“Are you certain she’s the one?” Lily whispered.
Frost replied softly, “Pretty sure, she even looks a little like Freja. How old do you think she is? Four… maybe five years old?”
From the playground, came something remarkable. A little duplicate of the child lying in the grass. The other little angel plopped herself ungracefully onto the grassy bed next to her sister. They were mirror images of each other.
Grey said, “This is quite the unexpected little glitch... isn't it? What does this mean? How is this even possible?"
Frost replied, "It's not possible."
Lily glanced at Frost and said, “It definitely complicates things.”
One of the freckled little girls noticed the three Ankhs watching. She sprang to her feet and raced over to the fence and stood on her tippy toes. With a giant grin, she stuck her chubby little fingers through the rungs of the fence.
“Do you want to come in and play?” She squeaked.
Lily whispered, “Aren’t you the most adorable little thing in the whole wide world.”
“What’s your name? You delightful little creature,” Grey said with his thick Aussie accent.
“I’m not a thing or a creature. I'm a kid. My name is Kayn, that’s my sister Chloe,” she pointed a little finger adorned with messy sparkle nail polish at her sister.
The little girl had sand on her lovely white frilly dress and grass in her hair. She had a sticker of a frog on her cheek, and she radiated joy. Chloe sat up. She was now glaring at them. Chloe was clearly not going to be the one out of the two abducted by a random stranger.
Frost appeared to be so captivated by the scrappy child that stood in front of them he couldn’t even manage to speak. He just stood there beaming like a fool.
“You guys look like movie stars.” Kayn gushed, and then turned her attention to her own hand, “I have nail polish on...see?” she said, her beautiful eyes gleamed with pride as she displayed her wiggling fingers for the rest to see.
“Very lovely,” Lily appraised. Just as a little boy with a mess of dark curls came running up to the fence and grabbed Kayn’s arm.
He glared at the group, then leaned over and whispered in her ear assertively, “Chloe says you’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”
The little girl stated,” Chloe’s not the boss of me.” She then grasped the fence firmly and stuck her face right against it with her little upturned nose sticking right through to the other side.
Frost, quite obviously blown away by the feisty, spirited child, touched one of the little girl’s dainty fingers through the fence. He met her gaze, marveling at the innocence and vibrant intensity that shone back through the chain link barrier.
His expression changed briefly as he whispered to her under his breath. “It’s very important that you become strong.” He touched the tip of her nose with his finger gently.
The Moments Before She Sleeps
The humming of Kayn’s blood as it coursed through her veins seemed to sing along to the steady, almost tribal, beat of her feet as they pounded rhythmically into the dirt. A veil of earth flowed behind her. She resembled a flaxen haired angel attempting to outrun a cloud of dust that seemed to follow her for a moment or two longer than it should with not one whisper of wind in the afternoon air. The smile that spread over Kayn’s lips while she trained showed that her heart was overflowing with so much joy that it could not be contained beneath her serious competitive demeanor.
Kayn noticed in the moment of clarity that Kevin was not sitting in the grass watching her run. She could picture Kevin as he rushed to his locker, and fumbled with the lock in an attempt to keep the facade going. She wasn't stupid. She didn't actually believe that he enjoyed watching her run in circles around a track. She knew here was a method to his madness. Her best friend was madly in love with her twin sister. He had been addicted to the mere sight of her since kindergarten. To anyone else this would make no sense, but Kayn understood. She was Kevins friend, and Chloe was his fantasy.
She could picture him shoving his way past a herd of students and prying his body through the single doorway that lead the gym. In her vision of why he was late for their daily routine. He was shoved up against the wall and his books fell out of his backpack. She found herself laughing aloud as she ran for thoughts of him always brought a smile to her face. His organizational skills had always left something to be desired. After taking a moment to collect his papers, he would zip up his bag and continue on his quest for his moment in the presence of her twin sister. The always unattainable Chloe Brighton.
She noticed him out of the corner of her eye. He ran up the hill and unceremoniously plopped himself down in the grass beside her school bag and things were as they should be. She rounded the corner and kicked up dust like a champ. She saw him fiddling with his cell phone. He was going to time her next lap. She flashed by her best friend in a cloud of dust. Kevin smiled at her through the haze.
Her body, lean and freckled from exposure to the sun, glinted with sparkles. Kayn loved coconut sparkle tanning spray. She could see it on her clenched fists each time they flashed by her line of sight. She was a girl with a list of strange little rituals on her daily to do list. At the beginning of her run, she imagined that she did look magical, glittering in the sun, but not by the end of her run. By the end of her training, the glitter tanning spray would cause the track’s dust to stick to her whole body in a comical way. She would end up looking as though she had spent her whole afternoon rolling in it, not running on it.
Kayn allowed herself to appreciate the sun’s rays gently whispering across her skin. She experienced a feeling of pure joy that was transcendent. Kayn kicked up another cloud to outrun as she rounded the corner. Then came that pleasurable jolt of electricity that surged through her brain, ignited her soul, and set her afire with insurmountable joy. This moment in her run had always left Kayn with the sense that she had been given a gift or anointment of physical power. Her adrenaline rippled a winding path of pleasure underneath her skin.
She hit the straight stretch feeling such unimaginable, euphoric, physical ecstasy that she felt baptized by the sweat trickling down her forehead to the sides of her face. Kayn Brighton was alive in that moment in a way only a runner could comprehend. She was thankful for that moment, and every single time the experience overwhelmed her; her soul felt stronger.
Every nerve ending was humming, “Faster, Kayn, go faster.” Kayn was an athlete born to push the limits of her body, programmed to be a powerhouse. Runners were a breed of their own; they had their incredible days and their horrible days in competition. Every day on the track, trail, or wherever a runner chose to run. The act itself was always a followed by a feeling of spiritual completion.
“Don’t Call Me Baby,” by Madison Avenue was cranked in Kayn’s ears. She kept pace to the beat, feeling powerful and strong. Kayn grinned and made eye contact as she ran past her best friend Kevin, signaling her acknowledgement of his presence.
