Unearthly Page 3

A corner of Mom’s mouth quirks up into a sympathetic smile.

“You thought you could just fly in somewhere for the weekend, complete your purpose, and fly back?”

“Yeah, maybe.” I glance away sheepishly. “When are you going to tell Jeffrey?”

“I think that should wait until we know where we’re going.”

“Can I be there when you tell him? I’ll bring popcorn.”

“Jeffrey’s turn will come,” she says, a muted sadness coming up in her eyes, that look she gets when she thinks we’re growing up too fast. “When he receives his purpose you’ll have to deal with that too.”

“And then we’ll move again?”

“We’ll go where his purpose leads us.”

“That’s crazy,” I say, shaking my head. “This all seems crazy. You know that, right?”

“Mysterious ways, Clara.” She grabs my spoon and digs a big chunk of Chubby Hubby out of the carton. She grins, shifting back into mischievous, playful Mom right before my eyes. “Mysterious ways.”

Over the next couple weeks the vision repeats every two or three days. I’ll be minding my own business and then bang—I’m in a service announcement for Smokey the Bear. I come to expect it at odd times, on the ride to school, in the shower, eating lunch. Other times I get the sensation without the vision itself. I feel the heat. I smell smoke.

My friends notice. They stick me with an unfortunate new nickname: Cadet, as in Space Cadet. I guess it could be worse. And my teachers notice. But I get the work done, so they don’t give me too much grief when I spend the class period scribbling away in my journal on what can’t possibly be class notes.

If you looked at my journal a few years ago, that fuzzy pink diary I had when I was twelve with Hello Kitty on the cover, locked with a flimsy gold key I kept on a chain around my neck to keep it safe from Jeffrey’s prying eyes, you’d see the ramblings of a perfectly normal girl. There are doodles of flowers and princesses, entries about school and the weather, movies I liked, music I danced around to, my dreams of playing the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, or how Jeremy Morris sent one of his friends to ask me to be his girlfriend and of course I said no because why would I want to go out with someone too cowardly to ask me out himself?

Then comes the angel diary, which I started when I was fourteen. This one’s a midnight blue spiral-bound notebook with a picture of an angel on it, a serene, feminine angel who looks eerily like Mom, with red hair and golden wings, standing on the sliver of the crescent moon surrounded by stars, beams of light radiating from her head. In it I jotted down everything Mom ever told me about angels and angel-bloods, every fact or piece of speculation I could coax out of her. I also recorded my experiments, like the time I cut my forearm with a knife just to see if I would bleed (which I did, a lot) and carefully noted how long it took to heal (about twenty-four hours, from when I made the cut to when the little pink line completely disappeared), the time I spoke Swahili to a man in the San Francisco airport (imagine the surprise for both of us), or how I could do twenty-five grands jetés back and forth across the floor of the ballet studio without getting winded. That was when my mom started seriously lecturing me about keeping it cool, at least in public. That’s when I started to find myself, not just Clara the girl, but Clara the angel-blood, Clara the supernatural.

Now my journal (simple, black, moleskin) focuses entirely on my purpose: sketches, notes, and the details of the vision, especially when they involve the mysterious boy. He constantly lingers at the edges of my mind—except for those disorienting moments when he moves blindingly to center stage.

I grow to know him through his shape in my mind’s eye. I know the sweep of his broad shoulders, his carefully disheveled hair, which is a dark, warm brown, long enough to cover his ears and brush against his collar in the back. He keeps his hands tucked into the pockets of his black jacket, which is kind of fuzzy, I notice, maybe fleece. His weight is always shifted slightly to one side, as if he’s getting ready to walk away. He looks lean, but strong. When he begins to turn I can see the faintest outline of his cheek, and it never fails to make my heart beat faster and my breath hitch in my throat.

What will he think of me? I wonder.

I want to be awe-inspiring. When I appear to him in the forest, when he finally turns and sees me standing there, I want to at least look the part of an angel. I want to be all glowy and floaty like my mom. I’m not bad looking, I know. Angel-bloods are a fairly attractive bunch. I have good skin and my lips are naturally rosy so I never wear anything but gloss. I have very nice knees, or so I’m told. But I’m too tall and too skinny, and not in the willowy supermodel sort of way but in a storklike, all-arms-and-legs sort of way. And my eyes, which come across as storm-cloud gray in some lights and gunmetal blue in others, seem a bit too big for my face.

My hair is my best feature, long and wavy, bright gold with a hint of red, trailing behind me wherever I go like an afterthought. The problem with my hair is that it’s also completely unruly. It tangles. It catches in things: zippers, car doors, food. Tying it back or braiding it never works. It’s like a living thing trying to break free. Within moments of wrestling it down, there are strands in my face, and within the span of an hour it usually slides out of its confines completely. It takes the word unmanageable to a whole new level.

So with my luck, I’ll never make it in time to save the boy in the forest because my hair will have snagged on a tree branch a mile back.

“Clara, your phone’s ringing!” Mom hollers from the kitchen. I jump, startled. My journal lays open on my desk in front of me. On the page is a careful sketch of the back of the boy’s head, his neck, his tousled hair, the hint of cheek and eyelashes. I don’t remember drawing it.

“Okay!” I yell back. I close the journal and slide it under my algebra textbook. Then I run downstairs. It smells like a bakery. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, and Mom’s been making pies. She’s wearing her fifties housewife apron (which she’s had since the fifties, although she wasn’t a housewife back then, she assures us) and it’s dusted with flour. She holds the phone out to me.

“It’s your dad.”

I raise an eyebrow at her in a silent question.

“I don’t know,” she says. She hands me the phone, then turns and discreetly exits the room.

“Hi, Dad,” I say into the phone.

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