Lot’s of sites offer (and recommend) for an author to post an excerpt of their book, but they also significantly limit the number characters, so I just thought I’d post Chapter 1 here for anyone who is interested (which also gives me a nice short link to include everywhere else!)
Hope you enjoy! If you do and would like a free digital copy of the book in exchange for writing an honest, unbiased review, please let me know!
It was just before Christmas when everything started to turn, well, weird. Standing in my now empty room I tried once again to piece together what exactly could have caused my world to suddenly turn upside down. But as usual, it’s the same ol’ process. Staring out my window to the backyard, I replayed, for the hundredth time, the day I came home early from school to find my parents sitting at our kitchen table in this odd, trance like state. They were holding hands and staring at each other but you could tell by the glaze of their eyes that they weren’t actually “seeing” each other. They must have sensed me come in or something, because not even a full minute had gone by when their eyes cleared and Mom jumped up from her seat. She immediately made my favourite after school snack – Nutella on toast – without a word. She didn’t even ask why I had come home early. I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I should say about what I had just seen, it was totally creepy. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know what the deal was. I mean really, were my parents into some kind of cult thing? Were they secretly doing some crazy drugs that I never knew about? But that didn’t make sense either, because it’s not like you can just turn the effects of drugs off and on at will.
My parents were very restless and secretive for the next couple of days and I often caught them whispering in hushed, but urgent voices. Finally, I snapped, their behaviour was driving me nuts. I demanded they tell me what was going on. They looked like a couple of kids who’d been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. That’s when Dad simply announced that we would be moving in less than a month. But that was it – they wouldn’t give me any explanation, no reasons, nothing. It didn’t matter how angry I got, or how much I yelled or cried, they flatly refused to tell me anything at all other than to say, “Because it’s time,” and “You’ll understand everything soon enough.” It’s so unfair. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to do things like this to their kids.
“Amanda, hurry up, honey, they’re almost finished loading the truck,” Mom called from downstairs, snapping me back to the present.
“Coming Mom,” I said, choking back my tears.
So, today is the day, my own personal “D-Day”, the day that I’m forced to walk away from everything I know and love, because my parents have decided, “it’s time” – whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. As I look around my empty room tears sting my eyes again. Every memory I have is tied to this house and this town; my first sleepover birthday party as four of us tried to cram into my little bed. Or the time when I thought Susan’s dad was going to hang me for breaking the tail off his ‘prize fish’ that was hung on the wall behind the door. I remember playing those silly, pretend games in the park behind my house with Jordan, Ellie, Scott and Leslie. My first kiss was downstairs during a brave game of truth or dare. Then of course there was the day that Jordan and I took the step from ‘just friends’ to ‘dating’. Our first date ended on the tree swing in my backyard. I can still taste our first kiss and the heart he carved into the tree with our initials will always be there.
I still don’t understand why my parents are so urgent about us moving. They won’t listen to any of my pleas. It’s the first time I haven’t been able to reason things out with them. I feel an onset of panic with a shortness of breath and racing heart. This is what I’m faced with every time I analyze this move too closely. It tears me apart.
“Amanda!” Mom called again. I stood at the top of the stairs with memories flooding me, all I can think is ‘How on earth am I going to live through this?!’ Taking a deep breath, I head downstairs, trailing my fingers softly along the banister. Mom was at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me. As I look at her it strikes me again how utterly beautiful she is. Even in her faded, worn-out jeans, white t-shirt and runners, she’s breathtaking. I don’t think I’ll ever get use to it. As I catch my reflection in the mirror permanently attached to the wall near the front door, I can’t help but wonder how I turned out so plain with my non-descript brown hair and my average build. My eyes are really the only piece of beauty I inherited from my mom, in my opinion. But their bright sea green makes me look like I’m in a constant state of surprise as opposed to the exotic beauty they add to her. But one thing is for sure – it’s impossible to hold a grudge against her. She has such a warm smile, kind eyes and she seems to glow. People say that it’s because she’s one of the lucky few to find her true soul mate in life – my dad. Either way, as devastated as I am by this move, she creates so much calm and peace within me that I’m never able to stay angry. It’s a weird feeling and it’s been happening more and more lately – I get angry, I have a little outburst, Mom waits for a pause in my rant then calmly says, “Amanda, please remember to control your breathing.” Like seriously? But the really stupid part is that I DO! With one deep breath in and a slow exhale, the next thing I know, I’m completely calm – all my anger is just gone, like it never existed. It’s totally messed up, even when I WANT to be angry, I can’t be – it’s like she puts some kind of spell on me or something. Oh ya, there you go Amanda, that’s the answer to the sudden weirdness in your life – your mom is actually a witch! I shake my head, once again baffled by these crazy notions I’m having.
