Sneak Peak at the first two chapters

Amelia

Amelia knew her daughter was destined for greatness. The moment her daughter was born, she had the vision—her baby girl all grown up, standing in the center of the Great Hall, speaking of the future, a future more distant than Amelia even could imagine. And that was what troubled her, what scared her the most. Her daughter was meant for great things, just not now.

Amelia looked deep into her daughter’s violet eyes, the family trademark, and sighed. She had given up and risked so much to bring this child, this savior, into the world, and now she must give her up.

She placed the baby in her bed and tucked the purple blanket tightly around her. She pulled her necklace off and placed it to her lips for a moment before curling it around her daughter’s fingers. The amulet on the necklace caught the candlelight, and the purple gemstones shone in the light. The child would need the amulet to find her way home.

“And you will find your way. I promise,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes, “my sweet baby girl.”

Amelia laid one last kiss upon her check before beginning her chant.

Accipe in loco.

Alicubi quando illa opus est maxime.

Ab omnibus tueatur consilium malum.

Et experientis amor sustentet eam itineri eius domum.

A bright white light enveloped the baby, causing Amelia to close her eyes. When she looked back, her daughter was gone.

“Please, let me have done the right thing!” she cried to the empty room, before collapsing to the floor in sobs.


Syney

Syney Andrews was always up for an adventure. She blamed her sense of excitement on her parents. They had raised her to see every day as a chance to do something she never had done before. Which is why she was now waiting on line with her best friend, Jessica, to see Madam Racksha, psychic extraordinaire, at the town carnival. Seeing Madam Racksha was Jess’s idea actually, but Syney stopped and realized no one ever had told her future before, so why not now? And it only cost five bucks.

“So what are you hoping for? Six kids or three husbands?” Jess joked, her smile lighting up her caramel-colored face. Jess had an exotic beauty to her, which Syney envied at times. Jess had curves and flawless dark skin, while Syney was straight from the hips down and had pale skin, made even paler by her auburn hair. The only exotic thing about her was her violet eyes, which she had covered with brown contact lenses since the second grade, when her fellow students had begun to call her a witch.

“Um…eight kids and Brad Pitt as a husband,” Syney decided. “I could take Angelina.”

The two girls laughed as the pink-and-gold curtain moved, revealing Brigit Nolan, a fellow senior at Middleton High School.

“So?” Jess asked Brigit.

“Oh, my god. She’s amazing! She totally guessed, like, everything and told me Bobby Williams was going to ask me out!” Brigit squealed.

Jess and Syney exchanged looks. Bobby Williams was the hottest guy in school. He dated a different girl every week, including Jess last year.

“You guys are going to love her!” Brigit said, before heading off into the carnival crowd.

The curtain moved again, and this time Madam Racksha herself appeared dressed, just as Syney had imagined, in a long, flowing, gypsy-like dress. Her eyes were heavily outlined in black, and her blood-red lips matched her dress exactly. Syney stared at her eyeliner, wondering, not for the first time, how anyone could get the exact thickness and straightness for it to look just right. Makeup, in general, never had been her thing.

“Who’s next?” Madam Racksha asked, her voice laced with a thick New York accent.

“Wasn’t expecting that,” Jess leaned over and whispered to Syney.

Syney stifled a laugh and shot her gaze to the ground.

“Well?” the psychic asked, balancing an impatient hand on her hip.

Jess nudged Syney’s arm. “You go.” She smiled slyly. “See if Brad’s in your future.”

Syney looked over at her best friend and sighted. “OK.” She stepped forward and followed Madam Racksha into the large cloth tent.

The inside was dark, the only illumination coming from a few scattered candles. The air was thick with musky incense, and the psychic sat down at a small wooden table covered in tarot cards and a crystal ball. She began to blow on the cards and the ball. Syney glanced around, unsure of what to do. She opted for the seat across from the psychic and waited patiently as the woman continued to blow.

“Need to clean the instruments,” Madam Racksha explained, as she looked up at Syney.

Syney nodded, not really understanding but not wanting to ask.

“So what would you like?”

“Um, I’m not sure,” Syney said. “What’s…best?”

“Nothing is best, honey. It’s all about what you want to know. The cards aren’t very specific—more about roads you have taken and ones you could take. The crystal ball can give me exact things, but only if your mind is tuned to it.”

“OK, well, I guess we can do the crystal ball.”

