Four o’clock will be here way too soon. I crawl into bed and drift off, succumbing easily. My mom walks into my room. She sits on my bed and pets my hair. She is whispering something but I can’t understand her. I turn the small lamp on so I can see her. She has a busted lip and her left eye is swollen shut. I know what happened to
her but I ask anyway, “Who did this to you?” She continues petting my hair but is much rougher, pulling strands from my scalp. “You did this to me, Ian. You did this.”
I sit upright, panting. Beads of sweat make their way down my neck. There’s a soft tapping at my bedroom door. I turn my head wildly, searching my room for any sign my mother was here. Nothing. There wouldn’t be. She wasn’t here. It was just a dream. A bad dream.
About the Author:
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Always one to daydream, I’m
often teased for the many bits and pieces of paper with notes and ideas for different books littering my desk. After spending most of my life in rural Nevada, I’ve recently moved to Washington.
It can take a whole day to figure out what happened…that night.
On what was to be just another Monday morning at school, Luke’s girlfriend Jessica is nowhere to be found. Names like ‘psycho lover’ follow Luke to his locker, even from his best friend. Luke soon learns Jessica tried to kill herself at a party from the previous Saturday night, and she’s blaming him. With posts on FaceBook feeding the rumors of what happened that night, the school has to investigate.
Torn between worry, guilt, loyalty, priorities, and an urgency to clear his name and protect hers, he has to find her—he loves her no matter what. The teacher in the middle of the investigation is also the same one to provide academic and character references for Luke’s college applications due by the end of the week. Luke knows he’s not to blame, but with no contact from Jessica and everyone blaming him for what happened, he’s at risk of losing everything—Jessica and his dreams of being a mechanic—all because of what happened that night.
“Hey, man.” I nodded to Jeremy Waters as I started the long trek up the front lawn of the school. He nodded back but gave me a questioning stare as I walked past. Again, weird. What is with everyone today? I wondered.
I scanned the busy school grounds. Where was Jessica? I knew our break-up was inevitable, but I dreaded it. I still cared about her very much, but things were changing: me, her, and ‘us’––and I didn’t know what to do about it. Neither did she.
At first I didn’t notice anything off, but as I passed group after group of unusually silent guys and girls from all grades, I got that weird feeling, like I was being watched, like the whole school was focused on me or something.
Some of the guys pulled their buds out of their ears as I approached, their banter from moments before silencing as I passed. One guy shook his head as if in disgust. Another guy awkwardly picked at something on the ground with the toe of his shoe, as if he were avoiding something.
I kept going, trying to walk as normally as I could. Hard to do when you know you’re being watched.
Where was Jess? I checked my phone to see if there was anything from her: nothing.
I shifted my backpack and made my way up the path to the front steps of the school. With every footstep, uncertainty and foreboding gnawed at my gut.
A group of girls from Jessica’s drama club huddled on the front steps like a bunch of hens. They all gave me the once-over. One of them was crying and another gave me the finger.
That stopped me in my tracks. “What the hell?” I stared them down. “What was that for?”
“Screw you, Luke!” The one with the ornery finger spat. “Stay away from Jessica!”
What the…? Whatever. Bunch of gossips––they seriously need to get a life.
Jessica and I had been drifting apart for a while. Where she was involved in her drama club, her social life, I preferred being under the hood of a car, alone. But it wasn’t that I chose cars over her or anything. I cared about her very, very much. At one time I even contemplated the L-word thing with her. But lately, something had changed, and I couldn’t figure out what. I mean, I knew I wanted to be with her but it was like we were drifting towards each other, then away, then back towards each other again. Only to then again drift further away.
But I would never do anything to her, to earn me the middle finger from her friends. So why were they acting like that? What the…? I shook my head and kept going. I hadn’t done anything to provoke their reaction, so they could just go back to their pointless chatter about hair or whatever.
