A Few Updates And A New Project

Hullo, everyone! I haven’t gotten a chance to write any of the posts that you all voted on in that poll a while back, but I did have a few updates to share with you. Most of you probably saw the cover reveal for Lightporter, of course, but several other cool things have happened.

First, I got to do an awesome author interview over at Books and Teacup Reviews! I had a lot of fun answering Yesha’s questions. You can also check out her review of Twinepathy here.

Second, I’ve been getting feedback from betas on Lightporter, and I’m super excited about how close I’m getting to editing. Editing may not be fun, but it means it’s one step closer to being in your hands, so that’s worth celebrating! I’m excited to see how this book turns out.

I also have a post planned for a few days from now with a review of a new Christian dystopian novel that I got an eARC of, and I really enjoyed, so stay tuned for that!

I’m also super excited to tell you about my new project! I’m actually not working on book 3 of the IDIA series yet. I’ve worked on some plotting for it, but I chose to start a different project first–a superhero retelling of Snow White for the Rooglewood Press short story contest! I’m really excited about this story, and even if it doesn’t win the contest, I hope to be able to share it with all of you. It’s definitely been an exciting change from the IDIA universe, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

And a final announcement that I’m hoping you can all help me with. Twinepathy‘s one-year birthday is July 4th! Because of that, I’m going to be holding the first IDIA Fan Contest. In this contest, you’ll be able to submit any fanart, fanfiction, or other fan-created material to win a prize (which is yet to be determined). I also haven’t decided if I’ll be picking my favorite or if you guys will be voting for your favorites. The contest will open July 4th and run through the end of July. I’m announcing it now so that you’ll have plenty of time to think of ideas! There may be prizes for different categories, depending on the number of submissions. You will be able to submit anything IDIA-related: quote pictures, drawings, fan fiction, costumes, pictures of the book, your own mask, recipes, anything! (If you’re looking for ideas, you can check out the IDIA group board on Pinterest!) Comment below with any suggestions or ideas you have for the contest, and if you’re excited about it or plan on participating!

Thanks so much for reading through these updates! You guys are awesome, and thanks for sticking with me even with the irregular blogging schedule! 🙂

Advertisements

Musings of Avarice

I wrote this story for a Faithwriters.com challenge with the topic of Greed. It got third place in my category! I’d love to hear what you think! 😀 Read some of my other stories on Faithwriters here.

My name is Avarice. I was born greedy, my daddy said. Took my momma’s life when I came out. My name was my momma’s dyin’ wish after she gave birth to me. My daddy said, years ago, that she’d probably heard it somewhere and didn’t know that it meant greed. I must say, over the years it’s become fittin’. Everyone says I’m the greediest person they’ve ever met.

How can I not be greedy? Greed defines my life.

Greed defines everyone’s life.

Sometimes I’ll laugh in people’s faces when they say that I’m nothin’ but a greedy, miserly old woman. They judge me, but they don’t see how greedy they themselves have been. I’ve lived long on this lousy earth, and I know for a fact that greed don’t just control my life, it controls everyone’s life.

I’ve seen people ruinin’ other people’s lives, eliminatin’ other people’s lives, just for greed. And I’ve seen –

Put down those cookies. They’re mine.

Now, where was I… I know what you’re thinkin’. You’re thinkin’ that some people ain’t quite so bad. I’ve heard you say those Christian do-gooders ain’t greedy. Listen here, I’ve seen Christians doin’ their greedy things right along with the rest of us. I’ve even seen some murder people. There are a few good ones; they’re the ones I admire. Resistin’ greed is one of the toughest things out there, hon. But mostly, they pretend they’re all high and mighty, actin’ better than the rest of us, even though they ain’t. They’re doin’ the same things we are, bein’ greedy for more just like we are.

Greed can make even the best of people evil. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. You may be thinkin’ of a greedy person you know, and let me tell you you’re just as bad as that person. Greed can make even a perfectly innocent person like myself and turn them into someone like Fred in the room next door. He stole my green beans at lunch. Greed leads to worse sins. Somethin’ I remember from the one time I went to church – a mighty long time ago, let me tell you – was something about how if you broke one commandment, you was breakin’ them all. Let me tell you, greed can sure do that.

Wait, you’re leavin’ so soon? Ah, yes, I’m sure you have much better things to do than visit grumpy old ladies like me that are stuck in a nursin’ home… what? No, you can’t have a cookie! Get out of here you greedy little…

Well, that got rid of him quick.

The Holdup

Did you know that Hershey’s Bars were first invented in 1900?!?! The things you learn from writing research! This is a short story I wrote for an English assignment based off a news story I wrote for Creative Writing. If you’re nerdy like me, you might recognize these names right off the bat. If not, don’t worry. You’ll find out at the end. Enjoy, and I’d love to hear your opinions!

“That’ll be ten dollars and ninety five cents,” the young girl behind the counter told him. Timothy Dugan slid the money to her, and picked up his snacks. Most truck stops along the route he and James Montgomery Falsworth, better known as Montgomery or Major, were taking had reasonable prices. This one, not so much. Timothy settled his portly frame down on a bench near the door, waiting for Montgomery to join him. The sky outside the front windows was black, pitch black, with dark clouds covering the moon. The harsh lights from inside the convenience glinted off the shiny silver 1951 Mercedes-Benz he and Montgomery had rented. It was only a couple years old.

