I want to thank the wonderful Dani Morales and Rachel Walter for helping me with the slight edits of this chapter. You two are amazing!
I will not keep you waiting, so here is the first chapter of Provoke the Darkness, Book One in the Grave Marked Series.
It's late. Much later than what I originally thought. This is probably the reason why the streets are empty of all life, with the exception of the lost souls that wandered the streets at night looking for something, anything to make them feel alive. I keep my head down, so that they don't think I'm looking for something I'm not. That's all it takes, isn't it? Just one glance, and they come at you like vultures to a carcass. A shiver runs down my spine as I think about it, just keep walking Ethan, I think to myself. The sooner I get off of these streets, the better. Just a few more blocks and I'll be where I need to be, in the safety of a place I've called home.
No need to knock, I know I'm always welcome here, as long as Matilda is home. Her mother doesn't care for me all that much, She say's I'm a bad influence on Maddie and that I tempt her with everything bad in life. You know, boys, drugs, and alcohol. Boys? Hardy. Drugs? Not a chance, I don't touch that shit and I would kill Maddie if she went near it. Alcohol? Okay yeah, that was me. In my defense though she was stressing out over finals last year, so I took her mind off of it and took her to a small party. It's not like she got totally wasted, just enough to take the edge off.
I've known Matilda my whole life. We grew up as neighbors and were inseparable. Our families didn't want us hanging out with each other. Each of them saying that the other family had a “strange vibe” to them or that they were just “plain weird”, but that never stopped the two of us from spending most of our waking hours together. She's the only person that I can fully be myself around, and not fear being judged.
I head up the stairs and to her bedroom, it's the only place she feels safe, in her mothers house. I stand there in the door way, and I watch her as she's working on something at her desk, probably tomorrows assignment. She always did wait for the last minute to get it done. She crumpls up the paper and throws it to the waste bin that's barely four feet away, and missed. The reason she didn't play any sports. She glances over her shoulder at me, and I smiled. She didn't do or say anything to acknowledge my presence, she just went back to the new blank piece of paper in front of her.
After several long minutes she gets up from the desk and walks over to her bed, taking the piece of paper with her. She places it on the bedside table and takes a few sleeping pills. Everyone knows that Maddie had problems sleeping. It's because her mother would stay up all night crying about her father. Her father had left her and her mother for someone who was only a few years older than we were. It's not that I blame him for what he's done to this family, but what can you do? He could not put up with being with Marie – Matilda's mother- when he fell out of love with her. He left without saying goodbye to Maddie, only leaving a note for her mother. It's been a hard life for the two of them, and I try to be there for Maddie whenever she needs me.
She sets the glass down and crawls into bed, pulling the covers up almost over her head. She looks so small in the large bed. She looks to the ceiling and I swear I see a tear glide down her cheek. I open my mouth to say something, anything, but nothing comes out, I've seen her cry many a times before, but this? This seems different. She looks to me, sadness filling up the bright green eyes that I used to know and whispers faintly so I barely hear what she says.
“I'm sorry, Ethan.” Another tear slowly makes its way down to her pillow.
Sorry? Sorry for what? There is no reason for her to be apologizing to me, she's never done anything wrong. Confusion runs through me, as I replay the past few days, trying to find a reason for this, but I come up blank. Nothing. No reason for this madness.
“What are you apologizing for?” I ask, my voice sounding distant. A chill runs down my spine, and Maddie's eyes flicker something more than sadness. She turns over and pulls the covers up over her head, ignoring the question I had asked.
“Fine, I know when I'm not wanted.” I say, pain in my voice. “You should be sorry Maddie. You've never once shut me out before, why start now?” I turn and storm from her bedroom, making my way back down the stairs and out the door.
The nights have grown shorter now that winter is no longer on us and summer has taken over. The cool summer nights are what I live for. Sitting down by the river and watch the days go by, peaceful and satisfying. And that is just what I do, I head down to my favorite spot by the river and I lay there, thinking. Is there really a reason for Matilda to be acting the way she was, and if so, what is the reason?
