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Chapter 1 - Running Late... Again

The tingling sensation had taken over again… pulling her further and further from the Stewart Manor… bidding her to let go. Nyah fought it, attempting to sleep without dreaming… afraid of what lurked there. It was unrelenting, calling her, as her body shook in protest – and then – the scream and darkness reigned once more…

The little attic door burst open, sending dust and papers flying about, and ten year-old Nyah promptly fell straight out of bed onto the hard wooden floor with a loud ‘plop’.

“I’m up, I’m up – really,” Nyah grumbled to the impeccably sparkling trainers staring at her. She attempted to push her hair out of her eyes, but it persisted, making a dark curtain to cover her face from the light spilling into the room.

A soft, but irritated voice rang down, “You’re quite late, actually.” The trainers turned back towards the door, with one more announcement, “Mother says you have five minutes and then she’ll come for you herself… now, hurry!”

Beams of light had just begun to peek through the dirty attic window. Although she wanted to wake up, Nyah’s eyes felt like someone had poured sawdust in them and they screamed in protest at her attempts to get up and going. To add insult to injury, her head was overflowing with names, places, words, and ideas that while seemingly so familiar, meant nothing but another headache.

“Come on, Nyah!” she mumbled, pulling herself off the floor. “Why, oh why didn’t I take my medicine last night?”

The morning sun was just to the top of trees … Nyah was now ‘officially’ late. She jumped from the cot and dressed quickly in her blue and white uniform for school. Grabbing her jacket and not bothering to stop and tie up her trainers, she ran down the steps as fast as she could, thankful that the cold marble stone concealed the sound. Mother never approved of running in the house, but Nyah was desperate not to draw attention for being late, again.

Anna and Alexander, the twins, were at the front door, waiting with Mother, their schoolbags in hand. Alexander snickered as Nyah came into view, while Anna scolded him. Mother, however, simply eyed Nyah coldly…

Mother, a name that was usually given to a warm, loving, caring person … but in the Stewart Manor, the name Mother was more of a title assigned to the person who now stood impatiently at the door. She was dressed impeccably with her over-processed straw-blond hair pulled into a tight bun, her makeup plastered, and her daytime cashmere olive-colored suit with matching gloves and shoes.

“Pricilla, please do try and be on time for once. Not everyone appreciates having to wait, while you sleep your morning away. And do something with your hair!” Mother hissed, looking down her nose at the small girl.

Nyah, or Pricilla, as Mother had called her, hung her head and said, “Yes, Mother.”

Pricilla … the name itself made one pucker and wince all at the same time, especially the way Mother would say it. Although Pricilla was her given name, ‘Nyah’ is what everyone else called her. She certainly did not look like a ‘Pricilla’. However, no one argued with Mother, ever, so Nyah answered to her Christian name like a good girl.

Nyah turned and walked to the small loo in the front hall to do something with her hair as Mother asked. Painfully aware of her straight, black, unkempt hair, Nyah attempted to smooth out the mop. Looking in the large oval mirror, she begged her reflection to cooperate just this once, but as always, the freckle-faced, dark-haired girl’s hair continued to be a tangled mess. Mother would not be pleased, not that she ever was; at least not with Nyah.

Anna set her things by the door and called to her mother who was walking Alexander to the car, “I’ll be just a moment.”

“Do hurry dear; you know how Alexander hates to be late,” replied Mother.

Anna rolled her eyes as she walked down the front hall to check on Nyah. Alexander couldn't care less about being late … the only thing he cared about was impressing Mother and making everyone else’s life miserable.

Anna was a couple of years older than Nyah, and as Mother insisted, Anna stood with perfect posture. Blond curls framed Anna’s porcelain skin effortlessly, her dark brown eyes filled with concentration. Taking the comb from Nyah, Anna managed to pull Nyah’s hair into an acceptable ponytail within moments.

With a quick ‘thanks’, Nyah grabbed her schoolbags and dashed towards the door, but Anna, however, remained steadfast in the hall.

“Anna, come on!”

With a glance towards the kitchen, Anna asked, “What about these?” pointing to the tray of medications on the kitchen counter. “You know she’ll count them.”

Anna was right, Mother always counted Nyah’s medicine to make sure she had actually taken it. If Mother found out that she hadn’t, there was always a significant punishment.

As if that moment stretched out to infinity, all the reasons to take her medicine played in Nyah’s head … but there were so many reasons not to.

With a sigh of defeat, Nyah moved to grab her daily dose of mind-numbing pills when an all-to-familiar sound filled her ears: “Nyah … Anna … late, late, late. Go, now!” Mrs. Cleary, the housekeeper, shooed the girls out of the kitchen after a quick hug to each of them.

“But …” began Nyah.

“No buts today, Nyah, shoo!”  

The girls ran to the car, hoping Mother wouldn’t be too angry. 

Nyah’s dreams continued to haunt her well into the school day. None of it makes sense, though it never does, she thought, but there must be some connection – fireplaces, cars, and brooms – or was it a mop? 

Catching Nyah in a moment of daydreaming during school, her professor yelled “Ms. Stewart! You will pay attention in my class!”

Nyah quickly apologized to Mr. Blakley and moved her eyes from the playground outside back to the blank paper sitting on her desk.

It was very difficult to pay attention today as there were less than two weeks until summer holiday, and the small, cramped, science classroom seemed to sense the anticipation.

Pulling a stray strand of hair out of her eyes, Nyah hurriedly scribbled down the last bit of formula to ready herself for the science test. The rest of the class time was spent reading and formatting an answer … another question … another answer. Nyah’s head began to buzz with all the unanswered questions in her head. She massaged her temples and told herself to concentrate, silently cursing herself for not taking her medicine this morning. 

