Authors: April Marcom
Tags: #coming of age, #family, #danger, #sacrifice, #alien, #extraterrestrial, #love at first sight, #soulmates, #pianist, #new adult romance
Somehow, my dad had managed to keep his head
enough to talk her down every time she started to fly off the
handle. He was still concerned enough to do a great deal of
research on the Halvandors and, to my surprise, they checked out
fine. The family and their manor had a long history with many
references to it on the Internet. I did have to make up a story
about Henrik Svendsen being a judge in one of the competitions I’d
played in, though.
And neither of these assurances stopped my
mom from inviting Jo Hanna to tag along with us to the airport,
knowing she’d do her best to talk me out of going as we rode the
whole way there.
“Please don’t do this,” my mom pleaded, all
wide-eyed as we parked underground at the airport. I ignored her as
I got out of the car and went to stand by the trunk, because I’d
already been through this with her a hundred times.
Jo Hanna got out of the car next, nearly
throwing her door into the side of the shiny black Hummer next to
us. “Your mom’s right. We’ll die without you here.”
“It’s not like I’ll never come back,” I said,
then lowered my voice. “Last night, my dad bought me a ticket to
fly home for Christmas. Don’t tell my mom.” In her mind, I’m pretty
sure she would have seen it as my dad being supportive of me going,
which is why he was waiting a couple of weeks to tell her and
acting like it was a much more recent purchase.
The trunk popped open as my dad climbed out
of the driver’s seat. I pulled it up and took out my carry-on, the
big black shoulder bag with a cute little bug-eyed owl on the front
that had gotten me through my last two years of high school. My dad
reached for my suitcase before I could.
“Thanks,” I said as my mom got out of the
car, staring at my dad like he was committing some heinous
“What do you think you’re doing?” she
snapped. “You shouldn’t be helping her. We shouldn’t even be here.
Driving her to the airport—you might as well have bought the ticket
and shipped her off yourself.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said, slamming the
trunk and raising his voice slightly. “She’s an adult, Evelyn, and
she’s about to leave for her new job, whether we like it or not. I
want to be here to send her off myself.”
My parents stared each other down for a
minute. They usually never fought, and I felt bad because it was my
fault, but they did look a little silly. Dad was so tall and Mom
was so short.
“Guys, I’ve got a plane to catch,” I
Without a word, my dad began wheeling my
suitcase toward the elevator in the middle of the giant cement
As we followed, Mom came to hug my arm and
cry, embarrassing me terribly as we passed by people. She was not
making this easy for me.
The airport seemed emptier than usual, but
still pretty packed. We shared the escalators with at least a dozen
other people each time we rode one and had to wait forever in line
to check in my suitcase.
No one said a word to each other until it was
time to say good-bye.
Then my ridiculous mother, who’d never made
such a fuss over me in my whole life, crushed me against her and
cried even harder. “You’ll call me when you get there, won’t you?”
“Yes,” I sighed, not really wanting to if it
was going to be more of this.
“And be careful. Don’t take anything from
strangers. And don’t go out alone after dark.”
“I know, Mom.” Honestly, she was acting like
a whole different person, and it was kind of annoying.
“She knows how to handle herself,” my dad
said softly, putting a hand on her shoulder.
She nodded and took a step back, so Dad could
“Call if you need anything or if you want to
come home,” he said to my back. “I can buy you a one-way ticket
Jo Hanna hugged me next, whispering extra
quietly into my ear. “You better give me regular updates on this
Enock guy—or else.” She gave me a half-joking, half-killer look as
she pulled away.
I nodded and looked at each one of them in
I love you’s
and feeling sad to be
leaving them for so long. Part of me wanted to change my mind as I
waved and turned away to get in the checkpoint line.
Every step that took me closer to my terminal
and farther away from them felt like a big decision in itself. Once
I’d gotten there, sat down, and reached in my backpack for my
Sherlock Holmes book and found the note from my mom, I couldn’t
help but get a little emotional.
