In 'The City of Silver Light', Keira Leichman spent the night lost in a wild snowstorm that struck Cassidy Heights. But what really happened that night? Not even Keira can be sure. What she does know is that she's been having strange dreams since the accident, and now she's stuck with a broken ankle and the possibility of never playing soccer again. That is, until she finds Jake's telescope, which calls her to the City of Silver Light.
5 out of 5 stars, "Readers will be drawn in from the first page." A Creative Mind
"A resounding 5 stars" Terry Jackman - reviewer Albedo One
" ... beautifully written with intriguing world building ... " Christina - Ensconced in YA
" I love ... its delicious mix of genres; allegory, family story, fantasy, science fiction. ... "Readalot
"I heartily recommend this book at any reader who enjoys something a bit out of the general line." Sally Odgers, Children's and Teen Fiction Author
There's a doctor in Outpatients who looks like Count Dracula. Pale skin and black hair pulled back into a bun so tight she can't even blink. I swear all she needs is a black cloak and a pair of bloodstained fangs.
'You need to take things more slowly, Keira,' she says to me every time I go in to see her. I think it's a threat.
See, I'm not a good patient. I'm impatient. I find it hard to sit still, which is not good when you've got a broken ankle. Most of the time I'm doing stuff I'm not supposed to, like, you know, walking. And … well, falling down the front steps.
'I am taking things slowly,' I tell her.
I resist the urge to pick at the neatly folded sheet covering the bed underneath me. Being in this room, with all the neatly arranged equipment and dark furniture, always makes me feel antsy. It probably doesn't help that I haven't slept properly in ages. I keep having dreams about ice. It crackles all over the house, and into the trees, and across the grass and the streets before everything turns white. But as much as I hate seeing doctors, I definitely don't want to be sent to a psychologist, so I'll keep those dreams to myself.
'I didn't fall on purpose.'
Mum speaks up. 'I keep telling her she needs to take it easy. But every time I turn my back, she's out of bed making cereal or playing with the dog. And now this …'
I feel sorry for my mum. She works long hours running the Cassidy Heights Bakery, and has to be up at four o'clock most mornings. Not to mention the accounts, bills, sales targets, and production quotas she has to meet. Having me home from school has only given her more to worry about.
When a blizzard hit our little suburb of Cassidy Heights two weeks ago, I kind of got lost walking back from my friend Jake's place. I tripped on a kerb and went for a slide on my butt. Yeah, it wasn't exactly my shining moment. Volunteer rescue workers from the State Emergency Service found me eventually, but by the time they called my mum, she was already beyond panic.
The weather system that caused the freak snowstorm has broken up now – according to Chanel Seven News and Weather, that is. Of course, there still haven't been any satisfactory explanations about what exactly caused it. I can just picture the meteorologists at the Weather Bureau scratching their heads. And me, I was kind of planning to get an A+ on my science project about predicting the effects of an arctic winter in a desert country, but I've kind of left my partner, Jake, in the lurch while I'm spending all this time recovering.
'Well, we'll see what these new x-rays show us.' Doctor Dracula waves a sealed yellow envelope. 'Then we'll know whether you'll be able to head back to school. Bet you'll be excited to see your friends again.' She rips open the envelope, tipping a couple of plastic sheets into her hands.
I give her a withering stare. Why do adults assume that school is some fun place where you get to hang out with your friends? It's totally not like that. Teachers spend all their time getting you not to talk, not to sit next to your friends, and not to waste time socialising. I hate school. I hate the rules and regulations.
'All I really want to do is get back to soccer practice.'
'Hm,' says Doctor Dracula. She sticks the x-ray pictures on a lighted board. It's an ominous 'hm', a sound that means there's something bad here.
I look at my bones. The inside of people's bodies is pretty interesting. I mean, all those little bits and pieces that join together to make us work. It's kind of fascinating what living beings are made up of.
'What's "hm"?' I ask.
Mum leans forwards, her brow crinkling.
'What we have here is a non-union,' says Doctor Dracula. 'The gap between the broken edges of the bone was a large one, and that fall you took probably pulled it further out of alignment. The bone isn't healing the way it should.'
'What does that mean?' Mum sounds worried.
