Twenty minutes later, Emma was hot and sweaty and very glad for the light rain that could cool her down without getting her too wet. A slight breeze blew and chilled her even more.
Her jaw dropped instantly as she saw who was sashaying towards her.
The cigarette held between long, slender fingers with perfect manicured nails appeared to be impervious to the rain, as was Cameron’s curled hair and her makeup. She placed the cigarette between her cherry-red lips and puffed. Emma wondered if there was ever a moment when Cameron was without her cigarette.
“Emma,” she greeted cordially. The boys had stopped fighting for the ball and were either watching the exchange interestedly or just watching the beautiful Cameron. It was probably the latter, as they were too far away to hear anything.
“Cameron,” Emma stammered as the seventeen-year-old approached her.
“Our little talk yesterday made me think… about my education. There was always a spot reserved in this school for me, but I didn’t take it. I had my acting, you know?”
Emma nodded, remembering the chat they had had yesterday.
“And I always hated the acting business. I thought I was forced to become an actress, though, because I hadn’t had any education in primary school thanks to unfortunate circumstances,” Cameron explained.
Emma wanted to ask what those unfortunate circumstances were, but she didn’t want to pry too much.
“But yesterday I decided to complete my education. If acting isn’t what I want to do, why do it? It’s my life, right?”
Emma nodded again. “I get what you mean.”
“So I’m not going to be an actor anymore. Well, I might do some plays occasionally, but apart from that I won’t.”
“What are you going to do? When you grow up, I mean,” Emma clarified.
Cameron laughed her pretty laugh. “Honey, I’m as grown up as I’m ever going to get.”
Emma looked at the cigarette in Cameron’s fingers and nodded for the third time.
“To answer your question, I really want to study music. Classical music. I’ve always had a thing for that music, but I didn’t really explore it. So I want to either be a composer or a teacher or something… It doesn’t really matter what, as long as its related to music,” Cameron disclosed. “I just came over to say thank you for saving me from a boring life of acting.”
Emma was taken aback. “Er, you’re welcome.”
As Cameron waved goodbye and turned to leave, breathing in her cigarette smoke, Emma called her back.
“What do you smoke?” she blurted, and then immediately regretted such an offensive question. Cameron, however, looked amused.
She regarded the cigarette in her hands.
“I smoke the Death Attraction of deceased people,” Cameron revealed. “It’s the purest kind of drug in existence, but also the worst. It brings me closer to death than any other drug could.”
“You should stop!” Emma said, horrified.
Cameron chuckled. “That’d be the day. You know, not many people have had the bad luck of finding the high that Death Attraction gives you, but those who have always become addicted and nobody can stop them. Death Attraction is bittersweet,” she sighed.
Emma looked at the ticking time bomb of Death in Cameron’s hand warily.
“Oh, watch this,” Cameron commanded suddenly.
She opened her mouth and out poured a beautiful song. Her voice was fierce and delicate at the same time, which made it sound wonderful. The enchanting melody made everyone stare.
“City in my dreams,
Ancient city, mystic land
Lost and left behind by time
Dreams that speak to me
Songs for eternity
Take me to the golden ancient city,” Cameron sang effortlessly.
Every male on the field had stopped in the middle of their games to listen to Cameron. The girls were shooting furious glares at Cameron, who ignored them easily. There was silence in the air, filled only with Cameron’s captivating voice.
The males were now approaching Cameron slowly, wanting to get closer to her. They formed a circle around her but Cameron beckoned them even closer. They complied at once, dazed smiles illuminating their dreamy faces. It was as if Cameron was hypnotising them… Maybe that was exactly what she was doing!
“Sirens are the femme fatales of the Glace plane. They use their enchanting music and sex appeal to lure men towards them, often resulting in the men getting tangled in dangerous situations or forever obeying the commands of the Siren in the hope of getting gratitude from her.”
Cameron was a Siren. Emma wondered if the hypnotic powers of a Siren’s music would work if the music was only instrumental. Cameron had said that she wanted to do something related to music…
“Cameron,” Emma muttered, wanting to save the poor males from whatever fate Cameron had in store for them.
