Ten days!

Ten days until the release of my debut novel - The Keeper! I am excited and nervous at the same time. Today being Teaser Tuesday I will share the prologue and the first two chapters with you. Enjoy!

On an elementary school field trip to a modern day Indian reservation, my class gathered to learn about the Mattaponi Indians of Virginia. We were in for a treat. The tribe’s annual powwow was taking place. Visitors got to see a working village with animal hides drying on racks, grinding stones for corn, and flint mapping; the method of making the points for spears, arrows, and axes. They also had a large display of Native American jewelry and crafts for us to see.

The powwow performance started with the Grand Entry into the arbor, a sacred circle. A procession of visiting Chiefs, flag bearers, and dignitaries were followed by dancers who entered the circle to drumming and singing. They wore authentic regalia of colorful headdresses and breast plates with intricate designs. The drums, representing the heartbeat of Mother Earth, continued booming while additional dancers joined the circle. Excitement filled the air, and my senses went crazy. New smells, sights, and sounds were everywhere.
“Oh wow, did you see that, Billie?” my classmate, Ramey, asked.
     “That guy, with all those feathers on him.” Ramey pointed.
I looked for the guy with the feathers but something else caught my eye. I watched as a man on a horse rode past behind me. I think I was the only one to see him. My class had been too busy listening to the songs and storytelling. Ramey and I were seated in the back, and he didn’t acknowledge the man and horse either.
I checked and no one watched me, so I turned my head slowly to look over my shoulder. Then I dared not move a muscle. The mare stopped. The man used the reins to turn the animal around. They were now directly facing me and not too far away. My heart pounded in my chest.

I held my breath thinking he wouldn’t notice me.
    The man was an old Native American. He had dark tan wrinkled skin. His eyes locked on mine. He didn’t look like the Mattaponi Indians we had learned about. He looked different. His hard facial features had nothing in common with these Indians or the photos I’d seen of their ancestors. He wore his black and silver hair in a plait down the length of his back.

     I heard a strange buzzing noise in my head and my body felt light. Almost like I could fly, and the temperature of the air increased.

     The man’s eyes, darker than the darkest of nights, bore into mine. I was frightened and couldn’t move or speak. His eyes had some kind of hold on me. I thought I could see movement in them, not his eyes moving, but something in them moving, and then some kind of vapor cloud formed before him. It looked like a misty shower of rain: colorless and odorless. The cloud shot out in my direction. It swirled around in front of me, and it was as if the air danced, testing me, tasting me, feeling me, and it pressed up against my head. It felt dry and warm. Not at all a liquid as I thought it to be. There was a quick sensation of pressure around my head. Almost too much to bear, I opened my mouth to scream right as the pressure released. Then it was simply gone, all of it, the mist, the man, and the mare.

     I shook my head in disbelief and checked to see if anyone witnessed what had happened to me. As far as I could tell, no one else had seen. That’s when I noticed him; a boy I recognized from class. He stared lovingly at me, smiled, and went back to watching the tribal activities.
My brain couldn’t rationalize what happened, and because the boy didn’t appear alarmed, I thought maybe I imagined it. The newness of things relating to another culture made the trip feel mystical to begin with. I’d never been on a reservation before. So I decided to never think about the mist, the man, or the mare again.
Part One—The Mist
Chapter One
     I woke from a horrible nightmare like I suspected I would. It was the same every year on my birthday. I woke soaked in sweat with my heart beating so hard it felt like a jackhammer to my chest. The fear laced anxiety made it difficult to breathe. I always knew the dream would come, and yet, I was deathly afraid each time. The details were not clear, only fire, a lot of it, and death. The dream seemed more real and less a dream with each passing year.

     As always, Sam, our Golden Retriever of four years, was there wagging his tail because he never missed an opportunity for lovin’s. As he lapped my cheek with his wet tongue, I was able to get my breathing under control and calm down. Sam was a great dog. Petting him made me remember how I had been against getting a pet, but I loved him and couldn’t imagine our family without him.

