Malcontent Part-1

Malcontent
Part One

by:
Enemyoffun


While Tracy is away, Mary is forced to a confront an evil in Ravencrest in the most unlikely of places with the most unlikely of allies.

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Author's Note:So the other day I wrote a blog and promised everyone a brand new DarkRealms story, something I have not written in a very, very, very long time. So here's the first part, written in 5 small chapters. Its from Mary's point of view, no TG elements and I must forewarn, it is Malice so expect her to be a bitch. In fact, a very royal bitch.

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1.

June 2012

“So how long will you be gone this time?”

She shrugged. How is it that she could pull off a shrug like that and when I did it everyone thought I was being a bitch. Ok so maybe I wanted everyone to think I was a bitch but that didn’t mean I liked it. Not that this being a bitch thing was wrong but it was tiring. It was a pain in the ass being nasty and vicious just because everyone was starting to suspect it from me.

“I don’t know, a couple of weeks I guess.”

Abandoning me.

Typical.

“Well, what the hell am I suppose to do?”

She shrugged again.

Damn it.

“I don’t know, make new friends.”

She stuck her tongue out. The cheeky little bitch.

Ok I loved her. Well not in that way. She was cute and all---if you liked that wholesome, blonde next door type of thing---but I wasn’t attracted to her. Ok so once maybe but that was a LONG time ago. A different lifetime ago too. Things change. More so for her than most. I loved her like a best friend. Well, she was my best friend. Some might even say my only one. Sure there was the Idiot but he was more her friend than mine. Nope, it was safe to say that without her I’d probably be at the bottom of my self-pity hole, talking to myself. Which given the current circumstances, I was on my way there fast.

“New friends, me?”

There she goes with that shrug again.

“I swear to the Goddess, if you shrug again, I’m gonna slug you.”

She laughed.

Tracy turned to me, giving me that look.

Tracy Locke.

The girl everyone strived to be and wanted to be friends with. She was the type that every mother wanted their son to bring home. Cute and shy and so damn adorable. That fair skin, those blue eyes, and all that blonde. It was enough to make you sick. It was so unfair too. It was also a cheat. She was athletic, had the perfect body and smile and always went out of her way to help people. It was like the Class President, Cheerleading Captain and the Bible Thumping Girl were all combined into one Supreme Being. I would be fucking jealous if I wasn’t so damn glad she was still my best friend in the whole wide world.

‘Its not that hard” she said, stopping her packing.

She was leaving me again. The last time over Winter Break had been a killer. Mostly for her actually. It had only been a few days that time though. A trip with her father to some ski lodge. A nice little vacation, meant for some father daughter bonding. There was bonding of course. Especially after some crazy nut jobs tried to kidnap her. Most girls would have folded like that but not her. She bounced back quickly and when she told me about it, she was actually smiling. Ok so she wasn’t happy about what happened but she wasn’t scared either. She went on to explain how she and her father had a fantastic time after that. The skiing, the shopping, the night hunts. It was the kind of bonding and relationship they went away to have.

It changed things too.

Tracy came back different.

After Break was over, she started to open up more. The shy girl slowly started to fade away. She started to smile and laugh in public, made some new friends, even patched things up with some enemies. It almost felt like the old person I knew and loved was slowly going away. I won’t lie, it pissed me off. I mean who was she to do this. Sure it was her life, she was free to do with it what she wanted but it stung. We were still as close as ever but she had other people to rely on now too.

It used to be us.

Now it was Us and Them.

Them.

Thinking about it just made me sick.

Cindy was first of course. Miss Look At Me. The kick ass martial arts cheerleader. You would think those two things weren't supposed to go. But they did and they made this bitch. Ok, so she was a nice girl but a little too nice in my opinion. She popped up the same time her alter ego disappeared too. I knew the story, Tracy told me all about it. That’s what we did. We had no secrets. Cindy knew I knew but we all pretended that I didn’t. It was stupid and pointless and avoidable. It was also what they wanted and I guess I could respect that. It was their own little Club. I was happy not being in it, to be honest.

After Cindy came Dana.

Ok so there was always a Dana but not like this.

Trevor always used to have a thing for her. I’ll be honest. I was majorly jealous. Dana is the kind of girl that every guy “tents” for. Hell if I was a guy, I probably would have gotten hard for her too. She was gorgeous. I’m not saying that in any homosexual capacity either. Just looking at her, men would literally walk into traffic. Her beauty was on a whole different level to Tracy. Tracy could part a crowd when walking, Dana could part the mountains. Which is kinda ironic considering how things turned out. She was and always has been totally into girls. Sadly for Tracy, the attraction stopped there. Yeah after years of pining, my former boy Trevor was so close to getting what he wanted only to have fate intervene.

Which leads me to Number Three.

Maeko.

Dana’s little girlfriend.

I say little too because she’s well short. Cute as a button, abnormally shy and madly in love with Miss Mountain Mover. I think she secretly pined for Dana too. She won the prize though. Whereas everything about Trevor changed, Miss Sato remained the same. Yeah, I knew about her too. Like I said, no secrets. Maeko was all right I guess but there was something mysterious about her too. I couldn’t quite place what it was but I could sense it. Something about her felt off and she was trying to hide it. I’m not even sure if Dana knew what it was, to be honest. I know Tracy trusted her but I didn’t.

Not someone like that.

Someone so close to my Friend.

“You could always hang out with the girls?”

The way she said “Girls” made me scoff. And no not because more than half were once boys. I’m not that kind of asshole. I scoff because she implied my familiarity with them. Sure I hung out with them but only because they hung out with her. They were her Friends, not mine. She was the only friend I had. When it was just the two of us, it was nice and easy. Simple even. The others complicated things. They also made me feel a little left out. Sure I was a witch and I had magic but they were something else. Something all four of them shared. Something I would never truly understand.

“The Were Club are your friends, not mine.”

“That’s not true.”

“Really?” I asked, sounding a bit more annoyed than I actually was. “And how many times have you four gone off without me?”

Ok, so a little annoyed but I was over it.

, I knew why I was left out. Sure I was butt hurt at first but whatever. I wasn’t one of those mall hopping bimbos anyway. Not that Tracy was. Well is. It's complicated.

I sighed. Looking around this giant room of hers, I tried to find my friend. It had changed quite a bit over the past few months. After getting back from Canada, Tracy started to change. It was subtle at first. Then over the next few months, I started to notice it. By April, she was starting to wear pastel colors. By May, it was actually skirts. Ok so maybe only once or twice but it was there. It was about the middle of May when she told me she was giving her room a makeover. It wasn’t a drastic change but it was one nonetheless. There was still a lot of Trevor here but very little. Gone was the gender neutral color scheme, replaced by a girlier periwinkle. There were less comic books and video games and more fashion magazines. Her video games were still here but moved off to the far corner.

There was a vanity now too.

And a dressing mirror.

And don’t get me started on the clothes.

Suddenly my best friend was a bit of a Clothes Whore. Not that there was anything wrong with that. I had a lot of clothes too. Tracy’s though, well let’s say she was adopting a certain style. Sure it was still jeans and tees but they were all designer now. Her boots now had a heel and she could accessorize now. I couldn’t even accessorize. Then there was the makeup. I will admit when she first started wearing it, I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Sure she was all girl now but in the back of my mind, I could still see Trevor. He was there, hiding and fading away but he was still there. Now he was all but gone. Sure there were traces of him---like this room---but more and more my old friend was vanishing. It scared me, to be honest. I felt like I was losing him and in the process losing her too.

If I lost her then I’d truly be alone.

“You don’t like the mall,” she said in response to my complaint about her ditching me for her new buddies.

“It's not the point,” I said, rolling off her ginormous bed.

Oh yeah, she changed the furniture too. Trevor never really cared about that stuff. Tracy, however, had this massive bed now. It had girly pillows, stuff animals, and a frilly comforter.

“What is then?”

I sighed. “I feel like we’re drifting apart.”

There, I said it.

The ball was in her court now.

“What do you mean?”

Did I need to spell it out for her?

“This,” I said, waving my hand around her brand new bizarro room. “The clothes, the hair, the makeup. Your new buddies. I feel like I’m being left and you’re going off to bigger and greater things without me.”

I could feel the tears.

They were edging their way to the corners of my eyes.

I forced them back.

I don’t cry. Not even with Tracy. Not even when that bastard Damien tried to kill me or those crazy cultists grabbed Kelly and I. I will not and do not cry. Crying was weakness and I was not weak. I was a Crawford, We Are The MOST POWERFUL witches in the world. The Most Powerful do not show weakness. At least that’s what Grams likes to say. Ok, so she doesn’t say those exact words but it's how she acts. We’re supposed to set an example and example setters did not cry.

She gave me a look. “It's Summer Camp.”

She didn’t get it.

“Just, whatever.”

“You want to talk about this?”

Yes.

“No”

She walked up and hugged me. “Yes you do, you stubborn idiot.”

Was that supposed to make me feel better?

Ok, it did a little.

I closed my eyes and lost myself in the hug. I put my head on her shoulder. Trevor was a hugger. Though he didn’t do it with the Idiot, he used to hug me. I used to love getting hugged by him. He always had this nice smell. He still smelled nice. She smelled nice I mean. It was a pleasant smell. Like puppy dogs and chocolate. It made me weak in the knees and hard in the chest. Speaking of chests, my nipples. Holy and our boobs squishing. Shit. Not Trevor. I’m not hugging Trevor anymore.

I pulled away quickly.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!”

Damn it.

Ok, so I loved him. I know I said it before but I really loved him. And it was Him too.

I loved Trevor from the moment I first laid eyes on him. I know he was a geeky kid but there was something about him. He was the only one who was brave enough to say “Hi” to the sad girl who just lost her parents. He was the first one who gave me a hug when I realized they weren’t coming back and he was the first one to stick up for me when a bunch of our fellow classmates were picking on me. Trevor had always been there for me. It was great. When I started this whole rebellious goth phase of my life and started combining my name to “Malice”, he was the first one to use it. It was hard not to love, to be honest.

Then puberty happened.

