DNA

I decided to get my ancestry DNA and what happens blows my mind.

Alien DNA

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A Novel in Progress…Working title- Willow’s Bend

Willow’s Bend

Chapter One

I am the one who wasn’t. The one not allowed to live. The one who didn’t breathe. The one who was gone. I was the one who never had the chance. I watched. I listened, and there was nothing I could do except wait.

Even if I could, I couldn’t stop the hole that was unraveling. A hole like in a beautiful knitted sweater unraveling until there was nothing left to salvage.  I was there along in the shadow. They just didn’t see me. I was the whisper in their ear, although they didn’t listen. Would it have mattered?  I doubt it, even if they could, it wouldn’t have changed fate. It would have happened no matter what anyone could have done. Each moment, each heartbeat, each loss had to happen at exactly the time and place it did, or it would have changed the outcome of life itself.  I could only watch and wait until now.

Dawn hadn’t arrived yet when Katherine heard the phone ring. Her aged fingers wrapped around the receiver wondering who could be calling so early.  A moment passed. Her hand holding the receiver began to tremble, hearing the words no mother should ever hear. Her words stumbled and for a moment, she thought the ground beneath her would give way. The unfamiliar voice on the other end of the receiver was blunt and to the point.

Katherine locked eyes with Raul, her husband of 45 years.  The phone call she has dreaded for years was now happening.

Raul approached his wife leaning his hefty body on his cane. He was wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt holding a cup of coffee in the other hand, the way he had every morning for the last 40 years.

“Is your son Vincent J Santino,”   The voice on the other end of the receiver said.

“Yes, who is this?” Katherine said her voice was trembling.

“Bakertown Police.”

Katherine felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Her delicate features although aged at a glance one could see the glimmer of her youth. She had the beauty of a movie even now.

Raul watched, as her dark almond shaped eyes filled with worry a look he was accustomed to over the years.

“What’s this about?”

“He’s dead.” The cold voice said.

“He’s what?” Katherine said grasping her chest. She moved the receiver away from her ear a moment resting it on her cheek.

Raul stepped close, “Kat what is it?” Raul said. Katherine kept her eyes on her husband not sure how he would handle the tragic news.

Katherine placed the receiver on her ear. “You’re sure?”  She hung up the phone not saying anything right away. ‘It’s Vinnie,” she said hardly moving her lips. “There’s been an accident.’

“Is he ok,” Raul said gripping his cane. She felt her blood leave her face.

“He’s dead.” Raul dropped his coffee cup and walked as fast as he could out his bedroom room into the foyer of his home he build and fell to his knees and bellowed into the air. Katherine’s ivory snow face a mere ghost went after her husband collapsing alongside her him into her arms. The shock too much to bare Raul crumpled on the cold tile floor, “Awe… No… Not Vinnie! Not Vinnie. Awe no! Vinnie’s dead, Vinnie’s dead.”

From the upstairs balcony, two teenage boys came running. “What? What’s wrong grammy! What’s wrong?” the taller boy said. His blonde locks hiding  the sleep from his eyes. The smaller one boy standing in just a t-shirt covering his briefs kneeled down next to the Raul. “Pap Pap what’s happened?”

“Jerry! “Michael,” Katherine cried. “Help me with your grandfather!”

“What happen? Did Pap pap fall?” Michael said.

“No honey he got some bad news.”

“Pap pap it’s okay,” Jerry said.

The January snow had fallen covering the streets of 16 Willows Bend. Katherine’s birthday was on the 1 of January and ever since she was a child, it snowed on her birthday bringing something fun and exciting to look forward to on the cold dark winter’s days. The snow on this awful day in January only brought darkness and sadness.  She stood outside on the slushy street with Raul and her oldest daughter Melissa and her husband, Rob and her youngest daughter Ann.

The chill reddened Katherine’s face as she tried to stand to wait for the coroner and the police to bring out her first born son.  She held her breath as she held Raul’s hand. Raul shifted his weight on his cane trying to keep steady and not on fall the slush beneath his feet. She watched the front door as it opened. Katherine felt her heart miss a beat. A young police officer was the first to emerge carrying the stretcher containing her son. The coroner was next to follow moving slow so not to slip on the icy steps. The dark clouds and flurries parted making way for a spectrum of brilliant sun rays that beamed on the dark plastic covering her dead son.

Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Men in Black

The next day, I slept until eleven o’clock. I never usually sleep that late, but Emma and I had talked well past midnight. It was nice hearing about all the latest gossip back home, like how Jake’s dad got season tickets to the Steelers games. Talking to her made me homesick, and if it weren’t for Lucien, I would’ve gone crazy by now.

Dad and I had planned on going to the city during the day, until he got a call from the university, wanting him to go with the police to investigate a crime scene. Apparently, someone dug up the remains of dozens of soldiers and children near an old Mexican civil war fort. I would have liked to go to the site with him, but Dad said it was to be kept quiet.

With not much to do, I thought I’d hang out on the couch with the remote. I was just about to grab a blanket and curl up on the couch when my phone rang. It was Lexy, “Hey, Pittsburgh, do you want to cause trouble at the mall?” Lexy was chomping on something in my ear on the other end of the phone.

“Nah, my couch is calling my name, you and Dakota can hang out here if you want. It’s just me. My dad’s on a dig and won’t be home ‘til late.”

“Okay. I’ll stop and get a movie and some junk food.”

About an hour later, the three of us were watching a dumb romantic comedy and eating chips. I actually liked hanging out with the girls; it was a pleasant change.

“You guys know anything about Lucien’s family?” I asked.

“Not really, except that his parents were killed right after he and his brothers and sister were born. Rumor is they’re sextuplets.”

“Sextuplets,” I said. “He didn’t mention that to me. Hmmm…would explain why they all look alike.”

“His uncle raised them on a ranch near Roswell,” Dakota said.

“As far as I know no one’s been to his uncle’s ranch. There were rumors once that his uncle didn’t even exist because no one ever saw him,” Lexy said.

The movie ended. I started to clean up our mess when Lexy said, “I have an idea!” She jumped off the couch and screamed, “Let’s go to the fair!”

“I’d rather just hang out here,” I protested.

“Come on.” Dakota pulled my arm. “Why do you want to stay home? The night’s young, and the moon’s full.”

“Because I told my dad I’d stay home. Besides, it’s already after nine. I do have a curfew, you know,” I said trying to be forceful.

“The fair closes at midnight. What your daddy doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” jeered Lexy.

“Don’t worry. I won’t drive fast.” Lexy pulled on my arm. “I saw how you had your eyes closed last time.”

“No, I didn’t,” I said suddenly wishing I didn’t tell them to come over.

“When were you going to tell us?” Lexy unexpectedly became serious.

“Tell you what?” I scowled.

“You know what I’m talking about,” said Lexy, “about the accident.”

“Who told you?” There was a sharp edge to my voice.

“No one told me. Dakota Googled you and a couple articles came up about how a mysterious stranger pulled you out of the wreckage and called nine-one-one. The article said if it weren’t for the Good Samaritan, you’d have bled to death.”

“Did you really get charged for texting?” Dakota asked.

“Dakota, have some compassion,” Lexy said. A moment of silence passed.

I started to get sick to my stomach. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or want anyone here to treat me different.

“Just don’t be writing that on Facebook, okay?” I said, giving them both a hard look.

“I think it’s incredible someone saved you, like it was your guardian angel.” Dakota smiled from ear to ear.

“Yeah, I’m lucky.”

“Hell, yeah, now let’s go,” Lexy said.

“Come on. Lexy’s right, it’ll be fun.” Dakota nudged me.

“Okay, you two win. Let’s get out of here.” I went upstairs and put on a clean black tank top, black jeans, and a pair of boots. One good think about New Mexico: the fall months were still warm. After scrunching my hair, I put on lipstick and puckered my lips. I couldn’t help but wonder if Lucien might be there. As we left my house, Lexy asked if Ralf could come with us. I had no objections, so we hopped in Lexy’s Hummer and picked him up. Even with that side trip, we were at the fair in record time. Lexy drove like a maniac, and I snapped my wrist until it was red numb.

The sky was dark blue with amber streaks, and the smell of cotton candy and cheese fries filled the air. I loved the fair atmosphere. A slight breeze hit my arms, making me wish I had a sweater. Taking my cell phone from my pocket, I checked to see if there were any messages from Lucien, but my inbox was empty. I put it back in my pocket and tried not to feel upset.

Dakota and Lexy held hands, which made it seem like they were a couple. With no interest in joining them, Ralf and I lagged behind. Walking with him was slightly awkward, but we made the most of it.

“Where’s your boyfriend?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend,” I gasped.

“Okay.”

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“You kept telling yourself that.”

“He’s not I like Lucien as a friend. But that’s it. We don’t even know each other all that well.”

Ralf looked at me, and then looked over his shoulder. “Not to be rude, but don’t you think his family is a little strange? I mean, come on, dude.”

“I thought you were his friend?”

“Not really. He just started back at Truman this year…I didn’t see him since, shit – maybe two years ago.”

“Really? I only met his family at the Ford Pavilion the other night. Just because they sing in a band doesn’t mean they’re strange.” I tried to defend them.

Dakota and Lexy skipped to the shooting range, so Ralf and I sat down on a bench to continue our conversation. “It’s not because they have a band,” he explained. “Did you notice how they look? They’re so alike.”

“Well, they do come from the same mother.”

“Maybe not,” said Ralf.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Hey, I’m just saying, you never know. He may be some sort of lab rat experiment. His uncle worked for NASA and is a professor at the UNM.”

“Really?”

“That’s the rumor. He’s a lab rat, I’m telling ya,” said Ralf. “Have you noticed his skin?”

“Oh my God have you ever looked in the mirror, dude?” I said picturing Lucien as a little rat in a maze.

“Me? I look good,” jested Ralf. “If you ask me, I think he’s, you know, a little…girly boy. He wears makeup I think.” Ralf laughed, standing up. Dakota and Lexy finished up at the shooting range.

“Okay, Mr. Masculinity.”

“You know it!” said Ralf.

“So what if he is?”

“I’m just saying.”

“Oh my God!” Dakota took my hand. “Come quick and check this out.”

Lexy took my other hand. “You’re going to love it.”

They dragged me to a booth with a lighted sign that read: ‘Fortune Teller: Enter at your own risk.’

I stopped abruptly.

Dakota shrieked. “Don’t you want to know your future?”

“Not exactly,” I said.

“If you don’t, you’re going to have to walk home Pittsburgh.” Lexy had a wicked smile.

“Don’t be a pussy.”

“Ralf! That’s gross,” snapped Dakota.

I turned to the old woman, who was wearing lots of costume jewelry with a scarf around her head, making her look like a Greek gypsy. As she smiled at me with rotten teeth, I wanted to run and hide, but I gave into my friends’ request. “Okay, okay. I’ll do it.”

I sat down at a small table while the psychic witch lit a candle. Taking my hand in hers, she turned it over to examine my palm. Lexy, Dakota, and Ralf sat next to me, never saying a word. Chickening out was my initial impulse, but I was too interested in knowing what my future held, even if it was a bunch of bullshit.

The woman held my hand and closed her eyes. Suddenly, she whispered, “Yol have seen much-a loss in yol young life.”

“Duh,” Lexy said under her breath. I caught her gaze and frowned.

I didn’t give her an answer but stared into her eyes as she continued.

“Yol have a dark-k cloud hanging ova yol, child.”

Yeah, what else is new? I already know that.

“I see’ze a light, It’s a purr-son, a boy, a mun, and his name means, he- who b-rings light and no-ledge.”

I kept looking at her, but I didn’t dare speak.

“‘Tis not good, you must not let him—what is yol name child?” the gypsy demanded.

I tried to pull my hand away, but she held it tighter.

“Samantha.”

