Hi! And welcome back to the Bohemian Legacy Chapter 4.14. Last time, following Phoenix’s health scare, Generation 5 of the Bohemians, including a newly childified Coriander, went on holiday to Three Lakes with their grandparents, leaving Requiem behind. Rhapsody nearly burned the house down, Journey reluctantly bonded with Cori, and Elise obsessed over her brother’s health. After discovering half a formula for a cure for death left in the Three Lakes cottage by its previous owner, Elise decided that the only way to save her brother was to track down the person who had potentially invented this cure, one Mr.Goth of Pleasantview, and the Generation 5 teens decided to embark on an adventure in a bus. So, if you’re with me, turn the page for Roadtrip adventures!
“Yes Daddy, I’m sure.” It was only the eighth time River had asked her that question since breakfast. Dee smiled amiably into her father’s shirt as he nearly suffocated her with a hug. “Food, fresh clothes, sleeping bags, emergency medical kits…I’m pretty sure I even caught Journey lugging his guitar into the back earlier. We’ll be fine I promise.”
After several hours of brainstorming and systematically discarding increasingly elaborate lies to tell their parents in order to be allowed to skip out on school and other responsibilities for an uncertain stretch of time they had come up with the perfect ploy.
Tell the truth. It was dastardly in its simplicity and surprisingly effective.
River released his daughter “Well be safe and have fun driving down to the beach.” Ok, so not the whole truth. There were limits even with their parents. They were quite happy to release their children into an irresponsible road trip to wander aimlessly in the general direction of the sea side. They would most likely be somewhat less happy to release them on a very deliberate mission to track down a potentially dangerous scientist and ask for his help in bending the rules of humanity for Phoenix.
That was the moment Journey chose to lean on the horn and glare out the window impatiently at his sister. Giving her parents one last perfunctory goodbye hug Rhapsody dashed down the porch and settled into the driver’s seat of the bus.
River wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist as they stood on the porch and watched the bus jerk its way down the road. “They’re up to something aren’t they?” “Almost definitely. It’s cute that they think we haven’t realized that though.”
No sooner had they left the scattering of houses that constituted their lost little corner of the desert behind, it quickly became apparent to the seven teenagers that they were in for a singularly boring scenery. The desert was immense and empty. They drove for hours through the barren golden landscape, following the straight road by sandy dunes and flat stretches of nothingness until it became almost hypnotic.
“You ok?” Turner shook Rhapsody out of her reverie several hours into the monotonous drive. “Yeah, I’m good” she smiled, rolling her shoulders stiffly “I was just thinking about how if we hadn’t already seen the mountains and the lakes I might not believe there was anything but desert in the world…” Turner squinted ahead “Well even there isn’t at least we’re not the only people who live there. Check it out.” He nodded ahead “A town…sort of.”
Dee peered out the windshield into the dimming sunlight where Turner was pointing. Sure enough, shivering uncertainly in the distance like some sort of heat induced mirage, she could make out what was clearly signs of civilization. Requiem stepped up beside Turner, a frown on her face, as they drew level with the houses lining the asphalt highway “Strangetown?” She read a dusty metalic sign as they drove past “I don’t remember that from any of the maps…”
The others were already crowding around the windows as they began to roll past the first signs of life they had seen since leaving home. “Have we taken a wrong turn?” “I’ll check. Where did you put the maps?” Turner asked, automatically flipping open the glove compartment. “Dee? Maps?” “Right…maps” Dee smiled sheepishly at her cousin “I knew I was forgetting something.”
“Are you serious?” Elise, overhearing the conversation was up beside them instantly “You forgot to bring maps and we’re already lost? How is that even possible! I looked at those directions and there’s only one road through the desert and it’s totally straight and we’re on that road! We can’t conceivably be lost!” “Oh man, is this going to turn into a teen horror flick where we end up hopelessly lost being picked off one by one?” Journey grinned settling back into his seat as his sister needlessly paused at the stop sign on completely quiet road, “Hey Elise, start worrying, cheerleaders never make it far in situations like these.”
“Yeah and you definitely have horror movie survival skills Journey.” “Well they’re better than yours.” “Guys! We’re not lost and we’re not going to die. I promise. I’ll just pull in here and we’ll ask for some directions.” “Well that’s almost as bad as saying ‘I’ll be right back’”
Satisfied sounds accompanied stretching as seven antsy teenagers piled out of the hot bus into the slightly less hot outside. “I am dying for a nice cold drink.” Cayenne sighed as she let a warm spring breeze roll across her bare skin. Journey muttered something under his breath which she decided to ignore “I saw some machines when we were pulling in. Who’s in?” There was a general noise of assent which was followed by some stiff staggering steps around the bus to fulfill their quest for refreshments.
They’d taken approximately six steps when they found themselves stopping short. They were being watched.
Or rather, stared at. In complete silence. And with obvious curiosity. It was incredibly disconcerting and the only thing they could really do was stare back. Journey voiced what they were all thinking first “What is up with their clothes?” Elise jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow in response.
Rhapsody Bohemian however was hard to disconcert,. “Hiya!” She smiled easily as she stepped up to the closest boy in green “We could use a bit of help, we might be lost. Except we’re not actually sure if we are or not. Because I haven’t actually seen any turns, except this town’s not on our maps. Or at least we don’t think it is, we don’t actually have any maps. Is there any way you could give us some directions? Or maybe tell us where we could buy a map?” She finished hopefully. The boy in green blinked huge obsidian eyes at Rhapsody as she spoke very fast before finally speaking “You’re actually lost?”
The girl in pink laughed a high clear sound that pierced the awkward silence “Golly you can’t actually be lost can you? That’s impossible.” “Clearly you’re underestimating my sister’s ability to defy the laws of possibility.” Journey muttered scuffing his foot against the asphalt. “But- I mean- No one ever comes here by accident. I mean, Jinx, we’re literally halfway down the road to nowhere...” The girl’s smile had become rather fixed now as confusion flashed behind her eyes “We’re not supposed to be found...”
“Are you spies?” It was one of the boys, clad in an unseasonable sweater and tie, who spoke up this time, apparently sharing his pigtailed companion’s confusion. “Don’t be kookiePetey, they’re too young to be spies.” The blonde girl perched in the back of the truck piped up. “Maybe they’re scientists.” “No, that one’s too naked to be a scientist.” The leather clad boy nodded towards Dee.
“Are you getting a creepy blast from the past vibe from this place or is that just me?” Phoenix whispered leaning over to his sister. “I get the feeling we should maybe just keep driving...” Elise admitted, trying to shake off the weirdness factor.
The other teens seemed to be feeling the same, the girl in pink however was somewhat less tactful thank Phoenix as she blurted loudly “This is like so strange! No one ever comes here unless they’re looking for us first. They’re not supposed to find us unless they know where we are. It’s why we’re not on maps or anything.”
“Ok, that’s only a little unnecessarily weird.” Requiem commented drily. The boy in green was scrutinizing them still as something seemed to occur to him “So...you’re actually here without official authorization?” He sounded baffled by the very notion. Rhapsody shrugged “I guess...does that matter?” The boy opened his mouth to respond when suddenly the sound of a car engine shattered the increasingly eerie silence.
The five teenagers immediately stiffened and their heads snapped around in time to see a large mud splattered truck pulling off the barren strip of desert road and into the parking lot.
