Afterburn: Chapter 3

Continuing from Afterburn: Chapter 2 Sarah Meyers had a problem with fire. No, she wasn't afraid of it nor did she tote around matches to satisfy any psychological pyromaniac desires, regardless what her therapist thinks. Sadly, her problem was much crazier than her poor therapist could comprehend. Sometimes, if she was angry or scared enough, things around her tended to catch on fire. Sometimes it just happened to be a small trashcan, but other times it could end up being an entire barn. Outside of the possibility of being delusional, which Sarah doesn't buy, she isn't the typical teenage girl. The barn fire forced her father to move the family to his hometown of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, hoping the family name and history would be strong enough to dampen the actions of his delinquent daughter. Now, Sarah has to start the game all over again. New school, more people to avoid, and try desperately to keep herself from setting anymore fires. Sarah soon finds out that some of the kids are not quite like the rest of the others, either. No, there is an old secret in this town that may provide Sarah with answers, but what she may find could be more terrifying than high school, and that's pretty scary.   Even though I was still upset with Alton for getting me to go out with him, Annie, and her boyfriend, I had to admit that I ended up having a lot fun. The movie had been terrible, but expected. A good movie based on a book is a rare thing anymore. My new friends enjoyed cracking jokes throughout the movie that had me crying tears of mirth. There were even a couple of moments where the Fed almost made me pee myself. I didn’t even know that kid could talk, let alone be a riot. We had walked to the small ice cream shop across the street from the theater, which I was told was the best in the entire universe by Annie. Her face was so serious when she said that this, that I think she actually believed it. And, honestly, it was totally that good. I was content in my own world lapping up the chocolate heaven that was slowly beginning to melt from the cone in my hand, blissfully ignoring the fact that Alton was staring at me the entire time. The evening was so nice, we decided to walk home through the park. I knew that Annie and the Fed would be breaking off as soon as we found the same spot in the park where we all met earlier. I had graciously allowed Alton to escort me from my home to the others. By graciously, I meant with a scowl, since he had taken it upon himself to come get me from my house. My mother, doing nothing to discourage him, invited him in and showed him up to my room, where a baffled but quickly irritated me opened my bedroom door to them both. Alton said a quick hi, did a quick once over of the room, before inviting himself in with a clearly amused smile on his face, enjoying the invasion of my personal space a little too much. Even though I now wasn’t particularly thrilled to be left alone with him again. Alton had been nice enough not to question me too much throughout the night, choosing to stick to similar interests of books and movies. Annie was yelling at the Fed, playfully, as he chased her about with his ice cream cone. For a quick moment I allowed myself to imagine that this must be what having friends is like. Smiling as your best friend is being chased by her teasing boyfriend. Anticipating the next day, so you can call her and gossip about the cute boy that couldn’t keep his eyes off of you throughout the whole movie. It was a fun little fantasy, but like most of my fantasies, short lived as the reality of my life ripped through these dreams, quickly reminding me of burning barns. I would never be able to have a normal life like this, and I don’t know why I keep letting myself fall so easily instep with it, when I’ve been proven time and time again that this kind of life just will never be for me. The break in the path came quickly with my inner musings. Annie laughed and waved goodbye as she jumped on the Fed’s back. He thought it would be a good idea to run as fast as he could causing Annie to shriek and call out behind that she would call me whether I liked it or not tomorrow. I just blinked stupidly after them perplexed by the similarity of my mini daydream. “She’s a good friend, and she can be one for you, too, if you give her a chance,” Alton’s voice vibrated softly next to my ear, his close proximity startling the ice cream right out of my hand. I turned sharply to face him, poking my finger into his hard chest before saying, “Do you know what personal space is? I actually liked that ice cream.” Alton had the damn nerve to smirk at me, which just infuriated me even more, before he replied, “I’ll just have to buy you another one on our next date.” After which, he promptly turned and started strolling languidly down our path, leaving me standing there, mouth agape. First this guy had the nerve to practically invade my life, and now he assumed that we were on a date? I wonder how smug he would feel with his jacket ablaze. As tempting as that thought was, I had to be careful, because I was annoyed enough to actually do it. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes before counting to ten. “You just going to hang out there all night or are you coming?” Alton called out softly from the tree he had decided to lean against. I opened one of my eyes to stare back at him while continuing my deep breaths. I shut it tightly again, hearing him chuckle, and counted to ten again for good measure before striding forward. He fell into step beside me with a smug smile on his face. “We are not on a date,” I said staring straight ahead at the path before us. He chuckled again. I was really beginning to hate that sound. “I don’t know, Sarah? I did pick you up from your house, buy your ticket, and share my popcorn with you at the movies. That sounds date-ish to me. And, let’s not forget that I’m gallantly escorting you home,” Alton had the nerve to bow like he was some gentleman type from the nineteenth century. Now I was pretty irate and was about to give the guy a piece of my mind when the glint of something silver from the corner of my eye kept me frozen to the spot. The sinking fear I felt was confirmed when I looked at Alton’s face. His eyes were wide and fixed directly behind my left shoulder. I felt a strong hand grip that same shoulder and something firmly poking my lower back. “Nice and slowly, give me your money,” a gruff and rancid voice stated next to my ear. My breathing grew rapid, as the object on my back was pushed further forward, poking me sharply. I must have made a noise, because Alton’s eyes immediately found mine instantly mirroring the panic that I felt. “No funny business, boy, and I won’t slide this blade into your girlfriend. Just give me your money,” the voice sneered. Alton brought his hands up slowly, making sure my captor understood he was willing to comply. He gulped loudly before saying evenly, “Look, I’ll give you my wallet, just don’t hurt her, please.” Alton looked defeated as he slowly reached for his back pocket. I felt the knife shake against me as he chuckled menacingly. I guess Alton’s surrender satisfied him enough that he decided to get cocky, which was a really big mistake. “I don’t know. The girl is awfully pretty. I might just slice up her face just because I can,” he breathed out, amusement clearly in his voice. I certainly wasn’t amused. No I was pissed. Forgive me for losing my cool when someone threatens to slice up my face. Unfortunately for me and especially for chuckles behind me, being pissed off isn’t the only thing that happens when I lose my cool. That was when I felt the knife being pulled quickly away from my back, and the guy began shrieking in fright. I looked at Alton and saw a light dancing in his eyes effectively hiding his expression from me. Spinning around I found my assailant desperately trying to pull off his coat, which was now being consumed by fire. Alton reached out and grabbed my arm yanking my back beside him. The mugger managed to shrug out of the coat before getting injured and took his new found freedom with him as he bolted back down the path and towards the town. I expected a lot of things to happen next, like Alton grabbing me and pulling me towards our homes. Maybe even Alton freaking out and hugging the crap out of me. What I did not expect was Alton putting out the fire. I should rephrase that. I didn’t expect how Alton put out the fire. We were standing near a pond that had gone unnoticed by me until I saw a fluid stream arc out of it, completely on its own, and smoothly smother out the flames on the coat as if ponds do this type of thing all of the time. For someone with the tendency to set fires at any random moment just by thinking about it, one would think that a little water floating up out of a pond wouldn’t be as alarming. It sure is. Yeah, I totally freaked and grabbed poor Alton’s hand squeezing the hell out of it, which he returned with enthusiasm, making me assume he was also having issues dealing with what was happening. Then Alton spoke, “Personally, I would have aimed for his shoes. Would have gotten him running quicker, but the coat was just as effective.” I broke from his grip, spinning to face him. I could see the ghost of a smirk fade off of Alton’s face. I could feel my pulse begin to race and the air around me start to crackle. Alton must have felt the sudden change, because he quickly put his hands up in a defensive position. “Whoa, whoa! Calm down! I am not going to hurt you. I am just like you. Please just take a breath and calm down,” Alton pleaded with me. “Don’t tell me to calm down! Who are you?” I growled bringing my hands up as a shield. “What the hell do you want with me?” “Nothing!” Alton cried, “Hell, you act as if you don’t know what you are?” He stopped then and looked at me, ice blue icy jumping across to study me, before hesitantly asking, “You don’t know what you are?” “What the hell do you mean by what I am?” I bit back at him, as a tiny lit spark of fire flashed quickly in the space between our feet before extinguishing. Alton’s eyes quickly dropped to the flame eyeing the spot it left warily. He voiced pleaded shakily, “Look, I am just like you. Not with the whole fire thing, but we are the same,” he swallowed before continuing, “You clearly don’t know about your family or your grandmother. We heard stories about your grandmother keeping it a secret from your father after your grandfather died, but we thought he would have figured it out. Especially with all of your suspected arson incidents.” “What the hell are you talking about?” I growled, my fear slowly dissipating into anger. Alton was clearly not going to hurt me, but it didn’t mean I would just easily trust him. “My family has nothing to do with my abilities, Alton. I am a freak of nature.” “Yeah, well you’re not the only one, and definitely not the first one in your family. The Meyers have quite the history, something that either was well-hidden from your father or he has conveniently chose to ignore,” He bravely tried to slowly step forward, quickly stopping when a flash of fire lit up quickly at his feet, snuffing out in warning. He nodded when his gaze moved slowly up from the spot and caught my narrowed eyes. I raised up a finger to him and seethed, “Leave me alone,” before turning on the spot and bolting down the path towards my house. I could hear Alton call after me, but it seemed he was smart enough not to follow me. My lungs began to slowly burn with my speed, but I forced myself to listen to the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I refused to focus on anything other than getting into the safety of my bedroom. The lush green area shifted to residential houses, and I kept running. Somehow my feet new where to go. The brick walls identifying my neighborhood appeared, and my eyes focused quickly in on my gate. Gasping for air, when I reached it, I slammed in the code, relieved to hear the wrought iron groaning loading as it begin to move on its hinges. Bolting for the last time to the safety of the house. The lights were off, which was a welcoming sight. That meant that my parents hadn’t made it home yet, and I am sure I didn’t look like a normal kid that just came home from hanging out with friends. I quickly locked the doors up behind me, resetting the security system. I stopped long enough through the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge, chugging it as I slowly trudged my now aching feet up the stairs. My grandmother greeted me at the top. Her expression unchanging since when I had left with Alton, but I was the one now changed. I stared into her green eyes distrusting what I saw, and asked her, “What am I?” Expecting no answer, I simply sighed and said, “Goodnight, Grandmother,” then lumbered, defeated, down the hall and into my bedroom.

