Chapter One

Chapter One

A Chapter by Dawn Jones

There is something so simple about her, this small girl with her pale, moonlit eyes… so simple and yet so confusingly complex. She doesn’t really look like much - five foot nothing at maybe eighty pounds soaking wet. It doesn’t help that she swims in Jordan’s green and black Celtics jersey; her bare legs pulled up inside, making her look even smaller than she already is. The sight of her screams little girl lost in a bad way. Layers of dirt painted across her face are like camouflage, one layer after another, blending together to disguise the color of the skin underneath. Her haunted eyes stare out into the night, focused on things only she can see.

I shoot a worried glance in her direction, the hundredth in the past twenty minutes, my eyes flitting across her solemn profile. The only sign of life are her fingers as they fidget with her bare toes, stretching, pulling, spreading, almost like she’s counting each one. Looking at her it’s hard to remember that as petite and innocent as she seems she isn’t human. That, right there, is where everything gets confusing. She isn’t human… it should be impossible. She should be impossible, but here she is and I must be crazy, because I’m not afraid of her. Logically, I know that I should be. Hell, I should be terrified after having seen her change from beast to girl… but I’m not, not even a little. Something inside of me defies logic, telling me that there’s nothing to be afraid of. I try to piece it together in my head; how it had worked out that I was driving my little blue bug back to the city in the middle of the night with an emaciated shape shifter �" hand to god �" sitting in the passenger seat. Just the absurdity of the thought creates a bubble of laughter that rises to the back of my throat and nearly escapes. I catch it before it has the chance, but I must have made some kind of sound, something that caught her attention, because now I can feel her eyes on me. The fine hairs on the back of my neck rise as a tiny bolt of lightning travels up my spine, leaving a wave of warm tingles in its wake. It was the same sensation I’d gotten back at camp, when I’d found her �" the sight of her dark matted fur, elongated limbs; her tail tucked between her legs as she edged towards me from the shadow of an oak �" I can’t get it out of my head. I have to shake the thoughts away before they can distract me completely, retraining my eyes on the black asphalt illuminated in my little bug’s bright white headlights.

Another mile and the silence in the car is killing me.

I don’t know what to say to her.

I don’t even know if she can talk, or if she would know English if she can.

I drum my fingers idly on the steering wheel, knowing that she’s watching me, before I let my thumb fumble blindly across the buttons there, searching for the easiest way to fill the void. I find what I want and am rewarded with the soothing violin solo leading into one of my favorite songs; a cover, a nameless Youtube musician outdoing the original artist in both passion and talent, making me wonder why she isn’t the famous one. The added violin is just enough to give the song’s beautiful simplicity something magical. With a deep, relieving sigh I let it steal away my anxiety, melting my chaotic monkey-brain into something akin to calm. My eyes once again seek her out and, to my surprise, her attention is no longer fixated on me. She hasn’t gone back to staring out the window either. No. Instead, her eyes are closed and she’s breathing to the rhythmic harmony filling the empty space. I can’t keep the tiny, awed smile from creeping up on me.

 

There’s only one light on when I pull up to the curb in front of the house. I cut the engine there, determined not to wake my parents, and stare up at the little white dwelling and its ominous teal-colored door.

You can do this, Tara.... “All you have to do is get her inside.”

But getting inside is one of those easier said than done things, because, though my parents are in bed, that light in the window means Nan is still awake. Nan isn’t one of those milk and cookies grandmas who send you lame sweaters for Christmas and birthday cards with a five dollar bill in them no matter how old you get. No. Nan is the kind of grandma who threatens to break your dad’s kneecaps with her cane if he touches her jelly doughnuts. She’s the person who taught me how to climb a tree when I was eight. She snuck me cake whenever I was sent to bed without supper. She taught me how to fight back, how to think outside the box, and encouraged me to question authority at every opportunity. She’s sharp as a tack with eyes like a hawk and the ability to hear a mouse fart three blocks down �" no joke.

“Come on,” I whisper, more to myself than the girl next to me, and am out of the car and moving up the walk as quietly as possible.