“I don’t want to scare you or anything...” the blonde girl straightened her glasses nervously “...but you might want to hide. Quickly.”
The door of the vehicle slammed shut behind an impeccably uniformed man, his eyes rested on the five teens almost immediately, pressing into a thin disapproving line. This technically qualified as loitering. “Good afternoon General Grunt.” Five voices chorused, like a class of small children greeting their teacher. “Good afternoon.” He replied brusquely, then he noticed the giant yellow bus.
“What” he inquired, “Is that?” Minnie Curious’s eyes went wide and innocent “What’s what General?” “That.” General Grunt indicated the bus. “The Illegally parked government issue vehicel?” “If you already knew what it was why are you asking my sister?” Ricky Curious piped up from his position on the hood of the red sports car.
“That was here when we got here sir.” Minnie lied quickly. “We don’t know anything about it.” This seemed to somewhat mollify the general, but his eyes flicked across the teenagers suspiciously as they fixed him with blankly innocent stares. “I will arrange for it to be towed in the morning.” The general concluded finally, turning his attention away from the bus “And I assume that you are all aware that curfew begins in an hour?” The General reminded the five teenagers sternly.
“It’s the same time tonight as it’s been for the past sixteen years general, we know.” Jill Smith spoke with a cool politeness that no one could possibly reproach her, including the general, but there was something tentatively insubortinate in her voice that he did not miss. “Then you might also know Miss Smith, that when sitting in a motorized vehicle passengers are required to occupy seats properly equipped with safety measures, and are not to be perched on the edge.” “Gosh, of course I know that General. I also know that that rule is only in effect if engine is running.” Jill smiled sweetly from below her pink frames as the general turned on his heel and strode across the parking lot to the grocery store.
“Oh thank plumbbob! It was sort of crowded in there.” Seven Bohemians unfolded themselves from the back of the pickup truck, clambering out of the car with varying degrees of grace and speed.
“Jill right?” Turner glanced up at the blonde as he allowed his sister to clamber over him, “Way to stick up for yourself there kid.” Jill flushed prettily “Thanks. Sorry if I kicked you a couple of times while you were hiding. Turner grinned up at her “Don’t worry, it was a pleasure hiding out next to your feet. And by the way, nice...shoes.” Jill turned bright red as Turner pushed himself to his feet and swung over the side of the truck behind Cayenne.
“Ok, what was that all about?” Dee inquired, brushing stubborn dark hair away from her face as she turned to Minnie. “If you’re here without authorization, you might get in really really big trouble! And curfew is in less than an hour. We have to hide you before then or you’ll be arrested.” “They can’t do that! They can’t arrest us just for being here? Can they?” Minnie didn’t reply, but Pete anxiously glancing after the General told Dee everything she needed to know. “What kind of place is this.” “It’s just Strangetown.”
“Testing! Testing! 1 2 3! Ladies and Gentlemen this is your captain speaking. Guess who found the speaker system!” Cayenne’s enthusiastic voice echoed around the empty walls where they had set up camp. Night had fallen quickly after the Strangetown teens had left, and the sound of rain beating on the windows made everyone grateful they had somewhere dry to spend the night.
“What’s more!” Cayenne continued into the microphone, “Thanks to this family’s questionable, priorities, while we don’t have any maps we do have about eight billion CDs, so…” Cayenne’s voice crackled out to silence for a moment before being replaced by the blare of loud music. No I don’t know where I’m going, But I sure know where I’ve been Hanging on the promises, In songs of yesterdayAnd I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time…
…But here I go again… “Idiot” Journey remarked offhandedly abandoning their makeshift fire to sink down next to Phoenix a little way off. “Me or her? Or just people in general?” Phoenix asked, laughing. “Her obviously” Journey scowled “Although while we’re at it, you’re a bit of a jerk.” “What did I do this time?”
“I finally worked it out today. I’d been wondering you know. Yeah, don’t think I don’t notice these things Phoenix.” The blonde boy glanced over his shoulder to notice his cousin scowling angrily at a neon lighting fixture. “You’re going to have to help me out here Journey, I’ve got no clue what you’re talking about.” “I’m talking about this whole roadtrip thing. Ever since Elise started mucking about with those papers and this trip you haven’t said a thing about any of it and I finally worked out why. You don’t think we can save you do you?”
…Though I keep searching for an answer, I never seem to find what I’m looking for… Phoenix smiled tiredly and leaned his head against the crumbling brick work “No I don’t” “Then why the hell are you letting us all trek across the desert and put ourselves all through this if you think we’re just going to end up being disappointed in the end? You jerk.” Phoenix supressed the smile, he knew Journey well enough to know he was lashing out at him out because he was upset, and he didn’t want him to think he was laughing at him. That rarely went down well with Journey.
“My mom once told me that the hardest thing about dying wasn’t the dying bit, or the being dead part. At least not for her. She said it was coming back and seeing how much everyone who loved her had suffered. Grandma and Grandpa, your Dad, aunt Saffron…” Phoenix pushed the hair from his brow as he looked at his sister, deep in conversation with Requiem around the fire “I don’t want to die Journey. But what sucked the most when I was sick last time was how much it sucked for you guys. So if there’s even a tiny chance that this can save me I’ll go along with it because it makes Elise happy to have some hope, because not letting her try would be more selfish than demanding that you do…” “Because we’re the ones who have to live without you if you die. Not the other way around” Journey completed.
“You’re the most annoyingly selfless dying person I know Phoenix” “I try.” …and I’m gonna hold on for the rest of my days, ‘cause I know what it means, to walk along the lonely street of dreams…
“Nnnnnnggghhhh…too early….so tired… don’t want to drive…...going to crash…unable to form proper sentances…” “There’s nothing to crash into Cayenne, it’s the desert, the worst you can do is drive us into a sand dune.” “Do not get cute with me Elise. Who sets a cell phone alarm clock for 6 a.m when we’re going to sleep at 3 a.m?” “I wanted to get an early start. It’s our own fault for getting caught up in Dee’s project that we were up until 3.”
“What can I say, I hear art project and my common sense goes on holiday. It’s a family weakness. And Dee was right, there’s nothing quite like making a statement. Also we look snazzy.” “Still if you wanted to get more sleep-” “Elise shut up and admit we look snazzy.” “We look snazzy.” “Now admit that you’re just as tired as I am.”
“ Aaaaaand I’m ignoring you. Now, if we can be serious for a second! Even without maps I’m pretty sure I’ve got this itinerary figured out. We can probably start getting out of the desert by this afternoon, and then I think we can probably be in Pleasantview in two days.” “Yeah right, that seems like it’ll happen.” Journey leaned over Cayenne to get to the stereo “Who wants some driving music?” “If we drive through the night, and don’t get distracted any more we can make it in two days.” “Elise” Journey sighed, giving his cousin a withering look “Lighten up.” He jammed a CD and hit play. As it turned out he was right. It definitely took them more than two days. Whooommm yeah...
Well, life's like a road that you travel on There's one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
There's a world outside every darkened door
“Yes Mom, your Vagabond children are still alive…we did call two days ago you know….Somewhere near this place called Pleasantview…yeah it’s just suburbia, nothing interesting. Just one thing that Elise wants to check out, but we figured it was a bit late when we finally got here, so we’d at least wait ‘til dawn before we started…sight seeing…No we’re camping out near this old abandoned shack tonight so no need to break into anything, but thanks for the tip...”
