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I’m used to being the new kid.
In fact, more often than not I’m the new kid. I’ve seriously considered telling people to call me ‘That New Kid’ but this wouldn’t work because a) there are three other kids in the Bennett family, which would make the whole name thing really weird, because we’ve all been new kids a lot (we would probably end up being called That New Kid #1, That New Kid #2, That New Kid #3, and That New Kid #4. Not exactly ideal, even though I’d be That New Kid #2, which is better than being, say, number four) and then there’s b) there’s a slight possibility that we might not move again and I’ll have a chance not to be That New Kid (this chance, however, is probably around the ballpark of 0% chance of happening. Maybe 0.1% if you want to be generous). Lastly there’s c) my dad would absolutely freak if I ever even mentioned changing my name from Juliet Bennett, a name my mom choose.
I don’t like the name Juliet. I mean, I’m named after a girl who killed herself over a guy she’d known for less than 24 hours. Please. How pathetic is that? So instead I go by the name Julie. The downside of having a nickname is that every time I get the honor of being That New Kid, I have to explain it to every single person in the school. It doesn’t help that my dad and I share a stubborn streak, which means that I’m enrolled as Juliet Bennett in every school. Even when they have a ‘Put Preferred Name Here’ place he completely ignores it.
So, because of my dad’s stubborn streak, I had to go through the whole ‘Call me Juliet and you die’ thing today at my new school, Woodford High in the tiny town of Woodford, California. My older brother, Drew, drove a beat up car that we had bought yesterday at a used car lot. It was a black Prius that was beat up so much that I was surprised when we managed to drop off our younger siblings, Savannah and Kyle, and make it to Woodford High in one piece.
Drew pulled the car into a parking space just in time. He glanced at me. We look a lot alike, I suppose. We share brown, slightly curled hair, except Drew cuts his short so you can barely tell it’s curly. We share the same eyes, gray, too, and the same pale skin. We could pass as twins I suppose. The only difference being Drew was seventeen and going into his senior year, and I was fifteen and heading into my sophomore year.
“You ready for this, Jewels?” Drew said, using a nickname for me that he had made up ages ago. It happened during a really weird phase, just after we watched this scary movie about thieves, and I told him I was going to become a jewelry thief. Probably not the best career choice, but I was five. I guess I wasn’t too considered about, you know, jail.
I made my eyes really wide and morphed my face into something that resembled fear. “Ohmigod, Drew, I’ve never been the new kid before, I don’t think I can do this!” I let my normal confident smile come back. “Drew, I think I can do this.” I flicked a glance at the school. Girls squealed as they saw their friends that they hadn’t seen all summer. Guys gave each other high fives and those weird hugs that all guys across the world seem to know. I smiled. It was the same as any other school – I could fit in, easily. “At least it isn’t too big.”
Drew laughed, getting out of the car. I climbed out, shouldering my messenger bag. The weather was beautifully warm out, warm enough that I could get away with a cute t-shirt, shorts, and my dock shoes. I smiled, pulled my sunglasses off and slipped them into my bag. “Be glad it isn’t too big, Jewels,” Drew grinned at me over the car, before locking it. “You’d get lost in an instant.”
“I think it would take longer than an instant.” I laughed.
“I give you five minutes, top.”
“Hey,” I said fake defensively. “I’d give myself ten minutes at least.”
“Really, Miss Brilliant Navigator?” Drew scoffed as we walked towards the front doors.
I smiled, pulling out my schedule. We had stopped by the high school the day before to get it, and a map of the school. All the new kids had been there (which translates into Drew, me, and the entire freshman class). “Really,” I said with fake bravo. A cool blast of air hit us as we had reached the front doors.
“So which way is your homeroom?” Drew asked stopping and turning to face me.
I squinted at the map and the jumble of ink-smeared numbers. “Um, that way.” I told him, pointing to the right.
“You’re not even looking at a map,” I protested.
He tapped his head and I groaned. Both of us had amazing memories, but mine seemed to decide to stop working when it came to directions. Go figure. He smirked. “Go down that hall, take a left, go up the stairs and you should reach it. See you later, Jewels.” With a final smile, he left me on my own.
I sighed. Better get this first day over with.
“Juliet Bennett! Oh class we have a new student!” Ms Hart’s eyes were bright. She was an English teacher in her early twenties, with light brown hair and a pink dress that she had probably picked out for specifically for the first day of school. With the size of this town, I bet they got a transfer in sophomore year about once a year, making today a very interesting day for her and the rest of this school. Sure enough, twenty heads swirled around to stare at me. Most of them just looked curious, but a blonde girl from the front row surveyed me with disgust. Great. Someone already hated me and I’ve said a grand total of zero words so far. “Juliet how about you stand up and tell us a bit about yourself.” She beamed brightly like this was a brilliant idea.
