A young adult novel about ghosts, history, and two girls who find second chances at life.
Celeste struggles with finding her way from a dark past until she gets a summer volunteer gig at the local historical fair. Enter outrageous actors, dominating psychics, and ghosts stirred by a medium’s presence. With the help of the psychic’s son, who isn’t at all what her dream date would look like but rather endearing all the same, Celeste uncovers secrets about the village left hidden amongst the dilapidated buildings. Searching deeper will mean opening her heart, a part of her she’s locked up tight and been petrified of freeing.
VICTORIAN is now available on Amazon from CHBB.
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Check out Chapter 1:
I rolled my sleeve up and traced the raised white lines on the inside of my wrist. They were like Braille, telling a story of the times I locked myself in my bedroom with the compass from math class. The metal point worked best; it made a neat line, more painful than razor blades.
I dug my fingernail into the flesh beneath my wrist bone, on the underside, where the skin felt the most tender. The prick of pain grew like a blossom, creeping along my arm and up my fingers, like a super power. I closed my eyes, breathing deep through my nose and out through my mouth. A twisted form of yoga for cutters.
Chuckling, I rolled the sleeve of my brown shirt back down. The heater by the window, high up in the cellar wall, hummed like a little kid trying to sing along to pop music. My magnificent Group Counselor, Michelle, did her best with the space she rented under the hair salon. Not my style, but anyone could see she tried.
Oriental carpeting covered the cement floor and bright tiles on cement walls created a swirling pattern. Instead of hard office chairs, Michelle preferred wicker porch furniture, and a sofa. I’d taken the sofa to see who would sit beside me. So far, the two guys had taken single chairs and the only other girl dwelled on the rocking chair. It creaked as she moved despite the carpet under the rockers.
She picked at her black nail polish. How cliché. Black nail polish on the troubled delinquent. She’d dyed her hair blue-black, and wore thick kohl around her eyes. Plastic chains hung off her pants.
Maybe I should try for a look. My plain polo shirt and blue jeans didn’t make much of a statement. Next time – knowing Mama, she’d make me attend every stupid session of the Counseling Circle – I would wear my fairy princess costume left over from Cory’s Halloween party. That would make a great statement.
I opened the front pouch of my purse, the zipper loud and the contents rattling, to remove my purple eyeliner. The boy in a plaid button-up shirt glanced at me, so I grinned and made a show of rolling up my sleeve again. I winked, flashing him a glimpse of my scars, and traced the tip of the eyeliner over them in a macabre connect-the-dots. He didn’t pale, only blinked at me. Good, we were both messed up. Now we could see which of us was the most screwed.
The door opened upstairs and footsteps sounded. Low voices drifted into the sitting room from the waiting room, and another girl entered. She halted just inside the door, her eyes wide and lips parted, clutching her purse against her chest.
Yes, honey, that purse will save your life.
She lowered her gaze and ran to take a seat on the end of the floral sofa - my sofa. She pressed herself into the armrest as though to escape from me.
“Hi,” I said to break up the stillness in the room. “I’m Rivers. What’s your name?”
She jumped. The chick actually jumped off the sofa seat before sitting back down. The orange and green flowered sofa, by the way, had to have seen the 1970s.
“Celeste.” She breathed the word.
“Hey, Celeste,” I said.
The dude in the plaid shirt looked over at us. Nail Polish Girl kept picking and the other boy played a game on his cell phone.
“Did your parents make you come too?” I asked.
She gulped and leaned harder into the armrest. “Um, no. My grandfather told me it might be helpful. I like to read him the Sunday paper and…the ad was in it.”
“My mom knows Michelle. She’s the counselor. They went to school together.” I finished the drawing on my arm and popped the cap onto the eyeliner. “Mama thinks this will be good for me, but she wants to show off to her friends. ‘See, my daughter can get help. She can be normal again.’ ” I bit the middle of the eyeliner pencil as if it were a rose and I about to dance the tango.
