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Summary: Violet is new in town. After losing her mother to cancer a year ago, she and her father are trying to start over in the peculiar town of Blackrose. Her biggest worries should be fitting in or making sure her dad doesn't go off the deep-end, but when Violet stumbles upon the secret that makes Blackrose tick, it might just be the death of her.

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The cathedral loomed ahead of her like a beacon. Violet knew she had to go in. Something was waiting for her in there. It felt like death. But no, that was behind her. She had to go on, go forward. She felt herself move, but she hadn’t told her body to. She didn’t even need to push open the door. It opened for her, like it’d been expecting her.

Firelight glowed inside the cathedral. Hundreds of candles were lit up, lining the pews and strewn about the altar. Her own shadow was thrown across the floor.

“Violet….”

Something whispered. There was nothing human about the voice. How did it know her name?

“I’m here.” She said, though she didn’t know why. Her voice shook.

“Come closer.” The voice demanded.

Her feet were moving, past the pews, up to the altar.

“Look at me.” He… No... IT said.

She hadn’t known why, but her eyes were staring at the ground, watching her own shadow move ahead of her. She didn’t want to look, knew somehow it would be the end of it all. But she had no choice. Her eyes rose.

Bright yellow eyes glowed into hers. Its face was horrible, mangled and scarred, two sharp fangs poking out of its parted lips.

“Tell me, Violet, are you ready to die?” he asked her. And all at one, she realized this was Death. Quick as a shadow, he was behind her, brushing her hair aside. Death dug its fangs into her neck, so sharp and sudden her scream was lost in her throat.

She woke up alone.

At first, she didn’t know where she was. The room looked entirely unfamiliar to her. Then she saw the boxes, hastily labeled and still sealed, and remembered. She was home. At least that’s what they were calling it these days. Nothing about the cold, dusty room felt like home. She rose out of bed, shivering, and closed the window she’d left open last night. Something the landlord had mentioned when showing them the room, how hot and stuffy it got up here at night. Now it was freezing cold in the early Fall morning. Outside of her window, she could see orange leaves shivering in the wind, lit up only by the street lamp. It was too early for the sun to be out.

Her stomach was in knots. She told herself it was because of what today was. The one year anniversary of her mother’s death just also happened to fall on her first day at Blackrose Prep, her new school.

She went down the stairs, each one creaking as she went. The house was old, but everything was old in this town. Blackrose was something of a living relic, and no one seemed eager to touch it. Nearly all of the houses were from the late 1800s and they felt like it. Old, eerie. Probably haunted, she figured, if she believed in that. But she didn’t find herself believing in much these days.

In the kitchen, a note had been hastily scrawled and posted on the fridge with a magnet.

Went into the office early. Good luck at school today, kiddo. Love you. 

Xoxo, Your Dad. 

She took the note and crumpled it up in her fist. Something about it made her angry. Maybe it was the dream she had last night. She couldn’t remember it, but she knew it’d been a nightmare from how she felt waking up. All she had were nightmares anymore.

“Welcome class!” a woman wearing all black announced to the room. It was Violet’s first class of the day. She didn’t know how she’d made it there on time, or at all. Her dad had went over the route with her once, but Violet took a wrong turn and ended up walking past some old chapel. It made her think of her dream for some reason.

“I hope everyone had a wonderful summer vacation.” The teacher went on. Her teeth were white, very white, Violet noted. The classroom itself was old, just like everywhere in Blackrose. The walls were brick and she didn’t think there was any heat in here because it felt colder inside than out.

“For those of you who don’t  know, I am Mrs. Kennsington.” The woman said, and wrote her name out on the board. Violet wrote the name down on her notepad, just for something to do. She could feel her mind wandering already. Some girls next to her were giggling and passing glances over to Violet. It made her miss her friends back home, her old home. She had known them since she was little. When they first moved here, they’d called and texted everyday. Now it’d been awhile since she heard from any of them. She guessed they’d forgotten about her, or maybe they preferred to think she died too. Sometimes that was easier.

“And since I’m sure all of you have noticed by now, we have a new student in class with us today.” Mrs. Kennsington said.

Violet looked up, wondering who the new kid was, until she realized that everyone in the class was staring at her. Oh yeah, she was the new kid.

