Last week I had 935 followers on Twitter. I promised my followers I'd post 1000 words of any work in progress once I reached 1000. I thought it would take a few weeks, but my 1000th follower clicked on me this morning! I was so happy I let her choose which of my 3 works in progress I should post. She chose YA, so here you go! One thousand words from Freaked, the sequel to Psyched, to celebrate 1000.
“Aisi, you’re a million miles away tonight.”
She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I know, Vance. I’m sorry,” she apologized.
He looked beyond their campfire and through the trees nestled on the riverbank in the direction of those cliffs. “I brought you to the wrong place, didn’t I? It’s too close to Nakia. I should have known better.” He stood up, angry, and stomped to a picnic table barely illuminated by the outer rim of the blue flame’s ring of light.
Aisi stood, watching him with a frown. They’d only been going out for a couple of months, but this seemed so unlike him. Vance didn’t stomp. Vance didn’t get mad. She looked at him thoughtfully and wondered if this was one of those times she was supposed to ask and let him talk, or just let him work it out on his own. She was pretty new to this whole girlfriend thing, so she decided a little PDA might make him forget instead.
Grabbing the blanket that a moment before covered both of them as they cuddled by the fire, she clutched it around her shoulders and stepped over the log to follow him. She wrapped the blanket around him from behind and pulled him into a hug. “You’re such a bonehead, Vance. Who else would take me hiking, make me s’mores and hot dogs, and find a way to turn a regular, ordinary camp fire blue? Best boyfriend ever. Everything is perfect.”
“You were thinking of her.”
His words weren’t an accusation, but they stung.
“Yeah, I was.” As he turned to face her she looked into his gray eyes, filled with the dancing light of the fire behind her. “I do that a lot these days,” she admitted. If she were being honest with herself, she’d admit she kind of obsessed over it. Constantly. Replayed leaving her sister behind over and over in her head. Kicked herself mentally over it and felt sick with guilt. She heard her sister shrieking her name over and over as she ran away. She left Nakia to fend for herself against an army of demons she was sent there to vanquish...but didn’t.
Vance pulled her closer. She rested her head on his shoulder, and his chin fell to the top of her head. “I keep wishing we had a do over,” he said.
Aisi stepped back and, taking his hand, led him back to their spot by the fire. As they settled back down, she said, “You and me both. Father J told us what to do, but I didn’t do it.” She shook her head and looked down. “Maybe I couldn’t.”
Vance pulled a face. “His instructions are like getting a desk to put together and the assembly instructions come in every language but English,” he snorted.
Aisi laughed. “Speaking from experience?”
“Let’s just say the desk in my dorm is propped up on cinderblocks and held together with rubber bands and chewing gum.”
“Okay, that’s disgusting.”
“For the record, my desk hasn’t collapsed yet...but Father J? His instructions that night were pretty cryptic,” Vance pointed out.
Aisi sighed. “Yeah, I know. He kept saying I had the power to end it, and I don’t think I did anything at all.” She looked down, wringing her fingers in nervous anger. “I mean, how many times have I vanquished a demon? Every single day, Vance. I see them all the time. I hurl a few Latin epithets at them and they go away, but when it mattered most, when it meant I could get my sister back after a decade of her being held captive by that undead freak...I choked. I ran away and saved myself.” She tipped her head away from him, and her long, black, spiral curls curtained her face so he couldn’t see her. She didn’t want to see his kind expression when she was determined to be mad at herself. “When it mattered most, I failed.”
Vance wrapped his arm around her shoulder, squeezing her reassuringly. “Aisi, he was too strong for us. He had a cave full of minions ready to strike, and all we had was a headlamp, a book that told us nothing, and a necklace.” He took her arm and pushed up her sleeve to touch the gouges in her flesh, still healing from the scratching the minions caused and the infection which followed.
“You’re too nice to me,” she snapped, jerking away and folding her arms tight, shoulders hunched in frustration. “I saved my own backside when I should have—”
Heavy footsteps and the sound of snapping twigs cut her off. They both cranked their backs to turn and see if whatever approached was friendly. Aisi looked over the log to see her best friend Zinnia stumble, laughing, into the light cast by flames fading from a neon blue back to vibrant oranges and yellows. Vance’s cousin Colby wasn’t far behind.
“You two are the world’s least secret agents,” Aisi commented as the two tripped into the clearing by their campfire. “When the zombie apocalypse happens, I’m sticking with you. You’re so noisy, they’ll find and eat you first.”
“They’ll pass me and go straight for you,” Zinnia argued, “because you’re smart. Why would they snack on my brains when a thanksgiving feast is just a few steps away?”
“Whatever,” Aisi said with an eye roll. “Like you’re not smart. Where did you guys go anyway?”
“She took me snipe hunting,” Colby said with a grin, holding up a flashlight and an empty black garbage bag. “We had one but it got away.”
Aisi had to suppress a grin as he showed her and Vance the hole in the bottom of the bag. “They usually do,” she smirked, glancing at Zinnia.
“Sneaky little buggers,” Zinnia added, winking at Aisi.
“Snipe hunting?” Vance asked, raising his eyebrows and looking doubtful. “Is that even a thing?”Aisi and Zinnia looked at each other and burst out laughing.