“Samantha, he-e is much-a d-a-n-g-e-r.”

I pulled my hand free “Who? Who is much danger?”

“The mun from da light, now go!” she screamed.

I stood up fast, stumbling over the chair. Lexy, Dakota, and Ralf were laughing as we left the booth.

“Oh my, wooh hoooo the mun from the light is going to get you! You were scared shitless, Sam!” Ralf laughed.

“Shut up, asshole,” I said, walking ahead of them at a quick pace. All I wanted to do was go home.

“Sam. Don’t be mad,” Dakota said, catching up to me.

After about an hour of talking and laughing at my expense the Ferris wheel’s lights shut down. A few stragglers were left, so no one protested in heading back to the parking lot. When we got to the parking lot, there was a tall, dark figure in the distance wearing a long black trench coat. He was bald, but his face illuminated by the moonlight. He was just there, standing as if he had been waiting for us. We slowed our pace. Ralf turned to us and said, “Shhh, don’t say anything,” he hesitated, “what’s up, dude?”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have said that. He doesn’t look like the ‘what’s up dude’ kinda guy,” Lexy whispered.

The man ignored Ralf. “Samantha Hunter,” he said in a deep, throaty voice.

“Sam – do you know him?” Ralf said.

“No…”

I grabbed onto Dakota’s hand as all eyes went to me. Again, the voice in the darkness called for me. Lexy, Dakota, and Ralf turned to me at the same moment.

“Holy shit, Pittsburgh, he knows you,” Lexy said.

“Dammit Lexy my name isn’t Pittsburgh!”

“Where’s Lucien Foster,” the dark shadow demanded. When I still didn’t answer, he started to walk towards us.

“C-come on, we had better get in the car!” Ralf yelled. We all held hands, running towards the Hummer. I scrambled to get in. Before I knew it, the man was standing in front of me, blocking me from the vehicle. I looked at the Hummer. Dakota, the last to get in, slammed the door shut with a frightened stare, leaving me outside, “Dakota what the hell!” The man in the trench coat stared me down. Lexy started the Hummer and wound down the window.

“Sam, run!” Ralf yelled.

Lexy pulled the Hummer out, aiming for the man. He jumped out of the way and lifted his hand in the direction of the Hummer. The Hummer stopped right in front of him…the wheels spun like they were stuck in snow. “Sam! Run!” Lexy screamed. The man started towards me…

“What’s happening?” Lexy said struggling with the steering wheel.

“Drive, drive, step on the gas!” Ralf yelled. Lexy’s eyes locked with mine…

“I can’t, it won’t move! Sam! Run!” she screamed.

Lexy went back to trying to put the Hummer in drive.

I watched in disbelief as the Hummer’s tires spun around but didn’t go anywhere. It was as though something was holding it still, preventing it from moving. I hesitated a moment, stunned at what I was seeing, then Lexy’s voice rattled me back to my senses, and I turned and ran towards the fairgrounds.

The man began to follow me, dodging a parked car. His speed was much swifter than mine, but I ran. Suddenly, I saw the Hummer drive past me. Disoriented, I ran, trying to see where Lexy was heading. Seeing the man was right behind me, I increased my speed to a sprint. I wished I hadn’t worn my heeled boots. Almost out of the parking lot, I made my way back into the fairgrounds towards the Avenue of the Governors. I went along the avenue and around the edges of the plaza, weaving in and out of the trees that were lined. The carnival lights began to shut off one by one behind me. The dark became thicker with each step I took, making it difficult for me to see where I was going. Where were the carnie people? All I knew was that I was being chased.

I turned around to see where the stranger was but only saw shadows. I refused to stop, losing my footing. I fell. On my hands and knees, I crawled. When I heard the eerie voice behind me, something dug at my foot. I started to scream, but he jumped on top of me, turned me over, and what I saw scared me beyond belief. He had dark eyes with no whites, and jagged, pointed teeth and tattoos with strange designs all over his bald head.

I looked at him and became paralyzed with fear and stopped shrieking. The man grabbed my face and held it still. “Where’s Foster?” he said it loud, spraying his spit in my face. I closed my eyes tight and turned my face off to the side briefly.

“Where is he? Where’s the boy?” The man in black growled.

“I don’t know!” My head tossed from side to side as I struggled to free myself. The dark figure tightened his grip on my shoulders and pinned me to the ground. My breathing increased. I felt like I was going to pass out from the man’s weight.

“Samantha…,” the man said is in a hoarse, raspy growl, “There are ways to get the answer to my question.” He tightened his grip even more, leaning so close to me that I could smell him. His odor reminded me of road kill. It burned my nose, and I began to gag.

“No! Who are you? Why are you doing this?” I yelled into the darkness. The dark figure leaned in closer, “H-help! Somebody, p-please help me!” My screams were useless. Noticing a shining medallion hanging around his neck, I used my free hand to take hold of it, pulling with all of my might. I tightened my fingers around the necklace, squeezing my palm so I wouldn’t lose it.

The man took a silver, knife-like instrument from his pocket and held it at my neck. I gasped at its sight and closed my eyes tight, fearing what he might do next. His sweat dripped onto my face, burning me where it lay.

Finally…I heard sirens in the distance. Loosening his grip, the man stood and looked around momentarily before a bright light surrounded me, impairing my vision. The light vanished, and the man with it. All at once, Dakota, Ralf, and Lexy came into view, running towards me with fairground security guards.

Chapter Six

Chapter Six           

Equinox

Before AP U.S history started, Dakota stopped me in the hall to tell me they were looking for volunteers for the Halloween dance? I wasn’t a bit interested in going to a dance. The thought actually made me want to throw—up. The bell rang before I had a chance to say no. Mr. White began to tell us we had to team up with another student to do a project. His explanation was boring, but Lucien made it interesting by cracking jokes now and then. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for me to get to know him a little more, but I couldn’t get up the nerve to ask him to be my partner. Thankfully, he asked me, and we decided to do our project on the Watergate Trials.

I wanted to talk to him during second period and ask if he had plans for the night. I never had a chance. “Remember to think about your projects,” Mr. White said over the sound of the bell.

Lucien sprang from his seat, almost toppling over his desk. I gathered my books in a hurry, hoping to talk to him to see if he was okay. Before I had a chance, he was already gone. What was he doing? School wasn’t over.

On an impulse, I walked towards the doors to follow him. Dakota and Lexy stopped me. They exchanged glances, apparently up to something. As Dakota sighed, Lexy grabbed my hand and dragged me with her. “Come with us.” She led me outside to her car.

“Aren’t we going to get in trouble?”

“There’s a pep rally in the gym. It’s not like we’re missing anything important.” Lexy nudged. Both were silent after that and kept walking. They seemed determined, and I was in no mood to argue.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Come on, get in.” Lexy opened the passenger side door.

I stopped, staring at her Hummer.

“Come on.” Dakota frowned.

“Samantha, let’s go,” they both said.

“I just started here. I can’t get suspended,” I said.

“Sam, we’re seniors, and class is technically over,” they said at the same time, looking at me like I was crazy.

“Come on. Get in.” Lexy said.

“Fine,” I said.

My legs froze. I could feel the panic wave over me like a dark cloud. Before I knew it, Dakota grabbed my arm and pulled me in. I looked down at my wrist and snapped the rubber band hard until it stung. “We have a surprise for you. You’ve got to see this.” Dakota’s eyes gleamed with enthusiasm.

Lexy took a cigarette from the glove compartment, lit it with a lighter, and blew a couple smoke rings. “I can’t believe we never mentioned this to you.” Did she have to smoke?

“What are you two talking about?” I braced myself as Lexy stepped on the gas.

“Trust me; you’re going to love it.” She glanced back at me, puffs of smoke rings floating from her mouth.

“Who taught you how to drive?”

“Myself.” It figured.

I raised my eyes just enough to recognize my surroundings. I could tell we were heading towards Cottonwood Mall.

Lexy made a left onto a winding road that led past Paso del Norte. Apparently ignoring me, she turned up the volume on the radio while she sang along to a heavy metal song and drove faster. I had a feeling they were talking about what was going on, but I had no idea what they were saying with the radio blaring. I yelled over the music, “Hey! Guys tell me where we’re going.”

Dakota only smiled. “You’ll see.” Lexy pretended not to hear me, jerks.

I looked out the window, scanning the area for some kind of clue. The only hint I received was an Interstate sign that told me we were near where Dad worked. After a few more miles of driving, it finally clicked. We were pulling up to the Expo Center where the state fair was. As soon as Lexy parked among the other cars, vans, and trailers, she and Dakota got out of the Hummer and walked towards the sea of tents and carnival rides.

Assuming they weren’t going to wait for me, I leaped out of the vehicle and chased after them. I rolled my eyes, “Guys… why didn’t you tell me you were taking me here? What’s with the big secret?” They just looked at each other and laughed. “Come on.” I tried to keep pace with them. “You hijacked me after class and refuse to tell me what’s going on. This isn’t fair.” I clenched me teeth.

We headed for a dome stage, and I heard electric guitars and singing in the distance. It was a male’s voice singing. As we got closer, the music got louder. Lexy and Dakota disappeared behind a tent flap, entering the dome. I didn’t want to get separated from them, so I followed. Then I saw him.

Lucien?” Spellbound, I stopped short in my tracks. He was on stage, playing the electric guitar and singing into a microphone. I stood transfixed. He sang in a band. Amazing his voice was mesmerizing. I must have looked like a little kid who got a glimpse of Santa Claus because I froze in my steps, just staring.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lexy and Dakota dancing in place. They were right—Lucien really was a celebrity of sorts.

His eyes closed for a moment. His voice made me shiver with an eerie delight. When he opened his eyes, they took hold of mine and bore a hole into me. I smiled. He winked. I took hold of my stomach. I turned to where Lexy and Dakota had been standing, but they were gone. I scanned the crowd for them, but purple and red spotlights caught my eyes. I turned my attention to the stage. Lucien began to strum his guitar as another guitarist next to him mimicked the tune. He stopped plucking and took the microphone.

I watched him as he sang, his eyes piercing mine. After the music had ended, the audience roared. When the cheers and clapping died down, I looked at the other members of the band. They seemed so familiar and so alike. Lucien put his guitar down and the microphone back on the stand, keeping his eyes on me the entire time. As if to break my trance, my cell phone beeped. It was a text from Dakota, “Surprise!” I didn’t know if I was happy or mad.

I closed my phone and shoved it back into my pocket. Grunting from being had, I shoved my way through the crowd to the stage. He jumped from the platform. A broad smile stretched across his face as I reached him, his white teeth lighting up the darkened arena, “Hey, you. How did you know I had a gig here?”  People were struggling to exit, and before I knew it a crowd of kids running past pushed me right into Lucien’s arms. For a brief second, I thought our lips would crash together, and I felt myself flush. Caught off guard, my body tensed as soon as we touched; no painful static, just a tingle this time. I tried to pull away, but he held me tight, brushing his lips against my hair.

A few seconds later, I saw the rest of the band coming towards us. I quickly pushed him away from me.

“I wanted to talk to you after class, but you took off before I had a chance,” I said.

“Sorry.” He talked over the crowd. “I was running late.”

“Hey, bro who’s your groupie?” one of the members said as he hit Lucien on the back.

“This is Samantha Hunter. Sam, this is my brother, Gabriel.”

“Hi.” I tucked my hair behind my ear.

Gabriel turned to another guy who had longer hair than all the rest. “This is Michael, my backup on bass.” He pointed to his left. “This is Daniel. He plays the drums.”

After seeing Daniel only nod, Gabriel said, “He’s a little shy. Hey, Cassiel! Come over here!” He motioned to someone still on stage. Raising his gray eyes to meet mine, the last of Lucien’s brothers waved. Gabriel whispered, “Cassiel is the black sheep of the family. And this lovely thing is Eden, our sister.” He put his arm around a beautiful, fair—faced girl with long, black hair.

