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Authors: Amanda McGee

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BOOK: Extraordinary
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The room no longer felt hopeless. All wretchedness drained from the air and the sun slipped through every window and crack in the walls until the entire castle resembled the inside of a firecracker. Blaze’s rain of fire persisted until Katerina’s body turned black and smoke filled the room.

“All right, Sadie,” he said, walking back to us.

Sadie dropped her finger and Katerina, or what was left of her, crumbled to the floor a smoldering pile of ash.

“What the hell, you guys?” I asked. “That was amazing!”

“Prison is boring,” Sadie said. “We made the most of it.”

“Obviously,” I said, still taken aback.

James had said we had spent too much time dwelling on trivial matters when we should be accepting our fate and learning about it. The meaning of his remark had just slapped me across the face. While I was fretting and falling in love, Blaze and Sadie were growing, evolving. I suddenly felt like I deserved detention.

“You guys need to go now,” Tristan announced. “It’s closing.”

We all sprinted to the flickering portal. Sadie said her goodbyes and Blaze helped her into the tunnel. Blaze reached for my hand but I couldn’t take my eyes off Tristan. His body was practically destroyed during the transference and his condition worsened with each passing minute.

“I can’t leave,” I said, clinging to Tristan’s shirt. “You aren’t well, Tristan. Take my power, heal yourself!”

“It's not that simple, Alex. Just go. Please, hurry.”

“Alex, I’m sorry,” Blaze said, lifting me off the ground.

“No! Blaze!”

But it was too late.

Blaze tossed me head first into the vortex and away from Tristan forever. To have had this all end so abruptly, opened a pit in my stomach that filled with regret and misery.

Blaze cheated me out of my ending—this unfair world cheated me out of my ending. Though I would have never gone willingly, I was still angry.

Plummeting through the funnel of brilliant hues, there was no contradictory serenity and anxiety like the first time—instead there was only the vibration of Tristan’s name on my vocal cords and the tears I had held in for far too long.

 

 

 

****

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Five

 

They said much of Savannah was haunted.

Aren’t we all?

From the moment I arrived on campus for orientation, I learned that not only was the college reportedly haunted but the city was as well. My ears were ringing with new students gossiping about ghost stories that had been passed down for generations. You couldn’t have a city as old as Savannah and not expect supernatural tales.

I hadn’t given them much credence but I never spoke my beliefs aloud for fear that I could be wrong and the ghosts would make an example of me—a stance I also applied to religion, politics, and tattoos.

But one thing I was certain of: the past haunted us all.

No matter what the future brought, history still lingered around me like a ghost with unfinished business. Maybe that was exactly what it was, maybe my past was a ghost sent to tie-up loose ends and ensure that I did not miss the lesson in my missteps and misfortunes.

Our maybe we humans justified everything we cannot explain. Sensationalize it until it resembled a blessing rather than a hovering, menacing curse.

“Ahh,” I grumbled.

"Question?" the orientation guide asked.

I shook my head.

The Georgia heat covered me like a thick flannel blanket. I had lived here my whole life and our sultry summer temperatures still stunned me. Helpless, I stood in the middle of campus as the late-July sun scorched my pale skin. Freckles had begun to emerge on both of my arms. Beads of sweat trickled down my forehead as the suffocating humidity and my guide held me prisoner.

The orientation was boring as predicted. I had no desire to know the history of the school or what to expect as far as on-campus activities. My goal was to attend my classes, earn my degree, and to do so with as little social interaction as possible. I had put college off long enough and, quite frankly, homework sounded like a welcome distraction.

Anything to keep me from slinking back into that familiar pit of despair that formed after my mother died—though, I was hovering dangerously close to the edge.

Almost six weeks ago we were in the middle of an impromptu magic carpet ride. Now, Sadie and Blaze had moved in with me at Mom's, we spoke of James every day, and I hadn’t dreamt of Tristan once.

My hope was that the pain would dissipate if I just ignored it, even though that did not work at all with my memories of Mom. My voluntary disregard of all things Tristan was more for Sadie and Blaze, who constantly hung around awaiting my inevitable breakdown. I had managed to quell the urge to cry and scream about life being unfair.

At least as far as everyone else was concerned.

The truth was I missed him. Grieved for him—painful, heart-wrenching grief. Each day was an obstacle. I began by cursing the sleepless night while dreading the happy face I was forced to slap on and the robotic routine I had to follow. The last thing I needed was Sadie and Blaze worrying about me. They had their own wrinkles to iron out.

Every night I hoped to dream of him, but if I managed to actually fall asleep, my mind was blank. No visions of Tristan, Haliwick, or anything at all. Just darkness. Empty, tragic darkness.

I had narrowed down the culprit to anxiety or the crippling fear of what I might see. My ability was a gift but it was also a heavy burden. I’d lay awake desperate to see him but terrified of what I may or may not see should I fall asleep. The possible scenarios were endless. Good or bad, no sighting of him could heal the hurt I carried inside. He was still gone.

Being awake posed little reassurance because at any second a vision, whose only message was danger, could trigger and inform me that another fight was coming on our way.

Mostly, I worried that I would soon forget his beautiful face.

“Questions? Comments?” the student guide asked.

Completely oblivious to what was being discussed, I lingered in the back of my group of fifteen other new students. All of them seemed eager to begin their college journey and the handful of parents that decided to accompany their young adults beamed with pride. I practically grumbled at the sight of them all.

They each wore their school spirit across their chests or on their heads, donning various Savannah College of Art and Design merchandise they had purchased during our trip through the campus store. They were out of their minds if they thought I was keen to participate.

