The Keepsake (The Empress Chronicles #2)
When I open the locket, there’s a bolt of sadness that stabs me, then clings to my skin, making me feel like I’ve trespassed somewhere I shouldn’t have. If there really is some sort of power coming from this thing, we should return it. Only, with Dr. Greta over in Germany, and having stolen the diary a whole month ago, we’d both be in crazy trouble. Especially Cory, given that he’s already got two strikes against him with the juvenile authorities and MIPs and stuff like that.
The diary is hidden under a loose board behind my bookcase. Once we found out that my shrink had been summoned to return it to the authorities, Cory suggested that we stash it. It’s been a couple of days since I checked it, and now, with our new suspicions about the locket, I want to revisit that passage about the keepsake’s magic. Only, I need Cory to translate Sisi’s German.
The bookcase scrapes the floor a little when I shove it forward. The entire wall is made of wood—not one sheet of drywall in this old place—and Cory had pried loose a short panel of fir where it meets the baseboard molding. That’s where I find the empress journal pages crammed into one the binding of my last shrink-sponsored food diary. My heartbeat competes with the storm as I wiggle it free and tiptoe across the hall.
I find Cory already asleep, buried in his sleeping bag in the screened-in summer porch. The diary and locket feel heavy in my hands; my nerves are jangling as I approach his burrito-wrapped body. “Cory,” I loud-whisper.
He snorts and turns over, facing away from me.
Cory pops his face out. “Dude, you’re totally interrupting my amazing dream.”
For Cory, an amazing dream probably has to do with his mouth over a bong, or some girl-related activity, and I don’t want the details. I hold out the journal, “We need to get to the bottom of this.”
Cory sits up and rubs his eyes. Another crack of thunder, this one right over us. I settle in close to him. I seem to be shivering, all of a sudden.
“What, you’re scared of a little storm, Lizzie?”
“Don’t call me that.”
He holds his arm out, his chin gestures toward his shoulder, “Come here.”
I scootch in closer, his warm body heating me instantly, taking the shiver away. His arm settles around my shoulder and I open the diary, the loose pages of ancient text shift away from the decoy cover, and I hold them tight to keep them from blowing away as another gust of wind swoops in.
As I page through it, looking for that place where Cory had translated Sisi’s entries about love and visions and magic, the image of Alika gets clearer. Alika and Cory, together on that bridge. I keep turning the worn, yellowed pages, trying to ignore the intrusion of thoughts of Cory close to another girl, but the vision is very strong. Overpowering. Rain spits at us. Wind blows and whistles through the screen. I toss the locket to the far end of the sleeping bag, down near where the rain has trickled and pooled on the floor. And just as I hear the clink of the keepsake sliding to the floor, Cory shouts, “Liz, look at this!”