Flying (Flying #1) - Carrie Jones

CHAPTER 1

I wake up scared. Chills shudder down my body and my mouth tastes bad, like old sandpaper mixed with—what? Spaghetti sauce? Diesel oil? Rancid sour cream? I shut my lips tightly and try not to smell or taste or breathe, just fall back asleep, but my heart beats too hard, too fast, too crazy quick from whatever nightmare it was that woke me. It feels like when Dakota Dunham goes ballistic on the bass drum when someone gets a three-pointer at a basketball game.

The moment I think of Dakota Dunham, I know it’s no use. I’m not going to fall back asleep. My hands are clutching my quilt as I open my eyes. My glow-in-the-dark stars have faded into the ceiling, which means it’s past midnight—way past midnight.

Something thuds downstairs. I reach out to turn my light on and then think better of it. Because what if it’s some sort of demonic serial killer who attacks the single women of Milford, New Hampshire? What if he’s down there right now, stepping past our little yellow love seat, making his way toward my mom’s bedroom? Maybe he wields a machete or a chainsaw or has claws for hands, or something else all stereotypical serial killer, and he’s heading straight for my mother’s bedroom, ready to …

I whisper, “Mom?”

No answer. I try to think of a weapon capable of fighting off a demonic serial killer. My iPod Nano? Hardly. My pom-poms? Pshaw. My lamp? That could work. I reach out and grasp the light stand. It’s heavy enough.

Then comes her voice. It travels upstairs to my bedroom, loud and pinched. “You better not try it!”

You better not try it?

That is not the sort of thing Mom normally says. She’s the kind of mom who acts like a church secretary. She mouses herself down, you know? No makeup. Baggy clothes. Quiet voice. It’s like she’s hiding from the world. Not that the world is even noticing or anything.

I try again. “Mom?”

No answer.

I let go of the lamp, pull the covers off, and haul myself out of bed. It is not easy. My mom says I’m a sound sleeper and a lazy waker. An oak tree once fell on our house during a blizzard; I slept right through.

Shuffling across the floor, I can’t see anything. My leg bashes into the edge of my dresser. Pain shrieks up and down my shin. Great. That’ll bruise and look lovely when I’m cheering. Fumbling for my doorknob, I find it and turn it, pulling the door open, and … Light! Horrible, awful light smashes into my eyes. My lids shut.

Moaning, I struggle to open them again, to adjust. Blink. Blink again. Okay. I stagger toward the stairs and pad down them. The runner on the steps bristles against my naked toes.

“I am serious!” Mom yells.

I make it to the bottom of the stairs and wait there a second. The front door window shows a world of blackness. Mom stands in the middle of the living room. Her narrow back quivers with emotion. She’s not in her pajamas even. She is still wearing the same long, hippie skirt and sweater she had on earlier today … I mean, yesterday.

“Hey.” I whisper-say the word, not sure if I should interrupt.

She whirls around, snapping the cell phone shut. Her hair is wild, glamorous in a celebrity red carpet way, and her eyes match.

“Mom?”

I can actually see her make her body relax. Her shoulders slump again and she smalls herself down. She seems more mom-like. “Honey? What are you doing up?”

“You were yelling.”

Her eyes get big and innocent. “Yelling?”

“Into the phone,” I add, leaning back against the wall and yawning. I am not the sort of person who does well when they randomly wake up in the middle of beauty rest time. Obviously.

She rushes over to me and wraps her arm around my waist. We’re the same height now, which is wild really. It is so bizarre being eye to eye with your mom.

“You need to go back upstairs to bed right now, young lady.”

“Do not go all official mother on me, because you are avoiding the issue,” I say, but I snuggle into her and we trudge back up the stairs. My calves ache. I’m so tired from all the touchdowns at cheering practice. Each step is hell. “Who were you talking to on the phone?”

“Crank caller.” Some pitch in her voice makes me feel like she’s lying, but Mom never lies. Still, it doesn’t make sense. She’s not a