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Natural Selection, страница 1

 

Natural Selection
 


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Natural Selection


  By

  * * * *

  * * * *

  Natural Selection

  Copyright © 2011 by Elizabeth Sharp

  Formatting by JT Formatting

  Cover Design by Sharp Cover Designs

  Cover Photo by K. Keeton Designs

  Cover model: Bailey Jennings

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Epilogue

  Sample of Second Nature

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  To Tori, the real “Amelia”, for being a constant source of humor and inspiration.

  AS THE SUN sank lazily towards the horizon, I knew I was in trouble. My mother always had a strict policy about being home before the street lights came on, and I didn’t stand a chance of making it. I hitched my bag of soccer gear higher on my shoulder and poured my heart into sprinting down the street. If only we hadn’t lingered after the game, waiting until the guys’ varsity team finished practice while Evelyn made goo-goo eyes at them. I shouldn’t have agreed to stay for one more round of milkshakes during our traditional post-win dinner at Margie’s, the local greasy spoon. Maybe, I should have accepted the ride Evelyn’s mom offered. I propelled myself still trying to beat my curfew—I didn’t want to start high school grounded.

  I was what you might call a goody two-shoes. I always did what my parents told me, got straight A’s, and never met a rule I didn’t follow to the letter. I always looked both ways before crossing the street, I didn’t run with scissors, and I didn’t take candy from strangers. Or talk to them, either. Ever. I was also painfully shy, with insecurities bred into my bones. As the youngest in my family, I had some pretty big shoes to fill. My older brother, Alexander, excelled at making trouble, and my older sister, Sariah, climbed the social ladder with grace and beauty. I was the plain Jane, bookworm who wanted to fade into the wall. I was only in soccer because Evelyn begged me to join so she could put the moves on the coach’s son. This summer it was soccer, last summer swimming lessons at the Y—she always had some new adventure in store for me. Evelyn had been my best friend for twelve years, which is practically forever when you’re two weeks shy of fifteen.

  The streetlights flashed on with an ominous click. I stopped with a disgusted groan, my hands on my knees and my breath coming in painful gasps. If I wasn’t going to make it, I saw no reason to kill myself trying. I dropped my bag on the ground and tried to suck in air that my body had been deprived of in my desperate cross-town dash. My copper-colored hair escaped its tiny ponytail and was clinging to my sweaty scalp. Illinois in August wasn’t exactly the best weather for running.

  I heaved my bag over my shoulder and strolled the rest of the way to my house, dreading my mom’s reaction. Was she worried? How much trouble was I going to be in? How late did your teenage daughter have to be before you could call the cops? As our two-story white house came into view, the ominous glow of the porch light warned me my tardiness had been noticed.

  As soon as I opened the door I found my mother. Yup, I was in trouble. She stood in the hall in a red V-neck t-shirt and khaki shorts with her arms crossed beneath the generous bosom I had yet to develop. I was a late bloomer, still not having had my first period. In fact, I trailed behind my classmates in physical development in a lot of ways. Mom assured me all the women in the family matured at an unusual rate, whatever that meant. Yet all I had to do was look at my sister, and I had my doubts. I hoped to live up to her hotness, but I wasn’t holding my breath.

  “You’re late,” she snapped, her eyes quickly scanning me head to toe in the instant assessment only Moms can do. I was always struck with how much I look like my Mom. Her copper hair was a little curlier than mine, and her features a little less padded. But no one ever doubted her as my mother.

  “Sorry, Mom. The game ran late and Evelyn flirted for like ever. The waitress at the diner took ages and…” I trailed off, never one to make excuses and pass blame on to another. Growing up at the bottom of the pecking order, I’d learned to own up to my mistakes so no one doubted a denial. “You’re right. I’m late. What do you think, one week grounded?”

  My mother sighed in irritation, but the left corner of her mouth twitched up into an almost repressed smile. “Sometimes I need to be the mother here, Amelia. It’d be nice if my fourteen-year-old would act like one once in a while.”

