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I am afraid of the truth.
I decide this only now, while I stand alone on the bloodied battlefield of life. In my hand, I hold a sword. The blood of many is encrusted onto it's gleaming blade. The lives I have ended with this sword is countless, if I have even been keeping count. I killed without reason, and without mercy.
All because I had to. Because of what the truth of my nature was, and what I was destined to do. As unfair as it seems, it was the only way I could keep myself alive.
But this makes no sense. My life, my purpose, is unclear, even to me. I have so many questions unanswered, but only so because I am afraid of the truth, and what the answers to my questions might be. I live in a world of ever-lasting questions: my birth, my purpose, even what I am.
What am I?
Am I evil? Do I even exist?
All that was told to me is that I exist though the power of human imagination. Fantasy is created through reality, and nightmares exist only through dreams. That, I know.
I suppose that even now, after my bloody battle against myself, I still have no answers, and am no closer to the truth.
But is that a bad thing?
If I am really afraid of the truth, then why do I seek it? Why not run?
But the answer is there.
What is the purpose of life if all you do is run from reason?
The answer to that is, there is none. There is no reason for life, no reason to waste the Earth on you if your only wish is to run from the world.
Even I, the unknown Demon, feel no point to run from reason.
I believe in facing you fears, even if it is the truth.
Because without reason to live, you cannot.
And if you cannot live, you simply do not exist.
Moving house has never been something different for me.
I know a lot of people experience things differently, and I guess that's to be expected. People get scared, excited, annoyed, worried, angry or sad or a whole range of other stuff when they move.
Honestly, moving has become a pattern in my life. It's like geese flying south for the Winter: a set thing that always happens. It's natural to me.
My new house almost the same thing as my old house: big, luxurious, and expensive. My four-storey mansion sits on a two-acre block of land, consisting mostly of garden. It's current value is over two million dollars. And I'm listed as the sole owner.
The bottom level is creamy-white sandstone, stretching all the way around the perimeter, where it moulds into sandalwood at the double-garage doors. The top three levels are just white stucco framed with more sandalwood. The top three floors have a pattern of huge glass windows in them, framed with ashen slate tiles. The house is ultra-modern, with the top storey being an observatory-type building, complete with a glass roof that can open from the top, multiple telescopes, and an array of star charts and constellation maps.
The front door is a piece of art in itself. Completely made of glass, the doorway is shaped like leafy vines, painted gold, arching over the beautiful glass. The handle is solid gold, to my knowledge. The roof is ashen slate tile again, and where the wall meets to the roof, there is a red and gold stain-glass window. I don't know what the picture is of, but it looks very exotic and of course, expensive.
My new home is the target of burglaries.
The entire house is protected by a thick, concrete wall. Electrocuted wire runs in two lines long the top of the wall, and at night I can hear the wire humming. At the front of the house, the driveway stretches from the balcony to the front gate. At the front of the gate is the security box, although it is electronic, so I don't have guards standing inside it.
The security system is entirely voice-operated. It is programmed to respond to my voice, and my voice only. The gate is six metres long, and made entirely of black cast-iron. The top of the gate is spiked, and so any attempt at a climb-over entrance are deadly.
I suppose there is no point in stating that I am very rich?
Well I will.
I am filthy rich.
The inheritance of my wealth is not known to the public, nor anyone else for that matter, and I prefer to keep it that way.
I am probably the richest person in the world. By a long shot.
But the difference is: nobody knows about me.
I live in secret. My existence is unknown to the world.
Again, I prefer to keep it that way.
I'm a very secretive person.
My limousine pulls up at the front entrance. My driver, specially elected by me, is dressed from head to foot in black, formal wear. His tuxedo is the only thing that is visible of him, apart from his balding head.
Mr Dean Escador has been my employee for as long as I can remember. He raised me, and so was only too happy to become my personal driver, butler and just about everything else a rich person has. He is the father I never had, my brother, my best friend and confidant.
But even my darkest secrets are unknown to him.
If that doesn't prove my level of distrust to everyone, then I don't know what does.
I was adopted by Escador when I was seven. Before then was my creation, and Escador has no knowledge of that, except for the lies that I have spun around my existence.
I was a smart child, very smart, in fact. I was named a prodigy. At the age of seven I was fluent in English, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin, plus I could speak basic German, French, Russian and Portuguese.
