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By Eva Roy
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Eva Roy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Newcomer
Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, October 2004
The weather matched Bree's mood—grey and lousy. She pulled the hood of her jacket up to shield her hair from the cold drizzle and glanced at Sylvie, who was walking beside her. In spite of her mood, Bree smiled. She couldn't understand why her fashionista friend insisted on wearing that awful yellow rain hat; it looked like it belonged to one of the town's fishermen. Sylvie's long, black—and now soaked—hair was plastered to her back, and her lips moved soundlessly. Based on Sylvie's concentrated look, Bree assumed she was mouthing the lyrics of one of her own tunes.
Bree knew that Sylvie would rather be working on her music than attending swim practice, but ever since they had been toddlers, Bree had led and Sylvie had followed. Now that they were sixteen, that meant Sylvie had joined Bree on the school's swim team. Bree occasionally felt guilty for forcing Sylvie to tag along, but today she had a more important problem.
"I think Peter is fooling around," she blurted out. "I'm so mad. We haven't even been together for a month yet."
Sylvie pushed aside the rim of her wide hat and looked at Bree. "Why d'you think that?"
"It's just a feeling," Bree said, kicking the wet leaves sticking to the sidewalk. "He's always hanging out with Lucy, and—I don't know. I guess I'm still finding it hard to believe he'd go out with me."
Sylvie bit the inside of her cheek as she considered her response. "Maybe he's changed. Maybe he doesn't care that you're not as popular as he is."
"Not as popular!" Bree snorted. "Try doesn't care that I'm a freak."
Sylvie stopped walking and stared at her. "Stop saying that. You're not a freak."
Bree could easily name a dozen people who reminded her daily that she was, but she'd already had that argument with Sylvie too many times to count, so she let it pass this time. "Back to Peter. What should I do?" she asked as they resumed walking.
"Why don't you try 'seeing' if he's cheating?" Sylvie suggested.
Bree's eyebrows shot up. "Get a vision, you mean? To spy on my boyfriend?"
Sylvie shrugged. "Why not?"
"Are you crazy? My mother would kill me. I promised I wouldn't do it anymore."
"She'll never know."
"Still, I did promise." Just the night before, her mother had once again lectured her on the importance of acting normal, as if Bree didn't already know the price of not fitting in.
"How can you resist?" Sylvie asked. "If I could, I'd be doing it all the time."
"Really? To see what?" Bree couldn't believe her shy friend would have the nerve.
"Lots of stuff. Like first I'd check out Tony," Sylvie sighed. Although some boys considered Sylvie's dark, sultry looks hot, she might as well have been invisible for the number of times Tony had spoken to her.
Bree shook her head. "Forget it. Tony's a geek. He's only interested in his lab rats."
The square, brown brick building of the city's sports complex appeared around the corner.
"I so do not want to swim," Sylvie complained, grimacing.
"Come on, it's not that bad. Anyway we have to get ready for this weekend's meet."
"Wonderful," Sylvie said sarcastically. "My two favourite things in one week: a swim meet and the dentist."
"Oh come on. We'll have fun. I promise," Bree said as they climbed the stairs to the front entrance. "So what do I do about Peter? Ask him? Or pretend everything is fine?"
Sylvie followed Bree into the building. "Pretend?" she asked smiling. "You couldn't pretend even if your life depended on it."
Bree's lips curled into a slight smile. Sylvie was right; holding her tongue had never been one of her strong points. "I guess I'll talk to him after practice," she sighed as she opened the door to the locker room. "He's coming to pick me up." Bree wasn't sure she even wanted to know if he was cheating. By going out with Peter, she finally wasn't the school weirdo anymore. What if he was fooling around? She would have to go back to being an outcast. Not a good place to be.
During practice, Bree kept glancing at the bleachers, expecting Peter to arrive. Where could he be? What if he was going out with her as a joke? Could she be that stupid? Maybe she should "see" what he was up to. Just a peak. It wouldn't take too much time. And Sylvie was right; her mother would never find out.
Bree hoisted herself out of the pool and nonchalantly walked towards the water fountain. She took a sip and then, as if to catch her breath, leaned against the wall and turned to watch her teammates swim. Only Sylvie, who gave her the thumbs-up, knew what she was doing.
Although visions sometimes appeared spontaneously, Bree had developed a ritual for when she wished to focus on a specific subject. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and retreated inside herself. Within seconds, she no longer smelled the stench of chlorine or heard the swimmers' splashes. As if she had fallen to the bottom of the pool, a cocoon of silence and stillness surrounded her. Imagining her energy as thousands of fireflies soaring through her body, she gathered the flickers of power to her chest until they formed one brilliant, burning orb of fire. Then, drawing from that source of energy, she probed her mind to gain access to a world invisible to the naked eye.
