• Meg Sechrest

Sirens - Preview


PROLOGUE


“Run! Just run as fast as you can and don’t look back,” Olivia said to herself when she heard the emergency sirens. Without hesitation, as the sirens blared, she ran out the front door and across the field to the hay barn where the emergency shelter was. As Olivia Jane Prescott ran, she looked back at the house she never wanted to see again in all her life without regret and using all her strength to move her thin legs as fast as she could through the winds, keeping a close eye on the howling funnel which was quickly approaching. Tears welled her eyes and soaked her cheeks enough for the salt to burn her skin and when she had cried long enough, she could taste the salt as it pooled onto her lips—a familiar taste from harsh memories of her past—and she looked to the sky as it hailed down on her, hoping to wash not only the tears that were pouring from her pale blue eyes but also the past that she never wanted to think of again.

“Letting them die isn’t the same as killing them,” she convinced herself as she slammed the storm cellar closed and locked herself inside alone a place she was certainly used to being, and she listened to the twister abolish every memory—bad more than good—and take away all she was running from. She tucked herself into the corner and buried her head into her knees and watched the rickety old doors bang and shake violently above her as the twister blew by, knowing that what was surely an EF-5 and what was predicted as the harshest tornado this town had seen in years would leave nothing standing.

“They did this to themselves,” she whispered as the sound of the whirring cyclone was surely right over her. Scared more than she’d ever been in her life, Olivia turned to face the wall and shut her eyes, praying for it all to end.

Hours later, a voice called to her from outside the cellar door and knocked. “Olivia, you can come out now. The storm’s over.”

Olivia wiped her tears and took a big breath, ready to face whatever would come of what was left behind. She opened the cellar doors and saw the local preacher, Mr. Easton standing there with his hand stretched out to take hers.

“How did you manage to make it here?” Mr. Easton asked.

“I had to survive. Mama and Daddy were sleepin’,” she said and looked around herself at the debris and the rubble of the destroyed homes. “I just ran as fast as I could without thinkin’.”

Mr. Easton’s face saddened as he knelt down in front of the 21-year-old and he delivered what he felt was devastating news for Olivia but what was actually bittersweet news.

“Olivia, your parents were discovered in the house wreckage. I’m sorry, but they did not survive. We haven’t located your older brother.”

In her mind, all she could think was Letting them die was not the same as killing them…

Two years before…

Mrs. Easton knocked on the door of 19-year-old Olivia Prescott’s bedroom, trying to wake her for her last year of classes at the local community college. Trying to get Olivia to motivated in school had been very difficult for the Eastons, but getting her out of the Prescott’s house was their first victory.

“Olivia, dear, as long as you are in this house, you will live by our rules, which means attending school,” Mrs. Easton said through the door as Olivia sat up in her bed and wiped her hands over her face, dreading another long day of school and then work.

When will life be any different than this? Living with a preacher and his wife? Worse than my abusive parents, maybe.

“I’m awake,” she hollered and flopped her legs over the side of the bed.

Another soft knock followed and Olivia rolled her eyes before she stood and stretched, finally opening the door to see Mrs. Easton standing there.

“Good morning, dear. Mr. Easton and I will be away picking up our son and all his things from college today. Feel free to come and go as you please. I left a lasagna in the fridge that you can pop in the oven for supper. Bake it at 375 for about 45 minutes. Okay?”

Olivia only stared at Mrs. Easton for a moment before she said, “Isn’t he graduating soon?” But in her mind, Olivia was remembering how hot she thought the Easton’s son Daniel was.

“Yes. He just graduated from law school and will be getting his own practice upon his return. We are very proud.”

“You should be.”

“You will be okay here alone?”

Olivia nodded. “I will make it to school just fine and I can walk to work from there.”

Mrs. Easton turned around and moved to exit Olivia’s room when Olivia mumbled, “I managed before you when I had parents that beat me, a mother who shot up heroin in front of me since I was a baby, and a father who raped me, didn’t I?”

“What?” Mrs. Easton asked glanced back just before she shut the bedroom door.

“Nothing. I was just saying I might stop by and see my brother today.”

Olivia’s comment stirred frustration in Mrs. Easton and without looking at Olivia she replied, “No. I do not think that is a wise decision.”

“Why not?”

Mrs. Easton faced Olivia where she was now standing at her closet, browsing what to wear. “Because your brother is a terrible influence on any young woman, especially one who’s been through what you have.”

Olivia peeked her head around the closet door to say, “Why is that? Because he doesn’t go to church and sleeps around?”

“You know that isn’t what I meant, but yes, that too.”

Olivia went back to browsing clothes as she said, “Then what did you mean?”

