On Christmas Eve, a horrific car accident leaves Carly Perez without a mom. After a year of surgeries and counseling, Carly’s life is nearly back to normal—except for the monsters—vague, twisted images from the accident that plague her dreams. When her father insists on spending their first Christmas alone in Guatemala with a slew of relatives Carly has never met, she is far from thrilled, but she reluctantly boards the plane anyway.
That’s where she first spots the man with the scarred face. She could swear she has seen him before. But when? Where?
In Reu, the Guatemalan town where her father grew up, Carly meets Miguel, her attractive step-cousin, and thinks maybe vacation won’t be a total waste after all. Though she is drawn to him, Carly’s past holds her back—memories that refuse to be forgotten, and a secret about the accident that remains buried in her subconscious. And everywhere she turns, the man with the scarred face is there, driving that unwelcome secret to the surface.
“Trust me, Carly. You’ll love Guatemala,” he said. He was relentless. “It won’t be so bad, spending Christmas there.” He poured the rest of the nuts into his mouth and chewed.
Personally, I had serious doubts about spending nearly a month in a third world country where half the people lived in mud huts.
“It’s a great place,” Dad continued. “Lush jungles, ancient ruins, coconuts—”
Malaria, sauna-like heat, amoebas—
“All I ask is that you give it a chance, Carly. Give them a chance.”
Them. The so-called family I never knew. For all my seventeen years, they had been nothing more than pictures on the mantle. Dad rarely spoke of them, so why he chose our first Christmas since Mom died to change the status quo was beyond me.
“Why did I have to come?” I asked, my frustration piquing. “I’m old enough to man the house while you’re away. I can take care of myself.”
“We already went over this, Carly. They want to meet you. It’s important to me that they do.”
“If they’re so important, then why haven’t you seen them in two decades?” I didn’t expect an answer. I just wanted to get Dad off my back. But instead, he shrugged his shoulders and gave me an apologetic grin.
“Let’s just say we had our differences,” he said.
The flight attendant returned, this time offering a pillow. She was still smiling. At least the red mark on her teeth was gone.
I took the pillow and arranged it behind my neck. Dad took one as well, tucking it behind his head. I should have been glad to finally have some quiet time to myself, but curiosity got the better of me. I leaned over and whispered.
“Go to sleep,” said Dad.
“What differences?” I asked again.
“Carly, it’s almost one in the morning. Even if you’re not tired, I am. Let me get some sleep. Okay?”
I looked around and realized that most of the other passengers had already dozed off.
“Do you need your pills?” Dad asked.
I shook my head. “If I take them now, I’ll be a zombie by the time we land.”
Although, maybe Guatemala won’t seem so bad if I’m in a drugged-out stupor.
“Night, Carly,” said Dad. Five minutes later, he was snoring.
Across the aisle, Raisin Face had a magazine open on his lap. He licked his thumb before turning each page. I didn’t realize I was staring until he turned abruptly to look at me. Our eyes locked, and in that sliver of a moment, my heart threatened to explode right out of my ribcage. I broke away from his gaze and jerked opened my own magazine, pretending to be absorbed in it.
When my heart returned to its normal rhythm, I set the magazine aside, turned on my music, and leaned back against the pillow. I closed my eyes, but thoughts kept racing through my head. I wanted to look at him again, to study his face and give my brain time to place him.
Is he watching me? I wondered. Does he recognize me too?
After a while, I started to relax. Oblivion was calling, but I desperately clung to consciousness, like a mountain climber gripping a rock by her fingernails while dangling above a precipice. The fall was inevitable, but I strained to hold on. It wasn’t that I had trouble sleeping, but the pills kept the monsters at bay.
Finally, unable to fight it any longer, I surrendered. Falling into sleep, I struggled to recall just where I had seen that man’s face before.
About the Author
Laurisa White Reyes is the author of the 2016 Spark Award winning novel The Storytellers, as well as The Celestine Chronicles and The Crystal Keeper series. She lives in Southern California where she teaches English at College of the Canyons.
The author is running this tour alongside her fundraiser for Casa de Sion, an orphanage/charity in Guatemala, which is where the book is set. She is donating $1.00 for every book sold and also $1.00 for every review of Petals posted on Amazon or Goodreads throughout the month of November to Casa de Sion. Her goal is to raise $200. More specific details can be found here:
What can $200 do?
...feed a mother and child for six months
...buy shoes for 15+ children
...educate a child for 1/2 a year