Coming Soon from Lena North!
Book 2 in the Birds of a Feather Series
Jiminella “Jinx” Sweetwater is a genius. She’s a scholar, an inventor, hardworking and loyal, and well known in the scientific circles around the University in Prosper City.
Being smarter than everyone else might seem like a good thing, but it isn’t. At least, it isn’t to Jinx who has two friends, a small condo, and no life.
After a fight with her best friend Wilder, it just gets worse. Someone breaks into her home and when her parents show up in all their hippie-like glory, Jinx has had enough and escapes to a small village by the sea.
Suddenly, Jinx finds herself involved in village life, living with the unpleasant Mrs. Fratinelli and trying her best to juggle all the things that seem to end up on her plate. And then there’s calm, cool and gorgeous Dante – Snow’s boyfriend, who seems to see right through the shields Jinx has put up around herself, straight into her mind.
“You are cold as a fish, just like they said.”
I’d been on plenty of godawful dates, and this one was no exception, but I still hadn't prepared for the verbal attack. I should have known it was coming when the conversation over dinner became increasingly stilted and awkward, so when the guy asked me to come with him to meet some of his friends, I should have made my excuses and left. He was a nice man, though, and I hadn’t felt like going home.
One beer – and too many drinks to count for him – later I knew better. He’d introduced me to absolutely everyone, using my full name and speaking way too loudly, which meant they all knew who I was even before we walked into the small establishment. I’d still smiled and played nice with his geeky friends who all stared at me as if I was a goddess descended from heaven to honor their local hangout with my divine presence. I should have left then instead, but for masochistic reasons I couldn’t explain, I still didn’t. And then things went downhill, but to be honest, they usually did on such occasions, so I should have expected that too.
The geeks slugged down rum and coke as if their lives depended on it and as the alcohol penetrated their systems all their awe vanished, and they started asking questions.
God, how I hate it when random people start asking me questions.
A young man that I vaguely recognized from one of my classes called out to me and I fully expected him to move on to the most common, but in my mind, also the most idiotic question of them all.
“Is it true that you're a doctor as well as an engineer?”
Yep. There it was. If the man wanted to know so badly, he could just do a quick search. I was all over the net, so it wasn’t exactly rocket science, was it?
“I have a medical degree, but I’ve never practiced, so I don’t call myself a doctor,” I replied, and added, “I have also not finished my engineering degree.”
And I wouldn’t because I’d dropped out of school, but they didn’t need to know that.
“So, how high is your IQ, really?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t really care,” I said truthfully.
I actually didn’t know because there was apparently not a chart available for someone like me. My results caused quite a stir in scientific circles, but luckily, I managed to convince everyone that they’d done something wrong and when they made me take the test again, I cheated. The fuss died down somewhat when they could label me a standard level genius, which was exactly what I’d aimed for. I’d been ten years old at the time.
A girl kept tugging at the sleeve of my white shirt, and when I’d curbed my instinct to slap her hand, I turned with a small, controlled smile. My face hurt from the effort, but my stomach hurt even more. My damned date had pre-ordered our dinner, and since I could barely eat steamed fish these days, the grilled and spicy meat had not been good for me.
“Is it true you started Uni when you were fifteen?” the girl breathed.
“Sure,” I replied, untruthfully this time.
I had started university in January the year I turned fifteen, but since my birthday was in December, I’d been more fourteen than anything else, although by then I’d already been the only adult in my family for several years.
I loved my parents, in a way, but we were so different. If I hadn’t looked very much like my dad, and almost killed my mother when I was born, I would have assumed that I'd dropped down from outer space, right into the lap of my clueless parents.
“Wow,” the girl breathed and swayed drunkenly. “Your parents must be so proud,” she exclaimed, but I just smiled noncommittally, and turned away to start making my way home.
Mom and dad were proud, I knew that. Overhearing them talking about me just before my twelfth birthday had however made it perfectly clear that in many ways I was also a huge disappointment. Mom had pleaded with dad to let her homeschool me for a year so we could all go on a road trip. Dad had refused, vehemently, for once being firm and determined, telling her that they couldn't squander my gifts away. Mom had been livid, and they'd had a huge argument. My belly started out tingling with excitement at the prospect of getting away for a whole year, but it churned and roiled as they fought. I hated being the reason for all the angry words they threw at each other and Mom gave in eventually but ended the argument by snapping at him that she wished she’d had a stupid child that wouldn’t keep them stuck in a horrible city for years and years.
My parents are what you might call free spirits. They are both happiest when they're moving around in their small caravan, going from fair to fair, selling ugly jewelry my mother makes and incredibly strange wood statues that my father carves. He likes to describe his creations as erotic, which is just plain weird because they look like blobs of wood with random scratches and nothing else. He isn’t very skilled, which might account for the lack of visible eroticism in what he does.
It took me two years, but I managed to fast track through school and into university eventually. They left a week after I moved into my own apartment, and I smiled and waved happily when they rolled away, even though I suspected that they weren't looking back.
