Hooray, my first critique! ;D I agree, I can see a few places where I could take out some of the stuff that's not exactly necessary. And you're right, it's absolutely about past/painful relationships. Thanks for reading!!
Hooray, my first critique! ;D I agree, I can see a few places where I could take out some of the stuff that's not exactly necessary. And you're right, it's absolutely about past/painful relationships. Thanks for reading!!
This isn't by me. It's called Eric's Song by Vienna Teng. Listen, and watch the video.
-|- Eric's Song -|-
Strange how you know inside me
I measure the time and I stand amazed
Strange how I know inside you
My hand is outstretched toward the damp of the haze
And of course I forgive
I've seen how you live
Like a phoenix you rise from the ashes
You pick up the pieces
And the ghosts in the attic
They never quite leave
And of course I forgive
You've seen how I live
I've got darkness and fears to appease
My voices and analogies
Ambitions like ribbons
Worn bright on my sleeve
Strange how we know each other
Strange how I fit into you
There's a distance erased with the greatest of ease
Strange how you fit into me
A gentle warmth filling the deepest of needs
And with each passing day
The stories we say
Draw us tighter into our addiction
Confirm our conviction
That some kind of miracle
Passed on our heads
And how I am sure
Like never before
Of my reasons for defying reason
Embracing the seasons
We dance through the colors
Both followed and led
Strange how we fit each other
Strange how certain the journey
Time unfolds the petals
For our eyes to see
Strange how this journey's hurting
In ways we accept as part of fate's decree
So we just hold on fast
Acknowledge the past
As lessons exquisitely crafted
To carve us as instruments
That play the music of life
For we don't realize
Our faith in the prize
Unless it's been somehow elusive
How swiftly we choose it
The sacred simplicity
Of you at my side.
-|- We Are -|-
We are power and passion,
Letters paid for in pride.
We are visions of glory
That are carried inside.
We are the breath that moves without air
We are here, we are here, we are everywhere.
Brief but (I think) powerful. So what are 'we'?
-|- Season of the Storm -|-
There was a storm on the wind. Diana could feel it in the cool breeze that made the backyard trees dance and sway, rustling their lush foliage in anticipation. Slender fingers carefully tucked a delicate bookmark into the pages of the thick book she'd been reading before she snapped it shut and laid it on the glass-topped end table beside a steaming cup of tea. The twenty-one year old college student rose from the heavily cushioned wicker chair and stretched a little before moving towards the edge of the covered and screened-in porch. She rested a hand on one of the vertical wooden columns and leaned forward a little, craning her neck to peer up at the twilight sky. To the west, she could still see the ethereally beautiful blue afterglow left by the last rays of the departing sun. To the east, however, Diana shivered a little at the sight of solid, roiling black that flickered ominously with brilliant but brief flashes of lightning. Even as she stood and watched the thunderstorm edged closer, and the faint tinkling of metal on metal reminded her that her newest stepmother's toy poodle needed to relieve herself, preferably before the storm hit.
Diana sighed softly and lowered her eyes to the purebred pain-in-the-butt that lifted one tiny paw to scratch at her calf. The dog's dark little eyes looked up at her pleadingly.
"Need to go potty, Mickey?"
The tiny dog whined very gently, a small sound that brought an equally small smile to Diana's lips.
"Okay, I suppose I could be troubled to take you for a little walk," Diana teased the diminutive canine, who spun in excited circles at her feet until she stepped to the screen door and pressed it open. Mickey dashed out into the yard and proceeded to do her business. She was taking a leisurely moment to sniff the grass when a bolt of lightning came screaming out of the sky to strike a tall pine tree on the edge of the wide, manicured lawn. It virtually exploded, sending a shower of fiery tree bits raining down all over one side of the back yard. The violent strike made Diana jump about a foot into the air. The little poodle cried out in alarm, tucked tail, and ran full-tilt into the woods on the opposite side of the yard from the flaming tree.
"Shit," Diana cursed under her breath. She trotted down the stairs that led out onto the plush lawn and took off running after the little dog.