“No I’m still fine Mom, really…Elise took my temperature three times today, I’m being careful, I promise…Yeah I will…yeah Mom… How about this, if I die, I promise to call and let you know….Oh come on, it’s sort of funny Mom...”
“Yeah, I know Daddy…No, we’re good for cash now…No nothing, it’s fine, we took care of it…no without breaking the law and everything!...Yeah I know.”
“Ok, we’ll call tomorrow…Mmmhmmm, give my love to Mom and Grandma and Grandpa...I love you too Dad.”
“Heya.” stowing the cell phone safely in her pocket Rhapsody flopped down next to Requiem by the fire with a smile. “Hey.” A moment of comfortable silence passed between the girls, the kind that can only exist between friends who have known each other a very long time and understand each other better than most. Then Dee spoke up. “Em…are you sure you don’t want to call your parents? We’ve been gone a while now and you haven’t checked in with them once. They must be getting worried about you.”
Requiem shrugged “They know where I am.” She tactfully omitted to mention that this information had been relayed via a note taped to the fridge just before walking out the door with her suitcase to get on the bus. Her father was probably worried. She wondered bitterly if her mother would have even noticed she was gone if she had just left without even the courtesy of a note. Of course she would have. Requiem got the feeling that even when she was being wholly ignored by her mother there was little she missed.
“Emmi,” Rhapsody spoke carefully, “you know I’ve never met your family…” Requiem’s shoulders stiffened visibly, her eyes quickly darting away from her as she began to sink into herself, carefully beginning to build a wall around herself like she had every single time the issue of family came up since they were children. And Rhapsody had always allowed it, she had never pushed Requiem when she didn’t want to be. This time she pushed. “Emmi. What are you hiding from me?”
Requiem fastened her eyes on Rhapsody, something oddly dangerous flashed there, like a trapped animal who was about to attack and for a moment Rhapsody felt a shiver run through as her friend stared at her. “You wouldn’t understand.” The words came out sharply, forbidding any further discussion. “Why not?” Requiem pushed herself to her feet, fighting the sudden surge of emotions pulsing through her chest. “Because you’ve never hated anyone Rhapsody.”
“Em, please don’t walk away from me…I’m your best friend” Rhapsody stumbled on a concealed tree root as she followed Requiem away from the warmth of the fire. “…and I’m your drive home…so you’ll have to come back anyway...” The absurd simplicity of this last statement caught Requiem off guard, her step faltered and she felt a laugh bubble up inside her and her shoulders began to shake.
“With you life is completely uncomplicated Rhapsody, and I love that, I love being here, and all the stupid things we’ve done this week, and I love having fun and I don’t want things to change and-” She felt the tears coming and quickly looked away, “And I love that you’re my best friend and I love you and-” In all the years they had been friends it was the most open she had ever been with Rhapsody. She knew Dee took it for granted that they were best friends and that they cared about each other, but saying it outright was different. She blinked the tears from her vision and not quite daring to look at her.
Rhapsody said nothing. Instead she simply reached out and pulled Requiem into a hug. She clung to her best friend, shaking a little. Neither of them said anything else. But in that moment the girls felt their bond tighten just a little bit more.
In spite of the lack of address or phone number it turned out that it wasn’t hard to find Mr. Goth thanks to Elise’s genius suggestion that they pull over and ask for directions the next morning. As it turned out she was right in her assumption that Pleasantview was just one of those places where everyone knew who everyone was and where they lived.
The house they were directed to was normal in every possible way. A normal colour, a normal lawn, a normal size, on a nice normal and completely peaceful street. The peace was shattered the second they rang the doorbell.
The house erupted into a cacophony before the doorbell had even died away. A dog began to bark, eliciting a scolding female voice which was practically drowned out by a baby suddenly beginning to scream somewhere upstairs and amidst it all voices reverberated around the walls demanding that someone get the door. Finally someone did as the sound of running feet was accompanied a moment later by the appearance of a cheerful looking small boy with messy brown hair who wrenched open the front door and then stopped.
Mommy! Daddy! I got the door like you said, ‘cept it’s strangers. I’m not allowed to talk to strangers!” “Oh for the love of-, ok, chill out Davey. I’m coming.” A teenaged girl materialized in a doorway, tucking dark hair behind one ear, a large dog attempting to trip her up as it darted around her heels. The latter barked once at the Bohemians before darting out the door and through their legs into the garden, followed a moment later by the small boy who nearly bowled Rhapsody over in the process.
The dark haired girl leaned in the doorframe, “Hi, what can I do-” The rest of the sentence died on her lips as her eyes flicked across the scene in front of her, rapidly taking in the seven teens and the brightly coloured bus. And then she burst out laughing “Nice. What is this? Pimp my ride to school? Putting the cool back into school bus?” Journey laughed a little in spite of himself. The girl had an easy inviting smile, the kind that made you want to smile with her. She winked amiably in his direction and Journey found his grin getting wider. Cayenne gave him a sideways look. Since when did Journey smile?
“Ummm…is this the Goth residence?” “Sooooort of.” The girl pulled a face. “I mean it’s technically half of my last name, but Mom hasn’t been a Goth since like two husbands ago. Still what can I do for you?” “Well we’re looking for a Mr.Goth, one of your neighbours pointed us here. Is he in?” “That kind of depends, the only Mr. Goth here is-” A door swung open behind the girl and she glanced back over her shoulder.
“Nicky! Speak of the Devil.” The girl rounded on a dark haired teenage boy who bore a distinct resemblance to her. “What about me?” The boy Nick, blinked at his sister, caught off guard. “As far as I know Nick is the only Mr.Goth here. Although like I said technically It’s ‘Goth-Lothario’, we hyphenated.” She shrugged apologetically. “Actually I think we’re looking for someone a bit older…”
“Yeah I kind of figured. You’re probably wanting Uncle Alex, right? He doesn’t live here, but I think he’s coming home from Uni for a visit next week, if you want to talk to him then?” “Actually we’re looking for the person who wrote this.” Elise interrupted. Stepping forwards she handed the pair the battered old science fiction volume. They flipped the cover open and glanced at the inscription. A look passed between the two before they spoke again “That’s our grandfather’s handwritting…Cassie, that’s our mother…” Elise leaned forwards hopefully “Yes! Great. Is he in?” The girl shook her head “Grandpa died a few months ago.”
Elise felt like someone had just punched her in the stomach. Everything, all the travelling, all the planning, all the hoping it had all been for nothing. Despair filled her as she looked at her brother, his face unreadable as he stood unusually quiet next to her. The man who was supposed to be able to cure death was dead, and that meant there was no way to save her brother. Phoenix’s arm was around her a moment later “Elise, don’t worry, you did everything you could. And I’ve had fun on this crazy drive of ours. Don’t beat yourself up.”
The dark haired girl had flipped forwards in the book to where Elise had been keeping the jumbled notes. A curious expression passed over her face as she handed a few of the pages over to her brother silently. “I’ve seen this before...” The dark haired girl spoke, half to herself. Her brother nodded seriously as he inspected one of the sheets of scribbled notes “It’s an early stage of project Grey.” He looked up at the Bohemians seriously “You’re after Grandpa’s immortality formula.”
