Silvermir | Teen Ink


August 6, 2012
By Anonymous

Author's note: I always loved watching the Gates and fantasy. This is the first book in the series and I hope people like the mix of the supernatural I created in this.

I 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.

The sun shining through the window woke me up around 11 o’clock the next morning. My dream had left me woken with a strange feeling, but I ignored it as I wondered into the kitchen with a yawn. Charlie sat at the counter. He had his reading glasses on and was staring intently at some papers in front of him. A newspaper dangled half off the counter, being only kept up by his elbow, but I don't think he noticed.


Charlie nodded his hello, not bothering to tear away his gaze away from the papers. “How’d you sleep?”

I was surprised by his interest, but I was sure it was Paul’s doing. He probably had told grandpa to be a little friendlier. “Oh, pretty good,” I replied before opening the refrigerator door and peering inside.

“That’s good,” Charlie said without any real emotion.

“Yeah.” I got out some Orange Juice and butter before getting bread from the pantry. Then I put a piece of bread in the toaster and waited for it to be done. I watched as Charlie scribbled some notes in the papers’ margins, and then scrambled to his feet. The newspaper fluttered to the ground, but it had seemed to be forgotten.
“So, listen. I’ve got to run some reports down to the office,” Charlie informed me as he gathered up the papers he’d recently made notes on. “The office?” I wondered, hugging my arms to my stomach. Charlie just nodded. “Yeah, the newspaper office. Umm, kids around here usually go downtown. But if you do, I need some things from the grocery store. I wrote them all down on a list. It’s the sticky note by the door and there should be an envelope with some money. For the groceries,” he added as an afterthought like I’d steal money from him already. Clearly he didn’t know me. But then, how would he? I hadn’t seen the guy since I was seven years old. He was probably convinced I was some delinquent teenager. I wondered, not for the first time why he’d let me stay with him for the summer. What had Mom said to convince him to agree?
I realized he was still staring at me, expecting my reply. “Oh, okay,” I said before he left. I was still a little surprised he’d made conversation with me at all. But I guess he was trying, and that said something I guess. That’s when the toast popped up, totally burnt. It was a smell that seemed to linger too long in the kitchen. I sprayed some Febreze, but still, the stupid smell didn’t go away. So after grabbing a banana and drinking some OJ I went to get ready. I had the strong urge to breathe some fresh air after my little toast incident.

After a shower and putting on some fresh, clean clothes, I was ready to go. I had noticed Charlie liked to keep the house freezing, so it was actually warmer outside the house than inside it. And living in Florida most of my life, I didn’t do well with the cold. I had found the sticky note Charlie had mentioned with a short list of groceries on it and pocketed the money that was in the envelope before heading out.
As I walked down the street, I worried I wouldn’t know where downtown was. Most of the land around Charlie’s house was lots of trees and park looking areas. But as I kept walking, I realized downtown was hard to miss. Amid all the trees, the side walk I walked on led to a much busier part of town where there were lots of cars and bicyclists passing me by at a crowded intersection. Then the people thinned out and there were little dainty shops lining the sidewalks. There was a ONE STOP GROCERY SHOP that I saw tucked back in the corner by a coffee shop and a couple gift shops. Much like the town, the grocery store was surrounded by the forest, making it look kind of out place from the plaza.
The grocery shop was smaller than I was used to, and much more organized. But at least it was that much easier to find all the stuff on Charlie’s list. I even got myself some pop-tarts and other teen things I knew Charlie didn’t keep in his pantry.
Stepping out of the grocery store and onto the sidewalk, it seemed the air had gotten hotter than it’d been earlier. Standing there, I could almost pretend that I was right back in Florida. But something snapped me out of my thoughts, making me realize I had run into someone and instantly felt hot liquid spill on my arms.
“Ohmygosh!” Someone said, talking fast. “I am so sorry!” The girl I had bumped into was holding a spilled cup of coffee, car keys and a cellphone in her hands. She was slightly shorter than me, but considering I was only 5’4’’, that probably wasn’t saying much. She also had blue hair. And again, I probably didn’t have much room to judge with my red streaks and all. And sure, her blue streaks were a little thicker than mine, and I could see her natural black hair blended in with it, but still. It was maybe a little much. But somehow, the girl pulled it off with a sweet heart-shaped face and brown eyes.
“No worries,” I assured her, adjusting the bags I was holding and trying to ignore the coffee sliding down my arms. I was about to wipe my arms on my t-shirt and jean shorts when the girl stopped me.
“Oh! I’ve got napkins in my car. It’s the least I can do,” she told me and before I had a chance to protest, she was digging out the napkins from a car not even a foot away from us. Her car was blue—just like her hair, except even a lighter shade. “I’m Keyara, by the way,” she introduced herself as she handed over the napkins.
I set down the grocery bags I’d been holding and wiped my arms. “Oh, hi,” I replied, I wasn’t trying to be unfriendly, but I was a little taken aback by the girl’s friendliness. I mean, there were serial killers out there more innocent looking then her, you know?
Keyara smiled at me. “You’re Charlie Williams’s granddaughter, right?”
“Uh…” I bit my lip, wondering how she knew who I was. And sure, there could be some reasonable explanation, like the town knew everyone each other, but there was also the possibility she wanted to kill me. Maybe that theory made me seem like a paranoid freak, but I couldn’t help it. The town itself was totally creepy. And clearly, it was making me on edge, too. Besides, I was used to hearing some crazy stories about some of the towns by where I lived in Florida. You could never be too careful.
Keyara just laughed at me hesitancy. “It’s a small town,” she reassured me. My mom’s the town doctor, and good friends with Charlie.”
I nodded, not sure if she wasn’t lying. I mean, why would she lie? But you never knew. I wasn’t exactly the most trustful person. It usually took me a while to warm up to new people. But a low rumble interrupted my thoughts, and my reply. We turned to see a shiny, red Camaro pull into the parking lot across the street at the Café place. Loud music could be heard and I could feel the bass pounding in the ground even from where we stood. I couldn’t ignore the displeased look on Keyara’s face as someone cut the engine. Her annoyed look only intensified as three guys and two girls filed out of the car, all laughing. The guy who’d been driving wore a burgundy letter jacket and seemed to be the most authorative one in the group. They seemed to be all attractive and fit, even from the spot where I stood. “Who are they?” I couldn’t help but ask, kind of feeling like I’d stepped onto a Twilight set or something.
Keyara sighed and turned away. “They would be Kingsley Hamilton’s crew.” I figured he was the driver by the look she shot him. “His best friend Tanner was in the passenger seat. He’s also the sheriff’s son. Eddie was walking between Tamara and Gwen, the sisters from hell.” I gave a laugh at that, but Keyara didn’t join in. “Gabe is usually with them, but he’s probably too partied out or something.” She threw her coffee cup in a nearby trashcan, still avoiding my gaze.
“Why do I get the impression you don’t like them?” I asked as the five of them entered the café, their laughs dying down.
Keyara sighed again and threw away my napkins for me so she still wouldn’t have to look at me. “They’re just…” she stopped herself, seeming to have to think about her next word. “Jerks,” she finally settled on the word, but her tone revealed that even though there was a better word choice, this one was a simpler one to understand. “One thing you have to understand about Silvermir is that we have our cliques, I guess you could say. We tend to stick to our groups.” She had finally looked at me as she leaned back against her blue Ford. Although her gaze had seemed to intensify, making me want to look away. “Those were the jocks,” Keyara explained the five strangers we’d just seen. “The ones that my school knows not to mess with. They guys are on the football team, and even the sisters were, but now they just run cross-country.”
I turned to Keyara. “And what group do you hang with?”
She smiled, as if I’d said an inside joke. “I guess the normal one.” She pushed herself off the Ford, still smiling. “Okay, come on. Let’s go.”
“What?” I asked her, a little startled. Because, despite her friendliness, I had no real clue of her stability. And I had learned from a young age to never accept rides from strangers. My mom would probably faint if she even thought I was considering it. I mean, who do you think taught to me to be paranoid of new strangers? And sure, maybe it was the CSI shows she loved to watch, but still.
Keyara didn’t seem mad or anything. She seemed pretty cool about it, as if we were old friends or something. “Look, I’m not going to murder you or anything so stop looking so suspicious of me,” she said with a laugh. Clearly my face was giving itself away. “My friend Tessa lives near you, so I was already going that way.”
I still didn’t budge, although I was feeling a little sillier now that she knew my worries.
Keyara smiled and turned her face up ahead, towards the busier part of the street. “Fine, walk to Charlie’s. But you know, it’s rush hour, so good luck navigating the intersection.” She opened her car door and I sighed. Hopefully I wasn’t making a total mistake by agreeing. But walking through that intersection and getting possibly squashed like a bug didn’t exactly seem very appealing.
“Wait,” I told her and picked up my grocery bags. “I’d really appreciate the ride.”
Keyara gave me a friendly smile before popping open her trunk. I handed her the bags of groceries I’d been holding and she put them in the trunk. Before she had a chance to close it, I got a quick glance inside. I could’ve sworn I saw candles and a bowl of thyme or something, but I didn’t get a good enough look before Keyara closed the trunk. I was a little startled and confused, but I guess I wasn’t to question her because if that wasn’t really what the stuff was (you know, séance stuff) then I would’ve felt pretty embarrassed. Which was why I still ended up getting in the car even if I did have my suspicions.
And it did kind of end up being a mistake—just not in the way I had expected. Keyara had ended up talking my ears off, something I didn’t think possible after Paul. She talked about boys, school, and her friend Tessa. Truthfully, I tuned out a bit. After a while, enough was enough. And by the time she pulled up in front of Charlie’s house, my ears were ringing. We got out, but this time Keyara didn’t let me come near the trunk. She handed over my grocery bags and quickly closed the trunk.
“So, don’t forget the town bonfire on Friday night. You should come with Charlie!” She insisted for the fifth time since I had gotten in her car.
I just nodded my reply because there was no way Charlie would be going to a bonfire where he had to socialize with the town. I did, however, thank her for the car ride before going inside.
Charlie was back from the office, and I found him lounging in a torn chair in the living room, a National Geographic in hand. “Did you get the stuff on the list?” He asked me not glancing up from his magazine.
“Uh, yepp.”
“Good. One of your boxes came in today.”
I brightened up at the thought of his words. It would have to be my electronics stuff. I already had my clothes and bed stuff, so that was the only one left. “Oh, thanks,” I replied before going to the kitchen and hurriedly putting all the groceries away. I didn’t even care if I put some of the stuff in the wrong place. Charlie would just have to deal with it himself if he had a problem with it.
In my room, sure enough, there was a cardboard box with ELECTRONICS written on it in my handwriting. I ripped it open and charged up my laptop. Then sitting at the foot of my bed, I rested the laptop on my lap and logged onto Skype before hooking up my webcam to the top of it. I was so happy to see Annie logged on as well, and I didn’t hesitate to message her so we could Skype. She accepted and soon I was looking at her sitting in her room at her desk.
“Omg, Avery!” Annie greeted me as soon as we connected. “How’s Silvermir?” She asked, not even waiting for me to greet her back.
“Umm, small,” I started, “and way different than Florida. They do have a downtown, and that’s kinda big. But it’s pretty much the only place to hang out it seems.”
“Oh. How was the trip?” Annie wondered leaning across her desk, making her face look bigger than it really was.
I told her about Paul and his chattiness, which then brought me to talk about Keyara. I didn’t mention the stuff in her trunk, since I really could be mistaken. I had really only gotten one, quick glance and it was totally plausible that I had seen wrong.
“Well, you should still totally at least go to that bonfire,” Annie suggested, of course choosing that to be the next topic out of everything I had just said. She thought about it, then grinned. “Maybe you’ll meet some hot guys!”
I rolled my eyes. “You have such a one-tracked mind,” I told her with a giggle. She knew I could care less about that, especially after Damien. “Besides, it’s not like Charlie’s even gonna go. He’s really not the sociable type, you know?” I sighed. “Plus, Keyara said that the people in this town are pretty cliquey. Judging by her reactions to the jocks we saw earlier, they really don’t seem to get along with each other.” It was still a bit weird, remembering Keyara’s expression. There was so much feeling in that expression I couldn’t begin to fathom it all.
“Well, where the jocks at least hot?”
I laughed and shook my head at her question. See, told you: one-tracked mind. Still, I told her about the parking lot thing, mentioning Keyara’s reaction.
Annie seemed to consider my words. “Okay, yeah, a bit weird,” she admitted, leaning back in her desk chair. “But she probably just doesn’t like them ‘cause they most likely grew up together.” She giggled. “It’s not like we can’t name all the annoying people we’ve known since we were in elementary school.”
I shot her a look. “Is there a list you haven’t told me about?” I joked.
She laughed and shook her head. “Nah, not really.”
“So how are things in Florida?” I asked, changing the subject as I stretched out my legs.
Annie shrugged. “Good. And guess what? Frank decided to go to guys’ night,” she informed me, obviously still peeved.
“Uh, oh, I’m sorry Ann,” I told her, and really meant it. Normally I would be there to comfort her in person, not from a laptop screen. Clearly things were different now that I was some 500 miles away from home.
Annie just shrugged again, and smiled. “It’s whatever, you know? Besides, I met a cute guy visiting from Chicago.” Chicago was one of Annie’s favorite cities, so it was no wonder she had connected with a guy from there. “And he’s way more punctual than Frank,” she pointed out, her tone making it clear she appreciated that factor alone.
I smiled back with a small shake of my head. “Oh, Annie. Play nice.”
Her smile grew mischievous. “Always,” she said innocently. I could hear her name being called, and a faint figure in her bedroom door frame. “Ugh, my sister’s calling me. I’ve got to go.”
“Oh, okay. See you?”
Annie nodded quickly before replaying. “You bet!” Then her screen faded to black and I logged off. A second later, Charlie knocked on my room door.
“We’re going out for dinner.”
“Oh,” I said, logging off my laptop. “Okay.” Then I got up and followed Charlie outside to his rusty Sedan. We drove downtown, not speaking, which really wasn’t a surprise. I wasn’t complaining though. With Charlie, I didn’t mind the quiet. Charlie parked the Sedan in an open spot in front of MARLEY’S BURGER JOINT. Without hesitation, Charlie led me to a booth by a large-sized window. When the waitress came by to take our orders, I could see that Charlie came here a lot. She knew him by name and greeted us with a wide smile, enough to stretch her red lips to show off her white teeth.
“What can I get ya guys?” She asked us, a bit of her red lipstick smudging on her teeth.
Charlie ordered a bacon-burger and fries, while I just settled for a Coke and an egg-salad. At my request, Charlie gave a noticeable humph.
“You don’t eat meat?” He asked me after our drinks came, seeming a bit stricken like he’d heard wrong or something.
“Well, no,” came my simple reply after taking a long gulp of soda from my plastic cup.
Charlie shifted in his seat. “So, what are you one of those vegetarians or something?”
I bit back my laugh. He’s said vegetarian like one might say cancer. “Yeah, I am.” And have been since I was little. I just couldn’t think of those poor animals, not to mention slaughter houses (something I’d learned all about from a very thorough essay Annie had written freshman year). Not that I went all psychotic when I saw other people eating meat. I mean, I went to high school, so that was sort of inevitable. I remained open minded around meat-eating people, I just knew it wasn’t for me.
Charlie didn’t get to comment on my response, though, because our food came. We dug in, silence following. But I was half-way through my salad when I remembered my run in with Keyara earlier.
“Charlie?” I asked him.
He put down his almost-gone burger and wiped his mouth. “Hmm?”
“Do you know a girl named Keyara?”
He nodded, as if not seeing the big deal. “Sure I do. Her mom’s the town doctor, and considering the nearest hospital is more than an hour away, she’s pretty useful in this town.” He picked up his burger and started eating it again.
I leaned back in my seat and drank some of my Coke. I was glad to know Keyara was telling the truth, but I also felt kind of silly. I had treated her in a stand-offish way and shouldn’t have been so paranoid.
“Met her today, did you?” Charlie asked me, biting into a french fry.
I nodded, then figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone. “Yeah. She even told me about the town bonfire on Friday.” I expected Charlie to roll his eyes or anything really, except for him to smile at the thought.
“Oh, that’s right. It’s a nice, big get-together.”
“So, you’re going?” I asked to clarify, not quite believing it.
Charlie’s smile didn’t waver. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
His response once again surprised me because I really couldn’t see Charlie being all friendly at some “big get-together” with the townspeople. I mean sure, maybe once upon a time, but that had been a long time ago. Surely, not now. Not knowing how to reply, I stared out the window.
Unsurprisingly, there was a long stretch of woods by the parking lot. The dawning sunlight above them made them look as mysterious as you would expect in scary movie. I was about to look away when a fast blur caught my eye. Right away I wondered if it’d just been my imagination. And as I kept my eyes towards the window, I was beginning to think it really had been just my troubled mind at work. My stupid paranoia and this creepy town were going to drive me insane. Just to appease my distressed mind, I turned back to Charlie. “Do you guys have bears or something in the woods?” At the possibility it hadn’t been my over-active imagination at work, it could’ve just been some wild-life animal or something.
Charlie chewed over a french fry before looking at me, a weird gleam in his eyes. “Well, sure. Why do you ask?”
I shrugged, keeping my eyes on my unfinished salad, trying to look nonchalant. “In the woods—” I started, ready to tell him about what I saw. But really, I hadn’t really seen anything. So not wanting to seem like a crazy teen, I changed my reply. “Oh, you know, Silvermir is pretty much surrounded by woods. I was just wondering if there’s, umm, animals inside them.”
Charlie gave me a funny look. “Well, they are woods. The forest,” he provided another synonym, making me feel stupid for asking. But then his face grew serious. “Avery, I hope you know, Silvermir has, uh, rules that need to be followed. One of them being, don’t go in the woods—ever. And especially not at night. Not that you should be going out at night anyways,” he pointed out. I was starting to see where Mom got her paranoia from. I still nodded, sensing Charlie’s solemnity. Then I suddenly lost all my appetite, thinking maybe there was more danger in this town than I’d ever assumed.
Charlie seemed to sense that I wasn’t hungry, so he paid for the check and we left the burger joint.

Thursday afternoon, Annie Skyped me for a recap of Supernatural, and her first official date with the cute guy from Chicago.

“Did I tell you Dean had his shirt off for like a whole five minutes straight?” Annie asked me giddily.

I leaned back against the back board of my bed, a spot that seemed to be my new favorite when I Skyped with Annie. “Uh, yeah. But you never actually told me what happened in the episode,” I pointed out with a laugh. I knew that wasn’t the important thing to her. No, to her what made the show were Dean and Sam, the main characters who she found dreamy. The actual supernatural aspect of the show wasn’t as high up on the list as those guys, but I knew that she was still into the whole supernatural thing.

“Oh,” Annie said with a shrug. “Just, you know, the whole Apocalypse thing and the world coming to an end…yeah. I’d rather talk about Brett.” Once again, her voice developed the giddy tone.
“Right, the guy from Chicago.” She had just started to tell me about their date when she’d brought up Supernatural again.
“Well,” she started, brushing her hair back quickly with her hand, “we went to the movies, then after wards he said we should do it again sometime!”
I looked at her excited face and was happy for her. But unfortunately, my opinions were spoken before I could think about what I was saying. “Umm, just the movies?”
Annie sighed. “Why am I not surprised you object?”
I gave her a sheepish smile because she knew me too well. “Sorry if I think sitting in front of a screen for two hours without so much as talking isn’t date-worthy. I mean, you didn’t even get a dinner out of it.” I thought that was a good observation on my part, but Annie didn’t seem to see it my way.
Annie rolled her eyes like I just didn’t get it. And, clearly, I really didn’t. “Well, we did make out a little.”
“Oh, you mean in front of all the other movie-goers?” I raised an eye brow. “Didn’t it all feel so impersonal and totally uncreative?” I wasn’t a romantic, or anything, but I figured guys could think of a better first date than just the movies. Although, all Damien and I had done on our first date was go see a concert. At least there we had time to talk.
Annie sighed again, clearly not seeing my point of view. This wasn’t really a surprise, though. Our love life was something that had always varied for us. “You are so unromantic, I swear,” she said with a giggle. “No one will ever feel like they’re living up to your non-standards.” Then we both cracked up laughing, because Annie hadn’t made any sense. “All I’m saying,” she said when we composed ourselves,” is just…lighten up! I know you’re not into love and all that stuff, but you should be open-minded up at least a little bit.”
I returned her smile, knowing she wasn’t going to budge on her opinion, and she was just being my best friend. “Yeah, okay. Thank you Dr. Phil.”
She rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue like she was eight years old.
“So mature,” I told her with a laugh. Then I heard a knock on my room door and turned to see Charlie standing in the door way, holding blue and orange flyers in his hands. He seemed to have some bad timing considering this was the second time he’d interrupted my Skyping session with Annie. Still, I told Annie my good bye and logged off. I stood up, putting my lap top on my bed, and waited for Charlie to talk.
“I need you to post these up around town. I was about to do it, but I have to go run down a story at the Silvermir Tribune to my editor.” Then without waiting for my acknowledgment, he handed me the pile of flyers. “You should put the most downtown. And if you need to make more copies go to the library. Their copies are only fifteen cents, so here’s five bucks.” He whipped out a five-dollar bill, then narrowed his eyes. “And I expect change.”
I nodded, seeing I really had no choice. “Okay.”
“I’ll be at the tribune,” Charlie told me, as if he hadn’t just said he was heading there.
I just nodded again and he left. Then I changed out of my PJ’s before heading downtown, flyers in hand. I glanced at them, reading them for the first time.
WHEN: This Friday
WHERE: The Hearthside Park
TIME: All day!

In my opinion, it was kind of cheesy, but I don’t think that mattered. I don’t think people would dismiss the event just because the Silvermir Tribune used such a cliché saying. Soon, I had gone through half of the stack, posting them in stores and café windows, along with the grocery store window. Around lunch time, I even ran into Keyara and Tessa who made me grab a bite at the same burger place I had eaten with Charlie a couple nights ago. I swear the people in this town were such carnivores.
Tessa was a lot quieter than Keyara, but just as passionate on certain subjects. The two of them sometimes finished each other’s sentences and seemed as tight as sisters. But they mostly reminded me of Annie and me, and I tried not to show my somberness as we finished our meal. They could never replace Annie, but they were pretty good company. I didn’t know if it was because they were the only teenagers I knew in this town, but they were already growing on me.
“So you really don’t eat meat?” Tessa asked, slurping a milkshake she shared with Keyara through one of those neon bendable straws.
I smiled, turning away from the window next to our booth. It was smaller than the one Charlie and I had sat by previously, but it contained pretty much the same forest view. “Nope. Vegetarian.” Both Tessa and Keyara seemed to take this much better than Charlie had, and left it at that. When we were all done with our meal, the two of them even came to help me but up more flyers. When I almost ran out, they went home. They offered me a ride, but I decided to go to the library walking style. I knew Charlie wanted more copies made, so I just wanted to get it over with. I waved good bye to Keyara and Tessa before following their directions to the library.
I was walking down a worn dirt road that led to a cemented walk way up ahead. My cell phone rang, and after digging it out of my short’s pocket, I answered it. “Hello?”
“Hey, hon, it’s Mom.”
I had a quick urge to hang up on her. After all, I had been in Silvermir for almost a week now, yet she hadn’t bothered calling until now. It was as if she had just remembered she had a daughter and called because it was convenient for her at the moment. “Hi.”
“Oh, Avery,” she sighed. “Please don’t start.”
I rolled my eyes, kicking at the path. “All I said was hi, Mom,” I pointed out to her. She didn’t have to jump on her high-strung wagon so soon.
Mom took a deep breath. “How’s Silvermir?”
“Uh, it’s nice,” I replied, trying to sound sincere. Too bad Mom knew my tone too well.
“Avery, stop acting like I sent you there as a punishment.” But that was just the thing—a part of me felt like she had. All because I didn’t get along with her new husband and his twelve year old kid, I was cast away from family and friends. Okay, so Charlie was family, too, but he hadn’t even been on my mom’s side. I wasn’t even sent to someone she was blood-related to. Can’t say that didn’t sting. But, not wanting to start any arguments, I tried my best to sound kind. “I know, Mom.”
“How’s Charlie? You’re not being too much trouble for him, are you?”
“No, Mom, don’t worry,” I assured her, rolling my eyes a bit.
“Well, that’s good to hear. Are you being safe? I don’t want you doing anything dangerous or getting involved with—”
“Mom,” I stopped her. “I get it.” After all, it was a speech she had given to me too many time before. “But I’m actually on my way to make flyer copies for Charlie, so I have to go.” For once, I was glad of the excuse. Or, really, anything to end this conversation.
“Oh, okay, hon,” Mom replied, sounding a bit dejected. “Talk to you soon.”
“Okay, bye,” I told her, adding a silent wouldn’t count on it. I hung up, and suddenly collided hard with someone. My cell phone went flying from my grasp along with the flyers I’d been holding in my other hand. I even tripped on the slightly raised cement walk-way. I picked myself up, my chin stinging a bit, and looked over to see a skateboarder, aka, my collider. I snatched up my cell, putting the cover that had popped off my cellphone back in its place, along with the flyers. I turned to the skateboarder, wondering who I had run into. It took me a second, but I realized it was Kingsley, the driver I had seen in the Camaro on my first day here. The same one Keyara had a strong distaste for.
Now that I wasn’t standing all the way across a parking lot, I got a much better look at Kingsley. He was tall, probably six feet, with shaggy dirty-blonde hair and really blue eyes. Not the creepy light blue color, but the one you can’t help but be drawn to. And despite wearing a long gray sleeve shirt with sleeves that were rolled up to his elbows, you could definitely tell he was built with defined muscles. Not in the scary body-builder way, but more in the way that a Hollister model’s would look like.
If he noticed my staring, he didn’t show it. Instead he kicked up his skateboard, and looked at me. “You should try to look where you’re going,” he told me in a tone I that wasn’t mean per say, but very close to it. Maybe it was more of a pissy tone, I don’t know. Especially since he had no right to be pissed off at me. I had been the one who’d tripped while he’d barely fell off his skateboard.
“Uh, you did come out of nowhere,” I pointed out to him, being that it was the only excuse my mind could form right now. “I was just walking down the road and you couldn’t so much as stop your skateboard to stop yourself from crashing into me.” Great, now I was starting to babble.
Kingsley looked at me in way that made me think he was holding in a laugh. Yeah I was so glad he found this all amusing. “Well, maybe if you hadn’t been on your cell phone, you would’ve realized you were crossing through a skateboard park.” Then he turned my shoulders so I stood facing a sign that clearly read: CAUTION! APPROACHING SILVERMIR SKATEBOARD PARK…ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Well, they sure covered it all. Somebody had even written in paint, NO TRESPASSING! underneath the caution paragraph. Kinsley smiled, his expression smug.
“You’re kind of on our property.”
I sighed, turning away from the sign. “Yeah, well, I’m just on my way to the library.” Hoping to end the conversation, I started to walk away, towards the place Keyara had told me the library would be.
Kingsley laughed and I stopped to turn around at what was so funny. “Yeah, good luck with that.”
I sighed again, my patience wearing thin. “Why?”
He gave a shrug. “It’s kind of in-between hour.”
“In-between hour?” I repeated, wondering if he was just making that up. From the few minutes I’d spent with the guy, I’d say it was right up his alley to do just that.
Kingsley just nodded, watching me. “Yeah, the worker’s on break.”
“Haven’t they heard of shifts?” I couldn’t help but ask, mostly to see if he’d been lying.
Kingsley mouth turned up, creeping into an almost-smile. “Sure. But that’s just how it works here. I’m sure it’s different wherever you’re from, but we do things differently here.”
I narrowed my eyes, really starting to dislike the guy. “Clearly.”
He rolled his eyes, but it didn’t matter. I was done having this stupid conversation with him. I spun on my heels and back-tracked through the skateboard park, wanting to put as much distance as I could between me and Kingsley. Keyara had been right; he was a jerk.
“Did you put up the flyers?” Charlie asked me as I walked into the kitchen.
I nodded, then placed the two left-over flyers on the counter. “Yeah.”
Charlie gave me a funny look as he looked up from his magazine, as if he couldn’t figure something out, but then looked away like it was a lost cause. What the look was for, I didn’t know. My chin was stinging again, but instead of going to check it out, I just went to take a shower. I was sweaty from being outside, not to mention I had dirt around my ankles.
Afterwards, I stood in front of the mirror and tightened my towel around me before wiping away some of the steam on the mirror. It took me a second to realize what was on my chin. A gash shone from underneath, and the area around it was a bit red. I must’ve scratched it up when I’d tripped on the pathway earlier. Just my luck—I could be such a klutz. Well, thank goodness for make-up.
Going back to my room, I dug out some Band-Aids. I stopped myself, though, when I realized just how ridiculous that would look, walking around with a band aid on my chin. It was nothing some concealer couldn’t fix. I shivered, once again hating how cold Charlie kept the house. There had to be something I could say to change that.
I got dressed before doing my hair and make-up. I decided to look somewhat decent, even if was almost 3:00 in the afternoon. Just as I logged on to Facebook, Charlie knocked on my door, holding flyers—again. I sighed; waiting for what I knew was going to come.
“Avery, I need you to make some copies of these flyers since you didn’t do it earlier. I didn’t bother telling him I didn’t regret that decision. Hopefully this time, there would be no run in with Kingsley. “I need to put some up near the office,” he continued, then put the flyer on my desk. He left without so much as a “please” or even a “thanks”. I was starting to get tired of his assumptions I’d just do everything he said to do without him even asking me.
Still, I got up and picked up the flyer from the desk. I grabbed the money Charlie had given me earlier and put it in my jean’s pocket along with my cell phone. I was crossing through the skateboard park—this time it was empty (I kept making sure, just in case)—when Annie called me.
“Hey, girl!” She greeted me through the phone. “What’s up?”
I glanced around to make sure, once again, I was alone and not about to cross paths with a certain someone before answering her. “Just on my way to the library to make some copies of some stupid flyer for Charlie.”
She laughed, recognizing my tone. “You sound pissed.”
I sighed, my emotions bubbling to the surface. “That would probably because Charlie never freaking asks me to do things for things—no, he just demands them and expects me to do them.”
“Oh, Av, I’m sorry. You should just talk to him about it and explain what you just told me.” She giggled. “But maybe use more appropriate language.”
I rolled my eyes, but smiled. It was now more than ever I missed her and Fort Lauderdale. “Yeah, I guess,” I said, even though I knew it wasn’t likely. Charlie and I just weren’t the “talking about our feelings” kind of people. We were barely to the “talking” stage as it was. I could tell Annie was anxious about something, and I welcomed any other topic, so I changed the subject. “How’s good ‘ole Florida?”
“Oh my gosh—amazing!” Annie informed me, barely able to contain her excitement.
I walked farther down the cemented path; the red-bricked building I guessed was the library just a few feet ahead. Flowers bloomed all around the trees and shrubs that decorated the pathway. “That’s good,” I replied, trying to sound genuinely happy for her. And, I was. But I couldn’t help but think that if I was there with her, I would’ve already had the scoop on all things Florida.
“Yepp!” Annie gushed as I opened the door to the library. “Me and Brett have totally hung out so much these past few days. He’s soo fun!”
I stepped inside the lobby, instantly getting goose bumps from the cold air wafting around me. There were a ton of books on display and I found myself gazing at them while Annie kept on talking.
“But I have a total dilemma.” I walked farther inside, thinking the desk had to be somewhere near here. Then I could get the copies and get back to Charlie’s in no time at all. “I’m meeting his parents on Sunday and I have no freaking clue what to wear!”
I rolled my eyes at her melodramatic tone and laughed. Then I stopped short, because I had turned around and found the front desk. And standing behind it was the one person I had hoped to avoid coming down here. I also realized mine and Annie’s conversation had most likely been audible to him thanks to the high, echoic ceilings towering above me. “Uh, just wear something nice, but casual,” I quickly suggested to Annie. “Umm, I gotta go, but I’ll call you back later.” And before she had a chance to keep me on the line, I hung up. I turned back to Kingsley. “You work here?” I asked him, not quite believing my lack of luck.
He nodded, clearly amused. “Yepp. Sorry if I don't have a fancy nametag to prove it,” he teased. Then he nodded at my cell phone, which was still in my hand. “That’s quite the dilemma your friend has.”
I shot him a glare, and ignored the comment. I put my cell back in my pocket and approached the desk. “I need some copies of this flyer,” I told him, showing him the flyer Charlie had given me.
Kingsley looked at the flyer. “How many?”
“Uh…” I racked my brain for the answer. Charlie hadn’t exactly specified. Hopefully he didn’t want too many. “Just ten.” I hoped that was enough, and if it wasn’t, Charlie could get them done himself because I was not coming here again.
Kingsley took the flyer. “Okay, then. I’ll be right back.” He disappeared around the corner and I could hear the copying machine starting up as it came to life.
I waited him to come back and ended up looking at the books on the shelves that covered every wall. They all seemed to have different topics, like electronics, but also law and crime.
“So, that would be two dollars,” Kingsley said from behind me.
I dug out the five Charlie had given me and came back to his desk again. “I thought it was only fifteen cents per copy.” It wasn’t that it really mattered, but what if Charlie questioned the change amount? He was sure to blame me.
“Sorry,” Kingsley said lazily, sounding the least bit sorry. “I guess the rates went up.”
I rolled my eyes, but still handed over the five to him. “Thanks,” I told him as he handed me my change.
He shrugged. “Yepp.”
Then I left the library without another word, just needing to get out of there. Kingsley seemed to have that effect on me.

