Look! A chapter! One thing I need to do is make it very very clear in the first sentence that this rewinds back to the day after book one, not the tease of the prologue a few months later. It comes through, but it's not as clear as it could be, IMO.
All in all, I'd say this is one of my stronger starts. I lamented last year how I didn't have my audience identification character at the start like I'd intended, and Kelly eventually grew into that role as the story went on. The more I've written of this story, and the more notes I've written down, it's becoming increasingly clear that book 2 is very much her story. At least it looks that way right now. Who knows which character is going to grab the wheel tomorrow?
Chapter 1 - Back to Normality
With Beadle dead and gone, everyone returned to their routines, and it was as if nothing had happened. Only Kelly retained any signs of the fight for Alyson's life. The gunshot wound in her arm was still sore, and still throbbed, despite the painkillers she had taken. She knew there would be no way she could partake in cheerleading practice today, or probably the rest of the week, but still Kelly went in support of her squad, and friends.
Although, while she considered each and every cheerleader her friend, especially Rachel, Kelly could sense a growing distance between her and the rest of the group. The ordeal she had gone through with Brendan and the twins had sparked a growing kinship between the four, even though they had never been close before. Trying times and strange bedfellows, or something like that.
Yet, ever since their arrival, Kelly had been ill at ease by Darien and his sister. Those feelings had subsided as they hung out more, but there was always that air of suspicion. Except for Brendan of course, whom she had known most of her life, but she was more friends with him because he was her best friend's boyfriend.
Not until the fiery trials of the fight at the warehouse was the friendship truly forged. Kelly would never forget Darien rushing to her side when he saw she had been shot, and how it was this man she had given so much distrust towards that had patched her up.
After that day, Kelly had thought she had found her true friends in the most surprising of places, but when the visions crushed down upon her, her faith was shaken once more.
She had no recollection of what had happened aside from dropping her books in the hallway. The only reminder she had was the throbbing headache left behind. That, and the sense of dread that flowed through every fibre of her being.
On sheer instinct, Kelly knew she had witnessed glimpses of things to come, but that's all she knew. It was like knowing the book "IT" was written by Stephen King, and had a killer clown in it, but nothing else. The only other detail she could recall was that Montroses were at the heart of the darkness.
With conflicting feelings about her new friends, even questioning if she could even call them that, Kelly gathered up her books. She fought past the sensation behind her eyes of her brain trying to claw its way out of her skull, and returned to class.
Just walking into the door, Kelly could tell something was different. It wasn't just her. The entire classroom was off. The air was filled with a disquiet and uneasiness that did nothing but amplify her own anxiety.
It was clear that something had just happened, and not just to her. Even though the widespread experience made her skin crawl, Kelly still found an odd kind of comfort in not being alone.
The young woman apologised to the teacher for being late, and gave him a note the principal had written to excuse Kelly for the errand she had run for him inbetween classes. The teacher couldn't even muster up more than a cursory glance at the note before shrugging and tossing it into the garbage can.
Kelly took her seat next to the half-awake Rachel as the teacher resumed his lecture on something or other from Boston in 17 long time ago. She could tell her friend was not as asleep as she appeared to be, nor as asleep as she often was during history class. It was an amazement to her that Rachel was getting passing grades in there.
With her uninjured arm, Kelly reached across the aisle and poked Rachel in the shoulder. The gold satin material of her blouse crumpled at the touch, wrinkles and lines remaining like scars across the fabric long after Kelly's finger was gone.
A lone eye flickered open in a flurry of long, dark lashes. Kelly could tell it was all an act, trying to seem as asleep as many expected her to be.
The green eye darted around, taking in the room. Or as much of the room as it could from the limited vantage point of staring halfway at the hanging fluorescent bars above. Her gaze settled upon the wide, staring eyes of Kelly, and the piratical gaze narrowed at the person who had disturbed her sleep.
Kelly's own eyes rolled and a half smile forced its way onto her lips. After what had happened, she did not feel much like smiling.
