Inescapable (The Premonition #1)


by Amy A. Bartol

CHAPTER 1

Moving Day

As I drive past the placid façade of Crestwood College’s stately clock tower, I realize that this is the building they refer to as Central Hall. It’s the trademark of the school, and they stamp its image on everything they use to represent them. My acceptance letter had been embossed with its seal. The scent of autumn drifts through my open window along with the deep, echoing bell from the clock as it tolls out the hour. The loud, desolate sound sends a chill over my skin. It is funny to me how something as harmless as a clock tower can be winsome and sinister at the same time.

In the car behind me, my Uncle Jim gives me a couple of short honks of his horn. As I gaze at him in my rearview mirror, I see him gesturing for me to turn left at the next stop sign. His paranoia that I will miss the street to my dorm makes me smile, so I turn on my signal to relieve his anxiety. Crestwood’s campus has only a few streets; if I miss the turn, it won’t be fatal. If I manage to get lost here, then I don’t deserve the academic scholarship they gave me, I think to myself, using my mirror to refresh my lip-gloss.

I ride slowly under the tunneling oak trees that line the pavement. I had always thought that I would go to a larger school—one in a major city, like New York or Chicago, but when Crestwood offered me a full ride with no strings attached, I couldn’t pass up such an amazing opportunity. I mean, who needs a sprawling city if you’re totally broke all the time? And Crestwood is consistently ranked as one of the top private schools in the country for academics. Plus, this way I get to stay in Michigan so I can visit Uncle Jim more often. He’ll only be a few hours away—and he needs me. I’m his only family, just as he is mine.

Unease creeps over me as my dormitory comes into view. I don’t know a single person at Yeats Hall, or even Crestwood for that matter. I had met a few coeds on my brief tour of the school last year, but I had been just a prospective student then, so none of us really bothered to make friends. A fresh wave of panic hits me, or maybe it’s remorse for all the familiar things I’m leaving behind. Don’t stress, I tell myself while taking a deep breath. This place will be the making of you. Everything will be fine.

I park in a spot under a shady elm tree and cut the engine, waiting for my uncle to slip into the spot next to mine. Pulling up next to me, he parks his truck and leaves it idling. With his stereo blaring Baba O’Reily, he is head-banging and playing air guitar to the raging bass.

Normally, something like this would horrify me, especially since he is drawing frowns from the other parents hauling boxes and desk lamps out of their cars, but not today. Today, I’m trying to take a mental snapshot of this moment because it’s so quintessential Uncle Jim.

We had basically raised each other, he and I. When my mom died soon after I was born, he stepped up and assumed guardianship of me. It couldn’t have been easy; he’d been a kid himself at the time, only twenty years old.

As my eyes rove over him, lip-syncing with his mouth curling in a rocker-like scowl, I smile, knowing he is doing it for me. He is trying to make me laugh so that I won’t be nervous.

As I climb out of my old jeep, I pretend not to notice when small pieces of the rusted door flake off as I close it. “You rock a mean air guitar,” I say after he cuts his engine and grins at me through the truck’s open window.

“I know—missed my calling. I was born to rock,” he replies with hubris, climbing out and joining me.

“Undoubtedly,” I agree. He slips his arm around my shoulder, trapping my long, auburn hair beneath it as he gives me a quick squeeze before letting it drop.

“You ready to check in?” he asks me as he runs his hands through his dark-brown hair, which immediately falls back over his forehead again.

“Yeah,” I nod, handing him a comb from my purse.

He smiles, taking the comb from me. “You know what I like most about you, Evie?” he asks me.

My eyebrow arches. “Umm, I’m not sweaty?” I ask.

His grin deepens, reaching his gray eyes as he shakes his head. “Well, that, and the fact that you think of everything. It makes me worry less about you because I know that you’ll cover every angle before you attack a problem,” he answers.

I give him a furtive glance as I retort, “You know what I like most about you?”

“My musicality?” he asks with a straight face.

I grin because we both know he is completely tone-deaf. “Well, that,” I agree, “and the fact that you always manage to say just the right thing.”

“You liked that?” he asks me while we walk up the sloping sidewalk to the entrance of my new residence. “Good, because I practiced it in the car all the way here.”

“It sounded very parental,” I compliment him as he holds the door for me to enter.

“That’s what I was going for,” he acknowledges, approaching the wide mahogany table in the lobby.

“Evie Claremont,” I say to the perky brunette seated in a wing-backed chair behind the table.

