An Unexpected Gift

iStock_000023981522_LargeWhen Parker and her mother move to a small town in Georgia they discover that an evil presence is upon it. Unbeknownst to them, that evil will trigger a long dormant ‘gift’ within Parker, something that will allow her to not only detect evil in its many forms but combat it as well. Will she be able to harness this gift and save everyone or will she fall prey to the horror haunting her town. Read an Unexpected Gift, Book 1 in The Diakrisis Tales

GENRE: Young Adult/Paranormal, suitable of 13 and up

This is an excerpt from the upcoming book, An Unexpected Gift, by Tawa Witko & Deanna Milda

Prologue

“Hello?”

“Dr. Mathewson, your 4:00 is here.”

“Thank you, Carol. I’ll be right up.”

She took a calming breath and then headed up the flight of stairs at the end of the long hallway. When she reached the door to the waiting room she took one more cleansing breath before stepping through it. She glanced around the near empty space and saw Brody immediately. He had his head down and was mumbling and shaking his head. That was not a good sign. Samantha cleared her throat and smiled when Brody looked up at her.

“Hello, Brody. Come on down.”

He rose and followed her, not making a sound, which was definitely not his typical behavior. He was usually a chatterbox and wanted to tell her everything going on around him. She smiled once again at him as she got to her office and opened the door, allowing him to step inside as she followed behind him. He took his usual seat except this time he sat straight up, watching as she sat down.

“How are you feeling today, Brody?”

“Are you a Christian, Dr. Mathewson?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Are you a Christian?”

“I was raised Lutheran but I don’t really practice anymore, why?”

He was silent for a long moment as he contemplated her answer. He had never asked her about her spiritual preferences before and she generally didn’t talk about things like that in session, but she needed to know what was going on, and if answering a few personal questions allowed him to open up then she would do it. Samantha continued to stare at him, paying close attention to his body language. He seemed uncharacteristically stiff in his chair.

“I can’t talk to you anymore.”

“And why’s that, Brody.”

“Because I was told that I can only talk to Christians.”

“Well, I may not practice my faith as much as I used to but I don’t remember reading anything in the bible that says only Christians can talk to Christians. I thought we were supposed to love one another as God loves us.” At the mention of God she saw him visibly shake. “You know, I remember hearing in many of the bible stories that the devil would often disguise himself as an angel to trick people. Do you know any of these stories, Brody?”

His brows scrunched together tightly and he looked confused. Samantha wasn’t sure what was bothering him, but after her experience on Monday night, she knew something was going on. In fact, she was witnessing something happening right before her eyes. The way Brody was acting and talking was unusual to say the least and he now appeared to be listening to someone.

“Brody, are you hearing something right now?”

He nodded.

“What are you hearing?”

His face paled for a moment. “He’s saying that you’re a bad person and that you’re trying to stop me from doing God’s work.”

“I’m not a bad person, Brody. You’ve known me for a long time. I care about you and your well-being. I want to help you.”

His face altered and grew red with anger. “You don’t want to help me. You want to lock me up. You want to …” he stopped, his face shifting to look at something she couldn’t see.

“Brody, do you see something?”

He nodded and pointed to the corner of the room. Samantha looked that way but there wasn’t anything there. She turned back to him and moved forward, gently touching his hand. It was cold and clammy. He jumped slightly when she touched him and turned back to her. There was sadness in his eyes as he looked down at her hand on top of his.

“Brody, please let me help you.”

He looked up at her, his expression hardening. “I need to go now.”

He stood abruptly, causing her to lean back. She pushed the chair backwards slightly and stood as well. She wasn’t prepared to have him leave as she was extremely concerned for his well-being. He then reached his arms out to her as if he wanted to hug her which was something he had never done before. She didn’t generally hug her clients but if they needed one she would always oblige them. She stepped towards him and he put his arms around her.

“You can’t help him,” he muttered in a voice that wasn’t his own.

Her body stiffened and she suddenly felt cold. Her heart swelled with sadness and despair as if all the joy within her had been sucked out and all that was left was a hollow shell. She saw flashes of her father dying and her husband leaving her. She saw the verbal berating her stepfather would give her which often times had turned violent. She saw a lonely little girl with no friends cowering against the wall. Tears involuntarily slipped from her eyes as these images floated through her mind. A deep chuckle emanated from Brody, frightening her out of her wayward thoughts.

“I see what you try to hide, Samantha. You are mine now,” the voice said cryptically.

Samantha pulled away from him and immediately felt the coldness wash away from her. Brody stood before her with an awkward expression and then a small smile crept onto his face. He turned slowly and stepped out of the door as if nothing had happened. Momentarily stunned, she stood there in shock and confusion before she finally rushed to the doorway just in time to see Brody step outside the clinic door.

“Are you okay, Dr. Mathewson?” Veronica asked from the doorway across the hall.

Samantha blinked a few times and nodded. “Yes, just, umm, nothing.”

She closed her door and immediately went to her desk. She started tapping furiously on her computer until Brody’s chart appeared. She searched for his phone number and dialed. Mrs. Fisher answered on the first ring.

“Hello?”

“Mrs. Fisher, this is Dr. Mathewson.”

“Is Brody alright?” she asked with concern.

“That’s why I’m calling. He just left my office and informed me he wouldn’t be seeing me again. Did you know anything about that?”

“Oh my goodness, no, I didn’t. Why would he do that?”

“Mrs. Fisher, has he been taking his medication?”

“As far as I know.”

Samantha ran her fingers through her hair. “I don’t believe the medications are working. We need to look into changing them or possibly readmitting him to the hospital.”

“Are you sure that’s necessary? He’s doing so well.”

