You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.
-Mary Tyler Moore
Each Tuesday at 9:30 AM PST I post up a new chapter in the first book of the series I’m writing.
If you are just tuning in, you may read
Chapter One here
Chapter Two here
Chapter Three here
Chapter 4- Nearer The Danger
Emily was so excited that her cousins were staying to look at the stars with her.
She raced in to clean up, brush her teeth, get her new cheetah print pajamas with the furry cuffs and collar that she knew Kendra would love. She grabbed the matching sparkly purple hair bands that she made so that they could be hair twins. She bought the kit with her very own money the last time her mom went to Target specifically because she knew that purple was both their second favorite color but the first favorite color they shared. Purple had become their special color.
She was humming one of the songs her cousin sang while she took care of the flowers. They were beautiful songs that filled her heart with a peaceful energy. The plants must like it. Mom said that Kendra has the voice of an angel if her songs can produce such beauty from it.
When the house was purchased there was a very large tree in the front yard but every other plant, shrub and blade of grass on the property was long since passed on to greener places.
Now it was the envy of every homeowner in three counties.
It was common knowledge that Kendra was the artist behind the living canvass. The lush emerald green grass felt like a soft cushion beneath bare toes. A mash of various plants, flowers and trees entwined so perfectly to create an oasis begging everyone to enjoy. Even vines seemed to climb only where the young artist desired them to be. The rich reds and purples of the flowering bougainvillea vines creeping along the edges of Emily’s playhouse made it appear that it was not a home for play but simply the abode of some smaller forest dweller or talking creature from a fairy tale.
Kendra taught Emily how to make a fairy house during a bad storm last winter.
The spring had brought beautiful color as well as an incredible glut in the market of fairy real estate. Emily couldn’t stand the thought of any fairies in her garden to go without a proper home so she built fifteen in the hopes that no one would be left behind. Her colorful creations seemed to fit in flawlessly as if created solely for that very spot.
Emily slid her tiny feet into the Monsters Inc. slippers she got for Christmas and almost flew back downstairs to join the gang.
Asher and her father were debating the various stars and their locations. Kendra was sitting on the hammock and motioned for Emily to join her. It took two tries but she finally wiggled up onto the hammock and they lay back looking up at the stars.
Emily remembered the gift she had made. “Here!” She said pulling the band off her wrist and passing the purple sparkly hair tie to her cousin. “See I made one just like it for me so we can be twins.” She held up her other wrist to reveal the matching band.
Kendra slipped the three marbles she had been rolling around in her hand out of habit, back into her pocket and pulled her long brown hair up in a ponytail with such skill that left her six year old cousin in awe. Oh how Emily wished she could do all the wonderful things she cousin can do.
Kendra saw the way her little buddy was watching her. She remembered how hard some things were when she was first learning to do them. When she was about Emily’s age she woke in the middle of the night and her hair clip had come undone. She turned on the light and tried several times to pull her hair back with the clip but her little arms and fingers didn’t know how to do it. She sat in her bed and cried. Her mother came to see what was wrong and there she was having a bad hair night. With a few swift movements Mom had the hair perfectly under control and back in the desired clip. As her mother stroked her hair, she assured her little lady that she had not failed in the slightest. She tried and kept trying, which is more than can be said for most adults now days. She only lacked experience and a bit of knowledge. The next morning Mom showed her how to do it, within a week she could clip her hair the way she liked it. It was one of the best feelings of triumph and achievement. A warm rush slid through Kendra from her head to her toes.
“Do you want me to French braid piggy tails so you’ll have cool wavy hair tomorrow?”
The little girls eyes grew wide and she nodded rapidly.
“Come lie in my lap and tell me a story about the stars.” Kendra told her as she swiftly separated the two halves of the little girl’s hair down the middle.
“I don’t know any stories about stars, Ken.” She said as she snuggled into her cousin’s lap to have her hair done.
Kendra started the braid on the right side first. “You don’t have to know a story. You feel a story and when you tell it, the story spins its self. It comes from the tippy top of your head and all the way down through your heart and into your toes.”
