Chapter 1: The secret.
By Anonymous, la quinta, CA
The SecretCHAPTER 1: THE SECRET.
"You have to push yourself, Erin!" the voice said. He watched her from the corner of the room, his mouth pressed tightly together.
"I know. I'm trying," she said between clenched teeth. Erin's arms felt as if they were about to fall off.
"Then try harder. Come on now, I know you can do it," he said.
She knew it too.
Looking up at him, she saw various emotions flickering across his face. The concern in his eyes was clear, but there were also pride and pain hidden in the depths. Perfecting her strength and her endurance by material arts had always been the one thing her dad had been strict on. She didn't know exactly why, and honestly she hadn't even asked why she had to do it. Not even once.
She had always known that it was important for some reason. It had always been important, and because of that, she had practiced for hours every day for as she could remember.
However, she did get tired. In fact, this was one of those times when Erin wanted to quit practicing. Her muscles ached with exhaustion, her heart thumped painfully and drops of sweat covered the mats making them slick. She really didn't see the point of the exercise. Drained, pissed and starving as she was, her life literally sucked at the moment. But she wouldn't complain. Erin would never complain.
Instead, she pushed herself harder, knowing that if she could finish her last push-ups; her dad would smile his brilliant smile and be happy for the rest of the day.
He never quite lost the worried expression she was so familiar with until Erin practiced. She knew that he tried to hide it, but it was easy to see through his masquerade. “Come on, honey. One more,” she heard his pleading voice through the ravenous thumping of her heart. Groaning, she pushed her muscles even harder, and finally she collapsed to the floor when she had taken the last push-up. Breathing heavily and looking up at her dad, she saw the relief that washed over his face, which he after a moment tried to conceal with a casual smile.
"Nice workout, honey. Clean yourself up, it's dinner in an hour," he said and walked up the stairs.
Looking down at herself, she groaned. It wasn’t easy to remove the filthy bloodstains that covered her white t-shirt. Surely, that was a waste of hot water. Soaked in sweat, her whole body was bruised and wounded. “Good work-out, honey?” her dad said casually whenever he noticed a new bruise, it was a result of the boxing- and taekwondo classes she went to. Erin knew better.
The boxing and fighting didn't help her appearance much, but the main reason that Erin always looked like a paintball-target was mostly because of her social life. Or lack thereof. She couldn't do much when other girls at school bullied her; it wasn't like she wanted to attract attention to herself by kicking their ass and showing of her unnatural ability in material arts.
Nevertheless, she sometimes wanted to hurt the girls who beat her. Sometimes, when she was alone in her bed, she wanted to break their nice, manicured hands or ruin their newly operated noses. She sometimes wanted to fight back. But she couldn't, because Erin knew that if she got in trouble in school, her dad would make them move again and he would be unhappy for an unlimited period of time. It wasn't like she couldn't handle a handful of badly aimed hits and kicks.
Picking up a couple of weights and putting them in their right places, she looked around in the basement. It was a small room filled with workout gear. One wall was lined up with cheap weights, the other lined with several strange artifacts like a bungee cord and a damaged car tire. It was all a part of her workouts. Filthy yoga mats covered the floor; the air reeked of sweat and blood. It was always a little bit warmer than Erin preferred, and she was relieved to leave the filthy room behind. She didn’t want to ask her dad to renovate. Money had been tight since the day Erin's mom died. Which was October 11th the year Erin turned thirteen years old. She had been a naïve; self-absorbed little brat at the time and her mother's death hadn't infected her as much as it did in later years. But when Erin was fifteen she started to regret her last years with her mother. She started to feel guilty and the guilt had increased dramatically each year.
At the age of seventeen, Erin had accepted the guilt and didn't expect it to go away. That was one of the reasons that Erin embraced all of her father's extraneous and wild ideas. Her heart couldn't bear more guilt and therefore she did everything in her power to avoid it.
Climbing the impossibly abrupt stairs and sighing when she opened the door to the ugly living room, she noticed, not for the first time, that it was hardly even furnished. In fact, the only real furniture in the living room was a big recliner in the middle of the room and a TV, which Erin assumed was from the late 1980's.
She took a quick shower, enjoying the hot water for one blissful moment before she switched over to cold. They had to save money, and in the end, it wasn't enough for Erin to waste on unnecessary things like a hot water. Erin didn't mind, though. She enjoyed the cold water almost as much as the hot water. She didn't really care, because the truth was that Erin loved water, she loved the feeling of standing under the thick spray of silky drops, and she was never quite ready to face reality that she knew was behind the curtain of sparkling drops. In the end, though, she always had to leave behind the things she loved, and this day was no exception.
Putting on her pajamas and running quickly down the stairs, Erin was relived to find that the dinner was set on the table. She was not surprised when she saw the big T-bone steak lying on her plate next to a big pile of unwanted bills. “Eat. You know that protein is important to stay in shape,” William Silver said. Looking from the meat to the bills and back again, a feeling of guilt rose in her stomach. Her dad was chewing on cereal.