On Friday, it seemed the whole town was alive and bustling. You could hear music wherever you went, and everyone just seemed happy when you passed by them. But then as you started to separate all the commotion, it seemed each group was having a different small crisis: there weren’t enough buns for the hot dogs, the fruit wasn’t fresh enough, the grill didn’t have any gas—trust me the list went on.

I had slept in since Charlie had gone early to the newspaper office. In his absence, I made myself some eggs and toast, which was pretty much all the food we had. I hadn’t been to the grocery store all week, so I guess I would have to go today. Charlie didn’t seem to be too concerned we were having a food shortage. Knowing him, he probably fine with it and had just gone to the burger joint whenever he’d wanted to eat since that’s what he did half the time anyways.

After getting dressed, I grabbed a twenty from the GROCERIES jar Charlie kept on the counter by the door, and headed towards downtown. The sun was shining, a perfect day for the town bonfire. I was heading towards ONE STOP, passing by one of the small cafés, when Keyara stopped me. She was sitting under an umbrella at one of the outdoor tables, Tessa on her right. They both waved to me and insisted I join them.

“So, where you going?” Keyara wondered as she chomped down on a sandwich.

“Grocery store,” I replied, shading my eyes from the sun.

Tessa set down her drink, turning to face me. “Oh…I think they’re closed by now.”

“Closed?” I asked them, confused. “It’s not even noon yet.”

Keyara nodded. “Yeah, but the pretty much all the stores help set up the bonfire today.”

I stared at them before taking a seat across to get out of the sun. “It sure seems like a lot work goes into the bonfire.”

Keyara shrugged, finishing off her sandwich.

“You have no idea,” Tessa muttered so quietly I didn’t think I’d heard right.

“Why is it such a big deal?” I wondered. The town seemed to act like they having some huge parade or something. I haven’t ever seen such a town-oriented place, so maybe this was the norm.

Tessa gave me a look I couldn’t quite decipher, but it wasn’t a mean one. It was more the kind of look you give to someone when you wish they were in the know, but knew they couldn’t be.

“The town,” Keyara started, “is full of groups that…uh, don’t exactly like each other.” Her tone was weird, her words all so carefully chosen. Like it was prominent she only said the right things, much in the same way mother tip-toes around her kid so as not to wake it up. I didn’t see why Keyara had to be so cautioned when she spoke to me. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because I was new in town and she didn’t want me to get the wrong impression. Or was it maybe more than that?

“At the bonfire,” Tessa continued from where Keyara had left off, “it’s a peace-treaty for all those groups who don’t get along.”

“So, no one’s allowed to pick fights with each other—stuff like that,” Keyara finished.

I nodded, understanding a bit better now. I guess anyone would appreciate quality time where everyone had to get along. Maybe the town has had problems with the groups fighting or something and a peaceful night was something they yearned for.

“Anyway, you’re coming, right?” Keyara asked me after taking a sip of her drink.

I shrugged slightly, not wanting to seem aloof. “Umm, I don’t know. Probably not.”

Keyara’s eyes got big and she stared at me. “Uh, why not?! You have to go.”

Tessa nodded in agreement. “Yeah, it’ll be so much fun.”

I didn’t bother adding that it would be for them, not necessarily me. I didn’t really know anyone here and facing unknown crowds didn’t seem too appealing. Besides, Annie had made me promise we’d do a movie night on Skype tonight and I didn’t want to let her down. I needed a night where I could pretend I was back in Fort Lauderdale with my best friend, watching bad movies and eating popcorn. Not that Charlie had popcorn (I checked), but still. Seeing that Keyara and Tessa were waiting for my reply, I answered them with another shrug. “I just have other plans with my friend already. It’s…important.”

Keyara still didn’t look much happier. “Well, if you change your mind, I’m sure Charlie will give you directions to the park, and stuff.”

I stood up, giving them my friendliest smile. I felt kind of bad not pleasing them with a promise of my presence tonight at the bonfire. “Yeah, well, see you guys.”

“Bye,” Tessa and Keyara said, returning my smile.

I walked away then, still hearing them talk in hushed voices behind me. I chose to ignore it, almost getting used to the secrecy of the town. Since I couldn’t go to the grocery store, I walked back to Charlie’s. I wanted another shower since I had been sweating from the morning humidity.

I was on Facebook when Charlie knocked on my open door.
“I’m headed out to the bonfire,” he told me. “I should be back by nine.”
I looked up from my laptop. “Wow, that’s kind of early.” I would think after all the work that went into it, it would last a lot longer.
Charlie just shrugged. “It’s best not to be out past that time,” he reminded me, narrowing his eyes at me.
“Right, well, have a good time,” I told him, not wanting to get into the town’s safety rules again. Gosh, this town was weird. If I wasted my time concentrating on that I have a feeling I’d drive myself crazy trying to get back to Florida.
Charlie left with a nod. He was such a great conversationalist, I thought sarcastically. I tried surfing the web but my laptop seemed to be going super slow. After an hour, I gave up and was about to log on to Skype when my cell phone rang. I looked at the ID, surprised to see Annie’s name on the screen.
“Hey,” I greeted her with a laugh. “I was just about to get on Skype.”
There was a pause on her end of the line, making me think something was up. “Yeah…haha, ‘bout that…”
I leaned back against the bed cushions. “Let me guess, date with Brett?”
“No,” she told me with trepidation. “Frank’s in the ER.”
I sighed. “What’d he break this time?” That guy was as clumsy as it gets. Mostly because he participated in the stupidest dare-devil stunts with his friends. Like jumping off of high-leveled things and standing on bikes.
“His arm,” Annie replied, her voice full of concern. “I’m sorry we can’t Skype tonight.” I knew she was, and I understood. “I have to go. I’m just about to leave for the hospital.”
“Well, we can have a movie-Skype session another time,” I assured her. I knew she cared for Frank, even in their off-stage. “Go be with Frank, and tell him I say he needs to stop being such a klutz.”
She laughed. “Yeah, really.” She took a deep breath. “Alright. Wait, hey you have that thing in Silvermir, right?”
“The bonfire?” I asked, then sighed. “Yeah, it’s tonight.” Not that I had planned to go, but it’s not like I had anything else to do now.
“You should go!” Annie insisted. “I’m sure it’ll be lots of fun. Maybe you’ll even meet some cuties there.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ann, there’s more to life than guys, you know?”
“That’s what you think,” she said giggling.
“Aren’t you going to the hospital?” I asked her
“Right,” she said, as if remembering again. “Well, you seriously should go. And, dress up cute!”
“Yeah, okay,” I told her, my tone a bit sarcastic. I couldn’t help it. “Bye.”
I got up, tired of just sitting around. I hadn’t run since I’d gotten here, and I missed the exercise. If I was back in Fort Lauderdale, I would’ve been practicing for track almost every day. But instead I was stuck in a boring town, barely knowing anyone. I turned the TV on in the TV room, only to find that nothing good was on. Just some talk shows and stupid reality shows that have so much drama in them they make you want to slap the characters.
Feeling a bit hungry, I went into the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator, but then I remembered I hadn’t gone to the grocery store so other than some condiments and meat, it was empty. And I couldn’t be like Charlie and just go out to the diner because none of them were open. If I wanted to eat (and my stomach told me I did), I’d have to go to the bonfire. Just great.
After grabbing one of my over-the-shoulder bags and making sure I had my cell phone, I headed out. At first I thought I wouldn’t find the park. I mean, I really didn’t know the town that well. But turns out, it was hard to miss—and not just because it was practically on the way to downtown. I suddenly felt out of place, wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. As I approached the dimly lit, shaded park (surrounded by trees, of course), I could see a large crowd, chatting with each other. I wandered past the adults and walked down the hill to where the teenagers were. Some were stuffing their mouths with food from the long buffet tables, while others just huddled around in groups. Some people even had their pets with them.
One of the dogs bounded towards me, making some of the people notice me. I bent down to pet the Black Lab as its owner came over to apologize. “Oh, it’s fine,” I told the lady. “I’m a dog person anyway.” She smiled at me, seeming grateful I didn’t blame her. Then she picked up the dog and I saw Keyara wave me over.
“Avery!” She greeted me with a wide smile. “So glad you could make it.” She was dressed up, much like the other teenagers, wearing a pretty purple dress with sparkles around the collar. I looked around, noticing that at least the guys were dressed pretty casually. “Okay, so meet the gang,” Keyara told me, pulling me over to her friends. “This is Cal,” she said, pointing to a short guy with cropped black hair. “Lee Ann.” This time she pointed to a petite girl with dirty blonde hair. “Bryce and T.J,” she continued down the line. “And you already know Tessa.” Tessa shot me a smile as she sat down with a plate full of food on one of the blankets spread out on the grassy ground. The people Keyara had introduced me too went to join her, stealing some food off Tessa’s plate.
“Hey I have to go before Eddie starts getting impatient,” Cal told Keyara with a kiss on her cheek.
I raised an eyebrow as he walked away. “Your boyfriend?”
Keyara blushed and smoothed out her dress. “Yeah.”
I smiled. “How long have you guys been going out?” I wondered.
She shrugged, glancing at her friends still sitting on the blanket. “I don’t know. This town really isn’t known for its strong relationships.”
I rolled my eyes. This town had too many freaking rules and issues if you asked me. “So? What’s that got to do with you and Cal?” I asked her as I moved over to let a couple pass by me, their plates full of good looking food. I stared at the plates longingly, feeling starved.
Keyara shrugged again. “It’s complicated.” Then she changed the subject, clearly not wanting to dwell on her love life any further. “So, what made you come tonight? I thought you had important plans,” she teased.
I laughed. “Food,” I admitted. Then I glanced around at the teens again. “But I seem to be pretty underdressed for this,” I joked.
“Oh, we can change that,” Keyara said coyly before grabbing my arm and pulling me through the throngs of people milling around. I wanted to tell her that the clothes thing wasn’t really bothering me that much, and all I wanted was some food, but before I knew it, we were standing in the girls bathroom. And before I had a chance to protest, Keyara had made me over. She’d done my hair in mere minutes, along with my make-up. I looked in the mirror, glad to find I looked okay and not like a doll. Even my hair had been coaxed out of its messy bun, and was now cascading around my shoulders in long waves.
I narrowed my eyes at her as I leaned against one of the sinks. “You just happened to have all this stuff with you?” I asked her, nodding at the gel and make-up bag.
She tossed me a pink and black, lacy cami along with a maroon cardigan I would normally never wear. “All the girls keep their bags in here full of goodies, in case it rains or something happens to our outfits,” Keyara explained. “Now, put on the shirt so we can go.”
I did, knowing at this point I’d do almost anything just to get some food and appease my grumbling stomach. As I slipped on the cardigan, Keyara stuffed my old t-shirt into her duffel bag. Then she pushed her bag underneath the sinks, where I could see a couple others, and the bathroom door swung open.
“I thought I smelled something bad,” Keyara muttered underneath her breath as three girls entered the bathroom behind us. They were all model-pretty, especially the one in the middle. She had long blonde, curly hair and a face that could sell any magazine. But as soon as she saw Keyara, it turned sharp and menacing.
“About to say the same thing,” the blonde said, her tone sharp as a dagger. It matched the expression she wore pretty well.
“That’s ironic,” Keyara countered, crossing her arms.
The blonde looked like she was about to spit out a mean remark, when the girl on her right tapped her arm, and instead she just sighed. “Whatever.” Then she stepped to the side so Keyara and I could leave through the door.
“Who’s she?” I couldn’t help but ask Keyara as we got back outside. I had to walk faster to keep up with her since she’d picked up her pace.
“Jae,” Keyara replied, her tone full of scorn. “She’s so lucky it’s the town bonfire because otherwise I would’ve—” Keyara stopped herself, suddenly realizing she was speaking out loud. She glanced at me, trying to compose herself. “Let’s get some food.”
I followed Keyara with no complaint, still feeling as hungry as ever. I wasn’t even going to bother asking her about Jae. Clearly, there was history there and I wasn’t going to pry into it. She had been right about Kingsley after all, so I trusted her judgment. Suddenly I felt my eyes wandering around the park, searching for him, but I stopped and berated myself. Why would I care if he was here? Shaking myself out of it, I joined Keyara at the buffet line. My mouth watered at the different choices. There were mini-subs, pizza, steak, and much more. I grabbed some cheese-pizza and anything else that looked delicious. Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about missing lunch.
After getting something to drink, I went to sit down with Keyara and her friends on the blankets. She joined into their conversation while I ate my food hungrily. What can I say? It was good. Then suddenly, people started getting up, all anxious-like. I looked at Keyara with curiosity, and she grinned.
“Bonfire time,” she informed me giddily.
We stood up and threw our trash away with everyone else before following the crowd farther down the hill. There was a pond where the trees thinned out, but that wasn’t the attraction. A huge flame lit up the sky and everyone crowded around the bonfire—definitely the hugest one I’d ever seen. People chatted with animation, all looking happy. But I didn’t know how they could stand so close to it; the smoke billowing from it was making me cough even from a distance.
Then someone blasted music from a boom box with giant speakers and I could actually feel the bass rumbling on the ground. People actually started dancing, while others chanted encouragements. Even Keyara went to dance with Cal, and others also started pairing up with their boyfriends or girlfriends. It wasn’t until then that I spotted Kingsley, standing with his usual pack. Tonight though, it had seemed to grow from the last time I’d seen him in the parking lot.
I watched as Jae and her two friends approached him, all of them smiling. I would think Kingsley would be staring dreamily, falling over himself at such a gorgeous girl, but he seemed immune. He crossed his arms, staring at her, his face expressionless. They exchanged words, Jae seeming to be trying hard to cheer him up, but his face remained still as stone. Knowing it was rude to stare, I looked away, just in time to see Tessa coming my way.
“Hey,” she greeted me with a smile.
“Oh, hi” I replied, wrapping my arms around me for warmth. The night was suddenly much chillier.
“Walking helps,” Tessa offered, and it took a second to realize she was giving me a tip to keep warm. Guess my lame attempt wasn’t working. “So, what do you think?” she asked me as we headed towards the lake where there weren’t any people.
“Oh, the bonfire, the town,” she clarified.
I looked around me and shrugged. Something told me Tessa wasn’t here for my confession of how much I missed my old city. “Well…it’s different than Florida,” I finally said, figuring that was general enough.
She laughed as if I’d said a joke. “Yeah, I can imagine. Especially since I was new here not long ago, too.”
I kicked a loose stone and looked up. “Really? When’d you move here?”
Tessa thought about it. “Uh, three or four years ago? My aunt’s the town doctor and so after my mom’s divorce, she had an easy time convincing her to move here.”
I stopped walking, her words sinking in. “Wait, so if your aunt’s the town doctor, wouldn’t that make you—”
“Keyara’s cousin? Yepp.” Tessa finished for me with a grin.
I looked down at the large pond and crossed my arms. It suddenly made sense how they were so close. They might’ve not been sisters, but it was probably the same difference to them.
“So, how long are you here for?” Tessa asked me.
I looked back at her and away from the water. I knew she was just making small talk, but suddenly my throat seemed to dry up a bit. “Oh, umm, probably just for the summer. My mom…she…” I swallowed. “My mom and I haven’t exactly talked about it. I don’t really do well with confrontations,” I explained. But mostly I knew it was because it was a conversation I wasn’t ready to have yet.
Tessa just nodded. “I know what you mean.”
“So, did you find this town kinda weird, too?” I couldn’t help but wonder. I wanted to know if it was just me, or if it was a mutual feeling. She looked amused at my question. It seemed a lot of the things I said made everyone light up like I’d said an inside joke I wasn’t in on. “Sure, yeah.” Tessa shrugged. “You get used to it.”
“Good to know,” I said truthfully as a young boy came over to us and tugged on Tessa’s shirt.
“Hey Gilbert,” she greeted him, prying his hands loose from her shirt. Then to me she said, “This is my little brother.”
“Hi,” I told him with a quick, short wave.
Gilbert said his hello before focusing his attention on his sister. “Everyone’s going home and Mom’s waiting in the car for us.”
“Oh,” Tessa replied, then glanced at me. “Need a ride?”
“No thanks,” I told her, waving her offer off. “I’ll walk or just find Charlie.”
She nodded. “Alright, then. See you.” Tessa took her brother’s hand and I watched as they headed up the hill. I could see there were only a couple people left, but Charlie wasn’t one of them. Oh, well. I’d just have to walk back by myself. But I wasn’t ready to go yet. So instead, I turned back to the pond, enjoying the quiet peacefulness of it. A bright, almost full, moon shimmered in the reflection of the water along with the lit-up woods around me. I probably could’ve stood there all night if my phone hadn’t rung. Looking at the ID, I wasn’t surprised to see Annie’s name staring back at me on my cellphone. She was probably calling me to make sure I hadn’t spent the night in front of the TV or on my laptop.
“Hey, Ann,” I greeted her. “What’s up?”
There was static, but I ignored it. “Oh, hey! I just-Frank-okay-did you—” I looked at my cell phone and realized my service was bad and that was why I was only catching a couple words Annie was saying. I held it up in the air, trying to improve the signal. But I hadn’t been watching my step, so I’d run straight into a thick, low-hanging branch. The impact had surprised me and I had lost my grip on my cell phone. It took only a second for it to hit the surface of the water below me.
Without thinking about it, I went in the pond in hopes of digging it out. My hands searched the muddy ground, and I didn’t even want to think about what else was in the pond. Finally, my hand made impact with it, and I picked it up, wiping away the water from my phone. Like that was going to do me any good, I thought sadly. I felt some fish around my ankles, and I quickly hurried out of the lake. I climbed the raised ground, not even caring I was on the woods-side of the pond. I just wanted to get out of the cold water.
I tried to get my cell phone to work, but it was no use. I sighed, looking up, and my eye caught movement in between the trees in front of me. I picked up my pace as some mist drifted in and the moon hid behind some of the taller trees. It was a perfect scene for a scary movie. Not wanting any encounters with bears, I walked towards the park—or whatever direction I thought w0uld lead to the park. But now more than ever, it was too difficult to tell if I was going the right way. I could barely see two feet in front of me. I messed with my phone, praying desperately it’d work. But then I tripped, and after feeling a cold, sharp pain in the back of my head, everything suddenly went black.

