It’s 8pm on 11/30/14, and I have just validated my novel on Nanowrimo.org. I’ve watched the “Congratulations!” video and downloaded my winner badge. I feel accomplished, but a little bit guilty. A sense of guilt has vaguely troubled me all of November. I wrote A LOT this month, but not a word of it was for Scary Mary 4 – Strange Girl. I shelved that project for November because I was burnt out. I’d been editing it for over a month, and I was beginning to hate the story. I became discouraged. Then around the last week of October, I began getting messages from the regional ML’s detailing the planned get-togethers for write-ins.
I’ve participated in Nano in years past and always enjoyed the community that popped up around it. And I’ve been itching to just WRITE. I was tired of editing. I didn’t want to read and think. I wanted to just write. That may sound a little paradoxical, the idea of writing and not thinking, but it’s something that happens when committing to Nano. And there had been a project brewing in the back my brain that was singing a siren’s song to me. I considered other projects, ones that I’d started and needed to finish. I even worked on one of them on the first day of November, but this other project kept pulsating in my head, enticing me to dive into the world and characters. It was something I’d started writing on the fly months before. Barely starting before saving and closing, less than 1300 words written, but for some reason, it started pestering me in November to the point that the project I’d thought I’d work on to give myself a break from SM4 became unappealing. This other story needed to be written.
So during the first week of Nano, I switched gears and started working on it. (I didn’t discard the words that I’d written for the other project. I’m not that much of a purist when it comes to Nano. Any words I wrote for any story are counted, which was about 3k before the switch, so technically speaking, I only have 47k for this project written, but it’ll be 50k soon enough. I’m nowhere near done.) The words came swiftly. I for once in my life kept up with the goals. Or roughly at least. I started designing a cover. I picked a title that I really like, and dammit, this is gonna be a thing.
Tomorrow, on Dec. 1st, I’m going to open the files for Strange Girl again, and recommit to it. I feel reenergized. I’m shooting for a pub date still of Dec. 15. I will work tirelessly on it for the next two weeks and click publish finally. But tonight, I’d like to share with you the beginning of this other project. It is another high school based story, but it has no paranormal or fantastical elements, at least not the standard ones. The filthy rich, though, seem like mythical beings to me. It has been lightly edited tonight before posting. This is not unedited, raw writing by moi. I wouldn't inflict that on you.
Today was my first day at the most elite academy in the world where only the richest and most powerful kids go. I was neither of those. I was enrolled here because my family couldn't afford to send me anywhere else. If that wasn’t irony, then I’d get that question wrong on the SATs. I was admitted as special compensation. I was not here on any merit or athletic scholarship. I was here because my father fixed the toilets, and my mother cooked the meals. They were servants. No, excuse me that wasn’t PC anymore. They were in service. Too bad everyone still treated them like servants. I would have rather enrolled somewhere else. Anywhere else, but there just wasn't anywhere else I could go. So here I was starting my first day at Noble Academy.
I knew the campus by heart. I'd been wandering through it my whole life. But it was always as a shadow. The Academy was the only home I'd ever known, but I'd never felt like I belonged. Now I was wearing one of the uniforms, and I felt like a stranger in my own skin. The collar of my shirt was too tight, and I thought they’d given me the wrong-sized shoes, but I tried to ignore these small discomforts as I slipped into my very first class. Most of the other students were already there, though they haven't taken their seats. The seat in the far corner looked unclaimed. I slipped into it and stowed my books. No one greeted me or made eye contact. They all knew each other. Had known each other since birth probably. I was a stranger. Someone to close ranks against. That was fine. I just wanted to be left alone.
Prof. Edwards arrived a minute after me. He had taught at the school for twenty years now. He liked red wine. Lots of red wine. I'd helped collect the empty bottles from his room's doorstep a number of times. He started making noises for everyone to settle down without actually asking anyone to take their seats. I saw him see me in the back, but he didn’t appear to recognize me. I wondered if he would recognize my parents. A shadow fell across me. I looked up at a guy, who wass frowning down at me.
"You're in my seat."
He hadn't been in the room when I came in. From the looks of him, he appeared to have just arrived. Like literally. He wasn't even wearing a school uniform yet. He was dressed all in black with silver studs in his ears and a Rolex watch on his wrist.
