Young Adult Fiction

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I will not say that the day Jesse Mandal asked me out was the best of my life. That’s silly, trite, foolish. But I was thirteen, which means I was all of those things. After school, I would have danced home, humming “Best Day Ever.” I’d have tweeted cryptic emojis of hearts and endless exclamation marks. I’d have lain in bed listening to All-Time Five sing about love, glorious love.
I was thirteen. I was that girl. But I didn’t dance home at the end of the day. I didn’t send any tweets. I never listened to ATF again. Because after that day, I’d never be that girl again.

The day started as my days had for the past year, no longer rising to my mom singing whatever song she can mangle my name into—“Good morning, Skye-shine,” or “The Skye will come up tomorrow.” I’d groan and bury my head under the pillow until she went off to do the same to my brother, Luka—who gets Suzanne Vega’s “Luka,” having been named after the song.
It was only when those wake-ups stopped that I realized how much I’d secretly loved them. Just like I’d loved her hot breakfasts, even when I complained that I could sleep in an extra twenty minutes if she’d let me grab a juice box and granola bar, like all my friends did.
That day I rise to the alarm moments before Luka raps on my door with, “Skye? You up?” He showers first—he’s sixteen and needs it more, and sometimes there’s no hot water anyway, if Mom forgot to pay the bill again. We both try to be quiet and not wake her. When Dad is away on business she’s rarely out of bed before noon, and in the past six months he’s been gone more than he’s been home.
I’m grabbing a juice box and bar when Luka says, “That is not a proper breakfast.”
“So you’ve said. Every morning.”
“That isn’t even real juice. You might as well drink soda.”
“Well, then . . .” I take a Coke from the fridge.
He plucks the can from my hand. “Sit. I’m making you scrambled eggs and toast.”
“You don’t have time.”
“I do. Isaac’s picking me up today. He’s borrowing his mom’s car and—”
A horn sounds outside. I arch my brows.
Luka’s cell pings with a text. He reads it and says, “Seriously?”
“That’s Isaac, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. He’s early. Something’s up. So important.” He rolls his eyes. “It always is with him.” He starts to type a response. “I’ll walk to school.”
“Then you’ll be late. And if we fight about it, we’ll wake Mom.”
He hesitates and then says, “Tomorrow, okay? I’ll cook for you tomorrow.”
“And I’ll drink real juice today. Just for you.”
He comes over and squeezes my shoulder. “You’re a good kid, Skye. Even when you try not to be.”
I stick out my tongue. He grins, grabs his backpack and jogs to the door.

