[Roxie Speak : Peacock- a popular boy or girl; Star-nosed mole- freaky]
Hayden says, “So, where can we go that’s dark. Very dark.”
“The attic,” I say unable to stop myself. I mean why would I say the attic? It’s creepy up there and I hate dark places. I really hate dark places. I still sleep with a night light on. I’ll be the only girl on the planet to lose her virginity with her night light on. For real. Not like that will happen anytime soon. But still.
“Perfect,” Hayden says. It might be the spider or the black light. It might be the fact that the black light shines this creepy whiteness on Hayden’s smile and makes him look a lot less like a peacock and more and more evil, like The Peacock from Hell. It’s the first time his hair doesn’t have that sunny-glow to it. The glow I first noticed in fifth grade. And all of a sudden I start coming down with a bad case of Pavophobia, fear of peacocks. Or, at least fear of their presents. What else could they have gotten me but something that might mess with me.
“Which way?” Adrianne says picking up the purple-and-black present. She walks one way and then another, searching the room, glancing over her shoulder. Jittery, as if she expects to find something or someone in the shadows, in the corners. Very star-nosed mole.
“If I were you I wouldn’t go up there,” I say sounding spooky and a lot less peacocky than ever, thinking about how cold it is up there this time of a rainy night, knowing there’s all kinds of things up there that aren’t things peacocks should see. I’ve never been in the attic at night.
“If I were you I would,” Adrianne says. She clutches my present tight and parades out of the foyer through the dining room. I follow. She puts her hand on the doorknob of the kitchen door. The door that leads to the garage. The garage that leads to the stairs that lead to the attic. She opens the kitchen door like she’s Ally and knows exactly how to get to the attic. The other peacocks follow right behind Adrianne. Ally and I are the last ones in the peacock parade.
Ally tugs on my arm, she doesn’t want to be last one up. I don’t either. We tell each other that with our eyes. Neither of us likes the creepy all-eyes-are-on-you feeling we get in the garage on our way up the green-carpeted staircase. The garage is creepy enough. There’s all this space and just a small window for light and everything echoes. Super creepy. I mean in the summer when we come home from the swimming pool and we hang our swimsuits to dry on hooks that Dad hammered in even with our height, the garage is warm and fuzzy. But at night, before the rise of the moon, it’s creepy. I feel along the wall and turn on the one light we have above the staircase to the attic.
I have to make sure they don’t go into the garage-side of the attic. Because that’s where all of Mom’s old wild clothes are, hanging above all Mom and Dad’s wild things. But Adrianne beat me, and she’s already inside.
“Wait, you have to be careful,” I say choking on my words, sounding like my mom. Very un-peacocky.
“This isn’t about being careful,” Adrianne says and then I think I know why they came. They want to kill me and use me as a peacock sacrifice. Wait until the full moon rises and then kill me and sacrifice me. Kill me and sacrifice me. That’s all I can think about. And I don’t know where Ally is. I can’t see or hear her. And I shiver from the cold.
“Come on. It’s your birthday. And since your birthday’s on Halloween, we thought we’d do something special. Something creepy.”
Hayden closes the door to the attic behind us.
“It’s time to sit in the circle,” he says. I shuffle-walk over to Ally and it’s the fourteen of us. Twelve official peacocks, Ally, and me.
Adrianne lights a big, round white candle and puts it in the center of the circle. She sits right across from me. The glow from the candle haunts all of our faces. She spreads out her fingers on her right hand and holds it in front of her like we’re about to learn about the number five, so that I can see her palm, then she places her hand, her fingers still all spread out, over her heart on the left side of her body and says, “You all must swear the Oath Of Secrecy. What we do here never leaves this attic. Never.” She puts her hand in the middle of the circle and every one of us puts our fanned-out right hands on top of hers.
“Never,” we all say together.
Hayden hands the present to me. “Open it,” he says, super-serious.
I rock the present in my hands, not sure how I feel about secrets. Like I’m scared of them or of the present or my own attic. I’m not scared, that’s what I tell myself. I’m not scared. It becomes my new freaking mantra and fights to replace the kill-me-and-sacrifice-me one that just went through my head before we all sat down. I keep telling myself I’m not scared, even though it’s a lie.
I rip the purple-and-black bow off the box and toss it into the circle. Ferdinand picks it up and places it over my head like my grandma used to do at Christmastime. I miss my grandma and I kind of wish my brothers were home for the first time in my life.
I tear open the black box and pry off its lid. And there, cushioned in white fluff, is a blue glass bottle, shaped kind of like a genie bottle. The glass glows in the box, in the candlelight and the more I stare at it, the more it looks like there’s some sort of light dancing inside the glass, making it brighter and bluer. The harder I focus on the tiny light inside, I can see there is something stuck there, inside the bottle. Long and white.
© Laura A. H. Elliott, 20011
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