“You might have warned me,” I protest to Felicity and Ann the moment we are left alone.

“You might have been more careful,”Ann chides. From her sleeve she pulls a handkerchief gone gray with washing and dabs at her constantly leaking nose and watery eyes.

“I wouldn’t have done it had I known she was standing directly behind me.”

“You know that Mrs. Nightwing is like God—everywhere at once. In fact, she may be God, for all I know.” Felicity sighs.

The firelight casts a golden sheen upon her white-blond hair. She glows like a fallen angel.

Ann looks around, nervous. “Y-y-you oughtn’t to talk about”—she whispers the word—“God that way.”

“Why ever not?” Felicity asks.

“It might bring bad luck.”

Quiet descends, for we are all too well and too recently acquainted with bad luck to forget that there are forces at work beyond the world we see, forces beyond all reason and comprehension.

Felicity stares at the fire. “You still assume there is a God, Ann? With all we’ve seen?”

One of the noiseless servants flits down the dim hallway, the white of her apron outlined by the somber gray of her uniform so that all that is seen against the darkness is the apron; the woman disappears entirely into shadow. If I follow her movement as she rounds a corner, I can see the happy, firelit hall from whence we’ve just come.A swarm of girls of varying ages, from six to seventeen, breaks out into spontaneous caroling, entreating God to rest ye merry gentlemen. No mention of God’s resting gentlewomen, merry or not.

I long to join them, to light the candles on the grand tree, to pull at the strings on the bright Christmas crackers and hear the paper pop with a satisfying, jolly sound. I long to have no concerns other than whether Father Christmas will be kind this year or I shall find coal in my stocking.

With arms linked like paper dolls cut from the same paper, a trio of girls sways back and forth; one places her soft, curly head on the shoulder of the girl next to her, and she in turn gives a tiny kiss to that one’s forehead.They have no idea that this world is not the only one.That far beyond the formidable, castle-like walls of Spence Academy, far beyond the barrier of Mrs. Nightwing, Mademoiselle LeFarge, and the other instructors here to mold and shape our habits and characters like so much willing clay, beyond England itself, there is a place of such beauty and fearsome power. A place where what you dream can be yours, and you must be careful what you dream. A place where things can hurt you. A place that has already claimed one of us.

I am the link to that place.

“Let’s gather our coats,”Ann says, moving for the immense, coiling staircase that dominates the foyer.

Felicity regards her curiously.“What ever for? Where are we going?”

“It’s Wednesday,” Ann says, turning away. “Time to visit Pippa.”

Excerpted from REBEL ANGELS by Libba Bray Copyright© 2005 by Libba Bray. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Copyright © 2004 Random House Children's Books
Jacket photograph copyright © 2004 by Michael Frost