Just like any other morning, I woke up in my bed. My head was foggy, like I had been having a dream but when I opened my eyes, suddenly I couldn’t remember it anymore. I laid there on the bed, enjoying the sunlight streaming in through the window. But I knew I had to get up. I could hear Charlie in the TV room watching some early game that happened to be playing. I lazily sat up, and instantly felt a sharp pain came from the back of my head. I reached my head under my hair and was surprised to find some dried blood.
What the hell?
I quickly jumped up from my bed and hurried over to my mirror on the wall. As much as I tried, I couldn’t see anything; it was out of my view. With a sigh I sat down on my bed. What had happened last night? It had been Friday, so the bonfire had been last night. Had I gone to it? I shook my head, sighing again. This was pointless; my brain was too fuzzy.
Out of instinct I checked my desk for my cell phone. But when I picked it up and tried to turn it on and got no results, it was then the night started to slowly come back to me. Annie had called me and I’d dropped my phone in the pond. I stood up. No wonder I reeked of pond scum. It would also explain the dried mud on my clothes. Or well, Keyara’s clothes. Hopefully she wouldn’t hate me. But I’m sure if I washed them I could get the smell and mud out.
I tried to remember what happened next last night, focusing on my cell phone. After I retrieved my phone I was in the woods. So, what, I had been lost in the woods then? I stared at my room in curiosity. But if that was the case, why didn’t I remember getting back to Charlie’s? And why was my memory so hazy? I knew I needed a serious shower, but right now, I wanted some answers. I quickly changed into a t-shirt and shorts before going to find Charlie. It was a good thing I hadn’t waited any longer, because he was about to leave.
“Oh, you’re up,” he said, putting the paper under his arm and zipping up his jacket. Guess it was a windy day today.
“Uh, yeah. Listen, umm, how did I, uh, get home last night?” I asked him, hoping I wasn’t making a mistake by doing so. Charlie might not have a clue and get the wrong idea and reprimand me. Then I almost laughed at that thought. Yeah, right. Charlie reprimanding me was as likely as my mom and me getting along. So not likely at all.
Charlie sighed like I was keeping him from going somewhere important. “A, umm, young gentlemen brought you.”
What was this, the 18th century? Could he be anymore less specific? “A young gentlemen?” I repeated, hoping he’d clarify.
Charlie nodded, stepping closer to the door. “Yes. Umm, Kingsley Hamilton,” he told me warily. “Maybe you should thank him when you see him. I’m going to the grocery store, then the office.” Then, as if fearing I’d say something more and prevent him from leaving, he slipped out the door.
I, on the other hand, was a little too frozen to move. How could I? My mind was trying to come up with a logical explanation why Kingsley, the jerk that he was, brought me home after I’d somehow lost consciousness in the woods. I must’ve seriously been out of it if I didn’t remember him doing that. I leaned against the wall for support. Maybe I should just be happy and thankful. I could’ve been eaten by bears or something. Still, Kingsley? I shook my head. Nothing in this world could’ve surprised me more.
After taking my long-needed shower and getting dressed, I went to go get Keyara’s shirts from the drier. I had washed them before getting a shower, figuring the sooner I did so, the better. She’d even called me as I finished getting ready to tell me to meet her downtown. Grabbing a jacket and my Boho sling purse, I went to join up with her downtown.
Outside, the sun had gone behind some clouds and the air didn’t seem the least bit humid. Instead, it was chilly from the wind. I passed the usual stores, wondering where I’d be able to buy a replacement cell phone battery. I hoped that’s all I needed, at least. And I knew until I’d buy one I was going to have to Skype with Annie. I’m sure she’d want to talk about last night since I hadn’t called or so much as Facebooked her to explain why I hadn’t called her back.
I was about to cross the street towards where I knew Keyara was waiting for me, when I spotted Kingsley and a couple of his friends, coming out of the café. They were all holding newly acquired coffees, yet both of Kingsley’s buddies were messing around, not paying attention to the fact they were holding cups full of hot coffee. I knew I needed to thank him, even if he wasn’t the nicest guy to deal with. A lot of things could’ve happened to me in the woods and I had to admit I appreciated not getting mauled by a bear. So, holding the strap on my Boho bag, I approached him as he sat down on one of the patio tables. His friends took seats on the window ledge, giving us distance, but eyeing me at the same time. Kingsley waited for me to speak, I’m sure wondering why I was there. “I just, umm, wanted to say thank you. Uh, for bringing me back to Charlie’s last night,” I clarified, sounding lame, I’m sure.
Kingsley seemed to be absorbing the sunlight that was now peeking out of a couple clouds above us. He crossed his arms, looking expressionless at me. “Next time, don’t go in the woods,” he warned. “Especially at night.” He shrugged. “Never know what comes out to play,” he said, smirking.
I bit down on my urge to roll my eyes. “Yeah, I’ll, uh, keep that in mind,” I replied, then crossed the street. Keyara sat in front of a bagel shop, sipping some ice tea.
“Hey,” she greeted me with a warm smile.
“Hi,” I replied, pulling out her shirts from my purse before handing them over to her.
“Oh, thanks,” she said, putting the cami and cardigan in her bag as I took a seat across from her.
“So,” I started, leaning back in the seat. “No Tessa today?”
“She’s helping my mom,” Keyara told me before taking a gulp of her tea.
“The town doctor,” I said, seeing if I remembered right.
Keyara nodded with a small smile, like she was happy I’d gotten it right. “That’s her.” She glanced at me. “So, did you get back okay last night? Tessa mentioned this morning you stayed at the bonfire pretty late.”
“Oh,” I said dumbly. “Yeah…I found a ride.” Technically, I wasn’t even lying. I just didn’t want to admit that Kingsley (of all people) had been the one to give me that ride. It was just too strange to actually say it out loud. Without thinking about it, I glanced across the street at the café where moments ago, he’d been. But there was no sign of him or his friends. I turned back to Keyara, realizing she was talking.
“…I can bring your t-shirt over later if you want ‘cause I totally forget it.”
I nodded. “Yeah, thanks. Hey, where can I get a new cell phone battery?” I asked Keyara, changing the subject.
Keyara squeezed some more lemon in her tea before answering. “Oh! You can definitely get it at the library. They have, like, a mini electronic section and will totally hook you up.”
I sighed. The library? Really? It just had to be where Kingsley works. My luck sucked.
Keyara’s own cell phone beeped and she checked the incoming text. “It’s Tessa, so I got to go. See you later, though.”
“Yeah,” I replied as she stood up, and waved a quick good bye. Feeling a bit hungry, I went in to the store to buy a chocolate-chip muffin and some tea. Then I sat outside, for who knows how long, just enjoying the sunlight which was stronger now than earlier. I even took off my jacket, feeling hot. The wind now felt good instead of feeling harsh on my skin.
I was finishing up my muffin when I saw Cal and another familiar looking guy walking beside him. Now that it was daylight, Cal had a different impression on me. He seemed shorter, and I hate to say it, a bit nerdier. But maybe it only seemed that way because of the guy next to him, who was his polar opposite with strong cheekbones and hard eyes, and muscles on his arms. I guess Cal noticed my staring (my bad) because he waved to me and approached my table with his friend at his side.
“Avery, right?” Cal asked me, staring down at me.
I nodded. “Yepp, that’s me. And you’re Cal.”
He smiled, happy I remembered his name. “Yeah.” He nodded towards the guy next to him. “That’s my brother, Eddie.”
“Step brother,” Eddie corrected Cal. I could’ve sworn he had a slight accent when he spoke. But then it hit me why he’d looked familiar. He was part of Kingsley’s crew. But that made me wonder why Keyara hated the group so much if one of them was part of her boyfriend’s family. Realizing they were waiting for my reply, I snapped out of my thoughts.
“Nice to meet you,” I quickly told Eddie.
He grunted something, while Cal looked a bit awkward. “Uh, nice seeing you,” Cal told me cheerfully before Eddie pulled him away.
“Yeah,” I called after them before getting up myself. Today was just full of weird encounters. Too bad I had a feeling there were more to come.
After grabbing a late lunch at one of the diners, I knew I couldn’t postpone my visit to the library any longer. I needed a cell phone, and it was possible that someone else was working there for the shift. Kingsley couldn’t be the only one that worked there, after all.
The library also offered air conditioning, something I was thankful for after spending most of my day outside in the sun. The sunlight streamed through the glass paned windows I hadn’t noticed before and I found myself gazing at them. It was almost like the place was sparkling in the light, and it was so magical that I got lost in the moment—but not for long.
“I’m about to close up, so you should leave.”
I turned around. Kingsley was carrying about four thick books, all stacked on top of each other. “But I need a new cell phone battery,” I informed him, stepping out of the light.
He just shrugged. “Sorry,” he said, but I knew he didn’t mean it. “Come back another time. When we’re open,” he added, putting the books he’d been carrying on a nearby shelf, expecting me to leave.
I stepped closer to him, but there was still at least two feet between us. “Please?” I couldn’t just accept that I had come here for nothing. I didn’t want to come back another time. That would most likely mean seeing him again, and I still wanted to avoid that if I could.
He sighed and rolled his eyes, seeming to realize I wasn’t going to go away until I got what I wanted. “Follow me.” He started to walk away, and I followed him, noticing dust-filled shelves and books. Guess this town didn’t read a lot. He stepped behind a desk with the words ELECTRONICS STATION hanging above him, written in thick letters. “A new cell phone, huh?” He asked me, smirking. “What’d you do, run up the phone bill so much that it broke?”
I rolled my eyes, approaching the desk. “Noo.” I sighed, thinking what I did was a lot stupider. “I, umm, kind of dropped it in the pond at the bonfire,” I confessed. “I got it out, but now it doesn’t work.”
Kingsley hid his laugh as he reached for something underneath the desk. “No wonder you smelled like algae and pond scum last night.”
I raised an eyebrow, not really appreciating the insult. “Hey, you didn’t have to help me last night,” I reminded him. “I mean, you’re not even a nice guy. So why do such a nice thing for me?” I wondered, babbling like an idiot.
Kingsley placed a box on the desk and opened it before replying. “And what do you exactly think is those woods?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Bears?”
“Ha! Bears?” Kingsley laughed, glancing at me. “Bears?” He repeated, then rolled his shoulders back. “Wow, you’re funny.”
I crossed my arms and looked down at the junkie cell phone batteries in the box, some still in packages, others already opened, mixed in. “So, if not bears, what?” I glanced at him, awaiting his response.
He looked at me, and then picked up one of the packaged batteries. “Your worst nightmare.” He held my gaze then looked away.
“Right,” I told him sarcastically. I think someone has watched too many horror movies for his own good. They were just woods, for heaven’s sake. Sure, maybe there were bears or deer, or whatever in them, but I seriously doubted there were any scary monsters awaiting people’s presence. Instead of waiting him to go off about Big Foot, I changed the subject. “So, why is it that you’re the only one I’ve seen who works here? Do you own the place, or something?” I joked, but Kingsley tensed, making me think I’d hit a tender spot on his ego.
Kingsley glanced at me then threw away the packaging for the battery. “What is this, sharing time?” He asked me with trepidation. “Are you going to make me confess all my secrets?”
“So you have secrets?” I asked him.
Kingsley scoffed. “Everyone’s got secrets, Avery.” He looked thoughtful for a second. “Our town more than most.”
“How’s that?” I wondered, more curious now than ever. Then I realized he knew my name. I never remembered introducing myself to him. “How do you even know my name?”
“It’s a small town,” he said, keeping his gaze locked on mine before shrugging. “People talk.” Before I had a chance to ask what that meant, he spoke up again. “Where’s your cell phone?”
I slipped out my cell from my pocket then placed it on the desk so he could take out my old battery and put in the new one. “So, why is it that you guys don’t even have any cell phone companies here?” Or any real businesses, for that matter, I couldn’t help but add in my head.
Kingsley sighed as he leaned forward on the desk. “I have to close up,” he reminded me.
“It’s just one question,” I insisted, taking back my cell phone and putting it back in my pocket.
“Right,” he said in a manner of someone who didn’t think it was right. “But your questions just lead to more questions practically every time,” he pointed out dryly.
“Well, you find a way to dodge them every time,” I replied, crossing my arms again.
“I seriously need to lock up,” he said, ignoring my last comment. “So, please,” he started, motioning to the exit, “go.”
“Fine.” I started to walk away, but stopped.
“What?” Kingsley asked, exasperated.
“Thank you; for everything,” I told him and his face turned to one of surprise. There was even the hint of a smile there I could’ve sworn I saw before walking out of the library.
“So, how’d last night go?” Annie asked me on my cell phone—which worked thank goodness—when I’d called her as soon I was back at Charlie’s. “Since, you know, you never called me back.”
“Uh, well,” I started, climbing onto my bed. “That would be because I kind of dropped my cell phone into the pond at the bonfire. I couldn’t get a signal and you were breaking up. But then I had to get a new battery…”
“Omg, how’d the bonfire thingy go?” She asked me, apparently not caring I fell into a freaking pond.
“Good, I guess,” I replied as I played with a string dangling off of one of my pillows. I didn’t bother adding good, aside from tripping, hitting my head, and then being taken home by someone who’s as mysterious as it gets. Because, let’s face it; I wasn’t ready to confess all that. Plus, I still couldn’t believe it about Kingsley; that guy is so hot-n-cold. One minute he’s being a total jerk telling me I’m trespassing on a skateboard park, the next he’s rescuing me from the woods. I so didn’t get that guy. “Umm, how’s Frank?” I asked Annie, ready to change the subject. Kingsley wasn’t the most appealing topic and I strongly doubted he ever would be.
Annie sighed. “Totally knocked out on freaking sleeping pills. He probably bribed the nurse to give him so much,” she complained.
“Knowing Frank, he probably didn’t need to bribe her,” I joked as I leaned back against the pillows.
“Oh, and Brett freaking thinks I chose Frank over him. But, hello, Frank’s my ex-boyfriend. I think I’m allowed to go see him in the ER without it being a bid deal,” she huffed, and I had a feeling there was more to come. “And Frank’s saying s*** about Brett because he doesn’t appreciate me seeing other guys despite the fact we broke up. He doesn’t get to give a damn about who I date! And sure, Brett’s the kind of guy who’s actually going places, but Frank’s my first love. I know you don’t believe in love in high school, but I do. I just…I don’t know what to do.”
“Uh, I really don’t know what to tell you.” The same pang hit me in the gut, thinking if I was in Florida I’d be a much bigger help. But I wasn’t. And I couldn’t help feeling completely out of the loop.
“Sorry, Av, I’m being so selfish. It’s just all so stressful, you know.” She gave a laugh. “Must be nice for you to be in such a drama-free place.
“Yeah. Right,” I said because she had no idea just how wrong she was.

After a couple weeks of being in Silvermir, I fell into pretty much the same routine. I rode an old bike that had belonged to my grandma, or just walked to downtown during the week, sometimes meeting up with Keyara and Tessa. Then on the weekend, I’d go to the grocery store and buy teenage and vegetarian food that Charlie didn’t touch. I Skyped with Annie whenever I could, but she was still having her boy drama so our conversations were brief, and usually just an update of the situation. My mom had only bothered calling me twice since our last talk, which really didn’t surprise me. She was probably way too busy with her new family, pretending I didn’t exist.
I pushed out those thoughts as I walked towards one of the café tables where I was meeting Keyara and Tessa. They both waved cheerfully to me as I crossed the street. Tessa handed me an iced tea, which I took graciously.
“Hey, Avery,” Keyara greeted me. “How are you?”
I shrugged as I sat down. “Oh, pretty good. You guys?”
“Good, too,” they both answered, then giggled.
“So, listen, Cal’s having a party this weekend,” Keyara informed me as she sipped her tea. “You should definitely come.”
I thought of the last party I’d attended, the stupid bonfire, and thought better of it. “You know, I’d love to. But I wouldn’t want to impose.” Or, you know, break my cell phone in a worse way or trip and be carried back to Charlie’s in an embarrassing matter. Not again—not ever.
Tessa gulped down her coffee before speaking. “Impossible,” she assured me. “Besides, it’s just a small get-together at Cal’s house.”
I didn’t want to be mean, so I smiled. “Yeah, I’ll think about it.” Who knows, maybe it’d be good to socialize with some other, normal people.

When I got back to Charlie’s, I logged onto Skype, happy to see Annie’s name on the available list.
“I need your help,” she told me as soon as we started our chat. “I have an emergency.”
Still holding onto my laptop, I leaned against the foot of my bed. “Oh, hi to you too,” I teased. “So, what’s the emergency?”
“Frank…or Brett?”
“What?” I asked, confused, and also berating for myself for not knowing it had to do with anything but the guys in her life.
“Should I get back with Frank, or just stay with Brett?” She asked me, resting her chin in her palm.
“Isn’t that something you should figure out?” I asked her. I wasn’t trying to be mean, but I was actually getting kind of tired of having to decide for her.
“Uh, yeah, but I can’t.” Annie leaned her face closer and pouted.
“Well, I think if you were happy with Brett, you wouldn’t be thinking about getting back with Frank.”
“Huh?” She asked, now being the one confused.
I rolled my eyes. “I think if you really liked Brett more than Frank, you wouldn’t be wondering who to choose,” I clarified for her.
“So, I should choose Frank?” Annie asked me, biting her nails nervously.
I shrugged. “Choose who you want.”
Annie stared at me. “But you said—Ugh. Never mind. This is too hard of an option,” she insisted, stopping her nail biting. “Tell me who to choose.”
I sighed. “Ann, I can’t make that decision for you. You’re the spontaneous one,” I reminded her. “You choose. It’s your love life, not mine.”
She slammed her head on her desk and sighed as she leaned back up. “But that’s just it; for once I can’t dive into something without a second’s thought.” She sighed again. “I’m overthinking it.”
I nodded with a laugh. “Yeah, you are.”
“Avery!” Charlie called from the hallway. “Dinner!”
“You can’t go,” Annie insisted, her voice desperate. “I need your help!”
“Sorry, Ann, but Charlie hates it when I’m late for the times we actually eat together,” I quickly explained.
“Sorry! Bye!” I logged off of Skype before joining Charlie at the dinner table. We didn’t eat dinner together often, but when we did, it was always kinda awkward. I ate a grilled cheese, while he ate the same but with his meat-lovers soup. Neither of us was good at small talk, so we usually just ate in silence.

I had gone out after dinner to grab ice cream, and by the time I’d finished my cone, it was growing dark. I walked the quiet streets, people passing me on their bikes, but keeping to themselves. I was passing the park where the bonfire had been when I heard voices. Without thinking about it, I hid behind one of the meadow trees. From my perch, I could see Jae and Kingsley at a picnic table, facing each other, looking reserved.
“I need your help,” Jae was saying, reminding me how just a couple hours ago, Annie had said those same words. Although I doubted Jae was about to ask Kingsley for boy advice.
“Jae,” Kingsley sighed. “I thought we talked about this.” I’m not just going to keep cleaning up your messes when you decide to get thirsty,” he said in a gruff voice. “Next time, be neater.”
Jae raised an eyebrow in challenge. “Oh, like you?”
“At least I feed on animals,” he pointed out.
I swallowed from my position behind the tree. I must’ve heard wrong. Yeah, that was it, I told myself. Because if I had heard right, they were suggesting some silly—not to mention completely weird—things.
“Hey, humans in our town are rare.” Jae shrugged and flipped her hair over her shoulder like she was talking about the weather. “I can’t help it if I get…hungry.”
Was Jae not human then? No, that didn’t make sense at all. She couldn’t feed on humans. There was no freaking way Jae drank blood. Because, only vampires (and seriously delusional people) did that, and that just wasn’t…possible.
Kingsley narrowed his eyes. “Yes, you can—and you will.”
Jae just laughed, not the least bit intimidated by Kingsley’s glare he’d been giving her for the past minute. “Oh? Is that fondness for Avery I sense, Kingsley? Are you growing soft?” She patted his arms and he stared daggers at her.
Why the hell were they bringing me into this? I didn’t have time to think about that, though, because Kingsley spoke again. “She’s off limits, Jae. I mean it.”
Was he seriously defending me? I couldn’t help but wonder. This had to be a dream, then. That was the only explanation my mind could fathom.
“What’s she to you?” Jae wondered, leaning across the picnic table, towards Kingsley. I strained to hear, awaiting his reply. Could I help it if I was curious?
“Kingsley nonchalantly leaned back on the bench. “Nothing,” he said in a casual tone. “But Charlie would never forgive you. Or her father,” he added, like that should’ve made an impact. But I didn’t know why. He was dead, and they had to know that. Charlie had put it in the newspaper, and I knew because he’d sent it to my mom as a gift, or something.
“Yeah, well—”
I froze, my foot hovering above the stick I had stepped on. But they couldn’t have heard it, could they? I told myself I was standing too far and that I was safe.
“I told you meeting out in a public place was a bad idea,” Kingsley barked at Jae and she actually flinched.
Okay, s***. They had heard me. So, without another thought, I ran as fast as I could through the woods. I figured I’d be less noticeable and hopefully harder to catch. I was breathless when I got to Charlie’s, and kind of amazed I’d found my way. I had stayed by the road the whole time, making sure I saw it while I ran, so that would probably explain it. Then I took a quick glance behind me to make sure I hadn’t been followed before going inside.
I was heading for my room, but stopped when I heard voices coming from the kitchen. I went to investigate, only to find Keyara exchanging packages.
“Oh, hey Avery!” She exclaimed as Charlie took the first aid kit from her.
“Hi,” I said, standing awkwardly in the doorway. I guessed I’d been so paranoid thinking Jae or Kingsley had followed me that I hadn’t even noticed Keyara’s car was parked in front of the house. It did make me wonder if Keyara knew if something strange was up with Kingsley or Jae. After all, she had a strong distaste for both of them. Although, it didn’t seem right to ask in front of Charlie. Plus, I had a feeling I’d just sound insane.
“I was just coming over to bring you your t-shirt from the bonfire since I figured it was about time. I’m sorry I kept on forgetting it!”
“Oh, umm, it’s okay,” I said as she handed the shirt over, unpacking it from her bag.
“Plus, I had to bring Charlie the stuff he’d asked my mom for. He’s a bit clumsy, you know,” she joked, nodding at the first aid kit Charlie had set on the counter beside the stove he stood in front of.
Charlie laughed—yeah, actually laughed. Smile and all. It reminded me of a happier Charlie. The one I had known before Grandma Cecilia and my dad had passed away. “Oh, please, Keyara,” Charlie told her. “I am not!” He glanced at me. “This is incase Avery here is carried home by Kingsley again because she had a head injury. She’s the clumsy one.”
I stared at him in horror. I was really hoping to keep that a secret. Yet Charlie just had to blurt it, not to mention, exaggerate the truth.
“Oh my gosh!” Keyara looked at me worriedly and I sighed.
“It’s just a small cut. I’m fine,” I assured her, then quickly glared at Charlie.
Keyara didn’t look convinced. “My mom would be happy to look at it,” she offered, as if it might redeem her from not hearing about it sooner.
“Oh, that’s okay,” I told her, waving the offer away.
“Charlie put a cover on the pot sitting on the stove and glanced at me again. “That’s a good idea. You should have it looked over.”
“But—” I started to argue, but stopped. Was Charlie actually concerned about me? Well, this was new.
“How’s tomorrow?” Keyara asked me anxiously.”
“Sounds great,” Charlie answered for me, glancing between me and Keyara.
Keyara nodded. “Well, good. Guess I should go, then. Wouldn’t want the soup getting cold.” Keyara nodded to the brown bag which held a bowl of Charlie’s leftover meat lovers’ soup that he’d reheated. “Thank you again,” she told Charlie before zipping up her jacket.
He half-shrugged. “It’s not a problem. Like I said, Avery’s a vegetarian so she won’t eat it and this way, I know it’s not going to waste.”
I rolled my eyes at the sting before heading for my room. I laid in bed that night, rehearing Jae and Kingsley’s conversation It was already fading from my mind, and I started to wonder if I’d even heard right. I hadn’t exactly been standing within audible range, so it was totally possible their words weren’t the same ones I assumed.
Truthfully, I had no idea how to interpret any of their conversation, anyways. Besides, people talked metamorphically all the time. That was probably all there was to it. Jae of course didn’t feed on humans because she was human, and Kingsley probably was really fond of steak and ribs—just like the rest of the town.
I repeated that over and over again in my head to assure myself, hoping I’d get some sleep. It was easier to pretend I wasn’t living in a town with two un-humans than feel the danger if it was actually true.

The next day, Keyara came to pick me up to take me to her mother’s office. Charlie was there, at the door, making sure I actually went. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I was almost glad when Keyara had shown up. Emphasis on the almost part.
“You didn’t tell me Kingsley brought you home,” Keyara said, almost sounding hurt, as she drove. “And you also left out the part that you got injured.”
I looked at her as she drove, not missing her sad expression from my omission. “Hey, he didn’t bring me ‘home’, okay? He brought me back to Charlie’s house,” I started. “As far as the head injury goes, it wasn’t a big deal.” I really hoped she’d drop it at my nonchalant answer, but unfortunately, she didn’t.
“Uh, you could’ve had a concussion…or something!”
I sighed. “Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure I don’t. It was just a small scratch that I got when I fell that night. Besides, I feel fine.” I didn’t know what else I could say to make Keyara realize I wasn’t worried about my scratch. In Florida, my doctor would’ve just told me to let it heal and maybe take some aspirin if it hurt. Which, it didn’t; more proof there was nothing wrong.
Keyara glanced at me before speaking. “When did it even happen?”
I looked out the window with a sigh. This was exactly the reason I didn’t want anyone to know. Their curiosity was kind of annoying. They made a big deal out of nothing, and that wasn’t something I was used to. Getting fussed over, I mean. But Keyara was still waiting for my answer as she turned a corner. “The night of the bonfire.”
“What? This would’ve never happened if I hadn’t been with Cal for the night. I’m soo sorry. I invited you and I didn’t even hang with you for the whole time. Oh, it’s all my fault!”
“Whoa, slow down there,” I told her, feeling awkward at her remorse. “It’s my own fault,” I assured her. “I was being stupid, and clumsy, and tripped.” If I would’ve known that my confession unleashed so much guilt from her, I would’ve just lied.
“Well, I still feel a bit guilty,” Keyara said, glancing at me.
“Don’t,” I insisted quickly. “You had no part in my idiocy.”
Keyara turned at another corner, pausing at the stop sign. “So, what even happened?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. There are some parts that are still fuzzy. I remember Annie calling me, and then I tried to find service for my phone. Then I stumbled, and fell into the lake and when I got out, I was on the woods side of it. I tripped, and that’s about the last thing I remember before blacking out.”
“So, you don’t remember anything else?”
“Nope,” I told her truthfully. “The next thing I knew I was waking up in my room at Charlie’s with massive head pain.”
“Hmm,” was all Keyara said in reply as she stopped at a red light.
“So you don’t even care that it was Kingsley who brought me back to Charlie’s?” I prodded. This was a good time as ever to find out if she knew he possibly wasn’t…human. I would find a lot of comfort in finding out it had all just been my imagination. I watched her face to see if I could pick up any clues from her expression.
But Keyara didn’t meet my gaze as the light turned green and she took off. She swallowed and kept a steady gaze on the road before clearing her throat. “Umm, why would I care that it was Kingsley?” She asked nonchalantly.
“Uh, because you obviously dislike him,” I replied simply.
She shrugged. “Because he’s a jerk.”
“So it’s not because he’s not…” I let my sentence run off, not really sure of what to say.
Keyara glanced at me with a confused expression. “Not what, Avery?”
I sighed. Who was I kidding? If I told her my suspicions then I’d just sound crazy. So instead, I said the first word that came to my mind. “Umm, not friendly.”
She gave a laugh, which really didn’t surprise me. Even I thought that sounded stupid. “Well that’s no secret.”
Her last word brought me back to something Kingsley had said himself. Everyone has a secret, Avery. Our town more than most.
“Okay, we’re here,” Keyara said cheerfully. I glanced out the window before getting out of the car. A two story lavender-colored house dawned before us like a large flower. There was even a pond in the back where I could see a bunch of Ducks flying to. We walked up the stony pathway, passing a sign that read:
Dr. Tanjella Morton
All Are Welcome
~Slainte is tainte~
“Your mom’s Irish?” I wondered as we entered the house, which smelled really delicious. If Keyara hadn’t told me her mom was a doctor, I would’ve thought she was a baker. The house smelled of calming scents that you wanted to keep breathing in.
Keyara turned to me as she closed the door behind us. “You know Irish?”
“How’d you know the last line was in Irish?” Keyara asked me in a curious manner.
Her question stumped me though because I really had no clue. “Uh I—Umm, I guess I’ve heard it somewhere before.” The words somehow sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I felt like it was from a dream or something, but how was that possible?
“Oh,” Keyara replied thoughtfully. She took off her jacket before yelling for her mom. “I’m home! Mom!” Keyara yelled towards the hallway.
I looked around at the lobby area where a desk and computer sat lonely in the corner. It was a small room but it still had a homey feel with a couch and coffee table with magazines, and soft classical music played in the background. It was really soothing, making me feel less awkward to be here.
A woman in her mid-40's with dark hair, and tan skin, and a bohemian look to her clothes stepped in the room, smiling at us. “Ah, Keyara. I thought I heard you.” Her gaze fell on me as she came closer. “And you must be Avery Williams.” Her voice held a note of solemnity, even with her smile.
I nodded. “Uh, yepp. That’s me.”
“Alright, you can come with me,” her mom said, motioning me to follow her down the hallway. I glanced at Keyara, who encouraged me on. We stepped into another small room with a couple chairs, a laptop, and a stack of books on the white counter. “Go ahead and take a seat. Can I get you anything? Tea, coffee, a snack maybe?”
I shook my head as Tanjella took a seat. “Uh, no, thank you.”
Tanjella glanced over at me as she pulled her orange shrug around her shoulders. “So, Keyara told me you had a scratch on your head?”
“Yeah, but I feel fine. I just fell.” I tried to sound nonchalant about it. I mean, it’s not like it was even that big or anything. I had gotten way worst from cliff diving back home.
“Well, let’s take a look,” Tanjella said, standing back up. She lifted up my hair and felt the scratch, which almost felt gritty.
Tanjella gasped and I turned around quickly out of curiosity. “What?” I wondered.
Tanjella swallowed slowly and I was suddenly glad of the distraction of Keyara coming in with a mug of tea and plate with a cinnamon cake piece.
“So, how does it look?” Keyara wondered then seemed to notice her mom’s reaction. “Mom, what is it?”
Tanjella slowly turned to look at her as she cleared her throat. “Umm, go get me C38 and A92, please.” When Keyara left, I couldn’t help notice the confused expression on her face. Tanjella sat back down, and started to answer my earlier question. “Your, uh, scratch…well, it’s gotten a bit…infected.” She suddenly plastered on a smile, as of that made it better. “But don’t worry, with the right medication it should heal!”
I wasn’t sure for whose benefit she was saying that for, but it was somewhat assuring. “Okay, then.” From her reaction, I was worried she’d tell me something horrible. By now she had composed her composure and seemed fine. I guess she’d realized that she had overreacted.
“Does it hurt, or anything?”
I shook my head. “No, it’s pretty okay now.”
Tanjella nodded, smiling again. “Good, good.”
Keyara came back in the room with a bottle and a small container. She handed them both to her mom before taking a seat on the counter.
Tanjella handed me the pill bottle. “Take one every night.” Then she handed me the lotion. “Rub this on the scratch every morning and night.”
Well, that sounded easy enough. “Wow, thank you,” I told her before putting the medication in my pocket.
“Oh, no problem, hon.” I could’ve sworn her troubled expression returned as I left, but I ignored it as I followed Keyara back outside.
On the way home, Keyara reminded me of Cal’s “get- to-gather”, but I didn’t say yes just yet. I actually thought about going since it might actually be a good distraction, and it would give me something to do. I don’t know; maybe I’d even have fun.

Annie Skyped me the next day to tell me she was going to the Bahamas.
“But, you live in Florida,” I pointed out to her with a laugh. I remember always seeing so many tourists go there, yet the people, who actually live there, just want to go somewhere else for the summer.
Annie shrugged. “Well, Dad got a good bargain for it. Plus, my cousins are coming, too, with their parents. I think it’ll be a nice break from all my guy issues.”
I nodded, agreeing for her sake. “Yeah, that might help.”
“So, what about you? Did you meet any new hot guys lately?” Annie asked with her usual giggle.
I would never actually admit it to anyone, but Kingsley actually came to mind. Of course it only took a second for me to get rid of that thought. I mean, it was no secret the guy was attractive. He not only had movie-star good looks with shaggy blonde hair and baby blue eyes, but he also had an incredibly confident and charismatic air about him that was both annoying and alluring. On the other hand, he was a jerk—and oh yeah, possibly not even human. I looked back at my laptop where Annie was still waiting for my response. “Nope,” I told her. “I’m just trying to keep myself sane while staying here.”
Annie gave an understanding nod. “Right. Oh!” She smiled like she’d just remembered something. “I almost forgot that Damien told me to say hi. He does look a lot happier now, too. But that’s probably only because I heard he was hooking up with the school slut.”
Damien…oh gosh. At the sound of his name I expected to feel some emotion. Maybe not anger at the fact he was hooking up with someone else, but any emotion other than, well, nothing. The truth was, I hadn’t even thought of him since I’d been here despite the fact he was my ex. Yet, now, his name sparked no feeling inside me. He seemed more like a fleeting memory. But I was actually glad he’d moved on. No offense to him, but it would’ve been kind of sad for him to mope around since I was obviously not coming back for a while. “Well, good for him.”
Annie looked at me liked I’d gone insane or something by not making a big deal out of it. She could be a bit melodramatic sometimes. “Umm, did you just not hear what I said?” She asked me in disbelief. “Do you not even care that he’s hooking up with Slutty Mcgibben?”
“Ann,” I leveled with her. “That’s harsh. Besides, Damien’s not my boyfriend anymore! Plus, he’s 500 miles away from me. I’m not delusional enough to think he’d still be single when I came back.”
“Okay, fine, you have a point. But for your sake, I’m still going to protest their relationship.”
I sighed. “From the Bahamas?”
“Maybe,” she said defensively.
“Maybe you should just ignore them?” I suggested, really meaning it. It wasn’t her business who my ex dated—especially since I was perfectly okay with it.
“Alright, alright, don’t freak out.” She sighed staring behind her. “Well, I need to go pack.”
“Okay, see you.”
She nodded before logging off.
With a lazy sigh, I closed my laptop and stood up. Checking the time, I knew Tessa would be here soon to pick me up. Keyara had gone early to see Cal, so Tessa had offered me a ride as soon as I took up their offer to go with them to Cal’s party.
Keyara had told me to dress up a bit since I guess shorts and t-shirts were too casual, but whatever. I didn’t want to overdo it, though, so I just slipped on a nice blouse and jean capris with my best flats. I pulled my hair into a side ponytail and let my bangs fall naturally to the side across my forehead. After spritzing a tiny bit of perfume on, I glanced in the mirror for a last look.
I heard Tessa beep her horn, so I went to say goodbye to Charlie, who was busily watching a baseball game with Paul.
Tessa was dressed in a glittery tank and a short black skirt that hugged her waist. I wondered why she was dressed so nicely, but it all made sense as soon as we arrived at Cal’s house. Starting at it as I got out of Tessa’s car, I got the feeling this wasn’t the innocent get-to-gather that they’d made it out to be. It was a full out party, in fact. A group of girls rushed past me, giggling, drinks in their hand. Loud music blared from the house, becoming even louder as we stepped inside.
The music was so loud it drowned out everyone’s conversation around me, so I could barely hear what Tessa said before some guy pulled her away. I stood there awkwardly, thinking maybe this was a mistake. I didn’t feel very comfortable in the big crowd where I knew no one. I hadn’t even been to that many parties in Florida, but I suddenly wished I was back home because there I at least knew more people. I turned to leave, only to get cornered by Jae inside someone’s study, throwing me against wall.
“What the hell do you want?” I asked her, confused, but my tone was a bit angry since I had just been thrown against a wall.
She just narrowed her eyes, and the saying if only looks could kill came into my mind. “What did you hear?”
“What?” I asked, clueless. But when she grabbed me by my jacket collar, and slammed my head against the wall, making pain shoot through my head, it registered what Jae was referring to. It was all about the night I had been trying so hard to forget and the conversation I had overheard. And now, I had a feeling Jae was trying to cover her tracks.
“Nothing!” I insisted, the word catching in my throat as she caught off my air supply with one strong hand.
Then suddenly the door to the study opened, and a look of surprise and anger crossed her face. Keyara stood in the doorway, obvious fury in her face. “Jae, what the hell?”
Jae rolled her eyes before sending Keyara a glare. “It’s none of your damn business.”
“Uh, actually it is,” Keyara replied, crossing her arms as she stepped in the room. “Who invited you here anyway?”
Jae leaned back, rolling her shoulders back. “Eddie, smart girl,” she spat out.
“Well, get out,” Keyara told her, her voice holding an authority I had never heard before. “And leave Avery alone.”
Jae unpinned me from the wall, but not before she glared daggers at me. My hand instantly went to my shoulders blade where I tried to rub the pain away that I had Jae to thank for. I waited until my breathing returned to normal before I turned to Keyara.

