A young woman is brought into the workings of the fae as they fight against their mortal enemies, the vampyrn.
The new kid who came into Kate McBride’s history class looked vaguely familiar. His hair was in long streaks in front of his face, and he wore a black trench coat with his school uniform. He had peered into the classroom and Mr. Browne, the history teacher, glowered at him. The kid took one step inside and handed the teacher a hall pass.
“Take a seat,” Browne said, and waited.
There were two seats left, one next to Jenny, and one next to Phillip, the kid who never bathed. He chose Phillip.
“I thought he left,” whispered Jenny as Browne droned on about post Reconstructionism.
Kate turned to look at the new kid. “That’s Daniel Jaime?”
Browne’s voice boomed, “Ladies? Can you tell me what a carpetbagger is?”
“Someone who put carpets in bags?” offered Jenny.
Some other kids snickered. “If you had read the homework, and were paying attention just a moment ago, you’d know. Instead you were having your own conversation. Eyes front, ladies.”
The two girls readjusted their seats, but that didn’t stop Kate from glancing over at Daniel Jaime, and how different he was now.
Kate knew Daniel from last year. He was on the junior varsity football team, and this year he was going to make varsity. One of the better long receivers, he was big and handsome, smart, and not a jockish jerk like some of the other football players. His brown hair was always cut short, with a touch of a cowlick. His brown eyes were soft and kind. He’d spoken to her in a group maybe a dozen times last year.
Then they broke for summer, and when they started school the next year, he hadn’t come back. She vaguely remembered a rumor that he had gone to live with his “crazy uncle” but she never paid attention, as Daniel was outside of her sphere anyway.
The bell rang and a few of the kids watched Daniel as he got up and walked out, his head hung low, stringy hair in front of his face, as if he didn’t care about where he was walking. Jenny tsked. “Poor guy.”
“His parents, they died in a drunk driving accident over the summer.”
“Oh, that’s where the ‘crazy uncle’ came in.”
Jenny nodded. “I should do a card reading for him.” Jenny was the resident psychic, or so she liked to claim. She was trying to teach Kate, who had no aptitude for it. Kate, however, was always interested in the occult, and hung around with some other so-called “occultists” - those that were questioning their religious upbringing. In Athol, there wasn’t much but the church and the Grange that kept people in social groups.
“Maybe that would be a bad idea.”
“Maybe his crazy uncle’s religious.”
They headed to the next class, and on the way they saw Daniel standing in front of the varsity quarterback. “What happened to you, dude?” the guy kept asking.
“Stuff,” Daniel said, trying to walk past him. The quarterback and his entourage stopped him.
“You went all goth on us. Look, you’re still alive, right?”
Daniel pushed past, bumping into Kate. “Sorry,” he mumbled, and kept on walking.
“Hey, come to practice!” yelled the quarterback. “We miss ya.”
Jenny and Kate split, as they had different classes, but would meet up together with the rest of the “Weirdos” at lunch. Kate walked into Algebra and found that her seat was taken by Daniel. Ms. Lee liked assigned seats. “You’re in my seat,” Kate said to Daniel.
Daniel looked up at her, and his eyes were on fire. Literally.
She stepped back, bumping into a desk. He looked down, hair hanging down, and went to the front of the room as soon as the teacher came in. Kate stared at Daniel, not sure what to do. She finally slid into her seat as the bell rang, still staring.
She could have sworn she saw his eyes with sparks of red flame behind them. Maybe she was dreaming, or saw the reflection of something else. Nobody could have fire in their eyes like that, could they?
Ms. Lee placed Daniel in a seat to the side, empty for the last two weeks. She handed him an algebra text book and a workbook and said, “You’re a little behind, Mr. Jaime. I hope you can catch up.”
“I was homeschooled,” he said, his voice also different - quiet, but confident, not the loud funny kid who was in school last year. “I’ve probably already done this.”
“Then I expect you’ll ace the exams.” She put a problem on the board. “Care to come up and solve this, then?”
He unfolded himself from the table, and took the chalk from her hand. First, he pushed the hair out from his eyes and smoothed it back. Kate saw his face clearly now - thinner, more angular, but definitely Daniel. He turned to the blackboard, and Ms. Lee watched, a slow smirk forming on her face. He started off slow, then wrote faster, ending the number at the end with a small flourish of the tail of the two he wrote.
“Good. Very good, Mr. Jaime.”
“Daniel,” he said, going to sit down.
Again, Ms. Lee smirked, and looked out among the class. “Can anyone tell me what this - “ she pointed to the x, “could possibly be?”
Algebra was not Kate’s strongest point, so she half listened, but she kept stealing glances at Daniel, who was reading through his textbook. Reading a textbook?
The lunch bell rang, and she headed back to her locker. She started putting books away and she heard someone say quietly, “Hey.”
She turned around, and Daniel was there, his hair again in front of his face. “I wasn’t mad at you.”
Kate stared at him, wanting to blurt out, Were your eyes on fire? She found herself backing up against the locker.
“I’m sorry I scared you.” He bowed his head, and walked away. Kate watched him go, a tug of pity on her heartstrings as he walked alone toward the cafeteria. Part of her wanted to run after him, saying that it was all right - but then Jenny and her small group of psychic sponges came up to her. “You okay? You look like you saw a ghost.”
“I’m okay,” said Kate, shaking off the feeling of pity.
“I think they have pizza for lunch,” said one of the girls, who was always begging to have her cards read by Jenny. She had brought someone new, who wore a cross around her neck and looked uncomfortable. She turned to Kate. “You have your cards with you?”
“No,” Kate said, lying. She did have a deck of tarot cards in her locker, since if her mother caught her with them she would have gotten a good whipping. Thing was, she was still uncomfortable with them, not liking the strange symbols on them and the weird people in medieval clothing.
The girl looked dejected. The one with the cross looked relieved. Jenny’s other friend Shannon stood by, stoic and silent, an Amazon of a girl, someone who no one wanted to mess with. Jenny had called Shannon her warrior - “Every witch needs a warrior.” Kate shivered, not wanting to be called a witch, but Jenny didn’t mind the term at all.
They went through the lunch line and got what they wanted, paying at the end, and going to their usual spot at the end of the third table from the back. The lunchroom was crowded with kids, and the conversation turned immediately to Daniel.
The girl who wanted her cards read - Haley, that was her name - spoke with authority. “His uncle lives in the Castle on the Hill.”
The Hill was just that - a hill that overlooked Athol. At the top was supposed to be a spooky house, but there was a gated driveway at the base of the hill so no one could drive up to see it. Sometimes some kids went up there on a dare, but they found their way blocked by more fences and gates, and they could hear dogs barking on the other side.
“What’s up there?” asked Kate innocently.
“Ghosts,” said Haley. “Ghosts, and witches, and even devil worshippers.”
Jenny sighed, “Witches aren’t devil worshippers. We believe in the order of nature, and the power of the goddess.”
The girl with the cross looked horrified.