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The Beautiful Being
The Beautiful Being
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Oct.01.2009
  • 9781420101164
  • Kensington Books

Jessica gives an overview of the book:

They are here among us…Far from home, gifted with special abilities, hunted for their powers. And they are desperate to find their other, the one who completes them…before it’s too late…  Together, anything is possible… As leader, Eden Mirav must protect his people from the enemies who wish to destroy them. Despite his extraordinary abilities, Eden has not been able to locate his double—the one person who could make him whole and help him control his remarkable power to age himself with a simple thought. With her, he can grow even stronger. Without her, he is doomed to an uncertain fate. Just when he’s about to abandon all hope, she stands before him in the blazing hot sun of the desert like a shimmering mirage…  Recently rescued and freed, Ava Arganos has been working in the desert—and waiting for the day that her double finds her. When Ava first lays eyes on Eden,...
Read full overview »

They are here among us…Far from home, gifted with special abilities, hunted for their powers. And they are desperate to find their other, the one who completes them…before it’s too late…  Together, anything is possible… As leader, Eden Mirav must protect his people from the enemies who wish to destroy them. Despite his extraordinary abilities, Eden has not been able to locate his double—the one person who could make him whole and help him control his remarkable power to age himself with a simple thought. With her, he can grow even stronger. Without her, he is doomed to an uncertain fate. Just when he’s about to abandon all hope, she stands before him in the blazing hot sun of the desert like a shimmering mirage… 

Recently rescued and freed, Ava Arganos has been working in the desert—and waiting for the day that her double finds her. When Ava first lays eyes on Eden, she doesn’t recognize him immediately even though she feels the charged, sizzling connection between them. Now united, Eden and Ava surrender to a fiery, explosive passion that only renews their bond as they combine forces to battle their most treacherous foe yet...

 PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF JESSICA INCLAN “A magical, mystical tale, one you won’t soon forget.”—Amanda Ashley on Reason to Believe Visit us at www.kensingtonbooks.com

Read an excerpt »

There is nothing but nothing.  Everything is simply darkness, a black swirling hole in the middle of a void that is enormous, bigger than all the words that could possibly  describe it.  In this monstrous darkness, there is no light, no swirl of stars, no planets blinking in the reflection of a sun. 

     But as he looks more closely, as he stares into the nothing, he sees an eddy, a movement, a pooling of the black fabric of the nothing.  The pooling intensifies, grows more vigorous, turns into a stream, a current beating against rocks, the shore, beating against the blackness.  Becoming denser, it forms an orb, a circle of molten night, swirling against itself, until the colors begin to change, to shift.  It pulses, flickers, flares black and red, pulses into being, spinning fast, a whoosh of matter.  The orb grows larger, enough so that when it spins, it seems to pull the fabric of darkness with it, turning the darkness into colors—brown, green, blue, red, white—colors that now form and cover the orb.

     Behind and around the orb, the darkness fills with light, first the tiny pinpricks of stars and then the glow of a much larger star, a star that must be warm, that must give life, the light hot and orange and bright.  The slowing orb seems to absorb the light, taken in the warmth, slow into a regular spin, beginning it seems to orbit the large star.

     He wants to go down to this world.  He can imagine what it is like, teaming with animals and full with plant life.  Enormous, dense forests, wide plains of grasses, mountain with snow caps.  He can almost feel the salt tang of the many oceans, full of fish, of whales and seals and dolphin. Under the water there are more colors:  aqua, indigo, vermillion, topaz, sunflower, pink.  This world is perfect, pristine, lovely, and his, a place that he wants to take care of and honor and live on.  All he wants is to be on this world, to run on it, roll on it, breathe in the sweet air, but just as he’s about to push himself there, the orb begins to change again, spinning slightly as it does.  It’s morphing from an orb into a shape, and figure, a form.  It’s still brown and green and blue and red and white, but it is now an hourglass, no a body, no a woman.

     He stares at the shape, watching the colors slowly fade the neutral, to beige, to sun kissed taupe.  The woman now has hair, hair long and blonde and flowing.  As he stares at her, the woman looks up at him with eyes the color of warm earth.  She knows him.  She’s waiting for him.  She wants him.  She’s the world, his world.  She’s what he wants, more than anything. 

     But as he moves toward her, this woman who is his world, the only world he wants, the dream breaks into shards, one azure eye caught in a shining reflection of glass and light.  And then he is awake.


