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The Girl In Green - Ch2 Part 1
Chapter 2

1
That morning Shawn woke up to a splitting headache and the wind howling outside his bedroom window. He groaned and massaged his temples while praying it was early enough he could bury his head beneath the covers and sleep for a while longer. Unfortunately his father came knocking on his door a few minutes later.

"Get up. Breakfast is in five minutes."

Shawn groaned.

"You're not sick. Let's go."

"My head is killing me. It feels like I'm hung over."

"Oh? And what would you know about hangovers?" his father inquired with amusement.

"I attribute it to a similar sensation I get after hearing one of your lectures. Ow."

"Har har, Shawn. Get up and come downstairs. I'll get some aspirin out for you."

"I appreciate your sympathy," Shawn muttered as his father closed the door behind him.

Shawn sat up in bed still massaging his temples and glaring at the alarm clock on his night stand. Of course it would read 7:30 am, he mumbled, and of course it would still be night time outside. More than ever he hated Ohio. Even the night-like mornings seemed darker than in Pennsylvania.

He reluctantly got out of bed, dressed, and went downstairs doing his best to shield his aching eyes from the kitchen light. As much as he normally relished the smell of fresh cinnamon pancakes and bacon, that morning it was making him sick to his stomach. His mother put a plate on the table in front of him then felt his forehead.

"You don't feel hot. That's good news."

"I feel awful. It's almost like somebody peeled open my head and punched my brain."

"Well I don't see any lobotomy scars so I think you'll be fine," his mother said returning to the stove. His father came in the room a second later and handed him two white pills which Shawn swallowed immediately.

"It smells delicious, honey," his father said sitting down across from Shawn.

"Of course it does," his mother replied with her usual wit. Shawn enjoyed seeing her in a playful mood despite his pain. He didn't see much of that anymore.

"We're confirmed for 9 am," his father said.

"Confirmed for what?"

"Your school. We're going to go meet the Principal and get your schedule set up."

"Wait what? Why are we doing this today?"

"Because that's the way it is."

"Oh joy. Your usual reasoning for making my life miserable."

"Shawn that's enough," his mother said taking her own seat at the table.

"But Mom I feel like crap!"

"We're just going for a tour and to get your schedule, relax. Your first day won't be until tomorrow. You can suck it up for an hour."

Shawn struggled to keep from making a nasty retort. It hadn't been easy. Pain had a way of making the smart ass in him more ruthless and uncontrollable. If his headache didn't go away soon he was afraid he'd end up telling his father point blank how much of a piece of shit Shawn thought he was. As good as it would feel he knew that was a kind of mistake there'd be no coming back from.

"I had the strangest dream last night," his mother said abruptly.

"What'd you dream about?" his father asked.

"I can't remember much except that it was really weird. It was like we lived back in PA but it was this house and all of our neighbors were different, but lived in the houses from our old neighborhood."

Which one? Shawn asked himself bitterly.

"It was really strange," she continued, "I remember walked through a few of the houses and that's about it."

"Huh," his father replied as he scooped a dripping pile of pancake into his gullet. "I'm not sure what to tell you about it."

"You don't have to tell me anything about it," she said with a slight edge to her voice. "I just thought it was something to share instead of our usual silence. What about you Shawn? How did you sleep last night?"

"Fine."

His father grinned.

"What's so funny?" Shawn asked with an edge to his voice.

"And what did you dream about?"

Shawn gave him a sarcastic smirk. "Nothing."

"Sure about that?"

"What are you two talking about?" his mother asked glancing from his father to him.

"Shawn found his old girl in green books last night."

"Really?"

"My God leave me alone!"

"Oh Shawn, it was so cute when you were little. You used to come downstairs every morning telling me about your adventures," his mother teased.

"I was a kid, okay? I wish I'd burned those damn books."

"Watch your mouth and calm down. And don't you dare destroy those books. You'll want those one day, trust me."

"Why so you can rub it in my face? No thanks."

