuing on her way.
Following the directions that Nina gave her, Charla made her way, noticing some other people her age wearing the same uniform as she was.
It looks like I’m going the right way… She thought and continued to follow them, keeping her usual pace, not bothering to listen to students’ conversations.
Her music isolated Charla into her mind, ignoring those around her like she had done many times before. She barely heard the sound of a girl’s voice before being yanked to a stop and a car speed past the small intersection. The car was only a foot away from her that came out from her blind spot.
Charla was then forcefully turned around, and a tall brunet with short hair looked at her with angry blue eyes. Instantly Charla hit the mute button right on time when the girl shouted.
“Do you have a damn death wish, girl!?” before shaking her slightly. “You almost got hit by that fucking car!” She then frowned when Charla didn’t answer and pressed Charla’s cheeks together with her hands as her eyes narrowed with an annoyed expression. “Are you even listening to me with those damn headphones on?!”
“Yes…” Charla said with her face still squished in the girl’s hands. She felt the rings she wore almost leave an imprint before the girl moved away from her hands so Charla could pull down her headphones.
“Thank you for helping me. I’ve never gone this way, and it looked peaceful enough. I didn’t think a car would move through here like that.”
“Geez, don’t you know anything? This area is infamous for people getting hit by assholes who don’t know how to step on the damn brakes. Even if this is a residential area to boot, those bastards don’t care who it is. Bunch of pricks...” The girl glared down the road with arms folded across her chest before noticing that Charla was holding up the umbrella so she wouldn’t get soaked.
“To be fair, I’ve never gone this way because I haven’t gone to this school. Today’s supposed to be my first day.”
Realization became apparent on the girl’s face as her body visibly relaxed. “Oh, so you’re a transfer student, then.”
“Pretty much. Thanks again for helping me. I’m Charla, by the way.”
“Alex.” She paused when noticing the rain coming to a stop. And Charla folded up her umbrella before asking, “How long have you been here?”
“This will be my second day now,” Charla said as she made her way past the road quickly, with Alex following suit. “There’s still a lot I’m not too sure about, but I think I’ll get it over time. At least that’s normally how it goes.”
“Normal people would get used to a place first before going to school,” Alex told her.
“True, but my uncle lives here, and my Dad also grew up here before moving to the city. I know some things that they’ve both told me, and my Dad did prep me on some of the things with the school before I arrived.”
“Huh…” But Alex didn’t say more.
As they walked, Charla glanced at the girl next to her. Alex was tall and had a few piercings in both ears, and her dark brown hair was short on one side and falling along the right side of her face. She wore the uniform jacket over her white blouse but had the sleeves rolled up near her elbows. Somewhat different from Charla. She merely wore the uniform sweater vest and her hooded jacket with her headphones on her neck, making her look almost the complete opposite.
“The city you lived in before coming here,” Alex spoke suddenly. “It’s the one with that serial murder cases, right?”
Charla stopped and looked at the girl in surprise. “How…”
“It’s pretty obvious,” Alex said. “That city’s been in the news for a while now, and you said your Dad moved to a city, which I can assume you grew up in, and that’s pretty much it. Just guesswork. So am I right?”
Reluctantly Charla nodded. “Yeah, it is. Is that strange?”
“Not really. Anyway, we’re almost there. Come on.”
* * *
Alex showed Charla the rest of the way to school, taking paths the other students didn’t seem to both with. What’s more, she noticed how a lot of the students seemed to avoid Alex. Perhaps she had done something, or they may have just judged her solely on appearances. Either way, by the time they reached the school, only a few students could be seen hanging around the grounds.
“So,” Alex said. “As you can see, this is will be your new school and junk. It’s not bad, could be better, but I think if you asked anyone around, they’d say this school is pretty good.”
Charla glanced at Alex before looking back at the school. “Oh… okay.”
“Hey, Al!” One student called out as he strolled in with a slouched posture and a beanie on his head. “Can you believe the rain finally gives us a break?”
“Yo. Yeah, well, what can you do? This place always has a ton of rain, nothing you can do about that.”
“Yeah, I know, but it still sucks. We couldn’t do anything that night because of the rain.”
“Alex, I’m going to go,” Charla told her. “I have to meet with the student councillor before going to my class, whatever it is.”
“Okay, cool. Good luck with that, Charla.”
“Yeah, see you.”
“Hey Al, who was that?” The guy asked her.
“Oh, just a transfer student from the city, nothing too grand, you know. The kid was almost hit by a car on her first day.”
“Man, that would have sucked. But hey, remember though, last night? Who do you think that person was? I mean, we’ve never seen that guy before, or was it a girl? Anyway, it was kinda weird. Normally we’re the only ones willing to stay out late.”
Alex laughed. “Heh, yeah.” But then she recalled the person in the rain, wearing that hoodie, the partly obscured face and those headphones…
Alex quickly turned to look back at Charla. “Hold the phone…”
“Huh? What is it, Al?”
“I’ll talk to you later. Something I want to make sure of, okay?” Alex dashed off to catch up with the new girl.
“Yeah, okay. Whatever, see you at lunch, then!”
No way in hell, Alex thought. That couldn’t have been… but those headphones.
When she caught up to Charla, the blonde looked over a handwritten note that seemed to be directions.
“Hey!” Alex clapped her hand on Charla’s shoulder.
“Wha–!” Charla jumped before looking at Alex with a startled expression. “What is it? Why’d you scare me like that?”
“Whoa, calm down girl, I didn’t mean to scare you like that. It’s just I wanted to ask you something, that’s all.”
Charla relaxed slightly. “Oh. What did you want to ask?”
“Well, this might sound weird, but were you out last night at all?”
