Yeah, I wrote a lot today. I was determined to finish chapter three.
Look, here comes one of them now.
Chapter Three - First Kiss
The rest of the day was uneventful for both of the Monstrose twins and everyone else at Kraftsbury High. It was not unlike any other day at any other small town high school. Kids went to class, teachers imparted wisdom or played at being glorified babysitters. Some students were expelled, some were just given detention. If not for the arrival of the Montroses, there would have been nothing to mark out September 8th, 2009 unless your name was Marcus Boyd.
That day was the best day of his life up to that point. It had started uneventful enough, but then he saw the redhead. She was new. The school was small enough that everyone knew almost every student, except for the new arrivals in the junior high.
Everyone else was focused on the taller, raven-cloaked, maler one of the pair. Marcus, however was the only one to notice the smaller redhead hidden by the other.
Love at first sight is a phrase that is often thrown around by young people, and it floated through Marcus's mind while he stood in a corner of the hall sorting through his books for the day. He would admit to being smitten if someone asked in a private place and under absolute secrecy, and knew that love was maybe a bit far from what he felt. Though it was the best way to describe his mindset in those first moments of instant attraction.
He watched, unnoticed. This was not unusual for him, as the days sped by with him thinking no one ever saw him. He was wrong, and more people than he thought saw him, they just never said anything.
When Ms. Ferris led them away, he followed, staying back. He saw Rachel Matthews watching them as well. Marcus had seen that look in her eyes plenty of times, although never directed at him. He didn't understand why her boyfriend Brendan put up with her. Well, he did, Brendan was a guy. A guy dating a cheerleader. A hot cheerleader. But still.
In the back of Marcus's mind, he could hear that little voice that must be his conscience telling him he shouldn't be there, and what he was doing could be construed as stalking. Marcus pushed the voice away, but there was still that nagging feeling. At least he acknowledged it, he thought, and could stay on the sane side of things. All he wanted to do was say hello, and see where things went from there.
Marcus made like he was going through his homework, blending in with the rest of the students around him that had not made their reluctant way to their classes. As usual, no one paid him any mind, too wrapped up in their own issues.
He didn't have to wait long before they came back out, and Rachel absconded with the male of the species. He heard the other say she was going to Chorus, his first class, and he was so shocked by his luck that he froze in place.
After getting himself to move, Marcus gathered up his things as fast as he could, and hurried after the girl. Much to his surprise, they actually connected. He was in such a hurry, and called out to her that when he at last realised what he had done, they were already hip-deep in a conversation before his brain could take the opportunity to screw things up or block his ability to speak.
Marcus lost track of Alyson after the woods, as he rushed off to his own classes for the next few hours. Despite being off at his little spot, and so far away, he managed to actually sneak into his next class just before the second bell rang to signal the start of class. He found it difficult to focus on his teachers, as he could only hope that his path would cross with Alyson's again in some other classes.
Be that as it may, it was not meant to be. Marcus at least had the consolation that he would start every school day this year with Alyson, and things were off to a good start. All he had to do now was not screw it up.
Soon in actuality, but an eternity in the mind of a student, did the lunch bell ring.
A swarm of students piled out of the school as the floodgates opened, all of them flowing across the parking lot to the cafeteria in the opposite building. Many of them ran, but Marcus took his time, just going with the flow.
He grabbed a seat somewhere in the middle of it all, but at the very end of a long table. He settled into the hard seat attached to the table like all the rest. He pulled out his lunch and started chewing on an apple when he heard a familiar voice call out his name.
Turning, he did not expect to see Alyson standing there in reality and calling out to him. Instead Marcus thought he had been having an auditory hallucination acting upon his wishful thinking.
Instead, there she stood, waving to him with one hand, and the other holding onto the strap of her bag slung over her shoulder. Marcus was not quite ready to rule out a complete break from reality causing audio and visual hallucinations.
Without hesitation, she came over to the table, passing by the three or four completely empty tables, and picked the seat right next to Marcus. Even with almost the entire table he was at still empty.
Eventually, the lunchroom would fill up each day, and he'd have some people nearby, even some friends to talk to, but Marcus was ill prepared for a cute girl opting to choose the seat beside him when she had almost the pick of the entire room.
He realised that he had stopped mid-bite into his apple when Alyson called his name, and he still held it in his mouth. Marcus knew he must have looked like the roast pig at a banquet, and finished taking his bite with a loud crunch.
"Um, hi," was all Marcus's brain could manage to string together around a mouthful of apple.
"Hello!" Alyson flashed that bright smile that was so warm, and yet Marcus still thought it seemed out of place. "You don't mind if I sit here, do you?"