Trevor started to have a crush on Dana. Perfect, cute and perky Dana. It made me want to punch the girl. I almost did once. I mean what did she have that I didn’t? We were both red heads, we both had the same color eyes. Sure she was taller and her boobs were growing but it still pissed me off. Then the whole Werewolf thing happened. The moment my entire life changed. Trevor was gone and in his place was this girl. Sure she said she was the same person but was she really? At first, everything was confusing then it was normal. Tracy was still my friend but in a different form now, two forms to be exact.

Whatever love I felt was gone though.

I mean, I couldn’t love a girl, right?

No, I’m not Dana.

I tried to find other potentials of course. This piece of shit town had slim offerings though. There was the Idiot but he was taken, believe it or not. Then there was Tracy’s rebound boy toy. He could have been fun, well except for maybe getting fleas. I’m not into that whole dog boy thing anyway. I know they’re human half the time but it just reminds me too much of bestiality. I mean Tracy was great and all but I could never...I mean would never…

She smelled so nice though.

“You ok?”

“Huh?”

“You look like you’re about to float to the ceiling.”

She laughed. Such a great laugh.

Crap why was this happening?

“I’m good,” I said quickly, hoping she didn’t notice my blush. “Just a little distracted.”

“Yeah tell me about it.”

“So explain all of this to me again?”

She groaned. “Dad wants to get me a responsible car for my birthday. But he told me I have to earn it. So he wants me to be a counselor at this camp that Tommy is going too.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Again. When she first told me about it last week, I laughed then too. I mean what idiot would let Tracy watch a bunch of kids. Sure she was probably not going to be alone but still. Tracy knew very little about kids. Sure she hung out with Tommy from time to time but the two of them were hardly buddies. More so now. I mean they were brothers and now they were brother and sister. I’d seen the two of them together, it was pretty awkward to watch. I could only imagine how she felt about the whole thing.

“It's not funny.”

“It's a tiny bit.”

She stuck her tongue out again.

“You’re not going to be alone, are you?”

“God, I hope not!”

We both had a laugh over that. It was actually nice to laugh along with her again. We rarely laughed together anymore. Usually it was at each other’s expense.

It sucks.

What the hell happened to us?

I mean we were thick as thieves once. Even after she became Tracy, we did a lot of stuff together. I helped her uncover a murder plot and save her Dad from jail. She saved me and Kelly from that crazy Black Hand cult. Then she went to Canada and things were different. I’m not saying it changed her. She was still the same, she’s still the same now. She was different too. First, she was a bit paranoid and shut in. She didn’t want to go out after school and tended to spend most of her time in her room. I even resorted to sending Dog Boy over there to get her to come out but even he failed. Then something changed. Suddenly she became Miss Popular.

Well not exactly overnight but it felt like it.

She had a bunch of friends.

She had a lot of male admirers too.

For a while, she even dated this Norm named Max. He was an ok guy. He was in her English class. The two of them hit it off on a Shakespeare project of all things. They had to do a love scene, full out and in front of class. They went out of the box though with Macbeth. It was pretty epic. I even lent her one of my period goth dresses, did her makeup and the works. It was kind of funny seeing her all gothed out for the day. Apparently, she and Max were a hit. They were together for a couple of months then called it off. It was mutual but I think Max was still a bit hung up on his old girlfriend, that and he tended to jump from one pretty blonde to the next.

What a tool if you ask me.

Also, let’s be honest here, Tracy’s heart belonged to another.

Even if she herself wouldn’t admit to it.

“So you’re gone for what like three weeks?”

She nodded.

She was just zipping up her second over stuffed duffle. Two duffles and a backpack. All filled with clothes and other nonsense. So unlike Trevor. It was unlike her too.

“All that for three weeks?”

“Well, you never know what might happen. I could get dirty or...”

“I could break a nail...OMG...whatever will I do.”

It was a mocking tone but it had the effect I was going for. She gave me this look, the look of death. I was trying to get under her skin and she knew. Hey maybe someone needed too. My best friend was being taken over by a pod person. This often flighty and all be it sometimes annoying blonde girl was not the friend I knew and loved.

“Why are you being a bitch today?”

I shrugged. “I’m bored.”

And I was feeling abandoned.

“It's only three weeks.”

“Might as well be three months.”

“You really need to get more friends.”

Speaking of which.

Her cell rang a moment later. Without even batting an eye, she scooped it off the bed. She walked away as she started talking but I heard who she was talking to. Her “Hey Cin” was the dead giveaway. Dog Boy’s twin sister. Tracy stepped into her en suite to talk. As soon as she stepped inside, I went straight to her backpack. I had just watched her pack it so I knew what was in there. I also knew what little miss prude packed for a bathing suit. Pulling it out, I groaned. What teen girl wears a one piece? I mean seriously. Taking it in hand, I went over to her dresser. She went shopping for suits last weekend, I know because she modeled them for me the day afterward.

She bought three suits. Two one pieces and a bikini. I also knew that the bikini was not her choice. The other girls had talked her into it. She hated it though. She might have changed but she was still Little Miss Modest where it counted.

Well, now it was time for me to be Little Miss Mischief.

I smirked as I retrieved the dreaded bikini from her drawer. Taking it over to her pack, I stuffed it into the bottom and zipped it back up. I stuffed the one piece under her mattress. The maid would probably find it in a few days. By then though, Tracy would be long gone. I know it was cruel but she was pissing me off lately. It was time to reset some boundaries here and show her I was still her friend out to torment her when need be.

A minute or two later, she came walking back in.

“Sorry about that,” she said, tossing the smart phone on her bed.

That phone made me ill. It cost a small fortune.

Crazy rich girls.

“So you want to go to the Fro Yo shop with me and the girls?”

And sit around all day with a bunch of insipid morons talking about boys and clothes and whatever else they prattle on about?

No thank you.

“Yeah...ummm….I just remembered I have to do my hair.”

“You don’t have to be an ass about it.”

“I am who I am.”

“Well, Miss Popeye I think you know the way out.”

And wow, what a brush off.

Fuck you too, bitch.

What the hell has gotten into her lately?

I didn’t even bother to respond. Instead, I slunk out of the room and down the hall. I think Connie asked me if I needed a ride but I all but ignored her. I know rude but I wasn’t in the mood for false civility today. Honestly I think I was done with this place. I’ve been holding onto a friendship that frankly hasn’t been here for quite a while now. I’m not sure who started the decline to be honest but I was going to end it now.

It was just easier.

I started out the door when I felt the tears.

Shit.

2.

After leaving Casa De Bitch Face, I found myself wandering.

I thought about hitting the comic shop, maybe annoy the hell out of Wolfy McBookworm but not even that would save my sour mood. Instead, I meandered for a bit. A small part of me wanted to leave. Yeah, I actually thought about just going somewhere on my own. You know have my own little adventure for once. The more I thought about it though, the more stupid it became. I mean I had no money, no car, and no real purpose. I mean sure I could strike out, maybe even hitch hike but then what? It's not like I really had any place I wanted to go. Well maybe to see Kelly but that would take me days. Besides, I think she was going away this summer too.

Fucking losers.

Ok, that was harsh.

Kelly was my cuz. Sure we had our problems in the past but we were good now. Besides if anyone needed the vacation it was her. The shit that went down here then at home. Yeah, she definitely needed to get away for a while. Which sucked because I needed to get away too. Someplace far, someplace where I didn’t have to be Mary Crawford for a while.

Thinking about it though, only pissed me off more.

Sticking my hands in my pocket, I found myself walking by the Fro Yo place. It was new. They only finished construction it a few months ago. Another stupid chain restaurant. It was a shame too. There used to be a really cool shop there. It was this little hobby shop I used to go to with my grandfather. Back when I was little before he died. The place went belly up though. Gramps was probably one of the only customers, to be honest. After that, it sat vacant for a long time. There were other shops but they never lasted either. The Fro Yo shop was something new, something different. As soon as it opened, it quickly became a teen hangout. Walking by now, it was filled to the brim with them.

Pulling my hood lower over my face, I spotted my former best friend and her “club”.

They were at one of the back tables. I thought about barging in and causing a scene. It was nothing out of the ordinary for me. Crazy Goth girl and all. In the end, though, I just stood by the large glass window and stared. Tracy didn’t leave until tomorrow morning. I was supposed to meet her at the school, see her off and all that. Fuck her. She could go off on her little Kumbaya adventure without me. Maybe she’d come back with a tan and a personality. Instead of turning into every other generic wannabe in this fucking town.

Grumbling, I grabbed a rock from the curb.

I almost threw it at the great big window.

It was very tempting.

Teach that place to steal my friend from me.

I didn’t though. Looking around, I noticed Sheriff Curtis across the street at Mario’s. That had to be painful for old man Mario to watch. I mean his place was pretty popular with the young adult variety. Now ninety percent of the teen population of this town was across the street. I looked from the sheriff to the rock in my hand and back. Shit.

I dropped the rock.

I went so far as to kick it into the street.

Then I walked across it. Fuck it.

“Hey Sheriff,” I said, trying to make small talk.

I didn’t really care if he responded or not.

“Miss Crawford,” he said, surprising the hell out of me that he knew my name.

I didn’t wait around to say anymore.

I walked into the pizza shop, finding it mostly deserted. I say mostly because the only ones inside were the staff and...oh great. The Little Mermaid. You see everyone in town had their secrets. Fortunately for me, my grandmother knew almost all of them. She had this great big book she put them all in too. She thought she magicked it so no one could open it. It was a pretty complex spell sure but not as fancy as she thought. I’d been practicing a lot of disspelling things. I was getting pretty good at it actually. So the book, not a problem. It was pretty dull stuff mostly. I’m not sure where Grams got her info though because some of it was downright juicy. The Unseen of Ravencrest not so unseen after all.

That’s how I knew Ashley was a Nereid.

There were a lot of other juicy things in there too.

But I’m not a snitch.

I walked up to the counter, ordered a slice and found myself taking up a table not too far from the Creature of Ravencrest lake.

“No Fro Yo for you, Ariel?”

She didn’t even bat an eye at me.

