A Pride and Prejudice Story
"All your favorite characters are here, but somehow it feels like you're meeting them for the very first time. I adored James Ramos's That Girl, Darcy." - Heidi Doxey, author of Liam Darcy, I Loathe You
“Love. You can’t tell when you’ll catch it or who you’ll fall for. But once it happens, it’ll change everything for you.”
IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED that geeky guys never get to date the pretty girls.
Elliott Bennett is entering his senior year and finding a girlfriend is the last thing on his mind. That is, until Darcy Fitzwilliam moves into the only mansion in the neighborhood. When Elliott meets Darcy at a party, he finds out that she isn’t into skateboarding (which he lives for), she hates science fiction (which he loves), and she thinks his friends are a pack of morons (which, honestly, might be half true)—and yet, there’s something irritatingly intriguing about her.
This gender-swapped Pride and Prejudice retelling brings back all the original characters in a quirky modern day setting that holds true to the original story while bringing new humor and misunderstandings.
That Girl, Darcy is a Teen High School Romance.
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|Publisher:||Future House Publishing|
|Sold by:||Hachette Digital, Inc.|
|File size:||852 KB|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a typical summer day in Phoenix, Arizona, can be lumped into one of two categories: hot or flame-broiled. Today it was only hot, and so I had spent most of it skating around town with some friends and my cousin Jake. My neighbor Lucas had come along to “document our exploits,” as he called it, which really just meant he’d be filming everything with his old camcorder.
By midday, with the sun directly overhead and the palm trees swaying gently in the dry breeze, we found ourselves at the empty skate park that was nestled between the local library and, incidentally, our high school. The billboard at the entrance of the driveway read, “Welcome, incoming freshmen and returning students! Registration now open.”
I decided to unveil the trick I’d been working at for days now—the kickflip frontside nose blunt. I had nailed it after six tries last weekend, and now Lucas was eager to capture it.
“I’m thinking about throwing another party,” Lucas said absently as he busied himself setting up the shot.
“You just threw a party,” I said. Two weekends ago, in fact. It had been, for lack of a better word, epic. Just like all of Lucas’s parties.
“Elliott, what’s your point?” he asked.
Liam, one of my friends, skidded to a halt with an eager gleam in his eyes. “I’m game.”
“You’re always game,” said Liam’s brother Kyle.
“As long as there are girls there,” amended Liam.
“True,” Kyle conceded.
“Here we go . . .” I muttered, mostly to myself. Liam was only a year younger than Kyle, but the two could pass for twins. Both were the same height with the same jittery manner about them. They had the annoying habit of finishing each other’s sentences, and they were always bickering back and forth, usually about things that didn’t matter. The only subject they ever seemed to agree on was girls.
It was the common consensus among my friends that unless you were dating somebody, you were failing at life. The pursuit of a significant other—or a “hot date” as they called it—took precedence over all else, including but not limited to friends, work, and school. Especially school. Kyle was choosing which colleges to apply to based on which one he thought had the cutest girls, and Liam had purposefully failed a class once because some girl he liked had failed the same class, only she’d done it on accident.
I ignored them both and turned back to Lucas. “Why exactly do you want to throw another party?”
He laughed. “Do I really need a reason? Summer’s over; school starts Monday—this is senior year. Do you realize this is the last summer we’ll have like this?”
“He’s got a point,” added Liam. “And, no offense guys, but I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one still holding onto his V-card around here.”
“Whatever. Are we recording?” I tossed my board down. I didn’t want to think about girls or my V-card or school or whatever happened after school. It was barely August. I still had nine whole months to worry about all of that.
Lucas took his position and activated his camera, business as usual. “Yes we are!”
“Good.” I shoved off, skating in a wide arc, looping around to come straight at the rail, kicking faster and faster, building speed. I crouched low, my back foot on the tail of the board. The rail rushed forward to meet me. This was it. I had it this time; I knew it. A week’s worth of bruised shins and bleeding knees had led to this moment. At the last possible second, I slapped the tail of the board down and leapt into the air, dragging the nose forward with my front foot. Up and up I soared, over the rail, my board underneath me. A flick of my foot, and the board twirled, just like it was supposed to.
It was then, in midair, at the apex of my kickflip, Liam called out urgently. “Guys! Look!”
I jerked my head up, panic freezing me in my tracks.
The only problem was, my tracks happened to be in the air.