Marcus sputtered as he swallowed his apple, coming close to choking on it. He would not have minded going at that moment, since his teenaged mind was unable to conceive of how life could get any better.
He cleared his throat, and wiped away flecks of apple juice from around his mouth. "Of course I don't mind. Not going to sit with all the new friends you made today?"
"That's exactly what I'm doing. Silly boy." She placed the brown paper sack and bottle of fruit punch that almost matched her own hair's shade upon the table.
While she was pulling out an apple of her own, as well as something wrapped in paper that could only be a sandwich, a shadow fell upon the duo.
Marcus flashed back to any number of incidents in this very room where a bully would come along and roll his younger self for lunch money. He had developed the brilliant plan to bring his own lunches since then, but then they'd just steal the food instead of the money. All Marcus had accomplished was cutting out the middle man. He was grateful that such incidents had grown few and far between since some time last year. It looked like his luck was about to run out, however.
Alyson seemed oblivious to whatever force was eclipsing the light pouring through the numerous windows in the wall nearby. To her, it was just someone passing by. For Marcus, it was a recurring nightmare.
The familiar sensation of a thick, meaty paw gripping his shoulder was the first sign that this was more than just another student on his way to get lunch at the front of the room. This person's meal was not going to be found behind the counter and being scooped out by ladles onto pea soup green trays.
"Didja bring anything good for me ta eat, Marky?" Marcus knew the voice, as much by the way he spoke as by the slight mumbling like he was chewing on an oversized piece of gum.
Marcus didn't know why he said what he did next. In the past he had long since begun rolling over and giving the bullies what they asked for. More often than not it at least meant he got away with less bruising, even if he went hungry. Today was different, though. Maybe it was because he had such a good day up to that point, maybe it was because he didn't want Alyson to see how weak he was. Or maybe he had just had enough, and he wasn't going to allow this year to be a repeat of the past.
He didn't know why, and nor did he care as he looked up at the schoolyard thug. A cold resolve had settled into his eyes, something he may have picked up from seeing the same thing in Darien's eyes. The bully actually looked surprised, having grown complacent in the wake of Marcus's past compliance.
The word escaped Marcus's mouth before he could stop it. He stared up at his potential assailant and gave a growled, whispered, "No."
More words were forced out through gritted teeth. "I don't have any food for you, Brian."
Marcus was so wrapped up and in shock from what he was doing that he failed to notice the hush that had fallen upon the room. His mind was too busy screaming in protest at what his mouth was doing. In his head, there was plenty of noise.
Brian "The Lion" Towers was well known around the school for hs bullying. Not many had stood up to him, and when someone did, they didn't usually do so twice. He had been expelled several times since reaching Kraftsbury High. He wasn't the only person who would shake down the nerds at lunch, but he was the most frequent one to hit up Marcus. They were old aquaintances. Everyone knew his routine, and when they saw Marcus wasn't backing down, they were stunned. That was the last person anyone expected to grow a backbone against the Lion.
If it was possible to tap into the collective thoughts of the cafeteria, the most common thought amongst all assembled would have been, "He'll be missed."
"What didja say to me?" Brian couldn't even believe it. He thought he had broken this geek years ago. It had gotten so easy, he had not even bothered harassing Marcus for awhile. There was no challenged or fun left in it. Today though, he was bored, and wanted an easy mark. Brian thought he had left this one alone too long, and it had found its courage.
"I said no?" Marcus had meant it to come out forceful, a clear statement, but as the words tumbled across his lips, his voice cracked and whatever reserves of bravery he had dried up.
Alyson could take no more of the exchange and grabbed Brian's wrist. She went as unnoticed as her grip upon the hamhock sized arm, until she spoke, "Leave him alone."
This was turning out to be quite the day for surprises in the life of Brian Towers. The absurdity of a girl trying to threaten him almost made him laugh.
"Excuse me? Ya hiding behind a skirt now, Marky? Maybe ya oughta see if it'll fit, save yerself the trouble. Leave the big boys alone, girly. I'll get to ya next, if Marky here doesn't have anything good in his bag."
Alyson tightened her grip on Brian's arm, but he continued to shrug it off. "I said, leave him alone."
The cold resolve in the girl's grey eyes was much more effective than that in the eyes of Marcus. Whereas the first caught the man mountain by surprise, this time he actually gave pause.
Still, all Brian saw was a future challenge, another person's spirit to break. At least he'd have something to do to entertain him, or so he thought.
"Listen, newbie, you're just gonna have to wait your turn." He let Marcus go, and shoved her away like she was a leaf on his shoulder. Her fingers slipped off the arm which her small hand was unable to get a firm grip on, and she stumbled backwards, her sneakers squeaking upon the tiled floor.
