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.
At first, I thought I was experiencing some kind of trick; it wouldn’t be the first time some guardian or another had decided to mess with me. Dez, in particular, liked to play jokes and pranks. As the world I knew by the pond melted away from me, I went from being surrounded by guardians to seeing all of them spread around a very familiar room- they hadn’t aged a day. They looked exactly the same as when I had left them, even though this was supposedly years earlier, and I was supposed to be a child. I felt a weird twist to see them all scattered around my living room; I recognized it as the same room even though it had been radically redecorated after…
… After the event I was supposedly here to witness. My mother’s death, which I had gone my whole life thinking was suicide. But apparently it hadn’t been, and my memories had been altered to prevent me from remembering what really happened that night.
I felt Oblivion’s presence beside me in real time, her hand resting gently on my forearm, and knew it was she who controlled what I saw. How fitting that the one guardian in charge of forgetting was also the one who could make me remember. It was disorienting, though, because there she stood across the room, next to Joy, the two of them so close they could be touching. They weren’t, though; none of the guardians from this past event were. Instead, they took on various poses that showed them at their most agitated. Dez chain smoked while Oblivion swayed as if caught in a strong wind; Fear fingered his necklace, and Anger…
Anger smoldered liked banked embers.
Yes, there was definitely something wrong in this room.
And then I noticed her: a quiet figure I hadn’t seen before. She was so calm and so still that I had overlooked her in the middle of the guardian’s more forceful presence. My mother sat in a large wingback chair, loosely holding a book she clearly wasn’t reading, and stared off into space. She wore what had to be her nightgown, with a beige robe thrown hastily over it. She’d left the belt untied and her hair was a bit wild.
At the sight of her, my heart stopped. She was here, looking alive and well, if agitated. I had spent my entire adult life wishing I could see her one more time, and here she was, completely unaware of my presence.
She paced to the center of the room, avoiding the guardians who watched her like feral predators. It was a look I was familiar with; I had been on its receiving end more than once, usually when I was about to or already had done something to place myself in danger. She folded her arms across her chest and looked stubbornly at the floor. “You must let me protect her,” she said at last, her voice tight as the arms locked across her body. “I know I can do it, if you will only let me try.”
“It’s simply too dangerous,” Anger said, gliding forward to touch my mother on the arm. I watched as Sarah Alexander recoiled from her touch. “I know how strongly you feel about this, and that is exactly what we must guard against.”
“But she is my child!” My mother shouted this, directly into Anger’s face, and began to pace. “Who else can protect her, if not me? Her father? It’s his fault we’re in this mess to begin with. If only he’d never introduced me to that… that… creature.” The last word was a snarl.
“Let her human guards protect her.” This from Fear, slipping from his dark corner into the light. “You forget that if we let you free, Sarah, even for a little while, even for such a good a cause as this, you will endanger yourself and your own child.”
“I don’t believe you!” She snapped. “This is too important to let someone else try to protect her from him. He will come, and when I don’t do as he says, then he will hurt her, and you must let me try, you must.” She wrung her hands. Dark hair fell past her shoulders, the mass of it shining in the light. I remembered how it smelled, the shampoo she used. Lilies. I remembered my mother as smelling of lilies. I wanted to go and bury my head on her shoulder so I could inhale that old familiar, comforting smell, but I knew there was no point. What I was witnessing now was only an unearthed memory, no matter how real Oblivion could make it seem.
Then the substance of her words penetrated. ‘Do as he says?’ Who was threatening her? I shook off memories and listened harder.
“This is too important to leave to human hands. Humans make mistakes, or can be bribed, or…” she continued.
“We can’t worry about that yet.” This from Dez, who stood flicking open his lighter against his jeans. He snapped it shut and slipped it into the pocket of his leather jacket. “We have to let her human guardians try to protect her first, before we even think about letting you use your abilities, especially for something this emotionally destabilizing.”
“Not that we’re considering it anyway,” Fear growled at Dez, giving him a sharp look. Dez ignored him.
My mother huffed in frustration, and whirled on one bare foot. “Fine,” she snapped. “Since you give me no choice.” She stalked to the living room door way and shouted, “Lars! I need you.”