With fifteen minutes to go until the first bell, I wanted to catch up with Jess before classes started. She lived way on the other side of town, and as much I would have loved to pick her up every morning, her mom insisted on driving her. Her mom liked me, so it wasn’t anything against me personally, but Jessica said it was a ‘mom and daughter thing.’ And besides, we always met first thing at school and I would, at least, get to drive her home.
But that day, even though I wasn’t exactly about to have ‘the talk’ with her right before class, I wanted to at least see her that morning to start the day––it was our ‘thing.’ A pang of regret fluttered in my gut. If we broke up, would we still meet in the mornings? She had become part of my day and I still wanted that.
I made my way through the doors of the school. The halls were already swarming with East Clark High’s student body. I searched for Jessica as I pushed and wove my way through the crowd. But I soon realized I wasn’t pushing past anyone, anymore. The constant buzz in the halls had all but died down, and people were stepping aside giving me a wide berth as I went.
What the hell was wrong with everyone? I frowned at everyone practically plastered up against the lockers, avoiding me like I was contagious or something. Did I smell like dog sh––
“Psycho!” A familiar voice hissed in my ear, cutting off my thoughts. Great––Mark. I stuttered to a stop but tried to keep going. I, along with everyone else, was used to his stupid ways, but I had to find Jessica. I didn’t want to waste time getting into it with him right then.
But he came at me again with, “Psycho-lover!” and that definitely had me coming to a full stop. I swear I felt spit on my cheek.
I refused to swipe it away, giving him the satisfaction of … I didn’t know what. Something. I glanced up to find his buddies chuckling while Mark, the idiot himself, contorted his face into what he assumed was the look of a crazy person.
He didn’t have to try very hard. It came naturally.
And I hoped his eyes stayed crossed like that.
I stared him down, and just when I turned away he was up against me, his face so close to mine his eyes looked crossed. “Jessica almost knocked herself off the other night. Whadidja do? Screw her over?” he hissed.
I stared at him in confusion. My face numbed. My neck heated. What was he talking about? What did he mean, ‘knock herself off’?
Has a book ever given you whiplash that you sit there afterwards wondering…what the heck just happened? I mean this in a good way. Finishing this book (*sniffs*) gave me that and more. And its a YA book. I know, right? YA books are supposed to be fluffy and teen with the made up teen angst that so many authors throw at us but oh no. Ms. McManus doesn’t do that. Nope..nada! She took an all too familiar scenario and turned it on its head.
Of course I’m talking about Facebook and social media. We’ve all heard about bullying on Facebook but this one takes the cake. I won’t go into detail about the “what” but I will tell you that it’s sickening. What Luke went through in that one day at school is sick. My heart went out to him and to Jessica, too. Neither one deserved what happened to either one of them.
What stood out was the dialogue in the book. You “are” Luke when you read this book. You are him and all of his emotions and thoughts. You want to run, throw things and beat the crap out of a couple of people. The twist about “how” it all happened was a doozy. I never saw that coming. I actually thought the person responsible was someone else so when it was revealed who it was I was thrown for a loop. I almost felt sorry for that person but in the end I didn’t. It didn’t have to happen but it did. The problem with that person had nothing to do with Jessica but everything with Luke.
Since I’m old and sat in the movie theater when The Breakfast Club movie came out, I’ve always said that every teenager should watch that movie, this book is the second thing that a teenager should read. It’s that relevant. One deals with the “classes” of teenagers and the other one deals with what happens when social media gets out of control.
I can not express how much I loved this book and even more impressed by the publisher, Evernight Teen, for publishing it. Its a fast paced, though provoking book that I will re-read again and again. Even the adults in the book are nicely written and are not heavy handed. Luke’s teacher is awesome and yes, he was doing his job but had Luke’s back the entire time.
