Home > The Reaping (The Fahllen #1)(11)

The Reaping (The Fahllen #1)(11)
Author: M. Leighton

“What time?” I wasn’t even going to ask if I could go. I was going. Period.

“Six or so.”

“Okay. See you in a while.”

After I laid the phone back in its cradle, I walked back to the living room. Without so much as a pause or a glance in Dad’s direction, I continued on to my room. When I turned to close the door behind me, I saw Dad sitting on the couch. His head was cradled in his hands. From across the room I felt his grief and misery, an echo of the pain in my own chest. His shoulders shook with sobs too quiet for me to hear. For an instant, I thought to go to him, offer him some small comfort, but tonight, for the first time that I could remember, I had none to give.


At nearly seven that night, I sat with Leah and her parents around their oval dinner table, listening to their family chatter. Their normal family chatter. It was the soothing balm my bruised and tender soul needed.

“But I thought you liked Johnny Depp,” Dina was saying to Leah. “I wouldn’t have rented it if I’d known that.”

“I do, Mom. I just really wanted to watch something funny. And you know how much I love Adam Sandler.”

“What do you think, Carson?” Dina turned her cornflower eyes to me. “You get the tiebreaker vote. Do I go back to the video store?”

Before I could answer, Leah’s father, Bruce, spoke up. “I say we save Johnny Depp for the weekend. Derek might like that kind of thing.”

That got everyone’s attention. All eyes were on Bruce.

“Derek?” Something in Leah’s tone made me look her way. “As in Derek, the family felon?”

In the nearly two years I’d known Leah, I’d never heard any of them mention a cousin named Derek, but the look on her face left me in no question as to where he stood in her affections.

“Leah,” Mr. Kirby said, a frown darkening his normally jovial Greek features. His tone was rife with warning.

The tension in the room was palpable. Finally Leah asked stiffly, “When’s he coming?”

“Probably Friday. Maybe Thursday night. He wasn’t sure.”

“Bruce, do you think—” Dina began, but Mr. Kirby cut her off.

“He’s family,” he said tersely, his tone brooking no further comment. Then he looked back at Leah. “Leah, do I need to remind you that he’s—“

“No, Dad,” Leah interrupted, rolling her eyes in exasperation. “I know, I know.”

“Good,” he replied with a satisfied nod. “So, we wait on the movies. Carson, would you like to come for movie night, say Saturday?”

I swallowed uncomfortably, looking down at my plate and stabbing a piece of pot roast with my fork. “I, uh, I’ll have to ask Dad. I’ll try, though.”

Mr. Kirby seemed satisfied with that and I prayed that would be the end of it. Though I was curious about the “family felon”, I was distinctly uncomfortable with the strain that had settled over the room. I just wanted them to change the subject.

Mrs. Kirby turned the conversation toward a show choir song she and Leah had seen performed on Glee, a topic I knew nothing about. I was more than happy to ask questions, however, to keep from returning to the subject of Derek.

Within a few minutes, the atmosphere had calmed considerably and I was able to finish eating then move on to an enjoyable dessert. Dina Kirby fixed one of the best pineapple upside down cakes in the world so it wasn’t at all difficult to scarf down two pieces.

After refusing help with the clean up, Mrs. Kirby made her way to the kitchen. A few minutes of sharply clanging pans and dishes later, Mr. Kirby rose to follow her. It wasn’t long before we heard hushed yet markedly hostile whispers coming from the next room.

Though I wondered about the mysterious Derek, I didn’t get the impression Leah really felt like talking so I said my goodbyes and hurried home. I had enough of an uncomfortable situation awaiting me there; I didn’t need anyone else’s family drama thrown into the mix.


The next morning, I was absolutely exhausted. I had spent another night dreaming of bloody snow and a handsome stranger who I thought might like to hurt me. At the same point in each dream, I’d wake up gasping for air, terrified. By the third time, I was unwilling to go back to sleep so I got up and worked on my science fair project for a couple hours before getting ready for school. All in all, by the time I met Leah, I looked and felt like the walking dead.

Silently, she fell in beside me. We walked several steps before she spoke. “You know if there’s anything you want to talk about, I keep great secrets.”

So that was her strategy after yesterday morning’s shutdown. I felt guilt over my rudeness rise to the surface once more.

“Thanks, Leah. I’ve just got a lot going on right now. Nothing I’d want to bother you with, though.”

She made no response. She just kept walking with her head down, staring at her shoes.

“I really appreciate the offer, though. Really. And I’m sorry about yesterday.”

Finally, she looked over at me and smiled, a tiny, watery little smile. My guilt rose. What kind of monster could hurt such a person as Leah?

“Maybe I should be offering to keep your secrets,” I said with a grin, reaching out to poke her with my elbow. She made no move to acknowledge my offer so I stopped. Then she stopped. “Seriously. If you want to talk…”

Leah shook her head, but didn’t bother looking up. Something was eating at her as well, but she wasn’t spilling.

She started walking again and I fell in beside her. We walked the rest of the way like that, each lost in our own thoughts. We parted at the school’s front doors as we always did.

I stumbled my way through the day, doing my best to keep a low profile and ignore…well everybody. I never would’ve guessed that to include Stephen Fitchco, but it did. He seemed determined to find me by myself, but all day I managed to avoid him. When the sixth period bell rang, I was out of my seat and out the door faster than you could say spit.

Leah and I met up at our usual spot just outside the school grounds. I noticed instantly that she looked better. Her secrets obviously hadn’t burdened her too badly.

It only took a few short minutes for her to strike up conversation. Something about an extracurricular project she’d been working on with our physics instructor, capturing wind and something about velocity, blah, blah, blah. She lost me after that. Once again, I retreated into the sanctuary of my mind, which I so often did when Leah and I were together.

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