"Percy – Perce, listen up – this is Shane. He's our new friend."

Bella scoots over so Percy can get in the backseat. He waves to his friends and climbs in reluctantly. His reluctance to be near Bella scares me; most eleven year old boys don't have a problem with being squished up against pretty girls, or at least they shouldn't.

"Hey," Shane turns to Percy and waves, flipping his eyelashes incessantly. Perce frowns.

"Is he gay?" he asks frankly.

"Shut up you twiggy little dweeb!" Emily snaps, reaching across in the backseat to slap him upside the head.

"Thanks for giving me a ride," Shane mumbles while we drive to his place. "I can't believe you guys are so accepting." He's been saying this a lot for the last few days, and I honestly have no clue why. Emily seems to understand but as far as I'm concerned, Derek is the only one we'd be unwilling to accept.

Bella must be thinking along the same lines because she crosses her arms and frowns.

She and Derek didn't hit it off too well.

"He is a dirtbag," she said simply. "I cannot believe the nerve of some people."

Judging by the ruffled way she looked at the end of their second day as a thrown-together 'item' I can tell that Derek is either very grabby, or she's been rolling on the ground to mess up her appearance.

"We're nice people," Emily says to Shane, snatching me from my thoughts. "We love differences. Accept them, y'know? Nobody deserves to be rejected. Or discriminated on how they look. How they act, either, hmm? Can't control impulse. We understand, Shane."

Shane grins while Emily pats him on the shoulder. He touches her hand gingerly.

"I wish we could stay forever," he whispers emotionally.

"Me, too."

Emily gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze when I stop in front of what I think is his house.

"This is it, right?" I ask.

"Yep. I'd invite you, but it's probably a mess. I mean, jeez, Derek and Vilmer never ever clean up."

"Can we meet this Vilmer character?" Emily asks coyly.

Shane starts to rattle off an excuse on why today probably isn't the best day while I look at the house. It's a simple two story place with an attic, it seems. Darker than most other houses on the block, though. The thing that catches my eye is the Hummer in the driveway. Beside that is a Cadillac Escalade, and, unless I'm mistaken, a Rolls Royce. To finish off the line of brilliance, they have a shoddy Toyota with two bad paint jobs on the lawn.

"C'mon, Shane, please."

He groans before nodding and getting from the car.

"Wait a sec," he calls while going up the walkway. I turn to Emily, Bella and my brother when he goes inside.

"What's he always talking about us accepting them for?" I ask curiously.

"Most neighborhoods don't accept families with two mentally challenged kids," Bella grumbles nastily. I frown while she pushes Percy out so she can come and sit in the front seat, something that infuriates Emily, who thinks she's entitled to shotgun.

The front door opens and Shane comes out with three guys behind him; it's immediately obvious who's who, solely based on the descriptions we've been given in the three days that Shane and the Wellington's have been here.

Drew, described as being 'slow' by Mary and 'retarded' by Derek, lumbers behind his brothers with a silly grin on his face and a too-tight Hawaii shirt on. His muscles outweigh his legs and I can tell that he'd be easy to knock down, as he's very top heavy. His hair is, like Shane's dark brown, probably black, and curly enough to pass as being handsome were it not for the aloof expression he's wearing.

Derek is leading his slow brother with that same haughty look on his face and a slightly off-putting air. He's playing with his mouth, a habit I see a lot of during Physics, and puts on a satisfied grin when he sees us. I swear, he's always in between looking bothered, smug or insane. But, like Bella easily spotted, the sociopathic aspect of Derek is easy to ignore and he can easily become eye candy. He already has.

Lastly, aside from the fat and obviously gay Shane, is a tall boy with strawberry blonde hair and sharp eyes. He has a friendly look on his face and boyishness playing on his lips, which aren't too different from Mary's – baby doll-ish. When Vilmer sees us he waves politely.

"Oh, fuck, it's an Abercrombie model," Emily whispers despondently.

"Right down my alley," Bella breathes. "Hello!" she waves out the window brightly. "Hey! Hey, hey, hey – hey!"

The boy, Vilmer, steps in front of the window and grins handsomely.

"Hey," he says. God, his voice is beautiful. "I've heard about you all."

"And us, you," Bella says, again with her bedroom eyes and husky voice, tongue in teeth.

"What kinds of things have you heard?"

