By Anonymous, Beverly Hills, CA
Author's note: I always loved watching the Gates and fantasy. This is the first book in the series and I hope... Show full author's note »
Chapter OneI packed my clothes as Mom stepped inside my room with a knock on the door. I looked up to see her in the doorway, her arms crossed over her thin, delicate frame. It was so unlike mine I wanted to laugh. She’d been my opposite for as long as I could remember.
“Annie’s here. Are you almost done?”
“Yes, Mom,” I replied as I sat by my suitcase on the floor.
She sighed. “Hon,” she said, dragging the word out. “Please don’t start.”
I shot her a look. “I was just answering your question.” I pulled a green pillow with my name embroidered in beaded letters and stuffed it into a nearby cardboard box.
Mom looked down the stairs. “Annie!” She called. “You can come up now!” I shook my head at Mom’s formality towards my best friend. Like Annie ever needed permission to come over. She practically lived over here as it was. Well, except for the last couple weeks. I’d spent them alone, packing. All because I was leaving Florida since Mom decided to go without me to go visit my new step dad, Bobby, and his family.
I looked up to see Annie coming towards me, Mom leaving down the stairs behind her. I stood up and she gave me a quick hug. “Hey Ann,” I greeted her as she took a seat on my stripped, empty bed. “How was Miami?” Annie had gone there with her family for the weekend. This was why she was sporting her tan in a neon blue t-shirt and white jean shorts. Her tan made everyone jealous at school, despite the fact we lived in Florida so there were plenty of tan teens. I wasn’t pale, either, but I wasn’t anywhere near as tan as Annie.
“It was a lot of fun. I told you I got that cute outfit at their downtown, right? I seriously wish I could go shopping there all the time.” I didn’t bother pointing out that she went to the mall all the time, which was pretty much the same thing. “But I’m glad I came back in time to catch you before you went to North Carolina.”
“Yeah,” I said with reservation as I pushed away my suitcase. I was done packing for now. I was seriously ready to tear up my duffel bag with how much I’d been packing lately. But Mom had been pestering me too much to not do it.
“So, guess what?” Annie asked, bouncing on my bed. “I saw Damien at the mall this morning.”
“You went shopping already? I thought you just went in Miami!” I teased her.
“Hello, Damien?” she pointed out, leaning forward. I guess she was avoiding my mall remark and focusing on a different topic.
I groaned. “How’d he look?” I asked, not really sure if I wanted to know the answer. I mean, I had been dating the guy for the last couple months and we’d had to break up all because of my stupid move. School had just let out a couple of weeks ago and we’d planned on spending the summer together. But had that happened? No. I was too busy packing. He was one of the sweetest guys I had dated and I was really going to miss him. I actually already did.
Annie gave me a sympathetic look. “He knows you didn’t want to break it off,” she offered.
I nodded, but it didn’t comfort me all too much. My step dad’s mom seriously couldn’t have picked a worst time to get sick. And sure, maybe that made me a very uncaring person, but right then, I didn’t care. I mean, did my mom have to move in with them while I was whisked off to another state, like 500 miles away? I didn’t think so. Right then, I wanted to just stay here with my best friend and boyfriend. Too bad that wasn’t going to happen no matter how much I wished.
“He told me to, uh, tell you he understands.”
I looked at Annie. “Oh my gosh, he totally hates me,” I cried.
“Ohh, Avery, no he doesn’t! And don’t worry there’s sure to be plenty of hot guys in Silvermir. You’ll have a great time and you’ll get over Damien,” Annie reassured me with a smile.
I scoffed. “That’s doubtful.” I meant about having a good time. Silvermir could never replace Fort Lauderdale. I might get over Damien; I mean he was just a boy. But I would sure miss him a lot, along with all my other friends.
Annie sighed and stood up, tired of my whining. “Look, Av, you’ll have a good time, okay? Unless, of course, you get so caught up in not enjoying yourself that you really won’t enjoy yourself”
Annie shrugged. “Just don’t go there with a bad attitude,” she clarified. “Okay?”
“Thank you for that heartfelt advice,” I teased.
She threw a pillow at me from one of the cardboard boxes and rolled her eyes with a smile. “Just promise me you’ll call and Skype with me at least once a week!”
“Whoa, those are demanding terms.” I joked.
She shot me a look and stuck out her tongue.
I laughed. “So mature,” I told her, but smiled. “Alright, I’ll call and Skype you.”
Annie grinned and then looked down at her cellphone. “Ooh, Supernatural’s on!” She switched my TV on, flipping it to the CW. I watched as she planted herself in front of my tiny screen in admiration. “Dean is soo incredibly hot!” She exclaimed, beaming. Dean, one of the main characters was pretty much the only reason she watched the show. She usually made me watch it with her, but I didn’t always mind. Sometimes it was nice to escape for an hour a week with monsters that were fought by attractive guys, you know? I sat down beside her, just as her cell phone rang.
