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Chosen, Chapter 1
“You’re special, Kristabella,” the therapist says.
“Aren’t you supposed to say that to your self-esteem issue patients?” I ask, shading in the sketch I was working on. It’s the black-haired boy I’ve been dreaming about. Last night, it was the fifth time I’ve chased him down the unidentified beach, calling out for him, feeling an overwhelming urge to tell him something while the waves slammed against the sand and the storm gathered, causing a sharp wind to tangle my long hair. It always feels so real, and I swear I’m actually there until I wake up. Of course, Dr. Johnston has asked about unusual dreams, but there’s something really private about that one. In the sketch, I draw him facing a rough sea, back to the viewer. The clouds are a nearly perfect grey, and his shoulders are set in an impassive stance. “Oh, and call me Kris. My name is too long,” I complain. I draw a seagull fighting the strong wind then study the sketch. Nice. I flick my eyes up to look at the therapist. He needs a good stylist. Today, he’s wearing a tweed suit and his wispy hair needs to be trimmed.
“Let’s focus, shall we, Kris? Why is your father sending you here?” he asks.
“Obviously you know. You tell me.” I turn to a new page in the sketch pad. I switch my pencil for a light grey charcoal.
“What are you drawing?” he tries.
“Whatever comes out,” I answer. I swoop the pencil down. I don’t know what I’m drawing at first, but soon, the edge of a woman’s face takes shape, the swoops her long hair.
“Would you please put that away so we can talk?”
“I think best when I’m drawing or playing music, and since you want to talk, this is your best bet. Sorry.” The shape of a cat-like, mischievous-glinted eye appears.
“Alright. Your dad is worried about your reaction to his engagement.”
I flex my hand so I don’t snap the pencil and I know it doesn’t escape the therapist’s notice. “What’s so bad about it?” I say, using Dad’s words when he’d told me and I’d freaked, landing me in therapy. “He deserves to be happy, doesn’t he?”
“I think our hour is done. See you next week, Doc.” I start to stuff my tings into the messenger bag I always carry, snapping the pencil case closed rather violently.
“Everyone’s special, Kris. But there’s something about you that stands out. See you next week, and you have my number if you need anything.”
I suppress my eye roll until I’m out of the building. The therapist’s practice is in the Bronx, and I have a way to go to get to Dad’s office on Fifth Avenue. I turn in my iPod and put the ear buds in. I then turn left towards the subway.
Once on the train, I take out my sketch pad and flip to the woman. Half of her face is nearly done. I get the charcoal out again and start finishing the other side. After that, I detail her hair and eyes, giving them depth. It is almost like she is coming to life. I can almost see the impatience on her face, the unruly tilt of her head. I’m so focused I don’t see the boy beside me until he taps my arm. I look up and pull an ear bud out. “Yes?”
“That’s really good,” he says. He has chestnut-colored hair and light brown eyes that have always made my heart melt. He isn’t hard to look at, that’s for sure.
“Thanks,” I say with a small smile.
“She kind of looks like you,” he says, taking me by surprise. Then I see it. Same wavy dark hair, same freckled skin, same pouty, sculpted mouth. I didn’t used colors, but if I had, I’m sure I would’ve colored them the same deep, stormy grey color. “Is she your sister?”
“I don’t know who she is,” I answer. “I just start drawing. Sometimes I don’t know what the bigger picture is until it is the bigger picture.” I laugh quietly.
He smiles. “I’m Ben.” He holds out a tanned hand.
I take it. “Kris. It’s nice to meet you, Ben.”
“It’s mice to meet you, too, Kris. So where are you headed?”
“To see my dad.” Ben’s probably about my age, if a year or two older.
“You and him close?” he asks. That’s sort of an odd question.
I laugh, a little harshly. “You could call it something like that.”
“Family stuff, huh? I can relate,” he says.
I study the picture again. She even has the same fox-like features as me. She looks inhuman, though, like a painting you see of representations of Aphrodite or Athena. She looks like a goddess. I suddenly feel a strange sense of déjà vu.
A voice announces the next stop.
“That’s my cue,” I say. “It was nice meeting you, Ben.” I put my stuff away.
“Wait, I’d like to see you again,” he says as I stand.
“Sorry, I’m usually really busy. But thanks.”
I weave my way through the crowd to the door before he can say anything else.
I quickly climb the stairs to the street and turn towards Dad’s office. As I walk, I idly scan the crowd ahead of me.
I freeze when I see the mop of black hair, nearly getting knocked over by a harried businessman. I continue walking, studying his silhouette. The boy is tall and lean, and I see a surprising amount of muscle under his dark tee shirt. His gait shouldn’t have been so familiar, but he lopes on, just like in my dreams. A combination of eagerness and nerves wracks my body, and it’s like I’m being split in two; I want to run at him, have him explain why I’m seeing him in a recurring dream, but also run away, too afraid to ask questions for fear that the dreams, oddly enjoyable, will go away. My body starts acting without rational thought.