“Because he is a crack addict.”

“People could be worse,” Olivia replied under her breath with a raise of her eyebrows as she tossed her choice of clothing onto her bed and motioned for Mrs. Easton to leave.

Mrs. Easton let out a heavy sigh and closed the door, but hollered from the hallway. “I will not tolerate this behavior from you despite how much Mr. Easton insists you need leniency!”

With a drastic roll of her eyes, Olivia lifted her night shirt over her head and slipped into the shirt and jeans she was going to wear, then she picked up her cell phone, sending a text to her brother Jeremy.

Liv: I’m coming by later. Be in good standing because the Eastons already think you’re a crack addict, which you are but that’s beside the point. I can’t lose my place here because I don’t have anywhere else to go until I get out of school. I can’t go back to live with them, Jer. I just can’t. I’ll see you at like 3ish.

A few minutes later, Jeremy texted back.

Jer: I’m not a crack addict. I just enjoy an alternative lifestyle. Don’t worry, Liv. You won’t go back there. I promise.

Olivia shook her head at the text, knowing exactly the behavior that transpired from her brother, and she replied,

Liv: Do you work today? I was wondering where to come.

Once she was dressed in her usuals—skinny jeans, graphic tee, long flannel, and her sneakers— she threw her long blond hair into a ponytail and called herself ready for the day.

Her brother texted back and she slipped her phone out of her canvas cross-body bag to reply.

Jer: I work 5 hours at the restaurant and 3 hours at the gym. I’ll be at the restaurant when you get done with school if you want to come by for some food. Jeanie is manager today, so you’re good.

Olivia replied right away before she tucked her phone back into her bag and left the house for school.

Liv: oh, thank god it’s not that creep! Harry is such a perv! I can’t stand when he is at the restaurant. You really need a new job, Jer.

She peeked her head into the hallway to make sure the coast was clear of the Eastons, and then she tossed her bag over her shoulders and hurried down the stairs and out the front door to walk the few blocks downtown to the college.

***

“Get that dog outta here, child! And clean up this goddamn mess you made before I get the belt and show you how!” Mr. Prescott yelled at 12-year-old Olivia as she scurried to catch the dog who’d accidentally escaped her grasp.

“Come with me, Archie, or we’ll both get a beating… or worse…”

“Miss. Prescott?” her professor said as Olivia drooled all over her notebook. “Miss Prescott? Am I interrupting?”

Olivia blinked her eyes and wiped the drool from her mouth with her shirt sleeve as she looked around to the other students who were snickering and she sunk down into her chair, trying to avoid critical eyes.

“No, Professor Hughes. I apologize.”

“In the future, could you leave naps to your own time? Much obliged.”

He turned away and Olivia slipped her phone from her pocket, sending a text to her best friend, Allison.

Liv: Ugh… classes suck today.

Once she sent her text, the guy sitting next to her asked for a pen and she leaned down to get it when he whispered,

“I think his class is boring too. By the way, I was hoping you would walk to Mr. Swirly’s after class. A bunch of us are going to…”

Olivia handed him the pen and said, “Sorry, but I have plans.”

He shrugged and whispered, “Suit yourself.”

Olivia laid her head back down and made a few doodles on her notebook until class was over and thought about the dream she’d had.

I can’t go back there… Jeremy obviously can’t take care of me, but surely the Eastons will tire of me eventually… I can’t… I need a miracle.

After class, Olivia walked the rest of the way across town to where her brother worked as a cook at The Sunrise Restaurant and she frequented against the wishes of her current situation—the Eastons— who felt her brother was not the company she should be keeping. When Olivia was only 17, she was taken out of her parents’ house and placed in foster care. After running away several times, she ran the risk of being placed in a home for girls. When the Eastons found out—being the local preacher and knowing her situation—he felt duty-bound to take her in and let her finish high school in the school she’d grown up in. Now— though she was 19 and old enough to be on her own—the Eastons couldn’t bear to see her out on her own and, ultimately, she had nowhere else to go.

“Order up!” Jeremy hollered as Olivia walked in and took a seat at the bar. “Hey, Liv. Whatcha want to eat?” he said to her as he glanced back over his shoulder and continued cooking orders.

“My usual,” she replied.

“Hey, Olivia! How are you sweetie?” one of the waitresses called out to her as she carried a drink order out to a table. “I’ll be right over to bring you a sweet tea!”

“Hey, Jer?” Olivia said when he dropped a plate of fries and a turkey wrap with lettuce and ranch in front of her.

