Title: 13 Tales of Horror edited by T Pines
Summary: Can you face your worst nightmare? These thirteen horror stories guarantee to chill you to the bone. Read about the mysterious Black Walker and discover his grim secret. Shiver in fevered anticipation as Mark enters the House of Horrors, perhaps for the last time… And uncover the truth of the murder who leaves a message on his victim’s computers before he leaps in for the kill. Each take draws you further into a web of horror exquisitely woven by thirteen master storytellers. Prepare to be terrified!
Tagline: No tagline.
Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.
I’ve never read this before, and we’ve never recapped a short story collection. I guess each story will be its own mini-recap, plus its own counter totals and final thoughts. I’m splitting these into a couple different posts, though, because in just the first three stories, I was already approaching 6000 words. No way do I want to subject you guys to 50k of snark in one post.
If the editor’s introduction is anything to go by, we are in for a world of pain.
We are, shall we say, thrilled to “death” that you’ve decided to join us on this trip into darkness. Ask any vampire, it’s so much easier to see once your eyes have become adjusted to the dark, and we have so much to show you….
This anthology is a compilation of the best horror writers of the young-adult thriller genre. With the overall success of horror novels and “thrillers,” it was just a matter of time before this book became a reality.
What we have here is true horror: everyday occurrences gone awry. The supernatural is frightening, what with ghosts, zombies, witches, and ghouls. But when you discover that your best friend has a nasty habit of doing away with the people he or she no longer likes – that is horror.
We read horror because we like to be frightened. It is a way to delve into other people’s fears and feelings, knowing all the while that if it gets too scary we can always close the book. But what happens when we can’t close the book? That is horror.
The authors who have contributed to this anthology have mastered the art of conveying horror through the written word. In Christopher Pike’s “Collect Call,” the going rate is a little too costly – it will make you think twice before accepting the charges. Patricia Windsor’s “A Little Taste of Death” is a compelling tale explaining why your parents told you never to take sweets from strangers. R. L. Stine spins a story of a self-defeated young man who decides to let his hypnotic gate help erase his problems… but it gets a little out of hand. Similarly, Ellen Emerson White tells of an average girl in a quiet New England town, neither of which are what they appear to be.
So sit back and relax. Don’t worry, that creaking noise you hear is only the house settling, and that soft fluttering noise is nothing more than the turning of the pages of this book. And those footsteps…
Everything is going to hurt, and nothing will be good. Deep breath, grab your alcohol, and let’s do this. This is, of course, the second part. First part can be found here.
Blood Kiss by D. E. Athkins
We’re immediately dumped into the middle of a conversation between three friends, so this is a good time for a ROLL CALL:
Delia: She’s the emphatic one who is loud and always shares her opinions.
Valerie: She’s the one who looks frail and waif-like, but isn’t.
Elizabeth: She’s the narrator. She hates her name, because her parents named her Elizabeth along with hundreds of other kids from her generation (this is subtle), and none of the nicknames she can think of actually make her distinctive. [Dove: This is my real-life burden, there are several names that are overused in our generation, and my real name is one of them. I feel for her.] [Wing: Yeah, there are rarely people who share my name, and when they do, they spell it with a different first letter. But I know a good couple dozen Samanthas and Elizabeths and Sara(h)s.]
They’re talking about the new boy, Ken, and Elizabeth is super judgmental about his name, mocking Barbie and Ken and saying he pretty much does look like a Ken doll come to life, gorgeous and pale, carved, rugged, but somehow delicate features, perfect black hair – Edward Cullen, is that you?
There are rumors about Ken, because he looks like a living doll and has “an air” about him. He wears dark glasses and long coats that appear to be from another century, hats – what “a rocker might wear on stage.” I don’t think those descriptions really work together. [Dove: Think Slash from Guns N’ Roses, not JayKay from Jamiroquai.] [Wing: Yeah, no. Slash is awesome, and does not dress like a wanna-be Victorian gentleman.]
Apparently, Ken plays to the rumors, and Elizabeth thinks it should make him look phony, but it really doesn’t. “Little, plain, pale Elizabeth Smith had fallen in love.” Oh dear god, this is in first person and Elizabeth is our narrator. I can’t handle many more descriptions like that.
Elizabeth claims she is attracted to him, drawn to him, drowning in love for him, and there is nothing she can do with it– no, really, Edward Cullen? Is that you?
