Global warming is creating havoc, and 17 year-old Haley is the key to ending it. Can she put her personal desires aside to save the world from fiery destruction?
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Dale Ibitz, Author
The gods of nature are at war, and Earth is in chaos. During a home invasion, seventeen-year-old Haley is tumbled to Eyidora, the battle ground globe for the gods of nature. As descendant of the God of Air, Haley's called upon to stop the war.
But Haley has a problem. Actually, two problems. One named Tuggin, and one named Ian.
Both lie to her. Both have secrets. And neither are who they say they are. Haley's forced to make a choice that will decide the fate of all the worlds. But who should she trust, who should she fight, and who is the one with fire in his blood bent on betraying them all?
“The severe drought that has plagued the southeast for the past six months, killing hundreds of cattle and crippling wildlife, is migrating north. Most of the southern New England states haven’t seen rain for six months, and current weather patterns indicate this trend will continue indefinitely, making for an unusually dry, warm fall. Wildfires in the Midwest have now consumed thousands of acres, dozens of homes, and a total of ten casualties. Rain continues to drench southern California, creating another mudslide which has claimed six more homes and a family of four. One hundred sixty people have died from a deadly tornado outbreak that covered the states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. In other news…”
My hand shot out, slapped the radio button, and cut off the reporter’s dispassionate voice. My window fan whirred softly, but the cool night air had already dissipated, so the fan did nothing more than circulate warm air across my skin. I laid in bed in a tank top and undies, a bead of sweat trailing down my hairline to my jaw, where it detoured to slide down my neck. My stomach cramped, and my mouth was dry. I reached for the water I kept on my nightstand and drank it down.
I was starting to understand the old adage “kill the messenger”. The message these days was never good, all about droughts and fires and tornado outbreaks. It seemed the Earth pulsed with its own message to the inhabitants that had been abusing it for centuries; a message of doom and destruction.
I yawned then breathed deeply, wishing for the cool and damp Northeast fall air. Instead, the air smelled dry and hot, like old pine needles baking in the sun. Despite the weather man’s promise last night of a “desperately-needed soaking rain after midnight”, it definitely hadn’t rained.
I rubbed my eyes then swung my feet off the bed. That weatherman should be called a “whether-man”, because no one knew whether the man actually knew what he was talking about.
The distant rumble of Kent Falls—Kent, Connecticut’s two-hundred-fifty-foot claim to fame—barely squeezed through the screen of my open window. How long would it take a drought to suck all the moisture from the falls? I shivered at the thought. I’d been hiking to the falls every day since June, and I could swear it was shrinking, not that anyone would listen to the dire musings of some hick sixteen year-old.
Wait. Check that.
Seventeen year-old. Today was my birthday.
With a squeal, I peered at my newly seventeen year-old self in the mirror, checking out my front-end, back-end and everything in between. I twisted my lips. Obviously, turning seventeen hadn’t miraculously made me…what? Different? Cool? I pressed my hands to my breast bone and held my breath, but my chest didn’t look any bigger. I laughed to myself. As if sprouting boobs during the night would make any difference. Haley Roble would never be a hall goddess, that was for damn sure.
After a quick “water-saving” shower, I dressed in a pink t-shirt and a pair of jeans with a hole in one knee. I debated whether to pull back my hair into a ponytail, but after inspecting my should-length hair, which wasn’t frizzing and actually looked nearly sleek, I decided I shouldn’t hide a good hair day behind a rubber band.
Skipping down the stairs, I stopped in our cracked, yellow kitchen for a piece of toast. Mom, despite her blonde bed-head and blue terry robe, still managed to look runway-ready as her blue eyes gazed into her coffee cup.
Being adopted, I had no one to blame for my less-than-model looks. My petite frame resembled a tom-boy, and my gray eyes seemed faded in my pale face, unless I wore make-up to brighten them. I kind of rocked the hair department, thick and straight, though the color bordered on mousy. My clothes situation, however, was on a good-will basis, and my chest area was a total bust—not exactly a combination that attracted hall gods.
Mom kissed my cheek. “Happy birthday, Haley.”
“Thanks, Mom.” I ate my toast quickly, trying to get it all in before she had the chance to get dressed and insist on driving me to school. Maybe, since I was now seventeen, Mom would make her smother-hood a thing of the past.