“Violet,” Mrs. Kennsington said, “Why don’t you come up here and introduce yourself?” she said, her eyes shining down at her.

“O-ok.” Violet said, who hadn’t talked to a single new person since moving here. She’d been pretty holed up in the house. Hiding, she realized. Well, it was time to come out, she guessed. Now or never.

She slid out of her seat and crossed over to the front, trying to ignore the hard stares she was receiving from everyone. Had they never seen a new girl before? She guessed it was always like this for new students, she’d just never had the privilege of being one before. She didn’t like it so far. But she guessed it was better than the constant pity-stares and the questions about her mother. No one here knew her, she told herself, so she could be whoever she wanted to be. The problem was, she didn’t want to be anyone at all anymore.

“Hi…” She said, and waved for some reason. No one so much as smiled at her. “I’m Violet…” That didn’t seem to be enough. The teacher was still staring at her expectantly. “I just moved here.” She said.

Still, they all just stared at her.

“Why?” a boy in the back asked. Something about the way he said it made Violet feel like he wasn’t very happy about her being here.

“Well…” she trailed off. She couldn’t tell the truth, that it got too painful for her dad to live in the same town without the woman he’d built a life with by his side. To look his friends in the eye everyday, who could only talk about how much they missed her, how she was the light in his eyes, and now that light had been snuffed out and taken. No, she definitely couldn’t say that. “My dad got a job here.” She finished abruptly.

“And you, Violet?” Mrs. Kennsington asked. “What do you like to do?”

The question surprised her. She hadn’t done much in the last few months, other than cried and watched television on her computer and tried to forget about her mother. But she couldn’t say any of that. She had to remember what she used to like to do, before her life was completely ruined.

“I like to read.” She said. “And draw pictures. And make up stories.”

Mrs. Kennsington pursed her lips. She didn’t like that answer, it seemed. What would it take to please these people?

“One should be careful about making stories up, Violet.” She said. “Sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction, don’t you think?”

Violet didn’t know what to think about that. “Um, right.”

“You can take your seat now.”

Violet exhaled. It took everything in her not to run back to her seat.

“Oh and Violet?” Mrs. Kennsington said as Violet took her seat. “Welcome to Blackrose.” She said, and smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes.

The whole thing was very strange. Maybe Violet had forgotten to wake up this morning and she was still sound asleep in her bed, dreaming.

She wished she could have said the rest of the class was less strange, but it wasn’t. Mrs. Kennsington had everyone write about what they did over their summer vacation and by the end of the class, they were supposed to read it aloud. Violet didn’t know what she was supposed to write. She hadn’t done anything over her summer vacation that she felt like reading aloud to a group of strangers.

As if she knew this, Mrs. Kennsington passed by her while she was writing and said, “Try not to embellish too much, Violet.”

Violet forced a smile and wished she could disappear into the floor.

But Mrs. Kennginston must have lost track of time, because the bell rang before anyone had read their essay aloud.

“Oh, it’s that time already!” Mrs. Kennsington said. “Guess we’ll have to do this tomorrow.” She said. Violet exhaled and stood up, grabbing her bag, extremely eager to leave. She was worried that Mrs. Kennsignton was going to say something else weird and cryptic to her on her way out of class, but to her surprise, she was already gone by the time she got up to the front.

Violet stepped out of the hall to see a wave of black and blue school uniforms all heading out through a backdoor she hadn’t noticed before.

“What the hell?” She whispered under her breath. Maybe it was a dream come true and school was ending early today.

It wasn’t until she uncrumpled the school schedule that had been mailed to her over the summer that she figured it out. She hadn’t bothered to look at it before, except to find out what room number her first class was in. Beneath the first class where homeroom was written, it read- Block 2 - Sophomore Chapel.

She followed the wave through the door, keeping her distance from it in case it felt like swallowing her whole. All around her, her fellow Sophomores talked and laughed with their friends they’d probably known since grade school. Violet couldn’t remember the last time she felt so alone.

It turned out the door led to the backside of the school. Here the grass was muggy but there were stony steps etched out on the hill. They walked and walked, until finally, the chapel came into view. It was the same one Violet had accidentally come across earlier. They began descending the hill.

