Colors Like Memories
|Julia has a secret: she killed the guy she loved. It was an accident—sort of.|
|( Meradeth Houston )
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by Meradeth Houston
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Editor: Nancy Bell
Line Editor: Penny Ehrenkranz
Cover Designer: Kaytalin Platt
Julia is a Sary, the soul of a child who died before taking her first breath. Without this 'breath of life,' she and others like her must help those on the verge of suicide. It's a job Julia enjoyed, until the accident that claimed her boyfriend’s life—an accident she knows was her fault. If living with the guilt weren't enough, she's now assigned to help a girl dealing with the loss of her mother, something Julia is not exactly the best role model for. If she can't figure out a way to help her, Julia will lose her position in the Sary, something she swore to her boyfriend would never happen.
I greeted his tombstone the way I always did—with a swift kick. The release of frustration was more than worth the sharp pain in my toes. The polished marble tilted to the left because of all my visits; a crooked tooth in the rows of pearly white graves.
I folded my legs under me, shuddering as the chill of the damp grass seeped through my clothes. “I keep hoping one of these days you’ll be here waiting for me.” The words were tradition. Some small part of me still clung to the hope I’d come over the hill to find him leaning over his grave, wearing a sly smile. He died so very long ago, but I couldn’t stop wishing.
Leaning forward, I rested my forehead against my knees and closed my eyes, longing for a few minutes of rest. A few minutes to pretend it was someone else buried beneath me. I tried to explain this to him, but tonight I didn’t have the will to pretend it was more than starlight that listened.
It took a long time to notice, building imperceptibly until I finally looked over my shoulder. Someone was there, watching me. It hadn’t been a sound that alerted me so much as the feel of their gaze, heavy in the darkness. After so many nights spent here, I could tell the difference.
For just a second, I thought I saw Frederick’s tall form step from the shadows. My heart stopped, and I started to scramble to my feet before the breeze scattered my wishful thinking. Scanning the rest of the cemetery, it was clear no one else was around. The sprinklers were hissing their rhythmic beat in the next section over, and it was better to leave before they started watering the grass over his grave. It had to be just my imagination—no one was watching me. It was for the better. If anyone saw me here, there would be problems I couldn’t face.
I kissed my fingertips and touched the top of the smooth white stone, anxious now to leave, alert to any movement in the cemetery. “I’ll be seeing you,” I whispered, wishing it were true. I wound through the sea of identical marble markers, making for the swell of ground at the far end of the cemetery where it was easiest to catch an updraft.
The small knoll overlooked the freeway, which was a little too close for comfort, but at this hour there were no headlights streaking past. I stretched out my wings, their emerald color turned inky black in the moonlight. Each feather ached to catch a hint of breeze. Leaping from the ground, I thrust down hard and was airborne. I circled up, straining, until I reached an altitude where no one would see me from below.
Tilting my wings to swing north, my thoughts wandered to my destination. A silent prayer to whoever might be listening filled my heart, hoping the lonely girl I was supposed to be guarding was safe in her bed. Visiting Frederick—Derek as I’d always called him—was the only thing that kept me sane some nights, but it did nothing to dispel the churning worry over Marcy. In the year since I was assigned to her, it had become obvious she deserved a Sary better suited to helping her. Instead, she was stuck with me, and somehow I was supposed to find a way to ensure she didn’t commit suicide.
Saving Marcy was my reward, and my price, for dying before I was born, before taking one miserable breath of life. I still wondered if my choice to join the Sary was worth it.
Three blocks from Marcy’s house, an alley cut between several houses. It was nothing more than a walking path, windows shuttered against neighbors’ prying eyes. My perfect landing spot. Tucking my wings in, I dropped into the narrow space.
My toes tingled as blood seeped back into them after the chill of higher altitudes. My fingers brushed against the smooth ridges of my wings, saying a silent farewell as I closed my eyes. A brief moment of blissful numb nothingness, gone far too fast, and I was back to being able to blend in at school and work.
The morning was cold, and I’d worked up a sweat racing back from the cemetery. Rubbing my hands against my bare arms, I cursed myself for forgetting my sweater again. Shoes would have been smart, too. I hadn’t been thinking about my wardrobe before I changed my form, and I was stuck in what I’d been wearing beforehand. Picking my way around snail shells and sharp stones I made it to the street.
A light in a window here and there was the only indication anyone was stirring in the pre-fab neighborhood Marcy lived in. Soon the men who commuted into the city would be leaving. I needed to be finished and gone before that happened.
Every crack in the sidewalk was familiar as I raced toward Marcy’s, keeping to the shadows and out of the direct line of sight from windows.
Marcy’s house was the only one on the block where the Christmas lights were already up. That was how she described it, at least. She didn’t take them down last year. Or the year before. Last Christmas, I’d helped her replace the busted bulbs so the strands would work over the holidays, but neither of us was up to the job of removing them. Neither was her father.
The front of her house looked just like the one across the street. The faded sign on the door, proclaiming a cheerful welcome to all who entered, was the only thing that distinguished it. Marcy left the sign up, even though it had obviously seen better days, because her mother put it there two days before she was killed.
About Meradeth Houston
Meradeth Houston is a California native who isn’t a big fan of talking about herself. But, for the sake of coming up with something to fill out her bio, here are two random facts: (1) she’s spent a lot of time in school. Probably too much—if that is possible. (2) If she could have any super power in the world it would be flying, if she could get over her fear of heights.
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