“I’m afraid he’s not doing as well as you think, Mrs. Fisher. Is it possible for you to bring him into the clinic tomorrow morning to see me?”

“Yes, I can do that. I’ll have him over there first thing.”

“Thank you,” Samantha said before hanging up.

She laid her hand over her heart, feeling it beat rapidly. She took a couple of deep breaths, trying to settle down. Her soul felt heavy, which bothered her. She had dealt with and managed all her old ghosts. In truth, she hadn’t thought about her past in a very long time. She tapped her fingers on her desk and sighed as she stared at her computer, which was already logged into Brody Fisher’s medical file.

“How the heck do I even chart this?” she wondered with another sigh.

She shook her head and thought for a moment about how she would explain the encounter she had just had with Brody. After a moment, she logged into the therapy note template and began writing. Once she had completed Brody’s note, she took care of the rest of her paperwork. She had all four clients show up after lunch and had a lot of charting to do before she left for the evening. By the time she was finished and locking up her office, the hallways were already dark and completely void of people. She shook her head and groaned.

“I hate when they do that. They know I’m still in here, why do they need to shut all the dang lights off?”

She started to walk down the darkened corridor. Normally, the black hallway didn’t bother her because she knew everything was locked up, but after the day she’d had she was feeling a little creeped out by it all. She found herself pausing by every open door and then darting passed it until she got to the exit. She breathed out deeply and chuckled at herself for getting so worked up.

“Dr. Mathewson,” she heard as she stepped out in the cool night air.

“Brody, Jesus, you scared me. Is everything alright?”

“It will be.”

Before she could contemplate this further, he grabbed her. She didn’t see the knife in his hand until he was wielding it at her chest. The sharp pain caused her to scream out but Brody pushed her to the ground, raising his arm once again. Samantha could hear shouting and screaming in the distance but she knew that it was likely too late for her. As Brody raised his knife once more, she saw it, the demon Ophelia had spoken of. His face was transposed over Brody’s. It was a face of raw terror smiling down on her as Brody made the fatal blow. Samantha’s body began to shut down. Her breathing slowed and all she could think was that it was time for her to sleep. There was no more pain as her eyes closed for good.

“Dr. Mathewson, hold on.”

People moved around Dr. Mathewson, frantically trying to save her, to no avail. The man who had done this was being held by two officers. He was screaming nonsense about a demon that made him do it. Officer Hudson, who had just arrived on the scene, kneeled down and inspected Dr. Mathewson’s wounds. She never stood a chance.

“Take him away,” Officer Hudson said sadly. He couldn’t believe this could happen here, in Grieselton, a place where nothing bad happened.

1  … Welcome to Grieselton

“A new life is coming

I can’t stop the change

A new start in my chapter of life

New home in the world

New friends to meet

A new start is here”

Parker stared out her window as her previous life got further and further behind her. She hated this, hated that she would be starting a new school. It was already October and the new school year had begun almost seven weeks ago. She would be the odd one out. Everyone would stare at her. She sighed as she thought about the friends she left behind in Lincoln, Nebraska. She had lived there almost her entire 16 years of life and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

“Whatcha thinking about?”

“Nothing, mom,” Parker said with a roll of her eyes. “Everything’s just … great!”

“Oh, come on, honey. This will be a new adventure for the both of us.”

Parker turned around and stared at her incredulously. “I didn’t want an adventure, mom. I wanted my old school and my old friends and … Dad, there, I said it. Dad lives in Lincoln.”

Sage took a sharp intake of breath and shook her head slowly. “Well, ‘Dad’ doesn’t want us, so there, I said it.”

“No, he doesn’t want you,” Parker mumbled.

“Yeah, that’s probably more accurate,” Sage replied, her eyes watering.

“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

Her mom smiled half-heartedly and kept her eyes on the road. “You did, but, it’s okay. You’re entitled to your feelings.”

Parker turned back to the window, frowning. She was so frustrated she wanted to spit nails. Her father, Samuel Joseph, had left the family a few years ago but they had all remained amicable. That is until her father started to bring his new woman around. She seemed nice enough and she made dad happy which was good, even her mom had said that. That all changed, however, when he decided to marry her. That’s when her mom had difficulties. Parker had caught her crying many times until finally her mother had said enough. She wanted to move out of state, away from any reminders. She wanted to start fresh.

“Hey look, Georgia!”

Parker smiled and nodded. “Are we almost there?”

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” her mother repeated in a sing song voice while bouncing in her seat and bobbing her head.

Parker laughed. “Mom, you’re seriously nuts. You know that, right?”

“Why yes, I do know that,” she replied with a smile. She then reached for her daughter’s hand. Parker smiled and took her hand in hers. “I know this is hard for you. Thank you for being such an understanding daughter. The creator really smiled down on me and Samuel when we had you. You were always such a perfect baby and now you have grown into such a beautiful young woman. You,” she waved their joined hands, “are gonna knock ’em dead when you start on Monday.”

“I hope so, mom.”

“You will.”

They continued to drive until they passed a sign that said ‘Welcome to Grieselton’. Parker noticed that the whole area seemed to be surrounded by woods. Parker turned to look over the back seat to find her Australian Shepherd laying comfortably on the backseat. Sensing her owner’s eyes on her, the dog lifted its head up, wagging her tail as she sat up and started licking Parker’s hands and then her face. Parker laughed and hugged her.

“We’re almost to our new home, Sunni.”