Cameron stopped singing and all the boys looked around at each other, obviously confused and baffled by what had just happened. Cameron turned to Emma, grinning.
“It was just a bit of fun,” she smirked before strutting away confidently.
Emma shook her head. “That Cameron…”
Rein, Josh, James and Callum were looking at each other as though all of them had gone loony.
“I think she’s dangerous,” James observed quietly, watching Cameron’s retreating form.
“Dangerously hot!” Lester shouted excitedly. He was the only one who seemed unperturbed by the spellbinding power Cameron’s voice had on them.
“One day, that girl’s going to get us into trouble,” Josh muttered, shaking his head.
“It’s weird how we all lost our minds when she sang,” Rein perceived.
“It’s weird how we all lost our minds when we saw her,” Callum snickered.
Emma huffed. The bell rang, signifying the end of lunch, and Emma pushed them forward slightly.
“Come on, guys. Time to regain your sanity.”
Emma was cheered up by their ball game. Triple Maths passed by quickly, which came before second lunch. This time, Emma and the guys didn’t play soccer because second lunch was much too short. Instead, they sat in the cafeteria. Emma was slightly nervous eating with them – she was fine playing soccer but had a problem when they were sitting still, chatting and munching on burgers.
She knew that they only let her sit with them because they pitied how much of a loner she was, but at least she actually sat with them, no matter what the reason was. She saw Opal staring at her curiously with her peripheral vision, but when she turned around Opal was facing Julia again as they bit into carrots.
Lester was shooting Emma annoyed glances. Emma stuck her tongue out and Lester did the same. They wiggled their tongues rudely. Emma shook her head as Lester started imitating a gorilla. Lester began to nod his head as Emma shook hers because agreeing with her was an absolutely preposterous idea! They looked like they were having a bobble head contest, one shaking their head while the other nodded.
“What… are you doing?” Josh asked flatly, watching the exchange going between Lester and Emma.
Emma shrugged and stopped bobbling her head.
“That’s better,” Josh commented approvingly. “Let us continue with our conversation like intelligent humans.”
“Some are more intelligent than others,” Lester said offhandedly.
Emma nodded in agreement, but stopped herself when she realised how much nodding she’d done today. “Yes, some definitely are more intelligent than others. Take me, for example; I’m much more intelligent than you.”
“Oh, I disagree wholeheartedly, Slime.”
“So we’re onto the Smart Talk now, are we? Well, believe it or not, I can participate in such vocal activities with a higher degree of awesomeness than you.”
“Awesomeness? Such a trivial concept. Thanks to the fact that it is indefinable, it is also immeasurable, and one cannot say that one has a higher degree of awesomeness than another,” Lester babbled, smirking. He lay back in his chair. “I believe I win.”
“On what grounds do you win? And what do you win, for that matter?” Emma countered.
“I win because I defeated you in our witty banter,” Lester said.
“Just stop talking,” Josh commanded. Emma and Lester took to sticking out their tongues at each other again while Josh and Callum continued their discussion about whether ninjas or spies were better and Rein and James played a card game.
Carmen suddenly intruded and sat down next to Rein. James dropped his cards and displayed his four aces, Lester and Emma pulled their tongues back into their mouths and Josh and Callum stopped arguing at once.
“Rein, baby,” Carmen said with a sickeningly sweet voice – one that Emma hoped Carmen didn’t use often. “How are you?”
Emma could tell that Rein was trying hard to mask the disdain that was threatening to show itself on his face.
“I’m doing well, Carmen,” Rein replied, his head slightly inching away from Carmen. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, you see, I’ve been worried that you might have gotten a little depressed from when I visited you that one night… I accept now that it is all my fault, and I’d be more than willing to take you back,” Carmen said with a hopeful smile that made her once adult-like face appear quite childish.
“Willing to take me back?” Rein repeated heatedly. Carmen obviously didn’t get why Rein was annoyed at that comment and frowned with confusion.
“Honestly, Carmen, I wish you would just leave me be. Go find another man’s life to wreck,” Rein spat.
