From my the roof of my school - where I had spent every morning for four years - I had a perfect view of the surrounding mountains. Little houses were perched on them like birds on a wire: modest, chirping, all occupants on the brink of flight. Between them were the oranges and reds of a resonating autumn. People noticed the colours the way they noticed the crash of a fluttering leaf to the ground: with terror.
"It'll be cold soon," Mom had noted that morning as I clutched a half eaten bagel between my teeth and finished off a bit of Law homework at the kitchen table.
I had shrugged, as though indifferent. Honestly, this was just about as cold as it got; barely a fall chill touched this place. But it was still the most horrific event to occur, the mass anticipation of a winter that never arrived. It only sent an annual threat.
That was the kind of place this town was. People fell when the ground merely quivered and collectively decided it was a quake. Mom said it was all relative, that in peaceful places even the smallest things were startling. I didn't agree. I thought people liked it: the rush of a silent eruption. It had all the thrill with none of the risk. That's just the way they preferred to live.
"Make sure to wear a jacket, Fey," Mom added. I didn't look up but I knew she was giving me that look, the raggedy-hoodies-don't-work look.
I brushed it off and pulled the bagel from my mouth. "Sure thing, Mom. "
I took a couple more bites. I hadn't buttered the thing nearly enough. It went down dry and was, frankly, kind of gross. My own fault I guess.
"Did you take your meds?"
I sighed, slapping the binder in front of me closed and squeezing my eyes tight. That question always bugged me. I think it had something to do with the term meds. Meds were for crazy people, the sickly, the fragile. I preferred to think I was none of those things. "Yeah. I made sure to."
I had to stop thinking stuff like that.
I had packed up my stuff and was on my way to school, finding myself on the roof, as usual.
Now I was here. Standing by a fence surrounding the otherwise open roof top. Unsafe? Yes. Questionable? Probably. Did me or Cassidy really care as we stood in silence on the only refuge we had? No.
I raised my hand up to clutch the chain fence. It was a little cool on my skin but nowhere near frosty like some might claim. From above I could see the average passersby like an ant beneath my feet. It was little things like this that made me feel okay. I was the boot; they were the bug. False power was power, no matter how you put it.
"So, yeah, wanna come?"
"Huh?" I blinked, turning back to Cass incomprehensibly.
"You weren't listening, were you?" Cass sighed dejectedly. She leaned back against the fence, slipping her cigarette back between her lips. I watched patiently as she inhaled the nicotine tinted smoke before taking it lazily between her fingers and letting the polluted breath rise with style. "Long story short, Liam and I are going to a party and we want you there."
"I don't know," I huffed, frowning down at me feet. "I'm not good with people."
"You'll never get good if you don't practice," she said, eyes half lidded, looking up at me through her lashes. She tended to do that when she wanted something.
"Let me rephrase," I laughed dryly, ready to be painfully blunt. "Nobody likes me."
"Wow," she smiled slyly. "Thanks for calling me nobody."
I shoved her shoulder, rolling my eyes at the cliche snip. "I'm serious, Cass. Nobody wants to go to a party where the crazy girl might be."
Her blue eyes glistened at the comment as though it was some sort of challenge. Her fingers combed nimbly through her ivory locks of hair and her lips curved up in that contradicting smile. "Everyone wants to party with crazy girls."
She spread her glossed lips as though ready to protest when the bell rang faint from the closed door to the stairwell. It was time to go. English was first, a tolerable enough class. Maybe I could actually try to concentrate this time. Usually I was too distracted by the view...and everything else.
I swung my bag, heavy as a locker, over my shoulder and tread over to the mint painted door like it was the gates of Hell. It groaned and creaked as I turned the knob and pulled. Looking back Cass still stood there, solitary against the fence.
"Nah," she waved the question away. "Liam is coming to have a smoke with me."
"You know you two are essentially shitting in your lungs, right?"
There came that smile again: sly, sweet, just a bit sad. "You don't let me forget, Bitch."
"You love me."
I descended down into the main hall of the top floor. Take one look around this place and you could tell it was a small town. Everyone stopped to say hi to everybody else - I was the only exception there - and girls all dressed like 50's house wives stepping out of some sexist black and white commercial. Cass and I, the girls in the ripped up jeans, were not exactly welcome in this kind of environment. Sure, there were a handful of others but even they wouldn't touch us; by us I mean me. Cass is perfectly fine with them. I'm not.
Walking down these halls, if you took away the preppy kids and lockers, it kind of looked like a closed mental asylum. Fluorescent lights, tinged yellow, hung from the ceiling. The walls were painted with hospital blues and greens. Plus, every bit of paint in the building showed the signs of being ready to chip. Maybe it was just me though. Not many others knew what the inside of a mental hospital looked like. It was eerily comforting, like someone was trying to hide something.
Make a left further down that same hall and you come to my English class. It was the nicest room in the building. Don't get me wrong, the paint job was equally terrible, but the window made up for it. There was a whole wall of glass at the far right of the class, away from the door. I could lose myself looking out that window just like I lost myself peering through the wire fence up top. Something about views from heights got me going. My mind went on a trip that very little could distract it from.
I sat, first in the row by the window, and dropped my bag by the desk, pulling my books out as was necessary. Looking up through the glass I could see the sky, filled with a thick layer of rain clouds. That was pretty typical for this time of year. I liked to divide the seasons here into two as opposed to four: rainy season and sunny season. It was technically correct considering that this place was classified as a rain forest. But, like I said, the town needed its winter to worry over.
