Authors: Karen Harris Tully
Faarian Chronicles: Exile
Karen Harris Tully
Published by Blue Zephyr Press
Copyright 2015 by Karen Harris Tully
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
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For Mike ~
Your unceasing love and support made this dream
possible. I couldn't have done it without you - I love you!
And for Gabe and Sasha ~ You are the sunshine in my world.
To my mentor author and karate expert Bethany Maines: THANK
YOU for reading draft after crappy draft and never complaining once. Your
patience and guidance have been invaluable.
I also want to send big THANK YOUs to: my publishing and
marketing team at Blue Zephyr Press, Jennae Phillippe, Juel Lugo, and Bethany
Maines for all of their many efforts to make my baby shine on a deadline.
You're the best!
To my beta readers, Sara Farrell, Lindsey Rinehart, Lauren
Hargrave, and my gymnastics guru Michelle Beahm: your thoughtful reading and
comments helped shape Sunny and her world - THANK YOU!
To my Copyeditor and Proofreader, JoDean Jordan - THANK YOU
for catching my many typos and inconsistencies, even after I thought I'd caught
them all! Apparently I can't choose between "wave" and
"waive" for the life of me ;-)
Note: Artist's prerogative dictated that I ignore some of the
sage advice given to me. We could also call it ego. Any mistakes remaining are
wholly my own.
To my mom, Anita, my sister, Kirsten, and all my family and
friends for your support and listening ears. And to Grammie Kathy, Papa Bill,
and Grammie Elaine for taking such good care of our Gabe while I work - my LOVE
and appreciation to you all!
Chapter 1: Sunny Price
Present day - Denver, Colorado, USA
My parents' custody agreement was like a jail sentence -
bound to ruin my life and difficult to escape. I would just have to do my time
and get back to my life on Earth as quickly as possible. Plus, I was at least
somewhat curious about my mother, and Afaar.
I turned from my thoughts as we entered the familiar glass
and tile foyer of the Denver Expo Center. I swear I lived here some weekends. A
large sign proclaimed,
Welcome 2015 Colorado
Open Karate Championship!
I started toward the line forming at the
sign-in table as people streamed in around me.
“Veridian! Veridian Katje, over here!” an unknown voice
I stopped, confused when a short man stuck a phone in my
face and started taking video. His black hair shone with a hint of green. No
one called me Veridian, I didn’t go by Katje, and it wasn’t like I was famous
“Uh, you’ve got the wrong person,” I replied, but I knew he
didn’t. I turned away as he continued videoing with what looked like an iPhone,
but thinner and cooler.
“No, no! Don’t go,” he said in an accent most people would
call exotic but unidentifiable. Wait, I knew that accent. “Are you excited
about going to live with your mother?” he grinned, zooming in on my surprised
Sensei appeared at his side, conspicuous as always with her
bright green bun and desert fatigues, and snatched the camera phone from his
“She’s a minor. You’re not allowed to bother her or take her
picture. You people know that.” She dropped the fancy new device on the tile
entryway and tried to smash it to death with the heel of her boot. It flexed
and flowed like gel, refusing to break.
“That law doesn’t apply here,” he smirked as she stomped.
"You have to love their freedom of the press. I can do whatever I want.”
After three good stomps Sensei pocketed it, swearing,
“Upgrades,” under her breath. “Don’t think I won’t report you for having that
here,” she said. Despite the loss of the coolest phone I’d ever seen, the
little man looked unperturbed.
“Have what? You have it now,” he replied.
She glared at him. “You know what I love?” She took him by
the elbow and firmly steered him to the door. She leaned in close to his ear
with a smile as they exited, and I watched through the glass as the little
man’s green eyes grew round and his face went ashen at whatever she said to
him. He jerked his arm away and scurried down the street, yelling, “Taxi!”
“Weirdo,” my best friend Andi said with a frown, coming to
my side and taking my arm. “What did he call you? Cat-gee? That taxi needs to
take him on a one-way ride to a padded cell.”
Dad came hustling up and Sensei made calming motions at him
as if to say, “Everything’s fine.”
“Katje,” I replied in a quiet voice. “That’s my mother’s
“Huh.” She made a face, but didn’t comment. “Oh well, forget
the crazy guy.” She brightened and clapped her hands together. “Let’s go get
We walked past the bustling exhibition hall toward the far
bathroom across the complex. We’d been in this same facility for gymnastics
finals only a few weeks ago when I’d finally, finally made the elite rankings.
When I turned sixteen in less than a year, I'd be eligible to try out for the
US Olympic Team. The Olympics! Not that it was going to do me any good now.
