The pain soon faded away, the clattered of our shoes hitting the tile floor stopped and the sounds of grass brushing against skin sounded. The grass tickled my ankles I stifled a giggle, for sure their eyes would have been on me if I did. It wasn’t dark anymore, but I don’t think we were in the halls. Let alone my school.
Darren finally let go of my hand, I hadn’t realized he was holding so tight. My breathing slowed then stopped. It hurt when the blood rushed to fill my finger tips. But that pain wasn’t what had me holding my breath.
We were in a field entirely populated by grain that was taller than me, a little bit further out I could see a road that lead to a grand house. It was three stories and was panted a light brown, that matched the grain only a little bit darker. Shingles were on all the windows and those were a dark mahogany brown. The house looked old; with the porch and rocking chair it made it seem even older.
I finally exhaled, then started to blink rapidly as if the house would disappear. It didn’t and I wasn’t in my school, I don’t even think I was in my city.
Then Trish said to Zac, breaking the silence, “Race ya!”
He smiled and replied, “You’re on. You want to join us Darren?”
Trish looked pleadingly at him then Darren shook his head, “No thanks, you guys go ahead. I’ll stay with Jen.”
She closed her eyes and shrugged her tiny shoulders, “Fine, your loss.”
Then she raced into the grain at a blinding speed, with Zac following closely behind. I could here them running through the field; the wisp of their bodies as the sprinted in the grain.
A few heartbeats later Zac called out to her, “Hey, no fair Trish! It’s not fair you’re a faster animal.”
“We’ve been through this before! I didn’t pick a cheetah!” Trish over emphasized the tah in cheetah.
Their laughter carried out through the fields. Darren laughed a quiet laugh and then nervously smiled at me. I didn’t understand what the reason for his smile was, but then I understood. A faster animal? I thought Zac was kidding about the animal part, but when Trish replied; “I didn’t pick to be a cheetah.” A cheetah?!
She and Zac were animals?! I stared in astonishment at the field then looking at Darren, then back to the field again.
“A—animals?” I choked.
This time Darren’s face hardened, “Jen, this was the only way we could easily break the new to you without thinking we were crazy. Trish is kind of a show off.” He tried to smile. “Doesn’t it bother you that your roommate is a cheetah?”
“Well, that all depends. I never knew until now that the cheetah girl was going to be my new roommate.” I replied sarcastically.
“Oh, right. Another minor detail I left out,” Darren admitted. “I just suck at these kinds of things, always leaving something out. So, yea, Trish is your new roommate. What do you think of that?”
“Actually it doesn’t bother me that Trish is my roommate. She seems nice.” I was telling the truth. Trish really did seem like a nice girl.
Darren laughed, head back and belting it out.
“What’s so funny?” I asked perplexed.
He tried to speak through his laughter, “Oh—Trish is nice. But—after a while she gets annoying. But hey, that’s—only her brother’s perspective.”
“You and Trish are brother and sister? But you two look nothing a like.” I commented.
They really didn’t; Trish’s hair was a dark reddish brown, Darren’s was a brown almost black, their eyes; forest green to sea-green, maybe the only thing close to being a sign of relation. Darren and Trish had to be adopted, or at least one of them.
“Yeah, we look nothing alike. She looks more like our dad and I look more like our mom. We never knew our dad, so mom always compared Trish to him.” He shrugged.
My brain acted quicker this time, if Trish and Darren were siblings then that means Darren was an animal too. It only made logical sense, same parents, and same genes. I had witnessed Charles in his wolf form, so it could only be that Darren was apart of it. Questions bubbled up to my lips, but I swallowed them back, but one slipped out.
“What are you?” I asked in a quiet voice.
My eyes never left his face; he was staring into the field now. I looked to the end of the field for a second and I saw what he saw; a small cheetah but still big and a giant tiger. Their big shoulders were moving up and down, they appeared to be laughing.
Darren still hadn’t answered my question.
“I’m sorry, if I’m being rude.” I apologized. My head lowered in shame. It was rude of me to ask that question.
He smiled smugly, “We don’t really know what we are, but all we know is that we’re special and we’re not at all like other humans. But if you’re curious on what animal I am then . . .” Darren eyed me, to see what I would say.
