I had always been aware of the fact that I had a weird past life. It started when I was 4 years old. Nightmares plagued my sleeping sessions so much that I could never go to sleep till I was sandwiched between my parents, feeling comforted in the fact that I had two strong adults with me and hence if any monsters did attack us, they would be the first ones to go, giving me enough warning & time to run.
But those days, that was all they ever were- nightmares.
Giants munching on people, too many dead bodies decomposing, villages destroyed-
I stopped confinding in my parents after they stopped trusting me with the TV remote.
Later when I was 8 or 9 years, I realised just like that that these weren’t just nightmares-these were memories. Memories I was all too willing to forget.
Soon whenever a bad one resurfaced, I was more than capable of tuning it out and distracting myself.
There were a few happy memories-cherished memories- 3 children hunched over a book, running in the dusty narrow lanes, teaching each other how to dance-but they were few.
After eating a tubfull of ice cream to console myself of the fact that I had been a boy in my previous life, I kind of saw it this way- it’s all iin the past- done and over.
My current life is a new one- a new beginning- and I would not let my past life interfere with it.
There were my parents- painful flashbacks whenever I looked at them-all under my control now though and that was it.
No more people from the past near me. I was happy and fine.
Till my parents decided to move.
I wasn’t upset. Alright fine, I was a bit upset, but that was only because I had to leave my friends and the park and the street dogs and-well, etc- behind.
I don’t make friends that easy. Ok, scratch that. I make friends easily but can’t maintain the friendship for long. I tried analysing it, but it made me weepy and depressed. So I don’t think about it much.
“It’s a small town. But the people are friendly and you will love the malls and bookstore.” My mother was saying. I perked up a bit at the sound of ‘bookstores’ before my attention drifted out of the window again.
The plane wing blocked the view below. Right in front, there was a cloud shaped like a hippo with a bonnet and above that, another one shaped like a feather. A single pure white feather.
I sighed, hit the seat with my head and turned up the music volume drowning out my mother’s voice, the low murmur of the stewardess, the abrupt tightening in my chest, everything.
There was a silence before I sighed.
“Fine. I’m impressed.” I muttered sulkily, trying not to smile as my parents whooped and high-fived.
We stayed in an apartment before, but this? This was a house. A tiny quaint cottage-y house with a garden in front of it and everything...
My frown became a little more genuine as I wondered exactly how many extra chores would be dumped upon me-you know, bigger area, more maintenance.
The furniture etc had all been delivered by then. Remanining were just the occupants and their personal belongings.
I went upstair in my room (get it? My room was actually one floor up in my own house!) tugging the hand bag and 2 suitcases with me clumsily.
I looked into the mirror.
Girl. Brown hair. 1 green eye, 1 golden eye. I grinned at myself and started putting things in place. And get this- I have my own washroom. I almost sniffed with joy at the sight of it.
I love this place! Wait no- I read it a while back somewhere on the net-oh yeah! I absolutely ‘heart’ it!
I snatched up a can of juice from the bag, cracked the seal, and sipped at it leisurely admiring the view outside.
You could see the pavement, people walking by. There was a person walking up to the door. A neighbour probably. I squinted for a better lool.
Young, pretty, strawberry blonde hair-
My eyes widened, juice went up my nose.
Nose dripping, eyes watering and coughing uncontrollably, I ran stumbling a bit to the door and opened it just as the door bell rang.
I pressed myself against the wall, my hands firmly covering my mouth, grimacing as my mother opened the door.
Empty eyes staring accusingly-
“Good morning! I am Petra. I live 2 blocks away. I was- well- I was on my way to work and I though I’d welcome you to the neighbourhood!”
That is so-sweet. Wait. Focus.
“Thank you!” my mother’s tone echoed my previous thought.
Don’t tell her your last name. Please please-
“I am Carla Valverie...”
I exhaled slowly as my mother’s voice went on.
I can’t believe I forgot that. My mother didn’t believe in the wife taking the husband’s name and stuff. Sure she had to bear it when society recognised her as ‘Mrs Jaegar’ but during introductions and officially, she used her maiden name. When I was small, I would use Jaegar and Valverie arbitarily. Then later when I changed my name, I become Valverie-Jaegar.
My parents had named me Erin. Yes. Roll your eyes. I never liked it. One-it reminded me of something I wanted to forget. Two- no offence to all the Erins out there, but it sounded-thin.
So I persuaded my parents and later I became Nicola. Nicola Valverie-Jaegar. Nicola sounds better. Darkish.
“Well ours is a very closely knitted neighbourhood. You’ll know almost everyone by the end of the year. Well, I have to rush now. It was nice meeting you!”
