The journey passed by completely uneventful. I didn't say more than five words to Diana, mostly consisting of simple yes and no answers until she had had enough and stopped talking to me altogether. I had absolutely no idea where the hell we were and every large house we passed, I wondered if it was the one we were due to stop at. It didn't take us until two hours later for the car to finally come to a halt.
The house - or mansion - we had stopped at was absolutely massive. Completely materialistic in every single way possible. A false exterior containing four or five other teenagers I had no intention of interacting with. Pale yellow bricks, a pyramid-like roof and vast heavy-looking windows. That was it. Mix that with the large expanse of fresh green lawn and it was the type of place my grandparents might have taken me if they thought it was an educational visit.
And if I had ever met my grandparents...
I recognized Melanie standing by the front door, smiling at both Diana and I. She was with another person, a younger guy with brown hair and a big smile stretched out across his face.
I rolled my eyes as he offered Diana a tour, not exchanging one word with me.
'James,' Melanie welcomed. 'It's good to see you here. Did you want me to show you around or would you prefer to be left on your own?'
A faint smile played at my lips. 'The latter, thanks.'
The interior was just as I had imagined. It was large with huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and glossy portraits lining the walls. After a five minute inspection of all the rooms, I was satisfied that life here wasn't going to be too bad. There was a games room at least. I didn't have to interact with anyone.
'James!' Melanie met me at the bottom of the stairs just as I had been about to ascend. 'Don't go up there. This is your floor.'
I cocked an eyebrow but said nothing.
'Here's your room,' she opened the door to one of the many rooms in the corridor and left me to it after informing me that lunch was at one. I dumped my bags on the floor, not at all impressed with the four poster double bed and huge wooden closet. A door in the corner remained closed - an en suite perhaps. How positively delightful... They were trying to bribe us.
I started to unpack slowly, pulling my beaten copy of Gone with the wind out of my holdall and placing it on the bedside table. The tedious task of putting clothes and toiletries away also allowed me some alone time with my mind. I was a little bit apprehensive about meeting the others, not because I wanted to make a good first impression but because they'd feel compelled to talk to me and welcome me into their home. Something I was not willing to experience.
All too soon it was one o'clock. I sat staring at the digital lights on the alarm display, waiting for the minutes to tick by. Laughter and the sound of chairs moving sounded from down the corridor. Five past one... Ten past one... Footsteps heading towards my room. Hesitation. Two long shadows appeared at the foot of the door.
'James?' It was Melanie. 'Are you joining us for lunch? The others want to meet you.'
'Great,' I groaned inwardly, knowing that I couldn't put this off any longer. I heaved myself up off the bed, swung the door open and followed Melanie back down the hallway and into the main dining room. Four different heads turned to face me. Three guys and a girl. Ryley was sat next to Diana who was also sitting next to a petite blonde with pale skin and washed out green eyes.
'This is Brooke,' Melanie gestured to her. 'Kyle, Zach and Mikhail. I'm sure you already know Ryley.' I didn't already know Ryley because he hadn't bothered talking to me when I had arrived.
Zach had dark eyes, so dark they almost appeared black, with equally dark hair and square glasses. He was smiling at me and I nodded back at him. Mikhail shared Brooke's pale features and icy blue eyes and I suspected that the two were siblings. Kyle was the only one who wasn't attempting to make conversation and I could see why; he was immersed in a game on some sort of console. He had dark red hair and brown eyes, set within a slightly chubby face.
I took a seat next to Zach, the only available one there was.
Melanie coughed. 'Er, why don't you introduce yourself?'
'Oh, um. I'm James Ashdown.'
Silence followed. Diana looked uncomfortable.
I really hated socializing like this.