"Only things as handsome as you are," Bella says breathlessly. Emily rolls her eyes while Derek puts his face next to Percy's window. When Percy sees, he immediately shrieks but catches himself.

"How nice of you," Vilmer says smoothly. His brother is crossing his eyes and scaring the mess out of Percy.

"Do you need someone to show you around town? I can do it for free," Bella leans out of the window and giggles. Derek is growling and spitting all over the backseat window like a rabid squirrel or something. He barks at Percy, making Percy scream and reach for his sister babyishly.

"Would you like to, hmm? Bella?"

"How'd you know my name?" Bella asks flirtatiously.

"I have my ways."

"Oh, Vilmer, you're so funny!" she whines sycophantically. Derek is still growling and barking at my brother through the glass. What a strange, strange boy. Emily is staring at Derek, too. If he can scare my sister then he must be a real whacko.

"Oh – oh, my brother – this is Drew. Drew," Vilmer steps back and patronizingly shows the hefty boy to us. "These are our friends."

"Hello!" Drew says loudly. He grins to us awkwardly, only using one half of his mouth, and waves with his fingers instead of his hand.

"Hi," we all chorus.

"I'm Drew," Drew says brightly.

"I'm Bella."

"Violet," I say, waving.

"Emily," Emily calls.

Percy stays quiet, still wet and red in his face from Derek's taunting.

"And Derek – you know him," Vilmer says, thumping his redheaded brother on the back. "My closest companion. Always been with me. From when we shared the womb to when we shared a room. Through all the thickest blood and water," he finishes dramatically.

My jaw drops while Vilmer laughs in that loud, glorious laugh.

"My favorite brother, my twin brother."

Holy shit.

"Talk about an evil twin," Bella mutters while we walk to the dining room. "I used to think you and Emily were like a split personality. We just met, like schizophrenia – in human form! Sexy he-man human form," she adds.

Again, she means, 'sexy domineering' form.

"But Vilmer seemed a bit soft next to his brother. You know, Drew – he could work."

Translation: Vilmer didn't seem like the type to beat or molest her. Drew might if she keeps him locked in a cage and feeds him chicken bones for ten years.

My mom and dad are both sitting at the table with Percy, who's hunched over his PSP and has a pair of dorky shades on his forehead that Emily and I bought him at an anime convention.

"…just saying, he shouldn't have that at the dinner table, sweetheart."

"It's fine. Perce," Dad taps Percy on the arm, making him jump and drop his PSP onto his plate with a loud clatter. Our parents wait for him to recover before Dad continues, "You wanna put that away during dinner?"

I sit down across from my brother while he stares at our father incredulously.

"This can't wait," he says promptly.

"Why not?" Mom asks sternly.

"Because Auko Zagumatsi's power-ups only apply to the time that you're playing, and if I turn the machine off now I won't have them next time. I need them to defeat Lord Murato, Mom, jeez."

"Can't you just pause it?" Bella asks lazily, reaching across the table and picking up a couple sweet peas with her bare hands (Mom's about to bust a vein).

"If I pause it for a long time, the game could overheat, smarty pants."

"No, it won't," I say. "Emily and I do it all the time."

"Which is why it randomly deletes my memory," Percy snaps, putting the PSP in his lap and glaring at me as though I've given him the most sick revelation.

"Alright – alright – let's just… let's say grace, sweetheart," my mom says, shushing us and reaching across for our hands.

"What about Emily, though?" I ask.

As if on cue, someone bangs on the door. My mom sighs exasperatedly while my dad gives her a strained smile and stands up to answer the door. Percy thinks he's in the clear and pulls out the PSP, keeping it under the table to play it safe.

We hear a cheerful voice from the door.

"Daddy! Hey! Don't freak out, but –,"

"Who is he?"

"Dad, this is my new boyfriend!"

My dad's voice is quieted. We listen attentively and hear them coming over. First we see Dad, who looks stressed beyond his years, and then Emily, looking her punkiest in a horribly tattered outfit and all her piercings shining. Lastly is a husky boy, obviously someone she met in a… punk, angry person party. He looks like he spends most of his time in a trash can or a piercing parlor.

"Cleveland," Emily says sweetly, rubbing her cheek against his ruddy face. "Meet my family – and Isabella."

He nods to us grimly.

Oh, dear.

Another problem with Emily is her taste in men. The same way Bella is addicted to iron-fisted control freaks, Emily has a thing for older – much older – 'punks' who drink and date younger girls.

