YA paranormal romance. A little on the dark side.
Alphie Brewster attends school, has friends, and a loving family. She’s even taken an interest in the hot new neighbor. It’s the normal life of your average eighteen-year-old. There’s only one problem. Alphie isn’t normal. She’s anything but. You see, Alphie’s got this problem. She’s always tired, is plagued with vivid nightmares, and can’t remember her past.
After Alphie stumbles upon a necklace that once belonged to her grandfather, and unintentionally opens a portal that sends a ghostly figure hurtling out at her from her bedroom mirror, she finds herself faced with another problem. A six foot four inch tall eccentric spook, named Noer, who fills her with fire while draining her energy as if she were a Duracell Battery.
With Noer constantly making her go all weak in the knees, Alphie wants nothing more than to be rid of both him and the necklace. Especially, since the sexy neighbor, Cary, has taken a fancy to her. And that’s not all. With both spook and Cary fighting for her attentions, Alphie starts to remember things. Things that she wished would stay buried. Then Alphie visits Noer’s home in Limbo, and things start to get even weirder.
If that all isn’t complicated enough, a vicious stranger comes looking for the necklace. And this stranger will do anything to get it. Within this chaos, will Alphie be able to come to terms with her past in order to save her family? Or will she become just another lost soul without a body?
Let this be a dream! My mind screamed. Let me wake up! I chanted the words in my mind, but I knew I wasn’t sleeping. The nightmare was very much real. My eyes and nose were all too aware of this fact. My body knew too, that’s why it was flat lining.
Next to me, the figure continued to breathe, his rancid breath caressing my ear while the smell burned a fiery path through my nostrils. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer, and slowly – oh so painfully slow – I turned my head to look upon the face of, what I was sure was, a nightmare made flesh.
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“Hey, freaky girl,” my sister, Robyn, called from the garage, “How was school?”
“Same as it is every day.” I leaned my bike against the interior wall of the garage and straightened my skirt. The back had a habit of wadding up when riding my bike.
I scrunched up my shoulders. “Meh. Not really.” I cocked my head at her. “I guess the pills are working.”
“That’s good to hear.” She grinned mischievously. “Should I sing for you now or later?”
I cringed. “Please don’t.” I plopped my backpack on the freezer and unzipped it. Handing my sister a gift bag, I said, “Danielle got me barrettes.”
My sister examined them. Each barrette had a big glittery heart. One was white, the other black. “Cute.” She handed them back.
“So you got me a gift?” I asked, hopeful. Birthdays had once been a big family ordeal, but that was when my dad was still here. He’d been the birthday guru. Instead of waking up to the song “Celebrate,” and my dad dancing around the room before he escorted me downstairs for my traditional birthday breakfast of frosted brownies, I’d woken up to the endless, shrill beeping of my alarm, my room depressingly empty of birthday cheer.
“Of course I got you a gift,” Robyn said digging through boxes of old junk which was mostly clothing and other items my father had left. “What price should we put on this stuff?”
“Huh?” I asked. “Why are you getting this stuff out?”
“Mom’s decided we’re going to have a garage sale tomorrow. She’s ordered us to sort through this and put on price stickers.”
“Seriously?” I asked in disbelief. After five long years, my mother had decided to get rid of everything.
“So, what’s up with the moving van at the Weir’s?”
“Someone finally bought it.”
How long was I at school? I suddenly felt a lot like Rip Van Winkle waking up after a twenty year sleep to see that everything around me had changed and not in a good way. Maybe I had fallen asleep after all. “When did this happen?”
“Don’t know.” She pulled on her ponytail. “It’s about time someone bought it. How long since they put it on the market? Two years?”
I shrugged, not wanting to remember the downfall of childhood friendships. “So why is Mom deciding to have this impromptu garage sale? On my birthday, I might add.”
Robyn took a breath. “Another debt collector called this morning.”
“What is it this time, a loan or credit card?”
“A card,” she said and paused for a moment to let me know something important was coming. “It’s in your name.”
I couldn’t say it shocked me. I couldn’t even say I was angry. Those emotions had run through me so often, I’d become numb. “Happy Birthday to me.”
“I know, right? Dad’s a total a-hole!”
“I thought mom had most of the debt paid off?”
My sister huffed. “She did. This one’s new. It looks like he’s at it again. Clearly the whole rehab rumor was a lie.”