Her body grew so warm that the droplets of water that still clung to her skin instantaneously evaporated; even the roots of her hair dried as if she was standing under the midday sun. She finally found the corner of her brain she was searching for, and like a burglar breaking into a house, she forced her way in. Ruby red dots appeared behind her eyelids from the strain of her effort. She exhaled slowly, opened her eyes, and stared at the water, willing it to reveal Peter's whereabouts.
Past the shimmering surface of the pool, she fixed her gaze on the play of blues, greys, and greens in the water's varying depths. The shadows deep in the water shifted into a shape that Bree recognized as Peter. Lucy stood beside him, way too close to be just his friend. It was difficult to discern their expressions, but Peter leaned towards her until their lips touched. It was not a friendly kiss but a deep, long, passionate affair. Grunting, Bree clamped her eyes shut, and the vision disappeared. She strode back to the edge of the pool, dove in, and furiously swam for the rest of the practice.
"So what's up?" asked Sylvie as they showered following practice.
Bree wished the hot water running down her face would also wash Peter out of her life. "I'm gonna kill him," she muttered.
"That answers my question," Sylvie said, frowning. "I guess you'll talk to him?"
"You mean before I kill him?" Bree asked as she turned off the tap. She walked into the changing room, opened her locker, and threw her goggles into her bag.
Sylvie followed her into the room and pulled a towel from her bag. "I'm sorry it wound up this way, but Peter isn't your type anyway, is he?" she asked gently as she wrapped the towel around her body.
Bree dropped down onto one of the benches. "I guess not. But ... you know. I just thought that ..."
"That you were one of the gang," Sylvie finished for her.
"Yeah, I guess," Bree muttered, her eyes filling with tears.
Sylvie sat down beside Bree and slid her arm around her friend's shoulder. "Oh, Bree, you don't need to hang out with jerks like Peter."
Bree wiped her eyes with the edge of Sylvie's towel. "He is kind of a jerk, isn't he?"
Sylvie nodded. "Yup, always has been."
While changing out of her bathing suit, Bree replayed memories of the past month in her mind and couldn't think of anything odd she might have done to turn him off. Why was he now cheating on her? The more she thought about it, the angrier she became. By the time she stepped out of the locker room, she was fuming. And there, leaning against the front window, was Peter. A lock of his perfect blond hair had fallen over his blue eyes, and his full lips moved as he texted on his cell phone. Probably texting Lucy, Bree thought bitterly. He didn't even look up as she approached.
She yanked the front door open. "Let's go," she ordered. Without a word, Peter followed her to his parents' old-fashioned Buick. Bree stared ahead while Peter drove out of the parking lot. She pressed herself against the passenger door, her body rigid with anger. "I know about Lucy," she finally spat.
"What are you talking about?" Peter asked as he continued looking at the road.
"Don't deny it. I saw you."
Peter glanced at Bree. "You saw me? How exactly did you see me? Let me guess. You had a vision?" he sniggered.
Wincing, Bree regretted her choice of words. Although she had never discussed her abilities with Peter, she was well aware of the rumours circulating at school on the subject. "Doesn't matter how I know. We are so over."
Peter gave a snort. "Like I care. I was getting tired of this anyway. It was only a dare."
Stunned, Bree stared at his profile. "A dare! Wha-what d'you mean?" she stammered.
"Sam dared me to go out with you so I could check out your weird witchy stuff. Why d'you think I never kissed you?" he sneered. "I didn't want to catch anything."
Anger spread throughout Bree's body like an oil spill in open water. Her itch to release the pent-up energy was agonizing, but she knew that was exactly the type of situation that had led to her reputation. For a split second, she wavered between control and abandon. Although her mother's warnings echoed in her mind, Bree gave up any effort towards restraint and allowed the emotions to surge inside her unchecked. Waves of energy rolled off her skin like heat off pavement. Her breathing quickened, and her hair crackled as if full of static. Within seconds, sharp gusts of wind whirled through the car, scattering the candy wrappers that littered the dashboard and whipping her hair against the side window.
"What the—eh!" Peter cried out as his can of Pepsi dislodged from the cup holder and spilled, soaking him and the car seat.
Bree slammed her hands against the dash. "Stop the car!" she ordered. "Let me out!"
His tires screeching, Peter pulled over. "Freakin' witch!" he wailed as he tried to mop up the mess with some old Kleenex.
Bree looked at him with disdain. How could she ever have been attracted to him? He was such a whiner. She jumped out of the car, but before shutting the door, she leaned back in. Her reddish curls floated off her shoulders and shimmered under the car's faint overhead light. Her lips curled into a tight smile, and her green eyes narrowed as she stared at Peter. "You'll regret this," she hissed. Not waiting for a reply, she stepped back and let a blast of wind slam the door shut.
