The start of this story
This is Book 1 of the San Francisco Boys series:
One city. Two families. Eight broken boys. Eight stories of love. Sixteen different fates.
All linked to the same destiny. And no matter what – they will always stand together.
Date = 1 March (10 years ago)
Place = San Francisco (Haunted house)
POV - Melaena
(Melaena Blackburn - 9 years old)
“Ilkay, I’m going to the park with some friends!” I shout to my brother as I close the front door, not waiting for his response. He’s busy studying like usual and probably won’t even hear me.
My two blond ponytails make it difficult to fit my helmet on my head, but I manage eventually, strapping it under my chin. I fast-pedal my bike down the street to where the rest of my grade 4 class is waiting. We’re not actually heading for the park, but to investigate the haunted house near Big Basin and I just know that if my bloody family ever found out, they would kill me for sure – hence the lie.
The building previously belonged to some or other rich dude, but it’s been deserted for years. According to legend, the entire family vanished overnight into thin air, never to be heard from again. Rumors spread that they were abducted by the devil himself! And if that’s not enough – a demon guards the place - ripping anyone who dares to trespass on the property into shreds. Well, that’s where we’re heading right now – under pressure might I add - and there’s no backing out.
Why? Because of Jason Steward, the stupid class bully who dared us all to go investigate the place with him. Anybody that chickens out will be labeled as a namby-pamby, and knowing Jason, he’ll make it stick until we graduate - for sure. Yeah, graduation for us may be a long way off, but I - Melaena Blackburn - for one, am not going through the rest of my educational experience with a stamp on my back, no sirree. I’d rather get killed by that demon thing then.
I look to my left meeting Kiara’s dark eyes as she peddles alongside me - I know that she’s got my back and vice-versa. After all, it’s not our first outing together – we’ve been buddies since the first day of kindergarten. And since then, following in the footsteps of my hyperactive brothers (or at least trying to), we’ve gotten into more scrapes than I can count on my fingers. Jason casually drops his bike and walks up to the rusty gate, pushing it open. The loud shrieking noise leaves a trail of goosebumps on my skin. I’m not scared! It’s just freaking eerie – as if predicting something bad is going to happen. And suddenly I hear my father’s voice in my head – ‘Don’t worry, our family burns the black’. Ug, it’s such a cheesy saying of his … but then again … he has more than enough of those lame dad jokes to go around. Not even mom finds them funny, but it doesn’t discourage him at all.
Like me, Kiara hangs her helmet onto her steering bar and we walk down the overgrown pathway - the grass almost as high as our shoulders. A classmate, Axel, pushes against the wooden door - it takes a little effort to open the door since it’s stuck, probably from being abandoned for years. The sleeve of his oversized hoody pulls up just enough for me to notice some nasty purple-blue bruises on his wrist. He’s always wearing big hoodies as if he’s hiding something - the mysterious kid hiding in a corner, not talking to anybody, and always getting into fights. However, my personal opinion is that he’s a vampire who dons such tops to avoid sparking in the sun or burning to ash … whichever one is real. And if you look into his eyes … boy … you would definitely agree with me – they are not normal. Both Edward and the Salvatores can hop on the boring bus compared to this boy’s beauty.
The door is quite impressive, and even though the wood is cracked and weathered by exposure, I can make out the shape of a rearing horse carved in the rotten wood. I trace my finger over the slimy, spongy surface, covered by moss and other fungi before I step into a dimly lit room.
The soles of my sneakers stick on the muggy floor tiles as I carefully move deeper into the house, making an unsettling squicking sound. My gaze follows a wide curved staircase to the upper level and the ceiling where an antique chandelier clings to the light breeze now blowing through the open door. In its prime, this must have been one heck of a house, which makes me wonder what actually happened here. I’ll have to ask Ilkay when I get home … he would probably know since he knows everything.
Jason shuffles a little forward, pushing Axel in front of him, and I observe that his face seems paler than his usual faded complexion; no dump that, he is bleached white. Could it be that Jason is a pissy-pants? As I bump Kiara with my elbow, gesturing in the direction of Jason, a slight smile creeps across her peanut-butter-colored face. She takes out her phone and starts filming Jason with a sly expression. Hell, with Jason, we’ve learned that you have to shoot low, just in case you need backup. She hates him just as much as I do, if not a little more. But who won’t … he tries to ruin our lives around every nook and corner.