It’s only taken a month to prepare our material possessions for the move, for some reason my parents also had a sudden desire to get rid of tons of our stuff. But it wouldn’t matter how long it took, I’d never be ready emotionally. I was so grateful for at least having the last month, as it gave me more time with Jordan; my best friend, my love, my anchor. He was nearly as devastated as me when I told him that my parents were making me move. But after the initial shock, we set our minds to our own planning. Working out visit, phone and email schedules, I gained confidence that we could get through this! I turn sixteen in May and we agreed that I would finish this school year in my new school. Then in July I would move back here, we would get our own place and finish our last year of school together. Having a plan worked out seemed to make things easier to bear. It allowed me to think of the move more like a long vacation – something temporary. My parents seemed a little uneasy with my sudden calmness about the move, but that’s just me – if I don’t have a plan I’m a complete wreck, but once a plan is in place I can take on the world – bring it on!
Jordan was outside waiting for me now, so much for taking on the world. In seconds I was in his arms crying. “Shhhhh, be strong baby,” he said. “Just remember our plans. Everything will work out fine in the end.”
“I know, but it’s so hard and so unfair!” I said, shooting a glare at my parents. Their expressions startled me; they look so sad as if they could possibly understand what I’m going through! Yet again, my anger melted away. Between the compassion and seeming understanding from my parents and the strength from Jordan, maybe I really was overreacting?
With his fingertips tilting my chin, Jordan swiftly, but softly, kissed me with an urgency that told me that this really was as difficult for him as it was for me – a point I seemed to be overlooking a lot these days. “I love you, Amanda,” he whispered.
“I love you too Jordan and I’m going to miss you so much!” I hugged him fiercely and then forced myself to get in the car, I hate good-byes of any kind and the longer this one took, the more of a wreck I would definitely become.
Although my parents could have easily afforded to fly us to our new ‘home’, they decided that a twelve-hour drive would offer more opportunity to fill me in on my new home. I was dreading it.
The place we’re moving to is a small village where my parents grew up. We lived there ‘til I was about six years old, not that I could remember any of it, when they decided that somewhere less remote would be better for me growing up. Why on earth they figured a remote village was the better place for me to be now was beyond me. I wonder if it may have something to do with Jordan and I getting so serious, but that didn’t explain the spooky, glazed-eye-trance thing.
My parents are a bit… odd – to say the least. Apparently it’s not enough for them that Mom is an extremely successful, published author, but they both also have an extreme obsession with fantasy literature and they had me when they were very young – both only nineteen years old – so I usually put their eccentricities as “parents” down to these facts. I’ve never met any grandparents and whenever I’ve asked about them all I get is, “Oh it’s a very long story dear, for another time”. So, I’m thinking that they must have never learned what being “normal parents” actually meant. Not that it’s all bad. My parents live every minute for the breath of life – no less. Having fun is always at the top of the list and most of my friends are totally envious that my parents aren’t “normal” by their standards. But this just adds to the weirdness of their behaviour about us suddenly having to move. It simply doesn’t fit with their mandate of life being “fun”.
I made a weak attempt to settle into my own self-pity for the long drive ahead – but it was obvious that Mom had other plans. Listening to tales of her childhood and her fond memories of this quaint, little village she once called home, it was hard not to get drawn in by her – she was, after all, a very good writer of fantasy novels. Yet I also feel like she’s holding something back, like there’s parts of her “stories” that are missing, as if she’s intentionally leaving them out. I have no memories of their “village” as she was calling it and before now she had rarely spoken of it. But the excitement and enthusiasm within her now was very clear, yet it’s mixed with an odd sense of anxiety too. Dad’s being unusually quiet during the drive, but he has a look of peace and happiness about him that made me wonder if he’s silently filling in the blanks of what Mom’s leaving out. Watching them, I catch Mom giving Dad a mischievous, almost impish grin that makes her look like she is eighteen all over again, though she naturally looks young anyway. At thirty-five years old, both of my parents have such a youthful look about them – it’s like time stands still, just for them. Must be another one of those ‘soul mate’ phenomena I think to myself bitterly. But whether they’re real or fiction, I’m actually grateful for Mom’s storytelling abilities.
It’s now nine o’clock and we’re only three hours away from our new “home”. Thankfully, my parents had pre-arranged a motel room for tonight, since the moving truck won’t be arriving until tomorrow morning, which suits me fine. I’m tired and glad to have a bed to sleep in. I fell asleep almost instantly, launching into yet another vivid series of imaginative dreams.
