3rd of September 2008:
I felt like a rebel.
I traversed through the dark, empty corridor. The French windows rattling against the howling wind as the brick chill of the blizzard wrapped around my small form. I pulled my lilac hoodie closer, drawing on the strings as its high-quality material smothered me like a large blanket. Mum had commissioned Givenchy for custom clothing – exotic gowns in all colours of the spectrum and some designer clothes for Tristan and me.
My excitement had sparked once she had presented the little hoodie to me, its colour leaving my inner-barbie salivating.
I drew it closer to me as a soft breeze wove through the gaps between the panes. Thank the Lords for my fuzzy baby-blue socks. They were my favourite ones. With little white clouds on them.
Quickening my pace, I padded across the outstretched hallway, the plush carpet deafening my steps. A right, a left, another right and… there it was.
A lone red lacquered door that soared at ten feet, intricate carvings sliced across the rich wood. Father’s office. I had never been inside it. Curious, I had asked Father, last Sunday after service, only to be dismissed. “You’re too smart for you age, little one.” He had smiled fondly but a certain tightness had laced his voice. I might have been four, but I had inherited my family’s penchant for a political, savvy mind. Therefore, I got what I wanted. And had I wanted to go inside that forbidden room.
Before I could take another step, a soft melody broke through the stillness. Like a lullaby, it lulled me into a trance as I followed it back, forgetting my desired destination altogether. It caressed my wanton being and enveloped me in a warm cocoon.
I caught the faint glow of light spilling from the entrance of the library as the door that was left ajar.
Tip toeing towards it, I peeked through to see her sitting by the fireplace, sketching serenely, and humming a familiar tune. The velvet gown, draped so regally over her slender shoulders, spilled across the sofa, dripping onto the floor in a puddle of magnificent, shimmery blue. She was every bit as opulent as an iconoclastic blueblood. But there was more to her. I had seen it before, an expression that had scared and excited me. It was confusing. But that was Charlotte.
“I know you’re there little Troian.” She said in a sing-song voice. Her mismatched eyes flocking in my direction.
No! My cover was blown. I gasped moving to hide behind the wall despite how futile it was.
“Why did you gasp so loud?” A breathy voice asked. I inclined my head.
“Troian, my darling, come here.” I peered at her again to see her beckoning me closer with a manicured finger.
I ducked my head and approached her like I was about to go to the principal’s office. And I hated the principal’s office. I been there one to many times to know that she was a bitter divorced woman.
Once in her vicinity, she plucked me and placed me on her lap. Her warm fingers ran through my wild curls, caressing, playing and soothing.
“Hmm, such wild curls. Just like mine.” She hummed.
“I’m sorry, Mum.”
“What for, my dear?”
“I was out of bed.” I pouted in confusion.
“That you were.” Her stern voice was diluted with fondness. I exhaled.
“Roaming these hallways unattended can be dangerous, love.”
I frowned. “What can be so d-dangerous?”
“Monsters. Monsters in the dark.” She smiled knowingly, tucking my curls behind my ears.
“Like Mr. Willy?” I looked to the entrance of the library.
She followed my gaze and her smile tugged wider.
“Exactly like Mr. Willy.”
Burrowed further into the darkness, beside the entrance, stood a nine-foot-tall man. His long fingers clutching the doorframe, his raspy breath sounding from the shadows.
Ink Heights University.
Famous for its toxic standards in Academia, its elite and diverse student population but also for its exotic curriculum – a revolution of programmes that entailed modern learning techniques designed to craft students into pioneers of the future. To get in, one needed luck, prestige, or a political hand.
The walls of the castle had been built through years of affiliation with diverse ultra-rich patriarchs and matriarchs, African tycoons, Russian oligarchs, British and French aristocrats, Italian moguls, and oil-rich sheikhs. But behind it all was a right-wing political game.
The day had commenced with a small breakfast of smoke mackerel, sunny eggs, a smear of mash potatoes and orange juice. But despite how flavourful everything had been, my stomach had churned in nervousness.
Peter joined us in the limousine, once again proclaiming his paternal duties by wanting to escort me to the University on my first day. But I knew better. It was a power-play – like so many others. The high-end material of the plum-coloured blazer dug into my skin, irritating me by a ten-fold. Even the uniform was doused in luxury – even though it gave me the look of an emo-girl.
A visit to the Dean’s office, a boring conversation about the radical leftists and after the exchange of my class schedule, I was on my way to my first class. Alone.