Brian turned his attention back to Marcus, placing both hands upon the young man's shoulders, gripping tight and holding him in place.
"Now, where were we? Oh right, let's what ya got...SON OF A BITCH!"
Brian felt a stabbing pain in his knee and his leg buckled underneath his own weight, sending him crashing to the floor on one knee. His head hit Marcus's back, and Marcus almost had his own head connect with the table in front of him, but he was able to brace himself against his arms.
The bully knelt upon the tiles, grabbing at the knee from which the pain originated. Unintelligable grunts and noises came out of his mouth. His head whipped to the side, his vision red and looking for a target. They fell upon the girl he thought would be an easy source of entertainment in the coming months.
Alyson stood there beside him, not far away, and her hands were balled up into tight fists, making her knuckles go white. She stood with one foot closer to Brian than the other; the foot she had used to kick into the side of his knees and make him crumple to the floor. She was ready to bring more pain at a moment's notice.
Spittle flew from Brian's mouth as he shouted out in rage. He saw only red, and the girl who had dared to send him to the floor. "YOU! Raaargh!"
Somehow, through the pain, he got back to his feet and lunged for Alyson. Giant hands that looked to some as if they could engulf her entire head reached out, seaking to grab any piece of her and crush it.
Alyson jumped back like a grasshopper, evading his grasp by the barest of inches.
Brian made another lunge for her, swiping his hand like a giant paw at her face. She leaned back, again just narrowly evading contact, however Brian felt his fingers touch strands of her hair as she dodged.
Hands once again reached out, and as his fingers made contact with her shoulder, it looked to anyone watching the fight that Brian had disappeared.
Instead, Brian found himself thrust against the bricks of the wall behind him. A gasp rippled through the crowd, as Darien had come up behind Brian and in a single, smooth motion that happened so fast as to have been almost missed by anyone not paying attention.
Brian's head connected with the bricks as he was pinned face first between two sets of windows. Darien's hand gripped the back of Brian's skull, lost in the mass of brown hair he could barely be bothered to wash, let alone cut.
No one else was close enough, but Marcus would swear later that he could hear something cracking. He didn't know if it was Brian's skull or the wall, or something else.
Whereas Marcus had tried to sound tough through gritted teeth earlier, Darien succeeded without even trying. "Do you see that girl?"
"No, my face is crushed against a wall, you idi- AAHH!" Brian tried defiance, but all it got him was more wall pushed up his nose.
Darien spun Brian around, grabbed his shirt collar and pinned him back against the wall, lifing him up into the air nearly a foot.
By that time, teachers had wandered into the cafeteria to get lunch themselves, and some drawn by the commotion that could be heard. Once they had entered though, they were too surprised by what they saw to do anything about it. They were as frozen in rapt attention as much as the students were.
Brian grabbed onto Darien's arms, fear flickering across his face for the first time anyone could recall. His legs swung free and kicked at the air, scratching against the wall to try and find purchase but finding none.
"I ask you again. The girl." Darien shook Brian and made his skull bounce again off the wall.
"Yes, yes, Christ yes!! Let me down!"
When Darien growled "No" it sent shivers through anyone who heard it, unlike when Marcus tried.
He continued, "If you ever EVER lay one finger on a single strand of her hair again, you will be learning new ways to eat food that haven't been thought up yet. Understood?"
As he tried his best to nod, tears streamed down his face, washing away years of credibility as a bully he had built up. People would still be wary of Brian in the future, but they would always remember this day, the day it was his turn to be broken.
Darien took one hand off of Brian, continuing to hold him aloft with the other hand. He shook off Brian's paw gripping his free arm even easier than Brian had brushed aside Alyson. Darien pointed at Marcus without turning.
"And you will leave him alone as well. I may not have as creative a punishment in mind if you come near him, as I would if you harm my sister, but I'll think of something memorable. Everyone will be happy if you bring your own lunch from now on, wouldn't you agree?"
Brian just continued to nod, both hands grasping onto the lone arm holding him pinned against the wall, not wanting to slip.
A hand pressed against Darien's back, and Alyson whispered from his side. "Darien," she said, "People are staring. Put him down."
Darien only grunted, and his hand opened up. Gravity did the rest of the work, and Brian's grip was for naught. He tried to hold onto Darien's arm so he wouldn't fall, but he just could not hold on, and he fell, sliding down the wall and landing in a heap upon the floor.
It started with one person, no one saw who it was, but someone began to clap. It spread like electricity throughout everyone in the room, one after the other, as the applause rose to a thunderous crescendo. The sound was only stopped when someone called out.
