Chapter One

Happy Birthday!

Dawn emerged from the frigid night onto the sleepy mountain city of Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. The sun slowly rose, bathing the sleeping city in fire and chasing wisps of fog and low-lying clouds away as it crept from behind the horizon, reaching eternally for the moon.

A small, ginger tabby cat sleeping on a low brick fence blinked as the sunlight penetrated his eyelids, and he watched the rising sun sleepily for a few moments before yawning. He stretched, extending his forelegs in front of him as his back arched, before standing and staring at the sun once more. He regarded the large star with disdain for a moment before lightly jumping from the wall and padding his way into the small house behind him.

The interior of the house was dark, the blinds across the windows blocking most of the light as they tried to keep the heat in. Orange stripes slowly drifted across the off-white walls, following the suns trajectory as the cat slunk through the house, keeping a sharp ear out for the inhabitants. He continued halfway down the hall, and squeezed through the gap between a partially open door and the wall, into a room with two individuals.

The individuals were two human girls, April-Fay and Evelyn, and both sprawled out on their respective beds as they slept, thick duvets protecting them from the chilly winter morning. The room was slightly messy, with the lived in look of two barely adults sharing the one room.

A strange bunk bed took up the wall to the right of the door, with the bottom bunk jutting out from underneath the other at a right angle and into the centre of the room. Across from the beds, barely a foot from the end of the bottom bunk, a pair of old armoires leant up against the wall, the gold tinted wood faded from years of use. Books and clothes littered the floor in various stages of use, from half read and dirty to brand new and clean. Directly across from the door was a window, dark blue curtains drawn, blocking out the last vestiges of the night. The only source of light came from the red numbers of a digital alarm clock sitting a small side table beside the lower bunk.

The feline picked his way across the floor, careful not to disturb anything that could potentially move or make a noise, and paused beside the lower bunk, before leaping onto the bed. He stopped to study the sleeping girl who was almost completely hidden by the large blanket, and pawed at her thigh.

April-Fay twitched slightly, but gave no other indication of acknowledging his presence. He pawed at her thigh again, but she did nothing except roll onto her back, releasing a soft sigh. He narrowed his eyes slightly and crept up alongside the sleeping girl, and placed his cold nose against her earlobe. She frowned in her sleep and brought up a hand to bat him away, and he jumped off the bed to avoid the strange stick in her hand.

He heard her sigh again, and hopped onto the bed again, this time nudging her neck with his nose. The girl flinched away from the cold touch and pulled the blanket up in an attempt to ignore him.

"Go 'way, Spencer," she mumbled. Spencer stared expectantly at the brown haired girl for a moment, but narrowed his eyes again when she made no sign of waking up. He kneaded her shoulder, managing to prick her with one of his claws, and she stirred again, cracking a hazel eye open. "Ouch. Okay, I'm up."

She sat up slightly, resting back on her elbows as she stared in the direction she assumed the tabby was, straining to see in the dark room. She glanced at the clock on her bedside table, and groaned before dropping back onto the bed. "It's quarter to seven, Spencer. Let me sleep."

She threw an arm over her eyes in protest and tried to fall back asleep. Her breathing quickly evened out, and Spencer would have scowled if possible. He glanced around the bedroom and crawled to the other end of the bed, looking up at the top bunk. The only thing visible of the occupant was a curtain of hair that glinted dark red in the light of the clock face. He cast another look around the dark room before getting an idea, and he climbed onto the brown haired girl's stomach and tensed his leg muscles in preparation.

April-Fay stirred again as she felt her sister's cat climb onto her stomach, and lifted her head slightly to look down at him when she felt the tension he was gathering in his hind legs. "Spencer, wha-off!"

Spencer released the tension in his hind legs suddenly, using April-Fay's stomach as a springboard to reach Evelyn's bed, where he quickly pulled himself up. Below him, April-Fay wheezed slightly as she tried to pull air back into her lungs and sat up, resting a hand on her stomach, before glaring at the bunk above her, where she could hear Spencer purring away merrily.