Kevin sat listening to his own music, plucking the long, green strands of grass out of the ground by their roots. Kevin glanced up from his grass picking duties as she approached, and over zealously waved at her as he displayed a giant charming toothy grin. It was a funny thing he’d done since kindergarten. It never failed to induce laughter. She acknowledged that she had seen him sitting there being a goof by shaking her head and smiling.
Kayn started walking to cool down her overheated body. Her heart began to thump and pound in her chest like an act of defiance to her now walking feet. Kayn licked the sweat from her upper lip, tasting its salty, pleasurable reward. She took her track dust covered hand and wiped her forehead to keep the stinging sweat from her eyes. Kayn wiped the sweat on her shorts noticing the streaks of dirt and wondered if she had a streak of dust across her forehead.
Kayn turned in one fluid movement to greet Kevin, whose grassy scent signaled his arrival at her side. His giant grin told her that her face was most certainly covered in dirt, but he didn’t mention it to her. He always cheered for her as if she had just won the Olympics or something equally spectacular. She smiled for she could see him cheering with no sound. The sight of him cheering to the music in her ears was more than a little bit adorable. Kayn yanked one of her earbuds out.
“Holy crap,” Kevin yelled in her face. “That’s your best time this year. You are going to kick serious butt at the finals next month.”
“You know my earbuds are out, Kevin. I can hear you.” Kayn spoke quietly.
“Oh, you think you’re pretty cool because you’re fast. Well, young lady, plenty of people are fast, but how many people can do this?” Kevin retorted. He did a peculiar dance that involved a twirl and some kind of running man move as he laughed at her mortification.
“Please, stop,” Kayn said as she surveyed the track and surrounding area for witnesses.
She knew she was an attractive girl, but she had never known the perfection of her twin sister Chloe. It did stand to reason that she could quite easily alter her appearance, to match her identical twin, but she didn't care about superficial things. She was the socially awkward version, and she was fine with that on most days. Her naturally curly, wheat colored hair was damp with perspiration and in a messy ponytail.
Kevin had often told her that she resembled an Amazonian sized forest nymph. She had never been sure if his observation was meant as a compliment. She knew her face was speckled with freckles from exposure to the sun, and her nose was probably once again streaked with mud. Kevin was jogging beside her now in an attempt to keep up. She walked with long, athletic strides.
Her best friend used to be the most adorable little boy on the planet, but there was a point where she sensed he had stopped feeling adorable. That was when she had surpassed him in height. It was around the end of seventh grade. As a joke, their mothers had been plotting their nuptials since the second grade, so that was a complication that they had not anticipated. Kevin had been in a painfully awkward, acne covered stage for at least three years now. He was still adorable, although possibly only to Kayn. However, she did notice that Kevin’s skin was looking pretty clear today. Kayn smiled at him as he valiantly attempted to run as fast as she was walking. Kayn’s affliction was very different. Kayn was invisible. To her this was a good thing. It was her preference to blend into the crowd.
“You are awesome. I mean that, and I’m totally not saying that to butter you up so you’ll put a good word in with your sister,” Kevin said with a grin that spread from ear to ear.
She loved him to death, but she had been letting him down easy for ten years now. She gave him a pat on the shoulder and then flung her arm around him. She slowed down to a casual stroll and sweetly said, “There’s just this one problem, muffin. My sister is way too advanced for you.”
“Right… That’s what you say to all the guys stalking your twin sister,” he countered with a grin at the cleverly creative way of calling her sister slutty.
Kayn choked on a laugh and said, “Yes, as a matter of fact it is exactly what I say to every single one of them. I was forced to come up with one token line that I use with everyone. It just saves time, darling.”
Kevin’s face crinkled into a dimpled grin and he shook his head feigning his distaste.
He responded in a flirtatious voice, “I can’t believe after all these years, I am merely a number to you.”
She displayed a giant smile at his attempt at innuendo. Maybe she would have even been a little flattered if the conversation had been directed towards her.
Kayn gave Kevin a friendly pat on the shoulder and said, “Just do yourself a favor; take a hint. She is not the right girl for you.” She slapped him on the butt and teased, “At least have the decency to warn me if you ever find yourself wanting to wear my sister as a skin coat. I can try to get you some help.”
Kevin let out a small yelp, and he jumped from the sting of her hand. He shot a dirty look back in her direction.
Kayn took on a fake serious tone and said, “How hard can it be to arrange an intervention or a creepy exorcism or something in your honor. I would hate to have to visit my best friend in a padded cell somewhere.” She sent him a sweet, innocent look and waited for his inevitable comeback.
“You’re really very clever, Candy Kayn. You should have a comedy show or something,” he shot back at her.
“It would be hilarious if it wasn't the truth,” Kayn challenged.
Kayn’s twin sister, Chloe Brighton, was the perfected version of her. She was stylish and always the picture of popularity and perfection. Her twin was described with words like captivating, stunning, and provocative. Kayn, on the other hand, was blandly characterized as cute, funny, and a good runner. It didn’t seem very fair; however, she loved her sister with blind acceptance. They had always been extremely close but definitely did not hang out in the same crowd. To be honest, Kayn had no crowd at all. It was really just her and Kevin.
The only boys who had shown an interest in Kayn were usually after her sister Chloe. Kayn, being less sophisticated, would always fall for their games. She would think, maybe this time the guy liked her. She would talk to them on the phone for a while, and then inevitably they would ask to come over to hang out or maybe do some homework together. Kayn would invite them over and right when her heart would begin to flutter with the romantic possibilities of a goodnight kiss or how incredible it would be to have an actual boyfriend, it would happen. They would make their intentions obvious by saying something like, “Because we are such good friends could you introduce me to your sister Chloe?”
Friends… an uncomplicated word, it was also a word that Kayn had begun to hate at a very young age because of her sister Chloe. That one single word had felt like the wind from a breath that would blow out every single candle she had kept lit inside of her heart her whole life to date. Kayn would be blatantly lying if she said that the constantly repeating scenario didn’t breed some resentment toward her sister. Still, she would never let it show. Not once had she ever freaked out at her sister for stealing her imaginary boyfriends or simply for being completely morally bankrupt.
