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Don't Touch

Author(s): Barb Taub

Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it.

Her online journal spans a decade, beginning with the day a thirteen-year-old inherits an extreme form of the family “gift.”
Every day whatever she touches converts into something new:  bunnies, bubbles, bombs, and everything in between.    

Lette’s search for a cure leads her to Stefan, whose fairy-tale looks hide a monstrous legacy, and to Rag, an arrogant, crabby ex-angel with boundary issues. The three face an army led by a monster who feeds on children’s fear. But it’s their own inner demons they must defeat first.

Excerpt


Excerpts From Lette Simoneau’s LiveJournal Blog
WORST. Day-After-Birthday. EVER.
LiveJournal, January 20, 2003 by LetteS
Yesterday was my birthday (13!) so Mom said I could start this LiveJournal blog if I keep it private. But I never thought I would start my first post by saying that this morning at 6:15AM I found out I am a freak.
After all the birthday presents and cake, last night when I got into my (brand new!) loft bed I was a normal, neurotic (isn’t that a great word?) angst-filled (I had to look that one up too) new teenager. Then my alarm went off this morning. I woke up, and I could feel colors. Through my fingertips.
Yeah, I know: so freak. My fingers were touching my new quilt, and even though my eyes were still closed, I could feel vermillion, titian, and bittersweet. Who knew those were even words, let alone colors? I walked around my room with my eyes closed and fingers out. Dresser? Sienna brown. Mom’s evil cat George? Atrous black and niveous white. Walls? Glaucus blue (which sounded a lot better as “tropical lagoon” on the paint chip card).
Lamest. Superpower. Ever.
****
Firsts!!!
LiveJournal, October 28, 2012 by LetteS
—Lette’s Birth Date Calculator: 22 years, 9.2 months
I’m too nervous to sleep, so I’m going to write about what happened today and then do some touches on jars of gravel.
When I woke up this morning, what sounded like muffled cursing in another language was coming from my living room. I stumbled to my bedroom doorway to see Stefan sitting with his back against the sofa. The blanket I’d draped over him last night was around his shoulders, the pillow was behind his head, and he was clutching the bottle of pain relievers. His eyes were closed, and he didn’t look happy.
I leaned against my doorjamb. “Why are you here?”
“I thought I was supposed to rescue you.”
“From what?”
He waved at the cabin.
I tried to imagine the cabin seen through the eyes of a stranger. One pine-paneled central room holds a sectional sofa that came in pieces from Ikea, piled with the pillows I make from my old graphic tees. Next to the sofa is my rocking chair, desk with microscope and computer monitor that doubles as a TV, and galley kitchen with a little table and chairs. Presiding over the whole place is the woodstove, set into a wall-sized river rock fireplace. Doors lead to the front and back porches. One arm of the sectional sofa backs against a pair of ceiling support columns filled in with chest-high bookshelves, defining one side of a small open hallway. On the other side of the hallway, bathroom and bedroom doors face the center room. More filled bookcases line every available inch of wall space, the fireplace mantle is crowded with framed family photos, and my Nana’s handmade rugs overlap across the wood floors.
Nope. It all still looked just fine to me. “If I need any rescuing, I’ll take care of it myself.” He still looked upset, so I tried again. “Um… No, thanks?”
As he opened his mouth to reply, I heard the sound I’d been listening for over the past few weeks. “Shh!” I must have looked pretty fierce because he shut right up. Moving as silently as I could, I reached under the bed. His eyes got wide as I pulled out my crossbow and quiver. I didn’t blame him. My parents got me the new rig as an early Christmas present, and she’s a beauty. Stefan was probably jealous.
He didn’t say a word as I moved to the porch and loaded the bow. Minutes passed as I sat without moving, barely breathing. There! I aimed and shot down into the trees below. Without looking at Stefan, I grabbed my hunting bag, checked to see that my sheathed knife was in place, slung the bow and quiver over my back, and swung onto the ladder.
George was just starting to stiffen up when I returned, holding a plucked and headless turkey. He hissed half-heartedly as he shook out each paw, but the knowledge that turkeys meant turkey liver for cats kept him from more overtly antisocial retaliation. Stefan had moved to the sofa and was staring at me. I was a little sorry to see that he was fully dressed, especially when I got a good look at the artistically-ripped jeans, white sloppy-neat, tailored shirt, and smooth leather shoes. “You’re not from Seattle, are you?” I pointed to my Birkenstocks. “Footwear. In the winter, we wear them with socks.”
When I pulled my bow and quiver from my shoulder, he made a funny noise so I turned around to show it off. “She’s custom fit with a noise damper for multiple shots, Nikon dot sight, and aircraft-grade aluminum riser. Best of all, she weighs under 6.5 pounds but still mounts a 330 MPH top arrow speed.”
“I think those are the most words I’ve heard you say.” He seemed about to say more, but stopped and shook his head.
I looked at him. “What?”
“I’m just grateful you hit me with the cat food instead of a knife or arrow. And I apologize for trying to rescue you. May I leave now? Please?”
I shrugged and focused on the turkey I was cleaning. But my cheeks were warm, so I changed the subject. “I don’t know why wild turkeys started showing up around here, but they make great eating. I don’t need rescuing, but company for lunch might be nice.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but your social skills are… Well, actually you don’t have any. You’ve already knocked me out twice and made me sleep on the floor. Now that I’ve seen your arsenal, maybe I should go before you kill me.”
I whirled around to see his eyes twinkling and—O Mama, am I in trouble—that cheek-dimple flashing at me. “Maybe…” My cheeks were hotter than ever. “You could help with the cooking instead?”
