Unbridled Talent: Katie B. a.k.a. Pheonix Rising,

It’s Thursday! Time for another feature!

Retro-Specter

by Pheonix Rising

Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy

What do you get when you mix rainbow hair and snarky attitude? Deirdra’s not your typical teenager; she sees things.

Abandoned on the streets of London, Deirdra’s constantly been in and out of orphanages. At age fifteen, she finds herself in the last place she expects—an exclusive boarding school in Ireland. And if that wasn’t enough, the headmaster’s daughter shows her a possible lead to the answer about her abilities.

Things aren’t always as they seem, and the mystery regarding her powers goes deeper into history—and into the future—than she thought. Abilities that haven’t been seen on Earth for centuries emerge in the least likely people to obtain them.

Clues start to unearth themselves and all signs point to India, where strange happenings have been going on in the shadows of night. Could the incidents in India somehow be linked to Deirdra and her Wandering abilities?

The game’s afoot and she is destined to meet some rather unlikely allies as she uncovers the truth about her powers. But does she really want to know the truth, or will curiosity kill this cat?

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To read Chapter One please continue:


Chapter One

Beginnings Can’t Always Be Summarized

Lightning and rain were always the carriers of pain.

Deirdra had always been a loner. Never had any friends and never staying in one spot for too long. Running from place to place, nicking newspapers from rubbish bins, scouting out dry and warm alleys. This was her life. Her parents, or rather, her mother, had abandoned her when she was young, left her on the front step of an orphanage. No one had known her parents and all they knew about Deirdra came from a letter that had been placed beside her on the step where she was found.

She hated the lightning; she didn’t fear it, never feared it. She simply didn’t like it. Perhaps it was the ear-splitting sound it made when it gave off during a storm, masking any tell-tale whispers of the wind suggesting trouble— trouble nearly always followed the deathly light. She didn’t mind the rain as much, only on cold nights was it a nuisance or when it would pool in an otherwise perfect alley corner. It could be very nice on warm nights, the soft water drops falling from the sky as if the clouds were crying.

Deirdra strolled down the sidewalk, peering in shop windows as she passed, trying to keep a low profile. Dark gray clouds hovered on the horizon, rain threatening to shower London at any minute. She glared towards the clouds, but decided she’d deal with the lightning when it came. Besides, there were so many interesting trinkets for sale in the stores she passed. But at the moment, she was hungry. Not table scraps, or food stands for the poor. She wanted a nice, hot, home-cooked meal served to her on a table that she could eat with an actual fork. She was rarely allowed to eat at the orphanage, because she was always getting into trouble and getting the privilege of a hot meal taken away from her. If it was warm, chances were it was charred or one of the cooks felt generous that evening and allowed her oven access. It wasn’t her fault, though. She had a rebellious streak.

The only thing she had was herself, and the visions- always the visions. She wasn’t schizophrenic, which was made clear by the many counselors she had at various orphanages and whenever she was forced to attend public school. After all, what could have possibly triggered the schizophrenia? And she showed no other symptoms of having it. In fact, Deirdra was very stable for a teenage orphan girl. After Deirdra realized no one else could see the visions, she stopped talking about them altogether, and everyone assumed it was simply a child’s overactive imagination.

HOOOOUUNK!

Deirdra walked faster, heading toward an alley so she could make her way across town without the car following her. Only one car in the area had that ridiculous horn. The orphanage, the hole she had been trying to escape from for the past few months. All the others had been easy; the worst ones had been the homes with dogs, and still those had been only a minor challenge. This place had been giving her grief and she’d had enough.

“Deirdra, get in this car this instant!” The orphanage nurse shouted from the car, while wildly waving both hands out the open car window, attracting attention of some of the passersby. It would be interesting to know how the car was still moving in a straight line. Ms. Jacobs hardly ever left the orphanage. They were serious this time, and by the tone of her voice, tired of her game, assuring her severe punishment when she went back. Deirdra didn’t turn around. She didn’t stop walking; instead she picked up her pace, glancing back to see if the car was still following. Big mistake.

“Oof…” She collided into someone. She looked up into the brown eyes of the orphanage guard, who had stepped in her path before she could make it to the alley. She had been so absorbed in ignoring Ms. Jacobs that she hadn’t noticed Josh. At least, that’s what she thought his name was, or something like that. He was older than her by a decade, probably in his early twenties. As much as she talked to him, she never really asked. All she knew was that he was there as a favor to the warden.

“C’mon, missy. Enough games.” He pushed her towards the car, sliding in next to her. Sighing, she sat back against the leather seat, letting Ms. Jacobs lecture her all the way back to the orphanage, tuning out her shouting. Freedom… so close and yet so far away. She ducked out of the car and into the entry hall of the house at Josh’s insistence. At least the ride back was longer this time- that meant she got farther without being caught. Looking around, she stood in the middle of the hall, arms folded across her chest.

