C I N

C I N

C I N
Copyright © 2010 Christina Leigh Pritchard. All Rights Reserved.

Cover art by Flowe; Flickr Member, Creative Commons.
Some Rights reserved.

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No part of this publication may be reproduced and/or altered without written permission by the copyright holder.

What Shelfari Readers Are Saying

..Found it a very engaging story from the get-go… I will recommend that my older teen daughters read this book as well.”
Nicole N.

“I loved how fast paced this story was and how original the plot came out to be.” Maryam H.

“A real page turner…” Susan S.

“C I N is one of the best books I’ve read lately.” Luiza N.

“Excellent book! I can’t wait for an addition to the series as the characters get you so involved and they are so complex! It is definitely a ‘can’t put down’ book!” Kia

“C I N is a totally new paranormal concept with intriguing surprises that will have you guessing to the end. Great young adult read!” Sailon

“Honestly, I had a hard time putting it down.” Melinda Dawn C.

Editorial

“A tough, yet rewarding read, CIN is strongly recommended for teenagers seeking to make sense of a world where logic and reason often seem like foreign, unattainable concepts.”

Apex Review by Chelsea Perry

C I N was featured on USA Book News! The website dedicated to “What’s New and Noteworthy”.

An honorable mention in the Teenage Category for the 2010 Hollywood Book Festival “books that should be movies”!

C I N
“Lynn, Lynn, the City of Sin. You Never Come Out The Way You Went In.”
Written By Christina Leigh Pritchard

Copyright © 2010 Christina Leigh Pritchard. All Rights Reserved.

The Doctor said I should be dead.

My heart beat furiously. I looked up at the flashes of lightning in the sky. Yes, I should be dead.
Why wasn’t I?

One
Amber Checks In

“Lisa, if you don’t finish packing your things, I swear you’ll go with nothing.” My mother, Amber, threatened. She wrapped duct tape around a medium sized box and carried it out to the car.

Our home foreclosed and it was eviction day. My mother couldn’t keep a job; no matter how simple or easy it was. She was beautiful with long blond hair and bright green eyes that sparkled when she spoke. She landed every job she applied for but several weeks later and her new employer realized all Amber really was; was a pretty face.

I looked nothing like my mom. I was seventeen but still didn’t fit into my body. My hips were too big, my boobs too small and I had Dumbo ears which of course meant that I had to wear my hair down—always. I had long bangs that helped cover up my oddly round, black eyes and I could never find shoes that fit my big feet.

“Lisa, I’m not going to tell you again, we leave in twenty minutes. I can’t afford to miss your train.”

“Yeah well you could try to hide your enthusiasm.” I rolled my eyes and grabbed an empty box. I surveyed my room. What could I possibly take? I lived in Florida, the sunshine state. I was going to Lynn, Massachusetts. The old saying, “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin” played over and over inside my mind. How could my mother just drop me off in such a place? Lynn was filled with high crime rates, lack of good paying jobs and supported virtually on nothing more than fish markets and the GE factories. At least it was by the water. I couldn’t imagine life without the ocean and sand between my toes. I could do without the sun tans, I guess, or the hot skaters who practiced on the benches but not the salty water and my toes buried in the warm sand.

“LISA! Get in the car.”

I evaluated the few things I had. I grabbed two pairs of jeans and anything with sleeves. I picked up my sneakers and my Adidas jacket from off the floor and I tossed my book bag over my shoulder. Inside the box, I put the only family heirloom I had; a picture of my mother and father; before I was born. …When they still loved each other, still laughed, still hoped. That must’ve been something to see. The only time my mother smiled or laughed was during an interview. It was never real and when her eyes set on me, she only frowned.

I placed the few articles of clothing on top of my picture and carried the box out to the trunk. My mom had an old 1993 Mitsubishi Mirage with hardly any paint left. The worst part—the air didn’t work; complete suicide in a place where the temperature stayed around ‘90 degrees.

“Just take your sweet, precious time there Lisa,” She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. “I hope you don’t act up with your Aunt Millie. She would be just devastated and when she falls over with a stroke or heart attack from your disrespectful behavior you will have to carry her twenty miles to the nearest town.”

