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First pages

Chapter One

The doors to the Cedar Height Police Department fly open and sunlight floods the room. Without even thinking about it my hand shoots up to shield my eyes. When did the sun rise? It was still dark when they hauled me in. How long have I been sitting here? My thoughts stop, as I notice the man fuming in the doorway.

I’m almost certain I can see puffs of smoke coming from my father’s nostrils, like Ferdinand the bull getting ready to charge the red flag. The difference is Ferdinand is just pretending to be angry, while my dad is always a simmering pot of rage. He takes three gigantic strides and then he’s standing directly in front of me; I feel like the red flag. “Dammit Emily! What were you thinking? You can’t keep pulling stunts like this.”

I can’t bring myself to look at him. It’s not that I feel ashamed for what I did because the thing is I did absolutely nothing. Yes, I broke curfew again, went to a party where there was alcohol, and the cops came to said party, but I didn’t drink anything. Beer is disgusting and I’m smarter than that, I was just hoping something would get his attention and make him see me, make him understand that I don’t want to leave.

My head snaps up as footsteps approach. “Charles,” Officer Bullock says shaking my father’s hand. “Since Miss Stone here wasn’t intoxicated we aren’t going to put it on her permanent record, we’ll just let her off with a warning.”

“Thanks, Mark.” My father clasps Officer Bullock’s shoulder. “I appreciate that. I just wish I knew what’s gotten into her.”

Is he really that oblivious to my presence? My hands ball into fists, I’m so sick of him acting like I don’t exist. Like a pack of Mentos dropped into a bottle of Coke, rage bubbles up inside of me and I lose it. I leap to my feet and yell, “I’m sitting right here. And, you know why I’m doing this. Mom is dying. She is dying and you’re sending me away like that doesn't even matter.”

His glare is like steel as it cuts through me and he says in a clipped tone, “Go to the car.”

Officer Bullock flushes. He clears his throat. “Um, like I was saying there are no charges being pressed, so if you could just sign this and then we can release her.”

Shortly after I climb into the car, my father joins me swearing under his breath. He runs his hand through his hair. “Why do you keep doing this?

“Doing what?”

“This.” He gestures with his hands to the police station in front of us. “What are you trying to prove?”

My throat feels tight like a razor blade is lodged inside of my esophagus. I name Disney princesses off in my head to calm myself, but my reply still sounds whiny and desperate. “I’m not trying to prove anything.”

He turns left onto our street. He waves at the Mullens walking their dog before replying. “I don’t believe that for a second There has to be a reason you’re acting out. Whatever it is, my decision is final: you're going to Los Angeles whether you like it or not.”

The thought of flinging the door opening and jumping out of the car runs through my mind, maybe then he’d notice me. I tug at my hoodie string, then dig my nails into my palms. My voice comes out as a whisper. “Maybe if you didn’t resent me so much you wouldn’t be send me away.”

My father glares at me and I feel like I’m walking across broken glass. “Now, I’ve had enough of this nonsense. Knock it off or I’ll give you something to complain about.”

I fling the car door open as soon as my father pulls into the driveway and storm inside. What gives him the right to shake up my whole world upside down like a snow globe? I am not a snow globe. And, my life isn't glittery and perfect, despite what he may think. Does he even care that he’s asking me to leave everything behind? My friends, my school, Sammy and mom?

It’s not that I’m ungrateful. I mean, Disneyland will practically be in my backyard. Besides it will be exciting, maybe even thrilling to live on my own in a new city, and actually have some freedom, but I don’t want to leave everything I’ve ever known behind. Maybe I don’t like change.

I clasp the elephant pendent, my boyfriend, Mason, got me last summer, to my chest. He’s moving to Africa with his parents, his father got a promotion and will now run the One Hope Orphanage. My mom’s cancer is in partial remission and could come back full-force at any time. And, yet my father still decides to send me away.

I’m still fuming as I make my way upstairs towards my bedroom. I push open the door and halt. “Mads?”

She’s sprawled out on my bed, flipping through one of my many Disney Mania magazines, blowing giant pink bubbles with her gum. She glances up. “Hey! Mom let me in. Did your dad budge?”

