Chapter 1. Rise
Chapter 1. Rise
The first thing that hits me was the scent of rubbing alcohol and as I started to come to, my eyes fluttering open, I also found that the room was too bright. I blinked rapidly, rousing from what felt like a deep sleep and feeling like I was three sizes too big for everything around me. The heart monitor tracked my frantic movements, and the beeping that had sounded distant was closer and right by my head.
“Glad to see you’re awake, Ms. Foster.”
I wanted to sigh or groan. Or both.
I shifted slightly so that I could catch sight of her. She stared at me, Headmistress Evana, looking just as she had the last time our paths had crossed three months ago. Dressed head-to-toe in black laced attire, her hair was pulled back into an all-business-and-no-fun bun and her skin was pale as paper with lips as red as a rose. Her dress had a high choker-like collar made of lace that ventured down to a carefully tailored dress and wide skirt that I was sure trailed behind her when she walked. I knew she was shorter than she appeared but her ominous persona towered over her, making her seem larger than life. Most students, I had observed, had a hared time meeting her eyes and while usually I lived to challenge this unseen force in them, I felt just like them in that moment.
“We have much to discuss.” She crossed her legs, folding her red fingers on top of her knee. “But, why don’t we start from the beginning?”
I stared at her fingernails, noting how the color looked even darker than the average shade of red. Crimson. Like the pool underneath the girl and the one that had gushed from my arms. I looked down at them, heavily bandaged and stiff at my sides.
“Like the fact that three months ago you found it ideal to disregard curfew hours and runaway.” Evana said, her eyes dead in their sockets. “Care to speak about what drove you to do that?”
I thought about my mother’s fingers running through my head and her soothing voice. My parents had been murdered, savagely in my own home while I had stayed upstairs locked in my room unable to move or even call for help while they screamed from below. The funeral had been the hardest and when Evana had arrived, dressed as some sort of grieving widow from a time long forgotten, it was as if time had stopped. She was an over the top woman with blood stained lips, and she had handed me an envelope with a wolf head sealed over the flap. The paper had been rich and probably the most expensive thing my fingers had ever touched but the words inside the note had been scribbled in my father’s hurried hand. A lump formed in my throat as I forced myself to look at her again, with the memory burning in the back of my head.
“Just leave.” I croaked, my throat and mouth dry. I didn’t sound like myself, not confident or particularly sarcastic. I sounded weak and unsure. I was disappointed too because amidst the sea of things I couldn’t do for myself, killing myself could officially be added to the bottom of it.
She blinked at me as if I hadn’t said anything at all, which was just like her.
“You’ve caused us a great deal of trouble, Ms. Foster.” She said, her voice low and clipped. “You’ve used up a lot of our resources, time and energy on finding you.”
I couldn’t help it then. I glared at her. “I said to leave.”
“Do you understand the severity of your actions? Do you have any idea the storm you left behind after your sudden departure? You have single-handedly thrown this entire school into chaos and–”
“Then why did you bring me back?” I spat cutting her off. My body started to tremble and I could feel it, a low, deep rage and resentment bubbling inside of me. “Why did you look for me? I don’t want this life and I don’t like it here!”
“Is that why you tried to end your own life?” She asked, her voice low, her eyes studious in her head. “Because if so, that’s not how this is going to work out.”
I blinked at her, my cheeks flushed and my anger washing clean out of me. It wasn’t what she had so much as how she had said it. It was so controlled, so beyond the yelling match I was sure we had been on the one-way road to having but she had flipped it.
“It doesn’t matter what you want.” Evana said. “In this world, none of us are given a choice when it comes to our actions.”
“Your father entrusted me with your care.” Evana continued. “Now, whether you agree with that decision or not, it’s the least of my concerns.”
“Not only did you defy our rules by breaking curfew but you led us all on a wild chase to find you. It’s unacceptable and I want you to know and understand that in time, once you’ve recovered, you’ll be punished for your reckless actions.”
I found the courage to glare at her again.
“The world is a dangerous place, Ms. Foster. I’m sure that’s something that your father used to tell you as a child.” She was rising to her feet when I found my voice, pushing it past my furious rage to say what I needed.
“My mother.” I growled, my voice icy.
She stiffened at the word and it took a moment for her to glance back at me, her jaw hard. “What was that?”
“My mother.” I said, firmer this time, with a little more purpose. “My mother told me that once.”
She turned to face me, her lips pressed into a tight line as she looked me over, her green eyes searching mine for something I had yet to figure out. What she had against the word I wasn’t sure but I was positive that it had something to do with the fact that she was the exact opposite from ever being one. Evana was probably the exact opposite of what one thought whenever they conjured up the idea of motherhood.
“The funeral was short.” Evana said, making my blood run cold in my veins. My fury faded away, mixing into the empty feeling that had instantly formed at the start of her words.
“Not much could be said.” Evana said. “It was what it was though, I’m sure you’d agree with me when I say that there was no need to press further.”
My lips trembled and my fingers twitched on my lap. The nerve of her…
“You got lucky this time around, Ms. Foster.” Evana said as she headed toward the door. She placed a hand on the knob and glanced back at me, licking her lips. “I suggest you don’t challenge that a second time.”
She was gone in the next moment, leaving me alone in my private room in the infirmary, as I fought the urge to scream. Instead, hot tears gathered in my eyes and started to fall. My chest felt as if someone had ripped it open and soon I was gasping for air, my breaths heavy. How could she take it there? Nip at my barely scabbed over wound?
But, of course she would. It was such an Evana thing to do. I knew that I shouldn’t have expected anything less. It was wrong to. I licked my lips, tasting my salty tears before slowly, lying back down. I stared up at the stark white ceilings, feeling lower than I had felt in the past three months.
You got lucky, she had said. Don’t challenge that a second time around.
A warning, that was what she had left me with and it stung just as much as it filled me with fear. I didn’t want to begin to think about what it meant but the alternative thoughts weren’t much better. The funeral? There had been one even though she had been in ruins, even though one wouldn’t have been able to discern between what was once a hand or shoulder or…
I swallowed, hard, and the action forced even more tears to fall. I glanced to the side, catching a reflection in the pristine mirror. Staring back at me was a tan girl with dark circles under her eyes and a mess of brown hair, slightly unruly, serving as another pillow under her heavy head.
It was hard to take and I rolled to the side, giving the mirror my back and breathing in the stale scent of detergent on the crisp white sheets. I had barely fought my battle with Evana which I knew was far from being over, but I knew an even bigger one was just over the horizon.