Someone once told June Hayes that mankind was crippled by their fear of the unknown. According to June, that was the day she resolved to never let her fear rule her. Her life from then on had never been the same.
The troubled mind of the girl brought her to a distant, unfamiliar world that enveloped her in the cold darkness of her mind. She was a speck, floating in a wide ocean of obsidian blackness. Darkness was all she saw. Why was she here, at this very moment? Who exactly was she? She could feel there was something significant going on somewhere, something that concerned her, that she should know about, but the feeling was dim and distant, as if she had forgotten something important and couldn't recall what it was. Blurry images teased her at corners of her vision. Suddenly her body jerked and June screamed as memories came rushing back to her. Now that the floodgates were open, the pain flooded in as well. Pain. So much pain. Hot tears escaped her eyes and dripped down her cheeks. The images playing in her mind were too much for her to handle. A lonely child, sitting alone on the playground. June's mother screaming. Her childhood best friend, writhing in pain from the effects that June's mutant abilities brought. The men with the hooded faces, cutting into her face and body. Trying to get her to break and give in. 'Am I dead?' She wondered. 'No, I'm not dead, I'm still breathing... And there is so much pain...Heaven wouldn't have pain. Or am I in Hell? There must be great pain in Hell. Oh dear God I am in Hell. No, no, get a hold of yourself, your still breathing.' She gasped like a fish out of water and grasped at her throat. When would they be back with more ways to torture her? She could still feel the knife on her arm, and the searing pain that it brought. 'Breath, June.' Her hands fumbled around, feeling the warm, slick, sticky ground underneath her. Suddenly she could hear the click and creak of a heavy iron door opening, and then heavy footsteps. Another electric shock coursed up her spine and her entire body jerked again. She let go of a shrill scream, jerking and kicking, until her lungs gave out and she collapsed. She slipped into the sweet stillness of oblivion and let her mind drift to a better place. That was when the flashback first begun.
"Becca, what the heck are you doing in there? How long does it take to put on freaking makeup? You did NOT take this much time putting on mine." June shouted. Becca cracked open the bathroom door slightly.
"Well, sorry. Not all of us are natural beauties like you." she called out, and then shut the door once again with a click.
"How long are you going to take? The bus is going to leave without us and we aren't going to be able to go because you thought it was more important to put on eyeshadow than actually show up on time."
"Just a minute!" Becca's muffled singsong voice came from the bathroom. June rolled her eyes and flopped on her bed to wait out the extra hour she estimated it would take Becca to finish.
"Oh Becky, it's only a field trip, you don't have to look pretty for me." June called out teasingly.
"Oh please. You know who it's for." Becca countered, pushing her way out of the bathroom door and striding in. "Same reason I did your makeup. For you-know-who." Even though June couldn't see it, she knew that Becca was sending a mock seductive look at Emily, who sat in the top bunk of the bed blasting rock music so loud out of her earbuds both Becca and June could hear it. June rolled her eyes to show she didn't care.
"Oh, I see, so this is all for the one and only, Jeremy Colt?" she said in a manly voice, throwing out her chest and flexing her arms like a weight lifter. She then pantomimed a faint and shrieked in the most girly voice she could. "How can I complain now?" Her roommates laughed along with her. They had been trying to set the pair up from the moment June had stepped onto the school grounds. Jeremy was apparently cute, sporty, popular, and according to Becca and Emily, was the perfect match for her. Plus, he was a senior. But June promised herself she would not fall in love, she had hurt too many people that she loved. And if he found out she was a mutant, he would treat her like filth, just like the mutant-hating kids from her home town did when they found out. June dismissed the thought and fumbled around the room, looking for the spot where Becca had left her suitcase. Becca came and took June's hand and led her out, waving a hand at Emily on there way out. Emily didn't get to go on the Science class field trip, because of a prank she had conducted in the teacher's lounge bathroom a month prior that had ended up making all of the school toilets and sinks (and even the watering fountain) gush up purple goop for a week. As Becca pulled her along, June trailed her fingers along the walls to keep tabs on where they were, even though she knew which way they were headed. Becca chatted away happily next to her.
"Oh I wish you could see your hair, I did it so pretty, it's all red little ringlets and I pinned part of it up. Ooh I wish I had used my jewel clip, the green would have looked so good with your eyes..." Becca ranted on like this for the majority of the walk. June just smiled and nodded her head, because she knew if you got her started, Becky could talk hours and hours and not realize the other person wasn't listening. What Becca didn't tell her, and June couldn't see it, but June knew that the people passing in the halls swerved out of the way to avoid coming in direct contact with her. All her life she had been underestimated because she was blind, and as a result, her independence intimidated people. As she walked, June wondered, how they would treat her if they knew the secrets she harbored? Would her friends treat her like all of the others? She didn't want that. It had to stay a secret. She wouldn't let that happen.
June and Becca ended up having to run for the bus that had started to leave without them, but it finally stopped. The overworked bus driver rolled her eyes as they climbed on. She walked down the isle with Becca, who acted like a little kid and stuck her tongue out at the bus drivers back, and sidled into a window seat near the back of the bus. Not surprisingly, the person that plopped down next to June was not Becca. June had expected Becca would try to get Jeremy to sit down next to her, but she hadn't thought he would. In the world of school cliches Juniper Hayes, an oddity, should not socialize with someone as 'popular' as Jeremy Hudson. June looked out the window, though she couldn't see anything, just so she wouldn't have to look in his direction. He coughed awkwardly and then addressed her.
"Hey." he said. June hoped she could make a remark without making a fool of herself.
"Hey." she said. Another silent, awkward moment slid by before he sighed and then looked at June teasingly.
"So...come here often?" he joked, trying to ease the tension.