I looked from one to the other, noting each of his siblings looked like clones of each other, so similar and around the same age. After chatting about their band, Equinox, for a few minutes, Gabriel nudged Lucien’s shoulder. “We’re heading home now. You coming?”

Lucien looked at me, then looked at his brother Michael. “I think I’m going to hang out here for a while,” he said.

“Do you think you can stay out of trouble?” Michael’s voice held brotherly concern.

I looked at him with pleading eyes, hoping it would somehow convince him not to stay, but he didn’t take notice.

His attention was fixated on the entrance to the pavilion; he began to walk in that direction. When Gabriel and Michael discerned what Lucien was staring at, both grabbed him simultaneously, not allowing him to move further. I followed their gaze, not knowing what to expect. All I saw was a man dressed in dark black clothing.

I took my eyes off him for a second, looking at the three brothers, each with tense eyes. When I glanced back to the unknown man, he was gone.

“Do you know him?” I asked.

“No, he’s no one,” Lucien answered. By the look on their faces, I think otherwise.

Gabriel and Michael signaled to each other, taking Lucien to the stage with Cassiel and Daniel to pack up the rest of the gear. Noticing my discomfort, Eden lightly touched my arm. “They’re okay. They just get upset about the littlest things. It was probably a talent scout, and they probably wished they played better tonight.” Eden spoke with the same elegance as Lucien.

“Are you guys from Europe? I noticed it before with Lucien, but after listening to all of you together, I’m pretty sure you guys have an accent.”

She had a slight smirk on her face. “We do? That’s odd.”

“Well, how could you notice? You’re around each other all the time.”

“We’ve always lived in New Mexico. I don’t know how we could have an accent.” Eden’s voice drifted off for a moment. “You’re from Kecksburg?”

“Pittsburgh.”

She gave me what looked almost like a fake smile.

“Lucien has told us a lot about you.”

“He has? I guess he told you how we met.” I felt self-conscious.

“Yes, he did.”

“I knocked over a row of books in the bookstore?” I smiled.

“Lucien mentioned you two keep running into each other.

“Oh…Yeah.”

How do you like Trinity?”

“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. How long have you guys been singing? You’re good.”

“Forever, it seems.”

I was intrigued. “Do you travel much? I mean, it seems like you have lots of fans.”

“Enough, I suppose.” Eden sighed. “We used to play a lot of gigs, but it’s gotten to be too much since we’re getting ready for college. My uncle teaches us at home, but Lucien hates it.”

Eden smiled but didn’t say anything else. We waited for the guys to finish packing. When they were finally done, we said our goodbyes. Not surprising, Lucien stayed with me.

The autumn air was brisk but still warm. Cicadas were singing among the carnival games. Lucien wanted to show off at the shooting range, and, of course, I let him. As we continued to stroll, we couldn’t stop laughing and joking around. It was nice just being normal for a change and enjoying each other’s company. The day turned to night, and the fairgrounds came alive with lights and attractions reminding me of my past, when Mom, Dad, Finn, and I would go to Kennywood Park’s annual fall festival. A frown crept onto my face. Those days were gone forever.

Perceiving my sadness, he tried to distract me.

“Did you smoke today,” he asked.

“No, I didn’t thank you,” I said wishing I had.

“You sure?” he said with narrow eyes. “You smell like cigarette smoke.”

“Lexy was smoking in her car, not me,” I said.

“I’m proud of you,” he said smiling. “Would you like to ride the Ferris wheel with me?”

“No. I hate heights.”

“Come on. It’ll be fun.” He took my hands, strolling to the foot of the Ferris wheel’s twinkling rainbow of colors.

“You’ll be safe. I won’t let anything happen to you.” He lowered his face and raised his brow. His luminous eyes drew me in, comforting…soothing…like a warm blanket.

I looked at the Ferris wheel. Then my gaze went back to Lucien’s face. “I’d rather not,” I said.

“Trust me, Sam. Take a deep breath…hold back the fear.” He took both my hands, coddling me like a small child. Mesmerized, he led me towards the Ferris wheel line. I couldn’t take my eyes off his lips. His words rolled off his tongue like they were dipped in creamy caramel, sweet and smooth.

My feet froze. I used to love to ride the Ferris wheel and carnival rides.

“No. I can’t, I don’t want to.” My voice came out like a small, cracked whimper.

“It’s ok. I promise,” he said as if he read my mind. We strode to the line and waited. As the line got shorter, my heart beat faster in my chest, I could feel my forehead bead with sweat.

“Please, let’s get ice cream instead.”

“Can’t; lactose intolerant. Ice cream isn’t going to be as fun as this.” He chuckled.

“O—Okay really—Lactose intolerant,” I said.

I hesitated right before our seat lifted into the air. I hung onto him for dear life. He smiled as I held his hand, digging my nails into his flesh. I didn’t even notice the static that came from his touch. He grimaced, blowing out air and making a small noise from his mouth like a sick cat.

Once we were sitting high at the top, he draped his arm over my shoulders, making my heart skip a beat. It wasn’t from the ride. It was the surreal feeling of being so near to him. It was like I was sitting next to him for the first time. As he leaned closer, he wrapped his arm tight around me, nuzzling his nose against the back of my ear. Goosebumps exploded down my back.

“See, you’re okay.” He spoke in a husky, low voice.

“I don’t understand. I’m not scared anymore.” Just then, I got enough nerve to look down, but I couldn’t because Lucien was blocking my view. He was so close, I could hear his heart beat against mine. Moving back, he brushed his lips on my cheek. The funny thing was, I wanted him to. While he raised my chin, my lips parted, and I slowly closed my eyes. It was like our lips were magnets and the force between them wanted to close together. Flooded with a hundred different emotions, I leaned in towards him, closing the distance between our lips. Just when I thought, we were about to kiss, the ride stopped, what just happened?

I had a hard time keeping my balance after we got off the ride, but I wasn’t sure if it was from the ride or being so close to him.

“Are you all right?” he asked with a concerned look.

“I’m fine.” I shook off my wooziness.

“You’re more than fine. You did it. You rode the Ferris wheel!”

“I know! I did, didn’t I thanks to you.”

“I had nothing to do with it.”

“Yes, you did!”

He took my hand in his, looking at me with an incredible smile that caused all my nervous jitters to disappear. Together, we walked the length of the fair, taking in all of the bright colored lights and interesting people. I hadn’t had this much fun in such a long, long time.

When I saw the merry—go—round, I broke free from him and ran toward the line. It was my favorite ride of all time. After waiting, I jumped on the first white horse I could find while he hurried trying to find an empty one near mine. As we went around in circles, I became giddy.

Lucien gazed at me, making me want to smile back.

“What…?” I said.

“Nothing…I was just thinking how happy I am to have found you.” I hated to admit it, but I was thinking the same thing.

“I’m glad you found me, too!” I shouted out above the merry—go—round’s melody.

A few minutes later, the park was starting to close; we headed to the parking lot. Lucien knew where he was going, so I followed. We ended up near a black Camaro with tinted windows.

“Sweet ride, is this your car?” I said — he had a car, too?  “I had a ‘98 Trans Am—took out my V6 and dropped in 350 and some kick-butt headers.”

“Really, you did that yourself?” Lucien said.

He gave me a smirk. “Absolutely, my grandmother had an auto mechanic shop. She worked it until the day she died. Better than some men. She could rip out an engine and put it back blindfolded. She was so cool.”

“You’re kidding me?”

“Nope—Lucille’s Nuts and Bolts, she taught me everything she knew.”

“How cool!”

“Is this a six or an eight?”

“426 horsepower V8.”

“Awesome!”

“You put an engine in?” Lucien laughed.

“Boy, that baby could fly—until I totaled it. I wrapped it around a telephone pole.”

“Was that when your brother died?”

“No—that was on the South Side,” I said. “I know what you’re thinking. I was a bit of a troubled child.” I gave Lucien a challenged smile.

“I wasn’t thinking that,” he said and smiled back.

“You never said what happened when your brother died. How did it happen?”

I nervously coughed, “Yeah…I was texting and driving. The police confiscated my cell and matched the time of the accident with the time I received my last text. I spent six months in juvenile detention for it. And I have the rest of my life to deal with the guilt and remorse, of killing my brother and my mom’s suicide.” I can’t believe I actually said it out loud. I wiped a stray tear from my cheek.

He shook his head. “I know, stupid, huh? Texting and driving.” I gritted my teeth. “Why stop there? I should have been drinking, too and maybe smoking crack as well.”

“Might as well have been,” Lucien said. He gave me a hint of a smile.

“Really a dumb move, I know.”

“Yeah—well you made a mistake; we all do. Shit happens.”

“Tell me about it. Why didn’t I just keep my phone off… I would have seen the deer and wouldn’t have been distracted.”

Lucien nodded and smiled, gently taking my hand in his again. “Come on. I’ll take you home.”

“I guess it has to be better than Lexy’s driving.”

Mild chagrin flashed across his face. “Wow—you sure know how to boost a guy’s ego, putting me in the same category as Lexy.”

“Considering I don’t have much of a choice,” I said. Lucien frowned and started laughing. “It was a setup. Can’t you tell?”

“Yeah.” I sighed. “I knew they were up to something.”

Lucien held open the passenger door and raised his brow.

“After you, my lady,” he said and cleared his throat. I just stood there, looking dumb. “Uh huh, that’s your signal to get in. Come on, trust me.”

My heart rate started to creep up. I felt for my rubber band and snapped the band against my wrist. Ouch, that was a little too hard. After I climbed in his car, he put the key in the ignition. The familiar throaty rumble and growl of a fast engine made me smile.

He continued to smile and stare.

“Why didn’t you tell me you and your family were in a band? I think it’s cool.”

Sheepishly, Lucien said, “I don’t know. I didn’t think it was a big deal. We’ve been playing together since we were kids. It’s amazing, though. I enjoy traveling the countryside.”

“You’re really creative. You’re a photographer you play guitar and sing, and you’re sort of good—looking.”

“Sort of, thanks,” he said.

Well.” I laughed.

“I’m not gay if that’s where you’re going.”

I laughed aloud as he suddenly took my hand and squeezed it tight. And I let him.

“Just because I haven’t tried anything on you and I’m a sort of a pretty boy who happens to be into the arts doesn’t mean I’m…” Lucien said in a feminine voice, “Gay.”

“Who said anything about being pretty?”

We both started to howl with laughter. He looked down at my hand and released it as if he just realized he took it.

“I had fun tonight.”

“Me, too.” I smiled.

“You’ll have to thank Lexy and Dakota for that,” he winked and pulled onto San Pedro Boulevard. The ride home, he held my hand. Not once did I have to snap my wrist with the rubber band.

I kept sneaking peeks at him while he drove, thinking he might see me and take the hint that I wanted him to talk, but before I knew it he had already made the last turn on my street. His skin looked different in the dark not like during the day maybe he really didn’t tan.

He turned the lights off before pulling into the driveway, parking the car, he turned to me and smiled. For a guy, he sure did that a lot, but I didn’t mind. Not expecting it, he reached over and touched a piece of hair that had fallen in my eyes, gently pushing it away.

“You weren’t scared, were you?” Lucien’s tone was somber.

Chagrin crossed my face. “No.” I paused and thought. “Maybe just for a second,” I said.

“Why would I be scared?  Should I be?” he pulled away much too quick. Sighing, he got out of the car and opened my door. “Well, I guess this is goodnight.”

He took my hand and squeezed it tight, frowning. “I have to go on a gig to Nevada tomorrow, so I won’t see you until Monday.”

“Really, Nevada?” I said.

“Yeah, it’s been booked since last fall.”

“Oh, that sounds like fun.” I was just beginning to enjoy having someone to hang with.

