Here’s a sample of what’s coming up next for Emma & Jason.
If you see your name in this story, that’s likely by design. Whenever we need a name, we randomly pick from those who have supported us, written reviews, promoted our posts, and followed us faithfully.
~ EMMA ~
I park in the driveway and stare at the familiar house. The wildflowers normally blossoming in the window boxes are dead. The lawn is slightly overgrown, and the windows are dark. If I didn’t know better, I’d think nobody lives here.
Kodiak, Alaska. My childhood home.
I’ve driven home for the summer, and already the guilt crashes into me. I should be escorting my baby sister Angelina home after her first year of college, but back in February, she went missing after the two of us had a fight over a man.
Angelina tried to give my best friend Jason a love potion, and I stopped her. She disappeared after that without a trace. Cops couldn’t find her, and I can’t help but feel like it’s all my fault.
A tap on my door pulls me out of my reverie. I glance up to find three teenage girls looking in my window, big grins spread across their faces.
“Long time, no see, ladies.” I swing the car door open. I pull all three girls into a hug before stepping back to inspect them, dressed in jogging shorts, covered in sweat. “I remember when you three still had braces and training bras, and now you’ve grown into beauties.”
Becca laughs. “And you’re getting old.”
With a groan, I climb out of the car, my legs cramping from the ten-hour drive, and grab my suitcase from the back. The boxes can wait for later.
“No way. You can’t be older than what, fifteen?” But as I stand next to her, I realize she’s at least an inch or two taller than me. Throughout high school, I helped my coach teach gymnastics to the younger kids, which is why I ended up studying coaching in college.
“I just turned seventeen a couple weeks ago. Next year, we’ll be seniors: prom, college applications, career choices,” Maggie pipes up, stepping in front of Becca to get my attention. “Anyway, are you teaching again this summer?”
“Yeah, I start tomorrow afternoon. I won’t even have a chance to breathe before it all begins.” I slam the car door behind me.
“We’re running everyday just before noon,” Roxie interjects. “If you want to join us…?”
“Sounds good.” I look around at the three faces, young and full of energy, but I notice something haunting in their eyes, a bit of sadness, and traces of fear. “Where’s Juss? You all were inseparable.”
They glance at each other before Roxie says, “Juss is missing. She was the first.”
“The first?” I gape at them. A cold fear snakes through me. “How many are missing?”
“Eleven,” Becca says in a small voice.
I feel as though I’ve lost Angelina all over again. The cops showing up at my dorm apartment. Driving me to an abandoned house full of stolen goods. Dead bodies torn apart by a canine with a jaw larger than any wolf. Her cell phone on the floor.
It’s been months since that day, and I haven’t heard anything from her.
“Eleven?” I croak out, my throat tight. So many. Kodiak is a small town. Nothing really bad happens here. “Tell me you have better news.”
“Well, Jason hasn’t dated anybody since Christmas,” Becca says.
“We think he’s waiting for you to come home,” Maggie adds slyly.
“Girls, no matchmaking!” I smile, trying to pretend nothing’s wrong. Avoiding facing the truth that something’s wrong with my hometown.
They laugh, but like me, it’s forced. Then they jog back down my driveway and head down the street. “Bye!”
Pausing to watch them leave, I notice a woman standing on the street corner on the block opposite my house. At least six-feet-three, she clutches a small purse to her chest with both hands and glances up and down the road.
Her two stick legs together are as thick around as my forearm. Her face is full of sharp features, skin stretched tightly across her face, and her hawk-like nose protrudes like a beak on her face.
Her gaze turns toward me, the look in her eyes haunted and lost. A young girl comes out the door of the house directly across the street from my house.
“Hannera, your glamour is slipping. Come back inside,” her voice is soft, so quiet I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to hear it.
“No, I’m going to the store like I said I would. I have the human money now. We need food.”
“Come on. That human creature watches us.” The little girl glances at me, and I’m shocked at how old her eyes seem. “We’ll fix your glamour and you can go back out. Okay?”
The old woman hobbles toward the house on her stick legs. Lifting her knees high with each step, she looks more like a stork.
Ever since Jason showed me the magical circus full of strange creatures—sirens, elves, unicorns—I have seen some people who don’t seem quite … right. But this takes them all.
Shaking my head, I reach for the door knob and turn it, but the door is locked. Odd. The door’s never locked during the day, even if nobody’s home. My dad’s a cop, and besides, in our small town, the neighbors are always watching out their windows to get the latest scoop to share when they stop by the barbers. It’s not that nobody steals here, but we generally don’t bother locking up unless we’re in bed.
