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Chapter One

I saved our cat’s life when I was twelve—four years ago. I healed her. That was part of my Droit ability, but I didn’t know that then.

Random, our cat, had been sick for months, but my parents are veterinarians, and they were managing her disease. She wasn’t in pain until the day I found her at the clinic lying on her side panting and writhing.

Mom was in the surgical room setting a fracture and couldn’t be interrupted. Dad was out picking up meds.

Random’s eyes fluttered and she let out a puny cry. I held her, wishing I could help. When I stroked her fur around the knobby tumors on her back, my fingertips tingled and glowed red. I had no idea what was happening.

I flapped my hands and the color faded, but as soon as I placed my fingers back on her, they glowed again. Shaking my head, I closed my eyes. Lightning bolts flashed behind my lids. My hands had a mind of their own and locked onto Random’s body. Pain shot up my fingers and seared all the way to my neck.

My head felt heavy, like it was full of electric sparks. I groaned and shuddered and couldn’t pull my hands away from her.

I don’t know how long I stayed that way before she purred, and I opened my eyes to see her licking her paw as if nothing had happened. I ran my fingers along her back. Her tumors had disappeared.

The room spun. What had happened?

Random jumped down and darted away with more spring than she’d had in months. I was certain I was seeing things. I blinked, but there she sat near the sink, giving her face a bath.

My fingers slowly faded. I turned them palm up, then palm down, studying them, trying to find a reason for what had happened, but there was none.

Mom came into the room, holding her hands in the air on the way to the faucet to scrub. “Were you looking for me?”

“Random doesn’t have cancer anymore,” I said, excitedly.

“Oh, really?” She paused with her hands under the water and gave me a peculiar look with her head cocked, eyebrows raised. “How’s that?”

“I healed her.” Nausea bubbled up from my gut. I raced into the bathroom.

After I puked and returned to Mom, she was sitting in a chair with Random in her lap, parting her hair. “Her tumors are gone.”

“I know.” Nausea still clung to my ribs, but it wasn’t as bad. I was too excited about Random being better that it didn’t matter.

“What exactly did you do, Willow?”

Mom stared at me with wide eyes. I thought she’d be proud of me, but she didn’t act that way. “My hands mended her.”

“L-l-like h-h-how?” she asked.

“I don’t know. It just happened. I felt sorry for her. She was in pain, and the next thing I knew my hands lit up and energy flowed from me to her.” I stared at my fingers.

“Has this happened before?”

I shook my head.

“Good.” She nodded, licked her lips, and lowered her voice. “Can you make it stop?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know. “I can try.”

“Don’t do it again, and whatever you do, don’t ever do it in public.” Her voice was just above a whisper, and she glanced over her shoulder at the door.

“Why?” Wasn’t it a good thing that Random was better? Tears welled in my eyes.

“You won’t be safe if people know what you can do,” she continued in a hushed tone. “Promise me you won’t do it again.”

Swallowing hard, I nodded. “I promise.” But I didn’t understand.

At that point I was twelve. I didn’t have much experience with Droits, or how people viewed them and shunned them. What I did know was that I’d never disobeyed Mom, and if she didn’t want me to heal, then I wouldn’t. So after that day, I tried hard not to do it again.

But I couldn’t stop.

Each time I went to the clinic and an injured dog, pig, or bird looked at me with pain-filled eyes, I’d take them in the closet and heal them. I couldn’t escape myself.

Over time, Mom and Dad figured it out. Maybe they realized they couldn’t make me stop, or that it was a part of me—the Droit gene, the gene they didn’t have—but they never brought it up again. Instead, they banned me from the clinic. They probably thought if they removed the temptation it would help me stop.

For a while, it did.

Instead of going to the clinic, I went to Aunt Fifi’s house and helped her groom healthy dogs in her pet salon. She didn’t know I could heal, and Mom and Dad didn’t want her to know, which was hard for me. I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t.

Occasionally I was compelled to heal an animal in secret, a stray squirrel in the woods on Savannah’s property, or one of her horses when they were lame. Savannah, my best friend, didn’t have supernatural abilities, but she didn’t dump me because I did.

