Captured in Paint by Ann M. Miller
General Release Date: 12th January 2021
Word Count: 63,815
Book Length: NOVEL
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, FANTASY, ROMANCE, YOUNG ADULT, YOUNGER READERS
Paintings can stir emotions, but for Julia, emotions bring paintings to life…literally.
That’s what the kids at St Peter’s High call seventeen-year-old Julia Parsons, the girl who doesn’t show emotion. But that all changes when Julia loses the protection of her late mother’s charmed necklace, and the emotions that have been locked deep inside her are unleashed. Now, after years of priding herself on being calm, cool and collected, Julia is forced to accept two life-altering revelations—she can feel just as deeply as any other teen and her emotions can make paintings come alive.
As Julia struggles to control her ability, she discovers that her boyfriend, Nick, is trapped inside a mural that she herself created. She enters the wintry world to save him before it’s painted over but quickly realises that a mysterious force is keeping Nick tethered to the work of art.
Unless Julia can learn how to harness the power of her new and unfamiliar emotions, they won’t make it out of the painting alive.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of underage characters drinking and using strong language, as well as a brief reference to smoking.
Luke Mercer’s eyes latched onto mine as he strode into history class. I looked down quickly, but I could still feel his gaze. It wasn’t like the sympathetic and curious looks my other classmates gave me. At least they had the decency to seem embarrassed when I caught them glancing my way. Luke had been watching me with cool disdain, his blue eyes never wavering.
He paused as he passed by my desk. I kept my eyes on my notebook, willing him to sit down.
“Please take your seat, Luke,” Ms. Davis said.
He uttered a low, sarcastic laugh and slid into a desk in the next row over.
Luke had transferred from Westdale Collegiate to St. Peter’s High for grade twelve, but it was mid-September and he’d only started attending classes two days earlier. People were saying it was because he’d just gotten out of juvie.
I hunched over my notebook, intent on ignoring him. As I doodled with my right hand, the fingers of my left automatically lifted to touch the silver chain that always hung around my neck. My fingertips only grazed bare skin.
Letting out a sharp gasp, I fumbled with my collar, but I still couldn’t feel the chain. I dropped my pen and frantically ran both hands over the front of my shirt, hoping my locket had just fallen off and got snagged in the material. It hadn’t.
I bent over and searched my backpack. It wasn’t there, either.
Somewhere between home and school, I’d lost the locket. How could I not have noticed? It was one of the few things I had left that tied me to my mother, and now it was gone—maybe forever, just like her. As the thought crossed my mind, my chest tightened in a way it never had before, squeezing until I felt like I was going to explode. A lump rose in my throat, and I was struck by the overwhelming urge to cry.
I never cried. I’d always been good at keeping my emotions in check. Even in the days and weeks following the fire, I hadn’t shed a tear. It was like this wall of numbness surrounded me, keeping me from really feeling.
Now, with the discovery of the missing locket, that wall had come crashing down.
With my heart thumping wildly against my ribcage, I barely noticed when Principal Tobin came on the PA. For a couple of minutes, his voice sounded far away as he read through a list of announcements. But then his tone changed, taking on a sombre note that made me sit up a little straighter. “And now I have a very important piece of news to cap off today’s announcements. As you all know, we lost one of our students this past summer. Nicholas Allen was a bright, motivated young man who was honoured with a Young Humanitarian Award for his fundraising campaign for victims of the Alberta floods. He also…”
No! I screamed in my head. Don’t talk about him.
But, of course, Mr. Tobin couldn’t hear my silent plea. He kept talking about my dead boyfriend, listing his achievements like a proud father.
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Something was lodged in my windpipe, cutting off all my air.
“And now,” the principal continued, “Nicholas’ parents are collaborating with the Red Cross to set up a scholarship fund in his memory. If you would like more information, you can contact…”
I’d known about the scholarship because Mrs. Allen had called to tell me about it before school had started. But I had not been expecting to hear about it over the PA today. Hadn’t been expecting Nick’s name to be boomed out across the school just as I was trying to keep it together in the wake of losing my locket. Talk about a double whammy.
I needed the wall again, needed to build it back up and use it as a buffer against the flood of emotions. But the pieces of that wall lay at my feet, and I didn’t know how to put them back together.
I couldn’t ignore the images of Nick that popped into my head—tall, lean, handsome Nick with the crooked smile and caramel-brown eyes that could send butterflies skittering through my stomach, even after two years of dating. But I would never see that smile again. He was gone, just like my mother. Just like the locket.
Stop it, I commanded myself, desperate to put an end to the chain of despondent thoughts. You can beat this.
My mother had taught me some techniques to use if my emotions started to run rampant—simple things like taking slow, deep breaths, counting to ten or recalling a happy memory…affirmations. I’d never had to use any of them…until now.