As Diana forced her way into the woods a rumbling peal of thunder seemed to finally shake loose the rain that had been waiting to fall. The angry grey sky simply opened up and spewed forth its massive load of water, a sudden downpour that soaked Diana to the skin in mere moments. The wind was kicking up and she could hear the tall trees groaning under the strain of the lashing tempest. The lightning strikes were coming closer together, roaring and flashing with intensity that Diana had rarely seen. She had a moment's pause as she realized that trampling through the woods in this kind of weather probably was not the safest or smartest thing she'd ever done, but she also couldn't stand the thought of leaving the little black poodle all alone in the angry wilderness. Had the dog been a vicious annoyance like her owner, Diana wouldn't have bothered even chasing the creature in the first place. Unlike the woman, however, Diana had grown faintly fond of the furry little creature… though they were both pretty spoiled.
"Mickey! Where are you girl?" she yelled, but it was in vain as her voice was lost in the whipping wind. She could see no sign of the dog, but kept going.
The undergrowth cracked and shifted under each of Diana's tentative footsteps. It made for unsteady walking, and she tripped several times over broken branches concealed by thick layers of dead leaves. Though there was a running track that wound its way through the woods Diana had no idea if it would cross her current path, and she was consumed enough looking for it that she missed a step and slid on the wet leaves. She cried out as tumbled down into a small ravine, feeling sticks and debris catch at her hair, clothes and skin. When she finally came to a stop she was flat on her back in the narrow gully that was rapidly filling with rainwater. She sat up, sputtering indignantly, and pushed a handful of sopping wet brunette hair out of her face.
"All right dog," Diana cried out angrily, "you're officially on your own!"
It took several long moments of struggling to find purchase on the slimy mud bank of the little ravine, but eventually Diana managed to drag herself up over the lip of the shallow precipice and onto the safer ground above. Too late she realized that she'd crawled out of her muddy, watery landing spot on the opposite side of the previously dry streambed and it now separated her from the house... at least, she thought she'd crawled up the wrong side. Diana realized with no small amount of horror that she'd gotten so turned around in her downhill tumble that she wasn't entirely sure which direction the house was. She stomped her foot in sheer frustration, growling a wordless sound of misery as her fists clenched up into tight balls at her sides.
"Damnit, damnit, damnit!"
Diana was starting to get cold. The storm-churned air had found an uncomfortably low temperature to stabilize at, and the deluge hadn't let up. Between the high winds and heavy rain she could hear nothing else in the forest, and though it was almost pitch black she couldn't make out any light from the house coming through the trees. She hugged herself, curling her fingers around her elbows, and began to push through the dense undergrowth again. She moved along the bank of the gully, now nearly halfway full of murky brown runoff, trying to find some way to cross or get her bearings.
Diana heard a small sound that managed to carry over the wind. It was somewhere nearby, the clinking noise of metal against metal, and her heart leapt. That had to be tags on Mickey's collar, and it meant that the petite animal was alive and close. Relief flooded Diana as she turned to the right and headed further into the woods, still trying to locate the poodle despite her earlier declaration that the dog was on its own.
"Mickey!" Diana cried out desperately, hearing how very thin and small her voice sounded in the raging storm. She stumbled again, and as she reached out to catch herself the palm of her hand caught on the sharp stump of a freshly broken limb on a nearby tree. She felt the tiny spike of pain as her hand was sliced open, the faintly warm sensation of flowing blood. It wasn't particularly deep or painful, and as she stood looking at her bloody palm in amazement she heard the sound again, more clearly. It was directly ahead of her and though the sight of her own blood had made Diana woozy, she pressed on.
With a final shove through the dense undergrowth, Diana found herself in an oddly shaped clearing. It was longer than it was wide, tall trees protruding into the meadow at random intervals. Having no trees to provide a storm break for her, Diana found that she was being stung by the wind-driven rain and buffeted by the fierce winds. None of that, however, could make her turn away from the scene that was playing out in front of her astonished eyes.
In the middle of the meadow, it appeared that two angels were engaged in a heated battle.