'Well, we might be looking at an operation. We'd need to insert a bolt to keep the bone in place while it heals.'
'That sounds drastic.' Mum's voice is shaking a little.
'It's a relatively simple procedure, and certainly not uncommon. But I won't lie to you. There can be complications.'
'Complications – like what?' I ask.
'Well, Keira, you may have some pain in that foot for the rest of your life. Also a certain weakness. The bones will never heal as strongly as they were before they were broken.'
'But that won't matter, right? I mean, it's not like I won't be able to walk or anything.' My own voice is shaking a bit now.
'Of course you'll be able to walk. But you may find it difficult or painful to run. You might be restricted in more strenuous activities.'
Slowly, very slowly, it's dawning on me. 'What about soccer?'
She purses her lips. 'We won't rule anything out at this stage, of course. But I'd like to schedule the operation as soon as possible. Mrs Leichman, we'll need you to fill out some forms …'
I don't hear anything else. My mind is ringing with thoughts. What if, what if … what if I can never play soccer again?
'I'll see you on Thursday, Keira,' says Doctor Dracula.
I nod, resigned, and grab my crutches to follow Mum out of the office.
We get all the way back through the waiting room, through the delay at reception while they sort out some mismatching Medicare numbers, through the slow walk down the disabled ramp at the front door, and the short walk to the car before she starts on me.
'Why don't you ever listen to me? You shouldn't have been moving around. You shouldn't have tried to manage those stairs on your own. If you would just do what you were told for once … '
'Don't yell at me!' I shout.
'I don't know how else to get you to listen! You're too stubborn for your own good!'
'I'm the one who might never be able to run again. I think I'm the one who should be upset.'
'Oh, really? Wait until you're old enough to be responsible for someone. Then you might understand.'
We drive home in stony silence. I hobble on my crutches through the yard and into my room where I slump on my bed. My door has a busted hinge and doesn't shut properly. I count to three, then sure enough Molly, our dog, noses her way into the room and heaves herself up on my bed. She nuzzles up beside me, her warm body solid and comforting against my side.
'Good girl, Molly,' I whisper automatically, scratching her ears just where she likes it. Her paw twitches in response.
'Keira?' Mum taps at my door. It swings slightly back and forth but she doesn't come in. 'Keira, honey, can I come in?'
'I'm going to get some Chinese takeaway for tea. I thought you could invite a friend, if you want.'
It's a peace offering. She knows it's my favourite. But I'm not hungry. 'Alright.'
'It'll be okay, honey,' she calls softly. I hear her footsteps recede to the kitchen, where I know she'll be making a cup of coffee and staring blankly at the wall. It's just been the two of us since Dad left three years ago. We know each other's thoughts like mind-readers.
With a sigh, I roll over and reach for my bag. I pull out my phone and bring up my contacts list. I select the first number on recent calls. It rings once, twice, three times.
'Hello?' says a familiar voice.
'Jake?' I say, then burst into tears.
Jake has been my friend since we were in primary school. We ate dog biscuits out of the packet in my garage, sat at the back of the class and punched each other in the shoulder until the teacher wrote our names on the board, and painted each other's hair green in Art. My mum and I were at the hospital on the day his little brother was born. I remember Mum holding Mrs Miles's hand as she was wheeled through the doors into the private room.
Later, when Daniel was older, all three of us spent hours playing hide-and-seek in the pine plantation in Phoenix Park. We built a treehouse in one of the tallest trees of the plantation. You could see the entire world from up there, though the treehouse must be falling to bits by now.
I guess we've drifted apart a bit lately, though. That's what happens when you grow up. I mean, I started going out with Andrew, who didn't really like Jake much. And then there was Baz, and Jake got all awkward about him and me. I wonder if he was jealous. That just makes me feel weird though – I mean Jake is my friend.
Then he met Rebecca, a really pretty, strange, pale girl who stayed with him a couple of days. And he changed. There was something strange about her but Jake never really wanted to talk about her much. I guess he was sorry she only stayed for a few days. Maybe he was really in love with her. And that made me feel weird, because I didn't want Jake Miles to be in love with anyone. And what does that mean? Is it just because he's my friend and I don't want him to drift further away?