Sunni wagged her tail even more. She didn’t know what she was talking about but liked the idea that the word home was used. Parker turned back around and Sunni sat up on the backseat, barking until the rear window was lowered. Parker glanced at her mom and laughed. They discovered early on that Sunni had somehow figured out that if she put her paws on the levers that the window would roll down. Once she learned that, she did it every time she was in the car so now they had to keep the windows locked, much to Sunni’s dismay. The crisp autumn air blew into the SUV with gusto as they slowed down.

“This must be downtown,” Sage stated curiously.

“Not much to it,” Parker said, rolling down her window as well.

“Don’t be a snob, Parker. I think it’s quaint. Don’t you?”

“Un huh.”

Sage slowed the vehicle to a stop as she waited for a car to back out of its parking space. Parker felt eyes on her and turned to see an old woman standing outside a store, holding a black Chihuahua in her arms. The woman cocked her head to the side and placed her free hand over her heart as a smile crossed her lips. Parker shook her head as she and her mom started moving again.

“Creepy,” she mumbled.

“What’s that honey?”

“Nothing, mom, just some old woman was staring at me.”

“Well, small towns and all, there’s bound to be a few loonies in the bin.”

“Wonderful,” Parker sighed uncomfortably.

“Hey look! That’s where our coffee shop will be.”

Parker turned and glanced at the empty storefront that would soon become ‘Native Barista’. Her mother had always wanted to own a coffee shop. She would talk grandly about how nice it would be to sit and sip coffee in a pleasant atmosphere. So once her mom had decided to move, she researched like crazy to decide where they could move to that would allow her to have her coffee shop. In all honesty, Parker sort of thought her mom had simply thrown a dart on the map and made her choice that way. She could be flighty sometimes. But that had not been the case. She had found a listing for a vacant store in Grieselton that already had the proper permits for a restaurant. It needed some fixing but that was it.

“We’ll go over there tomorrow to start getting it ready,” her mother said with way too much excitement.

“Sure, mom. I just hope it isn’t too dirty.”

“Oh, if that guy from television can redesign a place in three days I’m sure we can do it in a week, ’cause that’s how us Natives roll,” she finished with what she presumed was some sort of swagger.

“Mom, please … don’t try to be cool.”

“WHAT! I am cool,” she said with a laugh as they exited the downtown area.

Parker smiled and tried to control the knot in her stomach. She had a weird feeling that she couldn’t describe adequately. If she were to venture a guess she would call it a mixture of fear and apprehension. Something seemed off the minute she had entered the town limits. She felt a wetness on her neck and grinned. Sunni! She always seemed to know when Parker was lost in her thoughts. She turned slightly to see that her dog had pushed its nose through the small space between the front seat and the front window.

“You are such a dork, Sunni.”

Sunni licked her several times, causing Parker to laugh before she faced the front again. They were way passed town it seemed. No houses, just trees and nature. The trees were already either bare or turning brown, and while they were lovely to look at there was a creepiness embedded in them as well. She thought of the horror movies her friends enjoyed and decided that those were the types of trees that came to life and attacked you. She shuddered involuntarily just as the Explorer swerved slightly. Parker glanced at her mom.

“Sorry,” her mother apologized, frowning at her phone.

“What’s wrong?”

“The GPS on my phone just went off.” She looked towards her daughter. “Can you pull up the address on your phone?”

“Yeah, sure.” Parker dug her phone out of her jacket and scrunched her brows together. “That’s so weird. I just had signal.”

“Guess we’ll need to get one of those extenders. Can you grab the directions from that folder with the house stuff?”

Parker grabbed the manila folder stuck between the cup holders and her mother’s seat. She pulled out a print out of step by step directions. Her mother must have suspected they wouldn’t get great signal. She scowled at that thought, thinking she could have at least warned her they were moving to nowhere land.

“It says make a left at 433rd street.”

“Okie dokie.”

Parker rolled her eyes as she turned to the window again. There really was not a lot out here. The place seemed to be surrounded by nothing but woods. They turned at 433rd street, which happened to be a gravel road. Parker held on to the door as they bounced along towards a house down the road. Parker found herself shaking her head as they approached.

“No way, mom, are you kidding me?”

Her mother shot her one of her famous dirty looks that were generally reserved for her father. Parker looked away and stepped out of the car once they had stopped. She quickly let Sunni out, who immediately dashed towards the grassy area in front of their house, while Parker stood and stared at the place that was to be her new home.

“It’s not so bad,” her mother said as she came and stood by her daughter.

The house looked like it should be condemned. Its white siding was falling apart in some areas and she could see that one of the windows was broken on the second floor. The house was surrounded by a single set of trees that, in there naked form, just looked bad. The yard itself was a mess, dead tree branches littered one side of the house and the grass hadn’t been mowed for she didn’t know how long. She noticed an outbuilding just to the left of the house, whose roof looked about ready to cave in, and just beyond that were the same creepy woods that they had passed earlier. Parker looked to the left and right and realized they had no neighbors. They were completely isolated in this run down house with buildings that were about to fall down, surrounded by wooded terrain that made her feel uncharacteristically nervous.

“Are we even able to live here?”

“Honestly, Parker. Don’t be so dramatic.”

“Mom, I’m not being dramatic, seriously, LOOK!” Parker pointed to the broken window. “There’s probably all kinds of, I don’t know, bugs or worse in there.”

“The owner said he has the window on order. The size they sent him didn’t fit so he had to get a new one. He said he patched it up until the new one came.”

“There’s duct tape on the window. That’s … well, that can’t be safe.”

Ignoring her daughters comment, Sage put her hands on her hips and smiled. “It’s got potential.”

“Potential!” Parker replied, flabbergasted, just as Sunni stood beside her. Parker kneeled down. “Sunni, go check it out, girl.”

“Parker Ann Joseph! Don’t you dare send Sunni in there first! I want us to be the first ones in our new home.”

