Sample Chapters from The Triplets

Chapter 1 - Tyler

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Tyler Martin holds a book open between the fingers of his right hand as his feet crunch across the gravel. Tall picket fences loom on either side, shielding the houses and their occupants from view of the alley. The pages of the book are rough and worn under the pads of his fingers. He’s walking home today so he can read. There would have been too much noise on the bus, and right now he needs to lose himself in someone else’s life. 

The reason is tucked just inside the cover of the book. A note—a slip of lined paper, the inky silhouettes of words bleeding through it’s envelope. He found it on the top shelf of his locker this afternoon, just beneath the ribbed slats that let in the air. He recognized the handwriting before he could open the letter, so he hadn’t dared to read it. 

Even now, the sickly sweet mix of anxiety and anticipation tugs at him, dragging his mind out of the book and back to the here and now. He tries to swallow it down—pushing it behind Hamlet’s cold detachment and the pleading of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. But the book can only do so much. His eyes glide over the words without taking them in, his thoughts drifting back to the note.

Mr. Lee gave Tyler this book. In fact, Mr. Lee gave Tyler an entire collection of Shakespeare plays. But Hamlet has always been Tyler’s favorite, the one book he tucks under his pillow every night because he can’t sleep unless it’s there. The others are gone—stolen, lost, and burned—but Hamlet remains. 

The note is the first he’s heard from Mr. Lee in seven years. Before he left, he was the only real friend Tyler had ever had. The note—now tucked carefully into the inside cover of Hamlet—isn’t welcome, not anymore. 

Tyler’s fingertips scrape across the cover as the book is pulled from his grasp. 

“Well, well, well,” Rick Andrews snaps the book shut and claps the cover against the palm of his hand, “What have we here?” The syllables drip like poison from his mouth, past the smirk decorating his stupid face. 

Tyler’s feet are stuck to the ground. He doesn’t dare look away from the book. Andrews could take it, throw it, stomp on it—Tyler can’t let that happen. “Give it back, Andrews,” he snarls. 

“Oh-ho!” Andrews crows, glancing over at his pack of friends just behind him, “Tough guy, huh? That’s funny,” he looks up at the sky, scratches the side of his head, “Wasn’t it just last week I found something of yours?” He looks at the book and then back up at Tyler, frowning, “Was it this book, Zack?”

“Yeah, you know, I think it was.”

“Yeah, that’s right. I tried to return it, didn’t I? And what does he—” Andrews sticks his grubby, disgusting finger into Tyler’s face “—do when I try to give it back?”

“He tried to punch you, didn’t he?”

Andrews smirks again, waving his hand with the book around like the stupid lunatic he is. The others laugh. 

“Though,” Andrews says with a frown, once his cronies stop laughing, “It’s not like it would have hurt much, since you’re a talking twig.” Try for something original, Andrews. You used that one last week. His friends laugh again, like a gaggle of incompetent hyenas eager to please the lion so he’ll leave them a scrap or two. Tyler doesn’t care. Andrews will throw the book over the fence and into one of the yards if Tyler isn’t careful. The book—and the note.

A new kind of panic seizes Tyler’s buzzing veins. He’s going to lose the letter. Or, even worse, Andrews might read it. 

Andrews and his friends are talking, laughing again. The bully’s face is turned to the side. Tyler lunges forward, reaching for it. Andrews jerks it out of the way and a fist collides with Tyler’s jaw. 

He staggers backwards, cupping the side of his face. Laughter echoes around him, pounding through his skull. The book. Where’s the book? 

There—dangling in the loose grip of Andrews’ right hand. Tyler lunges. Andrews grabs his wrist, and purely on instinct, Tyler swings his other hand at Andrews’ face. Andrews lifts his arm up to block the blow, and Tyler’s open palm collides with a smack just below Andrews’ elbow. 

A scream rips through the air as Andrews stumbles backwards, the book tumbling from his fingers to hit the ground with a quiet thud. Tyler lurches toward it, but doesn’t pick it up. Why did Andrews cry out like that? Tyler couldn’t have hit him that hard, could he?

He looks up. Andrews is standing a few yards away, flanked by his posse, cradling his arm against his chest. 

“What did you do, you freak!” he yells. Andrews’ gaze is fixed on Tyler’s hands. Tyler looks down, and jumps backwards, stretching his arms out as far away from the rest of him as possible. Thick, ruby-red tendrils snake out from the centers of his palms to the tips of his fingers. Smoke drifts up from the red lines and dissipates into the cold October air. As Tyler watches, his palms burst into flame. 

He jerks backwards, feet scrabbling for purchase against the loose gravel, but loses his footing and falls onto his back. He rolls sideways and scrambles to his feet, losing sight of his hands for a second. When he looks at them again, they’re not red. Breath escapes his lips in gasping puffs, mixing with the smoke still drifting out of his palms. But there’s no more fire. 

Andrews and his posse are gone. Tyler grabs the book and stuffs it inside of his jacket, out of the wind and away from grasping hands. His knees are shaking so hard he can barely stand. He swallows, trying to disperse the panic crawling up his throat. 

He turns around and sprints down the alley.