She pulled it back out and answered it. “What, Frank?” Frank was her on-and-off boyfriend of the last couple years. Right now, they were almost to their off-stage. “No. I’m not gonna—well, fine, then. See if I care. Yeah, okay, have a great guys’ night.” She hung up angrily, shaking her head. She turned to me. “Stupid guy; he’s having guys’ night tonight—of all nights,” she pointed out like I was supposed to know why that was so much of a mistake.
I decided to be safe and ask. “Tonight would be?” Hopefully it was more than just a planned night for them. Here’s the thing about Annie: she didn’t like it when anyone changed plans on her—especially Frank. She liked the guy so much; she wanted him to fit into her PERFECT GUY LIST she’d make in fifth grade. But Frank was just…well, Frank. He was one of those free-spirited types and just very indecisive. But I guess opposites attract because the two of them really do make a good couple. Well, at least when they’re on their on-stage part of their relationship at least.
“Uh, our anniversary!” Annie replied haughtily, as if I should’ve already known that. She sat back down with an oomph!
“Oh, right.” I hated to ask which one since they’d gotten back together so many times. It was hard to keep track, even as her best friend.
“You know what?” She asked me, shooting up. I was actually too scared to ask her, so I kept quiet as she paced back and forth in front of me. “I’m gonna go over there right now and—”
“Annie,” I interrupted her, and she stopped pacing to look at me.
“What?” She asked, all innocent like.
I sighed because she knew exactly what I was going to say. I was, after all, the reasoning one in our friendship. Well, most of the time anyways. “Don’t do something you’ll regret.” My best friend could sometimes be rash and jump into things without so much as giving it a seconds thought.
She thought about it, and then looked at me in her sisterly way. “Fine. I won’t.” She gave a sigh. “But I can’t just let him blow me off! Especially on our anniversary,” She pointed out like she was really trying to convince herself.
I just nodded, understanding. “And you shouldn’t. But, don’t go too hard on him,” I said with a laugh.
She gave me a hug, finally calmed down. She pulled away, staring at me. “Skype me as soon as you get there, okay?”
I nodded. “’Course.”
She smiled. “Have a safe trip.”
I smiled back. “Thanks.” Then I watched as she left my room, knowing it’d be a while until I’d see her again. I sighed, willing myself not to cry. She was my best friend, and I hoped she always would be. Moving to North Carolina wouldn’t change our friendship. But I still packed the picture frame she’d given me for my 11th birthday of us at the fair in my bag, just in case I needed to remember our good times together. Then I went back to finishing my packing, realizing there was no turning back now.
The next morning, Mom knocked on my bedroom door while I was finishing getting dressed.
“Are you ready yet?” She asked, peeking inside my room.
“Uh, yeah,” I told her, slipping on my blue Keds.
“I sent the rest of the boxes with all your electronics this morning. Oh, but I need you suitcase to put in the car.”
“Oh, I’ll get it,” I assured her, imagining her falling right over as while trying to carry my suitcase to the car. The bag wasn’t heavy; my mom was just fragile like that. Well, physically, I mean. Mentally…she was headstrong.
Mom nodded in reply. “Umm, there’s toast and eggs if you want them.” She watched me as I tied my shoes, and rubbed her arms for warmth despite the fact we lived in Florida.
“Thanks,” I said without looking up, and she took her cue to leave. I sighed when I was done tying my shoes and I saw Mom’s retreating back in the hallway. It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to miss her. I would. But it didn’t fail to strike me that she’d chosen my step dad and his kid over me. That kind of thing tends to hurt, just a little bit.
The night before I had stayed up looking through old boxes Dad had kept in the attic. There were tons of pictures of us together and happy. It seemed like Mom didn’t remember that anymore. There were also photos of him in North Carolina. There were a couple with him and a couple of his friends, standing with their arms around each other. I even saw one with him, two older guys, and a cute little kid with blonde hair and bright blue eyes. I think he’d been one his friend’s kid. But all the pictures proved he’d had a life before my mom and me. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that Mom had had a life before him, too. And maybe, that she’d have a life after him, too. I guess, though, I had thought it’d include me in it instead of being sent away to be with my grandfather.
“Avery!” Mom called from downstairs, snapping me out of my thoughts. “We’re leaving in 5!”
I stood up, made sure I had everything I’d need packed, and picked up my suitcase before climbing down the stairs towards breakfast.
I had fallen asleep on the plane after finishing reading a novel Mom had given me about some boy finding himself in some supernatural camp. I don’t know. It wasn’t exactly my type of book, but Annie would’ve loved it. But as I read on, I could see why she likes the paranormal so much. It’s a whole other world where normal is being a “creature of the night”. And it’s easy to find yourself engrossed in it. Especially when waiting on the other end is some town you hadn’t been to in forever because your Mom hadn’t wanted you to come along with her to her new family. Not that I was mad or anything. Nope. Not at all.