“For the last time dad I don’t want you to drag me and my family into this craziness.” “Least you forget Cassandra, I am part of your family too. I have been working on the Grey porject since you and your brother were children, and I think I have finally perfected it. You’ve seen the workings, you know that it’s sound.” “Yeah I have seen it, and that’s why I know that it’s unethical and illegal and sick!” “It’s logical Cassandra, and genius if I do say so myself, it regenerates any sick cells almost instantly, it keeps aging and dying cells from degenerating. I can’t die if I have nothing to die of, neither age or disease.”
“And can you honestly tell me you don’t see anything wrong with that! You can’t erradicate death Dad. People aren’t meant to live forever.” “Don’t be absurd Cassandra, it’s not forever. It will simply be until Ingrid is old enough to fend for herself, then I will stop taking the drug it and I let sickness and age have at my body. Will that make you happy?” “Oh don’t you dare try to guilt trip me about this Dad. That’s not fair. I don’t want you to die. But at least I’m adult enough to face the idea that dying is a fact of life.” “Is this about inheritance Cassandra? If you need money darling-” “You are so impossible!”
“It’s not what you think.” Elise interjected quickly as the suspicion suddenly sparked in the other teenagers eyes “We’re not looking for immortality. We’re just trying to keep my brother from dying. He’s sick...his immune system is degenerating and before too long his body is going to start attacking itself and he’s going to die. We don’t care about the immortality thing...I just want to stop the his body degenerating and dying faster than anyone can do anything about it. Please...he’s my brother.”
“Hello, Nicholas, how you feeling?” “Hi Grandpa. I’m sick. That’s how come Mommy says I have to stay home from school today.” “Yes I heard. I’ve dropped by because I believe I can help. I have some medecine that will make you feel better, but you musn’t tell your mother about this, all right?” “Mommy said you weren’t supposed to do ‘speriments on us anymore...” “This isn’t an experiment Nicky, it’s the same medecine Grandpa takes. It’ll cure up anything just like that. Don’t you want to get better quickly?”
“I can’t believe you Dad. You gave some of your warped little drug to my son. My son Dad! Can you even comprehend how wrong that is!” “Well the boy got better Cassandra, I fail to see why you are blaming me for curing your child.” “He had the flu Dad, he would have gotten better with some bed rest and chicken soup! I thought I’d made it clear you weren’t to try to ‘help’ my children with your experiments anymore. You know a normal grandfather would just have brought him a toy or something.”
“In spite of your efforts to deny this fact Cassandra, I am not normal, and neither are you, regardless of how mundanely suburban the house you have chosen to ensconce yourself in is. And neither are your children, whether or not I do anything to help them. You will need to accept that fact some day my dear.” “I’m going to make this very clear Dad, start being normal around my children, or they will grow up without a grandfather in their lives, no matter how old he lives to. Do you understand me?”
“As far as I know....the formula was for an injection...it had to be administered every few months to keep Grandpa alive forever....” The boy passed one hand through his dark hair making it stand on end “But if you were just going to use it as a one off from time to time to keep someone from dying...theoretically that could work...”
“What Nick is trying to say is that we might be able to help you, but we have to get out of here right now before our mother starts-” “Anastasia Belladonna Lucrezia Goth.” The dark haired girl winced “Dammit.”
“Oh hey Mom. Fancy seeing you here.” “Annie, what did I tell you about cleaning your room yesterday?” A dark haired woman bouncing a small boy on her hip gave Anastasia a stern look. “That it was my room and I should be able to keep it however I want?” If her mother caught the sarcasm she ignored it, turning to her son instead. “And Nicholas, I saw you were working on something for the science fair. I hope you can get that finished today. I need you to babysit tomorrow ok?” “Mom, it’s not even due for another month.”
The woman glanced at the doorway seeming to notice the presence of the seven Bohemians for the first time “Who are your new friends?” “Uhhh…” “Hi! I’m Dee.” Rhapsody waved cheerily from the porch. The dark haired woman nodded, apparently satisfied by this wholly useless response. “Annie, when you’re done with your room I’m going to need a few things done around the house before your step brother drops by tomorrow.”
“That’s great mom, you know I woke up this morning and I was wondering what could possibly be missing in my life and now I have realized, chores! Is Dirk bringing the princess of Darkness too?” “I think Lilith” she emphasized the name sternly “is staying on Campus actually. Now can I count on you guys to take care of things for me and not just spend your Saturday goofing off with your friends?” She fixed the pair with a motherly gaze as she bounced the toddler on her hip. Annie and Nick traded a glance, perfect understanding passed between them “Yes Mom.”
“So how much trouble do you guys figure you’re going to be in with your mom?” “Meh, probably the usual amount.” Nicholas shrugged. “And it’ll probably take her a while to realize we’re gone anyway. Assuming she even tears her attention away from the baby long enough to ever notice. Ok, this is it. It used to be Grandpa’s house. Nicky and I were both born here too, but we moved when mom got remarried, and Alex is at college, so now it’s just Aunt Ingrid.” The Bohemians peered up at the grey monstrosity looming over them like something out of a horror film. If it hadn’t been the middle of the day a flash of lightening in the background and some organ music might not have been out of place.
If Anastasia and Nicholas noticed the creepy vibe they gave no sign of it. Annie pushed the door open confidently calling loudly as she went “Ingrid! You home?” “I’m right here Anastasia, no need to shout.” Journey following just behind Annie blinked in confusion at the girl who had stepped gracefully into the hallway. There couldn’t have been less of a resemblance between the two girls. Where Anastasia was dark Ingrid was pale to the point of near transluscence, blonde almost white hair framing elegant haughty features.
Anastasia ignored the blonde girl’s raised eyebrows as the seven Bohemians traipsed into the house behind her. “Listen Ingrid, you haven’t cleared out any of Grandpa’s old lab have you?” “Mmm?” Her tones were distracted and cool “No, why would I? I did try to get the maid to take care of it after he first died but she refused, said she didn’t want to go poking around all those experiments, that it might be dangerous. Useless woman. It’s impossible to get good help these days you know.”
Turner’s lip quirked up in amusement as he inspected the petite blonde “She’s your aunt?” “Yep. Well half aunt I guess if you want to get technical. Grandpa’s daughter from his second marriage. She was actually born just a few days after Annie and I. We all grew up here together. She’s more like a cousin.” “And she lives here alone?” Dee sounded concerned. “Yeah, Ingrid, Alex and Mom all inherited one third of the house after Grandpa died. Mom didn’t want anything to do with it, Alex is off at college, so it’s just her. Her mother was declared unfit when we were all kids, just after Grandpa divorced her and Grandpa’s will didn’t leave her a legal Guardian, I guess because he wasn’t expecting to die before she turned eighteen. Mom was going to be put in charge of her, but they never got along, so she sued for emancipation.”
“So listen, it’d be cool if these guys poked around up there for a while right?” Annie continued “You wouldn’t mind?” The blonde fixed the seven Bohemian suspiciously for a moment before waving her hand airily “I suppose not. Just…try not to make a mess. Do you think they can manage that?”
“Ok. It is not humanly possible to make this more of a mess.”
“What happened here?” Elise stared at the tiny attic space that looked like the sight of recent hurricane. Nicholas shrugged “Grandpa happened here. Organization was not one of his strong suits. I tried to find a couple of things after he died and gave up pretty quickly to be honest, but then it wasn’t a matter of life or death for me.”