Madam Racksha nodded, not seeming to really care one way or another. “Rub your hands together, and think of a question you want answered.”

Syney did as told but took a moment to choose her question carefully. There is so much a girl her age would want to know. When would she get married? How many kids would she have? Would she get the job she’d dreamed about for years? But those were all questions Syney would joke about, even though deep down she always believed that what is meant to be will be, and why know about it now? Not that she even believed in psychics. So she settled on something that seemed right for her—What’s the biggest adventure I’m going to take?

“Ready?”

Syney nodded.

“OK, place your hands on the ball, and repeat the question in your head.”

Syney took a deep breath and placed her hands on the crystal ball. The second she did, the clear ball began to glow a deep purple. The color grew in intensity every moment her hands remained. She pulled her gaze from the light show to look at Madam Racksha, expecting this to be nothing out of the ordinary. But the older woman’s face gave away all of her surprise.

“Is this…OK?” Syney asked, feeling a little uncomfortable.

The psychic looked at her with wide eyes, not speaking at first. She swallowed audibly and looked back down at the crystal. “Fine, yes.” She looked up again. “Each person has his or her own ‘in-tune-ness’ to the natural forces around them. Some are more pulled toward the supernatural, like me…and you.”

“Me?” Syney looked back at the crystal ball. “That’s what that means?”

”Yes. The color is different for everyone. Mine is red. But your connection strength is relative to the color strength,” Madam Racksha said, all traces of boredom removed from her voice.

Syney laughed without humor. “So I’m psychic?”

The psychic looked back at her. “Oh, no, not necessarily. There’s just a connection to the forces.” She paused. “It’s a great gift.”

Syney smiled, unsure of what to say.

“Now let’s see what we get here.” Madam Racksha placed her hands slowly over Syney’s, and the purple light flashed with some red. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Happy birthday, Syney.”

Syney caught her breath and gazed at the psychic suspiciously. She hadn’t told her her name. Maybe this was all an elaborate rouse Jess had set up. “My birthday is on Saturday. Got two more days.” She wasn’t falling for another crazy Jess scheme. Jess was always pulling some kind of practical joke on someone. She was famous for it in school.

“No, it’s tomorrow. At midnight you will be eighteen.”

“Listen, I’m pretty sure I know my own birthday.”

Madam Racksha shook her head. “Tomorrow.”

Syney sighed. Why even argue? She smiled at the absurdity of it all.

“Oh, I see,” the psychic said, nodding. “You’re adopted. You celebrate the day you were found.”

Her smile fell. No one knew Syney was adopted but Jess, and her friend, although a little crazy at times, would never go that far.

“Your adoptive parents found you…in a church, it looks like.”

Syney tried to pull her hands from the crystal, but Madam Racksha held them still.

The psychic opened her eyes. “You mustn’t break the connection!”

“Sorry,” Syney mumbled.

“It’s all right. You don’t believe any of this. I could sense that the second you walked in. But I promise that I’m not lying or tricking you.”

“OK.” Syney took a deep breath.

“You still don’t believe me,” she started. “That’s fine, but please listen to what I have to say.” She closed her eyes once more. “There’s a lot I’m getting, and it’s all important.”

Syney didn’t respond; she really didn’t know what to say. It was shocking that the woman knew about her parents, but she wasn’t quite ready to accept everything hook, line, and sinker. She could play along, though. “So can you see my real parents?”

Madam Racksha took a deep breath, and again the crystal flashed red over the purple for a moment. “Not both of them. But…yes, it’s your mother. She’s coming through strong. Looks just like you…only your eyes…why do you hide them?”

Syney thought back to those nights when she would cry herself to sleep. Those cruel things the kids would say about her and her unusual eyes.

“Oh, kids are such little bastards sometimes.” Madam Racksha opened her eyes. “Don’t buy into anything they said. Your eyes are beautiful. And special. Your mother shared them. A family trademark, I think.”

Syney caught her breath in her throat. The nonbeliever started to slip away quickly. But that’s how they rope you in, the little logical voice in her head screamed. Still, everything else inside her wanted to listen and believe anything this crazy-looking woman said about her birth mother.

