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Chapter 1 - My Best Friend's Disappearance

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Chapter 1

IF VIVIENNE COULD HAVE ANYTHING IN THE WORLD it would be to have her best friend at her eighteenth birthday party. But her closest friend, Allison, the one whom Vivienne shared all her secrets with — wasn't going to be there.

 Vivienne could only imagine what Allison would say if she could show up. She would want to know why Vivienne hadn't told anyone the real reason why Allison disappeared into Manna City. Everyone else thought Allison was having the time of her life as the beautiful arm-candy of a rich aristocratic lord. Allison's family still received a monthly allowance sent from their beloved daughter.

 But Vivienne knew the truth; Allison was dead. She had been dead for almost three years.

Vivienne never stopped wondering what really happened. Before she disappeared, Allison sent Vivienne emails written in their childhood code. In the letters, she was scared. Someone was coming after her. Vivienne never found out who although Allison hinted that it was a woman. It was a dreadful woman that Allison only referred to as 'The Night Lady.'

A loud, insistent knocking came at her door.

"Vivienne! You have to go to Aunt Sully's house today. Did you forget already?"

"No, Janun," Vivienne replied with a roll of her eyes. Her perfect older sister always assumed Vivienne was too incompetent to button her own shirts. Vivienne willed herself up from the bed and threw on the first clean set of clothes she found in her closet. Her aunt wouldn't approve of how she was dressed no matter what she was wearing. Aunt Sully was a seamstress, and she was going to fit Vivienne for a dress for her birthday.

In Lewisville — where nothing ever happened — a girl's eighteenth birthday was an important one. It was the age when she was considered of marriageable age. The reasoning behind that was that it was also the age that the Auguard could no longer summon a girl to Manna City. Not that that was ever a fear for Vivienne. Ever since she turned fifteen, she was eligible to be summoned to Manna City, but that little slip of paper never came. Not in the mail, not in the streets, not at school. The Auguard she came across seemed to look right through her.

In the beginning, she was jealous that Allison was picked and she wasn't. After all, they were both beautiful in their own ways. Allison had flaming red hair and cheeks like apples. Vivienne was a dark beauty. Her hair was black, and her eyes were a sharp transparent blue. Her father always told her that with one look, she could stab a boy's heart.

Unfortunately, no such boy had materialized yet. Vivienne wondered if her father's reputation for being a crazy old drunk had anything to do with it. Back when Janun was of age, her father desperately tried to sell her to the Auguards so that she might have a chance at the high life in Manna City. Janun was always the prettier one with her warm brown eyes, rosy cheeks, and a natural dimpled smile. But the Auguards her father pestered couldn't seem to run away fast enough.

"Vivienne?" Janun yelled. "This is your last reminder! It's June. The buses don't run as frequently in the summer, remember? You better move it! "

"I'm going!" Vivienne hissed in reply. "Good grief, Janun, it's just a dress!"

"It's going to take all day. You're going to have to catch the eye of a banker's son to pay off all of dad's gambling debts."

Vivienne sighed. She hoped the loan sharks weren't threatening to kidnap one of the family pets again. Vivienne threw her backpack over one shoulder and ran out the door before her mother could scold her for missing breakfast.

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