I fought back the scowl that I really wanted to show her, and instead stood up with the best smile I could muster. The last thing I wanted to do was talk about me, no matter how many times I had to do it. I was the worst at it. “Hi. I’m Julie Bennett,” And don’t you dare call me Juliet, ever, I added in my head. “I do cross country running.” My smile was beginning to become strained at this point. How long did I have to go on about myself for? Was this long enough yet? I added one last sentence before sitting down, “And I just moved here from France.”
That last part hadn’t meant to come out snotty, it was just a fact. But the second it left my mouth, I regretted it. The blonde girl’s disgust deepened. Several people’s mouth dropped open for a second before they recovered. Guy’s suddenly started looking interested, probably wondering how good my French kiss was (I mean, really?).
I almost wanted to add that I had only lived there for the summer, but I had already sat down. Besides, that would lead to the question of where I had lived before that, and that was one long list that would take forever to go through. Rarely did we stay in one place for longer than a year, and most of the time it was less than that.
“Wow!” Ms Hart looked giddy over the prospect of having a person from overseas in her class. “This is one coincidence! We will be studying Shakespeare’s play, King Henry V, first, and it takes place in France!”
I tried for a smile, but all I could think was that this woman must have had too much coffee because she was way too excited over a very small coincidence. My dad was a freelance writer (hence all the moving) and had decided that reading Shakespeare as bedtimes stories was perfectly normal. My memory was a little rusty, but I was pretty sure that only a little bit of King Henry V took place in France.
I’m pretty sure Ms Hart, as an English teacher, knew this too, but she just continued to beam at me like this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened at Woodford High. Considering how small this town was, it probably was.
Finally, Ms Hart broke her gaze with me and started giving the people in the front books to pass back. I had to reach over the empty desk in front of me to grab a copy that a girl with red curls was eagerly trying to get to me. Mentally, I sighed. Was everyone here on too much coffee?
I bent forward into what could possibly be the most awkward position ever and managed to grab the book when as someone cleared their throat at the front of the class. I scrambled to get back into a normal position and then looked up…
… only to see a seriously hot guy standing at the front of the room.
Of course, it wasn’t your average ‘Oh there’s a guy who’s mildly okay looking’ guy. No. It was a ‘Did I just die and go to heaven?’ guy. He had perfect short blonde hair with natural highlights with electric blue eyes that were completely captivating. When he flashed a smile at the class, his teeth almost blinded me.
Butterflies appeared in my stomach.
I’m not usually this ga-ga over guys. Sure, I’ve had dates before. But I knew I would eventually leave, so I always restrained myself from getting too attached. That decision happened after I got too attached to a boyfriend that I had all of three weeks when my dad told us we were moving again, and I threw a fit. A lamp ended up being broke, and so did our relationship the next day. But he had just shrugged and said, “Whatever,” He hooked up with another girl that night. Needless to say, I didn’t want to go through that again, so I always stopped myself before I let myself get in any way attached.
I brought myself back to the present. He was nice to the teacher. He told her his name (Jase Castor) and even apologized for being late (it was due to a last minute decision to move here, so he had to go to the front office to get into all the classes he wanted, just, you know, in case you were wondering).
Ms Hart was practically jumping up and down at this point with the excitement of having two new kids in the sophomore class and both of them happen to end up in her class. “Tell us a bit about you, Mr. Castor.”
Jase gave another one of those easy grins that was making practically every girl in this room drool. Except for me, I reminded myself. I couldn’t like a guy too much. Or at all. Nope. Not even a crush. “I like to run and I play soccer. I just moved here from New York.”
I could practically hear the dreamy sigh of every girl in this room. Ms Hart’s eyes widened. “Now isn’t that amazing?” She practically squealed. “A girl from France and a boy from New York come to Woodford High at the same time! Now how about you go sit right over there,” she pointed towards me and I felt a slight heat come to my cheeks. I don’t blush, not for anyone. “Right next to Juliet from France!”
“Julie,” I corrected Ms Hart who proceeded to ignore me.
“You two can share a book for today. I had no idea we would have two new students today,” Ms Hart wrung her hands like this was actually a dire matter.
Jase smiled at me as he started to walk over. He didn’t stop when he reached his desk, however, just grabbed his chair and dragged it until it was right next to me. “Hello, Juliet from France,” he rumbled.
“Um… hi. Julie. Just call me Julie. That’s what everyone calls me. Not Juliet.” I rambled, unable to stop myself. Running my hand through my hair, I could feel my cheeks getting brighter by the second. And that’s when I made the mistake of looking at him. My heart momentarily stopped as our gaze met. How could eyes be that blue? I wondered. No eyes could look that amazing… a perfect blend of the sky and the sea.
Snap out of it, I told myself. I forced myself to look away. Ms Hart was saying something at the front of the room but I couldn’t concentrate. “Well, Julie,” his voice was quiet in my ear. I jumped.
“What?” I hissed.