I slump down on the bed next to her and shake my head. “He doesn’t care that I want to stay here, and I’m starting to believe nothing is going to change his mind.”

“What a jerkwad! Can’t he see that you’re grieving?”

I shrug my shoulders, a sign of defeat. “Oh, I’m sure he knows. He just doesn’t care.”

Mads walks over to my Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal collection and pulls Eeyore off the shelf. “Em? What would Eeyore tell everyone if he was in your situation?”

My throat feels tight, like I’m on the verge of tears, but I smile anyway. “It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine.”

“Exactly! It sucks that your dad is sending you to LA, but there has to be some sort of silver lining, something to make all that sucks worth it.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I start rummaging through my closet, looking for my suitcases. “I wish you could come with me though.”

Mads walks over to me and puts her arm around my shoulder. “Me too.” She says resting her head on my shoulder. “You know, you’re going to do just fine though.”

A shiver runs through my body. “What if there’s another Brenda Jones?” Freshman year, Brenda pretended to befriend me, and convinced me that Stephen Jacobs wanted to go to the spring dance with me. I was so excited to go to the dance with Stephen; my mom took me out to buy a new dress and everything. Only when the time came for Stephen to come pick me up he never showed up, Brenda did. She told me I was stupid for even thinking Stephen could be into me when he had her. She laughed in my face and walked away, leaving me alone and unwanted.

 

 

“I can’t promise that you won’t meet anymore Brenda Jones, but I can promise that you’ll be able to defeat everyone single one. Em, you once told me, ‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.’ I know you are. Now you just need to believe it too.”

“We’re leaving in an hour,” my father bellows up the stairs.

Mads gives me a sympathetic look and whispers. “I’ll see you later.” Then she heads to the door, leaving me to deal with my empty suitcases sprawled out in front of me. Why didn’t I pack last night? Oh, that’s right I was hoping there was still some humanity left in my father and he’d change his mind, for once. I fling an empty suitcase onto my bed. How am I supposed to fit seventeen years of my life into two suitcases?

I haul my most prized possessions (the stuffed Eeyore Mads bought last summer, my Walt Disney biography, and the photo of Mads, Mas and I at Cedar Point) across my room and into my suitcases. After I have the essentials packed, I stare at my wardrobe and start pulling clothes off the hangers.

My little brother, Sammy, runs into my room as I’m zipping up my suitcases (it only took three tries to fit all my clothing and books perfectly). He launches himself around my legs. Sammy is four and a half and is possibly the cutest little boy, expect when he’s getting into my makeup. He has our mom’s dark brown hair, brown eyes, and that same ridiculous laugh that always ends in snorting fits. And, he’s completely obsessed with Batman, but who am I to judge? My room is covered in everything Disney Princess.

“You can’t leave, Emily.” He emphasizes the “e” sound at the end of my name. I pat my bed and motion for Sammy to climb up and sit next to me.

He scratches his knee and whispers, “I don’t want you to leave.”

I scoop him up in my arms and put him in my lap. “I’m going to talk to you every week.”

He takes my face in his hands, something he does whenever he’s serious, and says, “That is not the same.”

When did he grow up? My voice catches in my throat, “Tell you what, how about we talk on the webcam every Sunday?”

His face brightens. “Can we really do that?”

I ruffle his dark brown hair. I cross my fingers over my heart, “I swear on the Batcave.”

 

I call Mason on the drive to the airport, we talk until it is time for him to board his flight. I turn my body towards the window, to have more privacy, well . . . as much privacy as I can get in a minivan with my parents and brother. Thankfully, my parents are distracted singing the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, and Sammy is asleep.

Mason picks up on the third ring. “Hey Em.”

“Hey.”

“Are you okay?” Mason asks, he sounds concerned.

“No.” I frown, I don’t want Mason to go to Africa, and I don’t want to be on the way to the airport to start my senior year at Baldwin Hill Academy. I want to stay in Ohio, and spend the last few days of summer with my boyfriend and best friend, and then start my senior year at Cedar Heights High.

