When Brad came downstairs for breakfast, Matt was already at the table. “How long have you been up? I thought I would be the first one down here. It’s only six-thirty.”
“I never got back to sleep last night. I just tossed and turned, then finally gave up and came down here at around six.” Matt looked down at his cereal to avoid his cousin’s eyes.
“What happened last night, Matt?” Brad walked over and put his hand on Matt’s shoulder. “Whatever is bothering you, you can talk to me. You’ve only been here a few days, but I feel like you’re my brother instead of my cousin. Let me help you.”
“It was just a nightmare, Brad. I promise I’ll tell you about it later. Can we change the subject for now, please?”
“Okay. It seemed bad. Talking about it might help. When you decide you want to talk, tell me, and I’ll listen.”
“Let’s drop it for now. We have to finish getting ready for school.”
David entered the kitchen like a whirlwind. “The shower’s free guys.” He said as he grabbed a box of cereal from the cupboard and the milk out of the fridge. “I gotta leave in ten minutes. I really need to get a car now that I have a job.”
Brad went upstairs to shower and get ready for school, and Matt started clearing the dishes off the table. “Can I go with you when you pick out a car?”
“Definitely. Once we get a little money saved up, we’ll have to get you one, too.”
“That would be awesome!”
David poured his cereal and looked at his brother. “Did you get back to sleep?”
Matt shrugged. “Not really, but I’m fine.”
“We’ll talk tonight if you want. I don’t want to be late for work on my first day.”
“I’m fine, David. Go to work. I gotta get ready for school anyway.”
Matt finished rinsing the dishes and put them in the dishwasher then ran up the stairs to his bedroom. David left the house and walked the six blocks to Sonny’s Coffee Warehouse and Distributor to start his first day of work.
By the time the two boys came back downstairs, Nancy was in the kitchen filling her travel mug with coffee. “You guys want a ride to school? I’m about to leave for the office.”
“No, thanks, mom. We’ll walk. We meet up with Terrie and Kevin on the way.”
“Ok. I’m out of here then. See you tonight.”
“See you later, Aunt Nancy.”
Matt and Brad were walking along the edge of the park toward the Hanson’s house when Brad nudged his cousin’s shoulder. “I won’t ask about the nightmare again, but before we get to Terrie’s house, you need to tell me what happened after I left.”
Matt blushed. “She kissed me!”
“Oh, my God! That’s awesome, Matt! I knew you two would hit it off! Way to go!”
“Thanks. There she is. Don’t say anything.”
“Of course not.”
Terrie closed the front gate to her yard and joined the boys. “Hey, guys.” She reached over and took Matt’s hand as they walked. A few minutes later, Kevin joined their group.
“Are we doing anything after school today, Brad?” Kevin asked.
“Baseball tryouts are today, but if you stick around, maybe we can do something after that.” He looked at Matt and Terrie. “What about you two?”
Matt looked at Terrie. “You wanna hang out after practice? Or I could meet you later if you wanna do something with just us?”
Terrie patted his arm. “We can hang out with the group tonight. We will have plenty of chances to hang out alone.”
“Ok cool.” He looked back at Brad. “Sure. What do you want to do?”
“I was thinking maybe the arcade. Invite David, too.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“I’ll hang out and wait for you guys then. I’ll just do my homework while you guys practice.” Kevin said.
They arrived at school, and Terrie leaned in and kissed Matt on the cheek. “See you at lunch.”
Matt blushed and waved. “Ok. See Ya!”
Matt wrinkled his nose at all the smells in the chemistry lab. He put the odors out of his mind and focused on what the teacher, Mr. Clark, was saying. “I’m going to pair you up. We’re going to be doing some experiments today. Both partners need to do the work and take notes on the results. Just because you have a partner doesn’t mean you can be lazy. Montana, you’re going to be with Carrier. He’s the only one left without a partner.”
Matt’s mouth dropped open. “But, sir,”
Mr. Clark cut him off. “No arguments, Mr. Montana. I don’t care if you two are best buds or mortal enemies, you’re still required to work together in my classroom.”
“Yes, sir,” Matt said and picked up his books and moved over next to Elias.
Elias looked up as Matt sat at the desk. “We meet again, Matthew.”
“If we’re going to be working together, you may as well call me Matt.”
“I didn’t plan this, but fate was bound to bring us together again.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “I think it was more Mr. Clark than fate.”
“Whatever explanation helps you sleep at night.”
“Speaking of sleep, how did you know that I was having nightmares? How did you even know that I have a brother?”
“I’m sure Brad must have told you all about me. Why pretend that you don’t know anything?”
“I don’t believe that you’re a witch, Elias. I know something isn’t quite right, and my dreams are intense, but I just don’t know about the supernatural.”