CLICK! and then within one second, all hell breaks loose! Jason stepped on a loose tile – aka a pressure plate - and almost immediately a sharp pain shoots through my arm. Biting on my lip I glance down, noticing the tip of an arrow protruding from my bicep on the right. It pierced right through my upper ligament, looking kind of like a fake Halloween accessory. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s real or just a prank when somebody lets out a high-pitched yell, sending poor little Jason running for the door. In his rush, he shoves a still-filming Kiara out of his way, causing her to tumble into a gap where the floor collapsed. I dash to the edge and peep over the side, my one hand clamping my arm to try and control the pain; for some weird reason, there isn’t much bleeding.
I make out her body lying at the bottom of the hole … it’s not major deep, but there’s no way she’s going to climb out of there by herself, nor will I reach her with my short arms.
“Kiara, are you ok?” I shout, cursing Jason in my mind, already thinking of ways to get him back.
“Yes, only my ankle. I think it might be broken,” she sniffs and I know she’s crying. The image of me yanking all of Jason’s hair out fuels my wicked imagination.
“Just hang on, I’ll get the others to come help get you out.” But before I can even move, the bone-piercing sound of shotgun fire trembles through the house, swinging the chandelier fiercely from side to side. The rest of the class follows Jason pushing and shuffling to get out first.
“Yellow bellies!” I shout at them, while my mind is working overtime, trying to think how the hell I’m going to pull Kiara up all by myself, with only one arm. Maybe the angry demon can help me … if he’s not too busy ripping me apart.
(Damion - 11 years old)
A hand lands on my shoulder. “SHIP!” I shriek in terror and almost jump into the hole with my friend - but at least I remembered that according to my mother a lady doesn’t swear. So shit gets transformed into a more feminine version instead. I look up to see a pair of apple-green eyes, belonging to a boy with obnoxious features, covered in dirt. And he’s even prettier than Axel … his eyes a color I’ve never seen before. This boy is for sure not in my class … so where did he come from all of a sudden? He flashes me a broad pearly tooth grin, and for some reason, I feel both calm and anxious at the same time. Weird.
“I’ll try and pull her up with this.” He walks up to the edge of the opening and drops one end of a vine down to Kiara. She grabs on, twisting her arms around the vine. I, clumsily with one hand, try to help. The vine breaks and I fall back onto my butt.
“Can you just sit there and keep your arm still, little girl.” He orders me, pushing me down when I try to get up. Oh no, he didn’t!
“You can’t tell me what to do, nitwit,” I yell at him but he just keeps on staring at me as if he’s going to suck out my blood. Maybe he’s a vampire too. He for sure has the hypnotizing eyes… Nope, his skin is not pale enough and he doesn’t sparkle in the few rays of sunlight shining through the windows. I’ve seen Twilight and TVD and will know a vampire when I see one … I think. But bloodsucker or not, this guy is giving me the chills, so I step back and swallow. Usually, I don’t let the opposite sex shunt me around; having 4 older brothers I’ve learned to stand my ground … firmly … but something in this boy’s stare tells me to do as he says.
Axel appears with another vine, but it also breaks. Then the strange boy with messy black hair swears and jumps into the hole. He pushes Kiara up while Axel pulls her out from the top. And like some strong demon ninja, Green-eyes emerges - as if he climbs out of holes all of the time. Maybe he’s not a vampire … but the demon watching over the house. You know, I’ve read somewhere that demons have peculiar eyes, and this boy’s gaze is anything but ordinary.
“Thanks” Kiara smiles at the two boys and the dudes proudly high-five each other with smock faces. Ug, boys … they’re all the freaking same!
Some strange sounds are coming from upstairs. “I think we better go.” Axel helps Kiara onto his back, while Green-eyes wraps an arm around my shoulders and we rapidly make our way to the entrance. As we leave through the mossy door, I look back to see a man standing at the top of the stairs, sparkling eyes shining in his hideous beastlike mess of a face. I swear he’s looking right through me. The demon guard! He pumps his shotgun and fires into the air, and the boy grabs my hand and starts running, pulling me with him.