I got the second shock of the night, then, because in walked my mountain of a body guard and chauffeur. He was every bit as broad and blond and menacing as he was in my present-day life. His ice cold eyes fixed expectantly on my agitated mother. “Yes, Mrs. Alexander?”
“Lars.” She seemed relieved at his presence. I noticed that she was studiously ignoring the guardians in the room, even though Anger still had one scarlet-tipped hand on her shoulder. “Can you increase security tonight, on Sasha’s bedroom? I’m expecting an unwelcome visitor, and…”
“Why not just let me take care of this unwelcome visitor?” Lars rumbled, looking a bit puzzled. “I won’t let him disturb you either, Ma’am.”
My mother shook her beautiful dark head. “It’s Bain,” was all she said, and I felt shock bloom inside me yet again, cold and sharp as a bouquet of icicles. “He may bring… associates.”
Bain? The same Mr. Bain who sat arguing with my father in the breakfast room? Arguing over me? I felt like I was on the verge of solving a puzzle, but the true solution remained just out of reach, elusive and maddeningly seductive precisely because I could not solve it.
“I’ll get my team on it,” Lars said, as if Bain’s name explained everything. Perhaps it did. It meant that even back then, my mother had been trying to protect me from the man who seemed to have my father completely under his spell.
Lars seemed more wolfish than ever as he left the room with a speed that didn’t seem possible for a man of his size. My mother waited until he was gone, and resumed arguing with the guardians. “If this doesn’t work… if something happens to her… it will be your fault,” she accused. “I have done everything you’ve asked of me, for longer than I can remember, and yet you won’t bend on this one little thing. If anything goes wrong, it will be on your heads.”
A door slammed in the front hall. My mother startled as if a gun had been shot.
Bain strolled into the room, followed by my father and three other men. They dressed as Bain did, in dark suits with colorful shirts underneath, and several had dark glasses on, even inside the brightly-lit living room. They arranged themselves around the room quickly, so that all exits were covered. I noticed that they didn’t seem to notice the guardian’s presence, because they almost collided with a couple of them.
“Have you made up your mind yet?” Bain asked, placing himself directly in front of Anger. She scowled and moved to the perimeter of the room, flexing her perfectly manicured hands into fists.
“You know I could never work for you,” my mother hissed, backing away from Bain as if by instinct. “I could never influence anyone. They won’t let me.” She swept the room with her hand, as if indicating invisible guardians, placing heavy emphasis on the word, ‘they.’ “And even if they would, I would never be a party to bringing more of you here to Whitfield. There are enough of your kind here already, and…”
“Sarah, please,” pleaded my father. He looked tired but surprisingly young. I never thought of my father as ever having been anything but a public servant, forever harried by constant meetings and fundraising efforts. “He has the power to make life very unpleasant for us. For all of us. Can you please just try?”
“I can’t believe you,” she hissed again. “That you, of all people, should align yourself with this… this… demon.”
I heard the term with a cold detachment that had descended over me as the scene progressed. Demon. It wasn’t too far from how I felt about Bain, but to hear it so openly applied, and to know there were things going on in Whitfield I was just now beginning to understand, made me wonder.
Bain gave her a tolerant smile. “We haven’t given him much of a choice, if that’s any consolation. It’s amazing what a man will do when you threaten his family. Especially when the guards you placed on her were so easily pacified.”
I heard a disturbance behind me, and turned to look.
And saw my seven-year old self being led by the shoulder by one of Bain’s men. My mother hissed in shock, and my father looked positively green.
“What did you do to Lars?” my mother demanded.
“Nothing that won’t wear off,” Bain replied cryptically.
I looked sleepy and confused. I recognized my favorite bunny pajamas from long ago; my hair was wild and tousled. One of Bain’s men had a death grip on my shoulder. I could see that I wanted to squirm, but younger me was too frightened. I wanted to tell myself that it was ok, that even grown-up me found Bain terrifying.
“Please let her go,” my mother said in an overly-calm voice. “This isn’t necessary.”