Timothy opened his Hershey bar, smoothing his mustache away from his mouth. He wasn’t a big fan of chocolate, but it was one of the cheapest things in the store. The wrapper cheerily proclaimed the fiftieth anniversary of Hershey bars. The bell on the front door jingled and Timothy just caught a glimpse of the two darkly-dressed men as they walked past him. He looked outside and saw their car parked next to the rental. He couldn’t help admiring the dark lines of their small car, but he couldn’t see the make of the car or the license plate number.

He heard Montgomery whistling as the bathroom door slammed shut, and then the whistling stopped abruptly. Timothy looked up to see the taller of the two men pointing a gun at Montgomery’s back. A cold hand yanked Timothy off the bench and the short, fat man pointed a gun at Timothy. A holdup. Hope this doesn’t become the last day of the road trip.

“Give us the money from the cash register,” the taller man ordered. Both men had their faces covered, and were wearing long sleeves and gloves. Timothy pitied the frightened girl, who looked like she was only in her twenties. Timothy glanced at Montgomery. Here they were, two World War II veterans, and not only that, but two who had served next to the best captain in the army, and they were unable to do anything to help stop a robbery.

The girl opened the cash register and handed off the money to them. “This one’s for you, Rogers,” Timothy whispered. He shoved his elbow into his captor’s stomach. The man doubled over, letting go of Timothy and the gun, but he recovered quick enough to race outside, his partner covering for him and picking up the dropped gun. The tall man studied them. “Stay at the back of the room and don’t try anything, or you’ll regret it.” Then he disappeared out the door and into the car outside, which roared to life and sped down the road.

Timothy immediately reached for the phone and called the police, alerting them to what happened. Montgomery patted his shoulder. “Well done, Dugan. Rogers would’ve been proud.”

Timothy smiles at his friend, rubbing his red moustache. He missed his old nickname. Montgomery hadn’t called him Dum Dum since the plane crash. “He would’ve done better. But I’m not a super soldier.” The police filed into the building, getting their testimonies and contact information. Then they let them go, and the two veterans headed back onto the open road.

Still don’t know who our World War II veterans are? Dum Dum and the Major, two members of Captain America’s “barbershop quartet”! Surprise!

Eric – Behind the Names

For those of you who have been guessing about the significance of the names of Eric and Joseph, the big moment is here!

The names are actually simply hints to a lesson found in the story. A simple sentence.

Jesus died for Everyone.

Jeremiah died for Eric.

Hope you enjoyed this story, and I’d love to hear what you have to say! 🙂 Did you enjoy the parallel, and did you figure out the names?

A Maze of Lies – Part Three

The last part in the story of lies, deception, and wrong choices. Click for Part One and Part Two. I’d love feedback! 😀

The next week passed quickly. Spring break also flew past, and it seemed like there hadn’t been a spare minute to breathe for Hailey. On Saturday night, she headed over to Melanie’s house for an end-of-spring-break sleepover.

“Hey, Hailey, I’m in the kitchen!” Melanie called when Hailey came in. Hailey slipped into the kitchen.

“You’re the first one here,” Melanie told her, grinning.

“Well, that’s a first!” Hailey joked. She reached over her friend’s shoulder and grabbed a kettle chip out of the bowl on the counter. “Who all is coming?” she asked, crunching.

“Kaitlyn’s out of town, so she’s not going to be here, but Brenna is going to be able to make it this time.” Melanie grabbed her own chip out of the bowl and popped it in her mouth. And then grabbed a few more.

Hailey picked up the bowl to take it into the living room. “Too bad Kaitlyn can’t come. We had a lot of fun last time. When is she getting back?”

“Monday, but she’ll be back at school on Tuesday.” Melanie picked up a bowl of popcorn. “Maybe we’ll actually pull an all-nighter tonight.”

Hailey laughed. “Knowing Brenna, we will.”

~~~

Hailey strolled home slowly on Monday afternoon. She hadn’t been able to avoid the daily bullying scene. Jason had been on vacation until the night before, and he had got back late, so she had hoped that he wouldn’t be there. Unfortunately he had.

“Hailey, wait up!” She heard a voice call from behind her. She turned and looked. It was Jason.

“Hi, Jason,” she said when he caught up.

“Hi.” He grinned, shoving his blond hair back from his forehead. “How come I’m always running to catch up with you?”

Hailey laughed. “I guess I’m just a lot faster than you.”

He smiled. “So, did you go to church on Sunday?”

“Yeah.” The words popped out of Hailey’s mouth before she could even think. “I went to the youth group meeting thing.” Hailey couldn’t believe what she’d just said.

“That’s awesome!” Jason exclaimed enthusiastically. “So, did you like it?”

“Not really,” Hailey replied reluctantly. She couldn’t think of anything else to say. What had she done?

Jason’s face fell. “Oh,” he said resignedly. He suddenly looked at his watch. “I’ve got to get home. Let’s talk more later, okay?”

“Sure,” Hailey replied reluctantly. He turned away, his shoulders somewhat slumped. Hailey was overcome by a desire to run after him, to grab his arm, to tell him the truth about everything. She wanted to stop lying to him.

But she didn’t. She didn’t want to lose her popularity and her other friends. She didn’t want to lose Jason’s trust. And she didn’t want to lose him as a friend.

