This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Meagan Claire Bailey
Maurleen ran faster than she ever thought possible. Her heart beat rapidly as her feet pounded on the leaf covered ground. The branches from the trees scraped her face and body as she ran past them. The tears that fell from her face were hot on her cheeks. She jumped over the log that lay across the small stream glancing only for a second to see if he was close behind. When she didn’t see him, it only made her even more fearful of what he was planning to do. She clutched the necklace tighter in her hand and picked up the pace. Please work! She thought as she began to concentrate harder on making the tree appear. Suddenly he was in front of her, staring at her with those awful green and black eyes. “No!” Maurleen screamed in horror as she stopped and quickly backed up away from him. The tree wasn’t anywhere in sight and all she needed was to give the necklace to it. Then, hopefully everything would be normal again. “Work dammit! Where are you!?” She screamed at nothing. The man smiled eerily at her. He calmly unbuttoned his suit jacket and put his hands casually in his pant pockets. Maurleen begged. “Please, please, you don’t know how to control it! You’ll destroy everything!” He gave an airy chuckle and winked at her. “I am more powerful than you realize, darling. I can snap you and everyone else like a twig. Now hunny, hand it over.” Maurleen fell to her knees and closed her eyes. She started chanting the words her mother told her to say for the tree to appear. The man began to step towards her, hunching his shoulders and gritting his teeth. “What did you say?!” He yelled. Maurleen opened her eyes and looked around. “Please work! Please!” “Maurleen, don’t do anything stupid.” He said as he started to run towards her. She quickly got up on her feet and began to run away from him again. Suddenly, ahead of her in the distance a bright white light appeared. It shone like the sun. The tree was growing out of the ground into a giant willow. “Thank you!” Maurleen sighed as she ran towards the trunk of the now fully grown tree. “No!” The man in the suit screamed and ran with all he had towards the necklace Maurleen held in her hand. She ran faster and faster until she could see every line in the tree’s trunk. She reached the necklace out towards it as if it were an offering. The tree saw this and opened its trunk from top branch to roots to invite the necklace inside. Maurleen threw the necklace as hard as she could; hoping that pitching softball in high school had made her aim worthy. As soon as the necklace was inside the tree, the trunk closed, hiding the necklace inside and the tree became nothing more than an average weeping willow one would see in a park. The man ran past Maurleen staring at nothing but the trunk that had now been closed.
He stood there furiously breathing as he contemplated what just happened. He whipped his head around, walked over to Maurleen and stood over her. His face was contorted in a snarl. “You stupid girl!” He said and pulled out the gun he had hidden under his belt. The last thing Maurleen saw was the gun pointed in between her eyes. The last thing she heard was herself screaming.
One year later…
Caylee sat in the passenger’s seat of her father’s Toyota Camry watching the trees fly by the window. The U-Haul trailer that was connected to the back of the car swayed helplessly behind it. The leaves outside were just turning a beautiful shade of gold and orange. Summer was disappearing and fall was fast approaching just as the old story in her life was ending and a new one was beginning. She looked up at her father who was driving with a concentration that could telepathically move all cars that got in his way, if he stared harder at the road. He looked back at her in the rear view mirror and smiled. Caylee knew he was trying his best to give her a happy life by moving to her grandmother’s house in the small town of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. After her mother had died in a car crash the year before, the duo was struggling living in New York where Caylee was born and raised. They were forced to sell the apartment that her father and mother had worked so hard to buy. Not only that, but she was forced to leave everything she knew behind. Her friends, her school, her whole life was gone within a matter of weeks after her father had announced they were moving. No complaining now, Caylee thought as a tear ran down her cheek, We can’t do anything about it. She sat up straighter and looked down at her lap. The black sweater she was wearing was covered in fur from her mother’s Persian cat, Sassy. She looked up at Caylee with big blue eyes and meowed softly as she curled back down in her lap. She dusted what little fur she could off of her sweater, licked her thumb and rubbed the nick off of her white sneakers. She adored her father and knew he only wanted what was best for her. However, he was seriously lacking in the what to dress my daughter in department. Not that Caylee could complain, she didn’t have any money of her own to buy clothes. Every time her father came home with a bag from the outlet store, all she could do was smile and thank him. She missed her and her mom’s shopping trips desperately. She looked up at her father again. “Are we almost there?” she said in such a quiet voice that he almost didn’t hear her. “Yeah baby, we’re about 30 minutes away. If you look out the window you can see the Smoky Mountains.” He replied without taking his eyes off the road.
She looked beyond the trees that grew on the side of the highway and found miles of beautifully colored mountains. Some were still green, clinging on to summer and others had given in to fall’s invitation by changing to warm yellows and oranges. She could see the clouds that drifted over the sides, slowly moving from on tree top to the next as if the clouds were a whispering creek in a forest. Caylee rolled down her window a little and stuck her nose out of the one inch crack. She took a deep inhale trying to take in every scent she could before it had passes. Her chest rose with air as she smelled the fresh scent of the crisp fall air. It was her favorite time of the year when the leaves fell and the air felt and smelled brand new. As if the sweat of summer had washed everything old away. She sat back in her seat as she rolled up her window, closed her eyes and drifted off into a dreamless sleep. Caylee never dreamed. Not since her mom had died. She used to dream of faraway lands that don’t exist and talking trees that aren’t supposed to. She loved to sleep only because she knew she was about to embark on a journey. It was her escape from reality and she loved every minute of it. Several times throughout her childhood, she dreamed of running through a bright green field. Everything seemed fuzzy and out of foces except for the object she was running toward. Standing tall in the middle of the field was a beautiful white tree. As she got closer she noticed that the grass was swaying in the wind yet the tree did not move. Caylee slowed her run and stood under the tree. She lifted her hand and ran her finger tips along the trunk. It was made of silk and lace. She looked up at the leaves which were made of soft goose feathers. Then, the tree’s trunk began to glow from its core. She reached up to touch the glow when a terrifying scream rang out. Caylee sat up in her bed to find that she was the one screaming and her mother was sitting at her side holding her hand. “Mom?” Caylee said as her mother wiped her daughter’s tears off of her cheeks. “That is the tree of the forgotten.” Her mother said. “You must never go to it. Never answer its call. It is a beautiful tree but very evil.” Caylee nodded her head that she understood, yet that was far from the truth. Her mother would tell her she had the same dream from time to time. All it meant was that they both had very vivid imaginations. Caylee thought it meant something deeper but would never say that. Her mother had told her once that she had the “sight” into a different universe like her. What a wonderful thought, she used to say, that we get to enjoy a magical place all to ourselves. Think of me when you go there. Caylee did enjoy it, until the day her father called her from the hospital with news of her mother’s death. She never wanted to see the dream lands let alone the white tree ever again and she hadn’t since that day.
