*** POV - Melaena Blackburn - age 6 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.
I struggle to get my helmet over my 2 blond ponytails, but manage eventually, strapping it under my chin, I quickly peddle my bike down the street to where the rest of my preschool class is waiting. We’re not really going to the park, but to investigate the haunted house at the start of the wood and I just know that my bloody family would for certain kill me if they ever find out about this.
The building previously belonged to some or other rich dude, but it’s been deserted for years. According to legend, the whole family disappeared overnight into thin air, never to be heard from again. Rumors have it that they were taken by the devil himself and now 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 and there’s no backing out.
Jason Steward, the class bully, dared the whole class 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 till we graduate for sure. Yeah, I know that’s a long way off, but I for one am not going through the rest of my educational experience with a coward stamp on my back, no sirree.
I look to my left meeting Kiara’s grey eyes as she rides alongside me and I know that she’s got my back and vice-versa. After all, it’s not our first outing together – we’ve been friends since the first day of kindergarten and since then landed in more trouble than I can count on my fingers. Then Jason drops his bike and walks up to the rusty gate. It makes a loud shrieking noise, leaving a trail of goosebumps on my skin – I’m not scared, it’s just freaking eerie.
Kiara hangs her helmet onto her steering bar and we walk up the overgrown pathway. The grass is almost as high as our shoulders, but then again, neither I nor Kiara is that big. We might just be the smallest in our class. Axel, a classmate, pushes open the wooden door and I notice some nasty purple-blue bruises on his wrist when the sleeve of his oversized hoody pulls up slightly. He’s always wearing a hoody as if he’s some kind of spy, the mysterious kid hiding in a corner, not talking to anybody, and always getting into fights. But I think he’s a vampire, wearing those hoodies as not to sparkle in the sun or burn to ash … whichever one is real.
The door is quite impressive 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 and I trace my finger over the slimy, spongy surface, covered by moss and other fungi before I step into a dimly lit room.
My sneakers stick on the muggy floor tiles as I slowly move deeper into the room. My eyes follow a giant curved staircase up to the next floor and then my gaze moves up to the ceiling where an old chandelier clings in the light breeze coming from the open door. This must have been one heck of a house in its prime and suddenly I wonder what really happened here.
Jason shuffles a little forward, but I notice that his face seems paler than his usual faded complexion, no dump that, he seems bleached white. Could it be that Jason is a pissy-pants? I bump Kiara with my elbow, gesturing in the direction of Jason, and a small smile creeps across her face. She takes out her phone and starts filming Jason with a sly expression. Hell, we’ve learned that with Jason you have to shoot low, just in case you need backup. She hates him just as much as me, cause he tries to ruin our lives around every nook and corner. Then within one second, all hell breaks loose.
Jason steps on a loose tile – aka a pressure plate - and almost immediately a sharp pain shoots through my arm. I look down and see an arrow pierced right through my upper ligament. It looks kind of like a fake Halloween accessory and I stare at it, 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 Kiara (still filming) out of his way and she falls down a gap where the floor caved in. I run to the edge and peep over the side, my one hand clamping my arm to try and control the pain, for some weird reason it’s not bleeding much.
I can make out her body lying a few meters below me in the dark. “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, and the image of me yanking all Jason’s hair out fuels my cruel mind. “Just hang on, I’ll get the others to come help get you out.” But before I can even move a bone-piercing growl shakes 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.
Then I feel a small hand on my shoulder. “SHIP!” I jump with fright but at least remembers 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 that belongs to an annoying-looking boy, covered in dirt. He gives me a big toothless grin and for some reason, I feel 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 hole and drops the one end of the vine down to Kiara. She grabs on, twisting her arms around the vine. I try to help him pull her up.
“Can you just sit on your but and keep your arm still, little girl.” He orders me, pushing me back. Oh no, he didn’t.
“You can’t tell me what to do, nitwit,” I yell at him but he just keeps on looking at me as if he’s going to suck out my blood. Maybe he’s a vampire too. 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 will know a vampire when I see one. But vampire or not, this guy is scary. I give a 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, but something in this boy’s eyes tells me to back the hell up.