Dinner was quiet, as always. Neither her dad nor she was especially talkative. This evening, though, it wasn't the usual silence. The silence that used to be around the table was casual, even nice, but today it was different. It was tense, and Erin could see that I was something that bothered her father. She looked at him over the table.
Sitting with his head in his hands, he looked very young. A constant frown made his face seem older, and when he lost it he also lost years.
“Dad?" she said carefully. He looked up and his expression shocked her. Pain flickered across his face before he managed to control it. He smiled a transparent smile and raised his eyebrows. Erin couldn't form a sentence, so she just shook her head frantically and went back to her plate. She felt her father’s intense stare but couldn't bear meeting his now perfectly composed poker face.
Knowing that there was something bothering him, she silently tried to ignore his inner struggle. Erin couldn't push him, because she knew that if she said one word wrong, he would never tell her what he was hiding. Because she knew it was something. It has always been something. Focusing on chewing, she waited silently - and after a while her dad got up and started doing the dishes. She shoved her plate away and stood up, disappointed. She knew that he wouldn’t tell her anything that night.
She had always known that her dad had a secret, but every time he tried to tell her about it, he cowardly gave up after a while. She knew it was big - and possibly life changing, but she couldn't ask him. The face he made when he tried to talk about it stopped all her questions, and she was almost relieved when he didn't tell her. Almost.
She walked out of the room. It was his turn to do the dishes, so she went upstairs quietly. It was no point in trying to talk to him when he was like that. He was always lost in thought and didn't hear the irrelevant things she muttered anyways. She glanced one more time in his direction and felt a stab in her gut when she noticed his shaking hands while he tried to scrub the plate.
The window in her room was open; Erin enjoyed the feeling of freedom and fresh air. Looking down at her old-fashion cell phone, she wasn't surprised to find that it was fully charged. Her cell phone was weird that way; she didn't need to charge it as often as other cell phones. Her face lit up in a grin and she was glad that she had discovered one positive thing about her old, rusty Nokia. Her body felt stiff and sore when she crawled under the covers and put her head on the pillow. Her aching muscles were definitely up for a hot, steamy bath its owner couldn't afford. Like she had a million times before, Erin wished her beloved mother was still alive.
"Erin, get up already! I don't want you to be late again," her dad shouted from the stairway. She let out a big groan for his benefit and went to wash up in the bathroom. Her long, silvery hair looked exceptionally unruly. She inwardly shrugged.
Her lack of friends in high school had one upside at least. She didn't need to wear heavy make-up or short skirts, and as her father frequently pointed out she didn't need it.
If she had been born one of those girls who had prom on their list of lifetime events and a hairbrush as their best mate, her life would have been much different. But she wasn't and when she looked in the mirror, she only saw a girl with hazel eyes that were a little to big for her face, and pouty lips that would have been pretty if not for the fact that they lacked any color what so ever. Her skin was her best feature, tanned and unblemished. Her appearance wasn't what made a victim of the TSE, though.
The group lived up to the nickname Erin had secretly given them. The Stupid Elites were the most popular and self-absorbed girls at school and their main target were geeks, outsiders and girls who looked slightly different and didn't kiss their preppy, high heels. Mainly, it was only one girl who had refused to kiss those feet. Not one girl had refused to obey the TSE after Erin. The other girls at school were terrified after seeing what they did to her on a daily basis.
Erin washed her face in cold water and put on a little mascara, which was unusual. She just wanted to piss of TSE as much as possible today, and the prettier Erin was, the angrier the TSE got. Wobbling through the hallway on muscles that felt like jelly, she spotted her favorite skinny-jeans lying on the floor of her bedroom. She put them on and started the search for a plain white T-shirt. Erin rarely got cold, no matter the weather. She didn't freeze much, and stayed warm even when it was snow and ice cold outside. Her dad was the same way. That ability wasn't necessary inside the house, though, seeing that it was always something burning inside their fireplace. It was kind of odd, because Erin didn't think that her father would spend money on loads of log when they could use blankets to heat up. Grabbing her backpack and hurrying down to the kitchen, she instantly smelled her breakfast. It wasn't pretty.
Her dad was concentrating on reading the paper, but when he heard her footsteps he looked up with a big grin spread across his face. Annoyingly, he pretended that yesterday's weirdness had never happened. But Erin wouldn't forget regardless of his efforts.
"Good morning, sleep well? Breakfast's on the table," he said gesturing toward a glass full of something disgusting placed neatly with a Mickey Mouse straw on her side of the table. She didn't think about what he had mixed together for her, just sat down and drank it quickly. It tasted like eggs and vegetables. She coughed and tried not to puke in front of her pleased father. With one last longingly look at his bowl of cereal she went for the door.
"Love you," she said before stepping out into humid New York air.
When her dad and her mother had bought the house, several things had been different. First of all, her mother was still alive and second, the house had been nice with a warm atmosphere and colorful flowerbeds. It wasn't like that anymore. The flowers and Erin's mother were long gone, while the warm atmosphere was now tense and gloomy. It wasn't that Erin didn't like living with her father. On the contrary, she loved him very much. But she knew that things were different now, and something possibly dangerous was about to happen. Her father never let down his shoulders anymore and was always on guard in case something happened.