I came down hard, smacking my shins into the rail and scraping them both as I folded in a jumble of limbs. My board skidded off down the pavement, and the next thing I knew I was laying on my back, staring up at the pure blue sky with my body aching and my legs probably bleeding again.
“Daaang!” Kyle and Liam said in unison. I heard the rushing of feet coming toward me, and I was met with four faces peering down at me.
“You alright, bro?” Lucas asked.
Kyle leaned in. “Anything broken?”
“Should we call your mom?” Liam offered.
“Or your dad?” Kyle added.
“No, don’t call his dad!” Liam warned.
Lucas shoved the others aside and glared down at me. “What the heck happened, dude? You totally had that in the bag!”
Jake reached down and pulled me up by the collar. I massaged my head, still dazed.
“That happened . . .” said Liam. He was nodding in the other direction, and we all turned to see what he was looking at. She was walking down the street, toward the library. A girl with black hair and huge eyes that by chance met mine at that exact moment. Beside her was another girl, this one smaller and with a curly blonde ponytail. I had never seen either of them before.
Lucas smirked. “I’m definitely having a party now.”
“Who are they?” asked Kyle, watching the girls with a starry-eyed expression. Neither of them were paying us any attention, instead making their way toward the library parking lot.
“I don’t know,” answered Liam, “but I totally call dibs.”
Unassisted, I managed to drag myself to my feet. “You can’t call dibs on a person,” I said.
Liam was undeterred. “There are two of them, you know; you can call dibs too.”
I rolled my eyes while Lucas dusted imaginary dirt from his pants and flipped his camera closed.
“Well, losers,” he announced, “see you on the flip side.” With that he followed after the girls.
“Wait, where are you going?” asked Kyle.
“Where do you think?” Lucas called back.
He continued on, walking with confident pep. We just looked on as he started jogging briskly to catch up to the girls as they reached the parking lot.
“He’s crazy,” said Jake, the first words out of his mouth in nearly an hour.
I could only shake my head. “You’re telling me. And I’m fine, by the way.” I limped to fetch my board and came back to join the others as they pretended not to watch Lucas. He caught up with the girls, and they stopped. The black-haired girl had her arms crossed, and while I couldn’t quite make out her expression, it didn’t look inviting. The blonde seemed eager to meet him, even shaking his hand. At one point, Lucas gestured back to where we were huddled, causing Kyle and Liam to quickly disperse, suddenly preoccupied with their longboards.
Finally the meeting was over, and the girls went their separate way while Lucas came strolling back to us, grinning like he’d just won the lottery.
“Well?” demanded Kyle the second he was within earshot. “Who were they?”
“More importantly, were they hot?” asked Liam.
“Or single?” asked Kyle.
“Or both?” Liam looked hopeful.
Lucas shrugged and gave them a sly grin. “All I’ll say is this: I was definitely impressed. If you want to know more than that, you’ll just have to be at my party tonight, won’t you?”
I frowned. “Tonight? Dude, it’s already almost two o’clock!”
“Yes it is, which means I need to go make some phone calls. You guys in?”
“Definitely!” said Liam and Kyle at the same time.
Jake glanced at me. I sighed and nodded. “Sure, we’ll be there.”
Lucas laughed. “Perfect. Later. I’ve got a party to plan.”
He kicked up his board and skated away. Kyle and Liam followed him.
“You sure you’re alright?” Jake asked. I turned to see my cousin studying me. Jake was good at picking up on the subtleties.
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
He gave me a scrutinizing eye. “You sure?”
“Yes, dude, I’m sure. Let’s go.”
I picked up my board, too sore to ride it just yet. Unlike Kyle and Liam, I couldn’t really care less about either of the girls. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me, and I wasn’t in a hurry to change that. So by the time I was halfway home, I had just about forgotten them completely. *** I got to my house and made a beeline for the fridge. My dad was sitting at the kitchen table with his entire face obscured by the newspaper in his hands. Dad sort of reminded me of Santa Claus—if Santa Claus was brown, had a shorter beard, and was perpetually unsmiling. He was still in his navy blue suit and brown oxfords. I never understood how he could just hang out in dress clothes like that. I also didn’t get why he religiously read the newspaper when the internet existed, but at least I could appreciate his respect for the written word.
“The circus is back in town, I see,” he said when I came in. “Where are the rest of the clowns?”
“Very funny.” Dad prided himself on his wit, which he called dry—although I think sardonic would have been the more appropriate word. “How was work?”
