Chapter 1

Striving to live a normal life, Katherine Faulkner wastes her life living in the shadow of others, afraid of unveiling her true nature outside of the society she grew up in. Seven years ago, her autumnal abilities started to uncover itself and put Katherine's life in danger, which forced her parents to send her away and live under an alias. Now seventeen years old, with a new identity, Katherine's abilities are prone only to get stronger and more apparent, which attracts the attention of the onl

The April showers had been occcuring for the past three weeks and I remembered my mother telling me that the first daughter of Equinox was practicing to gain control of her abilities. The girl first developed her abilities last summer and she's been training with our elders since then. She also told me  how the four children aren't to be exposed to their powers until a particular age and so far there were three. I asked her if there was a chance I could be the fourth and she gave me a trepidatious glare and whispered, "Let's hope not, honey. For your sake and ours," before kissing me goodnight. I never really understood what she meant by it, until it was too late. 

"Mom?" I whimpered, pointing my finger at the lifeless body smothered in the pond of mud and fallen leaves at the side of the main road, where I usually played. 

My mother, who was tending to our laundry, quickly ran towards me when she saw what I was pointing at and yanked me away from the body. "Get inside!" she pleaded, shooing me away. "You mustn't tell anyone of what you saw, okay?" 

"But why, mommy?" I asked. 

"Katerina, just do as mommy says and don't say a word when the police gets here. Understood?" She asked, dialing 911 on the telephone.

"Yes, mommy."

"Good, now stay here and don't make a sound. Don't leave until either mom and dad gets you."

I can still remember the horrific look painted on her face when she saw me hovering over the stranger's body and my life was never the same again after that event. It needed to be re-evaluated and restarted due to the difficult circumstances fate had handed me. Now at the age of seventeen, seven years after the incident, I live in a different state, with a different family,  and a different name. My mom and dad figured I'd be safe if I were to go on the foster system, which is why they left me at an orphanage in the border of Alabama and Georgia. I lived with five different families, all of which gave up on me because I was just another mouth to feed, before I met Marie and Chris Faulkner.

"Katherine?"  Marie called out. I wasn't actually allowed to call my foster mom by her first name, but knowing that my parents are still alive, it didn't feel right to be calling her my mom. I just do it whenever she's around or when I'm having a conversation with her friends, but other than that I acknowledge her by her first name. 

"Yes mama?" I called out, squirming at the sound of my alias. After officially adopting me, Marie couldn't quite get the grip of calling me by my actual name, so she just gave up and started calling me Katherine instead. She even had the lawyer who fixed my adoption papers change my name officially to Katherine Faulkner, which is why nobody knows me as Katerina in the city of San Francisco.

"Honey, you're running a bit late this morning. Is everything okay?" she asked in her usual, over-worried tone. She has always treated me like her own daughter and I wanted to be the daughter she dreamed of, but sometimes I just felt like I didn't belong. 

"I'll be out in a minute, just putting my shoes on!" 

I guess I could say that I've been living a normal life since I met the Faulkners, but I never really considered my life normal since the day I discovered I was gifted with the Autumnal Equinox's abilities. Since then, I've always lived in isolation and kept my temper cool because I'm always afraid that I would do something I would regret, like put people's lives in danger. Unlike the other three gifted children I've heard of, I haven't been trained to control my powers. Sometimes, I would still create heavy wind when I'm frustrated and the only way I could completely stop it was to get distracted by pain, ergo the scars I bore, which will forever be embedded on my wrists. I'm just glad no one questions my addiction with hippie bracelets, so no one ever sees them.

Once I slipped on my black converse, I grabbed my backpack from my table by the window and made my way down to the kitchen, where I could smell the fragrance of Marie's special strawberry and banana waffles. She only made those on specific occations so I was curious to find out what it was this time around. 

"Good morning," I greeted Marie and Chris. Marie was still making the last of the waffles in her blue "Best Mother" smock while Chris sat at the head table, reading the daily newspaper. 

"Morning, honey. Good sleep?"

"Perfect, thanks," I smiled. "Yours?"

"The usual back pain, but nothing your old pops can't handle," he winked, taking a sip of his coffee. 

Chris has been having problems with his back for quite a while, but every time we tell him to see a doctor he instantly refuses because he always insists on saving the money for my college tuition. Though I keep telling him that I could always take a year off, he won't listen and is persistent on taking painkillers instead. I grew fond of Chris the minute I met him because unlike Marie, he understood my ambivalence in acknowledging them as my parents. When we're alone, he actually lets me call him by his name instead of papa, like Marie suggested.

"Katherine, papa and I were thinking we can have a special dinner this weekend for your seventeenth birthday. What do you think?" mama asked me, trying to change the topic.

Truth be told, I turned seventeen three months ago, but Marie insisted we celebrate my "birth" day on the day I was adopted. Her exact words to Chris were, "she made us parents on December 17th, therefore we shall celebrate it on December 17th." Of course, trying to be the good daughter that I wanted to be, I just went along with it because I wanted to make her happy. Chris and I just secretly celebrate my birthday three months before everyone else does. 

