It’s the stench that wakes me. It is a smell that could only be found in morgues and high school nurse’s offices. The smell of the brain dead.
I open my eyes to the bright room around me. My vision’s a bit blurry, and I feel like my head got run over by a truck. I try to sit up, but quickly fall back down when the dizziness threatens to overwhelm me. I just sit there, lying on this horribly uncomfortable mattress, staring at the ceiling.
I try to count the dots in the ceiling tiles to regain my focus, and it works. I see now that I am in a completely white room. There are a thin set of curtains hiding me from view. I can plainly see the silhouettes of two people talking in whispers behind the curtains; one sitting, one standing. Their voices are too quiet to catch the words, but it seems like they’re arguing over something.
Sighing, I lay back on the mattress and close my eyes, trying to figure out where I am. Last thing I can remember is Forky sending a death punch straight for my face. Is that it? Am I dead? I don’t want to think so. It’d be horrible to die before I even had the chance to live. But then again, if I were in heaven, wouldn’t I be more comfortable? Of course, if I’d gone to hell, I’m pretty sure this is what it would feel like. But I push that thought aside. I live through hell every day, why would this be even more painful?
Figuring I must somehow, miraculously, be alive, and in a nurse’s office, I stop to think about how that could’ve happened. I was certain Forky had intended to kill me. There was no question about it. The only thing that could’ve happened was that someone had defended me. That doesn’t make sense, though. The entire student body wanted to see me pummeled, not stop it. Kenny might’ve stood up for me, but he would’ve been dead before he hit the ground. None of the teachers care enough about me to stop the bullying. Even the principal blames me for fights I don’t want to have happen in the first place. So who saved me?
I groan in frustration and the conversation stops. I silently curse. Now they know I’m awake, and they’re going to want to ask me questions. I’ll probably be blamed for this again. What was it the principal said? One more fight and I get suspended? No, I’m sure it was expelled. One more fight and I get expelled. Yep, that’s the one. Mom is going to kill me for sure, but on the bright side, at least now I can go to a school that’s not Demon HQ.
The curtains open, and the elderly school nurse comes in with a clipboard. Due to the many fights I’ve been in, I know the nurse quite well. Her name is Eileen. She’s 64 years old, one year from retirement. Her favourite colour is beige, and her favourite food is mashed potatoes. Married twice. Maiden name Thompson. Three children, eight grandchildren, and a cat named Snuffy. Allergic to mouse hair, seaweed and pollen. Yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time together.
Most of the students (and even some of the staff) are afraid of her. There are horror stories going around of vile things the ‘evil school nurse’ has done to students in her care. I stopped listening to those stupid rumours once I got to know her. She’s really a very nice woman, who absolutely adores her grandkids. A few years ago, however, she lost her husband of 28 years. She’s been really depressed ever since, and always comes to school with a scowl on her face. I think I’m one of the few people that have truly seen her smile in three years, with the exception of her grandkids.
“Hello again Mr. Windsor. I must say, you come in here a lot. Any particular reason why?”
“Just to see you, Eileen,” I answer smoothly. The corner of her lips drift upward but she fights down the smile. She’s got her business face on.
“Now, I’ve done a quick examination. No broken bones or internal bleeding, but you do have a bump the size of an ostrich egg on the back of your head.” She smiles now, like she’s proud of her little joke. I can’t help think how horrible it is, but I grin anyway.
“So, does that mean I can leave?” I ask hopefully. I want to go home.
“Not yet. You should stay here for a few more minutes. Besides, you have a visitor.” She said, without looking up from where she was writing on her clipboard.
“A visitor?” I ask, baffled. The only people who would visit me are Kenny and my mom. And if Mom were the visitor, I’d have gone deaf by now. “I think you can hardly call Kenny a visitor. He’s here just as often as I am.”
Eileen continues scribbling little notes. What is so important and long to write down, I don’t know.
“Oh no, not Kenny, dear. He came by earlier. I told everyone that they could talk to you when you got out. But she was adamant on talking to you the moment you woke up.”
One word in particular catches my attention. “She?” I ask.
“I know, I was surprised to,” she says with a smirk. I guffaw. Is it really surprising that a girl would want to talk to me?
... Yeah, yeah it is.
Elieen adopts a sour expression. “Stubborn girl, this one. Can’t take no for an answer. I get a lot of concerned girlfriends in here, but I’ve never seen a visitor look so ready rip someone’s head off.”
Huh? Did I hear that right?
“You don’t mean that literally, right?” I laugh carefully. This whole experience is starting to freak me out.
Then, the weirdest thing happens. Eileen screws up her face in some odd contortion, like she’s about to say something unpleasant, but changes her mind at the last second. I can practically hear the wheels turning in her head. The room goes into an awkward silence. It reminds me oddly of those movies where the doctor tells the patient they only have three weeks left to live.
“I’ll send her in,” she says as she quickly disappears behind the curtain.
I wait in silence for several seconds, mulling over what Eileen said. In this school, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone did want to rip my head off. Reana would probably gladly decapitate me. I might make a nice pre-dinner appetizer.
I shudder. I can’t help it. I suddenly feel myself becoming sick.
The curtains open, and I close my eyes. I don’t want to see what manner of hideous beast awaits me. How horrible would it be to witness my own death? I just hope that they kill me quickly.
“Hello,” says a soft feminine voice.
I open my eyes in surprise. The voice isn’t Reana’s, nor does it sound hostile in any way. It couldn’t have been anyone I know. That voice is unique. It’s soft and low, gentle and powerful. I would have recognized that voice anywhere. And more amazing still, was the body it belonged to.
She’s about 5’5’’, but with her slender body, she appears at least two inches taller. Her porcelain skin is unmarked by any imperfection. Her face is round and innocent, with lips, pink and luscious. Her hair falls in light-blonde wisps around her face. Intelligent, stormy grey eyes peer at me from behind long, full lashes.
She wears no make-up, and she doesn’t need it. Donning her body is a simple pair of vintage jeans, and a light purple hoodie. She wears a pair of stylish leather gloves on her hands. Simple, natural, and absolutely gorgeous. I don't know how Eileen could think this girl would want to hurt anything. She looks like an angel.
“I know I’m hot, but I didn’t know I looked that good.” I shake my head to clear my mind of her beauty, and notice she’s got this pretty little smirk on her face. I instantly blush. God, why do I have to be such a failure when it comes to the fairer sex?
“Uh…” I mutter intelligently.
She giggles, and I grin. Suddenly, it hits me. I’ve been staring at her… and not because she’s got cat ears. This girl, whoever she is, is completely normal. Beautiful, but normal. There’s nothing odd about her. No weird demonic traits, no hideous fangs, no creepy smiles and deadly looks. She’s normal. She. Is. Human. And she’s talking to me.
"So, your name's William, right?" she asks, "The nurse told me."
"Uh... huh..." I really don't know what to say in these kind of situations
She smiles this perfect smile, exposing perfect white teeth. I feel like I might faint. How unmanly is that? It doesn't matter. She is my undoing.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, William," she says as she walks over to the bed and sits down. She stares at me, unblinking with her storm cloud eyes. My heart rate picks up at her intensity. "My name's Claretta Rhodes, but most people call me Claire."