Instead, she stared right at me. I think she was trying to use her thing. News flash blondie, I read it only works on dudes. I smirked until I felt something. I felt my face go a little flush. My nipples started to get a little hard too. Shit. Looks like Grams was not as informed as she thought. Or maybe I was...no it had to be something else. Trying not to think about, I broke eye contact quickly.

Ashley got up, having finished her meal.

“Back on your broom, Wendy.”

“Wah, you hurt my feelings.”

Then she was gone. I had to give her kudos though. She rolled with the punches quite well. I could actually see myself be friends with her. Except well she was a bit too popular for my taste. She also gets props for the obscure pop culture knowledge.

Two big thumbs up for that one.

I ate my pizza in silence and misery. Which sucked because I used to love coming here. Tracy, the Idiot and I used to hang out here all the time. It was our weekend routine in fact. We’d come here for some pizza then hit the movies. Trevor would fumble like a moron while he paid for his ticket and drooled all over Dana. We’d go see one of those cheesy and bullshit horror movies and that would be the day. As much as I hated the movies though, I really did love spending time with those two. It was just amazing what half a year did to friendships. I mean the Idiot spent all his time with Rita now. Trevor was gone completely, replaced by his now evil self.

“Frozen yogurt not your thing?”

Great.

Looking around, I saw where the voice came from. I could swear this place was deserted no more than a second ago but there he was. An old man sitting at one of the little tables in the corner. He was far enough away to not be a bother but close enough apparently for the two of us to have a conversation.

Great, all I needed.

“Not particularly.”

“It's always strange how those places seem to catch on so quickly,” he said, placing his umbrella on the table. “I’ve been all over the world and in the last year or so, I’ve seen one of those shops on just about every street corner now.”

“Neat.”

Leave me the fuck alone, you pervert.

“It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”

Great and now I have to answer him.

“Wonder what?”

“Why they’re suddenly so popular, of course.”

I shrugged. “I guess people like frozen yogurt a lot.”

“Everyone except you and your young friend.”

“Yeah well great,” I said, standing up. “We should start a club or something. You want to the President because you don’t seem to like that shit either.”

He chuckled. “It's a fad. I’m not interested in things that are here one minute and gone the next. I like solid foundations. Like family. Family is very important to me.”

And now here comes the part where he takes out the wallet and shows me the grandkids. Shit. I should have run away when I got the chance.

“That’s great, old timer but I’ve got to go now.”

I started to walk away from the table. I was almost to do the door when he blew my mind:

“You’ve got nowhere to go, Mary.”

And shit.

I snapped around, anger flaring. Fucker knew my name. Why did he know my name? I felt the burn, the tingle at my fingertips, the fire ready to go. I’d been practicing a lot with it lately. I saw what Kelly did back in December. She burnt down The Pit for fuck sake. She was more of a Novice than I was and yet she had that kind of magic. To say I was jealous was an understatement. So I’d been practicing. I’d been practicing a lot lately. Every day in fact. I had a lot of free time on my hands lately, what with my former best friend all but ignoring me for months. So without Tracy, I had nothing else to do but study.

It was a lot of hard work getting the first fireball to form.

I’m not sure how Kelly pulled it off so easily.

It took me nearly a month to do it.

When I did though, it was amazing. Well maybe not so much for Grams' rose bushes but oh well.

“You have to the count of three,” I said, an edge to my voice.

He held up his palm, a general “I mean you no harm” gesture.

Well, fuck that. The old bastard knew my name. Sure it was a very common name but not around here. Around here---in this town---when someone knew your name, it was deadly serious. This guy was looking for a fight and I was going to give it to him. Hell, I was looking for a fight today.

“Such raw talent,” he said softly, hoping I didn’t hear but I did. Then in a louder voice, he said, “Do you think that’s wise, in here, with all these innocents?”

I looked around.

Mario was off tonight but there were a few people behind the counter. The waitress was off by herself, fiddling with her nail polish. The cashier was playing some stupid game on his phone. I have no idea what the pizza cook guy was doing and I didn’t really care. The old man had a point though. I couldn’t fire up in here. Not only would these people get hurt but they’d see too. Rule number one and all that. Shit. I cursed, lowering my hand. I could still feel the tingle but I wasn’t about to let lose. The old man smiled and lowered his hand too. As soon as it dropped though, something happened. It was so quick. I never even felt the magic.

Yet one minute we were in the shop, the next we weren’t.

So fast.

I snapped around, scared out of my mind.

We were just outside of town. Actually, it was in this small wooded area I used to come too when I was younger. It was a nice quiet place to be by myself. I never took anyone here though, not even Trevor. This was my place and my place alone. I stopped coming here after middle school though. It just seemed so pointless. Besides I was happy then. I had two good friends, well one good one and his tag along. Regardless, I didn’t feel alone and didn’t feel like I needed to be alone.

“How did you...where did you...this place...”

He smiled. He sat down on the little log I used to sit on myself.

“Lots of questions, many answers.”

He was holding the umbrella again, it was hardly my focus though. I was looking more at his face. I wanted to study the man who just proved the impossible to me. The man who used magic. He was actually not all that sinister looking. Grams talked about men who stole magic. Yeah, I said stole. No male actually had any true natural magic talent. It was all borrowed from others. Usually through talismans or other objects. My eyes went to his umbrella. It was the likely culprit, seeing as he barely let it out of his sight. His eyes followed mine and he smiled, placing the umbrella aside like it was just a tool.

“Aggie is smart, taught you well, I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

There was sincerity in his voice.

‘Its not the umbrella then?” I said, still eyeing it with suspicion.

He shook his head. “Think it through, use that keen intellect of yours.”

No, the umbrella was too pedestrian. He’d have something else, something hidden. I looked at his hands, no rings. Hmmm. Its possible he might have a medallion of some sort. The Lockes used similar talismans when they transformed, it helped keep them clothed when they went back to human form. I’m not sure why but I knew he didn’t have one of those either. They were cheap after all, barely worthy of the magic my grandmother used to craft them. No, what this guy just did was amazing. It was beyond amazing in fact. Not even my grandmother could pull off something like that.

There was no way a run of the mill hedge mage could accomplish something like that.

No this was powerful magic.

Pristine Magic.

There were only so many people who could pull that off.

My grandmother was a stickler when it came to the history lessons. Only three magic users in the world were able to use Pristine Magic. It was magic in its purest form, only accessible to the Sacred and those gifted enough to be taught by them. At first, there was only one man, who history and legend called Merlin. No one really knew where to separate fact from fantasy when it came to him but every Coven has agreed on one thing, he was the first Practitioner of Pristine Magic. He wasn’t the only one though. He had two pupils, his greatest apprentices: Jacob Ravencrest and Mortimer Crowley.

Both of whom were dead.

No, wait not dead.

Only Crowley.

Ravencrest was…

Was…

I felt weak in the knees. I almost fell. Thankfully there was a tree nearby to brace myself on. That didn’t stop me from feeling lightheaded though. I used to hear stories, so many stories. Grams used to tell me all these great and wonderful things her father used to do. All the magic he could perform, all the things he showed her. She said he was the greatest and most powerful magic user the world had ever seen. It wasn’t just Grams stories though either. It was the town itself. The man had created everything, including all the wards and barriers that kept the town safe. That kept all our people safe.

He was a legend.

He was also sitting right before me.

“Deep breath, Mary, it's going to be all right,” he said in a gentle, nurturing tone.

The kind of voice a grandfather would use.

No a great grandfather.

Jacob Ravencrest.

Right here, in front of me.

“Am I dreaming?”

He shrugged. “Possibly. Honestly, I don’t know. It's so hard for me these days to tell my dreams from reality. All this might just be one of my dreams.”

Wow, that was reassuring.

“So you always dream of Mario’s?”

He chuckled. “No, I was there for another reason. Checking up on your young friend. She’s had a harrowing time. I wanted to make sure she was healing properly.”

My young friend?

The only other person there was…

“Ashley?”

He nodded. “Some months ago she had a run in with a particularly nasty relic. One I thought I buried a long time ago.”

“Well, some things that are lost are some times found.”

“So true, so very true,” he said, sadness in his voice.

It suddenly occurred to me what happened.

“You didn’t want me to find you, did you?”

He gave me a sad smile then shook his head. “Not yet.”

What did that mean?

He stood up from the log, groaning a bit as he did. This man was old. He didn’t look it but I could tell from his movements. He was weary and tired. Stiff joints and groans. The sounds of a man whose body was starting to finally give away. I mean I’m surprised he was alive this long. How old was he even? Merlin was like well a really long time ago. Grams said her father was pretty old when she was born too. Grams was well over two hundred I think. She didn’t really like to talk about her age. You could rarely find a witch who talked about how old they were actually. Witches and their ages were funny things. Because of the Burn, there were some out there that looked eighty but were really in their twenties and some twenty-year-old looking witches who were well into their hundreds.

It was all about the magic and how you used it.

Eventually, though, it came to an end.

Looking at Jacob now, the end was not far off.

“Are you going to see Grams then?”

He gave me a look. It was one of understanding. He knew what I was thinking and what I was seeing. This was a man who needed to make peace with his family.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”

Of course, he would say that.

“Then why are you here if not to see her.”

“I told you...”

“That’s bullshit and you know it” I snapped, angry at this man.

Jacob Ravencrest. My grandmother said she cried for her father. For days. She couldn’t understand why he would just up and disappear like that. One night he was there and in the morning he was gone. Just like that. Not even a word. She always suspected he had his reasons. She also told me she suspected never to see him again. Yet here he was, standing in our town, his town and yet he refused to go see his own daughter?

“I don’t think that’s any of your conce...”

“Oh go fuck yourself.”

Yeah, I said it.

The look on his face was priceless.

The great Jacob Ravencrest.

“You’re full of shit and you know it” I continued, feeling particularly angry and defensive today. “All the shit that’s been going on around here lately and you what, wander about like some crazy old hermit, spitting out Gandalf bull shit then disappear into the shadows again.”
“Gandalf bull shit?”

“Kelly and I talk you know. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it was you in the park all those months ago.”

“Well shit,” he said with a laugh. “Here I thought I was being cryptic.”

“Cryptic my ass.”

“It helped, didn’t it?”

“It was creepy.”

