Copyright 2011 Tasha MarshallChapter One
Her lungs burned and her legs felt like they would give out at any moment, but she had to keep going. She could feel it behind her. It was catching up to her. One misstep and it would over take her. The voices in her head told her to keep running, to hide and keep hidden. They were calling her name, the voices in her head. They were calling to her, trying to help her, telling her to keeping running, but she couldn't run fast enough. Even now she could feel the hot breath of her pursuer on the back of her neck. There would be no chance of escape if it got its hands on her. She had to keep going.
She could feel the soft ground under her feet giving way. She wasn’t going to make it. Lifting her feet was becoming more and more difficult with each step she took. The air was becoming sticky, making each breath harder and harder to take.
It had her. She could feel its icy cold fingers grab the back of her neck, dragging her down to the ground. Darkness closed in around her as she struggled to take one last breath…
Tristana shot up in bed, gasping for air. It had been the same nightmare for the last few months. Shivering she took another deep breath as she slipped back under the covers. The dream was coming more frequently now. She wondered if it was some kind of warning or if it was something her mind was creating to deal with the issues she’d faced the past several months. It was the same thing over and over, always ending the same way, leaving her feeling uneasy and anxious.
Her body jerked involuntarily and she made an audible gasp as she brushed her right leg over a cold spot on the bed. She hated being cold. Glancing over to the window she checked to see if it had snowed again. She couldn’t tell for sure although it probably had. It had snow everyday that week. Why would today be any different?
“Ana, are you up yet? You’re going to be late if you don’t hurry.”
Tristana groaned at the sound of her mom’s voice floating up the stairs from the kitchen of the old farm house. Her parents, June and Bill Martin, had moved her from a busy life in Washington, D.C to the small rural town of Heyburn, Idaho, a little over two weeks ago. It had been a culture shock to say the least, but she had only herself to blame. She had been the cause that had required the cross country exodus. Had she been able to get along better with her fellow female classmates she and her parents would still be living in the brownstone on Sixteenth Street back in D.C. instead of in the freezing cold tomb she referred to as her room now.
Although, to be fair, living in the little farm house wouldn’t be all that bad if her father had thought to check the furnace before they’d moved in. Now they were stuck living in an iceberg until the furnace repair man could get them a replacement. Until then the only source of heat was a fireplace in the front room that actually only heated the room it occupied and the adjoining kitchen.
“Ana, did you hear me?”
Tristana had one more call before she had to worry her mom might come up and drag her frozen remains out bed. She looked at the chair sitting next to the window covered in clothes. She had made a habit of leaving the outfit she planned to wear the next day there so she could quickly grab them on her way downstairs to sit next to the fireplace to defrost. She didn’t dare dress in her room because of a genuine fear of frostbite.
“Okay, Ana, I’m coming up!”
Tristana could hear her mother’s footsteps on the stairs and hastily replied, “I heard you. I’m getting up.” Then she added lightheartedly, “But if you still insist on joining me in the frozen north you might want to consider bring a parka and pick axe.”
She listened to the sound of her mom’s laughter and smiled. They had started joking back and forth a week ago about who was going to die of hypothermia first, although with Tristana’s room being the coldest in the house they both knew she’d win hands down.
“Okay, you win, Ana. But if you want to eat breakfast before school you better hurry.”
Tristana glanced at the chair one last time trying to build up her courage. Then with a quick breath she jumped from her bed, grabbed her clothes and sprinted down the stairs finding the warmest spot next to the fireplace to get dressed. As she finished pulling on her sweatshirt the wonderful smell of her mother’s cooking drifted into the front room reminding Tristana it was Tuesday, blueberry pancake day.
Her mother was a very efficient person. She was happy being a housewife and she took her job seriously. June Martin had schedules for everything from when she did her laundry to what she made for breakfast each morning. Occasionally it got a little annoying when she refused to deviate from her strict schedule, but Tristana just continued to remind herself that she might be the only teenager in the world that had a mother who still stayed home and cooked breakfast for her each morning, something Tristana stomach was exceedingly grateful for.
“Hey sleepy head, it took you long enough,” her mother smiled as Tristana walked into the kitchen. “Your breakfast is on the table. If you hurry it might still be warm.”
Tristana grumbled at her mom’s advice to hurry.
“You know, Mom, if you had let Dad buy that house down by the river I wouldn’t have to hurry. That house had really cool upgrades, like a working furnace,” Tristana smiled sarcastically. “You would have been the envy of the whole town with a luxury like that.”