Closely knitted? Shit. Are there going to more Petras?
This is seriously a very twisted way of fate leering at me and saying ‘well hun, your past’s catching up with you!’
I flipped Fate a middle finger in my head and chewed the insides of my cheeks.
The solution presented itself to me soon enough.
A sinister smile spread on my face and I cackled.
“What are you doing?”
My face froze in the middle of a cackle. Glancing once at my mother I tried to ignore her and recreate that moment... silence...
“Thanks a lot, mom” I said irritated, slinking into my room, leaving my bemused mother behind.
Chapter 2: Just another day
Two hours later, I was following my parents down the aisle in the grocery shop, wearing a large cap and sunglasses.
Which was apparently a very good idea.
Because at the counter- black hair, freckled face, a warm smile-
I hid behind my father while he paid refusing to think.
What was wrong with me? Look Nicola, nobody is exactly going around looking for you & even if they suddenly are, they’ll be expecting a boy. So relax.
I stiffly lifted the corners of my mouth as Marco chirped at us to ‘Please come again’.
I stared at the mirror and beamed. Mission accomplished.
I went downstairs. Both my parents stopped and stared. My father choked on his spit.
“Nicola!” my mother said disapprovingly.
“It’s just a phase!” I hurriedly explained. I had dyed my hair black and wore the black coloured contacts. And I looked really different. That pleased me.
Now for my parents. “It’ll get over in – er- really soon!”
I wondered if I could persuade my mother to do something as well. I mean come on, the woman and Eren shared the same genes. It’s obvious just by looking at her. Well, I just have to avoid any guests popping over.
“B-but you don’t look like you!” said my mother close to losing it. Yup, there’s no way I can ask her.
“Please! I really like it! Just for a while?” I whined.
“It does look good.”
My father wilted a bit under my mother’s stare while I wondered whether I should wait till she cooled down before hugging him.
“Grisha.” My mother growled the ‘gr’ in ‘Grisha’.
“Look honey, it is just a phase. Let her try out new things.”
“She’s just 12. She’s too young to –
“Alright.” My mother sighed rubbing her head. I grinned widely.
“Thank you.” I said in a dignified manner. I walked slowly and gracefully to my room where I broke into an unseen jig.
You would think that after moving and all the trauma associated with it, I’d get a little break. But no, 2 days later, I was woken at an ungodly hour and forced to go to school.
My father drove me to school on his way to work.
Maria high school. I do not have a good feeling about this.
I walked inside the white building and asking for directions along the way, I made it to my classroom.
A few people stared as I made my way to an empty chair. It didn’t bother me as the entire class was not staring which would have happened if I had not been wearing my new contacts. I rather like my new black eyes.
Teacher came in. Introductions and then english class. Now that everyone’s attention was focussed on the teacher, I peeked around-Annie Leonhardt.
I froze a moment before quickly looking down at my text.
She looked different. Softer. Her hair was till below her ears. Like a different person, but it was her.
I concentrated on ‘All the world’s a stage-blah blah blah’ for the rest of the class.
Petra, Marco, Annie.
Any tiny hope I had was flung out of the window. I knew I was going to meet more. I wonder if they remember anything.
Humans are adaptable creatures. Which is why, during break, I took a deep breath, marched over to Annie’s desk and said ‘Hi’ fiercely daring her to say anything against that.
She looked up at me nonplussed and slowly, “Hi"
“My name is Nicola Valverie. Let’s be friends.” I said almost glaring at her. Oh god. Let’s be friends? What the hell happened to my social skill?
There was a long pause. And then something weird happened.
Annie smiled. A smile with dimples and crinkly eyes and everything.
“I am Annie Leonhardt. I would love to be friends with you.”
A stiffness I hadn’t even noticed in me dissolved along with all my little worries.
It was easy to forget that this was Annie, the girl who betrayed me and killed so many of my comrades. I grinned back at her.
We ended up chatting throughout the break in the classroom. A few more classmates, her friends came to be introduced.
After school, Annie invited me to her house. After a quick call to my parents giving information like address, phone number and much assurances that I wasn’t going to roam randomly around leaving everyone or step in front of a moving vehicle, I walked with Annie to the bus stop.
Her garden had a lot of flowers blooming everywhere. I followed her and stood awkwardly as she banged on the door.
The door opened and a tuft of blonde hair stuck out.
“Will you hurry up already!” snapped Annie.
“Need to check first don’t I? Oh, who’s this?”
Annie stepped inside, pulling me along with her past the boy and taking off her shoes said,
“This is Nicola Valverie. She’s new to this place.”