He sighed, sitting back down again.

It pained me to see this great man in such a state. When Kelly told me about her strange visitor and everything that happened afterward, we both thought it was just some weirdo. Now that I look at him though, I realized it was our long lost great grandfather. He was trying to help her. Though he hadn’t been in this bad of a shape. Kelly would have said. No something was different here, something bad. I wish I had the power to see things like Misty. I wanted to look at Jacob and see how strong his magic really was.

“We’ve got time” he said softly.

“Time for what?”

“To talk.”

He’s going to make me ask again.

“About what?”

“Well yogurt of course.”

3.

“Yogurt?”

We were no longer in the woods. I think it was a little hard for him to sit on that log. He teleported us back to the town. We were currently in The Guardian, sitting at one of the back tables. They usually didn’t let kids my age in here, what with it being a bar and all. But seeing as it was during the day and Jacob didn’t really use the front door, I don’t think anyone noticed. Well not anyone of law abiding significance. Terry was manning the bar though. He was trying to look inconspicuous cleaning glasses but I knew he was noticing us. I think the only reason he didn’t come over to kick us out was because I had an adult with me. Not that that was any excuse mind you.

“Haven’t you noticed any of your friends acting strangely?”

What was he talking about?

I was about to protest then it hit me.

Oh my God.

Tracy.

“Wait you’re saying its the yogurt?”

He nodded. “A friend of mine tipped me off a few months ago about it. So I’ve been following the trail. At first, I thought it was coincidence then I started to notice that every place one of these new yogurt shops popped up in, it didn’t take long for the local youth to start acting out of character.”

Yeah, like a seemingly tomboyish girl suddenly going all girly girl?

“My friend Tracy,” I said and quickly filled him in on her behavior over the last few months.

“That sounds about right.”

“But she’s a Were,” I said, lowering my voice so the Norms at the nearby table didn’t hear me. “I mean shouldn’t see be immune to malicious magic?”

“Usually, so what that does that tell you?”

I knew what he was doing. He was trying ot get me to figure out what he already knew. I sighed. Grams liked to pull the same crap on me. Now I knew where she got it from.

“It tells me,” I said, having already figured it out. “That if Tracy is affected then we’re not dealing with magic.”

He smiled.

If it wasn’t magic then we were dealing with another Unseen. If Jacob didn’t know what it was then it was safe to say it was something unknown to him. Which was scary indeed. He said he’d been tracking this thing for months so it was really good at hiding. It was also really good at covering its tracks. He knew what was going but not how it was doing it or even why. He only suspected the yogurt but wasn’t even sure it was the overall cause. If he didn’t know what this thing was, it also meant he had no idea what it looked like or where to find it.

Shit.

There was only one person who could help us in this situation.

Double Shit.

“I know someone who can help,” I said, dreading it.

Jacob shook his head. “The Curtis girl, no sorry she’s not going to be any help to us.”

I wasn’t the least bit surprised he knew who I was talking about.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t think its the kind she can see.”

That was even scarier.

Fuck. I looked suspiciously around the bar. It being the middle of the day, there were only about a six or seven people in the bar, not including us and Terry of course. I scanned their faces, wondering if one of them might have a secret or two to hide. They all looked fairly normal. Well normal enough for bums who were spending a nice afternoon in a bar getting drunk. I turned back to Jacob to notice that he was watching me. He had an amused smile on his face.

“Something funny?”

“No, quite the opposite actually. I’m impressed at your dedication to this already. I figured you might be able to help me but I never thought you’d get into it so fast.”

“Well, I’ve helped solve a series of murders, saved an innocent man from jail and stopped a crazy cult. This is par for the course for me.”

He was smiling again. “It's good instincts is what it is.”

This time I smiled. I might have even flushed from embarrassment. It's not every day someone gave me a compliment. It was definitely not every day that said compliment came from a legendary hero like him. Ok so calling him a hero was a stretch but the way my grandmother talked about him he might as well of been. I mean the things he’d seen and done. I was awestruck even sitting with him.

I was about to say something more when Jacob pointed to the bar.

“I think that gentleman over there wishes to speak to you?”

I looked to where he was pointing.

Terry had given up trying to not be noticed.

He was definitely glaring now.

I sighed.

This ought to be good.

I got up and slowly walked over to the bar. I ignored the pervy looks some of the patrons gave me as I slowly made my way over. Terry set down the rag and glass he was currently cleaning.

“Are you ok?”

I nodded. “Yeah, fine, why?”

“That guy,” he said, nodding his head in Jacob’s general direction. “He hasn’t coerced you in any way? Dragged you in here against your own will, has he?”

Oh, God. He thought Jacob was trying to kidnap me or something.

I guess that was kinda sweet.

Terry was a big dumb idiot but overprotective nonetheless. Even when Tracy was still Trevor, he did everything he could to protect his little brother. That didn’t change when she became his little sister. If anything it had increased. Not that Terry was blowing smoke. He had the muscles to back up his threats. He was a big, threatening guy. It felt kind of nice that he was sticking up for me too.

“No, that’s my uncle,” I said, rolling the word around in my mouth a bit.

Well, I couldn’t exactly tell him who Jacob really was.

“Uncle Jake” I continued, the lie rolling on. “He’s Gram’s brother, only in town for a few days. He was hoping to come in here for a cup of coffee.”

Terry still eyed him suspiciously. “You’re sure?”

I nodded. “Yep, he’s completely harmless.”

‘Ok then just be careful.”

“I will,” I said and started to walk away. I stopped though because I wanted to ask him something. “Hey, have you noticed anything strange about your sister lately?”

“Strange how?”

I shrugged. “She’s been distant lately. Hanging out with some other girls. You know her clothes, her room, even her attitude. It's all different.”

“Girls are like that.”

Typical male response.

“Yeah but Ter, she’s only been a she for like six months.”

He gave me a blank, clueless stare.

Yep, he was no help.

I turned away from the bar with a disgusted sigh. Then let out another one a moment later. Jacob wasn’t alone anymore, that woman was there. The vampire. Terry’s vampire. She was sitting in my seat, touching Jacob’s arm in a very intimate manner. They were laughing. They appeared to be old friends. I knew she was supposed to be the “good” one but Carmilla still gave me the creeps. Something about her felt off to me. I suppose it was because she was a vampire but it was more to it than that. With Wisteria you knew where she stood. She was direct and in your face and bat shit crazy. Carmilla was all sweet and kind and so fake it made your head spin. She was sexy as hell of course. I could definitely see what Terry saw in her---she had a great body and that red hair of hers. When my hair was still red, it never had that much luster to it. It was the way she moved too. She was a well gifted and a well-traveled woman. She’d been around for a long while and you could tell by the way she carried herself. Like those pretty Saloon girls from those Westerns but with a little 1930s class.

I tried not to let her see me grimacing as I approached the table.

“And here she is,” said Jacob, smiling.

I noticed that Carmilla quickly took her hand from my grandfather’s arm.

“Ah yes, the little Malice.”

It really pissed me off that she knew that.

Jacob raised an eyebrow though.

“You can leave now, blood sucker.”

Hey, it might be her place but there was no way in hell I was going to respect her in it.

Carmilla smiled at me, showing just a bit of fang.

It was a veiled threat.

I knew that if Jacob wasn’t here she would probably have tried something. Well, she could have tried anyway. I wasn’t some little Novice to be pushed around. She wanted to go, I’d burn the bitch to ashes in a heartbeat. Grams said we were supposed to all be civil and that the vampires had their worth. Me, I couldn’t see it. They were a nuisance as far as I was concerned. Every last one of them.
Carmilla slipped out of my seat.

“It was nice seeing you again Jake. I’m glad you’re still well.”

The way she said well though made me realize that she knew too.

“Thank you, Milla. Just remember, don’t tell her I’m here.”

She nodded. “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

The way they said “Her” and “She”, it didn’t take an idiot to figure out the Who.

Wisteria.

Carmilla leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. As she was pulling away, I saw it. For a moment, there was sadness there. It was almost as if she cared for him. It was only for a moment though. Then she was back to being all slimy seductive. She patted me gently on the cheek before she lanked her way back over to the bar. I watched as she wrapped herself around Terry like some harlot. What he ever saw in her was beyond me.

“Stay away from that one,” said Jacob.

It wasn’t concern, it was definitely a warning.

I nodded. “She gives me the willies.”

“Like I said, great instincts.”

I was blushing again.

Shit.

The compliments were flattering but it didn’t get to the real reason of all of this. I still had no idea why he revealed himself to me. It wasn’t coincidence that he just happened to be in the pizza place spying on Ashley when I walked in. When he showed up to Kelly in the park back in December, he had a purpose. Sure he could use the investigation of the Fro Yo place as a reason but I knew there was more to it than that. Call it my Instincts but there’s no way the greatest wizard in the world was seeking me out ot help him solve this problem. There was more and he wasn’t going to tell me.

My instincts told me that as well.

“So how are we going forward?”

“Going forward?”

“Yeah, you know, with the whole evil Fro Yo place.”

He laughed. “I think there might have been some miscommunication there. There is no going forward, at least not for you and me. I’m going to figure out what’s going on there and I’ll let you know what happens. Rest assured I’ll make sure that all your friends are back to normal in a few days.”

If he didn't want my help then why did he ask for it in the first place?

“What, that’s it?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“That’s not fair!” I said, jumping to my feet.

I was rather loud about it, several of the people in the bar were looking our way.

Even Terry was staring.

I leaned forward, my face inches from Jacob’s.

“What the hell am I supposed to do then?”

“First,” he said with a playful smile. “You need to wake up.”

He snapped his fingers and everything went black.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@

I snapped awake.

A dream, are you fucking kidding me!

Sitting up, I looked around. Yep, definitely morning now. I was in my bed, the clock was buzzing and I was sweating. Typical June morning in Ravencrest. Groaning, I threw off my covers but refused to move. I dropped back down on the pillows and cursed. So it was a dream, all of it was a dream. Damn it. Was my mind all that addled by Tracy being a bitch that I made up the whole Jacob and Fro Yo thing. Closing my eyes, I tried to remember back to what actually happened yesterday after I left Locke’s mansion.