Afterburn: Chapter 2

Continuing from Afterburn: Chapter 1

Sarah Meyers had a problem with fire. No, she wasn't afraid of it nor did she tote around matches to satisfy any psychological pyromaniac desires, regardless what her therapist thinks. Sadly, her problem was much crazier than her poor therapist could comprehend. Sometimes, if she was angry or scared enough, things around her tended to catch on fire. Sometimes it just happened to be a small trashcan, but other times it could end up being an entire barn. Outside of the possibility of being delusional, which Sarah doesn't buy, she isn't the typical teenage girl. The barn fire forced her father to move the family to his hometown of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, hoping the family name and history would be strong enough to dampen the actions of his delinquent daughter. Now, Sarah has to start the game all over again. New school, more people to avoid, and try desperately to keep herself from setting anymore fires. Sarah soon finds out that some of the kids are not quite like the rest of the others, either. No, there is an old secret in this town that may provide Sarah with answers, but what she may find could be more terrifying than high school, and that's pretty scary.

Chapter 2

It was Monday morning and my first day of school. To say I was uncomfortable would be an understatement. Wedged between my parents with a folder filled with psychological evaluations, a consent letter from my psychiatrist, and legal privacy documentation clutched tightly within my father’s hand was not how I imagined my first day of school. I figured I would be greeted by the principal and shoved into the hand of the poor student assigned to be my guide while I attempted to avoid as many people as possible. I guess there was still hope for the last part.

Because of the fire, I had to be approved by the school board for admission, much to my father’s annoyance, which was partly due to our name in the community and mostly due to legal reasons. The Meyers family has been giving a yearly, sizable donation to the school corporation, not to mention that the auditorium is named after my great grandfather, William Prescott Brannelly.

The fact that the school demanded medical certification of my sanity was insulting to my father. The lawyer in him not only has supplied paperwork concerning my psychological profile, but also several copies of legal literature highlighting my rights to attend a public school. I didn’t really mind so much. Who wouldn’t be scared of a girl that randomly sets things on fire and burnt down an entire barn? It’s only fair, especially since I’m not even aware of what I’m fully capable of. The school was looking for proof that I wouldn’t suddenly go up to some random kid with a lighter and set his or her recent blowout ablaze, not that I need a lighter.

