TUESDAY - AFTER SCHOOL
The note stuck out of the vent in my locker like a tiny Christmas present. That’s what it felt like, too. An early present from Drake. I pulled the paper out. It was carefully folded into a perfect square with one letter of my name in each corner. L-Y-L-A. The fold was so intricate it took forever to get it undone. But when I did, I was rewarded with six little words that made my heart flutter: I only have eyes for you.
I tried not to sigh like the hopeless romantic I am, but I couldn’t resist. He’d spent time on this. He cared. It wasn’t the same as saying “I’m sorry I totally flirted with Ashley right in front of you,” but it was better in its own way. I looked around the hall for Drake but he was nowhere to be found.
I went back and forth in my mind over whether to call or text Drake and say that I felt the same way. It just seemed too weird to call him and actually say “I only have eyes for you, too.” Even if he did say it first. I decided on a simple text, just like the note he left me.
Text sent to Drake 8:15 PM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU.
Text from Drake 8:27 PM: OK STALKER!
Not exactly the response I was looking for but I couldn’t really expect him to be romantic all the time, right?
Text sent to Drake 8:33 PM: TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE! :p
WEDNESDAY - LUNCH
I was watching Drake and Jason throw food at each other when my cell phone buzzed. One new text.
Text from unknown 12:22 PM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU.
The skin at the back of my neck crawled. I stared at the phone, and then at Drake, who was completely oblivious. His cell phone rested on the table where it had been since he set it there at the beginning of lunch. He hadn’t touched it.
I glanced discreetly around the cafeteria, but no one was looking at me or watching for my reaction. That didn't change the fact that it felt like someone was.
WEDNESDAY - ENGLISH CLASS
The little square of paper was already on my desk when I entered the room. I could see my name spelled out in the corners just like the note I got yesterday. I sat in my seat and pushed the note up to the edge of the desk. I didn’t want to open it. It wasn’t romantic anymore.
There were only a couple kids in class already. None of them were paying any attention to me except for Josh, the weird kid who always wore the hood on his hoodie up. Even when it was hot out, which was like, almost always since we’re in the freaking desert. No one even knew what his hair looked like. Or if he even had hair at all.
When I twisted around in my front row seat to look around the room, Josh met my eyes for the first time ever. I was so surprised that I froze. I felt my pen slip out of my hand but I didn’t move to pick it up. His eyes were intense, and green. I could tell that even from all the way across the room. When I kept eye contact with him, he raised one eyebrow and slowly tilted his head to the side like, WTF? I knew I looked like a freak but I couldn’t stop staring. His eyes looked past me to the note on my desk and suddenly I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that he knew exactly what was inside that folded square of paper.
“Lyla, will you be joining us today?” Mr. Lawrence’s voice was tired, annoyed. He snapped me out of my trance, or whatever it was.
“Sorry,” I said, and bent to pick up my pen. My face was hot and I wondered if the whole class could tell I’d been staring at creepy Josh. I hoped no one told Drake. I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.
WEDNESDAY - AFTER SCHOOL
The note I threw in the trash after English class poked out of the vent in my locker, taunting me. I knew it was the same note because I’d scribbled out my name before dropping it in the wastebasket still folded. I looked around as discreetly as I could, trying to see if Josh, or whoever had left it, was watching me but the hallway was full of the usual get-me-the-hell-out-of-this-place end of the day rush and no one noticed me or the sick joke sticking out of my locker. I yanked it out and went through the complicated unfolding process. The same six words stared back at me: I only have eyes for you. My heart didn’t flutter this time. It was my stomach that clenched up tight, and the hairs on the back of my neck that stood on end.
Someone was watching me, for real. I could feel it.
LATE WEDNESDAY NIGHT / EARLY THURSDAY MORNING
The eyes were everywhere. They pressed in on me from the darkness. I got up and covered the windows with blankets, shut the closet door, and hid underneath my comforter but I could still feel them. They brushed against my skin like probing hands.
My phone lit up every five minutes.
Text from unknown 1:15 AM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
Text from unknown 1:20 AM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
Text from unknown 1:25 AM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
Text from unknown 1:30 AM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
Text from unknown 1:35 AM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
Text from unknown 1:40 AM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
Text sent to unknown 1:41 AM: STOP IT! IT’S NOT FUNNY!
Text from unknown 1:45 AM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
I turned it off, but it vibrated anyway and that was enough to get me out of bed. I grabbed the possessed phone and ran to the bathroom. I hoped those eyes were watching as I dropped it into the toilet.
I finally fell into a fitful sleep, buried underneath a mountain of covers. And all night, I dreamed of green eyes watching me.
I was late to school, and the halls were empty by the time I got there. Even in my exhaustion, I could see the paper stuck to my locker door from all the way down the hall. The note I’d crumpled up and thrown into the bottom of my locker was taped to the outside.
I ripped the note off my door and threw it on the floor. My heart thudded in my chest and my hands shook as I tried to work my combination. On the third try I managed to get it unlocked, but just as I pulled the door open, a hand reached over my head and pushed it shut.
