The Return to Willow Lake - 2

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Chapter 9



“Hey, Hale?” Zach hummed as we walked through the aisle of the small, independent bookstore.

“Yeah?” I responded, not taking my eyes off the rows as I studied all the different books and carefully reading the labels. All the books were arranged neatly, in alphabetical order going by the author’s surname and split into the various genres.

“You know I don’t mind if you call them Mom and Dad, right? I know you’ve been tiptoeing around it since I showed up.”

“Oh, I just thought it would be weird for you, that’s all.” I shrugged softly, carefully studying the books as we reached the non-fiction section of the store.

“It was at first, and I guess at first it made me a little mad when you did it when it wasn’t needed. However, it’s been a month now, and I can see why you do it freely. They do remind me of our real Mom and Dad, you know?”

“Yeah, they remind me of them too.” I peaked up at him to find him looking at me with a small smile.

Alicia and Emmett were different from our parents in so many ways, but at the same time, they were just like them. Their love was unconditional, and I knew they’d do anything to protect us, even if it meant giving up their own lives.

Emmett was courageous and strong, much like I recall my father being. My dad never backed down from a fight, and he was smart, the same way Emmett was. Both men took no quarrel in looking danger in the face and taking it head-on. However, despite their strong facade, they were equally loving.

Alicia was sweet, doting, but fierce, the same way my mother had been. My mother was your typical Mom, showering us with all the love and affection in the world, but you never dared cross her. While Dad had been the primary protector of the two, Mom was just as protective, if not more, when it came to Zach and me. She was the embodiment of the term Mama bear.

“They’ll never be able to replace Mom and Pa, but they’ve done so much for me, Zach. They’re family, even if we’re not related by blood.”

Zach let out a soft breath, “I get that, and I guess they’re becoming family to me, too. But, I just wanted you to know, you don’t have to tread on eggshells because of me. I’m here because of you because I love you. If that means I have to accept that you made yourself a new family over the years, I’m okay with it.”

“You didn’t, though. You were out there for so long on your own, trying to find me. While I lived my life with Emmett and Alicia.”

I couldn’t deny I’d felt guilty. Until I found Masato and Thomas, I’d given up hope and gave up looking. Zach, though, he never gave up. I’d been out there, living life, besides the first few years, I barely made much effort to search for Zach. I’d decided to accept that he was gone and move on.

“Hale, while we’re twins, that’s where you and I are different. I’m okay on my own. When we were kids, I rarely played with the other kids; I was happier keeping to myself.” Zach’s arm came around my shoulder as we headed towards the back of the store, where all the educational books were held.

“You, however? You’ve always been someone who’s done better around others. You were so...sad our first ten years, having only us and Thomas when his dad snuck him out to see you once a month. However, when we were allowed back, you began to bloom. I always hoped you’d moved on, found somewhere new, and made a good life for yourself.”

“I suppose. I spent more or less two years alone after the attack. I was so miserable, to the point I took Alicia and Emmett into our home without much question. I didn’t want to be alone anymore.”

“I’m glad for how you lived on, if I’d learned you had lived any other way, it would have broken me. And hey, I’m not alone now, and I found you, so it’s worth it for me. I love you, Hale.”

“I love you too, Zach.” I looked up at him with a smile to find a broad grin on his face.

“You want coffee? I can grab us one while you search for these stupid books.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, Zach wasn’t one for dragging his feet doing any form of shopping. “Sure. I’ll be over here somewhere.”

------

I minded my own, pouring over the hundreds of textbooks. Our end of school exams were coming up and quick, so of course, the school gave us a list of more books to buy.

“Ms. Paxton?” A female voice spoke questioningly. The sickly sweet tone caused my muscles to instantly tense as the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

I pried my eyes away from the books to find Ms. Jameson standing there with a small smile. “Oh, hello, Ms. Jameson.”

“Buying your textbooks, are we?”

“Yeah.” I nodded, turning my eyes back to the books.

I didn’t know why, but ever since she became our history teacher last week, something disturbed me. There was something about her that left me feeling less than content.

I wasn’t sure if it was just her general stiff aura or the eyes that made my skin prickle when she looked at me. Or if it was that phony sweet tone to her voice. All I knew, is she left me feeling awkward, and I missed Mr. Walton deeply.

“Do you enjoy reading for fun, Hallie?”

“I sometimes read, yeah. Mostly novels.” I shrugged.

“May I suggest a book for you then? Of course, you don’t have to read it. It’s just a personal favorite.”

“Um, sure.” I looked at her and gave her a thin smile, while inwardly begging she would go away.

“Here.” She pulled a book from the small pile she’d been holding. “I can grab another. I seemingly lost my copy in the move; I think you might find it enjoyable.”

I took the book from her and studied the cover. Supernatural creatures; myth, legend, or truth?

My eyes stared at the title, and I looked up at her, “Why this one?”

“You seem like a curious soul, like me. It’s a fascinating read, weighing up all the myths and legends and comparing them to written accounts. It explores whether any of these so-called eye witness accounts hold any fact. You’d be quite surprised, I think. I love history, but mythology is another love of mine.”

“Um, well, thank you, it does sound intriguing.”

“There you are. Oh, hey, Ms. Jameson.” Zach appeared behind me with two piping hot coffees in hand.

“Zach, right? Hallie’s twin?”

“The very same.” Zach nodded with a smile.

“Trying to wrap my head around the number of students is a little overwhelming. I only taught fifteen at once before.” She chuckled. “I’m glad I’m getting there, though.”

“You’re doing just fine, Ms. Jameson,” I spoke politely, stepping a little closer to Zach to give me an air of comfort and warmth.

“Well, I’ll leave you two to get your books. Please, Hallie, if you opt to read the book, let me know what you think. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you in school on Monday.”

“What book?” Zach looked at me with his thick brows furrowed, and his head cocked to the side as she sauntered away.

“Um, this one, of all the books in the store...” I held up the book to him and watched as his head straightened, and his eyes went wide.

“That’s...ironic. Maybe, if she believes in that kind of stuff, it’s another reason she came here. You know because they’re all witchy-poo about things.”

I shrugged, “She wouldn’t be the first to move here for that reason. It turns out there are a few pagan families that moved here because of it.”

“Not surprising. I think what bugs me the most, though, is everyone loves the idea of the supernatural being real. However, if they were to be faced with it...”

“They’d be terrified, scared shitless, and we’d see Salem happen all over again?” I chuckled, finishing Zach’s words, knowing exactly what he was going to say. It was a fact we were all too well aware of, which is why it was always paramount to make sure we acted as natural as possible. The slightest hint of suspicion could cause an endless amount of issues.

“Pretty much.” Zach nodded, “They love the idea of it, but not the reality. Anyway, let’s get these books and get out of here. I’m hungry.”

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