“So you’ve decided to do as I’ve requested, then?” Bain shot back, an eager light shining in his eyes. I watched as my father sagged with visible relief from his post on Bain’s other side. My mother looked at my father for just a moment, the look she gave him a loaded one I couldn’t interpret. And then she shook her head.
“I could never do it,” she said softly, regretfully. “You have to know that.”
“Sarah, please,” my father pleaded. Bain sneered at her pronouncement.
“I’m sorry to hear you have such poor maternal instincts,” Bain said, gesturing at the man who held me. I watched as I was dragged past my mother and into the center of the room. “You have to know what this will mean.”
“No,” she said, pulling away from Anger, who stayed close to her. “I don’t think so.” She swiveled to face Fear, Desire, and Anger. “You said you would help protect her,” she half demanded, half begged. “Please let me try.”
Dez spoke softly. “And we will.” Bain watched this exchange with interest; to him it must have seemed as if my mother was speaking to nothing but empty air.
And then all hell broke loose.
Suddenly the man who held me tightened his grip on my shoulder. His eyes flew wide with some emotion I couldn’t name. I only knew he must be gripping younger me terribly hard because I winced under his massive hand and tried to pull away.
“Yes,” my mother hissed, her back arching slightly as her pupils widened. Her hands hooked into claws that she latched tightly together behind her back, bouncing slightly on her toes. Her face held a look of wonder. “I had forgotten,” she almost moaned, low and soft. “So powerful.” Her voice got even softer as the guardians shifted uneasily.
“This is a bad idea,” Anger said. “She’s too distraught. Letting her loose like this… I don’t know what will happen.”
Dez’s voice was flat, resigned. “We promised,” he said. “And besides, the child is our responsibility too.”
“But there must be another way,” Anger insisted again, her tone growing shrill. “Maybe we can attack them.”
“You know it doesn’t work that way,” Dez huffed with a hint of regret. “Let her try to control it, just enough to defend her own child. If maternal instinct can’t handle it, then nothing can.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Anger sighed quietly. But then they all turned their attention to the room and the unfolding drama, and some of them seemed just as eager to see what my mother would do with her new found freedom as some of the others were afraid. I shared their fascination, their horror and their hope; I had never seen the events unfolding before me. My memories of that night were all fuzzy, and framed by the sure knowledge that my mother had taken the coward’s way out, yet here she was, standing strong and brave in the face of what I now knew to be evil. Bain was evil. He was trying to hurt me and break up her family, and my mother had decided to fight back. Even though I was fuzzy on the details, I still knew the ultimate outcome: her death. But somehow it made all the difference, knowing she had gone down fighting instead of giving into despair.
Suddenly the man restraining me began shrieking and cowering on the floor. He managed to hold on to me with one arm, while he fought phantoms with his other, wildly waving off things no one could see. Fear stood across from him with a look of fierce concentration, almost pain. Finally the man collapsed on the ground with a whimper, releasing me totally so that he could cower on the floor, his hands held in front of his face to block the horrors only he could see.
The younger version of me didn’t waste any time. I watched as I ran straight for my mother’s arms, where, instead of embracing me as I had expected, she planted me firmly behind her. She looked around the room, studying each of its inhabitants. There was something feral and hungry buried deep within her eyes, something I had never seen there before and wasn’t sure I liked. With a shock, I recognized the posture from her painting; she had shoved the younger version of myself in the exact same position, right as she offered her still-beating heart to a circle of guardians. It was enough to make me forget, for a moment, how to breathe.
Across the room, Bain stopped smiling.
One of the men on his right began laughing. It was light at first, some giggles and snorts. But soon he began to shake with his whole body, trying to suppress the laughter that bubbled forth no matter what he did. He shook so hard his grip on his weapon wavered, until he was bent over double howling with laughter. He shook so hard he seemed to be having trouble breathing, and his vision couldn’t be good because he had tears of laughter streaming down his face. Bain looked at him with a mixture of horror and annoyance.
“Are you doing this?” my father asked my mother, incredulous. She didn’t bother replying. Her attention was wholly absorbed.
