Turned / Chapter Three

Chapter Three


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Caitlin ran. The bullies were back, and they were chasing her down the alleyway. A dead end lay before her, a massive wall, but she ran anyway, right towards it. As she ran, she picked up speed, impossible speed, and the buildings flew by in a blur. She could feel the wind rushing through her hair.

As she got closer, she leapt, and in a single bound she was at the top of the wall, thirty feet high. One more leap, and she flew through the air again, thirty feet, twenty, landing on the concrete without losing a stride, still running, running. She felt powerful, invincible. Her speed increased even more, and she felt like she could fly.

She looked down and before her eyes the concrete changed to grass - tall, swaying, green grass. She ran through a prairie, the sun shining, and she recognized it as the home of her early childhood.

In the distance, she could sense that her father stood on the horizon. As she ran, she felt she was getting closer to him. She saw him coming into focus. He stood with a large smile, and arms spread wide.

She ached to see him again. She ran for all she was worth. But as she got closer, he got further away.

Suddenly, she was falling.

A huge, medieval door opened, and she entered a church. She walked down a dimly-lit aisle, torches burning on either side of her. Before a pulpit, a man stood with his back to her, kneeling. As she got closer, he stood and turned.

It was a priest. He looked at her, and his face filled with fear. She felt the blood coursing through her veins, and she watched herself as she approached him, unable to stop herself. He raised a cross to her face, afraid.

She pounced on him. She felt her teeth grow long, too long, and watched as they plunged into the priest's neck.

He shrieked, but she didn't care. She felt his blood course through her teeth and into her veins, and it was the greatest feeling of her life.

Caitlin sat straight up in bed, breathing hard. She looked all around her, disoriented. Harsh morning sunlight streamed in.

Finally, she realized she had been dreaming. She wiped the cool sweat from her temples and sat on the edge of her bed.

Silence. Judging from the light, Sam and her Mom must have already left. She looked at the clock and saw that it was indeed late: 8:15. She'd be late for her second day of school.

Perfect.

She was surprised that Sam hadn't woken her up. In all their years, he'd never let her oversleep - he'd always wake her if he was leaving first.

He must still be mad about last night.

She glanced at her cell: dead. She had forgot to charge it. It was just as well. She didn't feel like talking to anyone.

She threw on some clothes from the floor and ran her hands through her hair. She normally would just leave without eating, but this morning she felt thirsty. Unusually thirsty. She went to the fridge and grabbed a half gallon of red grapefruit juice. In a sudden frenzy, she tore off the top and gulped it right from the container. She didn't stop gulping until she'd downed the entire half gallon.

She looked at the empty container. Had she just drank all of that? In her life, she'd never drank more than a half a glass. She watched herself reach up and crush the cardboard container in a single hand, down to a tiny ball. She couldn't understand what this newfound strength was that coursed through her veins. It was exciting. And scary.

She was still thirsty. And hungry. But not for food. Her veins screamed for something more, but she couldn't understand what.

*

It was strange to see the hallways of her school so empty, the complete opposite of the day before. With class in session, there wasn't a soul in site. She glanced at her watch: 8:40. There were 15 minutes left to her third class of the day. She wondered whether it was worth it to even go at all, but then again, she didn't know where else to go. So she followed the hallway numbers towards the room.

She stopped outside the classroom door, and could hear the teacher's voice. She hesitated. She hated to interrupt, to be so conspicuous. But she didn't see what other choice she had.

She took a deep breath and turned the metal knob.

She entered, and the entire class stopped and looked up at her. Including the teacher.

Silence.

"Ms...." the teacher, forgetting her name, walked to her desk and picked up a piece of paper, scanning it, "....Paine. The new girl. You are 25 minutes late."

A stern, older woman, the teacher glared down at Caitlin.

"What do you have to say for yourself?"

Caitlin hesitated.

"Sorry?"

"That's not good enough. It may be acceptable to be late to class wherever you are from, but it's certainly not acceptable here."

"Unacceptable," Caitlin said, and immediately regretted it.

An awkward silence covered the room.

"Excuse me?" the teacher asked, slowly.

"You said 'not acceptable.' You meant 'unacceptable.'"

"OH - SHIT!" exclaimed a noisy boy from the back of the room, and the entire class erupted into laughter.

The teacher's face turned bright red.

"You little brat. Report to the Principal's office right now!"

The teacher marched over and opened the door beside Caitlin. She stood inches away, close enough so that Caitlin could smell her cheap perfume. "Out of my classroom!"

Normally Caitlin would have slinked quietly out of the room - in fact, she would have never corrected a teacher to begin with. But something had shifted within her, something she didn't entirely understand, and she felt a defiance rising. She didn't feel that she had to show respect to anyone. And she no longer felt afraid.

Instead, Caitlin stood where she was, ignoring the teacher, and slowly scanned the classroom, looking for Jonah. The room was packed, and she looked row to row. No sign of him.

