Two The Hunger
Johnny was something strange to Leila. She didn't like being around him, and at the same time, she didn't mind him at all. Leila wanted to beat her head against a brick wall because she couldn't decide which one to go with. She was afraid of going for tutoring again because she didn't want to hear him jabber and blab about his awesome life and how thrilled he was for being nominated for the stupid award. And she also didn't want him to ask her about her own life.
"I don't want to talk. I want to study." Leila greeted Johnny in a stony voice the next Monday. He had been sitting at their table, hunched over a text book, using a calculator when she arrived. "And that's considered cheating in high school."
Johnny looked up and smiled his crooked smile that showed his crooked teeth. Leila refrained from curling her lip. "Hey, Leila. I'm glad you could make it." He turned off the calculator. "And I was simply using this to check my work."
Leila sat down.
"All right, I've been told that you need some help in the math and English area. Two of my best subjects." Johnny informed her. Leila refrained herself from rolling her eyes, but was unable to pretend to push imaginary glasses up her nose. "Can you show me what chapter you are in Algebra, and show me where you're having difficulties?"
Leila pulled up her A World of Algebra and flipped to Chapter 4.
Johnny pulled the book towards him. "Basic Algebra?" he read in disbelief. "Don't you do that in eighth grade?"
Leila slowly turned her head to look at him, eyes darkening. Johnny quickly backed off. "Well, don't worry about it. It's extremely easy."
Leila decided she did not like him at all.
The third tutor session, was very much like the first. Forward, boring, and way too much studying. Leila found she could not concentrate much on the next Monday. Johnny himself noticed her inability to keep still and commented.
"I have a toothache." Leila snapped. "Leave me alone. Just keep reading."
"You're the one who should be reading." Johnny said severely, but relented. "All right. Fine. I had a toothache once when I was thirteen. It was really bad…" Leila noticed he looked pale talking about his toothache from five years ago. Leila rolled her eyes, not bothering to try and refrain herself.
"It's only a toothache, I'll be okay." She said irritably.
"I hope so," he sounded sincere.
"Fine." Leila sat back, one arm folded across her chest, as she indulged in using her fingers to push at her aching teeth.
"I think you don't like school very much, because you don't make the most out of it." Johnny suddenly said.
"That's good." Leila accidentally bit her finger and she cursed. Johnny looked amused.
"You sound funny."
"I don't care."
"Aren't you going to ask me why?"
"Okay. Fine. Why?"
"Because you look like such a little kid and it sounds funny when you say the F word." Johnny grinned. Leila counted two crooked teeth. "How tall are you, anyway?"
"How tall are you?" Leila took her finger out of her mouth to say that.
"Six foot one." Johnny replied patiently. "I've been six foot since I was 14. It was kind of cool. I was asked to play for basketball a lot."
Oh not this, Leila thought irritably. Not another one of his glory stories. "That's great. I'm four-eleven. We're thirteen inches different. I've never been asked for basketball, though."
Johnny grinned. "I want you to meet my friends."
Leila fell out of her chair.
"Is something wrong, Ms. Samra?" Ms. Jasper asked, sounding mad. "That's only the fifth time you've fallen from your seat. I would think you'd learn from your first mistake."
"I only fell twice," Leila muttered in reply, getting to her feet. "And the first time the chair fell. Not me."
"Are you okay?" Johnny asked, concerned, reaching out to help her. Leila jerked back as his fingers grazed her wrist. She sat back down, but edged her seat away from him.
"Why do you want me to meet your friends?" she demanded.
Johnny smiled. "Oh. Because I think they'll like you."
"Are they seniors?"
"No, they wont, then."
"Yes they will." Johnny kept smiling. "Frank and Allie are going to love you, and Sarah… is going to find you very interesting."
Leila suddenly felt him do the odd thing with his eyes as he stared at her. X-Ray vision, she thought bitterly.
"Why don't you eat lunch with us some time?"
"Because I don't want to." Leila glared at him. "And I don't want to meet your stupid friends, either!"
Johnny raised his hands. "Calm down. All right. You don't have to if you don't want to. I was only asking, Leila."
Leila didn't say anything, not bothering to feel bad about her outburst. He deserved it. She didn't want to meet his friends and she didn't want to eat lunch with him either. Seeing him after school every Monday was bad enough. Eating with him and meeting the friends would be worse. She'd have to worry about how to act among other things. She didn't want to know how to act.
"My teeth hurts," Leila mumbled.
Johnny suddenly stood up. "Let's go."
