When three girls are bound by more than just their weight, they find out that their destinies are darker than they expected.
A corruption lies deep within their souls that no one expected to find there, and the trauma of it unleashes an evil from within that none of them can endure alone.
Together, they might just prevail against the encroaching flames.
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/deranged/
Jennifer Claire © 2021
All Rights Reserved
“Eat your meat, please, Katie.”
I glared at her over the metal of my fork that I was using to push the food around on my plate.
There she went again, always trying to sound more and more like a mother every day. But she would never sound like my mother. No one ever would.
At least I had gotten through the green beans on my plate, which was something. But they had been shaken in a dish of brown sugar, making them taste like candy, and I’ve never had a problem with candy. I couldn’t help but go over and over again in my head how many calories were in each cut of that steak that they had chosen to waste on me.
There was no way I could eat it.
My photographer had told me I was perfect just the way I was. He had come to my door that night, gone inside to find me, and died, along with everyone else I ever loved and cared about.
The nightmares haunted me do this every day.
I still imagined this guy being with me, but I had never been in love, so I don’t know where that one thought in particular came from.
There I go again, losing track of what I was thinking about.
“It’s Kaitlyn,” I corrected her for the jillionth time, finally putting my fork down to look at her fully. She thought she knew me, but she didn’t.
“Hun, no agency is going to offer you a job unless you take proper care of yourself!”
“You don’t know that!” I growled. She didn’t even know what I wanted anymore.
“Katie, please.” She stood up straighter so she wasn’t leaning across the table, just as she was always telling me to do. “I’m your aunt and I love you, but there’s only so much I can put up with… Katie, you used to be such a kind girl before all this, what happened to you—”
She came to a dramatic halt at the end of her sentence, as if only by speaking those words aloud did she realize what they meant.
“I guess it’s too bad I didn’t love you, even then.” That was cruel and I knew it. But I didn’t care or regret it.
I pulled the plate off the table until it fell and shattered at my feet, making a mess of foods and their juices over the gray tiled floor. Giving her one last icy glare, I stormed up to my room.
My aunt was knocking on my door again. And this time I didn’t know of how else to make her go away but to swing the door open as fast as I could while yelling back, “What?”
The action was too fast and made my head spin, but I pushed through the dark spots that swam through my vision just to hear what she had to say.
“Katie? Sweetheart, you’re sick. Please, we need to talk about this some time.”
I rolled my eyes and went to slam the door again, but the breeze from having shut the door so quickly made the door shut slowly and gave her enough time to put both a hand and foot in the way.
“No.” Her voice was firm, done with my bullshit. But she wasn’t as fierce as she thought she was with tears trickling from the corners of her eyes. It gave me a small, strange glee that kept me going. “I am not just going to sit around and watch you starve yourself and waste away into nothing!”
I shrugged. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. Just leave and stop caring, and you won’t have to watch.”
If I wasn’t “sick” as she liked to call my disorder, auntie Stephanie would’ve slapped me, right across the face, but she held herself back for more of her own sake than for mine.
“Katie? I’m only going to say this to you once. The doctors are coming tomorrow on the bus. And if they agree with me that you’re sick? You’re going with them so they can help you get better.”
Letting go of the door, I crossed my arms. “I’m sorry, but was that a question? You wanna fight me on this so badly? Fine. But if they come and they see how paranoid you are? I’m not the one going to the funny farm.”
“It’s not that kind of place, Katie. They’re there to help you, not cage you.”
I wished I could’ve found fault in what she was saying, but I really couldn’t.
So instead of fighting, I lessened my scolding view of her and reached out to shake her hand. “Deal.”
As I sat in the tub, my blood colored the water. This was the third time I had been caught trying to kill myself in four months, and no one could understand why.
As if having to stand outside of your family home at fifteen and watch as everyone you love inside cries out and burns alive isn’t reason enough to want to die yourself.
I had refused to eat since then and had to be medically forced through a tube surgically placed to feed nutrition into my stomach, but no one expected me to want to die so badly that I would go through the pain of pulling it out myself.
As I languished in the water, arms reached down to drag me from the bathtub.
“Pirouette! Pirouette! Pirouette!”
Mrs. Heather clapped in time to the music as I turned.
She was midway through adding another pirouette to her chanting when my ankle gave out beneath me, and I was spinning and falling at the same time toward the hard dusty floor of the stage.
I must have fainted after having hit the floor, although I hadn’t banged my head or anything, but by the time I came back to, I was in the hospital with a hardened cast set around my foot.
The first thing I noticed was the pretty blue signature written across the cast, which made me fall back onto the bed with laughter.
People scurried into the room at the sound, mistaking it for crying. They only relaxed when they came all the way over to see my face.
“Micky! You scared us half to death!”
Charlotte—Mrs. Heather’s daughter and one of my only friends— was in the room. Not that I knew how that had occurred, since she was neither there when it happened, nor was she any family of mine.
“Sorry, I thought I had it—”
She jumped in all angry again before I could go on to tell her why it was that I thought I had messed it up. “Not the spinning, stupid! The doctor said you were dehydrated, and there wasn’t enough muscle in your ankle to support your weight!”
I wanted to yell back, to tell her she didn’t have to be so loud and so rude, but even my eyes were lighting up with moisture that burned every time I blinked.
She stopped when the first tear fell to walk closer and wrap her arms around my neck. I squeezed back, but I barely ruffled the fabric of her sweatshirt.
“You need help,” she cried into my hair, then a sad sound, something akin to laughter escaped me, as she added, “Or we’re never going to get to go on that road trip we’ve been promising Sammy all our lives. Got it?”
I noticed Mrs. Heather then, standing just at the foot of the bed with a hand resting on the cast. She had given me so much since the fire. If I could give her, and Charlotte, anything back, it would be this.
“Okay. I will.”
Meet the Author
Jennifer Claire is a debut author from Ontario, Canada. She enjoys writing dark urban fantasy along with romance contemporary, and when she’s not reading, can usually be found reading YA or Epic Fantasy novels.