I open my mouth and then shut it again, trying to put my thoughts into words. “I wish you didn’t have to go so far away.” And, then quietly add, “Everything is changing.”

My mom glances over her shoulder at me. She looks tired today. Mom used to have beautiful, long brown hair, but that fell out with the chemo. She’s the only person I know that can wear a beanie and not look completely ridiculous. Life has given mom her fair share of lemons, and life is still dishing them out, but it’s funny how no matter what life throws at her she always has a smile plastered onto her face. She just radiates happiness.

We’ve always been close, my mom and I. She would take me out on mom/daughter dates growing up, she taught me that it’s okay not to be a princess, that I could be anything I want too if I’m willing to work for it. She’s my rock, and I don’t know how I’m going to handle being so far away from her. My throat feels sore and coarse. Why is he doing this? Why is he sending me away from her? From Sammy? Mom reaches back and touches my knee, and, it’s almost as if she can sense the thoughts running through my head. Maybe, mom’s have a sixth sense.

“Don’t worry Em.” Mason says, “We can email as much as we want.” I feel guilty I’ve only been halfheartedly listening to him. That’s mean, Mason is my boyfriend and he deserves my attention. I should be better.

‘But it’s not the same.” I sound whiny, as I choke back tears and bury my face into my hood. Mason and I have never been apart for longer than a week, and even then we were only like two hours apart. How are we going to handle being on opposite sides of the world, with minimal communication? What’s going to keep us from growing apart? What if he moves on? I jut my lip out. “It’s going to be so weird having you on the other side of the world.”

“I’ll write you every chance I get.”

“Pinky Promise?” I challenge, the corners of my lips creep into a smile. There is just something about a pinky promise, that means real commitment. It’s like the Unbreakable Vow, once you make it there is no turning back. You have to do everything you can to fulfill that promise.

“Swear on my life.” Mason says and then asks, “Do you want to hear my theories on goodbyes?”

It’s as if he can read my thoughts, like he can see all these insecurities swarming around in my head. How I’m terrified of what will happen while we’re apart, how it worries me that the distance might put a strain on our relationship and friendship. Tears brim my eyes, as I take a deep breath and whisper, “Do tell.”

“What if God made this world round, so we’ll cross the paths we make again someday?” Mason always puts a smile on my face, no matter what the circumstance.

“I like the sound of that.” I wish I could lace my fingers through his one last time. I already miss his strong, tender hands wrapped around my small, thin hands. His hands make me feel comfortable and safe, like God made them just for me to hold.

We say our final goodbyes as Gruffing-Sandusky Airport comes into view. The airport is small, and covered in tan bricks, making it look like a post office. The runway is skinny and short, and lined with ten little planes.

My father swiftly slides the Caravan into a parking spot and then turns off the engine. My mom looks at me over her shoulder and offers me a reassuring smile, “You ready, Em?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

Chapter Two

It doesn’t sink in that I’m completely alone--in LA by MYSELF--until I’m sitting in my ridiculously small and square dorm room. The walls are empty and bare and blinding white, my suitcases sit untouched at the foot of my bed, and I just want to go home. How could my father send me to boarding school, across the FREAKIN’ country, without even asking me if I wanted to come?

Meanwhile, the city is oddly silent, as I curl into a ball at the foot of my bed. I cannot lose it. The walls are so paper thin, that all of Cyprus Hall will be able to hear me. And, then I won’t make any friends and no one will want to hang out with me and my life will just be horrible. I feel a lump rise in my throat, and before I can stop them, the tears are rolling down my face. My stomach churns; I rush to my window, fling it open and gulp the fresh air in greedily--a few heads whip up at the sound and stare.

I sink back to the floor, my body shaking. I can’t calm down. My breath comes in big, fast gulps and my face hurts from crying.

Pathetic. I am pathetic.

My neighbors aren’t experiencing any breakdowns. Why can’t I get myself together? How many teenagers would kill for the chance to leave home, and here I am blubbering like a fool? I bury my face into my pillow and sob.

There’s a soft knock on my door, and then a energetic, perky voice asks, “Are you okay?”

