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Evermore, Page 2

Alyson Noel

  Before the accident I didn't even know about things like that.

  And I definitely wasn't able to see it. But from the moment I woke in the hospital, I noticed color everywhere.

  "Are you feeling okay?" The red-haired nurse asked, gazing down anxiously.

  "Yes, but why are you all pink?" I squinted, confused by the pastel glow that enveloped her.

  "Why am I what?" She struggled to hide her alarm.

  "Pink. You know; it's all around you, especially your head."

  "Okay, sweetheart, you just rest and I'll go get the doctor," she'd said, backing out of the room and running down the hall.

  It wasn't until after I'd been subjected to a barrage of eye exams, brain scans, and psych evals that I learned to keep the colorwheel sightings to myself. And by the time I started hearing thoughts, getting life stories by touch, and enjoying regular visits with my dead sister, Riley, I knew better than to share.

  I guess I'd gotten so used to living like this, I'd forgotten there was another way.

  But seeing Damen outlined by nothing more than the shiny black paint job on his expensive cool car is a vague reminder of happier, more normal days.

  "Ever, right?" Damen says, his face warming into a smile, revealing just another one of his perfections-dazzling white teeth.

  I stand there, willing my eyes to leave his, as Miles makes a show of clearing his throat.

  And remembering how he hates to be ignored, I motion toward him and say, "Oh, sorry.

  Miles, Damen, Damen, Miles." And the whole time my eyes never once waver.

  Damen glances at Miles, nodding briefly before focusing back on me. And even though I know this sounds crazy, for the split second his eyes moved away, I felt strangely cold and weak.

  But the moment his gaze returns, it's all warm and good again. "Can I ask a favor?" He smiles. "Would you lend me your copy of Wuthering Heights? I need to get caught up and I won't have time to visit the bookstore tonight."

  I reach into my backpack, retrieve my dog-eared copy, and dangle it from the tips of my fingers, part of me yearning to brush the tips against his, to make contact with this beautiful stranger, while the other part; the stronger, wiser, psychic part cringes dreading the awful flash of insight that comes with each touch.

  But it's not until he's tossed the book into his car, lowered his sunglasses, and said, "Thanks, see you tomorrow," that I realize that other than a slight tingle in the tips of my fingers, nothing happened. And before I can even respond, he's backing out of the space and driving away.

  "Excuse me," Miles says, shaking his head as he climbs in beside me. "But when I said you'd freak out when you saw him, it wasn't a suggestion, it wasn't supposed to be taken literally.

  Seriously Ever, what happened back there? Because that was some mega tense awkwardness, a real Hello, my name is Ever and I'll be your next stalker kind, of moment. I'm so serious, I thought we were gonna have to resuscitate you. And believe me, you are extremely lucky our good friend Haven was not here to see that, because I hate to remind you, but she did call dibs…"

  Miles continues like that, yammering on and on, the entire way home. But I just let him talk it out as I navigate traffic, my finger absently tracing the thick red scar on my forehead, the one that's hidden under my bangs.

  I mean, how can I explain however since the accident, the only people whose thoughts I can't hear, whose lives I can't know, and whose auras I can't see, are already dead?


  I let myself into the house, grab a bottle of water from the fridge, then head upstairs to my room, since I don't have to poke around any further to know Sabine's still at work. Sabine's always at work, which means I get this whole huge house to myself, pretty much all the time, even though I usually just stay in my room.

  I feel bad for Sabine. I feel bad that the life she worked so hard for was forever changed the day she got stuck with me. But since my mom was an only child and all of my grandparents had passed by the time I was two, it's not like she had much of a choice. I mean, it was either live with her-my dad's only sibling and twin-or go into foster care until I turned eighteen. And even though she doesn't know anything about raising kids, I wasn't even out of the hospital before she'd sold her condo, bought this big house, and hired one of Orange County's top decorators to trick out my room.

