It was a horrible thing to know you. And a worse thing, to watch you go. In all, you weren’t so terrible, as I originally hoped you to be. Signed, Everett Greyhound.
I want to remain a Greyhound, but the others say we’ve kept the name for too long. We will be Quincies now. Emily, Maddox, Harper, Jane. Lewis, Everett Quincy.
We’re moving into werewolf territory. The feud between us has been dead for centuries now, but it is always strange to be the least in a big place. We know people in Ettenberg. A family of wolves who will be our neighbors, and a school of witches who wander much too far for their good on the weekends, to play in vampire lanes. We haven’t seen them in forever; yet they’re the only thing bearable about the move. That, and I’ve a promise to keep.
“Everett!” calls the loving, impatient, Jane Quincy — Mom.
She stands on the threshold of the passenger seat door, and holds onto the top rim, squinting her eyes. “Are you coming or not!” she yelps, as if I truly have a choice.
“Almost!” I yell back, returning my glance to the sign. Clearwater, it reads, Est. 1957. I attach the letter to the middle of it, hopeful the wind will steal it before a person gets to read it. Yet equally hopeful that someone will find it, and they will care.
Mom used to tell me what impresses girls more than flowers, is making a solemn promise, that you intend to keep. She never said what to do, however, if you mess it up along the way.
“Cheer up, Buggy,” Mom says. I break my forehead from the window glass to look at her. I hate it when she reads my mind. She smiles at me, because she knows it, yet she doubly doesn’t care. She even doubles down on the fact she’s done it; “I’m sure she’ll give you a chance if you really try— Look! We’re here!”
I hate it here. We always return to Ettenberg, when we’ve spent awhile places else. We move around all the different cities in all the big world, when we want to go exploring. Country fields of English hills, when the concrete pride of American cities, bore us half to Hell. Bright lights of Parisian nights, when the Italian beauty no longer holds us. And then Ettenberg again. Despite being home to the highest supernatural population on Earth, Ettenberg, Pennsylvania is the most boring city to have ever lived. Everyone’s always reminding the other that the normals could catch them at any moment. In other cities, the supernatural aren’t anymore welcomed than they are by the normals of Ettenberg; but they simply don’t care.
“It’s your fault we had to leave,” Harper mumbles from the third row, blessed with Mother’s gift. “If you didn’t kill all those people, we’d be back home.”
“New York isn’t home,” I mutter, sulking in my seat.
I didn’t mean to kill all those people. I knew better. But I met people, who didn’t care, who convinced me they didn’t matter. A human life is nothing, in comparison to an immortal being. They’re feeding mice. Simple dust specs on concrete grounds. And it isn’t hard to convince a vampire to believe so, even if they’ve sworn to believe otherwise. I didn’t mean to kill all those people. If we’d never left town in the first place, I wouldn’t have.
“You know which room’s mine,” I say, unbuckling my seatbelt. We return to the same house every time. Third from the right, just beside Mr. Woodly. I open the car door, and step out, feet planting inches deep into the wet grass. “I’m going to the school; I can hear them plotting from a mile away.”
I don’t wait for permission. . . Mr. Edmund’s Home for Disturbed and Troubled Boys, houses the most vile of beings to ever roam the Earth.
Ghastly boys, with devilish horns atop their ears, and black shining balls for eyes. Horrid boys, with pointed teeth, and ghoulish hues about their skin unnatural to fitting mankind. Sly boys, with ugly smirks, who could capture an innocent human mind with the snap of a long nailed finger— but they are nothing in comparison, to Ms. Maddie’s Home for Wicked Girls.
“It’s cultural appropriation, Molly,” Donna says, gripping the toad by its belly, and lying it on the board.
“It’s not cultural appropriation, Donna,” Molly replies, grabbing the cleaver from the counter.
“It is so,” Donna says, stretching him out. “Everyone goes wild when they’re the victim, but no one gives a flying toad’s shit about witches! They wear these stupid hats like they even know what they mean.”
“Being a witch isn’t your culture, Donna,” Molly says, swinging the cleaver at its neck, breaking its head from his body. “You get to be Polish, and I get to be Black, and Lizzie gets to be Chinese. Being a witch is just something we are— like being a student, or a driver.”
Donna wipes the toad’s blood off her mouth and cheeks, and neck, before she turns to Molly stunned. Her ruby red lips hang open wide, yet say not a single word. Her blue eyes round and open, do not blink. Her nose twitches, as she remembers the trick or treaters. And then, “IT IS RELIGIONIST, MOLLY. IT’S RACISM AGAINST RELIGION.”
Molly rolls her auburn eyes, and shakes the box braids from her shoulders, behind her back. “We’re not all Wiccan, Miss Catholic School. . . The normals literally think we’re a myth; they can’t appropriate what they think is fake— And we wear the hats as a joke, you do know that right? It’s funny ‘cause they think it’s how we dress.”
“Well somebody’s been talking to the normals,” Donna says. “How else would they know so much about us?”
