The once prosperous, recently ruined factory town of Anchester Falls holds many secrets but they are well buried beneath the rubble of the town’s former glory.
Juliette leaned back against the crumbling brick wall, watching as a carpenter ant disappeared into a crack in the floorboards. Then she looked down at the wad of cash she was holding in her hand, and slowly began to unfold the crumpled bills. Twenty-seven dollars. And Calvin was lowering prices again, which meant less money in tips, which meant…
She sighed. The vast emptiness of the house seemed to have a presence all of a sudden, as if to say, look at all this space! And yet you can’t afford to keep it in proper condition. You can barely afford to live here. Well I would sell it, Juliette thought defensively, if I could get more than a quarter of what it’s worth. Besides, she admitted to the unrelenting house, I can’t leave yet. It’s still too soon. And the memory of her parents swam unbidden into her mind – her laughing mother pulling a pan of freshly baked bread out of the oven in their large kitchen with windows overlooking the river, her father quietly smiling into his bushy moustache as he sat at the table looking over factory numbers. It had been less than a year since they had taken their lives together, and Juliette still saw their mangled bodies, pulled from under the water mill wheel, every time she closed her eyes.
A door slammed and Juliette jumped, startled out of her dark thoughts. “Yo Jules,” came the shout of her seventeen-year-old brother DJ. “You home?”
Getting to her feet, Juliette tucked the bills into her pocket. “In here,” she called.
DJ appeared in the doorway.
“Guess what,” he asked, eyes sparkling. And then without waiting for a response, “Laura’s father offered me a job.”
Laura was DJ’s girlfriend. Her family was one of the only old wealthy families in Anchester Falls that had managed to retain their wealth, and a job with them would pay well. DJ had wanted to drop out of school and get a job ever since their parents had died. Juliette thought of her long hours at the restaurant and their crumbling house and ever-mounting bills.
“No,” she said finally, “we’ve talked about this. You have one more year of high school; you have to graduate. If you’re still with Laura after that I’m sure the offer will still -”
But DJ was already rolling his eyes angrily. “Great,” he said flatly. “This job would be way better for my career than one stupid year of high school, but of course you don’t – I don’t even know why I bother -” He stopped, his face flushed. “You may be content sitting in this falling-down house making barely enough to survive but I’m not. You can control me for one more year and then I’m gone.”
He turned and abruptly left the room, and Juliette could hear the front door slam shut. She exhaled and turned to go into the kitchen when another voice, this time a woman’s, stopped her in her tracks.
“What a little brat. It’s a good thing he’s good-looking.”
Juliette whirled around, looking up to see a petite woman with short blond hair sitting comfortably in the rafters. She was wearing men’s work pants belted with a worn leather belt and carried a colorful patchwork backpack. Her cat-like eyes were laughing merrily. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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