“You okay?” She asked me as Jae left the room.
I nodded, trying to convince her that I was okay. “Yeah, I’m fine. But maybe I should just go back to Charlie’s.” After my little run in with Jae, I wasn’t exactly in the partying mood—especially with strangers. But Keyara didn’t like my answer and instead dragged me back to the party. I appreciated that she wanted me to have fun, but Jae had ruined any trace of good mood I had in me when I had come.
At least the place had food. Out of hunger, I went to the kitchen where Keyara said there was pizza. Too bad Eddie was guarding it like a guard dog. I poured myself a cup of soda, hoping he’d go away. But, unfortunately, he didn’t. Instead, he remained there, leaning against the back counter, watching me with curiosity.
“Avery, right?” He asked as I took a piece of pizza under his watchful eye. Even with a counter of food between us, I still felt too close to him.
“Yeah,” I replied, turning to leave. But Eddie stepped in front of me, stopping me from going to join Keyara again. “What do you want?” I asked him, annoyance creeping into my tone. He had after all been the one to invite Jae, and between them, my good manners were gone.
“Oh, me?” He asked, his tone playful. “I want a lot of things. But what I don’t get is what are you doing here?” He took a sip from my cup, a bored smirk on his face.
“I was invited here,” I told him simply.
Eddie put down the cup and crossed his arms over his massive chest. “I mean what are you doing here in Silvermir?”
“What do you care?” I wanted to know.
His gaze traveled over my body and I felt even more creeped out. “Let's just say...I have my reasons.” He touched my hair, taking a step closer. He opened his mouth to say something but he was interrupted.
“Eddie, back off,” a voice growled from behind us.
“We'll talk later,” he whispered in my ear before leaving me with Kingsley.
I turned towards Kingsley as he casually poured himself a cup of Root Beer. “Thanks.”
He gave a shrug and took a sip of his drink. “Well, Eddie can be a bit...” He searched for the word. “Abrasive.”
I would've chosen aggressive or unnerving but it didn’t matter now. I grabbed my plate of food before going to find Keyara.

At the end of the night, the party was slowing down. Tessa came to find me as I was saying good-bye to Keyara and Cal.
"Thanks for coming!" Cal exclaimed to all the guests when they left as he held Keyara's hand in the foyer. "He turned to me as I neared the door. “I know Keyara said this was a small get-to-gather--trust me it was supposed to be. But, well, Eddie decided to invite some of his own friends," he explained sheepishly.
I waved his comment away, already over the fact. "It's fine. Thanks for inviting me," I told the couple with what I hoped was my friendliest smile. Then I glanced at Keyara. "And thanks for, you know, helping me out earlier."
She grinned, leaning into Cal. "Oh, no problem! Jae likes to know."
I nodded, not wanting to get into it. Although, I had a question that had been on my mind all night. "Umm, just out of curiosity, how did you know where I was?"
Keyara bit her lip, her expression a weird one. "Uh, I actually didn't. Kingsley told me. I had no idea Jae was practically going to jump you until I opened the door.
"Wait," I stopped her, thinking I hadn't heard right. "Kingsley had been the one to tell you I was in the study?" But it didn’t make sense. Wasn't he on Jae's side?
Keyara just nodded, missing the revelation in my head. "Yeah, I wasn't even sure you'd come. And I never even saw you come in. But I guess Kingsley did, and so he told me where you were."
"B-but why?" I couldn’t help but wonder, but Keyara just shrugged in response.
"Guess you have your own guardian angel, "Tessa joked from beside me.
I didn't want to think about her comment. It was just too weird. So instead, I finished saying good-bye to the other guests before Tessa drove me back to Charlie's.

That night, I had another nightmare, this one a bit clearer than the past ones. It was the same one I had for the past couple weeks, but this time more of it stayed with me. It was still a bit hazy, but I at least remembered some of it.
I was in the woods, trees towering above me, leaves shaking around me. I walked on with no control over my body. I could've sworn I saw someone, but they were a blur. A scream came from a distance and it instantly sent shivers through me. Then, I almost felt my body weakening as the figure came closer.
I woke up, startled.
The sun shined in through the window, all traces of my nightmare gone. I couldn't help but feel a bit chilled as I leaned back against my pillows. This town's weirdness must've really been stressing me out if I kept having stupid nightmares. There was always the same feeling it left me with when I woke up in the morning. All I wanted to do was push it all out of my thoughts and stop the constant crawling anxiety that I had from the dream.
That's why I tumbled out of bed and wondered into the kitchen for breakfast. Charlie sat in the TV room, as usual, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper. He glanced at me over his reading glasses when I jumped at the sound of his coffee mug being set on the stand next to the couch.
"What?" I asked him with a sigh as I got out a bowl and box of cereal. Then I jumped again when Charlie’s toast popped up from the toaster. I rubbed my eyes tiredly with a quick breath.
Charlie looked like he was trying not to laugh. "Oh, nothing. You just seem a bit...jumpy, is all."
"I'm not," I denied as I poured some cereal and milk into my bowl. "I'm fine," I said, probably more to myself than him.
Charlie just raised an eyebrow as he got up to get his toast. "Is that why you kept me up screaming last night?" He muttered.
I turned around to face him so quickly the cereal bowl almost dropped to the floor. “I was screaming?” I asked, wondering if I'd heard right I had thought after all that it had just simply been in my dream. Was it possible it had just been me?
Charlie gave me a doubtful look as he went back to sit on the couch, toast in hand. “Yes,” he said, looking at me. “Loud and clear.”
“I'm really sorry,” I quickly told Charlie, feeling bad.
He just shrugged, my unfortunate noise forgotten. “It's okay, it happens. Besides, I'm half deaf anyways.”
I sagged against the counter with a sigh. Then I ate my breakfast before getting ready.
I wanted to talk to Annie so badly, to have me calm me down with her usual, normal boy drama. But when I needed her the most, she wasn't there to call. She was probably having a blast on her cruise, though.
An anxious feeling spread through me, and I knew I needed to get out of here. I was tired of being in the dark, so to speak. I had a feeling I knew where to start.

I had to admit I half-hoped the library was closed or something. Maybe I was being too irrational; maybe I was in too deep. But I quieted down my fears when I walked into the library and found Kingsley at his usual spot at the counter, reading a magazine.
“Hi,” I said as I approached.
He sighed and closed his magazine. “Yeah?”
I took a deep breath, urging myself on to continue. “I just wanted to thank you for telling Keyara where I was at the party last night.” I figured that was a safe start, so he wouldn't read into what I was going to say later.
Kingsley just shrugged in response. “Sure, no problem.”
“Why did you do it, though?” I couldn’t help but wonder, the words escaping my mouth without permission. “You keep helping me out when you obviously don’t even like me.” I bit my lip, knowing this was never supposed to be a part of the conversation I had planned on the way here. My goal had been to make it quick and to finally find out why everyone in the town was so weird; what the big secret they were hiding was. But I had said the words out loud, and now I couldn’t exactly take them back.
He sighed again, and leaned across the counter, his gaze on mine. “So, is this why you came in here? To question my actions? Shouldn't you just be thankful I helped you out and leave it at that?”
I nodded, knowing he had a point. It had been the same thing I had told myself multiple times. “Yeah, you're totally right, and I am grateful. Umm, I didn't mean to bug you. I'm actually looking for a book.”
Kingsley crossed his arms, looking amused. “Well, you came to the right place. But…you read?”
I rolled my eyes at his last words. “Lots. Which, I know may come as a surprise to you,” I joked, “but I'm actually looking for a specific genre.”
“And that would be?” He asked in wait.
“Umm, the supernatural,” I replied, awaiting his reaction to my words.
He cleared his throat, not sure he'd heard right. “Uh, what?”
“Do you, you know, have books on the paranormal?” I repeated, biting my lip. Maybe this had been a horrible idea. He could, after all, kill me or something. I had seen lots of Supernatural episodes, and I knew how most of them ended. Besides, if he didn't, Jae definitely would. Still, I needed answers and this might be my best chance of getting them. On the other hand, maybe not.
“Why do you ask?”
What had been my cover story again? It took me a second, but then I remembered. “My, uh, my best friend loves the topic, even loves the show Supernatural. I was hoping to read about it so I could keep up with her recaps.”
Kingsley scanned my face and I thought for sure I had been caught. But instead, he just shrugged. “Well, we don't have any.”
I raised my eyebrow, doubtful. “What, do you know every book in this place?”
“Probably not,” he told me, leaning back in his chair. “But I do know the genres, and we don't have it. I'd recommend fantasy, though.”
I sighed, disappointed. “No thanks.” Then to avoid any other unfortunate conversations, I left the library. Guess I'd just have to find out what he and Jae were in a different way. And hopefully, this time, I could be more discrete.

As instructed by Tanjella, I took the pills and rubbed the lotion on the intended spot. It didn't hurt anymore, so I assumed my scratch was healing. Tanjella wanted to see for herself, so Charlie drove me over there on the way to the office. I greeted Keyara and Tessa, who were lounging on the lawn out front, before going inside to meet with Tanjella.
She didn't say much other than my cut was doing better. Although she told me in such an upbeat way that it sounded almost forced. Then she instructed me to keep taking the meds before letting me leave.
On my way out, Keyara and Tessa called me over from the same spot I had seen them sitting in earlier in the front yard. I went to join them, getting greeted by both of them as soon as I sat down, leaning against one of the big oak trees.
“How's the head?” Tessa wondered, lifting her gaze to meet mine. She was lying on her stomach, her elbows folded underneath her.
I shrugged. “Good, I guess.”
“Well, you are in good hands,” Tessa assured me.
“Yeah,” Keyara agreed. “My mom can always fix any injury. She was one of the best doctors where we used to live.”
“Oh, where did you live?” I wondered out of curiosity.
“Georgia,” Keyara replied with a smile.
“Why'd you guys move?” I couldn't help but wonder, but hoped I wasn't being too intrusive. Thankfully, Keyara didn't seem to mind my inquiry.
“My mom didn't really like living in a big town like Atlanta. So, she knew some friends here, and after quitting her job, we moved here.”
“Oh, I see.”
“So what about you?” Tessa wondered. “Why'd you come here?”
I shrugged, not really wanting to get into the reason I was here. I had tried so hard to not think about it. “My mom...umm, didn't have anyone to send me to other than Charlie. He was the closest family member, I guess, and my mom was in a hurry. Charlie, for some reason, agreed to let me stay here.” It wasn't that I didn't think Charlie loved me, I'm sure in some way he did. It was just that I knew he's seen a lot of death in the family and he wasn't the same guy he used to be.
“Well, I'm sure he likes having you around. He's been a lot lonelier since your dad—” She stopped herself, but I knew what she was about to say, and it was too late. “I'm so sorry,” she quickly told me.
I waved it away, used to the fact now. “Don't worry about it, it’s fine.” Keyara still didn't look sure, but Tessa was nice enough to change the subject. So I just leaned back, enjoying the sun.

A couple weeks passed, and as much as I tried to put Kingsley and Jae's conversation out of my mind, I couldn't. I didn't even have Annie to talk to (not that I could tell her what was on my mind without her thinking I’d gone crazy), and I really missed talking to her. She could always clear my head with her casual banter about her drama.
I spent a lot more time with Keyara and Tessa instead, but I still couldn't bring myself to ask them about my impending thoughts. I mean, how do you ask people, with a good chance you might be completely wrong, about the town they lived in and its possible supernatural essence? But the more I hung out with the pair I started to think the town wasn't as weird as I’d originally thought.
As I lay in bed one night half-asleep, lap top on my legs, I found myself typing “supernatural beings” into the Google search engine. I dare you to do the same thing, because as soon as I hit SEARCH, and the screen stalled a bit, it turned out I had over 10,000 results. This stuff always looked so much easier in movies. Usually it was just boom! and the character had their answer. If only it was actually that simple, I thought with a sigh. I was going to have to be more specific, I realized after getting the same results after clicking on several different links. Demons, witches, vampires, trolls, and name it. I had no idea where to start.
I must've fallen asleep, though, because the next thing I knew, I was standing in the same spot in the park where I had overheard Kingsley and Jae.
But this time, under the light that filtered in through the trees, it wasn’t a human version of Kingsley or Jae that sat in the halo of light.
Instead, they both looked…well, un-human. Jae’s skin was coming in and out of focus, as if she had glamoured her appearance. She had fangs like a vampire with blood dripping from her mouth onto her already bloodstained shirt. Across from her, though, was even a more shocking image. Kingsley was sitting there, but I could see a wolf in his presence, but only if I looked hard enough. His eyes were the same, his fur a dark brown and huge paws with razor-sharp claws.
They both turned to glare at me, their gazes menacing. Their eyes dug into mine like they were staring inside my soul. I had never had such a disturbing feeling like now.

Then, at the sound of Charlie in the kitchen, I woke up, startled, the setting of the woods fluttering away. I hurried to turn on the light next me, but it was no use. The image of Jae and Kingsley’s eyes, staring was burned in the back of my mind.

I sat inside the downtown café shop, spacing out, lost inside my own thoughts that wouldn’t stop pounding inside my head. So many thoughts, all wanting to be heard. It was so disorganized with all my thoughts in my head, but I didn’t want to think about any of them. There was no way I wanted to think about my previous dream (which I had been having more often lately than I wanted to admit), or its meaning.
I sighed to myself, thinking it had been so much easier when I didn’t have spooky dreams that haunted me throughout the day. It wasn’t that I thought my dream was actually real or anything. It had to be from all the research I had done the night before, but still. And sure, it was probably my mind’s lame attempt to figure out the mysteriousness of Silvermir. Yet there was just something about it that still bothered me…
“Avery? Hello?”
I looked away from the window, almost jumping out of my skin, only to see Keyara’s boyfriend, Cal, towering above me with concern. From his expression, I could guess he’d been patiently calling my name. “Oh, hey Cal, sorry,” I apologized. “I was just…thinking.”
He smiled like he knew the feeling. “It’s no problem. So—”
My gaze traveled to the café door where Kingsley and his friends were entering, talking amongst themselves. Instantly I wondered if they were all…werewolves. When I saw him, the image from the end of my dream flashed in front of my eyes. I turned back to Cal as I stood up, tripping in the process. “Sorry, umm, I got to go,” I quickly told him, scrambling away. I rushed out of there without so much as a glance behind me. I gave a sigh of relief once I was outside and away from Kingsley and his usual group of followers. My emotions bubbled inside me and I tried to calm them down with a deep breath. Then I dialed Annie’s number, praying she’d answer.
“Hello, Avery?”
At the sound of her voice, I almost did a happy dance. I was so glad I had finally gotten a hold of her, tears almost came to my eyes. Yeah, I had really missed my best friend these past few days. “Annie, hey!”
Annie gave a laugh at my joy, but I heard static in the background and I worried our connection would turn bad. “Hey, Av. Sorry about not returning your calls. Umm, I dropped my cell phone, and now it’s barely functioning,” she told me with a sigh. “But I’ve got exciting news! This cruise is so awesome! I met this hot bartender guy and we’re totally hanging out tonight!”
I kicked a stone on the sidewalk, starting on my walk back to Charlie’s. “Wow, that’s exciting,” I told her trying to sound happier than I felt. I loved Annie, I really did. But did it make me selfish that I wanted to vent about my own problems?”
“I know!” There was a pause. “So, are you okay, Av?”
I sighed, knowing this was my time to spill it all. Only, what was I supposed to say? I had a wacky dream that some guy is a werewolf and a girl is a vampire? I mean, I would sound insane. Heck, even though I felt deep in my gut it was true, to me it sounded crazy. How was I supposed to tell all that to someone who was somewhere on the ocean, far away? So instead, I didn’t, hoping I wouldn’t regret it. “Yeah, Ann. I’m fine.”
“You sure?”
I thought about it, but knew it was the right answer for now. “Yeah,” I insisted. “Just bored, I guess.” It was really the best excuse I could come up with. Besides, even if my accusations on Kingsley and Jae were true, and she did believe me, I couldn’t tell her their secret. It wasn't mine to tell, so what kind of person would that make me?
Annie laughed, interrupting my thoughts. “Oh, I'm sorry hon! You could always hook up with a hot guy,” she suggested. “Or go clubbing. Ooh, maybe scuba diving?”
“Right,” I told her sarcastically. “Thanks for all your help.”
“Oh, sorry I guess those aren't realistic for you,” she said, feeling guilty. “But there's got to be something.”
“Yeah,” I replied, agreeing with her. “I’m sure there is, but—.”
“What do you want?” I heard Annie yell on her end. “Huh? Why? Okay, fine!” She yelled with a huff. “I have to go,” she told me. “But I'll talk to you later.”
“Yeah,” I said as Annie hung up, the line going dead. I stared at the bare street around me, but didn't let my tears surface. I was fine. I was perfectly okay, I repeated to myself so many times as I walked to Charlie’s it became like a mantra. By then, I was tired, so I decided to go take a nap.

My nap did end up helping, but it was cut short by the stupid doorbell ringing. I wasn't going to answer it, but the person wouldn't stop ringing it. With an annoyed huff, I got up and went to the door. Then I swung it open, curious to see who it was. I froze when I saw who it was and felt my body stiffen, the image of him and Jae coming back to me. I smoothed my hair a bit out of habit, knowing it probably still looked disastrous from my nap. “Uh, hi,” I greeted Kingsley, recovering, and crossed my arms over my chest.
“This is from my parents,” he told me before handing me a white envelope from his grasp. “Uh, make sure Charlie gets it.” Then without another word, he strutted down the steps walking away.
I shut the front door behind me and glanced at the envelope. On the back it was addressed to The Williams Household in pretty cursive calligraphy. I was about to open it, curious why it required a hand delivery from Kingsley, but I knew Charlie didn't like when I opened mail before him. So instead I left it at his usual seat at the kitchen table.
Feeling thirsty, I poured myself some orange juice. I was putting away the carton when the doorbell rang again. With a sigh I went to answer it, wondering who it was this time. I opened the door, so happy it was Keyara and Tessa—and not anybody else. “Hey guys,” I greeted them with a grin. “What's up?”
“Oh, nothing much,” Keyara replied with a shrug.
“We baked some stuff!” Tessa exclaimed, her and Keyara holding up grocery bags to show me.
“Mind tasting some stuff for us?” Keyara asked me, smiling.
“Uh, sure,” I told them, not denying the chance for some good food. I let them inside, thinking that maybe hanging out with Keyara and Tessa was just the distraction I needed.

I found out what was in the envelope Kingsley delivered until a week later. It was after dinner and I had just finished washing the dishes. As I reached for a dish towel, the envelope fluttered to the ground. I dried my hands, then reached for it, an invitation sticking out of the top. Curiosity getting the best of me, I pulled the invitation out. Then my breath caught, not believing what I saw:

Mr. Rainford and Clara Hamilton
Cordially invite you to attend a black tie event
WHERE: The Hamilton Library
WHEN: Saturday, June 24th
TIME: 8:00 PM
WHO IS INVITED TO ATTEND: Charlie & Avery Williams

“Oh, you found it,” I heard Charlie say from behind me as he came into the kitchen.
I turned around, the invitation still in my hand. “Are you going?”
Charlie opened the refrigerator despite the fact we had just eaten dinner. “Yes, we are.”
“We?” I asked, confused, but also hoping I'd heard wrong.
Charlie glanced at me as he got out a beer and closed the fridge door. “Yes, the invitation only states two people. Us.”
“Well, why are we going?” I couldn't help but wonder, thinking this was the worst idea ever.
“Because I'm covering it for the newspaper.” He opened his beer bottle, popping the lid open. “And I don't need to explain myself to you. You are part of this family, and the Hamilton's don't take well to guest they invited not coming.”
I put the invitation down beside me, trying hard not to roll my eyes. “It's a white tie event,” I tried to defend myself. “I don't have that type of dress.” Or any dress really.
Charlie sighed, getting ready to go in the other room. “Well, find one by Saturday.”

I didn't speak to Charlie at all that week. Why was he making me to go to some stupid black tie event when he was clearly there for just some business. Why did he need to bring me along. I wasn't too thrilled to enter Kingsley's territory either. I even thought of every excuse I could, but Charlie didn't budge on his decision. Instead, he just told me it was mandatory, and that was that.
Feeling like I really had no choice but to go, I went to meet up with Keyara to see what her and Tessa were doing for it. But I it turns out, Keyara wasn't even going.
“What?” I asked her when she told me.
Keyara shrugged. “Avery, my family wasn’t…well, we weren't invited,” she admitted.
“But that's stupid,” I replied as we walked along the sidewalk. “Why not?”
Keyara didn't meet my gaze as she replied. “The Hamilton's, they don't really get along with my mom...or anyone else in my family for that matter.”
“How come?” I prodded, my curiosity took over me.
Keyara paused. “Well...” She sighed. “It's complicated.” Then before I could ask more about what she'd said, she changed the subject. “Have you found a dress?”
I shook my head, glancing at the shops around us. “I've been trying to put that off for as long as I can,” I admitted. 3
“Avery,” she said with a light laugh. Then she stopped when we got to her car. “But I think I might be able to help.” Before I had time to protest, or wonder what she'd meant by that, Keyara was already driving us to Tessa's house.

Tessa's mom, as it turned out, was a seamstress. So Angela took my measurements and told me, with a bright smile, that I could pick up my dress on Saturday.
So maybe a small part of me wished that the dress wouldn't fit and Charlie would go without me. But according to both Tessa and Keyara, Angela was the best at what she did, and I wouldn't be disappointed.
After the fitting, Tessa's mom sent them off to another room while she went to work on the dress in her office. I felt bad that Angela wouldn't take my money for the dress. She insisted that I was doing her a favor by letting her make “a creative ensemble that required more than jean material”. Apparently, she made a lot of her kids' clothes, so she was glad for the opportunity to do something more. Something even better.
“It's been a long time since I've sowed anything that fancy, and boy have I missed it,” Angela told me in her office. “And if you pay me for doing this, I'll feel guilty”
“But—”I tried to protest, only to be stopped again by Angela.
“Please, understand that this is just something I want to do, free of charge.” She smiled at me. “Now, please go join the kids in the family room.”
Seeing that Angela wouldn't budge on her decision, I did what I was told. Keyara was sitting on the couch while Tessa sat next to Gilbert, her younger brother, helping him with an art project. When I sat down next to Keyara she handed me a cookie plate. I took one of the cookies, the chocolate chips melting instantly on my tongue.
“Wow, these are really good,” I told her.
Tessa nodded, smiling. “Yeah, they're everyone’s favorites. Especially when they come out of the oven.”
I nodded my agreement. “I can see where you get your cooking skills from,” I said, remembering the food she and Keyara had brought over the other day.
Gilbert glanced up, glue all over his hands. “Oh, my mom didn't make them. She can't cook,” he conceded with an expression that made me laugh.
“I heard that!” Angela yelled from her office with a laugh.
He just shrugged before muttering, “Well, it's true.” Then he turned to me. “Keyara baked them.”
I looked at her and grabbed another cookie. “They're really delicious.”
“Glad to hear it!”
We watched the movie, then, although I don't think any of us actually knew what it was about by the end. We had a conversation almost the whole time, not paying to the movie whatsoever. Mostly, Gilbert told us about his project, saying what he was doing, step by step. Then he held it up, proudly, for everyone to see. “How does it look?” He asked us, glancing at his multi colored butterfly.
Keyara turned to me. “He makes the weirdest things,” she whispered in my ear. “Just pretend like it’s really good. Although, I have to admit it’s his best piece yet.”
“Amazing, Gilbert,” Tessa offered with a smile, agreeing with her cousin.
“Yeah, pretty cool,” Keyara added.
“Most creative thing I’ve seen,” I told him, getting another cookie.
He grinned at us as if he’d just climbed Mount Everest. Heck, metamorphically speaking, to him, he probably did.
Keyara and I stood up, realizing I should probably get back to Charlie’s. Gilbert handed me the butterfly with a sheepish smile before I left. I couldn’t help but smile back as I thanked him. Then I followed Keyara out the door.

Saturday came much faster than I wanted to. Annie had called me the day before, totally excited for me.

“Why?” I asked her, hearing her anxious tone. “It’s not like I even want to go.”
“Well,” she started, “you might have fun!”
I scoffed. “I don’t do formal events,” I reminded her. “Uh, do you not remember Prom? I tripped on the freaking staircase. I’m still trying to live that one down.”
Annie laughed. “Yeah, I remember that.”
“Stop laughing,” I told her, although I couldn’t blame her. It had probably been a hilarious sight. “I was pretty embarrassed.”
“Well, you were wearing a cocktail dress and your heels were barely two inched high.”
“Which is why I’m wearing flats,” I informed her.
“Ooh, and your dress?”
“Is yet to be seen,” I replied. It made me a bit nervous thinking about it. What if it was too long? Falling down a staircase in front of Kingsley and anyone else there would be so much more embarrassing than falling in prom. I mean, at least the people there forgot about it as soon as someone else had done something to top my mishap. Something told me that if I did that here I would forever be known as the town klutz. Which I’m not; I just haven’t had much practice walking in heels.
“Well, you have to take lots of pictures for me!”
I told Annie I would try, but I knew I probably wouldn’t. I’d most likely want to forget the night ever happened.

I climbed up the steps to Tessa’s house after Charlie dropped me off at her driveway. He had some things to take care of, so I was meeting him at the library.
Gilbert opened the door, greeting me before leading me inside. I figured that I’d just pick up the dress and go home to get ready, but Keyara and Tessa had other plans. They did my makeup and hair. Not they would even let me look at their work until I had the dress on—which I still hadn’t seen yet.
Angela brought it to Tessa’s room while I sat on her bed and I gasped when I saw it. It was beautiful. There was no other word to describe it, really. It was a goddess styled dress that was turquoise and green. I stared at it in disbelief for a few minutes, not quite believing it was mine.
“Do you like it?” Angela wondered.
I looked at her and away from the dress. “Oh my gosh, I love it!”
“Good,” Angela said with a happy smile. “Try it on.”
I took off the robe I was wearing and slipped the dress on. It thankfully fit, and in all the right places I had to admit. It was strapless, but it had a gold trimmed empire waist that connected to the straps, crisscrossing into an X under my chest. It had sheath layers that hung loosely around my legs.
I was about to step into my flats when Tessa stopped me. She instead handed me matching gold heels that made me a bit nervous. “Oh, I can’t—”
“Oh just put them on!” Keyara insisted, interrupting me.
Seeing I had no choice, I put them on. I suddenly felt higher and the distance from the ground made me stumble a little bit. But I had to admit for heels, they were pretty comfortable and it only took me a second to compose myself. I turned to Keyara and Tessa, feeling more confident now. “Thank you so much guys.”
Keyara shot me a funny look. “Uh, you haven’t even looked in the mirror yet.”
And truthfully, I was afraid to. I was feeling too pretty to turn around and just be disappointed. Not by my friends’ work, but I had the feeling it still wouldn’t make me look good. At least to myself, I mean. I didn’t want them to be disappointed either that their work just didn’t look good on me. Besides, what if looked too formal or something? My worries were silly, and I knew it, so I turned around to look at my reflection.
I gasped when I saw the dark-haired beauty staring at me in the mirror. I almost didn’t believe it was really me. I looked like a true goddess with my hair half up and a gold headband loosely in place behind my bangs. Ringlets of my wavy hair cascaded down my shoulders, covering them. Yeah, I was amazed, not to mention, impressed. They had done this all in just a couple hours.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Angela said, disappearing quickly from the room. She came back in less than a minute, carrying a rectangular old-looking box. “This was your grandmother’s,” she told me as she slowly opened the box, glancing at me. “She had given it to me for safe keeping,” she explained. Inside there was a gold necklace with a green jewel, matching earrings and bracelet, and some diamond rings. At the sight of them, my breath caught, never deeming my grandmother for a jewelry type of person.
Angela fastened the necklace around my neck while put in the earrings and Tessa closed the clasp of the bracelet after putting it on my wrist. As I stared in the mirror again at my reflection, I couldn’t help but smile at the people around me. They had done all this for me, even when I hadn’t even wanted to go.
“Thank you all so much,” I told them, giving them each a hug. They had no idea how appreciative of their effort I really was. It was more than anyone had ever done for me. “It’s the nicest thing anyone has done for me,” I admitted, and they all just smiled.
“Glad we could help,” Angela said.
“You look amazing!” Tessa and Keyara told me before we all took a picture together.
So the night I expected to have probably wouldn’t be great, but at least I was in a good mood now.