The man to Bain’s other side began to sway slightly. I looked more closely at him and noticed his hands were shaking around the grip of his weapon. He began to moan, low and soft. What made him different from the others was that he seemed to be enjoying himself. He licked his lips and looked slowly around him, a wide, stupid grin plastered across his face. His pupils were large enough to drown out the irises. I scanned the guardians and sure enough, Oblivion stared straight at him, her lips moving as if she were silently reciting something to herself. I had never seen such a look of fierce concentration on her face. I wondered why, when all the emotions were supposed to be coming from my mother, and realized that, linked as they were, my mother’s attempt to channel emotions must be affecting the guardians of that emotion.
Then the man collapsed to the ground, giggling and swaying back and forth. The look on Bain’s face was one of pure wrath.
“Do you want to be next?” my mother asked. I could see that she was gritting her teeth. Sweat rolled down her face and neck. “Or do you get my point?”
Bain charged us. He managed to knock my mother backwards, taking me down with her. Younger me was trapped half under my mother’s body, as Bain reached for her. I struggled to pull myself out from under her, but the combined weight of them was too much. I screamed as Bain suddenly transformed; in the space of a breath, he went from the handsome, always sneering aristocrat into something else entirely: a creature from my deepest nightmares, one with fangs and slitted eyes. His skin turned a darker color until it was reddish, and coarse. Younger me screamed and screamed as the creature that had been Bain snapped its fanged teeth just inches from my mother’s face. Older me wanted desperately to join in, but I was frozen in shock and horror. I couldn’t have moved an inch if I wanted to.
My mother growled something inarticulate, and I saw her enraged, wholly and completely, for the first time in my life. Always before, like me, she had her guardians to protect her from it. But to protect me, to protect us both, they had let their guard slip and let her loose to protect herself and her child. I wondered if she had ever been allowed to feel this way in her life. Anger stood, swaying slightly, her eyes half-closed and an expression of rapture across her face. My mother’s rage must have been especially powerful; her eyes narrowed to slits and she growled low in the back of her throat like some animal. Her hands formed into claws and locked themselves around Bain’s neck. Young me screamed again; my mother and this inhuman thing were locked in a vicious fight right on top of me, and there was nothing I could do.
All of a sudden, Bain began to weep. His fangs retracted and the glow in his eyes returned to normal as tears formed there. He covered his face in his hands, great huge sobs wracking him as he pulled away from my mother and me. Bain began to rock himself back and forth, his knees drawn close to his chest, as Sadness stepped forward and spoke to my mother in a low, urgent tone. My mother sat up quickly and grabbed onto me, scooting backwards and away from Bain as she did so. The inhuman thing who masqueraded as a person named Bain rocked back and forth on the floor, tearing at his hair. Sadness grimaced as he did so; I wondered what this was costing her, costing all of them.
My mother pulled me very close, right up into her lap and close to her heart. “I promised I wouldn’t let them hurt you,” she whispered, her grip on me surprisingly soft. Only then did I notice the weakness in her arms, in the way she held me. “Never forget the kind of power you have,” she whispered, her voice as soft as a guttering candle flame. She was weakening, and I didn’t know why.
“Somebody help,” younger me cried out. I was frantic in my mother’s arms. “Please! Something’s wrong with Mama!”
The guardians formed a circle around her, around us. They looked as horrified as I was, crying as my mother slumped to the floor at my feet. My father found his way to our side, yelling and shaking my mother who had gone almost comatose on the floor. Her eyes sought out the guardians ringed around us. “Promise me,” she whispered, her face gone quite pale. “Promise…”
“Anything,” my father whispered, Bain and his men forgotten. They remained incapacitated by whatever emotion held them in thrall. The guardians looked grim, staring down at my mother and me.
“It was too much,” Anger said, tight and sharp. “It was too much for her. I knew it, I tried to tell you….”
“What’s happening?” my father demanded, but only silence greeted him. With a single, gentle jerk that moved her entire upper body off the floor, my mother’s heart stopped beating. Beside her, younger me cried and cried, laying my head on her chest that no longer had any life in it.
As soon as she stopped moving, Bain and his men began to regain control of themselves. The men with weapons slowly stood from where they had collapsed and stared at one another, wide-eyed with shock. Bain himself slowly uncurled from his position on the floor and stared at my mother’s body. I couldn’t read his expression. My father and I huddled together, in shock ourselves, while the guardians made an even tighter ring around my mother’s prone form.
