Ch. 7 - Murderkill

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Pippa's "bike" was actually an adult-sized tricycle. Rhianna felt ridiculous riding it, but town was too far away to walk. Sweat trickled down the back of her neck from the effort of pedaling in the summer heat. She rode past three sprawling farms before she reached the edge of town. As the miles shrank, the town's welcome sign came closer and closer. Every time she looked up, her eyes riveted on the bold lettering:

Welcome to Murderkill! Population 1364. 'A family friendly town, not a felony.'

She'd seen the name on the map, so it wasn't a surprise. Straight out of a Stephen King novel—the town slogan a cherry on top. Rather than coming up with jokes about it, they should be coming up with new names.

Once she passed a few dumpy mobile homes and a small hotel, it started to look more like a town. Rhianna followed Rte 18 until it became State Street, which took her right through the center of town.

A dumpy brick building stuck out on a corner, with a sign: "Murderkill Library."

Now they were just being obstinate, they could have named it anything else. Rhianna made a mental note to come back to it later. She'd probably need Pippa to sign her up for a card.

Eventually, she came to a large farmhouse style building with a fresh coat of yellow paint and white trim. The sign read: "Soda Shoppe, est. 1981." Not very creative, but at least it didn't imply violence.

Other bikes leaned, unlocked, against a large planter of petunias, so she followed the example. She stepped up onto the low porch running the length of the Soda Shoppe, and wafts of greasy food-smell tickled her nose.

Most of the children of Murderkill must have been in the Soda Shoppe. Pippa was correct on that assumption. There were at least a dozen kids sitting around in booths or at the counter ordering snow cones.

Rhianna gnawed on her knuckle as she considered where to sit. There were no empty tables off by themselves. She peeled her sweaty backpack off, and set it at the table next to a trio of girls who were sucking down root beer floats. The blond head among them perked up. A blond girl in a small town—probably a cheerleader—noticing her, it didn't bode well.

Rhianna escaped under the pretense of going to the counter to peruse the menu board. A kid's dream. Pop, ice cream, candy apples, fudge, pies—the list went on. A glass case housed more types of candy than she'd ever seen.

Suddenly, five dollars wasn't enough. But she spent several minutes making mental combinations of menu items, calculating. Peach milk shake was top of her list. Peaches were everywhere and everything peach was on sale, which gave her a nice cold drink and just enough leftover for a chocolate covered marshmallow. She made her decision.

She wished her five was a ten as she carried her milkshake and little paper bag back to the table, seeing baskets of onion rings and fries at every table.

"Oh no!" said the blond girl. "You can't sit by yourself, stranger. You must sit with us and tell us all about the world outside our small town prison." The girl snatched her backpack from the empty table and deposited it in the empty spot next to her on the bench.

Rhianna approached their table and set her cup down carefully. Expecting, and almost hoping, they would pull some mean prank so Rhianna could go back to sitting alone. They smiled and waited for her to sit.

Finally, she edged into the booth, sitting near the end of the bench to allow a quick escape if need be, and began sucking on her straw.

"I'm Gretch, and this is Jenny and Raisen," said the girl indicating her friends. Raisen was a plain looking girl, despite her name, or perhaps in spite of it, with wispy brown hair, and Jenny had purple hair with dark eye make up, set off by little sticky-backed gems decorating her cheekbones. Gretch wore a stylish outfit, with a matching earring and necklace set. They were three of the most unlikely friends Rhianna had ever seen.

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