The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 4)

Chapter 4

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.”

“Bye, mom.”

“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.

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 3)

Chapter 3

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.

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2

Matt woke to the smell of bacon. He rolled over and picked his phone up off the nightstand. Barely eight o’clock. He felt like going back to sleep, but the smell of the bacon lured him into rolling out of bed. Matt grabbed some clean clothes out of his still unpacked suitcase and went into the bathroom to shower.

After a quick shower, Matt followed the delicious smells of breakfast into the kitchen. “Mm. Good morning, Aunt Nancy, that smells delicious.”

“Thank you, Matt. I thought you boys might want a nice breakfast this morning. Brad said that David went right to bed, so I imagine he’ll be good and hungry when he wakes up. Help yourself. There’s bacon, sausage, and waffles over by the stove. The syrup and juice are in the fridge.” Nancy said.

Brad wandered into the kitchen, followed by David. All three boys filled their plates with food and gathered around the kitchen table to eat. “This is awesome, Aunt Nancy. Thanks for cooking all this.” David said.

“No trouble at all. I like to cook a big breakfast on the weekends. I’ll be gone before any of you wake-up during the week.”

“David cooks pretty awesome pancakes from scratch. He uses dad’s recipe. You’ll have to taste them.” Matt chimed in.

David blushed and looked down. “They’re not as good as he made them, but I do my best.”

“Oh, shut up. Your pancakes are awesome.” Matt mock-punched his brother’s shoulder.

David smiled. “Thanks, bro.”

“Mom, look at these two. Can I have a little brother? I’m jealous now.” Brad chuckled.

“No way in hell. You’ll have to settle for cousins.” Nancy laughed.

“You probably should have asked that question ten years ago,” Matt said.

“Not even then. One Bradley is more than enough for me.” Nancy said, pointing at her son.

“Thanks, mom. At least I know I’m loved.” Brad rolled his eyes.

“What do you boys have planned for the day?”

“I’m going to show Matt around town.” Brad looked over at David, “You can come too, David.”

“Maybe another time. I want to get started searching the classifieds and help wanted ads.” He patted the laptop next to him on the table.

“I emailed you a few things for your job search last night, David,” Nancy said.

“Thanks. I’ll check those out as well then.”

“You boys have fun in town. I have to run a few errands. Would you like me to drop you off somewhere, Brad?”

“No. I’m going to start the tour in the park. Can you pick me up a couple more notebooks while you’re out?”

“OK. Do you other boys have any special requests while I’m out?” She asked her nephews while she gathered up the breakfast dishes and walked over to the sink.

“Nothing I can think of,” David said.

“Mountain Dew if you don’t already have any, please.” Matt chimed in.

David opened his laptop to check his email and do some online job-searching and Nancy left the house to run her errands.

Brad and Matt slipped on their shoes and ran out the door. “Come on. We’ll start the tour over there.” Brad pointed across the street. “This is Lakeside Park. It’s a big park. It has jogging paths, bike paths, a large section of forest with hiking trails, and even a lake in the middle of the park. It sits right in the middle of town, so anywhere we want to go, we can take a shortcut through the park.” Brad said.

“Wow. It’s huge. I would totally get lost in there and never find my way out. I’m used to city streets and beaches.” Matt laughed.

“Let’s take this trail down to the lake, then we’ll cut across to the school,” Brad said and started walking.

Matt walked along beside his cousin. “I hope you don’t expect me to remember this all in one day.”

“Of course not. I’ll be around to show you as often as you need, or some of my friends can. I’ll introduce you to everyone at school.” Brad said.

“Do you play school sports? I played baseball at my old school. How’s the baseball team here?” Matt asked.

“I happen to be on the baseball team, so I can tell you that we honestly suck.” Brad rolled his eyes.

“Great. On a positive note, if you guys suck, maybe I can make the team.” Matt smirked at his cousin.

“Tryouts are Tuesday. I’ll introduce you to the coach tomorrow.”

“That’d be awesome!”

They were at the lake now, and Brad led them to the left and started circling the lake. Matt was quiet for a while, lost in his own thoughts. Brad put a hand on his shoulder. “Matt, I know the circumstances that brought you here are beyond terrible, but mom and I are happy to have you and David here. If you ever want to talk about things, I may not know the right things to say, but I’ll be here to listen.”

