With only three weeks left until the ebook release of SEELIE PRINCESS, I want to give you a sneak peek at what’s waiting for you. You can read the entire first chapter below.
On some days, missing her father was only background noise. On others, the hole he’d left behind sucked all the sound from the world around her.
Today was one of those silent days.
Kayla was gazing out the window at the dull sky, her reflection blurred by the glass vibrating as the train rushed over the tracks. The image vanished as a ray of sunshine broke through the thick clouds, making Kayla squint. Her eyes took some time to adjust to the sudden brightness, but when they had, the train was already approaching the station.
“Kay, are you even listening?”
Turning away from the window, Kayla blinked at her friend Abby, who had her phone held out toward Kayla. “Did you see this? It’s a new club opening tonight,” Abby said. “We should go.”
Kayla frowned. “Can’t you ask Meghan?”
“No,” Abby said curtly. She took her phone back and shoved it into her handbag. Kayla glimpsed several textbooks, all dog-eared and worn, but that was what happened when you took a handbag to school. “Meghan’s not my best friend, is she? Besides, we didn’t go out for your birthday last week.”
Kayla hugged her backpack closer to her chest. “We went to the movies,” she said. “With popcorn and everything.”
Abby raised an eyebrow. “That’s not the same as partying. Anyway, I’ve got to get off.” Tossing back her long hair, she leaned in for a hug. Kayla held on for a second, the scent of Abby’s coconut shampoo tickling her nose.
“Text me if you change your mind,” Abby said. She stood and filed out of the train, waving at Kayla through the window.
Kayla watched Abby grow smaller and smaller as the train pulled out of the station. Once she was out of sight, Kayla took out her phone, scrolling up and down without reading any of the words. Her eyes stung with an exhaustion she couldn’t shake off.
People around Kayla rose to their feet as a crackling voice on the intercom announced their next stop and the train slowed down again. The platform was packed with commuters, impatiently waiting for the arriving train.
The brakes squealed, and the train came to a stop. As soon as the doors slid open, people pushed outside, while those waiting on the platform tried to squeeze inside. Kayla let her gaze wander over the crowd, taking in all the different people: short and tall, thin and thick, young and old, black and white. Unfamiliar faces. Except…
Brown eyes, tousled russet hair. A face she hadn’t seen in years. As the platform cleared, her father turned the other way.
“Dad, wait!” She leaped to her feet. People cursed as she pushed her way through to the exit, her eyes fixed on her father out on the platform. He was heading toward the stairs. A voice sounded from the speakers, announcing their departure. Kayla pushed and shoved.
“Dad!” She stumbled out of the train, the doors slamming shut the moment she stepped outside. The wheels of the train screeched as it left the station.
The platform had cleared. Kayla hurried over to the stairway where she’d last seen him and sprinted down the stairs, almost slipping on the last step. She skidded to a halt on the sidewalk.
Cars were rushing by, people walking along, but her father had disappeared. Heart thrumming in her chest, Kayla spun around, scanning the area. She could hardly breathe, and the rush of her blood was so loud in her ears that she couldn’t hear either.
Tears stung her eyes. She sank to the curb, hugging her trembling arms tight to her chest. After all this time, had it really been him?
It couldn’t have been him. He hadn’t been standing on that platform, just like he hadn’t been in the crowd of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade five years ago. Or in that restaurant back in her home town. Or at the lake where they went camping when she was younger.
It never was her father, just a ghost she kept chasing through the dark.
Kayla reached into her jacket pocket for her phone, but her fingers brushed something round and rough. She pulled it out and stared at the object in her hand. It was an acorn, larger than any she’d ever seen. Not that she’d held many acorns before.
Frowning, she looked up and down the streets, but the sidewalk was empty. As she twisted the acorn in her fingers, the cap came off, revealing a hollow inside. Stuffed within was some paper, which Kayla pried from it and unfolded.
For a second, the entire world stopped, shrouded in white noise, and Kayla stared at the paper in her hands. Only four words were scribbled on it.