Sighing, I shook my head. I’d long since given up on believing anything his buddies said. “He’s moved to California.” “He’s gotten a job in real estate.” “He’s in jail in Detroit.” “He’s in rehab somewhere upstate.” Five years and no one knew where or what he was doing. With this new debt, he was most certainly off somewhere gambling.
“Anyway, this whole credit card business has Mom on an ‘I hate the Brewsters’ kick. The crying stage is so over. Now it’s the revenge stage.”
I looked at the boxes again, skeptical. “Can we make any money selling this junk? I mean if Dad didn’t pawn it, obviously it’s not worth much.” My breath caught as my eyes traveled over the assortment of oddities that had belonged to my grandfather. “We’re not selling Papa’s stuff too, are we?”
“Mom said everything must go.” Rob was unloading a box, this particular one ranging from taxidermy crows to straw voodoo dolls. “Let’s not talk about it. You know what happens if you get upset. And trust me I already spent all morning arguing with her. It’s final. Let’s just finish this. Tell me what price we should put on this crap?”
I shrugged. “How should I know?”
“You’re the one into all this gothic crap, Alphie.” She made a face as she pulled a damaged mouse out of the box. “Papa was sure into some freakish stuff. What was his deal with buying stuffed dead animals?” She swung the mouse around by its tail before dropping it on the table.
“That’s not one of his,” I said with a satisfied smirk. “That’s just a dead mouse.”
Not believing me, Rob bent down to inspect the rodent she’d just tossed onto the table, and from her horror stricken face, I could tell she knew that I was right.
“Oh God!” She squealed and ran into the opened door to the laundry room to wash her hands. “I hope I don’t get some disease. That’s so gross.”
I followed her to the door. “Well what did you expect? That stuff’s been in the attic for a while. And stop calling me a goth. I’m not gothic; I’m just cynical and pissed at the world.”
“Okay, so you’re emo or whatever,” she said and pumped more soap onto her hands.
I ground my teeth together. “I’m not emo either! Just because I like heavy metal doesn’t make me a goth or emo. I don’t even wear that much black!” Subconsciously I pulled at the skin on my arms.
My sister rolled her eyes, not missing the action. “Calm down, I’m only teasing. You should probably go change.” She pointed a red sudsy finger at my Price Academy uniform.
I shoved past her into the house. “Fine. But I’m not happy about this.” I looked over my shoulder at her, my lip jutted out in a pout. “I shouldn’t have to do this. It’s my birthday!”
“While you’re up there, go through your old junk,” she called after me.
In my bedroom I threw my uniform in my laundry basket and snatched up an old pair of holey jeans and an old Billy Idol shirt that I usually wore when I lazed about the house. Checking myself out in the mirror, I sighed. I figured I’d look different being eighteen. That maybe I’d finally feel comfortable in my own skin. That maybe when I looked in the mirror, I’d be happy with what I saw. I didn’t know what I’d been hoping for… maybe to look more like Robyn.
Robyn was curvy with a chest that I’d habitually caught men drooling over. I wasn’t curvy at all and my breasts weren’t anything to ogle over. I laughed. Did I expect them to grow overnight?
We were both tall, though she was taller, but only by a few centimeters. Her body was well proportioned, a beautiful hilly meadow, whereas mine was stick-like and flat like a plateau. Maybe that was an over exaggeration. I did have curves; they just weren’t nearly as prominent as my sister’s.
Did I mention she’d gotten my mom’s deep blue eyes, while fate had cursed me with the brown Brewster eyes? We both got my mother’s blonde hair at least. But unlike mine, hers and Mom’s were lighter. Robyn had also kept her hair long and styled in loose curls. My sister was stunning. And I was no match for her.
Robyn even got the prettier name. What the hell kind of name was Alphie? It wasn’t me. I’d never liked it, and could never accept it as my own. The name sounded more masculine than feminine. Clearly, my parents had flipped a coin to decide who got to name us. Since my mother obviously named Robyn, two years later my dad got to name me. Either my dad’s favorite character was Alfalfa from The Little Rascals or he had some strange obsession with the plant. Whatever the reason, my dad sucked at choosing names.
I pulled my shirt down over my tummy and glared at my unchanged reflection. My name was yet another reason for the popular girls to tease me. Well tease was too polite a word. What they did was more full-blown ridicule.
Having had enough of the birthday blues, I opened my closet. I had a separate armoire that I used for clothing, so the closet was mostly storage space. It was jammed, packed full of boxes and plastic tubs.