He huffed. “We weren’t robbed, unfortunately.”
“Darn it,” I said in mock disappointment. Dad worked for a bank, the same bank he’d worked for since as far back as I could remember. And as far back as I could remember he’d always complained about how they never paid him enough, especially since he usually had to work Saturdays, like today. Once when I was twelve I’d asked him why he didn’t just get a different job, and he’d laughed and said he couldn’t afford to leave the one he had. He’d then explained to me that this was the definition of irony.
“You’re limping,” he said, somehow noticing this without having looked up from the paper. “Did you get into a fight with the hooligans at the park? What did you break this time?”
I reached into the fridge and pulled out a gallon of orange juice. “Yep, a good old fashioned melee. I bruised three ribs and knocked out all of my front teeth.”
“Have your mother make you a smoothie,” Dad said as he switched pages. “And she’ll put you in the blender too if she catches you in her refrigerator with dirty hands.”
As if on cue Mom popped in from the backyard. She had her blonde-gray hair pulled into a ponytail and was wearing tattered sweatpants, a yellow shirt with the sleeves pushed up past her elbows, and the biggest, ugliest pair of hot pink Crocs I had ever seen. Her gardening gloves were covered in what I hoped was dirt and not manure. Her face was flushed pink from exhaustion. She’d decided to give gardening a go, and although she’d planted everything from cilantro to lettuce, it was only the tomatoes that seemed to be doing anything, and they were still in little cups lining the window over the sink. I was fairly certain this was neither the season nor the environment for plants to thrive.
“There you are, sweetheart!” she said, breathing heavily. “How was skating?”
“Fine, I guess.”
She pulled the gloves off and kicked out of the hideous Crocs. “Somebody’s bought the Manor,” she announced gleefully.
The Manor was what people called the house on the other side of the golf course and park that lay smack dab in the middle of our community. It was the biggest residence on the block, bigger than all the others on this side of town. I sometimes wondered why someone had built such a huge place here. It didn’t belong, like a sedan in a parking lot full of smart cars. It had been empty since before we’d moved in. Every once in a while someone would come to take a look at it, but so far there’d been no buyers.
“Wonder who was dumb enough to do that,” I said.
“Elliott!” Mom swatted at me. “They’re moving in right now. Why don’t you mosey on over and introduce yourself? I’m sure they could use some help with all those boxes.”
I peeked out the window and squinted out across the field, where I could just make out people coming in and out of the house, dragging boxes and furniture out of a U-Haul.
“I think if they can afford the Manor they can afford to hire movers,” I said with a laugh.
“You’re such an introvert,” Mom sighed, resting her hands on her hips. “Who’s to say there isn’t a pretty girl over there?”
“Who’s to say there is?” I scoffed. “Besides, I have plans tonight.”
Dad arched an eyebrow. “Do those plans happen to include figuring out what you’ll be doing this time next year?”
Mom washed her hands at the sink. I shuffled past her to pluck a glass from the cupboard. “I don’t plan that far ahead.”
“We know, but perhaps you should,” Dad said.
I groaned. I knew exactly where this conversation was headed. It was the same one we’d been having since junior year ended. If it had just been me and Dad, this conversation would already be over. He wasn’t the type to beat a dead horse. But Mom was exactly that type. Not only would she beat a dead horse, she would drag that dead horse until it came back to life, then she would hop on and ride it to death all over again.
“Your father’s got a point,” Mom said from behind me. “You can’t expect to spend the rest of your life working at some bookstore.”
“The Cranny is not just some bookstore, it’s a haven for those with a thirst for literature, an oasis of words and—”
“This isn’t a game, Elliott,” Mom interrupted. “You’re about to graduate. You’ve got to have some sort of plan, some sort of goal, or else you’ll end up drifting through life and never accomplishing anything meaningful.”
I poured my juice and chugged the entire glass. What if I wanted to drift? What if I didn’t want to have a plan, or set goals, or achieve something meaningful? Who said I was obligated to do any of that? Was it a rule written somewhere? Was there some contractual agreement that said I had to plot out my entire life course at the tender age of seventeen?
I didn’t say any of that aloud like I wanted to. Instead I dumped my glass in the sink, said “I’ll get right on that,” and hurried to the sanctuary of my room before either of my parents could continue their rant.
“Did you die here?”
The empty room didn’t answer me, although with the luck we’d had, I hadn’t expected it to. The musty cold air left a sheen on my forehead, but I wasn’t sure if it was the humidity or my own nerves.
