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Here is a copy of the first chapter to my debut novel: Anna’s Song: Cries From the Earth, Book 1. (available here!) I hope you enjoy and if you do, please tell a friend!
BEFORE I FELL THROUGH the water, I thought I was crazy. “Hey, doc, you know that sister of mine everyone presumes dead? She’s alive just like I said. Yes, sir. Saw her yesterday, in my bathroom mirror.”
“Of course, you will ‘see’ Adeline in the mirror,” my imaginary psychiatrist replies, chuckling like it’s some private joke. “After all, you do look alike.”
Adeline is my twin sister. Identical in every way except for a birthmark, a scar, and some serious leg muscles.
I run when I’m upset, and I’ve been running a lot. You see, ten months, eleven days, and somewhere between twelve and sixteen hours ago, Adeline disappeared.
The first time I saw my missing sister, I had just gotten out of the shower, and the mirror was all misty. Opening the door to let some of the extra moisture dissipate, I glanced up, and there she was, staring back at me through the myriad droplets on the glass. For a moment, I thought it was my own reflection, but her hair was dry, and, suffice it to say, we weren’t exactly in the same state of dress. She looked as astonished as I felt, and when the mirror cleared, she was gone.
With my heart pounding something awful, I staggered to my room and collapsed on the edge of my bed, forcing myself to take slow, deep breaths, and thinking I had seen a ghost. But she was no ghost. You can’t be a ghost if you’re still among the living.
People keep saying she’s dead. I know better.
There’s this thing about twins. We know stuff about each other in ways most singletons can’t comprehend. Adeline and I never feel each other’s pain. When she broke her arm, mine felt fine. When my appendix ruptured, she didn’t writhe in bed. We don’t read each other’s thoughts, but we often perceive what the other is thinking. We aren’t much alike, outside of appearances. Still, I can always tell my sister is, in the same way I know I am. I can sense her heart beating as sure as I sense my own. I feel her soul the same way the first violinist can feel the music playing around her. We gave up trying to explain this to people. It’s like pointing out a complex harmony to someone who is tone deaf. I hear her in my very bones.
The next morning, there in the mist of the mirror, she stands. I blink hard, trying to keep myself calm, and raise my right hand in a stiff wave. “It’s just me,” I whisper to the image in front of me. Maybe, if I say it enough, my imagination will back off. “It’s just my reflection.”
She raises her right hand. Her right, not the mirror image of mine, and wiggles her fingers in a tentative wave. I open the door and run.
Determined to never look in the mirror again, I ignore the crushing tension in my chest, squeezing me until I want to weep, or scream, or both. Instead, I go about singing at the top of my lungs until the neighbor’s dog yowls in protest, and all crawly creatures evacuate the region.
Okay, I exaggerate. I do that a lot.
Then I run like twenty times around the block.
Three days pass, and my nails are nubbins, the neighbors are complaining, and I do what any sane person does to relax. Take a bath. A nice, long, hot bath. It works. It works so well I forget not to look in the mirror when I get out.
There she is, looking down at me like she’s looking down a well. Her hair is pulled back tight against her scalp and into a bun. What? Adeline isn’t vain, but this is beyond even her lack of style. The phantom image laughs and lifts up a newspaper. The paper’s name, underlined three times, catches my eye. It’s not one I’m familiar with. In the corner, the date is circled. Beneath the two, penned in my sister’s meticulous handwriting, is a message. I lean in closer, rub my eyes, and read it again.
This can’t be real.
She shrugs and fades along with the tiny droplets, leaving me in stunned silence.
Standing there like someone super glued my feet to the floor, I stare at the mirror. My true reflection is all that remains, eyes large, gripped with the fear of seeing “her” again, and terrified that I may not.
The harsh jangle of the phone jerks me back to the present. No one calls me except for telemarketers and political fundraisers. I let the answering machine respond.
“Hi! You’ve reached the Johnson sisters. Please leave a message.” Adeline’s voice echoes through the room, a voice that once filled every day of my life.
I will never change that recording.
“Miss Johnson, this is Sergeant Bowman. Could you—”
I grab at the phone before he can hang up. “Yes, this is Anna Marie.
