Author: Nicole Zoltack
Genre: YA Paranormal
Title: Crystal’s Magic
Crystal rubbed her eyes and leaned back onto the hard plastic chair. She could feel a headache coming on from staring at the computer screen for so long.
“What’s wrong?” her mom asked as she came into the living room.
“It’s this project for history class. I can’t find enough information from credible websites.” She made air quotes and huffed out a breath. “And it’s due tomorrow.”
Her mom shook her head. “It’s not like you to wait until the last minute to get your homework done.”
Crystal shifted to look at her mom. “What’s all that?” she asked, nodding to the two large trash bags her mom held.
“I was doing some cleaning up in the attic. So much crud up there it isn’t funny. I don’t know why I kept so many doubles of pictures… We’re lucky the house hasn’t caught on fire, but at least I’m making some progress. In fact, I’m going to head to the bakery to get a cupcake.” She wagged a finger at Crystal. “I’ll pick you up one but you can only eat it after you finish your project.”
“Yum!” Crystal jumped up and kissed her mom on the cheek. “I’ll take these out back for you.” She reached for the bags.
Her mom hesitated before handing them over. “Thanks, honey. I’ll be back soon.”
Crystal waved, then lugged the bags through the dining room to the kitchen. She dropped the bags so she could open the back door. As she lifted one of the bags, it ripped open and pictures scattered across the floor.
She opened another bag and shoved the pictures into it. One caught her eye: a picture of her grade school graduation, her gown too long and slightly wrinkled, her mom grinning wider than Crystal.
Smiling at the three-year-old picture, Crystal tucked it into her jean pocket before retrieving all of the other pictures. She brought the pages onto the back porch. A warm breeze caressed her face, and she closed her eyes, leaning into it. Something crinkled beneath her foot, and she bent down to pick up yet another picture.
Crystal gasped and blinked, unsure of what she was seeing. A lump formed in her throat, and her mouth grew dry as she tried to swallow it away.
A tall man wore a broad smile, his dark hair streaked with a little white on the side. The woman beside him wore the same smile. She had long, chocolate brown hair and soft brown eyes.
Crystal could have been twins with the woman in the picture.
The lump moved down into her chest and grew to be the size of a rock. Her trembling fingers held the picture so loosely, the breeze teased it free from her grasp, and it fluttered to the ground like a leaf. The woman stared up at her, smiling the same smile Crystal had.
How could this be? Who was the woman?
Crystal snatched the picture and flipped it over, hoping their names would be written there, but the back was blank.
Her knees buckled, and she sat down. Dimly, she realized the porch was in desperate need of sweeping, but she still sat there. She pulled out the graduation picture and compared the photos.
She looked exactly like the unknown woman.
She looked nothing like her mom.
The rock-size lump in her chest sank into her stomach, and she felt queasy. Could she have been adopted? Could this woman be her birth mother?
Dizzy, scared, unsure what to think, Crystal shakily climbed to her feet. It wouldn’t be long before her mom returned from the bakery, and although her emotions were a swirling mess, she knew she did not want to see her mom right now. She went into the house, left a note for her mom on the fridge that said she was at the library, and left.
It didn’t take her long to reach the library—she jogged the entire way, trying to outrun her thoughts, to leave her emotions behind. She found some books and worked on her project, but the distraction only worked for a half hour. Her mind refused to focus, and she kept rubbing the photos through her jeans.
Finally, she walked over to the computer lab and pulled out the photo of the couple. She stared at the picture, willing it to give her some clue as to who they were, where they were. The strange shape in the background… was the cone a volcano?
Crystal did a search for volcanoes and eventually realized they were standing in front of Diamond Head in Hawaii. Since they weren’t Hawaiian, she assumed they were there as tourists. Maybe on their honeymoon? Although the little bit of white suggested that he wasn’t young. Or maybe he was prematurely turning white?
She opened up another window and was about to search for information on adoptions when she noticed the time. Instead of jumping to her feet and rushing out like she should have, she stared at the couple some more. She loved her mom. Sure, they didn’t always get along, but her mom was always there for her. These people—if they were her birth parents—she never knew them. Yet she felt a burning desire to get to know them, as if she wouldn’t be complete until she knew their story. Why had they given her up for adoption? Why hadn’t they wanted to keep her?
With these thoughts, she gathered her things. Still holding the Hawaiian picture, she pushed open the library door to see the drooping sun splash cherries and mangoes across the sky. Her school bag bounced on her back as she walked the quiet streets of Claymore. She nodded to the few people she passed, but soon she was alone as twilight descended, and a few stars began to twinkle in the sky.
It was much darker than she expected. Her mother had to be worrying about her right now. If Crystal had a cell phone, she could call to let her mom know she was on her way home, but no, Crystal had to be the only junior—probably the only teenager in her high school—who didn’t own one.
A sudden gust of wind blew the picture from her hand. She tore after it, chasing it down alleys and across the empty streets. Finally, she grabbed it and returned it to her pocket.
She glanced up. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized she didn’t know where she was. Darkness colored the brick buildings, giving them an almost sinister feel. The icy tendrils of fear squeezed her heart.
Her head held high, she turned around and marched the way she thought she’d come. Claymore looked different this late at night. The trees seemed bigger, the pavement more uneven.
Where was the library? If she could just find it, she would know how to get home.
A figure appeared at the edge of the sidewalk. Claymore wasn’t a big town, and she knew almost everybody, but she didn’t recognize the person.
A cloud shifted and blocked the moon. The void of light made her panic, and she ducked down an alley. Although it was even darker than the street, at least she was alone again. The stench of rotting garbage seared her nose. Holding her breath, she picked up her pace. If she could just find a recognizable landmark…
None of the buildings looked familiar, and the cloud still blocked the moon.