The McKenzie sisters are caught in the midst of a deadly family secret. Can they survive?
Far From Home
“It will be okay. Everything will be just fine. I can handle this. I won’t let anything happen to them.” All these thoughts were racing through Piper McKenzie’s mind as she watched over her sleeping little sisters. They both looked so peaceful laying there. Hilary’s long brown hair enveloped her sleeping face. She shivered as she felt the wind blow against the dilapidated shack where they were hiding.
Piper’s thoughts drifted back to the peaceful times that were now long gone. “I remember when we were all a family. Nothing would ever hurt us as long as we were together. Mom and Dad would take us to the park and we would have such a great time. Mom would take care of Peyton since she was probably only one year old back then, and Dad would take me and Hilary to the tire swing and spin us around until we couldn’t stand it any longer. We were so happy. What are we supposed to do now? When Mom and Dad died Aunt Jackie stepped in and cared for us. We had 3 more years of semi normalcy, but what now?”
Earlier that day Piper was called home from school but no one had given her a reason. She drove to the middle and pre schools to pick up her sisters and drove home to their Aunt Jackie’s house. When they arrived, there were police cars everywhere and an ambulance parked in Aunt Jackie’s prized garden. She told her sisters to stay in the car while she ran into the house. She got into the front door only to be abruptly stopped by a burly officer who asked her a series of questions before she could even begin to ask what had happened in the home. After the officer was satisfied he told her that screams were heard radiating from the house around noon that day and a neighbor had notified the police. An officer was sent to investigate and discovered the murdered body of a middle aged woman.
Piper immediately knew what the cop was about to say next, it had happened just like this three years before. Piper knew her Aunt Jackie was dead. The cop told her that the woman was in fact her aunt and that she had been killed with a ceremonial knife they found near her body. The house was ransacked so they believed the killer was searching for something.
The cop asked if she could come down to the station but Piper instantly knew what she must do. She lied and told him she had to meet her cousin and tell her what happened and that she would leave her sisters with the cousin and go to the station afterwards. The officer appeared to become very nervous and told her that they might need to speak to her sisters and that she should bring them along when she came to talk.
Piper figured this would happen. She could never understand why, but someone was always trying to harass the McKenzie’s. Where ever they went tragedy and pain followed. It was odd but it seemed like her and her sisters were wanted for some reason or another. Her parents lost their lives trying to hide it and now her aunt had too. Piper realized that something in her family wasn’t right. Right there and then she knew she needed to find out what was the mystery behind the McKenzie family. She knew more people would come after them soon if she wasn’t careful and she decided to get herself and her sisters as far away from home as possible.
Piper continued to question herself throughout the night, waking up at even the slightest movement of either of her sisters. She ran her fingers through Peyton’s lovely, light brown hair which was such a contrast to her own shoulder length black hair that was plastered to her tear stained face. “How can I be their mom? I am only seventeen. I can barely take care of myself, how will I take care of two little girls?” After much thought, she realized what she must do. She needed to get Peyton and Hilary someplace safe.
“When they wake up we’ll start walking again.” Piper said to herself. Traveling anywhere would be difficult now because they had gotten a flat tire and abandoned their car in hopes that it would be harder for them to be tracked down. Piper continued to think to herself until she drifted off into an uneasy sleep. One thought remained in her mind hovering dangerously like an upcoming storm. “I just hope we aren’t found.”
Far From Home
The next morning Piper was awakened by Hilary’s worried voice.
“Piper, wake up.” Hilary said urgently as she shook her sister’s arm gently.
“Hilary, it’s Saturday, just turn on the TV for Peyton and let me go back to sleep.” Piper groaned exhausted and completely forgetting where they were.
“Piper wake up, we aren’t at Aunt Jackie’s house remember?” Hilary pleaded as she tried to make Piper come out of her sleepy state.
Piper immediately bolted upright from her more relaxed position. She glanced around the shack and yesterday’s events came flooding back to her. She remembered Aunt Jackie’s brutal murder, the suspicious policeman, the flat tire in the middle of the remote mountain road, and the long trek away from the abandoned vehicle. All of her worries overwhelmed her and she began to cry again. Hilary hugged her older sister and began to cry too. Piper and Hilary stopped suddenly when they saw their baby sister stir from her deep sleep. Although Piper had told Hilary of their aunt’s demise, she refused to tell Peyton. She didn’t want Peyton to be aware of their dire situation because she was way too little to understand why all the adult figures in her life were being tragically taken away. Piper and Hilary dried their tears and put on their best attempts of a somewhat happy face to not worry their little sister.
