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Books: YA

Unforsaken

Unforsaken
Coming in paperback October 9th

EXCERPT

I heard Calvin draw his breath in sharply. "She needs an ambulance. Fast. Stay with her."

And he was gone.

I lowered myself to the floor next to Jess, holding onto the towel bar for support, but the desire to touch her grew so intense I had to jam my hands under my knees to stop myself.

"You have such pretty eyes," Jess said, her voice soft and dreamy. "They're like..."

Her voice faded as she looked down at her wrist. Her mouth made a sad little 'o' and she slumped against the wall. "I think I'm going to sleep now," she said.

The blood flow hadn't slowed. The puddle under her was growing at an alarming rate. Outside I could hear Calvin yelling, and Gojo too—something about his carpet—and I knew.

If I didn't do something quickly, Jess was going to die.

And just like that, I threw away all my plans, my dreams, my wishes. I wasn't going to be normal. I wasn't going to fit in. I wasn't going to have friends like other girls, or sleepovers, or homecoming dances, or cheerleading tryouts. I looked like a different girl than I used to be, with my expensive wardrobe and makeup and haircut, but on the inside, I was exactly the same: a freak.

If I waited too long, I would make things infinitely worse. I had made that mistake once before, and swore I would never make it again.

I couldn't let her die. I put my hands on Jess's wrist. She made a soft mewling sound, but I barely heard her as my fingers slipped on the slick warm blood and the words swirled faster, and my eyes drifted shut and the energy coiled and gathered and reversed its flow, out through my arms, through my fingertips and into Jess as I whispered the ancient chant—

—and I felt her respond to my touch, the ragged torn skin skimming over, the blood flow slowing, the veins and tendons knitting back together. I continued to whisper until I felt her heartbeat, strong and steady, under my touch, and then I opened my eyes just as the bathroom door burst open.

"Johnson's called a...Jesus, what—"

I followed his gaze and saw what he was seeing: my legs, my shorts, hands and forearms were covered in Jess's blood. Next to me, she yawned, and ran a blood-covered hand through her hair, leaving red smears on her cheek and forehead.

"I thought I was going to lose it there for a minute," she said conversationally. "I just can't hold my liquor—oh."

It was as though she was noticing the blood for the first time.

I reached for a hand towel.

"I, um, actually don't think it's that bad," I mumbled as I began to mop up the blood and Jess lifted her arm to stare at her wrist. I kept mopping, rinsing the towel in the sink and wringing it out over and over, as Jess and Calvin searched for the wound and found only a thin pink line, and I tried to destroy the evidence of what I'd done.

#

We were in trouble, as it turned out, but not the kind I'd worried about. Charlotte was out the door after one quick look in the bathroom—she seemed happy to leave us to deal with the problem, so I guessed that was my answer to whether she was a true friend or not. I was trying to sober Jess up and Gojo was swearing and cleaning up the living room and kitchen, Calvin and Justin helping him without a word, when the EMTs arrived.

I'm sure they didn't believe Gojo's story—that he'd heard the sound of breaking glass on the pool deck when he'd been out for an evening walk, and that he only brought us back to his place to offer first aid. But the EMTs were so puzzled over the wound—or rather the lack of a wound—on Jess's wrist that they didn't spend much time interrogating Gojo.

As they examined her, looking for the source of the blood that covered our clothes and created a trail on the carpet, I felt a faint swell of pride. I had taken care of Jess when no one else could, I had made her well. But I had also risked the new life that Prairie and I had so carefully constructed, and broken my secret promise to myself never to risk using the gift again.

Jess's parents, on the other hand, weren't as concerned with their daughter's condition as they were with her reputation. Or rather, their reputation. Her father was a developer who hoped to run for office, and her mother was thin and overdressed and looked like she could freeze you with her stare.

"What were you doing in a place like this?" they demanded, as though the expensive apartment complex was a seedy motel, and—

"Does your niece make a habit of getting drunk in strange men's apartments?" they asked Prairie, conveniently ignoring the fact that I was sober and Jess couldn't track the EMT's finger as he moved it from side to side in front of her face, and—

"Perhaps the girls should take a break from each other," they huffed as we were leaving.

Prairie and I didn't say much on the walk home. I started to apologize a few times, but I didn't even know where to start. It wasn't even that I'd been drinking, or that I'd been in a stranger's apartment, or even that I'd lied to her.

It was that I'd been willing to gamble all of our safety for a chance to fit in. As I went to my room, murmuring a goodnight to Prairie and Chub, I wished I could take it all back.

But more than anything, I wished I had never found out I was a Healer.


©Sophie Littlefield