Authors: Lila Veen
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any
person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely
coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously.
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status
and trademark owners of all songs and artists mentioned in this work of
For information concerning the cover art please visit Paul
Beeley’s website at
Published by Lila Veen
To everyone who said I could do this, encouraged me to keep
going, and who wrote or recommended a book that made me want to write the book
that people wouldn’t be able to put down.
This book wouldn’t be possible with so many people who read
it prior to publication and gave me advice, support, and encouragement.
Susan, the bitch who read it first. I love you, you whore.
Karen, Melissa, April, Valerie, Jaime, Joanna. Thanks for
being my guinea pigs and giving me your thoughts.
Tez, you get your own. Thanks for hosting one of the
original places that I ever publically shared my writing. I’ve known you for
longer than I’ve known my husband and most of my friends, despite the fact that
we’ve never met in person, but thanks for being my “literary” friend and
sharing what you know with me. I was sincerely concerned when your email got
hacked and someone told me you were dead. I also was confused as to why you
wrote me into your will, but let’s not go there.
Paul Beeley, who designed this gorgeous cover. I’m so
honored to have worked with such a creative genius.
Charlie, who always tells me I’m awesome, even when I’m not,
and who will tolerate the mood swings, drama, craziness and mess that is me.
He never says no, never doubts me, and never tells me something can’t be done.
I love you, you whore.
Demon and Yaya, the smartest damn kids I’ve ever met who are
an endless source of humor and smiles. I love you, you little shits.
To my readers and reviewers, you are what make me get up in
the morning and immediately check for new reviews and comments. I love hearing
from you and I hope none of you are offended when I admit I stalk you
regularly. Thank you for your enthusiasm and honesty.
Please know that Burning For You is the beginning of this
family saga. Leah’s story, as well as several additional characters, will
continue in Drowning In You, which will be released sometime later in 2013.
Home in the city
Home isn’t pretty
Ain’t no home for
Blue Oyster Cult, “Burning
Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a
thing for the villain. While my sister paraded around the house in our
mother’s high heels and dresses, I was begging my mother to let me dress as the
Wicked Witch of the West for Halloween. She wouldn’t dare, considering our
small town’s and family’s history of witchcraft. Even though the history of
burning witches and trials dates back centuries ago, the people of Blackwater,
Michigan are still as superstitious as ever in present day. Never mind about
that whole thing they call science and freedom of religion, you can’t ignore
I get off the highway and find
myself driving through the entrance to my hometown. I pass by the water tower
and then the word “Blackwater” written out with trimmed, stout boxwoods on lush
green lawn. Nothing ever really changes here. There do look to be some new
restaurants on Center Street, I notice, but they’re using up old buildings, and
I try to mentally place what they may have been when I last drove through here.
I pass by streets named after gemstones, one by one. First Hematite, then
Opal, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond, Agate, Topaz and Amethyst. Everyone
who has ever lived here knows the exact order by heart. There’s even a way to
remember them – “HORSE DATA”. I doubt a single gem mine ever existed here, but
someone had the bright idea to name every East/West street for a precious or
semi-precious stone. I pass by the Moonstone Market, where women in Blackwater
bicker with Joe the butcher over the thickness of lamb chops. If Joe didn’t
die of a heart attack yet – he was three hundred pounds and not all muscle the
last time I saw him. Aries Auto is where I got my first car towed to after I
ran over a parking median and lost my muffler on a slightly intoxicated joyride
with my friend Eleanor. Star Freeze is where I had my first date with Andrew
Laurent, who managed to almost get to third base that night, until I chickened
out and made up a story about my curfew.
I wonder how I ever let things come
to this. When I was seventeen, I made a solemn vow to myself never to come
back to Blackwater when I ran off to Chicago. In fact, I remember screaming
that vow to my mother the day I packed my shit and left. She seemed unfazed,
as usual, and perfectly composed. The only sign that she might have been
affected by my harsh words were raising a manicured hand up to her ear and
covering it just slightly, as though my voice grated on her nerves but any more
pressure might ruin her hair. Everything about me grates on my mother’s
nerves. It’s a gift I have that my sister Heidi never really got the hang of.
While most towns have updated to
the present day, Blackwater looks exactly like how I imagine it did in the 70’s
when my parents met. There are a few chain restaurants and a mall to defy that,
but certainly no superstore where you can get 89 bottles of water for $1.68.
Center Street is the main strip and every place you could possibly shop is
located here. Women opt for local boutiques instead of driving outside of town
to shop at stores that exist in places that aren’t Blackwater. Housewives here
pride themselves on uniqueness, but just end up looking like everyone else who
lives here. The overall effect is incredibly Stepford, since they all buy
their clothes from the same places. Luckily, the schools all opted for
uniforms so that the children growing up here don’t realize that it’s nearly
impossible to express any sort of individuality. The general attitude of those
who’ve lived here forever is “why would anyone want to do that?”.