I was rather talented as well. I could play most of Mozart's pieces on piano. I also played the flute, trumpet, violin, and a bit of guitar. So really, rather talented is an understatement.
But I have an unfair advantage. My skills, knowledge and talents are only so because I am not like everyone else.
But I will not speak of that. Who I am - what I am - is too strange for humans to understand.
The world around me is dark.
I was created when light and darkness collided. I say created, not born, although I suppose it means the same thing. I shouldn't be here; my creation was a mistake.
Have you ever wondered why there are shadows? Well, the reason is because it is the unfilled area of blankness where light touches darkness. Everything has a shadow, even me. I found this odd, seeings that I shared absolutely nothing with anything else except my human appearance.
Yes, I appear human. I look as if I am about sixteen years old, but it is not really possible to pin-point my age. In actual fact, I am thousands of years old. Even I do not know how old I specifically am.
But really, I am young. I have existed since the dawn of humans themselves, alive in only their fantasies and nightmares.
It was only recently that I myself evolved into a solid figure, and that was because I made a mistake. My birth was a mistake, but my solid creation was an even bigger mistake.
For you see, I was created by one girl's imagination.
Alice Redwood was a smart girl who lived in Quebec, Canada. It was through her that I was created. On a night where shadows were invisible, lost in the space of the dark night itself.
Alice has a dream. I was in that dream. But it wasn't a normal dream, per say. It was a dream that was unusual even to me. I, who have invaded the minds of millions in my existence, had never experienced a dream such as this.
The dream was so vivid. I knew that Alice could sense everything in the dream to an amazing level. And I could too.
I could sense everything, including the girl. I believe that is what triggered the Split, as I call it.
Something happened in the dream. Alice seemed aware of my presence, and was speaking to me. She spoke French, a common language that the Canadians speak. I couldn't understand her at the time; my mind was immature, even though I must have been a couple of thousand years old.
Alice touched me, and I felt it. I felt the warmth of her hand against my shadowy figure, for back then I was not physical, but a mere Shadow. Well, that was I called myself anyway.
But when Alice touched me, something happened to her, and she couldn't let go of me. In her own dream, I watched the light of life drain from her pale eyes, felt her hand grow cold against me, and I was the one to catch her as she fell.
She was dead when I caught her in my arms. She had died in her own dream, because she had touched me. She touched something that could not exist, and so her life left her.
But what happened next was even stranger.
Her life drained into me.
With her touch, I felt the light fade, the warmth leave, and the aura of life diminish. I was now Alice Redwood.
However, I did not wish this upon myself. It was not in my power to take the life from a human, and become that human myself. It was not something I could control, and guilt consumed me. I tried to push the life back into Alice's now crumpled body.
At first, I though it was working. Her skin was faintly warm for a moment, but then the icy-cold returned. Her face, her skin, her body, turned blue with cold. She died. For real.
So I left her there. I had no feeling even as I was propelled out of her mind and into the physical world around me.
Sweet Alice Redwood was dead, but through her death, she had borne me. I left her in her own dream, because I felt like it was what she wanted.
In other dreams, I was the figure that controlled the dream of a person, if they allowed it. Some people possess the ability to control their own dreams, and so I am stripped of the control if it does not suit them. Alice had taken control, and actually touched me.
I felt as if she meant to do it, an I suppose I should thank her for giving me the life that she did. She created me. The Shadow became a real person.
Or so I thought.
What I really happened, was that I was still the Shadow, but I was physical. Instead of being only a figure of human imagination, I was real. But I was not Alice like I thought I was. I was my own person, my own soul. I was the Shadow in human form, and I still resembled the darkness in which I was created by.
As a human, I appear dark. My hair, long and silky, reaches almost to my hips, and is as dark as the night on which I was firstly created.
My eyes are also dark, but are not black or a dark shade of blue, but purple. An impossibly dark, exotic shade of indigo.
The only part of me that is light is my skin, which is so pale that it is almost transparent. I believe that this is because I was created through when light and darkness collided, so I am not completely dark. I find this comforting, somehow.
With my human body, I blend in, but with my Shadow, with my impossible mind, I am different. My mind is the only thing that separates me from being a true human. My mind is so intense and powerful, it is impossible for a mere human to possess what I have inside my head.
But with all of this, everything I am and once was, I still do not know what I am.
That night, I can't sleep.
