Title: Dark Beneath the Ice
Author: Amelinda Bérubé
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
“Bérubé’s debut novel is a sinister exploration of self-doubt, internalized hatred, trust, and a romantic awakening…well-crafted and unsettling.” —Booklist
“Fun frights and a well-constructed haunting..it’s Black Swan meets Carrie.” —Kirkus
“A gripping, creepy story that had me keeping the lights on while I read… Will be highly recommending!” —Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books
Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity in this compelling ghost story about a former dancer whose grip on reality slips when she begins to think a dark entity is stalking her.
Something is wrong with Marianne.
It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.
She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.
But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.
About the Author:
Amelinda Bérubé has been a writer and editor with a small department in the Canadian public service. She holds a bachelor of humanities from Carleton University and a master of arts from McGill. Amelinda is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Runs August 7th -31st (US & Canada only)
Excerpt from Dark Beneath the Ice:
The silence still clings to me.
If I close my eyes it’s there waiting for me, filling my mouth, heavy as water. Ready to swallow me again.
I rest my forehead against the window, willing the ordinary sounds around me to wash the memory away: the windshield wipers, the spatter of the rain, the rattle in the wheel well. In the driver’s seat beside me, Mom breathes in little hitches, trying not to sound like she’s crying.
I risk a glance at her; she’s wiping her eyes. Her hair is usually tied up in a neat sweep of gleaming black, silver threads glinting through it. Today she’s yanked it through an elastic, pieces straggling dull and stringy around her face. Before I can look away again her gaze meets mine and she attempts a half smile.
It hurts to see it. I study the flowers in my lap: lilies—big, splashy orange ones. The smell is giving me a headache. They’re for Aunt Jennifer, for taking care of me. It’s not like I haven’t been to Aunt Jen’s overnight before, not like it’s some huge favor. How long is she planning to leave me there?
Mom slams on the brakes, and I clutch the bouquet to stop it from sliding to the floor. She grates out a few choice swear words at the car ahead of us.
“I left your father a message,” she says. “I sure hope he calls you.”
I take the words in like water—like an icy lake, swallowing their impact without a splash, letting them sink. I turn back to the window, watch my reflection slide over the river and the low-slung clouds. My face is thin and pale, my eyes dark hollows. I look like a ghost.
Mom heaves a sigh, yanks a tissue from the box sitting between us. She won’t tell me where she’s going. She won’t tell me why. Not that I’ve pressed her for details. There’s a traitorous piece of me that’s relieved. Mom’s always been unpredictable, prone to wild mood swings she apologizes for later, and Hurricane Laura, as Dad puts it, has been howling full blast these past couple days. We used to joke about battening down the hatches, waiting out the storm. But this time, Dad’s the reason she’s in pieces.
And he left me to pick them up by myself.
I won’t think about it. Just like last night—whatever happened last night. It’s a stone, and it’s vanishing into the water, leaving me serene. Unmoved.
Aunt Jen’s building is long and low, brick and stucco, a little shabby at the edges. It’s a strange contrast with the palatial homes on the next street, but that’s what this whole neighborhood is like. The boat launch at the end of the road is barricaded and piled high with sandbags to keep the river from swallowing the pavement. Right beside it, half a dozen two-story row units are surrounded by a high cedar hedge. Aunt Jen’s is the last one before the water. As the car crunches to a stop in the driveway, the sun comes out, as if from behind a veil. Suddenly, over the seawall, the river is all blue glitter, the trees drooping over the end of the street glowing golden-green, the last drops of rain sparkling as they drip from the leaves.
We sit silently in the car for a long moment. Seagulls wheel overhead, crying.
“Wait here,” Mom manages eventually, taking the flowers. She slams the door without waiting for me to respond and hurries over to Jen’s gate in the hedge, where a flush of pink roses shine in the sun.
I get out more slowly once she’s disappeared behind it. Their voices drift toward me: Mom’s barely muffled wails, Jen’s reassurances. I can’t make out words from here, though. I kick at a rock, following it down to the end of the road toward the seawall.
The river shouldn’t be this high. Behind the seawall—a chest-high barrier that zigzags behind the imposing homes lining the waterfront—the water is brown, choppy, slapping at the concrete a foot below the top, an occasional wave sending spray sloshing over onto the grass. By now it’s usually fallen low enough that the boat launch stands open to the river; later in the summer it drops all the way down to a stony outcropping that makes for a great place to skip rocks. It’s hard to imagine that now.
The rain hasn’t stopped for more than a couple of hours at a time this past week; I can’t even remember the last time the sun was out for this long. It won’t last. The news has been talking endlessly about record precipitation and the threat of flooding, images of picnic tables standing in the water and empty outdoor swimming pools with their surfaces pocked with raindrops. The DJs hosting the radio morning shows, in between laughing at their own jokes, moan about how summer is never going to come. Usually I love the peace and softness of rain, its soothing murmur on the roof. But it’s starting to feel oppressive lately. Inescapable.
I turn my back on the water, breathe in its green, weedy smell, and tell myself to relax. Aunt Jen’s place has always been cozy, a haven of good memories going back to when I was little. I used to play “inflatable Auntie” with her, pretending to blow her up like a beach ball. She would puff up obligingly and then deflate again, sagging in her chair and making a loud raspberry noise for full effect. I tried that game once with my mom, but she put on a pained smile and told me she didn’t like it. I think she was worried I was implying she was fat. Aunt Jen, comfortably plump compared to Mom, doesn’t seem to care about that sort of thing; she keeps her graying hair cut short, doesn’t wear makeup, and lives in jeans and sweaters unless forced to dress up, when she just drapes herself in something long and flowy.
The gate creaks, and Mom hurries out toward me, folds me into a tight hug. She’s not even trying to hide that she’s crying now. Aunt Jen follows behind her but heads to the car, popping open the trunk, although she casts a worried look our way.
“It’s only for a little while,” Mom whispers. “Just a little while. It’s not you, sweetie, I just can’t deal with this, not on top of everything else.”