Tonight, he turns up on the porch at eight, and Mum lets him into the lounge room where I'm propped on the couch with pillows and the TV remote, my foot on the coffee table. We eat our Chinese food and Mum goes to bed, leaving us to watch a re-run of How I Met Your Mother. Canned laughter echoes from the TV.
'So,' says Jake.
'So,' I reply, picking bits of fried rice off my jumper. 'It's Mikhal's birthday on the weekend. He's having a party on Saturday.'
'You reckon you can –?'
I shoot him one of my best death-glares. 'Of course I can make it. I'm not going to stop living.'
'Right, sorry. I was just wondering if your mum would actually let you go. She seems pretty … anxious.'
'I told her Mikhal's parents would be there. I also told her I'll just sit on the couch the whole night, because it hurts too much to move anyway. I think she feels bad about the operation, bad enough that she'll let me have a treat beforehand. Besides, I haven't seen Mikhal or any of the others in ages. It's bad for me, psychologically, to be so isolated.'
I bat my eyelids innocently and Jake laughs.
'Cool. Well, I'll ask Dad. I think Nina can drive us. She's been talking to Mikhal's mum a lot, about all this charity stuff – and your mum will be sleeping, won't she?'
I nod. Mum has early nights. 'That'll make things easier. She likes Nina.'
I'm not sure about Nina myself. Every time I see her walking around Jake's house, cooking in the kitchen, cleaning the bathroom, reading in the lounge room, I just picture Mrs Miles, Jake's real mum. Even though it's been years since Mrs Miles died, it just seems wrong to have someone else in her place. For a long time, Jake hated her with a passion, but since the night of the blizzard, he's been warming up to her. I reckon we all got closer that night, so I'm obligated to make an effort to do the same.
'I've gotta go,' Jake says at last. 'I told Dad I'd be home by nine-thirty.'
'Jeez, talk about a curfew.'
'I've got school tomorrow. Or have you forgotten some of us still have to go to class, you lazy bum?'
'I'm not a lazy bum!' I yell, punching him in the arm. He leans over to whack me in the shoulder, but all of a sudden he's too close – his face inches from mine. I can see his lips. I can taste his lips. It would take only the slightest movement to kiss him. I could kiss him. For a second it's going to happen. He's going to lean in and kiss me.
My heart is racing. My breath catches in my throat and I pull back - and tumble right off the couch with a yelp.
'Shit!' Jake gasps, catching me in his arms. My breath leaves me. He's strong – strong enough to lift me easily. 'Shit, I'm sorry! Are you okay?'
'Ouch,' I grit my teeth against the pain. My ankle feels like it's on fire.
He lifts me back up to the couch. Something has fallen out of his pocket and digs into my leg.
'What's this?' I pick it up. It's a slender tube made of brass or something heavy. There's thick glass in both ends. It's an old-fashioned telescope. As I touch it, something jumps in me. Like a spark of static electricity, it runs right through me, leaving my hair tingling.
Jake grabs it – I mean, full on snatches it – right out of my hands. 'It's nothing.'
The moment of the almost-kiss is gone. There's no getting it back now. This, whatever this is, has wiped it from existence. 'Why are you carrying around an old telescope?'
'What does that matter?' He tucks the thing back in his pocket, avoiding my eyes. 'Are you okay? Should I get your mum?'
'No. She'll be asleep by now. I'm fine.'
'I'll call you before Saturday,' Jake says quickly, pretty much running out the door.
More laughter blares from the TV. I don't notice anything that happens for the rest of the episode because I'm thinking about Jake. Somehow, he's not just "Miles" anymore. When did I start thinking of him as Jake?
I sleep the whole night, but as morning comes and I drift towards wakefulness, I hear voices echoing in my ears.
'… uncertain of how this is going to be. The problem lies in the instability of the linkages – there were times when we could predict where a bridge might be …'
The voice is a woman's. It's clear and firm and very, very cold.
'There were times,' a man replies, 'when bridges were fixed in place permanently.'
'But we must work with what we have.'
'There are other ways, devices –'
'Hush! Do not speak of such things, not here!'
There is a long silence and then there's just the sound of receding footsteps. Then Molly's licking my face and I can hear a whistling sound from the kitchen and Mum muttering to herself about matches that won't light.