“What going on, small fry?” the tall and skinny, dark-haired contrast of a brother said to his younger sister. Being only a half-brother, Jeremy had been spared of much of the abuse from his father over the years as he was out of the house long before Olivia's mother was in the picture, and Jeremy looked nothing like Olivia with her fair-hair, fair-complexion, and light-eyes. Contrasting her immensely, Jeremy was tall, broad-shouldered, and tanner in skin color with dark brown hair and brown eyes. Without knowing they were related, no one would ever guess it.

“I need somewhere to go. I’m old enough to live on my own and have been for a year now,” she replied, taking a bite of her fries.

“Hey, Freddie! Cover for me! I have a situation!”

The orange-haired cook standing next to the grill lifted his arm and gave a wave as Jeremy walked out from behind the bar, wiping his hands on his apron, and he took a seat on the stool next to his sister.

“I know it’s tough, but give it time, Liv. You have it good there, mostly, and you don’t really have much of a choice.” Jeremy took a fry off her plate as he watched a tear puddle up in the corner of her eye. “Don’t cry. I wish I was a dependable soul, but you know I’m just not, and it’s not because I don’t love you, kiddo.”

Olivia took a napkin and blotted away the tear as she thought about what to say. She knew her brother didn’t try to be the way he was and even though there was a 19 year age difference between them, it still didn’t make him mature enough to raise her.

“Look, I gotta get back to work. Why don’t you come and hang with me tonight? I get off at the gym at 7.”

She nodded and said, “I skipped out on my job today. Do you have a few bucks?”

“Liv…”

She shrugged.

Jeremy stood and reached into his back pocket, pulling out some cash. “Here’s $40. Stop skipping work. Okay?”

Olivia nodded and took a bite of her food before she stood to leave.

“Hey, Jer?”

“Bye, Olivia!” One of the waitresses hollered as she saw Olivia put on her crossbody bag.

Olivia waved and waited for Jeremy to answer as he hit the bell and hollered, “Order up! Jen! Tell this customer that I couldn’t make their eggs the way they wanted! Sunny side up isn’t allowed by law in restaurants anymore! You should know that!”

“What?” Jen said, walking up and taking the plated from the server window. “What’d you do?”

“You know sunny side up isn’t allowed per the new law. I had to do it over easy. If they don’t like it, send ‘em over. Now take the plate before the food gets cold and they have that to complain about too,” he said and turned to Olivia.

“Way to tell her,” Olivia said with a smirk.

Jeremy didn’t say anything, he just gave her his typical I know something deeper is going on with youlook by narrowing his eyes and pursing his lips, but at her denial, he finally said, “Out with it, Olivia. I know you better than this. Something is going on.”

Sighing and sitting on the stool again, she said, “Fine. I admit it’s a guy.”

“Want me to kill him?”

Her head shot up off her arms. “Jeremy! No!”

As he walked a few feet away and dropped a full basket of fries into some grease as he read a slip of paper and began cursing under his breath, he turned his head back to look at Olivia and said, “C’mon, now, it’s not like you could love this guy. I know it’s just infatuation. Plus, you know I’d have fun and I have the supplies to make it look like an accident.”

She only shook her head, figuring he was very serious.

“Order up!” he hollered a few minutes later as she checked a text.

“It’s not a guy for me. I’m not in love. You should know me better than that. Pft,” she replied and responded to the text from her best friend.

Alli: Can I tell you something petty?"

Liv: Um. Always!

Alli: K. Damon was with that slut again and all I can think is how ugly her janky dye job is and how trashy her clothes are.

Liv: LMAO. Alli, girl, that is pretty petty. You know that? Meanwhile, he really isn’t worth your time.

Olivia looked up to her brother after sending the text and said, “Hey, thanks for the food. I’m out.”

“Bye!” Jeremy hollered and waved as did the orange-haired cook named Freddie next to him.

Jeremy looked to Freddie and said, “Stop that. I know you have the hots for my baby sister.”

He shrugged and said, “Two things… First, she is a hottie. Second, she’s not a baby.”

“Yeah, well, she is a baby to me, so knock it off. I’ll kill you in your sleep.”

Olivia let the front door slam closed behind her and she walked to the end of the block and called an Uber to take her to the other side of town to Allison’s house.

​​

SNEAK PEEK


Olivia trudged down the stairs the next morning still in her pajamas, forgetting that the Eastons had picked up their son from his university, and she sauntered around the kitchen without a care in the world, as usual, making her breakfast until a voice from the corner interrupted her humming.

“Do you always sing to yourself like that when you make coffee or is this a special performance on my behalf?”

“Ah!” Olivia shrieked and slammed the cabinet closed when she reacted to the unfamiliar voice from the far end of the kitchen.