“With what?” My voice breaks too, and despite my resolve, they come bubbling up: all the questions I haven’t dared to ask. “Mom. Please tell me. Did something happen last night?” She lets me go, half turns away, wrapping her arms around herself as if I punched her, her face crumpling. “Mom, what happened?”
“Nothing,” Mom sobs. “Nothing. Nothing.”
She draws a fierce breath, then another, and grips my shoulders, fixing me with a tearful glare.
“Nothing happened, Marianne!” Her fingers dig into my arms. “Understand? It’s not you. I just need to get some help. I’m going to get some help, all right? I’ll come and get you as soon as I can, and…and we’ll figure everything out. Okay?”
I nod. There’s nothing else I can do. The sun is gone again. I’m cold from the tips of my fingers to the hollow of my back, despite my sweater.
“Okay,” Mom repeats. Her lips tremble. “I love you.”
She pulls away, takes long steps back toward the car, and yanks the door open. She folds her arms over the steering wheel and rests her head on them for a moment while her shoulders shake. With the glass between us, I can’t hear her sobbing.
“Come on, Mare-bear.” It’s Aunt Jen’s arm around me now, a band of warmth, pulling me close. “Let’s go inside.”
We step into Aunt Jen’s living room, a cool, leafy cavern. Gray light filters through plants that spill from shelves and dangle from hanging planters. The piano, a mass of dark, carven wood, is the only surface that isn’t draped with fronds or vines. The little radio on the side table next to the old maroon couch fills the room with earnest, thoughtful conversation.
“I’ve set up the spare room for you,” Aunt Jen says, pulling the patio door closed behind us. “You can get yourself settled in a bit, and then we’ll have a cup of tea.”
Hugging my pillow, my laptop case banging against my leg, I follow her up the stairs. There are empty spots on the wall where pictures of my parents used to hang. I feel for my phone in my pocket. Dad hasn’t called. I hope he will. I hope he won’t.
The room hasn’t changed: the window looking down onto the garden and the river beyond it, a twin bed with a threadbare quilt, moss-green walls, a white dresser topped with a menagerie of little china animals—a tiger, a monkey, a turkey, a horse. Mom told me they belonged to my grandmother, who died when I was still a baby. I used to play with them when I was little.
“There’s plenty of space in the dresser if you want to unpack,” Aunt Jen offers tentatively. “It’s never fun living out of a suitcase.”
I set down the laptop case and fluff my pillow a couple of times before arranging it on the bed, trying to avoid her gaze.
“Well. I’ll go put the kettle on, Mare-bear, okay? Take your time.”
“It’s Marianne, please, Aunt Jen.” But she’s already out the door.
I sink down on the bed, which creaks under me. The rest of my life is unrecognizable, but everything here is the same. It’s like I’ve stepped into some parallel universe. Like any second I’ll hear my parents laughing downstairs as Jen pours glasses of wine, and none of this will have happened.
There is one thing that’s different. Usually there’s a picture of me and my parents on the wall beside the mirror. Now a much smaller frame hangs a little crookedly in its place, holding a snapshot from some distant summer: just me, striking a ta-da pose beside a leaning sandcastle. I remember that red swimsuit.
The photo must be from the beach right down the street from here, so close that we used to go there all the time. I remember those trips in flashes: Mom’s smile as she glanced back at me from the front seat, strings of hair whipping around her face in the gale from the open window. Dad’s hand on her bare knee. My sandaled toes tipping up toward the jewel blue of the sky at the apex of a swing. Dad diving for a volleyball and sprawling in the sand, making me laugh so hard my sides ached. The sparkle of the water, its delicious chill when I waded in. Swimming out as far as I dared, diving as deep as I could, reaching for the murky bottom.
I took yoga classes with Mom after I quit dance. To help me calm down, she said. Like she thought it would fix me. The studio must have been nice during the day, with sunshine pouring in through the wall of windows at the front. At night the fluorescent lights made everyone look tired and cold. At the beginning of each class, as we lay on our thin, hard mats, the instructor asked us to picture a place where we’d found tranquility, and every time that’s what I called up: the water, cold and green. It’s second nature now, the one useful thing I learned in those six weeks. I can summon it easily, lower myself into chilly weightlessness, the absence of sound, and hang suspended between worlds for a few long breaths until I’m cool and reasonable again. Lately I’ve frosted the surface over with a layer of ice, a shield keeping me submerged.
I close my eyes. The memory of silence, an empty horizon, rises around me, but I push it aside, force it down into the depths where dark water belongs. I’m not letting a bad dream spoil this for me, the one place where I’m truly safe. Around me I summon sunlight filtering down through the waves, a translucent, icy ceiling inches thick. Perfect, thoughtless peace closes over my head.
And then a noise like a firecracker, like a gunshot, yanks me back to reality. I leap to my feet, fear splashing through my chest.
It was the mirror above the dresser. Breaking. From a smashed, spiderwebbed epicenter, it’s split side to side, slicing my reflection in two with a thread of silver, frozen lightning. The two halves of my dislocated image slide past each other as the frame trembles into stillness.
“Marianne?” Aunt Jen appears in the doorway, frowning. “Is everything—”
Her words disappear into an indrawn breath. I follow her stare back to the mirror, and then to the floor, where the wooden cat from the bedside table is lying on the linoleum next to the dresser.
“Oh, sweetheart,” she says. The words are gentle; horrified. I shrink away from them. What just happened? She thinks I threw it. I open my mouth to protest—but I didn’t!—but the words wither, half-formed.
Did I throw it?
Aunt Jen looks at me for another long moment, her lips pursed in consternation, then comes over to wrap an arm around my shoulders. She ushers me downstairs, leads me to the couch like I might break, pours me a steaming cup of some herbal tea that smells like flowers. The orange lilies stand in a vase on the dining room table, brassy and loud as trumpets.
I wrap my hands around the warmth glowing from the teacup to stop them from shaking. My heart is made of moths, fluttering against my ribs, in my throat.