“Sort of like how the heart pumps blood through our body?” The little girl asked.
“Exactly but creative people have an extra bit of magical glitter in them that bounces around through every single part of them and then spills back out in their own expression. Just like if you had Tinkerbell with you all the time to sprinkle everything with a dusting of her magic. Wouldn’t that be nice? There is amazing unexplainable things everywhere happening everyday but most people forget to look. I need the other side now.”
“If I had Tinkerbell, I could fly and never have to pick up my toys.” Emily decided as she turned to have the other side braided.
“You’re creative Miss Emily so guess what… you have that special glitter in you too just like me!”
Emily flipped both of her arms over to look at the underside of them, straining to catch a glimpse of shiny trickling through her veins in the light of the full moon.
Kendra chuckled, “Silly, you can’t see special things like that. You feel it and then you share it in a way that makes you happy.”
Emily closed her eyes and tried to feel the glitter inside of her.
“Like when you sing to our plants?” Emily said with a yawn. “I like your stories the best Ken. Someday I’m going to write good too like you.”
“I’m sure you will write very well.” She said with a smile.
Kendra finished the braid and attached both of the braids together with the crazy purple matching hair tie. Emily snuggled back into Kendra’s lap again. “Tell me a story about stars.” She begged but it was clear she would not be hearing the end of the tale and sleep was calling her droopy eyelids.
The only story she could think of was the glow in the dark stars above her parent’s bed when she was little. She smiled slightly at the thought of her father’s large man hands deftly sticking those tiny stars on the ceiling while leaping up and down on a secondhand bed. She missed his winter whiskered kisses that tickled her face with the wiry reddish brown hair. The way he would start a story just so he could get his daughter to spin the tale. She could feel the marbles in her pocket. Her father was going to place in the fence the day of the accident. It made her feel closer to him to keep them with her.
They were a good team.
“Okay, Em. From my tippy toes to you… there once was a young man that was very poor but he had the love of a woman that thought he was everything. He wanted to give her a beautiful life so he promised her that he would return for her and set off to make his fortune. She worried about his safety so he assured her that he would find a way to send her a message every few days as he turned to walk into the sunset.
The woman cried for many weeks when suddenly one evening there was a light that shown brightly in the night sky above her window. She knew that her beloved had sent it to comfort her lovely heart. As the days wore on the sky filled with brightly twinkling lights that lit up the sky with love…”
Kendra looked down to see Emily sweetly sleeping in her idols lap. She reached up to smooth the little girl’s furry collar when Asher’s voice came from behind her in the shadows. “You knocked her out. Want me to take her in?”
Kendra nodded and helped to transfer the pajama princess into her brother’s arms. She wasn’t really feeling like looking at the stars but Uncle D seemed so excited about it. She crossed the lawn to see what he was waving to her about, while Asher put their cousin to bed.
The telescope was really clear and they could see a lot but unfortunately no one had a clue what they were looking at or for.
“I’ll pick up a book from the library this weekend and next week we’ll have a real show.” announced Rose and the date was set. “Tell your mama and bring your swim suits if it’s warm. I have another surprise.”
Uncle D playfully socked Aunt Rose in the arm, “I thought we were waiting until “the Picnic” to bring out the surprise.” He was referring to the Memorial Day block party that was thrown on their street each year. This was the house that was known as the place to be. Rose coordinated the food/prizes/tributes for the block and Derek handled all the games/booths/contests. Everyone looked forward to having such a wonderful day that seem to trip straight out of the pictures of Norman Rockwell. Then all in attendance would walk to the corner to watch the fireworks lit off the school roof top.
“Oh I’m not going to drag out all the goodies but I think it would be fun for our kiddos to have a little fun with it before you have the whole town on our street.” Rose said with her perpetual cheery tone that almost slightly warned you not to mess with this decision or you might not like the consequences.
“The queen has spoken… kids bring your suits!” Uncle D chuckled.
