Coming this Fall – First Full moon series
“I never asked to be singled out. All I’ve ever wanted was to do the right thing.” Standing in front a full-length mirror, I twist my navy blue pencil-skirt so the seams run in a straight line down my hips. My white blouse, a silk import from some place I could never pronounce, is a gift from my grandmother. Sweat forms beads across my upper lip. I fan my face with my hands, panicked at the thought of sweating in silk.
“Yeah, yeah. You hate your life. It sucks,” Larkin says. Her thin eyebrows are matching arches that remind me of a black cat stretching into downward dog. “It’s a real burden being Grams’s favorite.”
“She hates it when you call her that.”
“Well, yeah. That’s why I do it.” My cousin grins, twisting a piece of hot pink bubble gum around her finger.
I toss a disapproving glance over my shoulder. She pretends not to see it, a satisfactory smile spreading across her face.
“Have you ever considered just being nice to Grandmother?” I ask.
“Nope. She’s an old biddy that yells at my dad all the time. Why bother to be nice to her when she barely even knows I’m alive?” Larkin lays across my bed, her black combat boots dangling of the edge as she flips through a magazine without pausing long enough on a page to read anything. She chews gum and blows a bubble that pops, covering her mouth. My cousin doesn’t seem to mind that strands of her long, jet-black hair brush the gum she pries from her face.
“That is not true. She totally noticed when you showed up last month with a nose piercing,” I say, fingering the delicate strand of pearls around my neck. They’re an early birthday present from my father, who most likely won’t be around to wish me happy birthday. A sigh escapes my lips. The reflection in the mirror could easily pass for a school secretary, or maybe a librarian.
“That was sick. I thought for sure she was going to go into cardiac arrest.” Larkin’s mouth turns upward with glee. She sits up and throws herself back into my pillows. “I see that look on your face. That is not happiness. I say you ditch the outfit. Wear something with stripes or even color for a change.”
My right eyebrow twitches. “You know she asked me to wear this. She bought the clothes and sent them over yesterday with a note that said ‘wear this.’”
“So . . .” I bite my lower lip. A dull pain stabs me between the eyes. “So I have to wear it.”
“No, you don’t. You’re about to turn sixteen. Exercise your right to personal freedom and stand up to the old hag! What’s the worst that could happen?”
The stabbing pain becomes a full-blown headache. My head morphs into a fifty-pound weight resting on my neck. “I don’t know,” I mutter, clutching my skull.
“At some point, Candy, you’re going to have stop being so scared all the time,” Larkin says, shaking her head.
The pain searing through the center of my cranium blinds me. Something wet touches my upper lip. My fingers touch the sticky, coppery-smelling fluid.
“Candy, you’re bleeding!”
“Not again,” I mutter, stumbling into my bathroom.
Larkin’s boots hit the floor, clomping behind me as I reach the bathroom sink.
“You have got to see a doctor,” she says, pulling my long hair back and turning on the faucet.
“What was it that Grandmother used to say when we were little and got hurt?” My mind is lost in darkness. Combing through the void, I search for a comforting thought to push back the pain.
“I don’t know. Should I call an ambulance?” She presses a cold washcloth into my hand.
“No. My dad’s out of town again. Oksana would freak if we had to call an ambulance.” I hold the cloth to my nose. My fingernails are coated in blood that’s seeped beyond the nail and into the cuticle. “One, two, three: let this feeling leave me,” I whisper.
“That’s it. That is exactly what I used to hear Grams mutter every time my father screwed up at the company,” Larkin says. Her blue eyes are wide.
“You went from pale as death to normal colored when you said that. I think the bleeding even stopped.”
I take a deep breath. The pain in my head is gone. Leaning closer to the mirror, I check out my nose. Sure enough, the blood rush has ended. “That’s weird. Maybe this is all just a mental thing.”
“Well . . .” Larkin folds her arms across her chest. “You are pretty uptight with the whole need to be perfect.”
“I don’t need to be perfect,” I say.
“When was the last time you actually did something you wanted and not something the adults in your life expected you to do?” Larkin dares me to answer.
“Well . . .” I rinse the cloth and wring it out. She’s right and we both know it. “I don’t have to be perfect,” I mumble tossing the dirty wash cloth into the hamper.
“There’s blood on your shirt, Candy.”
My gaze immediately goes downward. A crimson spot has spread across my chest, ruining the blouse. “Oh, no!” I push past Larkin and into my bedroom.
“Come on, it’s not that big of a deal. I’m sure Oksana can get it out.” Larkin lingers in the bathroom doorway and yawns.