“Um…did Dakota mention the costume dance to you? I know it’s a month away, but before anyone has a chance to ask you, would you consider going with me?”

“Me and you?” I said.

He laughed at my reaction. “You’d hate to.” Apparently, he read my facial expression.

“It’s a dance, isn’t it?”

“Uh huh, is that a problem?”

“I can’t dance. . .” I’d probably trip and fall on my ass.

“I’ll teach you?” He held out his hands.

I gritted my teeth; it was like he read my mind.

“Right now?” I said, suddenly bashful.

“Let me show you.” he said edging me on.

“No —”

“Come on.” He took my hands and twirled me around. “See it’s easy?”

I let go of his hand, and I twirled around, like a ballerina. “You’re dancing!” He stood there watching smiling. He stopped and pulled me tight to his chest. “Sam.”

Still laughing, I said, “What?”

“Do you know how…beautiful you are Samantha Hunter?”

“Okay. . .” I laughed again.

He narrowed his brow and smiled. “You are,” he said. I was speechless. The porch light flicked on. “My dad,” I said. “His way of telling me to come in.”

He bent down and smacked me on the forehead with his lips.

“Good night, Sam,” Lucien said. He turned, hitting his keypad. The headlights on his Camaro came on, and the engine started.

I stood on the porch and watched him drive away. Who are you Lucien Foster?

When he was out of sight, I walked into the house. Dad was in his robe, sitting in front of the television and probably pretending not to listen.

“Where were you today?” he seemed mad.

Oh no. I forgot to tell him. “Lexy and Dakota kidnaped me and took me to the fair to see Lucien Foster’s band play. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I forgot.”

“You could have called,” he said not taking his eyes off the TV. “Foster? That name sounds familiar. There’s a Foster at the university. I wonder if they’re related.”

Nodding, “I have no idea,” I said. He got up, went to the fridge, and took down a note. “Emma called. She said she’d try again later.”

“She did? I have to call her back! Good night!” I ran up to my room. Slamming the door, I plopped on my bed and called her, telling her all about my night with Lucien. “He got me on the Ferris wheel, and he made me feel normal. He has these huge white diamonds for eyes, and his skin…I’m not quite sure yet…I think he tans…he’s amazingly…unusually…different if that makes any sense.”

“He sounds freaky-looking.”

“He does, doesn’t he? Hmm, maybe oddly attractive, like potato chips in ice cream. I can’t explain it. He’s not like anyone I’ve ever known.” I paused at my own words.

“You got it bad….”

“Don’t be ridiculous; we’re friends.”

“Do you like him?” Emma asked.

“No, it’s not like that he’s so…ahhh…his eyes are so… unusual.”

“Uh huh.” Emma snorted in my ear.

“Seriously no, I swear I’ve known him in a past life or something. I feel comfortable around him. We have chemistry.” I smiled to myself. “But every

Chapter Six           

Equinox

Before AP U.S history started, Dakota stopped me in the hall to tell me they were looking for volunteers for the Halloween dance? I wasn’t a bit interested in going to a dance. The thought actually made me want to throw—up. The bell rang before I had a chance to say no. Mr. White began to tell us we had to team up with another student to do a project. His explanation was boring, but Lucien made it interesting by cracking jokes now and then. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for me to get to know him a little more, but I couldn’t get up the nerve to ask him to be my partner. Thankfully, he asked me, and we decided to do our project on the Watergate Trials.

I wanted to talk to him during second period and ask if he had plans for the night. I never had a chance. “Remember to think about your projects,” Mr. White said over the sound of the bell.

Lucien sprang from his seat, almost toppling over his desk. I gathered my books in a hurry, hoping to talk to him to see if he was okay. Before I had a chance, he was already gone. What was he doing? School wasn’t over.

On an impulse, I walked towards the doors to follow him. Dakota and Lexy stopped me. They exchanged glances, apparently up to something. As Dakota sighed, Lexy grabbed my hand and dragged me with her. “Come with us.” She led me outside to her car.

“Aren’t we going to get in trouble?”

“There’s a pep rally in the gym. It’s not like we’re missing anything important.” Lexy nudged. Both were silent after that and kept walking. They seemed determined, and I was in no mood to argue.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Come on, get in.” Lexy opened the passenger side door.

I stopped, staring at her Hummer.

“Come on.” Dakota frowned.

“Samantha, let’s go,” they both said.

“I just started here. I can’t get suspended,” I said.

“Sam, we’re seniors, and class is technically over,” they said at the same time, looking at me like I was crazy.

“Come on. Get in.” Lexy said.

“Fine,” I said.

My legs froze. I could feel the panic wave over me like a dark cloud. Before I knew it, Dakota grabbed my arm and pulled me in. I looked down at my wrist and snapped the rubber band hard until it stung. “We have a surprise for you. You’ve got to see this.” Dakota’s eyes gleamed with enthusiasm.

Lexy took a cigarette from the glove compartment, lit it with a lighter, and blew a couple smoke rings. “I can’t believe we never mentioned this to you.” Did she have to smoke?

“What are you two talking about?” I braced myself as Lexy stepped on the gas.

“Trust me; you’re going to love it.” She glanced back at me, puffs of smoke rings floating from her mouth.

“Who taught you how to drive?”

“Myself.” It figured.

I raised my eyes just enough to recognize my surroundings. I could tell we were heading towards Cottonwood Mall.

Lexy made a left onto a winding road that led past Paso del Norte. Apparently ignoring me, she turned up the volume on the radio while she sang along to a heavy metal song and drove faster. I had a feeling they were talking about what was going on, but I had no idea what they were saying with the radio blaring. I yelled over the music, “Hey! Guys tell me where we’re going.”

Dakota only smiled. “You’ll see.” Lexy pretended not to hear me, jerks.

I looked out the window, scanning the area for some kind of clue. The only hint I received was an Interstate sign that told me we were near where Dad worked. After a few more miles of driving, it finally clicked. We were pulling up to the Expo Center where the state fair was. As soon as Lexy parked among the other cars, vans, and trailers, she and Dakota got out of the Hummer and walked towards the sea of tents and carnival rides.

Assuming they weren’t going to wait for me, I leaped out of the vehicle and chased after them. I rolled my eyes, “Guys… why didn’t you tell me you were taking me here? What’s with the big secret?” They just looked at each other and laughed. “Come on.” I tried to keep pace with them. “You hijacked me after class and refuse to tell me what’s going on. This isn’t fair.” I clenched me teeth.

We headed for a dome stage, and I heard electric guitars and singing in the distance. It was a male’s voice singing. As we got closer, the music got louder. Lexy and Dakota disappeared behind a tent flap, entering the dome. I didn’t want to get separated from them, so I followed. Then I saw him.

Lucien?” Spellbound, I stopped short in my tracks. He was on stage, playing the electric guitar and singing into a microphone. I stood transfixed. He sang in a band. Amazing his voice was mesmerizing. I must have looked like a little kid who got a glimpse of Santa Claus because I froze in my steps, just staring.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lexy and Dakota dancing in place. They were right—Lucien really was a celebrity of sorts.

His eyes closed for a moment. His voice made me shiver with an eerie delight. When he opened his eyes, they took hold of mine and bore a hole into me. I smiled. He winked. I took hold of my stomach. I turned to where Lexy and Dakota had been standing, but they were gone. I scanned the crowd for them, but purple and red spotlights caught my eyes. I turned my attention to the stage. Lucien began to strum his guitar as another guitarist next to him mimicked the tune. He stopped plucking and took the microphone.

I watched him as he sang, his eyes piercing mine. After the music had ended, the audience roared. When the cheers and clapping died down, I looked at the other members of the band. They seemed so familiar and so alike. Lucien put his guitar down and the microphone back on the stand, keeping his eyes on me the entire time. As if to break my trance, my cell phone beeped. It was a text from Dakota, “Surprise!” I didn’t know if I was happy or mad.

I closed my phone and shoved it back into my pocket. Grunting from being had, I shoved my way through the crowd to the stage. He jumped from the platform. A broad smile stretched across his face as I reached him, his white teeth lighting up the darkened arena, “Hey, you. How did you know I had a gig here?”  People were struggling to exit, and before I knew it a crowd of kids running past pushed me right into Lucien’s arms. For a brief second, I thought our lips would crash together, and I felt myself flush. Caught off guard, my body tensed as soon as we touched; no painful static, just a tingle this time. I tried to pull away, but he held me tight, brushing his lips against my hair.

A few seconds later, I saw the rest of the band coming towards us. I quickly pushed him away from me.

“I wanted to talk to you after class, but you took off before I had a chance,” I said.

“Sorry.” He talked over the crowd. “I was running late.”

“Hey, bro who’s your groupie?” one of the members said as he hit Lucien on the back.

“This is Samantha Hunter. Sam, this is my brother, Gabriel.”

“Hi.” I tucked my hair behind my ear.

Gabriel turned to another guy who had longer hair than all the rest. “This is Michael, my backup on bass.” He pointed to his left. “This is Daniel. He plays the drums.”

After seeing Daniel only nod, Gabriel said, “He’s a little shy. Hey, Cassiel! Come over here!” He motioned to someone still on stage. Raising his gray eyes to meet mine, the last of Lucien’s brothers waved. Gabriel whispered, “Cassiel is the black sheep of the family. And this lovely thing is Eden, our sister.” He put his arm around a beautiful, fair—faced girl with long, black hair.

I looked from one to the other, noting each of his siblings looked like clones of each other, so similar and around the same age. After chatting about their band, Equinox, for a few minutes, Gabriel nudged Lucien’s shoulder. “We’re heading home now. You coming?”

Lucien looked at me, then looked at his brother Michael. “I think I’m going to hang out here for a while,” he said.

“Do you think you can stay out of trouble?” Michael’s voice held brotherly concern.

I looked at him with pleading eyes, hoping it would somehow convince him not to stay, but he didn’t take notice.

His attention was fixated on the entrance to the pavilion; he began to walk in that direction. When Gabriel and Michael discerned what Lucien was staring at, both grabbed him simultaneously, not allowing him to move further. I followed their gaze, not knowing what to expect. All I saw was a man dressed in dark black clothing.

I took my eyes off him for a second, looking at the three brothers, each with tense eyes. When I glanced back to the unknown man, he was gone.

“Do you know him?” I asked.

“No, he’s no one,” Lucien answered. By the look on their faces, I think otherwise.

Gabriel and Michael signaled to each other, taking Lucien to the stage with Cassiel and Daniel to pack up the rest of the gear. Noticing my discomfort, Eden lightly touched my arm. “They’re okay. They just get upset about the littlest things. It was probably a talent scout, and they probably wished they played better tonight.” Eden spoke with the same elegance as Lucien.

“Are you guys from Europe? I noticed it before with Lucien, but after listening to all of you together, I’m pretty sure you guys have an accent.”

She had a slight smirk on her face. “We do? That’s odd.”

“Well, how could you notice? You’re around each other all the time.”

“We’ve always lived in New Mexico. I don’t know how we could have an accent.” Eden’s voice drifted off for a moment. “You’re from Kecksburg?”

“Pittsburgh.”

She gave me what looked almost like a fake smile.

“Lucien has told us a lot about you.”

“He has? I guess he told you how we met.” I felt self-conscious.

“Yes, he did.”

“I knocked over a row of books in the bookstore?” I smiled.

“Lucien mentioned you two keep running into each other.

“Oh…Yeah.”

How do you like Trinity?”

“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. How long have you guys been singing? You’re good.”

“Forever, it seems.”

I was intrigued. “Do you travel much? I mean, it seems like you have lots of fans.”

“Enough, I suppose.” Eden sighed. “We used to play a lot of gigs, but it’s gotten to be too much since we’re getting ready for college. My uncle teaches us at home, but Lucien hates it.”

