The buzzing alarm clock woke Matt. He groaned, Monday morning already. He barely remembered falling asleep last night. Matt hated the idea of starting a new school more than halfway through his junior year, but having Brad there might make it bearable. He’d rather blend into the background of a big city school like the one in Los Angeles, but that wouldn’t be possible here. From what Brad told him, his old school had more kids in one grade than Roxbury High’s entire school population.
Matt figured he could make friends easily, especially with Brad to show him around. He wanted to make a fresh start. Matt still didn’t think that they should have come, but he liked Brad and Aunt Nancy a lot. The nightmares and thoughts of Grampa’s old stories still weighed heavily on him, but he had to admit that they couldn’t possibly be real. Brad’s ex having a connection to the stories was weird, though. Matt was still daydreaming his way through getting ready for school when his cousin interrupted his thoughts.
“Matt! You ready? Let’s get going!” Brad yelled.
“Yeah, Brad, I’m coming.” Matt stopped daydreaming and finished tying his sneakers. He grabbed his jacket and backpack then ran down the stairs. “Stop rushing me. Don’t we have like an hour before school starts?”
“You guys going to grab anything for breakfast before you go?” Aunt Nancy asked from the kitchen.
“We’ll get something on the way, Mom!” Brad yelled as he pulled Matt out the door.
“Matt, don’t forget to stop in the office as soon as you get there. You have to sign a few things, and they’ll have your class schedule.” Aunt Nancy yelled as the two boys ran out the door.
“Hey, what’s the hurry? I’m hungry, doofus!” Matt asked, annoyed.
“You don’t want to stand around here all morning, do you? We’ll eat. We have things to do right now. Let’s get moving, slowpoke.” Brad grinned and led Matt down the street towards the park. Matt zipped up his jacket and followed his cousin.
“What are you up to, Brad? School is in the other direction. You just showed me that yesterday. I usually don’t mind cutting a few classes, but not on my first day. If they looked at my records, they’ll already think I’m a slacker. I need to make a fresh start.” Brad’s actions confused Matt, but he continued to follow him into the park. He trusted Brad. In the short time he’d been there, they’d already formed a close bond.
“You’ll see when we get there, Matt, my boy. And you will thank me. Yes, you’ll definitely thank me.” Brad grinned again and clapped his cousin on the back.
Matt looked up at his cousin suspiciously. He knew Brad was up to something, but he just hadn’t figured out what yet. They stopped in front of a large three-story gray house; before Matt could stop him, Brad jumped over the white picket fence and sprinted across the lawn and up the front steps of the house. Brad knocked on the door and disappeared into the house.
Brad emerged from the house, followed by the most beautiful girl that Matt had ever seen. They walked down the steps and the stone pathway toward Matt. Matt almost tripped over his own feet to open the gate before she got there. The girl’s long, raven black hair and emerald green eyes nearly stopped his heart. Matt stuttered out a “Hi,” and when she smiled at him, his heart skipped a beat, or maybe two.
“Matthew Montana, this is Miss Theresa Hanson. Terrie, this is my cousin Matt.” Brad smiled. He could see that Terrie already had Matt under her spell, and that was just what Brad hoped for. Brad knew that Matt needed something to get his mind off his troubles, and, in Matt’s case, that meant the charms of a beautiful girl.
Brad put one arm around Matt and the other around Terrie. “Come on, you two. Let’s walk and talk at the same time. We need to start heading towards school and get some breakfast before the first bell.”
“So, Matt, I hear you’re joining us from sunny California. This lovely Maine weather must be quite a change.”
“Yeah. I don’t mind so much, but don’t remind my surfer boy brother. He was quite the beach bum.”
Terrie eyed Matt up and down. “I could picture you on the beach. Maybe dye your hair blonde to complete the picture.”
Matt gave her a fake shocked expression. “You hate my hair! I’m insulted.”
Terrie smiled. “Actually, I think black hair suits those beautiful baby blues better than blonde would.”
Matt blushed. “Thanks, but green eyes look even better with black hair.”
“Get a room, why don’t you.” Brad acted like he was about to gag.
“Maybe after the second date,” Terrie said with a smirk and she winked again.
“Does that mean you want a first date?” Matt stuttered out. “I mean, I do. Do you? Will you go out with me?”
“Yes, Matt. I’d love to go out with you.” Terrie kissed his cheek.
As they left the park and turned left onto Chestnut Street, Matt heard someone yelling from behind them. He turned and saw a dark-haired, heavyset boy running towards them. “Hey, guys! Wait up! Brad!” Brad stopped to wait for the other boy, and he let Matt and Terrie continue walking.
