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Authors: Maureen Lipinski

Tags: #young adult, #teen fiction, #fiction, #teen, #teen fiction, #teenager, #drama, #romance, #magic, #fantasy, #urban fantasy

Shadow's Edge (3 page)

BOOK: Shadow's Edge
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“C'mon, Ben! Get out of the way! I need my Skittles,” whined a guy with a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt and white jeans.

Ben stepped aside and clapped Hideous Sweatshirt Boy on the shoulder. “Anything for you, Michael.”

I took that as my dismissal. “See you around,” I said over my shoulder and walked toward Alex's lunch table.

As I sat down next to Alex, he said, “Do you know that guy? Ben?” His voice was even but his eyes shifted quickly.

Alternately bewildered and somewhat flattered, I answered, “Not really. I just have gym with him.” I noticed Brooke leaning forward.

“Sure,” Alex said and shrugged. He took a bite of the greasy cheeseburger in front of him, inhaling half of it immediately.

“He seemed nice,” I said, trying for casual. “He said football isn't everything,” I added with an offhand laugh.

No one else seemed to find it funny.

In fact, about twenty heads snapped in Ben's direction, the fire of a thousand burning suns beating down upon the poor guy as he smiled and laughed at Hideous Sweatshirt Boy's jokes.

Alex leaned toward me a bit. “How's your first day going?”

“Awesome.” I smiled. Sitting next to Alex, Westerville suddenly felt very small and manageable. I completely forgot about Cute Guy—Ben—as I stared at Alex's broad chest underneath his T-shirt.

“Good. Glad you like it.” He leaned back and locked eyes with me. He held my gaze for a crackling, electric moment before Troy interrupted.

“That's good you're liking Westerville, Lee,” Troy said as he inhaled a slice of pizza.

“Leah,” Alex corrected him, his voice hard.

“Sor-ry.
Le-ah
.” Troy pronounced my name carefully. “Stick with us and you'll be cool. This high school can be tough, like a doggie dog world.” He smiled at me, his teeth too small for his giant mouth.

“What?” Brooke leaned toward Troy. “What did you say?”

“Doggie dog world,” Troy repeated. “You know, like it's tough out there.” He looked totally confused, like his brain was breaking in half.

“It's
dog eat dog
world, Troy.” Brooke rolled her eyes.

“Whatever,” Troy muttered as I tried to keep from laughing out loud.

Alex caught my eye and we exchanged a quick smile.

Could he be … really? Does he actually like me?

I didn't have much time to mentally dissect Alex's actions since I heard “Yo, Alex! Catch!” from across the lunchroom. A guy about twenty feet away launched a football toward our table.

“Duck!” Caroline screamed, as Brooke tucked her head down.

Troy turned around in slow motion and put a hand in the air to catch the ball. Except he tipped the ball, and it changed directions. Instead of heading straight into Alex's capable hands, it now appeared to be on a collision course with my head.

I held my hands up in front of my face, certain I was about to break my nose, when the ball stuck to my fingers. I caught it with a loud SMACK!

“Ow!” I said as I set the ball on the table and flexed my fingers. I shook my hands a little and noticed the entire table staring bug-eyed. “What?” I said quickly. Alex's face cracked into a huge smile.

“Are you okay? You could've hurt yourself!” Brooke said.

Alex nudged me a little. “Way to go!” He leaned forward and picked the ball up, then held my gaze for a second. “Nice job, Brett Favre.”

My heart began to beat rapidly as I grinned back at him. “No problem. I didn't want to see you get hurt or anything.”

“Maybe she should try out for the team, Alex,” Troy said. He shoved most of a giant burrito into his mouth at once.

“Wouldn't want her to take your spot, Troy.” Alex flashed another smile at me as he stood up. “Pizza. Be back.”

As I watched him walk back toward the food line, someone else distracted me. Ben, looking at me with a bemused smile on his face. Brooke followed my gaze and turned back to me. “Leah, little FYI about your friend Ben. He might've
said
football isn't everything, but … ” She rolled her eyes. “He's just saying that because he can't play anymore.
He
was the starting quarterback freshman year until he just randomly quit the team. Didn't play after that. Now he hangs out with the freaks.”