No, I am not okay. My parents just sent me to FREAKIN’ boarding school, my boyfriend is on a plane to Africa and my mom is miles away in Ohio and there’s nothing I can do about it. GO AWAY, I want to scream. When I don’t respond, she calls out again and I reluctantly go to the door.

A girl with long black hair, with a thick layer of blonde on the bottom, leans against the doorframe. She’s tall and skinny, but not disgustingly skinny. She’s wearing a black Mumford & Sons t-shirt, black skinny jeans and combat boots. Her nose ring, a little diamond stud, glistens in the hallway light. She sticks her hand out. “Hi. I’m Danielle. I live two doors down.” She points to room 315 across the hall. “Is this your first year?”

I slowly nod my head. I’m still holding onto the door, ready to shut it as soon as she leaves. I just want to go back to my bed, curl up and cry, but Danielle seems in no rush to leave.

She offers a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. I cried my first night too.”

And, that makes me feel better how? I want to say, but I just stare ahead at the flickering hallway light. She raises her eyebrows, shrugs her shoulders, and then grabs my hand. “Don’t forget your key. The doors lock automatically and it’s torture trying to get back in.” I tug on my necklace, making sure it’s still there. I added my dorm key to it as soon as I got it in the orientation package.

She leads me down the hall and two flights of stairs, to the Cyprus Hall parking lot and stops in front of an old, battered 1983 yellow slug bug. I raise my eyes, why should I get in a car with her? Danielle smiles at me and there’s just something about it that makes me feel like I’m back in Cedar Heights with Mads getting ready to play Thrifty Nickel at the local Goodwill. What the heck? I shrug my shoulders and smile back, maybe it’s time I learn to live.

Danielle won’t tell me where we’re going as she crawls through the traffic on interstate 5; the traffic seems to go on forever. She drums her fingers against the steering wheel and sings completely off-key to a song by Iron Maiden on the radio.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” She asks when the song ends.

What?” I snap back to reality. Danielle seems nice enough, and I need a distraction; my mind is racing with thoughts about my mom, her cancer, and how she’s getting around without me there. Especially since my father is working two jobs to cover the hospital bills, and well, now my Baldwin Hill Academy tuition.

Not that he’s ever really there when he’s home. He’s always so absorbed in his work that he never really has time for us.

And who was taking care of Sammy when my parents aren’t home?

“Do you have—oh never mind. I really shouldn’t pry.” She says turning the music up and facing the road.

“Okay.” I continue to look out the window. The city is bustling as we pull off the interstate; people crowd the sidewalks, musicians lean against buildings strumming their guitars, and homeless people sit on street corners holding their tin cans up for spare change. I’ve never been to a big city before—my hometown consisted of 986 people, now 982—the towering buildings, rush-hour traffic and people on every inch of the sidewalk doesn’t ease my mind. What I wouldn’t give to be back in Cedar Heights, sitting outside with Mom and Sammy, roasting marshmallows over the fire. Hells Bells, I might even consider letting dad join in on the fun, but that doesn’t mean I miss him.

A few minutes pass and then Danielle says, “So, where are you from? I saw the look of horror on your face as we were driving through the city.”

“Cedar Heights, Ohio. It’s near Cedar Point.”

Her expression is blank as she stares at me, “What’s that?” She asks, switching lanes and taking exit 146B to Burbank Boulevard.

I’m dumbfounded. “You’ve never heard of Cedar Point?” She shakes her head no. “It’s only the best amusement park in America.” I say.

“Better than Disney?”

“Oh. It’s a million times better than Disney.” And, that’s coming from a Disney fanatic.

I stare out the window at all the different buildings. Shopping malls, fast food restaurants, and at least ten different Starbucks, in a fifteen-mile radius, surround Oceanside Relaxation Academy. The Academy is located seventeen minutes from the Baldwin Hill Academy, which is in West Hollywood. The car jerks to a stop as Danielle pulls into the Academy’s parking lot and finds a parking spot. “Mani-pedi?” She looks at me and grins.

