A/N: So, I just find this story entertaining to write and have the first few chapters done. I could use constructive criticism.
One - Arrival
As we drove further on the highway, the soft green farms transitioned into the beginnings of hills until finally, they turned into the sharp slopes of the Cascade Mountains. The evergreen trees certainly gave the state a well-deserved nickname.
"I hate you," I said.
"I know," Dad replied.
"I didn't think you actually meant it when you said you'd move somewhere that Mom would never find us."
"Dad, it's the middle of nowhere," Jake piped up from the backseat.
We fell into uneasy silence as the car drove from the last vestiges of civilization and curved into the trees.
"It's dark," Jake said.
"I know," Dad replied.
Without warning, he turned left onto a mostly gravel road. I grabbed the handhold above the door and stared out the window in distrust while the radio started to crackle with static.
"There's no radio," I said.
He's been pretty uncommunicative since we left California.
Without warning, a large raindrop landed on the windshield. Resignedly, Dad turned on the windshield wipers right as it started to pour.
"It's raining," Jake said. "And the dog's touching me."
I glanced over the shoulder of the passenger seat. Our Great Dane, Cuthbert, had his front paws in Jake's lap and his nose in Jake's ear. He snuffled a few times and then licked him.
"Ew," Jake said, cringing in disgust. "Why couldn't we put him in the back?"
I looked pointedly at the trunk space in the hatchback car. It was full of boxes. Jake groaned and tried to shove Cuthbert off his lap. The dog weighs more than Jake does, so it wasn't a very successful endeavour.
"I still hate you," I informed Dad.
"But, hey, at least he's not Mom, right?" Jake asked.
I nodded once while Dad turned on the headlights. The gravel road wound further through the trees and further away from civilization.
"Oh, God, we're pulling a Kerouac," I said.
"What?" Jake asked.
"Jack Kerouac," I said slowly. "He was a writer in the fifties? He lived in Desolation Peak for a summer."
"We're not in Desolation Peak," Dad said.
Jake and I stared at him in shock. Even Cuthbert looked surprised.
Dad has said two words since we crossed the California/Oregon border. I know. Over and over and over again.
"I want to go back to Santa Cruz," Jake said. I nodded in agreement.
Divorce is generally ugly, but I think my parents' took the cake. But that's mostly because my mom divorced my dad on the grounds of adultery (which wasn't true), my dad tried to get my mom deported (unsuccessfully), then my mom sued for custody of me and Jake (not a good scenario), and my dad had her declared mentally unstable (a totally fair accusation, by the way) and the court threw her into a psych ward for evaluation. Dad left the state before she got out, dragging me, Jake, and Cuthbert with him.
"I know," Dad said.
Without warning, the car pulled to a stop at the edge of a paved road. Through the rainy gloom, I could see a single road with a few shops on either side of it, a solitary diner, a sheriff's office, a post office, a general store. Instead of sidewalks, it looked like an Old West town, thanks to the wooden platforms that connected all of the shops.
"Are we there?" Jake asked in horror, leaning between the two front seats of the car.
"Yep," Dad said, pulling the car forward. "Just have to go get the keys from the Sheriff."
"Isn't it your house already?" I asked.
"Well, when I left the day after high school graduation, I didn't exactly keep the keys to my parents' house," Dad said.
Jake, Cuthbert and I stared at him in a combination of shock and repulsion. The shock was due to the talking. The repulsion was due to the reminder that our dad was actually from this town in the middle of nowhere.
Dad parked the car next to the wooden sidewalks and climbed out. Before he could go very far, the door to the local saloon (well, it was technically the bar, but still…) burst open and a very clearly drunk man in hiking boots, plaid flannel, and Carharts stumbled backwards out of it and landed on his back in the middle of the road at my dad's feet.
Jake and I climbed out of the car quickly and stood next to Dad in the pouring rain while he and the drunken guy stared at each other.
The drunken guy stared up at him for about ten seconds before he exclaimed, "Oh my fuck, Billy Zane!"
My dad does have an uncanny resemblance to the actor, it's true. I suppose if you were drunk, he'd look exactly like him, what with his dark hair that's always coifed, and his hazel eyes that have the beginnings of smile lines (unfortunately, not from smiling), and his usually kind smile.
The drunken guy scrambled to his feet and grabbed Dad by the front of the shirt and shook him a bit. "Why did you try to drown Jack?" he demanded.
