Hi folks, Fiona here. This week it’s my turn to share an excerpt from my Young Adult work-in-progress. The working title is the Yokai Hunter Series: Book 1. You can read the blurb here.
“What the hell happened to your face?”
Leighton swiped the customer’s membership card through the scanner and bit down a retort that would get her fired. Or worse.
“I’m in a role play club. Today was my turn to be the annoying customer. Every time I asked a stupid question, I’d get whacked in the head with a stick. It’s sooo much fun, you should totally try it sometime.” She gave him her sweetest grin. The customer narrowed his eyes at her, frowning as he assessed whether she was mocking him. Leighton was still smirking at his confusion when the bell above the door signalled his departure.
Leighton snatched one of the lollipops off the counter, gave a guilty look around before popping one in her mouth. She realised she did look a mess. She really had been beaten around the head with a stick but telling it as truth to a complete stranger was likely to have her removed from Ari’s custody by child services. ‘Oh this? My dad beat me around the head for a bit but it’s fine, we were training how to fight demons.’ Right. That would go down well with precisely nobody.
Leighton had been learning karate since she was four. Ari had insisted she spent every Saturday morning at training while other girls her age wore tutus and dressed like princesses. Had that impacted on who she was now? Leighton didn’t know but she liked to think she was who she was regardless of the parenting choices Ari had made. Or maybe those choices was why she was who she was.
Leighton shook off the thought and stretched her calves out. The DVD store was always quiet for the early Saturday afternoon shifts. It picked up at around five as people prepared for their night in at home. She probably could have called in sick but she felt great. Well, maybe a bit achy where she had been too slow to avoid Ari’s swipes with the Bo stick. But she had impressed him. Ari thought she would be slower since she’d stopped regular training at the start of senior year. She’d even managed to land several blows herself. Leighton’s lip twitched when she thought of the slight limp Ari had ended the session with.
Learning to be Kakurenbo with Ari was one of the best things that had ever happened to her. She felt sharper, surer of herself and of her purpose. She wasn’t just some weird teen anymore, she was a hunter. Her duty was to protect her family, her friends, heck, everybody in the town. They would all be (unknowingly) looking to her to keep them safe. And she could. Leighton would train and be the best Kakurenbo ever seen.
Her cell phone buzzed in her bag stashed away under the counter. She rummaged through it, the bell above the door chiming as she checked her message.
How are you feeling? Sore?
She smiled at her father’s concern.
Feeling buzzed. Did you want me to bring crutches home for you?
Twenty seconds later Ari’s response rang through.
Leighton chuckled to herself.
“Excuse me? Do you have any Jim Carey classics?” The latest customer’s voice rang out from the stacks towards the rear of the store.
“Try comedy in the family section,” Leighton suggested.
A minute or so later the female customer, aged somewhere in her early twenties approached the counter. Leighton froze.
“I realise that’s a complete oxymoron, you know? Jim Carey classics? But I’m hosting a movie marathon night at a sorority I’m trying to join and this is what I was instructed to get.” The woman opened her mouth to smile at her. Then her tongue extended out and divided into three.
Leighton swallowed and silently screamed at her body to move – to do something, anything except stare at the demon hiring out a DVD in front of her.
“Huh,” Leighton managed to choke out. “Yeah. I think his movies suck.” Concentrating on her hand she forced it to go through the motions of collecting the disk and scanning it out.
The demon in front of her blinked. Sideways.
What should she do? What could she do? Should she jump the counter and restrain the demon or tell her that she has three dollars owing on her account? Her training had only started that morning and yet here was a Yokai, standing in front of her, talking with her, and Leighton had no idea whatsoever of how to respond. There was no phoning Ari for help this time.
“Enjoy the movie and here’s a coupon for your next visit.” Leighton pushed the disk and slip of paper across the counter.
“Thanks, hon. Bye.” The demon left the store.
Leighton looked at her trembling hands. Adrenaline coursed through her. Her heart pushed against her chest. She had been face to face with the very creature she had spent all morning preparing to kill and she had handed it a buy-one-get-one-free voucher for next time.