1 - Where my new life began
With just a small suitcase right next to me, the house I was standing in front of looked like one straight from a horror movie. I could have wished that this was some bad dream or something of the sort, but I would be way too wrong. THIS was my reality now. A scary-looking four-story house with ivy growing on it, some of the glass in the windows broken. Not to mention the weird sounds I was hearing every single time the wind blew. The car that had dropped me off here with the driver was long gone. Only I remained standing here on the sandy-pebbled road, staring at the awful thing in front of me.
I wasn’t really a picky person. I would be happy as long as I had a bed and roof above my head… But this was a completely different level. They were basically telling me that I had to come live here, in this ruin, for a few months?! They had to be crazy. I had to be crazy. How was this related to anything?!
“How is this related to anything!” I repeated my thoughts outloud, complaining to the air around me about my current situation. I was kicking the air around me, probably hoping it would bring me more satisfaction. Or a better task.
“If I seriously get through this, it will be the biggest miracle of the 21st century!” I muttered as I picked up my suitcase to walk inside the house.
“Just how did I end up here?” I sighed, knocking on the wooden entrance gently. It looked very fragile, if I knocked any harder, the door might just fall down and this place would become a free walk-through. I didn’t want to live in a place, which didn’t have a main door. Not to mention that night was slowly falling upon this place away from any civilization. I sighed again and took a step back, looking at the building once again. Nothing had changed. It wasn’t my imagination. All of this was real.
So, how did I end up at this horror-like ruin with just one suitcase and nobody with me? Well, we’d have to go back a few weeks…
The annual ball organized by the Student Council of Highlands High School
“Soph! Soph!” I turned around to see the guy, who was calling me like crazy while trying to catch his breath. His quick stomping was so loud I heard him even without calling my name. My peaceful concentration time before my speech to at least a hundred people was done for. I took a deep breath, put a smile on my face, and turned away from the body-sized mirror to face the guy.
“Yes, what is it, Michael?” I pulled up a glove on my arm. My dress was ready, everything on me was perfect. There was no way those vultures were going to find a fault with me today. Michael was wearing a white tuxedo with a black bowtie.
“You look stunning… by the way.” He managed to get out of him between the deep breaths he was taking to get oxygen in his body.
“Thank you. You do as well.” I smiled, fixing the handkerchief in his pocket.
“So, why the rush?” I asked, lifting my eyebrows.
“Everything’s ready. I rushed here to tell you that. We only have about five-”
“Yes, five minutes. Or four right now already. Let’s go down, we can’t keep the students waiting. It’s our last ball at this school anyway.” I lifted my chin up, straightened my back, and walked out of the double-winged door. The room was the same as last time when the ball was still organized by Benjamin as the President of the Student Council. When he graduated, the title was passed down to me with a unanimous vote of everyone in the former Council. Mike wasn’t up for the position and I was the only one who could take it instead of him. So I did. The first scholarship student who had ever had a position in the Student Council had become the President of it as well. It was a sore in a few students’ eyes, but they had to get used to it and accept it. I was the one, who was approving their clubs’ budgets after all.
“Soph!” Hearing this voice made my skin turn into goosebumps. My lips parted wide and I ran down the stairs into the open arms of the only person I wanted to see today. I didn’t care about giving a speech, I couldn’t care less about people staring at me or badmouthing me. He was the one I really cared about.
“Whoa, wait wait wait! You’re the president, you can’t just run down the stairs like that!” He chuckled and kissed my forehead.
“You’re the one to talk, ex-president.” My retaliation seemed to have landed successfully.
“Ouch, that hurt.” Ben looked hurt for a moment but then a wide smile appeared on his lips.
“You look so beautiful in this dress! How long did it take you and the girls to pick it out? Not to mention the really expensive jewelry your boyfriend was so kind as to rent for you… Since you didn’t want him to buy it…” He was still teasing me with a huge smile on his face. I twirled around to show him the whole dress.
“Yes, beautiful indeed.” He whispered and our lips touched in a long deep kiss.
“Ahem.” I jolted, taking a step back.
“We have to go. You have a speech to make, president.” One of the new members of the Student Council, who took Nathan’s place as a treasurer, was standing right behind me. The prickly tone of her voice was very similar to Nathan’s when he was disturbed from reading his books. He seriously picked a good substitute. She doesn’t make me miss him at all. I forced a smile on my lips while turning around to face her.
“Of course, right away. I just want to discuss something with Ben-”
“No can do.” Her answer cut right into my sentence.
“Well, I guess it can wait, Soph. Good luck! You’ll do amazing today.” Ben said a few warmhearted words to me before he quickly left. And I knew why. Becky, the girl behind me, had to be burning holes with the laser beams she was shooting from her eyes at him.
“Did you have to?” I was the one getting prickly now. I didn’t like her attitude in this situation at all. Not only did she completely ruin my sweet moment with Ben, she even decided to chase him away like that.
“Your speech.” She thrust my speech cards into my hands. I sighed. Is the student council really going to be okay next year after I graduate? I was starting to feel really worried about the future of the whole group. While Ben was still the president, the Student Council meeting room was always a warm place where I could come to study or just relax. It made me feel warm inside as everyone knew each other and we were all good friends after the hiccups from the beginning. These new people that were either voted for by the students at school or were directly picked by the leaving members, were a pain in the ass. The friendship was gone and I had a hard time keeping everything under check while also trying to maintain my good grades. Not to mention Michael’s many absences in meetings or his complete disregard for his duties. But I couldn’t blame him for it. He was receiving mental therapies and treatment, so he could move to the future from the past he kept living in.
“Well, here we go.” I encouraged myself before stepping into the fully packed ballroom. It was my last official event as the President of the Student Council. My graduation was only a few months later. I put a smile on my face and I confidently walked through the whole room. There were already some students and benefactors of the school, chatting around the small round tables for standing, mostly glasses in their hands. I knew their eyes were on me as I had become the talk of the school. The poor girl with no family, only a sick grandma, becoming the Student Council President. Many of them were questioning the new rules I was setting to make the school more comfortable for the new scholarship students that were admitted during this year. I also made sure that the budget was tightly adhered to. No student club was allowed to spend more money than their planned budget. Everything was taking a turn for the better, so the following Student Council President would have it easier, it would just be a smooth sail for their last school year.
“Dear students, our gracious benefactors, professors, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends.” I put a big smile on my face while giving the speech I rehearsed a few times. The gala was in full swing, the robes and tuxedos were a show of money. Girls were mostly wearing diamonds or pearls, designer clutches, and whatnots.
And here I was, a few weeks after my graduation, after getting hundreds of pink and white peonies from Benjamin. The door creaked when I pushed it to open. The entrance space was dark, the floor tiles were tattered, sometimes chipped or broken. But contrary to my expectations of the inside, it was quite clean. There were no scary-looking huge spiderwebs, old dried tree leaves, or tons of dust and dirt. It only looked like a very old house. Nothing I wouldn’t be used to already from my years of living in the old apartment with my grandma.
I took a few steps forward, my small heels click-clacking on the tiles. Suddenly, I heard footsteps. My breath stopped midway as I was trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. There was someone else in this place?!