Claimed - 1. Chapter 1 - Life Again
Darkness greeted me when I opened my eyes. I didn't even know why I bothered setting my alarm anymore. Ever since 'the incident' I've had a tendency of waking up way before my alarm. Usually two or three hours before. It made getting a full night's sleep a thing of the past.
I climbed out of bed, and after double checking that my windows and bedroom door were closed and locked, I went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. I only climbed in when the steam filled the room and the water was scalding. My therapist would have a field day if she knew I was still burning myself with the water. But it was the only thing that made me feel anything anymore. I climbed out of the shower when the water felt icy on my skin. By that stage the sun had already risen, lighting up the beautiful Johannesburg sky outside my window. My mom was probably already awake, making breakfast, pretending like everything was normal. She and my dad split after 'the incident' citing difference of opinion. That opinion being how to treat their traumatised younger daughter. My dad believed that the only way to get over it, and to get better, was to acknowledge what had happened and move on from there. My mom believed that forgetting it had ever happened was the best approach. They divorced and my mom won custody. Her job didn't require her to travel all over the place like my dad's did. The only way that my dad was going to let me live with my mom was if she agreed to let me see a therapist. My mom only agreed because my older sister threatened to take me away and never speak to either of them ever again. It was all very complicated. Karen moved back in with me and mom when I was released from my mandatory stint at the medical centre. Her and mom didn't see eye to eye anymore, but at least I knew there was someone in the house still of sane mind.
A knock on my door brought me back to reality.
"Tali. You up yet?" Karen's voice asked through the door.
She knew that trying to come in was useless. I always had my door locked. It was a comfort thing.
"I can hear you shuffling around kid. Let me in."
I went to my door and knocked twice, waited, and then knocked again.
Karen knocked once, and then knocked again. My sister understood my paranoia and she indulged in my strange security measures. She obviously had a key in case of emergencies, but she wouldn't use it otherwise.
"Morning kid." She came in and sat on the edge of my bed.
"Morning Kazi." I used my childhood nickname for her.
"Melissa is making breakfast, your favourite... bacon and eggs." She refused to call our mother by any other name.
She believed it was moms fault. I tried not to think about it too much.
"I don't know if I can do it Kazi."
"What? Eat breakfast?" My sister tried to joke.
She then looked at me and her face softened. Today was the first day at my new school. It had taken just over six months for the doctors to give the go ahead for me to resume my education. Mom was ecstatic. Karen was worried. I was scared as hell.
"You'll do great kid. Just keep thinking happy thoughts. And make friends at your own pace, okay?"
I nodded and went back into the bathroom to change. Even after six months, I still didn't feel comfortable getting naked, even in front of my sister.
I came out of the bathroom and Karen's eyes widened.
"Tali. Are you sure you want to wear that?"
I frowned and walked over to my mirror. I instantly knew what Karen was talking about. One of the branding marks was visible. I balked, my face losing all colour. I rushed back into the bathroom and ripped the shirt off, threw it in the trash, and found a shirt that covered more.
Karen stood up when I came out again.
"You okay, Talita?" I knew she wanted to reach out and hold me, but I still couldn't stand people touching me.
"I'll be fine." I smiled, even though I'm sure the smile didn't reach my eyes.
I picked up my school bag, and motioned for Karen to follow me. I locked the door before going downstairs.
Breakfast had been awkward for both myself and Karen. As Karen sipped her coffee and I drank my redbull, a staple in my diet since coming home again, mom chattered away, talking about anything and everything. Though she never mentioned anything about school. I was slightly disappointed but not the least bit surprised.
Karen had taken a job at the school so she could be close to me. She had just graduated, with her masters in psychology, when the incident happened. And lucky for both of us, the school had a counsellor position open. She'd jumped at the opportunity.
Today was her first day as well. I could see that she was just as nervous as me. I felt bad for not seeing it sooner, but my mind had been preoccupied.
The staff parking lot was relatively empty when we arrived, with only the principles spot taken, and two other spaces full. Karen parked, taking a place close to the schools main entrance. The building didn't look as opposing as I thought it would. It actually reminded me a lot of my old school, which made me miss my best friend.
"Don't think about it, Talita. It won't help you here." Karen had this strange ability to know where my mind was venturing, way before I caught on. I almost laughed. It was a strange feeling, wanting to laugh. It had been quite a while since I'd had the urge.
Karen leaned over and tugged on my ponytail. She was proud of me for not hiding my face behind my long blonde hair. The only problem was I tied my hair up so I could always be aware of my surroundings. It was a about survival, not strength.
"C'mon kid, let's go inside."
We walked straight to the main office, where a secretary greeted us warmly. She looked directly at me, with kindness and understanding, and said, "You must be Talita." She then looked at Karen and reached out to shake her hand. "And you must me Karen. Principle Markham will be with you shortly, he's just on a call."
Karen greeted her back and thanked her, before we took a seat to wait. Not two minutes later the principle invited us into his office. He looked young but stern and unforgiving as he gestured for us to take the seats in front of his desk.
"Welcome to Augustine Prep." He looked at Karen and then at me. "I've been made aware of the situation and I can guarantee that you won't have any trouble here."
My sister sat up straight and stared directly into the principles eyes.
"Do the teachers know what happened?" She asked with worry in her tone.
"They know the general story, but not all the details. I didn't think it was my story to tell."
My sister looked relieved. Not because she didn't want people to know what happened, but because she didn't want people to pity me or ask stupid questions.
I didn't say anything during the meeting. It was mostly just a welcome to the school and to tell me how classes worked and that because of my extenuating circumstances, I didn't need to attend the fitness class, or join any clubs. It was a relief.
By the time we were done, the school hall was teeming with students. Karen said goodbye to me in the office, and went off to find her office, but not before telling me she loved me. The secretary, whose name I learned was Mrs Edwards, gave me my class schedule and then showed me to my first class. It was English, which used to be one of my favourite subjects before everything went to hell.
The teacher was standing at his desk, at the back of the class, when I walked in.
"Take a seat anywhere Miss Beckett."
I nodded and chose a desk closest to the door. There was still some time before the bell was meant to ring, so I took out a note book and started sketching. The sketch had started as a simple flower but by the time the bell rang it had turned into a vase full of roses.
"That is awesome." A deep voice said from behind me, making me jump. I quickly shut the book and realized that the class had almost completely filled up. How had I not noticed all of the people?
"You must be new," The voice spoke again. This time from the seat next to mine. "I'm Jordan, and you are?"
I looked at the boy. He was Asian with thick black hair hanging in his eyes, and a goofy grin plastered across his face. He looked like he was drowning in the giant hoodie that he wore. He looked normal.
I had to remind myself that he wasn't here to harm me. He was just a normal boy who was trying to get an education.
"Talita." I said whilst trying to smile.
I could see he wanted to talk more, but the teacher called everyone to attention and started to introduce himself.
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