I set to work emptying the closet, discovering toys I never remembered playing with. Unlike most kids, I had no memories of my early childhood. Anything before the age of seven had buried itself so deep within my mind that I had no idea how to extract it. I’d long given up trying. They were gone, that’s all there was to it. Memory loss was just one more side effect of my condition. Maybe my memories hadn’t been that memorable, I thought, as I tossed aside a dingy stuffed zebra.
Next I pulled out a shoebox that I’d wedged inside my old dollhouse. Tucking the lid underneath the box, I looked inside. An assortment of jewelry; brooches, rings, and necklaces sat on top of a few vintage kerchiefs. I picked up a brooch, my grandmother’s name engraved on the back. Obviously I’d been a thief when I was a child. Maybe it was hereditary.
I rifled through the expensive contents, a slight tug in my chest. What would Papa think of me, if he knew I’d stolen these items from his house? I turned my face down, worried that he could see me.
Digging through the box, my gaze landed on a necklace. I picked it up by the chain, the large pendant swaying hypnotically in front of my face. It was bronze; the back flat, smooth, and reflective. On the front, the artisan had carved a face covered in leaves, its eyes closed. Embedded in the wide forehead was a large red jewel. A third eye.
A vision of my grandfather’s angry face rose up to greet me. I’d gotten in trouble for playing with it. No… Dad had been the one he’d yelled at for letting me play with it. The memory was hazy, like a forgotten dream. Had I been napping when he’d found me with it?
“Do you know what she’s done,” he’d growled.
“It’s only a necklace,” my father had said, returning his attention to the TV.
The memory faded as the pendant slowed to a stop. I scrunched up my face trying to pull it back from the hidden depths of my mind; but it was gone, sinking back into obscurity.
My childhood fascination lingering, I grabbed the chain with both hands pulling it down over my head and hid the pendant beneath my shirt. It came to rest heavily between my breasts. Knowing how much my grandfather treasured it, I couldn’t bear the idea of someone buying it. Debt or no debt, I was keeping it.
After carting all my toys and old clothes downstairs, I went back inside for the shoebox and my clothes basket. It was Friday and my turn to do the laundry. When I got to the laundry room, my sister was rifling through my toys. At the sound of my footsteps on the hardwood floor, she stood up. “What’s in the shoebox?”
I sat my clothes basket on the washer and opened the box. “Holy crap!” She dug through the box and picked up my grandmother’s wedding ring, her eyes reading the inscription. “These were Grandma’s.”
“Why do you have it?” my sister asked, her eyes narrowing.
“When Papa was in the hospital, Dad took me treasure hunting,” I said giving her a knowing look, “I must have known what he was going to do, so I hid them.” I could only assume that’s what happened because I couldn’t remember how or why I’d taken them.
She whistled. “I wonder how much it’s all worth.”
I shook my head and shrugged. I’d rescued them from my dad’s greedy clutches only to have to sell it all six years later. It didn’t seem fair. “At least it’ll help pay off his debts,” I said with fake reassurance.
My sister carted the box back into the house, setting it safely on the counter. “Do you need to take a pill before we get to work?” She asked returning to the laundry room.
I sighed heavily, tired of the relentless fussing. “I’m fine.” I picked up a box, kicking the glass paneled door all the way open. It hit the dryer with a thud, making me cringe. Turning, I caught Robyn’s scolding look. “Sorry.”
Robyn followed me through the door. “What about the mouse?”
“What about it?”
“Aren’t you going to get rid of it?” Rob asked, staying as far away from the table as possible.
“Why do I have to get rid of it?” I knew what she was going to say. “Because I’m a goth and corpses are my thing right?”
“Exactly.” She grinned, trying to mask her fear. My sister hated mice. Dead mice even more so.
I growled under my breath. “What about you, Rob? I’m only eighteen. You’re older. A college student. According to society’s standards, you’re an adult. You should be the one to get rid of it.”
“Yes, but I’m a girl. And don’t call me Rob. I hate that.”
I smiled cruelly. “And what am I?”
Her eyebrows lowered and she stuck out her bottom lip. “I know. But you do have short hair, so you’re literally screaming with testosterone.”
I rolled my eyes. “Wow thanks for the compliment.”
