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September 17, 1974 ... two soldiers in Army dress greens standing on our front porch ... our world lurched on its axis, knocked us to our knees, lives changed forever in a New York minute. A few days later my brother Phil came home from Vietnam ... in a flag draped coffin. Just nineteen when he died, they called him a hero. I didn't care, I just knew I didn't get to have a brother and he didn't get to have a life. I'd said goodbye to him before he shipped out less than one year before being killed. After he left we wrote back and forth every week, letters were better than nothing, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we would never be together again, never talk to each other in person again.
Phillip Thomas Leight, my big brother, my friend, friends not just because we were close in age, only two years apart, but because he was genuinely a good person. I admired him; he was the most happy-go-lucky guy, always the goofball; cracking jokes and playing pranks. Phil was also my defender, my knight in shining armor. I called him my Dragon. Not only did he have a picture of one tattooed on his chest, he acted like one; docile, going about his business, but if anyone or anything threatened his family or friends he'd puff up like a fire-breathing dragon, ready for battle, defending us to the death. I guess that's what he thought he was doing when he volunteered for duty in Vietnam.
I couldn't believe my brother had just vanished from this earth, how could it just go on turning as if nothing happened? I thought I'd never be happy again; my heart was broken in too many pieces. Two nights after his funeral, Phil fixed that. He visited me in my dreams telling me everything would be okay He said it was alright to be sad as long as I didn't "snivel and whine" too long (that made me laugh—it was so Phil). He said he knew I loved him and missed him, whispering "ditto back atcha". It's what he always said whenever someone told him they loved him or would miss him, or anything else he thought even slightly sappy. He told me to be happy, have a good life, to remember him not with sadness but with joy in the memories we shared. He gifted me with one of his big, incandescent smiles, the ones that used to light up entire rooms when he walked in the door. Then he left and never returned.
After his visit I could feel the broken pieces of my heart shifting, moving together, healing. At last I'd been able to say goodbye to my brother. I hoped he was going someplace nice. Although I will always grieve for him, I take comfort in knowing that wherever my Dragon is I'll be with him again one day.
January 1975. New calendar, new year. I was able to laugh again and life marched on.
I'm Shelby Violet Leight (pronounced light). I adore my family and consider myself a loyal friend. I have a slightly sarcastic sense of humor, a vivid imagination and I love watching Saturday morning cartoons, The Twilight Zone, and Star Trek.
Eight days into 1975 I turned seventeen. The eighth of January is my birthday as well as that of Elvis Presley. I thought (still do) it very cool to have popped into the world on the same day as The King of Rock and Roll. I bragged about it endlessly as though sharing Elvis's birthday made me somehow special. My friends just shook their heads and laughed. I also imagined that being seventeen meant I was all grown-up. I looked forward to starting school in August as a senior and after graduation planned to attend college in Fairbanks, majoring in Marine Biology.
1975 was the final year of a dreadful two year recession in the U.S., the year The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, declared in no uncertain terms that he was "Born to Run", David Bowie scored a mainstream hit with "Young Americans", and Willie Nelson crooned about "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain". Construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline started, and South Vietnam surrendered, a longed-for ending of the vicious, deadly Vietnam War, bringing the rest of our Boys home.
Even though it started out just like any other year, 1975 turned out to be quite a pivotal time in our lives. Not due to popular songs or oil pipelines; in part due to the ending of a long and brutal war that killed thousands of fathers, sons, and brothers along with my own, but mostly because of what happened later right here in the sleepy, little town of Palmer Alaska.
I was reminded for the second time in my short life how things sometimes take an unexpected turn and knock you to your knees.
Paul was sitting by himself, as had become his habit. A few months ago he'd decided he preferred to be alone; the other kids were uncomfortable around him anyway. It worked out well for everybody.
Something was happening to him, he'd changed in the last year, experiencing a growth spurt of three inches. Now six feet tall, he had pale, coffee-with-cream colored skin, curly black hair, and startling ice-blue eyes, the irises outlined in amber. His eyes were fringed with those long, curly lashes that guys always ended up with making all the girls envious. He'd always been told he was a handsome kid, but Paul hated how he looked ... people always stared at him, like a freak of nature or something. For one thing, he was of mixed race. His dad was White and his mom was half Black and half German. She and Paul's exotic beauty made them stand out in a crowd. Due to his striking good looks folks used to stare in a manner that was complementary, albeit uncomfortable at times. Lately however, the stares had gone from admiring to distasteful, as if they were looking at a big, hairy tarantula waiting for it to pounce.
Until this school year, he'd pretty much gotten along with most of his classmates, but now they all looked at him as though he were a stranger, staying as far away as possible. Even the kids who'd been friends with him last year now treated him like they thought he was going to bite them or something. A few exceptions, mostly girls, came on to him in a way that made him uncomfortable, so he kept his distance from those people.
