Zephira swallowed hard, her palm rested on her lower abdomen and she squeezed the leather handles of her bag. The grainy feel of the leather rubbing on her fingers suddenly made her realize it was the only thing she had in the world. Gingerly stepping inside the room, her eyes flicked from one face to the other but her eyes couldn’t seem to focus on either face. She’d never even thought to ask a single question about whom she’d be expected to live with. I mean, why were they here? Had they slashed their own wrists, too? Or worse, cut some unsuspecting family members throat in their sleep? Shit, shit, shit. She attempted a smile but the way it sat on her lips felt wrong. She took a deep breath and attempted to search for a sign on either of her roommates faces, anything that may help her feel at ease. Unfortunately, the arched brow of the chocolate skinned, pretty girl, slouched on her bed and appearing disinterested spoke volumes.
“I trust you’ll both help her settle in,” Miss Williamson spoke in a high-pitched voice that didn’t seem to carry much confidence, it was more like an order than a request. “Lights out in one hour so you’d better get moving if you wish to unpack before morning. I bid you all goodnight.”
With a quick shove of Zephira further into the room, Miss Williamson was gone and the door slammed shut behind her.
“Oh, bloody charming ain’t she.” The blonde tutted from the corner.
Zephira’s eyes darted toward the voice, her breath quickened with fear, or was it anxiety? She was yet to figure it out. Then, a warmth passed through her veins where the aching chill had been previously. It felt like sunshine on her face at a happier time, when all was right with the world.
“Oh, yeah, as charming as a body snatcher.” Zephira sniggered, feeling much more like herself. She kept her eyes on the blonde. “Which bed is mine?” she asked, afraid of pissing the other girl off or even making eye contact with her after the painful look she’d shot her from the doorway.
“It’s that one.” The blonde said, flashing a radiant smile and pointing to the bed with a worn pink comforter over it. Zephira struggled toward it with her bag, her cheeks pinked as she felt the other girl in the room eyes boring into her.
“Kesia, aren’t you even going to say hello?” The blonde asked, as Zephira placed her bag beside the bed.
“Why are you here?” Kesia directed a hooded glare in Zephira’s direction.
Her mind spun with a million things to say, after all she had a plethora of reasons she could offer her disgruntled looking roommate. “I could ask the same of you.” Zephira said in attempt at being smart, fight fire with fire. It had been her experience that if you treat mean girls with your own helping of meanness it tended to shut them up, if only for a short time.
“Suit yourself,” Kesia said before pressing her lips together and looking back down at her book.
“That’s your wardrobe over there and your uniform is in it.” The blonde pointed at the dark oblong with thin doors. “We’ve been speculating who would turn up. You’re late, you know?” The blonde girl babbled making Zephira shake her head quickly in an attempt to process all the girl had said.
“Why am I late? I’m here before the lights went out, isn’t that as good a start as any?”
The blonde giggled. “I meant for the start of term, silly.” She flapped her hand toward Zepira as though she was a moron.
“Yes, term.” She nodded, smiling as if to say her previous comment had not at all been intended to offend.
“They call it a semester over there.” Kesia offered in a barely audible mutter without glancing up from the book she was clearly pretending to read whilst eavesdropping on the conversation in the room.
The blonde appeared to ignore Kesia and continued to smile and stare with sparkling eyes in Zephira’s direction. She’d never been attracted to girls, it just wasn’t her thing, but this girl made her feel so at ease it was difficult to explain the warmth inside, even to herself. Even with the moody Kesia in the room she’d experienced a strong sense of well being since she’d walked into the room and took one look at the amenable blonde girl. It was the last thing on earth she expected to feel.
“What’s your name?” The blonde rose from her bed during her question and leapt towards her like a gazelle. “Mine is Brooklyn, pleased to make your acquaintance.” She giggled and shoved her hand towards Zephira’s stomach.
Zephira gingerly took it and gave it a limp shake.