"There's no assigned seats," I said. I didn't want to give up my seat just because he told me to.
The smile that curls his lips put me on edge. It was condescending and self-assured. Ever notice how assured had to be spelled with ass+u+r?
"I think you're mistaken. You see whatever seat I want is mine. So this seat is mine. If you want, you can sit on my lap."
Was this guy for real? I scanned the rest of the room. Great. All the other seats have been taken. Where was I supposed to sit? His lap was not an option.
"No," I said.
People were beginning to notice us while Prof. Edwards took attendance.
"I said no. I'm sitting here so ipso facto the seat is mine.”
“Is that so?” He grabbed the desk and flung it across the room.
It landed with a crash and all of my books spilled out of it.
“What’s going on?” Prof. Edwards shouted.
I turned to the guy, and I was petrified.
I shook my head. I could’t get up now even if I wanted to. My knees are knocking against each other. He loomed over me. I was ashamed to admit it, but I was cowering before him.
He leaned down and grabs me by my jacket lapels and dragged me up.
“Now, see here. I will have no fighting in my classroom,” Prof. Edwards said.
The guy turned and flashed a smile at the professor. From my vantage point of hanging from his fists, I got a good look at his canines. They were pearly white and very sharp. “Sorry, professor. There appears to be a shortage of seating, and I was discussing with my friend here the best way to rectify that.”
“I don’t believe I called your name, young man.”
“Oh yeah, that may be part of the problem. My parents only registered me this morning. I’m Damien West.”
My eyes widened at his words, as well as everyone else’s. Among the richie rich, the Wests were the richest. They were also the biggest donors to Noble. Every other building bore the name West. It made giving directions difficult.
Damien turned back to me and gave me an appraising look. “I don’t believe you called my friend’s name either.”
“I skipped Sara’s name since I could see she was here.”
So the old wino did recognize me.
“Well, Sara needs a seat.”
“Yes, Sara, please go see about getting one out of storage, will you?”
I didn’t protest the injustice of having to get a desk and chair when I clearly had one. Damien let me go, but he had to lay it on thick by smoothing out my lapels and giving me a malignant smile. I backed away from him and out of the room. I was afraid to turn my back on him like he was a wild animal who would attack me if I took my eyes off him. Once I was out the door, I heard Prof. Edwards begin his lesson. He wasn’t going to hold class for me. I would have to hurry if I didn’t want to miss too much. I knew where spare desks and chairs were kept. I went down the hall, listening to the muted voices of teachers from other classrooms.
So Damien West was in my class and he was psychotic. Lovely. It shouldn’t surprise me. I had long ago observed that oodles of money seemed to give people license to lose all common sense and disregard decorum. The more money someone had; the less human they were.
Damien West was rich enough to be demonic. I wondered if that had informed his parents’ choice of name.
“Hey, kiddo. Playing hookey already?”
I turned and saw an eye looking out from a crack in the door of a utility closet. I recognized the eye. “Naw, Scruffy. I need to get a desk and chair. We ran out in my class.” I decided not to go into the whole desk hurling and threat of bodily harm that coincided with it.
Scruffy was a handyman like my father. He’d been who hired my dad decades ago. He was like family. A regular guest for dinner and always included in holiday celebrations. For the past few years, he’d claimed to be on the verge of retirement, but never set a date.
One of his eyebrows rose. “Well, can’t have that.” He opened the door and stepped out. He was wearing faded blue overalls with and a massive ring of keys strained his right belt loop. He locked the utility closet and led the way to a nearby storage room. He unlocked the door and held it open for me. I went in and immediately started sneezing.
The storage room was full of dust. Scruffy lifted a sheet to reveal a battered desk and chair. “Here we go. Grab the chair and we’ll be on our way.”
I picked up the chair and wondered if Scruffy would have called for my dad if I’d been another student looking for a desk and chair. I couldn’t imagine any of the other students willingly assisting with such a menial task. Of course, I couldn’t protest and ask for my father to do this instead. I might wear the uniform but that didn’t mean I was one of them.