The boy stuck out his hand and said,
“Lo. I’m Reiner, Annie’s brother.”
I took his hand and smiling shook it,
Yes. I’m getting better at this.
“Come on. Let’s go to my room.” Annie said. I followed her. Her room was pale red in colour and much tidier than mine.
She dropped her bag in a corner and sat on the bed, taking off her socks. Reiner followed us and sat down beside her.
“So how’re you liking this place so far?” Reiner asked. He looked older than me by like 2 or 3 years.
“It’s ok. It’s been only like 3 days.” I replied, sitting on one corner of the bed.
“And what’s your story?”
“Reiner! You aren’t supposed to ask that so directly!” Annie frowned. Reiner lifted his hands placatingly.
“I’m sure she doesn’t mind. Do you, Nicola?”
“I don’t really understand.” I said.
“You know, are you taking suppressants already and stuff?”
What the hell? This sounds weird.
“Huh?” was my intelligent reply.
“Clearly she is not.” Said Annie aiming a ‘drop-it-NOW’ look at her brother who just ignored her.
“How did you die? Were you a soldier or a noble or a civilian or what?” he said staring at me intently.
I stared back at him not daring to think.
“I still don’t get it.” I said glancing at Annie.
“Any weird flashbacks? Dreams? Deja vu?”
I kept on staring at him blankly. Even Annie looked a bit surprised.
“You don’t remember anything huh?” she muttered.
“Remember what?” I ought to be awarded a medal for how well I’m dealing with this.
Reiner grinned suddenly and leaned back against the wall.
“Fun fact. The people here all share a previous life which they may or may not remember. Only very few people can’t recall anything.”
“I don’t have a previous life. I mean I don’t believe in that stuff.” I replied casually.
“Oh, if you are here, you were there in our previous world.” Said Reiner closing his eyes. There was a weird silence.
“Stop bullying my friend!” Annie said sternly. He muttered something that turned into a series of ‘ow ow ow’s as she tugged on his ear.
We ended up ordering pizza and chatting away about random stuff. Turns out, Reiner was 1 year older than us and part of the basket ball team. He warned me and Annie about some of the teachers in my year.
Annie loved books, listening to music and sleeping. All with a passion. It was like I had found my soul mate. And she loved anime too. She had been in Maria ever since she was a baby.
After that she ended up watching a random movie on TV till my mother came to pick me up.
“So, how was your day?” she asked glancing at the red signal patiently.
“Good.” I nodded to emphasise my point. As she beamed at me, I wondered if what Reiner had said was really true. Was Maria really a place for the people existing during the Titan Era? Did my mother remember anything? I don’t remember how I died. Did she?
Did my father? I sighed and shook my head. No point on troubling myself with these things. I went to school, I made two new friends and several acquaintances, had a great day and that was it. End of story. Finito.
Chapter 3: Just another day
I was awoken the next day by the sunlight streaming in through the window overheating my bum. About five minutes were still left before my alarm was supposed to go off. Trying to ignore how annoyed that made me, I dragged myself to the washroom. When I went downstairs, Dad was already out. That was quite common. Numerous emergencies cropped up every now and then. Did I mention he’s a doctor?
Mom taught online courses in programming and stuff.
She smiled at me as I sat down at the dining table.
“Toast or cereal?”
Mom went to change while I munched away.
Another fifteen minutes and I was already at that prison.
Startled I turned around to notice Annie waving wildly at me behind Reiner making his cycle wobble dangerously.
I grinned and waved back. She jumped off as soon as Reiner pulled the brakes and ran up.
“Let’s go together to class!”
“Yeah sure, ignore me. I’m just the driver after all.” Muttered Reiner loudly coming up behind me.
“Hi Reiner!” I said pointedly.
There was a pause before “Hi Nicola.”- rather sulkily.
Before I could say anything else, Annie started dragging me away.
“Say, you want to go somewhere this weekend?” she asked.
“I’ll think about that later. Make sure you’re free.”
The morning passed by flinging doses of maths and science. The teaching wasn’t bad. I could actually understand stuff in the class. Or maybe I’ve become a good listener.
Annie was a sleeper. One of those students whose eyes were half open most of the ways, a look of perpetual boredom.
Anyway, what Reiner told me was still in the back of my mind. So each time I looked at a teacher or a classmate, I couldn’t help but wonder what they had to go through during the Titan’s Era.
It wasn’t like any one mentioned it though. To a stranger like me, everything seemed normal.
During break, I got up stretching myself and made my way over to Annie. The girl was shoving her books in her bag with a desperate relief that made me crack an amused smile.
