John Fish B.Sc. Publishers of Tenby in Wales (UK)

ROWSE LITERARY AGENCY

AFFINITY

by

Ryan McPhee

e-mail: Ryan McPhee

SYNOPSIS

SAMPLE CHAPTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

In Affinity, Letty receives an enchanted necklace on her eighteenth birthday, and experiences upheaval as consequential, dark romances rouse her life.
Letty is having a dullsville, senior year at an academy in Maine where the professors are vile, and flirting with boys feels foreign like selling fish-chum at an éclair shop. Sheís given a necklace with a cursed past unbeknownst to her.
Sling-shooting her into fantastical intrigue. First, the most popular guy in school, Allen, showers her with attention, causing everyone around her to question how the universe works. Then another gorgeous, yet mysterious boy, Marek, enrolls in class, entangling her in a romantic tug-of-war. Lettyís life becomes more intense as people she knows start disappearing. She soon realizes her necklace is why she is in jeopardy; also that, one of the very guys sheís shared a kiss with ... Allen or Marek ... is the culprit behind everything.
Affinity is 70,000 words of danger justified by romance, and is my first attempt at pursuing publication. Iím a pre-med student fascinated with words and am giddy about the sequel Iíve begun.

 

 

 

 

Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Endelcroft

"Are you ready, Luce? We were supposed to leave for class, right-around five minutes ago, and you know thereís going to be a quiz as soon as we get into the room," I said with a rush and a knock on the bathroom door, hoping she took my urgency as a hint for us to get going.
"What, Letty?" She asked nonchalantly, songs cutting in-and-out on the radio as she searched for something she could sing to.
"Iím just saying that we canít be late again; Ms. Adalar hates me enough already."
"Her dislike for you does seem to simmer, butÖyes, yes, my favorite!" She yelled above the music before shouting out a chorus line.
I could hear her bouncing around from the other side of the door, her voice beyond out-of-key to a poppy beat, drowning out the whooshing sound of her hair-dryer. Accepting her gnat-sized attention span for what it was, leaning my head on the wall, still tired from last nightís date with my Lit book, trying to recall as much about the Transcendentalist writers that my brain hadnít already let sizzle up and fry away, I waited until Lucy finally pirouetted into the room in a cloud of hair-spray so thick it nearly fogged up my glasses, striking a pristine pose whilst belting out the last line of the song in a single breath.
"Gosh, Luce, how many bottles did you go through?" I coughed, swatting at the fumes with my hand, consequently only sending more of the peachy-scented death into my lungs.
"Funny, miss-I-only-use-a-comb, so what do you think?" She asked with vigorous, approval-seeking eyes, scavenging for my immediate impression. "Does this sca-reeeam or what?"
Her hair jutted out in sharp bangs like blades of grass, while the sides were lightly pulled back, revealing her very decorative ears (pierced all the way up on both sides). Turning around to show me how the rest looked, I saw that she accented everything with a twisted creation pinned by sparkling, daisy clips; in addition to her hair, her sleeves were rolled up almost to her elbow, giving her plenty of space to clink on four or five charm-bracelets that jingled as she moved as well as a few doodles of her favorite bandís lead singerís initials in block-lettering that made her arms look like walls of graffiti, and for extra sauce she had on butterfly flip-flops with cherry-red tube-socks, equally as bright as her shiny lips.
"Oh, definitely screaming, something," a fall-out of words and breath stuck to my throat as I looked her over once more, "but you know itís October, and itís supposed to rain, so sandals might not be, umÖ" I answered blankly, feeling the inside of my lips tighten as the shock began to suck them inward against the roof of my mouth. The limits she took Endelcroftís uniform policy to sometimes were so drastic that it was easy to forget we had on the exact same black skirt and forest-green sweater; no one, authoritatively or otherwise, could contain Lucyís individuality, and occasionally I wished I shared some of that whimsical spirit she paraded everywhere with; she was so confident with herself.