We went back to Prof. Edwards classroom. I almost knock but jerked my hand back as I realized what I was about to do. The act was so ingrained from my parents, but I had every right to be going into this room. I didn’t need to knock for permission to enter.
Prof. Edwards paused mid-sentence as I came in carrying my chair. Scruffy carried in the desk. He set it in back for me. I nod my thanks. He doffed his cap with a wink and slipped out of the room. I take my new seat and looked around for my books. They were no where in sight. Though I didn’t want to, I looked over at Damien. He had his feet propped up my previous desk, leaning back in the chair, flipping through one of my text books. My satchel still hung off the back of the seat. I doubted he’d want to keep my bag. It was lavender with butterflies embroidered on it.
Without any of my school supplies, all I could do was listen to Prof. Edwards’ lecture. He was giving an overview of England’s early history: The various invasions, tribal wars, and living conditions of the early Britons. I listened and hoped to retain some of it without any proper written notes to refer to after the class.
I couldn’t help glancing over at Damien West. He still had his feet propped up on the desk. He wasn’t taking notes. He didn’t appear to be paying attention at all. He’d dropped my text book to the floor where it had fallen open facedownn. I hoped the pages weren’t badly bent. He had a shiny smartphone out and was tapping away at it. Sure, he could have been taking notes that way, but somehow, I highly doubted it. I wondered what I was to do if I have to share more classes with this person. Since we were in History together, the likelihood of us being together in other core classes was very likely. Good God, we could even share all of our core classes. The admissions people sometimes did that. They grouped people they thought would work best together. I hoped they hadn’t had some collective bout of dementia and thought I would be good with him.
When class ended, I moved slowly, hoping for Damien to rise and abandon my belongings. He didn’t budge from his seat. He was going to make me late for my next class, which was English.
I screwed up my courage and went over to him. “May I have my things?” I asked finally. I kept my voice as even and as pleasant as possible.
He didn’t look up from his device. “I don’t know you,” he said.
“You wouldn’t. My name’s Sarah. I’m no one special.” I figure debasing myself would be the swiftest way to reclaiming my things.
“You’re right about that. But I’ve never seen you before. What’s your last name?”
The room was filling with the next class. Prof. Edwards had disappeared when the bell rang. He probably went to take a quick nip from his flask. The new students were staying clear of us, but they watched us with curiosity.
I took a deep breath and clenched my fists. I just wanted to go to my next class. “Smith,” I tell him.
Damian’s eyes flicked over me before dropping back to his device. “Of the Trinidad Smiths?”
“No.” I’d never heard of them. But Smith was a very common name. I had no rich relative, though.
The bell for second period rang. I was now officially late. Prof. Edwards came back in. “All right everyone, take your sea—Mr. West, Ms. Smith, you need to go to your next class,” he said.
I cast him a dour look. He had to see Damien was holding my belongings hostage. Damien stretched and pocketed his phone. Without comment, he rose and left the room nonchalantly. I quickly scuttled to collect my bag and books. My gaze met Prof. Edwards’ as I exited. His eyes dropped away with a touch of shame. I felt briefly sorry for him. He was harmless and generally kept to himself, but he should’ve helped me. I headed toward my next class, hoping to be excused for being tardy, but it seemed I was destined to be super tardy. Someone grabbed my arm as I went down the hall and halted my rush.
“Walk with me,” Damien said.
His hand had jerked me to a stop. I turned to him in disbelief. He didn’t let go of my arm.
“I have to get to class,” I said and winced at the touch of whine that was in my voice.
“God, don’t tell me you’re really that boring.”
I breathed out through my nose. “Yes, yes, I am. Please let go of my arm.”
His hold tightened instead. It hurt.
“Let go,” I repeated, futilely trying to pull free.
“Let’s have some fun,” he said. I heard the snickt of a blade. My eyes darted to his other hand. He had a switch blade. He held it up and placed the blade against the front of my blouse, right over my breasts. He cut off the button with a flip of his wrist. The button pinged off the ground.
This was too much. I screamed. “Help!”
To my surprise, the first person to come to my aid was my father. He came running from around a corner. He took in the sight and gasped. He must have seen Damien’s knife “Let her go!” he yelled and charged at us.