Strangely enough, I couldn’t.

Well, I could but it was almost identical to the dream. Well, all except for the Jacob part of course. In real life, he hadn’t actually been there. At least I don’t think he was. Wow, what a mind fuck. I mean I walked about the Fro Yo place, actually had a weird thought about it being an evil place then went to Mario’s. I had a slice, mocked Ashley some and then went to my spot. No magical teleportation, no crazy talk and definitely no encounters with long dead relatives. Shit, I think I was going crazy. I mean the other part felt so fucking real.

What the hell?

I remember heading back to town too. I was almost home when I got a text from Tracy telling me she was leaving. She was sad she missed me and sorry about how we parted. She promised to text me again as soon as she could. Great, so that part was real. I was hoping I dreamed up that stupid fight. I say stupid because it was well stupid. I’m a jealous bitch, that’s already been proven. Its hard for me though. She’s the only friend I really have and to see her making friends with other people---without me---it hurts. I knew I was being silly and she was free to befriend anyone but still.

Shit, it was jealousy.

Groaning, I finally sat up for real this time.

Climbing out of bed, I slowly made my way out of my room and down the hall to the bathroom. Once again I stopped to knock on Kelly’s door before stopping. Shit, I haven’t done that in a while. It took me a while after she went back home to realize she wasn’t there anymore. I was an only child and Kelly was the only cousin I was particularly close with. Morgan was kind of distant and Jason was an idiot. Carrie was all right but really not the type of person I would hang with. Jess---Kelly’s sis---was awesome. It was just a shame she didn’t come to visit more often. She was busy with school now and didn’t really have a lot of time for us normal people.

Thinking about it only made me feel lonelier.

I walked into the bathroom quickly. I took a piss, turned on the shower. I stripped down to my skivvies when I turned to look in the mirror. I cursed. The dye was starting to fade. I was a natural red head like Grams and my mother. I started the whole goth thing in middle school. I thought it would make me cool. It was around that time too that I started using the name “Malice”. Mary Alice always sounded so preppy and blah to me. Not that I’m attacking my mother’s memory for naming me it but I just wished she could have called me something cooler---like Dinah or Jade or even Scarlet.

I didn’t want to be Mary.

I had worked hard to make her go away.

Yet here she was again.

The dye wasn’t completely gone of course. Most of my hair was still black but the red was definitely starting to show. Frowning, I opened my drawer, fumbling for the little bottle. The sooner I could get rid of it the better. I could go back to being the evil bitch that everyone loved to hate. Finding the little bottle, I groaned, even more, when I discovered it empty. Shit. Well, I guess that means I’m wearing my hoodie again today. Unless...yeah I think I could do that. Biting my lip, I closed my eyes and concentrated. I felt the typical tingle and when I opened them, my hair was pitch black again. All of it. Smiling, I turned and started toward the door when I stopped.

I wonder.

Walking back to the mirror, I closed my eyes again and the tingle came.

Opening them up, I gasped.

Wow.

Hello, Mary Alice.

Staring back at me in the mirror was a girl I had not seen in a very long time. She was me of course but so different. Gone was the long dark hair and fierce scowl. In its place was a surprised red head. I say surprised because she was kinda pretty. Without all my usual gothness and odd contact lenses, I forgot how pale blue my eyes were and my lips were so kissably cute. So this was who I’d been hiding away all this time. This was the kind of girl that could be friends with Tracy and those idiots. The kind who went to school dances and wore cheerleader uniforms. The kind who had dates with boys and giggled like a fool. The kind of girl I spent all my life trying to not be.

The kind I hated.

Snarling, I quickly made her go away.

It was stupid anyway.

I quickly stripped the rest of the way and got into the shower. I hated showering angry. Though my mood didn’t last long. There was nothing like a hot shower to make you feel better. Well as good as I usually felt anyway. Anger was my thing. Like The Hulk. I controlled being angry by being angry. Tracy and I just saw The Avengers a couple of months ago. It was probably the last thing the two of us had done together and actually enjoyed. We had a great time. Afterward, we joked with one another, trying to find ourselves in the characters on screen. It was hard not to see a bit of Thor in her. Tracy was a Nordic beauty. The transformation had been kind to her. It was getting kinder every day too. She was a couple of inches taller now and starting to fill out a bit more too.

It was a bit unfair.

Me, well I was The Hulk.

We didn’t even argue about that one.

Thinking about her in the shower only made me hot and flustered.

I took a short shower. Ten minutes and I was done. I wasn’t in the mood to do much thinking today anyways. I toweled off on my way back to my room. The plan for today was pretty simple: veg. It was summer vacation after all. Tracy was going to be in the woods for the next few weeks looking after brats so I was off the hook being her fall back friend. So without her nagging me to do things with the Fur Club, I was going to sit in my room and watch idiots burn off their eyebrows or something on Youtube. Hey, it wasn’t much of a life but it was my life.

The best part, I didn’t even have to dress properly to do it.

Dropping the towel, I pulled on a fresh pair of panties. I paired it with a tee and grabbed my laptop. I was in the middle of booting it up when Grams walked into the room. She frowned at the state of things. I was a slob and proud of it. Grams and I had a pretty lax relationship. She didn’t bug me to do things I didn’t want to do and I didn’t go about doing things that bugged her. Other than that, we stayed out of each other’s way. Well, most of the time anyway. Ok, so I’m full of shit. Grams was actually a hard ass. I loved her though. She just tended to come on pretty intense most of the time.

Like this morning.

“You’re going to at least put on some pants today, young lady?”

I shrugged. “Haven’t decided yet.”

She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “What if Tracy or Greg come walking in and see you in this state.”

“First of all Miss Priss is off playing Camp counselor to a bunch of snot nose crybabies and Greg...dodon't even joke about that crap.”

Grams raised an eyebrow. “Tracy has a job for the summer?”

Shit.

“Well, not an actual paying one.”

Grams smirked.

Here it comes.

“What is she getting out of the deal if not a paycheck?”

I shrugged. “A car.”

The woman smiled even more.

Damn it.

I walked into this one.

“Get up.”

“What? Why?”

“Last summer you sat around for hours doing nothing but playing games and eating cold cereal. It was depressing. You’re a young woman, full of life. I do not want to see you wasting away another summer doing the exact same thing.”

“Well that’s not going to happen,” I said, trying to be a smart ass. “I have no friends anymore.”

Grams and I used to talk. We used to share everything. Now we barely spoke, unless it was her lecturing me. Things between us had been pretty strained since Kelly left. I let Kelly believe things were good because I didn’t want to worry her but they weren’t. After the incident at The Pit, the Coven here was under a lot of scrutinies. The Regional branch sent in investigators from NYC. They went through the whole thing with a fine tooth comb. There were a lot of inquiries and finger pointing. Grams took the brunt of it. She wasn’t fired but she was reprimanded for it. It didn’t help that they wanted to lock Kelly up for it. I’m not sure what Grams did to stop it but whatever it was, it worked.

Well for the most part.

The Coven in Sacramento still saddled Kel with the Witch Bitch.

They also still tried to lock her up too.

After what happened in California, I lashed out at Grams. I know it wasn’t her fault but I was angry. Kelly and I had grown pretty close since The Pit. We talked every night just about. I didn’t have any sisters but she was now the closest thing I had to one. It pissed me off that Grams sat by and let those horrible things happen to her. It also pissed me off that Grams was a coward about it too. She didn’t even try to defend herself. She just let them steamroll her and her family. It was fucking bullshit. I told Grams that and we argued more. That’s when she swore off training me. She told me I was too immature for the responsibility.

That’s also when I started secretly training myself.

“I care very little about your social standing,” Grams said in an irritated tone. “I do however care about you wasting away another summer. I want you to get a job.”

I was floored.

“You can’t be serious?”

“Like a heart attack,” she said, then held up a sheet of paper.

She’d been holding it at her side, probably hoping I hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t actually but now that I did, I groaned.

It was a list.

A list of places looking to hire.

Crap.

“Check the list, find something suitable. You have to the end of week.”

She turned and walked out of the room.

“Then what?” I shouted. “You send me to the Nunnery?”

She didn’t respond of course. She was already down the stairs by now.

Groaning, I rolled off my bed and over to the desk. I picked up the list. The first two places were out of the question: The Bistro and Mario’s. No way was I waitressing. The theater might be cool though I’d have to deal with Dana all day. So yeah pass. Let’s see what else there was. Cashier at Kona’s. Nope, grocery markets made me gag. Hmmm. Retail at Marisol’s, no that woman freaked me out. Sorry, Terry. More retail. Teen Scene was for tools and The Top Drawer was full of pervs drooling all over the merchandise. The only other place on the list was…
No fucking way.

The Fro Yo shop.

She’s gotta be kidding me.

I dropped on my bed. A moment later, Princess jumped up on the bed next to me. She affectionately rubbed her head against my arm. I scooped her up and put her on my lap, petting her head absently.

“She’s fucking nuts right?” I asked, showing my cat the list. “Look at this shit.”

She looked.

Sometimes I forgot she was an actual person. Ok so not really. Well not anymore. Familiars were once people. Dead people. After they passed away, the bad ones were punished and their souls were trapped in the bodies of Familiars to serve witches like me. Princess and I had a bit of a rocky start in the beginning. Well, actually she hated my fucking guts. She kept biting me. Grams said sometimes a bit of a residual soul had some control but it would fade in time. She was right of course. After a few weeks, Princess started to calm down. Whoever she was before lost most of their rebellion. Now she and I were thick as thieves.

Familiars were still cats though. Sure they were smarter than normal cats but still just animals.

That didn’t stop me from asking her for her opinion though.

I was about to crumble the list until I remembered something.

Something from last night’s dream.

Hadn’t Jacob said the Fro Yo shop was up to something.

Sure it was a dream but maybe it was trying to tell me something. Maybe the list was trying to tell me something too.

Fate.

Fuck.

Fate was an ass.

4.

Ok, Mary, you can do this.

I mean it's just a Fro Yo shop. Sure it was all bright and colorful. There was a giant smiley face mural on the wall and another one on the floor. The seats were bright yellow and the employees wore these stupid smiley face shirts. It was just a normal place. It had normal people, served normal frozen yogurt and nothing nefarious was going on inside.