I have been previously given a probationary period of six months and have to keep supplying updated consents from my psychiatrist. This is what the school board is standing by, but I have a feeling that after my father shoves the forms and contracts he brought with him under the principal’s nose, that all of this will be brushed off as a misunderstanding. He’s even going to let them keep the psychiatric evaluations, only because they say I am not dangerous to anyone, just to myself. I am sure my father knows how the angle of being forthcoming with that information will look in trial. I just wonder if he would have been so eager to hand it over if the information actually stated the opposite.

The long awaited Principal Addams, a stout middle aged woman without a hair out of place, finally graced my family with her presence, frowning after absorbing all the forms that were promptly placed before her by my smug father. My mother, the dutiful wife, continued to mirror my father’s expressions. After some short-lived tension, the principal finally addressed me by introducing herself and the school, then promptly called for the before mentioned poor soul who would have the pleasure of showing me around. I found myself being shoved out of the office into the presence of a short redheaded girl named Annie Anderson with only a quick goodbye to my parents.

Annie was definitely not the girl that I expected. The retro rock t-shirt paired with worn jeans finished off with a couple of marked up sneakers was the kind of outfit I’d prefer to be wearing right now instead of the flower tunic dress that my mother insisted on me wearing. I don’t really do dresses and wasn’t thrilled to be in one. This is what I expected my guide to be wearing. Eyebrow raised, Annie seemed to be having the same impression of me.

“Looks like we have home room together,” Annie said handing me my schedule, eyebrow still raised. “We have three more after that.” She paused for a second squeezing her eyes together and shaking her head quickly before smiling warmly at me. “Sorry, I’m Annie Anderson,” she said to me, holding out her hand.

“Sarah Meyers,” I replied shaking her hand.

“Nice to meet you,” she smiled. “As much as it blows being the new kid in such a small school, this place is virtually impossible to get lost in,” Annie snickered. She placed the pencil she had been holding behind her ear and grabbed my arm gently, guiding me through the halls, weaving in and out of the various teenagers. Every once and awhile Annie would throw her hand up in a wave or nod at a few students.

“Mr. Rick is our home room leader and history teacher.” She paused before continuing, running her fingers through her long red hair. “I think I’ll let you make your own judgments of Fuhrer Rick, and, yes, that is his last name, first name being Richard. I can only hope his middle name is Randy, cause that would make my day,” she waggled her eyebrows at me, blue eyes twinkling, and making me laugh. “A little advice, always do the homework whether it’s right or not and use footnotes on papers. That usually keeps the beast happy and off your case.”

“Thanks for the warning,” I replied. “Forgive me for mentioning this, but you’re not the typical overachiever that usually gets this job.” I said to her as we entered a classroom behind a couple of guys that Annie shoved playfully along.

“Oh, I’m an overachiever. Top of the class here, but that’s as far as I go with bragging. I like showing new meat around. I think everyone should be given the proper information to survive this hellhole. I’m a rebel like that,” Annie replied, pointing at a desk for me near the back and slid into the one next to it.

“I know you’re not what you seem either.” She chuckled at me when I narrowed my eyes at her. “Hey, no need to get testy. I was just letting you know that unfortunately not all of your secrets have remained as such. Gossip is an evil affliction that has consumed this town and not even I can escape it all the time,” she said, nonchalantly, which was actually irritating since she basically told me that the entire town knows how big of a freak I was.

“In my opinion, you learn quickly that not everything is what it seems in this town, and in your case, so you burned down a decrepit old barn. Sounds to me that you probably prevented it from falling down on some poor bastard’s head. I mean, you’re not the first person nor the last person with issues, right?”

“You don’t hold anything back do you?” I asked, slightly puzzled.

“Not in my nature, and time’s too precious to waste on BS,” Annie stated while shrugging.

A few more kids were shuffling through the room to their seats. I knew that I needed to regain my stoic demeanor. I don’t think I talked to anyone this much in the first few months of a new school let alone the first day. This blunt conversation I was experiencing was definitely throwing me off. Immersing myself back into school was my only option right now. Unfortunately, the way to get started in this would be to ask someone about it, and Annie was the only person available. A couple of kids laughing as they came through the door caught my gaze before I could ask Annie about what we were studying, and who other than Alton should come strolling in behind them. He brightened when he caught my startled gaze and headed for the desk right in front of mine.

“Just the boy I was looking for,” Annie said happily to Alton, giving me a chance to regain my composure. “The Fed and I were thinking about getting a bunch of people together to see the new horror film tonight. You interested?” she asked him, propping her head up on her hand.

Alton squeezed his eyes together dramatically, pretending to be deep in thought, before answering, “Yeah, I can come. I don’t have any plans.”

“Cool, but you know the rules. I only let you slum with us outcasts as long as you don’t bring that dickhead cousin of yours or that revolting female who insists on drooling on your shoulder at lunch,” Annie pulled out a pencil from behind her ear and pointed it menacingly at him. “I don’t want to have to hit anyone on my night off.”

Alton smirked then clutched his hands to his chest and replied, “Ah, Anderson, I’m touched that you would have those feelings for me. Here you are confessing that you stare longingly at me during lunch.”

“You’re adorable, Alton, really,” she exasperated, “Just let The Fed hear you say that. Do you know how hard it is to ignore a screeching cockatoo that squeals out ‘Oh, Alton’ every five minutes when you’re trying to execute your basic right of digesting?”

“Tell me how you really feel, Annie,” Alton chuckled. Turning to me he asked, “What about you? You should come, too.”

I shifted uncomfortably under his eager stare, before answering, “Probably not. I, uh, still got a lot to unpack at the house. I should really help my mom out with that first.”

I knew exactly what movie they were talking about, and a part of me was tempted to say yes, because I wanted to see it that much. I didn’t know what was going on here. When I started my last school, I just got pointed in the right direction of my classes. The only people to actually talk to me extensively were the teachers, concerning caught up assignments. I instantly established myself as a pariah. Here, even with the knowledge of a barn fire flying around faster than a fighter jet, I’m getting asked to hang out, and my first class hasn’t even started.

Alton gave me a knowing smile, easily reading through my fib. If he wanted to call me out, he never voiced his opinion. It was odd, but nice. I may want to be left alone, but I never wanted to be known as a bitch.

The lively classroom quickly settled as a short, stocky man blew open the classroom door, wearing a suit that hadn’t seen an iron in the last ten years. His very presence cast a ripple of silence across the students. Alton immediately faced forward and began pulling out his textbook and notebook, an action that the rest of the class mimicked. I glanced quickly over at Annie to find her pointing at her own books and gesturing to me warily.

