Mandy & Molly Chapter One

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Litter blew across the empty mall parking lot. The neon food court sign buzzed, blinking erratically.

He was walking towards me, his black hair whipping in the night breeze.

I had seen him before. I wasn’t sure where, but feelings of familiarity overwhelmed me.

“What are you doing here?” he said.

I froze. My lips couldn’t form a word.

“Who are you?” He didn’t seem angry, but he didn’t seem happy either. More like--like he was afraid.

He didn’t stand out much in his white t-shirt and dark jeans. The only remarkable thing about him was the dark colored metal ring he wore. As he pushed his hair out of his face, I noticed it had the design of interwoven branches.

“Are you following me?” he said. “Are you real? Or are you a nightmare?”

A nightmare? What is he talking about? I struggled to speak again.

I managed to open my mouth, but before I could say a word, an empty fast food bag hit me in the face, blocking him and everything from view. I fumbled, fighting with the paper bag.

“Mandy! Mandy!”

The guy with the ring was gone. Instead, my sister had grabbed my arm and was shaking me awake.

I moaned. “Ugh! It was a stupid dream again!”

“I know you’re tired from packing and stuff,” said my sister, “but we only have a few boxes left. Could you give me a hand?”

My body ached from falling asleep sitting upright in a chair. My neck throbbed.


I shuffled out the front door, disappointed that once again I missed the chance to find out who he was. And as usual, the details of his face became a nondescript blur in my memory.

I helped my sister carry the last few boxes from the car to our new home. Moving is always a pain, even if the point of it is to make things better.

Our house is a small rental with naked beige walls and a kitchen not big enough for both of us to stand in at the same time. Although it was cleaned before our move, it still had that smell--that hotel room smell. Dozens of people with different lifestyles were here before us, and all of their scents mingled together.

We stacked boxes in each room. The only real pieces of furniture we had were two dressers and a bed.

I sat on the bed, which had no sheets at this point. We had some serious shopping ahead of us.

I watched my sister Molly open the worn out mini blinds in the bedroom to let in slivers of light. I could see the houses across the street. They were similar to ours but painted different colors.

Ridgewood was a typical suburban town, with too many grocery stores and schools. I’m sure if Molly could have things her way, she would live in a major urban area like Los Angeles or New York City. One time when we were little we visited New York with our parents. Molly found the city exciting. I found it overcrowded and exhausting. Some days I would be so irritable that I would cry at random, mystifying my parents.

I didn’t return back to normal until we traveled upstate to visit my aunt. The area where she lives is full of beautiful hills with mountains. There I found my peace. As for Molly, she was bored and kept begging my parents to take us back to the city.  

I was too aware that this move was a sacrifice for her. She was doing it all for me.

After opening the blinds, Molly sat on a precarious stack of boxes. She adjusted herself to lower the risk of falling over.

She has the air of a true free spirit with her voluminous curly hair. If I had left my hair alone, it would’ve been just like hers. But I feel it would be too much to deal with and would bring too much attention. So the flat iron is my best friend.

Brushing an audacious curl away from her face, my sister announced with a large smile, “It’s shopping time!”

I moaned and laid back on the bed. I was so tired. The idea of going into a store full of obnoxious people with their kids made my stomach ache.

“Is it okay if I sit this one out? I’m way too tired for the zoo.”

Molly’s smile dimmed to a gentle grin, allowing her weariness to show.

“I’m tired too,”she said. “But we have no food, bed sheets, or dishes. We need to at least get some stuff so we can get through tonight and tomorrow morning. We don’t even have toilet tissue.”

“Well, I would have no problems with you going without me,”I said. I reached for my laptop bag, eager to plug in and zone out.

“I could go without you,” said Molly. “But we’re in a new place, and I’m totally unfamiliar with it. I would feel much better if you came with me.”

I paused and looked at her. She smiled, but she was wringing her hands, her pastel pink nails rubbing against each other.

Molly has never abandoned me in my scariest moments. Would it be so bad for me to return the favor?

“Okay. I’ll go.”

I opened the lid to my laptop, and the current time appeared on the screen. 5:30 PM. And it was a Friday.

“Is it okay if we relax for an hour and go at 6:30?”

“Sure,” she said. Molly stood and took out her phone.

“Maybe for dinner we can go out for tacos.”

“Sounds good.”

Molly stepped back from the boxes and took a picture of them. Then she started typing. From her look of concentration, I guessed she was thinking up a good caption before posting it to her Instagram. My sister is good at stuff like that.

Although I’m only a year younger than her, I find social media to be more of a chore than entertainment. Besides, I have no friends to add.

I logged into my laptop and opened up Gears and Grace, a sci-fi steampunk romance novel I have been working on.

Vladimir looked down at Elizabeth. But his heart felt little mercy for her.

Writing has saved my life. If it wasn’t for having the ability to isolate Vladimir to the boundaries of a digital file, he would be here in the flesh, terrorizing me and my sister.

It’s happened before. So I have to keep writing to keep us safe.

Author's note: The first few chapters of this story has corresponding comic pages. I think it's interesting comparing the two. They both tell the same story but in different ways. And I'm not worrying about novel-style cover art at this point. 

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