“No!” I screamed. It had happened again. This was the fourth night in a row I had woken up with a start, beads of sweat dampening my forehead and a sick feeling swirling in my stomach. Rubbing my face whilst trying to sit up I thought back to the same terrifying dream that had been haunting me for weeks now. Not that I expected it to be any other way. I mean, watching your parents die in a car crash will have that effect on you. The difference was that I was supposed to have died. I know it sounds crazy but there was no way I should have survived that; yet I had, and I was sure that the only reason I was still alive was because of the bright light that had emanated from my body.
We were supposed to have been setting off on a three-month expedition around India, but only got as far as our local town in Montana before it happened. One minute I was sitting in the back of the car fiddling with my iPod and the next second I’d heard Mom screaming. I’d looked up just in time to see a car skidding along on the road before it hit us side-on, flipping us into a ditch. Even now the fear I’d felt at the time – the fear of what was to come – still swallows me whole. Time had seemed to slow down as I had watched my mom and dad being thrown around as the car had turned upside down. Our screams had been overwhelming and I’d been reaching my breaking point, when suddenly all went silent and I had been engulfed in a bright, orange glow that had blinded me. Everything after that was hazy. I remember smacking my head on the window, which had been followed by an unbearable pain that had made my skull feel as though it would explode. I put my hand to my forehead, feeling a warm and sticky liquid trickling down the side of my face. Putting my hand out in front of me, I saw it was blood, but my fuzzy brain couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. It was at that point black spots started to creep into my vision, making everything seem blurry. Then, however much I tried to stay awake, the darkness won and I slipped out of consciousness.
I awoke to an incessant bleeping and hushed whispers of ‘So young’ and ‘Such a shame’ and it was at that point I knew both of my parents were dead. Upon opening my eyes, a numb feeling began to take over as I realised I was in the local hospital with doctors giving me sympathetic looks and calling me sweetie whilst a nurse asked me who they should contact. That was an easy answer: no one. My parents had both been only children and their parents, my grandparents, had died when they were young. There was no one else.
A couple of hours later Eli turned up with his family. Who’s Eli? Explaining him isn’t exactly one of the easiest things to do, as our relationship was complicated to say the least. Foremost, he’s my best friend, even with his over-protective nature, which I think stems from his need to look out for me, kind of like how I imagined a brother would for a sister. This would make sense as I’ve always been really close to his family, who seem to have been in my life for forever. Yes, it was helped by the fact they lived in the same neighbourhood as us and that he went to the same high school as me; but more than that Eli seems to have been there at all my major life events. From losing my first tooth, to falling off my bike and then taking me for walks in the forest when I needed the company, he’s always been there, someone I could rely on.
And again on this eventful day, he turned up knowing exactly what I needed: for someone not to say anything, but instead just to sit with me. He completely ignored his mother’s sobs as he only had eyes for me, walking quickly over to my bed and wrapping his arms around me. He pulled me onto his lap and once again I seemed to fit perfectly as he cocooned me, wrapping his arms around my back, his warmth spreading through me like a drug. We were both seniors but he looked older, probably due to the growth spurt he had had over the summer. At six foot one he was a whole seven inches taller than me and had these tanned muscular arms that were freakishly strong, probably due to his part-time job as a labourer on the local farm. His dark blond hair spent most of the time being brushed back from his forehead, as it always fell into his eyes, but it always really suited him that way. One of the things I loved most about him were his eyes, which sparkled different shades of emerald green and I swear just looking at them let me know how he was feeling. On that day they had been a dull green.
I know the way I’m describing him might make you wonder why I’m not talking about him as something more than just a friend, but that’s the complicated part. You see, my feelings for him are purely platonic, but I don’t think he feels the same. The way Eli looks at me sometimes…the subtle hints…the way he grabs my hand and won’t let go, I think he wants something more and I’m not sure what to do about it. And however selfish this might sound, I need him in my life and can’t mess up our friendship, even to see if there could possibly be something more to our relationship. What if it all went wrong?
“Hey Thea,” Eli had whispered into my ear. “Mom says that when you’re discharged you’re coming home with us, period. No arguing.” I’d squeezed him back, gratefully burying my face in the crook of his neck, unable to communicate how much he and his family meant to me. At least they would be able to keep the loneliness at bay.