"Where? On smelly bus's full of hyper teenagers and rude bus drivers?" She replied sarcastically. "Only all the time." He chuckled.
"I thought so." he ran his fingers nervously through his carefully styled hair and stared into her blank eyes. June realized she was making him nervous and averted her eyes so he wouldn't stare at them.
"So, um...are you excited?" he asked politely.
"Should I be?" June asked, not knowing the right anwer. The truth was, she was excited for the trip, but Jeremy made her nervous and she wanted to agree with him.
"I'M kinda excited." he said.
"Yeah, me too." she smiled, but didn't look directly at him.
"But we're going to be sitting down for the entire day, it's going to be so long." he complained.
"Yeah." They dropped into silence and the awkwardness hovered in the air between them. It stretched longer and longer, lasting several minutes. She had no idea what to say. Eventually he gave up trying to hold out on a conversation and invited Becca to come sit by her, claiming he was boring her to death and didn't want to bother her. 'More like he doesn't want to bother with me' June thought regretfully. She wished she could be more witty and interesting when Jeremy was around, but she seemed to have a brain lapse whenever she talked to him. She sighed and tipped her head back against the seat, closing her eyes, and preparing for the long trip ahead.
"Ok girls, it's time to get ready for bed!" their professor, Ms. Cale, peeked through the hotel door. In the bathroom, June spat out the bitter mint toothpaste into the counter sink. She hated the sharp taste of the mint, but her mouth didn't feel clean after brushing if it was any other flavor. June stepped outside the bathroom door and reached for her pajamas on the bed.
"No no no," Becky whispered, placing a hand on June's.
"Shhh...don't get in your pajamas, we're going out tonight. Were going on a little...adventure, you could call it." she grinned.
"You mean your gonna sneak out? And go where?" June asked, incredulous.
"We are going to sneak out with some of the guys and go to the mall." She said, hushing June's loud tone. June shook her head.
"Nuh-uh, no way. You are NOT pulling me into this. You have fun putting your necks on the line. You guys are going to get sent home. I'm not going anywhere." she made clear.
"Oh please, all the teachers are asleep, and the boys are waiting for us. Come on..."
"Jeremy is coming..." Hazel, another girl that was placed in the hotel room with them, added in. She waggled her eyebrows at June. June shook her head.
"No. She said, finalizing it.
A few couple of hours later, June trudged alongside the mass of college kids sneaking out. What if the teachers came to see if we we're asleep or ok? June thought. But then a tiny nagging voice spoke up in the back of her mind, saying, 'We aren't baby's anymore, they aren't going to check. Why not just relax and have some fun, flirt with the boys. And Jeremy. It's just one night, you won't even be missed.' June trudged quietly along. She wasn't ready to give in yet.
"Come on June, we are going to get caught!" her friends hurried along. they giggled and surged ahead. June was lead only by Hazel's hand. The truth was, June HAD had fun. They all had chatted and shopped and even stopped for ice-cream. But they had to get back soon. June wished she could see the city lights. The different colors shone through her eyelids and the different city sounds of the late night hubbub roared in her ears.
"Hey, June, come here. Can I talk to you?" June heard Jeremy's voice behind her. Hazel squeezed June's hand excitedly, like a school girl . June drifted over to where she heard Jeremy and waited.
"Hey, do you wanna come walk with me in the park?" He asked. She smiled and nodded, and then reached her hand out and took his arm, so he could lead her. She waved in the direction of the others and called out, "Go on, we'll catch up!" June and Jeremy walked along casually, each waiting for the other person to speak first.
"It's a nice night out" she said.
"Yeah, I like how warm it is here at night." he said off handedly.
"So where are you from? You know, before you came to the university." Jeremy said. June grimaced inwardly. Home was a sensitive topic.
"West coast. You know, California."
"Is it warm there?"
"No...foggy, where I lived." June fingered her necklace absentmindedly. "Where do you live?" trying to change the topic to him.
"Colorado" he said, smiling, obviously thinking of home. June sat on the swing and pushed off with her feet.
"Are you going home for the winter holidays?" he asked.
"No." She said quietly, suddenly self conscious, not wanting him to ask the questions she knew were on his tongue.
"Why?" his tone was odd, June couldn't determine what was off.
"My mother died in a...um...accident, last year. My father and I got in a fight about right before I came here." It felt strange speaking to another person about it. She coughed.
"What was the fight about? How did she die?" Jeremy was being unusually demanding for her answer, but June suddenly wanted to tell him. It was comforting to tell someone. She had kept the secret for twelve years. He would keep her secret, and there was no one around to hear them.
"A mutant accidentally killed her. And my father blames it on me." she confided.
"Why does he blame you?"
"Because..." she took a deep breath. "well... It's a long story," she didn't want to tell him anymore. Suddenly the strange tone from before was back in Jeremy's voice when he said, "Well if you don't want to tell me then that's fine. You've told me just enough."
"What do you mean?" said a confused June.
"Oh nothing." he said dismissively. He turned his back on her and pulled out a small black... Cell phone? No, it was some strange device. He pressed a button on it.
"Jeremy...?" June was cautious and suspicious all of a sudden.
"I said it was nothing. I was just making sure you are exactly who we thought you were." said Jeremy's back.
"We?" June was befuddled.
"Oh yes, you heard me correctly, I said we." Jeremy spun around to face her, and June stumbled backwards. Her heart raced. This was not happening. She suddenly realized what she had her heard in Jeremy's voice. It was accomplishment. As if he had found exactly what he wanted. Like the sickly sweet voice of the spider inviting the fly to dinner. Something was going terribly wrong.
"Because I'm afraid, Ms. Hayes, I'm not who you thought I was."