Fast forward a couple thousand years to late summer of 5000, when long shadows creep into the sunlight falling over Garden Island, Alaska, and the life of a traumatized teenage girl starts to unravel around her. The voices in her head are not those of her conscious and as they become louder than her own she breaks down. As the hectic world around her keeps spinning she reevaluates her home, her friends, and herself. As other perspectives join in the chaos, the pieces of her life start to fit back together to create an image she never saw before.
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Beautiful DemonBOOK 1: Love's Lullaby
By Mariya Nikitina
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Mariya Nikitina
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I'm home!" I shout as I set the groceries down on the floor. I kneel down and pull out two cartons of milk and dance to the fridge. I place them on the second shelf and stride back to the groceries. This time I pull out a box of appetizers and look up to see that Lance has come to greet me. While I pass him I ruffle his light colored hair, once a shade that matched the newly falling snow, now as golden as sunshine itself. "I got your favorite." I tell him. His serious face lightens up with a tiny smile.
"Where's Granny?" I ask as I put that in the fridge as well. "Still at the advisory meeting." he replies. Granny never misses a school advisory meeting and so she's pretty close with the principal's family, the Hamptons. I've actually never met them. "Hopefully this time they'll cut those nasty beans out of our school lunches." I joked.
After Lance helped me put away all the groceries I went back outside to feed the dogs. I took one step out onto the cool wet sparkling snow and heard the slush under my feet. They're all resting with their heads on their paws, and their heads perk up when they hear me approaching. I kneel down next to the one in the front, Tayla, the female leader of the pack, and scratch behind both her ears. "Thanks for waiting so patiently you guys." I tell them. Her mesmerizing blue eyes stare at me affectionately.
I lead them to their shed and begin to unstrap them from the sled. I chose to take them to the market today because the man that works there, a long time family friend, always loves it when I bring them by. If it wasn't for the fact that Pedro had to borrow my sled dogs to visit his sister in the big city, my whole pack would have burned to ashes like everything else that day. "I'm so grateful I didn't lose you too." I whisper to Tayla as I brush her soft, russet fur. Some places are black, such as around her ears. The contrasting colors make her even more gorgeous. In response, she just tilts her head slightly to the side and gives out a low whine.
Ace, the male leader of the pack, trots to my side and lays his head in my lap.
Maybe it's just me, but I feel like they know exactly what I'm saying. I communicate better with them than the people in my school.
After I give them their bowls of water and leftover gumbo I head back to the house. Granny came back home by now. I can tell because I hear her humming an old song while she makes a salad to go with the steamed whale I got from the store. "How was the meeting?" I ask. She turns around to glance at me, gives me a warm smile, and returns to her salad. "It went well." She says. "Did you know that Ty is already learning how to walk? He's so cute wobbling around." She chuckles. She's very fond of the Hampton's baby boy. I think she pays more attention to him than the actual meetings. "Granny, did you even talk about school today?" I tease her. She looks at me with a shocked expression. "Why Angesel, that's why I go to the meetings, don't I?" We both know that's not true and I try to hide my chuckle.
When the three of us are seated at the table, our dinner conversations aren't awkward and silent like some families are. You know, the ones that always ask the same questions. "How was school?" "Any projects to do?" Followed by the clicking of forks. That must be a drag. No, in our home we're always comfortable with each other. There's always some laughter at our table.
After we've finished the main course, I skip to the refrigerator and pull out the box of appetizers I had got for Lance. He loves the raspberry cream inside the chocolate covered waffle rolls, drizzled with white chocolate. I lay them on a glass platter engraved with snowflakes on the edges and set them in the center of our little table.
"Oh Lance I see Angie's brought you a treat today." Granny's sweet elderly voice crooned. Lance's blue eyes smiled at me. "Newton's Law! I forgot how good these things were!" I exclaimed as I bit into one and the pink cream filled my senses. "I believe the last time we had these was...." Granny pondered for a moment. "Oh yes, it was around the end of October."
"Wow that's a long time ago! I can't believe you remembered!" I said astonished. You'd think that she'd have a bad memory because of her old age, but Granny has the best memory I've ever seen. Me on the other hand, I can't even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. I frowned trying to remember but shrugged and decided to let it go. "What are you shrugging for?" Lance asked. "... Nothing." I bit into the roll loudly.
After I cleaned the table and washed the dishes it was already time for bed, so I brushed my teeth and put on my nightgown. This house is way smaller than my old house. My beautiful childhood home was completely destroyed when it got burned to a crisp. It had room after room that we would use for music where I practiced playing a variety of instruments, particularly the piano, or the playroom filled with toy after toy for me and Derek to play with. No, the house I live in now has only three bedrooms, just enough for Granny, Lance, and I to each have our own room. But I like this home. It brings a sense of comfort; a cozy haven with little walls I somehow feel can protect me from all kinds of danger.
