The 4th Paladin - Chapter 1

The 4th Paladin - Chapter 1

A Chapter by Maria Mercurio

Previous Version
This is a previous version of The 4th Paladin - Chapter 1.



Chapter 1

 

"I wonder if I would have done anything differently if I had known this was to be my last day of this life?"

 

 

    With a groan, I shut off my alarm clock and stare gloomily at the time.  6:30 am blinks back at me.  Daylight savings is simply evil.  It's still dark out!  How can I be expected to function when yesterday I had an hour cruelly stolen away from me?  Why is springing forward so difficult?  I love the sun setting later, but that first week of waking up is just the worst. 

     I drag my protesting body from bed and shake away that clingy sleep feeling.  I want to hit the gym before class so I skip taking a shower and just get dressed.  I dump  the contents of my duffle bag out on my bed.  Tossing my dirty gym clothes over by the hamper, I fill the bag with a small cosmetics case, a pair of faded jeans and a UC Santa Barbara tee shirt.  I have to search under my bed for my favorite flip flops.  The air outside still has quite a nip to it but when you live by the beach, open toed shoes just make the most sense.  I hate getting sand inside my sneakers. I slow down to braid my thick and very long hair, not wanting odd bumps protruding here and there, brush my teeth, and declare myself ready.

     Taking the stairs two at a time, I skid to a halt in the kitchen and open the fridge.  My stomach wants a hot breakfast but my watch tells me I will be eating cereal.  I hear the house starting to stir while I shovel in a spoonful standing up at the kitchen counter.

     I still live with my parents.  Almost all my friends managed to live in the freshmen dorms their first year of college but that freedom is not in the cards for me.  I live in a town called Goleta and my house is only a few miles from campus.  I don't have anything to really complain about, except I feel like I am missing out a bit on the fun my friends are having.

     My parents are strict, and I mean really strict.  I am a month away from my nineteenth birthday and they still have a stranglehold on my life.  No living away from home, no staying out late, no cutting your hair, no tattoos, no piercings, no boys, and no drinking are the rules I have to live by.  I tell my friends if I want my tuition paid I need to toe the line until I graduate.  That is a lie though.  The truth is, I am not a normal girl.  Oh I act normal, look normal, and for the most part feel normal, but I have a secret.  This life is my fairytale.  This life, if I am allowed to keep living it, will be my happily ever after, because ignorance is bliss and my secret is earth shattering.

     "Maya?"  My mom yells down the stairs.  "Are you still here?"

    "Yes Mom."  I reply with my mouth full. 

     I can hear a loud racket pounding down the stairs.  My younger brother bounds into the kitchen messing up his light blond hair with his fingers until it looks just right.  "Hiyah, Maya!" is his usual greeting to me.  He shoulders me over somewhat roughly to grab the cereal that's in front of me.  "Did you eat it all?!"  He accuses.

     "Settle down Josh," I roll my eyes and shove back.  "It's half full!"

     His response is a grunt followed by absolutely no apology.  "So," he throws me a cocky grin.  "I asked Amanda Evens to Junior prom."

     The strict rules that govern my behavior are not enforced over my brother.  He can be normal.  I can't say I don’t envy him, but I don’t begrudge him.  Well not too much that is.  "THE Amanda Evens?  Turned you down flat huh?"  I tease.

    "Please," he waves his arms over his chest and face.  "Like she would pass up this."

     "Ugh," I pretend to retch as he parades around like a peacock.  Aside from being my brother, he does have a point.  He is the atypical California surfer boy.  Blond shaggy hair, ice blue eyes identical to my own, golden tan, and an athletic build that completes the package.  I am sure he is more than one girls’ dream boy at his high school.

     My mother pads in during the performance.  She is still in her fluffy green bathrobe with her hair pulled back tightly from her face in a bun.  "What is all this about?"  She asks with a twinkle in her eye.

    "Amanda Evens."  Josh and I say in unison.

    "Ah, you two will be so cute together."  My mom smiles indulgently at Josh and I try to stifle my resentment.  I had to go to prom with my cousin, even though I had been asked by a couple of boys at school.

     "Maya, I am glad I caught you."  My mom is biting the side of her lip and I physically brace myself.  She only does that when she's going to tell me something I don't want to hear.   "I ran into Mr. Raftord and he told me you have not been in to train with him for two weeks."

     "Are you checking up on me?"  I can hear the strain in my voice.  Josh takes this as his cue to exit the kitchen.