"HEY!" and the applause died like someone had turned off a speaker, instead of the sound fading out. All eyes turned to see Miss Ferris standing at the door to the cafeteria, hands on her hips, and glaring with blue eyes. "Get back to lunch, people. This isn't an arena."
Low murmurs resumed, and people found their chairs, going back about their everyday activities like nothing they had seen had happened.
The guidance counselor strode across the room to where Darien and Alyson stood between two tables, next to a still seated - and very much in shock - Marcus.
Despite having seen the student nearly put Brian through a brick wall, she still stood in front of Darien and glared up at him like he was lowliest of meek students. And somehow, it still worked.
"Darien, we'll talk about this after school. I don't want to pull you out of any classes on your first day." The student looked sheepish and well-admonished for his behaviour, and just gave a nod.
Miss Ferris took another step forward and whispered low enough that she believed no one else would be able to hear, "But just between you and me, good job."
Darien walked around the table, passing Brian who still laid in a heap of limbs on the floor. As Darien walked by, the terrified bully moved, trying to back away. The wall was only just able to stop him.
` Taking a seat opposite his sister, Darien slid his bag off his shoulder and it landed on the table with a thud that reverberated through the cavernous room. Some of the students jumped at the noise, but most just continued to go about their lunch hour.
Miss Ferris helped Brian up off the ground and gave him a brief checking over. He appeared unharmed, but she sent him to the school nurse to be sure. Brian was more than willing to comply and escape with some dignity. Not much dignity, but being sent away was preferable to crawling off to whimper in a corner like he wanted to do.
Once the faculty member was reassured that there was no more incidents brewing, she headed towards the main door and shook her head. As she passed by fellow members of the staff huddled togethr in a small alcove and chattering away, she shot them a withering glare for their inactivity. The group looked more cowed than Darien had.
Darien and Alyson watched her leave, and almost in unison they undid the cap on their bottles, and took equally long drinks from them.
"So, how was your day so far?" he asked his sister.
Alyson shrugged taking another drink. "Oh, you know. The usual."
Marcus was still slackjawed with awe at the twins. "Part of me wouldn't be surprised if that was your usual. Holy spit that was awesome! The way you wham! his leg, and then you! Oh my god!"
The twins just set their bottles down, and Alyson unwrapped her sandwich. "It was nothing. You must have overheard me telling the others in chorus about taking some karate classes with sasquatch over there."
"Nothing? I wish nothing was that awesome, because I know from nothing, and my life could've stood to be a lot more nothing like that. I can't believe the two of you are so calm about this." Marcus took a deep, calming breath, but it did not seem to help any. "That's ok though, I think I'm having enough of an adrenaline rush for all three of us."
"They're so cute when they're young," said Darien with a smile and finished off his scarlet bottle. "Which reminds me, who's skull did I just save from a fatal blow?"
Alyson made the necessary introductions, and the two men shook hands. Marcus was not surprised by how firm her brother's grip was, considering what he had just witnessed. All he could hope for was that his own hand didn't feel like a dead fish, as he did his best to give a solid handshake in return.
While Alyson took a large, hefty bite out of her long, sub sandwich, something caught Darien's eye, and he put his hand up in the air as someone entered the hall.
The two with their backs to the entryway turned on their seats and saw Rachel and Brendan coming closer. Neither of them was very surprised at the sight with the way they had been hanging out earlier.
The blonde smiled at Darien as they closed in on them. "Hey, D! Why not come and sit with us, instead of hanging out with these losers?" Rachel noticed that one of the people in front of her was the worst possible person to call that in front of Darien.
All he did was raise an eyebrow in surprise at what the cheerleader had blurted out. Rachel looked at the redhead sitting there and glaring back. "Oh. It's you."
Alyson let out a heavy sigh, and spoke out loud to no one in particular. "She completely missed me dropping the school bully to his knees. She wouldn't talk to me like that if she'd seen it. Everyone misses the cool stuff."
"I thought it was nothing," interjected Marcus.
"Shush, I'm having a sulk. Never interrupt a Montrose when they're in a sulk. It's in the manual."
Rachel cleared her throat and walked around the table to be beside Darien. "So, do you mind if we sit here then?" She was already taking the seat next to her current object of interest.
"Sigh, sure," lamented Alyson as she half-heartedly tore another bite off her sandwich. She chewed on the bread and meat as she continued. "Just know I could break you any time I wanted."
The only response Rachel gave was a confused look. Some might say that was her normal look. Brendan took the seat opposite his girlfriend, in the empty seat next to Alyson.
"So, you're Darien's sister?" he asked while Rachel took a moment to check her hair and makeup. "I've heard absolutely nothing about you. Heard a lot about him, though. Nothing about having a sister, now that I think about it."
