She stood there – deep blue eyes alive with curiosity, slightly slouched shoulders, drowning in over-sized uniform.
Ethan turned towards her – dark brown eyes alive with anticipation, tall and austere, not a strand of fiery auburn hair out of place.
“Isabella? You must be the new girl. We’re waiting.” Her eyebrows raised inquisitively. “Us. You. Come on. The lake.”
Though none the wiser, she scurried after him, out of the magnificently enormous entrance hall, into the even more stunning outdoors. The crisp, cold, early morning air dashed up her sleeves and nestled in her chest – right next to her heart.
“One year ago, today. In exactly 3 minutes.” When her eyebrows made the same arc of confusion – he continued. “My little sister. She joined the school 5 years ago, the year below me.”
“First day, second year. I was already in. I don’t know what she was doing outside, stupid girl. Anyway. Couple of guys. Drunk, probably. It was quick. She didn’t suffer. We set her body alight on the lake. This is simply our way of remembering her.”
“Oh god…I’m so sorry...”
Ignoring her sympathy, he continued towards the water – which was nothing like the landscaped lake she’d been imagining. Deep, murky water spread across a wide expansion of lawn; tall trees guarding from behind and an army of students protecting from the front. Every flawless face smiled, threatening in a way that words couldn’t.
“We didn’t get to do it last year. No-one new joined. Terrible shame… She was so disappointed…” Regret whimpered in his voice, as fiery flames of vengeance danced in his eyes. Her heart began to beat faster as she absorbed the secrets he was eluding to.
As they approached the edge of the lake, and the student mass gave way to reveal a small, wooden boat, bobbing around in the water. With one swift motion, Ethan had pulled the boat a little way onto the bank, and a subtle yet menacing nod told her what do to. Her mind didn’t go. Her mind screamed, and turned, and ran. But her lips remained sealed and her feet stepped into the boat. It’s just a boat ride, she thought.
It’s just a boat ride.
With one kick, she was out on the water. But as their eyes met, he dipped his hand into his pocket and retrieved a small cardboard box – about 1 inch by 2… Filled with murderous intent.
The trees turned a blind eye as he tossed in the match. Like it was nothing. Like she was nothing. The ferocious fire was fuelled by his fury. And her utter disbelief.