About Daughter of Glass
Sasha Alexander has a powerful ability. Either that, or she’s dangerously mad.
Her father shrouds her in isolation, convinced he’s protecting her. But the seven guardians that only she can see insist she’s gifted. Her companions since her mother’s suicide, they protect her from hurt, pain and fear. They also keep her from feeling love. Sasha doesn’t know how to react when Noah explodes through her defenses. This strange young man with the scarred hands suddenly makes her feel again.
But unless she can learn to control her own emotions, the biggest danger to them all may be Sasha herself.
Noah lived surprisingly close to the square; it took me less than five minutes of vigorous walking to get there. It was early evening, and I was just in time to watch the switch from day to nocturnal hours. I had heard of this, the way the lights switched over at exactly twilight every single day, but I had never witnessed it firsthand. I hung back in the deep shadows cast by tall trees, across the street from the square proper, and several blocks from any businesses.
I had the feeling that I didn’t belong there, not without an Old Towner like Noah to guide me, so I hugged the edge of the residential district and watched as the sun disappeared into a soft blanket of twilight clouds, and the trees of the park came alive with twinkling white lights draped through their branches. I couldn’t count the number or species of trees that were lit up. I only knew that they were beautiful. I suppressed an irrational desire to run into the park, strip off my shoes, and climb them like the child I’d never been. Perhaps it was Fear that held me back; his icy presence was still at my elbow, motionless and saying nothing. It was enough to remind me that I was not like these folks who paused momentarily in their day’s work to stop and watch the change. Every watching face seemed enraptured, as if it was a spectacle they didn’t see every single day of their lives, and I envied them their eclectic, busy little lives surrounded by so much strange beauty. Right then, the last thing I wanted to do was go home and face the fact that I’d ditched lunch with my father, let alone broken the unspoken command that I was never ever to leave the house without protection of some kind.
Let alone hang around with a boy from the wrong side of town all day.
Just at that moment, I noticed the woman with long blond hair named Cassandra step out of her New Age store. She looked around as if trying to find someone, then plunked a bucket on the ground at her feet. She held a rag in her other hand as she scanned the crowd, a small frown on her otherwise pretty face. I felt a dull echo of that familiar knifing feeling that had been so strong around Noah today, but it was quickly stifled. “I can stay on top of it, when he’s not around,” Fear said, almost conversationally.
Well, that was something, anyway. I wished I could muster the energy to be grateful.
Suddenly the blond woman looked right at me, and her entire expression changed to one of watchful wariness. She looked down at the bucket at her feet and over at me again, as if trying to make up her mind. She had to be the world’s worst window washer because she didn’t bother to give the many pretty, crystal and herb-laden windows more than even the most cursory of wipes. Then she seemed to come some decision, because she squared her shoulders and dropped the rag altogether. As if she was marching off to her own execution, she started across the square.
Directly towards me, where I stood on the border of the tree-lined old neighborhood. In the twilight, I was pretty sure I was hard to see, but she headed right for me like I was somehow covered in day-glo paint.
What could she possibly want with me? I thought her interest was all in Noah.
But before she could cross the square and the street that bordered the neighborhood in which I had taken refuge, a familiar car with tinted windows screeched to a stop right in front of me. My heart sank. It was a car I knew well. A familiar figure threw open the driver’s side door and erupted like a force of nature.
My bodyguard had found me.
“You,” Lars said, his entire body radiating rage, “are in so much trouble.”
Across the street, the woman named Cassandra froze as if she had seen a ghost or something equally unpleasant. She took a solemn look at the two of us, at the tableau unfolding, and spun on her heel, marching straight back to her shop and her desultory window washing.
I couldn’t help but peek at her feet, to see if she had vines growing up them. She didn’t, of course. How silly of me. But if Noah could paint my own bright madness, maybe there was something to the rest of the strangeness.
When I looked at Lars, I tried not to think of wolves.
“Whatever,” I mumbled. I suddenly didn’t have the energy to care. What was Daddy going to do, ground me? I already had nothing like a social life, except for the after-fundraising parties he forced me to throw for my classmates. And those I could gladly do without. In fact, I hadn’t seen my father since before the party, and I remembered dimly that there had been an unusual amount of damage. Maybe that was what this was about, I reflected hopefully as I ensconced myself into the thickly upholstered backseat of the familiar car.
“Is Daddy upset about the party?” I ventured, a little timidly. Lars responded well to me being timid. He seemed to like to think of me as a helpless little girl.
“I wouldn’t know where to begin,” was his cool but angry answer. I knew I should be feeling a sudden spike of cold through my abdomen, light as a feather but sharp as a knife, but I didn’t. Instead I looked over to see that Fear was still with me, sucking on one of his fingers. His razor blade necklace sported a single blade that shone red with blood.
“I’m staying,” Fear said, and I couldn’t tell if it was a promise or a threat. He waved his hands in an expansive gesture. The razor cut along his finger was already healing. “That was an especially strong wave of emotion, Sasha,” he said, almost jokingly, his voice like gravel. “If this keeps up, I might not have any fingers left by the end of the night.”