A cab drove me to the library, and I kept seeing people look like movie stars as they entered the place. I would’ve never been able to guess the building was the library. People went in through an entrance on another side, one I never noticed before. My nerves clawed at me, wishing I could be anywhere but here. I wanted so desperately to just fade in the background, but I knew it wouldn’t be that simple. Charlie wanted me here. And how many times could I say that? Uh, none.
So I took a deep breath, ignoring me fears. I followed the people inside; clinging nervously to the jacket Angela had given me, although it seemed more like a cloak. After walking to the end of the hallway, I stopped at the winding staircase that seemed to shine under the lights. I stared down at the ballroom (yeah, the library had a freaking ballroom!), hoping to spot Charlie. A man asked for my jacket, interrupting my unfinished search. I reluctantly handed it over to him, feeling bare without my only cover.
After he took it, I took my first step down the seemingly endless staircase. As I got closer to the floor, I could finally see the people more clearly. I saw Charlie talking, but he paused when he saw me. I noticed that some of the other guests did the same, and I had to keep telling myself not to trip like a mantra to distract myself from their stares. I saw Kingsley with his usual group of followers, glancing at me with an unreadable expression. All his friends eyed me, and I could’ve sworn I saw a look of jealousy on Tamara and Gwen’s faces. (I think those were their names, at least. It had been a long time since Keyara had mentioned her dislike for the group. ) I looked at them, wondering why they’d be jealous at all. I mean, both dressed in white, they looked gorgeous. I could tell Eddie thought so, too, from the look he kept shooting their way. Tanner probably agreed, too, but he looked distracted by the model-looking girl on his arm.
I was more than thankful when I reached the bottom of the staircase. That walk felt like it had taken forever, and I was glad to see everyone had gone back to their conversations, seeming unfazed by my appearance. Still, some people kept casting glances my way, making me feel uncomfortable. So I retreated into one of the corners, hoping to be a bit more invisible.
Charlie found me soon afterward, smiling, and definitely enjoying himself. “Ah, you made it.”
I nodded. “Yepp,” I told him, wondering why he looked so surprised.
“Well, I’d like you to meet some people,” Charlie said, guiding me to a throng of people.
I wanted to protest, but I knew better, and instead let him lead me into the crowd. They all looked anxious to see me, although I couldn’t fathom why. After several introductions to too many people that I lost count, Charlie made me dance with a couple of the guys—each one worse than the last. I so desperately wanted to get away from them all. It was more than annoying (and kind of nauseating) when Charlie’s friends’ sons started hitting on me.
But then Charlie interrupted my dance, informing me I had to go meet the Hamilton’s, aka the host of the event. I grabbed a glass of Champagne off one of the server’s tray and drank it before Charlie could notice it. Was I nervous? Yes. Especially if they were anything like their son (who was coincidentally nowhere to be found). Not that I minded his absence. After that nightmare, I wanted to be as far away from him as possible.
His parents actually bore a resemblance, but they seemed a bit more formal than him. His mom had his blue eyes, but they were lighter. His father had the same blonde hair, but his was cut much shorter, almost into a crew cut. He seemed strong while his wife looked petite standing next to each other. His father looked tough with sharp cheekbones and brown eyes that seemed to always be scanning their surroundings; his mouth was set in a line, revealing no emotion.
“This is Mr. Rainford and Ms. Clara,” Charlie introduced them to me, shaking Rainford’s large, muscular hand, who looked like a general or something, standing so rigid. “This,” he started, motioning to me, “is my granddaughter, Avery.” Clara smiled at me, looking at me with a shared curiosity with her husband.
“Please, call me Ford,” Kingsley’s dad said as he shook my hand.
“Nice to meet you both,” I told them politely.
“Oh, you should meet our son,” Clara said, gazing around the room for him.
“We’ve met,” I heard Kingsley say from behind me.
Clara smiled at his presence, ushering him to her.
“So, Ford—” Charlie started, only to be interrupted by Ford.
“Yes, Charles, you’ll get your story,” Ford teased before taking sip of his Champagne.
“Kingsley, hon, please dance with Avery,” Clara suggested.
“My pleasure,” Kingsley replied, an amused expression on his face.
“And Charlie, let’s go talk,” she said to him.
He pushed me towards Kingsley before leaving with his parents.
I felt utterly humiliated as we stood there, couples dancing around us. I couldn’t believe I had to dance with him for Charlie’s sake. I swallowed and didn’t dare meet Kingsley’s gaze as he slipped an arm around my waist, the other holding my hand up.
“Don’t look so scared,” he teased, whispering in my ear. “I won’t bite.”
I glanced at him but quickly looked away, regretting it. Did he know I his possible secret? Well, probably not considering he would’ve most likely let me get the worst of it from Jae. I glanced over her, dancing with someone, deep in conversation. I wasn’t surprised at her ensemble; a tight black mini dress.
I took a deep breath, looking t Kingsley, knowing I couldn’t be scared of some stupid image that probably wasn’t even real. “At least I don’t look tortured to be here,” I countered. The whole night, the few times I’d spotted him slipping on a smile when someone approached him, then returning to the same strenuous expression soon after.
“Touché,” he replied, smiling. Then he surprised me by spinning me in a circle, making it look part of the spin when I just about tripped.
“You can dance,” I said in astonishment. Throughout the whole dance, his feet hadn’t missed a beat. He danced with a purpose, each step un-sloppy and accurate.
He laughed. “Well, don’t look so shocked.” He spun me again, and this time, there was no stumbling involved on my part. “You shouldn’t assume you know everything about someone.”
I thought of that nightmare that just wouldn’t get out of my head. “Trust me,” I muttered. “I’m not assuming anything about you.” In truth, I really didn’t know anything about him.
Kingsley glanced at me with curiosity, but I just looked away. I couldn’t do this, I realized. I couldn’t dance the night away and pretend not to know something—even if it might not be true.
“Excuse me,” I told him hoarsely, my voice cracking as I pulled away. I gulped down a couple champagne glasses on my way out of the ballroom. My phone rang, and after glancing at who it was, I almost didn’t answer.
But I knew the truth, that she’d just keep calling me. So going into the lobby, I reluctantly pressed the ACCEPT CALL button and put the phone to my ear. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hello, Avery. Thanks for finally taking my call,” came my Mom’s voice. “How are you, hon?”
“Fine,” I replied, glancing around me to make sure no one else was out here. But aside from the soft hum of the music coming from the ballroom, it was silent.
“Avery, why is it that we have to do this every time?” My mom asked me with a sigh.
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Do what, Mom?” I wondered, my tone more raised than I’d meant it to be. “I mean, you call every what? Two weeks if I’m lucky?”
“No, Avery, don’t give me that attitude. You know how busy I am with Robert and his father. They need me.”
I shook my head, leaning it against the wall. “But you never cared to ask me if I needed you, Mom. No, instead you just rushed off to be with your new family and sent me away to Charlie’s like some useless toy.” By now, I had tears in my eyes, and my voice got thick. “When am I going home, Mom?” I wondered. It had been a question I had avoided asking for too long, and I needed to know. The truth was I had been afraid of asking it, but could you blame me? I just didn’t know what my mom would say, and that had me nervous. But I had prolonged it far too much, and I could my anxiety creeping through me as I waited for her to answer.
“Avery…that’s what I was calling about.”
And that’s when I knew. She had never been planning for me to come back home. She had purposely sent me here knowing I didn’t have somewhere to come back to. The impending news that I knew was sure to come made my heart drop to the ground.
“Honey, I umm, I sold the house.”
There was a pause from me as my brain interpreted the news. “Wow, Mom. Just…wow. So, when were you planning to tell me?” Would she have told me if I hadn’t asked about coming back? How long would she have waited to let me know her plan?
“Oh, Avery, it’s not like I didn’t tell Charlie. Besides, you can come live with Rob and I any time after his father gets better. And I figured since you’d be going to college in a year, selling the house wouldn’t be a big deal. You would’ve only lived in it for one more year.”
I shook my head in disbelief, knowing to my mom it all made sense. But to me? It just left me angry. “Not a big deal, Mom? I grew up in that house! And admit it you sold it because of Dad. Now that you have your new husband, and perfect little family, you want to get rid of everything that reminds you of him, including me,” I said, my voice breaking.
“No, Avery, that is not true,” she replied haughtily.
I scoffed, shaking my head again with a roll of my eyes. “You keep telling yourself that, Mom. But I’ve lived with you long enough to know the truth.” Not wanting to continue the conversation any longer, I hung up. Tears blurred my vision, and I tried to press them back. I saw a waiter passing by on his way from the kitchen and I grabbed one of the bottles off the tray. Then I found a dimly lit room near the hallway and sand down to the ground. I let my tears shamelessly fall to the ground as I reached for my newly acquired bottle of wine. Then I sought refuge in my haunting thoughts.
My tears had almost dried by the time that someone found me. Of course the last person I expected to find me, found me.
“Avery?” Kingsley called as he entered the small, crowded room. I didn't answer. I really didn't have the energy to. He pulled me to my feet, making the whole room spin around me. The bottle I had been holding clinked on the floor, a drop spilling from it. Kingsley noticed it, but more importantly that it was empty. “Did you drink that whole thing?” He wondered, his voice solemn.
“No,” I lied, my voice slurring as I struggled to keep standing.
Kingsley shot me a concerned look as he kept holding me up. “Uh, let's get you back to Charlie's.”
I shook my head, a mistake since the room spun around me again. “I-I’m fine,” I insisted.
Kingsley scoffed. “Yeah, you’re anything but,” he warned. “Come on, let's get out of here.”
I looked at him with a sigh. “Don't worry about it. Besides, you can't just leave your party,” I reminded him.
He rolled his eyes. “Umm, it's not. It's just my parents' lame attempt to sell the place.”
“But you love it here,” I said without thinking. But it was true. He always looked so at home in the place; like he belonged. I could see it on his face even now.
Kingsley smiled sadly in reply, looking lost in though. “I know. But unless I magically find the will naming me as the new owner, I can't do anything about it.” He sighed, glancing at me. “Now, seriously, come on.”
I wanted to protest, but instead I let him take a hold of me and carry me to his car. Once inside, he handed me a water bottle, which I took gratefully before he started the car. He set the radio to some radio station, the soft hum lulling me to sleep as he pulled out of the lot.
“So, want to tell me why you got drunk off your ass tonight?” He wondered before placing his suit jacket on me like a blanket. Then he loosened his tie, glancing at me.
“Wanna tell me why you're helping me?” I countered, curling up in the seat, definitely not feeling well.
“I'm serious, Avery.”
I looked at him with a shrug. “So am I.”
He sighed, rolling his eyes slightly. “I heard you arguing on the phone and could tell you were upset. I wanted to see if you were okay, but I got sidetracked with my parents.” He tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he sighed again. “I had no idea that when I'd come back for you, you had downed a whole bottle of wine. Do you know how much alcohol content that has in it?”
I rolled my eyes. “What do you care?” I muttered, drinking some of the water he'd given me. “You're not exactly the 'caring type',” I pointed out.
He glanced at me but didn't say anything for a while. But then, so quiet
I thought I had imagined it, came his reply. “Well, you don't know me.”
“I know you might me a werewolf,” I said, then froze. I had definitely not meant for that to come out, but it was too late to take it back, and I knew it.
Kingsley's jaw tightened. “You're drunk,” he replied hoarsely, then cleared his throat.
I laughed. “Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn't have said that.”
He took a deep breath. “Hell, it's not like you'll even remember any of this in the morning,” he muttered to himself. “Okay, I'll play along. How'd you figure it out?”
I didn't want to bring up my nightmare because I knew that would only remind me of the haunting image. So instead, I settled for the half-truth. “Well...I overheard you and Jae. Then, I surfed the web. It made sense.”
“Of course,” he sighed.
I felt my eyes close then, tiredness taking over my body. I wanted to continue the conversation, but it was like I couldn't fight the sleep that overtook me. I hazily remembered Kingsley carrying me to out of his car and to the door. I didn't know how he knew which one was my room(although it was probably pretty distinguishable from Charlie's), but soon, I felt him lay me on my bed.
“You looked beautiful tonight,” he whispered in my ear, then laughed. “Pretty breathtaking, actually,” he admitted.” He gingerly set my head on the pillows, but his hand froze when it ran over my scratch. But then he was whispering good night and was gone.
I pulled my covers closer around me and continued to sleep.

The next morning was hell—and not just because I had a horrible hangover. As I ate breakfast, last night's humiliating moments came back to me. When Charlie came back in the room, I didn't look at him. My mom's words echoed in my mind about her already telling Charlie about selling the house. Why had he never told me? Was the question I kept asking myself, but couldn't figure out. I knew should've asked him about his reasoning, but couldn't bring myself to do so. That morning, though, I was too angry to care.
“What happened to you last night?” Charlie asked, interrupting my thoughts.
I shrugged, getting up from the table. “I was tired, so Kingsley brought me home.” I had woken up not really believing it myself, but his black suit jacket that had been over me when I'd woken up, proved it all true.
“I could've driven you home,” Charlie said with a laugh.
I looked at him, holding my anger back as best as I could. “No offense, but after having a nice little chat with Mom about the house, I didn't really feel like asking you for anything.”
“What?” He wondered, confused.
“I know what Mom did,” I told him, not being able to hold it in any longer. “Selling the house in Florida?” I asked, knowing it had to ring a bell—and judging by Charlie's reaction, boy did it.
His face grew grim. “Avery, let me explain.”
I shook m head, tears stinging my eyes. “No thanks. You had plenty of chances.” Then before he could reply, or stop me, I ran out of the house. I ran and didn't stop even though it was raining. Finally, not wanting to get fully soaked, I took refuge under some trees in the woods.
Only then did I let my silent tears come, quicker and more abundant than they'd come last night. But then soon I heard footsteps and looked up to see an alarmed Kingsley.
“Avery,” he breathed. “You really shouldn't be out here.”
Ignoring his remark, I wiped at my tears, not wanting to see me cry yet again. By now he'd probably thought I was an emotional wreck.
He sat down next to me, and like me, leaned against the huge tree trunk.
“You okay?”
I wanted so much to nod and pretend that everything was really okay. But
I couldn’t, not anymore, so I shook my head no.
“Same thing as last night?” He wondered, his tone soft.
“What does it matter to you?” I asked him, my voice more harsh than I meant it to be. “I mean, you never answer any of my questions, you're stubborn, and sort of a jerk—”
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I think I get it."
I turned to look at him. "I remember you admitting it you know."

He gave a slow nod. "Uh, yeah. I was afraid you would." He sighed. "But I figure, you already know, so it doesn't really matter anyways.” He paused and we just sat there for a couple minutes. “That's why the day in the cafe, you left so abruptly, isn’t it?”
I was about to say no, and lie, but my face gave it away. It had, after all, been the night right after my nightmare and I had let my stupid fear scare me away into running. “I'm sorry.” I sighed. “Do you hate it?” I asked him, stretching.
Why?” He wondered. “What good would that do? I am the way I am, and that's that. No use in hating myself for something I can't control.” I
smiled at his response, thinking this was a good one. He glanced over
at me. “I mean, sure to humans, I probably seem like a monster. But in
this town,” he said, gazing nostalgically at the woods, “I fit right in.”
“So...your friends are...”
“Yes,” Kingsley replied, knowing what I was getting at.
“Is everyone in this town some supernatural creature?” I couldn't help but wonder.
“That's a talk you'll have to have with Charlie,” he told me, bumping my knees with his.
I looked down at the grass at my feet. “Yeah, well, Charlie and I aren't exactly on, uh, speaking terms.”
“Is that who you had a fight with last night?”
I shook my head. “No, that was with my mom.”
“Ah,” he said knowingly. “So, what happened with Charlie, then?”
I sighed, not wanting to really think about it in fear I'd start crying
again. “My mom sold the house and turns out, Charlie knew about it. This morning, I kind of got angry at him for not telling me.”
Kingsley nodded. “Oh. Well, I can't pretend to know Charlie's intentions, but maybe he was just protecting you?”
“Maybe,” I admitted. “I just, I don't know. He's changed, you know? After my father died, and then my grandma, I...I just don't know him anymore.” I wiped at a tear and curled my knees closer to my chest. “I can't believe I'm even telling you all this,” I muttered, reminiscing as I glanced at him.
Kingsley just grinned. “Eh, I tend to be a good listener.”
I laughed. “Yeah, okay,” I agreed. Then I thought about some of the town members and their dislike for each other. “Why does Keyara dislike you and much?”
“That's something you have to take up with her,” he told me, spreading out his legs in front of him.
“But she knows what you are, right?”
Kingsley's face turned to one of amusement. “Except for the occasional humans in our town, everyone pretty much knows each other's dirty little secret,” he joked.
I bit my lip. “Does, uh, Charlie know?”
Kingsley paused. “Talk to him,” he said, as he got to his feet. “Rain stopped,” he observed as he listened around us. “Come on,” he told me. “I'll drive you back to Charlie's”
I stood up, too, then followed him through the brush, wondering why he was the one who came to my aide every time I needed help. When I asked him, he just shrugged.
“Your luck, I guess,” he joked as he drove me back to Charlie's.
“Yeah, I guess,” I muttered to myself. Once we got to Charlie’s, I got out of his car and turned to him. “Thank you,” I told him. For last night, for today, for well, everything.”
He just nodded. “Yeah, no problem.”
Then I closed the car door and made my way inside Charlie's house.

Charlie sat in the TV room, papers and photos scrambled around him on the coffee table. He was chewing on the top of his pen, then pushed his reading glasses further on his nose to see better.
“Umm, Charlie?” I prompted, knowing I owed him an apology at least.
He looked up, and for the first time, I saw the old Charlie. I had never expected him to be the old Charlie I had known before Dad's and Grandma's death. No, instead, I had learned to only expect the Charlie with a bitter attitude who'd lost the rest of his family. I hadn’t noticed until now, though, that it wasn’t just his personality that had changed. I had been so wrapped up in hating my mom for sending me here that I'd been delusional enough to think that Charlie was the same since I'd seen him at Grandma's funeral. I should've known better, though, because I myself had changed since coming here.
“Yes, Avery?” He wondered, sitting back in the sofa.
I took a deep breath. “I think maybe we should talk.”
He gave a nod and patted the spot next to him on the couch. He started, then, telling me all about the real town. I listened with interest as he started to clear a lot of things for me.

Charlie wasn’t all too happy that Kingsley had revealed the town's identity, but he still told me all about it. Turns out, the town had been made a long time ago as a refuge for supernatural beings. There were werewolves (of course) who were Kingsley, and his crew, and all their parents; vampires (Jae and her friends); witches (Keyara and her mom and aunt), ghosts, Banshees, Furies, among many others.
Yeah, it was all a lot to handle. At least thanks to Annie and her love for the supernatural, I knew a lot about each being, and didn’t feel too overwhelmed. Really, I was surprised more than anything. After Charlie had finished telling me all that, there was still a question I had on my mind and I knew it'd be bothering me until I knew the answer.
“So, what was Dad?” I asked Charlie. “Was he, umm, a supernatural being, too?”
Charlie took a deep breath and stiffened. “Uh, that's for another day.” Then he stood up. “I need a beer. “ And with that, he left the room.
Feeling like he'd avoided the rest of our conversation, I found myself looking at the things Charlie had been so intently concentrating on when I'd first entered the room. There were lots of police reports stacked in a neat pile, and I out of curiosity I glanced at a few. I found that they all had one thing in common: victims had died without a real cause of death. The pictures were weird, too. All the victims had their bodies in tack, but their veins could be seen through their pale skin. As I looked at more, I could also see that they were all male. What the heck?
When Charlie came back in the room, I asked him what it all meant, but he told me it was police business and then he collected all the evidence in a folder filled with newspaper clippings. He also went off about how his job was to write about it, nothing else and he wasn’t getting involved. Then he looked at me with a solemn face when he warned me that neither should I.
The next day, I sat next to Keyara in her room as she got out some spell books from underneath her bed. “You have no idea how much I wanted to tell you,” she said, her voice muffled since she'd plunged her head under her bed. Then she surfaced and quickly scooted across from me. “But I'm so glad Charlie finally told you about the town secret.” I had told her what I'd learned about five minutes ago, and she'd pulled me up to her bedroom to show off her books, I guess. “But, you know, town policy and all that,” she said with a roll of her eyes. Apparently, it was a “town policy” that only a family member can reveal what the town is really filled with. Charlie, I had a feeling wasn’t going to tell me, probably ever, so I was glad, too that I'd finally found out. Keyara shoved a book at me, grinning. “This is my SPELL BOOK.”
“Oh, wow, cool,” I replied, not really knowing what else to say. I mean, is there a way to react when you find out that one of your friends is a witch and she has her own spell book?
Keyara rifled through the pages, showing me various spells she'd written, proud of her work. “...And this one gets rid of zits!” She shrugged. “Well, at least for a few hours anyway.”
“That's...pretty helpful,” I replied, standing up. “Hey, umm, where's your bathroom?”
“Oh, it's by mom's office,” she told me, looking up from her book.
I nodded, than thanked her before making my way to the bathroom. I slapped some cool water on my face and glanced at myself in the mirror when I heard two voices arguing. I stepped outside of the bathroom, standing by Tanjella's office, wondering what was going on.
“How could you not tell her?” I heard a familiar male voice asking angrily.
“Because Avery doesn’t need to worry, Kingsley,” Tanjella replied. Kingsley? What was he doing here? And I didn't need to worry about what? Why were they even talking? I thought they didn't get along?
“But you're keeping stuff from her,” Kingsley said, interrupting my thoughts. “It could be deadly.”
Well, that didn't sound good.
“You don't know that,” Tanjella countered.
“Actually, I do, Tanjella. You're not forgetting about my mom are you? Because it's killing her,” he said, his voice cracking at the end.
“We don't even know if they're the same thing,” Tanjella pointed out, her voice growing softer.
“Well, you should find out then.”
Tanjella sighed. “You know as well as I do, your Mom's condition is untreatable. Don't just assume the same thing about Avery.”
“Well, maybe you should try harder on the cure. There’s got to be something in that witch book of yours.”
Tanjella sighed again. “I'll try Kingsley, but you know it's not that simple. I can't guarantee anything.”
I felt bad listening to the conversation, so I hurried back to Keyara's room.
“You okay?” Keyara asked me, putting her spell book down.
I nodded. “Oh, yeah, fine. Just, umm, a slight headache.,” I covered.
“Do you want some Tylenol?
I shook my head. “Nah, I'll be fine. Thanks though.”
Keyara smiled, happy to see I was okay. “So, Tessa's almost done babysitting Gilbert , so she'll be here soon.”
“Sweet,” I told her as I sat down. Keyara continued her talk about witchcraft, but I was too distracted. My mind kept wondering back to the heated conversation I'd overheard in Tanjella's office. It seemed I overheard the worst conversations. But what could Tanjella be keeping from me? And why? And more importantly why was Kingsley so concerned? Was there something wrong with his mom? I mean, she'd seemed fine at the library event, but was there more to it? I sighed in frustration, wondering why there was always so much secrecy.
Tessa and Keyara fell asleep after the movie we watched, so I took my cue to leave. On my way out, I found Tanjella in the kitchen, cutting up peppers. She smiled when she saw me, glancing up briefly in my direction.
“Avery, hello.”
“Hi Tanjella,” I greeted back.
She eyes me for a moment, scanning my face. “What's on your mind?”
I bit my lip. Was it even my place to ask her about the conversation I'd overheard. But sighed,, knowing it was something I really wanted to know. “Well, I kind of overheard you and Kingsley earlier. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I just—”
“You're wondering what Kingsley was talking about?” She interrupted me, thankfully not angry at all.
“Yeah,” I admitted.
She nodded, figuring as much. “The scratch on your head is a bit infected. Kingsley seems to think that the same creature that gave you the cut is the same one who did the same to his mother.”
“Why?” I wondered.
Tanjella reached for another pepper to cut before answering. “It's a bit of a unique scratch, and the infection is almost identical.”
I swallowed, wondering what that meant. “So, is it umm, a hazardous?”
She gave a mall laugh at the my choice of words, but she still got my drift, even without me asking if it was deadly. “ That's actually unclear. Have you had any dizziness or pain of any kind? Maybe felt your energy draining at all?”
I shook my head after thinking about it. “No, not really.”
Tanjella wiped at her brow. “Well, then , no, your scratch isn't hazardous.” She looked up at me. “But if you feel unwell at all, don't hesitate to come see me.”
“Trust me,” I told her. “I won't.”
“Good.” She smiled. “Alright is Charlie coming to pick you up?”
I nodded and she wished me a goodnight. Then I left the kitchen, feeling a bit relieved after my talk with Tanjella. I wasn’t going to die anytime soon, and I guess that's all I could really hope for now.

I had another nightmare that week. Several, actually. By the end of the week, I was kind of afraid to fall asleep. Which was why, one night, I decided to slip out of the house and go for a run. By now, it had become a routine for me to run now, and I loved that I finally got to do it since I hadn't done it forever since coming here from Florida. I ignored my inner voice that reminded me of the lurked in the night as I slipped on a t-shirt and running pants. Compared to my nightmares, the creatures didn't seem as scary. I couldn't take the screams that echoed in my head from the nightmares, the woods crinkling like I was being watched... I really needed to get out of the house.
I felt my exhaustion fall away as my feet echoed against the pavement. My dreams dissipated from my mind as I ran. Finally, my mind was clear for once. That felt good, so I focused on the music blaring from my iPod, and kept running.

Soon, I realized I had gone pretty far. Farther than I had all week. My lungs burned and to cool down I sat down below the dim light of a street light. I shut my eyes as I waited for my breathing to go back to normal.
That's when I heard it.
I froze and instantly opened my eyes, scanning my surroundings as I stood up.. But yet I found nothing. The woods roamed in front of me, the only noise the whooshing of the leaves. Just to make sure it really hadn't been my imagination, I backed away from the woods. I really didn't want to think about what was in there. With a final check around me to make sure the area was in fact, clear, I made my way back to Charlie's.
Somehow, though, I took a wrong turn somewhere. I stopped, not knowing where the heck I was. More woods loomed around me, and I tried to go the way I thought downtown was. The space I walked in felt too open, and it made me nervous. The trees shook above me in anger and I backed up again. Then suddenly I heard a rustling and a distant scream.
My heartbeat sped up and I tried to flee the walk path. Suddenly, my foot caught on something and I tumbled down a hill, hitting a tree at the bottom. I lay still, not wanting think about my any newly acquired scratches and bruises I'd gotten from my fall. Instead I scanned the trees around me, knowing I needed to get out of the woods. There was a noise from somewhere need me, and I quickly jumped up in alarm. I wondered through the growth, wishing it wasn't so dark . At least my eyes were starting to adjust the farther I walked, and I wasn't running into as many things.
I thought I was almost out of the woods when my hair got stuck on a branch of a tree that looked like a pyramid. With a sigh, I untangled it, cursing to myself. Then my foot touched something soft, and I slowly looked down. At the sight, I couldn't help but scream in shock. I ran away as quickly as I could, my mind whirring, trying to process what I had just seen. Although after a while, I stopped to regain my breath. I saw something move and I almost passed out in fear. I turned around, only to run into something. I backed up, wondering who the heck it was and if this was it for me.
“Avery, what the hell are you doing here?” Kingsley asked me,. Then he took in my scared face and took a step closer to me. “Are you okay?”
I looked at him, and weirdly enough, the first thing I noticed was that he had his shirt off. And yeah, he had abs. Next to him was bag, a t-shirt on top of it, that he put on. My question was similar to his first one. What was he doing out here?
“Avery,” he said softly, his hands holding my shoulders as he looked at me with worry.
Tears sprang to my eyes, my mind still boggling what I had seen. There was a weird feeling in me, and that worried me more. For some reason, I felt like I had seen the guy's death in one of my nightmares. How was that possible. Was I going crazy?
Sensing something was wrong, Kingsley swept me in his arms, hugging me to him. As I let my tears fall on his shoulder, he soothingly ran his hand on my back, helping me calm down. Once I had done so, we pulled away, and he took my hand, his bag in the other and we started walking. “What happened?” He wondered as he led us out of the woods. Unlike me, he didn't seem to have a problem with getting lost. Once outside of the woods, Kingsley dropped his bag on the dirt path and we sat down on a nearby bench near a street light,.
I took a deep breath, finding my voice. “I-I, saw him. He was....he was dead.” I coughed out the word, my tears coming back.
“Oh, Avery,” he said gently as he pulled me to him. “Shh,” he told me as I clung to him. I didn't dare shut my eyes, though, in fear of seeing the haunting image of the dead guy on my eyelids.
“He was just like the others,” I realized, pulling away from Kingsley. “His skin...his veins...they were visible...” Just like the victims in the photos I'd seen of the police reports Charlie had left out.
“It's okay, Kingsley reassured me, his hands sweeping on my head, my back as we hugged again. “I'm going to call the sheriff.” He stood up and pulled his phone out of his bag.
I curled my knees to my chest as he made the call, resting my chin on my knees. Kingsley came back a minute later, sitting beside me again. Just having the comfort of him next to me made me feel better. As we waited, he put his arm around me; I cuddled next to him, needing the assurance of his presence.