“There’s no way we could have known,” Sadness said.
“It was what she wanted,” Desire temporized.
“Yes, but now…” Oblivion began, and they all looked at the younger version of myself, crying hysterically over my mother’s dead body. “Now we know,” she finished softly.
“And we have a promise to keep,” Dez reminded them. “If the daughter is even half as powerful…”
“She’ll need even better care,” Anger said. She looked resigned. “We can’t make the same mistake twice. No matter what.”
“Agreed,” Fear whispered, then came and placed a hand on my shoulder. Younger me looked up, bewildered. I still wept, but some of the terror began to melt from my young face.
“Who are you?” I asked Fear as I wiped my nose on my sleeve. “What are you doing here?”
“We’re here to protect you,” Sadness soothed, her luminous hair bright in the light as she stepped forward and held on to my other shoulder. Gradually my tears subsided. I could see all of them now, and I looked around me in wonder and confusion.
“Daddy?” I asked, hesitantly. “Who are all these people?”
“You can see them?” he asked, a new horror dawning on his face. “You can see… people… here, Sasha? Unusual ones?” I nodded solemnly, and he cursed.
Bain looked very interested when he heard. “It’s not too late, then,” he murmured. My father shot him a look of pure hatred.
“You’ve done enough, don’t you think?” he snarled. “There’s no way she’ll do what you want. She’s just a child.”
“She won’t always be,” he corrected, almost cheerfully. “And I can wait. I’ve been waiting a long time, and I can wait even longer.”
My father sagged against my mother when he heard that. “Leave,” he whispered, and his words carried to Bain over his shoulder. “Just… leave. Don’t bother us again.”
“You know that’s not possible,” Bain said, although he gestured to his men, who gathered behind him. “This can only mean a reprieve. One day…”
“I said leave,” my father snarled, holding his wife in his arms. He looked at no one else but her, who could have been sleeping peacefully.
The real me felt shock. I couldn’t believe Bain had a part in murdering my mother, and yet my father was still talking to him, making deals, and trying to get me to help him. As I watched Bain gather his men to him and stalk to the door, I wondered why my father was trying to help him again. The answer came quickly: Bain had once helped cause the death of his wife, and he wouldn’t lose a daughter too, even if that meant giving in.
With a shock I felt my remembered reality begin to melt around me. Wide swaths of my living room faded as the present day seeped in, and I once again stood beside the lake, my bare feet sunk deep in soft grass.
“So now you know,” Sadness said, something like regret in her eyes. “We failed her. And we aren’t about to fail you too.”
“Once we loosened our control, we couldn’t guard her against her emotions anymore. The full force of them coursed through her system, causing a kind of overload.” Dez kicked at the ground. “We won’t let the same thing happen to you. Not for Bain, not for Noah, not for anyone.”
I came back to the present fully, with a start. “Noah!” I cried, realizing at last the depths of Bain’s cruelty. He would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, and he had been waiting a long time. If he knew there was someone I cared about, like my father had cared for my mother…
The thought left me cold and shaky. Fear nodded slightly and fingered his necklace. I felt frustration rising; Bain wanted me to influence the council in his favor, but to do that, the guardians would have to let me have enough emotional control to try to influence people. And because they wouldn’t do that, especially after what they had shown me about my mother, then Bain would try to force me to do what he wanted. He would try to force me to wrestle control away from my guardians to save someone I loved, like my father or possibly Noah.
Noah. I couldn’t let Bain get his hands on him.
“I’ve got to go,” I gasped, and ran for the house, careful to avoid the breakfast room. I had to get to Noah before Bain did. I had to warn him, even if he thought I was crazy and never wanted to see me again.
I owed him that. And I didn’t think I could ever live with myself if something happened to him because of me.
I changed clothes faster than I ever had before in my life. Lars was sitting in the library, reading a newspaper. I skidded to a halt in my socks, my shoes held tightly in one hand. “Lars,” I said, struggling to sound calm and reasonable. “I need you to take me to Old Town. And we can’t tell my father where we’re going.”