Authors: Brooke Kennedy
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and email, without prior written permission from the author and is protected by the Copyright Laws of 1988 and the Digital Laws of the Berne Convention from 1998.
Copyright © 2014 by Brooke Kennedy
First Edition, 2014
Cover by Brooke and Chad Kennedy
This is a work of fiction.
All characters appearing in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead are purely coincidental.
A slamming noise in my bedroom woke me up just as I dosed off to sleep. I sat straight up and hugged the covers close to me in fear. At first I thought I was having a nightmare from my past, one of those that used to haunt me. Then I realized I was alone in my room. It was deafeningly quiet, nothing but me and the cold draft, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I wasn’t alone.
“Dillon?” I whispered into the darkness, but there was no response. My little brother would have answered.
The old floors creaked, showing that
was there. My heartbeat sped up, followed by a churning in my stomach that promised to make me hurl if I didn’t do something. A whimper escaped me, and I threw my hand over my mouth to hide it.
At eighteen, I had already been through a lot of shit in my life, but nothing compared to the intense terror that ran through me at the thought of someone sneaking up on me while I was alone.
My eyes adjusted more to the darkness, but I relied on the moon shining in my window for light. As I looked across the room at my closet, I could see the outline of a person hidden in the shadows. At least, I thought it looked like a person. The only features that stood out were the dark eyes and the lips that curled into a devious smile.
A chill ran down my spine, and goose bumps took over my pale skin.
“Who are you?” I demanded, trying to sound brave although I was freaking the hell out on the inside.
Whatever it was didn't move from the corner. Watching me. Studying me. My body started to shake, fear creeping over my skin as my mind started shifting from its sleepy state and registering that there was
someone in my bedroom.
I reached over with a shaky hand to my bedside table and flicked the button on the lamp, sending light into the room. I turned my attention back to where I had seen it.
Nothing was there.
You must have been dreaming,
I thought. I pulled myself out of bed and slipped on my house shoes.
I crept out of my room and peeked into my brother’s just to make sure he was sleeping. I did the same with my father. They were both out cold.
My heart continued to race as I walked through the old house, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. I still felt as if I was being watched. My morbid mind ran away with thoughts of serial killers, demons, ghosts, and the like. I’d watched way too many horror movies. Michael Myers was not waiting for me. None of that shit was real. I needed to chill out.
I reached up into the cabinet to retrieve a glass, filled it up with water, and tried to convince myself that I hadn’t seen anything. It was my imagination running away with me. It was just sleeping in a new house, one where I had tossed and turned every night for the past week.
When I got back to my bedroom, I locked the door and checked to make sure I was alone.
“See, Briar, nothing there,” I told myself and crawled back into bed.
I plugged my ear buds into my iPhone and laid down, turning the music up as loud as I could stand. Just in case something else tried to wake me up.
The next morning I wiped the sleepiness out of my eyes as I walked down the stairs. Even with my music blasting, I still hadn’t slept much. I had to force myself to roll out of bed. It didn’t take long for me to line my eyes heavily in black and throw on my oversized skull sweater, leggings, and combat boots.
As I drug myself into the kitchen, I grabbed my messenger bag from the hallway. My father waited for me, dressed in his “business casual” attire he so loved. It hid his problems well.
“All ready to teach those college brats, huh Dad?” I reached into the cabinet to retrieve a snack.
“If you’re ready to be one of them.” He looked up at me with his deep blue eyes, the same ones I’d inherited from him, and frowned. “You need to take that dark lipstick off.”
I rolled my eyes and stuffed a Pop Tart into my bag. He hated my style and insisted I would grow out of it.
“I’m not kidding around, Briar. What would your mother say about that?”
“Don’t you dare throw her in my face!” I snapped. Although she’d been gone for six months, each mention of her cut me open all over again.
My dad’s face dropped as he leaned back against the counter and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m not letting you leave the house like that. You need to take it off.”
“I’m not taking it off. I’m an adult, and you can’t make me.”
“Do you wanna live in this house?”
“Not really. Do you wanna ruin the relationship you have with your only daughter?”
He looked up at me and shook his head. “How are you ever going to fit in with the other kids if you keep dressing like that?”
?” The heat rose in my face as I scowled at him. He was really starting to piss me off.
“Like—like some devil worshiper.”
“Dad! I can’t believe you just said that!” I shook my head and whirled around to leave the house. I didn’t have to stand there and listen to that shit.
“If you’d just dress normal, things would be a lot better for you.” His hand landed on my shoulder to stop me, but I shrugged him off.
