Chapter 1 – 8th Grade is Over
The light from the windows are very soothing. The sky is bright blue and it is getting warm outside. The room seats about 30, or 40 students and the classroom is very modern and very high tech. There is a 70 inch plasma screen mounted on the wall behind the teachers desk. In the background the school bell is ringing and it is the last day of school for the summer. The teacher tells the students to have a great summer and congratulation’s us on passing the 8th grade and she also says, “you students are now freshman in high school”. All the students cheered and grabbed our belongings and headed out the door.
I hurry out the door and out into the hallway. The hallways of the school are packed with students and they are happy that it’s the last day of school and summer time is here. I am walking pretty fast to get outside and get down the steps to get out to the bike racks so I can hurry and unlock my bike. There are a lot of students at this school that rides their bikes, so if you don’t get there before everyone else does you can be standing there for 5 to 10 minutes longer waiting on everyone to get out of your way. I made it to the bike racks before a lot of students do and unlock my bike. My bike is a hybrid type that you can ride it on the street, or you can ride it off road. Now when I say off the road I mean you can ride it on some dirt trails, but not like you would with a mountain bike. I get on my bike and I start peddling my bike home. I can’t wait to get home and get on my computer to start working on building my first computer game, I have been working on it for a few months, but I am having trouble coming up with ideas
Their feet slammed down onto the sand, and they tumbled to the ground in a dirty heap. Home, at last. Their limbs were intertwined together and their eyes and ears were filled with grit. Austin Burke shook his head like a dog after a bath, sending out a fresh shower of sand, pine needles, and Rocky Mountain dust.
“Dude!” Scott exclaimed while shielding his face from the flying debris.
“Sorry.” Austin worked to get his long legs free, then was the first to clamor to his feet. He held out one arm for Kelly and another for Zoey. They each grabbed a hand, and he easily pulled them up until they were standing next to him.
“Show off,” Scott snorted as he got up without assistance.
Austin knew his friend was just teasing, but it was clear what Scott was referring to. Maybe Austin should have let Scott help one of the girls to her feet, but it had been instinctive. He wasn’t trying to be all macho.
Scott and Austin had been best friends since they were old enough to walk, but it hadn’t been until this summer that everything changed. Austin glanced over at Kelly who was combing her fingers through the long, silky strands of her chocolate brown hair, trying to remove the tangles and any shells or weeds that had gotten mixed up in it during their trip.
She had just moved to Fort Myers Beach a couple months ago to live with her aunt.
Kelly was smart, funny, athletic, and super cute with big hazel-green eyes and a splash of freckles across her pert nose. Most importantly, she was the first girl he’d ever kissed…or wanted to. Austin was South Beach High School’s star quarterback, and he planned on taking that as far as he could. He was pretty sure he could get a college scholarship, and maybe even get drafted to a pro team. But that meant that he had to focus on football. He couldn’t afford to get sidetracked by a girl.
And yet…why did he want to spend as much time as possible with her? Why did just seeing her make him smile? Why did he hate the thought of school starting in the fall when she would meet dozens of other guys? Oh sure, girls flirted with him all the time, but he’d never cared. Until now. And he didn’t want her to flirt with anyone else.
He’d hesitated to make a move on her at first because he thought Scott was crushing on her. Bro-code would never allow that. But when it became obvious that Scott was more interested in Zoey, Austin felt free to see if Kelly was interested.
The pretty blonde-haired reporter flashed a pearl white smile into the camera, took a deep breath, and then began to speak.
“Good morning, America. I’m here at Morton Animal Research Centre in Delaware to bring you an honest view into the lives of the animals living behind the doors of the often misunderstood world of biomedical research. I would like to thank MARC’s Founder and Director, Mr. Herb Morton, for this rare opportunity to accompany him on our tour today.”
Alice Anders directed a dazzling smile in Herb’s direction as she shook his hand for the camera. He was older than her and very handsome, but at the same time nervous and avoided looking directly into the lens. Publicity came with the territory and he hated being in the limelight. Alice had politely requested to bring a news crew to MARC on the back of some negative rumors which had been circulating; some had hinted at the mistreatment of animals. Herb felt that allowing the report to go ahead would give the general public a chance to make an educated decision regarding the testing of drugs on animals for the benefit of humans. One based on facts and not propaganda. MARC’s animals were always well looked after and he certainly had nothing to hide. He handed Alice a white lab coat which she duly put on over her baby-pink dress.
Looking confidently down the lens she added, “After this short break, we will be back with our report live from MARC. I’m Alice Anders reporting for NOW! I look forward to sharing with you shortly.”
NOW! cut to the ads and the volume increased as the voiceover enthusiastically announced that ‘Choco Wheels cereal is choctastic’.
The annoying jingle was now certain to remain in Cassie’s head all day.
“Put Choco Wheels in the dish
Add some milk, make a wish
Open your eyes, take in the view
Choco milkshake just for you.”
Then came the patronizing sales pitch:
“Come on, kids! Join the Choctastic Breakfast Club with Choco Wheels. A yummy breakfast and a milkshake all in one.”
