Spirit Page 33

He paused, rubbing at the scruff of Casper’s neck.

Michael waited.

“Mom was . . . unique. She had a new age store in the town where we lived, and she played up the part. She did tarot readings, crystal healings, stuff like that. She gave me the stones. I didn’t realize until I started getting powers that they’d start to feel like a part of me . . .” Hunter paused and lined them up along his wrist. “She didn’t know what my dad was—like the Guide stuff—but she always used to dote on him and say he had a special connection to the world around him.” Now, knowing what he knew about his mother and father, Hunter wondered if his dad had laughed about that behind her back.

“Have you ever wanted to tell her?” said Michael. “About what your dad was?”

Hunter shook his head. “No. When I was younger, it was something between me and him. Not like a secret, but more like he got me—” He made a dismissive noise. “This is stupid.”

“It’s not. I get it.”

Hunter glanced over, and Michael shrugged. He was still looking at the trees, which made this whole conversation easier.

“My dad was an Earth Elemental, too.” Michael paused, and it was weighted with feeling. “We didn’t always get along, but—well, you know.”

Hunter nodded and looked back at the trees himself. “People always ask if my dad was strict, and he was—but he wasn’t. I never—I didn’t—”

He had to stop.

His dad would have shit a brick if he’d known Hunter was sitting here crying.

“Was he proud of you?” said Michael.

Hunter snorted. “I never knew where I stood with him.” He had to swallow. God, suck it up. “I never will.”

“I’m sure you have some idea.”

“I don’t. The day before he died, he told me that the only reason he was with my mother was because he was using her. Their whole relationship was based on that. And she has no idea.”

“Wow.” A pause. “What do you think that means about your relationship with him?”

“He said I needed to learn to use people, that it would keep me safe because of what I am.”

“Well, that explains a lot.”

Hunter snapped his head around.

Michael put a hand up before he could say anything. “Take it easy. You don’t have to be on such a hair trigger, kid.” A pause. “But if you don’t mind me sharing one thing I learned when I was eighteen, something that’s bothered me since my parents struck that messed-up deal with the other Elementals in town . . .”


“Sometimes parents are wrong.”

The words hit him hard again, and Hunter flinched.

“Come on,” said Michael. He clapped Hunter on the shoulder. “Let’s go get your stuff.”

“I don’t want—”

“Come on,” Michael said. “Let her be wrong for once. It’ll be good for you both.”


No one was home.

Or at least, neither his mother’s nor his grandparents’ cars were in the driveway.

“Well, this is anticlimactic,” said Hunter. He hadn’t even killed the engine in the jeep.

Michael glanced over. “You have a key?”


But he didn’t want to go inside. This felt like a free pass, and he was tempted to peel out of here, spraying gravel behind him.

“If your stuff is packed up,” said Michael, “we can just grab it and go, right?”


The house felt the same as he remembered, some lingering scent from his grandmother’s chili—which she made every weekend—combined with the faint whiff of the potpourri sitting out in the living room. Cool and quiet and still.

Nothing was in the front hallway, but maybe she’d left his stuff downstairs.

Or maybe she hadn’t packed it up at all.

Hunter couldn’t decide which option he was hoping for.

He felt jittery now, not knowing where everyone was or when they’d be home. He was just standing there between the dining room and the living room, keys jingling nervously in his hand.

“So . . . ,” started Michael. “Upstairs?”

“No. Down. Follow me.”

The basement was ten degrees colder than the rest of the house, something he’d never really noticed until today. He hit the switches to light up the space.

She’d packed. Two plastic storage boxes plus a duffel bag were laid out on his bed.

His old bed. His quilt was gone, either packed away or folded in one of these boxes. His Xbox and alarm clock were gone. His books, his old school notebooks—everything. The room looked like it was waiting for the next tenant.

He snapped the lid off one of the boxes. Mostly electronics and notebooks, though two framed pictures lay right on top.

Michael picked up one. “Your dad and uncle?”

For some reason, Hunter wanted to snatch it away from him.

“Yeah.” He held out a hand. “Don’t say I look exactly like my dad. I get that all the time.”

Michael glanced up. He handed back the frame. “Hunter, there is nothing about you that would make me say you look exactly like this guy.”

Hunter stared back at him in surprise.

“Look in a mirror sometime,” said Michael.

Hunter glanced at the picture again. He was trying to decide whether or not that was an insult when the front door of the house slammed.

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