My spirit had been broken.

My appearance was even more disturbing. I maintained a healthy level of hygiene but my fashion statements of late consisted of cotton cheerleading shorts and old t-shirts, including the one I “borrowed” from Tristan and the ones I swiped from Blaze and Sadie that Tristan had loaned them. They didn’t seem to mind.

Classes would start soon and I longed for the escape. I longed for the strangers who would not be inspecting my expressions or actions for signs of heartbreak. They would have no knowledge of the ache inside me and wouldn’t care enough to ask.

Eventually, our tour ended and I returned home. It was entirely too hot to sulk outside.

Transitioning between realms put a great deal of stress on our bodies and minds. My muscles ached and my recollections were jumbled at best. I milked that for as long as possible, using it as an excuse to stay in bed. Over time, the pieces of our adventure returned to our memories through group conversations and sporadic recollections but my images of Tristan were slipping away.

The love I felt for him still burned in my heart but I couldn’t keep the pictures from fading. Seeing him, even if only in my memories, reminded me of why I could not function normally. When I no longer had that luxury, I feared the pain would consume me. 

“Alex, you in there?”

Sadie’s voice startled me.

My eyes slammed shut again as the mid-afternoon sun bounced through my window, reflecting off my electric yellow bedroom walls. The unexpected shock distressed my depressed brain and stung my eyes.

The reason for painting my bedroom walls yellow was a mystery but I had liked the unusual color selection until now. The shade was supposed to be greenish yellow but instead I ended up with electric yellow. I remember Kate asking why I would choose such a happy color when I wasn’t that happy of a person.

The answer still escaped me. But I needed to be in my room.

I jumped out of bed. Judging by her footsteps, Sadie was seconds from walking in.

“I’m here,” I said in the most upbeat voice I could muster.

She bounced into the room in her usual cheerful manner just as she had done every morning for the past month. I raked my fingers through my hair trying to disguise my bed head and pretend that I wasn’t moping around. If only I knew how to find the strength to exist with half a heart.

Even Sadie’s jovial demeanor was lost on me by now. I once fed off of her positivity but now my internal gloom was overpowering. Still, I was glad she was here.

“Kate is here,” she said, studying my face.

As far as I could tell, my fake happiness was fooling them. I had also learned to not assume. I expected any day to walk downstairs and face an intervention. Now that Kate had arrived, I was sure that moment was upon me—again.

“I still don’t know what to tell her,” I said, struggling to get my jeans on. “We experienced it all and still found ourselves doubting it.”

“You don’t have to tell her everything,” Sadie said. “I am sure just our presence will occupy much of her time and leave little room for other questions.”

“She saw the journal. She knows enough to know that something is weird. At least I have you guys to back me up when she thinks I have gone off the deep end.”

“This is true,” she said. “Maybe they’ll put us in adjoining padded rooms.”

I actually managed to laugh at her attempt at sarcasm. I might have been depressed but our lives were still too strange to shun humor completely. I enjoyed a sarcastic remark or humorous joke as much as anyone. The fact that I recognized her comment as amusing gave me the slightest bit of hope that I might fully recover—and give Sadie a break in worrying over me.

“Have you called your mom today?” I asked.

“Yes, she says hello. She’s coming by tomorrow. Says I have mail but I’m pretty sure she just misses me.”

“I still can’t believe she let you move in here. Let her visit as much as she wants.”

The decision for the three of us to live together required very little discussion. Upon returning from Haliwick we felt closer and slightly traumatized and never left one another’s side. Next thing you know we were loading up moving trucks and transferring Sadie to Knox High.

“I was here all the time anyway,” Sadie said. “She’s just understanding of our situation. And plus, she’s moving down here in a few weeks.”

“Seriously? Since when?”

“Since she told me today.”

“I knew she couldn’t be away from her little baby girl,” I said, laughing.

“Shut up! I’m practically an adult. Besides, you need us way more than we need you.”

Picking up a pillow I smacked Sadie across the arm with it. She was right, even if she was joking, but I couldn’t let her get away with it.

The attachment I had to living alone faded after our spontaneous trip to an alternate reality. Perhaps I did not like total seclusion as much as I thought or maybe now that I wasn’t alone, I had nothing to hide from.

Of course, there was always the possibility that we came back wrong—jumbled up, wacky versions of who we were—who could really know how safe magic passageways were?

Our powers had not been required since then and I for one was thankful. No visions meant no danger and no danger meant more time to heal and adjust. I would watch Sadie and Blaze from my bedroom window as they practiced their special talents. I claimed to be taking a nap but in actuality I just needed solitude.

“I still can’t believe that Blaze fixed this entire house,” I said, walking downstairs. “It was destroyed. He is quite handy.”

“He really is!” Sadie added. “He’s probably the only person to ever use magical abilities to install windows.”

We stopped at the door and exchanged a glance of disbelief. We giggled once again at the absurd truth.

“Ok
ay, he is definitely the only person to do that,” Sadie said, correcting her previous statement.

“Well, at least you’re alive!” Kate yelled as I stepped onto the front porch. “So I see the sibling story was real. Does that mean the magic is too?”

Her tone was calm and totally serious.

“Basically,” I said.

I braced myself for her high-pitched response.

“It’s so hot out here,” she finally said. “California was hot too. I can’t escape the heat.”

I expected her to pester me for answers and then dismiss any information as ludicrous. Except here she was coolly, conversing as if we were discussing lunch plans as she joined Sadie in the swing.

BOOK: Extraordinary
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