"You know I never let the weather dictate the fashionistaís savvy in my soul, and besides, itís worth sacrificing comfort to look as tasty as fruity-chocolate fondue," She pressed on with an impish smile, promenading her feet with a wiggle of her toes. "I just adore the freedom these things give my tootsies."
"Alright, you look great, but we really have to go," I ushered, slipping on my jacket, handing hers over as well.
We both grabbed our bags and made our way out of the dorms. Amidst our walking through the leaf-scattered courtyard, Lucy gabbed on about the concert-tickets her parents finally sent her in the mail, and how Finesse Rogue was the quintessential example of musical genius (not to mention, her future love-affair).
"Letty, itís so much beyond just sound. When I listen to Mayday Eyes, I drift into a place where Finesse does a little bit more than just serenade me, if you know what I mean," she carried on, her eye-brows moving up-and-down, following suit with her smirk.
"Yeah, he sings OK," I said, half-paying attention to her swooning as I silently recited the poems that might be covered on any Emily Dickinson questions Ms. Adalar guaranteed would be on the quiz while also walking as fast as one could with a handful of note-cards (not exactly an easy task with the wind pushing every-which-way, sending my overly-long, snowy-blonde hair across my face like a brigade of very fine whips).
"Are you serious, just OK?" Her eyes splashed a wave of doubt onto me, nearly pulling me to a stand-still to try and convince me to rethink my last statement.
"Well, I think you are exaggerating just a teensy bit."
"Come on, are you saying you wouldnít want to lose your virginity while listening to Innocent Embrace? Just thinking about that opening riff leading up to Finesseís heavy breathing, my god; itís practically giving me multiple la-la moments right now," She continued, jokingly with a trembling catch for air, tailing off with a little dancing sway of her hips.
"I donít think Iíd be all that concerned about the soundtrack as I was losing my virgin-i-ty," I started to say, stumbling over my mouth as Mr. Gregor walked by, his bushy mustache swiveling as he shot us a curious look before veering in the opposite direction, practically making me want to pull my collar over my head and swallow the giant tomato my face was fast-becoming.
Staring at the ground, I froze and looked away, wishing all the while that time would skip me ahead of this embarrassing moment. Silence wafted in the air until Lucy started to giggle at me. I turned toward her just as she was caricaturizing Mr. Gregorís furrowing eyes, impersonating him as she carried on what must have been winding inside of his head just then, throwing both of us into a gulp of laughter.
"So, youíre in then for the concert?" She asked as we finally made it into the school building.
"What? Oh Lucy, I donít know about that," I began, "I have never been to a concert before, and you know how crowds cripple me unconditionally." The halls were already emptying as the last few stragglers scurried to get to class.
"Please, itís this Friday. Have some fun and spin loose for once. Besides itís on your B-day and you should turn eighteen in the grandest of fashionsóin the presence of Finesse. Maybe we can even slip back stage and meet him? Oh my god, Letty, I would justÖanything, if I got within his breathing bubble," she let out in a shallow-breathed pitch of a whisper, her eyes rolling back for a moment.
"Bubble-breathing-what?"
"I mean that I will be close enough to drink in the air he just exhaled," she continued, caressing the air as though she were breathing in something as sweet as chocolate-drizzled caramel.
She looked at me longingly, preying on my inability to refuse. As soon as my cheeks rose, causing my eyes to squint and my mouth to start turning into a smile, I felt her lean in with a hug so tight the books in my backpack squished into my spine.
"Thank you, thank you! Oh, we are going to have so much..."