“Cute, Ana,” her mother returned the sarcasm. “Anyone can buy a fancy house by a river, but not everyone gets a chance to live in a real piece of history.”
Tristana rolled her eyes. The moment the realtor had shown them the old farm house her mother had fallen in love with it and any time they even mentioned the house her mother got a dreamy look on her face. It was comical to hear her mother describe the house to her friends back in D.C., like it was Mount Vernon or something.
It really wasn’t all bad though. The two story red brick house had real character and Tristana loved the rustic feeling of the aged barn and sheds that came with the purchase of the house. The whole area reminded Tristana of a Norman Rockwell painting with the fields that surrounded the property stretching as far as the eye could see and the tree lined irrigation canal running in front giving the house a feeling of seclusion. You even had to drive down a small lane to really get a good view of the house. If she had been younger she would have thought she’d moved to her own secret garden, but being seventeen it just made her feel more alone than she already did.
“Ana, are you listening,” mother asked, waving a hand in front of her face.
“What?” Tristana started with a confused frown.
Her mother gave her a concerned look. “I just asked you how school was going.”
Tristana grimaced at the question. She hated lying to her mom, but after all the sacrifices her parent’s had made on her behalf she didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. Today was the second day into her third week at Minico High School and all of the optimism she’d had starting into her new school quickly dissolved when she discovered her problems had followed her here from D.C.
Both she and her parents had anticipated Tristana’s issues at her private school back in D.C. would disappear once they moved to a school in a different state, but things were even worse. The girls here had sped quickly past hurtful name-calling and straight onto the destruction of her personal property by egging her precious car, which was a gift her father had given her upon moving to Idaho. She had spent almost two hours after school gentle rubbing the hardened egg yolk off the exterior of her car so as not to ruin the paint job. Her mom had been furious with her for being so late and not calling.
“Tristana,” her mother prompted impatiently.
“Everything fine, Mom,” she lied uncomfortably making herself focus in on the plate in front of her instead of memories from the past.
Her mother gave her a knowing look. “Are you sure? I know it was rough back in D.C. and it’s going to take some time to get over it, but I was really hoping you would have found a few friends by now.”
Tristana would rather have rolled up and died than cause her parents anymore worry so she put on her bravest face and continued to lie. “I’m fine. I’m just still trying to put all the new faces with the right names.”
Her mother nodded understandingly and seemed satisfied with her generic answer. “Well, you’d better go now if you want to avoid being late.” Then frowning as she looked at Tristana’s plate still piled with pancakes added, “I guess I can wrap one of those up with a napkin and you can eat it on your way to school.”
“That would be great, Mom,” Tristana flashed a smile, happy to be moving on. “I’m just going to brush my hair real quick and put on some makeup. Then I’ll be ready to go.”
Tristana was in and out of the bathroom, calling back a quick bye before the screen door swung shut behind her. It had snowed again which meant it was going to take her at least five minutes to brush the snow off her car and scrap the windows, one of the many downsides to buying an older home. No garage.
Hurrying to her car she paused for a brief moment to take in all its automotive beauty. When her father had purchased the car he had said it was so Tristana had something reliable to drive to school. Tristana knew the car was more because he was afraid of her riding the bus without any teacher or parental supervision, but for whatever the reason Tristana about leaped out of her skin when he had pulled up the lane in the sporty BMW. He had even managed to get her favorite color, silver.
Her mom had thought it was a little over the top and made the comment that no teenage girl needed a car that could go from zero to sixty in under five seconds. Her father had only laughed at the comment and Tristana was just happy her mom hadn’t made him return the car for something more practical.
After managing to brush off the remaining snow from the hood and scrap the windows without completely being covered in ice shavings, Tristana jumped into the driver’s seat and waited for it to warm up enough so she could feel her fingers again.
In all honestly, she was in no hurry to get to school. She usually tried to be one of the first students there so she could get her books and go to class to avoid running into any of the other female students. She had been pretty successful so far, only experiencing a few problems one of them being named Clarissa Fuller. Clarissa was a short blond who seemed to really have it out for Tristana after seeing her boyfriend following Tristana around like a little puppy during her first week at Minico. Clarissa was reason enough for Tristana to sign up for extra classes in order to graduate early.
Right now she was on track to graduate a semester into her senior year. It was already January which meant she only had to suffer through nine more months of school if she counted the rest of her junior year and the beginning of her senior year. All she had to do during those nine months was stay invisible to the female population and she would be home free. Graduating early was her way of making sure her parents hadn’t wasted their time, money, and energy moving her cross country, and her way of escaping the nightmare that had become her high school experience.