"MIA! You're going to be late, again!"
There goes my extra five minutes lie-in. "Alright, alright, I'm up!" I practically screamed back from the warm confines of my bed. "Decrepit old grandma..."
"What was that?!" A knowing tone. How can she hear me from down the stairs?
"Nothing~!" I called down sweetly this time.
"Well hurry up, your breakfast's nearly ready and you have to leave for school in ten minutes!"
Grumbling, I dragged myself out of bed and scraped a comb through my unruly blonde hair in front of the mirror, my hazel eyes blinking back at me tiredly. Pulling on my grey school skirt and white blouse, long white socks and finally tying my dull, stripy grey tie, I near-stagger out my bedroom door, pulling it shut behind me. Grabbing my blazer as I pass by the staircase banister that seems to accumulate coats, I find myself stumbling into the kitchen to discover the delicious smell of toast wafting from the table.
"G'mornin' Mother," I managed to force out alongside a yawn.
"Open your mouth any more and you'll unhinge your jaw," she commented dryly. "Now eat up, you've only got a few minutes left."
I ate as quickly as I could manage without giving myself hiccups or indigestion, and was out the door within two minutes flat. "See you later!" I called before scrambling to pull my shoes on, throwing my bag over one shoulder and rushing out the door, not without my keys of course.
As I walked down our street, rucksack still slung over my left shoulder, I saw other people from my school. I recognised most of them, being in the senior years of high school, though my best friend, Erin, wasn't among them. I usually met her a little further down, nearer the school itself. It wasn’t a long walk, only about ten minutes walking. Five if you ran.
I wasn’t up for running it today. Besides, I’d still be on time whether I walked, ran or danced all the way there.
I’ve actually seen someone dance all the way to school once. It was quite an amusing sight, I must admit. The girl just had earphones in and her iPod blasting out a rave song that I could hear from the other side of the street; actually I think the whole street could hear it, judging by some of the looks she was given.
I’d rather avoid attention like that. At least until I met up with Erin. I suppose people could tell you I’m shy, but that’s not entirely true. In some situations maybe, but not in most. I’m actually quite bold. I just don’t like it when people’s attention is directed towards me.
I’m jerked out of my musing by a loud voice calling for me. “Hey Mia, over here!”
“I’m not deaf, Erin!” I yelled back, laughing.
I run a little to catch up to her, and before I know it we’re joking around like we do every day.
Erin’s been my best friend ever since high school started. I can still remember when I first met her back in first year, after she helped me out when nobody else would. We were so different back then, still two little girls straight out of Primary school.
We’ve both changed. Erin and I are inseparable, almost like twins. It feels, to me, like she’s more like a part of me than a separate friend. We look nothing alike, me with my blonde hair and deep, tawny-gold eyes, while Erin sported eyes like smouldering coal or onyx, and black hair. We’re about as opposite as you can find, unless it’s our personalities you’re comparing. We’re exactly alike there. Even our sporting capabilities are similar; except while I’m more of the stronger girl, she’s about as lithe and agile as I’ve ever seen. Once you watch her run properly, you can’t take your eyes off of her.
“Helloooo? Earth calling Mia!” A hand waved in front of my eyes, snapping me out of my thoughts again. “You’re exceptionally daydream-y again. Something on your mind?”
“Nah, just thinking about when we first met,” I snickered. “We were so different back then!”
Erin laughed. “Now I get it. You’re turning senile and nostalgic!”
I gaped at her, suppressing a burst of laughter myself. “And how, pray tell, did you come to that conclusion?”
“Well it’s your sixteenth this Friday, right? You’re getting old!”
That was it. We just fell apart.
“How is sixteen years old, old?” I managed to gasp out in between giggling.
Erin paused for a second, a thoughtful look crossing her face. “… Dunno.”
“… You’re so weird.” And we’re off laughing again.
Too soon, the school is looming over us as we saunter through its gates. The bell hasn’t gone yet, so students are still milling around the front courtyard and in the corridors as we make our way to our lockers, chattering all the way. By the time we’d gathered all the school stuff we needed for today, the bell was about to ring.
Sure enough, the bell chimed for registration, and as we made off to our form class on the top floor, I couldn’t help but feel a little… uneasy.
“Hey, Erin, do you feel as if someone’s… following us?” I whispered, perturbed.
She glanced at me. “Not really. Why?”
I frowned. “I don’t know, I guess it’s just one of those feelings.”
