Shadowed (Fated), p.1Sarah Alderson
By Sarah Alderson
First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Alula Press
Copyright © 2013 Sarah Alderson
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Sarah Alderson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely co-incidental.
Also by Sarah Alderson
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
Anthem, Leonard Cohen
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‘Would he have become a murderer anyway? Evie?’
Evie turned her head reluctantly away from the fogged-up window and back to the classroom, suddenly aware of two dozen eyes burning into her. Someone in the back row was sniggering. Her fingers tightened instinctively around her pencil, which she was gripping in her fist as though it was a switchblade.
Mr Fielder, her English teacher, was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, staring at her. ‘Evie, so nice of you to join us,’ he said with a tight, sarcastic smile.
The sniggering grew louder. Evie forced her hand to relax, laying it flat on the desk.
‘I was asking about the three witches,’ Mr Fielder went on. ‘Did they really foresee Macbeth becoming king? Or did they just plant the idea in his head? Was it fate, or did he have free will? Would you care to share your thoughts, Ms Tremain?’
Laughter bubbled in Evie’s chest. She choked it down, her stomach muscles tensing with the effort, and focused on her hands, folded on the desk before her – noting how the Mixen acid burns had faded and now looked like freckles.
‘Hello? Evie?’ Mr Fielder pressed.
The laughter inside her died abruptly, something more savage taking its place. Before she could think it through she was on her feet, knocking her chair over and sending the books on the desk behind flying. She grabbed her bag from the empty seat beside her and strode towards the door.
A hushed awe descended over the room. As she flung open the door she caught sight of Mr Fielder staring at her, his mouth opening and closing in mute astonishment, and she noticed too her ex-boyfriend Tom, sitting in the back row, frowning at her.
Nothing new there, she thought to herself with a sigh before she walked out of the class.
Her pickup truck was parked in the far corner of the lot. She headed straight for it, tossed her bag onto the passenger seat and climbed in. Her hand was shaking so hard she couldn’t get the key in the ignition, and eventually she just gave up and rested her forehead against the steering wheel instead.
That’s when it began, the sob erupting out of the centre of her, as if it had been there all along, poised like a vicious dog, waiting to get her alone. Evie clenched her teeth and tried to fight it, but it tore free anyway. She thumped the dashboard and tried to get a grip, closing her eyes and instantly confronting the image branded on the back of her eyelids of Lucas – lying in her lap, grey eyes dilating black as the blood rushed out of him in warm, sticky pulses. When would this picture stop being the only thing she saw every time she closed her eyes?
When Evie finally lifted her head wearily from the wheel she saw Tom standing in front of the pickup, his bag slung over his shoulder and his hands thrust into the pockets of his jeans. She glared at him for a full twenty seconds hoping to convince him to move out of the way. When he didn’t budge she turned the key in the ignition and let the shriek of the engine as her foot hit the floor do the encouraging for her.
Tom merely tipped his head to the side and raised his eyebrows in amusement. The engine started to whine. She took her foot off the gas and, exhaling loudly, reached over and unlocked the passenger door. She caught the smile that Tom tried to hide as he strolled around to the passenger side and climbed in beside her.
‘So,’ Tom said, pushing her bag to the floor and making himself comfortable, ‘that was an interesting reaction to Shakespeare. Care to share?’
Evie knotted her hands around the wheel and kept staring straight ahead. It had started to drizzle. She didn’t care to share. If she told anyone about what had happened to her in the last three months they’d commit her to the nearest mental institution.
She could feel Tom looking at her and knew that, if she turned her head she’d find his brown eyes filled with a mix of three parts pity, one part frustration. She started to wonder why she’d unlocked the door and let him in. She should just have driven over him.
‘Evie,’ Tom said, shifting in his seat so that he was facing her, ‘what’s going on?’
‘Nothing,’ she answered flatly.
His hand came to rest tentatively on her shoulder and her body reacted instantly by stiffening, her breath catching painfully in her throat as if she’d swallowed a fishing hook. Tom’s hand fell away. He sighed loudly and cracked his knuckles – a classic Tom gesture of frustration.
‘If it’s nothing why were you just crying?’ he asked.
‘I wasn’t crying.’
‘Right,’ said Tom softly. ‘Listen, Evie, I know something went on with you and that guy Lucas, and you don’t need to tell me what, but I figure you must have broken up or something because I haven’t seen him around.’ He hesitated, possibly noting the way her jaw had locked and her hands turned white-knuckled on the wheel. ‘But like … you know, that happens,’ he said with a small shrug, as if he didn’t get why she was making such a big deal about it. She noticed the barely hidden tone of recrimination as he added, ‘I don’t remember you being the same way when we broke up.