I pushed through the crowd, fielding questions that made it feel like running a gantlet, and when I reached my date, I murmured in his ear that I appreciated the lovely dinner but that I was heading home. He slung an arm around my shoulders and started walking me out of the bar, which I found a bit surprising until I saw the sly glances his friends tried to hide.
Really? He thought he’d come home with me?
While I shrugged into my black leather jacket, I explained patiently that he would in no way accompany me anywhere. Then I suggested kindly that he should go back inside, which made him immediately toss my cold fishiness in my face. I sighed, but he wasn’t finished.
“You think you’re better than everyone else, Jinx,” he sneered. “I thought you'd at least be decent about spending time with a regular guy like me, so I went through the trouble of borrowing a car to pick you up and pre-ordered an expensive dinner, but you couldn’t even pretend you liked it, could you?”
“A few hundred years ago you would have been burned,” he interrupted, and I stared at him.
“Your eyes, Jinx. They’re like black holes, staring and judging all the time. Hard and cold, that’s what you are, just like your eyes. Witch eyes,” he slurred.
He leaned forward as he spoke and a small drop of spit hit me on my cheek. His words were ugly, and I’d been frozen as he tossed them at me, but that dribble of saliva jerked me into motion.
“Whatever,” I said calmly.
Then I walked away.
Some of his friends had joined us on the sidewalk, and I heard them snicker, so I made sure that I had a small, condescending smile on my face. I could feel their stares following me as I ambled down the street, deliberately stopping to look at some of the shops, without actually seeing anything. My back was straight, and my head held high, but my stomach burned like fire so when I finally allowed myself to turn around a corner I had to stop and lean my back against the wall.
“Don’t think about it,” I murmured to myself, repeatedly, almost as a mantra. “Think about something else. Think about how much compounded energy it would take to…”
As I started to calculate how many generators it would take to catapult a tennis ball to the moon, the knot in my stomach loosened. My breaths came easier, and slowly I walked the short distance to the tiny one-bedroom apartment I’d lived in since I was fourteen.
Out of habit and on legs that were shaking a little, I walked the three stairs instead of taking the elevator. I really hated exercising so I didn't, and countered this with walking or biking anywhere I went, which kept me in reasonable shape. Lately, I'd been losing too much weight, though, and my normally curvy body was fast approaching svelte. It didn't look good on me, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to hide the dark circles under my eyes with foundation and cover stick, but fish or plain yogurt just didn't provide enough nutrition. I'd started experimenting with protein shakes, but the taste ranged from mostly shit to complete and utter shit so I settled for vitamin supplements and counted the days until I could get away.
My door had four locks, and they were rather crappy, but I always locked all of them, hoping that the sheer number would keep potential intruders out. Inside, it was quiet, peaceful, and as I tossed my jacket on a chair by the door, I exhaled. Then I walked over to the kitchen counter to pop a few pills in my mouth, washing them down with cold water straight from the tap.
“That went well, didn't it,” I murmured to myself as I got out of my shirt and dark jeans, picked my dark blue robe from its hook, and slid into it. The sweep of soft, fluffy fabric over my bare shoulders felt like what I thought a hand caressing me softly would feel like, and I knew it was a little pathetic, but that gentle brush always made me feel better.
Then I folded the jeans neatly and put them in my closet, on the shelf beneath the long line of white shirts, most of them exactly the same as the one I'd just tossed in the hamper. I didn't have the time for shopping, and I didn't like it anyway, so when I had to, I went out and bought five new ones and then I was done. I couldn't say why I'd picked jeans to wear with my shirts because the way they usually cut into my hips wasn't at all comfortable. Maybe it was that they gave an air of casualness. These days they were hanging loose, and I'd had to start wearing belts to keep them up.
I sighed as I sank down into my soft couch and leaned back to look at the night outside my big windows. Six months. Surely I would manage six more months.
When my friend Wilder had asked if I could examine a crystal they'd found in the mountains just outside her gigantic ranch, Double H, I'd tried to say no, but she'd pleaded and cajoled until I'd had no choice. It was logical for me to do it since I knew about her father's secret group of vigilantes, their history and paranormal connections with various kinds of flying animals. Wilder and Mary were the only friends I had so when tears had started to run down Wilder's cheeks, I gave in and promised her that I'd spend six months on it. I didn't want to take on the job of figuring out what kind of energy swirled around the milky stone, though, and I know this surprised her.
Maybe I should have told her my reasons, but I was too afraid that showing any kind of weakness would be the thing that finally broke me. The threads holding me together were too thin, too frail, and if one of them snapped, I wasn't sure I would ever manage to pick up the pieces.
My name is Jiminella Nixée Sweetwater, but everyone calls me Jinx. I have two friends, a small condo, and no life. I'm a genius. A scholar and inventor, hardworking and loyal to my few close friends, and I have to get away. I lost myself a long time ago and to continue being who I am hurts too much, so I have to escape.
I have to find me.