Your father is alive.
By the time Kayla had reached her home, rain was coming down in sheets, soaking her through to the bones. She climbed the front steps to their building, a red brick house they shared with three other families, and unlocked the door with shaking hands.
The hallway was warm, the smell of fresh linen wafting from the laundry room. Kayla ascended the stairs two steps at a time, the acorn still clasped in her hand. Once in their apartment, she slipped out of her sneakers, tossing them into a corner, and let her toes thaw on the carpet. She inhaled that familiar scent of home, a mixture of oranges and cleaning agents, and she almost forgot about everything that troubled her mind.
Then she went cold all over with the memory of her father’s face.
She moved through the apartment in a trance, first to her room to change her clothes, then to the bathroom to rub her hair dry with a towel. All the while, she held on to the acorn. If she left it out of sight for too long, it might vanish. Evaporate into thin air. And then the only clue she had would be gone.
Kayla pulled her black hair up into a messy bun. Her father used to brush her locks from her face when tucking her into bed. ‘My little princess,’ he’d called her.
It was odd to think about someone who’d been absent most of her life. Some memories were a blur, while others were vivid, as though someone had taken a snapshot of that moment and saved it for eternity. Her father tucking her in at night was one of those snapshot memories.
Kayla hurried back into her room, thinking of the time after he’d vanished. Back then, her mother had been busy making phone calls, talking to adults, and getting Theo to stop crying. Whenever her mother was looking the other way, Kayla snuck out of the house and into the forest.
It hadn’t been long until Kayla had discovered a ring of mushrooms—a faerie ring, her father had called them. Tiny lights popped up and danced inside the ring. It made Kayla think of the stories her father had told her.
Maybe he wasn’t dead. Maybe the Fair Folk took him.
Kayla pulled the door to her room shut. Her bedroom wasn’t spacious, but she liked that about it. Small stacks of books littered the nightstand, desk, and floor, and the door of her wardrobe was open, clothes spilling from it. She made her way toward the desk and kneeled to reach for the bottom drawer. It contained a few loose sheets of music, which she brushed aside to reach for the box underneath.
Kayla had labeled the cardboard box as ‘Old Diaries,’ hoping her mother would respect her privacy. With another glance back toward the door, Kayla opened the lid of the box and rifled through the notes.
Over the years, she’d collected pieces from the newspaper, printed out articles, and tiny notes she’d scribbled in a haste. She skimmed them now, wishing she’d somehow sorted them according to topic. An article called “Faeries—are they real?” was followed by a personal note, barely legible, that was something about ghosts haunting their relatives.
None of the snippets referred to mysteriously appearing acorns.
Kayla reached the bottom of the box. With a sigh, she closed it again and put it back in its hiding spot. She took the acorn out, considering it, when the front door slammed shut.
Footsteps carried down the hallway, followed by the voice of her little brother. “Kayla, are you home?”
“Yeah, coming.” Once the acorn was back in the pocket of her hoodie, she went into the living room.
“You’re home early, Theo,” she said. “Everything all right?”
He looked up at her from the sofa and shrugged. “I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not.” She sat beside him and reached out a hand to brush back his messy brown hair. The area around his right eye had a purplish color and his eyelid was swollen. “What happened?”
He flipped his head back, his hair falling into his eyes again. “It was stupid,” he said. “I didn’t pay attention to the game for a second and then the ball hit me. The coach sent me to the nurse. She said I should go home and rest.”
“It needs some ice on it,” Kayla said. She stood, went over to their kitchenette, and retrieved a bag of peas from the freezer. “Here, hold this to your eye.”
Theo took the bag and dabbed his closed eye, wincing. “I’ll have to sit on the bench for the next game… I don’t think the coach likes me much.”
“You only joined the team two weeks ago,” Kayla said. “It takes time to get good at it. And you’ll make an excellent baseball player one day. Trust me.” She reached out to ruffle his hair. He groaned, shooting her a one-eyed glare.