She’d learned at a very young age that Chloe didn’t follow the same ethical or moral codes that most people followed. Kayn had this thing called a conscience which included guilt and a little voice in her ear that repeated until she chose to listen to it, “Don’t do it, Kayn.” She was pretty sure the voice talking to Chloe said, “Do it,” every single time and there was really no need for sentiment or morality in Chloe’s universe.
The giant self-contained universe that seemed to revolve completely around Chloe was simply amazing. One could stand with mouth agape for hours listening to the stories of horrific events that Chloe had caused during a 24-hour period of time. It was as though her sister were protected in her own little snow globe completely by herself and life surrounded her. Once in a while someone stirred up her water, but it simply revolved around her like everything else did, never really touching her or swirling her around to lose a second of her control. Chloe was completely unaffected by the world around her and stood unwavering through life’s currents.
Kayn couldn’t really get mad at the boys who fell for Chloe because she truly believed her sister had the mythical powers of a siren. Chloe was alluring, enticing, and seemed to have catnip for men on her somewhere. She wondered how all of this game had ended up in one of the babies and not the other. They were in the same womb after all, and it didn’t really seem fair.
Kevin was one person whose opinion she valued. She could vent to him, and he understood. He understood the power that her sister held. They would joke about it on a regular basis, but as soon as Chloe was in a ten-foot radius of him, he wasn't able to tell you his own name. It infuriated her to no end.
She stopped walking, and she looked behind her. The track was empty, but she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. She shivered as a gust of wind seemed to run a trail down the track behind her stirring the dust up into the air. I need a rest. I overworked myself today, she thought. She shook her head as she looked up at the trees that surrounded the span of the track. They were completely still. It was smoking hot outside. She knew a random cold spot in the middle of a sweltering hot track was more than a little bit strange. Kayn turned her attention back to her friend in an attempt to hush the nagging voice in the back of her mind that was repeating the words Something’s wrong.
“Did someone walk over your grave?” Kevin whispered in Kayn’s ear, breaking the silence between them.
She smiled at his quote from Grandma Winnie. One of the token things Kevin’s grandmother always said if someone shivered in her presence. Kevin’s granny always said a sneeze was a ghost walking through you. If you shivered, she would say that someone had walked over your grave.
The retort was always, “But I’m not dead, Granny.”
Granny would answer with, “If only you knew how irrelevant the word dead actually is in the grande scheme of things.”
Kevin’s grandmother seemed to have a direct line to the spirit world. Nearly All of her random thoughts were more than a wee bit creepy. Sometimes his grandmother would spend hours just chatting with Kayn about her dreams. Granny Winnie was a quirky, warm, witty woman that had treasured her from day one. Kayn was a faithful member of Team Granny because she unlike the rest of the planet seemed to despise her sister Chloe. Granny Winnie couldn’t even breathe when Chloe was in the same room. Granny would pretend to gasp for oxygen or make some kind of foul stench related declaration referring to Chloe. She was believable enough to cause a perfect in her own mind Chloe to smell her own armpits. Chloe, being completely void of respect for her elders or pretty much anybody else, would refer to her as a crazy old bat or a witch. Often Granny Winnie would call Chloe out on an evil deed or two as if she could read her mind.
Strange weather we’ve been having lately, Kayn thought as she watched the clear blue sky change in a matter of moments from completely cloudless to a powder of fluffy white clouds. She could smell the scent of the fresh cut grass; it was almost overpowering to her senses. It was so potent that it was a little strange that she hadn’t noticed it until right this second.
The pair walked quietly for a second more when Kayn looked down at her feet; as she shuffled through the grass the sounds seemed to amplify. She could hear the grass rustling under her feet; it crackled loudly and whispered softly in her steps. Something feels off today. Kevin’s feet came into her line of sight. She raised her eyebrows at him and pointed to his untied shoelaces. Kevin bent over in front of her to tie up his shoes.
Kayn began to speak as if she were reading his obituary. “I can see the paper now; it would read something like this: Kevin Smith was a wonderful boy, so smart and good looking but a little clumsy. Had he only tied his shoes he wouldn't have fallen down the stairs and found himself impaled on a janitor’s broom. Remember kids—tie your shoes—safety first.”
“Have I told you that you’re an asshole?” Kevin stated when she finished her latest version of his obituary.
Kayn didn’t have a comeback. She glanced behind her and then from side to side. She couldn’t shake the unnerving feeling that something was coming. There was a hollow ache in her chest. A strange feeling that lingered each time she swallowed.
Kevin leaned in to Kayn’s ear and whispered, “You sure you’re okay because you’re starting to creep me out a bit with this weird behavior.”
Kevin’s warm breath in her ear made Kayn shiver again. Everything seemed heightened. She had the strangest urge to lean over and kiss him square on the lips. She was obviously going a little bit crazy today. It must be low blood sugar or something?
She replied, “No... just over tired I guess.”
“The way you’re swinging your head around, young lady, is frankly a little creepy,” Kevin said, raising his eyebrows in her direction in a moderately concerned fashion.
He twirled around in a circle and added, “Nobody is coming, I swear.”
“I know,” Kayn answered, “I’m feeling a little off. Maybe I’m coming down with something?”
“We should be more worried about your creepy behavior causing a nasty case of whiplash.”
Kevin flung his arm around her shoulder and gave her a buddy-like squeeze. “You go have a shower, muffin; you’re kind of sweaty and nasty. What do you do, cover yourself in honey before you go for a run?”
Kevin chuckled as he smelled his hands and groaned, “Ewww, that’s not honey.”
Kayn sparred, “There you go talking all dirty again, literally; it’s kind of hot, all this talk of toxins and waste.”
“What was your boyfriends’ name again, Kayn?” Kevin asked innocently.
They were walking together, and she gave him a solid shove in jest.
“You should call up your invisible girlfriend and ask her what her name is love monkey,” she said and winked.
“I have a girlfriend. Her name is Chloe. She just doesn’t know it yet,” he teased.
He couldn’t help himself. She knew this. He was well aware that constant talk of her sister irritated her to no end. It was his easy smack down in a comedy standoff.
“Do you know what the difference between you and a stalker is?” she responded sweetly.
“Do tell, oh wise and mighty stalking connoisseur,” he sighed.