“What have you done to the place? It looks wonderful! Did you repaint, or perhaps install new lighting? Did someone insist on fluorescent?” she drawled in a bored manner, keen on getting back to her room to plan her next break-out. Sarcasm may have seemed over the top, but with all her hardships in life, Deirdra had found sarcasm keeps away those who could potentially hurt her. Pain of betrayal was not something she wanted to add to her list of reasons why a solitary life was the life for her.

Frowning, the nurse shot her a venomous glare. “If I were you, young lady, I would be polite and keep your smart comments to yourself.”

Perhaps the sarcasm was a little too thick, and uncalled for. “What smart comments? Sarcasm is not smart; it is a simple change of tone and wording of the obvious opposite.” She picked at her shirt sleeve, and then looked up, feigning worry. “Oh dear, am I raising the warden’s blood pressure? I did inform him his cholesterol levels were remarkably high… Perhaps you should attend to him, dear nurse, and stop wasting your precious time over an insignificant minor.”

The guard nudged her toward the double oak doors indicating a wealthy, lazy business man. In this case she was extremely accurate, although the warden wasn’t English, but American. Regardless of the fact the warden insisted he was British on his mother’s side. The nurse knocked twice upon the hardened wood, then slipped inside, dragging Deirdra with her. The warden was working on some paper (probably his report on her attempted escape, once again) and didn’t even glance up when they entered the dimly lit, windowless room.

“Ah, good, good,” he said cheerily, waving to the chair across the desk. “Miss Deirdra can go ahead and take a seat.”

Deirdra raised an eyebrow in disbelief, a common expression she used mostly on the less intelligent (all) students in her year, and quite a few above her year. Many teachers and tutors often got this look as well. This was the fifth time she had tried to break out- a desperate move, really- and his neutral reply was “go ahead and take a seat”? The warden was usually a stern, no-nonsense kind of man. What was she in for this time, since the yelling, scolding and punishments didn’t work?

The guard nudged her again, and she leisurely made her way to the seat, sprawling in it as though she was chatting with one of her few acquaintances or bored in class, an often occurrence. She waited; the warden hadn’t looked up from his work.

She glanced at the paper and confirmed her suspicions, because that was definitely her file. Aside from her name at the top and on the tab, she was quite sure no one else had that thick of a file. Most would be ashamed, but it made her proud… and a little worried. She sure hoped she wasn’t losing her “magical” touch of escaping group homes and orphanages. That was a worry, though in retrospection, this was definitely the most persistent, annoying orphanage she had ever had the misfortune to be captured by. At least this one had mediocre teachers.

The warden, Mr. Smith, looked up from filling in her file, placed the pen to his right and closed the folder quietly. “Well, Deirdra, you have been a handful, haven’t you?”

She grunted; a primitive noise, yes, but she wasn’t quite sure what answer would have her in her room to plan or in the kitchens scrubbing pots.

He nodded a few times to himself, and then continued, “Since you obviously don’t wish to be here, Deirdra, you will be leaving tomorrow, after breakfast.”

She looked at him, that disbelieving single raised eyebrow upon her face once again. Leaving? Did he say… leaving? The words she prayed for since her third attempted escape; they were finally complying with her dearest dreams!

Mr. Smith watched her reaction, amused. “I’m surprised,” he chuckled in his very false attempt at a British accent, “You don’t want to be here, as your actions prove. Certainly you are happy? Or at the very least you might be shocked?” When she stayed silent he kept talking, “You see, Deirdra, we have found you a… new home.”

A home? She wasn’t expecting that. Not many families would want a fifteen year old girl who spends her time planning small adventures for the sake of having a good time. Deirdra always preferred the streets to the homes because at least she could do what she wanted without an adult looking over her shoulder. Her skills in living solo and finding necessities were adequate for street life. But Deirdra definitely preferred the orphanage over a full-time home and family; at least at the former she had some freedom.

The remark resulted in a reaction. She stood quickly, knocking over her chair, and she opened her mouth to protest. “I will not go to any family. I do not-“

“Not a family, or parents, Deirdra,” the warden interrupted. He waved to her seat, now on the floor. She stayed standing, dreading Mr. Smith’s next words. He sighed, and then continued, “Your grades have been exceptional for as long as your records show. You turn in all your coursework early; all tests, quizzes and assessments have earned an easy one hundred percent. Several universities that our organization is associated with, some out of the country, are already interested in your work. And you are hardly fifteen. You will be moved to McCladden’s Academic School for Gifted and Talented Students tomorrow morning. I suggest you pack your bags tonight so not to hustle around in the morning. That is all, Deirdra. I shall see you in the morn.”  With that said, Mr. Smith looked down at his desk, back to some paperwork. The Joshua pulled her out, seeing as her legs weren’t quite working at the moment.

In the hallway the guard dropped her arm, and she stood there. Not much could shock her, surprises—she had guessed about them, or known about them, since their first concept. But this, this was… traumatic. School? McCladden’s… Gifted and Talented?  She always thought her life lay ahead of her as a roaming scholar, learning from experience in the darkest corners of the world. The prospect of an exclusive boarding school shocked her, but interested her as well.