“Are you going to tell Dad?” I blurt out as she sits down next to me. “About the mirror?”
“I don’t know, Mare-bear.” She eyes me over the rim of her own cup. “Do I need to?”
I shake my head, obviously. But I can’t remember picking up the figurine, much less throwing it. It’s a hairline crack in the day, a thread of blank space. Just like last night.
“Well. Listen, sweetie. I’m not mad. Honestly. I know this is hard. It’s awful, and I just want you to know you can talk to me if you need to. Okay?”
Silence descends while she waits for me to continue. Eventually she gives up and clears her throat.
“So,” Aunt Jen says in a sprightly, let’s-talk-about-something-else way. “You’ll need to take the bus to school tomorrow. Just exams left after that, eh?”
“Yeah.” Just two weeks. Just forever.
The radio chimes to announce the news. More rain in the forecast; they’re piling sandbags in the East End.
“Well, I took some vacation days to look after things, so I’ll have all the time in the world. You just let me know what you want to do. Or maybe you’d rather get together with some friends, you know… That’s fine too.”
I shake my head. Ingrid’s the only one I want to spend time with. But San Francisco might as well be the moon. I slurp my still-too-hot tea and burn my tongue.
There’s not really anywhere left for the conversation to go. Aunt Jen watches me for a while and finally sighs, perches her glasses on her nose, and picks up her crochet needle. I sip my tea a couple more times and then murmur an excuse about checking my email before escaping back to my room.
No notifications, of course, when I pull out my phone. I start a text to Ingrid for the hundredth time, and for the hundredth time I sit motionless, my fingers hovering over the screen until it goes dark. The words won’t condense, somehow, from the formless worry and grief. Music drifts up from downstairs: Aunt Jen’s flying through the twinkling notes of a Chopin waltz on the piano. I think she means it to be comforting.
I used to dance to this when I visited, twirling around the tiny living room on the tips of my toes, my hair swinging out behind me, my arms swept over my head, fingers poised to pluck butterflies from the air, just like they’d taught us. Mom always applauded earnestly. I was her star. Dad would be watching us both, smiling.
Water can stop bullets if it’s deep enough. The memory can’t touch me. I just have to breathe, breathe, and let it sink. Like everything else.
Like my silent phone.
Call me, I want to type, but how many ways can you tell somebody you miss them before you end up sounding hopelessly needy? If I could talk to Ingrid about all this awfulness, it would lose its weight, disappear. If I confided in her, maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone. But maybe—probably—it would just be oversharing. And I can’t think of a way to tell her about the things that scare me most. Strange things.
Like the mirror. Its broken face keeps twinkling in the pale afternoon light, catching my eye, drawing it back. Eventually I grab the quilt folded at the end of the bed and throw it over the frame. Was it me? It must have been me. How else could that happen, glass simply breaking, out of nowhere?
Welcome to my stop on These Rebel Waves blog tour! I’m so excited to share my thoughts with you about these Rebel Waves!
(Stream Raiders #1)
by Sara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.
Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.
Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.
As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.
I’ve been hearing a lot of things about this book so I was so excited to get to read it! I have to admit , I’m not the biggest fan of different point of views. At first this did confuse me a bit but once I got used to it I was fine. I loved the characters! I liked the worldbuliding and the fact that this book is dark. Don’t go into this expecting something fluffy, it’s full of politics, action and adventure! Not to mention that ending, if you love a good plot twist then this is the book for you! I can’t wait to read book 2! I need more, like now!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then — her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, the first in a trilogy, came out October 14, 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures.
Publication date: September 19th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Enter the world of this YA thriller, where nothing is ever quite as it seems…
It’s been five years since the high profile kidnapping case which turned Cassie Waterson’s life upside down. The aftermath led her to become a household name – for months, she was splashed across TV screens, appeared in newspaper headlines, and featured in the furtive whispers of the residents of her hometown. But why? She hadn’t done anything significant. In fact, she’d done nothing at all; merely watched, motionless, as a shadowy figure lifted her baby sister off her feet, and bundled her into the back of a station wagon.
That single moment soon became Cassie Waterson’s life. Agonised by guilt, confused by the lack of punishment, scrutinised by the media circus… everyone claims to know Cassie now, but nobody does at all. The face she puts on for cameras, the voice she fakes for the talk shows… none of that is the reality behind the mask. Cassie is not the strong, confident girl who glares with certainty from the screen. Cassie doesn’t have her assuredness, or her optimism about her sister coming home. Cassie is someone else entirely, and the only person who knows is the one person she must avoid… at all costs.
Every story has two sides, and the flipside of Cassie Waterson is Alexis Aldridge. Unknown, anonymous, kept hidden from the world by her fearful parents… Alexis is a conundrum, wrapped in darkness. While her and Cassie lead opposite lives, they both long for the one thing they miss: a sense of normalcy, and the freedom to be themselves.
Infamous is an unmissable YA mystery novel which will take you on twist after turn, and which provides suspense and surprises on every page.
I really enjoyed reading Infamous. I really liked the author’s writing style. I enjoyed the fact that the book was written in dual perspective. I’m really picky about this but for this story it works well. I thought the characters were well written and interesting. I enjoyed all the twists and turns. This was a wonderful, suspenseful mystery!
Allison Stowe is the author of the YA novel, ‘Infamous.’ Raised in a generic Toronto suburb, Allison spent her childhood posting fan fiction online in hopes of influencing The WB’s writing rooms. She wrote her first novel at age 13. It was based on her favorite TV show, and upon submission she learned of copyright law.
In 2010, she graduated with a BA (Hons) in Journalism from Ryerson University, where she was the Managing Editor of the online newspaper. During her brief journalistic career, Allison wrote for Chatelaine magazine and TV Guide Canada (essentially achieving a life dream). Shortly after graduation, she relocated to Brighton, UK, and refocused her attention on her second passion – helping young people.
