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Laws of Summoning I
By Melanie McFarlane
Month9BooksCopyright © 2017 Melanie McFarlane
All rights reserved.
Broken. That's how I feel inside. It's as if something ripped out part of me and won't give it back. It's nothing like the movies. There, it's cold, pale, and filled with sadness and longing, or sometimes very predictable and eye-roll worthy with those Hollywood special effects. But the death I've experienced is more horrifying, filled with personal loss, frequent nightmares, and shadows that haunt the night.
The therapist they assigned me, back in California, said I needed to move forward. Keep on, keepin' on. As clichéd as it was, I agreed. I had spent most my life fighting to thrive, practically raising myself. Now wasn't the time to give up. Death was inevitable. If I let the fear of it hold me back, I might as well roll over and die right now. Survival meant I had to push those feelings deep down inside and forget they were there.
Great Aunt Katya's voice calls from the hallway while I stand in front of the bathroom mirror playing with concealer to cover the dark circles under my eyes. Sleep doesn't come easy when you're trying to be someone new.
She appears behind me in the mirror, her braided white hair a contrast to my dark locks. "Are you sure you won't change your mind?" Her thick accent is still a novelty to me even though she spent the entire summer trying to convince me that I'd be better off homeschooled like everyone else in our family. I'm not against it — the last thing I want to do is disappoint my great-aunt who flew all the way from Romania to California to drag me out of foster care after my mother's death. After she convinced me to move to a tiny town on the East Coast, with nothing to do but think about my past, I need some distractions in my life. Nothing says normal like public school.
I shake my head and mimic a cheer. "Go Greystone High!" My knotted bracelets slip from my wrist, bumping against the rolled up sleeve of my plaid button-up shirt. I notice my chipped black nail polish that is the opposite of anything bright and cheery. I'm not about to give up my first chance to have a different life.
Katya throws her head back, letting her multi-hooped earrings clink against each other, mingling in the air along with her laugh. She dresses like a bohemian, wearing more bracelets and rings than I thought possible, and flashes excessive cleavage through her flowing blouses. Everything looks handmade, even her clothing, and I'm sure if I ask there's a different story behind each piece. She looks amazing for sixty-five.
She shakes her head at me with a smirk planted across her burgundy painted lips. "Don't be late your first day." She pats my shoulder before leaving. In her reflection, I see a shadow chasing after her along the cracks of the old wooden floor. My heart jumps and I spin around, running to the bathroom door. But when I peek around the corner, Katya is alone as she disappears down the creaky old stairs.
I sigh and return to the bathroom to grab my backpack, glancing in the mirror one last time. My dark brown eyes stare back at me; when will they stop playing tricks on me? This isn't the first shadow I've seen dashing about, but every time I try to chase after them, there's nothing there. I'm obviously out of my mind with grief.
Downstairs, I pop a waffle in the toaster and stare blankly out the French patio doors in the direction of the trees that line the back of our yard. I try to remind my nerves that today will be like every other first day. I'll get myself ready — alone. I'll get to school — alone. And I'll find some dark corner to hide out in — alone. Dacie Cantar's three tips to new school survival. I should start a blog.
The pop of the toaster snaps me out of my thoughts.
Outside, my little four-door hatchback sits in the dirt driveway. Katya found it for sale on the side of the road, and bought it for me my first day here on the east coast. Its navy-blue paint is peeling, and there's a bumper sticker that says, My Kid is a Greystone Grad. Perfect now that I'm going to be a student there. I've never had my own car before. The freedom is exhilarating.
As I pull up to Greystone High, the stone exterior of the school appears between the thick evergreens. The hard exterior is as old as the rest of this coastal town. On the steps, students gather in smaller groups, each offering each other familiar smiles.
Head down, Dacie. Just get inside.
The school's interior was modern twenty years ago, with classic cement block walls and pastel-colored lockers where more students are gathered. Most of them turn their heads as I walk down the hall, not even hiding their curiosity. As soon as I find my locker, I duck my head inside and finally breathe. I should have known a new location wouldn't change a thing; being different is always crappy, no matter where you go.
"You're new," says a boy from the locker next to mine.
Grabbing my sketchbook from my bag with trembling hands, I take a deep breath. "Sure am." I slam my locker shut, turn, and walk away.
Footsteps run after me. "Hey, I'm Brennan. You must be the girl from California? I heard you moved into the old Marlborough place."
"Hey," I mimic his enthusiasm. "That's pretty personal intel — what are you, my resident stalker?"
His eyes grow wide. "I — uh," Brennan stammers.
A twinge of guilt pokes me in the gut. I should at least be nice to the one person talking to me. "Dacie." I offer, holding out a hand.
He looks confused. "That's your name?"
Slight irritation twinges in my chest. "It's short for Daciana."
