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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Smokeless Fire (Page 9)     
  • Smokeless Fire(Fire Spirits #1)(9) by Samantha Young
  • Pushing her shoulders back, she walked slowly into the house, amazed by how familiar and yet unfamiliar it was. Mrs. Creagh had always been this TV mother, always baking so the house consistently smelled like mouthwatering heaven. She’d also hated clutter and there was never a speck of dust anywhere. Now the walls were faded, darkened by cigarette smoke; there were photographs of Mike everywhere, frames cluttering furniture and the walls. Ari stopped at the doorway to the living room and felt her chest twist in pain. Mr. Creagh, about thirty pounds heavier than the last time she’d seen him, was lying on his recliner in front of a flickering TV screen, his eyes closed, his mouth open in loud snores. A half-empty bottle of scotch and a glass tumbler lay knocked over on the floor beside him. Unable to keep looking at the unrecognizable man, Ari squeezed her eyes shut and headed up the stairs to Charlie’s room. She’d read about situations like this, seen them on TV, thought they were so clichéd. But it wasn’t cliché. It was real. And devastating.

    It was unending mourning.

    Ari stopped at Charlie’s closed door, her hand grasping the cold metal door handle. She so hoped he was in there.

    “Charlie?”

    Silence.

    “Charlie?”

    Nothing. Taking a deep breath, she thrust the door open and strode inside, coming to an abrupt halt at what she found. The room was empty. Just… empty. All of the posters that Charlie had pasted to his wall of the bands and movies and books he loved had been ripped down, leaving cold, sterile steel blue walls. His furniture had been thrown out, his bed, his desk, his TV, his bookshelf. All that remained was a sleeping bag on the floor, his laptop, and a pile of books and CDs in the corner of the room. The bedroom smelled musty and there was just the sweet hint of marijuana in the air.

    This wasn’t grief, Ari shook her head, her jaw clenching with fury that his parents had let him strip his life to nothing. When someone dies, you mourn. After you mourn you grieve. And days, months, years later, something small can happen, like a familiar toy soldier suddenly appearing where it shouldn’t, and you grieve all over again. But the mourning… the mourning should end. The Creaghs still mourned. Charlie still mourned.

    Resisting the urge to throw a bucket of cold water over Mr. Creagh, Ari flew out of the house, trying to scramble through the people she knew Charlie regularly consorted with. There was only one house she could think of where there were no parents to worry that Charlie was there instead of at home.

    Mel Rickman’s.

    She shuddered at the thought, but she was determined to haul Charlie’s butt home. She pounded down the porch stairs and began marching towards Manchester Drive. Everyone knew where Rickman lived and, for such a stupid guy, not once had the police been able to prove he was the one dealing. Ari winced. She guessed that said more about the Sandford Ridge Sheriff Department than Rickman.

    The porch screen had a huge tear in it, there was trash bags on the broken porch steps, the windows provided plenty of privacy with the sheer amount of filth accumulated on them and the mailbox was more of a stick stuck in the yard than a receptacle for mail. Ari felt sorry for the neighbors who must pass the house every day and wish they could just burn the eyesore to the ground. Feeling somewhat sick at having to be there, Ari had to take a minute. She was so going to kill Charlie for this.

    No one answered when she knocked. Or rapped. Or called out. In the end, after Ari started banging the heck out of the front door, an unfamiliar guy with bloodshot eyes and a sickly pallor pulled it open. “Where’s the fire?” he groaned.

    “Is Charlie here?”

    “Who?”

    “Charlie?” Ari snapped.

    The guy took a moment, his narrowed eyes searching the ground for clues. Finally he looked up and shrugged. “There’s a C-Man.”

    Ugh , Ari sighed. C-Man. It made him sound like such an idiot. “His name is Charlie.” She brushed past the smelly, unwashed miscreant, pushing him aside.

    “Hey, watch it, girl.”

    She eyed the living room. There were five people passed out on the floors and furniture. Ari shivered as one of them came to, his bleary eyes all too familiar. Rickman. Desperate to get out of there before he became semi-functional, Ari turned back to unwashed guy. “Where is Charlie?”

    He pointed down the hall. “Back bedroom, but I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.”

    Not caring what he would or wouldn’t do, Ari rushed down the hall to the door he’d pointed at, so determined to get out of Rickman’s house she didn’t think. She burst the door open and ignored the kick to her stomach at the sight of Charlie sprawled across the bed next to Vivien Meyer.

    Well at least he’s got his pants on , Ari thought, thanking God for small favors.

    He jerked awake at the sound of her entrance. “W-what?”

