It was such a mundane day for almost every passenger on the bus that rumbled down the cold motorway on this grey October afternoon. The strange thing about even the dullest of days, however, is that they are remembered all the more as the last period of normality before something extraordinary happened — at least, to one of these passengers.
This passenger in question; was a fourteen-year-old girl in a school uniform by the name of Kim Fionnlagh, who sat alone close to the back against the window. The dreariness of the world matched her own sour mood. It had been a long week and it was only Wednesday. To take her mind off of how frustrating her day had been, she leant her head against the vibrating window and watched the other people aboard this particular bus.
There was a little old lady, who had been asleep since Kim had boarded. But she was jerked awake, as the bus went over a particularly huge pothole, sending her into the ceiling. Two small children a few rows down squealed in delight at the surge of excitement, only to be shushed by their weary mother. She was sitting in a sea of plastic bags filled to bursting with her shopping, struggling to keep them together by their feeble handles. Further down still, was a small group of young men in football shirts talking among themselves excitedly. Kim had no idea what, must have been a match that either had just been or was tonight. On the whole, this was a typical bunch to see on days such as this.
After another while, the bus rumbled to a stop. The doors slipped open and a tall and young lady with brilliant pink hair and a diamond nose-ring stepped on. After a mumbled exchange with the driver, she took her seat and brought out a book from her handbag. The presence of this alternatively dressed woman caused a ripple effect of reactions to spread among the others. The shopping woman, with an expression of worry, brought her youngest child closer with a sweep of her arm as if the lady had been carrying the bubonic plague. The old woman glared from behind her silver glasses and made a disgusted face and Kim heard a hiss of insults being whispered among the young men in her direction. The pink-haired woman stood out vividly among the mundane crowd and they did not like it. But while the bus’s aura seemed to be against her, the woman’s head stayed low and her eyes focused on her book. But Kim knew she must have felt that, in accordance to everyone else, her presence was not wanted.
Kim felt bad for staring at the woman. If anything, she could understand how that must have felt. She got those same reactions at school, though not for her appearance. Kim was a very slim girl with a slightly round face. She had long, slightly unkempt hazelnut hair that swept past her shoulders and large matching eyes. Her knees were knobbly and she had thin feet that pointed a little inward. Her skin was peachy with freckles on her face as if someone had sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon across her nose. If you were to ask anyone what they thought, most people would confirm that Kim was a very pretty young woman.
But that did not stop the torment she would receive from other students, especially the Bonnies. Oh dear lord the Bonnies. Kim felt herself bristle with the thought of them. If they had been here, no doubt they would have given the magenta-haired lady more than just dirty looks and hushed insults.
The Bonnies, as they adamantly wished to be called, were a group of three very popular girls at the school but Kim was too scunnered with the likes of them to call them as such. She preferred to use other terms that would be considered not safe for the public. They were the sort to turn their noses up to anything that was not mainstream or, for a lack of a better term, normal. They would hiss among themselves while pointing to anyone, even the teachers who stood out. While all of them were beautiful, they were as nasty as vipers sleeping under a bright red rose. As far as they were concerned, anyone who was not them could never be beautiful or worth the time of day. Kim was one such target of theirs.
Despite her looks, by how the Bonnies behaved, Kim might as well have had green skin and a wart-riddled nose. Kim had a naturally clear complexion yet was openly mocked for not wearing make-up, for not liking the same bands as others and preferring to retreat to the library than engage with inner-student politics. There was always something to criticise. That was not even including the rumours that had buzzed around like nasty gnats. Kim was a year older than others in her year, due to a delayed start to primary school for her own benefit, according to her father. But the story spreading throughout the school walls was that Kim was, in less than civilized terms, mentally deficient and had been held back due to antisocial behavior. Still, they would soon tire of this tall tale and move onto the next one. Thankfully, it was now the end of the day and it would be at least another sixteen hours before Kim would have to face another day with them.
The bus trundled into Houston and Kim stepped off at her stop, giving the driver a polite wave as she left. Houston was a small and sweet little village surrounded by rolling green fields, where the most exciting thing to happen was the tractor parade that would snake through the little streets before the annual Agricultural Show. Kim wished it was summer, a quirky little tractor puttering down the road would have broken the monotony of the day. After walking for a little longer, Kim came to a set of neatly lined detached houses with tidy gardens. She walked up to the white door of No.21 and went inside.
It was nice and quiet for a change. Fraser was at nursery and no doubt Trudy was out for a late lunch with her girlfriends. Tristen, Kim’s father, was working late at the trainworks tonight. She would have two glorious hours of solitude. She climbed the stairs and went to her room. On her way there, she had to pass Fraser’s room. It had once been her’s, but when he came along Kim had been forced by Tracy into the much smaller guest room. Tristen was no use, he simply let it happen. Kim sighed as she opened her door and threw her bag onto the bed. Her room was small and bare. Aside from her bed, there was a cupboard and desk with a lamp. Anything she had prior to the move had been thrown out, not that there was much in the first place. Trudy had made sure of that.
Kim ruffled through the untidy pile of clothes that had been thrown onto her bed, pulling out a pair of jeans and a faded pink hoodie. It was a relief to shed her school skin and get into something much more ‘her’. Kim only had a few pairs of jeans, some t-shirts and two different hoodies alongside her underwear. The only time she would get anything new was after a growth spurt. However, at fourteen it seemed that this would be her wardrobe for the rest of time.
