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Rated: 13+ · Other · Fantasy · #1891533
What would a mother do to save her child? How far would she go if she was a vampire?
                                                            A Vow of Tears: The First Vow
                                                                  By Jill H. O'Bones

                                                          Copyright 2012 Jill H. O'Bones


                                                                      Chapter 1

         ‘Where am I?’ Sara thought as her body took slow steps down an alley. She looked around in the dim light; boxes damp with rain were scattered around overfilled dumpsters.
‘What am I doing here?’ she asked herself, starting to feel real panic flow through her body as she kept walking. Images of her mother’s house came back, an old man grabbing her son. Remembering, she quickened her pace. ‘Eric,’ she thought, ‘I’m looking for Eric.’
         Stopping the alley in its tracks was a crumbling red brick wall. Dark patches of moss clung to it, making it look like eyes were staring back at her. Someone was leaning against it in a shaft of bright sunlight. Her heart quickened; had she found her son?
         As Sara got closer, she realized that it wasn’t Eric but a woman dressed in a faded pair of blue jeans and a black blouse. Slowing, Sara stared at the woman’s long hair, so white that when a gentle breeze lifted it, it reminded Sara of falling snow.
         Sara started to take another step but stopped. Her eyes were drawn to the woman’s left forearm, just below the crook of her elbow. She focused on the dark smear on the woman’s white skin. From it, two streams of deep red liquid slowly made their way down her arm towards her wrist; drops fell one by one to the ground. As Sara looked at it, she felt the hair on her arms tickle her skin with anticipation. She walked towards the woman with slow steps, trying to keep her eyes on the woman’s face to see if the soft expression would change, but they kept falling towards her arm. Sara’s heart started to beat harder with excitement as she stood before the woman. A chill ran over her skin; it felt as if there was a cold winter’s breeze coming from the woman’s body.
         She took a step closer and was about to ask the woman about her injury, but she met the woman’s bright silver eyes. New words came out of her mouth before she knew she was saying them: “I want my son back.”
         Sara’s eyes didn’t fully grasp the quickness with which the woman moved. Suddenly, Sara felt her shoulder grabbed, and the woman’s other arm came towards her. She seized it, slowing the attack, but still felt something hit between her breasts. Shearing pain coursed over her skin and into her body. Clutching onto whatever the woman was holding with both of her hands, Sara tried to stop it from going deeper inside, but her hands failed to gain a firm grip. She felt them slipping on the smooth, hard surface and could feel it slowly sliding between her palms and into her chest. Sara tried to step back but the woman’s grip on her shoulder wouldn’t let her. She looked into the woman's eyes; silver pools with pinpricks of light blue shone back at her. As they stared, the anger deep within the woman’s eyes slowly changed to puzzlement.
         ‘This isn’t a dream!’ Sara’s mind shouted as she looked at what the woman was trying to push into her chest. A piece of wood, sanded to a smooth finish, was sliding between Sara’s palms and through her filthy pink blouse, making its way into her chest.
         The woman fought against Sara's grip, and the tip of the stake slowly slid deeper. Every inch of Sara’s skin felt ablaze as it went in.
         “Please,” Sara begged as she tried to back away from the woman, her heart beat wildly, “don’t kill me. My son.”
         The woman pushed her against the brick wall, holding her against it. She looked into Sara’s eyes and paused, easing the pressure that bore into Sara’s flesh.
         “Margret, what are you waiting for?” a man’s voice said somewhere near. It was as rough as a file, grating and aggressive. “She’s one.”
         “Yes, but there’s something different about her.”
         “Who cares? We need to finish it. Do it now!”
         Sara felt the stake as it began to slide further. She took a breath, no longer able to hold back her tears. “Eric,” she whimpered.
         “Margret!” the man said, his voice becoming furious. “Quit playing and get it over with.”
         “Who’s Eric?” the woman asked in a soothing voice, her silver eyes searching Sara’s.
         “It just turned. You have to kill her,” the man said.
         Sara turned her head as the man walked into her sight. He stared at her with bright silver eyes that shone like new dimes, his handsome face frozen behind a hard and angry expression. Only strands of his dark brown hair moved as they lifted with the breeze.
         “Please,” Sara’s voice came out as a whisper. “My son.”
         “Eric, is he your son?” the woman asked.
         Sara turned back to her and nodded. “Please, I just want him back. I won’t tell anyone.” She felt tears blurring her vision.
         “We can’t let her kill her own child!” the man yelled, “Destroy her now!”
         “No!” Sara screamed, “I’m trying to find him. The old man who tried to kill me took him.” Sara could feel her heart hammering harder against her chest. Her body began to tremble as she felt warm liquid seep from her chest, damping her bra. It was then that she started to realize that she had failed. Her son was going to suffer at the hands of a crazy old man because, for some reason, this woman, Margret, was going to kill her. A bright flash of light went through her eyes as her thumping heart hit the tip of the stake. Instantly her heart was encased with fire and convulsed in agony.
