(At the moment The Dark of the Moon is up for 99p on Amazon for the next five days. The bundle has Moon and it’s sequel Alpha in it. Unfortunately, it’s just available for UK readers at the moment. I plan on doing the same giveaway for my US readers next month.)
I used to be the perfect daughter, but things never stay the same. My world changed. The first therapist my parents sent me to, said I was acting out. A perfectly acceptable way of dealing with loss. He promised I would grow out of it eventually. Weeks turned into months and then years, and now I was still considered the black sheep of the family, and I skills to match.
Thrown out of three perfectly good schools. The headmasters said I was a disruptive influence. I considered myself someone who didn’t like injustice and lacked the ability to sit down and watch it play out in front of me.
The school hamster I let loose in the first school decided to run amok instead of out of the door to freedom. In the second, I ended up in a fight with Kevin Atwell after he slapped my bum. He ended up in the nurse’s room with a broken nose, and I ended up in the headmaster’s office. It paled in comparison to what happened in the last school though. I ended up blowing up a large part of one of the science labs.
It was totally on me. I poured the chemicals from phial one into phial two, not knowing neither had been cleaned properly. Smoke quickly filled the small lab, followed by a loud bang and a flash of light. One minute, the headmaster had been yelling at me, and the next, my dad whisked me into the car and drove me all the way to Scotland.
Those eight hours were the longest of my life. I’m pretty sure he broke some speed limits in his eagerness to make me someone else’s problem. He hadn’t talked to me—not even when we got on and off the boat. When we’d finally arrived at our destination, he silently collected my boxes and suitcase from the truck.
I crossed my arms and studied my latest school, and my first impression was it was old. Even the moss had moss on it. Through a gap in the gate, I spied a courtyard. A massive tree stood in the centre of it. I wondered what came first the tree or the building. At the time I thought it was a school. Then I noticed the women in long black smocks and realized it was a nunnery. My things ended up locked away in Mother Superior’s office, and I left the office with an itchy uniform and a stern talking to still ringing in my ears. Everything happened so fast I got the distinct impression my father had been planning to dump me there for a while.
He always liked to think three moves ahead.
I never considered myself to be a very social person, so being surrounded by nuns and other girls as odd as me wasn’t exactly a hardship. I kept to myself, and they left me alone. It didn’t stop the rumour mill. Why had I been escorted by a man dressed in an army uniform? No one was ever transferred to St. Mary’s School for Wayward Souls in the middle of the year for being a good girl.
A part of me liked the theories they came up with. A thief. A delinquent. The daughter of someone important being spirited away because she embarrassed her family. I was all three to one extent or another. I could have told them. It wasn’t some big secret that I didn’t fit in with my family¬—and I was the one who’d gone off the rails when my brother disappeared.
That was me.
Dad hadn’t mentioned how long I’d be a resident in a place so remote it didn’t have an internet connection. I knew if he had his way, I’d have grey hair before I saw any signs of civilization. someone, I wasn’t sure if it was him or mum, packed a few books for me, but they were kept in the office.
I kept a lot of things hidden between the pages of my books. Spare money. A fake ID. I was lucky they’d been packed them for me. He couldn’t have known what was in them, he probably only up those because I kept on my bedside desk.
There were ways to get out.
I might not have been very forthcoming about myself, but I’d picked up some information about the girls. A lesson handed down by dad—be aware of your surroundings. The blonde, Alison, was a makeup artist. She’d brought her things with her, but like my stuff, Mother Superior had pinched them. The tall brunette with a nose like a pig had a drug problem, and the little redhead had a case of the light fingers.
I’d watched her in action. Her technique was good, and she used distraction. I could still show her a thing or two. Not that I planned too. I’d serve my time and leave at the end of the term. My parents couldn’t keep me there forever.
I fidgeted on the sofa as the heavy fabric of my skirt rubbed against my legs, making them itch. The white blouse, with its rounded collar, wasn’t much better. The knee-high socks with blue and white stripes were the only redeeming part of the entire outfit. If the nuns found out I liked them, they’d probably take them away from me. God forbid I found anything fun or interesting in this place.
I curled up on the sofa with my arm on the armrest and my hand resting underneath my chin. The volume on the television was loud enough for me to listen to the news broadcasting live from London, but the reporter was wearing too much lip gloss for me to take her seriously.
“The people behind me are taking part in a monthly event. An emotional plea for runaways to get in contact with their parents. This month the number of people reported missing has doubled. People are understandably worried and demanding answers. The police are also discussing the enforcement of a curfew and a city-wide search for the missing children, all between the ages of sixteen and eighteen.” There were people standing behind her holding photographs and candles. It was a solemn sight and I sympathized with them. It was terrible losing someone and not knowing if they were alive or dead. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
“Rachel, can you turn the television down? You might have finished the Math’s assignment, but we haven’t.”
The voice pulled my attention away from the report. Daisy—a girl who wore her dark hair cut into a bob—glared at me from the desk. She broke the stare first. I reached for the remote to turn it off when I notice something—or rather someone. A man who stood a few feet behind the reporter.
For a second, I couldn’t breathe. I leaned forward to get a better look at him and noted he had dark hair and looked a little rough around the edges. His startling blue eyes stared at me through the screen. As if he could see me.
