Home > Captivate (Unearthly Balance #1)

Captivate (Unearthly Balance #1)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

Chapter 1


I think the guy standing in the middle of the quad might be dying, and I’m pretty sure he might kill me with him.

His name is Drew Pestingford, and he’s a fairly quiet, off the radar kind of guy, up until a few minutes ago when his girlfriend of two years decided to slaughter his heart by dumping him in front of the entire school. The stabbing emotional pain he’s experiencing is enough to knock the air out of my own lungs, and what I’m feeling are his diluted emotions. I can only imagine how much he’s enduring—enough that he might keel over and drop dead right here in front of everyone.

Yeah, okay, so maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic, but he’s definitely suffering through some major heartache.

I want to shove my way through the crowd and tell him things will get better. Then I would pull out my phone and blast “Love Hurts” by Nazareth so he understood he isn’t the only one who’s ever felt this way. But getting that close means taking the full-force of his aguish. I would feel his soul cracking in half, feel his will to live breaking, his heart dying. And while none of those things are actually happening to him, at the moment, he believes they are, and that thought power makes my despair detector thingy go haywire.

Just when I think the pain can’t get any worse, Drew’s girlfriend confesses there’s someone else, has been for three months. My stomach churns, my lungs struggle for oxygen, and a deep, throbbing sensation tears at my chest as Drew’s heart shatters into pieces. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

That’s my cue to leave before I end up passing out.

Turning away from the scene, I shove my way through the gawkers and toward the entrance of the high school. With each step, my nausea dissipates and air returns to my lungs, yet the throbbing in my heart will linger for at least the next few hours. It’s something I learned quickly about my curse.

The heart is always the last to recover when someone experiences a high dose of despair—the only emotion I ever feel flowing off others. At least, that’s how it’s been for as long as I can recollect. Even when I was four years old and my grandma died, I remember feeling horrible grief after my mom learned the news.

When I found her sobbing on the sofa, her eyes swollen and red, I immediately knew something was wrong. My mom never cried. Even when my dad bailed on us, she didn’t shed a tear.

I approached her with caution, asking, “Mama, what’s wrong?”

A sob wrenched from her chest as tears streamed down her face. “It’s your grandma … She’s … gone.”

“Gone?” I asked. “Like, on a vacation?”

She shook her head. “No, sweetie. She … died … yesterday morning … She’s gone. And I don’t know what to do. She’s the only one who ever understood. Who knew about …” Her voice cracked, and her eyes widened as if something had spooked her.

I didn’t know what had her so horrified, but my thoughts lay elsewhere. My grandma died? I’d never get to bake cookies with her again? I’d never again get to go shopping with her? I’d never get to hug her ever again?

Tears pooled in my eyes. “She really died?”

My mom nodded. “I’m sorry, Everly. I know how much you love her.” She opened her arms for a hug. “Come here. Help me feel better.”

I went to her, wanting to take her pain away. The closer I got to her, though, the more a blinding, helpless, confusing ache filled my chest. The pressure was unbearable, so I stepped away. However, my mom snagged the sleeve of my shirt and yanked me to her, nearly squeezing the life out of me as she pulled me in for a hug.

The contact of her icy cold skin sent a chill through me. The longer I stayed in her arms, the more the iciness expanded, developing into a painful ache that ripped the air from my lungs.

I thought I’d never escape the painful terror. I thought I’d die in her arms and never breathe again. Then she nudged me back and warmth enveloped my body once again.

“I think I’m going to cook dinner.” Her eyes had dried, and she even managed a smile. “Is there anything in particular you want to eat?”

I shook my head, my body trembling from the grief stinging under my skin. I felt so exhausted, so drained, so … broken.

“I think I’m going to go to bed.”

She patted my head then whisked herself toward the kitchen with a spring in her step. “Sounds good. Sleep as long as you need to. It’s been a rough day.”

Nodding, I dragged myself to my room and collapsed onto my bed. The second my head hit the pillow, my eyes shut.

I didn’t wake up for almost four days.

I thought it was strange that I slept for so long, but my mom didn’t seem worried. In fact, she was oddly happy after being so distraught. I didn’t question her smiles and laughter, though. I envied them. I wanted to laugh again, but a darkness was stirring inside me.

I didn’t understand why I felt so broken and weighted until I started school. Then I began to piece together what was really going on with me. Not only did I experience my own despair, but others’ as well. All I had to do was get close enough to someone, and if they were sad and hurting, I did, too.

At first, I tried to help people; get them to talk, open up—do whatever I had done to my mom that made her go from sad to happy in two seconds flat. But whatever that was turned out to be a one-time thing, because I couldn’t help my brother. And, God, did I try. I tried so much it nearly killed me.

I choke on the memory of my brother and how hard I tried to save him from his own despair, only for him to put an end to it himself.

I couldn’t save him. I failed.

My brother was one of my closest friends. Well, he was before he sank into his depression. After that, he withdrew from everyone. And after he died, I withdrew from people, too.

My life became crammed with watching, feeling, breathing, living other people’s sadness. Over time, I learned to keep my distance from everyone. It’s just too difficult to deal with that much nonstop pain when I know I can’t do anything to stop it. I’ll admit, though, that sometimes I get lonely, and I wonder what it would be like to touch someone, hold their hand, hug and kiss someone without feeling like I’m going to die from anguish.

Sighing, I tug my mind from my painful thoughts and memories, and summon a breath before entering the school. As always, the hallway is jam-packed, one of the many huge downfalls of going to school. Fortunately, I graduate in a few days. Then it’s college online classes and continuing my job at the library until I get my degree. After that, I’ll probably spend the rest of my life working from home, isolated from others, away from the world’s sorrow.

Is it ideal? No, not at all. But unless I can figure out a way to tune out my curse, I’m shit out of luck.

“Yo, dude, did you see what was going on out front? Emily’s dumping Drew right in front of everyone. It’s so fucking hilarious,” Leo, the most popular guy in our school, shouts across the hallway to one of his friends. He’s standing close enough that his voice makes my ears ring. And when his elbow rams into my back, I can’t help thinking, Here we go again. Thankfully, he isn’t feeling any internal torment, just getting his kicks and giggles off of Drew’s.

Sick, twisted asshole. He wouldn’t think it was so funny if he had to live through the feeling every single day, or if it was his ass getting dumped in front of everyone.

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