Authors: Laura Langston
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
When nothing is sure, everything is possible.
Copyright Â© 2009 Laura Langston
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Langston, Laura, 1958-
Hannah's touch / Laura Langston.
ISBN 978-1-55469-150-0 (bound).--ISBN 978-1-55469-149-4 (pbk.)
I. Title. I. Series: Orca soundings
PS8573.A5832H35 2009Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â C2009-902134-X
After being stung by a bee, sixteen-year-old Hannah discovers she has the power to heal.
First published in the United States, 2009
Library of Congress Control Number:
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Dreamstime
5626, STN. B
, BC C
, WA USA
Printed and bound in Canada.
Printed on 100% PCW recycled paper.
12 11 10 09 â¢ 4 3 2 1
A bee sting changed my life. One minute I was normal. The next minute I wasn't.
If you listen to my parents, they'll tell you I haven't been normal since my boyfriend, Logan, died. But they don't get it. When he died, a part of me went with him. Plus, I could have stopped it. The accident that killed him, I mean.
But I was normal. Until it happened.
It was the third Sunday in September, sunny and warm. School was back in. The maple leaves on Seattle's trees were curling like old, arthritic fingers. Fall was only a footstep away.
I wasn't thinking about fall that Sunday. Or school or maple leaves. For sure I wasn't thinking about bees.
I was at work, thinking about Logan, and I was cold. It was freezing in the drugstore. Bentley had the air conditioning cranked to high.
“I swear, Bentley, it's warmer outside than it is in here.” We'd run out of Vitamin C, so I was restocking the middle shelf beside the pharmacy. “I don't know why you need the air conditioning on.”
“It keeps the air moving.” He was behind the counter, slapping the lid on a bottle of yellow pills. “Besides, fall doesn't officially start until September 23.” He slid the bottle into a small white bag.
Like that made any difference. But Bentley, who was the pharmacist, was also the boss of Bartell Drugs. As far as he was concerned, summer was sunscreen displays and air conditioning. No matter how cold it got.
I only had to whine a few more seconds. “Take twenty,” Bentley said. “It's quiet today.”
I grabbed a soda from the cooler by the magazines, waved at Lila, our cashier, and wandered outside. The heat was better than any drug Bentley sold. I popped the tab on my can, took a sip, breathed in sunshine.
“Well, well, just the gal I want to see.”
It was Maude O'Connell, leaning on her turquoise walker, her uni-boob and gold chains practically resting on the top bar. An unfortunate orange and blue caftan covered her plus-size body.
“My gout pills ready yet, Hannah?” she asked.
“Behind the counter and waiting, M.C.” I'd called her Mrs. O'Connell only once. She preferred M.C.
Hanging from the walker was a basket lined with fake brown fur. Home to Kitty, a nearly bald ten-thousand-year-old apricot poodle (yes, Kitty is a dog) who couldn't walk. When I leaned over to scratch her head, she growled and bared the few yellow teeth she had left. I pulled back. Not from fear, but because the smell from the dog's mouth made me queasy.
“'Bout time,” M.C. complained. “I called Friday, and they weren't ready.”
“Friday was nuts,” I said. Three-quarters of the customers at Bartell's were lonely seniors. I liked talking to them as long as they didn't bring up bodily functions.
“Your hair 's growing in nice.” Like Kitty, M.C. was nearly bald. She obviously missed having hair, because she always commented on mine.
“Yeah.” Six months ago, I hacked off my long blond hair. After Logan died, kids I didn't even know started coming up and asking if I was “the girlfriend of the dead guy.” My friends kept telling me I was different too. I didn't need the judgment or the attention. But instead of flying under the radar, I decided to
different. So I hacked off my hair. It was a dumb thing to do.
“The color looks nice.”
It was blond, the same color it had always been. “I'm thinking of dying it midnight black next month.” I played with Logan's St. Christopher medallion. I'd been wearing it since the accident. “To markâ” I stopped.
The one-year anniversary.
Everybody kept telling me I had to get over Logan; I had to move on. Like I could get
him. And anyway, my sadness kept him close. My sadness and his medallionâthey were the only things I had left. “To mark Halloween,” I lied.
M.C. sniffed. “All Hallows' Eve is about more than black hair and broomsticks. It's a true pagan holiday.” Her pale blue eyes took on a sudden gleam as she leaned close. “It's the time of year that spirits can most easily make contact with the living.” She frowned at the look on my face. “It's true!” She grabbed my arm. “I talk to my Danny boy every year at midnight. You can talk to your Logan too.”
I didn't want to talk to Logan. Getting in that car was the stupidest thing he'd ever done. The shock of his death had worn off, and I didn't cry every day anymore, but I hadn't forgiven him or me or Tom. Especially not Tom. He'd bought the beer. And insisted they race.
When I didn't answer, M.C. dropped my arm in disgust. “Okay, so you're a nonbeliever.”
The truth was, I believed the dead go somewhere. It's not just lights-out, erased forever like a mistake on a test. That wouldn't be logical. In nature, everything gets recycled. Why should we be any different?