     "No Maya, we just ran into each other at the super market and he asked me if you have been well since he hadn’t seen you."  My mother is calm but I know the lecture that will follow soon.

     "I've been busy."  I hate sounding so petulant when I want her to treat me like an adult.     

     "It's important to keep up your training."  My mother begins before I cut her off.

     "Oh God," I huff getting so angry.  "It was just two weeks!  I'll go in tomorrow morning first thing."

     "That's all I wanted to hear.  I just need to make sure you’re committed.  You have a big responsibility Maya, but I know you are up for the challenge."  Mom recites the same words to me almost every week.

     "I do understand mom, but you need to understand too that sometimes I just need a break.  I didn’t sign up for this."  It's the closest I have ever come to showing her how angry my situation makes me.  

     My mother rubs my arm sympathetically.  "I know none of this is fair baby girl."  She looks almost as upset as I am.  "You'll be twenty soon enough and your life can be all yours then.  I promise it'll be here before you know it."

     "Yeah, right."  I mutter.

     "Can I make you some eggs?"  Mom asks, offering me an encouraging smile.

     "No thanks, I gotta get out of here.  I’m meeting Naomi at the gym."  I almost regret saying the words before they leave my mouth.  Surely my mom will interject that if I have time for that, I have time for my other responsibilities.  I am very grateful when she doesn't, which prompts me to give her a kiss on the way out the door.

 

 

     "You have to come Maya!"  Naomi is looking at me intently in the locker room mirror.  We’re both getting ready after our work out.  I am towel drying my hair while she applies eye liner.  Naomi has such pretty eyes.  She is half Japanese and half Swedish and the combination is striking.  She has long silky black hair and the most amazing skin.  She's also been my best friend since the third grade.

     Getting into college together was one of the happiest days of my life.  When we started in the fall I was freaked when Naomi wanted to join a sorority.  I knew that wouldn’t be possible for me to do with her and I was so afraid to lose my closest friend.  Thankfully that did not happen.  Most of the girls in the sorority were really sweet, and except for special events at the house, they were more than happy to include me when they all hung out.  I shouldn't have doubted Naomi.  She's always in my corner.  She is absolutely my closest friend.  We know everything there is about each other, except for my secret of course.

     "I thought tonight was an event with your sorority."  I shrug my shoulders.

     "It is a charity event for the homeless, even YOUR parents can't object to that.  It's at 7:00 pm and you can be home under the 10:30 curfew.  I've been working on this for months!  You have to come!"  Naomi whines as she finishes applying her makeup and starts packing up her things.

     "OK,  I will text my dad and let him know I will be home later then expected.  My mom still might say no since I didn’t give her 30 days notice in writing."  We both laugh at that.  "What am I going to wear though?  I only brought this to school today."

     "Just come by the sorority house at 5:30 and we can get ready together.  I have tons of stuff for you to try on.  It will be so much more fun with you there!"  She bounces on her heels in excitement.  "The theme is Monte Carlo.  People buy chips when they get in and those with the most at the end win some great prizes we managed to get donated.  And all the money from the chips goes to the charity."

     I smile at her warmly.  "That does sound fun.  Hopefully my $32 will last more than five minutes because that is all I have on me."

     "It IS for a good cause," She bats her eyes at me.  "Besides I know for a fact that Tyler is going to be there."

     "Who?"  I ask feigning complete innocence.  Tyler also went to high school with Naomi and I.  Over the summer he shot up and filled out.  Now he looks a lot less like the boy next door and a lot more like he should be on the cover of GQ.

     "Oh spare me!  Mommy and Daddy may forbid you to date a boy but they can’t stop you from getting a good look!"  She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively until I am grinning from ear to ear.

     "You're right," I say dabbing on some lip gloss and smacking my lips together.  "No harm done from looking."

     "Really, Maya," Naomi says with an exaggerated sigh.  "When are they going to lighten up?  You’re considered an adult at age 18 by the federal government.  I mean you can vote and join the army.  You should be able to stay out late and crash at my place at least once before school is over!"

     I hate when Naomi presses me about this.  I can never be truthful with her and that's so hard.  She even went so far as to call my folks up once and ask them about me staying over one weekend when her parents were out of town.  They told her in no uncertain terms that it wasn't going to happen.  No one truly understands why I have to follow the rules and I hate covering it up and sounding like a weak little girl.  "My mom told me just this morning that my junior year will be different."  The statement is not completely the truth, but it's true.