“No girly stuff, Sunny! I mean it, Andi!” Dad called after
us. We waved over our heads, without stopping, to show we’d heard.
“Sheesh!” Andi complained when we were out of earshot. “It’s
a karate tournament, not who can look the most like a guy! Anyway, we’re not
gonna go all Sailor Moon on you today or anything. What do you think,
” she asked, referring to two of her patented makeup looks.
“Either one, just so long as it’s smudge-proof.” I pushed
open the ladies room door. Andi plunked her oversized bag down and started
organizing supplies on the counter. Heavy layers of black eyeliner and mascara
helped hide my eyes. Perfect.
“Well duh!” She pulled me into position in front of her with
the mirror behind me. “Your dad will still hate it, of course. And Sensei. And
the Amazons when they see the video, though that’s just a guess.” She rolled
her eyes and made a sort of grumpy, tough face that made me laugh. I guessed
that was commentary on the two women who were coming to take me to my mother’s
the next day.
“We’re not 'Amazons.'” I wagged my finger at her, imitating
Sensei. “'The Amazons were a myth made up by Homer,'” I sneered the name in the
special way Sensei reserved only for the Ancient Greeks. I rolled my eyes back
at Andi before closing them to her powdering. I didn’t care if everyone out
there hated my outfit and makeup. In fact, with Dad sending me off to live with
my mother – for the most important years of my gymnastics career! – I wanted
him, Sensei, and anyone who watched today’s video to hate every last molecule
of metallic black Max Factor.
“O. M. G! I almost forgot!” Andi grabbed my shoulders.
“What?” My eyes popped open.
“You are not going to believe who I saw right before that
weirdo guy showed up!”
“Bleeeech! Gag me,” I interrupted.
wagged her eyebrows at me. “You know, the one who was here this same time last
“Really?” Though I hadn't gotten to meet him then, I knew
exactly who she was talking about. “How do I look? I don’t have any roots
showing, do I?” I checked my hairline in the mirror and cursed, grabbing the
mascara from the makeup bag. Sensei had insisted that I not re-dye last week,
but my blue-black hair (Feria #21, Starry Night) was noticeably faded. I
scrubbed waterproof Maybelline onto my quarter inch of green-streaked, brown
roots for a moment before my shoulders fell. “Oh, what’s the point, Andi? I
She sighed. “I know.” She was quiet for a moment, powdering,
holding herself in check. I waited.
“This is so unfair!” she exploded, throwing up her hands,
sending a spray of face powder into the air. “She left you all those years ago
and now you’re supposed to drop everything to go live with her?” Her voice
echoed across the tiled bathroom. “We should have planned an escape, run away
till they had to leave you behind and go back where they came from!”
“Too late for that now,” I sighed. “Who knew she’d go
through with it this year? I thought she’d cancel again.” Like she had for the
last two years running. “And now Dad and Sensei are watching my every move. Did
you know that last night Dad slept in the hall?” She shook her head, looking
appalled. “And Sensei staked a tent under my window.”
“This sucks.” She resumed with the makeup.
“Tell me about it.”
“Now who am I going to try out my designs on?” We each gave
a short, humorless laugh and she threw her arms around me in a hard hug.
“Seriously, I’m going to miss you so much!”
“I know.” I hugged her back. “Me too.”
“Still,” she finally pulled away. “You should talk to
the guy. You could use the flirt practice.”
I laughed and rolled my eyes.
“Just calling ‘em like I see ‘em.” She grinned at me.
“So,” I continued after sticking my tongue out at her.
“Which gi should I go with today?” I held up a hand before she could speak.
“Not the fringe.” Andi, Miss Project Runway devotee, had redesigned several of
my boring, white gis.
“What? But the fringe is great!” she protested with a grin.
“Yes, but the last time I got disqualified, Sensei made me
spar her till I couldn’t walk the next day.”
“Yeah, that was harsh.” She winced remembering.
“Besides it’s too much stuff flying around.”
“Oh, fine. Anyway, I was thinking this one.” She paused with
the mascara wand and pulled a modified gi out of her oversized purse. Dad had a
habit of checking my duffel for “girly stuff” before I could leave the house.
Andi had become my fashion sherpa.
“You’re sure that doesn’t go a little low?” She’d taken the
arms off and used some raspberry velvet to make a short ruffled collar that
dropped into a V-neck before crossing under my chest and wrapping twice around
my waist to tie in front, above my (required) poopy brown belt. (I’d tried as
hard as I could to stay a purple belt, but Sensei hadn't stopped until she’d
goaded me into trying.) Andi had cut the pants into extra wide shorts that
stopped just below my knee. It was a good thing this was an American Freestyle
competition because it would not have been even remotely legal in traditional
karate. As it was, this gi fell in a gray area that was not technically
illegal, but was bound to annoy the judges. Perfect.
