1 Shenoir 01

Darkness has embraced her as a mother's warm embrace does to her child. It has been her friend since she was ten years, old. The reason, why her family moved from India to the United States, has continued to be a mystery of darkness, to her over the years. Mother, always explained, it was to be close to her sisters. But, she noticed how to remain in touch with her mother's family, her father's family was pushed into the shadows of darkness. Maybe that's where she moved to as well. She remembers her mother's angry red face when her 12-year-old self was caught talking to her grandmother.

<gwofw> Scared of her mother's rage, the little girl went to hide in the dark closet in the guest room. She was now used to this darkness. That surrounded her. It has been the only constant in her life, it was there when her parents got into fights, when their fights grew, when her father happily played with her but refused to even look at her younger brother, the darkness of confusion continued to befriend her. The same darkness followed her as she lost her father, it engulfed her when a stranger walked into her house and her mother found comfort in his unknown arms.

This Darkness follows her, till this day as they now move with the stranger to an old town Shenoir. The girl still continues to hide in the dark closet of the guest room. No one ever came out together. She fell asleep in that dark closet that night, and the girl today still hopes to wake up to her Father calling her out, telling her the dinner was ready. The 12-year-old would go running into her father's warm arms and he would make the darkness go. But that night was the darkest of them all. Her father didn't come home that night, and never again after that night. But this was not a nightmare, as she so desperately wants it to be. This is the reality. Her mother, happy and smiling; the smile she rarely passed her father. Her brother chatted happily, fitting into the family easily. A complete family, which had no space for her, or so she thought.

"Mannat" Her mother's stoic mirth-filled voice called out to her, the girl turned around to look at her mother's honey brown eyes. The resemblance of her mother's eyes to her own was uncanny. Her father always described them as pools of honey. "Yes," She mumbled slowly. She felt out of place, ever since he was gone. Home no longer felt like home. She felt like an outsider in the perfect family.

"Mark asked you something." Her mother's voice now over the edge, her mother didn't like the loss of confidence, in her voice.

"Oh, I am sorry Mark. I probably zoned out." She quickly apologized as she looked at the tall man in the driver's seat. The man simply smiled and adjusted his tinted sunglasses.

"It's okay, Manny!" He spoke, genuinely unbothered about her not replying to him. This was another problem. The man was too good, for his own. He was amazing. He took care of them when the family had hit the lowest point in their life. He had soon become Riaan's perfect father. Mother's best friend and lover. But to her, he was still the stranger, who conveniently walked in a broken family of another man, and tried to make it, his.

"I was just asking, have you got all your certificates? We can go tomorrow and get your admission done, in the school." He asked as he looked at Mannat; who simply nodded. Her wavy brown hair fell against her almond-shaped eyes. This haircut was a bad idea, she reminded herself as she tucked them behind her ears.

"They only have one school, here. But it's a great school. I have studied from here, great memories." His voice a little distant, as if reminiscing the good old days. "I, think I have a friend, who's working for the school. Last, I checked, he was a Head of History department." He spoke. Mannat slowly nodded. "So, I will study, where you once studied?" Riaan her brother, pipped in; obviously excited.

"Yes! Champ!! And I can tell you, you will be amazing there!" Mark chuckled as Riaan's dirty blonde head bounced excitedly on the back seat, next to Mannat. A small smile appeared across Mannat's rosy pink lips. It was nice to see Riaan and Mark's bond. It was so amazing and pure, almost like a son and father. "Dad!! Do you think we can go fishing sometime?" Riaan inquired as Mannat could feel the bile rise in her stomach. Riaan had easily got the habit of calling Mark 'dad' but Mannat only called him Mark. She had only one father, whose body was discovered in the woods, five years ago marred with claws and bite marks of a wild animal; mountain lion, it was assumed.

"Fishing, huh?" Mark asked right hand rubbing his well-trimmed beard, slowly. A habit he had, when nervous or in confusion. "Why don't we ask, your mum? What say, Sarah?" He looked slowly to right, the lady in black hair shaking her head in disdain. The loose strands of the hair shaking widely, as was thrown into the memory of the horrid fishing incident. Police said Father may have been on a fishing trip, near the river in mountains. When the attack happened. Their father enjoyed fishing, he loved it, even taught Mannat some tricks, when the girl was five. It was their bonding activity.

"Sure," Mannat called out suddenly. The different shades of eyes eyed her in surprise. Out of the black ones of the boys were almost identical; they were confused. The honey brown, ones were the most shocked. But, Mannat couldn't deny Riaan, this opportunity. He might have never had a chance to bond with their father. But this was close to it. Sure, Riaan bonded with Mark and he was the only father, that Riaan knew. He was merely 2 years old when the tragedy occurred. It was easy for him, to regard the man; driving as his father.

"I mean, why not?" She shrugged, looking out longingly towards the wilderness. She saw her mother slowly nod her head in approval.

They were going out at full speed, there was no speed limit, which was weird. But maybe that's what she needed now, no limits, no boundaries, only freedom. The greenery of woods passed by as the car dashed through the road. The wind grazed by, as she slowly rolled the window down. Welcoming the cold wind and the fresh smell of wood, it danced in her brown locks as they sprang to life. A loud howl of an animal; more likely a wolf was heard in the woods. Mannat quickly turned wide-eyed to Mark.

"There are wolves here?" She asked slowly.

"Yeah, but don't worry. They are friendly." He replied, shrugging carelessly. "Friendly?" her mother's voice called out sternly. She could imagine, her mother's eyebrow raised in worry. But her eyebrow's furrowed together as she breathed in the alluring smell of the woods. The howl was heard again, this time a little louder, meaning they were closer.

Closing her eyes, she breathed in, again. This time the smell of reassuring earthy scent was greeting her. A small smile graced her lips, as she licked her dry lips, slowly.

"And, my lovelies! I welcome you to Shenoir." Mark called out.

</gwofw>

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