Everything Madam Racksha had said so far was right. Syney’s amazing and loving parents, Joyce and Richard Andrews, had been working late one night at the local church, him being the organist and her the cantor for weekly masses. Joyce always told the story as if Syney herself were the miracle and not how she had come to be all wrapped up in the choir loft. An abandoned baby in a church isn’t unheard of, but a quiet baby—through all of the organ playing for three hours before she had started to cry—was hard to come by.

“You had to have just appeared,” Joyce always said. And Syney had no doubt she meant it. The Andrews had been praying for a child for years before Syney had showed up. Plus, the church doors were locked from the inside. Growing up with the Andrews was anything a child could ask for. They were unconditionally supportive and never hid the truth from her. Syney grew up knowing she was adopted but always saw Joyce and Richard as her parents, plain and simple. That’s not to say she didn’t think about her birth parents. They were a part of her; she cold never deny that.

“Do you know… I mean…can I ask a question?” Syney asked.

“Of course.” Madam Racksha opened her eyes. “You want to know about her…why she left you.”

Syney bit her lip and nodded.

“Well, it’s not all clear, but she was afraid for you. You had…a destiny, and it wasn’t with her. So she sent you away…to the place where you were needed.”

“Do you know what that destiny is?”

Madam Racksha looked down, lost in thought. “This…this is strange.”

“What is?”

“I’m not getting a clear picture…just…” Her eyes widened. “Oh, my goddess.” She grabbed Syney’s wrists and pulled both of her hands off the crystal ball, which slowly began to cloud with black. “You’re the one. I should have seen it earlier. I’m sorry.” She glanced around. “We don’t have much time. Listen to me carefully. The amulet is the key. It holds all of your answers when you whisper to it. There aren’t many people you can trust. You’ll know deep down who you can. Just feel with your heart.”

The flames on all of the candles jumped up, and Syney yelped.

“They’re here,” Madam Racksha whispered. She tightened her grip on Syney’s wrists. “It’s important. Just remember to trust his eyes! You’ll know it when you see them!” She looked down at the crystal ball, which was completely black now. “I saw this, you know,” she said quietly. “This right now. This is what I was born to do.” She looked back at Syney with tears in her blue eyes. “I was meant to guide you.”

“But…I don’t…” Syney started just as the crystal shattered, a thick black smoke oozing out as if it had been trapped. She jumped up to try to get away from it, but Madam Racksha remained seated. “Come on. Let’s go!”

An unseen wind blew through the tent, throwing Syney’s hair into her face.

“You must go!”

The wind picked up, becoming like a small hurricane, throwing objects around in its wake.

“I don’t understand!” Syney yelled.

Madam Racksha smiled. “But you will, my dear. Yours is a great destiny. I’ve seen your future, and it’s so beautiful.” She paused as tears ran down her cheeks. “Now go!”

Syney glanced toward the smoke, which seemed to form a hand as it billowed toward her. She screamed and ran for the exit as fast as she could.

*

“Syney!” Jess yelled as she tugged her friend into a stop. She had been chasing her for at least five blocks after Syney had run out of the psychic’s tent. “What the hell happened?”

Syney looked into her best friend’s face, unsure of what to say. The carnival psychic told her she had a great destiny, and then a black smoke arm came after her? Yeah, that was believable.

“I’m sorry.”

“Syn, you don’t have to be sorry. Just talk to me.” Jess paused. “I know you, hon. You’re scared to death. What happened?”

Syney shrugged. “That lady… She creeped me out. She told me I was going to die young.” She hated lying, but the truth was even more unbelievable.

Jess’s eyes widened. “That bitch. I’m gonna go kick her fake psychic ass!”

“No, don’t. It’s OK.” She shivered a little. “I just want to go home if that’s OK.”

“Of course.” Jess put an arm around her, and they began to walk. “We’ve already run half the way anyway.”

The two laughed and walked the remaining blocks, talking about the last outrageous Gossip Girl episode. They parted in front of Syney’s house—Jess’s house was the next one down—and promised to call each other the next day.

Once inside the house, Syney threw herself onto the living room couch and reviewed the night’s events. Maybe she had hallucinated the whole thing. She shook her head. Nope, it had all been real. And what did the woman say about an amulet? It was the key.

“Hey, there, honey bun. Calling it an early night?” Joyce Andrews said, walking into the room. Cradling a cup of tea, she took a seat on the adjacent love seat. Syney had always envied Joyce’s comfortable style and mannerisms. Nothing seemed too much for the older woman, which showed through her lack of wrinkles and grey hair, or so Joyce loved to say. Joyce was a little curvy with a round caring face that was always open for a chat.

