This one's a bit friendlier than my other ones, in the way it's supposed to be directed to clever adolescents. I'm working on it having Edward Gorey/Addams Family humor. This is only the first half--the second half will get significantly spookier. This is just a cute little bit of an introduction, I guess.
Also it doesn't have a proper title, yet, so we're just going by who the main characters are, for now.
It was another waning autumn afternoon for the residents at Pleasant Valley's All Girl Orphanage.
They all sat waiting for their final lesson of the day to end, some staring harder at the clock than others. The class' earlier assignment: draw, in as best detail as they could, something that truly brought them happiness, at the end of the day. A person, a place, an object--the one thing that really made them jubilant inside.
Molly drew a music note, next to a violin.
Amber drew a brown horse--one she'll own some day.
Anna drew a cutesy angel, dimpled cheeks and a complacent smile beneath a winking halo.
And finally, little Mayra Milk in the very back raised hers, beaming proudly: A vicious werewolf with blood dripping from its fangs and with its claws reaching out toward the viewer, snarling.
The rest of the class stared back in silence at her, some with disapproving scowls on their faces.
Mayra felt it was one of her greatest artistic achievements, yet.
Mayra Milk was NOT like any of the other girls in the orphanage.
Pale pallid skin was topped with a black bob of a haircut on such a scrawny little thing, with large, dark eyes peering out at you. She seemed almost too comfortable in the school's rigid knee-length skirt, white button-up blouse, black blazer uniform, even at such an early age. She was just on the cusp of adolescence, age 12.5; she had arrived at age 6. Her favorite story was Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe and her favorite pastime was figuring out ghoulish pranks to pull on her peers. She found frogs, lizards, and small garter snakes in the beds really did the trick. Spiders were for special occasions, like holidays. Or birthdays.
For nearly the past three years, she had made it the habit to sneak out every Friday night, in the earliest hours of the morning, to visit the supposedly haunted cemetery some two blocks down the road. She crafted a dummy to take her place during these missions, having learned a technique after reading an article on the 1962 escape from Alcatraz. Some nights, she would stay out for hours watching the moon grow brighter and brighter, until the shades of the sky began to turn light.
Most of, if not all, the other girls kept their distance from her; even some of the teachers kept her at an arm's length. She didn't mind, too much. She liked playing around in her own mind, though she did often wish for someone else to play with.
Soon enough, a visitor would arrive, and Mayra wouldn't have to face her wondrous adventures alone, anymore.
Ivy Martin was one of the prettiest girls to walk the planet.
She was kind and sweet and shy, with lush green eyes to match her name beneath straight, sandy blonde hair. 11--almost 12, as she'd make sure to point out. She was sad, though. Both her parents died after their car was caught on train tracks at just the wrong moment, a couple months prior. Her time since then had been filled with paperwork and bureaucrats, and arguments between unstable distant relatives and staunch courtroom officials. At the end of the day, she would sullenly crawl back into whatever bed the state had issued her then, thinking of her parents, but also trying to create fantastical distractions to send her off to something closer of a peaceful slumber.
One crisp autumn afternoon, she was assigned to the Pleasant Valley's All Girl Orphanage.
She watched the trees passing over the car as they drove to it, and the vibrant colors of their dying leaves blurring together.
Ivy always liked autumn.
'Welcome to Pleasant Valley, Ivy. I'm your headmistress, Ms. Primrose.'
Ivy smiled sweetly and shook her hand. Ms. Primrose smiled at her warmly; she wasn't older than 35, with dark, lush hair pulled back from her face into a bun, and grey piercing eyes. She wore a crisp white blouse over a black pencil skirt. Ivy thought she was very clean and pretty.
They'd all just finished wrapping up a very adult meeting in Ms. Primrose's office, not more than half an hour or so long, and the two state officials had already stalked off back to the car, leaving Ivy to the care of the orphanage. She didn't mind; she never really liked them, anyway.
'You'll be staying in the western section of our building, with the rest of the 12 to 18-year-olds. Our school is divided into two main sections: our eastern block is for infants to young adolescents, just beneath your age, and the western block is for the older girls. Seeing as how you're practically 12, we decided to place you a few months ahead in the western block. They've mostly grown into teenagers, though there is one girl about your age I think you may get on with...'
