I cringed. The air seemed heavier. My body felt magnetized, like I was being drawn down to the floor. Valentine said he would visit. He had left out when, but my mind hadn't processed that fact because I was stuck on how he declined to stay without hesitation.
I walked over and closed my curtains. The moonlight peeked through the slits in the fabric, highlighting a pillow resting on my bed. Taking the invitation, I laid down, counting my slowing breaths.
Mum woke me up, and I didn't fight getting up. I moved like my body was suspended in maple syrup. Confused, I couldn't figure it out. I felt energized enough; but I saw my arms blurred as I moved, out of focus as I saw each and every placement they went through as they swung by my side. I decided to ignore it, my lack of sleep probably to blame.
Breakfast dragged along equally, and I didn't even notice I was halfway through the bus ride to school. At school I followed along a lot better, and found myself more engaged in my classes once I forgot about what happened at home.
During lunch is when something weird entered my consciousness. I became more aware of a figure in my peripheral vision. They were very familiar, although I never looked him straight in the face while I was eating. When I was walking out the door, I finally caught a glimpse of him. He was seated at a square table, two other people flanking each side. They were all laughing, enjoying some witty comment the darker haired guy had said. His teeth flashed in a huge smile, and he lightly grabbed the back of his neck, next to this strawberry-blond hair, which I noted was short and gelled upwards.
I gasped loud enough that a few girls sitting at a table near me looked up, eyebrows raised in question. Silently spinning around, I took off out the door, clenching my jaw that had embarrassingly dropped open for a second when I saw him. Stopped at a locker a few rows down, my mind braked as paused to comprehend what I at least thought I saw.
The same Valentine doppelganger that I saw one day during class, while the real Valentine sat in my closet, was sitting in my cafeteria. Laughing. That day I was sure I had made a mistake. I turned around; still close enough to the lunchroom to see through the open door. And there he was. A strange pale leather jacket, brown pants; it was nowhere near as odd looking as Valentine's robe and slacks combination. However, there was something even more disturbing then his outfit, and the fact that he was still sitting at the table. He was actually staring back at me.
His friends were still occupied with their food, but he was staring blankly at me. Hunched over the table, he sat absolutely still. Terrified, I backed up into the lockers, and ran down the hall.
It wasn't until I was on the bus again that I had to do something. My options were limited, and my theories on how this was even possible kept jumping around my head. Was it possible that Valentine found a way in to my school from the City of Light? Or was there more then one Valentine? The idea scared me. Did this person even know they were my Valentine?
I was silent through dinner, but my parents didn't mind. Aunt Nan was over, and she kept them busy with the drab details of her week. Moving my potatoes around, I waited a few minutes before I asked to be excused. My dad gave me a funny look but continued listening to Nan's stories.
Upstairs, I cradled Valentine's puppet in my left hand. I wondered if there was some way to contact him, to ask him what was going on. I cautiously started focusing my thoughts, narrowing it down to chanting "Valentine, where are you?" in my head, while I closed my eyes, visualizing him. After a few minutes, I opened one eye. The room was silent, the sun quietly sinking in my window. I let out a defeated sigh. Telepathy was out. In that case, I'd have to get over shock of seeing Valentine's double and actually go up to him to find out what was going on. I fell asleep to worrisome images of what the conversation was going to be like.
Math class started as dreary and uninteresting as the rain that pounded against the window outside. Mrs. Tweedy was drawing the equation for slope on the board, as I twiddled my thumbs in terror. How could ask him for the information about him and Valentine without looking like a complete idiot? What if he had no idea who I was talking about, and it all just a coincidence?
The bell rang vigorously, and I strode last out the door into the writhing mass of bodies in the hallway. Over at my locker, a group of younger boys grouped around another, holding some video game in his hands. When I brushed passed them, they looked at me with irritated expressions.
I reluctantly shuffled through the lunch line, snapping my neck around to see if he was here. Sure enough, he was seated at the same table. Oddly, he sat alone, eating a sandwich.
As I paid and exited the line, I pretended to be looking for absent friends. I flitted glances from around the room, back to him. He wasn't facing me, and I swung a wide girth around him, opting for a small two-seater table along the wall opposite of him. I guess I put my tray down harder then I thought, because I saw him look up out of the corner of my eye. Gnawing on a pear, I faked trying to look bored. He went from looking absentminded to smug in an instant, gazing over at me. My blood boiled.
He stood up lazily, like he was getting up to leave, when he paused. I felt my arms stiffen, and he slid his tray onto my table. I probably looked like as if I was shocked by a cattle prod. He kept a steady stare on me as I pulled my head up to look at him.
"Hi there. I noticed you have a blueberry muffin. I was wondering if you would like to trade me for a chocolate mousse. If that's alright."
Was he kidding?
"Uh, um, sure. Why?"
I pushed my muffin over to him tentatively. He picked up his mousse and placed it on my tray, next to my arm.
"I'm allergic to chocolate. I grabbed it by accident." He smiled softly.
"Oh." I replied flatly. I wasn't expecting this at all. Not only did my conversation starter I had stored disappear altogether, I had no idea where this was headed.
After a short silence, he coughed.
"So, um, my name is Terry…" He trailed off, leaving an expectant pause.
"Helena." I said, quieter then I thought. It took me a second to realize he was trying to introduce himself.
"Ah. So, is lunch always this frightening?"
My eyes grew enormous. "Oh! Oh no. No. It's the food. Are you new here?"
"My second week. Yes, I'm quite appalled at the food here too. Very suspicious." He chuckled.
"Where are you from?" I blurted out, so fast he flinched.
"About 30 miles north. Parent's job relocated. What about you?" He gestured in my direction.
"My parents run the Campbell Circus, by the beach."
His face lit up immediately. Just like Valentine.
"Really? Always loved the circus. What's your special talent?"
"I just juggle, nothing really spectacular."
This time he radiated pure excitement.
"Fascinating! How often do you perform?"
"Oh, it's every weekend. In the evening. I train during the week."
I abruptly stopped talking for a minute. I felt I had just told my life story to someone I wasn't even sure was the person I thought I knew. He leaned back, drinking in the circus information. He picked up my muffin, and tossed it around, between his palms. Then he snatched it and took a quick bite.
"Juggling is one of my hobbies." He remarked.
I could only gawk at him more.
"I don't have food on my face, do I?" He put down the muffin, suddenly wiping his jaw with his hands.
"N-No..." I stuttered. Then I tried to reason with myself. Why was I afraid? Was I afraid he was some normal version of Valentine? Why would I be scared of that?
Moving my tray I started to get up. It was almost time for my next class, but the clock was not what I was concerned about. Terry, as he called himself, looked up at me in surprise.
"Where are you going?" He asked.
"I'm going to be late. For Literature class." I stopped staring at him and began to amble away.
"Oh.." Terry's face looked a bit disappointed.
I quickly made myself turn around and walk into the hallway.
Later, as I sat on the smelly bus once again, I took out my black markers and scribbled shapes into my notebook. There was something about that Terry that made him different from Valentine. He had the same self-focused, self-absorbed aspect, but at the same time very curious. His eyes were the same sun-lit hazel. Then it suddenly came to me. When Terry stood up, he seemed almost my height. Just a smidge taller. But he was shorter then Valentine.
"That's weird." I spoke quietly to myself.