Undraland, page 1
Book One in the
Mary E. Twomey
Copyright © 2015 Mary E. Twomey
Cover Art by Humble Nations
Author Photo by Lisabeth Photography
All rights reserved.
First Edition: May 2015
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
“What is desired in a man is loving kindness.”
Professor Vin Diesel
“Think I can get away with a sore shoulder again? I’m seriously sick of weightlifting class.” I stuffed my too-thick hair into a lopsided ponytail that swooshed when I walked. The blonde curls brushing against my neck in cadence with my steps made the songs I sang in my head more entertaining to listen to while I tuned out the professor. The fact that the instructor had the nerve to make us call him a professor was ridiculous. He was a glorified gym rat, himself being the one doing the glorification. I slammed the locker door shut and popped my gum. Professor Hamilton hated when I chewed gum in class, though he never said anything directly about it. It was his slight cringe when I popped it that felt like payback for scheduling a gym session so early twice a week.
I groaned through a stretch my torso wasn’t ready for. “This was supposed to be a blow-off class, like gym was in high school. This whole nine in the morning nonsense? Not cool.”
Tonya’s laugh was loud, even when the jokes were not laugh-worthy, which made them all the better. Her mocha-colored skin always looked prettiest when she smiled, which she made sure to do often. “You can’t use the same excuse twice in a row. You gotta mix ’em up. Twisted ankle here, death of a family member there.” She stopped short and placed her hand over her mouth. I could tell by her intake of breath that she was mentally kicking herself. “I’m sorry, Loos. I wasn’t thinking.”
The stabbing pain in my chest dissipated as soon as I reassembled my grin, which was a task at the stupidly early hour, let me tell you. “No sweat.” I popped my gum again. “Which is what I hope to say about the next three hours.”
Having a best friend and roommate like Tonya made the last year less of a horror than it would’ve been without someone to cry to. Losing my twin brother was one thing. His leukemia had been in remission for almost a whole year before the disease issued him a Do Not Pass Go ticket. But the real obliterator was when my parents’ bodies were found by the cops later that night. Our old red clunker had been hit by a semi, no doubt seconds after they heard the awful news. The officer in charge told me I couldn’t see them or even have their bodies to bury. Apparently when your entire car gets crumpled like a piece of tinfoil in an accident, the remains are pretty horrific.
No, my parents hadn’t been there for Linus’s passing. Just me.
No, I hadn’t seen them that entire day.
No, I didn’t want to talk about it. Still don’t. I told the police as much when they sent me to a social worker to deal with the mess that was my shattered life. Yes, please, stranger. Let’s chat all about it.
A few months later, and the University I was attending pulled my scholarship because, let’s face it, I flaked on all my finals after that blast of awful. Then I took some time off to pick my jaw and smashed heart up off the floor.
Hello, community college. Let’s be best friends.
Whatever. I’m pretty much done talking about it. There are much better excuses for not doing all twelve reps during class today than playing the whole “dead family” card.
Tonya apologized seven more times before it started to get irksome. She’s such a sweet one; it’s hard to get truly annoyed with her. “It’s fine, Tonya. Now let’s give these jocks a run for their money.”
“Do it to it,” she agreed with the best serious face she could muster as we walked to the gym door. “I totally thought this would be a great way to stay in shape and meet cute guys. Complete bust on the last part.”
“At least we’re staying in shape,” I said with a shrug as I strolled into class a whopping two minutes early. “Good morning, Mr. Hamilton.”
He cringed at my greeting, like he’d been waiting for it since his alarm went off. “Professor Hamilton, Miss Kincaid.”
I’d never seen a professor wear spandex pants and one of those stretched-out string tank tops for men from the eighties. “Mm-hm.” I grabbed a spot to stretch in the corner away from the manly competition to see who had the biggest penis, er, I mean, muscles. It didn’t dawn on Tonya or me that Weightlifting 101 would be all freshmen guys, and not the juicy upperclassmen. Guess the University was right to renege on the whole higher education for Lucy Kincaid thing.
I felt someone staring at me, but couldn’t identify the source of the creeping discomfort. I rolled my neck from side to side and glanced over my shoulder, confirming the wall was the only thing behind me.
Paranoia. It’s my sexiest quality, for sure.
Tonya tempered her laugh since we were in class, taking it down a whole decibel, thank God. “You know, he’s kinda cute when he’s aggravated.”
I blanched. “He’s a little old.”
“You think? I dunno. Kinda reminds me of an older Vin Diesel.”
My eyebrow rose involuntarily, I swear. “And that’s a turn-on? Isn’t Vin Diesel old enough? Like, on the outer edges of being disgustingly too old for your twenty-year-old booty?”
“This one?” Tonya shook her butt like she was in a club, drawing many a male eye, but not Professor Vin Diesel’s. “Nah. He’s a classic. Like Campbell’s soup. You never truly outgrow him.”