“Are you going to open that book or do I need to do it for you?” Laughter touched the edges of his words. I scowled and opened the book. “Good job,” he mocked. I didn’t look at him as something – anger? – filled me. I wasn’t used to being so… un-confident around people. Jase was completely throwing me off balance. I liked having my confidence. Having someone take it away was… bad.
Class went by at a snail’s pace. Jase was obviously at ease beside me, but I was not. I made a conscious effort not to jump when he suddenly moved to flip the page or do anything at all. He sat so still the rest of the time, I almost forgot he was there.
When the bell rang, I was the first standing. I shoved my books into my bag, throwing it quickly over my shoulder. I had made it approximately three feet when, “Hey, Juliet from France,” Jase called.
I froze. I could ignore him. That was an option – the room was getting loud enough to be able to say ‘Oh I just didn’t hear you’ and get away with it. No, I told myself. I couldn’t let Jase continue to take my confidence away.
I turned around cautiously, although I have no idea why. Why was Jase making me so jumpy? It went past the fact that he was hot. There was just something about him that screamed ‘Run!’ to me. “You forgot your pen,” he closed the distance between us in a second.
“Thanks,” I managed, snatching the pen from his grip. “And it’s Julie. Not Juliet.” Oh great, he was smirking at me. I refused to let him take my confidence again and – before I could give myself half of a chance to study his eyes again – I twisted away and someone promptly ran into me.
It was the blonde girl who had been sitting in the front row, who clearly despised me. And that was before Jase had decided to sit right next to me. Not that Jase really had a choice – Ms Hart told him too. However, I didn’t exactly think that Blondie would care.
“Watch it, French Girl.” She sneered. She was one of those girls – the ones with the perfect makeup, the designer clothes. Not exactly my favorite type of person.
Now that I wasn’t facing Jase, my confidence was back. I raised an eyebrow. “I was standing still. You ran into me.”
She sneered again. “Get out of my way.”
I smiled and stepped to the side, giving a mock bow. “Gladly,” I added a little laugh at the end for effect as I turned to walk away. I’d learned my lesson with the popular people right away. Don’t let them walk over you – that was the rule.
The redhead fell into step with me as I started to walk away – was there any way that I was going to get out of this room? I glanced at her. She was shorter than me by about five inches. She had the whole geek look going on with cute but big black glasses, a plain purple t-shirt and shorts. “Hi! I’m Courtney. And she,” she jerked her head towards Blondie, “Is Bianca, the resident b**** as I like to call her.” I laughed. A smile touched her lips. “Anyways, what do you have next?”
“Uh Chemistry with Mr. Preston,” I said, checking my schedule.
Courtney gave me a full smile then. “Me too!”
I gave a smile of relief. “Do you mind showing me there? I get lost really easily.”
The rest of the day went by. Bianca wasn’t in any more of my classes, so I didn’t have to put up with her. During lunch I sat with Courtney and her friends, Tyler and Dean. Courtney turned out to be an art geek, and Tyler and Dean were both computer geeks. I’m what I guess you could call a language geek, so I fit right in – with all the moving around, I spoke seven languages fluently, and I had the basics down in three others.
The only thing that I could consider ‘bad’ about the day was the fact that Jase was in every single one of my classes. He was even in my gym class, the last period of the day.
We started with self-defense. Both Tyler and Dean were in my class, so I figured if I just stayed with them I could avoid looking into Jase’s gorgeous blue eyes…
Snap out of it.
Coach Blakely showed us a couple of self-defense moves, before telling us to partner up. I looked to Tyler but Tyler was looking at Dean which left me…
I looked frantically around for anybody else but everyone had already paired up with their friends. No, no, no… “Hey Juliet from France,” Jase called. I turned to see his bright while smile focused on me. No, no, no… “Guess we’re partners.”
“It’s Julie,” I snapped. “And I don’t want to be your partner.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Do you see anyone else around?”
“Exactly,” he looked satisfied. He jerked his head towards a practically empty part of the practice map. “Come on, Juliet.”
“Julie.” I snapped again.
He gave me another one of those infuriatingly lazy grins before walking over to the far corner. I scowled after his back before stalking after him. We went through the basic moves easily, except, of course, he couldn’t resist little comments. Like, “If you lift your arm a little higher, you could block my strike easier.”
I scowled at him, wishing he wasn’t right.
But, of course, he was.
Right then, Coach Blakely strolled by. “Good job, Jase and Juliet.” He appraised. He had clearly seen Jase helping me because he added, “You look like you know what your doing Jase. Good job."
Couch Blakely walked away and Jase leaned in towards my ear, “You hear that? I am the new teacher pet, Juliet.”
I scowled. "Julie," I mumbled.
No crushes allowed, I reminded myself.
I took a deep breath. One, two, three…
I stopped thinking. I filed moving away into a drawer, shutting that drawer close, closing that thought, stopping myself from thinking about it. Methodically, did the same with Jase, with the new school, with family, with my whole three friends, with Bianca, with… everything.