“Piper where are we?” Peyton asked sleepily.
“Don’t you remember sweetie, we had to spend the night in this house since the car tire popped.” Piper soothed in a motherly voice.
“Now I do.” Peyton said now more cheerfully.
“Good, do you remember where you put your stuff?” Piper asked her.
“Over here silly.” Peyton laughed as she pointed to her backpack.
“Where’s Dolly?” Hilary asked Peyton.
Peyton looked around frantically and suddenly revealed her stuffed dolphin Dolly that she slept with every night. Piper was lucky that Peyton’s preschool made sure each student brought their favorite stuffed animal and pillow to school each day for naptime or it would have been impossible to have made Peyton fall asleep the night before. She was even luckier that her Aunt Jackie had made sure each girl had an extra set of clothing in the trunk of the car or they would not be very happy right now.
When the car got the flat Piper unloaded each of their backpacks of their homework and loaded them up with their spare clothes. Each girl carried her own backpack the several miles they hiked through the thick forest. Piper had carried Peyton’s pillow and Dolly along with her purse which contained all the money she currently had in her bank account, about $500. Those few items were all they had and the money would have to last them for awhile. Piper wished she had access to her Aunt Jackie’s account since that was were the money their parents had left them was kept. With that money they would have had a better shot of getting as far away from this horrid place as possible. They would have to deal with what they had. Somehow they’d get away.
“Where are we going to go?” Hilary asked secretly to Piper.
“I am not completely sure yet, but something is telling me to head west.” Piper answered.
“How far west?” Hilary asked.
“Well I am thinking that we should go to where mom grew up.” Piper replied.
“California? Piper it will take forever to get there. We are in the middle of Pennsylvania remember.” Hilary responded confused.
“Of course I know where we are in Pennsylvania. We have enough money I hope, to get on a bus and get as far as we can away from here. Wherever the bus lets off we get on another one and we keep doing this until we get to California.” Piper informed.
“What do we do once we get there, if we get there?” Hilary asked doubtfully in a hushed whisper.
“Mom had relatives there. I remember her telling me about them when I was little. If we find them we might be safe for awhile.” Piper reassured Hilary.
“Piper!” Peyton’s voice cut in.
“What Peyton?” Piper called back.
“I left my hair brush at home. Can we go get it or will those scary policemen stop us?” Peyton asked concerned for both the hair brush and her well being from the policemen.
“I am sorry sweetie, but we’ll have to buy you a new one some other time.” Piper replied trying to ease her sister’s mind.
“Won’t my hair get messy?” Peyton asked seriously.
“Until we get you a new one, you and Hilary can use mine since I keep it in my purse.” Piper suggested.
“Can you brush it for me?” Peyton asked.
“Of course I will.” Piper replied taking out her brush and gently brushing through Peyton’s curls. Once she finished she let Hilary brush through her long, wavy hair, and then she finally went trough her own tangled black mess of hair. When they were finished, they grabbed all their things and prepared to continue their journey.
“Where are we going?” Peyton asked.
“We are going to see some family members.” Hilary replied.
“Who?” Peyton asked curiously.
“Our Mom’s cousins or something.” Piper replied.
“Oh.” Peyton answered and then became silent. Peyton didn’t remember their parents so anyone who knew them was a mystery to her. She loved when Piper would tell her stories of when she was little, and what their parents were like. Although Peyton was young, in her own little way she was also desperately hoping to uncover the mystery of her parents. She believed that maybe if she learned about what they were like she just might remember them.
“Peyton keep up.” Piper called to her since she had lagged behind while thinking of her parents.
“Coming.” She called back to Piper as they continued on as the sun rose into the sky.
Far From Home
The McKenzie sisters walked for about two hours when the first complaints began. Now after three more hours of walking the moaning and groaning had become almost unbearable. They had made okay time so far, especially since they were traveling with Peyton who absolutely hated walking long distances. She had made this clearly known the night before as they made their way to the shack. She had whimpered the whole way there about how tired she was. Now, since they had spent much time walking the previous day, Peyton already had sore feet. All three girls didn’t have the best footwear on and Piper only had her favorite black sandals. They had made their way out of the mountain area and could see a small town in the distance. They could also see farther back, a busier area that might be able to accommodate their needs.