Matt looked over at Brad, and tears glistening in his eyes. “That means a lot, Brad. More than I can express. It’s something that I will probably never get over but having someone to talk to does help.”

“I can’t even imagine the part about uprooting your whole life and leaving behind all your friends and moving three thousand miles away. I give you a ton of credit for holding it together as much as you have.”

“I still have David. There wasn’t really anyone else significant. David left behind more than I did.”

“No girlfriend?”

“Nope. I’ve never had a real relationship. A couple of dates here and there but nothing serious.”

“What about David? No offense, and don’t take this as me perving on my cousin, but he’s seriously hot. He’s got that whole surfer vibe going on with the shaggy blonde hair and dreamy blue eyes. I refuse to believe he didn’t have a boyfriend.”

Matt smirked. “You are totally perving on your cousin, but I won’t say a word.” Matt’s smirk quickly turned into a frown as he continued talking. “He did have a boyfriend, but it fell apart after the accident. I was in a bad way right after it happened. My therapist even considered committing me for a while. My grades at school dropped. I was a mess. David spent almost all of his time with me, and after a while, Brayden left him.”

“That is screwed up. That Brayden guy is a serious jerk. I can’t believe someone would do that. How shallow.” Brad was visibly angry.

“What about you? Any boyfriend for you?” Matt asked, trying to steer the conversation away from himself.

“No. I had one last year, but it didn’t work out. Oddly enough, my ex is connected to our family history. Well, your part of the family history anyway. The infamous Roxbury Falls werewolf curse.” Brad rolled his eyes and laughed.

Matt’s blue eyes lit up. “Are you serious? What do you know about the curse? Who is the guy? How is he connected to my family?”

“Whoa. Whoa. Slow down, tiger. Hold on, we’re just about at the school. Let’s sit down at the outdoor lunch tables, and I’ll tell you what I know.” Brad said as he led Matt out of the park and across the street to the schoolyard. They sat at a metal picnic table, and Brad began his story.

“Roxbury Falls is a small town, so everyone knows at least something about the curse. It’s not talked about as much now. People lost interest after your grandfather passed away, since all his direct descendants lived on the other side of the country.” Brad looked at Matt.

“Yeah. Us. So, what about your ex? How’s he fit in? What exactly do people say about the curse?” Matt brushed the hair out of his eyes and leaned forward, listening intently to his cousin.

“From what I’ve heard, the oldest male in the Montana family line is cursed to be a werewolf, but only if they live here. Supposedly, the witch that cursed your great-great-great-grandfather gave him a way out of the curse. Leave Roxbury Falls forever. My ex-boyfriend, Elias Carrier, is the last living descendant of the witch who cursed your family.” Brad paused to give Matt a chance to react.

“That’s a weird coincidence. How did you end up dating Elias?” Matt asked.

 “I’ll try and give you a condensed version,” Brad said. “And let’s head that way,” He pointed, “We’ll hit the diner for lunch.”

“I could eat,” Matt said with a smirk, and they started walking.

“I’m beginning to think that’s your personal tagline,” Brad laughed.

“It totally could be, especially during baseball season,” Matt said.

“Anyway, my Elias story. At the beginning of my freshman year, I came out. I only intended to come out to a couple close friends, but one person told someone else who told someone else and, in typical small-town fashion, by the end of the week, the whole town knew. I started getting bullied. Maybe I should have told mom or the principal or someone, but I was afraid it would just get worse.” Brad paused for a second.

Matt reached across the table and grabbed his cousin’s hand. “Dude, I wish I’d been here back then. We could have totally kicked their asses together.”

Brad smiled. “Thanks, man. That means a lot. So, we’re a couple weeks into the school year now, and a new guy shows up. A new kid always shows up on a bully’s radar, but this new kid also happened to be a foster kid and gay. A bully trifecta. They didn’t forget about me, though. Elias and I both got bullied almost every single day.”

Matt interjected. “You’ll have to point these guys out to me tomorrow, so I can keep my guard up.”

“Definitely. After I joined the baseball team and made a lot of friends, they left me alone, but I will let you know who they are. Back to my story, since we were both being bullied, and it was obvious that neither one of us was going to tell adults, I decided to pull Elias aside and talk to him. He was very guarded at first, but I finally convinced him that I wanted to be friends with him. I wasn’t just another bully. We found that we got picked on less when we were together. We also found that we enjoyed hanging out.”