I took another slow, deep, breath before kicking my feet up and planting my hands firmly on the ground until I was in a perfect handstand position. I held the position for a minute; my breathing slowed even more as I slowly lifted one hand up, balancing perfectly on one hand…
“Julie!” Savannah voice broke my perfect concentration. I fell to the ground, barely preventing myself from breaking my neck on the way down. Savannah stood upside down in my vision, looking the same as always; messy brown curly hair with blue streaks, earphones hanging around her neck, army tank top and shorts.
I scowled, jumping to my feet. “Seriously, Sav? I was in the middle of something.”
She eyed my room which was still mostly in boxes. My bed was set up with green sheets tossed over it. A box in the opposite corner served as my temporary closet. My room was far from neat. “Yeah?” she asked. “And what exactly was that?”
I had no idea. I had never been a fan of meditation exercises. I had always made fun of people who did them – did they actually think it would help? – and I had never actually done one. As for the balance thing… my balance wasn’t too bad, but to say I could balance on one hand while in some deep meditation exercise was stretching it.
“Nothing,” I snapped, not letting my confusion show. “What did you want?”
“It’s your turn to take out the trash,” Savannah told me. “I did it last time.”
I scowled at her. “Fine,” I grumbled. When she didn’t move I added, “I’ll do it in a minute!”
Savannah shrugs before walking out my door. I walk over to my chair to grab my jacket and that’s when it hits me.
A low buzzing filled my ears, like a bee was right next to my ear except about ten times worse. My hand crumpled around my leather jacket, my eyes squeezed shut. My breath came out ragged, broken. Images flashed through my head.
My bright white painted walls disappeared, replaced by brick walls, stretching tall. Rickety metal stairs lined the walls. Rotten garbage was pushed to the side of the alley way. Up above, the sky was turning to night, a deep blue with slashes of light blue and pink. Deep, dark shadows were beginning to form. The sounds of a nearby city filled my ears. Straight ahead, across the street, was a coffee shop Blues. Ironically, the sign was bright yellow.
A loud bang came from the alley way, followed by an angry cat’s meow and a muttered curse. My world spun around until I was facing the completely opposite way. I could hear people coming. My breath quickened, as I looked around for a weapon. The alley way was not even two yards wide – not nearly enough room to fight in.
My gaze flickered down. A small black object sat amongst scattered bits of trash. My mind identified it in a millisecond: a small, metal glock. I crouched down, grasping the gun in my hand. The cool metal pressed into my hand. More bangs and curses came from the alley, getting closer and closer by the second.
Vague dark shapes were beginning to form. I stood up quickly, pulling my shoulder black smoothly. My finger rested on the trigger…
The images were gone as soon as they had come. My room slowly came back into focus.
I stare at the leather jacket in my hand. Except I don’t see a jacket – I see the gun, the black barrel of the deadly weapon. I feel not the smooth leather, but the cold, hard, merciless metal of the gun.
I had never held a gun before.
I grabbed the trash from by the door and yanked the front door open. The warm Californian night air hit me, warm enough that I realized that I didn’t need the jacket that I had on.
Unfortunately, thinking of the warm air made me think of my jacket which made me think of…
… the gun.
I didn’t know what to think. Nothing like that had ever happened to me. I had never had flashbacks, never felt so much fear in one little thought. And I had never held a gun before.
My memories begged to differ. I could still feel the cool metal. It wasn’t exactly reassuring. My senses were telling me that I had just possibly killed someone while my memories were telling me I hadn’t!
The really bad part was, it hadn’t felt like a dream. It hadn’t felt wrong or fake in any sort of way. I could remember the stink of that alley as well as I could remember what I had for breakfast this morning.
Maybe I belonged in the loony bin. It seemed like a – sadly – logical answer at this moment.
I dropped the trash bag at the curb, scowling at our neighborhood. We weren’t near any dark alley ways that were filled with city sounds (although with the size of this place, it was hard to believe that we were near a city).
Although… I purse my lips. There was a city, about twenty or so miles away. Crashing Waves Cove or some weird name like that. I had this crazy feeling that if I made it to the city, I would be able to find my way to the alley.
I slip out my phone. Seven forty five. Late, yes. I bite my lip, glancing back at my house. While Dad tended to be protective and strict about the rules, usually towards night time he forgets about the world when he starts to write his articles. He wouldn’t notice I was gone. Not if I said I was going to bed early, from some left-over jet lag. We had only moved here four days ago and there was a huge time difference between California and France.
I could grab my bike. It would take about an hour to get there, an hour to get back… I hypothetically could do it.
Half of me said no way – I had pulled enough stupid stunts before. When we lived in Spain, I had partied practically every night till three in the mornings. My grades had dropped down to the fifties and Dad made me promise – no more staying out past midnight. And I probably could make it home before midnight…
The other half of me ached, begged, yearned for searching for that alley way. I had no idea why it was important. I had no idea where I would find. I didn’t even know if it existed!
But I wanted to get to it.
I took one last look at the house and made my decision.
