The two-story house that would be their new home was shockingly pedestrian with its plain white siding and its wrap-around porch, elevated off the uneven ground on rickety stilts. Maddy wouldn’t have chosen the place in a million years. She wasn’t at all excited to find herself so near to the west coast and yet so far from any real urban action. Portland wasn’t too far, but she seriously doubted she’d get the chance to visit and check it out.
She jumped out of the van and joined Essie. “You couldn’t have found us something better?” Maddy asked.
Essie walked toward the home. “I only had two days, Maddy, so no, sorry,” she said sarcastically.
She took a quick look around. This place blows, just like the last one. The warm air gently lifted her short dark hair. She remained by the vehicle for safety and watched as Dusk opened the trunk pulled out their luggage. Faye and Tristan joined her seconds later.
“Everyone grab your bags.” Dusk placed the luggage on the pebbled road, and when he finished, he slammed the door shut and stared at the house. Salome remained by his side, silent and observant.
“It’s not so bad.” Tristan placed his arms on the roof of the car and leaned forward. “Just think about it this way, Maddy. We’ll have our own rooms this time, unlike the last place.” He placed his black cowboy hat on his head.
She followed Essie up to the house. Even the porch looked unsafe and she waited for Essie to take the first step. The wood creaked ominously beneath her weight.
From where she stood, she looked through the window. “You said we’d have furniture,” she spoke in a high-pitched voice. “I don’t see anything.” She pushed back her bangs from her forehead.
“We’ll buy furniture if we have to,” Salome said.
Though she was unable to admit that Tristan was somewhat right, their new home didn’t look as bad as the last one. It sat on a property that stretched as far as her supernatural sight could see, which wasn’t far, due to the partially clouded night sky. There were very few trees in the distance and she thought she saw a small pond about half a mile away. There were no houses. Nothing. Just this one lonely two story with peeling white paint and an old rickety porch.
But it smelled. Badly. She titled her head slightly in the air. Her nostrils flared as she picked up different scents carried by the warm wind. She sighed. “How are we supposed to stay here? This place smells like old water.” She placed her hands on her hips.
Dusk grabbed a purple backpack and held it out to Faye. He didn’t have to speak. His behavior spoke for him. He was their leader and whatever he wanted them to do, they obeyed. No questions asked.
Faye thanked him quietly and took it. He then picked up another one; Maddy’s dark suitcase, and held it out to her but she didn’t come calling.
“Maddy, take your suitcase.” Salome’s soft voice blanketed the rising tension for now.
She stomped heavily toward him, testing his patience by giving him a hardened stare. She snatched the suitcase from his grip and marched back to the house.
The bag felt heavier than normal. She didn’t recall packing much but then again, they had to leave in a hurry because of Faye. She remembered ripping her clothes from their hangers and stuffing them haphazardly in the bag followed by her makeup and a few pair of shoes. She even left her favorite pair behind and when she wanted to go back for it, Dusk prevented her from doing so. Yet he allowed Faye enough time to go back to her home, grab her things, and speak with her sister.
Their home was compromised and there was no going back. That much Maddy knew. The place they used to call home back in Austin wasn’t safe. It was all part of how they survived, according to Dusk. But she wanted to stay there and she didn’t care if someone found them or if Faye’s parents came looking for her.
“Are you sure about this?” Salome asked.
Dusk nodded and kissed her gently on the cheek. “This is the only choice we have right now.” Sensing her nervousness, he took her hand. “Don’t worry.”
“It’s just that…we’ve moved a lot this past year.”
“Yeah.” Tristan took his bag. “We’ve moved way too much.” He joined Maddy on the porch and with their combined weight, the weathered wood sounded as if it was going to collapse at any moment. “Look on the bright said,” he said, nudging Maddy with his elbow. “There’s a lot of space.”
“Essie, thank you,” Salome said. “You didn’t have to find this place for us.”
Essie smiled. “What do you mean? Of course I did. Plus, it’s secluded. You don’t have to worry about being found out, unless someone does something stupid.”
“No one will.” Dusk approached the home.
“I give Maddy two weeks before she goes on her tangent again,” Tristan joked.
“Blow me.” She growled.
“We will be civilized,” Dusk spoke, asserting his authority. “We aren’t mindless beasts.”