“Did you read the notecards I gave you?” Jefferson asked in my earpiece, his thick British accent muffled by static. “There’s some brilliant stuff on there.” The static flared up, covering the rest of his dialogue.
“Look at the floor?” I asked, suddenly worried I had missed something.
“Number four!” he repeated.
I readjusted the earpiece, wondering if maybe all of the water was making it glitch and thinking, not for the first time, that anyone who didn’t know I was wearing an earpiece would think I was completely nuts, talking to myself like this.
I thumbed through the soggy notecards, pulling them apart while clutching my flashlight, until I reached what I was looking for.
“I hope they’ve got some bathtub gin in this joint—I’m as dry as a bone,” I deadpanned. “Seriously? Where do you come up with this crap?”
“That’s how they talked, Sadie; it’s not my fault it’s ridiculous. I’m just being authentic.”
“Nobody talked like this,” I said, trying not to get too frustrated by our lack of preparation and the fact that, despite my protests, I was yet again being cast as the damsel in distress meant to lure the ghosts out to play.
I was a glorified earthworm wriggling on a hook.
“And I’m pretty sure the blonde wig isn’t fooling anyone.”
“Why not?” Jefferson sounded genuinely shocked in my ear, and I could only imagine his huge owl eyes getting even rounder.
“Because I’m Cuban! How many blonde Cubans were running around in the twenties looking for a drink?”
“At least one.”
“This is stupid. I’m calling it, you guys. We’ve got nothing.”
“What? No!” Deacon, Jefferson’s cousin, whined over the earpiece.
I wasn’t sure what he was so upset about—he had to have been just as miserable as me, sitting out in the freezing cold Jeep in one of Portland’s famous rainstorms.
“Sadie, this place is supposed to be an absolute hotspot for activity,” Jefferson insisted. “If we leave now, we’ll miss our chance to be the first group to catch evidence on film.”
“It’s freezing, the floors keep creaking like they’re about to collapse, and my lines wouldn’t fool even the drunkest of bar patron ghosts.” I rubbed my hands over the cold skin on my bare arms. How were people in the twenties supposed to stay warm in these skimpy dresses?
The getup Jefferson had given me was itchy and terrible. Plus it was purple. My least favorite color.
“Besides, I feel like Daphne on Scooby Doo in this ridiculous costume.”
“Well . . .” Jefferson let his words trail off.
It was generally known that I didn’t appreciate always being the ghost bait when I had actual ghost hunting skills that I could put to good use in the field. Instead of utilizing my abilities, though, these two crazy British boys had recruited me to dress up in ridiculous costumes and recite awful lines to try to get some activity stirred up. It was the worst ghost-hunting technique I’d ever seen, but Jefferson (our self-proclaimed leader and group-labeled sociopath) insisted that being the only group out there to do it gave us an advantage. I thought it just made us look like the idiots we were.
My “actual” ghost hunting skills were just yearning to be used. Of course . . . that was using the phrase “actual ghost hunting skills” very loosely.
I wished I could say I was an empath, who could sense emotions of ghosts, or that I was some sort of gifted hunter. But really, I just loved the paranormal.
That being said, I was also a normal human being, which meant when things got too intense for my liking, I leaned heavily towards the “flight” part of the “fight or flight” reaction.
It was embarrassing when it happened in front of the guys.
“You’d better not tease her or she’ll quit, and it’ll be you out there in a dress talking about bathtub gin,” said Brighton, our fourth and final group member.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jefferson said. “Deacon’s got much nicer legs.”
“I could point out that you’d be a better fit for the dress,” Deacon said.
“Yeah, but then who would run the equipment?” Brighton asked.
Brighton was sort of amazing with technology. She also happened to be terrified of ghosts, which made no sense since her hobby was ghost hunting. But this combination meant she always stayed in the van and operated tech.
“Touché,” the guys said in unison.
“Wait, everyone shut up,” I said to the empty room.
A loud beep came from the storage room of the abandoned pub we were investigating. “The shadow detector just went off,” I said slowly.
“Which one is that again?” Deacon asked.
Deacon was a bit of a skeptic, which meant he didn’t bother to learn about the equipment we used and constantly needed reminders about what each thing did.
“The one that detects shadows,” Brighton said. “The answer’s in the question.”