     I glanced at my alarm clock, and its green glow showed 5:02 AM. I slipped out of bed and sneaked quietly into the bathroom. In the mirror, I saw my hair was saturated with sweat as if I had gone swimming.
Ugh! Hair, why do you betray me this way? My hair thought it was naturally curly but I tried to convince it otherwise. That wasn’t working out too well.

     After my shower, while applying many products to tame my brown curly mane, I stared at myself in the mirror. Nothing was different, yet I somehow expected at sixteen something would have changed.
I loathed the makeup process, but I had to girl it up every day because of my name. With a name like Billie, all my life no matter how I spelled it, people wanted to mistake me for a dude or purposefully and hatefully picked on me for my “boy” name. So there I was, staring so hard the black and white theme of the bathroom disappeared in the background. Stuck on thoughts of my hair and my name, I became anxious and for some unknown reason, I could not pull away from my own reflection. My mind raced and I thought all kinds of strange things: Am I real? Am I really here? On Earth? Why am I here? Do I have a purpose in life? When will I die? The last question sent a chill up my spine and shook me out of my little trance.
When I emerged from the bathroom, my family was standing there before me grinning like a bunch of idiots. Mom, Dad, and my grouchy-ass brother, Dan were all still in their sleepwear. Dan held birthday balloons and a card for me.
“Guys, come on, you didn’t have to do this,” I falsely gushed.
“Sure we did honey. As your mother pointed out, you only turn sixteen once.” Dad happily informed me of this important tidbit.
“Yeah, but the same could be said for every other birthday as well,” I said.
He rolled my words around in his head for a moment and shrugged it off. I embraced my mother and father.

“Hey Dan, thanks for actually getting out of bed early and making an effort.” I wrapped my arms around him.
He didn’t reciprocate, but grunted in my direction. “Yeah, whatever, like I had a choice. You know how these two are. It’s all about the family, blah, blah, blah.” He shoved the balloons in my hand and practically threw the card at me.

Mom gave an apologetic smile, and Dan brushed past her for the only bathroom in our one-story ranch style home.
Mom groaned. “Hurry it up in there. I have an appointment to show a house this morning, and I can’t be late. I’ve already rescheduled it once. You don’t want the realtor of the year to look bad, do you?” Dan responded unintelligibly.

One bathroom with two adults and two teens was a pain. Especially when Dan got in there. My routine was insane, but his was way worse. He actually embraced his natural curls and wanted them to be perfect. God forbid if it was a bad hair day, no one else could get in the bathroom.
I motioned to the bathroom and said, “This is why I’m an early riser.”
My mother shrugged. She was an early riser, too, but she’d used her morning to prep for my birthday breakfast, which I smelled on my way to the kitchen.


     I sat at the kitchen table staring at the cornflower blue linoleum waiting to be served and then it came: bacon, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, sausage, orange juice, and a hot blueberry tea, my fave. I devoured a little bit of everything feeling hungrier than usual.
“Thank you, Mom, for the best breakfast ever!” I pushed away from the table.
“I have something special for you. Sit, I’ll go get it.” And before I knew it, she rushed down the hall.
“Hurry, Mom, I have to get to school!” I yelled after her.
She was back in a flash. “Here, honey.” She handed me a long narrow velvet jewelry box, maroon in color, the coloring faded from age and use. I flipped back the lid and saw a gold chain with a charm hanging from it. Definitely nothing I would have handpicked, nice enough I guess, but it looked older than dirt itself. There was a yellowish gemstone, citrine I think, no larger than a nickel and it was set on top of a golden sunburst. She explained, “It’s been in our family for years. It’s been handed down from generation to generation on the sixteenth birthday.”
     “Um, thank you. How old is it, and where did it come from?” I questioned because it even smelled old.

     “No one in recent memory knows the answer to either question. We do know it is an honor to receive it, and you have to wear it for your whole birthday, no matter what,” Mom explained.

     “Or what, I will have seven years bad luck?” I didn’t know what else to say.
“No, worse, a whole life of bad luck.” Mom said it so seriously.
“Well, if that isn’t convincing enough, put it on me!” I was not superstitious but why take chances?

