After over 4 years, Olena comes rocketing back into Claire's life, changing everything for the worse. Picking up the shattered pieces, Claire is not sure who to believe. Is Olena who she says she is, or is she a killer to stay away from? Leaning on her new boyfriend Steven for support, Claire is faced with the choice on who to trust: a friend she barley knows, or a history lesson she barely remembers. Together, the three will begin a journey that will take Claire from the safety of her home to the last place she thought she would ever be: The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. With the wreckage of rector four looming behind her, Claire will have to see Olena's plan through until the end if she wants any chance of making it out alive.
Locket Full of Secrets Excerpt (Middle of Chapter 1)
“Okay,” Olena began once the waitress was a far enough distance away. “My aunt was in trouble. Some serious family stuff, and my mom knew we needed to help them. I told you as soon as I could. I wanted to stay, but it was important that we got to my aunt as soon as possible.”
As I listened to her words I thought back to the last time I had seen her. The day so long ago suddenly feeling like it was just yesterday…
“Claire!” a voice called to me as I headed out of school to catch the bus.
“Olena! Where have you been?” I grinned, stepping away from the bus line to talk to her. She had not been at school in two days and when I called her to ask about it there was no answer.
“I have to tell you something,” she replied, a serious look on her face. “My mom and I have to leave town for a little while.”
“Like for the weekend?” I didn’t know much about her mom, only that she worked a lot and traveled for business from time to time.
“It will be longer than that,” Olena frowned, as if she already knew what my next question would be.
“But you will be back for our party, right?”
I watched in shock as she shook her head at me. One of the coolest things about being best friends with Olena was that we both had the same birthday. It was still three weeks away, but we had already worked hard to plan our “Bowling Birthday Bash.”
“When will you be back?” I tried to keep my voice steady, but suddenly felt my chest tightening with emotion.
“I do not know,” Olena paused to reach into her purse. “I just came by to give this to you.”
Accepting the brightly wrapped box she handed me, I struggled to understand just what she was saying. Sdniom rozdenija, Russian for Happy Birthday, was written in tiny letters on the shiny silver paper.
“Just wait and open it on our birthday, okay?”
I nodded, unsure what else to do. Taking my eyes off the gift, I looked at her and could feel the sting of tears behind my eyes.
“You’re coming back though, right?”
“I do not know,” she shook her head. “But I need to go.”
Not knowing what else to do I stepped forward and hugged Olena, secretly praying this would not be the last time I would see her. Tears rolled down my cheeks as she finally pulled away, her face showing only a hint of sadness.
“Do Svidanija,” I finally said, clutching her gift tightly in my hand.
“Goodbye,” she replied before turning and walking towards the parking lot where her mom was no doubt waiting for her.
Forcing one foot in front of the other I climbed onto the school bus just second before it rolled out of the parking lot. Plopping down into my usual seat, I pulled my legs up to my chest and stared at the wrapped present still in my hands. She said to save it for my birthday, but I was knew that would just make me miss her more. As I opened my bag and slipped the package inside I resolved I would save it until I saw Olena again.
“So that’s it?” I asked, clenching my jaw more at the memory than her answer. “Your family needed help, so you go and can’t even call or anything?”
“I tried a few times,” she explained, her eyes peering deep into mine. “But my aunt was in a really bad spot, and even getting away to call you was impossible.”
“And now it’s all better and you can talk to me again?” My voice was low, but harsh. I did not mean to sound so rude to Olena, but it was hard dealing with all the emotions she was bringing up suddenly with her return.
“Kind of,” Olena glanced down at the table. “My aunt died in a car accident a few weeks ago.”
I could feel my heart slam into my chest. Here I was mad at Olena, and she was off dealing with family tragedy and who knows what else. I instantly felt childish and selfish for not being a better friend.
“I’m so sorry Olena,” I managed, my throat suddenly dry.
“Thanks,” she shrugged, her eyes glued to the table.
Silence enveloped our table as the waitress brought us our order. Olena still did not look at her, but picked up her coffee and took a long sip. I thanked the woman before sliding my pie away from me. My stomach was suddenly too upset to eat.
About Dana Burkey:
I graduated college from Youngstown State University in 2009 with a degree in theater and a minor in creative writing. I am currently living in Washington State in a little cabin in the woods with my cat Cato. I work full time at a kids camp, and spend my free time doing community theater and adventuring in nature! I am an avid geocacher, and love watching reality TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, and Big Brother! I am currently working on my next project that includes a few YA romances and a YA dystopian series!