The Awakening of Sunshine Girl (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl)

BOOK: The Awakening of Sunshine Girl (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl)
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Also by Paige McKenzie with Alyssa Sheinmel

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

Copyright © 2016 by Paige McKenzie, Nick Hagen, Mercedes Rose, and Alyssa Sheinmel

Illustrations © 2016 by Paige McKenzie

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Publisher.

For information address Weinstein Books, 250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107.

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for this book.

ISBN 978-1-60286-275-3 (e-book)

Published by Weinstein Books

A member of the Perseus Books Group

www.weinsteinbooks.com

Weinstein Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail
[email protected]
.

Editorial production by
Marra
thon Production Services.
www.marrathon.net

Book design by Jane Raese

Set in 11-point Baskerville

FIRST EDITION

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

For my family. You know who you are and you know what you did.

Contents

Someone Else Is Watching

    
Chapter One: Haunted

    
Chapter Two: Emergency

    
Chapter Three: The Truth

    
Chapter Four: Tears

That Woman

    
Chapter Five: Danger

    
Chapter Six: Confessions

    
Chapter Seven: In Flight

    
Chapter Eight: Llevar la Luz

    
Chapter Nine: Home Sweet Home

A Dead End?

    
Chapter Ten: Someplace Safe?

    
Chapter Eleven: Lucio

    
Chapter Twelve: Lesson One

    
Chapter Thirteen: Playtime Is Over

    
Chapter Fourteen: Clementine

    
Chapter Fifteen: The Darkness

    
Chapter Sixteen: The Hunt

I Find the protector

    
Chapter Seventeen: My Ghost

    
Chapter Eighteen: A Dark Discovery

    
Chapter Nineteen: Behind Closed Doors

    
Chapter Twenty: Girl Talk

    
Chapter Twenty-One: Helena

Kindred Spirits

    
Chapter Twenty-Two: Extinction

    
Chapter Twenty-Three: The Middle of Everywhere

    
Chapter Twenty-Four: Failure

    
Chapter Twenty-Five: Elimination

Strange Words

    
Chapter Twenty-Six: Argi and Jairo

    
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Real Luiseach Work

    
Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Town on Fire

    
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Fire Demon

    
Chapter Thirty: The Storm

Certain powers

    
Chapter Thirty-One: Almost

    
Chapter Thirty-Two: On the Precipice

A Road Trip

    
Chapter Thirty-Three: Back on the Grid

    
Chapter Thirty-Four: Imprisoned

Fury

    
Chapter Thirty-Five: Focus

    
Chapter Thirty-Six: Trapped

    
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Calm

    
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Ashley to the Rescue

    
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Homecoming

    
Chapter Forty: Inside

    
Chapter Forty-One: Kissed

    
Chapter Forty-Two: Too Late

    
Chapter Forty-Three: The Awakening

    
Chapter Forty-Four: Falling

Someone Else Is Watching

I sensed it the instant she passed her test.

The feeling began in my center: a small, tight twist, as though someone had taken hold of my guts and pulled tight. Unbidden, an image of what she might look like today blossomed behind my eyes: sixteen years old. Her father’s eyes. Her mother’s . . . I don’t know. All I can remember now are her eyes.

I don’t want to remember anything more. I don’t want to think about whom she might look like, sound like, act like. I’ve been setting aside such curiosities for years now. They have no place in my life. They’ll only interfere with what must be done. And it must be done. It should have been done sixteen years ago, but he took her before I could. I’ve had years now to gather my strength.

Sixteen years to plan it.

Sixteen years to envision it.

Sixteen years to steel myself for the task that’s fallen at my feet.

I’m ready to eliminate her. I just have to find her first.

CHAPTER ONE

Haunted

S
ixth-period biology isn’t where most people expect to see a ghost, but I’m not like most people. After making a note about the genetic similarities of rhesus monkeys to humans, I look up to see an old lady standing in the corner of our classroom who clearly doesn’t belong there. She’s short and at least ninety years old. Or maybe, I should say, she
was
at least ninety. She’s wearing a pink terrycloth robe with embroidered flowers along the neckline. Her eyes are intense, small and sunken into her skull. She doesn’t blink as she stares at me, and it sends shivers along my spine. Quickly I glance around the room to reassure myself I’m the only one who sees this. No one is reacting like we have a sudden, oddly dressed guest lecturer, so I know she’s a ghost. I’m the only one who can see her, and she needs my help.

I’m new to this luiseach thing, so I try not to be too hard on myself when my first instinct is to ask for a hall pass and run out of the room. Instead, I casually reach toward the woman,
trying not to draw too much attention to myself. I need her to come closer if I’m going to help her move on.

Mr. Packer moves his lecture from monkey to pig genetics, and I know I should be taking another note, but I can’t. I extend my arm a little further and focus on the woman. It works, and she begins to move toward me. She passes through three of my classmates, and they have no idea, although I do notice one of them shudders and looks around for the source of the cool breeze. He wouldn’t believe me if I told him.

