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Something awful is going to happen today.
I don't know why I wrote that. It's crazy. There's no reason for me to be upset and every reason for me to be happy, but . . .
But here I am at 5:30 in the morning, awake and scared. I keep telling myself it's just that I'm all messed up from the time difference between France and here. But that doesn't explain why I feel so scared. So lost.
The day before yesterday, while Aunt Judith and Margaret and I were driving back from the airport, I had such a strange feeling. When we turned onto our street I suddenly thought, "Mom and Dad are waiting for us at home. I bet they'll be on the front porch or in the living room looking out the window. They must have missed me so much."
I know. That sounds totally crazy.
But even when I saw the house and the empty front porch I still felt that way. I ran up the steps and I tried the door and knocked with the knocker. And when Aunt Judith unlocked the door I burst inside and just stood in the hallway listening, expecting to hear Mom coming down the stairs or Dad calling from the den.
Just then Aunt Judith let a suitcase crash down on the floor behind me and sighed a huge sigh and said, "We're home." And Margaret laughed. And the most horrible feeling I've ever felt in my life came over me. I've never felt so utterly and completely lost.
Home. I'm home. Why does that sound like a lie?
I was born here in Fell's Church. I've always lived in this house, always. This is my same old bedroom, with the scorch mark on the floorboards where Caroline and I tried to sneak cigarettes in 5th grade and nearly choked ourselves. I can look out the window and see the big quince tree Matt and the guys climbed up to crash my birthday slumber party two years ago. This is my bed, my chair, my dresser.
But right now everything looks strange to me, as if I don't belong here. It's me that's out of place. And the worst thing is that I feel there's somewhere I do belong, but I just can't find it.
I was too tired yesterday to go to Orientation. Meredith picked up my schedule for me, but I didn't feel like talking to her on the phone. Aunt Judith told everyone who called that I had jet lag and was sleeping, but she watched me at dinner with a funny look on her face.
I've got to see the crowd today, though. We're supposed to meet in the parking lot before school. Is that why I'm scared? Am I frightened of them?
Elena Gilbert stopped writing. She stared at the last line she had written and then shook her head, pen hovering over the small book with the blue velvet cover. Then, with a sudden gesture, she lifted her head and threw pen and book at the big bay window, where they bounced off harmlessly and landed on the upholstered window seat.
It was all so completely ridiculous.
Since when had she, Elena Gilbert, been scared of meeting people? Since when had she been scared of anything? She stood up and angrily thrust her arms into a red silk kimono. She didn't even glance at the elaborate Victorian mirror above the cherrywood dresser; she knew what she'd see. Elena Gilbert, cool and blond and slender, the fashion trendsetter, the high school senior, the girl every boy wanted and every girl wanted to be. Who just now had an unaccustomed scowl on her face and a pinch to her mouth.
A hot bath and some coffee and I'll calm down, she thought. The morning ritual of washing and dressing was soothing, and she dawdled over it, sorting through her new outfits from Paris. She finally chose a pale rose top and white linen shorts combo that made her look like a raspberry sundae. Good enough to eat, she thought, and the mirror showed a girl with a secret smile. Her earlier fears had melted away, forgotten.
"Elena! Where are you? You're going to be late for school!" The voice drifted faintly up from below.
Elena ran the brush one more time through silky hair and pulled it back with a deep rose ribbon. Then she grabbed her backpack and went down the stairs.
In the kitchen, four-year-old Margaret was eating cereal at the kitchen table, and Aunt Judith was burning something on the stove. Aunt Judith was the sort of woman who always looked vaguely flustered; she had a thin, mild face and light flyaway hair pushed back untidily. Elena landed a peck on her cheek.
"Good morning, everybody. Sorry I don't have time for breakfast."
"But, Elena, you can't just go off without eating. You need your protein—"
"I'll get a doughnut before school," said Elena briskly. She dropped a kiss on Margaret's tow head and turned to go.
"And I'll probably go home with Bonnie or Meredith after school, so don't wait dinner. Bye!"
Elena was already at the front door. She closed it behind her, cutting off Aunt Judith's distant protests, and stepped out onto the front porch.
All the bad feelings of the morning rushed over her again. The anxiety, the fear. And the certainty that something terrible was about to happen.
Maple Street was deserted. The tall Victorian houses looked strange and silent, as if they might all be empty inside, like the houses on an abandoned movie set. They looked as if they were empty of people, but full of strange watching things.
That was it; something was watching her. The sky overhead was not blue but milky and opaque, like a giant bowl turned upside down. The air was stifling, and Elena felt sure that there were eyes on her.The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle. Copyright © by L. J. Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from The Awakening and the Struggle by L. J. Smith
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