Authors: J.M. Sevilla
The missing Link
By J.M. Sevilla
Copyright 2013 J.M. Sevilla
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental.
Part I: The missing Link
By J.M. Sevilla
Book One of a Two part series.
For My Husband who always remains his own person,
is never ashamed to be different,
and thinks so far outside the box you can't even see a box.
Wednesday, December 25
The awkward silence filling the room has everyone shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Their eyes dart around the room, pausing on family photos to examine them as if they hold great importance. Nobody wants to bring up the white elephant in the room, but it's obvious that's all anyone can think about.
The white elephant, unfortunately, is me, and the faded bruise on my cheek.
Thank God they can't see my stomach and the ugly yellowish-purple one that takes up most of it.
So I wait, twirling my straight, shoulder length, golden-brown hair around my finger, chewing on my bottom lip. Waiting for the moment when a family member's curiosity gets the best of them and the questions begin.
The sound of heels clipping the hardwood floor becomes everyone's new area of focus.
My mom enters and smiles, holding up a tray full of appetizers, “Who wants some mini quiche?”
The murmur of pleases and thank-yous hums around the room as my mom goes person to person, offering them a napkin and a pre-feast snack.
The last person is served and she leaves the tray on the coffee table, retreating back to the kitchen. I want to scream at her to come back and not leave me alone with these people and their prying eyes, but instead I remain silent, watching her as she deserts me. I'm hoping maternal instinct will kick in and she'll sense my unease and come back to rescue me.
No such luck.
I let out a sigh and go back to twisting my hair and staring at an invisible spot on the floor. The silence is irritating me now.
Somebody say something, anything!
So,” Uncle Ned speaks up, clearing his throat. “Would it bother anyone if I turned on the game?”
Nobody minds and I want to kiss my uncle for giving everyone a distraction and noise to drown out the silence. We all become overly absorbed in the game. Occasionally, one of them will glance my way. I don't acknowledge them because I will be faced with expressions of concern (a look I'm beginning to loathe), and curious eyes not wanting to ask but dying to know what happened.
We all know the minute my aunt Lisa arrives; it's impossible not to. My aunt comes in two volumes: loud, and obnoxiously loud.
Margret!” She cries from a distant spot in the house, but she might as well have been standing in the living room with how clearly we can hear her. “Where should I put the casserole? You look lovely! It's not fair that we are only two years apart yet you look ten years younger!”
My mom replies, but it's hard to make out what she says. I can tell when they reach the kitchen because my aunt starts yammering on about the food and wanting to make sure she isn't overcooking the ham (she wasn't being rude, my mom overcooks it every year).
A few moments later (after my mom and her older sister finish pleasantries) my aunt comes to the living room. The minute she sees me a deep, saddened frown is placed on her lips.
Here we go.
“Oh, Lily.” She hurries over and pulls me into her arms for a hug, “Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. How are you holding up?”
Fine,” I mumble into her over-teased permed hair, trying not to choke on the overpowering stench of too much hairspray.
She holds me out at arms length, her fake nails digging into my shoulders, and searches my face for the signs of misery only a broken, damaged heart can bring.
She can look as deep as she wants, but she won't find anything.
Really, I'm okay,” I reassure her, patting her on the arm.
Of course you are, dear,” Aunt Lisa returns a sympathetic pat on my shoulder. She doesn't believe me; it's written all over her face.
I sit back down and notice all ten heads of my family are watching us, examining me, waiting for the breakdown they all know is coming. I hold back the urge to roll my eyes at them.
“Did he really hit you?” My ten-year-old cousin, Molly, finally gets up the courage to ask.
Yup.” I reply, picking at my nails.
Clucking of tongues and disapproving head shakes pass around the room.
“Wow, so the bruising on your cheek is from him?” Uncle Ned shoots Molly a warning glance to not be so nosy, while everyone else leans in with great interest. “What? We all want to know exactly what happened, I'm just the only one brave enough to ask.” Nobody disagrees.
Yeah, it is,” I say, responding to her question. More tsks and frowns come from my family. “I'm going to see if my mom needs any help.”
They all nod in understanding, and I can tell they think I'm leaving to shed tears.
As soon as I leave their prying eyes I hear the soft whispers of their gossip.
She's barely holding on.”
Wouldn't you be? They were together for almost two years.”
I never thought Will would be the type of guy to do something like that.”
I pick up my pace so I don't have to hear any more.
I let out a loud sigh and slump against the main wall of the kitchen. This evening has been the longest of my life and it's only thirty minutes in.
. Family is exhausting.
My mom's pulling out the ham when she starts to speak to me over her shoulder, “Everything alright?”
“Yeah, I just needed to get away from that room and everyone’s sympathetic faces.”
She closes the oven door and walks over to me, cupping her hand over my non-bruised cheek. Her honey-colored eyes (which are identical to my own) are wearing the same pity as the claustrophobic room I'd just left. “They love you and are concerned. It's barely been three weeks since it happened. How
you holding up?”
I'm fine!” I throw my hands up in frustration, “I'm tired of everyone thinking I'm going to have a mental breakdown at any second.”
No need to get snippy,” my mom huffs, resuming her cooking.
Sorry. Can I help with anything?”