One hour and a half later, I miraculously made it to the Sapphire Sea Cove (which was quite possibly the lamest name ever. I mean, the sea is blue. Just… blue. Not sapphire.). Although, it wasn’t quite the city I was expecting. Courtney had described it. The way she had made it sound, it had seemed like this huge place filled with lots of tall buildings that reached for the sky. In my mind it had slightly resembled San Francisco.
It did not resemble San Francisco.
There was a mildly tall building or two. And it did, to some extent, sound like a city. It sounded like it had in my memories, even. I could picture it having some dark alley ways. There were a couple apparent buildings scattered around.
But it was, most defiantly, not what I called a city.
I stared at the city before me, before pushing myself forward. I passed apartment buildings and coffee shops. I didn’t see Blues anywhere. Although from the amount of Starbucks I had passed, I was beginning to doubt that Sapphire Sea Cove had any other company for their caffeine fix.
At some point, I leaned forward to look down an alley way, which then resulted in me almost running over a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. He flipped me off, yelling curses as me drunkenly as he clutched his blanket tighter around him. “Sorry, sorry!” I called, slightly freaking out as I biked away, after making sure I hadn’t accidently cause any permanent damage.
He just yelled more curses at me.
Now that I was away from the drunken homeless dude, I was completely lost. I had printed off directions to get to and from the Cove and home. The actual Cove itself? Not so much. Besides that, nothing struck me as what I was looking for (not that I was really expecting a neon sign saying dark-alley-way-with-guns-lying-around this way!). I mean, I passed some alley ways. They just didn’t feel… right.
Not that I really had expected anything. I had wanted to come here, for some reason. But now that I was here…. Heck, I didn’t even know if this was the right city. My little flashback could have happened in China for all I know.
My mouth twitched at that. No, I was almost sure it was this city. If I could just find Blues, I might be able to find the alley way…
And do what? That rational part of me (which was slowly becoming smaller and smaller by the minute) asked. What exactly are you going to do when you find this mysterious alley way?
It was a completely logical question. Probably one that I should have asked myself before I left the house.
I let out a groan of frustration and pulled my bike up to the nearest Starbucks. Yanking my phone out, I checked the time and my frustration deepened. I had less than an hour to find the alley way. Somehow, I didn’t think I could go to sleep without knowing.
I left my bike at the bike rack in front of the store and stormed up to the Starbucks counter. “Just a tall coffee. Black.” I tossed a five on the counter, rubbing my temples.
This was too much. I had no idea what was going on. I barely knew why I was here. No sane person would be doing what I was doing right now.
I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I didn’t notice the guy at the counter trying to get my attention. He must have said, “Here’s your change,” to me at least five times before I noticed him.
“Thanks,” I said, taking the money. Then inspiration struck me. Ask someone. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? “Hey, do you know where Blues is?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Sorry,”
“Oh,” I said, disappointment in my voice, and moved out of the way.
As I waited for my coffee, I pulled out my phone. Still no messages from Dad. A smile flirted over my face. I knew I could count on him to not check on me. “Julie,” the barista called. My eyes flickered up andI grabbed my coffee and headed out the door. One more hour – I would give myself one more hour. No more, no less. Then I would go home and forget this entire night. If I could manage that. Somehow, I didn’t think I could.
I debated taking my bike with me. I had it locked up at the moment, so it wouldn’t get stolen. It was just getting in the way. I wanted to walk. Besides, I don’t think I had enough skills to juggle biking and drinking coffee at the same time, despite my recent meditational exercises.
I left the bike and headed out on foot.
Turns out, that wasn’t such as much of a brilliant idea as I thought it was.
Why? Because I had the brilliant idea to wear flats. Flats were not the idea walking shoes, under any circumstances really, much less the one I was in right now. It took me fifteen minutes to realize that there was a very little chance of me ever finding my way back to that Starbucks.
I had begun to lose hope when I saw a bright yellow sign ahead that looked familiar. I dropped my coffee into the nearest trashcan. My feet stopped dragging as I began to walk faster, then running towards the bright yellow sign.
My mouth stretched into a smile and I felt like jumping up and down with joy as I looked at the Blues coffee shop. It didn’t look like a chain shop – rather, it had a very small town feel, with wooden paneling inside and smooth carpeting. The glass door was cleaned to a shine, and a sign glowed bright with the word OPEN.
My smile disappeared as soon as it had come. This sign, the very fact that this place even existed meant that… that I hadn’t been hallucinating. I hadn’t been dreaming. It hadn’t been some random thought.
No. it was real.
The hairs on the back of my neck prickled, and I closed my eyes and counted to ten. I’d heard somewhere that that helps to calm you down but I can guarantee you it wasn’t working!
Very slowly, I pivoted on one foot until I was facing the other side of the street. And right there, across three lanes of slow traffic, right there in between two tall apartment buildings…. Was an alley way.
