Authors: Komal Lewis
Copyright © 2012 Komal Lewis
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes only. It cannot otherwise be circulated in any form of binding or cover than that in which it is published and without a similar condition
including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover Design by Stephanie Mooney at www.mooneydesigns.net.
To my dad,
Thank you for bringing books into my life, reading the terrible stories I wrote as a child, and for always listening.
finds a special spot on your bookshelf.
“I bet a hundred dollars he smells like a rat-infested sewer,” my best friend, Kance, said from beside me, her voice thick with disgust.
Askance Logan, or Kance as everyone called her, brushed a lock of her chocolate brown hair out of her face as she finished applying her lip gloss.
School had just finished and, like always, Kance was dropping me home. We’d been sitting in Kance’s car, discussing my crush, when my next door neighbor, Luca Byron, had strolled up his driveway dressed like someone on his way to a Goth convention.
“Does he actually play that thing?” Kance asked staring in disdain at the red guitar slung over his back.
I nodded, making a face. “Yeah, I think he reckons he’s some sort of rock star. His weird friends are over all the time making a heap of noise.”
“All the while smoking weed and drinking cheap beer, I bet.”
I watched as Luca went inside his house and shut the front door. He wasn’t just my next door neighbor. As strange as it seemed, he had been my best friend growing up. Before he became a social outcast or had tattoos all over his body. When we were younger, we’d been inseparable. What one did, the other did too. During the summer we’d ride our bikes up to the creek and spend all day there swimming and sunbathing. Our parents were certain we’d get married one day because we couldn’t live without each other.
Yeah, like that was going to happen.
Things changed after Luca’s dad died. Luca became withdrawn and wouldn’t come out of his room to see me. I’d tried to speak to him repeatedly, but he hadn’t wanted anything to do with me. Then junior high started and we made new friends. I joined the cheerleading team and hung out with the popular kids. Luca was in his own world with his new, weird friends, and there was no place for me in it.
Two summers ago, he’d left town and, when he’d returned, his appearance had drastically changed. His brown hair was a dramatic black, all spiked up like a porcupine, and his arms were covered in tattoos. The sweet boy I’d once known was now replaced with a stranger I barely recognized. It was amazing how someone could change so much.
“Earth to Ashton Summers, can you hear me?” Kance’s voice broke into my thoughts and I glanced around at her in confusion.
“Sorry, what did you say?”
Kance sighed. “I said that it’s safe for you to get out now. The freak is gone.”
I bristled at her name for him, but didn’t say anything. Kance was allowed to think whatever she wanted, and it wasn’t like Luca was completely innocent in all this. He brought it on himself. He didn’t have to dress all in black or wear eyeliner like a girl. Did he think people wouldn’t make fun of him? In our small town of Statlen
where everyone knew everyone else, he stuck out like a sore thumb.
“Thanks, Kance. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hopped out of the car and watched Kance drive off.
As far as friends went, Kance was somewhere in the middle, despite being my ‘BFF’. We’d met in junior high, and I’d immediately wanted to be her friend. She was one of those girls who all the guys wanted, and all the girls wanted to be like, including me. Her chocolate brown hair was thick and luscious, she had an amazing figure—slim, yet curvy in the right places—and she always wore the latest clothes. When she’d picked me to be her lab partner, I’d jumped at the chance to get closer to her. Since then, I’d adopted her style and her personality, and, now, I liked to think that I was just as desirable and popular as she was.
As I walked across my front lawn, fishing for my keys, I frowned at how long the grass had become. Not having a man around definitely showed. The paint was chipping on our weatherboard house and was in desperate need of a touch up, the shed was derelict and needed a new door, and the roof gutters needed a good clean.
You see, my mom had gotten knocked up by her boyfriend right out of high school and, being the “decent” guy he was, he’d left her when he found out the good news. Apparently, she was good enough to screw, but not good enough to marry.
After I was born, Mom had started waitressing at the local café to support us, and her parents had taken us in. This house had belonged to my grandparents, and I had amazing memories of growing up with them. My Gran used to make the most delicious, mouth-watering apple pies that Luca and I would devour in a matter of minutes. As for Gramps, well, he was a master storyteller. I’d be raptured by the fantastical stories he’d come up with. When they’d passed away, the house had become ours.
“Ashy!” my four-year-old half-brother screeched before I’d even shut the front door. He’d probably been watching me from the window of the living room, like he did every day.
“Blaze, inside voice, please,” I scolded, even though I couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiasm.
Blaze dropped his golden head and made a sad face. “Sorry, Ashy.”
“It’s okay, baby bear.” I dropped my bag and opened up my arms for a hug. Blaze’s face brightened and he ran into my arms. “Where’s Mr. Rochester?”
Blaze frowned and pointed at my foot. “You’re standing on him.”
“Whoops.” I held my hands up and took a step back. “Sorry, Mr. Rochester.”
About four months ago, Blaze had introduced Mr. Rochester into the household. Mr. Rochester was his imaginary friend who was visiting from London, and had a penchant for tea, scones, and the Wiggles.
