Hunt (Freya Snow #1)

By L.C. Mawson

Young adult, Paranormal

Paperback, eBook

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296
7 mins

 

Freya awoke to the familiar sound of her sister screaming.

“Alice!” Freya called as she threw her duvet off herself, clambering up the side of the bunk bed. No one could ever accuse Freya of being graceful or dexterous, but she made it to the top bunk, regardless.

Freya pulled Alice’s duvet from her, the chill of the northern night air enough to wake her sister without touching her.

Alice bolted upright, gasping.

Freya waited. There was no point in saying anything until Alice galvanised herself; it would cause her to spend brain power she didn’t have on pushing through her auditory processing issues.

Touching her would only distress her further.

So that just left waiting.

“Sorry,” Alice eventually said, as she always did, brushing her cropped, jet-black hair from her deep brown eyes. The hair and eyes were the majority of what she’d received from her Japanese mother, with the rest of her features Northern European.

Alice wasn’t technically Freya’s sister by blood, but she was the closest thing to family Freya had ever had.

“What was the nightmare this time?” Freya asked her.

“You died.”

Freya no longer flinched at that. Alice saw her dying in her nightmares almost every night.

“What happened?” Freya asked.

“A man stabbed you.”

“What, like a mugging?”

Alice shook her head. “He stabbed you with a sword. And he had long teeth and bright red eyes.”

“Well, that seems like one of your more outlandish nightmares.”

Alice nodded, recovered enough to smile. “I suppose it was. I’m sorry again for waking you. Especially on today of all days.”

Freya smirked at that. “I don’t know, getting fostered kind of loses its ‘special day’ status once you get past the tenth time.”

Alice gave the barest quirk of her lip, but Freya knew that it was her equivalent of a sympathetic smile.

The mental health system for kids might suck, but even the most oblivious, jaded examiner couldn’t deny Alice’s autism. Or her PTSD. Kids didn’t often end up in foster care for happy reasons…

Freya was a different matter. She was quiet, bright, and didn’t cause trouble for those looking after her. That was enough for everyone to overlook her trouble making friends, her obsessive nature, and her feeling faint in crowded spaces as just ‘quirks’. It was only because of Alice that Freya recognised a lot of her behaviour as stemming from autistic traits.

Not that anyone believed her. Janet, the woman who ran the foster home, just scolded her for daring to compare herself to someone as troubled as Alice when she last brought it up.

“Are you going back to sleep?” Alice asked.

Freya sighed, shaking her head. “I don’t think I’d manage it.” Freya didn’t have nightmares - she didn’t dream at all - but she had trouble getting to sleep sometimes. “I think I’ll just have a shower and get ready.”


Freya showered quickly, using her £10 flip-phone as a music player. Counting the songs helped to stop her from losing track of time.

Once she finished, she gave the pile of clothes on top of the closed loo seat a resigned glare. The dress that Irum, her social worker, had picked out for her was one that had been handed down one too many times. It was a pale pink colour, with faded white lace around the edges that made Freya itch to no end. All the pale colour did was further wash-out her already paper-white skin, the lack of contrast exaggerated by her long, jet-black hair.

She pulled the dress on regardless, not wanting to start a fight with anyone that morning. The fabric strained around her chest, and she suspected that it would be longer on most girls, but it only just covered her ass. She wore black leggings beneath to cover herself, but they looked more than a little ridiculous under the pink and white.

Freya examined herself in the mirror with a groan. A decent amount of chub covered her tall, bulky frame, and the dress did her no favours. And then there was the fact that she looked exhausted, almost sickly. Her wild green eyes looked dull and lifeless, rimmed with dark shadows. Her wide, full features were pale, with a grey tinge. She looked like a walking corpse, she thought.

Her brush caught in her thick hair, and she promptly gave up on any attempt to get it to look nice, instead scraping it up into a ponytail.

Freya glared at her pathetic bag of make-up, most of it recovered from magazine freebies. She usually never bothered with make-up, but she knew she had no choice today.

Freya smeared on the foundation, cringing at how orange and patchy it looked, but she quickly gave up on trying to smooth it out, switching to applying her eyeliner. She leant into the mirror, doing her best to stop her hand from shaking, though it was next to impossible. The black line she was drawing ended up as more of a wonky mess than anything else.

But just as she was halfway through her second eye, she caught the sight of two glowing red eyes behind her.

She jumped, her hand drawing a line across her nose as she spun around to confront the eyes.

But there was nothing there.

She took a deep breath, trying to get her heart-rate back down. It was clear what happened. Her nerves had gotten the better of her and her mind had run away with Alice’s nightmare. That was all.

But she couldn’t calm herself, the eyes refusing to leave her mind, as if insisting on their existence.

She wiped away the worst of her wonky eyeliner before smothering the rest in brown eyeshadow to cover up the mess. She put on some lip gloss before deciding to give up, wanting to be out of the bathroom as soon as possible.

“How do I look?” Freya asked as she re-entered her and Alice’s room.

Alice looked over from her computer, where she was now sitting. “Nice.”

“Do you mean that or are you lying to spare my feelings?”

“Do you have anything else you can wear?”

“No.”

