Chapter 1:
Naupathia - Seasickness

I'm leaning against the window, listening to an old Taking Back Sunday song as we pass the corner convenience store, then Capitol park, even the town square before crossing from district one boundaries into two. Despite it being a postcard-worthy, snowy day in Vermont, the mood is sullen. None of us want to be here, not in St. Albans, not where-

For the last year, our old house has been vacant, devoid of renters, and I'm starting to suspect maybe this was done on purpose. My Aunt Ebony manages the old estate, tidying up as needed and working with tenants. We're in a recession, she said, but I've been wondering if this isn't some wild plot concocted between her and grandfather to drag us back and stir up the old pot.

Our family isn't the same, hasn't been for awhile now.

As the far more desert-appropriate Tahoe comes to a stop in the snowy driveway, mom gives the old house a once-over. It's more or less the same, just... older. There's chipped paint, clutter, and trash, but the most significant change is the stale air. It's lifeless, dreary. No one's cared for it for a while now, but I have no doubt mom will begin restoration immediately. She's always been the type to mend broken things.

As I hesitantly trail up the old stairs, avoiding the broken floorboard, I brisk towards my old bedroom. At the head of the stairs is a small, sunken bedroom. It's dusty, painted a poor white that fails to hide its previous shade, a bright, bright pink. I almost peek inside, before reprimanding myself.

She'll come back. She will.

My old bedroom is dark, the light obscured by the previous occupant's apparent distaste for sunshine. That's fine. I'm not feeling too sunny myself. I flop onto the unclothed mattress, staring directly ahead to where my old Green Day poster used to hang. If you narrow your eyes enough, you can even spot the hole where I'd jammed the pushpin into the wall.

My friends and I used to put on dramatic reenactments of their music videos, before jumping onto the bed until dad would hit the ceiling with the kitchen broom.

Twelve. I'd been twelve, then. Nelly would have been-

No. Nelly is twelve. She'll come back. She will.

"Clove, are you ready yet?"

In my haste, I'd completely forgotten to get ready. The day's still young, barely past 7AM, but I'm expected to arrive early today. It's three weeks into the second semester and Nero's been trying and failing to assure me that I haven't missed anything yet. He and his mother - birds of a feather.

I shuffle through my suitcase and grab the first outfit I can find. It's not impressive, but I'm not impressed myself. "Clove!" my mom screams a second time. I sigh, pocketing a pack of gum, two pencils, and my cell phone, before descending down the stairs and grabbing the 70 count notebook we picked up at Walgreens before leaving Arizona. I am not ready for this... in so many ways.

The whole city is small, so no commute is more than ten minutes, but the high school is even less, about three minutes. As we roll up, I watch as various students slam the doors to their BMWs, Ferraris, one boy even has a Jaguar, and lock their doors with a synonymous beep, before linking arms and walking excitably towards the entrance. They're not all like this, but I'm selectively observant today, especially on edge, and anything might set me off, but I'd rather evaporate into thin air than to attract any unwanted attention.

"I bet your friends are excited to see you again," Mom remarks with lackluster enthusiasm.

"Yeah, they probably are," I agree faintly.

We both know I've told no one of my return. I hop out of the car, dragged along by an invisible puppeteer to claim my schedule, books, ID, and other trivial necessities. Locker #274 is close to the library and far from everything else. It's perfect.

"Excuse me," a voice apologizes, reaching below me.

I push the textbooks as far back as I can, reattach the lock, moving to allow my neighbor access to his locker. A pair of familiar brown eyes lock on mine and I freeze. Callan Wilder.

Callan deserves an explanation. Oh, poor Callan. He deserves that much, and so much more, but... but... not now. I can't. The weight in my chest intensifies and I do the only thing I can; flee. I get lost into the crowd, avoiding the few stares of recognition, and steadily head towards my first class.

Art has always been my personal reprieve, the only part of myself that I've hung onto these past three years. While an academic setting can be limiting, it can also be enlightening. I've never been one for structure, and it's always left me in a sea of ambiguity. Some structure might be good for a change.

I take a seat, plugging in my headphones and leaning into my arms while I wait for everyone else to fill in. It's been a long few days, with rest far, few, and in between packing my life into concise little packages and psychologically preparing myself for what awaits. I grow bored after a few minutes and begin a sketch of the last peaceful moments I had before leaving Arizona.

I'd joined an old-fashioned martial arts gym, where they collected and showcased traditional, old-fashioned weapons. They were antiques, so we couldn't use them: katanas, scythes, throwing knives, but I mostly enjoyed observing the contours and patterns in the hilt of the knives, or catching a gleam of myself in the sickles. My parents would have probably shipped me off to a mental asylum had they known, but secrets have never been hard for me to keep.

Finishing the quick sketch, I inscribe the date: 1/27/2008. It takes a few extra seconds, as I fumble the date the first time, dating the year as 2007 instead of 2008. Strange that I'll be sixteen in only a week.

By the time our teacher files into the room, a heavy canvas in tow, I've mostly blocked out the chatter from the other students. "Oh, dear, I think you're the addition to our roster. Well, I'm Mrs. Frost."

My heart starts to pound as several eyes feast upon me, some discussing me in hushed whispers.

"Well, I hope we'll all be welcoming for our new student. Welcome, Miss Holloway."

The tawny-haired older woman, Wiress Frost, is about to begin the lesson, when a voice replies to her rhetorical statement a little louder than appropriate, "She's not new," he counters.

I turn to find a boy roughly my age, maybe older, with reddish-brown locks. Great, a two-Wilder-for-one bargain sale. His bright amber eyes are narrowed in on me and though he's taller, though not by much I'm amused to find, he's still got the scruffy hair and childish demeanor. He has not forgiven me, and while I get that, I'd be lying if I didn't say it hurt my feelings. So, my brain supplies, guess who hasn't broken the St. Albans' hold?

"She's come home," a voice corrects from beside him, with a light smile.

Callan. Baby-faced Callan is actually sticking up for me. He, if anyone, has the most right to be upset, and yet here he is defending me. If only you could see us now, Nelly.

"Well, welcome home, Clove," Mrs. Frost says with a smile before beginning the lesson.

The rest of class revolves around the use and manipulation of shadows in artwork. My sketches have always been casual, unprofessional, messy, and I don't know much about shadows, or any techniques really. About the only thing I do know about art is that it's a way for me to witness to the world what I've seen. Maybe, one day, it'll be a way for me to witness to the world the things I haven't seen.

After my first class is over, I walk through the hallways, again allowing myself to be consumed by the crowd, though this time my iPod can't block out the hoots, jeers, and laughs. The varsity something-or-rather team is spread throughout the crowd and throwing things to each other, while other students either chuckle to themselves or ignore them entirely, taken by their own conversations.

Right as I'm about dip out, one of the jocks yells, "Watch out!"

Before I can understand what's happening, I've turned right into the path of an incoming ball. Instinctively, I headbutt it back into the crowd. Of course, it's a soccer ball. I should expect no less from this town.

I rub at my head, working to prevent the oncoming headache, when a surprised voice calls out, "Clove?"

At first, I'm not sure where the voice is coming from, but my eyes and ears seem to figure things out eventually, because I look up into a pair of familiar blue eyes.

Guess Cato Elroy hasn't broken the St Albans' hold either.


AN - Because I'm currently working on the Unwinding Circle, I only want to continue this story if there's enough interest, so please review.