Home > Wait for It

Wait for It
Author: Mariana Zapata


Chapter One

 

 

I woke up screaming.

Or pretty close to screaming, considering I was still getting over a cold I’d caught from Josh two weeks ago that had left me sounding like a chain-smoker going through puberty.

My eyes snapped open at the middle of my “Ahh!” to find a mini demon inches away from my face. I jumped. I flinched. I swear my soul left my body for one millionth of a second as the two eyes staring at me blinked.

“Shit!” I shouted as my back hit the headboard, and I sucked in what might have been the last gasp I’d ever take before having my throat slit.

Except…

In the middle of reaching over to grab the pillow next to me to—I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with it, pillow fight Willy Wonka’s evil Oompa Loompa or something—I realized it wasn’t a travel-sized disciple of Satan about to sacrifice me to the Dark Lord. Camouflaged in the nearly pitch-black room, the little face a few inches away from mine wasn’t really the devil’s minion; it was a five-year-old. He was a five-year-old. My five-year-old.

It was Louie.

“Oh my God, Lou,” I wheezed at the realization of who was trying to kill me before I turned thirty. I blinked and clutched the skin over my heart like it was about to dive-bomb out of my chest.

I shouldn’t have been surprised to find him on my bed. How many times had he scared the living shit out of me in the exact same way over the last couple of years? One hundred? I should have been used to him sneaking in to my room by now. He was the cutest little boy I’d ever seen—in the daylight—but somehow he didn’t understand that staring at someone while they were sleeping was pretty damn creepy. Really creepy.

“Jesus Ch—” I started to say before going with “cheese and crackers.” I could still hear my mom’s voice a year ago ripping me a new one for teaching the boys to use the Lord’s name in vain. “You scared the hell—” I groaned, realizing I messed up again. I really had been trying to get better about using bad words in front of Louie at least, since Josh was a lost cause, but old habits died hard. “Heck out of me,” I went with instead, even though he’d heard words much worse than ‘hell’ and ‘Jesus’.

“I’m sorry, Tia Diana,” Louie whispered in that sugar-sweet voice that immediately had me forgiving him for everything he’d ever done and everything he would ever do.

“Lou.” My heart was still beating fast. God. I was too young to have a stroke, wasn’t I? I let the covers drop to my lap, still rubbing my chest. “You okay?” I whispered in return, trying to will my heartbeat back to a respectable pace.

He nodded seriously.

He didn’t have nightmares often, but when he did, he always found his way to me… regardless of whether I was awake or not. Based on how groggy I felt, there was no chance I’d been asleep longer than a couple of hours. Sleeping in a new house wasn’t helping my situation any. This was only our third night here. My body wasn’t used to the bed facing a different direction. Everything smelled and sounded different, too. I’d had a hard enough time relaxing even back at our old apartment, so I wasn’t surprised when I found myself in bed the last two nights messing around on my phone until I started dropping it on my face from how tired I was.

A small-fingered hand landed on my leg over the sheets. “I can’t sleep,” the little boy admitted, still whispering like he was trying not to wake me up even more than he already had by scaring the Holy Spirit and a couple drops of pee out of me. The darkness in the room hid Louie’s blond hair and those blue eyes that still made my heart ache every so often. “There’s alotta noise outside. Can I sleep with you?”

The yawn that came out of me lasted about fifteen seconds, ugly and choppy, my eyes watering in the process. “What kind of noise?”

“I think somebody’s fighting by my window.” He hunched his shoulders as he patted my leg.

That had me sitting up straight. Lou had an active imagination, but not that active. He’d spared us from having imaginary friends, but he hadn’t saved me from pretending the toilet was a birdbath and he was a parrot when he was three.

A fight? Here?

I’d seen at least fifty houses before coming to this one. Fifty different sale listings that didn’t work for one reason or another. They had either been too far from good schools, the neighborhood had looked sketchy, the yard hadn’t been big enough, the house needed too much work, or it had been out of my price range.

So when my real estate agent mentioned having one more to show me, I hadn’t been too optimistic. But she brought me to it anyway; it was a foreclosure that had only been on the market for a few days in a working-class neighborhood. I hadn’t let myself get my hopes up. The fact it had three bedrooms, a huge front and backyard, and only needed a minimum amount of cosmetic work had been enough for me. I’d jumped on it and bought it.

Diana Casillas, homeowner. It was about time. I had been more than ready to get out of the two-bedroom apartment the boys and I had been holed up in for the last two years.

After all the dumps I’d been to, this place had been the light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t perfect, but the potential was there. Despite not being in some fancy new subdivision in the suburbs, the surrounding schools were great. The greatest surprise of all was that it was close to where my job was being relocated, so I wouldn’t waste hours of my life driving back and forth.

The thing was, I’d met a few of the new neighbors over the course of the month and a half it took to close on the house, but not all of them. The people who lived closest to Louie’s bedroom were an elderly couple, not exactly the kind of people who you would imagine fighting in the middle of the night. The rest were nice families with little kids and everything. A neighborhood with a history of crime was the kind of shit I had been trying to avoid.

Nobody was supposed to be fighting, much less in the middle of the night.

“You can stay with me. Just don’t kick me in the stomach again, okay? You almost cracked my rib last time,” I reminded him in case he’d forgotten the giant bruise he’d given me that had me gasping for breath every time I bent over. I reached over to turn on the side lamp, nearly knocking it off the nightstand. Swinging my legs off the side of the bed, I tugged on the back of Louie’s pajama pants to give him a partial wedgie as I got to my feet.

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