Note: I thought it would be fun to post my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, one scene at a time. This is completely raw, all mistakes and notes to myself included. I only adjusted paragraphs (I use tabs in the original) for readability.
Heading out to the bus stop at sunset was surreal. Adjusting to the new schedule was going to be hard, but on the bright side, no more waking up early. On the other hand, it was his first day of high school and he didn’t know a single person. And his classmates were creatures out of nightmare.
Their neighbors looked like normal people. On one side was a couple with young children and all of them were witches. Aside from their magical abilities, they were totally human. They seemed very nice, too. His shell-shocked parents had been invited to dinner the following week.
On the other side was a family that was part djinn, and again their children were young. The older girl was in elementary school and her brother was just starting pre-school. Aiden wondered if Mr. Johnson had picked this house specifically because the families on either side were human and part-human. Mr. Johnson seemed to think everything through and do things with intent. He was staying in town for a few days in case they needed help, then he was going back to his normal job, searching out supernatural beings and making sure they were certified.
Aiden reached the stop at the end of the block. An older-looking girl was already there, black hair cut short and a baseball cap turned around on her head. “Hi there. You must be new.” She smiled.
“Yeah. I’m Aiden.” He held his hand out, wondering what she was. Was that rude?
“I’m Tina.” She shook his hand. “What grade are you in?”
“Oh, my brother is your age.” She looked across the street. “If he doesn’t get here soon, he’s going to miss the bus.” Tina rolled her eyes. “I swear, he’s late to everything.” A moment later, a boy darted out of a blue house and ran down the block. “There he is.”
The boy checked for cars and ran across the street to join them. “New kid?” He asked Aiden.
“Yeah. I’m Aiden.”
“Toby.” They shook hands. The boy also had a baseball cap, turned backwards like his sister’s.
The bus arrived. Aiden hoped to sit with Toby so he had someone to talk to, but the boy waved to a friend and joined him. Tina also sat with someone, so Aiden ended up sitting alone near the front. He set his backpack on his lap, nervously wondering what kind of monster would sit next to him. Everyone he’d met seemed normal, but maybe he’d just been lucky so far. Shadow Valley had all sorts of things, vampires, demonic creatures, shapeshifters, ghosts.
The boy that ended up sitting next to him was older and built like a tank. Aiden was squished up against the window. “Hi.”
The boy barely glanced at him and grunted. So much for conversation.
Before long, they pulled up to the school. It was huge, built of brick, and the only windows were small and soaped over. It didn’t look very welcoming. Sort of like a prison without the barbed wire. The darkening sky didn’t help, either. Streetlights lent pools of light to the scene of kids streaming out of buses and into the school.
Aiden swallowed, very aware that he was surrounded by monsters. Now he could see hints of things that weren’t quite right in the crowd. Extra pale skin, eyes glinting strangely in the light, a misty form drifting through the students, someone with small horns, a flash of blue light.
A little shiver went through him and he thought about just turning around and leaving. He had to remind himself that he wasn’t normal, either. He was fae, a changeling, switched at birth. The memory of the incident in the locker room got him moving again. This school was where he belonged. He had to learn how to control his powers so he wouldn’t have accidents like that again.
A little voice in his head pointed out that it would be nice to do something like that when he wanted to. If he could do that on demand, no one would pick on him again.
He looked around for Toby or Tina, but didn’t see them. He didn’t know anybody, he didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing. He felt very, very lost. Aiden dug his class list out of his bag. At least that was something. Wandering through the crowded halls, he checked classroom numbers until he found the right one for his homeroom. There weren’t as many desks as he was used to. Class sizes must be smaller here.
A few kids were already in their seats in a little cluster at the back, chatting. Part of him wanted to join, but he felt awkward. They looked like friends and probably didn’t want a stranger interrupting. He sat in the opposite corner, a row of empty desks between them.
The warning bell rang. Other kids started trickling in, the desks filling up. He hoped Toby was in the class so he would at least know somebody. Every time someone walked in, he glanced up. Aiden had to remind himself not to stare as he tried to guess what kind of monster each kid was. That pale girl, maybe a vampire. The boy with a pentacle around his neck, a witch. Another vampire — no, he had pointed ears. A werewolf?
Aiden had almost gathered the courage to say hello to the girl next to him, pretty with long blond hair, but the final bell rang and the teacher got up to close the door. “Good evening,” she said.
The kids muttered a greeting.
“We have a new student, Aiden. Please stand up and say hello.”
Everyone turned to look at him and he wanted to melt into his seat. He stood up long enough to wave and say, “Hi.”
“Aiden is a changeling, a fae. His family just moved here and I hope you’ll all be welcoming to him.”
Low whispers went through the room as the looks turned surprised. Mr. Johnson had said fae were rare and if a class full of monsters was surprised, it must be true. As if he didn’t feel like he stood out enough already. Everyone else seemed to know each other.
“Now, I’ll take attendance quickly and we’ll get started. We have a lot to cover today.”
The door opened and a handsome boy stepped in. Aiden’s stomach did a little flip. The boy wore a black shirt and jeans, his short hair stuck up every-which-way as if he hadn’t bothered to comb it.
“Dylan,” the teacher said, “so nice of you to join us.”
Dylan ignored her and kept walking. There were only two empty desks. One at the very front and the other just in front of Aiden. Dylan slid into the seat in front of Aiden, his disinterested gaze shifting to slight surprise for a moment when he looked at Aiden. Then he turned and slumped into the chair, backpack dropping to the floor.
The class was a normal one, at least. It was U.S History, and Aiden could almost pretend he was at a normal school. He’d missed the first three weeks of class but he knew a little bit of history from middle school and he was confident he could catch up. The teacher gave him a book and Aiden took lots of notes on the reading he’d need to do.
With dismay, he headed off to his next class: Minor Magical Control. Mr. Johnson had explained that it was classroom based practice to control simpler, less dangerous types of magic. Things like glamours, levitating small objects, and accelerating plant growth. The day Mr. Johnson had appeared to tell Aiden he was a fae changeling, Aiden had made the tomatoes in the backyard go from tiny nubs to almost ripe.
He wanted to learn how to control his power, but he knew the other kids had years of practice. He was going to look like an idiot.
The history teacher pointed out his locker so Aiden could drop off his book. As he was closing it, he saw the blonde girl he’d sat next to. “Hi there.”
The girl gave him a look and rolled her eyes. With a little sigh, she turned and walked away. So much for making friends.
The teacher in Minor Magical Control greeted him right away. “Hello there, Aiden, right? I’m Mr. Kecskemeti, but you can call me Mr. K.” He pointed out a seat. “I’ll have Maggie sit with you. She’ll be able to help you out. Don’t worry about being behind the other students. I want you to concentrate on making progress, not comparing yourself to anyone else, okay?”
Aiden nodded, but he knew he’d compare himself anyway. Maybe he couldn’t catch up right away, but he’d have to. He didn’t want to be held back. If he didn’t graduate with the rest of his class, he’d be stuck in Shadow Valley for an extra year, and so would his parents. Once he graduated and was certified, he’d be able to go anywhere he wanted.
Maggie arrived and introduced herself. She wore a pink headband and a Hello Kitty t-shirt, not at all what he expected. Most of the kids here wore black or gray. “Aiden, nice to meet you.” She shook his hand, a wide smile on her face. “This must all seem really strange to you.”
He nodded. “A month ago, I thought I was a normal human.”
“What are you, if you don’t mind me asking?” She smiled again. “I’m not trying to be rude, but it helps to know what you are so I understand what kind of magic you might be able to do.”
“I’m a changeling. Fae.”
Her eyes widened. “Wow. Full-blooded fae. No wonder you feel so strong. You have major mojo mister.”
“Yeah, but I have no idea how to use it.”