Molly shrugs, and spills the toad guts into the boiling pot. “They’ve only got half the basics right; we’re not even really called witches— but I think we’ve said enough, in front of him.”
Mr. Edmund — the normie who took pity on supernatural boys — always finds himself slipping through Ms. Maddie’s office window every Halloween, for the sake of pulling something awful and cruel, against the sister school. Last year, he spritzed rat shit in the girls’ shampoo, and frog bits throughout the halls. The year before he released a Tasmanian devil and a wombat into the wild of the girls school. This year, they caught him in the act. He’s been tied to that chair for an hour now.
“You’ll break your hands off your wrists before you get out of those things,” Lizzie smiles, leaning over the kitchen counter, twiddling her fingers. Against her warning, he continues to groan through the duct tape gag, and pull his wrists against the white ropes. Lizzie giggles. “That spell’s tougher than steel. . . It’s too bad; he’s cute.”
“He’s like thirty-two,” Donna gags, as the trio having turned twenty-one now, didn’t make thirty-two anymore bearable yet.
Lizzie shrugs— and then an idea. “Can we keep his face or something!”
Molly scoffs, “That’s so—! Actually there’s this one spell I wanna try.”
Donna snatches the wooden spoon from Molly’s hand, and gives the pot a final stir. “He won’t have a face after this— but if you wanna try that transplant spell, we could totally lure one of the Troubled Boys now that Eddie Dearest’s out of the way.”
The trio nod their heads; Deal.
“Alright Mr. Normie,” Donna says, throwing bits of the mixture into a glass jar. “Open up.”
Lizzie holds his mouth open, and Molly takes over, twiddling her fingers, binding his ropes. They were just about to feed him their poison, before I decided watching from the window was a stalker’s game — and that I needed the normal alive.
“Tell me you ladies aren’t planning a murder, without a cleanup plan!” I shout, hopping in through the open glass.
“Oh, Everett!” Lizzie yelps, throwing the man from her grip, and jumping up to hug my neck.
“Lizard,” I smile, releasing her slow. When she realizes what she’d done, she takes two steps back, awkward, large, but slow. I nod to the tallest. “Donna.”
She rolls her eyes at me, and I’m aware I deserve it. I turn to the smallest; the one who pretends she isn’t angry, though it takes all the strength of her not to snap her fingers and ruin me. “Hi, Molly.”
“You write love letters to town signs, but you couldn’t even say goodbye to me.”
She wanted to say that, I’m sure. But she didn’t. “Everett,” she released, with the smallest of nods.
Sometimes I wish I’m sorry was enough. But I’ve lived long enough to know, it doesn’t mean anything. Not even if you promise. Not even if you lie. Not even if you mean it. Sorry means it happened. And that the most you may offer, to steal the trauma, are simple words. Bandaids, for hand grenades.
“He was going to release a backpack full of feeding mice into our kitchen,” Molly says, folding her arms over her stomach. “Your reason has to be better than ours, if you want him.”
“What makes you think I want him?” I ask.
“Because all the friends you had here graduated,” she says. “And I know you aren’t here for me.”
“Girls, what in the name of pure bloody Hell!” Ms. Maddie yelps, barging into the kitchen. She stops when she sees me. She ignores the tied man, and the poison bubbling on the stove, and the way they twiddle their fingers to keep him bound. Her milky skin glistens beneath the kitchen light, and the velvet of her black dress glows in black streaks. Her bobbed black hair, swings ever so, when she turns to smile at me. “Why, if it isn’t Everett James.”
“Greyhound,” I say. “Quincy now.”
She nods. “Of course. What brings you back to town?”
“Trouble,” I answer, honestly. “And a promise.”
“Poor girl,” Donna mutters, causing the others to snicker beneath their breath.
“A promise,” Ms. Maddie smiles. And then she’s done with me. “Girls,” she scolds, as if they’re children. “While Mr. Edmund is quite bothersome, especially on nights like these, it is quite rude to capture men against their— is that what I think it is?”
Lizzie shrugs, locking her arms behind her back. “What do you think it is?”
“YOU WERE GOING TO BLOW A MAN’S HEAD OFF— IN OUR KITCHEN?”
Ms. Maddie never joked, when it came to keeping the area in which they eat spotless, with all the bugs going around, plus the potential ingesting of something charmed and dangerous. The normie was lesser business.
“Get this man out—!”
“Don’t worry, Ms. M,” I say, already untying the ropes. “I’ve got it from here.”
“You were already a student here,” Mr. Edmund says, looking me over up and down, as if I’d changed in the least. I’ve been twenty-four since I was thirteen years old, and even that was over two centuries ago. He only let me enroll the first go round, as a curtesy for the experience I missed. That and his and Maddie’s schools, both run from eighth grade to technically college, and when they graduate they charm the degrees to say they belonged elsewhere. Molly should be graduating Yale this year, with a degree in Biochemistry. Lizzie, from Brown, with a degree in Child Psychology. And Donna Harvard Law, if you could believe it.
