It had been 6 months and 10 days since the accident. I was walking easily around the house, but I always needed to wear a knee brace. My left knee had been shattered, and jagged scars ran up both of my legs from being dragged through the broken glass in the aftermath. My hands and wrists had healed, but they were still scarred. I kept my hair cut in such a way that my bangs covered the scar on my forehead. I stopped in front of the mirror in my bedroom, staring at what I had turned into. I was nothing like I used to be. I had always been different anyways: plain brown hair, pale skin, brown eyes. A strange combination of Cherokee and Irish descent. But my eyes were only darker now with the purple bruise-like circles under them. My blonde haired, blue eyed father had been so opposite of my Cherokee mother, with her dark tan skin and long black hair. Her family had disowned her when she left the reservation to marry my father, and although I had heard the story many times, it never ceased to amaze me that she could give up her whole life to be with the man she loved.
I shook myself out of my thoughts, taking my time walking to the kitchen. Jacob was already there, finishing his toast and coffee. He smiled as I stuck a cinnamon bun in the microwave, putting his hand on my shoulder.
“Are you ready for the first day of school?” He asked. I nodded slowly, practically feeling my face crack as I smiled weakly.
“Yeah I guess. Kinda just want it to be over.” I said, not caring as the piping hot cinnamon bun sent searing pain down my throat. He went on and on about being careful of how much I was walking, not to trip over anything, not to forget my brace, and also that I didn’t have to participate in gym class. Well that’s a relief, I thought to myself. I smiled and nodded along, finishing my cinnamon bun as he gave me a hug.
“Have a good day Rachel. You have my pager number, so call me if you have any trouble.” He said, reluctantly letting me out of the hug. I patted his arm, cracking another smile.
“Sure thing.” I replied, running away as fast as my knee would allow me. After a few minutes, I heard the front door shut, and saw his little smart car back out of the driveway. I watched his car leave, sighing lightly as I took my brand new school uniform off the hanger. Skirts and knee braces never complimented each other, and I frowned as I looked at myself in the mirror. I was abnormally short for my age, stuck at exactly five feet tall since I was 12. And the bulky black brace on my left leg certainly didn’t make things any better. I grabbed my black uniform jacket from my closet, throwing my backpack over my right shoulder as I walked out the front door. Lucky for me, the private school that Jacob had enrolled me in was literally around the corner from the sprawling house I now lived in. I had gotten so used to walking with crutches that I wasn’t even sure if I’d remember how to walk or run without them.
It took me about 15 minutes to get to the school, and to my dismay, the parking lot was already full. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I limped through the small crowd of uniformed students hanging around the entryway. The chatter all around me seemed to stop, and I felt my face turn red. They were staring at me, just as I feared they would. I pushed through the last few blocking the door, shoving it open angrily. People were still staring even when I went into the office and shut the door behind me. The secretary smiled at me as I walked up to the desk, and I felt myself let out a breath of relief.
“Uh, hi. I’m Rachel Klein and I just transferred here.” I said, trying not to stutter. I swallowed nervously as the secretary looked through her file cabinet, pulling out a very thick pile of papers. She flipped through some pages, and then smiled again, handing me a blue folder with my name on the front.
“Welcome to Pandora Academy, Miss Klein. Here is your current class schedule, your locker number and combination, and a welcome packet.” She said, more cheerful than anyone I’d ever seen. I took the folder, eyeing her carefully.
“Thank you.” I mumbled, turning to walk out the door. I jumped when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, grimacing at the sharp pain in my knee. A bald man stood in front of me, with his hand clasped firmly on my shoulder.
“You must be Miss Klein, Dr. Quinn’s daughter.” He said, and I nodded nervously.
“I am. Please, call me Rachel.” I mumbled. He laughed loudly, opening the door for me.
“Alright then Rachel. I’m the principal of Pandora Academy, Mr. Mathis. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your locker and introduce you to your first class.” He said, walking out before I could even wrap my mind around what he said. I followed silently, pausing as he stopped in front of my locker. I opened it, taking out a notebook and a pencil before grabbing my lock from the front of my backpack. According to my schedule, my first class was Government, with Mr. Hudson. I put the lock on my locker, snapping it shut as I turned to Mr. Mathis.
