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.
The sun hit my pillow at an angle that sent it straight into my eyes. I blinked in protest, but decided not to fight waking up. I’d slept terribly the night before, and the best I could hope for was some coffee to get me going. I threw back the cotton sheets with more force than was absolutely needed, and dragged on my robe.
The breakfast room was off the back of the kitchen. I padded on bare feet right to the door, thinking sleepily of caffeine and maybe a little orange juice. I released a yawn at the same time I heard voices speaking, low and furtive. There were people in the breakfast room, and from the staccato, angry way they spoke to each other, I could tell they were having some kind of argument.
I crept closer, careful to stay away from the tall glass windows that bordered one side of the kitchen. The breakfast room was entirely encased in glass and looked out over the side of the house. No one ever ate there besides myself. I could count on one hand how many times my father had come to visit me there. He wasn’t much of a breakfast eater, and he usually rose with the sun. Needless to say, I rarely encountered him. What was he doing now, and why did he sound so angry?
My breath caught as his companion spoke, his tone urgent, cajoling. Bain. The man named Mr. Bain, who had roused such a strong reaction in Fear, had invaded my breakfast room sanctuary. Even worse, he was arguing with my father. I suppressed a shudder. I could not stand the man, and here he was in my own house. They were talking about me. I heard my name in hissed tones, and very little else. I could only make out snippets of conversation, like:
“… still so young….”
“…no one else…”
“…like her mother.”
But it was enough. They were arguing about me, and it wasn’t hard to guess what they wanted. But it was the comparison to my mother that made my heart pound. I wanted to run: from the creepy Mr. Bain, my father’s angry voice, the comment about my mother.
I slipped from the house, my bare feet stinging as the winter-dead grass stabbed them. The neatly trimmed hedges lining the back patio passed by me in one long blur of green. I wasn’t sure if it was tears or speed that made it difficult to see. Thankfully, my feet knew what my brain did not. I could find my way to the only real refuge I had on the estate blindfolded. It had always been my hideaway, since I was a small child, even before my mother’s death. She often held my hand while I looked at all the bright goldfish in the pond, securing me with one soft arm to make sure I didn’t fall in.
My breath hitched as I ran, remembering those days of peace, when I felt safe from the world. The estate walls had been sheltering then, instead of the prison I now knew them to be. I ran as if something was chasing me, looking around wildly for any of my guardians, to see if they were following me.
But when I reached the banks of the small lake at the very back end of our property, I found myself mercifully alone. Hidden by a towering willow and thick oak trees, the pond was already starting to turn green with algae. It was something that happened late every winter. By mid summer, the pond would be completely covered instead of showing patches of dark murky water. I remembered how pretty the goldfish were, bright yellows and oranges flashing against green. I wished it was later in the season now; plastering my back against the huge willow tree, I drew my knees up to my chin and tried to make myself as small as possible. I wished as hard as I could that it was spring already, and this whole mess was over. If it was spring, the town council would already have held a vote and the matter would be decided once and for all. I wouldn’t have to deal with Mr. Bain again, no matter how the vote went, and Noah…
My breath hitched into a full-blown sob as I thought about Noah. I had to stay away from him now, for his own good. Part of me knew that no matter how the vote went, Mr. Bain was never going to leave me alone. He knew what I could do, what my mother had done, and he wouldn’t stop until he had me in his pocket. And that meant he could never know about Noah. Not just about how I felt about Noah, but what he could do.
I allowed myself a small, pained smile through the tears. Who would have thought that one boy, one troublesome boy who could pierce through all my defenses, could be in danger from someone like Bain, and his dark ambitions?
The smell of his smoke preceded him, as it always did. Dry grass crunched underneath his boot as he dropped the cigarette he’d been smoking and stomped it out with a neat little twist.
“It must be terrible, to want something so badly, but feel so powerless,” he said, smiling at me from the other side of the small pond. He knelt in the grass and studied the fish with a funny expression on his face, like he wished he had bits of bread to give them. “It is terrible, “ he said, reaching for a fresh cigarette. “But you don’t have to worry about feelings like that, do you dear? Not with me here. Not with the rest of us at your beck and call.”
“If you were real, that would be such a disgusting habit,” I countered, my voice too flat to be teasing.