As soon as we reach safety, I phone my brothers to come and get us – it’s either that or calling Uncle John … and at least I know my stupid brothers will come up with a plan that won’t include the grownups knowing - even if it’s just to use it later to blackmail me. Kiara’s ankle is already swollen and twisted in an unnatural position. She’s in a lot of pain so I joke about Jason running away like a little screaming baby girl, trying to keep her mind from the discomfort. We laugh while looking at the video on Kiara’s phone. But I’m not exactly in a good mood … my brothers won’t let me off lightly; neither will my uncle or my parents when they find out, and suddenly I start to shiver … either from pain and shock or anticipation … who knows? Green-eyes takes off his biker-type leather jacket, with a huge number 13 on the back, and drapes it over my shoulders.
“That’s gonna leave a mark, that’s for sure,” Kiara comments, looking at my arm and I feel warm tears rolling down my cheeks.
“Sniff pixie dust and soar,” the boy whispers quietly in my ear, wiping the tears from my face with his hand.
Okay … now I’m sure he’s not square in his head. Not even kids my age say stuff like that, and I predict him to be in middle school already. And what does it mean anyway? Some Peter Pan crap or something.
He laughs at my expression and taps my forehead with his index finger.
“A very special girl always told me this when I was down … and it works, trust me … ” he turns and walks away without saying goodbye. Before the boy with no name disappears like a ghost between the trees, he looks back at me one last time, giving me a final small wave and a big smile that causes dimples to appear on his cheeks. Why am I feeling sad? As if he took some part of me with him? Ug, seems like the cold and pain are driving me crazy.
And why do I suddenly feel less down? Could it be the pixie dust? Maybe it really works.
My father’s pickup slowly approaches us, Ilkay behind the steering wheel and Logan next to him; the twins standing at the back. Even though my genius oldest brother is only 15, he drives better than mom does. They help us into the cab, load our bikes onto the rear bed, and don’t talk too much … but it’s just a front - I know it’s coming … sooner or later it’s coming. We drive off and soon reach the hospital, pushing past the swinging glass doors.
A middle-aged nurse walks up to us, her round hips swinging with every step. When she recognizes us, her face turns into a worried frown.
“Mel, what happened?” She helps Ilkay to put Kiara in a wheelchair and immediately whisks us to a consulting room. Before I can answer her fully, an elderly doctor with grey hair and spectacles enters the room, his eyes fixed on the chart in his hands. My pounding heart drops into my shoes.
It’s doctor Barney! He’s like best friends with Uncle John, so I’m not getting away this time, that’s for sure. I can already imagine the adults in my life going bonkers. Mom is going to have kittens, dad will blow a fuse, and my uncle will flip his lid. Don’t get me wrong, I love them dearly, BUT they can be a tad bit overprotective when it comes to me. They treat me like a child and I’m NINE, not a baby.
“Hi, I’m doctor Barney,” he greets, and then his eyes move up; land on me and then the rest of my family.
“Oh, it’s you bunch,” he sighs almost sounding disappointed, “and what the heck did you get into this time?” He shakes his head a little, rubbing his chin with one hand while trying to hide a smile.
“Uh … we had a little accident.”
“Again?” He rolls his eyes, now beaming openly. Yep, my family is regularly here in the ER, since we frequently get into the kind of trouble that ends up here. “This is not something you see every day,” he gushes, turning my arm slightly to take a look. “Where the heck did you get shot with an arrow?” Damn, how do I explain this without getting into too much trouble?
Still thinking, Kiara jumps the gun and due to tension, pain, or something else entirely … who knows … she begins to ramble, telling him every tiny detail. Well, the cat is out of the bag, so I join in. Nurse Betty simply smiles warmly, as my mom would if she was here, but since she had to accompany dad to an important function in New York for business, Uncle John, my father’s brother, is looking after us.
After a few minutes of us chirping like little sparrows, each in our own high-pitched tone, Doc Barney holds up his hands, begging us to calm down. He’s already removed the arrow and stitched up the wound. His focus is now on Kiara’s leg. My brothers decided to wait in the waiting area, while Axel silently remains seated on the chair in the corner.