Matt touched his cousin’s arm to get his attention. “Is this the place?”

“Yeah. Will’s Diner. They definitely have the best burgers and fries in town.” Brad said. A waitress greeted them just inside the door.

“Hey, guys.” She looked closely at Matt. “New friend, Bradley?” She smirked.

Brad looked shocked, and Matt blushed and stuttered. “No. I’m his cousin. My name is Matt.” He stuck out his hand toward the girl.

The waitress ignored his hand and gave him a hug. “I’m Kim. Brad and I go to school together. Nice to meet you.”

Matt took in her long, raven black hair and dark brown eyes. “The pleasure is all mine. You got an open table for two hungry customers?”

She grabbed his arm and smiled warmly. “Right this way, sir.”

After they were seated and Kim had taken their order, Brad rolled his eyes at his cousin. “Do all straight guys who self-identify as shy introverts shamelessly flirt with every pretty girl they meet?”

Matt blushed. “More like beautiful, not just pretty. Even her name is beautiful… Kim. Is she single? Do you think she was flirting? I can never tell!”

“Kim’s like that with everyone. She wasn’t seriously flirting. She’s had a crush on another friend, Juan, for a long time.”

Matt shrugged his shoulders. “I told you I’m no good at flirting or reading when I’m being flirted with. You’ll have to help me out with that.”

Brad looked thoughtful for a moment. “Maybe I can help you with that. I know just the girl for you!”

“Should I be excited or scared.” Matt chuckled.

“You should be excited. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.”

“I can’t wait.” Matt laughed. “Now, let’s get back to your story. I want to hear what happened next.”

“Oh yeah. Where did I leave off? Never mind. I remember. So, anyway, Eli and I started hanging out a lot. We quickly became best friends. If he wasn’t at my house, I was at his or we were exploring all over town. About a month later, we were hiking in the woods behind his house, and he just stopped in the middle of the trail. I turned and asked him what was wrong. He didn’t even speak, he just stepped in close, grabbed my face, and kissed me. I was surprised at first, but I kissed him back. We didn’t question it, we didn’t have to have a whole “what just happened” talk, we just knew. We started dating instead of just hanging out, and things were beyond excellent.” Brad said. He spotted Kim walking up to their table with their lunches, and he stopped talking.

“Here you go, guys. Enjoy. With no other customers in the diner, if you need me for anything, just yell. I’ll be at the counter doing my homework.” She rolled her eyes, smiled at Matt, and walked away.

“Are you sure she’s not flirting with me?” Matt asked after she was far enough away not to hear him.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Everyone’s expecting that any day now, Kim and Juan will finally become an official couple.” Brad said.

“In that case, please continue your story, and I’ll just live vicariously through you.” Matt waved a hand toward Brad and then began eating his burger.

Brad started talking again. “Things with Eli and me were awesome for a couple of months. Having a boyfriend at Christmas and New Year’s Eve was the best. His fifteenth birthday was January seventeenth. We made special plans and had a great time. The next day things started getting weird. He showed up for school late, and it looked like he hadn’t slept at all. He got distant from me. He was canceling plans for no apparent reason. This went on for like two weeks. Then the rumors started at school. I heard people talking about him, and I was scared to death that I was going to hear that he was cheating on me. What I heard instead just made me confused. They said that Eli had been seen going into and coming out of the witch house almost every day for the last two weeks, which would be since the night of his birthday.” Brad said with a sigh.

“Witch house?” Matt asked. “What do you mean? Did you ask him about it? What did he say?”

“The witch house is an old supposedly haunted house in town. I hoped he would just tell me that he was exploring the old house. That’s not what he told me. He told me that on his birthday, he had a nightmare about an old woman. The old woman insisted he go to the house. He said he woke up from the nightmare and felt compelled to go to the house right then, so he did. He refused to tell me everything that happened in the house, but he told me that the old woman from his dream was his birth mother and that she told him how to inherit the powers of his birthright.” Brad said.

“That’s unbelievable. Elias actually believed that he saw a ghost that told him that he could gain the powers of a witch?” Matt asked.

“That’s exactly what he told me. The rumors at school started getting worse. The bullying also got worse again. Now, not only was I called all the usual gay slurs, but I was also called “witch lover” and other much worse names. The physical bullying also got worse because now Eli avoided me, and I was alone again.” Brad said.

 “Oh my God, Brad, that sucks so bad. Just when things were getting good, suddenly, bam! They’re worse again.”

“Matt, I’m ashamed of what I did next. I hope you don’t think I’m a bad person for doing it, but I broke up with Elias. I still loved him. I may still love him even now, but it was bad enough getting bullied about being gay. I just couldn’t take the added harassment. Plus, he was, for the most part, avoiding me. He acted hurt when I told him, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. That was when I decided to make some changes. I tried out for and made the baseball team and made a bunch of new friends. The bullying stopped, and now this year has been great so far.” Brad said.

“Do you still see Elias at school?” Matt asked.

“Yeah, but he pretty much stays to himself now and totally avoids me. Hell, he won’t even look at me. People say they still see him hanging out at the witch house, but even the bullies leave him alone now.” Brad said.

“I wonder if he knows more about the curse than you’ve been able to tell me.” Matt mused.

“Just leave him alone, Matt. Don’t get caught up in his delusion. The curse is a cool family story, but that’s all it can be, right? Curses and witches can’t possibly be real, can they? It’s just myth and legend and cool shows like Teen Wolf.” Brad said.

Matt thought about telling Brad about his own nightmares, but right then, Kim came back to the table. “Can I clear your plates away, guys? Want any dessert? We have cherry pie today.” Kim said

The two boys devoured a piece of pie each and then left the diner and started walking back toward home. Matt decided not to tell his cousin about the nightmares. Brad had already dealt with enough; he didn’t need Matt’s angst on top of his own.

—————————————-

David closed his laptop, stood up, and stretched. He glanced at the wall clock and was shocked to find that it was past twelve-thirty. David had spent the whole morning checking emails and searching online for local job opportunities. He needed to stretch his legs and get some lunch. Matt and Brad weren’t home yet, so David decided that he’d go out for a walk and find something to eat on his own. He peeked into Aunt Nancy’s home office and saw her at her desk. “You do know it’s Sunday afternoon, right?” He asked.

She laughed. “Running a newspaper and writing most of the articles isn’t a Monday through Friday nine to five job.”

“I guess not,” David said. “I really need to get away from the computer for a while. I’m going out for a walk and maybe get lunch. You need anything?”

“No. I’m fine. I’ll have a snack a little later. I’m making spaghetti for dinner. If you see the other boys tell them to be home before six.”

“Ok. I’ll see you later.” David said. He left the room and walked down the hall. David grabbed his jacket from the hall closet and left the house.

When he got outside, David looked around. He spotted what looked like a gas station and convenience store just a short distance off to his left. He figured it wouldn’t hurt to check out the store and see what they had. David walked up to the store and reached for the door when it opened, and Matt and Brad came rushing out, their arms full of snacks and drinks. He stepped back so he wouldn’t get trampled. “Whoa, guys. Where’s the fire. Slow down.” He laughed.

“Oh, hey, David. Done with your research?” Matt asked.

“For now. I had to get out of the house. Plus, I’m hungry.”

“You should go to Will’s Diner,” Brad said.

“Definitely! It’s awesome. We just came from there.” Matt chimed in.

“I’m sold. Where is it?”

“Back that way, maybe half a mile.” Brad pointed toward the diner.

“You guys heading home?” David asked.

“Yeah. We’re gonna just chill and play some Xbox until dinner.” Matt said.

“Sounds good. Aunt Nancy said she’s cooking spaghetti tonight, and dinner will be around six.”

“Mom’s spaghetti is killer. You guys will love it!”

“See you guys at home,” David said. Brad and Matt turned in the direction of home, and David continued to Will’s Diner.

The bell rang over the door as David entered the diner. He saw a young dark-haired girl get up from the counter and walk to greet him at the door. “Welcome to Will’s Diner, sir. Let me show you to your table. My name is Kim. I’ll be your waitress today.”

“Thank you, Kim. This place came highly recommended, and I can already see that the service is excellent.” David said with a smile.

“You’re the second handsome stranger to come in here today.” She smiled. “You’re either Brad’s older cousin, or Roxbury Falls is experiencing a population explosion.”

“Busted. I’m David. Nice to meet you. So, you go to school with Brad and Matt?”

“Guilty as charged. What about you, are you gonna apply at our community college or a bigger school upstate?”