Venturing to the spotless kitchen, Kim filled the kettle and opened a cupboard for her mug. To her frustration, Fraser, Trudy and Tristen’s mugs were at the front. Hers must have been pushed to the back again. Digging the cups out, she found her own personal mug -white with horses printed around it- and took it. Way at the back, in the dark of the cupboard was a squashed and clay mug with a crudely painted blue bear on it. Kim had made it for Tristan when she was eight as a father’s day gift. Trudy had called it stupid and berated Kim for not giving him something better. Tristan, for his part, had said nothing and spent much of that day sitting in his office, staring at his computer gloomily.
One ping of the kettle later, Kim had a lovely and hot mug of lemon tea. She took a grateful sip and instantly felt a wave of calm as the tea slipped into her core, warming her from the inside. She opened the snacks cupboard and, again to her annoyance the cupboard was filled to the brim of Fraser’s favourite snacks, none of which Kim liked. She rolled her eyes. No problem. She did not really want a snack anyway. Taking her tea, she sat on the sofa (Careful not to sit on one of Trudy’s oh-so-special cushions) and switched on the television eagerly. She had been waiting for this.
Trudy always had big problems with what Kim watched. She had been banned from watching her favourite show, ‘Waltzing with Werewolves’ much to her chagrin. It was a cheesy teen program where a group of girls befriended a werewolf living behind their school’s hockey pitch and solved supernatural mysteries. Trudy had walked in while the titular werewolf was bearing down on a vampire that had threatened the gang. Dubbing it vile and devilishly macabre, she had taken Kim’s television privileges away and granted them to Fraser. Oddly enough, Trudy’s ever beady gaze seemed to glaze over whenever Fraser watched ‘Northwest Greenswards’ which contained enough swearing to make any military veteran do a double take.
Switching it to the Teenstare channel, Kim nestled into the couch with her mug in hand. She sighed contently as the gothic and choir filled theme song started, showing the characters and their actors before finishing with the title, ‘Waltzing with Werewolves’. This episode was one Kim had not seen. It opened on the dark woods where the werewolf resided. Two men were gingerly walking through, whispering and huddling together. It was a misty night and there was no music. Kim sat forward, predicting what would happen next. As she expected, there was a sudden roar and the werewolf leapt from a bush, her jaws wide and teeth poised! The men screamed and ran, and-!
The shrill ring of the landline phone made Kim jump. She stared at it. Who would call at this time? Picking it up, and before she could even utter a ‘Hello?’, she got her answer.
“Kim,” Trudy’s sugary voice spoke on the other side of the phone, much to Kim’s despair, “You’re going to get Fraser from nursery. He’s out in five minutes and you’d better be there!”
“B-B-But T-Trudy,” Kim spluttered furiously, she did not even ask or say hello! “I just got home and-and-I’m busy!”
“Oh don’t talk to me about being busy!” Trudy’s voice whined. Kim could hear the laughs of her girlfriends, they sounded quite tipsy, “I run myself ragged for you and your brother and you don’t hear me complain!”
Kim had to suppress a grim laugh, Trudy did nothing but complain! Kim herself was a favourite topic of her despair. There was always something to poke and pick at with her, regardless of any efforts Kim made to please her stepmother. She remembered getting so upset at how nothing ever seemed to be good enough. At this point, she could not bring herself to fight it. Kim felt herself zone back in just in time to hear the oh-so-typical line of, “but the one time I ask you for something-!”
“Okay!” Kim sighed gruffly through her teeth, “okay, I’ll get him!” There was not another response, just the dial tone. Kim, furious, slammed the phone down and shut off the television. She dumped her lemon tea down the sink and threw back on her school jacket. Kim stormed out of the front door, closing it so forcefully that she heard one of the pictures on the wall fall onto the carpet. She did not care. Balling her fists in her pockets, Kim strode down the road with her head down, muttering furiously under her breath.
It was not that Kim hated her little brother, but he made it very difficult for her to consider him anything more than a pest. He had taken her room, destroyed any toys she had when she had been a child and whenever her grandparents, Tristan’s parents who lived in Canada, sent her gifts, Trudy would take them and give them to Fraser, even her Power Station, which Kim had wanted desperately and Fraser never touched so it now sat on a shelf collecting dust. Worst of all, he seemed to have taken her father from her. Tristan had always been distant to Kim, but at least until Fraser was born, he might as well not have a daughter. All Kim would get from her father was a question about homework or a limp “morning” when they first met in the mornings. She had wanted to ask Tristan what was perpetually troubling him but had been forbidden by Trudy. “It’s bad enough that he needed to make sacrifices when you were a child, don’t make it worse.” She had snapped at her when Kim had tried before. What was even the point?
“Dozy cow,” Kim growled under her breath as she stormed down the street, “get your own damn kid.” As she muttered this, she heard something behind her fall with a loud BANG! Turning around, she saw that three of the neighbor’s wheelie bins, which had been sitting neatly at their front gate had fired out and fallen onto the pavement. Kim blinked in confusion, the wind was not that strong was it? Rather than hang around to meet the irate neighbour who was coming out of his house, Kim kept walking down the street. All she had to do was retrieve Fraser and get back home, it should not be difficult. Surely?
Kim has more going on than a fourteen year old should already have to deal with. An evil stepmom, bullies at school, starvation, and now magic? The strange adults following her can't be good either. The group of girls that finds her at her lowest moment seem to know what's going on. Will they help or just give her more things to worry about?
This story contains direct references to sensitive subjects such as suicide. Content warnings will be issued at the beginning of chapters containing such subjects.