Science was not Nyah’s best subject, but this was the biggest test of the quarter and she couldn’t mess this up. She was struggling with the last equation and angrily muttered ‘finish’.

As if the paper had been purposely waiting for Nyah to ask, the answer popped on the paper. More confused than ever, Nyah looked down at her test sheet. It was there, the answer … the explanation … everything. Nyah glanced around the room. Did anyone else see that? 
A strange, familiar, tingling, tugging sensation was taking over Nyah … as if a magical part of her mind had been asleep and was starting to wake up, just like she felt during her dreams. That was silly, Nyah told herself; there’s no such thing as magic. 

“There’s no such thing as magic!” … Mother and Alexander reminded her of that often. When she was five, and the funny man in the painting that hung in the front hall started singing Christmas carols, Nyah was fascinated, and sang and danced along with the songs. Alexander, who had just turned seven, ran off to tell Mother and Father that Nyah had ‘broke’ the painting. Father was furious and sent Nyah directly to her room after she had declared that it was Christmas magic and she hadn’t broken anything. The painting was gone by the next morning.

Then, there was the time that her teachers phoned Mother and asked for a conference to discuss the pictures Nyah was drawing in class … a flying broomstick, witches, giants and most worrisome … horribly disfigured creatures with the head of the bird and the body of a horse. According to the school counselor, only a very disturbed child would draw these things. However, Nyah seemed like a very cheerful child and loved her drawings. It didn’t concern her at all that she could see things the rest of her family could not. She also thought it great fun that odd things tended to happen when she got really upset, especially with Alexander.

She hadn’t meant to cause blue spots to pop on his face. Mother had accused her of drawing on him, but Nyah didn’t even have a blue marker … she was just very upset that he had, on purpose, pushed the party cake from her eighth birthday onto the floor. That was the first, and last, party that Nyah had … thanks to Alexander. The spots went away without seeing a doctor, but it took several days and Nyah was punished severely, although she had never laid a finger on him!

That’s when the doctor visits started. At first, it was for what Mother and Father called ‘foolish nonsense’ and ‘psychotic tendencies’, whatever that was. That doctor gave Mother and Father a medicine that he said would ‘set her right’. 

Next was the doctor for bad dreams, as Nyah was not allowed to dream and get ‘crazy notions’ about flying and other oddities; that doctor’s solution was a medicine for a dreamless sleep.

After that, Mother and Father took Nyah to a doctor for her ‘unusual tendencies’ when angered, and went home with a ‘happy pill’, which unbeknownst to Father, Mother took for herself.

When all of these medicines started working, it left Nyah feeling rather disconnected from her own body. She found that life without the medicine was much more interesting than her life with the medication, but according to Mother and Father, it was not a life Nyah was to lead.

However, there would be a few days, here and there, that Nyah would be without her medications. Those were wonderful days filled with a clear mind, great mischief, and even some happy moments.

Nyah was brought back to the present at the insistence of Nicole, the girl who sat in front of Nyah in science class. “Your paper, I need it.” Nyah quickly wrote her name at the top and handed the sheet to Nicole.

“Very good class,” Mr. Blakley began as he collected the test papers, “I will be grading these soon, and you will have your final grades next week, just before school holiday. I do hope these scores are better than last term's. I do not want you to have to repeat this class.” And with that, he stared in Nyah’s direction.

Nyah felt her face flare hot. It wasn’t her fault that the frogs they had begun to examine had escaped and jumped into her knapsack. Nor was it her fault that the lab experiment caused Mr. Blakley to laugh … for three days straight. In addition, no one could ever figure out how during class, his trash can ended up on his desk, upside down, as grades were handed out. Mr. Blakley accused Nyah immediately, but with the reassurance from the class that she had not moved from her seat, he didn’t punish her.

Needless to say, Mr. Blakley was anxious for Nyah to pass his class. As if her classmates had stories to share, the room filled with not-so-quiet whispers.

Finally, the bell rang, signaling the class to move on in their day. Nyah jumped up from her desk, glad to be free from science and made for the door, headed to one of her favorite rooms … the lunchroom.

She met up with her friends, Emma and Abbey, and they walked together to the café. They quickly took her mind off the science test with endless chatter of cake and presents. Emma’s eleventh birthday was coming up that very weekend and she had asked her two friends to come for a sleep over party.

“Well, did you ask? Are you coming?” Emma asked, looking between Nyah and Abbey, “because if you’re not, I’m going to have to kill you! This is going to be the best birthday party sleep over and it just won’t be the same if you’re not there. Please, please, please …”

Laughing, Abbey yelled, “OK, Em, give it a rest!” Abbey was a definite; her parents were going out of town that day and needed someone to keep Abbey anyway, so it worked out well.

Both the girls turned to look at Nyah just as they entered the café. All sorts of sounds and smells hit Nyah’s senses as they walked in.

“Yum … I smell pizza,” Nyah said, heading for the long line of hungry kids.

“Quit thinking with your stomach,” Abbey scolded, “and answer … did you ask your parents? Are you coming?”

“Of course,” Nyah said, lying to her friends as she got in line, “I just have to be really, really, really good between now and Friday.” Nyah felt sure that if she didn’t disturb anyone or anything, Mother and Father would allow one night away from the house. Not that they ever had, but Nyah prayed this would be the first … she couldn’t let Emma down. Besides, it’s not as if they would miss her. The small attic room was so far removed from the bedrooms in the main part of the house that no one would even notice if she were gone. With a small smile creeping across her face, Nyah knew exactly what she needed to do … 

Author's Note:  Thanks for starting this journey with me!  I'd love to know what you think.  You can leave a review below... :-)

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