Caylee was woken up by her father’s warm hand on her cheek. “Hunny, we’re here. Time to start our new life.” She picked Sassy up and threw her over her shoulder. The cat lazily responded to this sudden movement with a hiss. “Oh shut up you dumb cat.” Caylee looked up at her new home. It was a large Victorian style house with a wraparound porch and a balcony that almost reached to the great oak tree that stood in front of the house like a guard. She could see that the house used to be a beautiful yellow color with white trim, but through the years, the paint was chipping from the weather. There was a wrought iron fence that surrounded the house and honeysuckle covered it from top to bottom, which made the house very hard to see from the street but had the air filled with a sweet smell. They both got their luggage out of the car when a loud rap of a shutting screened door sounded. Caylee looked towards the sound and standing on the porch was an older lady with her arms out wide and a huge smile on her face that clearly showed every line and wrinkle. She came bouncing down the stairs in her long purple dress and scarf that she had wrapped around her forehead. She wore about ten different necklaces, some long some short and had the biggest pair of boobs Caylee had ever seen. Interesting she thought to herself with raised eyebrows as she gave her father a sideways glance as if to say this is her? Caylee leaned over to her father and talked through the side of her mouth. “She is certainly not what I was expecting of my mom’s mom.” She could hear her father chuckle through his walrus worthy mustache. Her grandmother collided with her granddaughter and hugged the life out of her. “Oh my goodness!” she said as she grabbed Caylee’s cheeks. Sassy meowed sarcastically jumping down off of her shoulder and ran to the porch swing. Her grandmother rolled her eyes. “Good to see you too Sassy.” “Look how much you’ve grown! I’ve enjoyed getting all the pictures from you Robert. Oh hunny, you’re so big!” She looked at her son-in-law with a concerned look on her face. “Robert, why in the world do you insist on dressing your child like she’s twelve. She’s sixteen for goodness sakes! Oh goodness baby girl, I almost forgot to properly introduce myself. I’m Granny J. You have met me but you were only two years old hunny.” She stood upright and smiled at Caylee waiting for her granddaughter to reply. “Yes ma’am. Thank you for letting us stay here.” Was all Caylee could get out. She was overcome by the pumpkin spice perfume Granny J wore as well as the whole situation. “Well of course baby! Why wouldn’t I offer my big ‘ole house to family? C’mon let’s get you guys inside and tomorrow I’m going to take you shopping!” She held her arm around Caylee’s shoulder, picked up her suitcase and started for the porch’s side door. “Ahem” Robert coughed for attention. “I’m feeling a little neglected.” “Robert, come here you know I’m excited to see you too hunny!” Granny J gave her sonin-law a hug and looked at him with concerned eyes. “We’ll get ya’ll settled in, in no time!”
As they walked up to the house Caylee was comforted at the thought of a woman finally around again to buy her clothes and give advice. She and her father gave a Well here we go look at each other and followed Granny J up the steps to the side porch door. Once inside she looked down the long hall that separated the front from the back of the house. Granny J was leading Robert upstairs to his bedroom but Caylee lingered behind. She was awestruck by the beauty of the old house. To the left of her, in the back portion of the house was a large kitchen that opened up into the dining room. The color of the kitchen walls were a vibrant yellow inviting her inside. She noticed another screen door that led outside into the back yard where a large barn stood beside a pond where she could see ducks swimming and sticking their heads under the water for fish. Beyond this she saw mountains and woods that stretched on and on. Caylee turned back into the kitchen and saw that a small laundry room was snuggled in the corner. Good, she thought. I was scared I’d have to wash my clothes by hand out here in the middle of nowhere. Caylee chuckled at her own joke and walked out into the hall again. There was a small half bath to the right and what looked like a study of some kind. As she neared it a curious sensation overcame her. There was a large mahogany desk that sat in front of a swivel chair and everything in the room seemed covered in cobwebs. Even the bookshelves seemed a bit off, or at least what was on them, bottles and boxes with strange symbols on them. Caylee creeped up to the door and stuck her head inside to investigate a little more. She noticed a large book on the mahogany desk. It was opened but the pages were blank. A drawing book, maybe. She thought. Caylee shut the door to the study and started towards the stairs that climbed up to the second floor from the middle of the foyer. As she stepped on the first step she saw to her left was a parlor with bookshelves that covered almost every wall and towered to the ceiling. The furniture looked older, with a flower pattern on the couch and matching chairs. To her right she saw the living room with, thankfully, a modern tv and dvd player. The living room was more up to date than the parlor. I’ll be in there a lot. She thought as she walked up stairs just in time to see Granny J appear from what she guessed was her dad’s room. “Oh good, I was about to show you to your room. Come on with me.” Granny J gave a follow me motion with her hand and led her to the right of the stairs. She was led into a huge room that was decorated perfectly for a teenage girl. White wicker furniture, white iron bed, lavender colored walls and a lavender colored bedspread. There was a large walk in closet, her own small bathroom just outside the room with the same lavender theme, and even a balcony that overlooked the back yard where the barn and pond was. Granny J stood at the door and smiled. “Do you like it? It used to be your mother’s room you know. I haven’t done a thing to it since she lived here.” Caylee hugged her grandmother. “Yes, thank you it’s beautiful.” “Good, I’ll let you get settled in. Dinner is in 30 minutes hunny.” Granny J walked back downstairs and Caylee immediately started unpacking. Some of her mother’s clothes were still in the closet and dresser drawers. Sassy had snuck in and sat purring in the middle of the closet floor.
