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.
I stood in the upscale gallery, listening while people discussed my almost-death.
The subject matter was brilliantly rendered in Noah’s newest painting. In it, I lay on the floor, white-faced and still, while Noah hovered over me and various impossible beings stood around in the background. A figure who was meant to be Bain flashed fangs and red eyes; Noah had obscured the details so that only a few could recognize the real him. Bain was not a subject either of us wanted to bring up in public. Even after his defeat, he was still too powerful. In retrospect, it seemed he had given up a little too easily, and we both worried we hadn’t seen the last of him. I tried to stifle the fear that we hadn’t seen the last of Bain, and his attack that night was just the beginning. His hold on my father was still powerful; Bain was an extremely successful businessman, and my father, as mayor, couldn’t challenge him too directly.
I was still coming to terms with my father’s involvement in everything. I knew it would be a long time before I could completely forgive him for keeping so much from me. We were only beginning to discuss the past, Bain’s true nature, and the secret side of Whitfield. With everything that had happened, though, my father was finally seeing the importance of openness and honesty. It meant increased freedom for me: no more psychiatrists, the ability to go where I pleased, and most importantly, the ability to see whomever I wished. That included Noah. He only asked that I let Lars continue to guard me.
In the painting, Lars stood over Bain, the barest hint of a wolf superimposed over his features. The events of that night had taught us a lot about shifters. Apparently Lars wasn’t the only one in Whitfield by any stretch of the imagination. One thing we learned was how resilient they were; even a silver bullet had to be aimed at the heart or head to kill. Why Bain and his henchman hadn’t aimed for these killing spots remained a mystery. We could only assume that, like us, they didn’t know. Whatever the case, I was grateful they had missed. I didn’t want to imagine life without my protector, and now, friend.
There was one more striking feature about the painting. In life-like detail, every single one of my guardians ringed us.
With the help of my descriptions, Noah had done an amazing job rendering their appearance and even some mannerisms, even though he still only saw them as lights. Dez’s lighter gleamed silver while Fear’s rusty razor blade shone dull gray. Oblivion seemed to sway where she stood, while Anger smoldered and flexed her scarlet-tipped fingers. Joy and Sadness were luminous in their own unique ways, and Guilt stood with pursed lips. Because they were the featured in so many of my mother’s paintings, Noah had agreed to change them just enough to be unrecognizable and therefore unremarkable; only Noah and I could tell who they were truly meant to be.
Most gallery openings were populated by a mix of people who had one thing in common: money. This one was different, though. This was Noah’s spring exhibition, and the majority of the audience was made up of a wide variety of people, from the newest student to the oldest professor. Even some of Whitfield’s society elite decided to grace us with their presence. I stood in the middle of the gallery and listened to them discuss the painting with a sense of bemusement.
“The colors are so vibrant,” said a woman in a flowery dress.
“Yes, but am I the only one who finds the subject matter confusing?” asked her friend, a middle-aged woman with shiny brown hair. “I mean, people with wolves inside them? People with fangs and red eyes? And those figures in the background. They seem familiar, but I can’t place where I’ve seen them before.” The woman adjusted her glasses and stepped closer to the painting, squinting. She studied it for a minute while her friend sipped her drink and stared at the other partygoers, obviously bored. I felt a brief sting of panic and struggled to contain it; the emotion was new to me. Would she recognize my guardians from Noah’s painting as the same ones from my mother’s? But the woman just shrugged. “Maybe it will come to me. But whoever they are, they certainly seem creepy. Even for a fantasy painting.”
“I’m not sure that it is supposed to be a fantasy painting,” her friend interjected, downing her champagne in one final gulp. She gestured languidly to the painting without even really looking at it. “I think of it as a statement on mankind’s bestial nature, on the way all of us are animals inside…”
A quiet snort of amusement greeted me from behind. Rough scarred hands slid around my waist, pulling me backwards against a familiar body.
I knew it was him the moment he came up behind me. I had become much more familiar with his touch.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” he whispered in my ear.
“No, they don’t. But then, at a gallery opening, what else is new?” I whispered back breathily. His touch still made my heart race. Thankfully, I was finally learning to deal with it. “At least they seem to like it, even if they don’t understand. Come to think of it, I’m glad they don’t understand it. Can you imagine trying to explain that…” I nodded toward the painting, “…as something that actually happened?”