“Black Leopard,” he snickered. Then he answered my next questions, “Trish is a cheetah, Zac a tiger, obviously. I believe Charles isn’t a cat like the rest of us, he’s a white wolf. Am I correct Charles?”
“Yes, you are correct Darren. I don’t know why you are all cats and I a wolf. I still have to figure it out.” Charles assured.
So they were all animals. Great I was kidnapped by half human half animal people. How was this even possible?! People do not turn into animals.
While I was ranting on in my mind of how these three kids and one man were defying the laws of physics, Darren asked,
“Can I point out the obvious right now, Jen?”
“Uh, sure?” I made it sound like a question instead of a direct answer.
“You have a lot of question right now.”
“Obviously. Can I just ask one now?”
Darren looked back at Charles, like he wasn’t sure. Charles nodded silently and said nothing. I directed my attention back to the boy besides me.
“Okay. But make it quick, Trish is going to get impatient.”
How am I going to put this politely? I didn’t want to hurt either of their feelings, but I might have to.
Slowly taking a breath I spit it out, “Why the hell did you kidnap me?!”
It sounded rude, but I couldn’t put it nicely either way. By the look on his face, this wasn’t the question that Darren had been expecting. He didn’t answer. I waited patiently, putting my hands on my hips.
“Uh,” Darren finally spoke.
“We’ll tell you at a later time, but for now we have to get to the house.” Charles finished Darren’s partial answer.
“Thanks.” I heard Darren murmur back to Charles.
I turned towards the fields and inspected it. How were we going to get over there quick?
“How we going to get over there fast enough?” I asked Charles this time.
But Darren was the one to answer, “Um excuse me? Black Leopard here.”
He sounded insulted. Like I would trust him with me on his back? Yeah right. I thought it over for a minute. I could just start running now, but I would most likely get lost in the field.
“Okay, fine. Mr. I am a black leopard. Do whatever you need to do to get to your animal form or whatever.” I said almost sourly.
He then stepped back a few spaces, “Watch. Oh and don’t scream please.”
Darren stood straight, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. A warm faint golden glow pulsed around him, in a few seconds his shape morphed into a shapeless form then it started to get four legs along with a tail, and he was a little bit shorter than his human form. All but five seconds had past. Darren was gone and in front of me was a giant black leopard. The eyes were the same bright green color, other wise you couldn’t tell it was Darren.
“Whoa.” That was the only thing I could think of, but seriously whoa.
The leopard laughed and he spoke, “Cool right?”
I nodded, but he was so big compared to other black leopards. “Why are you so . . . big?”
Darren laughed, but this time again Charles answered, “Well, Jen I haven’t come up with a logical answer, but we’ve come up with the explanation of we’re different than other animals. Since Darren, Trish, Zac and I are ‘shape shifters’ we’re either bigger or smaller than the regular mammal.”
I flinched at the word shape shifters. It didn’t quite fit what they were.
Then someone called over the field, “Hey hurry up guys!”
By the sound of the pitch I think it was Trish. I sighed and started to walk, but Darren’s big black head stuck out and rammed into my chest.
“Ouch.” I complained.
The leopard shook its big head and he said, “Nuh, uh. You’re riding on my back. We can’t have you taking forever. Besides, I don’t think Trish can’t wait that long.”
“I can run, I’m on track.” I protested.
The leopard shook its head again. Darren didn’t say anything and looked at me pleadingly.
“Oh, fine! You win, but only today.” I walked up cautiously to Darren. “You sure? I do weigh like 112 pounds or something.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. You’ll be light as a feather to me Jen.” He replied in truth and with no hesitation.
“Okay.” I muttered.
My right leg swung around his huge body and I lied myself down on his back. Just to be sure I grabbed to fist fulls of fur between Darren’s shoulder blades. My body fit perfectly in the arch in his back, for some reason this made me feel happy.
“Ready?” Darren asked with eagerness.
“Okay hold on!”
With that said he raced of into the field at lightning speed. It felt like we were flying, we probably could’ve been if he went a little bit faster. My lose ponytail holder slipped out of place and was lost in the grain. So now my hair was blowing freely around my face.
Soon a white wolf was sprinting beside us. Charles. Of course he wouldn’t want to be left behind. The field must have been longer than I thought, because at this speed we should have reached the end by now.