When she turned to grab another plate for the last of the waffles, Chris just looked at me and gave me an encouraging smile. It was like he read my mind and he didn't want me to ruin his wife's perfect mood. 

"Okay, so after church, papa and I want to take you to dinner. Invite your friend Lesley too." She rested her hands on my shoulder, giving me a kiss on my head, before she sat down to join us for breakfast.

"Mama, how many times do I have to tell you?" her expression saddened, like I was about to break her heart while Chris clutched his newspapers, staring down at his plate. 

As much as I wanted to correct her and remind her that my birthday was three months ago, I couldn't bring myself to do it, so I went for my safe choice instead. "Her name is Alexis," I sighed.

"Lexi, Lesley, Alexis," she rambled on. "They're all the same thing." 

"Well, I'm running a bit late to school," I announced to no one in particular, taking one last bite out of my waffles and a gulp of orange juice. Though it was delicious, I didn't want to continue the conversation at the table because I didn't want to argue further with Marie. That, and I really was running late and I couldn't miss first period because finals were coming up and I knew Alexis would kill me if I let her suffered alone in English.

"Honey, don't you want to finish breakfast?" 

"No, I'm good. I need to meet Alexis at school before class starts. Bye mama," I said giving her a goodbye kiss on the cheek. "See you later, papa." 

"Be careful on the road, it's been snowing non-stop for a couple of days now and the roads are slippery!" Chris warned as I stepped foot out of the house. Snow was rare in San Francisco and it wasn't expected to come this year, so we were all taken aback by the sudden occurence of snow. 

As I started my engine, I adjusted my mirrors and saw a black wrangler parked two houses away across the street that seemed to be watching me. Of course, I couldn't really tell because their windows were tinted, but my hunch was usually never wrong. Besides, I've lived in the neighborhood for seven years and not once during my duration of stay here have I seen a jeep in the block. Not even during the holidays when the families of our neighbors came and gathered. Choosing to ignore it, I slowly pulled out of our driveway, careful not to skid on the snow.

About a mile away from campus, I noticed that the wrangler was trailing about two streets behind me and I felt a pang of panic hit me. I've been driving for almost five miles and it couldn't have been a coincidence for the same model of a Wrangler jeep to be roaming the same street I was taking to school. It was too much of a coincidence. I stopped driving past houses a couple miles back, yet the jeep still followed me. Wanting to put my theory to test, I decided to take a detour and drive straight past the intersection where I was supposed to turn and parallel park across the boutique store where Alexis and I usually shopped. Supposed it really was just a coincidence, they would  either turn at the intersection or completely bypass me. 

After waiting five minutes with no black jeeps passing me, I decided that I was probably just imagining it and decided to head to school. 

"Finally!" Alexis dramatically sighed, hopping off the bike rack and side-strapping her backpack. "I've been waiting forever!" 

The ever-so drama queen of Ridgeland High, my friend Alexis, had long, brunette curls that matched her pale and freckeled skin tone. We met our freshman year and got along quite well, so we decided to keep each other around. We didn't actually match the friendship scale, her being outgoing and me being timid, but we made it work. Though she and I weren't actually best of friends, we were friends. We hung out in school, but never really out. I just try to be friendly with everyone I encounter because it helped me control myself with people surrounding me. The more likable I seem, the less chance of anyone intimidating me and frustrating me.

"Sorry, I took the detour because I thought a car was following me," I told her as we walked out of the student parking lot and to the front of the school. 

I wouldn't call Ridgeland a big high school, because it wasn't, but it did have over twelve-hundred students. Each class contained at least thirty students, which was a pain to a lot of us. But it's the only public high school in the district, so we just manage. 

"Following you? Like a paparazzi?" she gasped and immediately stopped walking. "Is my best friend a superstar in incognito? Like Hannah Montana?" she asked feigning a gasp.

"Alex... be real for a minute, will you?"
  "So you have a stalker then?"

I wasn't exactly sure if the person, or people, in the car were stalkers, but when I saw the wrangler parked outside my house, I had this tingly feeling in my stomach like I should be worried. The exact feeling I felt seven years ago before my real parents sent me away. I haven't felt that feeling since. I couldn't really tell Alexis that, for the same reason I couldn't mention that my real parents were still alive.

"No, not so much a stalker. Maybe it's just paranoia getting the best of me," I lied, hoping that she'd back off. 

For the rest of the school day, I contemplated about the funny feeling I got when I saw the black wrangler outside my house and tried to come up with different ideas as the what it could mean. I came up with thieves, stalkers, and yes-- paparazzis, but only one idea actually stuck in my mind-- The merged society of both the Equinox and Solstice. 

