Ember x, p.16
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       Ember X, p.16

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 16


  I shove the chair back, shut off the computer, and flop down on the couch next to Ian. “Is Mom home yet?”

  He surfs through the channels with the remote aimed at the small television screen. “Nah, she called and said she’s going to be late. ”

  “Did you check on her prescription to see if it was still full?”

  “Yeah… and it’s still full. She hasn’t taken them for at least a week. ”

  “We should talk to her about it,” I say. “She came home last night totally wasted and ranting about Dad being a killer. ”

  Ian turns down the volume of the TV and sets the remote down on the armrest. “Where was I?”

  I point over my shoulder at the staircase. “Upstairs, in the attic, with your ‘muse. ’”

  He squirms uneasily. “Did you get her upstairs okay?”

  I grab a handful of skittles from the candy bowl on the coffee table and pop them into my mouth. “Yeah, I made do. ”

  He slips off his beanie to ruffle his hair. “Was she nice to you?”

  I seal my lips together and force the tears to back down. “She was fine, I guess. ”

  “I can tell when you’re lying. ” Ian pushes the sleeves of his shirt up and kicks his feet up on the table. “What did she say to you?”

  Ian knows about my rough relationship with our mother to an extent, but there are pieces I omit from him, like her accusations that I killed Grandma Nelly.

  “She was as nice as she always is. ” I scoop up another handful of skittles and get up from the couch. “I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning. ”

  “Ember…” He struggles for words. “You know you can talk to me about stuff. My meds are helping a lot and I think I can handle things now. ”

  “I know,” I say, but he can’t. It’s in his eyes—the fear I might open up and he’ll have to deal with it, so I bottle it up. The accident, Raven, death, that I saw Laden’s body hanging from our tree. “And if I do ever feel like talking, you’ll be the first one I come to. ”

  He releases a breath of relief and turns back to the TV as I trudge up to my room, wondering when I’ll crack.

  Chapter 9

  I don’t hear or see Asher the next day, or the next and when I text him about hanging out, his response is that he’s busy. It bothers me for some reason. I barely know him, yet knots wind in my stomach every time I think about how it felt when he touched me. It’s like I’ve become obsessed with him and his lips and hands and I don’t like how much he consumes me, yet, I do at the same time.

  I’m in the town library, tucked at the table in the farthest corner, writing poetry about my frustration with a book opened at my feet.

  In the midst of a foggy field, the answers are hidden

  But the impossible journey deems them forbidden

  “Have I told you how much I’m sorry,” Raven says, sliding a candy bar across the table.

  I glance up from my journal. “How many times are you going to apologize?” I pick up the candy bar. “My teeth are going to rot out if you keep it up. ”

  “As long as it takes for you to accept it. ” She takes a magazine out of her bag.

  “How did you know I was here?” I ask.

  She smiles. “You always are, when you’re not working or in class. I think you just might be obsessed with words. ”

  That and beautiful men with piercings. “You know me too well. ”

  “What are you writing about?” She moves the strap of her tank top over a little and peels a layer of skin off her shoulder blade.

  I scratch the title The Unknown on the top of the page. “Stuff. Life… You know you should really get that looked at. I really do think it’s infected. ”

  She flicks the skin onto the floor. “I did and the doctor said it’s fine. ” Her eye twitches and she pretends to pluck some mascara from her eyelashes.

  Swirling the pen on the top of the paper, I sketch a poorly drawn Angel. “You can die from infections. Do you know that?”

  She peels another layer of skin off, and it’s like she’s molting. “But you know when I’m really going to die and if it was from the infection, you’d make me go to the hospital. ”

  She has me there. Under the title of my poem, I write:

  The Reaper of Death, the Angel of Life.

  They walk together in day and night.

  “Raven, have you ever heard of a Grim Angel?” I inquire.

  She thrums her manicured nails on the table as she considers this. “Maybe… in one of the books I looked through when I was doing my Angel painting project. But I can’t remember exactly what it is. Why? What’s up?”

  “I was just looking through some stuff on the internet the other night and I came across a drawing of one. I’ve never heard of them before, though. ”

  “Why were you looking up Angel stuff on the internet?”

  “For a poem I’m working on,” I lie breezily. “Do you still have those books?”

  She shakes her head as she twists her pink hair up into a bun. “I returned them here and they had to special order them, so I don’t even know if they’re still here. ”

  I drop my voice as the librarian walks by, shooting me a dirty look. “Do you remember anything about them at all?”

  She turns a page of her magazine. “Only that they are a mix between a Grim Reaper and an Angel of Death. And that they’re super crazy most of the time. ”

  “How exactly are they supposed to be crazy?” I ask. “I mean, what defines them as being insane? Do they do weird things or rant incoherent thoughts?”