“Hello?” I call, unlocking and opening the door.
Dad peeks out from the kitchen door and holds a finger to his lips to shush me. A phone is stuck to his ear, and I follow him into the kitchen.
“Another one?” He jots notes down on the pad by the phone. “I’m on my way.”
He hangs up and turns to me. The lines in his face have deepened; his skin sags over his cheeks. The laughter in his eyes is gone, replaced by a soul-chilling weariness. And it’s my fault. If I had just stayed longer to make sure Angelina was okay, that she made it to her dorm room safely …
I thought she just needed time to cool off.
I only hope wherever she is, that she’s all right.
“Hi, Dad.” I try to smile, but my face is stiff.
“Hey, pumpkin. I’m glad you’re home.” He gives me a big bear hug, squeezing me so tight I can barely breathe. “We’ve needed you these last few weeks. Your mom’s needed you. I’m just glad we finally have you here for the summer.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Um, so you’re heading out?”
“Another missing person’s case. We’ve had a rash of home invasions. Some strange stuff going on.” He runs his hands through his hair. “And the one case I want to be working on isn’t even in my jurisdiction.”
“Some girls just told me. So that’s twelve now?”
“Yeah, twelve.” He lets out a heavy sigh.
I peer out the kitchen door and down the dark quiet hall. The drapes are closed in the living room, and it feels like a funeral home in here. Mom never let the house get so dark—the windows are always open, lights are on, and music plays on the old stereo. “Mom’s out?”
Dad looks away. “She’s … sleeping. She’s been having anxiety attacks and nightmares, and the doctor prescribed her with this new drug. She’s been better, but the side effect is that she sleeps a lot.”
“Okay, I’ll be quiet.”
“Not much food in the fridge. I’ve been meaning to get to the store, but I’ve been working long hours. Umm …”
“Dad. I’m a grown girl. I can handle it.” I give him my happy smile, and he visibly relaxes.
“Good, I’ll probably be back late tonight. Long hours. If you can get us some groceries …” Pulling out his wallet, he hands me some crisp twenties.
“Sure. I’ll check to see what we need, make a list. No problem.” Least I can do since I was the one who lost my baby sister.
Dad heads toward the door and pauses. “What’s up with the purple hair? Doesn’t seem your style. You’re not into drugs or the wrong crowd, are you?”
I touch my purplish curls. “Oh, just trying something new.”
Explaining about the elven wizard who jinxed me would only convince him I really am doing drugs. It was originally pink, but after he gave me a potion to turn it back to blonde, purple highlights added to the pink. Over time, the purple took over.
I tried dying my hair back to blonde, and when that failed, I bleached it. After rinsing the solution, I discovered my hair hadn’t even lightened.
Even the roots are growing in purple. At least, I like purple way better than pink.
With a roll of his eyes, Dad says, “Promise me you won’t turn into your mother. Having three artistic souls in one household is beyond endurable. I need one sensible mind like my own. If your sister were …”
His face looks pinched, the pain haunting his eyes.
“Dad, she’s going to be all right. We’ll find her.” I put my hand on his shoulder. I’ve got to believe it.
“I’ve got to get to work.” He turns back to the door, reaches for his keys on Mom’s cute mermaid fish-tail hooks, and stops. “Have you seen my keys?”
“I just got home, remember?”
“First the fake flowers in the vase in the entry way,” he mutters, shaking his head, “then the mirror out of your mom’s make-up bag, then the clothes off the antique dolls in the china cabinet …”
“What?” I stare at him.
“And now my keys.” Shaking his head, he grabs the keys to Mom’s old van and trudges out the door; I can still hear his grumbles until the door swings shut behind him.
Stuffing the wad of bills in my pocket, I open the fridge. Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, empty cereal box on its side, and a bag of potatoes, its roots growing up through the holes in the plastic.
Mom must be worse off than I thought. She would never let the house go like this. I turn to the pantry and look inside—a half-full jug of milk, now warm, a loaf of bread, the bag left open, and a spilled box of cereal, the crumbs trailing along the floor, out the pantry door, and behind the fridge.
Great, we also have mice.
I quickly make a list of the basics—bread, meat, fruit, and a mouse trap—and stuff it all into my back pocket.
But maybe before I go shopping, I could visit Jason. Maybe he’d like to come along.
My heart races at the thought. I haven’t seen him in months. Not since he kissed me on my birthday.
I’m not sure what to say to him.