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I need some critiques and creative advice

Home / Forums / List of Forums / Young Adult / I need some critiques and creative advice

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    Maddy Collett

    I started this story back a few months ago, i got really bad writers block and felt like it was moving too fast so it got put on the back burner and now that im wanting to finish I feel overwhelmed and lost with my own story because its been so long. so I would love for as many people as possible to read what i have so far and tell me what they love, what i can improve on, and some ways I can progress my story again.

    My mind is blank, my eyes are sealed shut, and my lips are wrapped around a plastic tube connected to a keg beneath me, with my legs hoisted above my head by two meat heads behind me.
         “You’re insane, Ronnie .” My longtime friend, Lucy, laughed as she helped me to the back porch.
    “Maybe, but I’m not done.” I grabbed her hand and guided her to the shot table, “Outta the way, boys! The master has arrived!” I could feel Lucy’s aura of disapproval burning into the my back.
    Oh well.
        “Jug! Jug! Jug!” the voices belonging to nameless faces, who were just as wasted as I was cheered me on as I did shot after shot. Throat burning, they ease me down as I high five strangers with a satisfied drunken smile.
        This was Lucy and I’s thing, I guess; I’d get completely and utterly hammered and she would hold my hair back while I threw it all up then take care of me when I passed out. It’s been like this since were fourteen. I didn’t make great choices the last three years. Not really sure what caused me to act like this. Maybe it was the pressure my socialite mother and step father continuously forced upon me, maybe I just decided one day to not care about my reputation.
          Maybe I was just born wrong. No matter the reason, here I am tonight drinking nonstop and adding to my ongoing list of bad choices. I know my lifestyle is terrible but maybe everyone has that point in their life where they just break. It doesn’t help when as you’re trying to drown your sorrows with your close friend Jack, that life keeps screwing you over and not letting up.
    I was already on my fourth cigarette when Lucy interrupted my inner monologue, “Don’t you ever get tired?”
        “Of what?” I knew what she meant but didn’t feel like getting to deep into it.
        “This,” she sighed, “The drinking, casual sex, and that nasty habit of yours?.” She snatched my cigarette and squished it with her heel. “I’d rather you not give yourself cancer.”
        I chuckled darkly, “In my defense I have kept up a semi decent monogamous relationship with Luke.”
        “This is true,” She retorted “Where is he tonight anyway?”
        “Most likely smoking bud with Van.”
        My stomach began to churn and I repressed the oncoming feeling of puking all over Lucy.  Grabbing my stomach I let her know I was feeling sick and made my way through the party to get to a bathroom fast.
    Stumbling through the bathroom door to see Luke behind a girl I didn’t recognize.
         “Wow.” His head spun around to the sound of my voice.
          “Ah shit.” Shoving the blonde out of the way he tried to grab my elbow as I made my way out the door.
          “C’mon, Ronnie, we can work this out, babe!” My arm swung back connecting with the side of his face with a satisfying thud.
          “Just like you’re ‘working it out’ with-excuse me what’s your name?”
          “A-Alison; I didn’t know he was taken!” She slurred trying to look innocent.
          “I’m sure.” Then I turned to Luke, “I hope she was worth it.”
    I couldn’t hold it in anymore; Alison shrieked in horror as she used Luke as a human shield against my vomit exploding all over the place
          “Crazy bitch!” Luke screamed at me wiping away my puke from his lap, “Goddamn alcoholic whore! Get out!”
          “No problem.” I hit him again knocking him on his ass. When I was done I eyed them with fury etched across my face, “So worth it,” With that I turned on my heel and hurried out of there. On my way out the door, I stumbled into Lucy.
          “You okay?” she could tell something was wrong with me.
          “I’m fine,” It wasn’t really a lie. I liked Luke I really did, but I didn’t love him so no huge loss, right?
          “Fine my ass! What the hell happened?” She was staring me down with her doll like blue eyes lined with stiletto sharp winged eyeliner. I’ve always though she was pretty, but when she was emotional she really was beautiful, and she damn well knew it.
          “Really I’m okay.” I gave her a drunken smile, “But me and Luke are no longer me and Luke, if you catch my drift.” I took a swig of beer waggling my eyebrows at her. She nodded in understanding
    With an apologetic look, “Do you want me to drive you home?”
    “Thanks but I think I’m gonna walk. Fresh air should do me good.”
     “You sure?”
    I nodded and made my way out into the cool summer night. 
         It was actually pretty nice out here, not too cold not too hot kind of weather. The lack of street lights made it possible to see the millions of stars that lit up the sky. It was still pretty dark because tonight was a new moon, despite the darkness I decided to take a short cut through the woods
         Making my own path, breaking limbs and crushing plants as I held onto tree trunks and thicker branches for balance. Even though I was still extremely drunk I don’t think there was enough alcohol in all of Texas to numb the pain I was feeling now. It wasn’t even because of Luke, I mean yeah that stung thought mostly it was when I was alone and drunk I thought things-dark things. So much self loathing and regret that I managed to push down during the day began bubbling up like vomit.
    Wait, that’s actually vomit.
    When I was done, I looked around surveying my surroundings looking for a route a home.
         I remember when my mom married Carl, my son of a bitch step father, that was when everything spiraled out of control. It was a slow and painful descent into death and I was the only one who noticed. My mother seemed so happy at first so I kept my mouth shut about my feelings about Carl in hopes that I was just paranoid, upset about my own feelings for my own father; I was projecting them onto Carl. I was so very wrong.
    He started showing angry tendencies towards me, not violent, just anger. Carl would tell me I was bad for my mom’s image and that I should dress “the part of a young lady instead of the slut” he knew I was.
        Strike number one.
         Then I would catch him snooping around my room and when I confronted him he told me that I would be his daughter soon so he had the right to look through all my things. Including my phone, personal journals, the whole nine yards. I threatened to tell my mom because I knew she would object. Turns out he had already brainwashed her and tried to persuade her to send me to a place called St. Mary’s School for Troubled Girls.
        Strike two.
        Thankfully she still had enough brains left to tell him it would never happen.  And the third strike happened when I got him cheating on her. I tried to tell her what I had seen, but she was hell-bent on denying what was right in front of her. She told me I should stop making up stories just because I didn’t like my future step dad. He had managed to turn my own mother against me. From then on I tried my best to stay under the radar, kept my nose down because at that moment I knew she would never take my side and eventually would send me to St. Mary’s if Carl told her so.
         If it wasn’t for Lucy I probably would’ve just hightailed to the city and lived on the streets. Because truth be told anything sounded better than where I was. At least I would’ve been free. Unfortunately despite her best efforts I started to spiral downwards. I am forever grateful that she never stopped trying to bring me back to my old self, a girl who was genuinely happy, laughed a lot, and was on her way to university with hopes of becoming a vet. She has always had a soft spot for animals. She had a boyfriend too, her first real love. He was captain of the soccer team, wrote poems about how beautiful and amazing she was. He was her first. He was perfect-or so she thought. After he found out about what I was slowly becoming he left her without a second thought.
        Which only made things worse, I fell deeper into a depression and attempted suicide.
    The memory still fresh in my mind like an open wound; Lucy had found me barely breathing in the bedroom we shared collapsed on the floor pill bottle in hand. Her screams still echoed in my head, thinking about it made my skin crawl.
    The suicide attempt resulted in Carl convincing my mom into kicking me out for good, I like to believe deep down she regrets it and misses her only daughter, but the cold harsh truth is she was too infatuated to care. Lucy and her family welcomed me into their home even despite everything.
        They were my true family. Family isn’t about blood, I soon realized, it’s about who is willing to hold your hand even when you are at your worst. Mrs. Lane attended group therapy with me as moral support, she even paid for me to get the help I needed. All three of them had marched down to that hell hole I came from and gave Carl and my mom a piece of their mind.  Words cannot explain how grateful I am.
    I continued down the path realizing I was very lost.
      Maybe it was the alcohol; maybe it was the rejection I was feeling. No matter the reason I had gotten myself lost in the woods miles away from the raging kegger being thrown miles behind me.  Despite the fact it was getting increasing colder, I was feeling better than I normally would after catching my boyfriend screwing some blonde in the bathroom. 
        My jeans were caked in wet dirt; the plaid button down shirt I was wearing was falling off of my shoulders as I tried to find my way back. I didn’t hear the movement. I didn’t see the very large silhouette running a few yards away.
         Not until it was too late. Before I could scream I was being tackled and flipped onto my back, a heavy hand covering my mouth to muffle my delayed screaming.

        My eyes adjusted to the darkness allowing me to identify my attacker.
        It was Luke.
        “You didn’t think I was going to just let you walk away from us did you? I messed up, you should forgive me.” He said in a low voice, grabbing my arms roughly, “You hurt me too remember?”
        “Get over yourself, Luke. I’m going home.” Pushing him off I got up and turned to walk away. I could hear Luke coming after me,
        “Don’t walk away from me!” He yelled. “You don’t get to walk away!”
        I had to turn around to laugh in his face, “I don’t get to walk away? How serious do you think we were? I mean yeah we had fun and I like you but I’m nobodies doormat!”
        “See you like me? You admit it!” His voice echoed in the dark wood
        “Never denied it, your just not worth my time.” I shrugged.  I was starting to get the impression me walking away was just going to piss him off so I decided to humor him and stick around. Leaning against a tree I reached into my pocket for a cigarette. “What do you want from me, Luke?”
          He snaked an arm around my waist, leaning in real close so I could smell the beer on him. ” You know what I want, Ronnie.” Before I could react his was shoving his tongue into my mouth using his other hand to hold me to him.
        He tasted like menthols. I hate menthols.
        “Dude! Fuck off!” I raised my knee sharply into the side of his leg just barely missing his manhood.
    Anger flashed over his face and he reached out for my throat wrapping his big meaty hands around me and pressing hard.
        “Crazy bitch.”
          I flailed around trying to fight back but it was no use. My petite 135 pound frame was no match for Luke who was built like a tank. A few minutes had gone by and I was starting to see spots, slowly slipping away. I shut my eyes waiting for it to be over.
      Suddenly he was gone, evaporated into the night, I kept my eyes shut for a moment trying to get my breathing back under control. Opening them up he was nowhere to be seen, my pulse began to quicken. “What the hell?” I muttered quietly. I didn’t waste any more time I hauled myself blindly through the trees until I reached the road.
        Gravel crunched under my feet as I slowed to a brisk walk and I wrapped my arms around myself to keep warm. What the hell happened back there? Luke was almost 200 pounds where did he go? Why did he stop? He seemed pretty set on ‘teaching me a lesson’ back there. Which was so weird now that I think about it. He was never like that. He’s always been a huge overgrown kid, perfectly content with sitting around smoking weed and doing nothing.
         I’d never even seem him raise his voice at anyone until tonight. I walked wrapped in my thoughts finally settling on blaming the alcohol and whatever else he might’ve taken. Maybe Van finally talked him into taking something harder. He always was a bad influence. Shaking my head I decided to focus on not getting lost again.
          A little while later I made it to my driveway, gravel slowing turning into dirt then to grass as I reached the front porch. All the lights were off except for the room Lacy and I shared. I fumbled with my keys, pushed the door open, and drug myself upstairs to my bed.
          Lacy looked up as I walked in and flopped like a dead fish onto the bed. “What happened to you?” she gasped rushing to the side of the bed. At first I didn’t know what she was talking about, I didn’t think Luke made any obvious damage so I sat up and looked in the mirror. Bruises wrapped themselves around my neck and down onto my collar bones. My face was decorated with scrapes and scratches, with a busted lip tying the display together like a piece of art. I thought about lying then conceded explaining to her what had happened.
