Authors: Kim Harrington
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Social Issues, #Dating & Sex
To Mom and Dad,
for always believing in me.
Even when I didn’t.
“YOU DON’T WANT TO KILL ME,” I SAID.
“Of course I don’t, Clare. But I have to.”
If I wasn’t already bleeding, with the room tilting and swaying, I would have slapped myself. I never saw this coming. I had let my personal feelings cloud my judgment. and now I was looking down the barrel of a gun.
I never thought it would end like this, me on the hardwood floor in my house, propped up on my elbows, begging for my life. On my right was the crumpled body of a guy I hadn’t fully realized the depths of my feelings for until I saw the bullet rip into him.
I tried to use reason again. To buy myself just one more minute of life. “This isn’t you,” I said, pleading. “You’re not a murderer.”
“A couple weeks ago, I would’ve said the same thing. But you should know more than anyone how people surprise you. People can do things you never imagined they would. You think you know someone and then …”
My would-be killer shrugged and cocked the gun.
Then the world went black.
“SHE’S A SUPER FREAK! SUPER FREAK! SHE’S SUPER-freaky, yow!”
Billy Rawlinson and Frankie Creedon popped up on the other side of the 7-Eleven aisle singing Rick James, their heads peeking over the cereal boxes like prairie dogs. I rolled my eyes, and they burst out laughing in that cackling, annoying way that two losers with low IQs do best. You’d think we were in elementary school by the way they teased me. But no, I was sixteen, and it was the summer before my junior year. Billy and Frankie had graduated from high school a month ago, but I still wasn’t free of them. They’d been teasing me since kindergarten, and they hadn’t broadened their repertoire much. I’d been serenaded by “Super Freak” lyrics over a dozen times.
I took the high road, ignored them, and brought my selections up to the counter. Unfortunately for all of us, they followed me.
“What are you buying, Clare?” Billy asked. “Candles? Crystals?”
Actually just a twenty-ounce Diet Coke and a package
of powdered donuts. The breakfast of champions. I kept my back turned and continued the silent treatment as I pulled a ten out of my shorts pocket and handed it to the cashier.
“Hey,” Frankie’s nasal voice implored. “We’re talking to you, freak.”
He poked me in the shoulder blade.
And that was his mistake.
I’m willing to overlook a stupid comment here and there. But poking me? Nuh-uh. I lifted my elbow up and brought it back hard into his gut.
Frankie let out an
as he doubled over.
I twirled around with a sweet-as-pie smile. “Oh no. Did you catch my elbow in your stomach while I was putting my change in my pocket? Sorry, Frankie. You should learn not to stand so close to people.”
Frankie was busy trying not to puke, but Billy narrowed his eyes at me and said, “You’ll regret that.”
I took my bag and left the store, head held high. This wasn’t the first time I’d had trouble like this, and it wouldn’t be the last.
scrawled across my locker at school. You’d think my given name was “Freak” by how often it was used in the halls. Snickers, whispers, and pointing fingers followed me into classrooms more times than I could count.
I’d done nothing to deserve this treatment. Contrary to popular belief, I was not a devil worshipper, nor a spawn of Satan.
And apparently different was bad.
In Eastport, a tourist town on Cape Cod, lives a family of freaks. My family. I’m a psychic. My brother’s a medium. My mother’s a telepath. Tourists love us. Townies scorn us.
My name is Clarity “Clare” Fern and my brother is Periwinkle “Perry” Fern. What were our parents thinking? Apparently where their next tab of acid was coming from. My mother’s name is Starla, though Perry found her birth certificate one day and we discovered she was born “Mary.” That find didn’t go over well with her, and if we valued our lives we weren’t going to share that tidbit with anyone else.
We live in a grand Victorian house in the busy section of town near the boardwalk. My parents bought it when they got married and left the “spiritualist community” they’d both grown up in. It’s a lovely old house, with no permanent ghosts, and we use the first floor for our family business: readings. Not the bookstore kind.
Perry was waiting for me in the 7-Eleven parking lot, and as I slid into the passenger seat, I breathed a sigh of relief that his car was still idling. It was an eight-year-old black Civic with 120,000 miles on it. Perry wanted a new car, but Mom would never agree to that while this one worked fine. So he started it each morning hoping for the
but the little metal box refused to die.
I checked the mirror to make sure the two stooges weren’t following us in their pickup as Perry turned onto the main drag.
“Any trouble in there?” Perry asked. “I saw dumb and dumber walk in.”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” I said, and Perry smiled.
You’d never know we’re brother and sister. I share my mother’s red hair, freckles, and petite frame, while Perry has black hair and creamy skin and stands just over six feet tall. Though he does have the same sky blue eyes as Mom and me, plus a small scar in his right eyebrow for a dash of mystery. This combination is evidently a recipe for the loosening of morals in almost all girls.
Perry spends most of his time chasing girls and hooking up. Living in a tourist town is perfect for him. Every week a fresh crop of chicks rolls in, and one week later they roll out. He’s eighteen and headed for college in the fall. I pity those poor women in Boston.
Mom let it slip once that he looks just like our father, though we wouldn’t remember. Dad’s been gone without a word for fifteen years. Getting Mom to say any more about him would require torture, so we leave it at that. Perry and I are convinced that good ol’ Dad left us and Mom is still too in love with him to say anything bad, so she says nothing at all.
Perry flicked on the blinker and turned onto a side road, deftly avoiding the bumper-to-bumper parking lot that is Route 28. Summer traffic is pretty heavy through Hyannis and Yarmouth, but not as bad when you get to Eastport, mainly because of Rigsdale Road. Named after a pilgrim (because if we love one thing on the Cape, it’s our pilgrims),
Rigsdale is a secondary road that runs parallel to Route 28 and has just as many shops, restaurants, and motels.
We took a right onto Elm and a quick left onto Rigsdale and had to immediately stop. Traffic.
I sighed and looked at my watch. Nine fifty-five a.m. We open at ten, and since it was July Fourth weekend, we were booked for readings all morning and would be busy with drop-ins all afternoon. I shouldn’t have asked Perry to drive me to the store for a donut fix. Mom would not be happy with me. For a supposed free-spirited hippie, she goes psychotic over tardiness.
Two minutes later, we hadn’t moved an inch.
Perry groaned. “What’s going on up there?”
I rolled down the window and stuck my head out like a dog. A few hundred feet down the road there were no cars at all. What was going on? An accident? I pulled my head back in before the humidity suffocated me, and turned the AC up.
“No clue,” I said.
Finally a police cruiser backed up into the road ahead. It had pulled out of the King’s Courtyard Motel, which housed neither a king nor a courtyard, but did have cheesy Tudor styling in the lobby and charged only $79 per night. The cruiser blocked the road to let an ambulance and three more cruisers leave. Now I was really curious. I didn’t know our town
An ambulance alone wouldn’t have piqued my attention. Heart attacks and drug overdoses happen every summer. But this seemed a little more serious.
Excitement? In Eastport? Nay! But I had no time to snoop around Nancy Drew style. The cars were finally moving and we were officially late.
“Mom’s going to kill me,” I said, only half kidding.
“Yeah,” Perry muttered absentmindedly, staring out the window as we passed the motel.
I’d expected him to crack some joke to make me feel better about my impending doom, but instead he turned up the radio. It worked just as well, though. The loud music drowned out my thoughts and before I knew it we were in the driveway. Our Victorian is painted a color I like to call “haunted-house lavender.” Surrounded by an antique castiron gate, the house has high, arched windows; gables; gingerbread porch trim; and one tower. The sign on the front gate says
READINGS BY THE FERN FAMILY.
I dashed into the empty foyer, aka waiting room, and dropped my bag of breakfast on the floor. Mom must have started the reading without us. I opened the door to the living room, aka reading room, which is long and narrow with tall ceilings and decorative moldings on the walls. The windows are covered with thick red velvet drapes. One large candle was centered on the table and smaller votives were lit on the mantle above the fireplace.
My mother immediately looked at me as if I had spit on the floor.
“Nice of you to join us,” she said.
“Sorry we’re late.” Perry swooped in and flashed a bright smile.
I shook the hands of the fiftysomething couple sitting on
the other side of our long mahogany table. The wife was tall and thin, and wore a yellow sundress and a big straw hat. Her husband wore the tourist tuxedo: khaki shorts and a flowered silk shirt.
Rather than sit next to my mother so she was flanked by her children (as she prefers), I sat next to Perry. Mom would have to get through him to get to me. He gave me a quick pat on the shoulder. That’s what Perry is best at: calming people down and making them feel like everything’s going to be all right.
Mom sighed and clasped her hands. “Due to the interruption, I’m going to need another minute to get into the meditation zone.”
She didn’t need a minute. And she didn’t need the lights dimmed and the candles lit and the chamber music playing quietly and all the other crap. Her gift worked whenever she wanted it to, she just had to listen. But the customers expected the hoopla and wanted the hoopla, so hoopla they got.
My mother’s gift is the most dependable of all of ours. She doesn’t hear voices all the time, thankfully, since that would probably drive her insane. But she merely has to focus her energy on another person in close range and she can hear their thoughts. The limitation is that she only knows what they are thinking right at that moment. So if they wanted to hide something, it was pretty easy. Many times, if I had a problem at school I didn’t want to talk about and I thought Mom might be butting into my thoughts, I instead reflected
on gross things like a dirty ashtray filled with cigarettes or scenes from my favorite horror movies. She’d leave me alone after that.
Mom cleared her throat and opened her eyes. “Mr. Bingham, you’re a nonbeliever. You think we’re frauds.”
Mr. Bingham nodded. “You’re right, but that doesn’t prove anything. I’m sure eighty percent of the people who walk through that door think you’re frauds. Especially the men who get dragged in here by their wives. Men tend to be more … rational.”
Perry gave my knee the claw under the table, a warning telling me not to give this jerk the claw on his face.
Mom then turned to the wife. “Mrs. Bingham, you’re a believer, but you’re worried about what we’ll say. You’re wondering what we’d do if we saw that you were going to die soon. You’re wondering if we’d tell you.”
Mrs. Bingham gasped. “That’s exactly what I was thinking!”