The Reaping - By M. Leighton

CHAPTER ONE

The sun was bright and warm on my face as we walked west toward home. In the distance, the mountains rose up in purple majesty, just like the song says, their jagged peaks cutting sharply into the horizon. Their craggy faces were painted with shadow and I knew their dark tips would soon be frosted with snow. The air held the unmistakable nip of the coming winter.

The red convertible raced past me, moving so fast my hair lifted a little on the wind. It screeched to a halt at the stop sign. I could hear the delighted squeals of the girls that had been thrown from their perch atop the back seat into the laps of the two boys in the front. A pang of longing resonated somewhere in the vicinity of my heart. As long as my dad had any say-so, I’d never be a part of a scene like that.

“They’re going to get someone killed,” Leah said gravely. I looked down at her just as she was pushing her glasses up her nose. She shook her head in disapproval, setting her springy black curls to bouncing. She didn’t understand my fascination with “them”.

They say opposites attract and that certainly held true for me and Leah Kirby, physically and otherwise. She was a petite girl with alabaster skin and chocolate eyes a few shades lighter than her hair, while I was closer to six feet than five with mousy, light brown hair, a medium skin tone and the green eyes of a cat.

And the contrast didn’t stop there. Leah had no desire whatsoever to participate in anything but Mathletes and show choir. Her grandest goal in life was to graduate at the top of her class and get a scholarship to Harvard. I, on the other hand, was willing to settle on a less prestigious future in favor of enjoying the here and now a little bit more. I wanted to spread my wings, attend cool lake parties, swoon over my first kiss, get my heart broken. I wanted to experience life, not just plan for it.

A revving engine drew my attention back to the convertible. With a screech of tires, it sped away, laughter drifting back to us on the cooling September breeze. It faded as did the convertible, my hopes of high school stardom disappearing around the corner with them.

“I guess you’re right,” I said with a sigh, resigned to being left in the dust a little while longer.

When you turn eighteen, I reminded myself. It was the magical age when my father would no longer have control over my life. Mentally, I dangled it out in front of myself like a carrot. It got me out of bed on many days when I’d much rather play hooky and be missed by absolutely no one. Except Leah, that is.

I had somehow convinced myself that I would be somebody then, that I’d suddenly transform into something special and that I’d do something great with my fabulousness. I wanted to be important to someone who was not instrumental in my birth. You know, use my powers for good and all that.

We resumed our walk home, Leah having stopped when I did to ogle the convertible. She lived seven doors down from me. Despite our common age of seventeen, we both walked to school, which was how we met last year. My father and I moved a lot and Leah was the kind of friend I typically attracted when entering a new school, the kind that had few other friends.

My mind was still on the quartet in the convertible, Leah’s incessant chatter a pleasant white-noise backdrop for my fantasy, a fantasy in which I was one of the girls in the back seat. I couldn’t be sure how many times she called my name before it roused me from my daydream. By her frown, I’d say quite a few.

We’d made it all the way to her house and apparently I’d kept up my end of the conversation without saying a word. Leah was a very low maintenance friend.

“Any big plans tonight?”

Unfortunately, my answer was the same as it had been every other Friday night since moving to rural Virginia. “Helping Dad with the car. That’s about it. You?” I asked only out of politeness. I knew the answer. It changed about as much as mine did.

“Got some new books from the library. I can’t wait to get started. This one is a biography of…”

And that’s when she lost me. I

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