Leila looked at him. "What?"
"Come on. I'll walk you. Tutoring is over." Johnny told her. "You can't concentrate and I can't teach, so we'll just see each other next Monday, okay?"
Leila slowly stood. "Okay." It was the best thing he had ever said during a session.
They walked down the corridor together, much to Leila's annoyance. Johnny talked a mile a minute about himself. He told her how he liked hunting. But even as he enthusiastically told her about one of his hunting trips, Leila detected something sad in his voice. She pointed it out.
Johnny blinked. "Well. It is just deer. It's kind of sad and mean to kill them, though. Even if we will eat them later…it's just… sad."
Oh great. Johnny was also a Pro-Animal freak.
"Okay." She tried not to sound too disdainful.
"Have you ever killed anything?" Johnny asked in a very argumentative manner which surprised Leila, because he always seemed as if he didn't like arguing.
"Yes." Leila said without a thought, amazing Johnny. "I used to have a brown rabbit when I was five. When I was six, I killed it."
Silence filled the space between them.
"Why?" Johnny asked almost quietly.
Leila suddenly felt caught. What was she thinking? Of all things to say, why had she told him she killed her rabbit?
"I—I—" Leila backed away from him, feeling his light brown eyes staring deep into her. "I don't know."
"Did it bite you or something?" Johnny took a step towards her.
Leila couldn't feel the pain in her mouth suddenly. "No." she licked her dry lips, suddenly nervous. He couldn't see. He didn't know. That would be stupid. How would he know? He was just some dumb, valedictorian nominee geek. He couldn't know.
"Did it scratch you, maybe?" another step.
Leila's nails dug into the palm of her hand. "Stephen always had his nails cut."
"Did it run away?" another step.
"No. He liked me." Leila tried to go for defiance.
"So how did you kill him? Did you beat him to death or something?"
Leila gaped at him. "Of course not."
"Did you cut his head off, maybe?" And another step.
"No! That's sick!"
"Did you boil him?" He stood before her. Leila felt cornered. He was looking down at her, but she didn't want to look at him. She hated him. She hated his questions. She hated his eyes. His stupid eyes. But Leila idiotically looked up anyway, and what she saw shocked her.
His eyes were no longer tan. They gleamed yellow beneath his fringe of dark lashes, so bright and pure, with a black pupil dead center. Something almost inhuman glinted in its depths, something Leila shockingly recognized; a ravenous hunger that seemed starved and longed to be fed.
And she felt the darkness inside of her move. Leila felt her horror mount. Not here—please—not now—
Leila fell back against the row of lockers, squeezing her eyes shut. When she opened them again, three other kids stood beside Johnny, who stared at her, face in complete concern. His eyes were brown again. Light and worried.
"Leila, are you okay?" he asked, reaching for her. Leila stared numbly back up at him.
"Ooh. You weren't lying. She really is tiny. Wow." A girl with long blonde hair and black glasses squealed from his left. Leila heard none of it. Johnny pulled her to her feet. "And I thought I was small."
"Leila?" Johnny gently shook her. "What happened? I'm sorry if I scared you. I don't know why I said those things. It just makes me mad sometimes when people are cruel to animals."
A redheaded boy to his right snickered. Johnny ignored him.
Mad? Leila thought. It made him mad? She thought it made him hungry. Leila still felt shaky and weak. But it all suddenly disappeared when the fourth person stepped forward. The dark haired girl stared at her, and as Leila looked up to see her, she suddenly felt better. It was the most curious feeling.
"Hi." Sarah spoke. "Are you okay?" She had frizzy hair and glasses too big for her face, but by just looking at her, Leila knew the girl would be a complete stunner if she managed to discover straightening irons and contacts some time in the next year.
"I'm fine." Leila did feel fine. The girl had calmed her, and as grateful as Leila was, she also felt wary.
"Did Johnny scare you?" the girl asked, friendly still, taking a step closer to where Leila stood beside Johnny. "Don't worry, he scares a lot of kids."
"No." Leila lied, stiffly removing Johnny's hand from her arm. "He didn't scare me."
"I'm Sarah," the girl's voice was cool and calm. Leila liked the sound of it, it made her feel fluffy and sleepy. Sarah held out her hand and Leila moved readily to shake it. But only an inch distance and she suddenly hesitated. Something told her not to shake it, and Leila could honestly say she did not know how she knew. She just couldn't shake the girls' hand.
Leila dropped her hand. "I'm sorry. I have really dry hands." She clasped her hands together.