“Yeah. Got tired.” Syney sat up a little and forced a smile.

Joyce nodded. “I see. Saving your strength for your big birthday bash on Saturday. It’s going to be rad, I promise.”

Syney smiled, for real this time. “Rad, Mom, really?”

“Was that wrong? How about ‘dope’?”

“Oh, no, please. Just stop.”

Both mother and daughter laughed.

“Well, whatever the word is nowadays, it’ll be that.” Joyce smiled. “I can’t believe my little girl is all grown up. Eighteen, my word. Seems like yesterday you just started walking.”

“Mom, come on,” Syney said, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, but you know me. I get sentimental.”

That was true, no doubt. Joyce still had every report card and birthday card all boxed up. A thought came to Syney. Her mom kept everything. Maybe she would know.

“Mom, did I have anything with me when you and dad found me?”

Joyce’s smile turned somber. “Well, let me think. You were wrapped in a blanket, a beautiful blanket actually. Soft purple with a design on the front in a darker purple. That’s the color of royalty, you know.”

Syney nodded. “Yeah. I must be a long-lost princess.”

“You’re my princess.”

“So just the blanket?”

Joyce stared down at her tea. “Why so curious all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know. Just thinking about it, I guess.” Syney stood up. “Don’t worry about it.” She kissed her mother’s check and headed for the stairs. “I’m gonna read for a bit then hit the sack.”

“A necklace.”

Syney stopped just before the stairs and looked at her mom. “What?”

Joyce looked up. “You had a necklace. Big charm on it. It had the same symbol as the blanket.”

Syney swallowed. She had found her amulet. “Really? Do you still have it?”

Joyce nodded. “Attic. Let me get it.”

A few minutes later, the two sat on Syney’s bed, the blanket and necklace between them. Syney looked at her mother. She looked so sad. It had to be hard, Syney thought, to have your daughter interested in her real parents.

“Well, this is it. Your life before us,” Joyce said and headed for the door.

“Hey, Mom…” Joyce turned, and Syney smiled at her. “You know you’ll always be everything to me. You and Dad.”

Joyce nodded and smiled. “I know, honey bun. Goodnight.”

“ ’Night,” Syney said as her door closed. She slowly looked down at the objects in front of her. She picked up the blanket. It was soft, just as a baby blanket should be. A flash caught Syney’s eye, so she held the blanket to the light. Woven into the soft threads were tiny metallic ones that shone like opal, changing to a different color as the blanket was moved under the light. It was lovely.

She put the blanket down and picked up the amulet. It was heavy metal with a design of a circle with “U”s off to each side made out of deep purple gemstones. Moving it back and forth between her hands, Syney wondered what to do now. She had found the amulet, and now she had to…whisper to it? She rolled her eyes. That was just dumb. She looked down at the design again. This was all crazy. A stupid coincidence. She sighed and tossed the amulet onto the blanket. It landed on the design. Syney looked at the back of the amulet; an etching caught her eye. She picked it up and rubbed her thumb along the etching. It seemed to be words, and they warmed her thumb up as she rubbed it over them. She squinted and pulled the amulet closer to her face as she tried to read it.

Susciitatio mens. Agmosco vox. Memor of phasmatis recipero vestry destiny. Quinquein unus,” she read aloud, stumbling over the unknown language.

She shook her head. It meant nothing to her. She flipped the amulet back over. She was taken aback a little as the purple gems seemed to be glowing. It was more than a little strange but amazingly beautiful. It was unworldly, this glow that seemed to get stronger by the moment. Transfixed, Syney ran her fingers over the stones. Pain shot through her fingers. She pulled them away quickly, dropping the amulet onto the bed. A red dot formed on her finger. She brought it to her mouth and sucked on the blood for a moment. One of the gems must have been a little too sharp, she guessed.

Syney sighed. None of this made any sense. Maybe none of it was even supposed to. That lady at the carnival was just some crackpot looking for money and a way to scare teenagers. The smoke thing was probably just a trick she used. And all she accomplished tonight was upsetting her mom and cutting her finger. Syney put the blanket and necklace into the drawer in her nightstand and started to get ready for bed. Her life was just fine the way it was. Why would she even want to change it?

Jennifer Collins 2013