The sky weaved with black and grays; sending gusts of chilled air racing past the truck like jet planes. I rolled my side window up before continuing to stare out. My Mom and I were on our way to our new home. Her old, chipped, red truck glided down the road as I gazed at the passing houses lined amongst the cloudy horizon.
“Aren't you excited Joey? This move will be a fresh start for the both of us and I’m sure Mason if very excited to see you after all this time.” Mom smiled sideways at me. I nodded in agreement, but in reality I hated the idea. I had been forced to leave my friends and the town I have always known just so we could move in with the father I had never really met. Mom had always explained to me that Mason had a job that kept him busy most of the time and required constant travel so until now he had never really been able to settle down with us, but all of a sudden he said he was retiring and wasted no time in acquiring a large house and inviting his family to come live with him. How was I supposed to react to this? I mean I know he's technically my father, but I have never seen him in person, just a few photos that my mother has from when they were younger.
“Look there's your new school.” Mom interrupted my thoughts, pointing across me out the window. I looked out at the plain tan building, surprised to see that it looked a lot like my old school. It was a long building with a flat roof and about a hundred windows’ on the sides. The front entrance doors were freshly painted red and had two medium sized hedges on each side. There was a tiger statue on the side of the building above the doors, for that was the mascot of this particular school, and a flag pole next to that. The side entrance doors, three double doors in a line, were painted red also but these were chipped from years of usage. There was a white painted patio looking roof thing over the door and wheelchair ramp to keep the snow from interfering with wheelchairs in the winter time. I wonder if most schools look a lot alike. The parking lot was not that big, because there was a skating park right next to it, which had two people doing tricks on it right now. I watched them do flips in the air for a minute then looked back at the buildings blurring past.
“It's bigger than my old school.” I whispered to her trying to keep the conversation going. I was sick of the defining silence that we've had the whole ride up from Athol Massachusetts.
“I'm sure you'll make lots of friends.” she grinned encouragingly beside me. Mom was a naturally happy person, but lately I had been noticing how tired she really was. All the extra hours of work had been adding up recently.
“Maybe” I sighed leaning my head on the clear glass. When I was little the cold feeling of the window would always comfort me into feeling better when I got car sick. So now it is at the point where it’s just a habit of simpler times.
“I know it's hard moving to a new place, but it's also an adventure.” my mom tried to convince me once again. I yawned tiredly. Today had been a long day of last minute packing and the stress from my mom thinking she forgot something, but she actually was holding it. When we had finally gotten in the truck and started driving it had already been 1:24 in the afternoon. Plus another five hours to get here so it was now already 6:29 P.M. At least the new house would be ready to sleep in when we got there, courtesy of Mom's older brother Chuck and his handy way of setting up beds after taking them apart. Since Uncle Chuck already lived in Waldoboro with his family Mom had asked him to get some beds ready for us so that we could at least be able to sleep when we got there. I couldn't wait to go to bed, which was unusual since I usually never felt tired at night. Ever since I was little I hated going to sleep when it got dark. Something about the night made me want to explore the deepest depths of it like a cave with jewels at the end.
Our new home was an old Queen Anne Victorian style house with a steeply pitched roof of irregular shape with a dominant front-facing gable. The dark gray textured shingles that covered the roof and the dull blue walls avoided any smooth-walled appearance. The front door was dark blue with one of those fake door knockers in the middle covered over by a partial or full-width asymmetrical porch, about one story high and extended along both side walls. Way to go for that average family look Mason.
“It looks cozy doesn't it?” Mom said leaning on the steering wheel in wide-eyed amazement.
“Yeah.” I agreed sitting back in my seat. Mom pulled into the rocky dirt driveway and turned off the engine. Before pulling the keys out of the ignition and also sat back in her seat.
