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Before we begin! This story will be interactive. You, the reader, get to decide how this whole thing unfolds. These first two parts are the set up, but after that I'll let the chips fall where they may. Who lives, or dies, depends on what you want. Go over to Twitter and vote in the poles! @Maash2288 The first one's already up!
“Dana never speaks.”
My "best friend" seemed to be talking about me again.
“I can’t tell you if she’s weird, or mean, but she definitely isn’t friendly. I mean, she’s my friend, but don’t you expect anything from her. She doesn’t like new people.”
I hadn't entered the school room yet, but I knew what I would see when I did: a group of kids surrounding Sera, gaping at her story. They would all stare at me, but look away when I met their gaze. This happened every school year since Sera’s father first bought me. There was nothing I could do about it. She was speaking the truth after all. I never spoke and I wasn’t looking to make friends. I just wish she wouldn’t draw attention to me.
“If you want, I could introduce you to her, but I wouldn’t recommend it.” Sera’s high voice continued to ring clearly through the open door.
“Is this girl even real?” A girl's voice I didn’t recognize sounded incredulous. “What does she look like? How old is she?”
“Of course she’s real.” You could practically hear Sera roll her eyes. “She’s 16, like the rest of us, and you can see her when she comes in. Move off that desk! I’m saving it for Dana.”
For someone who was closer to 20 than 10, she sure sounded like a child. I sighed and prepared myself to enter the room.
“Dana! That took you way too long, get over here.” The scene in front of me was much like I thought it would be. A small group of new kids listening to Sera’s story. The rest of kids were the same we had grown up with and had better things to do than deal with Sera’s ego. One of those ignoring Sera was a boy named Nathan. He called to me as I walked in.
I waved in his direction before obediently going to sit by Sera. I could spend time with Nathan later, when Sera wasn’t looking.
“See, I told you she was real.” Sera grinned as if she had won something. “Say ‘hi’, Dana.” I waved apathetically at those around me. The freak show attraction at a circus. Luckily for me the teacher showed up before Sera could command me to do any more tricks. I let out a sigh of relief.
“Please take your seats. Class will begin shortly.” The severe looking woman with her hair wound into a tight bun pursed her lips into an even thinner line. One look from her caused all talking to cease and kids scrambling into the nearest desks.
“I see there are some new students here. In that case, I shall introduce myself. I am Mrs. Zenteir. I teach Biology, English, and French at this fine school. I am the longest employed faculty member, and as such know more about this school than even the principle. If you have any questions, at any time, feel free to ask.” Questions were the only waste of time Mrs. Zenteir would permit. “This class is Bio 20-1, if you find it beyond your capabilities you may drop down to 20-2. In this Bio class, we will start with natural systems and cycles that happen in the wild, starting with the water cycle.” Mrs. Zenteir continued straight into the first lesson. Groans could be heard from around the classroom, but she continued on.
I always liked Mrs. Zenteir. She appeared harsh to some, but she was actually very kind, always willing to help students in her class or otherwise. Her main philosophy was start early, finish early, and this first class was the perfect example.
“That is all for class today. We are 10 minutes early so use this spare time wisely.” She started packing up, officially dismissing the class.
“Dana, this is the only class I have with you this semester.” Sera looked at me out of the corner of her eye as I wordlessly packed up my supplies. “I’ll meet you in front of the school, don’t dottle. Daddy is bringing his limo to pick us up, and you wouldn’t want to make him mad.” She pushed out of her chair without looking at me again.
“Alyssa!” she called, chasing after her friend. I took a deep breath as soon as she left the room, hesitating in my seat to make sure she was really gone. I packed my backpack slowly, unwilling to leave the safety of the classroom.
“I don’t know why you hang out with her. She’s so rude to you.” I looked up to see Nathan waiting for me. I smiled when I saw him, my only real friend.
“Ready for..” He pulled out his class schedule. “... English?” He turned his nose up. English was by far his least favorite class, but I loved it. The only place my words were allowed to be expressed. I nodded energetically at him and jumped up. Mrs. Zenteir was in charge of our next class too which added to my excitement.