“The car is supposed to be here in twenty minutes. Not even the best housekeeper in the world can wash, dry, and iron a blouse in twenty minutes,” I snap.
“You’re overreacting about an item of a clothing. What you should be freaking out about are the headaches and nosebleeds you’ve been having for the last month. We should skip family dinner and go to the hospital for a CT scan.” Larkin lives for Discovery and all medical-related television. Once when we were little, she tried to talk me into letting her remove my tonsils.
“Easy for you to say I’m overreacting. You have two parents.” I turn away from her, combing my room for a solution. Covering the blouse might work, but the wet spot is clinging to my skin. No, the shirt has to come off and be laundered. Do I have another white blouse? Even if I did, it would pale in comparison to the silk piece I’ve destroyed. My feet carry me to the closet.
Larkin sighs and sits down at my desk. “Why couldn’t your dad just get remarried and you get a nice stepmother?”
I shrug, thumbing my way through every item of clothing hanging in my closet. “My dad doesn’t date and hasn’t since . . .”
My cousin nods. We don’t talk about my mother. My grandmother forbade our entire family from ever speaking her name.
“Fifteen minutes until the car comes,” I say, glancing at the cloud clock hanging on my wall. “What am I going to do? I have nothing to wear!”
“Calm down, or you’re going to have an aneurysm,” Larkin says. “Or possibly a pulmonary embolism.” She nudges me aside and stands in front of my clothes, taking deep breaths through her nose and exhaling out of her mouth.
There’s no organization to my closet. Skirts are mixed with sweaters. Pants are hung with dresses. Shirts are scattered throughout. Larkin won’t say it, but just the sight of it all makes her want to run screaming out of the house.
“Okay, I can do this,” she mutters. Her hands sift through the clothes. She picks up a skirt and shifts it to the end of the closet. Everything she touches, she sorts into the category that her brain dictates. “It’s better if they’re organized.”
“Why?” I ask.
“I don’t know. It just is,” she whispers.
Larkin doesn’t have a closet in her bedroom. Her father walled hers off and installed several dressers in its place.
“Here. Wear this.” She hands me a navy blue and white dress.
“It’s a good choice.” I take the dress and move to the mirror. “But she’s still going to be disappointed.”
“She’ll get over it. We know for a fact you are not the first McGregor to disappoint Roselyn the Great.” Larkin makes a sweeping gesture with her hands and bows.
She shrugs. “This is what cousins are for, right?”
I shake my head. “I guess, though I don’t think most families are like ours.”
“Um, no one has a family like ours. First of all, we could be our own football team, and secondly, we have more money than . . .” She pauses, her eyebrows coming together. “I know what you’re thinking.”
“It’s rude to talk about money,” we say in unison.
I swallow hard. Five minutes until the car arrives to take us to Grandmother’s house. “How about you wait for the car and I’ll throw this on?”
Larkin nods. Her dark leggings are strategically torn and match the oversized black sweater that reveals a shoulder bare save her bright red bra strap. Grandmother never requests my cousin be anything other than what she already is.
Larkin moves to my door, her fingers hover above the knob as she studies the light switch on the wall.
“Oh, just do it. I won’t make fun of you like Bennett does,” I say.
My cousin lets out a sound of relief. Silently, she flips my light switch up and down twenty times. When she’s finished, her shoulders relax. “Twenty times and the boogey man dies,” she whispers.
I nod, not having a clue what it must be like to be Larkin. “There’s Oreos in the freezer,” I say.
“I’ll grab some just in case it’s lamb again for dinner.”
“It’s always lamb,” I mutter as the door closes behind her.
The dress is Rayon with a polyester blend. Slipping it over my head, the fabric slides down my body. Larkin and the rest of the cousins can wear whatever they want to family dinner, but as the oldest grandchild of the oldest son, I have to come formally dressed. I shake my head; my blonde hair is messy—unkempt even. Grabbing a hair band off my dresser, I hurry and slip on a pair of white flats. I should wear heels, but I have a tendency to drip in them. My stained white shirt in hand, I run out of bedroom and down the hall to the laundry room where Oksana spends her afternoons watching soap operas while pretending to be busy. There’s only two of us: my dad and me, and he dry-cleans most of his stuff.
A woman’s voice speaks in a casual but serious tone. “The police are warning residents of Sequim Falls to stay indoors tonight. More on that when we return from this brief commercial break.”
I round the corner into the laundry room to find Oksana glued to the newscast playing on a black and white television she found at a second-hand store.
