Stranger Things, Part 1


Stranger Things, Part 1

There are way too many wolves outside town, and the ravens say there are even a few within. Whatever the case, don’t forget to lock your doors at night, people. We are not safe. That should be the town logo. LOL. — Tweet from the Raven_Eye.

Dad was livid.

“Do you know what time it is, Jessica?” he snapped at me.

Jessica — he never called me that unless he was really, really angry.

“I was about this close from calling the cops!” he continued.

The lecture about how dangerous it was to be out at night alone would go on for a full five minutes, and I was honestly just glad none of the neighbors had come out to see why a forty-two-year-old man was raving like a lunatic on our front porch. I was also glad he didn’t notice Ollie earlier, either. That would have been a whole other rant.

Still, seeing how pale dad’s freckled face looked was proof enough that he’d been terrified for me, and all I could think about was how this carrot top was the best dad in the whole freaking universe.

I waited for him to let me get a word in to say, “I’m sorry, dad... I just got lost.”

Then I gave the guy a hug. It had the added effect of shutting him up, too.

Yes, I knew how to work him. June’s better at it though. She could make dad eat out of her hand when she really wanted to.

“Dad...” I still had my arms wrapped around his waist. “Why did you move away from Forest Hills?”

I wasn’t sure if I meant to ask him that but seeing him standing outside his old house brought up the memory of how Ollie seemed to know more about my family’s past than I did.

Dad was frowning when he pulled away, but his clean-shaven face with the long, hooked nose and the kind green eyes had never looked intimidating to me. He was just dad.    

“Why would you ask me that now?” he asked.

“Because it’s relevant,” I replied. “I mean, you did just move us back here and all.”

No, it wasn’t technically a lie. I just didn’t mention the weird stuff.

The raised eyebrow told me he knew I was holding something back, but he hadn’t pressed me for it. Instead, dad sighed, and with knotted brow simply said, “It’s a really long story, Jess... and not all of it’s good.”

He sighed again.

“Ask me some other time... preferably when I’m not half out of my wits from worrying over you,” he added.

“Okay, dad,” I said.

I knew better than to push my luck with him. And he didn’t say no exactly, just to give him some time to tell it. This probably meant I was about to hear some interesting backstory in the near future, and I guess that would be worth the wait.

But, as he guided me back into the house, I did manage a, “Hey, dad... are there wolves in Forest Hills?”

He froze just like Ollie had when I asked him about the wolves. “Why do you ask that, Jess?”

I could just hear the barest hint of worry in his voice.

“Um, I think I heard one howling nearby when I went jogging,” I admitted.

It wasn’t a total lie, just one of omission. Dad didn’t need to know about me almost getting eaten by an oversized wolf or his blood pressure my just spike past tolerable levels. He didn’t need to know about Ollie, either, at least not yet.

“Probably... it’s mostly forest surrounding the town,” he said matter-of-factly, but I could tell this was a brush-off technique, one that never really worked on me or June. “Jess...”

I smiled sweetly at him. “Yeah?”

He sighed. “Nothing... just... No more jogging after sunset anymore, alright?”

“Okay, dad,” I answered quickly, although a part of me felt bad lying like that. Because I did think I would be jogging in the middle of the night again, especially if that might mean I’d run into Ollie once more. “So... where’s my room and how much bigger is it than June’s?”

That made dad grin. A big silly grin that meant he’d forgotten about his worries for now. “You’re going to love it, Jess... It’s double the size of your old one, and I know it’s a fixer-upper, but a little TLC will make the new room feel even better than the old one. I promise.”

And that’s how my first day in Forest Hills went. Not at all like how I expected it to be. I toured the neighborhood, got my dose of close encounters with the local wildlife, met a weird handsome boy who wasn’t as boring as all the other handsome boys I knew, saved weird handsome boy, and even learned his name. Not a bad first day, all things considered.

I suppose I should also mention how I woke up in the middle of the night to grab a glass of water from the kitchen downstairs and noticed another strange thing about Forest Hills.

The window on the second-floor landing had a good view of the front yard where I thought I saw these strange red fireflies floating by the bottom step of our front porch. There was something odd about them too — apart from their red glow, I mean. It was almost like these fireflies had shadows much bigger than they were.

I blinked and then they were gone, which meant I must have been imagining them, especially the part where two of them had drifted toward the window.

"This town is so weird," I sighed.

It was definitely strange, but not nearly as much as meeting Ollie. That was definitely stranger.

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