CHAPTER ONE: Powerless
Clouds formed in the sky, beautiful puffs of white. They were within her reach.
The sky, a dazzling blue, was all that there was to see for miles and miles. It was right there in front of her.
There were other people there, too. The only others up this high were amazing, fantastic people. People like her. People who loved her.
People who said they would always –
Ariel groaned, rolling over in her bed and trying to ignore the radiating alarm clock. She hated getting up.
Well, to be fair, getting up wasn't really any worse than the rest of her day.
The clock was still buzzing, so Ariel got up and stretched, ready to face reality.
As ready as I'll ever be.
She looked in the mirror, cross-examining her appearance. She often wondered why she had no friends, but could find no real flaw in the way she looked. She was a perfectly normal looking 14 year old girl, even a little better. She had long blonde hair, which fell in curly spirals. Her eyes were a shocking blue, and she was small and petite. No, she was definitely pretty -- but still, no friends.
Ariel looked around her room. She both loved and hated the emptiness of it.
She had had a roommate once. Sarah. Sarah with the pink-streaked hair and the obsession with boys. Sarah who, even at their young age, tried to teach Ariel to "flirt" and ended up running away screaming, along with Todd, Jake, and Cam.
No, she hadn't had a roommate since moving in, when she was six years old. That was just one of the weird things about Ariel -- that she seemed to have no past. No old school records, no old clothes or blankets... No parents, at least that she could remember.
The only thing Ariel knew about her past was that someone had brought her here, to this boarding school, where she had been ever since. This person, who was faceless in Ariel's memory, had said that her last name was Jones. With that, the school had immediately taken her in, and the mystery person disappeared. They had asked her what her name was, and she had immediately said, "Ariel."
After that, it was a complete blank, almost as though someone had taken her memories. Maybe they did, she often thought. It wouldn't be the first supernatural thing to happen to her.
She hoped that she had been happy, once. It was hard to imagine, but not impossible. Sometimes, like in her dreams, a better life seemed just within reach. But, as with today, something from reality always cut in and ruined it all.
She sighed, looking away from the mirror. She reminded herself that she wasn't six years old, and life wasn't a dream. She put on her school uniform and made her way over to the cafeteria for breakfast.
It wasn't that Ariel was weird -- well, not really. It was just that people thought she was. She sometimes wondered if she had been born with an extra sense, like an extrasensory perception sort of thing. For as long as she could remember, Ariel had been able to sort of know someone -- even before she knew them. She could always sort of tell what they were feeling, what they were thinking, and even what type of person they were. It was like watching a fuzzy black-and-white movie -- she got a rough picture of the person, but no details.
Because of this, people tended to stay away from her. They didn't like how she could seem to read people. If anything, Ariel had learned that what people hated most was for someone to know who they really were.
As usual, Ariel ate her cereal alone at her table in the back, next to the window. Usually while she did this, she would look around the room, picking up on people's emotions. She knew she was probably much too old to find it amusing, but she just accepted the fact that she could do something nobody else could. It was fun knowing things she wasn't meant to know. And besides, when you had a past like hers - or lack thereof - you could do nothing but accept it.
So let's see what's going on today, she thought, and focused her thoughts on her old roommate, Sarah, and her friends Jenna and Jessie. They were all tall, gorgeous, and popular. But Ariel knew things about them that made them seem less perfect -- like that Sarah secretly loved to read comic books. That Jenna kissed Sarah's boyfriend last summer. That Jessie had put on about 10 pounds in the last month, and was wearing baggy sweatshirts to try to hide it.
Yes, this was fun. Again, she realized the immaturity of it all, but she really was about six years old at heart. She had no interest in boys or makeup or any of that teenage stuff Sarah and her friends talked about constantly.
Fun as it was to uncover secrets about her classmates, Ariel never did it for very long. It felt like such an invasion of privacy. And besides... There were things you never wanted to know about people.