Since the star of the show was sleeping the other two kids decided to call it an early night. Neither of the kids was especially excited to get home quickly so Asher promised that he would be responsible for them walking and they would call their Aunt and Uncle when they arrived home.
Geeze, it’s only a few blocks Ash thought as his Auntie made him pinky promise to be careful like this was the first time he’d ever walked anywhere. His mother had explained once that when people love each other they look out for each other. For a long time their Aunt and Uncle didn’t think they would be able to have kids. Emily was a stroke of luck but the first two kids they ever helped to raise would hold a huge piece of their hearts. Ash and Ken had people that loved them so much they earned the title of family. Auntie Ro and Uncle D would always be their “other” set of adoring parents.
They closed the gate and turned up the street towards home, the light of the full moon as their guide. The little town seemed to roll up its doors at dusk leaving only the local market, gas station/donut shop and ice cream parlor to handle the straggling customers that seemed to have forgotten that it was past supper time and they should be reporting to their homes.
Asher stuffed his hand into the front pocket of his sweatshirt and shifted the backpack on his other shoulder.
A gust of warm wind blew past them, sending leaves swirling in a small circular vortex along the sidewalk and making the air feel like it was dancing with electricity. The crickets stopped their cheerful nighttime lullaby. Even the old cranky dog on the next block was unusually silent when they went by his old knotted fence.
Usually he growled and peeked at them through the series of little holes where the knots had long since left the rest of the slats of wood as he ran along following their progress down the sidewalk. He would make them laugh. Some knots would contain just an angry dog eye, some would show just his teeth but the funniest was when he would growl while baring his teeth at the last and largest of the holes on the end. He would snarl but it looked like he was smiling and licking his lips followed by the weirdest nom nom nom noise. It always made Kendra laugh to see his silly old terrier’s mug looking so goofy with his crazy hair and dirty beard.
“I wonder where Roxy is,” Asher said trying to think of any other occasion when the little dog hadn’t been in his yard defending his turf but could think of none.
The bright full moon cast odd shadows and he chalked his pervasive feeling of impending doom to his eyes playing tricks on him. It seemed as if someone was following them, watching in the dark. He looked behind them, half expecting to find a knife wielding killer, perhaps an escaped psychotic inmate or at the very least someone out for a stroll. It was just the same old street in a sleepy little town. They were almost half way home, it would be foolish to turn around and ask for a ride now. The only sound that could be heard was the flip flopping of Kendra’s sandals hitting the concrete as they picked up the pace to a fast walk.
Another gust of wind ripped down the street, this time with much more intensity. The long row of bushes across the street came alive under the power of the wind. It gave the appearance that something or someone was about to leap out from them. Ash looked up to the sky behind him scanning for anything that would explain the strange feeling he was experiencing.
Next thing he knew his thigh burned with a sharp pain and he was rolling along the sidewalk head over heels, coming to rest flat on his back looking up at the stars. His shoulder ached from the impact with the ground, his head throbbed.
“Asher! Oh my gosh! Are you okay?” Kendra looked down at her brother concerned.
He sat up to find that his formidable foe had been none other than a large yellow fire hydrant. He was watching for dragons, witches or the Jersey Devil to be bearing down upon them from the sky that he didn’t bother to watch where he was going.
Kendra squatted down by her brother sitting on the sidewalk. “I’m scared Ash. Something isn’t right.” She knew he felt it too but neither could defend themselves from something that they couldn’t see.
The air was still as they sat quietly for a moment looking around while Asher recovered a moment from the brutal assault by hydrant he had sustained. Maybe he hit his head a bit too hard but he thought he saw some movement in the shadows behind them. He quickly got to his feet and instinctively stood in front of his sister while his eyes strained to get further confirmation that there was something following them. He saw nothing more than unchanging shadows in the distance.
“I think it’s best if we get home quick,” he tells his sister.
She grabbed his hand tightly and he could feel her trembling. She starts humming one of her songs for comfort. They started walking quickly back towards home. As they rounded the corner and could see the opening to the retirement village, they could hear a strange buzzing noise.
