Destiny Gift (The Everlast Trilogy)
Author:Juliana Haygert

Destiny Gift (The Everlast Trilogy) - By Juliana Haygert

Chapter One

If telepathy, soul-seeing, or palm-reading existed, Dr. Brown was using her powers and performing one of those, if not all, on me.

Her lips were pressed into a thin line. Her neck was long, strained. Behind her cat-shaped glasses, her narrowed eyes gleamed with a curious, cold gleam, intent on me. She was analyzing me, I could feel it. I could see it. She was studying my posture, my body gesture, my expression.

I averted my gaze and sat on top of my hands, hoping they would stop shaking.

“Nadine Sterling,” she said. Her tone was almost caring. “What brings you to me?”

The insanity of my mind, I could say. But I didn’t. I knew this would happen. Come all the way to the psychiatrist’s office and freeze, unable to confess anything.

“Nadine?” Her tone pressed on me.

I glanced at her. Her knuckles were white around her pen, a foot swung rapidly from crossed legs, and her hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail. It gave me the impression she would freak if any strand fell loose. She looked like a perfect, impatient robot, designed to dissect her patients’ brains inch by inch.

I didn’t like her. I didn’t feel at ease with her.

She sighed, leaning back in her chair. “I know it’s difficult to trust someone you don’t know, but I’m here to help you. You sought me out to help you.”

True, though that didn’t make confessing my sins any easier.

This time, she waited.

My mind took off to the place I most loved and, at the same time, most feared. “I have dreams.”

One of her delicate brows cocked. “Dreams? About?”

My gaze focused on the darkness coming through the large window behind her. It was afternoon and the sky was pitch black. Tall buildings in decay surrounded this one. A bat or two flew around. If I stood and looked down, there would be hookers and junkies and muggers filling the streets, and litter tossed through the lanes. If I were on the sidewalk, the reeking mix of garbage, dirt, cheap perfume, and human waste would invade my nose, making me gag.

“In my dreams, the world isn’t like that.” I pointed toward the outside. “The world isn’t in chaos, the huge bats aren’t attacking people right on the streets, and agriculture isn’t in crises. In my dreams, the world is safe. The sun shines high in the blue sky.”

I glanced briefly at Dr. Brown. She seemed to be in her late thirties, meaning she had seen the sun and the sky with her own eyes before the darkness took over. I envied her.

Her foot went still. “Sun and blue sky. What else do you see in your dreams?”

Oh, there was more. There was much more.

Dream was the word I used to calm my mind. Visions were more like it.

The first one happened right after my arrival in New York. At first, the visions came once a month or so, but now they assaulted me once a week. I blacked out every time I had one. I could be cooking, studying, walking on the street, and I would simply tune out, see whatever the vision brought me, then I would wake up as if nothing had happened, as if I had not spent the last thirty seconds or fifteen minutes daydreaming.

I was reluctant to call my visions hallucinations. Yet now, at a psychiatrist’s office, I guess I should. Hallucinations could be stopped with medication, right? That was why I was here—to ask the doctor to put an end to them. The visions were hindering my life. Last semester, I failed a class because I had visions during lectures and exams. Three days ago, I dropped a tray over a customer at the café where I waited tables. My boss almost fired me, accusing me of being distracted all the time. I was losing control of my life and I was scared.

On the other hand, if I stopped hallucinating, I would stop seeing him.

Every time I forced myself to think about this, about the dilemma of my life, I felt my soul ripping into two big chunks. But, in the end, his chunk was always bigger.

From the faint reflection on the widow, I could see a smile taking over my lips. It was impossible not to smile when thinking about him.

All my visions were about the same perfect and gorgeous guy. My dream Prince Charming was called Victor Gianni. He was twenty-three, tall and athletic, with light brown hair streaked by some natural honey-colored highlights, brilliant sea-green eyes, and his smile always made my heart somersault.

Yes, Victor lived only in my visions, but I was in love with him.

I had been seeing him for nine months. Because of him, I had blown off too many dates, said no to too many guys. I had become unsociable, buried in my own fantasy world. But I didn’t regret it.

“Nadine?” Dr. Brown’s voice caught my attention. “What else do you dream about?”

I blew out a breath, crossed my arms over my chest, and held on tight.

And just like that I was back in my dilemma: being crazy and having Victor, versus being normal and losing him.

I didn’t care that every Saturday night my roommate gave me a lecture about being young and pretty and smart, about going out, having fun, and making out. I had happily exchanged those parties she’d wanted to drag me to just to see Victor. And I would do it again.

Saying goodbye to him scared me, but it wasn’t the only thing that made my stomach shrivel. What if I was insane? What if I was interned into a clinic under heavy sedation? What if I was given those shock treatments horror movies pictured so often? I couldn’t be incarcerated in a freak’s clinic—not at will, at least. I couldn’t lose Victor either.

My breathing grew shallow.

“I need to go to the restroom.” I stood, my hand over my queasy stomach, and dashed out of the room. I couldn’t do this after all.

Though, instead of turning left and going into the restroom, I turned right and walked out and across the reception. Once in the corridor, I ran.

I would not lose Victor.

***

On the subway ride home to Manhattan, I kept asking myself why the hell I went to a psychiatrist. Deep down, I knew I wouldn’t give up Victor for anything, so why bother?

