Have you ever fallen in love with a super soft dragon boy while also fleeing a brainwashing, womanizing, cult of greedy bastards? No? Just me? My name Juniper. Juniper Redwillow. And this is the story of how I chose to create the life I wanted for myself instead accepting the life others tried to force on me.
The wind felt nice... when it wasn’t howling like a banshee. Driving at night is never wise even in the best of circumstances, but in our sh*t show lives it was an unfortunate necessity.
My name is better left in that dinky little f*ckhole about seven hours behind us. Beside me is my best and only friend Sylene. I say friend but we’ve grown into something more akin to sisters. No one else shared our love of nature, the moon, and least of all magick. Our parents were nothing but small petty people trapped in their small petty world with nothing to hope for but another purebred, whitetrash princess, that could only amount to being crowned prom queen.
Just the thought of fucking some dumbass and getting knocked up like every other cheesebrain teenager in nowhere Arkansas made my blood boil. I wanted to be worth more than another baby making dot on a statistic chart. I wanted to be worth something to someone and if I couldn’t have that then I sure as f*ck would make sure my sister would.
I will do whatever it takes to protect her and her freedom. Which is why I kneed the school football star in the balls. Hence the driving away from everything we had ever known. That wasn’t the only reason but the others were too dark to think about on an empty stretch of road in the middle of the night.
If anyone from our hometown ever found us we’d be dead. No question we were being tracked at that very moment by the same b*stards that reinforced sexist traditions on us. In our home town NO ONE leaves, and NO ONE goes against tradition it was run by something close to a cult. Women were women and men were men and outsiders were not allowed in.
My knuckles turned white on the steering wheel from just the thought of facing anyone from Leona again. Forced marriages were illegal in the U.S. but so are sex swings and yet people still have them. The ‘police’ in Leona were as much a part of the backwards thinking c*ntsuckers as the rest of the town.
No, we couldn’t go back, but why would we want to? Freedom was something coveted. Only men in Leona had that, but not anymore. We had to put as much distance between us and them as possible and that meant driving with no breaks.
I had to protect Sy, I always do. She was kind, the type of kind that wanted to gain the love of the whole world in one lifetime. While she was warm loving fire I was cold hearted ice. The kind that likes to use logic and honesty to poke plot holes in every ‘honest’ guy’s sob story. It was what made our relationship so funny. We were polar opposites.
We were also very different in appearance. I was short. Short-short. I was 5’2 to Sy’s 5’7 and it was ANNOYING. I have long wavy dark brown hair, and amber eyes. Sy liked to say they glowed like lightning when I was mad, but I’m sure she was just trying to distract me from my other features. My cheekbones are high and sharp, and my nose is shaped like a triangle with a 90 degree angle in it. For argument’s sake let’s say it’s a ‘cute’ triangle. Sy on the other hand was way better looking.
She had a pretty round face with sparkling blue eyes and long brown hair. Her most envious point for me, however, was her small slightly rounded nose that curved up a little at the tip.
She was older than me by a few months but it didn’t matter, I would always cut any b*tch dumb enough touch her. She was the envy of every girl and the target of every guy.
There was one envious bi*ch in particular though that enjoyed slandering Sy the most. Vivian Dower was Sy’s biggest competitor in the pageant circuit, and just like her teacher Johanna McCoy she was willing to do anything to win.
I had a well paying job as a pageant dressmaker. The truck we were currently driving in was a perk of such a job. Everything we owned was kept in the covered and locked truck bed. Thank the gods pageant queens are paranoid about their dresses being stolen or I wouldn’t have been allowed to make that particular upgrade to my truck which was in my name.
Luckily my job also let me protect Sy in a different way. Mess with her I mess with your pageant gear. That particular rumor spread after Queen Vivian had an unforgettable altercation with Sy the last time she won a pageant.
She claimed Sy was a ‘shallow c*nt sucking twat that f*cked the judges for points’ I knew she was just upset from almost being beaten but I didn’t forget. At the next pageant she entered with Sy there was an unfortunate accident during her talent portion.
Just as she was twirling for the judges the seams on her bodice came undone exposing her lack of a strapless bra. It wasn’t my fault she didn’t have one on it was just a happy accident.
Welllllllll..... happy for me. Needless to say she was disqualified and both girls and guys backed off of Sy. The girls out of fear, and the guys because, well, I guess they enjoyed the strip show.
I’ve never seen so much black eyeliner ruin a perfect spray tan before. It was sweet, and the best part was it couldn’t be traced back to either one of us. Sy was onstage at the time and I didn’t make her dress. I just had access to it when she was having a meltdown about her wig not sticking the way it was supposed to. As soon as she ran out and left that costume unattended I knew exactly what I needed to do.
