The bus would be completely quiet if it wasn’t for the film Mr.Lamartine has insisted to play. All my classmates are sleeping, I assume, for their unbearable music has vanished at last, after an hour of sheer torture.
France was nice, as they said it would be, and I’ve got to admit I’ve had quite a lot of fun during those three cold days. The problems and the constant buzzing in my head left me alone for most of the time, and everybody is friendlier when away from the colourful walls of Burnwell Preparatory. I felt alright every day.
But not at night. Whenever the sky goes dark, what happens quite early in the short winter days, something switches inside of me. Even my best friend, Bree, who’s fast asleep by my side, gets a bit uneasy around me after six o’clock, despite knowing me for twelve years. I can’t blame her.
The point of our trip is still unclear for me; of course, meeting different cultures is important, specially since we are learning about France in history class, but that’s why they created Powerpoint. It’s not like we haven’t been to France before, there was absolutely no need to charge us some extra hundreds to see stuff that we all know.
I’m think about this with a bag of vinegar crisps and watching Tony Curtis flirting with Marilyn in the boat, trying to ignore the disturbingly familiar feeling that something is watching me. My latest psychologist, Gina, said that it’s a product of my imagination, that it happens when I’m tense and anxious. I wouldn’t be anxious if it wasn’t for this feeling, since I’m in a warm, safe bus, surrounded by people I’ve known for ages and watching one of my favourite films, and therefore her logic doesn’t make any sense, but she’s got a PhD, so I must accept what she says.
The smell of blood makes me drop my gaze and look at my wrists, to find the left one bloody, unsurprisingly. I didn’t even notice I’d stopped eating before the metallic scent hit my nose, something quite common to me. Gina says that scratching the sides of my wrists and forearms is a compulsive behaviours and also a coping mechanism, triggered by the anxiety, that also (according to her) triggers the watching sensation. She didn’t exactly need to have a PhD to get to this conclusion.
The wound is small, and cleaning is easy and quick. I put on the hideous gloves I carry around for this situations. They’re black, and go up to my elbows, ending in fingerless gloves. It’s ugly, but effective and practical, and since everybody’s got their eyes closed, it doesn’t make any difference.
Joe and Sugar are still in the boat when I go back to watching. I hope Lamartine puts on another film when this is over, because I definitely won’t sleep, but the teacher is snoring in his seat, so I highly doubt. I sigh, glancing at Bree, then back at the screen, trying to relax.
Suddenly, there is a flash of bright, blinding light, followed by the loud screech of metal. The telly blacks out, and the small emergency lamps flick. The bus spins on the road, so fast the toilet door swings open, for some seconds before skidding out to the hard shoulder and rolling down a mount.
Like The Hall of Mountain King, everything happens in a confusing rhythm. At first, in slow motion, the light, the screech, the spin and skid, the bus rolling down, windows breaking, luggage, pillows and people being thrust around, and branches, dirt and shreds of glass flying in. Then, a chaotic sequence where everything starts and ends in the interval of ten seconds.
During that interval, I end up hitting my head against the my window, and it knocks me out for two minutes or so. When I wake up, though, I’m no longer in the bus.
I’m laying on the grass, shivering with the breeze. The bus is on its side in front of me, and I’m facing the wheels, what doesn’t make any sense. My window is crushed against the ground on the other side, but I’m far too close to have been ejected during the fall. Besides, I had my seatbelt buckled tightly around my waist.
A soft noise behind me makes me turn around quickly, and I catch sight of a blond boy, who I’ve never seen before, standing there, eyes widened as he looks at me. We stare at each other for a couple seconds before he nods and turns back to the road, pacing towards it.
“Hey, wait!” I say, getting up on feeble knees and attempting to reach him. The boy doesn’t say anything, merely glances at me for a second. “Can you call the police?”
Bree is still in there. All my friends are still in there. The thought hits me like a cold blow, sending chills down my spine. The world sounds quiet despite the cars that run through the road.