“How is this—” I started to ask Darren, but he interrupted me.
“Ask questions later just enjoy the speed.”
And I did. Being on track, the speed of running was the best feeling ever. But being on Darren’s back running through the fields it felt exhilarating. Before we were at the end of the grain field, disappointment washed over me. That feeling of having the wind in my hair was just pure joy for me.
The grand house in front of me was bigger now that I was right up next to it. The house loomed over me, as I stared at it I felt a warm current come from behind me. Darren reappeared in his human form next to me.
“Amazing isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes, I do think that your home is amazing.” I answered still looking. It really was amazing. The old looks made yourself feel like you were set back time in the 1800s, which was probably the time it was built.
Darren turned to look at me, a perplexed look on his face. “The house? Oh, yeah sure it’s cool and all, but I was referring to my running.”
“Oh, well, yes. That was definitely amazing, the speed it felt,” I struggled for words, “exhilarating. The wind in my hair and all, I loved it.”
I felt a little foolish for thinking the wrong answer.
Darren smiled, satisfied. “That’s better.”
For the first time since we arrived at the house, I realized Trish, Zac, and Charles weren’t anywhere outside. Did they go in without us?
“Where are the others?” I wondered.
Darren snapped his head around, as if he didn’t realize everyone wasn’t around.
“Oh, I guess they all moved inside. Want to go in?”
I thought about entering this huge home. Odds are I was going to get lost in the kitchen, because the house was incredibly huge. Darren waited patiently for my answer; his eyes were pleading me to say yes.
“Well, it wouldn’t hurt. It’s not like I have anywhere else to go.”
He beamed a smile at me. “Great!”
Darren offered me his hand, but didn’t take it. My feet started to move towards the house. The boy behind me followed. The giant door was open, waiting for us to step inside the grand house. I stopped in the door way, Darren stopped besides me.
Why was I doing this? First I allow myself to get kidnapped then I coolly go with strangers and let myself be invited in to their home. What was wrong with me? Never before had I done anything this extreme before. The one rule that your parents teach you; never talk to strangers, yet I went ahead and broke it. How stupid of me, what I think is, is that I’m a softy for Darren’s pleading gaze. At his rate I was puddy in his hands, and he could get me to do anything he wanted.
“Jen? What’s wrong?” Darren finally asked.
He touched my arm, an electric current buzzed through my body. I quickly flinched away.
“Sorry,” he murmured.
We stood silent in the doorway. I was grateful that Darren didn’t push me to go in. He would wait patiently until I was ready. From what I learned already he wasn’t going to leave me by myself for a while.
“Do you want to go in yet?” Darren asked.
I didn’t respond for a minute. Do I really want to go in? I could try to run now, but black-leopard boy would easily catch up with me. Like I said before to Darren; it’s not like I have anywhere else to go.
“Okay, I’m ready now.”
Darren only nodded and led me inside. We entered the foyer made of rose marble. Two pillars stood on each side of the room, fake vines coiled themselves around the pillars, creating a nice Italian touch. To the right was a small room, which appeared to be just an extra space for coats, shoes, and others objects of their guests. On the left a hallway to another area of the house.
“Wow, it’s beautiful.” I said awe struck. If this was only the foyer, then I couldn’t imagine what the rest of the house looked like.
“Yes, you are.” Darren said quietly.
“Oh, um, nothing. Yeah, it is pretty cool. Trish helped pick out the house, and the furniture, and well almost everything.”
I laughed a little bit.
The foyer was indeed gorgeous; I wanted to see the rest of the house. Alone. It would be hard to appreciate the beauty of this home with Darren breathing down my neck and staring at me. Would Darren let me see the rest by myself? Time to find out.
“Do you mind if I check out the rest of your home?” I started to ask.
Darren smiled widely.
“Alone.” I finished.
His smile faded and his expression was a confused one. I waited for his answer to my question. Darren was silent for the moment. His eyes were glassy and unfocused on what was happening here. I took the opportunity to escape. Quietly tiptoeing my way into the left hallway, trying not to break Darren out of his ‘trance’. Once I was in the clear, I returned to my usual walk. The hallway was picture less and long. At the end a huge room with one long black leather couch, and a matching love seat. On the far wall was a brick fireplace, with smoldering embers still left after a recently dead fire. A cashmere rug decorated the hard wood floor. Three giant plain glass windows on the wall across from me, letting in so much sunlight it nearly blinded me.