“Sassy, do you remember mama? I bet these clothes still kind of smell like her.” Caylee’s smile faded as she ran her hands down a small black dress at the end of the closet. “Maybe I could fit in some of her dresses.” She said aloud to no one. After unpacking her things she decided to look around upstairs. Across from her room was another small room that looked like a craft room. She turned and walked further down the hall. A second set of smaller stairs with a door at the top step led to what she guessed was the attic and separated her room from her fathers. She walked past them and poked her head into the next room. It was a beige color with wood furniture, a wooden bed with a green bedspread and also a small balcony. The room, minus the décor, was the same set up as Caylee’s. He even had his own bathroom at the end of the hall too. Her dad was sitting on the bed with a shoe box beside him holding a picture. He didn’t seem to notice his daughter standing in the doorway. “Dad, what’s that?” She said. He gave a small gasp and then chuckled under that mustache of his. “Caylee, you scared me.” He looked over at the shoe box and sighed. “This is something I’ve had for a while now. It is full of pictures I’ve kept over the years. Here, this one is of you, me and your mother at the beach two years ago.” He picked up the picture and handed it to Caylee. “Taken not long before it happened.” Caylee said under her breath. Rober sighed. “Hunny, don’t dwell on that. There’s nothing we can do about it. I brought us here to kind of start over. I will always love your mother but it was just time to get out of that environment.” He changed the subject as Caylee put the picture back in the shoe box and nodded her head in agreement. “How do you like your room? Granny J said that it hasn’t been changed since your mother and I got married.” Her father stood up, put the lid on the shoe box and slid it under the bed. “Well, I’m going down for dinner. It smells great.” He patted her on the head like he had done since she was a little girl and left Caylee standing in the middle of the room. “I’ll be back for you.” She said to the shoebox under the bed, turned and started downstairs. Across from her father’s room was Granny J’s, or had to be, seeing that it was the only room she hadn’t come upon yet. The door was opened slightly so she reached her hand to the knob to open it more when the door started closing slowly. She pulled her hand back fast with a gasp. The door creaked as Caylee stood frozen and eyes wide starring at the knob she reached for. The old door quietly clicked shut. She heard a meow and looked down to find Sassy had appeared in between her and the closed door. “Did you do that Sassy?” Caylee’s eye brows had pushed together in thought. “Yeah, you did that.” She decided. Caylee backed away from the door and started to go downstairs when it hit her. The smell from the kitchen was magnificent. She smiled and closed her eyes to let her nose do all the work. She smelled sweet potatoes, bar-be-que sandwiches, green beans and chocolate chip cookies.
Caylee walked into the kitchen. “Granny J, I’m in heaven.” Her father snorted and her grandmother let out a hearty laugh. “What, pizza and Chinese every night wasn’t good enough for you?” “Daddy, you did the best you could, but you have to admit this is real food.” She kissed him on the cheek and sat down at the small round table by the back porch door. The table was set for three with sweet tea and a fork with each plate of already piled on food. “Eat up, hunny! I do have a rule around here though. If you use the plates and utensils and silverware, you clean them too.” Granny J sat down beside Caylee and tucked a paper towel in her collar. She was quite a peculiar woman but seemed happy to be different from the rest of the world. Her bangles clanged together as she reached for a roll in the middle of the table. “Yes ma’am.” Caylee ate with her family in her new home at a new table in a new kitchen. I need to sleep this day off, she thought as she washed her dishes after dinner. She didn’t have to wash her laundry by hand but unfortunately the word dishwasher wasn’t in her grandmother’s vocabulary. Caylee kissed her father goodnight on the cheek and followed Granny J upstairs. They walked into the craft room she had stumbled upon earlier. Caylee watched as her grandmother moved through the boxes, fabric and old furniture like smoke to the closet in the corner of the room. “If you get cold there are more quilts and blankets in there.” Granny J said holding 3 quilts in her hand. “These were made by yours truly you know!” Granny J walked into her granddaughter’s new room. Caylee sat on the bed as Granny J turned on her lamp, shut her closet door and the balcony doors. “Oh, Granny will you leave the balcony doors open. I’ll close them in a bit, I promise. I’ve been cooped up in a car all day, I like the fresh air.” “Sure, hun! Just remember to close them. One more thing, call me Granny J not just Granny. That makes me sound so old. I’m still a funky woman, I ain’t old yet!” She was dancing the twist to prove her point but to Caylee it looked more like she was having a seizure. They both laughed until Granny J excused herself to see to cleaning the rest of the dishes but not before she poked her head back in the door. “We’re going shopping tomorrow, don’t sleep in too late.” Caylee promised she wouldn’t and watched her grandmother twist out of the room. She got up and shut her bedroom door. Welcoming the fresh air in from her new balcony she stood still and starred out at the woods and further to the mountains in the distance. This is where she needed to be right now she thought. A new start in a new place is like a fresh coat of paint on an old wall and Caylee needed a paint job, bad. She giggled to herself at her own joke when a large figure moved from behind the barn. She turned her head quickly to try and catch what the figure was but was too late as it slipped in through the barn doors. “What in the world?”
She squinted her eyes together and watched as the barn door opened slightly. Her heart pounded loudly and her breathing became heavy. The door flew open and a large raven flew out cawing loudly. Caylee let out a grunt of frustration and decided that maybe a good night’s sleep is what she needed if she thought there were large creatures in an old barn. She put on her pajamas, hopped in bed, closed her eyes and fell asleep instantly. The balcony doors stood wide open letting the moon come into the bedroom and surround her in a blanket of light. A large raven sat quietly on the railing and watched her sleep through the night.
