The Twelfth Keeper(7)

By: Belle Malory


“Is this my invite?” His arms waved back in forth in the air as he did a crazy little dance that made her laugh.

“Don’t get too excited. It could be pretty lame.” She cupped a hand around her mouth and dramatically whispered, “Reagan’s friends are going to be there.”

Hunter laughed. It was a warm, friendly sound. Kennedy had always loved hearing it.

“I’ll be there,” he promised.

Kennedy let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “You’re the best.”

“There better be hot dogs though. I can’t deal with Reagan’s friends without hot dogs.”

“You better believe there will be hot dogs,” she said, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “I’ll even get my mom to bake those brownies you like. The ones with the chocolate chips.”

“Double score. I’m coming for sure.”

She smiled, walking towards her house. “See you later, Hunt.”

“See ya, Kenn.”

Kennedy paused in the doorway to catch a glimpse of Hunter disappearing inside his house. Not such a horrible friend at all, she thought. Days like today reminded her that not so very long ago, she had thought moving into this house had been the worst thing that could have ever happened to her. It felt nice to be proven wrong.





Three





Kennedy ate breakfast at the kitchen table, half-heartedly watching the news on the morning of Reagan’s birthday. The search for the twelfth preoccupied the headlines as usual. Seemed no one could escape keeper news these days. She didn’t bother flipping to cartoons. The channel had nothing to do with her inability to focus.

Out in the living room, Reagan’s chatty friend Hannah gossiped about school and boys while braiding Reagan’s hair. They were both excited about taking Lady Liberty out to sea.

As for Kennedy…not so much.

Knots of frustration churned in her stomach. It felt so wrong. Why didn’t anyone else seem to feel it too?

She stopped crunching her cheerios and pushed the bowl aside. Reagan’s voice chirped from the living room, sounding lighthearted…carefree. Every tiny inflection grated on Kennedy’s nerves; every innocent giggle clawed at her insides. She felt the urge to stampede over there, grab her sister by the collar, and demand to know why she was acting like such an insensitive brat.

She did no such stampeding though. Outbursts weren’t really her thing, for one. And for another, it wouldn’t have done any good. For all of Reagan’s book smarts, she could be as dense as a cow, and stubborn besides. There was nothing anyone could do to change Reagan’s mind once she’d made it up.

Kennedy frowned into her orange juice. The wave of self-pity was cut short when a dozen or so flying cheerios ricocheted off of her face and arms. She’d closed her eyes just in time.

Her baby brother tittered and banged the top of his high chair with his small fists. Distraction, thy name was Lincoln Mitchell.

“Thanks, little man,” she said, picking cheerios out of her hair and smiling. “I needed that.”

The metal hinges on the front door creaked as it swung open. “I’m home!” Ashley shouted. Grocery bags filled one of her hands, and a clear bag full of what looked like water was in the other. Was that a…fish?

“And I brought a goldfish!”

Reagan and Hannah, both wearing matching French braids, pranced into the kitchen, giggling like they weren’t about to board the very boat that killed Kennedy’s father.

“One of my patients, Mrs. Calvert, sent it for you,” Ashley said, handing Reagan the bag.

Reagan held it up, watching its passenger swim to and fro. “She sent me a goldfish?”

Ashley set the groceries down. “Mrs. Calvert has Alzheimer’s. I told you about her, remember? Anyway, she thought you were turning eight, not eighteen. Isn’t that funny?”

“Um…yeah, if you say so, Mom.”

Ashley pulled out a glass bowl from the cabinet. “Anyway, I figured my little Linky-poo would appreciate the gift even if you didn’t. Here, put him into this, Rea.”

Reagan held the bag at arm’s length as she poured it into the bowl. Any kind of pet that didn’t have fur grossed her out. She shoved it onto Lincoln’s high chair. He oohed and aahed adorably, mesmerized by his new pet. “Look, mommy. Fishy!”

“That’s right. It’s a fishy,” she cooed.

Something on TV caught Reagan’s attention. “Volume, up.”

Kennedy looked to see what was so interesting. It just looked like more coverage on the keepers. Pictures of the eleven known keepers scrolled across the screen as the anchor talked about each of them.

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