Shift (The Pandorma Adventures Book 1)

BOOK: Shift (The Pandorma Adventures Book 1)
4.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


“Hiding? You’re a
bigger coward than I thought,” Medusa jeers.

From the sound of her footsteps I’d guess she is a T. Rex or something larger. The booming pauses and my heart jumps into my mouth. The hairs on the back of my neck prick with alarm. I shoot out of the crevice seconds before Medusa crushes it with her jaws.
I race up the nearest tree and crouch among the foliage but there’s no point. With a furious snarl Medusa shifts into a leopard and races up the tree.

Having nowhere else to go, I spring to the trunk of the next tree. We begin hopping from trunk to trunk, claws shredding bark, skidding up and down. The trees aren’t close together and soon I can no longer continue. But before I can drop to the ground an eagle screeches and claws puncture my shoulders. Medusa, me in tow, tears through the branches overhead, surging into the sky. Before I can react, Medusa flings me into the air. Her talons come around my belly and cut through me as if I’m made of butter. With no energy left to shift, I can only watch as I fall onto a barren cliff outcrop. Blood instantaneously drenches the ground surrounding me.
Get up, run, run,
screams a voice inside me. But I can't.


Chapter 1

A muffled crack of thunder echoes through my dream, cracking the thick bubble of sleep and bringing me into consciousness. Groggily I blink a couple times, waiting for the dark shapes and blurry gray world to become the familiar face of my room. There is a torrent of rain overhead, a flash of lightning illuminates my dark room. Red numbers gleam on the clock beside my bed. 5:15. Almost an hour before the alarm will go off. I try to remember my dream but come up blank. I sigh. There’s no point in trying to go back to sleep.
I hate waking up early,
I think grumpily.

I slip out of bed, grab some random clothes from my messy dresser drawers and stumble down the hall to the bathroom, closing the door quietly behind me. I flick the light switch on and shield my eyes from the sudden brightness. I blink a few times until my eyes adjust then glance around the medium-sized bathroom. Our maid, Kelly always keeps things orderly.
Too orderly.
I’m not a slob, but I still tend to leave things out. My excuse: it gives a room character.

The walls are a soft purple like the petals of an iris. The white porcelain sink—an elegant framed mirror above it— cabinets, and the toilet are on one side.  Three towel racks are fixed on the other side below small glass frames trapping various butterflies, their wings spread uselessly. It seems like a waste of beauty.

A floor to ceiling shower takes up the entire back wall. Mom hates baths, always has. She claims it’s because they are hard to clean, even though she
isn’t the one cleaning them.

I step into the shower, adjusting the water so that it burns but is still tolerable. I quickly wash and shut the water off. I dry myself off and throw on my clothes. As I struggle to get a knot out of my hair, I stare at my reflection. My hair is curly, black and several inches below my shoulders; my eyes are dark brown— Dad told me once that they were like rich, expensive cocoa. I have a wide jaw like my dad and I would say that I have thick hair like my mom, but I know for a fact that she has extensions.

I’m definitely not stunning like Mom; guys don’t stop and stare. And I’ve never had two guys chasing me at the same time—like in one of Mom’s stories—let alone one. One who isn’t a jerk that is. I don’t have my mom’s height either. I am 5’6’’; Mom is an even six feet.

I have always thought nothing of my height until I heard Mom on the phone with her best friend. In a distraught voice she prattled on about how distressing it was that I didn’t seem to be getting any taller. I couldn’t care less if she’s unhappy with my height but a small part of me, although I hate to admit it, does wish that I could please Mom, make her happy with me again.

The last complement I ever received from her was when I was nine. I was competing in a horse jumping competition. I placed first. Mom’s praise was endless; and I was on cloud nine. We went to Cardinal City, got big bowls of ice cream then went to my favorite restaurant, The Bagel Deli—they have the best chicken noodle soup—and had dinner. Mom even promised to buy me a pony for my next birthday if I could keep up the good work. In other words—keep winning. In my next competition I lost to Lexi. The minute Mom registered that I had lost, all the happiness, all the pride I’d seen in her eyes when she looked at me, vanished. And I haven’t seen it since.

* * * *

Back in my room I stifle a yawn while gathering my homework then shove it in my backpack and quietly trudge downstairs.

The kitchen sits in semi-darkness, like a heavy beast just waiting for the sun to strike it so it can awake.  Pre-dawn light struggles to break through the dark, rain-laden clouds. I set my backpack on the counter and head for the pantry.

“A little early for you isn’t it?”

A small yelp escapes my lips. I glance around the room for the voice. Mom is leaning against the counter, cleverly hidden in the shadows, her furry black robe enhancing her near invisibility.

I glance at the clock on the stove; it’s six. My heart having gone back to the normal rate I head to the pantry. Its cream-colored doors are always ajar because no one ever takes the time to close them. The inside of the pantry consists of only four shelves that extend to both sides. I reach for the top shelf, searching for the pop-tart box. I rip open the crunchy silver wrapper and pluck out a raspberry pop-tart then throw it in the toaster. I cross my arms and lean against the counter, fixing my face and body in a neutral position. It’s not easy knowing how to act around her at times. While I want to appear aloof or detached, part of me is ever hopeful. I cautiously study Mom as she studies the contents in the strawberry red mug she’s clutching.

My mom—Veronica Fleming—owns a very profitable, very stylish spa in Cardinal City: a much bigger town about an hours’ drive from our town of Abandon. A name I wouldn’t mind if it weren’t becoming so accurate these days.