I raced to the street corner until I reached a cross walk. The silver button was cool to my touch as I punched it repeatedly. “Come on, come on,” I muttered. Now that I knew exactly where the alley way was I could feel the pull again. I could feel myself being drawn to that spot. I wanted to get there now.
I tapped my foot impatiently until the cross walk sign changed. I raced across the street and down the sidewalk. Skidding to a stop next to the alley way, I peered down it. It was dark, like I had suspected. Quickly, I opened my phone and pulled up a flashlight app.
Cautiously, I stepped into the alley way. My shining light confirmed what I thought – this place looked exactly the same. Well, mostly. The stink was even more disgusting in real life.
I ventured further down, getting more confident as I went along. Nothing was out of place as far as I could tell. If I could just explore this place a bit, confirm that it was completely gun and ghost free, I could go home. I could worry about finding my bike again, then go home and sleep.
That plan lasted about five seconds. I got about halfway down the alley when I started noticing changes. Red spatters covered the walls on each side. Dread filled me as I pointed my flashlight down. On the ground there were pools of the thick, disgusting, red blood. Bits of trash were mixed in and I swallowed my urge to throw up right then and there.
And that’s when I started freaking out. I was completely frozen in place, not moving an inch. What had happened here? Had someone murdered someone? Did I murder someone? Ohmigosh I was not going through those trash cans looking for a dead body!
Just when I thought I was going to faint from a completely understandable freak out, someone spoke behind me. My heart temporarily stopped. I jumped in the air, stifling a scream. I landed on my butt, one of my shoes slipping into a nearby pool of blood. My hands flailed about, my phone landing somewhere in the rotting garbage.
And that’s when I really screamed. I’m normally a fairly clam girl, but I was in a dark alley way at eleven at night, there was blood everywhere, and some stranger was next to me!
It was only when the stranger put a hand on my shoulder and began to try to calm me down that I realized it wasn’t quite a stranger at all.
Jase. Of all people, it had to be Jase. My screams went away, replaced by my shrill, “What are you doing here?!”
His blue eyes bore into me. Shadows danced along his cheek and part of me couldn’t help but admiring how hot he looked at nighttime. Or day time for that matter (the other part of me was still screaming). “I could ask you the same thing.”
I scrambled up. A quick glance down confirmed – my shoe was covered in blood. Shoot, shoot, shoot. “I have to get home,” I said, practically hyperventilating. I had searched for almost two hours for this place – yet, now that I was here, I wanted nothing more to be as far away from it as I could. I began to move in the direction of the street I was just on. At least, I think it was that street. At this point, I really didn’t know and I really didn’t care.
“Wait,” he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. I turned my head. Ohmigosh, he really did look way to hot in a simple black hoodie and dark jeans. Something was splattered all over the hoodie but I couldn’t really tell in the dark. I squinted, trying to get a closer look. “We need to talk, Julie.”
Realization dawned on me. “Oh my God you have blood on you!” I looked up into his eyes. “Did you kill someone?” I screeched. “Are you hurt? Did I kill someone? Oh my God do you have a gun?”
He flinched, his eyes flickering towards the street. “Calm down, Juliet. Be quiet. You’ll start to attract people.”
But I didn’t listen. I didn’t even correct him when he called me Juliet. “What the hell is going on Jase?” I asked.
Except he didn’t have time to answer. Why? Because right then, a voice from behind me shouted, “You! Yeah, you two! Hands where I can see them!”
An empty sense of fear filled me as I turned around and found myself face to face with a policeman.
The policeman took my shoes.
Rude, right? I mean, there I was, standing on the tile floor of the police station (which was quite possibly the coldest floor ever) and he just said plainly, “We need your shoes for evidence.”
Completely rude. I didn’t even get to keep my socks (those were evidence too). I mean, I get their reasoning. They had come upon Jase and I, and we had been standing in a dark alley way that had blood everywhere. It was quite possibly a murder scene, due to the amount of blood there. The things that confused them was a) there was no dead people lying around, which is kind of a big part of a murder b) there was no murder weapon (yep, you read that right. There was no gun in the alley way. Which either means I was day dreaming, which was becoming more unlikely by the second, or the weapon was somewhere else) and c) I was basically going crazy at this point telling everyone that I saw that I swore I had no idea what was going on and they basically concluded that I was too freaked out at the moment to kill anyone. Plus, I only had blood on my shoe. With blood flying everywhere in that alley way, I would have to get blood on more than my shoe.
And who had blood on more than their shoe? You guessed it. Jase.
They separated us as soon as we got back to the police station. They put me in what was quite possibly the coldest room ever and Jase in another.
I was glad we were in separate rooms. I was scared to look at him, much less be near him. The idea that he could have killed someone… well, it wasn’t exactly helping my sanity at the moment.
Seriously. My crush on him was completely over (well, sort of over. He was still hot. But not crush-worthy-hot. Just hot). As a general rule, I don’t date psychopaths.