I run after him, shoving a man out of the way. The boy is a good quarter of a block ahead of me. I dodge some tourists, my eyes on the boy’s head.
After what felt like ages, I catch his arm, out of breath. I turn him towards me, not anticipating my next move, nor his. He’s extremely handsome, about seventeen, with bright green eyes and a shocked expression. Something passes over his face—relief? fear? anxiety?—but then he hides it behind a mask of polite annoyance. “Can I help you?” he asks in a clear, velvety voice.
“Do I know you?” I ask, still slightly breathless.
“No, I don’t think we’ve ever met,” he says carefully, like talking to a mentally handicapped person. He studies me for a moment, then looks away, muttering something. I let his arm go to cross mine. Finally, his luminous eyes return to mine. “Actually, that’s sort of a lie. We’ve never met, but you are Kristabella Stryker?”
I feel shock cross my face. “How--
“Dammit,” he growls suddenly, looking over my shoulder. “This isn’t right.”
“Excuse me,” I say before his hand grips my upper arm and he dragging me down the street.
He’s muttering to himself, and I think, Great. I’m being kidnapped by a crazy person. He keeps glancing back, but I don’t see anything significant when I look back. I try pulling away, but he only grips my arm tighter and says, “I’m taking you to your dad. Relax, Kristabella.”
“My dad? But—“
“Just shut up for a minute.”
Feeling more confused than mad like I should be, I follow him into my dad’s law firm. He pulls me to the elevator, actually scaring a small businessman out with just a look. Once the doors are closed, I shake my arm away.
“What the hell?” I say, crossing my arms. “Who are you?”
“Don’t tell me to shh—“
“We’re not safe yet. Be quiet.”
“Not until you explain—“
He puts his hand over my mouth suddenly. “I’m trying to help you, and I will explain, just not yet.” He glances up like someone’s going to come through the roof of the elevator.
I push his hand away. “Yep, you’re definitely a lunatic.”
“I’m protecting you.”
He opens his mouth to say something, but then shuts it, setting his jaw in a stubborn angle.
“I can take care of myself,” I say obstinately.
For whatever reason, he smiles, though it’s small and still worried. “I know you can, but everyone needs a little help sometimes.”
“I’m glad I amuse you.”
“It’s not like—“
“The doors open and I step out, pacing to the receptionist. “Is Dad in, Aimee?” I ask.
“Yes. I’ll let him know—“
“That’s alright, we’re sort of in a hurry,” I say, walking over to his office. I throw it open, knowing the boy will follow.
Dad is behind his desk, looking a little shocked to see my new friend. His usually tidy brown hair is a little messed up, and he’s already lost his jacket and tie. “Sebastian? What’s going on?”
“You know each other?” I ask.
“She approached me on the street, sir,” Sebastian says.
“Okay, apparently I’m not here,” I say sarcastically.
Sebastian closes the door tightly after checking to make sure no one was near it. “I saw him,” he says to my dad.
“Who?” I ask. I toss my bag onto a chair and perching myself on the corner of Dad’s desk.
“This isn’t good. Already?” Dad says, rubbing his temples.
“Obviously, she’s progressing much faster than we anticipated,” Sebastian says. He closes the window shades and paces behind Dad’s desk, deep in thought.
“Someone care to clue me in?” I say rather sharply. Dad blinks at me like he’s just realizing I’m here.
“Oh, Kris, um—“
The door suddenly burst open with a bang and I am shocked to see Ben standing in the doorway, his light brown eyes almost glowing. Sebastian swears behind me and I hear Dad stand up, but I’m frozen to the spot, unable to move even if I’d wanted to.
“You’re a hard girl to find, Kristabella,” Ben says, his voice dark and menacing.
“It’s not time, Benjamin,” Sebastian says, moving to block me from Ben’s sight.
“She’s ready. Trust me.” Ben smiles at me around Sebastian’s arm, but it feels wrong. I shiver at the unusual feelings of fear and distrust coursing through me. I’m not usually so quick to react to someone. “Move over, Sebastian.”
Ben waves his hand and my dad cuts off with a strangled choking sound. I can’t turn my head to see what’s happening. Anger, hot and unfamiliar, races through my system. I don’t know what’s going on, but Ben’s being here is wrong, I know it. I slide from the desk, stepping around Sebastian and shaking off the hand he puts on my arm.
“You should leave,” I say. I’m surprised my voice is so steady.
“But I’m having so much fun,” Ben teases.
A sudden wind blasts into the office, sharp and cold. I stand at the center of the maelstrom, hair flying wildly, a warm fire of anger giving me unnatural strength. The wind shoves Ben out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
The tempest dies, and exhaustion sweeps my body. I gasp as my knees give out, and I lose my grip on reality before I even hit the ground.