“Ok, little pumpkin, hold your friend’s hand for me, and count together to ten.” Kiara pulls the same confused face as me, but with a shrug off my shoulders, I take her hand and look down at her pretty caramel face, before we start counting. Hell, we didn’t even get to five, when Doc Barney removes her shoe with a swift movement. She lets out a painful cry and I see tears forming in those brown eyes.
“Pumpkin, we’ll need to reposition this leg under anesthesia. I’ll give you something for the pain, but we’ll need to wait for consent on the documentation.”
Kiara gives me a wide-eyed look, and I know what she’s thinking. They’re going to call uncle John! See, Kiara’s mom is an alcoholic druggy and her dad is in jail … so, as a result, her father requested his closest friend, Uncle John, to take custody of her, and he’s been raising her as his own daughter since she was five. So if she needs consent, it means that they have to phone Uncle John, and that likely spells the end of our lives as we know it.
“If you guys can wait for a few minutes, I’ll be back soon. I have a few phone calls to make.” Nurse Betty looks at us with a stern but loving face. I cringe, knowing what’s waiting for me. “Can’t we rely on doctor-patient confidentiality? I mean, you don’t have to tell him all the details, right?” I ask softly and the doctor bursts out laughing.
“Sorry Mel, but you’re still underaged, so I have to tell your uncle EVERY SINGLE DETAIL,” he drags out the last words on purpose, still laughing.
“I know, but maybe you can leave out the part about the haunted house and just say we got hurt on the playground or something?” I pout my lips and give him the best puppy-dog eyes I can master. Nurse Betty comes back into the room and hands Kiara some pills.
“Pretty please, Doc, you know our family. We’ll get grounded until we’re 30 and over the wall. And we’ll die as crazy cat ladies, haunting you forever.”
He smiles at me lovingly and shakes his head, a twinkle in his eyes, while nurse Betty lets out a giggle-burb. Kiara eyes me with pity in her eyes. We both know what’s coming, Uncle John is going to combust and burn us in his raid. But at least we’re together in this and that’s the only plus point right now.
We wait in silence and I can precisely pinpoint the exact moment my uncle enters the ER. He growls with a deep voice, demanding to know where we are. My simpleton brothers first blame each other and then me - arguing all at once in an effort to receive the least amount of punishment possible. It’s one of their strategies to get away with murder – and they usually succeed – unlike us girls.
Thus, I hold my breath until they walk, or rather, STORM into the room.
“Girls, what have you done now?” Uncle John is the first one to speak, looking bewildered at my bandaged arm and then at Kiara’s foot. He shakes his blond-grey head, his eyes worried. Jackson has no emotion on his face, Ilkay frowns with disapproval, while Enrique and Logan are amused, glad the attention has been diverted to us. With my idiotic siblings, you never know which way the cookie is going to crumble … they’ll either throw me under the bus to protect their own skins OR they would fiercely defend me to the ends of their lives.
A quick intro to my family situation – the oldest and wisest, Ilkay never seems to do anything wrong – EVER - until one of us needs saving, in which case he’ll move heaven and earth to rescue us. Enrique and Jackson, the twins, in addition, are the opposite of two peas in a pod. Enrique is the obnoxious, confident one who manages to talk himself out of every jam, whereas Jackson is more of a non-caring, mysterious hero type that goes out of his way to look for trouble. And just to complicate things, the young Logan is a little drama queen with a short fuse … and lastly, there’s me, an ADHD impulsive little angel of trouble – according to mom.
Dad usually travels for work – I’m not sure what that work is exactly … but sometimes mom accompanies him, leaving us in the care of our uncle. The uncle now standing in the hallway talking to Doc Barney and another doctor. The doctor with the dark messy hair looks vaguely familiar, but I’m sure I’ve never met him before – he has a look you won’t easily forget – a very handsome dad-aged man.
They’re looking over at Kiara and I can tell it’s about her upcoming operation. A shiver runs down my spine and I pull the number 13 jacket tighter around my fragile body. The boy neglected to take it back, and right now I’m thankful for the warmth it provides. I look at the logo running down the right sleeve … a strange green M and the words Monster Energy. On the other sleeve is some sort of skull with wings with the word ‘Grimm’ in white. There are also a few smaller patches with different logos on the front of the jacket. It’s actually a very cool piece of clothing.