ONE

        Watch this! a Cygirian thought, his joyful idea hitting Ava Arganos as if he were yelling directly into her ear instead of standing hundreds of feet away from her and simply thinking.

     Keep your focus, his partner thought back, her intensity a crackle in the air.  But she was happy, too.  We aren’t moving surfboards like we did back on Ocean Beach. Focus please!

     Ava listened to their back and forth thoughts and looked upward at the impossibly heavy object that sailed through the sky.  She stood in the middle of the Upsilian desert construction site, her hands on her hips, her head titled up, the hot wind blowing back her hair.  Five hundred feet above her, the large column of metal that the two Cygirians were moving with their minds passed by as if it were nothing more than part of a childhood toy, finding its way to a structure where it came to rest on top of two other steel columns.   Once settled, a group of Cygirians seemed to fuse it to the other columns, sparks flying in a spray of heat and flame, the building growing right in front of Ava’s eyes.

     The sand mound she stood on gave Ava enough of a perspective to see most of the construction going on, the back and forth of Upsilian aircraft and earth movers, the movement of Cygirian power and Upsilian technology. In just a few short months, a hastily formed temporary encampment was slowly being transformed into permanent housing and business buildings, the small town full of meandering paths that wound between the structures, Cygiria powers managing to keep the planted shrubbery and landscaping alive and flourishing.

     This town slowly becoming a city that the Cygirians called Talalo, a word that meant home.  A word that gave Cygirians a place, a permanent place for the first time in decades.

     Ava smiled, happy to see the work.  Together, Upsilia and Cygiria were building a place for the lost and abandoned Cygirians to live.  To regroup.  To form a plan against the Neballats, the race that wanted Cygirians for their powers.

     But all Ava was able to do was watch.  The air was hot and held her in sandy arms, and if she were smart, she would leave the desert and return to downtown Dhareilly and sit down with the group who was planning their next move.  But she was tired of being confined, of talking, of sitting and thinking.  She wanted to move.  To do something.  To help!  But she was of no use whatsoever.  The two Cygirians moving the steel beam didn’t need her, nimbly pushing around three tons of steel with no more than a thought.  And they didn’t need her to join with them in power, to Converge, because, well, they were doing fine on their own.

     This is horrible, she thought, turning to look south, where she saw that another pair of Cygirians were filling a water tank, the necessary water coming from seemingly nowhere.

     And really, all around her, Cygirians were working, using their powers to help the Upsilians create the outpost.  But all Ava knew was that it would be home.  Home for all the Cygirians who were left in the universe, on the planets they’d been left on, those who had been scattered, abandoned, orphaned.  Here they would find their culture, remember their roots, work with each other to form a plan that would once and for all keep their enemies the Neballats away.

     But she felt like a waste of space, knowing that her power—while one that the Neballats craved—was not helpful in building anything of service.  Closing her eyes against the flat hot sun, Ava knew she should go back and help where she could.  She should stop whining about what she couldn’t do and be thankful that the Upsilian government had granted the Cygirian refugees a place on their planet—something Ava had imagined impossible.  Upsilia had never been friendly to them, afraid of their powers.  In fact, they’d been so afraid they’d hidden the orphaned Cygirians away, forced them to go into the Source, a place of immeasurable beauty, of infinite possibility.  But it wasn’t life.  And with the Cygirians there, the Upsilians didn’t have to think about them.

     Every day, Ava played out this constant thought stream.  She should, she should she should . . .  Work, help, be someone else.  But for this moment, for this amazing second, she wanted to stand on the desert and watch.  After five years in the Source, she needed the feel of the hot dry air on her skin that was somehow like the whirl of energy in that place where all souls met.  Swirling and wild and exciting.  She wanted to forget her deficits, her problems, her “issues,” as a woman from Earth had once said.

     “We all have our work to do,” she’d said after listening to Ava’s story.  “But you have more than most.  You clearly have issues.”

     The woman had gotten up and left Ava sitting alone on a bench in a spacecraft.  At that moment, Ava had wished for a mind that could spew out quick, cutting rejoinders, but all that came to her was confusion and the understanding that the woman was probably right.