“If you just point me to Mr. Hudson’s classroom, I think I’ll be fine.” I said, slightly irritated that he was just standing over me. He laughed again, patting my arm.
“Nonsense, I’ll walk you, and make sure you get a proper introduction.” He replied, leading me down the wide hallway as I sighed angrily. He opened the door to the classroom, and walked right in, beckoning me to follow. I felt my face heat up as he brought me to the front of the class, putting his arm around my shoulders.
“Good morning class! We have a new student joining us today, and I want you all to make her feel welcome. This is Miss Rachel Klein, and she’s just transferred here.” I felt all eyes on me, and I waved feebly. Almost instantly I heard a voice from the back of the room yell out.
“Hey, what happened to your leg?” The guy asked. I narrowed my eyes, trying to pinpoint the source of the voice among the faces.
“Car accident.” I grumbled. There were a few snickers, and then Mr. Hudson gestured to an empty desk on the left hand side of the classroom.
“Please take a seat Miss Klein, and I’ll get you a textbook.” He said, and I went silently, grinding my teeth as Mr. Mathis waved cheerily and shut the door behind him as he left. Mr. Hudson set the textbook in front of me, and I looked up, partially distracted by my own reflection in his glasses.
“Do you prefer Miss Klein or Rachel?” He asked. I blinked in surprise.
“Rachel, please.” I said, trying really hard not to sound angry. He nodded, and walked away, continuing where he left off a few moments before. I flipped through the pages, sighing as I prepared for probably the most boring class of the day, first thing in the morning. If this didn’t ruin my mood for the day wasn’t sure what else could.
I walked back from lunch alone, stopping at my locker to grab a graph paper notebook and my calculator. By now I had memorized the map that they had given me, and I knew fairly well how to get to most of the classrooms. I was going over the hallways in my head, and as I rounded a corner, loud voices made me shrink back. I looked around the edge of the wall, shocked by what I saw. Three football players were surrounding a tall boy on the ground, kicking the crap out of him. Anger flared inside of me, and before I could stop myself, I walked right up to them.
“Back off you assholes! Leave him alone!” I shouted, shoving the one closest to me away. All three of them looked up in surprise, and the one I had pushed grinned.
“Well if it isn’t the new girl, Gimpy! What are you doing out of class?” He sneered. I snorted, holding out my hand to the black haired boy on the ground in front of me.
“I could ask you the same question, dumb-ass.” I shot back, my teeth grinding together angrily as I pulled him up to his feet. And to my surprise again, he was at least 6 inches taller than all three of the jocks. He looked down at me, but I took my eyes off him to glare at the other guys.
“Now get out of here before I go tell Mr. Mathis what you idiots were doing.” I growled at them. The one I had pushed grinned at me again, pushing past me and nearly knocking me over.
“Sure thing Gimpy. We’ll talk later.” He said, laughing as the three of them walked around the corner. Once I couldn’t hear them anymore, I craned my neck to look at the boy in front of me. He stared down at me, his eyes an eerie bright green. He didn’t seem to want to say anything, so I sighed, dusting off my skirt.
“Next time you decide to let some idiots half your size beat the snot out of you… don’t. Just a little talking scared them off.” I snapped, and when he didn’t respond, I looked up at him again.
“Do you have a name?” I asked. He blinked as his hand went through his black hair.
“Cass.” He said half-heartedly, still looking like he was bored, instead of just beaten up. I shook my head, pointing down the hall.
“Nice to meet you Cass. I’m Rachel, and now that you managed to make me really late on my first day, mind telling me which way to Mrs. Fisher’s room?” I asked. He nodded, still looking aloof.
“I’m going there too, so follow me.” He said. He walked past me, and as he moved I saw a bold tattoo on the side of his neck. I couldn’t see it well enough through his hair, but I knew I saw it. I didn’t say anything, and followed silently, pondering over what had happened. He took huge strides, so I didn’t bother to try and keep up with him. He stopped abruptly, turning back towards me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you behind.” He said quietly. I shrugged, walking past him.