The clock ticks over to 2:56am, and I am still lying awake, trying to concentrate on my breathing. My new bed is unfamiliar against my back, and no amount of tossing and turning can make me more comfortable.
I don't know what it is that is keeping me from sleep, but I have a feeling it doesn't have anything to do with moving house. The clock ticks over to 2:57am, and now I'm just watching the minutes tick over.
My mind is a mess of thoughts. I can't even catch myself in the middle of what I'm thinking about before my mind strays to something else.
Even in the darkness from I can see everything in my room in perfect crystal-clear quality. Although I may look human, I possess qualities and abilities that are completely supernatural. I guess that comes with my life purpose being situated around human fantasy.
My eyesight is incredible; I can see the the different textures of leaves on trees over a mile away, and hear the stalks of the leaves snap from the same distance away when the leaves fall off the trees in Autumn. Even with the distance between my house and the perimeter fence I can hear the humming of the electricity running through the electric wire.
My speed, agility and stamina is unmatchable. I could lap Usain Bolt ten times on a four-hundred metre track whilst holding my breath. I can leap onto the second floor balcony of my home in a single bound - without a run-up. I mastered martial arts when I was thirteen, and could take out five black-belts in a matter of seconds.
I am not match for a human. So it is for this reason that I never use my skills.
I don't need them in a world where I have yet to find a being that can match my skills.
So really, it is sort of a shame that I have all these incredible abilities, because where can I use them? If I revealed anything to anyone I would surely be locked away in a high-security NASA facility to be tested. And even though I would probably be able to break out, it would just be a waste of my time.
I eventually give up on sleep.
Although I am not human, I still need basic human things to survive: water, food, sleep, the whole deal, really. I can just go for longer without these things.
Sometimes I wander what it's like to be human. I want to know how they see the world. I want to know how their minds think.
In a way I do, because I have spent my fair share of time inside the minds of other people. But that was different; I only existed in dreams, and it was rare to find a dream that was totally and utterly basic on reality.
I don't have dreams, as a Shadow. My mind is blank from the moment I reach unconsciousness to the point where my mind resumes activity.
It's like going under anesthetic for me; I don't realise I was asleep until I wake up, because I don't feel anything, and it feels as if no time has passed.
I usually only need two to three hours of sleep per night, but I have gone for a week or so without sleep, and it didn't affected my performance too much.
My room is large. There is a large window on the eastern wall, and in the morning light steams into it through the red, silk curtains. Beneath the window, the wall juts out so that it creates a sort of seat beneath the wall. Cushions cover the wood of the seat, and I think I will spend a lot of timing gazing out the window in the direction over the ocean during my time in this house.
The bed is against the wall opposite the door, in the middle of the wall. The bed is Roman-style, with columns reaching from the floor to the ceiling against each bedpost, draped again in red silk. The bed is made of dark wood, and combined with the redness of this silk gives the bed a modern, elegant look.
A large, dark-wood dresser sits opposite the bed on the wall closest to the door. There is nothing inside it, and I doubt it will come into use. It looks expensive. The dresser contains to sets of small drawers on both sides, and is in the shape of a blunt horseshoe, with the middle space taken up by a small stool. The mirror is framed with the same leafy vines as the archway over the front door.
My bedroom door is made of the same dark-wood as the dresser and the bed. Next to it sits a large painting of the ocean, which, now that I look at it, seems to be a view of the ocean from the window-seat. Small, white house line the dunes as the grass changes to sand, and then gives way to frothy waves that roll peacefully along the shoreline.
I pull myself from my white, silken sheets. I feel lazy if I just sit aimlessly for a period of time, and I feel no urge to sleep, even at this hour.
The clock now reads 3:03am, and in a few hours I will dressed in my sleek school uniform, in a limousine, on my way to my new high school.
Although I move houses, I do not often change schools. This is only my second school of the year, and with the way things are headed it will be my school for perhaps two years or so.
I dread what school has to offer. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy school. I just find that my education is a bore, and a waste of my time. I must have done the whole schooling process a thousand times over, and as I barely age, I can only stay in school long enough so that my age does not arouse suspicion.
I curl myself up on the window seat and let the hours tick by. I am in no rush. I never am. My time is endless and forever, as far as I know.
Slowly dawn approaches, and the sun glimmers over the water, shimmering, awakening.
Embracing the new day.
When the limousine pulls up, everyone stares.