He lowered the bag of frozen peas. “You can’t know that.”
“But I do,” Kayla said. “It’s in your blood, you know. Dad played baseball for years and he was fantastic at it.” As she mentioned their father, she braced for the usual throbbing in her hollow chest. This time, there was a flutter in her stomach instead.
Theo bowed his head. “I wish he’d been here to teach me.”
She watched her brother press the peas to his face once more. He was growing so fast and starting to resemble their father, a man he had never known, and yet they shared the same brown eyes and the same stubborn frown.
When their father vanished, Theo had been too young to feel grief. Too young to understand that something was missing from his life. Kayla ached to tell him about today, to show him the acorn. But Kayla wouldn’t burden him with the hope she’d felt all those years. She would bring their father back once and for all.
“You know,” Theo said, “you always tell such great stories about him. It makes me miss him.”
Kayla straightened up. “Do you want me to stop?”
Theo peered at Kayla with his one good eye. “No, never. You’re the only one who talks about him.”
“Because I think you should know.” And because their dad wasn’t dead. She nearly crushed the acorn between her fingers.
“Thanks,” he said and scooted closer to hug her.
Kayla held on as long as he let her. When he pulled away, he gave her that stubborn frown before pressing the peas to his eyes again, and Kayla smiled.
“Are you hungry?” she asked.
“Starving. You think Mom would be okay with us having mac and cheese?”
“Sure,” Kayla said. “I’ll fix us some.” She was only halfway to the kitchenette when a soft click sounded and the front door opened.
“I’m home early,” their mother called, “and I brought some pizza.”
Kayla stopped in her tracks and turned around to her mother, forcing a smile. “Great!”
A few minutes later, they sat at their kitchen table, each with a plate of pizza and a can of soda. Theo recounted his story of the day while they ate.
“And then the ball hit me right in the eye.” He pointed at it with a finger, the only one that wasn’t yet smeared with tomato sauce. “I dropped to the ground like this.” He let one hand drop onto the table with a thud.
“The next time you’re playing, you need to be more careful,” their mother said. “Promise me that?”
Theo nodded his head. “Promise.” He gobbled down the last bite of his pizza. “Can I play with my Nintendo now?”
“One hour. I’ll come check on you later.”
He dashed out of the room without another look back.
Kayla’s mother hid a smile behind her slice of pizza. Then, she turned to Kayla. “Honey, you haven’t eaten much,” she said. “Are you all right?”
“I’m not that hungry,” Kayla said, glancing sidelong at her mother. She was wearing her brown hair loose today, and her gray-blue eyes looked more lively than usual. Kayla noticed that her mother had put on eyeshadow, which she only did on very special occasions, and Kayla wondered where her mother had gone after work. Not that she would tell Kayla if she asked.
No other face was as familiar to Kayla, yet more and more often, looking at her mother felt like looking at a stranger. Kayla averted her gaze, staring at the untouched slice of pizza on her plate.
“I can see there’s something on your mind,” her mother said. “You know you can talk to me about anything.”
Except the one thing Kayla wanted to talk about.
Her mother placed a hand on Kayla’s and Kayla flinched back, covering up the sudden movement by tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m fine,” she said. “Mind if I stay at Abby’s tonight?”
“Tonight? I thought the three of us could watch a movie together.” Her mother leaned closer, offering a bright smile.
“Abby needs my help with an English essay,” Kayla said as she stood. “We can always watch a movie another night, right?”
Her mother took a moment to respond. “Yes, sure. Text when you get there, okay? Will you be back for lunch tomorrow?”
“I’ll let you know,” Kayla called, already halfway down the hallway. She stopped in front of Theo’s room and peered inside, but he was too engrossed in his game to notice her. After putting on her sneakers, still wet, and grabbing her backpack, she slipped out of the apartment.
I’ll be posting Chapter 2 close to the release date, so watch this space! SEELIE PRINCESS is already available for pre-order on Amazon.