         Images of people and places flashed from behind her eyes. The last was of her husband. Behind him, thick lines of blue and yellow spun in a slow circle. ‘Matt!’ her mind cried as the world around her dimmed, ‘I’m so sorry! I’m sorry that I couldn’t protect our son.’


         Sara sat with her sister under a blue and yellow striped umbrella as the sun beat down on the black pavement. Leaning forward towards the paper cup that she held between her hands, she drew some of the ice-cold pop from the straw into her mouth. As she swallowed, screams of delight erupted from her right. Looking over she saw the tail end of a rollercoaster disappearing behind a building, the cars’ rattle echoing. Hearing the laughter of children next to the food stand, Sara watched as they tossed bits of food over the metal railing into the water. She could just see the fish swirling and splashing on the water’s surface as each large carp tried to be the first to suck up the kids’ offerings.
         “Oh,” Robin said, nudging Sara’s elbow with hers, almost knocking it off the table, “look at those two. They are hot! And they look old enough to be in college.”
         Sara looked at the two men as they walked towards the food stand, and she agreed with her sister; they were both cute. Her eyes passed over them. Their t-shirts were stuck to their backs with sweat, showing that they both had athletic builds. The shorter one had dark, sandy hair, cut short, while the taller one’s blonde hair hung down just above his shoulders in unruly curls. Sara felt his height was what made him cuter. She quickly looked away when his eyes glanced in her direction.
         “You say that you’re a witch,” Robin whispered, leaning towards her. “Cast a spell to get them over here.”
         Sara shook her head. “I told you before, that’s not what the craft is for.”
         “Then what good is devil worshiping?”
         “I don’t worship the devil,” Sara snapped. “How would you feel if someone made you do something that you didn’t want to do? That’s dark magick.”
         “It’s not like I want you to make them jump off a bridge. I just want to meet them.”
         “Then go talk to them,” she said and took another glimpse at the men.
         As they stood next to each other at the counter, Sara saw that the tall one was only an inch or so over his friend’s head, and he was a little more muscular. When they turned to walk away, Sara saw both of them cast a look in her and Robin’s direction. She quickly looked back down at the table, hoping they didn’t see her checking them out.
         Sara knew that her sister was right: They were old enough to be in college, and what college guy would even take a second look at her, a high school girl, when there was Robin? Besides being older and a hair taller, Robin got her looks from their mother, the blonde hair, blue eyes, and a tall, skinny frame, while Sara got her father’s brown hair, brown eyes, and his larger bone structure.
         “Robin,” Sara said, looking to the rollercoaster as it started up the hill that would send the cars into the two loops, “I would like to ride the Dragon.”
         “I’m not going on that thing,” Robin snorted. “It will mess up my hair.” She stood. “Let’s follow those two.”
         “I don’t want to chase boys, Robin.”
         “You’re not a little kid anymore, Sara. You’re sixteen, and you need a boyfriend.”
         “I don’t want one.”
         “Well, I do,” she said, taking Sara’s wrist, “The tall one is mine,” she added, pulling Sara along.
         Sara stood next to Robin as she played a dart game. Instead of paying attention to her sister, Sara watched the line move closer to the Sidewinder; the two guys were in the next group to get on. The ride was set up like a giant pendulum, the passengers seated in a circle. For the past half hour, she had watched the orange and blue machine spin and swing its passengers around as her sister waited and watched the guys.
         “Are we going to go on any more rides?” Sara asked as she felt her skin burning in the sun. ‘Just what I need, more freckles,’ she thought and looked over at her sister. Robin’s tan skin looked as if it was getting darker. That was the only thing Robin got from their dad, his ability to tan, while Sara got their mom’s fair, freckle-prone skin.
         “Yes,” Robin moaned, “when they pick one that won’t mess up my hair, we’ll join them.”
         “We’ve been following them for almost two hours.”
         “And they have been checking me out,” Robin said, running her fingers through her locks. “How’s my hair?”
         “Like it’s been since we got here,” Sara groaned. “You know all of that hairspray can’t be good for your health.”
         Robin turned and gave Sara a dirty look. “Well you need to comb yours. It’s getting all tangled.”
         “Whatever. I’m going on a ride.”
         “Mom and Dad said that we are to go together,” Robin stated.
         “Yeah, together, not stand around following boys.”
         “What are you bitching about? We rode some rides.”
         “Please, the Falling Star and Sky Ride, not very thrilling. I want to ride something a little more fun.”
         “Fine,” Robin huffed, “how about the Tilt-a-Whirl?”
         “How about that one?” Sara pointed to the Sidewinder.
         “No way,” Robin shrieked. “Oh, they’re getting off,” she whispered, “Look like we’re having fun.”
         “You may be, but I’m not.”
         “Quit being a child.”
         Sara watched the guys as they walked pass them. She felt Robin grab her arm as she got ready to follow them, but they didn’t go far; they went into the men’s restroom.