“It's whether or not you’re wearing my sister’s stolen thong underwear right now,” she said.
She attempted to wrestle with Kevin a bit in order to catch a stealth look down the back of his shorts.
“Hey, hey, simmer down. I swear I will yell rape. I'm going commando. Pulling my shorts off is not a great idea,” he laughed as he fended her off.
“Like you could handle me,” She chuckled. She cringed with pain as she shifted her bag to her other shoulder. It always had twenty pounds of books in it. She could never memorize her locker combination. She was utterly horrible with numbers. That was her excuse. The real reason probably being that she would be obliged to speak to the vapid girls that hung out around her locker. She liked to be left alone in her own little world. Kevin grabbed her heavy bag off of her without saying a word.
“Hey, I’ll have you know that I have been going commando since my first wedgie in fifth grade. Once they grab for underwear and don’t find any, they get very afraid and back right off, “He chuckled.
Kayn doubled over into a fit of giggles. She chuckled, “I honestly don't doubt that for a second.”
“You learn lots of little things that help you maneuver through geekdom unscathed if you’re crafty, you know,” he said as they started walking again.
Kevin was carrying both of their bags. She knew he was being tough, she knew how heavy her bag was. She smiled and took her bag back. It was in these sweet little moments that she wondered, Could they be something more? Would he ever make a move on her? She wasn't sure if her friend Kevin knew any moves. If he ever had a second where he had allowed the thought to cross his mind, she had probably reacted as she had a bit earlier. She would have assumed it was some kind of joke. He caught her staring and knit his brow. This was stupid. What was she even thinking? She was hormonal or something today. He was her best friend.
Kayn was beginning to grow tired of the fact that more and more of their conversations had become centered around her sister.
She shot a somewhat disapproving glance at Kevin and said pleasantly, “Let’s stop talking about Chloe all of the time. Frankly, I’m sick of it.”
“Shush,” he said as he put one finger directly over her pursed lips. “You know not to speak of her voodoo powers.”
The phrase “Chloe has a boyfriend” was easily compared to cursing out loud in the Brighton household. Her sister would find herself running like she was on fire from every boy she had ever attempted to date. Seemingly normal boys would gradually lose their marbles. It was as if the pressure of being close to her would make their sanity unfold like a reversal of an origami swan. It would start with a vehicle outside of the house in the middle of the night, and rapidly escalate. Once Chloe grew bored or annoyed by their obsessive behavior. She inevitably dumped them cold.
On occasion, random guys would break into their house and steal objects that belonged to her. In the beginning, the police thought Chloe must be doing something to bring this on herself, but after she went in for a couple interviews at the police station and full grown men couldn’t help but fawn all over her sister. They all understood what Kayn had always known.
“We shouldn't even be joking about this stuff. The breakups with the last three or four of her boyfriends turned out to be pretty damn scary situations,” she said in a hushed tone.
The last thing Kayn needed was to be caught talking about it by one of her sister’s minions.
Kevin turned and gave her a strange look that said, think about what you just said for a second, and they both broke into a fit of giggles.
A giant stinging slap followed on her spandex running short covered butt. There stood Chloe. Kayns infamous, and moderately evil twin. A living breathing cover girl commercial gracing us with her badass presence. Chloe smiled at her, and gave a slight glance acknowledging Kevins presence. He turned ten shades of red as though she had whispered something dirty in his ear. He’s completely pathetic, Kayn thought, shaking her head.
Chloe threw an arm around her, then jumped away saying, “Ewww, yuck, gross, you’re all sweaty and nasty. Listen, you backstabbing witch with a B, I’m not feeling that hot today. I’m on my way home. Do you need a ride?” She said.
Chloe always donned a giant, gorgeous, show stopping smile. It was like every moment of her life was one strange, endless, beauty pageant.
She had a sarcastic sense of humor that Kayn never took seriously. “I’m not going home. I'm going to go have a shower, and then go to Kevin’s house for dinner,” Kayn replied.
Chloe leaned over and kissed her sister’s sweaty cheek, quietly whispering, “Yes, go have that shower.”
Chloe sighed, “I’m grounded again for no good reason. I will see you later Sis.”
“Shocking,” Kevin murmured as they walked away.
Kayn suspected that her sister Chloe got herself grounded on purpose. Just to have a forced break from her social responsibilities. If there were medals in the Olympic games doled out for groundings achieved in a three-year period of time. Her sister Chloe had the equivalent of a gold medal.
“Bye, Kevy.” Chloe yelled behind her as she flounced off.
“Yup, voodoo powers,” Kevin whispered to Kayn.
“I heard that Kevin. You're a little stinker,” she yelled back.
Kayn smiled at Kevin, casually adding, “I bet when you thought of sexy nicknames she would call you in your fantasies, little stinker wasn’t one of them.”
She couldn’t help herself; he’d left it wide open, and she was on a roll. Kevin turned around and socked her in the arm.
She stopped, turned around, and said, “Seriously, you hit me. I can’t believe you would do that.”
She glared at him and feigning pain rubbed her arm looking genuinely upset.
“I was just kidding. I didn’t actually hurt you, did I?” Kevin whispered. He knew he had been had when Kayn’s serious look crumbled into a grin.
She said, “Woman abuse,” and she smoked him on the arm twice as hard.
“What woman? I don’t see a woman anywhere around here. Oh, you mean you?” he countered as he rubbed his still throbbing arm. Kevin pretended to be looking around for a moment.
“I will butt you out like a cigarette, little man!” She made a fist for a joke duel.
Kevin glared at her. Oh, no—the expression. Game over. Whoops...She had gone too far. It was all fun and games until she made one too many short jokes with Kevin.
“I am not little,” he said. Kevin stomped towards the covered entrance to the facility.
“Okay, how about vertically challenged,” Kayn said innocently.
She was digging her own grave, and she knew it. Kevin could argue for hours. He could debate something forever and wear anyone out.
“I might look short to an Amazonian like you,” he countered.
“Touché,” she said smiling.
She did know better than to push it anymore because if he kept it up, the laughter she had been trying to suppress would escape.
“I am still growing,” he said as his voice cracked a little.