“Let’s go to the grounds.” She announced taking out her lunch box. I shrugged and followed her. We went outside the school and sat on a bench near the basketball court which was currently occupied by short screeching kids.
A lot of our classmates were also roaming around nearby.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit noisy here?” I asked unpacking my lunch.
“Should I get rid of them?”
I chuckled and stopped upon seeing the serious look on her face.
“Er- no. Never mind. It’s not that bad.”
She nodded in acceptance and munched on an apple.
Keeping an eye on her, I cautiously bit into my sandwich.
“That’s Reiner’s boyfriend.” Annie spoke up suddenly.
I looked at where she was pointing. A very tall Bertholdt was standing behind Reiner. I could only see Reiner’s back.
Bertholdt Hoover and Reiner? Boyfriends??
I had a sudden urge to laugh.
Well, who would have thought?
“He’s tall.” I commented.
“He’s alright for that idiot I guess.” Replied Annie easily.
“He’s really tall.”
A group of people passed by. I didn’t hear what Annie was saying.
“Come on Sasha! You just ate!”
“Not properly I didn’t! Jean stole my sandwich!”
“Piss off. That was mine. And you already had 3.”
“Now now guys. Let’s not start fighting.”
I felt like I was in a dream.
People I knew, people I had worked with, fought with walked past me, barely glancing at me, too preoccupied in their argument.
And it gave me a weird happy feeling to see them so- comfortable.
Jean, Marco, Sasha, Connie and trailing behind them lost in thoughts... Armin.
My eyes lingered on him the most. He had short hair now, blue eyes behind a black rimmed glasses and he moved so confidently. So sure of himself.
“I call dibs on him.”
“Huh?” I came out of my daze with a start. Annie was staring at me.
“The blond guy. I call dibs on him”
“I know he’s a senior but he’s really cute, ok?”
I could’t control my laughter this time. Annie and Armin? Oh god, this was just too precious. Cute huh?
Annie frowned at me, a hint of a smile in her mouth.
“Nothing.” I gasped. “It’s just- funny.”
Annie stared a little longer during which I tried unsuccessfully to control my laughter and then rolled her eyes.
Yup, that made my day.
After break, the class teacher came in to make an announcement.
Something about getting our appointed seniors or something the next day.
Apparently things worked differently here. (Why am I not surprised?)
One senior was appointed to a junior or a group of juniors and was in charge of helping them with their studies and stuff. I didn’t really get it. Annie said it was a way to make everyone interact and to teach the seniors some responsibility.
“But it’s really up to you if you want to go to them or not. The teachers make you ask for help and stuff only if you are like failing classes and all.” She informed me on our way to the bus stop.
I had a bad feeling about this. Oh well, I’ll deal with stuff later if things that require dealing with come around. Sigh.
I want chocolate cake.
Annie and I parted ways at the bus stop. I waited till she got on. A little late my mom appeared and we walked home in companionable silence.
In my room, I removed my contacts and rubbing my eyes flopped down on my bed. Ah bed, I love you so much.
It didn’t take me long to doze off and have random dreams yet again. It wasn’t surprising anymore. Just something I had come to accept as part of living.
Before they always left me feeling disoriented and mostly angry or miserable or whatever remnants of my emotions from the dream.
Now, with practice, I can just push it to the back of my mind and forget it.
I sure did grow up, huh?
Chapter 4: Running into people
The name of the senior under whose care I had been placed.
Squad Leader Hange Zoe.
“Is there a problem, Nicola?”
I raised my stare from the slip of paper in my hand to the slightly concerned gaze of my class teacher.
“Nothing.” I said smiling handing the paper back to her.
I inhaled deeply and sat down quietly in my place as the names of my classmates were called out one by one.
The rest of the day went by as usual.
A tension I hadn’t realised was in me slowly dissolved.
Later when there was a break and everyone was exchanging notes about their seniors, Annie informed me that hers was Thomas Wagner, someone 2 years older.
“Could have been worse.” She shrugged. “Who’s yours?”
“Someone called something Zoe.” I replied.
Annie stared at me for a moment.
“Hange Zoe?” she asked in a flat tone. I nodded.
“She’s, I think, 16 or 17 years old now. She’s crazy.” She announced. I cracked a smile at her.
“What? Sore about not getting the cute blonde?” I teased.
“Please don’t make me regret telling you.”
I laughed out loud.
The rest of the week sort of flew by. I saw a lot of people I knew and interacted with all my classmates.
Once I was no longer a stranger, even they relaxed and let out a lot of stuff about themselves that initially bothered me a little as to how I was supposed to react. Annie helped by telling everyone that I didn’t recall anything and then proceeded to tell me in front of everyone that it was a game they all played and that soon I would get the hang of it.
