Shimmering chaos, p.3
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.3

           Jessica Sorensen
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  He nods. “He never told you the story?”

  I shake my head. “Honestly, up until my parents’ lawyer read the will, I didn’t know you existed. Or that my parents even had a lawyer. Or a will.” My parents have never been the type to plan for the future. Or, at least I thought so. I guess I was wrong.

  Maybe that officer was right. Maybe I don’t know my parents as well as I thought.

  I hastily shove the thought from my mind. No, I knew—know them. They wouldn’t just take off and leave me on my own. At least not for this long.

  “Yeah, your father and I sort of drifted apart after college,” Gabe explains. “But, up until then, we were pretty close. And he did save my life once. If you want, I can tell you the story sometime.”

  I smash my lips together and nod. “All right.”

  “Good.” He claps his hands together, matching the clapping of thunder. Then his gaze wanders over my shoulder. “Let me get my sons, and then you can show us what you’re taking with you and what we’re putting in storage, okay?” He turns to walk away.

  “Wait … Sons?” My gaze flicks to the truck and trailer parked in the driveway where I can make out two figures inside, one in the back seat and one in the front, but the windows are too tinted to make out faces and ages. “You have kids?”

  He stops at the bottom of the stairs and faces me. “Six actually. Six sons. But don’t worry; they’re not too scary.” He smiles, but it looks a bit forced.

  Lovely. He’s afraid of his own kids.

  Being the only child, the idea of living in a house with six other kids, not to mention all guys, just seems straight-up crazy. And emotionally challenging.

  “Do they all live with you?”

  He nods. “My youngest are seventeen, and my oldest is twenty-one and in college, but he hasn’t wanted to move out. Hunter and Holden are in college, too, though Max, the second oldest, isn’t. But they all still haven’t moved out yet. I blame my wife. She spoils them all too much.” He laughs it off, but again, a hint of nervousness edges into his expression.

  Considering I have plans with Nina and Gage to move out the moment we graduate and then travel, the idea that even one of his kids wants to stick around after they turn eighteen is mind-boggling. Don’t get me wrong; my parents aren’t terrible, but I’ve been taking care of myself since I was old enough to work the stove, so moving out of the house won’t be that much different. Nina is the same way. Gage, too. We’ve practically run wild since we were kids, which is fine—I enjoyed the freedom, for the most part anyway. It’s part of the reason I am so agitated that I can’t live on my own now.

  I can take care of myself. My parents know this. Yet, they decided that, until I’m eighteen, I can’t live on my own? That living with some strange family will be better?

  I don’t want to live with strangers. What I want is for this unsettling feeling of unknowingness that’s been plaguing me to go away.

  I stare at the road, as if expecting my dad’s truck to suddenly appear. It doesn’t. But a lamppost flickers on and off.

  Blinking a few times, I focus back on Gabe. “How old are your other kids?”

  He actually has to think about it. Really, I guess I can’t blame him. He has six kids for crying out loud! He probably has a hard time keeping track of them all.

  “Porter is twenty-one, Max is twenty, Holden and Hunter are nineteen …” When I pull a funny face, he adds, “They are twins. Identical, too. Can be sort of a problem telling them apart sometimes, but the trick is to never refer to them by their names. That way, they don’t know when you’ve confused them.” His eyes glint with humor. “I’m just kidding. Holden actually has a small scar above his right brow. And I brought Easton and Foster with me. They’re the youngest and twins, too. Not identical, though. And they’re seniors, like you, so they should be able to show you around school and stuff.”

  “You have two sets of twins?”

  He nods then steps forward to pat my shoulder. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but trust me; after a while, you’ll get used to it.”

  I bob my head up and down, kind of in shock. Six kids. Two sets of twins. That’s eight people in one house. Nine counting me! Jesus, how big is his house?

  “All right.”

  He points a finger at me. “You’re kind of a quiet one, aren’t you?”

  I shrug. “Not always, but sometimes.” Around people I don’t know.