Strangely, Damien moved in front of me, blocking my father, instead of putting me between them. Damien brandished his knife, but Father had a mop and he’d used one longer than Damien had been alive, plus it had a much longer reach. He swung it at Damien and hit him square in the chest. Damien let me go and stumbled back into the wall. The mop was wet. His black sweater was smeared with smelly, dirty water. I ran to Father and hide behind him.
Damien pinched and pulled his soggy sweater away from his body. His nose curled in disgust at the smell of the dirty water. “You’re dead, old man.” He lunged with his knife.
“Dad!” I screamed.
My father raised the mop and hit Damien across the face with it. He went crashing to the ground. “Sarah, get help,” he shouted, but there was no need. Security was already in the hall running toward us. They had guns. They had to. With all of the high profile children that attended the academy, we had practically a small standing army.
They fanned out and encircled us. I realized a moment later that all of their guns were pointed at Father. “What are you doing? He attacked us,” I said, moving closer to Father.
“David Smith, put down the mop and come with us,” Capt. Timmons said. Security and maintenance were never that close, but they’d always had a bit of respect for one another. None of that was in the captain’s eyes as he pointed a gun at my father.
“He didn’t do anything wrong. It was Damien West. He pulled a knife on me,” I said.
Father laid the mop down and put his hands up.
“Sarah, it’s going to be all right. You should get to class,” he said.
“Are you joking?” I tried to block the guards as they moved in to take Father by the arms, but they shovd me aside. I fell and watched in horror as they escorted him away.
Capt. Timmons was still there. He knelt in front of Damien West and held out a handkerchief. Damian grabbed the piece of cloth and wiped his face with angry swipes. “I want him shot,” he said.
My eyes went wide and I launched myself at him. I wasn’t thinking and I didn’t care. I managed to slap him once before Capt. Timmons hauled me back. “Let me go!” I shouted, struggling like a wild animal in the captain’s grasp.
“Sarah Smith, calm down,” he said.
Damien West had gotten up. Exhaustion more than any sense of returning calm had my struggles lesson. The boy leaned into my face with a smirk. “That was your father?” he asked.
I spat into his face.
“Sarah!” Capt. Timmons shouted and turned me away.
“Let her go,” Damien said.
“Sir?” Capt. Timmons asked.
“You heard me.”
“I’m sorry, sir. But she is clearly a danger to your well-being. I will have to escort her to the cells.”
My mind was a swirl of incomprehension. That psycho had pulled a knife on me. He was still holding the knife! Yet I was the one in trouble? My father, who’d only meant to protect me, was in trouble?
“Let her go!” Damien screamed.
Capt. Timmons immediately released me. I turned and stared at both of them. I didn’t know what to say. This was all insanity.
Damien picked up my bag and threw it into my stomach. “Let’s go to class,” he said.
I clutched my bag like a shield and stepped back from both of them.
Damien held out his hand, beckoning me. “You heard your father. Let’s go to class.”
Go to class? He was insane. I turned and ran. I had to get to Mother to tell her what had happened, to save Father.
As I ran, I heard Capt. Timmons say to Damien, “Sir, if you please, I would like to get a statement from you about what happened. You’ll, of course, be excused from class.”
I thought I heard Damien sigh, but I was slamming through the doors into the courtyard, headed to the cafeteria. I didn’t hear his reply.
I ran as fast as possible to the kitchen. Mother would be helping prepare the lunch. A bevy of chiefs, cooks, and underlings would be working. I burst into the den of bustle and yelled, “Mom!”
Everyone turned from their tasks to look at me. Mother immediately left her station to come to me. “Sarah, what are you doing here? You should be in class.”
“Security took Dad!”
Mother dropped the towel she’d been holding. “What? Why?”
All action stopped as everyone turned to stare at me in shock. “A student attacked me, and Dad hit him with a mop to get him off me and then security took Dad into custody. What should we do?”
The swinging doors opened behind me. A pair of security guards entered. “Sarah Smith, please come with us.”
I turned to stare at them. “What?”
They flanked me and each grabbed an arm. “We need a statement.”
“Is she under arrest?” my mother demanded.
