Excerpts


Preface



Not in my wildest dream would I have imagined a nightmare whisking me away in the middle of the night, only to return me with no memory of the time we spent together. I could never forget that night—how and why it happened to me. So when the opportunity of finding out came knocking at my door, I couldn’t just let it slip away. And so once again, not in my wildest dream would I have imagined a moment as chilling as this.

The sun beamed down on the illusive island and ran through every pulse in our bodies as we ran against time, so desperate to see the side of change that awaited us, in a faraway place called home. I couldn’t help myself; I had to put it to the test—fate, that is. Now we were grasping, running for our lives, and our only hope of escaping was an injured plane and a prayer.

Before long, the island’s beauty would only be a memory etched in my brain. Its demise crept mercilessly beneath the burning sun. Before long, it would be what seemed…an ice age?

But how could that be?

Only in dreams, that’s how.

Dream or no dream, surely we could die or be forever lost in this nightmare.


openbook



Chapter One


No Turning Back

In theory, there’s only one day that comes and goes in precise intervals, that’s unaware of itself and its unique charm. We rise accordingly and go about our daily routine, and near time for it to make its exit, we settle down in the same position as we started. And when the day rolls around again, we repeat. Almost mechanically. As if we were spellbound by the cycle of day and notknow it. As if, when change comes along and snaps its fingers, the spell’s broken. And it’s a rude awakening…sometimes.

This day especially was like that. And it didn’t matter that it had been four years and three months, two weeks and a day in the making, and should go down in history as Pia’s day of dread, though I had the guts to face it somehow, one precarious step after another, as I embarked on a trip moments away from takeoff. No. What mattered was the unpredictable path I was on and how it would end about a week from now.

With my backpack hanging off my shoulder and a mild breeze playing in my hair, I led the way to the plane. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going through with this. But not only that, I had a weird feeling I just couldn’t shake. But when you find yourself returning to a dark part of your past—to a place you thought you would never see again because your last experience there resembled episodes of the Twilight Zone, this place much like home to you too—then how should you feel?

I drew in a deep breath, and then stole a few moments to make a wish. A mere request, because I believed with all my heart that anything was possible—and because I had the experience to back it up. So I closed my eyes and wished this moment away forever; wished away the nightmare and all memory of it forever times two. Then one, two…I counted to five for good measure. And then I heard it! Something magical! A whisper. And right then I knew. Knew that my “wish come true” would have been exactly that had the little voice only said, “Your wish is my command.”

But it disappointed me instead. Is that what you really want…never know what happened during the most critical hours of your life?

Of course granting my wish would have served me just fine, I thought with pooched lips. But I knew all too well. Knew that deep down I would give just about anything to know what really happened that night at the Florida beach house, where I mysteriously vanished in my sleep. And if it took going back to find out, ultimately proving my theory of what happened, then so be it. After four long years of not knowing anything, it would mean the world to me. Not to mention that it would probably be the greatest solved mystery of all times.

I arrived at the plane looking back at my parents coming up behind me. I settled the backpack on the ground, attempting to stretch precious moments I had left, by any means possible, before boarding the plane. I looked up as one flew over me, closed my eyes, and let my mind wander up to the universe. Suddenly I was amazed that we were all right here, right where we were supposed to be…at a point of no return. Or was I just plain crazy about all this? Some people, however, wouldn’t have a problem thinking so.

Suddenly, I felt a nudge on my back. In an instant I turned, thinking someone had snuck up on me but…no one was there. I frowned. That was creepy. I lifted my backpack and contemplated that some more. I could’ve sworn…it couldn’t have been the wind hitting me like that in just that spot.

“Pia is everything okay?” Dad asked as he and Mom approached.

“Yeah, sure,” I replied, still in wonder. Maybe it was the hands of the universe…had to be, urging me to get moving. So I boarded the plane convinced that that was it. Mom and Dad filed in behind me. And in moments the twin-engine plane roared to life.

“All set?” Dad’s vibrant tenor reigned over the engines. Wearing dark shades and a ready-to-go smile, he looked back at me, as did Mom, her hazel eyes gleaming. Through them I pretended to read her mind.Pia, if you’re not ready, it’s not too late to cancel this trip.

I imagined her reading mine. But Mom, it’s spring break, and we’re all set to go. And what about the pilot’s convention? The house? Dad could sell it for real next time. It’ll be okay, you’ll see.

Mom was the reason Dad hadn’t sold the house already. She was right, though: the house had deep, sentimental value, had been part of the family for far too long to get rid of. Dad had lost sight of that and probably would’ve regretted selling it. And how could either of us blame the house? It hadn’t whisked me away in the middle of the night, stolen sixteen hours of my memory, and set my mind to see creepy things. It hadn’t…changed my life forever.

We just needed to go back…to heal and…and because destiny was calling and because…just because.