         “I’m done,” Sara yelled, pulling her arm from Robin’s hand. “I’m going on the Dragon.”
         “You’re not supposed to go without me. Mom and Dad are going to be mad.”
         “You can wait here. I’m not going to spend the afternoon following people around the park.”
         “But the guys…”
         “What about them? They’re having fun and I’m being pulled around behind you like a dog. What do you think Mom and Dad will say about that?” Sara snapped, and then inhaled slowly. “They paid for the hotel and trolley so we can go on rides while they’re at the farm show. I’m not going to let their money go to waste.” As she turned and walked towards the entrance to the rollercoaster, she could feel Robin’s glare following her.
         Slowly the line inched forward, and Sara could feel the anticipation in her stomach. It felt as if a weight was expanding inside of her. She watched as the people got out of the cars onto the empty platform across the track and made their way to the exit. The two people in front of her took their places in the dark green cars. Beneath her feet, she could feel the rattling as the train started to move along the metal rails. Her turn was next. She took her place between the metal bars, third from the front, and waited. Her palms began to sweat, and her heart thumped with excitement.
         “Hey,” she heard someone shout, and she looked towards the front where the voice had come from. A middle-aged man who sat at the controls was looking at her. “Are you riding alone?” he yelled. The loud and excited voices around her turned into whispers.
         She felt her face begin to get hot as she nodded.
         He left his platform and walked towards her. “It’s two per car,” he said, “You may have to wait until there is someone to ride with you.” She nodded and looked down at her feet, ready to get out of line.
As the man shouted, ‘Single rider, any single riders,’ Sara felt her face getting hotter as people looked at her, then to their friend, whispering. Faintly she heard someone respond to the man’s calls.
         “Right here,” a male voice replied.
         Taking a quick look back, she saw people moving aside as a lone head came up the ramp. Sara looked back at her feet when the operator pointed in her direction. Her heart flipped when she looked over at the stranger who now stood next to her. The tall guy that her sister had made her follow was standing beside her. She turned and looked down at the metal rails, knowing that Robin was going to be pissed if she found out.
         Sara heard the cars rumble towards her, slowing with a shriek of metal on metal as they came under the overhang, stopped with a thud. The shoulder harness clicked, and the passengers lifted them over their heads and got out, leaving the car empty for her. She took a breath and climbed in, the guy following.
         He sat down and looked over at her. “First time?” he asked.
         She nodded.
         He smiled, a smile that made her heart flutter. “A virgin,” he said, chuckling, “You’re not going to puke, are you?”
         “I hope not,” she replied shyly.
         She watched the operator lower the shoulder harnesses over the passengers in front of her. The harnesses each gave a click as they locked, then he gave them a pull to make sure they were secured. When he came to the car she was in, he repeated the procedure. She felt it press against her, pinning her to the seat.
         “Matt,” the guy said, holding his hand towards her.
         “Sara,” she replied, quickly giving his hand a shake.
         “Where’s your friend?” he asked.
         She looked away, embarrassed that he’d noticed them stalking him. “She’s my sister. This isn’t her kind of ride.”
         The cars lurched forward and with jerking movements they went slowly up the steep hill. She felt her heart jump into her throat when they reached the top; it was a long way to the ground. The train started down, and she felt herself lifted from her seat as gravity released its hold for a split second. Suddenly she was forced back down as the cars reached the bottom.
         “So what did you think?” Matt asked while the cars began to slow to a stop at the landing.
         Sara looked ahead at the people who were waiting for their turn. “Short,” her voice came out in a gasp. “It went so fast, it didn’t even feel like we went upside down.”
Matt laughed as the cars jerked to a stop. There was a click, and she felt the pressure rise from her chest as Matt pushed the harness up and over their heads. Sara slowly stood, her legs feeling shaky. She stepped to the platform and followed the rest of her fellow passengers away from the ride and down the ramp.
         “Did you have fun?” Matt said behind her.
         She looked back at him, meeting his blue eyes. “It was great,” she said with a smile.
         The ramp ended in a big white room. He walked next to her towards the sunlight that came in from the open archway. She could see his friend sitting on a nearby bench. “See you around.” Matt said and walked away.
         Sara went out of the building, scanning for Robin. She saw her leaning against a tree and, from the look on her face; Sara could tell that she was not happy.
         “Was it fun?” Robin growled.
         “It was great!”
         “Your hair is a mess,” Robin said, reaching to touch it.
         Sara jerked away. “It’s going to get worse. I’m going on another one.”
         “No, you’re not.”
         Sara didn’t reply. She walked towards the Sidewinder. Standing in line, she could feel the hot, late summer sun beating down on her and felt a drop of sweat run down her back. She looked around at the waiting crowd. Most of their clothes were damp, but she didn’t know if it was from sweat or from one of the water rides. Shifting from foot to foot, she waited for her turn to get strapped into one of the many chairs that circled the shaft that would lift and spin her in the air.