“I’m used to it.” I replied, keeping my eyes forward as he pointed to the last door on the right hand side. We walked the rest of the way in silence, and when I opened the door, everyone looked at us. I huffed a sigh, sliding into an empty desk on the left side of the room, while Cass crammed his long legs into the desk behind me. Mrs. Fisher handed me a text book, smiling.
“Glad to see you found your way here, Rachel.” She said quietly. I nodded, jerking my thumb back at Cass.
“I got lost, and then Cass told me to follow him. So thank him.” I said, more irritated than I sounded. She smiled at Cass behind me, most likely not getting him in trouble for missing the first 10 minutes of the class. She went back to her lesson, and I sighed again as I started scribbling the problems on the board into my notebook. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as people were staring, and I wanted to turn around and flip them off more than anything. I ignored the constant scrutiny, and by the time the bell rang, I felt like a rubber band that had reached its maximum stretching capacity. I forced myself to smile as I walked past Mrs. Fisher, and walked to my locker as fast as my knee would allow me. I threw my books in there, grabbing a blank notebook as I walked to Mr. Hall’s classroom. This one was easier to find, and as I was walking in the door, the three jocks I had encountered earlier were waiting for me.
“Gimpy! How you doing sweet cheeks? Long time no see!” The shorter one I had pushed said. I rolled my eyes, sitting on the side of the classroom farthest from them. Within seconds all three of them were surrounding me, and I shuddered.
“Hey now, don’t be like that. We were just fooling around with emo-boy. He’s a freak.” He said, and his buddies nodded. I frowned, twirling my pencil with two fingers.
“I don’t think kicking the crap out of him is fooling around. And I want nothing to do with bullies like yourself, so piss off.” I said angrily, getting out of my desk. I walked to the opposite side of the classroom, which earned me a few “oohs” and “ahhs” from the observing students. Just before the short guy opened up his mouth, Mr. Hall, the Literature teacher walked into the room, pushing his glasses up his nose. He looked at me and smiled.
“Welcome Rachel. Textbook’s are in the back corner, please grab one and join us at chapter 3.” He said. I nodded, limping to the back. I grabbed the textbook on the top of the pile, and scrambled back to my seat, just in time to see Cass walk in the door. He walked in silently, sitting in desk across from mine. Mr. Hall glanced at him, but didn’t say anything. I forced myself to take notes, which wasn’t easy, I soon figured out. He had the most monotone, boring voice I had ever heard. When the bell rang, I found myself just staring at my paper, a few measly notes on the top of the page. I tucked my pencil behind my ear, sighing in frustration as I gathered my textbook and my notebook in my arms. I walked out of the classroom, ignoring the taunting jeers of the jocks behind me. I wasn’t even sure if it was me they were talking to, but I didn’t care. But I didn’t realize my hands were shaking until I was trying to put in the combination for my locker. The day was over; finally, and now I couldn’t even get my locker open. I blinked away tears as I tried to make my hands work the way I wanted, but my fingers felt numb. And actually now that I thought of it, I felt numb all over. I looked around the hallway, and it was abnormally quiet, and darker than before. How had everyone left that quickly? I focused on the lock again, finally hearing the click I had been waiting for. As I pulled my locker open, I felt something cold brush by my legs. I looked down, and my mouth fell open. My little sister was standing next to me, holding onto my skirt, just like she always used to. I blinked, feeling sick to my stomach as I stared at her. How could she be here? She was dead. She’s been dead for 6 months. I rubbed my eyes, and when she suddenly disappeared, I came to the conclusion that I was losing my mind. I grabbed my backpack and slammed my locker shut, nearly jumping out of my skin when I saw people everywhere again. The lights in the hallway were all on, much brighter than it had been only seconds before. Tears filled my eyes as I shook my head, leaning my head against my locker door. That was the only hallucination I’d ever had, and it scared me. I jumped again when I heard a voice beside me.
