Here's the next chapter! It didn't take nearly as long this time, if you hadn't noticed. Though, I was a little sad when only one of the seven or so followers actually left a review. But, seeing as how unreliable these updates have been, it's understandable. Ah well, I hope whoever is still reading enjoys this chapter, nonetheless. The plot will be strengthening within the next few chapters, so be ready.
One more street, and Sam would find herself at the corner where her house once stood. Darkness swelled around her, broken only by the bursting light at nearby lamp posts, and even in the half-light she picked out the empty square and the lump of ashes that remained of her home.
She stepped down from the sidewalk and into the yard, which had dissolved into dust and cracked dirt from the roaring fire. The old signs of struggle from the protest no longer showed-there were no imprints in the dirt or grass to have been stepped on. Despite this, fallen leaves of gold and red dotted the landscape. Autumn was rearing down on them, with the nights growing colder and the leaves glowing with frost in the early hours of morning.
Taking a deep breath, she stopped in the center of the yard. If her father did show up without any delays, he would approach from behind where she stood.
But what chance is there of that?
Just like any daughter, she knew her father wouldn't be one to come home without calling. Their landline was burnt in the fire, and her cellphone had shared its demise. With so much missing, would he even risk coming home? With no answer, did he freak and call the police from wherever he was in the world, or did he come back in the plane and hope to find his family there waiting and laughing at the prank they pulled?
When he came home, none of them would be laughing.
Sam closed her eyes, letting the still night air enclose around her. All she had to do was wait. Wait, and by dawn break she would know which of her questions were true.
As she stood there, she found herself flinching at the sounds of passing cars and the faint rustle of wind through the neighbor's bushes. With each minute that passed, Jay's absence and thoughts of his mother fought their way into her mind. The blare of cricket song couldn't chase the dawning fear away, couldn't block it out.
She couldn't believe that all of it happened only hours before. The thought was surreal, fiction, nothing more than a simple child's drunken tale.
It all started as a simple child's drunken tale, She mused, holding back a fit of dry, humorless laughter. Then she shook her head and corrected herself. No, it was Emery who started it all. She imagined what Jay must have felt like, seeing her brother fall from the sky in a tangle of wings, stars. . .and blood.
A car stopped on the road beside her, ripping the slow-forming image from her mind. She whipped around and found the brights burning into her eyes and muddying the car's red form. Lifting an arm to cover her face, she watched as the light faded and cut off. As her eyes adjusted, she heard the car door shoved open.
"Sam. Oh god, Sam, is that you?"
Her father's voice.
She felt a small smile form on her lips. "Yeah, it's me," she said hesitantly. "I wasn't sure you would come-"
He rushed to her side and grabbed her shoulders firmly, staring her in the eye. "I drove around, and I couldn't find our house," he laughed, half-heartedly. His face was shadow as he stood there, inches from her. She couldn't see his eyes, his hair, or the form of his cheeks and the suit she knew he still wore. "You wouldn't pick up, either. Not you, not Emery, not your mother either."
"Sorry," was all that left her mouth. No other words would form. He really doesn't know. He doesn't know that Emery is gone. She swallowed, trying to wet her mouth. Her tongue was desert dry-her mother was right. He really didn't know.
He turned his head, taking in the empty hole that remained of their house. She saw his throat bob, and knew he dreaded the answer to the question he was about to ask. "W-" he took a steadying breath, "-Where is our house?"
"Burnt," she choked out. Her mouth refused to work, refused to form words. "It burnt down." She could see the flickering flames of the past, licking at the scorched wood and consuming everything it touched, soon lighting the yard into a ferocious blaze that chased them down the street. She hadn't cried that day. Her tears were dried up by the blistering heat as it fanned through the crisp autumn air. Now, though, the air was moist, and her eyes burned with water. They welled up with tears, and she knew her father's face fell and his hands grew loose at his sides. Three words was all it took.