         She felt just a little dizzy as she got off the ride, but it was fun. She could still feel the lightness in her stomach caused when the ride swung her up into the air. Robin was standing next to the games, even more pissed than before. Sara gave her a smile and walked in the opposite direction.
         “And where do you think you’re going?” Robin barked, coming after her.
         “The Outlaw.”
         Robin grabbed Sara’s arm, her fingernails biting into flesh. “Thanks to you, I lost those guys.”
         “Then go find them,” Sara said, yanking her arm from her sister’s fingers and walking away. She walked straight for the ride, trying to ignore the pain in her arm. Her fingers touched the tender spot. ‘Thanks for the bruise, Robin.’ Sara thought as she ran her fingers over her skin, making sure there wasn’t any blood. Taking her place at the end of the line, her muscles tightened, afraid that Robin would sneak up behind her.
         “Are you riding alone?” a man’s voice said next to her.
         She flinched, turned, and saw that Matt was standing next to her.
         “Didn’t mean to startle you,” he said.
         “It’s not you.”
         He nodded. “Not one of your sister’s rides?”
         “Care if I join you?”
         “Not at all.”
         A few minutes went by and the line slowly moved closer to the ride. “So, are you in college?” Matt asked, breaking the silence between them.
         “High school,” Sara answered. “My sister starts college this fall,” she added. “Are you in college?”
         “Yeah, Greg and I both go to Iowa State. Is that where your sister is going?”
         “Yeah,” she said. “What are you studying?” she added quickly, not wanting to talk about Robin.
         “I’m a sophomore; my major is history. Goal, to be a teacher,” he said dramatically.
         “That’s cool,” Sara replied. “I like ancient history. Egypt and stuff like that.”
         “Their religious beliefs are confusing but amazing,” he said, then added, “Greg is studying accounting and business.”
         Sara smiled, not knowing what to say.
         As if Matt knew it, he asked, “So where do you go to school?”
         “Oak Creek.”
         “That’s not too far from Ames, is it?”
         Sara nodded, “It’s only about twenty miles.”
         “So, what are your college plans?” he asked after a few seconds.
         “Haven’t really decided yet, but I’m leaning towards advertising or journalism.”
         “That’s cool.”
         The line slowly moved forward again, and they stood next to each other in the bright sun. Sara could feel more sweat run down her back.
         “So, what do you do when not being pulled around by your sister?” he asked with a slight hint of humor in his voice.
         She turned, met his eyes, and felt her face warming from embarrassment.
         “What?” he said. “You didn’t think that we wouldn’t notice you?”
         Sara started to blush more.
         “Greg wanted to see how long it would have taken you to notice if we started to walk around in circles. But you took off for the Dragon.”
         She looked down at the ground, not wanting him to see how red her face was getting. “Sorry, but I got bored.”
         He blew out a burst of air that made Sara look back at him; he stood straighter and added a surprised expression to his face, his eyes smiling at her. “I’m boring? I’m going to have to prove you wrong.” He gave her shoulder a bump with his.
         Sara felt as if the line moved faster as they started to talk about movies and music, finding out that they both had the same interests. Before she knew it, they were sitting next to each other as the car roared down the hill. She could hear the wooden frame that held the ride above the ground creak and the metal wheels rattle and grind on the tracks. She tried to fight the g-forces that pressed her body against Matt, but gravity put her exactly where it wanted her.
         She was smiling as they walked down the ramp towards the exit. Matt was next to her, and she felt his arm graze her as they walked sending goose bumps over her skin. Sara’s eyes scanned the people who were walking along the path, afraid that Robin would see. Luckily the only familiar person was Greg, who was sitting on a bench next to a food stand.
         “I guess I’d better find my sister,” Sara said slowly as they stood on the blacktop path. A part of her didn’t want to say goodbye.
         “See you around,” Matt said with a small smile, then turned and walked towards his friend.
         Sara went in the opposite direction, to where she’d left Robin. She walked past the Sidewinder without seeing her sister, and she felt the gnawing in her stomach grow. Robin had taken off and was probably making up a story to get her in trouble with their parents. Suddenly she felt someone seize her arm, clutching it in a vice-tight grip. Turning, she met Robin’s angry eyes.
         “How dare you!” she snarled and squeezed tighter, digging her fingernails into Sara’s skin. For a second Sara feared that Robin had seen her with Matt. “If you ever take off again…”
         “Is there a problem?”
         Sara turned and saw Matt and Greg standing a few feet away. Distracted, Robin’s grip relaxed, and Sara pulled her arm away. She looked away, as the embarrassment settled in the pit of her stomach. Robin’s eyes flickered over to the guys as they stood with their eyes resting on Sara.
         Instantly Robin’s face took on its charming and innocent façade. “Oh, you know little sisters,” she said in a sweet voice. “She has a bad habit of running off.”