TUESDAY - AFTER SCHOOL
I didn’t ever look for them. I didn’t have to. They were just there. Lurking and spying from the tops of lockers and doorframes and other places people don’t ever think to look. They watched with those freaking taxidermized eyes, all the same, all green, and waited for someone to catch their attention. I probably should have been thankful that I never had, if nothing else.
I didn’t know what to call them. Watchers or my personal demons. Whatever they were, I was the lucky one who knew they were there.
I saw the note before she did. It stuck out of Lyla Nue’s locker looking all innocent and normal except for the way shadows smudged along its edges like it’d been dropped in a mud puddle. She wouldn’t see it that way. She’d see a white paper note, plain and simple, and probably think she knew who’d put it there.
For a second, I thought about snatching it. Of the mass of sheep hurrying around me, not one of them would give me trouble. They all worked so hard at avoiding me that I could probably steal five or six iPhones before anyone cared to notice. A note would be easy.
But it wouldn’t matter.
And then it was too late. I saw her come around the corner with two of her chirping friends at her side and that was it. The note was in her hand.
Guilt isn’t something I do, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Lyla and that damn note all night. In all of history, we’d shared a grand total of fourteen point two words and that wasn’t the sort of thing that was supposed to lay the groundwork for irritations like guilt and caring.
I shoved my ear buds down to my eardrums, cranked How to Destroy Angels, and drowned my face inside a feather pillow.
WEDNESDAY – ENGLISH CLASS
Seeing the note on her desk encouraged the guilt I’d been unsuccessful in killing. It bubbled up inside me like I was a shaken soda and I sat in my desk and waited for her to arrive.
When she did, I thought that I’d never really looked at her before. She was pretty, but not in the plastic veneered, Paris Hilton way that most of the girls worked so hard for. Maybe because she’d always been surrounded by those girls, I’d assumed she was one and never looked twice. But Lyla was pretty in a simple, unbleached way. She wore make-up that didn’t look like finger paint and her nose was long and wide and commanded all of my attention. She probably hated it, but I thought it was striking and elegant.
She twisted in her seat and I caught her eyes. They were full of surprise and irritation and the sort of deep brown I associate with the perfect cup of coffee – with just a hint of cream to take the edge off. I expected her to turn away quickly, to rid herself of the mistake of making eye contact with the freak in the corner, but she didn’t.
I looked past her to the note, trying to decide if she knew yet that it wasn’t totally innocuous. But Mr. Lawrence took that moment to demonstrate his capacity for being a douche and she looked away.
WEDNESDAY – AFTER SCHOOL
I waited down the hall from her locker. The note stood out from everything. Not only was it crumpled and dirty, but the shadows dripped from it like long, dark loogies. Again, I wanted to go and snatch it away. It wouldn’t do an ounce of good, now that one of them had latched on to her, but I wanted to keep her from finding it. It was a useless urge. I had no reason to care about Lyla.
I turned, started walking away, but got to the end of the hall and turned back around.
She was at her locker, far enough away to just be one more body in the throng, but not so far that I couldn’t see her face as she balled the note in her hand. She knew and she was afraid.
I couldn’t get the image of Lyla’s face out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking of the way her neck tensed and her lips tightened when she unfolded the note.
All night, I dreamed of green eyes and Lyla’s fearful expression.
The wind was sharp and cold in my face on the walk to school. I lowered my eyes to the sidewalk in front of me, heard the blare of the first period bell weasel its way through the wind, and gave up on trying not to think of Lyla.
My entire life had been one long game of Keep Away between me and the locker-top shadows. I’d worked hard at learning their hiding places and then staying very far away from them. And I’d worked just as hard at never noticing what they were up to, which suddenly seemed like a very dumb practice. I couldn’t stand willful ignorance in others, but somehow I’d made a freaking epic allowance for myself.
By the time I got to school, I was loaded with purpose and energy. Finding her alone, at her locker, in an empty hallway seemed like the only lucky break I was likely to get.
Dark shadows leaked through the vent of her locker and I knew something unpleasant lay inside it. With more confidence than I’d ever exercised in public, I pushed my hood back and reached over her shoulder to shut the locker door and keep whatever was inside, inside.
When she screamed, shadows shimmered above us. I looked up, straight into a pair of those glassy, green eyes and the washed out face of a girl. She grinned and reached down with fingers dripping in shadows to cover Lyla’s mouth.
I didn’t think. I just pulled her away, but not before shadows left pale smudges on her skin and drained the color from her lips.
The girl of shadows drifted back to the top of the locker and with a transparent grin, she sang, “I only have eyes for you.”
Behind me Lyla gasped, I felt her fingers tighten on my arm and felt a shiver move between us. I turned to find her clutching her throat with her free hand, her eyes filling with tears. But when she opened her mouth to speak, no sound emerged.
The shadow girl laughed lightly with Lyla’s voice and again sang her chorus.
“Come on,” I said to Lyla. I wanted to get as far from here as possible and fast. I reached out and she put her hand in mine.
THURSDAY LATE MORNING - LYLA
Josh threw a rock over the edge of the cliff. It didn’t make a sound as it landed in the trees below us.