"Ms. Paine! Did you not hear what I said!?"

Caitlin looked defiantly back. Then she turned and slowly walked out of the room.

She could feel the door slam behind her, and then heard the muffled clamor in the room, followed by, "Quiet down, class!"

Caitlin continued down the empty hallway, wandering, not really sure where she was going.

She heard footsteps. In the distance, a security guard appeared. He walked right for her.

"Pass!" he barked at her, still a good twenty feet away.

"What?" she answered.

He got closer.

"Where's your hall pass? You're supposed to hold it out visibly at all times."

"What pass?"

He stopped and examined her. He was an ugly, mean-looking man, with a huge mole on his forehead.

"You can't walk the halls without a signed pass. You know that. Where is it?"

"I didn't know - "

He picked up his CB radio, and said into it, "Hall pass violation in wing 14. I'm bringing her to detention now."

"Detention?" Caitlin asked, confused. "What are you - "

He grabbed her roughly by the arm and yanked her down the hall.

"Not another word out of you!" he snapped.

Caitlin didn't like the feel of his fingers digging into her arm, leading her as if she were a child. She could feel the heat rising through her body. She felt the Rage coming on. She didn't quite know how, or why, but she knew. And she knew that, in moments, she wouldn't be able to control her anger - or her use of force.

She had to stop it before it was too late. She used every ounce of her will to make it stop. But as long as his fingers were on her, it would just not go away.

She flung her arm quickly, before the full power took over her, and watched as his hand went flying off of her, and as he stumbled several feet back.

He stared back at her, shocked that a girl her size could throw him several feet across the hall with just a slight jerk of her arm. He wavered between outrage and fear. She could see him debating whether to attack her or back off. He lowered his hand to his belt, on which hung a large can of pepper spray.

"Lay your hands on me again, young lady," he said in a cold rage, "and I will mace you."

"Then don't put your hands on me," she answered defiantly. She was shocked at the sound of her own voice. It had changed. It was deeper, more primal.

He slowly removed his hand from the spray. He gave in.

"Walk in front of me," he said. "Down the hall and up those stairs."

*

The security guard left her at the crowded entrance to the Principal's office, and as he did, his radio went off, and he hurried off to another location. Before he did, he turned to her.

"Don't let me see you in these hallways again," he snapped.

Caitlin turned and saw fifteen kids, all ages, sitting, standing, all apparently waiting to see the principal. They all seemed like misfits. They were being processed, one student at a time. A guard stood watch, but lackadaisically, nodding off as he stood.

Caitlin didn't feel like waiting half the day, and she certainly didn't feel like meeting the Principal. She shouldn't have been late to school, that's true, but she didn't deserve this. She'd had enough.

The hallway door opened and a security guard dragged in three more kids, fighting and shoving. Mayhem ensued in the small waiting area, which was completely packed. Then the bell rang, and beyond the glass doors, she could see the hallways filling up. It was now mayhem inside and out.

Caitlin saw her chance. As the door opened again, she ducked past another kid and slipped out into the hall.

She looked quickly over her shoulder, but didn't see anyone notice. She quickly cut across the thick crowd of kids, making it to the other side, then around the corner. She checked again: still no one coming.

She was safe. Even if the guards noticed her absence - which she doubted, since she was never even processed - she was already too far away to catch. She hurried even faster down the hall, putting more distance between them, and headed towards the cafeteria. She had to find Jonah. She had to know if he was all right.

The cafeteria was packed,  and she quickly walked up and down the aisles, looking for him. Nothing. She walked a second time, slowly scanning every table, and still couldn't find him.

She regretted not going back to him, not checking on his wounds, not calling an ambulance. She wondered if he had been really hurt. Maybe he was in the hospital. Maybe he wouldn't even come back to school.

Depressed, she grabbed a tray of food and found a table with a clear view of the door. She sat there, hardly eating, and watched every kid who came in, hoping for a sign of him each time the door swung open.

But he never came.

The bell rang, and the cafeteria emptied out. Still, she sat there waiting.

Nothing.

*

The final bell of the school day rang, and Caitlin stood before her assigned locker. She looked down at the combination printed in the piece of paper in her hand, turned the knob and pulled. It didn't work. She looked down and tried the combination again. This time, it opened.

She stared at the empty, metal locker. The inside door was lined with graffiti. Otherwise, it was completely bare. Depressing. She thought of all her other schools, of how she would rush to find her locker, to open it, to memorize the combination, and to line the door with pictures of boys from magazines. It was her way of gaining a little bit of control, of making herself at home, of finding her one spot in the school, of making something familiar.

But somewhere along the line, a few schools ago, she became less enthusiastic. She began to wonder what the point was in even bothering, since it was only a matter of time until she had to move again. She became slower and slower to decorate her locker.

This time, she wouldn't even bother. She closed the door with a bang.