~~~

Hailey slammed her locker door shut angrily after her classes on Tuesday. Every time she had seen Jason, she had felt a pang from her conscience. She was completely tired of it all. She spotted Jason at his locker a few feet away and debated whether or not to talk to him.

“Hi, guys!” Kaitlyn called, waving to Hailey and Melanie. She expertly wove through the crowd of teenagers. She finally reached them, breathless.

“Hi, Kaitlyn! Did you have a good trip?” Melanie asked, hugging her friend.

“It was great!” Kaitlyn exclaimed, her voice loud and clear like Melanie’s, as usual. “How was the sleepover on Saturday?”

“It was awesome, right, Hailey?” Melanie replied.

“Yeah, it was,” Hailey agreed distractedly. She knew that Jason couldn’t help but hear everything, and she knew that this was going to ruin everything.

“It was great!” Melanie confirmed. “We ended up pulling an all-nighter. We totally slept until four. Hailey was the one to wake us all up.” Hailey gave a half-hearted grin.

“You slept later than the one two weeks ago, then?” Kaitlyn asked. “We only slept until two.”

“Yeah.” Melanie smiled and continued chattering. Jason’s eyes met Hailey’s. He immediately read the guilt on her face. Astonishment swept over his face and was immediately replaced by hurt and anger, and then sadness. He turned and walked towards a side door, probably so he could escape the daily bullying scene. Hailey felt sick as she realized the pain she had caused Jason. Ignoring the chatter of her friends, she gathered her things and took off after Jason. She had to make things right.

~~~

“Jason, wait up!” Hailey called after Jason when she spotted him walking down the street ahead of her. Either he didn’t hear her, or he was ignoring her, because he kept walking. Hailey finally caught up to him and grabbed his arm.

“Please, Jason,” she pleaded desperately. “We need to talk. I-I’m sorry.” She finished in a whisper.

Jason turned around to face her, pain and sadness filling his green eyes. Hailey gulped, knowing that this would be hard. “I’m sorry. I just— couldn’t stop. I wanted you to stop asking me to go to church with you. I didn’t want to lose all of my other friends because of going to church, so I just kept lying and making up excuses. It was like everything kept getting more and more tangled up, and I-I just couldn’t stop. It was like being stuck in a maze.” The tears started flowing down her cheeks.

Jason hugged her gently and gave a weak smile. “It’s okay, Hailey. I’m hurt, and I’m upset that you lied to me, but… I’ve already decided to forgive you.”

“But how?” Hailey asked, confused. “I mean, I lied to you so many times! How can you just – forgive me?”

Jason smiled again. “I can’t do it on my own. God gives me the power to forgive. He’s the only One who can help me to let go of the hurt.”

“Thanks,” Hailey said softly. “And maybe I can come to church with you sometime?”

Jason’s grin broadened. “That would be awesome. Jesus is the best way out of the maze of lies.”

A Maze of Lies – Part Two

Continuing the story of lies, deception, and wrong choices. Click for Part One. I’d love feedback! 😀

Hailey yawned. She could feel the heat of the sun on the side of her face. She finally mustered enough strength… to open her eyes. The sun was shining brightly through the window. She sleepily sat up and glanced at the clock. It was already well past noon. Melanie and Kaitlyn were still sleeping soundly in their sleeping bags. Hailey automatically reached for a pillow.

“Oof!” Melanie grunted groggily. She pushed the pillow off her face. She looked over at Hailey, who was trying her best to fend off laughter and look innocent. Melanie rolled her eyes. “That wasn’t very nice,” she stated.

Hailey gazed at her solemnly. “You’re going to use the pillow to wake up Kaitlyn, right?”

“Of course.” Melanie snorted. “Do you think I would pass up an opportunity like this?” Hailey grinned at her.

Five minutes of pillow-pounding later, a very grumpy Kaitlyn was sitting up in her sleeping bag. “What time is it?” she grumbled.

“Almost two,” Hailey informed her.

“What time did we fall asleep?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Well, I remember popping the seventh bag of popcorn around five, and we never did finish it.” Melanie nodded to the half-empty bowl. “So, I think it was around six.”

Kaitlyn rolled her eyes. “No wonder,” she muttered. “We’d better get dressed and eat something. My mom’s coming to pick me up in half an hour.”

~~~

“Hi, Hailey, Melanie!” Brenna called, winding her way to the other girls through the post-class traffic. She finally reached them. “How was the sleepover?” she asked. “I wish I hadn’t missed it.”

“It was great,” Melanie told Brenna, mentioning all of the best parts. Of course, she left out the part about Finding Nemo.

Kaitlyn walked over to them. “Hey, guys. I was actually able to make it through today. Apparently the kid that the guys are usually messing with isn’t here today.”

Hailey didn’t say anything, but looked up, relieved, although she did wonder where Jason was. The girls left the school together and split up, heading their separate ways.

Once at home, Hailey couldn’t focus on her homework. She kept wondering why Jason hadn’t been at school. Finally she picked up the phone.

“Hello, Craywell residence.” The voice didn’t sound like Jason’s.