Sitting home alone today is torture. I keep thinking about what happened the night before, Jake's hands on me, and the almost-but-not-quite kiss.
It's so weird that I'm having trouble believing it. Maybe I made it all up. Finally, I pick up my phone and text him, just to see how he'll respond.
He replies almost instantly – you're borING!
You suck, I reply.
He doesn't text back. But later that day, his ID flashes up again.
I have to redo the assignment for science.
I feel a twinge of guilt. It's my fault he failed the assignment. We were supposed to do it together but I landed in hospital, which I guess goes to prove who was the brains behind the operation. And I guess it proves how bored I am when I text back; do you want me to help?
His response is neutral. You don't have to.
Told you I'm bored, I type. Then I add: I'll have to redo it anyway when I go back.
When Mum gets up later I get her to drive me to Jake's house. Jake's dad's car is in the driveway, so she parks on the street. Getting out of the car is such an ordeal I start to wonder if I should have stayed home. I get the feeling we're being watched and, sure enough, when I look towards Jake's neighbour's house, I see that old lady, Mrs Henders, looking out from behind her curtains. She's looking right at me and doesn't even bother to hide it once she knows I've seen her. It gives me a spooky feeling.
Jake's brother Daniel is in the front yard, chucking a tennis ball against the wall of the house.
'Hey,' he says when he sees me.
I grin. Daniel's a good kid. I feel bad when I think about how little I've seen of him over the past year, especially since he hurt himself looking for me on the night of the snowstorm.
'Jake's inside somewhere,' he goes on. 'Does your leg hurt?'
'Yeah,' I tell him. 'What's with your neighbour? She's creepier than ever.'
'Mrs Henders?' he looks across the fence, but shakes his head. 'She's alright.'
'Alright?' When did she become all right? We used to scare each other stupid making up stories about how she ate kids and stray cats.
He shrugs. 'She's just old,' he says. But there's something else in his tone, something he's not telling me. I wrinkle my nose. The whole Miles family is hiding something!
I turn back to Mum and wave, just to let her know I'm okay. She beeps the horn as she takes off. I manage the steps up to the Miles's front door and Daniel thoughtfully opens it for me. I pause inside, looking around.
It's all different now. Someone, probably Nina, has rearranged the furniture in the hall, and the pictures on the walls are in the wrong places. The family photo, the one of Jake and Daniel with their dad and mum, is still on the wall, but there's another one next to it, showing Nina and Jake's dad sitting in the back of a boat.
Daniel yells out to Jake.
'Daniel! Keep your voice down, will you? Oh, hello, Keira.'
That's his dad, who I can see sitting in the lounge room with a laptop propped next to him –. I remember Jake telling something about him spending more time at home thanks to a promotion. He also told me he's quit smoking, which is probably why he's jiggling a pen anxiously in his hand.
'Hi, Mr Miles,' I say with a smile.
'Your leg …' he starts, but thankfully Jake emerges from his room just then, saving me from another explanation of how things are going. He motions me into his bedroom and shuts the door.
It's not the first time I've been in Jake's room, but just like everything else since my leg, it feels different. He shares the room with Daniel, so there are Transformer toys on the floor, as well as crumpled jeans in the corner, comics on the bookcase, and the smell of Lynx deodorant. Basically, there's twice as much – boyness – as usual.
'I thought we should work in here. Nina's cleaning the kitchen. It's best to stay out of the way when that happens.'
He grabs his backpack off his desk chair to make space for me to sit down. He's acting like nothing happened at all.
'So I'm thinking,' he says, fishing through his backpack and pulling out his science book. 'We should stick with our original idea. Well, your idea. About the environment and climate change. It's a good idea. I think we can still get a good grade.'
We scribble ideas for the next half hour. But my mind's not on the task. I'm thinking about my leg, and soccer, and going back to school.
And about kissing Jake.
He refuses to look at me. I can't really look at him either, so I keep glancing around the room. I find I'm staring at Jake's bedside table where there's a little blue bag. There's something inside the bag. A long slender shape. A telescope-sized shape.
'Can you get me a drink?' I interrupt him.
'Oh … sure.' He's acting the gracious host, too polite to even crack a joke about me being a slavedriver or something. Damn it, Jake Miles. What happened to you? When did we start being polite to each other?
