Chapter 1: This is Temporary

Chapter 1: This is Temporary

A Chapter by Raewyn Pierce

Chapter 1

Nine Years Later

I perched on the weather beaten palm, soaking in the hot afternoon sun. The usual smells of sunscreen and dried seaweed swirled in the air. Pelicans rode the currents overhead and searched the busy beach with keen eyes. Broken seashells, cigarette butts, drift wood and beer cans littered the sand. I took in every detail through an overpriced pair of aviator sunglasses�"a late birthday present from my father. They seemed like a practical gift for a daughter that traded mountains for beaches.

“Aria?” The harsh voice startled me from behind, slicing through my thoughts like a razor blade. My brother wandered from the row of beach front condominiums. His neatly polished shoes padded against the cracked asphalt and his pinstripe suit looked out of place, cast against a backdrop of half naked youths. The sun added a nice dose of color to his pale cheeks. I assumed the woods back in Borden Grove were rather dark and cloudy in October.

“What do you want?” I growled, leaning back into the natural curve of the fallen palm tree. I pushed the sunglasses farther up the bridge of my nose as a few old classmates strode passed. I really hoped they would continue on their way without recognizing me, but they delivered casual nods. They seemed more interested in the mafia errand boy standing over my shoulder. My brother did a nice job at ignoring them and ruining my social life at the same time. 

“What I want is for you to get in the car.” He snarled, folding two sturdy arms over his broad chest. I tried to take him seriously. He drew his mouth tight and narrowed his gaze. To any stranger, he may have looked intimidating. I saw nothing more than a little boy who used to pick his nose and play with bugs. If my father wanted me back in Borden Grove, he would either have to drag me back kicking and screaming or send a better henchman.

A breeze whispered across the beach, warm and delicate. I listened for the hiss of sand across the dunes and the crash of waves against the pier. Hungry seagulls shrieked at tourists eating gritty sandwiches. Toddlers played in the shallows, wearing nothing but soggy diapers, flinging wet sand and building castles. The smoothie vendor, down the beach, shouted his usual spiel�"trying to attract new customers, though all the locals already knew his were the best.

“Is mom coming?”

“Addie’s too stubborn.” Stephen refused to call our mother by the affectionate term. Nine years and a couple hundred miles would put a strain on any family. I glanced at him. He was twenty five now. The thought seemed absurd. His awkward years were in the past, but so were mine. I never wore my hair in braids, never donned floral dresses, or used bubble-gum flavored lip gloss. I outgrew all those silly little things that ten-year-olds do. My twentieth birthday was only a few weeks away, paired with a collage of costumes and sweets.

Stephen released a loud sigh, catching my attention. He sat beside me on the log, folding his fingers over his lap and searching the colorful sailboats in the distance. He looked different than in the annual holiday card, taller and older. I always pictured him as the boy in the moonlit garden, but that was the past. My brother was grown up. I was grown up. I traded my braids for salt-crusted, blonde locks. I traded my floral dresses for string bikinis. I even traded my bubble-gum lip gloss for cherry lip balm. 

“Aria, you need to understand. Dad just wants you close to home, close to Borden Grove, where you belong.” The mention of home inspired an unpleasant ripple in my chest. Home was nothing more than a bad memory, a blur of drama and unanswered questions, strange house calls and weird relatives. I belonged living and breathing in the ocean air. Stephen cleared his throat, prompting my angry stare. “Dad knows about your condition.”

“My condition? Is that why he wants me back? Stephen, I am not the first person to have nightmares.” My voice cracked a little, chilled by the mention of my health. “And if you recall, Mom and I left for a reason.”

“The stranger in the garden?”  

An image of the tall man filled my head, his bare chest and sinister gaze. Knots tangled in my throat and I swallowed them down with a gulp. They stewed and unraveled in the pit of my stomach, settling like a sickness. “That man tried to take me away. How can you expect me to go back?” I wrung my fingers together on my lap, trying to conceal a tremble.

“Aria, you were ten. You were just a child, Xagen… he likes children” He spoke the words, but seemed to regret them a moment later. Running his hands over his face, he forced out a loud breath of air. He chewed over his thoughts before speaking again. “Besides, that was nine years ago. You’re almost twenty, now.”