“Hi, can I talk to Jason?” she asked hesitantly, feeling awkward. She and Jason hadn’t really talked lately, after all.

“This is he. Who is this?” Hailey still didn’t think it sounded like him.

“It’s Hailey.”

“Hi, Hailey!” A smile leapt into his voice. “What’s up?”

“Not much. I was just wondering why you weren’t at school today.” Hailey fiddled with her pencil.

“Oh, Kelly got a cold and passed it on to me. I’ll probably be back tomorrow, though. Thanks for thinking of me! I missed church on Sunday, too.” He sounded genuinely happy to hear from her.

“Do you need any of the assignments?” Hailey asked quickly, changing the subject.

“Sure!” Jason replied eagerly.

Hailey found the assignments for the classes they were in together and listed them. As she waited for him to write them down, an idea hit her. Jason was always asking her to go to church with him. She had always refused, coming up with various excuses. This was her chance to get him off her back once and for all.

“Thanks, Hailey. I guess I have something to do tonight.” They laughed. A short silence followed. Hailey twirled her hair around her finger nervously as she tried to think of something to say. Finally Jason broke the silence.

“So, do you want to, uh, come to church with me on Wednesday?” he asked somewhat awkwardly.

This was the question Hailey had been waiting for. “Nah,” she replied after a moment. “I didn’t really enjoy it much when I went on Sunday. I had wondered where you were—”

“You went yesterday?” Jason interrupted excitedly. “Aw, you should have called me. I wish I could’ve been there! Did you like it?”

“Not really,” Hailey replied hesitantly. Jason’s enthusiasm was starting to make her regret her lie.

“Oh.” Jason said thoughtfully. There was a short pause. “I’ve got to go, Hailey, my dad’s calling me. Feel free to call me later.”

“All right, ‘bye,” Hailey replied. She hung up the phone with the guilt weighing down heavily on her shoulders. She tried to concentrate on her schoolwork, but she couldn’t keep her mind on it. She couldn’t help hoping that this would be the last of all of the church invitations.

~~~

“Hey, Timothy!” Jason called as he slipped into the nearly-empty youth room that Wednesday.

The kid sitting at one of the small tables looked up, brushing his short brown hair out of his eyes and adjusted his glasses. He slipped a bookmark into his book and grinned. “Hey, Jason, I’ve got an open seat over here that has your name on it!”

Jason grinned and slid into one of the open chairs. “How’s it going, Timothy?”

“Pretty good,” the boy replied. “We missed you here on Sunday.”

Jason made a face. “Yeah. I was at home, sick. You’re still working on Moby Dick, huh?” Timothy nodded. “Oh,” Jason began, remembering. “A friend of mine came on Sunday. Did you get to meet her? Her name’s Hailey, she’s got red hair. She’s not very easy to miss.”

Timothy thought for a little while, unconsciously chewing on the eraser on his pencil. Finally he shook his head. “No, I didn’t see her. There were only a few people here on Sunday, and they were all regulars.”

Jason frowned. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Timothy nodded.

That’s weird, Jason thought. I guess I’ll ask Hailey about it tomorrow after school.

~~~

All week long Hailey’s friends had dragged her over to watch Jason getting bullied. She was finally tired of it. She was barely able to escape through one of the side entrances. She had plenty of time to get home since she had made it out of school early, so she strolled leisurely down the sidewalk.

Hailey had almost made it to her house when she heard running footsteps behind her. She turned around and saw Jason running towards her.

“Hi, Hailey!” he called, catching up to her.

“Oh, hi, Jason,” she replied somewhat nervously. She felt a twinge of guilt as she thought about the phone call.

“Hi,” Jason gasped as he finally reached her. “How’re you doing?”

“Pretty good,” Hailey replied. “What about you?”

“I’m fine,” he replied, still trying to catch his breath. “Oh, last night at church I asked a friend of mine if he’d met you, and he said he hadn’t seen you in youth.”

It only took a split second for Hailey to realize how bad this could be for her, and another one for her to come up with a reply. “Oh, I stayed in the main sanctuary, you know, with the adults. That’s probably why he didn’t see me.”

Jason laughed. “That makes sense. It also explains why you disliked it, too. Youth’s a lot of fun, while the adult service… not so much.” Hailey mentally groaned. She knew what was coming up next.

“So, do you want to come again on Sunday? You can try out the youth group. It’s a lot better than the sermons in the sanctuary,” Jason suggested eagerly.

“No, I don’t think so. I’ve got a big project due on Monday since it’s the week before spring break.” Hailey lied again. “We’re going shopping on Saturday, so I won’t have much time the rest of the weekend.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jason nodded understandingly. “Those teachers always dump extra homework on us right before spring break.”

Hailey laughed, relaxing. “Yeah. Well, I’ve gotta get home. I’ll talk to you later.”

Jason nodded. “Okay. See ya tomorrow!” he called over his shoulder as he jogged back towards his house. Hailey continued down to her house, breathing in the scent of the flowers blooming in the flowerbeds. She was really glad to have dodged two more tough spots, but she wondered how many more would follow.

A Maze of Lies – Part One

Love this short-story-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-novel. 😉 Let me know what you think of this part. More parts coming soon!