“Matt, I was so sorry to hear about your parents and sister. I can’t imagine what I’d do if anything happened to my Dad or my little brother. God forbid if something were to happen to them both.” She held onto his arm as they turned the corner into the school parking lot.
“Thank you, Terrie. I still struggle sometimes, but I’m dealing with it. Some days are easier than others.”
“We don’t have to talk about it at all, but just know I’d be willing to listen if you ever wanted to.”
“That means a lot.” Matt cleared his throat. “I really don’t know what kinds of things there are to do in this town. Do you guys have a movie theater? I’m open to any ideas you may have for the date.”
“Give me your phone.” Terrie input her contact info into his phone then texted herself, so she’d have his number. “I’ll think it over and text ideas to you.”
Brad and the other boy caught up to them. “Matt, this is my bestie, Kevin Williamson. Kev, this is my cousin Matt.”
“Hey, Kevin. Great to meet you.” Matt reached out and shook Kevin’s hand.
“Same, bro. Can’t wait to get to know you.”
They arrived at the school and hurried inside. Terrie walked Matt to the front office, and Brad and Kevin went off in search of food.
“Come on. I’ll come in with you.” Terrie grabbed Matt’s arm and guided him into the office. “Good morning, Mrs. Davis.”
“Good morning, Terrie. What brings you in here so early?”
Terrie stepped aside and let Matt step up to the counter. “This is Matt Montana. Today’s his first day at our glorious school.”
“Hi,” Matt said with a shy smile.
“Ah, yes. Mr. Montana, we’ve been expecting you. It looks like you’ve already found yourself a tour guide, but let’s get your paperwork sorted.”
Terrie touched Matt’s arm. “I gotta get to class. You’re in good hands. If I don’t see you in any of my classes, I’ll look for you at lunch.”
“Ok. See you later.”
“Here you go, young man. Sign these two, and this one is for you.”
Matt signed the forms and picked up his class schedule. “Which way to the chemistry lab?”
“Take a right out of the office, then your second right, and it’ll be the third door on your left.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Davis.” Matt left the office and hurried down the hall.
David walked out of the warehouse feeling hopeful, a feeling unfamiliar to him over the last four months. He didn’t want to wait until tonight to share his news, so he took his phone out of his pocket and called his aunt. Nancy answered on the third ring.
“Roxbury Falls Gazette, this is Nancy.”
“Aunt Nancy, it’s David. Are you busy?”
“Sorry, David. I didn’t even look at the Caller ID. I was expecting a call about a story I’m working on.”
“I won’t bother you if you’re busy.”
“No. It’s fine. Is everything okay?”
“Actually, it’s good news. Are you free for lunch?”
Nancy checked her calendar. “How about twelve-thirty? I’ll be ready for a break from this by then anyway.”
“Twelve-thirty is perfect. I’m free for the rest of the day.”
“David, I have to go. My other call is coming in. See you in an hour.”
“Wait! Where do you wanna meet?” David asked before she could hang up.
“How about the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Main Street?”
“Not sure where it is, but I have an hour to walk around and find it. That’s what I was planning on doing anyway. See you there.”
“See you in an hour.” Nancy hung up. David slipped his phone back into his pocket and started walking around the small downtown area of Roxbury Falls.
Matt walked into the cafeteria and looked around for Terrie or Brad. He spotted them and that other kid, Kevin, on the other side of the room. He grabbed some food and went over to sit with them.
“Hey, guys. I guess I’ve survived halfway through my first day.” He smiled and sat in between Brad and Terrie.
A few others joined them at the table. Matt recognized a couple faces from classes earlier and nodded hello. Brad introduced everyone in between shoveling forkfuls of mac’n’cheese into his mouth. Just before lunch ended, Matt noticed a boy sitting off by himself. A boy that kept staring at him. “Brad, who is that over there.” He motioned towards the lone boy.
Brad rolled his eyes. “That’s Elias. Just stay away from him.”
Matt looked over at Eli one last time, then the bell rang, and they all went to their next classes.
David was sitting on a bench outside of the KFC by the time his aunt arrived. He stood and waved to her when he saw her get out of her silver Ford Explorer. “Aunt Nancy, over here!”
They got their food and sat at a table near the front windows. “I’m glad you called. I desperately needed a break from the office. You wouldn’t believe how much work I put in there. Sometimes, I don’t know how big city editors deal with it all.”
“I get most of my news off Twitter. I’ll have to pick up a copy of your paper. Do they sell it at the gas station by our house?”
“Yeah, and the grocery store and a few newspaper vending boxes around town.”