On her right was a tall man, his raven black hair plastered to his incredibly handsome face. He was bare to the waist and already bore several wounds on his exquisitely crafted torso, the blood mixing with the rainwater and making his khaki-colored pants a sickening tye-dye of gore. Both hands grasped a sharp-edged katana, which he was holding out in front of him as if prepared to defend against an attack. None of that, however, was what made Diana's jaw go slack as she stared at him in wide-eyed amazement. The thing that really got her, that really made the fear rise in her throat, was that the man had an enormous pair of flawlessly white wings stemming from his back.
The other man, on the opposite side of the clearing, had wings of equal size but they were as black as the first man's hair. The dark-winged angel had blonde locks, and wore heavy black robes, conveniently split in the correct places to allow his wings through. He too had a sword, and as Diana watched he raised it above his head, gave a shout that sounded like a hundred voices all cried out at once from the same throat, and charged the other man.
They met in the middle of the clearing, blades flashing, wings whirling, faces in grimaces of what looked like an equal mix of rage and concentration. Diana suddenly and implicitly understood that the tinkling sound she'd been hearing hadn't been Mickey's collar at all but the noise made by their swords. The strength went out of Diana in a single woosh along with all her breath, and she placed her hands on her face as she sank to her knees in the tall grass, a single choked sob escaping her lips. She had the sudden and deeply rooted surety that she was going to meet her death very soon, either at the hands of one of the combatant angels or at the mercy of the storm.
The noise of dueling swords stopped suddenly and Diana was almost afraid to raise her head, but she had to look. Sure enough both of the men had paused, their swords still aimed at each other at awkward angels, but they had turned their faces to her. Diana felt as if she was impaled by their gazes and could not move to flee though they were both advancing on her now. She looked back and forth between them, trying to discern which seemed less likely to cut her in half. She was unable to decide so she simply stayed on her knees, looking up at them piteously. Diana didn’t realize that when she’d cradled her face in her hands one of them had been bloody so the right side of her face was streaked with it. The blonde one looked surprised, began to reach out a hand to her.
The dark-haired angel's head snapped to the right suddenly, and he growled at the blonde one. "Leave her alone."
The blonde angel rolled his eyes and laughed, even through the raging storm it was a musical sound that made Diana's heart clench in her chest. "She is not for you, Azrael.”
Though he said it in a voice that was light as a spring breeze, and Diana was surprised that she could hear it somehow over the wind, the malice in each syllable and the lethal consequences of failing to heed were both obviously apparent.
The blonde angel lunged forward, sword in one hand and the other outstretched towards her. Diana cringed, turned her face away, but she heard the rushing of feathered wings and something very soft just barely brushed her cheek. She opened one eye cautiously, peering at the scene without turning her head. The dark-haired man, Azrael the other had called him, stood in front of her and all she could see was the immense span of his wings outstretched like a shield. Again she heard the blonde's tinkling laughter.
"Suit yourself, Azrael. We'll do it the hard way."
Black wings spread wide, reached upwards, and Diana leaned over a little so she could see into the meadow beneath the feathery white barrier. The blonde angel was looking right at her, and he winked before he leapt up into the air. With a steady measure of beats undisturbed by the sky’s violent outburst he rose up into the turbulent heavens and disappeared.
The dark-haired man turned to her then, folded his wings over her like a canopy as he dropped to one knee. Up close she could see that all his skin was crisscrossed with tiny white scars beneath the fresh wounds that seemed to be healing already. He was also far better looking than she'd initially thought, eyes the most unusual shade of slate blue that she'd ever seen. Despite the storm that thundered on the air beneath the feathery appendages was still, warm, and smelled ever so faintly of chocolate and leather. Diana blinked as she realized it wasn't the air that smelled so tantalizing, but him. Despite the paralyzing fear that had been her reality up until that moment, looking into his enchanting grey-blue eyes she felt suddenly at ease. He tucked his sword back into its sheath slowly; as if conscious the bare weapon frightened her. Without a word he gathered her injured right hand into his own left and laid his right hand over the top of hers. He smiled at her gently. It was an expression that bore faint but distinct traces of some unimaginable sorrow, worn on his finely crafted visage like a fragile and infinitely beautiful mask. He held her hand between his for a long moment, and when he released her she stretched out her fingers and tore her gaze away from his long enough to see that the cut on her hand had vanished completely.
"You're an angel, aren't you?" she whispered without moving her head to look back at him.