William Silver was a former cop, but not long after his wife, Annabeth Silver had passed away, he quit his job and spent all his time looking after his only daughter. But Erin didn't mind, she liked having her father around. Most days.
It took only twenty minutes for Erin to walk to school. On the way she experienced one good thing as well as one rather bad thing. The good thing was that several times, the sun bathed her in brilliant sunlight when the clouds didn't cover it up. She crossed the streets, nearly humming with increased energy. The bad thing was that a car full of confident teenagers drove by in their flashy, silver Maserati while they yelled things like "Hey sweet pie, want a ride?" She stubbornly ignored them and looked at her feet. She didn't want to draw attention, but with her alien features it was quite difficult. While her hair was almost white, her eyes were quite dark – and this made her face stand out almost everywhere. Her dad told her that she was pretty, but as her dad he was obliged to say so. Aside from that, Erin knew if it weren't for her father, she would have been a normal girl and maybe dated one of the stupid jocks that just drove by. With her martial arts skills, she could take on anyone and make it all her way. She didn't of course. In the end, she was glad that her father didn't like that she brought people home, so after a while she just stopped doing it. It was easy to become unpopular, if you just chose to do so.
The first thing she'd done was to turn away from all people her age. After that, she stopped cowering to the TSE and refused to back down and kiss their feet. Nowadays, she absentmindedly sat in the back of the classroom with her iPod, never talking to anyone. After a while, people started to avoid her. Erin missed that period; she had time to be lost in her own thoughts without interruption. But when people started noticing that she liked being avoided, they shifted their strategy. It was now a sport to go as far as possible to make Erin Silver loose her mind. The TSE were the leaders of the movement.
When the silver Maserati rounded a corner and she didn't hear the yells anymore, Erin sighed and sped up. She didn't want to be late for school, and she remembered that her mother had always given her lectures about how important it was for her to go to school and get good grades so she could get a good education. Her parent's efforts were mainly what drove her to do anything. However, Erin had the attention and energy at school that many other kids her age lacked. She believed it was a result of her vigorous training, and was pleased when she got good results. Nevertheless, that meant that even the nerds hated her. Great.
When Erin spotted the familiar reddish brown building that went under the name of Humphbrigde High school, she slowed down. Trying to spend as little time as possible on school ground, she sat on a bench a safe distance away and waited for the bells to ring. When the bells finally chimed, she crossed the parking lot full of shiny, new cars, and ran up the stairs to the main entrance. With English as her first class, she arrived as one of the last into the classroom. Casually she avoided the foot that was meant to trip her, pleased to see that the owner of the foot made a disappointed face. The boy behind her wasn't that lucky. It was easy to find a seat in the back of the classroom and she, still oblivious to the nasty stares and comments, found her seat. It was an exceptionally boring day, so she while she paid attention to the teacher, she also stared thoughtfully out the window. She didn't see the note that someone threw in her direction before it poked her in the eye. Tears threatened to spill over, but with effort Erin managed to hold them back while she ignored the loud snickers that seemed to come from every corner of the classroom. Carefully opening the piece of paper to the audience's benefit, she started to read the words that were hastily scrabbled across the note. "Didn't your father ever tell you that no one wants to be around a b****?" it said. "Nice one, Luke!" she heard several of the boys whispering across the room. Erin felt the rage bubble up inside her and looked at the boy who was responsible for the stupid note. When she met his eyes, his fat face lit up in a grin and he winked. To everybody's surprise as well as her own, she stood up. "Well, didn't your father ever tell you to go easy on the doughnuts, Luke? " While everybody was still in shock, she gathered her books and walked out of the room.
Erin knew that she would get in trouble for that, but she didn't care. Her teacher would be furious when he realized what had just happened, but that was the least of her worries. Luke and his gang would probably never forget that and she knew that it would be worse now. But Erin realized that she didn't care. Today, at least, she wouldn't take everybody's crap. Lost in thought all the way to her locker, didn't see the person in front of her before she bumped into him. "Wow, I'm sorry. Didn't see you there," she said and picked up the book she had dropped. "It's okay, I didn't pay attention either," he said as she looked up. She heard him take a sharp breath and stared curiously at him. Erin hadn't seen him around before, and she assumed he was new. Because she would have noticed if she had, in fact, every girl on school grounds would have noticed. Movie stars would be, without a doubt, very jealous of the boy. Vaguely, she noticed that he had brown hair with a hint of bronze in his bangs. Thick eyelashes framed his sparkling green eyes, which were now looking at Erin with a look of pure hatred. Erin stared at him in shock. It wasn't strange that he wouldn't be friends with her; the TSE had probably gotten to him already, but it was strange that the emotion in his face was so strong. It looked like he wanted to punch her, and she suddenly felt frightened. Hastily, she started to retreat and almost ran to the cafeteria. Erin took one last look at the boy, and when he met her eyes they were still filled with anger and something else she didn't quite understand. It looked strangely like fear.