"Oh, okay." Sarah smiled and dropped her own hand, but Leila suddenly felt as if it wasn't. Something in the girl's green eyes told her it was not okay.
"You're Leila, right?" the blonde girl asked.
"Yes…" Leila turned to look up at Johnny, who shrugged almost helplessly.
"Johnny told us about you." The blonde said enthusiastically.
"Why?" Leila felt herself flush with anger.
The girl faltered. "I—I don't… he said—"
"He was just telling us how he started tutoring again," Sarah spoke up smoothly. "He was telling us how much he liked you and how cool you were, and stuff."
Leila stared at Johnny, as if trying to detect something false about what the dark headed girl was saying, but Johnny looked genuine. He gave her a small, crooked, anxious smile. His light eyes clearly told her he was still worried about her. She took a step away from him, much too unnerved by the earlier incident to think much of his worry.
"That doesn't make sense." Leila stiffly said. "I've only known him for three days."
"Three weeks!" the blonde protested.
"But only a day out of every week."
"I'm sorry, Leila." Johnny spoke up. "I shouldn't have said anything at all. But they did want to meet you."
That was what made it so weird. Leila shook her head. "I have to go," she said quietly, but quickly. She backed away from the group. "It's nice meeting you." She turned and hurried away, not wanting to wait around and hear the responses. She caught the redheaded boy's yell, anyway, as she rounded the corridor.
"My name's Frank, by the way!"
I don't care.
Sarah was staring at him, waiting for him to speak, but Johnny didn't feel like saying anything. He tried avoiding her pointed gaze, and didn't succeed. Her green eyes were frosty behind the frames perched on her nose, lips pursed into a thin, hard line. Her long slender fingers were clenched into tight fists. Johnny sighed.
Much to his surprise, his friend's face broke into a slow grin. "We did it." Her voice was closed, hushed. "We've finally found one."
"Sarah—" Johnny started.
"Let's kill it." Sarah interrupted him.
His head whipped around to gawk at the girl sitting beside him. "What?"
"We have to," she said swiftly. "It is why we were made. We have to kill it, Johnny. You know we do." Her green eyes were suddenly alight with anticipation. "It's our job."
"You're not allowed to." Johnny stared at Sarah, his heart drumming. "Christ, Sarah, are you serious."
The glare flashed his way told him she was. "What do you think, Johnny? You think I wasted four years searching, finessing my abilities to let this thing get away? You think I took you on with me just so you could bring me down or change my mind, or something?"
"That's just it, Sarah." Johnny turned to concentrate on the road. "You're not…developed. You can't. You'd get in trouble. You have to be … registered and all of that. You're not… you haven't been… accepted…"
Her eyes darkened. "I'll never be," he heard his friend mutter distinctly. "They'll never notice me."
"They will. You'll be great, I just think—I think it's too risky." Johnny rubbed the back of his neck. "And do you really think you could kill her? Just like that?"
Sarah didn't say anything.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of." Johnny said quietly. "You know… I thought you didn't even want this."
"I don't," Sarah said, letting out a sigh. "I don't care, actually. But I need it. It's the only thing I'm good for. You know, my family line of our kind runs way back. I can't just suddenly pop out and do nothing, after centuries of the gift. It's our job. I have to, Johnny, don't you understand? I'm expected to!"
"There's no one in the world right now who probably understands better than me." His voice had gone tight.
Sarah dropped her face into her hands. "I know. I'm sorry."
He didn't say anything for a second. "Wait awhile. You don't have to kill Leila, yet. We're not even sure of what she is. She could be anything and she could be nothing. We don't know. These things take time."
"She's something," Sarah insisted. "I know it. I could feel it. But it was… strange. During the ten minutes we stood there, the energy, the aura, everything about her was unsure. At one point, I would want to kill her. And the next, suddenly, everything was just great. Everything was so normal, and she was just fine. And then again," Sarah was frowning. "she'd become strange and inhuman, and I'd want to hurt her, but…"
"What do you think?" Johnny asked, watching his friend's face. "That is kind of weird."
"I dunno. I'll probably never know," Sarah let out a bitter laugh. "I can hardly ask any one of my family or kind about it, because they'll just think I'm incompetent and stupid and inexperienced. Jeez." She sighed again.
"And I wonder why you tolerate me," Johnny mumbled.
Sarah merely smiled.
"Let's keep her alive, shall we?"
"For now." Sarah took her turn in studying him.
He shrugged nonchalantly. "For now." Johnny agreed.
