Part I: Angst
“Rowan, please try to understand…”
“No! Why would you do this? Why would they let you!?”
“You’ll be happy there. That’s all I want.”
“What about what I want? Have you ever thought of that?”
My dad looked flustered and fearful. Deep down, I knew he cared about me, but I hated that he’d do such a thing behind my back. Somehow, he’d submitted an application to an institute a ways away from here. It would require me to study over there for a long time. I flat out hated the thought.
“They’ve already accepted your application. They know about others with your condition. They can help you. Please give them a chance.”
I took a deep breath.
“Fine, but I’m not happy about this at all.”
“Alright. I’ll drive you over to where the bus is scheduled to arrive.”
“They expect me to fit on a bus?” I said in frustration.
“I’m sure it’ll be okay. Please keep an open mind to the whole thing, alright?”
“I’ll try. When do we go?”
“Let’s see…it’s the 5th today. So, tomorrow.”
“What the hell, were you going to tell me?!”
“I lost track of time.” He shrugged.
I mumbled angrily in response.
“Better get packing, Rowan. Be sure to rest early.” He turned around and went into the kitchen.
I went upstairs to my and took out the bag I used for school when I used to attend one. It’s probably been several months since then. I looked through my things and decided to pack light as I already planned to come back home some time in the future. As much as I disliked my dad for doing all of this without my consent, I didn’t want to leave him behind.
Our relationship wasn’t one filled with love and trust and it was only more strained after my mother had left my father shortly after what had happened to me. She said she couldn’t understand and deal with it. We never saw her again. I was certain that I hated her for doing that to him. She and I were never close, but he’d turned into a different person after this happened. He wasn’t as passionate about things as he used to be and was just generally unhappy.
Our arguments started the day she left. He was trying to convince me that it hadn’t been my fault, but I wouldn’t have it. I knew the truth. I’d heard her words, after all. The look on her face when she saw me was heartbreaking. Why, it was almost as bad as when I was rejected by Hayden. She’d been everything to me and now I was supposed to act like I hadn’t been hurt by what she did. Cutting someone off like that…and they say I’m the monster.
I didn’t sleep well that night. This bed was a little small for me now, so it was hard to get comfortable. I tried to sleep on the floor, but it wasn’t carpet or anything soft, so it was truly hopeless. I’d packed everything away like my dad wanted to and added his number to the cellphone I had. It was difficult to get the numbers dialed because of my claws, but the few calls I made were important enough to make it matter.
I woke to my dad walking into my room and nudging me softly. He greeted me with a forced smile. The sympathetic look I’d been getting from him was starting to get tiring. I was really going to miss him, despite this though. He was the only family I knew since my mother was out of the picture.
“There’s a bus stop downtown that’ll take you to…Ravenhold Academy, it’s called. Are you sure you have everything?” My dad said, taking out several notes he’d written on.
“Yeah, I do…” I wasn’t very eager to go along with this at all.
“Okay, come on.” He went out the front door and I went behind him.
He was silent while he drove. I was in the back seat because I couldn’t fit anywhere else. Even now, I felt a little crowded because I had to keep all hunched down uncomfortably. The drive to our destination took a long time and I fell asleep a few times on the way there. When our vehicle came to a stop I eagerly got out and felt sore. My dad stood beside me and was looking at the other students were boarding the bus.
“I’m kinda nervous…” I said, my voice sounding weak and quiet.
“It’s okay. You’ll be alright here, Rowan.”
“Will you be okay all alone?”
“I won’t be alone. I’ll get a puppy or something.” He shrugged.
“Giving me a reason to visit, are you?” I asked jokingly.
“If you do get one, please send pictures.”
I looked at the bus and back at him. He was awkwardly looking away. He accepted my hug, but it was shorter than I’d wanted. I picked up the bag I’d brought with me. He gave a reassuring smile and watched me board the bus. I found a seat quickly near the back of it and tried to find a comfortable position. My dad drove away before the bus left and I was a little sad to see him go.
The noise in here made it hard to relax. There was people yelling and I noticed this guy was trying to get an Itharii to sell him dust. What was it about people and wanting to escape this reality? They’d only come back to it later, anyway. The Itharii didn’t seem to know what to do and luckily another student intervened before the situation got any worse. They’d mentioned their name was Ahti, but I didn’t catch anything else. I was a little to tired to get up from my seat and do something anyway. Seeing as they were alright now, I eased up a little and got some more sleep before I arrived at the academy.
I woke up once more when the bus came to a stop. The students filed out and eagerly took in their surroundings. I couldn’t help but feel curious, too. I waited for everyone to get in front of me and went in behind the last person. I was a little nervous that they’d seen me, but it was reassuring to see others that were mutated like I was, at least.
I was lead to a building by someone after I’d spent a little too long wandering around. How she knew who I was, I had no clue. Something about her had my guard up. She had yellow eyes like I did and had a scent that was similar to mine. Before we went inside, I knew I had to ask her about it.
“Are you…Uhh…” I tried to form the words.
“I am like you.” She whispered.
“But, how is that-”
“Not important. Go inside. I’ll join soon enough. Maybe.” She said before going back where we came.
I watched her leave and then looked back towards the building. Going inside, I saw a few others that were here already. When someone asked about the Itharii, this girl with red hair had called them an “it” which made a part of me snap.
“Don’t call Ahti an ‘it’.” I said, my anger showing a little more than I’d wanted.
She shrugged off my display and left into another room. I glared at her until she was out of view. My eyes then went to the pizza. I was quite hungry and it was difficult to not over eat with this new form of mine. It was troublesome to get full and feel accomplished after having a meal. I had several slices before I decided to lay off.
I saw Ahti talk to someone else over the pizza and they hesitantly tried some. They seemed to be delighted. An appropriate reaction when it came to pizza. I left them alone to look at the room assignments. Ahti came over to try and read what was on there. My room mate was someone who went by the name of Allison Walker. I felt a little nervous over meeting them.
“It’s too high, I can’t read it.” Ahti said beside me.
I went over to their entry and read it to them. Their room mate’s name had me feeling both uncomfortable and worrying for their safety. I didn’t know why I was feeling so protective over them. I even felt flattered when they mentioned how tall I was. I told them I gave credit to being a parahuman, a term they were unfamiliar with.
“Hey, which one of you is Rowan?” An unfamiliar voice asked.
I went over to them and they explained that they were my room mate. They also let me know that they, too, used “they” pronouns. The room we were supposed to share was bigger than the one I had at home. I went in and unpacked what I’d brought with me. Seeing the empty spaces, I thought that maybe I’d forgotten some things.
I took out my phone and called my dad. He didn’t often pick up, but I really hoped he would this time. I needed to hear a familiar voice.
“Hello?” He sounded tired.
“Hey, I got here safe. Just thought you should know…”
Awkward silence hung in the air.
“Um, talk to you later. Bye.” I didn’t wait for his answer.