     I lifted my flat ironed hair out of the way, and Mom placed the chain around my neck. The second I heard it click into place, I felt funny, and I swear the jewelry’s temperature rose. I stood up in a state of a panic as it warmed and the heat spread from my neck throughout my body. Everything went white, and then pulled out.
“Billie!” Mom screamed. Everyone in the room froze for a quick moment and scattered when I moaned. I don’t know how I knew, but I could tell what was going on around me without opening my eyes. Dan dropped to the floor next to me. My father ran to get a washcloth, and my mother grabbed a glass of water. I heard muffled voices, and I tried to open my eyelids but they were too heavy. Someone kept shaking me. My body lay flat on the cool hard floor. The touch of my fingers to the linoleum told me what I already knew; I was on the kitchen floor.

“Billie? Can you hear me?” Dan sounded scared. The fear in his voice made me open my eyes to see if it was really him, and I’ll be damned, it was.
“Dan! Quit yelling, and stop touching me! I was taking a nap.” I grabbed his hand off my arm and shoved it away.
“No, no you weren’t napping.” Dan’s eyes were wide and his hands hovered above me. He was really shaken up as were my parents.
“Dude, I am fine. See?” I sat up. “I’m fine.” They looked at me with mouths agape like I was crazy. Dad came over with a cold wet cloth for my head, and Mom urged me to drink some water.
“I. Am. Okay. I promise! I stood up too fast, and it made me faint. I didn’t get much sleep last night. In case you forgot, I had my special birthday freak night at the movies, by yours truly.” I pointed to my head. “And I didn’t get much sleep. So you see? I am tired and got a little head rush. Don’t worry, I’ll have my cell phone turned on all day, and if anything is wrong, I will call. I promise.” I pulled myself up from the floor. With my hands on my hips, I stood there tapping my foot waiting for a response.
Mom stared hard at Dad. “I don’t know…Walter, what do you think?”
His big blue weary eyes gave me a once over, and I saw it in his face. He came to a decision. Taking a deep breath and looking at Mom, he said, “Joanne, I think she’ll be fine.”
Mom shot him a look, if possible making her brown eyes appear darker. That was not the response she wanted.
I went to school.
Chapter Two
Surprisingly, I made it to school on time. After the morning I’d had, it was nothing short of a miracle. Walking to school rejuvenated me. It turned out to be an opportunity to clear my mind with some fresh air. I approached the school building slowly between a row of trees when I saw them, my two best friends, Arianna (Ari) and Jocelyn (Joss). Their heads snapped around in search of something or someone.
I arrived on time by school standards but by girlfriend standards, I was way late. Arianna ran up to me in a panic. “Where have you been? You’re never late.” Jocelyn stood next to her nodding her head in agreement.
“I am here now, okay? I’m late from all the birthday excitement at the house this morning.” Arianna didn’t seem too convinced. As the words left my lips, the warning bell rang. I was saved from having to explain my necklace and its effect on me. I ran off to homeroom with Arianna and Jocelyn yelling “Happy Birthday!” behind me.
Ten minutes later, I was sitting in a classroom, five rows of six desks. Homeroom was boring, twenty-five minutes of nothingness. The last week of school, the teacher knew us all and didn’t need to do roll call.
“So Billie, you got plans for the summer?” Ramey, the kid next to me, asked. Ramey’s been in every class with me since kindergarten.
“I do.” Ramey irritated me, he tried to talk when I wanted silence, which was all the time, and he stared at me an awful lot. I would be wasting my breath if I actually held a conversation with him.
Being bored I decided to people watch the losers around me. That may be a bit harsh but I was with people like Barry, who sat in the corner to hide and pick his nose. Dennis who thought he was a rap star but was so “white-boy” it wasn’t even funny. I cannot forget Tilly, a unique person. She was quiet, and as far as I could tell, she was happy with herself, which I guess was all that mattered. Especially when she was the target of bullies all the time. Poor thing has a gangly body, long and lanky.