I close my eyes—old habit I guess—and hold out my hand to brush the wall as I walk. When I feel a doorknob I turn it and step inside. As my eyes open I see everything exactly in place just like it always is; jacket on the backside of the office chair, bed made neatly, Native doll resting lifelessly on the little table beside it, along with a picture of my family and Derek's. My eyes linger on the picture despite the fact it's on the other side of the room. I sigh and force myself to look away to the window. The sun is still pretty strong. Since it's already past sunset it's not as bright as before but the copper sun still casts down tinted shades of warm apricot and fading scarlet across the vast landscape. We live by a beautiful lake which still holds onto the last of winter's bitter frost, and further out, an infinite forest with pine trees as tall as skyscrapers.
I grab the remote and snuggle into my bed. While pulling up the covers, I press the button and faintly hear the even mechanic sound of the thick shutters closing, leaving the room engulfed in empty blackness.
That's when the nightmares come.
Snow hits my face like thorns. I can't see with my right eye because blood is running down that side from the huge gash on my forehead. I force my feet to run in the direction of the burning house, and when I reach the door and place my hands on the knob I feel the searing pain all over again. I open my mouth so wide and feel my throat go raw but there's only the sound of crackling fire.
I rush to the window looking for a way in and I see my mother inside. She's looking to me for help with the most agonized expression on her face. I bang on the window while tears roll down my stained cheeks. Her body is covered in disturbing bubbles and blisters from the heat and she melts before my eyes—on the left side of her face, her skin has been completely burned off and all that's left is her raw meat—until the flames grow and all I can see are the cursed flames licking the window. The heat is so unbearable it feels like I'm on fire as well. That's when I notice my reflection on the window, and I gasp at the monster I see.
Chapter TwoSometimes I don't know who she is. I stare into her dark eyes as I slowly brush my hair. The girl in the mirror gazes back curiously. I turn slightly and my eyes travel down her lower back. There's the birthmark, shaped like a wolf's paw, but the spots are pinched and elongated in all the wrong places it barely looks like a paw print. It's ugly. I pull my lacey teal camisole over my head and smooth it down around me. I hear Lance calling me from downstairs. We're late for school.
"I guess we're taking the shortcut." I say as I put on my helmet and rev the engine. The bike takes off. I thought I was yards ahead until I heard, "You're slacking." from directly behind me. I smile at the challenge and increase to 90 mph. He's fast but I'm faster. When pollution got out of hand, scientists created fertilizers that made plants grow twelve times faster. Water plants and watch them grow towards you like you were the sun. The pines of this forest have exceeded lengths and centuries. You have to squint to see the sun through the brush. The leaves of the trees I pass hit my face and make it hard for me to see, but I've been here so many times that I don't need to. "Three. Two. One." I mutter under my breath, measuring distance with time, and make a turn. I arrive at an eight story high building, made almost entirely of glass and bustling with swarms of students. My school. Lance pulls up beside me and takes off his helmet. "What are you waiting for?" He nudges me as he walks by and gets blended into the crowd. I scan the crowd for people I might know and one little girl, shorter than all others, stands out in particular. Holding her books, she darts through the crowd and up the glass staircase hastily, her cotton candy pink hair trailing behind her in the wind.
I sit in the same assigned seat I've been sitting in all year. We are organized in tables of two and as usual, the girl next to me has her back to me, talking to her friend sitting at the nearby table. They are giggling over the boy sitting on the other side of the room. I slump against my table and start drawing circles on the surface with my finger. They disappear as quickly as newborn snowflakes do as they crash to their fate. I can't wait until the bell rings.
By the time it's fifth period, my arms are sore from carrying books from class to class. Lance takes them from me and we walk to music class together. I watch how his eyes crinkle as he tells me the joke someone made in his previous class. We can sit wherever we want and today Lance and I choose to sit on the far left of the first row. It's weird how where you sit changes your whole perspective of the classroom. As the bell rings to begin class, the aged teacher straightens his bow tie and clears his throat. Once the room became still, he closes his eyes and says, "Apainter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence." "Woah, that's pretty deep Mr. Shmidt!" He opens one eye and replies in his thick British accent, "Thank you, my boy. I came across it on Google". He smiles sheepishly and turns on the CD. Everyday we analyze a new piece of work. It begins with high-pitched melancholy piano keys. The artist sings so beautifully and yet it's like she's in pain. Then the drums invite themselves to the controlled chaos. I close my eyes and feel the vibrations of the music wash over me. They seep in through my ears and diffuse through my body. I breathe the notes. I have music in my lungs. "Extra credit to the chap that can tell me what year this song was released." Mr. Shmidt says. I open my eyes and see the asian girl sitting in the corner of the room raising her hand. "Forgive Me by Evanescence, 1999" she says firmly.