      “You’re kidding?” I gave her a pointed look as if to say ‘do I look like I’m kidding?’ “Guess not..”
       With that I let myself fall into a dreamless restless sleep.

      I awoke up to the sound of Lucy getting ready, chirping away her new favorite song.
        She hopped over to my bed, “You got twenty minutes till the bus gets here. I hope you got enough sleep, hun.” Smiling brightly she gently shook my shoulder to hurry me along. I groaned, I love her but my least favorite quality about her is how perky she is in the morning.
        “I think I’m gonna skip today,” I yawned as I ran my fingers through my dark disheveled hair. Lucy shot me a disapproving look in the mirror while she carefully applied her eye shadow.
        “Dad’s home today, he thinks the Fosters’ mare is close to having her baby maybe he’ll let you tag along. At least then he might write you a note.” I sat up thinking it over in my head.
        “Got anymore ideas in that pretty head of yours?”
        “You know flattery gets you nowhere.” She laughed, “Besides if you’re to hung over to get up right now, Dad isn’t planning on going over there until the afternoon so you get to sleep in.” Sleeping in and helping with the Fosters’ mare didn’t actually sound half bad.
        “Alright then hush up and let me get a few more hours in.” 
        “As you wish my liege,” She joked then left for downstairs. The alarm clock on my nightstand blinked half past seven.
         Hours later, I woke back up and my head was still killing me. Time for some coffee, I thought.
    Mr. Lane was sitting at the table going through a stack of manila folders filled with pictures and notes about his patients.
        “Whatcha doing?” I sing songed at him peering over his shoulder.
        “Officially moving my patient files to the computer.” He replied absentmindedly without looking up from his work.
        “Ah finally welcoming the 21st century I see.”
        “Uh huh.” He chuckled then it dawned on him I wasn’t at school. “Care to explain why your here instead of class?”
        “Lucy mentioned you were going to the Fosters’ place can I come?” I dodged the question while batting my tired eyelashes at him.
    He looked at me skeptically, “Can never have enough hands on experience, looks great to colleges.” I offered hoping to make it seem that was the only reason. He wasn’t buying it.
        “Do I need to smell your breath?”
        “I wouldn’t. Awful morning breathe, lethal I tell you.” Hoping to distract him with a joke.
    “What happened to you?” He finally noticed the my marks of last night. I spun a story of falling off the deck at the party last night.
        “I’m fine.” I reassured him. Mr. Lane was ever the skeptic but decided to let it go for now. “So how’s the mare?”
        “She definitely looking ready to get that foal out. I’m assuming you want a note?”
        I gave him my biggest puppy dog eyes as I sipped my coffee.
        “I promise I won’t tell the Mrs. if you won’t. Mums the word.”
        Running a hand over his face then glanced at his watch, “Guess its to late in the day to make you go to school. Fine go get dressed while I call the school.” I gave him a hug and rushed upstairs.
        Settling on a Nirvana sweater and some jeans that hadn’t been washed in a week, I fought my ebony waves into a ponytail, added some half assed eyeliner, slipped on my boots and headed out for the day.
        We pulled into the gravel driveway in front of a small barn an hour later careful to avoid running over the chickens wandering the lot. Peter Foster emerged from behind the barn door waving to us, giving Mr. Lane a look to say to hurry up and get in there as he ducked back inside. A large chocolate brown mare was laying inside one of the two stalls inside, sweaty and taking big deep strained breaths.
        “Poor girl, she wasn’t supposed to go into labor till next week!” I exclaimed, “Are they going to be okay?” I asked Mr. Lane.
        “Now that we’re here they will be.” He handed me some gloves, “Lets get started.”
    Several pushes later, we leaned up against the stall door as we watched the tired horse and her new foal get to know each other.
        “That was awesome.” I was in awe, I had never gotten to apart of something so extraordinary before.
        Little did I know I’d soon be apart of something even more extraordinary. 


        By the time we got home it was almost dark, Lucy was sitting on the front porch with a cup of tea and a book. She looked so pretty in this light, her blonde hair looked a dark golden bronze against the dusk and her emerald eyes looked so focused on her novel. Her make up had been washed away and I noticed how much prettier she looked without it.
         I wish I looked that pretty without it. Then again I had nowhere near her natural looks. She definitely won the genetic lottery, her mom looked like a super model with legs that went on for days and the natural blonde locks Lucy inherited. Mr. Lane looked kind of like the Marlboro Man, very roguishly handsome, his features hardened from a lifetime’s of work in the Texas sun.
        I on the other hand had dark unruly locks with a blueish tint and my eyes were so brown they were almost black, my skin scarred and worn from life takings it’s toll on me.
        I looked nothing like either of my parents, both freckled and red headed, they swear up and down I’m not adopted but I don’t really believe them.
        “Feel better?” Lucy asked me peering over her reading glasses trying her best to look disapproving of me skipping but ended up looking like a cute librarian.
        “Yes actually.” I quipped. “We have an hour or two of daylight left wanna head the dock?”
        “I don’t wanna get in the water but I’ll sit on dock and watch you swim.”
        “Works for me.”
        On the walk over I told her about how her dad let me assist him in the birth today, how amazing it was to watch the new mother help the colt take his first few steps, how it felt to help bring a life into the world, and watching them get to know each other was the cutest thing I’d seen.
        “Sounds amazing, wish I had gone. I probably wouldn’t have been as much help but sounds like it would’ve been cool just to watch.”
    As we reached the dock, I peeled my clothes off till I was down to my underwear then jumped off into the cool dark water. Letting myself stay submerged for a while the underwater silence engulfed me as if I was completely isolated from the rest of the world. My skin grew goosebumps from the icy chill around me sending a burst of energy through my tired body, ‘ Maybe I could stay down here forever,’ I though to myself. I swiftly pushed the thought away as I thought of Lucy, if I never came back up she would be a broken shell of the girl I’d grown to love so dearly. Some may say that’s a vain thing to say but it’s true, she presents herself as a put together young lady who has her shit together and never gets phased by anything. Very few people actually realize how thin she spreads herself and how much pressure she puts on herself to not just take care of herself but of others as while. It’s like she can’t function without paying it forward at least twice a day. Sometimes I wonder if bringing me back from the brink is a great achievement in her mind, just imagine if that project turned out to be a complete failure anyway. My lungs started to burn so I swam up to the surface and saw Lucy swinging her feet in the water utterly engrossed in her book.
    “Whatcha reading?” I asked her sending a playful splash towards her.
    “Hey! Don’t get my book wet loser!” She squealed with feigned anger.
    “Whatever.” Shrugging my shoulders I preceded to backstroke through the water purposely making bigger splashes with my feet.
    A few minutes later, I could feel myself getting fatigued so I decided I was done. The sun was a bright orange laying low in the sky so I knew it would be dark soon anyway.
        We spread ourselves out on the old wooden dock, absorbing the last of the warmth from the sun. “Luke wasn’t at school today, have you heard from him since last night?” My pulse quickened and a shiver went down my spine. Something was very wrong.
        “No, I haven’t. Did you ask Van?”
        “He was gone too. Wonder if they’re holed up somewhere together. Knowing you’re temper, Luke might be licking his wounds somewhere having Van feel sorry for him.”
        “Maybe.” I concurred. I was glad it was finally dark so she couldn’t see my face so she couldn’t see the worry and fear etched on my face. Something was going on and I was going to find out what.
        “Anything else today?” I quizzed, hoping maybe she heard something in the halls or something.
        “There’s a new kid in school, very cute but I get vibes from him ya know?” This got my interest.
        “Like from a scale from sexy troubled bad boy to tall, dark, and murderous?” Only half joking on the murderous part. Luke missing and a new guy in town didn’t really feel like a coincidence, my gut was screaming that they were connected. If so, I doubted it led anywhere good.
        “Um, maybe tall, dark, and mildly violent? I heard he got expelled from some school somewhere in New York, I heard he threatened someone with some big badass sword.”
        I was definitely going to need to meet him, “Did you happen to catch his name?” I pushed on with my interrogation hoping she didn’t catch on.
        “I heard someone call him Stryker but I doubt that’s his legal name.”
        “Probably not.” I agreed, slightly annoyed that all I got was a nickname but it was a start.
        We continued to lay there in silence and stare at the stars. This was definitely one of my favorite things about the countryside, the billions of stars uninhibited by city lights. Totally worth having to drive an hour just to go grocery shopping. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the peacefulness, wishing it could never end.
    Suddenly I heard footsteps behind us, I jolted out of my quiet daze and shook Lucy awake who had dozed off. She sat up groggily, “What’s up?”
        “I heard something.” That got her attention she grabbed my hand nervously. “Stay behind me,” Gathering my bravery and still gripping her hand I stood up, “Who’s out there?” No answer.
    It was almost pitch black, I could barely see ten feet in front of me. I looked around I saw a pair of bright blood red eyes piercing through the darkness.
        My blood ran cold, I was frozen where I stood afraid to even twitch. Lucy let out a blood curdling scream in terror when she saw them, the eyes winked at us which caused her to let out a sob and dig her nails into my arm. I winced but said nothing, putting on a brave façade so she wouldn’t totally lose her mind.
        “Go away!” I tried to yell but my voice caught in my throat. I felt stupid, like telling whatever was watching us to simply ‘go away’ would do anything. “Are you okay, Luce?” I whispered to see if there was any chance of calming her enough so I could grab my pocket knife out of my boot. Her lack of response told me she was far from okay.
        “You don’t belong here.” A male voice came from what was standing in front of us.
    It pissed me off, “What the hell are you talking about? We live here!” My fingers clenched tightly around the hilt of my knife bracing myself for a fight I was prepared to lose if that meant Lucy could get back to the house. I could see the porch lights from the dock, she was fast I knew she would make it.
        “You don’t belong here.” It repeated then faded back into the shadows.
        “Let’s go!” I yanked Lucy along as I ran as fast as my legs would carry me never letting go of her hand.
    We collapsed as soon as we reached the steps. Lucy was crying. My heart broke watching her cry so I wrapped my arms around her dainty shoulders and held her close as she broke down in fear against me. She suddenly pushed me away and leaned over the side of the porch puking into her mom’s roses. Gently I pulled her hair out her face, wondering for a moment if she was this calm when I would be completely trashed while she held my hair back. Then I felt bad, wondering if it was this scary for her.
         I recalled of the night she found me in my bathroom after swallowing a bottle of pills. She had forced her fingers down my throat forcing me to puke them back up, she had somehow gotten me into the shower and held me under the cold water to keep me awake.
        I remembered how she cried and stroked my hair telling me how she loved me, begging me to stay awake till her dad got there. The memory made me my eyes water, Lucy had finished puking and turned around to stare at me.
         She cupped my face in her hands, pressing her lips to my forehead, “Thank you.” She pulled me inside and upstairs to our room. I tucked her in because she was still shaking but had calmed considerably.
        “Goodnight,” I told her she squeaked a response and quickly passed out.

    The sound of Lucy getting dressed awoke me the next morning, she flew around the room in a blonde frenzy searching through her closet and drawers as if nothing had happened last night.
    “You’re awfully energetic this morning.” I commented as I studied her trying to figure out what was up.
    “I didn’t sleep very well last night so I’ve had about three cups of coffe this morning and I’m running late so I’m stressed.” Well no shit you didn’t sleep well I mean it’s not like we were almost attacked by some shadowy figure last night but hey what do I know.
