Leyla Kader Dahm
Genre: YA paranormal romance/historical
Number of pages: 300
Word Count: 75,000
At first, teenager Annabeth Prescott thinks she’s found quite a deal when she talks down the price of an ankh pendant she discovers at a flea market. She soon wonders if the bauble is more than she's bargained for when she faints and glimpses images from a past life in ancient Egypt.
The discovery coincides with another new find: Gabriel, a handsome young man who takes an interest in her. When she meets his twin brother C. J. at a Halloween party, she realizes they look exactly like two boys who figure prominently into her memories.
Does C. J. share the heroic qualities held by his past incarnation Sethe, her bodyguard when she was Princess Ana? Does Gabriel possess the same evil powers he wielded as Kha, the black sorcerer who sought her affection?
Love meets the supernatural in this gripping young adult paranormal romance. Readers with an interest in reincarnation, as well as ancient Egypt, will be drawn to its mystical mixture of history and hesitation as Annabeth sways between the two brothers.
Will her reincarnated soulmate win out? Or will Kha finally find the way to her heart?
Mrs. Lansing pulls her SUV into the dusty, unpaved lot, which is located behind two antique malls. I exit and unload her trunk, suppressing a groan as I hoist a heavy cardboard box and set it carefully on the dirt.
I take in the ramshackle affair. I’ve heard that the flea market is a popular meeting place for bargain hunters and collectors, and it looks as strange as its name sounds. There are rows of rickety wooden tables, and it’s surprising that none of them buckle from the sheer number of goods they hold.
“This is the Arundel Flea Market. It’s the hub of Maine’s secondhand economy,” explains my elderly neighbor, who now doubles as my boss and triples as my tour guide.
As we make our way through the helter-skelter maze of booths, the buzz of negotiation can be heard coming from every direction. I drag along the cart of wares, but stop when I’m seized by a sneezing fit, courtesy of free-floating dust and mold. When Mrs. Lansing offers me a handkerchief instead of a Kleenex, I’m made acutely aware of the fact that I’ve entered a new…er, different world.
Mrs. Lansing’s stooped over just low enough that her poor posture has probably cost her a couple of inches, but that doesn’t slow her down. She shuffles toward a vacant table nestled under the welcoming shade of a chalky-white birch tree.
Seeing that she’s claimed a prime spot, I follow her lead by setting out everything from orphan candlesticks to shell cameos to tin wind-up toys. Then, Mrs. Lansing adds a few eccentric items like yellowed tarot cards and an iridescent crystal ball to the collection.
“What’s the deal with this?” I ask while turning over the fortune-telling device.
“It reeks of mystery and the supernatural, which I love. Besides, the weird stuff always sells,” explains Mrs. Lansing, her eyes twinkling.
“So, who usually comes here?”
“Most of the sellers are serious dealers, but there are also everyday folk looking to earn extra cash. Usually by cleaning out their musty attics or basements.”
“I’ve never sold anything before. Not even girl scout cookies,” I admit.
“You’ll get the hang of it. Why don’t we try some role-playing?”
Mrs. Lansing lays down a parchment document with what looks to be a children’s book illustration of an old masted ship. This is something I’ve seen before. Many times. It’s a Mayflower Society certificate.
“My mom’s a member, you know.”
“Now that’s a great angle. The certificate’s going to be passed, in a manner of speaking, from one Pilgrim descendant to another,” states Mrs. Lansing, her voice crackling with wear.
“I’m not a blood descendant. I was adopted, remember?” I gently remind her.
She looks ruffled. Of course, the subject makes everyone feel awkward, especially me.
“Oh, that’s right. I’m so sorry. My mind isn’t the steel trap it once was.”
I shrug it off, not wanting her to feel bad when it’s a common slipup, and we engage in a marathon training session as we try to sell her product that goes on for hours and hours. In addition to the finer points of salesmanship, she fills me in on all the vital information I need to know regarding the current stock and teaches me how to handle the money that comes in.
While learning how to work the old-school cash register, my friend Bernadette, wearing a floppy straw hat and oversized sunglasses, steps up to the stand. She looks over the merchandise, with a mouth that’s either puckered in interest or disgust—I’m not sure which.