I've heard the same five words too many times since Emily went 'punk.'

"But I love him, Daddy!"

My sister has played the role of jailbait too many times if you ask me.

Cleveland eats dinner with us, like many of Emily's previous boyfriends, and is a downright slob. He sits next to Percy and glares at my brother, which my brother returns, now wearing his anime eye-protectors and scowling. Since Cleveland doesn't shut his mouth when he chews, Perce doesn't either (he thinks it looks menacing, I guess) and soon he's got baked chicken falling all over his shirt and grease all over his face.

"Perce," I say finally, ending the subdued silence. "Chew with your mouth closed."

He opens his mouth, exposing all that gross chicken and mashed potatoes before closing it and gulping loudly.

"Hail the dark lord, Xenu!"

"Percy!" Mom snaps. "Don't say those sorts of things! We raised you better than that!"

"Praise him!" Percy shouts.

"Where did he learn about Scientology?" Mom asks our father warily. He shrugs and looks back at Cleveland, who's giving him a stare-down now. A few minutes later Dad is chewing with his mouth open and a scowl on, too.

Talk about outside influence on a family. One bad apple spoils the bunch, I guess.

"This is the town bakery, owned by Mr. Olliver – hi Mr. Olliver!" Emily waves to him excitedly. "He's so nice. He used to give us free cakes."

"Sorta old," Derek mumbles. "Do maggots fall from his sockets often?"

Shane frowns while his brother looks genuinely interested. Emily, Bell and I exchange glances, deciding to ignore this. Amongst other things, we've learned that most of Derek's comments shouldn't be given too much thought.

"Uh… that's the flower shop right there. We don't know the man who owns that, he's a bit private. This is the alley we saw you guys in –," Emily says this casually while I shudder and notice how innocent the alley looks now, when it's not occupied by a cannibal and Derek. Shane looks queasy, but Derek seems completely unbothered. "This is Giovanni's pizza joint, they have the best pepperoni in town. That's Madam Gordosimo, she's the town psychic. Here's our massage house, owned by Mr. Carlisle."

"What do they do there?" Shane asks curiously, looking at the building.

"There? I dunno, I guess they give massages, but my friend said it's like, a brothel, so I never check it –,"

"Not there, here – Madam Gordosimo."

"Oh, she's the town psychic." Emily steps closer to him and whispers, "She's a bit off her rocker, though, so it's – hey! Hey, get here!"

Derek marches up the narrow steps to Madam Gordosimo's.

"Is – Shane, I – what's his major malfunction?" Emily hisses. Shane stutters apologies.

"I knew he was a nutter, I knew it!" Bella squeals. "GRR!" There she goes, being cute again.

Groaning, I go up the stairs behind him because the others are busy bickering over whether or not he's a nutcase who deserves to be drugged and raped by the former town loony, Madam Gordosimo.

After opening the door and being greeted by loud, unnecessary jingling, I feel like someone's sprayed Mace in the room. It's smoky and disturbingly putrid. I try coughing it up and cover my nose, squinting, while waving my other arm around.

"Derek! Derek, c'mon, she's not open – oomph!" My hand is out to my left when I walk straight into his back. "Sorry… excuse me," I add. I fumble to his side and say, muffled by my hand, "Let's beat it. Madam Gordosimo isn't here. And we don't know what that smoke is either."

"Where is the old hag?" he asks me clearly.

"I dunno! Now let's scram!" I cough again and take his arm. "C'mon Derek, even a," I stave off saying nutter, "a – you can't avoid trespassing lawsuits."

A light shines from somewhere that I can't see and illuminates the fog before, like a breath, it all disappears. I can suddenly see clearly. The room is dark because of hanging drapes and velvet. It smells strongly of musk.

"Is she a psychic or a magician?" Derek asks deftly, shaking me off. "Madam Gordosimo," he puts rude emphasis on her name, like a reverent fanatic, "awe me. Show me your mystical gift with prophecies and other bullshit like so, ma'am. For I am dazzled by your incredibleness, oh great Madam Gordosimo."

"Who're you talking to?" I ask him crossly. "She's not here!"

Derek glances at me as though I'm wrong and she's standing right in front of us.

"She is here."

"No, she's not."

"Yes she is."

"No, Derek, she is not."

"Yes I am."

My heart jumps up and I see her – or at least I think it's her – in a pile of shawls, standing to my side.