In a whisper so low it would have trouble being heard by anyone it was not directed at, Kelly spoke to her friend, "Did something, I dunno, weird just happen?"
Rachel did not give a response, but instead just furrowed her brow. It was tough for Kelly to see, with the blonde's face half buried in her arms upon the desk, but it was there all the same.
A muffled, "Mmmh," was all that she let out.
"Is that a yes or a no?"
Again all Kelly got in reply was, "Mmmh."
Kelly gave a heavy sigh, "To quote the great Rachel Matthews herself, whatever."
The girls noticed the teacher had paused in his lecture, a piece of chalk stopped in the middle of writing on the board. His eyes fell upon his two most talkative students, and their classmates sitting in front of them, began a slow turn like a wave of heads coming their way.
"Miss Matthews," came the teacher's stern, cool voice as his hands returned to his sides and he turned to face the class. In particular the blonde cheerleader. At the sound of her name, Rachel sat up straight, like the teacher would all of a sudden not notice she had been slumped over, despite the fact he was staring right at her the entire time.
"Would you care to tell the rest of the class why?" he concluded.
Kelly was relieved the teacher had not called upon her in that moment, and dreaded what Rachel would say.
Much to her surprise, Rachel spoke with her usual calm and confidence, even then. "Boston remained one of the richest international trading ports because of the long tradition of the seafaring colonists that had founded it, and thus the people there were often considered to be the social elites of their time."
"That's, that's actually correct," said the teacher. He blinked in surprise, not just because Rachel was right in whatever the question had been, but at how quick she had given the answer.
Mister Roy was so gobsmacked that his concentration was shot for the next few minutes. He soon found his footing again and continued to teach the class, with Kelly and Rachel both sitting in quiet, rapt attention the entire time. Kelly didn't think she even blinked for the remaining 30 minutes of the class.
Once the class had been told more than they care to know about the Embargo Act of 1807 and how it hurt the activity of Boston Harbor, the bell gave its shrill cry of mercy upon all the students and set them free for another day.
The girls gathered up there stuff, with Rachel taking a few of Kelly's books to help out her one armed friend. The brunette's purse dangled from the fingers sticking out of the sling she was forced to wear.
"Care to answer my question now?" she asked her oldest and dearest friend.
"What?" the blonde looked dumbfounded, and not unlike Mr. Roy a half hour ago.
Kelly's eyes went wide with surprise. She had gotten used to Rachel's scatterbrained nature, but there were days when it still caught her off guard.
In a moment that was rare for Rachel Matthews, she smiled a truer smile than Kelly had seen for some time. Far too often was the smile that Rachel flashes a fake one for the crowds at a game, or her adoring, slobbering fans Rachel came off as such a girl who had no time for these people, and only gave them the barest courtesy of even acknowledging their presence. Kelly had never seen someone who was so good at faking a smile. Even her boyfriend could be raked in by one. Kelly had never been fooled though, not from the first moment she met Rachel, and not ever.
Given recent events, it was no surprise that Rachel was forcing a smile more and more. Even if she had not made the connection herself, Rachel had noticed the deaths that had followed behind the arrival of Darien and Alyson. They weighed heavy upon her, even if no one would have ever suspected she would even have cared.
Again, Kelly saw through such artifice, and knew Rachel's hidden depths, even if the girl didn't know she had them within herself. Kelly suspected Rachel did know, however. No one could be as self-absorbed as she, and not notice something like that about themselves.
Rachel did her best to remain aloof to those who saw her, act like she did not care about anything other than herself and her boyfriend, Brendan. A relationship that was growing more strained with each passing week. Again, no thanks to the Montroses.
With the dying students, and her boyfriend growing ever more distant, it was no surprise that the charming, pleasant, happy face Rachel showed the world was becoming more and more a sham.
So when Kelly's face twisted in shock at her friend's reaction to her question, it came as quite a surprise when Rachel made the first real smile that Kelly could recall seeing in several weeks.
