Why is it you seem to go round in circles when you’re in a dark, empty forest? Oh, I know why. It’s because you’re too afraid to take your hand off the tree trunk you’ve been clinging to. So there I was. Clinging on to that one tree just going around and around in a circle. I’d been there so long I’d even started digging myself a little trench. The whole time I was constantly thinking about how much my dad would be worrying about me. My own safety didn’t matter, I had to get home for my dad. Then there was another hand on my shoulder. At first I thought it was Fletcher coming back to save the day but when I turned around I met the pale face of Nate Rutherford. He gave me his usual lopsided grin and offered me his other hand. I felt safer with Nate around but compared to Fletcher he looked kind of scrawny. Fletcher wasn’t exactly a body builder but he had more muscle than Nate.
“Why are you out here on your own? I would’ve thought you’d be at home what with your dad being back and all” Nate said in his strangely lyrical yet almost slurred voice. I’d never noticed before but he actually sounded a bit Southern.
“I went up to Sunset Square to do some shopping”.
“So why didn’t your dad come get you?”
“I never thought of that”.
Nate smiled. His teeth glinted in the moonlight. Almost as much as the shell that hung from his neck. He really looked out of place in his suit and surfer jewellery. I don’t think he even surfs. If he does surf he must use factor three hundred sun protection because no surfer is that pale. Maybe Tawny was counting on me calling home and Dad coming to get me. But why did she want me to go shopping in the first place? And then there’s that book Morrigan gave me. Why has so much weird stuff happened to me lately? I had no idea why Nate was walking me home; he lives in the center of town, unlike me who lives on the outskirts. Nate chuckled to himself and the moonlight reflected off his teeth again. As we walked his skin seemed to light up. It was kind of like looking at the male equivalent of Tawny. We got to my house and Tawny was waiting outside like an angry mom.
“Took your time” she said and glared at Nate.
“I’m sorry if I kept her out too late” Nate said and disappeared back into the woods.
“Did you have fun?” she asked as we walked inside.
“Yeah. I met this guy called Fletcher. You didn’t have anything to do with it, did you?”
“Nope. Never met anybody called Fletcher”.
I had a feeling she was involved somehow but didn’t bring it up. I just wanted to sleep.
Morning. I love mornings when my dad’s home. His first morning back we always have pancakes and syrup, it’d become our tradition over the years. So when I got downstairs I was a little disappointed to see Tawny at the stove and my dad sat reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee.
“Morning, sugar plum” he said, looking up from his newspaper.
I hated it when he called me ‘sugar plum’. I’d always hated it, ever since I was little. For some reason it seemed even worse now that Tawny was here. Dad was kind of like the house; ordinary and just like all the other dads in Apollo’s Arrow. It sounds harsh but it’s true.
“Oh, I get you. You don’t want your old man embarrassing you in front of your friend” he winked and took a sip of his coffee.
Tawny set a tower of pancakes in front of Dad and me and then sat opposite Dad. I sat next to him and took the pancake from the top. Tawny smiled as I wolfed it down and took another two. During my pancake-fest I happened to glance at the headline of Dad’s newspaper. It wasn’t the cheeriest of headlines: Civilian Found Dead In Woods. And then I thought of Nate. Had he gotten home safe? Had he even gotten home? What if he was the dead civilian? Tawny seemed to be thinking the same thing and simply gave me an encouraging smile.
“Morri’s not feeling too well today so she wont be at school. We managed to get Aya enrolled, though. Let me know if you need some ear plugs” she said with a wink and took a sip from her glass of orange juice.
“Morri? Aya? Hon, you’ve got friends crawling out of the woodwork!” Dad said with a chuckle, “You know my one rule, right?”
“Yes, Dad. No house parties”.
“That’s my girl” he said and gave me a huge bear hug, “How about you take the day off school?”
“Uh, thanks but I should probably go. I’ve got math today”.
Dad nodded and went back to his newspaper.
Ayumu was outside the house, waiting for me like some kind of stalker. I waved to Dad and walked off with Ayumu. He seemed a little more at ease around me today. Actually, everything seemed a little different about him. He looked a lot more relaxed and even a little younger than he was before.
“Come on, squirt” he said, taking advantage of his height and ruffling my hair.
“Behave” Tawny shouted and disappeared into the house.
When we got to the school everyone, and I mean everyone, flocked around Ayumu like he was a shiny new toy. And he looked as uncomfortable with all the attention as Morrigan did. All the prep girls flirted with him, undeterred by his cold attitude and the fact that he would only talk to me. He attracted attention from the emo crowd due to his trench coat and attitude towards others but his hostility was extended to them as well. Throughout the day he would sit poised like a cat, ready to jump up at the slightest thing. A few people actually spoke to me. But my paranoia wouldn’t let me believe they were interested in me and not Morrigan and Ayumu. For some reason Ayumu couldn’t look me in the eye. Was there something wrong with me? He’d been so friendly in the morning, what had changed over the course of the day? In the beautiful sunlight I could see Ayumu’s face properly for the first time. His brown hair was styled like Max Helyer but his face seemed a little too hard for it. His eyes were deep forest green and played beautifully against his light tan skin. He had prominent cheekbones and a jaw line which gave him the capability of stealing any girl’s heart. His eyes seemed to glow in the golden sunlight. What is it with me and glowing people lately?
After school he revealed his order to take me to the park to give Tawny a chance to get back to the mansion. He lay shirtless, basking in the sun’s warmth. I simply sat picking at a scab on my elbow. Two girls from Apollo Academy sauntered past in their uniforms; a black blazer embroidered with the school logo in red, a white blouse and a black skirt. At the Academy the girls seem to have a ‘who can be the sluttiest’ competition each day since every time I see them their skirts seem to get shorter. They glared at me and surveyed Ayumu’s bare chest. He wasn’t particularly muscular but you could see the faint outline of a six pack. The Academy girls giggled and stopped walking. One of them scrawled something on a piece of paper and knelt next to Ayumu. She tapped him on the shoulder and he turned his head to face her, the tendon in his neck sticking up. She smiled and batted her eyelashes. Ayumu sighed and turned to me.
“I hear Morrigan gave you a little clue” he said, purposely ignoring the girl.
“Uh, yeah, she gave me a book” the Academy girls were glaring at me again.
“So she went with the book. I voted for the movie, it gets to the point quicker”.
The girl tapped him on the shoulder again. He looked round at her and she smiled again. She held out the piece of paper and smiled when he took it. She and her friend walked off and Ayumu chuckled.
“What is it?” I asked.
He smiled and crumpled up the paper.
“Nothing important. Y’know, I really want you to work out what we are”.
I reached into my bag to find said book but discovered it was no longer in there. I didn’t take it out last night, did I? What if Tawny found it? She kept saying ‘Fang’ was going to tell me everything but what if she didn’t want me working it out on my own? Ayumu smiled again. He really looked beautiful when he smiled.
“I’ll give you another clue since I like you. We’re not human” he said with a slightly evil grin and turned his attention back to sunbathing.
Not human. But they could bleed. They could bleed normal blood. Red blood. So, what they’re aliens?