As the woman gets within a few feet of me, I stretch my arm out even farther, hoping I can touch her and help her move on without anyone noticing. The woman’s jaw begins to chatter with excitement as she nears. Her mouth opens just enough to let out a sickening dark liquid that pours down her robe. Suddenly I know how she died: she was lying alone in her bed, too weak to sit up, when she began coughing. She coughed until she choked. Her name was Elizabeth, and it wasn’t the most peaceful death in the world, but at least it wasn’t the most violent either. Now I need to help her move on.

Her eyes remain locked with mine, and I wonder whether she sees me or is looking straight through me. I’ve never seen anything like this before, and suddenly I want to scream. I just want to make it all go away, for her and for me. I stand, and my chair lets out a groan as it slides against the floor. I reach out and touch her shoulder, closing my eyes as a sense of peace washes over me. Just as quickly as she appeared, Elizabeth dissolves into a bright ball of light. Within seconds the last particles of light fade into the air.

“Can I help you, Sunshine?” Mr. Packer asks, as if there wasn’t just an oozing ghost in his classroom. I open my eyes
and suddenly realize how ridiculous I looked standing in the middle of the room, my arm stretched out in front of me, my eyes closed.

“Um. No. I’m fine,” I answer, quickly sitting down as half the class laughs out loud. Before Mr. Packer can resume his lecture—and before my face can reach peak redness—the bell rings. I grab my things and rush out of the classroom. Why do luiseach have to come into their powers at sixteen? It’s hard enough being sixteen without having to deal with all of
this
at the same time. I run out into the parking lot and sigh with relief when I see Nolan’s lanky body leaning against the car, waiting for me.

“How are you feeling?” he asks, unaware of what just happened in bio.

It’s the first day back after winter break, and around us our classmates chatter about their Christmas presents and tropical vacations, about the trees they trimmed and the candles they lit, about the movies they saw and how late they slept. Their voices fill the air around us, and, still thinking about the woman I just helped move on, I can’t decide whether or not I’m glad I’m so different from them.

“Nervous,” I finally answer Nolan, brushing my long, curly brown hair away from my face with my fingers and securing it with an elastic band. I don’t want anything obstructing the view for what I’m about to do.

“Don’t be nervous,” Nolan says as we walk across the parking lot. “You’re a natural. You’ve done it once already, right?”

“Yeah, but that was just a practice run. And I wasn’t alone then.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” he offers.

“No,” I say, digging in my bag for the car keys. “I have to do it by myself.” Part of me does want Nolan to come with me,
though. He could grab the steering wheel if I suddenly have to help a spirit move on. But I don’t tell him that. I have to learn to be a luiseach
and
a functioning normal person at the same time. I unlock the door and toss my purple patch-covered backpack onto the backseat, then lean against our silver sedan beside Nolan. “I can do this. I can drive all the way to the hospital alone.”

Mom cringed when she handed me the keys this morning. I’ve had my license for months; I passed the test before we moved here from Austin, Texas, in August. But I haven’t been doing much driving. Before we moved, with my shiny new license burning a hole in my pocket, I thought I’d be begging Mom for time behind the wheel in our new hometown. But nothing’s been anything like I thought it would be since we moved here.

Mom works long hours, and I’m kind of trapped in the house when she’s not there. She finally offered to let me take the car to get myself to and from school—it’s a long walk, and January in Ridgemont, Washington, is flippin’ cold—but I had to promise to pick her up from the hospital whenever she needs a ride home. I’m happy to do it. I mean, it’s only fair, right? But the ride to the hospital isn’t exactly a nice straight line from point A to point B. I have to get on the freeway, and then I have to drive on the twisty road around the mountain that towers above our town. You’d think they’d have made the road to the hospital easier—I mean, ambulances have to get there at top speeds, right?

The truth is, it’s not really the twisty roads that have me worried; it’s the fact that my mentor/father, whose name I now know is Aidan, keeps sending lost spirits my way to remind me he’s waiting to talk to me. I wrap my arms around myself.

“Another spirit?” Nolan asks, lowering his voice to a whisper.

I nod, unable to speak because my teeth are chattering. I can’t see the spirit yet, but I know it’s near. Luckily, with Nolan standing close, I’m not
too
cold because being near him keeps me a little bit warmer. Still, I pull the too-long sleeves of my navy blue cardigan over my wrists because apparently when spirits touch me, my temperature plummets and my heart races. Which has happened
way
too many times in the forty-eight hours since I met Aidan. Well,
met
might be a bit of an overstatement.
Met
implies we shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, that kind of thing.

“You can’t avoid him forever, Sunshine,” Nolan says, leaning on the car beside me. He’s wearing a bluish-gray hooded sweatshirt with a scarf, gloves, and a rather silly-looking bright yellow snowcap with a red ball on the top. I’m still not entirely used to seeing him without his grandfather’s leather jacket. I’m not sure he even owns another coat. But on New Year’s Eve he gave me the jacket he loves so much and insisted I keep it even after all the craziness happened. It’s hanging in my closet at home now, still not entirely dry. “You should talk to him.”

