The Lark's Curse - Chapter One

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Cold, hard rain pounded on the cement sidewalk, sinking into my freezing bones. Leave it to Jacob to be late on such a gloomy day.

Sitting under the bus shelter proved useless since water managed to trickle down through a small gap in the roof. It splashed down repeatedly on the bench beside me, making it as wet as the surrounding landscape.

They should really get that fixed, I thought distractedly.

I supposed that I could've taken dry refuge in one of the buildings lining the street. But between a gun shop, a tattoo parlor and a strippers club, I figured I'd be better off waiting here. I considered going into the posh nail salon behind me and relax on the furry white couch but I don't think they'd appreciate a soaked, muddy fourteen-year old girl inside, messing up their stain-free pink carpets. The girly, soft-stomached ladies working there would probably pass out just at the sight of my genuinely torn up, no-name jeans, black aviator jacket and Timberland hiking boots.

Yup, even if I risked catching pneumonia, this was sure as hell a better place than the lair of the frill zombies. Ugh.

So there I sat, waiting for my immature eighteen-year-old brother to pick me up. I might as well have been waiting for Santa Claus to stop by our house in July. Why couldn't I have taken the bus here? I would have already been at home an hour ago.

Finally, just as I was considering walking the ten miles home, Jacob pulls up in his beat up sedan my parents gave him for his first car.

"Hey, sis," he greets enthusiastically, "looking a bit wet there, eh?"

"Shut up," I mumbled, scowling at him.

"Hey, don't get all smartass on me. I'm your only ride home."

"I wouldn't be so grumpy if you hadn't kept me waiting two hours in the rain. What took you?"

"I had some grown-up stuff to deal with" was his usual snarky answer.

By that, he meant either chasing "the ladies" or gambling. I grumbled some unintelligible curses at him as I climbed in the back.

"Don't get mud anywhere," he warned.

"Wouldn't dream of it," I replied as I covertly swiped my muddy boots on the floor. With all the soda cans, crumpled paper and something that vaguely resembled half a cheeseburger, I don't think he'd notice a little dirt.

"So, how was it?" Jacob asked innocently.

I gritted my teeth. "Fine."

He was talking about my much hated pet sitting job for Mrs. Andros. She was this snobby, mean old lady who lived in a ramshackle old house with her sixteen cats. I never actually thought that real old ladies lived with multitudes of cats. I thought it was just exaggerated in movies.

The worst part was that each cat had some weird long names like Prince Percival Petticoat, and I have to remember it along with their "special dietary needs." Talk about a pain in the ass.

The only reason I go through with it is because she pays me good money and I need that if I want to get anything I can call my own. As the second oldest of four, my parents' budget for me just barely covers my food and clothes. With this job I get three bucks for every cat kept in check. So, the maximum I can get is forty-eight dollars. Usually I get about half that because, let's face it, not even God could hold up that many nasty furballs.

"I'm telling you, sis, you should really reconsider the job Mike's offering you. At least then you wouldn't need to deal with lots of smelly clumps of hairballs and a wrinkly old hag."

I rolled my eyes. Jacob's twenty-something-year-old buddy Mike said he'd pay me five dollars an hour to do his chores until he could get out of his parents' house. Sad, isn't it? Asking outside help for problems he brought on himself. Maybe if he weren't so dumb and made it to college, he'd be living the grand life... or maybe he'd just blow all his moolah on booze and girls. Anyway, best not to associate with unstable influences.