A smile jumps across his face exposing small dimples on either side of his mouth as he grips my palm with his and gives it a firm shake. He's somewhat cute with his short brown hair and sparkly blue eyes, which match his jersey with the Greystone High logo. The boy-next-door look has never been my thing. Though I've never actually dated anyone before, so I'm not sure even I know what my type would be.
"Why would you move here?" he asks, still flashing that all-American smile.
There's a question I'm not ready to answer, and I'm sure Mr. Normal wouldn't know what to say if he heard my backstory. "Sorry, Iuh, have to go. I'm going to be late for Art."
"Come find me at lunch!" Brennan calls out as he backs into a group of girls who start squealing as he stumbles into their arms. I can't help but smile.
I turn toward my classroom, and run smack into someone. My sketchbook falls to the floor, scattering drawings everywhere, while I stand there plastered against the chest of a tall boy.
"Sorry." A deep voice mumbles. I can't help but inhale a scent of pine and wood.
He kneels down to pick up my papers, revealing one of my darker imaginings. No! All I need is for this stranger to see just how messed up my mind is. I drop to the floor, grabbing the drawings away from him. In the scramble, one of my bracelets falls off and onto the floor. He picks it up.
"It was my fault," I say, stuffing them back in my book.
We stand up at the same time, only inches apart. We're so close; I can see his chest move with every breath. I don't think I've ever had this much contact with a boy before.
He gives me a crooked smile. "No harm was done." His voice has a touch of an accent I try to place. What is it? European?
I stare at him for a moment. His hair is a bit long, but it suits him as it falls into his eyes. Those eyes, green with flecks of brown, and yellow like a starburst from his pupil. His jaw line has a slight shade of stubble on top of his tanned skin. He's practically poetic; I finally exhale and can feel my face warm up from thinking about him. He holds my bracelet out to me, rousing me from my thoughts.
"Thanks." I grab the bracelet, diverting all attention from my face.
"Shall we enter class?" Shall? Who saysshall?
"Yes, please." I raise an eyebrow. The green hues in his eyes flicker for a moment with a hint of amusement. Is he laughing at me?
I lower my head and scoot past him, brushing my arm against his. My body tingles at the sensation of his skin. Enough, Dacie! I hurry to the first empty desk I see, which is close to the back. Usually, I choose a seat in the front row, but right now, my face is so flushed I need to hide.
The boy follows and takes a seat behind me. I shift in my plastic seat, focusing on the front of the classroom. The hair on the back of my neck rises, as if someone's watching me.
My teacher is an older woman with curls so tight they create the impression of dreadlocks around her freckled face. Her clothes are an odd assembly of ballet flats with gaucho slacks, topped with a frilly apron splattered in paint. She gives us a short lecture then has us begin working on pointillism. I check out some Escher and decide to sketch my hand.
I struggle with making my fingers look correct. They come out more sausage-like than human, which makes me frown. No matter how hard I try, I can't get it right, and I'm not about to reference my Escher print again or I might as well just copy it. Halfway through class, I give up and look around; everyone else is working diligently.
I peek over my shoulder to see what the boy is doing. I should have asked him his name. He's sitting against the back of his chair with his arms crossed, staring at me. I turn back, reaching for my pencil in an attempt to look busy and accidently knock it off my desk. I scramble to grab it before it falls, but it hits the floor and rolls to the back of the class.
I turn my head after the pencil, hanging halfway out of my desk trying to catch it. My fingers brush against the floor as a dark black boot stops the pencil in the middle of the aisle. I follow the boot all the way up to the boy's face. A small smirk lifts the edge of his mouth. Wow, he's fast.
"Thank you." I pull myself up, and quickly fix my hair.
He leans over and grabs the pencil, sweeping his hair from his eyes before offering it back to me. "Anytime."
I get out of my chair and walk over to him. "Are you already done with the project?" He nods. I look down at his drawing. What the — he's drawn a picture of me as I was drawing. Even worse, it's good, really good. My cheeks flash hot with irritation; I'm not sure if it's a result of the invasion of privacy or pure jealousy of his talent. I manage to twist my face from a glower to a frown: "We were supposed to do pointillism."
He folds his arms, still holding my pencil. "I saw something I liked more."
A sharp pain stabs my gut, and my face feels even hotter than it did a second ago. "Whatever," I say, letting him keep my pencil as I hurry to my desk.
Thankfully, he does not attempt to talk to me the rest of class. When the bell rings, he pauses at my desk still holding the drawing in his hand. I grab my things and leave as quickly as I can. I'm not interested in any explanations. Who does he think he is?
My next class is History, where I get a long-winded account of the colonization of Maine starting back in the 1600s. Lucky me, we're going to move through the centuries. After that, it's Math and then finally Lunch.
