Authors: Amber Garza
My lips tugged upward in a grin. “Fine. For you.”
“See, I told you. That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Isaac asked me in the lobby after service.
I shook my head. I had never been to church before but it looked a lot like I imagined with its stained glass windows and wooden pews. The music was pretty cool and the preaching was okay. I did find myself getting a little bored at parts, but sitting next to Isaac sure made it worth it. Frankly, the pastor could’ve spoken all day.
“Hungry?” Isaac asked.
“Wanna grab a bite to eat?”
I nodded. “Let me just find Grandma and let her know.”
There were only about a hundred people who attended the church, and my grandma seemed to know them all. She stood in a cluster of women who were chatting and laughing like schoolgirls. They stopped abruptly when they saw me.
“Oh, this must be your granddaughter,” one of them shrieked.
“She’s gorgeous,” said another.
My cheeks warmed and I smoothed down the skirt of my dress.
“This is McKenzie,” Grandma said placing her hand on the small of my back and gently guiding me into the circle. They all crowded around me. I had a flashback of being in preschool and playing London Bridges. Floral perfume and hairspray swirled around me.
I was met with a chorus of “Nice to meet you,” and “we’ve heard so much about you.”
I smiled politely and then faced Grandma. “Isaac and I are going to lunch.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. Then I suppose I’ll grab lunch with the ladies.”
“Great.” I smiled again and pressed my way out of the circle. “See you later.” The moment I freed myself I ran right into Brooke.
“So, what’s your sob story?” she asked.
I was totally confused. Talk about coming out of left field. “What?”
“C’mon, you must have a story. Let me guess. You come from a divorced home, dad’s not around. Am I close?”
My face flamed.
“Look, everyone knows Isaac’s a rescuer.”
“What do you mean?”
“You think you’re the first girl Isaac’s brought around here?”
My stomach tightened. I wanted to cover my ears and run. Instead I stayed rooted in place, eager to hear what she had to say.
“I used to be you. I met Isaac a little over a year ago. My parents had just split. My mom moved here with her new boyfriend. Things weren’t going well for me. And then I met Isaac. We are started hanging out, he brought me to church and as soon as I got comfortable he moved on to the next girl who needed rescuing.”
My hands shook, my stomach rolled, and sweat broke out on my forehead. “Why are you telling me this?”
“It’s just a warning. Enjoy Isaac while you can.” With that she spun around and stalked off.
Could she be telling the truth? It made sense. Isaac did only take me out once at my grandma’s leading before he invited me to a church event. Was he only interested in getting me saved? I thought he’d been attracted to me but maybe all I was to him was another girl to rescue.
“Ready to go?” Isaac appeared by my side.
I stared at the deep maroon carpet. “No, I think I’ll just go home with grandma, after all.”
“But she just left.”
“Yeah. Are you okay?”
Still looking down I said, “I’m not feeling well. Can you take me home, please?”
Once we got in the car I kept my gaze glued out the window. Even his proximity was making me nervous but I needed to just survive the short car ride home.
“Did something happen?” Isaac asked.
I shook my head.
“I saw you talking with Brooke. Did she say something to upset you?”
“No, she was fine.”
Awkward silence filled the car the rest of the ride. When we pulled up at the house, I jumped out before he could come around to open my door. I sprinted toward Grandma’s. Once safely inside I broke down into tears. I knew falling for another boy would only cause me heartbreak. It happened every time. When would I learn? Nobody loved me just for me. I was just somebody people used or took pity on. That’s all I’d ever be.
Without even realizing where I was headed, I ended up in the bathroom, razor held to my arm. This time the cut was deeper than usual and I started bleeding profusely. I pressed a wad of tissue against it to stop the bleeding and with the other hand frantically searched for the Band-Aids. The minute I located them I pulled one out and slapped it over my cut.
A loud knock startled me.
Could it be Isaac? I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t home. I had to answer it. Swiftly pulling the sleeve of my cardigan down over my arm, I raced to the front door. When I swung it open Rhiannon stood on the porch.
“Oh hi,” I said.
“Hey, I hadn’t seen you in a couple days and thought I’d check on you. See how you liked the book. But from the looks of your aura you’re not doing so well.”
Here we go again.
She wrinkled her nose, pursed her lips. “Hey, did you know that you’re bleeding all over your sweater?”
“What?” I looked down to see crimson splatters on my sleeve.
Oh great. How would I explain this? Period? Nose bleed? Scratch?
Rhiannon reached out and pulled up my sleeve before I could stop her. The Band-Aid covered my newest cut but my old ones were still visible. Angry, I tore my arm away from her.
“Why would you do that?” Her boldness unnerved me.
“I suspected you were a cutter.”
”It’s not rocket science. It’s actually pretty obvious because of your unhappy aura, always wearing long sleeves, and now the blood.”
I glared at her. Her smugness was really annoying.
“You can leave now,” I said.
“There’s no reason to be mad. I used to be a cutter too.” She put out her arms, palms side up. Large, grotesque scars rode up them. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed them before. But then again I never looked that closely. “I ended up cutting an artery and almost died. That’s how my parents found out about it. I had to see a shrink and everything.”
“Is that what made you stop?”