“Not going to school right now. I need to get a job and help support my brother. I can’t expect to sponge off my aunt forever.”

Kim’s expression entirely changed. “Oh my God, that’s right. I’m such an idiot. Brad told some of us what happened. Well, not any details, but that it was just the two of you now.” She reached over and touched David’s hand. “I’m so sorry. It’s such a sad story.”

David shrugged his shoulders and smiled a smile that barely touched his lips and never reached his eyes at all. “Thank you. It’s ok. We’re dealing. Can we change the subject?”

“Of course,” Kim said. “Plus, you probably want some food.”

David laughed. “Yeah, that is why I came in. How about a burger and fries? I heard they’re great.”

“Coming right up,” Kim said and went into the kitchen.

A short time later, Kim came back out with David’s meal. “Here you go. I hope you like it.” Kim said and sat next to David again.

“It looks delicious.” He said and took a bite.

“So, how many girls got left with broken hearts when you left California?” Kim asked with a grin.

“None.” David laughed.

“Oh, come on. I find that hard to believe with your surfer boy looks and sweet personality.” Kim smiled.

“Nope. No girls at all. There was a guy, but I ended up with the broken heart, not him.” David said.

“Now I’m really interested. Spill the tea, mister.”

David rolled his eyes. “There’s not much to tell. Brayden and I started dating two months before the accident. Things were going well. I thought we were serious about each other. Then the accident happened. He was supportive at first. Matt struggled for a long time. He still has nightmares to this day. I had to spend a lot of time with Matt. Brayden gradually started coming over less and less until one day, he told me that he wasn’t coming back. I was crushed at first, but I soon came to realize that if he couldn’t support me caring for my brother during such a rough time that he wasn’t worth my tears. I am so over him it’s not even funny.”

“He’s an insensitive jerk. Good for you for realizing that. I bet I can find you a guy a hundred times better than him.” Kim smirked.

“That’s not necessary, Kim. Dating is not top on my priority list right now.” David said.

“That’s why it’s tops on my list. Don’t you worry, David, I’ll find you the perfect love connection.” Kim thought for a minute. “My friend Devon has an older brother who graduated two years ago. He’s a hottie just like you. I think he’s single, but I’m not a hundred percent sure. I will be sure and get back to you, though.” Kim winked at David.

David finished his meal and paid. “Thanks for the conversation, Kim. It was great. Don’t worry about the other stuff. It’s no big deal.” David laughed.

“I will hook you up,” Kim said with a grin.

“I’ll see you around,” David said and left the diner.

David still needed to clear his head and organize his thoughts. He walked across the street and into Lakeside Park. David wandered the paths until he reached the edge of the lake. He hadn’t been on a real run since high school, but that was precisely what he felt like doing right now. David set his jacket on the park bench and bent down to tighten his shoelaces. After a few stretching exercises to warm up his body, he took off for his jog around the lake.

Nancy poked her head into the family room. “You two need to finish killing whatever you are killing and get cleaned up. Dinner will be on the table in a half-hour.”

“Ok, mom!” Brad yelled. The sounds of machine gun fire and explosions lasted for about ten more minutes before they turned the game off.”

Matt looked over at his cousin. “Next time, how about Fallout 4 or Skyrim? I play Call of Duty but I’m not a big fan.”

“Sounds great. I love Fallout. I can’t wait for Fallout76 to come out later this year. Do you play Gears of War?” Brad asked.

“Yeah. That one is ok. Much better than COD.” Matt said.

They heard the front door, and they glanced toward the hall. David came walking in drenched in sweat.

“What did you do? Join a track team while you were out?” Matt chuckled.

“No, but I did go for a run around the lake. I feel great now. You guys should join me next time.”

“Let me see what the baseball coach has me doing before I commit to more.” Matt laughed.

“Oh, believe me, there will be more than enough running.” Brad chimed in.

“The offer stands if either of you decide you’re interested. It smells like dinner is almost ready. I’m going to go take a quick shower and change my clothes. Don’t eat everything before I come back down.”

“I make no promises when it comes to food,” Matt said.

“Believe him. I’ve seen him eat.” Brad rolled his eyes and laughed.

“Oh, I know,” David said as he ran upstairs.

All three boys got to the kitchen table at almost the same time that Nancy was setting down the plates of food. Matt helped her with the remaining dishes.

