Garden of Bones


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2. Chapter One

We only lived in Maine for five months before my parents told us we were moving again. They didn’t explain why. They never did. But it was the first time in a long time that I’d been excited to go.

When I was younger, I used to believe living in a different state every six months made me the luckiest child in the world. I didn’t have to grow up too much before I realized how wrong I was. In Florida, I made friends with a girl named Serena. She was eight like I was at the time, and funny and all the things you’d want in a best friend. I would have told her that. But we moved before I got the chance.

When I was nine, I think I might have fallen in love for the first time. That sounds ridiculous, I know. But it was true. His name was Martin. He had a dimple in his left cheek and most days smelled strongly of peanut butter. I hated peanut butter but I liked him. Nine was probably too young for a first kiss. But it wouldn’t have mattered. We moved before I could kiss him.

At eleven, I decided not to make friends with anyone ever again. It was easy since my siblings and I had always been homeschooled. All I had to do was stay away from the neighbors and their children. It was my form of retaliation against my parents. Maybe they’d settle down somewhere if they saw how miserable I was.

By the time I was fourteen, I’d lived in all fifty states. I had seven siblings, all of whom had never been born in the same place, except the twins, Joshua and Noah. They were the youngest and thus, the most fortunate. They had a few years left before they started to understand. Before they met their first best friend. Before they fell in love for the first time, or thought they had. Before they settled on being miserable.

And it would come, as sure as the moon did when the sky grew dark, as it had for me— the moment they realized that my parents neither noticed, nor cared.

One thing I loved about Maine was the coast. It was angry. Sort of like me. And for that reason I could fool myself these past months into thinking I belonged here. But if I was being honest, I hadn’t yet found anywhere I belonged. I heard my brother start up the Jeep behind me and turned to meet his knowing gaze. If he’d picked up on every word of my inner monologue I wouldn’t be surprised. Caleb was one year older than me but we might as well have been twins. We looked almost the same stared out at the coast for a moment longer before I heard my brother start up the Jeep. I turned and met his knowing gaze.

“Sapphira,” Piper yelled to me as Caleb started the Jeep, “let’s go.”

I stared for a moment at the expanse of Maine’s turbulent coast. The waves came forward and crashed angrily into the rocky cliffs, ushering me away. If I missed anything about this place, it would be the ocean, right in my backyard, and the smell of brine permeating the air.

I headed to the Jeep. Ribbon, the gray Chihuahua, writhed against my chest as if wanting to go back. I handed him to Piper as I climbed into the front seat. He was her dog, not mine. And if her dog wanted to stay, she would stay, not me.

“Did you say your goodbyes to the Asylum?” Caleb asked as I buckled up. That was how he referred to the mansion where we’d spent the last five months. It wasn’t an exaggeration. During the early 19th century, it was home to 50 men and women the state of Maine had deemed criminally insane. Not a comforting fact. But we’d made the best out of it. Pretended not to hear the way the floorboards creaked with the weight of the unseen, or acknowledge the fog that had permanently settled around the mansion’s grounds.

“And then some,” I replied.

“Maybe you should have said less. We’re probably thirty minutes behind mom and dad. They’re going to be furious,” Piper said from the backseat.

I slid my sunglasses onto my face. “We would have saved a lot of time if you hadn’t been looking for that dog,” she stuck out her tongue in reply, all the while smoothing her hand down Ribbon’s back. Very mature.

Caleb laughed, looking into the visor at Piper. “Mom and dad will be fine.” He said, starting off down the gravel driveway. “We have about 20 hours until we get to Georgia. That’s more than enough time for them to get over it.”

I nodded in agreement, more to annoy my sister than anything. It wasn’t true what they said about little sister’s being annoying. Sure, they were. But big sisters? We were pros at pushing just the right buttons. Piper rolled her eyes at me, pushing her earphones into her ears.

 Twenty hours in a car with any other people might have driven me crazy (Pun not intended but still somewhat appreciated.) But I didn’t mind with these two. Whenever we moved, it was always Caleb, Piper, and me crammed into Caleb’s jeep. Olivia and Neville, my oldest siblings, rode in the Hummer with my youngest, Hannah and the twins. My parents rode separately for reasons no one understood.

We traveled together. Or at least that was the plan. But Caleb always made a wrong turn even with his GPS and my maps. Piper had to take an extra bathroom stop. Sometimes we just wanted to stretch our legs and grab some Starbucks. If we were feeling particularly defiant, we went completely off route in search of tourist destinations. Our logic was always the same: If we’d be forced to move, we’d have fun doing it.

--

“What’s in Georgia anyway?” Piper asked. We’d been driving for nearly five hours and had already gotten our Starbucks stop out of the way. 

Probing the slushy remnants of my frappuccino, I looked to Caleb for the answer to Piper’s question. The last time I’d been in Georgia I’d been a baby, which meant Caleb had only been a year old. He wouldn’t remember much either. But he’d probably have more insight than me.

“Peaches,” Caleb said, smirking.

“That it?” Piper questioned.

He thought about it. “Well, there are the Atlanta Falcons.”

Piper turned up her lip at that. “I hate football.”

“Hey,” I said, “Football has feelings too.” At that very moment I was sporting my New York Giants jersey, the only testament I had to the place of my birth. We hadn’t lived there for long after I was born. But joining the fandom was my way of cementing New York into my system. And each time we moved, I put on the same jersey, as if in promise to never forget the place where I’d first existed.

Piper just shook her head at me, not sharing the same sentiment.

In the next hour, Caleb and I switched seats. I’d only gotten my license a few weeks ago but driving still made me sweat all over. But there was nothing but miles upon miles of highway ahead. I could at least handle that. A part of me believed my parents had pushed me so ardently to get my permit simply to make our numerous migrations easier.

We drove that way for the next seventeen hours, switching off every four to five. Sometimes we’d pull into a rest stop for gas. The rest of our family must have been at least an hour ahead. Caleb drove the last few hours as the sun appeared over the trees, kindling the sky before us. I’d fallen asleep somewhere in North Carolina. And when I opened my eyes again, Caleb had nudged me. He tipped his head to the left and I turned to see a bright blue sign before we zoomed past.

Welcome to Georgia.

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