“You know you could watch the news on that laptop I gave you for Christmas,” I say.
Oksana stands up, straightens her black and white uniform and pats the graying bun on top of her head. “You scare me, Ms. Candy,” she says.
“Sorry. I was hoping you could soak my blouse for me so it isn’t stained.” I hold out the shirt, my eyes drifting to the television. A picture of a full moon flashes across the screen behind the male and female coanchors. The man—a middle-aged gent with a fake tan and teeth white enough to launch a signal to Mars—clears his throat.
“Folks, the local police are warning us that it’s a full moon again, and that can mean only one thing,” he says glancing to the female anchor on his left.
“That’s right. A full moon in Sequim Falls means that residents should take extra precautions to avoid the Full Moon Killer, a serial murderer who’s haunted our town for more than thirty years.” The female anchor clenches her jaw briefly before breaking into a smile. “Now time to check in with Sally on what kind of weather we can expect this spring.”
“I thought I leave all the monsters in Ukraine when I come here,” Oksana says adjusting her knee-high pantyhose.
“How can a person in a small town like this get away with killing people for thirty years?” I shake my head. “We must have the worst police force ever.”
“Maybe it’s not a person.”
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe it’s a monster.”
“Monsters aren’t real.” The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. A tingling sensation runs down my arms. Oksana and her superstitions.
“Oh, sweet child. You are bright, kind, and fun to be with, but you are not wise. There a great many things you know nothing of.” Oksana pats my arm.
She’s been my nanny, nurse, and caretaker for almost my whole life and yet, I don’t feel as if I know her at all. Rarely do I understand her subtext. “What’re you talking about, Oksana?”
“No matter what I say.” She waves her thick arms and motions at the clock on the wall. “Car must be waiting. You no keep grandmother waiting. She fire me.”
“All right, I’ll go.”
“You take care with that cousin of yours. Don’t need no more disappearing members of this family.” Oksana takes my shirt and studies it. She scratches her head, her thin lips fade into an unhappy mouth.
“What do you mean disappearing members of this family?” I ask.
She shrugs. “Nothing. I am an old woman losing her mind and it coming out of her mouth.” Holding up my stained blouse, she shakes a finger at me. “This no good. You bleed again.”
“It’s nothing,” I say, turning around. “I’ll bring you a plate of leftovers.”
“No, I no need. Tonight I have date with nice man I find online.”
“Wait, you what?”
“I have date.”
“Yes, don’t act so surprised. I woman. Hear me roar.” Oksana’s large hands rest on my shoulders. Gently, she turns me around and gives me a nudge toward the door. “You be safe. Don’t let cousin convince you to go to park like last month.”
“Don’t go out tonight, Oksana. You heard what the newscasters said.”
“I no fear. Boogie man not want me. I be more than he can chew.” She laughs from her belly, tickled at her own humor.
Gritting my teeth, I wave and walk out of the room. There’s no point in arguing with her. Oksana does what Oksana wants.
“Candy! Car!” Larkin shouts from the first floor.
“Coming!” I yell back. My voice echoes down the empty hall of our mansion. The shoes on my flat feet gape open at the sides, making them difficult to wear across the slippery, marble floors. Removing the flats, I tuck them under my arm and pad across the floor in sweaty bare feet. The staircase that winds down to the first floor is tiled in alternating black and white colors. Larkin only steps on the black ones, meaning she skips every other stair. It’s a relief to see her standing at the bottom of the staircase, twisting her hair and blowing bubbles. I’m always so afraid she’ll slip and fall.
“We’re late,” she says.
“I know.” I tuck my hair behind my ears still toying with the idea of putting it up. “Did you know that our family dinners always coincide with a full moon?”
“Um, no.” My cousin tilts her head to the side and lifts her nose. “You sure?”
“Yes. Our family dinners always seem to coincide with warnings to be on the lookout for the Full Moon Killer.”
Larkin chuckles. “Well, maybe it’s because someone in our family is the Full Moon Killer.” She lets out a laugh that’s meant to sound evil but really just sounds as if she’s wheezing. “I can’t pull that off, can I?”
“No, not really.”
A car honks outside. We exchanged a groan. Harold, Grandmother’s eighty-year-old driver has arrived.
“Think we’ll get there alive?” Larkin asks.
I roll my shoulders and sigh. “It’s a toss-up what will kill us first: Harold’s driving or the Full Moon Killer.”
“Either way, let’s just get over with.”
I nod and open the front door. Harold waves a crooked hand from the front seat of a black limo.
Here’s to hoping we make it home alive . . .