The guy had sort of blond hair that was full of dust and combed back off his face, and a sort of blond moustache and lines in his face, even though he was probably the same age as Dad.
"Dude, you look like Steve Zahn," Jake said. Jake is entirely unfazed by drunken people. I guess it probably comes from his habit of lurking on the UC Santa Cruz campus, even though he's only barely thirteen.
Dad and the drunken guy turned and stared at Jake for a second and then looked back at each other.
"M-Marty?" the drunken guy asked my dad, staring up at him with inexplicable hope in his eyes. Dad nodded once and then the drunken guy burst into sobs of joy and threw his arms around Dad. "Marty!"
"Dad, why does Steve Zahn know your name?" Jake asked.
"His name's not Steve Zahn," Dad said quietly, barely audible over the drunken guy's sobs. "His name's Kent."
"You know this guy?" I asked.
Dad nodded slowly. "He was my best friend."
Jake and I stared at him in utter shock. Dad never really had friends back in Santa Cruz. He just hung around with whoever Mom made him.
A booming bark from behind us made me turn around in time to see a gorgeous woman reaching her hands through the car window to pet Cuthbert. She had long, curly honey blonde hair, intelligent green eyes, and a figure any girl in California would kill for. And a lot of the girls in SoCal probably paid to look like her.
"He's precious," she said, scratching under Cuthbert's chin.
"Be careful, he'll drool on you," Jake warned.
The woman smiled and kept scratching Cuthbert, who, true to form, drooled on her.
"Sorry about him," I said.
"I was just coming to get Kent," she said. "Since I had to throw him out and I wasn't sure if he could make it home safely."
Jake and I glanced at the drunken Kent, who was still clinging to Dad and crying.
"So, who are you guys?" the woman asked.
"Jake," Jake said, waving his hand.
"Tia," I mumbled. Technically, it's Celestia, but I don't like Celestia.
"Nice to meet you," the woman said. "I'm Debbie. What are you guys doing in town?"
"We just moved here," Jake said obligingly.
"By yourselves?" Debbie asked curiously, continuing to pet Cuthbert through the window.
Jake and I pointed in unison to Dad. Kent was still sobbing into his shirt.
"Marty Thomas?" Debbie asked, looking as shocked as Kent had, although sober.
Jake and I nodded.
She looked both of us over and her jaw dropped.
"Oh my god," she said. "Jake and Tia…Thomas?"
"Yeah," I said.
She blinked at us in shock and even stopped petting Cuthbert. Cuthbert was having none of that, however, and licked her hand incessantly until she started petting him again.
"You're Marty Thomas's…kids?" Debbie asked.
Jake and I nodded again.
"Wow," Debbie said.
Kent snapped out of his crying jag at that point and alit upon Debbie.
"Debbie!" he exclaimed, letting go of Dad and grabbing Debbie. "Debbie, look who I found!"
Dad turned around slowly and smiled sheepishly at Debbie and Kent. Jake and I exchanged looks. Dad hasn't smiled for two years.
Debbie grabbed him in a bear hug at that point. "Welcome home," she said.
"Thanks," Dad said.
"Damn…" Jake said. "This is the most he's talked since the California border."
"California, huh?" Debbie asked, letting go of Dad. "Is that where you ended up?"
"Santa Cruz," Dad elaborated.
"And in twenty three years, you couldn't pick up a goddamned telephone?" Kent demanded. "Do they have phones in California?"
"Dude," Jake said, staring at him disapprovingly.
"Wait…" Kent said slowly, staring between me and Jake. "Oh my god, you two are his kids aren't you?"
"Kent, I am so closing your tab and cutting you off," Debbie said over her shoulder.
"You run the bar these days?" Dad asked.
"Yeah," Debbie said. "You've been gone for twenty three years. A lot's changed."
Dad glanced around the street. "No it hasn't," he said.
"Okay, well, maybe not a lot," Debbie amended. "But it is different."
Dad shrugged. "We've got to pick up the keys from the Sheriff," he said. "It was nice to see you again."
"Yeah, you too," Debbie agreed. "The Sheriff hasn't changed, just a forewarning."
Jake and I exchanged raised eyebrows.
"And would you mind dropping Kent off at his house? I don't trust him to make it home without passing out piss drunk by the side of the road and getting eaten by a cougar," Debbie said.
