December 1st, 1869
Things have happened recently, things that I cannot explain. I have discovered new secrets, new possibilities. It's changed my whole perspective on life. To say that it has taken a dramatic change would be true, but is it for the worse? Or the better?
I cannot write them here, writing them would be accepting that they are real.
I just know I am not safe.
The weekend passed by slow, uneventful and it was actually a relief to head back to school on the Monday morning. I was initially grounded by my mother but a quick guilt trip soon sorted that out. Call me heartless but I had to get something out of this stupid divorce.
I hadn't heard from Mia all weekend, not since the party, but I wasn't worried at all. It wasn't exactly rare that she'd have times like this. She did come from a broken home; her step father sometimes liked to hit her, leaving bruises in places that could easily be hidden and her mother was always out working, oblivious to it all. I've told Mia numerous times to come live with me but she's always turned the offer down, feeling too much like a burden. I don't know why she didn't just go to the police about it, I would've but mum told me to stay out of it, Mia would do it when she was ready.
I had just finished brushing my hair when mum called from downstairs.
'I'm off out now Hailey! I'll see you later!'
'Bye!' I shouted after her and listened to the door slamming moments later.
The morning air was bitter against my skin and I shivered, tugging my jacket tighter round my body, trying to conserve all the body heat I had. It was times like this that I wish I'd learnt to drive.
The Crystal Estate was made up of a small collection of very large houses, a few shops and a restaurant - Mia's workplace - and that was pretty much it. It was the rich estate, where all the kids with the well-paid parents lived. My own house was big, a lot bigger than Mia's for instance, but it still wasn't the largest here. One thing I liked to do as I walked to school was to glance through the large black bars and marvel at the grand, highly ostentatious mansions with their marble patios and shiny statues. I couldn't help but feel jealous.
A door opened from one of the houses, probably someone heading to school. I didn't really talk to many of the kids from this area, none of them went to my school, so I paid no attention to the extra set of footsteps that had begun following me.
I slowed down, pretending to root for something in my bag so that they could pass. However, when I saw who it was, I gasped involuntarily.
He turned at the sound of his name and smiled.
'I didn't know you lived here, none of the houses were for sale.'
'Yeah, my parents have relatives around here.'
'Oh? Who?' I asked curiously.
'Mrs Piper. She's my great Aunt. She's getting on a bit now, so my parents offered to look after her.'
As he was saying this, the party scene flashed through my mind and I blushed ever so slightly. Did he remember how he had acted? I could still feel the pressure of his fingers on my hips as he danced with me, the way he had gazed down at me through emerald eyes.
'Hope you had fun the other night,' I smiled, continuing to walk. His expression turned to one of confusion.
'Friday - the party. You certainly seemed to come out of your shell a bit. Which is great, you know. It helps you to make friends.'
I frowned. 'At my house... Don't you remember?'
'I never went to any party...'
'Yes you did! I saw you. You danced with me.'
'I think I would remember.' He was genuinely puzzled and I began to doubt myself. I was so sure it was him, he was hard to mistake for someone else. I would remember his face. Why would he lie about it, what would he gain?
'Guess I must have got you mistaken for someone else,' I mumbled. He chuckled slightly.
'Come on, we're gonna be late for school.'
I watched his departing figure with narrowed eyes, suddenly incredibly suspicious of this mysterious newcomer.
* * *
Mia wandered into the form room looking absolutely awful. I gathered she was still hungover; large purple shadows hung below her eyes and her skin had taken on a pallid tone, even whiter than usual. She was looking slightly ruffled, her hair didn't look properly brushed and she had forgotten her customary eyeshadow. She had chosen to wear blue skinny jeans, a ruffled pale rose top and a thin scarf I had never seen before in my life.
'You're looking...unusual,' I commented as she took the seat beside me. My eyes returned to Gabriel sitting at the front by himself. I watched the way the morning sunlight played around with his hair, illuminating certain strands a brighter blonde, leaving the others pale and fair. He shifted once in his seat as though uncomfortable and I dragged my gaze away reluctantly.
'Thanks,' she muttered.
'Is that a new top? And scarf?'
'Yeah, do you like them?'
'Yes I do, but I didn't think you had any money.'
'Oh, I found some in my purse. Decided to treat myself.'
'Fair enough. Hey listen,' I turned in my seat to face her, keeping my expression completely serious. 'You know the other night? At my house?'
'You did see Gabriel there didn't you. He was dancing with me wasn't he?'
'Oh Hailey,' her lips curved slightly into an attempted smile, almost like it was too much effort to smile fully. 'I don't remember a thing about that night. I was wasted.'
'Yeah but think,' I urged her. 'He's saying he wasn't there when he so clearly was. I need witnesses. Back me up would you?'
She sighed and began to focus, her mind drifting back to the party. Eventually she nodded again, a quick bob of her head. 'Yes, I definitely remember now thinking about it. He was getting really...'
'Intense? Passionate? Confident?'
'Sleazy.' She arched her eyebrow at me and I hit her playfully.
'Oh don't bring that up, you were the one dancing with that guy, grinding your stuff all over him.'
She looked absolutely horrified and I couldn't help but laugh at her.
'No but in all serious, why would he say that?'
'I don't know,' she shrugged. 'Maybe he was too pissed to remember?'
The teacher called us all to attention then and I turned back to face the front. My mind wasn't focussed though. I kept my eyes on Gabriel, watching his every move, still completely unsure as to why he would lie about the party.
What was he hiding?