I woke early, somewhat breathless from my dreams. They have never been that strong – they almost felt… real – it was creepy. I also felt increasingly guilty as the boy who has been haunting my dreams became more vivid and life-like than ever before. He was utterly beautiful, completely breathtaking. I often wondered why I don’t have dreams like that of Jordan – but then why would I? He’s safely and deeply entrenched in the essence of my reality, he’s everything I will ever want. Dreams are for make believe – fantasy – the stuff of my parents’ writings. Since my dreams have always been so memorable, I’ve often thought of them as my own little personal movie theatre right in my head, nothing more than entertainment.
Pushing the dreams from my mind, I get ready for the final leg of our trip. It’s going to be a long, busy day of unpacking and organizing. Fortunately today is Saturday, so I also have all day tomorrow to help finish setting up at our new house before I have to face my first day at my new school. Shuddering as that thought passed through my mind, I quickly push it aside.
As we pull into the Village I feel a wave of disappointment. It looks so plain; from Mom’s stories yesterday I was expecting something… more. But there really isn’t much to it. Small, quaint cottages, sort of pretty I guess, clustered on one side of a lake. The entire village and lake are completely surrounded by forest. But there really isn’t anything overly special or noteworthy. As I look at the front of our cottage I again feel a wave of disappointment. It looks impossibly small – I’m going to feel claustrophobic in this place – the surrounding forest suddenly took on more appeal as a place to escape to.
However, as we walk into the cottage I’m stunned. The inside is huge. I never would’ve guessed it possible from the optical illusion of the frontage. It’s surprisingly open and bright. The front half is a single level with an enormous living room, a large library and a very bright and open kitchen. This part of the cottage also has really high, open ceilings. It reminds me of the houses you see in some of them home magazines. It feels so inviting and everything is perfect from pale paints, to soft, cushiony carpet, dark wood accents and bookcases, beautiful artwork that reflects calm, peaceful, romantic scenery – it’s utterly tranquil.
As I make my way through to the back of the house, I find an entertainment room which already contains a beautiful, full size, grand piano, a harp, some other instruments that I don’t recognize and a variety of sofas and chairs – it’s gorgeous and I get a sudden sense of déjà vu, something about this room is vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I carry on, finding a huge formal dining room – again already furnished.
As I turn to head back to the front part of the house, I spot a staircase leading upstairs – it totally blends into its surroundings and although it’s large, I almost missed it. Upstairs there are three large bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Two of the rooms are empty and one is again already furnished. I go into what I assume will be my bedroom. It’s got a large closet – sweet – and it’s going to be super cool to have my own private bathroom. My exploration is cut short with the arrival of the moving truck.
I jump when I hear Mom call me and turning around I expect her to be stood right behind me, but she’s not there. Baffled, I make my way back downstairs to the front of the house, ready to start the long day of work ahead of us. As I approach Mom I say, “Wow, the acoustics in this place are amazing.”
“Why’s that, honey?”
“Well, just now, when you called me, I would’ve sworn that you were stood right behind me it was so clear.”
She just grinned at me with that same mischievous, impish grin she’d been giving Dad all day yesterday. I shook my head as her grin infected my own smile. She gave me a quick hug, whispered my name and said, “You’re going to love it here – I can feel it.”
I wish I could share her enthusiasm, but I can’t and she couldn’t possibly know that the few months that I was going to be here would not be near long enough to sway me from the plans I had secretly made with Jordan. Replaying in my mind the certainty in her voice, it occurred to me that although she had spoken my name, it sounded different, almost like she had missed pronouncing the “d”. I shook the fuzzy haze I felt clouding my mind and focused on the daunting task ahead of unpacking and organizing.
Exhausted, I flopped down on my bed. We’d achieved a great deal and it felt somewhat gratifying. There’s no question that I’m not happy about this move. However, I’ve always been a practical person. I’ve got my plans figured out and until those can be set into motion there’s nothing more I can do about it. So until then, I may as well make the best of it all. Knowing in my mind that this is a temporary situation, at least for me, allows me to think about what I’m going to do to enjoy this “vacation”. My bed was one of the first projects I had tackled today and I was now extremely glad for that. I crawled into the familiar softness and scent and drifted off to sleep immediately – it wasn’t even fully dark outside.
My sleep was restless and I was accosted with dreams so intense that I woke up feeling disoriented and confused about where I was. I lay there in the dim morning light for a long time struggling against the reality of my dreams, trying to get a grip on myself.
I could feel myself still sweating and shaking and it was taking several deep breaths to calm myself so that I could think more clearly. I try to just push the dreams out of my mind and focus on my plan of action for the day, but it was hopeless. Thoughts of my dreams kept pushing their way to the front of my mind. With another deep breath, I tried a different approach. It’s obvious that I’m going to have to address these dreams to be able to put them to rest.
