Radiant Page 1

Author: Cynthia Hand

Series: Unearthly #2.5

Genres: Young Adult , Fantasy


Clara’s having visions again.

It’s the Fourth of July. If we were back home in Wyoming we’d be celebrating, eating watermelon, and watching the fireworks over Jackson Hole, making fun of tourists. Instead we’re in Rome wolfing down my grandmother’s infamous spaghetti with the whole Zerbino clan, my aunts and uncles and cousins crammed shoulder to shoulder around the table. We’re a loud bunch, the Zerbinos. Borderline obnoxious. The aunts are gossiping about the woman who lives next door, who seems, as far as they can tell, to have three separate-but-equally-serious boyfriends who don’t know about one another. They’re gabbing so loudly about it I’m sure the lady next door can hear them. I look across the table at Clara like can you believe I’m related to these people? but her eyes are completely blank. I ask her a question, and she doesn’t answer. She doesn’t hear me.

She’s seeing the future.

Does it make me a bad person that I find it funny, the way she stares off into space, a single strand of spaghetti stuck to her chin?

But then the fork falls from her hand, clattering loudly onto the table, and my relatives notice that Clara’s not with us anymore. Someone asks her if she’s all right. Someone touches her shoulder, shakes her gently. She doesn’t respond. The room erupts into a flurry of frantic Italian. My uncle Alberto, who’s sitting next to her, starts thumping her on the back. Hard. My cousin Bella screams something about allergic reactions and paramedics. And Clara just sits there, leaning over the table, her face inches away from her plate. Oblivious.

In my estimation she has about two more seconds before they’re giving her the Heimlich.

“She’s not choking!” I yell in Italian at my uncle. “Leave her alone! You’re going to hurt her!”

He keeps right on thumping.

“Stop, Alberto, stop!” orders Nonna.

He stops. Everybody always listens to Nonna.

Suddenly Clara takes a deep breath and sits up. She blinks a few times, like she has no idea where she is, how she got here. It must be quite the sight to wake up to, everyone at the table staring at her in alarm.

“Sorry,” she mumbles, her face going a lovely shade of red. She clears her throat and tries to smooth her hair behind her ear, and I notice that her hand trembles before she tucks it back into her lap. “I’m okay. Sorry about that.”

More staring. Then Bella says, “What’s wrong with her, do you think?” and everybody starts talking about how she could have some sort of medical condition, possibly narcolepsy, which is a funny-sounding word in Italian, narcolessia. They shift to discussing how strange Clara is, even for an American. It could be that she’s out of her head with grief, because her mother died a few weeks ago. Or that she has a delinquent brother who’s missing—how do they even know this, I wonder? Have they been listening in on her phone calls to Billy when they’re talking about Jeffrey? Or maybe, they speculate, she has some kind of drug problem.

They don’t think she can understand what they’re saying. But of course she does. She can understand any language on earth. I meet her eyes across the table and try to give her an understanding smile. Yes, sometimes it sucks being an angel-blood, but it’s always good for a few laughs, right?

She doesn’t smile back. She murmurs something unintelligible and slips away from the table. I take a moment to try to explain to my family that (a) Clara doesn’t do drugs, and (b) she doesn’t need a doctor. I take the grief angle and run with it.

“Clara’s going through a hard time,” I say. Which is true.

I find her upstairs at the little sink in our bedroom, scrubbing frantically, trying to get spaghetti sauce out of her white shirt.

“So.” I lean against the door frame. “A new vision.”

“Yep.” Scrub scrub scrub.

“What is it this time?” I ask.

She keeps scrubbing, but the stain is not coming out; it’s just spreading. “Not much to go on yet. Darkness. A bad feeling.”

Of course there’s more she’s not telling me. Clara’s always holding back something.

“Oh, so a fun vision,” I say.

She gives a humorless laugh. “Yeah. Let the good times roll.”

My visions have never been like hers. I’ve blanked out a few times, the way she did tonight, but it never lasts that long. It’s more of a flash when it happens to me, a set of images that hit me rapid-fire, one after another, always the same: a long path made of checkered purple-and-tan stones, opening to a wide-open area, palm trees, parked cars, bikes whizzing by, the sun high in the sky overhead. Then a set of five wide steps leading to a courtyard of some sort, framed with archways, archways, archways never-ending, and beyond them a larger courtyard. Red flowers. A flash of dark figures standing in a circle.

They used to scare me, the dark figures. I thought they might be fallen angels, bad guys, there to hurt me, or stop me from doing whatever I’ve been sent to this place to do, or drag me to hell, or something equally unpleasant. Then I figured out that I’m seeing Stanford University, and the figures are statues—replicas of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais. Stanford has a thing about Rodin.

Anyway, the point is, my vision never reveals anything bad. It shows me a bright, sunshiny day and a set of steps. The only thing my vision has in common with any of Clara’s is that at the top of those steps I see a guy with his back turned to me, like she saw the back of Christian in her initial vision—not that she knew it was Christian at the time. I have no idea who my guy is either, but he’s wearing a gray suit, which makes me think that he’s someone older.

I’m supposed to give that guy a message.

After years of having this vision, all my notes and research and attempts to slow it down and figure it out, that’s about as much as I know.

I sit at the foot of the bed and try not to let my envy show on my face. Clara always seems to get important visions, dramatic moments that she’s meant to play out, and then we all have to play along, like she’s the lead in our production. With her, there’s always some element of danger, a Black Wing lingering nearby, a terrible grief, a purpose behind her purpose. After all, Clara’s a Triplare, a three-quarter angel, rare and powerful and desired by everybody, good side and bad, although she doesn’t want to do anything with that power. Clara has this Pinocchio-like wish: deep down all she wants is to be a real girl. A normal girl. Even though she’s anything but.