creepy hollow 05.5 - scarlettRachel Morgan
A Creepy Hollow Story
By Rachel Morgan
By Rachel Morgan
Copyright © 2016 Rachel Morgan
Cover Design by Rachel Morgan
After sixteen-year-old Beth almost kills her boyfriend with magical siren power she didn't know she possessed, she flees into the fae realm in search of help.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information please contact the author.
Mobi Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9946953-0-7
Epub Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9946953-1-4
A Creepy Hollow Story
She wore a red dress that night. Not carnelian red or wine red, but bright, brilliant red. Red that stood out in a crowd. Scarlet red. It wrapped snugly around her frame, accentuating her narrow waist, binding her legs together, and somehow producing a not-insignificant amount of cleavage from her normally barely there chest.
Beth had never worn anything like it.
The money she saved from hours of scooping ice cream at Peppa’s Parlor after school normally went toward far more ordinary things. Miniature plants for her bedroom, school-appropriate clothing, and topping up the grocery bill—since Dad never gave her enough money when he sent her to the store every week. But tonight was a special occasion, and it warranted a special dress. A special dress she hoped Dad wouldn’t force her to change out of.
She couldn’t decide whether he’d hate this dress or not. She knew he should hate it—should hate seeing his sixteen-year-old daughter wearing something so provocative—but it was more likely he wouldn’t care enough to have an opinion. He’d never seen his daughter as much more than a burdensome consequence of his accidental wanderings into a realm beyond his own.
Beth styled her long, dark hair into voluminous curls, which she pinned back on one side and allowed to cascade over her other shoulder. She angled the wardrobe door and admired the effect in the tiny mirror stuck inside.
A whistle broke the silence, and Beth threw a glance over her shoulder at the window. Barely an arm’s length away, Zoe leaned on her own cracked, chipped window ledge. “Hot date tonight?” she asked with a grin. Haphazardly placed, like a child’s building blocks tossed together in too small a space, the rundown houses on Miller Lane afforded their occupants little privacy. Good thing Beth and Zoe had been friends ever since Zoe moved in five years ago, poked her raven-black head into the space between their two houses, and complimented Beth on her miniature plant collection.
“Don’t pretend you know nothing about it,” Beth said, returning Zoe’s smile. “And I told you I’d be making a special effort for tonight. I only get a one-year anniversary once.”
“Well Jack is definitely going to notice your special effort, no doubt about that.”
Beth ducked her head as a blush heated her face. She’d always thought of herself as rather plain. The shy girl with brown hair and brown eyes. She’d inherited barely a shred of her mother’s stunning beauty. But tonight, wearing this dress, she felt different. Tonight she wouldn’t be that plain girl.
“Where’s he taking you?” Zoe asked as she picked at the flaking paint on her window ledge.
Beth frowned. “I thought you’d know already.”
Zoe pasted an innocent look onto her face, but Beth stared her down. “Okay, fine,” she said, slumping against the window frame. “I know everything. It’s totally boring, and you’ll totally love it, and it’s a complete waste of that gorgeous dress because no one else is going to see it.”
Beth smiled. “Sounds perfect.”
“I can’t give away anything more.”
“You shouldn’t have given away anything,” Beth chided her. “But I won’t tell Jack.”
“Thanks. He’s been known to hurt me for giving his secrets away.”
“I know.” Beth laughed as the memory of Jack chasing his sister around their tiny backyard with a pillow came to mind. “I’m surprised he tells you anything anymore.”
“He doesn’t. But, you know, sharing a house means I can’t help accidentally discovering things.”
“Oh, yes, I’m sure it’s accidental.” Beth reached for the silver chain hanging from the wardrobe doorknob. She fasted the clasp behind her neck and looked into the mirror again. Delicate silver letters spelling the word Beth lay against her chest just below her throat. Lastly, she picked up an ornate silver ring with a large pearl sitting atop it—the one and only thing her mother had ever given her—and pushed it onto her left forefinger. “Okay. I think I’m ready.”
“You know that necklace is a bit too, uh, childish for that dress, right?”
“I know, but Jack gave it to me, and I love it.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Zoe sighed, then added, “Don’t forget lipstick.”
“Oh, lipstick, right.” Beth turned back to her wardrobe, but stopped. “Darn, I completely forgot to get a color that matches the dress.” Makeup had never been high on her priority list, and after purchasing the dress itself and checking that the simple black heels she kept aside for special occasions looked okay with the dress, she’d thought the outfit complete.
“I’ve probably got something that’ll work.” Zoe disappeared from sight and Beth could hear her rummaging through the contents of one of her drawers. “Got it. This should be close enough.” She reappeared and tossed a small tube to Beth.
Beth caught it easily, pulled the lid off, and stepped in front of her mirror once more. She applied the bright red color, pressed her lips together, and turned back to the window to give Zoe the most seductive pout she could summon without giggling.
Zoe mimed fainting against the window frame before fanning herself. “Look at you, you sexy siren.”
