Bright Fire (Bright Fire Series Book 1)

BOOK: Bright Fire (Bright Fire Series Book 1)
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To Aunt Jen for all the encouragement and support.

 

To Jen Jen for the midnight texts and childhood Binge Nights.

 

And to my husband and kids for putting up with the maniacal stress of the writing process and NaNoWriMo 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter

1

 

Mondays are the epitome of all evil. It's just a fact.

Do you ever get those feelings deep in the pit of your stomach? The ones that make you feel all queasy and anxious? Well, that’s how I feel right now. I am standing at my locker at a way too early hour, and I am in Dragon Bitch mode; which is surprising because today is my birthday. Normally, I love my birthday. I officially turn sixteen at 11:59 tonight, and instead of reveling in the excitement, am I staring at my locker without really seeing it. I just keep trying to figure out what’s causing this annoying pinch in my stomach. I jump when I hear the locker next to mine slam shut.

Lyla.

"Jeez, Lyla," I huff. "How many times do I have to tell you not to do that? Now excuse me while I find a doctor to remove my heart from my nasal passage." I’m not in the mood for the early morning antics of Lyla Browning, even if she is my best friend.

"Soooorrry, but it seems to be the only way to get your attention. I say 'Happy birthday, Dell' and what do you do? You ignore me and stare at your locker. What is up with you?"

"Nothing, just a funny feeling."

She eyes me for a minute, then shrugs her shoulders and in a matter-of-fact tone tells me, "It's probably PMS."

"Yeah, maybe I dunno..." I trail off, the feeling still bugging me. I understand that she is trying to snap me out of it so I muster up some enthusiasm and sing, "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me."

She perks up instantly, and before I can clamp my hand over her mouth she starts bellowing out "Happy Birthday" in the middle of the hall that is seriously starting to fill up. By the time she finishes, everyone is staring at us, and my face is burning red.

"Aww come on, you love me and you know it," she beams.

I smile because I do love her. Lyla and I have been best friends since forever. We first met in kindergarten when this little twerp, Zach Moreno, decided to pull my hair, and she punched him square in the nose. We’ve been joined at the hip ever since then.

"But hey, you should be thrilled you’re turning sixteen." she nudges me in the ribs a little.

"Yeah, I know, but my parents still won't let me get my permit till I’m 18."

"No offense, but your parents are a little...intense." She says.

"What do you mean by that?" I ask getting a bit defensive.

"Well, it’s just that lately they seem to be taking your safety to the extreme. You can't have sleepovers anymore, a car or a life. I mean it’s sweet that they care, but I thought parents got more lenient the older you get." She fidgets with her wavy blond hair, afraid that she has gone too far.

The truth is she’s not wrong. My parents are great people, and I love them, but lately they have been too over-protective. When I ask them about it they just tell me, "the real world is full of dangers, kiddo." and that’s the end of that conversation. "Yeah, I know, I’m sure that is just their way of showing me that they care."

"By the way, are we still on for Binge Night Friday?" She sees right through my attempts to change the subject. Binge Night has been happening every Friday since the sixth grade. We start off at the roller rink and end up at my place with a large bag of cheddar popcorn, candy, and cokes.

"Uh, duh." She says rolling her eyes. She grabs her stuff out of her locker. "Come on, we have homeroom."

I turn to grab my bag out of my locker when the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Everybody gets those feelings now and then, but it was so intense I had to shiver to shake it off.

"Dude, what is your problem? Take a picture it lasts longer." Lyla clicks her tongue; her usual reaction when something annoys her.

I whirl around to see who she is talking to and meet the gray eyes of Alec Hales, who is staring at me intensely like he’s waiting for something to happen. He would be the hottest guy in school if he weren't so weird. He continues to stare at me unabashed. I can’t help but stare back.