She had run all the way home, without thinking. All she knew was that she wanted to get away from Johnny and all of his friends. Something about being around them scared her so much, she felt sick. She didn't know what to think of Johnny any longer. For a second she had thought she knew him, everything about his valedictorian-wannabe persona, and then he went and turned the tables on her.
What had happened?
What she had seen in Johnny, had it been real, or was it simply something she imagined because she had been so afraid and desperate? Had it even happened, or did Leila somehow blacked out or something, and made up the entire thing to fill up the empty space in her head?
The front door slammed behind her and was immediately bolted shut before Leila turned to run through the house for her room. Once inside she locked her own door and took quick steps back, eyes never leaving the old white door with it's peeling paint as if someone, or something would suddenly break through and get her.
Leila sank to the ground. It was so hard, her life. Everything was so complicated, and cruel, and difficult, and—and so unfair! Leila hated it. She hated the pain, the loneliness—the fear of being discovered. Her life was a box, her restraint. Leila didn't like thinking about living a trapped life forever, but couldn't help it once in a while.
She lifted her head, eyes briefly scanning the room before freezing. The second her eyes fell upon the vicious marks on her wall, she felt something close to dread twist in the pit of her stomach.
Her eyes slid almost fearfully from the long deep gashes across the plaster wall. A new one had been added recently. It ran jagged and angry, clawed in so deeply that it looked as if something inhuman had done it.
Leila found herself shakily rising to her feet and taking a step forward towards the newest rendition. Reaching out, she drew a pale finger along the cruel edges of the slash. It felt angry. Bottled misery, which stimulated into anger. Anger finally unleashed. Her fingers moved down. There was pain too. Something so dark, it was inhuman.
Of course it was inhuman. She had done it.
Her eyes trailed regretfully along the mutilated wall, eyes lingering upon the most recent slashes. She must have done it last night, completely unaware. She had a nightmare last night, but remembered its contents only faintly. Leila's finger shook. This was her reality. This was who she was.
Misery was gnawing inside of her, the feeling of confinement and despair so strong, Leila almost broke down. She did not mind it most of the time; even learned to live with it. But she just couldn't accept it. And sometimes it hurt too much to.
She didn't mind being alone, but when the effects of solitude finally crashed down on her, it crashed brutally. An emotion so fierce, it fueled to the peak of violence until she had to hurt something or someone.
Leila backed away from the wall, turning her face away, covering her eyes. She didn't want to see anymore. She didn't want to be reminded. She could hear herself; hear the pathetic sounds emitting themselves from her mouth. Whimpers and moans of something quite unfathomable. It was terrible hopelessness. And now matter how hard she fought against it, the sob escaped.
Leila sank onto her bed, pulling her knees up tight against herself. She knew what was coming because it was hurting now, inside her head, inside her chest…. Trembling, Leila lifted her arm to her mouth. Forcing her lips open, she sank her teeth into the flesh of her arm unoccupied of bruises and scars. The deeper her teeth sank, the stronger the pain surfaced, but Leila was desperate. The only way she knew how to distract herself from the internal mental pain was inflicting physical ones. Her eyes squeezed shut as she concentrated on biting herself.
She looked rabid, she knew. She felt rabid. She felt like an animal. But what could she do? She was so far in now, there was nothing she or anyone could do to help her situation.
And then the claws came out.
A small, muffled gasp of discomfort slipped from her lips. She wasn't surprised, not really. She knew they were bound to come out, with her getting all hysteric and losing it. They always came out when Leila least expected it. She did not know how to control them yet, and it was what scared her the most. All she knew was it was more certain to come out when her emotions ran high.
Leila looked down hatefully upon them. They gleamed silver, shining almost tauntingly, growing in places where her nails should had been. They were sleek, slender, long, stretching almost to five or six inches, the ends pointed and exceptionally sharp. The claws sat in her lap, clicking together every other second, the sound alone enough to drive Leila into a screaming fit.
A tear escaped from the corner of her left eye, trailing almost leisurely down her cheek, leaving a trail of wetness behind. She could feel it trickling down to her chin, so slowly, it almost felt as if it were taking it's time in getting to the point. At the edge of her chin, it wavered for a second, before dropping. It landed into the brown, dirty matted carpet, exploding, disintegrating as if it never existed.
No second teardrop followed.
A/N: Kind of morbid, without meaning to be. Just wanted you guys to understand her situation, yada, yada, yada. Thanks for the reviews and actually taking time to read this story. I hope this chapter was okay. You guys rock:))