Splintered Page 13

If he does this, she may never be that woman again.

I shove open the door and drop down onto the sidewalk. Even though the late-afternoon sun has found its way through the clouds, a chill coats my entire body.

“At least let me get your crutches for you.” Dad starts to dig them out from behind the passenger seat.

“I don’t need them anymore.”

“But Jeb said you sprained—”

“News flash, Dad . . . Jeb’s not always right.” I tug at the bandana covering my bandage. My ankle hasn’t hurt since Alison pressed her birthmark to mine. In fact, my scraped knee seems better, too. Chalk it up to more unexplained weirdness. I don’t have time to wonder about it. I’ve got bigger issues.

Dad glances off into the distance, his jaw tight. “Butterfly . . .”

“Don’t call me that,” I snap.

His face falls as two chatty shoppers walk by. The last thing I want to do is hurt him; he’s stayed by Alison’s side for years, not to mention raised me all alone.

“I’m sorry.” I lean in to see him better. “Let’s just do more research, okay?”

He sighs. “I signed the papers before we left.”

My mask of understanding slips, anger seeping out the edges. “Why would you do that?”

“The doctor offered this as an option months ago. I’ve been looking into it for a while. At first, I couldn’t bring myself to even entertain the idea. But now . . . they’re starting Monday. You can go with me to visit her afterward.”

An uncomfortable heat glides up my neck. The humidity from the storm and the white noise of surrounding bugs only make it worse.

“Please try to understand,” Dad says, “how much I need her home again.”

“I need her, too.”

“Then won’t you do whatever it takes to make that happen?”

Inside me, the flapping shadow comes to life again. It dares me to say exactly what I’m thinking. “Yeah. I’d even dive down a rabbit hole.” I slam the door.

Dad taps the horn, no doubt wanting an explanation for my remark. I rush into the shop without looking back.

The automatic doorbell chirps and a gust jingles the crystal teardrop chandelier centered in the ceiling. I stand there, dazed, while the air-conditioning ices my damp clothes. The rich coconut scent of the candles in the candelabras along the walls eases the crimp in my stomach.

“Is that you, Al?” Jenara’s muffled voice carries through the storeroom’s open door.

I clear my throat and grip the air freshener. In my rush to escape, I forgot to leave it in the truck. “Uh-huh.”

“Did you see my prom dress? It’s on the new-merchandise rack.”

I lift the only hanger on the rack. The clear plastic cover crinkles. Jen bought two dresses at Butterfly Threads months ago. She sliced and diced them to create a fitted lime halter bodice that flares into a mini zebra print/pink netting combo. Hand-sewn iridescent sequins catch the light as I hang it back on the rod.

“Nice,” I say. It’s actually amazing, and under normal circumstances, I’d be a lot more enthusiastic over one of her fashion creations. But I can’t find the strength today.

I toss the moth air freshener under the checkout counter next to Jenara’s makeup bag. It lands on top of Persephone’s mythology tomes.

A sense of someone watching slides through my bones and I look over my shoulder at the poster on the wall. It’s from a movie called The Crow. Persephone’s in love with the hero: black leather, white face, black eye makeup, and a perpetual brooding scowl. There was some mystery surrounding the actor. He died on set while filming. I’ve always been drawn to the poster. Even on a flat piece of paper, the guy has the most soulful eyes—eyes that seem to know me, just like I know them. Although I’ve never seen the movie, he’s familiar, to the point that I can smell the leather swaddling his body . . . feel the slickness against my cheek.

“He’s here . . .” I jump as the words rush my ears—the same ones the fly said earlier. Only it’s not a whisper this time, not the white noise I’m used to. It’s a guy’s deep cockney accent.

Mirrors line the side walls of the store, and a blur of movement races across them. When I look closer, the reflections show nothing but my own image.

“He rides the wind.” The voice hums through my blood. A gust of cold air comes out of nowhere and snuffs out the candles, leaving only the afternoon light and the chandelier overhead.

I scramble backward until I hit the counter. The poster’s bottomless eyes follow my every move, as if he’s the one talking to my mind and turning the wind. Icy tingles run through my spine. “Al!” Jen’s shout breaks the spell. “Can you help me carry some stuff? We need to put up the Dark Angel display before I leave.”

I force myself to break the poster’s hypnotic gaze and head for the storeroom. The air conditioner clicks off. The gust must have come from the vents.

I laugh nervously. I’m tired, hungry, and in shock. My delusions are real and my family’s cursed. That’s all. It should be easy to accept, right?


My soggy Skechers squish with each step along the black-andwhite checked tiles. Jenara meets me in the doorway, arms stacked so high with clothes and props, she can’t see over them.

“So, my dress is nice?” Her question drifts from behind the stack. “Way to pull out all the stops for your BFF’s ego.”

“It’s awesome. Bret will love it.” Still feeling the poster’s eyes, I balance on tiptoe and take the blue wig and miniature fog machine from the top of her armful.

“As if it matters,” she says from behind the swaying stack. “Did I tell you Jeb threatened to turn Bret into a smashed pumpkin if I don’t get home by midnight? Taking a sweet fairy tale like ‘Cinderella’ and twisting it into a death threat. That’s seriously warped.”

“Yeah, he’s been on a real role lately.”

Everything starts to slide from her tower. I grab several props from the top of the pile, revealing her face.

Her heavily lined green eyes bulge when she sees me. “Ohmyholyshiz. You look like you duked it out with a Sasquatch. Did you and Jeb settle things in a mud pit?”

“Ha.” Leading the way to the display window, I drop my stuff in the window next to Window Waif, Persephone’s mannequin.

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