    “Yeah last night was pretty weird, you doing okay?” She turned around to give me a look of confusion.
    “My night was actually pretty boring, I don’t know what you did last night maybe it’s better off that way.” She laughed it off as if it was any other night. “Although I did have this crazy dream last night it was so weird.” There it is. Denial at its finest, she couldn’t handle the idea of something like that happening so she’s made herself believe it was a dream. I guess its for the best, lord knows how scared she was last night I should be happy she’s decided to forget.
    I shrugged it off and let it be. If she didn’t want to remember thats her choice maybe she will in the future but I didn’t want to push her. Honestly maybe I’ve been over reacting, maybe it didn’t actually happen and my imagination is just running wild. Maybe. I groaned as I trudged out of my bed and made my way to the bathroom to get ready for class.
    Twenty minutes later Lucy and I were out the door and on our way to hell on earth but everyone else knew it was Columbus High School. Leave it to a small Texas town like Blooming Grove to name its only high school after one of the worst men in history. I guess everyone forgets the fact that he basically led a genocide on the Native Americans. He started the whole trend of oppression and enslavement of indigenous peoples, and ruled the colonies he established as a tyrant. We’re talking hand choppings and murder all around. He was also incredibly petty. On his first voyage, he offered a monetary reward to the sailor who first spotted land. When one of the crew made the call, Columbus climbed up to confirm it, then gave the award to himself on the basis that he was the first to confirm that land was there. I have no tolerance for pettiness and tyranny.
    Blooming Grove is one of those towns you think only exist in fiction or at best progressed with the rest of the world when it came to social rules with the usual exception of old people stuck in their ways. Alas that was not the case, in this small town consisting of 250 people, religion had a strong foot hold here in town and that foot was wearing steel toe boots with spikes on the bottom. Everyone went to church and if you didn’t you became an instant pariah, girls were expected to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen an gay people didn’t exist. This was truly hell on earth.
    It escapes me why anyone from New York would willingly move here, I mean if you’re going to move to Texas move to Austin. It’s like an island in the sea of religious zealots completely untouched by stupid.
    As we pulled in front of the school to be dropped off, I immediately spotted the transfer student without even having to ask. He was the only one not wearing camo and mud covered cowboy boots. Aside from that, I got this weird gut wrenching feeling when I looked at him and I couldn’t choose whether it was good or bad, he sat alone by the fountain amongst the crowd just people watching, he looked absolutely mesmerizing. Not just in a ‘he’s super hot I can’t look away’ type of mesmerizing but there was something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
    My ass hit the floor and I dropped my books everywhere, I looked up to see I had ran into Cecily, the worlds most holy than thou senior I had ever had the displeasure of meeting. She was also a two faced heinous bitch. Inwardly groaning I began to gather my things when she stepped one of her studded boots on my stuff with a sickly sweet smile plastered to her face.
    “Bless yurr heart, aren’t you head over heels for that new guy huh?” Her southern drawl was like nails on a chalkboard, “You were just so busy stalkin, you completely forgot to look where you were going, darlin.” I guess I wasn’t so subtle about my admiring but I sure as hell wasn’t stalking the guy.
    Fuming, I yanked my book from underneath her boot almost knocking her over. “If you’re so concerned why don’t you get off my stuff?” Her eyes squinted as she noticed a crowd beginning to form around us expecting some type of brawl, but of course Cecily is too “lady like” for that and heaven knows Jesus wouldn’t approve.
    Lucy knelt down to help me gather my things, “Cecily, I didn’t see you at church this weekend are you feeling okay?” Rumor was that she had gotten caught with a college guy at a bar but she would never admit that.
    “I’m fine.” she replied curtly then turning around to leave.
    “She’s such a bitch,” I muttered much to Lucy’s disapproval.
    “Just one day I wish you would get along for the sake of peace.”
    “She started it.”
    “What? are you two? Anyway I can’t stay to referee I have to get to class, try and play nice.” With that she walked off with a flip of her hair and she was gone. Following suit I headed to my history class.
    The first thing that caught my attention as I entered the room was Stryker sitting in the back of the class next to the last empty seat.
    Well that’s interesting.
    I took my seat next to him and introduced myself, “Hey I’m Veronika but my friends call me Ronnie.” I extend my hand to him, looking at me warily he reluctantly took it to shake my hand.”
    “Stryker.” He nodded then pulled his hand back and went back to what he was doing.
    “So I hear you’re from New York?” I prodded. “Settling in alright? There’t not a whole lot to do around here except church and well talking about church,” I chuckled.
    “Do you always talk this much or am I just special?” He replied without even looking at me. He took a big breath and exhaled, “ I’m sorry it’s just people around here are a little-“
    “Over enthusiastic? Pushy? Nosey?” I interrupted.
    “All of the above.” Giving me a small smile.
    I left it at that as the teacher walked in and begun her lecture on Japanese history and folklore. Much to the parents dismay, she insisted on doing a unit on Japanese mythology, they were absolutely convinced she was trying to convert their children to what exactly I’m not sure but if its not Christianity its evil I guess.
    Today she was talking about something called a kitsune. She pronounced it as, “kee-tsoo-neh” which apparently is the Japanese word for fox but can also apply to a type of demon called yoke which are incredibly intelligent with amazing shapeshifting abilities and were even known to cast enchantments. I was completely fascinated by the stories she was telling, eating up every word.
    The bell rang and it was time to leave so I tried to talk to Stryker again before he left but he was already gone. He left something behind though and I bent to pick it up it, it was small cord necklace with a black stone hanging from the center.
    I bent over and picked it up, examining it in my hand noticing it was more than just a plain black stone on a plan cord. It appeared to be black obsidian crystal if I was remembering my geology correctly. The only reason I would even know that is because one summer my mom thought it would be good idea to send me to a science summer camp where I then became the proud owner of a ‘geology rocks’ tee shirt. Looking closer at it, it almost seemed to contain a small nebula dancing around inside it with astroids blasting their way through space and stars dancing just for me. I was completely mesmerized by its beauty. The cord itself was ordained with intricate silver designs which almost looked like ancient runes delicately woven into the fabric.
    Why would he leave this behind? This seemed like the kind of thing you don’t want to forget. It also seemed odd that he had it in the first place, I mean the guy was wearing combat boots and a White Stripes tee, this didn’t exactly scream his style. Maybe he has a girlfriend? For some reason that idea made me a little sad, but I didn’t feel sad for long when I realized it was my lunch period.
    I power walked my way to the cafeteria because today was pizza day and I wasn’t really in the mood to wait in line. Finally reaching the cafeteria, I noticed a rather decent sized crowed had gathered outside one of the neighboring halls. Curiosity ended up winning over pizza so I made my way over to see what the all the fuss was about. I can buy my own pizza, can’t buy gossip.
    After pushing a few freshmen out of the way what I discover makes me want to choke someone. My blood boils and I can feel the vein in my neck throbbing.
    Thump. Thump. Thump
    “Students gather around please!” There is Cecily running her stupid mouth into a large peptobismal pink megaphone holding up the most hideous thing I have ever seen in my life. “Due to some students,” she yells very pointedly and I know she means me and anybody like me “The faculty board and student council have all voted and starting next week Columbus High school will now be wearing these uniforms!” She yells with so much fake enthusiasm I want to vomit. Everyone slow claps with unamused glares but she doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Probably both. She’s the type of person that lives in her own little world, and in her world if she doesn’t care about it and it doesn’t revolve around her it doesn’t exist. Glaring at the ugly uniform I hoped the phrase if looks could kill came true it would happen now, the thing was truly that bad. The skirt was black and vomit green knee length with brown leather loafers and the top was a eggshell white button down turtle neck with sleeves ending at the elbows.

    As the day went on I learned I shared almost all of my classes with Stryker except for math. Which almost made me forget about the southern belle from hell’s uniform mandate. Almost. It did however make me happy because I found him so intriguing, having so many classes with him made the chances of getting to know him much higher.
    On the walk home I let myself get lost in though about Stryker. He was so mysterious and aloof I needed to figure him out, maybe curiosity did the kill the cat but I bet the cat died happy with satisfaction. Nobody wants to die with unanswered questions. Not to mention he was also extremely attractive and I knew befriending him would only annoy Cecily which was a plus.
    I continued to walk down the dirt road lined with evergreen trees and other shrubbery. Suddenly I felt two hands grab my shoulders and yank me behind a tree.
    “Goddamit, Luke!” I shouted as a hand covered my mouth, looking at my attacker I realized it wasn’t Luke. It looked like Stryker. Except his hair was white and he had dog-like ears sprouting from his head and a furry tail. I must have fainted because I woke up to the sound of crackling fire and the sun had been replaced with a full moon looming above me like an omen. Sitting up I began to look around but I appeared to be alone.
    If I was alone then who made his campfire?
    It didn’t really matter because I was on my feet and sprinting through the trees trying to find the road. I was in such a panic that I didn’t notice the shadowy figure running after me until it was to late. My body hit the ground as he tackled me, “Don’t try that again,” My attacker hissed, eyes slit and a low growl rumbling from his chest.
    Wide eyed I nodded in compliance. “I’m going to let you up, if you try and run again…” The moon shined a bit of light over his face revealing red eyes and sharp pearl like fangs behind his lips. He grunted and climbed off of me, I lay there for a moment trying to lower my blood pressure then staggered to my feet. He glanced at me for a moment then quickly averting his gaze away from me. I swallow and released a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. What was happening?
    “Are you going to kill me?”
    He glared at me almost looking annoyed but didn’t reply.
    “Are you going to let me go?”
    “Not yet,” he replied tersely, “Let’s go.” Grabbing my wrist to lead me through the forest.
    “What are we doing out here? Is that you Stryker? Why are you kidnapping me? You’re hurting me!” His gripped had tightened in response to my many questions.
    “If you want to live then shut the hell up,” he barked at me, his expression so intense I snapped my mouth shut.
    We were silent for what felt like hours but against my better judgement I tried to talk to him again.
    “What do you want from me?” He ignored me but at least he let go of my wrist as we came to a stop outside a large log cabin.
    “Wait here.” he ordered.
    “Just do it.”
    He went inside and for a moment I considered trying to run but somehow I knew he’d catch me almost immediately. Even if he didn’t I had no idea where I was so I’d just end up lost anyway.
    Minutes later he emerged from the cabin with a tall gorgeous middle aged women trailing behind him. She had a certain vibe about her, she was dressed in dark colored robes with long brown but greying hair flowing over her shoulders. Her eyes looked aged with the type of wisdom that some say only comes with lifetimes of living. Stryker grabbed my hand and introduced her.
    “This is Tamara, my mother.”
    “What?” This had to be a dream, why would Stryker be introducing me to his mother? More importantly why did he have ears? And tails? I looked from her to Stryker then back to her so fast it gave me whiplash. None of this happened by chance, Luke’s change of demeanor then disappearing, what happened at the dock, new kid at school having almost all of my classes with me then kidnapping me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the necklace with the glittering black stone. Then the realization hit me like a freight train.
    “You’re a Yokai.” the words barely escaped my mouth in a barely audible whisper.
    “Well half, my mother is a witch.” Stryker replied.
    “This one catches on much more quickly than the last,” Tamara mused.
    “I see you found my present for you.” Stryker stared at me intently silently telling me to put it on so I complied.
    Tamara spoke to me directly this time, “My son has taken quite the liking to you and I am starting to see why.” She turned to him, “You sensed it too didn’t you?” He closed his eyes and shook his head, “Not until I met her in person today, in fact I wasn’t completely sure until she picked up the killing stone.”
