Authors: Cindy C Bennett
Cindy C Bennett
Copyright 2012 Cindy C Bennett
USA All Rights Reserved
Cover: Cindy C Bennett
Cover Photos Copyrighted:
(Girl) Jmpaget @ Dreamstime.com
(Boy) Elena Rostunova @ Dreamtstime.com
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 and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
She was beautiful, and she knew it.
She sat glaring at her reflection in the oval mirror of her vanity. Clear unmarred skin, sleek dark hair, and sky blue eyes stared back at her. Beauty was the curse in her life that many envied, but only because they didn’t understand the burden it carried. She wished for once to be lauded for her mind rather than her looks.
She turned away from the mirror, her eyes sweeping the shabby room. It sat clean and tidy as she always kept it. She did the same with the rest of the small house as well, in spite of her father’s constant attempts to undermine her efforts.
She opened her closet, scanning the few contents. Her father’s pitiful paycheck did nothing for her wardrobe, which required creativity on her part. She could sew as well as any professional seamstress, and kept her wardrobe up to date by changing the items. Good thing she was something of a trend-setter rather than a trend follower.
Someone knocked on the door, and she quickly pulled on a pair of shredded jeans—thank heavens for
fashion trend—and a pink tee with lace patching holes. She hurried through the house, slipping her feet into the flip-flops that sat near the couch. She was grateful her father wasn’t home. Opening the door revealed Jennae and Brittany, her two BFF’s, and Eli and Brandon.
“Hey, Calli,” Jennae and Brittany said in unison. Eli rolled his eyes as they broke out in giggles, but Brandon—who’d been enamored with Brittany since Calli rejected him—smiled indulgently.
“Hey, guys,” Calli said, pulling the door closed behind her, not bothering with the lock. This wasn’t exactly a prime neighborhood for thieves looking for items of value.
They moved down the street, Eli and Brandon behind the laughing girls with linked arms, kicking a rock back and forth. They came to Punky’s Burgers, the local dive that was the only place to hang out in the not-so-thriving metropolis of Orchid. The town had absolutely nothing in common with the beauty of its namesake—well, not on this side, anyway.
They pooled their meager money and bought two orders of fries and an order of onion rings, as well as one extra-large soda to share. The found their usual table, chasing off two pigeons, and ignoring the mud-smeared, food splattered top.
The conversation was usual, gossiping about others at school or complaining about the teachers. They avoided talking about their home life because there wasn’t much good to say from any of them. Calli only half listened to the mundane conversation, until it turned.
“Who’s up for the Monster House tonight?” Eli asked the group.
“Oh, c’mon,” Jennae groaned. “When are you going to give that up?”
Calli’s eyes moved past the group to the very house they spoke of. It sat high up on the hill, overlooking the town. It was larger than all five of their houses put together, opulent, beautiful . . . and mysterious. No one had ever been within its walls. At least, no one they knew of. The man who owned the town lived there. He didn’t own the
exactly, but he owned the only bank in town, which was basically the same thing.
“I’ll give it up when you quit being such a chicken and go with me,” Eli said to Jennae.
“Not gonna happen,” she said. Calli knew she lied. Jennae wanted to go as badly as Eli did.
Brandon usually joined in with Eli trying to cajole them, but since he’d developed a crush on Brittany, he waited to hear her opinion before voicing his own. He was so obvious. And Brittany was so oblivious.
“How ‘bout you, Calli? You in?”
Calli didn’t answer Eli. The bigger part of her knew it was wrong, that she shouldn’t even consider it. Another part of her was curious. Beyond curious, honestly. Not about the monster, so much, though she kind of thought she might want to catch a glimpse of him, but mostly curious about the house.
On the other side of town there were people with money, like something out of a Dickens novel. They had large houses, they drove nice cars, they wore designer clothes. But Monster House was something else. Monster House was the stuff of movies with its size and mystery.
Instead of answering Eli, she just shrugged. That kept her neutral, gave her the chance to go with whatever everyone else decided.
“I’m in,” Brittany said.
“Me, too.” Brandon’s response was quick on the heels of Brittany’s.
“Looks like you’re the only hold-out,” Eli told Jennae.
“Fine, whatever.” She flipped her fingers at him as if she capitulated to peer pressure. Calli knew better.
“Let’s go, then.”
“Wait. Now?” Calli asked.
“Why not? It’s going to be dark soon. Rumor is the monster comes out just before dark to howl at the moon. If we’re gonna go, I don’t wanna miss the show.” Eli found his rhyme hilarious and didn’t realize no one laughed along with him.
They cleaned up their mess, dropping it on top of the overflowing garbage can. Calli felt some hesitation over going up now. As much as she wanted to see the house, she didn’t really want to be one of the kids who went up just so they could say they saw the monster. It seemed cruel.
“Are you coming?” Jennae called back to her. She looked to where they were already sauntering down the road. Deciding she didn’t want to be the one who refused to go, she jogged up to them, putting aside her qualms.