Kayn doubled over laughing. She couldn’t help it with the well-timed voice crack.
“Can you please be done laughing now,” Kevin said as they walked into the fitness center.
“I’ll see you outside in fifteen minutes, you sexy stud,” she whispered, sultry as a porn star.
Kayn was still grinning as she pushed through the door to the girls’ changing room.
“Quit mocking me, Amazonian woman,” he yelled dramatically from behind her.
As she entered the changing room, Kevin’s last joking retort bounced off the walls of the concrete and tile room. Her feet were still throbbing. The tiles on the floor were icy and soothed her aching feet. In a matter of months, she’d already worn out her running shoes. Her mom would kill her when she asked for another pair. She dropped her shoes. The sound as they landed on the tiles echoed. It repeated a few times as if someone had dropped more than one pair.
Kayn was dying to sing in the shower but was afraid that someone would walk in on her. She pulled her tank top and bra off and looked into the mirror. With a clear view of the room around her, she could see that nobody else was there. She was alone. She thought of Kevin waiting. Then she remembered that there was a coffee machine in the lobby by the pool. Kevin was probably having a coffee and ogling the girls swim team; he was fine. She stripped down and stood naked in front of the mirror for a second. She pulled her hair out of her ponytail, and it fell in damp loose ringlets across her bare shoulders. She tilted her head to one side and posed seductively with a smile as she surveyed her reflection.
Maybe I should start wearing makeup to school, she thought. Her face was freckled and tanned from hours upon hours of training in the hot sun. In the winter time, all of her freckles went away, and her skin was porcelain white. I could look just like Chloe if I wanted to, Kayn thought, sucking in her cheeks and then plastering a giant pageant style smile across her face. She scrunched up her nose. She enjoyed being dorky, and a little bit weird. It would take a lot of effort to pull off her sister’s version of perfection. She didn’t need to be perfect. She would wither and fade if she had to live her life under a microscope. She did prefer to let her strange roam free. Kayn walked toward the shower stalls. She stopped and glanced over her shoulder at her reflection in the mirror. The conversation with her sister flashed through her memory. Chloe was feeling sick today; that’s what was going on then. Kayn quite often had sympathy illness whenever her twin wasn’t feeling one hundred percent.
Kayn turned around, pulled the plastic curtain to the shower, and leaned in to turn on the water. It began to tap dance against the bottom of the stall, and when it was just the right temperature she stepped inside. She smiled as the water beat against her weary muscles. She began to lather herself up with the nice scented pump soap. Today was her lucky day; a fresh full dispenser of soap, shampoo, and conditioner. She didn’t even have to reach down and find her own in the bottom of her gym bag. With her favorite running song still going through her mind, she started humming a few bars and then began to sing the words. Just then she heard the door open, and she became silent. She hurried through, rinsing herself off, and towel dried her hair. She ran her brush through her hair and put it back in a ponytail. As she passed by the mirror again, she wondered if Chloe ever wanted to be more like her. She quickly blew off that completely nutty idea.
Kayn was five minutes younger than her sister Chloe, but her twin acted five years older. Kayn had no voodoo powers with men; she was awkward and definitely possessed no game at all. She wondered if she asked Chloe how she did it if she would she teach her something…anything. It would be nice to have someone ask her on a date before she was eighty years old. She had to admit it bugged her that Kevin obsessed about Chloe, not that she seriously liked him or anything because that was most definitely not a good move friendship-wise; there was that ominous word again…friends.
Kayn towel dried her back again, feeling trickles of water from her still damp hair trail down her back. She stepped into her underwear and wondered why her mind kept travelling the road back to questioning her feelings for Kevin today. Kayn shook the thought out of her head and whipped her clothes back on. She grabbed her bag and hurried out the door, hoping he wasn’t too frustrated waiting for her. She forced open the door with an over-exaggerated grunting sound.
Kevin was sitting on the railing waiting patiently and looking up at the sky with his mouth agape in a totally comical way.
Kayn walked up beside him and teased, “Trying to catch flies?”
“Always,” Kevin sparred with a dimpled grin and quick wit.
“What are we looking at?” Kayn said as she stared up toward the heavens and made the same open-mouth face of awe.
“Come with me, and I’ll show you,” Kevin laughed. He grabbed her hand, and they started to walk toward the field.
Kayn had lived this moment a thousand times. Kevin lay down in the grass, and she lay beside him.
“Oh, wow I get it; look at how fast the clouds are moving. I noticed that earlier; it’s almost creepy. I wonder if there’s a storm coming?” Kayn whispered.
As Kayn lay peacefully in the grass, suddenly a sharp pain seared through her core.
She grabbed her stomach, sucked a deep breath in and gasped, “What the hell was that?”
“You okay, Brighton?” He sat up and touched her arm.
Kayn winced again and doubled over, her insides afire with another strange penetrating pain. Kevin placed his hand on her stomach, watching her face calm. The pain disappeared again as quickly as it had begun.
He looked at her and stated, “You probably need a big glass of water, maybe some dinner?”
She stood up, trying to shake off a sense of impending danger that had been replaying in her mind. With the pain suddenly gone, she said, “Yeah, that’s probably it.”
“Did you skip lunch again?” he scolded with a disapproving look on his face.
“I do believe that I did not eat lunch today.” There was a very simple explanation for the sharp undefined pain that she had experienced. Kayn was often practicing at lunchtime and would forget to eat. She felt the urge to look behind her again. She looked around in every direction trying to shake off the uncomfortable feeling that had been plaguing her all afternoon. Something in her mind was still whispering, be careful, Kayn.
She shook off the anxious feeling, remembering that the last horror movie that she had watched with Kevin only days earlier had taken place at a lake. There they stood by the turn off to Lakeshore Drive. It’s all in my mind, Kayn thought. She started to laugh a little at her seriously overactive imagination.
Kevin kneeled in the grass and picked up a handful of it and smelled it. “Just what I thought,” he said looking seriously concerned now.
“What is it?” she asked.
“It’s hillbilly urine; we had better get our tasty selves home before they come to eat us,” Kevin said, pointing toward home proving if there was ever any doubt that he had no acting ability at all.
