The nightmare didn’t end when she opened her eyes, not this time. The dampness seeped into her blankets and pyjamas, dampening her skin. The weak morning sun streamed in through the small bedroom window above her bed, filtered by the blue sheer curtain that was pulled across it. She groaned and rolled to her side, wisps of her dark brown hair spiralling across the pillow in front of her face. How was this even possible? Less than a week ago she was curled up in her queen sized bed, Owen beside her, stroking her hair with all the love and patience in the world. Sydney shifted in her bed as she imagined his strong arm wrapping around her and pulling her body against his in the soft morning light. Outside her window she could hear the traffic going by- the noise of the city banging at the glass but she didn’t care. None of that mattered because he was here with her, kissing her bare shoulder, gently trying to rouse her from her sleep. Except what actually woke her was the sound of her mother hammering relentlessly on the basement door and like that the illusion was gone. The cold had entered again and Owen had disappeared.
A groan escaped her lips and she kicked off the heavy covers and reached for the nearest sweater, which, of course, was also damp. Bitterness pulsed through her as her cold eyes swept over what was now her bedroom- a dark and dank basement. Her unopened boxes lined the walls of her room, piled haphazardly atop one another. Articles of clothing were scattered across the floor and hung from the back of her door.
The stairs leading into the basement opened up into the rec room, which was poorly decorated-, the furniture smelled musty and was covered in tattered patchwork quilts. The laundry room connected to the left of Sydney’s bedroom that also had a storm door that lead outside; she considered it her own personal entrance. Sure there was privacy but what good was that? It didn’t keep her warm and it sure as hell didn’t keep her clothes from smelling like they had been washed in a mud puddle.
“Sydney! You are going to be late, now get up here!”
She ascended the stairs and put on her best “I am not going to school” face. She opened the basement door and was surprised when the smell of coffee and bacon greeted her. Suspicion crept into the kitchen with her; she eyed her mother cautiously before sitting down at the rustic table. Without a word a plate full of steaming food was placed before her,
“You’ll have to eat quickly- you aren’t even dressed yet.”
“I’m not going, I told you that yesterday.”
“Like hell you aren’t. You need to go to school, Sydney.”
“Have you seen what they call a school?” She poked at the bacon on her plate but her eyes burned the back of her mother’s head; narrowed for emphasis.
“There is nothing wrong with the school-”
“What about the people in it? If you haven’t noticed we live in a shit-”
“Sydney that is enough! I’m sorry if none of this is good enough for you but you don’t have a choice. You are attending this school, you will live under this roof until you graduate and you will stop your complaining.” Silence fell over the kitchen; Sydney slumped back in her chair and sulked.
The room around her was accented in dark wood; the chairs and cupboards all having the same shade. Atop the counters the faux marble had begun to crack and split- the covering lifting from the wood underneath. Next to where her mother stood was the sink, which was dwarfed by the window above it. Adding to her frustrations with the house Sydney noted that the room lacked a dishwasher.
“You are 17-years-old and it’s abut time you started acting like it, young lady. I know this divorce has been hard on you, and I know you wanted to stay with your father in Toronto but the fact of the matter is he didn’t want us, neither of us.” It’s not true; it’s not true, Sydney repeated silently as she stared at her food. It was her he didn’t want, not Sydney. She knew her father loved her, he just couldn’t keep her there, the Court decided it was best if Sydney followed her mother. She fought back tears of frustration like she had done ever since they landed in this God forsaken province a little over a week ago.
“I’m not hungry.” She got up and left the table, heading immediately for the bathroom. Sydney refused to miss the school bus- a fifteen minute drive with her mother would be slow torture.
The click of the lock seemed to echo in the dated room. Peeling linoleum coated the floor, the colour almost unrecognizable because it had faded so badly over the years. Discarding her clothes in a pile on the floor she turned the water on allowing it to sputter a bit before the stream began. The tub was a horrible sea-foam green and was cracked in a few places along the wall- it matched none of the other toiletries in the room. Sydney pulled back the curtain and stared dismally into the shower; it seemed no matter how hot she put the water, she never felt clean when she was done. It was for that reason she stopped taking her luxuriously long showers and instead settled for quick and uncomfortable ones. The only thing that made showering a bit more tolerable was her soft humming to a song- any song, that played on repeat in her head.
Turning off the water she stepped out onto a waiting towel, catching her gaze in the mirror. A haze blurred what would have been the clear outline of her body in what little natural light there was in the bathroom. Sydney could see where her dark hair fell heavily to one side, where her elegant neck was lifted to the left and where her hips curved gently down to her legs. Snatching a towel from the closet she wrapped herself tightly and headed downstairs to get ready for her day.