“Last night? Why do you ask that?”
“Well, it’s just I saw someone last night, and, you know, you looked kind of familiar.”
Charla frowned. “What?”
“Yeah, I think I saw you last night.” Alex glanced at Charla. “Looking at you now, you don’t seem the type to be wandering the streets at the dead of night.”
Charla froze in place, but Alex didn’t seem to notice.
“What was I doing?”
The question she asked confused Alex, and she looked at her, stunned. “When you saw me, what was I doing?”
Alex noticed how pale the girl was and rubbed the back of her neck. Damn, she wasn’t good at dealing with emotional people.
“Nothing really, you were just standing in a closed-off area watching the rainfall in the empty streets. You had those headphones on and a hoodie, white shirt, running shoes and capris. At first, I thought you were a boy, but I knew you were a girl when I saw your face. You looked peaceful too.”
When Charla merely smiled in relief, Alex asked.
“Why’d you ask me what you were doing? You don’t remember being there?”
Charla remained silent but looked on edge.
Alex looked around. She saw some students talking and walking to the school, unaware of how the new girl standing in front of Alex looked.
“Say, I’m going to take a smoke. There’s a spot barely anyone goes to. If you want, you can ditch the first part of class to calm down. How’s that sound?”
Charla was silent for a moment before merely nodding. With that, Alex led her around to the back of the school and sat on an old heating fan box.
“So, why’d you go all pale like that?” Alex asked as she pulled out a pack and took out a cigarette. She offered one to Charla, but the girl declined. “Your uncle would get ticked at you for knowing you were out late? If that’s the case, you don’t have to worry about me fibbing on you. You don’t have to pretend like you don’t remember if you’re worried, you know.”
“It’s… not that,” Charla said softly before glancing off to the side, her left hand grasping her wrist. “I… well…”
“You like girls?”
“Huh?” Alex’s blunt statement surprised her. Where the heck did this come from?
“You. Like. Girls.” Alex repeated, punctuating each word with a jab of her cig in Charla’s direction. “And you don’t want someone to know, right?”
Charla’s face turned red. “No!” She snapped. “It’s nothing like that,”
Alex tsked in annoyance. “Damn,” She said before she puffed out a bit of smoke. “So then, if that’s not the reason for it, what is? It can’t be that bad, can it?”
Charla hesitated for a moment, recalling something from her old school that she’d rather forget. It made her head throb just remembering it. She wondered if she should even say anything. But then she recalled her father’s words from last night.
“Hey now, your uncle and I went to St. Helen’s, and it’s a good school. Besides, it won’t be stuck up like the other school you went to.”
This place was supposed to be different. Her father reassured her of that. This place wasn’t like her old school.
Screw it. “I have TBI,” Charla said to her in a clear, unmoving voice and merely waited to hear for the obvious response that she always got first in regards to this.
“TBI?” Alex repeated as she let out a puff of smoke from her cigarette. “What’s that?”
“It’s short for “Traumatic Brain Injury.”
Alex went still and looked up at her thoroughly for the first time, blue eyes locked on Charla as if thinking she would vanish in that instant from Alex’s sight.
“It’s something that causes me to have blackouts, and I’ve had them for a few years now.”
Alex was silent for a moment before taking another deep drag and exhaled a stream of smoke. “What caused it?”
Charla crossed her arms, hugging herself. She never liked explaining this part to people. “Car accident. My Mom had a driver pick us up from a local restaurant after school. It was raining mixed with snow, and a car drove through a red light. It rammed into us. We rolled off the freeway, and, well… that’s how it happened.”
“Jesus,” Alex frowned then with slight confusion. “What’d you mean by ‘we’? Were your parents in the car too?”
Charla shook her head. “No, my brother was. He died shielding me…”
Shit… Alex thought.
“But it didn’t start then. The blackouts, I mean. They began a bit after I turned fourteen.”
Alex’s frown returned. “That’s a bit odd,”
Charla rubbed a spot on the back of her head out of habit. “The doctors say that it was because of blood that slowly pooled in the back of my skull, causing pressure on my brain. No one noticed it until later. I had surgery to fix it. But I still get the blackouts from time to time, and my Dad would often find me wandering around the house and not remember doing it. The doctors called it Dissociative Fugue.”
Alex arched a brow at this. “What?”
Charla smiled nervously. “I was confused too when they told me. Think of it as reversible amnesia. It’s something that doesn’t last long. My Dad knew I tend to wander around when I was in that state, and with a killer on the loose...”
“He didn’t want something to happen to you. Makes sense.” Alex took another drag and let out a breath. “Well, if I see you wandering around at night again, I’ll be sure to let you know the next day, though it probably won’t help much.”
“Will you tell anyone?” Part of Charla waited to hear the response from before, but Alex surprised her.
“No,” She said as she put out her cigarette. “It’s something you have, and you don’t want to add more drama than you already need. I can understand. Besides, you weren’t doing anything after all. In fact, you looked kind of lonely.” She then offered a half-smile. “Tell you what, next time I see you wandering around at night. I’ll ask you to join me. How’s that?”
Charla smiled with relief. “Thank you, Alex.”
“Nothing to thank me for. Now I have to deal with old Square-tache. He’s going to be ticked at me for being late again.”
“What?” Charla said in confusion.
Alex merely smiled. “Ah, it’s nothing. Just a weird teacher I ended up with this year. Anyway, you have to go to the student councillor, right? Good luck with that, and I’ll see you around. Later.”
Charla merely watched Alex before smiling in relief. Her Dad was right. This place was different from the other school. Maybe things wouldn’t be too bad here.
But even then, she still had that feeling in the back of her mind that it somehow wasn’t going to last. She only hoped it wasn’t soon.