Monday, January 26, 2015

Alienated by Melissa Landers

Cara Sweeney is the valedictorian for Midtown High School. When her principal, Mr. Ferguson, calls her into his office to tell her the big news, she is not excited. The L’eihrs chose her over every other high school valedictorian in the United States. The aliens made contact with Earth two years ago but their interest has been nothing but secretive. They did share a cure for cancer as a gesture of goodwill. The L’eihrs technically have the same DNA as humans. Aelyx, the L’eihr student ambassador will be staying with the Sweeneys while Cara’s older brother Troy will be going to stay with a host family on L’eihr. Having just turned eighteen, Aelyx is a top student just like Cara. The exchange comes with an excessive scholarship that will pay for any college that Cara could attend. Her parents have eagerly accepted, especially since Mrs. Sweeney’s cancer was cured by the L’eihrs. Next year, Cara and two others will go spend a year on L’eihr. Mr. Ferguson lets Cara know that this is the opportunity of a lifetime for a future journalist, lots of potential blog material. This could launch her career. Aelyx will shadow her everywhere. Suddenly, she realizes that her boyfriend Eric could be a problem. He loathes the L’eihr, like most people on Earth. Mr. Ferguson tells Cara that he is proud of her and it is nearly her undoing. It’s time for her to “woman up.”

Her suspicions come true when Cara tells Eric and her best friend Tori about Aelyx coming to live with her family. Eric pretty much gives her an ultimatum as he leaves and drops a HALO pamphlet. HALO stands for Humans Against L’eihr Occupation. Even though they provided the cure for cancer, Eric believes that they are up to something. There will be a cost for the cure. They didn’t make contact with Earth for nothing. Tori thinks they are coming to procreate with humans. She doesn’t think the students of Midtown High will be happy with her new alien friend. A championship debater, Cara thinks that for the first time in her life she may have actually picked the losing side.

Aelyx, Eron and Syrine are the three L’eihrs chosen to take part in the Earth exchange program. They are less than thrilled to be going but actually have a secret mission to carry out. The humans on Earth cannot know about it. The three aliens are to meet their host families at a LEAP (L’eihr Exchange Ambassador Program) reception in Manhattan. Cara and Troy are talking while taking in the scene. The spy the L’eihr ambassador and two of the students; one female and one male. Not knowing what Aelyx looks like, she comments to Troy that she hopes the one boy is him. Wearing too tight Spanx under a too small cocktail dress, Cara is clearly uncomfortable. Troy notices and tells her to just go take off her underwear. She goes to the bathroom only to find that it has been closed by the secret Service. The President is in the restroom for an indeterminate amount of time. Looking for another one, Cara glimpses a dark alcove behind a mural. Sliding in, she hikes up her dress to wrestle out of her undergarment. Finally free of it, she is startled when a voice behind her asks if she is going to undress any further. She turns around to find a striking boy who turns out to be the missing L’eihr. Desperately trying to keep her composure, she apologizes. Up close, she is stunned by his exquisite looks but his eyes just have an empty stare.. As she is crossing the floor to rejoin her brother, she remembers that the L’eihr called her Cara. If she thought Eric was being unreasonable before, he was going to come unglued when he meets Aelyx.

Things at the Sweeney home don’t go smoothly. Aelyx is overwhelmed. Life on L’eihr was simple; everyone dressed alike, food was bland and population growth was tightly controlled. Cara’s parents are very affectionate and the home decor overwhelms him. He cannot tolerate the food. Cara goes out of her way to attempt to make him feel comfortable. When Eric and Tori come over to meet Aelyx and celebrate Cara’s birthday, things are disastrous. Aelyx bought a necklace from L’eihr as a gift and she loves it. Eric is extremely jealous and demands that she take it off. The two leave the room to talk. Tori tells Aelyx that she hopes that Cara will finally dump Eric. She doesn’t know what Cara sees in him. Aelyx wonders the same thing. Eric leaves. The two have broken up. The next morning, Aelyx tells Cara that he is sorry about Eric, her mate. Cara explains that they weren’t mates. He doesn’t know why she was with him but he knows why Eric was with her; she is a perfect human female. They start walking to school through the woods.

On the way, Tori meets up with them. She is there to keep Eric away. As the are just about to exit the woods to the school campus, the roar begins. A protest led by HALO is there while a much smaller contingent of supporters stands opposite. This is just a preview of things to come. They are greeted in the hallways by a group of five Freshmen girls who have formed a fan club, Cara gets rid of them. In history class, Cara doesn’t feel like giving the answer and when no one else answers, Aelyx does. Pretentious, he is not winning over any friends. And in the lunch room, most everyone stares but a few girls attempt to flirt. As the week goes on, more HALO posters show up around school. Nasty notes are shoved into both Cara and Tori’s lockers. Tori sticks with her friend, even when it costs her her seat on the student council and her place on the soccer team. Tori tells Cara that she needs to watch out for Aelyx, he looks at her like she is a piece of meat.

Cara notices late one night that Aelyx is in her parents’ gardening shed. She watches him from her window unseen as he goes off into the woods behind the house. She wonders what he might be up to. Aelyx cannot wait for the L’eihrs’ plan to come to fruition so that he and the others can go back home. He does start to have some lingering doubts that Cara will be to blame for what will happen and that Tori might get caught into the fallout.

What have the L’eihrs sent three of their own to Earth? What is happening to Cara’s brother Troy while he is on L’eihr? Why is Aelyx sneaking into the woods at night? What are they planning? Can Cara, her family and Tori survive the ostracism from their peers? Why do the L’eihrs have blank stares? Is Aelyx attracted to Cara? Will he carry through with the plan the L’eihrs have for Earth?

Book two in the Alienated trilogy, Invaded, will be published on February 3, 2015.

Visit Melissa Landers’ website.

Until Midnight is a free ebook short story that bridges the events between Alienated and Invaded.

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