“Xagen? You know his name?” I issued him an accusing glare.

“He has a reputation in Borden Grove.”

“Stephen, if this is your attempt at comforting me, you really suck at it.”

He rubbed the back of his neck and set his lips in a tight line. I witness the emotion drain from his expression, replaced with the same cold demeanor from earlier. “Well none of that really matters, because you are coming home with me.”

 “Like hell I am, this is my home.”

Not anymore, Aria. The words tore through my skull with an ugly dose of nausea. I shut my eyes, trying to shake the connection. Stephen was in my thoughts, rooting around like a horrible pest. He was gloating, pointing out my weakness. I concentrated on shutting him out. Nothing. My head swelled with an unpleasant feeling. My body swayed a little, overcome with a tingling sensation. I gripped my forehead, whimpering in pain. There is more to this thing than a few nightmares. You belong in Borden Grove. He retreated finally, pulling back into his own mind and leaving behind traces of his presence.  

I took a deep breath, relieving the pressure. His filthy footprints were all over my memories from the past nine years. He left them on purpose, his grubby little trail, dragging and stomping his feet for me to find his tracks. I imagine he rifled through the most important segments, trying to get a glimpse of what his sister had become. I really hoped he was satisfied. I needed to work at building my walls, fortifying them as they once were. Nine years ago, not even my brother stood a chance. No one got a clear glimpse inside my head. I tried telling myself that I was out of practice, but maybe being away from home made me weak.

“And if I refuse?” My brother stood from the log and straightened the thin tie around his neck. I yearned for the smug little boy we left in the mountains, the mud-smeared adolescent who collected worms in the backyard. The image of my father burdened me now, all these years later. I reminded myself again that my brother was grown up, but it was not the growing up part that bothered me. It was the impressions of my father. I could still see the puppet strings hooked to him, controlling every move and every thought. 

“That’s not an option, Aria.” He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his silk pants, casting his eyes on a nearby parking lot. I noticed a pair of dangerous looking goons flanking a parked car with tinted windows. The two brutes rekindled some recollection of early years at the estate, home. I hated my brother in that moment. I tried to convince myself that he was just another errand boy. My father had him brainwashed. “You had better pack your things, Arianna.”

I fought the urge to sprint down the beach. I had always ran faster than Stephen. If I made it to the next pier, I could disappear into the crowds. I knew there was no use running, no use fleeing family. Even if I outran my brother, the painful reality still remained. My father always got what he wanted. There was no escaping his wishes, no escaping his reach. He would find me and send my brother to do his bidding all over again.

I planted my feet in the hot sand, feeling the grains sift between my toes. “This is temporary, Stephen.” I shouted, balling my hands into fists at my side. The notion crossed my mind to knock him senseless, but I thought better of it. The men across the parking lot watched our interaction like hawks scouting their prey. Testing their reaction time was probably not my best bet at that moment. My best bet was to climb into the luxury car, take a nice long plane ride with a couple goons, and give my father a piece of my mind.

“Trust me, this is anything but temporary.” Stephen stared at me, his hazel eyes simmering. I wondered what he thought, which impulses swam in his head. The expression on his face gave nothing away. He challenged me to dig beneath the surface. I considered reaching into his mind, but I needed to rebuild strength. My brother was another league compared to the weak minds of Ocean Crest. He would knock me unconscious with a smirk.

I heaved a sigh, spinning towards the condos. They shimmered in the afternoon heat like a sweet mirage in the desert. Mom stood on the second floor deck, taking us in with a curious gaze. Her slender fingers clutched a glass of lemonade. Unlike Stephen, she wore her emotions on her face. The lines at her eyes reflected sadness and her pursed lips showed anger. “This is only temporary, mom!” I shouted up to her, the black asphalt burning the pads of my feet. She looked doubtful, then.

My heart broke a little. That woman did everything in her power to protect me, to steal me away and show me a taste of normalcy. I darted up the stairs to the second floor landing. My feet met the top step and she embraced me, smelling of gardenias and salty, sea air. “Do not let him break you.” Her voice trembled. The words grated at my confidence. She pulled away, forcing me to swallow any and all emotion. I faked a smile.  

“Nobody breaks me, Mom.” I assured her, hoping she had missed the demonstration on the log. Stephen could break me. The goons downstairs could probably break me. Dad could sure as hell break me. I needed to believe the words escaping my mouth. Her sea-green eyes dug into me, seeking out the truth. My private thoughts were safe from one person, the only person I trusted.      

“I packed your duffel.” She snatched her lemonade off the rail. Condensation glistened over the blue glass. I smelled vodka over the mask of citrus. I almost scolded her, but bit my tongue. She was in the habit of drinking away feelings, shutting people out, and retreating into herself. 

“This is only temporary.” I told her again, but I may have sounded a little less sure of myself. She shook her head and pulled open the sliding glass door, pausing before she left me alone. The air-conditioning ruffled her blonde hair. She glanced at me and I saw the tears begin to glisten in her eyes. My mother never cried. Her marriage to my father caused her to grow hardened. My heart shattered fully, then. I hurt her, not my father, not my brother, me.

“We can only pretend.” She whispered and stepped inside, pulling the door shut. The click of the lock was like a blow to the stomach, triggering a painful rush of anger. I cursed in frustration and kicked the old duffel bag. I wished for an escape, a flashing exit sign. Instead, I planted my hands on the rail and peered down at my brother. This horrible dream was getting worse and worse. I was being kidnapped. The word seemed dramatic, but oddly appropriate.

I glared at Stephen, my head swimming with thoughts of revenge. I considered spraying him with the hose. I considered a sprint down the beach, forcing him to call dad with confessions of failure. I even considered lobbing the deck furniture at him. The mental image prompted a smile across my cherry lips. I managed to push my mother to the back of my mind. She made me feel dirty with guilt. I told myself that everything would work out. She would get over it. I needed to prove one thing to myself and to my mother�"returning to Borden Grove was not a life sentence.

I snatched my duffel bag off the weathered deck and skipped down the stairs. A collection of forty-nine pins gleamed in the sunlight, rattling with each step. I gathered one from every state, every state except Colorado�"the one state I preferred to forget. The old and tattered duffel saw almost as many years as me. I treasured it and that simple fact separated me from my brother. He treasured gold and designer labels. I treasured minor sentiments and happy memories. He grew up in the woods on a mound of endless dollars. I grew up in the ocean on a surfboard.

“Put that in the trunk.” He ordered his goon. I thought twice before giving up my prized luggage, hugging it with a crushing embrace. “Aria�"” Stephen tried his authority with me. I shot him a sour look, loosening my death grip by only a little. I reconsidered the hose, the sprint, and the deck furniture. I needed revenge against him and my father. The goon pried the duffle from my arms and placed it into the wide and empty mouth. He slammed the trunk and circled the car.

I shifted my gaze to the ocean, watching as sunbeams glistened over the water. My own expression echoed through my head, this is only temporary. I discovered a strange sense of security buried in the words. I wanted to believe them. I needed to believe them. The thought of returning to Borden Grove made me sick to my stomach. My head swam with thoughts of my father and the pale people from the forest. It had been nine years, but that night was still seared in my memory.

“Aria.” Stephen anchored me in the present, pulling open the car door and giving me a glimpse of the leather interior. I sucked in a deep breath before ducking into the spacious cab. I never gave Ocean Crest another glance. I never bothered saying goodbye. My father expected a civilized, respectful, and proper young lady. I expected a one-way ticket home by winter.


© 2010 Raewyn Pierce


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great

Posted 12 Years Ago


Applause once more! This chapter has lived up to the prologue and still managed to keep me asking questions (in a good way) and drawing me more into the story. I love the first-person account because it makes me feel like I am in the story myself. Brava!

Posted 14 Years Ago



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Added on March 13, 2010
Last Updated on March 13, 2010


Author

Raewyn Pierce
Raewyn Pierce

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Seven years ago, I started writing a little story about werewolves. A lot has changed, but I have continued to develop it. Characters have earned new names, the plot has evolved, and my writing has im.. more..

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