EXCERPT from Fire & Ice






Chapter One

“You look exhausted, Mrs. Johnston.”
I stared into her sunken eyes, rimmed with dark circles. My joints ached for a split second and then subsided. I saw the redness and swelling… the stiffness… They flashed like snapshots in my mind. Instantly I knew her fingers ached when she played the piano, and I knew her stomach ulcer kept her up at night. One touch could take it all away. But Gran had enforced the keep-your-hands-to-yourself rule at an early age.
“Oh, Lorelei, you know… story of my life, hon.” She glanced up at the oversized, walnut-framed blackboard with the specials scrawled in chalk, and handed me her menu. “Bring me the usual, will you? And a slice of that famous lemon pie?”
“You got it.”
The café was swamped tonight, the sudden cold snap meant lots of aches and flu bugs. People flocked to the Lemon Balm Café and Tea House for the ambiance as much as they did for the herbal tea.
I poured steaming water into the clear glass teapot. This wasn’t your typical English breakfast blend. Well, it was… but with a few extras added in. Then again, this wasn’t your typical tea house, and I wasn’t your typical teen. Not even close.
The freak label got smacked on my forehead long before I understood what it meant to be a clairsentient empathic healer. Basically, I can see when people are in pain, and well… heal them. Being gifted might sound great; but it’s meant a lifetime of trying to hide what I can do, and why, just to blend. In a town the size of Drearyton Cove, population sixty-three hundred, blending, was nearly impossible. After the quote-unquote incident, it was safer to leave the healing to Gran’s secret blend of teas. “Witnessing a child who could heal with the touch of a hand would be too much for people around here," she’d said. And so I listened — mostly — keeping my hands to myself, and staying far away from sports, parties, and people, which were no more than accidents waiting to happen. Not only for the obvious reasons: accidents meant injuries, injuries meant blood. Nothing made me hit the floor faster than that bitter, metallic stench of blood.
“Where’s the hawthorn and chamomile blend, Neil? Never mind, found it.”
“Mrs. J’s arthritis flaring up again?” he asked, leaning across the chrome counter.
“She didn’t mention it, but I can tell.”
Neil’s face folded into a grin, and we exchanged a secretive look. At sixty-something, Neil was our town’s resident hippy. He was as laid back as they come and wore his long grey hair pulled back into a perfect ponytail. Gran opened Lemon Balm twenty years ago, and Neil’s been here since day one, running things after Gran died and mom refused to help out. Pretty much since then, the whole town switched from coffee to tea. He’s one of the privileged few who knew why.
“Here you go. Enjoy.” I set the tea and pie in front of her, feeling somehow better about myself knowing in an hour or so she’d be back to normal and pain-free. It was Gran’s little secret. My little secrets were far more bizarre.
“So Monday’s the big solo?” Mrs. Johnston poured the amber liquid into her mug.
I forced a stiff smile, fiddling with the pencil tucked behind my ear.
“Yep.”
“And on your birthday no less. Well, good luck, honey.” Her blue-veined hand patted mine. “Julliard will be lucky to have you. Although why you'd settle for composing with an amazing voice like yours…” She shook her head. “But you’ll do well. I’m sure if it.”
Funny… I wasn’t. It really wasn’t up to me. How I performed was up to the Faerie who gave me my singing voice; the one who had appeared in my room one night and promised to keep my dad alive if I sang for him and only him. People insisted it was dream, but the ice shard he used to pierce my throat was agonizingly real. Turned out to be a bogus deal, since my dad has been dead for over a decade. Yet somehow that Faerie still controls my ability to sing. It’s made every performance, and my hopes of getting into Julliard, infinitely more complicated. If my Faerie muse was in a good mood, and if Jupiter aligned with Mars, I had a shot. If not… well…

The door swung open, sending in a gust of cold damp air. Brianne and her steroid-pumped entourage strode in, filling the far corner booth. Jocks and cheerleaders. In my section… Great… I sighed.



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