Five more minutes of insanity before the real school day began. I glanced toward the clock again as if it would make time move faster, and I noticed Freak Boy staring at me out of his right eye. The left eye was always covered by his dark flop of hair.
It was weird. I couldn’t remember his name. He was a freak. He sat and gawked all the time. I didn’t even know what his voice sounded like. Our eyes were locked on one another, neither of us willing to break away. It seemed to be a power struggle. Freak Boy was totally emo wearing his black skinny jeans, a Jimmy Eat World tee, black leather wristband, and black Converse sneakers. Freak.
I broke down and said, “Take a picture it lasts longer.”
He didn’t look amused or away. His silent stare challenged me.
“Dude, you are seriously a freak.”
The teacher told me to “hush it up.” I didn’t have a problem saying what was on my mind. Everyone knew that. I could be, as most of them called me, bitchy. Whatever. The bell rang, and I headed out the door.
I rushed down the hallway heading to my locker. I couldn’t shake the strange feeling left with me from Homeroom. Somehow Freak Boy got to my locker before I did. Which was all kinds of crazy. He was behind me when we left the classroom. I decided to ignore him except he got in my way.
“Excuse me, I do need in my locker sometime this year.” I tried to come off as rude as possible. I spoke while noticing his height. He’s about six inches taller than me. I’d never stood that close to him before.
His eyes drifted from my face to my necklace. Eyeing the necklace, his face actually took on some sort of expression. Not sure what, but that’s the most I’d seen from him, probably ever.
“Your necklace…it’s nice.” His voice sounded calm and cool.
I reached up and touched the gemstone; it was warmer than it should have been. “Uh, thanks.” I played back his voice in my head, not at all what I expected. I enjoyed the soothing rhythm of it and relaxed a little in his presence.
He moved away from my locker motioning toward it. Instead of opening the lock and retrieving my books, I turned and leaned up against the cool metal. I tried unsuccessfully to avoid his gaze.
He grinned. “So, did I hear correctly? Today’s your birthday?”
Okay, this is getting weird. Are we having a conversation, me and Freak Boy? “Yes.” I nodded feeling a little shy.
“Happy Birthday, would this be your Sweet Sixteen?” His face lit up with a smile.
“Yes.” I nodded again. I noticed his pearly whites, and how they cause a dimple off to the right side of his mouth.
“For someone who is so…opinionated you’re being quiet.” He stared into my eyes, and this simple action made my heart skip a beat.
“I guess, and for someone who I’ve never heard speak before you are certainly…talkative.” Something snapped inside of me. “Hey—wait! Opinionated? What are you trying to say?” The bell rang.
“Gotta go, have a good day.” And Freak Boy jogged off to his next class.
I watched him run off. I also happened to notice Ramey a few lockers down staring after him as well.
I went to the next few classes in a daze and couldn’t wait to get to lunch so I could talk to Arianna and Jocelyn about my run in with Freak Boy. I sat in my classes doodling on paper, waiting and watching the clock for the bell to ring. It was nearly impossible to concentrate. My interactions with Freak Boy threw me off.
Lunch was up next. I started to gather my things moments before the bell.
I was out of the room before the bell finished ringing and headed to the lunchroom. It seemed as though everyone was against me. There were more students than usual loitering around the halls and causing roadblocks.
Walking toward the cafeteria, I saw him through a crowd of students. Freak Boy, standing right outside the cafeteria walkway. I slowed down checking out the tiles beneath my feet. I reached the entrance, and he stepped out in front of me last minute catching me by surprise. I was close enough to see his light brown eye sprinkled with flecks of dark brown. Beautiful.
“Meet me in Wood Shop in ten minutes.” He turned and walked away.
Once inside the cafeteria, someone’s arms wrapped around me from behind, and a pair of lips kissed my neck.
“Hey, birthday gurrrl,” Tony, my boyfriend, said.
“Hey, Mr. Martucci.” I swung around to sneak in a peck on the lips. We weren’t allowed to show PDA’s in school. It was cause for detention.
“I got dis’ for you, and I couldn’t wait ‘til tonight to give it to you.” He placed a small white box in my hand. I opened it.