I figure, going the direct route is a bad idea �" the front door squeaks, as do the three floor boards in front of it. So I choose to make my way around the side of the house towards my bedroom window. Oh to be wrong… the decorative rocks crunch beneath my boots like Fun Snaps, a minefield of poppers going off every time I take a step, and I find myself regretting the decision to not use the front door. A creaky floor board is probably a lot less conspicuous, but I’m pretty much S.O.L., so I keep going.

When I reach the window I pry the loose screen from its mooring, slipping it soundlessly down between my fingers until the bottom of it is resting on the toe of my boot. Then I lean it carefully against the wall and set about fingering open the window �" it’s a well practiced technique that comes so naturally now that I don’t even have to think about what I’m doing anymore. Once I’ve got it, I plant my hands on the sill, feeling the hard wood dig into my palms, and am lifting myself up over the lip of the window before I remember that this isn’t a solo mission. I’m not supposed to be sneaking into the house alone. The sound of the rocks beneath my boots as I drop back to the ground makes me cringe, but there’s nothing I can do and ignore it as I turn… right into a heart attack.

I force myself to stifle the gasp as it attempts to jump from my mouth when I turn right into the petite creature and her small hands catch my arms as she steadies me. Her skin is hot to the touch, burning, almost scalding, and she’s stronger than I would have expected from her size. The dim light coming from the street reflects a bright green in her eyes, giving them an unsettling glow, and I am mesmerized… until those inhuman eyes flick to the open window and back, reminding me of where we are and what we’re supposed to be doing.

I leave her touch and turn back to the window, pulling myself inside.

To her credit she merely hops the four and a half feet onto the sill and then again to the plush carpet of the room without a sound. From the way she had navigated through the noisy rocks outside to stand so close without me realizing she was there, to how easy it was for her to noiselessly land on first the sill and then my bedroom floor is something I can’t help but envy. What I wouldn’t give to be so… graceful? I dwell a second on all of the times Nan has caught me sneaking in and out of that very window in the middle of the night.

How nice it would have been to avoid some of those midnight lectures.

My eyes travel up her slender figure, taking in the awkward way her dark, dirty silhouette stands out in harsh contrast to the clean softness of my bedroom. I watch her as she takes in the room with a quiet anxiety and I feel sorry for her. I want to soothe her, to make everything okay for her �" this small, strange creature that shouldn’t exist, but does. An unconscious step forward on my part has her intense eyes lock on me and she looks so much like a wild animal, prepared to bolt back out the window and into the night.

“It’s okay,” I whisper. “You’re safe.”

A second step and I’m standing close enough to feel the heat emanating from her thin frame. I could touch her, if I wanted. I could touch her heat. I could run my fingers along her skin and let it burn. A cool, damp gust of air from the still open window snaps me back into focus and I realize I’ve been staring… and she’s been staring back, her eyes softer, curious. I breathe deep, filling my lungs with the smell of wet earth, woods, the dirt on her skin, in her hair, the hint of rain and I’m finally struck with a coherent thought. Shower!

“Wait here.”

I watch that rabbited look return to her softened expression. Her fingertips graze my arm like she means to grab hold, but she doesn’t. All that comes from her touch is a string of goose bumps running up my arm. I don’t know what compels me, but I lean forward, cupping her smooth cheek in my hand, and I smile. “I’ll be right back… I promise.”

At the door I look back.

“Don’t leave… please.”

I leave the room, pulling the door shut as quietly as possible, and come across the second heart attack I’ve had tonight as I turn around to face an expectant Nan. I am not pleased with the embarrassing ‘eep’ that cracks my voice.

“What are you doing home?”

Not exactly an unreasonable question.

I’m supposed to be up the coast, camping with friends.