Setting his briefcase down loudly on the front desk, Mr. Rick cleared his throat obnoxiously, clearly trying to maintain the fear he had over the class. People like him didn’t faze me at all. It is kind of hard to worry about what a teacher thinks about you when you know you can burn down his house…accidently of course. He stared around the students before finally saying, “I hope that you all are eagerly awaiting to hand in your research papers. Especially you, Mr. Donavon.” Mr. Rick smiled haughtily at a sleepy looking kid in the third row. “I always await what gibberish you tend to fill multiple sheets of paper. I’m always torn between amusement and general anger over having wasted my time,” he sneered.

It didn’t take long for the teacher’s eyes to find me in the back, causing him to smile, sickly, before saying, “It looks as though we have been honored with a new student. Come forth Miss Meyers, so that we can get to know you.” He beckoned me forward using his hand.

I got up slowly, Alton giving me a reassuring smile as I passed, which seemed to do the opposite of helping. I definitely have never been put on the chopping block before. This teacher seemed to revel in superiority and making sure that others were always aware of that.

Mr. Rick met me at the front of the desk, sizing me up before remarking to the class more than to me, “Miss Meyers, in this classroom you will find that it matters less who you are and more what you know, so tell me, dear, what do you know of our current subject, the Women’s Suffrage movement?”

I shot a look at the staring faces that awaited my answer before swallowing hard and replying, “One of the first major victories was prohibition, even before gaining the right to vote.”

Mr. Rick nodded his head slowly in agreement before addressing me. “I can see that some intelligence resides within you. It is a wish I have of every student I have to encounter. Please don’t disappoint me, Miss Meyers, now that you have set a standard for yourself. I find myself satisfied, so you may take your seat,” he said stately, raising his arm in the direction of my seat. “As for the rest of you, turn to chapter fifteen in your text.”

*   *   *

I found myself in a blur of textbook readings, until at last it was lunch time. Annie, who had promptly met me outside as she had done all day, helped me find my locker again and then steered me towards the lunchroom. Once we collected our meals of overly square shaped pizza and lukewarm fries, Annie did not give me the option of finding my own table, but dragged me to one where a boy with shaggy brown hair sat devouring pizza.

Annie smiled affectionately at the guy before sitting next to him and pointing a chair for me to do the same. As she patted his head, she said to me, “He may be an animal, but I can’t help but adore him.” She pointed at where I sat, tugging at the boy’s sleeve to gain his attention before saying, “Babe, this is the new girl, Sarah Meyers.” To me, she said, “This is my boyfriend, Jackson Federline, but everyone just calls him The Fed. As you can see, he’s not much of a talker. It works better that way for me.”

I gave a small wave to the boy, earning only a raised eyebrow before he returned to his lunch. His indifference was quite refreshing and more what I’m used to. Smiling, I turned to check out the rest of the lunchroom. Alton’s table was next to us as Annie mentioned before. He gave me a wave when we made eye contact. I just nodded back at him. He sat with a large group of kids that included the ones from the car. Arrogance seemed to flitter out from the table, which was the opposite of mine I discovered after scanning the rest of the room. Annie and The Fed really just didn’t seem to care about anything, while the rest of the student body continued to glance at Alton’s table with awe and envy. These were obviously the popular kids of the school.

When I glanced back at Alton’s table, I found the girl, Handley, staring back menacingly. She made no attempt to hide her emotions when Alton shrugged her away and got up to make his way towards, well me, which did nothing but earn me an even fiercer look from Handley. Alton just sidled up and sat in the chair between me and Annie like nothing was amiss.

Reaching across to shake The Fed’s hand before gesturing towards me and saying, “Well, I just had the best idea. After getting to know our new friend, Sarah, yesterday, I am aware that she is a kindred spirit of ours.” He said all of this without looking at me, which to be honest irked me. Unaware of my feelings, Alton said, “I figured she was bummed by not being able to see the movie with us. It just so happens that fate is working in her favor, and she can now. I was thinking we could grab food at the usual place and celebrate our new found friend here,” He finished by patting my shoulder affectionately.

What the hell is this guy talking about? I am not going to a movie with him or anybody else for that matter. My irritation was beginning to boil over at this point, prompting me to say, “Excuse me, but I clearly told you I had to help my mom out, regardless what you think you know.” My eyes bore into him to emphasis just how serious I was. I barely know this guy, and he just shows up and starts dictating what I can and cannot do? Did he really expect me to be okay with this?

Alton smiled charmingly at me before adding, “It’s cool. Your mom said you could go.”

“You talked to my mother?” I cried, incredulously.

Raising his hands up as a shield, he quickly answered, “Whoa. I didn’t ask her.” His cheeks darkened a little as those stunning blue eyes began looking everywhere, but at me. With a softened voice, he added, “My mom kind of did.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, wondering how only one person, a person I just met, could have caused me so much irritation in less than a day. Apparently, my face translated enough of my sentiments, because Alton began cringing.

He threw up his hands in a defensive gesture, and quickly stated, “She just called me during my free period to tell me that I would have to fend for myself for dinner, because she and my father were taking your parents out for dinner. I then told her I was fine, because I was already going out tonight to the movies.” The one breath he used for that sentence finally running out, he took in a quick ragged breath before continuing. “My mother,” he emphasized, “then informed me that she had a great idea. She said that I should invite you to come with me so that you could see the town and meet some of my friends. This idea was then immediately shared with your mother, who just happened to be right there with her. Your mother thought it was a great plan and signed off on it saying that you would have a great time.”

He paused then, looking at me strangely like I was a giant rubik’s cube he was trying to solve, before saying, “For someone our age, you seem to have a lot of trust issues.”

My eyes rounded in bewilderment as I took a small, sharp intake of air, when Annie chimed in, pointing a now cold French fry at Alton, “You picked up on that, too?” Seeing my permanently confused expression focus on her, she added, “Don’t be mad, okay? I’m just really intuitive. Being the new kid isn’t a bad thing. You get to start fresh. Be who you want to be.” Annie was waving the same fry up and down in her fingers like is was some kind of conductor’s baton, bouncing down on every word to emphasize her statement.

“Listen, your life is like a novel, Sarah. Sure you could flip back through the pages you’ve already read, obsessing over plots and scenes like you’re going to somehow change them. The problem is that you can’t, and you’ll miss out on the important part. The ending. An ending you’ll never discover, if you don’t take the chance and read the next page,” she said matter-of-factly, only to pop the entire fry she had been holding into her mouth.

