" Damn you , Mother. For years you told me what a disappointment I was because I wasn't more like you. Well, now I know why." Tia stood in the middle of her mother's back yard and punched a fist into the sun-drenched sky.
Twenty-five years of lies and repression, of trying to be the type of daughter she thought her mother wanted. And for what? The bitch wasn't even her mother.
Her gut cramped as a burst of anger flashed through her. It fought for expression, regardless of the years of violent training at her mother's hands.
An avalanche of feelings swamped her in sensation. Pain, hurt, love, guilt-the emotions tore through her, chipping away at her rigid self-control. "I loved you, Momma, despite everything. Why couldn't you love me?"
Harsh sobs erupted. Tears ran down her face in a scalding trail. Dear God, she hadn't cried since she was a small child. She struggled to catch her breath. "I l-loved y-you, Momma."
"Tia, come inside this instant."
She stared at the priest as he strode across the garden, cassock flapping about his skinny ankles. Father John. The man who'd resided over her mother's burial this morning. Damn him, he was part of the deception, too.
"You knew and you said nothing." The strident tone of her voice rubbed her nerves raw. For a moment, she thought to apologize. Then she looked at the crumpled adoption notice in her hand and the photo she'd found among her mother's papers.
A photo of her mother carrying a baby Tia, beside a man with the same white-blond hair and ice-blue eyes as her own.
Her father? Maybe, but now she'd never know.
Her forehead throbbed, as if probed by a red-hot needle. She pushed the hair back and rubbed at the ugly, port-wine birthmark for a second. The habits of a lifetime ingrained, she dipped her head, letting the hair fall forward, hiding the unsightly blemish.
Fury at the unfairness of it all ripped through her. The controlled façade she'd learned to project to the world shattered like shards of crystal. She gasped for breath as anger burned its way through her, a scorching tide of bitterness bubbling up from where she'd hidden it.
"Please, Tia, there's a storm coming."
The priest's voice came at her as if down a dark tunnel. A roaring filled her head, like the frenetic buzz of bees. She gazed upward, blinking to clear the tears from her vision.
The bright summer day had disappeared. The scent of Jasmine overwhelmed her senses and a buffeting dash of air ripped the leaves from the fig tree behind her. The sky roiled as dark clouds rolled in, obscuring the sun.
How had a storm of this magnitude built up without her noticing?
Exhilaration at her inclusion in such a cosmic event overwhelmed her normal caution. Her heart beat so hard she thought it would crash through the wall of her chest. For the first time in her life, she wallowed in sensation. She didn't try to analyze it. She simply let it sweep through her.
The wind ripped away the pins securing her hair, pure white strands whipping about her, stinging like a lash on the exposed skin of her face. The light cotton of her dress molded to her body, the tempest blasting her full on. She tilted her head back and laughed, the sound tinged with hysteria.
Overhead, thunder cracked, drowning out all other sound. Jagged bolts of lightning arced down. The smell of burnt ozone singed the air. The color, purple tinged with red, imprinted itself on her retinas, normal vision impossible. The world narrowed, until all that remained was the power of the storm.
Vaguely, in the distance, she heard Father John scream at her, but she couldn't move. She waited... She didn't know what she waited for. Maybe the rain, to wash away some of the anger and pain of childhood, but there was no hint of it. Just the continual crack of lightning as it moved closer.
Tia reveled in it, drinking in the supremacy of the elements. Taking it into her body until she trembled with the force of it.
Accompanied by a deafening roll of thunder, the lightning slashed the darkened sky, slamming into the earth around her. Then a purple beam of energy sliced through her. The hair stood out from her head like an unholy nimbus. Static electricity crackled and snapped.
An agonized scream tore from her. She hit the parched earth of the back yard. Eyes opened wide, she watched another serrated pulse of lightning arrow down toward her prone body. When the bolt hit, she didn't even have the strength to cry out.
Legs and arms twitched. Her back arched. The smell of burnt flesh assaulted her senses. Nausea took over, the taste of bile filling her mouth and burning the back of her throat. She tried to blink, but she couldn't feel her eyelids. Nor could she close them when another burst of lightning lanced the blackened sky.
Now, instead of pain, a feeling of numbness took over. It began in her legs and spread to encompass her entire being. She knew she should fight the creeping cold, but it was so difficult.
One thought flitted through the morass of her mind.
Was there even anything to fight for ? She'd never fit in this world. Maybe in the next she'd find her place.
Moments before the darkness took over, a vision surfaced in Tia's mind. A world of white ice, tinged with green. Rays of emerald energy radiated out. The ice shattered, surrounding her in a crystalline tomb, before the picture reformed.
A man with the same white hair as her own bent over her. Not the man in her mother's photo. A younger man, the one she'd dreamed of all her life. Enclosed in a pulsing white aura, he smiled down at her, reaching out to offer comfort. As he did, the shimmering field about him flared with a burst of blue-green spikes. Within a heartbeat, shock obliterated his smile and he backed away, an emerald mist obscuring him from view.
The vision faded. Tia sighed and ceased to struggle, allowing the elements to take her.