Beth froze. The lipstick slipped from her fingers. “I’m not—I’m not a—”
Why would Zoe say that? She couldn’t possibly know, could she? No. Zoe had no idea how true her words were. No idea of the world hiding just beyond her sight.
“You okay?” Zoe asked, watching Beth closely.
“Yes, just being clumsy.” Beth dismissed the moment with a laugh she hoped sounded natural as she bent down—with great difficulty, given the tightness of the dress—and retrieved the lipstick.
“I was joking, Beth,” Zoe said as Beth straightened. “We all know you’re not a temptress. I seriously don’t expect you to seduce my brother and then … I don’t know, eat him or whatever.”
“That’s not—” That’s not how it works, she wanted to say, but stopped herself. “That’s so gross, Zoe,” she said, adding in another laugh.
“I know.” Zoe shuddered. “I should not be using the words ‘seduce’ and ‘brother’ in the same sentence.”
“I was referring to the eating part.”
“Oh, yeah, that too.” A bang sounded from the direction of Zoe’s front porch. She looked over her shoulder, then said, “I think Jack just left.”
A nervous shiver ran down Beth’s spine. “Are you sure I look okay?” She cast a final glance down at herself—and felt odd all of a sudden, as if a buzzing coursed through her limbs and her head. A strange sort of dizziness. She’d felt it before, but it was starting to happen more often. She should probably visit a doctor. The moment passed and she looked up once more. Through the window, Zo
e stared at her with a frown. “What?” Beth asked. “Did I smudge my makeup?”
“No.” Zoe shook her head. “You just … look really beautiful, that’s all.”
Beth blew a kiss across the open space to her best friend. “Thanks, Zo.”
She grabbed her purse and hurried downstairs as quickly as her heels allowed. Dad was slumped in his favorite chair in front of the TV. Based on the continuous stream of commentary overlaying a dull roar of cheering and shouting, Beth guessed he was watching some form of sport. She didn’t look closely enough to see which one. Instead, she kept her gaze focused on the front door as she walked past the living room.
“Where are you going?” Dad called as she passed the door. “And what—” He sat up straighter as she leaned into the doorway to look at him. In a low voice, he asked, “What is that?”
She knew what he was referring to. “It’s a dress,” she said, moving fully into the doorway and injecting her voice with as much confidence as she could muster. “And I’m going on a date with Jack.”
Instead of telling her to go back upstairs and change, Dad simply stared, his eyes slowly narrowing and his jaw clenching tightly. Beth placed a hand on her hip and stared defiantly back at him. For once in her life, she wouldn’t back down. For once, she wouldn’t feel guilty simply for existing.
And then—that odd feeling of dizzy power vibrated through her once more, followed abruptly by a shock that zapped her arm like static electricity on a dry day.
The shock was gone, and so was the vibration, and all Beth heard were two growled words leaving her father’s lips: “Get. Out.”
Beth had always known her father didn’t care much for her. She’d listened to her classmates whining about the anger and disappointment of their parents if any of them broke the rules at home, and she’d envied them, knowing that nothing could be worse than a parent who didn’t care at all. But tonight she’d discovered something worse.
It was worse to know that her father hated her.
She pushed aside the ache in her heart and rushed to the front door. She pulled it open—and there stood Jack, dressed in his smartest jacket, his dark hair buzzed short just the way it suited him, and his warm eyes smiling at her. Those eyes widened as he took her in. “You look … incredible.”
With her throat still too tight for her to utter a single word, she simply melted against him. His arms wrapped around her, secure and comforting. And just like that, her world was right again.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“Let’s go.” She reached back and pulled the door shut. Jack took her hand as they walked down the front steps. High above them, the sky was dark and menacing with purple-black clouds rolling in. Beth probably should have brought a coat, but there was no way she was going back inside now. They reached Jack’s car—more a patchwork collection of rusted pieces of metal than an actual vehicle—and he held the passenger door open for her. She didn’t speak as they began driving, but Jack kept his hand resting on her knee and that was enough to ease away the pain of that moment inside the house. By the time Jack pulled up near the lake, Dad’s last words to her had receded to the far reaches of her memory, and the nervous excitement she’d felt while getting dressed coursed once more through her body. She’d been to the lake before, of course. She loved it here.
The water calls to us …
Unbidden, the distant memory of her mother’s words rose to the surface of her mind. She dismissed them as she climbed from the car. As much as she might wish it in the secret depths of her heart, she was nothing like her mother. It wasn’t only water and the untamed power of the ocean that she loved. Being anywhere outside made her happy. Fields, forests, mountains. Not that she often had the opportunity to spend time in nature. The dull and nearly-dead town of Holtyn saw to that. But Jack had taken her hiking several times, driving hours and hours in search of hills and mountains, and they’d even visited the beach twice this past summer. The rest of the time, Beth made do with the lake on the outskirts of town.