Fuck who am I kidding?

There was a fucking smiley face decal on the door winking at me.

This place was Hell.

Not only that but it was jampacked with people today. Not just any people either. My schoolmates. Standing outside, staring in, I already felt like a loser. Sure there were so many other places on Gram’s list but this one was important. I needed to find out if it was evil or not. Ok so it was probably all just part of my dream anyway but I had to be sure. Who cares if Dream Jacob told me to stay away from this place. I owed it to Tracy to see if it was somehow mind fucking her. Hopefully, it would only take a few days. I could get in, scope the place out, find the bad guy, cut off his head, quit and call it a day.

Pretty simple shit.

Of course, before any of that could happen, I had to actually walk through the front door.

Damn it.

Taking a deep breath, I grabbed the door handle and very slowly opened it.

A little bell chimed.

Are you serious?

Stepping inside, I wanted to gag further because there was music playing. Thank God it wasn’t some crappy pop song. It was a jaunty little jingle. One you might here an ice cream truck playing. I guess it fit the happy go lucky smiley face thing the shop had going on. I’m not sure I could handle all of this. It was so happy and peppy and I was already starting to feel the need to hurl.

Yeah, I’m out of here.

“Hi, there!”

Dear God, Heart attack!

She popped out of nowhere.

“Where the fuck did you come from?!?”

“Well, that’s not very nice.”

“Neither is jumping out on people like that.”

My heart was pounding a mile a minute.

The girl standing in front of me was one of those types: blonde, perky and smiling from ear to ear. She was wearing a uniform that uniform too, the freaky shirt smiling at me. She had that overall vibe. She clearly belonged in this place. She felt like one of those country club kids to me. Not that we actually had anything like that in Ravencrest. There was one in Brendsen though. With its preppy people and asshole attitudes, a place Tracy would probably feel pretty at home in right now.

“You look like a Gloomy Gus,” she said, frowning.

“And you need to lay off the Kool Aid.”

Also get the fuck out of my way.

“I know just the thing to cheer you up,” she said, still smiling like an idiot.

She pulled a bracelet off her wrist and made to slip it on mine. I pulled my hand back immediately.

“Yeah no thanks.”

She had like fifty of those fucking things on her arm, I realized. In fact, looking around everyone seemed to be wearing them. It must have been some kind of store promotion thing. Looking closer at the one she was wearing, I could see little smiley faces on all the yellow beads. Yeah, definitely not going to happen now. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was apart of the work uniform too. I looked at the employees. They were all wearing them too.

Shit.

“Don’t you want to be happy?”

“I am happy.”

My glare said other wise of course.

At least most people thought I was unhappy because I looked and sounded angry.

In truth, my happiness came from my bitchiness.

“Are you sure?”

She tried to put the bracelet on my wrist again.

“Fuck off, twit.”

She frowned but she didn’t try to put the damn thing on my wrist again. Just as well. Everyone wearing those things freaked me out. It was a like a fucking cult in here or something. Thankfully Little Miss Perky took the hint and walked away, leaving me alone. I watched her go before taking a deep breath and walking further into the shop. I got a few stares but that was nothing common. Everyone always glared at the goth freak. Hey I was used to it. It used to annoy the hell out of me though. That is until I started to see a lot of kids at the college. There were a lot of weirdos there. Hell most of those Vamp freaks all had different color hair and whatnot.

Why was I such a freak then?

Double standards if you ask me.

Plus most Norms around here rarely noticed the Vamps. It was after all their job to be heard and seen very little. Which only made me hate them even more.

Walking up to the counter, I ran into Miss Perky #2.

I knew this one though.

Tara Heart. One of those cheerleader clones that gravitated around Cindy from time to time. I don’t think they were really friends but those girls seemed to stick together. At least in school anyway. Looking around, I noticed at least two other cheerleader employees here. Great. So if I got a job here I’d have to be dealing with that shit eight hours a day or whatever. I grit my teeth. It was all worth it. I needed to figure out if this place was evil. Tracy’s life depended on it. Ok so I didn’t actually know if this place was harming people but it was clearly harming my friend. She was becoming a pod person and I NEEDED to save her.

If I had to sacrifice my sanity to do it then so be it.

"Hey Tara” I said, trying to be polite for once.

She gave me a look.

It was the same look that everyone at school seemed to have.

Disgust.

Well this was going to go over well.

“Do I know you?”

There was that too.

“Yeah, we go to school together.”

She gave another look.

Clueless.

Tara and her cheer friends only actually had those two looks. If she tried to pull off a third, I couldn’t help but wonder if her head might blow off.

I sighed. “I’m friends with Tracy.”

Her clueless vanished to be replaced by a happy smile. “Oh Trace, yeah she’s awesome.”

Of course, she is.

“So I saw your sign,” I said, pointing to the Help Wanted sign in the window. “And I was wondering if I could get an application.”

There I said it.

She gave me that look again. “Oh...ummm...”

She was giving me the once over with her eyes. Typical shit. I knew where this was going. I scared people. I always scared people. I didn’t really give a shit, to be honest. The only reason I was here was because of Grams. Well her and Tracy of course. If this place was mind controlling my best friend somehow, I was going to find out how then cut the head off of whatever was doing it. Plain and simple. I thought the hard part of all of this was going to be stepping through the front door. Well it turns out that part was easy, painful but still easy. The hard part now seemed to be whether or not they’d actually hire me.

Shit.

‘You want to work here?”

“That’s the current plan.”

“Well I suppose I could get the manager but I already know what he’d say.”

Of course, you do.

I was done with this shit.

“You know what,” I said, raising my voice. “This place fucking sucks anyways.”

I turned and stormed off. A mother nearby with her little girl glared at me. I glared right back, even snarled a bit. The woman recoiled in terror.

Yeah fuck her too.

Outside of the shop, I wanted to scream.

I almost did.

Fucking bimbo. Who the hell did she think she was.

I stormed away down the road. Miserable piece of shit town. I was out of here as soon as I was able. I already had plans. My future didn’t involve Ravencrest. A month or so before school ended for the year, we all had to meet with our guidance counselors to discuss our future plans. Of course, I was going to college, it was a given. Grams wanted me to stay local of course. There was nothing wrong with Ravencrest University. There was though, it was here. No, I wanted to go to someplace far, far away. Maybe California or something. Maybe Kelly and I could get a room together, do the whole bonding thing or something. We started to discuss it the other day, she was open to the idea.

Thinking about it made me smile.

The smile didn’t last long.

“Well that went well,” said a voice as he dropped in next to me.

Literally dropped in too.

One minute I was walking alone, the next Jacob was walking next to me.

Poof just like that.

Holy shit, Heart Attack.

“Shit,” I said, nearly jumping out of my shoes. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Ok so news flash. The dream was not a dream. Well maybe it was, it was still too confusing. Jacob looked real enough walking beside me anyway. Though maybe he wasn’t. Maybe I was going crazy finally. Hey living in this town, it was bound to happen eventually. It was also very possible he was a ghost too. Though I’d never seen any myself I knew they were here. There was a girl...well nevermind. Anyway, he was here and he was talking.

“You’re not crazy,” he said with an amused smile. “And before you ask, it was a dream.”

“I’m confused.”

He sighed. “I’ll admit I’m just as baffled. I suspected I might have been dreaming but I never anticipated that it was a dream for you as well. It happens to me from time to time but I’ve never shared anything like it with anyone else before. Well not since...”

“Yeah, yeah great.”

I didn’t need his life story.

“So, the shop, is it still evil?”

“Hard to say to be honest,” he said then smiled. “I’m glad you remember that bit. I was afraid I was leading you astray.”

“So it was a test then?”

“More like a push.”

He was smiling again.

I didn’t say anything. I was still processing that little bit.

When I was finally ready to talk, he stopped me.

“Not here,” he said, pointing to an alley.

Rolling my eyes, I followed him. As soon as we stepped inside, I found myself stepping onto familiar ground. We were back in the woods at my special place.

“So is this a dream too?” I asked, annoyed.

“No this is very real,” he said, taking a seat on my log again.

I crossed my arms.

“So this is where you tell me what’s going on right?”

“I wish I knew”. He took a gold coin out of his coat pocket and started to fiddle it between his fingers. “I thought for sure there was something malicious following the shop from town to town but I don’t think so. Whatever is involved there means no ill intent, at least not as far as its concerned.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Not everything out there is evil,” he said, clarifying. “Some things do what they do because they have no other choice. I think we’re dealing with one of those things. My Master referred to them as Nudgers. They’re the type that have this urge to do things and they can’t stop themselves from doing so. If I were to guess I’d say our Nudger here is something that is compelled to make thralls and can’t stop from doing so. He’s nudging people whether he wants to or not. The sad part about all of it is that these nudging can generally lead to ill intent and most Nudgers have to be put down for their own good.”

Nudgers, huh?

“How many different kinds of Unseen are there?”

“All kinds.”

He left it at that. I waited for him to elaborate but he didn’t.

“So how do we stop this Nudger?”

“I won’t know until I know what I’m dealing with,” he said then sighed. “Which unfortunately is where you get involved.”

Wow thanks for the vote of confidence, Gramps.

“Gee thanks.”

“You must understand something here, Mary, and I’m only going to say this once.” His tone of voice was authoritative, like Grams. “Most everything in this world is dangerous. You fail to see it because of where you live, where you were raised. This place is safe to you. Ravencrest is a protected sanctuary, sheltered from the rest of the horrors of the world. The Barriers and Wards I put in place are here to protect this town.”

“So if they’re so powerful and mighty, how do things keep getting past these barriers of yours.”

He didn’t say anything.

He didn’t have too.

It was obvious now.

“They’re failing, aren’t they?”

Oh, God.

I could see it on his face. He didn’t have to answer.

"I’m right, aren’t I?”

Still nothing.

"Well how much time do we have?” I asked, frantic. “Can you at least answer me that?”

“Enough but not enough.”

Wow, how very cryptic of him.

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“It means that we don’t have time to sit around here worrying about it right now,” he said, the coin was now resting in his palm.

