The idea came to me while I was commuting to the satellite campus of my university to teach freshman comp. It was a long drive, and I often filled it with audio books, or conjuring plot bunnies. Our reading material had been emotionally heavy that day. Out of nowhere, I started to think about the range of human emotions, about how unique each one was, and it hit me that they could be actual characters in a story. But how to fit them all into the same plot line? And so Sasha was born- a girl with emotions so strong, so dangerous, they manifested as guardians whose soul purpose was to keep her numb to her feelings. No fear, hate or jealousy. No happiness. No love. But what if someone came along and changed all that? If someone could make Sasha feel again, would she want to feel numb?
Here's an excerpt from the beginning that sets up the story. I'll post release details as soon as I know. Can't. Wait!
Chapter One: Anger, Draped in Metal
I stood in the atrium of the Academy’s newest gallery and listened as people discussed my mother’s suicide. The event was depicted in a colorful painting that took up most of one wall.
“. . . mental problems, I hear . . .”
I felt the same at eighteen as I had at eight, when it happened: nothing.
Around me, the faculty of Andreas Academy mixed with what passed for the social elite in the tiny town of Whitfield. Students dressed all in black carrying trays wove through the crowd. They offered golden bells of champagne on long crystal stems, and tiny portions of various delicacies arranged on white plates. They were here through a combination of scholarships and work study, funded in part through my family’s endowment. I wondered what these students felt as they moved through the crowd— bored, repulsed, perhaps eager to please.
I couldn’t feel any of those things.
I’d never have to do work study, either. My future was plotted out for me like grids on a surveyor’s map: orderly, contained, and adding up to a whole I couldn’t quite see. I was the perfect politician’s daughter, adept at fading into the background until my assistance was required. This gathering was no exception. Even though the two largest buildings on campus carried my last name, I might as well have been invisible. Faculty, patrons, and students flowed around me like water around a large boulder.
“It’s all a matter of perspective and light,” the woman drawled, staring intently at the painting. In it, seven shadowy figures all reached out for a single woman. My mother. She shielded a dark haired child behind her with one arm. Me. With the other, she offered the seven her still-bleeding heart, a fist-sized wound gaping in her chest.
The woman’s silver dress dulled to steel gray as she paced back into the shadows. “They look more sinister if you move back from the light, James.”
Her companion, a balding, well-dressed older man, checked his watch. “Seems pretty simple to me. Seven different people come at you like that, somebody’s going down. Never have understood why everyone thinks it’s so brilliant.” He ran fat fingers through thinning hair. “If you ask me, doing herself in was her best career move.”
Comments like that should leave me trembling with grief and rage and hate. He was talking about my mother’s suicide as if it had been a publicity stunt. If I were a normal girl, I’d be screaming at this man. Maybe I’d even hit him. Instead, I watched them argue with the same clinical detachment I’d felt since the night my mother killed herself.
That was the night the seven figures in the painting stopped being abstract art and became very real. Her gift to me: seven guardians from pain, fear, anger, guilt. Her curse: seven wardens to keep me from experiencing passion, pleasure, and joy.
I felt my guardian’s presence before I saw her. They were all like that, appearing out of nowhere when I least expected them. “Don’t worry, sweet Sasha.” Anger slipped beside me in a whisper of silk and scent. Peppery sweet, with something bitter underneath. Good; if the bitter was hidden, she couldn’t be that powerful. Yet.
“Anger,” I murmured without turning my head. Her long, blood-colored nails traced patterns across my bare arm. “You don’t need to be here. I’m all right.”
“Of course you are.” I risked a sideways glance in her direction. Her perfectly shaped crimson lips curled into a sneer. “These pretend socialites will never hurt you with their petty jabs and pathetic social pretensions. Not while we’re here to protect you.”
My guardians were as distinctive as the emotions they guarded against. Anger, for example, always wore red. Tonight she’d dressed up a bit, perhaps in honor of the occasion. Strapless red satin swept to the floor, slit all the way up to mid-thigh. She was draped with metal jewelry: chains and crosses, heavy rings, wristlets and studded cuffs. She even smelled like metal. That was one of the ways I knew her. When Anger drew near, the faintest bite of metal infused the air. The scent grew stronger as she became more powerful, siphoning away my rage and hate.
“I’m here,” Anger assured me. “I’ll be watching. You won’t feel a thing.”
She was right. I never did. Not since I was eight years old, when they had changed from guarding my mother, to guarding me. Still, I didn’t dare answer her directly.
Bad enough I was born with emotions with so powerful I couldn’t control them myself. Bad enough to have guardians only I, like my mother, could see. My father was already convinced I was as disturbed as the brilliant, self-destructive woman who gave birth to me. There were many days when I secretly agreed with him. But I didn’t want people to see me talking to myself. In a town the size of Whitfield, gossip traveled fast. In no time at all, I’d go from being a quiet girl, always on the fringes, to the suicide’s daughter who was seconds away from a meltdown of her own. So I settled for nodding. Satisfied, beautiful red-haired Anger stroked my cheek and drifted away.