Chapter One Our old, worn-out car pulled down the narrow driveway. Dark trees loomed along the edges, and cast ominous shadows over our car. The crescent moon was high in the sky, though through the clouds it was nothing but mere sliver overhead. Twigs snapped under the weight of the almost flat tires as we pulled to a stop. "Why me has to go?" my little brother Toby complained. He is always complaining about something. It seems that he can't go to one place or do one thing without complaining. I just don't know how Mom tolerates him. I opened the creaky car door as the pungent smell of dead leaves filled my nostrils. Super! Nothin's better but the stink of dead leaves! Mom could see the disappointed look on my face. It wasn't my fault, I was really looking forward to something great, just not this. Dad promised that he would find me and Toby the best vacation we ever went on, but I'm sure he was just trying to make my mom even more depressed. They had been divorced for almost a month now, and Mom has been really down. Dad never gets the support payments here on time, and he never wants to see me, Toby, or my baby sister Anna. Mom says that he just wants to move on, but I think he doesn't like us at all. My cell phone buzzed in my jean pocket. A pulled it out and looked at the screen. I had gotten a text message, and it was from Dad. He's always sending me some kind of message. The last one was of him with some girl that was, like, twenty years younger than him. Whenever I get a text from Dad I never read it, I just show it to Mom because that's usually who it's really for. This time I actually looked at it before I gave it to Mom. What I saw next shocked me. Dad was wearing a tuxedo, and marrying some other girl I never saw before! I gasped in horror and Mom quickly grabbed the phone out of my hand when she saw my face. "One month!" Mom shouted furiously, "He can't even go one month without making me angry, even when he's not here!" Toby looked up at her in confusion, his dirty blond hair falling in front of his copper eyes. Anna was crying now, since Mom had completely forgotten that she was holding her when she had her little "outburst". Mom took a deep breath, handed the phone back to me, and started unloading the suitcase from the car. All of my clothes were neatly packed away in my backpack, along with some other odds and ends that happened to be in there. "Nat-a?" Toby squeaked as he nudged my hand, "Why Mama angy?" I crouched down and stroked his shaggy hair. "She's just angry, that's all," reassured him, "That's all." "Natalia!" Mom shouted from the car, "Can you hold Anna while I unpack?" I quickly walked over an reached out to grab Anna. The area around her eyes was still red from when she was crying. Her hands were damp with tears. I poked her stomach and she giggled. She was pretty cute. Toby walked back over to me and prodded at my hand, "Nat-a?" he said innocently, "Hold han?" "One sec Tobes," I replied, Mom had asked me to close the trunk to she could lug the suitcases to the front porch. I grabbed Toby's hand and followed Mom to the creaky old porch, "This house must be older than our car!" I said to myself. The inside of the shack was even worse than the outside. Mouse droppings covered the floor, and more than half of the floorboards were missing. There was a loft area, one bathroom, and a small bedroom. I figured that Mom and Anna would get the bedroom, and me and Toby would be getting the loft. "Mom?" I asked, "Am I sleeping with Tobes?" "Yes," she sighed, "I know you want your own room Natalie, but there isn't much we can afford." I just nodded and went over to help Toby, who was digging through the suitcases, trying to find his "Super Pup Pals" bath robe. I quickly saw it in the suitcase, since its bright hues of orange and red stand out against the drab colors of our clothes. He snatched it out of my hands and put it on. It was still four sizes bigger than he needed, but Mom buys things too big so they'll fit for awhile, and we'll save money. ~*~ "Bedtime!" Mom called from down-ladder. I climbed into the small cot I was using as a bed for the week. I let Toby curl up beside me and nudge his head under my arm. I threw the gray throw blanket on us, although I was still shivering. THWACK! Something hit the wall so hard around eleven o'clock that night, shattering the boards that made up one of the walls. After the bang I heard a shrill laughter ringing throughout the house, and I softly climbed out of bed and down the ladder from the loft. I could see a shadowy figure downstairs, and it was holding something. I couldn't really tell what it was, but whatever it was holding looked a lot like Anna, and the door to Mom's room was open. The floor from the bedroom doorway to the figure was scraped up, like it dragged Anna out of the room, but the marks ended quite a distance from the wall, which was now shattered and splattered with blood. I heard Mom gasp from the doorway of her bedroom, holding a baseball bat. Her hair was scraggly and bruises covered her arms and face. Her whole body shook, as if she was too weak to stand. "Drop her!" Mom roared, her face growing red with fear and anger, "Drop Anna!" The figure dropped Anna's limp dead body into the pool of blood that was dripping from her head. The figure laughed and ran through the shattered wall, disappearing into the dark forest. Whatever that figure was, it was going to pay for what it did.