Jack had parked on the overgrown side, though. The side no one ever came to because too many tangled plants blocked the way to the water. She didn’t question him, though. She trusted Jack. He came around to her side of the car and took her hand. “You might have a little bit of trouble with those shoes, but I promise I won’t let you trip.” Then he led her, not away from the overgrown tangle of bushes and trees, but toward it. He pulled back one of the larger branches so she could duck beneath it. She saw then that a path had been cleared.
“Did you do this?” she asked, looking back at him through the lattice of leaves and twigs.
“Remember I said I was busy last week?”
“Yes. I didn’t see you the whole weekend.”
He stooped beneath the branch before letting it fall back into place behind him. He beamed at her. “Now you know where I was. Keep going,” he added, urging her forward.
Beth continued along the newly formed path, being careful to avoid the sharp edges where Jack must have hacked his way through the branches just days ago. After several more careful steps, she came to a clearing right beside the water. A picnic blanket lay upon the uneven grass, with a basket beside it and jars of candles all around. “This is that spot,” she said in amazement, looking out across the water to the opposite shore. “That spot we always see from the other side but have never been able to get to.”
“Yes,” Jack said. “Happy one year anniversary.” As emotion tightened Beth’s throat, making it difficult to speak, he hastily added, “It’s not a fancy restaurant or anything, but I know you love the lake, and you’ve always wished you could find a way to this side, so I figured—”
“It’s amazing. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.” She had often wished she could run away and live in that other world, the world she’d been born for. But then she’d fallen in love with the boy next door, and now moments like this reminded her that she didn’t need that other world after all. This world would do just fine.
“It’s just a little bit magical, isn’t it?” Jack said, reaching for her hand.
“Yes.” Not the kind of magical she knew of, but as close to magical as anything could be in this world.
They sat on the blanket and Beth kicked her shoes off while Jack switched his phone to silent and left it by the picnic basket. Still feeling a little nervous, Beth began describing the miniature terrarium she’d constructed that morning inside a hanging teardrop vase. Jack listened as he poured a drink for each of them. Sparkling grape juice, icy enough to send a shiver down her arms as she took a sip. “I’m sorry, I didn’t expect it to be this cold tonight,” Jack said, removing his jacket and placing it around Beth’s shoulders.
“It’s okay. I have you to keep me warm.” She put her cup down so she could push her arms into the sleeves of the jacket. If she’d been dressed like this when she left the house, Dad might not have been so furious. He might not have looked at her with such hatred. She pressed her lips together as she realized the cracks his words had caused in her heart were still there.
Jack ran his fingers delicately through her hair and asked, “Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”
She looked up, surprised. She had meant to hide her sadness, but clearly she wasn’t doing a very good job. “No, not now. I don’t want to ruin tonight.”
“But if something’s bothering you, then rather get it out. That way it won’t bother you anymore, and the night won’t be ruined.”
She looked down at the blanket. “My dad …” Jack nodded, as if he’d known it was something to do with Dad. Of course he knew. Whenever something was wrong, it was almost always to do with the nonexistent relationship between Beth and her father. “It’s just something he said before I left. He … I’ve always known I mean nothing to him—”
“Don’t say that.”
“—but I was wrong. I mean less than nothing to him.”
It doesn’t matter,” Jack said, and Beth was grateful he didn’t try to contradict her. Didn’t try to convince her that her father did, in fact, care. He knew it wasn’t true just as much as she did. Instead, he leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss against her cheek. “You mean everything to me, my beautiful scarlet lady,” he whispered into her ear.
“Scarlett,” she whispered back, tasting the name on her tongue. “I like that. It sounds so exotic.”
“It does.” He kissed her earlobe, then pulled back slightly. With one finger, he touched the silver name resting beneath her throat. “But I’m not sure it entirely fits the sweet girl I know you are inside.”
“Maybe I don’t want to be that sweet girl all the time,” she said, looking up at him between lashes painted dark with mascara. “Maybe tonight I want to be Scarlett.”
Scarlett … The name made her feel stronger, braver. It made her feel more like someone her mother would be pleased with instead of the entirely ordinary girl she had turned out to be. It made her feel like she could almost, possibly … be one of them.
“Scarlett,” Jack whispered, a fire igniting in his eyes as she held his gaze, daring him to see her as more than the sweet girl next door.
And then the corners of his lips turned up, and she found a giggle escaping her lips just as Jack’s face crumpled with amusement. They fell against each other, their laughter mingling together, and Beth felt that the cracks in her heart were almost healed. As their laughter subsided, she found herself on her back on the blanket with Jack leaning over her, his smiling face close to hers. He kissed her neck, his fingers slid between hers, and when he looked at her again, his gaze was almost adoring. “It doesn’t matter what name I call you,” he said. “I’ll always love you.”
A shiver raced across her skin, and at first she thought it was because of Jack’s words and the way he was looking at her. But then she realized the strange feeling had returned. The vibration that hummed throughout her body, making her feel light and heavy at the same time. She wanted to make a mental note to stop putting it off and phone the doctor the next day, but there wasn’t a single thought she could hold onto with Jack looking at her like that.