“No. I’m sorry.” The voice on the other end hesitates. “Anna Marie? Could you come by the office? Perhaps in the morning? We need to discuss a few things.”
“I’ll be right over.” I hang up before he has a chance to protest. Already I’m pulling on a pair of jeans. Grabbing the first t-shirt I find, I wiggle it over my head and rush out the door. My flip-flops thump, thump, thump as I run across the front porch, down the stairs, and to my car.
Adeline. She’s out there somewhere. I have to find her.
I park in front of the handicap sign—it’s the only vacant spot close to the front door of our diminutive police department. Inside, Officer Walker glances up and clears his throat. Not making eye contact, he busies himself rearranging files in the cabinet. Sergeant Bowman is at his desk, and by the slump of his shoulders I know I will not appreciate what he has to say.
Coldness grips my stomach. I clench my fists and march to the chair in front of his desk where I’ve sat on so many visits before. I notice my shirt is inside out. Doesn’t matter. Nerves make my legs tingle and burn as they bounce in agitated excitement. An overwhelming urge to run hits me, but I don’t. I need to know what he knows.
Three folders are laid out on the desk in front of him. Adeline’s is open, pages dog-eared and worn. Her high school graduation picture, a staple puncturing top and bottom, smiles from the upper left corner. Adeline Johnson, age 18, DOB 1/31/1995. Missing 8/21/2013. Every report, every picture inside is burned deep into my memory.
The other two folders sit alongside my sister’s. I glance at them, then look away. My heart is cold as stone. These belong to our parents. They left us, and I’m to blame.
Sofia Johnson, age 27, DOB 9/27/1974 Missing 9/11/2001. Case unresolved.
Roger Johnson, age 34, DOB 12/10/1968. Missing 10/12/2002. Case unresolved.
We were seven when Mama left, eight when our father followed suit.
“Thank you for coming.” Sergeant Bowman pulls at his collar and glances up at the clock like he wishes he were anywhere but here.
Our eyes lock for a brief moment before he looks away.
“I wish I had better news. You know I spent hours on your sister’s case, particularly in light of similar reports about your parents.” He closes Adeline’s folder, rests his hands, palms down, over the top. His little finger is blocking her face.
I want to reach over and move his hand.
“The fact is, we have no clues about what happened to your sister. The more time that passes, the less likely we are to find any. The case is cold, Anna, and I can’t in good conscience spend more tax dollars without a lead.”
I’m shaking my head. No. No. Please. Ringing echoes in my ears, and I compel myself to breathe. I stare at his Adam’s apple. It slides down below the rim of his collar and up again as he swallows. Behind us, the drawer on a file cabinet slams shut.
“I’m sorry, Hon.” The Sergeant rearranges his collar once more. “The department is calling off the investigation.”
I blink, my vision narrowing.
“You can’t do this.” My voice breaks. This man knows my sister. We went to school with his children. He always bought way more Girl Scout cookies from us than any two-man
police department could eat. How can he give up? “You don’t understand. She’s out there!”
I’m standing now. “Sir, I’ve borrowed against the house. Every penny I make goes to searching for Adeline. I have nothing left. You gotta help me find her!”
“Anna Marie, she likely drowned. You know that. The underground caves, perhaps. No one knows, but her body—”
“No!” Tears will not flow. Crying is for the weak. I see nothing but my anger, my frustration.
Why doesn’t anyone understand? Adeline is every bit alive as I am. She needs me. I have to make him listen.
It’s not my fault the Sergeant has a real letter opener out on his desk. I mean, really, someone who deals with criminals for a living should know better, even if we live in Po-dunk, Missouri where nothing ever happens. Except to my family. When my vision clears, we both stare at the wavering letter opener embedded deep into the wood of the desk. Blood oozes from the webbing between the Sergeant’s thumb and fore- finger where I nicked it.
Strong hands grab me. Officer Walker is twisting my arms behind me, pulling me away. I struggle, kicking, writhing, trying to get free.
“No!” I moan, my knees giving way as my energy evaporates into despair. “Please. She’s alive. I still feel her.”