Chapter One of Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes (com­ing Dec 11th)



Chap­ter One


It’s been two months since I first told Dex Foray that I loved him. Two months since we’ve lived together, as an actual cou­ple, in his Seat­tle apart­ment. And two months since Rebecca Sims joined us as our wel­comed third wheel in the Exper­i­ment in Ter­ror show. It goes with­out say­ing that they’ve been the best two months of my life.

But, like most things, it hasn’t been per­fect. My rela­tion­ship with my fam­ily is now awk­ward as all hell—I mean more so than it used to be, and that says a lot. I’ll talk to my mom and dad maybe every two weeks, and it’s just one of those please shoot me in the head kind of moments where you’re grasp­ing for shit to say and your mouth is mov­ing and sud­denly you’re talk­ing about the weather or the lat­est celebrity scan­dal or things you can’t even remem­ber just to keep the con­ver­sa­tion going, just so it doesn’t lag and you don’t have to address the giant flam­ing pink rollerblad­ing ele­phant in the room.

Yeah … about that giant flam­ing pink rollerblad­ing ele­phant. That would be that I left my parent’s house, where I had spent most of my twenty-three years, and decided to move in with my part­ner.  Dex. The guy that my par­ents absolutely hated because I had an ill-timed fling with him back when he had a girl­friend (no judg­ing), and he turned into a dick right after I slept with him (please no judg­ing), and I ended up mis­car­ry­ing his baby (okay, the judg­ing is inevitable). I’m not say­ing any of that lightly because it pretty much ruined the fab­ric of my being and intro­duced demonic pos­ses­sion into my life expe­ri­ences, but I mean, you can kind of under­stand why my par­ents think Dex Foray is pub­lic enemy num­ber one.

Obvi­ously, they don’t approve of my new life. I can tell that from the things they aren’t say­ing and the ques­tions they aren’t ask­ing. They don’t even won­der when or if I’m com­ing home; it’s just such a non-issue that it’s become an issue. At least for me. I want them to care. I want them to say some­thing, even if it’s just to scream at me.

The only per­son that I talk to truth­fully on a daily basis (even if it’s just mainly through texts) is my younger sis­ter Ada. She’s happy for me, happy that things are going well with Dex (even though she often starts the con­ver­sa­tion with, “You guys still together? Yes? Okay cool,”) but she doesn’t pull back from telling me how badly she wants me to come back home, even just for a visit.

The thing is, I’m totally scared. One part of me wants to go back, to try and smooth things over and make things right. Maybe if they see Dex again, months later and in a bet­ter con­text, they’ll learn to like him. To see the things I see. To see how well he treats me. And I want to see Ada and hug her and make her feel like she doesn’t have to face my par­ents alone. But the other half of me thinks it could be a mistake—that they’d never open up to him, and I’d regret even try­ing to make amends. I could make things worse.

I needed a sign.

Ouch, Jesus,” I swore at the stab­bing pain at my wrist. I glared up at the burly, bearded tat­too artist who was glar­ing back at me.

Try not to flinch,” he said gruffly, his gloved hand hov­er­ing over my bared wrist.

You’re almost done, honey,” Rebecca said in her sooth­ing British accent, pat­ting my other hand. “Few more min­utes. Looks fab.”

I sighed and tried to relax my body. Now that I wasn’t day­dream­ing, every­thing was very real. I was with Rebecca, lying on my back in a Seat­tle tat­too par­lor, get­ting some ink on my wrist. My first tat­too, and though it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would, it was still extremely uncom­fort­able. It prob­a­bly didn’t help that it was on one of the more sen­si­tive areas. I was just lucky I decided to go with one color of ink—blue—instead of get­ting it filled in.

Oh yeah, I was get­ting a tat­too of an anchor. Cliché, I know, but I got it for Dex. After all, he had a tat­too inspired by me on his shoul­der, and I fig­ured it was only fair. And, you know, he was my anchor. When he’d given me the anchor silly band back on D’Arcy Island, that stu­pid lit­tle ges­ture meant so much to me. Then, when I’d ripped it off after, well, the “inci­dent,” I’d missed that sym­bol. Through all the ups and downs we’d gone through, in the end, he was still my rock. And an anchor was a hell of a lot sex­ier than get­ting a big ass boul­der tat­ted on you.

He’s going to be so sur­prised,” Rebecca said as the tat­too machine resumed its buzzing.