Eden smiled but didn’t say anything else. We waited for the guys to finish packing. When they were finally done, we said our goodbyes. Not surprising, Lucien stayed with me.

The autumn air was brisk but still warm. Cicadas were singing among the carnival games. Lucien wanted to show off at the shooting range, and, of course, I let him. As we continued to stroll, we couldn’t stop laughing and joking around. It was nice just being normal for a change and enjoying each other’s company. The day turned to night, and the fairgrounds came alive with lights and attractions reminding me of my past, when Mom, Dad, Finn, and I would go to Kennywood Park’s annual fall festival. A frown crept onto my face. Those days were gone forever.

Perceiving my sadness, he tried to distract me.

“Did you smoke today,” he asked.

“No, I didn’t thank you,” I said wishing I had.

“You sure?” he said with narrow eyes. “You smell like cigarette smoke.”

“Lexy was smoking in her car, not me,” I said.

“I’m proud of you,” he said smiling. “Would you like to ride the Ferris wheel with me?”

“No. I hate heights.”

“Come on. It’ll be fun.” He took my hands, strolling to the foot of the Ferris wheel’s twinkling rainbow of colors.

“You’ll be safe. I won’t let anything happen to you.” He lowered his face and raised his brow. His luminous eyes drew me in, comforting…soothing…like a warm blanket.

I looked at the Ferris wheel. Then my gaze went back to Lucien’s face. “I’d rather not,” I said.

“Trust me, Sam. Take a deep breath…hold back the fear.” He took both my hands, coddling me like a small child. Mesmerized, he led me towards the Ferris wheel line. I couldn’t take my eyes off his lips. His words rolled off his tongue like they were dipped in creamy caramel, sweet and smooth.

My feet froze. I used to love to ride the Ferris wheel and carnival rides.

“No. I can’t, I don’t want to.” My voice came out like a small, cracked whimper.

“It’s ok. I promise,” he said as if he read my mind. We strode to the line and waited. As the line got shorter, my heart beat faster in my chest, I could feel my forehead bead with sweat.

“Please, let’s get ice cream instead.”

“Can’t; lactose intolerant. Ice cream isn’t going to be as fun as this.” He chuckled.

“O—Okay really—Lactose intolerant,” I said.

I hesitated right before our seat lifted into the air. I hung onto him for dear life. He smiled as I held his hand, digging my nails into his flesh. I didn’t even notice the static that came from his touch. He grimaced, blowing out air and making a small noise from his mouth like a sick cat.

Once we were sitting high at the top, he draped his arm over my shoulders, making my heart skip a beat. It wasn’t from the ride. It was the surreal feeling of being so near to him. It was like I was sitting next to him for the first time. As he leaned closer, he wrapped his arm tight around me, nuzzling his nose against the back of my ear. Goosebumps exploded down my back.

“See, you’re okay.” He spoke in a husky, low voice.

“I don’t understand. I’m not scared anymore.” Just then, I got enough nerve to look down, but I couldn’t because Lucien was blocking my view. He was so close, I could hear his heart beat against mine. Moving back, he brushed his lips on my cheek. The funny thing was, I wanted him to. While he raised my chin, my lips parted, and I slowly closed my eyes. It was like our lips were magnets and the force between them wanted to close together. Flooded with a hundred different emotions, I leaned in towards him, closing the distance between our lips. Just when I thought, we were about to kiss, the ride stopped, what just happened?

I had a hard time keeping my balance after we got off the ride, but I wasn’t sure if it was from the ride or being so close to him.

“Are you all right?” he asked with a concerned look.

“I’m fine.” I shook off my wooziness.

“You’re more than fine. You did it. You rode the Ferris wheel!”

“I know! I did, didn’t I thanks to you.”

“I had nothing to do with it.”

“Yes, you did!”

He took my hand in his, looking at me with an incredible smile that caused all my nervous jitters to disappear. Together, we walked the length of the fair, taking in all of the bright colored lights and interesting people. I hadn’t had this much fun in such a long, long time.

When I saw the merry—go—round, I broke free from him and ran toward the line. It was my favorite ride of all time. After waiting, I jumped on the first white horse I could find while he hurried trying to find an empty one near mine. As we went around in circles, I became giddy.

Lucien gazed at me, making me want to smile back.

“What…?” I said.

“Nothing…I was just thinking how happy I am to have found you.” I hated to admit it, but I was thinking the same thing.

“I’m glad you found me, too!” I shouted out above the merry—go—round’s melody.

A few minutes later, the park was starting to close; we headed to the parking lot. Lucien knew where he was going, so I followed. We ended up near a black Camaro with tinted windows.

“Sweet ride, is this your car?” I said — he had a car, too?  “I had a ‘98 Trans Am—took out my V6 and dropped in 350 and some kick-butt headers.”

“Really, you did that yourself?” Lucien said.

He gave me a smirk. “Absolutely, my grandmother had an auto mechanic shop. She worked it until the day she died. Better than some men. She could rip out an engine and put it back blindfolded. She was so cool.”

“You’re kidding me?”

“Nope—Lucille’s Nuts and Bolts, she taught me everything she knew.”

“How cool!”

“Is this a six or an eight?”

“426 horsepower V8.”

“Awesome!”

“You put an engine in?” Lucien laughed.

“Boy, that baby could fly—until I totaled it. I wrapped it around a telephone pole.”

“Was that when your brother died?”

“No—that was on the South Side,” I said. “I know what you’re thinking. I was a bit of a troubled child.” I gave Lucien a challenged smile.

“I wasn’t thinking that,” he said and smiled back.

“You never said what happened when your brother died. How did it happen?”

I nervously coughed, “Yeah…I was texting and driving. The police confiscated my cell and matched the time of the accident with the time I received my last text. I spent six months in juvenile detention for it. And I have the rest of my life to deal with the guilt and remorse, of killing my brother and my mom’s suicide.” I can’t believe I actually said it out loud. I wiped a stray tear from my cheek.

He shook his head. “I know, stupid, huh? Texting and driving.” I gritted my teeth. “Why stop there? I should have been drinking, too and maybe smoking crack as well.”

“Might as well have been,” Lucien said. He gave me a hint of a smile.

“Really a dumb move, I know.”

“Yeah—well you made a mistake; we all do. Shit happens.”

“Tell me about it. Why didn’t I just keep my phone off… I would have seen the deer and wouldn’t have been distracted.”

Lucien nodded and smiled, gently taking my hand in his again. “Come on. I’ll take you home.”

“I guess it has to be better than Lexy’s driving.”

Mild chagrin flashed across his face. “Wow—you sure know how to boost a guy’s ego, putting me in the same category as Lexy.”

“Considering I don’t have much of a choice,” I said. Lucien frowned and started laughing. “It was a setup. Can’t you tell?”

“Yeah.” I sighed. “I knew they were up to something.”

Lucien held open the passenger door and raised his brow.

“After you, my lady,” he said and cleared his throat. I just stood there, looking dumb. “Uh huh, that’s your signal to get in. Come on, trust me.”

My heart rate started to creep up. I felt for my rubber band and snapped the band against my wrist. Ouch, that was a little too hard. After I climbed in his car, he put the key in the ignition. The familiar throaty rumble and growl of a fast engine made me smile.

He continued to smile and stare.

“Why didn’t you tell me you and your family were in a band? I think it’s cool.”

Sheepishly, Lucien said, “I don’t know. I didn’t think it was a big deal. We’ve been playing together since we were kids. It’s amazing, though. I enjoy traveling the countryside.”

“You’re really creative. You’re a photographer you play guitar and sing, and you’re sort of good—looking.”

“Sort of, thanks,” he said.

Well.” I laughed.

“I’m not gay if that’s where you’re going.”

I laughed aloud as he suddenly took my hand and squeezed it tight. And I let him.

“Just because I haven’t tried anything on you and I’m a sort of a pretty boy who happens to be into the arts doesn’t mean I’m…” Lucien said in a feminine voice, “Gay.”

“Who said anything about being pretty?”

We both started to howl with laughter. He looked down at my hand and released it as if he just realized he took it.

“I had fun tonight.”

“Me, too.” I smiled.

“You’ll have to thank Lexy and Dakota for that,” he winked and pulled onto San Pedro Boulevard. The ride home, he held my hand. Not once did I have to snap my wrist with the rubber band.

I kept sneaking peeks at him while he drove, thinking he might see me and take the hint that I wanted him to talk, but before I knew it he had already made the last turn on my street. His skin looked different in the dark not like during the day maybe he really didn’t tan.

He turned the lights off before pulling into the driveway, parking the car, he turned to me and smiled. For a guy, he sure did that a lot, but I didn’t mind. Not expecting it, he reached over and touched a piece of hair that had fallen in my eyes, gently pushing it away.

“You weren’t scared, were you?” Lucien’s tone was somber.

Chagrin crossed my face. “No.” I paused and thought. “Maybe just for a second,” I said.

“Why would I be scared?  Should I be?” he pulled away much too quick. Sighing, he got out of the car and opened my door. “Well, I guess this is goodnight.”

He took my hand and squeezed it tight, frowning. “I have to go on a gig to Nevada tomorrow, so I won’t see you until Monday.”

“Really, Nevada?” I said.

“Yeah, it’s been booked since last fall.”

“Oh, that sounds like fun.” I was just beginning to enjoy having someone to hang with.

“Um…did Dakota mention the costume dance to you? I know it’s a month away, but before anyone has a chance to ask you, would you consider going with me?”

“Me and you?” I said.

He laughed at my reaction. “You’d hate to.” Apparently, he read my facial expression.

“It’s a dance, isn’t it?”

“Uh huh, is that a problem?”

“I can’t dance. . .” I’d probably trip and fall on my ass.

“I’ll teach you?” He held out his hands.

I gritted my teeth; it was like he read my mind.

“Right now?” I said, suddenly bashful.

“Let me show you.” he said edging me on.

“No —”

“Come on.” He took my hands and twirled me around. “See it’s easy?”

I let go of his hand, and I twirled around, like a ballerina. “You’re dancing!” He stood there watching smiling. He stopped and pulled me tight to his chest. “Sam.”

Still laughing, I said, “What?”

“Do you know how…beautiful you are Samantha Hunter?”

“Okay. . .” I laughed again.

He narrowed his brow and smiled. “You are,” he said. I was speechless. The porch light flicked on. “My dad,” I said. “His way of telling me to come in.”

He bent down and smacked me on the forehead with his lips.

“Good night, Sam,” Lucien said. He turned, hitting his keypad. The headlights on his Camaro came on, and the engine started.

I stood on the porch and watched him drive away. Who are you Lucien Foster?

When he was out of sight, I walked into the house. Dad was in his robe, sitting in front of the television and probably pretending not to listen.

“Where were you today?” he seemed mad.

Oh no. I forgot to tell him. “Lexy and Dakota kidnaped me and took me to the fair to see Lucien Foster’s band play. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I forgot.”

“You could have called,” he said not taking his eyes off the TV. “Foster? That name sounds familiar. There’s a Foster at the university. I wonder if they’re related.”

Nodding, “I have no idea,” I said. He got up, went to the fridge, and took down a note. “Emma called. She said she’d try again later.”

“She did? I have to call her back! Good night!” I ran up to my room. Slamming the door, I plopped on my bed and called her, telling her all about my night with Lucien. “He got me on the Ferris wheel, and he made me feel normal. He has these huge white diamonds for eyes, and his skin…I’m not quite sure yet…I think he tans…he’s amazingly…unusually…different if that makes any sense.”

“He sounds freaky-looking.”

“He does, doesn’t he? Hmm, maybe oddly attractive, like potato chips in ice cream. I can’t explain it. He’s not like anyone I’ve ever known.” I paused at my own words.

“You got it bad….”

“Don’t be ridiculous; we’re friends.”