"Who are you?" Madam Gordosimo asks frankly. She's looking at Derek and me through a pair of dark, shining eyes that are surrounded by eyeliner which reaches her hairline. Her hair is big and brown, held in place by an ugly, zebra print headband. Covering her are shawls, but they're slightly translucent and I think I can see her white, slightly sagging bra underneath.

"I can see your tits," Derek says coolly.

"You get that next door, Ginger."

"Make a prophesy."

"Now? That's not free, honey bunch."

"No prophesying, no money."

"You just left school."

I raise my eyebrows because it's pretty obvious we just left school. We're still in our uniform. Derek puts his hands in his pockets and waits for her.

"You just moved here. You've got a brother who's stabbed you in the neck twenty-eight times. You don't like her," she nods to me, "best friend. You've been dared to eat a tarantula and," she squints for a moment, "you did. I can tell you about your future if you sit down over there and give me my goddamn money."

Derek pulls out twenty dollars from his pocket and a handful of change.

"I'm no whore, sweetie pie, I told you; cheap shit's next door."

Without a second's notice, I get dragged off my feet by Derek, who's looking through my book bag and not bothering to let me take it off. Better yet, he didn't even ask if he could take anything from it.

"No! Derek, that's my allowance! You asshole!"

He hands Madam Gordosimo my twenty dollars and she pushes it into her bra, pleased. Derek turns to the pouf she pointed him to while I cross my arms and fix myself. Gordosimo glances at me and winks, whispering in a husky voice, "I'll ask the spirits about you, too."

How comforting.

I walk over to the tiny, cramped space with a low round table and poufs. There's about three poufs on one side and a much grander one on the opposite. It's obvious who's supposed to sit where.

"Get off my goddamn pouf, boy!"

Derek gets pulled off the pouf by Madam Gordosimo and finally sits down on his own, reluctant but still looking very smug. I sit down next to him, putting a good five inches between us in case he gets cocky with me.

Gordosimo settles herself and takes deep breaths. She breathes in. She breathes out. In. Out. In. Out. She looks at us and goes in. Goes out.

"This ain't yoga, tubsy. Make a prediction or give me my money back," Derek snaps. Gordosimo glares at him and opens her mouth when –


"Guys? What're you doing in here?" Emily pokes her head in and looks around until she sees us all huddled up in that corner. "What's this?"

"They're trying to get the future, kid, so scat or come in and shut up."

Emily turns over her shoulder and calls, "Guys! Yeah, get up here! They're doing it! Yeah! Fersher!" That's Emily's way of saying, 'for sure.' "No – no, not it, they're getting their futures read. Fersher!"

Emily walks in and is soon followed by Shane and Bella, both looking eager. Gordosimo looks agitated, to say the least.

"Well… well, well, well… well, well, well, well, well, well, well," she hums a bit and tells the others to shut up or she'll send them next door.

"M'kay, alrighty," the others mumble, getting comfortable at the side of the table and watching.

"Alright." Madam Gordosimo pulls out a deck of cards and holds them in her hands so that we can't see the face or the back. She shuffles them, still hiding them well behind her shawls while Derek and I wait and the others try their best to get a glimpse of something.

Finally, when she seems to be done, Gordosimo looks at Derek critically before taking a card and meaningfully putting it down.

"Aw, goddamn it, let's get outta here!" he barks. I start to stand up while he does because this is insane.

"What? Where are you going?" Madam Gordosimo watches us incredulously.

"That's a goddamn Pokémon card! You expect me to pay you so you can flip Pokémon cards? Are you outta your motherfucking mind!?" Derek shouts.

"Sit your ass down and let me finish, you punk ass bitch!" Madam Gordosimo shouts, making us all jump. Her voice was so loud and deep that it seems to have even shaken Derek a bit. We both sit back down, but Derek has his arms crossed.

"This here, the Purin –,"

"That's a Jigglypuff," Derek says stiffly.

"It's a Purin! It represents the moon and secrecy. You are here on secret work." She pulls another card out. This time it's a cobra-looking Pokémon with weird symbols. "Abokku," she says dramatically. "Your two extra teeth… those of the snake…." Derek raises his eyebrows, and so do I. I didn't know he had tooth problems. There's a conversation for our awkward Physics classes.

"Next… Piipi –,"

"Ooh," I groan out loud unthinkingly. Madam Gordosimo glares at me while I recover and redden a bit. "Sorry, I loved Clefairy."

