Within the Shadows (A Shadow World Novel Book 1)
WAKING UP IS considered a simple daily task to most, but for me, lying so still and lifeless scares me. The haunting echo of confusion filled my head with pain, and a hunger for something I do not know. The burning that spreads throughout my body is something I cannot describe without wanting to wail and escape the anguish that keeps building up.
Here I am, in a situation that can only be described as a nightmare. For me, this is no dream. Today, I was reborn into a world full of darkness and horror. My place is unknown to me, but the desire to feed is my basic instinct.
My name is Giselle Bergman. I’m eighteen-years-old, and from what I can remember, I have lived a good, yet short life.
I FELT HIS eyes on me before I returned the look. He knew what I was thinking, and, like always, he knew the right way to cheer me up. Best friends were like that, and Alex was, without a doubt, my knight-in-shining armour. He was like my shadow, and the last six years proved to me just how dependable he had become.
“We need sugar, and lots of it!” he practically shouted, pulling into the lot.
“But we’ll be late for school! I can not have another detention, Alex, and besides, I need to see Marc before class.” I sighed.
“Well, Marc can wait. Strawberry glaze or chocolate sprinkles?” he asked as he got out of the car.
Alex winked at me, and I giggled like a little girl as I followed him.
“One of each,” I said. “It’s a Monday. I need me some sugar.”
Grabbing hold of his arm, I held onto him, and ignored the sneering looks from a group of girls leaving the cafe.
“Still slumming it, I see, Alex. Call me when you man up,” the local slut hollered as she walked across the lot with her minions in tow.
I ignored them and their taunts, and walked inside, escaping to our favourite table.
“Bitches.” I scowled, looking out the window.
“Who does she think she is?” My face reddened with anger.
“Ignore her, G. She’s harmless.”
“Why are you always defending her?” My voice was now an octave above a whisper.
Grabbing the menu from me, he threw it onto the table. “Look at me! They can say whatever they want. They can make as many comments, and it won’t change a thing. You’re my friend, Giselle. Besides, you look way better than them.”
Laughing, I looked back outside, and watched Evie with her perfect body driving off in her perfect car as I felt sick inside.
“Marc seems to think she’s great.” My voice cracked as I watched her drive off.
“Marc’s an ass,” Alex said as he looked over the menu, pouting his lips at whatever he fancied. He did that when something appealed to him.
“Well, think about it. He’s dating you, and yet he has time for said ‘bitches.’ Give me a break! If you were my girlfriend, and this is just hypothetical, I wouldn’t let you out of sight, or give those asses reason to pick on you, but that’s just from my viewpoint. Now, let’s order. I’m starving.”
The small bistro was buzzing with customers. The delicious scent of freshly made coffee filled the air. It woke up my taste buds. Its bright and bold colours hurt my eyes. Shades of orange, lime green, and sunbeam yellow had been painted abstractly on the walls, reminding me of summer. Even the ceiling reminded me of the ocean with its cool shades of baby blue. Somehow, it had become a place of comfort to me. The people reminded me that I belonged here, and, like always, Marion was the first to come welcome us and take our order.
“Morning, you two. The usual?” she asked. Turning to face me, she smiled, and her voice softened. “How is your mother, Giselle?”
“Hi, Marion, um, yeah, the usual, but can I have a side order of arsenic to go?” I laughed. “Um, Mom is good, thanks.”
“That’s great, sweetheart. Give her my love.” Laughing, she walked back towards the counter, shaking her head.
Alex sat forward, his brilliant green eyes staring hard into mine. “Arsenic?”
“Well, it was either that or crushed glass.”
We burst out laughing, grabbing the attention of the people at the table next to us. We were like two naughty school children. Giggling as we ate, we didn’t care who scowled at us. It was just Alex and I, in our own world, and nothing was going to break that bond . . . ever!
The ride to school was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. My pain increased with each kilometre the closer we got to school. I knew I had to face Marc at some point in the day, but to be honest, I was too pissed off with him to really care about why he’d dropped me for some lame party in town.
My stomach spun, and I was nervous as I got out of the car. Marc was standing by his truck on the far side of the lot. There was no avoiding him. He stood with Aaron and Doug, his best friends, and watched me as I tried my best not to look at him, but it was so hard. He and his beautiful puppy dog eyes always got to me, and I knew I would be putty in his hands.
Yet I wanted him to squirm just a little while longer, for my own benefit. Alex swung his arm over my shoulder, and pulled me in close to him, reassuring me that my impending confrontation would be fine. I wished I had his confidence in me.