I look up, straight into the handsome doctor’s piercing ocean-blue eyes. He looks confused, a frown between his brows. Maybe I look funny in the oversized jacket … or he might be superstitious about the unlucky number on the back … or maybe he thinks we were stupid to go to the haunted house …
The three men stroll towards us, the doctor still giving me the eye, so I swallow down some spit and offer him my warmest angelic smile back. He winks at me, and I take a deep breath. Thank goodness … for a moment I thought he is some kind of grinch or something. And I would not want a grumpy doctor to operate on my friend.
For the first time, Axel moves from the chair and walks over to my uncle holding out his hand. “Hi, sir, I’m Axel Grey.” He pulls the sleeve of his hoody down, probably to hide the marks on his arms. Something about him reminds me of Jackson – my brother also bears marks on his body all the time that he tries to hide. Maybe Axel likes looking for trouble like my crazy sibling. I roll my eyes.
My brothers’ attention shifts to Axel as if they only notice his presence now for the first time. It’s not as if he came with us and been here the whole time … stupid brothers. But it’s what they do … they will intimidate and even threaten any boy that dares to come in a radius closer than 5 meters from their poor unfortunate little sisters (to them Kiara is just another annoying sister).
“Axel saved us!” I mutter, hoping they will not be too harsh on him. But then again, maybe if they focus on him they will forget about me - although that’s highly unlikely. My brothers will not let our parents forget anything about this episode for the next few weeks. So when mom returns, the whole situation will repeat itself … I will be the naïve little girl that disobeyed the rules and they would act like heroes that saved me … and I would probably be grounded all over again.
Unexpectedly, Jackson puts his arm around Axel as if he found a new best friend – something out of the ordinary for the crazy twin - and they start talking about boring cliche boy stuff like bikes and cars. And when Axel describes how Jason fled while screaming like a little coward, they all laugh so hard that tears begin to form in their eyes.
“So where did you get the jacket?” the doctor with the soft blue eyes asks inquisitively. But his question brings the undesired attention of my whole family back to me once more.
“Eh … there was this boy,” I start.
“A very handsome boy!” Kiara interrupts and I give her the evil eye, telling her to shut the hell up.
“He helped us and then gave his jacket to me cause I was cold. I forgot to give it back,” I continue again, hoping that my brothers would not say anything about this. The doctor nods his head, a teasing grin on his face – with dimples that remind me a little of Green-eyes. He ruffles my hair and I decide that I actually like this blue-eyed doctor.
Once more, Doc Barney enters the room and explains that Uncle John signed consent for Kiara so she’s good to go. Kiara lets out a soft sigh, thanking him with a sad face. I hug my best friend, telling her that everything will be fine. And that we’ll be waiting for her when she gets out - before Nurse Betty pushes her off to the elevators asking what color plaster she would like.
“Don’t worry pumpkin, Dr. Grimm is the best trauma surgeon in the country. He’ll fix her up.”
Grimm? I look at the writing on the sleeve of the jacket again and then watch as the friendly doctor gets into the lift with my best friend, a cocky but warm smile on his face. Is it a coincidence? Was it the reason he asked about the jacket? I stand there watching the doors close, wondering why life always seems to give us the short straw. It’s as if we’re cursed or something.
“You guys hungry?” Uncle John asks looking at me and then at Axel.
“I thought you’ll never ask,” Enrique answers as if our uncle was talking to him, and he grabs Axel by the arm, leading him in the direction of the cafeteria. That brother is always hungry … well, come to think of it, they all are. They eat all the time.
“It’s a wonder you kids don’t look like a bloat of hippos with all the food you stuff down your throats.” Uncle John smirks falling in behind them, pulling me with him. “And don’t think for one moment I forgot about what you did, young lady.” My brothers laugh out loud, punching each other playfully … probably delighted by my misfortune.
“Or that you guys stole the pickup AND drove it illegally!” our uncle shuts them up immediately.
I let out a deep, hard, long sigh and look at Axel, giving him a faint smile. Kiara and I are going to be grounded probably until we’ve finished school. Come to think of it, we actually were grounded already and slipped out, so now we’re going to be double … or is it triple grounded? Life is so unfair, especially when you’re only 9.