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.

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1. Chapter One

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

He was fifteen years older than me but 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 had never seen him frown. The only lines on his face came from the permanent smile that was etched into his skin. His face appeared distorted with 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 had built for me when he bought the house three years prior. He had 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 cushions weren’t very soft and after a while, my body would start to ache. But I had not moved from that spot for hours.

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

Surprisingly, I found his presence 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 or cry or spew overused phrases I didn’t want to hear. Though his smile was missing for the first time, he appeared melancholy, rather than distraught or falsely forlorn.

I thought about answering his question 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 normal people did. My bedroom overlooked the trees and the lake beyond. The lake that was really more like a swamp. I couldn’t go out and play because the flora was riddled with 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 guide me again. Not when I wanted to play, not for when I needed help with school, not for when I required anything at all. 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 properly 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 I heard the springs of my mattress creak. He seemed too large to be in my room. My bed had always seemed so big to me, but his knees were bent and the mattress was sinking toward the floor beneath it. He folded his hands in his lap and looked around at the remains of my lingering childhood; the kitten poster, floral cushions, pink dresser all stuck with Disney themed stickers. Maybe he viewed it as the childhood I was going to lose. Maybe I had already lost it.

“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 as I kept my eyes on the window. It was raining, as any good funeral day cliché would require. However, it was Florida and the rainstorm was likely to be replaced with the sunshine and blue skies within the hour.

I heard him sigh as he bit back his retort. My cousin was often known for his inability to do so. I always heard 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 pushed the words out of my mouth. I wanted to hurt him. I don’t know why I wanted to do it. He had never done anything to me. I hardly saw him outside of family gatherings anyway, but we were too far apart in age to be close. And I didn’t see him as much since my family moved to Florida.

“Most people live with their parents until they’re out of school. I just happen to be a bit 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,” I told him.

“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 creased in a strange look of concentration. I wanted to slap him.

“And how would you be able to help me, Ed?” I asked him. “Did you lose your parents too? Because the last I checked they were in my 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 in confusion. “I’m talking about the sleepwalking. The—ectoplasm.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He gave a slight smile and shook his head.

“You know what I mean, 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.” I saw the hurt in his eyes but it was brief.

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

I honestly didn’t have the slightest clue as to what he was talking about, but I stared at him anyway as he stood up and left my bedroom. 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 from me. It was dead and thick black goo was oozing out of its face.

...

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 had it up before, but I only had like 3 or 4 chapters. I decided to take the story in a different direction. Or at least I decided to start it at a different time period in her life. The story that was up previously will still come into play, but probably in the sequel. I decided to go back and explain what actually happened to Bax to make her hit the road with her cousin.

So! I hope you guys like it. :D

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

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