“Mom, I ain’t going in there unless Sunni goes in and lets us know it’s safe. There could be a wolf den in there or … something.”

Her mom guffawed. “A wolf den?”

Parker shrugged as she patted her dog on the behind and motioned her head towards the door. Sunni darted forward while Parker rose to a standing position. She winked at her mom, who had her arms crossed. Parker was determined though. She knew Sunni wouldn’t allow her to go anywhere that wasn’t safe. After a few minutes, Sunni came barreling through the door, skidding almost into Parker.

“Is everything okay in there, baby?”

Sunni licked her face profusely and then walked back towards the house.

“So, Sunni has given us the go ahead. Can we go inside now?” Sage stated with some annoyance.

“Apparently it’s ‘okie dokie’,” Parker grinned as she trotted to catch up to Sunni.

The inside of the house was better than the outside, but not by much, as far as Parker could tell. The living room was a wide open space. A lot smaller than their old place. They would need to utilize some expert Feng Shui to make it fit harmoniously. There was one window that let in some natural light but it still looked a bit gloomy.

“Oh, I love it. We can put the couch there,” she pointed against the wall, “and then the entertainment center can go over there. Satellite should be in by tomorrow.”

Sage smiled as she started walking up the stairs. Parker reluctantly followed her with Sunni by her side. Sunni darted up the stairs and passed her mom, then waited not so patiently at the top. Parker glanced into the bathroom, which was extremely small, but she didn’t say anything.

“Both bedrooms are about the same size and then there is a smaller room that we can make into a little study or something. Which room do you want?”

Parker shrugged as she looked to one side and then the next. Sunni rose and turned to the left. “I guess we’ll take that one,” she said, thumbing to her left.

Sage smiled as she headed in the opposite direction of her daughter. Parker entered the room and sighed. From the outside, the house looked big, but inside, not so much. She watched as Sunni sniffed around the window, pushing the dead bug carcasses around with her nose.

“Ya know, you could have picked the room without the duct tape on the window,” she said, patting the dogs head.

She stepped up to the broken window and carefully placed her hands on the frame. You could see the woods just past her backyard and from her vantage point they didn’t seem as treacherous as she initially thought. She watched as a breeze filtered through the dense tree line and made the branches sway slightly and the leaves swirl in a circular manner.

“Now that’s something you don’t see in the city.”

As she started to turn, she thought she saw someone standing in the woods but when she glanced back the person was gone. Her brows furrowed and then she turned abruptly. She had only been there for 20 minutes and she was already seeing things in the woods. She shook her head and then met her mom downstairs.

“It’s really dusty in that room. I want to sweep before I put my stuff in there.”

“I’m way ahead of you,” Sage said, handing her a broom. “We’ll sweep and then start unloading. I’ll take care of downstairs if you can do the upstairs rooms.”

Parker nodded and then got to work. She made sure to not only sweep but to get the spider webs that had made homes for themselves in the corners of the bathroom, then ran her broom as best as she could across the walls and ceilings. By the time she was done she had dirt in her hair and on her clothes but at least the upstairs rooms looked presentable.

“Mom, I’m done.” She stopped at the foot of the stairs. “Wow, mom, it looks good down here.”

“She cleans up nice, doesn’t she?’ she said, leaning against her broom.

Parker laughed and tapped her mom’s back lightly. “We better start unloading that truck. I don’t want to be doing this all night.”

“Me either,” she laughed.

The two women, who had packed the truck in Lincoln, set forth to unloading their U-Haul. They had decided to rent two moving dollies so that they could unload quickly and efficiently. In Lincoln, they had family and friends who offered to help but Sage had insisted that just she and Parker should do it. After all, they would be the ones doing it in Georgia. Both she and Parker were thankful for that, though, because they knew what to do and within four hours they had everything in the house.

“I think we should go into town and eat at that restaurant and then get some groceries.”

Parker plopped down on the coach and nodded. “Yeah, that sounds good. I’m gonna take Sunni for a walk first. She’s been cooped up for too long.”

Sage nodded as her eyes closed. “Just wake me when you’re ready to leave.”

“Sure thing, mom.”

She glanced at her dog, who was resting on ‘her’ chair. Several years ago, Parker’s mom had bought a round chair for the living room, thinking it would be comfortable, it wasn’t. So it ended up being Sunni’s chair. It was beat up now, the pleather material peeling off in a couple of places. The cushion was stained and tattered in spots, but Sunni loved it. They almost didn’t bring it because it was so worn down, but Sunni’s pitiful eyes when it hadn’t been moved forced them to throw it in the U-Haul at the very last minute.

“Sunni, want to go for a walk?” Sunni perked up and was off her chair in seconds. “Come on, girl. Let’s explore a little outside.”

Sunni dashed before her owner in a hurry to get outside. Once out the door, Parker looked around. The place wouldn’t look half bad if it was cleaned up a bit. She walked towards the broken tree branches, picking a stick up and tossing it, grinning as Sunni made a mad dash to retrieve it. Sunni dropped the stick in front of Parker and then took off. One thing Parker was thankful for was the humongous yard. Sunni was bobbing and weaving around miscellaneous debris, completely in her element.

“Sunni girl, come.”

Sunni quickly made her way back to Parker as they strolled over to the large outbuilding. Parker stepped into the doorway, trying to decide if she should go in. Bits of the remaining sunlight shown through the gaps in the ceiling, giving just enough illumination to see what was inside. There were old pipes piled up on one side and rickety boards scattered around. Sunni slowly walked inside.

“Be careful, girl, this building doesn’t look to sturdy.”

