by Teresa Richards
A princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses. This is the sliver that survives of a story more nightmare than fairy tale.
Maggie Rhodes, high school junior and semi-reformed stalker, learns the tale’s true roots after a spying attempt goes awry and her best friend Kate ends up as the victim of an ancient curse. At the center of the curse lies an enchanted emerald that has been residing quietly in a museum for the past fifty years. Admirers of the gem have no idea that it feeds on life. Or that it’s found its next victim in Kate.
Enter Lindy, a school acquaintance who knows more than she’s letting on, and Garon, a handsome stranger claiming he knows how to help, and Maggie is left wondering who to trust and how to save her best friend before it’s too late.
If only Maggie knew her connection to the fairy tale was rooted far deeper than an endangered best friend.
A part of me died long ago.
It was the part of me that feels, and it was Calista’s fault.
What happened tonight was nothing new—innocent victims welcomed into our home, not knowing they would never leave. I learned long ago I could not help them, so I stopped trying. But this time something was different. This time I was awake, burning with a gut-wrenching guilt, as the next victims slept downstairs. This time I knew the victims. And they didn’t deserve what was coming.
It had always been hard for me to make friends. I’d been called loner, loser, outcast, and freak. Even still, I remembered Maggie offering to show me around when I first transferred to their school. Through her, I met Kate and Piper. The three of them were always nice to me, while other kids kept their distance and spread rumors behind my back. I told myself I didn’t care—I wasn’t like them.
But being a loner was lonely. So tonight when I saw Maggie and her friends here, something inside me snapped. Or, perhaps it was the dead piece of me coming back to life. Now I cared desperately about what was happening in the room below mine.
But there was still nothing I could do.
Calista usually lured in victims from out of town to avoid arousing suspicion. Pregnant ones were a particular favorite—easy prey, she called them. But Maggie and her friends came here all on their own. The opportunity was too good for Calista to pass up.
Everyone thought Calista was my mother, but she wasn’t.
Back in my day, almost four centuries ago, Calista had an alternate method of luring in victims. She and her husband, Theodore, advertised for hired help with their inn. The number of parents willing to sell their daughters into a life of servitude in exchange for a forgiven debt or a clean slate was staggering.
My father was one of them.
By the time my mother found out what he’d done, it was too late. There was no escape. I was bound.
My story was well known in this land, whispered as a bedtime tale to ease children into sleep. But, just like any other story passed down through time by rumors and idle gossip, the fragment that survived was woefully incomplete. It began something like this:
There is rumored to have been (once upon a time, of course) a princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses.
That much was true, though in actuality it was only one mattress, not twenty. The pea was also real, though most would call it a precious stone—an emerald, to be precise.
The gem that sealed my fate was now in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Calista was furious when she found it missing. She thought I’d stolen it until she remembered my limits. The identity of the true thief remains unknown.
Even though the emerald is no longer in our possession, we are still bound to it, as it is bound to us. Admirers of the opulent necklace where it rests don’t understand it. Like me, the gem is a prisoner, struggling against its fate.
Even now, centuries later, I don’t understand all the details of what happened to me that night. But it began with a troubled slumber on a bed of enchanted emeralds.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH TERESA
-What inspired you to become a writer?
I started writing as a creative outlet in middle school. I always thought it would be fun to write a book, but it wasn’t until my youngest son turned 1 and my husband was in grad school that I really started taking the itch seriously. My husband was working full time and when he came home from work, he had to spend hours doing homework and I got bored of watching movies by myself. So I sat down one night after the kids were in bed and started writing. Things just snowballed from there, and soon I had a first novel. I started researching publishing, querying agents, attended a writers’ conference and joined a writers group. Soon I had my second novel, this one done much better than the first.
-What draws you to ya?
I write YA because that’s what I love to read. There’s just something so special about that time—when you’re learning about life and love and what makes you special. I wish I had enjoyed that time of my life more without worrying about what the future would bring or dwelling on the things that made me different from others. Writing and reading YA is my way of revisiting those special years. I hope I can inspire teens to enjoy being young. Don’t worry about the things you can’t change. Just enjoy the things that are awesome.
-Give us a fun or interesting fact you learned researching this book.
Part of my book takes place in Scandinavia in the 1600’s. At one point I was researching what eating utensils people used at that time. I learned that forks weren’t invented until the early 1600’s, and that “early fork users were looked upon by others with mistrust.” I laughed out loud when I read that. To think that the first people who used forks were considered untrustworthy oddballs and the masses who ate with their hands were considered normal.
-Which of your characters would you go out for pizza with?
I would just love to hang out with Maggie and her friends, Piper and Kate. They’re such an odd, mismatched group of friends, I think hanging out with them would be a blast. Especially Piper. She is one-of-a-kind.
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
Everyone says this, but here it is again—keep going, keep trying, keep improving. It’s not over until you give up. And don’t you dare let your desire to publish suck all the joy out of writing.
Also, find a writers’ group that focuses on real critique—not just feel-good compliments. My writers’ group is the reason my book is being published. Because my initial drafts were definitely not good enough. Not by a long shot.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I could never write horror. Never, ever. I can’t even read it. I get scared enough just by my empty, dark basement at night. If I spent my days imaging all the horrifying things that could come out of that basement then it would be all over for me. I’d never be able to go down there, ever again. And forget walking to my car in a parking lot at night. Or taking my trash out to the curb in the dark. Or going camping. Or star gazing. Or … well, you get the point. No horror writing for me.
Teresa Richards writes YA, but loves anything that can be given a unique twist. Her zombie stories 'Are You My Mombie?' and 'The Zombie Code' can be found in Z Tales: Stories from the Zombieverse by The Fairfield Scribes. When Teresa’s not writing, she can be found either chasing after one of her five kids, or hiding someplace in the house with a treat her children overlooked. Emerald Bound is her debut novel.
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