A week passes since my bizarre conversation with Niki. A few nights after her confession, I'd gone over to her house, but no one had answered the doorbell, despite the interior lights being on and slight movement here and there. I'd tried calling too, but gave up after getting no answers three days in a row. It is easier and less nerve-racking to think that she and her family are just avoiding me. Any other reasons and I wouldn't know what to do.
Oddly enough, since Niki had told me about the stranger and being "chosen", I hadn't had a single dream. I'm not talking about dreaming about everything but the stranger. I mean, just nothing. Blackness. Vagueness. Bleakness. For the past week, I've been waking up covered in sweat, unable to recall any nightmares or dreams as causes. Every morning I just feel an intense presence watching me, waiting for me.
Despite all of my paranoia and inability to read Eyes that Haunt the Night, because I am too terrified to have anything in common with such a foreboding book, I agree to meet Pat at Lake Ontario, by Burlington's down-town this morning. Now, nervously tapping my finger on the steering wheel and constantly looking into the rear-view mirror, I conclude that maybe this wasn't the brightest idea I'd ever had.
I purse my lips and frown, looking around at all of the people wandering the warm streets with children, spouses, and friends. It's only been two weeks since my first sighting of those oddly-familiar boys, but yet, my life has changed into a stranger's life. Tony doesn't call me or text me every hour like she used to, Pat asked me to hang out with a defeated tone, expecting me to reject him yet again, my dad's odd behaviour around his job is starting to freak me out, and none of the other people I once called friends have even tried to contact me. I know it's probably all of Tony's doing, but still, it's a little sad how little my new life resembles my old one. Even if it was a fake one.
A car honks behind me and I accelerate. My thoughts have been getting the better of me lately, making me forget things or pulling me out of reality all together. The other day, dad had walked into the living room to see me before he left for work, but I only registered him being there after the front door had closed behind him. If he said anything, I don't remember it. It's like I am in a bubble all the time now, thinking about things I would never have thought of before. The stranger, the eyes, the voices, the books, Niki.
I pull the car into one of the free parking spaces in the lot and turn off the engine. Two weeks ago, I was frustrated about September not coming soon enough, now I am just hoping that I have enough time to figure all of this weirdness out, even if I have to concede to finally reading that creepy book. I step out of the car and lock it, before heading out to the swings set where Pat is sitting with his back to me. His blond curls are waving like mad in the cool, lake breeze and his hands are tightly clenched around the metal chains. From here, I can see his back muscles contracting and detracting as he breathes in and out.
"Hey," my voice comes out stronger than I've been feeling lately. At least the shaking has stopped for now. During the nights, when I feel the most freaked out, my hands start shaking uncontrollably and my face heats up. It is the weirdest sensation. "Sorry I'm late."
Pat shrugs and takes my outfit in with a bemused smile. I'm wearing tight fitting jean shorts and a pink baby-doll top. I opted for Converse instead of flip-flops (which, if Tony and I were still friends, would have been too retro) and my long hair is in a messy ponytail. It's not that I'm trying to look good for Pat, I'm really not, I just want to wear something that says "I'm doing okay" as opposed to my not-so-great luck as of late. Now though, I hate having his cold blue eyes on me, ogling my chest and bare, tanned legs.
"You look good," he says, licking his lips. "I've missed you."
I sit on the swing beside him and slowly propel myself back and forth, dragging my feet in the gravelly sand. "Listen Pat, you've got to stop calling me."
I sense him stop beside me and even though I can feel his eyes on me, I keep my own eyes down. "What do you mean?" He asks with a hint of annoyance.
"Stop calling, at least, so frequently. Stop messaging me. Just, please, leave me alone."
"You're kidding me, right?" His voice rises. I stop abruptly and look up at him, wondering how I could have ever felt anything for this selfish guy. His cheeks are slightly pink from his growing anger and his lips are twitching the way they always have when he's about to lose control. "I thought that even though I messed up, because Clara, I know how bad I messed up, you could have used a friend. I know you and Tony are on the outs, so naturally I expected you to be feeling lonely."
"Why would you think that?" I cock my head and frown.
"Jesus, Clara, everyone knows that without Tony you have no one. You have no social standing and no friends. You're just a loser now without her, you know that."
"Wow," I stand up and brush the dirt off of my shoes, hoping that the tears I'm holding in don't showcase my true feelings. "Thanks for the help then Pat, good to know I'm the poster child for the socially screwed up part of town." I act all mad and frustrated on the outside, but on the inside, my heart hurts and my lungs feel like they're on fire. I turn away from Pat and rush towards my car.
