TITLE: Ash to Ashes
GENRE: YA Supernatural
My father sold his soul at three o’clock this afternoon.
It disappeared in the half hour that elapsed since he’d left the room to gather more pre-made appetizers from where they lay thawing atop the small freezer in our kitchen and returning with a dancing mound of purple jello.
I couldn't explain how I knew he’d sold his soul. Or why I thought sold and not lost. But the warning shouted in my mind. I needed to put some space between us until I figured out what to do.
The tiny, cramped living room that was packed full of black-clad strangers had been uncomfortably stuffy. Then my father – Jim –walked in holding a tray with rolling hills of purple before him and I expected my breath to puff before my face in a tiny, white cloud. A chill wriggled down my spine. I knew what he’d done. The person who came back was less than what had left. More a stranger than he’d been an hour ago in the cemetery when he’d awkwardly tried to hold my hand.
I hadn’t let him.
Why bother selling it now, I silently raged. She’s gone! You left us and never looked back. No word or card or phone calls for years. Not until all the doctors and needles and antiseptic were ready to be laid to rest in the cold November ground. My hands tightened, fisted into the damp cloth of my stupid black dress. I slunk into the back corner of the room, avoiding eye contact with everyone I passed. Between the bookshelf and the wall was a shadowed gap I could just squeeze into, so I aimed for that.
Mom had hated black. The awful shade rendered us nothing more than a bunch of crows, pecking at crackers and pretending things were going to be okay. Nothing was okay. Especially now that the only parent I had left was soulless.
My lip trembled, so I bit it – hard.
I’d always known odd things at odd times. How the most popular girl in school was secretly unhappy, even though she’d never wanted to talk to me about it. Or that the young, earnest doctor was wrong when he said the latest treatment was working. Mom and I both knew that wasn’t true.
I stared at Jim from the shelter of the bookcase.
The knowing was nothing new. Mom had been the only one who’d ever understood, who’d listened and explained how other people couldn’t. I shouldn’t have bothered trying to explain it to kindly Dr. Bartlett, then I wouldn’t have to worry about the pills buried in my backpack. Still, I’d never known someone who’d sold their soul before. Never really thought about souls. Souls were stuff for people who went to churches and prayed to gods who didn’t listen.
But Jim had just sold his.
Breath hitched in my chest and I fought to stay quiet. Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe I should have taken one of my stupid pink pills.