“Here, let me help you.” Brooklyn heaved the bag onto the Pepto-Bismol coloured bed cover and began unzipping it. In usual circumstances Zephira would have given the girl a shove and told her to get away from her stuff, but for some reason she didn’t feel the need to at all, in fact her mind welcomed the help from this girl. The place was having a weird effect on her, that much she’d fathomed in the few hours of arriving.
“They took my phone.” Zephira whispered, not wishing for the silent Kesia to interject with any smart comments.
“I know, they take every ones.” Brooklyn replied utilizing the same hushed tones as though she’d fathomed the reason for Zephira’s whisper.
“Do you know how you’re meant to earn it back? I mean, what am I supposed to do if I don’t want to do their goddamned stupid work?” Zephira heard her own voice pitch high, her throat swelled again and her eyes stung with tears.
“Shhhh.” Brooklyn soothed rubbing Zephira’s arm. “It will be okay. This place isn’t all that bad once you get used to it. It’s definitely better than where I’ve come from anyway.”
Zephira’s interest piqued, exactly what did it take to end up in a place like this? Her eyes fell to Brooklyn’s wrists in wonder if it took cutting them to get into here, her long sleeved pajama top rose and fell with the movements involved in extracting Zephira’s clothes from the bag. White silvery lines marked even the top of the wrists and Zephira struggled to tear her gaze away, wanting to see the extent of what Brooklyn had done to herself. Brooklyn flinched and took a step back, tugging at the cuff of her top.
“Sorry.” Zephira held her palms up to Brooklyn who was quickly retreating backwards toward her bed.
“It’s okay, I’d better get some rest anyway, it’s my first test tomorrow.” Her head was lowered as she sat heavily on her bed at the other side of the small room.
Shit…find a friend and then manage to alienate them within ten minutes. Way to go, Zephira thought shoving her clothes into the drawers in the bottom of the wardrobe beside her bed. She changed quickly, glancing at the clock and realizing it was almost ten o’ clock and she’d soon be shrouded in darkness. She kicked the empty bag under the bed and hopped in, pulling the covers up around her head just like Brooklyn had done after Zephira had mortally offended her.
There was a weird fuzz of electric before the room went black, the lack of noise was amazing, her breathing sounded like that of an asthmatic in the deafening silence, she couldn’t even fathom her roommates noises over her own. She fidgeted in an attempt to get some heat into her bones, she didn’t figure the room was cold, it was the chill that seemed to reside within her no matter what she tried to rid herself of it. Her own father had been afflicted in much the same way, once he’d gone she knew she’d never have anyone else to turn to that would understand the dark clutches that crept in through your skin and attacked your heart and soul leaving only blackness in its wake. Her mother had been left in despair when she’d placed a silvery blade against her wrists and pressed down watching with fascination as the knife entered through her pale skin and crimson trickled around to her forearm like a blanket of warmth. Flashes of light and her mother’s raised voice in pinches of shrill words were the only thing that managed to get through after she’d sliced her skin. Beyond that was whispers in the hallway, blank-see-through-me-stares from so called friends she’d had since kindergarten and a text message calling things quits from a boyfriend she’d shared play dates with as a kid. She guessed her wrist slashing activity wasn’t socially acceptable in the circles of clean white kids that lived in oversized houses and drove cars way out of their league. Well, they just hadn’t lost what she’d lost, how would they ever be able to understand why she’d done what she’d done? Her breathing steadied along with her rabid self-destructive thoughts as she brought herself to the white sandy beach she’d long since pictured as her safe place, the only thing the three-hundred dollar an hour therapist had taught her that was anything of worth. She hoped, deep down, that this school could, at the very least provide her with something of value at the end of her mother’s six month tour when she could go back home and lock herself in her bedroom.