“I promise I’ll read it.” He said in between mouthfuls of mashed potatoes. “Anyway, I wanted to share my good news with someone, and I didn’t want to wait. I got the job at Sonny’s! He hired me right on the spot after I told him that you were my aunt.”
“I’m sure he would have hired you regardless, but I’ll thank him when I see him. What will you be doing there?”
“I’ll be working in the warehouse, mostly, loading and unloading boxes of coffee. He did say that, sometimes, he might need me to make some deliveries to local businesses. I told him that I’m not familiar with the town yet, so he said he’d have me ride with someone a couple times first. He also laughed and said the town was so small I could probably find everything in an hour anyway.”
“He’s right,” Nancy said with a laugh. “Sonny will take good care of you. He’s a great guy and very easy to work for, I’ve been told.”
“Decent pay, too, and medical and dental benefits for Matt and me in just sixty days. I just pray nothing happens before that.”
“We’ll figure it out if it does. Don’t stress about it.”
“Thanks, Aunt Nancy, I don’t know how we’ll ever repay everything you’re doing for us.”
“No need. That’s what family does. My sister would have done the same thing for Brad if our situations were reversed.”
“I know she would have. Mom was the greatest. You’re a lot like her.” David wiped away the tears forming at the corners of his bright blue eyes.
“That means a lot. Thank you.” Nancy said, wiping her own eyes. “When did Sonny tell you to start?”
“Tomorrow morning, at seven a.m. I’ll be working seven to four at least five days a week, and he said I could work as many Saturdays as I want.”
“Speaking of work, I have to get back to the office. Want me to drop you off at home?”
“No, thanks. I want to do a little more exploring in town and then I’ll walk home.”
“Okay, see you at home tonight.”
“Bye, Aunt Nancy.”
After school, Terrie and Kevin waited outside while Brad took Matt into the gym to introduce him to the baseball coach. As the two boys left the gym, Brad grinned at his cousin. “He seemed to like you. I can’t wait for the season to start, at least tryouts are tomorrow. I think we should have a decent team this year. What position do you play?”
“Third base and left field. I’ve played a little at first, but I prefer third.”
“That’s good because our best player is our first baseman, Justin. You met him earlier.”
Matt frowned. “Blonde guy? Buzzcut?”
“Yeah. That’s him. Cool dude. An excellent first baseman and our best homer threat.”
“I can’t wait. Hey, where’s the movie theater? I have a date to plan.”
“I’ll show you on the way home. It’s not far. You’re a lucky man, Matt, I hope you realize that. Terrie is something special.”
“Yeah, she is, isn’t she?” Matt grinned from ear to ear as the two boys rejoined Terrie and Kevin, and they all headed toward home.
Just before they reached Terrie’s house, she said, “I’ll go with you guys to your house and wait for you. I thought, for tonight, we might go out as a group. We can all go to the park for ice cream. I’ll call a few more people while I wait for you guys to get ready.”
“That sounds great. I’m in.” Matt said and turned toward Brad.
“I’ll text mom and make sure she doesn’t have anything planned, but it sounds great to me.”
When they reached the Holliday residence, Brad and Matt went upstairs to shower and change their clothes. Terrie got out her phone and texted a few friends to see who wanted to meet in the park.
When the boys came back downstairs, Terrie smiled at them. “You guys take longer than a couple of old ladies to get yourselves dressed.”
Brad rolled his eyes, and Matt just smiled shyly and kept quiet. “Mom answered back that it’s fine. Let’s go. Where are we supposed to meet everyone?”
“The basketball courts,” Terrie said. “Kevin, Juan, Devon, and Justin will be there. I thought that we could eat at the diner. Kim’s working tonight, and I need to talk to her.”
“Sounds good to me. Matt?”
“I could eat,” Matt said with a grin and they left the house.
“The diner is awesome. Brad and I went there yesterday. Kim seems nice.”
“She’s been my bestie since kindergarten. If you hang out with me, you’ll get to know her.”
Matt took Terrie’s hand, and they followed Brad into the park. A few minutes later, they reached the basketball courts and met up with everyone else. Matt knew he met them all, but he could not put names to all the faces. He leaned over to Terrie and whispered, “I know Kevin, but I can’t remember the names of the other three.”
She whispered back, “The Latino guy is Juan Hernandez, he’s the captain of the soccer team. Juan is in my computer science class, and he usually ends up teaching the teacher a few things. He’s smart and one of the best high school soccer players in the country. The blonde in the red hoodie is Devon Taylor. Devon hates sports, but he works with your cousin on the school newspaper. The last guy is Justin Thomas. He sat with us at lunch. He’s on the school baseball team, first base, I think.”