She patted his arm. “That’s what I’m here for. I’m a witch, but the way. From a very long bloodline. Oh, sorry, that sounded like bragging. I didn’t mean it like that, I just mean that my family has been practicing magic for a long time so I have experience.”
“Okay.” Aiden didn’t know what else to say.
The class was a failure, as he’d feared. The assignment was to lift a piece of paper from another desk onto their own. Some could do it, some had partial success. Aiden couldn’t even get the paper to flutter. He was used to doing well in school and this made him feel stupid.
“Don’t worry about it,” Maggie patted his arm. “You can try again tomorrow.” She’d demonstrated lifting the paper and it had looked so easy. Aiden was so focused on how he couldn’t do it that he barely thought about how weird this was.
The next class was math, a welcome relief, although he was having trouble staying awake. In the normal world, it was almost bed time. Here, it was almost time for lunch. It was going to take a while to get used to this new schedule. When the bell rang for lunch, all he could think about was how much he wanted a nap.
He followed the mass of students to the lunch room. Seeing the food woke him up, but did nothing for his appetite. Do I even want to know what that stuff is? Piles of meat, some of it not cooked, tall bottles full of red liquid, roasted insects. Aiden put a hand to his mouth and started turning away.
“Hey, new kid.” The handsome boy from homeroom, Dylan. “I think you want that side.” He pointed to the other end of the lunchroom where kids were filling their trays from a different buffet line.
“What’s over there?”
The corner of Dylan’s mouth turned up. “Human food.”
A pale boy with hunched shoulders pushed past Aiden and grabbed a tray, filling his plate with raw meat. Aiden’s stomach rolled again, and he tried hard not to breathe in the smells. He followed Dylan to the other side of the room, sure he wasn’t going to be able to eat anything no matter what was over there. Still, he let out a sigh of relief when he saw a pile of salad.
“There’s nothing weird about this, right?” he asked Dylan.
“Nope. Regular human food.”
“Why are there two different lines?”
Dylan shrugged. “Food safety or something. And for the squeamish ones like you.” He smirked again. God, he was handsome.
Aiden thought he should try to eat something, so he got salad and an apple. Dylan got a cheeseburger with a huge pile of fries, and the sight of the meat made Aiden queasy. At the end of the line, he expected to see a cashier, but there wasn’t one. That’s right, Mr. Johnson said meals were free.
Dylan sat down at an empty table and Aiden set his tray down across from him. “Who said you could sit there?” Dylan snapped.
Feeling cold, Aiden lifted his tray. So much for making friends.
As he turned, Dylan said, “Hey. I didn’t mean that. You can sit if you want.”
Aiden hesitated. Dylan probably only felt sorry for him. What kind of sad puppy face was he making? Glancing over the room, he looked for Maggie. She was too energetic, but at least she was nice. He didn’t see her, and the tables were filling up. Everybody already had friends, probably ones they knew from middle school, even elementary school.
Holding back a sigh, he sat down across from Dylan. He thought he should say something, but didn’t know what. Thank him? Tell him not to be a jerk? Dylan picked up his cheeseburger and started eating. Aiden poked at his salad.
Some other kids sat at the far end of the table, giving them odd glances. As more and more kids found seats, the side where Aiden and Dylan sat stayed empty. Kids walking by gave them odd looks. Finally, Aiden had to say something. “Why isn’t anyone sitting with us?”
“It’s me, not you.” Dylan said between bites of fries. The cheeseburger was already gone.
“Why?” Aiden started to worry that he was sitting next to something so dangerous that other monsters didn’t want to get near it.
Dylan shrugged. “People don’t like me.”
Aiden rolled his apple around on his plate. “What are you?”
Dylan gave him a look and there was something in his eyes, a glint or a glow. It made Aiden feel like something small and helpless, a mouse standing in front of a lion. Then it faded and a slight hint of a smile touched Dylan’s lips. “You’ll find out.”