One day you were nineteen, staying up until three in the morning, dancing and kissing strangers, and the next day you rolled out of bed and your back hurt and your knees ached at thirty and you had three kids who all looked like you and liked to talk back, just like you.
At least that's what my dad always told me when I complained about my youth.
"Don't squander your youth, Micha," he'd warn me with a shake of his head, "It goes by so fast."
I didn't believe him then, and I didn't believe him now at sixteen when we move across the country to chase something dad called prime real estate and buy a run-down house that looked like something out of The Conjuring. The house itself was twenty minutes away from civilization and sat outside of a town called Pittsfield, which was the perfect name because it was the pits.
"They have the highest population of cows," My brother James Byron Dean comments, his nose buried in a tattered Pittsfield Field Guide as he sits beside my father in the front seat. His name really was James Dean, but it wasn't after the actor, it was after my grandpa's Dean's company, James Dean Real Estate, which my dad was currently salivating over.
"Great," I mutter, "I'll give it a week before we're milking cows and line-dancing with the locals."
"Cheer up, Micha!" Dad pipes from the driver's seat, "This is a great opportunity for us to expand our horizons! A new school, new friends! You and James Dean are going to fit right in."
"So, when are we moving again?" James Dean interrupts him, and he looks over at our dad and wrinkles his nose, "This is like the millionth house we've moved to in three months. You keep fixing them and selling them to random people."
"I'm selling them to make money so we can buy a bigger and better house," Dad protests, his hands lifting off the steering wheel a little, "Besides, you need to learn to trust your old man's desicions. Pine Cove has tons of houses for me to sell to potential buyers."
I roll my eyes and pop in my earbuds to block out their conversation with some Frank Sinatra, a classic called I Love You Baby, which was perfect, because I hated everyone right now.
We pass through the town of Pine Cove, which reminded me of those small towns only seen on Postcards that nobody actually visited except to buy fudge and junky souveniers before tossing them in a drawer to be forgotten.
Our house sat twenty minutes from town on top of a hill, a large, eerie looking mansion that should have had bats flying from the towers and vampires crawling out of the shadows. How my dad had managed to snag such a gem was beyond me. The place was literally falling apart.
I turn my music off as soon as we pull through the rusted gates and up the gravel driveway. Weeds poked up through the cracks everywhere and the grass in the garden was high enough to come up to my knees. The house itself was made of sturdy wood and brick, but even driving up to the place I could tell it was already a money pit.
James Dean and dad get out of the car and I reluctantly follow, eyeing the mansion and then the surrounding woods. "So, where do they keep the dead bodies?" I question, sarcasm lacing my voice. "This place looks like Freddy Kreguer's wet dream."
"Micha!" Dad scolds me, and I roll my eyes and glance towards the wild woods in the distance.
"I'm gonna go check out the woods," I announce casually, "Maybe I'll find a corpse somewhere and solve a fifty year old murder mystery."
"Stay away from ticks!" James Dean shouts, "I don't want to be picking them off you in the bathtub tonight!"
I shoot him the middle finger and vanish into the woods, blasting some Green Day as I walk. It wasn't fall yet, but the ground was already covered in red and yellow leaves, and the air was chilly.
I find a rock to sit on after a while and wonder what my friends were doing back home. Football practice would be starting soon, the guys were probably training by now and busting their asses to get back into shape before the next season came.
It was funny how my whole life had been about that—playing football and hanging with the guys.
I'm so into my thoughts that I don't notice the boy standing there watching me until I hear a twig snap and suddenly, he's there, exploding out of the woods.
I scream, tumble backwards off the rock, and land face down in the mud.
"Hello!" The boy chirps, and he thrusts a hand out towards me, "I'm Asa! You must be my new neighbor!"
Neighbor? We had neighbors?