  “If you’d prefer, I could go out maybe find somewhere to get stoned. Oooo, maybe some jock, who hasn’t destroyed his gene pool with steroids, would be willing to impregnate me,” I offered sarcastically, backing towards the kitchen. I turned around with a cocky grin knowing I wasn’t going to be in any trouble. My mom aimed a half-hearted smack at the back of my head as I walked into the kitchen.

  My sister stood at the counter smearing jelly on a slice of bread and licking the excess off her fingers. She rolled her eyes realizing I, once again, skated on the same offense that had cost her a good third of her summer freedom. She always seemed to take it personally that I was so compliant. But everything evened out, since I harbored resentments of my own. Sariah’s thick, white-blond hair fell to her butt in soft Victoria’s Secret curls, and she had almost-black, green eyes. A body like hers most certainly impassioned the ancient sculptors’ attempts to create perfection. She was a fashion diva and a makeup guru who woke up first thing in the morning looking perfect. She’d been the most popular girl at our high school since the seventh grade. I knew for a fact she lost her virginity at thirteen. I, based on the amount of action I’d seen— insert cheesy cricket-filled silence here—was going to die a virgin. A boy outside my family had never even asked me to dance!

  I ignored her, grabbing a bottle of water and jumping up to sit on the counter. After a long chug, which drained almost half the bottle, I gave her by best “nyah-nyah” expression and stuck out my tongue. She opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by our brother Alexander—though we only call him Xander—entering the room.With mischief dancing in his bright blue eyes, he snatched the peanut butter and jelly sandwich Sariah had just put together. He jumped up on the c
ounter kitty-corner from me and dared her to object with his eyes.

  “Am I surrounded by heathens?” Sariah asked, her eyes narrowing. I could almost imagine her as a cat with her ears laid back and tail lashing. Xander shrugged and took a giant bite of the sandwich. I laughed as the ridiculously thick layer of peanut butter Sariah is fond of coated the roof of his mouth. He made silly faces trying to get it off. Still giggling, I hopped down and poured him a glass of milk. He downed it in one drink then took another, slightly smaller, bite.

  “Pig!” Sariah hissed at him.

  “Witch!” Xander mumbled around his full mouth.

  “Alright, settle down; separate corners,” I yelled, the diplomat as usual. Wasn’t that supposed to be the job of the middle child?

  Sariah shot Xander a hateful expression as she pulled another slice of bread out of the loaf and started over. I took another long chug of my water then tossed the empty bottle into the recycling. I made a mad dash for the fresh sandwich, but Sariah snatched it away before I could nab it.

  “You ready for your first day of high school, Lia?” Sariah asked as she took a bite of the freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She rolled her eyes in exaggerated enjoyment and took a delicate sip of milk.

  “Sure. It’s just another school year. I can’t imagine the geography will make it that different,” I said with a shrug.

  Xander gave me a crooked grin, and Sariah’s eyes widened. They glanced at each other, their brows raised in similar surprise. Sariah shook her head, grabbed her sandwich and milk and walked out of the kitchen mumbling. Xander hopped down off the counter and started to head out too, but he stopped and turned at the door.

  “Seriously, Lia, things are going to be way different soon. You have to be prepared for anything. And not just at school. Your whole life will change.”

  Well that wasn’t ominous or anything, I thought as he left the kitchen. I dropped down off the counter and put away the sandwich makings Sariah left out. I took a sponge and wiped up the jelly Xander had dripped and took a couple of quick swipes where my own hind end had been. My neatness had grown into an obsession over the last year.

