Home > Uncategorized > Day One Hundred and Forty-nine: Olympia

Day One Hundred and Forty-nine: Olympia

Olympia Barino never walked down the center of the hallway when she went to class. She hugged the lockers, kept her hoodie up and her head down and did everything she could not to be noticed. She wore grey and brown and moved with a kind of grace that would have made her a dancer if she’d dared try and dance in front of anyone. As it was, it made her effectively invisible to her classmates, which was how she liked it. There were some people who needed to be alone, who couldn’t afford attention, and as far as Olympia knew, she was one of them.

There was a prophecy, you see. But, then, isn’t there always?

Olympia’s mother died in childbirth, and only saw her daughter for a few brief and pain-filled minutes. She was given to her grandmother to raise, against the insistence of her father, who would spend the last years of his life – and the last money he had – battling against Beverly Hamper for the custody of his only daughter. And he would lose. Olympia would be told that he had abandoned her when his wife died, but the truth was that the battle for his daughter broke him. When the final ruling was issued, he hanged himself, leaving a long note that accused Beverly – in detail – of stealing his daughter from him.

On Olympia’s first birthday, her grandmother issued her prophecy. She said. “This girl must not be seen. The eyes of a world will be looking for her, and her heart will be lost should they find her.” No one really thought she was serious, of course. Prophecies were things of fiction and religion, not reality. But Beverly Hamper was rich and feared, and people like her were treasured for their eccentricities, crazy as they might be.

From that day until Olympia was ten, she guarded the girl. Olympia was homeschooled and kept away from neighborhood children. She had no friends, no hobbies that took her out of the house, no knowledge of the outside world. The girl was pale and drawn, from a lack of sunlight and a lack of play. She was not permitted outdoors except under conditions of absolute emergency, and if her grandmother had survived, she would have lived the rest of her days in Beverly Hamper’s aging and overgrown house in the countryside.

When Olympia was ten, her grandmother died. A blood vessel in her brain burst while she was cleaning the kitchen, and she was dead before she hit the floor. Olympia found her and, for the first time, was well and truly alone. It would be five days before anyone came to the house – a deliveryman with their weekly delivery of groceries. He rang and knocked, and when no one answered, he tried the door. It was, of course, locked. But he had never known someone not to be home, so he called the police, who arrived soon after and forced their way in.

Olympia was removed from the house screaming and crying, her eyes wide and fixed on the door to the only world she’d ever known.

When her grandmother’s affairs were taken care of, Olympia was assigned to a foster home. Irene and Leland Aminov were a lovely couple who’d spent much of their lives taking in troubled children from broken homes. They were used to the rebellious child, the violent child, the budding criminal who just needed someone to show some love and trust. With Olympia, all they had to do was make sure she was still where they’d left her. Which she invariably was.

The hardest part was getting her to leave the house. They tried taking her into the backyard at first, but that set off a panic attack that nearly resulted in an ambulance call. For the next five years they coaxed her and cajoled her, with sternness and with love, until Olympia was not only able to leave the house, but to do so on her own and of her own will.

Going to school was, in fact, her idea. Every morning she regretted it. Every time the bus came, she wanted to run back into the house and hide. The sight of all those children still made her sick sometimes.

But she went. Such was the skill of the Aminovs. But try as they might, that was as far as Olympia could go. She could go out to the world, but she would never be part of the world, and that was as good as it would get.

Olympia slid into her seat in the back of her English class, took out a book and started reading. Her teachers had tried to coax her into participating with the rest of the class, but the results had been unfortunate for everyone. There were outbursts and tears and sidelong looks and jokes from other students. Then there were meetings and conferences, and it was decided that as long as she turned in her homework and did well on her tests – which she did – then she would have to be allowed some leeway. Other students tried to get her to talk, then they tried to get her to cry. Neither worked, so eventually they just left her alone, which was what she’d wanted all along.

And so she read. Anything was fine with her, as long as it was enough to keep her attention through her classes. This day she was reading about Henrietta Lacks – a woman whose cells had long outlived her – and wondering what it would be like to be immortal but unaware of your immortality. While she was in the middle of that thought, she heard a gentle tapping on the window behind her.

She heard it, but she didn’t notice. Absorbed as she was in the book, the part of her brain that registered the sound filed it away as irrelevant so that she could keep reading. It wasn’t until some of the kids around her started to notice and to murmur about what was at the window that Olympia finally raised her head from the book and turned around in her chair.

It was a raven. A great black bird larger than a cat, and it was staring right at her. Its eyes were pitiless and black and betrayed a horrible intelligence. It started at Olympia, and she started to shake feverishly. The bird didn’t blink, but watched her though the glass, and she thought she could hear it laughing at her in her head. It was scraping at the inside of her mind with its strong black beak and its sharp claws, turning over thoughts like shiny rocks that it would find on a riverbank. She stood up, her legs shaking and sweat running down her face, and for the first time since she had arrived, her classmates heard Olympia Barino speak.

“Get! Out!”

Then she passed out.

The raven remained at the window for a moment and watched her drop to the floor. Then it let out a single, loud croak and flew off on its great wings. Olympia’s classmates gathered around her, not entirely sure what to make of what had just happened.

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