An old lady sat beside me. She opened the morning newspaper, and I couldn’t help but peek at it. As usual, the headlines were one worse than the other.

In Australia, a terrorist entered a train station and blew himself up, along with hundreds of innocents. Acid rain damaged houses in Brazil and burned hundreds of people. In Canada, rabid doves invaded a church, killed the priest, and injured several devotees. A new virus was discovered in Africa that seemed worse than Ebola. Everywhere, assaults, robberies, killings, and other horrific events plagued the world.

Perhaps I should have been used to the disasters, but I wasn’t. I was born into this world, this cruel, dangerous, dark world—the world of chaos, as my mother called it—and yet, I was always shocked by the tragic events.

“I wonder if I’ll see the blue sky again before I die,” the old lady said. “I miss how life was before.” She folded the newspaper and turned to me. “Ah, the rivers were clean, there were trees and flowers everywhere, and summers were warm and sunny. We could actually walk down any street and not be afraid of being robbed. Now we have to be careful of bats.”

I could have told her I had been attacked by bats more than once, but I didn’t want to encourage her to keep talking.

She went on anyway. “God gave up on us. I’m sure of it. Thirty years ago. He left us and our world changed.”

Her words echoed in my mind, bringing forth an old memory. My grandma and little me strolled through the field where my dad worked. The lake had dried out, and the plantation was dying from lack of water and sun.

“The water is dirty, but serves its purpose nonetheless,” she explained as our feet crushed the dead stems. “The owner doesn’t make enough money to keep paying for the sun lamps to warm the herbs and make them grow.”

The image was forever etched in my mind: the darkness from the sky, the grayish brown from the ground. Even the rotten smell of dead vegetation made its way into my memories.

I looked around, confused. This was my father’s job. How would he support our family if his work was dying?

“You know, dear, I believe God abandoned us,” my grandma continued. She halted and looked at the dark clouds. “I pray and hope He’ll forgive us and come back someday.”

“Don’t you think?” The old lady’s voice brought me back to the present.

I nodded, not sure what she had asked, but not caring either.

My mind was on what had changed from the before world. Unlike the lady by my side, older people didn’t talk much about it. Melancholy, I guess. But I had found out a thing or two. For example, thirty years ago the subway system wasn’t under severe control. It didn’t have x-ray machines and soldiers patrolling each ride, their weapons apparent.

Just then, an officer entered our car. His gaze was suspicious and his hand rested over the gun on his belt.

At the end of the subway car, two guys weaved and swayed into one another and held telltale brown bags covering what had to be bottles of booze. How couldn’t the officer see them? They were obviously underage.

The guys eyed me and whispered. Goose bumps tingled along my spine, and I put my hand inside my purse, clutching my pepper spray. I left my hand there—my palm sweating because of my increasing nervousness—and was ready to act.

Meanwhile, the old lady babbled about life thirty years ago. How great it was to be able to travel around the world, to swim in the ocean, to go to school unafraid, and so on.

The West Fourth Station grew closer. I acted cool and calm, as if my stop were still far away. After eyeing me, I was sure the whispering and chuckling meant the drunken guys plotted to come after me, and I hoped to thwart their plans.

Relief rushed through me when the door of the subway opened at the station. I dashed to the door and jumped out right before it closed again. I hurried up to street level and didn’t look back once, afraid of what I might see.

But I didn’t need to see, I could hear them—their feet pounding against the slick concrete and their creepy laughs.

I zigzagged through the rough-looking crowd, avoiding eye contact with anyone, but brushing my shoulders against unwelcoming strangers, and hurried toward the gates of the university, trying to stick with streets where the lamps weren’t broken. Why wasn’t the subway station closer to NYU’s gates? Four blocks under such conditions was too far.

Even on the run, I couldn’t help but look around me and shudder.

Skyscrapers taken by criminals. Other buildings in decay and in danger of collapsing. Executive office buildings, schools, churches, and most business—stores, coffee shops, restaurants, theaters, bookstores—kept their heavy doors locked all day. Customers had to ring the bell and wait to be allowed in.

I crossed a street and a speeding car missed me by a few inches. I froze for a second, my heart pounding as I looked at the usual armored wheels and black windows.

Resonating laughter propelled me into action, and I forced my legs to pump like they never had before.

I was so close.

So were they.

I slammed to a stop in front of the building across the street from NYU. Glowing as if it had a silver backlight, the number eight overwhelmed my sight. Get a grip, Nadine. I shook my head to clear my insane vision and caught sight of the guys only a few steps from me.

My heart rate burst into double time and I ran across the street.

From my pocket, I fished out my student card and barely paused as I swiped it on the gate’s lock. I slipped in and the gate closed behind me. A relieved breath escaped my lips.

A guard emerged from the side cubicle. “Everything all right”—he glanced at the computer monitor—“Miss Sterling?”

“Yes, now it is,” I answered. The two guys glared at me through the gates they couldn’t cross.

“The next period will start in seven minutes,” the guard informed me.

I didn’t bother telling him I didn’t have class that afternoon. “Yes, yes, thanks.”

Taking deep breaths to calm myself, I turned and walked farther into campus, while chanting in my mind that I hadn’t seen the number eight shining—again—or that I hadn’t almost been robbed, or worse.

I shuddered, pushing away the terrible images of the possible things that could have happened. I hugged myself and muttered, “It’s okay. I’m okay.”