FADING AWAY – Dannielle Wicks
By day Danielle works as an Information Technology Officer for her local council, and by night Danielle is a TV show junkie!I am a Qualified Justice of the Peace for the state of Queensland (I honestly have no idea why I chose to do the training for that, but I’m enjoying it now).
We also have an excerpt from Danielles next novel, November Sky which we’ll bring you soon!
One night. One stupid mistake. Changes everything.
SAMMY STEVENS was tragically orphaned at the age of nine and sent to live with a foster family in the town of Miakoda Falls.
She’s constantly bullied at school by the arrogant, selfish, one and only…KAI JORDAN.
Kai is your typical entitled teen who’s on the verge of attending a university and having everything he ever wanted handed to him.
But all that changes when he is involved in a car accident after a night of partying…
He’s suddenly and painfully brought into the world of the supernatural.
Kai turns to the last person he ever would’ve expected, Sammy, as he struggles with his new identity and watches the people closest to him move on. And he is forgotten.
As Kai and Sammy grow closer, Kai must figure out a way to either fight to stay human or risk being stuck forever, as a prisoner of his own body…
EXCERPT FROM FADING AWAY
I was only nine when they died…
I remember the colour of my mother’s hair, and her soft voice. I remember my father’s cologne and the way he used to hold my hand tightly as we walked down to the store for milk. Everything else is a blur; I don’t remember what they looked like. Their faces escape me. The memory of my parents is a fuzzy one and all of the photographs are gone now.
It was dark and hot, that much I can remember very clearly. Sweat beads off my forehead and down my neck. My room smells of wood smoke, clogging up my nose and throat, making me cough. Surely the smoke detectors would have gone off by now if we were in trouble? I clutch my pillow to my stomach and watch the flickering orange light dance under the door. A shadow and then Dad is bursting through my door, bringing a cloud full of toxic smoke with him.
“Come on Sammy,” he coaxes me towards him, throwing a fearful look over his shoulder at the wall of heat. I run to him and he scoops me up, spinning and ducking through our burning house. The bright, white hot fire is everywhere. I can feel the blazing heat on my bare skin. It burns.
An overhead beam collapses above us and my dad goes down, letting go of me as he hits the ground. I scream and crawl closer to him.
“Baby girl, you need to get out.” His words come out wheezy. I glance at the burning roof beam lying across his back. His fingers lightly touch my knee and I look back down at him. “Go get help darling, outside. Stay close to the ground. Go!” I nod quickly and weave my way to the front door as fast as I can.
As soon as I push the hot door open, someone lifts me up and sprints away from the house towards the waiting ambulance. The fireman puts me down and wipes my face clean. I cough and point back at my house. He smiles and nods before pushing me further into the ambulance and handing me off to a paramedic.
I wake up in the hospital still clutching my dirty pillow, surrounded by people, none of them my parents.
The other kids at school never see me, and when they do, they whisper. I don’t know how, but they know, and being a foster child doesn’t win you any sympathy points or special treatment. It’s more like I’ve contracted an extremely dangerous disease and if anyone was to talk to me or come into contact with me, their parents would magically die too. Kids can be brutal.
I was thirteen when I first met Kai Jordan. He was a kind, gentle person back then. He introduced himself to me with a smile, unaware of my status with the rest of our classmates. Being the new kid, he was immediately snapped up into the popular group at school. If I knew what he would be like as we grew older, I would never have smiled back at him.
I am eighteen now, living with foster parents and on the verge of graduating high school and getting into the college of my dreams…if I can get this stupid paper done. Argh. I slam my pen down on my desk in frustration. It’s due tomorrow and I haven’t strung a single sentence together. I shake my head and close my book. I’ll just have to ask for an extension from Mrs. Danby. Gathering my things, I stuff them unceremoniously into my backpack and swing it over my shoulder.
The bell hasn’t released us yet, but that doesn’t stop the chatter from the other students around the room. Ms. Kelly sits down at her desk and starts shuffling her own books into her tote bag. As soon as the bell sounds I follow everyone out of the classroom and drift down the hallways amidst the sea of pushy seniors, thinking about what I’m going to make myself for dinner.
Someone steps out in front of me and I collide head on with their shoulder. I frown up at the dark haired, brown eyed road block and adjust my glasses.
“Watch where you’re going,” Kai Jordan sneers at me as he pushes past. He wouldn’t remember who I am, even if he tripped over me, obviously. I wonder briefly what happened to the happy, friendly little boy he was when he moved here.
Shifting my backpack back onto my shoulder, I continue down the hallway, heading for the exit. People smack me with their books or bags as I push my way through. I feel as though I’m completely invisible. Sometimes I just want to scream, I’m here, just look and see me.
I’m in no hurry to get home. My foster parents gave birth to their first child this year, so I live in the flat above the garage by myself. Not much to look forward too. And no chance of a new foster family, I’m too close to graduating and leaving for college.
No matter how many friends I surround myself with, I still feel completely alone. Would anyone actually notice if I went missing? If I just faded away… If I just disappeared one day and no one ever found me?
I jump up into my truck and watch my girlfriend Ashlee, and her friends walk across the parking lot, chatting about something shallow no doubt. Would she care if I died? I push the morbid thoughts away and pull out of the parking lot, heading for home.
When I park in my driveway, I sit in my truck and stare up at the dark house. They’re not here – my parents. They’re away again. Japan? China? I don’t remember. They’re never here. I used to go with them, but not anymore. I feel like I’ve been raised by the maid, Serena.
They didn’t say goodbye before they left this time. The last conversation we had as a family before they left was a fight. Mum cornered me in the study, standing behind my Dad in his desk chair with her arms crossed.
“Your father and I need you to set a good example, everything you do reflects back on this family and our business,” she snaps, her sharp voice echoing around the room.
“I don’t want to go to Harvard Mum. I don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer.” I sound so meek up against her harsh voice.
“You don’t have a choice in the matter.”
She holds a hand up to silence me before I can answer. I can barely contain my anger, this isn’t fair. Her voice softens slightly on the next sentence. “We just want what’s best for you Kai.”
Sure, of course they do, that’s why they’re forcing me to take up a career I don’t want. She takes a step towards me. I shake my head and slam the door on my way out.
Now the house is depressingly quiet. I don’t know what they expected.
It doesn’t matter now anyway, I’ve already been accepted by Harvard Law School. That’s it; my future has been decided for me.
The microwave beeps in front of me. I pull out the plate of chicken Serena left for me and head for the sofa. I’m not in the mood to watch sports or the news. Flicking through the channels, I stop on an old movie and settle in. This will do.
I don’t remember when, but I must have fallen asleep. I’m lying awkwardly on the sofa, my empty plate from dinner upside down on the carpet. I don’t bother picking it up. Serena will clean it in the morning.
Lifting myself from the soft cushions, I rub the palm of my hand over my eyes before switching the TV off and stumbling upstairs to my room and my bed.
Fliers everywhere; the school hallways are full of fluttering, colourful pieces of paper. I kneel down and swipe one off the ground, curious.
PARTY AT THE LAKE TONIGHT
The bold letters are underlined and spread across the pages. A party? Maybe I’ll go just this once before we graduate. The paper is snatched out of my hand abruptly. I turn around and frown at Kai and his group of friends standing around me.
“You’re not invited.” He smirks, waving the colorful paper around in front of my face. Quick, I need an awesome comeback.
“I wasn’t going to go anyway.” I mentally slap myself. Really? That’s the best I can do? Nice Sammy.
“Whatever loser,” Jacob – one of Kai’s friends – replies nastily, and then they all turn and walk away, laughing.
As soon as they are around the corner and out of sight I run to the bathrooms and stand before a sink, wiping at my eyes. Looking up at the mirror, I squint through my foggy glasses at my reflection. Nope, nothing; I can’t see anything on my face that says, please pick on me I like it. I pull my hair-tie out and re-do my ponytail. Sometimes it’s just too hard to figure people out.
I slowly make my way to my next class, slinking in the door just as Mr. Nelson starts the lesson. I give him an apologetic look as I slide into my desk at the front of the room and pull out my textbook.
I can hear whispering behind me. Pretending to write something down on my blank page, I sneak a peek over my shoulder at the airheads at the back of the room; Ashlee, Kai, Jenny and Dylan, all whispering and giggling at each other. Kai’s dark eyes suddenly meet mine; I twist back around and focus on Mr. Nelson before he can sneer or make faces at me.
Asking for an extension shouldn’t be an issue, but with Ms. Danby, everything is an issue. She’s purposely being rude and infuriating. I do my absolute best at my studies; I mean seriously, what else have I got to do. I have no friends, so I have no distractions. She finally relents and signs my extension with a disappointed sigh.
Walking along the corridor heading for the parking lot, I keep my head down. Mostly people just ignore me, but there’s a few who jeer at me and whisper as I walk past. I smile at the whisperers and their giggling stops and turns into confused frowns. I grin to myself and walk out into the afternoon sunshine.
My old car, clunks loudly into my driveway and comes to a stuttering stop. My foster mum, Kathy is waiting for me on the back porch of their huge colonial house. Her red hair is coiled up on top of her head messily, so she must have spent the afternoon cleaning. She looks exhausted.
“Hi sweetie how was school?” she calls out as I climb out of my car and walk up the path to her.
“Hey,” I reply, giving her a hug. “It was fine. Heaps of assignments to finish though.”
“Oh well, I won’t keep you long. I have some more leftovers for you and I was wondering if you were still coming to Sunday dinner?”
“Of course I am, I wouldn’t miss it.”
She hands me an armload of frozen food containers.
“How is Connor?” Their new baby boy.
“I’m so tired,” she gushes. “He’s such a handful sometimes.”
I say goodnight and retire to my flat above the garage before she can continue. I know that sounds selfish, but ever since Connor was born, I feel like an exile.
I suck in a relieved breath as I close the door behind me. My home is simple; kitchen, bathroom, tattered sofa, old TV, over full bookcase and a bed. Everything I need. After I heat up one of Kathy’s frozen casseroles, I put on a movie and recline into the soft cushions with my food.
The party at the lake is tonight. It kind of hurts to be uninvited. I shouldn’t let what they say get to me so much. Can you imagine the looks and whispers I’d get if I actually turned up at the lake? At least I wouldn’t be invisible anymore.
As soon as I park my truck and turn off the engine, I can hear the noise of the party. People yell and laugh under the effects of the alcohol. The music and the keg have already been set up by the time I enter the clearing and walk through the volumes of dancing people.
I make my way over to Ashlee and her group standing close to the water. Putting my arm around her waist I lean in for a kiss. She giggles, sloshing her drink over the edge of her plastic cup. I lick my lips with a smile, tasting the tangy beer. She’s already drunk.
“Kai,” she pouts, pushing herself closer to my side. “Jenny is getting a limo for the prom, why do we have to take your stinky truck?” I frown down at her. She’s pulled her long blonde hair back into a braid and she’s wearing a too tight t-shirt and skirt. Sometimes I wonder why I’m with someone so shallow.
“Don’t worry babe, when she sees us pull up, she’ll shut her mouth.” I look pointedly at a drunk, swaying Jenny and give her a tight smile.
“Speaking of your truck,” Luke says, smacking me on the shoulder. “We should take it for a spin in the forest. Or are you too afraid to scratch it?” he taunts, his breath is strong with the smell of rum.
I’ve never liked Luke, I put up with him because Jacob likes him.
“Yeah,” Jacob pipes up. “Let’s take it for a drive.” I narrow my eyes on him. Unable to disappoint them and become an outcast, I agree and we walk back to the parking lot.
The thrill of speeding over a one lane dirt track through a dense thicket of trees in the dark is amazing. I’ve got to hand it to Luke, I may not like him, but this was a great idea. The drunken idiots are laughing and joking around in the back seat and over the center console. Dylan leans too far forward and I take my eyes off the road for a split second as he spills his drink all over the front seat. A split second is all it takes not to react fast enough as a deer walks out in front us.
Hushed voices coming from the backyard wake me just past midnight. The grogginess of sleep clears and I realize I’m listening to Kathy and David fighting. They always fight in the backyard so they don’t wake Connor. Its been happening a lot lately. David has never liked me; I’m just a costly nuisance, an indulgence on Kathy’s behalf. It doesn’t matter that I’ve lived with them for the past five years now.
I glance at the clock again, I really need to get to bed, and I have work in the morning. Grabbing my dirty bowl from dinner, I dump it in the sink on my way to my small bedroom.
My senses come back to me slowly. Somewhere close a horn screams. I screw up my nose at the burning plastic smell and pry my eyes open. What the hell happened? Why is the front of my truck embedded in the trunk of a tree?
Something wet dribbles down the side of my face, I swipe it away and my fingers come back dark. I can’t really see anything inside the cab.
I remember what happened in a sudden rush of images. The sticky drink sloshing over my front seat, swerving as a deer walks out in front of me, my friends. Oh god. I quickly spin in my seat to find them. Luke, Dylan and Jacob are all still there and alive. Thank god the idiots put their seatbelts on.
I turn back to my door and try kicking it open, It takes three goes before the crumpled door groans open. Jumping down on wobbly legs, I glance around. The moonlight helps light my surroundings.
A few feet away lay the gruesome remains of the deer. I turn away from it in guilt and pull my phone from my pocket to call an ambulance. Then I turn back to the wrecked truck and tug on the back door to help the others out.
Jacob and Luke shuffle out first and sit on the grass beside the dirt road, Dylan groans and collapses on the back seat. I hoist myself into the truck and lean over him.
“Dylan?” I slap him lightly on the cheek. He doesn’t respond, but I can hear his wheezy breaths. He’s still alive. Its pitch black inside the cab. I take out my phone again and slide my finger across the screen to turn the torch on.
There’s blood soaking through the shoulder of Dylan’s t-shirt, his left arm is covered in it. With a curse I rip off my hoodie and wrap it around his arm tightly before gently pulling him to the door and lifting him down.
An ambulance and a tow truck arrive a moment later and one of the paramedics takes one look at Dylan and gets to work placing him on a stretcher. They load us all into the back of the ambulance.
A nurse hands me a phone when I arrive at the hospital. “What the hell were you thinking?” My mum screeches before I even lift the phone to my ear.
I sigh. “It’s just a truck, I think you’re overreacting.” I know that’s not what she’s talking about, I just don’t care.
“Underage drinking? Do you know how bad this looks for your father and me? We trust you to be responsible while we are away and you can’t even do that. We’re getting on a plane right now.”
“No, we will talk when we get back. I’ve arranged for Serena to pick you up when you’re released.” The line beeps and goes dead. She’s hung up on me.
They release me as soon as I’ve been checked over. The nurse has already called Serena for me, but before I leave I make my way through the hospital to the ICU to check on Dylan. He hasn’t woken since the crash, but I’ve been told he’ll be okay. I pause to watch him through the glass viewing window before turning and leaving.
I reach the glass front door just as Serena arrives in our silver SUV. The drive home is quiet.
“You don’t need to stay,” I tell her when she pulls into our driveway. “I’ll be fine.” I don’t want her hovering around me all day. She frowns over at me, but agrees. I suppose she’s a little afraid of not doing what I say, I could get her fired.
I trudge up the stairs to my room and head straight for the curtains to close them before sunrise. Glancing out into the backyard, I do a double take. There, standing in the shadows of the trees behind my house. Is that a deer? By the time I reach the back door, it’s gone. I scowl into the grey early morning light and then shake my head, turning to go back inside.
It’s after lunch before I wake again. I smack my lips together, my mouth is dry. I’m hot and sweaty and my skin is itchy. Am I sick? Slowly sitting up, I inch myself out of bed and head for the shower. The spray of water hurts my skin and I start swaying, dizzy. I need fresh air. Wrapping a towel around my middle I aim for the backyard.
When my feet touch the grass, I collapse onto my hands and knees. My stomach is cramping so bad I feel like I’m going to throw up. What’s happening? A pain filled groan sputters out of my dry throat as a sharp throb flares in my head. I close my eyes tightly and press my forehead to the cool grass. My arms and legs turn tingly and achy. My skin grows goose bumps and I shiver, then unconsciousness mercifully consumes me………..
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