I guess they aren't used to seeing someone like me. I don't blame them. Escador slides out from his seat and holds the door open for me, putting on a show.
Escador must be in his sixties. He was once a very attractive man, with a thin face, high cheekbones and an arching forehead. His head is near-bald, and his face is clean-shave. He stands a head taller than myself, and when he wraps me in his famous hug my head just misses his chin. I suppose Escador still is attractive, like an elderly Tom Cruise attractive.
His papery lips touch my cheek, and he whispers a prayer of luck into my ear, although knows I will not need it. I watch the limousine pull away from the curb, but even then the glances from my fellow students do not shift from me.
I ignore their stares. I just head towards the direction that I assume is the office. My skirt sways just above mid-thigh, showing off my long, pale legs. I have nice legs, and don't mind showing them off. No teachers dare to ask me to hitch my skirt down.
I wear my school uniform differently than my peers. My skirt is above regulation height, and my socks sit just below my knee. My shirt is tucked into the waist of my skirt, showing of my flat mid-drift. My school shoes are cut low, showing the tops of my feet. My shoe laces are almost plastered to the top of my shoes because I haven't undone them once, just slipped them on.
My hair is worn out, but braided at the front, creating a sort of headband. I don't often put my hair up, because I feel slightly unsecured about my neck, the most sensitive part of my immortal body, being exposed to the world.
The school is large - a lot bigger than some of the ones I've been to. It has two main buildings, and four smaller ones. The office is located at the front of the school, and so I walk along the immediate path in the direction of the front of the school.
Students and teachers swarm in and out of buildings. School is like the human version of a hive, in my opinion. Constantly moving, constantly humming.
I get a few glances as I head towards the front office, and some people actually do a double-take as I pass them. As I turn the corner, I am confronted by a boy who can't be much older (physically, of course) than myself.
His hair is an ashen shade of blonde, cut short at the back, with a long fringe. Half of his face is hidden behind his hair. He looks like a porcelain emo - the blonde version.
He walks headlong into me, scattering the contents of the folder he was holding.
"Oh s***! I'm sorry!"
The building is empty. I didn't even realise I was alone until now. Nobody witnessed out run-in. Porcelain Boy glances up, facing me. His eyes widen as recognition spills over his features.
Strange. He does seem familiar...
Papers float around us, and Porcelain Boy snaps out of his trances, and snatches them from the air.
"I'm really sorry. I was in a hurry," he says, and he sounds genuinely apologetic. His eyes widen at the sound of my own, hypnotic voice.
"It's okay. I would've been looking where I was going." I bend down to retrieve the papers from the ground. I amazed at what I see.
Artworks. Drawings, sketches of demons. Porcelain Boy must have a deranged mind; some of these are so realistic.
I scan the papers with my eyes, taking in the detail of the drawings. Porcelain Boy gathers the sketches into a pile and slides them back into his battered folder.
"Yeah, that's one of mine." I hand the drawing up to him. His cheeks colour slightly, then fade away. I push myself to my feet. I like this kid; he has skill with a pencil.
"I'm Ebony Escador," I declare, offering my hand. Porcelain Boy seems hesitant to touch it at first, as if I have some sort of disease.
Disease? Just imagine...
He then grasps it firmly, returning my smile with enthusiasm. "I'm Cole. Cole Hunter. You're new, right?"
I nod. "Yeah, just arrived."
He scans me, taking in my hair, my eyes, my uniform. Recognition floods back onto his face.
"Have I run into you before?"
I try to pick it, but I just can't. I feel as if I know him, as if...
"No, I don't think so. It isn't really possible; I moved here from Malibu."
Lying is as natural as breathing to me.
Cole. That's an interesting name, but it doesn't sound familiar. I scan his face, his eyes, which I now see are a stunning shade of electric blue. Well, the one eye that isn't hidden behind his incredibly long fringe.
There is a pause as we both study each other briefly. I am the one to break the silence.
"You're a pretty talented artist. What were those drawings of?" Cole's cheeks colour, and he slips a piece of paper out of his folder.
"They're demons. Shadow Demons. I had a dream about them once."
My heartbeat shudders as I skip a beat. Shadow Demons? What, like me? Is that what I am?
"Interesting. You had a dream about them? When?" My voice remains cool, and I twirl a strand of hair around my finger. Cole frowns.