When I started middle school, then high school, I noticed kids with a chameleon tattoo on their wrist. They were called Droits and were teased, left out, and labeled as freaks. A gang called the Tridents, those without the gene, taunted the Droits until they used their powers and were caught, which got them expelled. Schools had a zero tolerance policy.

You’d think that straight kids would be afraid of Droits because of what Droits could do with their power, but the opposite was true.

My English teacher said, “People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t control.” She was probably referring to those who didn’t have the gene, but as a Droit this applied to me: I was afraid of what I could do, and I couldn’t always control it.

Thankfully though, I had a choice. Like many others who had abilities, I chose to hide mine.

Until one day. I messed up.

#

Savannah and I were sophomores in Mr. Bott’s anatomy class. He was droning on about mitosis, chromosomes, and the nuclei separating, when the bell rang. Everybody dashed out of the room, but Savannah and I waited for Bryce and Jasper like we always did. Bryce’s mom was our ride home.

Jasper, Bryce’s golden lab, retrieved Bryce’s books for him one at a time, clutching them with his teeth and giving them to Bryce, his movements slower than usual. He clenched the backpack in his jaws and handed it over.

Bryce didn’t need that kind of help. He was deaf, not incompetent, but he said Jasper needed to feel useful, especially since he was almost twelve—old for a service dog. Normally service dogs retire before that age, but Bryce couldn’t bear the thought of Jasper going to another home.

The three of us were about to leave the classroom when Jasper whined and crashed to the ground. His skull smacked against the tile. Then his eyes rolled up until only the whites showed.

Oh, no! I clutched my chest and winced because Jasper’s pain was now mine. That had become normal for me, too, feeling what the animal felt.

Bryce grunted, dropped to his knees, and moved his fingers in rapid motions, signing. “Someone, help him!”

Savannah and I exchanged glances.

I knelt beside Jasper and placed my fingers on his neck. “Weak pulse.”

A queer and desperate sound escaped from Bryce’s mute lips.

My conscience screamed, Help him! If I didn’t, the guilt would kill me. If I did … and they caught me … well … there wasn’t time to think about that. The other students had left the room anyway, and Mr. Bott was stacking books in the supply closet.

Savannah knelt beside me. “You aren’t going to—”

“I’ll do it quickly.” I couldn’t let Jasper die.

Once again, my hands had a mind of their own. I shut my eyes, placed my fingers on Jasper’s head, and tuned out the sound of the locker doors slamming in the hallway. “Come on, boy. Come back.” I concentrated on transferring my energy to him. My fingers tingled and then burned while the heat escaped from my body to his. It started slowly and flowed as the power grew, pouring life back into him. I worked to make his heart stronger, to fix the thin arteries that were blocking the flow of blood.

Jasper twitched and squirmed beneath my fingers, breaking my hold, until his tail swished along the floor.

When I opened my eyes, Mr. Bott was beside me. His lips were set in a straight line, nostrils flared, and he stared at my hands.

They were lit up like the end of a burning cigarette. I tucked them under my pits.

The loudest-mouthed cheerleader leaned into the room from the hallway and stood frozen, her hand covering her mouth.

Her boyfriend stood next to her. “Whoa, Willow. Are you a Droit?”

Not good.

Mr. Bott cleared his throat and waved at them. “Go on home now.” Then he turned to Bryce and spoke slowly and loudly. “I think we need to take Jasper down to the central office.”

But we didn’t. Jasper would be okay. At least, for now. While still lying on the ground, he lifted his head and gazed up at me.

The glow of my hands faded, and I scooped him to his feet. “Come on, boy. You can do it.” At least he hadn’t peed on the floor.

He stood, his legs wobbly, and butted his head into my arms. Then he slapped my face with wet kisses, his doggy breath stinging my eyes. Phew. If he got a whiff of his own breath, he might drop to the floor again.

His kisses made me smile though. It was moments like this that made it all worthwhile, if only for a second.

Mr. Bott took a step back and stared at my hands again. “Do you have a license to do that?”