Hailey Baker slammed the door on her locker, pulling her hands through her strawberry-blond hair. Her light brown eyes focused on a group of kids laughing farther down the high school hallway. She groaned inwardly, realizing immediately what was going on.

One of her fellow softball players and close friends, Melanie Brandt, looked up too. Pushing her short brown hair behind her ear, she took in the scene unfolding down the hall. She rolled her brown eyes. “Great,” she complained. “Haven’t those guys got anything better to do? They do this every single day after the classes are over.” Her loud voice carried to most of the people around them.

Brenna Cooper, another volleyball teammate, looked up from pulling her books out of her locker. She shrugged, flipping her blond hair over her shoulder. “We might as well watch the action.”

Brenna and Melanie immediately moved down the hall towards the commotion. Hailey followed reluctantly. Finally they were able to find a good vantage point to watch “the action”, as Brenna called it.

In the middle of all the commotion, a blond sophomore named Jason Craywell was standing next to some lockers, clutching a stack of books to his chest. Two of the other sophomores were teasing him and pushing him around. His green eyes blazed, and Hailey could see him gritting his teeth. The kids at school often teased him about his beliefs, but he continued to stand strong. He made eye contact with Hailey, and she quickly looked away. She knew he was disappointed that she was simply watching and not intervening, but she didn’t know what else to do.

Hailey and Jason had known each other since they were in second grade in the same class. They didn’t truly become close until one day close to the end of their second grade year. It was Jason’s first day back at school after his mom’s death. During recess, Hailey found him crying behind one of the school buildings. They had eventually become best friends, and this friendship continued throughout elementary school and their first year of middle school. Not long into middle school, though, Hailey had become popular, and they began to grow further apart, especially when Jason became a Christian and began to become unpopular. Now that they were in high school, the two of them didn’t hang out very much at all, although they did talk occasionally, outside of school.

Hailey’s attention returned to the scene before her. The noisy laughter must have finally caught the attention of the teachers in the nearest classrooms. A few of the teachers came out to restore order, and the kids began scattering. Jason, looking slightly relieved, turned and walked out of the building.

“Guess the fun’s over,” Brenna sighed, faking disappointment.

Melanie ignored her, turning to Hailey. “Will you be able to sleep over Saturday night?”

“Yeah,” Hailey replied. “I’ll be there at six.” She looked distractedly at her phone. “I’ve got to go now, though. I have a babysitting job I need to get to.”

“Okay, see you tomorrow!” Melanie called to her as she wove her way to the front doors. Hailey turned back and waved, and then continued pushing forward through the crowd of teenagers.

~~~

“Where’s the popcorn?” Kaitlyn Monroe called from the kitchen. Melanie looked up from searching through the DVDs.

“There are some bags in the top part of the cabinet, far right,” she replied. She turned to Hailey, who was arranging the sleeping bags. “Do you think we should watch VeggieTales: The Penniless Princess?”

Hailey laughed. “No, I think it’s too scary for Kaitlyn,” she joked.

“I heard that!” Kaitlyn yelled from the kitchen. The other two girls laughed. They soon heard the popcorn popping in the microwave.

Hailey grinned slyly at Melanie. “I brought jalapeno kettle chips,” she confided.

Melanie licked her lips. “My favorite.”

“So, where’s Brenna?” Hailey asked. “I thought you invited her, too, and she never misses a party if she can help it.”

Melanie laughed. “Well, this time she couldn’t help it. They have family visiting this weekend. She begged her parents to let her come, but it didn’t work.”

“I’ve got popcorn!” Kaitlyn announced, slipping into the room, balancing a bowl of popcorn with one hand.

“Don’t drop it!” Hailey and Melanie chorused, laughing.

Kaitlyn frowned jokingly. “You doubt my abilities?” she asked incredulously. The bowl wobbled as she stepped towards the table.

“Yes,” Hailey stated, “and for a good reason.” Melanie laughed and took the popcorn from Kaitlyn. Hailey moved to the stack of DVDs that Melanie had been looking through. The other two girls joined her.

“Oh, here it is!” Melanie held up a DVD.

Hailey raised her eyebrows. “Finding Nemo?”

“Yes, I love that movie!” Kaitlyn settled down into a mountain of pillows that she had brought with her.

“You guys are so weird!” Hailey said, laughing. She had to admit that she wouldn’t mind watching the movie, though. She settled down on her sleeping bag.

Melanie put the disc in. “This is going to be one fun night.”

Gone

I’m pretty sure this is the very first story where I had one of the characters die. Since then, I believe there’s only been one other character that has died. So I’m mostly not violent. 😉 A sad story to write. Hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think!

“Get out, Hilary!” I yelled. I pushed my little sister out of my room.

“I was just looking around!” Hilary whined.

“It doesn’t matter!” I shouted. I was fuming. “You shouldn’t be in my room at all!” I pushed my seven-year-old pest, I mean sister, the rest of the way out of my room, slamming the door shut behind her. I sighed, plopping down in my desk chair. I then began to work on my homework.

Just a minute or two later, I heard a knock on the door. “Who is it?” I called grumpily.

“Erika.”

I immediately recognized my mom’s voice. “Come in.”

My mom opened the door and slipped into my room, Hilary trailing in behind her. I gulped. My mom perched on the end of my bed, with Hilary on her lap. I could feel a lecture coming on.

“Erika,” my mother began sternly. “I think you owe an apology to your sister.” She held up her hand to ward off all of my protests. “I understand about you wanting her to stay out of your room, but you could have asked her to do it in a more kind and loving way.”

“But, Mom—” I began with a whine in my voice, until my mom cut me off with a glare. I turned to Hilary. “I’m sorry,” I grumbled grudgingly.

My mom sighed. “That’s good enough for now, but I expect a sincere apology later,” She nodded towards my school books as she stood up. “You can get back to your homework now.” She picked up Hilary and left my room, closing the door softly behind her.

I immediately jumped up from my desk chair and paced around the room, stomping furiously. I stopped by my bed and slammed my fist into the mattress viciously. “She always takes Hilary’s side!” I growled to no one in particular, glaring at my door. I finally sighed, frustrated, and slumped back into my chair to work on my homework.