     She couldn’t figure out how to stop wishing for what wasn’t.  And she was also tired of imagining her double, or twin, as those raised on Earth called them.  The sad, tired, repetitive thoughts of her imagined other half were irritating and sad.  With more Cygirians arriving daily, she’d expected to feel a pull toward one of them, a call out of the ether to alert her that finally, he was here.  Even as she stood outside in the desert, sweat trickling down her spine, she thought she’d hear him alert her, knowing her name from some well of remembrance deep inside him.  His voice would be like a bell, a beacon, a welcome home. But no.  The sound never came. There was nothing but nothing. 

     Ava didn’t want to think about it any more.  Maybe her double had died in the last battle with the Neballats.  Maybe he had died in the attack on the safe house.  Maybe he hadn’t made it through his time either on Earth or here on Upsilia. So many things could happen in a life, so many things that a Cygirian child wouldn’t know how to take care of by himself.  Maybe he’d never even made it to one place or the other in that first emergency escape from Cygiria, a casualty of that mad rush to safety over twenty years ago. 

     Sometimes, that’s what Ava believed because in all her five years in the Source, she’d never been able to find his energy, and she knew that she was likely going to spend this lifetime alone, her power incomplete.  Her eventual connection with any other man would be half at best and thus, hardly worth the effort.  She had to get over it.  So that’s why she needed to help with the building of Talalo.  But what could she do?  She wasn’t really even sure what her power was, something so internal and strange that she hated to think about it.

     “Your hands are so smooth,” people would say.  “Your skin like a teenager’s.  How do you do it?  You must never go outside.”

     Or worse was, “How old are you anyway?”

     And then the inevitable, “No way!  Really.  Wow. Good genes, I guess. You are so lucky!”

     Ava was twenty-five but the questions about her age, her skin, her looks were apt.  During the course of her short life, she was certain she had slipped back in age, losing years of skin damage, repairing her cells, going internally from twenty-five to what?  Twenty?  Nineteen?  Her power was the dream of every woman or any person, really, a perpetually youthful glow that came not from potions or lasers or powders or good genes but from thought.  What use was that to anyone but her?  And what could her double, her twin do?  Age himself?  She’d be eighteen and he’d be eighty, May and December.  Or January and December.  Maybe New Year’s Eve and nothing.

     A sudden dry wind whipped her long blonde hair around her face, blew her thin, white dress around her legs, and she blinked against the sand peppering her eyelids and cheeks. The sun began to beat down, hard in its afternoon slant, and she left the mound, walking to Wilika tree for its small piece of shade, its thin spindly branches surprisingly full of wide fan shaped leaves.  Once under it, she wiped her face and leaned against the rough bark.

     After being awakened from the Source by the two men from Earth, she’d found herself mostly by herself, confused by everything once she landed at the safe house.  Ava hadn’t been able to really figure out how to get back into interacting with people not in the Source, staying in her quarters or walking the perimeter of the safe house world for hours at a time. She’d tried to find those she could talk with, but she didn’t know how to move into a conversation, the rhythm and current of it like a cold, too deep river.

      How to step in without slipping?  How to swim without drowning?  How to act normal when she felt anything but?

     After the destruction of the safe house, she’d ended up with a group on Earth, and none of that had made sense to her, either.  Earth seemed to be a vile, dirty, dangerous place.  The people on Earth had no idea about Cygirians and their powers, so they’d had to hide their powers less they were spotted.  Not only that, the air was dirty from the rudimentary machines the Earth people used to move from one place to another and their planet was in disrepair, the sight of the garbage and waste much like the images she had seen of the Neballat’s planet before it folded in on itself and died.

     So she was relieved to leave Earth, even if it meant coming back to Upsilia to face certain death from Neballat attack or Upsilian censor.

     All she had wanted was to return to the Source where she understood the rules because there was really only one rule:  everything is everything.  Nothing is separate.  Everything is connected.  Out here, well, there were so many rules, she felt like she’d breathed in cotton, her head clogged and stuffed. Certainly, she’d fought back when she was called to, but since the last battle against the Neballats on Upsilia, she’d stayed at the temporary shelter in the desert.  In the mornings and evenings, she helped prepare and serve food, sitting down when her work was completed, listening to stories about sand and buildings and powers and plans.  At those moments, she felt connected to the project, to her people, to their battle against those who would destroy them.  But in the mornings after breakfast was over and everyone left, she wondered what she was doing here.  Why did she stay?  How could she possibly think she was any help at all?