"On one condition," I snuck in before she could finish, her brows unhinging from her forehead as she opened up her eyes wide and listened. "Itís just," I paused, pacing within my own thoughts for the right words, "donít get too crazy and abandon me, so I have to fend for myself against the sure-to-be raving mob of people just as goo-goo-eyed as you. Try to refrain from professing your inner Finesse-stalker worship, alright?"
"Only fans that have no chance are stalkers," she answered back with a tinge of jealousy, almost making me think the only part she really heard was when I mentioned Finesse and his groupie-harem.
"You know what I meant."
"True," she replied, though her expression was already in pre-planning mode for Friday, "and now we just need fill up the rest of our posse."
We finally made it to American Lit where Ms. Adalar was awaiting us both with angling looks of discontent, though she seemed to hold her grey-eyed stare at me a little longer, just adding to my assumption that she had it in for me. Even though she was my least favorite professor, she was quite popular with the male students; she had sleek dark hair that just met her shoulder, a body that all women would trade a million dollars for, proportioned perfectly in all aspects, and her fashion sense was impeccable, almost as if she belonged teaching at an exclusive school in New York rather than Presque Isle, Maine.
"Now that Miss Barkley and Miss Rowe have finally found time to join us, letís open to page seventy-two and begin the oral quiz. I know each of you studied these poems through-and-through over the weekend, so I thought itíd be a nice change of pace from the normal pen-and-paper to have everyone recite a poem in front of the class," she said, her voice as elegant as a crystal champagne glass, though the moment she instructed the handling of the quiz, that same soft-spoken tone shattered inside my mind like a bomb going off, sending shrapnel of fear into my thoughts. "Now, how about we begin with the volunteers, whoíd like to start and carry us into this first poem by Emily Dickinson?"
A wave of quiet and huddling away from Ms. Adalarís stern stare choked the entire room into avoiding the responsibility, which she clearly expected, prompting her to choose someone. This always happened in her class; the low regard with which she saw most people had a way of making her words feel threatening.
"Miss Rowe, do us the honors, if you will," she said, an almost hint of eager pleasure in her voice.
"Um, me," I repeated back, worry already beginning to bite at my toes like fire-ants.
"Sure, why not," she responded, stopping just in front of my desk. 
Looking down at the page and up again, catching Lucyís encouraging eyes as she gave me a thumbs-up, I took a breath and eased into the words. "I have no life, but thisÖ" I spoke softly, breathing it out under a whisper.
"Ah, Miss Rowe, would you please step up in front here and speak, nice and clear, for us all to hear you, and without the book this time; this is a quiz after-all," she said, her voice vacant of expression, yet very intent in tone, a slight scoff that accented like subtle ridicule.
The nerves in my fingers started to tremble while the backs of my knees felt as if they were going to wobble out from under me. Standing up out of my desk took some conscious effort on my part, making Ms. Adalar tap her foot out of impatience, but I made my way to the front of the class, near the chalkboard. Walking past her, a gulp of the flowery perfume she was wearing climbed into my mouth, resulting in me coughing on her, turning her stare an even stonier grey.
Though the room was still, I was beginning to feel the air rise out of my chest, coating my tongue as my cheeks puffed out, focusing on the words Iíd spent the last half-hour on, hoping my lips had just perfected them to muscle memory, a blushing scarlet washed over my face. I thought to myself that the sooner I start, the faster itíll be over.
"Just do this," I whispered, almost too loudly because Ms. Adalar ushered me along as well.
"Yes, Miss Rowe, any day now."
I took a breath, in-then-out, yet I felt hardly any more confident than I did a minute ago as I looked out at the crowd of faces; Lucy sat with her book propped open, mouthing the words up at me, encouraging me to follow suit while a few other students up front smirked amongst themselves.