“Well we'd better start unpacking.” she sighed sounding as tired as I felt. I opened my passenger side door and stepped onto the driveway. It crunched under my black combat boots as I shut my door and made my way to the back of the red truck. I lowered the back and grabbed a big cardboard box with Joey's Stuff written on it. I carried it to the front door of my new house then entered into the front entrance. It smelled like wet paint and old cigarette smoke, which I hated. The black and white checkered tiles were muddy from the mover’s big feet and there was dust suffocating the air. I went around a corner to the living room. It was painted red and had a dark blue rug. There were four windows in all in the room, which would have let a lot of warm in from the sun if they didn't have to be covered in dark cloth. Even with the couch, the TV and the grand fireplace in here it seemed so empty. I felt alone and uncomfortable in this unfamiliar new place. So far this wasn't the house I would want to live in. I set my box down on the stairs adjacent to the front door, after returning to the previous room, and watched my Mom enter with two smaller ones over her shoulders.
“This isn't so bad.” she tried to assure me as she was setting her boxes down also. I just looked at her and watched the back of her hand rub at her sleepy eyes.
“Well let’s get the rest of the boxes.” Mom brought back her grin before walking towards the door. I followed after her silently.
When we finished bringing the boxes in I was at my limit and I knew Mom was too. I collapsed on the couch and shut my eyes. I just wanted this week to end. A light chuckle came from the entry way and I sat up to see a man entering the room. This man was tall with wide shoulders. He wore a dark suit and red tie that complimented his graying brown hair and light skin. As I got up to stand next to Mom the man grinned delighted before coming over and wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
“I'm sorry you had to drive such a long way.” My mother just grinned back at him.
“I thought you said you wouldn't be here until tomorrow.” she questioned pinching his nose playfully. I think I was going to barf.
“Joey, your rooms upstairs on the far left. Your mother and I need to catch up.” Mason instructed me. I guess that was my que to give them some privet time. I gladly kicked off my boots then headed up the rough, red carpeted stair case. I took a left at the top and saw that my room was right next to a bathroom. It had a bath/shower, a toilet, a shell shaped sink and a closet. My room was a good size. I could make out a large bed adorned in red sheets and covers, next to it sat a small bed side table with a lamp and clock prepared. I walked into the room and just stood in the dark. I couldn't believe I was going to sleep in such a strange place tonight. I hated moving to new houses. It made me uneasy, like how someone would act in a haunted house. I knew I wouldn't get any sleep tonight and I really needed it. I removed my t-shirt and laid in my new bed. I looked at the shadowing sky once more before closing my eyes. I didn't fall asleep, like I said; I just laid there with my eyes closed. I was sort of drifting in my own thoughts. I wanted to believe this was all a bad dream and I would wake up and sigh relieved. That I'd still have my friends and my old apartment. I wanted it to be a bad dream. Please let it just be a nightmare.
The smell of instant pancakes was pungent when I woke, causing me to sit up. Mom was up early this morning. I wiped my eyes and yawned loudly. I was really tired. The house was so uneasy for me. I looked around the oversized room and was a little disappointed to find out this was reality. I felt alone. I had no friends and no idea what I was going to do about suddenly having my so called father around. I swung my feet over my bed and stood up. I felt dizzy for a second, but it passed quickly and I headed to the bathroom. I looked into the medicine cabinet mirror and saw my chestnut brown hair was unruly with pillow head. My normally cloudy gray eyes were now speckled with bloodshot lines, giving proof of last night’s restlessness. I hated mornings. I showered for about 15 minutes, enjoying the hot water against my skin, dressed into some dark jeans and a blue short sleeved cookie monster shirt, and then brushed my teeth. I was as ready as I’d ever be to endure this horrible day.
Mom drove the truck up to the side entrance of the school and stopped.
