Read The Thief Online

Authors: Aine Crabtree

Tags: #magic, #fae, #immortal, #feral, #archetype, #harbinger, #magic mirror, #grimm

The Thief

/ Archetype: THE THIEF /
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THE THIEF

Archetype Book 1

 

by Aine Crabtree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In
memoriam

 

Barbara Auchter and Mattie Jo Crabtree

 

The grandest of grandmothers a girl could ask
for.

Prologue

 

Jul

 

A cab horn blared close behind me as I
splashed through a puddle onto the sidewalk. I glanced fearfully
back at the vehicle through the drizzle, clutching my umbrella and
my sack of Chinese food. The back wheel hit the puddle and a
cascade of dirty water drenched my lower half. The cab zipped
around the corner and was gone.

New York always knew how to make you feel
loved.

I walked quickly up the sidewalk, feeling
the runoff puddling in my boots, soaking through my socks. My dad
would be furious if I wasn't home on time with food. He had been
working so many long nights at the university lately, I'd hadn't
even seen him in two days. He'd done this before, coming home on
the late train after I'd gone to sleep, leaving again before I got
up for school - but today was Sunday. He always came home on
Sunday, no matter what. I didn’t want to disappoint him the one day
I knew he’d be around.

Finally, a stroke of luck - someone had
fixed the elevator, so I didn’t have to climb three flights of
stairs. I checked my reflection in the mirrored interior when the
doors shut. My dark hair, though straightened this morning, was
curling over my collar from the damp. My skin, coffee with three
creams, took on a sickly green tint in the weak florescent light
flickering overhead. I looked overly thin, too, like I’d been
stretched too tall. I’d grown half an inch over the summer, and I
hoped I was finally done. I was nearing 16, and girls were supposed
to stop growing by then. No matter how much I ate I never seemed to
get curves.

I wondered, not for the first time, what my
mother had looked like. My skin, at minimum, had to be hers - Dad
was as pale as they came. I stared in the mirror at the round face,
the large eyes, the smooth features, and saw almost nothing of my
father. Maybe the height. Maybe the ears. It stood to reason that
just about everything about me came from her, but I had no way of
knowing. I had learned from a very early age to never mention her,
not even in passing - it put my father into such a horrible mood.
The sum total of my knowledge of her was that her name was Kyra,
and she’d left us right after I was born.

I only knew her name because Dad talked to
her sometimes, under his breath, when he was frustrated. He’d come
home with stacks of research from the university - which were none
of my business, he’d repeatedly told me - and sit in his room
muttering to himself, and to her.

Readjusting my grip on the bag of food and
my tightly-wrapped umbrella as the elevator opened, I stepped into
the hall. I reached out to unlock our apartment, but the door just
pushed right open. The squeak of the hinge was loud in the hall. I
paused in confusion.


Dad?”

Dad was a genius. He never forgot anything,
not his keys, not the train schedule, not even the number of the
Thai place that had been closed for years. He could recite entire
paragraphs of books with perfect recall - and always seemed angry
when I couldn’t. I wished I had his memory, but I just didn’t.
Point being, there was no chance he would have forgotten to lock
the door, much less leave it open.

Fear gripped me when I saw the state of the
apartment. Everything was in utter disarray - bookshelves
ransacked, cabinets hanging open, a chair overturned. “Dad!” I
called, my voice pitching higher. I tossed the food onto the
kitchen counter and hurried to his room, where I wasn’t supposed to
go, but it was an even bigger wreck. His bedsheets hung haphazard
from the mattress, as if someone had rifled through them. His
closet was open, half his clothes missing. Though his room was
always packed to the brim with books, they had always been
fastidiously organized in neat stacks. Now the stacks had tumbled,
their open pages flipping back and forth from the breeze coming
from the open window. Outside, the rain fell steadily.

Hand trembling, I reached to pick up one of
the books. It was open to a painted illustration of an
old-fashioned hand mirror, edges wrought of silver vines.

Lightning flashed. I looked up at the
window. I caught a pair of wide, yellow eyes staring back at me,
and I screamed.

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Jul

 

Once upon a time, there was a girl on her
way to her grandmother’s house.

 

My first impression of the house was that it
knew something I didn’t, and wasn’t going to tell me any time soon.
The flaking shutters could have been winking. The aged front deck
sagged ever so slightly, as if in a knowing smile. The yard was
freshly mowed but mostly composed of things that weren’t grass.
Clover predominated, and there were several other little flowering
weeds I couldn’t name. I didn’t know much about southern plants.
Three days ago I didn’t even know I had family in Havenwood,
Alabama.

I lifted my suitcase from the cab. The old
Victorian home had certainly seen better days, I’d wager. The
forest pushed in from either side of the yard as if it were trying
to reclaim the land. Ancient farm equipment jutted from the lawn
like tombstones. I couldn’t begin to guess what the spindly, rusted
metal devices had once been used for. They looked more like torture
devices than ploughs or harvesters.

An elderly woman came out the front door and
descended the steps with arthritic hesitation. This, I presumed,
was my grandmother. My heart thumped in my chest. I hadn’t known I
possessed any family at all besides my father. He’d never mentioned
any. But when he’d disappeared, child services in New York had done
some digging, and found that my dad’s mother was still living in
Alabama. Apparently this was where he’d come from.

I knew he couldn’t always have been a
university professor, but this wasn’t what I was expecting.

Her face was wrinkled and stern. She wore
one of those faded cotton dresses patterned with tiny geometrical
shapes that had probably been hanging in her closet since the 80s.
Her silver hair had been starched into a veritable helmet of
curls.