She likes the way he chooses to stand out when Elizabeth spends her whole life trying to be normal. This is not subtle. She also likes that he is fearless about what he is (or at least what he’d like to be) when everyone else “moused along, hating whatever was different without thinking, afraid of their own shadows.” That description is not terrible.
Finally we get to the rumors, which is that he’s a vampire. Valerie believes it, Delia doesn’t, and Elizabeth mocks it. Delia points out that if he were a real live vampire, it would be life-threatening, because he would drink their blood and kill them. Valerie finds that gross, but also points out that Delia is apparently an expert in vampires now. Elizabeth decides this means that Valerie thinks of Delia as her competition, along with every other girl in school.
Because. Again. Girls have to fight over guys, even if they’re friends, AMIRITE? [Dove: Obv. You and I would never be friends if I fell for Mr Wing. … I feel weird even typing that.] [Wing: It would be hilarious, the Giant and the Dwarf. I mean, fight, fight, fight.]
Elizabeth doesn’t want Valerie to know she’s in love with Ken, because Elizabeth doesn’t think she can compete, she doesn’t quite fit in, she’s always on the outside, looking in, saying things that are a little off, trying things that are a little uncool, and everyone thinks she’s just average. Bella Swan, is that you?
Elizabeth gets in a little jab about hanging out at the library and where else would the girls who aren’t cheerleaders and class presidents hang out, as if girls who are those things can’t like the library too.
She spends a great deal of time reading about vampires, even though she has a weak stomach, because love makes her strong. All the legends about vampires being afraid of garlic and dying if stakes are driven through their hearts and frying in the cruel, cruel sunrise are pretty gruesome, Elizabeth thinks. Stupid but gruesome. (This is not subtle.)
Elizabeth can’t stop thinking about Ken, even doodling his name on her notebooks. This details is so true for the time the story was published. I like it. Ken, meanwhile, dates Liz (the cheerleader Elizabeth), Louise Murao (apparently one of the most-beautiful-most-popular people), Delia (she immediately latches onto him after he and Louise break up), and Valerie.
Along the way, Elizabeth, Valerie, and Delia notice the following things:
+ He can’t be a vampire because he goes out into the daylight. (Val suggests that he can because he’s very young, and Elizabeth looks at her with new respect. Not subtle.)
+ Liz starts wearing turtlenecks while dating him.
+ When Louise uses a compact mirror to check her “perfect face,” Ken jumps out of the way, as if his reflection won’t show.
+ After they break up, Delia shows up at school wearing a big scarf tied around her neck, but she blames it on a hickey and says the rumors aren’t true.
While Ken and Delia date, Elizabeth lets Colin Harper take her to a horror movie, and thinks she’s going to throw up because it was so crude, all spurting blood and ripping flesh and vampires turning into bats.
Elizabeth thinks a lot about vampires, still, and how a vampire might make a new vampire (more than one bite vs the right kind of bite, the “vampire’s kiss” theory she calls it) and then how vampires might kiss each other, how they managed their teeth. This is cute, but not subtle.
Val starts wearing a scarf and a turtleneck as soon as she and Ken are dating, but she doesn’t look pale, she looks rosy, glowing, positively full of life – or life’s blood. Oh, Elizabeth, so dramatic. Ken starts to look paler and paler, and seems to recoil a bit when she gets close to him.
Elizabeth sneaks Val a pizza loaded with garlic, and she devours it all.
Val and Ken break up over Thanksgiving, and Val comes back to their group but won’t talk about Ken or whether or not he is a vampire.
So Elizabeth takes matters into her own hands, and introduces herself as “Elizabeth. Not Liz. Not Beth. Just Elizabeth.” Ken seems to like that, because he asks her out. She doesn’t let him meet her parents, and instead of her usual pastels, she wears a low-cut black dress she’s borrowed from her mother.
They go watch a horror movie, and this time Elizabeth plays along, screams and buries her face in his shirt, lets him hold her. She imagines kissing him, holds his hand tight, and goes up to the Point with him where “everyone of every generation has gone parking since the town was founded.” This is a nice detail, and fairly subtle. [Dove: I’ve read this a couple of times, and I’ve never noticed that one before. I like it.] [Wing: Yeah, I quite like all the details in this story. And I’ve just realized that while this doesn’t really work for me as a Point Horror short story, I don’t actually dislike it as a story itself.]
Elizabeth flat out asks if he’s a vampire, and he bites her throat, but it is just the blunt bite of human teeth. She then confronts him about whether he was playing with the other girls, and apparently they loved the thrill of dating someone they thought was a vampire, but got angry when he was himself. He mocks Elizabeth, but she says she knows the truth and loves him all the more for it, will love him forever.
Finally, she says he really is a vampire, and his eyes burn red. In return, her own eyes flamed red with “joy and promise and relief and hope for the future.”
She puts her mouth to his throat, cuts him a little accidentally, but he welcomes her bite, and she is overwhelmed by the blood. When she’s done, he smiles, pulls her close, and she tells him to “gimme a kiss,” which really seems out of place as dialog from her.
This is not terrible, but it is really cheesy. The pacing at the end seems weird. I really enjoyed the subtle and not-so-subtle hints all throughout the story that she’s a vampire, but I think this really nice bit of worldbuilding is lost by the end dialog and Ken’s rant. There were also way too many names flung at us in such a short amount of story.
[Dove: This tends to happen with PH writers, when they’re good, they’re awesome, but when they’re getting towards the end, it turns to word soup. I will say, this is probably one of Athkins’ better efforts, since I can never get through her books. I just get bored and walk off.]
[Wing: Maybe she’s better able to keep people interested in a shorter amount of space.]
Not really necessary.
A Little Taste of Death by Patricia Windsor
Our protagonist, Louey (that seems like such a weird spelling) is staying with her Gran in a small town, or at least it’s small compared to Atlanta where she normally lives. Apparently Gran is very formal; they eat breakfast in the dining room with linen cloth napkins that have silver holders, and she makes Louey neatly fold the newspaper after she’s finished reading it.
Louey is a little weird herself. She reads the funeral notices in the classified section first, and the lost and found pets. Very uplifting reading, Louey. I can’t imagine why you aren’t enjoying yourself.
On the day the story begins, Louey reads a personal ad that says: Remember the lollipop? The man in the white hat? Call [local number] immediately. It could save your life.
Well that’s certainly not a creepy pedophiliac reference or anything.
Reading the ad upsets Louey so much that for the first time, she can’t finish reading the ad. She thinks it must have been more than ten years ago when it happened, and wonders if there’s some kind of poison that took ten years to work, or maybe some sort of cancer recall.
Louey is spending the summer with her Gran even though she hates the small town because her parents are on some sort of anniversary vacation. A month long anniversary vacation? Well then.
Parents? What parents?: 1 (They’re in fucking Europe. They’re always in fucking Europe.)
There’s nothing for Louey to do but sit in the garden drinking sodas and reading books from the library. That sounds like a delightful vacation, shut up, Louey. She doesn’t even have chores, because Gran has hired help.
Finally, Louey gives in and calls the number from the ad, which she has already memorized. A man answers the phone and asks how old she is; she hesitates, then tells him fifteen. He says that’s about right and asks if she’s had any symptoms, but won’t give her any details when she wants to know what kind of symptoms. Instead, he tells her there is a meeting and gives her the address.
He also says that when she ate the lollipop, she ate death.
… okay then.
Louey hangs up on him, but can’t stop thinking about the meeting. When Thursday night rolls around, Gran is going out for ladies club night (I’m definitely picturing Gran living it up at the bar, doing body shots and dirty dancing, though I’m pretty sure this is meant to be more of a genteel country club thing), and she doesn’t want to leave Louey home alone. So where has Louey gone every other Thursday night this summer? Louey snaps at Gran, and then feels bad about it, but not bad enough to apologize.
Once Gran leaves, Louey is full of energy, and she decides to walk over to where the meeting is taking place, just to see. The address takes Louey to “the border of what Gran would call the unrefined section of town. Across the street, the houses were already squatter, the gardens less tended, a hint of backyard junk in the air.”
Well fuck you too, you snobby asses.
Louey meets a boy outside who also at the lollipop and is there for the meeting, and without really trying, he talks her into going inside. Most of the people are around Louey’s age. One of the older guys is in charge, and introduces himself as James. He’s the one Louey talked to on the phone. He makes everyone introduce themselves to Louey and the new guy, Bobby Lee, but it’s basically just a list of names, so I’m not going to bother with them.
James then says they want to tell Louey and Bobby Lee about their experiences, and share support, because they’ve all been called. Louey doesn’t like that word; she decides if it’s going to be some kind of revival meeting, with chest beating and hymns, she’s leaving. Instead, they start telling personal things about bad feelings they have, nasty things they’ve done, and Louey doesn’t like it. She also tells them she doesn’t have any similar stories. One of them asks how she got her lollipop.
Louey doesn’t really remember. She was on the train with her Mama, and after Mama dozed off, a man came up the aisle, wearing a big white hat, and handed Louey a big red lollipop. Mama woke up and told Louey not to eat it. Louey, at the time, knew about not taking candy from strangers, but it was all wrapped up and it was a brand she recognized. She’s, like, five, isn’t she? Do five year olds really pay attention to brands? Mama tells her to get rid of it, but she’s nervous, like she’s worried about being seen getting rid of it. Louey does, but retrieves it and hides it in her jacket once Mama falls asleep again, and then later, while visiting relatives, she tastes it.
Louey stops telling the story at that point, embarrassed, and turns to Bobby Lee. He doesn’t seem nearly as worried about sharing, and tells a similar story. James then tells them that everyone at the meeting at their lollipop too, and now they’ve been called and they are going through the change. He says Louey and Bobby Lee might not feel it yet, but they will, and they shouldn’t be afraid when they do.
One of the girls tells Louey that coming to the meetings makes it easier to bear, takes the edge of the evil, and one of the guys says it helps not to bottle up all the guilt inside.
They talk about wanting to make it stop, someone else says they can’t fight it, another asks if they should just give up and die. Their skin is pale, their eyes feverish, and one of the girls says they are already half dead.
Bobby Lee says that the only way out may be death, and he’s been thinking about it a lot, and thinks they should all kill themselves now, before it gets worse. It’s the only thing they can do by their own free will.
Louey can’t bring herself to leave, but does ask them to explain exactly what is supposed to be happening to her, what changes she should expect. Everyone else ignores her; they’re too busy talking about Bobby Lee’s suggestion, about how they should take charge of their destiny, get it over with, about how dying will get them someplace, will give them peace.
Then they start planning their deaths.
Louey is finally able to run away. She has a little freak out when she’s a few blocks away, but shakes it off. A little black and white dog comes up to her, one of the lost dogs she remembers reading about. Its paw is injured, and it’s all sweet and tail waggy and friendly, until she shoves him away. Clearly, this is supposed to show us that Louey is going evil. Louey also has a nasty thought about Gran dying when Gran comes home and goes to bed. Louey stays up late, feeling weird, and then finally goes to bed.
When Louey wakes the next morning, she feels as if she’s had a very bad dream, or done something she should be ashamed of, but she can’t quite remember what it was. Gran tells her something terrible has happened, and there’s a mess in the living room, but we don’t actually get to see it. Instead, we only hear about how it smells, cloying and sickly sweet, with an unmentionable undercurrent.
If Louey killed the goddamn dog, I am going to burn everything.
Louey says she didn’t see anything, she went to bed at the normal time, which is a lie. Gran says she slept soundly, didn’t even wake up when the police came by. Louey asks if anything was stolen, but no, only the mess was left. Louey notices that Gran is looking older, more fragile, and ugly, and she wants to give her a shove.
Later, Louey goes for a walk back toward the house, and finds out that a man killed himself, slit his throat in the tub.
Louey continues to read the newspaper, focusing on the funeral notices, and, sure enough, the others start showing up, sudden and unexpected deaths. Sudden and unexpected as a razor slicing across their throat, Louey thinks. She rages at Gran, thinks that she might be in love with Bobby Lee, and I’m doing a double take.
You … you think you might be in love with Bobby Lee? You only said three words to him! He absolutely freaked you out at the meeting with all his talk about suicide. WTF. This is messed up even for Point Horror.
He’s the killer! He’s the killer! He’s … my LOVAH!: 1 (The protagonist has spent 200 pages convinced he’s the bad guy, but now we’ve found the real killer, they’re going to start a relationship. Uh-huh.)
Louey keeps reading about the people at the meeting dying, keeps dreaming about Bobby Lee. She rages a lot, fights with Gran, and I’m really hoping she’ll die soon. In the dreams, they fight, and she wants to kiss him, and he tells her to kill things.
After one nasty dream, there’s a dog boiling in a pot on the stove. What the ever loving hell? Fuck this story, fuck these characters, and fuck Patricia Windsor.
Cheer on the killer: 1 billion (Because the protagonist is such an insufferable wretch that you can’t help but side with anyone who wants him or her dead.)
Bobby Lee turns up at the door then, and he’s both Bobby Lee, the boy she “loves” and the man on the train. He tells her she’s the last one, he has all the others. Louey tells him she’s not going, because she “just remembered” that she only got one good lick of the lollipop before Mama caught her and stopped her. But she never ate the lollipop, so she doesn’t have to go with him, because she only had a little taste of death.
Fuck everything about this story and its animal abuse and it’s ridiculously rushed ending.
[Dove: Didn’t comment in the story, but I agree that Louey is hateful, even before she “displays symptoms”. Something that creeps me out is the fact that, at the beginning, I made the same connection as Wing, that this was a metaphor for child molestation. However, if you keep hold of that theory throughout the story, it takes you to the unfortunate conclusion that if you’re molested, you are now in the cycle and it’s best to kill yourself before you molest someone. I’m certain that’s not the author’s intent, but that’s the part that stuck with me after reading this.
Also, since the storytelling is so vague, you never really get the sense that Louey is actually “showing symptoms”, it comes across more that she’s just being a bitchy teenager, and the others are under a group delusion. There was too much tell and not enough show, as far as I’m concerned. I just didn’t buy into anything other than Louey’s just a snotty cow.]
[Wing: I agree, that child abuse metaphor is probably intentional but the author didn’t follow it through to its conclusion, i.e., cycle of abuse, better off dead. Even if you ignore the metaphor level, though, the worldbuilding starts to fall flat; if Bobby Lee can tell that they are ready to change because they ate the lollipop, wouldn’t he also be able to tell that she didn’t eat it? Why would one lick cause such big, terrible changes in her — she boiled a fucking dog, and there’s at least the presumption that she killed something in the living room — but then at the same time let her choose to be ‘normal’ and alive at the end? I think she’s just a budding serial killer, but the author pulled back from that at the end.]
Cheer on the killer: 1 billion
He’s the killer! He’s the killer! He’s … my LOVAH!: 1
Parents? What parents?: 1
The Doll by Carol Ellis
Okay, Carol Ellis wrote one of my favorite books, Camp Fear, and I hope her story can turn this around, because so far, this set is terrible. [Dove: This is the story that the front cover of April Fools always makes me think of. It’s why I started recapping April Fools with a lot more hope than I finished with.]
[Wing: You know, that makes perfect sense.]
We open with an unnamed man out walking along the base of a rocky cliff. He sees something that has been dumped over the cliff, but he can’t get it open because his fingers are too cold and numb. He tries to warm them up, and plans to try again.
Flash back three months, and this is one of my least favorite storytelling choices. So far, Ellis is letting me down. Anyway, sixteen-year-old Abby, her mother, Deanna, and her ten-year-old sister Lindsay have just moved into their new house, which is actually a very old house. Deanna and Abby like the house, but Lindsay does not, though they try to talk it up to her.
Abby may like the house, but she’s not happy to have moved away from their old neighborhood. Still, from the first time she saw the new house, she felt like it was reaching for her, and she couldn’t wait to move in.
At dinner their first night, Deanna makes a list of chores to do around the house. Immediately Abby volunteers to clean out the attic, even though normally she hates small, stuffy, closed spaces like that (she’s claustrophobic, though they don’t actually use that word). But she feels like the attic is pulling her to it.
Deanna leaves for work the next morning, and Abby gets started in the oppressive heat of the attic while outside Lindsay starts to build a treehouse. That seems not really like a chore, but whatever. Abby feels like something is waiting for her in the attic, which is strangely full of crap. Do people really leave all sorts of stuff behind when they move? I have moved a lot over the past decade, and I’ve never willingly left stuff behind. [Dove: Depends on the size of the house, maybe? I know that mum and I got halfway up the M1 before we realised that we’d left stuff in a shed — nothing important, just the kind of stuff that accumulates in sheds. We didn’t feel bad, because the new buyers were developers and were going to knock down the house anyway.] [Wing: … nope, I still don’t buy it. How in the world did you forget to go through the shed? (Yes, I realize I may be a tad bit obsessive about checking to make sure everything is empty.)]
Abby doesn’t so much “clean the attic” as “frantically search it for something unknown.” After more than an hour, she finds a rectangular wooden box with a tarnished brass catch. Inside the box is a doll. Well, considering the title of this story, I am absolutely shocked, I tell you. Shocked.
The description of the doll is pretty great, though:
Bedded on white satin that had yellowed with age, the doll lay like a small dead child. Its shiny black hair was piled high on its head, and its dress of lilac satin looked like something a woman would have worn a hundred years ago. The skirt was long and full, the waist was tight, and the high neck and long sleeves were edged with lace.
The dark-lashed eyes in the china face were as blue as the sky, as blue as Abby’s, and they were wide open.
The staring, sky-blue eyes seemed aware, alive, and filled with an emotion so powerful that Abby gasped.
For a moment, she thought she saw hatred in those eyes.
Abby finally does some cleaning in the attic, and then takes the doll downstairs and gives it a place of honor on a shelf in her bedroom. Lindsay is unimpressed and thinks the doll is so old it’s disgusting.
When school starts a week later, Abby starts having eerie dreams, strange little scenes that filled her with dread, and when she woke up, she started to feel like the face looking back at her in the mirror was an Abby she’d never known, an Abby who dreamed of danger but couldn’t stop it.
The first victim is Erin, one of Abby’s friends. Erin spends the night at Abby’s at the end of the first week of school, and they talk about boys. Erin is creeped out by the doll’s staring eyes, and asks if she can turn it around.
That night, Abby dreams of a small, pale hand in the hall, and she wakes to a scream. Erin fell down the stairs. She says she tripped, but there is nothing at the top of the stairs; Abby doesn’t quite remember her dream. Erin isn’t badly hurt, but she is still freaked out by the staring doll, which is looking out at the room again. It’s not until the next day after Erin leaves that Abby remembers the weird dream.
About a week later, Abby, Erin, and their friend Holly study in Abby’s room. Holly, too, is freaked out by the staring doll, so they move down to the kitchen. The stained glass lamp that hangs above the table falls down and crashes onto Holly’s head. Holly’s cut up, but not permanently injured. Abby can’t help take care of her, because she’s caught up remembering a dream of the lamp, spinning fast, and that delicate white hand again. She dreamt it the night before.
Abby tries to stay awake, tries to stop dreaming, but she keeps sleeping and her dreams keep getting worse, until Deanna calls her outside to help, because the treehouse is on fire. The treehouse where Lindsay is sleeping. Lindsay lives, but Abby is freaked out, because she dreamed of it, the slender white hand tearing a match from a matchbook.
About a week after that (why is everything a week apart?), the boy Abby likes asks her out. She dreams of the hands, but also the entire figure, small, in shadow, walking down the road, laughing, giggling, and then the sound of a car crash.
Abby’s date never shows up, because he crashed driving home from a friend’s house, and he died in the hospital. He swerved to avoid a little girl. Abby starts to hear the childlike giggling even while she’s awake.
Abby locks the doll back into the beautiful wooden box she found in the attic, a box that looks like a coffin, and throws it over the edge of the cliff, relieved that she will never have to dream of those white hands again.
Of course, that brings us back to the man who finally gets the box open and decides he’ll give the doll to his daughter for Christmas. Because yes, things that have been flung off cliffs make excellent gifts and aren’t, perhaps, filled with bugs or drugs or murderous intent.
Not terrible, but compared to the rest of the stories in this set, an absolute joy to read. I find the pacing a little bit off (it was weird that things were falling about a week apart every time for no apparently reason), but I like the way the tension builds around Abby, and love the creepiness of the dreams, which at first she thinks are warnings, but are really much more sinister.
[Dove: And who doesn’t love a creepy doll story? Does anyone even collect dolls now, given how prone to hauntings they are?]
[Wing: Unfortunately, tons of people collect dolls, and then want you to ooh and aah over their collection. No one enjoys it when I point out how creepy and horror-movie their collections are.]
I didn’t actually find a place for a counter, I was enjoying the story that much. A parent is around. Friends are actually friends. I liked Abby quite a bit. I suppose this counts as a win for Ellis.