As I suspected, lovely as the foyer. It was then I noticed that I wasn’t alone in the room. On the couch was Darren, hands behind his head and legs crossed, looking relaxed.
“About time. Did you walk slowly to appreciate the no picture hallway?” Darren asked sarcastically. A smug grin on his face.
I was speechless. How did he get there so quickly? He always materialized when I was least expecting it.
“I, uh, wanted to the rest of the house, but you didn’t seem to be,” I struggled for the right word, “present.”
His arms set down, and he stood. A puzzled look on his face.
“Well, your eyes were glassy and you looked like you were zoning out.” I shrugged.
Darren didn’t answer, he looked like he was thinking it over. As if he was trying to recall his blank out.
“Oh, that. Sorry about that. I tend to do that a lot.” He explained sheepishly. “Now, do you want to see the rest? With me as your personal tour guide?”
He took a gentlemen’s bow. I smiled. I bowed slightly back.
“Yes, you may sir.”
Darren walked over to me and offered me his arm. I took it happily and we glided to the next stop on the tour.
He showed me the kitchen; which was huge and had all the tools you could ever want, that pleased me, the bathrooms; there was two, me and Trish shared one with Zac and Darren for now and Charles had his own, and then my new bedroom, which was upstairs on the second floor.
The walls were a light baby blue with maple wood floors. One side of the room was decorated with Trish’s things; makeup on the dresser counter, bed covered in a dark navy blue comforter, and pictures everywhere as well. The other side, which I figured would be mine, was empty with no color. The stripped bed had a bag on its mattress; I asked Darren what it was. He said the bag was some of my clothes that Trish was able to grab; he assured me that my new roommate and I would go shopping for new clothes later on during my stay.
And he added an additional stop; his room. Surprisingly it was clean; the beds were made and not one thing was out of place.
In the end we ended back up in the living room. This time we had company; Trish, Zac, and Charles were all sitting patiently on the couches. I stopped; surprised to see them there, but Darren kept walking calmly and sat on one side of the loveseat. He patted the seat next to him, gesturing that I sit. Still stunned I moved slowly next to Darren and placed my hands neatly in my lap.
Charles was the first to speak, “Jen.”
“You must have questions about why you’re here, why we kidnapped you,”
“Yeah, thanks for doing that by the way.” I said sourly.
“And we’re truly sorry for that, but that was for your own good.” Charles explained.
I stared curiously at him and then I looked at Darren. He was looking away, ashamed and a serious look on his face.
“What do you mean for my own good?” I asked curiously.
“We’ll discuss that and more, but bottom line; all your questions are going to be answered.”
I’m so confused. Charles explained everything to me after Darren had given me the tour. Even though he said that all my questions will be answered, I still have some. Not the old ones, but new ones.
Sitting on my new bed I pondered what Charles could’ve meant. He gave me all the inside info for what I needed to know. But I still hadn’t grasped it or accepted it. I’m scared. It’s that simple, what I am doesn’t make sense. There was no warning to what I found out.
* * *
“So, what’s your first question?” Charles asked, placing his hands neatly on his lap.
Where do I start? Well, I could start with the simplest question.
“Okay, why am I here? And where is here?”
“First of all you are at Grant Manor, our home, welcome. Now like I said, it was for your own good. If we hadn’t come to take you, you might as well be,” He didn’t finish his sentence.
“Might as well be what?” I asked.
Truthfully I was scared of the answer.
“Dead.” Darren answered darkly.
Knowing this, I was ready to thank them. Now that I look at it, being kidnapped wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
“D—dead?” I choked out.
“Well, dead really isn’t the word I was looking for.” Charles assured, and then eyed Darren accusingly. “You see, you are . . . special,”—I had to smile at that— “There is a certain person that would like to use you for their own selfish ways and to use you to enslave the world.”
That put me to a sudden shock. How could I, a seventeen year-old girl, help enslave the world?
“Whoa, whoa wait a minute. Back up. Okay, I get that I’m special but how is me being that help someone rule the world? How is it that I’m special?” I looked at Charles, who had his eyes closed.