There was Sally who had stabbed herself after her baby had been stamped upon by horses, Tony who was eaten by a titan, Gillian whose head was squashed by a titan, John who was eaten by titans, Patil whose house had collapsed on her when titans fought against each other and the list went on.
I was, I admit, a little awed at how easily they talked about it and accepted it.
Annie told me a mixture of suppressants to disconnect from that and early counselling did that.
I just nodded my head in an exaggerated wise way.
Ah well, I survived just fine without suppressants and counsellors now, didn’t I.
I spent the weekend by studying and spending the first night at Annie’s house. It was a lot of fun and I discovered that Reiner was a really easy person to prank. Or maybe Annie knew her brother well.
And then there was the part where both got into a fight and a sleepy but scary Mrs Leonhardt said that she would bang their heads together if they didn’t go to sleep right then. They didn’t but were much quieter.
On Sunday I went with my mother to the mall to buy veggies and snacks and to replenish my dye.
All too soon, it was Monday again and I was trudging to school thinking about how much I loved Fridays.
I may have walked a little too slowly for when I reached, the gates were closing.
I ran and managed to get inside just in time.
The bell rang indicating the beginning of classes.
I ran again.
I had never realised just how far away my classroom was. Third floor, middle of the corridor.
I hate stairs.
I had crossed the fifth flight of stairs and about to embark on the sixth when I ran into someone. The impact didn’t affect the other person much but it made me fall back and miss a step.
I would have probably tumbled down the entire flight had not a hand grabbed my arm firmly steadying me.
“Are you alright?”
I stared up at Erwin Smith, looking very very young and oh wow- he was huge.
Realising my mouth was a little open, I closed it and nodded.
He smiled down at me and pulled me to safety.
“Which grade are you in?” he asked gently.
“Sixth.” I replied in a small voice.
“Well, you’re becoming late for your class. Please be more careful in the future.”
I nodded and grinned before running up the stairs, my heart a little loud from the interaction.
Yes! My disguise is wonderful! Not even Erwin Smith could see through it.
Resisting the urge to do little dance move, I entered the class and was startled badly when everyone suddenly stood up. Seeing it was just me, a few laughed while the others grumpily sat down.
Seconds later the teacher came and everyone had to stand again.
Annie caught my eye and moved her eyebrows quickly up and down as a greeting while I smiled back.
I was still recovering from how tiny I felt beside Erwin and the first few minutes of the lecture bounced away from my head. So by the end when I did start paying attention, I had no idea what was going on.
Break time and Annie had to go help the teacher with something. I had gone to pee and was coming back when something collided with me. This time the impact sent me sprawling on the ground.
I winced while getting up, resisting the urge to rub my bum.
“Oh you poor thing! You fell quite hard didn’t you?”
I almost didn’t recognise her. Short cropped hair, no spectacles, and very tall.
“I’m alright.” I said easily smiling.
“If you say so. So what’s your name?” Said Hange Zoe bending down to reach my level. God, I feel so puny right now.
She kept on staring at me for a while which made me a little nervous. Then she grinned widely.
“Nicola huh? You are my junior, aren’t you?”
“If you are Hange Zoe, yes.” I answered meekly. She gave a loud booming laugh which turned a few startled gazes towards her.
“I am! I am!” she all but yelled flailing her arms accidently hitting her own head.
I like her.
I gloomily opened my locker and stared morosely at the few books I had shoved in there.
I had lunch with Hange Zoe yesterday and somehow ended up getting invited to her house as well...
I have no idea what I am doing anymore. I don’t care anymore. I am going to die one day either way. What’s the point? Sigh.
“You just had to add that little question of yours didn’t you, Arlet? And now we have a test.”
I leaned back and took a peek. Armin and two guys around the same height were standing five lockers away. Armin calmly closed the door of his locker and said,
“I don’t fit inside my locker anymore, if your tiny mind is capable of comprehending that.”
Bully no. 1 scowled and turned a little red while Bully no.2, a little confused, glanced at him and decided to scowl too.
“Yeah, well the dumpster isn’t too small for anyone.” Bully no.1 spat out.
“I’ll be in constant terror. Oh dear, however will I sleep at night now?” replied Armin in a monotonous tone.
As Bully no.1 moved in, I grabbed one of my books, the bell rang and students and teachers started flocking to classrooms. Bully no.1 moved away and I let go of my book.
Armin stood unconcerned and bored.
“We’ll take care of you Arlet.” Bully no.1 hissed before walking away, Bully no.2 following him.
