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.
If a girl could be cut from glass and spun into life, she would look like my most fragile of guardians. Sadness stood behind Cassandra’s chair in the busy bookstore coffee shop, her translucent hair almost blinding as it refracted back the bright halogen lights overhead. Everything about her was colorless or clear, but she always took on the hue of whatever surrounded us. As she settled into the chair I had fully expected the now-absent Fear to occupy, she took on the subtle blue glow of the tablecloth and bookstore walls. Her skin and hair, however, continued to shine under the lights. A pale, fragile girl who smiled beautifully but rarely, she was the guardian who reminded me most of myself.
Perhaps that’s why I found her presence the most painful. I wondered what kind of light Noah would see if he tried to paint her. Would it glow softly, reassuringly, or would it cut like a beacon? Her presence told me so much about how much I already missed him.
The coffee shop bustled around us. Couples chatted happily, their heads close together and wreathed with steam from their drinks. I wondered what Noah was doing now, and if we would ever get to share that kind of intimacy now that I had basically run away. Because that’s what I had done, I realized. I had run away at the first sign of something abnormal, leaving him alone in his studio.
If I could put money on who would run first, I would have bet everything on him. But obviously I was the coward here. I had never pegged myself for the running kind, but then, I had never been close enough to anyone to be scared. I had protections in place against that, supposedly.
But Noah screwed all that up. And obviously, there was something going on with him. Something unusual. Something some deep part of me didn’t like, even as another, equally strong part of me couldn’t get enough of him and the way he could bypass every single guardian who’d gone up against him so far.
I wondered if that’s what the strange Cassandra Blackwood wanted with me now.
“I know who you are,” I said, and had to stop myself from choking up. Sadness reached out as if to touch me, but pulled her hand back at the last minute, her fingers fluttering like wind socks in a storm. I thought again of how unexpected Sadness’ presence was, and wondered what had me so disturbed. Surely not Cassandra Blackwood, who stared at me now. I remembered her well from my single trip to Old Town with Noah. She had looked at me like I was a dangerous freak then. The look she gave me now was only a step above alarmed. “I met you a couple of nights ago, at Old Town Square. Do you remember?” I challenged, but my voice came out flat and tired.
Facing this Cassandra Blackwood, I would much rather have Anger at my side, but I couldn’t control my guardians anymore than I could control the emotions they represented.
“You were with Noah that night,” she confirmed. All pretense of friendliness melted from her face. She looked grim and determined, as if she had a truly unpleasant duty in front of her. I couldn’t help but notice the way she studiously avoided looking at the space Sadness occupied. “Oh yes. I remember you.”
“I suppose you’re going to pretend you really were washing windows today, too, instead of spying on me on The Square?” I challenged.
Her eyes widened a little; she hadn’t been expecting that. She leaned back in her chair as if gathering her thoughts and took a tiny, experimental sip of hot tea. It smelled like peppermint and something else, something that didn’t go with peppermint at all, like lemongrass or mango. Wrinkling my nose in distaste, I passed my latte under my nose like smelling salts.
“No,” she said at last, sipping on her vile tea while she looked at me with a single raised eyebrow. “I won’t pretend I wasn’t watching you on the Square.”
“Good,” I said. “Because I have to say, you are the world’s worst window washer.”
At that, she tilted her head to one side and laughed, as light and delicate as a bird singing at dawn. This close to her, I realized just how pretty she was, with her long, curly blond hair and clear blue eyes. I felt like I was in the presence of a porcelain doll that wanted some unnamed thing from me. And tonight, I was thoroughly sick of strange people wanting things from me. I was even more sick of strange surprises like boys who could get through my defenses, literally, and menacing men who didn’t look entirely human, and beautiful young women who lugged around pocket watches and pretended to know things about me.
“You noticed that, huh?” she laughed. Then her expression changed, became thoughtful. “Look, you don’t have to like me. In fact, given the history between our two communities, it’s not surprising that you don’t. I’m just here to deliver a message.”
“What message?” I asked warily. Sadness stirred uneasily in her chair. So this was it- Cassandra was here to deliver some unpleasant news, a threat even….
“We know what you are, and you need to stay away from Noah. He’s not ready to get mixed up in all of this.” She placed each hand carefully on the edge of the table, gripping it like a mountain climber hanging from the edge. “If you walk away now, there’s still a chance to keep him safe.”
I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. Just how much did she know about me? How had the secrets I spent all my life protecting suddenly become common knowledge? I struggled to keep from burying my head in my hands.
