A prequel from Dark of the Night told from the point of view of Ana Sommers, a regular teenager with a dark secret.
Ana surveyed her appearance in the mirror. A stranger looked back at her. Dark hair, tousled and wet fell to her shoulders, wide brown eyes speculated her with a blank stare. The cardigan she was wearing had a hole in the shoulder but she always made sure her hair covered it so the other kids wouldn't tease her. She was wearing yesterday's jeans and if you looked really closely you could see the grass stains where they had pushed her.
Heaving a sigh, she began to towel dry her hair, dragging a brush through it roughly after each stroke. She had to make sure she wasn't late, or else she'd get another detention, give the students another reason to alienate themselves from her, the "mysterious loner freak". She knew she was different, she had always sensed it. She just didn't know why. The only other person on this planet that liked her for who she was, the only other person she could actually trust, was her brother Reuben.
Reuben was nothing like Ana. Whereas Ana was introvert and reserved, her brother was confident, having the tendency to be slightly arrogant with a charm that earned him a lot of respect. Unfortunately though they didn't go to the same school. If they had, maybe she would actually have friends. Maybe the other kids would actually like her.
But then again, probably not.
'Ana!' Reuben's loud, boisterous voice shouted up the stairs. 'Are you ready? I'm not waiting forever you know!'
'I'm coming!' she yelled back.
This'll have to do, she thought, leaving her hair half wet clinging to the white shirt she was wearing.
She grabbed her backpack from her door handle and ran downstairs.
'Finally!' her brother threw his hands up in the air, his car keys jangling as he did so.
She actually cracked a smile, despite the uneasy feeling creeping up on her, the same feeling that did every single morning before school. She ignored the butterflies flapping away vigorously in her stomach, the frantic beating of her heart, the clamminess of her palms.
'So,' Reuben revved the car engine. 'Do you need a lift home?'
'You know it's out of your way,' Ana protested.
'It doesn't matter,' he told her. 'I really wish you'd come and live with me Ana. You know how I don't like you living here with them.'
Ana tried to make her voice light, to ignore the lump rising in her throat: 'Could you imagine the fuss they'd kick up over that? I think I'll pass thanks Reuben.'
He sighed, a deep heartfelt sound that saddened her instantly. She didn't like to cause her brother worry or pain, she just wanted him to live his life. He was old enough to move away, and she would be too in a year or so. He couldn't look after her forever, she couldn't hold him back.
'One day Ana, I promise, we'll move away. Just you and me. And it'll be epic.'
Ana kept her head down, ignored the stares of her classmates as she took the usual seat at the back. Now that Reuben had gone, she felt completely alone, like she depended on him being there to secure her sanity. The clock told her she was a few minutes early to lesson, the teacher wasn't there yet, but everyone else was.
'Urgh, look. She's wearing yesterday's jeans. Look how dirty they are.'
Ana blushed furiously, pretending she couldn't hear anything. She kept her eyes fixed on the scenery outside the window. She watched the bird's soar in the sky, under the brilliant radiant sunshine, without a care in the world and she felt the most intense sense of longing. She wanted to be a bird. She wanted to be free and liberated.
Heck, she just wanted to be happy.
'Nice jeans Ana,' some girl called Paige murmured, earning a few snickers from her classmates. Once again, the blood rushed to Ana's cheeks, tainting her a deep beetroot colour. She didn't turn her head though. From here, she could see her brother's car parked outside. She watched the tiny dark spot that was Reuben bob along, open the car door and eventually pull away. She fought the urge to run down the stairs after him.
'Right class, sorry I'm late,' the teacher bustled into the room, checked her watch and corrected herself. 'Actually I'm not late, I'm on time. Who let you in here?'
'The door was unlocked,' Paige gave a dainty shrug of her shoulders, her smooth blonde hair shuffled slightly, catching the artificial lighting of the English room.
'Well you don't come inside unless there's someone in here, do you understand?'
'It wasn't our fault,' Paige's friend Sarah joined in. 'We saw Ana in here and figured that somebody must have already let her in.'
Ana's heart thumped slightly at the mention of her name. Of course they'd blame her.
'Is that true Ana?' the teacher asked.
For a second, Ana was going to say yes. She couldn't be bothered with the hassle of Paige and Sarah and their little clones. She was just going to go along with it. But her mouth had other plans.
'No actually. I've only just arrived. Paige and Sarah were here before me, I don't know what they're going on about,' Ana imitated Paige, shrugging her shoulders. She ignored the glares Paige and Sarah shot her.
She knew she was going to get it later. They were going to corner her where nobody else could see and they were going to make her pay. It wouldn't make a lot of difference if anybody did see anyway, nobody cared about Ana. They would circle round her, throwing abuse, maybe even slap her a few times.
What they didn't know though, was that Ana was used to it all. She got it enough at home from her parents, why should school be any different?