He had become light sensitive; his skin easily burned and bright light gave him a massive headache, so any attempt at lying in the sun and getting a healthy glow on his pale skin was out. Even artificial lighting hurt his eyes and caused pounding headaches so he'd taken to wearing aviator style sunglasses with amber lenses even indoors, which certainly didn't make him look like less of a freak show. He'd let his hair grow to shoulder length which, although stylish, hadn't helped much. He still couldn't seem to fit in with the "normal" students.
He had been having odd feelings, strange ... cravings, for something that he couldn't identify. He wasn't sleeping much at night anymore and kept falling asleep during classes, which kept getting him into trouble with the teachers and of course gave the other kids yet another reason to single him out for their nasty comments and furtive glances. The lack of sleep left him depressed and tired most of the time.
The result of all the changes was a tall, thin, pale, long-haired guy with sunglasses planted on his face all the time. His classmates, no doubt, figured he was just trying to be cool. A handsome young man who looked like an exotic cross between Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, Paul didn't associate with anyone at school and had a very bad attitude because lately, everybody just pissed him off. He'd become a loner who figured all he needed was a big hump on his back and pointed ears to top it all off. That would really make him stand out like a circus freak. Or maybe a black trench coat and top hat, like Jack the Ripper. It was pretty much how everybody treated him anyway. Well, except for the overactive hormone girls. Those girls scared him.
If all that wasn't enough to deal with, along with everything else came the tiny inconvenience of violent impulses ... They had gotten much worse and a lot harder to control since his dad died. He struggled to hold on but wanted to smash everything and everybody in the near vicinity.
"What's the matter with him?" Jimmy whispered to his buddy Mike, nodding towards Paul.
"The freak's got lots of problems. His mom's a zebra and his zebra-lovin' dad kicked off. He's probably gonna start blubbering any minute." replied Mike nastily, making sure that he said it loud enough for everyone in class to overhear.
Paul struggled with the wave of rage that swept through his body. Mike and Jimmy laughed.
The teacher, Mr. Dubois, glanced over his shoulder from the blackboard pausing in his chalk-squeaking, dusty writing. He started to turn around, opening his mouth to intervene, but before he could say anything Mike, unwisely, continued.
"Yeah ... his mom does it with ..."
Mike never finished his astute observation as something inside Paul snapped. Wordlessly, but with an almost feral snarl, which surprised even him, he jumped up from his seat, knocking the chair to the floor with a crash. All he could think about was getting at Mike, who seemed to be stuck in his chair with eyes as big as platters and his stupid mouth in the shape of a big, fat O.
Paul grabbed Mike by the throat, knocking him off his chair as they tumbled to the floor in a heap. He attempted to scream, but all that came out was a strangled gurgling sound. His eyes were huge and bugging out and Paul was hoping they'd pop out of their sockets. It'd serve him right, the asshole. He couldn't believe his own strength, imagining he cold probably strangle Mike with one hand ...
For a moment Mr. Dubois froze, too stunned to react.
"PAUL", he screamed recovering his voice, "Paul STOP! What the hell are you doing!?"
Mike flailed his arms hitting at Paul, which didn't seem to faze him. He knocked Paul's sunglasses off, infuriating him even more. Jimmy jumped in to help his friend, but Paul elbowed him in the gut causing him to take a step back. Mike's chair happened to be right behind him and over he went landing square on his ass. Mr. Dubois yelled something again ... Paul hesitated as Mike gurgled and flailed trying in vain to push his attacker away. Paul, attempting to see through a reddish haze swirling in his brain, spotted Mr. Dubois coming forward to break them up. Mr. Dubois took a closer look at his formerly quiet, polite student and stopped taking a step back. He looked like a predator going in for the kill and he had Mike's throat in a death grip.
"STOP IT NOW!"
Paul shook his head making an effort to focus through a haze of fog; like swimming through heavy red smog. He loosened the death-grip on Mike's throat. Mike took the opportunity to jerk himself out of Paul's grip and start crawling away. He collapsed on the floor moaning with his own hands cradled around his neck.
The room was still as a tomb except for Mike's moaning. All the other kids were statues in their chairs.
"He tried to kill me."
Mike was still sniveling and starting to cry, tears and snot beginning to run down his face. Jimmy scooted over next to him, attempting to console his friend.
"Fucker tried to kill me ...," Mike croaked.
Paul gazed around the room feeling like a trapped animal. He had to get away from there. Without stopping to think, he ran to the open window, climbed over the wide sill, and jumped out. As he fell past the ground floor windows, he managed to twist like a cat, landing on his back instead of his feet in some kind of hedge growing around the foundation of the building.