“Have fun.” were her last encouraging words to me. I nodded and opened the rusty red door. My feet hit wet pavement, which surprised me since I hadn't realized it had been misty out until now. Mom waved one last time, urging me to just go in, then drove away. I turned back to the school and felt the knot that had been a shadow in the pit of my stomach since yesterday, intensify. I took a deep breath and made my way inside. I clasped the metal handle of the door and pushed it open. A gust of warm air hit my body as I walked in, followed by the smell of pizza. The inside of the school also had tan walls, like the outside, only these walls were painted with lots of tiger murals. There was a small stone bench in the bus lobby on a checkered brown, red, and white tiled floor. The office was to the right down a long hallway with numbered doors, a library and a guidance office. To the left there was another long hall way that went straight and took a left ¾ of the way up. Well at least it was easy to find classes here. I entered the office and a blond middle aged woman with way too much make-up was typing on a computer behind a paper stacked desk. I stood silent until she looked up at me.
“I need a schedule and map.” I said softly.
“Okay hold on.” the women replied grabbing a folder marked maps/schedules. She pulled out two pieces of paper and handed them to me. I quickly looked them over and then stuffed them into my back pack. I didn't want to look stupid by looking at a piece of paper all day.
“Have a nice day.” the secretary said to me as I was leaving the office. I went down the right hallway towards room 36. I had English with Mrs. Tribou for first block today. I felt sick when I thought of having to introduce myself to an entire classroom full of strangers. I knew most of the teachers would make me, they always do. I made it to the room easy enough and was glad only a few people were in here right now.
There were four rows of desks in the room. All, of which, were facing the dry erase board in the front. The tiled floor was colored clay red and the walls were a darker cream color. There were numerous posters on verbs, citations, schedules and other parts of speech that few people knew. Just another average English room. There was a petite, blue eyed, blond girl in the front row twirling a piece of her hair around her index finger bored. In the third row was a muscular guy with dyed blue hair and green eyes. He was most likely on the football team. I made my way to the back row and sat far enough away from the windows that the light wouldn't hit me. I looked down at my desk and took out a piece of paper and a sharpened pencil. I started to draw. I always drew when I was bored or nervous. It helped calm my nerves to get lost in a project. I drew a picture of the girl in the front row, making sure to get the bored glaze over her eyes and her unhappy scowl at being in school. I was so into my drawing I jumped when someone spoke suddenly.
“Good morning class.” Mrs. Tribou said out front. I looked at her in reflex. I hadn't realized that more students had trickled into the room while I was distracted. Now there were at least 20 students occupying the space around the room.
“We have a new student today. He will introduce herself now.” the teacher said motioning for me to come up. I reluctantly went to the front of the class and faced them with my head down. The knot in my stomach tightened as I took a deep breath.
“My name is Joey Beltren.”
“Class, Joey is new so help him out if he needs it and show him respect please.” Mrs. Tribou said after my introduction then motioned that I could sit back down. I happily went back to my seat then took a deep breath. Well today was starting out terrific.
“Now that introductions are over I'd like everyone to get with your partners for your book projects.” Mrs. Tribou announced. I wasn't sure what she was talking about so I just sat in my seat quietly.
“Want to be my partner?” the blue haired guy from earlier asked, somehow moving to the seat next to me without me noticing.
“Sure.” I agreed. At least if he helped me I wouldn't fail. “So what's the project on?”
“We're supposed to choose a book to read then write a report on what it’s about.” he responded as he rummaged through his bag for something.
“So what book did you choose?” he looked back at me, producing an old copy of Dracula. He passed it to me gently and I just stared at the cover. I had used to like this book, until people started accusing me of being a vampire since I wore dark colors and avoided direct sunlight most of the time since I hated tanning. After that, the thought of reading it always left a bad taste in my mouth.
“This is one of my favorite books. So I've read it about 100 times. How 'bout you?”
“I've read it.” I whispered passing the copy back to him uninterested.
“By the way, my names Collin Locke.” he told me placing Dracula back in his black backpack.
“You already know my name already.” I replied and shook my hand.
“I was new a few years back myself, so if you need anything ask me anytime okay?” Collin offered. I smiled a little relieved and nodded before we commenced working on our report.