"Hardly," he replied, sliding a finger under her chin and using it to turn her face back towards him, forcing Diana to meet his eyes. They seemed to be shifting, somehow, the deep blue color of the irises swirling around ever expanding pupils that were far blacker than they ought to be. Diana realized, with a single lick of panic, that she was going to be pulled into that blackness. The epiphany occurred too late, because the void in Azrael’s eyes reached out to swallow her.
The incessant buzzing of an alarm clock jerked Diana from her slumber, and her lashes fluttered open only to be squeezed shut again. The only bad part of being home from school, if you could call it bad, was that the sunlight was already pouring in through the windows when you woke up in the morning. She rolled over lazily, stretching her entire body and yawning widely before she slapped the alarm clock.
“Shaddup, noisy bastard,” she grumbled.
Despite her harsh rebuke of the alarm, Diana sat up in her bed. Almost immediately Mickey jumped up onto the bed prancing around and panting in a way that made her look as if she were smiling. Diana reached over and lifted the tiny dog with one hand, clutching it to her chest and laughing brightly as it showered unsanitary little wet kisses all over her face.
“Easy, girl, easy,” she chuckled and slid her legs out from under the covers as she set the toy poodle down. Diana stood, stretched again with a small groan, then slid her feet into her slippers and lifted her favorite pink silk robe off the back of the chair that sat at her dressing table. She picked up a brush and ran it through her hair briskly as she stepped into the bathroom. After a moment behind the closed door she padded back out through her bedroom and into the hallway. Diana made her way into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee, yawning all the while. While she’d slept nearly ten hours the night before, all night she’d been plagued by dreams of a blue-eyed man with black hair, no one she could ever remember seeing on TV. It was troubling, if she really thought about it, but she didn’t. The subconscious mind went all manner of strange places when free to do so. Diana shrugged it off as just another weird dream, and stepped to the back door to let Mickey outside while the coffee brewed.
Mickey sat down and looked up at Diana, licking her lips nervously.
Diana tilted her head a little to the right, giving Mickey a puzzled expression. She turned and looked over her shoulder to see that there was a lawn care service working on several trees that had been damaged by the storm. One, a particularly large pine, looked as if the top half of the tree had exploded.
There was a flash, a memory of a stormy sky that violently unloaded on the tall pine and the tree erupted into a shower of flame and splinters.
The girl blinked and shook her head. She thought that part had been a dream, yet there was the lawn crew cleaning up the remnants of that exact same explosion. It must have happened during her long and dream-ridden sleep, and she’d incorporated it in because she hadn’t been fully awake when it happened.
That was what Diana told herself as she padded across an expanse of expertly polished marble that was the entryway to her father’s home. She opened the front door and clicked to Mickey with her tongue, at which the little poodle trotted amicably out into the front yard and began sniffing around. As the dog conducted her business, Diana looked up into the brilliantly verdant trees that lined the long drive and the sapphire sky above. It seemed to have been washed clean by the previous evening’s storms and though the air was humid it was crisp and clear. Diana loved being at her father’s house, even if she had to put up with Melinda. Melinda was her sixth stepmother and young enough to be her sister. Another blonde with a fake rack and awful taste, young and dumb like her father preferred them, Melinda had instantly disliked Diana. This time around it hadn’t mattered. While Eileen, the second replacement for her mother, had shipped her off to boarding school Diana was too old for that kind of crap now. At twenty-one she was a pre-med student, and untangled from her father’s life enough that Melinda’s envy of his affection for her didn’t cause the overwhelming obstacles it had in the past. No, not when she was old enough to watch the familial home while Dad and Melinda trotted the globe for a summer. Mickey, finished satisfying her needs, came trotting back up the wide front steps and right past Diana into the house.
“You’re welcome,” Diana said sarcastically to the little pet, following it inside. The dog was as spoiled as Melinda, but much cuter and with a far better personality. If Mickey was the one thing that Diana gained from her father’s sixth wife, she would consider their marriage a success.