     Sighing, Ava pushed back from the tree, stood straight, and decided to head back to the temporary shelter.  At least she could be of some use there.  Maybe she couldn’t lift weighty things or start fires or melt steel.  She couldn’t create water or move earth.  No matter how hard she tried, she would never be able to conduct electricity.  But she could make a pretty damn good meat pie and sauté the hell out of simind squash.  No one ever complained about the dark brew the people from Earth called coffee, all of them wanting it morning and night.  And that, she thought, as she pushed through the sand, was something.

 

 One Small Thing

 

     “Is this real?  It can’t be.  It’s impossible.  What is this called?” a Cygirian named Stephanie asked her.  “It is absolutely amazing.”

     Ava smiled, wiping her hands on her apron.  This woman had just come to the temporary shelter this very morning, popping in to ask for a glass of water.  And along with the water, Ava had given her a taste of her best recipe, a crispy pastry made of ripe abricas and cocats, fruits that didn’t grow on Earth but were definitely appreciated by the workers here.  Even those who had grown up on Upsilia remarked on it, and at least for a time, Ava felt like she was contributing.  Food was tangible and of use.  And dessert was most important, at least on a comfort level.

     And with a scoop of what those from Earth called ice cream—the heat of the pastry melting it—the dish was enough to cause lines to form outside the shelter.  And when Ava went out with the lunch cart, that’s what everyone asked for.

     “Based on all my Earth research, I’d call it a tart.  A crisp?  Maybe it’s more of a pie.  I don’t know.  I just know how to make it,” Ava said, handing Stephanie another rich, juicy slice.

     “I’d just call it heaven,” Stephanie said.  “It’s probably the best thing I’ve had in forever.  I don’t know what the fruit is.  Something like peach or plum or apricots.  I’m not sure.  But really, I don’t care.  All I want is more!”

     Ava smiled.  “Thank you.  I’m glad you like it.”

     Stephanie looked at Ava as she ate, the woman’s short spiky almost black hair framing her heart shaped face.  She wore work clothes, but in the desert work clothes were scant and thin:  shorts, a small cotton shirt, ankle high boots with thin socks.  Ava almost felt like a nurse in her long white dress and thick white apron.

     “So, um, I don’t think we’ve ever met before . . . you are?”

     “Ava.  Ava Arganos. At least Arganos is my Upsilian name.  I don’t know, well, who my parents were on Cygiria or what our family name was.”

     “I’m not sure too many of us do know who we are or were yet,” Stephanie said.  “I think we won’t have the luxury of compiling family trees until we have a tree to call our own, you know what I mean?”

     Ava nodded, realizing that back when she imagined she was simply a weird, freak Upsilian, she wouldn’t have understood the connection between the words luxury and family.  Now she did.

     “You’re right,” she said.  “Maybe it will be a while before any of us know who we really are.”

     Nodding, Stephanie took another bite.  “You grew up here?  On Upsilia?”

     “Yes, but I spent five years in the Source.”

     Stephanie stared at her for a moment, shrugging.  “Really?  They must have put you in there when you were really young.”

     “Not too young,” Ava said.  “I was almost twenty.”

     “Hmmm,” Stephanie murmured.  She took another bite of the tart but looked at Ava as she ate, staring enough at Ava’s face that Ava turned away and picked up a couple of dirty pots and pans and put them in the sink.  “Really.”

     “I was,” Ava whispered to herself, knowing that even though the years were true, her skin was not twenty five.

      “Well, I still don’t get the Source,” Stephanie said.  “I don’t think I want to ever understand it. It seems like prison to me.  A punishment.”

     “It isn’t so bad,” Ava said.  “In fact, it’s a lot easier than being out here.  Some days, I think it was a blessing.”

     Putting down her fork, Stephanie stopped chewing.  “Holy cow.  You can’t be serious.  You can’t actually want to be in there?”

     Ava nodded and turned to put the pie back in the cooler.  “I am serious. I do want to go back.  All the time...”

     “How could you stand it?  How could you bear to be separated . . .  . Do you—where’s your twin.  Your double?  How could he ever accept that you wanting to be there?”

     Again, the question.  The very one same everyone asked.  Ava wondered if she should wear a sign that read “Twin-less.  Don’t ask unless you know where he is.”  Or “Without a Double.  So Shut Up About it,” or what about “Double-less.  Have a Problem With it?”

     She turned when she heard Stephanie laughing.  “What?”

     “Those thoughts came through loud and clear.  I wouldn’t have guessed you had such a good sense of humor.  You seem so focused on fruit and flour.  You are very serious, you know.”