“Do you like him?” Emma asked.

“No, it’s not like that he’s so…ahhh…his eyes are so… unusual.”

“Uh huh.” Emma snorted in my ear.

“Seriously no, I swear I’ve known him in a past life or something. I feel comfortable around him. We have chemistry.” I smiled to myself. “But every time we touch I swear I get shocked!”

“That sounds like electricity to me,” Emma said and laughed.

“Sort of I guess, but it hurts.”

Emma and I talked for hours, and when I finally fell asleep, my phone was still in my hand.

time we touch I swear I get shocked!”

“That sounds like electricity to me,” Emma said and laughed.

“Sort of I guess, but it hurts.”

Emma and I talked for hours, and when I finally fell asleep, my phone was still in my hand.

Chapter Five

Chapter Five

The Intervention of Sorts

When the last bell finally rang, I hurried out of school and down the hill. I couldn’t wait to get home. I made my way to the electric garage keypad, passing the Mustang once again. “Dad, you’re such an idiot.” I entered the code and traipsed into the house. Too lazy to take my backpack and purse upstairs, I dropped them on the floor and made my way to the refrigerator. As I was about to open the door, I saw a note from Dad.

Sammy,

There’s a twenty on the dining room table for you to order a pizza. I have a faculty meeting tonight and won’t be home in time for dinner. Sorry, honey.

If you go out, please be careful. I’ll try not to be too late.

Love, Dad

I crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash, so typical. I opened the fridge, grabbed a can of Dr. Pepper, and went up to my room. I turned on my laptop, desperate to e—mail Emma. As soon as I signed in, I sent her a quick message about Lucien. She had better write back.

I turned my cell phone on and scrolled through the contacts. I went right to the L’s, but His number wasn’t there. I laughed to myself. Luck was on my side, after all. I checked my inbox, thinking he might have somehow put it there, but I found nothing. I tossed the phone on my bed. Then all at once I got a strange twinge. I brushed it aside. I couldn’t think of what to do to occupy my time, but my eyes suddenly took in an open box on the floor. It had ‘Summer Clothes’ on it, so I started rummaging through it. With my favorite black bikini in hand, I ran to the bathroom and changed, grabbing a towel.

As I swam, my mind wandered to the day’s events. Satisfied with my laps, I went to grab my towel from the chair where I left it, but it wasn’t there. The cold breeze made me shiver.

“Looking for this?” Someone behind me said in a muffled voice.

“Lucien? OH—my—God!”

“I wasn’t expecting such a reaction,” he said with a smirk.

I still didn’t face him. “How did you know where I live?”

Too embarrassed to move, I felt exposed and couldn’t do anything about it. As if he knew what I was thinking, I felt the towel wrap around me. Lucien’s warm hand remained on my back for an instant. His touch gave me a jolt, but this time it wasn’t a bad sensation. I couldn’t tell if it was his touch or the wind that was making me shiver.

“Lucien you shouldn’t be here,” I said in a small voice.

“Shouldn’t I?” His voice sounded different. It was slow and surreal.

I asked again, “How do you know where I live?”

He was silent for a second. “I was in the office waiting for Mrs. Fix to give me a new lock for my locker. I noticed your file lying on her desk, so I looked.”

“How’d you get in?”

“I climbed the fence.”

I turned around quick, no longer caring that he could see most of my body. “You did what? What gave you the right to look in my file? I thought you weren’t stalking me.” Lucien was holding a copy of the book I needed for English Lit.

“It was wide open on her desk. It’s not like I went looking for it.”

“Right.”

“Come on. I’m not stalking you. I swear! I just want to be friends. I thought you might need this,” he said, handing me the book.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray,” I said.

“You mentioned that you were looking for it at the bookstore the other day. My brother needed to read it last year. I thought I’d save you the money. Do you want it?”

I took the book. “Yes, I do. Thanks.” It suddenly dawned on me he was tanned. “Wow, you tan?” I almost laughed.

“No….I don’t.”

“Yes, you do. At the mall, you were as white as cake flour.” I held my hand to my mouth, trying to stifle a laugh.

“I have a skin condition.” He pushed his sunglasses back on his nose. His smile faded.

“Oh my God, you’re a liar, too. You know, Lucien, you had no right looking in my file!” I yelled. “It’s an invasion of privacy.” I stomped to the sliding door, opened it, and slammed it behind me. I set the book on the counter.

I heard a knock on the glass. Sighing, I swiveled to face the door. Lucien’s nose was pressed against the glass, his sunglasses up over his hair. I couldn’t help smiling at the sight. I let him inside. “You can’t just show up and expect me to be thrilled.” I could feel my bathing suit strap falling to reveal my exposed shoulder. His eyes followed. My face flushed.

“Ok, my bad. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to see you.” Lucien came closer.

“Why?” I said. “You don’t even know me.”

“Does there have to be a reason?” You’re so weird. Lexy was right.

I backed up. “I’m going to change,” I said.

I almost ran up the stairs to get dressed. When I reached my room, I whipped the towel from my body and looked for the clothes I wore to school. I coated my lips in clear, lip gloss, and pulled my damp hair into a ponytail. I trotted downstairs. As I was about to make my way to the kitchen, I heard the stereo playing and saw Lucien sitting on the couch in the living room, holding a picture of my mom. I stood in the foyer for a second and observed him examining the picture. He looked sad, as though he were looking for someone he knew. I walked over to the couch and sat next to him.

“That’s my mom.”

“She was beautiful,” he said studying the picture. “You take after her…” His eyes met mine. He must have felt my chagrin. “I’m sorry. Did I upset you?” his voice faded. He looked at me and placed the photo back on the coffee table.

“It’s okay.” I smiled and cleared my throat. “You know, I’m sorry I flipped out on you at the mall. I can be a real bitch.”

“I won’t argue with that.” His eyes twinkled.

“You did freak me out,” I said.

“Okay…you have a point.”

“Truce?”

“Truce…” He smiled. A moment of silence passed.

“I noticed you had a camera with you at the mall. You’re into photography,” I said.

“Is that your laptop?” Lucien pointed to the dining room table.

“Yep,” I said.

“I got a few pictures published on ‘The Natural Geographic’ web page. I’ll show you.”

“Sure?” I got my computer and settled back down next to Lucien.

Lucien typed his information, bringing up photos on the screen. They were magnificent pictures of sunrises, sunsets, seascapes, the Sandia Mountains, and the Laurel Highlands and Falling Water!

“I thought you’ve never been to Pittsburgh?”

“Laurel Highlands, Kecksburg, yes, but not Pittsburgh.”

Lucien…so you’ve been to Pennsylvania before?” He ignored my question.

“The east side of the Sandia Mountains is incredible, especially at sunset, the way the sun kisses the mountains.” His eyes seemed to glow when he spoke. “It’s there I feel the closest to…”

“God,” I said in a quiet whisper. My eyes wandered to the photo of Mom and Finn. “I don’t believe in God.”

“Really? I never met a human being that didn’t believe.”

“How can there be a God when so many messed up things happen to people?”

“Humans have a tendency to blame God for bad things that happen in life,” Lucien said. “I’m sorry. I did it again. It must have been hard for you, especially losing both, of them,” he said. His words were true.

Both,” I said. “How did you know my twin brother died, too?”

He shook his head. “I read it in your file.”

“Does it say in my file it was my fault?”

“Your fault, no…it doesn’t say anything like that.” His eyes grew somber.

“I might as well killed them both,” I said with a sorrowful grimace. An awkward moment passed.

“Are you going to beat yourself up forever?”

“Maybe I am if it’s any business of yours.”

“Do you really think taking those pills is going to make it all go away,” he said in a whisper kissed voice.

“Wow…how dare you judge me,” I said clenching my teeth.

“I’m not judging,” he said looking back at the photo of my mom.

“Whatever,” I said wishing he would leave and wishing I was dead.

“You wish you would have died too don’t you?”

I didn’t answer, looking at the photo.

“You do don’t you?” Lucien said in a soft, eerie tone, almost as if he could read my thoughts.

I looked him straight in the eyes, “every day,” I said.

“I’m sorry… you carry such darkness in your heart.”

“Wow, such profound words for someone in high school.”

“I have an old soul.” He stood, and looked at the photo of Mom and Finn. “I can’t imagine how you feel, but I can empathize with you. I never got to know my parents. They died when I was only a few days old. I have siblings, but it’ll never replace knowing who my parents were.” I noticed his gemstone necklace almost glowing. “What kind of stone is that you’re wearing?” he took the stone hanging around his neck and held it tight in his palm. “This is the only thing I have that belonged to my parents. It’s a rare crystal.”

I suddenly felt heartbroken for him. At least I’d spent many years with my mom.

Before he spoke, he sighed. “I always felt something was missing from my life, not knowing my parents.” He had a faraway, glazed—over look as if he were talking to himself, rather than me. Lucien stood up and walked to the sliding door and walked outside.

I followed, suddenly wanting to know everything about him. He didn’t say a word for several minutes. He looked up at the evening sky, where the stars had just begun to peek through. It seemed as if he were searching for something.

“There’s a reason for everything that happens to us on this earth,” he said. “You’re here for a reason. Someday, it will make sense to you why you didn’t die in the accident with your brother. And why my parents dying and leaving me and my brothers and sister will make sense, too. You have to believe things happen for a reason.”

He cleared his throat and held out his hand. “You don’t need those pills anymore,” he said. I wished he didn’t say that. I was just starting to like him.

“What makes you think I don’t?” I said in a condescending tone. “Who the hell are you? You don’t know me.”

“Give them to me,” he said. His eyes locked with mine not giving in to my brass attitude.

I looked at his empty hand a moment. I don’t know why I did it, but I did.  I went inside and got my pills and put them in his hand. I clenched my jowl as I watched him close his palm. “Do you have any rubber bands,” he said. Curious I went inside and looked in the junk drawer in the kitchen and pulled out a couple and handed it to him. “Come here,” he said. “Give me your hand.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Just do it.” I paused not sure what he was up to. I held out my wrist while he slipped the rubber bands around my wrist. “I read in Reader Digest once if you snapped a rubber band against your wrist, when you feel a panic attack coming on it will stop it,” Lucien said and smiled. I looked at my wrist. “Now hand over the smokes,’ he said.

“Yeah right.” I pulled my arm away from him.

“I’m not budging until you give them to me.”

“You’re serious?” I said.

“Never been more.”

Why do you care?”

“Because your breath smells,” he said with a grimace and followed me into the kitchen.

I laughed and went through my purse and handed him my cigarettes. He walked over to the utensils hanging on the wall and took down a pair of scissors and cut the pack in two. He gave me a crooked smile and handed me back my Virginia Slims. I sighed looking at my broken smokes.

“Good—bye Sam,” he said and left out the door. I looked down at my wrist and snapped the rubber band. “Ouch!”

Sleep didn’t come easy that night. As soon as I dozed off, my blinds hit the window. My heart jumped. Great, I left the window open. I walked over and pulled up the blinds. The moon was almost full, lighting up the street below. For a second, I thought something moved in the darkness, but I shook the feeling, closed the window, and went back to bed.

In the middle of the night, I felt an eerie presence, just as I had after the accident. Closing my eyes, I hoped the feeling would pass, but it didn’t… Finn leave me alone. It’s just your imagination, Sam…. I yanked the covers up to my chin and fell back to sleep.

Mom!” I sat up, sweat soaking through my clothes. I looked at the clock on my nightstand. It was three o’clock in the morning. I got out of bed and dragged myself to the bathroom. What was I thinking giving Lucien my pills?

I rinsed my hands under cold water and splashed my face. I looked in the mirror, staring at my image. I took the hand towel off the rack and patted my face dry. I turned off the lights and crawled back into bed. I snapped the rubber band and closed my eyes.