So Ariel stood up to put her bowl away and noticed something standing on the windowsill. It was a dog. A Scottie. Its fur was dirty and it looked almost -- bored? But Ariel loved dogs. She almost felt like she had seen this dog before, but this wasn't possible. Animals weren't allowed at school, and Ariel didn't remember a life outside the school.
She couldn't resist. She slowly looked around, and then, as quietly as she could, unmatched the window and picked up the dog. He looked... haughty, if that was possible. But lovable all the same.
"Got something you'd like to share with the rest of us?"
The dreadful voice behind her belonged to the headmaster, Mr. Pruitt. Ariel hated him, not least because his mind was somehow blocked to her; she had never ever been able to "read" him, as she called it. This made her feel so... so alone, so powerless.
This was almost as bad as turning around and finding every single person in the cafeteria staring at her.
Ariel averted her gaze so that Mr. Pruitt would think she was looking at him but not really. Her cheeks flushed and she felt like she couldn't move.
"I don't know where you got that... canine, Miss Jones, and I don't want to know. What I do know is this: Expulsion! Suspension, at the very least! Maybe we can even arrange for --"
"Oh, good, you found him."
This new voice was slightly awkward, very defiant, and definitely pleasant. Ariel could have sworn she'd heard it before, and not just in her dreams, either. But this was crazy. When Ariel turned around, she had to blink twice to shake the feeling that she knew this woman personally. What was wrong with her?
She was very pretty, with freckles, blonde-streaked hair, and deep brown eyes. Her face matched her voice -- determined, but a little confused. Like maybe she didn't know what she was doing, but had to look as if she did.
"Um... uh... Excuse me?" demanded the headmaster, turning an ugly red color.
The woman made a face and wrinkled her nose. "Ew," she said, and then grinned. "Be careful, or your face will freeze like that."
Everyone's eyes had shifted from Ariel to the woman now. "So, you've got my dog. Thanks for finding him for me," she said directly to Ariel. She gave her such a warm smile that Ariel felt like running up to her and screaming, "Where have I seen you before?" But she figured that would be immature.
Luckily for her, Mr. Pruitt managed to choke out what had been on her mind.
"Did I hire you?"
The woman (at least, she looked like a woman, but very young all the same) gave him a meaningful look. "One of your higher-ups did," she said slowly, as if daring him with her eyes to understand.
After a couple of moments, it seemed as if he did. For a split second, it seemed to Ariel that something like hatred flashed across his face. But she couldn't read his emotions, so she couldn't be sure.
"Very well," he managed to say, though he was having what looked like a panic attack. "Follow me to my office." And he walked away.
The moment the headmaster walked away, the cafeteria erupted into chatter, either about the dog or Pruitt's meltdown. Nobody seemed to notice the woman or Ariel anymore.
She took extra care in picking up the dog, smiling at the woman in what she hoped was a happy manner. Despite the devastation she felt at almost having a dog.
"Here," she said, putting it in her arms. "What's her name?"
"It's a he," said the woman automatically. She looked down at the dog as if willing him not to get mad. "His name is Total..." She eyed Ariel strangely. "Does that mean anything to you?"
Ariel could have sworn it did, for a split second. For a glorious half-moment in time, she was soaring through the air, away from this place. She had friends who loved her, and she had a dog.
But it was just another dream.
"No," she said, looking away from the woman she so strongly felt she should know. "Not really."
The woman, whose name Ariel realized she didn't even know, gave a tiny smile. "Uh, I'd better go follow the Headhunt-- er, Pruitt. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Ariel nodded, confused. Why would she want to talk to her? People had run away from having to talk to her for her entire life. This woman was definitely weird.
Ariel didn't try to solve the mystery, though. This was partly because she was going to be late to class if she didn't move, but mostly because she hadn't been able to "read" this woman either.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please, please, please review! (Seriously, I'm begging.) It's been a VERY long time since I have posted anything, and I need to make sure I still know how to do this. Criticism is more than welcome! Also, please tell me that you're confused. That is absolutely my intention at this point. Guess all you want in your reviews, but I won't explain anything -- that comes later! It's Christmas Break and I've got all the time in the world right now, so updates can come very soon.