  “Well, I don’t want to frighten you”—he backs for the porch steps again—“but you might want to consider being a little more outspoken, or the chaos of the Everettson family is going to swallow you up.” He smiles then turns around, leaving me with a huge lump of fear wedged in my throat.

  Might want to be more outspoken? Yeah, every time I’ve tried that, I ended up humiliated.

  Zap. The lamppost on the street sparks.

  Dammit. I’m already an emotional wreck. Makes me worry how the day’s going to end.

  As he jogs back to his truck and opens the passenger side door, I step inside and attempt to collect myself. I’m still wearing the plaid shirt and T-shirt I had on yesterday but traded out the jeans for a pair of cut-offs sometime during last night’s drunkenness. I smell like beer, whiskey, and stale pizza, just like this living room. Hopefully, Gabe doesn’t have issues with the mess or the evidence that I was drinking last night. My parents never cared, just as long as I never drove drunk or got arrested.

  Gage sits up on the sofa and rubs his bloodshot eyes. “Who was that?”

  I pick up the half-empty bottle of whiskey from off the floor. “Gabe. My … temporary guardian, I guess.”

  Nina buries her face in a pillow. “Did you tell him to go away?”

  “I wish I could.” I rotate the bottle in my hand as an unspoken silence blankets over us. “God, I can’t believe this is really happening.”

  “Me neither.” Nina sniffles then staggers to her feet and wraps her arms around me. “You have to come back every weekend, and we’ll drive out there when you can’t come here. And promise that none of our plans will change. We’re still moving in together after we graduate, okay?”

  I nod, giving her an awkward hug back. “Nothing’s going to change. I promise.” But I feel like such a liar. Because things are changing.

  Everything is changing.

  Too quickly.

  And I can barely keep up.

  As tears threaten to pour out, I start to pull back when Nina abruptly stiffens.

  A jolt of static currents through my body. Why are my powers going off right now? I’m fairly collected…

  “What the fuck are you doing here?” She crosses her arms as she glares at someone behind me.

  “Who are you talking to?” I ask, twisting around.

  Then my heart slams against my chest and another burst of static hums through me.

  No. No, no, no, no, no. This can’t be happening.

  I blink. Then I blink again. I blink so many times my eyes begin to water. Yet, the guy standing in the doorway remains.

  The mysterious guy I tried to hit on yesterday.

  Chapter 4

  He appears as stupidly dumbstruck as I do—his eyes wide, his expression frozen.

  Well, at least he remembers me.

  Yeah, remembers how he told you to get lost.

  Wait. Do I smell smoke?

  I peer around, silently demanding my anger and embarrassment to simmer down. Luckily, no flames are anywhere, but I still need to get my emotions under grasps.

  “So, what are we moving out first?” A guy around my age suddenly steps through the doorway with a smile on his face. He’s dressed similar to the mysterious stranger—all in black—but instead of short, dark hair, his hair is chin-length and blond. He also has silvery eyes like Gabe. When he enters, he takes one look at me, Nina, and who I’m assuming is his brother, then frowns. “Aw, hell, Foster. Please don’t tell me you’ve already fooled around with our new sister?”

  The shock that had swept acros
s the room rapidly thaws.

  “I’m not your sister,” I say while the mysterious stranger—Foster—bites out, “I didn’t mess around with her, and you know that, asshole.” Then his gaze zeroes in on me and his jaw ticks. “And even if I could, she’s not might fucking type.”

  My jaw nearly drops.

  What a fucking asshole.

  The blond guy openly checks me out. “Maybe... She’s definitely my type, but I’m not really interested either.”

  Now my jaw nearly ninja-kicks the floor.

  Great, they’re both assholes. The only difference is Blondie does it with a smile on his face, while Foster just seems irritated. Well, that and I feel more hurt about Foster’s rejection. Who the heck knows why. After yesterday, I should be over him—I need to get over him.

  My insides coil as Blondie’s smirk widens. Then the floor quivers, just slightly, but no one appears to notice. If I don’t get my emotions under control, I may start an earthquake. Luckily, Gabe strolls in and deflates the situation with a clap of his hands.