Subconsciously, I ran my hands through my pixie cut strawberry blonde hair, causing my long fringe to stick out every which way. I couldn’t help running my hand all the way back to my neck as if to touch hair no longer there. I wondered if I were experiencing the whole phantom limb thing, but with my hair. It had been months now since I’d recklessly entered the salon. What had I been expecting, that with my hair gone, I’d finally be able to find myself? As if I’d been hiding this whole time beneath my golden locks?
I sighed and looked down at my beat-up Converse. I knew that my sister’s testosterone jab was mostly a joke. We’d grown up playfully insulting and fighting each other. But her recent cheap shot stung.
I absentmindedly pressed the toe of my shoe into the cement floor and twisted it back and forth as if I were trying to put out a fire. “So I really have to clean it up?” I wasn’t about to admit that I was as grossed out about it as she was.
“I’ll tell you what.” She grabbed an old tennis racket and tossed it to me. “You get rid of it and I’ll order us a pizza for dinner. Mom’s working late, again.”
“On my birthday?” Of course I should have been expecting that. After dad ditched us, mom had to take extra shifts at work to help pay the bills. So it was to be pizza and just me and Robyn. Happy freaking Birthday to me! “You buying?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, I’m buying.”
“Fine,” I said giving in. “But I get to choose the toppings.”
She nodded. I held the racket in my hands and squared my shoulders. It was only a dead mouse. If anything, I should feel sorry for it. It had died alone, trapped in a box full of preserved carcasses.
Scooping up the tiny body, I held the racket as far away from my body as possible and made my way to the side yard, where a small wooded area separated our house from the Weir’s.
I didn’t know what to do with the mouse. I thought about burying him at first, but my sister would only scoff and make jokes. It wasn’t like the mouse was a pet. On the other hand, it didn’t seem right to throw him into the woods.
Over by the barn, there was a small hole in the ground that Rob (sorry, Robyn) had once twisted her ankle in when she and I were playing badminton together in the backyard.
It took me a bit, but I finally managed to find the hole and gently dropped the mouse inside. Next to the driveway were a few palm sized rocks. I chose the prettiest one and set it over the hole. It was the best I could do short of filling the hole with dirt.
While standing over the makeshift grave, I wondered if Papa could see us from wherever he was, and if he wasn’t pissed that we were selling his morbid collection, though it wasn’t like he could use them now anyway. Besides, Great-Aunt Jami had already sold the normal stuff, including his house.
I wouldn’t blame him if he was angry. I’m sure I’d feel the same way to see my relatives tossing out my precious belongings instead of treasuring them. I smiled at the thought of my progeny rifling through my T-shirt collection and becoming horrified by the grotesque images stamped on them. Who would want to keep any of my crap?
I hadn’t known I was crying until the tears trickled past my nose and I sniffled. It wasn’t fair. But Papa was dead. He’d been dead six years. He’d been bad there at the end, confused, mumbling, and could barely recognize any of us.
“Hey, Papa, it’s me, Alphie.”
“You’re not Alphie.”
After a while, he’d finally remembered me, but he’d still seemed so upset, like everyone was lying to him. Papa and I were always so close and it hurt that he hadn’t recognized me. Especially since that was the last time. He’d passed away later that evening thinking that I hadn’t come to see him. That I’d sent in my double.
I hated doing this to him now. But, my sister and I were alive, and in need of money. I wiped at the tears and prayed my dad was rotting in prison somewhere.
A twig snapped and my head shot toward the woods. My breath caught. A large cloud had moved over the sun covering the already dim woods in darkness. For a second I thought someone was watching me, but then the sun came out and the shadows pulled back revealing nothing but trees.
“Hey Alphie, are you finished with the last rites yet or are you thinking of joining that rat in death?”
I wasn’t sure how long I’d been standing there. But my eyes had started to burn, and I blinked giving them some much needed moisture. I took one last look at the tiny mouse grave. It would decay soon and then there’d be nothing left of that little mouse. It’d be truly and completely gone, just like Grandma and Grandpa. Death was so final.
“I’m coming,” I yelled before turning around. Why did Robyn think I had an obsession with death? Again, it was always about the goth stuff. According to TV, goths did nothing but ponder death all the time. I guess Robyn was right about that, death was an obsession of mine. Except my obsession was the total opposite of the goths. They revered death. I had an irrational fear of it. Too bad I couldn’t forget those memories.
I hurried through the back door of the garage and tossed the racket into a box in the corner. Looking around at all the work still needing finished, I sighed. “How are we ever going to be ready for the garage sale tomorrow? We’ve barely gotten anything done.”