Inside, lay a gold bracelet with a dangling solid gold heart. “Oh, Tony I love it! It’s so me.” I hugged him but not before I heard someone clearing her throat behind us. I turned to see Mrs. Whimbly, the evil lunch monitor. She’d always had it out for me. Her presence invoked the worst in me.
“Mrs. Whimbly,” I greeted her. “How are you today?” I tried to sound sincere. Instead I came off sounding mean and rude. I rolled my eyes at my attempt. Not a good idea.
“Miss Smith, I will see you in detention today, after school.” She spoke with authority.
“It’s my birthday today. Please, can I make it up? I hugged him to thank him for my birthday gift, see?” I held up my bracelet to show her.
“It’s pretty, and you’ll have something nice and shiny to admire in detention. Which you will be serving without your boyfriend. Seems the two of you have too much fun while you’re in there together. Mr. Martucci gets off with a warning today since he didn’t mouth off at me. See you this afternoon.”
I watched her turn to find other offenders. Tony and I were always getting busted for stupid stuff like that. I had a mouth, and he had the attitude.
He laughed at my predicament.
“Tony, not cool on my birthday. I’m sure you’ll be in there for something.” I glared at him.
“Nope, I kept my promise to be good today, for your birt’day. I didn’t want to screw it up by being in detention, but I can get in trouble easy to hang witch’ you.” I loved his New York accent.
“No, it’s better you don’t. We might get in more trouble and end up in detention for the last couple of days before school lets out and that would suck.”
“Whateva’ you say.” He blew me a kiss and winked.
We walked over to Arianna and Jocelyn, who’d witnessed it all.
“Bummer, detention on your birthday…we will go to the Snack Shack and meet you there when you get out, if you want…” Arianna said. She tossed her beautiful blonde straight hair over her shoulder. Her brow furrowed when she frowned.
“Cool, no problem.” It didn’t bother me as much as it upset her, apparently. I checked the clock because I never wear a watch; I don’t like them and realized I’d been there for fifteen minutes. Damn, I’m late.
“Hey guys, I’ll be right back.” I left Arianna, Jocelyn, and Tony before they could question where I was going, and I hurried off to the Wood Shop. I had to sneak down the quiet halls, ducking in once to the girls’ room to avoid the hall monitor. Not really sure why I was going through all the effort though. Curiosity was all I could come up with, but maybe there was more to it. My gut felt funny thinking about it. I arrived at the Wood Shop and came to a halt out of fear. I scoffed and continued on.
Wow, I get why Wood Shop, it has no classes during lunch hour. I pushed opened the swinging door and entered with caution. It was dark, and I was greeted by the industrial smell of burnt wood shavings. I stopped and listened to the swinging door slow to a stop.
I took a few steps in and heard him. “You’re late.” He sounded dead serious.
“Sorry, I lost track of time.”
“Yes, I know, accepting your gift, kissing, hugging, and getting detention.” I sensed something bothered him; he spoke his words with anger.
“Y-Yes. How did you know?” I wondered if I should add Stalker to his title of Freak.
“Doesn’t matter. You’re late, and we have a lot to discuss. I don’t think you want to do this later instead of celebrating with your friends.” Still he had the angry thing going on.
“What are you talking about? Why are we here?” My eyes adjusted somewhat to the darkness, but I still couldn’t see him.
“You aren’t going to believe me if I tell you, so I am going to need to show you something.” His voice came closer to me. The wood shop was dark as a result of the windows being high up on the walls. There was no direct lighting. I didn’t see him until he showed up right in front of me.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
“I don’t even know you. How am I supposed to trust you?” His closeness didn’t cause me to panic. I felt a strange comfort around him. I wanted to be near him, I wanted to hear his voice, but I had no idea why. This was Freak Boy. The emo guy I wanted nothing to do with just a few short hours before.
“I need to get closer to you and touch you. Do you trust me?” he asked again.
“Dude, is this your sick way of asking for a kiss?” I became defensive.
“If I wanted to kiss you—I would just do it,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Oh, really? If you value your life you’ll do no such thing,” I shot back.