I glanced up at the shiny mirror in front of me. I looked miserable. I was miserable. My curls were all over the place, looking like maybe a bird had attacked it and decided to make it its home. I had tried putting it in different styles to make it look more like I was sane.
It hadn’t worked.
The rest of me wasn’t much better off. My shirt was rumpled. I was barefoot. My mascara was slightly smeared, giving me a sleepy, dead to the world look. Some of my makeup was streaked down my cheeks. I had my jacket on, not that it was helping me get warm. I was shivering. I had a bright look in my eyes that made me stand out clearly against the dull silver that covered the rest of the room.
My mental state wasn’t much better.
When they had first brought me in, I had been crying. Can you blame me? I just met a guy that might be a murderer. That would be enough to put someone out of whack. And I do admit that was a bit unsettling. Yet somehow… despite how much I didn’t want to be near him, I didn’t quite believe he was a murderer.
But that wasn’t what had made me cry, what had made me think I was going insane. No. What had made me think I was going insane was the fact that I might have seen the murder happen… despite the fact that I hadn’t even been in the same city.
Yet, somehow it was worse than that. Somehow I had become the murderer. Hadn’t I? I had been the person in that alley way. I had picked up that gun. I had been the one with the finger on the trigger, just itching to pull it, to end the life of the person in front of me….
The scrapping sound of a door opening interrupted my thoughts.
A short woman, probably in her twenties, with a gray suit entered. No makeup graced her plain face, her stern look conveying her dismay at being assigned to interrogate me, or whatever the hell they were going to do.
She paused before me for a second, than slid a coffee in front of me. Briskly, she sat down across from me. She fanned out her papers, before picking up a pen and staring at me for a full minute. She clicked a recorder on.
“Miss Bennett,” she finally said aloofly. “I am Ms. Price. I will be asking you some questions.”
“Um… okay?” I asked as I gingerly picked up the coffee before cautiously taking a sip. Yuck. They added milk. I set it back down for a second, before picking it up almost immediately.
What can I say? Coffee’s addicting.
“You were found on the back alley way between the Kirshire Apartment Building and the Locks Apartment Complex. Is this true?”
“Yes or no, Miss Bennett.” Ms. Price said, anger beginning to color her voice.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Yes or no, Miss Bennett.” Yep, there was definite tension in there.
“The said place was then found to be potential murder scene due to the amount of blood found between the aforementioned apartment buildings.”
She scowled at me. “Were you aware of the fact that this was a potential murder scene?”
“Not really,” I answered. And I hadn’t, sort of. I mean, I had known that there was something bad there and I had seen the gun and almost killed someone, but not really. Okay, maybe I had known.
“Do you not understand what ‘Yes or No’ means, Miss Bennett?”
I took a sip from my coffee and lied. “I mean no, I didn’t know that it was a potential murder scene.”
Ms. Price scanned me, as if I would suddenly confess that I had just lied, before jotting a quick, professional looking note down.
“Do you know a Mr. Jase Castor?” She asked me, still looking down.
“Uh, sort of.”
She gave me a sharp glance and I hurried to correct myself. “I mean, we just met today. At school. We were both new kids. So yeah, I guess I knew that. That would be a yes.”
“Did you kill anyone in the alley way that we have previously mentioned?”
Yes, she seriously asked me that. As if Ms. Price expected me to come out and say, ‘Yep, I murdered someone. Jase helped. You can lock us up and throw away the key now.’
I realized she was still waiting for an answer. “No,”
“Why were you in the alley way? This question needs not to be answered in a yes or no format.”
Well that was obvious. “I just ended up in that alley way, somehow. There was no particular reason.” The lie came through easily; she didn’t question it as she scribbled down a quick note.
“Miss Bennett –” she began, but then the door opened. We both looked over to the door as a man stuck his head in. Nervousness radiated from him.
“Ms. Price, someone here says that this interview is over.” The man was practically sweating with nervousness now.
“Who?” she snapped sharply. Truthfully, I was wondering the same thing.
“The man,” he swallowed. “The man said his name is Mr. Connor.”
Her face went white. “Mr. Connor’s here?” The man nodded, but she didn’t wait for further confirmation. Ms. Price hurried to gather all of her notes and papers, before giving me a look – of pity? – And rushing out the door as fast as she could.
I just sat there, staring at the door, wondering what the hell I had got myself into.
They left me alone for an hour. I don’t’ know what the strategy in that was. Maybe they figured that the two coffees that I had had would make me want to go to the bathroom (which was totally true) and they could bribe me with a trip to the bathroom.
If that was it, it was working.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and glanced at the clock again. I bit back a groan of frustration. Almost one in the morning. Dad was going to absolutely kill me.
I banged my head on the table, my frustration deepening. Ms. Price had probably already told Mr. Connor’s, who had probably called Dad. My funeral was probably already in the process of being planned.