I jerk upright, breathing heavily and soaked to the bone. Was it all just a dream, I think to myself. I scramble out of my bed and rush over to my phone hoping to have a message from Maddie. No messages! That's strange, Maddie is always awake before I am and she always sends me a 'Good Morning' message to make sure I'm having a good day. I sent her a quick message, and wait for a response. After waiting for two minutes I hit speed dial one. It rings, and rings.
“Hello, you've reached Matilda's voice mail. I'm currently unable to come to the phone, probably for many reasons, so leave me your name and number and I'll be sure to get back to you as soon as I possibly can.” Her cheery recording flows into my ear.
“Maddie, it's Ethan” I practically yell into my phone. “Call me, or message me as soon as you get this. Please! I just had the strangest dream, and I need to talk to you about it.” I end the call and put the phone down, glancing over at the mirror that hangs on the back side of my door. My hair is stuck to my face with sweat, and the bags under my eyes are ridiculous. It looks like I haven't showered or slept in a few days. I peel off my soaked clothes, which is just a pair of briefs, and grab the towel that hangs on the back of my computer chair. Opening the door a crack and peeking out to make sure that my room mate is not in the hallway, it looks clear so I make my way out while holding the towel in front of me, to give myself some sense of decency. I make it to the bathroom and close just in time to hear the turning of the lock of the main door.
“Hey dude, are you up yet?” my room mate yells from the front door. “You know if you're late for school once more, they're going to have to send you to detention, or something. Just because you're eighteen and it's your senior year of high school doesn't mean that you can slack off. How do you expect to get into a good college?” I roll my eyes at this. My grades are great, even with the missed days, and he knows it. I hear him drop the keys onto the side table that we have near the door. I lean on the bathroom door and run my fingers through my hair. He's getting home late. Must have been out to the club last night and went home with one of the the sleazy chicks that are always hanging off of him. Marcus is a very handsome man, with short blonde hair that he always has done up in one of those faux-hawk styles. His bright green eyes and great bone structure is what catches the attention of all the girls. That and he has a rockin' body, I don't think I've seen someone with such a great body. I don't know how he does it either, he eats non-stop and hardly works out.
“Yes Marcus, I'm up and about to get into the shower.” I yell back “Thank you for being so fatherly, I should be able to get to school on time today.” I crank the hot water and the bathroom steams up almost instantly. I pull back the shower curtain and climb in, standing under the stream of water. It burns as it pelts the back of my neck.
The door clicks, and a gust of cool air is forced into the heat of the bathroom. “Sorry dude,” Marcus apologizes, with a laugh “I really had to take a leak, and I didn't know how long you were going to take.” This is nothing new to me, he does this more than not. It seems every time I take a shower, he needs to use the bathroom. He finishes up, flushes, and washes his hands. My hot water turns ice cold and I let out a yelp while trying to get out from under it before the chill goes to my bones. He bursts out in laughter and rushes out of the bathroom before any profanity comes from my mouth.
“Asshole!” I yell after him.
After several more minutes under the the comfort of the hot water, I turn it off and grab for my towel, only it's not where I set it down. I pull open the curtain and prepare for the blast of cold air that rushes over every inch of my naked, wet body. Shivering, I quickly scanning the floor, but my towel is no where to be found.
“Marcus!” I shout, as I climb out of the bathtub. The roar of laughter makes its way up the stairs and to the bathroom. I glance to the left and see that there is a note marked into the fogged up mirror. Ethan, I'm sorry. -M. My heart drops into my stomach, and I rush out of the bathroom and to my bedroom.
When I reach my room, my phone is blinking with a message. I grab it and flip to my messages. None of them are from Maddie. They're all from my mother. I put my phone down and go to grab another towel from the closet, glancing to the pictures that I have tacked up on my wall. Pictures of Maddie and myself. She's my only real friend, nobody else understands me the way she does.