It was still there. And it was really, really strong.
Trying to brush it off, I followed Erin into our class and took my seat next to Erin’s up at the back of the class. We were set in groups, and while we could choose who we sat beside, the teacher had ended up mixing it up a little. Of course, we never got caught with our hilarity, so we, naturally, were allowed to stay together. Across from us sat Sebastian, a bright – but clumsy – boy with shaggy brown hair and glasses, and Calum, a sweet, quiet boy. He had darker hair than Sebastian, a very deep brown colour, almost black. Calum had soft green eyes, while Sebastian's were a pale amber, almost golden. In the right light they shined a bright, shimmering gold.
“A’ight boys?” Erin snickered as she used our friendly term of greeting on the two who were already seated.
“A’ight girls,” they replied, all smiles.
I liked Sebastian and Calum. The both of them were two of the sweetest guys I knew, and were always up for a laugh.
Our teacher walked in and we quietened down considerably. By the time the register was done, it was just about time for the bell to go for first period. Since we seem to have had considerable luck throughout our time in school, Erin and I have had almost the exact same timetables as each other. The only classes that were different were Art and Design for me, and Chemistry for Erin. The other class that's different for us is Maths; I'm in the class below her for that. It's okay though, since Sebastian's in my Art class and Calum's in my Maths class. It's strange, how well most of our timetables have worked out.
We quietly chatted away to the two boys until the bell rang, which was only a couple of minutes later. As Sebastian and I headed off to Art class for first period, I could still feel that lingering shadow looming above me; I was certain of it. I was being followed.
I talked with Sebastian to try and take my mind off it.
"Hey, Sebastian, did you hear about the new kid transferring here tomorrow?" I found myself asking.
"Huh? You mean that guy called Cail I keep hearing about?" He shrugged. "Yeah, what about him?"
I struggled to find a way to keep the conversation going. "Uh, nothing. I was just wondering really. 'Cause I hear he's gonna be in our year," I stammered lamely, feeling myself blush a little as I did.
Sebastian looked at me. I could almost feel his intense gaze. "Yeah, I heard that too," he said slowly.
That was the biggest difference between Sebastian and Calum; while the two of them were both very sweet and kind, Sebastian had an instinct almost as accurate as a wolf's, and a look just as intense. Calum, meanwhile, was far more cute and childish. They were both the kind of people who could get under your skin and worm their way into your heart without any trouble at all. That's what happened with me, and they just stayed there.
"I just wondered, Seb." I rolled my eyes as if to illustrate my point. "So d'you know anything about him?" I asked as we both reached our class.
"Not much," he replied vaguely. We started settling down into our desk. "But I've heard a lot of girls talking about him."
This piqued my interest slightly. I tried not to let it show, because then Sebastian would start asking questions, and I know he's far too intuitive for me to lie when I answer those. "What d'you mean?" I pulled out our folders from our shared drawer, giving Sebastian his while I sank into my chair beside him.
"Apparently the guy's a looker," Sebastian said, slightly distastefully. "All I've heard when someone says his name is how 'cool' or 'hot' he is." He thanked me for getting his folder.
This was news to me. I wasn't too interested about what he looked like, but the fact that he was already making such an impression was intriguing. "Must be a real charmer."
Again, he shot me a glance. "I would stay away from him. Guys like that aren't any good."
"I know, Seb. I will."
I never went against his advice. More often than not, I would end up regretting it. His intuition really is quite terrifying.
The rest of our double period was essentially, very dull. We had a substitute teacher who wouldn't let us talk much, whereas our normal teacher would put on music and dance most of the time.
Our school is totally messed up. In so many ways.
"I mean really, was it necessary to send Natalie to the Headmaster?" I muttered as we sailed down the stairs for break after the bell had gone.
"Not really, though it probably wasn't wise for her to agitate the teacher so much," Sebastian murmured back.
"Seb... She asked for the time."
"Four times. To which he replied every time with 'I don't know'. How do you think he'd end up reacting?"
"... Shut up." I crossed my arms with a pout.
Sebastian simply laughed.
How very dare he. He shall pay.
We made our way downstairs in a rather unceremonious fashion, stumbling over each other and snickering at the other’s expense. I don’t think even we were sure about what was so funny, but by the time we finally reached the cafeteria we were almost in stitches.
“Why are we laughing?” I managed to choke out between giggles.
“No idea!” Sebastian grinned.
“What’s got you two in such a good mood then eh?” Erin raised an eyebrow at our antics when she caught up to us.