Armin rolled his eyes and hefted his bag up, glancing around, stopping as he saw me staring.
We stared at each other for a while before he raised a questioning eyebrow and I quickly looked away trying to look busy. I couldn’t recall what I wanted in the first place so I randomly picked up a book, slammed the door shut and hurried to my classroom.
After school, Annie and I went our separate ways.
Hange’s house was in walking distance from the school and in about 4 minutes, I was standing in front of her lawn. I went through the gate and rang the bell twice.
Tick tock tick tock.
I glanced around. The lawn was quite well maintained and everything was very prim and proper. Even the lane leading to the door seemed to be devoid of dirt. I turned back quickly as the door opened.
A tall boy in black T shirt and green baggy shorts glanced down at me like I was some puny insect that deserved to be trod upon.
“Yes?” said Levi disinterestedly.
I stared at him mutely for a while before giving in to my urges. I quietly turned around and started walking away.
“Who is it? Who is it? Oh hey! Nicola!”
The voice stopped me and I gave a miserable glance at the gate just one step away before I turned again. Hange pushed aside Levi and came almost skipping towards me.
“Nicola! I’m so glad you came!” She chirped ruffling my hair.
I forced my frozen lips into a smile and murmured,
“I’m glad to be here.”
She led me back to that house towards the living room and pushed me down on a sofa.
“You want something? Coke? Tea? Coffee? Milkshake? Lemon juice?”
“Water.” I managed a proper smile this time. It disappeared when Levi came into room looking annoyed. He looked different, all young and unscarred. Even his hair was different. He had normal evenly cut hair that most boys had.
I resisted a flinch when he kicked a stool in front of me and sat down on it so that he was almost at my level.
I could hear Hange humming away in the kitchen.
I didn’t dare to even shrink back as Levi leaned forward a little, his gaze piercing through me like he could see everything I was hiding. I really hope he doesn’t knock out a tooth or something. I can’t exactly grow them back anymore.
“You have a name?” he said in a bored drawl.
“Nicola Valverie.” I said quietly.
There was a pause before I shook my head solemnly.
“I brought you lemon juice! I make mean lemon juices!” announced Hange, sounding unnaturally loud, setting the glass on the table beside the sofa. Both Levi and I looked up at her. She stared back before,
“Levi! Stop scaring her!”
Levi rolled his eyes and leaned back lazily.
“I was socialising.” He said before getting up and grabbing the glass with lemon juice ignoring Hange’s squawk of indignation.
As he sauntered away, Hange sat down on the stool.
“Don’t mind him. He tries to be mean.” She said smiling widely. A pencil came flying and struck her temple.
“Anyway, so how was school?” No indication that she had felt anything at all.
Turns out that the house was actually Levi’s. Not Hange’s. Hange lived alone and her parents were abroad on some research work and she hung out at his place most of the time.
I stayed there for almost an hour before excusing myself. She insisted on walking me home and I breathed a huge sigh of heartfelt relief when I saw her walking away waving at me wildly.
I sort of started cackling when my mother asked me how my day was. I escaped by making up something about a teacher’s bald head gleaming in the light.
I retired to bed early that night and lay awake in the dark just thinking random things.
I wonder, if I were to reveal myself, what would really happen? Look at everyone. They were all living normally right?
Though people don’t know who I really am. The way they are behaving could change. I’m also enjoying being normal for once. No one’s life depending on me. My family and people I love alive.
And I really do like Annie. I don’t care if that sounds childish.
Everything could be so much more complicated if I told everyone who I was once.
And I’ve had enough of complications for one lifetime.
I woke up with a maddening urge to laugh till I puked. I had no idea such a desire even existed. Maybe I’m falling sick. I made a mental note to ask my father about it. Mom’s eyes were glued to the news channel while her hands absentmindedly put bread in the toaster.
There was a silence filled only by the news of some burglary or the other, some star marrying another star, blah blah blah. I munched away at my toast, staring at my mother trying to make her feel uncomfortable with my stern aura.
It didn’t work.
“No hugs for you!” I announced sulkily. That should do it.
I rolled my eyes and stuffed the last piece of bread in my mouth, put my lunch in my bag and went out. I have no idea what goes around in her head at times, this mother of mine.
Lost in my thoughts about the difficult behaviour of adults, I almost pissed myself when a car behind me honked loudly. I stepped onto the pavement hastily.
Classes started almost an hour late and I jabbered away with people the entire time. It was around ten minutes before the teacher entered that I realised that I had forgotten my notebook in the locker and ran to get it. I slowed down a little near my classroom at the scene before me.