"Hey!" Kent exclaimed.
"Sure," Dad said. "Kent, you're in the back with the dog and the kid."
"Hey!" Jake exclaimed.
Dad ruffled his hair while Kent tried to climb through the car window.
"Kent, the door opens," Dad said.
"Well, the last car you had didn't," Kent grumbled, pulling his head out of the window and opening the door.
Debbie laughed at him and clapped Dad on the shoulder. She started to make her way back across the street to the bar when the door opened again.
The girl standing in the doorway had to be my age. She had brown eyes and overly curly corn silk hair and a kind smile.
"Mom, the mayor wants to know if you're ever coming back or if you're going to continue to have a minor serve alcohol to the town law enforcement officers," the girl called across the street.
"I'm on my way, Stacy," Debbie said, waving once over her shoulder at the lot of us before she ducked into the bar again.
"Kent, you coming with us to the Sheriff's office?" Dad asked through the car window. Kent vehemently shook his head and used Cuthbert as a pillow. Cuthbert was definitely okay with that and licked Kent in the face a few times.
"Do we have to go to the Sheriff's office?" Jake asked nervously.
"Take comfort in the fact they don't know you here yet," I said, smiling brightly at him.
"Shut up, Tia," Jake replied, staring at his combat boots. I rolled my eyes and followed Dad into the Sheriff's office.
A young man in his mid-twenties was sitting at the desk, reading a magazine. He looked up when we walked in.
"Hey, I know you!" he said, pointing excitedly at Dad. "You're the most famous person to come out of Cedar ever!"
Dad looked highly uncomfortable. "We're just here to pick up our keys."
"Right," the guy said. "Right. I'm Deputy Drew by the way." He stood up and leaned across his desk to shake Dad's hand. "Marty Thomas, no way…" he muttered to himself, walking off into a separate room. He returned minutes later with a set of keys.
"Thanks," Dad said, turning the key on his finger and leading the way back to the car.
"So why were you weird about seeing the Sheriff?" Jake asked, climbing into his side of the backseat. Kent was singing to himself and Cuthbert was making cow noises along with him.
"Boy, there are stories about your dad I could tell you that would make your hair curl…" Kent cut off when he looked at Jake over Cuthbert's shoulders. "Make your hair curlier," he amended. Jake awkwardly fluffed his curly Spanish hair.
"Kent, if you even think about corrupting my children, just remember I happen to make a living thinking up creative and disturbing ways to kill people," Dad said, starting the car. "Where do you live?"
"Well, fucked if I'm gonna tell you after a comment like that," Kent said grumpily.
"Your other option is to stay the night at my house," Dad reminded him.
It's nice that he's talking again.
"Take a left on Plymouth and keep going until you hit the river," Kent commanded, draping his arm around Cuthbert. "You see, I tried to corrupt Stacy, but Debbie wouldn't let me. Maybe I'll get a new chance with Tia and Jakey here."
"Jake, you even think the words to Stacy's Mom, and I will smack you," I said, turning around in my seat to glare at him.
"The thing is," Dad said, taking a left on a street I assumed was Plymouth. "Tia's too morally upstanding for someone like you to corrupt her, and Jake doesn't need your help."
"Hey!" Jake and I insisted.
"And I wasn't going to think the words to Stacy's Mom, I was just gonna think about Stacy," Jake said, grinning at me. I rolled my eyes at him.
"Boy, that girl would chew you up and spit you out and then feed you to your own damn dog," Kent said, scratching Cuthbert behind the ears.
"Town heartbreaker?" Jake asked enthusiastically.
"Takes after her mom," Kent said as though this would explain it.
"So, sort of," Dad said. "Except with a shotgun instead of false eyelashes."
"And besides, Stacy's fifteen, and you're what? Eleven?" Kent continued, raising a drunken eyebrow at Jake.
"I'm thirteen," Jake insisted, indignant.
"Yeah, Jake, give up," I recommended. He stuck his tongue out at me.
Dad stopped the car. My jaw dropped.
Kent's house was absolutely beautiful. It had a wide porch and wide windows to let in as much light as possible in the gloomy Cascade Mountains. None of the wood was painted, it was just left natural. Through some of the windows on the porch, I could see full ceiling beams made out of halved logs, curved side down.
"I'm not actually the town drunk," Kent said, clapping me on the shoulder. "You just caught me on a bad day."