"Come on," she grabs my arm. "This guy is freaking me out" She throws him the stink eye, and we head to class.

~~~~

I
spend the rest of the morning stumbling through class in a daze worried about that creepy stare. I’ve never seen anything like it. What’s worse is that I’m pretty sure he’s the reason I had a chill that ranked 100 on the creep factor. OK, Dell get a grip, I tell myself as I walk into the cafeteria.

I do my normal scan and Lyla’s waiting for me at our usual table in the corner of the room, trays in tow. We are not the least popular students, but we are definitely not a part of the in-crowd. Lyla could be, but she sticks with me. Aside from her slightly crooked nose, she is the picture perfect replica of a Barbie doll, with her blond hair, green eyes, and mile-long legs. You get the picture. Me, on the other hand, my height is OK, not too short or too tall, but my drab brown hair and beanpole body are nothing special. The only thing I have going for me is my clear blue eyes. Lyla always calls them hypnotic.

"Ugggghhh," she whines as she rolls her shoulders back and forth. "I think the teachers are secretly evil demons sent to torture teens with tests on Mondays. Seriously, who wants to take tests on Mondays?"

"Who wants to take tests at all?" She throws a piece of lettuce at me. With a mouth full of food she asks, "What are your birthday plans?"

"Dinner with the family."

"Same old, same old.” she laughs. “Maybe we can do something special for binge night like go shopping before the roller rink."

"Yeah, that would be..." I trail off instantly when I feel the same eerie feeling I had by my locker. I lean into Lyla and whisper, "Is Alec staring at me?" She lifts her head up, and I pull her down. "Can’t you be discreet?" I hiss.

She subtly does a sweep of the cafeteria and relaxes, "Nope; nowhere in sight. Why do you ask?"

"I just got this creepy feeling earlier and again just now. I thought maybe it was his intense stare earlier."

"Wow, I hope your weird doesn't rub off on me. Do you think it happens to everyone when they turn sixteen?" she jokes.

I laugh half-heartedly unable to shake the strange feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter

2

 

As I’m standing outside the school waiting for my mom to pick me up, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I jump a little, what was wrong with me today? I turn around to see who’s trying to get my attention and meet the gray eyes of Alec Hales for the second time today. He’s never given me a passing glance before and now he seems intent on getting my attention. What does he want with me?

"What?" That catches him off guard as he takes a step back. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t expecting such a snippy greeting. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’ve been having a rough day." Why am I telling him this?

"I’m sorry if I freaked you out earlier with the whole staring thing." He rubs the back of his neck. "I was just wondering if maybe you… Never mind." He composes himself and just as he’s about to say something else; my mother pulls up and honks.

"Sorry, I gotta go." I run off grateful to get out from under his stare.

"What was that about?" my mother asks as I shut the car door. "I’m not sure."

"What do you mean?"

"He was just acting super strange. It seemed like he wanted to tell me something but then stopped." I shrug. Although, I don’t know him well enough to say that this isn’t his normal behavior.

She turns on the blinker. "Oh."

I have a feeling there’s an undercurrent beneath that response, but I don’t know what it is.

"How was school?"

"The usual, I had a Chem test today, which I am sure I passed."

"With flying colors." She smiles and pulls out of the school parking lot.

~~~~

"
Are
those my two favorite girls in the world?" my dad asks as we walk through the door.

"Nope, we’re robbers here to steal all your stuff." I slide my coat off and hang it on the rack.

I see my dad shuffling papers at his desk in the study. He smiles at me. "Well…my daughter won’t be too happy if you steal all her birthday presents."

"Haha, very funny." I grin at him.

"How was school?" He goes back to shuffling his papers.

"Strange." I crinkle my nose at the memory.

"Yeah, why’s that?"

"This boy was acting weird and staring at me."

"What’s his name? Do you want me to talk to his parents?"

I laugh a little. "Dad, that would be embarrassing. Besides I have to learn to handle this stuff on my own. Isn’t that what child psychiatrists say? I’ll just do my best to ignore Alec."

His head snaps up and he drops his papers on his desk. "Alec? Alec Hales?"

"Yeah, how’d you know?"

"Just a guess, I’ve seen him working at the grocery store and I know almost everyone in town. He’s a good kid; you should give him a chance."

A chance for what?
" Ooook then. I’m going upstairs to do my homework. What time is dinner?"

"Seven o'clock sharp. Don’t be late, or I won’t leave you any food." He winks at me, but something about his attitude is different. I may not have ever had a boyfriend, but I’ve talked about boys before. It’s like now that I’m turning sixteen they’re finally realizing I may be girlfriend material.

"Love you, Dad." I turn toward the stairs and head to my room.

I start thinking about Lyla’s comment earlier. Sure they’re becoming more intense as she pointed out, but they must have a good reason. My parents adopted me when I was born, and they never hid it from me. We’ve always had an open and honest relationship, and I trust them. If they feel like they need to be over protective, then they have their reasons. I drop my bag on my bed and pull out my homework.

~~~~

With
my homework all done, I figure I have some free time, so I decide to take a shower. I'm probably the luckiest teen on the planet to have my own bathroom. More than anything, I want to just sit and relax in the Jacuzzi tub, but then I would be late to dinner. So I opt for a shower instead. I wash up slowly, reluctant to step out of the shower and leave the blissful heat.

I dry off and pull on some clothes just as I hear my mother yelling, "Delfia Marie Stryker!" Uh oh, the use of my full name, not a good sign.

"Yes, Mom?" I’m trying to remember if I forgot to take out the trash this morning? I’m pretty sure I did.

She pokes her head through my door. "Just want you to know I love you." She smiles. "Oh and dinner will be ready in ten minutes." She chuckles at my reaction, knowing she had me scared for a minute.

I haven't seen this side of her in a while. With the way she and dad have been acting lately, you would think the war was coming. They are extra cautious when driving; they check all the locks on the doors and windows, and while they love Lyla they are even giving me grief about spending time at her house. Even though I trust them, I wish they would explain to me why they are acting like drill sergeants.

I head down the stairs slowly taking in the scene. There are ‘Happy Birthday’ banners and streamers everywhere. It’s a little toddler-esque, but it still makes me smile. I think I’ve died and gone to heaven as I walk into the kitchen. The smells coming from that general direction are making my mouth water and my stomach grumble. I can tell what is there before I make it to the dining room. They’ve made all of my favorites: pot roast, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, cheesecake and pumpkin pie.

"Holy moly, are we feeding an army? What’s the occasion?" I say all
blasé
like.

I start to sit in my usual chair on dad's right side, but he gently grabs my arm to stop me. "No, no, not tonight birthday girl. You get to sit at the head of the table."

I flush; they’re going to extravagant measures to make me feel special on my birthday. "Aww, guys! You really didn't have to do all this."

"Sure we did. Our only daughter will only turn sixteen once," she smiles but it doesn’t reach her eyes. I guess my growing up is hard for her. After all, college is only two short years away.

"Just so you know, most of this is mine. I am absolutely famished after spending all day on the spreadsheets for the Myers’ account." My dad is staring at the food rubbing his stomach. My parents are accountants. Average; I know, but it pays for the Jacuzzi I have, so I don’t judge.

"Yeah, yeah. You try acing a Chem test."

"Oh now, I’m sure you did great."

"Well… as a reward for acing this test, maybe you can let me get a license like every other sixteen-year-old on the planet."

My mom gives me a reproachful look. "Dell, we only want what’s best for you." Which translates to 'never gonna happen'.

I suck in a breath, getting ready to argue my side when my dad cuts in. "Now ladies, let’s not have this feast go to waste. How about we eat?"

We both mumble ‘OKs, but there is no way I'm letting this one go. I pile my plate with doubles of everything. I’m not sure I can eat it all, but it’s just too delicious to pass up. I tune out my parent’s small talk as I savor every bite of my food. All of a sudden, I start thinking about Alec. It all just seemed so bizarre. The creepy feeling, the way he just stared, and how he was not even embarrassed when he was caught. I wonder what he was going to tell me before he changed his mind.

"Earth to Dell!" My father’s voice pulls me out of my train of thought.

"Huh?"

"I asked if you are doing anything special for Binge Night with Lyla this weekend? Are you feeling OK?" He studies my face, his full of concern.

"Yeah. I’m sorry; I’ve got a lot on my mind. Lyla mentioned something, but we never got to officially plan anything. I’ll find out tomorrow."

"OK, just remember—"

I cut him off and finish his sentence, "Don’t to stay out too late and call to check in."

He grins a little and then turns serious. "I know you think we are too hard on you, but we do this for your own good. The real world is a scary place for someone like you, and it is our job to protect you."

Wait, what?
that got my attention. "What do you mean someone like me?"

He hesitates for a just a second, but it is enough to make alarm bells go off in my brain. "I just mean a young lady." His glance shifts to my mother for a brief second, but I notice it.

"Is there something you aren’t telling me?"

"Can you go into the basement and grab one of the jars of jam? I think I want to try it on this delicious looking cheesecake." He keeps a straight face when looking at me, but I can see a faint trace of something resembling worry behind his eyes.

"Uh, sure." Obviously they want to be alone to discuss something they think I am too young to hear. Whenever they used to disagree on something, they would send me off on a task so I wouldn’t overhear. I get up and head into the basement.

I stop at the door and listen. I know eavesdropping is childish, but they are obviously hiding something from me.

"Molly, we should tell her."

"James, now is not the time. It’s her birthday. We should wait until she can understand, when she is more prepared."

"She’s stronger than you give her credit for and once she turns sixteen…"

"I’m well aware of the situation. Is it too much to ask to keep her innocence just a little while longer?"

"No, you’re right. Let’s finish this discussion later, she should be coming back soon."

My head is spinning. What are they talking about? I take a deep breath, compose myself and grab the doorknob. Before I can open it, I hear my mother scream.

BOOK: Bright Fire (Bright Fire Series Book 1)
7.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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