“You need to accept that
is me. This is who I am.” I tried to sound tough, but his words hurt. Out of all the people in my life, I wanted my family’s acceptance the most.
“Briar, it’s not—”
“Briar!” My four-year-old brother raced into the room and stopped the argument automatically.
My heart still raced from the fight but I forced a smile to my face as I reached down to pick him up. Family was all you could count on; they were the ones who would stick by you through the hard shit.
“Hey little guy.” I twirled his small frame around once and sat him back down. He was my one ray of sunshine.
“You goin’ to school today?”
“Yes, I have to.” Missing my first day of college wasn’t what I wanted to happen, but I dreaded leaving him alone with the babysitter. He was the reason I’d moved in with my dad, to keep him safe.
My little brother stuck his lower lip out at me in a pout. “But—but we want you stay here.”
“Sweetie I can’t.” I glanced at the clock. I should have been gone ten minutes ago.
“I gotta go. I love you.” I bent down and kissed him on the top of the head.
With one last glare at my father, I turned to leave.
“Briar, don’t forget…”
I looked over my shoulder to see my dad holding out a tissue. Snatching it from him, I ran it across my lips and slammed it back in his hands just to spite him.
As I started toward the door, Dillon spoke again. “But—but he don’t want you to go
I looked back at him. “Who?”
. His name’s—” He opened his mouth to say but closed it and frowned. “He doesn’t want me to tell.” He looked past me and giggled. “I
Sissy won’t listen.”
I looked over my shoulder and into the hallway where his eyes were focused but saw nothing. I tried to ignore the goose bumps on the back of my neck. The house creeped me out. I hated it.
“He’s got himself a new imaginary friend,” my dad explained.
An uneasy feeling settled over me as I took in his words. It was the same one that had filled me up the night before, and every night since I’d moved in. I brushed it off; I had to get my mind on my classes. My stomach rumbled in disagreement. I was going to be sick. Taking a few deep breaths, I walked toward the door.
“I see…Well, I guess I’m going to head out.”
“Okay, I love you,” my dad said as I rushed out the door.
“Ditto, Dad!” I exclaimed.
The closer I got to the school, the more my stomach sank. Being in high school was scary enough, but college was even worse. The buildings were tall and menacing, ready to make my life a living hell as it forced me to interact with others. There would be team projects and presentations in front of the class.
I reminded myself that getting a college degree was what I wanted, and I was determined to get past any challenges that tried to hold me back. Pushing through the doorway of the building, I kept my head lowered and made my way through the hoard of students. I slid into a seat at the back of the classroom and immersed myself in my phone so no one would talk to me.
I looked towards the sound, seeing the girl beside me wave. Her eyes were a bright brown, almost gold. Her blonde hair was a mess of waves that fell past her shoulders and turned purple as they lay across her Nirvana t-shirt. Skinny jeans and worn pink Converse pulled together her outfit. I could see tattoos peeking out from underneath the sleeve of her shirt. “Hey, I’m Celeste. Love your piercing.”
“Thanks.” I resisted the urge to touch my nose ring.
The girl cleared her throat before she spoke again, but it was still husky. “I have these, and I love them.” She pointed to her ear which held a half gauge pink plug in it. “So, what’s your name?”
“How come I’ve never seen you before?”
“I’m new to town.” I looked down at my phone, hoping she would drop it.
“You should eat lunch with me and my friends today. I know what it’s like to be the new person, so I’d hate for you to eat alone. I think you’d like them.”
“Why would you think that?” I asked, unsure.
She shrugged. “I just do, but it’s whatevs.”
Making friends was not on my agenda. Completing college without getting into trouble was. But my dad’s words replayed in my head. He wanted me to fit in and, well, maybe I wouldn’t be so awkward if I had people to at least sit with during breaks. I hated sitting by myself anyway.
“Okay,” I agreed and turned back to the teacher. It would definitely be an interesting lunch.
As we sat down at a table in the corner of the cafeteria, Celeste quickly dug into her salad. I picked up my cheeseburger and then sat it back down.
I was too anxious to eat.
“You gotta eat,” Celeste said with her mouth full of food. “You’ll starve to death if you don’t. You could use some meat on your bones.” Her eyes roamed over my short, thin figure.
I frowned and pushed my tray forward. “You want it?”
“Um, no. That’s nasty.”
I cocked an eyebrow.
“I don’t eat meat, and neither do my other friends.”
Her eyes suddenly grew wide as she looked past me and smiled. “You’re going to love them, I promise!”
