Bittersweet

Stay out of the attic.

Phaedra Thorne’s goals in life are simple. Make it to eighteen so she can legally adopt her sister and hope she ever becomes like her deranged mother who secretly lives in the attic. They’re not the normal hopes and dreams of a kid her age, but then again, Phaedra is anything but typical. Schizophrenia and psychokinesis go hand in hand in her genes. With hings always upending or blowing up around her, she’s already halfway there and horrified one of these days she’ll be the next to go insane.

Five years have passed since Phaedra has seen her older, estranged brother. She’s hesitant about his return and even more so when he comes bearing a cure for their mother. However, this so-called antidote, having sex with an incubus, comes with a catch that’s larger than the statutory rape implications. The incubus who’s willing to help the Thornes has unwittingly been followed by beings who call themselves hags. They want to drain the demon dry of his power and don’t care if they threaten Phaedra’s desire to have a normal family. She’ll do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones, even if that means trusting her uncontrollable powers won’t kill everyone in the process.

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Chapter 1

“Mom?” Kurt pressed, closing the distance. He held open the door for her, more so to get her attention than to be helpful. “What happened?”

I wanted to know, too. The mother I knew was stronger than this. Something had rattled her.

She continued moving things around to find place for the new food. “Mrs. Banichelli has a big mouth is what happened. But that’s nothing new. She’s always on that damn porch when someone drives up to this address. Anyway, she’s been filling Social Services with things she’s seen. Why do you think Mr. Hurd showed up at the police station the other night? Who do you think tipped him off?”

“But what happens in our house isn’t any of her business.” Oh, how I wanted to choke that life out of that old buzzard. She had no right sticking her pudgy nose behind our closed doors. Freakin’ idiot.

“It doesn’t matter. That lawyer I hired to take on your brother’s case does family law too. I asked him to look into how much power the state had to take you guys away. With all of the statements they have to go on, the case looks pretty good. Not only that, but Mr. Hurd is considered Social Service’s attack dog. He only works the difficult cases and gets kids permanently removed from their homes eighty-two percent of the time. With odds like that, I’m taking matters into my own hands. If they don’t think Kurt is responsible enough, then perhaps a private school is. You and Nadia won’t officially start until Monday, but you’re going to start living there tonight.”

I started for her. “Mom—”

“Phaedra, please,” she shouted, her voice on the brink of cracking. Her fingers white-knuckle gripped the side of the refrigerator, head slightly bowed. “I know you blame your brother for all of this, but don’t. He did what he thought was best for our family and I love him for that. For trying. But things didn’t turn out the way we hoped. So, I’m going to fix it. After all, he’s as much my child as you two are and I love him all the same.”

“Mom, I don’t…I…” I glanced at Kurt, a single, unshed-tear blistering my vision. I blinked it away.

The clot clenching my throat threatened to choke off the words forming in my mouth. My heart ached for what she must have gone through to come to this decision. She didn’t want to do it. Everything in her voice and her demeanor said so. But what choice did she have? Kurt was the reason why everything accelerated, but eventually, things would’ve turned out this way after all. The only saving grace we had was the Hub. Without it, we’d have nowhere to go but foster care. In that sense, Kurt might have saved us after all.

I moved from around the island because I wanted no barrier between us. No place to hide or nothing to convolute my thoughts. She needed to see me—and my emotions—in the raw. “I don’t blame him. It’s just…” I took a moment to rephrase. “I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to be here with my family. Ask Nadia, and I bet she’ll tell you the same. It’s been so hard these last couple of years and…”

I stopped. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever want to admit that to her. Dammit. Why did it have to slip out? Tears leaked down my cheek. I wiped them with a swipe of my sleeve and womaned-up with a stern face that gave away nothing. I hoped.

Her fingers loosened on the fridge, but the meat she held in her hand didn’t go anywhere. She just stood there holding them. “Go upstairs and pack. Help your sister too, okay?”

Like me, she blinked back the wetness glazing her eyes. She didn’t want to cry either because we both knew it would only make things worse.

Dishes began vibrating in the cupboards as though a small earthquake rumbled under our house. I closed my eyes and swallowed through the lump clogging my throat. Pull it back. Don’t throw anything.

The dishes stopped. Silence hovered in the air. I peeked one eye open to make sure nothing would slip out of me by mistake. Oh, how I wished I knew how to control my powers.

Strangely enough, both Mom and Kurt remained standing by the fridge as though nothing happened. They didn’t dive behind the table or the island for cover. It was like they had confidence in me to know I could control my craptastic abilities. I just hoped they didn’t get used to it, seeing as I might end up back at this house if I destroyed the Hub’s halls again.

Kurt glanced as me as he smoothed his hand along Mom’s shoulder. A slight nod of his head signaled for me to leave. He didn’t have to say or do anything. I knew it was time to go. That psychokinetic interruption hadn’t changed anything. Our mother was doing what she thought was best for our family. What was best for me.