The sound of rain hitting my windowpane woke me. I wasn’t ready for my second day of school. I put extra effort into my attire, deciding to wear a pink V—neck and my favorite jeans with holes in them. The ones mom hated so much. I was running late, so I rushed out of the house a bottle of water in one hand and a Pop—Tart between my teeth. Of course, Dad was already gone. I took an umbrella from the closet and stepped outside. The rain had subsided, so I put it back. I made my way to the driveway, pausing to admire the Mustang and shrugging my shoulders. I began my walk to school. Only a block from my house, I heard the bass of car speakers behind me. I turned to see Lexy behind the wheel of her huge Hummer. She had such a small frame. It looked comical. “Hey, Pittsburgh…. Yeah you, new girl. Climb aboard.”

I frowned, trying to think of a way to get out of this one. “No, go ahead. The longer it takes me to get to school, the better.” I smiled.

“Whatever.” She turned up the volume and sped away. I rushed to the entrance of the school before the buses pulled up and searched for Lexy’s Hummer. Instead, I heard a faint rumble, and I turned to see a black motorcycle. The sound caught me off guard until I recognized who was beneath the helmet: it was Lucien.

“Hey, Sam, how did you sleep?” He looked at me and smiled. “You sure look pretty in pink.” He winked.

I couldn’t help but blush. “Okay.” I wanted to kick myself for giving in to him and letting him take my pills.

I looked at his milky complexion, transparent. Yesterday he was tan, today he’s not; how strange. I watched the way he looked at me with his snowy diamond eyes like he was looking right through me.

I turned to walk away.

“Hey, hold up, let me walk with you.” Lucien lifted his muscular leg over the bike.

Lexy, Ralf, and Dakota started to stride towards us. A Frisbee that someone threw found its ways into our path, and Ralf went for it; me in its way.

“Ass,” Lexy yelled.

I lost my balance and was on my way to the ground when Lucien caught me just in time. As our eyes locked, my heart fluttered and felt like it stopped for a second. Lucien seemed to have sensed it, and suddenly his electricity zapped it back into rhythm. An incredible feeling swept over me, and every sense heightened. It was as if someone turned up the temperature.

Lexy and Dakota watched, and I knew they were going to question my expression as soon as Lucien left. When he let go, he turned and said he’d see me during second period.

With eyes, wide, Lexy and Dakota rushed to my side, staying in stride with me as we walked towards the school.

“What was up with that? I thought you guys just met?” Dakota questioned.

“We did just meet.” I tried to ignore their comments, “at the mall.”

“The way he looked at you, you’d think you guys are long lost lovers or something.” Lexy stared off into the distance. “He’s not normal,” Lexy said.

“Lexy, you’re cruel,” Dakota said, hiding a laugh.

“Well, he’s not!” Lexy said.

I rolled my eyes and walked ahead.

Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Harris S. Truman

The thought of beginning all over at a new school made me want to pull my hair out. I hardly slept. When I did sleep, I had those “lost in the hallways” nightmares where you wake up in a sweat. During one of the night terrors, I dialed Emma. It was just my luck that I got her voice mail. I left a message for her to call me. As usual, on the first day of school I woke up early. Even though I picked out an outfit the night before, I tried on six others before deciding on boot—cut jeans and a powder—blue hooded sweatshirt with short sleeves. This took fifteen minutes longer than planned, and I rushed to make it to school on time. Dad was at the front door, holding it open. He handed me a Pop—Tart.

“Thank you.” I stuffed the pastry in my mouth.

“Good luck!” he yelled as I ran down the sidewalk.

“Whatever,” I said under my breath. I’d rather be hit by a train than go to a private school.

I waved giving him a fake smile in response, pausing at the white Mustang before walking to school. The old spirit tugged at me as I passed. I took a minute to calm myself before I turned the corner.

I walked down the street, looking at the row of houses. A gold Hummer passed me. The girl driving it was a dead ringer for Emma. Harry S. Truman High School was less than a mile away, so it was no big deal to walk.

I had no trouble finding the building. It was a straight shot on Milky Way Road. I wished I hadn’t worn boots with such high heels. As the brown brick structure came into view, it looked more like a prison.

I glanced at my jeans and at the holes near the knees. Taking some deep breaths, somehow I managed to stumble. I muttered, “I definitely shouldn’t have worn these boots.” I scrolled through the inbox on my cell phone, hoping for a message from Emma or Jake. No such luck. I turned it off, put it back in my pocket, and concentrated on not falling. Other students passed by, some knocking into me. They stared at me, and I looked at the ground to avoid their eyes.

Butterflies in my stomach, I straightened my shoulders and popped one of my happy pills in my mouth and swallowed hard. I walked along the cement pathway leading to the entrance and opened the door. Unsure of where to go, I looked around until I saw a sign pointing to the office. As I entered, a woman with short blonde hair and glasses smiled at me. “Hello, young lady. What can I do for you today?”

“Hi, I’m Sam Hunter. I’m a transfer student from Pittsburgh.”

“Samantha Hunter, yes, yes. I have your folder right here on my desk. You like to be called Sam? Then Sam it is. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Mrs. Fix. Principal Inglese isn’t here right now, but he’ll be back shortly. Have a seat.” She motioned towards the chairs against the wall. Not sure what to do, I sat in the chair closest to the door. My eyes fixed on the clock above Mrs. Fix. Each tick of the second hand made me more nervous than the last. I tried making the time go faster by scanning the office.

The bell for the start of the first period rang, and I jerked. The halls filled with students. At least I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know where she was going. Everyone looked a little confused.

While I was taking all this in, the office door flung open and a tall, middle—aged man walked inside. He already knew my name. “Good morning, Miss Hunter. Welcome to Harry S. Truman,” Mr. Inglese said. “Sorry for the long wait. The First day of school, and already a couple of seniors are pulling rank on a freshman. Let’s go in my office. I can give you a quick rundown of our school.” He gestured for me to follow him.

I followed him down the hall, turning at the first door on the left. He settled in the leather chair behind his desk. I sat across from him. “Let’s see…,” Mr. Inglese said, looking through the stack of papers on his desk. “Here we go.” He handed me my schedule, pointing out who my teachers were. I patiently listened to all the rules in the high school handbook. “You have AP U.S. History during second period.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “It’s just about that time. Let me show you where that is.”

We left his office when the bell rang and used a side door to enter the hall. It only took a minute to reach the room. When he let me walk in by myself, I was grateful. I didn’t want any extra attention.

I chose to sit in the back. One by one, kids filled the classroom. With no one to talk to, I looked at the board. “Mr. White” was scrawled across it. I caught sight of a man sitting behind the large desk at the front. With his scraggly hair and unkempt beard, he had the appearance of a Woodstock wannabe. I assumed he was the teacher. I couldn’t believe that I had worried about the holes in my jeans.

I looked over my schedule as students continued to file in. I tried to make myself inconspicuous by slouching. After memorizing the order of my classes, I looked up. Some girls were staring at me and snickering. Too intimidated to say anything, I looked away.

A group of guys waltzed in just as the late bell rang. My heart leaped in my chest. Unbelievable…it’s him. I had nowhere to hide, so I slumped down further in my chair and held a notebook in front of my face. It was no use. He recognized me and headed straight for my desk.

“Samantha Hunter, is that you?” he said in a vociferous voice. Are you kidding me? The girls who had gawked at me turned in our direction. “I never thought I’d see you again so soon.” A roguish smile lit up his face. Of all the schools in New Mexico, he goes here. Creepy his face looks almost plastic like it’s not real. He freaks me out. It sure doesn’t bother those girls though.

“Lucien…. You go to school here?” I asked my words almost stuttering for some reason. My heart fluttered as he came closer. “You have AP U.S. History second period?”

“We’ll be together all year. Aren’t you excited? I wondered if I might see you again,” he said.

“Lucky me.” I crinkled my brow.

“Serendipitous,” Lucien said with a cracked a smile. “A chance meeting, maybe it’s fate.”

“I doubt it.”

His charm was obvious to the other girls in the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them scowling at me.

“I thought you were a lot older with that gray streak in your hair,” I said. He smiled.

“Yeah, it’s a birth defect like your eyes.” he frowned.

“Ha, ha, ha,” I said with sarcasm. Lucien flashed a toothy grin. When he brushed by and sat at the desk next to me, his scent lingered. I tensed up, folding my arms across my chest.

“The last time I saw you, you didn’t seem to want to talk to me again.”

“Do you blame me?” I asked.

“You were a little freaked out. It’s no wonder. A complete stranger felt compelled to touch your cheek.”

“You mean stalker,” I snickered.

He chuckled under his breath. “I’m not a stalker.” A moment passed. “I’d be a little freaked, too.”

“You making fun?”

“Making fun?” He shook his head, “who, me? I would never.”

Not making eye contact, I said, “You’re right. I was freaked out.”

“Yeah, I could see that. So, how did you end up at Harry S. Truman?” He leaned towards me. “The school for misfits,” he said drily. I wanted to answer. The words were on the tip of my tongue, but nothing came out.

“What about you?” I asked drumming my fingers on my desk waiting for a smart—aleck response.

“I can’t make up my mind if I want to home school, go to school or drop out,” he said. “Seriously… my uncle pays for most of the teacher’s salaries here.” For some-odd reason, I was fascinated with him. Looking at his physique and his large, snowy white diamond colors eyes that flickered when he smiled, I felt my cheeks flush. Saved by the bell!

Mr. White told us to be quiet as he handed out the syllabus. He explained his teaching methods, but I couldn’t grasp a word of what he said. I caught myself staring at Lucien several times, wondering why he seemed to be popping up everywhere. I had to force myself to stop. The bell resounded through the halls, and I jumped out of my seat. I shuffled around everyone and slipped out the door.

Third and fourth periods dragged on forever. I tried paying attention to the teachers, but I was too preoccupied with Lucien. After about an hour—and—a—half of sheer boredom, the lunch bell rang. I tried to find my locker. Walking around the hall aimlessly, I bumped into someone. “Sorry,” I said, looking at Emma’s double.

“What are you staring at?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“You have no idea where you’re going, do you?”

“Not exactly.”

She smiled, showing canines that could pass for vampire fangs. Something told me she did that herself, and I wasn’t going to ask.

Emma’s double eyed me up and down. She started to laugh. “I knew you were a newbie. So you’re the girl from

Pittsburgh? You walked today. What’s that about? I saw a sweet Mustang in your driveway.”

“You passed me in the Hummer.”

“That’s me. I take it you can’t find your locker?”

“Is it that obvious?” I said relieved she didn’t leave me stranded.

“I’m Alexia Ray. My friends call me Lexy.”

“Thanks, Lexy…I hate not knowing where anything is. I’m Sam Hunter,” I said.

“I could have been my usual bitchy self and let you hang, but you looked pathetic.” She seemed to have lost her train of thought when her head cocked to the side. She walked right up to my face. “Amazing, your eyes are mismatched. Sick.”

“It’s a birth defect,” I said coolly. I remembered what Lucien said about his gray streak, it was a clever respond so I thought I would try it myself. After the car accident, my eyes changed colors. The doctors said the trauma from the accident damaged the nerve, causing the pigment to die. Well, at least that’s what I thought he said.

After an awkward silence, Lexy said, “I don’t normally do this, but I’m feeling nice today. Let me show you around a bit,” she said reminding me more and more of Emma. She wore a long black T—shirt, pink tights, and black sneakers with funky red laces. I envied her rust—brown hair, the same color mine was. Now it’s black, which is so weird, the same with my eyes. Both of them were green before the accident.

“Here’s your locker.”

“Thanks.” I hung my backpack on one of the hooks inside, put my books on the top shelf, and closed it. That was easy enough.

