Frenzy (The Frenzy Series Book 1)

By: Casey L. Bond

To Elton. Some people say that love can’t exist at first sight. I’m glad we disagree. I love you and always have.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” Exodus 10:21

Mercedes brushed my hair back from the sides of my face and kissed my forehead. The scent of pine soap clung to her skin. We’d washed in the river this afternoon, splashing in the sunshine and forgetting the ominous task that night would bring with it.

“I don’t want you to go,” I told her.

She smiled. Mercedes’ smile could disarm the most hateful of people. I was sure it could even calm the rough seas mentioned in the books she taught me to read. “I’ll be fine. There are other people with me.”

“And a night-walker.”

“They aren’t how you imagine. The night-walkers are….intense, but they’ve never threatened, only helped us. People like to perpetuate fear and cause drama where there isn’t any.” She let go of my hair.

“Will you wake me in the morning? When you come home?”

Mercedes chuckled. “Porschia. You and I both know that you’ll already be awake. Will you please try to get some sleep?”

“I’ll try. It’s just hard with you being gone.”

“Mother, Father, and Ford will be here.”

I shook my head. “They aren’t you.”

“I love you, too,” she replied. “I promise to come straight home to you, after the morning rotation and after I grab our rations. You know we need them. This winter’s been terrible.”

My stomach growled.

“How are you not afraid?” Tears welled in my eyes. I wished so much that I had an ounce of her courage.

“I’ve done it before.”

“One night, Cedes.”

“Now, I know what I need to do. It isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t dangerous. And I plan to volunteer again and again. As long as we need it and they accept me, I’ll be fine. It’s seriously no big deal, Porschia. Maybe one day you’ll go with me.”

“Father won’t allow it.”

She winked at me. “Father won’t always be there to stop you. Now, I have to get going. Evening rotation starts soon.”

“Love you,” I told her, hugging her one last time.

“Love you back. Listen, stay in your room.” She knew Mother’s mood had been sour all day.

Mother wore her manipulative face this morning, my least favorite. She blew out a long breath, filling the air with the rancid scents of disappointment and aggravation. That was her modus operandi: out with the bad, in with the good. But Miranda Grant never found enough good. She could never inhale enough hope or contentment to keep her from suffocating. So she struggled through every second of the day, a perpetual frown thinning her lips, a rigid frame and cold, dismissive eyes.

She yelled more often than not, reminding me I was more the cause of her disdain than the utter despair we found ourselves in. The world had gone to shit and she didn’t ask for this life. But then again, none of us did. Mother handled it more poorly than everyone else—her moods and actions swinging violently back and forth across an invisible pendulum. One moment she would dismiss me without so much as a glance or flippant gesture, and the next she would strike out. But I learned to use the reflexes I was given, snatching her wrist before her hand could make contact with my cheek.

This morning, she chose the well-trodden path of disdain when she should have been mourning. If I knew my mother, she would soon go into fix-it mode because she knew better than everyone else in Blackwater about what was wrong with the world. All anyone had to do was ask her. And if they didn’t ask, she would gladly offer the solution in detail, at which point I would gratefully fade into the background and sneak away. Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard. Hearing it often enough, I was sure, would make my ears bleed.

I tugged down the sleeve of my hand-me-down dress until it grazed my wrist, almost reaching to where it should ideally lay. Mother leaned against the Formica countertop, assessing me. Her steely blue eyes took in every detail, every stray thread; the way the dress didn’t and would never fit me the way it had my sister. I would never measure up to Mercedes; never fill her shoes, literally and figuratively. My sister was beautiful, petite, and full of life. She was happy; the embodiment of everything Mother thought should be mixed together to create the recipe of the perfect woman, the perfect daughter. I was her exact opposite.

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