“I know you Christians.” M.C. stared at Logan's St. Christopher medallion. “You've been fed a load of bull crap about All Hallows' Eve. I'm telling you, it's about as far from the devil as a daffodil.”
I thought of my friend Marie. “I'm not sure I'm Christian, M.C.”
“What are you then?”
“Undecided.” And before she could demand more, I changed the subject. “You'd better go get those pills before Bentley goes on his break.”
“Undecided is for wusses and politicians,” M.C. said as she headed for the door. “Smart people believe in something.”
I walked across the parking lot to the grass on the corner. I believed in lots of things. Tennis and lululemon yoga pants. The importance of saving. Love. And God too, in a casual go-to-church-at-Christmas kind of way.
Later, after it happened, I wondered if being a go-to-church-every-Sunday kind of girl would have spared me. Then again, it might have made it worse.
I flung myself on the grass between two clumps of flowersâone orange with brown centers, the other a brilliant pinkâand wedged my pop on the ground beside me. Once, this spot had been nothing but bark mulch and a few droopy shrubs. You could still see it in old pictures showing our location. But last year Bentley had removed the bark mulch, laid sod and thrown down a fistful of wildflower seeds.
For a guy who dealt drugs all day, he sure liked his flowers. Especially ones that smelled good.
The sun beat on my face. I settled with a sigh. The odd car drove up and down the street. Geese honked somewhere above me. Relaxed and finally warm, I shut my eyes.
I drifted, thinking of homework, of foods class. We'd been assigned groups to prepare theme dinners. I'd been set up with Tom, who insisted we choose Mexican because he wanted to cook with tequila. Like that would fly. Still, knowing Tom, he'd find a way to screw the rules, and we'd fail.
Tom brought thoughts of Logan.
Who was I kidding? Whenever I shut my eyes, I almost always thought of Logan.
Except, I was starting to forget the way he smelled. Don't be grossed out. Logan smelled better than anyone I'd ever known. I'd even bought a bottle of his cologne to wear. But it didn't smell the same on me as it did on him. Body chemistry, I guess.
Forcing myself to think of something else, I concentrated on the roll of earth at the small of my back, the scratch of grass beneath my palms, the warmth of the sun on my eyelids.
I floated there for a while, knowing it was almost time to go back inside. Just as I was about to sit up, I heard a slight buzz in my ear, felt a soft tickle on my cheek. I imagined it was Logan teasing me with a blade of grass. I imagined what I would do back and grew hotter still. The buzz faded; the tickling dropped to my chin.
Some kind of bug. I brushed at my face, heard an angry buzz, and then I felt itâa sharp sting on my neck.
“Ow!” The pain was intense, red-hot and scorching.
A bee sting. My first.
It had to happen sometime. And what better place to get stung than outside a drug store where I knew the pharmacist and he could pull the lid on a bottle of Calamine lotion without me paying for it.
I grabbed my soda and scrambled to my feet. Sunlight glinted off the cars passing by, the sky was an unreal pencil-crayon blue. A car horn sounded; a child laughed. The noises rushed in, filled me up.
Probably I should get the stinger out, I thought. Weren't you supposed to?
A wave of dizziness turned the world sideways. Nerves, I told myself. It was only a bee sting. No biggie.
Except the pain was spreading. Down my neck and into my chest. Sweat beaded my forehead.
Don't be silly. You're going to be fine.
I hurried toward the parking lot. The dizziness was getting worse, the noise from the cars growing louder. I knew about shock reactions; I'd learned something working at Bartell's for the last eight months. But no one in my family was allergic. To anything.
By the time I got to the parking lot, I knew I was wrong. Someone in our family was allergic to something. And that someone was me. My legs felt like they were going uphill through cement. My arms tingled, my breath was wooly in my throat.
Across the lot, I saw M.C. and her stupid Kitty dog standing in the doorway talking to Lila.
I started to run. And then everything turned black.
I was going to die in the parking lot of Bartell Drugs wearing that stupid red vest and with short hair. Mom would hate burying me without my long hair.
What a stupid waste, I thought, seeing my body on the pavement. My first bee sting and it's fatal. It was almost as stupid as Logan getting in that car.
It's all part of the plan.
I felt the words rather than heard them. They became part of me. With them, I grew bigger, fuller, softer.
At the same time, I felt someone. Something. A warm presence.
Beside me, above me, everywhere. It filled me with a kind of hum. I wanted to look around, see who or what it was, but I didn't want to miss the scene below.
I was out of my body. I knew that. I also knew this would probably be the last time I saw myself. It was odd viewing my body from the outside. Kind of like seeing a 3-D image that looks real but isn't. The real me was up here. Strange but true. I wondered if they'd called my parents. My brother, Geoff.
It didn't really matter. Nothing did.
M.C. cradled my head. Kitty dog was in the basket beside her. Lila, the cashier, was on her cell phone. Bentley knelt beside me and pulled something out of a package. An EpiPen.
having an allergic reaction. I was dying. Which meant I was off the hook for that group project with Tom. And I could go find Logan and give him crap for dying.