“Sure.” I shrug my shoulders, it beats crying alone in my dorm.

The inside of Oceanside Relaxation Academy is calming, peaceful and inviting. A fake waterfall is plastered to the wall adding to the soothing lull. The walls are a pale-yellow with low-lit hanging lights, and big gray beanbag chairs are scattered throughout the lobby. Danielle walks up to the front desk and makes a reservation.

“How do you like Baldwin?” I ask Danielle when she plops down in the beanbag next to me.

“It’s alright.” She says slowly, drawing out her words, then sees the curious look on my face and quickly adds, “The staff is really awesome!”

Before I can respond, the receptionist calls out, “Viola Thunderbottom?” I scan the lobby, looking for the poor soul who has such an unfortunate name, and nobody gets up. The room is completely silent as the receptionist calls out the name again. The silence that follows is excoriating, I can feel as if I'm stuck on the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney. And, then Danielle burst out laughing. “Come on. That’s us.”

I snort. “You did not just write Viola Thunderbottom!”

The receptionist gives us the death glare, before directing us to the manicures and pedicures station. As soon as we’re out of view we both start giggling uncontrollably. We sit down at the manicure table and wait for the nail technicians. “Where are you from?” I ask organizing the nail polish bottles by colors, and pushing them into a straight line. Danielle stares at my organizing as she answers, “I’m from San Diego, it’s not too far.”

“I bet it’s nice being so close to home.”

“Yeah, I guess.” She says quickly. I look at her and raise my eyebrow, but she just shakes her head no.

The nail technicians walk in. I look down from her face to her name tag, which reads ‘Stephanie’ in large bubble letters. “Hello, ladies. “She smiles brightly. She glances glances down at a little black book and her face scrunches up. “I’m going to start working on Viola Thunderbottom?”

Danielle looks at me and wags her eyebrows, which only sends me into another fit of giggles. After I calm down and control my breathing, I say, “Hi. I’m Emily.”

Stephanie’s eyebrows raise in an arch, like she’s not sure what’s going on. She nods her head and then claps her hands, “Right! Should we get started? Anna will be with you in a moment hun.”

She motions for us to sit in the plush pink chairs pushed against the back wall, as she starts filling the pedicure buckets with hot soapy water. “So what brings you in today?” She asks as the other nail technician walks into the room.

“Well,” Danielle’s face beams and starts imitating an Australian accent. “I just couldn’t miss flying in for my favorite ginger’s wedding, now could I?” She winks.

“Oh my gosh! Your accent is just darling. Where are you from?”

“Why from the Down Under of course!”

Both of the nail technician's nod their heads, as if this is the only logical answer. Then Stephanie turns and looks at me. “When is the big day?”

“Two days!” I squeal. “Can you believe it?” I smile despite myself. Danielle might seem a little kooky and out there, but her crazy, hare-brained nature might be just want I need to feel back at home. It’s like I have a little piece of Mads here with me in LA.

 

A few hours later, after exploring the city some we head back to Baldwin Hill Academy. The campus is small and crowded with buildings. There are eight different buildings—an English, Math,Science, and History, the other four buildings are for recreational purposes. The campus has two sets of dorms, all of which are coed—Cyprus Hall for the juniors and seniors, and Addison Hall for freshman and sophomores. The dorms are located just outside of campus, on the other side of Adam’s Park.

Colorful Californian flowers, trees and man-made waterfalls that lead to little streams cover the walkways, creating paths to each building. The farthest building, the McKinley building, sits away from the rest of the buildings up on a hill. The rest of the buildings are closer together, but it takes about ten minutes to walk to each building.

I pause when we reach Danielle’s door. She unlocks the door and

pushes through, and then pokes her head back out when she realizes I haven’t followed her. “You coming?”

Her room is exactly like mine; it’s ridiculously small and square, with the same mini-desk, mini-fridge, and mini-bed pushed against the walls. But just like my room there is no bathroom, unfortunately we have to share that with the rest of the floor. And, unlike my bedroom her things are unpacked and her walls are no longer bare and blinding white. Instead the walls and ceiling are covered with band posters and pictures of her friends. Bright dangling beads hang from the closet door frame and twenty different kinds of shoes are lined neatly against the back wall.