    “Wait the what? Sensed what?” They continued to ignore me and talk about me like I wasn’t even there. “ENOUGH!!” I bellowed with so much force I scared myself, the wind picked up as if mother nature was coming to my aid. “Someone better give me answers and give them to me now or so help me-“ The ground beneath me began to shake, cracks formed around my feet. Stryker’s eyes widened with surprise and glowed a bright red like rubies.
    “Earthquakes aren’t supposed to happen here!” I shouted above the chaos.
    “That’s not an earthquake thats you!” Stryker yelled back at me, “You need to calm down.”
    “Calm down?! You attacked me and kidnapped me you freak!” Hurt was etched across his face, he cast his eyes away from me looking ashamed.
    “I’m sorry for being so aggressive but this is what I was afraid of!” He was afraid of me. He was a fox demon and he was the one afraid of me. What did that make me?”
    Tamara calmly interjected despite the chaotic scene around her, “If you don’t trust him you will die.” Not helpful, but I figured I could risk dying by ignoring her or I could go on a leap of faith and let Stryker help me.
    I looked at him pleadingly, without saying a word he knew I was asking for his help. Within seconds he crossed the distance between us grabbing my face gently and kissed me.
    At first I was surprised and a little angry but then I felt a warmth coursing through my shoulders expanding to my chest, stomach, legs as it finally made its way to my toes, unaware of what I was doing I kissed him back running my fingers through his white hair and even though my eyes were squeezed shut I knew we were glowing. The world seemed to slow down, the ground stopped shaking and the wind slowed to a still stop.
    He pulled away grabbing my wrist again but this time gently with care like I was a precious heirloom he was afraid to break, “Come with me.” He gestured to the cabin.
    I considered going with him for a fleeting moment instead I chose to run. This time Stryker didn’t try to follow me but I could hear him calling out to me. I have never been a very strong runner, though I willed my legs to carry myself farther away from the madness behind me. Weaving my way between the trees, hopping over logs, and ducking under low branches; I felt myself melding with the forest around me as if mother nature herself-if you believed in that sort of thing- was helping me find my way home. Low and behold after a few more twists and turns I found myself on a familiar stretch of dirt road that lead home.
    “Thanks.” I mumbled to nobody in particular.
    On a whim, I decided I wanted to stop at the gas station to grab a pack of cigarettes. I lived in a very small town, something you see in tv shows or movies. There was only one gas station, we didn’t have a grocery store or a mall if you needed anything you had to drive three hours into the city to get it. We did however have a movie theatre which at any given time was showing two movies but it was never anything new and it closed at nine because the parents thought if kids were there any later they would be doing things Jesus wouldn’t approve of in the back of the theater. To be fair, they could do that during the day too…
    The streets were mostly empty for the exception for a few stragglers, all going to the same destination since it was the only business still open except for the sheriffs station.
    I sauntered in casually into the store waving to my favorite cashier. We had gotten to know each other of the years. I had picked up my habit a while ago and since I was still underage for a few more months we exchanged “favors” and she would sell me cigarettes in return. In a small town like this the chances of the DEA banging down her door her extremely unlikely the only people she had to worry about were her fellow bible thumping neighbors.
    “Hey, I’ll bring you a dime bag next time I come in, I just came in on a whim and I’ve had a really rough ni-” I started to tell her but she cut me off and gestured to the missing poster behind her.
    “Honey, don’t even worry about it,” She handed me two, “These are on the house.” Reaching over the counter she wrapped me in a big bear hug. My heart was in the pit of my stomach, there starting accusingly at me was Luke. He had been missing since the party.
    It was almost dusk when I reached the house which meant everyone would be ready for dinner and I could smell the the fried chicken from the porch. I had made a choice not think or talk about Luke until I saw Stryker again.
    I took a shaky breath and reached for the doorknob, I lingered for a moment to catch my breath and looked inside the window. Lucy sat at the table with a glass of sweet tea hunched over a pile of books studying, her blonde hair was a tumbled mess over shoulders but in a cute way. You could see bits of straw playing peek a boo as well so that meant she had covered for me on chore duty so I would have to thank her later. She look exhausted not just physically either but mentally too; she had a terrible habit of trying mother me since my own wouldn’t and I could see it was taking it’s toll. No matter how much I told her she didn’t have too, she always insisted that wasn’t her intention that’s just what friends do for each other. I guess I wasn’t a very good friend then. Her parents were busying themselves around the kitchen, husking corn, baking bread, and making sure Mrs. Lane didn’t burn the chicken. I adored the women but she didn’t know which way was up when it came to the kitchen, which in this town was a nice change of pace if you get my drift. The Lane’s never admitted it outside of closed doors because they were afraid of what people would think but they “gender roles” were basically switched, Mr. Lane stayed home most days his clients came to him in case of emergencies and he was a pretty good cook while the missus worked as a attorney in the city. Not the fancy kind, the “if you can’t afford one we’ll appoint you one kind” always looking out for the little guy that woman. They had started to set the table as I opened the door to let myself in.
    “I’m back guys,” I greeted them casually hoping they wouldn’t notice I was covered in dirt and grime. No such luck.
    “Someone’s been dirty.” Lucy giggled
    “Excuse me?” Her mother raised an eyebrow at the two of us, “Is there something you’d like to tell me young lady?”
    Glaring at Lucy, “No Ma’m just fell down and got a little muddy thats all.” She didn’t buy that for a second but she decided to let it go for now.
    “Well, I won’t have you sitting at this table filthy like that go clean yourself up then come join us dear,” She smiled sweetly then waved me off upstairs. Gratefully for the excuse to leave, I rushed upstairs to clean off todays insanity.
    There’s two types of people in this world; the first people who love being around groups, being social, talking and can’t sit still. Then there’s people like me; while yes we do enjoy a party now and again and when we do we get hammered but for the most part we prefer solitude, so I don’t know if I can put into words the feeling of relief that poured over as I pushed the bedroom door shut behind me and clicked the lock shut. I exhaled loudly and closed my eyes as I let my knees finally collapse, my body crumpled to the floor. Laying there in silence, I replayed the event in the woods. Stryker kissed me and I could still taste him on my lips. He tasted like whiskey and smoke but also like sage and rosemary. Not to mention his freaky mother and the earthquake. Maybe I was going insane, maybe I had finally hit a breaking point after all these years of abusing my body it just finally snapped.
    “You’re not crazy.” A male voice stated calmly across the room. My head snapped up searching for the intruder.
    “Who’s there?” I scrambled to my feet searching for a weapon, when suddenly he appeared from purple smoke perched on my bed like he belonged there. It was the same white tailed yoke who kissed me just hours before. “Get the hell out of my room you psycho!” I reached to grab him but he disappeared just as quick as he came.
    “That’s not very nice.” He replied with feigned hurt in his voice, “Would you at least let me explain?”
    “I bet you tell that to all the girls you kiss without asking!” I retorted angrily swinging again at the purple smoke as it bounced around my room.
    That got a rise of him, he became solid and grabbed me by the chin looking me in the eye and sneered, “First off, you kissed me back you tart and Secondly it meant nothing it was a contract plain and simple.”
    “What the hell do you mean a contract?”
    With a snap of his fingers we were back in the woods.
    My mouth was gaping slightly. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? This is kidnapping!” I exasperated but I knew it was useless though I was to stubborn not to make it difficult anyway.
    “Oh shut up and come on.” He grabbed my wrist and led me along. We walked along a trail that led to a sizable cabin that looked like something straight out of colonial times. By that I mean it seemed like it came straight from a time machine, I could somehow sense it hadn’t been recently built yet there was no wear to tear to it. It was in pristine condition. He guided up the wooden steps and into a cozy living room where everything was neat and tidy. There was no obvious light source except for the old fashioned fire place. The room was draped with beautiful tapestries full of color and intricate designs, bookshelves lined one wall that seemed to hold hundreds maybe thousands of books and on the opposite wall weapons hung ready for battle.
    I could feel them watching me to see how I would react but I didn’t care. Taking a deep breath I reached over to the weapons running my finger along the hilt of a sword. It was breathtaking with its dark cherry wood engraved with silver a name I was becoming to know all to well.
    “This yours?” Stupid question.
    “Yeah it was a gift from my father.” He answered with a melancholy tone. Daddy issues huh? Me too.
    “So tell me why we’re here”
    “For starters you’re a Divine One, secondly I am your familiar here to serve and protect you.”
    “Take me home.”
    “I’ll take you home after I’m done talking to you.”
    “Take me home, NOW!” I bellowed and the rafters rattled a bit.
    “Jeez just calm down a bit will ya.” He sounded like a teenager who was having a bad day so I crossed my arms and gave him my best stink eye.
    “You have ten minutes.” I replied through clenched teeth.
    “Well first..where do I even start-“
    “What’s a Divine One?”
    “You’re basically God. See there’s never been just one single God. There’s also never been a male God it’s always been a teenage girl. Once every several thousand years or so a Divine One is born she either creates or destroys the world as we know and starts it over. Noah’s Ark? Not for the reason the Christian bible says so but you get the idea.”
    “Wait so if “God” has always been different teenage girls throughout time then why does literally no religion depict that?”
    “I assume that was done on purpose, nobody wants that kind of attention. Divine ones can make people see whatever they want them to see like a burning bush, a man walking on water, whatever they want just to get the attention away from them.”
    “What are my powers specifically?”
    “Thats a big question. Technically speaking your like a witch on steroids. Lots of steroids. Your immortal until the next Divine One is born then you will age and die like a normal human while retaining some of powers, mostly to the extent of an every day witch.”
    “Why haven’t I ever known about my powers until now?”
    “That’s where the contract I mentioned comes in. Your powers were locked until you formed a contract-sealed with a kiss-with a familiar and were given the Killing Stone.”
    My hand reached into my pocket and clutched the stone; this must be the gift he had mentioned earlier. He reached out a hand, without really thinking about it I handed it to him.
    “Allow me?”
    I nodded as he reached behind me and clasped the necklace around my neck. Suddenly all the inner turmoil I had been feeling today vanished and I felt at peace completely in control. We didn’t need to say anything to know that we were both done for tonight so I made my way to the door, but the door opened for me as Tamara entered.
    “I see you found our runaway Divine One,” She observed not really looking at me but through me. “Son, may I have a moment alone with your charge?” He shrugged with a poof of purple smoke he was gone.
    “Can I help you with something?” She ignored my question.
    “How much did my son explain to you about being a Divine One?”
    I gave her the spark notes version of our conversation as she gazed intently.
    “You know you’re not the first Divine One I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. You girls have a tendency to be quite…feisty.” She said the last word like it tasted odd in her mouth; not good not bad, just odd.
    “May I ask you something?” Tamara asked.
    “Shoot.” Trying my best to sound confident, if I wasn’t her first Divine One I wanted to make a good impression.
    “What do you think of your world as it is right now?” Wow thats a loaded question. I mean I guess it wasn’t horrible but there was some pretty bad things going on in the world. At first I think of little things like Cecily and her god awful school uniforms. Then there’s our history which doesn’t looks just as bad. If I was anybody else I would’ve given my usual cynical answer about how the world sucks and so does every one in it but if I truly believe that I have the power to destroy it.
    “Is it acceptable to say I don’t know?”
    “Of course it is. But you have to explain why.”
    “Well, my world does have some great aspects like some bad ass rock music, beautiful wildlife, humanitarians, and a lot of countries have really gotten it together with the whole live well and prosper, peace be with you life ya know? But then you watch the news and you see so much hate right in your backyard, wars are being fought in the name of religions people don’t even know are fake, that beautiful wildlife is dying because there are so many selfish people in the world pumping out her beauty. It’s all just very complicated.”