Carmen pouted and clutched Rein’s arm. He glared at her and shook her off.
“Rein, honey, are you in a bad mood? Did James beat you at cards? Did Josh give you a wedgie again? Did you get an F minus on your test? Is Slime angering you just by being so close to you?”
Rein growled. “Don’t call her that. You know nothing about her. You know nothing about who wins at cards. You know nothing of how well I do at tests. And, come on, Josh gave me that wedgie when we were five!” Rein said angrily. “The only thing you do know properly about me is where I live and what my full name is. Just go away and leave me alone; I don’t want to see you again.”
Carmen’s pout quickly turned into a murderous glare. “I see how it is. Slime has been influencing you. You were never like this when it was just you and the other guys, but with the newest addition to your group, you suddenly hate me. Such a strange coincidence, don’t you think?” Carmen said dangerously, her voice dripping with deadly poison. “It’s all Slime’s fault, isn’t it?” Carmen screamed, her voice rising in both pitch and volume. She shrieked wildly and made a sudden grab for Emma, who leapt out of her seat in surprise.
Every face turned to them, including Cameron and the teacher beside her who had been trying to persuade the stubborn girl to get rid of her cigarette. No one spoke as Carmen, panting and fuming like an untamed beast, gave Emma a stare that meant murder.
Then all hell broke loose and Carmen roared like a bloody lion. She ran for Emma, who screamed with fright and ran away. Everyone else had been stunned silent and no one made a move to save Emma from the raging Carmen. Emma leapt over seats and dodged people who had frozen mid-step. Carmen’s legs were like motors, running endlessly and with such speed that it slightly scared Emma, although she was already scared of Carmen herself.
She grabbed lunch trays from tables and threw them Carmen’s way, dreading to think what would happen if Carmen caught up with her. Carmen just growled and jumped over the trays, her anger increased.
Emma flung herself at the heavy door to let herself out of the main school building, Carmen still right on her tail.
“Well, I’ve always wished to see Carmen’s true colours,” Emma mumbled to herself as she sprinted across the field, whose grass was sprinkled with rain. The pendant in Emma’s shirt suddenly became warmer and began pulsing. An ugly sound could be heard from behind her and she turned her head around.
Emma had always guessed that Carmen was a creature from another plane, but she hadn’t thought the creature would be a vampire!
Emma screamed once again as Carmen did a somersault in mid-air, transforming into a bat with a swirl of blackness enveloping her. The next moment, Carmen was flying along determinedly after Emma, baring her fangs and narrowing her red eyes to show she was thirsty for blood.
So the Siren and the vampire were sisters… Interesting.
“Why aren’t you dying?” Emma shouted with frustration. Weren’t vampires meant to shrivel up and die in sunlight? Sure, the sky was grey with clouds, but Emma knew that UV rays penetrated clouds easily. Maybe vampires needed direct sunlight.
Carmen was gaining on her.
The clouds parted and Carmen looked up. Before the exposure to sunlight became fatal, she changed back into a human form and fell messily onto the wet ground in a heap.
Emma kept sprinting until she was a safe distance from Carmen and then she watched as the girl lifted her head dazedly. Grass had decided to attach itself to Carmen’s raven hair and her uniform.
Carmen shot a dirty look towards Emma but was too weak to restart the chase. The students were now pouring out onto the field. Some tended to an injured Carmen while a select few jogged towards Emma, who relished their company. Those select few consisted of Josh, Rein, James, Lester and Callum.
“What the hell happened to Carmen?” Josh asked crazily, psyched up by the events of this lunch.
“What caused her to go mental or what caused her to get injured?” Emma asked for clarification.
“Well, you know that she immediately thought that I was the reason Rein never wants to see her again, but I must admit that her reaction was uncalled for,” Emma said, nodding.
“Uncalled for?” Callum scoffed. “She went freaking psycho!”
“And she was injured because… she fell,” Emma said. Well, she wasn’t lying! Carmen really had fallen.
The bell rang but everyone ignored it. Emma and the boys cautiously approached Carmen, who seemed to love the attention and was malingering for the sake of getting more pity from everyone.