It was a toothy grin, of white, perfect teeth. A cheerleader's smile to be sure, but not fake like she did on the field. A smile that would make any boy's knees weak, and many a girl jealous. There was no hint of smoking or coffee stains to mar such a vibrant, glowing sea of white. How she avoided the first was easy enough to answer, as Rachel had never smoked, but Kelly had always wondered how she protected them from coffee stains.
The smile served only to put Kelly even more off guard with her best friend; a position she did not enjoy being in. Even more so in these days when her world had been turned upside down by vampires.
"Oh, you should see the look on your face." The blonde put her head back and let out a carefree laugh that denied any dark cloud hanging over head in recent days. Kelly could see the aura around her friend shift just the barest bit, brightening up to match her mood. "I was totally messing with you, Kelly."
"What?" was all Kelly could blurt out, her face still contorted in surprise.
"Of course I remember your question. Do you really think I'm that dumb?" Rachel paused and saw Kelly's face start to break into a smile of its own, a refreshing change in its own way, for each of the girls. "Do not answer that! I will so make you do handsprings if you answer that."
Kelly wriggled the fingers at the end of her sling. "Good luck with that, my captain. You'd have better luck getting Captain Dan to run a marathon."
"Who?" The confused look all too often associated with Rachel returned.
Kelly tried to bury her head in her hands, but with one injured and the other occupied with books, the best she could do was to shake her head, making her long, chocolate coloured hair shift from side to side.
"From Forrest Gump? Have you watched any movies, like, ever? We really need to get some more culture in you."
Rachel considered the question for a moment, "I've seen movies, duh. I saw the new Bring It On movie a few weeks ago."
"Why am I not surprised?" Kelly shook her head some more. At times, she suspected her friend was two different people. "Rachel, the universe does not revolve around cheerleading."
Rachel put a hand to her chest and gave a mock gasp of surprise. "Heretic!"
"I speak the truth!"
"Well, it doesn't revolve around action movies either. I know you just watch those for the hot guys in them anyways. And I don't blame you."
Kelly tried to hide the growing flushness of her cheeks at her friend's assertion. If Rachel noticed them, she didn't say anything or give any sign.
Seeing the conversation bus had veered far off course, Kelly grabbed the wheel to try and steer it back to where she wanted. "Never mind that, can we get back to my point?"
"Which was?" Rachel gave a very rare smirk. She was not one often given to mirth, even less to do it on purpose. At the sight of her lips curling at her joke, Kelly shot a glare across the gulf between them that could have frozen the devil's tail. "Kidding, kidding. Can we talk about it later? We're running late for practice."
Kelly held up her free hand, or the one that wasn't held down at least, and pointed a finger in the air. "Ah, you mean you're late. I've got a doctor's note."
It was Rachel's turn to glare. "Are your legs ok?"
"Because you better run!"
Rachel reached out to grab her friend, making Kelly jump back and give a loud squeak of surprise that would have drawn the attention of any cats in the school. The sound she made was matched by her sneakers upon the tiled hallway of the second floor as she skittered backwards.
She was quick to regain her footing and turned her back on Rachel, one foot skidding as she turned and bolted forward. Indeed, there was nothing wrong with Kelly's legs, and having the body of a cheerleader made her a hard target to catch if she did not want to be caught. The only downside being she was being chased by another cheerleader.
Rachel gave chase, and cackled as she passed by the guidance office, just missing Darien as he came out of the door. All he caught was the girl's voice as she disappeared down the stairwell, nothing more than a flash of blonde hair and cackling, "I'll get you my pretty! And your little dog too! See, I know movies!"
The stoic young man took a moment to wonder what that was all about, but soon stopped. The ways of teenaged girls were more mysterious to him than other pursuits, like vampires. Put a wooden stake in his hand and he knew what to do with it, but present him with a cheerleader flirting with him, and Darien was more clueless than Sherlock Holmes without a crime scene.
