This is how life as I know it ends. One minute I’m sitting on the couch, watching my favorite TV show, carefully avoiding the burned crater in the center cushion, a constant reminder of The Incident. The next minute…I hear tires crunch over gravel.
My head jerks toward the window as a tingling sensation crawls down my arms. I mute the TV and hold my breath, listening. Best-case scenario, it’s Ronny—the unemployed, soul-sucking boyfriend—dropping Momma off early. Or Mr. Bilmer, our next-door neighbor, arriving home from his weekly bowling night. Worst case? Best not to think about that. I reach under the cushion and retrieve my knife. My heart leaps into my throat when whoever it is tears off, sending rocks ricocheting off the side of our trailer.
I jump up from the couch, knife in hand and fling the door open. Glowing taillights retreat as I step onto the rickety wooden stoop. Once my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see her.
Sure enough, I spot Momma dumped in a heap in the front yard. Ronny…soul-sucking scumbag.
It’s the thirtieth of May and Momma just got her monthly disability check. So what did she do? Buy groceries? Take me out to dinner to celebrate the end of freshman year? No. She couldn’t resist a party, especially one starring heroin.
“Come on, Momma.” I grab her by the shoulders and try to hoist her up, eager to get her inside. Mrs. Albright and Ms. Bigsby, the nosey bodies across the way are probably watching.
Momma’s stiff and heavy. And why does she feel so cool? I yelp as she slips from my hands and hits the ground with a solid thud.
I stand frozen to the spot. I close my eyes against the sudden nausea. Goose bumps break out over my body. I swallow hard. Twice.
“Momma!” I force myself to grab her again, to shake her, ignoring what I already know to be true. “Wake up!”
Her body doesn’t move right. Doesn’t feel right. Bile fills my mouth and I lean over and spit onto the crunchy, dead grass. I run my hand along Momma’s throat to that spot where her pulse should be. Nothing. My breaths are jerky, out of control.
“Come on, Momma! Please!”
I grab her thin wrist with my trembling fingers and press hard, desperate to feel something.
I lay her arm across her belly and race to the trailer next door, my heartbeat thudding in my ears.
“Mrs. Bilmer!” I pound my fist on the flimsy door. “Mrs. Bilmer, it’s Lucy!” A light comes on and I hear the shuffle of slippers on linoleum. “Mrs. Bilmer, please! I need your phone!”
“Don’t you go beating down my door, Lucy Walker!” she says, opening the door a crack. “What's the matter? Problems with your momma again?”
“Call 911!” I choke. “Call them right now!”
The Girl and The Gargoyle Purchase Links:
The clatter of my cell phone bouncing against the nightstand startles me awake. My heavy lids refuse to open. Another late night on the roof with Marcus—and that was after spending two hours working on a killer CD mix for him. Did he struggle this much when he made my CDs last year?
I snuggle into my pillow, sleep beckoning. My phone vibrates again. I reach for it with a groan. Marcus is probably the only person I would forgive for bugging me this early. Maybe my gargoyle boyfriend wants to meet me for an early morning kiss? Nothing could top that.
Seriously??? Are you kidding me??? You’re the luckiest girl alive!
I reread Katie’s text, but it makes no sense.
I bolt upright. Is it possible she saw us last night? Crap. I fell asleep on the roof with Marcus. He and his wings, in all their glorious beauty, delivered me safely to the ground. He doesn’t need his wings for that small of a jump. He did it for me. He knows I love them.
I swallow a shriek as I spot the figure leaning against my dresser.
“What are you doing in my bedroom?” I snap, my heart hammering against my rib cage. Jude crosses his arms over his chest. In the year that I’ve known him, my father has
learned to mimic human gestures well. Then it hits me. That’s one of my most common gestures.
“I would like to meet your great-uncles.”
I swallow hard. “I told you it would happen when the time’s right.” “I’m done waiting.”
“Let me ease them into it,” I plead.
My phone vibrates in my hand. That’s when I remember Katie’s message.
What do I say to my best friend and neighbor if she saw Marcus deliver me to my bedroom window? Play dumb?
My uncles putter around the kitchen, clanging pans and chopping vegetables. The smell of fresh brewed coffee drifts into my bedroom, followed by the heavy, smoky smell of bacon.
“Perfect. We can have breakfast together,” Jude says.
I return my cell to my bedside table.
“Please,” I whisper. “Not today.”
The front door creaks open. Sheldon grabbing the Sunday paper from the sidewalk? How do I get rid of Jude? I throw off my sheet and blanket, thinking through a safe response to Katie.
“Bernard? Can you come here, please?”
Something about Sheldon’s tone causes the back of my neck to get all prickly. Do they know Jude’s here? How did he get in, anyway? Did he pick the lock on the front door?
“Lucy?” Bernard calls out.
Jude pushes himself off the dresser. “I’ll be out front. Come and invite me in.” In one smooth motion, he climbs out the window. So that’s how he did it.
I change out of pajamas and into shorts and a T-shirt, my stomach churning.
How do I introduce Jude?
Sheldon despises him for what he did to Momma. Never mind that he’s been absent my entire life. How do I explain that Gram played a role in keeping my father and me apart? And that she used magic to do it? My uncles are in the dark about everything. They don’t know Gram was a witch. They don’t know about all the supernaturals living in the three-flat building. And they don’t know I’m half-witch, half-demon. If they did, I think their heads would explode.
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