“Aunt Nancy, this looks fantastic. I don’t remember the last time I had homecooked spaghetti.” David said.

“Reheated Chef Boyardee doesn’t count?” Matt asked in fake astonishment.

“No, it definitely does not.” David laughed.

“Dang it! I thought I was ready for a junior chef cooking show.” Matt said.

“Not quite yet,” David said with a chuckle.

“How’d your job search go?” Aunt Nancy asked.

“Good, I think. The most promising looks like Sonny’s Coffee Shop and Warehouse. They’re looking for a delivery guy and someone to help when they get big deliveries themselves.” David said.

“I know Sonny. He’s a good friend of mine. Make sure you tell him that you’re my nephew.”

“I’ll remember that. Thanks!” David said.

After dinner, they all went into the family room to watch tv. Everyone voiced their opinions on what to watch, but finally, they agreed on a new Netflix remake of “Lost in Space.”

“Did you ever watch the old version of the show, Aunt Nancy?” Matt asked.

Nancy smiled. “Maybe a rerun here or there, but “Lost in Space” was before my time. I’m not that old, Matthew. I do know the classic quote “Danger, Will Robinson,” but that’s about it.”

“Oh, cool. It’ll be a new show for all of us then. I hate when people are always comparing new shows to the originals. Remakes aren’t supposed to be replicas, in my opinion.” Matt said.

“They should honor the source material, I think.” David chimed in.

“But not copy it exactly.” Matt insisted.

“True enough,” David said.

“Can we watch it already?” Brad whined.

Nancy rolled her eyes and started the show.

After four episodes of “Lost in Space,” Nancy announced that it was time for bed. Brad moaned about school night curfews but got up and headed upstairs. David yawned and stretched. “I’m going to bed, too, Aunt Nancy. Good night.”

“Good night, boys,” Nancy said and turned off the tv. Nancy turned off the family room lights and locked all the doors before finally settling in at her desk in her home office.

David lay on his bed, unable to sleep. Thoughts of the last couple of days kept running through his head. His brother’s anxiety had been sky-high just before the move, but Matt seemed to be settling in now that they were here. David was thrilled with that, plus his job search seemed to be going well. If Aunt Nancy’s friend hired him, that would be incredible.

David heard the crash of one of the metal garbage cans in the backyard falling over. He got out of bed and went to the window to see what happened. The outside light wasn’t on, but the yard was lit up by the light of the nearly full moon. David didn’t see anything at first and thought it must have been the wind, but then movement at the edge of the yard caught his attention. Just inside the forest that borders the property, David saw a large dog. He thought to himself that the stray dog must have been looking for food in the trash and knocked the can over. He’d be sure to tell Aunt Nancy about the stray in the morning.

As David lay back in bed, the thought occurred to him that the weirdest part of what just happened was that it looked like the dog was just sitting there staring straight up at his window. David pushed the thought out of his mind and finally drifted off to sleep.

The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1

Matt leaned against the back seat of the car, adjusting his headphones. He couldn’t believe his parents forced him to come with them to the theatre. David got to stay home, why did Matt and Charlotte have to go? He turned his music up. At least in the car, Matt could listen to music and not their boring conversations! After adjusting the headphones and drowning out his parents with some Fall Out Boy, he unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for a bottle of water from the center console. Matt leaned backed and downed half the bottle. Charlotte pointed at his seat belt, and he flipped her off and smirked.

He heard Charlotte yell to their mother, but then he couldn’t hear anything except the horrific crash. He went airborne and then was slammed down hard on his back. Matt sat up, ears ringing, vision blurry. He blinked a few times, and when his vision cleared, he found he was sitting on the top of an embankment, and the car sat at the bottom of a hill. He must have fallen out the open back window as the car rolled down the steep incline.

Through the ringing in his ears, he heard his mother and sister screaming. He started to get up, but the explosion threw him backward. He groggily sat up and looked down at the car. The flames engulfed the entire vehicle. He couldn’t even get close to it; the intense heat drove him back every time he tried. Through the tears in his eyes, he saw a figure stand out in front of the wreckage. He yelled out, “Dad!” but it wasn’t his father, it was his brother, David. How did he get here so quickly? Matt shakily got to his feet to go to him. Before his astonished eyes, a large grey wolf appeared just behind his brother. The wolf stood up on its hind legs, attacked and ate David. The wolf slowly walked over to Matt, and he saw that the wolf’s yellow eyes had changed. Its eyes were now blue. The same bright, sparkling blue as David’s eyes. Matt screamed and opened his eyes.

