Marked. Part I: The missing Link

By: J.M.Sevilla

“I'm fine!” I throw my hands up in frustration, “I'm tired of everyone thinking I'm going to have a mental breakdown at any second.”

“No need to get snippy,” my mom huffs, resuming her cooking.

“Sorry. Can I help with anything?”

“Sure,” she walks over to the counter by the sink. “Can you please...” She trails off, frowning when something out the window catches her eye. She squints and leans over the sink to get a better view. “Oh, my. Taco Bell? On Christmas?” Her frown deepens and her eyebrows knit together in worriment.

“What?” I ask, coming closer to see out the window, scanning all around our quiet cul-de-sac.

“The new neighbor across the street came home with Taco Bell in his hand,” she breathes out, covering her mouth like this is the worst thing to ever happen on Christmas.


“So, it's Christmas. No one should be alone on Christmas. Go over there and invite him over.” She starts pushing me out of the kitchen, “Hurry, before he starts eating that garbage.”

“We had that garbage two nights ago,” I point out, firmly planting my feet to the floor.

“Well the other night wasn't Christmas. Now go!” She commands.

“We don't even know the guy,” I whine in protest. Knocking on a complete stranger's door to invite him over to share a holiday meal with my family does not sound like fun to me.

“Know who?” My thirteen year old brother, Seth, inquires, munching on a big bag of chips, placing his ever present skateboard on the kitchen wall.

Mom grabs the chips from his hand, “We'll be eating soon.”

He snatches the bag back, “I'm hungry. We won't be eating for another hour and I finished off the rest of the appetizers.”

My stepbrother, Cody, who is a year older than Seth, comes in and drops his board next to Seth's and reaches his hand inside the chip bag.

It disgusts me how much my brothers can eat and not have an ounce of fat on them. If I ate a whole bag of chips my skin would break out, I'd gain five pounds, and I'd be bloated until New Year's. It's not fair.

“Go, Lily,” Mom nudges me.

“Go where?” Cody asks, shoveling a fistful of crumbs into his mouth.

“I want her to invite the new neighbor over to share Christmas dinner with us. He's all alone in that house. He never has anyone over. I'm sure he's lonely.”

“Or a murdering psychopath,” Seth cuts in. “Have you seen him, Mom? That dude scares the crap out of me.”

Cody vigorously nods his head in agreement.

She puts her hands on her hips and gives Seth the disapproving frown all moms seem to master, “I doubt he's killed anyone. I've talked to you about this. Being a loner with a few eye scars doesn't make him evil. You watch too many movies.”

I love it when parents blame the media, though in my brother's case it's probably true. His overactive brain feeds into everything he watches.

Seth shrugs, “Whatever. It's Lily's death, not mine.” He drops the empty bag into the trash and wipes his stained fingers on his shirt (the same one he's worn for the past three days). My mom and I cringe. At least Cody has learned to change his clothes daily and take frequent showers. I keep hoping my brother will learn, but I don't think that will happen until girls are more important than his skateboard, and that's not going to happen any time soon.

“What makes you think he's a murderer?” I can't believe I'm encouraging him, but curiosity got the best of me.

He wiggles his brows, smirking, “You'll see.”

“Be careful, Lily.” Cody of course has to join in; the two feed off each other. If they didn't have separate mothers I might think they were once conjoined twins. “Finn Jenkins' older brother said he pulled a switchblade on a man during a bar fight, chopped off two of his fingers, then made him eat 'em!”

“Yeah,” Seth can't help but add in his own story; he lives for this kind of stuff, “The bartender told Finn's brother that the owner of the place and him got in a yelling match, and he stabbed a pencil through his hand!” Didn't I see that in a movie?

“Ignore them.” Mom takes hold of my shoulders from behind and leads me to the door, “Now go before he eats and uses that as an excuse.”

A quick shove and I find myself standing on our front porch with the door slamming shut behind me. I reluctantly make the journey across the street, growing more nervous with every step I take. I wish I can say it's from having to knock on a complete stranger's door and ask him over for dinner, but the sad truth is I let my brothers freak me out a little. I've never met the guy nor have I seen him in the past eight months he's lived there, so I have no idea what I'm in for.

At least his house appears normal. Or is normal bad when you're dealing with a potential murderer? Wouldn't they want to blend in? I shake my head, frustrated at myself for listening to my brothers. I'm twenty-two years old and I'm letting my newly-teenage brother get inside my head. The same brother (Seth) who tried convincing my mom his teacher was part of the CIA and gave hard tests to try and recruit future members. My brother informed us that he was on to his plan and refused to be a “puppet in the government's twisted experiments.” He purposely remained at a constant C-average to keep them from knowing the true genius he was. That was a good reminder why I shouldn't listen to a word he said; his overactive imagination was always coming up with crazy stories.