While studying for her MSc in Educational Psychology at UCL, Allison wrote Infamous as a way to fulfil her instinct to keep writing. When she isn’t writing about the lives of young adults, or watching prime time teen dramas, Allison mentors university students who’ve been diagnosed with mental health issues. She lives in London, UK, with her fluffy ginger cat, Sawyer. ‘Infamous’ is her debut novel.
The Geek and the Goddess
Publication date: August 7th 2018
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
People always say they wish they could predict the future. But not me. I already know my future. I’m going to lose my sight. I don’t know exactly when, but it’s going to happen. And it’s the reason I’ll never fall in love.
At least that’s what I thought. Until one day a guy walks into my chem class and changes all that.
I thought for sure he’d avoid me after he saw how people at school treat me. The teasing. The nicknames. Just being seen with me is enough to ruin his reputation, yet this guy still wanted to date me. And he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
That’s how it began. How it ended is not at all what I expected. Ours is an unlikely love story.
A guy appears at the door. He looks back at it, like he’s double-checking the room number, then says something to a girl up front. She nods and he closes the door.
Everyone looks up and stares at him. He’s tall and thin, wearing jeans and a button-up white shirt with a blue blazer over it. And he has on a tie that’s blue and green plaid.
Who dresses like that for class? A blazer and a tie? Maybe he transferred here from a prep school.
“Greetings, earthlings,” he says in a deep voice. He smiles and a few people chuckle.
“Wesley,” Mr. Henderson says. “Welcome.”
“Thank you,” he says in a cheery tone, not seeming to care that people are staring at him.
“We have a seat for you back here,” Henderson says.
He sees me and smiles. “Guess it’s my lucky day.”
Lucky day? What is he talking about?
Everyone watches as he makes his way to the back. As he approaches my table, I notice he’s carrying a briefcase. Like one of those hard covered briefcases men used to carry to work. He sets it down and opens the metal hinges. The briefcase pops open and inside is his laptop, a notebook, and some pens. He takes out the laptop, then closes the briefcase.
“Everyone, this is Wesley Deckle,” Mr. Henderson says. “He moved here last summer from Sacramento, California. Please welcome him to Wisconsin by introducing yourselves after class.” He walks over to his desk. “I want phones put away and books out. We’ll begin shortly.”
Wesley holds out his hand to me and smiles. “Hi. I’m Wesley. And you are?”
“Luna,” I say as I get a better look at his face. He’s kind of cute. His eyes are a swirly mix of blue that reminds me of those pictures of Earth taken from space. He has dark brown hair that’s a little long with curly waves that make it look messy but in a good way. And he has good skin. Not a single zit, which is rare for people our age.
“Luna,” he repeats, and I wait for him to follow that with whatever rude comment he’s going to make about my unusual name. But instead he says, “That’s the coolest name ever.”
I stare at him, skeptical of his words. It’s quite possible he’s being sarcastic. He looks like someone who uses sarcasm.
“Are you being serious?” I ask.
“Luna. Roman goddess of the moon,” he says, smiling. “You were named after a goddess. That’s cool, don’t you think?”
“Not really.” I look away from him. “I’ve never liked my name.”
“Why don’t you like it?”
“Let’s start by reviewing the syllabus,” Mr. Henderson says.
I open my laptop, not answering Wesley’s question. Because answering it means telling him the history of my name and how it’s been used to tease me, ridicule me, make me an outcast. There’s no need to explain all that. He’ll find that out soon enough.
Allie Everhart writes romance and romantic suspense and is the author of the popular Jade Series, Kensington Series, Wheeler Brothers, and several standalone titles. She’s also a freelance health writer and has worked on several New York Times bestselling books. Allie’s always been a romantic, as evidenced by her early years as a wedding singer, her obsession with dating shows, and the fact that she still watches reruns of The Love Boat. When she’s not writing, she’s outside running, which is when she gets her best book ideas.
Hello, everyone! Welcome to my spotlight post on Someone I used to know by Patty Blount!
Title: Someone I Used to Know
Author: Patty Blount
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
“Blount has written a heartrending but much-needed view on this subject. This book provides a nuanced look at the toxicity of rape culture and the long-lasting and harming aftermath of sexual assault.”— School Library Journal
From the award-winning author of Some Boys comes an unflinching examination of rape culture that delves into a family torn apart by sexual assault.
It’s been two years since the night that changed Ashley’s life. Two years since she was raped by her brother’s teammate. And a year since she sat in a court and watched as he was given a slap on the wrist sentence. But the years have done nothing to stop the pain.
It’s been two years of hell for Derek. His family is totally messed up and he and his sister are barely speaking. He knows he handled it all wrong. Now at college, he has to come to terms with what happened, and the rape culture that he was inadvertently a part of that destroyed his sister’s life.
When it all comes to head at Thanksgiving, Derek and Ashley have to decide if their relationship is able to be saved. And if their family can ever be whole again.
About the Author
Powered by way too much chocolate, award-winning author Patty Blount loves to write and has written everything from technical manuals to poetry. A 2015 CLMP Firecracker Award winner as well as Rita finalist, Patty writes issue-driven novels for teens and is currently working on a romantic thriller. Her editor claims she writes her best work when she’s mad, so if you happen to upset Patty and don’t have any chocolate on hand to throw at her, prepare to be a subject of an upcoming novel. Patty lives on Long Island with her family in a house that sadly doesn’t have anywhere near enough bookshelves…or chocolate.
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· Rafflecopter Giveaway Link for 2 Copies of Someone I Used to Know
Runs August 7th -31st (US & Canada only)
Excerpt from Someone I Used to Know:
Your Honor, thank you for letting me address this court. The first thing I want to say is that I couldn’t wait to start high school. I liked the defendant. I really liked him. And I thought he liked me back. But now I know he never saw me as a person. I was nothing more than an opportunity for him. So now I can’t wait until I’m done with high school.
—Ashley E. Lawrence, victim impact statement
The mirror is my enemy.
So is the closet.