~~~

I sat in silence during dinner, just picking at my food. I was still fuming. My dad had finally made it home, and Hilary was chattering on and on about everything that had happened to her that day. Needless to say, I was having a hard time keeping my temper under control. I really just wanted to get away from Hilary.

“How was your day, Erika?” my dad finally managed to ask when Hilary took a break to eat her hot dog and macaroni and cheese. Of course, it was her favorite meal.

“Fine,” I muttered, pushing back my chair. “May I be excused, please?” At least I’d said it politely.

Mom looked over at my plate. “You can probably eat some more of that food,” she told me in her no-nonsense voice. I slid my chair back into place.

“Did you have a bad day at school?” Dad asked. He wasn’t really concentrating on me; he was too busy trying to keep from laughing as Hilary’s hot dog began to drip ketchup on her plate.

“No, it was fine,” I mumbled. I ate several more bites of my food. After choking down the rest of the macaroni and cheese and half of my hot dog, Mom finally let me leave the table, so I hurried up to my room.

After the rest of the family finished dinner, I went downstairs to use the computer in the living room for my homework. I narrowed my eyes when I got in there. The computer was taken… by Hilary, of course. I checked the screen over her shoulder. Ugh. Of course. She was playing some princess game. She looked up at me, smiling.

“Look, Erika, I’m designing a princess and her horse. I’m making her look like me.” She paused, grinning proudly. “Do you think I could be a princess?”

I rolled my eyes. “You have to be the daughter of a king or queen or married to a prince. Now, get off the computer. I need to do my homework.”

“But I got here first!” she complained, putting on her pouty face.

My homework is more important than your silly princess game!” I snapped. I picked her up out of the chair and set her down on the couch. I sat down in the chair myself and immediately began working on my homework.

“Erika!” Hilary squealed, tugging on my arm. “Don’t close my—” Too late. I clicked the button to close the window with her princess game. She flopped down on the floor by my chair, sobbing loudly. Drama queen. I ignored her.

“Erika? Hilary?” Uh-oh. Mom poked her head into the room and spotted Hilary sobbing in a heap on the floor. Of course, she fell for Hilary’s drama queen act. “Hilary! Oh, what’s wrong, honey?”

What happened next was totally predictable. Hilary ratted on me, but completely exaggerated the whole thing, painting me as the mean, scary bully, while she was the absolutely innocent angel. She was sobbing throughout the entire story. I do have to admit that she’s a pretty good actor. She was pretty convincing. Almost.

Unfortunately, my mom bought the entire performance. She comforted Hilary, and told her that she should stop crying. Then she turned a steely glare on me. “And you, young lady, will go to your room immediately. I’ll be up there to talk to you in a minute.” She turned back to Hilary. Luckily, I had enough sense to remember not to stomp up the stairs or slam my door. I flopped down on my bed.

It had hardly been a minute before my mom came into my room, a frown pasted on her face. I stayed where I was, staring up at the ceiling. She perched on the edge of my bed again and studied me.

“I’m very disappointed in you, Erika. You really need to work on loving your sister more. I understand that sometimes little sisters can be annoying, I had three of them, but, since you’re older, we expect you to be more mature, especially now that you’re in eighth grade. Is that clear?”

I reluctantly said what I knew that she wanted me to say. “Yes, ma’am.”

My mom looked at me thoughtfully. “Maybe you should read First Corinthians 13 tonight.”

I sighed and nodded, my fingers crossed behind my back. I might read just enough to be able to give my mom a short summary in the morning. I don’t mind church stuff, but I didn’t want to read anything that my mom thought would help me be nice to Hilary.