“Can I wait on this person I’ve never seen before?”
Mrs. Lansing nods and crosses her arms while standing back to observe my efforts.
“Miss, are you looking for anything in particular?” I ask in my most professional tone.
“Not sure if you noticed…all these things are used but still expensive,” Bernadette states, as though she’d doing me a favor by educating me.
“In that case, I’ll take none of everything.”
My lips tighten in displeasure.
“You sure about that?” I ask.
Mrs. Lansing chuckles.
“Annabeth Prescott, I’m impressed. Not every new employee cons a friend into acting like a fake customer,” she says with a smile so wide I can see all her dentures.
“You recognized me?” asks Bernadette, sounding genuinely puzzled. She pulls off her hat and glasses, revealing her delicate Asian features.
I sigh, disappointed that my plan failed so wretchedly. I should’ve figured that Bernadette could never fully disguise her…Bernadetteness.
“Shocking, I know. But it does show that you really care about this job, dear,” Mrs. Lansing says, before jotting something in her inventory log.
“Well, I better get back to work. Thanks for coming. Don’t forget to make a purchase before you go,” I say loudly and somewhat pathetically.
“I don’t think so.”
“If you don’t buy something from me, who will?”
“Excellent question,” she agrees.
“Please?” I ask, eyes pleading.
“Begging. Interesting strategy,” Mrs. Lansing says, pretending to mull it over.
“No offense, but I’m heading to the Kittery Outlets. Later!” Bernadette cries as she scurries off.
“Don’t worry. My associate, Gabriel, will help you refine your sales technique. He’s the master.”
I gaze around and notice an elderly army of gray-and-blue hairs surrounds me. I’m the youngest person manning a table by a long shot.
“So he’s…older, huh?” I ask.
“Yes, you could say that. Of course, everyone seems like a baby to me. Now, let me give you some details about this Bakelite phone.”
I scan my surroundings some more and shake my head in hopes of clearing it. My waning attention must be obvious.
“All right, I’ve been doling out a lot of information. Why don’t you take a break? Walk around the market; get an idea of what the others have for sale? We can pick this up when you get back.”
“OK, but when I do, give me your worst piece of merchandise, and I’ll unload it,” I say with false confidence, hoping to salvage things.
“That’s the spirit!”
I peruse the market, and a strange sense of stillness falls. Brass wind chimes break the silence, eerily clinging and clanging as I wind my way through the many stands. I keep passing one table in particular. Though nothing interests me at first, I repeatedly find my way back to it despite myself. It’s as though I’m on autopilot.
I dig in and pick up a broken tassel necklace, which is entangled with several others. While trying to pry them apart, I knock to the ground a box chain holding a pendant. They’re both caked with grime. I bend down and grab the necklace. I look over the charm, which is roughly three inches long and resembles a cross with a loop on top.
My hands tremble. The wind whips through my hair and whistles in my ears. Are the northeastern breezes whispering to buy it?
I give the piece to the table’s merchant, a middle-aged Mainer in a threadbare brown overcoat and scuffed L.L.Bean rain boots. He turns it over in his stubby, chapped fingers.
“How much is this?” I ask nonchalantly, trying to hide just how much I want it.
“Uh, twenty dollars oughta do it,” he says, in a regional accent so thick it sounds like he has a speech impediment.
“Twenty? That’s kind of steep…I really shouldn’t…” I grumble sadly.
I gleefully run toward Mrs. Lansing, hardly able to contain my excitement. But I manage to rein it in. Which is hard because I suspect that I’ve achieved a tiny triumph.
“Wait till you see what I bought!”
“I thought the point of this job was to make money, not spend it,” she replies tauntingly.
“I know, I know. But you’ll be happy to know that I totally haggled. And this seems…special.”
I give over the encrusted ornament to Mrs. Lansing, who offers to clean the piece. She takes out a cloth and some jewelry cleanser and polishes the necklace in a flash.
“This shape is an ankh. It’s an ancient Egyptian symbol.”
“Do you know what it means?” I ask, curiosity seeping in.
“I believe it represents some sort of key.”
Now that it’s been spiffed up, Mrs. Lansing and I admire my find, which sparkles in the muted autumn sun.
“Is it real gold?” I wonder aloud.