“No. I found something better than counseling. C’mon over to my house and I’ll show you. While I’m at it, I’ll wash your sweater. I’m sure you don’t want to have to explain your bloody clothes to your grandma.”
hiannon’s house mirrored Grandma’s. What made it seem so different was the bareness. The air smelled stale almost like no one lived there, the walls were bare and only a few items of trendy furniture were scattered throughout. I shivered. Grandma’s house was much more inviting and cozy. I noticed some boxes in the corner and then remembered that they’d moved fairly recently.
“Not done decorating, huh?”
“What?” Rhiannon followed my gaze. “Oh, that. Yeah, we move so often we usually don’t do a lot of decorating. Besides, my parents are never home.”
“Where are they?”
“Work, mostly. They don’t really fill me in on their plans. Let’s just say I’m not their top priority. My parents never shouxld’ve been parents. They’re completely career driven.”
I was starting to understand why she’d been a cutter.
“What about your grandma? Won’t she wonder where you are?”
“Nah, she thinks I went to lunch with Isaac.” Just saying his name made my heart ache.
“Oooh, Isaac, huh? So, that’s where you’ve been lately.”
“Yeah, well that’s over now.”
“Oh no. What happened?”
I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“So, are you going to show me what made you stop cutting?”
Rhiannon led me down the darkened hallway to what I assumed to be her room. When she opened the door the smell of incense smacked me in the face. Her room was dark, curtains drawn. It was such a contrast to my country style room. In the corner stood a dark cherry wood dresser and a bed with a deep purple bedspread hugged the wall. Black and white gothic pictures stared down at me.
“When I was in counseling, the shrink told me that the reason I cut was because I want to control some aspect of my life. That totally made sense to me but I didn’t know how I’d ever find another way to control my life since my parent’s pretty much dictate everything about it. But when I moved here I made some new friends and they introduced me to witchcraft and I finally found something I could control.”
Chills snaked up and down my spine. I glanced around uneasily at the candles and incense burners, the tarot cards scattered across her dresser. This wasn’t really what I had in mind.
“Witchcraft?” I asked my voice squeaking. “Isn’t that scary?”
“Not at all. It’s not like we curse people or play with voodoo dolls or anything. The thing is that my new friends said they could tell I was spiritual the first time they met me and they were right. I’ve discovered I have real a spiritual gifting. I can read auras and tarot cards, I can speak to spirits and I’ve even cast a couple of spells.”
Now I was really uneasy. The women in the portrait hanging above me seemed to follow me with her eyes. Another picture of a star caught my eye. It looked identical to the tattoo Rhiannon had on her wrist.
“That’s like your tattoo.”
“Yeah, it’s a pentagram. It symbolizes unity and wholeness.”
Well, that didn’t sound so bad.
“You know,” Rhiannon said, “when I first met you I could totally tell that you also have a spiritual gifting. You just haven’t learned to tap into it yet.”
Rhiannon was crazy. I was convinced of this now.
“C’mere. Give me your hand.”
I held my arm close to my body, shook my head.
“Don’t be scared. I just want to read your palm.”
Reluctantly, I thrust my hand forward. She ran her fingers along the lines in my flesh. It tickled. I curled my fingers.
“Stop it. You have to hold still.” She spread my fingers back out. As she traced my lines she looked like a blind person reading Braille. “It looks like you will live a fairly long life. That you will be married only once and you will have two children. Oh, and you will have a lot of money but that it will be inherited through your family, so maybe that means you’ll marry rich.” She winked at me.
This must be standard speech for a palm reading. I couldn’t believe people actually bought into this crap. Anyway, it made me relax a little to realize Rhiannon wasn’t actually able to perform magic. If pretending made her feel better than who was I to judge? When she released my hand I glanced over and my gaze landed on a board game lying on the ground.
“Is that a Ouija board?”
“Uh-huh. You ever use on?”
“No, I’ve always thought they were pretty silly.”
When I was a kid a friend of mine had one. She always wanted to play it but I had visions of her pushing the game piece around, forcing it to spell things. I didn’t believe in ghosts and spirits and stuff so there was no point.
“It’s not silly at all. C’mon, I’ll show you.”
I shook my head.
“C’mon.” She grabbed my arm.
Geez, she was pushy.
“Are you afraid?” she teased, a gleam in her dark eyes.
“Of course not.”
“Then come on.”
By then she was already sitting on the ground in front of the board, crossing her slender legs.
Sighing, I reluctantly dropped to the floor across from her. “All right. Let’s get this over with.”
“Okay, put your fingers on the planchette.”
“The pointer. It’s called a planchette. Put your fingers on it.”
I did as she said.
“Okay, what do you want to ask it?” she said.
I shrugged. “I don’t care.”
“You’re going to have to be a little more open than that or no spirits will want to visit us. They can tell if you have a willing spirit or not.”
I rolled my eyes.
Just then the pointer moved forward and landed on the letter H.
I cocked an eyebrow at Rhiannon. “Why did you do that? We didn’t even ask a question.”
“I didn’t do anything,” she snapped. “Obviously some spirit decided to join us despite your bad attitude.”
The planchette moved to the letter “I”.
“Hi. The spirit is greeting us,” Rhiannon explained. “Hi, I’m Rhiannon and this is Kenzie. We’re so glad you joined us.”
When I rolled my eyes again she kicked me in the shin and gave me a sharp look.
“What’s your name?”
The pointer moved and I watched Rhiannon carefully to see if she was the one pushing it. It spelled out the name Wesley.
“Nice to meet you Wesley,” Rhiannon said.