Stupid peer pressure.
* * * * *
He was a beast, and he knew it
. He didn’t need a mirror to tell him so. He didn’t need his father refusing to look at him, or the pitiful glances from the staff members. He touched the side of his face, felt the lumpy, distorted skin beneath his fingers.
With disgust he flung himself away from the wall. He grabbed the jump rope and began quick skips. Sweat soaked his shirt and dripped from his hair. He’d been at his workout for three hours now. Sometimes it helped. Sometimes, like today, no amount of adrenalin, sweat, pain could ease his mind. Tonight would be sleepless.
He threw the rope violently to the side. He stretched a few times and exited the workout room. It was almost time. He jogged up to his room and showered. Sweat pants and a long sleeved tee, in spite of the heat. He pushed the brown fedora down tightly onto his head.
Stepping out onto the back deck, he saw he was almost too late. The sun was lower than he liked. Not that it mattered all that much. He just had less time for reflection. He turned to face the setting orb, the edge of the world on fire. He let his mind go back, sink into memory with the setting sun. The memories came like darts: painful, piercing, unstoppable.
As the sun disappeared, the final memory exploded, pulling him down into it. He threw his arms wide and let it loose. His yell was loud, guttural, ascending with the agony until his voice ran hoarse with it. His hands fisted as his voice tapered off. He breathed heavily.
He heard it then, the laughter. He spun around and saw the rustling bushes. Five heads began running, bopping up and down on the other side. It wasn’t the first time, but tonight, with the pain so deep, he didn’t have his usual restraint.
“Hey!” he yelled. With that, he began pursuit.
* * * * *
They snuck quietly
along the backside of the tall hedge
surrounding Monster House. Eli led the way, managing to arrange it so that Calli walked right behind him. Calli knew what he was up to. She’d known for some time that he liked her, but she wasn’t sure if she liked him back. Though mostly a nice guy, he could be overbearing and kind of immature sometimes.
He knew just where the best viewing position was, which made Calli think he’d probably done this before. When they stopped, he motioned her forward.
“Come over here, Calli. This is the best place to stand.” He took her arm and guided her in front of him where she stood on a slightly elevated piece of ground. He was right: from here she had a clear view of the backside of the house.
The house was as large as it looked from below. A balcony on the second floor overlooked the swimming pool that was fed by a man-made waterfall. Brick and cement surrounded the pool which was itself surrounded by lush green grass. Tall darkened windows blocked the view of the interior of the house. They sat silently, whispering among themselves as the sun drew lower in the sky. Calli was just beginning to believe that they were wasting their time and that the rumors were nothing more than stories when the back sliding glass door slid open. Eli grinned and elbowed her.
Calli watched the figure walk out onto the deck. He was tall—really tall. And broad. Other than that she couldn’t see anything. He was completely covered in clothing other than his hands, which looked entirely human. An Indiana Jones type hat was pulled low over his ears, covering anything they might have seen. He moved to the edge of the deck, limping a little. He stopped at the bricks edge and turned to face the setting sun. He stood silently.
So far, she had seen nothing to prove him anything but a normal person who didn’t want to be seen. Then he did something strange just as the suns edge disappeared. He threw his arms wide, as if to embrace the night, and lifted his face to the sky. The cry that emanated from him shocked her at first, and she jumped. But as the wail continued, she could hear the pain pouring from the sound. Her heart constricted with sympathy and she wanted to reach out to him. The sound ripped into her mind.
When he stopped, the silence was deafening for long moments until Brittany giggled nervously, which set Brandon and Eli off. Calli watched as the figure standing with arms akimbo turned their way.
“Crap. Run!” Eli whispered loudly.
Calli flinched at the yell from the figure that was now running after them. She wasn’t much of a runner, particularly with her flip flops on. The others were far ahead of her when she heard the crashing in the bushes behind her. Terror gripped her and she ran faster.
“Wait!” she gasped. None of them even hesitated. The toe of one of her flip flops caught on a root in the path. She stumbled and fell. As her head connected with a rock to the side of the path, the world went black.
* * * * *
Pain shot through her head.
She groaned and opened her eyes a slit. The world bounced around her in a dizzy spin. Someone carried her. She peered up at the dark figure. She couldn’t make out any features, but the sight of the Indian Jones hat brought a new round of terror.
“No!” she screamed. Or rather, tried to scream. It came out as nothing more than a whimper. She attempted to wiggle free, but he shook her and the movement brought a shaft of agony that in turn brought the darkness once again.
* * * * *
Calli blinked her eyes open.
Darkness surrounded her, tempered by moonlight coming in through the window. She turned her head to gauge her surroundings and realized she was in her own room. She moved to sit up, pain shooting across the left side of her head. She groaned and brought her hand up, touching the bandage. Slowly, carefully, she pushed up into sitting position. She touched the bandage again and felt the bulk of it. It started on her left temple and ran to the back of her head.