“You should wake up…Laurel.”
The last thing I expected to hear in Chamois was my real name. They’d been calling me Aria ever since the day I first woke up there; so hearing Arnell utter my real name in such a way as he had pulled me toward the elevator was enough to stir me from my sleep, as he had commanded.
I groaned, rolling onto my back as I pondered. How could he have known my name? I mean, sure, it was my dream, perhaps I had let him know sub-consciously? Like it was a reminder to get up and ready for my first day of school? I glanced over at the window and sighed. No. It wasn’t going to be dawn for a while, so that wouldn’t have been it. I wondered if I’d wake up at the same place the next time I slept, or if I’d be somewhere else. It was a curious thought, kidnapped in my own dream. My mind would have to finally create the stronghold of the mutant dissenters, that would be interesting to see.
“Yeah.” I responded, barely breathing the word as I sat up to peek out the window. He was sitting on the balcony that connected our rooms, staring out at the lakes that cut through town. The fog was settling in rather nicely already this morning, I had a feeling it would be yet another of the many rainy days I had witnessed in the last weeks since moving in.
“Want to talk about it?”
“Yeah, I guess. Hold on.”
I slipped out of bed, my feet hitting the cold wood floor as I swung my legs around. Pushing myself off the mattress I wondered what my ‘cousin’ would say about my dreams. Was he the kind of person who believed that recurring dreams could tell the future? How would anyone interpret a dream that had lasted almost my entire life?
I moved through the hallway barely making noise, and slipped into his room and out the side door to the balcony. He hadn’t moved, still sitting watching as the clouds came overhead. The little table we had picked up at a garage sale the last weekend was already covered in empty cigarette packets from our late night musings. I’d picked up the habit, nasty as it was, not long ago, the stress of everything that was going on, new school, new house, the possibility of dad returning and dragging me away from what was a peaceful home becoming a little too much.
Blaue had been doing it for years, he had told me. Since Papaya and Xanthi had sat him and his sister down and told them what happened to their parents, and what they had been born into. Kind of a shock to the system being told that your dad was a prince off in Framboise somewhere and that your parents had been assassinated. Puts a damper on what remains of your childhood. “So.” He breathed, his breath creating vapor in the brisk morning air. “Tell me about the dream.”
“It’s hard to explain.” I whisper. “Can I give you the cliff-notes?”
“Okay…so…” I sit down in the other chair, curling my legs under myself. “I’m a vanilla on a dead world, but i’m not really a vanilla, I’m kind of an alien I guess? And I have these powers where I can make things bloom. Other people have different things but that’s what my caste can do, I guess…And there are these guys, the mutants…They’re real pissed about something…and I’m kind of one too. Not as bad as some of the others but I’m one.”
“So where does this dream get bad exactly?” He raised his eyebrow at me.
“Right at the end one of the ‘resistance’ guys grabbed me. And told me to wake up. Not ‘Wake up, Aria.’ which is my name there, but ‘Wake up, Laurel.’…It kind of freaked me out, you know?”
“Yeah, I get it. I’ve had some pretty confusing dreams too.” He sighs, putting out the cigarette he’d had clamped between two fingers and smiling at me. “Well…We’d best be getting ready. Your first day at a new school. Let’s make it awesome.”
The only bad thing with going to school in Twizzlerbrook is the fact that Papaya and Xanthi lived on the other side of town. That meant that we had to take the subway to get even remotely close to the center of town.
Because we lived on the outskirts our station wasn’t exactly the best cared for, or the most popular. Even at seven in the morning, waiting for the train to arrive there were only five of us on the platform. Myself, Blaue, two other students from school and a lone guy playing his guitar and hoping for cash. I felt bad that I couldn’t give him anything, but I really didn’t have any money…Not yet anyway.
“Who are the other students?” I whispered to Blaue, hoping that my voice wouldn’t carry across the cavernous room.
“Mm, looks like Affaria and…I guess that’s Apache. They’re in the same grade as us, Apache’s got a twin brother, but he doesn’t really get on with any of us. He’ll probably rock up late, or already be there. Who knows with that guy.” He shrugged absently, “Melon’s getting better with the guitar though.”
“Who?” “The guy there. He’s here every morning. He heads into Briocheport I think, better tips or something. We used to chat back when he was starting out.”
“That’s cool. I’ve never been to Briocheport.”
“I suppose it’s too far inland for your dad to travel. We should go there one weekend, it’s not too far if you take the subway, an hour or so.”