While they were walking Piper figured that they would need to spend the night in a hotel somewhere or camp out at a rest stop. She planned on making their way into the town by using back roads. They couldn’t afford to be seen by too many people. The police had probably started looking for them and they might be recognized. They were far enough away from Aunt Jackie’s so no one would know them personally, but three young girls walking down busy streets might draw unwanted attention. Piper figured that in the busier side of town they could go into a bunch of stores to get some basic needs. Much to Peyton’s dismay they would all share Piper’s brush until they arrived in California. Piper wanted them to each pick out another set of cheap clothes along with undergarments, hygiene items, and a few more random needs. She also wanted to buy two secret items that they might need in order to conceal their identities.
“My feet hurt.” Peyton cried.
“We are almost there Peyton.” Piper said reassuringly.
“Why can’t we take a break?” Peyton asked.
“We took one five minutes ago, and you said your feet felt better.” Hilary commented.
“They hurt again. I am hungry. I want to go home. ” Peyton whined.
“I promise once we get into town we will get you something to eat.” Piper replied trying to soothe Peyton.
“But…” Peyton started.
“No buts!” Piper told her. In her mind she was shocked by how much she sounded like her mother.
The girls reached the town a half an hour later, and stumbled upon a fast food restaurant. They walked in and sat down eating their hamburgers and fries greedily like they hadn’t eaten in days.
“I think my belly is going to burst.” Peyton groaned as her sisters laughed.
“I guess you aren’t hungry anymore.” Hilary giggled.
“Piper, where are we going now?” Peyton asked.
“We are going to go shopping.” Piper replied.
“I love shopping! Can I buy a toy? We aren’t clothes shopping are we? Can I get a new brush?” Peyton fired off rapid questions eagerly.
“Slow down.” Piper said as she cleaned up the wrappers from their food.
“Well?” Peyton asked expectantly.
“We cannot buy any toys. We need to get another set of clothing. We will share my brush for now. I need you both to come with me and get some things at that store up the road. Once we do that, we are going to find someplace nice and warm to stay until tomorrow. Tomorrow we will find a bus and we will start out on our little trip.” Piper informed as Peyton groaned and Hilary sighed.
The three girls walked casually into the store and avoided eye contact with any of the other customers. They carefully picked out the cheapest and most comfortable clothes they could find, although the stores variety wasn’t the best. Piper was very thankful it wasn’t anywhere near winter time yet, since jackets would have been another major expense. They selected several important hygiene items and then wandered to the back of the store. Piper told the girls to pick out a box of cereal for morning and three bottles of water. While they were looking she slipped off to look for the secret items. The store was surprisingly large so it took awhile to find what she was looking for. She picked up one box from a nearby shelf compared it to another and picked the best looking type. She then went down the aisle farther and picked up the other item. She turned and stashed both items under their clothes in the cart as she saw her sisters coming up to her. She knew that if her sisters saw either of them it would not be pretty.
“What are you doing at this section?” Hilary asked puzzled.
“Oh, just looking around. Did you get the stuff from the food section?” Piper asked in effort to divert Hilary’s attention.
“Yep!” Peyton said cheerfully.
“Good.” Piper replied as she gave her baby sister a hug.
Hilary looked around the aisle curiously.
“Come on lets get going.” Piper called practically pulling Hilary out of the aisle.
“Piper, if I can’t get a new brush you can’t get anything from the hair aisle either.” Peyton said stubbornly.
“Now what would make you think I would bother getting anything there? All I was doing was checking if that new brand of hairspray that I was interested in became available yet. Now why don’t you two go and use this quarter to try and win a stuffed animal from the game by the door. ” Piper countered back. This would give her time to pay for their stuff.
Far From Home
A Need for Change
Piper sighed as they walked out of the store. She only had about $360 left and they still needed to find a place to stay. She had grabbed a town map from the store and had learned that they weren’t far from the Pennsylvania border to Ohio. They had made it a lot farther than she had thought they would have that day. She figured that if they walked to the other side of town they could stay at a rest area there and wait for a bus at the nearby stop. It was almost sunset and Piper could tell that her sisters were getting tired she needed to get the three of them on that bus so they could sleep.
When they got to the rest area Piper learned that the bus would arrive in 2 hours so she decided that before she bought their tickets, they should work on appearances. She took her sisters into the ladies room and set their bags on the hard floor.
“What are we doing?” Hilary asked after she exited her stall in the bathroom. She saw that Piper had spread out some of the stuff they had bought at the store around the sink.