Evie shook her head at him in amazement. ‘You cheated on me with my best friend and, if I recall correctly, I didn’t talk to you for six months afterwards. And I’m starting to wonder why in fact I ever did start talking to you again.’
‘OK, OK!’ Tom said, holding both hands up in surrender. ‘You’re right. I’m sorry. I just … I don’t understand, is all. I’ve seen you angry, Evie. Hell, I’ve been on the receiving end enough times. And I’ve seen you hurt too. But I’ve never seen you like this. I’m worried about you.’ He paused a beat. ‘We all are.’
‘We?’ she asked, laughing under her breath. People were gossiping about her, she knew that much. They definitely weren’t worrying about her.
Tom looked away. ‘Well, you know what I mean,’ he mumbled.
She didn’t, but she kept quiet.
‘You’re going to flunk all your classes at this rate. I don’t know what happened between you and this guy but is it worth throwing away your future because of it?’
Evie’s eyes narrowed into slits. ‘Have you been talking to my mother by any chance? Because it sure sounds like it.’
‘No!’ he said, flinching back in his seat. But the way he said it – the slight fluctuation in his tone, the fact that he still wouldn’t meet her eye – told her that he had, without a doubt, been talking to her mother.
‘Look, if I want a lecture about my future,’ she said through gritted teeth, ‘I’ll go and see the school guidance counsellor.’
‘Well, maybe you should,’ Tom shot back.
Evie’s mouth fell open. ‘What are you saying?’
Tom shrugged. ‘Nothing. But maybe it’s not such a stupid idea. If you won’t talk to me and you won’t talk to your mum, then maybe you should talk to the school guidance counsellor. That’s what she’s there for.’
Evie almost laughed out loud. ‘Tom,’ she said, feeling tears burning the back of her eyes, ‘it’s not that easy. I wish it was. Believe me.’
His hand was suddenly there again, on her shoulder, his fingertips brushing the nape of her neck. And she froze. Her spine went rigid and her throat constricted as though he was strangling her.
‘Just go, Tom!’ she shouted, jerking away from his touch. ‘Please … I just … I can’t do this.’
She needed to be alone. She couldn’t handle anyone prying. She couldn’t stand anyone being nice to her. Not now. Not after everything that had happened.
Tom fell back in his seat but he didn’t try to argue – he just fumbled with the door handle and jumped out of the car.
‘You know,’ he said, the drizzle coating him in seconds, dampening his hair across his forehead, ‘for the record, I think it’s free will.’
She shot him a confused look, her foot already on the gas, the engine straining against the handbrake.
‘It’s free will, not pre-destiny,’ he repeated. ‘Macbeth chose his destiny – he chose to kill the king. The witches didn’t foretell it. They planted the idea in his head but he still chose to kill the king. You could choose too, you know.’
‘What? To become king?’
‘No. To not be such a victim. Why do you care so much about a guy who didn’t even deserve you?’
Evie’s heart kicked violently in her chest. She reached over, grabbed the door handle and slammed the door shut on Tom, then rammed her foot to the floor and tore out of the parking lot, managing to skid across the road in a screech of tyres.
Blinded by rage and tears, she shot right through the stop sign on Main Street, almost knocking Mrs Lewington, her mother’s boarder, clean off her feet.
Ignoring the old woman’s protests and the stares of several townsfolk, Evie kept driving as if she believed that by driving fast enough she could somehow put enough distance between herself and the past.
As she tore up the road towards her house Tom’s words played on a loop in her head.
Everyone believed that Lucas had ditched her and that’s why she was acting the way she was. As if she’d ever act this way over a boy breaking up with her. Tom had no idea. None of them did. And she knew that it was partly her fault – she hadn’t told them the truth. How could she? What would she say? Oh, by the way I’m actually a demon Hunter. Yeah, just like Buffy. But no, I can’t prove it because we killed all the demons and saved the world, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
And Tom expected her to go and see the school guidance counsellor! She laughed under her breath as she swung into her driveway. And tell them what exactly? That she had issues because her boyfriend had been stabbed to death right in front of her? That she dreamt every waking moment, and every sleeping moment too, of finding the man who’d done it and of killing him?