“Yeah. Brad mentioned that. Thanks. I knew I met everyone, so I just didn’t want to sound like an idiot asking them their names again.”
“You just met them today. No big deal.” She patted his arm.
They joined the other four and walked to the diner. When they arrived at the diner, the guys found a vacant corner booth, ordered their food, and began the usual talk about sports, movies, and girls. Terrie went to the front counter to talk to Kim.
Kim looked up from the counter and saw Terrie walking towards her and smiled. She didn’t have much time to socialize these days, and Terrie was about the only friend she had left. Terrie’s friends put up with Kim, but she wasn’t sure if they really liked her. Except maybe for Juan. Juan was always sweet to her. As Kim thought about how cute she thought Juan was, she looked over into the corner where Terrie’s friends were sitting and saw him. Juan looked right at her and their eyes locked for a few seconds. They smiled at each other, then looked away. Just then, Terrie reached the counter and spoke.
“Hi, Kim. How’s it going? You still planning on meeting me at the library Wednesday night?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, that history term paper won’t write itself. It’s due sooner than I’d like to think about. I’ll be there around seven. I have to put in a couple hours here first. I need all the hours I can get with dad still out of work.”
“That sucks you have to work so much. When does your dad go back to work?”
“Another month. Mom is already working a lot of double shifts. I just want to help as much as I can. Anyway, Debbie took your friends’ orders, you want your usual? I’ll put your order in with theirs.”
“Yeah. That would be great. Stop by the table if you’re not busy.”
“Definitely. Just let me put in your order.”
Terrie walked back to the table and rejoined her other friends.
Kim walked over to the table a few minutes later. “Hey, Matt. Nice to see that you must be settling in nicely.”
“Thanks, Kim. Brad’s friends all seem nice.” Matt motioned toward everyone at the table.
“They’re ok,” Kim smirked. “That reminds me. Devon, I have to ask you something.”
“What’s up, Kim?”
“Is Skylar still single?”
“You do remember that he’s gay, right?” Devon said with a chuckle, and Juan leaned forward, listening intently.
“Yes, of course.” She said with a sigh. “I’m not asking for me. There’s a hot new guy in town that I think would be perfect for him. Tell him to call me if he’s interested.”
“Sure. Who’s the guy? Matt’s the only new guy I know of, and he’s straight.” Devon said, glancing at Matt. “Aren’t you?”
Matt’s eyes had grown large, and he was staring at Kim but turned toward Devon when he spoke. “Yeah. Totally straight.” He looked back at Kim again, waiting for her to answer Devon’s question.
Kim smiled then said, “David Montana, Matt’s brother.”
Devon looked at Matt just in time to see Matt strike his own forehead in a facepalm. “You have a brother?” Devon asked.
Matt shook his head and looked up. “Yeah. An older brother, he’s nineteen.” Then to Kim, he said, “Does he know you’re setting him up with a blind date?”
“Yes. Well, he suggested that I didn’t have to, but I told him that I was going to do it anyway.”
“And he agreed?”
“He didn’t say I couldn’t.” Kim shrugged.
Matt shook his head again. “Ok, whatever. Not my concern.” Matt’s gaze followed Kim as she left the table. He was about to turn back to his friends when he noticed Elias sitting on the opposite side of the restaurant, once again staring right at him. “Guys, I’ll be right back. There’s something I gotta do.” Matt said and walked over to Eli’s table and sat right across from him.
“Why do you keep staring at me, Elias? I know who you are. Brad told me all about you.”
“You’re not the oldest male in your family, are you, Matthew Montana?”
“What? No. I have an older brother. Why?”
“I would be very interested in meeting your brother.”
“Whatever you need to say to him, you can say to me first, freak.”
“Name-calling no longer bothers me, Matthew.” Eli’s eyes widened. “You’re having nightmares, aren’t you?”
Matt’s mouth fell open. “How do you know that?”
“The curse hovers around you, but it can’t touch you. You feel its power. I know you do.”
“You’re a freak. They’re just bad dreams. Curses aren’t real. Stay away from me and stay away from my brother.”
“You’ll be the one to come find me. Soon. Very soon. I’m not your enemy, Matthew. It’s time for this to end. When the time is right, come find me.”
Matt got up and nearly ran back to his table. “Terrie, Brad, can we go. I gotta get out of here.”
Brad looked over at Elias. “What did he say to you? Is everything alright?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. He didn’t say anything important. Let’s just go.”
Matt, Terrie, and Brad said their goodbyes to the rest of the group and left the diner.