“Mr. Rochester says he wants peanut butter cookies and milk.”
“Hmm…” I placed a hand on my hip. “Is that what he wants or is it what you want?”
Blaze gave me his serious look which, by the way, was so darn cute, I wanted to pinch his cheeks. “Mr. Rochester says he came here to try fine cousins.”
I stifled a laugh. “Fine
, baby bear.”
“That’s what I said. He wants to try that.”
“Okay, sweetie.” I didn’t know how peanut butter cookies and milk counted as fine cuisine, but you didn’t argue with a culinary expert like Mr. Rochester. Peanut butter cookies were pretty yummy, so maybe he was onto something. “Let me get changed, say hi to Mom, and then I’ll get
some milk and cookies.”
Gramps’ imagination had clearly rubbed off on Mom because, a few years after I was born, she’d quit her job as a waitress and become a full-time writer. It had taken her a few years of querying and submitting her manuscripts to agents, but eventually she’d sold a series and made good money from it. She worked from home in her study on the first floor which made it easier for her to take care of Blaze since Blaze’s dad and she were separated.
Bryan Turner and Mom had married when I was 12, and I had hated him since then. He was a strict, controlling man who’d made Mom’s life miserable. Not long after Blaze was born, Bryan and Mom got a divorce and they shared custody of Blaze. Bryan got Blaze every second weekend and, even though I had a deep dislike for Bryan, I was glad Blaze had a relationship with his father.
Mom was unfortunate when it came to love and, two failed attempts and two children later, she had stayed single. I wanted to see her happy with someone, but she just wasn’t up for dating. She was always focused on her work and her kids.
I picked up my bag before heading upstairs to my room. My room had changed a lot over the years. Once it had been filled with Legos and dolls, and the walls had been covered with the colorful paintings I’d done in elementary school. Now, posters of my favorite celebrities and my friends were pinned on the walls. The brand new laptop mom had bought me on my last birthday sat on my desk, along with a bunch of thick textbooks for school. A set of shelves held photos of me with my grandparents, various knick-knacks I’d collected over the years, and a heart-shaped pebble that Luca and I had found in the woods. A set of pom-poms lay on the floor next to the shoes I always wore for cheerleading practice.
I walked over to my wardrobe to grab clean clothes and, was just about to change, when I noticed my blinds were open. My window faced Luca’s house and his old room. When his dad had passed away, Luca had changed rooms so I couldn’t write notes to him anymore. Since we’d been five years old, we’d stayed up late pressing notes against the window and lighting them up with a flashlight so the other could see it. Even though the room was empty now, I still closed the blinds out of habit.
Once I’d changed, I headed back downstairs and checked in on Blaze, who was watching cartoons, before going in to see Mom. Mom’s work room had been the spare guest room and then Bryan’s games room until Mom had finally converted it into a study for herself when Bryan had left. It was a practical room with a large desk, her computer, and bookshelves filled with all the books that inspired her. Beside her desk, she’d mounted a set of shelves on the wall which held the books she’d published. So far there were five books in her
Sons of Light
series, but she was currently working on the sixth one and contracted to write at least three more.
“Hey Mom,” I greeted, leaning against the doorframe.
“Hey, Ashy.” She got up from her desk and walked over to give me a hug. “How was school?”
“Same old. We have a math quiz on Monday and our first cheerleading practice in the afternoon,” I answered. “What about you? How’s the writing going?”
Mom pushed her straight blonde hair out of her eyes, and I was once again reminded of how similar we looked. I had inherited her golden blonde hair, sky blue eyes and tan skin. Blaze had taken after us in appearance, except he had Bryan’s curly hair which gave him a cherubic appearance.
“I’ve done 40,000 words and I have to double it.” She covered her mouth as she yawned, and I noticed how exhausted she looked. The late nights and lack of sleep were getting to her. She kept herself functioning with lots of coffee, but that wouldn’t work for much longer if she didn’t rest.
“How is Luther at the moment? Still trying to hide the crystals from the forces of Nazabah?” Luther was the main character in mom’s fantasy series, and I was pretty much in the loop of what he got up to. Sometimes mom ran ideas by me, and she always let me read the final draft before she sent it off to her editor.
“No, he found a way to harness the powers and…well, that’s all I’ve done so far. I really need to plot these things out a bit better. Anyway, enough about me. Do you need help studying for your math quiz?”
“I should be fine and, besides, aren’t you supposed to be going to the Annual School Fundraiser tomorrow?”
“That’s right, I almost forgot,” she said, chewing on her lip. “I’m too tired tonight, so I’ll make the muffins in the morning before I leave.”
“You’re taking Blaze with you, right? Because I could really use the quiet time to get some studying done.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take him,” Mom said with a smile. “So, have you seen Luca around school?”
My mom was the master at changing topics. One moment you were completely at ease as you spoke to her and the next, she would be asking you about something you really didn’t want to talk about. In this case, Luca.