He was startled out of his mental wanderings when he heard the door he had just walked through close behind him. He sensed a presence beside him, and when he turned, he saw it was Ms. Ferris, the guidance counselor.
The woman's face was hidden behing her ruler straight black hair, until she tucked it behind an ear, revealing her sharp, angular nose. It was not enough to mar the beauty of the 30 year old woman, but it was her most striking feature, all the more so in profile.
Ferris's hair hung where it was, but soon gave way to gravity and its own natural tendency to hang straight, and fell back where it had been. Once again her face was hidden behind the dark shroud of hair.
She at last broke the silence with her calm, soothing voice. It was easy to see why she was a guidance counselor at such a realtively young age. Her voice would put almost anyone at ease, and it was one of the few things besides his sister that had that effect on Darien.
Even so, there was a twinge of concern in her voice, a hint of fear. "That's a very," she paused to consider her words. "A very interesting story, Darien."
"Do you believe it?" he asked, almost at a whisper, afraid of what she might say.
"I believe that you believe it."
Somehow, Darien's hard face grew even harder as he grimaced. "That's not an answer."
She turned to face him, which required looking up. She was small, smaller than most of the students, but especially Darien. But somehow she still exuded authority. "Of course it is. It's just not an answer you like. Why did you tell me about your sister?"
Darien shrugged. But still, he spoke. "I had to tell someone. I've told others, but they were all sucked into our world of crazy. They had to be told. I needed to talk to someone that wasn't a part of all this, at all, someone I could trust."
He looked at her, his steely grey eyes locking with her shimmering blue. "Can I trust you?"
"A little late to be asking that, but anything said inside my offices, or just outside the doorway I suppose, are confidential, unless it's something illegal and of concern to the school." She saw a look of dread flash across Darien's face. "Don't worry, unless you tell me there's vampires in classes and you intend to stake them, I don't think you're a danger to the students. Well, maybe the bullies, but Brad deserved that beating a few months ago."
Darien gave a nod. He had taken a great risk telling anyone about his life, and his sister's death, more so telling someone in authority at the school. But he felt he could trust this woman, for some reason, and he trusted she would not divulge his secrets to anyone.
"I'm just glad that it's all over," he said. "That things are finally back to normal. No more weirdness, we have our vengeance, and stopped the thing killing people in town."
"Darien, I wouldn't be so sure of that."
"What do you mean?" The young man looked shocked, hurt almost at what Ms. Ferris could be insinuating.
"People like you and your sister, if what you say is true, I don't think you will ever find normal. This madness will never be over for the two of you."
Darien arched an eyebrow. "But with Mr. Beadle nothing but ash..."
The counselor interupted the student before he could go any further. "Do you really think that's the end of it? Don't answer, I can see it in your face. You know it's not. You KNOW it. Deep down. Your sister is a vampire. At the very least, others will come looking for her, won't they?"
"She does stand out amongst their crowd," nodded the boy.
"They can't be happy with her, the way she's going against their traditions. For that Beadle person it was personal, but others must know about her, and will seek her out. And who knows what other things will come crawling out of the river looking for her? No, Darien. You are far from normal, far from being free of it all. This is only just beginning, and just the calm before the storm, I suspect."
Darien stared for a long moment, at last speaking with an ungrateful look to his face. "Well, thanks teach. You have been a big help in setting me straight and putting my mind at ease. What would I do without you?"
"I'm right, and you know it. If you truly want out, you have to get yourself out, and get far away from your sister. And even then, there's no guarantees."
"I could never leave Alyson," Darien scowled.
So Ms. Ferris retorted with a shrug of her own. "Then you're just going to have to deal with whatever weirdness comes up next. I'm just giving you my opinion, and I hope I'm wrong. I rarely am though."
"Here's hoping this is a rare exception then. It has to be over, we're not a danger to anyone."
