Authors: Jesi Lea Ryan
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction
by Jesi Lea Ryan
Copyright © 2012 by Jesi Lea Ryan
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2012
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Jesi Lea Ryan
Cover by Phatpuppy Art
“Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy. The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don't know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more.” — C. JoyBell C.
It felt like ripping… ripping through me, ripping from me. A deafening roar reverberated all around as I lay flat on my back, drowning the shrieks and screams echoing on the river valley walls. My eyes were wide open, unblinking, but all I could see were abstract forms in shades of black, gray and red. A searing burn cut across both of my thighs as if I’d been struck by a flaming hot iron. My flesh melted and bubbled, absorbing the phantom burning metal and shattering my femur bones like glass. Although I was screaming as loud as I could, the sound was distant, like someone screaming under water.
A hub of activity swirled around me, but I had the distinct feeling of being alone… alone in hell. I groped around on the cool soil at my sides, sparse patches of long grass and loose gravel, trying to remember where I was and what had happened to me. The pain prevented any coherent thoughts.
Voices. Panic all around me. Yet I was alone in my hell.
A flash of heat seared through my head, pounding rhythmically. Rust coated my tongue. The heat began to sink down my torso, leaking out of the stumps left under my hips. I sucked in jagged breaths as I realized that the heat was my blood, pumping through my arteries and spilling onto the cool ground.
No! I don’t want to die!
Again, the screams tore out of me. No one answered my cries.
My body grew colder. The pain faded to numbness. They say when you know that you are dying, your life flashes before your eyes. I knew I was dying, but curiously, it was my twin sister Lony’s life that came to me in last minute mourning, not mine. I saw her love for me, even if we fought more than talked these days. I saw her fierce hope that our parents would reconcile their failed marriage and reunite, before nothing remained to salvage. I saw her boyfriend, Cane, and the lost promise of young love. A swell of love and pain filled my chest when I pictured Cane. It made no sense…I didn’t even like him.
The forms in my vision began moving more slowly, becoming even darker. I struggled to reach out to them, but my arms were as heavy as iron weights. I opened my mouth to scream again, but only rust flavored foam escaped my throat and rolled down the corner of my mouth and into my hair. The skin on my face broke into a cold sweat as I steadily bled out.
It was almost over. I wanted my mom.
A shock of pain ripped through my chest as my heart raced, running out of blood.
The faster my heart pumped, the less time I had left. My back reared up, head scraping the ground. My lungs heaved, panting. The forms in my vision swirled so dark they blended with the night. I reached out desperately with my hands, fingers not even finding a hand to hold. Breath rattled in my chest as it left my body for the final time and the whole world faded to black.
The day before…
Yellow morning light seeped through the pink curtains of my bedroom, intruding on my Ian Somerhalder dream and nudging me awake. I brushed the crust out of my eyes and rolled over to check the time. Ugh! Why did I always have to wake up ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off? I dropped my head back onto the pillow and pulled the covers over my head. It was no use and I knew it. Those extra ten minutes of sleep were gone forever. The wisps of my dream faded away like smoke.
The sounds of morning in my house seeped into my warm blanket cave. My sister, Lony, was getting ready for school down the hall in our shared bathroom, her little radio tuned in to the local morning show. Every so often, she’d giggle at something the host or his sidekick said. Lony got up a half hour earlier than me every day so she could claim the shower —and eighty percent of the hot water —first.
In the kitchen below me, my mother hollered threats down the basement steps at my brother, Aaron, to coerce him into getting up for school. We only lived two blocks away from our high school, but Aaron still managed to be late at least twice a week.
Although I couldn’t hear him, I knew my father must be sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and checking the sports section for last night’s baseball scores.
Moisture tickled the insides of my eye lids, threatening to spill my grief. This would be Dad’s last morning here with the family. He was moving out this weekend into one of the rental properties they owned, the one where the hallways between the apartments smelled like stale Vietnamese cooking.
I turned onto my side and hugged my down pillow to my chest. It was best to get the crying done and over with now. It wouldn’t do any good to break down in front of the kids at school.
Anyone with two eyeballs in their head could see my parents hadn’t been happy for a long time. They used to argue at night after we went to bed, usually about money, but a lot of times, just nit-picking at each other. We’d hear them down in the kitchen snapping and hissing, trying not to wake us. I should’ve known things were really bad when the arguing stopped. One or both of them must have given up the fight.