Caylee woke up from a dreamless sleep to the smell of pancakes and bacon that had entered her room through the crack in the door. The smell seemed to creep in and surround her completely. The sun shone bright in through the opened balcony. “Shoot, I forgot to shut the doors last night.” There was a soft knock on her bedroom door. “Morning princess, Granny J is fixing breakfast. C’mon downstairs soon.” It was her father. She loved it when he called her princes. Caylee yawned and stretched up to the ceiling. The view out of the balcony was beautiful and everything she would imagine a country back yard to look like. Dew covered the ground all the way back towards the woods, the birds sang their morning songs, mist rolled around slightly above the waters of the pond where ducks flapped their wings. She threw the covers off of her and dug through her new dresser for some jeans and a tank top with a cardigan to complete the ensemble. Her dark red hair, she pulled back into a pony tail then powdered her face and applied mascara. “Good enough.” She slipped on her loafers just before opening her bedroom door. Downstairs, her father and Granny J were sitting at the small bar on the island in the middle of the kitchen drinking coffee. Granny J looked over Robert’s shoulder at Caylee. She broke out in a high pitched opera voice with her arms flying above her head. “Good morning!” Her outfit did not disappoint again. Her long grey hair was wrapped in a bright yellow bandana that matched oh so perfectly with her yellow capris and a white shirt with a canary that looked like it was perched on her boobs. Caylee held back a laugh at her brightly dressed grandmother. “Morning.” Her voice was monotone. “Eat up dear. You and I are going to go shopping and Robert is going to see about enrolling you in school.” Caylee’s heart sank into her stomach and was suddenly not hungry. “Great.” She said with as much enthusiasm and she could muster. Her father saw right through the fake happy act. “Listen princess, I know it’s almost October and you’ll be starting later than everyone else but you’re a smart young lady, you’ll catch up in no time. Not to mention everyone is going to LOVE you!”
Caylee saw right through his way too enthusiastic tone. “I know dad. It’ll be fine. Just make sure I’m going to be in the same classes that I was going to take at my last school. Chemistry, Trigonometry, Literature, Gym, Art and Social Studies.” His blank face told Caylee that he had no clue what she was talking about. She talked slower. “Chemistry… Trig…. Actually I’m going to write it down for you. Just hand it to the lady you talk to in the office.” Robert chuckled and smiled shyly. “Thanks.” Caylee grabbed an apple from the basket by the refrigerator and announced that she was ready when Granny J was. After washing dishes and throwing on a pair of white crocs, Granny J and Caylee said good bye to Robert and began to walk down the driveway towards town. “It isn’t far to Ava’s store and it’s such a beautiful morning, I thought it would be nice to walk. I’ll point out streets you’ll need to remember and deli’s you’ll need to eat at!” “That’s fine Granny J. I like being outside.” They turned right out of their driveway and Caylee could finally take in the surroundings of the house. They were the last house on the street and about half a mile from the neighbors. Behind her, Caylee could see that there was nothing but woods that surrounded the house with mountains in the distance everywhere. The sky was bright blue and the air was crisp. The next house on the right was a similar build to Granny J’s, Victorian style, a wraparound porch, and tall trees in the front yard with a beautiful flower garden. It was kept up much better than Granny’s though. The color was a bright blue to match the sky, the shutters weren’t falling off or rotting and the driveway was concrete and not dirt. Granny J was looking at Caylee and not the house. “That’s the Balfour’s house.” Her face turned serious. “Caylee, did your mother ever tell you about her life here?” Caylee looked up surprised at the question. She looked straight ahead at the intersection they were coming up on. “No. She didn’t really talk about it, show me pictures, or anything really. Dad told me a little. She grew up here and was engaged once to a man. She broke up with him and moved to New York to go to college where she met my dad and had me.” Granny J seemed to ponder what she had said. Her eyes were squinting together and her brows pushed together in thought. “That sounds about right.” “Will you tell me a little about her childhood here? Did she go to the same school that I’m going to? Did she play any sports? Did she like it here? I guess not if she didn’t really talk about it, huh?” She looked over at her grandmother whose lips were pursed in a straight line, tight enough that it looked glued shut. She didn’t seem to notice Caylee had asked her a question at all. “Granny J?” “Hmm? Oh, um, yes hunny. She liked it here just fine. She did go to the same school and played softball.” Caylee decided that dropping the subject would be best for now. It seemed to make Granny J uncomfortable, even though she was the one to bring it up.
They stopped at a four way stop. To the right, Granny J explained her school was three blocks down and to the left. “You can’t miss it! There’s a big raven statue in front of the entrance.” Turning away from the direction of the school they walked for two blocks. Caylee could see the next street was busy with activity. Three red lights in the whole town and this one must be the busiest. Her thought was right as Granny J sang in her opera voice again. “Welcome to Main Street!” To the left the road traveled through a large pasture with a white church to one side and the ramp to the highway on the other. To the right were small brick buildings on each side of the car and bicycle lined road. Each building had its doors opened and there were people weaving in and out of them. Granny J elbowed Caylee and said with a wink and a nod. “Sunday is the best day to come do your shopping and what not.” Caylee followed her grandmother down the right side of the street. Everyone waved and smiled at her. Some stopped to tell Caylee how excited they were to have her and her dad in their little town. She felt like every older lady, Granny J’s age, pinched her on the cheek and told her they had the best pie in town. She would smile and say “I’ll have to try it.” After the sixth old lady to pinch her on the cheek and rave about their pie Granny J led her to a shop on the opposite side of the street. “Ava’s Closet” was the name of the small shop. The window in the front of the store had the name of the store on it in white bubbly letters. Behind the letters in the window displayed several mannequins, all female, dressed in blue jeans and blouses and some in dresses. There were purses and shoes scattered at the feet of the still figures. The door rang from a bell just above it as Caylee and Granny J entered. “Ava!” Granny J sang. A tall thin woman about Robert’s age with long black hair and red glasses with a chain that dripped around her neck looked up from the glass counter. She smiled at the two as walked into her store. “Janine! Hello, how are you?” She said as she took her glasses off and walked around the counter to give Granny J a hug. “It has been too long. How are you holding up since Maurleen passed?” Granny J nodded her head to Caylee who was standing quietly beside her grandmother. “Ava, I’d like you to meet Caylee. She’s my grand-daughter. Her and her father moved here yesterday.” Ava’s eyes went wide. Her eyes were the color of the sun. They were a bright orange and yellow color that seemed to stare into her soul. Absentmindedly, Caylee stepped back. It’s not like they scared her but she’d never met anyone with eyes such an unusual color before. Ava crossed her arms over her chest and also took a step back as if she didn’t want to get too close to Caylee. “Well, this is a surprise. Caylee it’s very nice to meet you. How do you like it here so far?”