Ms. Primrose smiled to herself, quietly.
'She may take a bit of working up to, though, before you get too close.'
Ivy noticed how gracefully she walked through the hallways, and the air of respect around her. She took long strides that caused Ivy to have to walk at a bit more of a brisk pace than she'd been used to. She almost accidentally bumped into a couple of girls along the way. They were all staring at her. Fresh meat.
'And...here we are!'
Ms. Primrose pushed open the white door number 138 to a spaced out flat of a room, 6 beds adjacent to each other creating the bulk of the room, and large windows throughout; one skylight filtering dusty sunlight into the center of it. Some of the girls had pictures on their individualized message boards, along with sentimental knick-knacks tacked to it here and there. A good amount of pink was abound. It stopped near the back, next to the corner window, where Mayra Milk's message board was empty except for one item: an old faded out photograph of a cloaked figure with an animal's skull--possibly a canine--for a face, in front of a marble crucifix.
Mayra Milk sat upright in her bed, her back resting against the headboard, reading a comic book. She was the only other person in the room
'Mayra Milk, meet our newest addition, Ivy Martin. Ivy, Mayra.'
She stopped to look up from her comic, and studied Ivy for a moment. Cautiously, she reached out a hand. Ivy also stared back at Mayra, uncertain about this girl before her, and reached out an equally-as-timid hand. They gave the other a quick shake. Ms. Primrose smiled again.
'Well. I think I should leave you two to chat. If there's any trouble, please feel free to come find me, Ivy. There are two open beds, one next to Mayra and the other down here, near the door; you're free to decide which you'd like. Again, welcome to Pleasant Valley, and Mayra..?'
She paused, and Mayra looked up at her.
'Play nice with this one, hm?'
She gave the girls a nod, before making her exit.
The girls were silent. Ivy started sorting through her little belongings--whatever she stuffed into her suitcase and the few accessories she carried by hand (a purse her mother gave her, her camera in its carrying case, and a sweater her father got her)--on the bed next to Mayra's. She was on the other side, but still facing the curious little stick figure of a girl. Mayra surveyed her a bit more, but eventually started reading her comic again. Ivy peeked over at her, behind her suitcase.
'What are you reading?' she cautiously asked.
'Scary comics. Ghoulish Tales. This one's about voodoo rituals down in New Orleans.'
There was a beat, and then Ivy replied:
'I liked the one about urban legends.'
The girls looked at each other and smiled.
Before Ivy could ask her how that particular issue was going, and know even more about her new friend, a gaggle of girls came in through the door and interrupted her before a word could get out.
'Hi,' said the waifish blonde in the forefront. 'We heard you're new. You look really cool. I'm Ashley. Come hang out with us!'
Ivy tried to protest and wanted to convey she was speaking with Mayra, but this was ignored as the girls swarmed around her and swooped her outside. Ivy was polite and smiled, and enjoyed the newfound attention. Mayra sat back in her bed, thinking for a moment, but eventually resumed her silent reading.
Over the next few weeks, Ivy took a liking to both her coursework and being around Ashley and the other girls who first swooped her up and adorned her with attention and compliments. She was excelling in her classes, while they liked Ivy and how pretty she was, teaching her fun tricks with hair and make-up, and nail polish. She didn't mind laughing with them, though she didn't often pay too close attention to whatever it was they were talking about. She was usually off in her own imagination whenever they'd start speaking about boys or whatever clothes they thought were cutest, only chiming in with a cheerful 'Uh huh!' whenever they'd ask for her agreeance on something. If anything, they were a welcome distraction from the thoughts that had been occupying her head for those past few months.
She ended up taking the bed closer to the door, since that was the side of the room all the other girls slept on. Often, while they all played with make-up, Mayra would be sitting complacently in her bed with her headphones on and something loud playing, reading a comic or anything else in print. Ivy would look over at her sometimes to catch a glimpse of her, at just the right second, making a funny face at the other girls joking together.
She still wanted to talk to Mayra about Ghoulish Tales, though, and perhaps become friendlier with the interesting girl.