“Let’s get out of here, you geek,” Kayn said shaking her head at him and smiling as he had obviously recalled the hillbilly, cannibal movie that they’d watched the week before.
“Okay, let’s go to my house. It’s got to be like five by now; dinner’s probably on the table,” Kevin said and smiled again.
They looked at each other and smiled and started running through the field before the trails. This was the ritual race home they’d had since they had first been allowed out of their yards alone as children. Kevin had always been sneaky. He knew using fair play there was no possible way to beat her in a race. He shoved her over per usual, and she fell with a gentle thud into the grass.
“Cheater,” she yelled, out of breath as he kept running away from her. She lay sprawled dramatically in the grass laughing. Kevin was laughing hysterically as he covered a good twenty feet.
“Cheater,” she yelled again and slowly rose to her feet spitting out the freshly mown grass from her mouth.
She would let him win; it was good for him to win sometimes. Kayn could take one for the team today, especially to see him this happy. Kevin let out an obnoxiously loud cheer as he vaulted over the fence to his yard. He raised his arms in a silent fake fanfare and took a bow. He had never once won graciously in the whole ten years of their friendship.
Sure enough, they walked inside Kevin’s house to the amazing smells of his mother’s cooking. Her stomach began to grumble loudly. The delicious aroma of Kevin’s mother’s cooking filled her senses.
Kevin’s mom greeted her with a giant bear hug and said, “Hello there, beautiful. Go wash your hands and I’m not going to ask you why you are both covered in grass.” His mom raised her eyebrows and added, “We are at the table ready to eat so hurry up, you two.”
She glanced into the mirror and pulled the grass out of her hair letting a little smile escape as she washed her hands in the bathroom sink. She started giggling as she thought about how wrong it looked when two teenagers of the opposite sex showed up covered in grass. Well, anyone else—with them platonic wrestling would be completely normal. Kayn was sure that if her dad walked in and they were wrestling on her bed. He wouldn’t even flinch.
Kayn sat at her usual spot at the table with his family. Kevin’s family mirrored her own. They were always cracking jokes, and talking loudly about their day. She loved everything about the Smith house, from the mismatched frames filled with family photos in the dining room to the extremely outdated green shag carpet in the living room. The living room was completed with a mismatched, yet cozy, couch set with two fluffy lounging felines that could always be easily seen from the dining room table. Kayn swore they had not moved an inch in years.
Kevin’s granny sat at the end of the table, her wispy white hair wildly untamed. Kayn could envision Kevin’s grandmother as a beautiful younger woman. There was a black and white picture in the hallway. Beautiful didn’t quite encompass Granny in her youth, for she had been enchanting. She had rich crimson curls and exquisitely structured high cheek bones. There was obvious power, and immeasurable strength of spirit in her innocent wide doe eyes. Physically she looked as thin and frail as a newborn fawn. She had untold stories in her eyes. She was a girl with many secrets. The chapters were written in the creases of her smile.
She was not the picture of pin up perfection, but she had an unexplainable quality that made you curious. You wanted to know more about her with one look into her eyes. Granny had worn the same shade of dark blood burgundy lipstick even then. She always wore lipstick ten shades too dark, and her teeth were worn, yellowed from age, always seeming to have something stuck in them. If she got some false teeth it would make her look ten years younger, but she didn’t seem to care in the least. She stared at Kayn the whole meal without speaking a single word to her. It was very unusual.
Kayn couldn’t help herself; she said, “Is there something wrong?”
“You know something is amiss, don’t you?” Granny whispered. It was as if she were afraid of the words that might slip from her lips.
“Kayn had some stomach pain earlier; she’s probably coming down with the flu or something,” Kevin answered for her.
“Perhaps,” Granny Winnie replied. She glanced back down at her plate. Granny looked a little bit ill today. It looked as though she had more to say, but for once she remained silent then she looked directly into Kayn’s eyes with unmasked sadness and said, “Always listen to your instincts, child. They are never wrong.”
As Kayn was preparing to leave, Granny stood up and made her way over to Kayn, hugging her so tightly that she had to squirm away in order to breath.
Granny leaned in and whispered in Kayn’s ear, “You survive. You fight hard.”
Granny Winnie always said very strange, random, and sometimes ominous things. Kayn knew that there would be a three-hour long conversation about spiritual things, if she asked her what she meant. She knew she didn’t have the mental steam left inside of her for that talk today. Kayn excused herself to go to the bathroom.
She attempted to call home on her cell. It went straight to voicemail. Chloe was probably on the phone; heaven forbid she ever had some kind of crisis and needed to talk to her own parents. Chloe had a cell phone, too, but was always grounded from it; yet they still let her talk on the landline which meant nobody else could get through; heaven forbid, someone spend two dollars on an extra line or call waiting. She sat on the toilet trying her mom’s cell; she was obviously going to be a few minutes late tonight. Then she put her phone down after leaving a message and sneaked down the hall to Kevin’s room for a quick prank or two before she went home.
Kevin’s mom gave her a bag with some fresh eggs in it for her mom. It was starting to get dark, so Kevin’s dad offered to drop her off at home. She thanked him with a huge hug as she got out of the car. The air smelled amazing, like cherry blossoms in full bloom. It must have been raining while they were eating dinner. She stepped out of the car, into a puddle, and twisted her ankle. Of course, she thought. Soaked foot, eggs and school bag in hand, she limped up the steep driveway toward the front door. The door was partially open which was not normal. However it was a little windy out and quite normal for the door to be unlocked, so maybe it was left ajar, flung open by the wind?
She turned around and noticed that Kevin’s father was driving away. Kayn felt off, apprehensive as she walked toward the door that seemed to have a life of its own. The door shifted from cracked open then almost shut again with the wind. She looked at her cell phone. It was a quarter after eight. This was obviously a prank. They had left the front door open, and entrance lights off to freak her out. Chloe was probably hiding around the corner. Practical jokes were an almost daily occurrence in the Brighton household.
It was almost dark outside. She stopped again for a second time, feeling uneasy for some reason. Her heart felt tight, and her chest felt hollow as she paused again. The surrounding giant trees made it extra dark in her yard. The slivers of light flashed through the trees as they moved in the wind.
