Authors: Colleen Jordan
Book One in The Sensitives Series
Copyright © 2015 Colleen Jordan
All rights reserved.
For the sensitive and the misunderstood.
This book is a summation of many experiences. I couldn’t have done it without all the gifted creative people and especially the strong women in my life. Delia Berrigan Fakis, you’ve been a true friend and professional. My gratitude for having you in my life, as my official and unofficial editor, is unending. A big thanks— to Kimberly for reintroducing me to YA fiction. You were an essential part of the birth of this work. Thank you for midwifing my creativity. Thank you to Buzz McLaughlin and Rosemary McLaughlin (no relation) and the Drew University Theatre Department for teaching me to write rich dialogue-driven characters. And my gratitude goes to WoCo for giving me inspiration to write and permission to speak. Thank you also to my beta readers: Aaron, Zoe, Deidre, and Leigh. I couldn’t have done it without you.
I also want to recognize the English teachers of my adolescence. Thank you for believing in me as a writer. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you sooner. You always knew.
And to my husband, Aaron, your unending patience and positive encouragement fuel me when my tanks are low. You are my much-needed balance and I am eternally grateful. To my parents, thank you for supporting me in every endeavor no matter how big or small.
And lastly, I am so grateful for all the inspiring young people I’ve met along the way. Thank you for sharing your struggles and stories with me. I hope this book helps you feel less alone.
Drea Fox blinked repeatedly, trying to force her eyes to obey, but the empty hallway was blurry at the edges. The classrooms lining the straightaway washed out of focus when she looked directly at them, warping into terrifying fun house shapes. The high school landscape had suddenly faded to gray scale and she was running late for her math quiz.
Focus. Focus. Drea willed her legs to carry her forward before the bell rang. But there was no response from the two gelatinous blobs at the end of her torso. She was stuck in the eternal expanse of damnation between bells.
Drea glanced down at her empty arms and her blood pressure spiked. Where were all her notebooks and textbooks? The absence could mean only one thing–– she must have forgotten her homework! Mr. Murray was going to crucify her!
She spun around in a confused pirouette. Where was her locker?
The hallway was decorated with the fuzzy outlines of inspirational posters for the latest track meet. Go #42, Beat those Bobcats! The big block letters eclipsed the walls, creating confusion.
Where was the bank of yellow lockers? Everything looked the same in gray…
The bell should have rung minutes ago, but there was no sound. Figures the bell would break on a Monday.
Drea arrived at her locker and spun the dial, but it didn’t produce any clicks. The door was jammed.
She continued on, toward the math wing, as though she had gum stuck to her soles. Her feet didn’t make any squeaks on the freshly waxed tile floor. And there was not a soul in the hallway. It was weirdly desolate. But, even in the vacuum, Drea sensed something was coming.
She took a sharp breath in and turned around just in time to see the tidal wave overwhelm the hall. In the eerie silence, Drea felt the dull roar of the water echo in her chest. The power of the surge ripped out the acoustic ceiling tiles one by one, forming teeth that rode on the crest of the wave. The mouth of the swell swallowed her body. Up and down became the same direction. The locker vents became gills. Drea was consumed by the riptide, air forced from her lungs. She gulped down buckets of water.
As she started to choke, the flicker of the exit sign near the ceiling seemed like a cruel joke. Drea was about to surrender her last breath when the wave abruptly deposited her body on the floor of the music room.
The water receded as quickly as it had come.
The tsunami damage was epic, desks pushed up against the far wall like an urban sand dune. Wet pulpy paper plastered every surface. The music lab computers were in a tangle on the floor, as though piled in a trash heap. They had been wiped off of their stations by the tidal wave. It was a scene from a disaster movie.
Movies… Drea liked movies… Her thoughts rattled around in her brain, an aftershock of the throttling. Drea reached up and wiped her soggy hair out of her face. If this was a movie… where was the cute heartthrob to save the day?
The thought pushed Drea up to her feet again, her sneakers making a swampy squishing noise.
A single pair of thick neon headphones remained on the table by the door. And Drea knew exactly whom they belonged to. Truthfully, Matt was her favorite part of music composition class. He had a way of making second period bearable with his gigantic enviable smile. And as a bonus, he always smelled like fresh laundry.