He fell silent for a while. He kept staring at the coin in his hand.

I looked at it as well. It was a fairly nondescript looking thing. It was old. There was a face on it but I couldn’t make out the features. I think it was a man but it was hard to tell by now. Whoever it was, he had to be important though. I mean his face was on a coin for fuck’s sake.

“You ok?”

“More time,” he said softly, probably not as soft as he would have liked though. “I need more time.”

“Jacob?” I asked, slightly worried.

He looked up at me and smiled. “Just thinking about something.”

He opened his long jacket and returned the coin to the inner most pocket.

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yes, very” he was still smiling. “Also very busy it would seem.”

He stood up, groaning a bit. He actually used the umbrella to steady himself for a moment. Looking at him now, I realized he was tired. A lot more so than yesterday. This was a man who wanted to rest, who needed to rest. Though he didn’t look more than sixty, his age was very misleading. If the rumors were true and I had no reason to doubt them now, Jacob was a lot older than he appeared.

“So busy that it would seem I’m needed elsewhere.”

Wait, what?

“You’re leaving?”

“Yes, a pressing matter has come up, one I can’t ignore.”

He looked past me at something. I turned to look where he was staring but of course, nothing was there. Or nothing I could see. I learned a long time ago to never second guess anything when it came to this town. If Jacob could see something and I couldn’t, it usually meant I wasn’t supposed too.

“So you want me to what, sit by and wash my hair while you’re away?”

He chuckled.

Jackass.

“Of course not,” he said with a mischievous smile. “I want you to continue poking around here. Find out what’s going on at that shop. You had the right idea by the way. Being on the inside like that. Very smart. Like I said, good instincts.”

“Except they don’t want to hire me.”

“Perhaps that’s the answer.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well if they don’t want to hire Mary, perhaps you can figure out who they actually might want to hire,” he said it with a wink.

I groaned.

He smiled. “Regardless, I must be off. Oh one more thing.”

He reached into that coat of his again, pulling out a simple silver ring. He held it up, showing me it.

“If you need me, this ring will know.”

Color me intrigued.

He placed it in my hand.

“Is it bewitched?”

He smirked. “Something like that.”

He started to walk away then stopped. He gave me a look for a few moments then nodded. He came back, pulling something else out of his coat. It was a dagger in a sheath. How many pockets did that thing have anyway? He walked over to me holding the dagger. It wasn’t anything overly fancy. Maybe something out of the Renaissance or Lord of the Rings. Though as he held it out for me, I noticed that the hilt was white. I thought at first it was made of marble but I wasn’t really sure.

“A friend gave this to me for safekeeping. He told me to hold onto it until I found someone else to pass it to. I’ve been holding onto it for a very long time. I think perhaps you should hold onto it for a while.”

I held out my hand and he placed the dagger in it.

It was surprisingly light.

I made to pull it out of the sheath but he gently grabbed my wrist.

“I wouldn’t, not unless you need too. It's very sharp.”

Somehow I felt a foreboding sense of dread from the thing in my hand.

“I must really be off now” he bent and kissed me on the forehead. “I have faith in you and that good head of yours.”

He smiled and the next thing I knew I was back in the alley.

I reached up and touched my forehead.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had ever done that.

I got lost in the moment.

Not for long though.

Sticking the dagger in the pouch of my hoodie, I turned and walked out of the alley. I started back toward the Fro Yo shop. I was going to make that bitch hire me no matter what. Enough of this being nice shit. Fuck her. I was almost to the shop when I noticed something. Well someones. It was all the girls working there. Them. Those perky bitches with their smiles and satin silk hair. Shit. Jacob was right. There was no way that Mary could get hired there. Not me, not the way that I was now.

I knew what I had to do suddenly.

5.

“Hi there!”

Tara looked up from her current task. She was at the little snack bar counter, pouring an insane amount of chocolate chips on some little girl’s frozen treat. I looked briefly at the overexcited six-year-old, who was hopping up and down with glee. Her mother looked on with dread. Me, I felt both of those things. Ok so I wasn’t overexcited to be here, I was anxious to see if this ploy would work. At least so far no one had sneered at me so at least that was something.

Tara looked at me, I think out of annoyance more than anything. As soon as she locked eyes on me though, her whole expression changed.

She was actually smiling.

Was this what it was like?

"Hey,” she said cheerfully. “Can you give me a sec. I’m with a customer.”

I smiled fake and waited.

It didn’t take long. The little girl got her fro yo and bounced off to a table, her mother in tow. I did not envy that woman and the sugar high she would be dealing with later.

Tara was practically bouncing herself when she got back to me. It was quite the sight to be honest, especially for all the guys within eye shot of it. Tara was shall we say rather well endowed up top. I still couldn’t figure out how she did all that cheer stuff, what with those things knocking around like they probably did. I was never one of those girls that envied breast size. I was satisfied with my modest B cup. I was also very happy that I didn’t have massive mammaries like those, her back must have been killing her.

“Sorry about that,” she said, smiling like an idiot.

“No prob,” I said, smiling myself. “So I saw this sign in the window. I just moved here and Mom says I can’t loaf around the house all day. She wants me to get a job and I was like “But Mom” and she was like, well you can only guess. Well anyway I saw the sign. It was either here or like flipping burgers...and well, yuck, you know?”

She nodded. “Definitely.”

She caught all that. Hell I barely caught all that.

I’ve never talked that fast in my entire life.

Tara leaned forward. “Well usually we’re supposed to do the whole application and interview process but you seem pretty cool, not at all like that girl from yesterday?”

Fucking bitch.

“That bad?”

“Yeah one of those goth freaks. I know her from school, she’s a real bitch. Total Debbie Downer. We definitely don’t want one of those working here. Am I right?”

“Oh most definitely.”

You fucking stuck up bitch.

I wonder if anyone would notice if she suddenly burst into flames?

“So you would just hire me, like that?”

“Oh most definitely.”

Wow.

If this place wasn’t evil, I was so totally going to report them. I mean who in the hell hires people without even giving them an interview. It made no damn sense. Looking around though, I couldn’t help but notice something. There were only three people currently working today, all of them were girls around my age. One was Britney Whats Her Face, she was one of Tara’s clones. Not quite as top heavy but she more than made up for it with her perkiness. The other girl seemed pretty normal. I didn't know her though. She could have been from the college. It was rare to see one of them working in a place like this. Most of the college kids were long gone by now. If I had to guess I’d say she was either an idiot or one of those overachievers who took summer courses.

Who wants to take school in the summer?

“Hey Brit” shouted Tara, drawing the attention of her fellow Pom pom pusher. “Can you take over for a sec. I need to show the new girl around.”

And wow, just like that, I was hired.

Talk about double standards.

Britney came over, smiling. She introduced herself and did that little squeal dance. I did my best to mimic it. Thankfully I spent a lot of time busting the chops of girls like her to know how they acted. This was all, of course, a part of the plan. It had all been pretty simple really. I figured out pretty quickly what they were looking for in employees here and just decided to copy it. The look, the clothes, the attitude. I just never in a million years thought it would be this damn easy.

Brit swapped places with Tara who then led me toward the back room.

It all felt ominous.

In truth, it was all pretty standard.

She started rambling though, talking a mile a minute. I was finding it pretty hard to keep up. I think she was trying to tell me about all the stuff I can expect when working here. Finally, she stopped talking. We were standing in front of a shelf and she was grabbing a set of clothes.

“This is your uniform.”

Inwardly I groaned, outwardly I smiled like an idiot.

It was horrible though: bright yellow shirt with an even bigger bright yellow smiley face on it and the tiniest shorts imaginable. Clearly, this place was owned and operated by some pervy bastard.

“Now I just need your name so we can get a tag for you.”

And it took her that long to ask my name.

I mean I’ve been here for about twenty minutes now.

What an idiot.

“I’m Allison’ I said, all bubbly. “But my friends call me Allie”

Ok not a total lie. I mean Alice is technically in my name.

“Well I hope you can count me among them, Allie.”

Wow. That didn’t take her long.

“Of course.”

We hugged. Tara pointed out the bathroom.

“You can get changed in there.”

“Wait, I’m starting today?”

That was fast.

“Sure if you want. The boss here is pretty lax on things. He pretty much lets us girls run things around here. I mean he pops in from time to time but we barely see him.”

So that explains why there was no interview. It also explained why the bitch refused to hire me before. Letting a bunch of superficial girls run a business was no way to stay in business. It also proved one very important thing to me. This place was run by cheerleaders.

It was most definitely evil.

“Sure, let me text my Mom. She’s going to be so excited.”

“No prob and oh, Welcome to Smiley Time Fro Yo, Allie.”

Smiley Time.

Wow, I hadn’t even realized this damn place had a name.

She gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze before going back to the front counter. I turned around, found the rest rooms and slowly trudged over to my doom. I took deep breaths the whole way. I could do this, I could this. I mean so I’d have to spend like maybe eight hours a day tops with these people? I was a cool customer, I could keep my head. They were just girls after all. Sure they were the most insipid, self-centered bitches in the world but it's not like they were evil. I mean how cliched would that be? The evil in this shop was actually the cheerleaders. I wanted to laugh. Though, I would give my left breast to smite them. Sadly I’d known all of them for years and of course, they were “evil” but they weren’t Evil.

Walking into the bathroom, I went into one of the stalls.

I slowly stripped.

I always hated changing in public places. Whenever Tracy dragged me along to do a little shopping, I just let her shop. Sure I would buy something now and then but I always made sure to know my sizes. That way I could get what I want and try it on at home. If it didn’t fit, I would just bring it back. Me and changing rooms were never going to be friends. I wish I had bothered though. This outfit I picked out last night---specifically for today’s charade---I so wish I’d tried it on before.

The clothes I could handle. It was painful to wear a baby tee and tiny khaki shorts but they were part of the disguise. It was something I’d seen a lot of girls currently sporting. No, the thing that bothered me the most was the push-up bra. Yep, I went that far. I needed to come across as a superficial, stuck up bitch. So I decided to copy Tara as much as humanly possible. It seemed to work too because hey I got the job. Then again, at this point, I’m pretty sure anyone could have gotten it. Tara was just a bitch.