Sunni continued to sniff the ground as she explored the large building that once housed farming supplies. Catching a scent she didn’t like, she approached a corner of the building, barking crazily as she launched forward. She yelped and backed up and, in spite of the fear of the building collapsing, Parker ran forward.

“Sunni, baby, you okay?”

Sunni looked up at her with a bright red mark on her nose. Parker kneeled down beside her and could see there was a little blood but not a lot. Parker looked around and picked up one of the pipes nearby, raising it in a protective manner. Both she and Sunni jumped back when a raccoon exited its hiding spot. Sunni started growling and jumping forward, trying to back the creature into the corner.

“Jesus, come on, Sunni. Leave him alone. It’s just a raccoon.”

They carefully exited the building and looked around. They strolled over to the other side of the property and found an abandoned building that had already buckled and was lying in a heap on the ground. They weren’t exploring in there, that was for certain. They also found the silo that was used to store grain, but it was empty, aside from the family of mice that were calling the place home.

“Now where?” she asked Sunni.

Sunni continued to sniff around as they started to walk back to the house. She suddenly stopped and raised her head. Her ears perked up like they did when she was really trying to hear something. A low growl emanated in her throat as she started to bark again. This time she was using the deep growl that was reserved for danger.

“What’s wrong, Sunni?”

Sunni continued to growl but Parker didn’t see anything. Soon Sunni was dashing forward, towards the woods. Parker didn’t immediately follow her because Sunni was on high alert and it could just be another raccoon for all Parker knew. She walked towards where Sunni had entered and stood staring into the deep cluster of trees. A cold wind blew around her, making her shiver in response. Her hand involuntarily went to her stomach as she started to feel the knot tighten.

“Sunni, come!”

She waited a few moments and swallowed nervously when Sunni didn’t reappear or acknowledge that she had heard her calling. Parker blew out a breath and looked around quickly before finally stepping between two large trees to enter the wooded area. She started walking forward slowly, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck rise. Her skin pebbled as she took a couple more careful steps.

“Sunni, come!” she yelled more forcefully.

She looked behind her and could still see the house but she didn’t want to go too far and get lost. Her lip wedged between her teeth as she tried to figure out what to do. She glanced at her wrist and smiled. She took one of the large hair ties off and wrapped it around a low branch. She took a few more steps, trying to stay in as straight of a line as she could and then tied another hair tie onto a branch. She was really getting worried. It wasn’t like Sunni not to respond to her call.

“Sunni, baby girl, you come to mama right now!”

She stood still and listened. Nothing! She felt the tears on her cheek as she moved forward. Her heart started to beat rapidly and she quickly looked around feeling as if she were being watched. That’s when she remembered that when she was in her bedroom earlier, she thought she had seen someone lurking in the woods.

“Hello, is there anyone here?”

The wind swirled around her and she thought how strange that was that it would do that in this dense of an environment. She swirled around and stopped when she saw something several feet away from her. She couldn’t make out the form completely but it appeared to be a boy, or she supposed it could be a man too. She couldn’t see a face but the body had the shape of a man.

“My name’s Parker. I’m just looking for my dog. I think she’s lost. Can you help me?”

She heard a loud growl and a flash of white fur go by her so quickly that it made her fall to the ground. In that moment she was overcome with debilitating fear. She wasn’t able to move. Her breathing became erratic and her heart was beating so fast that she thought she was having a heart attack. She curled herself up near a tree and cried. She wasn’t sure why exactly but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen. And as suddenly as it came, it disappeared. She looked up just as Sunni leaped in front of her, licking her face profusely.

“Oh, God, Sunni. You scared me, baby.”

Parker held on to her tightly. She had been so worried and scared for her. She played with Sunni’s fur which had some twigs and debris tangled in it but, at that moment, she didn’t care. She was safe. Parker rose and looked around, trying to see if the person was still there but there was nothing where she had seen him. Whatever she thought she saw was gone. She looked down at her dog, who looked no worse for wear.

“Come on, girl, let’s get the heck out of here.”

Sunni started heading in the direction towards the house, with Parker following right behind her. She found that the closer they got to the house the better she started to feel. When they finally approached the edge of the tree line and she could see the old white house, she breathed out a sigh of relief. That relief was fleeting, though, because just as she stepped out of the woods, she heard what sounded like laughter coming from behind her. She turned quickly but no one was in sight.

2 … Native Barista

“Getting used to change,

Getting used to my new crazy life,

Getting used to feeling free &

Letting go of the problems I’m facing”

Parker woke with a start, blinking several times. She had slept rough. Her experience in the woods had haunted her dreams. She kept seeing this person, for lack of a better word, wearing a hoodie but without a face. She shuddered as she remembered her dreams and then smiled when Sunni began to lick her face.

“I’m up, Sunni girl.”

Sunni jumped off the bed and started barking. Parker knew this bark all too well. It was the one that said, ‘get your butt up and feed me and not the plain old food, but mix the good stuff in it as well’. Yes, her dog was spoiled. Parker had accepted this long ago. She drug her tired body out of bed and trekked downstairs, finding her way into the kitchen where her mom was cooking.

“Morning, sunshine.”

“Mom, it’s too early for your enthusiasm.”

Sage laughed. “Oh honey, it’s never too early for that. Are you hungry?”

Parker nodded. “Let me take care of Sunni first.”

“As if she would allow you to sit down and eat before her,” Sage replied with a snort.

Parker grinned and let Sunni outside. She leaned against the house siding as she watched Sunni run around like she was possessed, until she found the right spot to take care of business. Parker found her eyes wandering towards the wooded area. There was something about them that didn’t feel right, sort of an uneasiness that she couldn’t shake. Sunni bound into her, effectively shifting the direction of her thoughts.