It was starting to make sense, in a way that made no sense at all. What kind of public school had a chapel? Violet hadn’t been to very many schools at all, but it seemed clear they did things very differently in Blackrose.

“It’s weird to you, isn’t it?”

Violet turned to see a boy with jet black hair staring at her.

“Um, what?” Violet said, feeling for some reason like she should play dumb.

“Come on,” he laughed, “You’re the new girl.” He said, and it wasn’t a question. “I bet they didn’t have a chapel in your last school.”

He must have been reading her mind.

“No, they didn’t.” She admitted.

“Blackrose is an old town.” He shrugged, as if that explained it.

Violet nodded, trying to find some words. She hadn’t spoken to another human being in so long, and she already felt so out of her element. “It’s very traditional, here, isn’t it?” she said at last.

He smirked and something about it made her feel like he was mocking her somehow. “Something like that.” He said.

They walked in silence for a few more paces. Students began filing into the chapel ahead of them.

“I’m Grant, by the way.” He said.

“Violet.”

“Oh, everyone knows that.” He said easily, like it was just a fact. She didn’t know if he was flirting with her or trying to be friendly, but if he was just trying to creep her out, it was working.

“Ladies first.” He said when it was her turn to walk in. So maybe he was flirting with her?

“Thanks.” She said, and she heard a hint of her own annoyance in her voice. She brushed past him. She thought she heard him laughing behind her, but didn’t care. She was sick of feeling like she wasn’t in on the joke. It wasn’t even funny.

But the chapel made her stop in her tracks. It was like stepping into a warm, red bath. It was probably from the stained glass windows that lined the walls. They weren’t of Jesus or Mary or anything you’d expect, just a single black rose against a blood red background.

“Please, everyone take your seats.” A slender man in a pastor’s outfit said from the podium. He had bright yellow hair that curled around his ears. Even in the pool of red light surrounding him, his eyes looked green as emeralds.

There were a few gasps from a row of girls that were taking their seats.

“I can’t believe he’s here!” a blonde girl exclaimed.

“I wonder why…” The brunette girl beside her said, who didn't seem quite as excited as the other girl.

“Didn’t you hear?” the blonde said.

“Oh, right, the new blood.” the other said with a hint of annoyance, and Violet didn’t think she imagined her eyes flicking over to her.

Violet slid quickly into the pew beside her.

“You’re a hot topic.”

She gasped. She’d managed to sit right next to Grant. How had he gotten ahead of her?

“Apparently.” She said hotly.

“Don’t worry about them. They’re just jealous.” He said.

“Of what?”

“You’re the pretty new thing around here, of course.” He said with a smile.

She rolled her eyes. Was that supposed to make her swoon?

“Right.” She said.

He chuckled darkly. “You’re not gonna be like the others, are you?” he said under his breath.

She glanced sideways at him. “Others?”

“Shh, it’s starting.”

“Good morning, everyone. For those of you who don’t know, I am Alexander,” the pastor was saying. He looked incredibly young. For being a pastor, he didn’t look any older than 30.

"We love you, Alex!" someone called out from the audience.

Alexander laughed. "I love you too." he said. What was this guy, a celebrity or something?

"I know it's been awhile, but I'm glad to be back.” Alexander went on. “Today, I’d like talk a little bit about the history of Blackrose. Who can tell me when Blackrose was founded?”

A flurry of hands shot up. Alexander called on a girl sitting near Violet.

"1801." the girl announced proudly.

"Good job, Sarah." he said.

"He knows my name!" Sarah whispered excitedly to no one in particular.

She saw Grant roll his eyes. At least she wasn't the only one who found this nauseating.

"1801." Alexander confirmed. "By a group known as the Blackrose Clan. My ancestors, in fact, if the history books are right." he said. "They came in search of an eden, a paradise, where their crops and their children would flourish. They wanted this town to be something special, and that’s why we adhere to such strict guidelines here at Blackrose Prep. Who can tell me what one of those guidelines are?” he asked the group.

"No going into the chapel without permission." One of the students piped up.

"That's right. These buildings are old and you don't want to go into them without supervision." Alexander said.

“Who want to go into the chapel by themselves anyway?” Violet wondered aloud.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Alexander asked. Violet’s heart stopped. He was looking right over at her. Had he really heard her? “Ah yes, I was told we had a new student! Why don’t you stand up and introduce yourself?”

Violet didn’t move. A hundred pairs of eyes were all boring into her.

“Come on, don’t be shy.” Alexander said.

“Ok, then.” She sighed and stood up. Grant was looking sadly at her, like he actually pitied her.

“H-hi…” she swallowed down the lump in her throat. “I’m Violet-”

“I’m sorry. We can’t hear you. Why don’t you come up here, next to me?” Alexander said. She didn’t move. That sounded like the last thing she wanted to do. “Come on, I don’t bite.”

A few kids snickered. It didn’t seem like she had a choice.

“Alright.” She sighed. It wasn’t like today could get any worse than it already was. Might as well put the last nail her coffin.

It was nearly impossible to get her feet to move past the rows and rows of students, all of them staring at her. A few of them whispered her name as she passed.

“Here you are.” Alexander said, and grabbed Violet’s hand to help her up to the platform. “Go ahead. The acoustics are better over here.” He said with a wink.

She couldn’t fight her grimace. “Great…” she said, and noticed it was true. She looked everywhere but at the sea of students all staring up at her. “Well, I’m V-Violet. I just moved here, uh, with my dad…” she swallowed, searching for something else to say, “H-he got a job here… working a lot of hours doing something I know nothing about, so don't ask." She choked out.

Something about it must have come off funny, because a few kids laughed. Her heart lightened slightly.

"Welcome, Violet." Alexander beamed. “That must be hard with your dad. It sounds very… Lonely.”

It was like something yanked at her heart strings. She was lonely, she realized, terribly lonely. All alone here, standing in the middle of so many hungry eyes, her dad hadn’t even been there this morning to wake her up and her mother - no, don’t think about that.

“Very lonely.” Alexander repeated softly.

She wasn’t just lonely. The only person in the world who ever cared about her was gone, gone forever. She was alone, all alone, and nothing could change that.

Everyone was staring at her. She felt under her eyes. She hadn’t even realized it, but she’d started to cry.

Alexander took her hand.

“It’s ok Violet. We all feel alone sometimes.” Something about the way he was staring at her made her feel like she’d just shown him something that wasn’t his to see. She yanked her hand away. Her whole body was cold and numb, but she hardly felt it. She just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, cry for her mother, cry for this miserable day and this horrible town.

“Why don’t we give a big hand for Violet?” Alexander said, eyeing her wearily. “Let’s all give her a friendly welcome to Blackrose, what do you say?” he said, and began clapping.

Everyone stood up and clapped for her. She stumbled off the platform in a daze. Students whistled for her as she passed by. It’s like everyone liked her suddenly. It barely registered. She felt drained, like something had just been siphoned out of her. She fell back into her seat beside Grant.

“You ok?” he asked.

She nodded, afraid that if she tried to talk she’d just cry some more.

Next they all took out little prayer books that were under the pews and sang songs that Violet had never heard before. Her family had never been very religious. The last one was something between a nursery rhyme and a hymn, involving a Shepard bringing a lamb into the garden of eden. It all seemed normal enough, but then again, she was so exhausted she didn’t think she would notice if a real lamb had gone running through the chapel.

She felt her eyes closing several times and kept having to force them open. How much longer was this going to be?

Her eyes closed again.

A lamb was going into the woods. The Shepard was ushering it in, nudging him onward. No, not ushering. Chasing.

Something nudged her in the arm.

"Hey, you're falling asleep." Grant whispered.

She looked up. Alexander’s piercing green eyes were looking right at her. She tried to sit up straight.

“They won’t like that.” He said.

“They?” she asked.

“I mean, him.” Grant said.

“Finally.” Grant muttered when Alexander announced it was the end of the service, taking the words out of Violet’s mouth. “That was just about as fun as pulling teeth, don’t you think?”

Violet stifled a yawn and slid out of the pew. She couldn’t disagree.

“So, what class do you have next?” Grant asked.

She didn’t even know. She uncrumpled her school schedule.

“Counseling?” she read off the paper. “What’s that?”

“Oh, looks like you’re staying here.” He said.

Her stomach dropped. She wanted out of this chapel. It gave her a knot in the pit of her stomach.