The rest of the day wasn't too exciting. At lunch, Collin had introduced me to his friends, though I don't remember the names, and I managed to suck at gym during a game of soccer. When the final bell rang at 1:50 I felt as if I had just been released from prison. I walked over the side lawn of the school to a red wooden outdoor table before taking my cell phone out of my jean's pocket. Mom had texted me that she would be a little late so I just flipped it shut and rubbed a hand through my hair. I just wanted to go home. The weather hadn't changed much from this morning so at least I didn't have to worry about sitting in the sun today. The buses, picking up all the students, began to leave one by one leaving me sitting alone in front of the school. I didn't mind though since I liked the quiet after this stressful day. The smell of wet grass, mud and rain entered my nose and I took a deep breath to enhance it. I loved days like this, it made the earth smell stronger, which always made me feel a little better when I was not in the best of moods. I don't know why, but it's a soothing aroma. A car horn interrupted my thoughts and I looked up to see Mom in her truck. I waved to show I had heard before picking up my stuff and heading over. The inside of the truck was heated sending a shiver down my body at the sudden change of temperature.
“How was school?” Mom asked as I buckled.
“The same as any other day.” I answered as the truck started moving down the driveway.
We arrived home in less than 20 minutes and I immediately headed for the kitchen for my after school snack. I rummaged up some beef jerky and started eating it in the dining room. I had always had a big appetite since I was little so Mom had grown used to buying lots of snacks for me. Especially for after school hours. Mason entered the room carrying a pile of papers with him. Today he wasn't wearing a suit, but casual jeans and a worn gray shirt. He looked at me and a smile spread on him face. I just remained expressionless and continued eating.
“How was school?” he asked me just as Mom had a few minutes ago.
“Fine.” I stuffed another piece of dried meat into my mouth. Why did I have to make conversation with this guy right after such a crappy day? I watched him take a seat across from me at the table before placing the papers in front of him neatly.
“I know this must be a big change for you, but I'm hoping we can get to know each other better. I have always regretted not being there for you and your mother until now. What do you say Joey?” I just looked at him. Words weren't coming to mind on an answer so I just shrugged my shoulders. Honestly, I couldn't get the idea of him being my dad into my head at all. He just sighed in defeat before going back to his work. I peered over to see what he was doing, but his head was blocking the view of the documents. Mom walked in at that moment, passing her husband a cup of what smelled like coffee. A scent I didn't much care for myself.
“More paper work?” she said leaning over his shoulder. Her forehead wrinkled with worry at the sight of the papers, which confused me a little. What were they? As if just remembering I was there, both my parents looked up at me simultaneously.
“Sweetie, would you mind leaving us alone for a minute. Why don't you wonder around the house and explore?” Mom suggested. What was I eight years old or something? Nevertheless, I left the kitchen and went out into the damp air of the outdoors. I had to admit that it wasn't too bad. The house was on a generously big yard and was in front of a thick line of woods. Ever since I was little I loved exploring the woods, every once in a while pretending I was an animal stalking its prey. Mom used to laugh at what a big imagination I had, but I always noticed a little spark of anxiety whenever she mentioned it. I never could figure out why though.
I slipped between the tree bodies into the woods. The ground was still wet from the sprinkle so the musky smell of damp bark was pungent all around. I could hear a variety of bird chatter in the tree foliage as they hid from the down pour that was about to hit. I whistled a few times to draw out more singing. The ground crunched under my shoes from the dead leaves and twigs decorating the forest floor, so I walked slower to seem stealthier. I felt so calm and comfortable surrounded by nature. If only I lived here instead of bustling cities and towns. A twig snapped close by and I looked to see a deer jump by past the bushes. I followed after it hoping that I would be lead somewhere interesting. The rain fell a little harder as I made my way past all the trees and ferns. The deer was now far out of sight, but I still trudged along regardless. I didn't care if I got wet, rain never hurt me before. I eventually came to a clearing in the woods where a large pond was located. In the middle of the pond was a small piece of land with a few bushes speckled with some type of red berry. This place was amazing. I stumbled past the muddy spots over to the back of the water and kneeled down to get a closer look. The rain fell into the pond sending gray ripples along its surface as a fish swam across my vision before disappearing further away just as the deer had. If only animals weren't so scared of humans. A clap of thunder ran across the sky and I stood up off the ground. I better get home before Mom starts worrying.