Bea Graham,
the child service people had told me before
putting me on a plane.
Your grandmother’s
name is Bea Graham.

I wanted something to hide behind. She
couldn’t want to suddenly have to take care of a teenager. Who on
earth would want that? I was loud and messy and always in the
way...

Her face set into a frown, she didn’t even
look at me. She ambled up the walk to the cab driver, and they
settled up the fare. It wasn’t until all my bags were unloaded and
he was driving away that she looked at me directly.


Juliet,” she
said.

I swallowed. “Yes ma’am.” I didn’t like
being called my full name, but I wasn’t about to correct her. She
barely looked at me for half a second, and then was fussing with my
bags.


Well, let’s get your things
inside,” she said, pulling one of the rolling bags with her down
the sidewalk. I followed with the other two bags and a sinking
heart. She clearly didn’t like me. How could she? I was invading
her life. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. There was nowhere else for
me to go.

The interior was like stepping into a
museum. Clean, but nearly everything inside was a step away from
falling apart. The furniture must have once been beautiful, but
time had rendered it faded and threadbare. Sepiatone photos in
chipped frames lined the walls. Rugs covered extensive wood floors.
Old floral wallpaper curled where it met the baseboards.


Through there is the
kitchen,” she said, pointing down the hallway bisecting the house.
“Your room is upstairs.”

We dragged my things up to the second floor,
which smelled even mustier than the first. A stray fluff of dust
cartwheeled through beams of light from the windows. The hall held
several doors on either side of the landing. She led me to the
right, opening a door to a room that was clean, but nearly bare. It
had basic furniture - a dresser, a bookshelf, and an old
four-poster bed, but beyond a faded rug and a small lamp it really
had nothing else. The walls were blank, the closet was open and
empty, and even the bookshelf was vacant. A thin quilt and sheets
sat in a folded stack on the end of the bed. A small electric fan
sat on the floor, moving the air slightly. Even with that, the room
was rather warm, I noted. But then I was starting to think that was
a trend in the south.


I had always intended to
rent some of these rooms out,” Bea said, by way of explanation.
“This house really is too big for me. So far haven’t had any
takers. Hope it’s alright.”


It - it is, thank you,” I
stammered.


The air conditioner doesn’t
always reach all the way up here,” she said. “So I brought up a fan
for you. That there - ” she pointed to the other door in the room -
“is the bathroom. It connects to the other room. There’s towels and
things in there for you.”

She looked at me shuffling awkwardly around
the small room. My bedroom back in New York hadn’t been any bigger,
but there I’d had my own things - my own soft comforter, my posters
on the walls, my twinkle lights strung up around the ceiling. Here,
there was nothing but blank whitewashed walls, the creaking of the
wood floor under my feet, and the soft whir of the fan.


Well,” Bea said, “I better
finish up dinner. I hope you like pork chops,” she said shortly,
and left. She was a small woman, but the stairs creaked loudly as
she descended. There would be absolutely no moving quietly around
this house, I thought.

I lifted my suitcase onto
the bed and began unpacking clothes with trembling hands. Bea
didn’t want to be anywhere near me. That was clear enough. I
suppose it was stupid of me to have thought things might go
differently. I’d read too many books with the kindly little old
grandmothers who stuffed little children full of pie, knitted them
ugly sweaters every Christmas, and bought them piles of dolls. Not
that I wanted dolls or any of those things really...it was the idea
behind it. That someone doted on you. I wiped my eyes with my
sleeve. It was stupid, really. I was much too old for this. I
opened one of the drawers, intending to stuff my socks into it.
Something at the back clattered. I reached in and pulled out a
leatherbound journal.
This isn’t
mine,
was the first thought across my head.
I looked at the door. I had already opened the journal when I
looked back down.

The pages were an aged yellow, but still
sturdy. Of good paper stock. The cover was old and weathered, but
the pages inside were blank. I flipped through the pages. Who on
earth would let something like this get this beat up, with nothing
on the inside?

Maybe there’s something
stuck in it,
I thought, shaking it, but
nothing fell out.


Juliet,” I heard Bea call,
“dinner.” Startled and guilty, I put the notebook back into the
drawer and descended the stairs.

 

I had never felt less like eating in my
life. My stomach knotted as I entered the kitchen at the back of
the house. The room encompassed a breakfast nook as well, which had
a wide window overlooking the backyard. The yard ended at a line of
trees so orderly they must have been planted that way. I spotted
fruit in several of them. An orchard?

Bea glanced at me standing in the doorway,
and waved a hand toward the plain wooden table in the breakfast
nook. “Go on, have a seat,” she said.

The chair creaked loudly as I settled into
it. I felt useless, waiting for her to hand me the plate of food
she was putting together. I was accustomed to serving myself. I did
all the cooking at home - what little we did. My father mostly
lived on take-out. He would pick something up on the way home from
the university, take half of it, and disappear into his office for
the rest of the night. I never knew what he was working on. The
times I had worked up the courage to ask, I either got “Research,”
or “None of your business.” He barely said anything to me unless I
was in his way.

The police kept asking me, when I reported
him missing, had he acted strangely lately? Had things changed
somehow? Had he recently become secretive? Irritable? It would help
the investigation, I knew, if they had something to go on. But the
truth was that my father had always been secretive and irritable.
Had he ever been otherwise? I didn’t know. Perhaps Bea did. Or
perhaps he learned it all from her.

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