“Here, I’ll take you. It’s kinda weird back here.” He said.

He wasn’t wrong. Grant took her down a windy, weaving corridor. They stopped when they got to a door with a lion head door knocker.

“Well? Go ahead. Knock.”

Violet took a deep breath and knocked on the door, not knowing what was waiting for her on the other end and too afraid to ask.

The door swung open. Violet’s heart sank.

“Oh, hello again Violet.” Alexander said. He was wearing reading glasses and had changed out of the preacher clothes. “I’ll take it from here Grant, thanks.” He said.

Grant nodded, but seemed hesitant to leave. “You sure you don’t want some company? I could use some counseling too, you know.”

Alexander laughed, but it seemed forced to Violet. “I’m sure you do. But you have English Lit next I believe, and your grade is fairly atrocious if I remember correctly. Run along now and let me and Violet have a little chat.”

Grant shrugged. “Whatever you say.” He said, and nodded to Violet. “See you later.”

“See ya.” She said, wishing he would stay. She didn’t want to be left alone here with Alexander.

“Come on in, Violet.” He said, moving aside for her. She did and he shut the door behind her.

The office was dark red with no windows. A single crucifix hung on the wall. Alexander took a seat behind a mahogany desk and motioned at the chair across from him.

“Please, take a seat. Sorry about the atmosphere, I know it’s a bit stuffy. My regular office is being renovated, so I’m stuck back here for now.”

“That’s ok…” Violet said, sitting down.

“I’m sorry, we haven’t been formally introduced. I am Alexander Blackrose, the headmaster, priest and counselor here.” He said with a chuckle. “We’ve been short staffed, so I’ve been forced to take on many roles I’m afraid.” He said.

“So, how’s your first day going so far?” he asked when she didn’t say anything. “What do you think of the school?”

She looked around the office. So far, so bizarre, she wanted to say.

“It’s different than my last school.” She said. “Very different.”

“In Blackrose we do things… The old fashioned way.” He said with a shrug. “Maybe it’s not what you’re used to, but you’ll adjust soon enough.” He said. For the first time, she noticed a manilla folder on his desk. He slid it open.

“Now, Violet, it says here you transferred here from Maine. Good scores, all year long, except for your last semester there… May I ask what happened?”

She looked away. Flashbacks of doctor’s offices went through her head, needles and IV’s, her mother’s hair thinning.

“I just… Lost interest, I guess.”

He bit his lip and nodded. “Your dad did tell us about your mother, Violet.”

She frowned. “Oh.”

“It was part of the reason you were accepted here.” He explained. “Blackrose Prep is extremely selective, after all.”

She didn’t understand. “You- You selected me because…”

“Well, because you need extra help and support of course. And that’s what we’re here for.” He said, and reached across the table and touched her hand. “We want to be here for you.”

Her whole body went cold. She slid her hand away.

“I don’t need anyone there for me.” She said before she could stop herself. “T-Thanks.” She added half-heartedly.

He frowned.

“Well, I’m not sure that’s true, but that’s ok. You’ll warm up to us.” He said. “Soon, you’ll learn we’re all a big family here. We all need to be able to be open and honest… Completely transparent.” He trailed off. She didn’t know if she was just imagining his eyes lingering on her neck. She shifted uncomfortably. It seemed to break the spell and his eyes focused again.

“Is that clear?” he said at last.

“Uh- Sure.” She said with a shrug.

“Good.” He said. “Now, uh, the reason we’re here is because we need to choose your extracurricular. As you didn’t attend any of the orientations or meetings we arranged before the semester began, you might be a little hard pressed for choices, but that’s ok.”

She frowned. “Sorry about that…” she said. “My dad, uh, he has this new job and I didn’t know-“

He waved her away.

“Please. Don’t apologize, Violet. You’re the student here! It’s our responsibility to take care of you, not the other way around.”

She smiled a little. “It is?” she said uncertainty. She felt like she’d had to be the parent lately, taking care of her dad in his grief.

He laughed. “Ah, children these days. Growing up so fast. It’s not right.” He shook his head. “Yes, we’re going to take care of you here, Violet. Yes, very good care indeed.” He said, smiling and closing the manilla folder.

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