A policeman showed up after about five minutes, parking his car on the dirt path near us. Kingsley and I got to our feet and met officer brown as he got out of his car.

“Kingsley,” the officer greeted him.

Kingsley gave a nod. I was thankful he still held onto me, I feared I’d pass out otherwise.
“What happened?” Officer brown asked us, leaning against his car door.
“Avery found a body,” Kingsley replied.
The cop sighed in disbelief. “Another one?” He shook his head. “Freakin’ unbelievable,” he muttered. Then he looked at me. “Where is it?”
“Oh…I-I’m not sure,” I told him. I was a little too caught up in my thoughts. But then I remembered the tree I got my hair stuck on, and hoped maybe that would help. It was after all, right where I had noticed the… body. “Wait, there was a tree, though. The branches were all pointing down in almost a pyramid form.”
The officer stared at me. “Yeah, surprisingly that doesn’t help me,” he said sarcastically.
Kingsley shot him a warning look. “Yeah, well I know where that is. Take her home, and I can show you where it is.”
“I’ll just call in officer Rhinehart,” officer brown told Kingsley. “He was just playing Sudoku back at the station, so he’ll be here soon.”
Kingsley nodded, approving the idea. He let me climb into the backseat of the cop car as the officer got in the front seat. On the way, he radioed in officer Rhinehart as he drove. He didn’t to me though; he seemed as lost in thought as I did.

For the next week, I didn’t come out of my bedroom except to eat occasionally and go to the bathroom. I knew Charlie noticed, but he was too busy at the newspaper office to do anything about it. I ignored everyone’s calls, especially my mom’s. I wasn’t sure if Charlie had called her, but I didn’t care either way. She was the last person I wanted to talk to after our fight. I wished I could call Annie but it seemed after telling her I wasn’t moving back home, the distance between us increased. She wanted me to visit soon, but I knew I wouldn’t really fit in her life anymore. Instead, I had become like a passing phase just like all her boyfriends.
But the people I couldn’t hide from apparently were Keyara and Tessa. Keyara used magic to open my door, and that was that. Then, the two of them dragged me downtown for lunch. At first, I really didn’t say much. But somehow, they got me to open up and soon it was like old times. Well, until Keyara gave me an option.
“I can make you forget it, if you want.”
I stopped mid-chew and looked up at her. “Forget what?”
“The man you saw,” Keyara clarified for me. Tessa eyed her cousin for a second, but then back to eating. Guess she wasn’t too surprised.
I took a deep breath. “You know, I’d love that. But today, you guys made me realize I can’t just hide from it all. Sure, seeing him was, umm, pretty bad, but I can’t get my memory erased every time I see something I don’t want to.”
Keyara nodded, understating. “As long as you’re sure.”
“Yeah,” I replied, meaning it. “I think I just needed someone to remind me that people see way worse things than I did last week. So, thanks guys.”
They both grinned before thanking me.

After lunch, the two of them offered me a ride home, but I denied their offer so I could walk back to Charlie’s. Now that I was out of the house, and out of my funk, I just wanted to enjoy downtown. I was really grateful to Keyara and Tessa for getting me out of the house. I can’t believe I was over reacting about something like seeing a dead body when people see them all the time at funerals. I think that was actually part of the reason though. I had already seen dad and grandma’s bodies at their funerals and the guy I’d seen reminded me of that. But now, I was over it. I just needed a reminder of the outside world, I guess.
I bought a smoothie to ward off the hot summer heat, but instantly frowned on my way out when I saw Jae and her usual friends out on the sidewalk, about to go in.
“What are you doing here?” She snarled, crossing her arms.
I rolled my eyes, not feeling like dealing with her today. “Last time I checked, Jae, this was a free country. I can buy a smoothie if I want to. But you know, I didn’t see a blood flavored one here; weird.”
She was about to grab me, totally pissed off at my comment, but someone from behind me stopped her.
“Let it go, Jae,” barked Kingsley from behind me.
Jae glared at me and leaned into my side to whisper in my ear. “Next time, I’ll find you, and you won’t be lucky enough to have your guard dog with you,” she threatened.
“Jae,” Kingsley’s voice warned her, his tone razor sharp.
Jae sighed, giving us a final glare before strutting off with her friends.
I turned around to see Kingsley, but no pack. “You really shouldn’t provoke her,” Kingsley told me with a sigh.
“Uh, she tried to kill me last time I saw her,” I defended myself. That seemed like a good reason as any.
“Exactly,” he replied, taking a hold of my elbow and leading me down the street. Then he glanced at me, curious. “So, how are you?”
I shrugged, slurping down some more of my smoothie. “I’m fine.”
“Oh, is that why I had to send Keyara and Tessa to check on you?”
“Which, yeah, I’m thankful for. But I really am okay now, I swear.” I took a sip of my smoothie, hoping to appear calm and relaxed.
He eyed me and but a hand on my shoulder. “You saw a dead body, Avery. It’s okay to be freaked out.”
“Well, I’m not. I spent all of last week doing that, and now, I’m good.”
Kingsley studied my face as I kept drinking my smoothie, and I guess he decided to let it go. “Okay, then.”
I smiled. “Great.” We kept walking after that while I finished my drink. I didn’t like the silence, so I looked at Kingsley before I spoke. “So, how’s the library thing going?”
“What library thing?” He wondered, eying me warily.
I threw away my empty smoothie cup in a nearby trashcan before replying. “Oh, keeping your parents from selling the library, I mean,” I clarified.
“Well, there’s no buyer yet,” he said, kicking a stone on the sidewalk.
“Oh, that’s good,” I told him. “How about the search for the Will?”
Kingsley shrugged. “It’s pretty hopeless. I have no idea where the heck it can be.”
I smiled, getting an idea for a way to thank him for helping me out so many times “Maybe I could help?”
He looked at me, unsure. “Uh….”
I laughed. “Oh come on. What could it hurt?”
He raised an eyebrow as if to ask do you really want me to answer that?
“Please?” I asked him. “After you helping me out so much, I owe you,” I pointed out.
“Then buy me a burger, I don’t know,” he joked.
I stared at him. “I’m a vegetarian,” I reminded him, although it’s not like I minded buying meat. I just figured it was enough leverage for him to give in.
“I know.” He sighed, lost in thought before glancing at me. “Fine. Let’s go.”
I grinned before following him to the library.

“See?” Kingsley asked me from his position on the ground. He was kneeling on the floor, hopelessly searching through a bottom cabinet drawer. “It’s pointless.”
I sighed, placing a stack of dusty books on one of the shelves. “Well….” I didn’t want to admit defeat yet, but it was turning out to be a pretty discouraging search. We’d looked through drawers, shelves, cabinets, and desks in multiple rooms, yet still nothing.
Kingsley closed the drawer and sat down. He leaned against it and sighed.
I came to sit beside him as he lazily stretched out his legs in front of himself. “Sorry,” I told him, sad that the search had turned up nothing useful.
He shrugged slightly. “Not your fault. My grandfather was truly a man of mystery.
I know the feeling, I wanted to say. I could say the same about not just my grandfather, but also my own dad. “Were you guys close?” I wondered.
He thought about it. “Out of everyone in my family, I was closest to him. But he was always hard to read, though.
I gave a nod. “Oh.”
He stood up, dusting off his pants. “I should probably get you back to Charlie’s.” Kingsley pulled me up in one quick gesture, showing his strength.
“Thanks,” I told him. I realized I hadn’t said it last week at the woods, but as Kingsley met my gaze, he seemed to understand what I was referring to. I wasn’t sure where last week put us with each other, but he now seemed like a comforting presence.

We walked the path on our way from the library, enjoying the sunset on the horizon ahead of us. At the skating park, I spotted Kingsley’s pack riding around on bikes and skateboards. One of them did an impressive trick on his bike, then spotting us, he rode over. It was Tanner, Kingsley’s best friend, although I had never met him officially.
“Kingsley! Hey man,” Tanner said and he and Kingsley did a handshake.
“What’s up Tanner?” Kingsley asked him, his expression changing from the face he always wears around me to his tough, werewolf face.
“Nothing much. The boys were wondering if you were still coming to the party tonight.” Tanner glanced at me as he talked before returning his gaze to his leader’s. He draped his arms lazily on the handlebars of his bike, keeping one foot on the ground to keep himself steady.
“'Course,” Kingsley replied, like Tanner should’ve known better than to ask.
“And Gabe says bring the girl if you want,” Eddie added, studying me as he came to stand next to Tanner.
I stepped back, uncomfortable in his gaze.
Kingsley laughed. “I didn’t realize I needed his permission,” he told Eddie.
Tanner’s mouth turned into one of amusement, and so did Eddie’s. “So, you’re bringing her?”
I sighed. “Can you not talk about me like I’m not here?” I asked him, crossing my arms over my chest. Then I turned to Kingsley. “I can walk back by myself.” I turned away without waiting for his reply. But a couple minutes later, I felt him at my side.
“Whoa, you don’t have to run off, you know,” he joked.
I sighed. “Sorry, but your friends are kinda creepy,” I admitted.
He chuckled at my confession. “So, you spend the day with a leader of a werewolf pack, but you find his friends creepy?”
“Well, you’re not creepy,” I pointed out. “Your friends do however, give me the creeps.”
Kingsley shook his head, but smiled. “You are weird.”
I ginned, laughing. “Part of my charm,” I joked with a small shrug.
Kingsley smiled back at me. “Oh, is that so?” By now, we’d reached the park where I had long ago overheard him and Jae talking. I leaned back against one of the trees, Kingsley standing in front of me.
“Mhm,” I replied, still smiling.
“So, I don’t suppose you would want to come to the party with me tonight?” He wondered leaning his palm next to my head.
“You know, you guys party a lot in this town,” I pointed out as we started walking back to Charlie’s again.
He shrugged. “We have to keep our selves entertained somehow,” he joked.
“Ah,” I suddenly understood the need for being outside the house, instead of just staying in by yourself with a book—especially when the supernatural came to life. Who wants to read about something when you can live it.
“But, maybe you shouldn’t come,” Kingsley said as an afterthought. “Werewolves tend to party a bit differently than you’re used to.”
I laughed. “Yeah, that’s probably true,” I agreed. “But I wasn’t really a party person back home, either,” I told him as we walked up Charlie’s driveway. We stopped at the front door, standing in front of each other.
“I just….I don’t want to scare you away,” he confessed.
I scoffed at that. “Well, good news,” I replied. “After what I saw last week, you can’t,” I told him truthfully.
He smiled.” You sure?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“So….how’s eight?”
I grinned. “Sounds perfect.”
“Great,” Kingsley replied before walking back down the driveway.
I opened the front door and stepped inside. Charlie sat nearby, reading a magazine.
“Did Kingsley just drop you off?”
“Uh, yeah,” I replied slowly, wondering where this was going.

"Mm. You’ve been spending a lot of time with him lately.” He looked at my face and narrowed his eyes.

"Not really. It’s a small town, and sometimes we run into each other," I explained.

He nodded slowly. "Then what’s with your face. Why do you look…." He stopped; shaking his head with a sigh like the question would be useless. "Never mind. At least you finally got out of the house."

“Yeah,” I agreed before going to my room. I was getting to Skype with Annie since we hadn’t talked in so long, but my cell phone rang, distracting me. Without bothering to look at the caller ID, I answered my cell. “Hello,” i greeted my caller.
“Avery,” came a heavy sigh from the other end. “Finally I get through.”
“Mom,” I said, shutting my eyes in despair when I recognized the voice. Oh, s***.
"Yes, it’s me. Finally you answer my call. Why have you been ignoring me?"
I sighed, knowing she knew exactly why. Instead, i played dumb. "What? Ignore you? I would never."
"Avery, don’t play it off. I just wanted to know if you’re okay. Charlie had mentioned you—"
“I’m fine,” Mom," I interrupted her.
"Are you sure, hon? Charlie said you weren’t coming out of your room and I grew worried."
I sighed, wishing she wouldn’t make it such a big deal "Well, mom, I was tired. But I’ve been out since, okay? I spent the whole day with other people, outside of the house," I added, trying to assure her.
She sighed heavily and I was nervous for what would come next. "You know, maybe it was a mistake sending you there. I think you should come live with me again."

I scoffed, knowing that really wasn’t a realistic option. I had grown used to this place and I wasn’t going to leave for a new family. The fact was, I didn’t want a new one. “No thanks, Mom,” I told her.

“Avery, I thought you’d be happy.”

Yeah, right, I wanted to say. Like I’d be happy to live with her new family only after finding a dead body? I shook my head in disbelief. “Yeah, well, 'happy' isn't the word choice I'd use,” I grumbled.
My mom sighed again. “Avery, really? Please don't. Just think about it, okay?”
“Whatever,” Mom, I told her. “I have to go.” I hung up without waiting for a reply. There was no thinking I had to do about my decision. There was no way in hell I was leaving Charlie's now to go live with mom's new replacement family. There really wasn't a chance in hell.

At dinner, Charlie reminded me that I was still grounded for sneaking out the house for my run last week. Instead of pointing out that seeing a dead body was punishment enough, I just nodded my acknowledgment. Talking to my mom had put me in a bad mood and I think Charlie noticed because he didn't pursue the conversation. He told me to stop pouting and instead of replying I shut myself in my room again.
As I read one of my novels, the doorbell rang. I just figured it was someone for Charlie so I ignored the sound and continued reading. My mood had only improved slightly, but I was still kind of in a sour mood. Which was why when Charlie yelled through my door to tell me I had a visitor I told him to send them away. A couple minutes later, though, there was more knocking at my door. With a sigh, I got up to open it since I knew Charlie had the key anyways. “Wha—” I stopped mid word when I saw it wasn't Charlie. “Kingsley,” I greeted, confused.
“Thought we were going to a party?”
I laughed to myself, not believing I had pretty much forgotten it. Too bad I couldn't go. “Uh, well, I'm sort of grounded,” I told him.
He grinned (and in my opinion he looked way too please with himself.). “Not tonight. “Charlie practically begged me to take you out.”
I eyed him, wondering why. “But—never mind,' I said, realizing it wasn't worth it to argue. “ Then I sighed, knowing I wasn't really feeling up for a party. “No offense, but I'm really not in the mood. “
“Well in that case, I'll stay in with you,” he volunteered with a small shrug.
I raised an eyebrow in question. “Uh, you'd be kind of a distraction. I'm just reading a book, which would bore you,” I pointed out.
“Oh, so I'm a distraction now?” He asked, giving me an amused smile.
I crossed my arms with a roll of my eyes. ' That's what they call people who distract others,” I joked.
Kingsley sighed, scanning my face. “Maybe you need a distraction,” he pointed out.
“Why do you say that?” I wondered.
“Because I know that if you come to the party tonight, you'll get your mind off...whatever it is that's bugging you.”
I bit my lip, wondering how he always knew what to say. Plus, he did have a point. Maybe the party was just what I needed to get my and my mom's conversation out of my mind. “Alright, you win,” I surrendered with a laugh. “Give me five minutes.”
Kingsley nodded with a grin before backing up back into the family room.
I shut my door before going to change into something more party-ish: a top that Keyara had made me buy and a cardigan over that so my shoulders wouldn't feel so bare. Then I put on my best skinny jeans and flats. My hair had been thrown into a messy bun, so I undid it and let it loose around me shoulders, hanging in perfect waves. When I came out of my room, Kingsley gave me an approving smile.
“Wow, I think that was actually five minutes,” he joked with a smile, impressed.
I rolled my eyes at the stereo type before replying. “Well, not all girls take forever to get ready,” I told him. “Let's go.”
Kingsley stepped out of the way, then followed me outside and in his car.

The music was so loud I couldn't even hear my thoughts. Which was probably I felt myself relax more than I had in a while. Kingsley took my hand as we entered and I was thankful for the closeness in the large crowd in the house. It was super easy to get lost, and that sounded kind of nervous-wrecking when I thought about all the werewolves in here. “You hungry?” He asked in my ear.
I shook my head since I had already eaten my dinner. “Nope, but thanks,” I replied. I looked around the giant house, trying to ignore all the stares from the partiers. I felt weird under some of their judgmental gazes and unconscionably leaned into Kingsley's side.
As soon as Tanner saw us, he gave us a grin and came right over. “So glad to see you both!” He yelled over the music, casting a surprising glance at me. He and Kingsley did their handshake before he whispered something in Tanner’s ear, who obediently nodded. It almost seemed part of the handshake it was all so smoothly done. “Drinks are in the kitchen!” Tanner yelled before leaving us.
Wanting to get out of everybody’s scrutinizing glares, I told Kingsley I was thirsty. He shot me a look I didn’t understand, but still led me into the kitchen. Once there, though, I understood his hesitation. The counters were littered with beer. I focused on the music, realizing it had become a background beat low enough I could talk to Kingsley without yelling. “Is there water?” I wondered, knowing there was no way I wanted to drink again. Especially not after the library party incident.
Kingsley nodded as he chugged down a beer. He got out a water bottle for me from the fridge and grabbed another beer for himself. I watched him uncap the beer, knowing it wasn't my place to say anything. People in Florida had tons of drinking parties, but I had never been one of the teens who had participated. I wasn't here to pester him about his alcohol content. So instead, I took the water from him without commenting.
Somehow, Kingsley still noticed my trepidation towards his drink. “It takes a lot to get me actually drunk,” he assured me. “Werewolves have a way higher alcohol tolerance than most humans. Five beers for us is like one for an average human,' he informed me.
“I wasn't—” I tried to hide my concern, but he stopped me.
“I know,” he replied. “But I just wanted you to know,” he said, shooting me smile.
“Yeah, don’t worry you’ve got nothing to be worried about,” a voice said from behind me as they entered the kitchen. I turned to see a grinning Tamara, Tara and Gabe.
“Kingsley can hold down his liquor,” Tamara reassured me as she poured herself a beer.
“Usually,” Gabe teased with a smirk, grabbing Tamara around the waist. But as soon as Kingsley shot him a dark look, he instantly straightened up. “Just kidding,” he told us, turning to Tamara as Kingsley rolled his eyes.
“Avery, right?” Tara asked, eyeing me as she sipped her drink, a tall vodka bottle.
“Yepp, that’s me,” I replied, my hands playing with the wrapper on my water bottle.
“Just ignore Gabe,” she told me nonchalantly. “He’s had about 15 beers already.”
I tried not to act surprised, but I guess my face still gave my feeling away because Tara laughed.
Tanner came in the kitchen then, shouts still heard from behind him. “Dude, Kingsley, it’s your turn in the match.”
Kingsley sighed like this was the thing that was pissing him off the most. “Not tonight, Tan.”
I turned to him, feeling guilty that he had only said no because of me. “It’s okay, you can go,” I assured him.
He still looked at me with hesitation, but it didn’t matter since Tanner was already pulling him away. I followed them along with the other people who hadn’t made their way downstairs to the basement. Two buff guys were wrestling with each other, but it was way more violently than if they were in a high school gym.
I couldn’t help but watch as Kingsley transformed in front of me into some badass version of himself. He stepped right up to the guy who’d won in the last round, and his opponent seemed to back up slightly. They both had their shirts off by the time their round began, but that wasn’t the reason I wasn’t able to tear my gaze away. The two of them were like bears, beating each other up, but with skill. I sipped my water, watching them, until Tanner announced Kingsley as the winner. More and more guys tried to wrestle him, but he still won each time, almost breaking their legs or arm, or some other body part. He even slammed one of his opponent’s head so hard that it actually cracked the wall.
I looked around at the other party guests, only to see them act like this happened every time. At the end of each round, they paraded around him like he was their king. It was kind of sweet, but weird at the same time.
After drinking that whole water, I really had to go to the bathroom. When I was washing my hands, Tara came in, seeming a bit drunk. I didn’t want to think about how many drinks she would’ve had to have to be that way if what Kingsley said was true.
“Hey,” she greeted me.
“Hi,” I replied as I dried my hands, tearing a strip off the paper towels on the sink counter.
“Enjoying yourself?” She asked, gazing at herself in the mirror.
I nodded. “Uh, yeah.” I mean the party was way different than I was used to, but it wasn’t boring at least.
“You look nice,” Tara told me, glancing at me in the mirror.
“Thanks,” I said, surprised at her pleasantness. I had been kind of convinced that Kingsley’s friends disliked me with all the looks they always sent my way. But maybe I had misread them?
Tara turned around, leaning against the sink, reading my face. “You’re surprised I’m being nice,” she noted.
I shrugged, not hiding the fact. “Yeah, kind of.”
She sighed. “Because, no offense, you and Kingsley are just a fling. We all know that. We figure you’re not delusional either.”
I swallowed, crossing my arms. Despite her warning to not take offense, I still did. “What do you mean, I’m not ‘delusional’? I asked, quoting her as she neared the door.
She paused, looking at me like I should already know the answer. “Well, Kingsley’s the leader of a werewolf pack,” she reminded me. “It’s not like he’ll end up with someone…human.” She said the last word like someone might say cancer. “We all know he’s destined to be with one of his own kind.”
I sighed, not believing we were even having this conversation. Besides, Kingsley and I didn’t have a relationship— or anything between us for that matter. “You know, Tara, Kingsley and I are just friends.” We hadn’t done anything that would say otherwise, so I didn’t know why she was even lecturing me about something like that. Sure, he’d been there every time I needed him, but that hadn’t created some love connection between us. I couldn’t picture Kingsley saying otherwise, either. All that had done was make me able to stand him.
Tara laughed like I just didn’t get it. I guess I really didn’t. “You’re just so innocently naïve. It’s cute.”
“What?” I asked her, confused even more now.
“Ugh, never mind,” she sighed, rolling her eyes. “Although, it is funny, watching Kingsley when he’s around you.” She leaned against the wall with an amused smile.
I didn’t want to be even more drawn into her tangled web she’d created, but I couldn’t help it. My curiosity made me bite. “And why’s that?”
She seemed thoughtful as she replied, “Well, he’s always the one that everyone comes to for permission, yet when he’s with you, he looks to you for it. I’ve never seen that before.”
I thought about it, wanting to know if it was true, or if Tara was really just drunk and delusional. It didn’t seem that way to me, at least, Kingsley seeking my permission for anything. He always seemed like his confident self. I think Tara was just trying to get into my head. Which was why, with a sigh, I opened the bathroom door, and slipped past her.
The music was still going strong, and I could still hear it in the hallway. I followed the noise, wading past people until I found Kingsley talking to a couple friends. They were all sporting injuries, although Kingsley’s friends had it the worst. He’d gotten away with some minor bruises and scratches. Although his head did have a painful gash circled by a bruise. They all seemed unfazed by it, though, just talking casually. Kingsley turned away from them to greet me, smiling.
“What’s up?”
“Nothing,” I replied, hoping to hide my confused feelings that swam inside my head, all thanks to Gwen.
He scanned my face, clearly not believing me. Then he excused himself from his friends , much to my apprehension. I didn’t want to be the annoying girl that ruined the whole party because of someone had said to me. It was silly, too, and I knew it. But did Kingsley listen to my protests to leave the party? No. Instead, he took me by the elbow, leading me outside. We walked quietly, the music fading until it was no more than a just background beat. We had reached a playground, and I sat on one of the swings with a laugh. Kingsley took the one next to me, glancing at me.
I ignored his gaze and pushed myself off the ground. “So, why is there a random playground here?” I wondered, not wanting for Kingsley to change the topic into something I didn’t want to talk about.
“There’s an elementary school behind all the pine trees,” he answered.
“Oh.” I felt the wind rush through my hair as I swung in the air.
“Okay, so now tell me what’s bugging you.” Unlike me, he didn’t swing. Instead he just sat there, watching me with tentativeness.
“Nothing,” I insisted simply, slowing down until my feet hit the ground.
Still, Kingsley didn’t buy it. “Did Eddie say something to you?”
I shook my head in response. This time, it hadn’t been Eddie who’d crossed a boundary.
“Okay, then…Tamara, may be? Although she was with Gabe all night. Gwen?”
I sighed, stopping my swinging completely. “No, okay? It was no once.”
Kingsley took that as a yes and continued on. “What’d she say?” How he I was lying, I had no idea. He seemed to know me better than I thought.
“Not important,” I replied, knowing I wasn’t going to tattle on her. That would be childish, and I knew how to handle myself. Besides, I didn’t want to cause any drama between them.
Kingsley gave me a firm look. “No one in my pack is going to disrespect you.”
I looked at him, thinking it was way too sweet of him to say that. Why did he have to be so nice? “Look, it was really nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
He sighed, like I didn’t get it. I was really starting to get annoyed at all the people who kept on doing that. “Avery, Tara tends to step over the line too much and trust me, she’ll get hell for this—”
“There’s really no need.” I interrupted him. “She just told me her opinion, or well, I don’t know, maybe a fact. But I’m a big girl, okay? I don’t need you to fight my battles.” I hated being treated like some fragile glass. I wasn’t like that at all. I’ve never needed some prince charming to come and rescue me—no matter how good looking he was.
Kingsley didn’t take that well, though. “Oh, God,” he growled. What the hell did she say to you?”
I stood up from my seat to come stand in front of him. I gave a small shrug. “ She just gave me a reality check.’
He stood up too, the distance between us decreased so that our bodies almost touched. I felt myself shiver, realizing I had forgotten my jacket on our way out. “You cold?” He asked me with concern.
I shook my head, feeling stupid without my coat. I hated being some damsel in distress around him. “No, I’m— ”
“Fine?” He finished for me with a laugh. He grinned down at me, our gazes meeting. “Sometimes you should just accept that you need help.”
I sighed, shivering again. “Then sometimes, maybe you have to admit defeat.”
“Never,” he joked, still smiling. Then he looked at me, thoughtful, before in one swift move, he cradled my head in his palm and kissed me. And I mean really kissed me. Unlike anyone, not even Damien, had done before. It didn’t take long to be lost in the sweetness of it all.
There were a lot of things in the woods that night. Fog seemed to fill every crevice, the trees hiding with in it. Running and screams could be heard, but from where I didn’t know. It was like I felt their fear, their adrenaline pumping as they scrambled to get away. But it was no use, their bodies faded away into the fog with everyone else. Their attacker smiled in pleasure, feeling satisfied with the meal. It wasn’t messy, and they liked that. They were all about simple and easy.
Then, everything went black.
I heard a hum and felt something warm on my face. For a second, it was like I had forgotten something important, but I pushed the feeling away. Opening my eyes, I realized it was the sun from outside lighting up the room that had made me feel the heat on my face. I also noticed, I wasn’t alone on the futon I’d slept on last night. I was wrapped in Kingsley’s arms, his breathing steady on my neck as he breathed in and out. Now wanting to wake him, I carefully slid away from his grasp. But in the process, Kingsley still felt the absence of my presence and stirred awake.
“Hey,” he said groggily as we both sat up.
“Hi,” I replied as he wiped his eyes and yawned.
He looked around, but we were alone. “Breakfast?” He wondered.
My stomach grumbled in response and I laughed. “Please.” We stood up then and walked into the kitchen. It was still loitered with red Solo cups and beer cans. I turned to Kingsley as he fished out some bread from the pantry. “Why are we still at Tanner’s?” I wondered, realizing I definitely wasn’t at Charlie’s like I had expected upon waking up. I remembered all of last night, yet the end was a bit hazy. Why?
Kingsley glanced at me. “Well, you insisted I wasn’t sober enough to drive you to Charlie’s, and it was late, so I don’t know, we kind of just fell asleep.”
I gave a nod, the memory slowly coming back. “Oh, right.”
Kingsley put the bread in the toaster and leaned against the counter. Tanner came down the stairs and yawned.
“Ah, the love birds are up,” he joked as he entered the kitchen. With his shirt off, he looked almost as built as Kingsley. “Juice me,” he told him as he took a seat across from where I stood at the island.
Kingsley had already gotten out the juice as if expecting Tanner’s request. They both moved in such a way that told me they’d done this routine many times. Kingsley slid him the orange juice and he poured all three of us a cup. I drank mine thirstily, waiting for the toast to be done.
As we ate, Tanner’s cell phone rang and he lazily answered it. “Yeah?” When the person on the other line spoke, his whole face seemed to instantly change. “You’re kidding. What? — Holy S***! Yeah, okay, dad. I’ll come as soon as I get dressed.” He glanced at Kingsley before speaking again. “Yeah. Okay, bye.”
Kingsley and I watched in silence as Tanner dug out a t-shirt from a sports bag by the stairs and slipped it on over his pajama pants. “What’s going on?” Kingsley wondered as he gulped down his drink and Tanner put on shoes and a jacket.
“My dad called,” he informed us as he searched the sofa for his keys. “They found more bodies.”
I looked at Kingsley, felt him stiffen at his friend’s words, and his expression turned grim.
“I’ll take you,” he told Tanner, his voice surprisingly strong. “Let me just drop off Avery, first.”
Tanner didn’t have to think about it, he took up Kingsley’s offer without hesitation and stopped searching for his keys.
We all walked to Kingsley’s car, the guys getting in the front while I slid into the back seat. On the way to Charlie’s, Kingsley and Tanner talked busily, and I learned Tanner’s dad was chief of police. I got the feeling Tanner wanted to follow in his footsteps and he bragged about his dad letting him help with a few cases. I stayed silent in the back, letting them talk it out.
When I arrived at Charlie’s I was surprised to be greeted by a sticky-note he’d left me instead of himself. I should’ve known, though, he’d be at the crime scene too. I was about to change out of my clothes when I noticed the red blinking light on the answering machine informing me there were two unheard voice mail messages. Thinking they might be from Charlie, I pressed play.
“Charles? Hello? It’s Judy,” my mom’s voice greeted me and I sat down on the side of the chair as she went on. “We need to talk, Charles,” she said as if she expected for him to pick up the phone right then. “So stop not answering my calls because I know you’re not that busy.”
I was about to delete the message when she went on. “I know you’re upset at the way I’ve left things with Avery. But she’s not your daughter, she’s mine. And she’s old enough to be more mature and therefore you’re not protecting her. Anyway, since neither of you are answering my calls, I wanted to let you know I’m coming in a couple weeks so we can talk face to face about all this. Tell Avery I say hi, Charles. Bye.”
It was the end of the message. With a sigh, I stoop up. I didn’t bother listening to the other message. Instead, I went to go take a shower and freshen up.
After that, I got dressed into a blouse and shorts. As I was scrunching my hair, Keyara called me.
“Hey,” I greeted her when I answered my phone.
“Hey, you free?” She wondered.
“Uh, yeah. What’s up?” I asked, hoping everything was okay.
“Oh, nothing much, just bored. I made lunch, though,” she cheerfully told me.
I laughed, giving in to her unspoken invitation. “Okay, I’ll be right over.”
“Need a ride?”
“Nah,” I replied. “I still have to finish getting ready and the fresh air couldn’t hurt.”
“As long as you’re sure.”
“Yeah,” I told her before we both hung up. Then I washed my hands before finishing up. Once ready, I headed out.