I only heard about it in the one letter my mother sent me the day I was officially adopted by the Faulkners, making sure I knew about everything that was happening back at home. She told me about the mergence, alerting me about the possibilities of them coming after me in the future. Too bad I didn't have the letter with me since I was told to burn the envelope with the letter inside to ashes and dissolve of the proof of communication by my mother. It would've been helpful in my case.

I exited the student parking lot of Ridgeland High as soon as the clock struck three o'clock, I started to become wary of my surroundings, making sure that no black wrangler, nor any car, was following me to Luau, the Hawaiin diner where I had a part-time job as a waitress. Sure enough there wasn't any. The thought of me being paranoid once again crossed my mind and I had to admit that maybe I really was just imagining it. Maybe I really was just paranoid. 

"Good Afternoon, Katie!" Derrick, my co-worker, greeted when I entered through the back door. 

"Hi Derrick," I greeted. 

Derrick and I went to the same school, that is, until he graduated last year and he and I had been working together since Uncle Lou gave me a job my junior year. He had blue eyes, short black hair, and he played all sorts of sports, whether it be football, baseball, or basketball. He was like the big brother I never had. 

"Great day at school?" he asked, wiping his hand on his apron as he cleaned up one of the tables by the bar. 

"As great a day at school could get," I told him in a sarcastic tone. 

"Well, Uncle Lou wants you to start in register today to take orders. I'm training the new girl today, so he doesn't need you waitressing tonight."

"Wait, what new girl?"

"I think her name is Sloane. She's in the back changing into the uniform, which I took from your locker. I hope you don't mind."

"No, not at all," I smiled. A new girl in the workplace would be beneficial in my sake. There weren't many girls working at Luau, especially my age, since they usually would rather hang out in a diner like this than work. 

"Here she comes," he warned, walking past me and to the kitchen to grab the new girl.

She was beautiful. Her long blonde hair looked like it was made out of silk and her complexion was flawless. It seemed like she could past for a model, which was why I wondered why she would need to work at a diner like Luau. I just couldn't quite get the grasp of her working here.

"Katie meet Sloane. Sloane meet Katie," Derrick introduced us. 

The tall, mannequin shaped, doll held her hand out to me and I shook it.

"Nice to meet you," she greeted.

"You too. Welcome to Luau."

She smiled an almost wicked smile and said, "Glad to be here." I wasn't sure whether she was being sarcastic, but before I could come to a conclusion a customer walked in and waited for someone to take his order.

"That's my cue," I said, letting go of her soft hands and making my way behind the counter.

Throughout my shift, I watched the two of them work together in unison as I stood behind the register, taking customers' orders and smiling. Since I started working at Luau, I've always been the only girl working there and it felt nice to know that I'd have a girl companion at work, but with Sloane, I kind of felt uneasy. I wasn't sure what it was about her, but something just didn't feel right. It could be the way she walked, she talked, she dressed, anything. 

"Hello?" an irritated voice asked. "Can I order or should I look for a different place to eat?"

"Katie!" It was Derrick's voice, admonishing me as he walked behind me to put the dirty plates in the kitchen. It seemed the customers had been trying to order for a while now, but I was just too busy to notice them. Weird. I think I was thinking too much about Sloane.

The boys who stood in front of the cash register glared at me like they were trying to see right through me and my stomach received the tingly knots it had received earlier. It couldn't have been a coincidence because the knots got stronger as I studied their faces, trying to figure out whether I knew them or not.

"Are you going to take our order, or not?" the one with mossy-green eyes asked. He was a little bit taller than the guy who stood behind him and a little more built too. It's probably why the second guy seemed much more nicer than he was. Although, I could be wrong. I have bad judgement of people sometimes.

"Yes, of course. How may I help you?" I asked, reciting my daily greeting.

"We'll both take the combo meal of Hawaiin chicken and barbeque," he told me, somehow not breaking eye contact with me. 

"Will there be anything else?" 

"No, and we'll eat in here," he said coldly. I felt a drift around me even though there were no open windows in the restaurant. Like everything suddenly turned ice cold. 

"That'll be $15.85, sir." I grabbed two large cups from underneath the cash register and handed it to him as the guy who stood behind him took out his wallet and handed me a twenty dollar bill. Unlike his friend, he smiled at me and acknowledged me as a person. I couldn't tell whether they were brothers, but there were some differences in them, besides the fact that one of them wasn't grumpy. For one, he had ash brown hair with a slight hint of blond highlights, which brought out his dark blue eyes. Though he seemed as built as his friend, you could tell that his friend was much fitter, but it was only probably due to what he was wearing. It was obvious that he dressed more like a teenager than his grumpy friend since he wore a hoodie and an AC/DC shirt, while his friend wore a brown leather jacket over a plain white t-shirt. 

"Thank you, enjoy your meal," I forced a smile, hoping they'd leave a tip.

"I'll see you around," the nice one said before he turned around and walked towards one of the empty tables, which his friend unwillingly filled.

The End

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