“Oh, I’m real, darlin’,” he corrected right back. “Real enough.” He lit the cigarette and took a deep drag. “Just because I can’t get cancer doesn’t mean I don’t like playing with fire.” He slid the gold zippo along his bare palm. At any moment I expected him to flick it open and show off one of his tricks with flame, but he didn’t. He pocketed it with a tired expression. “What are you doing out here, Sasha darlin’, away from your palace of a house and soft life where nothing can touch you? A life we worked so hard to build for you?”
He actually looked as if he’d aged. He looked worn-out. For the first time I allowed myself to wonder how this whole situation must be affecting the guardians themselves. “You look tired,” I said softly, wishing, not for the first time, that I could take a drag off his cigarette. But I couldn’t. It was real only to him. Kinda like he was real only to me.
But that wasn’t entirely true anymore, was it?
A small goldfish darted to the surface of the water, making bubbles, before darting away.
“And why do you think that is?” Dez asked lightly, but I could hear the tightness in his voice, the strain. Ash that might exist only in my imagination scattered on the wind, dusting the top of the pond with gray specks before disappearing into the water.
I had a sinking feeling that ash, like Desire himself, wasn’t just figment of my crazed mind. I had always lived my life between two poles of doubt. Either I was crazy, or I was dangerous. Crazy meant the guardians only existed in my mind, as some kind of mental defense put up after my mother’s death.
Dangerous was worse; it meant I really was powerful, and had no control over it. Events of the last few days were showing me this must be true. I wasn’t sure I liked it. In many ways, being crazy would be easier. Safer, for myself and others. But it wasn’t the whole truth, and I knew it.
“Noah can see you,” I said softly, watching for his reaction. It was milder than I expected; he merely shrugged and smoked, watching me back.
“I know,” he acknowledged. “I think maybe I always knew.” He took another slow drag. “I felt it, when I first saw the two of you together. Oh, clearly there was something between the two of you, something unexpected, but desire can do that to anyone. It was when he punched through… when he bypassed me… that I began to realize what he was.”
He had my total, shocked, attention. “Wait. What? What do you mean, you realized what he was?”
He ground out his second cigarette in maybe four minutes and began to pace. “He’s not the first one I’ve encountered. They’re rare, so rare that I’ve only met one other. Fear has met one. A few of us haven’t met any before Noah. They think of them as fairy tales, kind of, probably much like normal people would think of us.” He smiled, slow and sad. “Figments. That’s what we are.”
“What?” I demanded, having shifted into a crouch rather than sitting with my knees pulled to my chest. “Just tell me, Dez, and stop torturing me. What is he, that he can sort of see you, and that he does this,” I fisted my hand and pushed it against my chest, right where my heart raced double-time. “This to us?”
“They’re called Immunes,” he said, his hands buried deep in the pockets of his leather jacket. “They don’t experience the world as so-called normal people do. They’re immune to anyone with… special abilities, Sasha. People like your mother, and people like you. Hell,” he snorted. “They’re even resistant to people like Cassandra Blackwood, whatever the hell she happens to be.”
“Immunes,” I repeated stupidly. “You mean, he’s not affected by you? That’s why he can break through your barriers, no matter what? That’s why he gets to me like he does? Why he can see you?”
Dez walked around the pond to crouch down beside me. “He gets to all of us, darlin’,” he said, putting a hand awkwardly on my bare forearm. He smelled of leather, musk, and cigarettes. I think the gesture was meant to be comforting, but I jerked my arm away. My mind was spinning and I did not want to be touched. “Hey now,” and his voice was gentle. He was careful not to touch me again, though. “Not all of us find it disturbing, you know. I, for one, like a little heightened emotion from time to time. But the others… especially the ones in charge of the darker, wilder aspects of you… well, you can see how this would disturb them.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me before now?” I demanded, rising quickly to my feet. I paced in a small circle beside the lake, my mind whirling. “All this time I thought there was something wrong with me, or wrong with him. Or that I was finally really going crazy after all these years.”
“We weren’t sure at first,” he said, watching me pace in my small tight circle. “We weren’t sure what was going on. And then Fear saw that painting. It was so obvious then. You feeling things in his presence… that wasn’t so strange. But someone who can actually see some form of us? That was too specific. Everything fell into place.” He flicked his lighter along the seam of his jeans.