I took a series of deep breaths and hoped that I would find my equilibrium.
But the deep sadness and regret only grew, pouring over me in waves as Nick’s face floated in my mind’s eye.
My face grew warm. The walls of the classroom were closing in on me. I desperately wished I was somewhere else, somewhere I could be alone, where I could breathe in lungfuls of fresh air.
An image of a field of poppies began to take shape in my mind. I didn’t have time to wonder where it had come from because a wave of dizziness struck me.
Black spots flitted across my vision, and the classroom began to spin.
I closed my eyes.
“Are you all right, Julia?”
The concerned voice of my history teacher reached me through the dizziness. When I opened my eyes, the spinning sensation stopped as suddenly as it had begun. My racing heart started to slow as I fixed my eyes on Ms. Davis. I took another deep breath, and this time I was able to push back the grief that had nearly consumed me.
“I’m fine, Ms. Davis,” I said. My voice was loud and clear, but my hands were shaking. I wasn’t sure what was worse—the fact that the layer of numbness had been peeled back, exposing my emotions…or feeling like I was going to faint. What was wrong with me today?
The eyes of my classmates burned into the back of my head. Whispers swirled around me. They were gossiping about the fire, of course, wanting to know more, wondering how I was.
They could wonder all they wanted, though. I wasn’t talking about it.
“Quiet, please,” Ms. Davis said.
She waited for the whispers to die down then cleared her throat. “Today we’re going to start by talking about the St. Peter’s Mining Disaster of 1938. Does anyone know what happened?”
“It was a methane gas explosion, right?” Tina Myers answered. “It killed most of the miners.”
“That’s right. And what was the significance of the disaster?”
“Uh, a lot of people died?” piped up Ron Freeman, the school’s track-and-field star. He was swift on the track but not so much in the classroom.
Laughter rang through the room. Ms. Davis sighed. “Other than that, Mr. Freeman. What was the significance of the event in terms of a historical context?”
Emily Saunders shot her hand up.
“It meant the end of the iron ore industry in St. Peter’s.”
“Exactly. After that—”
“Actually,” Scott Reese cut in, “I think the real significance is that the survivors went nuts.”
There was a collective groan from the class.
“Come on, you guys. You all know the stories. They saw some pretty crazy things as they ran out of the mine.”
Emily tossed her red hair. “They were probably delusional.”
Ron scratched his head thoughtfully. “They were all delusional? I don’t know, Em. I kinda think the stories might be true.”
“Yeah,” Scott said with a smirk. “Stories about miners disappearing in a cloud of dust—and not because of the explosion.”
“Stories about someone using freaky magic down in the mines!” someone else chimed in.
Ms. Davis held up a hand. “All right, that’s enough. Let’s stick with the facts, please.”
I listened to the exchange without participating. It wasn’t like I didn’t have anything to say about the mining disaster. After all, my own grandfather—who’d died before I was born—had survived the explosion. And according to Mom, he’d always insisted the rumours about unexplained phenomena were just that—rumours. I could have contributed this information, but the last thing I wanted to do was prolong a debate about death and tragedy. I was dealing with enough of that in my own life.
Still feeling a bit unsteady, I shifted in my seat. As I did so, my elbow struck my pen and knocked it to the floor.
I twisted in my seat to retrieve it, but the girl who sat in the desk behind me had already scooped it up. She handed it to me with a sympathetic smile. I murmured my thanks and was about to turn around.
That’s when I noticed Luke watching me from the next row, three desks down. His ice-blue eyes locked onto mine again. Hi, Julia, he mouthed.
I frowned at him. He smiled, but his eyes remained cool. I faced forward, anger bubbling in my chest as I focused on my notebook again. Soon the page in front of me was covered with the same line, written over and over in small, neat letters.
Stay in control.
The bell rang, signalling the end of class. I stood, stuffed my notebook in my backpack and hurried from the classroom. In the hallway, I pushed through a throng of students, anxious to get to my locker.
“Jules!” My best friend, Roxy Butler, hurried up and threw her arms around me.
“Hey, Rox.” As she gave me a squeeze, some of my tension fell away.
“A bunch of us are going to Tony’s for lunch. Please say you’ll come with.”
I shook my head, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. “I can’t. I’ve got some stuff to do.”
About the Author
Ann Miller writes young adult novels about first loves, family secrets, and magic. She grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, where the local bookmobile fed her diet of Nancy Drew mysteries, Sweet Valley High books, and Stephen King horror. After graduating from the University of King’s College, she moved to Newfoundland, an island that makes up for its unforgiving climate with beautiful coastlines and majestic icebergs.
When she’s not reading or writing, Ann can be found spending time with her husband and son, or binge watching Netflix while curled up with the two four-legged members of her family.
Captured in Paint is her first novel, and she has several more in the works. Take a look at Ann’s website.
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