“Let’s go sit outside the classroom.”
I followed behind mutely, not that I would be able to follow in any other way. Nathan didn’t look behind to see if I was following. He knew the drill by now. If there was any chance that Sera could see me, I wouldn’t be friendly. I stuck close to his back though, and we arrived outside the classroom quickly. The English room was Mrs. Zenteir’s homeroom, and the best classrooms in the whole building. It was in a small alcove away from most of the foot traffic.
We sat behind the wall that hid the door, and as was customary for us, Nathan pulled out our Notebook. He had already written his first question.
How was your summer?
I rolled my eyes and wrote underneath:
Hell. What about you?
Mine was alright. I missed you though. Summer Vacation isn’t as fun without your best friend. What did that twisted family make you do?
I shrugged before writing my response.
Mostly cleaning. Occasionally I cooked. And generally anything else Sera wanted.
Can’t you just say no?
I might die if I tried.
No. I can’t explain it. Honestly, I’m just not meant for this world.
Don’t say that. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?
I honestly can’t.
Nathan wasn’t the first one to ask me either. Mrs. Zenteir had nearly begged me on multiple occasions to explain what was going on, and if I could tell them I would have. But even if I could tell them, would they believe me?
Fine, be all mysterious. Just tell me what I can do to help.
Unless you have a ouija board and a human sacrifice, I’d say not much.
Nathan laughed as he read what I wrote.
Should I ask Seraphina if I can borrow you for a scary party?
Naw, just invite her to one and I’ll be dragged along behind her.
Easiest human sacrifice ever.
I would have laughed if I could make a sound. Good thing Nathan knew my shaking shoulders meant the same thing.
Maybe don’t tell her that bit.
Yeah, she doesn't need to know the details... Seriously, though, is that a party you would like to go to?
I wouldn’t mind if it was your party, although if Sera’s there it won’t be as fun. Still better than staying at home though.
Done. I’ll start planning tonight and let you know tomorrow.
Don’t plan it for this weekend. Sera’s busy, and if she can’t go, I can’t go.
Nathan shook his head before writing.
Okay. I’ll plan it for tomorrow night. Would that be good for you?
Yes! You could label it a back-to-school party so nobody asks why you're planning an event on a Thursday.
Best part is there’s no school on Friday so we can keep the party going as long as we need.
Good for you. No school Friday means I’m going to have to be around Sera that much longer.
Not if we keep the party rolling all weekend.
I rolled my eyes.
Yeah, right. Her dad would bust in here and blame me for keeping his daughter out.
I wish! I can hear Mrs. Zenteir coming down the hall.
Nathan paused to listen for her stiletto tapping towards us. He hurriedly put our notebook away, not that she would care if she saw it. She would probably be happy that I finally made a friend. We were both just so used to keeping it a secret that hiding seemed natural. He helped me up, then took a step back from me as Mrs. Zenteir rounded the corner.
“Nathan, Dana, nice to see you both again. If you’ll just give me a moment to unlock the door I’ll let you in.”
We took a step back from the door, making sure to stay away from each other as we did so. Mrs. Zenteir opened the door with one swift motion. I followed behind her, keeping my eyes down.
“Hey, Mrs Zenteir?” Nathan asked, making me jump. She turned to face him. “If I wanted to have a back to school party at the school, who would I need to talk to?”
“Well usually you would have to go to student council, but as they have not been elected yet, either me or the principle.” She smiled at him. “When would you like to host this party?”
“As soon as possible, tomorrow maybe?” He sounded so innocent, like he hadn't already been planning it.
“And what would you like to do at this party?”
Nathan thought for a moment before answering.
“Well, I don’t mean to be offensive, but I was thinking of making it horror themed. Like a halloween party. Because, you know. Back to school.” Mrs. Zenteir didn’t look offended, she actually looked amused. “I’ll bring it up at our meeting tonight. If nobody else is available to chaperone, I will do so myself. You may have your party.”