Thoughts of her sire’s new lady stopped in their tracks as Diana crossed through the living room into the kitchen. Over the ornate stone fireplace a portrait hung of Diana’s mother, Evelyn. The little brunette paused, staring up at her mother’s face in oils. She’d been too young when Evelyn died to really remember her, but her father had told her that Evelyn had been an incredible woman and that he’d never find another like her. Diana supposed that maybe this was the real reason he went through wives like some men went through cars: because he wasn’t really looking for a wife, just a heavily obligated companion.
“Good morning, Mom,” she whispered to the portrait, blowing it a kiss before she went into the kitchen.
Whatever his reasons, Diana didn’t love him any less for it. He’d always made it clear to her that with her mother gone Diana would always be his baby girl. He’d given her everything she could have ever wanted and even some things she didn’t want, like a strong work ethic and a silver tongue that could convince most people to do most things. Though he’d pushed her to be an attorney or a politician, Diana wouldn’t be swayed from the healing arts. She couldn’t really explain her desire to do it, but healing the minds and bodies of others was a job Diana had always felt that she’d been meant to do.
Diana poured herself a cup of coffee as she mulled life over in her mind, absently poured out a bag of kibble for a suddenly excited Mickey. As she stood at the kitchen sink, both hands wrapped around the warm coffee mug, Diana watched the lawn crew finishing the cleanup of broken limbs and scattered debris. Allana, the maid that had kept house for her father for nearly ten years, walked briskly into the kitchen behind her.
“Diana!! Your father told me you were coming home, but he didn’t say you’d just show up and not give old Allana a call,” she said loudly, crossing the kitchen in two brief strides. She plucked Diana’s coffee mug out of her hands, set it on the kitchen counter, and caught the slim young girl up in a bone-crushing hug.
“I’d hug you back, but my arms are pinned to my sides,” Diana chuckled, only half serious.
Allana released her and stepped back, grinning. “You look well, child. How did school go this semester?”
“It went great,” Diana replied, reclaiming her coffee. She needed that stuff first thing in the morning. She took a sip and continued, “I am now officially finished with my core curriculum and I get to move on to more doctorly pursuits in the fall.”
“That’s great, honey,” Allana said brightly as she rummaged around in the fridge. “You’ll make an excellent doctor one day. Now, is there anything special that you want from the store?”
Diana chuckled. “You’ve known me for a long time, Allana. If you don’t know to bring me Ben & Jerry’s by now, you need to have your head checked.”
Allana’s laughter followed Diana out of the kitchen as she made her way back to her bedroom to prepare for the day.
Jump to Chapter 2
That was amazing, Maiden! I love how it started and the Angels and everything! The storyline flowed so well and you have to put up more so I can read what happens <3 I wanna know who that Black Winged one was, I do love me some black wings
The only thing I'd say about it is the descriptiveness, I'd say either extend the parts where the core happenings are (Like the angel part), or make it happen quicker. Other than that I freakin' loved it! You have to write more <3
Well, that's just kinda the intro. It's going to be a very long story, and once I get into the action a little further the pace will pick up a bit. That's why there's more description than actual stuffs. ;3
I can't wait for you to see what I have in store. I gotta go write a post for Twisted but after that I'll be getting to work on chapter two.
I can't wait ^^ *Subs*
Roster and Character Sheet for Bleach: Shadow of Gregel. (Restarted)
Suicide Squad Roster
Captain Yukio Nakamura (Vizard/Good, authored by Maiden)
Metus (Arrancar/Good, authored by HunterofShadows)
Lila Desmayar (Arrancar/Good, authored by Maiden)
Kelan Atraer Idaillora (Arrancar/Good, authored by XxSoulStealerxX)
Name/Nickname: Yukio Nakamura
Appearance: Yukio is a beast of a man, easily six and a half feet tall. He is broad-shouldered and barrel-chested, heavily muscled throughout. His hair is a pale silver color that is very nearly white, cropped close with only the shortest bangs bordering his face. Yukio is handsome enough but nothing remarkable, a square jaw and sharp features that most often arrange themselves in a scowl. He wears loosely fitted khaki pants, a black A-shirt and black and white sneakers. Yukio wears only one adornment; a white half-glove on his left hand which starts an inch above his wrist bone and ends at his knuckles.
