Nothing, absolutely nothing had gone right for Tricia Kane that entire hot San Fransisco day.
She was woken by the familiar agony, stabbing in an out of her hair like a hat pin. It wasn't as if she hadn't expected the discomfort today, her bargain-basement ear played up at the most inappropriate times - her first day in high school, her first act with the school drama team, her first date with Court Grayson, and now today - Prom dinner.
Her skin was as smooth as a baby's bottom, her gown - perfect and elegant, was hidden from the prying and destructive hands of her younger siblings, grandma's tiara was locked safely in her closet and of course her lucky bracelet was already in its usual place. Her wrist.
Everything was almost perfect but for the throbbing in her ear. Determined to have as much fun as the day as to offer, she swallowed four aspirins for the pain and stuck a lump of wool in her ear, something no young girl should have on on proms day.
Carter, her elder brother who was back home on his college break, took her to get a prescription from Dr. Flint and on their way back home she lost her lucky bracelet.
It was like someone painted Tricia's world grey and black.
Pop, her mum's dad had given the bracelet to Tricia on her fifteenth birthday. It was supposed to bring lots of luck, and Tricia believed it did that's why she never took it off. Two years after, and on a day she had totally looked forward to with glee, the bracelet decided to go missing - or lost.
Her parents were out of town, and since Carter wasn't any help, Tricia carefully packed her dress and accessories inside a plastic bag and made for Nina Tanner, her best friends house. She made a quick call to her boyfriend and notified him of her location, so that he wouldn't have to go through the trouble of checking her at home first when he came to pick her up.
By 8.30pm, dressed in a gown of forest green that matched her eyes, and heels with the same tone, Tricia stood in front of the mirror - the way she had when Nina's mum helped set her hair and apply her make up, when Nina's boyfriend, Russel came to cart Nina off to the party, and when every one of Nina's sibling got tired of just waiting and went to find other things of amusement.
She had been standing there for two and half hours. And Court was yet to show up.
She wanted Court to see her in her dress when it was still unruffled, so sitting down or worse still - lying down, wasn't an option. But then standing ram rod stiff in her 5 inch shoes was no fun either and by the time Nina's mum finally announced Court's arrival at 9.25pm she was as irritated as a wounded dog. The novelty had worn off, her feet were sore, her ears ached like crazy and she was spitting mad. She forgot - or rather ignored the rails of the staircase when she stomped instead of glided - like she and Nina had practised, down the staircase to meet her breathtakingly handsome boyfriend.
Everything looked good on him, he could make a two dollar suit rescued from a flea market look like an Armani. But of course she didn't say that to him, since he didn't even bother to acknowledge her own looks. The only word he uttered was 'Ready?' And at her stiff nod he led the way out of Nina's house to his red convertible.
No boggling at her in awe, no sweet words, no flowers... Just 'ready?' and they were both speeding through the familiar streets to the school hall. The drive down to school was long and the air around was crackling with bottled up temper. If one of them had uttered a word during the ride, there would have been an explosion in that car. But none of them said anything, which meant they'd said everything.
It was time for their twenty seventh break up.
That was just how their relationship worked. After a while they'd both make up again, the same silent way they had broken up. But tonight Tricia considered never making up with Court again. He was all mood swings. Today he's so happy you can pull out twinkling stars from his eyes and tomorrow he is so moody you'd feel there could never be a bright spot in your life again.
When they got to school, the party was far gone. Prom king and Queen had been chosen, and it happened that Lizzy Mcguire, a very annoying blond and Tricia's boyfriend were the one with the honours. And as tradition required, the King and Queen were going to be the one to open the dance floor.
So Tricia had to watch, anger boiling up her internal organs, as Lizzy batted her abominable long lashes at Court and flirted with him shamelessly, as they had the first dance. Court didn't seem to mind Lizzy flirtatious gesture. He actually seemed to like it and flirted right back. Pressing Lizzy's body which was clad in some chewing gum pink dress which clung to her curves like a second skin to his body. When Tricia, fuming with jealousy and hurt, couldn't withstand the sexual vibes that emitted from both dancers nor the gay and careless laughter that filled the air, she quietly snucked out of school and made for the woods. No one would miss her.
