Fur and Skin - Chapter 1
Quiet isn't always bad. Sometimes it's the quietest people in the class who have all the answers when the tests come. This is how my life seems to be. I'm a quiet girl, I sit at the back of the classroom, I never speak and oftentimes I find people concerned with my grades close to the beginning of the year. They soon find out, however, that their concerns are wasted. I pass my tests, I do the projects and homework, I make almost perfect grades. And so it was that I quickly rose to one of the top students in the tenth grade at St. Mary's Catholic School. It was one of those provate schools that was for both girls and boys - I had refused to be placed in an all girl's school when my parents proposed it - and now both boys and girls avoided me. Maybe they were intimidated by my intelligence, or maybe it was the thick, leather-bound books of gothic literature I always had with me.
Tears didn't come easily to me. I was a girl who didn’t cry when she was pushed down or skinned her knee or broke her arm climbing the tree her parents told her over and over to stay out of. That's why it confused me so much the day a young man named Jacob introduced himself to my Algebra class. He had shoulder length brown hair and piercing green-blue eyes that seemed to send shivers down my spine when he looked over the class. He wore a simple pair of jeans and a black hoody and a leather band around his neck. He said he had moved out of study hall to be an assistant to our Algebra teacher and would be with us for the rest of the semester, longer if he chose to give up his study hall period for the class next semester as well. I looked over the top of my werewolf novel at him. His eyes were lingering on me, no, rather my book. I snapped it shut and turned in my desk, reaching down for my Algebra book. When I sat back up, he was walking towards me. When I set the book on the desk, he brushed past me. A chill ran down my spine and I glanced over my shoulder at him as he took a seat behind me. I sat at the back of the room, near my teacher's desk, and I watched as he began leafing through some papers she had given him to grade for her. He glanced up once, but not at me. At a blonde cheerleader at the other side of the room who giggled and waved. For some reason, then, I felt tears come to my eyes. I wiped them away and began taking notes. The bell rang before I even realized I had taken down six pages of notes of stuff I already knew and taken the time to sketch a werewolf's gaping, bloody jaws in the top right corner of the paper, around my name.
Jacob was gone by the time I looked around, as was most of the class. They were filing out of the room as I put my things back in my bag and stood up to leave. The day passed the same as usual. I zoned out during note taking, letting my mind and my writing hand go on autopilot as my mind wandered back to the boy who'd be with us in Algebra. At lunch I sat out on the campus under a gnarled old oak tree. I bit into my apple and opened the novel on my lap. I had lost myself in a fight between a vampire and a large, old, wise werewolf when I became painfully aware of a presence approaching me. A shadow fell over my lap and I looked up. The first thing I saw were those piercing green-blue eyes. Jacob had pulled his hair up in a short ponytail and he motioned questioningly to the ground at my side. I simply moved over a bit and went back to reading my book. And so was borne the strange, comforting friendship of Jacob and I. For the next few weeks, we sat like that at lunch, me reading my book, Jacob just sitting beside me and staring out over the campus as he ate. On Tuesday of the third week of the year, I started a new book. It was an older one, written two hundred and some odd years ago. The leather was cracked, the gold leafed letters faded, the pages yellowed and smudged by time. Jacob glanced down at my book as I read and tilted his head to the side, lowering a hand and brushing his finger over the tattered edge of the page I was reading.
"Why do you read about them?" His voice, smooth and quiet, took me by surprise. I jumped a bit and nearly dropped my book on the ground. He was looking at me, a look of thoughtful contemplation on his face.
He nodded and I felt his eyes move over my face, searching for something. I looked away and closed the book, standing up. He stood with me and I just shrugged.
For a moment, I thought he was just being the same immature jerk most of the guys at the school were. But I looked at him and I saw that he wasn’t fooling around. He seemed genuinely curious, for once, and I was surprised that he had taken the time to look past my obvious dark taste in life to ask me such a trivial and yet, strangely meaningful, question. I thought for a moment and then looked out over the campus quietly.
“See those kids out there? Every one of them, from the cheerleaders to the kids like me who’re stereotyped as “Goths,” seems to be…flat. There’s no depth to their personalities. They run and play and smile and laugh and cry, but there’s nothing behind it. This world is boring, to me. They avoid me, mostly, so that doesn’t help. Books like this.” I looked down and lifted the book from my side slightly, then looked back out at the students. “They’re like an escape. There’s depth to them, there’s stuff to think about in them. When I’m reading, I’m seeing a different world through someone else’s eyes. Werewolves just happen to be some of my favorites…”
I turned my head and smiled a bit, looking down at him. He blinked and looked from me to the campus. After a moment, he stood and cocked his head to the side, blinking slowly.
“All the other private schools I’ve been to required a uniform. Why isn’t that true here, as well?” He looked at me halfway through the sentence. I shrugged and looked up as the wind began to blow. It whipped my hair around my face and I lifted a hand to hold it out of my eyes, looking over at him with a shrug.
“Probably because they’re trying to save money. Who cares? I hate the skirts they give to the girls anyway.”
He smiled at me after a moment and I felt his eyes look me over - the short black hair, the small, yet visible scar from where someone had literally torn the lip ring out of my mouth during a fight, my loose t-shirt, my baggy pants and combat boots. He lifted his hand and brushed the back of his index finger against the scar on my lip, frowning a bit. That familiar look of contemplation crossed his face and he dropped his hand, looking away at the campus grounds.
“You’d probably look better in one of the boy’s uniforms. I never cared for girls in skirts, myself.”
I laughed at this and he looked at me, confusion evident on his face. I smiled and shook my head, looking past him at the school building as the bell rang. Last period, wonderful, I thought. He smiled a bit and turned away without a word, heading off towards the building. When I didn’t follow, he paused and turned to look over his shoulder at me.
“Coming?” It was a question, but it felt more like a command. He lifted his hand slightly, motioning for me to come on. I swallowed quietly and nodded, walking to his side. He fell into step beside me and didn’t speak to me until we parted ways in the hall. I walked towards my English class and tried to keep my mind busy with trying to remember important quotes and information from the play Julius Caesar. Jacob was a nice boy. A very nice boy, very different from the rest of the people in the school who avoided me. As I sat in English class, I let my mind wander as I took the test. Something was strange about Jacob. I didn’t immediately follow him because something stopped me, something that told me I shouldn’t follow him unless he wanted me to. Well, it didn’t matter. I handed in my test first, naturally, and spent the rest of the class doodling in my sketchbook. I didn’t really look at it until the bell rang. A werewolf stood on his hind legs, head lifted up to the moon, a girl hanging limply in his arms. He looked sad, almost. I laughed to myself and snapped the sketchbook shut, shoved it in my book bag and left the classroom. I had such an imagination.