     "Why then and not now?"  Naomi scowls.

     "Because then I will no longer be a teenager.  The United States of America might declare me an adult but my parents won’t until then."  I act more casual then I feel and decide a bold statement will throw her off this conversation.  "What about if we found an apartment and moved in together?"

     Her eyes light up.  "Really?  Do you mean it?"

     I know once my sentence is up my parents can have nothing to object to.  "Definitely!  If I have to wait for then for my life to start then I am going to have my freedom, and the only way to ensure that is having my own place."

    

        

 

       Mondays are busy. I have three classes, a lab, and my study group, not to mention trying to find time to eat.  I still have not declared a major and am happy that the first two years of college are spent getting your general education classes done.  I have no clue what I want to do with my life.  It never really felt like mine.  Talking with Naomi about moving out of my parent’s house made me realize I need to start thinking about the future.  And in the immediate future, I have promised to go out tonight.  

     I wait till noon to text my dad about the party with Naomi.  He is always in a better mood during his lunch break.

 

Hey Dad

Naomi is doing some charity work

for the homeless and roped me into

helping with the event.  Be home before

10.  Hope OK? :)

 

    His response comes quickly.  I even jump when it buzzes.

 

OK sweetheart

I will break the news to your mom

Do me a favor and stay safe!

 

     I cringe slightly at the implied message.  He totally nailed me about asking him and not my mom, but my dad is far more indulgent then my mother will ever be.  When she was my age she lived by the same rules that I do now.  She loves me but has little patience with my constant pity parties.  She didn't bend the rules, or even consider doing so, therefore, she expects me to follow them to the letter as well.

      I text Naomi before I enter my next class.

 

Got the all clear!  see ya at 5:30.

 

    

     I blink and it feels like the day is over.  I dump my books and laptop in my car and sprint over to Naomi's. It's closer to 6:00 when I knock on her door.  Khloe, her room mate, answers.

     "Oh, Maya!  Come in!  I thought Naomi was going to send out a search party."  She laughs at her own joke causing dimples to appear on her freckled cheeks.  Khloe gives me a quick one armed hug in greeting.  I can smell her fruity shampoo as her bright red curls tickle my nose.

     "There you are!"  Naomi emerges from the bathroom looking fabulous.  She's wearing the ultimate little black dress that shows off her slender frame paired with platform sandals that wrap around her ankles and tie in little bows in the back.  "Wow you look amazing."  I say. 

     Naomi shrugs pretending at modesty but her pleased smile gives her away.  "I picked you out something to wear since now we have no time to go through the closet.  The event is off campus on State Street so we need to drive and I have to get there early to set up.  So no complaints!"

     She hands me a pale blue dress.  At first I think it's a top since the piece of fabric is fairly small.  I almost make a joke about where the rest of it is but decide against it.  As long as I change before I go home it should be fine.  My mom will have a total cow, but just like looking at boys, there are no rules about how to dress.  I am taller then Naomi and much more muscular but the dress is a perfect fit.  Way shorter than anything I usually wear.  Hey, why dress for attention when your goal is to make sure you get none?

     Khloe does my make up, she has a gift for it.  I, on the other hand, only ever wear a little lip gloss and some blush.  When she's done I have expertly crafted smoky eyes, curled lashes, freshly plucked brows, lips lined and colored, and a lovely sun kissed sparkling tinge to my cheeks.  Looking at my reflection in the mirror is like looking at some other girl.      

     "That dress color makes your eyes just pop!"  Naomi gushes.

     I have to admit I feel rather pretty.  I also feel that I am doing something just bordering on wrong and it feels good.

 

 

     "Naomi, this looks so cool."  I say as we walk into the event.  I have never been to Monte Carlo but the place definitely gives off the up scale glitz and glam casino vibe.

     "I wish I could take credit but the frat boys did the set up.  We just organized the end prizes and sent out the invitations."  Naomi squints her eyes as she looks around the room.  "Come help me set up the prize table."

     I follow, happy to help.  On our way to the back tables I notice Tyler installing the roulette wheel.  Like the other guys, he is wearing a tux, but there the similarities end.  Everyone else looks like boys playing at dressing up but Tyler looks chic.  His short dark hair is slicked back and when he smiles it's dazzling.  He glances up right as we walk by.  I feel a blush heat up my cheeks at being caught staring. 