They lived in a beautiful area but very isolated. Kayn shoved her cell back in her pocket, and pocket dialed Kevin by accident. She stepped toward the darkened doorway’s threshold and paused for a moment again before pushing the doorway completely open
“I’m home,” Kayn yelled as she walked in the door, kicking off her shoes and dropping her school bag.
She tried clicking on the front hall light; it was burned out or something. Kayn had seen lights on upstairs as she walked up the driveway, so she knew the power wasn’t out. It’s just a burned out light bulb. Kayn began to yank off her wet socks, she tried to balance on one leg, but a small stab of pain from her freshly twisted ankle caused her to put her hand against the wall in order to balance herself. Her hand slid off the wall, and she struggled to pull her second soaking wet sock off.
She massaged her ankle for a second and noticing it was swollen, said aloud, “Great, there goes the track meet.”
“Kevin’s mom gave us eggs,” she said, speaking in almost a whisper, suddenly aware that she seemed to be alone in the house. Where would they have gone this late? Her mind began to sort through the possible scenarios.
“Mom…Dad?” she called out from the front doorway.
Kayn was answered by silence, and then touching the wall, she felt the stickiness on her hand. She held her hand up to the faint sliver of light streaming through the trees that made it to the doorway. The palm of her hand was covered in blood. Ripples of adrenaline coursed through her body. She felt as if thousands of spiders had run across the surface of her skin. Kayn froze for a split second, paralyzed with fear, shivers of terror crawling across her flesh. She started to gingerly step backwards out the door. She saw movement in the form of a dark figure in the hallway.
She heard her sister’s voice scream, “Run, Kayn.” It was raw, primal, and shrill.
She turned and ran, bringing the eggs in her hand with her. She knew that someone was behind her. She could sense them there. She knew there was no time to look behind her. Kayn ran with no rhyme or reason in the direction that she was pointed in. She slipped in the wet grass, turned around somehow, and then she saw the opening to the trails in the distance. It seemed to beckon her toward its mouth. The neighbor behind them was closer than the neighbors on either side of them, making the trails a somehow logical yet illogical split second decision.
Kayn wasn’t able to think or breathe, and her basic animalistic instinct for survival was guiding her. She had let go of the bag of eggs halfway across the back lawn, throwing them behind her, hoping to slow her attacker. Kayn sprinted toward the trail’s opening, its entrance overgrown with foliage. She burst through the branches which had partially hidden the familiar pathway. The branches of the prickle filled blackberry bush tore at her flesh as she pushed through. The pain heightened her survival instinct which now possessed her. It was only that which drove her forward.
Kayn barreled into the overgrown trail, forcing her way through where she instinctually remembered the trail had been. She had played in these trails as a child. She had found a place to hide a thousand times, but there was no time for strategy or thought. The crunching of leaves and twigs in the pathway behind her told her he was close; far too close to do anything but react.
Kayn slipped in the mud again, skidding yet not falling. She ignored the stinging of her knees, thrusting her body with a violent jolt as if starting a run on the track.
Kayn had now lost that precious half a second lead; it had allowed her hunter to close the space between them. Her heart pounded in her chest threatening to burst right through her skin as her tired legs propelled her body through the winding bike trail. The rocks and clay mud cut her bare feet. The sharp reaching twigs and branches slashed at her legs, and the prickle bushes sliced at her flesh.
“You have to run faster, Kayn, run faster,” her sister’s voice mind screeched inside of Kayn’s terror driven mind.
Kayn heard the branches crunching behind her; the dark figure’s rhythm, as steady as the rhythm of her running. He was so close behind her that she could feel his breath on her hair and neck as he panted. He was almost touching her. He was so fast, inhumanly fast; she needed a rush of adrenaline to edge her ahead. She could see lights from someone’s house peeking through the trees. She was going to make it, she thought as her bare feet pounded over the rocks and twigs slashing at her ankles and legs; she was almost there. She drove herself forward knowing she had only a half second lead from the hunter that pursued her, almost to safety…just over the creek. Her bare feet hit the small wooden bridge… almost there.
Kayn felt the elation of victory as she was about to burst through the bushes when she felt heat plunge into her back. Her eyes widened in terror as the knife plunged into her again; its blade seared a molten trail of excruciating pain through her body. A sweaty hand muffled her gasp of shock as she sunk to her knees in disbelief.
Her captor’s arms were slick with perspiration; like a python, they constricted around her neck crushing her larynx. Screaming and pleading for her life was now impossible. He continuously brought her to the brink of strangulation and then shook her awake, harshly reviving her. Kayn tried to close her eyes; maybe he would believe her to be gone. He would leave her in the trails to bleed alone, allow her to slip peacefully away, becoming one with the forest floor around her. Instead every time her eyes slipped shut she felt the slicing, searing pain of his knife again and again in her stomach and chest until her eyes opened wide with terror. The next pain stole Kayn’s breath causing blood to sputter from her mouth. She gazed ahead of her and through the trees which were glimmering in flashing flickering light; she saw a figure in the distance.
Help me, oh, God, please help me; see me, please, I’m right here, Kayn’s mind screamed. She could see his shadow on his patio through the trees in the luminescence of his porch lights; he was so close. A man was on the back porch having a cigarette.
He punched her stomach or cut her…she was unable to distinguish one kind of brutality from another…only that something was searing a hot excruciating fire through her stomach. He’s killing me…please, her soul pleaded as her vision blurred from her tears. Kayn couldn’t speak; she tried to scream; her throat crushed, the only sound she could make was a gurgling as she choked and sputtered on her own blood.
Why, why are you doing this to me? Her mind cried to the stranger who breathed quickly with joyous excitement and stimulation in her ear. She felt the competing rhythms of their pounding hearts, her back against his chest. She saw the twigs and rocks on the forest floor around her. Kayn could smell damp moss and the scent of tree sap and the sweet metallic taste of her blood. On her hands, she could feel the warm stickiness that she bled out into the dirt, trickling down her arms as it escaped from her body. Her clothing was heavily soaked in her essence that moistened the earth around her. He let her go for a second; she landed on all fours and tried to crawl away, but she couldn’t will her body to move forward. She couldn’t breathe.