There’s literally nothing to wear. Clothes litter my room. Several pairs of jeans are balled up on my bed because they hug my butt too tightly. T-shirts lie in piles on the floor because they’re too clingy. Shorts and skirts? No. They reveal too much leg. I throw them over my shoulder. Dr. Joyce, my therapist, claims it’s normal to have trouble getting dressed after what happened.
I always tell her I don’t care what’s normal after what happened; I just want normal—without qualifiers. I want to open my closet, pull on any old outfit, and not obsess about people thinking I’m asking for it.
I glance up and find Mom in my doorway, looking me over. I’m wearing a robe even though it’s about ninety degrees outside.
“Fine,” I lie and dive back into my closet, mopping sweat from the back of my neck. We’d agreed that I’d go to school on my own today. It’s time.
“Ashley, look at me.”
I pull my head out of my closet and meet her eyes.
“Honey, I know you’re upset. We all are, but I promise you, it’s going to be okay.”
At those words, I clench my jaw and shoot up a hand. Then I just turn away because, honestly, I don’t know which part pisses me off more…the colossal understatement implied by a wimpy word like upset or the addition of the pronoun we, suggesting everybody else in this family knows exactly how I feel when they don’t have the slightest clue.
She sighs but nods and then steps over to the closet, rehanging the discarded clothes I dumped on my bed. “We haven’t looked west yet. California is truly beautiful. You know I’ve never been there?”
I roll my eyes. We haven’t looked anywhere. All we’ve done is talk about it, so I say the same thing I always say when this comes up. “Mom, I don’t want to move away.”
“But it could be a fresh new start for all of us, Ashley. No one would even have to know you were—”
“Mom.” I cut her off, forcefully this time. “I really have to get dressed.”
Her blue eyes, the eyes both of my brothers inherited, fill with the look that’s become way too common over the last two years. It’s disappointment. Is it directed at me or what happened to me? I don’t know anymore, and I don’t think it even matters. All I know is it’s so acute, I can’t bear to see it and have to look away. Once again, I return my attention to the closet to find something to wear.
“Okay. Have a great first day. Call if…if you need me.” She turns and heads downstairs.
I don’t answer because great days are yet another myth I’ve discovered in a long series of them, starting with the concept of justice. I roll my eyes. California. Like it would be no problem to just shut down Dad’s auto repair shop and move a family of five across the country where there are no grandparents, no aunts, no uncles or cousins.
As the front door closes and the engine starts in the driveway, my phone buzzes. It hardly ever does that anymore. I glance at the display, annoyed when some stupid tiny seed of hope blooms because there’s a text message from Derek.
Derek: Good luck today.
Rage ignites inside me like a match held to dry leaves. Cursing, I kick over my hamper, swipe every last book and paper off my desk, and come perilously close to hurling my cell phone at the wall. Good luck. Could he be this clueless?
As this is my brother, yes. He could be and often is this clueless…and worse.
Ashley: Yeah. Sure. Luck. That’ll help.
The phone buzzes again.
Derek: I’m sorry. I swear I am.
Sorry? I almost laugh. Derek doesn’t do apologies.
“Derek, tell Ashley you’re sorry,” Mom would order him after he’d made me cry for some thing or another.
And he’d say, “Sorry, Ash.” Mom would walk away or turn her back, and he’d stick out his tongue or roll his eyes and smile that Derek smile, and I’d know. I’d know he wasn’t really sorry. He was only saying it to make Mom happy. Apologies happen when you own up to having been wrong, and Derek has never been wrong in his life.
I stare at the words I’d have given anything to hear my brother say two years ago, but they’re too little, too late, and knowing Derek as I do, false.
I toss the phone to my bed and go back to pawing through every drawer in my dresser and every hanger in my closet for something to wear and finally spy something. It’s this old maxi dress Mom bought for me years ago. The tags are still on it. I grab it and hold it up. It probably doesn’t fit. I think I was twelve or thirteen when she bought it.
There’s a little pang in my chest. Twelve or thirteen.
Before everything changed.
I swallow hard, trying to hold on to the pain because if it gets loose—
Deep breath. Hold it in. Okay. Dress. Right.
I hold the dress up to my body, considering it. Yeah, it might work. I slip it on, smooth it out. It’s actually a bit big. And ugly. Shades of dull beige and brown in a paisley print that hangs all the way to my ankles. I grab a sweater to hide my shoulders revealed by this outfit and smooth down a cowlick in my hair, which has finally reached shoulder length again.
Above the shelf on my wall, there’s a mirror Mom bought so I could get ready for the new school year. I’d smashed the old mirror in another fit of rage not long after I’d hacked off my long hair. Yeah, this outfit does work. It hides pretty much everything.
I grab my phone and try to visualize the day ahead. Tara, my best friend, will meet me at school. She always has my back. The rest of the school is a different story.
Derek’s words rattle around inside my head like some kind of curse. Good luck, Ash Tray. You’ll need it.
Deep breaths. Breathe in, hold for one…two…three…four, breathe out. In, hold, out. In, hold, out. I hate doing these breathing exercises because I feel like a total loser. I mean, who has to concentrate on breathing?
Traumatized people like me, that’s who.
Two years. It’s been two years. I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine. I roll my eyes because that’s another thing I must do. Tell myself complete and total lies. It’s supposed to help me believe them, turning them into what my therapist claims are self-fulfilling prophecies. I get it. The power of positive thinking and all that crap. But the truth is, I’m still waiting to feel fulfilled, yet I keep doing the same stupid breathing exercise, and I keep repeating the same stupid lies until finally my heart stops trying to beat out of my chest.
This is it—the first day of school. Junior year. I can do this. I can. I will do this.
I do something else…something my therapist never told me about. I visualize. I imagine building a dam…a little beaver dam of logs and twigs and dried mud to keep all of the triggers and memories and rage and…pain from leaking out into my life. I spend some time shoring up my dam, and with one last deep breath, I head downstairs, pretending the dread that’s still climbing up my rib cage is anticipation for the first day of my junior year.
I see two coffee cups in the sink and dishes from my parents’ breakfast. It’s normal and typical, and it gives me something to hang on to while I wrestle all that dread back behind the dam.