I shake my head in awe. “How long did it take you to do this?” I wish I could have a room like this, but I'm too much of a neat freak. I need clean walls and a clean desk, and I need to have everything it the proper place. If anything is even a hare off, I freak.

“You like?” She chirps grabbing her ukulele from the wall, a huge smile on her face. “I flew in yesterday morning and have just been waiting for my friends to show up.”

I walk towards the memo board, which has black and white swirls as the background and is covered in pictures and sticky notes. “Wait. Is that Iron Maiden you’re playing?”

Danielle strums a few more chords and then looks up, “Yeah. It is. Do you like them?”

I shrug my shoulders, “They’re alright. My boyfriend listens to them all the time, so I know all the songs by heart.”

“Sounds like he’s a cool guy.”

I smile sheepishly. “Yeah he is. Are these your friends?” I ask pointing to a picture of three girls and two guys laughing as they jump in a pile of fallen leaves.

That’s Liam, Calliope, Sarah, Ian, and me. You’ll meet them tomorrow in homeroom. Well everyone, but Sarah.” She chokes over her name, “She graduated last year.”

My heart flips in my chest. Was that an invitation to sit with her and her friends?

She continues a slight edge to her voice, “But I’m sure you’ll meet her soon enough. She’s dating Ian.” Was that jealously? I better stay far away from this Ian if Danielle already has dibs, I don’t need to add any more drama to my life.

She quickly adds, “Liam and Calliope are dating, too.” Oh. That makes sense; she’s a fifth wheel. Poor girl, well, at least out here I could be a fifth wheel with her. I wish Mason could be out here with me, at least then we could be together.

But I can’t do anything to change that, so maybe I should try becoming buddy-buddy with Danielle, and set all of my troubles (my mom, Mason and LA) aside.

I glance at Danielle’s bright pink Hello Kitty alarm clock, and I’m surprised that it’s well past midnight. I mutter, “I should probably get going. Sorry I stayed so long.”

Danielle puts down her ukulele and bounces to her feet, “It was so nice meeting you! See you in homeroom?”

“Yeah.” I smile trying to stay calm, but I’m so distracted I walk straight into the door. Ouch, I rub my forehead,that really hurt. I glance around the hallway, making sure no one saw my mishap and my eyes land on a breathtakingly, gorgeous boy standing in front of me, rubbing his head too.

“Ohmygosh! I am so sorry!” My words tumble out faster than I can comprehend what I’m saying and slur together. Making me sound like I’m drunk.

He shakes his head, a slight smirk forming on his lips. “It’s okay. I

didn’t see you either.”

SHUT UP. SHUT UP. SHUT UP. SHUT UP. He. Is. English.

His lips continue to move, but I’m too fascinated by his beautiful accent to form cohesive sentences to respond. I pinch my arm behind my back to keep from squealing; maybe Los Angeles isn’t so bad after all? I think I just found the perfect distraction to keep my mind off of Mason and my mom.

He clears his throat and waves his hand in front of my face. “Er, are you okay?” He asks and I feel like a complete idiot. I’m drooling over his accent, like a fool. Is it even possible to resist a British accent? Wait, Mason. I shake my head, trying to remove Wonder Boy from my mind. I have a boyfriend. I have a BOYFRIEND, and yet, there’s something about this gorgeous boy that I can’t shake. Why do I find him so fascinating?

When I don’t respond, he awkwardly glances around the hallway, “Uh, does Dani live here?”

My brain finally catches on to what he’s saying and I shout, way too enthusiastically, “Danielle lives here! We went to the spa today. I’m Emily. I just got here.” I smile broadly like I just achieved some great accomplishment. Hells Bells. Can I embarrass myself any further? I just need to make it to my dorm, shut the door and forget this ever happened.

The beautiful boy gives an amused grin, flashing me a mouth full of sparkling white teeth. His smile is beautiful--the right side of his mouth curves slightly and there's just a touch of an overbite. He has a dimple that pops out on his right cheek whenever he smiles, kind of like Mason's. Mason. Another reason I need to get back to my dorm, I have a boyfriend. Wonder Boy shouldn’t be making me this flustered.

