NEVE remembered in detail the moment she'd started to hate her mother.
The sun shone right into Neve's eyes as she stepped up to the side of her mother's desk. She wanted to ask her if she could use the printer in the other room to print something out for a class assignment, and she couldn't help the big nervous smile that plastered itself on her face as she stared at her mother. Occasions where she asked her mother for anything were far and few between, and the thing she could most remember feeling as she walked away from her mother at those times was unease.
But the assignment was important, and she did want to spend some time with her, so she pushed away the memories and spoke. "Um, mom?"
The look in her mom's eyes when she turned to face her made Neve want to run away.
It was loathing, plain and simple and terrifying.
And it didn't fade. If anything, it grew, eyes burning with hostility so strong that Neve did run away.
But not before returning the glare full-force.
After that, Neve hadn't wanted to spend time with her mother anymore.
After that, Neve had realized her mother never wanted to spend time with her in the first place.
Now, as the doorbell rang, Neve dismissed the unwelcome memory, standing up from the dining table. She lingered for a minute, looking down at her mother, who ate in silence at the other end of the table. Neve stalked away without a word.
Backpack weighing on her shoulders, she opened the front door, only to be hugged from behind by small arms. A single glance behind her told her that it was her little brother Nate. She hesitantly turned and hugged him back, conscious that Claire and Becca could see her.
Nate pulled away from the hug all too soon. "I love you!"
"I love you too." Unable to resist, she reached out and pinched his chubby cheeks. He swatted her hands away and ran off, probably to his room to go back to sleep. A small sigh left her lips as she turned and faced Becca and Claire.
"So you're finally ready to go? Took you long enough," Claire said, rolling her eyes and walking off.
Neve rolled her eyes right back, pushing past Becca and following behind Claire. She shivered from the chill in the air, watching her steps on the wet sidewalk. The click of Becca's heels trailing her sped her up until she entered Claire's car from the passenger door. She'd only gotten a step inside when she felt a hard shove from behind. She hissed as her cheek rubbed painfully against the leather seats.
"Serves you right," Becca said, giggling.
Neve gritted her teeth to smother her rising irritation and situated herself, rubbing her cheek.
Neve's annoyance only grew as the day wore on, little things ticking at her temper. She tapped her fingers on her desk in a cadence as Mr. Cole outlined what they were doing in their assignment that day. Neve tried to listen, really, but she was too focused on calming her ever-rising exasperation.
And her temper had almost dropped down to what was reasonable when the girl in front of her turned around. "Hey, um... can you stop tapping your fingers?"
Neve pinned the girl with a glare so fierce, it rivaled her mother's.
The girl flinched, hunching her shoulders and turning back around.
Neve did stop tapping though, regret forming. The glare had been automatic, stemming from her fading irritation, and she saw where the girl was coming from. Hearing someone other than yourself tap their fingers continuously was annoying.
Her ears suddenly perked, detecting the little noises people made all around the room. She was barely able to stifle the strangled noise bubbling up in her throat as she covered her ears. What was up with her today? Usually, she was able to smother these excessive feelings, but they seemed to be running rampant for some reason.
Neve was snapped out of her inner torment when someone tapped on her desk. She glanced up to see a girl staring down at her with a weirded out look.
"Um... here." The girl dropped the paper onto her desk, giving her one last look before leaving.
Could you make your disgust any more obvious? Neve thought. She resisted the urge to stand up and put the girl in her place. It wouldn't change anything.
She sighed, staring at her worksheet. She found herself unable to process the first question enough to answer it—
It wasn't that she didn't know the answer—she knew she knew the answer, but her mind kept getting too distracted to bring it to the forefront of her mind. Her heart pounded in her chest, mind running a mile a minute. She gripped her pen tighter and shut her eyes as her head pounded. What the hell was going on? What was this agonizing anticipation?
She'd only just stood to leave the classroom when pain exploded in her brain. Her head cracked against the desk as her knees buckled. She felt her body slide off the chair and onto the cold floor, and it was then that she felt the pain. Something warm ran down her forehead, and her hands shook wildly as she brought them up to hold her head.
Neve saw shoes through dark spots in her vision, her eyes trailing upward to see Mr. Cole rushing toward her.
Then agony was all she knew.
The first thing Neve felt when she woke up was pain.
It was mostly in her head, a throbbing headache keeping her wincing as she sat up. She looked around, panic bubbling up in her throat when she realized that she wasn't sure where she was.
But it seemed like a hospital.
Nope. You're in your nurse's office.
Neve froze. What was that?
She jumped when she heard the voice from inside her head. "What the hell?!"
Well, you're a little deviant, aren't you? What language.
"What the hell is this?! What's going on?" Neve shouted to no one, really, but the... voice in her head answered anyway.
It would do you some good to watch your mouth when you're speaking with me, little girl.
Little girl? What the... "And who—no, what exactly are you?"
Ah, did I forget to introduce myself? Sorry about that. It's been quite an interesting day for me. Anyway, you can call me The Obscurity. I'm sure you've been eager to meet me. I know I have.
"This has to be some kind of nightmare." Neve inhaled deeply, then slapped herself on both sides of her head twice.
Might I ask what you're doing? I knew humans were foolish, but not to this degree.
Neve sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose, wondering if she'd gone insane from that knock on the head.
I somehow get the feeling that you were insane long before then.
"Would you shut up?! I swear to God..."
You, a mere human, dare to speak to me like that?
At this point, Neve was sure someone had drugged her.
Are you quite done with your human shenanigans? Yes? Then submit.
Neve barely had time to wonder what exactly The Obscurity meant by that before her mind was consumed by agony.
She resisted the scream that wanted to tear out of her throat and instead focused her efforts on keeping herself cognitive. As wild as these past few minutes had been, Neve believed what The Obscurity had said, because while it had been speaking—thinking?—she'd come to a conclusion: The Obscurity had caused what had happened in class. Therefore, it could do it again. So she'd steeled herself for the same occurrence.
She imagined that if she hadn't suspected it would happen again, she would be passed out on the floor. Not like she was doing very well at the moment, seeing as the pain was only slightly tapering off.
You're very right in thinking that. It's only a matter of time.
She would've thought what The Obscurity said to be true if it weren't for the strain in its voice. Neve wasn't the only one struggling.
It was this realization that gave Neve the push to attack The Obscurity with all the mental power she had.
And the pain in her head ceased.
Neve blew out a breath, untangling her hands from hair.
That was... something. This might not be as easy as I thought.
Neve didn't say anything, mind still worked out from whatever had just happened. She waited for The Obscurity's next words.
But it didn't say anything else, so Neve continued to massage her head until the nurse came in.
That wasn't to say that The Obscurity disappeared. The opposite was true, actually.
It returned with a vengeance, but only when a certain thing happened.
Only when the transfer students arrived.
Neve hadn't even noticed they entered the room until the Obscurity said, How are they here already? This is much too soon.
Neve's entire body seized for a moment, face twisting into a painful grimace. She forced herself to relax as the shock left her body.
What are you on about?
Those two in the front.
Neve raised her eyes to the front of the classroom, and her eyebrows raised at what she saw. There were two students beginning to walk down one of the columns of desks—normal. But they were stunning. One of them was a girl with blazing blue eyes, long blonde hair in a ponytail. The girl behind her lustrous chestnut hair that barely reached her shoulders, brown eyes narrowed, mouth raised in a smile. The combination created unease in Neve's stomach.
What made her even more anxious, however, was when the brunette set her eyes on her, smiled, and gestured to her blonde friend. Then they started making their way toward her.
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