"Last night, and the night before." Pause. "It's sort of a repetitive dream..."
"Which is why you can draw them so realistically," I finish. Cole frowns.
"Yeah. I guess so."
I study the image he pulled from his folder. It is shaped like a human, but some of it's features are blurry, and savage-looking. It is shaded in pencil, but I guess the dark, metallic-grey is what the demon would actually look like.
But this demon can't be me. This one has wings. Long, black, angelic wings, sprouting from it's back.
There are different angles at which the demon is drawn. Some have it's back to me, and others are seen from the front or the side. But the thing that puts me off the most is the fact that there is not just one Shadow Demon in the picture, but two. A male, and a female.
What does this mean?
I look up at Cole. His eyes gaze into mine. He shocks me when he speaks.
"You're eyes are a very interesting colour, Ebony."
I laugh as my heartbeat escalates. There's something about Cole that I'm missing.
"Yeah, they are pretty weird, huh?"
Cole frowns. I look towards the floor, developing an interest in my shoe laces.
Never in my entire life have I felt this way about a human. He knows me. I'm sure of it. The pictures, my eyes.
If you're wondering what is so shocking about him seeing the colour of my eyes, it is because I can see in ultraviolet, and my eyes are laced with ultraviolet. That's what makes them indigo.
Humans see my eyes as blue. Dark blue. I even asked Escador, and he said he sees them as blue.
Cole sees my eyes as indigo.
"I have to go and sign in now. Bye, Cole." The name feels strange on my tongue.
"Yeah, sure." Pause as he glances at me one more time. "I guess I'll see you around, Ebony."
He walks away. I don't turn around to watch him go. I just stand there, still shocked by what just happened. The pictures, my eyes. He registered all of this.
He knows. I know he does.
When all of this is over, I think I'm going to have to kill Cole Hunter.
Language is my first class of the day.
After receiving my timetable after sign-in, I head towards on of the smaller blocks. I scan the doors for room number C6.
The school system is unfamiliar. Even with my brainpower off the scales this is going to take some getting used to.
I still can't shift Cole from my mind.
There was something about the way he looked at me. He just knew that I was different.
The fact that he saw the indigo in my eyes was enough to creep me out. He won't be 'seeing me around'. Not if I can help it.
The pictures. The way he drew everything. The features, the colour. I suppose it would have looked like me.
The wings? The male in the picture?
Now that part didn't make sense.
Trying to escape these sort of thoughts is not a task I go through everyday. Never in my two thousand years as a human have I ever met someone like Cole.
Then, something crosses my mind that scares me s*** less.
What if he's like me?
Is it possible?
No. I couldn't be. I was created when light and dark collided. Born into the world as what we call a 'shadow'. I was a figment of the human imagination, invading dreams. Living off fantasy.
Then, another thought crosses my mind.
Fantasy is real. You're the living proof. Why couldn't he be something like you?
Something like me? That makes sense.
"Ebony Escador. Se puede hablar español?"
Can you speak Spanish?
That teacher thinks she's smart. Pfft. She doesn't know what smart is.
"Sí. Hablo con fluidez española."
Yes, I speak Spanish fluently.
Some people laugh at the teacher's shocked expression. I smile to myself. A quiet victory. The teacher quickly switches back to English, continuing on with the lesson.
I don't bother listening. I've been through this a hundred times over, and you can see why it bores me.
Instead, I change thoughts to my creation. But it is a lost cause. There is nothing there that will bring me any closer to finding out the reason behind my creation.
"Miss Escador. Please state the following in Spanish: 'The key to a Spanish accent is to curl the tongue.'" The teacher gloats.
What a b****...
"Yo no soy el maestro en el aula y por lo tanto no es mi trabajo de enseñar." I set my hands down on the table, a discreet smile curling over my lips. The few people that understand what I just said snigger.
"Ma'am," I add. The teacher glares at me, deadpan. She diverts her attention to the chalkboard, and I divert my attention to the window.
A lone crow pecks at scraps of food that lay abandoned on the concrete wasteland. It is the only sign of life out there, and the thought of it makes me sign.
I was that crow, once. Black and alone, in my own wasteland. I wonder if now, everything will be different.
Involuntary, my thoughts turn back to Cole.
What does he want from me?
The end of the school day draws to a close, and I sit on the concrete wall out the front of the school, waiting for Escador. My hair is tossed by the light breeze, and a shiver runs through my spine.