“You will come to believe. I hope it isn’t too late by the time you do. I honestly want to help you, Matt. You and your brother. You have to believe me before I can help you, though.”
Mr. Clark stopped at their table. “The only help that the two of you need to give each other right now is help with the chemistry assignment. Get to work before I give you both detentions.” Both boys scowled but cut off their private conversation and got to work on their assignment. When the bell rang to end class, Elias left before Matt had a chance to renew their discussion.
Matt set his tray on the lunch table, slipped into the seat next to Terrie, and looked right at Brad. “So, you’ll never guess what happened to me in chemistry class this morning.”
“What happened?” Brad asked.
“Mr. Clark partnered me up with Elias.”
“Oh, my God. No way! How’d it go?”
“Eh, he said a couple of weird things again like at the diner, but then Mr. Clark threatened to give us detention if we didn’t stop talking and do the assignment. I was going to talk to him again after class, but he ran out as soon as the bell rang.”
“You’re probably better off. Just ignore his weirdness and avoid him altogether. That’s my advice.”
“I agree with Brad, Matt. Just let it go.” Terrie added.
“Ok. I guess, but it’s bizarre how he knows stuff that he really shouldn’t.”
“He probably just eavesdrops on our conversations. Who knows?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Matt wasn’t convinced. He glanced around the cafeteria, looking for Elias but he didn’t see him anywhere. The bell rang and they all went back to class.
After baseball practice ended, Matt ran over to the bleachers where Terrie and Kevin sat waiting. Brad walked by, waved, and said he was heading in for a shower. Matt sat down on the bleachers right next to Terrie. “You still want to go to the arcade?”
“Yeah, for sure. Kim is going to meet us there, and she said to make sure David comes because she is bringing Skylar.”
Matt rolled his eyes and took out his phone. After a few text messages back and forth with his brother, he slid the phone back into his pocket. “He said no at first but changed his mind to yes when I told him about Kim and Skylar.” He didn’t tell Terrie but getting David to have some fun and meet a new guy weren’t his only motives for inviting his brother along. Matt was still worried, and he wanted to keep a close eye on his brother. Matt had a feeling that something terrible was going to happen and it was going to happen soon.
Kevin spoke up. “Devon, Justin, and Juan will all be there, too. I’m gonna drop these books off at home and meet you guys there.”
“Ok. See ya at the arcade, Kev,” Matt said.
“I’m gonna shower and change. You gonna wait here?” Matt asked Kim.
“Yeah. I’ll wait, but we need to stop at my house on the way to the arcade.”
“Ok. I’ll be right back.” Matt took off at a run into the locker room.
David was the last to arrive at the arcade. He spotted his brother in the middle of a group of six or seven other teenagers, and he smiled. David was happy that Matt was making friends so quickly here in Roxbury Falls. As he got closer to the group, the girl from the diner, Kim, waved him over. He closed the remaining distance. “Hey, Kim.”
Kim’s smile nearly split her face in two. “David, remember at the diner that I said finding you a date was my number one priority?”
“Yes. And I told you that it wasn’t necessary. I’ve only just moved here. I’m sure that I’ll meet people.”
“Well, you’re meeting someone right now.” She smirked and grabbed the arm of the guy standing next to her. “David Montana meet Skylar Taylor. Sky, this is the hottie I told you about.”
“Oh please. I’m really not that,” David started to say more but was cut off by Skylar.
Sky stepped towards David. “Don’t even try and finish that sentence if you were going to say you’re not hot.” Skylar looked David up and down. “You could be a freaking model. Now, let’s hit the snack bar and talk about what kinds of arcade games California surfer boys like to play.”
David’s mouth was still hanging open with the unspoken words that he had tried to say. He closed his mouth and started again. “What I was going to say was that I’m not hot compared to you,” David smirked. “Which way to the snack bar, cutie?”
After an hour or so of Pac-man and pinball machines, Matt looked around the arcade. He nudged Terrie and pointed towards his brother and Skylar playing air hockey. “Looks like those two are getting along.”
“Yeah. They look cute together. It was so sweet of Kim to introduce them.”
“David deserves to be happy. I hope it works out. Hey, where did everyone else go?”
“It’s almost dinner time. Most of them went home. You were so engrossed in your game that we didn’t want to disturb you.” She laughed.
Juan Hernandez and Kim Martinez strolled over, hand in hand. “Most everyone else is already gone. We’re heading out too. Juan finally asked me out. We’re going to a movie. I’ll see you guys at school tomorrow.”
Terrie beamed with happiness. “Finally! Everyone knew you two should be a couple! Congrats to you both!”
As Kim and Juan left, David and Skylar walked up. Matt heard them exchanging phone numbers as they got close, then Skylar left the arcade.
“I’m heading home. It looks like everyone else has too. What about you two?” David asked.