     Ava shook her head, smiling into her blush.  “I’m sorry.  I usually keep my thoughts tamped down.  But I just get that question a lot.  I think I do need to have a sign up.”

     Stephanie took another bite of her pastry, licking the fork.  She put the plate down on the table in front of her, ummming her pleasure at the dessert.  “So I guess the answer is no.  You haven’t found him.”

     Ava wiped the table, avoiding Stephanie’s eyes.  “Right.  The answer is no.  I haven’t.  But I guess I don’t get why having a twin is the answer to everything.  Maybe I won’t have my mirror self, my other half.  Maybe I won’t ever get to find the balance for my power.  But does that mean I’m doomed forever?  That I can’t lead a satisfying life?  There’s this idea that with your double everything is perfect.  And I don’t see why it has to be like that.”

     She put down the towel and looked at Stephanie.  “Why does everyone imagine that your life is over if your twin is gone?  I don’t understand.  I don’t get it.  I think I can do just fine by myself.”

     “Clearly,” Stephanie went on, her smile turning into a laugh.  “You haven’t met my twin Porter.  He and I—well, our fit is a strange one.  Not like some of my friends who seem to have found their perfect halves, the yin to their yang, the left to their right, the up to their down.  There are no elders to tell us how to do this, so we’ve just been trying to figure out how to live together.  He and I aren’t like any other twin couple I know.  Porter and I have I guess a different arrangement.  But because we haven’t all been together very long as a group, it’s hard to know.  I would imagine we aren’t the only ones like this.  I think there’s a whole range that we will figure out one day when things calm down.”

     Ava flashed to a vision of two men looking over her—one blonde, one darker--talking to her in a language that took a while for her to grasp.  As their words came into clarity, she realized they had pulled her out of the Source.  One of them was called Porter, all dark hair, glittering black eyes, and pouty red lips.  He was a beautiful man, but he held himself back, held himself away, using humor and sarcasm as protection.

     “Porter,” Ava repeated.  “Does he have very dark hair?  And a way of expressing himself that’s a bit—that . . .“

     “That shows he’s a pain in the ass?  A bit of a prig?  A royal jerk if you will?” Stephanie said.  “That would be my Porter. My one and only.  The pain-in-the-ass to my yin.”

     “He and his friend Garrick pulled me out of the Source,” Ava said.  “Rescued us all.”

     “You were in the pods there?  In the mountains?”

     Ava nodded.  “Yes.  And they woke me up and pulled me out.”

     “I was there that day, too.  So weird to think about the pods.  The Source,” Stephanie said.  “That was a strange, fast, dangerous day.”

     “Porter brought me out, took me out of there before the Neballats arrived,” Ava said.  “They saved me.  He was brave.  He--”

     Stephanie lifted a hand, gave it a little wave.  “Oh, I know.  I get it.  I’m not saying he doesn’t have his brave moments.  He’s amazing during a crisis.  So smart.  It just that he’s not my—I mean we don’t.”  Stephanie juggled her words, trying to find one that would work.  “It’s not the relationship of my dreams.  Let me just say it that way.  But I couldn’t do this, any of it, without him.”

     “Even with the other way you feel?”

     Stephanie shrugged.  “Yeah, call me crazy.  He’s with me for life, I guess.  In this way, in another way.  And I wouldn’t have it any different.  But my point is, everyone doesn’t have it perfect, even with a twin.”

     The two women looked at each other, and Ava realized that probably she’d been inflating the importance of her inability to find her twin, making it the wound she carried with her, like an arm in a sling, a crutch to aid a broken foot.  Maybe it wasn’t as important as she thought.  Maybe people weren’t really talking about her, pointing fingers, whispering how sad it was that she was alone.  Even with Cygirian culture based upon the idea of twins, doubles, it was entirely possible for her to live a normal, happy life with only her half of her powers.  And it was also possible that she could find someone to love, eventually.  Maybe a group would form on Upsilia for unmatched twins.  A sad dating group that met every other week for stilted conversation and beverages. 

     Stephanie took her plate to the sink, rinsing it off.  As she did, she shrugged.

     “I think that we are all tied to this idea.  It’s who we are.  It’s our common dream.  When we were rescued, when we found each other, we found that part of us that finally helped us make sense of everything.  And it’s true in a way.”  She stopped talking, seeming to find her words carefully.  “We are only half in some respects without or twin, our double.  I mean, literally.  We can’t utilize our powers fully without our partners.  But the living thing?  They enjoying thing? The doing what you want to do thing?   I think we can be okay, no matter what. Twin or no twin.”