“Relax. Just keep eye contact and scowl. Scowl like a mad woman,” he whispered as we parted company. “Laters, Bergman.” With that, he was gone.
I was on my own.
Marc eyeballed me as I slowly made my way over to him. The bell rang, and people bumped past me as they rushed off to homeroom. I, on the other hand, had to lay a few things to rest before I could face my day of boredom, and its side helping of bitchiness.
“Hi!” I greeted all three of them.
“Um, morning, G,” Aaron said as he nudged Doug in the arm.
Guys must have some sort of secret code, because without Aaron saying anything, they both looked at each other, then at Marc, and left.
“You took your time coming in today,” Marc said as he slung his bag over his shoulder.
“Yeah, but that’s my business,” I bitterly retorted.
“G, you’re meant to be my girlfriend. Maybe you should start acting like it.”
“What? Are you for real? You’re such an ass, Marc.” Anger began to boil inside me, and I walked on ahead of him.
“Giselle, wait!” he called after me. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t even cut it, Marc,” I replied. “You blew me off for what? Drinks with the ‘guys.’ I went to so much trouble. Can you imagine how dumb I felt waiting for you to turn up?”
“I really am sorry. I didn’t know Andy was going to some frat house. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gotten into the car. I swear, G, I would have shown up. Only, things got out of hand.” His eyes shot to the ground, as he avoided having to look at me.
It was so hard staying mad at him. I really wanted him to grovel more, and feel like total shit, but I couldn’t do it to him. I adored him, and wanted to make up so badly.
“It was our anniversary, Marc. Four years is a pretty big deal, but you can make it up to me,” I said coyly.
Looking up into his delicious blue eyes, I felt my anger melt. I was more than ready for our make-up kiss. Pulling me in close to him, he cupped my face in his hands, and gently pulled my mouth to his. I could smell his cologne, and as it danced in circles around my nostrils, I kissed him back, our tongues lightly brushing together. The kiss drew a few whistles of approval, and a stern mouthful from Mr. Green.
“What is the meaning of this public display of . . . of . . . ?” he stuttered.
“Affection,” Marc said, trying to finish the line for him.
I held in my laughter as he led us into the school, and straight to Principal Brooks’ office. Standing outside of Brooks’ office, neither Marc, nor I, said anything, but his smile said it all. We were back on track.
“Bergman, Clark, g . . . g . . . get in here now!” Green bellowed from the doorway.
Marc entered the office first, and I hastily stopped at the door, avoiding eye contact with Brooks.
“Bergman, close the door when you’ve decided to join us,” Green said sarcastically as he folded his arms.
His face was red and swollen, and by the looks of things, the night before had been a heavy one. Everyone knew he was a little too fond of the booze.
“Giselle, come in, and close the door,” Principal Brooks directed me.
Obediently, I shut the door behind me, and stood close to Marc, trying my best not to laugh. When I get nervous, I tend to mask my feelings by laughing, or making light of the situation, but right then and there, I doubted my humour would have been appreciated.
“Giselle, I am very disappointed in you. How many times have we had this discussion? You are always late for school, you’re behind in your assignments, and, to be blunt, I am getting quite sick of your casual display of affection with Mr. Clark.”
I could not believe it. He was pinning it all on me! “But . . .” I tried to speak.
“Enough of your excuses! You’re on detention for the rest of the week. I believe you should be in English. If you make it quick, I am sure Ms. Royston won’t add to your ever-growing record of disobedience.” He ushered me out of the room. “Marc, this game on Friday night . . .” The door closed, and the conversation became nothing more than muffled voices.
As I made my way to class, I could not have felt more pissed off. Walking into the already quiet classroom was bad enough, but having Evie smugly looking at me as I fumbled through my bag was the last straw.
“When you’re ready, Giselle,” Ms. Royston said.
Sitting down, I looked around for him. There he sat, smiling at me, showing concern with those luminous green eyes, and instantly, I felt calm.
“You okay?” he mouthed at me.
Nodding my head, I tried not to distract Ms. Royston, but failed.
“Is there something you’d like to share with the rest of the class, Giselle?” she asked.
I could feel my cheeks growing red, and my heart pounded hard in my chest. “No.” My voice quivered.
Everyone was looking at me. I could feel Evie’s eyes staring hard at me, but I refused to give in, and stared ahead.
“Really? Well, maybe you can take part in our class discussion. What is Atticus’s relationship to his children like?” She sat back against her desk, and folded her arms, waiting for my input.