    There was a glint in her eyes but I couldn’t decipher the emotion before she waved her hand and disappeared.
    It was all just too much to take in. The thing they called the Killing Stone acted as a conduit so I didn’t accidentally, you know-kill somebody. Ironic. Did that mean I was killer though? Is that what my powers were meant for? Tamara apparently was just along for the ride, she told me she didn’t want to actually get involved but was just there to observe. Turns out, Stryker is a student familiar and I’m basically a guinea pig to test out his skills. That family sure does know how to make a girl feel special. So to sum it up I’m a guinea pig God with the fate of the world in my hands who has no idea how to use her powers and is being forced to wear a school uniform by her arch nemesis. Should turn out just fine.
    The abomination Cecily calls a uniform lie before me on my bed staring at me with its bulbous hideous buttons begging for me to burn it.
    “Careful, if you want to bad enough you may actually do it.” I hear Stryker’s voice behind me.
    “You have got to stop doing that!” I turned around whacking him on the shoulder. “Just because you can poof where you want doesn’t mean you can poof into my bedroom! What if I was naked?”
    “Please, that’s the last thing on my mind.” he rolled his eyes. “Now hurry up and get ready so we can go.”
    “Yes we. Now that your powers have been activated monsters may come after you until you know how to use them, so I’ll be acting as you’re body guard.”
    So our schedules matching up hadn’t been a happy accident.
    “I’m a God, I don’t need a bodyguard.” I stuck out my tongue.
    “Well, you’re not a very mature one. Now get dressed!”
    I lined my green eyes in black and let my wispy shoulder length auburn hair lay loose framing my face. I gave myself a once over in the mirror and cringed. I looked liked a Jim Bob Duggar’s illegitimate child. Somehow I was going to get Cecily back for this.
    Lucy was waiting for me down stairs with a cup of coffee.
    “I figured you’d need this, you were out pretty late last night,” this was her way of saying she was curious of my whereabouts but there was no way in hell I was telling her. At least not yet.
    “Thanks, I appreciate it.” She opened her mouth to ask but was interrupted by a knock on the door. I made a beeline to open it but she was faster than me and got to it first to find Stryker waiting impatiently tapping his foot.
    “Are you ready, yet?” He demanded.
    “I didn’t realize you two were seeing each other.” Lucy sighed with a look in her eyes that I didn’t exactly recognize.
    Stryker laughed, “We’re not!” The way he acted like the two of us dating was the funniest idea since Tweek and Craig made me angry. I was a catch dammit! I would deal with this later, I just wanted to leave.
    “I’ll explain later, Lucy. I promise. Thank you for the coffee.” I hugged her. “Let’s go, jerk!” I grabbed Stryker by the scruff of his collar and drug him to my car.
    “You call this a car?” He gave my car a once over. It wasn’t great but it hadn’t let me down yet. It was an old rusty yellow Volkswagen van with the whole backseat taken out and replaced with black shag carpet I found at thrift store. On the interior walls I had duct taped a few posters such as nirvana and led zeppelin. My personal favorite was a tie dye one with a cartoon cat smoking from a bong that said ‘got catnip?’.
    “Hey! Don’t diss my hippie van! I’ll have you know these things are highly sought after!”
    After we we’re both buckled in and the car started moving I figured this was a good opportunity to bring up Luke’s disappearance, “Can I ask you, something?”
    “Sure,” He replied as he flipped through my CD collection finally settling on a Misfits album and sticking it in.
    “Have you seen the missing poster’s floating around town?”
    “Yeah what about them? I’m sure he’s not the first teenager around the town to up and leave. It’s not exactly somewhere I would choose to be myself.” He had a point but Luke disappeared the same night that he and his mother arrived not to mention I was the last person to see him. So I told him about the woods and about my suspicions.
    “Wait are you accusing me or mother of something? I had nothing to do with it!” He looked angry and hurt, I quickly pulled over so I could smooth this over without the distraction of the road.
    “No, I don’t think either of you had anything to do with him disappearing. However, it makes me wonder with witches, Divine Ones, yoke…what else is out there?” He nodded realizing what I was saying.
    “I see your. You’re right, with a Divine Ones are basically a beacon for magical energy both good and evil.” Groaning he threw his head back against the seat.
    “Luke’s probably not okay is he?”
    “If we had actually looked for him when it happened I would’ve said yes but it’s been weeks, so no. I’m sorry.” The rest of the drive was silent.
    So far we weren’t getting off to a great start to this relationship. I didn’t have much time to contemplate the idea when we pulled up to school the first bell had already rung and I was late.
    “I’m late!” I ran ahead of him not bothering to wait for him, this was the only class we didn’t have together and we agreed to meet at the fountain in between and walk together to our next class. The halls were empty and the only sounds were my feet pounding against the linoleum. Suddenly I remember I needed to stop by my locker, so I made a sharp turn figuring I was already late I may as well be late with all my stuff.
    I quickly regretted that decision. Today, Cecily walking the halls playing self appointed hall monitor on the hunt for literally any violation she could snitch on. Like the hellhound she is, she sniffed me out before I even saw her and strutted swiftly in my direction.
    “Skipping is we? You’re violating the new dress code too.” She accused in that sickly sweet southern drawl of hers.
    “I’m not skipping just late, I need something from my locker,” I growled pointing at it in front of it, “also how am I violating dress code? I’m wearing the goddamn uniform ain’t I?”
    “Please don’t say the Lord’s name in vain!” She gasped, place her palms together and closed her eyes together as if saying a silent prayer of forgiveness. I couldn’t help it I laughed. I could’t stop. The idea that this girl was praying to a god she had no idea actually many teenage girls and one of them hated her was just incredibly ironic and it made me laugh uncontrollably.
    “God has better things to care about.” I grabbed my things and began to walk away ignoring her as she called after me saying something about my necklace me against dress code.
    An hour passed, I now sat waiting for Stryker at the fountain gently tracing shapes in the water with my finger.
    “Hey, Ronnie!” Lucy plopped herself down next to me throwing her arms around me in greeting, any ill thought about this morning all but forgotten.
    “Hey,’ I greeted her back hugging her in return. “How’s your day been?”
    “Well, you’ll be happy to know I’ve been passing around a petition to appeal these stupid uniforms.” She babbled while picking at her skirt as if it was dead animal.
    “That’s my girl!” I exclaimed.
    “Don’t get to excited yet,” she recanted, “Cecily has been using fear mongering tactics to scare people into not signing.”
    “What a bi-“ Our conversation was cut short.
    “You ready?” Stryker approached us. I knew it wasn’t a real question, so I nodded and gathered my things and waved goodbye to Lucy. I knew I’d be answering for this later. It dawned on me he might be doing this on purpose, driving a wedge between Lucy and I. Making a split decision not recalling thinking if someone was watching I shoved him into the janitor’s closet slamming the door behind us.
    “What in the world are you doing, tart?” I smacked him. “What was that for?”
    “Calling me a tart, asshole!” If I wasn’t mad before I was now.
    “Well, why else would you shove me in closet with you?” He waggled his eyebrows like he thought this whole situation was joke.
    “Are you purposefully trying to push Lucy away from me?” I grabbed the over head light and shoved it in his face like an interrogator from an old black and white detective noir film.
    “Was I being to obvious?” I smacked him again.
    “What the hell man? She’s my best friend! My only friend!” I exploded at him.
    “I’m sort of your friend.” He replied matter of factly.
    “No, a real friend wouldn’t hurt me like this!” I yelled.
    “I was trying to protect you.” He mumbled suddenly looking ashamed. Then I thought about it. I’m immortal and she’s not. She’ll die and I won’t.
    I collapsed against the shelves with realization, “Well fuck…” I sighed. Neither of us said another word for while we just decided to leave together as left Stryker slipped his hand in mine gave it a squeeze as if to say he was sorry. Then we went about our day as normal as a Divine One and her familiar can.
    The next morning, I sat at home hiding from the world in the barn with my horse Annie. I ran my fingers through her coat while I buried my face against her. She nickered softly sensing my unease and nudged me trying to comfort me in her own way. Some people found it weird but I always found the scent of barns soothing. The mixture of hay, horse fur, and leather just was just so incredibly intoxicating. I buried my face in Annie’s neck taking in a big breath, trying to relax.
    “Want to go for a run?” Her ears perked up and she snorted with agreement. Laughing I hopped on her with nothing but a halter and rope and nudged her out the barn door. We kept a steady slow pace till we reached the outskirts of the property. This is so peaceful, I thought. No way I could ever destroy this, I gave Annie the signal to pick up speed and off we went. She loped gracefully through the forest, weaving in-between the trees and jumping over logs as if they were nothing. Finally we made it to the edge of a lake and I hopped down to let her rest. Pawing playfully at the water she whinnied happily and trotted around finally settling on a patch of grass to graze.
    “Stryker?” I called out. Ever since he kissed me I could sense when he was nearby like an invisible GPS tracker. At first it was a feeling like deja vu and I would try to forget about it. Over the next few days it got stronger to the point where my skin tingled and the alarms in my mind were screaming his name. His familiar purple smoke materialized before me,
    “You’re getting better at that.”
    “Thanks but I didn’t really try it just keeps getting easier.” He nodded knowingly, “Have you tried using your powers at all?”
    “I don’t even know what they are so no I haven’t.”
    “Well they should manifest with time maybe under similar circumstances as last time.”
    “Emotional duress?”
    He glared at me, “I said I was sorry Veronika, but yes that tends to be the case with young Divine Ones you usually only seem to use your powers under ‘emotional duress’ but as you grow you learn how to channel them through memories of emotional duress. Until then you learn how to control yourself you will be required to wear the Killing Stone” Ever sense he had clasped the damn thing on it refused to come off no matter how hard I pulled or what I tried cut the cord with.
    “What if I don’t want to?”
    “You don’t have a choice. You are what you are. Like giving birth one way or another that baby is coming out.”
    I glared at him, pulled out a cigarette and blew the smoke in his face with a smirk. Suddenly we heard the sound of an oncoming horse coming to a stop a few meters behind us, Lucy had followed me. Just great, After our two encounters today, now she’s going to assume I’m secretly dating Stryker and lied about it.
    “Hey you two!” She called to us as she jogged over. “What’s the deal Ronnie? Thought you said you weren’t seeing him?” She looked genuinely hurt that I was keeping secrets from her.
    “It’s not like that,” I insisted. She was just as skeptical as her father. “Well, it’s almost nine are you going to come to church with me?” Yeah that sounds like a wonderful idea with any luck I’ll bust into flames within seconds of stepping onto the church grounds or with even better luck the congregation will do it for me with a stake and everything!
    I deflected, “You know I don’t believe in that stuff.” I have gone in the past to please her and to keep under the radar, nothing like a troubled young girl not going to church to get the busy bodies of the town gossiping about me. With everything that has happened I’m not sure it’s a good idea now even if it does ruffle a few feathers. I looked to Stryker for some support but he was to busy entertaining the horses.
    “That’s never been an issue before,” She frowned she knew I was hiding something. “You’re not using again are you?” Then she eyed Stryker as if he may be my dealer. She seemed to settle on that idea and she reaching out snatching my cigarette throwing it into the water.
    “That’s littering you know.” Stryker objected but we both ignored him.
