Who are the Real Monsters?
The cold wintery winds caressed my fur as I covertly slipped through the ruins of the old Shinto Shrine towards the base of the small sacred waterfall. Sitting under the ruins, the base of the waterfall was surrounded by lilac bushes making it a place of refuge. The first winter storm had passed after covering the mountain with snow and ice. Gracefully leaping from stone to stone neither snow nor ice upset my footing as I plunged into the pool below. The water warmed from the earth spirits soothed my tired muscles as I changed forms to stand underneath the falling water.
However, my respite was short lived. Already the black and white clothed humans were moving along the base of the mountain once more. The ruins had always been the home of my mother and me but it was no longer safe. She had passed into Yomi-no-kuni the summer before leaving me alone. Now without her protection for the first time in my short life, I was not the hunter but the hunted. Thankfully, the koropokkuru warned me of the hunters approach so they had not found me totally unawares. Planning to pass through the line of black hunters, the valley beyond would become my new home.
Leaping from the rocks, I hit the forest canopy jumping from branch to branch. Trying to pick up speed, my claws dug deep into the wood. The black hunters have strung thick ropes across the tress but that shouldn’t stop me but they were not what they appear. Thick white paper adorned the ropes giving off power, wards to keep me from moving into the valley. With a force of will, I shattered the first wall, passing through it with ease. The second and third were just as easy but were closer together. Through the night, they had created a gauntlet of wards for me to pass through. Feeling trapped, I ran another way, but that way too was warded. The forest that surrounded my home was now a cage.
“Good morning, Kimme.”
“Yes luv? Are you OK?”
“Weird dream.” With the strange dream fading from my memory, I opened my eyes. “It’s still dark outside.”
“Yes luv. Don’t get your hair wet.” There was very little I could say, the days of crawling out of bed and just running a comb through my hair before heading out the door were over. Katie was already going through my closet pulling out clothes for my first day back to school. Ignoring the skirt she laid out for me, I accomplish my morning ritual without too much fuss. It wasn’t any less disturbing but I was becoming used to it.
“Do you wish me to help you with your make up?”
“Let me try.” Hibiki and Rebecca had spent part of the night helping me learn the magic of makeup. By no means was I a professional but having done dance and drama made it a little easier. “Isn’t that skirt a little short.” Actually, any skirt was too short, jeans would have been better. I had a sneaking suspicion that my mother had a hand in the way I was going to be dressing for school. The Umeki women had a certain appearance they had to uphold. When asked if I could pick out my own outfits I was told emphatically no.
“No dear, it’s just fine.” Katie smiled then walked over and gave me a gentle hug. “Stop playing with your ears, you don’t want to get them infected.” Another new aspect of my appearance, Hibiki was appalled I didn’t have my ears pierced. How was that such a surprise? One rather sharp pin later and a little blood; presto pierced ears. I’ve had better nights.
“There, you look beautiful.” Kate and I stood in front of the mirror. Turning around I conceded that the look was a lot better than I expected.
With breakfast sitting on my stomach like a lead weight, Aya and I took to the road. Getting in and out of a car in a skirt was going to be a bit of a pain. Still the idea of flashing the universe wasn’t desirable so doing it the correct way seemed like a rather good idea.
“How do you feel?”
I assumed that Aya noticed my pale sickly expression. “Terrified.” She laughed. I’m so happy I could be a source of amusement. “But I’ll get over it.”
“Good, you will do fine. I have faith in you, Kimme-sama.”
Why Aya had to escort me to school, I still didn’t understand. My mother wasn’t too helpful in that regard, just saying that it was something I needed to get used to. Since she was actually talking to me, I really didn’t have the heart to start a fight over the subject. I guess that if my mother could live with it, I could too. Pulling right in front of the school before I could even get out of the car, Aya ran around and opened my car door. “Great, right in front of the entire school; how was that going to look? “ I thought to myself.
“I could have opened my own door.”
Aya didn’t bother to reply. Doing this for a second time was a rather odd experience. Coming through as Ken no one seemed to even notice; now as Kimme I felt as if everyone was watching me. At least a couple of friendly faces were there to greet me at the door, Hibiki and Rebecca serving as my very own welcome wagon.