The bus ride to the small rural school was long- much longer than the quick metro ride to her city school back home. She adjusted her shoulder bag as she stepped off the smelly bus and onto the school grounds. The building was a gaudy pale yellow and had red around the windows as if to highlight them- not that they needed it of course, the windows looked to be at least 60 years old, if not more. They expect me to go in there? Sydney thought, curling up her nose.
“Move it, wouldya?”
Sydney frowned and turned to see who dare be so rude. A girl not much taller than her stared back at her, waiting impatiently. Before she moved Sydney took a moment to look the girl over: she had fairly long blond hair, cold blue eyes but clear, tanned skin. It wasn’t her looks that struck Sydney though, it was her clothes; the girl’s pants were too big by at least a size and a half, her sweater was quite noticeably made for a man and her sneakers too! Becoming fed up the girl shoved Sydney aside and walked on toward the school without a glance over her shoulder to see if she had knocked her over.
“Don’t mind Kim,” visibly Sydney shook herself and looked over her shoulder,
The stranger approached her, the air around him thick with his own ego. “The dyke, she’s harmless. Annoying, but harmless.” There was a pause before he added, “I’m Lukas, by the way.”
“And I’m late for class.”
She left him standing there and headed into the school. If this morning was any indication at all of how the rest of the year was going to go, Sydney was resolved to drop out by the end of the week. Having received her schedule and locker the day before Sydney was free to enter her classes without an awkward introduction and apology from the principal as to why she was late.
All though first period people gawked and whispered, clearly intrigued by the new girl. During break she even caught a few girls peering into her locker when she opened it, trying to see what was inside. From the corner of her eye she caught the guy from this morning, Lukas, smirking and shaking his head as people clustered together as they approached her.
Lunchtime was no better. The tiny cafeteria only had a handful of tables and by the time Sydney got there they were all full. Two of the walls were painted a dark purple, the other a pale lifeless colour she couldn’t quite identify. Clusters of students crowded around rectangular plastic tables and many doubled up on the blue chairs. An unusual medley of smells wafted through the booming room while the students unwound from their morning classes and enjoyed their food.
Cursing under her breath she headed for the vending machine and purchased a small bag of chips, refusing to wait in the line-up that extended out of the cafeteria and down the hallway. She found a picnic table just outside the cafeteria and sat down, a few seagulls overhead squawking at the smell of her food.
In an attempt to make the quad more likeable, a few wooden planters contained brightly coloured flowers, around them crushed gravel created walking paths between the few picnic tables that were scattered throughout the area. A few sad trees offered no shade from the wearying summer sun, as they stood unmoving in the stale air.
“Piss off you buzzards.”
“Well you’re just as pleasant as you were this morning.” Lukas came around to the opposite side of the table and sat down before her, smiling. Sydney had been so caught up with the flying rats she hadn’t noticed him approach from around the edge of the building.
“Can I help you with something?” He read the irritation on her face but chose to disregard it.
“You’re the new girl so I thought I’d take it upon myself to show you around, there’s plenty to see.”
“The school is the size of my house- there is nothing to see here.”
“Well now that’s not true at all. I bet you don’t know where the good hangouts are, or where the best places to go are when you ditch class- I bet you don’t even know which teachers to avoid.”
Sydney’s brow furrowed, “Does it look like I care?”
“Oh come on, its going to be an awful long year here if you refuse to make friends.”
“Even if my concern was to make friends, I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t waste my time with you.”
“Well now I’m just hurt,” he sneered and leaned forward. “If you want to survive at this school, you’re going to need to know these things.”
Sydney folded her arms across the table and leaned in as well, her eyes narrowing, “If you want to try and threaten me, you better come up with something better than that. I went to a school a helluva lot tougher than this- I think I can handle a few tough-guy wannabes.”
Lukas frowned and sat back, “Suit yourself, sweetheart. We could have had a lot of fun.” With that he got up and left the quad, disappearing around the edge of the school to where, Sydney could only assume, the trash of the school could be found. Her blood boiled as she recalled their conversation; how dare he assume she would want to mix with the likes of him. She looked towards the cafeteria and caught a few girls peering out the window at her; when their eyes locked the girls quickly turned away.
By the end of fifth period someone had become brave enough to sit by her in Chemistry, but the girl barely spoke. She quietly told Sydney that her name was Melissa and she had been in a few of her morning classes. The girl’s timid behaviour amused Sydney but the pair worked well together during their lab prompting Melissa to suggest they become permanent lab partners. Sydney agreed knowing she’d need the extra help, as they seemed further ahead than her Chem class had been when she left Toronto.