“I guess we could make a day of it one weekend. That’d be nice.”
The train arrived shortly after that, almost right on time. We’d arrive at school a little early. Which was perfect because Blaue was planning on showing me around and helping me get the feel of things so that I wouldn’t get lost on my way to any classes I didn’t have with him.
It was strange being on the train, I realized it was probably the first time I’d ever been on one. We’d always found a hotel close enough to the school we’d been attending that I hadn’t needed to travel all that much. It rocked slightly as it traveled the track, stopping every few minutes to pick up more passengers. Several more students came onto the train, sitting at the other end of the train to us and talking in hushed whispers about something or another.
Blaue was silent, contemplative. I took the time during it to study the track map on the wall opposite us and to read all the advertisements. Half price taffy at the confectionery in town, a sign to state that Bubble Buzz was opening on main street, a notice reminding people that the street market would be happening every Sunday until late afternoon. There were a few for phone companies, and restaurants as well. But overall this was what it seemed to be, a simple small town train service. I guessed that you’d have to switch to a connecting line if you wanted to go out of town to Briocheport or Sugar Valley or somewhere like that. Somewhere that wasn’t formerly a swamp anyway.
“…I just realized, what happened to the swamp? Didn’t Twizzlerbrook be like right in the middle of a swamp once?”
“Yep. It started a few years ago. The Twizzlerbrook Conservation Committee was founded. They wanted to restore the place to what is was like before all the big industry companies moved in over the river. They all left to better locations and so everyone started doing their part to make the town look the way it did when it first started out.
They started clearing the swamp a long while back but we’ve only just reached clearness, and most of the smog is gone. We get the fog still, like this morning, but it’s never as bad as it used to be, and it’s still dreadful weather. I’m looking forward to the day we get a clear sky, you know? The kind you see in the posters for Sugar Valley and such.
Anyway, the swamp wasn’t the only thing they did. They fixed up the old school building that was being left to die, and that’s where we go to school now. Town hall was refurbished, all the parks. The street market was introduced. We started getting a lot more people moving to town. And the university got built in. That part of town used to be nothing but houses for rich folk. They sold their homes to the university and it got built.”
“Woah. They’ve put in a lot of work into making Twizzlerbrook a proper town again, huh.”
“Yeah, it’s been real hard, but well…Things are looking up. Even though the school is pretty empty most days. Not many high school grade kids here. There were talks about moving the primary and middle school kids over too.”
“That would be hectic.”
“Yeah, maybe they shouldn’t. We’ll get more students eventually.”
By the time we arrived at school rain was already beginning to fall. Blaue, remembering that he had some kind of student council meeting that morning decided to run off, telling me that he’d find someone to show me around. By that point I’d remembered that Rosette was assigned to show me around, so that made things a little easier. I told him I’d wait for her, and he seemed rather relieved, even thankful.
The school was an old purple and white building, as old as the town hall, definitely. It looked like it would be more at home as a house, but all the students milling around it proved otherwise.
“Laurel!” A voice called from behind me as a bus pulled away from the curb, and I turned my head back to find Rosette stepping away from the bus stop. The few raindrops were hitting her and she didn’t seem to care, she just smiled and took my arm, beginning to lead me to the building. “Come on, I have so much to show you.
The inside was as vast as the outside, and so brightly colored it shocked me. I expected demure coloring, matching the outside of the building perhaps, but there were colors of every hue, mostly in the form of the refurbished lockers the other students were using.
We wandered the halls and she pointed out all the rooms i’d frequent. Since there were so few of us they made classes shorter, but also gave us more, meaning that we could learn more while simultaneously staying together and giving the teachers and easier workload. It was an interesting method for schooling but I liked the idea.
We wandered past the library, while she informed me that new computers had been put in just the previous week and how they were probably better than the ones most of us had at home, past the science lab, art room, and home room before she began leading me toward the cafeteria and outside to show me the music and drama annexe when we heard a commotion in one of the halls.
“What, you think you can talk to me like that? You know who I am right?.”
“Yeah, yer scum. You and yer tramp girlfriend.”
“Yer excused.” We heard the guy chuckle before there was a sound of something hitting another and then something hitting a locker. I ran around the corner, breaking away from Rosette to find one student on the ground while another guy was kicking the life out of him. The guy doing the kicking looked a lot like the guy from the train, Apache or whatever his name was. I guessed he was probably the twin Blaue had mentioned.