Tristan had tagged along, up until we had excused ourselves from the Dean’s office, where he had vanished so meticulously to my utter dismay. Not that he would have helped other than glare at me as though he wanted to see my skull crack like a melon.
Dependence was a dangerous path altogether – a mistake. And I was better off on my own.
Taking in my surroundings I realised that I was in the wrong building, judging by the numerous students who loitered the corridor wearing lab coats and of course the obvious skeletal structure of a Dinosaur that had been planted in the middle of the hall. Glancing down at the map, once again, I conjured an expletive.
“Troian, is it?” A honeyed voice coaxed me out of my tormented reverie.
Short platinum cropped hair, violet eyes and dark arching brows crafted on a flawless canvas of pale skin. He was tall, incredibly muscled and exuded harsh masculinity that it had me reeling. Complete with his plum-coloured uniform and black Armani slacks, he looked every bit as suave as a winter soldier. He was an embodiment of the Night.
I must have been gaping like a fish because he smirked. And oh, my. I nearly combusted.
He looked me up and down, appreciation and something darker shining through those smouldering eyes.
“I’ve rendered you speechless. No worries, take your time.” And just like that, my blush-inducing thoughts disappeared. I frowned, displeased at his arrogance.
“Eric. Eric Lloyd.” He laid out a… pleasingly attractive hand. Even his fingers were immaculate.
“Yum. He’s quite the eye-candy.”
I jumped, only now noticing my blue companion hovering next to…Eric. She ran her fractured blue index over his cheek. But of course, he had not felt it. His calculating gaze remained on me.
At once, his gorgeous smile melted into a malicious sneer. “Hmm, Tristan did say you were a scared little thing. So, scarred from your past.” He brought a hand up, his fingers rubbing at his chin in contemplation.
I felt my anger bubble at his words. I might have not known Tristan now, but I had hoped that we would at least maintain a modicum of civility whilst I resided in Blackthorne. Whether his childish ego had reservations of his own, I could not fathom but this was out of bounds. My past was but my own. Even to me, the memories were fractured like jagged pieces of glass, dispersed into the darkest depths of my mind. Tristan must have run his yapping mouth to the entire student body then. My hopes at remaining a shadow were… hopeless.
“So, he sent his lap dog to do his bidding. Scare his sister away. Seems like he’s the one who’s scared.”
Eric narrowed his eyes.
“No one sent me. I came on behalf of the Blue Sparrows to issue a warning.”
Keeping my hands at my side, I tilted my head, mildly intrigued. As if expecting me to wail and fall to my knees, he scrutinised me, silently.
I pretended to look at my wristwatch, conveying impatience.
“Well, get on with it. Some of us have things to do.”
His expression remained icy.
“Get out of Blackthorne. You’re not welcomed here.”
I blinked, underwhelmed. “Is that it then?”
“Best adhere to it, or else you’ll face the consequences of your foolishness.”
“I thought he was nice. Not anymore.” Pauline quipped. I ignored her.
“Perhaps. Or I’ll make a spectacle of your chauvinistic power play and enjoy my time here if I wish to. You see Eric, I’m not one to cripple at your mercy – neither Tristan’s. He doesn’t know me and neither do you. I’ve handled myself just fine in the past, perhaps a bit too brutally,” I smiled viciously. “Tristan would know, since he claims that I’m just as haunted as her.”
The air grew colder as I stared into his violet pools. We were now a mere breathe away, standing foot to foot. I felt the familiar pulse.
“Troian.” She placed a blue hand on my shoulder, squeezing a bit in warning.
I saw his hands clench into tight fists in the pockets of his slacks. My mouth tilted into a smirk, as I whispered.
“Now go fetch, good puppy.”
After what seemed like an eon, Eric took a step closer, eyeing me with such an intensity that it nearly had me buckling. But I remained composed.
“I’ll see you around, Troian.” He turned and sauntered off. The sea of students parting to make way for a King. Some of them stared at me, longer than I would have liked. Others began whispering.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
“I take it back. He isn’t nice, he’s evil.” That prompted a laugh from me, which had a few students looking at me as though I had sprouted another head.
“Let’s get to class.” She hovered beside me, as I followed the map.
Lurking by the opposite corridor, in a darkened corner, a nine-foot-tall figure stared hungrily at Troian, as she weaved further and further away from his grasp.
Penned By: Rtr. Bernadette Jayasooriya (Editorial Member 2022-23)
Edited and published by: RACSLIIT Editorial Team 2022-23