Alyson tossed the last few bites of her sandwich down upon their wrapper and finished off her drink. "Mmm, I get that a lot. I'm ok with it. He draws all the attention, while I stick to the shadows, where I like it. It makes it easier to manipulate you all. Dance, my puppets, dance! Mwahahaha." As she laughed, Alyson made her fingers wriggle in the air as if she was trying to manipulate, albeit poorly, a marionette.
Brendan smiled, and it was easy to see how Rachel could fall for the guy. That grin made Alyson start to melt in her seat. She thought Rachel was a fool for even playing at looking at another guy. "Uh oh, an evil genius. We may have to report you to the principal."
"Your puny human authorities are no match for my latest creation, the Doombrother 5000!" She gestured with dramatic flair at her brother.
Darien held up his hands to stop his sister and stood, crumpling the paper from his wrapped sandwich into a ball. "Whoa, leave me out of your delusions of grandeur."
"Sit, Doombrother 5000! Your creator commands you! First the cafeteria, tomorrow the shop class!"
Rachel made a face and stood next to Darien. "He said leave him out of your silliness!"
With a little pout, Alyson gathered up her own trash. "No one respects good mad science anymore."
"I thought it was funny," said Marcus.
Brendan nodded as well. "This school needs a little more crazy like that. I can appreciate the occasional random wackiness. I think you two are a great addition to the school. Welcome to Kraftsbury."
"I'm not sure if I should be concerned that acting like a loon makes me a great fit for this school or not."
"Oh trust me, that was nothing. I could tell you stories..." Brendan trailed off.
The odd grouping of people all stood and gathered there things as the bell buzzed once more, sending them all on their seperate ways.
"Darien, you want me to wait for you after school?" Alyson inquired.
"You don't have to, but if you want. At least call mom to let her know, if you're staying."
Alyson nodded and watched her brother head off down the length of the buildings once they were outside.
Rachel also watched him trail off, while her boyfriend departed into the gym. She didn't say anything to the other two from their lunch group, and strode proudly across to the high school, long hair blowing in the light breeze.
When they were alone, and following in Rachel's footsteps once she was inside the far building, Marcus spoke. "Do you mind if I hang out with you while you wait for your brother?"
Alyson shrugged and adjusted her bag as it slipped off her shoulder. "I guess not. Don't you have to get home yourself?"
"My mom will be picking me up later. I might as well hang with you, since the other option is hitting the computer lab and goofing around, or going into the woods to stare at the sky."
"Both of those sound like fun, actually. I'd love hanging out. You can tell me more about the standing stones of Vermont."
"Cool. I'll meet you at your locker later, then."
The pair of students entered the school and Alyson headed up the stairs and watched Marcus head down them.
After the lunchroom commotion, the day went on without incident, and the twins came to their lockers just as Marcus exited the room Darien had been in when they had seen him earlier that day.
The halls were becoming empty very fast, as students rushed to get their books and escape their own personal hell that is high school.
However, they had not emptied enough for some, as the familiar bubbly call of Rachel echoed their way, calling out, "Darien!"
Alyson tried to guage her brother's thoughts from his face. She was curious what thoughts were going through his head because of this girl. All that was there was his usual stoicness, mixed with dread and happiness. Typical male teen, she thought.
The cheerleader bounced down the hall towards the three of them, although she only cared about one of them. She was followed by her friend Kelly who stayed back a step, and Alyson could tell she was wary of her brother.
Kelly became distracted by something else though, as she looked at Marcus and smiled. Alyson spun around to see what she was looking at, but all that was there was Marcus.
She turned back to the brunette, and arched an eyebrow.
Kelly answered the unspoken question, but it was more thinking aloud than giving anyone an actual answer to anything.
"He's surrounded by all kinds of colours. They're so bright! He's practically bubbling with them, almost glowing!"
Alyson gave voice to the question rattling around her head. "Scuse me?"
Her brother continued to organise his locker with all the books he had collected from his classes that day, and didn't turn away as he answered. "Kelly thinks she can see auras."
"I do not just think it, I can! Ever since I fell out of that tree and hit my head. It must have scrambled a part of my brain or something, and I can see auras."
"Or it broke your brain and your seeing things," gave Alyson as an alternate explanation.
Kelly scoffed and did her best to not stare at Darien. "I prefer the option that doesn't make me crazy."
Rachel ignored the exchange, and instead focused on her usual focus the past day. "So, what's this thing you gotta do after school?"
"I got in a bit of trouble, and Miss Ferris wants to talk to me, that's all."
"Pff, Karen's a pushover. She'll probably just give you a little scolding, and since you're new, that's it. Just needs to look like she has a semblence of authority. She's totally Principal Hale's mouthpiece."