"Shawn, what's your problem?" his father interjected while dropping the shovel from his fat face. "You've been in a nasty mood since you got up."

"I told you I'm not feeling well, and you're going to force me to go to that stupid school instead of waiting until tomorrow. Look can I be excused? I want to go back to bed."

"No. We're going to the school."

"Fine!" Shawn said throwing his hands in the air. "Whatever I don't care."

He stomped out of the kitchen and back to his room where he stayed until his mother came knocking twenty minutes later. Although he complied with going, he made sure they felt his displeasure with every ounce of sarcasm he could muster. It was enough to earn a very quiet car ride to their destination.

The school was about a mile beyond downtown on a back road that curved along a steep hill as if it were a serpent. As they ascended the hill the campus quickly sprawled before them underneath a crisp winter sky as if appearing from nowhere. The building itself was the length of two football fields, a single story, and had the same brick scheme as the town shops. To the right of the school was the deserted football stadium, and to the left were the soccer and baseball fields sleeping soundly under their white comforter. The road joined an oval driveway going around the front of the school and a parking lot hung to the right over by the stadium. Shawn looked at the tallest section of the school and read 'Middlebrook High School' in big white letters. Again, the grounds were empty of people, but at least the parking lot was filled to the brim with various cars and school buses. It struck him as a pleasant contrast to the rest of the empty town. Once inside the building doors, a wave of warmth gushed over them.

"This place is pretty big," his father said removing his hat. "Hope we don't get lost trying to find the office."

Shawn and his mother replied with silence. Neither one was paying much attention to him. They were busy looking around at the various sights they passed. Shawn was particularly taken aback by the pictures mounting the walls by the auditorium from the different plays the school had put on over the years. He was amazed to see all the make up the different people were wearing during the photos. Up close they looked like they were oddly dressed people sporting war paint in various swirls and designs.
Beyond the pictures were the display cases showing trophies and awards, and then pictures of the different athletic teams and a listing of their success.

Eventually the trio rounded a turn in the hall and saw the main office just beyond the cafeteria. Students were milling about the gymnasium creating the most noise Shawn or his parents had heard since their arrival in town.

The front of the main office was one large plate glass window with a single door carved into the center. The office itself was made up of two secretary desks and a long row of closed office doors behind them. Both of the secretaries were older in age, wore glasses, and reeked of cheap, musty perfume and sweat. The one on the left had obviously dyed red hair while the one on the right had even more obviously dyed blonde hair.

Shawn sat on one of the stiff chairs in front of the window while his parents went up to meet with the secretaries. The red-haired lady smiled and nodded patronizingly as she spoke. Her false smile and sarcastic tone made Shawn's skin crawl. Every few seconds they would look over at him and smirk as if they were in on some dirty secret about him. He didn't feel like the queens of Lardia with their double chins wiggling were in any position to be passing down judgment on anyone. His parents, slightly put off by her demeanor, came over and sat down beside their son to wait for the Principal to return from a meeting.

That's when he felt it again. It was the same feeling he got when his closet door opened on its own. It felt like something was watching him.

He glanced at each of his parents, but their faces were stony and pointed away from him. Shawn looked out the main doors but saw no one there. Even the blobs seemed occupied at the moment.

What gives? he wondered.

He heard a click coming from behind him. He turned and looked through the glass wall at the pay phones hanging across the hall. The cords swayed as if in a wind, but there was no one around and the front doors were all closed. They were tiny pendulums swinging in a windless breeze.

Just as he was turning back, two hand prints slapped the glass right in front of Shawn's face. With a shout Shawn fell off his chair, landing with a loud thud on the floor. He stared wordlessly at the palm prints streaked across the glass. As quickly as they had appeared they'd faded, leaving his parents and the fat blobs staring down at him in confusion.

"Are you alright?" his mother asked kneeling beside him. Shawn nodded he was. His father helped him up as the secretaries glared at him from a mountain of adolescent contempt. With his eyes he dared them to make some sort of smart ass remark.

Screw them. At least I'm not wearing enough chemicals to make me a fire hazard.

His mother elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

"Behave," she whispered. "Stop staring at them like that."

"I'm not."

"Good."

"Did you see it by the way?"

"See what?"

"The hands on the glass."

His mother pursed her lips.

"There was nothing there, Shawn."

"You seriously didn't see the hands?"

"Just behave."

Frustrated, Shawn replied, "Fine. I think I need to go get some water."

"Do it then. Just behave!"

He gave a quick glimpse of the hall where he thought he'd seen the hands, then slipped out of the office and went in the opposite direction. It didn't even occur to him he didn't know where he was going until the office was out of sight.

He walked passed a few classrooms and listened to the random snippets of lecture wafting from the closed doors. Most of what he heard was math related, but he did catch a bit of a history lesson that he felt bored him even just passing by the room. He hoped like hell he wouldn't be getting that guy for a teacher.

He passed a few more classes before coming across a hallway littered with lockers. There was still no sign of a water fountain. He debated for a bit about exploring further, but he decided it was probably best not to get lost on a personal tour. Besides, if he took much longer he would end up incurring the wrath of his parents. For all he knew the Principal had already come out of his meeting and introduced himself.

Just as he turned to head back, a voice stopped him.

"You new here?"

He turned to see a girl standing behind him. She was easily one of the prettiest girls he'd seen in a long time. She had long black hair that was tightly pulled into a ponytail, her ocean blue eyes shimmering as they absorbed his reflection. She stood nearly at eye level with him, and had the build of an athlete yet the tenderness of a very feminine body. Her breasts were perky and her nipples peeked out from under her turtleneck. On her face was an inviting smile that Shawn found absolutely captivating.

"I, uh, I was just looking around," Shawn offered weakly. It scared him how in awe he was of her. "I'm on a tour, or at least I'm supposed to be. My parents are waiting for the Principal and I, well, I, uh, was looking for a water fountain."

The girl listened and nodded intently as he spoke. He'd never felt more like a moron in all his life.

"Principal Weston is okay. He can be a prick though. As for a water fountain, if you go down here," she said, pointing past her, "you'll come up on another hall to the right. There's a water fountain and a rest room right off the intersection. And if you worry about getting lost, don't sweat it. This place is a big rectangle. Eventually you'll get back to where you started. I'm Hillary Cormier, by the way," she said holding her hand out.

"I'm Shawn Keating."

Her hand was smooth to the touch and excited him in a way he hadn't felt in a long time. The thought of it made him self-conscious, and suddenly he became way too aware that he was hanging onto her hand for a bit longer than he should. He abruptly let go hand and wanted to hit himself when he thought she saw her eyes widen at having her hand so abruptly let go.

"Welcome to Middlebrook High School, Shawn."

"Thanks. It's, ah, nice," he stammered. Just keep it together Shawn. Keep it together!

Hillary giggled. "That's not how I'd put it but alright. So, where you from?"

"Been a lot of places actually, but mostly I've been in Pennsylvania."

"You miss it?"

"I've only been here a couple days, but yeah, sometimes."

"Unfortunately I've lived here my whole life. Exciting, let me tell you."

"Unfortunately?"

"Yeah, we're all pretty much counting down the days to get out of here. You will too, I bet, if you aren't already. Most of the people here are pretty stuck up, and very cliquish."

"I think people are like that everywhere."

"True. I guess our only real claim to fame then would be our reputation for being a haunted little town."

"Really?" Shawn said a little too eagerly.

Hillary smiled."If you believe in that sort of thing, anyway. I'm sure you'll hear more about it from people."

"I had no idea."

She nodded as if expecting this and checked her watch. "Well Shawn, it's been fun, but I don't want to get in trouble and I'm sure you're thirsty so I'll letcha go. Do you know where your homeroom is?"

"Not yet. I don't think I'll get a schedule until tomorrow."