“That outfit looks cute on you, Kimme.” Hibiki said excitedly. Both girls gave me a hug. Not sure why but that seemed to settle me down. We talked for a few minutes but they needed to make it to class before the first bell. I told Rebecca again that she was welcome to drive with me to school but she liked taking the bus with her friends. To each his own I wasn’t a fan of the bus.
Aya does have a bit of a presence so when we entered the office everyone looked up. Mrs. Sheffield the school’s secretary just smiled. “How may I help you dear?”
“Hi, I’m...Kimme Umeki; I’m here to pick up my schedule.”
“Is that your mother?”
Turning I gave Aya a half smile. “No, she is just dropping me off.” Pulling my schedule up on the computer, Mrs. Sheffield passed it to me. It was almost the same except my Study Hall was at the end of the day, switching with my English class. Surprisingly enough, I had the same locker. Of course, all of the personal data now reflected my new status, Kimme Umeki.
“Principal Byrne would also like to speak to you for a moment dear. She likes to greet all new students.” When did that happen? Last time I was given my schedule and thrown out of the office. “Go straight in, she is expecting you.”
Passing through the office I was surprised to find Principal Byrne office so nicely decorated. It had a very comfortable welcoming feel to it. “You must be Kimme Umeki.” She smiled.
“Yes ma’am.” I remembered meeting her before in the hallway with my first altercation with Eric Sullivan. She seemed to be in a much better mood.
Principal Byrne gave Aya a different smile. “You must be Aya Yoshida. I talked to Kimme’s mother this morning and assured her that while in school she will be perfectly safe.”
That surprised me, did my mother actually call the school. I didn’t know how I felt about that.
“I understand.” Aya gave her a half bow. Seems she was playing her role up to the hilt today, whatever.
“Good, well Kimme, if you need anything my door is always open.”
After dropping my books at my locker, with a map in hand, not that I needed it and without Aya I found my home room. Walking in most of the way through morning announcements, I passed my note to Miss Byrd my home room teacher and found a seat. Once again Ken was invisible, I was not. Most of the boys gave me a once over, several more than once. Most of the girls gave me the eye most likely for different reasons. Thankfully, there was a seat at the back of the room. As soon as I sat down a blonde hair girl greeted me. “Hi, I’m Ashley Rowley.”
She made a face. “Didn’t we have a guy in class by that name? I heard he got sick or something.”
“My cousin Ken, he sort of had an allergic reaction to Massachusetts.” I smiled.
“I have an allergic reaction to school every day.” Another girl named Lauren joined in. “Must suck moving your senior year.”
Before I could reply, we were changing classes. After planning on meeting for lunch, I made my way to my next class. Sitting in the same seat I had before, a number of girls recognized my name. They excitedly began to talk to me about the festival and how well I danced. Word that I was the girl in white that sat on the palanquin in the parade spread throughout the class.
“Seems you have a following.” Hibiki greeted me at my locker as I prepared to switch to third period. “A couple of the guys were asking me about you.”
Yay me. “Some guy I don’t even know just asked me on a date.”
“So what did you say? You didn’t do the same thing…”
I laughed. “No of course not, I was very nice and told him thank you but no.”
“Christen has been telling everyone you’re a real bitch.”
“Oh don’t worry about it; everyone knows that he’s a jerk.”
Waving goodbye I found my new English class and made my way to sit by my cousin. “Ren, I haven’t seen you in a week.” Actually, what was rather odd I hadn’t seen his father either.
Ren looked up at me. “Kimme, I heard that they were making you come to school this week.”
“My mother thought it was a good idea.” We of course didn’t get into it during class. When it ended, we picked up our conversation but not before a number of girls from my other classes said hi and a few guys made Ren introduce me to them.
“Seems you’re popular.” Funny coming from him, as he always seemed to have girls hanging all over him.
“I guess so, where have you been? You weren’t at the dojo on Monday.”
“I heard you tried to knock some sense into Sora.”
I giggled. Yes I did, so what. “Worse he got angry.”
Ren cringed then he smiled sadly. “I have been…grounded.”