“I’d say so. In fact, this is the darkest, most beautiful gold I’ve ever seen. Just enough alloy was added to the precious metal to make it durable while maintaining its warmth of color. What did you pay for this?”
“Looks like somebody’s a born negotiator,” Mrs. Lansing states, with a hint of pride. “You got quite a bargain, kiddo.”
I take the ankh back into my possession and caress its cool, smooth surface. I feel everything around me go topsy-turvy, upside down and inside out…
I’m enveloped by heat stronger and more intense than any I’ve experienced before. Drops of perspiration tickle my skin as they run underneath my flowing linen gown. I feel arms clasping a chain behind my neck. My hands fly up to find the ankh resting on my collarbone, but I didn’t move them there. It’s as though I’m a mere observer, instead of a participant, when it comes to this body’s actions.
The man who has just bestowed the necklace upon me pulls away, and I’m allowed a good look at him. He’s a hideous fellow with bulging eyes, a hooked nose, and a shock of bright-red hair that peeks out from underneath a black-and-white headdress. His outfit, the way he has about him, makes him seem important. Is he a pharaoh?
He grins, semitoothlessly, and I feel myself smiling in return.
“This is all for you, to commemorate your sixteenth year, your entry into womanhood,” says the probable monarch.
“My gratitude runs as deep as the Nile,” I reply, in a voice that is not my own, in a language that is not my own, and yet I know exactly what I’m saying.
The man, who’s wearing a tunic covered with fringe, motions to a procession of beautiful objects, the likes of which I never could have imagined. Priceless treasures zoom past, carried by servants wearing loose shift dresses and stiff black wigs. Elaborately carved pieces of ivory and ebony furniture, lion and leopard skins, gem-encrusted gold jewelry in the shape of beetles and butterflies, and granite statues of animal-faced men and women are all presented to me individually. Clearly, these are gifts for a very privileged young lady. What I wouldn’t give to own them myself.
Another Egyptian, a young man who is ostensibly a prince, looks to be seething with anger. His arms are crossed, his face set in a scowl. He watches on in disgust as the gifts continue to appear.
“This show of generosity shall stir jealousy in her sisters,” he states venomously.
“I reserve the right to spoil my favorite daughter as I see fit,” replies the suspected ruler.
And now, the last offering, the one with the place of honor at the end of the parade, is finally brought before me.
A boy! Or is he a man?
“This prisoner of war is such a fine specimen, he would be wasted as a lowly house slave. He shall serve as your bodyguard,” announces the intimidating ruler.
“His name is Sethe.”
The captive has shackles on his hands and feet. I can even make out a brand upon his chest. It seems as though it’s still scarring over, which is understandable, since he was not born into slavery. Regardless, he looks like somebody who has done nothing but labor in the sun. His skin is bronzed, and his muscles are impossibly defined. He seems reluctant to look at me.
Finally, his gaze meets mine. I’m at a distance, yet I can still make out the flecks of gold that dapple his hazel eyes. For a blissful moment, I’m lost in them, swimming in their beauty, floating in their comfort.
I come to amid a background of concerned chatter and find myself surrounded by a crowd of curious onlookers…and a strange boy. His muscular arms are holding me tight, making sure I don’t RSVP to the gravel’s invitation. He’s impossibly good looking, with the palest-possible blue eyes and the darkest-possible black hair.
He couldn’t be less like the slave in my…hallucination?…but he’s just as handsome. Not like it’s a contest.
“You passed out. Good thing I was here to catch you,” says my hero, while wagging a pair of thick brows.
Leyla Kader Dahm popped popcorn and dreamt of a career in show business when working in a movie theater while in high school. The small-town Midwestern girl went another route and studied communications at Carroll College and Cornell University, but still found herself drawn to the big screen when a temp agency placed her in a production and development gig at Miramax/Dimension Films.
Dahm went on to work as a script consultant for numerous production companies. She appeared in the acclaimed spoken word show Sit ‘N Spin and had her comedy feature spec, Due North, optioned by Michael Levy Enterprises. She sold her pitch, Survival Instinct, to Nickelodeon Original Movies. Dahm lives with her husband, sitcom writer Richard Dahm, and her children in Los Angeles.