Personality: Captain Nakamura defines gruff, especially when he is in the Seireitei. He can be quite blunt, dispassionate, and dismissive. Underneath the brisk surface, however, Yukio is a decent man. He prides himself on being stern but fair, critical without being demeaning. He can also be quite moody, though his closed-off nature prevents him from sharing the reasons for his sometimes dark demeanor.
Zanpaktuo: Mei Kishu (“Dark Rider”)
Unreleased appearance: Mei Kishu appears to be a standard katana in its unreleased state. Its hilt is bound in black, save for a single silver thread, and the guard is not wholly unlike a Maltese cross.
Shikai: “Trample ‘em, Dark Rider!” The entire katana becomes wreathed in black spiritual energy with a faint silver glow at its edges. The sword elongates, rounds, and becomes an eight foot long black bo with a thin silver strip that spirals around its entire length.
Special Shikai Techniques:
Thundering Hooves – A strike to the ground results in an earthquake strong enough to unbalance anyone within a thirty foot radius. This can be problematic when fighting in close proximity to allies.
Bankai: “Trample ‘em, crush ‘em to dust, Dark Rider of the Abyss!” A flash occurs, not one of light but of darkness and a void opens on Yukio’s left side. Out from the rift leaps a phantasm oozing black reiatsu that breaks into small pieces and falls all around it like ash. Though the outline of the beast constantly shifts and moves, it is obviously a hooded and robed figure sitting astride a massive black charger made of the same insubstantial stuff. Two pairs of eyes, one beneath the hood and one on the face of the horse, are the only discernable features of the pair. The eyes have no irises or pupils, a solid opaque white. The Rider wields a bo also, and the horse he rides is a weapon all its own.
The Dark Rider has an unusual characteristic; intimidation. The scream of the horse is so powerful that it actually generates a shock wave of spiritual pressure, and its hooves are heavy enough that the ground trembles beneath them. Many weaker opponents have surrendered to Yukio immediately upon the emergence of the Rider.
Special Note: With his Hollow mask on, Yukio loses the ability to use Bankai.
Hollow Abilities: Yukio’s hollow mask is an upside-down teardrop shape, wider at the top than at the base. A strip of bone rises from the left and right sides and the center, the three meeting at the back of his head to make it look almost like an umpire’s mask. There are two slits for Yukio’s eyes to see through, though they are unseen behind a silvery glow. Between his eyes a slender black stripe bisects the mask vertically. On his right hand a glove appears, exactly identical to the one he always wears on the left, except that it is made of the same substance as his Hollow mask. This is the hand from which Yukio fires his black Bala.
Once the Hollowification is complete, Yukio has immensely increased strength, endurance, speed and spiritual pressure. He hasn’t figured out why he is unable to use Bankai once he has his Hollow mask on, but his Shikai becomes powerful enough that it hasn’t yet been a problem for him.
History: Yukio was Seireitei-born, though he does not know who his parents were. He was raised in an orphanage and accepted into the Academy, where he excelled at Zanjetsu, Hakuda and Kido. When he graduated from the Academy he was accepted into the 13th Division and served as a Soul Reaper for many long years, advancing enough to eventually earn himself the position of lieutenant. During a routine patrol of the Human World, Yukio was attacked by a Hollow he found himself unable to defeat. In his desperation he found a way to call out Hollow powers of his own. Of course, Yukio was stripped of his rank and banished from the Soul Society for using the forbidden power and he spent many years in the Human World. Yukio did not attain Bankai until after leaving the Soul Society.
Recently, Yukio noticed an alarming increase in the number of Hollows that were coming to the realm of the living and made contact with his old comrades. He was called to the Soul Society and given the dubious distinction of becoming the Captain of the Suicide Squad, a newly formed division of the Gotei 13 specifically designed to utilize the powers unavailable to law-abiding Shinigami.
-|- Season of the Storm -|-
Diana wheeled her aging ten speed bike out of the storage shed and got on, pedaling lazily down the long drive. Though she could have taken either of the small, expensive sports cars parked in the garage Diana enjoyed the physical exercise and mental relief of riding her bike instead. The sky was a brilliant, clear azure that allowed the strong southern sun to beat down on the narrow two-lane road Diana was traveling. It made the humid air thick and sticky, and the girl was immensely glad she'd chosen only a green tank-top and khaki shorts. Early June wasn't full-on summer by any means, but it was still hot enough to be uncomfortable. Diana picked up speed and the air accelerated into a breeze that made the ride more pleasant.