When my fear was especially strong or I felt especially threatened, my guardian had been known to cut his fingers on his razor blade necklace. I wondered just how bad things were, that he had already made the first cut. “I don’t know why you do that, anyway,” I murmured, so softly it was covered by the noise of the engine. “It’s disgusting.”
“We all have our little secrets,” Fear smirked. “Besides, it works, so why do you care?” I studiously ignored him, and turned my attention to my furious driver.
“Can’t you tell me anything?” I asked, practically begging now, but Lars didn’t answer. Of course not. Why tell me when he could just let me suffer? Again I thought of the snarling wolf woven through his body in Noah’s painting. The night passed us by as a series of dingy pools of darkness fading eventually into the identical mansions and perfectly manicured lawns of New Whitfield. “It was just a stupid lunch,” I murmured, not sure who I was trying to convince. “Daddy can’t be that upset. We can reschedule…”
“No, Sasha, that’s not it,” Lars said through gritted teeth. I could see his ice blue eyes in the mirror. He did look coldly wolfish, as if he could devour me with no forethought or regret. “Or all of it, anyway. You’ll find out soon enough.”
I tried to take comfort in memory, then: of Noah’s strong arms around me; of the way his studio seemed infused with the strongest kind of light; of the way he’d painted me so carefully and lovingly, if damningly. When we pulled up to the house, I had almost succeeded in ignoring Fear and any other thoughts that bled through completely.
My father was waiting in the doorway. He wore the best of business casual: khakis, an expensive button-down shirt. His hair was carefully arranged and he wore his best gold watch. I was acutely conscious of the mess I presented. I hadn’t bothered to throw on anything but jeans and a t-shirt before sneaking out a window and down a particularly messy tree, and then had walked blocks to get to the square from Noah’s house. Plus I had been in an artist’s studio, and probably had paint on me somewhere.
My father looked at me as if I was dressed like a streetwalker. “For god’s sake, Sasha,” he hissed under his breath. “What the hell were you thinking, acting that way? And you look… well, nevermind. It’s too late for that now. You’ll just have to make do.”
“Daddy,” I said, confused and a little alarmed. “What are you talking about?”
He did something he hadn’t done since I was twelve and skinned my knee: he knelt right on the concrete of our front steps until he was level with me and looked me straight in the eyes. “A very important person is here for you,” he said, softly but with a staccato emphasis on the words ‘very important.’ “I want… no, I need… you to be on your best, most pleasant behavior. I cannot emphasize to you how important an opportunity this is for you, and for me. In many ways, this is something I’ve been waiting for my entire life. But you musn’t be afraid, or anything else, while he’s here, ok?”
By ‘anything else’ I knew my father meant he expected his dubiously sane daughter to keep her behavior in check. No craziness from Sasha tonight. I nodded numbly as he led me inside, through the foyer and into the long formal dining room where a man all in black stood with his back to me.
“Such a lovely home,” said the stranger, looking out into the perfectly manicured backyard with its patio and swimming pool. “For a lovely young woman.” As he said these last words, he swiveled to face me, and smiled. For just a second, I could have sworn he had fangs. His eyes were amber with what looked like flecks of red in them. I struggled to keep myself from hissing; I felt nothing but cold repulsion for this stranger in my dining room. Fear appeared at his shoulder, his face a rictus of pain. He’d sliced through another one of his fingers. I struggled to pin a smile in place and failed.
“Sasha,” I heard my father say from far away, even though he stood just behind my elbow. “I’d like you to meet Mr. Bain. He works with me on the town council.”
“So…”I squeaked, and hated myself for it the second the words were out of my mouth. I looked longingly at the sturdy dining room chairs and wished I could sink into one of them. “You’re a councilman?” It was all I could think of to say.
“Not exactly,” Mr. Bain said, taking a few steps towards me. He had the fluid grace of an animal stalking its prey. I fervently wished I’d never left Noah’s studio. “I’m more of a special consultant.”
“Oh. I see,” I said, even though I didn’t. I was on the verge of babbling to hide my confusion, and for the first time in ages, I was grateful for Fear’s presence in the room. Otherwise, who knew what kind of blubbering mess I’d be right now.
“Mr. Bain has a business proposal for you, Sasha,” my father said. He’d moved forward to place a steadying hand on my arm. “To work with the council.”
“We need someone with…” Mr. Bain seemed almost to sniff the air, and cocked his head to the side, his gaze falling exactly where Fear stood bleeding on my carpet. It didn’t matter about the blood; no one could see it but me, just like they couldn’t see the guardians themselves. But something inside me twisted when Mr. Bain stepped right around Fear and the flecks of blood on the carpet exactly as if they were visible. Exactly as if he knew Fear was there.
Christ, not another one. Just how many people could see my guardians, after all? Had I been fooling myself all these years?
“We need someone of your talents, Sasha,” Mr. Bain said, prowling closer. “The council finds itself rather unfortunately gridlocked, caught between Old Town’s backwards way of doing things and the more progressive approach we take here in New Whitfield. We think that you,” once again he flicked his gaze in Fear’s direction, “could be just the person to shift that balance in our favor.”
Mr. Bain’s black clothing seemed to suck in the light around us. He smiled at me as if I had given him a present, while I tried hard to keep from shaking.