I had to get up if I was going to see my dad off to work. On a normal morning, I wouldn’t have bothered, but today, it was important. I rubbed my face dry with the sleeves of my pajamas and crawled out from under the covers, turning off the alarm before it beeped. Time to boot Lony out of the bathroom. I crossed the hall and pushed open the door without knocking. My sister did her best to ignore me.
Everything about Lony’s face was glittery and pink, from eye shadow to blush to lip gloss. She stood in front of the vanity methodically sectioning and flat-ironing her natural waves into a perfectly disciplined curtain that would hang down the middle of her back. Seeing her was like looking at myself in a funhouse mirror. Technically, we’re identical right down to the DNA, but these days no one ever mixed us up. I’m more the “wash and wear” type.
“What’s wrong with your eyes? Auditioning for
The Walking Dead
I ignored her, stepping past to flip on the shower. I dropped my pajama bottoms and tugged my t-shirt over my head. Lony was the one person that I could change in front of without being self-conscious.
“Cady! Why do you have to fog up the mirror while I’m still getting ready?” Lony complained.
“Get ready in your room,” I snapped back, stepping into the hot water and drawing the curtain closed. I heard her yank the electrical cord out of the wall and stomp off toward her bedroom in a huff. She came back a minute later to get her radio.
I took the fastest shower of my life, not even bothering to blow dry my hair. I threw on my clothes and hurried down the stairs. But when I got to the kitchen, the table was empty. Dad’s coffee cup sat abandoned in the sink. He was already gone.
“Girl, your sister is a piece of work,” Shawn declared as he slid into the bench seat across from me at the lunch table and set his tray down hard. Shawn Cole has been my friend since kindergarten, but as much as he liked me, he could never hide his aversion to my sister.
“What did she do now?” I asked, jamming a fork full of pasta salad into my mouth.
He rolled his eyes and complained, “Mr. McDonnell paired me up with Lony for our
chemistry project. We both know I get better grades than she does, but I just spent the last half hour having her dictate to me
ideas and how
insists we’re gonna do things. I refuse to be bossed around for the next sixteen weeks by the Cheerleader from Hell. Any advice for me on how to handle her?”
“Yes,” I replied, swallowing. “Pick your battles.”
“Thanks,” he muttered. Shawn set to work dissecting his cafeteria pizza until it was free of all veggie matter.
“Hi, guys,” Bronwyn said cheerfully, taking her usual seat by my side. Bronwyn Perkins was my other best friend. We met in the first day of junior high when we showed up wearing identical outfits. In many ways, Bronwyn was more like me than my own twin. We’re both quiet until you get to know us. We both love animals and work part-time at a local shelter. We listen to the same music, like the same books and think the same movie stars are cute. My high school career would royally suck without her.
“Shawn just found out that Lony is his partner for the chem term project,” I explained.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Bronwyn replied, patting his arm. There was no love lost between her and my sister either. Lony thought Bronwyn was a nerd of the highest caliber, and Bronwyn thought Lony was a spoiled brat. Both were right to a certain extent, but that didn’t mean I didn’t love them both.
My gaze trailed over to where Lony and her friends sat at the center table, clearly the loudest group in the room. If a bomb fell out of the sky and took only Lony’s table out, Dubuque Senior High would lose all of its varsity cheerleaders and most of the football team, leaving the marching band miraculously intact. At the moment, I could barely see my sister, because, Cane, had his muscular arms draped over her shoulders. They started dating almost a year ago, at the beginning of our sophomore year. Since then, Cane had become a regular fixture on our living room couch.
“Do you work tomorrow, Cady?” Bronwyn asked. She yanked the band out of her copper hair and began re-fixing her ponytail which had worked itself loose throughout the morning.
“Um, no. Dad’s moving, remember? Thought I’d give him a hand.” I bent my head down over my plate, blinking like crazy to keep the tears back. Actually, my father said he didn’t want my help. He planned to pay some guys from his construction crew overtime to load and unload boxes, but I didn’t think I’d be able to keep myself from pitching in. Maybe he’d let me do the unpacking at his new place. If left to his own devices, I could picture him living out of cardboard boxes for the next year.