“I’m sorry.” The boy strides away, and I regain my confidence and stability to walk behind him.
“Sorry for being insistent, but my mobile is in there, and I really think we should call somebody...”
“Get down.” He orders bluntly, making me immediately fall to my knees. I raise my gaze towards him, anxious.
The blond boy is holding a golden bow, and my eyes barely catch sight of a sharp arrow before his fingers release it, launching the projectile at something behind me. I’m quick to turn around and see a girl, whose dark hair covers her pale face, get her chest pierced by the arrow. She falls on the grass within two seconds, dead.
“You killed her!” I state, as if it wasn’t obvious. Then fear floods my body, and my instinct tells me to run, so that’s what I do.
I run towards the road, ignoring the insisting pain on my left leg and the fire in my lungs, yelling for help.
Despite my efforts, the boy is faster than me, and holds my shoulders back, making me stop. His silver eyes are hard and urgent when he looks at me.
“You need to calm down.”
“You’ve killed a girl in front of me!”
“Just so she wouldn’t kill you.” He murmurs. ” We’ve got to go.”
"We?” I chuckle, humourlessly. “You murdered a girl two minutes ago. Why in bloody hell would I go anywhere with you?”
“So you won’t die” He says simply, and I snort. “There are people coming to get you. We need to get out of here as fast as possible.”
“Dangerous ones. I’m sorry, Violet, but you’ve got to come with me.”
I stare at the boy. He seems to get more nervous by the second, and even his soft, velvet voice has started to come out slightly desperate.
“How do you know my name?”
“I can explain if you come.”
I sigh again. Logically, there is nothing I can do at this point to stop a tragedy from happening. If he’s truly a murderer, he’ll kill me either way. I may as well prolongate the end of my life. I nod, and the boy looks relieved for a second before tension strikes his marbled features.
We rush towards a black Mercedes, and I climb into the passenger seat. The boy takes the steering wheel, but doesn’t ignite the engines. Instead, he pulls out a mobile, dials something and waits. I wonder if he’s going to tell his colleagues about the obvious kidnapping, and observe as he looks outside the window.
“Good evening, I would like to report an accident.” He says, to my surprise, then proceeds to give the attendant our location. Once he’s done, he looks back at me. “They’ll be taken care of.”
“Thank you.” I mumble, astonished. I didn’t get to see his face before, but right now I can see the details of his features. It’s like they’ve been carved on marble, precisely and calculated so everything would combine in a breathtaking masterpiece. It’s such a classic beauty, elegant and somehow antique, that it makes me slightly disturbed. I need to remind myself that, for what I know, he’s a criminal. “What’s your name?”
“Willem Hofwegen. Will.” He says solemnly, turning the keys and driving absurdly fast through the motorway. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“I can’t really say the same.”
" I understand your concern, but I’m not going to hurt you. There is no need to worry.”
" You are kidnapping me. By the way, people will notice I’m gone.”
" I’m not kidnapping you.”
" Being here was not exactly my choice, was it?”
“No. But being here wasn’t my choice either.”
I shut up, glancing at him. Maybe someone sent him to kidnap me. Willem drives too fast, making the trees and bushes outside blend with the sky and form a blur of darkness.
He finally stops when we reach a big, grey building, that somehow reminds me of a concrete block with a pretty garden. Will parks the car and nods for me to jump out and follow him inside.
Despite the exterior being ugly, the inside of the building is quite beautiful. The floor made out of white marble, that suits the ashen walls and gives the first room, that looks like a huge hospital lobby, has a very ethereal fashion. Even the few people in it seem to be calm, elegant and clean in little grey uniforms.
I look around me, astonished by the beauty. Silver drops form a delicate line on the wall, above the receptionist table where a young girl is sitting, focused on something. On a second view, I realise that this place is somehow chaotic. Everybody is hurried, tense and worried.
“Violet, please keep up.” Will calls me, metres ahead of me. I nod, rushing towards him, falling into a pace as we pass through a tall silver arch.