“Perhaps not mindless but we are beasts,” Tristan replied. “We’re wraiths.”
Maddy grabbed the door handle, took a deep breath, and opened the door. Even without her keen eyesight, there was enough light beaming from the half-moon through the open windows to see her new room. Cautious, she entered.
There was one queen size bed near the back wall, two large dressers, and another door leading to the closet. She tossed her suitcase on the bed and when it landed, a puff of dust lifted in the air.
“Great,” she sighed to herself.
She flicked on the light and closed the door behind her. The place wasn’t that bad but it wasn’t that great either. No one had stayed here in a long time and she dreaded all the work it’d take to make this room feel like her own. She approached the window and the view provided her with a straight shot to the driveway. At least she could see anyone approaching before the others would.
The door flew open and Tristan walked in, uninvited. “I just wanted to see.” His eyes shifted back and forth. “Yeah, your room is smaller than mine is.”
“My room is cleaner than yours,” he snickered. “So is Faye’s.”
“I said, get out.”
“Anyway, there’s only one bathroom so we have to share it. Dusk and Salome have their own and they have the bigger room, as usual.”
“I don’t care.”
“I know you don’t but I like seeing you spaz out,” he replied. “You know, doing that isn’t going to get you brownie points. Why do you keep speaking back to him?”
“Because he can’t keep telling us what we can and can’t do,” she replied. “And we shouldn’t have left Austin, just because of her.”
He took off his cowboy hat and studied it. “Faye is new to this. You know how that is.”
“Oh, I know, but still.”
The rooms inside were smaller than she expected with peeling wallpaper and a strangely damp smell to them. She backtracked to the far wall. “This place is disgusting.” She swiped her finger over its surface and her eyes locked onto the wad of dust now wrapped around her fingernail. “There’s no way I’m staying here. There has to be mold on these walls or something. I can’t live like this.”
“We have lived like this,” he corrected her. “You just love to complain, don’t you?”
“Excuse me if I’m not used to moving from dump to dump.” It was part of her that remained the same, even after she had the misfortune of being attacked by a wraith decades ago and just like Dusk found Faye, he found her. He tried to help her learn how to control her newfound hunger and increased senses. But with that also came raging anger. She blamed that part of herself on her childhood. She was the kid you picked on at school; the kid born to an alcoholic mother and abusive father. She was used to looking after herself and making her own way so when he welcomed her into his family of nomads, he expected her to follow his rules. But he would never control her rebellious nature, she told herself. He would never be able to tame that part of her.
She wiped her hand on the bed and examined her hands. “We should’ve stayed in Austin. At least that dump is better than this one.”
“You know we couldn’t have stayed there. Her parents filed a missing person’s report. They’re looking all over for her. The best thing we can do is lay low for a little bit.”
“Or we should’ve left her back in Austin.” She opened her suitcase.
“You really don’t like her, do you?”
She pulled out a shirt and stared at it. It amazed her how much one simple object could bring back a plethora of good memories. She thought about her last place and how everything was close by: stores, shopping malls…
“She’s the new blood of the bunch,” Tristan added. “That’s why you hate her.”
“All she does is sob about being what she is and every time Salome comforts her,” Maddy explained. “That girl doesn’t even want to learn how to leech from humans and they devote all this time trying to convince her. They never did that for me. Did they do that for you?”
“Back then it was just Dusk and myself,” he shrugged. “There wasn’t any time to explain those things.”
“She can’t be a vegetarian baby wraith if she wants to survive.” After she pulled the last item from her suitcase, she closed it and placed it underneath her bed. “I just want one day, one day, to do what I want to do without having to think about moving and hiding and we almost had that, back in Austin.”
“You thought we almost had that but we didn’t and we won’t. Ever.” He placed his hat back on his head and walked for the door. “Face it, Maddy. You’re just jealous because you’re no longer the baby wraith of the family and Salome no longer treats you like one.”
The Not-So Dead
Until… one of her kind is murdered by a mysterious man in a black mask.
With only Carter, an unlucky human witness, by her side, Faye must find a way to prevent the body count from rising and protect her family’s secret identity. As the man in the black mask lurks in the shadows waiting to strike again, her choice becomes a matter of life and death.
In the face of true evil, being normal is overrated.