“Okay, come on, girl, let’s eat!”

Within an hour, Parker had fed her dog, eaten breakfast, and taken a quick shower. She tied Sunni up outside and then hopped in the Explorer with her mom. They had already loaded the SUV with cleaning supplies and the stencil that they had made for the outside window.

“You got everything, mom?”

“Yep, let’s go check out our new coffee shop,” she said with a wide smile.

They bounced along the gravel road. That road would be something that Parker would have to get used to. She had been on a few when she would visit relatives on the reservation but that was about it. Now she would need to drive one all the time. Well, her mom would be driving one all the time, at least until next month. Her father was supposed to send money on the first so she could get the car he had promised her.

“Mom, do you think dad will send that money?”

Sage sighed and then smiled. “I’m sure he will do his best, but,” she grabbed Parker’s hand and squeezed it lightly, “I still have some money set aside so if he doesn’t we will get something anyway. It may be a rez runner but it will get you around.”

“What the heck’s a rez runner?”

“It’s not bad, just what we called cars when we lived on the rez. Bottom line, don’t worry.”

Parker nodded. She hoped her dad came through for her. Sometimes he wasn’t very reliable but he had been insistent that he would do it. She needed a car. Her mom was letting her drive the Explorer to school on Monday but that was going to get old real quick, especially if her mom had errands to run during the day.

“He’ll come through,” she whispered to herself.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing mom,” she said with a half-smile.

“Wow, lots of folks in town today. Wonder what’s going on?”

Parker had no idea but there were definitely more people than when they drove through the other day, not that they were going to be visiting with people. She and her mom would primarily be cleaning and painting today and then tomorrow they were going to pick up the tables and chairs that her mom had already purchased.

“Here we go!”

“Here we go!” Parker repeated.

Sage held her daughter’s hand as they stood in front of the storefront until she finally turned the key. She had never owned anything before and was scared to death of failing, but that only motivated her more to succeed. She gave her daughter a smile and then pushed the door open so they could step inside.

“Oh Parker, this is perfect. Can’t you just picture it?”

“Un huh,” Parker replied as she flicked the light switch on.

The place was not as bad as she imagined it to be. It was a large open space with built in bookshelves lining half of one of the walls. Apparently that was where the previous establishment had sold their wares. She walked over to them and tugged on the shelves, making sure they were sturdy. She nodded at her mom who was walking in the back to where the kitchen was.

“I think we can modify this a bit since we won’t really be cooking in here. What do you think?”

“Yeah, that’ll work,” Parker answered, coming into the kitchen. ‘This place is huge. Do we even have enough stuff to fill it?”

“Probably not,” Sage said, scrunching her lips together. “Got any suggestions for filling up the space?”

“Umm, well, why don’t we make a little kids section in one of the corners out there,” Parker suggested.

“What do you mean?”

“Come here, let me show you.”

The two walked out into the main dining section again. Parker walked over to where she thought a little kid’s corner could be.

“We could set this part up as sort of a kid’s corner where they could draw or play while their parents relaxed.”

“That’s an excellent idea. We could pick up some stuff at the thrift store down the street. I bet they have all kinds of things at a reasonable price.”

“They might even have some of those bean bag chairs too. That would be cool. You could have a few of them along with a small bookcase that had kid’s books on it. And some toys and maybe we could have a little table as well.”

Sage wrapped her arm around her daughter and smiled. “We make such a good team.”

“We do.” Parker grinned and kissed her cheek. “Come on, let’s get to work.”

They went back outside and gathered all the cleaning supplies from the vehicle and started the tasks of the day. They blasted music and danced while getting the place ready. Hours went by as they swept everywhere they could, mopped floors and washed the walls. They still needed to put a fresh coat of paint on each of the walls but it was coming along. Parker wiped the sweat from her forehead and took a seat on the ground. Sage dropped down beside her.

“Good lord, I’m getting to old for this,” Sage exclaimed tiredly.

“You’re only thirty-six mom. Besides, what’s my excuse, because I’m tired too.”

Sage glanced at her daughter, who was now lying next to her. “I take back what I said about that dude on that food channel. This is seriously hard work.”

Both women laughed and then whined as their bodies ached from the movement. They lay there prone on the floor until Parker couldn’t take it any longer and stood, albeit somewhat gingerly. She reached down and grabbed her mom’s two hands and lifted her into a sitting position. Sage groaned but then sighed.

“I’m gonna start taping so we can paint,” Sage said as she stood up completely and arched her back.

“Do you want me to help with that?”

“Nah, I can manage it. Why don’t you go check out that thrift store and see if they have anything that will fit our needs and if you see something that works, just go ahead and get it. I trust your judgement.”

“Okay.”

Sage tapped her daughter lovingly on the shoulder before she walked towards the counter where they had all of their supplies. Parker grabbed her phone on the way out and shoved it in her back pocket and then snatched her mom’s debit card off of the counter, thrusting it in her front pocket.

“I’ll be back in a little bit,” Parker hollered from the open door.

Parker breathed in the fresh air. It was nearly four o’clock and there was already more activity on the street. School kids in cars with their parents and teens heading to the local diner for an after school snack. She stretched slightly, getting the kink out of her back and then headed in the direction of the thrift store.

Grieselton Thrift appeared as all thrift stores seemed to be. Items were haphazardly strewn in this spot and the next. She would give them some credit though as there seemed to be at least some organization in regards to product placement. Parker immediately walked over to the toy section and grinned. There were all sorts of items that would work for what they wanted to do.

“Can I help you find something?”

“Do you have a furniture section?”

