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Authors: Carey Corp

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The Guardian

BOOK: The Guardian
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THE HALO CHRONICLES:

THE GUARDIAN

 

 

CAREY CORP

 

 

 

 

The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian by Carey Corp

Copyright © 2011 by Carey Corp

 

Digital ISBN:

 

Published by Carey Corp

Cover by Carey Corp

Photos used to design cover were legally obtained from Shutterstock.com

 

All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any form in whole or in part without written permission from the author, with the exception of brief quotations for book reviews or critical articles.

 

Kindle Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, or actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

For my village,

I could not do this without you!

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

When I was a little girl, I thought the shadows could harm me. I was terrified of them. Then I learned there are far worse things in this world than the absence of light. Things like hate, racism, pure evil, and high school. Yep, that’s what I said,
high school
. Most people overlook the real darkness of the world, seeing instead average citizens—adults mostly, some teens, a few kids, an occasional teacher—but I see them for what they are: monsters. Now I look for the shadows, welcome them even. There’s safety in shadows. Especially when your only goal in high school, in life, is to be invisible.

*

Seven long blocks.

I tell myself that’s all it is—a cake walk. Basically, I lie.

Kate and Steven, the latest in a long line of do-gooder foster parents, have already left for the day, so I linger on their freshly painted front porch taking in the variations of pastel blue and antique white gingerbread trim. Inhaling deeply, the pungent chemical smell of the paint slices through my fear allowing me to clear my head. The acrid scent is strangely soothing.

For a minute, I regret not accepting the ride offered to me. Kate wanted to stay. Drive me to the first day of school, my being new and all. But I told her that’s not the way it’s done when you’re a sophomore. She got it and let the subject drop. She’s good that way.

I shut the front door, which is the same shade of red as a Christmas poinsettia, taking extra care to use the spare key and return it to the inner pocket of my new backpack. Looking down, my eyes trace the bottom edge of my jeans as they rest against my new Ed Hardy sneakers. The shoes match my top perfectly, both a vivid shade of electric purple– not a color I’m entirely comfortable with. The whole outfit’s new, like the backpack and my haircut.

At Kate’s insistence, I capitulated to a back-to-school shopping spree. It seemed to make her sublimely happy to dress me up like Suburban Barbie, and since I don’t care too much one way or the other, I thought it was the right thing to do. So, I now have a new, colorful wardrobe that puts me in the same category as the porch—recently overhauled. But I miss my faded army jacket with its oversized sleeves and holes worn clean through the pockets.

As I contemplate the walk before me, my heart squeezes in a familiar, unpleasant way that proves, contrary to my makeover, nothing has changed. Nothing ever really does.

Just seven blocks.

And Kate’s already gone because I told her I would be fine, that I could handle the first day all by myself.

I lied.

Does it make a difference that I’m sorry when I have to lie? I like to think so—but it doesn’t make the lie harder to tell the next time. It’s not any easier either, so that’s something.

Regardless, lying is what I’m good at. So, I tell myself today will be just fine; that there’s nothing to be afraid of. And despite the cramping in my stomach, I leave the safety of the pretty porch and begin to walk.

School starts in forty-five minutes. If I amble, I’ll reach Midlands High just as the warning bell rings; I’ve made three dry runs already this week. Even though I have an assigned locker, I don’t plan on using it. To use a locker I would have to stop, turn my back on people. High school’s about staying in motion, staying invisible.

But I am conspicuously purple. And  no longer have my army jacket. 

To console myself, I make believe Derry’s at my side, striding along on his gangly legs, his still-developing center of gravity causing a jerkiness to his gait. Derry’s the only friend I’ve ever had. He’s gone. Missing for thirty-six days. I know this because I’ve been with Kate and Steven Foster precisely thirty seven-days.

I don’t tell the Fosters this—not that they wouldn’t go out of their way to try and help me—it’s just, Derry is personal.

Six blocks to go.
Like a countdown to an execution, or the tolling of the bells at midnight, the blocks vanish beneath my feet as I move toward something sinister and ominous. It doesn’t help to change direction, no matter which way I go, I’m always moving toward it. Never away. Never toward safety.

At the corner, I turn right onto Midlands Avenue. As my new shoes shuffle along the perfectly square blocks of sidewalk, I look in vain for flaws in the cement. The morning is so crisp that the details of the neighborhood are a sharp assault to my senses. On both sides of the street, lush, manicured lawns gently slope toward stately, old homes. Flowers bloom from every possible surface in a profusion of colors. The wind brushes against me and I realize that here, even the breeze is pleasant.