I didn’t really have a parent. I had a slave driver, jailer, and life draining leech using the alias of my Aunt Dossy. After my parents died all I had was a widowed Aunt that insisted 5 o’clock started at 8am. My father’s family were outsiders, and grandfather was the most unwelcome of them all.
Native Americans were always unwelcome in the ‘unblemished’ town of Leona. My grandfather and his ‘half b*stard’ son more so than most. His business was large and profitable, and the town couldn’t afford to not trade with him.
I hardly remembered him, my father, or my mother. After I was born they were shunned from the community. When I was 8 a fire broke out and they were all trapped inside a factory while I was asleep at home.
I will never forget that night. My father had finished telling me a story, and I was tucked in trying to sleep, but I heard a weird tapping coming from the hall. I knew better than to go out and see who it was. It was probably just the shadow man.
Shadows are.... actually, I don’t really know what they are. Some look human while others look like animals and some looked like a mix of both. Their skin makes it look as if they are made of tar, but their skin is also unstable as wisps of smoke often burst through at random intervals. They have glowing eyes that have no pupils or whites, they just appear as solid orbs of color. Some can talk, and some can’t, and when they do talk it sounds like a shivery whisper in the ear. Basically there are endless possibilities to what they look like and oftentimes they looked terrifying.
This night when I heard the noises I buried my head under the covers. They usually just came into the room and stood there staring. I didn’t like looking at them. It made me feel exposed.
The tapping kept coming closer and closer until it sounded like it was right beside my bed. I felt a long pole-like object poke at me under the covers. I slowly peeked out to see a familiar shadow standing there smiling down at me.
I knew my father could see these things too, and he even had a few he called friends. This one was not one of them. He was a tall man, and he wore a neat three piece suit and shiny black shoes. In his gloved hand he held a goat headed cane which is what he had been using to poke me.
He his entire outfit was black, and his skin, unlike others I had seen, was a smoky grey. Half his face was obscured by a small black fedora with a black feather in it. I couldn’t see much of his face, but what I could see were sharp shark-like teeth poking out of his wicked grinning mouth.
“Good evening little one, how are you this evening?,” his voice was smooth and soft as silk. I stared up at him blankly. Papa said never to answer them. So I didn’t.
“Things are changing for you little one. Did you know that?,” again I didn’t answer, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about what he meant.
He came a little closer, leaning over the bed so his face was extremely close to mine. “Come now little one, don’t you want to know what’s going to happen tonight?,” his grin widened and I scrunched my tiny frame even deeper in the mattress to get away.
“They’re going to die tonight little one. Tomorrow you will wake all alone. With no one to talk to,” I was shaking so hard, but I was frozen in place.
Who was dying? What was going to happen? I wanted so badly to ask but before I could even try he brought a hand up to his face. Taking his gloved middle finger between his mouth gently he pulled off one black leather glove. His hands were dark grey and ashen. There were cracks all over the backs of his hands, like it was trying and failing to contain the shadow within. His nails were pointed and looked like they were made of polished ebony.
He brought his hand close to my forehead slowly, and extended his middle finger slightly so that it touched my forehead. I felt his cold fingertip connect with my skin, but instead of stopping it continued into my forehead to the first joint in his finger.
My whole body tensed and contorted slightly. My back was arched, my arms were straight out, and my eyes rolled up into my skull. It felt like ice what was filling my brain and draining down my neck to the rest of my body. My skin was so cold that it felt like I was burning. The sensation lasted maybe a minute or so until I passed out.
When I woke up and found the house empty I understood what he had said. After that day I couldn’t see the shadows at all. It took years for me to finally see them again, but it wasn’t like before. Now I only saw them in times of danger, or at night when no one else was around. I never saw the shadow man again either. He just dropped that bomb and disappeared from my life.
The worst part was that I had no idea why they had gone out that night. Neither of them had told me they were going someplace, and no one else in Leona cared enough to try and help me figure it out.
Custody went to the only one willing to raise a, in my aunt’s words, ‘tainted failure’. I knew they only did it for my inheritance but it was better than being put in the state’s custody. Ever since I was considered a burden on my Aunt and Uncle.
Until he died of heart failure when I was 12. Then it was my turn to earn money. My Aunt didn’t do sh*t and preferred to live off of the wealth of others. I’m pretty sure that she has a stick shoved so far up her a*s that when she sits it scratches her brain for her. At least then she doesn’t have to put the effort into scratching her head with her hand like a normal person. She thought that since I was her ‘problem’ my inheritance money automatically became hers. Unfortunately for her that money was untouchable until I turned 18. And since I turn 18 in 12 days all I have to do is stay away from anyone connected to Leona and my Aunt will rot in the nothingness she has made of her own life.