I ground my teeth together against the vibrat­ing prick­les. “Uh huh. I hope so.”

I asked Rebecca to accom­pany me here so I wouldn’t have to go through it alone. I wanted it to be a sur­prise for Dex, so I just told him we were going out and doing girly things. I know his dirty mind was prob­a­bly imag­in­ing us head­ing to some Inter­na­tional Pillow-Fighting Con­ven­tion, and a tat­too par­lor was the last place he’d think of. I wasn’t really the tat­too type—my inter­ests in life were so waver­ing and fleet­ing, but my love for Dex was as per­ma­nent as ink. I wanted him to know that.

Okay, you’re done,” the man said, lift­ing away the nee­dle, the room grow­ing tem­porar­ily quiet with­out the con­stant buzz.

For real?”

He grunted in response and motioned for me to sit up. I slowly did so and stared at my left wrist. It wasn’t bleed­ing like I thought it would be since I’d felt him peri­od­i­cally dab­bing it with cloth as he worked. The tat­too was shiny and raised, the skin around it red, but it looked beau­ti­ful. Sim­ple but beau­ti­ful. And I sud­denly felt infi­nitely cooler.

I looked up at Rebecca for her approval as the artist started wrap­ping it in black plas­tic. Her matte red lips were stretched into a smile, her eyes sparkling with delight. In fact, she looked bor­der­line ecsta­tic which I found almost odd.

He’s going to love it,” she said. “Really, really. It’s going to mean so much to him.”

I smiled. “Good.”

It’s not that Dex didn’t know how I felt about him. After what hap­pened to us in New Orleans, and how he’d almost died right before my eyes and I almost lost him in so many ways, I’d had ver­bal diar­rhea of the lovey-dovey kind. But for some rea­son, at times I could tell it was hard for Dex to believe me. When I told him I loved him, he had a knack for turn­ing it into a joke, like, “You say that to all the boys,” and while he played it off in his cheeky way, I could tell it came from some­where. I hoped the tat­too would ease that for him.

Like I said, they’d been the best two months of my life, but things weren’t per­fect. It’s hard to truly appre­ci­ate things when some­where in the back of your mind you’re wait­ing for the other shoe to drop.

I swung my legs off the table, admir­ing even the black plas­tic around my wrist. That, com­bined with my new twelve-hole for­est green Doc Martens and my leather jacket that was too hot for the sur­pris­ingly warm May weather, I felt bet­ter than I had in weeks. See, along with the whole imped­ing feel­ing of doom that I couldn’t shake (and I had no idea what it was about either), I’d gained some weight after mov­ing in with Dex. I could blame his diet all I wanted, but the fact was he ate fairly well and still went to the gym every day, so there goes that excuse. I knew they were “happy pounds,” like the in-love equiv­a­lent of the fresh­man fif­teen, but it still had me a bit bummed out. Dex loved me the way I was, but I still felt like I had to be some­thing he could show off, some­thing like his ex-girlfriend Jenn. I’d lost the shape I worked hard for over Christ­mas, and I always had that fear one day he’d real­ize I wasn’t good enough for him.

Come on,” Rebecca said, tug­ging on my arm toward the cash reg­is­ter. “Let’s get you home to your man.” She clicked her way over to the counter in her sky-high red heels, her small ass sashay­ing in her pen­cil skirt. Rebecca was the oppo­site of me. Since she and Emily broke up, she’d been doing noth­ing but los­ing weight, some­thing she didn’t need to begin with.

It didn’t help that when we had our last meet­ing with Jimmy Kwan at Shownet over Exper­i­ment in Ter­ror, he brought up the fact that Rebecca should be in front of the cam­era. He wasn’t try­ing to boot me off, so he said, but that two hot girls were bet­ter than one. Luck­ily Rebecca refused, say­ing she was only good as a pro­duc­tion man­ager and that her days of host­ing ended when Wine Babes did. And even though Rebecca was his good friend, Dex agreed. I prob­a­bly would have hit him if he didn’t.