I glance at the clock to make sure I have time and discover it’s after 8:00 a.m.
No, that can’t be right. I woke up extra early.
My shoulders sag while I stare at the clock blinking on the microwave over the stove and then pull the phone from my pocket. It shows the same time. How? How is this possible? They’re wrong. They’re both wrong. They have to be. I run to the family room, but the cable box is blinking the same time.
I’ve not only missed the bus, but I’ve missed the start of first period.
I shoulder my bag and start walking.
I thought I was past this. I thought the days when I’d lost huge chunks of time doing nothing except breathing were behind me.
School is terminally irritating.
I missed first period entirely, and by the time the old bat in the front office gives me my pass, I’ve missed half of second, too.
“Ashley. Hey,” Tara whispers when I finally take my seat in lit class, her face split in a huge smile. “What took you so long?” And then she looks at my outfit. “What are you wearing?”
I shake my head. “Don’t even.”
She puts up both hands in apology—or maybe surrender—and turns back to her notebook. Mrs. Kaplan is reading us the class rules and information about homework, exams, and class participation. I know this drill so I zone out. I take a look around the class, see who’s here, who’s not, and spot Sebastian Valenti over by the window at the same second he jerks his eyes away from me.
They’re really amazing eyes. Hazel. I used to think hazel was a color but found out it actually means eyes that change colors. Sebastian’s eyes look green sometimes, and other times, they look brown, and I’ve even seen them look practically yellow. Sebastian’s a good guy. The best. He saved me when my stupid brother didn’t. Wouldn’t. He keeps asking how I’m doing, and I keep saying fine. And that’s about as deep as our conversations ever get, so I just don’t bother anymore. I haven’t talked to him all summer. But he’s still a really good guy.
“May I have your attention please?”
The PA system cracks into life, and Mrs. Kaplan takes a seat at her desk while the principal welcomes us back to the new school year and tells us about some after-school clubs. And then, right after an announcement about several new teachers, Principal McCloskey ruins what’s left of my life.
“We’d like to welcome our new calculus teacher, Mr. Davidson, to Bellford High. In addition to teaching calculus, Mr. Davidson has agreed to help us start a new and improved football program. Tryouts for this year’s Bengals team will be held after school.”
A cheer goes up around the classroom.
I sit in my seat, frozen. I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine. I lie to myself, but my brain knows better, and I can feel that old pressure spinning inside my chest.
A hand squeezes mine, and I jolt like I’ve been struck by lightning. I look up into the concerned eyes of Tara. That’s when I discover everybody in the entire class has swiveled around to see how I’m taking this news. Most people look concerned, like Tara. But others are triumphant, like Andre, sitting at the front of the classroom, and Bruce, over by the windows next to Sebastian. I can’t stand it, can’t deal with it. Suddenly, I’m on my feet, running for the door. “Ashley! Ashley, come back here!” Mrs. Kaplan shouts after me.
I dart across the hall into the girls’ bathroom and lock myself into a stall. I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine.
I repeat the words over and over so fast, they morph into percussion that syncs to the pounding of my heart. It’s bad enough seeing everybody stare at me. Everybody blames me for canceling football.
Derek blames me.
My brother blames me for what happened two years ago. I can never forget that…or forgive it.
It doesn’t matter how many lies I tell myself or how deep I bury those memories, how strong the dam is. Those memories—the pain they cause—they keep finding ways to break out, and I’m just not strong enough to hold them back.
I don’t think I ever will be.
Two Years Ago
It’s raining, but I don’t care. I love the way the air smells when it rains. Earthy. Clean and fresh and—so alive. I’m totally psyched to start high school and don’t care if there’s a hurricane. Armed with my bright pink umbrella, I’m ready to head to the bus stop, but Mom says Derek could have the car if he drives both of us to school. I squeal and clap. I love riding shotgun with Derek…when he lets me, that is.
Derek’s been treating me like crap for ages. We’re only a year and a half apart, so we shared a stroller, took baths together, went to gymnastics and soccer together. We were on different teams, though. That always bugged me. I wanted to play on his team. We’re a unit, a combo special, a team. Justin, our brother, is a lot older. He has his own separate life. But Derek and I are best friends. Nobody knows it but me, but Derek wants to make video games when we grow up. He has a ton of cool ideas, too.
At least, he used to. He never talks about that kind of stuff with me anymore. Now he’s all about football and girls and driving and avoids me as much as he can. I annoy him. I don’t see how that’s even possible. I try to do all the things he always liked doing with me like movie nights and epic game battles. Now he just rolls his eyes and says I should get a life.
But this is my first day of high school. So that means we can hang out again. I’m older and not so annoying. Derek doesn’t argue with Mom about driving me to school, so I kind of assume that means he’s finally outgrown his problems with me. Mom said he would…eventually. I also kind of assume that driving us to school also means driving us home. He has other ideas.
“Take the bus home. I’m hanging with my friends later.”
“Oh,” I say, smile fading. “Yeah. Sure.”
My first day of high school is awesome in every possible way. I have lunch with Donna Jennings, a girl I know from middle school, who got her hair cut in this really cool undershaved style and got a boyfriend over the summer. She showed everybody the gold heart necklace he’d given her, and my heart sighed. It had stopped raining by the afternoon, so I take my time heading to the parking lot to ride home with Derek, but the space where he’d parked Mom’s car is empty.
Darn. I was supposed to take the bus home. I totally forgot.
“You look lost.” A boy with messy hair and blue eyes says. He is seriously cute and standing with three other boys against a blue car.
“Must be a freshman,” another says.
“Just looking for my brother.”
“Who is he?”
“Um. Derek Lawrence.”
They exchange glances and laugh. “Oh, you’re Ash Tray. Sorry, you just missed him.”
“Cut it out,” the cute one says. “I’m Vic. Victor Patton.” He smiles at me. Dimples. Wow.
“Hey, that’s what Derek calls her.” The boy laughs.
Oh my God. Derek told them that? My face bursts into flames, and I turn away.