"What…?" He turned back to her, his face still in shadow. "Where's your mother, where's Emery? Are they-"
"They're fine," she hurried, brushing the tears away with the palm of her hand. She felt the dirt smear across her skin, but she didn't care anymore. "Mother is, at least," she added underneath her breath, so soft she could hardly hear her own words. She pictured her brother's form again, his ruffled hair and angry eyes the day before he died. Emery wasn't fine, not in the least. "We're down by the old train harbor right now."
It's only us. You, me, and mom.
"You didn't find another house? Your aunt lives only forty miles away, if you couldn't find a place to stay." His voice grew panicked-he knew he was missing something, something vital, something that would piece the whole puzzle together.
She had never seen her father freak, never seen him close to tears.
Through the past days, she had been trying. Trying so hard not to think of it, of the incident that took her brother's life. That kept her feet planted in that city, with the skyscrapers casting mocking shadows down over her home and Jay's mother haunting her. The city that had no stars, the city that was blanketed in a haze so thick and yellow the rain came down as acid, not water.
Emery's presence still lingered there, that was why they hadn't left. Emery's funeral was still in the making.
As well as theirs.
She turned her head away from him and stared into the ashes. Days had passed, and already most of the debris had been cleared away. The police would have found the bodies of the soldier her mother killed in Jay's defense, and the others who charged into their home seconds after with their guns raised. Her mother's aim didn't fail her those three times. Two of the soldiers were women, one was a man.
A perfect cover, and her mother displayed it well. A plus to her being a creative author, in a way, Sam thought. With the fire, there was no way to identify them-all they resembled was a pile of melted skin and bone after the blaze had burnt itself out.
She almost laughed-they depended on the hopes that no one would notice the soldiers gone, and would be convinced the corpses they found were her family.
The police, the city-they didn't know her father had been away on a business trip. They hadn't had time to research it. They didn't know that Jay was in their proximities when the soldiers took her family's place as the occupants of the house; they wouldn't until news arrived to the militia that their soldiers never returned with their intended captive.
They depended so much on terms that would all be revealed in days, a month at most if they were distracted by a similarly devastating incident. They depended on so much, so much to get away from the law that was soon to find them in their hiding space.
With so much in place, how would they ever make a funeral for Emery? All he had was a stone with his name on it that laid behind the house, which was charred in the fire. Her mother had dropped her job to write the short story about her son, so what money did they have to buy a proper funeral, a proper burial place, where they could keep him close to heart?
"Ask mom," she murmured, she lied, "I don't have a clue."
In silence, he turned around and stared down the road, as if he could see the train harbor from where he stood. His posture was solemn. He already felt defeated, and he hardly knew the truth. He didn't know the truth, and he wouldn't until he saw his wife's tear streaked face when he asked.
"Get in the car," he said at last, holding his head down. "Let's...go home."
It had been forever since Sam sat down on the cushioned seat of a station wagon.
She leaned back in the passenger seat, eying her father as he strapped himself in stiffly. His movements jerked and his eyes were narrowed, his brow furrowed. "I still don't understand her," he muttered under his breath, jamming the key into the ignition. "Seventeen years of living with her, and she still makes no sense to me." He raised his voice, looking across to her, "Sam, are you buckled?" He didn't wait for a response before pushing on the gas and starting down the road. A car flew past, honking.
The scream of the horn hurt her ears.
She didn't miss her father's driving.
They pulled out from the curve and out into the white-washed streets. The light from the lamp posts was blinding in the night and she squinted her eyes, resting her head against the door and staring out through the window. She glanced up at the sky, and saw nothing but blackness. Out in the far distance, toward the distant glow of skyscrapers, she saw the faint sparkle of lights at the top of one building. The lights shifted and moved in the wind, tangling together in a graceful dance.
Another kite, another lost soul trying to find the meaning of her brother's death, trying to spark the memory of her brother into the hearts of all who watched.
Jay must be watching them right now, Sam thought, Cursing them for taking Emery's side.
Sorry if that ending seems a little abrupt. It's just a better working place for me. Chapter 8 will have some important events/stuff in it, if it works out as planned. Sorry for the slow pacing, lol, there's just a lot of stuff that I need to add in because last year I was immature and didn't think/know of a lot of stuff when I wrote the previous chapters.