After lunch I have history. After Lance walked me to class, I sat down in my seat just in time for the bell to ring. "Your boyfriend is going to be late for his class. He might even get a detention." Ms. Harnet tells me loudly in front of the whole class. "He's not my boyfriend." I mutter. The folds of skin around her thin lips wrinkle as she sneers. She's my least favorite teacher. "We have a new student today, Yuna Reese. Give her a warm welcome class." A few people mumble hi. Most don't even bother looking up. The new girl is light skinned with moon colored hair. She looks at the floor as she walks to the seat beside me. Her steps are long and graceful. "I'm Angesel, but you can call me Angie." I whisper warmly. She smiles tenderly and I notice the deep blue shade of her eyes before she looks away.
A parasite of an unwelcome feeling has been trying to creep inside me all day. This headache now surges through me simultaneously with my heartbeat, struggling to take over. I take a step at a time sluggishly. Mrs. Velasco stands outside of the gym taking role. "You alright there, kiddo?" she asks concerned. Mrs. Velasco has the tomboyish look, always has her hair in a ponytail and never wears makeup. She's tough and energetic, and people naturally warm up to her. "I just have a headache." I reply. She shakes her head. "I would too with all that academic fluffy snuff. That's why gym is everyone's favorite subject." she says, chuckling to herself. "Sure is!" someone calls from behind me, and as I turn around I get hit full force by Lotta's hug. She pulls me to the locker room to change into our gym clothes. When I was finished, I started booty-shaking in my short shorts. "Sexy!" Lotta encourages, and we start laughing. I only act this way with Lotta. She's been my best friend since second year. When class was over she rode home with us on my bike while I rode with Lance on his. I wrapped my arms around his waist and rested my head against his back. My helmet was uncomfortable so I took it off and my hair flowed freely in the breeze. I still had that melancholy song stuck in my head. The notes leaked from my brain. Some stayed tangled in my hair, but the rest left a trail behind me. He's not my boyfriend, my song replayed. Yet he smells of sunshine. My hand slid up higher and I could feel his song vibrating. His heart sang badoop badoop.
Late August in Alaska means no trace of winter nor spring. The snow just melts there. I laid in it and felt it escape underneath me. The front of my body indulged in the sunlight while the back tingled from the ice. And in the core of my body two worlds collided and I wasn't sure what to feel then.
Chapter ThreeI woke with a pain in my heart and my mind. Dreams of ice and fire. Derek in ice. Mother in fire. The headache got worse. I get out of bed and swoon into the wall. Where do people find the will to start the day?
A bright yellow canary flies by my window, stops to peck curiously at my bird feeder for a few minutes, and then flies away gaily. I wish I had wings. I'd fly to the heavens and beyond. Lance can fly and he could carry me. But the government is always on the watch for mutants so we're always hiding, always pretending to be normal. I came to first period early today and Mrs. Jones was already setting up the lab equipment. She wanted to run a practice experiment herself so she put on her goggles. They make her ears stick out and since she wears glasses too, her eyes look especially wide and innocent. I watch her carefully. I need to do well on all the labs since Sasari never pays attention. She focuses so intently on that little experiment that there's a slight crease on her forehead. I just see water in a tube. What does she see? When she's done she shows me the new flowers in a pot her husband got her, a small addition to the garden in her room all from her husband. "They're called Arbutus menziesii," she smiles at them, "They stand for "Thee only Do I Love". I look at them carefully. Because they aren't yet in bloom, they look like little white bells. I wonder if flowers could make sounds, what sounds would they make?
In my English class, Alliana Gates was here for once. She's only here about two days each week. Supposedly she gets sick easily. She tries to hide from the class by sitting in the back but everything about her stands out. Her hair is pixie short and bleached all different shades of blonde, brown and black, like feathers of some rare extinct bird. She always wears dark colors. Her eyebrows are two solid fine lines draw above her heavily accented eyes. Today her eye shadow is different mixes of green and blue. A striped head band holds back what exists of her hair and a raggedy hand-knit tote bag hangs off her side. When I squint, I think I see patches of bruises, hidden underneath her foundation and peeking underneath her shirt sleeves. I thought about asking her where she got those from but she probably wouldn't have told me anyway.
In fifth period, Lance serenades me softly with a new guitar song Mr. Shmidt taught him. I wonder if Mr. Shmidt is trying to play matchmaker. My eyes narrow in on him as he talks in his British accent to some other student trying to learn the flute, but then my eyes shift back to Lance. His eyes stay on his guitar to make sure he doesn't miss a note but he plays so effortlessly. Even though his voice is quiet, he sings the pitches perfectly and I could fall asleep to his lullaby. The bell rings for lunch. We try to make it early to the cafeteria line. Everyday is something different, and today it's roast duck with steamed asparagus. With something different everyday, I usually don't know what I'm eating because it's something exotic no one's ever tried. Yesterday it was some yellow custard with all types of fruit swimming in it. We swipe our school credit card and head out to our spot underneath the euwai blossom tree. When I step out of the circular glass doors I'm blinded by the light so I follow the sound of his footsteps.
Excerpted from Beautiful Demon by Mariya Nikitina Copyright © 2012 by Mariya Nikitina. 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.
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