TITLE: The Alterae
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy
Emma hadn’t slept in three days. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw the river again. Saw her again.
She shuddered and forced herself to watch the mourners gathering around the grave at the base of the hill. The black-clad figures clung to one another, finding comfort in knowing they didn’t mourn alone. Comfort Emma couldn’t share. Even from where she stood at the crest of the cemetery, their shock and grief and anger pounded against her.
The wind shaped Emma’s dark hair into softly waving tendrils and she brushed them away from her face with the back of her hand. She shifted and the frozen dewdrops clinging to the grass crackled under her feet.
Emma knew she should join the other mourners. She knew they expected her to share in their public display of sorrow.
But she couldn’t.
The slightest touch, the slightest betrayal of emotion and she would lose everything. Even a hug, meant to console, could send her spiraling out of control.
She remained frozen, a silent witness to their grief. She saw everything in stunning clarity, the delirium of her sleepless nights drawing details into sharp focus. The lurid green carpet covering the hole in the ground and the cold, dead coffin that held her best friend. The dull, grey sky burned in her mind. Overwhelming sorrow surrounded her, but she refused to absorb any of it.
Her silence, more than tears or anger, terrified her parents. Not that she blamed them. She’d never handled loss well. When Alex left, she’d nearly self-destructed. And he’d only moved away.
Lily was dead.
Unbidden, an image rose before her. She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the vision, but the nightmare remained. Lily under the river, a modern Ophelia caught in the current. Her black, empty eyes stared at nothing. The golden strands of her hair spread around her like the rays of a halo in a Renaissance painting.
Lily screamed, shattering the serenity of her watery grave.
Emma fought against the panic radiating through her chest. It was just a memory, a confused, broken memory. The scream wasn’t real. It couldn’t hurt her. She repeated the words drilled into her brain. It’s not real. It can’t hurt me.
She’d almost learned to believe them.
But this time it was real. Lily had drowned.
If only Emma had said something. If only she’d reached the river a minute earlier. If only –
A muffled sob broke through Emma’s guilt and drew her back to the cemetery. Lily’s mother leaned against her ex-husband as they mourned together, united in something stronger than whatever drove them apart. This was real. Their grief was real. She refused to let the nightmares win again.
Alex eased his body into the kitchen and closed the door behind him. He held his breath until the deadbolt slid into place. His eyes darted around the darkened room, illuminated only by the pale green of the florescent lights under the cabinets.