Authors: Eve Hathaway
Tags: #ya action adventure romance, #ya romance fantasy, #ya mythology, #ya action adventure, #ya romance, #ya urban fantasy romance, #ya love and romance, #ya teen supernatural, #ya gods, #ya coming of age, #ya mystery, #ya paranormal action books, #ya thriller romance, #ya romance paranormal, #ya fantasy
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, companies and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
~ ~ ~ ~
"IT'S A GOOD thing the tourist season begins after the school year," said Mila's mother, Gloria, as she barged into Mila's room with a full laundry basket balanced on her hip.
Mila opened her eyes, keeping her expression neutral. The clock on the wall said it was six in the morning, but the halo around the curtains meant that the sun was high and hot already.
"These need to be ironed and folded," Gloria said, dropping the basket next to Mila's bed. The sheets inside sighed softly, as though relieved. Gloria Alvarez, standing an even five feet tall and weighing barely more than a hundred pounds after a full meal, was not someone to be argued with. "Remember, we have guests tonight."
"Yeah," Mila said.
, she added silently. The bed-and-breakfast the Alvarezes ran would have been pretty cool had they been anywhere near a decent town. But it was halfway between Tulum, which few people had heard of, and Cancun, which nobody ever left. Their visitors came expecting a deserted beach, not realizing that along with a deserted beach was a semi-deserted, dying village which couldn't even be bothered to give itself a name. Ten fishing families, a plantain farmer, and a restaurant didn't even warrant a dot on the maps of the region.
Mila made no move to get out of bed, a small rebellion against the tyranny of having to wake up at all. Yesterday was her last day of school-she took intro-level online courses at the Universidad Quintana Roo, since there were no schools here-and that warranted some kind of break. Thankfully, Gloria left with only a small
of disapproval, and did not launch into yet another tirade about how hard they were working and why couldn't her daughter bring herself to work a little rather than daydream about boys. These arguments had been going on between them over the two years since they'd moved to Mexico.
, more specifically: some of the people here were a bit touchy about being called "Mexicans."
Mila counted to ten before she threw the blanket off herself and swung her feet from the bed to touch the cool stone floor with her toes. Theirs was a large house, even by American standards. It was once the small manor home of a local official, the realtor had told them, and then launched into a long spiel detailing the history of the place and the artful mosaics that had been laid into the floor. Not that she paid any attention to those details. Two years ago, she was just too angry: at her grandparents for being so ill, at her parents for dropping everything in the US and not giving a damn about her, at the economies of both Mexico and the US that made it more worthwhile to stay, at the crazy language the locals spoke that made it impossible to make friends-not that there were people her age to befriend. The people here were old and bitter, and their children had more sense than her father did because they left and never returned.
She was still angry, but, during the winter, her father had at least installed air conditioning in the bedrooms, so now it was merely a resentful simmer instead of a full-on rage.
The house was a sprawling single-floor structure, built in the shape of a rectangle around an open courtyard. It was once beautiful, even Mila had to admit that. But size and beauty didn't matter so much when they discovered that the roof leaked in a thousand places and the house had to be rewired in order to handle the electrical load of a refrigerator.
Since the moment they'd bought it, it seemed like they'd done nothing but repair things; and even though the exchange rate greatly favored the dollar over the peso, George still blanched a little whenever he sat down to calculate how much he'd spent on repairs. Mila could see the conflict between her father's pride and the stark financial reality whenever she mentioned moving to the city-when he'd sunk this much money into building them a new life, he wasn't just going to give up, damn it. The difference between her father and her, though, was that Mila no longer felt guilty for wishing that he would.
But for now, she had to iron and fold the sheets. Of course, the laundry was on the other side of the house, where the
lived in what was once the servants' quarters. Her mother did this on purpose, of course-otherwise the grandparents-Jorge and Victoria, Pablo and Elena-would never see their granddaughter.
Mila couldn't make her parents realize how awkward it was for all of them-a granddaughter they'd never seen, who might as well have been from Mars, for all they knew of Boston. They had literally nothing in common, except Gloria and George; and lately those two had become strangers to all of them. Fortunately, at this hour, the grandparents wouldn't be up yet, and Mila could slip past them without having an awkward, just-out-of-politeness conversation.
As Mila ironed and folded and stacked the sheets in neat piles, she became aware of how still the morning was. It was unusual, and the silence sent shivers down her spine. Normally, there were monkeys chattering in the forest and birds raising a ruckus everywhere.
Today, though, even the chickens seemed subdued, and the stray dog she'd cleaned up (though for some reason she couldn't find a name to fit him) only burrowed deeper into his bed when she filled his bowl with kibble.
