Carnival of Dead Girls (Flocksdale Files Book 3)

By: Carissa Ann Lynch

Flocksdale Files, Book Three

Chapter One


I stood in front of an elongated mirror admiring the eighteen-gauge steel rings inside my newly stretched earlobes. The gaping holes were the size of a nickel, making the lobes look slightly distorted. The piercing artist advised against stretching them so quickly—it was supposed to be a process, she’d explained, in which you stretch the holes gradually over a period of time. But the hundred-dollar bill I placed on the counter was enough to change her mind.

I loved my new piercings, although they were sore, and couldn’t wait to show my new friend, Freya. We’d been hanging out for a few months now, and the new piercings weren’t my first attempt to impress her. Freya was hot, but not your typical beauty queen level of hot. She was dark and broody, her feelings fluctuating almost as often as her hair color—which this week was a combination of pink and orange, sort of like coral.

I knew she’d love the piercings, just like she loved my new wardrobe of all black and deep gray colors. Today I was wearing black again, and in conjunction with the piercings, I almost looked cool enough to hang out with a girl like Freya.

I thrust a knit cap down over my head, making sure it covered the entirety of my ears. It was nearly eighty degrees and sunny today. I’d just have to deal with the heat until I made it all the way to the bus stop.

My dad wasn’t strict. In fact, he’d been pretty cool about accepting my recent wardrobe changes. It was my stepmom, Candy, I was hiding the piercings from. If she saw what I’d done to my ears, she’d freak out. Just like she did last summer when I came home with a teeny tiny stud in my nose.

They got married last year. One year ago. But that didn’t stop the woman from trying to rule my life.

My real mother lived at Tokomo Penitentiary in Westwood, and she’d been locked up for six years now. Candy had taken it upon herself to assume the role of dutiful mother. I couldn’t stand her, or how my father’s behavior changed whenever she was around him.

I didn’t need my real mom, and I didn’t need a surrogate either.

I grabbed my messenger bag, swung it over my shoulder, and raced down the steps, making sure to secure the cap in place before passing my dad and Candy. They were sitting in the breakfast nook, sharing cups of coffee like a happy old couple. Yuck.

“Do you want me to drive you, Josie?” Candy asked in her sweet, pretending-to-be-my-mother voice. But I was already out the door, the screen door banging shut behind me. Take that, bitch, I thought angrily.

The bus stop was only one block from my house. The house—a classic saltbox design with rustic shutters and crimson-colored clapboards—was the largest house in the neighborhood. It was also the ugliest and most rundown. As though living in this lame town, ironically called Lamison Point, wasn’t bad enough, I also had to live in that shit box.

Everyone in town knew about my mom being in prison, and their sometimes pitiful—sometimes disgusted—glances didn’t go unnoticed by me. They looked down on me, felt sorry for me. And I hated them because of that. Maybe that’s why I liked being friends with Freya so much. I loved her edgy style and “don’t give a damn” attitude. She didn’t care if my mom was in prison. She didn’t give a damn about much of anything, really.

I cut through the Briars’ front yard, trying not to stamp on any of their flowers or plants, because if I did, I’d hear about it later from my dad, or worse, from Candy.

I could see the kids lined up on Vermont Avenue, huddling in their cliques, gabbing away as they waited for bus 309. I jerked the wooly cap off, my twisted red locks tumbling down below my shoulders. I hated my hair. Naturally a brunette, I’d dyed it over the weekend. Like my ears, it was another attempt to impress Freya.

Approaching the bus stop, my eyes made a beeline for her face. Freya stood amongst the other kids, but she emerged like a neon beacon of light. There were kids around her talking, trying to draw her attention, but she was too busy writing or drawing something in her notebook. She took notice of no one. Including me.

She was dressed in a black stretchy top and tattered black skirt, with holey knee-high socks and chunky black clogs. Her coral-colored hair was twisted in a loose braid that hung limply to one side of her pale, moon-shaped face, clearly unwashed and unbrushed. She didn’t have to try to be cool or beautiful—she just was.

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