"Karen? What happened to being proper and calling her Miss Ferris?"
"It's after hours, I can call her what I want, plus she's not around."
Alyson was continuing to examine Kelly. "So if you can see auras, what does mine look like?" She posed with one hand on her hip and slowly turned around.
"Huh," was all Kelly could say. "I don't see anything around you. You two are weird, and it kinda freaks me out."
"Well, maybe that's good. Maybe whatever damaged you caused when you fell is fixing itself, and that's why you can't see anything."
Kelly pouted at the thought. "But they made me special."
A thumping noise came up the nearby stairs, in contrast to most of the people leaving the room. Brendan's head came into view as he came nearer and rose up the stairway.
"Hey gang. What are we standing around for?" He was short of breath, but only just. The young man was in excellent shape.
"Darien's in trouble for giving Brian what he deserved," said Marcus.
"Good for him. Hope it sticks this time. Someone pounds him at least once a year, but I think he forgets not everyone will put up with his shit."
Darien nodded. "Rachel assures me it's just a formality scolding. No worries."
"Cool. Well, Rachel and I are gonna go hang out at Stonehenge until the bus is ready to take us to the game tonight."
Marcus's head clanged against the door of whomever's locker he was leaning against. "You can't call it that! It's nothing like Stonehenge!"
"It's a bunch of rocks in a circle. We gotta call it something besides That Place in the Woods."
"Well, it's not Stonehenge. That's a series of standing stones and..." Marcus stopped and sighed. "You know what, I give up. It's Stonehenge. Hopefully we don't hear from the Druid's lawyers."
Rachel scrunched her face up. "Who has lawyers now?"
Slipping an arm around his girl, Brendan pulled Rachel close. "Never mind, Rach. Let's just go. I don't want to spend any more time in here today. Had my fill of school. You guys wanna join us? I'd love to get more time to get to know you, Alyson."
A look passed between Alyson and Marcus, and they both shrugged. "Yeah, that's fine, if none of you mind," she said.
Alyson told her brother they'd be out in the woods behind the elementary school, and to come find them when he was done with his visit to Miss Ferris.
Rachel grabbed Brendan's arm and hissed something in his ear. Alyson could guess what she was upset about, based on the glares she shot back at her and Marcus. It seemed as if someone minded their presence.
"Excuse me," piped up Alyson, causing Brendan to look back as well. "It's clear that your girlfriend isn't exactly pleased with our being here. Why did you invite us along?"
Brendan smiled, and gave Rachel a quick peck on the lips, which actually managed to shut her up. Alyson was in awe at his power.
"I think you and your brother are cool. You're new here, and I thought I'd show you some hospitality."
They passed through the treeline and entered onto the orange covered stage of the forest world, while Brendan continued to speak. His voice carried forward as he watched where he was walking, navigating through the uneven and hidden terrain. The trees ahead swallowed up his words, but the rest in his party could still hear him fine.
"Some people firmly believe in that whole jock/nerd antagonistic social dynamic, but I was never one for that sort of thing. I've known Marcus since we were kids. Heck, he's the one who showed me Stonehenge. We've always been friends. Drives this one nuts." He jabbed his thumb in the direction of Rachel, who made an unsatisfied harumph.
"And c'mon, after what he did this afternoon at lunch, he deserves a little respect. Maybe being seen with me will give him a little more cred. Can't hurt that he's with the chick that dropped the Lion to his knees, either."
Alyson blushed, and hid her face behind her hair. "I'm not a fan of bullies. And I didn't want Marcus's blood getting all over my lunch."
"Gee, thanks!" cried out Marcus.
The five of them entered into the clearing, and stood along the ridgeline of the hill. Alyson took the lead and with a leap, slid down the hill, leaving a wake of leaves kicked up behind her, and a brown scar of dirt marking her path.
Kelly and Rachel shared a nervous look, and in the time it took their eyes to meet, the other two guys had followed Alyson's example. A trio of dirty slashes marked up the hillside.
Deciding to take their time, and not wanting to make a mess, the two girls took slow, careful steps down to the rest of their group. All while the others were calling back at them and teasing them for being slow.
They spread out and each took their own seperate rock seats. Kelly wrapped her legs underneath her and sat staring at the rushing water. Rachel did her best to not seem to mind sitting on a cold rock, but her face seemed to be stuck in a permanent look of disgust. Brendan slipped out of his jacket and placed it down on the boulder his girlfriend was perched upon, and she moved over to sit on that instead. The other two laid down upon their respective rocks and stared up into the leafy canopy overhead.
No one was sure how long they all sat their in silence, just taking in the sights and sounds of nature. It was Alyson who at last broke the silence. "I like it here."
"Yeah," said Kelly. "It's a real pretty place. I don't really like coming out here, but when I do, I always forget why."
"Maybe," said Rachel, "it's because you're sitting on a cold, dirty rock in the middle of nowhere?"
"Well, sure. But once I'm here...it's nice. Right, Aly?"
"Nono, that's not what I meant. Sure, this place is great, and I'm glad you all let me come hang out with you, but I meant everything. Stonehenge," Marcus grumbled. "The school, the town, our home. That's it, this feels like home. We needed to leave Colorado, and I never thought I'd feel like I belonged anywhere ever again. Heck, I think I even like Rachel."
"The feeling isn't mutual!"
"Aww, I know you love me. You act tough, like a right bitch even, but you're just a big, cuddly bunny, aren't you?"
Brendan smiled over at the sulking blonde. "She really is."
The football plaer got off his seat and sat next to his girlfriend. "I knew there was more beneath that snarky exterior the moment I laid eyes on her."
Brendan continued, "Not everyone likes coming out here, at least the people that know about it. Some people love it, some people find it off putting. And Kelly can't make up her mind."
The brunette through a nearby twig at Brendan, and it bounced harmlessly off his arm.
Alyson knew what Brendan meant. She could sense this place, even before they had reached it. "Some people can feel the power of this place, and they can sense its importance. Even if it was a long time ago. To some people, that can be calming, but to others, it's daunting. And it's hard to tell if this is a good power, or a bad one. Druids were believed to perform human sacrifices, you know. Someone could have been killed right on this very spot."
Rachel made a disgusted face, like she was getting ready to throw up. "You're a cheery one to bring around at parties, I bet."
"Just reporting the facts."
Brendan glanced down at his watch, as he cocked his head to the side, hearing something in the distance. "Well girls, it's almost time for the bus to take us to the game. You ready to get out of here?"
Rachel was already on her feet and trying to remove dead leaves from her skirt before he even finished the question. "Oh god, yes."
Kelly took her time getting her feet back on the ground, and took one last deep breath of the forest air. She joined her friend at Brendan's side.
The blonde one looked off at the schools. Alyson turned on her seat and saw where she was looking. She said, half teasing and half serious. "I'll tell Darien you said hi, and are sorry you missed him."
"Uh, thanks," she stammered, surprised at the offer. As Brendan made his goodbyes with the two staying behind, the girls clambored back up the hill, and Rachel looked back, smiling a genuine smile back at Alyson.
Once the trio had faded over the hill, Alyson finally moved, as she had been sitting and staring at the spot where they had stood. "That was the scariest thing I've seen all day."
"Rachel's not the deepest person around, but she does have at least two or three layers. There has to be a good person in there somewhere."
"Trapped and screaming to be let out, no doubt."
The two resumed laying back and staring into the foliage. The sunlight was waning, but sunset was still a couple of hours off.
"Thanks," Marcus finally said.
He shifted and turned, laying on his stomach and look over at the redhead that fascinated him so much. "For fighting for me. It won't help me make friends, being protected by a girl, but I really don't care. Not a lot of people here would have done the same for me. Brendan's the only one I can think of."
"Oh, that." Alyson moved and leaned her head further back, red hair spilling out across the stone beneath her and coming close to the ground. "I don't normally do things like that. I'd rather not stand out and make a scene, but I wasn't about to watch your head do an impersonation of hamburger."
"Well yeah, thanks for stopping me from showing you that. I really need to work on my hamburger impersonation."
"Hey, what are you two kids doing out here??" The sudden shout caused Marcus to make a rolling fall off the stone, and he tried to hide behind it.
In contrast, Alyson didn't move an inch. "Nice try, Darien."
Darien slid down the hill, crisscrossing the other marks that were already becoming covered back up as the gentle breeze shifted leaves back over the ground.
"Nice place you guys got here," said Darien as he picked the rock closest to his sister.
"The others had to get going," his sister said.
Darien sat cross legged and spread out his trenchcoat behind him, like a spreading wave of blackness over the stone. "Yeah, I saw them at the bus and they pointed me this way. Rachel begged me to come with them, but I told them I had to come find you. Are you about ready to go, sis?"
Alyson did not say a word, and instead rolled over and over until she rolled right off the stone, landing on her hands and feet. She had soon righted herself, and scooped up her bag. "You sure your mom is coming, Marcus? It's getting kinda late."
"Yeah, she's probably just running late. This is still early for her. I'll head into the school shortly, do some homework and wait there. I'm used to this. She only forgot me once." He smiled a goofy grin.
