It had been a long and terrifying journey home.
My guardian's house was located on the island's edge, isolated from the rest of the city and, therefore, nowhere near Pebble Cove or Southern Beach. Straying away from the shore, where breaking waves swallowed up sand and flooded streets and bridges, I managed to get to a bus station seconds before the storm hit.
Still, a bus could only take me so far. I had to run the rest of the way, with nothing more than a shirt and shorts, no umbrella or jacket, nothing to protect me from the wrath of violet skies. By the time I got home, I was soaking wet and shivering from head to toe.
At the edge of the island, the storm's strength was even more evident. I could see and hear the waves going back and forth on the stirring black waters, where they swelled up, crashing down on the sand, and the palm trees, bending submissively against the gusts of wind which blew at them, relentless in their efforts to uproot them. Scattered by the wind, those sounds barely reached my ears, and I could only just make out the cloud's rumble through them.
Only my guardian’s house seemed to stay firm in that maddening scenery. It was a two-story stilt house, built high up above the sand and far away from the shoreline, bare against the elements.
Feet pounding in the wet sand, I ran up to it. Stopping next to the pillars, I yanked off my sandals and flew up the stairs. Stepping over the welcome mat, I snatched the spare key from its hiding place under a vase, opened the door and, once safe inside, quickly closed it shut behind me, the sounds of the storm dying down as I did.
The house was silent and dark.
With a shivering sight of relief I dropped my shoes on the floor. I hadn't even taken one step forward, though, before, suddenly, a shadow popped out of the corner and jumped me. With my hands coming up to grasp the attacker, I twirled around, slipped on the wet floor and fell on my back.
The fall knocked out what scarce breath I had manage to catch; my lips parted but no sound came out. Cringing, my hand tightened around a clump of ... fur?
"Othello...!" I screamed in fury, regretting it afterwards when the strain made me go into a coughing fit. A bark sounded as a reply and I looked up to face a pair of round hazel eyes shining over a big dark nose and muzzle. A long rosy tongue slipped out to give my nose a lick, saliva replacing the layer of rainwater that had set there.
"Ugh! Othello, get off, now!"
In a flash, the eighty pounds of dog was gone, and I was able to get up. I switched on the lights and turned to look at Othello, who was sitting on the carpet at the end of the hallway a few feet away from me. The chocolate-coated Labrador retriever was wagging its tail and looking eagerly up at me, excitement exuding off of him.
"Raging mutt...! How many times have I told you not to do that?" I frowned down at him, though my voice wasn't as nearly as angry as I would've liked it to be. "Bad dog...!"
At my tone and last words, the over grown pup turned its big head to the carpet, whining pitifully as he put a paw over his big hazel eyes.
Cheeky little pup, I though, not bothering to stop the amusement tugging at my lips, you're not fooling anyone.
I sighed, running a hand through my braids, "We'll teach you some manners later. Where's Beatrice and-" I stopped abruptly when I noticed Othello snapping his head up. Through him, I sensed another presence, and, then, I heard a distinct sound: the click of a door unlocking.
But the warning came too late. A split second later, the door was opened with a bang, hitting the back of my head with a bone crushing sound. All I remember seeing was a blur of colours going by as I fell to the ground once more, this time face down.
"...!" I heard a familiar voice shout something, but the words seemed muffled to my pulsating ears, like hearing a boat engine's roar from underwater.
"Oh, my God...! Fern ..." the words were like flickering lights, going on and off, but the hand on my shoulder felt very real. "Oh, God...! I'm so sorry, I didn't know ... so sorry. Fern...? Can you hear me? Are you okay? Can you stand up?"
The words stopped flickering, as did my surroundings. The fog was lifted, but the dizziness was soon replaced by a growing headache. Slowly and carefully, I turned to rest my cheek on the carpet. A familiar face filled my view; worried brown eyes set on a shadowed face, curly black hair brushing my nose.
I heard Othello bark.
"Othello, hush...! Fern is waking up. He's okay," a woman's voice whispered. "Fern..." to my horror, slender fingers brushed the braids away from my face, caressing my cheek. With a gasp, I lifted myself up and scurried away from the woman, flattening myself against the wall behind me. The sudden movement cost me a lot of pain, my hands shooting up to clutch the sides of my head.
"I'm fine... Tana..."