“Hey! Leave him alone!” I yelled as I approached them. The guy on the floor shot me a look, and my eyebrows furrowed. Well, clearly he didn’t want my help but he was going to get it anyway. “Hey!”
I grabbed the yellow haired guy by the arm and pulled him away from the one on the floor.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”
“He called me scum, and he called Rust a tramp. That’s unforgivable.”
“It doesn’t matter what he called you, or her! You shouldn’t be kicking him like that, you could kill him!”
“Exactly.” He moved to kick him again and I pulled him back once more. “What is your problem?”
“She’s new!” Rosette squeaked from behind me. “She doesn’t know how things work here yet.”
“If this is how things work here then things are going to change a heck of a lot real soon.” I snarled.
“What’s a doll like you gonna do about it? Cry to your boyfriend to get him to help you? You can’t change things here it’s the way they-”
The look on his face as he hit the ground was priceless. I knew I shouldn’t have hit him, but really, wasn’t trash talking a girl like that so old fashioned? He sounded like such an ass and he was so condescending that I couldn’t help myself.
“Laurel!” Rosette grabbed my arm pulling me away from the scene. “Now you’ve gone and done it, Alpine may be a jerk but things run smoothly with him around. If you’ve pissed him off…He’s going to make your life hell.”
“I’d like to see him try.” I looked back behind me as she dragged me away, noting that Alpine and Rust had already scarpered and the other guy was still on the floor. I felt real bad for him the way he was beat. I really couldn’t have just sat there and let him take it. It wasn’t right.
I suffered Rosette’s warnings all the way back to the homeroom classroom. It also doubled as the English classroom apparently, and the teacher was the same, so that was handy. As I entered the room the teacher beckoned me over while Rosette wandered over to her desk. I noticed the spare spot next to her and she smiled, patting the seat while the teacher cleared her throat.
“Alright everyone, we have a new student. I’m going to let her introduce herself and then we’re going to go over today’s timetable for you all.” She grinned at me, “Take it away, kid.”
I looked at all the other students.The amount that they just didn’t care was palpable, and only a few of them bothered to look up, smiling awkwardly at me before looking back to their books.
“Uh. I’m Laurel, Laurel Mulberry. I just moved here with my brother, he’s been accepted early entry into university, and I’m staying with my cousins until my dad decides to come and whisk me away like he always does I guess.” I hadn’t had to do a proper introduction at a school for years, I tried to smile but it just turned out more of a cringe. “I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone. Um..”
“You can sit down now, it’s alright.”
“Thanks..” I took my seat next to Rosette and listened as the teacher went over the schedule for the day. Science and math and music and then lunch and..we could go home? Apparently several teachers were out for the day so it would be early out and away home. I didn’t know how to feel about that. My first day at a new school and i’d be home before I knew it. I wasn’t going to complain in the long run but wow.
First was science. I got partnered up with someone who didn’t have a partner yet, and naturally, due to the fates aligning things they way they did, I was paired up with the guy from that morning; Robin. He was largely silent, ignoring me unless I asked something specifically about the project we had been told to work on.
Until Alpine threw something over at us and I shot him a look that caused him to recoil anyway. Apparently I’d made an impression on him, and it wasn’t one that would have me having to look over my shoulder, at least yet anyway.
“So…We got ourselves a new top dog, eh?” Robin uttered at the table. It was like he was trying to pretend he hadn’t noticed while still saying something to the contrary.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just don’t think it’s right for people like him to beat up someone over nothing.”
“It weren’t nothin’. I was antagonisin’ him. I wanted him ta get caught beating on me by a teacher, but instead ya had ta walk around that corner all high and mighty and dethrone the bastard.”
“Why did you want to get caught by a teacher?”
“Why do ya think? Ya may be green but ya don’t eat enough of them or ye’d be smarter. If he gets caught he’ll be kicked out. No more asshole Alpine no more miniature mafia at school, eh? Instead they’ll just gain a new member outta ya. Because ya get not choice, when they want ya they get ya.”
“Yeah, well something tells me they won’t get me. I’m not so easily bribed into making friends with people who hurt everyone else.”
“So ya say. Now pass me the sodium chloride, Laurel.”
“Sure thing, Robin.”