“Yes, we do, it’s towards the back of the store,” the sales associate stated, pointing Parker in the right direction.

“Thanks.”

As Parker maneuvered through the store, she noticed the old woman she had seen the other day. She was watching her closely. Her eyes followed her as she passed the clothes and into the home furnishings section of the store. Parker shook the uneasiness from her mind and went about looking for items that would be suitable for their needs. She smiled when she saw the beanbag chairs. There were two of them, one orange and one green. They would be perfect. She smiled even brighter when she saw the price tag, definitely within her price range.

“Ma’am,” she called to an associate in a green vest.

“Yes.”

“I want to buy these two items but I’m still shopping. Can someone hold them for me?”

“Sure. We’ll take them to the register.”

“Thank you so much.”

As Parker turned again, the old woman was there. Parker narrowed her eyes. This woman wasn’t even trying to be subtle in her stalking. Parker turned away from her and continued to peruse the home furnishings. If she could find a small loveseat perhaps, that would work well for the coffee shop. She stopped in front of a floral sectional. Both pieces had small orange flowers and green vines interspersed within it. She took a seat on the loveseat and smiled. It was somewhat comfortable, albeit a tad smaller than what she wanted.

“Let’s see how you feel,” she said as she stood and took a seat on the couch.

The middle felt fine but as she hopped to the left side of it and leaned back, her whole body began to shake. Her hand tightened on the arm of the sofa and her head flew back. She felt as if she were pinned to the piece of furniture. Shapes started forming around her but they were almost transparent.

The small house on the outskirts of town looked unassuming but there was tension in the air, a bubbling hostility ready to explode. Parker could see a woman walking into the living room followed by a man in coveralls. He looked angry. His body was tense and his jaw fixed as he grabbed the woman by the arm and spun her around.

“I know you’re seeing him. I saw you two talking,” the man yelled, squeezing her arm.

“Baby, I’m not. We were talking about Mike’s schoolwork. He’s behind in his class.”

The woman jerked her arm out of his grip, which seemed to only anger the man further. His lips twisted into a sneer and Parker could see his hands balling into a fists. She wanted to yell at the woman to run, to get away from this man, but when she opened her mouth, no words came out. Parker watched in horror as the man took a step towards her.

LIAR!

“I’m not lying …”

The man swung his hand, slapping the woman hard enough that she fell backwards, stumbling onto the flowered sofa. Her head flew back as she gripped onto the arm of the chair, to steady herself. She tried to get up but she couldn’t. The man was on top of her, hitting her over and over again as he pinned her body underneath him.

“Stop, please stop,” Parker mumbled at the man.

The man didn’t though and inherently Parker knew why. He continued to swing at the woman with all the force he possessed until the woman was no longer moving. When he looked at his hands they were bloodied and bruised as a look of shock and agony crossed his face.

“Are you alright?”

Parker gasped and stared blankly at the sales associate in front of her. She swallowed thickly, her eyes shifting around her. She was in the thrift store, not someone’s house. She leaned forward, finding that she was no longer pinned. She jumped up, almost pushing the poor woman in the process. Her body felt strange and out of sync.

“I’m fine, sorry.”

“Would you like to take the couch as well?”

Parker shook her held vehemently. “No”

“I understand. I hate even looking at that thing but don’t tell anyone I said that, okay?”

“Yeah, sure. Why do you hate it?”

“A woman was killed, right there where you were sitting.”

Parker turned towards it as a cold shiver raced up her body. She touched the back of the couch. She wasn’t sure why but she did. Maybe she was curious if she would get the same response as she did before. There was no strange sensation anymore. It was just like any other sofa. Parker shook her head just slightly as she tried to make sense of what happened to her. She turned back to the associate and offered her a shaky smile.

“I think I’ll take the love seat but not the sofa.”

“Do you need someone to deliver it to your home?”

“It’s actually for the coffee shop down the street. If they could bring it there that would be great.”

“That won’t be a problem.” The woman took a pen out of her vest pocket and scribbled the words ‘sold’ on the tag for the loveseat.

“I have a couple more things to get and then I’ll pay for them.”

The woman nodded but she was already on her walkie talkie, calling for someone to help her move the love seat. Parker took a steadying breath and went back to the toy section to pick up a couple of things she thought would work. She then brought it to the cashier and paid for all the items, which cost her only $89 total.

“We’ll have it over to the store within the hour, if that’s okay.”

“Sounds perfect. Thank you for all your help.”

The woman nodded before turning to assist another customer. As Parker approached the door, she saw the old woman again. Parker had enough. She was tired of being nice about this. She stalked over to the woman, who suddenly had a smile on her face.

“What’s the deal? Why are you following me? Are you some kind of stalker or something?”

The woman let out a hardy laugh, which drew some attention their way. Parker frowned at her, staring at the perceived lunatic before her. This woman was absolutely crazy.

“What’s wrong with you?” Parker asked.

“Nothing, my dear. Tell me,” the old woman asked, leaning a little closer.

“Tell you what?”

“What did you see when you sat on that couch?”

“Nothing?” she lied.

The woman smiled. “Ahh, do not be afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Your gift,” the old woman said casually.

“Gift? What? You’re nuts … just … leave me alone and stop following me around like some crazy lunatic,” Parker fumbled as she turned and started for the door.

Parker stepped out and felt the buzzing in her pocket. She quickly grabbed her phone and read the text message from her mom, asking her to get some food for the two of them at ‘The Shack’. Parker texted her back and then told her she got some items that would be delivered within the hour. Parker glanced back towards the Thrift Store but didn’t see the old woman anywhere.

“Creepy old bat,” Parker mumbled aloud.