Behind her eyelids flashed a light red, her fists balled and her jaw locked. The jerk of her body in the dorm room at Winterbury found her standing at the foot of the bed in a musty smelling room. The same room she’d been standing in the previous day, her mother’s cheap hotel room.
“We’ll have to cancel.”
“We can’t, I need this tour and so do you or we’re both done.” Her mother drawled in a surprisingly coherent manner considering the slowness of it and her closed eyes. She took a sleepy deep breath before continuing. “Make-up will cover it.”
“You ain’t seen the state of you,” Ted said as though he hadn’t been the one to afflict it, she knew given the last scenes of the last vision only too well he had been the perpetrator of her mother swollen cheekbone, already aubergine coloured eye socket and bloodied lip. Judging by the stench of cheap wine in the air she figured her mother, and probably Ted had drank away their shared sorrows following their argument.
“Yeah yeah.” Her mother lifted a hand from atop the bed cover and flapped it toward him. “I know…you didn’t mean to do it…it won’t happen again.” Her tone dripped with sarcasm. Ted’s head whipped around to view his victim through narrowed eyes. “Fuck you.” His teeth were bared. Zephira wanted to stay as the room seemed to wobble around her but she knew she couldn’t wait to see how this one panned out, her head slammed against something hard and her body continued to convulse as she swam out of the vision.
“How long has this been going?” A sharp male voice pierced the here and now, Winterbury air, as the involuntary twitching in her limbs ceased.
A chorus of female voices answered him but none seemed to know the answer, either that or her brain couldn’t comprehend their voices apart from one another.
She prised her eyes open to find a dark haired male hovering over her.
“Hello.” His face morphed from the crumpled look of concern to a cheery trustful smile. “Nice to have you back with us, Zephira.”
Her throat produced a weird gargling noise as she glared at the guy who could have been her father’s father, but she knew that was impossible as he’d died long before him and was American, this guy had a Southern Irish twang that could have belonged to a fully grown Leprechaun that had smoked too many cigarettes to give him a sexy husk. She glared at him unsure of what to say, what would he do now? Electric shock therapy? A hypodermic needle filled with sedatives?
“When was the last fit?”
She pursed her lips and gathered her brows, the way he’d said the word fit was lingering for such a short word.
“Yesterday,” she whispered, exhausted from the vision, much the same way epileptics are tired from their seizures. She’d always known what she experienced were not true seizures. In a way it felt like an insult to the people that truly suffered with that particular medical problem. The things she saw out of her body were in real time, they were happening, and she witnessed them. She knew that for sure without another soul having to tell her. The first one she’d had was aged thirteen and on the worst night of her life, the night that had changed everything, for both her and her mother. This wasn’t the first time she’d watched her mother crash and burn, the tour had been the wrong choice for both of them. She’d slipped back to sleep, but the soothing tones of the mans voice stirred her.
“I’m sorry, I’m so tired.” She replied groggily having not took in what he’d said.
The man smiled. “Seizures will do that to you.”
There it was again, though now he used the medical terminology.
“They’re not…” She began before bumping her lips together. Who was she kidding, and why did she feel the need to trust the people here so much? She had no idea.
“Sorry? What were you saying?”
She detected glee in his voice.
“Nothing, it doesn’t matter.”
“Do you feel well enough to get dressed and go for breakfast?”
She nodded and reached for the side of the bed to aid herself to her feet, her eyes shot open as he placed a warm velvety hand over hers.
“We’re all here to help you. You mustn’t forget that.”
She nodded again before he grabbed the other hand and helped her to her feet. She looked at the faces of her roommates. They seem to have been silent, or at least she hadn’t noticed them making a sound since she come around. Despite how the previous night had ended with Brooklyn she smiled at Zephira and the man who’d rushed to her aid whilst he’d helped her up off the bed. “Don’t worry Mr. Raferty, I’ll take care of Zephira and I’ll get in touch with you as soon as anything else happens.” A blush spread over her cheeks as her eyes flew wide and her fingers smacked over her lips. “I mean, if anything actually goes wrong that is. Sorry.” She glanced at Zephira and back to Mr. Raferty. A laugh as velvety as his hand escaped his throat and Zephira suddenly realised the reason for poor Brooklyn’s nervous display and was unable to hide her smile in response.