Jordan and Rhys, my nearest and dearest, had planned the trip as a birthday-spring break combo pack to celebrate what they deemed The Death of the Golden Years �" I didn’t have the heart to tell them that those Golden Years don’t start until you’ve retired and the death of was a little more bleak. I was, after all, only turning eighteen, entering the limbo of not-quite-adult. This week was supposed to have been my last glorious week of teenage idiocy before taking on the responsibilities that come along with the end of the senior year and upcoming college life. The two of them had invited the entire drama club, the journalism kids, a couple of kids from the band, a couple more from my advanced arts and literature classes, and more than a few people that I wasn’t entirely sure I knew. We were the indie kids, the outcasts, the sub-defects that are too cool to actually be cool in the wonderful world of high school… and I’d just bailed on everyone.

I hadn’t even told Jordan I was leaving.

I’d stolen his jersey, packed a freaking werewolf into my car, and driven off while they were all asleep. The thought twists my gut, the sudden guilt at abandoning all of my friends sinking in as I stand in the middle of the dark hallway, trying to come up with something to tell Nan without it being a bald-faced lie.

I was a horrible liar and the woman had a sixth sense for them.

 “I, ugh…”

Good start, T.

I watch as Nan’s eyebrow inches upward, her look shifting from one of concern to one of suspicion.

“I wasn’t feeling well,” I blurt out �" better than nothing �" and the look of concern is back. “A little sun sick, I think.”

Nan raises her hand to my forehead, her cool fingers checking for fever as they slide down my cheek. “I warned you, munchie,” she chides. “You should have taken that hat your mother bought you and hydrated better.”

The urge to roll my eyes is a difficult one to resist, but coddling you-should-know-better Nan is far less dangerous than scolding don’t-give-me-that-look Nan so I keep my eyes in check.

“I know,” I whimper, laying it on a little thick. “I forgot. I was thinking about taking a cool bath and then going to bed. Maybe I’ll feel better in the morning.”

Nan hums in approval as she turns to walk back down the hall.

I’m already doing a little victory dance when Nan turns around.

“Tara,” she calls and I freeze. “Don’t forget to make sure your guest is comfortable before you do anything.”

And that’s it.

Nan disappears, leaving me standing in the hall alone and busted… again.

“How…”

The girl is standing exactly where I left her when I walk back into the bedroom, looking as awkward and out of place as humanly, or inhumanly, possible. “Change of plans.” I don’t even think about it when I take her hand, the warmth of her skin hot against my palm, and lead her out into the rest of the house free from the burden of sneaking around.

The bathroom lights are inconsiderately bright and I have to blink away the little dark spots they leave swimming in my eyes as I prepare the bath I had told Nan I would be taking �" only I wasn’t the one who was going to be taking it. I fuss with the water temperature, pull a towel and washcloth from the cupboard, and look back at the girl still standing beside the door. A pang of sympathy runs through me when I see that her eyes are still squeezed shut against the light and her body is pressed into the corner. Along with everything else I’ve done tonight, I’m not sure why I step up close to her, blocking the light with my body and taking both of her hands in mine. I give them a gentle squeeze and silently will her to relax �" to open her eyes.

I’m not entirely prepared for the sight when she finally looks at me.

The color of her eyes takes my breath away.

Calling them blue would be unfair. It’s like looking out over the ocean after a storm, swimming with color and endlessly deep. I lose myself in them as I watch their color shift with the dilation of her pupils, becoming darker, richer, losing some of their stormy grayness and becoming a pure sapphire. She looks back at me with such warmth that I’m struck with a powerful sense of affection.

“…Tara.”

I roll my eyes at my obvious inability to form a coherent sentence, watching her small features bunch up as she wrinkles her nose in confusion. She probably doesn’t even know what I said. But then I watch as a slow smile begins to rise at the corners of her mouth, like watching the sunrise, her eyes twinkling. And then she does something that’s nearly as shocking to me as finding her in the woods had been.

Her voice is a hushed exhale of breath.

“Cadence.” 



© 2013 Dawn Jones


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Added on February 8, 2013
Last Updated on February 8, 2013


Author

Dawn Jones
Dawn Jones

La bocca dell'inferno



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"Character is destiny. For the cronic do-gooder, the happy-go-lucky sociopath, the dysfunctional family, under the gun everyone diverts to who they are. We may hunger to map out a new course, but fo.. more..

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A Chapter by Dawn Jones


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