Rilah woke up sweating and shivering. Her pillow was damp from her tears and her eyes were glazed over. She was more frustrated than scared. She had promised herself that she would not wake up crying or fall asleep crying anymore but here she was, her cheeks dampened by the salty fluid.
She got out of her dull gray sheets, put on her takkies and went over to the window. Swinging one leg after the other, she used the pipes and cracks on the wall to climb out of her room. The climb down was short, about five or six metres above ground. It also helped that there was a hibiscus bush below her. She stealthily moved along the edge of the woods and snuck out of their backyard. Moving quickly through the dense trees, she made her way over to her neighbours' house. The area around them was surrounded by many plants but despite that her neighbours filled their house and the yards with different flora and all types of plant life.
She got in through the backyard, went to their backdoor and ran her hands along the frame. Unhooking the key, she unlocked the door and quietly went up the stairs, heading to the second door down the hall. She tried the handle, only to find Sylvia's door locked.
Sylvia sometimes locked her door to keep her parents out but this was definitely not the best night to do so. She went further down the hall, to the third door. She tried the handle and breathed a sigh of relief when the door opened. She hadn't wanted to make noise for the whole household trying Sylvia's door.
She made her way over to the bedside and looked outside the window. The moon was full and shined bright, illuminating all life around them. She smiled; it was high time she went for a midnight swim in the lake. She looked at the form in the bed. Like usual, Charlie had his blankets wrapped around him, with only his head - covered with a beanie - poking out. Rilah removed her shoes and climbed into bed next to Charlie. She looked at the ceiling, pondering her dream. She had had nightmares before but never that scary. This one had felt so real, almost like a premonition. She could not help thinking that it would come true one day. It certainly would not be the first.
Charlie stirred and turned to her.
"Missed me so much you couldn't wait 'til morning?" Charlie rasped sleepily, amusement laced in his voice.
"You wish", Rilah retaliated. She loved Charlie's voice, especially when he just woke up. It was like he had just swallowed honey and it was drawn out slowly. Of course she would never admit that to him.
"Yes you did. Or maybe you tried to wait until morning but then you started dreaming of me." She could feel his smirk even in the dark.
"You are so full of yourself. Go to sleep, you are annoying me."
He laughed before obliging. "Yes, madam Bossy. As you wish." He closed his eyes and said, "Good night Lulu, dream of me." Rilah looked at the bedside clock; it beamed three o'clock. She yelped as she felt Charlie's arm wrap around her waist and pull her close.
"Charlie, let go." She tried pulling away, only to feel the fall and rise of Charlie's chest against her. She rolled her eyes and settled into him, absorbing his warmth and comfort. After all, she only had two more hours to sleep.
Rilah walked out of the shower and headed to her room. She had to open the door slowly and quietly because it creaked badly. The Daniels had told her that they didn't have money to waste on stupid meager things but they always complained and blamed her when the squeak woke them up. She wasted no time getting dressed for school since she wore a uniform. Her skirt was navy blue with big scotches and an old fashioned skirt belt. She wore it with a white shirt and a matric jacket. The matric jacket was her favourite; it had navy blue sleeves and the rest was white. The white part had an intricate design resembling vines and the back had a drawing of a graduation hat being thrown in the air. What she loved the most was that she had not been expecting it. She had just arrived at school a month ago, only to be called into the principal's office. She had been scared out of her wits but Principal Broker had just given her the jacket. She needn't have asked who it was from. When Broker refused to tell her, she knew it was from the family who had dumped her at the orphanage. The Daniels would never even buy her a sweet, much less a eight hundred rand jacket.
She packed up her books and went downstairs, as quiet as a mouse. She started on breakfast, removing three plates and three glasses. She took out the bacon, eggs and sausages, making a feast fit for a king. She toasted the bread and laid the loins of her labour on the plates precariously and filled the glasses with fresh juice. Then she covered all the plates and piled last night's leftovers into her lunchbox. She took an apple from the fruit basket- it would be her breakfast for the day.
The peace of the kitchen was disturbed as Tyron stampeded down the stairs. He towered over Rilah and he always used it to his advantage. He was built like the typical bully that everyone feared but worshipped; with muscles to swing strong punches and an intimidating body. He passed Rilah without acknowledging her, looking at her like she was a cockroach that would not die. But then again he never looked at her any other way. None of them ever did.
Tyron sat on one of the kitchen stools and started digging into his breakfast. His parents would be up later to have their breakfast too, and would leave the dirty dishes in the sink like always. Rilah searched through her old, torn bag and brought out a bunch of papers. She pushed the papers across the kitchen island to Tyron. He quickly rifled through the pages and went back to his food. Obviously the answers were correct, even he knew that. He just wanted to make certain that Rilah had written the answers to all the questions.
Rilah shouldered her bag and went out of the house, en route to Yendall English Private School. She went through the woods, listening intently to the different tunes of the birds. Macaws fluttered from tree to tree, while Canaries sang so beautifully that Rilah almost had hope that life would get better one day. Almost. The leaves were an assortment of vibrant colours, ranging from yellows and reds to browns and golds. It all resembled doing away with the pain of yesterday and looking forward to the gift of tomorrow.
Huh! Gift of tomorrow. What has tomorrow brought me? The same excruciating turmoil.
She remembered a saying she had read in a book before, Bully by Penelope Douglas. That saying had meant a lot to her as it seemed to describe her very life: Yesterday lasts forever, tomorrow comes never. She knew what should come next- So let's make today count- but she struggled each day to make the day count. How could she when she always wanted the ground to swallow her up?
A little deer emerged from behind a bush and looked at her inquisitively. She slowly took out her apple and stretched her hand out to the deer. It stepped back a little and she tried again, talking softly to it. It shyly started walking towards Rilah and slowly took the apple from her hand. Rilah gently scratched behind the deer's ears and talked to it in hushed tones.
"Aren't you a shy one, little deer. Just like Bambi, except you are a girl." The deer nuzzled her affectionately. "But Bambi works for a girl too, doesn't it? I have to get to school. Go to your mama, Bambi." The deer nuzzled her one last time before disappearing back into the thick woods. Rilah was satisfied, a little happy about having seen a deer. Then it struck her. How did she know about Bambi? The Daniels did not let her watch any television. She started having a flashback of herself as a five year old, watching TV with a woman and a dog. The dog was a cute Siberian Husky, resting his head on the little girl's legs. The little girl rested her body against a woman, whose fiery red hair trailed around the girl's shoulders. They both laughed at Thumper, the woman's happiness clearly shown on her face. She had laugh lines under her eyes and at the corners of her mouth. She was obviously extremely happy with her life. The little girl looked up at her mom, adoration and love stark clear in her expression. The memory fizzled out and Rilah felt tears hanging at the edge of her eyes. If only her mom could see her now. It would break her heart. But she wasn't going to see her. How could she when she had last been with her twelve years ago? How could she?
She stood in front of her school, took a deep breath and forced her feet forward. It was time for another day in Rilah's miserable life.
Hi readers, I'd like you to know that this book is a first draft so I might be making minor changes in different chapters. If I make major changes that will impact the book as a whole, I will let you know.