Chapter 1 - New Neighbor * [Edited]

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The scarves around her neck and body tightened to the point where she could feel every fiber in the cloth against her skin. As she struggled and gasped for breath, she became aware of the irony of her situation. All her life she had been afraid of drowning to death, and there she lay suffocating on dry land.


Anah couldn’t think of a place she wanted to be less than her family's old, creaky beach house. The air stank of salt and dead fish. Every night she had to brush a new layer of sand off of everything that she owned, including her own skin. The endless ocean became a looming monster, constantly in view no matter where she stood on the property

She spent long nights alone on the roof after everyone else had gone to sleep, staring at the dark monster and waiting for it to sweep her away into nothingness. Every summer in her father's newspapers she found at least one story of people who had been lost at sea, never to be found again. Anah felt as though that ocean were biding its time until it would take her away, too. 

Her family didn’t listen to her. Roze called her a baby among her nicest taunts. Her mother bought her a bathing suit every summer, and every summer something unfortunate would become of it. That particular year it accidentally fell into a fire and then somehow ended up a burned, melted mess on a fence post outside her parents' room like a head on a stake used as a warning to deter further attacks. Even little Elsy grew fins like a mermaid each summer, and couldn't be dragged out of the water at gunpoint.  

The closest Anah ever got to the ocean were barefoot walks along the very edge of the waves. Sometimes in the middle of the night, she'd slip out of her house and walk along the beach until she didn't recognize her surroundings anymore, and she could pretend that she'd been transported to a completely different world. 

While her family swam in the ocean, Anah went on adventures. The dense, dark forest behind their property was meant to be completely off limits to her. "There are dangerous animals out there. Bears, and wolves," her mother told her.

"There are perverts out there, Nina," her delusional father added. In his Alzheimer's, he rarely called her by the right name.

Why Anah's parents would buy a house next to a forest filled with wolves and pedophiles remained a mystery to her. She only knew that for the thirteen summers she'd spent at her parent's beach house, her only fond memories were of discovering something new and exciting in the quiet forest that lurked behind the house.  

As the sun set on the third night at the house, Anah already wanted to leave. Her mother had been crazier than usual, insisting they all stay inside just in case the hurricane made its way up the coast. Anah didn't know much about hurricanes, but she didn't reckon that they came on suddenly enough that they wouldn't be able to make it the ten steps from the beach to the house.  

Tired of pacing around her absurdly pink room, Anah shimmied open the solitary window. The crisp breeze tugged at Anah’s hair as she made her way outside. There, the roof stretched out just flat enough that it made for a perfect place at night to stare at the stars, and Anah looked forward to her night alone with the vast, sparkling sky until she smelled the tobacco from Roze's cigarette.  

Her sister sat just outside her own window on the north side of the house where the roof flattened out. Anah leaped across the tilted tiles to join her as Roze lit another smoke. She carved something into a wooden panel that lined the side of the house with her other hand. 'RL+AB' 

"Who's AB?" Anah asked. 

"Mind your own, freak." Roze blew a smoke ring in Anah's face.  

"Where'd you get a blade?" 

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