Subscribing to that conformist
attitude is my sister Heidi, who I am also not looking forward to seeing again,
though to a lesser degree than my mother. It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s
just that we are so ridiculously different and yet we share some DNA. It almost
doesn’t make sense. Don’t think for one second that I haven’t researched the
adoption theory. I tried that one out when I was eleven and unfortunately
didn’t discover anything that would lead me to believe that I’m not related to
these people. It’s horrifying enough to come to terms with that when you’ve just
watched your own birth video, complete with hippie 80’s parents.
Blackwater is a small town and has
every intention of staying that way. Apparently the population is getting
larger, though, since the small high school was packed to the brim when I
attended, oh, let’s say ten years ago. Alright, twelve years ago. I’m
actually twenty nine and I’ve decided I’m going to stay that way next month
when I’m supposed to hit my dirty thirties. My mother was twenty eight for the
first eight years of my life until I smarted up and figured out that couldn’t
possibly be true. Plus, I finally saw her driver’s license when she got it
back in the mail after getting it suspended for crashing into nine inanimate
objects in a sixty day period. She has this exceptional ability to drive
without looking at the road. She manages to not kill anyone but the mailboxes aren’t
My cat Carlton lets out a deep meow
which lets me know he’s bored. The first hour of the trip was spent with him
pissed off at me for putting him inside of his carrier and he let me know it by
howling. The second hour the howling slowed down and was less adamant. By
hour three I think he’d resorted to napping, and we stopped at a rest stop and
I let him wander around in the grass for a bit, which made him happy. Then he
started howling all over again when I scooped him back into his carrier and put
him back on the front seat, but I got smart and blasted some loud rock music to
drown him out. He’s a giant orange striped cat with a head that looks kitten
sized and a body that looks overweight toddler sized, with one ear that never
really likes to stand on its own. He’s only four years old and he went from
the tiniest kitten ever to a monster in a year and a half. Last time the vet
weighed him he was twenty eight pounds, and was put on a diet. The diet did
nothing except drain my wallet and make Carlton more vocal, and he’s already
vocal enough. I had to upgrade from the carrier I took him home in when he was
a kitten to a dog sized one. This is his first time outside since I brought
him home from the shelter I found him in, and he’s less than thrilled.
I roll down the windows and
immediately regret it. The crisp fall air is not exactly conducive to my
asthma and I begin to cough. I dig in my purse for my inhaler and take a puff
and shake my head. Even the air is out to get me here, I swear. I’m grateful
I got my prescriptions refilled before quitting my job, packing my bags and leaving
Chicago. I’ll have to find a new allergist out here, I suppose. Coincidentally,
I pass by Blackwater Memorial Hospital while I’m pondering my own health. I’m
hoping not to have to be dragged there too soon because I currently have no
insurance. At least I’m still in my twenties and have an excuse to be
irresponsible. Well, barely in my twenties. I have to stop thinking about
these things before I hyperventilate and need to use more of my inhaler. I
can’t be wasting puffs.
The “Worst Traffic Light in the World”
comes into view. I slow down to a stop behind a stream of cars in the left
hand turn lane to turn on to Emerald. It’s 5:17 pm which means people are
trying to get home from work and I’m right in the middle of the chaos. For some
reason the light on Center and Emerald has this annoying little habit of making
you think you will make the left turn and then changing to red just as it’s
your turn to go. The assholes in front of me have apparently never learned
that a green arrow should indicate “move it or lose it” and not, “let’s check
my hair in the mirror and sit here pissing off the person behind me”. I’m
guessing no one has bothered to make the light last longer since I was last in
town, sitting forever at this light. A quick glance up tells me that the
Blackwater police have installed one of those fancy cameras that take a picture
of you as you’re running a red light, which is nearly every time I cruise
through this intersection. It doesn’t really make sense since Center and Emerald
is right by the police station, so who would want to run a red light? I mean
other than me. I watch the left turn arrow on the traffic signal turn from
green to yellow and I press my foot down on the gas as hard as I can. I decide
to simultaneously flash my teeth in a wicked smile and extend my middle finger
out toward the windshield. Enjoy that picture, Blackwater Police Department! Then,
for my grand finale, I slam into the bumper of the car in front of me in the
middle of the intersection.
“Fuck!” I try and shout, except I’m
muffled by my airbag and the awful smell of gunpowder that comes with it. Carlton
howls at me. I feel my lungs constricting and fumble for my inhaler, which has
spilled out of my purse that was sitting on my passenger seat and onto the
floor. Getting out of your car after a crash with an inhaler in your mouth is
almost like showing up to your court date wearing a neck brace, isn’t it?
Except that I just ran an almost red light, flipped off the police and rear
ended someone, so I’m pretty sure justice is not about to be in my favor.
Double fuck. I try and decide whether it’s better to get out of the car and
assess the damage or to just stay where I am and try and turn invisible. I see
the car in front of me put its hazards on and drives carefully over to the
right lane on Emerald and so I put my hazards on and follow and park behind it.