The air whooshed from his lungs as he hit the bushes which cracked and snapped as they broke his fall. He couldn't move for a minute and lay there gasping, trying to catch his breath, hoping he didn't have any broken bones. As he rested, snuggled in among the smashed bushes, he looked up, watching fluffy clouds float by and thought, "Man, am I in deep shit."
Paul heard a door slam, footsteps and voices growing louder as they approached where he lay in the crumpled hedge with branches poking him in his nether regions. He knew they were coming for him so he forced himself to get up, still sucking much needed oxygen into his screaming lungs. His ribs really hurt but he got up and limped off as fast as he could towards the woods behind the campus. He'd lost his shades during the Mike-scuffle and a real pounder of a headache was beginning to hammer behind his eyes.
"Great," he muttered holding his left side, "just what I need on top of everything else."
Besides wishing that asshole Mike hadn't made him lose his shades, his only other thought was to get home. His mom was there and she could help; besides he literally had nowhere else to go.
Seraphina and John had seen the changes in their soon to be eighteen year old son and agreed the time had come to explain what was happening to him. They just couldn't seem to find the right moment ... then John died and their lives changed forever.
Although Seraphina continued to struggle with her grief, she knew Paul was too. He had to be told soon but she waited, not wanting to add to her son's grief. She knew he was going through extremely confusing, frightening changes; he needed to know that although these changes were inescapable, they were real, not some manifestation of his imagination and they could be managed. Her son was hurting and she needed to step up to the plate before it was too late.
"I'll tell him tonight," she said aloud to no one in particular, "after dinner."
The front door banged open and Seraphina jumped.
Paul never came home this early from school—something was wrong. "I'm here."
She turned to see Paul, standing in the doorway between the entry and living room, holding his side and breathing hard.
"What happened? Are you alright?" He looked confused and frightened.
"I'm okay ... I'm okay ... what's happening to me?" asked Paul.
Pale and sweating, with little sticks and leaves poking out of his hair, his apparent misery reminded her of a puppy who'd been scolded for piddling on the floor.
"Mom, I'm in big trouble ... I think I just tried to kill Mike. I wanted to kill him."
Despite of her son's anxiety, Seraphina had to suppress a smile. She knew Mike and was pretty confident he'd probably deserved it. Besides, Paul said he tried to kill him, not that he had.
"What's happening to me?" he asked again miserably.
Seraphina sighed. "I guess now's as good a time as any." she thought.
"Come sit down and tell me what happened", she said, taking her son's pale, damp hand, leading him to the couch.
After Paul finished telling her what happened at school, Seraphina knew he was in serious trouble, in more ways than one, she also knew it wasn't too late to make things right.
Excerpted from Visions of You by C.Y. Bourgeois Copyright © 2011 by C.Y. Bourgeois. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted May 14, 2012
Failed to measure up to my expectations!
Every once in awhile as a book reviewer, you become interested in a book based on the synopsis of the storyline. While this genre is generally right up my alley, I found it difficult to concentrate on the story based on a few factors.
Keeping in mind that the author, C.Y. Bourgeois, was trying to write this for a Young Adult audience in mind but for the occasion curse word, she had to reclassify this one under Adult Suspense Thriller. It's also hard not to attempt to compare her to Stephanie Meyers who's writing style is superb. But based on these facts, the story involves a serial murderer who is hunting down and kidnapping young high school girls from Palmer, Alaska. While it seems like the crimes are not connected, Shelby Leight (pronounced Light) receives visions from the dearly departed asking her to help track down and stop the killer.
When she learns she is gifted in this area based on a casual conversation on the way to the bus stop, Shelby feels she has to try and help before someone else she knows winds up dead or worse even she becomes the next victim.
When Shelby is introduced to the new student in school, a young brooding teenage boy named Paul Thatcher, who she develops an attraction to and tries to befriend in her Chemistry class. (Sound familiar so far). He is a pale, tall and wears dark glasses to keep from getting headaches in the bright lights and sunlight. Yet unknown to Shelby, Paul has a dark secret he is keeping, one that his mother is working on dealing with the changes he is going through, and one that requires him to drink blood.
While the storyline sounded promising, for me if left me with a desire for wanting more from this one. I found myself re-reading the content because the author spends so much time detailing her descriptions of virtually everything in the book, it becomes distracting. There are even parts of the book where the author re-describes something that you begin to wonder if you've missed something and are re-reading a portion of the book again and again. So for me, this really interrupted where the story was heading.
I received Visions of You compliments of Pump Up Your Book Tours for my honest review and found this one hard to stick with. Perhaps with other readers this book might become a favorite but for me, it wound up lacking in so many areas. For that reason, I have to rate this one a 2 out of 5 stars.