He looked around. Where was he? Then he remembered. He was on a plane heading for his Aunt Nancy’s house in Maine. He had fallen asleep and dreamed again. Matt’s brother reached over, put a hand on his arm, and stared right into his eyes. “Matt, you were dreaming again. Are you okay? Was it the crash?” David’s concern for his brother showed in his eyes.

Matt had dreamed of the crash almost every night since it happened four months ago. He looked right back at his brother. He decided not to tell him the details of what happened in the dream, so he let him believe that it had only been about the crash. “No, David, I’m not okay. Yes, the dream was about the crash, but that’s not all that’s bothering me. We can’t go live with Aunt Nancy. Don’t you remember all the stories that Gramps told us? The curse will come back and destroy us all if our branch of the family ever returns to Roxbury Falls. We can’t go to Maine. Not ever.”

“Matt, we’re already on our way there. We decided weeks ago. We’re going. I’m not old enough to take care of you by myself. I hated leaving California, but I didn’t want family services to take you away from me. I’m the oldest, and that makes me the head of the family now. I have to decide what’s best for us.” David sighed.

At nineteen, he should be out partying with his friends, not working two jobs to support him and his sixteen-year-old brother. He couldn’t handle it anymore. He needed help and his Mom’s sister, Nancy, offered that help. He didn’t want to move out of the city to some backwoods town in northern Maine. All his friends were in L.A., but he had to think of what was best for Matt. If he only had himself to worry about, he would have stayed in Los Angeles. Ever since their parents and little sister died in the car accident, David acted more like a father than a big brother to Matt.

David breathed deep, looked down at his little brother, and started to speak again, “Aunt Nancy offered to take us in rent-free until I can find a job, and even then, she’s only asking us to help her with some grocery money. She even sent us the two plane tickets. It’s an offer we couldn’t afford to refuse.”

“It was an offer we should have refused, David. Gramps said that the cur,”

David cut his brother off in mid-sentence. “Matt, there are no such things as curses. Gramps’ stories were just that, stories.”

“But what if,” Matt said, again cut off by his brother.

“Matt, stop it. Grow up. You need to get your head out of all those books you read and join the real world. You’re not a little kid anymore. You must know that curses, vampires, ghosts, and goblins just do not exist. They are just stories that old men use to scare little boys. This isn’t The Vampire Diaries, Matt. This is real life.” David said.

“What about the fact that we’ve never met Aunt Nancy? How do we know we want to live with her?” Matt asked.

“We’re going to live with Aunt Nancy, and when we land, you will be nice to her, and you will not tell her that you do not want to be there. End of discussion. Get used to it.” David said emphatically.

Matt knew the pointlessness of continuing to argue with his brother. He also knew that, if you just looked at the surface, his brother was right about the move. However, the old stories bothered Matt. Something in his gut told him there was some truth in them. He worried about his weird nightmares, too. David knew about the dreams but thought they centered on the car crash. David told him that the stress and grief over the accident probably caused them.

Matt thought there was more to it than that. He didn’t know what, but his gut told him that something terrible would happen if they moved to Maine. The nightmares changed right after Aunt Nancy called and offered to take them to live with her. The thought of moving to Maine frightened Matt, but the dreams about David scared him even more. The same nightmare every time, and Matt could hardly even sleep anymore.

Matt scowled and shook his head. There was no use arguing about it anymore anyway. The plane was almost to Maine. He glanced at the battery meter on his iPhone, 46%. He slipped the phone into his pocket and unzipped his backpack. He put his headphones away, deciding to save his phone battery, and pulled out the novel he was reading, “It,” by Stephen King. The movie was excellent, and the book was even better. Matt lost himself in the adventures of ‘The Losers Club’ until the plane finally landed, and it was time to depart.

——————————————

Nancy Holliday watched as the two boys walked down the passageway and into the airline terminal. Never having met them, she still recognized them from all the pictures and phone conversations with her sister. She felt like she knew them already. David, three years older and five inches taller than Matt, typified the Southern California teen, sun-bleached blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a deep tan that only comes from the California sun. He wore a tank top, baggy jean shorts, and sneakers, obviously not dressed for mid-March in Maine. He looked ready for strolling the beaches of Malibu but needed a quick change of clothes here.