In that silent way all my guardians had, Sadness moved until she was standing directly behind Cassandra. The most beautiful and delicate of all my guardians, she stood swaying slightly, with one finger to her lips in the universal gesture of quiet. It was her way of soothing me, to shush me like a child, and I found the gesture comforting despite the fact that I had outgrown it. There was nothing repellant about Sadness. She seemed at once maternal and girlish, as if she could both play with me and rock me in her arms.
“Look,” I said, my own hands rolled into loose fists now. “I don’t know who you are, or what you want, but Noah and I… that’s absolutely none of your business.” I thought of other things to add, like that I didn’t know exactly what was going on between Noah and me. I almost told her that she didn’t need to worry because I had just run out on him that very day, and he was probably in his studio now, or out on the town, or doing some other thing I didn’t know about, well on his way to forgetting me. But I said none of these things, because I was afraid that was what she wanted.
Most of all, I was afraid she was right.
“Look,” she said, and I saw something like pity cross her face quickly. “I know who you are. I know you’re the mayor’s daughter. I even sort of know what you can do. I knew your mother, you see,” she added in a gentler tone. “Or rather, I remember her just a little bit. But I knew she was powerful, even as a child. I could sense it.” She took a deep breath and leaned towards me. “I’m something of a sensitive myself.”
“I’m not like my mother,” I said softly, staring her straight in the eyes as if daring her to disagree with me. “I’m not,” I insisted, but my voice lacked conviction, even to my own ears. Because I was exactly like my mother on so many levels, and that was the real reason I had run earlier, run away from Noah when he showed me that damning painting.
I didn’t want to hurt him like my mother had hurt my father. Had hurt all of us, and left me a stunted emotional cripple who couldn’t deal with the slightest upset on my own. And I was afraid of what I could do to him.
“No,” she seconded soothingly, as if she realized she had touched a nerve. “You’re stronger than she was. And that’s what makes you more dangerous.” She ran a single finger around the edge of her teacup. Had it been a wine glass full of water, it would have sung. “Sasha. Please listen, and try not to react until you’ve heard me out. My grandmother sits on the council. I know they’re going to come to you soon, if they haven’t already, with the exact same proposal they made your mother over a decade ago. And I don’t know what you’re going to say to them ultimately- whether you will turn them down or not- but I know they will go to any ends they can find to ensure your cooperation. And that is what makes you such a danger to Noah.” She looked up, her bright gaze sharp again. “Do you understand me? They will do anything to have your help. Anything.”
I tried not to sink even deeper into my chair. Sadness seemed even more radiant in the bright light, absorbing it until she was almost painful to look at. That was how I knew: this Cassandra Blackwood was getting to me. She knew about the council. She knew about Bain’s proposal. “But how?” I demanded, struggling to make my voice carry above a whisper. “How do you know about that? It only… it only just happened.”
Behind her, Sadness smiled her tiny, hesitant smile. She didn’t speak. She rarely did. Instead, she began to hum a soft, tuneless melody that wreathed the busy atmosphere around us like lightning invading a soft rain. All thoughts of never seeing Noah again, of what that would do to me, or of him being in danger because of me, receded into the background of my mind. Sadness still wore the same tiny smile as she absorbed the thoughts I found so disturbing.
Cassandra looked at me pityingly. “I told you I was something of a… sensitive. There’s a lot about Whitfield that you don’t seem to know.” She peered even more closely at me. “There’s a lot about yourself you don’t know, apparently. And that’s way more critical than understanding anything about me.”
“Why does the council want me so badly?” I asked, hoping beyond hope that this strange crazy girl had the answers.
“Because of who you are,” she said with a nervous eye-flick to the side of me. Exactly where Sadness had moved, smelling my latte. “Because of what you can do. And if you don’t know the answer to that, then it’s not my place to tell you. It would put you in even more danger.” She snorted into her tea. I think she intended to sound amused, but it came off flat, with the slightest tinge of anger. “There are rules around here, to protect the innocent. I can’t tell you too much, or it really will endanger you, and Noah by extension. But I will tell you that I am not the only one with a sense of your… abilities. And that’s why the council wants you so badly. There’s a critical piece of legislation coming up, and the power behind New Whitfield would love nothing more for it to pass. But believe me when I say it would change things around here for the worst.”
“What piece of legislation?” I demanded.