“I over-slept. Let me get dressed,” she said, as though reading my thoughts.
“No worries. I’m good with taking the bus. See you later.” I swallowed the last of my toast, pecked her cheek, grabbed my backpack, and dashed outside before she could lay out the old Mom-veto. “Love you!” I called over my shoulder.
Slipping my arms through the backpack straps, I detoured through the yard, my feet crunching over the brown grass. I checked the level of seed in the bird feeders, and made sure there was water in the bird bath, before hitting the road.
Bird calls echoed through the woods, the trees so thick that they barred almost all daylight from touching the road. I raised my chin, gazing at the trees towering over me like a protective shield, then down at the dying wildflowers wilting in beds of shriveled leaves. Minutes later, I reached the bus stop. I sat on a fallen tree and breathed deeply. It actually did smell like rain. I nibbled my lip, trying not to get my hopes up while I glanced at the gray sky.
No other kids showed up at the stop, most of them choosing to bum rides from other kids or parents rather than ride the bus. I didn’t mind; I liked being alone. I poked a limp golden rod, and dry seeds pattered to the ground. I just didn’t get other kids. It was like they lived by different rules, and someone had forgotten to give me the rule book. Most of them looked at me like I was a nut-job cat lady who’d not only lost her marbles, but chucked them at people’s heads. Not that I cared, of course, what they thought of me. The only opinion that mattered was Elana’s, my best friend.
A bit of pride filled my chest. Tall, willowy, blonde Elana had dissed the hall goddess crowd and chosen me as her friend. I smiled. While the friendship hadn’t upgraded my nobody- status to somebody-status, it proved that maybe I wasn’t such a loser after all.
A car door slammed, and my back stiffened. A moment later, a blue SUV rumbled past. I sighed in relief that it wasn’t Mom coming for me, and then narrowed my eyes. Mom had still been undressed at 6:15 in the morning. Now that was a first. Mom was by-the-book rigid to the point of suffocation, and considered timeliness—not cleanliness—next to Godliness, though I’d never actually heard her mention God in all my seventeen years. Or maybe it was over-protectiveness next to Godliness. She had that down to a science.
She hated me taking the bus to school, and she inspected every potential friend as if she might have a secret identity as an axe murderer (which is why I’d never brought Elana to the house). Basically, she hated me doing anything on my own. My stomach twisted. I hated being treated like a little kid.
“Stop it!” I ordered myself, already feeling guilty for those thoughts. Mom had adopted me, and given me a great home. I would do anything for Mom. Well, except stay a child.
I caught a leaf as it fluttered past my face.
The leaves, which should have been sparkling with fall colors of gold, red and orange, were brown. I ran a finger over the wrinkles in the leaf, and then folded it, the brittle, crackling sound making me wince. As I wondered if all my fears about global climate change and the destruction of Earth was finally becoming a reality, something wet pinged my nose.
Rubbing my arm across my face, I searched the trees for the shooter of what I was sure had been a spit ball.
Ping! Ping! Ping!
“Rain!” I raised my face to the weeping sky.
The skies opened up, and within minutes the hard ground turned into mud. Okay, so technically the “whether man” had been right; it was after midnight. I dashed for shelter under a large oak tree. My feet slid in the mud and shot into the air. I landed on my butt.
I sat with my mouth open, and then sputtered as it filled with rain. Launching myself to my feet, I took shelter beneath the tree, but the damage was done; I was soaked to the skin. Water dripped down my face and I danced from foot to foot until, finally, the bus creaked up the hill. I hauled myself up the bus steps. I squished into an empty seat in the front, settled my soaked backpack next to me, and watched rain slice down the window. So much for a good hair day.
The rain had stopped by the time the bus reached the school. I could hit the bathroom before class started and try to do some damage control…if I hurried. I jogged down the hall, my sneakers squelching on the tile and my wet jeans chafing my thighs as I wove through the mass of students. Speeding around a corner, my sneakers squeaked when I tried to stop before sliding into a girl. We collided and tumbled to the floor, my backpack taking most of the impact. A few kids stopped to snicker.
I pursed my lips, my stomach clenching and my face burning. I’d just bowled down one of the hall goddesses. For the most part, the hall gods and goddesses looked through me as if I was nothing but a puff of air, but there was no hiding this time, especially since I was practically sitting on one.
