Wednesday 10 September 2014

The White-Haired Girl - 30 Days #8

To find out more about the 30 Day Writing Challenge, click here.

Foreword: This prompt was sent to me by Sophie Fletcher via email.

The prompt was:

set in a small town a girl dreaming of things far more extraordinary than she feels she's capable of achieving. riddled with debt stuck with parents, I'd love to hear your take on her breaking free and making dreams a reality.'


I think in total I probably only saw her about ten times. Spoke to her five, maybe six.

But that wasn't exactly uncommon, I guess I was hardly to be classed as the social type. 

It's not that I was shy, or some voiceless wallflower lurking on the periphery wishing I was involved. Quite the opposite in fact - It just seemed a daily, draining struggle for me to even pretend to tolerate other human beings.

There was only one exception to the rule,  Jessica Mays. She was a bit of a rebel and was into the same weird, dark shit I was - we were inseparable. But then in the way that I learnt that everything you love will always leave you, her family upped sticks and moved to America when I was thirteen.

And pretty much from then on, I was sure I'd never met a single person that I could entertain the idea of for more than a couple of hours.

Then she moved here.

I first saw her in mid-February, when I arrived to find a stranger sitting in my seat in English. I shot Miss Anaheim a withering look, the likes of which she knew the precise meaning, and in the way that she did, she came fluttering over, all frantic hand movements and fumbled speech.

After about 15 minutes I managed to decode that the girl was called Alyssia and she was new, a transfer student from Latvia or Lithuania or, I don't know, somewhere over that way. And for now and the forseeable future, she was going to be taking my seat.

With a sigh of a million exasperations I dropped into the seat next to her.

After my initial irritation had subsided, I turned to fully get a look at this thief of seats, and to my sudden surprise I was met with a steely gaze of impossibly silver grey eyes.

Her hair was the colour of snow, and hung like frosted spider webs around her pale face, and for a reason of which entirely escapes me, when her eyes locked with mine it was like a bolt of electricity shot through my nervous system.

It wasn't anger or attraction, not hatred or lust, it was something entirely different, something that felt... powerful.

With a slight raise of an eyebrow she leaned in.

"Do you know I'm here because my Mother killed a man" She whispered rhetorically in a clunky half-American half-Eastern European accent. Then as if nothing had happened she opened her copy of Catcher In The Rye and began to read, as I sat motionless, simply staring.

From that moment, I watched.

She didn't speak to the other kids in our class, or anyone else for that matter. She kept herself to herself, and so naturally, the entire school's attention was on her.

I'd overhear the boys is the canteen leering and leching over her, and for some inexplicable reason it made me furious. Perhaps because to me, I saw her as so much more than just an object of teenage boys misdirected hormones, she was delicate and ethereal and mysterious, not just some lewd eye-candy.

But then again, there was a strong chance I was just secretly jealous.

We had that class three times a week and I found myself, in a way most alien to me, looking forward to it. The real nail in the coffin for me, was when on the way to the classroom I heard the girls I hate most talking about how much they despised her.

I knew then, resistance was futile. Not only had I actually encountered a human I did not instantly detest, but also one that had piqued my curiosity to a point of genuine fascination. I had to know more about her.

A week later, we were put into partners to discuss the notion of existentialism in contemporary literature, and my heart gave a little leap when I found myself paired with her. Before I could even utter a breath, she turned to me and said;

"Do you ever get that feeling... that you were born to be something, that you were put on this planet to do something great?"

Again that gaze captured me and I became powerless, resulting to gawping like a fish, fumbling a stupid response of no worth. She grinned politely and returned to her work, leaving me internally furious for giving such a pathetic reply. 

Without even the slightest intention this girl had entirely derailed my entire character.

A few weeks later, I was leaving school when I realised she was walking about ten or so paces in front of me. I don't know what came over me then, but I suddenly decided to follow her.

With every step I took after her, I cursed myself for my actions, but I simply could not resist. She was magnetic and I felt entranced, compelled by the need to know where she was going.

But I did not regret it as much as when she reached her destination. She lived on Southby Green, the notorious council estate which everyone referenced with a sneer of distaste and hurried their children along the path if they lingered for too long.

In my head she'd lived in some sprawling, ramshackle mansion with black cats, windchimes and dream catchers, but in reality, she lived in borderline poverty, and the yells I head as the door closed behind her told me all I needed to know.

I ran home to yells from my own parents but I didn't care. I felt sick, like I'd completely violated her privacy,  a secret I'd selfishly stolen from from her.

The next day she wasn't at school.

Nor the next.

She was off for six days in total before she returned.

Those agonising days ticked by and I was sure it was my fault, that she must've seen me follow her.

When she finally did return, I struggled to retain my composure as I sat next to her. I so desperately wanted to ask where she'd been, what had happened, to apologise for being such a creep, but I remained silent, my skin bristling.