He climbed out of the car and slammed the door a little harder than necessary. Cuthbert looked chagrined to have lost his new companion.
"Glad you're back, McFly," Kent called, waving without looking back.
"McFly?" Jake and I asked.
"We were thirteen when Back to the Future came out," Dad explained sheepishly. "We had to convince our parents to drive us an hour into Concrete so we could go to the movie."
"So?" I asked.
"The main character's name is Marty McFly," Jake explained.
"And ever since, Kent's called me McFly," Dad said. He backed the car around and headed back towards the main street.
We drove in silence all the way to the house. It was Dad's parents' house back in the late eighties. Well, I suppose it was theirs before that as well, but Dad moved out in 1989, fled to California, and hasn't been back since. He moved because Grandma and Grandpa Thomas died in a car accident. He doesn't really talk about them most of the time. But for whatever reason, he never sold their house; he paid someone to take care of it just in case.
When we pulled up, I thought Dad was joking. Granted, he doesn't normally joke about anything, but I figured he couldn't possibly be serious.
The roof was covered in thick green moss, and the drenched front lawn seemed to be gurgling as more rain fell onto it. It also looked like it was at least half moss instead of grass. The house itself, however, was mostly stone. It looked like an old fashioned hunting lodge more than a house.
"Wait…" Jake said, climbing out of the car and staring at the huge house in confusion. "You grew up here?"
"Yeah," Dad said, opening the back door and letting Cuthbert out. Cuthbert peed on the lawn and then sat down next to the front door. Double doors. With glass inlays.
The front porch's roof was supported by stone columns made out of piled river stones, as far as I could tell. The house reached three stories into the air and was topped by a small tower with windows looking out on all four walls.
Dad unlocked the front door and Cuthbert bounded in. I sort of envied the dog his ability to be at home instantly no matter where he was.
All the furniture was covered in white dust covers, but the floor was swept.
"It was a B&B," Dad said, looking around. The stairs were in the front hallway and turned sharply to the left halfway up. Without any explanation, Dad ducked around the side of the stairs to a closet. He opened it and then came back with a handful of skeleton keys. He picked out one of them and pocketed it. The rest he handed to me.
"Thanks…?" I said slowly.
"Why does she get the keys?" Jake asked indignantly.
"Because you'll do something stupid like swallow them," I said. "But, why do we get keys at all?"
"It used to be a B&B," Dad said. "You've got to pick your rooms."
Jake and I exchanged looks.
"Race you!" Jake exclaimed, sprinting up the stairs without warning.
"Hey loser!" I called after him, dashing up the stairs as well. "I've got all the keys!"
Jake stopped running and stood at the top of the stairs. "Fine," he grumbled.
We looked down the hall in either direction. There were about five rooms.
"Let's just go for lucky numbers," Jake said. "So, I'll take five."
He picked the key that said 5 on it out of my hand and unlocked the door. There was a bed (covered in a white sheet), a dresser (covered in a white sheet), a desk (covered in a white sheet), and a closet door. The window overlooked the side of the mountain. At least, it would in the daylight.
"Night," Jake said, closing the door in my face. I rolled my eyes.
Lucky numbers. Fine then.
I grabbed the key to room 13 and made my way up the next flight of stairs. 13 was at the very end of the hall. I unlocked it and stepped inside. The bed was queen sized, there was a desk and a dresser like in Jake's room, and there were two doors out of it. I pulled the dust cover off the bed. The bedspread was a light lavender coloured quilt; the bedframe was wooden. I pulled the dust covers off the dresser and the desk. There was absolutely nothing special about either of them. In the top drawer of the dresser was a sachet with lavender beads in it. I smelled it once and then put it back in the drawer.
The door to the left of the dresser turned out to be the closet. A few wire hangers were in it, along with a bare bulb light.
The other door, the one next to the bed had a stairwell in it. I raised my eyebrow and turned on the light before I followed the stairs up. I ended up in the observatory tower that I'd seen when I was outside. Due to the light from the stairs, I couldn't see out the windows. I decided it was creepy, and walked back down into my room.
I had just lain down on my bed when Cuthbert nosed the door open.
"Come on, boy," I said softly.
He bounded across the room in two steps and jumped onto the bed next to me. He curled up and promptly fell asleep. I scratched him behind the ears and closed my eyes.