I entered the house to find Mom sitting in the living room. She looked up and smiled relieved.
“Take off your shoes Joey; you're getting the floor all wet.” I went back to the entrance and remove my muddy sneakers. I could hear the rain hitting the front door, sounding even heavier than before.
“Did you enjoy your walk?” Mason's voice surprised me from behind. I turned quickly to find him descending the stairs. I nodded before heading back to the living room. I took a seat next to my mother on the couch. She looked at me then at her husband confused then turned back to me with a stern look. I know she wants me to get along with him, I don't want to cause her anymore worry, but it just felt strange calling this man I'd just met Father.
“So Joey, did you enjoy the woods?” Mom tried to break the ice. I took a deep breath before answering.
“Yeah, I found a pond that had fish in it.”
“Really, that must have been pretty. Maybe you can show me sometime?” I just snickered at the suggestion. We both knew she hated mud and bugs too much to go into the forest. Something we never had in common since the day I was born.
“I scanned the woods before I bought the house and I don't recall running into a pond. I'd like to see it too Son.” Mason replied and I just looked at him. How can he call me son so casually?
“I'm tired. I think I'll head to bed.” I said as an excuse to leave. Mom kissed my forehead before I left the awkward atmosphere. My room barely had any light in it due to the cloudy weather so I flipped on the light switch, blinding myself for a moment in the process. Ignoring the discomfort of my sight I sauntered over to the bed and dropped transforming the once neatly tucked blanket into a crumpled mess. Tilting my head over the edge, I gazed upside down out the window as the rain kept coming down mercilessly. I had always liked the sound of rain, especially at night. Something about the rhythm helped me sleep. Something I could really fall into right now. I had a bad feeling that though today was physically and mentally exhausting, tomorrow could be worse. I rolled back onto my side facing the bedroom door. The alarm clock said it was only 4:30. Maybe I should just take a quick nap before dinner, since I didn’t last night. Mom would wake me up; just a little sleep couldn’t hurt.
I was standing in the middle of the clearing inside the woods just looking at the pond. A rumble warned in the horizon as it had earlier, but this time I stayed where I was. I saw the deer from before run into the treeless circle with me, giving me a guarded look. I took a step forward just to see it bolt away in fear. As I began to turn back around a blazing light caught the corner of my eye. I spun all the way back and came face to face with fire. The woods were now ablaze, though just fine a second ago. Finding my senses I bolted away from the heat towards the house, but it seemed as if I were moving in slow motion and the fire was getting closer. I could feel the heat of the flames against my skin like being wrapped in a blanket on a hot summer day. I fell onto the forest floor as the fire surrounded me. I was going to die.
I woke up in a cold sweat with Mason leaning over me holding my shoulders down as if to restrain me. My breathing was coming in panicked gasps as I felt beads of sweat sliding down my face. Mason just looked at me with worry in his aged gray eyes.
“Easy Joey, it was just a dream.” he said to me, but my mind was running a mile a minute and I couldn't think of a reply. Mason sat up, removing his hands from my arms, but still kept an eye on me. I also sat up in the drenched bed sheets and brushed some on the sweat from my forehead. What the hell was that dream about?
“Do you want to talk about it?” Mason asked though his expression made me think he already knew what it was about.
“No, I'm too tired.” I wasn't lying; I really did feel totally exhausted, but that wasn't the only reason I didn't want to talk to him. After a minute of awkward silence Mason finally left, shutting the door behind him. I looked down at my clenched fists and realized I was shaking violently. It was just a dream, nothing more right? With a loud sigh I fell back onto the bed then stared at the ceiling. How was I supposed to get up for school in a few hours?