Cassie stretched her arms out carefully above her head to avoid dislodging the IV tube which fed Diosyl directly into the vein in her hand. She felt dizzy and sick and the last thing she wanted to think about was Choco Wheels. She closed her eyes and imagined that she was anywhere else other than the clinical surroundings of her hospital room, her mind recalling the happier times before she got sick.
KIMBERLEY NADINE KNIGHTS
All I could think of as I felt the wheels of that Boeing 767 lift off the tarmac was that if I died, the pamphlet at my funeral service would be so lame.
Celebrating the life of Rubie Keane: Mother of…no one.
Wife of…Mr. Nobody.
I had to stay alive, if only to make sure that the few people who would attend my service after my hypothetical death wouldn’t be subjected to the sheer boredom that was my past life—if that made any sense at all.
But there was one huge problem.
I unofficially held the title of an FFF, and since I was a frequently freaked-out flyer, the possibility of me going temporarily insane, running to the nearest exit, and yanking that door open for all three hundred plus passengers (including myself)
to get sucked out like a vacuum was very, very high.
I could almost feel my older sister and her new husband grinning at my overly tense state from the seats behind me.
“I’ll sell you my last Ambien for five bucks,” my brother-in-law Dennis whispered, leaning in close to my right ear.
“Dennis…” Violet warned, but she quickly smiled when he winked at her playfully. “Try to relax, Rubie. It’s only a four-hour
“Thanks for reminding me,” I grumbled as I took a deep breath that filled my lungs to the max.
I heard Dennis try to suppress a chuckle, and not too long after that, the resounding smack of Violet’s hand across his arm.
Then there was the undeniable sound of a kiss.
To say that those two were sickeningly adorable would be true but not quite accurate enough. However, as much as I wanted to throw up every time they were lovey-dovey toward each other, I smiled inwardly, knowing that my sis was able to bag a real nice ginger fella from Massachusetts.
Where could she be?
Morning sun streamed over him through the mullioned panes as he sat folded into his bedroom bay window. Jonathon felt turned to stone. The eyes of his favourite baseball and hockey players stared down on him from posters that papered his walls. Photographs of his parents and grandfather sat on his dresser. He saw none of them. His mind’s eye snagged on the image of his mother, smiling at him, hugging, teasing him until the space between his ribs that held his heart smouldered.
Why hasn’t she called?
A movement in the lane beneath his window caught his attention. His dad, work backpack slung over his shoulder, moved quickly, as if he was late for work at their James Farm Produce store in the village of Dunston Mills. But when he glanced up at his son’s window, his face wrenched with an emotion that chilled the heat in Jonathon’s chest. The sight of that bleak expression yanked Jon back to the phone call his dad had made at breakfast time.
Jonathon had been sitting with Gramp at the table in the large farmhouse kitchen, but they could still hear his father’s voice in the hall.
“Hi Debbie…uh…could I please speak to Sarah?…Oh, she isn’t… She didn’t? She did what?!” The receiver hit the cradle with a bang and he’d seemed to stumble as he came around the corner into the kitchen.
“David? How is Sarah?” Gramp Matthew’s deep bass voice rumbled like thunder.
“Dammit, Dad, I don’t know!” The unexpected roar of his reply had startled them all.
“You look exhausted, Mrs. Johnston.”
I stared into her sunken eyes, rimmed with dark circles. My joints ached for a split second and then subsided. I saw the redness and swelling… the stiffness… They flashed like snapshots in my mind. Instantly I knew her fingers ached when she played the piano, and I knew her stomach ulcer kept her up at night. One touch could take it all away. But Gran had enforced the keep-your-hands-to-yourself rule at an early age.
“Oh, Lorelei, you know… story of my life, hon.” She glanced up at the oversized, walnut-framed blackboard with the specials scrawled in chalk, and handed me her menu. “Bring me the usual, will you? And a slice of that famous lemon pie?”
“You got it.”
The café was swamped tonight, the sudden cold snap meant lots of aches and flu bugs. People flocked to the Lemon Balm Café and Tea House for the ambiance as much as they did for the herbal tea.
I poured steaming water into the clear glass teapot. This wasn’t your typical English breakfast blend. Well, it was… but with a few extras added in. Then again, this wasn’t your typical tea house, and I wasn’t your typical teen. Not even close.
The freak label got smacked on my forehead long before I understood what it meant to be a clairsentient empathic healer. Basically, I can see when people are in pain, and well… heal them. Being gifted might sound great; but it’s meant a lifetime of trying to hide what I can do, and why, just to blend. In a town the size of Drearyton Cove, population sixty-three hundred, blending, was nearly impossible. After the quote-unquote incident, it was safer to leave the healing to Gran’s secret blend of teas.
“Witnessing a child who could heal with the touch of a hand would be too much for people around here,” she’d said. And so I listened — mostly — keeping my hands to myself, and staying far away from sports, parties, and people, which were no more than accidents waiting to happen. Not only for the obvious reasons: accidents meant injuries, injuries meant blood. Nothing made me hit the floor faster than that bitter, metallic stench of blood.