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The Illusion of Annabella

Jessica Sorensen

  The Illusion of Annabella

  Jessica Sorensen

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Sorensen

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  No part of this book can be reproduced in any form or by electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without the permission in writing from author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.

  For information:

  Cover Design by By Hang Le

  Editing by Ami Johnson

  Table of Contents:


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  About the Author

  The Illusion of Annabella

  By Jessica Sorensen


  A Sea of Glass

  I’ve always been a happy person. At peace with my life. Always wearing a sparkling smile, I was the kind of child who dreamed about catching rainbows and drinking glasses of sunshine. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t wake up thinking how wonderful it was to be alive.

  I was fortunate enough to be born into a loving family. I grew up in a small town in the center of suburbia where life stood still in comparison to larger cities, but I loved the comfort it brought, that hometown feeling I got whenever I walked around. But my favorite part was how everyone celebrated the holidays. Christmases were dusted with handfuls of holiday magic, and everyone who lived on our street decorated their homes so the entire block was lit up. Fourth of Julys were spent at the park with neighbors, eating popsicles and pies, and gazing up at an explosion of fireworks painting the dusky sky, like a field of fireflies. When I was younger, I truly believed they were fireflies.

  “I want to catch them,” I shouted while pointing at the sky. “Please, Daddy, let me catch them. I think they might secretly be fireflies.”

  “That’s not a wise idea, Annabella,” my father, who was going through his overly protective phase, said. “You could get burned if you actually caught one.”

  I sulked, and my mom chimed in, “Oh, come on, honey, let her go play for a while.” She urged me forward, and I ran across the grass with my hands in the air, watching the sky in awe.

  My younger twin sisters, Alexis and Zhara, and my older sister, Jessamine, joined me while my brothers, Loki and Nikoli, stayed by my father, pretending to be uninterested. I felt sorry for them. They didn’t realize how much fun we were having, even if we never caught a single firefly—they always fizzled out before they hit the ground. Over the years, my father stopped being so paranoid and joined in, even going as far as buying us our own box of sparklers every year.

  Despite the magic of the Fourth of July, birthdays were always my favorite time of year. When I was younger, birthdays were solely a family holiday, where the seven Bakers spent the day together doing whatever the birthday girl or boy wanted. It didn’t even have to be mine. I was always happy on birthday mornings, so thrilled to celebrate the day together, days that promised endless magical possibilities. My parents would do crazy things like pull us out of school to take us to concerts, let us spend a day on the beach sculpting sand statues—which they’d judge at the end—or my personal favorite, shopping at secondhand stores to see who could come up with the best find. I always felt so lucky all the time, and maybe that’s where I made the mistake.

  “I found a vase that belonged to a princess,” I proclaimed to my mom on my tenth birthday.

  The vase was black and pink with jewels and a small crack down the center. In reality, it didn’t belong to a princess. I just believed pretty vases were supposed to belong to princesses.

  “Anna’s lying,” Nikoli said, pointing at me. “She’s making stories up again.”

  “It could’ve belonged to a princess.” I cradled the vase to my chest. “Mom, tell him it could.”

  “It can be whatever you want.” My mom smoothed her palm over the top of my head.

  She always encouraged me to be whoever I wanted to be and believed whatever I wanted her to believe. She was the same way, full of ideas that didn’t always make sense. I dreamt of being like her one day.

  All of that changed on the day I turned seventeen. The day that had held so much promise when I woke up, carried so much despair when I shut my eyes to go to sleep. Maybe it was because I knew nothing was ever going to be the same. That Christmases, Fourth of Julys, and even birthdays would never be magical again. Those days would be less promising. That the happy, sunny days of catching rainbows were dead.

  Because it was the day I learned that I had been, and always would be, living my life in a sea of glass. That my life was a distorted reflection of what I wanted to see, and when that life shattered, I was left trying to figure out how to put the pieces back together.

  Chapter One

  A Glitter Rainstorm

  I’m not the prettiest girl in the world or the most popular. I don’t have a fantastic talent that sets me apart from others. I rarely rebel. I do smile more than most, and I love to dance. I enjoy a lot of things, like books that you can get lost in, movies that make you happy, and music you can dance to. Most days, I’m average at best. Most days I’m okay with that. Today, not so much.

  It’s my seventeenth birthday. Although I used to spend the day with my family, now that I’m older, my parents are throwing a party for me and my friends. And Ben Winsington, a guy I’ve crushed on since grade school, is coming. It took me days to work up the courage to invite him and all my willpower not to faint when he said yes. Ben, the star quarterback and one of the hottest guys at school, said yes!

  The party hasn’t even started, and I’m already a bundle of nerves over what I’m going to wear, what I’m going to say to Ben, if I’ll be able to act semi-cool. Since it’s still early, I have another seven jittery, nausea-filled hours to suffer through before the actual fun begins.

  The music in my bedroom is cranked up, a string quartet floating from the speaker, as I yank all my clothes off the hangers and toss them onto the bed. In the midst of the madness, my mom sticks her head into my room then snaps her fingers at me. “Annabella Baker, we need to go now, or we’re going to be late.” Her urgent tone doesn’t match the huge smile on her face.

  “I’m hurrying as fast as I can.” I fasten my lengthy brown hair into a ponytail then put my hands on my hips and stare at the mounds of clothes piled on the bed. “I just can’t figure out what to wear.”

  “Since when do you care about clothes so much?”

  I hope my heated cheeks don’t give me away. “I don’t know.”

  But she can read me like an open book. “Is this about a boy?”

  I shake my head, but eventually I’ll cave and tell her about Ben and my huge crush on him. Hopefully she’ll give me some advice on how to chill out and act cooler than I feel.

  “All right then,” she says skeptically. She starts digging through my clothes and holds up a pink, knee-length dress. “How about this one? You look cute in it.”

  I scrunch up my
nose. “I don’t want to look cute today.”

  “Then what to you want to look like?”

  “I don’t know . . . like you maybe.”

  My mom is anything but ordinary. Her wild, brown curls that frame her heart-shaped face and cat-shaped eyes surrounded by long, dark eyelashes remind me of an Egyptian princess. She’s an amazing cook, too, the kind who can make cakes look like works of art. Plus, she wears a lot of edgy outfits that make her standout.

  “Most daughters would never say that,” she remarks as she sifts through the clothes on the bed.

  I dramatically flop down on the mattress. “Most daughters don’t have mothers that wear studded leather jackets and glittery heels.”

  She glances at her black dress, plaid over shirt, and knee-high studded boots. “I probably should start dressing more mother-appropriate, right?”

  “You really want to be like everyone else? Because let me tell you, being ordinary isn’t always great. I mean, sometimes I’m cool with walking with the crowd, but sometimes,” like today, “it kind of sucks.”

  She laughs, her blue eyes crinkling around the corners. “Oh, Annabella, sometimes you can be the silliest girl on the planet.” She pats my head. “But that’s okay.”

  “Why? I didn’t do anything weird.”

  She just smiles. “You’ll understand one day.”

  “You’re being super weird right now.”

  She hums under her breath as she sorts through my clothes, but gives up and backs away from the bed. “Get your hair and makeup done. I’ll be right back.” She taps the skip button on the iPod on her way out. The song switches to “Elastic Heart” by Sia. “Stop sulking and dance, my Ballerina Annabella,” she says before waltzing out of the room, twirling at the door.

  As stressed out as I am over Ben, I feel a tiny bit better as I move my feet and spin in circles all the way to the mirror. The more I dance to the rhythm, the smaller my worries about guys and birthday parties become. For a moment, I feel calmly still in life.

  I run a brush through my hair while shimmying my hips. I squeeze in a pirouette between tracing my hazel eyes with a dab of liner and applying a drop of lip-gloss. By the time I’m finishing with my makeup, I’ve spun at least fifty pirouettes and one very over enthusiastic brise.

  “Feeling better?” My mom returns to my room with clothes in her arms.

  “Yes,” I admit as I stretch out my legs and point my toes a few times. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”

  “Did what?” she asks innocently as she drops the clothes onto the bed.

  “Left me alone in my room so I would dance and chill out.”

  “Well, I had to get you to chill out somehow. I figured I could either let you take some time to dance and mellow out, or get you to fess up to whatever’s got you all depressed on your birthday.” She waits for me to offer up the answer, but my lips remain sealed, too afraid to tell her that I, Annabella Baker, the girl who dreams of chasing rainbows, is stressed out over a guy. “Not going to tell me, huh?” She pouts disappointedly. “Okay, well maybe you’ll feel like telling me during the car ride.”

  “Car ride to where exactly?” I pick up the short, red and black patterned dress she brought in with her.

  “It’s a surprise.” Her eyes sparkle with a secret.

  “What kind of a surprise?” I eye the dress, studded bracelet, and strappy heels she put on the bed.

  “The good kind.” She backs toward the door. “Now get dressed. We need to get going if we want to make it back in time for the party.”

  “Can’t I have a hint?” I plead, clasping my hands in front of me.

  “Music,” she says. “Any particular birthday wish this year?”

  “How about a unicorn?” I joke. “You know I’ve always wanted one of those.”

  “As much as I love giving you whatever you want, I just don’t think we have room for a unicorn,” she says, almost mournfully.

  I love that she doesn’t say it’s not possible, that unicorns don’t exist. It’s probably why when I was younger, I wished for a glitter rainstorm and believed it would come true.

  “How about a glitter rainstorm, then?” I ask, hopeful. “That would be pretty amazing, too.”

  She chuckles that oh-Anna-you’re-so-silly kind of chuckle. “I’ve always envied that imagination of yours.” She whisks out of the room, leaving me to obsess over what she said.

  My mom envies me? Really?

  While the idea seems impossible, I feel all glowy inside. I start to get dressed as my nerves about Ben abruptly shift into excitement over whatever my mom has planned for today. My bet is that it has something do to with dancing, my one and only passion.

  I’ve been taking ballet classes since I was six years old. Eleven years later, I’m still in love with every aspect of it; how easy it is to get lost in the music, how I feel so at peace whenever I’m dancing, like it’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Sometimes I get so caught up in it, I’ll dance for hours, until my muscles ache and my feet are covered in blisters. I love it so much that I plan on majoring in dance. I’ve started looking into colleges that have good dance programs where I can live out my dream of dancing onstage and performing with a major dance company.

  Hmmm . . . maybe that’s what she’s doing? Taking me to check out college campuses?

  I peel off my pajamas, squeeze into the dress and slip on the heels. As I’m putting on a few bracelets, I hear my phone vibrating on my dresser. I smile when I see my sister’s name on the screen.

  Jessamine: Hey bday girl! Can’t wait to c ya tonight!

  Me: Me either! It’s been too long.

  My sister’s been attending culinary school overseas now for almost a year and I haven’t seen her since she left, so I was super excited when she texted me, saying she was coming home and staying for over a week.

  Jessamine: U haven’t told mom and dad that I’m coming, right? I want it to be a surprise!

  Me: Whoops! I forgot. U know I suck at keeping secrets.

  Jessamine: Oh, Anna! U didn’t!

  Me: J/k. It’s still a secret. But u totally owe me. I HATE keeping secrets.

  Jessamine: I know. That’s why I have about a pound of chocolate in my suitcase.

  Me: Woo hoo! Can’t wait!

  Jessamine: Me either. C ya tonight!

  Putting the phone down, I do a quick check in the mirror before skipping down the stairs way too eagerly, and I end up tripping on the final step.

  “Shit,” I curse as my hip bashes against the counter.

  Damn heels. I’m not used to wearing them and they make me less coordinated than I am.

  My dad, scrambling eggs and frying bacon on the stove, shoots me a look from over his shoulder. “Anna, watch the language. At least when you’re in front of your brother.”

  “Why? You and Mom swear all the time.” Nikoli, my youngest brother and the baby of the family, chimes in. He’s munching on a piece of toast and reading a playbook. Even though he’s only thirteen, he’s already decided to devote his life to sports, mainly football.

  My dad reels toward Nik, trying to appear stern, but with the floral apron he’s sporting and the greasy spatula in his hand, he misses the mark. “Your mom and I are adults; therefore, we can say whatever we want.”

  Nik drums his fingers on the table. “That kind of seems unfair. I mean, yeah, you’re adults, but you influence us. We look up to you. If you swear, then we view it as an okay thing to do.”

  My dad’s gaze darts to me. “Did you tell him that?”

  “No, but he has a point.” I grab a piece of dry toast from the toaster. “Although, I’m not sure where he got the point.”

  “Where did you get that theory from?” my dad asks Nik, flipping over the bacon.

  Nik turns the page of the playbook, shrugging. “I had to write a report on heroes for English class. I did a lot of research on parents as heroes, because I used one of you guys, and there was an article that said that.”

/>   “You used one of us as your hero?” Hope fills my dad’s eyes as he distractedly reduces the heat of the burner.

  Oblivious, Nikoli examines the plays. “Yep.”

  I cross the kitchen to get the butter from the fridge. “Niki, would you please just tell Dad that you did the report on him before he ends up burning breakfast.”

  “What . . .” My dad trails off as smoke funnels from the pan of bacon. He curses as he swipes up the pan and rushes for the sink as the smoke alarm starts screeching.

  Nikoli and I look at each other then erupt with laughter.

  “I think he just totally made it okay to swear,” I say through my laughs.