Please, I beg you…please read this book, even if you don’t have teenagers. You will learn a lot and realize that Facebook is the “end all” that everyone seems to think. Personally, I can’t stand Facebook but its a necessary evil. *sigh*
About the Author:
Lisa McManus has been an avid reader since her teen years, and is inspired daily by her teenage boys and the forests and beaches of Vancouver Island, British Columbia where she lives. Along with writing for kids and teens, she is also multi-published with Chicken Soup for the Soul and numerous other magazines and anthologies. When she’s not writing, reading or refereeing her family, she is either hiking or out on the archery range.
A princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses. This is the sliver that survives of a story more nightmare than fairytale…
Maggie Rhodes, high school junior and semi-reformed stalker, learns the tale’s true roots after a spying attempt goes awry and her best friend Kate ends up as the victim of an ancient curse. At the center of the curse lies an enchanted emerald that has been residing quietly in a museum for the past fifty years. Admirers of the gem have no idea that it
feeds on life. Or that it’s found its next victim in Kate.
Enter Lindy, a school acquaintance who knows more than she’s letting on, and Garon, a
handsome stranger claiming he knows how to help, and Maggie is left wondering
who to trust and how to save her best friend before it’s too late.
If only Maggie knew her connection to the fairy tale was rooted far deeper than an
endangered best friend.
A part of me died long ago. It was the part of me that feels, and it was Calista’s fault. What happened tonight
was nothing new—innocent victims welcomed into our home, not knowing they would never leave. I learned long ago I could not help them, so I stopped trying.
But this time something was different. This time I was awake, burning with a gut-wrenching guilt, as the next victims slept downstairs. This time I knew the victims. And they didn’t deserve what was coming. It had always been hard for me to make friends. I’d been called loner, loser, outcast, and freak. Even still, I remembered Maggie offering to show me around when I first transferred to their school. Through her, I met Kate and Piper. The three of them were always nice to me, while other kids kept their distance and spread rumors behind my back. I told myself I didn’t care—I wasn’t like them.
But being a loner was lonely. So tonight when I saw Maggie and her friends here, something inside me snapped. Or, perhaps it was the dead piece of me coming back to life. Now I cared desperately about what was happening in the room below mine.
But there was still nothing I could do. Calista usually lured in victims from out of town to avoid arousing suspicion. Pregnant ones were a particular favorite—easy prey, she called them. But Maggie and her friends came here all on their own. The opportunity was too good for Calista to pass up.
Everyone thought Calista was my mother, but she wasn’t. Back in my day, almost four centuries ago, Calista had an alternate method of luring in victims. She and her husband, Theodore, advertised for hired help with their
inn. The number of parents willing to sell their daughters into a life of servitude in exchange for a forgiven debt or a clean slate was staggering.
My father was one of them. By the time my mother found out what he’d done, it was too late. There was no escape. I was bound.
My story was well known in this land, whispered as a bedtime tale to ease children into sleep. But, just like any other story passed down through time by rumors and idle gossip, the fragment that survived was woefully incomplete. It began something like this:
There is rumored to have been (once upon a time, of course) a princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses. That much was true, though in actuality it was only one mattress, not twenty. The pea was also real, though most would call it a precious stone—an emerald, to be precise. The gem that sealed my fate was now in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Calista was furious when she found it missing. She thought I’d stolen it until
she remembered my limits. The identity of the true thief remains unknown.
Even though the emerald is no longer in our possession, we are still bound to it, as it is bound to us. Admirers of the opulent necklace where it rests don’t understand it. Like me, the gem is a prisoner, struggling against its fate. Even now, centuries later, I don’t understand all the details of what happened to me that night. But it began with a troubled slumber on a bed of enchanted emeralds.
About the Author:
Teresa Richards writes YA, but loves anything that can be given a unique twist. Her zombie stories ‘Are You My Mombie?’ and ‘The Zombie Code’ can be found in Z Tales: Stories from the Zombieverse by The Fairfield
When Teresa’s not writing, she can be found either chasing after one of her five kids, or hiding someplace in the house with a treat her children overlooked. Emerald Bound is her debut novel.