“No, ma’am. We just need to speak to her.”
“Then take your hands off her!”
The guards seemed to realize that they had an audience. A large audience, who all had knives. They let go of my arms.
Mother put an arm around me and drew me away from the guards. “We will follow you,” she said.
The guards exchanged uncertain looks and turned. Mother turned to say something to Gustav, the head chef. He’d moved to the front of the crowd of onlookers. He held up a hand “Just go. But we will want all the details when you return,” he said with a glint of a smile.
I didn’t know what there was to smile about. It felt like my world was crashing down.
Mother ushered me out of the kitchen. The guards had waited for us just outside. They moved in close to escort us, but they didn’t reach out to take hold of me again.
Security’s HQ was in the central courtyard like the cafeteria. It was a squat, featureless building that looked out of place among the rose gardens and fountains. We were escorted directly to Capt. Timmons office. When we entered, I saw that Damien West lounged in an arm chair across from Capt. Timmons. He was in a school uniform now. He must have had to change due to the mop water. Mother and I weren’t offered seats. Damien looked over his shoulder at us and smirked as his eyes went over my mother’s apron and cap. I found myself stepping in front of her to shield her from him, but she put her hands on my shoulders and moved me out of the way.
“Capt. Timmons, what is going on? Sarah tells me you took my husband into custody.”
The captain nodded toward Damien. “He assaulted this student.”
“It was a misunderstanding,” Damien said.
Mother crossed her arms. “Is that so?” she said, giving Damien a hard glare.
Her expression seemed to amuse Damien, who smiled widely back at her.
Capt. Timmons coughed. “Yes, Mr. West assures me that your husband merely over-reacted at seeing his daughter being hit on by him.”
“What? That’s not what—“ I started to protest.
Capt. Timmons continued over me. “And thus, he’s willing to drop all charges if Mr. Smith will simply apologize.”
“No! What about the knife? He was threatening—“
“Have you informed my husband?” my mother asked.
Why were they speaking over me? Why weren’t they listening?
“Mother!” I shouted.
Mother gave me a hard look and shook her head.
“He’s being brought up now,” the captain said.
Mother gave a clipped nod and looked away.
I turned and glared at Damien West. His eyes were already on me. He smiled and I saw his canines again. I had to look away or be in danger of attacking him once more.
There was a knock at the door. “Enter,” Capt. Timmons called.
Father shuffled into the room. He was in shackles. I gasped in horror. The guards held Father by the biceps. His legs folded under him and he knelt down. I couldn’t tell if the guards were forcing him to kneel or helping him as he got down on his knees. Damien rose and went to stand over him.
“Well?” he asked with a smirk.
“I’m sorry for striking you with a mop. Please forgive me,” Father said, his face pointed at the floor.
I wanted to protest, but my jaw was locked.
Damien turned to look at me. His smile widened. I couldn’t look at him. My eyes dropped to my father, bowed on the floor. Tears, finally, began to burn my eyes.
With an irritated sigh, Damien waved his hand. “Fine. You can let him go.”
“Are you sure, sir?” Capt. Timmons asked. I turned incredulous eyes to him.
“Do I have to repeat myself?” Damien said, with an edge of steel to his voice.
The guards pulled Father up and turned him to leave. “Where are you taking him?” I protested.
“We have to process him out. Mrs. Smith, you may go with them.”
Mother nodded. I moved to follow, but she stopped me. “Go back to class, dear. Everything’s okay.”
Nothing was okay.
Damien lightly coughed beside me.
I turned and my eyes widened, finding him so close. I hadn’t noticed him move closer. I stepped back in fear.
“Sarah, could you show Damien to his classroom?” Capt. Timmons asked.
“Can’t one of the guards?” I protested.
Mother and Father were gone. With the way Capt. Timmons differed to Damien, I was practically alone with him. We were in the security office, but I feared that even if he pulled his knife on me again, no one would lift a finger to stop him. They might even hold me still for him.
“Come on, gorgeous. I promise I won’t bite.” Damien flashed his teeth at me again. They were all pearly white and looked sharper than ever.
***So there you have it. The first four thousand words of My Demon. Please let me know what you think. Would you keep reading? Thanks!***