By lunch time our teachers just told us to leave rather than hang around. So I ended up wandering with Rosette and her friends over to Bubble Buzz. Turned out she was friends with Affaria and Apache, the two from the morning train, and a few others tagged along as well, including Robin. According to Rosette he was largely anti-social, but hung out with them a lot to save himself from Alpine’s fists. I wondered why he found himself on the receiving end of them, but his attitude was pretty bleak so that explained a lot.
We all grabbed a drink each and headed upstairs to the shuffleboard table. There was already word of the place getting some arcade machines and such in, but it was always going to be the perfect coffee shop for everyone to enjoy. I had to remember to ask the manager about jobs going, perhaps I could get something simple that I could do on weekends, or after school.
“So, welcome to Twizzlerbrook High, Laurel.” Affaria pulled my from my thoughts as we all crowded around the table. “I heard you made a fool of Alpine today, nicely done.”
“S-Sorry for my brother, he’s…a bit h-high strung.”
“Anyway, Laurel! It’s gonna be good having you here, I think. Shake things up in the ol’ hierarchy. Show those mini-mafia jerks what’s what.”
“Why is everyone calling them the mini-mafia, I don’t get it.”
“You know. You do what they want or they break your kneecaps…Literally. There’s one guy who got on the bad side of their old leader, he broke the guys kneecaps, and his arm. Got expelled. That’s when Alpine took over.”
“Gets scarier when you remember that Sanguine was a beanpole and Roux was this complete jock.” Rosette chimed in.
“Roux was the guy who had his knees broke. This huge hulking beefcake of a man, proper jock material. Could have gone on to play for anyone he wanted. Then he said the wrong thing to Sanguine and this guy is stereotypical nerd thin, right? He takes this tire iron to the other guy during lunch one day. It was brutal, he barely survived.”
“Oh.” Suddenly I wasn’t too sure that i’d survive high school with the guy I punched on the same day.
“D-Don’t worry about Alpine. He’ll rough guys up but I’ve never s-seen him hit a girl.”
“Yeah, that’s what Rust is for.”
“But enough about all them. Laurel! I’m surprised at you.”
“What have I done now?”
“It’s been an entire day and you haven’t asked anything about Rosie and myself.” She sounded offended, but her smile was clearly whimsical, like she was joking about what she was saying. It was true, I hadn’t asked, but it was also true that I didn’t want to offend anyone. I didn’t want her to think that all I saw was the burn scar that crossed most of her face, or the scars on Rosette’s as well.
“Well…I didn’t want to…”
“Offend us? Please, it’s nothing. Old memories. I was super self conscious about them once but now I kind of just use them as a warning when I tell my friends not to do anything crazy, you know?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well it’s kind of a long story. But basically, once upon a time Rosie and I were pretty much top of the food chain. We were the top dogs, nobody messed with us. And basically we thought we could do what we wanted, me and Rosie, we’re both from broken families. Divorced parents and all that. Her Mum, my Dad, they kinda just let us do our own thing. Anyway, one weekend we drove to Berry Cove for this massive party at the college with our friends Rainee, Neptune, Rust…yeah her, and Apache here.
The six of us were all squeezed into this car that my dad got me for my birthday it was pretty cool, but you know, idiot teenagers and the way they drive, we go too fast, through a red light and get clipped by another car. We spin out of control and I manage to wrap the car around a damn power pole.”
“Yeah. I dunno how it all happened, we kind of were all zoning in and out, but somehow the car managed to catch fire, Rosie and I caught a lot of it, Rust managed to make it out with just a concussion and Apache got a chunk of car in his arm.”
“T-The scar is still there. Missed a-anything important though.”
“What about the other two?”
“They…we tried to get them out but their seatbelts were stuck and the fire grew way too fast. They died before we could even call for help.”
“And that’s why miss Affaria wears the tracker on her ankle.”
“You had to mention the tracker. Yeah, I got in a heap of trouble over it, you know, speeding, technical manslaughter for getting my friends killed. But I was underage. They chucked me in juvie for a few years until my dad managed to convince them to let me out as long as I don’t leave town until what would be my sentence was up. I’ve gotta spend like…well, a while in actual prison when I turn 18.”
“I deserve it all, my friends are dead because of me. I’m doing what I can in the time I have. Like making it up to Apache for sticking with me despite almost getting him killed.”
“You’d probably g-g-go insane and m-murder more people without me.”
“Wow, you’re so sweet.” I smiled as they spoke to each other before glancing out the window. The day had been going so well I could have forgotten about what had happened in my dream the previous night.
If it weren’t for what caught my eye outside. Or should I say, who caught my eye.