Matt turned to Terrie. “Do you wanna come over our house for dinner? I’m sure Aunt Nancy won’t mind.”
“I gotta call and check with my dad, but it sounds great to me,” Terrie said as she took her phone out of her pocket.
After a moment Terrie handed Matt the cell phone. “Matt, he wants to talk to you.”
Matt looked nervous. “Me? Why does he want to talk to me?” Matt took the phone, and she just shrugged her shoulders and grinned at him. “Sheriff Hanson, this is Matt Montana,” he said into the phone.
The voice on the other end said, “Hello, Matt. I’ve heard a lot about you. Why don’t you come over here for dinner tonight, so I can meet the young man who my daughter can’t seem to stop talking about.”
“I’d love to. Just let me call and tell my aunt where I’ll be, and then we will be on our way.”
“Sounds good. See you later, Matt.” Sheriff Hanson said and then hung up the phone.
Matt ended the call and looked at David. “I guess I’m going to Terrie’s instead of her coming to our house.”
“Have fun, little brother.” David said and then turned and left the arcade.
Terrie could tell that Matt was nervous, so she put her arm around his waist, pulled him over to her, reached up, and kissed his cheek. “Don’t be nervous about meeting my dad. He likes you already. I’ve told him how great you are.”
Matt looked down at her, smiled, and kissed her forehead. “I’m just a little nervous. Let me call Aunt Nancy to tell her where I’m going.” Matt picked up his phone and called home.
After telling his brother that he was leaving, David hurried out of the arcade and looked to see if Skylar was still around. He’d had a lot of fun and now he regretted ending the night so soon. From behind him, David heard a voice.
“Looking for someone?” David spun around and there was Sky, leaning against the wall next to the arcade entrance.
“Yeah. I actually am. Have you seen a tall, dark-haired gorgeous guy come by this way? I was an idiot and told him good night after only hanging out for an hour. I was trying to catch up to him and see if he wanted to go out to dinner.” David smirked.
Sky’s smile nearly split his face in two as he sauntered up to David and looked into his eyes. “I was hoping that you’d change your mind about ending the night. That’s why I waited. I would love to go out to dinner with you.”
David reached out and took Sky’s hand and they walked across the street and into the park in the direction of Will’s Diner.
“Can I help you with anything in the kitchen, Mr. Hanson?”
“Help Johnny with setting the table if you don’t mind. Terrie is helping me finish up in here.”
“So, Johnny, how old are you?”
“I’m 10. Almost 11.”
“Wow. You’re tall for your age. I would’ve guessed at least 12.”
Johnny blushed. “Thanks!”
“I was sent to help you set the table. Where are the plates and stuff?”
“Right here. Come on, I’ll show you.”
“These ribs are fantastic, Mr. Hanson!”
Thank you, Matt. They are my own special recipe. Do you do any cooking?”
“Just a little. More baking than anything else. My mom taught me how to make all the cookies that she made at Christmas.”
“I’m sorry about what happened to your family. Keep all those good memories, like baking with your mom, close to your heart. They are important.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“My sister said you play baseball. What team do you like in the pros?” Johnny interjected.
“The Dodgers, of course! Doesn’t everyone?”
“Gross! No! You have to change to the Red Sox!”
“No way! Do you play baseball, Johnny?”
“Yes. I might make regular Little League this year, but probably Minor League one more year.”
“That’s cool. I’ll try my best to make it to some of your games.”
“That would be awesome! I’m glad you came over, Matt.” Johnny leaned over and hugged Matt.
“Well, Matt, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you tonight, but it’s getting late, and you and Terrie have school in the morning.” Sheriff Hanson stood up from the table and handed Matt his coat from the hall closet.
Matt stood and said, “Yes, sir. Thanks for inviting me over tonight.” Matt took his coat from Sheriff Hanson and shook his hand.
“It was my pleasure. You’re a great kid. Good night, Matt.” Sheriff Hanson turned and left the room, and Terrie walked Matt to the door.
“It was nice to meet your dad and little brother. It seems like you and Johnny are really close.”
“We are. Johnny is a cool kid. Very mature for a ten-year-old, but he gets on my nerves when he tries to follow me wherever I go. You were very sweet to him. Thank you for that.”
Matt smiled. “I used to follow David all around everywhere. Sometimes I still do. And it was easy being nice to Johnny. Like you said, he’s a cool kid.”
Terrie laughed. “You better get going before my dad comes back out here.”
Matt hugged Terrie. “Good night.”
Terrie pulled Matt in close and gave him a quick kiss. Matt grinned and ran down the steps onto the sidewalk and headed for home. Matt was thinking to himself about how things were starting to go better in his life and how happy he was becoming. He was still unaware of how dreadful things were about to become and that his worst nightmares would soon start coming true.
