Sunday, July 19, 2015
1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Josephson Rev 2
Name: Kalyn Josephson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Underground
In situations like this, Ross stood absolutely still and tried to filter out every word her father said. She made it all of ten seconds before seizing an empty plastic bottle from the kitchen counter and chucking it at him. Ericen dodged with all the grace of a dancing hippo, which was more than Ross expected considering he struggled to stand upright. The bottle clattered against the wall before joining a growing collection of empties and fur balls that littered the scuffed wood floor.
“Stop it!” Ross clenched her hands. “I swear, if you say one more word against Mom, the next bottle won’t be plastic.” At the rate her father drank, there was plenty of ammunition.
Ericen Delshero collapsed back against the wall, his normally golden skin pale and haggard. Ross turned away, unable to bear their resemblance. He’d been a handsome man once, before her mother had been kidnapped and he’d tripped and fallen into an unending pool of liquor. Now Ross loathed their similarity. Amber eyes. Athletic build. Brown hair alight with red.
“I’m not saying it was her fault,” he said. Six hard drinks in and he barely slurred. Not surprising, since drunk was his natural state. “I’m just saying she shouldn’t have left that night. She knew the people looking for us were close.”
“She left to meet with your contact!” Ross slammed her hands down and rose from her seat at the counter. “You should have been with her. Now she’s trapped in Haven, with who the hell knows what kind of creatures, and we’re out here doing nothing.”
Her parents had always said Haven was a dangerous enough place when you weren’t human. It was meant to be a safe place for supernatural creatures, but it went downhill faster than her father before Ross was born. According to the contact they met every few weeks, it was only getting worse.
Every muscle in Ericen’s face went rigid, his hands curling into fists. “Trapped?” he said, staggering off the wall. “You think she’s trapped, Ross? Your mother’s been gone for two months! She isn’t trapped. She’s dead.”
“No!” Ross swept her hand across the counter, sending a week’s worth of plastic dishes clattering across the floor. “You’re wrong. I know you’re wrong, and I’m going to prove it.” She turned for the hallway.
Ericen stepped after her. “You can’t go to Haven, Ross! They’ll kill you.”
“Like you give a shit,” she said without turning around.
“Ross!” His hand closed around her upper arm, pulling her back. She fought his hold, but he spun her around, slamming her up against the wall. Her head struck the plaster with a dull thud.
How had he moved that fast? Ross’s mind focused on the question, on the way her father stared wide-eyed and unmoving down at her, on anything other than the fact that he’d just laid a hand on her. How the hell had he moved like that?
Her throat burned—she wasn’t breathing. As Ericen stepped back, hands held out like he was backing away from a wild animal, she finally exhaled. Ross’s mind screamed at her to go, to run, to lock herself in her room. But her body refused to respond.
“I’m sorry.” Her father’s voice was barely a whisper. “Rossalyn, I’m sorry. Please, don’t go.”
Ross stiffened. Only her mother called her by her full name. Coming from him, it was a slap in the face. It took several more breaths before she regained her voice.
“Don’t ever call me that again.”
She sprinted up the stairs past an orange tabby sitting on the top step. It took off after her, slipping inside the second before she slammed her door. Collapsing back against the chipped wood, Ross slid to the ground, her heart drumming in her ears.
The cat rose onto his hind legs, balancing his front paws against her knees so he could see her face.
“I’m an idiot, Tom,” Ross said. “I kept thinking he’d snap out of it.”
“You love him.” Tom’s smooth, even voice floated through her head.
“Not like this.” Ross shook her head. “This isn’t him. The man I know would have gone after her, no matter what.”
Tom leapt up over her knees, settling in her lap. “You know they promised each other that if one of them was taken, the other would stay to protect you.”
Ross snorted. “He might as well have gone after her. He’s not really here.”
They sat in silence for some time. Tom curled up in her lap, purring quietly, as Ross struggled to process what had just happened. Her father had always been a loud drunk, but never a violent one. He hadn’t meant to hurt her. She knew that. But she couldn’t sit here any longer. She’d wasted two months waiting for Ericen to snap out of it and go after her mother, but that wasn’t going to happen. He may have promised that he wouldn’t go after her mother, but Ross hadn’t.
She slid out from under Tom, who rolled sleepily to his feet. Ross grabbed her shoulder bag. Tom watched with a flat gaze, his tail flicking from side to side.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said. “I can’t stay here another minute.”
“I wouldn't ask you to.”
Ross stopped. Tom had been the only thing keeping her sane since her mother’s disappearance. If he thought leaving was a good idea, there was no way in hell she was sticking around.
“Will you come with me?” she asked.
Despite both being natives of Haven, neither Ross nor Tom remembered any of it. Her parents had been forced to run when she was just a baby, and he’d been taken when he was just a kitten. Or a whatever he was. No one actually knew. Just over a year ago, Ericen’s last contact from the city had showed up with Tom. Her father had bought him for her. He’d become the closest thing she’d had to a friend in a long time, and the idea of leaving him behind made her chest ache.
“Already packed,” Tom said.
Ross took a long breath and started packing. Not that she had much to take. Her room was so empty and plain it looked uninhabited, but she’d gotten tired of packing everything up long ago. It was easier to move on a moment’s notice when everything you owned fit into one bag.
The first thing she grabbed was her knives. Though they reminded her of her dad, they were the only set she had. Ericen had given her the thin crystal blades for her twelfth birthday, after another party alone with her family. By that time Ross had stopped trying to make friends. There was no point, not when she’d just have to move again. Her father had gotten the knives from a contact in Haven in hopes they’d cheer her up. They’d spent the rest of the day in the wood beside their rental, eating her mother’s oatmeal butterscotch muffins and practicing until the sunlight faded.
Ross’s throat tightened and she forced the emotion away. Thinking about who her father used to be just made who he’d become that much more difficult to accept. He might not see it, but he needed her to go as much as she did. Not only before he destroyed what remained of their relationship, but because if there was any chance her mother was still alive, she was the only thing that could bring him back from the edge.