“A little dramatic, don’t you think?” I snapped, tossing my book bag into the back. The seat belt automatically locked me in when I closed the door. (The air conditioning didn’t work, there was hardly any paint left on the vehicle but, hey, at least the automatic seat belts still worked!) “Roll the windows down, mom, it’s hot in here.” I leaned my head out the window to catch the last, hot Florida breeze I’d probably ever feel.

“Aunt Millie said you could help her out with her chickens and she’d pay you so that you could buy some warmer clothes while you’re there. I’m sorry I am such a bad mother.”

“Why are you leaving me with some woman I don’t know? That’s bad parenting. Mom, you’ve never met this lady. What if she’s a serial killer or a chicken thief or some kind of lunatic?”

“I have to do this.” Her eyes stayed glued to the road, “I need to figure out what is wrong with me. I ran off your father with my emotional problems and I don’t want to drag you down with me too.”

“Mom, I don’t want to go stay with some stranger.” She couldn’t hear me. She blasted the radio and sang loudly, bouncing her head from left to right. She slapped me in the shoulder. “Stah—op!”

“Sing with me, Lisa, it may be a long time before we get to do this again. I may be in that loony bin for a while.”

I didn’t think it was funny at all. Who wanted a mother that was crazy? What would I tell people when school started? So, Lisa, where is your mother? Oh, new potential friend, she’s probably in her padded cell wearing a strait jacket. How about your mom? I’ll be miss popularity for sure.

Amber turned into the train station and with a deep breath; she took my hands gently in hers. “I’m sorry for being such a screwy mother but I promise I am going to change and we will look back on the past five years and laugh about it all. You believe me, don’t you? That, I am going to change and be a better person?”

“Of course, mom, acknowledgment is half the cure.”

She was doomed. But, who was I to be the one to tell her that? At least she was signing herself over to them. They’d keep her there until they could fix whatever was wrong inside her brain. “I better go before I miss my train.” I reached into the backseat and grabbed my backpack. “Pop the trunk, mom. I have a box in the back.”

“Please be careful. There are some real crazies on the train.” Now she cared?

“I’ll be fine, I promise. I have taken public transportation before. Get better soon. I love you.”

“Okay,” Amber wiped tears from her eyes. She never said she loved me back. It was a little disturbing. “Don’t talk to strangers.”

“Aunt Millie is a stranger.” I retorted. My mom started her car and sped out of the parking lot like she was escaping a burning building.

“Goodbye mother.”

I carried my things across to the other side of the tracks. I had to take an elevator up to a ramp, cross above the tracks and then take another elevator down so that I could wait for the north train. This was going to be the longest ride. It didn’t seem fair really that I was the one who had to travel from the southeast coast all the way northeast just so my mother could ‘stabilize’ herself or as I called it, get more legal drugs that kept her in fairy tale world. She was just a pill popper and I couldn’t stand it.

What did I know about Aunt Millie? She’d lived her entire life in Lynn, Massachusetts out in the woods—what was left of it anyway—and worked as a dean at a boarding school for gifted boys and girls. She lived right behind the old school and had her own personal pond, a chicken coup and two pets. One dog named Pig and a Himalayan cat that she called Rat. During the one conversation I had with her she admitted that her pets didn’t really care for her but showed up for dinner and that I was not to pet the cat. Who had pets that did not want to be touched? Since she was a dean at the boarding school, she pulled some strings and was able to enroll me, even though I wasn’t a genius. She made sure to repeat the part about my not being a genius at least three times before moving on to dorm room arrangements. I’d have to dorm with some girl named Donna Denning. Aunt Millie promised to introduce us ahead of time. She said she was a sweet girl.

To be completely honest, I was kind of happy to be moving to Lynn. I hated leaving my friends behind but, a little change of pace didn’t sound so bad. I just wished my mother would come too. Maybe that was all she needed; new surroundings. No, that never helped before. I had a gut feeling that I’d seen my mother for the last time. I didn’t want to accept such a horrific reality so I shoved the idea into the very back of my mind; a place I refused to visit.

“Ticket?” I looked up at the train conductor. He held out his hand. “Do you have a ticket?” He asked. I nodded, reaching inside my bag.

“Sorry, I was daydreaming.” I handed him my crinkled confirmation page. “I ordered over the phone and they told me to write down this number for you.”

“You will have to pay with cash once the train starts moving. Did you bring your ID?” I nodded and showed him my learner’s permit. Thanks to Amber, I couldn’t drive yet. I’d never had the chance to practice driving. Maybe Aunt Millie would teach me. “Your assigned seat is 38A.”