The girl was heading for the nearby Sparkling Lakes Country Club, the place she'd worked every summer since she turned fifteen. The Club's owner, an amicable and grandfatherly man named W. Tom Raegan, always saved her a position doing something. Last year she'd shuttled golf carts around, which had been immensely fun. The summer before that she'd drawn cleanup crew, not anywhere near as much fun as the golf carts. Diana was wondering which position she'd get this year when a movement in her peripheral vision made her slow and stop the bike.
In a field to the left of the road Diana could make out an adolescent girl riding a big, beautiful grey horse. She lifted her hand to shield her eyes from the sun and squinted at the horse and rider as they came closer. The pair had a hazy, insubstantial quality to them, and as they galloped closer to the fence Diana could see that the girl was wearing a broad smile beneath her cowboy hat. She lifted a slim hand and waved to Diana, who mirrored the gesture.
Diana was smiling as the horse and rider pair approached the wooden fence separating the road from the grassy field. She nudged her bike off into the grass and dismounted, assuming a casual lean on the fencepost. The grey muzzle of the horse was only inches from her face when he stopped moving, and the teenage girl on his back leaned down so that Diana could see her face clearly.
'Good to see you,' the girl mouthed silently.
"Good to see you, too, Laura," Diana replied aloud.
'Be careful,' the silent girl continued.
"Careful of what," Diana quired.
'Him,' was the girl's response.
Diana looked puzzled, tilting her head to the right a little. It was the first time Laura had tried to warn her of anything, ever. She was sure it had to be serious, but had no idea what Laura was talking about.
"Who? Who should I be careful of?"
But Laura only smiled, waved again, and wheeled her horse away from the fence. She galloped off, leaving Diana staring after her with that same confused look on her face. As the horse sailed over a stack of hay bales in the field, both he and the teenage girl on his back seemed to disintigrate into the hazy air around them.
Diana sighed. "Goodbye again, Laura."
It was swelteringly hot and beads of sweat rolled down Diana's back making her light green tee shirt stick to her back. The little walkie-talkie strapped to her belt chirped occasionally with bits of information, but nothing useful. Diana had been walking through the woods for a long time and still hadn't found any sign of Laura.
Diana finally stumbled across a small stream and after divesting herself of the little electronic communicator she simply lay down in the water, all her clothes on, letting the cool spring wash the hot summer day off of her. She couldn't stop thinking of Laura, wondering exactly how far she'd pressed her grey gelding, Ghost, before realizing that she was lost. Still, it had been two days. Larua could be anywhere. She closed her eyes and sighed.
After a long moment in the stream and feeling much better, Diana sat up and opened her eyes. She got the feeling that she wasn't alone, and when Diana peered into the woods ahead of her she could see, ankle-deep in the water and no more than ten yards downstream, her best friend: Laura.
"Laura!" Diana screamed, snatching her walkie-talkie off the bank and stumbling through the water. The strawberry blonde motioned for Diana to follow her and took off running along the streambank.
"Laura, wait! Everyone's looking for you," Diana yelled after her, doing her best to keep up.
After a few minutes of chasing Laura, the other girl finally stopped and Diana skidded to a halt herself. Laura was standing at the edge of a cliff, and as Diana approached she could see that it was a fairly high one.
"Laura, where have you been? Where's Ghost? What happened?"
The redhead only smiled, and pointed off over the cliff.
Diana edged forward and peered over the edge. The sight that met her clear emerald gaze was a horrific, bloody mess. Ghost lay at the bottom of the ravine, his legs tangled and his neck at an impossible angle. Beneath the gelding's body Diana could see the bright flash of a red tank-top and a dark riding helmet. Nausea washed over Diana as she turned to look at her best friend... but the girl was gone.