I looked over at the vending machine, but Ben and his friend were gone. I shrugged and nodded, confused as to why I cared when my head was still buzzing from being next to Alex.

“Not to mention, Benny Boy has a girlfriend who goes to another school. So hands off the Football Dropout.” Caroline laughed and Brooke shot her a sharp look.

“What?” Caroline said, laughing harder.

“Right,” I sighed.

“Whatever. Just trying to help,” Brooke said. She shook her head.

Caroline, sensing it was time for a change of subject, spoke up. “Anyway, so tell me more about you, Leah. Like, what's your favorite movie and stuff? Or your favorite movie star?”

“Oh! Um … ” I said brightly. I pursed my lips and thought for a moment.

“Someone who's single, not married or anything,” Brooke added.

Oh.

I silently made a mental note to study the celebrity news that I'd missed last year. “Justin Timberlake?” I said as a question, hoping he hadn't been married in the wedding of the century while I was, um, unavailable.

Caroline and Brooke looked at each other and shrugged. “I guess he counts, even though he's not single,” Caroline said.

First test passed. Although my skin still pricked as I thought of who … or what … was trying so hard to contact me.

Four

I nervously shifted my weight, my hands laced in the straps of my backpack. I peered through the dirty front window of Buzz coffee shop and squinted, but all I could see was a group of older people on their laptops.
She must not be here yet.

Melissa always spent two hours after school each day at Central Springs' main coffee shop, smoking clove cigarettes outside and chugging espresso. I'd taken three buses to get there, nearly dying from the stench on the second one. But no matter what, I had to see her.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and whirled around. “Leah?” Melissa said.

She stood in front of me wearing a neon-orange prison jumpsuit with a sparkly purple tutu over it. Her outfit was jarring, but she always managed to walk the line between edgy and escaped mental patient. At the very least, I don't think anyone could accuse her of shopping at The Gap.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

I glanced around quickly. “Sorry to stalk you, but I have to ask you something.”

Melissa turned to her group of friends, who were straggling behind her, and waved them into the coffee shop. “Sorry. Business.” She rolled her eyes and turned to me. One of her friends, a beautiful brunette with wide green eyes, shot me a questioning look before she went inside. “I'm really busy. I have to help organize a Créatúir funeral later,” Melissa said to me.

I nodded, so grateful I didn't have to deal with all those Other Realm logistics anymore. The job of the Créatúir Shaman was basically to help them with their activities and rituals—a kind of supernatural assistant—and there were only so many times I could help them choose readings for a wedding or funeral without wanting to shoot myself in the head.

“Besides, shouldn't you be cheerleading or something?” Melissa added. She eyed me critically and took a step toward the door.

I could see the outline of
The Grimoire of Annwn
, our Shaman guidebook, in her white canvas bag, so I spoke up quickly. “Weird things have been happening all day … almost as if they're trying to contact me or give me a message.”

Melissa looked at me for a moment before her eyes narrowed. “Really?” She drew the word out slowly. I nodded and she cleared her throat. “Can't imagine why. Your head must still be scrambled from being trapped over there for so long.”

I shook my head. “No. I know what I saw. They're trying to tell me something.” I planted my feet on the sidewalk in front of her.

Melissa rolled her eyes again and sighed. “Whatever. It's nothing, really. Fiona is missing, that's all. I'm sure that's why they're trying to send you some kind of ridiculous Other Realm telegram.”

My hands dropped to my sides and my heartbeat quickened.
Fiona.
Retired Créatúir Shaman and my former best friend. She'd lived in the Other Realm ever since I was thirteen, when she'd passed the title on to me. When I'd visit her in the Other Realm, we'd spend the afternoons gossiping about all the hot satyrs, lying around and whispering secrets. She'd convinced me I'd be protected from the passage of the hours when I was in the Realm with her. She promised I wouldn't lose time … as if time is something that can ever be found.

But even though I was seriously pissed at her, I
didn't want anything to happen to her. “Is she okay?” I whispered.

Melissa waved her hand in the air dismissively. “She's fine.
Fine.
Everyone thinks she ran off with her hot new satyr boyfriend for a little weekend action.” When I didn't nod my head, she added, “Really.”