Sky and David walked hand in hand up the walk and to the front door of the Holliday home. Sky smiled and leaned his forehead down until it was touching David’s. “If anyone had asked me a week ago if I would have gone out on a blind date, I would have said hell no! But you know what? I had fun tonight. Like a lot of fun. You’re a really sweet guy, David.”
David looked up into Sky’s hazel eyes. “I feel exactly the same way. Talking with you even made me forget about all my stress for a couple hours. I know we just met today, but I feel like we’ve been friends forever already.”
Sky grinned. “Friends? Well, sure, of course, but I was thinking that we could be just a little bit more than that.” Sky leaned down and lightly pressed his lips to David’s.
“Oh, hell yes.” David nearly growled as he cupped his hand on the back of Sky’s neck and pulled him in for a deeper kiss. Just as David felt Skylar’s hands slide down his back and grasp his hips, he heard someone loudly clear their throat and start to laugh. The two boys nearly jumped out of their skins and spun around to see Matt standing at the bottom of the steps staring up at them and grinning.
“I trust you had a pleasant evening, big brother. Nice to see you again so soon, Sky.” Matt said in between giggles.
“And I see that you survived meeting Sherriff Hanson. Did he keep his gun on the table during dinner, so you’d keep your paws off his baby girl?” David laughed.
Matt rolled his eyes. “No. He loved me. Everybody loves me. You know that.”
“You two are just as bad as me and Devon.” Sky chuckled. “I’m gonna head home. Good night, David. Good night, Matt.” He leaned in and gave David one last light peck on the lips before he ran down the steps and past Matt on his way home.
When Matt and David walked into the house, still heckling each other, Brad was watching basketball, and Aunt Nancy was in her home office typing away at her computer. The brothers said hello to their aunt and then went into the living room to see what Brad was up to. Brad was just turning off the TV when they walked into the room.
“How’d your night go, Matt?” Brad asked with a grin. He knew how nervous his cousin had been about meeting Terrie’s dad.
“It went fine. Terrie’s dad is a nice guy, and her little brother is pretty cool, too.”
“I told you that you didn’t have anything to worry about, Matt. I’ve known Terrie and her family my whole life, and they’re great people.” Brad said as he got up to leave the room. “What about you, David? I thought you were on your way home hours ago?”
“I decided to spend a little more time with Sky. We had dinner at Will’s and chatted for a while.”
“That’s so cool! Devon is one of my best friends. I’m glad you and Sky hit it off! Wow, now I feel left out. You both just moved here and got paired up already, and here I am living the single life!”
Aunt Nancy poked her head into the room and asked, “Could one of you boys please empty the trash before you all go to bed?”
David stood up. “I’ll do it, Aunt Nancy.”
“Thanks, David. Good night everyone.” Aunt Nancy turned and went down the hall towards her bedroom, and David went into the kitchen to get the trash.
Matt was about halfway up the stairs when he heard his brother scream from the backyard. He almost fell back down the stairs in his rush to get to David. As he burst through the back door, he saw David lying on the grass, not moving. He also saw something running across the lawn towards the trees. Brad or Aunt Nancy must have now reached the kitchen because the outside floodlights suddenly came on. The light surprised the animal, and it turned for an instant before it had reached the safety of the trees. Matt stopped in his tracks. He saw the animal clearly in the bright light before it turned and disappeared into the forest. It was a wolf. Matt couldn’t believe his eyes. He thought he must be back in his dream. Only this time, it was real. Matt finally got moving again after the wolf was gone. As Matt reached his brother’s side, David was just sitting up.
“David, are you alright? What happened?” Matt was scared. He was still shaking from seeing the wolf. What was a wolf doing in the middle of town? Did it have anything to do with his nightmares? What was going on?
“Oh, man. That damn dog bit my arm.” David’s arm was bleeding. “I didn’t even see it until it was right on top of me. That was a big dog. I wonder why it came after me like that.”
“That wasn’t a dog, David. I saw it when the lights came on. It was a wolf.”
David looked at his brother. “Oh, don’t start, Matt. Why would a wolf be in the middle of town like this? This isn’t your dream. This is real life. It wouldn’t make sense for a wolf to wander into the middle of town.”
“I’m serious, David. I’m not lying to you. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it was a wolf.”
Brad and Aunt Nancy had joined the brothers. Aunt Nancy spoke. “Whatever it was, we’ll make sense out of it later. Right now, I’m taking you to the hospital, David. You need to get that arm looked at. You might need stitches and probably a rabies shot. Whether it was a dog or a wolf, for it to attack for no reason, it may have been sick.”
“Great. That’s all I need.” David sighed and followed Aunt Nancy to her car.
“I’m coming with you,” Matt said. “Brad, you may as well stay here. At least one of us should get some sleep tonight.”
“See you guys in the morning.” Brad went into the house, and the others headed to the hospital to take care of David’s arm.