“That would be a lot easier if I had the slightest idea of what I wanted to say to him.”

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. There are about a million things I want to say to him. Well, a million things I want to
ask
him: Why did you abandon me? How could you endanger my mother? Who is my birth mother? Where have you been all these years? Why haven’t you come forward until now? What made you think this was the right way to introduce yourself:
Hi, I stood by silently while your mother almost died so I could test you while you figured out you weren’t the person you thought you’d been your entire life—that, in fact, you weren’t technically a
person
at all?

But when he showed up in my driveway on New Year’s Day, I found myself completely tongue-tied. When he held out his hand and told me his name, explained who he was—my birth father, as if his milky-green cat eyes identical to mine didn’t do the talking for him—I could barely even control my muscles enough to make my own hand shake his. I opened my mouth, but the only sounds I could manage were pathetic little mumbles of
Whydidyou howcouldyou whendidyou
before I finally realized it was all too much. I shook my head and ran inside, leaving Nolan all alone on the porch with him.

The guy may have been my birth father, but he was also the person who put my mom—my adopted mom, but my
real
mom nonetheless—in danger so he could test my newly activated supernatural skills. I’d believed that when I finally saw him I’d give him—as Mom would say—a piece of my mind. But instead, my mind went totally, miserably, shockingly blank.

“He told me he needed to talk to you,” Nolan says for what’s probably the twelfth time.

“I know,” I answer. “But I’m not ready to talk to him yet.”

“I understand that.” Nolan nods slowly. “And I get where you’re coming from. But you’re going to have to talk to him eventually, so why not get it over with?”

Finally I spot the spirit that’s been making my teeth chatter. It’s a man in his midtwenties. Immediately I know his name was Ryan Palmer. His face is pale blue, his lips purple, and his eyes are blood shot. He drowned, and it looks like a terrible way to go. I step to the side of Nolan to reach the man and touch him on the shoulder. I close my eyes and help him move on. It feels as natural as breathing. I can’t tell if helping this amount of spirits is normal or if Aidan really is sending every single local spirit
in my direction. It feels like he thinks I need a reminder that he’s waiting. Like there’s even the slimmest, smallest chance I might forget he’s here.

That he’s my mentor.

That he’s my father.

That I’m a member of a race of magical-mystical-guardian-angel-types for the entire human species.

Those aren’t exactly the kind of details a girl could just forget willy-nilly. However much she might want to.

“Can we please, please change the subject?” I beg, squeezing the car keys in my hand so hard it hurts. Part of me just wants to go. To hop in the car and drive off before the next spirit is drawn to me. I mean, it may feel good to help the dead find peace, but it can also be quite frightening when someone didn’t die so peacefully and they suddenly appear. Luckily I haven’t had to help any murder victims yet.

“All right,” Nolan acquiesces, leaning against the car beside me. “What do you think of our new visual arts teacher?”

If I could playfully shove him like half the girls across the parking lot are doing with their boyfriends, I would. Not that Nolan is my boyfriend. He’s not exactly
not
my boyfriend either. I mean, he’s my boy and he’s my friend and he’s really cute (even with that ridiculous hat) and I’d love it if he
could
be my boyfriend, but we can’t touch each other because every time he gets too close, I get queasy and not in the weak-in-the-knees, good kind of way. Feeling ill every time the boy you like touches you has never been the opening setup to a great romance.

“That’s not really changing the subject,” I joke, smiling just a little bit. Our new visual arts teacher, Mrs. Johnson, is nothing at all like our old one. Victoria Wilde wasn’t even a teacher at
all, it turned out. Aidan planted her at Ridgemont High just so she and I could find each other. But now she’s gone, and I don’t know where.

“I should get going,” I say finally, pushing myself off of the car. “I can’t put this off much longer.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Nolan answers, but we both know he’s not talking about driving.

“Plus, if I have to look at that silly hat any longer, I might have a seizure or something.” I grin, glad that I managed to make a joke. Nolan smiles, impervious to my teasing.

I settle into the driver’s seat, checking my mirrors and adjusting my seat even though I already did all of that before I drove to school this morning. I push my sleeves back up over my wrists so my hands are free to grip the steering wheel. The door still open, Nolan leans down to say good-bye.

Looking through my windshield, I see other girls kissing their boyfriends before they drive away. Maybe I’ll have to add that to my list of questions for Aidan, if I can just get my vocal chords to work in his presence next time I see him: Why can’t I kiss the boy I like so much?

No. I will not ask him that. That’s way too personal for a person I barely know, even if he is my birth father. Anyway, I don’t even know whether Nolan
wants
me to kiss him. He’s never tried to kiss me. But, then again, the past few months since we met haven’t exactly been romantic; in fact, they’ve been terrifying. A high creepiness factor doesn’t really lend itself to lingering stares and heaving bosoms and long walks in the rain across the moors.

Get a grip, Sunshine. You’re a luiseach, not the main character in a Brontë novel.

“Good luck!” Nolan shouts, shutting the door for me.

BOOK: The Awakening of Sunshine Girl (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl)
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