Ever since we’d come back from New Orleans, we’d done about five shows together as a “three­some.” It wasn’t until the fourth show—investigating the haunted town of St. Augus­tine in Florida—that we really found our rhythm and clicked. Though film­ing hadn’t changed much, Dex and I had to adjust to a more reg­i­mented sched­ule, run­ning on Rebecca’s time now and not our own. I had to admit it helped—we never wasted too much time in one space, and we were always in the most oppor­tune areas, but there was a learn­ing curve all the same. We had to stop being “Perry and Dex” and remem­ber that Rebecca was count­ing on us as well. Then there was the fact that Rebecca wasn’t, well, she wasn’t like us. She rarely saw any­thing super­nat­ural, and I know it started to bug her too when Dex and I would be freak­ing out or talk­ing to ghosts, and she’d be star­ing at noth­ing. By the fifth episode, a haunted library in Eureka, Rebecca decided she’d only be around the actual film­ing when we needed a hand—otherwise she’d be some­where else and leave the ghosts to us.

I won­der where we’re film­ing next,” Rebecca com­mented as we walked down the street to her car.

I shot her an odd look, won­der­ing if she’d heard my thoughts. I still had this ten­dency to project my thoughts and lately I’d been pick­ing up on other people’s. It usu­ally hap­pened with Dex, though on occa­sion I’d find it in some ran­dom per­son. But Rebecca had never been on the receiv­ing end of Perry telepa­thy. At least not yet.

Did you hear what I was think­ing?” I asked.

She smiled. “No, and believe me, the day I hear you, you’ll know. It’s just we both know that Dex is hav­ing that meet­ing with Jimmy today. I’m assum­ing it won’t be about me being a host since I nearly ripped him a bloody new one. Hope­fully it will be another assign­ment.” She unlocked the door to her hatch­back and I got in in the pas­sen­ger seat. “I mean, it’s been three weeks since we returned from Cal­i­for­nia and I know the library episode wasn’t a com­plete disaster.”

I nod­ded as she took us out of the Queen Anne dis­trict and headed back to down­town Seat­tle. I rubbed the plas­tic over my tat­too, want­ing to peek at it again but hav­ing to restrain myself. “I know. It’s like I know there are tons of para­nor­mal hot spots all over the country—more now than ever, accord­ing to websites.”

She brought out a cig­a­rette and rolled down the win­dow before light­ing it. “I sent a bunch of sug­ges­tions to Jimmy too, but I think after Florida, he wants to keep us closer to home.”

Because he’s cheap.”

She exhaled a cloud of blue smoke. “I guess hav­ing a spon­sor didn’t really help.”

At least it’s pay­ing for your salary. We didn’t have that before.”

She gave me a shy glance. “So you’re say­ing you don’t totally resent me for being on the show with you?”

I looked at her incred­u­lously. “What? No! What makes you say that?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I feel like the third wheel sometimes.”

You are the third wheel,” I said. She gave me a half smile and I quickly con­tin­ued. “Mean­ing, you’re the wheel. You steer us, you keep us going in the right direc­tion. Yeah, it’s dif­fer­ent for me and Dex, but some­times I think it’s because our rela­tion­ship has changed too. Every­thing is dif­fer­ent from the way it used to be and that’s not a bad thing. Thanks to you, the shows are tighter and we’re not wast­ing as much money, and Jimmy doesn’t yell at us as much. The shows look bet­ter too—just hav­ing you around to put up a sec­ond light or what­ever. Seri­ously, Becs, you’re awe­some. You’re the rea­son Dex and I can still do this. You’re a lifesaver.”

Well, you’re way more fun to work with than Jenn,” she said. “Though that’s a given.”

Some­times I’d for­got­ten that Dex started out at Shownet by being the cam­era­man for Wine Babes, film­ing Jenn and Rebecca as they talked about pair­ing cer­tain wines with McShit from McDon­alds. That’s how he hooked up with that bitch to start with. I tried to shrug off the ques­tions, want­ing to ask Rebecca what they were like when film­ing together ver­sus the way Dex and I are. I was under the impres­sion that they were off hump­ing like bun­nies every time they worked together, and though Dex and I weren’t that dif­fer­ent, I think he was slightly more pro­fes­sional around me. Which was good…right?

I rubbed my lips together, keep­ing my mouth shut, and sat back as Rebecca put Lana Del Ray on her stereo. I let the music rush over me and fid­geted in antic­i­pa­tion of Dex’s reac­tion to my tat­too. I really hoped he wasn’t going to think it was too much. Sure, we’d been together for two months as an actual cou­ple, but things were still so fresh and new for us in so many ways.

a2a on kindles pic