The morning sun was never more destructive then today. I felt tired and irritatingly chilled as my eyes opened to the alarm clocks beep. I dragged myself to the edge of the bed and hit the snooze button with a grumble of displease. I really felt terrible. As it the idea of going to school wasn't bad enough on a normal day. Despite my attitude going into the day I got out of bed and headed for the bathroom. I took a longer shower than necessary, with hot water since I still felt cold. It was already spring so why was it so cold in the house? After my shower I got dressed in a red shirt and jeans before heading downstairs to the dining room. Mom was already seated at the table eating her peanut butter smeared toast and drinking her usual cup of morning coffee. I took a seat across from her and buried my face into my arms. Man, I wanted some more sleep.
“Are you not feeling well?” Mom asked me. I lifted my head back up and shook it in agreement. She reached over and placed a slender hot hand onto my forehead. I flinched at the temperature difference of our skin.
“You do feel a bit chilled. Maybe you should stay home today.” I thought about her suggestion and it sounded tempting, but if I miss one class of Algebra I would never be able to catch up.
“It's okay. If I get worse I'll call later.” I told her with a forced smile. She looked uneasy, but believed in my words and went back to drinking her coffee. Mason entered the room at that moment, today wearing casual clothing of a plain gray short sleeved shirt and jeans, and sat in between Mom and me at the end of the table. He gave me a worried stare like this morning, but I ignored him and went out to the kitchen to grab some coffee for myself. I had just taken the first sip when Mason also came in behind me. We just looked at each other for a while before he finally spoke.
“If you're not feeling well you can stay home from school. That nightmare seemed to take a toll on you.”
“I'm fine. I'm just a little tired is all. Is there a reason why you and mom don't want me to go to school?” I thought I saw a hint of nervousness in his eyes, but it went by so fast I could have been imagining it.
“Of course not. I just don't want you to get worse.” Mason answered with sincerity in his voice. I guess he could act like a father when he wanted to. Too bad I wasn't buying it.
“Look, I'm fine okay. Will you just get off my back about this morning.” I growled before setting the almost full cup on the counter and leaving out the side door of the house. The air was like ice shards against my skin. A violent shiver ran through me. I ignored it and continued walking towards the woods. A flash of memory from the dream entered my mind, but I pushed it back and proceeded forward. The scenery of trees and mist began to relax me like I had hoped. I found my clearing again and sat beside the water's edge staring into the pool. This was the only place that I felt truly at home since we moved. If only I could live out here forever then I would be happy.
I didn't see Collin until second period in gym class. He greeted me in an excited manner before pulling me to the gymnasium storage closet. I helped him find a football that wasn't almost flat then we started throwing it back and forth for warm ups. My brain still felt half asleep from my rough awakening, but I tried my best to go along with my friend's words to me.
“So did you finish writing your half of the English report?” He threw the ball to me.
“Not yet, but I'll finish it soon.” I assured him throwing back less enthusiastically. Collin caught the ball then walked over to where I stood.
“Are you feeling alright? You seem out of it.” I had a feeling I wasn't hiding my lack of energy very well.
“Just had a bad two nights of sleep is all.” I told him rubbing a hand through my hair.
“Couldn't tell with the bags under your eyes. You look like a fucking raccoon.” Collin chuckled pointing to my eyes. I smiled back at him before the couch blew the whistle to start class. The class went silent and then all gathered in the middle of the gym for briefing on today's class. I joined them with Collin. Being surrounded by the class helped a little with my sense of freezing. I guess I really was coming down with something after all. A few minutes later I told the teacher I wasn't feeling well and he sent me to the office. The nurse checked me out and said y body temperature was almost dangerously low, which isn't very good news. I was instructed to call my mom and she showed up a little while later. Once we got home I was forced up to my room. I obeyed without much fight and laid on the bed. Well this day turned out to be pleasant. My stomach grumbled in hunger. I paid no attention and just laid on my side facing the window. The sun was out unlike the rain fall yesterday and the rays of light felt good against my skin. I covered myself up with the blanket and sighed heavily. I just need more sleep and I'll be fine.