Bully no 1 from yesterday was biting something out leaning in close to Armin who had a ‘why is everyone so jobless’ look. Bully No 1 finished his speech with a sneer and a push that made Armin almost fall.
I hastily dropped my gaze to the ground leaning against the wall as he walked in my direction and at the last moment, stuck my foot out. I expected him to stumble a bit.
He collapsed head first into the bin outside the next classroom.
Okay, time to run.
I slipped past Armin into my classroom, but not before giving him a big grin and a wink.
Later I almost banged my head on the desk for doing that. Almost. I didn’t cause Armin is Armin and people who want to hurt him are bad. Plain and simple.
Nothing much happened other than classes after that. Annie got sent out of the class for five minutes after she started snoring lightly in Physics. She fell asleep in break too while I was talking.
All in all, it was a pretty boring day.
I loved it.
Annie and Reiner decided it was time I came to know about the popular hangouts people in the town usually went to.
That day, they took me to a little cafe-Milvey Cafe.
There were a lot of people in there. Unwanted people.
Ah well. I think I was adapting well. Had none of that jittery panicky feeling when my eyes swept over the people in there.
Armin, Jean, Ymir, Christa, Keith Shadis scowling at a laptop, Eld Jinn and Gunther arm wrestling and so on.
Annie found a seat in the corner and we sat down. Ten seconds later, Reiner abandoned us for Bertholdt.
“So! What do you think of this place?” asked Annie leaning in close like she was telling me a secret.
I nodded for a while before replying with a ‘cute’. It seemed to satisfy her.
“Yup! It’s pretty cosy isn’t it?” Annie smiled blissfully and yawned.
“Don’t go to sleep again.” I warned. “Did you stay awake all night or something?”
She looked at me for a while before she said in a stern voice,
“He’s looked at you three times already.”
That was not what I was expecting.
I paused willing myself not to turn around and look at him.
“Yes. Cute hot senior I called dibs upon, remember?”
Oh-kay. Now she was starting to sound a little pissed.
“Well, something did happen. I guess that’s why?”
“Did you hit on him?”
I stared at her for a while hoping that we were seriously not having this conversation.
I mean, ew.
“No!” Annie visibly relaxed. “Why would you even-
“So what happened?” She cut in, all traces of ‘pissiness’ suddenly gone.
I scowled with no real heat at her and muttered,
“There was this boy pushing him around. I tripped him when he was walking by me. That’s it.”
“Did he fall?”
I cracked a smile at that one.
“Oh yeah. Kissed the dustbin while he was at it.”
Both of us snickered at that.
“Knew I did right by talking to you.”
“I’m awesome,” I agreed. We both raised an imaginary glass to each other.
Maybe there was something in what Annie said about the cafe after all.
It did have a nice cosy feeling.
Just something seemed to be missing. And it was unsettling. Like a restless feeling I’d gotten when my mother had for the first time left me alone at night. I don’t know.
“He’s coming. Quick, laugh!” Annie suddenly whispered. She threw her head back and ‘ha ha’-ed while I stared at her in puzzlement.
“May I sit here or should I come back later?”
I looked up craning my neck to see Armin.
No freaking way.
“Sit down! We don’t mind!”
Armin sat down opposite us, smiling slightly at Annie.
“Hello Annie. Long time.”
Annie smiled more widely than normal.
“So, you are new around here, right?” He said looking at me now.
I nodded mutely.
“I’m Armin Arlet.”
I twitched a little restlessly.
“Nicola Valverie.” I said managing to keep a normal tone.
“Liking this place so far.”
“It’s been-ok so far.” I shrugged.
He cracked a smile at that.
“So what’s your story?”
I stared back unsure how to reply. Annie cut in thankfully.
“She doesn’t remember anything. She’s like a –deviant.”
“Hey!” I protested.
“Don’t worry, it’s a compliment.” She said soothingly.
“Nothing huh?” mused Armin. Then he suddenly smiled.
“Welcome to the town of Marosi, Nicola.”
Chapter 7: Freaky powers
I smiled back awkwardly.
“So, why Marosi?” Armin inquired.
“My father got a good job offer here. So we came here.”
“Oh? What kind of job offer?”
Feels like a sticky situation is coming up.
“Err- he’s a doctor. Marosi Care Hospital?”
“Oh! That’s good! I’ll make sure to go to him next time I end up there!” Armin beamed. Annie stared at him shamelessly.
“So what’s his name?”
Aaaand my instincts were right.
“Gr---Valverie.” I did not want to lie. But sometimes the world can be very very cruel. Cue sad violin music.
“Dr Gr Valverie.” I said more confidently hoping he wouldn’t actually go and ask.