“Nah. You’re wearing a sports bra.” She shrugged and I
mirrored the gesture. What the heck? It showed less than a leotard.
“So, what’s your strategy for the championship today?”
“Besides the non-traditional gi, I’ll take a few body hits
and mostly run out of bounds a lot.”
“Good,” she nodded in approval. “You know how I hate when
you let your face get all bruised up,” she said and recapped the makeup.
We left the bathroom arm-in-arm to find Sensei waiting in
the hallway. She fixed me with an unamused stare.
“Sunny, are you sure you want to wear that, today of all
days?” she asked, meaning she was videoing today for my mother, and didn’t I
want to impress her? “You know what the consequences will be with the judges.”
“I hope so,” I replied. I was shooting for point deductions so
I could lose and get out of there. Karate wasn’t my thing and I wasn’t about to
waste my last day here to impress my MIA mother. I hoped she’d see I wasn’t
going to perform on command like a trained monkey.
“Why do I have to spend my last day at a tournament anyway?”
I complained, not for the first time.
“The Kindred wants to see you in action before you arrive.
So I expect you to do your best.”
I made a face at her. “If they want to see me in action,
they should watch the video of Championships last month.”
Two bronze medals and silver on beam! The gymnastics judges
were finally starting to take me seriously and not write me off with confused
looks as “that tall girl.” The only thing that kept me out of the all-around
final was floor, as usual. Specifically, the required dance elements.
Gymnasts, even power gymnasts, my coach constantly lectured,
were required to show some grace and elegance, not bang through awesome
tumbling runs and fumble their way in between. I supposed the dance elements
should have been the easy part, but no matter how hard I tried, how many ballet
classes I took, I always felt gangly and awkward trying to prance around on
floor with a giant, fake smile. It cost me points every time, which really
sucked because I loved tumbling.
“You know they’re not interested in gymnastics, Sunny,”
“Not interested!” I exclaimed. “I’m nationally ranked! In
January I can try for the Senior National Team and then it’s the Olympics. It’s
finally all coming together for me, and I have to leave training now? This is
gymnastics suicide!” Andi squeezed my arm in support.
Sensei sighed. “Enough with the drama, Sunny. You’ve known
this was coming for years. Now go warm up.”
I rolled my eyes and half-heartedly did what she said; might
as well get this over with. The tournament hall was crowded with people around
the perimeter and between the many competition rings marked on the mats with
colored tape. Andi and I found a spot in a corner of the giant room for our
stuff, and she plopped herself down with her drawing pad while I stretched.
Bo kata was first. Sensei was not impressed with kata in
general, but she’d signed me up for it anyway because she knew out of all the
weapons events, this one I usually liked - because I could do lots of flips. I
heard laughs and murmurs from the audience and judges on my gi and makeup, but
it went relatively well. Which is to say my nontraditional look cost me enough
points to come in a comfortable third place.
I had a huge wait between the kata and my sparring division,
so Andi and I wandered out to the concessions to see what they had. There was a
smoothie stand, but all the drinks were made with yogurt. I grimaced at the
thought of the bitter dairy aftertaste no one else ever seemed to notice. I’d
just grab a Coke from a machine. My gymnastics coaches weren’t here and I
wasn’t going to care about the empty calories today.
“Honestly, you know that custody agreement can’t be legal,”
Andi said, sipping her bright pink smoothie. “It is like, the suckiest thing
ever,” she complained for at least the millionth time.
“I know, but it’s not like I can take it to court or
anything,” I replied.
She sighed. “Well we should at least go to the mall after
this. You’ll need a cute new dress in case there are any gorgeous guys in the
hometown!” I couldn’t help cracking a
smile at Andi’s priorities. Well, duh! Why hadn’t I thought of that?
“Sure, Dad will really go for that. Maybe he’ll even let me
wear it on the plane, d’ya think?”
She laughed her high, exuberant laugh and hugged me. “That’s
As soon as we got out to the lobby, we immediately
spotted some guys I recognized from Andi’s school, including Russ and his
Russ’s parents were also Dad’s business partners, procuring
the supplies clients ordered and making the “specialized” travel arrangements.
They’d had six boys and adopted as many baby girls from all over the world.
They were all super smart and had green eyes, even the adopted ones, which was
so weird, but no one else ever seemed to notice. They also liked to hum under
their breath for some reason. Andi swore they made her head hurt.