“They probably just started laughing for no reason, you know what they’re like,” Calum sniggered. When did he appear?
“I’ll have you know it was his fault this time!” I poked Sebastian’s cheek accusingly. “Curse you and your… your… unsavoury language!”
“What part of ‘you tripped over me’ is ‘unsavoury language’?!” He cried out in mock discomfort.
“Everything!” I flailed my arms around a little to prove my point, though I’d practically forgotten what the point was by that time. Along with my sanity.
Break was over pretty quickly, and soon we were off on our merry way to English. I liked English, and while I was pretty average in most of my classes I always felt like I was doing well in this one the most. I had Erin, Sebastian and Calum with me too, which was a bonus.
English came and went with the usual quiet banter, then Calum and I were off to Maths. Another more or less uneventful period later and we were down in the cafeteria again for lunch.
“Hey, Mia?” I heard a tentative call from beside me as we were walking down the corridor towards the cafeteria.
“S’up Calum?” I looked to my left to find him fidgeting. “What’s wrong?”
“Why are girls so confusing?”
I held back a laugh. It would only offend the poor boy. “What makes you ask that?”
“It’s a long story…”
“Well if you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine, it’s up to you.”
By now we were just about at the end of the corridor. I could see the cafeteria ahead, teeming with people. I wondered briefly why Calum had just asked that question, but decided to shrug it off for now. If he wanted to tell me, he would.
We managed to get in the queue for lunch and eventually we were searching for somewhere to sit and eat in relative peace. By the time Erin and Sebastian caught up to us, we were settling down quite nicely in a cozy corner table. I was just about to dig into my bowl of pasta when a commotion caught my eye in the far side of the hall.
“Wonder what’s goin’ on,” I murmured to Calum, who nodded his agreement.
“Oi, Mia, have you seen what’s happening over there?” Sebastian and Erin sauntered over to our table, food in hand.
“Does it look like we can see over the crowd of people?” I pointed out.
“You never know with you. Eyes as sharp as a hawk’s, you have,” Erin grinned.
“Was that an insult?” I narrowed my eyes playfully.
“No more an insult than a playful dig at your overly astute eyesight!”
The boys were snickering at our banter, but before long all of our attention was directed towards the other side of the hall.
There was definitely something going on. Almost everyone in the hall was either over by it or waiting and watching while eating their lunches at their tables.
“Must be pretty interesting,” Calum said.
“I vouch for Mia to go check it out,” Erin smirked.
“What? No way! I’m eating!” I exclaimed.
“Just a quick peek!” Erin begged.
“Do not want!” I cried out. “Can’t one of you come with me at least?”
Eventually, after much pestering, I got Sebastian to come with me after I wolfed down the rest of my pasta. Though I did burn my tongue, which kinda sucks.
As we made our way to the other side of the hall, we began to see a little more of what was going on. We were also stealthy enough so that nobody noticed us, I felt like a ninja! Ninjas are cool. Way cooler than pirates, they annoy me.
We snuck up to the group and heard one of our classmates from Art, Jack, a huge bully who has nothing better to do with his time than pick on anyone he deems unworthy of His Mighty Presence, laughing. From what little we could see of his head, I figured he was crouched over something. At first I thought it was just some poor kid unlucky enough to be his next victim, but when I squeezed into the crowd a little more I realised it was way too small to be a kid.
It was a bird. A dove, to be precise.
White feathers, radiant and pure were strewn over the floor as if a cat had gotten its claws all over the poor creature, however I could see that wasn’t the case here.
Rage gripped my insides, twisting my stomach and heart as if they were mannequins, puppets playing on a stage of anger. My teeth and fists clenched as I watched Jack poke at the bird, laughing, cruelly prodding its obviously broken wing.
Before my mind could register what my body was doing, I surged forwards through the crowd and slapped him in the face. Hard. Then kicked him even harder when it hurt.
Pulling him up by the front of his shirt, my narrowed brown eyes regarded him coldly.
“You sick fuck. You twisted, sick fuck,” I heard myself hissing in his face.
Pushing him away as hard as I could, I turned my attention to the bird that was crying out in pain. Lifting it as gently as I possibly could, I cradled it to me, softly trying to lull its agonising cries.
The ring of people parted, allowing me to walk away from the scene with the injured bird. Most of them gave me piteous looks, nodding slowly at my actions. They agreed with me and my actions.