She finished the sheets and went to the backyard to collect the eggs. The chickens had gathered around the feeding trough but there was no frenetic back-and-forth squabbling for feeding space. She poured more feed into the trough and added more water to their pan. That seemed to get them going, but even then their clucking seemed muted. A dozen eggs today-
at least they weren't too sick to lay eggs
, she thought. She could drop off half a dozen with the
and she might be able to barter with Paulo-the only fisherman in the village whose Spanish she could understand, as the others spoke a mixed language of Mayan and Spanish-for some fish with the rest.
Still, it was unsettling how quiet everything was. A quick glance at her watch told her it was already eight in the morning. It was the time when Grandpa Jorge and Grandma Victoria-the nominally-healthier of the two pairs, with heart failure and emphysema being their two complaints-usually make their coffee and set out the massive tray full of sweet buns. But the servants' kitchen the four elderly people shared was empty today. Mila didn't dare knock on the bedroom doors. She left the eggs in the basket on the counter. They'd find them.
If they haven't died in the night,
Mila thought; and then she crossed herself, feeling guilty for having thought that. Angry though she was at her father and mother, she couldn't quite bring herself to wish
In the main kitchen, only her mother was awake, scrambling yesterday's eggs while the water for coffee boiled on the stove and the balls of
sat on the counter, ready for pressing into tortillas.
"I swear, I don't know what's gotten into your father," Gloria grumbled as she poured the eggs in a pan. "He wouldn't wake up this morning, and he said he was going to fix the
Mila sat down at the table. Her mother had finished cooking the eggs and was now spooning them into a plate.
It would be no use asking her mother if she noticed anything unusual, Mila decided, as she helped herself to a portion of scrambled eggs and poured herself a glass of juice. Gloria was a practical woman. If the chickens weren't being normal, it was because they were sick. If the old people were still asleep, it was because they were tired. If things were quieter than usual, it was because the weather was strange. It was that simple. And the weather
strange, come to think of it. A heavy stillness hung in the air; as if the normal ocean breeze had something far more important to do.
"When you finish your breakfast..." Gloria began.
"I'm going to see Paulo," Mila said, at the same time.
The air was electric with tension as Gloria stared at Mila.
How dare you
, Mila read into her mother's scowl,
when there's so much to do here?
Fuck you. I never wanted to be here,
Mila thought, returning the scowl. The sting of injustice at having been awakened at six in the morning on her first day after classes had ended seeped into her memory; and she straightened her back slightly and lifted her chin, daring her mother to say something.
"Bring back something nice," Gloria said, finally.
And just like that, she turned back to the stove and the business of pressing the tortillas. Mila, too relieved at having avoided yet another fight, scurried out, bewildered at her good fortune.
There was something strange going on,
she thought, and the hairs on the back of her neck rose as she ran out of the house. She didn't believe in ghosts or spirits or anything; but it wasn't until she was well away from the house, hot and flushed from the sun cooking the air around her like an oven, that she could bear to look back at the place.
She felt silly, even as she glanced back. It wasn't the house that had changed, after all-it was everything else.
THERE WERE NO boats on the pier, which meant that the men wouldn't be back. In this calm weather, it didn't surprise her. Fuel was relatively expensive, so the men preferred to use sails; but without any wind, they might not get back for another few days.
Mila turned and headed towards the opposite direction, away from the cluster of huts at the end of the desolate pier and the women rocking themselves in their paltry shade. Forty miles of sand later and she would reach Cancun. It was not the first time this thought had occurred to her.
It was easy to lose track of distance when she walked next to the sea, and sometimes she wished she could just walk all day and all night and disappear from the village and the little squalid nothings that kept the people there. But her father would drive out to bring her back; and he'd look so hurt that she'd have to lie and tell him that she was on her way back but she was just so tired.
She wasn't good at lying-her eyes were too honest. But he'd pretended to believe her the one time she had tried that, and, oddly enough, she was grateful that he did.
Her hair was a mix of rich brunette and sun-bleached highlights of honey and gold. Had there been a breeze, it would have floated around her like a waist-length cloak. Her eyes were an odd blend of gray and brown. She walked with the assurance and grace of an athlete, though she'd never been one in her former life, back in Boston. She liked to swim, but her school didn't have a swim team. In the pool of the YMCA, she used to glide through the water almost without effort, doing flip-turns with ease. It wasn't speed she was after, so much as the feeling of being alive, feeling the currents curl their way down her body. It was the only thing that got better after the move: what could be more alive than swimming in the ocean?