The next time I saw her in class I glanced over at her surreptitiously, and was startled to find her knuckles bruised and bloodied with scabs. My mind immediately jumped to a dark place, but there was something about the way she held herself, a sense of radiance and vitality about her face which made me doubtful.

As I was fully lost mid-thought, she turned right to me, catching me red-handed with those eyes that pierced right through my soul, and whispered;

"Circumstance is nothing but a chance we are born into. Whether you choose to remain in that circumstance, is your own volition."

She must've seen me. I squirmed in silent embarrassment in my seat, wishing the ground would swallow me up, and again, despite my desperation to reply with something of worth, I was flummoxed and remained in a frustrated silence for the rest of the lesson.

In the weeks that passed, she turned up to school in various states of disrepair. She had ways of disguising it so no-one could tell, but given how observant I was (and the fact that I happened to be 'somewhat' obsessed with her) I could see what others couldn't.

A delicately concealed swelling around her left eye, a small red gash along her hairline, angry little burns that ran along the lengths of her fingers.

Who was doing this to her? Was she doing this to herself? Maybe she was secretly a mass murderer, or perhaps she was up in the forest fighting bears or something. The only thing I did know, was that I had to find out.

I selected the day carefully - my parents were out of town and she'd just returned from a particularly lengthy stint of absence with what looked like a broken wrist from the way she scrawled messily with her left hand.

As before, I hung back with an air of feigned distractedness; playing with my phone, fumbling in my bag for absolutely nothing at all whilst carefully monitoring her every move as she danced in my peripheral vision. I followed her along the same route as before, but this time she did not stop at Southby Green, she carried on.

And as the evening drew closer and the outsiders retreated to the warmth and comfort of their homes, a quickening paranoia set in and I urged my disobedient feet to turn back.

Together apart, we wound through endless streets and residential roads, my heart becoming graver with every turn.

She only paused when she arrived at the entrance of Netherwood forest, and for one brief moment it struck me that perhaps she really did fight bears in the woods for fun.

"I know you're following me." She said quietly, and I froze in my step, heart beating overtime. She turned on me with that wrenching gaze. "If you wanted to know," Within a second she was mere inches from my face and I felt myself paralysed by her eyes of liquid mercury. "You only had to ask." She whispered as she turned.

Fear gripped my heart and I began to run, only to find my feet stepping in the entirely wrong direction. I span around, disorientated, but my body was possessed, following intently after the white-haired girl into the depths of the dark forest. I wanted to scream in protest, but found my mouth, too, bewitched.

We walked for what seemed like an hour before we finally came to a clearing.

Here graphite rocks had forced their way through the earth and had created a rocky outcrop, a platform.

As she halted I felt a sudden release and my body was returned to me again, but I did not try and run this time.

"Do you ever feel," She began in her mismatched but not unpleasant accent, "that there is something different about you, something..." She looked at me and raised a hand slightly, "More?"

Without warning I suddenly dropped to my knees painfully against the woodland floor, regardless of my own consent, and she let out an enchanting little giggle.

"It's just," She began to pace around me, "I've always felt stranger, more powerful in a way that I can't quite explain..."

Just then a pathetic little whimper of fear escaped my lips.

"Oh no, no," She knelt beside me, placing a warm hand across my frozen cheek. "I'm not going to hurt you." Her eyes glistened and undulated, and her touch fizzled against my skin like electricity. "I just wanted to show you something..." And as climbed atop that great rocky plinth, my eyes grew wide in wonder and terror, as I frantically tried to process what began to happen before me.


My eyes lingered on the last few words, momentarily lost in nostalgia, before I exhaled deeply and closed the book. As my eyes flickered to the gathered crowd before me, they all jumped to their feet, applauding in unison, as I gave a small, fleeting smile. 

"And well I guess you'll need to buy it to find out what happens next." I said softly into the microphone and the crowd laughed in an unnecessarily loud and theatrical way they always seem to do when someone of respect says something passably humorous. Because they all knew what happened next. The whole world knew what happened next.

For the next half hour the floor was opened to questions, some dull, some moderately rousing, but none which challenged my already pre-assembled answers.

Until the final one,

"Hi there, Claire Abbotsworth, Evening Standard." The small woman said briefly, a hand on her chest, "I know you've previously answered many questions around the topic but, I have to just ask one last time, as an overview." she cleared her throat. "Did that all, as you wrote it, actually happen? Is it really, genuinely a true story?"

A hush spread across the crowd as they gazed up at me intently, pens and phones poised to record my every syllable of response.

"The beauty of this is," I began, removing my glasses to rub them gently against my neckerchief. "Whether I claim fiction or fact," I replaced my glasses. 

"There will always be people who won't believe my answer."

-  T h e   -   E n d   -


To find out more about what the 30 Day Writing Challenge is click here. Got an idea for something you want me to write about? Get your entries in now by emailing me with your prompt, your name and your twitter handle!