Before we moved to Abandon, Nevada we lived in Turnerville, California, Mom’s hometown. We moved from there to here when I was two. Mom had lived in California her whole life so the switch wasn’t easy for her. As Mom has told me many times in the past, she was on her way to becoming Miss California. Mom always shines brighter than the sun when she tells me about it, but that’s only until she remembers the terrible part, when she was disqualified. Then Mom is darker than a moonless night.

I still don’t know why Mom was disqualified but from all the tidbits I’ve picked up over the years I’ve surmised this: it was very humiliating, her mother wouldn’t speak to her because of it, and that it is the reason we are living here—a place where nobody would recognize her. Explains quite a bit to me.

Besides this, Mom’s past is pretty much a mystery to me. Whenever I tried to ask about things she gave me very vague answers. When I got really curious about her carefully hidden, cagey past I decided to ask Dad about it. But by then he had pretty much started living in his head.

I stare at Mom suspiciously. Because her spa is located in Cardinal City she is never here in the mornings.

The toaster dings, making us both glance at it. My pop-tart is bounced into the air then falls back down. I turn to grab it, ignoring the burning to my fingers I say, “What are you doing here still?” I try hard to keep my voice emotionless, but it sounds strained.

Mom ignores me. “Pop-tarts are not the healthiest breakfast choice, a ticking weight bomb,” she lectures.

I take a big bite. The jelly burns my tongue but I resist the urge to spit it back out. I chew slowly, watching Mom like she’s a rogue bull ready to explode the minute the red flag so much as twitches.

But she just gazes around the kitchen. For once her face doesn’t hold its usual disdain for our ‘shabby’—as she always calls it—house so I glance around too, wondering if it got remodeled in the middle of the night.

The walls are ivory; the marble counter tops a rich blue so dark it almost looks midnight black. All the cabinets and drawers are beneath the counter and are an ivory white. Mom defiantly protested against any cabinets being above the counter. A sleek silver microwave, a silver toaster, and a small wine rack are squashed together in the farthest corner. Any decorations that had been precisely placed on the counter have long since disappeared. When I asked about this she said it was time to get some new decorations. But that never happened. A forgotten project I have to assume.

One counter stretches down the middle of the large room—creating a sort of square—separating the dining room from the kitchen. Five bar stools are stashed beneath the right side of the counter. The dinner table is a dark, chocolate color with a bowl of fake fruit in the middle. The tile floor is white with tiny flecks of black spattered on it. Two expensive French doors open to the backyard terrace.

I’m glad our kitchen hasn’t changed. Memories, like dust and crumbs, have piled in its corners. Although they’re not all happy, I still wouldn’t trade this kitchen for another.

Mom walks to the wall and flicks on the light switch. I flinch against the abrupt brightness.

I head over to my backpack and busy myself with straightening its contents to have a reason not to look at her. “Are you not going in today?” I ask in a frozen voice.

Mom tips her head at me and it’s as if she sees me for the first time. Her eyes roam up and down my frame and face and she frowns.

People don’t even know that we are related if we don’t tell them. When the three of us used to go out people would always assume Mom was Dad’s girlfriend. Dad never seemed to mind much, but it always put Mom in the worst of moods. If I were smart I would avoid her for the next couple of days until she had simmered down.

Quickly Mom snaps back into being Veronica and my mother is vacant from her eyes. “I’m still going in just not yet.” Mom swirls her mug then sips delicately.

Her mellowness is starting to unnerve me. I gobble down the rest of my pop-tart. “If I don’t leave soon I’ll be late. And I wouldn’t want to be late now with the end of school so close.”
Graduation hint.
Mom doesn’t pick up on it. “I’ve never been late before,” I add, trying to make it sound like an afterthought but it’s just a disguise to see if I can get a glimmer of praise in her eyes. Nope.

I angrily snatch my backpack from the counter. Stomping through the living room I pause before going out the door.
Bet she won’t say goodbye.
She doesn’t. I wrench the door open, slamming it behind me.

Mom rarely says goodbye. To anyone. It’s not on purpose, at least I don’t think it is. Dad says it’s just how she is. Once I thought that if I said it first and often enough she would catch on and begin naturally saying goodbye to me. I was wrong.

I take a deep breath and step off the porch, glad the rain has subsided to a drizzle. I head to the garage, hop on my bike, which is leaning against the wall outside, and begin riding to school. It’s almost a mile and a half from my house. But that’s nothing to me since I’ve been biking to school and back home every day for the past few years.

* * * *

In front of the school building I push my bike into the bike rack and chain it up. Several kids pass me on their way inside; they don’t even glance in my direction. I don’t feel the sting of the cold shoulders they give me any more. I brush past other teens heading in, avoiding looking at their faces and calculating eyes. I’m so far past caring about what they think of me—not that they give a thought about me anymore. It’s more like it’s become a habit. A habit they aren’t exactly trying to break. They only ignore which, from my point of view, is so much better than the jeering and basic bullying.

I head straight to my locker, open the door and stare inside. A picture of Dad with me as a kid on his shoulders, both of us laughing, is taped to the back; an empty bag of M&M’s is in the left corner, pieces of broken eraser are scattered beneath my books and folders.  I’m looking for something. I don’t know what but it doesn’t matter because it isn’t there. I often saw Dad do the exact same thing before he went downhill.

It started a few years back—his depression. But that’s only when I started noticing, when it actually started taking over him I do not know. At first it was just catching him staring at the computer screen or out a window, then it progressed to him forgetting where he was or what he was doing. Eventually he locked himself away in a world in his mind, only bothering to come out when his attention was demanded.

BOOK: Shift (The Pandorma Adventures Book 1)
4.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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