     As Ava watched Stephanie at the sink, she felt a sense of calm settle over her.  She’d never heard any other Cygirian say these words, and she was grateful for them.

     Stephanie dried the plate and turned back to Ava.

     “So what is your power?” she asked.  “If it is more than making succulent, delicious pastries, then I know you are indeed gifted.”

     “I can—“ Ava began, but then the shelter door flap was pushed aside and Porter walked in, his black hair wild and upswept, his eyes intense and irritated.  He frowned a bit at Stephanie, and then turned to look at Ava, his face barely giving away the surprise Ava saw in his eyes when he recognized her.  He nodded at her—so cool, Ava thought--and then turned back to Stephanie, putting a hand on his hip, his stance ironic.

     “Imagine that.  You found the one place in this enormous Upsilian desert where they serve pie,” he said.  “Are you all fueled up?  Enough carbos to push that skinny rear end of yours back to work.”

     He almost smiled at Stephanie, though Ava could see it was hard for him to wipe the sarcasm off his lips.

     “Yes, my dear jerk off,” Stephanie said.  “I am all ready for work.”

     “Excellent,” he said.  “Because they need light over at the new structure.  Like, now.  As in, minutes ago.  And you and I are the prime candidates for such a crucial, mind-blowing task.”

     “Porter, aren’t you going to say hello to Ava?  I hear you have a little bit of history together.”

     At the word history, Porter seemed to blanch, standing up straight, his hand falling away from his hip.  His mouth moved, forming words he couldn’t seem to say aloud.

     “She means about you and Garrick saving me from the pod.  From the Neballats,” Ava said, trying not to laugh.  “In the mountains.”

     “That’s where I know you from,” Porter said, clearly relieved that he hadn’t been caught in some kind of indiscretion.  “How are you?”

     “I’m fine.  Doing really well,” Ava said quickly, turning back to her work and away from her lie.  She didn’t want to get involved in another discussion of her missing double.  She and Porter had already talked about this on the ship back to the safe house, so she hoped he wouldn’t feel the need to bring it up again.

     Porter nodded.  “That’s good.  I’m glad you survived the safe house debacle.  I haven’t seen you since then, I guess.  I thought maybe you’d left for Earth.  Or you were out looking--”

     Ava shook her head, hoping, praying he would stop talking.  “No, I made it through.  I was on Earth for a while, but now I’m here in the desert. Doing what I can. Which isn’t really very much.”

     “So what did you say about electricity?” Stephanie said, leading Porter down another conversational path.  “Whose skinny ass do I need to kick?”

     Ava knew that Stephanie was saving her from explaining her life and her lack of a twin, and she smiled at the woman.  For the first time since Ava was put in the Source all those years before, she was making a friend.  When had she last had a friend, someone to confide in?  Back in school?  Back in the small town she lived in outside of Dhareilly?  Ava realized that she could barely remember faces or names of any of her childhood playmates, images only vague, voices soft and unclear.  Her life before the Source was like a dream, something she only had flashes of.  There hadn’t been any one of import, not even her family.  There wasn’t any one now, either.  It was at times like this that she thought she’d left too much of herself in the Source.  Maybe she really didn’t want to be out here in the real world at all.

     “The least you could do is offer me a piece of pie,” Porter said to Ava.  “After all, if you gave one to her—“

     “Later,” Stephanie said.  She put her hands on Porter’s shoulders, moving him slowly toward the shelter door.  “We can come back and you can be nice.  And if you are lucky, Ava will slice you a piece of that absolutely stunning pastry.  That is, if there’s any left.”

     As Stephanie pushed him out the door, Porter turned back to Ava and gave her a real smile, his dark eyes shining.

     “Oh, please,” he said.  “Make my life worth living.  Give me Ava’s baked goods.”

     If all it took was pastry, Ava thought, she’d be in heaven.

     “Of course there will be tarts, pies, crisps,” Ava said.  “Even more.  I promise. Come back.”

     “We will.” Stephanie waved, pushed Porter out of the shelter, and Ava was alone again with her baking, the flour, butter, and salt ready for her to create something.  At least she had this power.  Ava picked up an abrica and started to peel it, focusing not on being alone but the smooth skin under her fingers, the curls of peel, the sharp orange tang in her nose. 