“Are you alright Rachel?” The voice asked. I whipped around, wiping my eyes frantically. Cass watched me with slight interest, and I nodded, leaning against my locker for support.
“I’m fine.” I said, pinching the bridge of my nose in an attempt to calm myself. He leaned against the locker next to mine, still looking down at me with a slightly curious gaze.
“You look like you just saw a ghost.” He said, and I felt myself freeze up. No, it could not have been a ghost. Ghosts aren’t real, and my sister was dead. They were all dead.
“Just a long day. I’ll see you around.” I said rather tartly, throwing my backpack over my shoulder. I walked down the hall, still visibly shaking from what I saw. When I walked outside, the parking lot was empty, and I watched the leaves blow all around the pavement. It had gotten much cooler, tomorrow I needed to remember to bring a jacket. I walked across the parking lot, a chill rolling down my spine as I crossed the street to the sidewalk. I put my headphones in, taking a deep breath as I walked. My knee only ached a little bit, even after all the walking today. When my eyes opened, it seemed darker again. Frowning, I walked past the park, watching more leaves fly off the surrounding trees. I looked at the playground and stopped in my tracks. There was my little sister again, swinging on the swing set. I grabbed a hold of the chain link fence, taking deep gasping breaths. The pale apparition of my sister smiled at me, waving for me to come over. I backed away from the fence, shaking my head in disbelief. This wasn’t real. I was imagining it, she was dead. Dead and buried with my parents. I was gasping for air as I ran away from the park, tears were sliding down my cheeks, but I was too frightened to wipe them away. I walked up the front steps as fast as I could, my hands shaking so badly that I had trouble jamming the key into the lock. When I finally got it in, I jumped inside, slamming the door shut behind me. I bolted the deadlock, and fell back against the door, trying to calm my heart, which felt like it was going to beat right through my chest. After a few more raspy breaths, I leaned my head back, keeping my eyes closed. It had been a long time since I was that frightened. After a few more minutes of listening to the calm quiet of the house, I stood up, adjusting my skirt as I walked upstairs, changing into sweats. After I got back to the kitchen I saw a note stuck to the fridge, and I sighed. It was just Jacob, telling me he was working late tonight, as usual. It didn’t bother me though, really. I didn’t mind being by myself, and he knew that. I made myself a sandwich, eating it as I walked into the living room. The TV loomed in front of me, and I sighed as I sat on the couch. I flicked through the channels, settling on the news. It was like a quiet humming in the background as I did my homework, forcing myself to keep my mind occupied.
It seemed like only a few minutes later when I opened my eyes, seeing my books scattered on the couch. My head was pounding, and my knee was aching from being folded up underneath me. I left my stuff on the couch, and walked upstairs to the bathroom, grabbing the railing for support. I found aspirin in the medicine cabinet, and swallowed them dry, anxious for relief. I dragged my feet as I walked to my room, collapsing on my bed. Just as I closed my eyes again, I felt a cold chill race up my spine. I felt a strange pressure on my arms, and when I opened my eyes, I saw my sister staring down at me, her dark blonde hair falling in perfect curls over her little shoulders. A scream stuck in my throat, as I stared up at her, and she leaned forward so her cold breath washed over my face.
“Why didn’t you come push me on the swings Rachie?” She said. I struggled to breathe, squeezing my eyes shut.
“You’re not real, you’re not real…” I repeated to myself over and over again. It sounded just like her, but it couldn’t be her. She was dead.
“I came to find you Rachie. I wasn’t supposed to, but I want you to be able to find me too.” She said. I opened my eyes, trying to force myself to breathe.
“You’re dead, Abby. I saw you die. You’re not really here.” I whispered. She frowned, putting one cold finger over my mouth.
“But I am here! And I’m going to make it so you can always see me and I won’t have to hide anymore.” She said. I was shaking as she grabbed my hand, turning it over.
“Abby? What are you talking about? I can see you, I see you right now!” I shrieked. I tried to pull my hand away, but she held it tightly with far more strength than I had. She looked at me, and I saw that her eyes had gone completely black.