“I know,” I say, leaning back in the brown leather chair in his office, across from his desk. I stare at the bookshelves behind him, to avoid thinking of the wrongs and the rights of my last go round in this place. The wood is as I’ve left it; burnt sienna and tall, books stacked in the frames from the ceiling to the fresh-waxed, clean-rugged, cedar grounds. Home to black and gold globes, and old maps, as if he truly cared where the pieces of the world lied, and old lamps to celebrate old money. This room always reminded me of a small library more than an office. But I suppose that isn’t the importance.
“I have to keep a promise,” I say, leaning forward now. “And I can only do that as a member of your school.”
Every year Ms. Maddie hosts a Halloween Ball, permitting the girls only to invite a boy from Mr. Edmund’s school should they not be asking a girl from their own.
I met Molly Burke when she was eighteen years old, and newly aware of her abilities. She didn’t like being whatever witches are truly called, and she hated moving to Ettenberg even more. But it was the only place she’d ever heard of, for witches to study their gifts and academics simultaneously— and the fact that she’d heard of it should’ve tipped her off sooner that it was her fate to attend. She came deeper into town about an hour after just meeting Donna and Lizzie. They came to the spot where everyone went, when they were bored of playing human games— a bonfire in the woods, where anything goes, within legal enough reason.
The wolves would shift wherever they pleased, and run wild throughout the wood. The vampires would find dying junkies, and get high off their blood. And the witches played with lights and sounds, providing the best of entertainment. I saw her there, standing wide eyed in the center of it all, holding onto her cup for dear life even though she didn’t plan on taking a single sip. I saw her there, standing simple, beautiful and rare.
I didn’t want to like her, because I knew I’d leave her behind. But then, that’s what bonded us the most. Molly’d always been the girl that made the heads spin in a room. The one who loved to go to all the bright places, for the sake of just being. We bonded over the fact that I wrote love letters to towns. That I was ever so fucking tired of saying goodbye, and she was ever so deathly afraid she’d never say hello again. That she’d be stuck here forever, for the sake of keeping her secret safe from the normals. Even though we feared opposite fears, it almost felt the same.
“You’re a grownup,” she said, back then. “And you come from the oldest, bloodiest, money there is. You don’t have to move every time your family says so, if you don’t want.”
I shook my head, and stared into the flames of the bonfire. “It’s just easier if we’re all in one place. . . We keep each other out of trouble.”
Most of the time.
It only took weeks for me to think of my solemn promise. Molly Burke. I promise that every beat of my bleeding heart, will belong to you, until the end of time. And that even if it sounds cheesy, stolen, or unoriginal. . . I can’t help that it’s the one hundred percent truth. I just can’t. . . But I never promised that to her, because I knew that Molly’d accepted Ettenberg as being the place she belonged, and that I would be signing it a new letter, one of those coming days. So instead, I promised to take her to the Halloween Ball. She hated dances, but she was excited for this one, because it would be ours. It was months later; I left a single night before the dance.
“I know you’re fairly new to this,” I say to Mr. Edmund now, leaning back once more. “But your immortal students will need an update in degree, every now and then. Mine doesn’t even have my name on it anymore. . . But I don’t care about the degree. Only the promise. You can kick me out after tonight for all I care.”
I thought it would take more convincing— as evidenced by the slow seep of my ready fangs. But I suppose he hadn’t a logical reason to deny me, more than already having graduated, because he printed me a schedule and handed me a uniform — neither of which, I ever plan to utilize. . . School was the easy part.
“She’s literally one point seven miles away,” Harper says, leaning in the frame of my bedroom door, watching as I play with the tie around my neck. “And I can read how much she hates you from here. Seriously E, she should’ve killed you for leaving like that, it might’ve saved us all the misery, and those people too. . . Sorry.”
She’s not the one who should be sorry— despite being a pain in the living throat.
“How do I look?” I ask, turning to face her.
She stares me up and down, and then she shrugs. “About as good as anybody, set to receive the biggest rejection of the natural lives. If you’re bringing flowers, you might wanna opt for ones without thorns. It’ll hurt less when she shoves them up your—.”
“Thank you, Harper.”
With a spritz of dad’s cologne, and the swipe of his comb through my yellow locks, I snatch the sunflowers off my desk, and sprint for the front door.
When I open it, I see her there. A velvet black dress, with puffing sleeves. Her braids loose, and across her shoulders, and down her back. A bouquet of black roses, pressed against her chest. She fidgets about the foot, and tries her best to avoid eye contact, before she balls her fist for courage, and looks at me.
“I don’t forgive you,” Molly says, shoving the roses into my chest. “And I wasn’t even gonna go to this stupid thing. . . I don’t know, I guess, I promised those two years ago I’d go with you, and I don’t want you to make a liar out of me so, I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid I—.”
With a smile, I promise all over again.