Noah pursed his lips as he studied the painting, keeping me trapped in his arms. “Mmm. Let’s see. You, passing out on me, scaring me to death. Me, avoiding death by shooting only because I was our would-be murderer’s collateral. You, taking out Bain and his men by flooding them with overwhelming emotions- emotions that left them too confused to carry out their mission. Both of us surrounded by strange creatures, including what might have been demons, and one very angry werewolf. And let’s not forget these invisible guardians of yours. Yes, I can see how it would be difficult to explain its true meaning. Good thing art is subjective; I’m already being pegged as an up-and-coming fantasy painter, when in reality, I’m painting things exactly as they are.” He smirked at the irony of it and shifted me in his arms so that he stood directly beside me, our sides touching.
Thanks in large part to Cassandra Blackwood, who seemed to have her fingers on the pulse of everything strange in Whitfield, Noah was coming to terms with his abilities as an Immune. He was no longer startled by the presence of my guardians, and he was learning to navigate a town populated by strange beings and normal people alike. One of the results was a change in the style of his art. Where before he had been tentative in painting the things he really saw, he now embraced them, and the result was an energetic, prolific body of work that was gaining critical attention.
Most importantly for me, because of Noah, I was finally learning to control my emotions.
He had been the one to suggest that maybe it wasn’t the flow of emotions that was too overpowering, but rather their unfamiliarity. When Bain had threatened us, it was the sudden influx of the unfamiliar that had finally been too much to handle, rather than the emotions themselves, as had been the case with my mother. Privately I suspected Noah’s abilities as an Immune had acted as something of a buffer. The important thing, however, was that it not happen ever again. It was dangerous, Noah said, to leave me unable to control, let alone experience, my feelings. And so my guardians were teaching me, slowly, to feel. And over the months since the incident with Bain, I was making progress by inches. As I learned to experience and control my emotions little by little, it meant that my guardians were around less and less.
I was surprised to find that I missed them.
My whole life, I had struggled to come to terms with their presence. I had resented, feared, and even hated them. I had never expected them to help me gain emotional independence; instead, I expected them to fight to regain control of me and my emotions with everything they had. But they had taken to the situation with a kind of quiet acceptance. When questioned about it, Fear merely stroked his razor blades and shrugged. “It’s not as if we haven’t already lost you, thanks to that boy. As an Immune, he can help you to bypass us any time the two of you decide to.” A razor’s edge gleamed in the light as he cradled it between thumb and forefinger.
“It’s too dangerous not to try and train you,” Anger added with a sigh, during one of their increasingly rare double visits. I could tell she was not pleased, but true to their word, they had begun letting me experience a little emotion at a time, until finally, whole days sometimes passed between their visits.
I was ripped out of my reverie by the scent of cigarettes and leather. A dry chuckle brought me back to my current surroundings, and I realized Dez was standing right in front of the painting, studying it with a bemused expression on his face. The gallery visitors flowed around him without touching, avoiding him as if by magic.
“This doesn’t look like me.” Dez rocked back on his heels, squinting at the image of him Noah had painted. “I’m much handsomer in real life.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” I teased, keeping my voice soft and my head straight, in case anyone was watching. I was still afraid that people would think I periodically talked to myself, even though my guardian’s visits were becoming less and less frequent.
Noah, however, was a different matter entirely. He looked at me quizzically, and I nodded. When his face lit up with understanding, I felt like I was flying. We hadn’t even said one word to each other, and already Noah understood exactly what was going on.
“Which one?” he asked. We still stood pressed together, and he slipped a scarred hand down in between us to take my own in his.
“Dez,” I whispered back, glad for his warm rough touch. My guardian smirked at the mention of his name.
“Your painter boy is making my job increasingly difficult,” Dez said, exhaling a long plume of smoke. “You light up like an emotional firecracker when he’s around.”
I couldn’t hold back a smile. That’s exactly how Noah made me feel, most of the time: like a bottle rocket waiting to be launched, or a sparkler whipping through the air. “Is that why you’re here?” I asked teasingly. “To watch the show?”
I expected him to laugh, but Dez just shook his head, a slight smile playing across his lips. He inhaled and just as quickly exhaled, sending a cloud of smoke to wreath a middle-aged man in an expensive suit. The man, of course, didn’t react. I expected to find that funny; my guardian’s invisible interactions with other people had often been a source of great amusement for me. But instead I felt a twisting in my gut, and recognized it as a kind of bittersweet sadness. Dez’s expression immediately changed into concern as he felt what I did.
“Can you handle it, posey?” he asked. “Do you want Sadness to come?”
“I can handle it,” I said, taking a deep breath and finding, to my surprise, that I could. “It just shocks me from time to time, how much I miss you all. For so long I’ve tried to avoid you. And now that I realize just how much you’ve tried to protect me…” I felt tears welling, and discretely dabbed at my eyes. “I miss you, Dez,” I whispered.
