Clara Hemster isn't the type of girl who easily believes in the paranormal stuff found in books. Even though she's been having weird dreams, hearing and seeing things that aren't there, and feeling like she's being watched, she won't believe. Until she meets that new guy in town. Clara's already frustrating life takes a turn for the worse when she starts to learn about the dark secrets that surround the city of Burlington and she must decide between blissful ignorance and heartbreaking romance.
I put down the heavy tome full of romance and flawed adventures of Ella and Eddy. My fingers pass softly over the dark cover that doesn't prepare you for the misleading and paranormal ideas of vampires and werewolves and such other things. I'm not saying that I believe that there's nothing out in the world that can't be explained, but I am saying that whatever can't be explained isn't about vampires or werewolves.
My eyes drift from the cover, which portrays a woman in a provocative pose about to be fanged by some macho man in a suit, to where our purple daisy wind-chime is slowly turning. Its tune sends out waves of melodies across the front yard and out into the clear baby blue sky. Next door, The Rolling Stones erupts from Niki's room. I used to babysit her when I was fourteen and she was only ten. Now she's fourteen and doesn't give a crap about anything. "You can't always get what you want, and if you try sometime, you find you get what you need." Ain't that the truth?
My name is Clara Ann Hemster. I'm eighteen and ready to leave for University in September... except it's only June and school has just finished for the year. I live in Burlington, Ontario, a city between Oakville and Hamilton. It's about forty-five minutes away from Toronto. All of the big city workers come here to raise their families and work in the hectic city. That's why Burlington is the second richest place in Ontario.
I am, what you would call, a non-believer. Sure, I read some of the novels about romantic paranormal activities and magical experimentations gone awry, but I only do it because it's popular with my friends and in this place, it's best to fit in. Last week, my best friend Tony brought over her copy of Sunrise. She'd been trying to get me to read it for months.
"Not only are the books amazing," she pitched to me yet again one day while eating our lunches in the cafeteria of Williams High School, "but the first movie is coming out this summer. So, no matter what Clara, you have to read the book!"
I'd rolled my eyes, knowing that I would eventually give in just to please her. She'd pushed back her dark, auburn hair and crinkled her green eyes with excitement. "We'll see," I said, just like always.
Now I'm here, sitting at our small patio table with the sun gleaming off the roofs of the parked Hondas and Fords. My hands twitch with unreserved annoyance at my finally giving into Tony's whims about me and this vapid book.
My light blue eyes drift towards the wind-chime again. Its soft, lazy melody steals all other sounds from the world around me: Niki's music, Mr. Park's lawnmower several yards away, Rosie Alwood's golden retriever barking like mad, while her triplets run around in the afternoon heat, and the sounds of summer surfacing around me. Mom loved that wind-chime when dad first brought it home three years ago. She'd dusted it, touched it with careful, thin fingers. She loved it almost as much as she loved me, and not just because it is a beautiful piece of art, but because it reminded her so much of the daisies that grew around her old family home back in a small town in the States.
"Clara? Hun, are you out there?" Dad's voice calls from somewhere in our house. He's either in his office on the second floor, wanting me to fetch him something, or in the kitchen. I leave the heavy book on the cheap plastic table outside and head inside, abandoning my green sandals on the wooden steps. As soon as the screen door shuts behind me, the sounds of footsteps can be heard coming from the kitchen up ahead. "Want something to eat?" Dad asks as I step on the cool linoleum floor of our kitchen. It's not a big room, but it's decently spaced so that a fridge, oven, dishwasher, sink, and several cupboards can fit snugly inside.
"No," I say softly, hating it when I have to lie to him. "Tony and I are getting something to eat soon."
Dad looks up at me from where he's cutting a tomato into uneven slices. "Oh." His once luscious blond hair is now becoming so thin that a bald-spot is threatening to take place on the crown of his head. From the tired look on his face I note that he probably stayed up late again working on a case. Dad's a lawyer that enjoys pro bono jobs more than the actually paying ones, but we somehow still make ends meet. He's got some money saved from mom's insurance. He's always been thrifty.
"Yeah," I click my tongue and quickly walk over to him. I got my mom's height since I am several inches shorter than he is, but I got his sandy blond hair and blue eyes. I kiss his stubble-covered cheek and smile. "Don't worry, I'll be back in a bit."
He simply nods and resumes his cutting. I stare at him for a moment, but he doesn't even acknowledge my glance. It's been three years since mom's accident, but he'll never be the same, no matter if it's three years or fifty. Dad loved mom in such a way that I almost wish will never happen to me.
The lie that I told my dad is that I'm having lunch with Tony. If he'd listen to me last week, he would have remembered that Tony is in Florida visiting some cousins or something for this whole week. Where I'm actually going, I don't really know. I just don't want to be in the awkward position of eating lunch across the table from my over-tired and nearly emotionless father. I turn the car off of New Street, one of the main roads, and into the parking lot of my high school.
For several minutes I sit at the wheel, hearing the clicks and ticks of my old Toyota Corolla's engine cooling off. My head relaxes against the warm plastic covering of the steering wheel while I think about the weeks left until I am out of this hell hole. I mean, I love dad and Tony and all my other friends, but this place is too dark for me. The memories burn me from the inside-out and the lies I tell to keep my place in this society are starting to gnaw at me. Hell, I almost yelled at Lucy Sniel, one of Burlington's biggest teen gossips, for talking about some of the less fortunate kids in our graduating class. What makes her so special that she can badmouth anyone any time without repercussions?
I sigh and grab the Subway bag from the passenger seat. I bought a sandwich on the way here so I would at least look like I was doing something less pathetic than avoiding my problems. My car sits under the shade of some elm trees by the creek that runs along the side of the school. Birds chirp incessantly up in the high branches and a few kids ride bikes, walk, or run past the school and towards the public swimming pool.
From here, I have a perfect view of the houses across the street. The manicured lawns remind me of my own neighbours and the expensive cars parked in the driveways tell me that I am not in my neighbourhood.
I bite into my mixed deli sandwich, still wistfully thinking of being anywhere but here. I'm in mid-chew when I see them. If I wasn't so rapt up in examining this self-induced hell that I am so desperate to escape from, then maybe I wouldn't have seen them. I swallow and focus a bit more on the dark hair and tanned skin. I've only ever seen one person like them. I squint just to make sure that the people I'm seeing are actually there.
I wrap up the rest of the sandwich and jump out of my car. The first thought that comes to mind is: What if Pat, my off-again-on-again boyfriend, hears about me doing something this nuts? The second thought that rushes in is: What the hell am I doing? I lock my car and race towards the road where there is a steady flow of traffic, which is expected of New Street. My mind is racing; eyes searching for the two guys that I just saw walk across the street and disappear around a corner.
A car horn honks and I jump back. My feet had begun walking of their own accord onto the busy street and an oncoming car had blared angrily at my ignorance. I search in vain for the two strangers across the street, but they are long-gone.