    “Jesus fucking Christ, Luce, not all of my problems are drug related.” I snapped at her and instantly regretted it. Now she looked like I had slapped her in the face which I may as well have done. “Fuck, I’m sorry it’s just-“
    “So then what are you doing with this loser? You say you’re not dating him so he must be your dealer!” Those were fighting words and she knew it.
    “Who are you calling a loser blondie?” Stryker yelled from across the field.
    “Stay out of it!” We both screamed back like deranged twins.
    “Do you really think that little of me, that if I’m hanging out with someone you don’t know I’m either sleeping with them or buying drugs? No option C?” I challenged.
    “Just forget it,” She stormed off to her horse, yanking the reins away from Stryker while he held his hands up in mock surrender backing away towards me, mounted, and loped off.
    “Is this why you don’t have many friends, Veronika?” Stryker mused sarcastically. For someone who kissed so romantically he was a pain in my ass.
    “Aren’t familiars supposed to respect their masters?”
    His eyes darkened and he grabbed my chin forcing me to make eye contact with him, “Let’s get one thing straight, you are not my master and I am not your pet! This is a partnership of equals but as of right now I am stronger than you so maybe you should be the one respecting me.” Now he was really pissing me off I was about to retort when I raised my hand and sent him flying into the water. Splashing loudly he got up, charging at me looking very dangerous so I raised my hand again but this time nothing happened. His hands wrapped themselves around my throat as he pinned me against a tree. For a moment, Annie looked at us wondering if she should help, but quickly got bored of the situation, with a snort she went back to grazing.
    My heart was pounding so hard I swear I could hear the cracking and cry of my ribs.
    “You feel that? That’s called power, sweetheart. Embrace it.” He whispered in my ear, I could feel the heat from his breath on my neck and it made me shiver.
    “Don’t call me sweetheart”
    “It’s a term of endearment.”
    “No, it’s not, Its sexist and patronizing. Now lay off,” I squirmed underneath his grip. He relented without question.
    “Do you want a ride to church?”
    “From you? What about Annie?”
    “Don’t worry about it.” Before I could respond he was hoisting me up on to his back and with a flash his brown messy curls where replaced by snow white locks along with his ears and tail. He took off at a sprint as I buried my face in his hair, breathing in his scent. He had a very earthy scent like fresh air in the woods. It made me think of camping honestly. I could tell he had picked up some bad human habits as well because I detected the faintest scent of whiskey and cigarettes as well. I wrapped my arms around him tighter as I felt his muscles tensing preparing to jump then suddenly we were flying. I opened my eyes to see we were almost to the church and he was hopping from building to building like they were nothing.
    “Aren’t you afraid of being seen?” Knowing this town if they saw a white haired fox demon they would start a witch hunt so big it would put the Salem witch trials to shame.
    “Not really, most mortals don’t let themselves remember what they can’t understand or try and explain it away with some logical reasoning.”
    “Like Lucy the other morning…” I murmured.
    “What about her?” He came to a stop behind the church. I looked at the time on my phone there was ten minutes before the service started so I had to time to chat some more.
    “You scared the daylights out of her by the dock and convinced herself it was just a weird dream.” I replied almost accusingly.
    “What are you talking about? I’ve never seen her before today.” Now it was my turn to be skeptical other than his mother-who made it pretty clear she had little interest in human affairs-he was the only demon in town as far as I knew especially one who’s eyes glowed like that, despite my doubts I repeated the events of that night while he listened intently. “That wasn’t me,” he replied gruffly I could see the worry in his eyes, “as your familiar I am physically incapable of lying to you, in case you don’t believe me,” I arched my eyebrow pretending like I was still skeptical but I knew it was true, I could feel the magic that linked us. “Same goes for you ya know.” Adding that part in there as if to emphasize his earlier point about us being equals.
    “If it wasn’t you, then who?” The idea that some other demon was in town that could mean Lucy or me harm tied my stomach up in knots. Stryker sensing my unease took my hand in his and kissed it.
    “I’ll look into it.” Without saying anything more not even a goodbye he was gone.
    The church bells were ringing signaling the start of the service so I hurried inside, luckily finding that Lucy saved me a seat just in case. Her face lit up when she saw I had shown up after all despite our fight earlier. Sitting down next to her, I started to think about how good a friend she’s really been. This wasn’t the first time I treated her badly and she bounced back with a two second rebound rate. Even though I was still in a bit of a sour mood and anxious after all that demon talk with Stryker, she didn’t have to say a word to make me feel at peace again. Smiling, I put my hand down to rest it on the pew only to find her hand beneath mine. She didn’t pull away, instead she interlocked her pinky finger with mine and continued to watch the preacher intently.
    That’s when it hit me.
    I was in love with her.
    I sat in Annie’s stall engrossed in a copy of Dante’s Inferno with a bottle of strawberry schnapps, while perched in a makeshift Lay-Z-Boy made of bales of hay while Annie nibbled my feet. What a perfect afternoon… Slightly drunk, I began having a one-sided conversation with my horse.
    “You think I’ll be a good god don’t you? I’m not so sure, I mean look around, I’m talking to my horse, drunk, questioning my sexuality, and I’m friends with a demon. Not very god-like if you ask me.” I swear if horses rolled their eyes, Annie did right at that moment, “Don’t roll your eyes at me young lady!” I started laughing uncontrollably at myself, immediately sobering up when I saw my mother staring slack jawed at the stall door.
    “Mom, I can explain.” I started to stand though uneasy on my feet using Annie for support.
    She raised a hand in disgust,”No need really, I came here in hopes of seeing you had better’d yourself and had let the Lord in your heart only to see you have followed down a path of a false idols and evil. What kind of drugs are you on that make you think you’re a god, anyhow? There is only one true God and his name is Jesus Christ, young lady and I think its high time you learned the hard way.” She barged into the stall and grabbed me by the hair, dragging me out the barn and to my dismay I saw Carl waiting outside holding a car door open.
    Stryker! HELP! I screamed internally. I kicked and screamed.
    “Let me go!” I could feel my power begging to be let loose. No not here, if they see it’s only a matter of minutes before they start a witch hunt. My own mother would burn me without a second thought. “STRYKERRRRRRR! I let out one last desperate plea as I pushed both feet against the car while they tried to force me inside. At the last possible second, I heard feet hitting the pavement in our direction.
    “Let her go!” He pulled them off of me, putting himself between us knowing he would have to play protector since I couldn’t use my powers here. “This is kidnapping and if you want her you’ll have to go through me.”
    “You can’t kidnap your own child, she’s a minor. We’re taking her.” Carl sneered
    “I’m not YOUR child!” I snarled at him through clenched teeth. My nails were dug so deep into my palms from trying to control myself I could feel the wetness of blood in my hands. Stryker looked at me funny as if he could smell, suddenly getting a sense there was a lot more going on than he was getting.
    “I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t care. Ronnie doesn’t want to go with you, she’s seventeen and three months she won’t be a minor anymore so feel free to take it up with a judge.” He puffed up his chest and stood over Carl making him shrink away scared like the rat that he is. “Leave. Now!” He barked.
    They got in their car and left so fast they left tread marks in the dirt.
    “You can be really scary when you want to be you know,” I chuckled darkly, “thank you.” I gave him a peck on the cheek.
    “No problem.” He shrugged and grabbed my hands to examine them but they had already healed on their own. “Hmm, god healing one of the many perks of being a Divine One.”
    “Wanna go train?” I punched him the shoulder playfully.
    He didn’t need to reply, he grabbed my hand and whisked away in his purple smoke.
    The weeks went by, I practiced my magic with Stryker, which admittedly was going better than expected. Stryker was still a pain in my ass but nonetheless I was learning, I could now conjure any six elements. Yes, six, most people usually only think of fire, water, earth, and air. There’s also shadow and spirit. Spirit is mostly good for communicating with the other side and shadow I can use either use offensively or using something called shadow travel where I become one with the shadows to transport myself anywhere I want. The catch is I can only do it at night and I can only go somewhere it is also night.
    “You’re distracted,” Stryker chided. At the moment we were working on combat because as Divine One even though I’m immortal until the next one is born, even immortals have their weaknesses. As he says this, he sweeps a leg behind me making me lose my footing sending me flat on my back and goes in for the pin.
    Truthfully my mind had been all over the place after I realized I had fallen in love with Lucy. What did that even mean for my friendship with her? I couldn’t decide whether to tell her or keep it to myself.
    “You know as your familiar, short of reading your mind verbatim, I can read your emotions. Theres no point in training with you like this lets talk.” He slung an arm over my shoulder and waited silently for my reply.
    “You’ve met Lucy.”
    “Annoyingly blonde one with a bit of an holier than thou complex?” He laughed. They didn’t really get along very well. They’re only real encounter had been at the beach while he witnessed her and I hash it out, after that they had been acquaintances at best.
    “Yeah that one.” I loved her but I she did have her faults. I loved them too. “She’s been my best friend since we were fourteen and I think…” I hadn’t said it out loud yet. As much as I rebelled in this town even I was scared to say something like that here. Last year my neighbor, Paul, came out to his brother, Andrew, who he thought would be okay with it. Which he was at first, then I guess someone caught wind of it then one Sunday our pastor had a “special” sermon about how if we didn’t help our “brothers and sisters repent” we were just as bad as they were and going to hell. Well Andrew took it as personal threat went to their father who beat them both bloody and sent them away. Nobody has seen them sense. Now I’ve never even considered myself gay, bi, straight or whatever I’ve kind of been living my life and haven’t even given it much thought but the idea still scares the bejeezus out of me.
    Screw it, I’m a God dammit.
    “I think I’m in love with her.” He gave me a kind understanding look and touched my cheek.
    “And you’re wondering if you should tell her or not?” I nodded my head glumly.
    He sighed, “Well you would’t be the first Divine One to have a female lover, this idea that mortals have of some male homophobic sexist psychopath is completely wrong and I honestly have no idea where it came from-probably a by product of having teenage girls in charge.” He laughed at his own joke, then got back on track, “In fact, most mortal’s mythology across the world is wrong it’s really a mix and match. Like Yokai,” gesturing to himself, “Japanese folklore technically but fox demons have been all over the place. Sorry off topic that’s a conversation for another time,” He waved his hand dismissively, suddenly getting serious again,” You’ll live a lot longer than Lucy so if you do tell her and she reciprocates those feelings you need to understand that although that being said she doesn’t.”
    “What do you mean?” I asked.
    “You can change your appearance at will, so you could appear to age with her and she would never be the wiser, in fact she’d never even have to know about you’re powers in the first place if you haven’t already told her.” With a snap if his fingers he conjured up a bottle of strawberry schnapps and two glasses and poured us both a drink. “It’s something to think about, you two could live a very happy life but you would watch her grow old and die while you lived on.” He ended bluntly.
    I took a sip of my drink letting the liquid slide down my throat like velvet and thought about what he said, “What if she doesn’t feel the same way?”
    “My experience is that things will be awkward for a while but if she’s truly your friend like you say she is despite the circumstances she won’t abandon you like you think but it won’t be the same. So be sure you want to go down that rode.”
    On that note I chugged the rest of my drink and hopped up into a fighting stance ready to take out some of my aggression out on Stryker. He smirked then glimmered out of sight only to appear behind me though I was ready. He reached an arm around my neck to put me in a choke hold but I called upon fire, casting fireballs behind me. We both backflipped to distance ourselves from the other then charged right back at each other exchanging blows and sending magical blasts until we were both dripping sweat and panting from exhaustion.
    “I think I’m gonna do it.” I mumbled in-between gulps of water on the walk back to the house.
