Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Madness of Crows: Part One

LET ME TELL YOU A SECRET, said the girl named Tess Rocquelette, and, with a whisper, nine-year-old Annie Weaver was initiated into a world of spirits and madness.

Repeating the name Atenoux, Annie lifted her gaze to the stuffed birds that seemed to glide through the red parlor. Tess's grandfather had hunted the hawks and doves, the owls and wrens, made their corpses trophies in the house where Annie had escaped many humid afternoons. Tess had been born in this house, with a twin brother, a bean-shaped afterthought wrapped around his tiny sister. He hadn't lived past his first breath.
    When Annie turned eleven, she and her family moved from New Orleans, to the town of Fair Hollow, New York. And it was in Fair Hollow that Annie's older sister was murdered by a thing called the crooked dog.
    When Annie turned sixteen, and was much wiser to the invisible world, Tess Rocquelette moved to Fair Hollow with her aunt, a playwright who wanted to be closer to New York City.
    When Annie came to visit, it was as if five years had never separated her and Tess. Tess's aunt had rented the upstairs of a majestic mansion that had been converted into apartments, their spacious home scattered with purple and black furniture from thriftshops and an aquarium of angelfish dividing the kitchen from the parlor. A large painting hung on one ebony wall. Annie was drawn to it.
    "The boy who painted it was named Vine." Tess's hair was still a sable fall. She wore a dark cotton dress and red Doc Martens. She'd always been graceful and pretty, even when they were little.
    Annie's jeans and her T-shirt, with its decal of a skull, seemed at odds with her golden freckles, the white-blonde hair which fell to her shoulders and into her eyes. She never felt pretty. "Who's Vine?"
    "It doesn't matter. He left me. I'm so sorry about Angyll, Annie. I never thought she'd do...that."
    Annie couldn't speak. Her sister's murder had been bewitched into looking like a suicide. But Annie knew the truth.
    Tess came to stand beside her and gaze at the painting. She murmured, "Vine was strong."


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