  I mean, I have all the usual things like a bed, a dresser, and a desk. But I also have a flatscreen TV, a massive walk-in closet, a huge bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub and separate shower stall, a balcony with an amazing ocean view, and my own private den/ game room, with yet another flat-screen TV; a wet bar, microwave, mini fridge, dishwasher, stereo, couches, tables, beanbag chairs, the works.

  It's funny how before I would've given anything for a room like this.

  But now I'd give anything just to go back to before.

  I guess since Sabine spends most of her time around other lawyers and all those VIP executives her firm represents, she actually thought all of this stuff was necessary or something.

  And I've never been sure if her not having kids is because she works all the time and can't schedule it in, or if she just hasn't met the right guy yet, or if she never wanted any to begin with, or maybe a combination of all three.

  It probably seems like I should know all of that, being psychic and all. But I can't necessarily see a persons motivation, mainly what I see are events. Like a whole string of images reflecting someone's life, like flash cards or something, only more in a movie-trailer format. Though sometimes I just see symbols that I have to decode to know what they mean. Kind of like with tarot cards, or when we had to read Animal Farm in Honors English last year.

  Though it's far from foolproof, and sometimes I get it all wrong. But whenever that happens I can trace it right back to me, and the fact that some pictures have more than one meaning. Like the time I mistook a big heart with a crack down the middle for heartbreak-until the woman dropped to the floor in cardiac arrest. Sometimes it can get a little confusing trying to sort it all out. But the images themselves never lie.

  Anyway, I don't think you have to be clairvoyant to know that when people dream of having kids they're usually thinking in terms of a pastel-wrapped, tiny bundle of joy, and not some five-foot-four, blue-eyed, blond-haired teenager with psychic powers and a ton of emotional baggage. So because of that, I try to stay quiet, respectful, and out of Sabine's way.

  And I definitely don't let on that I talk to my dead little sister almost every day.

  The first time Riley appeared, she was standing at the foot of my hospital bed, in the middle of the night, holding a flower in one hand and waving with the other. I'm still not sure what it was that awoke me, since it's not like she spoke or made any kind of sound. I guess I just felt her presence or something, like a change in the room, or a charge in the air.

  At first I assumed I was hallucinating-just another side effect of the pain medication I was on. But after blinking a bunch and rubbing my eyes, she was still there, and I guess it never occurred to me to scream or call for help.

  I watched as she came around to the side of my bed, pointed at the casts covering my arms and leg, and laughed. I mean, it was silent laughter, but still, it's not like I thought it was funny.

  But as soon as she noticed my angry expression, she rearranged her face and motioned as though asking if it hurt.

  I shrugged, still a little unhappy with her for laughing, and more than a little freaked by her presence. And even though I wasn't entirely convinced it was really her, that didn't stop me from asking, "Where are Mom and Dad and Buttercup?"

  She tilted her head to the side, as though they were standing right there beside her, but all I could see was blank space.

  "I don't get it."

  But she just smiled, placed her palms together, and tilted her head to the side, indicating that I should go back to sleep.

  So I closed my eyes, even though I never would've taken orders from her before. Then just as quickly I opened the
m and said, "Hey, who said you could borrow my sweater?"

  And just like that, she was gone.

  I admit, I spent the rest of that night angry with myself for asking such a stupid, shallow, selfish question. Here I'd had the opportunity to get answers to some of life's biggest queries, to possibly gain the kind of insight people have been speculating about for ages. But instead, I wasted the moment calling out my dead little sister for raiding my closet. I guess old habits really do die hard.

  The second time she appeared, I was just so grateful to see her, I didn't make any mention of the fact that she was wearing not just my favorite sweater, but also my best jeans (that were so long the hems puddled around her ankles), and the charm bracelet I got for my thirteenth birthday that I always knew she coveted.

  Instead I just smiled and nodded and acted as though I didn't even notice, as I leaned toward her and squinted. "So where're Mom and Dad?" I asked, thinking they'd appear if I just looked hard enough.

  But Riley just smiled and flapped her arms by her sides.

  "You mean they're angels?" My eyes went wide.

  She rolled her eyes and shook her head, clutching her waist as she bent over in fits of silent laughter.

  "Okay, fine, whatever." I threw my body back against the pillows, thinking she was really pushing it, even if she was dead. "So tell me, what's it like over there?" I asked, determined not to fight. “Are you, well, do you like, live in heaven?”

  She closed her eyes and raised her palms as though balancing an object, and then right out of nowhere, a painting appeared. I leaned forward, gazing at a picture of what was surely paradise, matted in off-white and encased in an elaborate gold frame. The ocean was deep blue, the cliffs rugged, the sand golden, the trees flowering, and a shadowy silhouette of a small distant island could be seen in the distance.

  "So why aren't you there now?" I asked.

  And when she shrugged, the picture disappeared. And so did she.

  I'd been in the hospital for more than a month, suffering broken bones, a concussion, internal bleeding, cuts and bruises, and a pretty deep gash on my forehead. So while I was all bandaged and medicated, Sabine was burdened with the thankless task of clearing out the house, making funeral arrangements, and packing my things for the big move south.

  She asked me to make a list of all the items I wanted to bring.

  All the things I might want to drag from my perfect former life in Eugene, Oregon, to my scary new one in Laguna Beach, California. But other than some of my clothes, I didn't want anything.

  I just couldn't bear a single reminder of everything I'd lost, since it's not like some stupid box full of crap would ever bring my family back.

  The whole time I was cooped up in that sterile white room, I received regular visits from a psychologist, some overeager intern with a beige cardigan and clipboard, who always started our sessions with the same lame question about how I was handling my "profound loss" (his words, not mine). After which he'd try to convince me to head up to room 6I8, where the grief counseling took place.

  But no way was I taking part in that. No way would I sit in a circle with a bunch of anguished people, waiting for my turn to share the story of the worst day of my life. I mean, how was that supposed to help? How could it possibly make me feel better to confirm what I already knew that not only was I solely responsible for what happened to my family, but also that I was stupid enough, selfish enough, and lazy enough to loiter, dawdle, and procrastinate myself right out of eternity?

  Sabine and I didn't speak much on the flight from Eugene to John Wayne Airport, and I pretended it was because of my grief and injuries, but really I just needed some distance. I knew all about her conflicting emotions, how on the one hand she wanted so desperately to do the right thing, while on the other she couldn't stop thinking: Why me?

  I guess I never wonder: Why me? Mostly I think: Why them and not me?

  But I also didn't want to risk hurting her. After all the trouble she'd gone to, taking me in and trying to provide a nice home, I couldn't risk letting her know how all of her hard work and good intentions were completely wasted on me. How she could've just dropped me off at any old dump and it wouldn't have made the least bit of difference.

  The drive to the new house was a blur of sun, sea, and sand, and when Sabine opened the door and led me upstairs to my room, I gave it a quick cursory glance then mumbled something sounding vaguely like thanks.

  "I'm sorry I have to run out on you," she'd said, obviously anxious to get back to her office where everything was organized, consistent, and bore no resemblance to the fragmented world of a traumatized teen.

  And the moment the door closed behind her, I threw myself on my bed, buried my face in my hands, and started bawling my eyes out.

  Until someone said, "Oh please, would you look at yourself?

  Have you even seen this place? The flat-screen, the fireplace, the tub that blows bubbles? I mean,


  "I thought you couldn't talk?" I rolled over and glared at my sister, who, by the way, was dressed in a pink Juicy tracksuit, gold Nikes, and a bright fuchsia china doll wig.

  "Of course I can talk, don't be ridiculous;" She rolled her eyes. "But the last few times-" I started.

  "I was just having a little fun. So shoot me." She stalked around my room, running her hands over my desk, fingering the new laptop and iPod Sabine must have placed there. "I cannot believe you have a setup like this. This is so freaking unfair!" She placed her hands on her hips and scowled. “And you're not even appreciating it! I mean, have you even seen the balcony yet?

  Have you even bothered to check out the view?"

  "I don't care about the view," I said, folding my arms across my chest and glaring. "And I can't believe you tricked me like that, pretending you couldn't speak."

  But she just laughed. "You'll get over it."

  I watched as she strode across my room, pushed the drapes aside, and struggled to unlock the french doors. "And where are you getting all these clothes?" I asked, scrutinizing her from head to toe, reverting right back to our normal routine of bickering and grudge holding. "Because first you show up in my stuff, and now you're wearing Juicy, and I know for a fact that Mom never bought you those sweats."

  She laughed. "Please, like I still need Mom's permission when I can just head over to the big celestial closet and take whatever I want. For free," she said, turning to smile.

  "Serious?" I asked, my eyes going wide, thinking that sounded like a pretty sweet deal.

  But she just shook her head and waved me over. "Come on, come check out your cool new view."

  So I did. I got up off the bed, wiped my eyes with my sleeve, and headed for my balcony.

  Brushing right past my little sister as I stepped onto the stone tile floor, my eyes going wide as I took in the scenery before me.

  "Is this supposed to be funny?" I asked, gazing out at a view that was an exact replica of the gilt-framed picture of paradise she'd shown me in the hospital.

  But when I turned back to face her, she'd already gone.


  It was Riley who helped me recover my memories. Guiding me through childhood stories and reminding me of the lives we used to live and the friends we used to have, until it all began to resurface. She also helped me appreciate my new Southern California life. Because seeing her get so excited by my cool new room, my shiny red convertible, the amazing beaches, and my new school, made me realize that even though it wasn't the life I preferred, it still had value.

  And even though we still fight and argue and get on each other's nerves as much as before, the truth is, I live for her visits. Being able to see her again gives me one less person to miss. And the time we spend together is the best part of each day.

  The only problem is, she knows it. So every time I bring up the subjects she's declared strictly off limits, things like: When do I get to see Mom, Dad, and Buttercup? And, where do you go when you're not here? She punishes me by staying

  But even though her refusal to share really bugs me, I know better than to push it. It's not like I've confided my new aura spotting/mind-reading abilities, or how much it's changed me, including the way I dress.

  "You're never gonna get a boyfriend dressed like that," she says, lounging on my bed as I rush through my morning routine, trying to get ready for school and out the door-more or less on time.

  "Yeah, well, not all of us can just close our eyes and poof, have an amazing new wardrobe," I say, shoving my feet into wornout tennis shoes and tying the frayed laces.

  "Please, like Sabine wouldn't hand over her credit card and tell you to have at it. And what's with the hood? You in a gang?"

  "I don't have time for this," I say, grabbing my books, iPod, and backpack, then heading for the door. "You coming?" I turn to look at her, my patience running big-time thin as she purses her lip and takes her time to decide.

  "Okay," she finally says. "But only if you put the top down. I just love the feel of the wind in my hair."

  "Fine." I head for the stairs. 'Just make sure you're gone by the time we get to Miles's. It creeps me out to see you sitting in his lap without his permission."

  By the time Miles and I get to school, Haven is already waiting by the gate, her eyes darting frantically, scanning the campus as she says, "Okay, the bell's gonna ring in less than five minutes and still no sign of Damen. You think he dropped out?" She looks at us, yellow eyes wide with alarm.

  "Why would he drop out? He just started," I say, heading for my locker as she skips alongside me, the thick rubber soles of her boots bouncing off the pavement.

  "Uh, because we're not worthy? Because he really is too good to be true?"

  "But he has to come back. Ever leant him her copy of Wuthering Heights, which means he has to return it," Miles says, before I can stop him.

  I shake my head, and spin my combination lock, feeling the weight of Haven's glare when she says, "When did this happen?" She puts her hand on her hip and stares at me. "Because you know I called dibs, right? And why didn't I get an update? Why didn't anyone tell me about this? Last I heard you hadn't even seen him yet."