Laughter was always easy with Tonya. We’d been good at that since we met almost two years ago. Longest I’ve ever stayed in one place. My parents were obsessed with finding the perfect home, moving us at least twice every grade. With them off in Heaven-cloud-angel land, I get to stay in one place for as long as I like. The small town just outside Sandusky, Ohio isn’t the greatest place in the world to plant one’s roots, but it’s as good as any other, so I’m not repacking another box. I even bought return address labels, so you know it’s official. You can’t just undo address labels. They’re printed in actual ink.
Tonya opened her mouth, I can only assume to add a snarky comment about Vin Diesel’s backside, but blushed and shut it before she could teenager all over the place.
“What?” I turned to follow her line of vision, noticing a few of the soccer team members entering the gym on the opposite end. Tonya was a bit boy-crazy. Her blush was the dead giveaway that one of them would soon become Mr. Tonya Weeden for exactly one week before she got bored. She was easily distracted by a handsome face (using whatever messed-up ruler she used to judge handsomeness. I mean, Vin Diesel. Let’s be real, here. Girlfriend needs her head checked). Tonya made a beeline for the nearest lifting bench, knowing I preferred the ones closest to the wall so no one could sneak up behind me.
Tonya fluffed her thin, spindly black braids. “You think any of them go for non-jock girls?”
I responded with some noise that meant, “How should I know?” Tonya spotted me while I benched the exact same weight as when I started in the class. I’m a selective overachiever.
“I have no interest in hulking out. I’m going to be a doctor, not a bodybuilder. I just need a way to blow off steam from Orgo and Bio.” Oh, and the stupid filler classes they make you take your first two years. I mean, didn’t we get enough English Lit in high school? Honestly. When I become president, that’ll be the first thing to go.
“He’s watching me!” Tonya squeaked between her teeth, in case Professor Diesel was a lip reader.
“Maybe it’s because you’re in a sports bra and we’re the only women in the room.” I put the bar on the rack and shook out my puny arms. I stood and gave her the bench. “Or maybe it’s because he’s the teacher, and he’s responsible for us not killing ourselves in here.”
“Here, put more weight on. I’m feeling like I’m ready for the next level.” Tonya sucked in her ebony stomach and laid back, taking on more weight than she normally did during her reps to impress the old dude.
My breath cut short and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. For the third time that morning, I got the distinct impression I was being watched. That eerie feeling of someone standing too close made me whip my head around like a lunatic, only to find nothing. Again.
That same paranoia crawled up my veins, but I tried to push it back down. At least I’ll have something good to tell the shrink when I inevitably go insane.
I shook off the unexpected tension and focused on the boring task of making sure Tonya didn’t decapitate herself trying to impress her married gym teacher. Oh, the joys of almost adulthood.
Tonya yammered throughout the entirety of the class and most of the way home. I did my best to listen, honest. It was that nagging clenching feeling in my gut that someone was watching me that divided my attention. It wasn’t a foreign feeling, but the intensity of it was increasing out in the openness of nature (you know, the coupla bushes by the side of the road and the weeds clawing their way through cracks in the sidewalk underfoot). It was like I could actually feel someone staring at me. My brother and I lived with some form of social discomfort our whole lives. It comes with the territory, perpetually being the new kid. People always stare. Like they’ve never seen twins before. Linus and I used to joke that our parents must’ve witnessed a crime or something, and that we were all in witness protection. With how often we moved, it wasn’t too far a stretch. Dad was not amused.
Yeah, our parents named us Lucy and Linus. Insert some lame joke about the Peanuts characters here. Do your worst; I’ve heard them all. I bet in Heaven-cloud-angel land, God has a rule that no one can make quips about our names ever again, per Linus’s request. Lucky duck. He’s probably up there, yucking it up whenever I have to fake laugh through the cringe down here.
I miss him.
When Tonya looked at me like she was waiting for some kind of response, I grabbed for my usual. “Whatever, T. He’s old.”
This seemed to be the right thing to say, and had been my standby in many a situation where my mind wandered.
“Old is using a walker to get around. Professor Hamilton is distinguished.” Tonya kicked a pebble with her hot pink Chuck Taylor as she strolled next to me, fumbling with her keys a few feet from the apartment. The main entrance was supposed to require a code to get in, but it was a quaint town, so when it broke no one bothered to fix it. This caused me no small amount of discomfort. Tonya and Danny didn’t see the problem.
Danny greeted us in the state we’d left him earlier that morning. Forearm slung across his eyes, shirt climbing up his pudgy midsection and left leg hanging off the futon. He groaned and threw his pillow at us when Tonya turned on the light. “Turnitoff!” he whined.
“It’s noon!” Tonya argued. “Time to start your day.”
Danny frowned, not having thought through the forfeiture of his pillow. Sweet little Danny. So in love with Tonya, but will never have the grapes to make a move. At least we get a third of the rent paid out of the deal. He uttered some incoherent curses that only made us laugh. I flung his pillow back at him. “This is what you get when you’re a valet for a nightclub, dude. You turn into a vampire. Up all night and hissing at the sight of daylight.”
