Thirteen: Part One
“... So that is why the First World War was a military futility,” Mr Graham said. The bell rang as soon as he finished his sentence and everyone started to pack their bags while the teacher told us the pages for homework.
I was never a big fan of History, but I was starting to like it. I found it extremely interesting to know about what happened in the world we live in. It’s like when you meet someone new: you talk to that person and as the friendship evolves, sudden you start to ask questions about their past, their memories and things they have done. I imagine earth as a person with a life of its own, and I try to know her better.
I left the room and started to walk to my next class, Mathematics. I absolutely hated Maths with all my heart. I had already enough problems, I didn’t need to solve any more.
“Hey Anna, wait up,” I grabbed her shoulder “In the end of the day can you help me with the homework?”
As much as I liked History, I never managed to get the things in my head and I found it really hard. With Anna it was different. She knew everything! Literally. She was always putting her hand up in class and never got an answer wrong. This applied to all the subjects of course. She has like an encyclopaedia inside her brain... It was so annoying, but handy at times.
“Yeah sure,” she said and yawn “I couldn’t sleep last night. The rain was so loud against the window it kept me awake,”
“That’s bad, but I have a feeling the noise will stop soon,” I said with a smile.
“What do you mean stop?” she asked.
“Snow my dear! Snow!” I exaggerated the words, “I bet next week we will have snow.”
If I had to have a least favourite season, it would be winter. It was very cold for my liking, there were fewer hours of sunlight, and we couldn’t do much outside. But snow made it all better. I love the touch of it and to see everything covered in white, like cotton.
We reached the Maths classroom and our teacher was already inside. We sat on our individual desks and opened our books. I usually sat in the middle of the class, but in Maths lessons I made sure I was sitting at the back so I could look out the window without the teacher noticing.
The teacher gave us some exercises to do but I procrastinated by looking out the window.
“Miss Daniels,” the teacher called my attention sharply in the front of the classroom, breaking the silence and I flinched “Concentrate.”
I looked at the books in front of me and sighed. After doing a couple of exercises, I was already bored to death. I rummaged through my bag and grabbed a little notebook where I wrote my letters.
It has been almost three weeks since I last send a letter to my parents because I had been too busy with homework and with the race team. I started to write when suddenly I heard the voice of a teacher shouting in the room next door. Everyone’s head rose to hear better, even our teacher’s.
“How dare you talk to me that way?! First, you arrive late to my lesson, and now this!”
“At least I bothered to make an appearance,” said that husky voice I now knew way too well. It was Harry again.
“Go immediately to Mr Hansen’s office!” the teacher said in despair.
“I would be delighted,” Harry said with a mocking tone. My classmates were all listening very attentively to what was happening and whispered between each.
“I won’t tolerate your behaviour anymore Edwards!” he shouted again “I have been working here for twenty years now and I never ever came across a student like you! You completely turned this school upside down and I am sick of you! I will make sure you are expelled once and for all!”
There was silence. No one talked and I felt the air get thicker.
“I should have been expelled a long time ago,” said Harry in a low and daunting voice “But I’m still here,” he paused “Good luck with that.”
Harry exited his room and walked passed mine. Our door was opened so he glanced at me and continued to walk in a fast pass. His black eye was still visible, now turning purple, and it gave him a harsh look complementing his tense expression.
“Get back to work!” the teacher next door shouted to his students. Our teacher gave us a glare and we followed suit.
Harry never ceased to surprise me. How on earth did he dare to speak to a teacher like that? He must’ve had a lot of guts, or he was just crazy.
I wonder what punishment Mr Hansen was going to give him... I wouldn’t want to be in his position.
I agreed with what Harry said. He should have been expelled before, and he knew it. Then why wasn’t he expelled? He even recognised it for Goodness sake! I didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle to solve the mystery, but I wanted to do it more than ever.
In the end of the day, the race team had a meeting and Mark said that we would be having a competition in another school where race teams from all over England would be participating. He said we would have a lot of time to prepare but we should start as soon as possible to ensure maximum preparation.