We sat like that for ages, me just breathing in his woody, musky smell, wondering how I was meant to function again. He twisted strands of my dark brown hair around his fingers and occasionally stroked his thumb along the side of my chin in a soothing manner. I could hear his mother and father in deep discussions with the police officers, and heard them say it was a miracle I was alive. Tell me about it. The only other person who had been around was Eli’s four-year-old sister Leela, who kept coming up with big, round, sad eyes, patting me on the leg whilst trying to get me to take Buggles, her much loved toy rabbit. She had known something was wrong and had tried her hardest to fix it in the only way she knew how.
That was four months ago, and although I’ve spent most of my time since then feeling numb and totally lost, I have begun to smile again and do normal things like getting up in the morning and going to school. If only these dreams would go away. There was nothing I could do about what had happened, but still my brain was making me re-play it over and over again. However, this latest dream was different.
Whenever I had dreamt about the crash, before the part where the orange glow appeared, I could see the faces of the bystanders with their horrified looks as we began to tip over. But this last time there was another face of a man who looked at me – and I mean really looked at me – as though he knew me. For some reason his eyes glowed with an intense ferocity and the sneer on his face only added to the anger that seemed to radiate off him. I couldn’t work out what I had ever done to him, or why I hadn’t seen him in my dreams before.
I sighed and looked at the clock, which read five a.m. Not wanting to wake Eli or his family I dressed quickly, got into my trainers and, with iPod in hand, left to go for a jog. It felt so good running and I always ended up in the same place – the forest by my old house. Being around nature felt so therapeutic, like I could actually absorb the energy around me. Weird, huh?! Today was no different as the early morning mist cloaked around me, like it was hugging me. Every now and then rays of morning light would shine in between the trees, warming my face. No one else was around, which was bliss, and I pushed myself even harder as though running faster would make the dream go away.
I wasn’t surprised when sometime later Eli found me sitting against the rock at our usual spot overlooking the stream. I often sat here when I wanted to think. It was so peaceful, almost magical.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.
I nodded. “I dreamt about it again.” ‘It’ was something we didn’t often mention. However hard he had tried, I just couldn’t come to terms with what had been termed the ‘tragic accident’ myself. Eli had tried everything, from gently cajoling me to actually shaking me one day, getting so frustrated that I wasn’t letting it out. But what was there to let out? I was totally numb inside. Even his mom had tried to get me to talk and when that didn’t work, she felt it would be best if I spoke to the school counsellor, but what was the point? I mean, they were dead. I decided not to tell Eli about the man who had suddenly appeared in my latest dream, as it sounded crazy.
“You know, it will get easier,” he sighed. “It just takes time and…” he paused, getting something out of his pocket, “…a Twizzler.” He smiled, eyes twinkling as he handed me the much loved candy. When he looked at me like he was doing right now, with my favourite cheeky grin, I couldn’t help but go all warm and fuzzy inside. He leaned in closer, his breathing tickling the back of my neck. I changed the subject, not sure where this was going.
“One day of freedom left before the new semester starts,” I groaned. “Do you think Mr Gregson is going to be as obnoxious as always?”
“Probably.” Eli laughed. “At least this year we are in the same homeroom and have most of our classes together.”
I murmured in agreement, relieved that once again he would be there, a constant presence. Sometimes it really did feel like he was my own personal guardian
About the Book
Author: Liz Keel
Genre: YA Fantasy
After losing everything, all seventeen-year-old Thea wanted was to be a normal teenager. Instead, she was attacked by a mysterious creature she thought only existed in fairy tales. Now thrown into the unknown realm of Faey, Thea is forced to determine the difference between reality and fantasy, in a world ruled by a dark elite and a society wracked by intolerance and prejudice.
With the support of her new friends and a mysterious dark haired, blue-eyed guardian watching her every move, Thea will discover that when it comes to Faey, nothing is what it seems. Will her courage and desire to save this new world from darkness be enough? Or will Thea be the next victim to fall to the dark whispers of fate…
I live in Surrey, England, a short walk from the beautiful Windsor Park, with my husband Richard and our two gorgeous children Noah and Olivia. For me, writing is nothing short of an addiction and I often find myself sneaking out to my writing shed for just a few minutes, which can often turn into hours of pure, unadulterated bliss catching up with my characters and continuing their story.
In-between writing, I teach in a primary school where there’s never a dull moment! I will also often be found Kindle in hand, reading a wide variety of genres but with YA fantasy and paranormal romance at the forefront of my reading list. Although I’m currently writing the second book in the Driel trilogy, other characters involving all things fantasy, paranormal and YA romance are jockeying for position, wanting me to write their story next, so watch this space! It is such a privilege to share my stories with you the reader.
Thank you enough for taking the time to find out more about me. To find out more about Liz, visit her website: www.lizkeelauthor.com