As if conjured from the rubble, Drea spotted Matt’s brightly colored skinny jeans poking out from behind a chair. The sight warmed her chest.
But something was wrong.
Matt wasn’t sitting in his usual spot; he was a gray lifeless crumple on the floor. His arms gripped his chest as though he was in cardiac arrest. And next to him, there was a soggy dishrag of a girl. Her legs were splayed open and her familiar face held a vacant stare.
“Sierra!” Drea called, her voice reverberating off the walls like a microphone turned up too loud. “Sierra!”
But the lifeless girl didn’t respond. Hesitantly, Drea rolled her over. A trickle of blood dribbled out of her best friend’s nose and ears.
The sun was trying to peek around the edges of the dark blackout curtains that hung over the windows. Drea shook her head, willing herself to transition out of the state between dream and reality.
“Figures I would have a nightmare on a Sunday night,” she whispered to herself.
She had a tough enough time rolling into the weekday routine as it was. Some days she didn’t want to get out of bed. Most days she hated the idea of facing the world, pretending she was happy. Out there in the world the lights were too bright, the sounds were too loud, and the people were too overwhelming. There was too much drama to want to get up.
Drea turned away from the glow of her alarm clock with a sigh. As she rolled over, her face smacked into the edge of her math book, the thick cardboard corner jabbing into her check.
“Ugh… the math quiz,” she moaned.
Drea was instantly nauseous. She grabbed for the small trashcan she kept tucked under her nightstand, just in case. She salivated and sputtered. But nothing came up.
Her body had a history of punishing her before big events: stomachaches, headaches, insomnia. Mr. Murray’s math quizzes were brutal and this one was going to make or break her average. Drea had to keep her grades up if she wanted to go to a good college. Her parents were always telling her that. To make things worse, her mom had a job teaching at one of the best schools in the country. Freaking Harvard.
5:39 a.m. Drea’s heart continued to pound out of her chest. The dream was bad enough, but now she was blessed with racing thoughts, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat at the crack of dawn on a Monday. She couldn’t afford to give in to the panic attack. Only one thing to do.
Distraction. Drea pulled her laptop off the mountain of laundry next to her bed and flipped up the screen. The glow stung her eyes, but was soothingly familiar. She logged in and noted 122 views of her latest blog
Outfoxed by Foxes.
“Sweet, more than usual.”
She scrolled through the comments and her enthusiasm quickly waned. Internet trolls had taken over her blog in vehement disagreement with her post:
If an animal repeatedly crosses your path, does it mean something deep or does it simply mean spring is here? I saw 5 different foxes this WEEK alone. FIVE!!! That’s a lot of foxes! Must mean something for Drea FOX. Right?!?! Something big is on the way. I know it. Foxes are a symbol of change. A big change is coming!
RabIDHunter13 said, “What are you dumb? It means nothing but hunting season is ON baby!”
AnimaLuver said, “Nothing deep. A fox is a fox.”
Whatever, haters gonna hate.
Drea took a deep breath in and continued to scroll. She had thousands of followers and not all of them were negative. Some of them claimed she was a genius. Some said she was psychic.
Drea thought it would be cool if she really was psychic, then her life wouldn’t be so damn difficult.
She filed today’s post under
Another weird water dream. A tidal wave busted through my school. Total tsunami. Legit. It was like I was deaf but I could still hear it coming. The school was trashed and Sierra died! :( Well, lots of people died. So does this mean I don’t have to take my math quiz today? Lol. But seriously, today is not going to be a good day. I can feel it. I always have a water dream before something bad goes down. The dream dictionary says water is a wave of emotions, but I don’t know… Wandering around in the creepy Twilight Zone of my mind has me freaking out. Right at the end of the dream, a voice came over the loud speaker and said, “Drea, we are coming for you! We know
“Drea! Are you up?”
God her voice could be so piercing.
“Yes, Mom,” came the automatic response.
Joanna Fox swung the door open without asking, appearing fully dressed and absurdly chipper.
“I didn’t hear your alarm. I was worried you overslept.”