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Darkness Rising

Darkness Rising

Daughters of Light
also available: Paperback
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“If they catch you, the mayor will execute you, you know,” the oversized woman says.
My heart is in my throat. The counter-terrorism squad is at the other end of the subway train, their semi-automatics ready, and they’re moving fast. Everyone is being asked for identification, and no one is taking a second longer than necessary to show their credentials.
“Official government ID only!” one of the officers barks at an elderly man holding a cloth shopping bag filled to the limit in one arm and a tiny dog in the other. “Take off your mask. Now!”
The woman leans in closer to me and Amara. The stench of onions and sweet flowers emanating from her nearly overpowers me.
“Smith’s gonna put you on the list to hang just like she’s done with your friend Eva and that supposed subway bomber, Moore,” she says, keeping her voice low. Before I have a chance to reply, there’s a crash and a high-pitched yelp as the elderly man’s bag falls to the floor of the train, his tiny dog following closely behind. The officer grabs the man by the arm, wrenches him to his feet, and pulls off his anti-pollution mask.
“No ID? You’re under arrest!” he barks into the man’s pale face. The older man is trembling like a spider in a snowstorm — that’s clear to me even from this far away. His tiny Chihuahua, having regained its composure after being dropped, begins snapping at the officer’s pant leg in an effort to defend its owner.
“Please … please,” the older man sputters, putting his free hand up in front of his face. His accent is thick.
“He’s an illegal!” a woman sitting across from us shouts. Spittle flies from her lips. “Get ’im out of here!” she says, pumping her fist into the air. I can read her mind. Her thoughts are strong with emotion. She’s excited by the drama unfolding and disgusted by the fact that the elderly man is an illegal — at least, that’s what she’s concluded, even though there’s no proof of the man’s status. She seems convinced he’s a climate change refugee who’s sneaked into the city and is possibly a terrorist as well.
With the fluidity of a panther, the officer brings his booted foot down onto the diminutive dog’s midsection. A single canine screech cuts through the subway car. We both look over. The dog twitches briefly before becoming absolutely motionless.
“Oh, my god,” Amara whispers. She crams the palm of her left hand against her lips as tears stream down her cheeks, then begins to hum. Not any song or melody, just a low, steady hum. I know she’s fragile, maybe even close to snapping after losing her twin, Vivienne, earlier today. Seeing this little dog killed in such a violent manner isn’t helping her state of mind, that’s for sure.
“I’m Mary, by the way,” the woman sitting beside me says. She raises an eyebrow at Amara, who doesn’t seem to notice. “Listen, youse need to get outta here before they recognize you.” Her voice is raspy; it’s the voice of a lifelong smoker. “In two, you’ll know what to do. It’ll be your only chance to escape.” She smiles at me, revealing two very chipped front teeth, but her eyes are serious. “Good luck. It’s easy to tell that something’s not right with the leaders of our governments — for those of us that ain’t brainwashed by ’em.” She nods her head toward the woman sitting across from us.
The officer that killed the dog punches the button beside a set of subway doors. As the doors slide open, he roughly pushes the old man, who is now openly sobbing, out onto the platform.
“I can’t breathe!” Mary cries out. She clutches at her large bosom, hoists herself up, and starts stumbling toward the officers still on the train, one arm stretched out toward them. “My heart! Oh, god! The pain!”
Her thoughts come to me. They need to run. This is worth it. I’ve lived a long life.
The officers point their guns at her. “Stay back!” one of them warns. “Don’t take a step closer.”
“Help me!” Mary cries again. “I can’t breathe!”
I grab Amara’s hand and yank her up off her seat. She stops humming.
“What the …” She glares at me as though I’ve just shaken her from a deep sleep.
“We need to get out of here. Now,” I say, keeping my voice low.
We slide out the subway doors just before they close. Though he’s in the process of cuffing the elderly man’s hands, the officer on the platform turns to look at us.
“Freeze!” he yells. “Don’t move!” He looks back at the elderly prisoner sitting on the bench in front of him and then at us, clearly unsure which situation to focus on.
The sudden sound of gunfire from inside the train takes his attention off all of us for a moment. Without even looking, I know it’s Mary because I can’t read her thoughts any longer. There’s only dead air when I try. She’s dead.
“I’ve got a bomb,” the elderly man interjects. His voice is calm and the word bomb is spoken so softly, it’s barely audible.
The officer snaps his head back toward the man, who is now slowly rising from the bench.
“What the hell did you just —”
Suddenly, with all the force he’s able to muster, the elderly man drives the top of his head into one of the only unprotected areas on the officer: his crotch. The officer doubles over in pain and shock.
Without a word, Amara and I begin to sprint toward the stairs at the far end of the station, knowing perfectly well that our exit might be blocked if an alert has been issued. If not, we’ve got a small window of time. Our speed is our advantage. We bound up the stairs and leap over the turnstiles just as two TTC workers, accompanied by a drone, emerge from the ticket booths and lunge at us.
“Stop right there!” yells the younger one, a wiry but muscular woman with a shock of spiky blue-and-black hair. She catches Amara by the wrist. “Sound the alarm!” she shouts at the other worker.
Amara glances at me, her eyes wild. The woman is strong. I know what Amara’s thinking. We’re supposed to be uber careful using force on anyone but the demons. But she doesn’t have much of a choice but to be aggressive with this woman if we’re going to get out of here.
The drone swoops in front of Amara, moving dangerously close to her face. It zooms back and forth like a mosquito on cocaine, trying to distract her. A highpitched beeping fills the air. We don’t have much time at all. There are likely extra patrols of counter-terrorism squads on every street corner right now.
“Get off me!” Amara shouts, swinging her arm forward and taking the stunned TTC worker with her. Making the most of the woman’s shock, Amara donkeykicks her in the stomach and then takes a swing at the drone. The TTC worker crumples to the floor, but Amara’s not as successful with the drone. It swoops down and out of her range again, only to be back buzzing inches from her eyes within seconds.
Amara bats at it, but it’s too quick. I glance toward the entrance of the subway station. There are sirens approaching, but I can’t be sure if they are for us or another situation. Sirens are often the musical backdrop for large, urban centres like Toronto. Especially these days.
“I can’t move forward,” Amara says, frustration etching her voice. “It won’t let me.”
I glance at the TTC worker. She’s lying completely motionless on the tiled floor. Her skin has become ghostly pale. There’s no time to check, but I get the sinking feeling she’s badly injured … at best.
With a swift, high side kick, my shoe collides with the belly of the drone, sending it spinning off course. It rights itself and swoops back, toward me this time. I’m its new target. The lens at the front of the tiny aircraft swivels, directing itself at my face. My image is being recorded. More ammunition for Smith and everyone else who believes we’re terrorists.
Amara suddenly grasps both sides of the drone. Its buzzing intensifies into a high-pitched squeal. With one swift motion, she tosses it to the ground where it crashes on the tiles.

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