I walked alongside the street, although it was a bit muddy from the rain last night. So, I decided to take the short cut through the woods. They were thin enough I could still see the clearing up ahead. Still, I hurried up my pace, really not feeling that comfortable there. I reached the clearing that led to the park, my mind lost in thought about mom’s impending visit. I was trying to figure out if there was a way out of it when I heard a sharp voice behind me.
“Well, well, well. No guard dog in sight. It’s a miracle.”
I turned around, knowing it was Jae that stood behind me. She stood with her arms crossed, looking extra model-like in her dressy outfit. I forced a laugh, trying to appear more confident than I felt. But there was real anger I felt for her, so the words easily came to me. “Really, the park? This is where you plan to release your fury on me?” I asked her sarcastically. “Wow.”
She rolled her eyes in annoyance. “Oh, shut up.”
I sighed. “Why is it that you hate me so much?” I couldn’t help but wonder. “Am I the only human here you’re not allowed to have?” I raised an eyebrow in challenge as I asked my question.
That proved to be a mistake since she was in my face in a second. “I’d watch how you talk to me,” she warned, her voice ice cold. “Kingsley’s not hear to protect you,” she said angrily.
His name, and her tone, gave me the ammo I needed. “Oh, I get it. You’re just jealous.” And sure, I had no idea if I was actually right, but I needed to stall her from ripping my head off, or whatever she planned.
“Of what?” She hissed.
“Me and Kingsley,” I replied, knowing I was wading into uncharted waters. One wrong word, after all, and she’d know I was bluffing my way through the whole thing. “You have that he’s been spending more time with me than you and that he won’t clean up your messes anymore, either.” I knew I hit home when she pushed me against the tree, half throwing me. I quickly got to my feet, thinking she’d turn vamp on me at any moment and I wanted to be conscious for that.
She smirked. “You wouldn’t be so quick to like him if you knew all the things he was keeping from you.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know that he’s a werewolf, Jae,” I told her smugly, happy that she didn’t have anything on me now.
But she just laughed in reply. “You are so naïve.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “Ask him about your dad. About his death.”
I couldn’t help it. When she mentioned that, my dad’s death, something in me snapped. I grabbed a fallen branch and tried to hit her. She was too fast, though, and before I could do anything, she grabbed me by the throat, pushing me against a tree.
“I’m a vampire,” she reminded me with a smirk. Her hand grew tighter around my throat, the oxygen decreasing as her nails dug in. “Try remembering that.” Then before I had time to react, she grabbed me with both her hands and threw me against the tall oak trees with a strong force. My breath caught as I hit the trees with a sickening thud. When I got up, she was gone. I gave a sigh of relief as I brushed myself off. My ankle and leg hurt like hell, and my arms were covered with scratches and bruises.
Still, I walked on, determined to find a way out and back on the main road.
I saw Keyara’s car the same time she seemed to spot me. She opened the passenger door for me, leaning over the seat. I climbed in and she took her cue to keep driving.
“Oh, my gosh! I was so worried,” she told me, her voice filled with concern. “Are you okay?” She asked as she stopped at a stop sign.
“ I need you to take me to Kingsley,” I said instead of answering her question. I had to know if Jae had just been toying with me. Bringing him up had sent a surge of emotions swimming through me and I needed answers. Especially if there was truth to what she’d said.
Keyara looked alarmed. “Why? What happened?”
I shrugged. “I ran into Jae. She said some things,” I simply replied.
“She always does,” she grumbled sourly.
“Keyara,” I started, looking at her.
“Huh?” She asked, turning a corner.
“Did you know my father?” I couldn’t help but wonder. I had been in his birthplace this whole time, yet I had never thought to ask questions. I hated to admit it, but I had been too scared to hear the answers.
Keyara shrugged, not meeting my gaze. “Not very well. Why?”
“What was he in this town?”
Keyara gave me a sidelong glance, knowing what I was getting at. Because if everyone in this town was some kind of supernatural, what had he been? She sighed, hesitant. “Maybe you should talk to Charlie about that,” she suggested.
I shook my head. “No, I really need you to tell me now.” It seemed the plant that Jae had left was growing, just like my curiosity. Now that I knew he could’ve been something, I wanted to know more badly than anything.
She sighed again. “ He was…well, he was probably the equivalent of the mayor in this town. He cared so much about it, loved it, took care of it.”
“But then, why’d he leave?” I wondered. She made it seem like this place was his home, so why would he just leave like that and never come back?
Keyara turned another corner. “The town sort of has, a umm, curse on it…It’s complicated and it goes way back. Somehow, you’re dad found a way to get past it. Then he fell in love with your mom and the rest is history.”
My mind reeled from the new information. “Umm, what do you mean there’s a town curse?” How the hell had this been failed to mentioned to me? I shook my head in disbelief. Just when I thought I was beginning to know this town, it turned out I really didn’t at all.
“We’re here,” Keyara stated, failing to answer my question.
I looked out my window, and sure enough, we were at the library. Kingsley stood outside, kicking his skateboard in the bushes. We got out of Keyara’s car and I met him on the path. “We need to talk,” I told him.
He stepped closer. “Is this about last night? Because—”
I rolled my eyes. “No,” I said at the same time Keyara asked, “What happened last night?”
“Then, what?” He took in my misshapen condition that was all thanks to Jae. “You’re bleeding,” he said in concern. “Let’s get you inside.”
“Go with him,” Keyara told me gently, nudging me towards him. “I’ll see you later.”
“But—” I started to protest as she walked back to her car.
“Come on,” Kingsley said, tugging at my arm. I gave in and let him guide me through the library corridors and into an office. “Alright, what is going on?” He asked me as he dug out a first-aid kit from the desk.
“Really, you’ve just got a first-aid kit in your office?” I teased as I took a seat on top of the desk.
“Standard safety procedure,” he joked. “Plus, we were all quite the adventurers as kids,” he explained. “Grandpa kept it for all the times we got hurt running in the woods.” Then he covered my cuts and scratches with Band-Aids, but I stopped him.
“I look silly.”
“Uh, you look like you got in a fight with a bear.” He sighed. “So, what did happen?”
“Just clumsy,” I lied.
He eyed me as he set the first-aid kit down. “So, what did Jae say to you?”
“How’d you— ”
“I can smell her,” he told me simply, but a bit angry that I wouldn’t tell him myself.
“Yeah, you know, I thought vampires and wolves don’t even like each other. Yet you clean up her messes,” I quoted him, remembering their conversation from a long time ago. “Twilight fans would be so disappointed with you two.”
Kingsley let out a deep sigh. “It’s complicated.”
I shrugged, to let him know I was waiting.
“Before I became a werewolf,” he started slowly, as if not really wanting to get into it. “We sort of, uh, dated.”
I wanted to laugh, but I had to admit it made a whole of sense of her attitude towards him. “So, why’d you guys break up?” I asked, telling myself I was just being curious and not jealous.
He sighed again, crossing his arms. “Our personalities crashed, I guess. There’s also the fact that if a vampire drinks a werewolf’s blood, they’d become…well, let’s just say she’d be pretty indestructible.”
“How’s that?” I wondered.
Kingsley gave a shrug. “Not really sure of the specifics. But there’s a big difference between our kinds. Werewolves are stronger than most vampires. Vampires have a glam that prevents anyone from telling their true identity and age. They can’t smell anything and their vision becomes worst the older they are.”
“Wow, this is so not what they tell us on TV!” I joked and managed to get a small smile from Kingsley.
“But the thing with werewolves,” he continued, “is that we have a great smell, great vision, and hearing.” I was starting to see where this was going.
“She wanted to, uh, drink you so that she would have that?”
Kingsley laughed. “Yeah, that’s one way of saying it. The thing was, though, I just thought she was going through a rough patch and I wanted to help her.”
I shot him a look. “Uh, the girl drinks human blood. I don’t really think she can be helped,” I told him.
Kingsley sighed again. “Yeah, well, I was a pretty stupid teenager who welcomed anyone as weird as me.”
“But you seem so detached now from everyone,” I noted, not actually meaning to say it out loud. “I mean, at first, when I got here,” I clarified.
He shrugged. “Humans remind us of what we used to be, and never have again. They’re young and innocent.” He looked at me. “They have the freedom to leave anytime they want.”
“The curse,” I noted, remembering Keyara mentioning it in the car.
Kingsley nodded, a bit surprised I knew. “Yeah. We can’t leave this place, no matter how much we want to.”
“My dad did.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wished I could take them back. He was always a touch subject.
“Yeah, he did,” Kingsley said, looking nostalgic.
“So that would mean he’s human,” I fished, trying to bait Kingsley into telling me the truth.
“Talk to Charlie.”
I rolled my eyes in annoyance. “God, why does everyone keep saying that?” I exclaimed. “It doesn’t make a damn difference who tells me,” I pointed out. “I have a freaking right to know,” I insisted.
Kingsley bit the inside of his cheek, unsure of what to say. I stared at him expectantly until he uncrossed his arms and took a deep breath. “No, okay, he wasn’t human. Not for a while, anyway.”
I was silent, my mind whirring with the news. My father being a supernatural? I had never even considered it before today, a weird thing I had to admit since I had been staying in a refuge for them for a couple months now. I felt my body go slack and I grabbed the edge of the desk to steady myself. “Do you, umm, do you know how it happened?”
He shrugged. “Not really, no.”
“Jae, uh, she mentioned that you had something to do with his death?” I felt bad admitting that, because I should’ve known not to trust her. I just, I really needed to know. To have Kingsley deny it for myself.
He didn’t just look surprised, though, he seemed a bit hurt, too. “What? NO.”
“Then why even mention it at all?” I couldn’t help but wonder.
Kinsley bit his lip. “Because as a kid, after my grandfather’s death, I looked up to him, and I became his…assistant, I guess you could say.”
Suddenly, my mind thought of a photo I had seen when I’d packed before coming here. The photo of three guys and a young kid with light blue eyes and blonde hair. It had been Kingsley, my mind told me, and I couldn’t believe it. I turned to Kingsley. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
He just gave a slight shrug. “I don’t know. I guess I just thought that you wouldn’t look at me the same way if you knew I was that close to your dad.”
I laughed at his sheepishness before jumping off the desk. My ankle still hurt, but I ignored it. I wove my hands around his neck, stepping closer to him. “Never,” I promised him.
He smiled, then kissed me and neither of us held back. Because this time, there was no secrets, no lies. Just two people who had finally gotten some closure. When we pulled apart, though, his face changed.
“What?” I asked him nervously.
“There’s something you might want to do.”
I shot him a curious, but confused look. “And what’s that?”
Kingsley glanced downwards before meeting my gaze. “Visit your father’s grave.”

I stared at Kingsley as if I'd heard wrong. "That's kinda impossible considering that's sort of all the way in Florida," I told him. Was this his subtle way of telling me to go back or something? I just didn't get it. What the hell was he getting at?
Kingsley looked sheepish. "Uh, well, that's the thing...Umm, Paul kind of switched out your father's ashes before the funeral in Florida. He's actually buried here."
I froze, not quite believing it. If that were true...Oh God, my mom was going to be soo pissed off if she ever found out. I sighed. So many emotions quarreled inside my head but I ignored them as I turned back to Kingsley.
"Look, I know it sounds bad, and well, it is. But he meant well and we had a really nice service for him."
I kept staring at him, still trying to wrap my head around all this. "Wow. This is...unbelievable." Then I thought of something. "Okay, so I'm guessing Paul's human, but I never even saw him at the funeral."
Kingsley gave a nod.” Probably because your mom kind of kicked him out," he told me like it was something he thought I already knew. "He was going to speak at his funeral, but your mom just told him to leave."
I shook my head in disbelief. "'Course she did," I muttered. It was something I wasn't surprised at from my mom. She wasn't the nicest person, but I still couldn't believe she'd done that to one of Dad's oldest friends. That was just cold. I smiled at Kingsley. "You know what, I'm glad Paul took those ashes. This is where he belongs." As soon as I said those words, I knew it was true. From all the things I'd heard today, I had the feeling Dad wanted to be here rather than some random cemetery in Florida. This place was his home.
Kingsley hugged me then, happy I was okay with it. But I pulled away, a thought coming to me. "Wait, hold on. Is that why you always help me out? Because you were so close to my dad?"
Kingsley smiled as if I had finally figured it all out. "Yeah. That, and the fact that he told me not to let any harm come to you. Ghosts are hellish in this town," he joked.
I ignored his last comment, my mind catching on his second comment. "But he couldn't have known that I'd come here," I said, confused. All this information was starting to make my head hurt.
Kingsley paused. "Uh, well, that's the thing. It was his ability to predict the future."
I gulped, thinking of my strange nightmares. "So, like he had premonitions?"
Kingsley nodded. "Yeah, sort of."
"Wow," I told him, slumping in my seat. There was so much I was finding out today, and I was surprised my brain hadn't exploded or something. I had to admit, it was starting to be a bit much.
Kingsley read my expression and laughed. "Okay, maybe we should take a break from this info session. I think you could use some food," he told me, putting an arm around me. "Let's go get something to eat."
I nodded, letting him lead me outside to his car. In my overwhelmed brain, the thought of food wasn't registering as well as it should've.

I came back to the table as Kingsley handed the waiter the check. "Did you just pay?" I asked him as I took a seat across from him. "I was going to give you the money for mine."
Kingsley smiled. "Oh, it's okay. I took care of it," he assured me.
I sighed. "Well, now I feel bad. I've got money you know."
Kingsley shrugged like it was no big deal. "Well, you can always pay me back in another way," he said, shooting me a playful smile.
"Like...?" I prodded as his cell phone beeped.
With a sigh, Kingsley dug out his cell phone from his letter-man jacket pocket. Then as he stared at his message, his face became grave.
"What's wrong?" I wondered in concern.
"Oh...nothing," Kingsley replied shooting me a forced smile as he put his cell phone back in his pocket.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Seriously? I thought we were all done with the secrets."
Kingsley bit his lip, but gave in. "They, uh, they found out all the victims have been supernaturals in the police case."
I leaned back in my seat, sad at the news. "Who would kill so many of them?" I couldn't help but wonder. I mean, this place was a refuge for them, but still. Why kill so many of them? Were they trying to send a message or something?
Kingsley got a distant look on his face as he said, "I really don't know."
The look he had on his face made my heart ache. I hated seeing him like this. "Were they all," I took a deep breath as I paused. "Uh, killed the same way?"
Kingsley nodded. "Yeah."
The waiter interrupted our conversation then, returning Kingsley's credit card.
When he left, I turned back to Kingsley. "Thanks for dinner."
He grinned as we stood up to go. "Anytime."

If I was a regular teenager, living in a normal town, I'd probably spend the weekend analyzing everything that had happened between Kingsley and me; did her really like me? Was he just being nice? Was I just some fling? But let's face it, I didn't live in a regular town where the worst thing that could happen was a cat getting stuck in a tree. So I didn't have time to over think whatever was or wasn't going on between me and Kingsley.
Instead, I helped out Keyara and Tessa with babysitting Gilbert, and Charlie with the grocery shopping. But one morning, I looked through some of the case files Charlie had lying around, but quickly lost my appetite upon seeing the white, blue-veined dead bodies.
Soon after, Keyara came to pick me up and we hung out for a while until I had to go see her mom for a check-up. I showed it to her, waiting for her response.
"Well, it doesn't look much worse," she assured me as we sat in her office. "Do you feel light-headed or anything?"
I shook my head. "Nope," I said, glad, too. "I don't even notice the scratch half the time," I admitted.
She nodded, seeming lost in thought. "Are you still putting on that cream I gave you for it?"
"Yes, I am."
She smiled. "Good, good. I think that helps. Maybe not necessarily cures it, but at least it helps."
I nodded, feeling the same. "Yeah. I really appreciate it."
Tanjella just grinned back. "Good to hear."

Not long after, Keyara and I walked to downtown, both of us lost in our own thoughts. We decided to get some ice cream, needing the refreshment in the hot heat. When we were finishing, we reached a news stand, announcing the latest kill. I shuddered as I finished up my cone.
"Aren't you worried?" I couldn't help but ask Keyara, turning back to look at her as we walked down the street.
"About what?" She asked me, oblivious to my concerns.
I bit my lip. "You know, those killings?" I clarified, wiping my sticky hands on a napkin she'd handed me.
Keyara gave a small shrug. "Eh, not really. The victims have all been guys," she pointed out. "But I am totally disgusted at the fact that there's a sick individual preying on some of the townspeople."
"Has anything happened like this before?" I wondered.
Keyara shrugged again as I threw my napkin away. "Maybe? I really don't know. It hasn't happened since I've been here, I know that."
I shook my head in disbelief. Who would even do this?
Keyara's cell phone beeped and she quickly checked her text message. "Oh," she said, tucking her phone back in her jeans. "I have to go see Tessa 'bout something.
"Is she okay?" I asked, wondering if something had happened.
"Oh, what?" She wondered, surprised, but laughed. "Oh, no it's fine. Just some stuff. See you later, though, 'kay?"
I nodded before she headed in the opposite direction of me. I kept walking, but got an idea as I passed Kingsley's favorite dining spot.

When I entered the library, I didn't see Kingsley. But it was impossible not to hear papers being rifled through, a bunch of them littering the floor. As I approached, Kingsley stuck his head out from the desk and smiled at me.
"That smells delicious," he told me as I came closer to the desk, nodding towards the paper bag in my hand that held a burger. "You didn't have to."
I shrugged, handing him the bag. "It was on my way."
He took it graciously from me before setting in on the desk before giving me a quick kiss.
I glanced around at all the newspapers and ancient looking books laying in messy piles, taking up the room on the desk and book shelves. "So...uh, what are you doing?" I couldn't help but ask.
Kingsley picked up a book off the floor, dusting it off. "Oh, you know, just...looking."
"For what?" I asked with a laugh. I doubted anyone could find anything in the mess that surrounded us.
He sighed, clearly not having any luck with his search. "I wanted to see if this kind of thing had happened before." His words were so close to what I had been thinking earlier, I didn't say anything. It was sort of uncanny. Kingsley sighed again, seeming thoughtful. "Maybe get some answers since the Council isn't releasing any information."
I shot him a puzzled look as I took a seat on one of the tattered chairs pressed up against the wall. "The Council?"
Kingsley just nodded. "Yeah, that's what they call themselves. But they're just a group of people who pretty much run this town. They're supposed to be the ones that keep humans from discovering what this place really is. Their job is to keep us a secret, and to make sure this place is safe for its residents. But they've kind of been broken up since your father's death. But they've tried to reunite with the recent killings to try to figure out the problem." Kingsley rolled his eyes. "If you can call arguing constantly 'reuniting'."
"Why would my father's death impact them?" I wondered, unsure of his involvement with them.
Kingsley picked up another newspaper quickly scanning it before answering me. "Uh, well, your father was sort of the head of the council. With his ability and leadership he managed to keep them together. But without him, it didn't take long for them to fall apart." He scanned the newspaper again, lost in thought.
"Did you find anything?" I asked, peering over at it.
Kingsley shook his head in response, folding the newspaper in half before placing it back into one of the boxes. He sighed, clearly disappointed. "I don't even know what to look for. I've gone through about half of those newspapers and books, yet still nothing. There's no mentions of killing sprees." He ran a hand through his hair, lost.
I looked at him, so dejected and felt bad. I pulled myself from the chair and went to go stand in front of him. "Maybe," I started, placing my hand on his broad shoulders. "You need a break from your search?"
He sighed, glancing around him ruefully. "Might as well. If I read another story on this town, I will seriously damage a book shelf, or two."
I laughed, thinking I had come just in time. "Alright, then, it's settled."
He grabbed his burger, eating it on our way out. Then he got his skateboard from his hiding spot before we made our way to the empty skateboard park.
I looked around, confused. "Why are we here?" I couldn't help but ask, turning to face him."
He grinned mischievously. "Because I," he started, "am going to teach you how to skateboard."
I sighed, thinking this wasn't going to turn out well. "Next time, I'm not bringing you a burger," I joked.
Kingsley laughed, his smile growing. "Oh, come on. Don't be scared," he teased.
"I'm not!" I insisted, crossing my arms.
He shot me a look, still smiling. "Prove it."
I grimaced, giving in. "Okay, fine." I walked with him towards one of the ramps, hoping I wouldn't get too injured before dinner.

By the time I returned to Charlie's my knees throbbed from my falls, but other than that and a scratched up left arm, I had no other bad injuries. Instead of complaining, I was actually pretty impressed with myself. Not enough to ever do it as a hobby, but enough that I wasn't afraid anymore of skateboarding on a ramp.
Charlie was just setting up for dinner when I entered through the front door. After washing up, I went to join him at the table. At first we just sat there in our normal silence when he cleared his throat, his expression revealing he had something to say, but didn't really know how.
"How, uh, how was your day?" He asked me, taking a gulp of his beer, probably to aide him in the conversation.
I chewed some of the peas on my plate before answering him. "Good. Why?" I stared at him, trying not to laugh. He actually looked nervous. Or well, as nervous as Charlie can get. But that made me even more curious about what was coming next.
Charlie took another gulp of his beer, clearing his throat, again. By this time, I couldn't help it. I was practically on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what he wanted to say. "I uh, I think we about, umm, your mother's upcoming visit."
I groaned inwardly. This was what he wanted to talk about? "Let's not," I told him sipping my water.
Charlie looked like he'd be more than happy to drop the subject, but he still went on. "Your mother does know about this town," he said as if that was the thing bothering me the most. Still, if she'd known all along a heads up would've been nice. "So, you at least you won't have to keep this place a secret from her or anything," Charlie continued.
Not that I cared about that. I had a different worry on my mind. "Why is she coming?"
Charlie just shot me a look like it should be obvious. "She most likely coming to take you home with her."
I mulled that over in my head, my appetite lost. "She can't," I insisted. I hadn't really thought about leaving Silvermir, but I realized I didn't want to. I don't know when my prospective had changed about that, but I knew it in my gut that the way I felt wouldn't change now. Especially when a whole new, stranger family awaited me if I went with her.
Charlie set down his fork, surprised at my reaction. "I know it's soon and all, but I thought you'd be happy." He picked up the dropped utensil, ready to eat again. "Besides, with the killings it'll be safer for you."
I shook my head. "No, okay? And the victims have all been guys," I pointed out. "I'm not happy at all with the decision. Mom sold the only home I ever had, okay? So I'm not going to go live happily ever after with people that aren't really my family." Besides my mom, I meant to add, but it was irrelevant. My opinion was still the same. Silvermir had become my home over the past few months, and there was no way I was going to leave it for the unknown.
Charlie once again stared at me in surprise as he cleared his throat. "Uh, umm, Avery. I had no idea you felt that way so strongly."
I stood up from the table, my emotions bubbling to the surface. "Yeah, because you've been too busy sulking ever since I got here," I reminded him. It wasn't that I had come here expecting to bond with him or anything. But I had at least hoped for him to be, I don't know a little more observant. I picked up my plate and cup before going to put them in the dishwasher, all the while ignoring his gaze.
"Avery..." Charlie sighed, probably not knowing how to respond to my outburst. "I'm sorry for that. I really am," he offered.
I turned around to face him, leaning against the counter. "You don't need to apologize. I could've said something," I pointed out. "I just never expected so many secrets from this place, that's all."
Charlie nodded, understanding. "I know."
I sighed, a thought coming to my head. Then I took a deep breath, hoping Charlie understood what I was about to request. "I want to see it."
Charlie did look confused for a few moments, but soon understanding registered in his face. He gave me a small smile, picking up his beer glass. "So, you found out about the grave."
I nodded. "Yeah. Although that is something you should've mentioned a long time ago."
Charlie nodded with a shrug. "Well, I can take you there tomorrow when you're ready."
"Great," I exclaimed, smiling as I walked to my room.

I don't know what I expected Dad's grave stone to look like. I mean, I've seen the one in Florida we had for him—the one where so many people wrongly believe he actually rests. I was still debating whether to tell Mom. I settled for not since I didn't want to deal with her disdain. Plus, she could do something crazy like demand to get it dug up or something. Ugh.
But to see the place his ashes are actually buried, seemed different. It even felt different this time. Almost like I could feel his presence. Silly on my part, I know, but it was just the strange feeling I got while being there.
Charlie had long gone, letting me spend some time on my own with the grave. It was something I appreciated since it was kind of a private thing for me. I don't know if Charlie planned to leave me alone in the cemetery so I could get some closure or if he really did have stuff he needed to get done at the newspaper office, but either way I was thankful.
I had sat there for a while, just staring at the stone, unsure of what to say. Before, I never got why people had some Hallmark moment where they talked to their loved one's grave. As if they could say anything they wanted to, but never got to when they had been alive.
Closure. It was a funny thing.
I sighed, thinking maybe it was worth a try. And if not, maybe this town was making me a bit crazy. "Okay, so I realize talking to a rock is pretty ridiculous," I said aloud to the grave. "But there is something I want to say. Don't worry, I'm not going to drone on about how I wished I would've known you better—the side that you left behind when you somehow left the place. I still consider myself lucky for knowing you for ten years. Some people...they aren't that lucky," I pointed out. Then I looked down at my hands, toying with the grass at my feet. "But this town...I would've never imagined this as your past," I admitted. "Maybe you would've told me someday, maybe you wouldn't have. Either way, I am glad I got to discover this part of you." I smiled at the thought, but it dropped when I heard a voice nearby.
"Glad to hear it hon," the voice said, coming from in front of me.
My head immediately shot up in alarm as I jumped to my feet. Sitting there on Dad's gravestone was, well, Dad. I whipped my head around, wondering if this was actually real. But sure enough, he was still there, same salt-pepper hair, brown eyes and clothes that were only fashionable when he was alive. My breath caught, thinking this was surreal. "How, w-what—you're dead!"
He-dad?- nodded, smiling in an amused way.
I shook my head then, trying to see if I could shake away the daydream, hallucination—or whatever the heck it was. I stared at him, narrowing my eyes. "Am I dreaming or something? This isn't real—right?" I wondered, my pulse racing.
"You know, Avery, living in a supernatural town you’d think you'd know that ghosts exist. Is that so hard to believe?"
I stared at him like that was a crazy question. "Uh, yeah, kind of."
He laughed. "Fair enough, I guess."
"Why are you here?" I couldn't help but wonder. Was it just because I was at the cemetery, and that's where his...spirit could appear? Or, (gulp), was there more to it than that?
He raised an eyebrow, just like Dad used to. "And here I thought you'd be happy to see your old man," he teased.
"Well, I am," I admitted. “But I'm a little too busy wondering if I'm crazy or not." I mean, this...ghost...sounded like Dad, looked like him, heck he even had the same habit of leaning when he sat. But was it him?
He nodded and gave a chuckle—exactly like Dad used to do. "I see. Well, you were always the realist in the family," he reminded me. "But I need you to—"
"How'd you even die Dad?" I couldn't help it—the words kind of just slipped out before I had time to keep them in.
He sighed, picking off an imaginary piece of lint off his jeans. I knew it was imaginary because who has lint on their clothes when they're dead? "Don't worry, A-very, you'll know soon enough."
I narrowed my eyes, ignoring the fact he'd called me by my old nickname only he ever called me. "That doesn't sound too great," I said with a groan.
"Just remember the word, 'Fahrenheit'."
I stared at him in confusion. "Uh, what? Why?" I asked, but he was starting to fade.
"They'll know," Dad assured me, not explaining, of course, who they were. "And A-very, I'm very proud of you," he said with a laugh, amused with his own pun.
"For what?" I couldn't help but ask.
"Adjusting to this town the way you did. It was impressive. Oh, and I'm glad you and Kingsley are together! You guys were always meant to be that way! And remember, 'Fahrenheit'!"
"Wait, Dad!" I called after him, but it was too late. He'd faded away...gone just as quickly as he'd come.
I stood there, dumbfounded, missing his presence. Even as I looked around, just to make sure, my suspicions were confirmed when it was completely still around me. Empty, once again. Just like when I'd first come.


