Welcome to the blog tour for Airel by Aaron Patterson and Chris White!
Aaron Patterson is a NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author of over a dozen novels. He writes hard-boiled thrillers and young adult fantasy. He was home-schooled and grew up in the west. Aaron loved to read as a small child and would often be found behind a book, reading one to three a day on average. This love drove him to want to write, but he never thought he had the talent. He wrote Sweet Dreams, the first book in the WJA series, in 2008. Airel is his first teen series, and plans for more are in the works. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his family.
I WOKE UP THE next morning with the never-ending headache and dried tears on my face. I couldn’t remember much about what had happened after I’d come home yesterday. I had a vague recollection of Kim putting me to bed and Mom coming in at some point with a worried look on her face.
I did remember parts of a nightmare. There was a black figure—a horrible, cloaked presence trailing black tar coming after me. I had to admit that scared the crap out of me. Dreams could be weird sometimes, that much I knew from experience, but I’d never had any that were quite so vividly terrifying.
Lying in bed, processing, I tried to wriggle out from the remains of yesterday. It had wrapped me up in a cocoon of thoughts and a tangle of blankets. I finally realized that I had swapped ends in the night; my head was at the foot of my bed and my feet were on my pillow. Whoa, I must have slept rough—rougher than usual, anyway. After a few minutes, I pulled myself up on my elbows and looked at the clock. Wonder of all wonders, it was still early and I had time before school. I struggled out of bed—backwards—and trudged to the bathroom. Guess bad dreams have good points to them. At least I have time for a decent start to my day. Maybe today will be better.
Inevitably, I thought about him—the boy who I felt knew me. Michael Alexander fluttered into and around my thoughts, and I started to blush again. I couldn’t explain what was happening to me. Why do I react like this to him? It was really weird, because I could see his face just as clearly as if he was standing right in front of me. Normally I couldn’t do that with guys I liked. Come on, Airel. Get a hold of yourself. You haven’t said two words to him, and you like him already? What a moron.
I turned the shower to super-hot and waited for the warmth to kick in. I looked in the mirror and noticed that the normal dark circles under my eyes were surprisingly faint this morning. I would have thought that after a day and night like I’d just had, I’d look like the corpse bride.
I flashed my fake smile into the mirror, and that made me smile for real. I didn’t really think I was “all that,” but I knew I had a few good things going for me. I felt like I looked really good today, and I had just rolled out of bed. That made me smile even more.
After a long, hot shower, I pulled on my blue jeans and my favorite T-shirt—the one with Bob Marley on it. I pulled my hair back in a ponytail. I always had to do that after a shower—otherwise, it would get frizzy and curl like no one’s business, turning into a puffball or a fro.
I headed downstairs, not having to sprint for once. Our house was like most, with several bedrooms, a family room, and a big kitchen. The upstairs was where my room was, plus my parents’ room and two spare rooms: one for guests, one for Kim. She stayed the night at least three times a week. Most of the time she just slept on the floor in my room, even though Mom had set her up with her own, and we would end up talking all night. So her room was mostly just a landing place for all her junk.
I put two strawberry Pop-Tarts in the toaster, noticing for the first time that it was raining outside. Great. One last day of sunshine yesterday and I was sick for most of it. I made a mental note to grab a light jacket before I left the house. I felt fine today, I noticed. Other than the bad dream, I felt good. I looked good, and I knew it. I wanted to get out and do something after school, but figured it was too cold and rainy.
I nibbled my Pop-Tarts, which tasted good all the way down to my painfully empty stomach. I really hoped I’d be able to keep it down today. Michael’s face presented itself in my memory. I tried to banish him from my mind. I had to squash any thought of him—I didn’t need or want that kind of drama in my life right now.
I grabbed my jacket and started for the door, trying not to wake my mom. She never slept in and today was her day off, so I knew she would want to. She was like most moms. Protective and maybe a bit overbearing, but she meant well and I knew it. She worked at a flower shop. Not that she had to, but she liked to keep busy.
Since I was an only child and in school most of the day, she would climb the walls all alone if she didn’t do something, so Dad had told her to go find something she would enjoy. She found a little shop called Just Flowers and started working there years ago. I teased her constantly about being so old-fashioned—such a stereotypical housewife, working at a flower shop—but she loved all things plants. If it was nice out, she could be found without exception in the yard, planting, digging, or pulling weeds. We had the nicest yard in the neighborhood.
As for Dad, well, I wasn’t sure exactly what he did, but he was gone a lot. He was a sales rep for some company or other—it didn’t matter much to me. He was a quiet guy and didn’t bring his job home. He got bonuses sometimes, which we always used to go on family vacations. Those times were the happiest for me, when we were all together.
Last summer was the best. Dad took us all to Disney World, and I even got to bring Kim along. Her mom was cool with stuff like that. Kim’s dad left when she was young, so she was basically part of our family.
The rain was really coming down, so I ran to my car, hoping to dodge the raindrops. I opened the driver’s door to my Honda and got in. Before I could turn the key, I felt a horrendous, debilitating pain dragging razor blades up and down my arms and legs, deep inside me. “Owww,” I shrieked before I could stop myself. But then, just as fast as it had come, it was gone, and I was left sitting there in its wake, hyperventilating and wondering what was wrong with me.
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