Here's an excerpt of Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Parental Patrol All my problems started with a dead guy. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. I can’t blame all my problems on one guy. I only wish I could. No, my problems actually started before the dead guy showed up and finished off the destruction of a life that wasn’t all that normal to begin with. In fact, I would go as far as to say I had the kinds of problems that land most people in the psych ward, drooling and talking to the walls. But I was good with it. I knew how to handle it. And then, all that changed. Which is why I blame the dead guy. As bad days go, it was epic. First, my alarm decided to malfunction and I woke up over an hour later than I should have. Then, the hot water heater went out and I ended up taking the coldest shower in history. Seriously, why is it that the hot water always seems to go out right after you lather up your hair? Teeth chattering and feeling like a walking icicle, I finally made it downstairs with the intention of finding a Pop Tart on my way out the door. When I walked into the kitchen to find my parents lying in wait for me, I wished I had just stopped for a bagel on the way to school. It was crash test dummy time again. The suckiest part about having parents who are shrinks and published authors is that they always feel like they have to try out all their new techniques for communicating with a teenager on me. They had forgotten, again, that I’m legally an adult. That really wasn’t much of a surprise considering the Big Day had slipped their collective mind until two weeks after my birthday when I found a cheesy birthday card taped to my bedroom door along with the keys to a brand new Miata MX-5 convertible. It hurt that they had forgotten my birthday, but I got a new car out of the deal so I wasn’t holding a grudge. I knew what was up the second I saw my mother smiling at me. My mom never smiled at me unless she wanted to use me for practice—or if we were in public. Add to that the enormous stack of pancakes and the overwhelming scent of bacon and I knew I was in for a long morning. “Good morning, Ember,” Dad said with a grin as I walked into their trap. “Take a seat. It’s been a while since we’ve talked, so we thought we’d have breakfast together and catch up.” Translation: “It’s been a while since we strapped you into the passenger seat and sent it flying into the wall at a hundred miles an hour to see how much pressure your seat belt can take. Doesn’t that sound fun?” I had been a science experiment for as long as I could remember, so I knew the drill. I dropped my backpack, plopped my behind into the first available chair, and waited for the psychobabble to commence. Instead of starting in with questions like they usually did, my parents just looked at me expectantly. Ah, so it wasn’t a talking exercise we were doing, but a listening exercise. How to Listen to Your Uncommunicative Teen: Step 1: Stare at them like they’ve been taken over by aliens until they start to fidget. Wow, my parents were good! They had this crap down pat! “So what’s up?” My mother’s bright smile wasn’t quite enough to hide the irritation flashing in her eyes when I didn’t immediately start gushing about my life. “The usual.” I shrugged, reaching for the pancakes. If I was going to have to submit to this mockery of family togetherness, I figured I might as well eat. “You know, senior year stuff, like college apps, stuff like that.” “And how is that going?” my mother asked, her Dr. Sensitive face firmly in place. I shrugged again. I hadn’t really been putting a lot of effort into it, still unsure what my next move should be. With my SAT scores—a 2200 overall—I could have gone anywhere. I already had acceptance letters from Harvard and Stanford, who were both offering very generous scholarships. There was also one from Yale, where both of my parents had gone to college, hidden in my drawer upstairs where no one was likely to ever find it. It was my life, my decision, and I wasn’t going to let my parents or anyone else make it for me. My two best friends had already decided on NYU and I was seriously considering joining them. Knowing how horrified my parents would be if I gave up an Ivy League education to major in Journalism at NYU would have enough reason for me to go that route. But, honestly? I couldn’t see spending my college career without my friends. Sure, I could make new friends, but it wouldn’t be the same Apparently shrugging was not an acceptable form of communication. “Ember, you could at least try to learn to communicate,” my mother said with a scowl on her pretty face. “You’re about to be an adult—” “No, Mother, by law I am an adult,” I snapped. “An adult who is about to be late for school.” “Then it’s time you learned to communicate like one,” she snapped back, completely ignoring what I had said about being late. Yeah, her listening skills were superb. “This,” she lifted her shoulders up and down in an exaggerated shrug, “is not how adults communicate.” I shrugged again, just to watch her blood pressure go up, and went back to my pancakes. The glare she leveled at me was hot enough to blister paint, ruining what was left of my appetite. After two more bites, I decided pancakes and bacon weren’t worth dealing with my mother and gave them up in favor of escaping. “Ember, adults—” “I’m late, Mother,” I cut her off and shrugged yet again as I got up to put my plate in the dishwasher, curious to see if the throbbing vein in her temple would explode. “I don’t have time for a lesson in ‘adult communication’. Maybe you can fit me in between your patients sometime. Right now, I’m late for school.” “Ember, we only want to try to understand you,” my father said, trying to play peacemaker, as usual. “You can’t run from everyone who tries to get close to you. We’re your parents. Does it really seem so strange that we want to know you?” He didn’t want me to answer that. “I’m not running from anything,” I hissed, finally starting to lose my temper. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get going.” I didn’t wait for them to tell me to go—I just left, grabbing my purse and coat on my way out. I was closing the door behind me when I heard my father speak again. “Well, that went well,” he muttered sarcastically. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. Then, how had they expected it to go? You couldn’t ignore someone until they were convenient and expect them to pour out their heart to you because you decided it was time to pretend they were important long enough to write a new chapter in your latest manual on how to deal with a juvenile delinquent. My parents were as clueless about communicating with a teenager as the poor idiots who kept buying their books. ∞∞∞∞∞∞ Due to the Freudian breakfast, I knew there was no way I was going to make it to school on time. Not that I didn’t try. I ran three stop signs and a red light—it was for a good cause and there was nobody there!—and was picking up major speed when I saw blue lights flare to life in my rear-view mirror. Sure. Why not? I thought grumpily, pulling over like the good little citizen that I am instead of making a run for it—which is exactly what I wanted to do when I looked down and saw how fast I was going. Sixty in an area clearly marked with a speed limit of forty-five. Even if I cried and begged—hell, even if I stripped and gave the cop a lap dance—I wasn’t getting out of that ticket. I suddenly had a vivid mental picture of a little missile that said Insurance Premium on the side skyrocketing past the moon and into another solar system. My parents were going to murder me. With my stomach in knots, I started digging in my purse for my driver’s license, flinging lipstick tubes and half-eaten rolls of mints across the passenger seat and onto the floorboard. I had just unearthed my wallet when someone tapped their knuckles on my window. I looked up with my very best impression of an innocent smile plastered on my face and immediately felt it slide off again when I saw the officer who was waiting for me. No! I groaned inwardly, wondering how I’d landed in the seventh circle of Hell as I stared in horror at the officer motioning for me to roll my window down. Oh, no, no, no, no! Please tell me this isn’t happening! Sheriff Martin—better known as Deputy Donut to those under the age of twenty-five—had been the bane of my existence since I was old enough to get my learner’s permit. His beady brown eyes were lit with eagerness to torment me, and his flabby face was practically quivering with excitement as he reached up to push his flat-brimmed hat back to reveal his receding hairline. Every kid in Moonlight, Missouri, knew his name and dreaded the sight of his car. It was common knowledge that he wrote bogus tickets for stuff no one in their right mind would ever do. No matter how many times those tickets were appealed, they were never thrown out. He would look at the judge, appearing very solemn and dutiful, and lie his ass off without blinking an eye. And he was good at it. By the time you left the courtroom even you were wondering if you might have actually committed the crime you were accused of. “Well, well, well,” he crooned gleefully when I rolled my window down, “If it isn’t the little redheaded hellion of Moonlight. All right, Ember, you know how this works.” He held his hand out, already writing out my tickets for missing documentation in his head, but I was so ready for him. I slapped my license, registration, and proof of insurance into it with a smirk. He looked disappointed for a second, then started carefully examining each document, taking his sweet time like I had all day. I knew what he was doing. He was trying to get me to give him a reason to give me more than the speeding ticket I’d admittedly earned. Unfortunately, the whole town knew I had a temper and that I would blow like a powder keg if antagonized long enough. And no one—and I do mean no one—was better at making me lose my cool than Deputy Donut. We had been at war since sixth grade, when I accidentally broke his daughter’s jaw for calling me a cow. I honestly hadn’t meant to hit her that hard. Besides, I’d been aiming for her oh-so-perfect nose. It’s wasn’t my fault she moved! I was suspended for two weeks for that little love tap, and Stacy’s jaw was wired shut for five. Though the blessed silence had almost been worth it, that was about the point her father decided making my life a living hell was his personal mission. He’d been harassing me for one reason or another ever since. I’m not exaggerating either. I was probably the only twelve year old in history to have been charged with jaywalking, littering, disorderly conduct, and disturbing the peace. When I refused to play into Sheriff Martin’s hands, he finally started filling out my ticket. The thoroughly disappointed look on his face was enough to make me want to give myself a pat on the back. Until he handed me the ticket, that is. “I think you made a mistake,” I said, my eyes going round, as I read over it before I signed it. “I wasn’t doing eighty!” “My radar says you were doing eighty,” he said with a smug little grin. Yeah, and pigs fly. “You’re welcome to contest it in court. Considering your record, though, I doubt it would do you any good.” Don’t do it! Don’t say a damn thing! a little voice in my mind cried, jumping up and down and waving frantically through the wash of red painting my vision a really amazing shade of crimson. I swear, I tried to obey it. I tried to keep my mouth shut. I counted to ten, I took a deep breath—or four—but it was all for nothing. The second he smiled at me like Christmas had come three months early, I lost it. “That is such bullshit!” I yelled, flinging the ticket back at him. “If I had been doing eighty in a forty-five, you would be arresting me and we both know it!” He got this dreamy looking on his face at the thought of me behind bars and I gulped. Maybe I shouldn’t have suggested that… “Tell it to the judge, Ember,” he said, still looking like he was imagining my incarceration with an unhealthy amount of delight. “Now, if you’ll sign…” “No!” When he held the ticket out to me again, I batted it away, got out of my car, propped my hands on my hips, and prepared to fight to the death to get out of that stupid ticket that was probably going to cost me more than just my savings account. I was already kissing my car keys goodbye with the realization that I would probably be eighty before I got them back. “Look, Sheriff Martin,” I said, trying to stay calm even though I already had a bad feeling I was going to fail. “My parents are going to kill me when they see that ticket. Do you really want that on your conscience?” “Stacy’s jaw still pops. Did you know that?” he asked conversationally, flipping the ticket pad in his hand to the next page. “Then maybe she should learn to keep her bitchy mouth shut!” I knew I had given him exactly what he wanted when a sick, triumphant smile spread across his whole fat face. Ten minutes later, I had not only a speeding ticket—that still stated I had been doing eighty instead of sixty—but also one for not signaling properly when I pulled over to the side of the road, one for public nuisance because I was playing my music too loud, one for littering because an empty water bottle had fallen out of my car when I got out and I hadn’t picked it up, and one for verbal assault of a police officer because his daughter was a bitch and I’d told him so. “You have a good day now, Ember,” he said, laughing as he walked back to his car. “Yeah, because it’s been a great one so far,” I muttered under my breath as I got in the car and put my seatbelt back on. If only I had known how bad my day was going to get… < /div>
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About the Author:
AJ Myers lives in her own little world—but according to the IRS, she resides in Arkansas—with her awesome husband, four amazing teenagers, and a crazy cast of family and friends. She’s always interested in hearing from readers, so look her up!
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