Lexy then showed me where the cafeteria was, leading me to the table where her friends were sitting. She introduced me to her boyfriend, Ralf Mohr. His outfit was almost identical to hers. He had spiky blond hair and gauged ears. Next to him was a striking girl with brown eyes and long brown hair. She looked nothing like her companions. She looked like she was from Italy or Spain.

“Hi, I’m Dakota Beers. Want a cookie?” She held out a bag of Oreos.

“Sure. Thanks. I’m Sam.” I helped myself to a cookie, popping it in my mouth.

“Where are you from?” Dakota asked.

“Pittsburgh.”

“Steelers.”

“Uh huh,” I said, surprised.

“Black and Gold!” Ralf yelled.

“Right…” I smiled.

I sat down next to Dakota, taking my lunch from my purse. Dakota told me she was part Apache Indian, which explained her dark looks. She also told me her grandparents lived on a reservation in Mescalero, New Mexico, but she and her parents lived in Trinity.

Just as we were finishing, the five—minute bell rang. I stood up to throw my garbage in the trash can — but froze when I saw Lucien walking toward our table. I pretended not to notice him, but my efforts were unsuccessful.

“Hey, man.” Ralf pounded Lucien’s knuckles.

“Ralf,” Lucien said while he looked at me.

“You visiting or staying?”

“Staying…my uncle got an apartment on campus. I’ll crash with him while he teaches at the university.”

“Nice,” said Ralf.

“You got a problem with that?” Lucien smiled.

“Nah, must be one of the perks of having a big shot for an uncle, huh?”

“It has its advantages,” Lucien said.

“How’s life in Corona? Your sister still hot?” Laughing, Ralf looked at Lexy, but he stopped after seeing the expression on her face. I wasn’t quite sure about him yet he seemed normal enough.

“Watch it.” Lucien crooned smiling at Lexy.

Still stunned, I whispered to Lexy, “You know him?”

Her voice was as quiet as mine. “Everyone knows Lucien. He’s sort of a celebrity around here.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Come on. He’s an anomaly.” Lexy seemed surprised. “Are you blind? Look at him. Have you ever seen anyone so strange looking,” she said snickering.

“Not exactly,” I said comparing his complexion to the others.

“He’s some sort of Albino I think. Rumor has it he’s a genius and he just comes to school to socialize.” She laughed under her breath.

Lucien and Ralf talked until it was time to go to next period. After exchanging phone numbers, I said goodbye to Lexy and Dakota, pleased I’d actually made some friends.

As I left to find my class, Lucien tugged at my sleeve.

“Hey, wait up.”

“Ouch, you shocked me,” I said removing his hand from my arm. I looked at his veins at his temple pulsate. He was kind of odd looking. Lexy was right.

“Um, sorry,” he said looking at my arm. “I just wanted to let you know I could give you a ride home after school if you want.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I’m taking the bus.” I lied.

“Could I, maybe? I mean, would it be all right if I swung over later?” he said. Spit it out already!

Despite being in the middle of a crowded hallway, I stopped in my tracks, “To my house?” I said.

“Uh huh,” he said. “Is that a problem?”

“I don’t know.” I lied again.

“How about you call me later? Give me your phone,” he said. I handed it to him, not sure why. I watched him punch numbers on the keypad. He gave it back. “Now you have my number. Maybe I’ll hear from you tonight,” he said.

I was curiously speechless. “Okay.” My lips curled into a smile that said I’d rather not. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to call.” He turned and sprinted down the hall. He was gone.

I stood there for a minute, but after some awkward stares I composed myself and walked to class. I couldn’t believe he’d just left so sudden. He didn’t even say goodbye. “What a jerk,” I mumbled to myself as I rushed to English Lit. I remembered that I never bought a copy of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. I was beginning to miss Pittsburgh.

Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Lucien

With the list of required books, I would be reading in English Literature out of my purse, I strolled into the Barnes & Nobel. I picked up the latest installment of the ‘The Vampire Chronicles’ that was on a display. I opened the front cover and was about to scan the prelude when I heard someone cough behind the psychology shelf. Glancing up, I saw a man with black hair falling to his shoulders. What caught my interest was the gray streak in the front. While I was staring, he looked at me. I turned my head, embarrassed that I hadn’t stopped myself from staring. I wished I’d have changed clothes now. He seemed preoccupied as he picked up Men are from Mars, Woman from Venus.

I tried reading, but I kept peeking over my book to look at him. I never saw eyes that color before. They weren’t really blue, but pearl gray, almost the color of snowy diamonds. They matched the diamond earrings he wore in both his ears. I looked at his clothing. He was wearing jeans and a leather jacket. A camera was slung over his shoulder. With his head tilted down, he raised his eyes in my direction. It didn’t seem as though he’d seen me, thankfully. I tried to see what book he was looking at now. He flipped through the pages like he was memorizing what he saw. Again, I couldn’t stop looking at this strange creature. His milky complexion was transparent, but not in an unattractive way.

I peeked over my book to look at him. His cheekbones were high, and his chin had a small dimple. He must have been touched by an angel’s wing when he was a baby. Well, that’s what Mom used to say when I was a kid. I wondered how old he was. With his head still tilted down, he raised his eyes in my direction again.

His eyes caught mine. They didn’t waver as he put the book back on the shelf. He started walking towards me. I inhaled, re—positioned my body, and pretended to read. Oh no, here he comes. Damn.

Gripping my purse close to my body, I tried to maneuver it behind me in case my butt was hanging out of my shorts. I placed the book back in its original position. The unusual—looking guy leaned in close to me. I could smell his cologne, a scent I’d never detected before, sort of like cinnamon and vanilla. I assumed it was something expensive. It smelled amazing.

“You’re a fan of vampires?” His voice was smooth as honey, but the way he pronounced each word convinced me he was foreign.

“Ahhh…” I mumbled. A smile flashed across his face. His eyes narrowed, and his eyebrows arched.

“Like, Lestat?” he said. I didn’t say anything, “Or Dracula,” he added in a convincing Transylvania accent.

I wasn’t paying attention to the question. I was fixated on his accent.

“Huh? Dracula…no. . . . I was looking for uh…uh…” I looked at my list, “Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

He moved closer. I backed up.

I smiled but said nothing.

“Well, you’re in the wrong section. The classics are in the next aisle. I can show you if you like.”

I felt my face getting flushed.

“No, thank you.”

“It’s no trouble.”

There was a moment of silence while he looked at me.

He smiled, flashing perfect white teeth. I suddenly got butterflies in my stomach. I started to turn away to leave the store. I stumbled, knocking over a row of books on the shelf. I decided to leave them on the floor. Never looking back, I left as fast as my feet would let me. I could have died from humiliation.

My heart was beating a thousand times faster than it should have been. I couldn’t concentrate. I walked the length of the mall, confused. I had no idea where I was going. Dad was right: maybe it was a bad idea coming here by myself.

I was getting hungry, so I slowed my pace and started looking for a place to eat.

I ordered a spicy chicken meal from Chick—Fil—A, with fries and my usual Dr. Pepper. I sat down, dropping my purse next to on the floor. Just as I was about to take a bite, I saw him. The guy at the bookstore was walking straight towards me.

“There you are. You rushed out so fast, I didn’t have time to introduce myself.” He sat down. He held out his hand, and for a moment I stared at it. Seeing I wasn’t going to shake it, he lowered his hand.

“I’m Lucien Foster…”

I frowned, hoping he’d get the message and leave me alone. That didn’t happen. He just sat there looking at me. “Sam Hunter,” I finally said.

“Sam? You don’t look like a Sam.”

“It’s Samantha duh.”

“Samantha.” He smiled.

“You live in Trinity?”

“I…I just moved here.”

“From where?”

“Pittsburgh.”

“Three Rivers huh…Well, Samantha Hunter, welcome to Trinity.”

“You…”

“What?” He smiled again.

“Never mind,” I said.

“Tell me.”

“I dunno…you look familiar? I can’t explain it.”

“I do?”

“Yes, you do.”

He grimaced, “Mmm…never been to Pittsburgh. Must be my double.” He smiled.

“Must be,” I said.

“Maybe we met before in a past life.” Lucien winked. “It was nice meeting you, Samantha Hunter.” He held out his hand again. I stared at it, dumbfounded. Trying not to be rude, I put my sandwich down and wiped my hands on a napkin. I held out my hand. His touch was electric. Déjà vu swept over me as he held my hand.

His piercing diamond eyes were intense, the hairs on my neck stood up. Just as quickly as that strange feeling came, it was replaced by a feeling of serenity. A touch so comforting, it reminded me of the chamomile tea Nana gave me to calm me after the accident. I felt awed.

I stared at him as if hypnotized. I let go of his hand. My eyes settled on his necklace. “You have an accent. Where did you say you were from?” I asked.

“I never said where I was from…?” He avoided answering the question.

“Your necklace…I’ve never seen anything like it.” I touched the cold stone. For a second, it felt hot.

“You wouldn’t. It’s a family heirloom…one of a kind.” He cleared his throat. “Like your eyes…. They’re mismatched. Green and gray…. Hmm…”

“You’ve never seen anything like it, huh? A one of a kind?” A pick—up line, if I ever heard one. He raised his hand towards my face, I pulled away. Too close dude. I don’t even know you.

“You know me.”

He leaned close. “Excuse me?” I said.

His smile was gone. He whispered, “Yeah, you do.”

“What did you say?”

He spoke louder, “I just met you in the bookstore, and we just formally introduced ourselves a minute ago,” he said with a laugh, apparently thinking it was some kind of inside joke. He became quiet and serious. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

“You didn’t scare me, you’re freaking me out,” I said. He smiled, moving closer to me. “Do you mind?”

“It’s good to see your mother taught you not to talk to strangers.”

“My mother’s dead.”

Lucien grimaced. His eyes sank back, and his face became sad.

I shoved my sandwich in its wrapper and stood up to throw it in the garbage.

Lucien’s lip pouted, “You didn’t finish eating.”

“I lost my appetite,” I said.

“I’m sorry. I upset you,” he said.

Lucien raised his eyebrows. There was a hint of a smile on his face.

“What planet are you from? Geez.” I gave a nervous chuckle. “You don’t give up, do you?” I said.

“What planet?” he chuckled, too.” You’ll be the first to know when I find out,” he said giving me a toothy grin.

“Oh God…are you for real?” I said.

“Come on. I’m fooling with you.”

I picked up my purse from the floor. When I did my bottle of Xanax fell out and rolled next to Lucien. He picked up the bottle and glanced at the label not saying a word. I could imagine what he must be thinking. Our eyes locked when he handed them to me. Damn. I snatched them quick and dropped them in my purse.

“Nice to meet you, Lucien Foster, but I have to go,” I said. Lucien stood up, making it seem as though he didn’t want me to leave. Even so, I shook my head and walked out of the fast food place. I knew I was rude, but he was freaking me out.

I marched to the parking lot and stood at the bus stop, hoping there was a bus coming soon. I tried to ignore my growling stomach. I took a cigarette from my purse and lit it. I took a long hit and exhaled, twirling my hair while I waited. Startled by the roar of a motorcycle, I looked up to see an image in black approaching. Behind the tinted shield, I saw Lucien’s snowy eyes. He inched to the curb where I was standing, killing the engine.

I scanned the parking lot, hoping the bus would get here soon, but it was nowhere in sight.

“You know those are going to kill you someday,” he said mocking me with a cough.

“Lucky me,” I said not paying attention to his comment, I took a puff and butted it with my shoe.

“You need a ride?” he said.

“No, thank you. I’ll wait for the bus.”

I lowered my eyes to the sidewalk, hoping he’d get the message.

“Suit yourself,” he said and dropped the tinted shield. It was a sweet ride. How I would’ve loved to have hopped on. He revved the engine a few times and sped away. I watched Lucien fade into a blur, clenching my fist into a ball. I looked at my hand and waved it in the air. It still tingled from when he touched it.