With only ten minutes left before I needed to be back in my room, I ran.
“No running in the corridors.”
I skidded to a stop near the phone and glanced over my shoulder. Sister Constance taught math, and it had never been my favourite subject. The disapproval on her face made it clear she was far from impressed.
“I need to call my parents.”
She sighed and tapped her watch. “Do it quickly.”
I jab in the numbers as I restlessly tapped my foot against the stone tile floor. Pick up, pick up, Mum.
“Hello?” She sounded confused.
“I’ve seen Michael on the news.” The words left me in a wild rush.
Empty silence. Has she fainted?
Probably should have opened with that. “Yes, it’s the daughter you’ve hidden away in a boarding school run by nuns. Thanks by the way.” Pent-up issues? Yeah, I’ve been known to have a few.
“Rachel…” The disappointment in her voice travelled down the phone line.
“Didn’t you hear me? I’ve seen Michael. He’s in London.” For the first time in a long time, I was excited. Why the hell wasn’t she? After five long years of nothing, I’d seen him with my own eyes, and my mum wasn’t listening.
“You know you couldn’t have. Michael died.”
I hated it when she talked to me like I was stupid. There’s one very good reason why I’d never believed Michael was dead. “They never found a body.” There, I’d said it. How could they believe he’d died? How could they believe anything without proof?
Her breath caught.
Why were we still discussing it? We needed a plan. They needed to get me out of the stupid place they left me in. Then, maybe, our family could start acting a little more normal.
“I’m putting your dad on the phone.”
“He’s there?” I don’t hang up the phone, though I’m tempted. The conversation was about to end. I’d never been able to win an argument with my dad. Never.
“Isn’t it your bedtime?”
It didn’t seem possible someone could fill one simple sentence with so much annoyance. I’d never been the daughter he’d wanted me to be. In all honesty, I’d gotten tired of trying. He decided a long time ago that I needed to be fixed. I wasn’t broken.
I’m sixteen, not six. “I’ve got a few minutes. I’ve seen Michael. He’s in London.”
Come on, Dad, believe me. I need you to believe me. I held my breath. I didn’t need to be able to see them to know they were sharing a look—probably rolling their eyes at the thought of me seeing things. They didn’t approve of anything I did. Nothing made an impact. Even the hot pink streak in the front of my hair, vibrant against the blonde, had turned out to be another thing they ignored. Their troubled daughter acting out, again.
“That isn’t possible Rachel, and you know it. Every time you mention Michael, it upsets your mum.” He let out a sigh. “We’ll see you in a few weeks.”
The phone went quiet in my hand, and I stared at it in shock. He’d hung up on me. I smashed the phone back into its cradle. Idiot.
My room at the boarding school was small and had enough space to fit a single bed next to a bedside cabinet. A wardrobe took up the wall opposite the door. The walls were plain. The few posters dad packed taken when he dropped me off.
“An uncluttered room, Miss Valentine, is an uncluttered mind.” Mother Superior’s words rang in my head.
All the clothes and well-worn books had been put into a cupboard in the Mother Superior’s office. The money and the fake ID I’d gotten last year was hidden in my copy of Stephen King’s IT. I’d glued the pages together and hollowed out the middle. It worked out as a brilliant hiding space because my parents wouldn’t think about opening it. My mum didn’t do much reading, and my dad wouldn’t open a book unless it was about the army.
I learnt a lot of things from my dad, and it annoyed the hell out of him. He’d tried to hide all the government stuff from us, but I’d still managed to pick up a thing or two. Life lessons. Leaving the nunnery, travelling from Scotland to London was probably the stupidest thing I’d ever considered, and I’d done a lot of stupid things.
There were at least five ways to sneak out of the nunnery, but first I needed to break into Mother Superior’s office and then find a way off the island without being caught.
I opened the wardrobe and ignored the clean uniforms which hung from a bar at the top. I knelt and got to work. I managed to hide a few things I carried on me when I’d arrived, from the nuns. One of which was a thin piece of metal, the length of my hand, I pocketed from the car, I ended up stashing it in the back of the wardrobe. I picked it up and wedged it between a small gap between slats of wood. When I applied pressure, the top came off with an audible pop. The space underneath was small, about the size of a shoebox. I kept my most precious things in it.
I retrieved my brother’s graduation picture and placed it on the floor by my feet. It was the only picture my brother had liked of himself. He told me once the photographer asked him to at least pretend to be serious, but that hadn’t been what Michael was known for.
The grin, the photographer’s captured, infectious. I smiled back at the image of him. Hidden underneath the picture, there was the faintest glitter of gold. Picking it up by the chain, I gently brushed my fingers at the small heart necklace before clipping it behind my neck. I wouldn’t have taken it off, but I’d known they would have tried to take it from me if they’d seen it. I put the lid back on and closed the doors.
There was no way I planned on leaving them there.
I needed to make a run for it first thing the next morning when the nuns expected us in morning mass. Mother Superior led the sermon, which meant the office would be empty. I needed to find a disguise as well. It wouldn’t be a good idea to be walking around in the boarding school uniform.
I’m going to find you, Michael. I promise.