She dragged off her tiara, removed her shoes and padded quietly inside. The woods, illuminated faintly by the thin slice of moon filtering through the large canopied leave of trees matched her mood perfectly, so she wove her way through fallen trees, twigs and large branches, deep into the forest and as far away from the sounds of party as possible. Sounds of crickets and coyotes no one seemed to have ever set eyes on her only company. That was better than spending the whole night with sour faced Court.
She got to a clearing in the bush that had been she and Court's private space for months, and with barely a shrug at the sound of woods ripping her dress apart, she lowered herself on the rotten leaves that matted the floor. Then she heard a low squeak. And then the sound of something heavy falling on the hard ground.
She straightened and looked up, but didn't hear anything again, then she shrugged again. Probably some dead branch of tree falling off. But then she reminded herself that the woods at this time of the night wasn't a safe place to be alone so she made to rise and head back to school, torn clothes or not, when she heard a sound again.
This time, it was like blade cutting through soil. Like... Digging.
She rose to her feet, and her curiosity getting the best of her urged her to go towards the direction of the sound. Dried leaves crunched under the sole of her foot as she moved and she feared whatever or whoever was making the digging sound heard her footsteps because the sound stopped for a fraction of a minute, during which the hairs at the back of her neck stood in alarm. But it resumed after a few seconds and she continued moving until she saw the faint silhouette of someone with a kind of miners hat on. He was bent over the earth, and she was right - he was digging furiously.
Tricia paused. There was a quick mental battle between her reasonable and curious self. The reasonable self screamed 'turn around, go back to school!', the curious self urged her to go on. Nine out of ten times her curious self usually won.
It did again today.
So she kept moving, ducking behind trees and keeping her gaze fixed on the man - no woman could dig like that. The she yelped in pain when she stepped on a splinter of wood. The figure turned his head to Tricia's direction, momentarily blinding her with the sharp rays from his hat. She closed her eyes at the burning sensation and shot them open when she heard clattering of footsteps in the opposite direction.
The hat had been discarded and thrown on the pile of soil dug from the ground, and the person putting it on a few seconds ago was fleeing into the heart of the wood.
Tricia made to follow, but then she saw something the bright lights of the hat fell on. She didn't move for many chilly minutes. The faint sounds of footsteps running away might have as well been the sound of her heart beating frantically. So little sense did it make to her now.
But of course, nothing made sense in this spot with the scent of freshly dug earth lingering in the air. Nothing, not the even the sound of the fabric of her dress ripping as she struggled not to fall.
She had stumbled upon a murder was the only thought racing through her head.
She couldn't breathe, she took a few more steps forward. Stopped and kept moving again until she couldn,t go any closer. She had gone close enough, and had seen what would be the basis of her nightmares for days, months and maybe years to come.
Tricia recognised Mrs. Jules Scarletti, the algebra teacher's naked dead body because of the pink mole that marred her left cheek. Otherwise, the woman looked like some sort of doll that was placed for offering at a ritual site.
Every strand of the woman's thick black hair had been scraped of her head, her eyes which were pearly white remained open with the help of thick duct tapes pinning her eyelids to her fore head and her neck - Tricia shuddered, her neck was slit horizontally and tricia guessed the lady's pipe must have been cut clean too, because if not for the thick green threads that were used to sow the skin of Mrs. Scarletti's neck back together, it looked it would topple to one side if left alone. Blood, blackening now, lay in a gentle pool just under the woman's neck on the cold ground.
Unable to control her shivering body and trembling lips, Tricia took a couple more steps backwards. Her skin had gone cold and clammy, her heart was pounding so hard in her chest it actually hurt. And then for the first time in years, Tricia didn't battle with her reasonable self.
She turned on her heels and tore her way out of the woods.