The teachers shooed everyone away and forced them to go their next lessons.
After Music, Josh offered Emma a ride home and Emma became joyous with the success of her mission. He probably wouldn’t have offered her a ride if they didn’t live together and if Emma had actually brought money for the bus home, but still…
The clouds had cleared away and sunshine was pouring over the town. Josh turned up the music so that they wouldn’t have to endure in-car talks, which were always awkward, no matter who you had the talk with.
He pulled up in the house’s driveway and they got out together.
“Hi Mum, hi Dad!” Emma called out and received two replies muffled by walls. Her and Josh climbed the stairs and slumped onto their beds.
“It’s the weekend,” Emma said with a grin, staring up at the ceiling.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Josh quipped.
“You’re welcome, Lieutenant Sarcasm,” Emma countered, taking out her pendant. There were sounds of Josh opening his bag.
“What are you doing?” Emma asked, not bothering to look.
“Doing homework. You know, that mandatory thing that comes with attending school?”
“Oh, that,” Emma said offhandedly. “Yeah, I don’t do that anymore.”
“Really? Becoming rebellious, are we?” Josh asked. Emma was slightly saddened because she was reminded of Opal.
“Hm, I guess. I mean, my homework is always wrong, so why do it?”
Josh laughed at her comment.
“And, really, the worst teachers can to do me is suspend me, but I don’t enjoy school anyway! So suspension is more like a godsend rather than a punishment,” Emma said, earning another laugh from Josh.
“Yep, you’re definitely a rebel. Such a bad girl, not doing your homework,” Josh berated.
Emma exclaimed dismissively, rolling over so that her face was buried in her pillow. She rolled the pendant over in her hands. It was still warm, but its pulsing had died down.
“Well, I’ve always wished to see Carmen’s true colours.”
Nothing could surprise Emma after everything that had happened lately. She wouldn’t even be surprised if the pendant she was holding in her hands was magical and granted wishes.
“I wish I had some chocolate,” Emma sighed casually, holding the pendant tight in her hand.
“Then go get some,” Josh said. But Emma smiled.
Beside her was a single block of chocolate.
“Salvation came when my family passed on a secret. It was one that explained how one could conquer Death. So I used it, and I never saw him again.”
Emma made sure not to approach the man; otherwise, she would wake up from her dream. The white dress swirled around her feet in the fluttering wind and the blur disguising the man’s face also seemed to be susceptible to the breeze. A bird circled overhead, its wings brushing the cerulean sky.
“The secret gnaws away at me from the inside, though, and I feel terribly dark and sinful. I wish I could tell someone what the secret. If I did, a great weight would be lifted off of my shoulders,” he whispered. “I would be able to breathe once again.”
“You can tell me,” Emma said. Her voice sounded strange in her dream world.
For a moment, Emma knew that the man was considering it, but then his shoulders slumped and he shook his head.
“I won’t risk it, should you begin to think badly of me,” he sighed gloomily.
“How can I when I don’t even know who you are?” Emma chuckled and the golden barley stalks rustled in agreement.
“Don’t you know?” he asked in surprise.
“No.” Emma could tell that the wind was laughing at her foolishness. “I cannot see your true face. Would you happen to know why?”
“I apologise, but I’m as baffled as you. Would it aid you if I told you my name?”
The sun shined brighter in curiosity and the wind stopped blowing so that it could listen.
“My name is–”
“Josh!” Emma yelled angrily, pushing her pest of a roommate off her bed. “You woke me up! I was just about to find out who he was!”
“What, your erotic dream lover?” Josh joked with a snicker.
Emma hit him on the back of his head with her pillow.
“No, the guy whose identity I’ve been trying to figure out for two dreams,” Emma said. “He was just about to tell me his name.”
“And it’s important to figure who he is, why?”
Emma glared at him. “Curiosity,” she stated.
Emma grumbled with her unsatisfied curiosity still bubbling away inside of her, yearning to learn the identity of the mysterious Death-defying man. If she learned who he was – if she could stay sleeping through a whole dream – her mission would be halfway complete.