“Sit still Rachel. This will only take a second.” She said, her voice deepening as she spoke. She trailed off into a hiss, and I couldn’t move as she sank her teeth into my hand. I screamed as something ice cold rushed into my wrist and down through my arm. I couldn’t breathe, and I felt myself screaming, but I couldn’t move or hear anything. After what was probably seconds, but felt like an eternity, the pressure disappeared, and I was struggling to pull oxygen into my lungs. My eyes wouldn’t adjust, and everything remained blurry and unfocused. I stared up at the ceiling, clutching my arm to my chest as I took deep rasping breaths. I could hear voices now, male voices that I didn’t recognize. And then one I did.
“Rachel? Can you hear me?” It was Cass, and I recognized his voice instantly. I turned my head slightly, enough to see his vague shape next to me.
“What’s going on?” I rasped, my breathing sounding more like wheezing.
“Just stay calm. I’m going to move you.” He said. I couldn’t stop shaking, and I felt like I might throw up, but as soon as I felt myself being lifted off my bed, everything went black.
When my eyes opened again I was back downstairs on the couch. I sat up, gasping when the whole room seemed to tilt sideways. I sank back onto the pillow, squeezing my eyes shut to stop the dizziness. I jumped again when I heard a sigh from next to me. My eyes flew open and I screamed, expecting to the see the demonic apparition of my sister to be hovering over me again. But instead to my shock, someone familiar clamped his hand over my mouth mid-scream.
“Easy! You’ll attract all the neighbors with all your screaming.” He said with a smirk. I stared at him wide eyed for a few seconds, narrowing my eyes when I noticed the tattoo I had seen earlier at school was on the opposite side of his neck now. I pulled his hand off my mouth, glaring at this imposter.
“You’re not Cass.” I hissed at him. His eyes got wide for a second, then he burst out laughing.
“You’re right! I’m pleasantly surprised you noticed so quickly.” He said, grinning. “It was the fact that I’m far more charming than him, isn’t it?” He said, that annoying smirk coming back. I frowned, sitting up slowly.
“No. In fact, I find you far more annoying.” I growled. He sighed, patting the top of my head. I swatted his hand away, my irritation growing by the second. “It was your tattoo. It’s on the right side of Cass’s neck. And although yours seems to be the same design, yours is on the left side.” I said. I heard the door open, and my mouth dropped open as who I hoped was the real Cass walked into the living room. He sighed loudly, looking at his look alike next to me, then back at me.
“You’re awake.” He said. I blinked a few times, looking back and forth between the two of them. Even though I didn’t say anything, Cass turned and glared at his look alike who was sitting on the floor next to the couch .
“You didn’t try to tell her you were me, did you?” He said, a look of murderous intent crossing his features for a split second. The guy next to me smiled, patting my head.
“Didn’t have to. She knew it wasn’t you right away. Sure picked an observant one didn’t it?” He said cheerfully. Cass shook his head, sitting on the stool next to the counter. I swatted the other one’s hand away, and Cass gestured towards him lazily.
“That’s my twin brother, Azra.” He said, annoyance crossing his features again. Azra grinned ear to ear, standing up and walking over next to him.
“If our personalities and tattoos weren’t different, you’d never tell the difference.” He said in a cheeky tone. I rolled my eyes, picking up my books off the couch.
“It’s easy to tell you apart actually.” I said, standing and setting the books on the counter next to them. They both looked at me, and I sighed. “Besides the obvious reasons; Azra’s eyes are different, and so is his voice. And Cass’ posture is more… relaxed I guess.” I explained. They both looked puzzled for a few seconds, and then Azra smiled.
“I like her. She’s smart AND feisty.” He said with a grin. Cass was scowling, and I just glared at Azra while thinking of every rude name to call him.
“I don’t give a crap what you think.” I snapped, sitting back down on the couch. “Are you going to tell me what the hell my… that thing was did to me?” I corrected myself, glancing down at my bandaged hand. They looked at each other for a second, then Azra focused on me again.
“It’s kind of complicated. But essentially, the thing that attacked you was a demon. I have no idea what it wanted, because Cass killed the damn thing before I could ask it.” He said, still grinning. Cass just glowered for a second, finally glancing at me sorrowfully.
“He’s right. We’re hunters, Rachel.” He said quietly. I sat there stunned for a few seconds before I felt tears well up in my eyes.
“Demon? Why… why did it look like my sister?” I stammered, wiping the tears away as I tried to forget my sister’s face hovering over me. I felt weight on the couch, and through my teary vision, their blurred forms on either side of me.
“There is a demon that can see dreams, and memories of people. I imagine he used memories of your sister to create the one that attacked you.” Azra said, and I shook my head, more tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Why are there demons after me? What the heck do they want? My sister is dead… they’re all dead!” I shouted, my words just turning into unintelligible sobs. I didn’t even realize I was sobbing on someone until I eventually felt the fabric of Cass’s black t-shirt under my face. I jumped back, more shocked at myself than anything. He just looked at me with a mixed expression of pity and surprise. But a sigh from behind me made me practically jump out of my skin.
“Oh sure, she picks you to cry on.” Azra said, and I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not. I just glared at him, standing up on wobbly legs to get away from them both. My knee was hurting again, and I chomped on my lip to keep myself from complaining as I hobbled into the kitchen. I kept wiping my eyes on the sleeve of my sweatshirt, leaning against the counter for support while trying to reach a glass on the shelf above me. I didn’t hear anything, but I saw a pale arm reach up and grab it, handing it to me. I turned around, and Cass looked down with his alarmingly bright green eyes.
“I’m sorry if we made you cry.” He said, and I sighed.
“It’s not your fault.” I grumbled, trying to stop my chin from quivering as I remembered Abby’s face. I shook my head, taking a side step towards the sink to fill my glass.
“Where’d Azra go?” I asked, and he looked down at me, an odd expression on his face.
“Just looking around outside, doing a perimeter check if that’s what you want to call it.” He answered. I frowned, taking a sip of water before leaning on the counter again, trying to get weight off my leg.
“So you two are demon hunters?” I queried, not really sure how blunt I needed to be to get a serious answer. But he just nodded, leaning on the counter across from me.
“In a way. Azra and I are more like enforcers than actual hunters. To demons, we are similar to your policemen.” He explained. I blinked, trying to imagine those two with badges and guns.
“What are the tattoos for?” I asked, and before he could answer, Azra appeared in the doorway with his own answer.
“Our assigned last name is Rosen. To the demons, we are the Rosen Brothers, and to our superiors, we are the Rosa Gemini, the Rose Twins. It just suits us.” He said. Cass just nodded, and I found myself scratching my head. How did a set of dark haired twins with a license to kill demons end up in my house, standing in my kitchen? Oh yeah, a demon disguised as my dead little sister had just attacked me for apparently no reason.
“How did you get in here?” I asked, suddenly stunned because I realized the door was locked. Cass looked up, but before he could say anything, Azra spilled the beans.
“Yeah, about that. The window in your room upstairs is broken.” He said, and while Cass looked a little nervous, Azra looked damn proud. God, these two were going to get slapped if they didn’t smarten up real quick.
“You broke my window?” I said weakly, and Cass nodded.
“I’m sorry. But we had to move rather quickly, I didn’t have time to pick the lock.” He explained, and Azra smiled.
“Lucky we did come in when we did though, didn’t we?” He said, and I sighed.
“I guess I am lucky.” I agreed, and then narrowed my eyes at the both of them.
“You’d better make that broken window look like an accident. Jacob will kill me if he thinks I did that.” I added. Cass nodded, but Azra looked disturbed.
“Who’s Jacob?” He asked, and Cass rolled his eyes, while I just shook my head.
“Jacob is the doctor who took me in after my mom and sister died.” I said, and Cass nodded, looking like he was thinking about something else.
“You would know that if you listened to what I was telling you on our way here.” Cass said quietly, and Azra shrugged.
“You of all people should know I only hear about half of what you tell me.” Azra said with a grin, and I shook my head again. I could really only handle these two in small doses apparently. And I definitely had my fill today.