Now on her knees, her breath came in short labored attempts. She tried to grasp ahold of the ground with her fingertips. His hot repulsive breath and quiet laughter echoed in her ear again and then he began whispering things that Kayn couldn’t understand. His hot sweaty body was behind her pressing against her back. She felt her stomach churning, revulsion mixed with blinding pain. She tried one last struggling movement to get away from his grasp, and then suddenly felt some horribly blinding pain across her head and face. The lights flickered and then went out.
In the woods lay a bleeding angel in all her glory. Her arms posed gracefully above her head, and her hair soaked in the mud, blood, and feces in which she lay. Dying, fading into the other realm, her form was christened by the rain as though the trees had begun to weep upon her for the brutality she had endured. There was someone waiting in the trails; a dark presence lingered nearby waiting for her to regain consciousness.
Kayn awoke in frigid darkness. The pain that pulsated through her seemed to recycle in waves until it began to slowly dull and become a tolerable numbness. She struggled to open and focus her eyes. She could smell a familiar scent; it smelled overpoweringly sweet but somehow like metal. Kayn could taste the sweet repulsive flavor of it in her mouth; it made her want to vomit. She was lying in mud, and she felt hot stickiness behind her. She suddenly remembered what that taste had been. It was her own blood that she could taste inside of her mouth. Kayn could not manage a single breath. Shuddering, she began to relive the brutality that she had experienced. Her mind began feeding her slivers, flashes of inhuman savagery. Her mind numb and disoriented from blood loss clicked through scattered memories from her childhood.
Help me, please, her mind pleaded into the forest through the sounds of the rain tapping the branches above where she lay. They seemed to be shielding her, and as her vision came into focus she imagined the lush green branches above as giant arms. They protected her, covering her from the elements allowing her one last peaceful moment. They are beautiful, she thought. Her mind wandered through mystical visions of the majestic cedar trees alive and somehow capable of offering her protection.
The calm smile on her face that had been contorted with anguish signaled his essence back to her. Her vision came into focus and once again the trees came to life. They cackled and mocked her. "You’re going to die, you silly bitch," they chanted. They waved their branches, howling as the wind whistled through the trails which had suddenly become icy cold. Kayn’s consciousness snapped back to reality; she had lost a lot of blood…none of this was real.
A man stood by that same tree whose imaginary arms had shielded her from the rain, still waiting, veiled in mist. The change in temperature had caused the forest floor to come alive with a dancing mist that seemed to add a thickness to the tapping sound of the rain drops.
Writhing in the mud, Kayn willed her body to move; her fingers clawed at the ground around her until she was spent. She lay in stillness for a moment, feeling like a half dead animal waiting to be finished off by its hunter. She concentrated on each breath…in and out…a little air. She was alive. It felt like she was breathing through a straw and somebody had pinched the end. The streams of light from the moon that had been dancing through the dark stormy clouds had now vanished, leaving only a cold dark night with no final visions of beauty. Kayn longed for some light but was left with only the flickering of blurry dark images. She couldn’t see anything in the absence of light and began to panic again, for she could feel her grasp on her life being absorbed into the mist.
I’m so scared; I don’t want to die; please help me, her soul sobbed. The only answer was the crackling quiet sound of the rain. Kayn couldn’t see anything at all now with her vision clouded with tears, so she had to stop herself from crying. Her head pounded with the blinding pain that had abruptly returned.
She could sense that he was still nearby watching her. His dark shadow loomed in the distance as it had in the hallway of her house. Please, please, no more, she pleaded in her mind as he came closer. He stood only a few feet away from her now. He was watching her with his head tilted to one side. Her heart was begging, please don’t hurt me anymore. Kayn was trying to wriggle, but no movement came from her now. She willed herself to grasp at the moist cold earth with her fingers. She was unable to move. Her body was nothing more than a broken shell. How cruel for her mind to still see; to still desire life at this point. Kayn looked into his eyes. In hers was the desperate plea, why are you doing this to me?
She was so cold her body gave an involuntary shudder. Kayn realized then that she was naked, completely exposed to the elements. Why was she naked? Her eyes were full of tears again; she felt instant, almost overwhelming shame. Kayn could still feel the sticky heat behind her as her blood drained from her body, soaking into the dirt. The pain in her head began to numb as the lights through the trees began to flicker again.
The dark mass of her violator suddenly appeared beside her, leaning in so close that she could smell his putrid breath, moist over her face. Every hair on her body was standing on end. The electrical power between Kayn and the man in the dark was like a charge. He ran a finger over her exposed breast and said, “You were never to be born; this situation had to be corrected.”
Kayn saw his knife glint in the light from the moon. It was raised above her chest. Yes, she thought, let it be over now. She shut her eyes as the knife sliced into her chest. Kayn opened her eyes again with acceptance; she felt no more pain. She stared deeply into his eyes as hers filled with tears.
With a voice thick with emotion he said, “To this life unto the next.” He slowly began to cut some kind of symbol on the skin on Kayn’s chest above her heart. She lay limp in his arms, still conscious of what was happening, yet free from the pain and fear now. He pulled her close to cradle her naked body in his arms like a baby, rocking her broken, violated flesh in his arms, stroking her blood soaked hair. He began to sob as if he were repentant in some way for how he had tortured her.
As her vision flickered one last time, the man was gone; it was her mother looking into her eyes. Her mother’s eyes were filled with so much love that it seemed to release her from her pain and fear as it had when she was a small child. Her mother cradled her as a baby, rocking her back and forth. She was safe now in her mother’s arms. She was at peace. Mommy, her heart sang, you’re here to save me. The warmth of her mother’s love enveloped her tortured soul. She looked into her mother’s eyes. She touched Kayn’s face and started to sing a song that she had sung to her every night when she was very small.
Sleep, sweet sleep till the morning
Just dream away and close your eyes
My love you’ll be safe until the morning
Sleeping in my heart, all through the night
Although bad dreams come to scare you
My love will scare them all away
The lights flickered, the pain went away, and her mother was holding her, singing: “Sleep, sweet sleep.”