A young adult novel about what happens when your imaginary friends aren’t so imaginary after all.
Serena Cole can kick serious butt thanks to young women only she can see. School bullies aren’t her only problem. To shield Serena from a dark secret, her family tries to convince her that her friends are imaginary.
Fleeing her distrustful aunt, Serena joins her mother on an archeological dig at Kistishi Island. There, Serena discovers an ancient scroll and realizes her invisible friends are goddesses native to the island, and they are in danger of enslavement for their abilities. Only Serena can save her friends if she can discover the past her family has hidden her entire life – the reason why only she can see the goddesses.
KISTISHI ISLAND is now available on Amazon from Clean Reads.
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Check out Chapter 1:
“How are your imaginary friends?” Serena read aloud from the black marker scrawled on her locker. Her dry lips stuck together with each word as the sarcasm stung her mind. The janitor might scrub the permanent marker, but it would always remain a faint reminder of how much people ridiculed her. The washed out marks from last week, “Schizo,” “Fake,” and “Your imaginary friends hate you,” still showed up against the brown metal.
“Aw, someone cares about my day.” Krieg hovered behind, picking fuzz off her dress. “You should answer them. Write ‘Krieg says hi’ underneath.”
The last thing she needed was people knowing how much she still communicated with Krieg. Serena glanced down the hallway, but the students strolling by didn’t look her way. Who could have written the graffiti? Roxanne? Her hand trembling, Serena spun the combination on her lock and jerked open the dented locker door. The hinges rattled.
Did it hurt them if she had an invisible friend? As she exchanged a textbook for her social studies notes, someone bumped her butt. She lost her balance, flinging out her hand to grab the locker.
“Whoops,” a boy said and snickered.
Serena’s cheeks burned as she stuffed her supplies into her messenger bag. One more hour of high school and she could go home. Tomorrow she would bring another marker to scribble out the words that branded her.
Krieg leaned in close enough for Serena to smell her peppermint bubble gum, and said, “Bludgeon them. It’s the only way to get them to shut up.”
“No one’s talking about me right now.” Serena’s sneakers squeaked against the tile floor as she ducked into the classroom. Afternoon sunlight reflected off faded Holocaust posters on the off-white walls.
“It’s annoying when you allow the little rodents to torment you.” Krieg stuck her tongue out at the few students settling into their seats. “Where are the beheadings and crocodile pits? How about some maiming? I want to hear screaming and bones crunching.”
“This is the suburbs in the twenty-first century. People don’t do that stuff here.” Serena took her favorite seat in the back near the globe and opened her messenger bag to remove her notebook. Glancing around the room at the few students, she smiled. Since the teacher hadn’t arrived yet, she could grab a few minutes to work on her novel. Hopefully, the story would be done by her mother’s next visit. Look what I did, Mom!
“Whatcha doing?” Krieg leaned her hip against the desk and rearranged the pleated folds of her silk stola. Beneath the sleeveless dress, she wore a turquoise tunic. A thin silver belt fastened beneath her breasts, and another clasped around her narrow waist.
“I’ve got an idea for chapter seven of my Jennifer Erik story.” Serena pressed her pen to a clean page. “Jennifer’s going to be caught by a gargoyle.”
Roxanne stalked from two rows over and blinked her glittered eyelids at Serena. “Did you just call me a gargoyle?”
Serena tightened her fist around her pen. “No.” Her throat constricted. Why does Roxanne always have to single me out?
Roxanne yanked Serena’s black notebook from the desk; the metal spirals scraped against the hard surface. Serena’s pen slipped from her hand and struck the tile floor, the sound eerily loud.
Fail. She hadn’t made it through that last hour of the school day. “I wasn’t talking to you.”
“Who were you talking to? Your imaginary friends?” Roxanne bent the notebook, her biceps flexing beneath the short sleeves of her skull-and-crossbones T-shirt.
Serena cringed. Even though she would still be able to read the words, her stomach twisted into a knot. It wouldn’t be the same as having the pages crisp, new.
“I told you to bludgeon everyone before they could start on you.” Krieg rubbed her knuckles together.
“Forget to do your homework again?” Roxanne asked.
“It’s not my homework—”
“Maybe they should put you in Special Ed.”
Blood drained from Serena’s head, her heartbeat ringing in her ears. Classmates stopped getting out supplies from their backpacks to stare. Of course Roxanne would have to bring that up.
Serena toyed with her nose ring to calm her nerves. I will not fight back.
Krieg flounced across the room to push Roxanne’s baseball cap off her desk and jumped aside when a boy almost walked into her. He stopped to pick up the hat, and Krieg pointed at his bottom as he bent. She lifted her foot in a mock kick. “You know you want to.”
Serena drew a deep breath, dragging her gaze away from Krieg and back to Roxanne. “Please give my notebook back.”
