Phaedra Thorne’s goals in life are simple. Make it to eighteen so she can legally adopt her sister and hope she ever becomes like her deranged mother who secretly lives in the attic. They’re not the normal hopes and dreams of a kid her age, but then again, Phaedra is anything but typical. Schizophrenia and psychokinesis go hand in hand in her genes. With hings always upending or blowing up around her, she’s already halfway there and horrified one of these days she’ll be the next to go insane.
Five years have passed since Phaedra has seen her older, estranged brother. She’s hesitant about his return and even more so when he comes bearing a cure for their mother. However, this so-called antidote, having sex with an incubus, comes with a catch that’s larger than the statutory rape implications. The incubus who’s willing to help the Thornes has unwittingly been followed by beings who call themselves hags. They want to drain the demon dry of his power and don’t care if they threaten Phaedra’s desire to have a normal family. She’ll do hatever it takes to protect her loved ones, even if that means trusting her uncontrollable powers won’t kill everyone in the process…including a Child Welfare official who’ll decide in thirty days if the Thorne household is safe enough to raise children.
My fingers quivered as I reached for the brass knob. A swallow slipped down my dry throat. This squeaky door would be my undoing. Bracing myself, I turned the handle and stepped forward. My ears opened to the silence of our home. No stomping across the hardwood floors or muffled screams from the attic. No objects flying at my face or anyone yanking me inside for a beating. Mom was secure in her top-floor prison.
I took my six-year-old sister by the hand and led her inside. Just in case my senses were wrong, I needed to be ready to hustle her right back out the door.
When most kids arrived home, they shouted their arrival and ran screaming into the arms of the first parent they found. Hugs and kisses would ensue, along with a, “How as your day, honey?” Delicious smells of dinner wafted through the house and the night would end with everyone hunkered down in the living with a good movie. Mom would hand us our steaming cups of hot chocolate while Dad would follow it up with a large bowl of popcorn filled with butter and salt.
That was the life. It had ended five years ago.
Dad left us, my older brother followed, and Mom? Well, she gradually slipped into a dangerous blend of full-blown schizophrenia and psychokinesis. I was half-way to following in her footsteps. I’d give anything not to have my powers.
One loud noise would set Mom off so, we had a no yelling policy in place. That also meant there would never be any sleepovers or parties. I was lucky enough to have a few before she went nuts, but Nadia had to wait her turn. Assuming there would ever be one. We met up with our friends anywhere but 101 Whitemark Lane because we valued our lives…and theirs.
“I can’t get this off.” Nadia struggled with the zipper on her jacket.
“Come here, Squirt.”
It took some doing, but I got her free. Nadia turned and took it from there like little Miss Independent who knew it was best to pull her own weight in our weirdo family. She slid off her backpack and jacket at the same time before dragging them across the floor.
Man, I hated seeing her down like that. She took it hard when I told her that Cammy couldn’t come over to play on the swing out back. I’d have to make it up to her somehow. But for now, we all had to make sacrifices. Myself included.
If word had ever gotten out that our mother was unfit to care for us, the idiots from Child Welfare would come. Hell, they already have. There were only so many creative ways to lie about a black eye. After the third one, people start asking questions. The forth one had gotten the attention of a school official who should’ve minded his own business.
Something scraped across the hardwood and slammed into the floor above our heads. Both of us stared at the same spot. We knew where that had come from. Oh, man, I didn’t want to go up there. Not again. But if I wasn’t checking on her, who would? No way in hell would I leave my six-year-old sister do it.
“Stay here.” I grabbed a nearby throw I kept hanging over back of a chair. Shoving something over her head whenever she went into a psychokinetic tirade usually calmed her down. Usually.
“Nooo. I wanna go with you. I colored a picture for Mommy.”
I started up the stairs, taking them two at a time. “Stay there, Nadia. I’m serious.”
After rounding the banister to the second floor, I hurried to the midpoint in the hall and reached for the level that lowered the ladder from the attic. We kept my mother up there like a dirty secret because it was the darkest place in the house. It was either that or the basement, which was unacceptable. We had too much junk down there to use as weapons. Plus, the racks of clothes from her pre-schizophrenic days seemed to quiet her down.
I tossed the blanket over my shoulder and headed up the ladder. When I came to the top, I poked my head over the ledge and scanned the room.
Light shone from a small window at the far end overlooking the small wooded area we called a backyard. I put up some curtains to make it homier. Guilt had something to do with it, too. Just like the dozens of clothes at the far end of the attic, Mom must have liked them because they hadn’t been torn to shreds yet.
My mother sat in front of the window with her back to me, her body bent like she remained seated in an invisible chair. What remained of her white wicker seat was on the floor to my right in a twisted mess. If it weren’t for her being psychokinetic, I’d swear magic held her in place.
BITTERSWEET, Marcia Colette’s first self-published young adult book will be available any day now. In the meantime she’s giving away an e-book ARC copy of Bittersweet. You can check out her Samhain, Parker and Double Dragon Publishing books on her website.
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