Available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle EBook
Hearing the locker door slam shut jolts my drifting mind. Rory’s voice calls from behind me. “Wynter, are you coming? Class is about to start.”
“Um, yeah, I’ll catch up.” I glance back to her and wave my hand, still listening to the resonating sounds of slamming metal ringing in my ears. I grab my books from the locker shelf and quickly trail behind her, making it just in time before the bell rings for second period. The teacher shoots me a warning glance as I scamper to my seat.
Rory smirks with an “I told you so” look. Sneering back at her, I shake my head in response, shrugging. We’ve been best friends since tenth grade, and she’s like the sister I never had. Hard to believe this is our senior year. It’s finals week before Christmas break and our last day of grueling tests.
“What’s gotten into you?” she whispers.
“Something is off,” I say, and I straighten my posture, placing my fingers around my neck to grab the chain that isn’t there. “My necklace,” I whisper. I strain to think where I last remember wearing it. My dad is going to kill me if he finds it not around my neck. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t see Dad checking to see if I was wearing it, always. My cheeks flush, and my head begins to fill with fear.
“Wynter, what’s wrong?” Rory murmurs.
“My necklace. It’s gone.”
“Where did you last have it?”
I wrinkle my forehead and shake my head. “I don’t remember.” I try to think back, visualizing where it might be. I recall doing one more lap around the pool when Sadie pulled at my legs, dunking me under. I swear that girl is pure evil. The coach didn’t see me flopping around like a fish out of water.
Raising my hand and stretching it as far into the air as it will go, I call out, “Mr. Cadzek.”
Feeling as though he pretends not to notice me, I speak his name louder.
“What is it, Miss Storm?” he asks, still looking down at his notebook and continuing to write.
“I forgot something in last period. May I run and get it?”
He ignores my question, still focusing on what is in front of him.
He glances up at me. “Fine, go on. We’re not doing much today in class, anyway.”
I see Rory out of the corner of my eye wiggling around in her seat like she’s about to burst at the seams. “Me too?” she blurts.
Mr. Cadzek pulls off his glasses. “I suppose she needs you with her for emotional support, huh?”
I turn to look at Rory and mouth the word “no.”
The teacher shakes his head, lets out a big sigh, and pulls out a pen and pad. Writing us both hall passes, he hands them to us saying, “Now hurry up and go before I change my mind.”
Rory giggles once the door shuts. “Did that just happen?” she exclaims and twirls around.
“It’s the last day before break,” I reply, holding my books tight to my chest. “I mean, we don’t have a test today, remember? We had an essay as a final.”
Skipping at my heels and trying to keep up with my brisk pace, she ignores my comment. “So, where are we going, anyway?”
“I think I dropped my necklace somewhere around swim class.”
Once we arrive at the entrance to the swimming pool, I test to see if the doors are unlocked and to my amazement, they are. “Thank you,” I mouth to the gods above who may be listening.
Lucky for me, there isn’t a class set for second period. We look in corners, around the chairs lining the walls, and along the bins where water sport items are stored, finding nothing. My worst fear finally arrives.
“It’s gone forever,” I say. I’ll never hear the end of it with my dad. “What!? You should be more careful. That necklace was your late mother’s.” The thoughts roll over and over in my mind as I begin to panic.
“Wynter, what’s that?” Rory says, pointing towards the pool.
I walk over to her and peer down at the bottom of the floor to see something shiny, sparkling back at us.
“My necklace,” I cry. Throwing my bookbag on the bench behind me, I begin to take off my shoes and jacket.
“What are you doing?” Rory says, looking startled. “You’re not going to—”
“Jump in? Yes. That’s precisely what I’m about to do.” I strip down to my underwear and dive to the bottom.
After getting out of the pool, I realize there isn’t a towel handy to dry off. “Well, crap. You don’t by chance see a towel lying around, do you?”
“Come on, let’s go to the locker room,” she says, grabbing both our backpacks.
The bathroom is empty and I find fresh towels. My hair is dripping wet, reminding me that I should have put on a swimming cap first, which is stored in my book bag. We find clean towels still folded in the linen area, and I grab a couple of them.
“I’m going to look like I peed my pants,” I say, as I shimmy my jeans back on. Looking down, I see water from my underwear already seeping through the material.
Rory giggles at my predicament. “Laugh it up, small fry,” I snap at her.
“Hey, at least you got your chain back,” Rory says.
I roll my eyes. “Yeah, well, it’s either find the necklace or die by the hands of my father when I get home.” Rory snickers more, and I push further, saying, “I’m glad I can amuse you, my dear friend. I assure you this is no laughing matter. While I can understand your jest, it’s annoying to stand here watching you mock me.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop,” she says and covers her mouth, hiding a grin.
“Unbelievable,” I say, turning my back to her so as not to see her gawking at me. “I wonder if this will give me an excuse to skip school all together?”
“You wish,” she says. “We are just in time for third period, though.”
I look up at the clock to see the bell about to ring. “Isn’t third period your math class?” I ask Rory, wondering if she has her final today.
“You’re right. Crap, Wyn, I’m sorry I gotta go.” Grabbing her stuff, she darts out before I have a chance to ask if she plans on staying at school the whole day. With my next class being study hall, perhaps it’s a good time to make myself presentable again after indulging in a quick swim.
My chain feels cold and wet against my skin, so I unclasp the locket, tucking it in my jeans for now. My bra is soaked, with the moisture becoming prevalent on my dark blue sweatshirt.
“Lovely,” I say, studying my reflection in the mirror. Good thing I have a coat that will hide the watermarks. I’m going to look ridiculous. I put my hair in a ponytail just as the bell rings, and within seconds students begin to pile into the locker room.
“That’s my cue,” I say under my breath, as I pick up my stuff.
After school I wait for Rory by the big fir tree as always, when ahead a seemingly familiar face stares back at me from one of the nearby buildings. I had seen this before in the past. A silhouette would appear, I would look away, doing a double take, and it would disappear.
Well, not this time. I stare the figure down as I step forward. Fixating on the voyeuristic person, I’m not about to let it get away from me this time. It stands there, smirking back at me. I ignore the urge to look away and keep a piercing eye on the individual, picking up my pace. A brown hooded cloak covers most of the face, and its hands are clasped gently against the abdomen, like a priest about to give a sermon. I kick it up to a fast walk, crossing the parking lot, not paying attention to whether cars are coming or going. Probably a dumb move, but at this point, I don’t care. I’m tired of seeing this onlooker, poking its happy little head in my business whenever it wants to.
The last time I saw this stranger was in Florida a few years ago. The next thing I know, my family uproots to Washington State. As I get closer, I see it grin, showing pearly whites, like it’s trying to egg me on. That’s when I begin a slight jog, tripping over the curb and falling to the ground.
When I look up, I see that the stranger’s gone. Many students laugh and point at me on the ground.
“You should really watch where you are going, klutz,” I hear a teen boy say, as he steps over me.
“Hey Wyn, are you okay?” a girl from one of my classes says, dropping her bag to come over and help me up. Another girl gets to me first, putting her hand out for me to grab and says, “That step can be a doozy. I’ve tripped over it many times.”
“Yeah, thanks,” I finally say, still distracted by the person I saw standing over by the building.
My hands are filthy, and I wipe them on my now-soaked jeans. At this point, I can’t wait to stand in a warm shower. Decembers are brutal here, with frigid air sweeping across faces, and the rain is like ice pellets.
The girl from my class hands me back my bag and says, “Here you go. Have a good break. See you next year.”
“Yeah, thanks. You, too,” I say and reach for my pack.
Still feeling uneasy, I peer over my shoulder, glancing around to see if the shadow figure is lurking somewhere. Instead, Rory walks up to me.
“What happened to you?” she says, obviously seeing that I look like hell.
“Apparently, there is a curb that divides the sidewalk from the parking lot,” I say in a sarcastic tone, flipping my bag to my back. “As usual, I’m not watching where I’m going and took a nosedive.”
“Well, are you hurt?” she asks, sounding concerned.
“No, I’m fine. Thanks.”
“Why are you heading in that direction when home is the other way?” she voices, pointing over her shoulder.
“It’s nothing. I thought I saw someone I knew, and the next moment I’m on the ground eating grass.”
“Are they still lurking around?” she asks, looking about.
“No, they’re long gone,” I reply, stepping onto the pavement. “We’d better get going, the clouds up ahead look nasty, like it’s about to snow.”
Thankfully, our homes are located a few blocks from school, so we don’t have far to walk. A cold wind begins to pick up, sending a wintry chill drifting across my face. I pull my wool scarf up over my nose and stick my hands in my pockets for warmth, but it still doesn’t do the trick. I’m stone cold. The dunk in the pool during second period has kept me chilled all day, plus the fall on campus doesn’t help any, either.