  “Have we done introductions yet?” When he notices Nina and Gage, his asks me, “Are these your friends?”

  I nod, continuing to glare at Blondie. “Yeah, they stayed over last night to say goodbye.”

  Gabe’s attention drops to the whiskey bottle in my hand, and a frown etches into his face. “I see.”

  Great. Am I in trouble?

  Blondie smirks at me while Foster stares at me with his brows arched.

  “Well,” Gabe starts, shaking the frown away. “How about we get this little moving fest going so we can get you home and let you know all the house rules, okay?”

  Awesome. My bet? Rule number one is no drinking.

  Gabe starts to walk across the room but then pauses, turning toward Foster and Blondie. “Did you guys introduce yourselves yet?” When they shake their heads, seeming bored, he sighs. “Skylin, this is my son Easton”—he gestures at Blondie who has the audacity to wink at me, then motions to Foster—“and this is Foster.”

  So, these are the non-identical twins who are my age and who are supposed to show me around my new school. Lovely.

  I force a smile. “My name’s Sky. No one really calls me Skylin, except for my mom, and only when she’s really pissed off.”

  Gabe smiles at that, Foster continues to look irritated, and Easton, well, he looks amused, but I have a feeling that might not be a good thing.

  “Okay, Sky it is,” Gabe interrupts the silence, seeming a bit uneasy as he looks at me. “Why don’t you show me everything that needs to go with you, and then what needs to go in storage. That way, we can load up the storage stuff last so we won’t have to move all your stuff around.

  Nodding, I turn for my parents’ bedroom, figuring that’s the best place to start. As I pass by Nina, I hand her the whiskey bottle and tell Gage and her to wait a minute before taking off.

  After I get done showing Gabe what goes where, he suggests the strangest thing.

  “Why don’t you go have lunch with your friends and say goodbye,” he says. “Foster, Easton, and I can handle getting everything packed and cleaned up.”

  I peer around the messy house crammed with furniture. “Are you sure? There’s a lot of stuff.”

  He pats me on the shoulder. “With everything you’re going through right now, you deserve to say a proper goodbye to your friends.”

  I nod gratefully, but a drop of uneasiness stirs inside of me.

  He acts as though I’m saying goodbye forever, as if he knows my parents are never coming back. But even if my parents don’t return—and that’s a huge if—I’ll eventually come back to Nina and Gage. My time with the Everettsons is only temporary. I know this, so why doesn’t Gabe not seem to?

  Chapter 5

  Before I leave the house with Nina and Gage to grab a bite to eat, I change out of my smelly clothes, wash my face, comb my hair, and put on the necklace I almost always wear. It was a gift from my mom on my fifth birthday. She told me her sister had once given it to her.

  The teardrop-shaped pendant is made out of steel and is supposed to bring the wearer good luck. But, considering how unlucky I’ve been, I don’t buy into the story.

  After I get cleaned up, I head out. Easton makes a point to smirk at me again, and Foster simply ignores me.

  “Well, they’re an … interesting family,” Gage comments from the back seat of Nina’s car as we drive toward the center of town.

  “Interesting?” Nina glances at him in the rearview mirror. “They’re a bunch of assholes.”

  “Gabe doesn’t seem too bad,” I attempt to find the silver lining in all this.

  Maybe the rest of the family will be like Gabe? I sure hope so, or else my time with the Everettsons is going to be all rain clouds, fires, and sporadic lightning zaps.

  “Yeah, except for the fact that he looked upset you were holding a bottle of whiskey,” Nina reminds me as she pulls into the parking lot of the local burger joint.

  “So, he’s a normal parent then,” Gage chimes in with a shrug. “That might not be that bad.”

  “Have you ever had a normal parent?” Nina questions, knowing very well he hasn’t. “Because my ex-stepfather was like that—all about rules and normalcy—and it sucked ass.” She steers into an empty parking space then unbuckles her seatbelt. “I was so glad when my mom divorced him and things went back to normal.”