"Ah. Well, if and when you do I'll save a seat for you if you end up in mine. If not, well, I'm always around so look for me."

With that said, she turned and started walking away.

"Hey Hillary," he called. "Thanks. You know, for pointing the way."

Hillary smiled. "No problemo. See ya!" She waved and disappeared into a classroom.

Wow man. Hillary Cormier.

Her name was on his mind as he got his water and on his mind still when he got back to the office and found the Principal shaking hands with his parents. When he walked in they all turned to look at him.

"You must be Shawn. I'm Principal Weston," the man said with his hand held out. Shawn reluctantly took it and cringed at the cool dampness of his grip.

"Nice to meet you all. Shawn, I'm excited that you'll be joining us for the rest of your academic career. We have a nice little community here, and I just bet you'll fit in fine," Weston said, his grin widening..

The sight of such evenly white teeth for some reason made him feel uneasy. "I can't wait," he replied with no real conviction. Weston appeared not to notice.

"Well, now that we're all acquainted, let's start the tour. I'm thinking we'll start with the academic wings and work our way back here. Sound good?"

The three nodded in unison, and the tour began. It didn't take long for Shawn to be reminded of the one cold, hard fact about schools: now matter how different they looked, they were always the same. His new principal talked excitedly about all the science rooms, the English wing, the history department, and so on. It all went in one ear and out the other. None of this stuff interested him, nor did the smelly locker rooms or the gymnasium. It wasn't until they came across the auditorium that Shawn felt anything even remotely resembling an emotional uplift. Figures it was the last stop on the tour.

"The auditorium holds eight hundred people in the seats and is wheelchair accessible. The two doors on the bottom right of the stage lead to the front oval driveway, and the doors to the left lead to a hallway backstage. In that hallway are dressing rooms, a couple classrooms, and the band hall. We have four different choirs who perform three times a year, and a drama club that produces two plays a year. The PTA also sponsors a talent show open to all grade levels."

"What kind of plays do you perform?" asked Beverly.

"Depends, really. Usually a comedy in the fall and a musical in the spring. The past few years they've tried a couple dramas. Do you like acting Shawn?"

He didn't hear the question. At that point he had forgotten the principal and his parents even existed. He was already lost in a dream of standing mid stage, his guitar across his waist, listening to the cheers of the audience beckoning him to play. In the moment he even felt the strap of his guitar digging into the pit of his shoulder, and the lights above blinding him in an inferno of heat.

A sharp jab to the ribs brought him back. He looked at them in total wonder.

"Ow!" he protested, giving his mother a hurtful glance. "I'm sorry, Principal Weston, I wasn't paying attention."

Weston smiled, and again Shawn was revolted by the sight of such perfect teeth. "That's okay. I just asked if you liked to act."

"Not really. I'm not much of the acting or singing type. I play the guitar though."

"Ah," Principal Weston said in a satisfied tone. "I'd recommend joining our jazz band then. I don't know if they have a strings group, but you could always lobby to start one."

"Maybe," Shawn replied non-committally. "Say Mr. Weston, is it true Middlebrook has a lot of haunted places?"

Weston chuckled as his parents looked at him in surprise.

"What brought this on?" his mother asked.

"No doubt Shawn has already met a future classmate or two. There are rumors about places being haunted around here, but truth be told the reputation is more to drum up business for the Halloween Festival they have every year downtown. It's all superstitious bunk," he finished with a wave of his hand.

They adjourned back to the office where Shawn once more choked on the smell of the hags. Weston shook everyone's hand again and remarked at how lovely it would be to have Shawn in class the next morning. As they climbed into the car and set out for home amid the gently falling snow, Shawn felt the eyes watching him once more. The feeling finally passed just as the car turned into their driveway.

******
The Girl in Green is a horror novel by Scott McCafferty, serialized for web publication through RivalCast Media. Scott welcomes comments and feedback below or through email at scott.mccafferty@rivalcastmedia.com


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