by Sara Ella
Unblemished is the first in the Unblemished Trilogy. Book 2, Unraveling, is a finalist in the 2018 Christy Awards, Young Adult category.
“A breathtaking fantasy set in an extraordinary fairy-tale world, with deceptive twists and an addictively adorable cast who are illusory to the end. Just when I thought I’d figured each out, Sara Ella sent me for another ride. A wholly original story, Unblemished begins as a sweet melody and quickly becomes an anthem of the heart. And I’m singing my soul out. Fans of Once Upon a Time and Julie Kagawa, brace yourselves.” —Mary Weber, award-winning author of the Storm Siren Trilogy
Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?
Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.
But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird. Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.
Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?
UNBLEMISHED — EXCERPT
It can’t be true. I’ve known the news for a week, and still it hits me as if I’m finding out for the very first time.
Elizabeth Ember, Up-and-Coming Artist of the Upper West side, Dies at 34.
The bold headline on the front of the New York Times obituaries blares up at me, a black and white photo of Mom posted beneath. Was it only last month this exact photo adorned another section of the paper? Even with gray skin, her dark hair swept into a messy bun, Mom’s organic beauty radiates from the page. Why she hated being photographed, I’ll never understand. I flip the paper upside down. When I die, will my portrait grace the news?
Of course not. My face looks as if a toddler scribbled on it with a red Sharpie while I was asleep. No reporter in his right mind would put my picture in the paper. Not unless it was a Halloween edition.
Mom used to sit in the rooftop garden of our brownstone, a cup of hot Earl Grey in her hands, and gaze out over Manhattan. She adored this city for its energy and symphony of cultures. “It’s always alive, always moving,” she’d said.
Now, every consolation from a complete stranger invites a fresh wave of sobs. My chest heaves with each one, rising and falling like the steady tumult of the Hudson on a stormy day. I drive back the waves with smiles and nods and deep, controlled breaths, all for the sake of appearances. To be the hostess Mom would’ve been. The one I’ll never be.
“I’m so sorry for your loss . . .”
“She’ll be missed . . .”
“It will be better with time . . .”
“You know we’re all here for you, dear . . .”
Nothing more than empty words from phony people who can’t even look me in the eye as they give their condolences. Can I blame them? I don’t enjoy looking at me. Why should they?
My phone vibrates, dancing along the granite countertop in our—my kitchen. The screen lights up, flashing the name and selfie that hurts and comforts in one ping of mixed emotions.
My fingers curl around the orchid-colored case, squeeze. I asked him to stay away, to give me space. Time. He agreed with a solemn ot, giving me what I wanted.
If it’s what I wanted, why do I long to go next door and fall into his arms?
I close my eyes, mentally pushing away the cacophony of voices echoing around our—my home. It doesn’t work. This is all just too much.
A sea of catered dishes covers the kitchen island. Nothing offers comfort like platters of prosciutto and tartlets, right? What is this, a cocktail party? And could it be more obvious these people know nothing about me or Mm? Prosciutto? Really? Gag me. I haven’t touched meat in ten years, and I’m certainly not going to start now.
Beyond the bar, the sunroom with its large bay window, upright piano, ornate fireplace is set up as an art gallery. Mom’s recently commissioned dealer, Lincoln Cooper, took care of all the details, despite the setback his recent gallery fire caused him. How very noble of him considering he’s known us less than a month. Where did he find all these people? Do they even know who they’re mourning, or are their sympathies part of the show?
Easels display oil-pastel renderings and watercolor paintings along with a few of Mom’s charcoal sketches. Most of the pieces featured are from her Autumn collection. Lincoln’s idea of staying on theme with the current season. He negotiates prices while admirers speak overtly about the tragedy of such a talented artist dying so young.
“What better way to remember Elizabeth than to display and sell her masterpieces at the wake,” he’d said with enthusiasm. “Eclectic art is all the rage now.”
I nodded my consent, but I knew better. Lincoln Cooper couldn’t care less about paying tribute to Mom. He hardly knew her. All he cares about is his big fat commission. And considering he’s priced each painting well beyond what Mom would approve of, I don’t think he’ll have trouble getting what he wants. Sheesh. Maybe this is a cocktail party. Let him have his fun. I only want one painting for myself, along with Mom’s sketchbooks.
The essence of her surrounds me. In every brushstroke and ebony pencil rub. In the scent of canvas. In the crinkle of brown paper as Lincoln unwraps a new piece to replace one he’s just sold. My lower lip quivers, and I suck it in between my teeth. Mom would want me to be brave now, but how can I be? She’ll never again sit on our roof and paint he sun rising over Central Park. Never send me down the block to pick up a new box of pencils from Staples or sketch me while I do my homework.
At once I can’t breathe. I’m suffocating, but no one notices. I can’t be here anymore. I won’t do this. She’s not dead. She can’t be.
AUTHOR BIO—SARA ELLA
Not so long ago, SARA ELLA dreamed she would marry a prince (just call her Mrs. Charming) and live in a castle (aka The Plaza Hotel). Though her fairy tale didn’t quite turn out as planned, she did work for Disney–that was an enchanted moment of its own. Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away” for those who put their faith in the King of kings.