Rory and I don’t say much on the way home. The temperatures outside are uncomfortable, and the chattering of our teeth makes it difficult to speak. As we come to the edge of our block, I see the stranger again. It stands there watching us both at the opposite corner.
“Rory,” I say softly, without averting my eyes from the figure up ahead. I stop and point. “Do you see that person standing there?”
She looks in my direction, but before she says a word, the image flashes out of sight like a bolt of lightning. “Please tell me you saw that, too?” I say, feeling a little overwhelmed that someone can move that fast.
“Yeah, I saw,” she says, still staring in that direction. “Wynter, what’s going on? Is that who you saw back at the school?”
“Yeah. We better get home,” I say. “I don’t feel safe. Whomever it is, has followed us.”
We both approach our perspective houses; Rory lives next door. I watch her facial expression, as I’m sure she can hear yelling and screaming inside my household.
“Sounds like my dad and aunt are at it again,” I say.
“I can hear from here. Are you going to be okay?”
“I think so. I’ll see you around.”
Rory waves at me as I watch her unlock the front door and go inside her house.
I turn the knob to open my front door, trying hard to be quiet, as I hear Aunt Fran yell from the upstairs hallway.
“When is the right time to approach this, Jeoffrey? I mean, my word, she has us wrapped around her finger! At what point are we going to stand up to the wench?”
There she goes—her old-world tongue is at it again. I swear she should have been born in the early 1600s. She sure talks like it sometimes, especially when she’s mad.
“I don’t have a choice, Francesca,” Dad says, raising his voice. I can tell he’s in the same room as her.
Do I dare sneak up the stairs? They will probably notice me. Perhaps I should hang out in the living room and wait out the family storm.
“Why must you go now. Have you not seen the weather outside?” Aunt Francesca is sounding more like a frantic bird than a concerned sister in-law. Whatever happened to the soft, gentle qualities I remembered? Normally, she has a spunky attitude, but this has gotten out of control. I hear clapping heels walk back and forth across the floor upstairs.
They squabble all the time like siblings do, I guess. I hear Dad’s feet pace along the floor and stop. Then hangers tap against the wall from being pulled and seconds later, a drawer slams. What gives? I hesitate to announce my arrival.
“Jeoffrey please… a blizzard is on the way, not to mention a holiday weekend.” I hear Aunt Fran plead. “Flights are canceled. It’s all over the news. You think the Cessna will fly in this weather? It’s suicide.”
I glance out the living room window and see the heavy snow begin falling outside, proving her worry. Perhaps I’ll wait to take my first step on our creaky staircase until I hear one of their voices raise. Old houses tend to make sounds.
“You’re right, Fran, but we both know what she is capable of.”
She? Who are they talking about? Surely, not me? I move to the next tread, easing my way up the steps slowly.
“Maybe it’s time to use your super-human power on her.” Fran chuckles, sounding like she’s trying to make light of the conversation.
“This is no time for jokes. Moyer means business. December 21 is in two weeks. She’s coming for her. You and I both know it.”
Who’s Moyer? I’ve never heard of such a person before and from the sounds of it, I probably don’t want to find out, either. Not to mention my birthday being brought into the conversation.
I hear heels clicking on the hardwood floors again and climb another step. “There must be something we can do. What did you see, Jeoffrey?”
There’s a long pause. I almost think I’ve been made.
“I saw her order them to find us. It’s only a matter of time. I’m sure you will see it soon, too.” Then I hear Dad slam another dresser drawer. “Besides, no amount of superhuman power will defeat her,” he says in a low tone. “And even if there is such power, Wynter’s not ready. We put her at risk the day we took her away.”
This goes deeper than a little family quarrel, and it has me curious. In all my seventeen years, I have yet to feel any sense of belonging. We seem to not stay in one place for more than a few years. I’ve seen this before: Dad packs, they argue, we relocate. I never discover why. When I ask, both quickly change the subject. Well, it’s time I find out the truth.
By this time, I’ve reached the top step. “Who’s not ready?” I interrupt. My voice carries down the hollow hall.
The look on both their faces is priceless. I step out into the open, so they can see me. “Why are you two discussing my birthday, and what are you arguing about? And don’t tell me it’s nothing. I’m sick of hearing you guys brush me off like I’m just a kid who doesn’t know anything.”
©Copyright 2018 Emmy R Bennett Eyes of Wynter