Ignoring the banter in my earpiece, I shone my flashlight over the bar, the beam of light distorting and bending as it hit the rows of hanging wine glasses, sending shadows skittering every which way. The air around me grew cold (well, colder), and a chill ran down my spine. They were all signs that I was about to be monumentally scared by some unexplainable thing.
I used my free hand, which was amazingly steady, to turn on the audio recorder, and held the device out in front of me, squinting into the blackness ahead.
“Hello?” I called, the fear leaving me and the excitement taking over.
Maybe Jefferson’s ridiculous lines actually did work.
“Who’s there?” I called again, hoping that I was getting some good audio on the recorder, even if I wasn’t currently able to hear the response.
I took a step forward on the creaky floors, hoping they would hold my weight in this condemned building. Secretly, I thought that was the real reason the boys made me do all the dirty work. I was short and skinny, and I was pretty much built like a twelve-year-old boy despite the grand total of twenty-one years I had under my belt. If one of those tall lanky guys came in here, they’d collapse the whole building with their clumsy tromping around.
“Did you die here?” I asked again, a smile beginning to spread across my lips at the thought that I might actually make contact with someone or something.
“Sadie!” Jefferson suddenly exclaimed in my ear as he grabbed my sides and made me jump a mile in the air.
He threw his head back and broke out into maniacal laughter. I grabbed a handful of his dark, curly hair and pulled as hard as I could, turning his obnoxious laughter into an exclamation of pain.
“What did you do that for?” he asked with a scowl, running his fingers through the untamable mess of hair he refused to cut.
I didn’t bother answering, tired of babysitting the infamous Parrish cousins tonight. It was a wonder I hadn’t killed them years ago.
“What’s she doing, mate?” Deacon asked over the earpiece.
“Just walking away,” Jefferson replied, sounding as puzzled and clueless as ever.
I shook my head in frustration, pulling off the less-than-convincing blonde wig (that wouldn’t fool anyone) and running my fingers through my dark brown pixie cut, fluffing it up a bit.
The floor continued to creak under the clacking of my heels, but I had a point to make and that point could only be made with a fast-paced “angry stomp” out of the pub. I flung the front doors open with force, Jefferson hard on my heels, and slogged through the rain, jumping into the back of the old beat-up Jeep Wagoneer and gratefully accepting the big puffy coat Brighton offered me.
Brighton was the only sane one in the group, even if she was a walking contradiction. She looked like a typical high school mean girl, but she was the most bizarre blend of phobia-ridden beauty to ever walk this planet. Still, she had my back when the boys went nuts (which was every second of every day), so that made her my only ally in the overwhelming sea of crazy.
“I didn’t come here to play pranks or feel like the butt of some anti-feminist joke. I came here to find evidence of the paranormal.” I wrapped the coat tightly around my shivering form and stared at Jefferson.
He stood in the rain, not looking like he even noticed the torrential downpour that was soaking him through. His brow was furrowed and his dark green eyes looked intense as he tilted his head slowly to the side. It was a disturbing habit he displayed when thinking, and one that I had never quite gotten used to. There were a lot of creepy things about the boy, but his whole dark-and-twisty demeanor was the creepiest. He looked like a Tim Burton character come to life—tall and thin with abnormally large green eyes, which always made him look like he was staring into your soul. The fact that he also dressed like a Tim Burton character didn’t really do much to deflect his unsettling nature, but I could ignore the dusty three-piece suits and skinny ties because as much as I hated to admit it, Jefferson had a gift. He was a good paranormal investigator . . . when he took things seriously.
The same couldn’t be said of his cousin Deacon, but somehow I thought the Parrish boys would be lost without each other.
We sat in silence for a moment: Brighton staring at her computer screen and fiddling absently with her inhaler, Deacon watching the showdown, and Jefferson and me having a staring contest. I’m sure I just looked pissed, whereas he looked like a homicidal maniac.
Okay, that’s unfair. Jefferson really was a nice guy. All four of us had met in college at a scary movie marathon one Halloween night, and, after confessing our love for the paranormal, it only seemed natural to form a group to go out and seek the “truth.” But, Jefferson’s being a nice guy didn’t mean he wasn’t also the single eeriest person I’d ever met.
“So, are we just going to keep staring at each other,” Brighton asked, “or can we call it a night and go grab some Chinese food? Because I’m starving. Besides, I’m going to catch a cold in this weather,” she said, taking a puff on her ever-present inhaler as though to prove her point.
Call me crazy, but I didn’t really think ghost hunting was the best profession for an asthmatic with an anxiety disorder.
“Since the night’s ruined anyway, I’d love to get food,” Jefferson said much too brightly. He narrowed his owl eyes at me dramatically and walked toward the front of the Jeep with a poorly hidden pout.
Of course, he failed to mention that I had actually been investigating and he was the one who had ruined the night. And now that he was throwing a tantrum, Brighton and I would be forced to gather all of the equipment from the pub.
“Well done, mate,” Deacon said to me, crawling out of the back of the Jeep to join his cousin in the front seat. “Now he’ll be unmanageable all night.”
It was nearly three in the morning by the time we pulled into the parking lot of our apartment complex. We all grabbed armfuls of equipment and carried them up the three flights of stairs that led to our adjacent apartments. Our wet shoes squelched on the linoleum floors and we were all completely exhausted from the disappointing night. Our oversized jackets did little to keep the cold from seeping into our bodies, and I could have sworn I felt my entire skeleton groan as I walked.
Brighton and I dumped the various cameras, cords, and audio recorders onto the Parrish boys’ couch, which was already full of tapes from previous investigations that we still needed to go over. They were labeled with Deacon’s untidy scrawl, sporting vague titles like “House with yard 1” or “Old snowman attic 8.” To anyone else, his code wouldn’t have made sense. Unfortunately, I understood it perfectly, and all it meant was that we had a lot of recordings to go over.
Being a paranormal investigator was a lot more work than I had originally thought, and regrettably, it didn’t exactly pay well, which usually meant we were digging through our couches for grocery money.
“Better luck next time, right?” Brighton stretched her long arms high over her head and arched her back, which emitted a dull pop.
“Same time tomorrow?” Deacon asked, his blue eyes locked on Brighton’s stretching form.
He wasn’t exactly subtle in his love for her.
“I’m out,” I said, cutting him off with a wave of my hand. “I’ve got a twelve-hour shift tomorrow. There’s no way I can investigate all night after that.” Just thinking about it made my body hurt. I wasn’t even sure how I’d get up in the morning and manage to stay on my feet for all those hours of waiting tables.
“It’s just as well,” Jefferson said, leaning lithely against the door frame and blocking my escape route. “I can go over the footage from tonight’s investigation.”
“Don’t you have work?” I asked, afraid of the response I knew I’d receive.
“I quit,” he answered disinterestedly, picking at his fingernails.
“Jefferson!” I exclaimed.
I really was more of a babysitter than anything, which didn’t make any sense, since Jefferson insisted on being the group leader. I mean, he even wanted to call us The Parrish Paranormal Investigators, which I wouldn’t have agreed to in a million years.
“How are you going to pay your rent?” I brought a hand up to my forehead, unable to look at the train wreck of a man in front of me.
I could feel my Cuban temper flaring up. Or at least, I liked to blame it on the fact that I was Cuban.
“Deacon still has a job,” he answered, nodding at his cousin.
Deacon quickly pushed his thick black glasses up the bridge of his nose and straightened his posture a bit, trying to look much more responsible than he was.
“I do,” he said with a sharp nod, obviously hiding something.
I narrowed my eyes at the less stubborn of the Parrish boys, knowing I could easily get the secret out of him.
“Sort of,” he added with a wince. “It’s more of a freelance thing at the moment.”
Brighton laughed. “They’re going to kick you guys out of your apartment.”
“And then they’ll try to move in with us,” I said, silencing her laughter.
“I don’t think so,” she said, turning her gaze on the boys. “Why can’t you guys keep a job? It’s not that difficult. You can’t tell me that people don’t work in England.”
“It bores me,” Jefferson said.
He had his huge eyes on me, gauging my reaction, I was guessing, but I knew he was just trying to get a rise out of me.
“Well, we aren’t paying your rent,” I said, “so you’d better think of something quick.”
His lips tugged up in a slow smile.
“I mean it, Jefferson! We can barely pay our own rent, and all of this equipment isn’t cheap.” I motioned to the piles of cameras on their patched up old couch. “Besides, don’t you guys have work visas or something you need to keep up on?”
“Dual citizenship,” Jefferson stated simply, pointing to himself then Deacon with a proud smile, as if he’d even had anything to do with it. His mom had probably done it for them both.
I shook my head. “Well, get out of my way. I need to get some sleep before I go to work tomorrow.”
I stepped up to Jefferson, waiting for him to move. It was difficult to intimidate him when I could barely see over his shoulder. Being short was the worst.