I kicked my shoes off on the mat. There were six pairs of size seven Chuck Taylors there. Tonya and I were the same size, so we mixed and matched at will. This morning I was feeling black and neon green. But I sensed I’d be feeling sky blue and a cheery yellow after lunch.
I walked over to the window and rubbed a stalk on my green bushy fern that sat on the sill. I pretty much had a black thumb when it came to houseplants, but my fern took pity on me and did most of the work required for survival. He was a determined little guy. You had to admire that.
Danny left us for the bathroom, which was near the back of our one-bedroom slice of suburban heaven. This gave Tonya and I free reign of the mostly unfurnished living room and our pathetic excuse for a kitchen. Tonya began flipping through the channels at random, dancing on autopilot and adding to Danny’s torture as he peeked his head out of the bathroom to ogle her gyrating hips.
I moved to our closet kitchen and rummaged around in the fridge for the shredded cheese to confirm that I had the necessary ingredients to assemble a pan of enchiladas after work. “Where’s the cheese, guys?”
Danny was finally ready to welcome humanity, rounding the corner with a toothbrush in his mouth, thank God. He stepped into the hallway to be heard. “I finished it off when I got home last night.” Or at least I think that’s what he said around the toothbrush.
“Seriously? It was a full bag!” My shoulders deflated, and I reevaluated my shoe color choice to include one dismal black one.
Danny shrugged, which was his way of asking what I expected, living with a twenty-year-old guy.
Touché, Danny old boy. Just to piss him off, I grabbed one of his fancy man granola bars that cost, like, two dollars apiece and exited for work before he could protest. “See you, guys. My shift ends at ten.” Leaving the two of them alone in the apartment when they were both awake was my other way of getting back at him. He felt the sexual tension between him and Tonya, but she did not, which only compounded it on his end. Let him listen to her old man fetish for a while.
Working as a cashier in a small town is a lost art. You have to look interested in your job while being totally bored out of your skull. Luckily my boss wasn’t under the impression that I needed to act like my life’s ambition was bagging and checking, so he let me do my homework when the store hit its inevitable lulls.
I’d been so nervous for college, thinking it would be infinitely harder than high school. But as most things in life, the buildup was bigger than the thing itself. Bio was boring after looking at the syllabus, so I spent the first two weeks doing all the homework sections in the book just to be done with the busy work. This was the way of most of my classes, with the exception of English Lit. There was little structure to the way Professor Branson did things, so homework in her class was anybody’s guess. This is how I got stuck reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame like a pretentious poser at the end of my shift. I talked to Tonya about it on my cell during my lunch break. “I honestly don’t understand classic literature like this. I mean, this would never get published today. A billion pages on the architecture of the city? Boring!”
“You want me to rent the Disney version?” Tonya suggested.
She’s a sweetie. “Something tells me it won’t be as close to the original as Branson wants it. You know what’s next on the chopping block? A Tale of Two Cities. And after that I get treated to the heartwarming tale of Love in the Time of Cholera. I swear, the woman’s a masochist.”
I heard a telltale clatter of pots that told me Tonya was trying to cook again. It was a thing of mercy I wasn’t home for it. She burns everything and makes a huge mess doing it. Then she grins with this expectant cutie face when she serves you the slop. I have to be all cheery and eat the gruel
“Yep! Just finished making us a hot dog casserole, Little L.” Oh, the pride in her tone. I never had the heart to blanch to her face, so over the phone worked just fine. “It’s in the fridge, so just heat it up when you get home. I’ve gotta leave for work.”
“I’ll bet you a dollar Danny eats it all by morning,” I groused. My phone chirped to let me know my battery was a piece of crap, and was currently crapping out on me. Like a big giant piece of crappety crap. I hate my phone. I hurried to end the call. “Sounds awesome. Have a good night at work. Wait those tables like a wildebeest.”
“That’s the plan. Waitress extraordinaire.”
“See you soon,” I said.
On my walk home after work, my stomach rumbled and churned at the same time. The creepy feeling that someone was watching me always amplified at night. Out in the open. By myself. I looked over my shoulder, but again saw nothing.
Stupid overactive imagination. I’ll never let Danny talk me into an all-night marathon of the Evil Dead movies ever again.
I picked up my pace, knowing that if Linus was watching, he’d be laughing. I wished he were still here. Nothing was all that scary when he was around. That’s before the chemo wiped out his high school jock build. Linus got the height and the outgoing personality. I got the figure no one looked at and the ability to make two whole friends since moving to the area. I shouldn’t even count Danny, since I got him by default. He comes with Tonya, who never seemed bothered by my melancholy moments or my disinterest in sneaking into the club Danny valeted at. She’s a treasure, hot dog casserole and all.
A rustle in the distance made my heart jump. I scolded myself immediately. Of course there’s movement in the woods. Probably a raccoon. I squinted at the thick wall of trees, but saw nothing to explain the tightening knot in my gut. Well-lit street to the right, dark bands of trees on the left. I’d take the noises of busy city life any day over the quiet of nature, luring you into a false sense of security.