 Matt appeared entirely opposite of his brother, except for his eyes. He had the same bright, sparkling blue eyes. Matt’s short black hair ended in bangs in the front, partially covering his right eye. His tan, though not as golden brown as his brother’s, still echoed of California beaches. Matt wore jeans, brown hiking boots, a white t-shirt, and carried a jacket slung over his right arm, evidently prepared for the change of climate. In contrast to David, Matt had a book in his left hand while David wore headphones and carried his iPhone. The brother’s differences stood out as clearly as night from day, but Nancy knew that the brother’s bond had deepened even more since the accident. As the two boys drew nearer, Nancy yelled over to them, “David! Matt! Over here!”

———————————————–

Matt heard Aunt Nancy yell to them and elbowed David, pointing towards her. “Come on, Dave, she’s over there.”

“Yeah, it looks like Brad joined her.” The two boys quickly changed direction and headed directly for their aunt and cousin.

“Hey, guys. Any trouble with the flight or layover?” Nancy smiled and greeted her nephews.

“Nah. No troubles at all.” Both boys responded almost simultaneously.

“Brad insisted on coming along to pick you guys up. Let’s go get the luggage and get out of here. You guys must be tired from that ten-hour flight. After I drop you guys off, I need to pick something up at the office before I go home for the night,” Nancy said.

When they reached the car, David took the front seat to talk to Aunt Nancy about available jobs in the area, and Matt and Brad sat in the back seat and started talking right away.

“Cool book. Did you see the movie yet?” Brad asked as soon as they were settled into the backseat of the car.

“Yeah. I loved it. That’s why I’m reading the book. The book is awesome so far. You read it?” Matt asked.

“Nah. I’m more of a movie guy. I’ve seen that three times so far. Great movie plus Finn is by far my current celebrity crush!” Brad cooed.

Matt raised his eyebrows. “Really? He’s not my type, but he is a great actor. I guess you’ve seen Stranger Things then? I love that series.”

“Of course, I have. It’s awesome! And, yeah, I don’t usually open a conversation by announcing that I’m gay, but you got me talking about Finn, and I couldn’t help myself.” Brad laughed.

“Hey, I’m from California. It’s no big deal there. I’m not gay, but I know a lot of gay guys, and it doesn’t bother me at all. Love is love like they say.” Matt patted his cousin’s shoulder and smiled.

“Besides, he has a gay brother who can kick his ass,” David said from the front seat.

Matt laughed. “You wish. I wasn’t going to blurt that out, but now that he said it, yeah, Brad, you’re obviously cool with us.”

“Awesome! I’ll have someone right in the house to talk about boys with.” Brad said, smiling.

“We’re here,” Nancy said as she pulled into the driveway. She looked at David. “You boys tired, or do you want dinner?”

“I feel like I could sleep for a week,” David said with a yawn.

“I could eat,” Matt said.

“Why am I not surprised,” Nancy said, laughing. “Brad, show both boys their rooms, and then there are leftovers in the fridge for anyone who is hungry. I’ll be home soon.”

The three boys got out of the car and walked into the house as Nancy drove away. As soon as David was shown his bedroom, he stripped down to his boxer briefs and collapsed on his bed. He hadn’t slept much on the plane, and he was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow. Brad showed Matt the rest of the house, and then they raided the fridge for leftover meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans.

“This is really good,” Matt said in between forkfuls of food.

“Mom is a great cook, as you will soon find out for yourself,” Brad said.

After they were done eating, Brad rinsed off the plates and put them in the dishwasher. He sat back at the table across from his cousin. “Mom has already got you registered for school, but thank God tomorrow is Sunday. At least you’ll have one day to chill before you go back to school.”

“I don’t mind school that much. How big is the school? David told me it was smaller than my old school, but he didn’t have details,” Matt said.

“There’s like 300 kids in the high school, I think,” Brad replied.

“Oh, wow. There were 400 kids in each grade at my old school,” Matt said, stifling a yawn.

“We can walk by the school while I’m showing you around town tomorrow. You look ready to drop. You want to go to bed?” Brad asked.

“Yeah, I guess I should. Good night, Brad.” Matt said, yawning again. He went to his room and was asleep in minutes.