Slowly, he leaned down so that we were face to face, his large eyes locked on mine and his lips still curled up in a smile.
“You know, if you’d let me set up cameras at your place like I suggested, I wouldn’t have to worry about the two of you all alone over there,” he whispered. “Or I could check for monsters under your bed.” And at that suggestion he finally stepped out of my way, leaving me to wonder how he hadn’t been committed yet. He had to have a couple of screws loose.
“Do you want some coffee or something?” Deacon asked behind me.
“It’s three in the morning,” Brighton said apologetically, following me out of the apartment and leaving the Parrish boys to do whatever it was they did in that place. They must have done something with all the free time that being unemployed offered. It wasn’t like they were reviewing tapes like they should have been.
“Unbelievable.” I sighed, closing our front door and dropping my coat on the ground.
Brighton quickly picked it up and hung it in the closet. She was a bit of a neat freak.
“I’m not his mother. I can’t make his bed and pay his rent for him,” I said incredulously, stripping off wet articles of clothing as I walked down the hallway to my room. My soaked twenties dress emitted a dull plop as it hit the floor.
“Leave it,” I called over my shoulder to Brighton, who was still trying to pick up after me. “I’ll get them in the morning.”
I sat on my bed and created a snug little cocoon out of my quilt. “He’s like a child.”
Brighton perched on the edge of my bed, rubbing my quilted arm sympathetically. “They both are.”
She looked like a blonde angel despite being waterlogged and exhausted. I just looked like a spiky-haired drowned rat, and somehow managed to look pale despite my naturally dark coloring.
It was infuriating.
We both sat there for a moment, having a wordless pity party over the fact that we had picked the most difficult friends in the world.
“They really are going to get kicked out of their apartment,” I finally said. “I couldn’t handle living with them full time. Please fix it, Brighton.”
“I’ll talk to Deacon in the morning before work,” she promised, giving my arm one last reassuring squeeze before getting up to leave.
“You try to get some sleep. No matter what you say, those boys are going to make us go investigating tomorrow.”
I nodded my head somberly, giving in to my dramatic side and letting my lips pout a bit. Brighton rolled her eyes at me and closed the door, engulfing me in darkness.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, and even though I was exhausted and needed to wake up for work in just four hours, I let the night’s investigation replay in my mind. Although I felt completely justified in my diva moment, I still couldn’t help but worry that I’d botched an opportunity to finally have a successful investigation. Before Jefferson had ruined my attempt at connecting with whatever spirits might be lurking at the old bar, the shadow detector had gone off just one room from where I had been standing. I could almost hear it beeping in my empty room over the sound of the rain hitting my window.
An involuntary shiver crept through my body. No matter how excited I was to catch evidence of the paranormal, it was always a little unnerving to think that some unseen thing could be in the room with me at any given moment.
I pulled my quilt tighter around me and let my brown eyes roam the darkened room. Of course, everything looked like a human shape in the dark—my desk chair, a coat hanging on my closet doorknob, and some large dark object in the corner that I couldn’t quite identify. My eyes stayed locked on the unidentifiable mass, and I held my breath without really meaning to.
The slightly skewed nature of the shadow reminded me of Jefferson and his creepy head tilt, and suddenly I was on my feet, running across the hardwood floor and flipping on my light switch.
My robe on one of Jefferson’s stupid camera tripods that I told him to stop leaving in my room. He left his stuff everywhere after an investigation, no matter how many times I scolded him about it. Although I guess it could have been worse. It could have been an actual camera and not just a tripod.
I really was his mother.
I pulled the robe off and tossed it on the ground with the rest of my clothes, walked back over to my bed, and sat down, grabbing my quilt once more and wrapping it around myself. Heaving a deep sigh and getting a grip on my shot nerves, I glanced at my nightstand only to notice something that hadn’t been there only moments before.
A single key sat on the dark wood, shining in the semi-darkness. It wouldn’t have been such an unusual thing, had it not been my mail key that was normally secured on my key ring and buried in my disaster of a purse.
I looked at it sideways and picked it up suspiciously, thinking it must have been Brighton’s and deciding there was an easy way to get to the bottom of this particular mystery.
I dumped my entire purse over, spilling the contents on my quilt and rifling through my things. What I found left me breathless and slightly stunned. My mail key was missing from my key ring, but that hardly seemed important when compared to the envelope that had somehow appeared in my purse.
The envelope that had my name on it.