“Ian.” The Gorgeous Being says, “I live on the fourth floor.”

I nod my head and point dumbly to my door, “I live here.”

Ian sidesteps so he’s in front of Danielle’s door, and then does a series of raps, that could be mistaken as Morse Code, on Danielle’s door. “Well, I’ll see you around, Emily.” My heart flutters in my chest; Ian pronounces my name as Em-a-lay.

Danielle’s door opens and within seconds Ian and her are chatting and laughing at each others jokes, or most likely the dorky red-head who lives two doors down.

I fumble for the necklace holding my key, unlock my door, and slide to the floor. I cannot believe that just happened. Maybe, finishing my senior year in Los Angeles won’t be that bad after all.

Chapter Three

“Hey! Fire-crotch.” I glance over my shoulder. A man dressed like Spiderman is following me through Adam’s Park towards Baldwin Hill Academy. If I was back in Ohio there wouldn’t be a guy dressed as Spiderman following me, but I guess in LA anything is possible. “Slow down. Don’t you wanna be my Mary Jane?”

I shudder and wish I had stopped by Danielle’s before leaving. She seems really nice and genuine, but after hearing her and Wonder Boy reunite, I’m not sure there’s any room left for me in their group. Besides, she was probably just being nice. I’m sure she didn’t really want me crashing her table in homeroom.

And, the last thing I need to do is make a fool of myself on my first day.

I pull my backpack straps and break into a sprint; the last thing I need today is to get corner by some weirdo on my way to a new school in a new city. The school is a five-minute walk from the dormitories, located on the Southeast side of downtown Los Angeles, so I get a small glimpse of the city.

The city is loud, busy and people crowd every inch of the pathway. The buildings vary in sizes, all reaching towards the sky. Each building I pass makes me feel small and alone. I miss the open fields and small-town feel of Cedar Heights.

How could my parents think I was ready to live on my own? That I wanted to be thousands of miles away from my family? If this were a vacation, I’m sure I’d be thrilled. I would visit Disneyland, California Adventure Park, hells bells, maybe I’d even visit the Museum of Death.

But I’m not on vacation. This is my new life and I didn’t have any say in it. I sigh, why can’t I just go home? I pass trashcans covered in artwork sitting on the corner of each sidewalk, a homeless man sleeping in a bed of flowers and people dressed as comic book characters, movie stars, and musicians. At least I’ve lost the wannabe Spiderman.

I suck in a breath, as a black gate with a large archway comes into view. The gate surround the campus, fencing it in. The name of the Academy is written in a fancy script at the top of the archway. Palm trees line the cobblestone path, and a statue of the school’s mascot, Thor, sits where the paths intersect. The crosswalk signal flashes. A bunch of students cross the street, but I can't move. This school is three-times the size of Cedar Heights High and I don’t know where any of my classes are.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I'm Jessica Baxter, a avid reader, writer and a mother of three little girls. I love writing YA romance and updating my family's adventures on my blog.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
Be sure to check out my blog for exciting updates on life with my family and current writing projects. I try updating my blog at least every two weeks, but sometimes being a mom of three little girls keeps me from doing so. Blog: http://thebenevolentbaxters.blogspot.com/ Twitter @whachareading
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
Oh, wow. There are so many fantastic writers out there, but I'd have to say the three authors that inspire me the most are Sarah Dessen, John Green and JK Rowling. Each of these authors address problems that youth today face and I how they show that anything is possible in life if you have love.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
Right now I'm currently reading Harry Potter again. My husband and I have made it a point to buy the new Harry Potter illustrated editions that have recently been released, so it's been fun reading those and having a piece of my childhood back. I've also started The Selection series by Kiera Cass.

Next in:
Teen & Young Adult
Wolfonne!
When a werewolf can't change, what can he do?
Joan the Made
Joan of Arc leads a clone rebellion
Mirror Sacrifice
The lines between present and past will blur.