The door opened again, fresh steps on the stairs. This time Michelle entered with another girl. Michelle took the huge, plush armchair and Girl Number Four, who wore a long flowered skirt like a hippie, took one of the white wicker chairs.
“Hello, everyone.” Michelle leaned forward with that smile I’d always hated, all teeth and gums. I tried to mimic it and I could swear Celeste giggled just a little.
“My name is Michelle Smith,” our great leader continued. “I’m glad you could all make it to our little circle. Before we get started, let me tell you all a little about myself. I was born in England to a family of mixed race. My mother had moved there from India. This is actually a Sari sent to me by an aunt who still lives there.”
Michelle smoothed her hands over her bright ensemble. It looked pretty cool, with an intricate gold design. “We moved to the United States when I was five and I’ve lived here in New York ever since. I have my doctorate in psychology, but I’ve always wanted to be a counselor.”
I exaggerated my head nods. This time Celeste giggled for sure.
“Each of you is here because of something troubling that has happened or is happening in your life. I want to help you grow past that. We can do this together. I want you to know we are all on the same team. Everything we discuss in here will remain confidential.”
Yeah right. I almost snorted. Like I would trust anything deep, dark, and secret with these idiots.
“Please share your name and why you are here, but only say what you are comfortable with.” Michelle nodded to Nail Polish Girl. “Please go first.”
She finally looked up, a little blush on her high cheekbones. “Um, hi, everyone. I’m Joanna McFadden. I…um…” She looked down at the carpet. “My brother committed suicide.”
No one moved. I’d known the others here would have issues, but the admission sent prickles across my skin. It shouldn’t rattle me. I should be tough, unbreakable.
“Thank you for sharing,” Michelle said. “Your turn, dear.” She nodded to Celeste.
Celeste stood up, still clutching her purse. “I’m, um, Celeste. On the consent form, it says I’m because that’s my real name. Celeste is my middle name. I go by that.”
No wonder she was here. People had to make fun of her like crazy over that name.
“All-Tee,” Michelle murmured. “How beautiful.”
“Thanks. It’s Dutch.” She dropped back onto the couch.
“What else would you like to share, honey?” Michelle had the same verbal-diarrhea of every “medical health professional” I’d ever run across even though they were just supposed to listen. They pushed, pushed, pushed. Just let us wallow.
I dug my thumbnail into my wrist. The sharp nip kept me from jiggling my legs.
Celeste held her purse so tightly her knuckles whitened. “I…um…I have issues. With my dad.”
A vein pulsed in her throat just above her collar and the color drained from her face. Her breathing came in short pants.
I reached across the sofa to squeeze her arm. If she kept it together, I could stay less rattled.
“Thank you.” Michelle fastened her dark gaze on me. “Your turn.”
No “sweetie” or “honey” for me. “I’m and I see dead people.” I beamed at Michelle. “There’s a little boy who haunts the field across from my house. He’s always there just watching me. Man it’s creepy.” I swept my gaze over the others; only Celeste looked away. “How about you guys? Do any of you see ghosts?”
“I believe I saw one once,” Michelle offered.
“How about you, Celeste?” I pumped my fist in the air for her, as if we might be the team Michelle wanted. “Have you ever seen a ghost?”
Crap; she looked ready to pass out or heave. I almost apologized for asking.
The guy in the plaid shirt laughed as if I joked, and the others joined in, save Celeste and Michelle. Fine, let them believe that was why I was there. It was far safer than the truth.
Jordan Elizabeth is known for her odd sense of humor and her outrageous outfits. Surrounded by bookshelves, she can often be found pounding away at her keyboard – she’s known for breaking keyboards, too. Jordan’s young adult novels include ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, COGLING, TREASURE DARKLY, BORN OF TREASURE, and GOAT CHILDREN. VICTORIAN is her second novel with CHBB. Check out her website for bonus scenes and contests.
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