“Grr. Like a growl.”
I think I heard Annie roll her eyes.
“Oh.” Said Armin clearly bemused. “Alright.”
“Alright.” I agreed.
“Here you go!” Sasha appeared out of nowhere, banged down two hot chocolates and a coffee in front of us and sashayed out of there. It was all very quick and I hadn’t even blinked.
“Hot chocolate!” crowed Annie eagerly snatching up her glass and inhaling deeply.
How was she not burning her hands?
I cannot take this anymore.
“So, you been here all your life?” I asked hoping that was ‘ok’ conversation.
Apparently it was.
“Hmm.” Nodded Armin. “Never been out of this place.”
“Me neither!” piped in Annie sounding delighted.
“I know all about this place. So you need information you can come to me.”
“Thank you.” I smiled at him.
“We will.” Affirmed Annie. The girl was making it a little obvious with her shameless staring. Armin seemed to be amused though.
He ended up paying for our drinks.
As we stood to go, one of our classmates came over to return Annie’s notebook to her.
“How’s the medication going?” asked Annie suddenly.
I stared at the classmate trying desperately to remember her name. Chloe I think. Cloaca. Cinnabar?
“It’s working surprisingly well.” The girl whoever she was beamed at us ignoring Armin who politely hung back a little. “I’ve no headaches or nightmares for like a week.”
Annie whistled softly. “Impressive. K, see you later.”
We waved at her and followed Armin out.
“What medication? That was Cinnabar right?” I asked as soon as we were out of the girl’s hearing range.
“Cinnamon. She –er- suffers from side effects of the role playing thingy I told you about.”
I frowned. Nightmares?
“Did you ever go through that?”
“Everybody goes through that.” Said Armin while Annie nodded vigorously.
Not me. I’m like- strong.
“It lasts for minimum an entire month before the person gets more or less adjusted to it.” Continued Armin. “The medication helps.”
“Why don’t people just stop the role playing thing then?” I asked.
“It part of belonging here.” Said Annie. If I didn’t know better, I would have been convinced...or really weirded out. As it was, I just shrugged and dismissed it.
Armin had his own jeep and he even took us home. I had to endure a whole lecture from my mother about not accepting rides from random strangers. Arguing with her only made her more annoyed and soon I was in my room sulking. I guess I should stop depriving her of my magical morning hugs.
I spent the rest of the day killing zombies and saving the virtual world.
I woke up in the middle of the night by a sudden sound.
Probably a burglar, I told myself, eyes drifting shut again.
I groaned knowing that I had to do something about it.
Then I tried to remember why I had to do something about it.
Then I started thinking about why I was trying to make up reasons to do something about it when I didn’t want to do anything about it.
Then my beauty sleep was ruined.
I got up, grabbing the water bottle on the desk as a weapon. I crept to the corridor and peered down. The TV was on.
Ugh. Probably my dad after a late night or my mom bored of sleeping.
I went downstairs and switched off the TV and looked at my father curled up on the sofa, face smushed into a cushion.
Aw, he be looking sho cute right now.
I was about to creep away when-
“Had to do it.” I recognised that tone. It was not one my father ever displayed in this world.
I turned around unconsciously tightening my clutch on my water bottle and went forwards.
“Dad?” I whispered. I stopped when I caught a glimpse of his face. He was sweating and a look of extreme distress and something else contorted his features. His eyeballs were moving behind his eyelids.
He was having a nightmare.
I stood wondering if I should wake him up because that expression on his face was just- wrong.
I laid a tentative hand on his shoulder and shook him a little.
“Dad. Wake up.” He shuddered but nothing else.
There was a weird pull through my hand. It was hard, but I could feel it behind my eyes. Frowning, I closed my eyes and sort of- I know this sounds ridiculous, but I kinda dragged it towards me.
A stream of images whipped into my mind and startled, I let go stumbling back, tripping over my feet and falling on my bum.
I closed my eyes and the images burned into my eyes.
That was Eren’s face.
“What are doing father? You’ve been acting strange ever since mom died.” The note of fear in his childish voice struck his heart.
I’m sorry Eren. I have to do it. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry-
He was still mumbling his apologies in his head when his son severed his head from his body with his teeth.
I gasped clutching my head which felt like someone had brought down something very heavy on it. These were- Dad’s memories.
I steeled myself pushing them away further into my mind. It worked. I felt the tension leaving my body and my head just felt a little heavy instead of hurting.
I got up. My father‘s expression had smoothened leaving no traces of the previous muscle activities behind.
I looked down at my hand, then at his face and then down at my hand again.