“Leave her alone.” Vic straightens up and walks toward me. He’s tall, taller than Derek. “Derek left. He might be back. Why don’t you call him?”
Yeah. Good idea. I pull out my phone and hit his name. It rings, but he never picks up. Next, I try texting him. Meanwhile, the boys pile into the blue car and take off, splashing water all over me.
I brush muddy splotches from my clothes, choking back tears, and call Mom’s cell phone, but it goes straight to voicemail. I try calling Dad too. Same thing.
What am I supposed to do? I head back to the main entrance, sink down on one of the steps, and drop my chin into my hands. I sit there, quietly crying, until the steel doors burst open and a bunch of laughing girls jog past me. Quickly, I fluff my waist-long hair in front of my face to hide the tears. All but one of the five girls wear warm-up suits bearing the word Fusion in bright red letters down one leg.
One crouches down to get a look at me. “Hey. You okay?”
I nod vigorously. “Yeah. Fine.”
“You’re crying. Can I help?” She takes a step closer, and I scrub at my face with the back of my hand, like that has even a remote chance at erasing my complete embarrassment.
“Not unless you have a magic potion that works on stupid brothers,” I blurt. Oh my God! I slap a hand over my mouth. I need to die. Right now. Where’s a lightning bolt when you need one?
“Oh, a stupid brother. I have one of those.” She smiles. She’s so pretty. Long, dark, and lean, she looks like one of the models in my Teen Vogue magazines.
I’m suddenly interested in hearing her story. “Older or younger?”
“Younger. Takes annoying to whole new levels, like it’s some kind of vow he took. Do you know he actually put my retainer in the toilet? My mother nearly burst a blood vessel after that.” She giggles. “Oh! I’m Candace Ladd.”
“Hey.” This time, my smile is bigger. “Ashley. Ashley Lawrence.”
“You must be a freshman.”
I wince, face burning all over again. “Does it show?”
She laughs, revealing perfectly straight, bright white teeth that somehow remained impervious to her little brother ruining her retainer. “Nah. I’ve just never seen you before, and I know pretty much everybody. I’m a junior.” She studies me, her head angled to one side. “Lawrence, huh?” And then her dark eyes open wide. “Oh my God. Is that stupid brother you mentioned Derek Lawrence?”
“You know him?”
She nods. “Yeah, we’re in the same homeroom. Oh, wow. Brittany is gonna hate hearing he’s a jerk. She’s really into him.” Candace points to the field on the other side of the small parking lot. The pretty blond with the great smile is doing ballet pliés.
I stare and swallow hard. Brittany is everything I’m not. Beautiful. Skinny. She even looks like Derek with perfect blond hair and blue eyes. They could be Ken and Barbie. I have dark hair and dark eyes. “Maybe he’ll be nicer to her.”
“Come on.” Candace Ladd grabs my hand, tugging me off the step where I’d been sitting, crying. “You know what’s great for getting over the stupid stuff brothers do?”
I have no idea, but I follow her anyway, making my way across the lot to the field that’s empty except for these girls.
I plant my feet in the grass at that. I love dancing. I’d taken dance classes for years when I was little. But I stopped about two years ago and now have a roll of fat bulging from the top of my jeans. I’d stick out like one of those old Sesame Street games—one of these things is so not like the others.
“Everybody, this is Ashley Lawrence. She’s Derek’s sister.”
The really pretty blond snaps her head up at that. Her smooth hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and her blue eyes are so blue, I wonder if she wears contacts. “I’m Brittany,” she says with a smile. “And this is Tara, Marlena, and Deanne.”
“Hi,” I manage to squeak out while the girls each smile and greet me.
Oh God, they’re all so beautiful. Next to them, I feel like a freak.
I am a freak.
“Ashley’s gonna dance with us today. She’s got some brother crap to work out of her system,” Candace explains to her friends, and Tara’s face instantly breaks into an expression of total understanding.
“Oh, honey. I got two of them. Is Derek what caused all this?” She waves a hand with pink-striped fingernails at my new back-to-school outfit, currently splattered in mud thanks to the boys in the blue car.
“Um, indirectly,” I admit.
“What an asshole!”
One by one, they all give their opinion of Derek while adjusting hairstyles, retying shoes, and stretching leg muscles. I’m entranced.
“You a freshman?” Marlena asks, and my face heats up again.
I nod, expecting her to make a disgusted face, but she just says, “I’m a sophomore. Candace and Brittany are juniors. And Tara’s a freshman, like you.”
I perk up at this news. Finally, somebody my own age.
Brittany pulls a small wireless speaker from her backpack, turns it on, and sets it on a bench at the edge of the athletic field. “It’s nice having the field to ourselves for once.”
“Hey, let’s teach her the routine,” Deanne suggests. “Then she can try out for Ms. Pasmore.”
Wait, what? Try out?
Holy crap, I can’t. But the rest of the girls agree. Candace crosses her arms and studies me. “Can you do basic moves like pirouettes and leaps?”
I shake my head. “I haven’t done those in a long time.”
“But you know how?” Candace prods. I can only shrug. “Oh, come on. Just try.” She urges me with a smile.
“Come on, Ashley. It would be great if we both make it on to the team,” Tara adds.
Tara’s words shoot straight into my heart and sort of plant roots. Suddenly, I want this. I want to dance and be on the team and have friends who understand all of my Derek problems.
“It’s okay, Ashley. You can do this,” Tara says, and that spot inside my heart warms up again.
I swallow hard, rub my damp palms down my legs, and get into fourth position…or is it fifth? I perform a slow, shaky pirouette. The girls applaud, and my face feels hot.
“That’s seriously not bad for someone who hasn’t danced in a couple of years.” Candace lifts her palm for a high five that I happily give her.
Derek would freak out if I do this.
So I should totally do it.
“That’s really great, Ashley. Okay, now strut!” She calls out, and the girls line up with me, everybody moving left, pumping their arms. I follow along, astounded by my efforts. “Other way. That’s good, Ashley! Now make it bigger.”
