Bone Maiden

The devil's got my secret.
He swore he'd never tell.
I left it for safe-keeping.
I'll pick it up in hell.


1. Chapter One

Ed Baxter walked into my bedroom appearing much more cautious than usual. I’d known him all my life, and I’d never seen him as anything less than completely confident, collected, and smug. At present, he appeared to be none of these things.

He was fifteen years older than me, but at that point in time, you wouldn’t have guessed it was more than a few years. He was tall, lean, and muscular with shaggy blond hair and the picturesque qualities of a California surfer painted out by the media, ala Sean Penn.

The usually upbeat man walked into the room wearing a frown. In all my life, I’d never seen him frown. The only lines on his face were from the permanent smile etched into his skin. His face appeared distorted by the lack of that smile. If it weren't for the shaggy beach blond hair and the shirt advertising sunny Hawaii, I never would have recognized him at all.

I was sitting on the opposite side of my bedroom in the window seat my dad built for me when he bought the house. He’d even sewn the cushions himself. It was a floral print pattern with bright robin’s egg blue buttons. I hated sitting in the window seat because the pillows weren’t very soft and after a while, it made my bones ache. But I hadn’t moved from that spot for hours.

“How you doing, kid?” Ed asked as he crossed the room on his long legs and knelt on the bench beside me.

Surprisingly, his presence was more welcoming than I wanted to admit. It wasn’t that I wanted to see him exactly. It was just that my house was full of visitors and he was the only one not wearing black. He didn’t whisper when I was near or cry and spew overused phrases I didn’t want to hear. Though his smile was missing for the first time, he seemed melancholy, rather than distraught or falsely forlorn.

I thought about answering his questions honestly as I turned my attention back out of the window, where I could look out over part of the roof and the woods beyond. I used to complain that our house didn’t have a yard like standard houses did. My bedroom overlooked the trees and the lake beyond. But the lake was really more like a swamp. I couldn’t go out and play because the flora was riddled with venomous snakes and the occasional alligator.

But my parents weren’t there anymore to tell me not to go outside and play in the swamp. They would never be there to tell me what to do again. Not when I wanted to play, not for help at school. Not for anything. They stopped existing, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell Ed just how I really felt about that. Or at least, there just weren’t any words that could adequately explain the feeling at all.

So I jerked my shoulder upward, and his only response was to sigh heavily. He went to sit down on the bed, and the springs of my mattress creaked under his weight. He seemed too large to be in my room. The bed always seemed so big to me, but his knees were bent, and the mattress sank toward the floor. He folded his hands in his lap and looked around at the remains of my lingering childhood. The kitten poster, floral cushions, pink dresser, and princess themed stickers. Maybe he viewed it as the childhood that died with my parents.

“My mom says you’re going to come stay with us in North Carolina,” he told me as he picked at his fingers, not knowing how to act around a preteen girl in mourning.

“Aren’t you a little old to be living with your parents?” I asked, keeping my eyes on the window. It was raining, as any good funeral day cliché would require. But it was Florida, and the rainstorm would likely be replaced by sunshine and blue skies within the hour.

He sighed as he bit back a retort. My cousin was usually known for his inability to do so. I always overheard my parents complaining about the things he got into and the stress he put his parents through. I didn’t hate my cousin, but my grief pulled the words from my mouth. I wanted to hurt him. I don’t know why I wanted to do it. He’d never done anything to me. I hardly saw him outside of family gatherings anyway, but we were too far apart in age to be friends. And I didn’t see him much since my family moved to Florida.

“Most people live with their parents until they’re out of school. I just happen to be late,” he finally said.

“I heard you were flunking out.” He sighed again.

“I’m trying to be nice to you, Ava.”

“I don’t need anyone to be nice to me.”

“Well, between you and me. I might be the only one who can really help you right now.” I turned to look at him. His ocean blue eyes were alight in the gloomy atmosphere of my room. His eyebrows were furrowed in a strange look of concentration. One that hinted at a more profound intelligence beyond usual goofy attitude.

“And how would you be able to help me, Ed?” I asked. “Did you lose your parents too? Because last I checked, they were in the kitchen entertaining funeral guests.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Then hurry up and get to the point because I want to be alone.”

“I’m talking about—what you can do.” I blinked back, my mind blank with confusion. “I’m talking about the sleepwalking. The ectoplasm.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He smiled slightly and shook his head.

“You know what I’m talking about, Ava. Your secret is safe with me.”

“I don’t have a secret. I didn’t do anything wrong. You’re crazy. Just like my mom said.” The hurt in his eyes was satisfying but brief.

“That’s what everyone thinks,” he agreed. “And maybe that’s why you don’t believe me. But you’ll start to see it too. You’ll figure it out. There’s no such thing as a coincidence. And when the time comes, you’re not going to think I’m so crazy anymore. Just do me a favor, alright? If you meet others like you—don’t trust them. They’re always jealous of what they don’t have.”

I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. I stared at him as he stood up and left my room. Then I wrapped my arms around my knees and turned to the window. A baby bird had fallen from its nest and landed on the roof a few feet away from me. It was dead, and I wondered if it died on impact, or if it fell because it was already dead.



I was hoping to start putting this back up sooner, but I got kind of distracted by other projects. Anyway, the fall/Halloween season is getting me excited for all my spooky stories. So here's another one!

I hope you guys like it. :D

(Disclaimer: Devil's Got My Secret lyrics by Mieka Pauley)

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