****"I plan to finish this tomorrow while at school" -- yeah, that happened, it's eleven days later now ...****
It was morning, and as usual Netta and Rowan sat together in the canteen for breakfast. Will had resigned himself to the loss of his friend's company and was morosely sipping a cup of coffee in the corner.
"Are you ever going to explain what you meant about the dancers not being hu-" began Rowan, only to be cut off by Netta's upraised palm. Her face was frantic, scared. "I don't understand. What's wrong? What are you looking at?"
"Whatever you do, do not look behind you." Silence. He felt a prickling sense of unease, as though there was somebody with their eyes fixed on his neck. "I'm sorry, Rowan. I should have known. I should have warned you. I am so, so sorry."
"They're behind me, aren't they?" When she nodded, Rowan said, "Don't worry about it. I have been with you in the hall all night and none of them were there. How were you to know that they would come today?" But there was no reply for a moment or two. He tried to look into Netta's eyes, and saw only fear there.
"I am so, so sorry," she said again, tears spilling over.
Rowan hadn't ever seen her so frightened before, and it was getting to him. Unable to bear the suspense and terror of imagining this unnamed creature lurking behind him, he sprang out of his seat and turned around. Immediately, his eyes were confronted by the image of Alekzander, dressed all in black with his dark eyes filled with hatred.
"What are you doing here?" he said loudly. A few other students turned to see who he was talking to, but the new arrival was invisible to them and they dismissed it as acting. Or perhaps he was drunk? But no, it was early morning: unlikely, they decided.
"Now, Rowan, you wouldn't want your little friends to think you mad, would you?" Alekzander replied, gesturing to the students. "So I suggest you remain quiet for the moment, at least until I've said what it is I want to say."
"Show yourself, so that everyone can see you!" Rowan cried rashly. "They know you're there, so why hide? Just show yourself!" Somebody in the corner of the canteen tittered. "Alekzander, are you a coward?"
"Please, Rowan, don't anger him," whispered Netta, looking stricken. "You know he's dangerous. Don't make things worse for yourself." How could he possibly explain that it was for her he was doing this? How could he possibly say how much he longed for her to be safe, and only for her to be safe - how could he tell her that she was his number one priority now, and he would risk anything for her?
"Show yourself," he repeated, more quietly. And Alekzander did.
To those that had been able to see him before, there was no perceivable difference in his appearance, but the gasps of those around told them he had done as they commanded. "Oh my gosh..." whispered someone. "How did he - why is he - where did he come from?"
Other conversations were similar. "It's an optical illusion, it has to be," somebody stated. "There's no other explanation."
Will was sitting in the corner. He looked up, met his friend's eyes, and suddenly understood everything that had been going on. "I think it's real," he said quietly. A few people turned to look.
"Happy now?" spat Alekzander, turning to Rowan. "They can see me. Big deal."
"Why are you here?"
"I came for Netta, of course. You've taken her from me once, but I'm not going to let her go that easily. She doesn't belong here - she's one of my people." On his face was a malicious leer: Rowan longed to slap him, to removed it by force. "Oh, didn't she tell you that bit?"
"Netta is one of us. Not one of you."
"Rowan, I'm so, so sorry ..." Netta stood up and slipped her hand into his. "I was going to tell you, I really was. But I ... I couldn't bear it." Suddenly, realisation dawned.
"You're not - one of us? You're not - human?"