David smiled and lay back on the couch. He turned on the tv and started scrolling through his Netflix queue. He finally had the house to himself. Matt and Brad left with their friends, and Aunt Nancy was still working at her office. He had a good day. He got a job and a great lunch with Aunt Nancy and he had fun walking around town looking at all the shops. He was even looking forward to starting work tomorrow. Those fifty-pound bags would probably get heavy after a while, but David felt like he was ready for it.
He was glad for the empty, quiet house and for the rest and relaxation. Tomorrow he would have to get up even before Matt left for school. He finally decided on a movie, The Vampire’s Assistant. The movie looked good, and Josh Hutcherson was in it, which is always a plus. David relaxed and watched the movie.
Brad, Matt, and Terrie cut back through the park towards Terrie’s house.
“I’ll head home. You kids behave.” Brad gave them a wink.
“Shut up, Bradley,” Terrie said then laughed.
“See you at home,” Matt said to Brad, then turned toward Terrie. “Do you have a curfew, Terrie?”
“Ten on a school night. We better head towards my house now.” Terrie replied, looking at her watch.
“It’s only 9:35,” Matt said, grinning.
Terrie rolled her eyes. “Don’t get in trouble with my dad before you even meet him.”
“Good plan. Your dad is the sheriff, isn’t he? I better stay on his good side.”
Matt walked Terrie up to her door, and she put both arms around his neck and pulled him down to her. She gave him a kiss on the cheek and whispered in his ear. “I had a wonderful time tonight, Matt. You’re a sweet guy.”
Matt slipped his arms around her waist and hugged her tight. “I had the best night I’ve had in a long time. I can’t wait for a real date.” Matt started to pull away to leave, but before he could, Terrie pulled him in even closer and kissed him full on the lips. His eyes widened in shock, but he let her draw him into the kiss, and he kissed her back. They finally had to release each other and say good night. Terrie went into the house, and Matt nearly skipped down the drive. He couldn’t stop smiling all the way home.
David looked up when his brother got home. “Looks like you had a good night.”
“First school night, and you barely made curfew.” Aunt Nancy said, peering over the top of her eyeglasses.
Matt looked at his phone. “Seven minutes to spare.” He smirked. “And yes, I had a great night.”
“I bet you did.” Brad chimed in.
“We’ll talk tomorrow, little brother,” David said. “I’m going to bed and you should, too.”
“Yeah. I am kinda tired. Good night, everyone.”
“Me too. Good night, mom.” Brad said, and all three boys went upstairs to their rooms.
Matt screamed and sat up in bed, the sweat-soaked sheets twisted all around his body. His bedroom door flew open, and David rushed in, quickly followed by Brad.
“Matt, what’s wrong? What happened?” David sat on the bed and put his arm around his brother’s shoulders.
“The nightmare again, Dave. The same damn nightmare.” Matt trembled, and he leaned against his brother for comfort. “Why do I keep having the same nightmare? It stopped, but now it’s back again. I’m scared, Dave.”
“What nightmare? What’s so scary about a nightmare, Matt?” Brad asked from the doorway.
“Not now, okay? He’ll talk to you later. Go back to bed, Brad.”
“Sure. Ok. See you guys in the morning.” Brad left and went back to his own bedroom.
Matt leaned back and groaned. “Now he’s probably going to think I’m crazy, too.”
“Don’t worry about him. He doesn’t think you’re crazy. I don’t think you’re crazy either, but you’re just trying to read too much into a dream. You should talk to Brad. You two have grown close. Maybe if you open up to someone, the nightmares won’t seem so bad, and they’ll go away.”
“That’s not it, Dave. It’s the curse. My head agrees with you that a curse can’t be real. But in my heart, I know something is wrong. Something bad is going to happen, and it is going to happen soon. I can feel it. I’ve already grown to love it here with Aunt Nancy, Brad, Terrie, and everyone else, but I think we should pack our things and leave right now. We’ll leave them a note, and we can call and explain after we have safely left Maine behind us. Please, David, let’s go.” Matt clutched his brother’s arm and sounded on the verge of tears. He looked pleadingly into his brother’s eyes. “I’m scared, Dave. Please, let’s leave now and never look back.”
“No, Matt. I’m sorry. I know you’re terrified of something, but we can’t base a decision like this on a nightmare or a feeling. We’re building a pretty good life here. Better than I ever thought we could. We’re both staying. Now go back to sleep. You’ll feel better about this in the morning.” David got up and started to walk across the room, then he turned and said, “Good night, little brother. See you in the morning. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Good night, David.” Matt closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but sleep would not come for the rest of the night.