“The town is a lot smaller than what I’m used to but I know I’ll just have to get used to it.” The three stood there in silence while Granny J and Ava seemed to have a conversation with their eyes. Caylee was the first to speak. “I’m going to go look at some clothes.” Ava quickly turned to Caylee. “Oh, of course. Where are my manners? I’m sorry for acting so strange. It’s just that you look so much like your mother. It’s hard to believe. We were such good friends you know.” “I don’t know. Mom never talked about her childhood.” “Right, why would she? I mean it’s not like we have anything interesting happen here.” She laughed a little too awkwardly and long. “Go on and pick some clothes out for school, hunny. I’m going to talk with Ava outside.” Granny J said as she grabbed Ava’s arm and led her to the door. Just before the door shut Ava yelled out. “Everything is 50% off for you, so go nuts!” Caylee turned away from the door. What a strange woman, she thought. The store was very shabby chic. The clothes were hanging separated by color on bars along the walls in what looked like bookcases with no shelves. There were different colored and patterned rugs on the hardwood floor and the walls were a soft turquoise color. Two fitting rooms were nestled in the far left corner with drapes as their doors. She began picking out some clothes for herself and trying them on. Ava and Granny J were outside the entire time. It wasn’t until they noticed Caylee sitting on a loveseat in the middle of the room with a pile of clothes in her lap did they come in. What were they talking about? She thought as Ava rang up the items. Caylee wasn’t much for dresses but did decide to get a few for special occasions, but mostly her new wardrobe consisted of blue jeans, blouses and cardigans. Ava bagged everything up for them when Caylee noticed that her eyes had seemed to change colors. They weren’t gold anymore, they were blue! Out of surprise she seemed to squeak when she talked. “I thought you had gold eyes!” Granny J and Ava both looked quickly at Caylee who’s cheeks were turning a dark shade of pink. “I’m so sorry, I, I thought you had gold eyes but I guess I just imagined it.” Ava smiled apologetically at Caylee. “It’s ok. You’re probably just still tired from the trip. I hope you enjoy your new clothes! And don’t forget, everything in here is always half off for you.” Caylee, still blushing from her outburst thank Ava and walked outside with Granny J right behind her. Granny J and Caylee walked in silence back to the house. Granny J seemed to be thinking hard about something. Caylee stared straight ahead until the house was in view. “Thank you for taking me shopping.” Granny J looked over at her and smiled. “You’re welcome, hunny. I’m going to make some lunch, are you hungry?” “No ma’am.”
The rest of the day Caylee spent with her drawing pad up in her room. She drew the sun high in the sky at noon and every angle until the moon finally came up in its place. Her artistic abilities were handed down from her mother. The drawing pad was more of a diary for Caylee. Every emotion or thing that happened during the day would be put into her drawings. After drawing the sun she moved onto the moon. She enjoyed drawing this the most. There was something almost mysterious about the moon. As if he was holding in a secret that no one would ever find out. Caylee drew the moon and the trees that surrounded it as if drawing it would reveal those secrets. Her father opened her bedroom door and poked his head in from the hall. “I brought you some food. Granny J said you need something to fill you up before you’re big day at school tomorrow.” He handed her a plate with a sandwich and chips on it and a glass of ice water. He reached into his pocket. “Here is your schedule for school. Everything is as you wanted it. School starts at eight o’clock. Do you want me to bring you, since it’s your first day?” Caylee smiled lovingly at her father. He forgets sometimes that his daughter is older than 12. “No, dad, I’ll be fine walking. Granny J showed me how to get there today.” “Ok, well I’ll be on my way to work when you wake up tomorrow. I talked to one of mom’s old friend today at the school and her husband works as the manager at a construction site. We met today for lunch and he hired me on the spot.” “That’s great dad! You make the best kitchen cabinets. The whole town will talk about how Robert’s cabinets beat anyone else’s.” She got up and hugged her dad. “I’m proud of you dad. It has been hard for both of us this year but we’re going to get through this rough patch and I think tomorrow is the start of it all for us.” Robert kissed Caylee on the top of her head and walked out of the bedroom. She heard him sniff as he walked into his room and shut the door. Sassy jumped down off of the balcony railing and onto her bed. “Geez Sassy, I need to work on my encouragement speeches.” She put the sandwich on the bed for Sassy to eat and put on a tank top and shorts for bed. She went to the balcony doors, shut and locked them. Caylee took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Tomorrow’s a big day.” She closed her eyes. “You can do this Caylee. You’ll meet new friends and focus on your classes and everything will be ok.” She opened her eyes, crawled in bed, turned off the lights and just like normal when she fell asleep, she didn’t dream. The moonlight shown through the cracks in the balcony doors and the raven who had been watching her draw from the barn roof flew off into the night.
The ringing and vibrating from the phone on Caylee’s night stand went on for five minutes before she finally turned her alarm off and got out of bed. She ran her hands over her face. “Too early.”
After taking a shower and going through the every morning battle with her thick brunette hair she put on some jeans and one of her new blue polka dot blouses she bought from Ava. She stood in front of the free-standing mirror at the end of her bed and put on some powder and mascara. Her hair finally decided to be nice so she straightened it and as a final touch to her outfit, threw on a yellow cardigan. Grabbing her back pack and phone she walked downstairs for breakfast. “Well don’t you look cute for your first day!” Granny J sat a plate in front of her at the small kitchen table that was full of bacon and eggs. Caylee gave a side smile and looked down at her food. “Ugh, Granny J I don’t think I can eat this morning. I’m just going to go ahead and walk to school.” She took her plate and set it on the counter by the sink. “Thank you but I’m too nervous to eat.” “That’s ok, sweety. I understand.” Granny J picked up the plate and began eating the food. “Have a good day!” She said with a mouth full of food.
Caylee could see the school just ahead of her. She couldn’t help but think about all the times she had with her friends at her old school. Since she woke up this morning all that was going through her head was that everyone here already has their clicks, their groups, their comfort zones. How hard would it be for her to get to know the traditions and parties to go to and what table to sit at in the cafeteria? She let out a long sigh as she walked up to the front entrance of the high school. There were groups of people standing outside the school and groups of people walking in. She felt as if she was the only person standing still while everyone moved in fast motion around her. It was nauseating. She took out her schedule as she stepped into her new school. The halls weren’t too busy yet since she was there a little early. It will make it easier to find my first class. She thought. With her schedule in hand and her back pack slung around her shoulder she went into the office to ask where her first class would be. The lady at the desk was busy typing on her computer. She didn’t look up when Caylee entered. “Yes, how may I help you?” She continued to type. “I’m Caylee Burk. My father came in and registered me for class yesterday. I’m not sure where it is exactly and I need a locker and also my books.” Just as Caylee had said her name the lady at the desk stopped typing. She slowly looked over to Caylee with a nervous expression on her face. “Yes, Caylee. Your father is a very nice man. We got you all set up for your classes. Let me go see if we have a locker available to you and I’ll get your books.” She walked over to a large filing cabinet and flipped through some papers. Caylee watched as she nervously fumbled the papers dropping several folders only to pick them up quickly without putting them back in the wrong slots. What was with everyone in this town? Why did she make everyone so nervous? The lady in the black pants and white button up blouse turned and gave Caylee a piece of paper with her locker number on it. She reached into a drawer at the desk and set a
combination lock on the front desk. “Here we go. There is a locker available. Unfortunately it is in the basement where the art and music classes are held. Hope that doesn’t bother you too much. Here is a lock as well. I wrote the combination on the paper as well, and here are your books.” She looked up as Caylee with a smile. “Is that all Ms. Burk?” “Yes, thank you. Which way do I go for my locker, and my first class is Chemistry, where is that?” “For your locker you’re going to follow this hall out to the right and keep going until you see your first set of stairs. Go down one flight to the basement hall. Just follow the numbers until you find yours. Chemistry is on the top floor. The class number should be on your schedule.” “Thank you.” Caylee turned and opened the office door. “I knew your mother!” The lady said quickly before the door shut. Caylee opened the door again slightly. She was starting to get frustrated that everyone here seemed to know her mother and who she was but she had never heard of this place before. “Yes” she said with a snap. “A lot of people here did. Thank you.” She walked out of the office and started toward the basement down the stairs. She didn’t mean to snap but it wasn’t fair of her mother to not share any bit of this life with her. As if it never existed. She found her locker that had markings all on the inside of it saying Jessica hearts Chris. She rolled her eyes as the obsessed Jessica and threw her books into their new home. The halls were starting to get very crowded and on her way up two flights of stairs had to really concentrate on not getting pushed down them. She found her class at the far end of the hall and walked in. Caylee was the only student in the room. The classroom walls were cement and painted white with Chemistry posters covering them. There was a dry erase board at the front of the class that over-looked several lab tables with two stools at each table. There were cabinets full of bottles and equipment. Caylee’s eye followed the cabinets to a desk in back corner of the room where a man sat looking at his computer screen. Caylee cleared her throat. “Excuse me. I’m the new student, Caylee. Where should I sit?” The man looked up from his desk. He was fairly young for a teacher, she guessed in his thirties. He smiled at her and stood up. “Yes! Caylee Burk is it? I have you in that desk over there. My name is Mr. Walker. ” He pointed to the lab table in the far right corner of the room. “Ok, thank you.” She said and sat in her seat. As the students started coming in taking their own seats Caylee’s heart pounded. No one seemed to notice her as they sat down and took out there books, notebooks and pencils. After everyone was settled she sat quietly as the teacher started his lecture when a boy walked into the room. “Noah, nice of you to join us.” Mr. Walker said to the boy without glancing away from the dry erase board. “Yeah, I thought you’d miss me too much if I didn’t show again.” The boy said and walked to the stool at Caylee’s desk as the class giggled.
He was tall with black hair, black clothes and black and white Converse sneakers. The only color he had was in his eyes, a deep, piercing green. They stared at Caylee as he walked to the back of the classroom as took his seat. He had a smirk on his face the whole time. Caylee stared ahead at Mr. Walker and tried her hardest not to pay attention to him. There was something about him that was so intimidating it made her hands sweat. She wiped them off on her jeans as inconspicuous as she could. The boy sat in the stool, leaned in to her and whispered so close to her ear that her hair moved from his breath. “I’m Noah. What’s your name?” The questioned reminded Caylee of such a five year old kid thing to say in a playground that she let out a grunt. It could have possibly been nerves more than what he said was funny. “Do you find that funny?” He sat straighter in his stool. “I was merely asking what your name was. I haven’t seen you around here before.” “I’m sorry.” Caylee started with a smile. Hold it together, girl! She thought to herself. “My name is Caylee. I just moved here a couple of days ago.” “Well Caylee, it is very nice to meet you. Why’d you move here?” Mr. Walker made a threat to Noah about talking in class but that didn’t seem to bother him, he only spoke quieter. “He’s a prick. I said, why did you move here?” “Shh, you’re going to get me in trouble on my first day. Besides, that’s a personal question and I’d rather not talk about it.” Caylee scribbled harder in her notebook what Mr. Walker was writing on the board. “Oh, come on. It can’t be that personal, just tell me. I won’t judge. I mean, if you want I could be a shoulder to cry on.” Noah’s charm was starting to wear off and the annoying side was kicking in. “I just did, alright? Please stop talking.” “Look, I’m just trying to get to know my lab partner that’s all.” Mr. Walker announced that it was time to do the experiment that he had been explaining. The class got to their feet in a hurry and started towards the cabinets in the back of the room for supplies. Caylee turned towards Noah. The last thing she wanted was to start out on the wrong foot with the first person she met. “I’m sorry Noah. It’s a sensitive subject. I didn’t mean to snap. Me and my dad moved here from New York because it was needed.” “I understand. I won’t pry anymore. I get pushy sometimes, but that’s just part of my amazing charm don’t you think?” He had a smile that could knock any woman off her feet. A smile that definitely said I can have any girl I want and I know it. Caylee was not that kind of girl. Guard up. She thought. “Ok, well I don’t know where any of the stuff is in the classroom. Can you show me?” She threw on her best innocent smile she could. “Oh, sweetheart you’ll figure it out. Follow everyone else.” He sat back down on his stool and continued to smile. What a jerk. “Fine.” She went over to the cabinets and had to ask two people where the supplies were before she had everything for her and Noah and set everything on their lab table.