The others were all looking away—away from me and each other. They knew something. Something about me. No one answered.
“How am I special?” I asked again.
“I think it’s about time we tell her,” Trish spoke for the first time “I mean we can’t keep it a secret from her forever. She has to know at some point and that some point is now. We need to get this past us, just tell her as soon as she gets here and then we can start training.”
Everyone stayed silent at Trish’s comment. Finally Zac nodded his head in agreement and eyed me with his ice blue eyes. Why was he always avoiding me and shooting murderous glares in my direction? What did I do to him to make him so mad?
Darren heaved a sigh, “I’ll tell her.”
“Tell me what?”
This time Darren looked me in the eye when he spoke. Sincerity and worry colored his beautiful eyes.
“Jen, you are . . . one of us.” He replied quickly.
I froze. It felt like my legs had been kicked out from under me. What? I was one of them? I was one of the animal people? Whoa? What have you gotten yourself into? First you let yourself get kidnapped, and then get yourself invited into someone’s house, and then you find out your one of their animal-human species. Whoa, too much for one day. I thought to myself.
What had I gotten myself into?
“Jen? You okay?” Trish asked after I didn’t answer.
She got up out of her seat and kneeled in front of me. Her forest green eyes bored into mine. My mind was somewhere else at this moment, here in body but not in mind.
“Are you okay?” Trish repeated.
This time she placed her tiny hands on my shoulders and shook me gently.
I willed my lips to move and I succeeded, partially.
“So how am I special?” The words were slurred and I don’t know if they understood.
“You see, like all of us you have a power,” Charles explained and shot me a reassuring grin.
“A power?” I asked bewildered. This kept getting weirder and weirder.
“Yes. Trish has healing abilities, but only by physical touch,”—Trish beamed a smile—“Zac can control the elements; fire, water, earth, and air. Darren, as you may have noticed, can transport himself, any object, or anyone anywhere. That’s how we got from your school to our home so quickly.” Charles stood and positioned himself next to Trish who was still on the floor.
I looked up to meat his eyes, “What about you? Don’t you have a power?”
His expression grew somber “Sadly, I did, but I gave it up for . . . someone I loved.”
“Oh. I’m sorry Charles. I didn’t mean to—”
Charles held up a hand and smiled. “Its okay, Jen. It was a long time ago.”
“Do I have a power?” I asked finally. My voice was a little shaky.
I heard Darren try to disguise a laugh by coughing. It fooled no one. The reason for his laughter was unknown to me, but I didn’t care why he laughed.
“Yes, you do. And it’s the most powerful power our kind can have. You can control everything,” Charles paused “and everyone, with just the concentration of your mind. That’s how you can help that certain someone rule the world. That’s how you are special, Jen.”
* * *
So, I was one of them, an animal, but what kind of animal? Not only that, I had a power, but not just any power; the power to control everything and everyone around me. To me, I seemed like one of those Jedi people from Star Wars, the ones who “had the force”, but was more powerful. The thought scared me, I was a human weapon. I was dangerous.
On top of all that, I was away from my home, my friends, and my family. My head slumped to my hands and unwelcome tears began to flow. Stupid. I’m the most idiotic person to walk the Earth. Crying over something so trivial, sure family and friends were important, but I had to focus at the situation at hand; being kidnapped. But I wasn’t being held against my will.
Time past quickly as I cried, there was a knock on the door. Quickly I tried to destroy the evidence of the tears that were spilt.
“Come in,” I said weakly.
The knob clicked and Trish stepped through the door, a worried look in her green eyes. Once she was through completely Trish swiftly closed the door in one fluid movement.
“I’m just going to get straight to the point; I was hoping you’d help me with dinner. I heard that you’re a pretty good cook and it kind of sucks being the only one who can cook around here,” Trish said jokingly. I turned to look at her. “So will you help me? Tonight’s theme is Japanese, so basically we’re making sushi.”
Trish smiled a hopeful grin.
Should I help Trish make dinner? I am kind of hungry. And I do love to cook, especially Japanese food and deserts. I guess I could help her, it might be fun, get to bond with my kidnappers . . . oh, I’m hopeless.
“What the heck, I’ll help you, Trish. It might be fun.” A grin spread across my face and hers.
“Great! Thank you so much Jen! Besides you need to get out of this room,” She said as she started walking over to me.
