Chapter 1 (Jasmine’s POV)
“Close the windows, Mom!” I shout down the stairs, “It’s freezing in here!”
Goosebumps reappear on my skin as I rummage through my closet to find a thicker blanket. Finally I find a horrendous blue and green plaid comforter and wrap it tightly around my shoulders. Even under my thick, black velvet pants I can practically feel my skin freezing, similar to the wet tree limbs turning to a frozen, slippery death trap. That is for those of us who climb trees. Me being one of them.
“I just closed all the windows!” My mother, Sofia, calls back to me from downstairs, repeating her previous motions with frustration. Then with a horrible cackle, my little brother Christopher, fourteen years old, runs by with a spare sheet tied around his neck like a cape shouting, “I am the window opener!”
“That’s a horrible name,” I mumble while walking down the stairs to join her in our small effort to stop the vigilante.
My mother nods in agreement before retreating to the kitchen, signaling her defeat.
I roll my eyes and begin to chase my brother around our living room. I’m careful not to hit the knee-high coffee table that sits in the middle of our c-shaped couch. My brother is not so observant.
He goes down head first into our crème rug. I pray there’s no blood. It’d be impossible to clean a red stain from nearly white rug. Thanks to tree climbing, I’m stronger than most girls at 16, so I’m able to pick my brother up with one arm and haul him to the kitchen where my mother waits with a hot rag for his busted lip. He sits in one of the higher chairs so he’s equal height with my mother. She’s a petite woman with long curly dark hair, eyes, and tan skin. She’s curvy and all of her clothes accentuate her feminine features. Most of her friends say I look just like her. I suppose that’s true, if you squint.
Christopher, Chris for short, sticks out his bottom lip and looks at me with his big brown eyes pleadingly. He knows it doesn’t work on me, only Dad, but he tries anyway.
“That’s pathetic, Chris. The puppy dog eyes don’t work on me.” I say, pinching his cheek.
He bats my hand away, grabs the rag from my mom and heads up the stairs, stomping as he goes.
“He sure knows how to make a scene, doesn’t he?” My mother asks me.
“He gets it from you, right?” I tease her.
“Nah, he gets it from me,” My father walks through the front door and squeezes my shoulders from behind. “Hey Dad.” I turn half way and look up.
“Hey, Pumpkin,” He replies, ruffling my hair.
My Father stands at least a foot taller than me. He’s a tall, lean man with a head full of brown hair. He’s not as tan as my mother and me, but he’s not fair either.
Surprisingly, he’s home from work early today. He usually works well into the wee hours of the morning. He works for the government of Keystark, a foreign diplomat. He visits many of the countries besides Germany in this area; especially Russia recently. That’s all he’s been talking about. Our family has even had to host meetings for his colleagues to come to our home to work. I had to give up my bedroom three times in the last month. I haven’t been pleased.
“When are they arriving?” I hear my mother whisper to my father as she turns away, pretending I can’t hear her.
“Who?” I demand.
An awkward silence fills the room. I don’t think they’ve realized I’m not deaf. The conversations are like this every day. My parents ignore my existence and keep talking about these people. They don’t have a name. Just, they.
Quite frankly, I’ve had enough.
I walk to where they’re standing, push myself in between them, and glare hard. First at my mother for her constant secrecy and irritating demeanor; then at my father, for the constant lack of maturity he shows by not involving his family. As a young girl, all I ever heard was family is number one. Keep your family first. Number one priority. But now… we’ve been thrown out the window and replaced by a group of people known as they.
“Who are they?” I demand again. My voice shakes just enough to where only I can hear it.
“None of your business, Jasmine.” my father critiques. My mother nods her head in agreement, pushing me out of the room. But that’s the difference between my family and me. I’ve never easily accepted no for an answer.
As if electricity flew through my body, my reflexes cause me to move my mother behind me at full speed and push my father into the kitchen cabinets. I’m seething. I’m sure if you squinted, there would be foam around my mouth. “Who. Are. They?” I speak lowly. Almost a growl.
My father backs down almost immediately. His hands go up in surrender, so I back away. He begins to open his mouth, the words on the tip his tongue, when…
“I’ll get it!” Chris shouts from the top of the stairs. Even with the side of his mouth still puffy from the earlier accident, he managed to change clothes into a white button down shirt and khaki pants.
Halfway down the stairs, he glances my mom, noticing her fists tensed at her side. He’s always been closer to my mom than me. He gives her a kiss on the cheek and goes to answer the door. I glance to my right barely quick enough to see her release her clenched fists.