I pick up my phone again and shoot her another message. I might as well check the message that mum sent, I think to myself. It's been far too long since I've talked to her, it'll be nice to hear her voice.
Ethan, I know you don't like people calling you, and that is why I'm sending you this text message. Please call me when you read this. It's urgent!
I read the message twice before I start to debate with myself, if it's as urgent as what she thinks it is. Should I call her now, or could it wait until I am home from school? I punch in her number and listen to the phone ring in my ear. Two rings. Three rings.
“Hello?” my mothers voice whispers into my ear.
“Hey mum, it's Ethan,” I state, remembering that she doesn't have caller ID.
“Oh Ethan,” she cries. The sound of a chair screeching as it's dragged across the floor. She sighs before starting again. “I'm so sorry.”
“Mum?” I ask, glancing towards the door to my bedroom. The fogged up mirror flashes in my mind. “What's going on?” I bark at my phone, growing impatient. I hear my mother sob on the other line, I've never seen my mother cry. She was always the rock in any situation that brought tears to everyone around her. She would be that shoulder of support, but here she was, crying. I don't know what else to do, or say. “I'm sorry mum, I didn't mean to make you cry.” I whisper, tears forming in my own eyes. “It's just been a really weird day.
“It's about Matilda,” she says in between sobs. “She killed herself last night.”
Silence. My mind goes blank. I'm unable to think, unable to respond. I hang up and toss my phone to the bed. I look around, and everything seems out of place. The vivid colors of life have seemed to fade into shades of gray. The dream replays over in my mind, and then I see the bathroom mirror, again. I look down at my hands, but all I see is the floor rushing up to me.
The sound was so loud I thought the house was coming down. I rush from my room to see that the living room and the kitchen look untouched. “Ethan!” I shout. No response. I rush to his bedroom, not even bothering to knocking, just run right in. My heart drops and my stomach clenches so tight that I might puke. Ethan's half naked, in nothing but his underwear, face down on the floor. Blood spewing from his nose, and tears streaking his cheeks.
What the hell, I think to myself, race back to my bedroom for my phone, grabbing the white shirt that I had lying on my bed and made my way back to his room, as quickly as I could. I punch in the number that I need without even looking at the phone. It rings twice.
“9-1-1, what's your emergency?” A woman answers
“ I need an ambulance!” I shout into the phone. “My room mate is lying face down on the floor, bleeding. I don't know what happened,” I rush to explain in my panicked state. Kneeling down, I use the tee shirt to wipe the blood from the floor and from Ethan's face. Trying to be as careful as I possibly can, and even then I can see that it's hurting him. “It's going to be all right buddy, you're going to be alright” I sob.
“What is your address, Sir?” the woman asks, and I can hear her typing it into her computer as I tell her. “The ambulance is on it's way. They should be there shortly.”
I end the call, throwing my phone onto the bed. I roll Ethan over and rests his head on my lap, getting the last bit of blood from his face. It looks like his nose has decided that it were done bleeding, which is good, because I don't think I've ever seen so much blood come from anyone's nose.
A knock at the door breaks the trance that I fell into since hanging up with the operator, staring into nothingness. I gently set Ethan's head down on the floor while I get up, my knees weak under the weight of my body and rush to get the door. Red and white flashing lights shine through the thin curtains, forming shadows on the walls. Tearfully, I open the door. Since I cannot form words so I just point to the hallway. I watch the E.M.T. guys move quickly down the hall with a stretcher in hand.
I stand there by the front door, watching a small crowd of people forming along the sidewalk, trying to see what all the commotion is about. The paramedics pull Ethan from the hallway on the stretcher, and through the front door to the ambulance. I follow behind them, and am thankful that they allow me to sit in the back with Ethan. I reach out and grab a hold of his hand, his skin as cold as ice.
Is he dying? It's the only thought running through my mind. He cannot die on me. I haven't had the chance to tell him how I feel about him. And now, now I might not get that chance.
I hope you all enjoyed the first chapter, next week I'll see what I can do about getting you a little bit more about Matilda!