"I ha-have no life," I started, clearing my throat as an echo of giggling fuzzed around my ears like ravenous mosquitoes, "but, um, I-ah have death, and nothing of this earth to tieÖ"
I froze, feeling unable to continue, looking over towards the door, wishing I could just blast through it and escape. Closing my eyes, envisioning anything other than being here right now, I struggled to form a thought that would be of help and started for my desk, only to be halted mid-way by Ms. Adalar.
"That was quite the rendition, Miss Rowe. I mean Emily Dickinson, herself, couldnít have presented it any better," she said, searing the back of my neck as she spoke. "I especially adored how you superseded the quote of a literary artist with your own words, adding emphasis with your mumbling prowessósecond to none really."
Feeling my throat start to bubble over with embarrassment, I went to my desk, nearly tripping in the process which made more laughs become known in the room. Lucy patted my shoulder, trying to reassure me in any way that she could, but all I could feel was the heat coming from my burning eyes as they stung with tears that wanted to fall, making it hurt even more trying to hold them back.
Ms. Adalar wore an ill-inspired grin, revealing just how pleased she was of herself for making me feel on the brink of crying. She sifted through the audience once more, this time choosing Allen Wright, a boy who had quickly gotten the reputation as the class-clown with his jokes always on the ready, and he was also the only person in the entire school that dared to ever quip back with her. Brushing a hand through his dusty-brown hair (as if heíd just returned from surfing at the beach) he shot out a smile and walked up to the front, seemingly without a care in the world as he wiggled his eye-brows playfully at a few of the girls in the front row, their giddy smiles heartening on his charmingly, boyish grin, lavishing in on all the attention before taking over where I left off, reciting the poem mistake-free, making Ms. Adalar smile even wider in my direction, rubbing my failed attempt right in my face.
"Thank you, Mr. Wright. That was very nice, but do try and avoid all the unnecessary flirting whilst under the spotlight of my classroom; this is a place for learning," she said with a lowering of her sleek-rimmed glasses.
"You know you like it, Christine," he rallied right back, his big-brown eyes twinkling at her as he stepped back to his desk, her gaze sharpening at him all the while. "Excuse me, I mean Ms. Adalar." He corrected, though his smile remained undaunted, almost even more vaunting of pleasure.
His confidence was beyond enigmatic, and every girl fawned over him for it, and even me, the girl Lucy always says never sees an interest in any guy, had a crush on him, but with almost two years of being together at the same school, weíd never even had a conversation, though he sure was fun to look at from afar.
"Moving on to the next person for the Emerson quote," she continued, annoyance billowing in her tone until a curve in her lip pulled into a smile as she noticed Lucy bow out of view as best she could. "Ah, how about you now, Miss Barkley, care to give it a go?"
Lucyís back shot straight up she heard her name called, quickly scanning her book one last time. "Five more minutes," she said while she began to copy the poem into her palm.
"Now, Miss Barkley."
"Fine," she pouted, a glum hook in her lip, "but donít expect me to get this right on the first try."
"I never do, with you," she said condescendingly, making Lucy give out a huff as she walked over to the podium and began, though midway between the Emerson quote she decided to sing out one of her favorite Finesse Rogue ballads, sending everyone into laughter before Ms. Adalar cut her off and asked the next person to go.
The class couldnít have ended soon enough for me after that. My eyes fixed on the clock hanging above the door, with the sound of the second-hand ticking as if it were my actual heart. I felt each stroke it made, becoming a part of its mechanism, existing as a gear hidden behind its glassed-in face. Of course, even when the bell rang, Ms. Adalar kept everyone seated.