Still in the kitchen, my father gathers himself, smoothing his black jacket down with both hands. “You will behave yourself.” He whispers in the left ear. It’s not a cruel demand, almost pleading in a way. He knows I could ruin his whole job, with one word. But I won’t say anything, because he’s my father. And family doesn’t do that.
The whole room is silent as Chris opens the door.
“Good evening, Mr. Richter. Thank you for welcoming us into your home.”
There are four people at my doorstep. I can’t see them all at once, but most appear to be young men and women. Maybe a bit older than me. The first is a woman; I’d guess around twenty-two years of age. She wears navy blue dress pants and a matching jacket. Under her jacket is a white blouse with a collar. Although, my eyes are immediately drawn to the lapel pin she is wearing.
It’s crystal blue with white eyes. If you stare long enough, the wings almost appear to move. Momentarily entranced, I missed her walk through the doorframe and make our living room her home. She has long black hair with chocolate brown highlights and very blue eyes.
“Do you like my broach?”
“Huh?” I ask, only after realizing she was talking to me.
“My broach?” She points to the bird. “You like it?”
“Oh, yes. It’s beautiful.” I reply sweetly. All smiles for Daddy.
She stands back up from where she was sitting on the couch in the living room and walks over to me. “I’m Camryn Jones.” She sticks out her hand forcefully.
I take it. “Jasmine Richter,” I reply evenly.
“Oh! You’re Mr. Richter’s daughter! Obviously…” Her demeanor changes almost immediately. I really wouldn’t care for special treatment, but right about now, I just don’t want to end up grounded.
Her hand goes up to my hair and twirls it between her fingers, “Your hair is so pretty!” She squeals with delight.
“Oh… Thank you. I get it from my mother.”
“Here, here. You have to meet Delia.” She grabs my hand and pulls me through the throng of people talking to my father.
We pass by one of the men that came, a name I think I hear in passing, as Mitch Zelder, and approach a girl with extremely long white blonde hair. Her eyes have no pigment…. They almost look red. Albino, people call it, I think, It works for her.
She’s so thin you can see her blue veins visibly through her skin. Her bone structure is profound. She’s similar to a walking ghost. Visibly, she is one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever seen. Though, I’m most drawn to her hands. They are covered in black marks; patterns, designs. I think I spy the symbol for recovery, when…
“Jasmine. This is Delia MacIntire.” Camryn introduces us.
Delia sticks out her hand and smiles gracefully. For a split second, I question sticking my hand out at all. I’m scared I’ll break her. Yet I do it anyway. I extend my hand to meet hers.
“Ouch.” I accidently say out loud as I’m surprised by her strength.
Her and Camryn giggle. Camryn turns to Delia, “She’s the first to say it out loud, huh?”
“Most people try to hide their shock, not you. You’ll fit in with us just fine.” Delia says to me.
“How are you….?” I can’t even find the right word for the situation. My awe.
“Strong? Still alive?” She finishes for me. Then her voice gets really quiet. “I honestly have no idea.”
I nod slowly. I glance backwards and notice there is still someone standing in the doorway.
“I should probably go let everyone in. It was nice to meet you both.” I say, backing away.
They both smile back at me. “Okay. See you around, Jasmine.” The response is unison. Their voices find the exact same pitch and resonate in my living room, quite loudly. Even calling my Father’s attention away from his conversation with Mitch… or whatever his name is.
“I’ll get the door.” I mumble under my breath, shoving my father lightly as I walk by.
One person remains outside. I can tell he’s male from his broad stature. His hair is a white blonde, similar to Delia. My heart quickens.
I urge my pulse to diminish, for I’m sure everyone within a five-mile radius could hear my heavy breathing. In this moment, I’d rather be dead than do what I’m about to do.
“Um… Excuse me?” I cough heavily and I know I sound out of breath. Great second impression, Jasmine.
“Yes? Do I need to come inside?” He asks confidently. Not even a split second flicker in his eyes. He has no idea who I am.
His blue eyes aren’t full of fire anymore. They’re ice cold. Scary almost, if I think about it too long. He’s grown up and I haven’t. I remember the day he left like it was yesterday. It seemed to flash before my eyes -
“I’ll come back for you.” He breathed into my hair. “This isn’t over. Not until we’re together.”
- as he walked right past me and into my house.
The first love of my life.
Has no idea who I am.