One, two, three… uno, dos, tres… Her last psychiatrist promised counting in foreign languages would help her calm down faster because it took more conscious thinking to do it.
Her pulse still pounded.
Serena wouldn’t react. She knew better. It was just a spiral notebook.
Roxanne, standing over Serena’s desk, thumbed through the pages, tearing the college-ruled paper with her thick fingers. “Your handwriting sucks.” Needles scraped across Serena’s skin with each rip.
“Do something.” Krieg punched her fist into her palm.
Four, five, six… no, Serena would not talk back. Seven, eight, nine… she wouldn’t say anything this time. Ten, eleven, twelve… maybe she could still make it through the final hour.
“What is this crap?” Roxanne ripped out a page. Smirking, she crumpled the paper and tossed it at the garbage can in the back of the room.
“Don’t let her ruin your story.” Disgust coated Krieg’s words; she spat them out as if they were spoiled milk. Eyes narrowed, Krieg brushed her hand across Serena’s shoulder. Electricity shot through her body, arching her back.
“Give it back!” Serena launched to her feet. No, not again. She grabbed the notebook with two hands while she jammed her shoulder into Roxanne’s sternum. The force knocked Roxanne backward, but she clung to the notebook, dragging Serena with her as she hit the floor. Roxanne rolled until her muscled frame pressed against Serena’s ribs, forcing the breath from her lungs. Serena squirmed to get away, bumping her leg against a desk. She wouldn’t fight, didn’t want to, couldn’t, not here, not again…
Krieg’s voice echoed in her mind. Squelch her. Tie her to the rack.
“Cool. A fight.” A girl sitting across the aisle from Serena laughed.
I don’t want to fight. Krieg’s electricity still burned Serena’s veins, muting her urge for peace. Even if Serena didn’t win, she wouldn’t let Roxanne walk away without a few bruises. Maybe Roxanne would finally quit bullying her. Then Serena would never have to fight again, no matter how much the urge overtook her.
“You think you’re better than the rest of us?” Roxanne bared her teeth. “All alone back here, just because your mom was in National Geographic?”
She wrapped her legs around Serena’s, and they rolled. Serena’s back hit another desk leg. Pain flared along her nerves. A few quick twists of her hands on Roxanne’s head, and Serena could have broken her neck the way Krieg had taught her, but she stilled. Perspiration broke out across her forehead as she forced herself not to move.
“Fry her.” Bloodlust tainted Krieg’s voice. Her unbound hair hid her face, purple eyes peeking out.
“You gotta see this,” a girl said from the other side of the classroom into her cell phone. “Roxanne took on Serena!”
Roxanne didn’t have to antagonize her, but if she wanted a fight, so be it. Serena slapped Roxanne’s huge, red face. Roxanne seized Serena’s wrist. Serena tried to squirm away, but Roxanne pinned her down and grabbed the edge of her sweater, yanking it up to reveal Serena’s bare chest.
Serena gasped. Cheeks burning, she ripped the fabric away and tugged her sweater back down. “I…I can’t…” My aunt thinks I’m still ten and only buys me undershirts sounded pathetic, even if it was the truth.
“Bras only get in the way,” Krieg yelled from Serena’s desk. “Real women go nude.”
Serena’s classmates hooted laughter and her cheeks burned. A few people lifted their cameras as if to take a photo. Fantastic, just what she needed—a compromising picture of her flashing through the school. Maybe she should rip off Roxanne’s shirt to see what their classmates would do then.
Mr. Clayton walked into his classroom, his beer belly straining against the front of his green button-up shirt. “The copier got jammed and I had to—” He dropped his papers. “Roxanne Bynes! Serena Cole!”
The chill of the tile floor bit through Serena’s clothes. A growing ache pulsed in the back of her head. She gritted her teeth. At least the fight was over.
Krieg clapped her hands. “Who cares if Mr. Clayton’s here? Kill her already.”
“Roxanne Bynes, are you going to let her up or do I have to pull you off?” Mr. Clayton rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Roxanne rolled off and wiped her cheek on her forearm. Serena remained on the floor with one hand over her head and the other resting on her stomach, eyes squeezed shut so tight they hurt.
“Serena, please, I thought we discussed this before.” Mr. Clayton sighed. “Get off the floor. Both of you, head to the office. Now.” He snorted. “I’m sure your aunt will be interested in hearing about your newest escapade.”
Now Aunt Nikki will have to promise the principal and the teachers, again, how I’ll behave better in school. Maybe I should have gone along with the school when they wanted to put me in Special Ed. Someone there might also have a friend like Krieg – a friend who wanted her to off people.
“I’m waiting, Serena.”
“Come on.” Krieg danced behind Mr. Clayton and fluttered her eyelashes. “Even you can take him on. He’s just a teacher. I doubt he’s ever been to a gym.”