Axel comes back with another vein, but it also breaks. Then the strange boy with messy black hair, who’s not in my class, by the way, jumps into the hole and pushes Kiara up while Axel pulls from the top. Then he climbs out as if he’s some kind of strong demon ninja. Maybe he’s the demon watching over the house. You know, I’ve read somewhere that demons have strange eyes, and this boy’s gaze is anything but normal.
“Thanks” Kiara smiles at him and then we hear some strange sounds coming from somewhere upstairs. “I think we better go.” Axel helps Kiara onto his back, while green-eyes puts an arm around my shoulders and we move quickly to the entrance. As we leave through the mossy door, I look back and 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 is not as scary as I thought him to be, but he sure is ugly.
I phone my brothers to come and get us, knowing they’ll make a plan, even if it’s just to see me getting into trouble. Kiara’s ankle is already swollen and her foot is twisted in an unnatural position. We keep talking and laughing about Jason running away like a little screaming baby girl. Green-eyes puts his biker-type jacket with a huge number 13 on the back, over my shoulders when I start to shiver from shock and pain.
“That’s gonna leave a mark, that’s for sure,” Kiara says, looking at my arm.
“Sniff pixie dust and soar!” The boy whispers softly in my ear, wiping the tears from my cheek with his hand.
Okay … now I’m sure he’s not square in his head. Not even kids my age says stuff like that. And what does it mean anyway? Peter Pan crap or something.
Then the boy without a name disappears like a ghost between the trees, looking back at me one last time, giving me a small wave and a big smile. Why does it feel as if he took some part of me with him? Ug, now I’m going crazy it seems.
Then I see my father’s pickup approaching us slowly, Ilkay behind the steering wheel and Logan next to him, the twins standing at the back. My oldest brother might be only 11, but he drives better than mom does. They help us into the cab, load our bikes onto the rear bed, and soon we reach the hospital and push past the swinging glass doors.
A middle-aged nurse walks up to us, her round hips swinging with every step. Her face turns into a worried frown when she recognizes us.
“Mel, what happened?” She helps Ilkay to put Kiara in a wheelchair and immediately takes us to a consulting room. Before I can answer, an elderly doctor with grey hair and spectacles enters the room, his eyes fixed on the chart in his hands. My 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 how the grownups in my life are going to go bonkers. Mom is going to strip her top for sure. 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 SIX, not a baby.
“Hi, I’m doctor Barney.” He greets and then his eyes move up and land on me and then the rest of my family. “Oh, it’s you bunch again,” 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, trying to hide a smile.
“Uh … we had a little accident.”
“Again?” He rolls his eyes, now smiling openly. Yep, my family is regulars here in the ER. At least once a month, one of us gets into the kind of trouble that ends up here. “Ah, let me guess, the haunted house?” Damn, how did he know! Kiara starts to babble, telling him every tiny detail and then I join in, due to stress or pain or I don’t know what … Nurse Betty just smiles as my mom would smile if she was here, but mom had to accompany dad to an important function in New York for business, so Uncle John, my father’s brother, is looking after us.
After a few minutes of me and Kiara chirping like little sparrows, Doc Barney holds up his hands begging us to just calm down for a moment. He’s already pulled out the arrow and stitched up the wound. Now his attention moves to Kiara’s leg. Axel is still sitting on the chair in the corner, not saying a word and my brothers went to wait in the waiting area.
“Ok, little pumpkin, I need you to hold you’re friend’s hand, and then you both count out loud to a hundred for me.” Kiara pulls the same confused face as me, but with a shrug off my shoulders, I take her hand and look down at her and then we start counting. Before we even get to five, Doc Barney pulls on her shoe and removes it with a swift movement. Kiara lets out a painful cry and I see tears forming in those grey eyes.
