The Scorpion and the Bull

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Chapter 2

It wasn’t her first time to move into a new home. But after living in Houston, moving to a Podunk Texas town was the last thing seventeen-year-old Nova Bright expected after the incident at her former foster home. But the move would be like all the others, she had decided, since her don’t-give-a-shit attitude made the adjustment to each new family a little easier.

She peered out the car window where the morning fog drifted over zombies who haunted the lawns of dead, damp grass and demons crawled from the ground in hopes of spooking any who passed along the broken sidewalk. Skeletons scurried the walls of homes, peeking through cracked windows and festive jack-o-lanterns decorated porches.

“This is your last chance,” said Regina drawing Nova's attention from the ghoulish scene. Regina had been her case worker for the last five years and in those five years she had moved five times. Nova didn’t blame her. She had stayed with her longer than most.

However, she knew how the system worked. One wrong move and it was back to the hell house until they could find another unsuspecting victim ready to change the world by taking in some poor unfortunate orphan.

Nova huffed and laid her head against the cold glass as they drove past the only gas station in town. The cat on her lap stretched a single white paw and repositioned. Nova dug her fingers into the long warm fur and stroked against a purr that calmed the uneasy churn in the pit of her stomach. No matter how many times she moved, it never got easier.

“Well, at least they let me keep you.” The words slipped from under Nova’s breath as the car slowed and turned off the main highway onto a farm and market road. Nova leaned between the cloth seats to look out the windshield of what she found to be the typical mid-sized sedan of most state employees. She watched yellow stripes roll under the car as the thin road stretch ahead.

“I don’t think people live in the middle of nowhere. What is this town called? Boonsville?”

“At least it’ll be harder for you to get into trouble where you’re going,” said Regina. Nova rolled her eyes and sank back into the seat as cedar trees and mesquite rushed past. Black cattle dotted a green field and white tail deer ran along a fence line of rotten cedar staves and rusty barbed wire.

After several boring miles of nothing, the car slowed again and turned onto a dirt road that wound through overgrown brush before reaching a dead end. There was no way people lived in this godforsaken land. All it was good for was mice and snakes.

“Where’s the house? In the middle of a treeless field?” asked Nova. “It is over this hill and don’t worry, the Anderson’s are a nice couple.” Regina slowed the car as it inched to the top of a clearing. Nova stretched to look out the windshield, as a white single-story house came into view. Transplanted trees circled the old house of wood and tin, but no ghouls adorned the yard.

“Great,” Nova muttered. At least it will be easy to sneak out. A damp salty breeze met her as she set black laced up boots onto the ground. Nova hated the way her skin felt from the ocean wind—moist and sticky. It was the same gross feeling she suffered living near the Houston Bay. She looked over the landscape of spiny hack berry brush.

“Yeah, snakes and mice, for sure,” she said picking up her cat and bag containing everything she owned along with her most prized possession, an old, tattered book titled Jane Eyre.

A short, round, rosy cheeked woman and a teenage girl stood on the front porch. The woman seemed cheerful like a storybook Santa whose belly jiggled when she laughed. The expression on the girls face said she’d rather be anywhere but meeting some stranger that was about to invade her home. At their feet, a big lazy hound lay uninterested in anything but how long he could lay there without being interrupted from his slumber. Regina opened the gate to the yard, Nova followed, watching the sandy stone path.

“Hello,” said the woman stepping down creaking planks. Nova stood silent as the middle-aged woman let her eyes roll from Nova's feet inspecting every inch of clothing until finally meeting her with a wondering smile.

“Thank you for taking her, Mrs. Anderson,” said Regina. The woman turned her attention from Nova. “Please call me Helen, everyone does.” “Okay, Helen. I’ll tell you right off, Nova can be challenging, but she’s really a good girl at heart. She just needs someone to give her a chance.”

Here we go, the same sad introduction every time she met a new family. She’s sweet, a good girl, has a kind heart, just a little troubled, blah, blah, blah. They have no idea what lives inside my head. She knew she was a weirdo. She'd resigned herself to that fact the first day she saw a therapist.

Nova looked to the girl dressed in shorts and oversized sweatshirt. The girl lifted a pink and gray tennis shoe crunching a black bug. There was a twinkle of satisfaction in her face as her foot twisted smearing yellow bug guts from her shoe.

“I’m sure she’ll do fine. All the girl needs is love,” said Helen. “Anyway, there is not much around here to tempt a young lady.” Helen faced Nova, the red hound followed. The corner of the woman’s lip raised in disapproval as she studied the cat. Nova's mouth opened in defense when the cat arched, hissing at the dog. The hound gave a warning growl then satisfied he'd made his point, returned to his place on the porch.

“Don't worry about them. They'll be friends in no time,” said Helen who turned to where the girl leaned against a column. “Come along Sam, meet Nova.” The girl threw her head back leaving the porch and stomped a defiant foot next to Helen. Her hair was buzzed from the sides leaving the top with a lock of chocolate hair that she combed neatly to one side. A small, tattooed daisy peeked from behind one ear showing her girlishness. Helen nudged her shoulder prompting her words.

“Hi, I’m Sam.”

Nova followed Sam’s brown eyes as they moved to her chest. Nova lifted her hand curling her fingers around the polished stone she wore. Sam met Nova’s gaze and smiled. Nova huffed and dismissed the new girl’s reluctant greeting. Any way curiosity had gotten the best of Nova so, she decided not to hold back and let the words utter from her mouth.

“Why don’t you have decorations?” Nova asked, not caring about her snarky tone.

“Nova!” Regina scolded.

“It is fine dear,” Helen interrupted. “We see no reason to decorate the yard for Halloween or any season for that matter. We are so far from town and it’s so much work. We do put up a tree for Christmas.” Sam gave a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes proving her suspicions.

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