She scans the roster before looking up and asking, “Genevieve Claremont?”

“That’s me,” I breathe nervously, “but everyone just calls me Evie.”

She glances from me to my uncle, and her smile becomes toothy. My Uncle Jim and I both pretend not to notice when she begins flirting with him: me because it skeeves me out and him because he isn’t pervie. Anyway, I’m used to it—it happens often; I think that every one of my female friends was in love with my uncle at one point or another.

As she begins outlining all of the upcoming dorm activities for him, I take the time to gaze around at the old building. I know that it was once a home to a wealthy Crestwood family, but they had donated it to the school around the turn of the previous century. The interior is elegant, with ice blue, silken wall-coverings, crown molding, rich deep-brown wainscoting, and leaded-glass windows.

Uncle Jim nudges me before handing me my new keys and motioning with his chin toward the stairs.

“She was friendly,” I tease him as we climb up to the second floor.

He nods his head and feigns ignorance, muttering, “Very nice.”

Locating my room, we open it, and I set my purse down on the low table by the door as I enter. The room comes fully furnished with a single bed, a desk, a dresser, a bedside table, and a small lamp. A bathroom-style sink and a closet are the only other appointments to it.

“Home,” Uncle Jim says with a sanguine glance at me. He must be reading the dark excursion my mind is taking because he adds hurriedly, “Don’t worry; when we get your stuff in here, it won’t feel as strange.”

“I’m not worried,” I say, flashing him a faux grin.

“C’mon,” he says, putting his arm around me and tugging me to the door. “Let’s go get your stuff.”

We get to work unloading my swag from his truck. After bringing a few boxes up several flights of stairs, I stay in my room and begin unpacking them. “Where do you want me to put this box?” my Uncle Jim asks me, breathing heavily and staggering through the doorway.

Narrowing my eyes, I murmur, “Umm, let me think,” while looking for available space on the floor. “What’s in it?” I ask, sifting though the box in front of me.

He grunts before saying, “Judging by the weight, I’d say it has to be either your ex-boyfriend’s dead remains or…books.” Pressing the front of the box against the wall, he tries to keep from dropping it.

“Ah, it must be books—all of my exes are buried in the backyard at home, so pleasant dreams when you get there tonight,” I reply with a smirk, putting my alarm clock on the nightstand near my bed. “You can just set it down by the desk, thanks.” Shuffling across the room, he heaves the box down with a loud thump.

“I was wondering what happened to the last one. The one that took you to the movies…” he replies. He wipes the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his Ramones t-shirt. Poor Dee Dee Ramone on the front of it looks a little soaked.

Giving him an ironic smile I shrug, “His name was Greg, and like I said…backyard.”

“Good, I never liked him,” he says with the same kind of smile. “Do you want help unpacking these?” he asks, indicating the boxes strewn around the room.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to put everything yet. Maybe I should just do it myself,” I say almost as a question.

“I’ll set up the Internet connection so you can send email and surf,” Uncle Jim says as he finds my laptop and places it on my desk.

“Thanks. I register for classes tomorrow, so I’ll email you— let you know how that goes,” I promise.

He bypasses the dormitory’s LAN and gives me my own Internet access and firewall so that I can maintain my privacy. I can probably do it myself because he taught me how, but I’m grateful that he is taking care of it.

Finishing the set-up, he turns his grayish-blue eyes to me, smiling in triumphant. I think my mother also had the same color eyes as her brother and I do, but I have to rely on old, grainy photos of her in order to see them. As for the rest of my physical characteristics, like my auburn hair and my tall, slender frame, they could’ve come from my father’s side of the family, but since neither of us knows who he is, it makes proving that theory slightly difficult.

Uncle Jim loses some of his smile as he looks around and sees there isn’t much left for him to do now. “So, you have your cell phone,” he states as if going over a parental checklist in his head. “If you need anything, you can call me. Do you need any money?”

“You already gave me money,” I say, seeing him reach into his pocket for his wallet. I put my hand on his arm to stop him. “I have more than enough money for all of the beer and drugs I plan on experimenting with,” I tease him gently. “When I blow it all on Internet gambling, I’ll call you.”

He smiles back at me, and I watch the way his eyes crinkle in the corners. I love that. I like to think that I’m responsible for most of the laugh lines around his eyes. “Did I tell you how proud I am of you, Evie?” he asks, his voice soft with affection.