Primordials #2.9

This story introduces the character of Megan Young, who first appears properly in Nexus - Book 3 of the Primordials series. This story is an adaptation of a story written for the 12 Days of Turvy challenge on Instagram.

I slam the door behind me and start running. My vision seems unsteady, and that's probably understandable. I'm thrumming with anger. There's nothing I'd like more than to scream. I think it'd be a nice release, but I don't want to attract the attention to myself. The neighbors already look at me pityingly every time I see them. After crossing the street, I need to pick a destination. It's dark, but not that late. I can smell the ocean, so I decide I'll head in that direction. It'll take me a while. We don't live that close to the beach, but it's walkable, so it should definitely be runnable.

I've gone less than half a mile before I encounter a plaza filled with carnival rides and little pop-up market stalls offering things like funnel cake, corndogs, even beer. I think I've reached my destination. Maybe I can talk someone into selling me beer. I'm not old enough, but... shit. I didn't think to bring any money. Still, it feels good to be so close to such a large group of perfectly normal humans, and not one of them is my mother. I wander aimlessly for a while before I stop, glaring vaguely in the direction of a corndog stand that I can't afford to eat at.

"What are you doing?" a high pitched voice asks minutes later, and I realize I don't know what I'm doing. I was deep in thought. I turn around to find a little girl standing about ten feet away. She's maybe ten or twelve with her light blonde hair in a ponytail right on top of her head.

"I guess I'm daydreaming about corndogs," I tell her.

She giggles. "That's a weird thing to daydream about when they're right there."

I smile and shrug. "Ah, but I don't have any money. Daydreaming is the best I can do."

She considers this at length, her expression gradually morphing from curiosity to a confused frown. "What's your name?"

"I... uh, I'm Megan." I stop myself asking her name because that might seem creepy. She doesn't know me.

"I'm Emily," she says after a short pause. "Do you want a corndog?"

I'm about to answer that yes, I'd love a corndog, when I realize that she's offering to buy me one. "No, honey. Don't worry about it. You keep your money."

"It's okay. It's not my money."

I blink and tilt my head. "Whose money is it?"

"My stepmom's. But she won't miss it."

I fight to contain the laugh that wants to come. This girl is a younger version of me! "Well, all right then."

We sit on the low wall of a fountain to eat our prizes, watching the world go by as we do. "Is your stepmom here? Won't she be worried about you?" I ask.

"She probably hasn't noticed that I've gone."

"I think your stepmom might be my real mom," I say, then wish I hadn't.

"Really?" she says through a mouthful of food, her eyes wide.

I shake my head vigorously, my hair fanning out around me. "No. Just a bad joke."

When she swallows her last bite, she asks, "Do you… wanna go on one of the rides?"

Her voice is so small, so tentative, so quietly hopeful that I can't very well refuse, because I've been this kid, too. So desperate for someone to acknowledge that I even exist, to spend some time with me. My dad was always exhausted from work when he was alive, so I can go some way to forgiving him. My mom, though? I guess she just doesn't like me very much. "Sure. What's your favourite?"

She points at the towering ferris wheel with a mischievous grin. Great. The ride straight out of my nightmares. She seems so genuinely excited that someone is willing to go on it with her, I push down my anxiety as best I can. There are only a few people in line, so we get on pretty quickly. On our initial ascent, she asks, "Do you live nearby?"

"For now." We reach the top. "Uh, can I give you some advice?"


"This isn't something you should do."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean… don't approach strangers, buy them food and ask them to ride the ferris wheel with you." I catch her crestfallen expression. "Oh, God. I'm saying this all wrong. You seem like a cool kid, but not everyone is as nice as I am. That's all I'm trying to say."

She brightens. "I know. I just… I guess you felt safe."

Interesting. I feel like that's the last vibe I'd be giving off given how mad I was when I got here. She's right, though, I guess. I'm not going to hurt her. "Well, good. And I am."

We ascend again, and look out over the city for a while. "How old are you?" she asks.

"I'm seventeen. Why?"

"Just curious. Do you live with your parents?"

"I guess I do."

"What does that mean?"

She watches me with an earnest expression. I can't do my usual trick of ignoring the question because I'm trapped on this stupid ride. "It means my dad died and I live with my mom, and I hate it."

Emily looks away. "Me, too. At least you have a mom, though, right?"

I shake my head. "Sorry, kid. Doesn't work like that. Just because someone gave birth to you doesn't mean they're going to be a good parent."

She considers, nods. "No, I guess it doesn't."

"What's your dad like?" I ask.

"He's... he's like a mouse." I'm about to ask what she means by that when she continues. "It's like I'm not even there. My stepmom's biological son is a moron, but she fusses over him constantly. He's older than you. And my dad is usually away, working."

"That's rough," I say. "My life used to be a lot like yours, actually. My dad worked a lot."

She sighs, and we complete another revolution, and another, and then we're getting off. Emily turns to me. "I should probably get going. It was nice to meet you. Thanks for riding with me."

I shrug. "Thanks for paying, and—" I look up suddenly, and I swear I sense the indignant storm approaching before I see it. Emily's mother, finally noticing she's missing. "Brace yourself, kid," I whisper.

Emily follows my gaze, then her eyes widen as she hears the melodramatic footfalls.

"Emily! Where the hell have you been?" She's an interesting looking woman, way too dressed up to eat hotdogs. She clearly has something to prove. Her distress is plainly visible, but it's not worry. It's annoyance that her evening has been disrupted.

"I've been here," Emily says. That timidness is back, and a heat ignites in my belly.

"Who's this?" Emily's mother asks, gesturing at me.

"I'm Megan," I say. "You have a very cool daughter."

"Stepdaughter." The correction is immediate. A reflex she's developed to distance herself from this small human and her needs. I wish someone in my family had the calm under pressure gene so I could have inherited it, because I'm on the edge of stomping the twenty paces between me and this grotesque woman and smacking her. I'm not the one who has to live with this, though. With an effort, I rotate my entire body away from the woman and look down at Emily.

"You've got this, okay?" I murmur. "She's the asshole, not you. Do you have a job?" Emily shakes her head. "Get a job. As soon as you can. Save. Get yourself out from under her. It's what I plan to do." I glance to my left, but her mother is just standing there, arms crossed. I notice a man a few feet behind her who seems to be scurrying back and forth, trying and failing to hide his interest in what's going on in our direction. To Emily, I whisper, "Look, when people diminish you for your entire life, it's so easy to start believing that you're worthless. Promise me you'll try your hardest not to." Her head dips. Shit. She already believes it. "Do you have a phone?"

She nods and produces it, then places it on my outstretched palm. I put my number into it.

"If you ever need to talk," I say, handing the device back. "Trust me, it's tough dealing with shitty families on your own."

She nods again, almost clutching the phone to her chest, but not quite. "Thank you, Megan."

"You don't have to thank me."

I stand, then breeze past the mother, managing not to give into the childish urge to shoulder check her, and pause at the man I saw lingering in the background. Our eyes meet, and I can see the family resemblance. "Maybe think about getting a different job." I say. "And a spine wouldn't hurt. Your daughter needs you."

He blinks at me, stunned, and I head back out in the direction of home.

Time to stop running away from my problems.

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