Nodding; Ren seemed to attract trouble. “Until when?”
“What, you got to be kidding me.” I whispered. “What in the world did you do?”
He shrugged. “Something stupid, well at least my grandmother thinks so. Don’t worry about it.
Anyway I’ll talk to you later.” Ren left me standing in the middle of the hallway. Why did I feel that all of his problems were all my fault?
Lunch was nice, besides getting to eat one of my Aunt Naomi’s world famous Bento lunches we had a good group of people eating under ‘Sister Oak”. It was quite the change from Ken’s first lunch at Skogshaven a few weeks ago. The only odd thing was that Agwe who I had not seen before lunch kept staring at me.
Advanced Chemistry made me a little nervous for some reason. So far no one had recognized me, why should they. However, three people in my next class knew Ken pretty well. Trying to stay away, I took a seat at the back corner of the room. A couple of girls from my other classes said hello but Agwe walked right on by. Mal and Miki were having a conversation towards the front of the room so it seemed everything would be ok. Reaching down for my book, I came face to face with Agwe.
“Excuse me, girls.” She said to the girls that surrounded my desk. “I need to speak to her outside of class.”
Pulling me around the corner, she stared at me again. “Who are you?”
Reaching over she pinched my right boob.
“Owe...that hurt...What the hell, why did you do that?” Was this some weird girl greeting I wasn’t made aware of?
“They’re real.” She said surprised.
“Of course they’re real. “ I growled rubbing my chest. “That really hurt.”
“I’m sure if you asked Sile, she would kiss it and make it all better.” Agwe laughed.
“That might be true but still who walks up to someone and pinches them, Agwe.” Oh, crap.
Agwe just sat there with a smile on her face. “Spill.”
“Ken.” She said annoyed.
“Whatever; spill, what happened?”
She spoke a little too loudly for my comfort. Covering Agwe mouth with my hand, I leaned closer. “OK quiet, next period in Study Hall.” For some reason I remembered that she had Study Hall after Advanced Chem.
Meandering towards the back of the Library into one of the study rooms the two of us took a seat. Agwe looked like some detective that was ready to cross-examine a criminal. “Ok...Kimme.” She emphasized my name. “Spill.” As it seems she knew something I went over my story again, pretty much what I had told Sile the night before.
“So you really have no clue?” Agwe sat back perplexed. “This is weird even for Skogshaven.”
Green dogs, ghost girls and sex-changing forests what else could be weird? “OK, now your turn.”
“What?” Agwe looked uncomfortable.
Pointing my finger at her, I made a face. “What, right. OK tell me how you knew?”
“Well…I sort of see things.” Agwe began to play with her fingers.
“Sort of see things, want to be a little more specific. What, like dead people?”
She giggled. “Well sort of, since I was little I can see things. I can’t explain it and it doesn’t always happen.”
“Did you wake up one day and start seeing things?” I wondered if she was a Witch like my grandmother.
“No, I sort of fell in the ocean one day. When I came out I could see things.”
OH, she must have had one of those near death experiences. “So how long were you underwater?”
“A year and a day.” She smiled.
“That’s a long time to hold your breath.”
Smiling she told the story of how when she was eight years old she was playing at the end of the pier at her grandmother’s old home in Martinique. Looking down into the clear water, she saw another child playing underwater. Waving to her the girl waved back wanting her to jump in. Being eight years old, that’s exactly what she did. Now there were dozens who watched her jump into the water. None of her relatives could see her underwater nor did Agwe’s body ever turn up. Her mother never gave up hope that she would return. A year and a day later her family was at her grandmother’s house again, this time packing up the house because Agwe’s grandmother had just died. All of a sudden, Agwe appeared at the end of the dock, which she immediately ran down into her mother’s arms. Agwe still has no memory of what happened during that time.
“So are you a Witch?” I hesitated to ask thinking she might tell me I was insane.
“No, the St. Hill women have gifts but it’s nothing like the Witches of Skogshaven.” She made a face. “My mother would kill me but you should have one of them take a look.”
“I was told my grandmother was going to see if she could do something. She’s a Priestess.”