What kind of twilight zone did I end up in? Who the hell were these kids? Regardless of how poetic and weirdly poignant that little speech was, what the hell kind of teenager talks like that?

I guess my face must have shifted from shock to confusion, because Alton decided to say with all seriousness, “That was just another fine example of why every single Ivy League school in the country has been hounding her with literature even though she’s only a junior.”

“Most of them even waived the application fee,” Annie added, brightly.

“This is definitely going to be an interesting school year,” I sighed dejectedly. With a half-smile, I picked up one of my own cold fries and began chewing slowly.

Afterburn: Chapter 1

Continuing from Afterburn: Prologue

Sarah Meyers had a problem with fire. No, she wasn't afraid of it nor did she tote around matches to satisfy any psychological pyromaniac desires, regardless what her therapist thinks. Sadly, her problem was much crazier than her poor therapist could comprehend. Sometimes, if she was angry or scared enough, things around her tended to catch on fire. Sometimes it just happened to be a small trashcan, but other times it could end up being an entire barn. Outside of the possibility of being delusional, which Sarah doesn't buy, she isn't the typical teenage girl. The barn fire forced her father to move the family to his hometown of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, hoping the family name and history would be strong enough to dampen the actions of his delinquent daughter. Now, Sarah has to start the game all over again. New school, more people to avoid, and try desperately to keep herself from setting anymore fires. Sarah soon finds out that some of the kids are not quite like the rest of the others, either. No, there is an old secret in this town that may provide Sarah with answers, but what she may find could be more terrifying than high school, and that's pretty scary.

Chapter 1

“Sanctuary, Rhode Island has been around since the first immigrants and pilgrims came to America,” My mother said as she hung the clothes she just unpacked into my closet. “There’re still a lot of books and artifacts that your grandmother left with the house. Your father always says that the museums have been hounding her for the collection for years. He’d sell them himself if he wasn’t so afraid that your grandmother would come back to haunt him for doing it. They’ll all be yours someday, since she has dictated in her will that they stay with the family.”

I just smiled and nodded, but continued folding clothes and placing them in my dresser. This was my mother’s daily attempt to try not to alienate me. My new therapist, she apparently went to the same school as my former psychiatrist, told them that in anger and confusion over my actions, there comes alienation, a compulsion to separate oneself from the problem. The psychiatrist then promptly assured me that I was not the problem, just my actions, which is why my mother has barely stopped to breathe in the last two hours as she has helped me unpack my room. I already knew that this house, though it should really be called a mansion due to its massive size, used to belong to my grandmother and has been in the family for several generations. My mother was excitedly telling me about my family history, excited, because, for once, she had something to talk to me about and something to occupy her, my room, during today’s anti-alienation attempt. My ancestors, the Brannellys, fled their homeland of Ireland to escape persecution, yadda, yadda, yadda. The family line has always been known for the boys they produce. Rarely is there ever a girl. In fact, my grandmother was the first female in five generations, making myself an anomaly as well. The men in the family, including my father, tend to be enigmatic, but the females seem to take a more recluse route, as with my grandmother, and so shall it most likely be for me. This mansion may one day be my only refuge, just as it was for dear old granny.

I never actually met my grandmother. I always got the impression from my parents that she wasn’t quite sane, something they never seem to forget during my therapy sessions. Dad was obviously left the house after she died six years ago, but was too ambitious in Maryland to ever want to leave. That was, at least, until I set a barn on fire. I think my father is hoping that the names Meyers and Brannelly have enough presence to overshadow my faults, and he and my mother can go about normal lives even with a crazy daughter. If the house is supposed to stay in the family, then that means I’ll always have a home, even if I end up a total recluse. After the barn fire, I don’t see a whole lot of other options for my future. It is a dreaded fate, but being a freak and forced to be a new girl at a new school is far more dreadful.

I had tried to talk my parents into hiring a private tutor, playing the crazy card, but my therapist told them that my obsession with fire has only been a threat to myself. No one has ever been directly a target. Emersion into a scholastic environment will only encourage socialization of some kind and will be a great benefit to my self-esteem. Apparently, my therapist was homeschooled, because high school is never a benefit to anyone’s self-esteem. I am especially not looking forward to school, because my therapist is forcing me to make a friend. I am stuck with choosing the better option of making a friend having them find out that I am either a freak who will possibly endanger them or continue to remind my parents of the failures they are for producing such a child with destructive tendencies.

The key to this decision is that the therapist said she would consider reducing and eventually quitting all medications that I am currently prescribed. The fact that I don’t actually take any of the medications isn’t important. It’s just that my parents also think I take them as well as the school I will be attending. It’s always easier to stay under the radar unmedicated as opposed to medicated, and it will give some peace of mind to my parents.

I cut my mom’s ramblings off when I finished putting away everything in my dresser to ask if I could take a bike ride around town. Most of the time my mother knew that she or my father had to force me out of the house. Since the anti-alienation started, I’ve begun feeling quite smothered, and my only option was to leave the house in search of a secluded, quiet spot. She was all too eager to allow me to leave and even gave me twenty bucks to spend as I liked. I was zipping up my hoodie and about to leave my room when she stopped me.

“Sarah, sweetheart, this is a fresh start for you. Try to make the most of it and find a friend,” she said.

“Sure, Mom. I’ll try,” I replied, forcing a smile.

She walked up to me reaching out to touch my cheek, a ghost of worry hinting within her eyes. “You’ve grown up so much. I hardly remember how little you once were. Mmmm…it’s funny, but you look so much like your grandmother. You should look at her portrait when you get downstairs,” she smiled brightly, hiding her fear. She probably put my grandmother and me together, thinking, just as I had been, of my fate and the possibility of following in my grandmother’s footsteps.

“Too bad I couldn’t look like you, huh? That wouldn’t have been so bad,” I smirked but smiled as my mother gave me a shy smile that reached her golden brown eyes, and withdrew her hand from my face to gently brush her chocolate hair behind her ear. It was a rare and modest moment for my mother that only my father and I ever got to see. She usually spends most of her time as the perfect and glamorous housewife. I think it was tender moments such as these that made my father fall in love with her, probably because it brought the same side out of him.

“Um, thanks again, Mom, for helping me unpack,” I said tugging at the strings of my hood. “And, I really think that I can make a change here.”

“I’m glad to hear that, sweetheart,” she replied. “Have a good time.”