Joanna was tall, slender, and the kind of beautiful you didn’t want to mess with. Her hair was a natural shade of glowing auburn, a color women envied and tried in vain to replicate from boxed imitations. Joanna could be utterly intimidating to men and women alike. Simply looking at her mother in the morning made Drea feel inadequate.
“Nope. I’m up, I was just—”
“— Just putting your laptop back in the living room where it belongs? I thought we talked about this. No electronics in the bedroom.”
“Mom, I’m studying for my math quiz.”
With her ninja keyboarding skills, Drea made this white lie a reality in 2.4 seconds.
“See?” she added, tilting the screen to reveal an online tutorial with lots of graphs.
“Oh, okay honey. Don’t study too long. Remember, what the clinical research said about the blue light from too much screen time.”
“Yes, Mom…” Drea mumbled. Sometimes it sucked to have a science professor for a mother.
“And, honey, when you’re done studying I need you to do me a favor.”
“What?” Drea asked already knowing the answer.
“I need you to help get Sammy ready this morning. I have an early staff meeting and it’s tax season so I haven’t seen your father in two days.”
“Mom, you promised that he would start taking care of himself soon. He’s old enough to—”
“Andrea, you’re being overly sensitive again. You need to do your part in this family. Don’t fight me on this right now.”
Joanna pursed her lips and narrowed her eyebrows at the same time, summoning the power of a rabid raccoon mother.
“Fine,” Drea sighed with resigned anger and slammed her laptop closed.
“Thanks!” Joanna called as she hurried off, leaving the door ajar.
“Wait, is it Fruity Loops day or Chocolate Puffs day?” Drea shouted after her mother. A crucial question to ask in the Fox household.
Joanna didn’t break her stride as she yelled, “Fruity Loops! Remember to pick out the blue ones and the purple ones because he won’t eat them. His mushrooms are on the counter.”
The front door clicked behind her with finality.
Drea knew all too well how Sammy’s obsessive nature had ruled the family dinner table for eleven years now. No foods touching, no foods with blue or purple dye, mostly green colored food. A side of mushrooms at every meal. And she was the overly sensitive one? Drea loved her brother, but his disability had a way of controlling everything.
Out of her over-flowing laundry pile, Drea picked her favorite black hoodie, red T-shirt, and well-worn jeans. It was a comfort clothing kind of a day. She slipped into her cozy outfit and paused in front of the full-length mirror, sighing at what she saw.
Despite her best efforts, she was always a few pounds overweight and it did a number on her self-esteem. Drea had been blessed with her father’s stockier Polish frame instead of her mother’s stunning Italian good looks. Plus, she had inherited her grandmother’s thunder thighs. Her parents joked all the time that she had lost the genetic lottery. It was a painful joke and to top it all off, Drea had been blessed with plain old brown hair and brown eyes.
Boring. Plain. Ugly girl.
To say that she hated her body was an understatement.
Drea leaned toward the mirror to clean her nose ring, a simple black stud, and quickly did her black eyeliner to match. To compensate for her terrible looks, she worked overtime on her image. She wanted to blend in just enough to avoid ridicule and to stand out just enough to be noticed.
As she preened, Drea noticed this week’s pink hair accent had faded to a flamingo color that clashed with her black and red motif. She would have to spend significant time in the bathroom later touching it up. Neon hair color was always disappointingly fleeting.
Drea glanced at the clock and kicked it into high gear. She stuffed her untouched math book into her bag. There was no hope of bringing her average up to Harvard standards anyway.
When she slid into the kitchen, Sammy was already seated at the breakfast bar, where she expected him to be, second stool from the left, nose stuffed in his crumbling leaf scrapbook. He was eyeing his prized plant specimens, as he did every morning— totally engrossed in the falling apart book, with only a shock of his bright red hair visible above the spine.
Drea found her younger brother awe-inspiring. Sammy Fox was a cute quirky kid with freckles, dimples, ginger hair, and an unholy temper. He spent hours flipping through the same book over and over again, peaceful and centered in his routine, the rhythm of the repetition.
“Good morning. Happy Monday,” he said robotically without looking up.
Happy Monday, indeed.
“I’m getting your Fruity Loops ready.”
“No!” Sammy yelled as he threw his book to the ground. Bits of leaves stuck to wax paper scattered across the floor.