“I’m not fighting the teacher.” Serena opened one eye to glare at her invisible friend.
“Hmm?” Mr. Clayton tapped his foot. Krieg puckered her lips at his back, making kissy sounds.
Groaning, Serena stood up. Roxanne glared at Serena before she grabbed a tissue off the teacher’s desk, pressed it to her wounded cheek, and stomped from the room.
“You started it,” Serena muttered. She dragged her fingers through her tangled hair before Krieg approached to tuck it behind her ears. Maybe Krieg was right, a few little twists and Serena would never have to worry about Roxanne again. Tension beat through her tight muscles. She wanted to punch a hole through the classroom wall and give Mr. Clayton something to punish her for. The thought made her snicker. Maybe she should become the delinquent everyone believed her to be and succumb to Krieg’s instigations without trying to resist.
“Pick up your things and head to the office,” Mr. Clayton said. He picked up the phone near the door and dialed four numbers. “Yes, this is Clayton. I’m sending Roxanne Bynes and Serena Cole down for fighting in my classroom.” He paused. “Roxanne is on her way and Serena will leave shortly. I don’t want anything starting in the hall.”
Serena snatched her notebook and slipped the ruined pages into her black bag. Blood thrummed in her ears. A few students whispered from their seats, staring at her. She wanted to wave her notebook at them and ask, “How does this make me the weirdo? I’m the victim.”
Krieg leaned against Serena’s desk. “You could’ve beaten him.”
Serena picked up her pen from the floor and blew on it.
“Roxanne, too.” Krieg grinned. Some of her thick black hair fell over her face. “Clayton’s old. Roxanne would’ve been a little tougher, but I know you could’ve done it. It’s like they say on that box thing.”
Serena stared ahead at the Smart Board. She hated it when Krieg pretended to forget English words. “Television?”
“Yes, that.” Krieg tucked her wild tresses behind her elfin ears. “If you put your heart into it, you can do anything. Why don’t you believe in yourself?”
“I do,” Serena whispered. I could’ve killed Roxanne. Is that what you want, Krieg? To see me behind bars with blood on my hands? What kind of imaginary friend are you?
Serena sat in a hard chair near the door to the principal’s office. She peered at the clock on the wall. Five after three. She wished she could go home already, but the principal was still lecturing Roxanne. Soon it would be her turn. Silhouettes danced through the frosted glass of the office door. Principal Reed gestured out the window and Roxanne had her arms folded, shaking her head.
Krieg dropped cross-legged onto the floor beside Serena. The white stola rode up over her knees. “What if we put super glue on her chair? Then Roxanne will be stuck.” Krieg giggled.
“That’s immature.” Serena groaned from behind her hand. The secretary glanced over, then returned to the files on her desk, just like last time Serena visited. She could almost read the secretary’s thoughts: Serena Cole, back with another issue.
“So? It’ll be funny.” Krieg held her knees and rocked. Then she bounced to her feet, pranced to the secretary’s desk, and swiped her arm across a stack of papers to knock them onto the floor.
The secretary jumped to her feet. “What was that?”
“Let me help.” Serena rose, picking up an attendance form that had landed near her foot.
“It’s fine. I’ll do it, but thanks.” The secretary frowned at the closed office window before accepting the form and starting on the other papers. “What a mess.”
“Mayhem is fun.” Krieg returned to Serena’s side.
I wish I could travel with Mom. Then I could have tutors. Serena unfastened her nose ring and dropped it into the zippered side compartment of her bag before Aunt Nikki saw she still wore it. “What do you think my dad would say if he was still alive?”
“Get out your notebook,” Krieg said, “and we’ll find out.”
Maybe up in Heaven, you’ll be able to read this. I’m going to burn it, and maybe you can find the ashes. Krieg told me it’s a good way to speak to the dead.
I wish you were here. I wish I could’ve met you. There’s always so much I want to say. So much I want to do with you, and sometimes I pretend you’re with me. It never feels right, though. You’re never as solid as my other imaginary friends are.
Maybe it’s because you’re not imaginary. You’re dead.
Krieg talks about death a lot. What do you think, Dad? Should I listen to her and fight? It feels so good.
Your daughter down here on Earth,
Serena Stymerya Cole
Serena shut the notebook. Maybe Dad’s spirit will convince Mom to take me away from New York.
Jordan Elizabeth is known for her odd sense of humor and her outrageous outfits. Surrounded by bookshelves, she can often be found pounding away at her keyboard – she’s known for breaking keyboards, too. Jordan’s young adult novels include ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, COGLING, TREASURE DARKLY, BORN OF TREASURE, GOAT CHILDREN, VICTORIAN, and RUNNERS AND RIDERS. KISTISHI ISLAND is her first novel with Clean Reads. Check out her website for bonus scenes and contests.
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