Nathan's whole face lit up. “Thank you so much!” I pretend to ignore them and slipped into my usual chair. Nathan noticed, and slipped into the one beside me. I gave him a look, but he just smiled at me.
“Would you like to come to the party?” He said in his nicest voice. I opened my mouth, then closed it again. Trying to show him that I couldn’t respond if I wanted to. “You can shake your head you know.” I quirked my head to the side. I had forgotten about it. My expression must have been funny because Nathan started laughing at me. Mrs. Zenteir watched us for a moment before setting up for class.
Students began streaming in. Most said "hi" to Nathan, but I was ignored. I was used to it, though, and had come prepared. I pulled a novel out of my bag and read until class was ready. The immersing universe inside distracted me from my loneliness. I was surprised when Nathan pulled out our notebook again. He scribbled in it before quickly passing it to me. I was curious. Nathan wasn’t usually so bold when others were around. It made me nervous. I glanced over my book to read what he said.
If we get out early, would you help me plan the party?
I was afraid to write a note back, so I simply nodded and hoped that he saw. Luckily Mrs. Zenteir called the class to order. If anyone had been watching us, they wouldn’t be anymore. I relaxed into my chair and put my book off to the side. Now that my friend wasn’t putting my life in danger, I began to feel the ease his presence gave me. It was... nice to sit by a friend. I knew the other kids did it, but up until today I’d never gotten the chance.
When Nathan asked for my schedule yesterday, I never imagined that he had anything planned. This morning he proudly showed me his schedule too. He had changed his to match mine. Every. Single. Class. I was so happy I almost cried. I’ve never cried. Not even close. One stupidly nice person had gotten me the closest I had ever been.
I looked over at my stupidly nice person and smiled. My first friend was the best person possible. He was scrambling to keep up with the notes Mrs. Zentier was putting on the board. I decided I better pay attention so I could help him if he needed it. We were starting with poetry, so that we could get it over with. Start early, end early.
Unsurprisingly, we got out early. The other students filed out, and once they were gone Nathan turned to Mrs. Zentier. “Do you mind if we stay here and start planning the party?”
“Of course not. Oh, and so you know. I don’t mind if you two pass notes in class. I saw that you were trying to. I won’t make you read it out loud if I catch you.” She flashed a smile at me. She must have noticed how timed I was. “If you’d like to use the whiteboard to help you plan please feel free. I’ll be in another class next period, so don’t feel like you need to rush.” She smiled again before gathering her things. As she left, she closed the door softly behind her. This made me feel completely safe, as the door automatically locked when closed.
“Okay, I see why you like her now. Mrs. Zentier is surprisingly cool.” Nathan said as he walked towards the whiteboard. He grabbed a green marker, and I grabbed a black one. “So what do you think we should have at the party? Other than a ouija board, that is.”
And the human sacrifice.
“Well yeah, but we already have that. What’s a good Halloween food?”
“Oh! That’s kinda obvious isn’t it?” he asked, carefully writing some of his favorites on the board. He also added pizza and chips.
Should we plan some scary games or something? Like, werewolf or scary stories?
“Those both sound good. Then the ouija board too. Should we tell people to bring the scariest thing they could think of? I think that would be the best way to get enough stuff.”
I agree. How are we going to send out the invites?
“Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe just an announcement? I could talk to Mrs, Barker to see if we can.” Nathan put a hand on his chin, thinking. An announcement was better than what I had thought of, printing out a hundred invites and handing them out.
Sounds good to me.
I wrote, and Nathan smiled at me.
“Great! I’ll go talk to her. See you next class?” he asked. What he really wanted to know was if I would be okay without him. I nodded to let him know that it would be okay. He walked away, and shut the door quietly behind him. It locked automatically, helping me to feel secure while alone.
I carefully copied down the whiteboard notes before cleaning up our planning session. I flopped into the nearest chair and rubbed my temple. My head was starting to hurt. After being so close to Sera all summer, my body wasn’t accustomed to being away anymore. I knew from experience that all my joints would ache by the time school was out, but it was worth it to be relatively free. For now, there was nothing to do but endure.