         Matt stood there for a second, looking at Robin. Then his eyes went to Sara. “Sara, we’re heading to the Raging River to cool off. Would you like to join us?”
         Trying to hide her anxiety, Sara slowly looked up and met his eyes, which shone with concern. Before she could say anything Robin took hold of her arm, digging her fingernails deep into her skin. “We’d love too,” Robin said, smiling.
         Matt nodded and the four of them started to walk along the path, Matt and Robin in the middle, Greg and Sara at the ends, Robin’s death hold still on Sara’s arm. Robin pulled Sara close and whispered into her ear, “You fucking slut,” and dug her fingernails in deeper.
         While standing in line, under the wooden shelter, Robin did anything she could to keep Sara from being noticed. She chatted with the guys as they stood in a group, standing in front of Sara, and used any opportunity to show off her curves, especially to Matt. Whenever either of the guys asked Sara a question, Robin answered it herself.
         As their turn got closer, an opening appeared in the side of the wall. Sara looked over the railing at the view, using it to avoid Robin’s eyes, for when they met hers, Sara could see her sister’s anger.
         Sara gazed at the blue tinted water as it flowed beneath the building that she was in. A round yellow raft came around a corner, floating over the water on a black inner tube. There were six high-backed seats in groups of two. Each pair was separated by an opening into the craft. Of the six people who sat in the chairs, two were soaking wet, two on either side of them were damp, and the others seemed bone dry. Just before they floated under Sara, she could make out the expressions on their faces. The drier ones were laughing at those who looked like drowned rats. She smiled to herself. As she felt Robin’s fingers poke her, her smile disappeared. She wished Matt had never asked them on the ride. ‘If Robin gets her hair wet…’ Sara cut the thought off.
         As the raft sat on the platform that the operator used to catch it and bring it up out of the water, Greg got in first and sat on one of the seats farthest away. Matt followed, and the operator held out his hand to let Robin use it to assist her to get in. She stood in the raft next to Matt as he leaned against the round silver bar that was bolted to the middle of the raft for passengers to hold onto.
         As Sara stepped forward, the operator held out his hand to help her. Matt stepped away from the bar as she placed a foot down, and he took her other hand in his, helping her keep her balance. She looked up into his eyes and stopped herself from letting the smile that started to appear on her lips grow. From the corner of her eye, she could see Robin’s face tighten in anger.
         Before Sara could sit in the nearest seat the operator spoke: “Would you mind two more?”
Sara looked up and saw a woman and her five or six-year-old son standing next to the operator.
Matt answered, “The more the merrier,” and held out his hand for the boy, who didn’t take it; instead he jumped into the raft.
         “Brian,” his mother scolded as the boy sat in an empty seat.
         Sara sat down as both the operator and Matt helped the woman into the raft. She sat down next to her son and helped him buckle his seatbelt. Robin’s glare went from the woman back to Sara, and she started to make her way around the raft, aiming for the seat next to her sister, but Matt had beaten her. Robin had no other choice; she sat next to Greg, her eyes narrowing as she scowled at Sara.
         When they were all buckled into their seats, Sara felt a jolt as the platform lowered into the water. She felt the liquid take them slowly from the building, picking up speed. Ahead she could see the water rise and fall with rapids. As they hit the first wave, a little water splashed into the raft, getting the young boy and Greg’s shoes wet. The boy let out a bout of laughter. Sara smiled as she looked over at them; Greg met her eyes and gave her a tight smile. She felt hers weaken; she had the feeling that his smile was not because of the water, but because he could feel the tension that was coming off Robin.
         The raft spun, and Sara could only see where they had already been. There was a bounce, and she gasped as she felt a cold, wet splash hit her head and run down her back. At the same time, the woman let out a shriek and Matt gave a shout of shock.

         The water and fake rocks began to dim, and then darken. Blackness replaced the bright sunlight. Muffled voices took over the sounds of running water and laughter.
         A warm liquid filled her mouth, coating her tongue with a metallic flavor. Sara started to gag as it ran down her throat. She swallowed hard, forcing it down. As the fluid made its way into her stomach, it rumbled and rolled, begging for more. She had tasted it before but couldn’t remember what it was.
         “Margret, you are so dead.” The man’s voice sounded far away.
         “Shut up, Vincent.” The woman’s was closer, as if it was above her.
         Sara’s eyes opened wide as a burning pain radiated from her stomach. It felt as if her insides were boiling. She could feel the warmth making its way through her body. A scream left her throat as the burning heat got hotter. Sara’s brain swam towards darkness, trying to find a way to hide from the pain. Voices came to her, becoming more distant with each word.
         “You’ve just made it worse,” the man said. “Kill it now, and I won’t say anything.”
         Sara could feel herself moving through the air, weightless. Voices came again from the darkness. “I told you to shut up,” the woman’s voice whispered.
         “Fine, it’s your ass.”