After a while of trying to make a green liquid turn purple Noah broke the Chemistry talk. “Who are you and your dad staying with?” Caylee glanced at him sideways. “I thought you said you weren’t going to pry anymore.” He threw his hands up and shrugged his shoulders. “What can I say? I’m just a curious boy.” She sighed. “I’m staying with my grandmother a few blocks away on Elmore.” Noah showed no emotion, he just smiled and nodded. “You’ve got a good view from your balcony.” “What?” Caylee was startled and turned to face him when the bell rang. Noah picked up his book and started to walk toward the door with the rest of the class. He raised his arm and waved with his back to her. “See ya lab partner.” And he was gone. Caylee was left standing at the table with all of the supplies staring at the door. How does he know that? Trigonometry was easier for her than Chemistry and Social Studies. Chemistry she was distracted the whole time and in the beginning of Social Studies she had tripped over someone’s foot getting to her desk that was in the back of the room. The class giggled when she nearly fell into the boy’s lap. But Trig, this was easy. She enjoyed math because it was so logically explained. This equals this because of this. Nothing to it, no confusion, just formulas. It wasn’t until after her Literature class that her anxiety really kicked in. She had changed in the locker room for gym with a bunch of chatty girls and walked out into the basketball court when she saw Noah leaning against the opposite wall with a group of guys surrounding him. They were laughing and looking at the girls standing in groups around the court. He glanced up at her and gave her a smile and a nod. “Crap.” Caylee said out loud. “Do what?” Caylee looked to her left where a tall blonde girl was standing smiling at her. She looked in the direction Caylee had been and nodded her head in understanding. “I see you’ve met Noah. What a hunk right? Also, a player. Stay away girl!” She laughed at herself. “You’re new here right? I’m Sam Morris. Samantha really, but I go by Sam.” Caylee felt relieved for the first time that day. “I’m Caylee. I just moved here a couple of days ago.” Sam gave her a hug. “It’s nice to meet you Caylee! You’re in my Social Studies class. I saw the trip. Yikes! Embarrassing right?” She waved her hand like she was shooing a fly. “Don’t worry, no one will remember tomorrow. Gossip only lasts in this school for about a day.” Sam was tall and curvy unlike Caylee who was short with no curves. She had long blonde hair, tan skin, perfect teeth, the works. She would have intimidated Caylee if she wasn’t so nice. “Let me introduce you to the clicks. You’re boy over there, Noah, is a kick butt soccer player. Can’t you tell? He’s got the body for it. The guys standing around worshiping his highness are the jocks. Mainly basketball and soccer sports here in our small town. We’re not
really big enough for football. The girls over there that the boys are staring at are cheerleaders. That’s me! I’m co-captain right now but I sear on my life I’ll get voted for captain next year!” She seemed to go into a daze but quickly snapped out of it. “Over there are the music and art students. Everyone here is pretty nice but of course there are those girls you need to watch out for.” She pointed at a girl who was standing in the middle of the jock’s circle. “That’s Regina. She’s Noah’s sister.” She made a cat hissing noise and clawed the air with her fingers. “She and her friends are the ones that do all the gossiping around here. She’s had a stick up her butt for years but no one knows why. She’s pretty, charming, she could get every guy in school and she’s got straight A’s, but she’s just one unhappy chick-a-dee.” “Well thanks for the tour.” Caylee and Sam walked to the middle of the court with the rest of the class as the coach came in the side doors. She was a bulky woman built and sounded like a man. “That’s Coach Tudor. She’s a beast!” Sam chucked. The class was ordered to line up for conditioning. The hour went by fairly quickly, which she was very thankful for. Her last class was art and it was going to be her relaxation time before the bell rang for her to go home. She sat quietly in the class concentrating on drawing the fruit basket on the teacher’s desk at the front of the classroom. The bell rang before she had finished drawing her last apple. She got up and headed toward her locker that was on the same floor. She threw her books in and took out the ones she needed for homework, stuffed them in her backpack and walked upstairs towards the front entrance. “Lab partner!” A voice yelled from the lockers beside the office doors. Caylee pretended she didn’t hear it. Noah came jogging up from behind her and fell into her pace. “Can I walk you home?” “Why? Do you want to see exactly where I live so you can try and find out my story some more? Wait, no, you know where I live.” Caylee stopped in front of the oak tree in front of the school and pointed a finger at Noah. “How do you know where I live?” Noah let out a laugh. “Well sweetheart I live on that street and I know everyone on that street. You said you moved in with your grandmother and the only old lady on our street is the one in the yellow house at the end.” He held out his arms and bowed as if he were getting an award for solving a hard puzzle. “Oh” Caylee said in a monotone voice. “Well, ok. Yes that’s correct. Which house is yours?” “The blue one right next to yours.” Caylee started walking towards her street. “Oh my gosh. Are you kidding me?” She heard Noah laugh as he caught up to her. “So you’re last name is Balfour?” “Guilty” He held up a scout’s honor sign with his fingers. “I’m guessing you’re last name is Burk?” “Yeah how’d you know?”
“Word gets around when new people start showing up in good ‘ole Rocky Mount, North Carolina.”He said in his best amped up southern accent. The continued talking about the town and school when finally they came up on the blue house. “Well this is my stop. See ya, lab partner.” He ran up to his front door where he disappeared through the front door. Caylee walked in a daze into the kitchen where Granny J was cutting apples. She put them on a plate and slid them over to Caylee who had sat down on the island bar stool. “Well baby girl. How was your first day? Was it as terrifying as you thought it would be?” Granny J walked over to a basket of flowers and weeds and began crushing them into a jar. “It wasn’t terrifying. Believe it or not, I met people.” She took a bite of her sliced apple. “It was a little scary at first, sat alone at lunch, tripped on someone’s foot, but a girl, Sam came up to me in gym and just started talking to me. No one in New York would have ever done that.” “Sam? Oh! Samantha Morris! Yes, I know her mom. She works at the grocery store. They’re both very sweet people. Sam’s dad died a year ago in a car accident.” Granny J looked up from crushing the flowers. “Oh, sweety I didn’t mean to remind you.” Why did everyone think she was a fragile piece of glass? “Granny J, its fine I promise. I guess that gives me and Sam something in common then. It’s a comforting thought.” Granny j looked relieved and went back to crushing her flowers. Caylee couldn’t take it anymore. “What on earth are you doing?” “Making tea.” Granny J said without looking up. After she finished her apple she went up to her room and started on her homework. When her father came home the trio sat and ate dinner and talked about their day until the sun went down.
