“You’re angry with me and close to losing it; I can tell by the way you massage your temples and drop your hands before resting them on your hips. You’re contemplating what to do, and you know what needs to happen, even if you don’t want to concede just yet. Unwilling to look at me, and give yourself away, you stare down at her, and I have to admit, the fact that you’d rather look at a dead girl hurts a little.”— Britney King, Dead In The Water
Two weeks post release and currently, I’m having a ton of fun writing the third book in the series. More on that later. For now, I have to say…I really have an affinity for these two.
I hope you do too. 🙂
Below you’ll find a short (ish) excerpt along with one of the images from the book done by my better half.
I don’t go back into the ballroom. Not immediately. As I stand there trying to collect myself, I realize the mistake I made with those women. If luck has it…our kids will have the same teachers! The memory hits me like the scent of garbage on a hot day.
“Spit on her,” I hear them chant. I am transported back to third grade, and I’m on the ground in the duck and cover position. I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping it’ll be over sooner than the last time. Someone kicks me hard in the ribs and I feel wetness running down my leg. It stings my skin, but it could be the fire ants again. That’s what got me last time. Hundreds of fire ant bites kept me out of school for a week. The punishment was being at home, locked in my room, for not fighting back. I tried though, I did. It’s hard to even the playing field when it’s seven against one. “Do it already,” a boy orders. “Hurry up loser, Mrs. Smith is coming!” another voice says.
This is the third time this week that they’ve cornered me on the playground, the third time I’ve been in the fetal position, and it’s only Thursday. Yesterday it rained, and so we had recess inside, but it didn’t matter, they always find their ways. Someone dumped all the stuff out of my desk and Sarah stabbed me with her pencil ‘on accident.’ On the bus, they made me sit on the floor. It wasn’t so bad. At least then the bus driver could see when they pulled my hair.
But today takes the cake. Today, I had to pee. Only I held it because I’m tired of being followed into the restroom. Boys are pretty hands on with their measures, but girls, they use words too. Mostly, they just call me names, but sometimes they pull my hair, and other times it’s just a shove here and there. Oddly enough, it’s the names that hurt the worst, the latest of them being ‘rat girl.’ This one seems to have stuck. They tell me I’m dirty, and they aren’t exactly wrong. Sometimes when my mother forgets to wash, I come to school in clothes I’ve already worn. But it’s not because I want to stink, and it’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because my father won’t allow me to use the washing machine. He says we all have to suffer for my mother’s ‘ineptitude’ —whatever that means—otherwise she’ll never learn. Today it sucks more than most days, the name calling and the spitting, because I spent three hours yesterday washing my clothes by hand in an attempt to get the stink out. They were still damp when I put them on this morning, but at least they didn’t smell as bad. In addition, I missed my homework, and Mrs. Smith put a note in my folder, and I know what that means when it comes to my father. Basically, it means I’m screwed, and I won’t get dinner or a shower tonight. These things have to be earned, he says.
It all seems rather hopeless, now, as I’m lying on the ground. A hint of sunlight peeks through the fingers I use to shield my face, and maybe I can do extra chores. I hope that works because today I’m hungrier than usual. I didn’t get to eat lunch because Jimmy poured his milk all over my tray. The truth is, I was hungry enough to eat it, it’s my pride that wouldn’t let me.
Maybe that makes them right about me, I don’t know. “Rat girl, rat girl,” they sing. “Watch out or she’ll get you. And then you’ll stink too.”
I lay there and I study the sliver of light coming through my fingers, and I know it’ll be over soon. I can feel myself being covered in spit, and maybe it’s the kicking, and the jarring, or the fact that I’m distracted by the light because I surely don’t mean to, but I can’t help it. I wet myself. It isn’t a trickle. It’s everything I couldn’t hold back.
“I just couldn’t hold it any longer,” I tell my mother when she comes to the office to pick me up.
“For God’s sake, Lydia. You’re eight years old.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “Do you think you’ll be able to get to laundry tonight? They spit on me.”
“Why would they do such a thing?”
I shrug and she looks at me as though I’m the one that’s lost my mind. “They say our family is weird…”
“Hmmm,” she says and I’m not sure she’s really listening to me. She does that sometimes; she’s good at tuning out what she doesn’t want to hear. These days it’s becoming more and more.
“I could do the laundry,” I tell her, my voice full of hope. “And tell Dad you did it.”
“We’ll see,” she says and she grips the steering wheel. Then she turns to me and her expression is stone cold. “But you know your father. He knows everything.”
“I have pee on me…and he took the rest of my clothes…”
“Yes,” she says. “But you deserved it,” she concludes, and I know how much she hates driving, how much she despises leaving the house. I can see it in the way she looks at me.
“I’m sorry,” I say again, if for no other reason than to fill the silence.
“I know,” she tells me. “But damn it, Lydia. Can’t you try just a little harder to fit in?”
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