“Well,” I began, “then why would—”

“You know how they are,” she snapped. “Jumpy. Can't deal with change.”

I nodded. They weren't too happy when I chose to give up the title, but then again, I wasn't too happy with missing my sixteenth birthday. “Are you sure … ” I trailed off.

Melissa grabbed my wrist and pushed my gold bangle bracelet up my left arm, revealing the
triskele
birthmark—three interlocking spirals surrounded by a circle—that signified me as a natural-born Créatúir Shaman. Of course, those without natural-born ability could hold the title after some training (Melissa, for one), but my birthmark signified my innate gift for contacting the Other Realm.

“Hasn't faded yet, huh?” Melissa said.

I jerked my arm back and moved the bracelet back down.

Melissa threw her head back and laughed. “What? Did you think they would be crying for you or something?” She knelt down on the sidewalk and pressed her hands together in prayer. “Oh please, Leah the Great, come back to us. You are the only true Shaman!”

My face flushed as I saw a red convertible drive slowly past the shop. I locked eyes with the driver, a blond girl with perfect makeup. Brooke. Apparently cheerleading practice had ended. Possibly along with my social life.

What in the world was Brooke doing here? Just my luck! How the heck was I going to explain this?

“Um, okay. Never mind. Bye,” I said to Melissa, who was still on her knees. I whirled around and walked swiftly down the sidewalk, cheeks burning.

“Hey Leah, I think I'm getting a message for you. Wait … wait … here it is: GO AWAY!” Melissa shouted.

I turned down my street and walked toward my house, grateful to be near home and away from Melissa. I slowed down slightly as I noticed a beat-up Ford Taurus parked in my driveway.

Melvin. My mom's messed-up client. He was in the middle of a bad divorce and apparently had a lot of money problems, although that didn't prevent him from scheduling a past-lives healing session with my mom at least once a month. He'd practically flipped out when he heard that we were moving and still insists on driving an hour to keep seeing her. In New Age circles, my mom is known as the “preeminent past-lives intuitive,” which really means she helps people figure out their life purpose, helps to clear negative energy from their unconscious, opens communication channels with their spirit guides, and uses meditation to guide psychic pathways. You know, regular mom stuff.

I stopped in front of our neighbors' house, unsure if I wanted to walk around the block or just brave Melvin and my sisters.

As it turned out, I didn't have a chance to decide.

“LEAH!” my youngest sister Gia screamed from the house. She flung open the door and ran toward me, cornsilk-blond hair streaming like water from a faucet behind her. She threw her arms around me and jumped on me. “I'm so glad you're home!” she shrieked. She was fourteen, but seemed younger because she was so tiny. “I have to tell you what I worked on today.” She grabbed my hand and dragged me inside.

I tossed my messenger bag onto the foyer's tile floor and shut the front door behind me.

“One of the senior Muses came up to me last week during one of my Muse Council Meetings and said a writer needed some extra help—so I meditated really hard, just like Mom showed me—and he finished his book today. The Council said I'll be a full-time Muse in no time. Isn't that cool?” She clapped her hands and sighed.

“That's great, G,” I said gently. Her enthusiasm made my heart ache a tiny bit. I used to be that way. Used to be so excited about every problem I helped the Créatúir solve, whether it was just a boring territory dispute between the Light and Dark or helping to dedicate the Sea Hags' new temple. It was like I was in love with my job, and everything was so new, so exciting, so different.

“Hey,” my middle sister Rhea said as she walked barefoot into the foyer. She took a boisterous bite out of a crisp red apple in one hand and pushed her dark curly hair out of her eyes with her other. “What's shakin'?” She sat down on the tile floor, legs tucked underneath her. Unlike Gia, who looked so much younger than her fourteen years, Rhea looked about ten years older than her actual age of fifteen.

“Not much. First day was good. Alex was sweet and introduced me to all his friends. My classes seem okay,” I said with a shrug.

“Sounds thrilling.” Rhea rolled her eyes. “I don't know about you, G., but all that would bore me. I know there's a lot more to life than high school.”