I gazed out the window. Was I really out of my mind? Suddenly my fingers were tap-dancing on my lap. I stared at them for a moment then curled them into a tight fist. If I was a real nutcase, I supposed I would soon find out.

The plane taxied into position for takeoff. Upon clearance, it became a straight line of roaring thunder up the runway. Up, up the plane climbed over Houston. My eyes shut tight, hands gripping the armrests as anxiety grew like fever through my body.

No turning back.

We were on our way.

No turning back.

Preface



I was as happy as one could be the moment I got the news. I mean ecstatic-to-the-top-of-my-lungs happy, jumping-up-and-down and kissing-the-paper-it-came-on happy. There was no faking how happy I was. In my hand was a dream-come-true.

And the word spread like ants fleeing for dear life, about the unusual girl whom most people adored. That's if she was staying on the road of the straight and narrow. Their road! Which meant that the world was a safer place because of it.

The news this time: she had a full scholarship to attend an Ivy League School of her choice. And Harvard was her choice. “Harvard” and “scholarship” in the same sentence, things were really looking up for me. I was doing so well staying on that road until something happened. Not with the scholarship or Harvard, but rather, with me.

One morning I woke up with a whim on how I wanted to begin the next chapter of my life. Of course it was a biggie. You see, what I did you wouldn’t do if you wanted to avoid pissing people off. (Even if it wasn’t their business.) Especially if you were me, a renowned oddball everyone’s keeping an eye on.

But yeah, this oddball did just that, and like what any sane person would do, I dug my head in the sand like an ostrich to endure the backlash that sounded like this:

“You want to do what…? We’re going to save your soul if it’s the last thing we do.”

“What do you hope to accomplish? Just let it be….”

“Girl, please! Why would you want to go down that road again?”

“The Lord’s telling me right now to knock some sense into your head….” (This person had hit me upside the head for real.)

However, for those who were plain leery of me, my change of plans hadn’t surprised them one bit. You could say they knew things were bound to change. Because to them I was ruined no matter what and could never be the same. That if I didn’t go looking for trouble, in a matter of time it would come looking for me.

But I found sacred ground among those who were sentimental and blamed my nonsense on love. You know, that crazy kind of love, once hooked, you can’t help yourself.

As for the rest, I was just plain crazy. After what I had been through, they believed traces of that out-of-this world kind of craziness had to be in my blood.

Could be they’re right.



ring

Chapter One


A Fearless Heart

The lock clicked as I turned the key. It was mine now. All mine. Nothing else mattered. Not what people thought and the things they’d done trying to stop me. And not what I’d done to let nothing stand in my way. Whether I was making the biggest mistake of my life didn’t matter, because it was my life, and my mistake to make. Because I was right about this, I was sure of it. As sure as I had ever been about anything.

The door whined as it eased open. My fearlessness was still intact. At this point it would be self-defeating to let fear take charge. It would land me in a rather sticky situation considering what I had done to get here: broke my parents’ hearts. Never would I have imagined I had it in me to do it the way I had…. A little while ago, I waved goodbye to those broken hearts.

I entered the kitchen, slid my purse off my shoulder and placed it on the glass-top table, along with the keys. The old house creaked, and in a wince my head tilted up at the ceiling. Standing perfectly still, I listened to the voices…the voices whispering in my head. They were right: No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. Not him-him, the one I loved and could count on and trust my heart in the palm of his hands—but the other one. The one I knew nothing about; yet feared I could risk my heart and soul for a chance to learn all I could about.

Ferret...yes, Ferret.

Who else but Ferret?

That day I’d seen him at the bookstore felt promising—that finally, I thought all my questions would be answered. But time passed. Days dragged into weeks, weeks, into months. Now, about a year later, that moment at the bookstore felt like a lifetime ago. A lifetime of wondering had it only been a figment of my imagination—that I really hadn’t seen him at all. The snapshot of him fixed in my mind was all I had, and I had my share of it driving me out of my mind thinking I had seen him. Even had me talking to myself: That’s him over there…watching me…. There he is…should I say something?

Had been so certain I saw him I could have sworn on a stack of bibles.

But could I really…swear on a bible?

I exhaled. The question was what good was it to have an image in your head if you couldn’t trust your eyes to confirm that it’s the same image standing before you.

Freedom is letting go. For whatever reason the notion brought chills to my arms. I melted away the chills running my hands up and down my arms, thinking how things had changed. I was free now. It had been all I ever wanted, all I could ever think of. Free of the creepy visions, the dreams, and all the craziness that came with it. Free so I could again live a normal life, and now that I was, it was as if “normal” wasn’t normal to me anymore.

The house creaked again. The house, growing older by the minute, I said to myself. Then a woman, about a hundred years old, in a creaking rocking chair barely moving, came to mind. I couldn’t let fear creep in and get the best of me. I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t.

I peered out the window as birds landed on a tree branch, asking myself why:

Why did I break hearts to be here?

Why did it feel impossible to stay away?

Was it because the only place I could feel normal was here, at the beach house?