Of course there were a few sneers, glares and even some disgusted snorts, but I ignored them. The safety of my bird was more important than Jack’s petty little gang members.
I made my way to the nurse’s office to ask for a little help in patching the little animal up. My eyes were still hard with rage, but by the time I reached the nurse I was almost ready to break down. I could never understand how some people could be so cruelly inclined to hurt birds; or any animals for that matter. I was never able to eat meat either, because every time I did I just felt so sick and nauseous that I almost threw up.
I hurried into the room, and almost immediately I heard the nurse gasp.
“What happened?” She stood up quickly.
“People were prodding it in the hall,” I replied, upset. “I had to save it, I couldn’t just leave it there to suffer!”
“Shh, it’s alright, we’ll patch this little one up,” she assured me.
I smiled, relieved. “I think it broke its wing.”
The nurse retrieved a little stick, like the ones you get in ice lollipops, and some bandage. “You should probably take it to the vet after school, since I’m not exactly the expert on animals.”
I watched anxiously as she set the wing as best as she could, though I couldn’t stand to hear its pained shrieks. Thankfully it was over pretty quickly, and soon the bandages were finished too. As I cradled it gently, it lay there almost happily. Soft coo’s filled the room, quiet, gentle and ultimately soothing.
As I sat with the little dove in my arms, my head began to throb slightly. The dove watched me almost quizzically as I tried to shake off the pain.
That didn’t work, as you can probably guess.
“Mia?” The nurse called over to me.
Dizzy. So dizzy. Everything was spinning, the pain in my head growing by the second. Pounding heat in my brain, my vision blinking black, white, back to black, white again. A flash stung my eyes. Fire shot through my veins and my spine felt like it was threatening to snap from the pain surging through me.
The world faded before me as I hung in the balance of time. I was awake, yet I was not. I could vaguely hear the sound of the nurse’s voice and my dove’s agitated cooing beside me. Their voices were distant and muffled, and I couldn’t really hear what they were saying. Had I passed out or hadn’t I? I didn’t know.
I hung in inky black, the dark stretching forever. Or at least, that’s what it looked like to me. The pain in my head was still there, and I briefly wondered if it caused my blackout. Shifting a little, I saw my hand. It looked almost bright in this impenetrable, deep fortress of black in my mind.
I almost jumped out of my skin when the blackness suddenly rushed past me. The pain in my head grew unbearable and my eyes ached, until finally it faded. I found myself standing in a deserted street, rain pouring down and thunder rumbling overhead. Lightning snaked across the sky in great flashes.
I paused in confusion. I should have been downright drenched by now in this rain, but I was bone dry. Where was I anyway? I was just in the nurse’s room at school!
A shout drew my attention to a small side-alley, and as I wandered over to the disturbance, I realised that whatever this place was, it wasn’t anywhere I recognised. Some part of London I'd never been in, I guessed. I peeked around the corner to see men in what appeared to be white lab coats gathering around something. It looked to be a child. I caught a glimpse of damp, matted hair plastered to a young girl's scalp, small hands and arms wrapped around a shivering body and eyes squeezed shut.
My head suddenly pounded. I cried out in agony before I could stop myself, but oddly enough, nobody noticed. Before I could further ponder this thought, I found myself crouched on the ground, and now I was wet. Really wet.
All my knowledge seemed to vanish for the moments that followed. The pain in my head was replaced by a searing pain in my back, I felt considerably smaller than I did two minutes ago, and my mind seemed almost… fresher. I opened my eyes and furtively glanced through an opening between two men in the circle of White Coats, making a break for it with my cold, but limber muscles, joints smoothly leaping to work as I sprinted out the alleyway.
Fear ran strong through my blood, and the pain was stretching over my upper back and shoulders more than ever. My legs pumped faster and though I could hear the yells behind me, I paid no heed. A smile wormed its way onto my face as an overwhelming feeling of freedom took over me. A laugh, pure, tinkling and so innocent escaped me.
Exhilaration soon turned to exhaustion when an unexpected fall brought the White Coats nearer. I tumbled to the ground and the liberty vanished in an instant. My vision swam as something slammed into the back of my neck.
Screams echoed in my head, pounding, throbbing, aching their way across my nerves, my whole body going numb with the pain centred in my head. London buildings rushed past me, day and night, sun and rain, crowds, no, floods of people streaming past me, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop, make it stop make it stop MAKE IT STOP-
Silence. I sighed, the black taking over once again.