I already have an independent bank account that she has no access to. And since my sewing skills were sought after the sum has grown significantly. Oh the prices people will pay to look beautiful. Sure I had to give a little to my Aunt each month. But it was a small amount compared to each commission I made.
Each dress was worth over a thousand and crystals cost extra. The only regret I have is not being there to see Aunt Dossy’s face when she realized the financial sinkhole she has put herself into.
Sy’s family wasn’t much better. Three generations of beauty queens that pumped out babies as soon as they turned 18, some even younger. Sy’s mother was 16 when she was born. All that pressure was always piled onto Sy’s shoulders every time pageant season came around. They’d guilt trip and gaslight her until she starved and practiced until she passed out. I couldn’t protect her from them. Not while we were in no position to leave.
I met Sy the summer I turned 13 she was backstage at a pageant it was the first and only time I was entered as a contestant. Vivian was being a b*tch as usual and it was pissing me off. Then she decided to steal Sy’s makeup bag.
I watched her do it but she denied it. No one would believe me and Sy started crying right before it was time to go onstage. I let her use mine and went to my Aunt’s purse were I knew she was keeping a jar of jalapeños, her favorite snack, and since she was in the bathroom at the time it was all too easy to beat the queen at her own game. I poured a bit of the liquid into a lip gloss I had stolen from Vivian during her last tantrum and pumped the applicator a few times to make sure the juice mixed in with the gloss. Then I took the other glosses out of her bag so she could only use the tainted one. I washed my hands after and joined the others before they went on stage.
Since Viv never applied her own makeup I knew there was no way she wouldn’t go on stage without it on. She took 5 steps onto the stage and started screaming bloody murder. She wobbled around clawing at her lips and screeching at anyone that came close.
It... was.... glorious. No one on stage could contain their laughter and the pageant was effectively cancelled after her parents threatened to sue.
No one knew that it was me, not even Sy, but after that she started talking to me. I guess I was the only one willing. Child pageants are tough competition, you win or you lose and no one wants to lose.
Over time we grew closer and closer until we were inseparable.
That was when we discovered magic. Magic started as a joke between us. A dewy dream we liked retreating into to escape our sh*t show reality. It started with little spells here and there good luck charms or anxiety banishing spells to calm the nerves. It grew into a fantastical magical trust between two sisters that no one else could understand.
We never told anyone about this naturally because the South was ruled by bigots, but we never needed anyone else to feel like what we were doing was right.
Every Sabbath we would go out into the woods and have a coven meeting. Technically you need three to make a coven but I lost my binoculars so I couldn’t search for a f*ck to give. I was Sy’s encouragement and support system and she was the kindhearted optimist that took the edge off my honesty.
Reminiscing on the past is dangerous now that we are fighting to keep it behind us, but remembering is the easiest way to stay awake.
As twilight turned to dusk I sighed in relief. After some time the sun started its lazy ascent into the sky.
That meant one good thing, time for me to crash into the world of dreams. I stopped at a 24hr gas station and parked at the closest pump. Sy was still asleep on my shoulder and I had to gently lean her head back so she could continue sleeping while I got out to pay for the gas.
When I got back I shook her awake.
“Mmmmmmmh,”She mumbled sleepily and I told her it was time to switch.
“Nooooooooooooo five more minutes,” she turned her head further into the seat trying to avoid the brightening sunlight all around us.
“No Sy if I drive anymore I will crash and if I crash and you survive they’ll drag you back without me,” this made her jump up suddenly though her eyes still drooped with sleep.
Once we both had a chance to use the restroom and grab snacks we were back on the road this time with Sy driving and me sleeping like the dead.
I was somewhere unfamiliar, and there was smoke everywhere. I could only see a patch of black and a glowing patch of purple.
My crusty eyes cracked open as I heard the truck door slam shut. I rubbed the dried gunk away and stretched my tired bones out as much as I could.
It was night again and we were once again surrounded by trees. The rest of the road was desolate except for the dimly lit gas station we were currently under.
Wordlessly Sy handed me a drink and a bag of gummy bears, the only sustenance I needed for a long night ahead. I got out to use the bathroom and after that we were once again on the road.
“Do you think we can really pull this off,” Sy said quietly
“Depends” I replied quickly,
“On?,” she quipped, she turned her head towards me with a single eyebrow quirked.
“Our determination to live,” we were silent after that.
I was focusing on the road ahead, while she was lost in her own thoughts trying to nod off.
We drove in that silence for about four more hours in peace.
I’ve set the stage for the sh*t show that has become our lives. Now let’s witness the play will be performed.
I was driving calmly, but something was wrong. The hairs on my neck stood up, and I could feel something was off. I couldn’t tell what that something was. Until I saw something big and brown lying in the middle of the road.