When 16-year-old Lucy McGowen goes under sedation for a routine dental procedure, she hopes to come out of it free of pain. Instead, she wakes up in an alternate version of her life―a reality in which her secret hobby is out in the open, her own parents feel like strangers, and her boyfriend doesn’t even know her name. Navigating her new world is hard enough, but then Lucy begins getting cryptic messages from a mysterious sender with unfinished business. She has also acquired a new habit―sleepwalking―and with each episode, she finds herself in increasingly bizarre situations. She doesn’t know if luck has landed her in this revamped version of reality―or if she was somehow chosen―but one thing is clear: she must uncover the truth about how it’s all connected before she loses herself completely. Will Lucy find a way back to her other life . . . or will she create a new world that she can truly call her own?
Targeted Age Group:: 13 and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always been a fan of spine-tingling stories, especially those that find contemporary, ordinary protagonists in situations that involve ancient family history and psychological/paranormal events. As a child, I was fascinated by an abandoned, ancient house adorned with carved wooden birds (inside and out), a theme I wove into this story. The plot also incorporates other interests of mine: psychology (sleepwalking), music, Scots-Gaelic themes, nature and New England. I love the notion that the barrier between the dead and the living is paper thin, and that if we listen carefully, we can hear the whispers of ghosts.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The protagonist in this story, Lucy, is a blend of my own teenage daughters. Lucy is a creative, introvert who is stuck in a dead-end relationship and who feels almost invisible to her parents. When her life is turned upside-down by a series of impossible-to-explain events and she is confronted by the secrets of her family's past, she has to set cynical nature aside to see the deeper meaning beneath all of it and ultimately change her own future.
Lucy felt a gentle hand on her back.
The hand was making slow circles, round and round. She tried to follow that hand with her mind’s eye, but just as she was getting the hang of it, the circles stopped altogether.
“Lucy?” The voice beside her belonged to a female, which was something of a shock. She’d assumed the person tracing a circle along her back was Nate, the most touchy-feely person she knew. He claimed he’d always been a sucker for physical touch—that there was nothing a simple hug couldn’t fix. Lucy’s parents were not physically demonstrative—she was more likely to get a high-five from her dad than a hug—so becoming Nate’s girlfriend had been a tactile crash course.
The female voice came back, closer to her ear. “Can you open your eyes, baby?”
Lucy felt her forehead crinkle involuntarily. That voice was familiar, but the tone wasn’t.
Where was she? Why were her eyes closed, and who knew her well enough to call her baby?
Another voice chimed in nearby. “We had to use a fair amount, so it might take her a few minutes to come out of it. Take your time.”
Lucy remembered now. She had come in to have her infected tooth taken care of. The pain was gone, like a deafening roar suddenly muted. It had left an emptiness behind—a blissful silence. She would never take the absence of pain for granted again.
“Better,” Lucy tried to say, but her lips felt oversized and clumsy, and it came out wrong.
“Beer?” The person beside her chuckled, another clue. She’d heard that chuckle before, hadn’t she? “It’s not even five o’clock yet, baby.”
Lucy fluttered her eyelids, afraid to ask too much of them all at once. She was greeted by a jarring, sideways view of a row of chairs, a floor the color of the ocean. It reminded her of the jellyfish that had escorted her through her ordeal and felt a sudden, irrational surge of emotion. She missed those jellyfish—and she hadn’t had a chance to thank them or say goodbye.
“Her eyes are open,” the beside-her voice said.
“She might be a little out of it for a bit, laughing or crying, or both,” the other voice said. There was the squeaking of rubber soles on the floor. “She might say some crazy things. It’s normal as the sedative wears off.”
Lucy pushed herself into a sitting position, amazed by the effort it took. The room tilted with a sickening whoosh, then slowly settled. She’d never been drunk before, but she’d felt buzzed once at a party—the effects of a Jell-O shot handed to her by a well-meaning friend. It had made her feel fuzzy and off-balance—which was how she felt now.
She opened her mouth to speak, but her dead tongue rebelled.
A lady in rainbow-patterned scrubs approached her with a Dixie cup. “Here’s some water.” She turned to the woman beside Lucy. “It’ll help move the sedative out of her system.”
Lucy took the cup with a shaky hand and dribbled half of the water down the front of her shirt. She turned to the woman beside her with a smirk, then blinked at her, bewildered.
“Joanne!” she exclaimed. There was a wad of something packed into the pouch of her lower cheek, but she barely noticed.
“That’s right.” Her mom smiled as if Lucy had guessed the answer to a tricky trivia question. “Good job, baby.”
“The gauze packing can come out in another hour,” the rainbow lady said. She shuffled a stack of papers, then handed them to Joanne. “Here are the after-care instructions. Saltwater gargling, soft foods for a few days, pain medication as needed. It’s all here, and if you have any questions—”
Lucy stared at her mom, the empty Dixie cup crumpled in her fist. “What happened?”
Joanne reached a hand out, and Lucy flinched.
“You had some dental work done—” She tucked a wisp of Lucy’s hair behind her ear, an act that felt wildly out of character.
“No,” Lucy protested. She jabbed at the gauze in her mouth with the tip of her tongue. “I mean, what are you doing here?”
Joanne made a quizzical face at the receptionist across the room, and Lucy saw the unspoken message there: oh boy—my daughter is high as a kite!
“How else would you get home, baby?” Joanne folded the after-care instructions into her purse. Lucy had never seen it before—it was a bag woven with multi-colored fibers, very different from the sleek black leather bag she normally carried.
She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. Her head was throbbing, and she felt like she had to concentrate on staying upright. She didn’t understand why her mom had changed her plans to send Nora to pick her up, or why she was calling her baby, but those questions could wait.
“My head hurts,” she said.
The receptionist looked up from her computer work. “Some people have mild headaches as the sedative wears off. Would you like some Tylenol?”
Joanne flashed her a smile. “I have some right here,” she said.
Lucy watched as her mom opened her bag and sorted through its contents—first-aid kit, granola bars, sunglasses case, and a small, spiral-bound notebook embellished with sequins. Joanne found the Tylenol, shook two out, and went to the water cooler to fill another Dixie cup.
Lucy watched her go, dazed, then dropped her eyes to that sequined notebook.
“What’s that?” she asked, pointing.
Her mom handed her the water and chuckled. “It’s my book of inspirations, remember?” She gave Lucy a funny look—a look that hinted at worry—then zipped her bag. “For jotting down ideas as they come to me.”
Lucy stared at her mom, dumbstruck.
Whatever they had given her hadn’t just numbed the right half of her face—it had coated her brain in a thick sludge. Maybe things would make more sense later, when it had fully worn off.
Until then, she would keep her questions to herself.
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