Chapter 1
"Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours,
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one."

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

I first met Erik on a dimly lit, crowded school bus and although I didn't know it then, it was the second most life-changing experience I had. It was the beginning of my senior year at high school and although I'd had my driver's license for over a year, I did not have a car and so was reduced to riding the daily bus that picked me up at the corner of my street.

I'd never ridden the bus before, even as a child my beloved father had willingly taken me to school on his way to work. How I missed those days where he'd let me out only after a hug and his usual blessing: "May angels surround you and protect you." But those days were gone... Dad was dead from the accident and I had been sent to live with relatives in a different city, away from my friends, my school... and my memories. My great-aunt and uncle were nice enough but knew nothing about raising a teenager, having no children of their own. Also, they were getting along in their years and were prone to hours of inactivity, mainly sleeping.

The night before, I had quickly figured out how much time I had to get to the bus stop without being late. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to take a quick shower and dry my long, curly brown hair, pick out an appropriate first day of school outfit, and get my backpack together, just in time to stuff a pop tart down my throat so I could run to the corner where the old lumbering vehicle came to a screeching halt in front of me.

I entered the gaping maw of the door with trepidation as the bus driver tiredly handed me the obligatory registration forms for my legal guardians to fill out. I almost ran back off the bus when I looked down the aisle and saw virtually no empty seats. I might have moved to the farthest back seats to see if any were available, but that was out of the question. Because as I peeked back there, the leering eyes and the lascivious laughter quickly convinced me to change my mind. No, I would stay up front and maybe someone nice would let me triple up with him or her.

As I walked down, though, I didn't see smiles of welcome or hear a friendly "want to sit here?" Most of the students were sleeping, talking, or staring lifelessly out the windows. I made it to almost the middle of the bus when the catcalls started.

"Hey baby," shouted a young man farther back, sporting a shaved head and a lip ring, "You can sit by me!" I couldn't help but blush and that made the group of teenage guys laugh and call louder. I glanced helplessly back at the bus driver, but he wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to me. He had that empty look of someone who's done one thing so many times that it's dull, and I knew he would be of no help to me.

My eyes searched frantically and lighted upon, miraculously, a seat with only one person! I edged my way over, almost tripping over a book bag, and hesitantly tapped the huddled figure. Someone in the back said something as I did this, I wasn't sure but it sounded like: "Man, look! She's sitting by the freak!"

"Can I sit here? Please?" I whispered, my voice on the edge of panic. The figure moved slightly and in the dim light I could only guess that he was looking at me, I couldn't see his face. The shadow with a black wide-brim floppy hat on nodded almost imperceptibly.

I sank down gratefully, placing my backpack on my lap. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the back of the stiff cold seat, praying that I might make it through the day at my new school. It was an old habit, praying, I used to believe in God and angels... but that was a long time ago... before the accident... before Dad died... now I wasn't sure what I believed.

When the bus finally stopped, I got out quickly and retrieved my schedule and map of the school, not wanting to get lost. A whisper of a breeze passed by me, and I glanced up unconsciously.

My eyes widened, for standing not six feet away from me, gazing at the brick building with hesitation, was undoubtedly the dark occupant of my seat on the bus. The first thing I noticed was that he was tall, I guessed about 6'3". He was wearing black dress pants with a black dress jacket over which he wore a long black trenchcoat. But what caught my eye most was that on the right side of his face, he wore a black mask, which itself was half-obscured by a black fedora that I had observed earlier.

He must have felt my eyes on the back of his head because he turned abruptly and stared directly into my eyes. I stiffened and had to force myself not to gasp as his piercing gaze made a shivering jolt go down my spine. His right eye, under the mask was an icy blue, but the left eye was an electric green.

I blinked and forced a smile on my face which seemed to surprise him because his mismatched eyes widened slightly and he turned abruptly to walk into the school. His long, graceful steps rapidly took him to a side entrance into the school which he lowered his head and ducked inside.

I released the breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding and, checking my homeroom number again, went into the school.