A door opened, and I glanced up as a man with dark brown hair and an impeccable three piece suit entered. Half of me wondered if this was Mr. Connors (the other half was still wondering if I could use the bathroom, just in case you were wondering). His gray eyes sparkled as the raked over me taking in my appearance. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. Some part of me wanted to impress this man (or at least for him to not see me when I looked like I had walked through hell and back. But then again, I suppose nobody really wanted to look like they had walked through hell and back anywhere, not even a police station.).
The door shut, sounding louder than I thought it would, and I flinched. The man walked over to the table where I sat and threw a folder on it. It wasn’t your standard manila folder – no, this one was pure black with small sliver lettering at the top that read ‘Elite 023’.
The chair across from mine scrapped back. I flickered my eyes up as I watched the man sit down into the seat. I swallowed my urge to sit up straighter, to look more… innocent. Don’t show this man that he intimidates you, I reminded myself.
Maybe you think my fear is illogical. I mean, technically I hadn’t really done anything wrong. All I had done was wind up in an alley way looking for a dead body that I might have murdered.
I shifted in my seat again, trying to get into a comfortable position. Geez, I really needed to go to the bathroom.
“Miss Bennett,” the man uttered. His voice was low, soft, and simple, with a slight accent that I couldn’t quite place. I knew that I knew that accent… but from where?
“Yes?” I asked. I felt strangely calmer once this man had spoken. It was like the feeling when you’re near your best friend – you feel safer, more confident. At least I think that’s what it felt like. I had never really had a best friend before, because of the moving and all. A part of me wondered if this was Mr. Connors. It could be. He hadn’t bothered to introduce himself yet.
“How long have you known?”
“How long have I know… what?” I asked cautiously. He didn’t respond. His gray eyes that seemed to contain a spark of happiness and a storm at the same time continued to stare at me. Those gray eyes… they looked so familiar. Where did I know those eyes from?
He finally broke his gaze and opened the black folder in front of him. He began to shift through the papers in front of him. Subconsciously, I leaned forward trying to get a closer look. He glanced up at me and I straightened up, before going back to the papers.
He pulled one specific paper out and slid it in front of me. “How long have you known you were an Elite?”
“An Elite?” I absentmindedly asked, picking the paper up. Then any thoughts of being calm flew out the window. My face paled as I stared at the sheet. My wish to go the bathroom almost (key word there) disappeared. “Wha- what is this?” I asked. “How? Why?”
A list. It was a list. Of all the place I’ve lived, how long I’ve lived there. My addresses. All of them. Not a single one was missing. Even the schools I’ve attended, the places I’ve visited. The places I had spent less than a day at.
The paper fluttered from my hands and settled down onto the silver gray table, a color that matched the man’s eyes, with a soft finality. The paper… It was creepy. It was stalker-ish.
It was scary.
His gray eyes studied me. I knew him. I knew I did! It was on the tip of my tongue, just an inch out of my reach. “We’ve kept tabs on you, Miss Bennett. You are one of us, you must know that. We were alerted to that fact tonight when you appeared in that alley way. ”
“One of you?” I asked in disbelief. “One of you. I can guarantee that I am not one of you. I have no idea even who ‘you’ are!”
“We,” he corrected.
I leaned forward, placing my hands on the table. “You listen to me. I have no idea what just happened, I have no idea what is going on. Ms. Price already quizzed me on what I know, and trust me; I basically failed that test because I know nothing. I have no idea how I ended up in that alley way! There was no motivation to get there. I had no reason to go there. I just ended up there by accident.” I pleaded. “Get that through your heads!” I threw my hands up, before leaning back into the chair, crossing my arms.
A great speech, but all I could think of was how much I really needed to go pee.
“Listen to me. You must tell us everything.” The man’s voice was becoming more urgent by the second. “You are one of us now. You’re in danger without our help, Jay. We need to train you. We need to protect you.”
I froze completely still. I couldn’t concentrate on what he said. All I heard was… “Jay?” I asked softly. No one called me Jay, no one except… I glanced up and finally realized why he looked so familiar. Those gray eyes….
My mind flashed back to when I was little. We had been living in Venice. I was six. A man, a lively man with a bounce in his step had come to meet us. Dad hadn’t liked him, nor trusted him. Neither had Drew. But I… I liked him. For the entire time we were in Venice, he brought me sweets and taken me shopping in Venice. He had showed me all the sights and helped me learn my second language – Italian.
I remember one particular day. It was sunny outside and he had taken me out to the open air market. Fruit’s and vegetables were everywhere, people calling out in Italian, begging for customers to come and buy their product. The man had crouched in front of me, bouncing a tomato between his fingers deftly his… gray eyes sparkling.
“What do you think, my little Jay? Two tomatoes?”
“None!” I giggled. “We don’t like tomatoes. You know that, Uncle Roy.” I smiled, my missing front tooth showing clearly.
He just laughed at that and stood up. “Come on, Jay. Let’s get some candy, sí?”
Dread reached into the pits of my stomach, letting free any hope of letting this night go under the ‘just another night’ category. “Oh my God,” I whispered. “Uncle Roy?” I choked out.