     "Ladies," the dazzling smile grows wider.  "You're all looking lovely tonight.  Hey Maya!  I almost didn’t recognize you with your hair down."

     "Hi Tyler, good to see you again."  I don't stop to chat even though it appears he is willing.  Naomi shoots me a scowl as I quicken my pace.  "Let's catch up later Tyler!"  she calls out and Tyler gives her the thumbs up sign.

     Turning to me she speaks in a hissed whisper.  "Can't get a good look if you’re traveling 100 miles an hour past it."

     "Shut up, Naomi!"  I whisper back but soften my rebuke with a smile and shake of the head.

     "Flirting with boys is a favorite pastime of mine, don't knock it till you try it."  Naomi sashays seductively in front of me as she continues walking, earning her a few appreciative whistles that she laughs and laps up.

       

 

     The party is a success.  The place is filled to capacity and they raise well over their goal in the first two hours.  I lose my $32 rather quickly and spend the rest of my time people watching and talking with Naomi's sorority sisters.  Naomi decides to torment me by calling Tyler over to join us.  She chats him up, repeatedly touching his arm as she speaks, or tossing her hair back and licking her lips.  I stand more like a statue.  I nod politely when a response is needed, but for the most part keep my head down and avoid direct eye contact. 

     When he leaves Naomi frowns at me.  "You could not have been more a stick in the mud if you tried."

     The comment ruffles me.  "I think you were doing just fine on your own."

     "I called him over here to talk with you silly."  She huffs.

     I tilt my head and look at her pensively.  "If you like him Naomi you should go out with him."

     She pulls back from me and looks surprised.  "But you’ve had a thing for him all year."

    "I think he's cute, but that is not a THING." 

     "He is cute."  She turns to admire his backside as he is talking with his friends.

     "Then if he asks or if you want to ask, go out with him."  I gesture with my hands.

     "Seriously, Maya," she bites her lip.  "I will not think about it if you truly like him. You won't mind?" 

     Well maybe I mind a little bit but I’ll never do anything about it.  "Seriously, Naomi," I mimic her back.  "I don't give him much thought at all."     

 

 

     It is around 9:30 when Naomi has to handle the gifts.  I consider leaving for home since I came in my own car, but I am curious to see who will win some of the prizes.  There are some great goodie baskets, gift cards to stores and restaurants, and $1000.00 grand prize to a Santa Barbara day spa. 

     On my way to the bar to get another club soda, I spot Tyler and three guys from his fraternity sorting out the betting chips and putting them away.  I usually would have hurried past but something one of the boys says makes me stop dead in my tracks. 

     "Who is the hot blonde hanging out with Naomi?"

     I do not immediately think of myself, but Naomi's name gets me to stop and take cover out of sight, where I can still be in ear shot.

     Tyler answers.  "Her name is Maya.  I went to high school with her."

     I hold my breath hearing him speak my name.

     "Dude, I hope you are tapping that.  If not, I may have to." 

     "No," Tyler answers.  "Believe me, no guy is getting anywhere near that.  She's a total prude."

     I can feel all the blood draining from my face and pooling painfully around my heart.  I hate hearing him talk about me like that.

     "Maybe she just hasn't found the right guy."  The earlier voice laughs.

     "Maybe she’s not into guys," another voice chimes in.  "I've seen her huddled next to Naomi on campus before."

     They all laugh but Tyler speaks over them.  "No she's seriously religious or crazy conservative but either way not worth the effort!"

     There's some more banter about what could be worth the effort but I back away not able to hear any more.  I have to get out of here before the tears start spilling over.  I'm looking for the nearest exit when my eyes are immediately drawn instead to the most stunning woman I have ever seen.  She looks a little older then me with long wavy brown hair and full pouty lips.  She is at least 5' 10" and has a perfect figure.  Almost every man stops to stare as she walks by.  It hurts to look at her.  I mean physically hurts.  She is shining so brightly I am getting dark after images floating over my vision.  I know no one else is seeing what I do.  I take a long shuddering breath hoping against hope that this is just some bizarre coincidence.  The woman is not dressed for the party.  She has on jeans, leather boots and a long coat.  It's obvious she has come inside just as the event is about to end. 

     I look for the closest door thinking again that I should be leaving, and just like that, she looks right at me.  I have to blink several times to be able to see her clearly.  In that time she moves from being across the room to directly in front of me.  I try not to cry.  I’m supposed to be brave.