Sure,” she walks over to the counter by the sink. “Can you please...” She trails off, frowning when something out the window catches her eye. She squints and leans over the sink to get a better view. “Oh, my. Taco Bell? On
?” Her frown deepens and her eyebrows knit together in worriment.
What?” I ask, coming closer to see out the window, scanning all around our quiet cul-de-sac.
The new neighbor across the street came home with Taco Bell in his hand,” she breathes out, covering her mouth like this is the worst thing to ever happen on Christmas.
. No one should be alone on Christmas. Go over there and invite him over.” She starts pushing me out of the kitchen, “Hurry, before he starts eating that garbage.”
We had that
two nights ago,” I point out, firmly planting my feet to the floor.
Well the other night wasn't
. Now go!” She commands.
We don't even know the guy,” I whine in protest. Knocking on a complete stranger's door to invite him over to share a holiday meal with my family does not sound like fun to me.
Know who?” My thirteen year old brother, Seth, inquires, munching on a big bag of chips, placing his ever present skateboard on the kitchen wall.
Mom grabs the chips from his hand, “We'll be eating soon.”
He snatches the bag back, “I'm hungry. We won't be eating for another hour and I finished off the rest of the appetizers.”
My stepbrother, Cody, who is a year older than Seth, comes in and drops his board next to Seth's and reaches his hand inside the chip bag.
It disgusts me how much my brothers can eat and not have an ounce of fat on them. If I ate a whole bag of chips my skin would break out, I'd gain five pounds, and I'd be bloated until New Year's. It's not fair.
Go, Lily,” Mom nudges me.
Go where?” Cody asks, shoveling a fistful of crumbs into his mouth.
I want her to invite the new neighbor over to share Christmas dinner with us. He's all alone in that house. He never has anyone over. I'm sure he's lonely.”
Or a murdering psychopath,” Seth cuts in. “Have you seen him, Mom? That dude scares the crap out of me.”
Cody vigorously nods his head in agreement.
She puts her hands on her hips and gives Seth the disapproving frown all moms seem to master, “I doubt he's killed anyone. I've talked to you about this. Being a loner with a few eye scars doesn't make him evil. You watch too many movies.”
I love it when parents blame the media, though in my brother's case it's probably true. His overactive brain feeds into everything he watches.
Seth shrugs, “Whatever. It's Lily's death, not mine.” He drops the empty bag into the trash and wipes his stained fingers on his shirt (the same one he's worn for the past three days). My mom and I cringe. At least Cody has learned to change his clothes daily and take frequent showers. I keep hoping my brother will learn, but I don't think that will happen until girls are more important than his skateboard, and that's not going to happen any time soon.
What makes you think he's a murderer?” I can't believe I'm encouraging him, but curiosity got the best of me.
He wiggles his brows, smirking, “You'll see.”
“Be careful, Lily.” Cody of course has to join in; the two feed off each other. If they didn't have separate mothers I might think they were once conjoined twins. “Finn Jenkins' older brother said he pulled a switchblade on a man during a bar fight, chopped off two of his fingers, then made him eat 'em!”
Yeah,” Seth can't help but add in his own story; he lives for this kind of stuff, “The bartender told Finn's brother that the owner of the place and him got in a yelling match, and he stabbed a pencil through his hand!” Didn't I see that in a movie?
Ignore them.” Mom takes hold of my shoulders from behind and leads me to the door, “Now go before he eats and uses that as an excuse.”
A quick shove and I find myself standing on our front porch with the door slamming shut behind me. I reluctantly make the journey across the street, growing more nervous with every step I take. I wish I can say it's from having to knock on a complete stranger's door and ask him over for dinner, but the sad truth is I let my brothers freak me out a little. I've never met the guy nor have I seen him in the past eight months he's lived there, so I have no idea what I'm in for.
At least his house appears normal
Or is normal bad when you're dealing with a potential murderer?
Wouldn't they want to blend in? I shake my head, frustrated at myself for listening to my brothers. I'm twenty-two years old and I'm letting my newly-teenage brother get inside my head. The same brother (Seth) who tried convincing my mom his teacher was part of the CIA and gave hard tests to try and recruit future members. My brother informed us that he was on to his plan and refused to be a “puppet in the government's twisted experiments.” He purposely remained at a constant C-average to keep them from knowing the true genius he was. That was a good reminder why I shouldn't listen to a word he said; his overactive imagination was always coming up with crazy stories.
When I reach the front door I knock twice. I hear shuffling feet and then the door opens.
Our neighbor is massive, towering over my petite five-foot-three-inch frame by at least a foot, and even though he is fully clothed, it's undeniable he packs some serious muscle.
Everything is okay until I notice his eyes. They are an average color blue, nothing special, but what sends a tremor down my spine is the raw intensity of them. They are cold, withdrawn, and blanketed in something dark and sinister. Another tremor travels down when I notice the scars. How had I not noticed them right away? It looks like a three-clawed animal tried to scratch out his right eye. The first claw mark is on his temple, the second runs along the edge of his eye, and the third is placed close to the middle. All three start above the brow and end at the cheekbone, progressively growing in size. The smallest one is on his temple.
Maybe my brothers were right?
I realize he's studying me just as intently and I start to panic.
I need to say something and not stand here like an idiot, asking to be his next murder victim.
I nervously play with my hair. “Um, my mom wanted me to invite you over for dinner,” I rush the words, not daring to look at him because without a doubt I would have choked on the words from fright.