She tried to bring her up with the other girls, once, and asked about her, but she was met with rolled eyes and non-answers as a response. One girl did utter something about her being a witch, at some point. It left an impression on Ivy. She became disheartened with her new friends.
She asked if any of them had read Ghoulish Tales, and when they stared at her like she was crazy, gave up.
One day, Ivy found Mayra out in the field at the edge of the property, searching around for lizards and snakes.
Mayra was a bit wary of Ivy, having seen her take an immediate liking to Ashley and all those other girls' attention, but also knew that Ivy wasn't inherently like any of them, either. Whenever she'd take breaks from doodling monsters and ghosts in her notebook during class, she'd look over and Ivy was always paying close attention, always taking deeper interest in the curriculum than Ashley and the rest. She asked her to hold her snakes while they searched around for more, as a test. Ivy didn't mind, she enjoyed watching them coil their tiny bodies around her hands and wrists.
They smiled and laughed, and spoke of horrible things the whole time. They arranged to share whatever scary comics they get their hands on, as well as search out the most haunted buildings in the area and try to experience contacting spirits.
Both girls felt this was the beginning of something truly beautiful.
Within their first week of being friends, Mayra initiated Ivy into her life through her ritualistic sneaking out to the cemetery, every Friday evening. She shared her secret and technique for crafting a dummy, and they made a pact to visit the graveyard just after midnight. Ivy was a spectator as Mayra lay out certain stones or trinkets to appease the dead, sometimes doing quiet invocations if only to see what would happen. An odd mist would often creep through the greenery. Sometimes, an owl would hoot eerily off in the distance, and a twig would snap here and there. Ivy felt the hair on the back of her neck raise, during a couple instances. She swore she saw shadows dancing out the corner of her eye, but didn't want to focus on it.
As they walked back, Ivy asked where the deep interest in spirits, graves, monsters and spells came from.
They stopped underneath a streetlight and Mayra pulled an old photo from the satchel strapped over her shoulder.
'This is the only photo I have of me...at all. I'm still a baby, here. It's also the only picture I have of my parents.'
Ivy looked down and, in the amber light, saw two beaming middle-aged parents toting an adorable, slightly chubby black-haired baby girl, in front of a lush, green cemetery landscape. A few up-ground mausoleums and granite crosses were in the background, but something truly stood out just off to the side: A tall, black shadow looming not too far from the happy family. The way it was positioned, it almost looked surprised, or caught in the act of leering at the family--stalking them.
'That was taken at the cemetery, our cemetery. There are stories that a monster used to live there, 200 years back. 7-foot-tall, covered in fur, always growling at whoever he passed. They called him Rene. He was so repulsive to the rest of the town, that they quarantined him to the cemetery, and the crypts underground; they said he'd have to feed on the dead for nourishment. They said he murdered a little girl one night and a mob hanged him, and both his and the girl's spirits remain there. They also say you can see his figure swaying from the tree, sometimes.' She paused. 'It's just always stuck with me, I guess..'
Ivy stared back at Mayra, returning the photo. They started walking back again.
'What happened to them--your folks?' Ivy asked.
'Eaten by a pack of hyenas.'
Ivy couldn't tell if she was joking or serious, but didn't bother to ask. It didn't really seem to matter, with Mayra.
As they began walking, Ivy was anxiously toying around with the silver necklace she always wore, one with a little crescent-shaped silver pendant on it, lost in her thoughts which were going a mile-a-minute. Mayra looked over at her.
'Why do you always wear that necklace?'
Ivy paused and looked down at it, and half smiled.
'My mom gave this to me before the accident. It's the last thing she gave me before they...left.'
She looked down sullenly. Mayra paused and stared at her.
'Well, it's really pretty on you.'
Ivy looked up at Mayra and smiled, and thanked her.
They walked back in silence the rest of the way, with only occasional side glances and exchanged quiet smiles shared between them. They made it back unannounced, and unnoticed.
They would continue this tradition weekly, over the next few months, and became the closest of friends (much to the chagrin of Ashley and the others). Mayra and Ivy both felt not so alone, or lost, in their big, lonely worlds whenever they were with each other.
(The ending should be posted by Monday, at latest. Probably [hopefully] sooner.)