I woke up once again in a cold sweat brought on by the same nightmare. What was this dream supposed to mean? Why did I keep having it? My body was trembling from both fear and the cold air around me. I wrapped myself tighter under the blankets and just stared at the afternoon sky outside the bedroom window. Why was it so cold? Doesn't Mason turn the heat on at all? I mean it feels like a freaking freezer in here. A knock came to my open door and I turned my head to see who it was. Mom waved at me before walking over to the bed.
“Hey, you feeling better?” she asked me softly.
“I'm really cold.” I replied turning to lie on my back. Mom placed a slim fingered hand over my forehead beneath my bangs before frowning.
“You do still feel cold. Want me to bring you some hot tea?” I thought about it before answering, but the mention of tea didn't sound appealing to me at all. I shook my head no to her. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was feeling a little suspicious of my mother's worried face. I mean I knew she'd be worried about me being sick, but it seemed like something else was there.
“Mom, is there something you're not telling me?” I asked weakly. Her whole body twitched at my words, though she managed to hold her expression together.
“Of course not. I tell you everything, sweet heart.” She replied, and then excused herself in a hurry. I knew it; she is keeping something from me. I turned back onto my side facing the window. I wonder what's so bad that my own mother can't tell me? I have a yanking suspicion that Mason is behind it. A wind-chill hit the bed and a violent shiver passed through me killing my train of thought. Maybe I should try taking a hot shower. Regrettably I removed the covers from my body and made my shivering body move toward the upstairs bathroom. As quickly as I could function I turned the water of hot and began undressing. God, I was so cold. As soon as I saw steam I practically jumped into the shower. I was met with instant relief. My body relaxed entirely to the point I could barely move, but I didn’t care. The heat felt so good right now.
Later I finally decided to go downstairs for some food. My stomach rumbled painfully at the thought. As soon as I entered the kitchen Mom and Mason looked up simultaneously at me. I waved weirded out before sitting next to Mason at the table.
“Feeling a little better Joey?” he asked with a forced smile.
“Yeah, I had a hot shower and it helped. I'm just starving now.” I told him before Mom walked over.
“What would you like to eat?”
“Anything hot please.” I answered, which only made her give Mason a quick look that I didn't get. I turned my attention across the hall to see the grand fireplace lit and glowing beautifully. I stood up and headed over to it in an almost zombie like way. I took a seat on the floor in front of the heat and almost cried at the feeling of being warm. I just stared at the dancing gold and orange snakes, mesmerized by them. I just don't want to be cold anymore. My hand raised and reached closer to the flames, almost touching them before a hand grabbed my wrist and stopped me. I looked up surprised and saw Mom giving me a sad look. She didn't let go of my wrist, but she looked like she was in pain from something. Mason finally came in and made her let me go. What was going on? I stood up and headed out of the house, despite the sharp cold needled pricking my skin. The sun was still out, but it didn't feel like it was at all. I just walked towards the woods not knowing where too, but I needed to calm down.
“Son, wait!” Mason voice yelled behind me. I turned around and saw him running towards me. I really didn't want to talk to him right now.
“What do you want?” I demanded when he was close enough to talk.
“I believe it’s time we have a discussion about my side of the family.” He replied looking like he was about to give me the sex talk.
“What about them. I'm really confused about what’s going on. Ever since we got here I've been feeling like you and Mom have been keeping a secret from me!” I yelled irritated before Mason grabbed my shoulders.
“I know you must be confused by our behavior, but we just didn't want you to worry about things that might not happen. Unfortunately you've been showing signs that prove otherwise.”
“About what?” I said getting sick of him beating around the bush. I watched him walk a few feet away from me rubbing his hair uneasily before turning back to me with a deep breath.