I started at the beginning, categorizing each component. The dream started in our new home – I was in the entertainment room and there was music playing. Someone was playing the piano, but I couldn’t see who. I saw myself playing the harp – which was odd, because I don’t normally ‘see’ myself in my dreams. It also makes me laugh because I’m completely tone deaf and don’t have a scrap of musical talent within me – leave it to the miraculous makings of a dream! But that aside, this part was reasonable, I was thoroughly impressed by the entertainment room yesterday, so it made sense that I would see myself enjoying the wonders of it and secretly I’d always wished that I could play some kind of musical instrument.
Phew – ok, deep breath. Maybe this wasn’t so bad. The next thing I had seen in my dream was the forest surrounding me, I was exploring my new surroundings, but I wasn’t alone. That beautiful boy was there, again. I focused on him to see if I could grasp what the deal was with his constant recurrence in my dreams.
He was slightly taller than me, with long, blonde hair, a pale complexion and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. Every now and then he would look at me and smile – my knees would go weak, my heart would flutter, my tummy did somersaults and I turned to mush. He was breathtaking! This one is harder to process. I’m in love with Jordan! So why is this fictional, beauty-boy causing such a volcanic reaction in my body? A reaction that was resurfacing this very minute while I lay in my bed replaying my dreams. I took another deep breath and refocused. Ok, maybe I’ll come back to this part of the dream in a bit. I moved on to the next part.
Next I recall thinking that I’d woken up, shaken by the very real physical reaction my body had during my dream. I remember getting up and going to my window. This was when I’d realized that I’d not actually woken up, but that my mind had simply needed a diversion. Because when I looked out my window into the pitch black of the night, I gasped and held my breath. The vision before me was impossibly beautiful – perhaps even more beautiful than the boy. With a magical, iridescent glow, the entire village seemed to pulse with a heartbeat of its own. The lake water shimmered at the beckon of a light breeze and the reflection of the cottage lights danced across the surface. Exhaling at the impossible beauty before me, my heartbeat slowed and my entire body relaxed as all the anxiety of the last month melted away – I don’t recall ever feeling so incredibly calm.
It must have been the break my subconscious had needed, because shortly after that my mind drifted back into the truly disturbing parts.
This time I was in the forest, again with beauty-boy, but it was safer this time – or so I thought – he was behind me so I couldn’t see him or be distracted by his eyes, his smile or his unearthly beauty. He was behind me because he was teaching me how to shoot a bow and arrow. What was it with these dreams willing me to have some kind of talent or skill?! I’m gonna have to find something I can do. Apparently my lack of talent at anything has been a deeper concern for me than I ever gave it credit for! Maybe I should try archery – why not – with a forest this big there must be a safe area where I won’t cause too much damage.
Suddenly I felt a white hot, heat current jolt through my body. It started at my right hand where I was pulling back on the elastic string part of the bow; it travelled up my arm and flowed through my entire body. I could feel it spreading like it was moving in slow motion. Beauty-boy had touched me! Holy crap! What WAS that?! The damned of it was that once again, it was soooo vivid, so strong and so realistic, that as I lay in my bed – fully conscious – working through my replay, it felt as real as if someone had just injected me with some kind of lava serum! I wasn’t in ‘pain’ per se, but I was stunned, paralyzed and I was holding my breath.
After what seemed like forever, I slowly exhaled. Perhaps addressing these dreams head on isn’t such a great idea after all! On my sixth deep breath, trying to calm myself, Mom’s voice made me jump. “Are you awake sweetie? Are you ok? I thought I heard you scream.” It was just a whisper, but it was so clear it was like she was kneeling right next to my bed, which of course she wasn’t. Mom had just grinned at me when I commented on the acoustics in this place yesterday. Maybe she was up to some of her tricks, there must be an intercom hidden in here somewhere. I pinched myself just to double check that I really was awake and then replied with, “I’m fine Mom, just a dream,” having no clue whether she could hear me or not. I frowned a bit confused, had I really screamed out loud? I thought it had just been in my head as part of my dream.
‘Amanda’ I thought to myself, ‘you have got to pull it together! People are going to declare you officially insane and lock you away if you keep this up!’
So taking yet another deep, stabilizing breath I decided that my dream analysis was just going to have to wait. I got out of bed and looked at the laptop sitting on my desk. I’d tried to connect to my email yesterday to see what Jordan might have sent me, but our Internet was obviously not set up yet. I’ll have to mention it to my parents so they don’t forget to set it up on Monday. I suddenly realized that I’d had no contact with Jordan since we left Friday morning. That realization bothered me a bit, but then between Mom’s stories during the drive, the non-stop work of unpacking and the exhaustion, I guess it isn’t that surprising. I’ll give him a call a bit later to let him know we arrived safely; it was too early for him to be up right now anyway. With that decision made, I set about getting ready for the day, still troubled by the intensity of my dream and what it could possibly mean.