We strut back and march in place, and then Brittany takes over, leading us in a series of big, bold movements—kicks, leaps, shoulder shimmies, and pirouettes. They were right. This is fun. We dance for over an hour. The girls teach me their entire routine, and I do it all and have no time to be mad about Derek.
When we finally stop, Brittany angles her head, studying me.
“You know, you should cut some of that. It’s way too long for you.” She waves a hand over my hair.
My hair reaches my waist. “I, um, don’t look good with short hair. I mean, no offense,” I quickly say to Tara, whose jaw-length bob looks totally awesome.
“No, not that short,” Brittany says. “Maybe about here.” She indicates the middle of my back with her hand. “Take some of it off. I think it’ll have more volume.”
“Yeah,” Candace agrees. “When you do those snap turns, you won’t whip us in the face.”
Deanne hands me some forms. “Here. After you try out, you’ll need to order these.”
I stare down the sheet of papers, see the various items, each bearing the team name, Fusion.
“What do you say, Ashley? Are you in?” Candace grins, those bright white teeth gleaming at me.
I scan the group of them, all of them perfect and pretty and good at dancing. “Aren’t you worried I’ll make you look bad? I don’t…look like you all.”
“Oh, honey,” Tara says, putting an arm around me. “All you need is some practice to build up your confidence.” She looks around the group for verification.
“Hell, yeah. In freshman year, I had braces on my teeth, a terrible haircut, and I was six inches shorter than I am now. I could barely talk to anyone,” Brittany admits. “But you have something I didn’t have in freshman year.”
I did? “What’s that?”
“Boobs.” The other girls crack up as my face bursts into flames. “The boys won’t see anything else. Trust me.”
Brittany and Candace hop into a car and are gone after a honk and a wave. Deanne and Marlena stand with me until a minivan pulls up, and then it’s just me and Tara. We start walking toward the school’s main exit.
“So how are you getting home?” I ask her, and she shrugs.
“Walk. I live pretty much next door.” She points down the road.
“Well, see you tomorrow. It was nice meeting you.”
“You too,” I call back.
I start walking toward town, where my dad’s garage is, wishing I had a bottle of water with me. My legs are like noodles after all that dancing, and a two-mile walk does not appeal to me. Like a wish granted, a horn honks, and a shiny black Chevy slows down beside me.
“Hey, Derek’s sister! Need a ride?”
Oh. Em. Gee.
It’s him. The boy with the cute smile and the dimples.
My voice gets stuck in my throat, so I only nod.
“What’s your name? Your real name, I mean,” he asks through the open passenger side window, smiling and making my wobbly legs even weaker. He isn’t going to call me Ash Tray? Swoon.
“Um. Ashley.” My voice is all squeaky.
“Yeah, I remember.” Vic. What a cool name. The coolest name in the world. I want to name a baby Vic.
He laughs. “Good. So where are you heading?”
“Oh, um. To my dad’s garage. Over on Blaine.”
“Right, right. I know where it is. Hop in,” he invites with a jerk of his head. “I’ll give you a lift.”
It never occurs to me to say no. He has such a great smile. His hair is somewhere between blond and brown and so messy I itch to touch it and smooth it. He’s really tall but lean. And his eyes are so blue, they look like pools you never want to get out of. But it’s that smile, the one with the dimple at the corner, that makes me forget my name.
“So, Ashley. You’re what? A freshman?”
Is there a sign hanging over my head or something? Wincing, I nod. “It must show.”
“Just a little.” He looks over and winks. “I’m a senior.”
A senior is driving me home. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.
“Did you join a club or something?”
I nod, and suddenly remember I am probably in urgent need of a shower or a can of deodorant or a wet wipe, and I try to shrivel up against the passenger door and hope he doesn’t get close enough to sniff me. “Yeah. The dance team.”
“Fusion? That’s awesome! The dance team performs at all the Bengals games. I’ll probably see you at practice. Our coach had a meeting today, otherwise we’d have been on the field.” He slows down for a traffic light.
Can he hear my heart pounding?
“How do you like Bellford High?”
“I like the girls on the dance team. And I like my science teacher.”
“Who did you get?”
“Oh, yeah, he’s great. I had him. He likes to give pop quizzes every week, so be ready.”
“Oh. Yeah. I will.”
“Nothing terrible. Just read ahead and you’ll be fine.”
Read ahead. I can do totally do that.
Vic puts on his turn signal and waits for a left turn. “So your brother’s kind of a jerk to you, huh?”
My heart sinks, and I slide a little lower in my seat.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll say something to him tomorrow.”
Suddenly, I’m grinning like a maniac. There’s probably a circle of cartoon birds and butterflies flying around the heart that just floated out of my body. Vic laughs and shakes his head as he pulls to the curb.
“We’re here. It was nice to meet you, Ashley Lawrence.” Vic hands me my bag as I pretty much fall out of the car on legs I can no longer feel. “See you tomorrow.”
He honks and waves as he pulls away. I’m halfway in love.
“Ashley? Who was that?” Dad asks. He just stepped out of one of the garage bay doors.
I turn and see Mom in the entrance to Dad’s garage. “Mom! Can we get my hair cut? Please? I’m gonna try out for the dance team, and my hair is too long, and it’s in the way, and I met a senior named Vic, and I need to buy these if I make the team.” I finally pause for air, and Mom takes the Fusion gear order form I have clutched in my hand.
“A haircut. And a uniform. Well, okay. But a senior? No. I don’t know about that.”
“I’m with you on that,” Dad says, grabbing Mom in a hug and tickling her until she squeals.
Hello, everyone! I hope everyone is having a mermazing Monday! I’m so excited to be doing a blog challenge for the Let’s be Mermaids Read-a-thon! My challenge is to share your favorite book, movie, music, etc., that has mermaids in it. You can share one thing or you can share a lot of things.
Here are some of my favorite mermaid things:
Siren TV show on freeform on freeform
What are some of your favorite mermaid things? Do we have any in common?