Bree sprinted the last mile home, leaving behind her a trail of fallen leaves and broken branches. By the time she climbed the front steps of her house, Bree's energy was spent, and only a slight breeze followed her inside. She barged in, ran upstairs to her bedroom, and threw herself onto her bed. Through tears of rage, she punched Sylvie's number into her cell phone.
Sylvie picked up right away, and Bree panted out her story.
"Told you he was a jerk!" Sylvie exclaimed indignantly.
"I can't believe I was so stupid," Bree groaned.
A quick knock on Bree's door interrupted her lamentation. "Dinner, sweetie," Bree's mother, Annabel, announced.
Gotta go," Bree told Sylvie. "I'll call you later."
Hoping to avoid her mother's usual third degree, Bree padded silently into the kitchen. But the screech of her chair against the ceramic tile floor drew her mother's attention. She looked up from the pot she was stirring. "Hi, honey, how was your day?" Annabel asked. "I hope you had a normal day."
"Please, Mother," Bree said testily.
Catching the tone in Bree's voice, her mother turned from the counter and stared at her daughter. "What happened?" she asked sharply. "You promised you'd make an effort to—"
"I don't want to talk about it," Bree said, cutting her off.
At that moment, Bree's father, Michael, walked into the kitchen. His eyes darted from Bree's scowl to his wife's angry expression. Sighing, he took his seat at the table. "So, Bree, tell me about this weekend's swim meet in Sydney," he said.
Thank God for Dad, Bree thought as she turned towards him and smiled. "I can't wait. Teams from all over the province will be participating. It's really important, being the first race of the season and all."
Michael poured himself a glass of milk. "Sounds good. How d'you think you'll do? Any medals in your future?"
Bree's smiled broadened. "The coach seems to think so."
"That's my girl—a champion. Just like her mother," he said, referring to his wife's past as an Olympic swimmer.
Annabel returned her husband's smile. "Who will be sharing your room?" she asked Bree.
"Not sure yet. Sylvie, Julie, and Pamela, I guess." Bree bit into her bread.
Her father stopped cutting his steak and looked up. "I didn't know Pamela was on the swim team."
Bree shook her head. "She's not. She convinced the coach she'd be his assistant. I'm sure she just wants to be around the guys."
"Sorry we can't go, honey," her mother apologized. Bree's parents attended most of her races, but they were both on call this upcoming weekend, her father at the fire station and her mother at the hospital.
Bree shrugged. "That's okay. There'll be other races."
Bree knew her parents adored her, but she couldn't understand why they reacted so differently to her special talents. Her father thought they were cool, and he didn't mind talking to her about them, but her mother was a whole other story. She was obsessed about Bree being normal and was constantly setting rules about what was acceptable and what wasn't. Bree searching the bottom of the pool for a vision would have definitely fallen in the "unacceptable behaviour" category.
When Bree was nine, her father had suggested they consult with the American Society for Psychical Research. Her mother had refused. She hadn't wanted her daughter associated with anything suggesting paranormality. At the time, Bree had been relieved by her mother's attitude, but now she wondered if it had been the right decision, as it was becoming more and more difficult to control her abilities. One thing was certain: denying they existed to better fit in was becoming less and less of an option. In the past week alone, Bree had experienced several episodes, sometimes more than one a day.
Later that evening, Bree recorded in her diary the day's incidents: her visions in the pool and the windstorm in Peter's car. Still furious, she also transcribed how much of a dupe she'd been with Peter. Of course, now lying in bed, she imagined doing more than just spilling his Pepsi. She saw herself actually lifting his car—which was way beyond her abilities—and scaring the daylights out of him. She finally wrote in big bold letters: Never Trust A Guy Again. And to make sure she wouldn't forget, she underlined it twice.
Bree knew that Peter would waste no time telling his gang about what had happened in the car. Dreading the snickering that would probably follow her all day, she delayed her arrival at school until the very last minute. She hurried to her first class, entered through the back door, and slipped into her seat behind Sylvie. She was relieved to notice that everyone's attention was riveted on the boy leaning against the front wall.
Bree leaned forward. "Who's that?" she whispered into Sylvie's ear.
Without taking her eyes off the boy, Sylvie shook her head. "Don't know. He's certainly not from around here. Just look at him."
Over six feet tall, he wore faded blue jeans and a black T-shirt that emphasized his lean, athletic body. His right hand held a black jacket over his shoulder, and a blue canvas backpack lay at his feet. His shoulder-length black hair was straight and shiny, and it curtained his face as he stared at the floor. Although physically stunning, more striking was his lack of self-consciousness. His indifference and cool was unusual for a teenager.
Excerpted from Bree's Fire by Eva Roy Copyright © 2010 by Eva Roy. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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