As soon as he's out the door I lunge for the bag and unwrap the object. Yes, it's definitely the telescope. It's heavy and though it doesn't shock me like it did the first time, it seems to vibrate in my hands. It's made of brass, I think, and it's old. Is it an antique? A heirloom? Maybe it's worth something.
I put my eye to the lens and peer at the wall. It's blurry, this close up, and the thick glass puts a rainbow of distorted colours across it.
'What are you doing?'
I whirl around and the excuses I had half-formed in my mind vanish when I realise it's Daniel, not Jake, who's caught me in the act.
'I was just …' I stutter.
'You should put that back,' he says.
'I'm sorry. I just wanted to see it.'
His eyes are piercing, accusing. 'So, did you see anything?'
'What am I supposed to see? I just looked at the wall.'
He seems to relax, letting out a little huff of breath. 'It's just … you shouldn't touch things that aren't yours.'
'I know that. I didn't mean to. I just wanted to see it. You, um, you're not going to tell Jake?'
Daniel flops onto his bed. 'Well, nah. It's just a telescope, anyway.'
Just a telescope? I'm starting to doubt that.
Jake and I finish nutting out the project. Later that afternoon I call Mum to come and get me. Jake helps me walk across the yard.
'You! Girl,' calls a voice.
I look over the fence and see the crazy neighbour gazing at me. Mrs Henders has this fixed look in her eyes, like she's trying to see right through me.
'This is Keira, Mrs Henders,' says Jake politely.
'She needs to be careful.'
'Why?' asks Jake. I wonder if he's humouring her.
'There's something … I can't be sure …' she says. 'Something about her is changed.' Then, almost angrily, she shakes her head and stalks away.
I raise my eyebrows at Jake. 'What was that?'
He shrugs. 'Sorry. She's okay, most of the time.'
'She's freaking weird.'
Mum pulls up at the kerb. Jake opens the car door for me and helps me in, but he still won't look at me. And right now, that's all I want!
Mum gets a call from Cassidy Heights Hospital the next day. Doctor Dracula has scheduled an appointment for me with a specialist to discuss my operation. I get knots in my stomach, worse than what I usually get before a game. But the meeting is mainly about filling in forms and a lot of explanations about how long it will take my leg to heal, with more if's and however's.
If everything works out, there's a chance I'll be able to regain full movement. However, depending on how well the bones knit, there's also a possibility of limited motion. If I attend regular physical therapy, I'll be giving myself the best chance. However, physio will be hard work and might be very painful.
I stare at the wall. It's covered with certificates, just like Doctor Dracula's walls. All these people have bits of paper saying how smart they are, but none of them can tell me if I'll be able to play soccer next month.
'So, it's scheduled for Thursday. We'll have to pack your bag again,' Mum says on the way home. 'I got you those new pyjamas –'
'I want to take my old ones. They're more comfortable.'
'You're not taking them. They've got holes in the armpits.'
I roll my eyes. 'No one's going to see my armpits, Mum!'
'I spent good money –' she says, her voice cracks, and I realise she's crying.
'Why are you so upset? I'm the one who's getting sliced and diced!' And suddenly I'm crying, too. I never cry. But even when Mum assures me everything's going to be fine, I can't quite believe it. Right when I need it most, I can't find my usual optimism.
Saturday arrives. Despite my protests, Mum sets her alarm so that she can help me get ready. She starts to worry, of course, and almost changes her mind at the last minute. 'I'm not sure it's such a good idea …'
But I keep my cool and carefully explain to her all the reasons why it makes sense for me to go. 'One,' I tick this off on my finger. 'The doctors keep saying I need gentle exercise. If I stay home I'll just sit on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Two, I need social activity. It's good for teenagers to interact with one another. We need to keep our minds active. And I'm not going to school, so I'm starting to feel isolated. Three …'
I'm struggling now, but if there's one thing I'm good at, it's talking. I can talk until the cows come home.
'And three, I promised Mikhal. You always told me it's important to keep your promises. Right? He's my friend.'
The guilt works its magic on her.