“N-n-no.”

Droits were required to attend a training school, Reese Academy, and pass an exam before they were issued a license. It was like studying for a driver’s permit only the training was more intense. The government forbade Droits from using their powers without a license, but they were never allowed to use powers in school. Period. Even if they had a license.

My stomach heaved. I covered my mouth and spoke through my fingers. “I have to puke.”

Mr. Bott waved for me to go. I ran down the hall and into the bathroom, just in time. I was standing at the sink when the bathroom door opened and Savannah walked in.

“You okay?” she asked.

I nodded, even though my legs wanted to fold. “Is Bott waiting outside for me?”

She shook her head. “You should go to Reese."

“I’m not going to that school.” I stuck my mouth under the faucet, rinsed, and spit. “Mom and Dad would freak.”

Most kids didn’t care what their parents thought, but I did. Savannah said it was because I was adopted, and that I had a rejection complex. It wasn’t that. It was just that I wanted Mom and Dad to be proud of me.

I wiped my face. “Do you think everyone will know now?”

“Maybe not. You can always deny it.”

I loved how she knew what to say to make me feel better. “What was I supposed to do? Did you see the look on Bryce’s face when he thought Jasper was dead?”

“You did the right thing, Willow. It’ll be okay.” She raked her fingers through her long dark hair before she took my arm and led me toward the door.

I hoped she was right. She’d been my friend since second grade so of course she’d support me, but the other kids might be a different story.

Bryce was waiting outside the bathroom. He held his hand up to his mouth, lowered it, and smiled, signing, “Thank you.”

I returned the same gesture. “It was nothing.”

Jasper sat at Bryce’s side looking attentive—almost grinning—as if nothing had happened.

But something had happened. On our way out the front door to the parking lot, the air in the hallway hissed with gossip. Kids stared at me, whispered, and moved aside.

My face heated all the way up to my ears.

Outside the building, Michigan’s April showers spit down our backs. We jumped over puddles and shrunk into our shirts on the way to Bryce’s mom’s car. If I thought standing in the rain would wash away my healing ability, I’d stand there all day.

Bryce’s mom waited at the curb. I climbed in the back next to Savannah, and Jasper jumped in next to me like he always did.

“Hi, Kids,” Bryce’s mom said. “How was your day?”

Bryce took the passenger seat in front of me. His hands and fingers moved in rhythm, signing. “Jasper keeled over after anatomy class and Willow saved him. You should have seen her hands light up—”

I reached across the seat and jabbed the back of his arm.

He turned to me, his head bent like he didn’t understand why I’d poked him, but when he saw my expression he understood. He signed, “Sorry.”

His mom caught my eye in the rearview mirror. “Her hands lit up? How so?”

“I gave him CPR,” I said. “My hands turned red from banging on his chest. That’s all. He had a heart attack. You might want Mom or Dad to check him out.” I hated fibbing about the CPR, but a white lie wouldn’t hurt.

Bryce’s mom turned and held Jasper’s head, studying his eyes. “He looks okay now. I’ll give the clinic a call when I get home.” She drove out of the school parking lot shooting me a sideways glance from the mirror again.

When the car stopped in front of Savannah’s house, she gathered her books. The horses ran to the fence to greet us. “I’ll come over after I ride. We can study for English.”

“Text me first.” I had a feeling it might not be a good night to hang out.

After Bryce’s mom dropped me off at my house, I walked to our mailbox at the curb. When I flipped open the box, a car with a loud muffler came toward me. The guy who saw my fingers light up in Bott’s class stuck his head out the window.

“Droit!” He and several others in the car laughed, and he peeled out.

I stared after them, fists clenched. Jerks! The rubber stench from their car’s tires stunk as bad as my mess. I reached in to gather the mail and slammed the mailbox shut. Everyone would know by tomorrow. Gossip flew faster than a flu virus. Nothing would be the same again. 

Chapter Two

As I entered our house, my cell phone rang. I rushed to the kitchen, chucked my backpack on the floor, and slid the phone out of its front pouch. Aunt Fifi’s photo appeared on the screen. I smiled and plopped into the desk chair. If anyone could cheer me up, she could. “Hi.”

“How’s my girl?”

“Great, what are you doing?” I disguised my voice to sound a notch happier.

Fifi, short for Stephanie, was Dad’s crazy older sister. I was used to her weirdness. I welcomed it. Some people thought she was uneducated because or her twangy accent, but that was just a ploy. She had more common sense that some teachers I knew.

“I’m waiting for my toenails to dry,” she said. “I finally had a chance to do my own instead of some canine’s.”

I could picture her pink toenails drying beneath the small fan in her doggie parlor. We’d done our nails there often. Hers were always pink, just different shades.

“Do you know Melissa Davis, that famous author who writes dragon stories?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of her,” I said.

“I just dyed her poodle a mossy shade of green like the dragons in her books for a promo she’s doing. Then I clipped a spiky-looking scaly back for her so the pooch looks like a dragon. Channel 7 came here to take pics. I’ll be on the six o’clock news tonight. Can you beat that?”

“That’s great. I’ll watch.” The clock above the stove read four thirty. Mom and Dad would be rushing to finish their appointments, but they’d be home soon.

Watching Fifi on TV might be a great way to forget what had happened.

“I still think my lion-dogs look better,” she said, “but it was fun to do something different.”

Huh? What had she said?

“Willow?”

“Oh … sorry.” I cleared my throat. “The pirate is my favorite.”

“Of course it is. That’s because you’re a gushing Jack Sparrow fan.”

“Busted.”

“Is everything okay? You seem distracted,” she asked.

“Yes. Totally fine.”

“Do you have a lot of homework?”

“Yes.” I fibbed.

“It’s sure gonna be sweet as pudding to have you here for a while. What time are we heading to the airport on Saturday?”

Mom and Dad were going to Africa with the Heifer Project for a few months. They’d always wanted to bring cows to the poor people and they finally had the chance to go on their first trip. They’d made arrangements for another vet to take over their practice while they were gone. I was staying with Fifi, since she lived closer to school, which was convenient. I had no interest in going to Africa and sleeping on a cot surrounded by wild animals and creepy insects. I liked sleeping in my own bed, thank you—or in my bed at Fifi’s.

“Plan on coming over straight from the airport. I’m putting you in charge of toenail painting, and I’m gonna teach you the secrets to finding the perfect shade of red and blue dye. We’re gonna make Mitzy look like a flag for Memorial Day.”

“Mitzy?”

“That’s Mrs. Kline’s standard poodle that comes every four weeks.”

“I can’t wait,” I said, and I meant it. We always had fun when we hung out.

Her parlor door tinkled in the distance.

“I have to go. Someone’s here,” she said.

“Bye.”

Staying with her might be the perfect place to hide for a while, especially if Mom and Dad didn’t find out what happened before they left, but I doubted I’d be that lucky.

#

When Mom and Dad came home from work, they acted normal, like the school hadn’t called them. Phew. We ate sub sandwiches in the kitchen. Jet, our goldendoodle, lay under the table waiting for my scraps.

I needed to tell my parents what I’d done, but I couldn’t find the words. “Aunt Fifi is supposed to be on the six o’clock news tonight.”

“What for?” Dad said, and took a bite of his sandwich, a tomato hanging out of his mouth.

“Another crazy dog do. This time for a famous author,” I said.

The doorbell rang before I could say more. Jet barked and bounded to the door. My heart skipped at the sudden interruption. We weren’t expecting anybody.

Mom placed her napkin on the table and went to the door. Its hinges squeaked open from the front of the house. “Yes, what can I do for you?”

A man’s voice murmured, but I couldn’t hear who he was or what he said, only the low sound of mumbled words.

“Please, come in,” Mom said.

I chugged a quick sip of water and went to see who was there. Dad chomped another bite of his sandwich.

In the living room, standing at the door, was Mr. Bott. My stomach dropped. Anxiety clawed its way into my lungs and made it difficult to breath.

When he saw me he took a step back, holding the doorknob, his eyes settling on my hands.

Mom waved me over. “Look who’s here, Willow.” She nodded to the sofa and then waved for Mr. Bott to follow her. “Please come in and sit down.” Then she turned toward the kitchen. “Lou, can you come here?”

Great. Now everyone would be all cozy in the living room to discuss me.

Dad appeared in the doorway, but Mr. Bott continued to stand. It didn’t look like he wanted to stick around for long.

“This is Mr. Bott,” Mom said to Dad. “Willow’s anatomy teacher.”

Dad extended his hand. “What brings you here?”

Mr. Bott shook Dad’s hand and cleared his throat. “Maybe Willow would like to explain.”

My parents shifted their eyes to me, puzzled expressions across their faces.

“Jasper’s heart quit beating after class today, and I got it pumping again. That’s all.”

“You mean, you gave him CPR, right?” Mom said, peering at me over her reading glasses. She gave me the look. In other words, she was covering for me.

I stared at my shoes. “Something like that.” My face heated at the top of my neck and spread up to my cheeks.

“Her fingers changed colors,” Mr. Bott said. “I’m sorry, but the school has policies. There’s zero tolerance for doing, ah, whatever it is she used. There have been others who were expelled for using their abilities, but since this is Willow’s first offense, I pulled some strings and had it reduced to a two-day suspension.”

Mom gasped and crossed her arms. “You suspended her?” If Mom were a cat her hair would have be standing straight up. “What does that mean?”

Mr. Bott unfolded a sheet a paper. “She’s not allowed anywhere near the school premises for two days. It’s in our rules and policies statement right here.” He rattled the paper, pointed, and handed it to Mom. “We can’t have this kind of thing happening in front of the students. I’m sure you understand. It’s difficult to keep order without having hocus-pocus going on, too.”

“Let me get this straight,” Dad said. “Willow saved a service dog, and now you want to suspend her?”

Mom snatched the paper from Mr. Bott’s grip and began reading.

“If she had used some other method,” Mr. Bott said, “it would have been tolerated. But if we let every kid like,” he paused, “like her, use … um … that stuff … just think how disruptive the school would be. If she attended the school for her kind she would have learned the tools to—”

“Her kind? What’s that supposed to mean?” Mom said.

Mr. Bott’s face turned crimson. “I meant no disrespect.”

“Get out!” Mom shouted and pointed to the door, planting a fist on her hip.

Mr. Bott turned to go, his hand on the knob.

“Wait,” Dad said, holding up his palm. “What if she promises not to let it happen again? What if she signs a contract or something?”

Mr. Bott paused.

Mom turned to Dad. “Don’t beg him. Willow will take the penalty.” She crossed in front of Mr. Bott and threw open the door. “Go, before—”

My teacher hurried out without a backward glance.

Tears stung my eyes. I loved how Mom and Dad were fighting for me, but I hated that they had to. Now that I was suspended, the whole city might find out. I couldn’t move.

Mom slammed the front door and yanked the dead bolt lever to the locked position with a jerk of her wrist. “He can kiss my—”

“Bridget!” Dad said.

“What? I’m supposed to take that without flinching? There’s nothing wrong with Willow. I take offense to his prejudiced attitude.”

Dad reached out to hug Mom. “I understand.”

She pushed him away. “Then why didn’t you deck that little man?”

“Bridget, be reasonable,” Dad said in his peace-making voice.

I retreated back into the living room, took a seat on the sofa, propped my elbows on my knees and dropped my head in my hands.

Dad joined me on the couch and sat beside me. He sighed and brushed the hair off my face. “This will pass.”

I doubted kids would forget.

“You had to know,” Mom said, plopping down on the other side of me, “that this could happen if people found out. Didn’t you think of the risk?”

“Bridget,” Dad said, putting up a halting hand.

“I did,” I said. “I mean, I did worry, but I didn’t think anyone was watching me until it was too late.”

“People are always watching,” Mom said. She stared at the ceiling like she was trying to figure out what to do, like she was biting her tongue.

The phone rang. No one moved. After several rings, the message recorder beeped. “Um, hi, this is Bryce’s mom, I’m … not available … to bring Willow home tomorrow … or actually … any day. You need to find someone else to car pool with.”

Mom shot out of her chair and stomped toward the kitchen. Dad grabbed her hand, but there was no stopping her. She wrenched her arm out of Dad’s hold. By the time she picked up the receiver the machine had beeped, signaling that the caller had hung up, but Mom lifted the phone off the cradle anyway. “You inconsiderate coward. Next time Willow will let your mutt die!” Then she slammed the phone down.

Dad grimaced.

Whenever Mom was angry, she became irrational. I was used to her loud bursts, but I couldn’t believe Bryce’s mom would dump me, especially since I’d saved Jasper.

“We’ll figure something out,” Dad said and patted my knee.

“That woman is an unappreciative, uptight witch.” Mom paced. “And I can’t believe the school can suspend you—just like that. What’s wrong with this world?”

I was the real problem, a disappointment. There was only one way to fix it. “I’m never going to heal again.” Saying it out loud gave me confidence. “I promise.”

Dad’s forehead creased, and he rubbed the gray whiskers on his chin.

“You don’t believe me, do you?” I said.

“We want to believe you,” Mom said, her voice sounding calmer. “Don’t we, Lou?”

Dad nodded.

“But can you?” Mom asked.

“Yes, and if someone says something about Jasper I’ll say that he had a mild heart attack, and I gave him CPR. They’ll forget.”

Dad dropped his head into his hands and rubbed his face. It was his tired expression. One I’d seen a lot lately.

“I hate that you’re going to lie, but this could get dangerous,” Mom said, chewing her lip. “Stopping would keep you safer.”

“I promise from this point on I won’t heal another animal. I’ll walk away.” I’d do anything to avoid the shame in Dad’s eyes again or not be the reason for Mom’s anger.

No one moved. Mom exhaled loudly. Silence filled the air until the clock over the fireplace chimed. It was six o’clock.

Dad grabbed the remote off the TV tray. “What channel is Fifi supposed to be on?”

Another tactic. Avoid the stuff that bothers you. Bury it deep. Right, Dad?

Mom shook her head like she wanted to talk more, but was holding back for Dad’s sake. Maybe she wanted to pretend that everything would be okay now, that if I never healed again no one would remember.

“Channel 7,” I said. Maybe it was better not to talk about what happened. There was nothing they could say anyway. Nothing I could say. What was done was done.

Dad clicked the channels until he found the right station.

The weather report came on, but I couldn’t pay attention. All I could think about was how I didn’t want to return to school, how I loathed Mr. Bott and all the other judgmental people.

But then I shrugged. I was one of those judging creeps. I stayed clear of the Droits and cringed at their chameleon symbols too. I didn’t want to be near them or be like them.

Why then had I behaved like one then?

I’d acted without thinking. That was all. Impulsive. I cleared my throat. “I’m sorry.”

Mom wrapped her arm around my shoulder. She was so close I could smell the sub sandwich onions on her breath. Dad placed his arm around me on the other side and kissed my forehead. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

The wad in my throat thickened, and a tear fell down my cheek. I’d needed to hear him say that, but I wished I could believe him, that he wasn’t angry at me, that he didn’t think I was weird, that he didn’t wish I was someone different, a girl without the gene.

Fifi appeared on the TV screen. She had her pink hair up in a fountain on top of her head, the curls cascading around her face, her fuchsia-colored shirt in contrast to the dye in her hair. She wore skinny jeans and a pair of cool stilettos. Sometimes she acted like she was twenty-one. Sitting beside her was a green poodle with spikes cut out at the top of his fur. The spikes trailed down to the tip of his tail.

Mom laughed. “Will you look at that? What is it supposed to be?”

“A dragon.” I wiped the tear off my face.

Dad tilted his head. “Oh yeah, I see the resemblance.”

“I still like the pirate better,” I said.

Fifi’s dog styles were doing little to distract me, but pretending not to worry about school improved my faking skills. I was pretty sure I was going to need them a lot more in the coming week.

Chapter Three

The morning after I was suspended, the school bus’s air brakes hissed at the bus stop in front of our house to pick up the kids in the neighborhood. The hissing sound was my signal that I only had five minutes left to get ready for school—if I was going. Mom and Dad typically dropped Savannah, me, and Bryce off there on their way to the clinic, but not today. Instead, I was going to work with them. They didn’t want me to stay home alone. Maybe they were testing me to see if I could keep my promise.

It was weird not to worry about going to school. As much as there had been days I didn’t want to go, this was different. Because I couldn’t go I wanted to, but since I didn’t have a choice and was forbidden to go, I felt left out.

Savannah showed up at 7:15 am—like she always did on school days. Even though I’d texted her last night to tell her I wasn’t going to school, Dad said we could drop her off. Her parents had left for work already.

She showed up in flip-flops and shorts, even though it was only forty-five degrees. As soon as April arrived Savannah said she was rebelling against the cold weather. It was spring and she was going to start dressing like it was warm, even if it wasn’t.

When I greeted her at the front door, she was shivering, and her face was as pale as the moon.

“What’s wrong?”

She bit her lower lip. “Did you see your garage door?”

“No. Why?” I stepped onto the porch, Jet beside me, the cool air crisp.

Savannah waved for me to follow her down the sidewalk.

We stood in the driveway, and I stared at the overhead door. The word DROIT was written with black spray paint in bold capital letters. I clenched my jaw. How dare they!

“I’m sorry, Willow,” Savannah said. “People suck.”

Across the street, our neighbor peered out of her front window. When she saw me looking her way she closed her blinds.

“It’s not your fault,” I said. “Maybe they’ll forget since I won’t be at school for a few days.” But I knew they wouldn’t. Once a person was labeled as one of them it was tough to break away from biased perceptions.

“What are you going to do today?” Savannah asked, her hand on my arm.

“Hang out at the clinic with my fam.”

Dad opened the automatic garage door from inside the garage and whistled for Jet. “You ready, girls?”

Mom tucked her med supplies in the trunk of the car. Jet jumped in the backseat.

“Let me grab my backpack.” I ran inside to get my stuff and hoped Dad and Mom wouldn’t see the word. Maybe I could distract them when the door was lowered.

“I’ll meet you in the car. I’m freezing,” Savannah said.

After I grabbed my bag, I hopped in the back seat.

Mom’s attention was on her iPad in her lap, but Dad was backing out and reaching for the door opener. Any second the door would begin to close.

I pinched my eyes shut and held my breath.

Savannah reached over and squeezed my arm.

“What the—” Dad said.

My eyes flew open.

“What?” Mom said, looking up from her tablet. She followed Dad’s line of vision, and placed her hand over her heart. “Bastards.”

Dad slammed his fist into the steering wheel. “Who would do this?”

My head buzzed. Lots of kids would do this.

“It’s vandalism,” Mom said, her voice raising a notch. “I’m calling the police.” She slid her cell phone out of her purse.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Michelle is an author, speaker and writing coach. She calls herself the Uncover Agent because she helps people uncover their message so they can unleash it into the universe. Her goal is to leave the world a better place by inspiring people to find their gifts, use them to better mankind, and leave a legacy. So often people undermine the power of their giftedness. Paul Watson said, “Follow your dreams and use your natural-born talents and skills to make this a better world for tomorrow.”

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
Readers can learn about me and my other books at my Amazon author page or at www.MichelleWeidenbenner.com. They can sign up for my newsletters to find writing inspiration and tips or to learn about future books.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
We are all imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. But as such we are beautiful in our own giftedness. “The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with who you are.” Mark Twain
Q. Why do you write?
A.
It's easier for me to write what I want to say then to verbalize it. I love getting the chance to go back and delete or change the words; whereas, once we speak our words, we can't erase them. Writing relaxes me. It's necessary in my life. Nothing brings me greater pleasure.

Next in:
Teen & Young Adult
Feathered
A magical new twist on the story of Swan Lake
Unknown Ties
Vampires aren't made...they're chosen!
The Gem Experiments
Seraphina Luxgrove is a liar - and a lie.