For a moment I long to be back at The Children’s Center with its cracked, crumbling pavement and tenaciously growing weeds. There, the air was stale but familiar. I think about the Center, the closest thing I can call home, for the next two blocks and wonder for the millionth time where Derry is. He can’t take care of himself.
He needs me.

And just maybe, I need him.

Maybe I need one person in this cursed life to care about me—someone I can care about in return. Then I wonder if I’m asking too much.

Four more blocks.

When I reach Fort Thomas Avenue I turn left, surveying the tidy landscaping and brick accents that give the wide street a small-town charm I instantly distrust. In my experience, places that look like this, so safe one feels a false sense of utopia, are the worst. Nowhere is safe.

To my right are snappy little shops with green awnings and thriving flower boxes. They’re closed this time of the morning. Idly, I wonder if Kate shops there and whether she’ll take me with her sometime. One store’s a used CD place. Maybe I’ll stop there on the way home, if the day doesn’t turn out to be too bad. I’m always looking for more music.

With a swift stab of pain, I realize it doesn’t matter anyway. I no longer own the MP3 player I got for Christmas as a charity gift. It was dark pink and came with a gift card for 200 downloads, which wasn’t nearly enough since my tastes are eclectic. I gave it to Derry and can’t bring myself to regret the decision, even though it was fully loaded and not an appropriate color for a boy. It was the only part of me I could leave behind for him when I had to go. When Derry listens to all my favorite bands, I hope he thinks of me. At least a little.

The foot traffic’s heavier now. Kids strolling along in noisy groups. Most wearing shorts, since it’s August. They look bright and shiny, and rich. It occurs to me I’ve never been to a school this nice, and maybe, because of the affluence, it’ll be different. Better.

I try to picture what it would be like to stay here in this place, but the harder I focus the more the idea becomes intangible, dissipating like the morning fog. It’s as if I’m trying to capture something that doesn’t exist—something that never can, for me.

Rounding the next corner, I see the dark spot. Just off the main road, on Orchard Avenue, lurks a clump of guys. On the surface they look normal, but my skin crawls. There are just three of them, but my heart starts to pound in an all-too-familiar nauseating way, and I consider turning around. Skipping school. But I don’t want to disappoint Kate and Steven. Their home feels safe. I’ve never had that before and I want it. Even if it’s foolish.

Even if it can’t last.

Loosening my dark hair from behind my ears, I hunch my shoulders, ducking into myself. But my newly cut hair is too short to hide behind. And I don’t have the safety of my jacket. Diverting my eyes, I stare at the sidewalk in front of me, feeling highly vulnerable. I regret declining the designer sunglasses Kate wanted to buy me. If I had sunglasses I could observe things better.

The three boys notice as I pass. I don’t look, but can feel their repulsive attention all the same. Bile starts to churn in my stomach, rising. My heart’s rioting beneath my ribcage as I pick up my pace.

Less than three blocks to go.

The pristine sidewalks are congested with well-dressed kids. Excited chattering surrounds me adding to my anxiety. My stomach rumbles in protest, and I’m glad I’ve not eaten. New environments often make me sick. I’ve learned to take precautions.

Two blocks.

The last two blocks are shorter. Up ahead I can see the three story brick citadel of Midlands High School being overrun with shiny, happy people—for the most part, that’s what they are—and I allow myself a brief smile at the R.E.M. reference. Though my reaction’s lessening, I’m still cautious.

Ahead of me in the semi-circular courtyard, I spot a potential problem. Just one boy, a blob of battleship gray in the buttery sea of students. I alter my course, giving him a wide berth. He doesn’t pay any attention to me, which is just the way I like it.

Mentally I review my plan. Visualizing my route using the class schedule and campus map I’ve memorized, I cross the street with the oblivious herd of kids and resign myself to the horrors of high school. Main building, second floor, left wing. First period Math. Algebra.

My heart pounds madly, like a jackhammer on steroids. I focus on my unsullied, purple shoes as I weave my way through the heaving mass of kids, trusting my senses to alert me to any real danger.

The worst part of a new school is getting the proverbial lay of the land. Interpreting the cliques and teachers, identifying who’s got power and who just thinks they do. Most of all who to avoid. Not the obvious bullies or bitchy popular girls, but the truly malicious, malignant ones. This is my fifth school in two years. I have made surviving an art.

Relieved to make it to first period without incident, I’m slipping through the classroom doors when uncontrollable sensations assault me. Palpable dread, a leaden ball in my stomach. My mouth goes dry as my heart slams against my ribs, faltering before it speeds up. I inhale sharply, knowing the danger’s in the back of the room on the side closest to the door.

BOOK: The Guardian
11.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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