My Sweet Little Sara,
No matter where you go, what you do, or
how old you get, you’ll always be my baby. Good luck. Please
remember to be careful. I’ll miss you till you’re home again, safe
and sound. I love you to pieces.
They were strange words coming from her. Like
I said before, she’d always been too busy to take the time to say
or write that kind of stuff to me. And she’d always seemed so
serious. It almost made me want to stay, but my parents and Jo
Hanna would still be there when I got back.
What awaited me in Norway, however, was a
once-in-a-lifetime thing. And it wasn’t something I was willing to
The flight was so long and not at all what
I’d expected. The trip to Oslo, Norway’s capital, was pretty
normal. Even when I got there, most people were able to speak
English and help me get around okay. And then a smaller plane took
me to a smaller airport. An even smaller plane, transporting only
me and two others, took me from there to a short landing strip in
the middle of miles and miles of uninhabited forest, where only a
handful of people stood to the side of one end of the runway. The
sun was preparing to set when we finally got there.
The landing was rough. I felt every little
bump as we touched down, and then the pilot seemed to slam on his
brakes all the way to the end of the strip, making me lean forward
and put both feet on my backpack to keep it from sliding across the
floor. As soon as we stopped, everyone on the ground, except for
the man holding a sign I suspected was meant for me, began running
toward the plane.
I was a little devastated not to see Enock
anywhere. He obviously wasn’t as obsessed with seeing me again as I
was with seeing him.
The pilot said something I couldn’t
understand, so I watched the little girl and the old woman flying
with me to see what they did. When they stood up and went to wait
by the door, I followed, assuming it was time to get off.
Once we were outside, I was hit by fresh
evening air that smelled and felt like autumn.
The pilot unloaded the suitcases as my
traveling companions were bombarded by hugs and animated foreign
chatter. I grabbed my luggage, weighed down by as many of my
belongings as I could fit into it, and rolled it toward the lone
man still holding the sign. He was wearing a sort of black bellhop
suit with matching hat and short, silvery hair underneath. He
didn’t look at all friendly.
As I approached him, I saw
written on his sign. “Are you Sarafina?” he asked me
with a bit of an accent.
“Yes, but I go by Sara.” I
mentioned that in my reply e-mail.
“Very well. I’m Henrik. Follow me, please.”
He turned and began walking toward the other end of the runway, his
head held high and his back as stiff and straight as a board.
“Are you Henrik Svendsen?” I asked
“Yes,” he said without turning around or
slowing his pace.
“If you don’t mind me asking, why did you
recommend me for this job?” I’m a good pianist, but there’s got to
be millions of others who play better and have far more
“Because Mistress Demora announced that we
needed a pianist, so I suggested you.”
“But...we’ve never met before. How did you
to suggest me?”
He stopped walking for only a second, just
long enough for me to come stand beside him and see the look of
confusion on his face. “I don’t know,” he said, and then picked up
, I thought.
The walk to the end of the landing site felt
long and solemn. It was the first time I’d stopped wanting to get
to Enock at all costs and wondered if I’d made the right choice
coming here. I really thought Enock would meet me at the
I decided to take out my phone and call my
dad to let him know I’d gotten there okay.
“That will not work out here,” Henrik said
without looking over at me.
“What? My phone?”
“Yes. There is no signal or electricity in
these lands.” He turned and walked over to a carriage with two
giant brown horses in front of it, their reins tied to a tree.
I stopped to look around and realized there
were no power lines anywhere. The other people there were already
climbing into carriages or onto horses on the other side of the
pavement as the plane’s engine started.
“Wait,” I said, beginning to panic. “There’s
no power? No lights or Internet or—or—hot water, even?”