I walked through the Fayetteville Regional Airport in a daze, still a bit tired from my plane nap. I followed the baggage claim signs and rode down an escalator. It was then my doubts started to form. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe I should’ve begged Mom to let me come with her. Yeah, I thought, as if. I was stuck in North Carolina whether I like it or not. And it had to be better than feeling like an extra wheel to Mom’s new family.
I scanned the area after getting my suitcase from the claim, seeing if there was anyone with a sign for me at the terminal where Mom said Paul would be waiting. It took me a second, but I soon recognized him standing a few feet away. He was Dad’s friend from college, but it had been a really long time since the last time I had seen him. He waved to me as I came closer, a big smile on his face.
“Ah, Avery,” he greeted me right away. “How nice it is to see you again! And man, look at your hair,” he said, motioning to the dark red streaks in my brown hair. I was used to the comments by now, so I just smiled politely, only vaguely remembering him from when I was a little kid. He took my suitcase, chatting easily to me as we made our way outside to the parking lot where his red, rusty truck was waiting.
The sun was shining, making the air feel almost stuffy, so I was glad to climb into the passenger seat where the AC was blasting cool air. We buckled in our seat belts before Paul turned the radio to an oldies station playing a familiar Journey song. The song kept playing until we were out the parking lot and onto the highway.
“So, how many years has it been?” Paul asked me, his tone light as we followed a trail of cars in the right lane.
Not many enough, I wanted to say, but didn’t. Instead I replied, “Um, 10? Maybe more.”
Paul nodded, merging to another lane. “Yeah, probably about 10. You’re 17, right?”
“Uh, yeah, I am.” My birthday was during the school year, but it felt longer than that since my last birthday.
“So, how’s your mom doing?”
“Good,” I answered, looking out my window. I really wasn’t the chatty type, something Paul didn’t seem to understand. Besides—my mom? Kind of a touchy subject.
“That’s good to hear. Have you talked to your dad lately?”
I stared at the cars whizzing by outside my window, not wanting to be talking about that at all. Because Paul’s real question was if I’d visited my dad’s gravestone. And if Mom was a touchy subject, Dad was a bomb in a box just waiting to explode. I sighed. “Nope.”
Finally, Paul grew quiet. But then, as if the silence was a disease he wanted to avoid, he started talking again. Thankfully, he’d changed the subject. “You excited for the summer?” He tried to sound joyful after the somber topic of my dad.
“Sure,” I replied. Then I pulled out my cellphone to text Annie. I could see this was going to be a long trip.
The town came into view after a couple hours of driving in city and country roads. The city view had slowly crept into country farms and houses. There was an ancient looking school, and it was five minutes later that I saw the sign for SILVERMIR painted in neat white letters on a dark blue sign.
We didn’t get to Grandpa’s house until 10 that night. As Paul got out of the truck, I stayed in the passenger seat looking at the house I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Still, it seemed oddly familiar. The tan trimming, the light brown roof, the house enveloped in tall trees and shrubs. Despite only being one story, I knew it was pretty big inside.
Charlie, my grandpa, opened the door while I got out and went to stand with Paul on the front step, who had my suitcase in his hand. Charlie grunted a hello in his usual friendly way, and left the door open for us so we could come inside. I shut the door behind us before following the guys to the TV room. Charlie lazily collapsed on the sofa and switched the channel to a baseball game whose teams I didn’t catch. “Thanks, Paul,” he told him as Paul set my suitcase off to the side.
“Oh, it was no problem, Charlie,” he assured my grandpa. “It was nice catching up with the youngin’.” Then with a glance at me and Charlie, he smiled. “I’ll let you guys be.” He gave me a wink, then left.
Charlie didn’t give me a hug or say something like well, hello Avery. So good to see you. How are you? Unlike Paul, he didn’t inquire about my life or even talk about his own. No, he just focused on the TV and the latest sports game as he leaned back against the couch cushions. “Your stuff’s in the guest bedroom. Good night.”
I wanted to laugh at his aloofness. It was just like when I’d come here for a couple days after Grandma passed away. Good to know Charlie was still the same since then: grumpy and unattached.
I picked up my suitcase and glanced towards the correct bedroom in the hallway around the corner. “Thanks. ‘Night,” I said before hauling my duffel bag to the familiar guest room. The walls were still dark purple. There was a small desk in the corner, a bed in the center of the far wall, and a mahogany bed table (matching the desk) next to it. I quickly shut the window above the bed table billowing cool air in the room, which had made me chilly.
After searching the room, I saw some of the boxes Mom had sent a couple weeks ago, unopened, laying on the other side of my bed. Thankfully in one of the desk drawers I found a pair of scissors. They were kind of dull, but I realized that if I pressed hard enough they cut through the tape. Inside I found my bed things, which was all I really needed right now.
I kept yawning as I made my bed, clearly tired and a bit jet-lagged from today’s trip. Which was why as soon as I was done, I put on my PJs (a tee and sweat capris) and happily crawled into the warm bed. It was so nice to finally just rest and sleep.