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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Smokeless Fire (Page 10)     
  • Smokeless Fire(Fire Spirits #1)(10) by Samantha Young
  • She had to make him talk.

    She had to.

    Somehow Ari had known that when she walked into her room she would find the bed remade, the dishes gone from the side of the bed, and no trace of Charlie in the house. He was like a ghost. She sighed, dropping her bag to the ground. Her blood twisted in her veins, hot with frustration. Her computer chair rolled out away from her desk towards her. She flopped into it.

    “Thanks, Ms. Maggie.”

    Even her poltergeist was more real than Charlie.

    ~5~

    Can You Party in the Past?

    Rachel’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Duff, were awesome. They hugged Ari close and congratulated her on graduating and told her how proud they were of her. They made sure she was in every photograph and when she had stood up on the stage to collect her diploma they had cheered just as loudly for her as they had for their own daughter. Graduation hadn’t been so bad so far. Despite her own fears for the future, the atmosphere vibrated with so much excitement it was hard not to be positively affected by it.

    Though Charlie should have been graduating with her.

    She’d called him that morning but he hadn’t picked up. Feeling lonelier than ever, Ari had wandered into her dad’s room, picking up his favorite cologne and squirting a little into the air. As she’d glanced around his bedroom she’d realized how bare it was of anything familial. Derek’s parents had died when he was eighteen, leaving him all alone in the world. Ari guessed that’s why he didn’t see anything so wrong about leaving her so much. He didn’t mind the alone time, so he probably didn’t realize how much she minded it. There weren’t any photographs of her grandparents, nothing to give her any kind of connection to her lost family, and her dad never talked about them. He didn’t talk about a lot of stuff. Her eyes had fallen to the one photograph in the room, sitting on his bedside table. It was a picture of the two of them, hugging outside Disneyworld the summer she turned ten. They’d gone with Michelle, who had taken the photograph of them.

    It had suddenly struck Ari as she stood there in a conservative white dress her dad would have loved, her hair pulled back in a French plait, pearls he had bought for her sixteenth wrapped around neck, that she would be all alone at graduation. There would be no grandparents. No father.

    No mother.

    For the first time, a shocked breath of air escaped her at the thought. She’d never wanted a mother… but that morning, in that dress, getting ready to graduate, Ari had realized how wonderful it would have been to have her mother there. She saw how Rachel was with her mom. They were as close as two people could be. They told each other everything.

    Shaken at the seemingly out-of-the-blue yearning that had taken hold of her, Ari had fled from the room, hurrying downstairs to wait on the Duffs.

    “Let me take a picture of just Rachel and Ari,” Mrs. Duff said. The grin she wore had planted itself there an hour ago and clearly refused to leave. Her good mood was infectious and Ari wrapped an arm around Rachel’s waist, pulling the shorter girl close for a photograph that would forever capture that one moment of contentedness on this momentous day. “Beautiful.” Mrs. Duff nodded, putting the camera down for the first time.

    “My family’s ready to leave,” Staci said, sweeping over in her cap and gown, A.J. trailing at her back. She smiled sweetly at the Duffs. “Are you ready?”

    The two families, plus Ari and A.J., were gathering together for a graduation lunch at Nellie’s on Main Street, the best burger place in Sandford Ridge. Staci’s mom had wanted to go somewhere a little more upmarket but the teens won the vote.

    “Sure,” Mrs. Duff began. “Let me—”

    “ Everybody just wanna fall in love !”

    Ari winced as her loud ringtone interrupted Mrs. Duff. “Sorry.” She shuffled around in the little purse she’d brought, pulling the cell out and cutting off Metric when she saw the caller ID. “Dad,” she breathed happily into the phone, so glad he hadn’t forgotten.

    “Hey, sweetheart. Congratulations on graduating and happy birthday.”

    “Thanks, Dad. We’re just heading off for lunch. Wish you were here.”

    “Me too, kid.” He sighed heavily. “You got everything you need?”

    The question sparked a riot of questions and longings. It was like graduation had flipped a switch inside her. Suddenly Ari felt a wicked slice of pain across her chest and she took a deep breath, wandering away from her friends as she replied, “I don’t know.”

    Sensing her tone, her father’s own grew clipped. “What’s happened? What’s the matter?”

    “Nothing. I mean…” she glanced around, feeling lightheaded as she prepared to tell him. “I… just… I’ve been thinking about Mom today. Isn’t that weird?”

    Derek exhaled. “Ari, she’s not your mom. She’s your mother and she left you. She has no right to this day.”