“This topic is not important. We don’t have much time before the bell. We must get started.” He closed the space between us getting very, very near to me. He placed his hands on both sides of my face and his forehead against mine. Squeezing my eyes shut I gasped. My body heated up like it had when my mother put the necklace on me. I thought of pushing him away until I saw a dreamlike image of small children watching rituals in song and dance: an old Native American man on a horse, mist in the air, and a small boy smiling at a girl.
All of a sudden I got cold, and I no longer felt Freak Boy touching me.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked. I was gulping for air to fill my lungs. “Are you playing some kind of game with me? How did you…do that?” I opened my eyes to find Freak Boy on the floor. “Oh my gosh, are you okay?” I knelt down to his side. I touched his arm, and got closer to his face to check his breathing. I felt the heat of his breath on my cheek. I smoothed my hand over his forehead pushing his long dark choppy hair aside. His skin was soft. He moaned, and his brown eyes fluttered. I kissed him with a small soft peck on the lips.
“Why’d you kiss me?” He was wide-eyed, and not moving.
I shrugged.
“Something happened here, and you should have totally wigged on me, instead you kiss me?” He shook his head.
“I don’t know why I did, I’m sorry. Hey, are you okay? You fainted or something.” I remembered my own fainting spell. “There seems to be a lot of that going on today.”
“What do you mean?” He stood, still a little shaky, so I helped. I put my arm around his waist to steady him.
“Never mind, are you okay?” I had to ask. I mean, the boy did fall on the floor.
“Yes. I’m fine, apparently that takes a lot out of me, but what did you mean before?”
“I fainted today, too. This morning, when Mom put this necklace on me. I felt really warm and then fainted.”
“Interesting.” His eyes widened again.
“Yeah, it may have been caused from my lack of sleep. I have these crazy dreams every year the night of my birthday, and I don’t get much sleep.” I wondered why I was still talking to him.
He mumbled something and looked at me in total amazement.
“Sure, whatever, this has been very interesting, but I need to get back to my friends. About the kiss, it won’t happen again, and promise me you won’t say anything about it. I will deny it and make you look like an ass if you do.”
“Yes, I believe you would, but I have no plans to say anything.” He sounded like he meant it. “But promise me you will not speak of this or what happened to you today to anyone.”
“Don’t plan on it, trust me, nobody would believe me. I don’t even know what’s going on.” I sighed.
“We must meet up again soon to discuss what all of this means. I am sure you will have questions for me. The image you saw before will make more sense later. If you want or need to talk about it, call me.”
I gave him a look and thought, Yeah, right. He pressed a small folded piece of paper in my hand. I stood there holding it when the fluorescent lights in the room suddenly came on, and students were filing in.
“Babe, whatcha’ dooin’ in here, you lookin’ for me…hey, where did ja’ run off to before?” Tony’s always happy to see me. Still trying to recover from the weirdness, I gave the room a once over searching for Freak Boy but he was long gone. Ramey, however, stood across the room staring at me.
“I, well, yeah…. I didn’t feel well earlier so I left the lunch room, and I wanted to come here, to your class, and let you know I’m fine.”
I shoved the folded paper into my pocket. Tony saw. He raised an eyebrow, but I pretended not to notice.
“Glad to hear. I won’t lie. I worried about cha.’” He touched a finger to my nose.
“I need to get to Spanish class before I get in trouble. I’ll see you after detention.” I smiled at him, threw a kiss his way and added, “Hasta luego.”

Ebook will be available for purchase January 6th, 2012 through http://www.decadentpublishing.com/


  1. Well, now I have something to look forward to!

  2. Sounds great! Can't wait to put this info up for my followers to see!

  3. Great job Natalie!! Looking forward to this too! I better finish the books on my nightstand!

  4. I loved, I want to read more.And congratulations for your publication.

    Have a good day


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