“Sorry,” I said, skooching back on my butt until I was a safe distance away.
The girl lay on her side and wailed. I shifted on my butt cheeks. Had I hit her that hard?
A second hall goddess towered over me, hazel eyes glaring and strawberry blonde ponytail whipping across her shoulders as her head swiveled between me and Brianna. My stomach sunk slowly, as though mired in mud. This goddess was none other than the head cheerleader, the queen goddess herself.
The goddess pulled Brianna to her feet. “Did that loser knock you down?”
Brianna covered her face with her hands and continued crying.
“Did she hurt you?” the cheerleader demanded.
I tried to look somewhat dignified, sitting on my dirty butt in the middle of the floor, with soggy hair stuck to my face and muddy shoes smearing the linoleum.
“I—Ian dumped me!” Brianna bawled.
I couldn’t stop the gasp. Ian Blais was a crazy-gorgeous senior. With deliciously dark hair sweeping in a just-got-out-of-bed way across steamy green eyes, he had half the high school girls panting at his boot heels.
Including me. I’d been crushing on Ian for the entire month he’d been at this school. I scrambled to my feet, not wanting to miss a word regarding Ian’s newly-found bachelor status.
“Forget him. You can do better than him,” the head hall goddess drawled in a sugary tone. Patting Brianna’s back, she licked her slightly curving lips.
My shoulders deflated. What head hall goddess wanted, head hall goddess got. And she wanted Ian. I didn’t stand a chance.
The head hall goddess wrinkled her perfect, button nose. “What’s that smell?”
She turned her icy gaze on me and I sniffed. Oh, crap. Literally. There must be more than mud caked on my shoe.
“Oh, I think it’s you.”
I lifted my chin. “I don’t give two snoots what you think.”
The goddess’s lip curled. “What are you, a moron? What’s a snoot?”
I didn’t know what a snoot was, because I’d meant to say “two cents.” I kept my chin lifted, though warmth spread from my neck to my cheeks.
When I didn’t answer, the goddess said, “Oh, God, you are such a loser.” She gave a delicate little snort. “Come on, Brianna; let’s get away from that smelly freak.” With a swish of her skirt, she led bawling Brianna down the hall.
Sighing, I slipped off my backpack and leaned against the locker. “Happy birthday to me,” I muttered.
“Hello, Helen,” murmured a low, totally foxy, totally male voice.
I spun. My backpack slipped from my fingers, and I stared with my mouth agape as Ian strolled by. He didn’t stop or say anything else, but he winked one of his emerald eyes. I sagged against the locker. The sound of chattering kids, loud laughter, and slamming lockers faded. My heart pounded, and heat resurged to my face. I was still staring long after Ian had turned the corner, my mouth stuck in a half-smile.
The tardy bell clanged overhead, making me start with a jolt. I sighed, checking my wet jeans with mud spattered on the legs, and muddy shoes. Now I wouldn’t have time to stop in the bathroom and wipe the poop off my shoe.
Running my fingers through my hair, I stuffed my backpack in my locker, raced down the hall, and tried to slip unnoticed into art class. I peeked at the seats by the windows, looking for my usual spot next to Elana, and froze. Sitting in the chair next to my best friend—my chair—was Ian. The teacher cleared his throat. I staggered to an empty seat at the back instead, and flipped open my notebook.
The kid next to me said to the guy behind him, “You smell something?”
I tucked my feet under my chair, and tried to pay attention to the teacher, keep one eye on Ian whispering in Elana’s ear, and write notes at the same time.
The teacher paused, and I read what I wrote.
Through a white prism, all colors are balanced.
Whatever that meant.
I peeked at Ian. He’d bent his head low in order to gaze into Elana’s eyes. Elana giggled and flipped her hair over her shoulder. My heart took a nosedive. Ian looked at me, and slowly smiled, white teeth sparkling in perfection.
I looked away and licked my lips. Elana was giggling and making eyes at Ian when she knew damn well I liked him. I ground my teeth, my stomach muscles tightening. How could she?
Wishing I was anywhere else than in that classroom, with smelly shoes and a muddy butt and my gut feeling bloated with anger and sadness and Ian whispering God only knew what to my best friend, I couldn’t help but wonder why Elana had just betrayed me.