A figure walks towards me, and at first I think it is Cole. But it is not. A boy I have never seen before approaches me, a friendly smile on his face.
I smile, slightly confused. "Hi."
The boy doesn't even offer a hand as he slides down next to me, and his boldness is surprising.
"You're in my language class. Ebony, right?" This boy is strange, but his presence is cetainly not unwelcome to me. His eyes are a dark shade of hazel. The green and brown swirl together, like different coloured ink.
"Yeah, that's me. And you are?"
His eyes are haunting. This boy is devilishly handsome, with medium-length chocolate hair that curls slightly at the ends. Built like a racehorse, I have no doubt that this guy must be the fantasy of every girl here.
"I'm Lance," he says, tossing his hair out of his gorgeous eyes. I am not one to fall in love, especially with humans, but at the moment, I wish I was human.
"Lance? Is that short for anything?" I begin unbraiding my hair at the front, and it falls in front of my face, hiding my smile. He laughs.
"It's not short for Lancelot, if that's what you mean," he says. His skin touches mine, and I am shocked by the heat of it. He must feel it too, because he gazes down at where our arms touched.
"You're skin is really cold," he mutters. I laugh.
Who knows? You actually could be.
Lance laughs. "Need a lift? I have a ride around the back."
I stop laughing. His boldness astounds me. I don't even know this guy.
"Nah, it's alright. My dad will be here soon."
Lance seems disappointed, but doesn't argue. He grins at me.
"Want some company?" Devilish grin.
"What's your interest in a person like me?"
I know the answer. With what I have on offer, you'd be crazy to refuse.
"You just seem like you need a friend," Lance shrugs. Friend? That's a new one.
"Oh? Alright then, please yourself," I laugh. My mind is working feverishly to piece this all together:
In one day, I have met two guys. Both are gorgeous, and both seem like they want something from me. Cole seems distant, and I feel like I know him. Lance seems like a flirt, and it seems like he wants something from me other than friendship.
I don't know why, but suddenly I feel like I am in déjà vu. This has happened before, or I have been in this situation. But again, I can't pinpoint when or where, and it frustrates me.
Lance shifts closer towards me, and the warmth of his skin against mine makes my skin prickle. This is weird.
"So, how are you liking school? You seem pretty good at language." What a cliche conversation...
"It's alright. It'll take some getting used to."
"Know anyone yet?"
His qustion surprises me. What does he want from me?
"Well, I ran into someone this morning," I say. His eyes study my face, and I can hear his heartbeat thumbing as if he was playing an electric bongo drum. "Some guy name Cole."
Sharp intake of breath. Secretively glare.
What the hell?
"Anything wrong?" I say, trailing my hand over his shoulder. Urg. Nice one, Ebony. Play the concerned girlfriend. Pathetic.
But it works. Lance takes my hand and holds it in his own. His hand is large and warm, and cups mine perfectly.
"That guy is seriously weird." I hear him snarl at the back of his throat, something a human couldn't hear.
"You don't like him." It's a statement, not a question. "Why is that?"
Lance looks at me. His hair looks soft and feathery, and his hazel eyes look so warm. But I can sense something behind that. Something cold.
"It's nothing. We just don't get along."
I can only imagine...
A horn honking interrupts the little bonding session. Escador waves from inside the car, then points to his watch.
"Thats my dad. Sorry Lancelot, I have to go," I say, tugging his hair. He helps me to my feet. Then, out of nowhere, wraps me in a bear-hug.
What the hell...
"Bye, Ebony." He says my name like it's the most beautiful thing ever. This is seriously mushy...
He releases me, then waves in the direction of Escador. From here, I see confusion lines crease in his brow, and his breathing stiffens slightly. I smile. Lance is really...friendly?
"Sweet ride, Ebony," he says with a whistle. He turns to me, touches my arm. "It was nice meeting you."
"You too, Lance. Drive safely." I could gag on my words.
"And, um. I'd avoid Cole, if you know what's good for you. That kid...he's just different."
I c*** an eyebrow slightly. "No need to worry about me, Lance. I can take care of myself."
He laughs. "Oh don't worry, I trust you on that."
After one last wistful glance at me, he turns and heads off in the direction he came. I'm left standing alone on the grass, watching him go. Escador honks again.
This is going to be an interesting year...