The pendant around her neck was pulsing like mad, so much so that if Emma kept really still she could see it moving up and down upon her chest. Maybe the pendant gave her those strange dreams.
Josh got up to go to the toilet. Emma took this as her chance to make her next wish.
“I wish I knew how many wishes I got,” she said to the pendant.
It glowed for a moment. When it stopped, a number was visible inside of the pendant.
“Argh!” Emma exclaimed with disappointment. She’d already made those three wishes! One for showing Carmen’s true form, one for a block of chocolate and one to know how many wishes she had.
So the pendant’s power had been wasted. Well, there were still those dreams that it gave her…
Josh came back and Emma rolled over in her bed so that she faced the wall while Josh began to change his clothes.
“Why are you getting ready so early?” Emma questioned. “You’re defeating the purpose of weekends.”
“The purpose of weekends is to have fun, so I’m going to have fun with the guys,” Josh informed her, now collecting some money. Emma turned around again, tangling the sheets.
“Take me with you,” she pleaded at once.
“Why?” Josh asked with a touch of amusement to his tone.
“I thought the purpose of weekends is to sleep, but you said it’s to have fun. If that’s so, I’m definitely not going to have fun home alone! And then the purpose of weekends will be defeated,” Emma explained.
“Are you tough enough to stand where we’re going?”
“Depends on where you’re going.”
“It’s a place where girls aren’t welcomed. At least, girls like you,” Josh said.
“Girls like me?” Emma repeated hotly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know… girls who dress without the need to overexpose themselves, girls who don’t fawn over guys, girls who would choose a free book over free makeup, girls who don’t think smoking is cool…” Josh listed.
“Okay, you can stop,” Emma halted as she laughed. Josh was complimenting her! The world had gone wonky. “Tell me, what is this place?”
Josh hesitated a bit, thinking. “It’s a slightly dodgy place. You wouldn’t enjoy it.”
“I don’t care. I’d prefer to go to a dodgy place than stay home alone,” Emma declared.
“Can’t you just go to Op – oh…” Josh stopped himself, remembering the hostility between Emma and Opal.
“Just tell me where you’re going!” Emma pestered.
“The Green Mug. Behind it.”
Emma frowned. She’d heard many stories on the news about kids getting arrested behind a pub called The Green Mug. According to one article, that was the place kids went to escape the clutches of their parents and do anything with no thought of rules. The owners of The Green Mug were hardcore party people themselves.
“It’s a dangerous place, isn’t it?” Emma asked worriedly.
“Yes,” Josh replied easily.
“And you go there every weekend?”
“Aren’t you worried about getting caught by the police or… or drinking too much?” Emma prodded, remembering a certain newspaper article featuring the death of a regular Green Mug party attendee thanks to alcohol overdose.
Josh laughed. “No. I don’t drink, and neither do the guys. We can have fun without killing our brain cells.”
Emma had a sinking feeling in her stomach. She really, really didn’t want to go behind The Green Mug. But if it meant more potential time to bond with the gang… she was obligated to go!
“Still want to come?” Josh asked with a smirk. It slid off his face when Emma nodded as eagerly as she could.
“What if something happens to you?” he queried with paranoia.
Emma chuckled. “Just because I’m different to the girls accepted behind The Green Mug, it doesn’t mean that I’m weak.”
Josh shrugged. “If you say so. Get dressed.”
“What should I wear?”
Josh sighed exasperatedly. “I’m not a girl! How should I know?”
“Well, what do the girls there usually wear?” Emma pressed.
“Er, short shorts, miniskirts, tank tops, singlets – oh, sometimes bikinis. And some of them don’t even wear anything,” Josh said thoughtfully.
Emma cringed and shooed Josh away from the room. She dressed into black skinny jeans, Converse and a simple yellow shirt.
“Ready?” Josh asked when Emma went out of her room.
“Yep,” Emma confirmed. When Josh’s back was turned as he descended the stairs, she took a few deep, calming breaths to compose herself and try to decrease the nervousness threatening to consume her.
She knew that she was heading into straight into the heart of danger.