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from Apparent Power by Dacia Arnold

Copyright © 2021 Dacia Arnold

Chapter One

The electricity flew from her fingers to the shower door handle. Valerie Russell yanked her hand back. The shock had not hurt, but the burst of light caught her off guard. She reached again, slowly. This time, nothing happened, and she stepped into the shower. The water flowing over her face was satisfying in that it woke her senses far better than her alarm. Startled out of her thoughts by her husband clearing his throat, she took a breath to tell him what had just happened when he cut her off.

“Who the hell are you?” Scott stood frozen, staring at her.

“Last time I checked, I was your wife.” She wiped the layer of droplets to clear her view and waited for him to respond.

His lips parted to speak, but he remained silent, brows creased, and head tilted.

“What is it?” She stopped the shower. Studying his expression, Valerie pushed the door open and yanked a towel from the wall. The question he posed to her was odd, but his demeanor made her heart race. Something was wrong. She had seen him speechless twice in the seven years she had known him: once when their son was born and again when the boy had broken his arm. Scott had frozen in shock. Her mouth went dry, and the grip of fear tightened her chest.

Scott pivoted when she rushed by him, mouth still groping to form words. Valerie flew down the hall to her son’s room and slapped the switch on the wall. The two-year-old scrunched his nose and threw an arm over his eyes. Relieved, she guided the switch to the off position and pulled the door until the opening was an inch wide. Valerie exhaled. Pausing to take a few long breaths, she fought to slow her heart and walked back to her bathroom.

“Stop being weird,” Valerie said, shivering. The towel just covered her front, and the cold drops from her dark sienna hair annoyed her. She shoved him. “You scared me.”

“Have you looked at yourself today?” Scott asked.

Tight-lipped, she raised a brow, daring him to joke about her body. Scott pulled the towel from her loose grip. The heavy terry cloth fell into a heap on the floor. He reached out to touch her bare skin, but she pushed his hand away.

“I love you, Scott, but we don’t have time for this.” Valerie kissed his cheek and laid a playful slap on the same spot.

He grabbed her wrist as she tried to walk away.

“I said we don’t have time.”

The reflection in the mirror caused her to choke on the last word. The figure moved with her as she stepped closer. She rubbed the remaining beads of dampness from her face and studied her reflection again. Her eyes narrowed, and she leaned in further. A swarm of butterflies released in her stomach. The hair stood up on her arms. Her mouth dry and uncomfortable. The thirty-five-year-old working mom stared at the image of her twenty-year-old self. All signs of age erased.

She turned back to Scott, eyeing him as if he might have something to do with what was happening. Trembling, she faced the mirror again, expecting to see the stress-worn image of the woman she saw while brushing her teeth just moments before. Tracing her hands down her body, she compared the figure in the mirror to herself. Her skin was taut and smooth. Breasts lifted and firm. Her stretch marks from pregnancy were faded. The pocket of flesh created by her C-section scar was undetectable, replaced by flat, long muscle. She raked her hands through her damp hair. The thick tresses were like dark silk through her fingers and flowed over her shoulders. Her search for gray was unproductive.

“You look amazing,” Scott whispered behind her, wrapping his arms around her slender frame.

"This isn’t real, Scott. Am I sick? What is this? The static. . .” She shook trying to articulate. “There was this huge static when I grabbed the shower door. I swear, like a whole twelve-inch bolt of lightning." Ignoring his gentle caress on her bare skin, she squinted into the mirror, wrinkled her nose, and pursed her lips together before resting her face. Her skin remained supple, her features soft.

“Now I kind of wish I had called off work today.” Scott bent down to kiss her neck.

“Get off of me! Hon, something is wrong. This—” she turned to face him and waved her hands over her body, “—just does not happen. Fairy godmothers don’t pop in and give you your twenty-year-old boobs back. And abs? I have never had abs. Pizza belongs here,” she said, poking a finger into her abdomen.

“Well, how do you feel? Do you feel sick or strange?” He laughed. “Did you hit a Gypsy woman with your car recently? Should I be wary of pie?”

“Really?” Valerie rolled her eyes. “I can’t go to work like this.” She whipped back around to the mirror.

“Well, you need to ...











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