"Clara, come on, wait up, you know what I meant!" I can hear Pat coming up behind me, but I just continue towards my car, parked just on the edge of the grass and bike path. My tears are falling freely now as I struggle to unlock my car door, their jingling and chaotic ringing seemingly erasing all outside noises. At least, until Pat grabs me tightly by my arm.
"What the hell Pat, let me go," I say, struggling against his stranglehold on my arm. My keys fall out of my hand as I struggle out of his grip. His eyes are red from lack of sleep and his mouth is twitching. His face is fully flushed now, his neck a deepening red and purple. I've never seen him this... angry before. "Pat, stop it! You're scaring me!"
"You know what I meant back there, don't be so quick to judge!" His voice is shrill, sending shivers down the length of my spine. My stomach churns with fear and my eyes widen when I see my skin turning a sickly purple under his quickly tightening grip. "You've always been like this Clara. You've always been the one girl who thinks everything can be explained away with a few words. You've never even looked at yourself in the mirror and wondered if you yourself are so easily explained. Until you do that, then don't. Be. So. Quick. To. Judge."
I whimper as he throws me onto the grass in front of my parked car. My arm burns and aches from where he'd held me and my legs have turned to jelly, unwilling to hold my weight. The sight of an angry Pat alone would scare just about anyone, but looking up at him from down here, looming over me is a sight that I wouldn't wish on anyone. His muscles are bulging, the veins seemingly throbbing every time he clenches and unclenches his fists. He looks taller even, as he hunches over in anger, something that he used to do when he played Rugby during the spring months at school. The purple shirt that he's wearing suddenly looks too small on him and his jeans appear to be too tight, which is weird since they were baggy just a moment before.
"Hey," an intrigued voice comes from somewhere behind Pat, making him turn around clumsily in his angry state.
"Stay out of it, loser," Pat growls, showing off a white-knuckled fist. "This ain't your place."
"Actually, it is," the person is calm, despite Pat's intimidating glare. I still can't see him over Pat's large form, but something tells me that I've seen and heard him before. "You're kind of threatening my Chosen."
This makes Pat stagger a few steps. I scramble backwards a bit away from him, unable to stand yet. My arm aches with every movement that I make, but if I stay in the same spot Pat will be on top of me.
"What Chosen?" Pat's voice is threateningly low now. I want to warn the stranger about his anger and his strength, but when I try, nothing comes out. "She is unmarked!"
The stranger makes a sound that you'd hear on a game show if a contestant answered a question incorrectly. "Wrong. We marked her, just under two weeks ago."
I frown. Two weeks? Wasn't that when I saw the scary eyes in the woods?
Pat seems to be out of things to say for a moment before taking a step towards the stranger. "She is used goods, you know that, right?" I flinch at his use of words in describing me, but I pray that the stranger won't give up on protecting me.
Even though I can't see him, I sense the stranger's smirk. "Trust me, she is a lot more of a saint than you'll ever be, Ogre."
Wait... what? Ogre? Did he just call Pat, my ex-boyfriend, an ogre? Aren't ogres supposed to be fat, smelly, ugly, scary things? Oh God, the last thing I need is for some psycho mouthing off about ogres and monsters. Then again, given my last two weeks of fun (sarcasm is a must), I think I might be willing to believe almost anything.
Pat, however, does not find it odd that he is being called a stinky monster. Instead, I hear him laughing in his almost normal voice. "Of course, should have known that you would know what I am, Wolfling."
Now it's the stranger who starts to sound angry. "That name is a disgrace to my kind, now let our Chosen go."
"With pleasure," I watch Pat turn around to face me, contempt written all over his face, and bend down to pick me up. "Come on Clara, apparently you've been summoned."
"Get away from me," I yell, kicking him and ignoring the jolts of pain shooting up my left arm where he'd grabbed me. "Don't you dare touch me, you disgusting piece of--"
"Shut up!" Pat finally catches a hold of one of my kicking legs and easily lifts me up off the grass before tossing me at the stranger behind him. I scream for all of the two seconds it takes for me to collide with the stranger's body.
My eyes are tightly shut, but I can still hear Pat's car as it turns on with the usual loud grunt of power. His annoying Rap music fills the air as he screeches out of the parking lot in his Jeep.
"Wow, how'd you get caught up with that Ogre?" I open my eyes suddenly when I remember that I am still on top of the stranger. My arm is in so much pain that one of my eyes remains shut as I cringe. It must be broken. "Hey, Clara, seriously, you gotta watch out who you hang with, it might look bad on the pack."
I turn my head, trying to ignore the pain, and look up at the same grey eyes I'd seen in my dreams. "Who...?"
The stranger smiles the same bright smile as the guy from my dreams and his long black hair tickles my cheeks. "I chose you, remember?"
I slowly shake my head no. My vision begins to blur and the corners start to darken. "Thanks," I murmur, blacking out into his arms.