"Now, class today was a disappointment in my opinion," she spoke, but it felt as if the speech was for my benefit especially, her stare finding me, lingering as she continued, "and because of the lack of preparation I witnessed as we discussed Transcendentalism, I am assigning a special assignment." With any other professor, the students would have moaned and complained; however, Ms. Adalar knew how to control her classroom, leaving no mention for whining about anything she said or did. "I want you all to research a specific writer of the time period, and write a ten-page research paper that provides both an analysis and critique section of a piece of work by your chosen author, and itís due this upcoming Monday. You may be dismissed."
I wasted no time upon being freed, rushing out into the hall faster than anyone else (which is something seeing that Iím in the third row). Lucy was already going on about how she just couldnít stand the way Ms. Adalar treated people.
"I just cannot figure out how she was accepted to teach here, or why she even became a professor in the first place," Lucy went on, slipping in reasons for why Ms. Adalar should be sent off to live out her life in Siberiaóexiled from humanity. "I was under the impression that the students came first, so how could the board of directors allow someone in that is so ughhh!"
We walked towards the science wing and Lucy continued to rant, still full of steam towards Ms. Adalar. I made no effort to join in on the bashing. Even if I was the victim here, I knew that nothing I said was going to change the fact that I would be back in class the next day, just to face more of the same demeaning treatment.
"I donít care how special she thinks she is; someone needs to take her down a peg. If I accomplish anything this year, it will be devising a way to see her grovel and taste what sheís been dishing to us for the last three years."
After seventh bell, I met up with Lucy in the commons to snack up and talk about the specifics leading up to Friday. Undecided about whom else to invite to the concert, having only a few extra tickets and a tribe of open hands, she went on listing those she thought most worthy of the privilegeóthe truest of the Finesse devotees.
"Well, I already invited Ivy and Fischer." Lucy said, acknowledging the two of them as they sat down by us.
"Hey, Lucy, Letty," Fischer waved out with his casually friendly smile he always had on his face, his hand playfully around Ivyís shoulder. The two of them had been going out ever since Iíd been at Endelcroft, and it just made sense really, him being the Headmasterís son and her being quite possibly the prettiest girl in school, but even though they were both endowed with looks that rivaled clothing models, they werenít at all snobs and just about everyone got along with them, Fischer for his golden sense of humor and Ivy because she was naturally understanding and kind; they provided some normalcy to the wackiness that Lucy always had weaving out from her sleeve.
"So, Fisch," she started in a questioning tone as she chewed on a massive chunk of pear, juice fresh on her lips, "you said you could borrow your popís car for Friday, right? The Lexus?"
"Yep, he said there wouldnít be a problem," he answered back, a tip of his eyes as he gestured towards her, "LucyÖ"
"Yea?" She asked, looking intently at her note-pad.
"Youíve got a little pear on your chin."
"Oh," she said, taking her tongue in a sweeping lick to corral the piece of fruit into her mouth, "thanks."
"I thought those were small cars. How are all of us going to fit?" I asked out, getting back to the topic of the concert, figuring the long ride to Bangor was going to be uncomfortable enough, let alone having to squish six people into a tiny car
"Letty, itís more important that we show up in something impressive. The key to standing out is the way you arrive," Lucy countered back, lifting her eyes wide to add emphasis.
"Iím just saying, maybe we should take your car too?"
"Donít worry, and youíre always going on about the environment, right? Taking the Lexus is the "Green" thing to do," she said, refusing to budge an inch. "Now I think that leaves just one other vacancyÖand who shall fill it? Everybody, really think about this one."