"…Piipi, the symbol of happiness."

"So I'll be happy?" Derek asks testily.

"No. It's upside down – see? Which means your happiness won't come easily. And, see," she pulls another card and I recognize this one. "It's a Slowbro. That happiness won't come quick."

"No fancy name?" Derek asks sardonically.

"That is fancy. Slowbro. It's Latin. And Slowbro also means that something will probably bite you in the ass."

Madam Gordosimo pulls out a card that depicts some strange pink Pokémon shaped like a… heart-fish and gasps.

"What's that? Am I gonna die?" Derek sounds almost excited. "Is it messy?"

"No – no, that's a Luvdisc. It's… it means you'll find love soon," she says this in utter disbelief, and judging by the look on Derek's face, he looks disappointed.

"Is there any way to change it?"

"These don't make the future, they show it. The next two cards will show us who and where they are…."

"Is there a Skankomon?"

Madam Gordosimo just glares at him and puts down two cards – a Meowth and a face-down card.

"Nyarth," Gordosimo says carefully, pointing at Meowth. "Something about her is unnatural. It looks normal, but she's really not."

"Like a liar?" Shane breathes. Gordosimo scowls at him, but answers.

"No. Nothing big. Physically feels the same, but it's unnatural. I can't think of an example. Like… having blonde streaks in black hair – naturally, though. But… what else…." She looks around for an example and spots me staring at the cards.

"Ay!" I wave my hand in front of my face when Madam Gordosimo pulls a flashlight out of nowhere and flashes it in my face. "Exactly, here, this is what it's like. Right here. Look at her left eye – see the brown there? That's what I mean."

"How the fuck am I supposed to spot that?" Derek asks crossly.

"I did!"

"I'm color blind."

I stare at him blankly while he watches us both. "Are you serious?" I ask.

"Yeah. I can't see color during the day."


"I dunno. Don't ask me. How come you didn't see that coming?" he asks Gordosimo.

"I'm a psychic, not a doctor. Don't worry, though, maybe the placement will be convenient…," she flips the second card and is quiet. It's a Pikachu. Madam Gordosimo seems to be thinking deeply before looking at us both.

"What's that mean?" Derek asks quickly.

"…I'd rather not say."

"Say it!"

"You won't believe me." Derek clenches his fist unthinkingly and Madam Gordosimo notices, so she sighs and looks at me. "I feel so sorry for you."


"Pikachu – the omen of closeness." Derek and I both wait while Gordosimo stifles a sob. "The closest person to him that fits in the sign of a Nyarth. And soon. A year, tops."

My jaw drops as Derek flips the tarot-Pokémon table and walks away. The other three gasp while I sit there with my mouth open and look at Derek, who's gone to tearing down the hangings and kicking things over, singing loudly.

"I'll be there – with the love that will shelter yooouuuu!" he kicks over a tall statue of a naked man draped in velvet hangings; that tears down half the room, exposing a plain beige wall. "I'll be there – to loooove and comfort yoooouuu!"

"Make him stop! Stop him! Did he just come from the goddamn crazy house?! Get him out, out, OUT!" Madam Gordosimo stands up and gets a cane, probably planning to give Derek a few licks.

"Derek, c'mon – quit! Not cool, man, not cool!" Shane goes over to stop his brother and whine while Emily stands up to watch him, clearly impressed with his wrath. Bella is still sitting and staring at nothing.

"Bell – I – you know I don't like him, he's insane. This is bullshit." She looks at me and puts on an oddly reverent smile.

"You – you! You, my best friend, will be the host of a hybrid vampire! SO COOL! GAH!"

"A hybrid what? What're – listen, Bella, I know she's got some drugs in this smoke, but –,"

"Oh, shit!" someone shouts over me, followed by a scream and one of Derek's glorious howls.

Bella and I both look up and see the frozen scene. Emily has her hand over her mouth while Shane is looking away from his brother, a bit regretfully, while Madam Gordosimo stands in front of Derek. Her hands are soaked with his blood and she's looking down to avoid the slightly drained expressions of anger and surprise on his face. I barely hear Bella screaming while Madam Gordosimo drags the blade in her hand from his shoulder to his neck in a jagged, inexperienced way that openly displays her lack of practice with stabbing and such.

"Get this demon out of here," she demands, kicking Derek onto his back. "Before he messes up my carpet."

Author's Note: I hope they're not being misinterpreted.