“But he always knew exactly where everything was. Although most of the time that was in his head. He was cautious about writing things down after Mom found some of his notes when we were all toddlers and flipped out. Turned out he’d been secretly dosing our milk with some compound that was supposed to make us grow up super intelligent. She just about killed him for that.” “Your grandfather drugged you as a child.” Elise suppressed a shudder. She was liking the sound of this man less and less. “I can’t say I blame your mom for freaking…if someone had done that to us…” Elise trailed off. She could barely imagine her mother’s wrath if anyone had ever endangered her or Phoenix.
“He was trying to help, in his own screwed up way…He was like that. Same reason he started messing with immortality. He wanted to be there for us.” “Listen Nick” Elise bit her lip anxiously as she looked around the cluttered lab, she so wanted to believe there was something here that might save her brother, but she couldn’t ignore the evidence “I don’t mean to be rude, but the fact of the matter is your grandfather failed. He died. I appreciate you bringing us here and everything but, there’s not much point in digging around here if all we’re going to find is a formula that doesn’t work.”
“Oh, it works fine. Grandpa, died the healthiest youngest looking ninety-eight year old I’d ever seen. He probably could’ve lived to see us all graduate, get married, have our own kids…if he hadn’t been murdered.”
Downstairs the remaining Bohemians had readily accepted Ingrid’s begruding offer to raid the fridge and make themselves some breakfast. Journey however found himself wandering curiously through the old fashioned living room, inspecting the photos that lined the walls. The first one showed an elderly and frankly fuddy-duddy looking old man who must have been Mortimer Goth, his arm draped around the shoulders of a stunning blonde who was easily a third of his age. A goofy smile was plastered on his face, as if he couldn’t believe his luck in even getting close to a woman like her, let alone being married to her. He didn’t look like someone who could conquer death and change what it meant to be human to Journey, especially not in that bow tie, but what did he know, he’d never had a head for science. The second photo showed… “My parent’s wedding.”
Journey turned to see Annie smiling at him from the doorway. Instantly an unfamiliar fluttery feeling settled itself in the pit of his stomach. He swallowed hard. “Cool.” He shrugged, striving for nonchalance. She smiled again and closed the distance between them in a few steps. “Journey right?” “Yeah. And it’s…Anastasia?” He tried to sound as casual as she had. “Yeah. But for the love of all that’s good call me Annie.”
“So those pictures…” Journey gestured over his shoulder “I’m guessing either that’s mini-you or your evil twin.” “Well technically if she weren’t me, she’d be my evil triplet. Nicky’s already my twin. So who’s to say I’m not the evil one out of the two of us. I mean look at my face. You just know I’m plotting something by the way I’m drinking that bottle.” She grinned wickedly at Journey and he felt his belly flip flop “The other one…” her eyes strayed to the picture of three children grinning foolishly at the camera, obviously her, Nicholas and Ingrid “That, was taken on Ingrid’s birthday, just before my parents split up.”
Journey felt his smile falter, suddenly he was sorry he’d brought it up “Uh…sorry…that sucks.” Mentally he cursed himself for not managing a more articulate expression of sympathy. Annie didn’t seem to mind though, “Yeah that pretty much sums it up.” “What happened? I mean…you don’t have to tell me or whatever…I was just wondering but if you don’t want to…” “Nah, it’s cool. Same thing as every two out three marriages happened I guess, or whatever those stats are for divorce these days. Mom and Dad started fighting a lot, she was unhappy but pretending she wasn’t, he was never around…”
“The cheating probably sealed the deal though. I mean I didn’t know about it until years later, but mom caught my Dad in the sack with Grandpa’s wife” she nodded towards the blonde woman adorning the walls, somehow Journey wasn’t surprised that a woman with clevage like that was cheating on a man in a bow tie. “Turned out she wasn’t the only one he had going on the side. She kicked him out that night. I didn’t know about how messed up it was at the time. I was only seven and all I knew was that my Daddy was leaving me. And before I even had time to get over that, mom was already getting remarried. I must of cried for weeks, I was pretty pathetic I guess.”
Anastasia smiled ruefully “Sorry, didn’t mean to go all TMI on you there. Now you must think I’m a total whacko.” “Cool. I mean…no. I don’t think you’re a whacko. It’s cool that you told me. I mean, my parents are together, and it’s kind of sickening. So whatever. Maybe you’re better off.” Mentally Journey was kicking himself for not being more emotionally articulate. But Annie just laughed amiably.
“Seriously, should we be worried about this? I mean he hasn’t insulted her even once yet. He’s actually attempting to be nice to her. Journey’s not nice to people.” “Maybe he likes her…” “No, that can’t be it. You’re his best friend, he likes you. And earlier he told you to get your idiot blonde terminally ill head out of his face first thing in the morning. I mean that’s just how he shows affection.” “Yeah you’re right…he must really like her.”
“So you guys drove here all the way from the desert in a bus? That’s pretty badass” “Yeah I know! I mean…it’s ok or whatever. Back home I have a motorcyle.” Journey tried for a cocky grin but it came out more lopsided and goofy, something about Annie seemed to do that to him. She returned the smile “That is so cool.” “Yeah, whatever, I mean it’s totally not a big deal or anything.” He beamed inwardly, he was just wondering if he could work the fact that he played the guitar into the conversation when it occurred to him that they were totally alone in the living room, and that Annie was standing only inches away. Her full lips parted invitingly into a smile. Journey leaned forwards a little…
“So it looks like they’re going to be digging around up there for a while.” Journey’s head snapped up as Turner strode into the room and frowned at his interrupting cousin, while simultenously attempting to discretely wipe his sweaty palms on his jeans.“But we should probably find somewhere to leave the bus.” Turner continued obliviously “I mean I doubt your mother will be thrilled with us if we just leave it blocking traffic in front of your house for however long it takes the brain squad up there to put this together. We should also probably find somewhere to stay that’s actually in town.”
“You guys can stay here if you want.” Annie offered. “It’s a big house and I mean, I’ll ask Ingrid but I’m sure she won’t mind, in fact she could probably use the company.” Turner smiled dashingly at Annie “That would be awesome, thanks kid.” Annie smiled back and Journey abruptly found himself glaring daggers at his older cousin. Then she turned the smile onto him. “Besides if you guys stay here I’ll know where to find you to come and hang out.” And with a mischevious wink at the dark haired boy she turned in search of her teenaged aunt.
“Cute kid” Turner remarked offhandedly as the pair watched Annie’s retreating back. “Yeah, she’s pretty cool or whatever. If you like her type.” Journey shrugged, wondering where this urge to start a fight with Turner for no apparent reason was coming from. Something in Journey’s voice caught Turner’s attention, he glanced over at his younger cousin. Journey noticed the look and scowled “What?” “Nothing.” Turner grinned. Perhaps he’d wait until the murderous look left Journey’s eyes before he started winding him up about his crush.
Annie was as good as her word and for the next few days it seemed like she was at the Goth family home any time she wasn’t at school or asleep. However much to Journey’s annoyance, as huge and sprawling as the old house was it seemed to be difficult to get any privacy.
Annie was as good as her word and for the next few days it seemed like she was at the Goth family home any time she wasn’t at school or asleep. However much to Journey’s annoyance, as huge and sprawling as the old house was it seemed to be difficult to get any privacy.