    “Good luck,” That was one of the things I like about Stryker while most of the time he tried to get a rise out of me he never once has ever questioned my choices which is nice.
    We parted ways and waved goodbye as I heaved my lead weighted legs up the porch steps into the house. It seemed like I had arrived to an empty household.
    Great! Now I can scream into the void in peace.
    I remember going upstairs, I remember getting undressed, I do not however remember actually getting into bed and falling asleep. Regardless, I knew I was dreaming because if I wasn’t I was having a seriously bad acid trip. I’m walking through a white void of absolute nothingness which terrifies me to the core but I can’t stop walking. It’s as if some other force is willing me to continue on. Eventually I come across a staircase which I gratefully run up not really caring what it leads to I’m just happy to going to something and out of nothing. I enter my childhood bedroom, a small twin sized bed in the corned with light purple sheets and Wonder Woman comforter tossed messily on top lie in the left corner of the room.
    Why would I dream of this place?
    It’s not like I had an abundance of good memories attached to this place. I spent most of my time alone as kid listening to my parents fight. I took small comfort in books, looking to my right I fond my old bookcase still overflowing with books, who name it I had it, I was born with a book in my hand. I walked over to the shelves and gingerly picked up Cat in the Hat. Looking back now, I hated these educational Cat in the Hat things where the Cat in the Hat teaches you about, healthy food or whatever. The Cat in the Hat is a chaotic neutral home invader whose information is highly questionable at best. I shrugged my shoulders, set the book down and moved on. Lingering for a moment, some nagging feeling that there was something I was supposed to remember. Whatever it was, standing her like a moron wouldn’t help me so I decided to leave.
    I opened the door to the next room which lead outside. This place I had never seen before. Amaranthine tree trunks with prism like leaves extended across rolling hills of black grass. The leaves fell gently reflecting rainbows as they fell dissolving into the grass. Looking around there was no there wildlife other than the trees which I found odd. I took a step and the grass beneath my feet crunched like broken glass beneath my boots.The Killing Stone grew hot against my skin and began to buzz my hand instinctively reached up to touch it. Aesthetically this view was absolutely gorgeous, it seemed deathless; rainbows dancing against the black glass like blades of grass though at the same time I knew I never wanted to see it again. I could feel my insides growing completely frigid, my finger tips were black with frost bite and my intestines were tying themselves in knots with despair. Looking up at the sky it was a hazy grey like it was mourning the death of loved one. As soon as the thought entered my mind it began to cry, except it didn’t rain water. I looked at the liquid running down my arms and realized it ran red. Blood. It was raining blood.
    I began to run. I needed to get out or wake up. Whichever one came first was fine by me. Suddenly a building came into view upon the horizon so I picked up speed. My vision was getting blurry and almost everything was tinted red. The wind was picking up so the blood was getting in my eyes which burned like the liquid lava, but I kept running forcing my self to go faster. Finally, I reached the entrance not bothering to knock I blasted my way threw the door and let myself in.
    “Hello, Sister.”

    I woke with a jolt, falling out of bed drenched in sweat. My heart was slamming my chest like man trying trying to break out of prison, my stomach felt like it was doing olympic gymnastics. Then I felt Stryker’s presence in my room.
    “Ronnie!” He called out to me I tried to respond but I was afraid if I opened my mouth I would puke. He sounded frantic. Looking over the bed he saw me laying in a tangled sweaty heap shaking on the ground.
    “Shit.” He muttered. Stroking my hair back he picked me up and sat me back on the bed. That’s when I noticed I was naked.
    “G-g-get out.” My voice trembled. He ignored me. Instead he brought me some clothes and a bucket.
    “I c-can dress m-myself” As soon as the words left my mouth so did all the vomit I had been trying to keep at bay. The last thing I felt Stryker holding my hair and patting me on the back right before I blacked out.
    What felt like days later, I woke up fully clothed and tucked in. Sunlight streamed through my window shining on top of Stryker’s brown mop of hair. He had laid his head on my bed and had fallen asleep beside me. He looked so peaceful and cute. I giggled softly then remembered I had been naked when I had blacked out. I nudged him hard with my leg making him fall backwards onto his ass.
    “I was naked!”
    “I didn’t touch you I swear.” He held up four fingers in a V formation. “Scouts Honor.”
    “That’s Star Trek you Idiot!” I scolded.
    “Like I would want to anyway.” He quipped, crossed his arms and stuck out his tongue. “I’m your familiar it’s my job to take care of you and thats what I did.” He pointed out indignantly.
    I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. Where’s Lucy? Isn’t she wondering why I’ve been out for days?”
    “Days? Try hours. Five to be exact. She’s in class. It’s only two in the afternoon.” He recounted, then he got really serious, “We need to talk.”
    So I told him about my dream. The bloody rain, the void, and the women who called me sister.
    “It wasn’t a dream, I mean not completely.” He started, “You’ve heard of the old Native American’s vision quests correct? Well, it was similar to that. The void, think of it as the blank canvas for Divine Ones, your childhood bedroom thats where this millennia’s Divine One was chosen something you did in that room made the last Divine One choose you-“
    “Wait I thought we were just born?”
    “It’s a bit more complicated than that. See certain girls can be born with gene markers that make them good candidates to be marked as Divine Ones but the current Divine One hand picks the next.”
    “What if she doesn’t?”
    “Like giving birth. One way or another it’s gonna happen.”
    “Ok so what about the last part?”
    “That sounds like Eowyn the realm of the Divine. That’s where you’ll go after you’ve done your time as a Divine One.”
    I got quiet and fiddled with my shirt. This was a lot to take in. “I’m hungry, wanna grab something to eat?” Before he could answer Tamara appeared in the room.
    “I need to borrow your charge a bit, son.” Without waiting for a reply from either of us, with a wave of her hand she whisked us away to a clearing in the woods.
    “Why did you bring me here?” I quizzed. I hadn’t gotten to know her very well so I was still slightly suspicious of her intentions where I was concerned. I found it hard to believe that she was just along for the ride where a Divine One was involved.
    “I would like to teach you some of the more ancient magic that my son cannot.” She replied cooly while conjuring up a table and supplies. “Magic is like wine, if you are not used to it, you will get drunk on it quite quickly, Now come.” She gestured for me to follow her like a mother duck to her ducklings. We gather around the table which held a variety of things some I recognized some I did not. Of what I did recognize where sage and crystals, a few animal skulls, a slew of different color candles and a very large book in the middle. The book looked extremely worn by time like it had been around much longer than Tamara herself, it had a pentacle on the front and it had something written in latin ‘Nigrum’.
    “What does that mean?” I asked pointing at the book.
    “It means black, it’s a black magic grimoire.” she answered simply. I stared at her like she had a monkey on her head. Everything I had ever heard about magic real or fake had said black magic was evil and wrong. Was Tamara evil? Was she trying to make me evil? This was her agenda the whole time! To use the Divine One for her black magic sorcery! I turned to run but she got my shoulder, “Wait let me explain my girl, there is something wrong on viewing black magic as purely bad and evil. Nothing is fundamentally bad as a concept. It’s toxic to view the world in black and white. You have to factor in how the user chooses to yield their magic. There are bad sides to black magic and there are good.” She did have a point, black magic was more powerful than white magic and used in the right hands could do great deeds. She was Stryker’s mother after all so she couldn’t be evil. She cupped my hands in hers mumbling an incantation in what I assumed to be latin and when she released our hold a plethora of black butterflies burst from my hands flying around the clearing dancing through the trees as if they had seen daylight for the first time in a thousand years. As fast as they had appeared they flew away even faster.
    “See? Black magic can bring life just as well as white magic.” Tamara stared after the trail of butterflies looking very tired.
    “Yeah I guess.” I was studying trying to figure out if I could trust her. “Are you okay?”
    “Darlin’, when you get to be as old as me even simple spells like that drain the life out of you and I mean that quite literally,” She chuckled. “I know I come off as odd but the best of us often do, honey pot.” She gave me a smile then whisked me away in a cloud of smoke which I assumed meant the lesson was over. She had sent me back to my own room where Stryker was waiting for me on my bed.
    “What did she want?” I couldn’t tell if he was curious or worried. The fact that I couldn’t tell put me on edge. So I told him about the grimoire, her black magic and the butterflies.
    “I don’t know, Veronika. While she does have a point and you are a God; you can do what you want. It’s a complicated balancing act.”
    “Has any Divine One ever attempted it?”
    Stryker inhaled a deep breath, “One and I can guarantee you won’t like my answer.”

    “In 1930 there was a Divine one named Magdalena, she was a lot like you actually. Very stubborn, hot headed, but when it she stuck up for the little guy. Anyway, she was doing a really good job taking care of things for the first three years, she had really gotten in tune with her powers and was really trying to fix things because as you know things weren’t going very well for our Jewish friends back then.”
    I nodded, my heart in the pit the pit of my stomach not liking where this story was going.
    “Three years later, she’s gone completely nuts. Not just a little neurotic like some of us,” He says pointedly, “like this girl is completely coo coo for cocoa puffs. Nobody knows why, there’s a few rumors, but the only one that has any weight is that she was messing around with black magic and got in over head. Now keep in mind this girl is the current God and she’s hearing voices, seeing things. The head honcho has lost her fucking mind.” He ends his story with a hail hitler salute.
    “No way! Hitler was a Divine One? Hitler was Magdalena?” I exclaimed in disbelief. There was no way. That was impossible. Not to mention That would be mathematically impossible since the dates were too close together for us to both be Divine Ones. Which would mean either there’s two Divine One’s walking around or I’m not as immortal as Stryker wants me to think.
    “Think about it for a second, back in the thirties nobody would’ve taken a woman seriously trying to take power and Divine Ones can change their appearance at will…” He let me figure the rest out for myself.
    “So she took the form of a man and caused world war two.” I finished his sentence in a complete monotone response. I couldn’t bring myself to say it with any kind of emotion.
    “And now I bet you’re wondering how there are two separate Divine Ones so close together.” Stryker offered. I shook my head as if to say not right now and just lay my head in his lap for a while. I could tell the action took him by surprise but he let me do it anyway, he rested a hand on my shoulder and we just stayed like that for I don’t know how long. I still felt what I felt for Lucy and I still planned on telling her but I was starting to question my feelings for Stryker as well. I mean he made me so angry most of the time but at the same time I don’t think I’ve even been able to just take comfort in anyone like this and just…be. With Lucy while she insist on mothering me all the time, I’m her protector; it sounds harsh but she’s too trusting and if it weren’t for me, she would get eaten alive in this town. Also, I hate to say it but sometime I feel what she said to me at the beach had some truth to it, even if she did feel the same way she may always see me in a certain dark light. Stryker and I are both equals; as far as I know were both immortal so I would never have to watch him grow old and die so that’s a plus.
    Who am I kidding? I remind myself. He had already made it clear, he didn’t think of me in that way so I should stop entertaining any fantasies I have of him right this second. As if on cue, I could hear Lucy coming upstairs,
    “You gotta go!” He understood and puffed away right as she entered.
    “I thought I heard someone?” She quizzed me looking around the room.
    “I was on the phone, they were on speaker.” I picked up my phone as if I was proving evidence.
    “With Stryker?” She implored. I could tell she still really didn’t like him but she was pretending it was a casual question because she was unloading her backpacking and acting like she didn’t actually care, but I knew better.
    “Yeah, actually,” There it was, I could see the muscles in her mouth twitch as she turned getting ready to retort but before she got the chance I intercepted, “You really don’t actually know a thing about him, in fact I remember you saying something about him being cute when he first arrived.” She pursed her lips and crossed her arms as if she was waiting on me to finish.