The rest of the week went by smoothly. Sam had introduced her to several people at school, she had a table to sit at in the cafeteria now, and she found that it was much easier to get into her studies again even if she had been enrolled two months after school started. She was even invited to a party thrown by the cheerleaders that Friday night. The only thing that stayed in the back of her mind was Noah. He hadn’t been to school since Monday and although he annoyed her so much on the first day there was something about him that she wanted to know more about. Something hidden in those green eyes. She walked to her corner from school that Friday afternoon with Sam. “So what are you wearing to the party tonight Caylee?” Sam was twisting her braided hair into a bun then letting it out and repeating. “Um, I don’t know. Jeans, a tank top, a sweater.” Sam looked at her sideways. “You’re killing me. Let me give you a little dress that I have. It’s super short and super sexy!” “Sam, are you kidding me? I can’t wear anything like that. My dad would kill me.” “What your dad doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Just wear something out when I pick you up tonight and change in the car.” Her smile was sly.
Caylee let out a sigh and laughed. “I’m not making any promises but I’ll look at the dress tonight.” “Great! My house is the next street over. I’ll pick you up at 8, alright?” “I’ll be waiting.” Sam gave Caylee a hug and jumped up and down. As she skipped down the street Caylee walked up to her house.
“Party tonight huh?” Noah was standing at the entrance to her driveway with his hands in his pocket. His hair was perfectly messy. He must have been walking behind them for him to hear their conversation but she could have sworn they were alone. “Hi, Noah.” Caylee said as casually as she could. “Yeah, Sam Morris invited me. It’s thrown by the cheerleaders. I think it’s just a house party or something.” Noah made a grunting noise and shook his head. “Oh, no Caylee, I promise you it won’t be just a house party.” He gave her a wink and walked back over to his house. Caylee stood there staring in the spot that he was just standing in. Why did he always just leave like that? She walked into the house for dinner wondering what on earth he meant.
Chapter Four Sam sang loudly to a song on the radio in the car while Caylee put a small red dress on that Sam brought with her. It wasn’t really something she would normally wear but after moving, then starting a new school and the stress of trying to catch up on the schoolwork, she needed to have a let her hair down kind of night. “Your brown hair looks great with that dress Cay!” “You think so?” Caylee finally had the tight dress on and was fluffing her hair. “I’m a little nervous, Sam. I don’t really know anyone but you at the party. I’ve met a few people in my Art class but that’s about it.” Sam snorted a laugh. “Trust me Cay, there is nothing to worry about in this town. We’re all pretty close. Once we get to the warehouse you’ll see. Just don’t be scared.” “I’m not scared, just nervous.” “That’s not what I mean.” Sam gave Caylee a wink and a very sly smile. The car pulled up at the abandoned warehouse. It was sitting alone in the middle of a field about thirty minutes outside the town’s limits. There was a bon fire roaring with about 20 students surrounding it dancing and drinking out of solo cups. The duo got out of the car and immediately Caylee’s heart started pounding in her chest. A few of Sam’s cheerleading friends came running up to Sam and Caylee saying how cute they looked handing them their drinks. One girl, Melissa, grabbed Caylee by the arm and started telling her how happy she made it out to the party.
“You’re going to love it here. Just don’t be scared.” Caylee laughed nervously. “Why does everyone keep saying that to me?” The girls looked at each other and laughed. “We’re just waiting on a few more people, Sam. Then we’re ready to show her.” Melissa said. “Great!” Sam looked over at Caylee. “You’re going to be blown away.” “What is going on?” “You’ll see.” Sam looked over Caylee’s shoulder then gave her a wink. “It looks like someone is coming over to talk to you. Hey Noah. Bye Caylee.” “No, Sam!” Caylee whispered to Sam who only waved at her as she walked off. Caylee turned around and was face to face with Noah who was smiling down at her. “Well hello there Caylee. You look pretty good in that dress.” He eyed her up and down and stopped a little too long at her butt. Caylee cleared her voice. “Hello Noah. I didn’t know if you were coming out tonight.” “That means you were thinking of me. It’s ok, a lot of girls here think about me. It also means you were hoping I was coming out tonight which is probably why you’re wearing such a short dress.” He stood with his hands in his pocket holding a smug expression on his face. Caylee could not stand his arrogance anymore. She didn’t care that he was so beautiful for a boy, his personality cancelled that out. “Noah, I was just making conversation. Unlike the rest of the girls in the school, I am the only one that could care less about you and your arrogant self.” Noah only smiled bigger and leaned in close to her face. His nose almost touched hers and all she could think about was the intoxicating smell coming from his shirt. He smelled like mint and freshly washed laundry. “Not after you see what I can do. I promise you’ll be head over heels after that.” Caylee took a step back and composed herself. “What do you mean?” Noah stood up straight and started slowly clapping his hands. He licked his lips and made a follow me motion with his hand to Caylee. He and the rest of the students started walking to the bon fire that was now almost as tall as the warehouse roof. Caylee walked slowly towards Sam who was standing with the few cheerleaders that showed up on the opposite side of the fire. They were all clapping and chanting something. Some with their eyes closed, others with their heads tilted up towards the moon that was just starting to rise above the mountains in the distance. “Sam, what’s going on.” She looked around at everyone who seemed to be in a deep chanting trance. Sam grabbed Caylee’s hand. “Don’t scream.” Caylee’s hand tightened around Sam’s as the chanting and clapping grew louder then suddenly stopped as they looked towards Noah who was standing on a chair with his arms out towards the sky. She had never seen him with such a serious look on his face before. He looked over at Caylee. “Caylee, there is something we need to show you.” Sam, still clutching Caylee’s hand pulled her softly over to Noah.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.