Until finally, late on the afternoon of the third day of their stay Phoenix confronted his sister with a sports analogy. “Elise, I think it might be time to drop back five and punt.” Elise turned her grey eyes tiredly onto her brother “What?” “Like in football, when you don’t think you can get the ball ten yards by the fourth down so you-” “I know what it means.” Elise interrupted impatiently “I’m a cheerleader remember, unlike the rest of our artsy family I actually understand sports. You’re telling me to give up. To cut my losses and give up on figuring out this formula. To give up on helping you. I’m not going to do that Phoenix.”
“Elise, you found some scribbled notes in a book by complete chance. You worked through them, figured out the science behind them. You managed to figure out who’d written them through trickery and you got us all the way here, to the house of a man who was murdered. Which frankly freaks me out on a whole different level, but that’s not our problem right now. You’ve done more than I could possibly have imagined in trying to help me just by getting us to this point. But I think we’ve come to the end of line here. And I don’t want to see you destroying yourself trying to push this further if it’s futile.” “It’s not futile…I can do this…it just might take a while…” “Elise we don’t have a while. If we stay away much longer you’d better believe Mom will come down here and drag us back kicking and screaming if she has to. You’ve done everything you could with this. Now maybe it’s time to admit that you’ve struck out and throw in the towel.”
“Those are two different sports.” Elise pointed out, preparing to return to her search. “Elise.” Phoenix caught her by the arm “you know what I mean. You can’t always win, no one can. I’ve accepted that. And you’re going to have to one day.” Elise swallowed hard. She knew they weren’t talking about finding the notes anymore. But she shook her head. “We’ve come miles and miles for this Phoenix. I can go the extra ten yards.”
Before Phoenix could argue any further there were footsteps on the stairs and a moment later Anastasia appeared looking cheerful. “Hey guys. I don’t mean to interrupt your work, but we’ve kind of decided to throw a party. Here tonight. Just thought I’d let you know. Sound good? You both in?” Phoenix’s face lit up immediately “Oh we are so in.” He spun to Elise, seeing protest already beginning on her face “Elise, if you’re not going to give up on this can you at least do me a favour and take a time out. You haven’t had any fun since we got to this town. Can you chill out for one night. As a favour to me.” Elise’s mouth quirked into a smile “I can handle that, I guess.”
It quickly became apparent that this was not the first party the Goth children had thrown in the old house. In fact it seemed that parties there were expected by the rest of the teenagers of Pleasantview. After all, how many other teenagers in town had a huge house all to themselves and no adult supervision? By the time darkness had fallen over the little slice of suburbia the old house was filled to the rafters with teenagers that the Bohemians were rapidly getting to know.
“Oh and this little creature is Cara Mia, she’s our half sister…and Ingrid’s too actually. Cara, this is Journey.” “The one you told me about?” The dark haired girl Annie was introducing to Journey seized him enthusiastically in something between a hug and a handshake. “And call me Cara, or I will die from the shame of my full name.” “You’re her half sister and her aunt’s?” Journey looked oddly at Cara “That’s messed up.”
“Welcome to our family! You should meet our brother who’s also my cousin.” Journey wasn’t sure if she was kidding or not. But before he could ask Cara had already moved on, and appeared to be giving him a thorough once over “You know she was right, you are cute. In a kind of skinny way.” And with that she clapped Journey on the shoulder hard enough to make him stagger and wandered off into the next room.
When Journey turned back to Annie he could have sworn she was blushing under her dark skin. “Sorry, she has a bit of a brain to mouth filter problem…” Journey felt a smile spreading over his face “So I’m cute?” “I take the fifth.” “I mean awesome I get. Or cool, hot. I just didn’t know I was cute-” “Well I- Luke!” “What?”
Without warning Annie launched herself into the arms of a handsome dark haired boy who had just stepped through the door. “I haven’t seen you in days! I thought you’d ditched me.” “Oof.” The boy exhaled as she knocked the air out of him with the hug before folding his arms around her “Ditch you? I’d never dare.” He released her with one last squeeze and a smile. Journey hated him instantly.
Momentarily forgetting about Journey Annie was beaming happily at Luke “What happened to you hair.” she reached up and tugged a curl on the top of his head, the boy batted her hand away playfully. “I lost a fight with Mom and a pair of scissors. Apparently my old hair was, and I quote, ‘beginning to make me look homeless’.” “Awww, I thought it suited you in a dashing kind of way.” Journey glared at the other boy. He was emanating jealous so very violently that Cayenne could sense it all the way over on the other side of the room.
“Oh for the love of…” Cayenne put down her drink on top of the piano and took a few confident strides forwards placing herself in between Journey and Anastasia. “Hey, what-” Journey began to protest, but his cousin silenced him with a look. “Ok. I’m telling you this because as fun as it’s been watching you pine after this chick and fight back your evil nature around her, I can only get so much pleasure out of your pain before it starts getting painful for me to. So I’m going to give you some advice.”
“I don’t need-”. “Of course you do. Trust me I know more about girls than you do. I am one. So shut up. Now, you need to stop following her around looking like a lost puppy. It’s not attractive. Just leave her alone, mingle, make her come to you. Also if I’m right, Annie seems like the type of girl who likes her guys to be jerks. And you’re really good at that. So clearly this is a match made in heaven.” “But that guy…” Journey peered over her shoulder to where Annie and Luke were still deep in conversation. “Ignore him.” Cayenne advised. But Journey’s eyes never left the pair. She sighed and shook her head, she’d never seen anyone have it this bad for a girl before. If that someone weren’t Journey it might have been sweet.
“Besides, if you used your admittedly limited braincells for anything apart from planning to pick a fight with any guy who even looks at her, you might have noticed that they have the same nose. He’s obviously family not competition. You idiot.” “You’re the idiot.” Journey muttered as Cayenne punched him in the shoulder and turned him very deliberately away from Annie.
“Veronica Beatrice Langerak, I’m not even going to acknowledge your existence if you’re going to start smack talking .” “Ok first, Beatrice is not my middle name you dork.” Ronnie Langerak rolled her eyes under dark bangs at Cara “Second, I’m not smack talking anyone all I’m saying is that their new stuff is better than their old stuff.” “Yeah see all I heard there was ‘blah blahblah I don’t know what I’m talking about, blah blahblah, my taste in music clearly sucks.’”
In spite of his initial protests against Journey was actually having fun that didn’t involve stalking Annie and waiting for the right moment to make a move. “I dunno, I’ve got to go with Cara on this one.” Journey shrugged, “The new stuff just feels like they’re trying too hard or whatever.” “Exactly. Trying is so overrated. See, clearly the smart people are correct.” Cara gestured pointedly, sloshing her drink on herself in the process. Ronnie raised an eyebrow at Journey mischievously “You sure I can’t change your mind? I bet I could teach you a few things about making beautiful music…”
“Ok you two, stop molesting him.” “Annie!” Cara turned and beamed at her sister who had fortunately saved Journey having to come up with an answer for Veronica, “You impinge my honour. I’d never molest a soul. It was all Ronnie and her mini skirt of sireny doom. Doom I tell you!”