“You said ‘special abilities.’” I took a deep breath. “You mentioned Cassandra Blackwood.” I thought of her pocket watch, and the way she had known how to find me. Even she had intimated there was something going on in Whitfield, something strange, something buried just beneath the surface for those who know how to look. “She talked about special abilities, too, and not just mine. She implied something was different with Whitfield.” I asked the question I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer to. “Dez, what is going on with Whitfield? Why do I all of a sudden get the feeling there are people like me out there? Not like me, exactly. But people who are… different.”
Truthfully, I had been more and more aware of it since I met Noah. I always had thought my small town was strange, but only recently, only since meeting him, had this become even more obvious. “I mean, I look at Bain and I think I see fangs, I look at Lars and think of wolves. And then, there’s Noah, who seems to see it all. What’s going on, Dez? Why haven’t you told me before?”
“We were trying to protect you,” he said. “We thought if we could keep your life as normal as possible… then you would be safer. You wouldn’t suffer the same fate as your mother, who knew her whole life she wasn’t crazy, but was indeed very powerful. She never doubted herself, and knew her whole life about the town. That made her vulnerable in ways we were trying to avoid.”
“Vulnerable how?” I demanded.
“Innocents are off limits,” he said with a sigh. “We tried, Sasha. However this plays out, please remember that we tried to keep you innocent of what was going on around you.”
I felt a trace of anger, and wondered if she would come. He could call it protection all he wanted, but to me it felt like almost criminal ignorance. How could he have kept me so ignorant of what was going on in my own hometown, let alone my own family history?
And then she was there, her cruel crimson beauty a discordant counterpart to the peace and greenery surrounding the small pond. “So you’re finally asking the important questions,” she stated flatly, ignoring Desire. “That means it’s time.”
“Time for what, exactly?” I asked, mystified.
“Anger, no,” Dez cautioned. “Once she knows, we may not be able to protect her.”
“Oh, Dez,” she said with a huff. “Don’t you think that’s already compromised, with this boy of hers? It happened faster than I would have expected, but it’s time she knew.”
“Knew what?” I demanded, my voice rising in spite of myself. I was sick of the mystery, sick of not having all the pieces of the puzzle. I wanted answers. “Would someone please tell me what is going on?”
Anger smiled, bright and cruel, and ignored my question. “It’s time, Sasha.” I looked beyond her to see that every single guardian had appeared. Joy and Oblivion had joined Desire on my left side, while Fear and Guilt flocked to Anger on my right. Sadness swayed a little in the breeze and stood off by herself. I knew I should be alarmed, terrified even, but they were here to take care of that.
“It’s time to show you what you can really do,” Oblivion said, her eyes wide in the bright sunshine as she stared at the goldfish. She giggled. “It’s time to stop forgetting.”
“You were there, Sasha,” she said with a small sigh. She drifted in that dancer-like way only she had to the pond, where she collapsed in a puddle of skirts by the edge. “You were there the night she died.”
“I know that,” I said through gritted teeth. I felt unaccountably cold, by the pond, in the shadow of all my guardians.
“We made you forget what really happened,” she said, smiling slightly. Then she looked at me with big hollow eyes, and a violent chill racked my entire body. “She didn’t kill herself, Sasha. She was just too powerful, and she was trying to protect you.”
I dropped back onto the ground, my legs as heavy as iron weights. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Of course my mother had killed herself; it was a truth I had lived with my entire life, a truth that had defined me. How could it be a lie?
“Prove it,” I growled, shaking my head in a desperate negation.
“I’m sorry that we have to,” Oblivion said. She came to sit beside me and gently held my hand. “Are you sure you’re ready to see that night?” she asked, taking my hand.
“You can’t just tell someone their life has been based on a lie, and not…. Not tell them more,” I said, surprised to hear my voice come out wooden and numb.
“We’ll do more than tell,” Fear promised, his razor blades clean but dull around his neck. “We’ll show.”
And then Oblivion laid her hand across my forehead, as if I was a small child and she was taking my temperature. As soon as she did, the lake vanished around us. Darkness swallowed me and I closed my eyes reflexively, but only for a moment. When I opened them I was in a familiar place:
My mother’s arms. I was seven, and she was about to die.
And they were going to make me watch it all.