She sighed before throwing the covers off her, only to squeak and pull them back on when the cold air hit her legs. She reached out and felt around on her bedside table before finding a switch and flicked it, squinting slightly when bright light filled her eyes. She looked around the dimly lit room, taking in the large shadows the old lamp cast on the walls, before glancing back at the table and resting her eyes on the small day-by-day calendar. Her eyes widened as she registered what date it was, before throwing off the green duvet again, ignoring the cold this time, and scrambling out of bed.

"Evelyn!" She whispered harshly. She could see Spencer, barely, lying happily on her sister's back as he kneaded away, purring like a motorbike. "Evelyn!"

Her sister groaned and lifted her head slightly, staring balefully out from underneath her pillow. "Meh." She stated, before dropping her head again and falling asleep. Spencer's purring increased, and April-Fay scowled.

"Get up!" She demanded in a whisper, but Evelyn merely stuck a hand out from her cocoon and waved her off before retreating again. "Evelyn! It's our birthday! We have to get out of the house before dadwakes up if we want the day to ourselves!"

She heard some kind of moan from under the pillow, before Evelyn pulled the blanket over her head. Spencer meowed as he was shifted, before purring again, and April-Fay hissed. "Evelyn Jane! You wake up right this instant!"

"Nyuh." She stated before rolling to face April-Fay, dumping Spencer unceremoniously on the bed beside her. He meowed in displeasure, and Evelyn yawned as she looked at her sister. "I'm getting up, I'm getting up."

She pulled the blanket back over her head and rolled over to face the wall, coming dangerously close to falling off as she fell back asleep. April-Fay rolled her eyes and shook her head in exasperation before turning to the cupboards.

"Whatever." She muttered as she opened her cupboard, staring at the meagre contents for a few moments. She didn't own many clothes, not being a person who was overly bothered by how she looked, and what little she did have fit quite comfortably into the small set of drawers built into the armoire. She quickly pulled out a pair of baggy jeans and a random t-shirt and ran her fingers through her short brown hair in an attempt to smooth it out before pulling on her purple newsboy cap. She absentmindedly tucked the strange stick that had appeared sometime during the night into her pocket and turned back to her sister.

Evelyn was still asleep, her back to April-Fay as she slumbered, even as Spencer licked her face and purred loud enough to wake an elephant in an attempt to wake her.

"Evelyn!" April-Fay whispered again, and the burgundy haired girl rolled over to answer – and straight out of the bed.

She somehow turned in midair and caught herself on the edge of April-Fay's bed with a loud thud, her legs bent slightly from the impact. Spencer looked down at her from his perch and meowed in concern, before she shakily straightened.

"I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm – weren't you just in your pyjamas?" She looked up and noticed April-Fay was already dressed for the day, sitting on the end of her bed as she pulled on a pair of socks and her Doc Martins.

"You fell asleep again." April-Fay stated, and Evelyn nodded in enlightenment before opening her own armoire and staring at the jumble of clothes that came tumbling out. Evelyn's mouth twitched slightly into a scowl before she started hunting through the clothing, tossing the clothing she didn't want back into the cupboard.

April-Fay sighed at the mess and she finished lacing her shoes and grabbed her leather jacket off it's hanger, closing the armoire doors with a soft click and pulling it on. Evelyn managed to wrestle her way into a pair of tight jeans and a purple tunic, and continued hunting.

"Have you seen my jacket?" She asked, and April-Fay pointed at her sister's feet.

"You're standing on it."

"Oh! Thanks." Evelyn grabbed the jacket and pulled it on before brushing out her long burgundy hair and pushing a black headband into it to keep it out of her face. She tucked a strange stick she found in her hand behind her ear and grabbed her pyjamas, throwing them into the corner directly to the left of the door, with the rest of the washing. It was there in case their father ever decided to do the washing, however, April-Fay and Evelyn usually ended up doing it.

Evelyn pulled on a pair of knee high leather boots and turned to face her sister. "Ready?"

"I've been ready for the last five minutes. You take way too long getting dressed." April-Fay rolled her eyes as she turned off the lamp, following Evelyn out of their room and into the darkened house. Sunlight streamed in through the gaps in the blinds, highlighting Evelyn's hair and making the combination kitchen-living-dining room look like it was on fire in some places.

"I do not! I didn't even put makeup on!" Evelyn protested.