The Shack was located across the street from Native Barista. Apparently it had moved from where Native Barista was approximately three years ago. The owner, Patty Ridgeway, was a nice woman who had visited with Parker and her mother for over an hour the night before. By the end of the evening they had come up with a plan on how to mutually promote one another. In fact, Sage and Patty had exchanged numbers and even recipes. That was one thing about her mom that she liked; she knew how to make people feel at ease.

Parker pulled out her phone as she entered the diner, reading her mom’s text. She chuckled a little and then looked up, right into the eyes of a young man about her age. He was sitting at a nearby table with several other people, all of which were wearing letterman jackets. He smiled and then someone laughed beside him, while another nudged him.

“Kyle,” a girl in a cheerleading outfit said quickly.

Parker glanced around the diner and saw that it was bursting with people, almost all of them teenagers. Based on the number of cheerleaders and boys with school jackets on and the fact that it was Friday, she surmised that there must be a home football game tonight.

“Great,” she whispered under her breath.

Suddenly feeling self-conscious, she quickly ran her fingers through her hair, and then realized that it didn’t matter because her clothes were dirty and filled with dust. She looked a mess. She sighed and walked up to the counter to place their order. She felt that the boy was watching her but she didn’t turn around to see him. She was already embarrassed enough.

“Come on,” she urged.

She hated that this was the first impression of her that her peers were getting. All dirty with messy hair and carrying a large bag from the local thrift store. It wasn’t that she was striving to be popular but she didn’t want to deal with bullying either. And, let’s face it, new kids and social misfits are prime targets. When the waitress set the bag in front of her, Parker forced a smile as she chewed on her lip, and handed her her mom’s card.

“Sorry for the wait.”

“It’s okay,” Parker said as she quickly turned.

“Come again,” Mary said to the retreating figure.

Parker swiftly exited the diner and headed back to the coffee shop. She just prayed she could get out without embarrassing herself any more than she already had. She stepped inside and closed the door quickly, finding her mom giving her a curious look. Parker didn’t say anything as she walked over to the counter and dropped the bag of toys on the floor and put the food on the countertop.

“Is everything alright?’

“Yeah, I don’t know.”

Sage stared at her for a long moment and then started pulling out the food containers and drinks. “Does this have anything to do with yesterday?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I noticed you seemed on edge when you got back with Sunni and then you were really quiet at dinner. Now, today, you have that same look on your face.”

“It’s nothing, mom. Just that creepy old lady was watching me again and then…”

Parker gazed off for a second, thinking about what happened when she had sat down on the sofa. She wasn’t sure she if she should tell her or not. When Parker didn’t finish her response, Sage snapped her fingers in front of her. Parker blinked and stared at her mom. No, she definitely didn’t want to tell her, at least not yet.

“There were all these kids at the diner today. Must be a football game tonight and I look like this,” she offered with a sigh.

“Oh honey, you look beautiful.”

“You’re biased, mom.”

“Just because I’m biased doesn’t mean I’m not also correct,” she replied with a wink. “Look, I know the first few days have been a little … Oh, I don’t know, maybe not to your expectations but it will all work out. I’m confident this was the right move for us.”

Parker smiled at her. She didn’t have the heart to tell her that she wasn’t as confident in the move as she was. Parker ate quietly while her mother made small talk with her. Eventually she started to feel better, her mother’s carefree attitude winning over her feelings of despair. By the time they finished eating and had started painting, they heard a knock on the door.

“I bet that’s the guys from Grieselton Thrift with the furniture,” Parker stated knowingly.

“Oh good, I’ll let them in,” Sage replied as she set her paint brush down.

“We have a delivery.”

“Come on in.”

“Where do you want us to put it?”

Sage glanced at Parker who motioned her head to the corner. “Over there. Thanks.”

“Not a problem, ma’am.”

The men loaded the sofa and two bean bags and then departed. Sage immediately took a seat and smiled. She glanced over her shoulder at her daughter and motioned with her head for her to come join her. Parker set her paint brush in the tray and sat down beside her mom. She found herself leaning into her.

“Tell me again that it’s going to be okay here,” Parker asked sadly.

Sage kissed the top of her head and rubbed down her arm. “It’s going to be okay. You are a beautiful and kind young woman. Your peers are gonna love you.” She rested her head on her daughters. “I mean, they won’t love you as much as I do but they’ll still love ya.”

Parker laughed and smacked her mom’s leg. Sage grinned and held her daughter close to her. She knew that she was hiding something but she would wait it out. She and Parker were close and she always told her what was happening in her life. She had every confidence that she would eventually do that again.

“Remind me to bring the sage tomorrow. I want to smudge the building.”

“We should smudge the house too.”

“I’ll do that when we get back tonight,” she sighed. “I probably should have done that yesterday. An old house like that is bound to have some ghosts lurking about.”

Parker involuntarily chilled as she remembered the woods and how scared she had been. She didn’t know if it was a ghost or not, but it was definitely something. If Sunni hadn’t gone after whatever was out there, she feared what could have happened to her. One thing was for certain; whatever was out there was not friendly at all.

To be continued …

AUTHOR NOTE:

This is the first couple of chapters of An Unexpected Gift, Book 1 in The Diakrisis Tales, which is a young adult paranormal series that my daughter, Deanna, and I will be writing. We are expecting An Unexpected Gift to be out by September 2017. Special thanks to my daughter Deanna who wrote the poems at the beginning of each chapter. Also, the prologue is part of a short story that I wrote called ‘Horror in Grieselton’ which will be part of the second Thill of the Hunt Anthology. TOTH2 will be out in October if you would like to read the full story behind the prologue.

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Available to read on Wattpad HERE