I looked over my shoulder. A tall, lanky guy walked toward us with a large smile on his face. He carried his tray of food in one hand and reached up with the other to run it through his mess of brown hair. I fought the blush with everything I had, but he was really cute—in that geeky sort of way.
My eyes dropped to the button up that was thrown over a plain shirt, down his jeans, and to his Converse.
Oh God, stop checking him out.
I returned my gaze to my food and found a new interest in it. As he sat down, I shoved my mouth full. Maybe I wouldn’t have to talk to him too much.
“Hey,” he said to Celeste.
“Hey. This is Briar; she’s new here.”
I could feel his brown eyes moving over to me.
“Hey, new girl. You’re the one that moved into that house on Thirteenth Street, right?”
I glanced over at him and nodded.
“You have to tell me all about that house. I’ve heard so many—”
“Oh my God, Ryder, really?” a girly voice exclaimed as a tray slammed down on the table. “Are you really trying to scare her off already?” Before he could answer, the girl sat down and held out her hand, smiling like meeting me was the best thing to ever happen. “I’m Meredith, but my friends call me Mer! It’s so nice to meet you! Don’t listen to Ryder, he’s obsessed with the morbid. Sometimes you just have to…” She put her hands over her ears and hummed loudly.
She was definitely not the type of person I thought would be hanging out with Celeste. Meredith’s figure was perfect; she was clad in some brand name button up and jeans, looking like she came straight out of a magazine. Her red hair flowed perfectly down to the top of her shoulders and curled out slightly. Not one thing was off about her, not her natural-looking make up or her bright green eyes.
I shrugged. “I don’t mind it, really.”
“Really?” Ryder asked.
Meredith shot him a glare. “She doesn’t need someone else asking her a million questions about that house. I’m sure she’s already getting tons of weird looks because of it.”
I looked up from my food. Just the thought of being the center of attention made me wanna hurl, but I wanted to know what they meant by “that house”.
“Mer knows everything about everyone,” Celeste said with a laugh.
“I know a lot of people. I’m on the cheerleading squad, but I volunteer at the homeless shelter on the weekends. I’m also an avid reader and president of the reading club here. Oh! And I can’t forget beta club! And I study astrology. I can tell you everything about yourself. What’s your sign?”
“Well, when’s your birthday?”
“You’re a Pisces then. Cool. I’m a Virgo; we’ll get along wonderfully!”
All I could do in response was nod my head. I had no idea what she was talking about. She was so full of energy that I couldn’t keep up.
“So, you don’t mind scary stuff?” Celeste asked, changing the subject to something other than Meredith.
“Nope. I love it.”
Ryder smiled widely at me. “Really? That’s so cool. It’s not every day you find a girl that’s into that shit.”
Celeste pushed him. “I like it.”
“Yeah, but you don’t love it like I do.” He laughed as if her comment was absurd. “Anyway you’re like one of the guys, right?”
“Right.” She pursed her lips and looked over at Meredith. Something passed between them before she looked back at me.
Meredith leaned over the table. “Listen, there’s a big party at Celeste’s house this weekend. Her band is playing—Divine Misgivings—you should totally come! There will be really hot guys there,
hot! You like rock and roll? I do; I love it! We all do! And. They. Are. Awesome.”
“Don’t lie to her,” Ryder said and winked at me.
Celeste tossed her napkin at him. “Shut up. You know you like it.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He turned to me. “You up for it?”
“I would but…”
“No buts! You have to come!” Meredith whined. “We won’t get in trouble. We’ve done this for years. Her parents are never home. There will booze and guys and—”
Celeste threw her hand over her friend’s mouth. “You’re rambling. Stop it.”
Meredith’s voice was muffled as she continued to speak. “Sorry, I just get excited.”
Celeste removed her hand. “So, you in?”
I shrugged. “I dunno, maybe.”
I used to party quite a bit. I stayed out late with schoolmates and got a little too involved in alcohol, but that felt like a long time ago. Still, I didn’t want to be that person anymore, and I didn’t want to become too attached to anyone. That’s how I’d messed up my life.
“Or we could have it at your house,” Meredith suggested.
I looked down at the table and scoffed. “Yeah right. My dad would kill me.”
“Maybe you could get him to go somewhere else.”
“There’s a Halloween ball going on, he could go there,” Celeste suggested.
I laughed again. “You don’t know my dad. Getting him to go to
kind of party would be a miracle. We still have a month until Halloween, what’s the rush?”
“This is St. Augustine.” Meredith laughed. “We celebrate early.”