I wobbled off the bed and followed her downstairs and into the huge kitchen on the first story. The supplies were all set out on the two table size black granite island counter.
“I really love your kitchen,” I remarked, smiling at the room.
“I knew you would. You really do love to cook, don’t you?” Trish asked, grinning at me.
“Well let’s get to work,” Trish said. “You can start steaming the rice and I’ll start to cut the eel.”
“Which sushi are we making?”
“We’re making a California roll, dragon roll, and a special roll I developed myself,” she winked at me. “It’s called the Trish Roll!”
“I know right? I actually find it quite funny.”
Once that was said we got to our tasks. Trish even put on an apron and tied a silk cloth around her forehead; it was white and had a red dot in the middle. Something that traditional Japanese cooks wear. And as if to set the mood she pressed the ON button on the radio to my favorite station. She knew me so well, like she knew every single detail of me. Maybe they really are not as nice as they seem, maybe they really are crazy.
Steaming the rice wasn’t too hard from me to do. When the two pounds of rice was cooking in the pot, I drifted over to Trish’s station and asked if she needed help. It should take about thirty minutes to cook, I had time.
“You can start to cut up these,” she pointed to a spot filled with vegetables.
I got to work.
At some point in my cutting, Trish turned up the volume on the radio and started to dance to the song, one of my favorites. The dancing girl danced over to my spot and grabbed the cutting knife out of my right hand and got hold of my wrists. She tugged for me to come and dance with her.
“No I can’t, Trish; I’m not so good with dancing.” I admitted.
“Oh, come on! Please?” Trish stared at me with big forest green eyes.
I smiled, “Okay,”
We danced wildly—and badly—throughout the kitchen; laughing as we twirled and singed along to the song. That we were also bad at, we were so off pitch, but we sang anyway. Right at this moment, I did not care that I had been kidnapped, I did not care that I was away from home. For once in a long time, my happy meter was high.
The song came to an end and, as if on cue, the buzzer beeped; signaling that the rice was done. I tended to the grain that was giving off heat and steam.
Trish is a nice girl. I think I could learn to like her.
The silence in the kitchen—minus the low hum of the music—was starting to creep up on my nerves. I had to start a conversation.
“So, you know that song?” I asked Trish.
“Yes, it’s one of my favorites,” she replied.
I spun to look at her.
“No way! I absolutely love that song!”
“I figured that. You were singing exactly with the lyrics,” Trish smiled.
“I never knew how much we had in common.”
I never really had noticed. Trish might as well be my new best friend. She made me feel comfortable in this strange house. She made me happy when I was sulking. I owe her, for making my stay here more enjoyable. Well, it’s a little early to declare anything official.
For the rest of preparing dinner we exchanged what we liked and did not, what our original lives were like. Amazingly I enjoyed myself; I did not want our girl-to-girl time be up. But the words that Trish said ended it.
“Okay, we’re done,” she wiped the back of her hand across her forehead.
The display of sushi rolls were beautifully arranged on three silver platters. They looked as if they were put together by a professional. Trish took two platters; one was the dragon roll and the other with her specially designed dish, the Trish Roll. She handed me the California roll platter.
“Ready to give the boys dinner?” she asked eagerly; her eyes wide with excitement.
“Yup!” I replied excitedly. Why? A voice asked in my head. Don’t know, and don’t care! I thought back.
“Now that’s the spirit!”
She lead the way towards the dinning room; balancing the platters upon each hand, while I was fumbling with my own tray. Trish must have practice doing this. Of course, serving dinner to three men for maybe, since she was fourteen, I would say that would be calling it practice.
We entered a room that was the size of my old bedroom; which to me was big. A gorgeous chandelier with a thousand crystals hung above the table, which was seated for five. The chandelier glinted and through rainbow colors all over the wallpaper as the last remains of sunlight shone through it. A rug with colorful, intricate designs lay below the table.
I felt like they were expecting me all this time. Well no duh! The voice said. They kidnapped you! Of course they planned you being here! You’re an idiot! Whatever screw the voice.
Seated in three of the five dark wood chairs were Charles, Zac, and Darren sat and all had their eyes set on me. It made my stomach turn and make me feel nervous, as if I had something important to say, it made me feel on the spot.
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