I nodded and made my way downstairs. I stopped in the foyer taking the time to look at my grandmother’s portrait. The plaque beneath it read, “Gabrielle Linette Brannelly Meyers.” A mouthful, I know, but my mother was right about me. I did look like my grandmother. She must have been somewhere in her early forties when this was painted. Her hair was the same deep auburn as mine. The painter even captured the same natural gold highlights I had. I did not, however, have the flipped out haircut that I can only describe as the precursor to the “Farrah” hair phenomenon, a fact that I am most pleased about. Though the hair did match the dark green one shoulder ensemble she wore in the painting, pretty saucy actually. Go Grams, get down with your bad self! There was one major difference between us, my eye color. My grandmother’s eyes were the same shade of green as her outfit, just like my father’s. Mine came from my mother. They were the same chocolate shade as hers, except mine had tiny golden flecks that highlighted them, much the same as the highlights in my hair. Other than that small flaw, I was staring at what I’d look like in my forties, and well, if I was stuck in 1974. That began to creep me out a bit, so I bid adieu to Gram Gabby and headed outside to grab my bike.

Fall was just about to settle on Sanctuary, but the summer warmth still had a lingering grip on the air. I was glad I chose to wear a tank top under my hoodie. The mansion had enough land surrounding it to give it a private and secluded feel. It was going to take me some time to get used to the neighborhood that immediately burst forth as I exited the gate. Our property sat at the end of a lane, easily the largest, but the other houses could never be considered small. I headed up the lane towards Main Street where most of the businesses in Sanctuary resided. Just as I was riding along a brick adorned wall that framed the front of a mansion a few places down, a black, sports convertible, carrying four teens about my age, barreled out of the driveway causing me to break hard and lose my balance, falling to the ground.

“You better watch where you’re going, girl. I could have easily got fifty points for tapping that fine ass of yours!” the blond driver cackled behind his sunglasses. I’ve been ridiculed long enough to know when to pick my battles. As offensive as he was acting, I opted to just ignore him, too concerned with my current state on the ground.

“Nice one, man!” his friend guffawed, the sun gleaming off of the coffee toned skin of his bald head. The guy even stood up, seatbelts apparently eluding him, to get a better look at me as I scrambled to right myself.

There was a well groomed blonde girl sitting in the back behind the gawker that tittered. Yes, she was actually tittering, well poised hand at mouth included. The other passenger in the back was the only one not smiling. Concern seemed to spread across his strong dark features.

“Are you alright?” he asked, brushing a hand back through his long, shaggy hair, while I was attempting to pull debris from my hair. His voice was deep and masculine, stealing my apt attention immediately. Partnered with his celebrity dark looks, it would be hard not to call the guy attractive. They were the same features that got me into my last mess and ended with a barn burning down. The guy did manage to convey a lot more concern in three words, than Paul Stanton ever managed in any of his conversations. That was probably because Paul was lying to me the entire time.

I decided to reply back to the guy since he was trying to be nice. Apparently, the tool in the driver’s seat thought that enough time had been spent and floored the accelerator leaving me hacking at the dust kicked up by the car. Well, the locals were sure friendly.

I found the drugstore easily enough. It was part of the largest building on Main Street next to the grocery store. I locked my bike to railing located in the front of the store and headed in. The inside was a mix of modern and old fashion. The owner seemed to prefer the original feel and touches of the drugstore with the maintained, oak woodwork throughout the space and only conceded to make new changes out of necessity like a small refrigeration and freezer section. I set off for the magazines and books to restock my supply. I may prefer to be antisocial, but I like to stay on top of gossip and pop culture, Movies and books have been my way of staying connected and even allow me to escape from the world that I created for myself. I tend to favor “weird” books or movies, as my father has dubbed them. They sometimes allow me to think that I’m not alone with my burden. The newest novel by my favorite author sat on the shelf beckoning me. It was a “weird” novel of course, but it was excitement for me. I had just picked it up and was reading the back flap when a male voice spoke from right behind my shoulder.

“Ah, the new Beckman, just what I was headed over here for,” the familiar voice said, causing me to jump. I turned around to find the attractive guy from the car. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he smiled apologetically, while he reached for his own copy. “Um, are you alright from earlier? Blair didn’t give you a whole lot of time to answer. He likes to show off, especially with that car.”

The guy could have said more things to me, but I was a little too engrossed in staring into his eyes. They were a startling ice blue color and intense. I had never seen anything like it before. Distracting just didn’t seem like a strong enough word. I had to swallow hard before I answered, “For the most part. Just a little startled.”

“Well that’s good,” he smiled. Yep, this guy was going to be dangerous. “You’re Sarah, right, living in the old Brannelly place? I’m Alton,” he raised his hand out to me.

I took it hesitantly, because I’m not impolite, when what he said before his name sunk in. I snatched my hand back and demanded, “How did you know my name or where I lived?

He smirked clearly amused. “Easy, I’m not some stalker. It’s just the disadvantage of living in a small town. News like the Meyers heir moving back is the juiciest gossip the people of this town have had to chew over for a while,” he said sheepishly, raising his hand to run it through his hair absentmindedly. “Plus, it was outside my house where you almost got ran over. My mom stopped by yesterday to welcome your family to the neighborhood, because we’re neighbors,” he emphasized.

“Well, that’s a relief,” I said, hopefully convincing. I would have been happier if he came off as a creep, easier to ignore. I turned myself back towards the book rack fingering for the last book I wanted. “Damn, no new Calloway novel. I’ll just have to get it online,” I sighed.

“You like Calloway, too?” Alton asked. Yep, he was still there. “I am forever being criticized for reading that kind of stuff, nice to know I’m not alone,” he smiled.

“Not favorites of my parents either. That’s why I usually leave Jane Austen books lying about,” I said as I clutched my merchandise to my chest.

He laughed, “I do the same thing with Hemingway. If you want to get anything remotely decent here, you have to go to the library or as you mentioned buy them online. The library stays pretty well stocked. The librarian is good people and a fan of Calloway.”

“That sounds like a plan, thanks,” I replied. “Nothing sounds better than getting lost in some stacks with a book. Thanks again, Alton. It was nice to meet you.” I began to head towards the front when the warm gentle touch of fingers gently pulled my hand back.

“Look, I can show you where the library is,” Alton offered.

“I’m sure that’s not necessary. It can’t be that hard to find,” I smiled and turned for the register. Alton was fast at my heels.