“I know,” Robyn answered as she did her own eye sweep of the garage. “But if we don’t, we’ll be stuck listening to Mom bitch about it later.” She wandered over to the inner door to the house. “Maybe it’ll go faster if we listen to some music.”
My face lit up at that and I headed toward her. There was nothing like some screaming vocals to get me hyped up.
“Just stop right there.” Rob blocked the door. “We aren’t going to listen to your crap. Since I’m buying dinner, I get to pick the music. I’m in an eighties mood.”
I grinned and let her go inside. At least there were some common interests we shared and eighties music was one of them. If I couldn’t listen to heavy metal, then I’d gladly settle for some Human League or Talking Heads. Anything eighties at all, and I’d be happy.
My sister came back with her laptop and a set of computer speakers. After setting everything up on the top of the freezer, she cranked the music and we got to work. We spent the entire afternoon sorting and pricing while we did our best impersonations of Duran Duran and Guns N’ Roses. When “November Rain” came on, my sister snatched up the broom and, using it as a guitar, did her best impersonation of Slash. I grabbed the other tennis racket – the one that didn’t have dead mouse guts on it – and used the handle as my microphone as I sang along with Axel Rose.
When she wanted to, my sister could be friendly instead of her normal overprotective mother hen like self. But those moments were happening less often. In truth they hardly occurred at all anymore.
We were still performing when a guy popped around the corner of the house. As he stepped out of the yard and onto the driveway, I froze mid-song. Behind me, I heard the broom clatter to the floor. Robyn coughed and hit pause.
He stopped at the entrance, a sheepish grin on his face. Being the one nearest to the entrance, he directed his smile at me. I tightened my hold on the racket and prayed my cheeks would stop burning.
“Sorry to interrupt your – uh – performance.”
Robyn coughed again and moved to stand next to me. “Who are you?” Her hands were on hips doing her best “look at me” pose.
His gaze left me and fixed onto my sister. “I’m Cary. You’re new neighbor.”
Robyn kept her eyes on Cary, intrigued. She pointed to me “That’s Alphie.” She held out her hand to him and flashed her best smile. “I’m Robyn.” He shook her hand quickly.
With his eyes preoccupied with my sister, I gave him the once-over. He looked laid-back in his faded long sleeve T-shirt and jeans. From the way his clothes hugged his body, he was nothing but muscle. I wasn’t going to lie to myself, he was attractive. And then I saw his eyes sweep over Robyn’s breast making me dislike him instantly.
He appeared to be in his early twenties and only an inch or two taller than my sister and me. His hair was a shaggy blonde color, which the fall breeze kept blowing into his face. He had soft green eyes, a slightly crooked nose, and a friendly smile. And even when he directed that smile at me, I still didn’t like him.
He brushed his hair back from his face. He seemed shy, almost like he wanted to say something but couldn’t figure out how.
“Was there something you wanted?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.
His green eyed gaze studied me and I could feel my cheeks burning again. “I just thought I’d stop by and introduce myself. Also, I was hoping one of you could tell me what day trash pick-up is on? We’ve got a lot of boxes and stuff we need to get rid of.”
“Saturday mornings,” Robyn said and sent a glare in my direction. My rudeness didn’t amuse her.
“You guys preparing for a sale or something?” He asked, his eyes sweeping about the cluttered garage.
Robyn took a step closer to him invading his personal bubble. “Yeah. So are you moved in yet?” He took an involuntary step back putting a little distance between them. And she thought I was the rude one?
“Almost. It’s been a hectic day.”
“Are you from around here?” She touched his arm.
“No, we moved here from out west.” He broke contact and moved around the cluttered garage, his gaze nosily falling onto the boxes. “Nevada.”
“Why move here? I mean Nevada is a much better place than our tiny little town,” Robyn said, following him. “It must be nice being able to wear summer clothes all yearlong.”
I got the feeling he didn’t like all the questions, but he smiled. “My father’s a professor and was offered a job here.” He shrugged. “I like small towns. And summer is overrated. So do you girls attend the university?” He looked over at me and smiled.
Robyn was quick to pull his attention back to her. “I just started my second year.”
“What about you?” He took a step toward me.
I opened my mouth to answer, but Robyn stepped between us. “Oh Alphie’s not old enough for college. She’s still in high school.”
“Really?” he asked not believing her. “How old are you Alphie?”
My stomach flipped over the way he said my name and I instantly forgot that I didn’t like him. I didn’t even realize he had asked me a second time until Robyn answered for me. “She’s eighteen.”
“Today’s my birthday.” I mentally punched myself. Why had I said that?
“Happy Birthday.” He grinned at me and I had to look away to keep myself from blushing yet again.
“How old are you?” Robyn asked turning the conversation back to him.
Robyn grinned. “I’ll be twenty-one next month.”
“I see,” he said and stepped out onto the driveway. “Well, I better get going. It was nice meeting you.”
“Let me know if you ever want to be shown the sites,” my sister said, her voice full of unspoken innuendo.
“Maybe I’ll take you up on that offer sometime,” he said and walked down the driveway.
I stood there watching him until he disappeared around the corner. I couldn’t be sure, but it had seemed that his gaze had lingered on me when he’d said that, as if I were the one who did the offering and not Robyn.
When Robyn was sure he was gone she fanned herself. “Now that was one gorgeous man.”
Turning my back on her, I busied myself with turning the music back on. I didn’t want her to know that I agreed with her. And I didn’t like that at all. Nor did I like how confused he’d made me feel. Was I crazy or could he be interested in me? I shook my head. He was just teasing me. That’s what guys did. They always teased the girls with the lowest self-esteems. Or at least that’s what I’d learned in my first three years of high school.
We went back to work, diligently sorting and pricing, as the music rippled through the garage keeping us energized. But when evening fell, even the awesome eighties’ beats no longer inspired us and we finally called it quits.
Robyn plopped down on the seat of the picnic table we’d stored in the garage once fall had arrived. “I think we’ve done enough.” Robyn propped her legs up on the bench and leaned back on her hands.
“Shall we get that pizza now?” I rubbed my tummy as it rumbled. “I’m starving and want to see what you got me.”
“Then let’s head on in. Tomorrow’s going to be one long crappy day. I hope we can make some money.”
Saying nothing, I closed the garage door and turned off the light. Personally, I didn’t care whether we made money or not.
As I followed my sister into the house, I silently wished that no one would even show up tomorrow. Something about selling the possessions of a dead relative just didn’t sit well with me. It all felt horribly wrong.
Something was sitting on my chest! The weight of its body pressed me down into the mattress, forcing the air out of my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. My heart thumped wildly, banging against my constricted rib cage. Terror ran its icy fingers up my spine. My body tingled, but remained frozen in place. My head spun as it fought for control.
Opening my eyes to the darkness, I saw her. One leg lying bent in front of her, while she held the knee of the other against her chest. She leaned forward and, with her butt grinding into my sternum, rested her foot above my shoulder. Red eyes glowered at me, a fire burning within their depths.
“Give it back,” she rasped. I tried to speak and couldn’t. “It’s my body!”
I blinked; her face was now a breath away from mine. Her cherry blonde bangs tickled my eyes. Our eyes. She was me. But I wasn’t her.
“It doesn’t belong to you. It never did. Now give it back!” Her hands gripped my throat, squeezing.
That Saturday morning I woke up at five, – a good three hours before the sunrise – took a shower, and pulled on my new newspaper-themed leggings that my sister had given me last night. I cast my gaze to the bed, where the nightmare still lingered like a ghost. I shuddered. It was a recurring nightmare and I should have been used to it. I shuddered once more. I doubted I ever would.
I snuck down to the garage to fetch my bicycle. When I opened the garage door, a chilly October wind scurried in to greet me. Shivering, I straightened the baggy ski cap covering my wet hair.
Then I went about rolling up the six poster boards with the sale information written in my sister’s delicate handwriting and put them into my backpack along with a staple gun. The posters stuck out too far to close the bag and I worried that they would fall out before I could post them.
I zipped up my leather jacket, double-checked to make sure I’d tucked my medical ID safely inside my wallet, and started to peddle down the street.
The neighborhood was eerily quiet. Nothing stirred. Everyone still tucked warmly in their beds. I peddled past the houses, the wind singing past me like a funeral dirge as the leaves on the trees gave in to the sadness and slowly fluttered to the ground. It was like watching a million suicides, each leaf falling to its death. Rotten bodies crunched beneath my tires as the wind continued its death wail.
It took me a good hour to staple the signs around our small town. When I’d finally stapled the last one to the wooden electrical pole at the entrance to McDonald’s, I was starving.