“Pumpkin, we’ll need to put this leg back in position under anesthesia. I’ll give you something for the pain, but we’ll need to wait for consent on the documentation.” Kiara looks at me, eyes wide, and I know what she’s thinking. Her mom is an alcoholic druggy and her dad is in jail, so Uncle John, being her father’s best friend, took custody of her at the request of her dad, and takes care of her as if she’s his own daughter. So if she needs consent, it means that they have to phone Uncle John, and that probably means 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 them 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 families 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?” I pout my lips and give him my best puppy-dog eyes I can master. Nurse Betty comes back into the room. “Pretty please, Doc, you know my family. We’ll get grounded until we’re 30 and over the wall. And we’ll die as crazy cat ladies, and it will haunt you forever.”
He smiles at me lovingly and shakes his head while nurse Betty lets out a giggle-burb. Kiara looks at me with pity in her eyes. We know what’s coming, Uncle John can be strict, but at least we’re together in this and that’s the only plus point in this situation.
We wait in silence and I know the exact moment my uncle enters the ER. He growls with a deep voice, demanding to know where we are, and my brothers are talking all at once (one of their strategies to get away with murder) blaming each other, each one using his own charming persuasion skills to get the least punishment possible.
So 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 arm and then at Kiara’s foot, shaking his blond-grey head, his eyes are worried. Jackson has no emotion on his face, Ilkay has a disapproving frown, while Enrique and Logan, look at us mischievously as if they’re glad the focus moved away from them.
A quick intro to my family situation. Ilkay is the oldest, the thinker who never seems to do anything wrong, EVER, until one of his siblings needs saving. Then there are the twins, Enrique and Jackson. And they’re like the opposite of two peas in a pod. Enrique is the crazy cocky one, always in trouble, but with a way of talking himself out of every situation, whereas Jackson is more of the mysterious hero type. But just to complicate things, Enrique is a lot more serious than the laid-back Jackson.
Logan is the little drama queen with the quick temper and lastly, there’s me, the little angel in disguise like mom would say.
Dad is almost always away on business trips, and this time mom joined him, leaving us in the care of our uncle.
Uncle John is standing in the hallway talking to Doc Barney and another doctor. He looks vaguely familiar, with dark hair and a strong face, actually a very pretty dad-age man.
They’re looking over at Kiara and I know that they’re talking about her operation. I feel cold and put on the number 13 jacket again. The boy forgot to take it back. The handsome doctor pierces me with ice-blue eyes that shine like diamonds. He looks confused, a frown forming on his face. I think he doesn’t like this jacket very much.
The three men walk into the room, the doctor still giving me the eye, so I swallow down some spit and give him my warmest angelic smile back. He winks at me, and I take a deep breath. Thank goodness. For a moment I thought he was mad about something. Then Axel gets up and walks over to my uncle holding out his hand. “Hi, I’m Axel Grey.” He pulls the sleeve of his hoody down to cover the marks on his arm.
I smile when my brothers’ attention shifts from teasing us girls to Axel. My brothers tend to treat Kiara as just another annoying sister and they don’t like any boys in a radius closer than 5 meters from us. “Axel saved us!” I mutter, hoping they will not be too hard on him. Maybe if they talk to him they will forget about me. But I know by now that’s highly unlikely. My brothers will not let our parents forget anything about this incident for the next few weeks – well, my part of the incident at least. So when mom gets back, the whole situation will repeat itself all over again.
Jackson greets Axel, thanking him for his bravery and then they start talking about stupid boring boy stuff like bikes and cars. Axel tells them how Jason ran away screaming like a little coward and they laugh until they have tears in their eyes.
“So where did you get the jacket?” The blue-eyed doctor asks softly, his eyes warm now. But his question brings back my brothers’ unwanted attention to me again.
“Some boy helped us out and he gave it to me cause it was cold. I forgot to give it back.” He nods his head as if he gets it, and I decide that I really like this friendly doctor. Doc Barney enters the room again 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 ok 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.” I watch as the friendly doctor gets into the lift with my best friend, a cocky but warm grin on his face.
“You guys hungry?” Uncle John asks looking at me and then at Axel.
“I thought you’ll never ask.” Enrique is always hungry, just like me, and he starts walking out taking Axel by the arm, leading him in the direction of the cafeteria.
“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.”
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 for life. Come to think of it, we actually were grounded already and slipped out, so now we’re going to be double grounded for life. Life is so unfair, especially when you’re only 6.