         The inside of her brain hummed. Her chest and heart felt as if they had melted together. She felt herself moving and realized that she was in a car, lying in the backseat. Memories trickled through her mind: her mother’s funeral, her sister, Eric.
         She heard a man’s mumbled voice coming from obscurity. “Why didn’t you kill it? You know how much trouble you’re getting yourself into. I’m not going to be part of this.”
         “Look at her,” said a woman‘s voice in a whisper.
         “What? She’s just another one, except she should be dead.”
         “Vincent, just think about it. Yes, she’s new, and she came to the scent of my blood…”
         “You took a vow. We can’t let any more run around.” His voice was angry.
         “But how could she resist like that? You know how old blood affects them, it drives them crazy. She should’ve latched on like a leech, not letting go until the stake was clear through her heart. And what about this old man taking her son; do you think it could be him?”
         “It’s possible, but it doesn’t matter.”
         There were a few seconds of silence, and then the woman spoke again. “I saw tears in her eyes.”
         “Now that’s bullshit!” he shouted. “You know that we can’t cry.”
         “I know that, but I saw…”
         “You didn’t see anything.”
         ‘I want to wake up now,’ Sara’s brain yelled as it swam with the swaying of the car, her body still feeling as if it was on fire. ‘Eric,’ her mind screamed.
         “It’s waking up,” the man’s voice said.
         Sara opened her eyes and looked towards the voices. The woman from the alley was staring at her from the front, her white-blonde hair hanging over the back of the seat. Next to the woman, Sara could only see the back of the man’s head as he drove the car, his dark brown hair hanging just above his shoulders.
         “You might as well finish it off,” he said.
         “No, I have to find out how she was able to resist and about the old man.”
         Sara mumbled her son’s name as she felt the darkness pulling her away. The car’s humming filled her ears as her mind found a safe place to sleep and wondered if this was what it felt like to die.

Chapter 2

         Sara could feel the anger seep through her body as she watched her sister stand in the dining room, greeting each person who walked in the front door. Robin stood there all dressed in black from head to toe, her eyes and cheeks wet with tears. Sara knew that Robin purposely used cheap makeup so it would run and smear around her eyes, just to add to her show.
         Turning back to the sink, she rinsed the pan out. Pieces of noodles ran in the current of water and down the drain.
         She turned towards the voice. Her mom’s best friend walked into the kitchen and stood next to the table, her grey hair tucked under a black hat. Standing out from her light brown face were her red, tired eyes.
         “Mary,” Sara whispered, and went into the old woman’s plump, short arms. She felt them go around her waist, the tips of the old woman’s fingers not quite reaching her spine.
         “How are you doing, child?” Mary asked into Sara’s shoulder. With that question, Sara’s body shivered. “Now, now,” the old woman whispered.
         Sara pulled herself away, afraid that she would lose control of her emotions. “What about you? You grew up with Mom.”
         Mary shook her head. “With your mother gone… It’s going to be hard.” She shrugged her shoulders. “But your sister is sure sucking up the attention. She’s acting like her world just ended. Just like she did at your father’s funeral and Matt’s.”
         “She’s good at that.” New tears formed in Sara’s eyes. “She acted like it was her husband who died.”
         Mary took Sara’s hand and patted it. “She just wants the attention. Everyone knows that you were the one who put her life on hold for the last five months to take care of your mother. You’re the one who moved from Des Moines to be here. That shows how much you really love your mom.” She looked out into the living room. “You need to get out there, I’ll take care of the kitchen.”
         Sara gave the short woman another hug. Taking a deep breath, she went out into the dining room and took her place next to her sister as more people from the small town of Oak Creek came into the house. Wide eyes and expressions of surprise temporarily replaced their looks of sadness as Robin, almost a complete stranger, took them into a hug.
         “Thank you for coming,” she said to them in a sad voice. That was all she could say to them; she didn’t know their names. But they didn’t need Sara to grab them; they seized her and squeezed her tight.          Sara was able to greet each one by name as they gave her their condolences. They were her mom’s friends and Sara had come to know each one over the last five months.
         The afternoon came and went, as did the visitors, who stopped to give Sara one more hug. As the sun disappeared, Sara went into the pale yellow kitchen to clean up. She could hear the water from the shower above going down the drain, along with Robin’s singing. Dishes were piled next to the sink and more sat on the table. From the cupboard, Sara took out a stack of plastic bowls and the roll of foil and began transferring the donated food.
         When the kitchen counters were cleaned of all but dirty dishes, she called to her sister, “Are you going to help me clean up?”
         “I’m going through Mom’s stuff,” Robin’s voice yelled back from upstairs.
         “God damn it, Robin!” Sara yelled, throwing the rag into the sink. She walked into the dining room, “We’re supposed to do that together.”
         “Don’t you say His name in vain, you evil little girl!” Heavy footsteps thumped overhead.
         ‘Shit,’ Sara thought.