After going back to Charlie's and finding him gone, I ventured to Keyara's house. I still wondered if I had been hallucinating, and I needed someone to make sense of it all for me. So many questions flooded my mind; was it all my imagination hard at work? Did I have a case of dementia or something? Was it...real?
As soon as I entered the front door of Keyara's house, she knew something was up. We walked past her mom, who cheerfully greeted me as she went off to vaccinate a neighbor's dog, and up to her room. I took a deep breath as I sat across from her on the floor. Keyara brushed aside her magazines and spell books that littered the floor as she waited for me to speak.
"I was at my dad's gravestone," I started, then swallowed. "I know this might sound crazy, actually it will, but I'm completely flipping out," I admitted to her.
Keyara's face instantly turned worried and full of concern. "Avery, what is it?"
I swallowed again. Could I trust her? I wondered, then almost laughed as the realization struck me. She was actually one of the only people who I could tell this to and trust not to send me off to some psych ward or something. Or, even her mom. I recapped my whole experience to her then, awaiting her reaction. I half-expected for her to tell me I was crazy or something, truthfully, but she didn't. She didn't say a word, in fact. Instead, her eyes twinkled and she got an awed/hopeful/curious look on her face, but not all at once.
"Did he say anything?" She finally said at last.
I nodded, trying to remember. "Uh, yeah. I mean, he did, but not much."
"That's so amazing," she said, but I got the distinct impression we weren't talking about the same thing. She seemed thoughtful for a moment before standing up, her mind still reeling about something. "Come on," she told me before she headed downstairs.
I followed her to the family room where Tanjella was sitting, watching a cooking show. I got a little worried, I had to admit, wondering if Keyara did think I'd flipped a switch or something.
"Mom," she said with giddiness as we approached the couch.
Tanjella sat up and quickly lowered the volume on the TV. "Yes, hon?"
Keyara took a quick breath before replying. "I think Avery..." She glanced at me before going on. "I think she's psychic like her dad was."
I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for a few seconds when she said that. I had honestly not even thought of that. Was it even possible?
Tanjella just raised an inquiring eyebrow. "And why's that, sweetie?"
"She saw her dad," Keyara said, taking a seat next to her. "And we both know that can't talk with another spirit in our cemetery without a powerful spell or without an ability that connects you to the spirit world itself. And since we know her dad did, it makes sense!" She finished, seeming so proud of herself for figuring it all out. If only it were true, I wanted to say.
Tanjella eyed me and I awaited her assessment. "Have you had any visions lately? Maybe even some deja vu?"
I stepped back, nervous of her watchful gaze. "Umm, none that I'm aware of," I told her with hesitancy.
Tanjella thought about my words. "Charlie did mention you having some nightmare?"
I nodded, and once again I was hesitant about my reply. But on the other hand, what did that have to do with all of this?
Tanjella sighed and rubbed her eyes, taking off her reading glasses. "Avery, I didn't think I was going to have to tell you this since I honestly didn't think it'd have an impact on you. Now I see that I was wrong though." She gave a sad sigh, as if disappointed at something. "You remember our discussion about how Kingsley's mom's scar seemed similar to yours?"
"Yeah," I replied with trepidation as worry crept through me. What would this reveal? I groaned inwardly; I had a bad feeling it wouldn't be anything good.
Tanjella licked her lips, then scratched her nose. "Have your nightmares grown fewer after the night you got the scratch?"
I thought about it, but I hadn't even been paying attention to that. "Maybe?" I felt bad not being able to offer more, but my memory wasn't that great.
Tanjella still nodded, seeming lost in thought, making both me and Keyara stare at her in curiosity. "Well, after going through some history and spell books, I think there's a possibility that there's a supernatural in town that when they scratch another supernatural, it slowly decreases its ability." She let us register that for a moment before going on. "For example, Kingsley's mom used to be able to transform every day, anytime she wanted. Now, she can't as much. She's growing more human each day, and less werewolf."
I raised an eyebrow, not quite believing it. "Oh, wow." I felt bad for Kingsley and his mom, thinking that it was probably hard on both of them. Then a thought hit me, and I swallowed the more I thought about it. "Umm, my Dad turned human and was able to leave Silvermir. Was that his...cure?" I wondered, remembering his words about his death: you'll find out soon enough. Is this what he could've meant?
Tanjella seemed to choose her next words carefully. "Avery, honey, it's not really considered a cure. But yes," she admitted, not meeting my gaze. "It's how your father became fully human." Her face saddened. "It's also, umm... how he died."

After that bomb was dropped about my dad's death, I couldn't stay in the room, or even that house for that matter. I had the strong urgency to run and just run. I got my iPod from Charlie's, then plugged in my ear buds, and ran, just like I wanted to.
It felt good, too. As I kept running, my mind started getting un-jumbled. It had become clear what Tanjella was getting at. It finally all made sense. But why was the creature back...whatever it was? Was it on purpose that it had scratched me? How long did I now have to live? It had taken ten years or so for Dad, but what about me? On Kingsley's mom it had been faster. I took a deep breath, not wanting to think about that right now. I hid the issue in the back of my mind, and kept running...
Then, feeling tired, I stopped to catch my breath. I took out a water bottle from my bag and drank from it, feeling refreshed. The clouds seemed to be darkening above me and I knew there was a storm coming. I tried to think of the nearest place, which I realized was the library. I made my way down the path, praying Kingsley would be there as I hurried up my pace.
Thankfully, he was there, standing at his usual desk. He didn't seem surprised to see me, and when I asked him about it, he told me Keyara had called him with the info of what had happened.
"Wanna talk about it?" He wondered as he led to me a small lounge area down the hall. All the furniture was pretty worn, yet it still held a charm about it.
I sighed as we sat down on one of the couches. "Not really," I told him, snuggling up next to him. He draped an arm around me, and I realized we didn't seem weird to me anymore. Our closeness, I mean. It was comfortable, and judging by Kingsley's face, he felt the same.
"Maybe it'll help?" He suggested, tucking some strands back into my ponytail.
I shrugged. "Doubt it."
Kingsley smiled, shaking his head. "Being stubborn again are we?" He teased. "Just try. Tell me how weird it was or something."
"It was him," I couldn't help but blurt out as I pulled my knees to my chest. "Just like I had remembered him." I sighed. "It was all pretty short, though." I thought of the sudden way he'd started to fade and tried not to read too much into it.
Kingsley nodded, rubbing my arm in comfort. "Did he say anything?"
I sat up then, my dad's word coming to me. Kingsley could be one of the few people who knew the code word Dad had mentioned and even possibly its meaning. "Yeah, actually. He kept mentioning the word 'Fahrenheit," I told Kingsley, waiting for his reaction.
He froze, his jaw locking before he swallowed. "What?" He seemed lost in thought. "Are you sure?"
"Uh, yeah. He said 'they'd know', whatever the hell that means."
Kingsley stood up then, pulling me with him. "I have to talk to the Council."
I grabbed his shoulders, worry ceasing me. "Why? What does it mean?" I wondered with concern.
Kingsley sighed and leaned against one of the torn up lounge chairs. "Your father predicted a threat for us to come and that's what he'd called it. See, there were different levels we had, for the different levels of threats."
"So Fahrenheit was..."
"The worst one," Kingsley finished for me. "I can't believe this..." He seemed lost in his own little world for a few minutes and I waited for him to come back.
"Tanjella said that Dad died from getting scratched by some supernatural," I said, trying to ignore the fact that I now had the same scratch. "And that's how he had become human. But if it's not human itself, how did it leave? And why is it back?"
Kingsley crossed his arms then shook his head. "I have no idea. It doesn't make any sense." He looked at me, remembering I was still here. "I need to go see the Council. They still should have most of your dad's records. It's probably the most useful thing we've got."
I nodded, glad we had some sort of a plan. "Okay."
"I'll take you to Charlie's first." He took my hand and we walked outside to his car. The rain was softly falling around us, only slightly harder than a drizzle. I put my hood on when I got to Charlie's, watching as Kingsley drove away. I hoped he found the information he was seeking for. It might be the only thing that could offer us a solution to the latest visitor in town.
Inside, Charlie was putting together dinner. "Tanjella called," he warned me as he sat down.
Great, I thought to myself, hoping he wouldn't give me a hard time about my run in with Dad. But he didn't. In fact, he was totally cool about it all. He listened intently to my story, then sent me off to bed. I would've complained, but instead just grabbed a quick dinner before doing just what he said. I was tired and it didn't take long for sleep to come.

I was in a small room. Well, medium-sized really. It was an office of sorts. The walls were a stucco purple, some of the walls draped with dark curtains. The only light was a dim light bulb above a table that could've passed for a modern Arthur's Round Table. Three men sat around, Kingsley in front of them.
"What do you mean she talked to Keith? She could just be making it all up." This was a guy who I presumed to be the leader, but I didn't know why he was mentioning my dad.
Another guy, balkier and with a smaller beard spoke next. "Yeah, we don't know her credit."
"Let the boy speak," said the guy on their right, his voice shushing both their qualms. He seemed to be the calmest and youngest of the three.
"She said he told her the word 'Fahrenheit'," Kingsley pointed out, keeping his voice steady as he gazed at the three men. "We all know what that means. And with the killings, it makes sense that the threat is back."
The leader sighed. "We don't know that for sure," he told Kingsley.
"What?" Kingsley sighed. "Then find it, although I think it's pretty self-evident," he replied, his voice rising a bit.
"You know we don't take action unless we know the threat first," Balky guy reminded Kingsley—who rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, I've noticed. How many more supernaturals are you going to let be killed?" He shook his head. "It already killed Keith. You're going to let it go again?"
"Enough," said leader guy, putting his palm up to stop him from speaking anything more. "You may leave. We've got things to discuss."
Kingsley rolled his eyes in disbelief. "Yeah, you guys 'discuss'," he said sarcastically. "We'll see how far that gets you." Then he left them, my dream fading away with him.

The next morning, I didn't want to get up. Eventually though, I did. Charlie and I had breakfast, and then I went off to find Kingsley. The fact that I had a dream about him kind of freaked me out. I mean, had it been real? Or just my mind hard at work?
As usual, I found him in the library. But this time, he wasn't alone. He was with Jae, who was kind of all over him. I stopped as soon as I saw the two of them, feeling like I'd walked in on something I wasn't supposed to. Jae smirked when she saw me, but Kingsley instantly darted away from her.
"Avery, wait!" He called after me.
But I was gone, already out the door. The truth was, I wasn't completely surprised. The two of them had a history I probably would never understand. It most likely wasn't a romantic interlude I had walked in on, but I still thought that I should leave them alone to continue doing... whatever it was.
But soon I heard Kingsley bounding after me. "Seriously, Avery, slow down."
I didn't turn around. "I thought werewolves were supposed to be fast," I teased him with a smile as he caught up to me.
"Yeah, well..." He sighed. "That wasn't what it looked like."
I looked at him. "Yeah, I know. Don't worry about it."
"Avery," he sighed.
I laughed. "Look it's all good. I just didn't want to interrupt you two."
"We weren't doing anything that important. Besides, I really needed to talk to you, but you weren't answering you cell. I went to the Council last night, and I sort of uh, borrowed some of your dad's book from them."
I raised an eyebrow. "And by borrowing you meal steal?"
He gave me a sheepish grin. "They weren't being too agreeable."
"Yeah, I know," I said before thinking. Then to cover my tracks so he wouldn't know why I knew, I continued. "From what you said, they didn't seem like they'd be helpful. Plus, I can read you."
Now he was the one raising his eyebrow. "Oh? Is that so?"
I laughed and he reached for my hand. "You're like an open book," I joked since it wasn't always true. He tended to hide his feelings really well when he wanted to.
"Mm, alright. So, anyways. The books don't get into much detail. But I think I'm getting closer to figuring it all out," he told me proudly.
"Well, don't hurt your head in the process," I teased.
He laughed. "Yeah, I'll try not to."
"So, what do you know about it now?"
"The creature?" He asked, and when I nodded, he went on. "Uh, well, not much. It's some sort of drainer, though. I just I don’t' know how it relates to everything," he told me, scratching his head in thought.
"Well, I'm sure you will soon enough," I replied with a smile.
He eyed me. "Why? Did you have a premonition or something?"
I laughed. "No. I just know you won't quit until you've gotten answers." I looked at him. "And because I know you well enough to know that."
He grinned before giving me a kiss. "Yeah, thanks for the confidence vote."
"You know, my dad did tell me that he was glad we were, uh, friends," I told him, knowing that my dad had inferred more than that it seemed like, but he didn't need to know that.
Kingsley's smile grew. "Yeah, he told me that too, a long time ago. Back then I wasn't so sure, but now it seems like we fit."
I smiled back at the thought, agreeing. "Yeah. It sure does."

I met up with Keyara after Kingsley took me out to lunch to talk to her more about the creature on the killing spree, but also about my little dream last night. She told me it was pretty normal and I was glad when she made it seem like no big deal.
"You remember a lot about it?"
I shrugged. "Only the plot, not so much the details." By now we were sitting in the living room, eating Chex Mix and watching some bad sitcom.
Keyara nodded, mulling it over. "But that seemed the strongest dream you had?"
I nodded. "In terms of remembering it, yeah. But there's one thing I don't get which had made me doubt the realness of it. Your mom said that getting scratched would make me have less visions, so why would I get one so strongly now?”
Keyara wiped her mouth, swallowing before she answered me. "Well, I mean, the effects of it are weird and pretty much unknown. They're mostly just educated guesses. And besides, your ability is tied directly tied to your emotions. The stronger they are, the stronger your ability." I'm pretty sure she was hinting at the fact that me and Kingsley had gotten closer, making my emotions towards him also stronger.
"So, anything new about the supernatural in town?"
Keyara nodded. "Actually yeah. There was something that happened a while back, but it was in a different town and the only victims were mostly other supernaturals. But there was this girl that used to be Jae's friend. I don't know why I didn't think of it before." She looked like she was disappointed at the thought as she ate some more Chex Mix.
"Why am I not surprised that she was Jae's friend?" I said with a sigh.
Keyara bit her lip. "Uh, she was actually Jae's cousin and a good of friend of Kingsley. Her name was something with a J. I don't know. But her ability was draining energy from things, like plants. It's possible it has extended to supernaturals now."
I thought of the town curse. "But how'd she leave in the first place and why is she back?"
Keyara seemed at a loss. "I have no idea, which unfortunately makes me doubt my theory," she said with disappointment.
"Maybe I could talk to Kingsley? He might remember more about her."
Keyara shook her head vigorously. "Uh, you probably shouldn't. She's uh, she's sort of a touchy subject for him."
I chewed some Chex Mix before inquiring why. "How's that?"
Keyara shrugged, avoiding my gaze. "I don't really know much about it all, we were never close friends or anything. But they were."
I narrowed my eyes at her. "And by that do you mean they dated?"
Keyara almost laughed. "No! Nothing like that," she assured me. "They just hung out."
I stood up. "I have to go meet Charlie for dinner. I'll see you later."
She gave a nod. "Alright. Need a ride? It looks like it's actually going to storm instead of just passing us over tonight."
"Oh, yeah, that'd be great."
Keyara stood up, too, and then we were off.

That night, I wasn't so sure I wanted to go to bed. I mean, if the whole 'vision' thing was tied to my emotions, well, then I was in trouble. There were a lot of things weighing on in my head. There was Kingsley and his friendship with the girl, Mom's visit, and the fact that hey, I could die soon. None of which I really wanted to think about. So instead I grabbed a new novel from my book pile and read until my eyes started to droop. Feeling too tired to protest, I turned off my light and welcomed sleep.

I was walking in the forest. Rain fell, pounding the already muddy floor. The wind gripped the trees making them shake violently around me. Soon, I recognized voiced up ahead of me. I walked towards them as if I couldn't help it; my body seemed to move on its own.
Three people were in the clearing, two of them were Kingsley and Jae, but I didn't recognize the third, but that was probably because they were blocked by a couple trees. I smelled blood, and lots of it. Jae stood not far from where Kingsley lay, seeming hurt, arguing with the hidden figure.
My mind flipped out and my chest ached when I realized Kingsley was hurt. Was he dead? I worried. But he seemed to be somewhat conscious, and that made me feel a little bit better—but not much.
Then suddenly, everything seem to dim around me until I saw Dad. "Fahrenheit" was his only word before I woke up with a start.

I woke up, sweaty and startled. Turning my bed lamp on, I got out of bed in a hurry. I didn't think about what I was doing, I just did it. I dressed quickly, hoping Kingsley wasn't too hurt. I knew it had to be a vision. I felt it in every bone in my body. I wasn't going to just stay in bed and hope that everything went okay. I went with my gut that told me to seek out the woods. It may seem stupid, but I knew it was the right thing to do. And if not, well, I still needed to be sure. Dad appearing at the end confirmed that it had to be a premonition. For some reason, I just knew.
After leaving a message for Charlie on the counter, I zipped up my jacket and pulled my hood over my head. I ran outside and onto the familiar street. I knew exactly where to go from my premonition.
It was the same spot Jae had attacked me.
Just like in my dream, the rain was falling hard and the trees blew around me with a strong force. When I approached the clearing and heard voices coming from there, I almost couldn't believe it. It had been real. Deep in my gut, I had hoped it hadn't been, even if it proved me wrong.
Jae was still trying to plead with the mysterious third figure, who wasn’t blocked by any trees this time. She was a tall, skinny girl with long hair but I still couldn't see her face. She moved closer to Jae, grabbing a hold of her and I watched in horror as she was drained of her energy. Her skin instantly became see-through, her veins now perfectly seeable. Lighting struck near us and I froze, my voice going completely dry.
The girl turned to Kingsley, who was trying hard to sit up, grinning. "A vamp and a Were in one night? Man, that makes my night complete." She seemed to glow, making her look almost ethereal.
"Why come back?" Kingsley was asking her, clutching his hurt stomach.
The girl simply shrugged like their conversation was just about the weather. "Believe it or not, there's not that many supernatural towns to choose from. Lots of killings attract attention, so I was being hunted because of it. Then I realized I was running low on energy. When Jae learned I was close by, she suggested I come back."
Kingsley stared at her in disbelief. "And that's how you repay her; by killing her?"
"No, no," the girl corrected him, almost angry at his words. "I absorbed her energy. Big difference Kingboy. It's not like anyone like to live forever."
"Not even you, Jeanie?" Kingsley asked.
At the sound of the girl's name, I wondered if this was who Keyara had been talking about earlier. The girl who'd been Jae's cousin and whose name started with a J.
Jeanie laughed, interrupting my thoughts. "We both know I've always been the exception, not the rule." Then she moved closer to Kingsley, and in fear of what she was going to do, my body finally unfroze.
"NO!" I yelled, regaining my voice. I stepped into the clearing, making myself visible. Kingsley looked at me in pure shock while Jeanie just seemed amused at my presence. She smiled at me, stepping away from Kingsley.
"Ah, the psychic's daughter," she said, looking me over. "How is he? Oh, wait, he's dead."
"Avery, go back to Charlie's!" Kingsley begged me, his voice a desperate demand. The rain had finally calmed down, but it was still audible as it fell on the trees around us. Kingsley started to look angry, but still full of concern.
"I'm not just going to let her kill you!" I exclaimed, letting him know how I felt about all this.
Jeanie laughed again, her voice sharp, her gaze set on me. "Too bad you're boyfriend already gave me the go to do so. Don't worry, though, you'll get your cure."
I stared at her in confusion, but when I turned to look at Kingsley, his face gave him away. "You made a deal with her?" I asked him in disbelief, but also anger.
Kingsley, shrugged, but flinched in pain as he did so. "It was the only way she was going to let you live," he explained.
I shook my head, then shivered. It had grown colder it seemed like. "Why the hell do you get to decide?"
Jeanie looked at me with a roll of her eyes. "You lovebirds done yet?"
I glared at her with a huff. "No."
She sighed in a bored manner, placing a hand on her hip. "Umm, then how about I just cure you first, then kill him, and end this pointless banter?"
Kingsley looked at her like she was someone he didn't recognize and I couldn't help but feel a lot had changed between them. Still, I replied before he could say anything. "How about not?" I asked at the same time Kingsley said, "Fine," which earned him a glare from me.
Jeanie smiled, choosing to listen to him over me. "Great." Then she spat on her hand and rubbed it on my scratch. The whole thing was so fast, not to mention surprising, that I didn't react fast enough to stop her.
"What the hell?" I asked, pushing her away from me.
She rolled her eyes as if she'd done me some huge favor and I wasn't appreciative enough. "Uh, you're welcome."
I stared at her, narrowing my eyes. "Was that a joke?" I couldn't help but wonder. I mean, I may not be an expert on all things supernatural, but her spit being the cure seemed, well, kind of farfetched.
"No, Avery, it wasn't," Kingsley assured me sadly.
Jeanie turned back to him. "Alright, seriously, enough love quarreling from you two. Are you ready?" She asked him, only to get a nod from Kingsley.
In that instant, I knew any of my attempts to stop her would be pointless. But would that stop me from trying? Hell no. I watched as Jeanie became kind of a freaky creature with translucent skin with animal like claws. But then, something else happened, too.
Kingsley, even hurt, had turned into a werewolf.

The shock of that was enough to surprise Jeanie, giving him the advantage to jump her, knocking her down in the process. I stepped back as he took charge and she crumbled underneath him. With his sharp claws, he scratched her arm so quickly, it almost looked painless except for the blood that came seeping out of the wound. Then he stepped back expectantly as she recovered herself and stood up, her face full of anger. She was losing all her glow, and when she noticed it, she screeched, definitely pissed off now as she glared at Kingsley. "You made me human again!" She yelled at him.
By then, he'd turned back to his human-self, thankfully putting his pants back on behind some trees and bushes. He shrugged at her. "Yeah, well, now you're free to leave the town. Without killing anyone else," he added, crossing his arms.
She glared daggers at him before storming off, soon disappearing in the woods.
I looked at Kingsley, not really believing it was finally all over. He stumbled over to me, holding on to his stomach where he had a deep gash. He gave me a hug, embracing me in his arms. "Please tell me all of that had been your plan all along and you weren't really going to let her kill you," I said into his shoulder before pulling away.
He grinned, then coughed. "If it makes you feel better, sure."
I rolled my eyes. "You're such an idiot."
He just smiled and put an arm around me as we made our way through the woods. "Sure I am."
I sighed, so many questions coming to my mind. "How did you even—"
Kingsley slowed down to regain his breath. "Well, in my grandfather's journal which I found earlier tonight, and then also a small paragraph in your father's journal mentioned a succubus being hunted by half human, half supernatural beings a long time ago. It's the reason why their kind is rare now."
"So, that's what Jeanie is-was?" I corrected myself as we finally emerged from the forest.
Kingsley nodded, coughing. "Yeah. It hadn't been as bad before, though. Anyways, I found out that certain beasts have poison laced in their claws. Since Jeanie's had it, there was a possibility that her body wouldn't react well with another's, making her human."
"And that's why you scratched her?"
"Yeah. But hopefully it wasn't that bad," he said as I guided him to a bench.
I shot him a look. "She killed tons of supernaturals and she freaking hurt you!"
"Which is why she's being exiled from here," he told me. "I got the Council to be my back-ups for tonight. I'm sure by now they've taken her to headquarters to give her punishment."
I sighed, leaning into him. He gently rubbed my arm and I yawned. Still, I was full of concern for him. "I'm gonna call Tanjella. You should get your wound looked at."
He waved it away like it was no big deal. "I'm a fast healer."
I pulled away, looking at him. "I don't care. You could bleed to death out here," I pointed out as I dug out my cell phone from my jean pocket, already dialing Keyara's home phone number.
"Avery," he sighed, but I ignored him and instead explained what had happened to him to Tanjella. Soon, she came to pick us up and he went with her to be treated.
It wasn't until later that I got to see him. He was half awake, but still happy to see me when I came to sit on his bed. "Feeling better?"
He smiled. "Yeah. Thanks."
I nodded, yawning again. "No problem. How's the cut?"
He shrugged. "Not too bad. Already healing."
I gave a sigh of relief at that, then leaned into him, tiredness coming over my body. Before I knew it, I was fast asleep.

The next morning, I woke up next to Kingsley, who smiled at me as his eyes fluttered open. Then I sat up, a bit panicked. "S***, I forgot to tell Charlie I'd be here," I said with a sigh.
Kingsley laughed as he sat up too. "It's okay. I heard Tanjella call him last night to let him know," he assured me.
I was so relieved to hear that I felt myself relax. "Oh, thank God."
Kingsley smiled. "Thanks again for making me go here last night."
I shot him back a smile. "You kidding? You needed it. You had a lot of blood loss."
He nodded. "Yeah, I know. I just wanted to get you home safe."
I understood, but I wasn't completely fine with it. "Yeah, well, sometimes you should worry about yourself more. I can take care of myself. I don't need a knight in shining armor, you know."
Kingsley gave a light laugh. "Yeah, I know." Then he kissed me, cupping my chin in his palm. I pulled away, out of breath and smiled. "Alright, I'll drive you back to Charlie's," he said, getting out of the bed. I did, too, as Tanjella came in the small room.
She smiled at us as she stood in front of us. "Oh, good, you two are awake. Kingsley I expect you for a checkup in a couple days," she berated him, and he gave a surprised nod. "Oh, and your mom received her cure as well last night. She thanks you and the Council. On a positive note, are you guys staying for breakfast?"
I shook my head. "No, I should be getting back to Charlie's," I told her, figuring I'd be in some trouble when I'd get there. I wasn't sure if my grounding still lasted since he hadn't mentioned it since the night I went to the party with Kingsley.
"Alright, then. Tell him I say hi." Then with another smile, she was gone.
I left with Kingsley, and just like he'd said, he dropped me off at Charlie's. He kissed me and before I got out of the car, he stopped me. "Have dinner with me tonight?"
"Kingsley Hamilton," I said with a laugh. "Are you asking me out on a date?"
He laughed. "Got a problem with that?"
I shook my head. "Not at all." Then I kissed him before saying yes. I watched as he drove off before going in.
I heard two voices from the kitchen and smelled actual food like eggs, Belgium waffles and something that was most likely burnt. Had Charlie cooked for someone. I went in to find out, stopping in the doorway.
Standing there at the island, was the last person I expected to see that morning. With everything going on, I had totally forgotten about her visit. Mostly, though, because I still had time.
Her face lit up when she saw me, coming over to give me a hug. I stood there, not really knowing what to do. "Hi, honey," she greeted me as I pulled away.
"Hi, Mom," I replied, trying to smile back. I glanced at Charlie, but he avoided my gaze as he put some fruit in a bowl and placed it on the table as a finishing touch next to all the things I had smelled upon coming in. We all sat down at the table, making me get the feeling this was going to be one awkward meal.
Charlie and Mom had small talk the whole time, but even though it was a tad bit unbearable, I was glad I didn't have to say anything. But after breakfast, Charlie had some 'newspaper errands', leaving me and mom alone.
Unlike with Charlie, Mom and I weren't good at small talk. Heck, we weren't really good at talking to start with. Yet we still went to sit on the porch, knowing we couldn't prolong conversation for much longer.
It was a nice day outside, no hint of the storm that had happened last night. "Mom—" I started, although I don't think I knew what I was going to say.
She cut me off, though, so it didn't really matter. "Avery, hon, are you happy here?" She asked, scanning my face.
I nodded, kind of surprised by her question. "Yeah, I really am."
She gave a small nod. "I wasn't sure sending you here. I knew it might cause more problems with us. But one of your father's wishes was to send you to this town, his birthplace."
I looked at her. "Why didn't you just tell me that?" I had spent so many times regretting her decision, yet she hadn't even done it for the reason I'd accused her of. I felt guilty, now, wishing she'd told me the true reason of her sending me here.
Mom just shrugged. "It was something you had to experience for yourself." She smiled at me, patting my knee. “And I thought the novel I gave you to read on the plane would clue you in to this place.”
I laughed. “I haven’t even seen that book since then. I honestly had totally forgotten about it.”
"Oh, well, I still hoped you'd enjoy your stay here."
And that's when I knew this conversation was going to get a bit awkward. Any type of bond that we'd created was probably going to be broken by my words. "Mom, I'm sorry... But, I..." I took a deep breath. "I can't leave with you." Mostly because I couldn't, but also because I really didn't want to.
Mom nodded as if the reply was expected—a shock to me. "I know, hon. Charlie and I talked through it." Huh, another shocker. "But only under one condition."
I grinned. "And that is?" I asked without hesitation.
"You keep in touch better than you have."
I laughed, happy that it wasn't something else I'd been worried about. "Promise," I assured her.
We stood up then, and she gave me a hug. This time, I hugged her back.

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