Waiting a few seconds and the teacher trotted her way into the class, just in time for the second bell. She was one of those young, new age, teach with positivity types. I didn't mind it much. It kept me out of crap since she wasn't 'a judger' as she called them. She was kind of a violation of expectations though. I don't know why but something just feels wrong about being tempted to ask your grade twelve English teacher where she got her shoes. I wouldn't be surprised if she answered with Forever 21.
"Morning class!" She twittered as she approached her desk, placing her attendance board down there. "Happy it's Monday?"
She really should have seen the collective groan that followed coming.
"Alright, alright guys. I get it. School sucks," she laughed as though sharing some kind of inside joke with us. I smiled in spite of myself. Damn her joy was infectious. "But this Monday isn't too bad. We have a special surprise."
If this was anything like that spontaneous poetry composition plus reading session she put us through last time I was out. I'm not even kidding: I'd run out that door, up the stairs and over to Cass and her second hand smoke rather than have to present my literature expressing my innermost thoughts to the class. The thought itself made me queazy.
"Say hello to our new student!"
That got everyone's attention. Someone new in a sea of normality would be even better than obsessing over falsified cold fronts. I perked up with the rest of the class, eyes darting from the door to my hands on the desk, not wanting to seem to interested.
The door knob twisted from the other end. My eyes glazed over as the door opened and a figure stepped in.
No, it couldn't be. His face hit me like a ton of bricks. This was impossible. I was just seeing things, similarities where there were none. He was not here. He was not real! What was it my councillor said? Make the voices say nice things. Make the faces less petrifying. Remember: they are not there!
"Simon? Care to introduce yourself to the class?"
Everything went black and I heard a scream. Blood curdled in its tone and I was vaguely aware of the fact that it was my voice.
"Shit, Fey," Simon cursed, looking down at my open knee. I whimpered as his hand lightly grazed the cut spot. Blood trickled down my pinkish, burning skin as I cried. I felt his arms wrap around me, picking me up and pulling me onto his knee. His embrace was warm, comforting. That still didn't stop me from crying. "How many times is this gonna happen, kiddo? I swear, you're the clumsiest munchkin I know."
"I know," I wailed, burying my face in his chest. His white T-shirt was clutched up to my damp cheeks as I sniffled pathetically to him. "I didn't do it this time, though. Kathy pushed me! Kathy did it!"
He sighed, readjusting me to look at him. His face was darker now, pained, worried. "Did she now?"
"And did you push her back?"
"Of course not."
"'Cause that's mean! I'm not a meanie like her."
I felt his chest rumble as he released a low chuckle. He shook his head, raven curls shifting behind him in the breeze. His jade eyes danced with amusement when he looked down at me again. His smile was brilliant in the light. I couldn't help but stop my whimpering just for a second.
"How old are you Fey?" He asked.
I narrowed my eyes at him and answered, crossing my arms proudly. "I'm six."
"You're a big girl, then!" He gasped excitedly.
I giggled in agreement as he began to bounce me up and down on his knee. It reminded me of a bumpy pony ride I had taken just a few days earlier at the fair.
"Well," he added, stilling me and wearing a less exaggerated joy on his face, "when I was your age I would have pushed right back."
I frowned, looking down at my shiny, black Sunday shoes. "Mommy says to turn the other cheek."
"Simon says to smack the other's cheek," he defied me. "I promise she won't push you again after that."
I looked back up at him. He had the kind of eyes I thought I could trust. I would have jumped off a bridge if he had told me it was safe. Maybe it was because he was older, wiser, or because he was charismatic. Maybe it was the other thing though.
But let me tell you this: Kathy Jones never did push me again. Nope. Next time she got her big brother to do it for her.
"It looks like we'll have to adjust her medication," Dr. Roberts said, scribbling something down on her notepad of judgements.
"Maybe it was a one time thing," Mom defended me, shaking hand rubbing my back as soothingly as it could. "She hasn't had an incident in years."
"Yes," Roberts agreed with a stark nod. "But we don't want to break that streak now, do we? Besides, you know how bad it could get."
I cried, wiping blood from my swollen lip. The place where the rocks
made impact still burned with pressure.
"Please, help me. I can't take it anymore."
He kneeled down before me, eyes watery with grief. "I'm sorry, Fey. You know I can't leave the forest."
"Then don't. Just let me stay! I wanna stay with you!"
"You don't mean that."
"Simon! Please! I wanna stay with you!" I screamed, desperation flaring through ever fibre of my being. "Forever!"
fascinating really," Roberts muttered below her breath. "Fey
seems to be projecting her hallucinations onto this new student. Have
they met before?"
"Not that I know of."
"We have," I admitted, breathless.
It happened so fast that I could barely comprehend it. There I was, drowning in a pile of leafs, raked together to be jumped in. But this time it wasn't a cushion. It wasn't remotely fun.
the forest," I whispered, feeling the scars, even now, singeing
like fresh burns.
"Fey," Mother sighed. I could hear tears break in her voice.
"You know there was no one in that forest, don't you?" Roberts spoke calmly. "You lit the fire, not anybody else."
was burning alive. This was hellfire! I was dying.
firemen dragged you out half dead."
the flames I could feel his arms cut through, not warm but cool with
relief. Time stopped and all I could see was him pulling me out of
the leaf pile, into a clearing surrounded by the burning forest.
were no other bodies, Fey."
He flinched at the shrill sound but held me just as tight. He would not listen to me begging for death.
say forever, Fey."
all those things."
until you mean it."
can't let you die for a forever. But...if you can't die for me, I'll
live for you...I promise."
Another scream followed. Again, I was acutely aware of exactly who's it was.