“Then you look nice.” Alice got up at that, walking over to Freya with a tangle teezer in hand before indicating to her hair.

Freya nodded, allowing Alice to untangle her awkward ponytail.

“I’m going to miss you,” Freya said after a few moments of silence.

“The city’s not that far,” Alice reasoned.

“Yeah, but we’ll be in different schools.”

Alice shrugged. “It’s not as if we ever interacted much at school, anyway. The main school and the sixth form are too segregated. Not to mention how little I’m actually there.”

“Yeah, I know, I just…”

“You’re scared to start at a new school on your own. You need a fresh start, away from the bullies of your old school, but you’re scared that it won’t be any different.”

“Yeah,” Freya said. “That’s pretty much it.”

Alice nodded as she finished untangling Freya’s hair, separating it out into three strands so she could plait it.

“Freya, I’m sure it won’t be so bad. There will be plenty of new people at your new school. Statistically, at least one of them will want to be your friend.”

“And… What if I don’t want to make friends?”

Alice sighed, finishing up with Freya’s hair before moving back around to face her.

“Freya…” she said, her tone sympathetic. Alice knew that it hadn’t been strangers that bullied Freya. It had been girls who pretended to be her friend. “If you don’t want to make friends, then don’t. Just make sure you have a good book to hand.”

Freya smiled at that. She was going to miss Alice.

“Hug?” Alice asked.

Freya nodded, letting her sister awkwardly wrap her arms around her. Alice’s hugs were kind of a mess, but Freya never felt uncomfortable with them like she did when other people hugged her.

“Well,” Freya said once Alice pulled away, “I guess I’d better go downstairs, then.”

“I’ll message you later,” Alice told her.

Freya nodded, picking up her handbag and sticking her phone in before heading out the door.


Freya hurried down the stairs, ignoring all the other kids milling around the corridors. They wouldn’t want to talk to her anyway.

She hurried into the kitchen, thankfully finding it empty, and made herself a glass of water, using it to take her pill. She hated that they were kept out in the open in the kitchen, but she wasn’t allowed to keep any medication in her room. Not even the pill, despite the fact that the days of the week written along the outside of the packet made it painfully obvious what they were. She’d taken it since she was eleven for cramps, and it had been horrifically embarrassing to have everyone assume that she was on it for birth control.

It probably hadn’t been helped by the fact that she bloomed early, and she was always tall for her age.

“How are you feeling?”

Freya jumped at her social worker, Irum’s, voice, having not noticed her enter the kitchen.

“I’m fine,” Freya lied, downing the end of her water.

Irum frowned a little, telling her she didn’t believe the lie, but Freya didn’t care. She was more than used to playing ‘fine’ and she knew how to commit to the role.

“Are you nervous to see Margaret and Ryan again?”

“I guess,” Freya admitted, knowing that brushing it aside completely would only draw more attention.

Margaret and Ryan were a perfectly average, middle-class couple, who had perfectly average office jobs, and a perfectly average office romance. Ryan had said little when Freya first met them, but he seemed nice and average. Margaret, on the other hand, had talked enough for both of them, telling Freya about how she and Ryan hadn’t planned on getting married, since she objected to the sexist overtones. However, they decided to go through with it once they realised that they couldn’t have children of their own, hoping that it would make the adoption process easier. But they decided to foster first.

Freya figured that made her a test-run, which she was fine with. It wasn’t as if she’d stay with them for that long. She never did.

Irum looked as if she wanted to say something else, so Freya pointedly stared at the little TV on the wall. The TV was mute, but the headline was clear. Two teenagers had died in the city, burned alive. Except they had been in a back alley, and nothing else had caught fire around them.

“Weird,” Freya said aloud, making sure that Irum knew that her attention was on the TV. “Isn’t that near where Margaret and Ryan live?”

“It’s not that close,” Irum corrected, but she adjusted her hijab as she spoke, which was a clear tell that she was lying. “The city isn’t as bad as the news makes it seem. It simply has a few bad elements, as any city that large has.”

Freya nodded, happy that she successfully changed the subject.

Before Freya had the chance to speculate on how they had been burned to a crisp without the surrounding area being affected, Ms Pearson walked into the room. Freya swallowed a groan at that. Ms Pearson was a short, plump, older social worker, who dressed like she was a lot taller than she was. She had come in specially to help Freya find a new foster home away from her current school. There was no way she wouldn’t ask Freya how she felt.

“Freya,” she greeted. “How are you this morning?”

Like clockwork, Freya thought to herself as she faked a smile.

“I’m fine.”

Ms Pearson didn’t give her a concerned frown like Irum had, she merely raised an eyebrow.

“Are you ready to see your new home?”

Freya nodded. “Thank you for helping to find it for me,” she said, doing her best to steer the conversation away from herself.

Ms Pearson smiled at that. “It was no problem, Freya. I think the city will be good for you. There will be a better mix of people.”

“Yeah,” Freya said, though her eyes returned to the TV. She figured that Ms Pearson was right about the city having a mix of new people; the real question was if they were people she wanted anything to do with.

“We’d better get going,” Irum said, drawing Freya’s attention back to her. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah. I’m ready.”



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