Laura was the first ghost that Diana had ever seen, the day she'd been found dead at the bottom of the ravine was the first time Diana had realized she could see the earthbound spirits of the dead. At first Diana had hoped that she had only been able to see Laura because they'd been best friends and Laura couldn't rest until her body was found. That hadn't been the case. It had been as if Laura had turned a key in Diana's mind, and after sighting the dead girl Diana had continued to see ghosts all around her. They would speak to her sometimes, though their voices were lost she could still read their lips and make out what they were saying. Other times, the ghosts brushed right by her as if so disconnected from the world of the living that they couldn't even see it anymore. She saw them random places, on street corners and in hotels, but she'd never told a living person that she had the ability.
Diana didn't want to seem weird.
But weird was certainly what she was, standing on the side of the road and conversing with a girl no one else could see. She shook herself to her senses and grabbed her bike from its resting place in the grass. Though Diana usually saw Laura whenever she drove by the girl's former home, this marked the first time that Laura had ever said anything besides hello and thank you. It must have been urgent for Laura to try warning her, but she'd given Diana no clue as to what boy she needed to be cautious of.
Lots of help, Laura, Diana thought to herself. Thanks.
Diana pushed off, heading in the direction of the Country Club. It wasn't long before she guided her bike onto the long footbridge spanning the river used to feed all the golf course's lakes. After the bumpy ride she was deposited at the clubhouse, and once she parked her bike in the rack she strolled inside lazily.
The dimmer, cooler pro shop had a slightly overweight blonde woman at the counter. She smiled at seeing Diana and waved her over.
"Diana," she cooed, "it's good to see you again, doll! Back for your job again this year, eh?"
"You know it Miz Armitage," Diana replied brightly, smiling at her. "Is Tom in the office," she asked, already heading towards the back room.
"No," Ms. Armitage said, shaking her head, "Mr. Raegan has stopped working at the club. Says he's getting too old for this. We got a new manager, name 'o Black. James Black."
Diana paused, tilted her head at Ms. Armitage. "Is Tom okay?"
"Yeah, of course, sugar, he's fine! He jus' don't wanna work no more is all!"
She smiled in relief. "Well, as long as that's all..."
Ms. Armitage nodded. "That's all!"
Diana nodded and walked into the back office.
At the wide mahogany desk that had previously belonged to Mr. Raegan there was a tall blonde man writing intently. He didn't look up when Diana came in, so she cleared her throat. "Excuse me," she said softly, "but are you Mr. Black?"
The man finally looked up at her and it nearly took Diana's breath away. He was young, not as young as her but too young to be her father's age, and he had long blonde hair that was pulled back into a low ponytail at the nape of his neck. He was handsome enough, with a face that looked like it should have belonged to some kind of viking, but what really got Diana was his eyes. She'd been told all her life that her sparkling emerald eyes were a highly unusual shade. In truth, she'd never been face to face with anyone who had the same shade as her own. Yet, the gaze that cooly regarded Diana was the exact same hue of deep, clear green.
"Yes, I'm Mr. Black," the man replied. His voice sent a shiver through Diana; it had some ring to it that she didn't recognize and couldn't place. "What can I do for you, young lady?"
Diana was speechless for a moment, but finally cleared her throat and found her voice. "I actually came to see about summer employment... I've worked here every summer since I was a teenager."
The blonde man reached over to a drawer in the desk and pulled out a manilla file folder. He laid it on the desktop, flipped it open, and thumbed through the pages. "And you are...?"
"Oh, ah, I'm Diana Prentice, sir."
"Prentice... Prentice... ah, yes, here you are." He was quiet for a moment as he read over the file. "So you have worked here for the past five summers. It looks like you were on Cart Returns last year?"
"Yes sir, Mr. Black, I sure was."
"Well, the young man I hired to fill that position failed to appear for work the past two days and hasn't called me, so I suppose you can have your position back."
Diana grinned. "Excellent."
Mr. Black looked up at her again, and seeing her smile a tiny one formed on his lips as well.
"Do me one favor, please, Miss Prentice?"
"Of course Mr. Black, what is it?"
"Please knock on the door the next time you need to see me," he said shortly, and slid the employee folder out of the way so that he could return to the work he'd been dong before Diana came in.
The girl blinked, surprised at his sudden brush off, and left the office without saying another word.