“It’s okay, thanks, Brooklyn, I’d appreciate that. Take care of yourself and I’ll see you around, but hopefully not too soon.” He flashed Zephira a warm grin and left through the wide open dormitory door, closing it behind him.
As soon as he left Brooklyn slumped as though she’d been holding herself up straight throughout the entire time he’d been there inspiring a giggle from Zephira despite her desperately trying to swallow it.
“You noticed too then.” Came the monotone voice of Kesia from across the room.
Zephira just nodded, not sure whether Kesia actually wanted to engage in conversation with her or not. Brooklyn had been welcoming and kind and the last thing she wanted to do was annoy her again.
“Notice what?” Brooklyn glanced wide eyed between the two other girls with her palms skyward and her shoulders hitched around her ears.
“I hate to tell you this if you hadn’t realised it, girl…but you’re hot for him.” Zephira quickly looked in Kesia’s direction to find her smirking, her head seemingly pointing toward a book.
“I am not.”
Zephira almost expected Brooklyn to stamp a foot she looked so mad, her face was puce and she continued to look wildly from Zephira to Kesia.
“It’s okay.” Zephira smiled walking over and patting Brooklyn’s shoulder reassuringly thinking she looked like she could use a hug. “I guess that’s just what happens when you’re cooped up at a school with no boys.” Even Kesia made eye contact with Zephira following that comment.
“What made you think that there’s no boys here?” Brooklyn tilted her head to one side as she asked.
“Well, I just…what, so there is boys here?” Zephira’s brows drew in and her jaw tightened.
Brooklyn smiled and slung her arm around Zephira’s shoulders and guided her to the window. She gingerly looked down and saw the window faced the courtyard that she’d been brought through the night before. Across the courtyard stood another building that she could swear was an exact replica of the one she stood in, though it was hard to tell from the inside. “That’s the boys dorm. The school used to be all girls and was all in the main school over there.” Brooklyn jabbed a finger in the direction of the main building where she knew the headmaster’s office was, she could tell because it looked a lot grander than the dorm house that she’d been led to the night before. Her eyes darted from one intricately carved piece of stone to the next, set out like memories, each one as important as the next. It was as if the building had once been ordinary, built of stone, but then something magical had occurred and the artist, or artists, had carved spectacular visions onto the stone and made it special and somehow important. Swirls reigned next to squiggles, next to lines and they all joined together so that in the light of the autumn rising sun they appeared deeper etched into the building like a part of what it had become.
“What is this place,” she whispered, her eyes still dancing with the beautiful spectacle before her, this place was far more than met the eye.
Brooklyn laughed and Zephira turned to meet her smile, her brows scrunched with confusion.
“What just because there are boys here? You yanks think we’re all frigid or something?”
Zephira smoothed her features out, realizing Brooklyn’s misunderstanding of her rhetorical question. She shook her head and gazed back out of the window. “It’s time to get dressed, we’re going to be late.” Brooklyn stood up straight again and marched toward the wardrobe beside Zephira’s bed. Your uniform is here, pop it on and we can head for breakfast. Zephira’s open-mouthed expression seemed to have amused Kesia as she laughed for the first time since her arrival.
Phew I was only 4 weeks and 30 minutes late! I am so sorry! I have been through as much hell as Zephira, but I'm hoping to be back on track now. I don't promise a thing!
I would love it if you would think about what Winterbury's uniform looks like during this week? I'm popping this on Wattpad as well now.
I'd be very grateful for some followers by e-mail and/or comments it makes me feel like I have a purpose to write!
Thanks for reading!
L.T. Kelly © 2017