Henrik climbed onto the front seat of the
carriage and looked back. “Water can be made hot. Now, please get
in. We’ll be lucky if we arrive before everyone else is in
I looked back at the plane, now turning
around, and kind of wanted to get back on it. No power?! No phones
or anything?! This is the kind of stuff they should have mentioned
in that e-mail. And how did they even send me an e-mail without
But the plane was already leaving, which left
me no choice but to climb into the carriage and ride to my new
home, which apparently was stuck about two hundred years in the
* * * *
The sun set quickly as we rolled over a
winding dirt path, and soon countless stars were out, twinkling
brightly in the black cloudless sky.
“Freaked out” didn’t even begin to describe
how I was feeling, or how my parents would be feeling by tomorrow
when they realized I wasn’t going to call. It wasn’t something we’d
planned for, or even considered. And there was absolutely nothing I
could do about it, at least for now. I figured the best I would be
able to do was write my family a letter. But did they even have
mail service out here?
Two hours into the unsettling ride, I laid an
arm on the open window next to me and rested my chin on it, hoping
that watching the outside world would distract me from my worries.
The dirt path had long since died out. As I watched the grass, I
became very distracted. Even though night had fully set in, there
was enough light when we weren’t passing under trees to see the way
each blade of grass popped back up after being crushed by the big
wooden wheel just under my arm. Leaning my head out a bit more, I
watched the lines behind the wheels and imprints made by horse
hooves disappear as if we had never passed by.
I tried to convince myself that I was
imagining it, that it was some illusion created by the shadows we
were casting. But when we rolled over a thick branch and it broke
clean in half with a loud
, I watched as it reassembled
itself, and I knew it was real. I watched in amazement as this
continued to happen for at least the next half hour.
When I forced my gaze away from the ground
and turned to the direction we were going, I got my first sight of
Halvandor Manor. The heart of the structure was tall and
castle-like, the sides spreading out far to the left and right of
the massive centerpiece. From a distance, that was about all I
could make out. Even when the carriage came to a stop and Henrik
climbed down to lead me to the manor’s front door, it was hard to
make out much more than vague shadows created by windows, since
there was no trace of light anywhere.
I turned around when I heard footsteps and
watched someone emerge from the darkness surrounding the mansion.
Without a word, a man climbed into the driver’s seat on the
carriage and got the horses going again as Henrik opened the great
It was chilly outside, but I was absolutely
freezing when we stepped into the grand hallway.
The only source of light inside was the black
candelabra with white dripping candles burning in each holder.
Henrik took it from the four foot tall bookcase it sat on and began
walking down the hall.
Lifelike paintings of serious and perhaps
even angry-looking men hung on both sides of the tall corridor. A
gold plaque with their names written in calligraphy had been placed
on the wall underneath each one. They all had names like Gustav,
Frans, and Olaf, each one followed by Halvandor. I wondered if they
were all like Enock. They looked perfectly human, except for their
eyes. Each pair was either amber or icy blue, but they were so
clear, so light, it was unnatural.
“How long have you worked for the
Halvandors?” I asked Henrik.
“My whole life, just as all my ancestors
“So your brothers and sisters and kids all
work here, too?”
“I never married,” was all he said.
Well that wasn’t going to happen to me. I
wouldn’t end up spending my whole life at the Halvandor Manor as
their musician. Playing piano wasn’t really the reason I was here,
We stopped at the end of this entryway and
Henrik strained as he pushed a heavy door open. We could hear the
sound of men laughing on the other side, until Henrik walked into
“Presenting Miss Sarafina Olivair,” he
announced, holding the candles at his side so that when I entered
the warm room I would walk right into the light.
A few extraordinarily gorgeous men in very
old-fashioned suits stood beside a burning fireplace, which was
topped with a life-size painting of a man and woman holding hands
but looking just as serious as the men in the other paintings. Four
velvety red sofas rested against the sidewalls and an enormous
flowered rug covered the center of the floor. Just in front of the
fireplace were two tall, slender chairs. Enock rose from the one on
the right and turned to look back at us. Even though he was
smiling, his eyes looked dead without the radiance they’d had the
day I met him. But the moment he saw me, his golden eyes began to
glow. The smile faded as he stared at my face in awe.