     Pastry, she thought.  Pie.  Maybe it was heaven enough.

 

 One Small Thing 

 

     That night, Ava tossed and turned in her cot, trying to ignore the quiet but suddenly intensely loud sleeping sounds of other Cygirians.  Each breath she heard sounded like snore, each snore like a foghorn, a loud warning from the shrouded shore.  People tossed and turned like ships lost at sea

     At night, the loneliness she felt always grew stronger, like a hand reaching out to grab her, a hand that wanted to squeeze her tight.  There was no one on this planet or on any other thinking about her.  Her Upsilian parents had made it quite clear that they didn’t want anything to do with her before she’d gone into the Source.

     “It’s best,” her father had said as he stood by the doorway, his eyes averted from her.  “You never really belonged here.  You haven’t been able to have a normal life.  It’s too dangerous for us for you to live her any longer. The government has told us what to do and we are going to do what they asked.”

     Her mother had just waved once—a quick, small movement--and turned to go back into the house, and the last sight Ava had seen of her childhood home was her mother’s back and then the front door closing both her parents in the house, away from her.  The vehicle she’d been put in was full of other Cygirians, all of them stunned into silence for the entire long ride to the mountains.  What could they have said to each other?  How would they have learned to talk about this?  This abandonment.  No, this giveaway, this throwaway.  Like they were trash their families had put out on the curb for pickup.

     The last word she remembered saying before going into the Source was “Goodbye.”  But she couldn’t remember to whom she’d said it.  Another Cygirian?  Her parents?  The person who had closed the pod door?  Or was it the first word she’d said in the Source?  Her hello to all that wasn’t.

     She turned on her side, pulled the blanket up on her shoulder, keeping away the always surprising desert night chill.  Closing her eyes, she thought of the Source, trying to recapture the hypnotic sway of energy that had always buoyed her.  When she had first gone into the swirling energy, she’d missed her body, wanting to feel things with her hands, needing to breathe in air, feel heat or cold on her skin.  She wanted to run, to swing her long hair, to spin on her toes.  After a while, though, she’d grown to accept and then crave the fluid stream she’d become, the way she could simply flow with everything and not have to exert any energy to be fully alive.

     At times, she’d meet up with another energy.  When she first went in, she sought out the souls of her Upsilian parents, the small part of them that remained in the Source.  Before going in, Ava had no idea that no one came to a body with a whole soul, leaving a little bit behind, a small piece that was attached to the Source at all times.  But once in, once floating in the red and orange energy, she understood that completely.

     So she sought them out so she could ask them why they didn’t want her, why they didn’t fight for her.  And before she heard the answer, Ava knew.

     “We aren’t strong enough,” her mother’s energy had said.  “We just don’t know how to live with the confusion. We will be thinking about how we let you go all of our lives.  It will be our greatest failure, our greatest mistake.”

     “But you raised me,” Ava had said.  “Didn’t that count for anything?”

     “It will later,” he father said, and then their energies seemed to drift, to sail away from Ava, most of her questions still unanswered.  So she sailed away, too, letting time turn into nothing.  Every so often, she’d thought she’d seen her twin, but then the shadow of energy she’d tried to grab onto flickered away.  So Ava floated.  For five years, she dreamed and her dream was real.

     Breathing lightly as she lay on her side, Ava tried to find that dream feeling again, hoping that she could lull herself to sleep.  Next to her, people breathed; outside, a night bird cawed, its heavy wings flapping.  The desert air patted the shelter, insects buzzed against the fabric, skittering their fragile wings against the folds.  The night moved on, aching with sudden and temporary cold.  Ava slid down into her blankets, her mind drifting, moving slowly back to the Source.

 

 One Small Thing

 

     She reaches out her hand, and feels something grab it.  No, not something.  Someone.  And this someone’s grasp is warm and strong and firm.  She lets her fingers slide a little against his palm feeling the smooth skin under hers.  Smooth but also worked, as if he has been building something, calluses just below the start of each finger.

     Ava wants to say something, to feel more than his hand.  Maybe just a wrist.  A forearm.  But does she need to?  She feels that she can already see his body, his skin a lovely gold, fine blonde hair covering his arms.  His neck is strong, his shoulders broad, the muscles powerful, strong, well used.  The hair on his head is blonde, too, and she can almost imagine reaching out to push a strand away from his face.  His face . . . . his face.  She cannot see his face, though now the rest of him is available to her eyes, and how she wants to stare, to gape, to take in every muscle, every plane of muscle and bone and flesh.  She can imagine what all of him would feel like under her hands, smoothness and hardness.  He would taste like sun and salt and citrus.