"Thereís only four of us," Ivy interjected, a curious expression on her face, "and I thought you told me you had six tickets, so shouldnít there be two left?"
"Well, there was one obligation with the tickets, and in order to get them I had to promise to take alongÖ"
"No, you didnít" I said reflexively, a swallow of dread clipping my wind-pipe shut, "Tobyís coming, seriously?"
"Come on, heís my cousin, Fischerís practically best-friends with him, and itís so obvious that heís into you, Letty, which is reason enough for me. You know I canít object to something when it pertains to matters of the heart."
"Lucy, butÖ"
"Too late, once chiseled," she pressed on, writing his name down on her pad.
Toby was technically a junior, but heíd skipped ahead a grade, and I maintain that the only reason he did it was so that heíd be in more of my classes, which was almost all of them; I even heard him try to bribe his counselor last year with twenty dollars just so he could have gym with me, during the semester we had to swim. He was still very boyish in his looks, with his unruly tufts of brown hair that curled out at the sides, a gawky smile, and narrow shoulders. Seeing that he was Lucyís cousin, I had known him since we were little, and I have had to endure dealing with a heavy dose of his advances, him always commenting on how beautiful he thought I looked, writing little notes (usually hand-delivered and sprayed with cheap, musky cologne that was way too strong) and he was the only person other than my mother that really ever addressed me as Collette.
"Ok, now out of Daphne and Samantha, who has the best voice?" Lucy continued naming.
"Um, both I guess, sing ok," Ivy said, "but what does that have to do with anything?"
"If we are going to be packed in a car for over two hours, I wonít want to be next to someone singing along to Finesse out-of-tune. He doesnít deserve to suffer through that."
"How about Courtney?" I offered out.
"Courtney? Why is she a really good singer?"
"Not really, but someone who talks that softly canít possibly be a loud singer. Plus, she is so nice, and I swear when it comes to crushing on Finesse, she is definitely at the top of the list."
"Hmmm, you may be right about the voice thing, and being somewhere close to the top of his most adoring fans," Lucy said with an arched brow, rewording my last remark, "calls for some consideration. Iím writing down Samantha though. She had on these super cute pumps yesterday, Bonnibel Abigail Blacks with studded, caged heels. I bet she might let me borrow them if I invited her."
We sat, focused in thought, until Lucyís ex-boyfriend, whom she still itched for when she saw him, entered the commons. Physically, you would never expect that he spun Lucyís fancy, neatly tailored from head-to-toe; however, he was surprisingly funny in an off-beat kind of way, apt in the art of sneaking in satire, and he was one of Endelcroftís most talented violinists, here on a music scholarship.
Afton Wilder was the calm to Lucyís frenzy, and during their summer romance they were inseparable. When he ended things with her at the start of school to pursue other girls, she took it very hard, spending most of her time either wallowing in bed. I still kept a handful of tissues in my pocket, in case she ever needed one.
Lucy hushed and followed him with her eyes as he walked towards a table near us and seated himself. Seconds later, Samantha approached his table and sat beside him, a slight twitch of a scowl crossed Lucyís face. As they talked, lots of Samanthaís giggling led to Afton grazing her hand, and he looked over in our direction, right at Lucy.
"Letty, you have history class with Courtney right?"
"Yea, why?"
"Tell her to cancel whatever plans she has this Friday. I was able to find a slot for her." Lucy said as she scribbled out Samanthaís name from the list.
"So much for once chiseled," Fischer said in the midst of laughing, Ivy and I finding Lucyís contradiction very funny as well, though my humor snuffed out when I saw Toby come in from outside. Soaking from the steady rain that had been falling since lunch, he walked up behind Lucy, that grin of his in full-swing with his squeaking sneakers. With a clumsy sweep, he sat down in a chair facing me.