  With the kitchen clean, I flicked off the light and headed to my room. The familiar greens and browns of my room were comforting. My bed sat between two windows on the east wall so I woke to the early morning sun on my face every day. A quilted comforter the color of moss on an old oak tree covered the neatly made bed, and green curtains were tied back to reveal ivory colored lace. The room hadn’t originally included a closet, so my dad had built one long ago—a walk-in with bars for clothes and shelves for everything else on three sides. In the alcove created by the construction, I had a massive vanity, the old-fashioned kind with a padded bench where you sit while doing your hair. My dad had adapted it so lights, incorporated to look like flowers blooming on the vines carved in the old wood, shone beautifully.

  I rummaged in my dresser for a couple of moments and found my pajamas. Grabbing my shower caddy from the table by the door, I headed to the bathroom. I turned on the water, waiting until it got to the perfect temperature before adding Sweet Vanilla bubble bath. Climbing into the warm water, I opened my latest novel. I liked the kind actually rooted in reality, which had nothing to do with sparkly vampires of questionable sexuality. This one was a collection of horror stories called Sensing Evil. Finishing one of the spine-tingling stories I climbed back out, my toes pruney. I toweled off and applied my favorite almond scented body butter before dressing. As I walked down the hall with my hair still wrapped in a towel, I overheard my parents’ quiet voices drifting up.

  “We’re going to have to say something soon, Nancy.”

  “It’s too soon. I haven’t seen any signs she’s changing. It’ll only freak her out if we tell her too soon.”

  Interesting, which “she” were they referring to? Was it one of us or someone else? Could it be something else entirely? You can’t come into the middle of a conversation and expect to draw the proper conclusions. I started to head to my room again, but their continued voices made me pause.

  “You realize what can happen if we wait too long.” I couldn’t mistake the worry in my dad’s voice. He had never been overly emotional, and curiosity made me take a quiet step towards the railing.

  “I think we still have time, probably until next summer.” My mom insisted, almost pleading with him to agree with her.

  “We have to get her out of sight for a while to keep people from asking too many questions,” my father said on a sigh. “Perhaps, we should send her to be with my mom for the school year.”

  Who did they need to get out of sight? My mind went to a Lifetime movie about a girl who got pregnant and was sent away so no one would find out. I couldn’t imagine that being the case, but why else would they need to hide someone away? Somehow, I suspected I was the topic of this conversation. Well, at least I’d be closer to Normal. Even in my head the local joke didn’t sound that funny. I didn’t want to go to Bloomington or Normal for an entire year!

  “Frank, she doesn’t suspect anything about this family, let alone that she isn’t human!” my mother hissed.

  I gasped, my grey eyes getting bigger. I heard footsteps coming out of the living room, but I was gone before anyone saw me. My eyes screwed shut, I leaned against the door in my room. I heard someone climb the bottom two steps and stand still for a moment. Then came the quiet rumble of my father’s familiar baritone, though I couldn’t make out the words. The person at the bottom of the stairs, presumably my mother, walked away towards the kitchen. After a slow count to one hundred, I sighed and opened my eyes. Pulling out the bench to my vanity, I lowered myself carefully. It wasn’t rickety or anything, but with a little caution, I might be able to pass the beloved furniture on to my own granddaughter one day.

  I quickly dried and combed my shoulder length hair straight back away from my face. I tossed the comb down and stared long and hard into the mirror. I focused on the chubby cheeks and baby face, searching for some sign that I might actually be growing out of this runtness. I was so sick of looking like a perpetual ten-year-old. Deciding it was the same face that had been staring back for the last four years or so, I stood and grabbed my book from the end of the bed. I flopped down on my stomach and started to read. I had a couple of hours before I needed to get to bed and worrying about things I couldn’t change wasn’t going to help me sleep.

  I’d only made it a couple of pages into my book when a strange dizziness came over me. I had trouble breathing and my vision doubled. I slammed my window open and stuck my head out as pain hammered the inside of my forehead. After a few deep gulps of night air, it seemed to pass. My skin suddenly felt too small and tight. Was I having a panic attack? I chalked it up to my worry, picking my book up again. I vowed not to let myself dwell on this. Tomorrow would bring better things for me to worry about anyway.

 
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