Excerpt from "Unknown" by Lauren Grimley:
Torie slammed her locker shut and took a steadying breath. Only one more double period until she'd be free. Then she could find some solitude in a back booth of one of her usual haunts until dusk, at which time she'd head home. Like most of her middle school classmates, her life was ruled by the clock. Difference was the parents of her peers chose curfews coinciding with dinner times, or work schedules, or an arbitrary hour when they deemed it was no longer safe or proper for a young teen to be wandering the city streets. Torie's curfew wasn't based on some vague notion. Her parents' demand she be home by dark was based on knowledge, a deep understanding of the dangers the night posed. Because her parents were part of that danger. And in a few short years, if she couldn't find an escape, Torie would be too.
Until then she'd have to tolerate pretending to be intimidated by the thugs who thought they ruled the world, because they had somehow won the popularity lottery that was eighth grade. She headed down the hall to her last period English class, not in any rush to beat the late bell. The fresh-out-of-college guy who had taught the class all fall had been Torie's favorite teacher. She shared his passion for books, not to mention she thought his slight stutter and nervous smile were adorable. Of course the rest of her class saw both these as signs of weakness. They made it their mission to break him. Last week they won; he left in the middle of the period and hadn't returned. Neither had any of the substitute teachers the school had hired to replace him. As Torie turned the corner and headed for the door, she almost felt sorry for whatever unknowing fool they had found to fill in this time.
Alex rubbed her temples to ease her headache. Why hadn't she let the others convince her returning to her old job was a bad idea? With all the ridiculous reasons her housemates had given to try to keep her home, no one had thought of the one legitimate reason that may have made her think twice? Being in a school with over five hundred emotional teenagers was about as pleasant for someone like Alex as kicking a wasps' nest. Because in the seven months since Alex last stepped foot in her old classroom, a lot more than her schedule and relationship status had changed.
The night before school ended the previous June, Alex had been savagely attacked. Upon waking she made two discoveries that had turned her world upside down. First, the small coastal city of Bristol, Massachusetts, where she had been born, raised, and resided, was home to two warring covens of vampires, and both sides wanted her–a five-foot, twenty-six year old teacher who until that night had been more worried about her pending rent than any lurking monsters. The reason she was suddenly being hunted by the Vengatti coven and coveted by the Rectinatti coven, who had rescued her, was discovery number two: Alex was a Seer, one of a mysterious and gifted line of humans who had traditionally served vampires in exchange for protection. Her powers had been on the verge of maturing, a process that could have killed her. Alex had been uncertain she would survive the summer. But she had. The events that transpired in those two months, and the months since, made her certain she belonged with the Rectinatti, a coven who risked themselves to protect the humans who didn't even know vampires existed. It hadn't taken long for Alex to realize she'd never return to her old job, her old life. She knew she could do more good serving as the Rectinatti Seer, than teaching English at her old middle school.
And she still knew it. Although she had welcomed the opportunity to play at being normal again, she knew it would never be more than an act, a temporary reprieve from her far from mundane life. This was just a favor for a friend, her old boss and one-time boyfriend. And he owed her big. Bigger than he knew. Alex hadn't exactly updated her résumé to include her recent achievements. It would have been giving a bit too much away to describe her new position as emotion detector and manipulator, though that was exactly what her gift allowed her to do. Thankfully, Alex sensed human emotions less intensely than vampires'. Otherwise she wouldn't have made it through first period. Completely blocking this many hormone-enhanced emotions was impossible. The best she had managed was to dull her sense of the students enough to focus on her teaching.
And as she prepared for the start of last period, she felt she had done a decent enough job. It was good to know she hadn't lost her touch in the classroom. The students, who had somehow managed to scare off the teacher hired to replace her, had seemed pretty mild to this point. Perhaps, though, this had a little to do with Alex's new perspective: anyone not trying to rip her throat out with two-inch fangs seemed pretty tame these days.