“It’s cool, really, I have a few things I’ve been meaning to pick up there,” he smiled again as I handed the guy behind the counter a twenty. I should say no. Every instinct in my body told me that I should remember what happened last time. There was just something in his eyes when he smiled at me. Something that compelled me to trust him over everything which is why I nodded him a yes and found myself walking with him out of the store, directly in front of a black sports convertible with three people in it.

“You sure do walk better than you ride a bike,” the arrogant voice of the guy, I now assumed was Blair, rang out from behind the steering. His friends in the car found it just as amusing. This type of guy should be locked away in a zoo, because they have nothing to offer normal civilization. This was the same type of guy that made up most of Paul Stanton’s friends. I just figured out too late that a lot can be said about a guy by who his friends are. Not wanting to show any vulnerability this time, I replied, “I guess? It is what we learn first, so I’m just going to assume you walk better than you drive.”

“You’d be surprised to find out that they’re actually pretty even,” Alton smirked.

Blair didn’t seem to enjoy being made fun of by me, so Alton’s comment really got under his skin. “Always a comedian, huh, Alton? Get in the car. We’re meeting the rest of the gang at Cliff Pointe,” he growled, but kept his gaze on me.

“Nah, man. You go on ahead. I’m heading to the library. I’ll catch up with you later,” Alton said cooly.

“Oh, I see,” Blair replied slowly eyeing me with a smirk.

“Blair, you don’t always have to be an ass. I’ll catch up with you later,” Alton sighed, clearly frustrated.

Blair took this opportunity to start the motor and floored the gas pedal like a predatory growl. Before he began to maneuver the car back on to the road, he said, “Your loss, little cousin. Guess I’ll have to keep Handley warm for you. Unless,” turning to address the girl in the back seat, “You want to go to the library, too?”

This caused the girl, Handley, to grin like the Cheshire Cat. The sun practically beamed off her teeth threatening to blind anyone in the vicinity. “No,” she said, “there wouldn’t be any fun in that. Sorry, Alton.”

I swore I heard Alton mumble “I bet you are” under his breathe.

“Let’s motor, Gilk. I’m hungry!” the behemoth in the passenger seat cried out.

Blair floored the car in reverse before snapping at the guy, “You’re always hungry Terry!” The car took no time disappearing around a corner. I was just glad that this last exit didn’t leave me with more dirt to get out of my hair. I headed for my bike unchaining it and pulling it to my side. I turned to Alton to ask which direction the library was, when he gracefully took my bike from me. He rolled slowly down the sidewalk towards what I hoped would be the library. Once I got my bearings back, I ran to catch up, attempting to smoothly sidle up beside him like I’d been there all along.


Afterburn: Prologue

Note: Here is a little something new for the blog. I have been pretty bummed lately not being able to work on some original fiction that is truly my passion. I thought in order to help myself actually finish one of the many works I have been starting over the years, why don't I try it through the blog? Who knows maybe some of you will hold me accountable, forcing me to keep going. This is one of my ideas that I have been most serious about. I hopeful YA novel. I am planning to contribute this original content once a month. Let me know how you feel about it. If you guys like the idea, we'll keep it going. If you don't, we'll scrap it. Let me know your thoughts. I now present to you Afterburn.

Sarah Meyers had a problem with fire. No, she wasn't afraid of it nor did she tote around matches to satisfy any psychological pyromaniac desires, regardless what her therapist thinks. Sadly, her problem was much crazier than her poor therapist could comprehend. Sometimes, if she was angry or scared enough, things around her tended to catch on fire. Sometimes it just happened to be a small trashcan, but other times it could end up being an entire barn. Outside of the possibility of being delusional, which Sarah doesn't buy, she isn't the typical teenage girl. The barn fire forced her father to move the family to his hometown of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, hoping the family name and history would be strong enough to dampen the actions of his delinquent daughter. Now, Sarah has to start the game all over again. New school, more people to avoid, and try desperately to keep herself from setting anymore fires. Sarah soon finds out that some of the kids are not quite like the rest of the others, either. No, there is an old secret in this town that may provide Sarah with answers, but what she may find could be more terrifying than high school, and that's pretty scary.


Flames licked at the rafters of the old barn, gaining more life as it breathed the oxygen seeping through the star lit holes in the roof. I sat in awe over the beauty from the growing fire as I held tight to the tattered remains of my blouse. Fire never hurt me. It always enveloped me with comfort and warmth like a mother’s hug after a long day of playing in the wintery snow. At this moment I needed that comfort, comfort I could never find through anything else, not even my own parents. Most of all, I needed protection. The fire sparked from that need as it always had before, but this time the fire didn’t just separate me from my fear, it swallowed me and began to slowly consume everything around me.

I was snapped out of my daze, when I heard a frightened yell from my far left. I could see him through the breaks in the flames. The boy tried in vain to hold his now scorched and melting letterman jacket up to block the approaching fire that had backed him against the far left wall of the barn underneath the closest window.

I thank god for that window now. If the boy hadn’t reigned in his senses long enough to climb the hay bales and jump through it, he probably would have fell victim to the fire just as the hay bales he leapt from did moments after his feet left them.

That fire was born of my fear and anger, two emotions that have never been so violently felt as one. It needed to burn away the existence of everything from that night, and I let it. I wasn’t going to be satisfied until that barn had been left charred and in ashes. How many other girls have been brought to this barn? How many more had yet to be?

The football star, the pride of Andersonville, didn’t even try to get me out, nor did he call the fire department. It had taken four hours for that old decrepit barn to take its final bow, a testament to its survival for what looked like the past eighty years. A far off neighbor had seen the remnant smoke billowing up towards the slowly, brightening morning sky and put out a call to the fire department. When the trucks finally made their way to charred sight, they found a broken, but unharmed girl clutching the remains of her blouse as I had been since the first spark found life.

The only logical explanation was that I, a clearly troubled teenager, started the fire, despite my protests and confessions of what truly happened. I was immediately charged with reckless arson of private property, though no substantial evidence was found outside of my very presence. Why should they believe that the gem of the Andersonville High School football team ask the troubled and antisocial Sarah Meyers out for a date, let alone try to force himself upon me. This was the stone clad confession that he gave the authorities that was fully supported by his parents. Being the son of the mayor, it was hard not to believe his story over the girl who has a delinquent record where fire and arson was concerned. I just appeared to be upping my game.