“Thanks,” I carried my box up the three steps and carefully placed it up above my assigned seat. I should’ve packed more clothes. Oh well, too late for regrets.
The train gradually moved forward and I stared out the window. I placed my hand on the glass and sighed.

“Goodbye Florida, Goodbye Mom.”

Two
Lynn, Massachusetts

I climbed down the train steps and surveyed my new surroundings. It was a chilly evening. The gray cement walls were covered in spray painted gang symbols, there was trash piled in corners and a bum underneath a wet, limp cardboard box. It was certainly not the kind of place one would want to hang out in. I squinted to see if I spotted Aunt Millie. She said she was stout with short reddish-brown hair. So, I looked for an obese woman with cheaply dyed red hair. I didn’t have to be a genius to know when someone was seasoning their words with salt. I was the queen when it came to showy words and false compliments.

Besides the bum and some rowdy teenagers; there were only three people waiting and none of them fit the description of my Aunt Millie. So, I sat down on a metal bench and dug in my box for my Adidas jacket. I wrapped myself up and crossed my arms. I’d really have to get used to this weather. It felt like winter in Florida and it was only summer in Lynn. Could you imagine winter time? I looked down at my watch. It had been my one and only gift from my father since he’d left us five years ago. He said this way I’d be on time for things. It didn’t work. I just knew how late I was. It is always better to not know the time. It’s easier to show up late and if someone says, “Do you know what time it is?” you can genuinely answer with, “No, I forgot my watch, what time is it? Am I late?” People forgive you when you leave your watch at home. Aunt Millie was an hour late. I wonder if she forgot her watch…

I turned around and took another peek at the people congregating around the train station. There was a woman with three young children, an old man with a suitcase on wheels and a teenage boy about my age. He leaned against the ticket booth with his hands in his baggy jeans. He had on a Red Sox Jersey and a beanie cap shoved down over the top of his head. Did he have hair? Well, he had some facial hair. I squinted to see what was on the side of his arm; a tattoo maybe? He pulled his hands out of his pockets and cupped them around his mouth.

“Is there a Lisa Brown here?” He looked at me. I raised my hand. “You Lisa?” He asked again. I nodded. “Lisa Brown?”

“Yes, would you like to see my ID?” I rolled my eyes. “Who are you and where is Aunt Millie?”

“She had an emergency meeting to attend to. I’m Michael, one of the students at C I N Boarding School.” He crept closer. I could see his tattoo now. It said ‘C I N’. He had long brown hair underneath his beanie cap and it was a go-tee that he sported on his face. He dug in his pocket, pulled out a package of cigarettes and a lighter.

I shook my head and frowned. “I thought the kids who went to C I N were geniuses?”

He smiled, catching on immediately. “When you’re as smart as me, the sooner you die the better. Besides that, I have an addictive personality. I can watch the same shows, read the same books, and do the same activities over and over. It’s sad, really.”

“Yeah, that is sad.”

Michael ignored me. He took my box and led the way out to the parking lot. He didn’t say anything else. His eyes studied the trees and sky. He seemed to be deep in thought or prayer maybe. Please save me from this dreadful female Floridian. Then again, he was a genius… Maybe he did have deep thoughts running through his mind.
“I have to stop at the store. Do you mind?” Michael opened the passenger side door of an old white Isuzu Pick-up truck.

“No, that’s cool.” I rolled up the window so that the chill didn’t freeze my face.
“I have a jacket you can borrow until you get a heavier one.” Michael offered. “It gets pretty chilly at night.”

“That’s okay, this one is good.”

Michael dug behind the seat and pulled out a wrinkled ski jacket. “Here, wear this.” He tossed it in my lap.

“Thanks,” I obeyed overlapping my jacket with his. I placed my hands in front of the warm heat flowing through the vents. I wanted to tell him I was from Florida that this was as cold as our winters ever got but he never asked where I was from or why I was so cold. He didn’t put the radio on either; just drove in silence.

I tapped my foot on the floorboards and whisked my fingers in front of the warm air as if I was conducting a symphony. Michael glanced at me. “So Michael, what’s C I N like?” I practically sang. If he wasn’t going to entertain me, I’d have to just compromise.