I popped a pill in my mouth on the walk back to my bike and guzzled it down with the last drop of my soda. The sale was to start at eight and it was now after seven. I’d have to race home and wake up my sister – she wasn’t much of a morning person – so we could prepare a money box and get some of the goods set up on card tables in the driveway. Mom would probably already be gone. She was a nurse and worked all the freaking time. We hardly ever saw her and when we did, she was mostly catching up on sleep. And on those few occasions when she happened to be awake, she was in full on nag mode.
When I turned onto my street, the sun was above the horizon making its slow ascent. It took me twenty minutes and a near miss of her fist in my face, but I finally managed to get Rob up and in the shower. While she took her hour-long shower, I went downstairs and readied the garage sale.
When I’d set out the tables, counted the change in the money box, my sister – looking like a catalog model in her designer jacket with her hair meticulously styled and her face painted up as if she were going on a date – sunk down into a fabric folding chair and started in. “Why didn’t you wake me up earlier? I could have helped you with the signs.”
“You mean baby-sit me.”
“It’s only been a few days. This medicine might be like all the others. It isn’t safe for you to ride your bike.”
I considered punching her or at least telling her off. Instead I clamped my teeth together and glared. “I’m not some weak, irresponsible child,” I hissed between my teeth.
“I didn’t say you were,” she replied with mock innocence.
“Whatever,” I said and plopped down into the other chair. “I’m a big girl now. I can handle it.”
“Yeah well, you should have woken me up to tell me you were going out.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “Did you take your medicine?”
“Do you feel tired at all?”
I sighed. “A little, but I’m fine.” I leaned forward to check the empty street. “Do you think anyone will even show?”
“Probably. I mean it’s October and we’ve got all this Halloween crap.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said glancing at all of Papa’s stuff. “I wouldn’t call it Halloweeny per se, but rather an assortment of oddities.”
“Ah, but the customers don’t need to know that, do they?” My sister said giving me a knowing look. “Plus he’s got all those scary carved funkins or whatever they’re called. Carved pumpkins are totally Halloween. And the stuffed crow.” Rob pointed to the taxidermy table. “People will eat this stuff up. I mean look at that mini coffin? I’m surprised you haven’t carted some of this stuff up to your room yet.”
I scoffed. “Look, I may be into the whole punk scene but that doesn’t mean I’m interested in this stuff. For the last time, I’m not a goth. And neither was Papa. He was just… eccentric.”
Rob shrugged. “Whatever. But I bet you won’t make it through the day without wanting to keep something.”
My hand touched the pendant safely hidden beneath my shirt. “I bet I can,” I said, sure of myself. Besides, I’d already taken something.
“Whatever,” she said again. “We’ll just see.”
We’d had no customers all morning. Feeling my usual symptoms, I dozed off and on in my chair. It was better to nap than risk total collapse later. Though it had been months since my last collapse, I was still wary and didn’t want to take any chances.
It wasn’t until around lunchtime that my sister nudged me awake because people had finally started to show up. Just as my sister had predicted, Papa’s stuff sold at an unbelievable rate. One man bought Papa’s skulls – he thought they were fake and we didn’t bother correcting him – and the mini coffin, while a mother and daughter bought the candles and the iron candelabras.
I no longer saw the funkins so I assumed Rob had sold those while I was sleeping. The taxidermy table still stood untouched along with Papa’s books on the occult.
While Rob and I wolfed down a few slices of our leftover pizza, a woman in her thirties, wearing a Wicked Witch of the West T-shirt, snatched up all the books, his mortar and pestle, as well as all his colored glass bottles.
I wrote down all her purchases in my notebook before taking her money. After placing her purchases in the mesh bag she’d brought with her, she left. While she walked back to her car, I took a quick stroll around the driveway to stretch my legs.
The pendant banged against my chest with every step I took. It wasn’t that heavy and yet the chain had begun to dig into the skin on the back of my neck. I’d always felt heavy as if gravity had singled me out, pressing me down like a bully on the playground. However, ever since I put on the necklace, it was as if invisible hands were pushing me down. The memory from earlier arose once more. Its broken fragments scattered like a puzzle.
The sound of a clock ticking. A little girl lying on the floor, a coloring book opened in front of her. Opening my eyes. A dream. Then there was Papa holding me in his arms. He was saying something. Yelling. Screaming. I was screaming. And Dad was watching TV, oblivious to everything except the football game.
As I wracked my brain for the missing pieces, I had this sinking feeling that there was more to that memory, more to this pendant, but I just couldn’t figure out what.