  “And by normal, she means she got to return to her evil vixen ways of running wild, drinking, and doing drugs.” Gage shares a teasing smile with me as he slides across the seat to get out.

  Laughing, I climb out of the car and meet Nina and Gage around back.

  “I still can’t believe you’re going to be living with the guy you’ve been crushing on for the last couple months,” Nina says as we head inside.

  “Was crushing on,” I clarify, splashing through puddles. “The crush ended the moment he opened his mouth.”

  “Well, asshole or not, at least you’ll have something pretty to look at every day,” Nina muses. “That Easton guy was pretty hot, too.”

  “They’re twins,” I tell her as I pull open the door.

  She grins as she steps inside. “Even better.”

  Gage and I share an amused look as we follow her in.

  “You know she’s going to hit on him at least one time, right?” he whispers to me as we wander toward the counter.

  “As long as she comes and visits me, I don’t really care,” I whisper back.

  “Are you two bitches talking about me?” Nina grins. “It’s cool if you are. Just make sure it’s all good things.”

  A smile touches my lips. Man, I’m going to miss this—miss them. Even on the shittiest days, the two of them can make me smile.

  The smile remains on my face as I skim the choices on the menu. I’m dithering back and forth between a hamburger and chicken tenders when Gage lets out a sharp cough.

  “Creeper alert at five o’clock,” he hisses under his breath.

  I casually tilt my head, glancing to my right to see what Gage is yammering about. Standing a little ways to the side of us is a tall man, maybe a few years older than us, with dark eyes and black hair that reaches his chin. He has a scar across his forehead, a series of unrecognizable star patterned symbols branding his neck, and strangely, he is wearing slacks and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the top button undone. Even businessowners in Honeyton rarely sport suit attire, so he stands out like a ballerina in a mosh pit. What really makes him creepy, though, is the way he’s staring at me, as if he’s attempting to burn a hole into my head with mind powers or something.

  “Do you know him?” Nina glances from the stranger to me.

  I shake my head and start to look away when the stranger approaches us. I tense as he nears us, wishing I brought my pepper spray.

  “You’re that girl moving in with the Everettsons, right?” His voice is shockingly deep.

  I feign stupidity because there is no way in he
ll I’m about to tell him the truth. “Who?”

  “Don’t lie to me, little girl,” he warns, a bit of an accent seeping into his tone. “I know you’re moving in with them. I came here to warn you to be careful.” He looks at my friends and then leans in and lowers his voice. “They’re not who you think they are.”

  “I have no idea who you’re talking about.” I resist the urge to gulp as my pulse accelerates and the lights above me flicker on and off.

  The stranger glances upward then back at me. He stares at me confusedly as he reaches into his jacket pocket.

  Fearing what he could possibly be grabbing, I instinctively step back. But he only retrieves a card.

  “When you want to find out the truth, call me.” He urges me to take the card.

  I keep my hands at my sides. “Look, I don’t know who you are, but I’m not sure what you’re talking about …”

  He drops the card at my feet, spins on his heels, and then strides out the door, glancing at me one final time before walking outside.

  “Holy hell,” Nina breathes out. “That was beyond creepy.”

  “Agreed.” Gage bends over and picks up the card. “Okay, this just got even creepier.”

  “What?” I take the card from him, and my brows knit. “It’s blank.”

  “Yeah, I know.” Gage scratches his head. “That was really strange, especially how he knew you were moving in with the Everettsons.” He looks at me with worry. “Do you think we should call the police and report him?”

  “It wouldn’t do any good. Technically, he didn’t break a law. And considering how interested the police have been in finding my parents, who are missing, yeah, I don’t see the point in telling them.” I restlessly pat the card against the palm of my hand.

  While the entire ordeal with the man was bizarre, the strangest part was when he glanced up at the lights then at me when I made them flicker, as if he knew about my strange ability.

  But, how could he possibly know about that when I’ve never told anyone? How did he know I was moving in with the Everettsons? And what did he mean by the Everettsons aren’t who I think they are? I’m not sure, but the whole ordeal has me on edge and really wishing for my parents to return.

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