She looked uneasy again, casting a furtive look at Sadness. “Let’s just say it has to do with… zoning laws. There is… a certain type of businessman… who would like to make our city their home. And if we vote yes, well. That would change not only the balance of power, but quality of life for everyone.”
“Business is a good thing, though,” I interjected uncertainly. Something about her tone implied it wasn’t always.
“These are associates of someone named Bain,” she said carefully, watching very closely for my reaction. She wasn’t disappointed; my indrawn breath made a hissing sound, and my eyes widened. If Mr. Bain had ‘associates’ who were anything like him… I couldn’t imagine what kind of business they would want to bring. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out.
“These are the proposals the council wants me to… help with?” I said, struggling for better terminology.
“Part of the council wants you to believe you’re helping,” she countered. “But that wouldn’t be the whole truth and you know it. Influence is probably a better term.”
“And where does Noah fit into all of this?” I asked, trying not to think of Mr. Bain, and the drops of blood from my guardian’s fingertips.
“Well, there’s the council, which will stop at nothing to secure your cooperation. They could so easily use someone you cared about against you.” Beside me, Sadness placed a chilly hand on my forearm. Did Cassandra flick her eyes nervously to the exact spot where my guardian sat? Was I imagining it? I so desperately wanted to believe she didn’t know what she was talking about, didn’t understand the things I could do, that my mother had done. “But then, there’s the danger you yourself pose.”
“Me?” I squeaked. Before today, before I had seen his painting, I had thought Noah was the one who posed the greatest danger. But now, I had to wonder what would happen if my own abilities managed to leak through and affect him like he affected my guardians and me.
What would happen if my guardians couldn’t protect him from myself?
“You,” she echoed with terrible finality. “You have to stay away from him. You know he can do something. You don’t know exactly what, and I’m begging you not to try to find out. There are forces here, things I can’t tell you about, that protect the innocent in Whitfield. If they didn’t, if there weren’t rules in place protecting normal, everyday people from knowing that their beloved little town is more than it seems, than life here wouldn’t be worth living. This town would lose what made it special. And that goes for individuals, too. If Noah knew…”
“But he does,” I said in a low voice. “He already knows something. If you’ve ever seen his paintings… my god, they’re absolutely damning. He painted me, or at least a hint of me, of what I can do. And you.” She perked up at this, and actually looked interested. She set her tea down. “You he painted with vines growing up your legs, if that means anything other than just plain weird.”
She threw back her head and laughed. “Yes, that sounds like something he would do. So you’ve experienced it, then. You aren’t the only one here with abilities. I bet,” she leaned forward and her voice took on a husky, conspiratorial tone, “I bet if you look closely, you’ll see that you’re not the only one to have… something odd about them. Neither is Noah. And neither am I. The fact that Noah doesn’t know he’s any different than anyone else is what keeps him protected.”
“How do you know…” I started, but she had pulled her pocket watch out of her bag and stared at it once more.
“I’ll try to find a way to talk to you again,” she said, rubbing its golden rounded edge. “But I don’t know how possible that’s going to be. If you need help, or get desperate, or something happens, you can come to the shop. If I’m not there, my great-grandmother ought to be able to help.”
A heavy hand descended on my shoulder. It felt like I had a block of ice slowly spreading throughout my arm. I stared up into the cold blue eyes of Lars, my bodyguard and chauffeur.
Not for the first time that day, I looked at him and thought of wolves.
“Just on time,” Cassandra said cheerfully. She shoved the pocket watch back deep within her bag. “Unlike some people I could name,” she added, with a meaningful glance at me.
“Is this… person… bothering you?” Lars asked, his hand never leaving my shoulder.
“This person was just leaving,” Cassandra snapped, and stood with a toss of her long blond hair. “I believe my work here is done. And Sasha,” she said, shoving her teacup to the center of the table and tossing down a tip, “don’t forget what I told you. Any of it, if you can help it.”
With a flounce of her shoulders she threw her bag over one arm and headed for the door, where she was soon lost in the evening crowd of the bookstore. I sat there and looked at both my guardians, each of them charged with protecting very different parts of me, and let my head bang against the table. “That,” I said. “Was the strangest person I have ever met. And that’s saying something.”
“Are you all right?” Lars asked. His voce was surprisingly gentle, and he had released my shoulder from his grip that felt like ice. “I came as soon as I realized she was bothering you.”
I looked at him and lied through my teeth. “I’m fine,” I said, trying to project warmth and reassurance. Sadness had moved beside and behind me, resembling a cut-glass shadow. “Let’s go home.”