“Yeah ok I’ll buy that.” Annie rolled her eyes amiably at the other girls before smiling at Journey “Hey you feel like being rescued from my two crazy sisters here?” “Oh it’s cool, I don’t mind we’re just- OW!” “Ow?” Annie looked inquisitively at Journey he glared at Cara who had just delivered a sharp kick to his shin and was now busy pretending to examine a spot on the opposite wall with an innocent look in her green eyes. “Umm…no, not ow, I mean, yeah. Rescue. That sounds cool…” he trailed off as he allowed Annie to lead him away from the two other girls.
“Silly boy.” Cara remarked to no one in particular as they left, smashing her cup on her head to emphasize her point.
“Your family is pretty cool.” Journey remarked as they flopped down on a nearby couch together. “I mean, they’re all totally messed up, but you know…cool.” “So’s yours. I mean, probably not as messed up as mine…but I like your cousins, they’re cool. And your sister…does she ever stop smiling?” “I know right! It’s so annoying!” “I dunno, I think she’s sweet-”
“…and I think you’re sweet too.” Journey swallowed as Annie shifted her weight across the couch closing the gap between them. Her leg was pressed up against his, he could feel the warmth of her body through his jeans. She turned her face towards him. There was an expectancy in the look she gave him. Journey discovered that his arm had settled itself on her back and his right hand strayed tentatively to her bare knee as he pulled her towards him.
“Annie?” Journey’s attention was reluctantly diverted from his dark haired companion as a blonde haired boy appeared a few feet away. The expression on his face changed abruptly, passing from surprised to upset to angry in the space of a few seconds. Annie looked up “Uh-oh.” Somehow Journey didn’t like the sound of that. “What the hell Anastasia.” He boy practically snarled at her, then rounding hid gaze on Journey “And you get your hands off my girlfriend squirt.”
Annie was on her feet in a second, her brown eyes swept the boy looking unimpressed “Jim, what are you doing here?” Journey followed her up from the couch more slowly, feeling a little dazed “You have a boyfriend?” “Yeah she does.”. “No I don’t. All I have is a clingy delusional friend who thinks that just because we went on a couple of dates we’re as good as engaged.” She glared at the blonde boy.
“Oh don’t give me that Annie, you’re fine with me being your boyfriend when it suits you.” “I have never once called you my boyfriend. Not to mention you’ve spent the last three weeks ignoring me. If I wanted that I would have a boyfriend. Hell I’d get married right now if I wanted to be ignored and treated like crap by a guy.” “You are so freakin’ damaged Annie.”
“Listen man” Journey stepped between the pair before things could get any more out of hand, people were already beginning to stare and he was actually beginning to feel a little sorry for Jim, as much as he liked her it was beginning to seem like Anastasia was in the wrong “Just back off and chill out ok. We can talk about this.” “Get out of my face kid.” “Journey, don’t, It’s fine.” Annie reached out and rested a hand tenderly on his back. Apparently this was the wrong thing to do.
Jim’s fist caught Journey squarely in the nose. Journey reeled backwards in surprise and pain as Annie let out a little noise of surprise and distress. The second hit caught him in the chin and knocked him to the ground.
By now they definitely had an audience. “Ooh right in the kisser. Kick him while he’s down Jimmy, Annie hit him below the belt, Journey get up and sock him right in the face!” “Who’s side are you on Cara?” Kayla Pleasant was watching with wide eyed horror and fascination as Journey hit the floor. “Side?” Cara inquired without looking up at her blonde friend “There are no sides, I just wanna see a good fight! Come on hit ‘im again!”
Journey sat on the ground, more stunned than in actual pain. He had managed to hit his head on the sofa on the way down and the room was spinning a little. He felt something warm on his face and touched his nose. His hand came away bloody. He blinked at it in confusion. He’d never been hit before, he wondered distantly how much this would hurt when the shock wore off. He began to stagger to his feet dazzedly to return the blow when he noticed that Anastasia’s legs seemed to be planted firmly in his way.
“What are you brain damaged or something! What the hell is wrong with you? You can’t just go around hitting people!” Anastasia was shouting, furious as the other guests began to gather around at a safe distance, clearly hoping someone else was about to get hit. “Get out of my way Annie.” Jim’s fists were still clenched “I’m not done with that skinny brat.”
“Yeah you are.” Journey blinked as a third pair of legs appeared in his bleary line of vision. It took him a moment to realize it was Phoenix’s voice that he was hearing, it sounded much more threatening than usual.
Then he felt hands on his shoulders, warm and comforting. He looked up to see his sister, kneeling beside him and looking concerned. “You ok?” “Fine.” Journey mumbled. He wiped the blood from his face onto his sleeve as he pushed himself to his feet.
“I don’t want to fight you man. Just get out of my way.” Jim was apparently still brimming with excess anger as he tried to dodge around Phoenix. “Yeah, I’m not going to do that.” Phoenix crossed his arms firmly across his chest as Rhapsody helped Journey up. He shook his sister off quickly. “Hey, you want to fight, let’s fight. Leave him out of this.”
Then Journey felt a hand on his shoulder “No one’s going to fight.” Turner’s voice was very level as he spoke “As long as Jimmy boy here doesn’t make us. Now I’m suggesting that you get the hell out of this house before I change my mind about that.”
Turner was ready for Jim when he took a swing at him. He sidestepped the clumsy blow neatly and the blonde boy staggered. “I’m not going to fight you kid.” Turner told Jim calmly. “Hell, I will.” Journey tried to take a step towards his new found nemesis, forgetting that Turner still had a firm grip on the back of his shirt. “No you won’t.” His cousin spoke firmly as he held him back. “This is over. Get out of here.”
For a moment Jim looked like he might take another swing at one of them, but something in Turner’s face seemed to make him think twice about that. He turned to Annie who was staring unhappily at her feet. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that.” he spat at her. Annie didn’t look at him as he turned and stalked out of the room. Turner felt a twinge of pity for the blonde boy as he watched him leave, still holding Journey by the scruff of the neck. But if he had learned anything from his parents it was that family was supposed to be on each other’s side, even when they were in the wrong and flirting with someone else’s girlfriend.
“Ow!” “Oh don’t be such a baby. You’re fine. Your nose isn’t even broken.” “That freakin’ stings Elise! Are you sure you even know what you’re doing?” “Are you actually asking me if I have enough medical training to disinfect a cut?”
Elise straightened discarding the last bloodied cotton ball in the sink. His nose had stopped bleeding by the time she got to him, all she had need to do was clean away the blood and disinfect his lip where the blow had split it rather nastily. “You’re fine.” She told her cousin patiently, “You probably won’t even bruise.” Journey scowled then winced “You’re sure?” “Well if you really want me to I can stitch something or poke a needle into you, but that wouldn’t really do anything. You’ll probably have a bump where you hit your head but you came out of things in good shape all things considered. Trust me I may not be a doctor but I’m the closest thing to one in this bathroom right now. So if you’re done I’m going to get back to work and-” The door swung open interrupting Elise mid sentence. Abrupt silence fell over the bathroom as Anastasia stepped in.
“Hey…” she looked around the room uncertainly “I came to see if you were ok and if there was something I could do…” “I think maybe you’ve done enough for one night.” Phoenix’s tone was not unfriendly as he spoke to the dark haired girl, but it was certainly firmer than any of his cousins were used to hearing. He liked Annie fine, but as far as he was concerned she looked like she was trouble for Journey, and that he wasn’t going to stand for.