I tugged his sleeve so he’d look at me. “Hey.” My voice was this horrible raspy whisper. I hoped he could read lips. “What is this place?” It wasn’t what I should’ve been asking, but it was better than why is your hair so white?
“It’s the only place I know where they don’t come.” He pulled his hood over his head and drew his knees to his chest.
“They?” My skin prickled.
“Yeah. I know its nuts. But I see them everywhere, these shadows. Above the lockers, doorframes. One of them… It took your voice.” Another rock.
A shadow took my voice? Was he serious? No wonder Josh never talked to anyone. He was nuts.
“One of them chose you, and now—”
I shook my head. “Just, stop. Okay. I thought maybe you knew”—No real words came out and I sighed, not having a voice was really annoying— “Just never mind. I gotta go.” I stood, wrapped my arms around myself and turned away from him.
“No, Josh! Just leave me alone.” Storming off didn’t have the same effect when you could barely make a sound and it just pissed me off more.
It had to be him. The way he looked at me in English. Sneaking up behind me and slamming my locker shut, making me scream so hard I lost my voice. Josh was a freak, like everyone said. Maybe he’d see now that I wasn’t into this and he’d leave me alone.
I walked home not wanting to go back to school after I’d run off with the class introvert. My parents were both gone for the night and the house was quiet. I went straight to my bed and crawled under the covers.
I dreamed of those crazy green eyes and that pale, pale hair.
THURSDAY EVENING - JOSH
My guilt came back ten fold. All that day I kept hearing her scream over and over in my head. The fearful expression on her face when the Shadow Girl took her voice.
And the way her hand had felt in mine.
Some part of me had thought maybe Lyla was different and maybe I could trust her, but I was wrong. She was no different than any of the others, ignorant and shallow, but still she was in trouble. I knew I was the only person who could help her. If nothing else it would let me sleep at night.
I rounded the corner on her street and a big white house came in to view, the name Nue on the mailbox. The driveway was empty but I knew Lyla would be there. I just hoped I wasn’t too late.
I stepped onto the first slate stone that lead up to the front door when I heard her voice. Lyla’s voice. My back went rigid as cold, shadowy fingers brushed my ankles and swept up the walk. I ran to the door, pounding my fist against it as the shadows slipped underneath.
THURSDAY EVENING - LYLA
A buzzing sound pulled me out from my sleep. The doorbell, I thought, but when I crawled out of bed I realized it was coming from the bathroom. I peeked in the room. It couldn’t be, but it was. My cell buzzed from inside the toilet. Please be Drake. Even a pissed off Drake I would welcome. I looked down at the screen, wavy under water, but unmistakable.
Text from unknown 8:40 PM: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
I slid down against the wall, wrapping my arms around my knees. This wasn’t happening. The phone rang from inside the bowl. I wanted to just ignore it; I knew it had to be Josh. But I couldn’t just let it go. I mean, it shouldn’t be ringing. I snatched the phone out of the water and pressed the talk button.
“I only have eyes for you,” the caller said. The voice was familiar. It was mine.
A silent scream tore at my throat and tears poured down my cheeks. I smashed the phone into the tile floor over and over until it was in a million pieces scattered all around me.
It was totally nuts, but maybe creepy Josh was telling the truth. Something had stolen my voice and what if my voice wasn’t all it wanted? Now I sounded as crazy as he did.
Cold crept up my legs, like I’d stepped into a tub of ice water. I tried to brush my hands down my knees to take the chill away but it wouldn’t stop. It kept climbing. Stop, I thought. Stop! I grabbed the sink and pulled myself up. I caught a flash of green in the mirror.
The face looking back at me was like mine, the same nose and arched eyebrows, except her eyes were green and her pastel hair dripped with wet, inky shadows. The girl in the mirror smiled and I knew what she’d say before she said it.
“I only have eyes for you.”
THURSDAY EVENING - JOSH
I banged on the front door until the neighbor’s porch light came on. Probably just making myself more conspicuous, I pulled my hood over my head and crept around to the back. I was breaking all kinds of personal records today.
The back door was locked, but a window was open. It wouldn’t do me any good to call for Lyla, she couldn’t answer. I should’ve just gone home. I had no real reason to care about her. There was no reason why I couldn’t shake off the warm feeling of her hand in mine.
I climbed up to the window and fell inside. I listened for footsteps, anything, but the house was dead quiet. I made my way down a dark hallway to a door with light underneath. It was her bedroom, it had to be, but she wasn’t there. Her bed was covered with shadows. A trail of them led to another door, a bathroom I guessed.
“Lyla?” I braced myself for anything, pulled off my hood and pushed the door open.
A girl with Lyla’s face, I couldn’t mistake her elegant nose, stood starring at me. Her eyes were the same glassy taxidermy green as the locker-top girl’s. And her hair, as colorless as mine, dripped with shadows. She was Lyla, but she wasn’t. I reached for her hand, needing to feel it in mine to know if she was real.
She took my hand, lacing her fingers through mine just like Lyla had. She smiled at me, and in Lyla’s voice she said, “I only have eyes for you.”
Photo by Jaice_Arts at deviantart.com