Chapter OneI stood there as still as a statue. My tangled blonde hair whipped across my face—slapping my pale skin. The town was just awakening as I stared past the morning fog, burning a hole into the pavement on the other side of the road. As I waited for the school bus to turn the corner onto Tree Comb Street, I couldn't help but think of how wrong this felt ... how wrong everything felt. It was my first day of school and my mother had already managed to "kindly offer" me a back-to-school outfit and then guilt-trip me into wearing it. She was my mother, after all. The ruffled white skirt was uncooperative in the wind and the unfamiliar "latest style" flats pinched my toes. Converse were more my type. My mother always complained that I was not a normal teenager, I was different. She always wanted me to look more like the other girls, more like I tried to make an effort, but apparently, her idea of "making an effort" was slightly different than mine. I knew she was worried about me; teachers complained, and I could hear her, every night, whispering to my Uncle Jerry about my supposed social outcast status. Though she didn't realize it, she was quite wrong. I had good grades, perfect attendance, and people took quite a liking to me. Sadly, the feeling wasn't mutual. I knew my mother thought I couldn't make friends because of my past, but that wasn't fully true, either. I could be friendly if I wanted, I just chose not to. Simply because I devoted my spare time to books (to put the phrase lightly), did not mean there was something wrong with me. Naturally, I preferred to bury my head into Shakespeare or science fiction rather than romances and Elle magazines.
My mother would always complain about how I wasn't a normal sixteen year old.
"When I talk to you, I feel like I'm talking to another adult," she would moan.
As the ruddy old bus approached me, huffing and puffing like a cigarette smoker, the feeling which overwhelmed me was how alone I felt, not that I wasn't used to the sense of loneliness.
The school bus came to a sudden halt, inches away from my face. I picked up my bag and stumbled up the worn-down stairway with my awkward, skinny legs. They were my mother's, those legs; apparently the only bad trait I had inherited from her, she claimed. I could remember her lecturing me about them as if it were yesterday.
"Melinda, you are such a klutz. What will we ever do with you?" she nagged.
Other than the times when I didn't live up to her standard as a daughter, though, she would tell me how beautiful I was.
"Curiously beautiful," she would coo.
I received that comment frequently, even from strangers. I refuse to call it a compliment, though. To be curiously beautiful, even exotic for that matter, wasn't at the top of my list of aspirations. It didn't even come close. In fact, my unique quality, as everyone called it, was merely a distraction to others, who, in turn, were a distraction to me. Boys fawning over me in class while I tried to focus on my studies was not the delightful experience it is made out to be. Most important, though, was the fact that, when staring at my reflection in the mirror, I saw nothing the least bit appealing staring back. Not that I thought I was in any way unattractive, I was just a plain girl; pixie-faced with an ivory skin tone, emerald green eyes, and loose, wavy hair, the color of straw. I never thought anything of the whole ordeal concerning my appearance. After all, to me, beauty was only skin deep. This, of course, is a well known cliché, but I believe it has the right to be popular. It bares truth. Allowing my mind to wander as I walked down the aisle of the bus, I hadn't the slightest hint of what was yet to come; what event would slowly, but surely, turn my world on its axis.