I throw my books in my locker and head for the cafeteria. I manage to find a sandwich and an apple that look edible, but when I turn to look for a seat, I see Brennan standing up waving at me. I force a smile and wave back, pretending to be normal. Can't be that hard, right? He's sitting with another boy and two girls. The boy smiles at me and the girls just stare.
"Hey everyone, this is Dacie," Brennan says.
I meet Zack, Sophie, and Chantal. Hmmm. Perfectly normal names. They all wear smiles except for Chantal, who stares me down. I'm pretty sure she's interested in Brennan, the way she keeps her eyes glued to him when she's not staring at me, but he seems oblivious as he sits next to her.
"Dacie moved here from California," Brennan says, flashing me another one of his full-face smiles.
Sophie flicks her long blond hair over her shoulder and laughs. "Eww, why would you move here? It's so cloudy."
"Long story," I say, taking a bite of my sandwich.
Chantal rolls her eyes. "It's so boring here, but you're too new to know."
I swallow my ham and cheese and shrug. "I've been here all summer."
Brennan's eyes light up. "Really? Where've you been hiding?" "I just stay inside. Read mostly."
"I've heard about you," Chantal says. She taps her lips with a perfectly manicured nail as a smile plays at the edge of her eyes. "My mom says you're all messed up because of what happened to you back in California."
Sophie shoots her a dirty look. "Shhh." Chantal narrows her eyes and gives her a look.
My heart starts to palpitate erratically, but I know how to hide it. I raise an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"Wait," Zack says, still chomping on his sub sandwich. "I thought it was her mom?"
"Shut up, Zack." Sophie's cheeks turn red as she hits his arm. "I'm sorry, Dacie." And it's true, she genuinely looks the part. "We heard, you know, about your mom."
I force down my next swallow. "So everyone knows?"
"It is a small town," Chantal says, leaning forward. I can see it — the hunger for gossip. She's daring me to cough up the gory details of my past. But not today. Sorry, honey. You're not worthy. I scowl back, biting down on the inside of my cheek until I can taste the metallic tang of blood.
"Hold on, everyone." Brennan raises his hands. "All I meant was, we didn't know you've been here all summer. It probably sucked being stuck in that stuffy old house. I would have come by to meet you." He flashes me his prep-boy smile.
Right. Come meet the freak. I put my half-eaten sandwich down on my tray and stand up. My chair scrapes against the floor, echoing in the quiet cafeteria. Was everyone around us trying to listen in on our conversation?
"Don't go," Brennan says. The rest of the table looks away, except for Chantal.
"Sorry." She tilts her head and smiles.
"It's fine. I just need some air."
I take my tray and deposit it near the exit as I leave the cafeteria. As I go to push the doors open, a black streak flies out of the corner of my eye. Ironic, the only familiar things here are the shadows that taunt me.
The double doors to the cafeteria bang closed behind me as my frustration builds. I walk to a quiet corner in the hallway, and lean my back against the wall as I exhale. I hadn't realized I was holding my breath, again. Some girls giggle as they pass by. This normal thing sucks.
I close my eyes and think about my mom. Six months wasn't long enough to stop me from hearing her screams, let alone numb the pain of her loss. The mention of her, and the fact everyone knows the story of how she died, stings like it did when I left the West Coast. Now I want nothing more than to go back there. What's the point of being here if I can't escape the past?
"You all right?" a familiar, accented voice says from next to me.
I startle, opening my eyes, and see the boy from Art. "I'm fine."
I push myself from the wall, leaving him behind as I continue down the hallway to the doors outside. As I reach the exit, I turn and see the boy staring at me. My body shivers from the cool fall air.
When the bell rings, I go back inside, making a beeline for my locker. A slip of white paper hangs halfway out of it. I pull it out and right away recognize it: it's the picture of me from Art, but the boy who drew it is gone.
I stomp through the hallway, determined to find him, but he's nowhere to be seen. Brennan sees me and is about to wave, but he lowers his hand when I shoot him a glare. I ignore him and continue down the hallway. The second bell rings for classes, and the hallway empties. There's no way I'm going back to a classroom with these people today. I crumple up the paper and throw it in my backpack. Again, I catch a black streak in the corner of my eye. I really need to get more sleep.CHAPTER 2
When I get home, the house is not as quiet as I hoped. Katya bangs around in her studio, doing god knows what in there. She tells me she's an artist, but I've yet to see her sell anything. Maybe she means in the creative sense alone. Her gardener, Constantine, nods to me as he walks out the front door.
Katya's house is old and what I'd call a mansion, like the ones I used to see along the Californian coast. My only personal comparisons are the stuffy little apartments where Mom and I lived. This house is apparently a Classic Victorian style, and my great aunt has proudly kept it up all these years with the help of her gardener/handyman Constantine, an elegant older man who barely speaks a word of English.
Excerpted from Summoner Rising by Melanie McFarlane. Copyright © 2017 Melanie McFarlane. Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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