Being that said, we went to the indoor pavilion and started our practice. Of course running was hard work and I would get exhausted very quickly, but when I ran I forgot about all my problems and my mind would only concentrate on running.
First we did a relay race and I was impressed with the abilities of my fellow team mates. We were all from different year groups, but the younger ones were equally excellent as the older ones. I confess it was hard to keep up with them, but I tried my best.
“Okay guys, we’re finished today,” Mark said “Head to the showers!”
I went to the changing room and took a really quick shower just to get all of that sweat off my body. After that I changed into my uniform and went to the community room where I would have Anna waiting for me to do the history homework.
The school was chaotic, but not because of the Book being updated. Today was Lucy’s horse race and the front of the school was crowded. Staff members were taking the white and brown horses by their reins and guiding them inside a truck that was going to take them to the place where the race was going to take place. Kids from all ages were watching very attentively and with wonder as the beautiful animals were put inside their transport. Mr Hansen was also outside directing every move, and making sure everything was right.
I had one hour of free time before I had to go to the bus. That bus would take me and a bunch of other kids to the race to support our friends, in my case Lucy. I was sitting on a window seat in our community room and I was looking out the window. I told Anna last week that it was probably going to snow, but not a single snowflake fell from the sky since then. It was also not raining, not even a frosty wind was in the air, it was just very cold. I had a blanket around my body and a mug of hot chocolate in my hand. The canteen ladies were distributing them to everyone. How kind. I had already finished drinking all of it, and I was getting bored.
I decided to go for a walk. I grabbed my school grey overcoat and headed outside.
As soon as I opened the door, the cold air invaded my whole body and made me shiver. I breathed in the cold air and as I exhaled a white fume came out of my nose and mouth.
The colour from the perfectly treated grass was now fading from the lack of sunlight. I could hear the faint sound of birds singing as they rested on the high naked trees. I looked around; I was alone in that immense field.
I walked towards the huge lake at the back of the school and crossed the rock bridge, stopping at the centre to admire the view. All living things seemed to lose their life when the winter came. The creatures of nature didn’t radiate that joy I was so fond of.
Way ahead of me, I could see the trees that lead to the forest. Through those trees, I spotted the now-deserted stables and I decided to check them out.
As I walked through the trees in the direction of the stables, I started to hear voices in the distant. I didn’t see anyone so I continued walking, it must have been my imagination playing tricks on me.
The big wooden building came into view. There was no one around and no horses to be seen, so I went inside. There was straw everywhere and haystacks on a far corner. Some old saddles were hanging on the wooden wall and I admired their funny shapes.
I heard the voices again. This time I was sure they were real.
It was definitely from outside, I was sure of that, but I didn’t want to be noticed so I peeped outside from behind the back door.
I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.
“Why were you following me?!” Harry shouted in the boy’s face. I knew the boy. He was in my race team. He’s name was Andrew and he was about fourteen, almost fifteen years old. He was pale and looked absolutely terrified. “Were you trying to steal my cigarettes?”
The boy didn’t answer. I just stared wide eyed at the scene in front of me.
“Answer me you little piece of shit!” Harry shouted in his face.
Andrew gulped “I- I,”
Harry pushed him but Andrew kept his balance “No one messes with my stuff, do you understand?” He said in a threatening tone. For my surprise, he took from his pocket a cigarette and a lighter. In seconds the cigarette was lit up and Harry moved it in front of Andrew’s face.
“Please let me go,” Andrew pleaded weakly.
“No no, now you’re mine,” Harry said in the most sinister voice I ever hear “I can tell you are desperate to try this,” he paused “Take a drag,” he demanded, as he forced the cigarette into Andrew’s mouth.
I felt so much anger boiling inside of me. I was not believing what I was seeing.
“Please don’t hurt me!” Andrew pleaded with tears streaming down his face, desperation clear in his tone.
Harry held his shoulder to keep Andrew in place. I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t just watch Harry do that to an innocent kid.
Have you ever been so angry that you couldn’t look in the mirror for fear of finding the face of evil glaring back at you? That was what I felt in that exact moment. Fear was non-existent in my body. Fear had vanished and was replaced by hate so deep that blinded me.