Should she tell them about Cyrus, a Hunter just like her, who had sacrificed himself – taking her place – to end the war no one had even known was raging all around them? Should she go all out even, and admit that she had nightmares about Thirsters? And about demons with razor-backed tails and ones with acid-coated skin? Should she admit that, when she finally managed to get to sleep at night, it was only after taking pills pilfered from her mother’s bathroom cabinet and that when she slept it was with one hand under her pillow, her fingers locked tight around the hilt of a knife? Should she tell them she was too scared to look in the mirror these days because she didn’t recognise the girl staring back at her?
Maybe when she was done telling the school counsellor all about it, and if she wasn’t already locked up in a padded cell, she could write an essay for her English teacher on the subject of fate. She had so much personal experience to flavour it with. She could tell him all about how she’d been told she was the fabled White Light, whose destiny was to end the war between humans and unhumans. And how, like an idiot, she’d believed it all, and it had turned out to be a lie.
There was no such thing as fate. There was only life. And death. And, in between, only heartache and hurt.
She pulled up in front of the house and killed the engine. Her mother was home. She could hear her upstairs, talking on the phone. Evie’s senses had sharpened to needle points in the last eight weeks. She didn’t know at what point they’d stop improving – when she could hear the termites burrowing through the wooden stairs in the basement perhaps? She’d learnt to drown background noises out until they became a fuzzy white noise in her head, similar to the sound of the river rushing at the bottom of the orchard behind the house.
She skirted around the house to the back veranda. The leaves had almost all fallen. The trees were standing knobbly branched and embarrassed almost as far as the eye could see. She looked away deliberately before her eyes could fix on the tree she’d climbed with Lucas but it was too late. Her feet had already paused, tripping on some tree roots buried beneath a pile of leaves and her memory had already gone ahead and hit the replay button, even though remembering that day felt like someone was prising her rib cage open with rusty forceps and poking her heart with a blunt scalpel.
She could see Lucas standing balanced in the fork of the tree, reaching down with one hand and pulling her up as if she weighed less than nothing. She shuddered a little in the cool air as she remembered how he’d her caught around the waist when she’d lost her balance. How he’d smiled and the sunlight had brushed his face, making shadows dance across his lips.
A howl brought her out of her daydream. She spun around. Lobo was standing on the top step of the veranda, nose to the air. He started whining as she walked towards him. He’d stopped leaving the safety of the veranda since he’d been attacked by a Mixen demon. Her mum was going crazy at him for doing his business on the bottom step.
‘Hey boy,’ Evie said, dropping to her knees and burying her face in the husky dog’s fur. He licked the side of her face in greeting.
‘There are no monsters anymore, you hear?’ she whispered. ‘They’re all gone. They can’t come back.’ She closed her eyes. ‘They can’t come back,’ she repeated, feeling the serrated edge of her own wor
‘Evie! Is that you?’
‘Uh-oh,’ Evie whispered, getting slowly to her feet. ‘Better get behind me, boy.’ She shouldered her bag and reached with a sinking feeling for the screen door.
Her mother beat her to it.
‘I’ve just got off the phone with your principal,’ she announced, yanking open the door. Evie was sure her mother had lost a few pounds and gained several new worry lines around her mouth in the last two months and the knowledge that she was responsible weighed heavily on her.
‘Well?’ her mother demanded when Evie said nothing. ‘Are you going to explain to me why you just walked out of your English class? You can’t keep cutting school, Evie, storming out whenever you feel like it!’
Evie sighed loudly and felt Lobo inch himself forward and rub himself against her leg. She reached a hand down absently and stroked him. ‘Mum, do we have to do this now?’ The truth was she really didn’t have the energy, not after the conversation she’d just had with Tom.
‘Now?’ her mother yelled. Evie looked up in shock. Her mother never yelled. Not even after Evie had turned up at the crack of dawn, after having gone missing with Lucas and walked like an ashen-faced zombie to her room. Not even after she’d stayed there for four days, curled on the bed, facing the wall, refusing to eat or talk or admit where she’d been.
‘Yes, we are doing this now,’ her mother went on, ‘because there never seems to be a good time. I thought if I waited then maybe things would eventually get better. But it’s been two months and you still haven’t said a word about what happened to you. And what am I supposed to think, Evie? Answer me that? You disappear for days with that boy …’
‘Lucas,’ Evie said through a clenched jaw. ‘His name is Lucas.’
‘You disappear with him without so much as a goodbye or a note, and the next thing I know I get a call that you’re in New Mexico – that he’s abandoned you.’
‘He didn’t abandon me,’ Evie growled.
Shadowed (Fated) by Sarah Alderson / Romance & Love / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes