Psychic Amanda Ryder was born on a Friday… the 13th of February. She was born with the ability to see, hear, and sense things around her no one else could. Only her pious family never believed her innocence…
She hadn’t expected anything special. She certainly knew better than to look for gifts or a cake. No one ever marked the anniversary of her entry into this world. Such celebrations smacked of paganism and were an affront to God—just ask her father.
But to her surprise, she’d discovered a stranger seated at the kitchen table. Along with her brother, her mother, and… her father. Amanda had stood in silence at the foot of the stairs, frozen in confusion.
“Good morning, sissy,” her father addressed her.
Amanda knew a greeting should sound more welcoming. Her still-sore stomach clenched. “Good morning.”
An unusually large pile of food lay on the table. Nervously, she slid into her seat. She knew better than to serve herself any of the breakfast—it was clearly not intended for her, but rather for the benefit of their guest. She swallowed anxiously as her older brother, Phillip Jr., shoveled toast and sausage down his gullet, taking advantage of the uncommon bounty rather than questioning it, despite the warning glares from their parents.
“Today is your birthday, is it not?” her father asked her.
Even Phillip Jr. paused his gorging in stunned silence. A crumb fell from the corner of his mouth onto the table.
“Yes, sir,” Amanda replied, carefully controlling a spike of fear that threatened to affect her voice.
“And you are now eighteen years of age?”
“I am.” She averted her eyes in what her father chose to interpret as a sign of respect rather than loathing.
“I thought so,” he said. “Amanda, you will be pleased to know your presence at school is no longer required.”
“What!?” Her head jerked up, and she insolently searched her father’s face, praying she’d misheard. Regrettably, she was unable to master her shocked disappointment more quickly.
Phillip Ryder Senior did not have an especially expressive face. His features were taciturn; his grey eyes generally cold. Amanda was a practiced reader of his expressions, however, and saw far more than the stranger at the table did. Her little outburst—which he construed as a threat to his authority—would surely cost her something later.
“You are finished with school,” he said, carefully enunciating every word as if she were mentally defective. Each one was a dagger twisting in her gut.
Amanda scanned the room and noticed her book bag was nowhere to be seen. Her father must’ve hidden if not outright destroyed it while she’d slept last night.
Without any warning, he cut her off from the real world—which was drowning in sin, as he frequently asserted. Instead, he lashed her to the slave ship his house had become. Any chance of normalcy had just been scuttled; without even a high school diploma, she’d have no hope of escape, unfit for anything but ignorant breeding of more mindless, subjugated witnesses to his version of the truth.
“I’d’a thought most kids your age would be glad not to go to school no more,” the stranger chuckled. But the unfamiliar man’s awkward attempt at levity was unappreciated and largely ignored by the family seated around him.
Against her better judgment, Amanda risked speaking the truth. “B-but… I like school.”
Phillip Senior’s eyes narrowed. The gesture was barely noticeable, but Amanda recognized it for the glaring scowl it represented. “I am your father, girl. And I will not be questioned.”
Amanda’s dulled stare expressed a sublimated fury of her own. “Yes, sir.”
He shook his head minutely in angry warning, then took a sip of steaming coffee. “And now, we’ll see to purifying your immortal soul.”
She glanced at the stranger, understanding finally settling on her mind. Other kids her age got presents of clothes, concert tickets, or video games for their birthdays. One boy in her class had even received a car on his sixteenth. But it was in that moment she realized her gift was to be yet another exorcism.