"Caitlin?"

She jumped.

Standing there, a foot away, stood Jonah.

He wore large sunglasses. She could see that the skin beneath them was swollen.

She was shocked to see him standing there. And thrilled. In fact, she was surprised at how thrilled she was. A warm, nervous feeling centered in her stomach. She felt her throat go dry.

There was so much she wanted to ask him: if he got home OK, if he saw those bullies again, if he saw her there.... But somehow, the words couldn't get themselves from her brain to her mouth.

"Hey," was all she managed to say.

He stood there, staring. He looked unsure how to begin.

"I missed you in class today," she said, and immediately regretted her choice of words.

Stupid. You should have said, "I didn't see you in class." "Miss" sounds desperate.

"I came in late," he said.

"Me, too," she said.

He shifted, looking uncomfortable. She noticed his viola was not at his side. So it was real. It wasn't all just a bad dream.

"Are you OK?" she asked.

She gestured at his glasses.

He reached up and slowly took them off.

His face was purple and swollen. There were cuts and bandages on his forehead and beside his eye.

"I've been better," he said. He seemed embarrassed.

"Oh my god," she said, feeling terrible at the sight. She knew she should at least feel good about having helped him, about sparing him more damage. But instead she felt bad for not being there sooner, for not coming back for him. But after...it had happened, it had all been a blur. She couldn't really remember how she'd even gotten home. "I'm so sorry."

"Did you hear how it happened?" he asked.

He looked at her intently, with his bright green eyes, and she felt he was testing her. As if he was trying to get her to admit that she was there.

Had he seen her? He couldn't have. He was out cold. Or was he? Did he maybe see what happened afterwards? Should she admit that she had been there?

On the one hand, she was dying to tell him how she had helped him, to win his approval, and his gratitude. On the other, there was no way she could explain what she did without seeming like either a liar or some kind of freak.

No, she concluded internally. You can't tell him. You can't.

"No," she lied. "I don't really know anyone here, remember?"

He paused.

"I got jumped," he said. "Walking home from school."

"I'm so sorry," she said again. She sounded like an idiot, repeating the same stupid phrase, but she didn't want to say anything that would give too much away.

"Yeah, my Dad's pretty pissed," he continued. "They got my viola."

"That sucks," she said. "Will he get you a new one?"

Jonah shook his head slowly. "He said no. He can't afford it. And that I should have been more careful with it."

Concern crossed Caitlin's face. "But I thought you said that was your ticket out?"

He shrugged.

"What will you do?" she asked.

"I don't know."

"Maybe the cops will find it," she said. She remembered, of course, that it was broken, but she thought that by saying this, it would help prove to him that she didn't know.

He looked her over carefully, as if trying to judge if she were lying.

Finally, he said, "They smashed it." He paused. "Some people just feel the need to destroy other peoples' stuff, I guess."

"Oh my god," she said, trying her best not to reveal anything, "that's horrible."

"My Dad's pissed at me that I didn't fight back....But that's not who I am."

"What jerks. Maybe the cops will catch them," she said.

A small grin passed Jonah's face. "That's the weird thing. They already got theirs."

"What do you mean?" she asked, trying to sound convincing.

"I found these guys down the alley, right after. They were beat down worse than me. Not even moving." His grin widened. "Someone got to them. I guess there is a God."

"That's so strange," she said.

"Maybe I have a guardian angel," he said, looking her over closely.

"Maybe," she answered.

He stared at her for a long time, as if waiting for her to volunteer something, to hint at something. But she didn't.

"And there was something even stranger than all that," he said, finally.

He reached down and pulled something out of his backpack, and held it out.

"I found this."

She stared down in shock. It was her journal.

She felt her cheeks redden as she took it, both delighted to have it back and horrified that he had this piece of evidence that she was there. He must know for sure now that she was lying.

"It has your name in it. It is yours, right?"

She nodded, surveying it. It was all there. She had forgotten about it.

"There were some loose pages. I gathered them all up and put them back in. I hope I got them all," he said.

"You did," she said softly, touched, embarrassed.

"I followed the trail of pages, and the funny thing is....they lead me down the alley."

She continued to look down at the book, refusing to make eye contact.

"How do you suppose your journal got there?" he asked.

She looked him in the eye, doing her best to keep a straight face.

"I was walking home last night, and I lost it somewhere. Maybe they found it."

He studied her.

Finally, he said, "Maybe."

They stood there, in silence.

"The weirdest thing of all," he continued, "is that, before I went completely unconscious, I could have sworn I saw you there, standing over me, yelling at those guys to leave me alone....Isn't that crazy?"

He studied her, and she looked him back, straight in the eye.

"I'd have to be pretty crazy to do a thing like that," she said. Despite herself, a small smile started at the corner of her mouth.

He paused, then broke into a wide grin.

"Yes," he answered, "you would."


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