"No. But you squirmed your way into a pair of jeans that are so tight, they might as well be a second skin. They alone took longer than my entire outfit."

"You're exaggerating." Evelyn pouted as she looked at the shorter girl, who shrugged.

"Maybe a little. But only a little!"

The duo ceased their playful banter and the kitchen was silent as they prepared breakfast quickly and quietly for themselves, the only sounds being the chink of china and the crinkle of plastic.

It wasn't until Evelyn bent over the cutlery drawer that the silence was broken. She stared at the stick that had fallen from behind her ear and landed in the drawer with a slight clatter. It was varnished a deep blood red, almost black, with a fiery red tip at one end and a shiny black ribbon wrapped around the other as a handle. She picked it up gingerly, and almost gasped at the feeling of right she gained from merely holding the piece of wood.

"April?" She half turned to her sister, holding the stick up for her to see. "Where did this come from?"

April-Fay looked up from where she was siting at the table, a cheese sandwich halfway between her plate and her mouth. She looked at the stick in her sister's hand before shrugging in ignorance.

"I dunno." She said, and she rested her hand on her hip, only to freeze as she felt something poking her.

She pulled a stick out of her pocket that was much like Evelyn's. The wood was varnished the same colour, and it was roughly the same length. But where Evelyn's tip was flat, April-Fay's was slightly rounded off, and tipped with a soft, earth brown. The ribbon wrapped around her handle was the same type as Evelyn's, but a large knot was tied at the top of the handle, whereas Evelyn's handle was smooth.

"What the?" She asked, staring at it. Evelyn stared as well before turning back to her own stick and turning it over on her hands.

"Is this some kind of prank or something?" Evelyn asked, and rolled her eyes. "Some people are so immature."

"You're one to talk." April-Fay shot, looking up at her sister before shaking her head. "Besides, who could have done it? He wouldn't – that's for sure – and all the doors are locked at night."

"I-I don't know! He could have been paid to do it by someone!" Evelyn argued, and April-Fay glared.

"Sh! Keep your voice down!" She admonished, and Evelyn looked sheepishly at the brown linoleum beneath her feet.

"Sorry. It's just – I don't know – I don't like him. He probably would do it if he was paid enough." She explained. April-Fay rolled her eyes again and turned back to her sandwich.

"I still don't understand why you don't like him. I mean, sure he's a bit cold and stand-offish, but he's still our father. He's the one who brought us up." She explained, and Evelyn scowled, looking at the closed blinds of the window above the sink.

"I know. I just have a feeling, is all, and the feeling tells me that he's bad news, and that he's got something to do with why I can't wake up properly in the morning. Why I feel as though all my energy has been drained." She explained.

"Are you sure you aren't just making excuses?"

"I am not! When he went away on that business trip, I was fine! I could wake up just fine! But then he came back, and all my energy is being sapped! I hate it." Evelyn's eyes flashed, and April-Fay held up her hands in a placating manner, swallowing her mouthful. She opened her mouth to speak, only to get cut off by the sounds of hissing and growling coming from Spencer, who had been listening to their conversation.

The two girls turned to the orange tabby cat in concern as he hissed, and started pacing; looking as though he was berating himself over something.

"What's up, Spencer? Is it another tomcat?" Evelyn asked, bending over slightly to look down at her cat. He looked up at her and shook his head before growling again and running off, shooting through the cat door and disappearing outside. Evelyn watched him go in confusion before turning back to her sister. "Do you ever get the feeling that Spencer is more than just a cat?"

"Yes." April-Fay deadpanned. "That's why I never get changed when he's in the room unless he's sleeping or you're keeping him occupied."

She picked up her sandwich and stood up, tucking her stick back into her pocket. "Come on, it's seven thirty. We'd better go before dad wakes up, or we'll never get out of here."

"But I haven't had breakfast!" Evelyn protested, pointing to a half made toasted vegemite sandwich. April-Fay rolled her eyes and quickly swiped some vegemite over both slices of toast before slapping them together and handing them to the taller girl.

"There. Now let's go!"

"Fine." Evelyn grumbled as she took a bite out of her hastily made sandwich and followed April-Fay out of the house and into the frosty winter morning.