“Hey, missy?” The guard was still standing there, frowning at her. “Are you okay? You seem shaken. You’ve proven you don’t want to be here, and your marks show you are eligible for this school.”

She started, and then replied bitingly, “Eligible? That’s a big word for your job, well done. And this ‘missy’ does have a name.” There she went again, opening her mouth before thinking.

He answered in kind. “Yes, well, when you’re the best of your class in secondary school and being offered full scholarships to several notable colleges in the States, your vocabulary tends to be expansive. This is a temporary job. Get upstairs, Deirdra, and don’t forget to ring home every once in a while.”

Her eyebrow raised, a sure sign her nerves had recovered. “Bravo, Einstein. And don’t worry, Father, I know the number.” She said sarcastically, dragging her feet to the stairs leading to the girls’ rooms. A chuckle from Joshua below told her she hadn’t done any lasting damage. In fact, he was really the only one she had been able to have any intelligent conversation with, the only one worthy of actual verbal sparring, even if it was subtle negotiation for less time in the kitchens.

She walked slowly to her door, and then opened it silently. The white cotton sheets in the same crisp folded position as before she left, the window shades open allowing the clear blue sky to light her cream-colored walls. This was the free room she had grown accustomed to in her over-long stay, the view of the street below she so often woke to, telling herself that it wasn’t as good as freedom on the streets, when it really was just as good, if not better. Deirdra sat gently on her soft bed, looking out onto the flower cart that always sat under her window on Thursday evenings, such as this one.

Tomorrow morning, Friday, she would be shipped off to a boarding school. Not just any boarding school; a fancy, rich kid school. For her, formal was the only pair of jeans that didn’t have holes, her single button-up shirt, and her not-as-ratty tennis shoes. What could the warden be thinking? Giving her to the worst place possible, and not only was it a fancy boarding school, it was in Ireland! She remembered seeing McCladden’s on the list of notable schools in Europe. Sure she was currently living in London, but Ireland? The home of rainbows and leprechauns. Finding a pot of gold might help her dream of travelling though…

A knock on her doorframe brought her out of her out of her musings. She looked up to see Joshua holding a few papers. “Deirdra, I brought some things I thought you might need to know about before you leave for the second term of school.”

Deirdra cocked her eyebrow briefly. “You mean you brought me paperwork to give to the headmaster of my new school, as well as flyers for current going-ons at the hole I’m moving to?”

He came in and sat on the edge of her bed. “Aw, c’mon, Deirdra. Look, I know you’re miffed about being sent off to boarding school for the next two terms, but look at it this way- you won’t have any more inadequate tutors, and you’ll be right back here for summer, and then we can argue more, ‘kay?”

She half-grinned. “Better tutors? More like a little less incompetent teachers, instructing useless courses to brain dead snob children.”

He bumped her shoulder. “See? You’ll love it! Not so much will change; you get to diss kids and show teachers how little they really know. Look.” He set the papers behind him on the sheets, and then turned to face her again. “Kid, I know you don’t think you belong here, but if you need anything or just want some intelligent conversation, call me.” He took a pen and wrote his name and phone number on the back of a flyer, and then stood and left her to her musings again, closing the door behind him.

Deirdra looked down at the quick sprawl on the yellow paper, and then said softly to herself, “Thank you, Joshua, but hopefully I won’t need you until summer.” Thinking about what she said, Deirdra rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right.”

And so Deirdra began packing for her unexpected trip to a place she would never believe she would be forced to go. Every once in a she would stop and watch the spectral flower cart and its long dead owner, forever caught in a loop and changed to energy for the remainder of time. Always residing under the windowsill of the only place that had really had the guts to come after her when she had run away, for another reason than paperwork.

Deirdra knew about the visions, not ghosts. She knew about the dreams, where she could see things going on or happening around her, but not from her actual eyes. Deirdra could be going soft. But she definitely wasn’t going to screw up her chance at school until she had to, for whatever reason that would force her to leave.

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About Tymothy Longoria

Tymothy Longoria has been described as a writer with a flair for the dramatic (whether this is true still remains to be seen). He is a fan of all things fantastic, metal music, black t-shirts, and aligns himself with geeks, nerds, and all manner of monsters, and is an ardent, optimistic supporter of his fellow creatives. He has written several short stories for the online macabre zine Underneath The Juniper Tree and in 2012 was awarded Debut Author of the Year by Twisted Core Press for 'Envy', his contribution to the Seven Deadly Sins Anthology. He is currently editing his full-length dark fantasy retelling, Revenants: Book One of The Stories. Fairy tales? If only. Legends will be reborn. Tymothy calls Texas home, where he lives with his wife, two children, and a cat called ThunderCat aka Kitty PawKitty. He is represented by Bree Ogden of Red Sofa Literary. View all posts by Tymothy Longoria

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