         “I don’t know why Mom let you stay in her house,” Robin yelled as she came down the stairs that ran along the dining room wall, her wet blonde hair swaying behind her in a ponytail. She stopped in the middle of the staircase. “You’re the spawn of Satan.” Robin waved a finger at her. “I’ve seen your room.”
         “You have no right to be in there!”
         “I can go anywhere in Mom’s house that I want to. You’re the one who has no right to be here. Practicing the devil’s work under her roof. Did Mom know?” She put her hand on her skinny hip, shifting her weight.
         “Mom knew everything. She even watched me and Eric do a ritual. Anyway, Mom asked you, too, even though she knew that you wouldn’t take time out of your precious life to care for her.”
         “You liar. Mom knew that you had nothing better to do; you don’t have a life. Mom was a Christian, a good Christian. Even as she was dying, she was trying to get you to change your evil ways. She’d never allow witchcraft done in her house.” She took a step down. “You waited until the cancer weakened her, didn’t you?”
         “Fuck you,” Sara whispered, meeting her sister’s blue eyes.
         “I wonder what child services would say about your witchcraft.” Robin tapped her finger to her chin. “I bet there would be an investigation.”
         “You wouldn’t dare,” Sara yelled, standing straight.
         “Try me,” Robin said as she stared at her sister, her blue eyes not blinking. She went down another step. “Stay out of my way. I’ll be going through mom’s stuff, keeping what I want.” She started back up the steps. “Oh,” turning, she faced Sara with a smirk on her face, “Greg and I talked about it on the way here. We’re going to sell the house.”
         “You can’t. Eric and I live here. You were sitting in the living room when Mom said that I can have the house.”
         “Well,” Robin said as she looked at the ceiling, then back at Sara, “I’ll think about making some kind of a rental agreement with you, but only if you renounce your evil ways and give yourself to Jesus.” She turned, flipping her hair and walking back up the steps.
         Sara’s cheeks burned; curses and hexes flooded her mind. ‘No,’ she told herself, ‘I’m not evil like her.’
         Bypassing the dishes in the kitchen, she walked outside to the backyard and took in the summer’s air. A small sliver of the moon hung above the horizon. Kicking off her shoes, she walked barefoot onto the cool, damp grass. Looking up to the dark night sky, she stared at the moon. As she gazed at it, she held up her arms and started to take slow, deep breaths, feeling the grass under her feet and the damp cool air going into her lungs. From the corner of her eye, she could see the tall trees that surrounded the lawn sway in the breeze, and she could hear the rope of the tire swing that hung from the tallest oak creek as it moved in time with the tree’s branch.
         She stood there until her heartbeat slowed and most of her anger left. Then she said, “Oh Mother above, as you turn the wheel, the coming new moon is the time of endings and beginnings. I know my mother is now in the Summerland with you, but I will still miss her until it is my turn to join. During this time of sorrow and as I prepare for my own new beginning without my mom, please give me the strength and courage to deal with those who are closed-minded and who only think of themselves.”
         She felt the ground beneath her feet grow warm as if the grass had wrapped itself around her toes, trying to pull her into the Earth. Closing her eyes, she pictured the grass growing up around her legs, taking away the stress and the rest of her bad feelings and replacing them with peaceful energy and strength.
         She heard a car in the distance, and her eyes flickered towards the noise. A pair of headlights shone into her eyes when the car turned off the main road and onto the lane. Looking back up to the sky, she pulled herself from the spiritual embrace. “Mother, I thank you for your precious gift. May I continue to learn and grow with your love.” Lowering her head she said, “Blessed Be.” Raising it again, she gave the moon’s sliver a thanking smile and walked back to the house, slipping her shoes on as she went.
         Sara went inside and stood by the sink. She turned on the hot water and started to rinse out a pan as the front door opened. A girl’s voice came to her from the living room, asking if horses could really talk. Sara swallowed the chuckle that tickled the back of her throat. A man’s voice started to answer the little girl’s question but was cut off by another girl’s voice.
         “Anna, don’t be stupid, horses can’t talk,” said Tammy.
         “Tammy!” the man growled, “that’s not how you are to talk to people.”
         “But daddy…”
         “Upstairs and get ready for bed.”
         Sara heard Tammy’s footsteps slowly go up the steps. Two sets followed behind her, one soft and the other heavy.
         “Mom?” a teenager’s voice called from the living room as the footfalls made their way across the ceiling.
         “In the kitchen,” she called, turning from the sink. A second later her son walked through the doorway. Every time she looked at him, she thought that he looked more and more like his father. His brown hair was buzzed short, exposing the small scar that was usually hidden under his curly hair. She blinked quickly as the memory of him crashing his tricycle into the back of her dad’s tractor and all of the blood that covered the side of his face flashed through her mind.
         “How was the movie?”
         “Bad. It was girly,” he said with a loud moan.
         “Eric, there had to be some fighting.”
         “It was lame.”
         “Did your cousins like it?”
         “Duh, they’re girls.”