Oh, my God! I thought. I had read the book. well, only slightly, but God, I didn’t have a clue. My face became redder and redder as I slowly died inside.
Alex spoke up. “Atticus is a kind, and I suppose, loving father. He reads to his children, and offers them comfort when they need it. He is also capable of teaching them pretty harsh lessons, like when he allows Jem to come with him to tell Helen Robinson about Tom’s death. He is also a very wise man, one who is committed to justice and equality, and his parenting style is based on fostering these virtues in his children. He even encourages Jem and Scout to call him “Atticus” so that they can interact on terms as equal as possible. Well, that is what Giselle and I discussed earlier, anyway.” He confidently sat back in his chair, and grinned at me.
“Well, that was . . .” Ms. Royston began. The bell rang, and I was out of that room in a flash.
I stood by my locker, defeated by Monday’s usual round up, and craved my warm bed. I wanted to escape the usual bullshit of school life, and wanted nothing more than to run away, to live my life far from there on the other side of the world.
“It can’t be that bad,” Alex said as he stood beside me.
“Wanna bet? I have just had the worst morning ever. I was hauled in by Green for kissing Marc, and now Brooks has me on another week of detention. My dad is gonna kill me!” Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath.
“Ouch! But at least you have the prom on Saturday. That is something to look forward to, right?” He tried his best to make me feel better.
“With the way my week’s going, I doubt I’ll make it to Saturday.”
“Oh, come on, G, play it cool! Just keep your head down, and for God’s sake, stay out of Green’s way,” he said as he hugged me.
“Yep, but that’s easier said than done.”
The noise from the corridor began to fade, and the bell rang again. I had an awful knack for being late for everything, and at this rate, I was more than likely going to be late for my own funeral.
“See you later. I gotta go dazzle the lovely Ms. Shultze.” He winked at me, and left me alone.
I stood with my eyes closed for a few moments, trying my hardest not to succumb to the overwhelming feelings growing inside me. I wanted to cry. Hell, I wanted to throw a tantrum that a two-year-old could get away with, but knowing the endless chaos it would bring would probably ruin my school life forever. I played it safe, and held my emotions in instead.
Opening my locker, I searched for my Algebra book. “Damned thing!” I cursed to myself.
Instead, I found a sealed brown envelope lodged between my music folder and my copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. Pulling it out, I looked it over, checked the corridor for any peering eyes, and opened the blank envelope. Inside, I found a disc and a small note. There was nothing else. That was when I decided to let my curiosity get the best of me. The message had been pieced together with cut-outs from magazines, but the words had the profoundest effect on me.
Once upon a time, a girl had a dream. She had the boy. She had it all. Now it’s time to burst that bubble.
Without hesitating, I skipped the rest of the day’s lessons. I knew no one would be home when I got there. Dad was away on another business trip, and Mom was more than likely planning some charity convention with the other contenders for ‘Mother of the Year.’
Grabbing a bag of chips and a can of Pepsi from the refrigerator, I casually strolled into the family room, sliding the disc into the DVD player, and pressing play. Sitting back on the sofa, I chugged down half of the can, and started munching on my favourite snacks. Before I could swallow my mouthful, what I saw caught me completely off guard. Struggling to control the ever-growing knot in my stomach, my eyes filled with tears. I was torn in two, full of disbelief at what I was seeing, and anger that this was no set up. I wanted to scream, but the voice would not come out.
Breathe, Giselle. Breathe!
That was when reality really hit me, and I started screaming uncontrollably, tears streaming down my cheeks. My head pulsated as I searched through my bag for my phone whilst the audio played in the background. Her laughter and moans filled my head, and in a rage, I threw the controller at the TV screen. It cracked, and the screen went dead momentarily.
Frantically, I dialled Alex’s number, and paced, waiting for him to answer. “Hello?” he answered.
“Alex . . . Alex . . .” I sobbed.
“Giselle, what’s wrong?” he asked, concerned.
“Oh, God . . . Marc and . . . He . . .” I broke down.
“Where are you?” he asked.
Sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, I cried. Inside, my stomach churned over and over, and at times, I felt like vomiting, but it didn’t happen. Instead, I took long deep breaths to counteract my sobs. Dizziness plagued me as I tried to make sense of what I had seen. Surely, it had been some kind of sick joke, but it was too real. Marc had to have known about this, but I was at a loss as to what to do. If it was true, things would never be the same again. Inside, I could feel a part of me die.