Without thinking, I stepped out from behind the door and pushed Harry away from Andrew.
Harry’s eyes were on fire, and he pushed me even harder, making me fall on the floor. I landed on my hands and I heard a cracking noise. I felt an immediate, lingering an excruciating pain on my right wrist.
Andrew started to run like a madman away from Harry and I, but Harry didn’t even look in his direction when he noticed who I was.
He breathed sharply “Summer, I didn’t know-”
“Stay away from me!” I cut him short, tears streaming down my face. I kicked at the ground in desperation of getting up. When I finally did, I ran inside the stable.
“Summer wait, I’m so sorry! Summer, don’t leave!”
I was too weak to run, the pain from my right wrist had taken all the strength I had in my body. The only thing that made me move away from him was adrenaline and the anger I still had pumping through my veins.
I climbed up a ladder to go to the second floor of the stable. Harry tossed the damned cigarette on the floor and climbed the ladder after me.
I looked up and there was a small trapdoor above my head. Without knowing what I would find, I opened it with all the strength I could muster.
I lifted the small door above my head and pulled my body inside. Seconds after I closed the little door behind me, but Harry opened it and was inside the small space in seconds with me. Around us were haystacks all piled up and in an organised way. We almost touched the ceiling with our heads when we stood up, but the only thing that mattered was Harry in front of me.
“How could you?” I cried “How can you be so mean?!” I sounded like a child crying in front of her parents when I was sent to my room when I did something wrong.
“I never wanted to push you-”
“Shut up!” I shouted in his face “Aren’t you human? Don’t you have feelings?”
He grabbed my shoulders and pushed me against a haystack “Don’t shout,” he said in a low voice “I’m sorry. I lost my temper and I’m sorry Summer, I’m so sorry, I didn’t want to push you.”
“Saying that you are sorry won’t change anything,” I didn’t shout this time, I just looked at him to see if I found any kind of emotion.
He didn’t say anything, and he let me free from his tight grip. He moved to my hands but I jerked them away and winced from the pain in my wrist.
“What happened to your wrist?” he asked and this time grabbed my arm.
“Don’t touch me,” I said, my voice cracking at the end. I had to leave right away. I couldn’t stand him any longer.
I walked to the door and opened it. A cloud of white thick smoke burst as soon as I opened it. It invaded the small space I was in and I closed the trapdoor immediately.
Harry approached me and this time he opened the door himself. Again, more smoke covered our faces and I moved away.
I looked out the tiny circular window. A huge red and orange flame was consuming the stable. And we were inside.
I felt like fainting but I held myself together.
“Harry,” I pointed out the window. It was so small I had to move away so he could loom outside. His face turned white and he looked at me. No words needed to be said. We had to leave, or we would die.
“You go down first, I will be right behind you,” He said, referring to going down the ladder “Once you hit the floor, you run out immediately, do you understand?” Harry said in a serious voice.
I didn’t trust him, but what choice did I have? I had to swallow my pride and do what he said because I didn’t have any other idea.
He opened the door and yet another cloud of smoke blew up in our faces, making me cough. I put a foot out and I was horrified “The ladder fell! There is no ladder! We can’t get down!” I shouted.
There was no use in closing the door again. The smoke had reached every single inch of the stable and I knew the only way out was through the main door.
“We have to jump!” he said in exasperation.
“I can’t jump, it’s too high!” I said.
“Do you prefer to die?” his words were harsh but they were the truth. “Let’s do it together.”
The smoke was blocking my visions entirely. It was filling up my lungs and I could feel some tears form in my eyes from fear.
Harry held my hand in his. He counted to three and we jumped.
I thought we would hit the floor instantly, but I was wrong. The fall was so high I hit hard with my head on the floor. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe.
In a fire, it was not the flames that killed you, but the smoke. I knew that if I inhaled the smoke I was going to die right there. But there was nothing I could do to save myself. Before I lost all consciousness from the lack of oxygen in my brain, I felt hands wrapping around my torso.
Then I felt my head get lighter, and suddenly, I was dragged into total darkness.