Annie at least had the grace to look ashamed of herself as she turned her eyes to the dark haired boy. “Look, I’m really sorry about what happened- it’s just…” she paused, looking round the silent faces in the room “Do you think we could talk in private? Outside?” Journey hesitated for a moment before sullenly pushing himself up from the edge of the bathtub and following Annie out into the corridor.
It was not until they had stepped outside into the cool night air of the garden that Anastasia spoke again. “What happened earlier…that was really lame of Jim. I didn’t actually think he’d hit you, not in a million years. Normally he’s not a bad guy, he’s just a little rough around the edges…but I’m really sorry.” Journey didn’t look at her immediately, shoving his hands sullenly in his pockets. “You could have told me you had a boyfriend you know.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend.” Annie scuffed her heel angrily on the dimly lit garden path as they wandered slowly “I just have a guy who’s asked me out a few times and who’s a bit of a commitment addict and who can’t seem to get a clue and realize I’m not the girl he wants to settle down with. I mean I like him, but I don’t want to be one of those girls who just settles down and marries someone in the town she grew up with and stays here and has a million kids, and that’s what he wants and that’s fine but it’s just so not for me, and I then there was you and I really liked you and I didn’t want you to think that- and- I mean- This is so frustrating!”
Annie kicked a tombstone angrily “It’s just…complicated you know. And I’m sorry that my sucky handling of relationships got you punched in the face. I really feel so horrible about that.” Her eyes met Journey’s, silently begging him for forgiveness. “I wouldn’t blame you if you hated me. I’m pretty sure your family now things I’m a grade A bitch. But just know that I’m really sorry.” Journey snorted “I don’t hate you. No matter how much I hate being punched in the face.”
Tension fled Annie’s her features visibly at his words. “Does it hurt?” She asked, examining his face carefully. “It’s not bad…” Journey shrugged stoically “I mean, you know, whatever. It’s cool, I can cope.” “Yeah?” Annie reached out tentatively towards the wound on his lip. Impulsively Journey caught her hand and pulled her towards him.
Pain blossomed in cut on Journey’s mouth as their lips met. But it came with an intense flood of pleasure at kissing Anastasia that seemed to block out any other sensation.
Which was why neither of them noticed they were not alone until the ghost actually spoke. “Young man I will thank you to stop groping my granddaughter!”
The pair broke apart faster than if they’d been struck by lightening. “As for you Anastasia. Does you mother know you’re here?” Journey was very glad that Annie screamed first. He would have hated to be the only one.
“Grandpa?” Annie’s voice came out hesitant as she stared at the spectral form wide eyes. “Young lady you were not brought up to hang around in graveyards kissing boys and bumping into people’s tombstones and disturbing them!” “But- but- you’re dead.” Her voice came out barely a whisper “You died, I was at the funeral!” The ghost sighed, it came out a sharp unearthly whistling sound “You never were as bright as your brother.”
As if conjured by the Ghost’s words, at that moment the back door of the house swung open with a violent rattling of wood and glass and eight teenagers poured out at a dead run Nicholas in the lead.
“Annie! I heard you scream, what did he- Grandpa?”
“Just so we’re clear” Rhapsody’s words came ragged as she ran “Everyone else sees that right?” “What the transparent looking guy in the bow tie? Of course we see him Dee!” “Oh good.” She smiled back over her shoulder at Cayenne “For once it’s not just me!”
“Hey! There’s no need to be a jerk to her!” Journey was scowling at the ghost, apparently forgetting to be terrified of it “All she said was that you were dead. Which as far as I can tell is entirely true. So back off!”
“Journey, don’t pick a fight with a ghost ok?” Dee rested her hand quellingly on her brother’s back. “Ghosts aren’t supposed to real! I mean everyone’s always said this house is haunted but…” Anastasia pulled a face “This is beyond the realm of creepy.”
“Of course, ghosts are real, they’re just not usually this...visible.” Everyone looked at Requiem as she spoke, “Usually, Ghosts are just...whispers in the night...that flicker of movement you see out of the corner of your eye when you’re alone in the dark...the things that go bump in the night that you convince yourself is just the wind... Because, I mean all ghosts really are is echoes of the consciousness over from the other side. They can only ever manifest like this when there’s a weak spot.”
Something connected in Rhapsody’s mind “You said the same thing about the Grim Reaper.” Phoenix was the one to voice what the rest of them were thinking “What?” Requiem brushed dark hair pensively from her brow “The barrier between our world and the afterlife is kind of like a wall...when someone dies, or more rarely is resurrected, it’s like a door opens in the metaphysical wall, so that the reaper can pass through and collect a soul...the doors become like weak spots in that time and place, things can pass through from the other side that shouldn’t be able to, like ghosts that are more than just whispers at the edge of our perception.”
Turner frowned “So when Mom was our age and she says she saw a ghost... That was because it was just after Aunt Snow had died.” “Exactly, there was a weak spot that allowed the ghost to manifest itself.” Requiem nodded.
“But...no one’s died here recently.” Nick pointed out, carefully avoiding looking straight at the disturbing spectral form of his grandfather. Then he blanched “Does this mean someone is going to die?” “I don’t know.” Requiem admitted “There have been some...incidents of apparations from the other side when there hasn’t been a death...” Requiem’s gaze met Rhapsody’s seriously. “We might want to consider if there’s a common denominator here though.” The other girl chewed her lip and dropped her eyes.
Mortimer Goth however no longer seemed to be paying attention to her or his Grandchildren, his eyes instead had fixed themselves on the waif like blonde girl leaning against the wrought iron gate of the family cemetary. “Ingrid.” “Father.” Her tone was cool, her eyes flat. “Come to punish me for killing you?”
Suddenly every pair of eyes was fixed on Ingrid. The blonde never seemed to notice, her gaze firmly locked with the spectral shade of her father. He dropped his gaze first. “Oh daddy.” Ingrid’s voice softened “You know why I had to do it. You of all people. You were toying with nature, with things that should never have been. Your time had run out years earlier, you were supposed to die. Everything has a time and yours was long since past. Your living was wrong, it was unsettling things. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the ghosts whispering things in the night... They kept telling me things...telling me that it wasn’t right, that you were supposed to be on the other side with them.”
“They told me you were living on borrowed time. Your being alive...you were using time you didn’t have...they said you were out of time, that you were eating up the time left to other people...that every year you lived meant a year lost to someone else...taken away from Cassandra, from Alex, from me...”
“Daddy I’m only sixteen I don’t want to die so you could live another lifetime. So I put the poison in your food. But it wasn’t my fault...the universe wanted you to die...I just helped it along. You were meant to die.”
A small sob escaped the petite blonde’s lips “I’m really sorry daddy.” Mortimer Goth’s face was sad as he observed his daughter “I only wanted to live to see you grow up Ingrid” He reached out a ghosts hand, Ingrid shivered as it passed straight through her hair “I didn’t want you to be all alone.” “I didn’t want to be alone either Daddy.” For a moment it looked like Ingrid was about to reach out and hug her father, and then she snatched herself back, remembering that she couldn’t.
A moment of silence dropped over the group. The Bohemians had the odd sensation of intruding on a family intimacy. Elise however, had her own family drama to worry about. She took a step forwards. “Mr. Goth...sir...The formula you were using...We need it....do you think you could tell us where it is?”
Mortimer Goth blinked at Elise in surprise “Weren’t you listening to any of what my daughter just said.” Elise’s jaw set stubbornly “I really don’t care.