"HiCollette, so howís it this fine day?" he asked as he leaned his elbows on the table, causing it to slightly wobble.
"Toby," I said, making sure to avoid eye contact, keeping my attention on pretty much anything other than his batting stare. "Fine, I guess. It was better before it started pouring outside."
"Yea, I know right," he said with a quick shake of his hair. "Rain, rain, go away. Let the sun shine on Collette today."
"Tobias Barkley," Lucy raked, "watch it, you got me wet."
"I told you not to call me Tobias in front of Collette, Lucinda," Toby said under his breath to Lucy before looking over at me with a gaping smile. "Oh, Iím sorry. Did I spray you too, Collette? Here, let me get that for you," he said, reaching his arm across the table, approaching my face.
"No, Iím fine. Thank you," I said, averting his sleeve. A look of disappointment in his eyes lingered as he recoiled back into his seat.
"You must be electric over the concert?"
"Yea, should be a fun time," I said almost hesitantly, doing a poor job of hiding my lack of enthusiasm.
"Whoís all going, arrived at the final tally Luce?" He asked as he waved at Fischer and Ivy.
"Actually, I just finished up," she said as she tucked the list in her bag, "us three, along with Courtney, Ivy, and Fischer."
"Tricked out! That means we get to ride in the Lexus," Toby said amidst a slight celebratory dance, giving Fischer a nod.
"See Letty, its very impressive. You just have to get past the snug quarters," Lucy commented.
"The LX 09 model has more room than the sedan style, but if you are concerned about space Collette, my lap is very comfy, even more so than heated leather," Toby said with a wink in my direction, resulting in Lucy and I sharing glances. Her amused smile was no more appealing than the thought of perching on Tobyís lap all the way to Bangor, two hours there-and-back, feeling him sneak sniffs of my hair and coo in my ear; I was already starting to feel stifled just thinking about it.
"So, whatís everyone doing tonight? I know itís complete dinge-city outside, but we can go to a movie or something. With it being almost Halloween, the "Bou" just started showing Manic Panic Fest, which I hear is bringing scary to an unheard level."
"Sounds great," Fischer said, silently talking it over with Ivy as they shared a look.
"Iím for sure in," Lucy said.
"Umm," I wavered, "you know I donít enjoy that sort of thing. I never can understand the joy in being scared on purpose."
"Once again, Iíve got your back. These broad babies are meant for more than just being tasty treats for the eyes." Toby began as he flexed. "Feel free to burrow your face into my shoulder, and take a sample whenever things get to dicey for you."
"I have a big calculus test tomorrow, too."
"Are you sure you canít spare a few hours?" he questioned amid another flex, puffing out his chest as best he could, bulging one of his scrawny arms, pointing at his bicep the amount of free time needed for the movies. "Like two, or three?"
"As reassuring as that looks Tobias, you will just have to protect some other unfortunate girl," I said more harshly than I meant to.
"Collette, you know Iím a one-woman type of guy," he said right back, grabbing a Red-Vine from my tray, a smug grin on his face shining against his unrelenting self-confidence.
"Yea, well I better go check the mail office; my mom has been calling me non-stop about whether or not the package she sent came in yet. Iíll see you after the movie, Luce; bye everybody."
Mrs. Huntley had already been expecting me at the mail office, most likely because I had been showing up there the past few days, right at six oí clock each time, and sitting on the desk was a small package taped to an envelope.
"Thanks, Mrs. Huntley," I said as I signed the slip to claim my mail.
When I got into my room I crawled onto my bed and let myself sink into the mattress, my head lying on my lavender comforter as all the stress of the day began to ease out of my body, and my eyes wanted nothing more than to just call it an early night and go to sleep right then-and-there.
Still holding the package, I reluctantly postponed my nap and detached the envelope it was stuck to, freeing a big, golden card with a glittery balloon floating on it. Inside the card read:

Letty,
Happy birthday sweetie! I still am finding it hard to believe how old you are getting, but I know that itís happening regardless of how long I sit and imagine you all snuggled up in your pink bassinet. You are blossoming into a beautiful woman, with the whole world opening up before you. I know your dad would have been so happy and overjoyed to see you now--all grown up. He always told me how you were the most special thing that ever happened in his life. Seeing how special this occasion is, your gift contains something very precious. It has been within his side of the family for generations. I remember him telling me that he received it from his parents on his 18th birthday, so I know he would have loved to be the one to hand it down to you now. I just know youíre going to love it.
Make sure you call right after you open it.
Love,
Mom.
The note left me with mixed feelings, reading it twice, going over the part about my dad. It was always nice to hear from my mom, being able to have a connection with her; yet, with notes like this one that made me think of him, it was near impossible to not scream in static silence, where I wanted to shout and yell out all the loss I was feeling, but the only thing that escaped passed my lips was thick air, making my throat feel like sand--gritty and dry.
I wanted so bad to let the tears fall, though I never could quite find the release, even though it had been over five years since the fire. A piece of me thought the reason why I could never cry about losing him was that it would be real then, admitting that he was actually gone, which made me hold contempt for myself; I hated not being able to give him just one tear.
For a while I just lied there, watching the light through my window grow dimmer-and-dimmer as the storm crowded the sky with dark clouds. With the nearness of sleep licking my eye-lashes, the trilling of my cell phone entered my ears. I reached down by my bag that was on the carpeting and fished for my cell. It was hard to see anything, so I switched on my lamp, answering it just before it went to voice-mail.
"Hello?"
"Collette, dear, where have you been? I called after supper, but you didnít pick up. You know how impatient I get when you donít answer your phone."
"Oh mom, Iím sorry that I didnít call earlier. I was going to, but I didnít get back to my room until just a few moments ago. I was helping Lucy with some important plans for this Friday."
"Well, what do you think of it?" She lost all of the shrillness behind her brief scolding of me, with her soft, anxious tone now coming through.
"Honestly, I havenít opened it yet."
"What are you waiting for, open it sweetie."
"How are things at home in New York?" I stalled, trying to avoid opening the gift right now, knowing that by unwrapping it I would just get worked up about my dad again. If the card left me begging for tears, I didnít want to know how I would react upon finding out what was within the little box. I could tell from the way my mom was talking that she wanted to hear me explode with ecstatic joy, and I wasnít sure if I could give her that reaction right now.
"All is well. You know how busy it gets around here as soon as the holidays start up; in fact, Uncle Gordon is having a monstrous Halloween bash at the end of the month."
"So, what are you going to dress up as?"
"I actually picked up this marvelous, violet Dinda Rella dress. The top is cut in a very generously, accenting v, with a cashmere shall in fuchsia, and the bottom extends out past the knee in elegant layers of satin."
"That sounds very nice. I love cashmere and big fan of fuchsia, but isnít it supposed to be a Halloween party?"
"Yes, but you know how I am with all that fake gore stuff; I much prefer to play dress-up the elegant way; now stop stalling and open up your gift already. I want to hear what you think of it," she said, her tone turning shrill once again.
"Ok mom, Iím opening it," I said as I undid the string on top of the box, sliding my finger into a creased corner, and tearing at the packaging.
"And?" She asked, her excitement feeding into the phone and smacking into my ears.
"Easy mom, Iím still getting the paper off. How many times was thing wrapped?"
Once I revealed the contents of the package, I was left with a tiny, wooden box. Fitting my thumb, I pressed down, and the lid gave a slight jump. Resting inside on a bed of crushed, black velvet, there was an immaculate emerald the size of a quarter, attached to a delicate silver chain, sparkling like all the colors of the ocean on a summerís day, shimmering from deep beryl greens to aqua blues under the light of my lamp.
"Oh, my, itís just so..."
"Amazing, right? I knew you would adore it."
"There are no words. Thank you, itís the most precious anything Iíve ever seen."
"Try it on."
Taking the necklace out from its box, fastening it around my neck, I walked into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. It felt more airy once on me than I thought it would, hanging just below my collarbone. Staring at my reflection, turning the gem within my fingers, an immense, magical calmness nestling throughout my chest, I suddenly felt more than just my plain old self, more special somehow, enchanted as I if Iíd just stepped out from a real-life fairy tale.
"I still canít believe how beautiful it is, mom."
"Iím glad you like it sweetie. Just be very safe with it. Letís not be lending this to anyone, not even Lucy. I know how she loves jewelry."
"No need to worry. Iím never taking it off," I said with a light laugh, which she echoed back.
"Ok, I have some early work tomorrow, but make sure you give me a call on Friday."
"Sure thing, Iíll give you a ring before I head out to the concert."
"Concert? Where?"
"Itís in Bangor. Lucy got some extra tickets to see Finesse Rouge, so she invited a few people."
"Any boys?" Her tone was more prying than cautious.
"Not really."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, Fisher is dating Ivy, and I donít really count Toby as an actual guy."
"Sweetie, maybe you should give Toby a little more credit," she eased in, almost the same way Lucy always did when Toby was brought up to me.
"Ok, I have to go now," I mumbled, throwing her comment to the wayside of my thoughts. "Iíll talk to you on Friday. Thanks so much for the necklace."
"Bye sweetie."