"Ok, as long as you're all right. Try not to run afoul of any bullies out here."
Marcus laughed. "I don't think Brian could get over the hill with what you did to his leg."
Alyson smiled with pride. "I hurt him good. I'll see you tomorrow, hopefully it will be less eventful than my first day of school."
The twins turned to head back up the hill, and just before they started to go, Alyson stopped and ran back to Marcus. She was grinning and before Marcus could ask what she was doing, she planted a quick kiss on the side of his cheek.
"What you did today was really brave, even if it was monumentally stupid. And thanks so much for showing me around, and helping me out. It made my first day here bearable."
Marcus was struck dumb, and his brain was almost unable to command his hand to wave at the two as they left him alone in the clearing.
He listened as their voices faded off into the woods.
"Someone has a new boyfriend."
"I do not!"
"You two are so cute together."
"Aly and Marcus, sitting in the trees..."
Darien bust out laughing, a sound that scared off a flock of birds roosting in the nearby trees. They took wing in a flurry of fluttering wings and a cacophony of calls.
The laughter and voices continued to fade, until they were inaudible to Marcus, left alone amongst the stones.
Marcus continued to stand there, confounded. His lips were drawn into the widest grin he had ever had, he touched his cheek where Alyson had kissed him. Even if Brian had pulverized him, that alone would have made the day his best ever.
The sunlight was still bright, but the shadows had grown long, and much of it was blocked by trees, making the clearing become more dark with each passing minute. It wouldn't be long until the last rays fell behind the nearby mountain to the west.
A darkened finger of shadow stretched out from the standing stone and had reached out to where Marcus stood, pointing right for him.
The sight sent a chill through him, as if the stones were accusing him of violating their sanctity, and daring to bring others into the circle.
Marcus strode along the shadow, rather than shy away from it as most might. He drew nearer the stone, and placed a hand upon it. As the day had grown later, the stone had grown colder. Marcus shivered at the touch.
He stood there watching the sunlight fade away more, as darkness surrounded him. No other sound could be heard save for the rushing water. If Marcus had not been so distracted by what Alyson had done, he may have had enough presence of mind to notice that not even the animals were making sounds; no birds, no crickets, nothing.
It wasn't until Marcus heard a splash in the river that he noticed that things felt wrong. The kiss was forgotten as another splash hit the water.
Marcus leaned around the stone, looking at the river. One sound might have been anything, but a series he could not ignore. Something was crossing the river, and heading straight towards him.
He stared at the river, but he could see nothing. No evidence of anything having even been near the river could be seen. No tracks were in the muddy banks, no leaves were disturbed that he could see.
"It must have just been all in my head," he said out loud. However, he still backed away from the stone and grabbed his backpack.
Marcus turned his back upon the monolith and began to move towards the school.
As he passed inbetween two of the rocky seats, a branch broke, and leaves crinkled under something's footfalls. He stopped in midstep.
He looked down to make sure it wasn't him that had made the noise, and he wasn't just scaring himself.
No branches were underfoot, and the leaves were still soft, and not dead and dried up. Sweat beaded up upon his brow as he heard another crunch behind him.
"She called me brave," he whispered, as he clutched his bag as if to draw strength from it, spinning around on his heel to face whatever was behind him.
Again, nothing was watching him.
Half of Marcus was certain it was just his mind playing tricks on him, messing around with the kid alone in the woods as the sun went away. The other half didn't have much to say as it was already a gibbering mess trying to run away.
He fought the terrified half of his mind, and resumed his journey to the school, doing his best to act like he had not heard a single noise.
Marcus didn't make it more than another step before he felt a hand upon his shoulder.
Whatever sane, rational part of his brain there may have been driving him onwards signed on with the whimpering scared portion of his brain.
He couldn't move anything but his eyes, and they looked down at his shoulder. All he could see was a glimpse of ashen white fingers. They were devoid of colour, beyond even the skin of an albino, and they almost glowed in the twilight.
All he could hear now was the raspy breath pumping out of his throat, and the thudding of his heart as it tried to lead the charge up the hill.
He still prayed this was all in his head. The noises could have been anything. Maybe something had fallen from a tree and landed on his shoulder and it just looked like a hand. Marcus wanted to scream so badly, but his throat was only just allowing him to breathe.
Any thoughts of this all being just something random and normal left his thoughts when a voice that could not be his, or his thoughts, whispered into his ear.
"A kiss from her," it said, and the breath was warm against the back of his neck. A strong, sweet smell wafted forward, and it smelt pleasant, but was so strong that Marcus wanted to be sick.
"A kiss from me. But mine shall last an eternity."
Marcus at last found the strength within himself to scream.