The only reason I haven’t been shoved into a juvenile detention center is because of my father. My father happens to be one of the best defense lawyers in New England. For Peter Meyers, life is perfection. He strictly does high profile and divorce cases, which flows in the money. Most would call my father’s profession leaching, because morality is not one of his high points. A win is a win for him, no matter who he has to financially ruin. His high intelligence is only matched by his charisma in a courtroom. He could smooth talk a convict out of his last meal before execution, that’s how good my father is.

His charmed life is rounded out by his trophy wife, my mother, the keeper of his estate. In other words, my mother has the difficult task of keeping his mansion richly decorated, including my father and herself. Always with proper taste, of course. My mother always keeps both of their social lives busy, because keeping up appearances is key in this kind of life. The only blemish in Pete Meyers’s life is me, his daughter.

The first memory that I have of fire was when I was three years-old. I was sitting in the backyard playing with a plastic bucket as a large black snake slithered through the blades of grass. All would have probably been fine, if I hadn’t have interrupted its path with the rock I had just thrown in boisterous glee. As oblivious as I had been, I became fully aware as it reared up bearing its fangs. Whether the snake was poisonous was not the concern of my three year-old self. I had been terrified, which is why a line of fire emerged between me and the snake. A normal three year-old child would have been very scared, but I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t qualify as such. The fire gave off the same comfort and warmth I’ve come to know. I knew that I was safe. My mother had chosen that moment to emerge from the house and of course freaked out. She convinced herself that she must have left a lighter somewhere within my reach. Funny how she never found that lighter.

Whenever I was really scared, the fire seemed to always come to my aid. I made the mistake of trying to ask my mother about my little problem when I was seven after setting fire to part of our fence when a stray Rottweiler found its way into the neighbors’ backyard. I was reading on the other side of that fence, when the animal crashed into it barking and growling. I jumped up immediately turning to find the wooden fence bucking and straining from what was either a sick or hungry dog. The book flew from my hands as I turned, quickly igniting when it landed at the fence’s base. My mom gave me such a strained look when I posed the question of my fear induced blazes. When she recovered with an awkward and fake smile after which exclaiming about what an imagination I had. She told me that the fence had clearly caught on fire due to faulty landscape lighting that the dog surly must have disturbed. This was also the moment that I stopped making friends. If my mother couldn’t handle my problem, how could a complete stranger cope with it?

My parents were able to enjoy a somewhat normal child save for several small dismissed and explainable fires that peppered my childhood. When I turned thirteen, I hit puberty, and with my puberty came anger. Anger always has a taste for fire. My decision against being a social butterfly was upsetting for my parents as they tried to engage me with several children of my father’s clients and colleagues. What they didn’t understand most of all was that my decision was harder on me than them. I was an only child and was always lonely.

One night, my father asked if I wanted to invite friends over for a sleepover, because that’s what girls my age did. He became upset with me when I tentatively explained that I had none. This was one of the few times that my father expressed his emotions when it came to his little girl. My parents may be negligent in most things where a child is concerned, but I always knew that they truly loved me. At least I did then. The barn fire may have changed their feelings.

A little over a year later, I ran from a particularly bad argument with my mother over embracing my social responsibilities as a member of our family. I ran to my room as furious, boiling tears slid down my face, slamming my door behind me as I escaped to my room. I remember crying on my bed and getting angrier. There was anger for denying myself of these simple wants and needs and disappointing my parents, who deserved a normal child. Just as I was about to break into another string of tears, my wastebasket erupted. There was no growth with the fire. It was instantly a four foot blaze and gave off a menacing edge. It scared the hell out of me, which in turn made the fire bigger. It quickly moved to the nightstand next to the wastebasket, and shortly became in reach of my comforter, which it easily licked at. It became clear that the aggression I felt from the fire was not towards me, but rather as an imposing force of defense. A weapon, created by my anger.

I was so entranced by the growing fire before me that I never heard my parents scream as they burst into my room. My father immediately ripped a curtain from the near window and tried smothering the flames around me. He screamed at me to move out of the way, but my concentration lay in the task of willing some control over the flames. I was commanding and praying to it in my mind to stop and go out, worried that my parents would be hurt or worse, killed.

My mother had apparently ran for the extinguisher and suddenly appeared in a white bursting cloud as she sprayed the remaining fire down. That was the biggest lesson I learned of how my ability was anchored through my emotions, especially one. It fed off my anger like an addiction, but I also learned, though difficult, that I could control and put out the fire myself.

If my parents ever asked themselves how any of us got out of that mess without the fire spreading out any further, as large as it was, or how any of us escaped without so much as a tan, they never brought it up to me. What they did do was move me to another suburb, Andersonville, blame the fire on faulty wiring, and immediately enroll me in sessions with a psychiatrist, or therapist as I was told to call her, because it would be less judgmental of my situation to call her that. They put my numerous “sparks” over the years together with the last incident and came to the conclusion that I may be a little unstable, mentally.

In the introductory meeting that included my parents, the therapist explained that I seemed to focus my frustrations and fears through pyromania, fixating on the belief that when the fire was extinguished so would these fears and frustrations. I was not thrilled about the psychiatrist thing, being that I am totally sane. I usually just spent the session agreeing and telling the therapist whatever she want to hear. However unhappy I was about them, I was not being committed, which is a good thing. Plus, the sessions were giving my parents some peace of mind that they were actively helping me by sending me to the therapist and I was getting better.

Of course I had a few more incidents over the years. I’m a teenager with raging hormones. It was inevitable, but they were getting tamer due to my understanding of how to control them. Unfortunately, a couple of those incidents were more inconvenient as opposed to dangerous since they involved public areas and police officers, nothing my father couldn’t talk my way out of, but my indiscretions were beginning to put a strain on his professional profile. This was due to him having to publicize in court my troubled disposition to get the charges dropped. Not that I particularly had a social life before the move, now my fellow students, teachers, and even neighbors had a good idea of my disturbing behavior. Small communities usually had a hard time keeping secrets but no inability in spreading them. I had been upgraded from antisocial to town freak. They left me alone for the most part because my parents had become such upstanding citizens in their community, but it didn’t stop the gossip.

The night of the barn fire not only spread gossip but actual fear, so much, that my father had to pack us up and move far enough away that word of my problems couldn’t follow. We moved to the coastal town of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, which was apparently far enough away from Maryland. The only physical evidence my parents had of my problems as we drove into the town, was the heavy medication I had been prescribed and a referral letter to a new psychiatrist.