"You may see it that way, but others might not. Just ask Brad. And he's a human. What do these creatures think of you and your sister?"
Darien gave a heavy sigh. "Ok, fine, I get it. I just have to deal."
"And my door is always open to help you, if you need me to talk to."
"Oh yeah, after this lovely pep talk, I'll rush right back here when sasquatch bursts out of the forest." Darien rolled his eyes and shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his long, black coat.
"Well, the offer is there if you need me, for anything. Anytime. Good luck in your fight, Darien."
With that, the guidance counselor turned and reentered her office, the door closing behind her and leaving Darien all alone in the hallway. Outside, he could see dusk already starting to creep up on them, the darkness coming early in these November days.
The students had vacated the school with great haste, none of them wishing to remain inside what many saw as a prison for children. Once that final bell rang, the school transformed into a ghost town faster than people leaving a sinking ship.
Darien marched down the empty hallway, his heavy bootsteps echoing throughout the building. The sound was only magnified by the lack of anything else making noise. Not even the custodial staff had begun their nightly rounds.
He was not alone for long though, as a flurry of colour exploded into his vision, rising up the stairs in front of him like a technicolour phoenix. Even without seeing her face, or knowing what she had thrown on this morning, Darien would have recognises his sister anywhere. In some ways, he knew her face even better than his own, since the two looked so similar while looking so different at the same time. Looking at Alyson was like looking at a mirror in some ways, and into a murky pond in others. There was no mistaking them for siblings, and even twins would be an easy guess. Even if Darien was growing older as his sister remained the same as she did over a year ago when their quest began.
The only thing that truly set them apart was their height. Darien towered over his sister, moreso than he towered over almost everyone. For as tall as Darien was, Alyson was short. If one was to split the difference between their height, one might come up with an average person, but instead Darien had to look down upon everyone, and Alyson had to look up. How the universe could have come up with two people who were so similar in every way except that one, was a mystery to all.
"There you are," she called out as she crested the top of the stairs, meeting Darien at the doorway between the hall and stairs, where the heavy wooden doors from ages past had been propped open by someone earlier in the day. She stood on one side, staring into the sky, and her brother stood opposite of her, still inside the hallway and gazing back at her.
"I've been looking all over for you." Darien could hear the concern in her voice, and the wrinkles furrowing her brow. For a creature that many would consider heartless, this vampire sometimes cared too much, he thought. He wondered what made his sister different. In all their travels, in all the stories his mentor, Conrad, had passed down to him, they had never heard of a single benevolent vampire.
Darien pushed the thoughts out of his mind. The truth was, he didn't really care why his sister was different; Alyson was his sister. That was the lone fact that mattered to him. He knew that with more certainty than he knew his own name. A belief that had been crystalised for him all the more over the last few days. When he thought Alyson might be lost to him, when he thought she might die a second time, Darien knew she was the most important person in his life. Nothing would ever change that, and it did no good to question why she was the way she was.
"Sorry, I was seeing the guidance counselor," was Darien's reply to his sister's unspoken question.
Alyson gave her twin a questioning look, concerned that he almost never talked to anyone, including herself. "Are you feeling ok, brother of mine?"
He said nothing, instead giving a nod. Alyson pulled back and gave her brother a punch in arm. Darien felt it even through his heavy trenchcoat and winced. He knew she could have done worse than that though.
"Don't pull that closed-mouth crap with me. Speak, Lurch!"
"It was nothing, Aly. I just...well, I needed some guidance. Long weekend, yeah?"
She nodded, but still regarded her brother with suspicion. "You didn't tell her about...well, about me, did you? I already think too many people here know about us."
Darien shook his head. He had put his sunglasses back on, even inside and even in the growing darkness outside. Alyson wished she could look into his eyes, and read him, but he had never lied to her before. She had no reason to suspect he would start now.
"I just needed someone to talk to that wasn't in the thick of all this mess," he explained. "But don't worry, I didn't tell her about you. Not a single word."
And that was the first lie.