     "Hello, Maya," she speaks in a gentle musical voice.

     "Oh God," I gasp starting to hyperventilate.  Taking several shallow breaths I manage to speak.  "Are you here for me?"

     She looks at me with such pity and compassion it is almost my undoing.  "Yes Maya, I'm afraid so."        

       

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



© 2013 Maria Mercurio


Author's Note

Maria Mercurio
Want to see if there is enough of a hook to keep you reading.



Featured Review

Hola, I'll start with the good stuff. :) This story definitely captured my interest. I really want to know who Maya is and where she came from. Your voice and writing style and engaging and flow nicely. I have a couple grammar nitpicks:

"Naomi shrugs pretending at modesty." to "Naomi shrugs, pretending at modesty."

"I ask feigning complete innocence." to I ask, feigning complete innocence.

I have mixed feelings about your opening paragraph. I never been a fan of just expositioning, or just giving a bunch of important background information right at the beginning, but the sentence about her life being a fairytale gave me chills. I understand why you need it, but if there's anyway you could condense it and spread it out a little more over the chapter, it would be cool.

Lastly, be careful of of thesis sentences in your fiction.. They're great in essays, but in fiction they pull people out of the story a little. "Mondays are busy" or "The party was successful" are examples. If you can find a way to say what you need to say in that paragraph without using them, then do. or if you really need a thesis sentence, trying putting it at the end.

Honestly though, it's a well-written, fresh, and intriguing story. I plan to read more when I have time. xD

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Maria Mercurio

5 Years Ago

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I will admit to agreeing whole hartedly with you - t.. read more



Reviews

Hola, I'll start with the good stuff. :) This story definitely captured my interest. I really want to know who Maya is and where she came from. Your voice and writing style and engaging and flow nicely. I have a couple grammar nitpicks:

"Naomi shrugs pretending at modesty." to "Naomi shrugs, pretending at modesty."

"I ask feigning complete innocence." to I ask, feigning complete innocence.

I have mixed feelings about your opening paragraph. I never been a fan of just expositioning, or just giving a bunch of important background information right at the beginning, but the sentence about her life being a fairytale gave me chills. I understand why you need it, but if there's anyway you could condense it and spread it out a little more over the chapter, it would be cool.

Lastly, be careful of of thesis sentences in your fiction.. They're great in essays, but in fiction they pull people out of the story a little. "Mondays are busy" or "The party was successful" are examples. If you can find a way to say what you need to say in that paragraph without using them, then do. or if you really need a thesis sentence, trying putting it at the end.

Honestly though, it's a well-written, fresh, and intriguing story. I plan to read more when I have time. xD

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Maria Mercurio

5 Years Ago

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I will admit to agreeing whole hartedly with you - t.. read more
It's very well developed and I can tell you know your characters well. I agree that it is a little slow to get to the hook, but the last few lines really do pull you in. Maybe you could do a bit more in the exposition to develop her situation or give a few more hints to it. The dialogue is very realistic. I would also consider varying your sentence length, they could be a little choppy at times. Overall, I really liked it, and will keep reading :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


Maria Mercurio

6 Years Ago

Thanks so much - I actually need to update this chapter post - I have completely re-written it- want.. read more
Maria Mercurio

6 Years Ago

thanks for reminding me to put up my new chapter! Hate to work on something and leave the old stiff.. read more
Maria Mercurio

6 Years Ago

ha ha old stuff - not stiff
It's very interesting and descrpritive. I especially love the detail of it. It takes a little long to get to the point but once it does, the story seems to take off. I can't wait to read more.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Maria Mercurio

6 Years Ago

Thanks for the feedback - I need to find a way to speed up the pace and yet give enough of a charact.. read more
Very intriguing, mysterious, captivating...:) Perhaps a touch slow to get to the main hook, but I understand you want time to propperly establish Maya and to create contrast with the chapter following. I think you've succeeded in making her relatable on the outset, maybe a little more development to distinguish her voice from your second narrator? :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Maria Mercurio

6 Years Ago

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review. You are my first review on this site! I w.. read more
Talismanic

6 Years Ago

Really:) the pleasure is all mine, thanks for such a great read and for your kind offer. I don't hav.. read more
Maria Mercurio

6 Years Ago

I read and reviewed some of your work today. I love your imagery and description you have a gift!

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3 Reviews
Added on March 1, 2013
Last Updated on March 30, 2013
Tags: young adult, paranormal, angel, demon