She helps me dress. I'm not that big on fashion, so I've had to make a real effort to find something suitable: a mid-length soft denim skirt (practical, given the cast on my ankle), a peach-coloured V-neck top, and a white cardigan. Although most of the ice outside has melted, it's still freezing at night, so I wear a white coat over the top.
Mum brushes my hair.
'You look pretty,' she says.
'You say that like you're surprised,' I grin. But I'm taken aback when I look in the mirror. I'm not used to seeing myself in anything other than jeans or my soccer gear. I look … like a girl.
Mum spritzes her perfume on me. It's her favourite and smells like violets. I pretend to cough and she laughs.
'Go back to bed.' I tell her. 'Nina will be here in a minute.'
She helps me into the lounge room first and gives me a little black velvet purse with silver patterns on it. I recognise it immediately. She only takes it with her when she goes out to dinner or a movie with her friends.
'Have fun,' she says, and her eyes fill with tears. Oh, great, she's getting all my little girl is all grown up on me. You'd think this was the first party I'd ever been to.
'Wow, look at this place.'
Jake is standing in the doorway, staring into the nether regions of Mikhal's huge home. The house suffered some damage in the ice storm. One end of the veranda collapsed under the weight of gathered snow, taking several of his mother's prize roses with it. The surviving ones have leaves that are black and shrivelled.
I feel sorry for them, even though they're probably insured for more than my entire house.
'Um, hello?' I remind Jake that while he's busy examining the décor, I'm teetering on my crutches behind him, and I'm cold. The front door has been left open, presumably so people can wander in as they arrive. Inside, the heater is blasting warm air into the entryway.
'Hey!' says Mikhal. He's carrying a packet of chips and a bottle of coke. He pauses when he sees me, his eyes narrowing. 'Keira, you look different.'
That's about as imaginative a compliment as I expect to get from the boys I know.
He leads us through to the lounge room where the TV is on, playing some music video channel. There are already about twenty people here, gathered together in their usual groups. Through the doorway, I can see a dining room table laden with bowls of food and bottles of drink. Some people are in there, loading up on the free sugar.
'Mum was talking to Nina for ages when she called about the party,' he says to Jake. 'She's getting all fired up about charity things. All those people who lost their homes and stuff in the snowstorm, she's fighting some court cases for compensation for them, but she wants to do more.'
'Yeah, I heard.'
'It's her latest thing.' Mikhal rolls his eyes. 'At least it's keeping her occupied … means she's not on my back about school.' Mikhal plonks himself down on the lounge and opens his bag of chips, stuffing a handful into his mouth and talking while chewing. 'She hit the roof when she found out Mr Jass failed me on that science project.'
'You and Andrew handed in a GI Joe taped to a boomerang,' Jake points out.
'It was a vital experiment in the effects of gravity and wind vel … velo –'
'Velocity?' Jake laughs. 'Maybe next time you should pick a topic you can actually spell.'
'You can talk. You failed too.'
'Are you seriously talking about homework?' I butt in. 'I'm sorry, but you've got all week to do that. Mikhal, how does it feel to be sixteen?'
We talk and laugh. Mikhal convinces Sharna Devon to give up her armchair for me. It's covered in white velour and I feel like I'm dirtying it just by breathing.
Someone turns up the music and dims the lights. The darkness makes the room more comfortable. I'm glad I convinced Mum to let me come. I've missed being around people so much! I've missed talking. But when people get up and start to dance, that's when I feel it. The pain of being left out. I can feel the beat of the music in my feet. I want to be up there, mucking around with my friends. Instead I'm stuck in my white armchair with my crutches stacked next to me.
Something twists in my chest. What if this is it? What if my leg never does heal, and for the rest of my life I'll be trapped in a chair, watching while other people move around me?
Fear creeps through me, going deeper and deeper, until it seems like a certainty. I'll never walk again.
I'll never run again.
Someone appears in front of me. 'Hey, Keira.'
He's the last person I want to see at the moment, tears are hovering just behind my eyes. Since we broke up, we haven't talked much. It's a shame because I always liked him. He's usually so easy to talk to because he's so laid-back about everything. Our conversations flowed. We could argue and joke about anything. It was … easy.
But after the night of the snowstorm, when everything changed, when I changed, I suddenly didn't want 'easy' anymore. I didn't know what I wanted. When I broke up with him, I think he was disappointed more than upset. Maybe even embarrassed. He looks so awkward now that I start to feel bad all over again.