Whereas Trevor had Mike Curtis, I had Tara Heart.

Not that Tara ever tried to kick my ass or anything but when we were in elementary school, she made my life a living hell. It's hard being the chubby red head girl with the freckles and the glasses. Girls were mean spiteful bitches. There wasn’t a day that went by when Tara wasn’t ribbing on me for one or all of my flaws. She used to send me home every day in tears. I never told anyone though. What was the point? No one would have believed me. So I endured. I grew stronger because of it. By the time middle school came around, I changed too. Puberty came, I got taller, lost the chubbiness, freckles and the glasses and gained an attitude. Tara only ever picked on me once more after that. Sending a girl to the nurse’s office with a bloody nose is usually a pretty good deterrent.

If anything, I should be thanking Tara Heart.

She made me the girl I am today.

Right now though, I wanted to punch her again.

Putting on the tight uniform top---good God how could they breathe in this---and the short shorts, I felt like a total idiot. The shorts were the worst though. They were tight as all hell and I think they were made of lycra. Ok so that was a lie but they sure as hell felt like it. I mean this was a place that families went too, how in the hell did they get away with it? And how hadn’t I noticed such an outfit before? I tried thinking back to meeting Tara yesterday and yep she’d been behind the counter, all I saw was the top of her. Today she’d been back there as well. I didn’t notice the shorts on Britney or that other girl either. Shit. I totally walked into this unprepared and now I was stuck.

Well for the time being anyway.

As soon as I killed the evil, I was totally out of here.

Finally dressed and tugging on the bottom of the shorts, I stepped out of the stall. When I walked up to the mirrors, I tried to see myself in the girl I created.

I couldn’t.

Well I could because it was me but it was just hard seeing myself like that.

I was normal.

The idea came to me easily enough. After Jacob suggested to “ figure out who they actually might want to hire", I spent the rest of the day building up the courage. Hey I might be a bad ass witch but when it comes to this, I’m a coward. I managed to talk myself into it though. I spent the rest of yesterday shopping. Sure it was only clothes and a bra but I needed to find the right outfit. I knew what kind of clothes girls like Tara wore. I was just scared what such clothes might do to me. On a subconscious level of course. Consciously there was no way I would EVER turn into one of them. But I knew what exposure could do to a person. I’d seen what it’d done to Tracy after all.

I wasn’t going to lose myself though.

I was stronger than her.

I had to be.

“Stronger,” I said to the pretty redhead staring back at me.

I stepped out of the bathroom, taking a deep breath as I did so.

I walked no more than two feet before I was accosted again.

“Hi there!”

Oh great it was Miss Perky Door Greeter.

“Hi,” I said, flashing the fake smile I’d been practicing all night.

“You must be Allie,” she said, holding a little name tag.

Wow, that was fast.

“I sure am,” I said, taking the tag from her.

I was pulling away when she slipped one of those fucking bracelets on my wrist. Shit. I smiled at her though. I couldn’t be shown to rebel at all. If there was someone here “pushing” people, I needed to look like I belonged. I smiled again at the girl, absently fingering the bracelet.
“These are so cute” I bubbled. “Did you make these?”

She shook her head. “They’re company policy. We pass them out to all the customers but the employees have to wear them. I’m Dawn by the way.”

Dawn.

Why did that not surprise me?

“It's nice to meet you!”

Gag me now.

Dawn wandered off, back to the door. Was that her only job?

I watched her for a few seconds. Blonde and bouncy, I guess I knew why they put her at the door. She was currently talking to a little girl, putting one of those bracelets on her wrist too. Her mother looked about as enthused as I felt. You definitely had to have a lot of self-esteem to pull off Dawn’s perkiness. You also had to have a good gag reflex to deal with it. I had to give the mother props. If it was me, I would have already punched her in the face. Or at least threatened to do so. I’m not sure what stopped me yesterday. Maybe I was finally maturing as a person.

Wait, nope.

I still wanted to punch her.

Well there goes that theory.

“Hey Allie.”

Shit, Allie, that was me.

I turned and saw Tara waiting. She was frowning.

Shit, what did I do wrong?

I walked toward her, quickly trying to tug the shorts down again.

They were downright criminal.

“Everything ok?”

“I called your name like four times.”

She sounded annoyed but she was smiling?

“Sorry, was lost in my own world.”

“It's all good,” she said, back to being cheery.

It blew my mind that this was the same girl who used to torment me every day of my life for years. Sure, I could still see the seething bitch hidden behind that smile but the malicious one, she was gone. I’d heard the old adage that people can change but this was ridiculous. I knew Tara. Just a few months ago, I saw her viciously and verbally attack some girl for wearing the same top as her. I knew what kind of bitch she was. The girl standing in front of me now was an idiot. An empty minded, bubble headed bimbo. Where was the nasty skank that made the lives of girls everywhere a living hell?

I smiled as brightly as I could.

God, I hope all this smiling wasn’t going to permanently damage my face.

“So the uniform looks so good on you,” she said with a tiny clap. “And I see Dawn gave you a bracelet?”

I raised my arm and jiggled my new wrist accessory, letting her see.

I felt like an idiot.

“Good” she continued and started walking. "I think I’m going to put you at the snack counter first. It's your job to cover the fro yo with whatever the customer wants.”

“Sounds yummy.”

Sounds like a fucking toothache waiting to happen.

She led over to the snack counter. It reminded me of the topping center at Subway. Except instead of fresh veggies and an assortment of different cheeses, it was nothing but candy. Good God. It really was a walking toothache. I mean this counter was a Dentist’s worse nightmare. Everything on that thing could cause so many cavities. Well I guess it was more like a Dentist’s wet dream then. I mean people come here, eat this crap, their teeth go bad and the Dentist rakes in the dough. Am I right or am I right?

Tara quickly gave me the rundown on my job.

It seemed easy enough.

Then she left me to it.

Baby in the Deep Water.

The first few customers were pretty easy. I want sprinkles this or gummy bears that. Simple. I got into the groove of it pretty quickly. After an hour I might of even started to enjoy myself. Yes, I know, scary thing. Then again an idiot could do something like this. Looking around at the other employees, it was clear that idiots were in fact doing it. Tara, Britney, Dawn and Other girl. I was never introduced to her actually. She was definitely from the college though so she probably didn’t have time for me. Not that I cared. What I did care about though was how all of them seemed to be pretty and empty headed. They were down right giddy at times, giggling and laughing. Sometimes at nothing at all.

Another hour in though, I wanted to drown myself in the candies.

Even the music was driving me nuts.

Ok so it wasn’t some ice cream trunk music playing in the background after all.

It was actually Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

The thing was, someone took it and made it all whimsical sounding.

The damn song played on an endless loop though.

So for the last two hours, all I’ve heard is that fucking song over and over again. It wasn’t making me happy at all, it was making me homicidal.

“Hey,” said a male voice, drawing me from my murderous thoughts.

Looking up, I got caught off guard and threw out a smile.

Blushing, I got rid of it just as quick.

Shit.

Fucking Holden.

Will Holden and I went way back, like as far back as diapers. Our families were very close. Well its hard not to be actually, what with our grandmother’s being on the Coven together. As children, we used to have a lot of play dates together. I think our grandmothers wanted us to get along for some odd reason. Will was a great guy. Its one of the reasons I hated him so much. He was too perfect. Tall with dimples and sandy blonde hair. He was that wholesome boy next door that every dumb girl threw themselves at. There were a lot too. Dumb girls I mean. I won’t lie, he was gorgeous. Like chiseled by the Gods out of stone gorgeous. I will also admit to having the biggest crush on him too.

Well before Trevor came along anyway.

“I’m Will,” he said with a smile of his own. “I haven’t seen you around here before?”

Are you serious?

Will you know I’m a redhead, we used to be friends?

“I’m Allie,” I said like an idiot. “I’m new in town, just moved here.”

“Well, its nice to meet you, Allie. If you need anything just...”

“Will stop drooling and order.”

And the world came to a screeching halt.

Little Miss Big Mouth.

Yeah I knew her too.

Looking down, I forced myself to smile at Little Bratty McBratty.

I think her name was Katie. She was a friend of Tommy, Tracy’s little brother. She and this other girl were practically glued to his hip most of the time. I was actually a little surprised to see her. I knew both of her friends were at that camp with Tracy. I was sure she’d be there too. I mean she was one of those toyboy types. You know roll in the dirt, eat bugs, belch her ABCs. Summer camp should have been like her mecca or something. Yet here she was---grass stained knees and all.

“And what can I get for you, sweetie?”

I flashed on the fake smile again.

Tara said there was only one rule: be nice to the kids. They were after all our number one customers. So any complaints from a parent and we were done.

Hey I could be nice.

Katie wasn’t having any of it of course.

She gave me a look.

She narrowed her eyes and stared. I mean she really stared. She was staring so long that her brother nudged her after a minute or so.

“Order already, I need to do other things today.”

She grunted, crossing her arms.

Then she made me pour a bunch of useless crap all over her frozen dessert.

“Thanks,” she said as I handed it to her.

She took it to the register without waiting for her brother.

“Sorry about her,” he said “she’s at that age.”

“Yep, been there, done that.”

We laughed.

Shit, I was not supposed to be laughing with Will Holden.

I stopped abruptly.

Then he left, rubbing the back of his head.

All of it pretty damn awkward if you ask me.

I found myself watching them the rest of the time they were here. I wasn’t the only one watching though. Katie was watching me too. She was trying to be inconspicuous about it but whenever I was apparently not paying attention, she’d look my way. She kept giving me that narrow eyed stare too. It was almost as if she suspected something? I continued to watch them. Well watch her actually. It was then that I noticed that I wasn’t the only one she was watching. She was looking around. She was trying not to be noticed of course and for the most part, she was. The only reason I really noticed because well I’d been doing the same. She was definitely suspicious of something or someone.

They left twenty minutes later.

“Have a great day” said Dawn as the two of them left.

Katie shot her a nasty look, Will just smiled.

Then they were gone.

I couldn’t help but wonder though, did that little girl know something?

Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF



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