     He is absolutely beautiful, an almost heat pulsing from him, a feeling mellow and lovely and golden.  He reminds her of a cat—no, a lion, his energy strong and contained and hidden.  She wants to lean into him, take him in her arms, feel all of him against all of her.  But that’s not going to happen.  Not in this dream and not ever. He’s going to leave her.  She can feel it.  He’s not going to be here for long.

     No, she thinks, trying to hold on.  No.  Please don’t leave.  Don’t leave me here alone.  Don’t make me have another day like this one.

     But it’s too late.  He loosens his grasp, his fingers and then palm sliding away from hers, his figure disappearing right in front of her.  

     “Come back!” she cries into her dream.  “Don’t leave!”

     But he is leaving; he is already gone.

     “Goodbye,” she whispers, the dream fading even as his palm still tingles on hers.

One Small Thing

 

     Ava opened her eyes, blinking into what was real. The morning light was emerging from the west, the sleeping shelter full of a pewter gray, the air lighter, less cold.  Finally, everyone in the shelter was quiet, no sleeping noises, no snores, only even, deep breaths.  Outside, she could hear the first shufflings of movement, some people already getting started with the day.

     She turned on her back, looked up at the ceiling, wiping away her tears.  She hated him.  No one should be able to give her so much pain.  No one should be able to leave her again and again as he did each time in the dream.  Maybe her twin wasn’t dead, but he might as well be.  Even in her fantasies, her imagination he left her. He never sought her out in the Source, the one place he had to be.  He didn’t search her out here, in life, calling to her, needing her.

     The light grew brighter—orange, gold—and Ava sat up in her cot, looking at the sleeping people all around her, some now starting to stir.  She blinked, shook her head.  Clutching her blanket, she knew she had to protect herself.  She didn’t want to feel the way she did in the dream, so needy, so desperate for his touch.  Ava realized that she had to protect herself from what she needed most.  Because she didn’t have it, and it never seemed she would.

     Throwing back the blanket, Ava swung her legs around, her feet on the smooth cool floor.  She had to forget about him.  She couldn’t keep  lugging around this terrible sadness.  She had to ignore the want and need that showed up in her dreams.  She had to push away the sorrow that always threatened to spill over.  She was a strong, capable woman, who didn’t need a man to make her whole.  She didn’t need her twin, her double, to make her life all right.  It didn’t matter that her power was incomplete as it served her no purpose or anyone else for that matter.  All she had to do was control herself, keep her age clear, on target.  She was twenty-five and she wouldn’t use her power again.

     Ava Arganos stood up and walked toward the showers at the end of the shelter, promising herself with each step that she would keep her want away.  She would keep her need buried deep inside her, condensed into a solid rock no one could crack open.  All her life, she’d been alone, lonely, away from others.  She’d kept herself in the corner because there was no one she really wanted to sit with.  And that was the way she wanted it to stay.  No pain that way.  No loss. No risk. That was the way that made sense.  That was the safe way, the best way, the only way to live her life.

     From this moment on, that’s how she would live.  This is what she would do. 

     She nodded at others who were moving, getting up, and with each firm step, she felt her resolve form around her like steel, like armor.  Nothing coming in, nothing going out.  Safe at last.

jessica-barksdale-inclan's picture

Note from the author coming soon...

About Jessica

Jessica Barksdale Inclán's debut novel Her Daughter's Eyes, published in 2001, was the premier novel published under New American Library's new imprint Accent. Her Daughter's Eyes was a...

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Published Reviews

Feb.15.2008

CATCHY SNIPPET: What if you could change the flow of time? Mila Adams can do just that. An exhilarating adventure ensues when she meets a man with a very similar talent. Will they discover the source of...

Jul.28.2008

Being with Him
Jessica Inclán Zebra, $13 paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-4201-0112-6

In Inclán’s sweet but sometimes silly trilogy opener, finding a soul mate is child’s play compared to discovering...

Member Reviews

amy-reed's picture
Sep.11.2009
The Beautiful Being is the third and final book in Jessica Inclan’s paranormal romance trilogy, which includes the books Intimate Beings and Being...