“We need to hide our identities until we reach California. So I bought certain things that will help us blend in.” Piper answered.
“Heck no! I am not letting you anywhere near my hair. I know what that stuff does.” Hilary panicked as she backed up towards the door.
“Hil, please listen to me. This is for Peyton, but you will need to cut your hair.” Piper practically pleaded to Hilary as she showed her the box of hair dye.
“You are going to color Peyton’s hair?” Hilary questioned still eyeing the box.
“If anything stops me from getting you two to California you need to get yourself and Peyton there. This assures that you will be harder to find if someone is looking for you. As long as we don’t look like ourselves we have a better chance of getting away. I am going to dye Peyton’s hair so she will look blonde. With her cute curls and the slow speed her hair grows she can pull it off. Your long hair is very noticeable so you need to cut it shorter. I am even going to cut mine shorter too.”
“Peyton is going to kill you before you finish her hair so I am not so sure you’ll even get a chance to cut mine.” Hilary replied. “What makes you think we won’t all get to California together anyways?”
“I am just taking precautions.” Piper replied.
“What is going on out here?” Peyton called as she left her stall.
“Nothing.” Piper answered.
“You’re making a mess. You’re gonna get us in trouble.” Peyton stated as she saw the clothes and hair supplies by the sink.
“Peyton sweetie I need you to come here a second.” Piper told her as Hilary suppressed a laugh and Piper grabbed Peyton.
Far From Home
“Don’t look at me that way.” Piper said feeling guilty.
“I want my hair back!” Peyton said stubbornly.
“You still have your hair, it is just a different color now.” Hilary replied sarcastically. Hilary was in a horrible mood. Her hair, her long, lovely hair was gone. She had gone from having hair down past her waist to having hair that just barely touched her shoulders. Piper was no hair stylist either. It wasn’t nearly as fashionable as it used to be. The only advantage of this monstrosity was the amazing weight that had seemed to be lifted from her, but she would never admit to liking even one thing about this hairstyle. She looked over at her sisters and smiled through her unhappiness. Peyton looked miserable and kept fiddling with her now blonde curls. Piper whose black hair always reminded her of their mom was cut up to the bottom of her ears. Hilary understood that these style changes were needed but absolutely despised having lost one of her key features.
“I want it back the way it was!” Peyton cried out.
“Shut up, you are acting like a baby.” Hilary countered back at Peyton.
“You are too! You have been a grouch ever since you got your hair cut.” Peyton replied angrily. She hated being called a baby.
“That’s it!” Piper practically snarled.
Peyton and Hilary stopped dead and looked shocked at Piper who was usually very peaceful and never liked to yell.
“You are both going to stop acting like toddlers right now. I don’t want to hear it anymore. There is nothing I can do about your hair so stop complaining.” Piper reprimanded.
Both of Piper’s sisters grew silent and stared at the ground. Piper immediately felt horrible. She didn’t mean to yell at her sisters, but having all of this stress and responsibility was tough and their constant bickering was making it unbearable. She knew they were upset and she was too. She liked her hair they way it was, it was one of the few things she still had that reminded her of her mom. Piper’s hand immediately grasped at a locket hanging from her neck. It was a present given to her on her 14th birthday. The locket had a picture taken at the park they loved to have picnics at and it had Piper and Hilary sitting on the tire swing with their dad on one side and their mom on the other holding a two month old baby Peyton. Piper cherished the locket. It was the last birthday present she ever received from her parents. A week before her next birthday they had been killed. The locket had stayed with Piper ever since. Whenever she needed strength she would hold onto it and think of her parents.
“Sorry guys.” Piper said.
“We’re sorry too.” Hilary replied for herself and Peyton.
“Why don’t we do something fun while we wait for the bus.” Piper suggested.
“Like what?” Peyton asked excitedly.
“We now have these new looks, we should come up with new identities.” Piper said mysteriously.
“I like my name already.” Peyton said disappointed.
“I know you do, but if anyone asks you for your name, you can’t say Peyton McKenzie. You have to keep your name a secret. So we all need to think really hard and come up with new names just in case anyone asks. Okay?” Piper asked.
“Sounds good to me.” Hilary replied. The three girls all thought hard about their new names and waited patiently for the bus.
A/N: This is the first 5 chapters of the first book in my Far From Home series. I would highly appreciate any reviews stating what you think about it so far. Thank you for reading.