She looked over and saw a dark-haired young man sitting in the farthest chair away at the kitchen table tucked away in the corner, his face buried behind the morning newspaper.

“I take it from your reaction that a performance on my behalf wasn’t your intention?”

“Excuse me?” she returned, pouring her cup of coffee.

“Your humming.”

She smiled. “A performance is never my intention no matter the audience.”

He lowered the newspaper, revealing his beautiful dark brown eyes as he said, “I’m Daniel. You are?”

She reached into the fridge for creamer and the yogurt and replied without looking at him, “Olivia Jane Prescott.”

A side smirk appeared on his face at her formal introduction of herself and he laid the paper on the table as he watched her make toast and toss fruit into the yogurt as though she hadn’t a care in the world.

Daniel just sat and admired this very pretty and seemingly care-free young woman for a few moments until his mother walked into the room, interrupting his thoughts—which could've probably been construed as inappropriate.

“Good morning, Daniel, Olivia. How are you? Olivia, you got in late?”

Olivia sighed and took her coffee and food over to the table as she fluttered her eyes, blowing out a long, exasperated breath. “Yeah, I was with a friend.”

“Not your brother, I hope.”

Olivia plopped herself down in the chair directly across from Daniel, mumbling something to herself before she answered, “No.”

“Her brother?” Daniel asked, looking up to his mother. “She isn’t allowed to see her own brother?”

“Daniel, I assure you, you don’t understand the situation.”

Daniel looked over to Olivia, gauging her mood as she was being discussed, but all he could see through the one eye that was peeking out from her long hair which had fallen over her face was that she was broken and hurting. He wanted to say something but didn’t know Olivia and hadn’t seen her in probably 8 years since she was just a young girl. Now he was staring at a beautiful… very beautiful young woman not much younger than he.

“Danny?!” Jessie, exclaimed running into the room throwing her arms around him. “I didn’t know you were here!”

“Hi, there,” he said, returning her hug. Jessie sat on his lap, placing her hands on his face. “I got in late last night while you were with Aunt Meg.”

“Are you home for good?” Jessie asked.

He nodded. “Yes, but I won’t be living here for long. I have my own place now and I’ll be moving in there soon.”

A frown appeared on Jessie’s face and she responded, “But you just came back.”

“Yes, and I’m all done with school now so I’m going out on my own. Mom and Dad can’t support me forever, Jess.”

“Just for a little while?”

He shook his head. “Not even for a little while.”

Olivia watched their conversation closely as she ate her yogurt and fruit, but her mind drifted back and forth between thoughts of whether or not Daniel had a girlfriend and to the age gap between the two siblings since Daniel was clearly a decent 25 or 26 and Jessie was a spunky 10-year-old, whom Olivia felt was one of those “oops” babies the Eastons must’ve had without planning when Daniel was in high school. Olivia’s attention was caught by the mention of her name and she moved her eyes to look up at the good-looking young man who had just popped into her life this morning.

“Danny, have you met our pretty and very available new roomie? Isn’t she so pretty?” Jessie said with a cheeky grin.

Olivia blushed deeply as Daniel agreed and said, “Yes, Jessie, I would say that she is very pretty.”

Before Olivia could interject a single word, Jessie continued her mingling.

“Well, that’s every reason you should stay!”

Embarrassed, Olivia stood and walked over to the sink with her dishes, mortified not only for the example Jessie was making of her situation but also of the reality of the fact that here she was at 19 and she was so very single and living with a preacher and his family.

Daniel glanced up at Olivia’s reddening face, noticing her changing demeanor and he said to his younger sister, “While I do find Miss Olivia Jane Prescott to be humbling pleasing to the eyes, I do not currently know her opinion of me; therefore, I take my leave…” and he stood from the table and walked out of the room before Jessie could do any more damage to the situation.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Olivia, washed her dish as Jessie poured herself a bowl of cereal.

“That’s my brother, Daniel,” Jessie said as Olivia put her dish on the rack. “He’s 25. Do you think he’s cute?”

“Jessie…” Olivia said, patting Jessie on the shoulder. “It’s not appropriate to think of him that way.”

“But why not? Danny thinks you are very pretty.”

“Oh?”

“Mmmhm. You heard him say so. Didn’t you?” Jessie said, nodding, her teeth on wide display.

“I’m sure he was just being kind.”

“Nu uh!” Jessie protested.

Olivia knelt down in front of the freckle-faced child and said, “Look, Jessie, while I do think your brother is as handsome as they come, I’m sure that it is not his intention to come home and fall in love with the girl who lives with your parents. Now eat your breakfast and get yourself ready.”


© 2020 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved.

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 © Meg Sechrest 2020

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