'Hey,' I say as cheerfully as I can.
'I ... um,' he shifts on his feet.
'Don't ask me about my leg,' I growl. 'Don't even mention it.'
He looks shocked.
'I'm kidding!' I laugh, but it's an awkward laugh because I can tell I've made him even more uncomfortable.
'Look,' he manages at last. 'I just wanted to say I'm sorry.'
It's my turn to be shocked. 'What?'
'It's just that … you know, when you went missing … I should have been the one to notice. To go looking for you.'
He's standing close to me and talking in a low voice. I reach out and touch his hand, and for a moment something really strange happens. It's like – like a window opens in my mind. Suddenly, I'm plunging into a cold rushing river and I can see into his memories. I see him sitting in his bedroom, looking out through the window. The snowstorm is raging and I can feel his frustration, his fear and horror at what's happening and at not being able to do anything about it. I can see something dark, like a tiny knot of blackness winding around him. And then I realise what's upsetting him so much. It's that Jake went out to find me. And he didn't.
He thinks he's a coward.
He thinks my leg is his fault.
My fingers move. They pull the knot apart and, as air rushes into my lungs, I come back to myself.
'Keira?' he says, looking at me with concern.
'It's okay,' I breathe.
He seems to know that I'm not just talking about me. 'Is it?' he asks.
'I just said so, didn't I?'
He sighs and, somehow, I see all the worry melt out of him. Inside my mind, it's like the same pure white light from my dreams. He's still awkward, but he's not feeling guilty anymore, and as I let go of his hand, he smiles shakily.
'So, uh, I'll see you around?'
'Sure.' I nod.
I'm relieved when he leaves, but he's just as quickly replaced by Jake, pushing a cup of Mountain Dew into my hands and sitting on the arm of the chair.
'You look bored,' he says.
'I'm not,' I protest. 'I'm just appreciating the atmosphere. I'm going to call it … vibrant.'
He's wearing a black Killers t-shirt and a brown jacket over jeans. His dark hair is combed neatly. He smells like guy's deodorant and he looks … nice.
'Are you okay?' he asks.
Of course I'm not okay. You're my best friend and you're keeping secrets from me. I want to kiss you but you don't trust me. You're still in love with Rebecca, who's not even here.
'Fine!' The word comes out too cheerfully. 'I'm fine. Thanks for the drink.'
'You know …' he says in a low voice, but at that moment someone steps in front of us. It's Sharna Devon. She's wearing a long green skirt, belted over a loose white shirt. She looks pretty and confident, and she has two legs that work.
'Jake?' she says. 'Hey! Ben ditched me. You want to dance?'
Jake looks taken aback. 'Um – '
'No excuses. You have to.' She's grabbing his hands and dragging him away but he's not putting up much of a protest. I watch them weave in between the dancers. Sharna moves easily, her body finding the beat of the music and taking Jake with her. Jake Miles dancing? And yet, there he is. And he's not doing too badly.
I wish I was dancing with him.
I shift uncomfortably. Something's digging into my hip. I dig it out. It's a familiar blue pouch. My heart skips a beat. I can't believe it. It must have fallen out of Jake's pocket when he was sitting next to me.
Almost without thinking, I slip the pouch and the telescope it contains into the purse Mum lent me. I glance over my shoulder guiltily but of course he hasn't noticed anything, he's too busy laughing at something Sharna has said.
Ruth Fox is the author of The Bridges Trilogy and the award-winning Monster-boy: Lair of the Grelgoroth.
She loves to paint, cook and play computer games (very badly). She has a Bachelor of Arts/Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing. So far she has worked at several far less meaningful or interesting jobs – but writing is her life. She loves science fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, young adult, adult, literature, old books, new books, and everything in between.
She currently lives with her husband and three very curious and adventurous sons (who also love books) in Ballarat, Victoria.
ACROSS THE BOOK OF ICE
Book 2 of THE BRIDGES series
The moral rights of Ruth Fox to be identified as the author of this work have been asserted.
Copyright © 2015 Hague Publishing
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.
Cover Art: Across the Bridge of Ice by Ruth Fox
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