Mom stood up. “Dad’s playing Go Fish with Hilary, so you can use the computer for your homework if you still need to.” She patted my knee, standing up. “Think about what I said, Erika.” She left my room quietly, closing the door gently behind her.

~~~

The Wednesday night youth group meeting is one of my favorite parts of the week. That’s mostly because I get to hang out with my friends. Our youth pastor, Keith Jenkins, is pretty cool, too. He’s only twenty-five, so he’s really good at making his lessons interesting to us. He’s also really good to talk to.

That’s why, when I got to church, I headed straight to the youth worship room instead of the fellowship room. I knew that the worship room was where Mr. Jenkins stayed until about fifteen minutes before the service started.

“Mr. Jenkins?” I called when I peered into the worship area. He looked up from reviewing his notes about the sermon and smiled.

“Erika! Come on in.” He sat down on one of the chairs and patted the one next to him. I came in, letting the door shut behind me. He motioned me over. “Sit down. Do you have something on your mind?”

I looked down at my hands. I’m not very good at opening up to people; it doesn’t feel very natural to me. “Uh, kind of.”

He leaned towards me. “Go ahead. And, remember, anything you tell me is confidential; I won’t tell anyone about anything unless you tell me otherwise.”

“Well,” I hesitated, “I’ve been having trouble with my sister.” I told him everything that had happened, starting with Hilary in my room. “She’s just so annoying. She’s such a pest!”

Mr. Jenkins nodded. “I understand. Sometimes it’s really hard to get along with our siblings.”

“Sometimes!” I protested. “She’s always bothering me!”

He laughed. “But you do see your sister a lot, which makes her a very good candidate for a really close friend.”

I snorted. Not very ladylike, I know. “No way. I’ll never be able to be friends with Hilary. She gets on my nerves so much. Sometimes, I wish… I wish she’d never been born!”

Mr. Jenkins studied me. His face was dead serious now. “You may feel that way now, but someday you’ll realize how much you really need her and love her.”

~~~

About halfway through homeroom the next morning, the intercom buzzed. Mrs. Walton, my homeroom teacher, was clearly indignant at the interruption, but she replied anyway. “Yes?”

“Please send Erika Gardner to the office immediately.” the voice requested, crackling over the speaker.

Mrs. Walton nodded at me. I was immediately the center of attention as I stood up to leave. Ugh. I hate it when other people stare at me, and they were all wondering what I had done. I quickly escaped into the hall, my mind racing. I couldn’t think of anything I’d done (at least, not lately) that would be severe enough to force me to go to the principal’s office. Most of the time, I’m a pretty good kid, except for a few mistakes every once and a while, like the time in third grade when I dared Donny to go down the playground slide on his back, head first. Not good. I got in trouble big time. There was also the time last year, seventh grade, when Cindy and I started a food fight. That was fun. But I couldn’t think of anything I’d done lately.

Finally I reached the principal’s office and walked in. Uh-oh. Something must have been really wrong, because both of my parents were there. Both of their faces were pale, and my mom’s eyes looked puffy and swollen, like she had been crying.

The principal stood up and nodded at me. “I’ll leave the three of you alone.” She left the room, closing the door behind her.

I glanced nervously at my parents. Something was going on, and whatever it was, it was definitely not good. My mom looked over at my dad, and he reluctantly took over.

“Sit down,” he told me. I obeyed. He took a deep breath and began. “After the Johnsons picked Hilary up to take her to school, they were involved in a car accident. Hilary died in the crash.” He was clearly having a difficult time.