“Like any other school, I guess. I’ve gone there since forever.” He turned off the highway and entered the Lynn City Limits. I shook my head and pounded my palms against his dashboard. He jumped. “What are you doing?”

“Wrong! Most kids live at home and not at their school. It can’t possibly be like every other school. It’s a ‘special’ school.”

Michael stared blankly.

He parked in front of a little food mart. “I am going to get some milk. I will be right back.”

I dropped back against the seat and sighed. Michael was boring. I couldn’t imagine a bunch of Michaels all around me night and day for an entire school year. Thank goodness I was in my senior year of high school. I could leave Aunt Millie’s house as soon as I was eighteen and live on my own.

I looked out the window. Lynn smelled like fish. There were two seafood stands outside the old worn out buildings and overflowing garbage cans. Two glass windows next to the food mart were covered in spray painted obscenities. Bass and loud lyrics blared as two cars whizzed by. I saw a hooker loitering in the narrow alley behind the convenience store. Her eyes were red and empty.

Where had my mom sent me?

I glanced in the side mirror. A girl with long stringy blond hair and thin red highlights glared at me with her hands crossed over her chest. What was her problem? I turned around and pushed my face against the back window, puffing my cheeks out like a blow-fish and waved. She narrowed her eyes and stomped away. I sat back down and laughed.

Michael climbed into the cab with his milk. He frowned, “That’s Ally. I wouldn’t get on her bad side if I were you. She’s what the C I N kids call our personal Nazi Commandant.”

“Oh.”

We drove through thick woods and around a large lake. There was an old stone school with a faded sign that said ‘C I N Boarding School”. The school sat behind the lake. Two small cottages were on the other side of the water. One of those homes must’ve been Aunt Millie’s. I saw a chicken coup in the center of the houses and a cat sitting on top of the chicken wire.

Michael grinned, “By the way, Ally, the girl you made faces at, lives with Millie.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? Are you crazy?” I twisted sideways and slapped his arm.

He slammed on his brakes. “Ouch, what did you do that for?”

I flew forward and banged my forehead on the dash. “Oh, I’m such an idiot sometimes. I should’ve minded my own business.”

“I hate to be the one to tell you this but it might be you who is a little crazy.” He started his truck, stalling the engine. “Promise not to slap me again and I’ll tell you who else lives with Millie.”

“I won’t.”

“Ally has a brother named Alex. He’s the smartest guy in our school but not very social.” Michael parked in front of Aunt Millie’s wooden cottage. It was painted bright yellow with a pale green trim. She had flower boxes in the windows and a little lion statue by her front door.

“She isn’t one of those people who have a bunch of knick knacks all around the house is she?” I studied the house but Michael covered his face with his hands.
“Are you really that slow?”

I blinked. “I’m following you just fine. You said Alex was a troubled soul who finds all the kids at C I N boring.”

Michael didn’t find me funny in the least bit. His eyes narrowed and he motioned for me to get out of his truck. “I am not boring.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “No one said you were.”

“You’re ridiculous. Now I know why my parents wanted me to go to school with people at the same intelligence level. You, Lisa Brown, are—”

“Well, it was nice meeting you Michael. I appreciate the ride.” I grabbed my box and backpack. “Want your jacket back?” I slowly let it slip down my arms. It dropped into the dirt.

Michael’s lips pressed tight together. “No, I wouldn’t want you to freeze to death.” He peeled out of Aunt Millie’s driveway. “Mind the cat!”

I watched his truck disappear in amongst the trees. Maybe Michael wasn’t boring after all. There was definitely some potential; he could be taken out of his glass bubble with a little persuasion.

The jacket lay limp at my feet. I bent down and put it back on my shoulders. It was dark outside and I could hardly see the front door. I picked up my box and climbed the three steps onto the wooden porch. There was a porch swing painted purple of all colors and Aunt Millie had a chipped red door. I lifted my hand, making a fist, ready to knock. Before I could, the door cracked open an inch.

“Who are you?” A male voice called from inside.

“I-I’m sorry, is this Millie’s house? I’m her niece from Florida.”

The door swung open and a boy about three inches taller than me stood in the doorway. He had pale blue eyes and nearly bleached blond hair. His lips were thin and his fingernails bitten and chipped.

“You must be Alex.” I forced a smile. “My name is Lisa. Are you my cousin?”