Gia's eyes grew wide, waiting for yet another confrontation.

“Yeah, well, maybe. But I still want to experience it.” I folded my arms across my chest and cocked my head.

“And, while you were playing high schooler with your new friends, we were learning all about the power of spiral glyphs from Mom. And then I met the coolest guy today when I went shopping.” She examined her nails. “Slade pretty much makes any of your high school boys look like … like … ” She looked up at the ceiling while she tried to find the perfect insult.

“Like what?” I asked, bemused.

“Like a hideous Dark Créatúir. One of those dullahan things,” she said.

I started at her, eyebrows raised. “Oh, Rhea. You can do so much better than that, can't you? C'mon, try again.”

Rhea rolled her eyes and silently picked at her nails.

“And please don't make fun of my friends. You met a guy named— I'm sorry, what did you say his name is? And while you were shopping, huh? What exactly did you do today? Because last I checked, you don't really do much of anything around here, do you?” My face grew prickly and warm as my voice rose; I didn't care if my mom or Melvin heard me.

Rhea looked me squarely in the eyes. “At least my boyfriend didn't dump me for some slut because I was gone for, like, a second.”

“Guys,” Gia started to beg, to no avail. “Please don't—”

“YOU don't really have a job, do you?” I snapped at Rhea. “So you pretty much have no idea what it's like to have to always do things for others, right? I mean, Mom has past-life clients. Morgana helps to psychically heal those babies at the hospital. I was basically a slave to the Créatúir. Even Gia is starting to work as a Muse. So, what is it exactly that you do?” I knew I was hitting way, way below the belt.

“I don't have to have a job! I'm the reincarnation of Cleopatra!” Rhea closed her eyes and started to scream.

Hearing our shouts, my older sister Morgana came running into the foyer. She was dressed in a long black dress with beads and fringe around the collar and hem, and wore thick black eye makeup. She was only a year older than me, but certainly didn't look like she was a teenager … or from this planet. Which, hey, in our family … who knows? She might not be. Even though her gift was energy healing, most people would call her a witch, and not one of those cute ones like Glinda from
Wizard of Oz
.
Her given name was Mia, but she'd changed it three years ago to her witch name.

“What's going on here?” Morgana's eyebrows rose as she surveyed Gia's wide eyes.

“Nothing. I was just reminding Rhea that she doesn't get to judge the rest of us,” I said quickly as I pretended to look through my messenger bag for a school book.

“Rhea, Mom says you'll discover your path when ready,” Morgana said.

“Yeah, yeah,” Rhea shouted. “I KNOW!” She stood up and stomped off toward her room. “But I'm okay with being the reincarnation of Cleopatra. Unlike Leah, who just
gave
up
her gift!” She slammed her bedroom door closed.

“Fomoriian!” I shrieked at her closed bedroom door.

“What did you just call her?” Gia asked.

“A Fomoriian.” I looked at my sisters. “They're ugly and evil demons that are enemies of the Cr—” I sighed and shook my head. “Never mind. Old habit.”

Three seconds later, my mom opened the door from her office. “I'm so sorry, Melvin. I'll be right back,” I could hear her say as she closed her office door behind her. “What in the name of the spirit is going on out here?” she hissed at us.

All three of us looked down and mumbled, “Nothing.”

She sighed and looked at each of us. “Give Rhea a break. She's struggling against her Egyptian spirit and its innate need for power and control.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered.

My mom turned to me. “Leah, my love. How was school?” She pressed me to her; she smelled like vanilla incense and sandalwood oil. I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent. Like Alex's presence, it relaxed me.

“It was great! I loved it, Mom! They're really into football!” I said it a bit too enthusiastically, and she narrowed her eyes a little. Her gaze traveled down to my necklace. She sighed and cupped it in one hand.

“I pray to my spirit guides about this every night,” she said, tapping her index finger against the black onyx.

“Pray all you want Mom, but I'm not taking it off,” I said emphatically.

“Have you heard from Melissa at all?” she asked, and placed her hands on my shoulders.

“Nope,” I said quickly. I averted my eyes and hoped her spirit guides wouldn't tell her the truth.

BOOK: Shadow's Edge
5.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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