    But you do! Where are you?

    “I know. I just… it would have been nice to have family here.”

    “Ari, are you trying to make me feel guilty? Because I already feel bad about missing your graduation.”

    “No.” She trembled, trying to control the anger that was building up under her skin. She felt so off-balance. One minute she had been fine… the next… she was this. “I was asking about my mother, that’s all, Dad. I just wanted to know what she was like.”

    “Why now? It doesn’t make a difference, Ari. You’re eighteen, you’ve gotten through life long enough without her and you’ve never wanted her before and you certainly don’t need her now—”

    “Dad—”

    “I gotta go. Have a great birthday. I’ll speak to you soon.”

    “Dad—”

    The line went dead and Ari pulled the cell away from her ear, feeling stuck in slow motion. She was still staring at it when Staci appeared before her, her dark eyes warm with concern. “You OK?”

    Ari nodded shakily, trying to force a smile.

    “Oh, Ari…” Staci reached out a comforting hand. “Forget about your dad, OK. We’re here. Today we’re your family.”

    It had been two years since Ari last cried. The last time had been at Mike’s funeral. Since then she’d sort of decided that tears were only for when something hurt so much it changed you deep inside. Today she wanted to cry. But she wouldn’t. It had hurt… but she’d get through it.

    Charlie had turned up twenty minutes ago, already drunk, eyes vacant as he nodded a hello at her and wandered off to find a beer and talk to Brady Richards who used to hang out with Charlie when he was going through his guitar phase when he was fifteen. She’d wanted to go to him, to ask him if he was OK, to be there for him as he grieved for his little brother on the second year anniversary of his death. But one minute he was there and the next he was gone. Now Ari couldn’t see him anywhere in the crowds downstairs. The house was full to bursting with the senior class, more juniors than she remembered inviting, and even a couple of sophomores. Music blared loudly out of her dad’s sound system in the living room, fighting with the TV and PlayStation 3 to be heard as Nick and A.J. had turned it up to full blast. Ari was just waiting for one of her neighbors to cave and call the police. Having left Rachel in the kitchen with Staci as the two of them refilled the snacks that had disappeared in the first hour of the party, Ari decided to take the opportunity to do something that had been niggling at her all afternoon during lunch. She’d thought she’d have time after the celebratory dinner at Nellie’s but she’d had to pick her car up from the garage and Rache and Staci had brought their outfits for the party with them and had insisted on going directly back to Ari’s to get changed and set up for the party. They had done a good job, lots of food, drink, sparkly decorations everywhere. Rache had started piling up the birthday presents on the kitchen table and had taken over being hostess. Ari didn’t care. Her mind was upstairs in her dad’s room where maybe a hidden photograph or possession of her mother’s perhaps could be found. Checking over her shoulder to make sure she had well and truly escaped Rache, Ari hurried into the hall, smiling at a junior she barely knew and skipping up the stairs. She passed a couple of people in the hall but everyone had been pretty good when Rache had announced the upstairs was off limits and anyone caught up there would be tried, judged and punished. There was no one there, and as she shot a quick glance into her room, she was glad to see it was empty. Desperate now to start her search, this inexplicable need that had come out of nowhere as far as she was concerned, Ari picked up the pace.

    She strode into her dad’s room with determination…

    …only to stall at the threshold.

    She backed out quickly before the couple realized they’d been caught. Her feet somehow carried her to her room, even though it was like wading through thick tar, and she collapsed on the edge of her bed, her heart racing as the image of what she’d seen kept rolling across her vision.

    She’d caught Charlie making out with a girl plenty of times.

    That was the first time she’d caught him ha**ng s*x with another girl… let alone in her father’s bed.

    Ari wanted to throw up.

    She made a harsh, choking noise.

    The box of tissues on her bedside table slid towards her and Ari shook her head. “Thanks Ms. Maggie,” she whispered. “But I’m not going to cry over him. I won’t.” Even though it felt as if someone had punched a hole in her chest, reached inside, and were now raking their fingernails along her insides in malicious torture.

    “Please tell me you are not talking to that poltergeist again.” Rachel grinned from her doorway.

    “Her name’s Ms. Maggie.”

    The smile dropped from Rachel’s face as she stepped into the room glancing warily around. “OK, I thought you guys were really kidding. If you’re serious that there’s a poltergeist living here I may never be able to come over to your house again.” She shuddered, jerking her head over her shoulder as if she had felt something behind her.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire