I've been sharing with you the process. You've read some of the pull-quotes on Instagram. But now, finally, I'm pushing back the curtain, and inviting you to take your first glimpse at this dimly lit, magical world...
I spun left, then right, watching the silver silk ripple.
“Smile,” I told myself.
My lips twitched in their corners, then fizzled, straightening.
“Scarlet,” mum cried. “Are you almost ready?”
I looked at the door, wishing I had powers like Matilda to move things with my eyes.
“Julia’s just called,” her voice rang again. “She'll be here in five.”
I said, “I’ll be ready,” flicking my gaze back to the face in the mirror.
I listened as it hissed, told me to “quit being like this,” to “be excited,” to “stop sulking like a broken, little princess,” and, by God, “feel grateful to be going to a birthday party”—my birthday party it pointed out.
I furrowed my eyebrows, watched it do the same.
“Relax,” it went on, mumbling platitudes that had no real link to me, or my happiness. “It’s not as if you won’t know everyone there anyway.”
Then I thought, And therein lies the problem.
I smoothed my hand over the slippery fabric, trying to push an image to the back of my mind. But it was being stubborn, sticking up front and centre. The image was of the moving variety. It showed me bobbing and weaving my way through a room crowded with people, desperate to escape. My throat was clutched by my hands. I was suffocating, silently—
I shook my head. “Yeah?”
“Julia’s mother’s pulling up now!”
“Okay, I’m coming!”
I rolled my eyes, adding to the face in the glass, “In just a minute.” I bit down on that last word, wishing I could have had longer.
I stepped back to assess the effect of it all: the dress, the flats, the necklace, the earrings, the nude lipgloss. I was a walking line of silver, so pale I may not have even existed.
I walked over to my bedside table and picked up the tiny, jewelled box that lived there. I’d bought it when I was six at a market, lured in by its colour and promise of enchantment. Its weight felt good in my hand, its rhinestones soothing in their press against my skin. I clicked it open and released my answer to all the silver: a yellow, floral pendant given to me by Lizzie seven years ago today, when I’d turned nine.
I strung it onto the chain around my neck and walked back to the mirror. The sun, setting, struck it with its ray, made it glint. I smiled, knowing I shouldn’t, knowing I ought to have outgrown it by now—kept the little thing in its gilded cage—but I could’t. I couldn’t help myself. I felt calm with it there near my heart.
I sighed at my reflection, picked up my beaded clutch, and trickled down the stairs.
I wished Lizzie hadn’t gone back to boarding school. She was my only true friend. We met when we were small, bumbling around in a sandbox with butterfly clips in our hair. Neither one of us were very talkative, but somehow we started building sandcastles together. For weeks we didn’t share more than a few words, just that little pink shovel, and those yellow plastic buckets. I’d felt like she understood me though, felt like she wasn’t so surface level like the others at my school. Then one day I’d found out my inkling was true, and the reason why.
She’d said, “My sister was taken. That’s why I’m so sad all the time.” I hadn’t known what to say. So I’d just passed her the shovel and my Ziplock bag of Teddy Graham crackers and nodded.
I’d been happy that day that she hadn’t asked me why I was so sad, but then eventually it came out anyway, when I couldn’t suck it back any longer.
I said, “No one in the world knows all of me. That’s why I started asking Nanny Sierra to bring me to this park after school.”
Lizzie’s eyebrows knit together. “I don’t get it,” they read.
I drew an S in the sand. “I mean, I can be the whole me here. Because I don’t know anyone at this park, you know? Except you.”
“What’s the half-you like?” Lizzie said, young and snappy.
I covered my body in sand. “Like this, see?”
Lizzie nodded. “Sometimes it feels good to be all sandy.”
“Yeah,” I laughed, scooping the golden grains off my lap and pouring them over her. “It does.”
Lizzie flicked sprinkles back at me.
Before we’d packed up that afternoon I felt the tickle in my hands that told me if I didn’t get out what I really meant to confess, I’d regret it come nightfall, be unable to sleep.
“Liz?” I said, fingers running over the waxed handle of my shovel.
“Yeah?” she took off her sun cap, shook out her hair.
“There’s something else about the whole me.”
She paused, sat all straight like a yogi and said, “Okay.”
“Well,” I hesitated, running a hand over my arm. “Well,” I began again, “I sort of…do this thing.”
“Uh huh,” she said, bringing her thumbnail to her lips, biting down.
“I don’t know how or anything—I promise I’m not evil,” I said, trying to laugh.
She narrowed her eyes, thumb still between her chiclet teeth.
“—but, uh, I make stuff appear.”
Lizzie stretched her legs out in front of her, saying nothing for a moment. Then, fingers locked around toes, she said, “What kind of stuff?”
I looked down at my fingers, sure they were the culprit, somehow, some way. “Rings, usually,” I said, “but not always, sometimes bracelets too—always jewelry. And almost always jewelry for my hands.” I looked up at her, pushed a giggle. It sounded like tin.
Lizzie said, “How?”
“I—I don’t know,” I paused. I looked at her face, searching for something that wasn’t there. Then I said, “You mean, you believe me?”
“Sure,” she said.
And I’d trusted that she was telling me the truth, just like, apparently, she believed I was.
I looked up to find myself at the bottom of the stairs looking at Julia. She was standing on my doorstep, all decked out in her layered, carnation-coloured dress.
She looks like a cake, I thought.
But evidently, she thought she looked perfect. I could tell by the way she stuck her leg out like that, like she was centre stage, mid-beauty pageant.
All a charade.
I felt myself morph into that girl I’d seen in my head earlier, the one desperate to escape the night ahead—the night that, yes, had the label of my birthday party slapped onto it, but was in actuality something else entirely. That is, another soirée for Julia to document and show off, use to prove she was still tops in our grade.
That little girl inside my mind? The one that so desired to flee? That was what I should’ve spent my time talking to Lizzie about that afternoon when I’d felt pulled to confess to her “the whole me.” Only, I hadn’t realized yet how important she was. I wouldn’t realize for a while how important she was.
Join me in the process...
I'm still looking to add a few more to my early-readers list, if you want to be one of them, I'd be more than honoured to invite you in.
Over time that means you'll get...
- more chapter previews
- Scarlet's diary entries
- juicy details about characters you'll never read in the novel (not explicitly anyway)
When the book is done, too, you'll get...
- an early copy
- access to the audio version
And ultimately, a hand in the process. Your feedback, you guys, is everything to me, and I seriously consider my early readers' opinions gold. This book is nothing without 'em.