“Oh I didn’t know the Umeki family were witches. I know the Shisaa family doesn’t have a single magical bone in their bodies. So your mother; is she a Witch too?”
That surprised me I had no idea. “I don’t know.” It didn’t seem Agwe heard me anyway.
“So you might be a Witch as well.” She said thoughtfully. Agwe was heading somewhere I wasn’t so sure I was comfortable going. “So are you OK with the girl thing?” Her change of topics lost me for a second.
“I don’t know. I’m working on it. It’s only been a few days.”
Two girls who were making faces at the windowed doorway interrupted our conversation. “Oh don’t say anything to them by the way, they are Norms. “
What in the world was a Norm?
Agwe then waved them in. “You’re interrupting our studying.”
“Yea, right.” A blonde-haired girl said throwing herself into one of the chairs. “Might help if you have a book opened.”
“Oh hey, you must be Kimme Umeki; I heard you were the dancer at the festival this weekend.” The second girl a brunette who was almost as short as I was took the seat across from me. I recognized her from my Math class. “I’m Tabitha Nelson and that’s Roselle Mjöll, though we call her Rose.”
With the last bell, the four of us exited the library. “Did I tell you that I love your outfit Kimme; were heading into town; want to do a little shopping?” Tabitha asked. Actually, she hadn’t really stopped talking since we met.
“I’d love to but I need to check with…”
“Who in the heck is that?” Rose said pointing to Aya who was waiting for me at the front of the school. She rather stood out in her black and gray suit and dark sunglasses. “She looks like someone’s bodyguard.”
Aya at that moment noticed me and walked up giving a half bow. “Are you ready Kimme-sama?”
Smiling sadly, I explain. “I have to go.”
“Wow, you’re kind of old for a babysitter.”
Sighing I nodded. “I tried to explain that to my mother as well.”
“Geez, and I thought my parents were freaking nuts.” Rose said. “What’s your number? We’ll make a plan on breaking you out of your cell one night this week.”
Laughing I shared my information and in return got three hugs. “I’ll call you tonight.” Agwe said. “I’m going to talk to my mom, OK?”
I nodded, can’t hurt to have others see why I changed. Waving to the three of them, Aya followed me to the car. “I see you are still cultivating a friendship with the St. Hill girl.”
“She’s my friend.” I really didn’t care of Aya approved or not.
“That’s your choice, of course, Kimme-sama.” Aya didn’t say another word to me as we drove home back to the enclosure.
Already I could see that my school life was going to be an improvement. Now guys coming up and asking me out, I hadn’t gotten used to yet. At least two more came up to me the next day, which was flattering, I think. Something in the stupid forest magic made me interested in them it seemed. I tried to freak out about it but couldn’t no more than I could freak out that I still liked looking at girls. When I thought about Sile, my new girly places tingled quite pleasantly. Then again, there were a couple of guys that did the same thing. I don’t even want to even talk about Malcolm Kincade.
“So you’re still going out to dinner with Sile.” Katie asked while watching me get dressed. I must have tried on six different outfits already. This can’t be normal could it?
“Yes.” Standing back, I admired myself in the mirror. The skirt might be way too short but I wanted to show off my legs. What was even funnier I was actually wearing heels. Gods, I was turning into such a girl.
Katie just smiled. “Have a lovely time.” She then frowned. “Don’t be late getting home and I don’t expect to see you in a tree in the morning.”
I laughed. “I almost forgot I did that.”
Grabbing my purse, I kissed her on the cheek and headed downstairs. Aya didn’t seem to share my amusement. “So you still plan on going out with that woman?”
“That woman has a name, and yes, Sile is taking me to dinner tonight.” I waved and walked out the door. “Don’t wait up.”
Sile was waiting for me at the carport. Climbing into her little red beetle, she greeted me with a warm smile and a kiss that curled my toes. “Ma bien-aimé you look beautiful tonight.”
“You look beautiful too, my beloved.” We smiled at one another. Shifting into gear, we headed off into the night. Maybe this girl thing wasn’t all that bad.
Authors Notes: A special thanks to djkauf for a little elvish editing. Thanks to all for reading! - Elsbeth
© Copyright - Elsbeth2011/2012
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