“Joey, our bloodline is special. In fact, it's so special that we have to keep it a secret from other people or risk the family's safety. What I'm trying to say is that you’re not what you think you are.” I didn't get what he was saying at all so I walked closer and glared.
“What am I then?” Mason once again placed his hands on my shoulders and sighed heavily.
“We're not human, son. We come from a long line of powerful snake demons.” he finally spit out. I just gawked at him in disbelief, Great, my father's insane. I pulled away from him angrily and started walking away.
“I don't need to here fucking lies from you. I'm not in the mood.” I growled.
“This isn't a lie Joey. I'm telling the truth.” he argued grabbing my arm to stop me. I pulled my arm from his grip and faced him again. What was his problem?
“Oh come on. You expect me to believe that you're a demon. How gullible do you think I am?”
“Not just me. You're one too. You are my son after all. Why would I lie to you about this? Ask your mother if you don't believe me, but I'm warning you that whether you believe me or not your body will continue to change until you will no longer look human.” Mason lectured before a gust of wind hit us. My body felt like it had been submerged in ice water and I suddenly felt light headed. I stumbled and fell to my hands and knees onto the moist ground. I felt Mason pick me up and drape me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
“Damn, we need to get you inside before your body shuts down.” I heard him say before I fell asleep.
When I woke up I was wrapped in several blankets in front of the fireplace. Mom was sitting beside me facing the flames with an exhausted expression.
“Mom...” I said softly causing her to look down at me relieved. She touched the top of my hair then looked towards the kitchen.
“Mason he's awake!” she yelled happily then I heard footsteps coming towards us. Mason kneeled beside Mom and placed a hand on my forehead.
“Good, his body temperature is back up. Any lower young man and you would have been a goner.” He smiled the same as my mother. I didn't know what he was talking about, but I was just glad that I wasn't freezing anymore. I sat up under the covers and looked at my parents.
“What happened to me?” I asked disoriented.
“Since we’re part snake, we can’t generate enough heat for our bodies so we need to keep warm or else we will fall asleep and die. Don’t worry, you will adjust to it.” I just looked at my father then my mother for any sign that he was just crazy, but she looked just as serious as him. It couldn't be true, right? I mean there are no such things as demons.
“I know this is a lot to take in, but you need to know what's going to happen to your body now that you’re of shedding age.” Mom brushed her hand through my hair, but I pulled away creep out by her words.
“What the hell is shedding age?”
“As you know reptiles shed their skin a lot during adolescence since their bodies grow the most during that period. The same goes for you. You’re going through your first growth spurt so your body will change into its true form to be able to shed. Don't worry, it will only be slightly uncomfortable for a while, but you can regain your human form after it's complete.” Mom explained, but I couldn’t absorb the information. So I'm a monster, is that what they're telling me? I stood up and felt my muscled were very stiff so I started pacing back and forth to get them moving again.
“I don't think I can believe this. I mean it’s too much to just take in. I mean first of all it would be bad enough just to find out that monsters actually exist, but to also discover that my own mother married one and had a child which makes me a half snake freak.” I complained rubbing my head from the growing migraine.
“It’s not all that bad. Nagas are not monsters like it the old times. We have become very successful during the last hundred years. There are many of our kind in politics, entertainment, and sports. As for you, it's true that you are a halfling, but that doesn’t make you a freak. There are plenty of others like you in the world, believe me.” Mason informed, which only stressed me further. I turned back to face my mother and she just looked at me as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
“Mom, how could you lie to me about this? Don't you think my species would be something I should know about?” I questioned hurt be her secrecy.
“Well Joey, the thing is sometimes halflings are more human and don't ever transform. We agreed we wouldn't burden you with this knowledge unless you started showing signs of changing.” She explained standing up beside me. I didn't say anything, just turned around and walked up to my room. I locked the door behind me and fell onto the bed. How did my life get so messed up? If what they said was true, I was going to turn into a monster. What was I going to do then?
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