Alex did not return my smile. Instead, he spun around so that his back faced me and then quickly stomped down the hall.

“It was nice meeting you as well.” My voice echoed inside the empty room.

I put my stuff by the front door and inspected Aunt Millie’s house. It was small. To the left was a formal living room with just two love seats and to the right was a round, wooden table with four chairs. A galley kitchen was to the right as well. In front of me was a narrow hallway with four doors. I gulped. One had to be a bathroom, one must be Alex’s room, Aunt Millie’s and the last one meant I’d be sharing with, Ally, the cranky girl at the store. Life couldn’t get any better. Maybe I was wrong and there was another door that I couldn’t see from where I stood. Maybe Ally lived next door by herself. Maybe this was all just a dream. Yeah right. I was sharing a room with the Nazi.

I sat on one of the sofas and put my hands between my knees. In the corner, between the two sofas was a black and white Boston terrier. “Pig? Is that what they call you?”
The dog looked up at me with his big, bulging eyes and snarled. I scooted over to the other end of the couch. Wow. I’d entered my own personal house of horrors. Pig lay back down and fell asleep.

Alex stood in the hallway. I jumped when I saw him. He’d entered so quietly. “I thought you were the dog, coming to attack.”

Alex frowned. “He doesn’t like to be bothered. Millie will not be home for a while. It would be wise for you to go to your room. If you are hungry there is food in the refrigerator.”

He turned to leave. I opened my mouth and Alex twirled around. “What? What do you want?”

“Where’s my room?” He really was everything Michael described. “Also, I need to know where the bathroom is so I can take a shower.”

“Sounds reasonable, I suppose. Follow me.” He took two steps backwards and opened the first door to his left. “This is your room. The bathroom is directly across the hall.” He took a deep breath. “Anything else you’d like to inquire about?”

I just stared. His light blue eyes danced with anger. Had I said something to offend him? Did he hear me tease him with Michael? I’d been inside the truck, right? Michael said it, not me. I was just an innocent bystander. If this guy was my cousin—

“I’m not your cousin.” Alex blurted. My heart beat furiously. Could he hear what I was saying? “My family is out of town and Millie offered to stay and watch us until school started. This is my house, not Millie’s. She lives next door.”

“Thanks,” I frowned. “Do you have a TV here?”

Alex rolled his eyes. “What in the world would we need a TV for?”

“To pass the time, I guess.” It felt like a trick question. “Who painted your house all those different colors?”

“You have to feed the chickens early so I suggest you go to bed.” He disappeared into the room next to mine. I closed my eyes as his door slammed shut.

What was the matter with this place? I turned around and the little Boston terrier stood in the entrance of the hallway, blocking me from passing. “What’s your problem? Pig…” He glared at me intently. “You’re supposed to greet people when they come to your house. You’re supposed to be man’s best friend.” I went into the bedroom. It was tiny and there was only one bed. I wouldn’t have to share with the Nazi, would I? I sure hoped not. Pig stood in my doorway. His head peered around the corner with his bug eyes. I sat down on the bed and stared back. “So, I’m not allowed to touch the cat but what about you? Are you friendly?”

Pig growled. I crossed my legs and put my hands on my knees. “Well, Pig, I’m gonna change your name to Bipolar. One second you want me to pay attention to you and the next minute you act like you want to kill me.” Pig crept closer. He was halfway in my doorway now. He turned and lay in the entrance, almost as if he was on guard over my room. What was he protecting me from? The cat? Pig turned his head sideways and sort of nodded. I chuckled. First Alex can read minds and now the dog. I must be really tired. I looked up at the tiny shelf next to the bed. There were black and white photos inside beautiful handcrafted frames. The kids in the pictures looked just like Ally and Alex. Maybe the fair came here and did those old fashioned photos? If I were crazy I would say they were authentic from maybe the 1920’s. Maybe it was their great-great-grandparents or something. That sort of stuff happened all the time; right? Nearly twins several generations later…

I needed to brush my teeth but the Bipolar Pig would not let me leave the room. He growled when I tried to step over him. So, I just went to bed. What was the point in getting bit? I probably forgot to bring a toothbrush anyhow. Maybe in the morning I could meet Aunt Millie and she would at least take me to the store to get the necessities. I sure wish I hadn’t left all my things behind. What was I thinking?

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