Lunch was the best meal I’d ever had at the cabin. Stefan talked, and I listened. He told me he was born in Germany, but his parents moved to Los Angeles when he was a little kid because the bottom fell out of their family business in Germany. I listened to his stories of staying out all night so he and his friends could get front-row spots for the Rose Parade in Pasadena, or going to concerts for indie bands I’ve only heard on the internet. He told me how he’d learned to surf, and how he’d gotten parts in a couple of movies.
Compared to all that, my own life sounds so boring. But when I talked about inheriting the family touch, and how I couldn’t risk hurting anyone by accident, he got it right away. “I have family issues too. My grandfather is getting old, and they want me to take over for him.” He stood up and walked over to look out the window. “But I just want to live a normal life with people who like me. I have a degree in teaching and a masters in administration, and all I want is to get a regular job, raise a family, and have a good life.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“Our family has been around for…a long time. Have you ever heard of the Krampus?”
“Only those movies that come out every Christmas to scare the twelve-year-olds.” I moved over to the bookshelf and pulled out the case for a video game. “And there was this one really great game. Completely terrifying. But when the sequel came out, it was all sweetness and light. Yuck.”
His smile was a bit lopsided. “That’s part of the problem. Nobody knows about us these days. But a long time ago, even before the Christian priests came with their stories of Christmas, there were tales of the Krampus. Some said it was a devil, others said it was the wild spirit who lived in young men. But the stories agree that St. Nicholas was able to get the Krampus to serve him. By the seventeenth century, when St. Nicholas visited families to distribute gifts to good children, the Krampus would accompany him. Dressed as a horned demon with a long curling tongue, the Krampus’ job was to frighten, or even take away, bad children. Each new generation’s Krampus, along with his family, survived on the terror of children. It was our food, our liquor, our drug.”
Stefan turned toward the window, and the sun streaming in turned his face into sharp, light and dark planes. “Of course, you can imagine how that ended. Today everyone knows there are no bad children, just ignorant parents. So St. Nicholas is still welcome, but the Krampus isn’t allowed. My father saw the writing on that wall. He moved us to LA and started the movie series. They tried me out as an actor in bit parts, but I wasn’t good. That’s when I created the first video game.” A little shiver ran over him, and in the setting sun coming through the window, his eyes glowed faintly. “It was a huge hit. My whole family feasted for years on the fear it generated.”
The beautiful, fairy-tale prince was gone, and in his place, I pictured the faint outlines of horns and lolling tongue. “You have no idea what it was like to grow up knowing all my friends were excited about Christmas and a visit from St. Nicholas. Meanwhile, our family was looking forward to feasting on the pain and terror of children.”
Then he turned to me, and the prince was back, flashing Stefan’s blue eyes and smile. “So when it came time to do the next video game, I said it was going to be different. Nicer. Of course, it was a complete failure. Now my family wants me to go back to the style of the first game and also go back to Germany and take over from my grandfather. I have a lot of…cousins…but Grandfather says I have to be the next Krampus.”
He came back to the little table covered with the remains of our feast. “Lette.” He picked up my gloved hand and wrapped his own around it. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. He. Held. My. Hand. “You and I know what it’s like to try to live with what you’ve inherited from your family. If I do what they want, my life will be spent literally eating the energy from frightening and punishing children. Their fear and their pain will keep me alive.”
He reached for my other hand. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can go to Null City, together. We can turn our backs on what our families have made us, and we can have a good life. A human life.”
No longer twinkling, his blue eyes pleaded with me. “Come with me, Lette. We can rescue each other.”
I shook my head. “My parents…”
“Lette.” His whisper was warm, dark, full of sin and promise. “You’re young. Beautiful. You have to have wondered…imagined someone kissing you. Touching your bare skin. Making love to you. Giving you babies. That someone could be me.” He leaned in, and his lips touched mine so softly I could barely feel them. Then I did feel—little kisses on my forehead, nose, in lines down my cheeks, tasting my lips. My hands couldn’t feel his skin, but his warmth came through the gloves. His tongue brushed the seam of my lips and, when I opened my mouth, curled around mine for a moment while his lips pressed harder. Then he pulled back and laughed a bit. “You’re allowed to kiss back, you know.”
“I don’t know how.”
“Lette, you deserve love. Come with me to Null City. I know we’ve just met, but we have something in common. There has to be a reason we were brought together. Maybe we’re meant for each other. Lette—please. Please rescue me.”
He leaned in again, and this time I leaned forward too. Now that I was barefoot, we were almost the same height. My hands came up to his shoulders, and then I ran one gloved finger along his lips. My own lips were touching what my fingers could never know—bristles from his day-old beard, soft eyelids and spiky lashes flat against his cheeks, the surprise of his earlobe, the swirl of his dimple, back to lips that opened for me. I opened my own mouth, and he tasted like turkey, and apple cider, and something I couldn’t name. My hands went to his hair to pull his head closer. Stefan yelled and pulled back. When I opened my eyes, he was cradling the place on his head where I’d hit him with the cat food cans.
As I ran to get more frozen peas, I thought about what Stefan had said. Is it true? Could my future hold more than a vibrator that wouldn’t turn off? Maybe a human touch? Maybe even a baby with cerulean blue eyes?


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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-62916-015-3
Genre: Young Adult
Date Published: 12/05/2013
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing

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