  “The books said that they used to sneak around killing innocent people and stealing their souls,” she explains. “Like it was a game or something. And they suffered from hallucinations. ”

  I need to get my hands on those books.

  “So what’s up with you and Asher?” She abruptly changes the topic.

  I stop drawing and glance up. “What do you mean?”

  She presses me with a look from over the magazine. “Don’t play dumb with me, Ember Rose Edwards. You know what I’m talking about—our knight in shining armor and the reason why you’ve been bummed out all week. ”

  “I’m not playing dumb, Raven Lilly Monroe,” I retort. “I have no clue what you’re talking about. ”

  She taps her lips with a wicked glint in her sapphire eyes. “So, you don’t have a thing for a dark-haired stranger who rescued you from your death omen spasm and who showed you his painting of an Angel… Although, by how stuck you are on him, I’d guess he showed you other stuff of his, too. ”

  I briefly picture what he’d look like naked and then focus on my poem. “I thought you had a thing for him. Wasn’t he the reason for your meltdown in my closet… And wait, how do you even know about the painting?”

  She giggles. “Oh Em, you are such a riot. You can’t almost make out with someone in the art room and expect no one to know about it. ” She dabs the tears from the corner of her eyes. “And I’m totally over the Asher thing. Guys are like shoes to me, you know that. I wear them once and then get bored. ”

  I press down so hard on the paper the pencil breaks. “Did you actually wear Asher?”

  She points an accusing finger at me. “The very fact that you ask that means you like him. So I think it’s time you found out where he is. And if he likes you. ”

  “Raven, this isn’t second grade. ” I tip back in the chair and throw the pencil in the trash bin.

  She discounts me with a wave of her hand. “Call him. Didn’t you say he gave you his phone number?”

  “I already tried to text him and he said he was busy,” I say and close my journal. “Look, I think I need to just get over him. I have too much stuff going on in my life. ” I swing my purse over my shoulder, but she snags the handle and rips it off my arm.

  “Like what?” She backs away, jiggling the bag out in front of her. “Your life’s pretty easy, Em. ”

  “Raven,” I
warn as she backs down the nearest aisle between the bookshelves. “Don’t even think about it. I swear to God, I’ll never forgive you if you call him. ”

  “Don’t kid yourself, Em. You’ll always forgive me, no matter what I do. ” She spins in her high-heeled boots and dashes off down the aisle.

  I chase after her, fuming as she pulls out my cell phone and drops my bag on the floor. I hop over my bag and reach for the back of her shirt as she punches the buttons. A girl at the end of the aisle backs away, eyes wide, legs trembling, probably thinking I’m trying to kill Raven. Raven laughs as she wiggles out of my fingers and then darts around the corner of the bookshelf, intentionally knocking some books off the shelf.

  “Raven, please don’t call him. ” I trip over the books and round the corner. She has the phone to her ear and dodges my advance, but her ankle rolls and she falls flat on her ass.

  I jump on her, accidently bumping my knee into hers, and kicking a row of books to the floor with my boot. Her death pours through me, but I breathe through it. “Give me my phone back. ”

  She giggles as I try to pry the phone from her fingers. She rolls on her back and pushes herself across the floor with her feet and I crawl after her.

  “Hi, Asher, this is Raven,” she says into the phone and I narrow my eyes. “Call Ember when you get the chance. She needs to know if you’re okay and if you like her, because it’s driving her crazy. Literally. ”

  I pinch her arm hard. “You are the worst friend ever. ”

  “Ow…” She laughs, throwing her head back. Tears of laughter flood her eyes as she keeps talking in the phone. “In fact, it’s a matter of life or death—she has to know ASAP. ” She hangs up the phone.

  I glare at her and rip the phone from her hand. “Thanks a lot. Now he’s going to think I’m insane. ”

  “Aren’t you?” She flutters her eyelashes innocently. “Besides, I was just trying to help and it shouldn’t bother you what other people think. You’ve been through a lot worse than some guy thinking you’re a stalker. ”

  I turn to my back, putting distance from her and her death. “I don’t know why I care, but I do. ”

  “I wouldn’t get your hopes up,” she says in a heavy-weighted tone. “Guys like Asher don’t really look at girls like you. They’re more my type. ”

  I wonder if this whole scene was to make Asher think I am insane, so she could have him. “Raven, are you sure—”

  Cameron strolls passed us and I stop talking as his eyebrows dip together at Raven and I tangled up in a pile of books.

  He stops in front of us and his lips curl into impish grin. “I’m kind of curious what led up to this. Was it an accident or the beginning of something kinky?”

  “We fell,” I say, before Raven can feed him some dirty story, and then grab the shelf above my head and pull myself to my feet.

  Raven sticks out her hand to Cameron and pouts her bottom lip. “A little help, please. ”