The most beautiful dragonfly they had ever seen was flying straight towards them. Its shimmering wings danced like crystals in the light of the moon. It had an almost electric blue color to its body that reflected as though its fragile being was made of metal. They stood transfixed by the sight of this creature until it buzzed a half an inch from Kendra’s face.
“Run!” she screamed breaking the silence. “Run! Run! They’re coming!”
She started running but didn’t let go of her brother. He stumbled but matched his sister’s stride for stride as they fled towards home.
The sounds of wings flapping in the sky caused Asher to look up just as bats surrounded them. They were tangling into Kendra’s hair and biting Asher’s hand. He let go of his sister and they were each surrounded by large winged creatures. He could hardly hear the sounds of his sister’s screams over the leather sound of wings flapping next to his ears. He dove into the waterfall feature under the Fountain Oaks Retirement Resort sign to flee his winged assailants. He watched as the bats were driving her towards the woods.
“Ken, run to me!” He yelled to her climbing out of the fountain and running towards his sister. The bats started attacking him again with renewed fury. He caught up with her and they both plunged back into the waterfall. The bats lined the trees waiting for them to make their move.
“It’s like they want us split up so we have to stick together,” Ashe informed her. “Let’s make a break and run home.
On the count of three they leaped from the water and ran to their home.
With bats swooping around them, they made it to their street to find their front door conveniently left open. They raced through the door, slamming it and locking it tight.
The kids slumped down on the floor.
Small pools of water were forming around them as they sat on in the entryway. Chests heaving from the run, they slowly noticed that their mother’s purse was tossed on the floor with its continents strewn everywhere. Her compact of pressed powder makeup was open and shattered across the white tile. Chunks of powder mixed with broken glass and plastic littered the ground along with the tid bits of her hand bag.
“Mom!” Kendra yelled. “Mom?”
When she received no answer they ran up the steps to her room and then back down to their Grandma’s room only to find that the elderly woman was missing as well. Upon inspection, the car was still in its place in the garage as well.
“Do you think they got them too?” Kendra questioned her big brother voice, choked with emotion.
“I don’t know what happening Ken. I’m going to make sure everything is locked up and turn out the lights so it looks like no one is home. I want you to grab the phone and go to mom’s closet. I’ll meet you there and we’ll call Uncle D.”
“I’m not going anywhere without you.” She says grabbing the phone as he flicked off the light in the kitchen. When the kids reached the top of the stairs someone juggled the handle of the front door. Kendra slipped, let out a little scream and dropped the phone.
As the pounding on the door increased so did the hysterical screams from his sister. Asher clamored down the stairs to retrieve the portable phone. Its battery had ejected upon impact and he swept his hands along the wet tile trying to find it in the dark amongst the items from his mother’s purse.
The door frame let out a giant crack under the last blow it had sustained as Asher’s hand located the missing battery. He grabbed it and ran back up the stairs to his sister.
His hands shaking so much it was hard for him to get the battery back into place. The screen lit up and he punched in the number he knew would save them.
“911… what is your emergency?” answered the female voice on the other end of their lifeline.
Asher grabbed his sister and ran to the nearest room to lock themselves in, dropping the phone in the process as the door frame came loose and busted inward sending shards of wood flying about the entry.
All the hope in their world lies on the floor several feet from the door they locked themselves behind. He hoped the dispatcher would trace the call and send help. He wedged the folding chair that sat in front of his grandmother’s sewing machine under the door handle in a feeble attempt to hold back what was coming for them.
Whoever was in the house turned on the light and was coming up the stairs.
He grabbed the sharpest sewing scissors in the drawer and shoved Kendra into the closet. He had promised to protect her. He crouched behind the side of the bed ready to surprise his attacker.
The beep of the phone outside the door indicated that the call had just been canceled.
Their lifeline was gone and danger stood feet away.
The door handle turned.
The moment for bravery was upon them.
Chapter Five… Please Come By Next Tuesday.