I opened my mouth to protest, wanting to say something that would help Hilary not be dead, but no sound would come out. The room started to spin before my eyes, and I gripped the chair, my knuckles getting white. I could hear my parents talking to me, but they sounded really far away. “No,” I was finally able to whisper hoarsely as the room stopped spinning. “No!” I yelled, sobbing hysterically. “Hilary can’t be dead! She can’t! She can’t…” My voice faded away into choking sobs.

~~~

I diligently went to Hilary’s funeral that Saturday, but when we got back home, I threw myself down on my bed, sobbing. I remembered what Mr. Jenkins had said on Wednesday night, the day before Hilary died. Boy, was he right. I really did love Hilary, deep down inside. Sometimes you never know what you got till it’s gone.

 

“They say you never know what you got till it’s gone…”

Gone-tobyMac-

Chloe – Part V

The final part in the Chloe story! Please let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoy it. Click for Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Jen and I slipped into the living room after dinner while our parents were talking. I heard her flop down on the couch. “Your parents are so going to let you go to public school.”

I snorted. “What makes you say that?”

“They’re practically hanging on my parents’ every word,” she pointed out. “They’re not really exchanging notes on raising blind kids. It’s more like they’re asking my parents for advice.”

I thought about it for a minute. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’ll be awesome if they let me go to Thatcher.”

“You have a crush on John, don’t you?” she teased, laughing.

“What makes you say that?” I asked, surprised. Nobody really knows how to read my feelings, not even my parents most of the time.

She giggled. “Hey, I’m a fellow blind person. I can tell what others have on their minds a lot of the time. You’re hoping you’ll get to go to Thatcher to be with John.”

“And…” I prompted.

“And because you want to be normal,” she added, a bit of the levity falling out of her voice. “You know that it won’t really happen, right?”

“I know,” I replied, sighing. “But it’s not just being normal, I also want my parents to just treat me like I’m normal.”

I heard her sigh. “It took my parents a while to do that. They have to learn, just like you have to learn how to respond to change in your own way. Sometimes it’s really hard for them to realize that they can’t hold on to their image of you as a poor blind girl and that they have to let go.” She took a deep breath and let go. “You have to let go of that false identity, too. You can’t let the label ‘blind’ define you your entire life.”

I nodded slowly, then remembered that she couldn’t see me. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Chloe, Jen!” my mom called from the dining room. “Could you girls come in here?”

We walked into the dining room, which my mom had dressed up really nice for our guests. One of her fancy tablecloths had been laid out, along with the nice silverware and real china, well, for everybody except me. My mom didn’t really trust me around breakable things.

“Chloe,” my dad began, “we’ve been talking to Jen’s parents about how you want to go to public school, and they’ve given us lots of helpful tips. They think that you’re probably responsible enough to be able to go to public school, so…” He took a deep breath. “We’ve decided to let you go to public school at Thatcher this year.”

“Really?” I asked, hiding my excitement.

“Yes,” my mom told me. “You know that this will be a really big commitment, right? You’ll have to work very hard on your schoolwork and keep your grades up, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I agreed. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to public school.

———-

I walked carefully down the high school hallway, my cane tapping gently against the lockers. My first week at Thatcher had been a tough one, but I had mostly figured out how to get around the school. Most of my classes were pretty easy, since, with my mom’s homeschooling, I was a little ahead of the class. My teachers were really nice, too, and super helpful. Most of the kids acted like my cane was poisonous or like I had a disease or something, avoiding me. I didn’t mind that much. I still hadn’t made any friends, but being a loner didn’t bother me.

A locker slammed almost directly in front of me. I went wide around the area where the locker had slammed to avoid running into the person. I felt a foot hit my shin, and I stumbled, slamming into the hard floor. Laughter rang out around me. I could feel my face burning.

“You need to learn how to walk, blind kid,” a taunting voice said to my left. Giggles reached my ears. I felt somebody grab my shoulders and yank me up off the floor. The next thing I knew, I lost my breath as he slammed me into a locker. There was more laughter, and I could feel the anger bubbling up inside of me.

“Leave her alone, Brian,” a slightly familiar-sounding voice called, and I heard footsteps approaching. The guy holding me, Brian, I guess, loosened his grip and stepped back.

“I was just messing around,” he protested.

“Whatever,” the voice snorted. “Are you okay, Chloe?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, John,” I replied.

“How’d you know who it was?” Brian asked, surprised.

John nudged me with his elbow. “She has a built-in voice recognition system, right?”

I laughed. “Yeah.” John led me down the hall towards the front door. “Thanks,” I whispered in his ear.

“No prob,” he told me. “Besides, what are friends for?”

The End

Chloe – Part IV

This short story is one of my favorites, but it’s fourteen pages long, so I’ll be posting it in parts. Please let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy! Click for Part I, Part II, and Part III.

“Hi, Mom,” I said cheerfully as I slid into my seat at the dining room table. “What’s for dinner?”

“Spaghetti and meatballs,” she replied. I could smell the sauce and the pasta in the air, but I knew she liked it when I asked, like a normal kid, instead of saying something like, “Oh, I love spaghetti and meatballs!” Sometimes it makes her uncomfortable when I show how much I can figure out without my eyesight.

“I’m home!” my dad called, slamming the door into the garage. I heard him clomp into the kitchen. “Hi, honey,” he said to my mom. I heard them kiss and could barely keep from gagging. He came over to the kitchen table. “Hi, Chloe. How was your day?” He leaned over and hugged me.

“Good,” I told him. “I got a lot done.”

“Good,” he replied. I could hear a smile in his voice. Unlike my mom, he didn’t treat me like I was fragile all the time. He treated me like a normal person.

“I went for a walk in the park down the street, and I met a blind girl,” I told him. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. “She was really nice. I was wondering if you could convince Mom to let her and her parents come over sometime. I’d really like to get to know her better.” I knew my dad would at least mention it to my mom, and, if he agreed, he’d convince her, too. She always listened to him.

“Sure, Chloe,” he agreed. “It sounds great. I’m glad you’re getting to know other blind people. It’ll be good for you and probably pretty helpful.”

You have no idea, I thought. “Yeah, you’re probably right, Dad,” I said aloud.

He grinned. “You know I am.”

———-

Later that night, when I was up in my room, my mom came and sat on the end of my bed. “Be sure to tell your friend that she and her parents can come over tomorrow night for dinner,” she reminded me.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied, hiding my grin. I was so happy that everything was working out. My mom kissed my forehead, then, after a short pause, left the room and went downstairs. I reached for the phone and punched in John’s number.

“Hello?” a high female voice asked when I picked up the phone. I frowned. This was definitely not John, and it didn’t sound like Jen. I gulped.

“Hi, can I talk to John?” I asked nervously.

“Who is this?” the lady asked suspiciously.

“Tell him that it’s Chloe,” I replied, trying to sound pleasant. Really, I was nervous, but I tried not to let it show.

There was a long pause as I heard the person on the other end set down the phone. “Okay, he’s coming,” she told me.

A few seconds later John came on the phone. “Hi, Chloe, sorry about that,” he told me.

“Who was that?” I asked curiously.

“Oh, that was my aunt, Jen’s mom,” he replied. “Okay, we just moved into my room, and I now have you on speaker phone so Jen can hear too.”

“Great,” I said.

“So how’d it go?” Jen asked impatiently.

I laughed. “You and your parents are officially invited to dinner at our house tomorrow night,” I told her.

“Awesome!” she exclaimed. “Did they give any specific reasons?”

“My dad said that he thinks it’s great for me to get to know other blind kids, and it’s apparently helpful for them to get to talk to other parents with blind kids.”

She laughed. “Yeah, that’s what my parents say. I guess we’ll see you tomorrow then.”