         Her heart jumped because he sounded so much like his father. “What did I tell you about that?”
         “Sorry, mom.”
         “For your ‘duh’, you can load the dishwasher.”
         “I was going to hang out with Trevor and the guys,” he whined. “They’re picking me up.”
         “Just because you turned sixteen doesn’t give you your freedom.” She paused and added, “But for going to the movie with your cousins, I’ll let you. But I want you back by eleven.”
         “Ok.” He turned and started to fill the washer.
         “But,” Sara said, and Eric turned and looked at her, “Your Aunt…”
         “What is she doing now? More preaching?”
         “Never mind.” Sara looked at her son, trying to hide her tears. “Just be back at eleven.” She paused and then added, “I love you.” Turning, she left her son in the kitchen and headed up the stairs.

         In her bedroom she looked around, ignoring the pink flowered wallpaper of her childhood, trying to see if Robin had taken anything. Sara could see books moved from their shelves and left on the floor or desk, and a few of the drawers had been left ajar. She clenched her fists when she saw her altar had been rearranged. ‘Great,’ she thought.
         Starting with the altar, which was in the middle of the room, Sara took each item off and set it on her desk, then rubbed the wood surface down with an oil and water blend while saying a prayer: “Negativity is gone, positivity grows. Harmful thoughts run away, pure love keeps you at bay…” She picked up each item from the desk and repeated the process, putting them back in their proper places. Then she began to cleanse the entire room. Working with the altar items, she lit candles and incense and then went around the room in a clockwise spiral starting at the altar, sprinkling salt and flicking the liquid around the room and on any object that Robin could have touched, all while chanting her prayer. As she did this, she imagined her sister’s image, bad thoughts, and feelings leave the room. When her last circle ended at the bedroom door she said, “This room is cleansed of all negativity!” and closed the door.
         She sat on the edge of her bed as the day caught up with her. The alarm clock that sat on the desk said that it was only nine, but her body tried to tell her it was later. Even with her body protesting she got up so she could finish the dishes.
         After emptying the dishwasher, Sara went back to her room and sat at her desk with the guest book open next to the computer. She opened a card-making program and began to browse through the ‘thank you’ section. Looking carefully at each design, she wondered if her mother would have liked it. The soft sounds of the harp music that played on the radio next to her bed made sleep tug at Sara’s brain.
         “Aunt Sara! Aunt Sara!” a young girl’s voice screamed at her bedroom door.
         A man’s whisper followed: “I told you to knock.”
         A small tap echoed on the wooden door. Sara smiled as she stared at it.
         “It’s me, Tammy. Anna and I wanted to say good-night.”
         “Come in.”
         The door opened and two blonde girls entered, Tammy pulling her younger sister behind her. Even though they were five years apart, they looked as if they were twins, and they looked just like their mom with their blonde hair and blue eyes. Sara could see Greg’s shadow floating against the wall across from her open door.
         “Goodnight Aunt Sara,” Tammy said in her sweetest ten-year-old voice, her blue eyes studying Sara. “May Jesus watch over you while you sleep.”
         “Why thank you, Tammy, and may He watch over you and your family.” Sara knew what to say to her sister’s children, so as not to piss Robin off. That was one advantage of the Wiccan religion; ‘He’ could mean any deity to her, including Jesus.
         “Have you said your prayers yet?” Tammy asked, looking around Sara’s bedroom, her eyes falling on the pentagram wind chime that hung from the ceiling, it slowly danced from the breeze that came in from the open window.
         “Not yet.”
         Taking her eyes from the chime, she looked at Sara and, in a tone that sounded a lot like Robin, she said, “My mom says that you don’t pray.”
         “I pray in a different way than you and your family.”
         “But isn’t…”
         “Tammy, have you brushed your teeth yet?” Greg’s voice interrupted from the hallway.
         “No, daddy.”
         “Then you better.”
         “Ok. Night Aunt Sara,” she said again.
         “Night Tammy.”
         Sara looked over at the five-year-old girl who was gazing at the smoky white crystal ball that sat on an end table, the last gift Matt had given her. “Night Anna,” she said.
         The little girl turned and smiled, drool dripping from her mouth and the finger that was stuck in it. She gurgled, “Good-night.”
         Tammy pulled her sister by her hand from the room. After they disappeared, Greg stuck his head around the doorframe. “Sorry if they woke you.”
         “No, I was awake. I was just trying to decide on a card design.”
         “Um, I am sorry about your mom.”
         “Thanks, Greg.”
         He shifted and stood in the doorway. His once sandy hair had more grey in it than any other color, and he looked tired. Sara felt her heart break as she looked at him, knowing that her sister was responsible. She was sucking the life out of him.
         “I’m really sorry about Robin wanting to sell the house. I tried to talk her out of it,” he said softly.
         “It’s not your fault. That’s just how she is.”
         “If you need anything…”
         “I would, Greg, but I don’t want you to get into trouble.”

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