He came to stand at my unoccupied side, dropping his cigarette carelessly on the floor. “We’ll always be here for you, Sasha,” he promised, a leather-clad arm snaking its way around my shoulders. “You’ve taught us a lot about how to help and not hinder, but we’ll always be your guardians. And maybe someday, if you have a child with your same abilities, we can be there for her, too.”
“Whoa, whoa,” I said, sadness changing to amusement. “I know you’re in charge of desire and all that, but it’s way too early to start pushing procreation.” Noah looked sharply at the air beside me. I could see confusion and a hint of amusement in his eyes. “Just Dez being Dez,” I tried to reassure him. He gave my hand an encouraging squeeze.
“I’m not just in charge of the baser emotions,” Dez protested. “I’m in charge of the whole related spectrum. That includes love,” he said pointedly, gesturing to Noah and I together.
I didn’t repeat his words. Instead, I stood there and blushed.
Dez thought I was in love.
I didn’t know yet, but I suspected so. Why else did I go from thunderstorm to spring shower in the course of a moment? Why else would Noah’s touch make it difficult to breathe, and make me feel as if my heart was on fire? I looked down at the ground, confused. I was an emotional infant, with no real way to identify all the feelings coursing through me.
“I know you have doubts,” he said more gently. “But believe me when I say I’ve felt the flavor of your emotions changing over the last few months. They’re headier, more mature. And I’m not the only one to feel this.”
I merely nodded, eyes still trained on the floor, swamped with confusion.
“And so I’ve come to say goodbye,” he continued.
My heart stopped momentarily and I battled back a huge wave of sheer panic. “What do you mean, goodbye?” I almost stuttered. “You said you would always be there for me. You said all of you would…”
“Hush,” he said softly, putting a finger to his lips. “You don’t want Fear to come, do you?” Dez stood in front of me now, both hands on my shoulders. Noah, sensing my panic and seeing the light in front of me, released my hand after giving it another reassuring squeeze. He took a few steps away to give me some privacy. “Of course we’ll always be here. But love isn’t something you should feel in inches, Sasha. If it’s really going to grow and take hold, I can’t be here to take it from you.”
“But I’m not ready!” My protest rose to almost a wail; people in the gallery turned to stare. I didn’t care.
“You are,” Dez said firmly.
“So you’re going to abandon me, just like that,” I challenged, feeling a tinge of anger now.
Dez sighed and lifted my chin so that we were eye-to-eye. “No, I’m not leaving forever. Just for a while, until you get the hang of this love thing.” Then, softer, he said, “You can do it, Sasha. You are not your mother. Your struggles are different than hers. You are stronger than her. Never forget that.”
My throat choked up even as the words died on my tongue. I didn’t know what to say. Arguably my favorite guardian was leaving me while I struggled to master a powerful emotion on my own.
“You won’t be alone,” he said, as if reading my mind. He nodded at Noah, who had been roped into a conversation about the use of light in one of his smaller paintings. I could see him nodding patiently at the elderly professor who’d grabbed him, and felt my heart swell with pride, happiness, and something else. Dez smiled faintly when that happened, and nodded. “You see? You’re already dealing with it.”
“But…” I said, trying to come up with an unbeatable objection. I couldn’t think of any. “What about the others?” I asked at last.
“I suspect they’ll absent themselves as you grow stronger in your other emotions. But we won’t leave you entirely, I promise.” Dez enveloped me in a bone-crushing hug.
I squeezed back with all my might, filing away the scent of cigarettes and leather to remember my guardian by. “I’ll miss you,” I said, at this point not caring how strange I might look to anyone else.
“And I you.” Dez stood back and gave me his best crooked smile. Then he disappeared into the crowd.
I didn’t realize I was crying until a scarred finger appeared under my eyelid, wiping away a tear. “Don’t,” Noah said soothingly, taking me in his arms. “I can’t stand to see you unhappy. As soon as this is over, why don’t we drop by the Coffee Shop on the Square?” He laughed. “I haven’t been beaten at chess for almost twenty-four hours.”
In spite of myself, I smiled back. Noah was an excellent sport as he took repeated drubbings while I tried to teach him the game. I nodded, feeling my sadness ease just a little.
I had a long way to go before I figured all these feelings out. I felt awkward a lot, and often had to think through the appropriate response ahead of time. I couldn’t always tell fear from anger, and happiness from desire. And I certainly didn’t have a handle on this love thing.
But with Noah’s help, I was looking forward to finding out.