    Catching sight of his South Park t-shirt, Ari grabbed it up off the floor and threw it at him. “Get up. Now.”

    “Ari?” he mumbled, pulling the shirt off his face. His eyes widened and he sat up, swaying a little. He shot a look at Vivien next to him and then paled, glancing back up at Ari. “What are you doing here?”

    She narrowed her eyes on his face and leaned closer. He reeked of tequila. “Are you wasted?”

    He winced, clutching his head. “Ari, keep it down, Christ.”

    “I’ll keep it down if you get up and get dressed and leave here with me.”

    Charlie’s expression changed instantly at her demand. He glared up at her. “What the hell are you doing here, anyway, Ari? You shouldn’t be here. You’re not my mom. I’m a big boy.”

    Fury shot through her. This wasn’t the boy she loved. The boy who had wanted them to take a year out before college to travel the world together before he headed back to the States to study Architecture, hoping that whatever Ari decided to do she’d follow him. No… she didn’t know who this person was. But she sure as hell knew she was never going to get him through his brother’s death if she continued to let him wander down this path. “A big boy, huh? Well start acting like it, you drunken douche!” she huffed and dug into her bag, pulling out his cell phone and throwing it at him. It smacked against his chest and she enjoyed the look of surprise on his face. “You left your cell at my place. I thought I’d return it. And now I’m getting you out of Loserville. Come on,” she snapped, kicking one of his sneakers towards him.

    He kicked it back at her. “Ari, quit it. My head is pounding. Just go to school.” He leaned back against his pillow, as if preparing to go back to sleep. Vivien hadn’t even moved, clearly having passed out rather than fallen asleep. “I’ll see you at your party tomorrow.”

    “What’s all the noise?” Mel came up behind her and she sidestepped him, shivering at the feel of his breath on her neck. He reeked.

    “Ari’s just leaving,” Charlie mumbled.

    “I’m not leaving without you.”

    “Then I guess you’re not leaving.”

    Mel chuckled. “Sounds good to me.” He slid an arm around her waist, pulling her towards him. “We can have some fun, Princess.”

    “Get off!” Ari pushed at him, but he wouldn’t let go.

    Charlie was there in seconds, having moved pretty fast for someone who’d been complaining like a little bitch about his hangover. He shoved Mel up against the door frame, his face scrunched up with anger.

    “Hey, man, relax,” Mel laughed unsurely. “Me and your girl are just talking.”

    Repulsed at the thought of her and Rickman coupled together, even in just a sentence, Ari balked, “Ugh—”

    “Shut up, Ari,” Charlie growled, shoving Mel out of the door before turning to scramble for his things. He yanked on his shirt, stuffing his feet into his sneakers and reclaiming the cell she had thrown at him. Glad that something had convinced him into action at least, Ari ignored the biting pain of his fingers curled around her upper arm, dragging her out of the house.

    She smiled as they stumbled down the porch steps and annoyance burned in his gaze when he caught her smug expression.

    “Don’t.” He shook his head angrily, pale with the hangover. “You think you’re so funny, don’t you?”

    “I think I got you out of there.”

    He laughed bitterly. “Yeah, well, now I have nowhere to go.”

    Ari sobered, thinking about the room back at the Creagh’s. So cold. So empty. Such a stark reminder of everything Charlie’s family had lost. Suddenly she understood why he truly thought that. Sighing sadly, Ari nudged him with her shoulder. “Come on. I know a place.”

    When she returned to her bedroom with a glass of water, a banana and some aspirin, Charlie was already out for the count. He lay sprawled across her comforter, his sneakers kicked off, his hands bunched up under her pillow, his pale face relaxed in sleep. Aching for him, Ari set the tray down on her bedside cabinet and scrawled out a note for him, telling him to take a shower when he woke up and to eat whatever he wanted.

    She was late for school now, but it beat sitting around waiting for Charlie to wake up. She was afraid when she got home he wouldn’t be there but on the other hand she didn’t know what she’d say to him if he woke up to find her still there.

    All day Ari half-listened to her friends as Rachel went over the final list of things still needed for the party and as Staci and A.J. had their usual ‘cute’ disagreements. Instead she pondered the fact that she had really messed this one up. For two years she’d had the opportunity to get Charlie the help he needed, to speak to an adult about what was really going on with him, to even talk to her dad. But she’d put it off and put it off, calling it a phase. And now Charlie was eighteen. He was on his own and Ari was just waiting for him to tell her that he had decided to drop out of school. She could feel it coming.

    Ari had to let him know that she was there. Maybe she could convince him to talk to someone… like a therapist or something…

    Maybe.

    Although she doubt he’d go for it.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire