– The Vision of the Dawn of the Aeon of Horus.1 –
"And thus my world, forever unmoving and suspended in time and space,
fell unto the Wheel of Destiny and into the stormy waters of unknown seas.
And although I feel like I'm drowning, in this strange and new movement
a smile persists on my dying lips, for I've finally found out what has always been there,
beyond this constant and unchanging inertia."
"Good morning, Mary!" I raised my head and smiled.
"Morning." Steph dragged her chair to take her place and Joanne entered the classroom approaching us.
"How in all sacred heavens did you manage to arrive before me?" she asked Steph, sarcastically, and Steph stuck out her tongue. "So? How was your weekend?" she asked us and I thought I saw Steph blush. "Uh! I see we have some progress here," Joanne observed maliciously. "Spit it out! Did you go out with the guy?"
"His name is Mark," Steph corrected and Joanne looked at her wide-eyed.
"His name is Mark, I see. So? How was it?"
"How was what? We went to the movies."
"And nothing!" Steph replied defensively. "Why must there be an and? We hardly know each other."
"I suppose," Joanne conceded, resting her arms on Steph's desk. "So? What do you think of the guy?"
"Nothing special," she retorted with a grumble, looking away. I couldn't help smile while Joanne was trying really hard not to laugh. It was obvious that Stephanie had enjoyed Mark's company, a lot. "I guess he's nice. We talked a lot."
"Are you going out again?" Joanne insisted with enthusiasm, as if she were watching an episode of some soap opera, and Steph simply nodded. "That's great! Finally! You're always turning guys down."
"It's not like I'm interested in him or anything," Steph countered immediately, her cheeks blushing, and Joanne patted her hand.
"Yeah, yeah, we understand," she responded condescendingly. Mr. Frederich's stern voice interrupted us as he entered the classroom and wished us a good morning, although he sounded more like he wanted to throw us all out the window. Now there was someone who looked like he'd had a terrible weekend, I thought noticing the dark circles under his eyes. Frowning as usual, he looked like he was in an even worse mood than normally.
"Even though it's unusual and against this school's regulations ..." he began as soon as there was silence, in that tone of reprehension that led to many expressions of dismay. The probability of someone having committed some mortal sin had everyone ready to listen to a long sermon. "... and although I've opposed it vehemently, the college board of directors has decided to include a new student in this class." The expressions of dismay instantly disappeared. Mr. Frederich turned towards the entrance, making a short signal with his hand, and everyone's attention was immediately fixed on the opened door. "His name is Gabriel Lawless."
Whispers filled the room as a tall boy entered the classroom, stepping forward in wide, slow strides, until he stopped next to the teacher, whose head stood at his shoulder height. He had short, black hair, a few wild bangs falling over his forehead and eyebrows, and slightly elongated black eyes. His skin was too pale, as if it hadn't been touched by the sun in ages, and the simple black shirt he wore had the first button undone.
I felt as if my blood had just frozen ... that terrifying, suffocating feeling taking over me again, and I immediately focused on my breathing. Even though I was there, looking straight at him, I still couldn't believe my own eyes and, in my mind, I could only ask what the hell he was doing.
"It's a pleasure," I heard his velvet voice and my mouth was immediately filled with a bitter taste. Beside me Steph whispered a 'Wow!' that left me painfully aware that now everyone could see him. And I panicked, my eyes rapidly running him through. It was him! No doubt about it. But, at the same time, it wasn't. There was no extra-long hair, nor purple eyes or black wings. He smiled and my heart jumped into a frenetic race. He was looking at me.
"Oh, that's right," the teacher said dryly and in an annoyed tone that I could hardly hear. "It would seem your new classmate is related to Miss Mellis. Am I right?"
A wave of murmurs rose all around me, as surprised exclamations and many others of disbelief filled the air. I was beyond stunned and the only thing I could hear was my name in some distant echo.
"We're cousins. It's been a while since we last saw each other," he clarified, his voice the only thing I could clearly comprehend, and I looked at him in complete disbelief. He was still smiling.
"Very well, then! Silence!" Mr. Frederich demanded. "All questions will be asked after class. You may take your place at the back of the room." The new student nodded obediently and stepped down of the board's platform, crossing the room in his wide stride, passing right beside me.
I thought my heart would stop, closed my eyes and only opened them when I heard the sound of his chair dragging against the floor, while Mr. Frederich told us to open our books to page fifty-three.
"Mari! Hey, Mari!" I looked in the direction of that whisper and was faced with Steph's curious smile. "Is he really your cousin?" For a moment I could hardly hear her. My throat felt dry and rough, and I knew I wouldn't be able to utter a single word. So I nodded. "You never told me you had cousins. And you're so different!"
I turned to my book so that the teacher wouldn't reprehend me and forced an answer.
"We're not close." It was all I could say, basically repeating his words. Thankfully, for the time, being Steph seemed satisfied.
The entire class I had the disturbing feeling that he was staring at me, as if his gaze could bore holes into my back. Needless to say I hardly heard a word about the life and work of Shakespeare. But, as time went by, I managed to regain the ability to think clearly and easily foresaw what awaited me as soon as the bell rang. I told myself I had to stop reacting like that to his presence; that there was nothing to fear, now that we had a Contract. Just to make sure, I tugged at the blue velvet ribbon I'd tied around my wrist to replace the too flashy white bandage, and there it was, the small red mark.
Now that my thoughts were clear, I found myself grinding my teeth in deep annoyance. What was he thinking? School belonged to my world, a world I did not wish to share with him! I felt invaded by his presence. Up until then I'd been the only one to see him, almost as if he really were in some other dimension. Now even Steph thought that thing belonged to my family!
Unnoticed, as I constantly stumbled on my own messed up thoughts, time went by. And, when the bell finally rang, I still hadn't come to terms with his presence there, much less felt prepared to face the storm of questions that certainly awaited me. So I quickly got to my feet, gathered my things, and rushed out of the room, ignoring the voices that called my name. As I left I saw him sitting on his chair, smiling at the girls surrounding his desk, curious about the new student.
Without even waiting for the bell to ring again, I entered the classroom of my next class, Philosophy, and took my place, hoping for a few moments of peace and quiet and for the chance to put my thoughts in order. The recess was over all too soon, before I could make any progress, and the classroom began to fill. Kevin greeted me, taking the seat beside me, but didn't ask about my weekend, continuing with the reading that had probably kept him busy during recess.
The teacher arrived, leaving me tense and, just as I'd expected, the scene from last class repeated itself.
Had to learn to live with it, I thought. There was no other way. And I wasn't about to allow him to mess up my life, I decided, strengthening my resolve. He would not take over my world!
I sighed half despairingly. If I could at least stop shaking like a dying leaf every time he came close to me.
When class was over Kevin and I met with Steph and Joanne, who awaited us by the end of the corridor, and together we went down to the ground floor.
"Is everything all right, Mari? You just ran out the door, before ..." Steph complained, and I made myself smile apologetically.
"Sorry, but all those people with all those questions," I honestly answered, feeling miserable, and Steph laughed gently.
"Oh, I understand. Your cousin is not one to go unnoticed. And Fred even said that the school wouldn't normally take in transfers this time of year. Things like these will only make people even more curious," she justified, and the subject immediately became my 'new cousin'.
Joanne agreed with Steph while Kevin asked to be put up to speed, since he was completely oblivious to the whole matter. Steph gladly reported that morning's events and Kevin repaid by informing the girls that my 'new cousin' was also attending Philosophy. They were on it when the rest of the group arrived, wanting to know what all the ruckus was about, and Steph basically went back to the beginning, describing the mysterious appearance of that strange, tall being that, after all, was from my family. I just kept nodding every time anyone needed a confirmation to the two girls' tale and wished I could simply disappear.