    “Are you done?” She sighed.
    “Yup.”I flopped on my bed and picked up a book, “With this entire conversation.
    That really got a rise out of her and I knew it would. “Veronika Mercer, you talk to me right this instant! You’ve been sneaking around with that boy, getting up to god knows what and I’m worried!” She screamed as she threw her teddy bear at me.
    “Well, I haven’t been sneaking around I just don’t give you a play by play of my whereabouts and that seems to irk you and secondly you really don’t need to worry I’m fine.” She didn’t look eased. So I told her what she really wanted to hear, “I’m not on drugs, dude.”
    She walked across the room and wrapped me in a huge hug, “You better not be.”
    “We’re just friends by the way.”
    “How am I supposed to believe that? I mean yeah it’s none of my business but-“ before she finished I pressed my lips to hers for a moment to test the waters but she didn’t pull back immediately, so I pushed harder cupping her face in my hands and caressing her soft cheek with my thumb. She still hadn’t freaked out so I got braver, I pushed my tongue in her mouth and suddenly our mouths were completely in enveloped in each other. Just as I started to get a little braver, she jerked herself away, “Oh my god…” She started to hyperventilate. “Oh my god..”
    “Luce, You’re okay..” I reached out to touch her.
    “Please don’t!” She flinched at my touch. I bit back tears as she ran away from me back down the stairs and watched as she ran to her car and drove far away from me. What have I done? Fuck! I started to sob, my entire body heaved to the floor like the messy broken doll that I was. I felt Stryker’s presence enter the room but I didn’t care. I was supposed to be a God and here I was in the fetal position struggling to catch an even breath because of an unrequited love.
    “S-she kissed me baaack!” I wailed. She did. I know she did. So why did she run? Did she feel the way I did and was ashamed? I wasn’t sure if that worse than her just not feeling the same.
    “I know she did.” He was doing his best to comfort me but I could tell it wasn’t his strong suit. The Killing Stone was growing hotter though and the house was trembling, the animals outside were acting frantic, “Let me take you somewhere, you’re gonna hurt someone.” He said solemnly. I stayed where I was still crying but I allowed him to pick me up as we poofed away in his shroud of purple smoke.
    We arrived to the same clearing his mother had taken me. I had stopped crying which I’m pretty sure was because I had run out of tears not because I felt better because I sure as hell didn’t.
    “Is there anything I can do?” Stryker asked in such a way it almost made me wonder about my thoughts earlier which felt wrong considering what just happened so I ignored them, besides it’s his job to take care of me.
    “Talk to me.” I muttered into his shoulder. He was still carrying me so he walked over to a tree, sat down with his legs crossed and held me like a child as he leaned again a large oak tree.
    “About what?”
    “Explain to me more about what’s more about what’s real and what’s not?” I wanted to not think about Lucy right now so I figured some Divine One lessons would be a good idea.
    “Ok, start naming things and I’ll tell you if its fact or fiction okay?”
    “The Afterlife”
    “Shit that’s a complicated one, why couldn’t you have gone with mermaids or something? Which by the way are actually a thing.” My eyes widened in surprise.
    “Really? That’s so awesome!”
    “Yes, really. Now back to the Afterlife. While every culture has a different version of it none of it is an accurate depiction. Excluding people like you, me and my mother, most mortals get three options thats it after they die, you can become a reaper, a ghost, or choose to be reincarnated and test your karma. It’s completely up to the the deceased. Next.”
    “How did Magdalena die?”
    His eyes looked pained like he was dreading the question. “Always the tough questions with you huh?” He let out a breath, “Okay so maybe Divine Ones aren’t as immortal as I let on. The only reason I didn’t mention is because Magdalena is the only one out of two that have ever had this happen so two in a row seemed extremely unlikely.”
    “Wait, two? Who was the first?”
    “Do you remember a story about Elizabeth Bathory? She went a little crazy and started bathing in the blood of virgins.” I remembered reading something about her in a history novel. I shivered at the idea of someone like that having the same powers that I do. “The only way to kill a Divine One is to use that stone around your neck.” My blood ran cold, my one weakness, the one thing that could kill me is sitting plain sight this whole time. “Don’t freak out it’s not that simple there’s a whole ritual that goes along with it and only a handful of witches in the world both in this one and the next know how to perform it. And the only reason anyone would is if you go completely crazy like they did so you’re fine, I promise.”
    “What exactly is the ritual?” What he said did calm me down a bit now I mostly asked out of curiosity.
    “Well, I don’t remember word for word, and I don’t speak latin. I know it morphs the stone into a blade which I guess is self explanatory.” He runs his thumb across his throat comically, “I think the it involves the blood of a loved one, something about Divine innocence, and has to be performed on a full moon in the Sanctuary of Spirits.”
    “Sanctuary of Spirits?”
    “It’s a holy ground blessed by the original Divine One, guarded by
    nightvine- a man eating plant that resembles venus fly trap – but is much larger and can blend in to its surroundings. It also doesn’t wait for you to fly into it’s jaws, it will hunt you down bleed you like a stuck pig.”
    “Ouch. What’s in there that need’s protecting?”
    He looks at me waiting for me to figure it out.
    “If nobody can get in, nobody can cast the spell.” I answered proudly like I had guessed the correct answer on a game show.
    “Wait a second, who was able to get in there twice?” I asked suddenly very concerned.
    “My mother.”
    We sat in silence for a few minutes before deciding it was time to head back. “Do you want to go back to your place?” he asked as he reached out a hand to help me to my feet. Lucy probably didn’t want to see me after that fiasco and it wouldn’t be fair to make her own home uncomfortable for her.
    I was just about to tell him to take me back to the cabin when my phone went off.
    Can we talk? Meet me at the docks
    “I think I’m good actually,” a hopeful smile crept across my lips. How very hopeful I was that she wanted at the very least to stay friends and try and go back in time. I could live with that, I really could, but maybe just maybe…
    “Alright, I’ll leave you to your business, tart.” He replied with a tint of jealously. No, that wasn’t it, I was probably just imagining it. Then, he playfully nudged me on the shoulder as if to reassure my assumption as he puffed away leaving only a ghost of purple smoke where he once stood.
    Dusk was falling quickly so if I waited, I could shadow travel to the docks hopefully beating her there so I could brace myself for whatever conversation she wanted to have. I stared at the blazing orange sphere hovering over the horizon, teasing me refusing to go down. You know that old saying, “A watched pot never boils!” Well that saying doesn’t apply to Gods. I stared it down willing it bow to my will, and like the loyal subject that it was it bowed it’s head giving way to darkness.
    Shadow traveling is not for the feint of heart. The first time I tried it, I had something that can only be compared to a bad acid flashback. Visions of what I assumed to be souls who refused to pass on filled my dreams screaming at me, blaming me for their deaths and their unresolved business. Luckily for me, I’ve practiced enough times that I can basically pick and choose what I want to hear and see. It takes me mere seconds to reach the dock and when I arrive, I can see Lucy on her horse a few kilometers down the field still trotting her way down the hill.
    She arrives and dismounts but neither of us have the courage to speak first, so we just choose to sit on the edge dangling our feet in the water like we did when we were kids. The water feels refreshing against my feet which I hadn’t realized had gotten so sore and tire these past few weeks as well as the rest of my body. Tamara’s words echo in the back of my mind, Magic is like wine, if you are not used to it, you get drunk on it quite quickly. This must be the hangover then.
    Finally Lucy spoke, “I’m not gay.” She wouldn’t even look at me. Out of everything that had happened these few weeks this sucked the most. Even more than the vision quest puking fiasco and Cecily’s nazi uniform mandate. “But I can’t explain why I kissed you back and why ever since you’ve been ruining my life because I’ve been thinking about doing it again and again and I can’t stop.”
    I stared at her eyes wide. This seemed to good to be true, this couldn’t be true. Then a terrible thought hit me. What if I wanted it bad enough that my magic caused her to kiss me back and caused her to feel this way? Did I even want it that bad? I remembered Stryker warning me about accidentally setting the uniform on fire and I really wanted to do that, but I didn’t. At the time I sure as hell wasn’t as close to as in control as I was now, but still…I had to tell her that was the only way to be sure.
    “Lucy I need to tell you something, but I need you to promise me you won’t tell anybody in this town ever.”
    “I promise.” She grabbed my hand reassuringly.
    “I’m dead serious. I’m not going to sugar coat this shit. This isn’t some high school level gossip, if you accidentally let it slip to someone you will put my life in danger, Stryker’s too.”
    Suddenly she pulled away, “So now you’re going to tell me why you two suddenly started hanging out?”
    So I told her everything, about the Divine Ones, about Stryker being my familiar and teacher, about Tamara and everything in-between; no detail was spared.
    “Prove it. Prove to me this isn’t some drug induced fantasy.” While that irritated me, if I was in her shoes I would’ve probably have said the same thing.
    So I closed my eyes and called out to the Spirt of the Wild. Almost instantaneously, she shimmered before us as proud and majestic as the last time I saw her.
    Hello, Divine One. It’s a pleasure to see you so soon after our last encounter.
    “Hey,” I greeted in return, “my friend here needed some convincing about magic and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful way to prove it to her.” Her fur was iridescent under the moonlight, her eyes a storm of glittery gray.
    How very flattering, Divine One, how about I repay you for kindness? Before I could ask how she pushed Lucy and I onto her back Hold on tight, ladies.
    “Ronnie! What’s going on?” Lucy squealed in confusion. She wrapped her arms around my waist from behind holding on for dear life.
    “This is the Spirt of the Wild, don’t worry, she’s friendly.” I assured her as I grabbed a handful of her cottony fur relishing that familiar gleeful intoxicating feeling. Then she took off through the woods at lighting speed, leaping over logs like they were nothing and suddenly we got higher and higher until we were air borne.
    “Lucy, look!” I urged. She had buried her face in my hair out of fear but I refused to let her miss this view. The Spirit was flying over the countryside and it was absolutely breathtaking, below us the lakes sparkled with a brilliance of a million crystals under the moonlight and moon itself almost seemed close enough to touch. The Spirit had slowed down to a cruising speed so we could enjoy the view and chat.
    “So its real, it’s all real…” Lucy thought out loud.
    “I need to ask you one more thing,” The dreaded question, I wasn’t even sure if she could even give me a real answer.
    “Anything,” She answered in almost a dreamlike state.
    “What you said back at the dock. Was that real or do you think you were influenced by my magic? I would never do it on purpose but I don’t always have complete control…..” I trailed off trying to bite back tears. My question seemed to snap her back to reality though.
    “I don’t know.” She looked me straight in the eye, “I know that I care for you deeply and that I would do anything for you, I just don’t know about the rest of it. I remember feeling what I felt and the feelings are there. But now that I know about the magic, I do wonder, because I have never had romantic feelings for a girl in the past…”
    “Do you wish I hadn’t said anything?”
    “No, I’m glad you told me.” She smiled, leaning in planting a small quick kiss on my lips, “You are magic, Ronnie. Don’t ever forget that ok?”
    It will be daybreak soon, my lady. Where would you like me to drop you?
    “Back at the dock if that’s all right?” I answered giving her a scratch behind the ear in thanks.
    We reached the dock and said our goodbyes, Lucy’s horse had waited patiently for her and she left without me because I wanted to stay a while longer.
    “Thank you for that,” I told the white wolf.
    It is I who should be thanking you.
    “Really? Why?”
    Because I get to witness history in the making.
    Before I could ask what she meant, she disappeared in cloud of mist.

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