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Chapter 1—Stephen

The butterfly hits the windshield.

The action is quick, probably painless, and yet it is the bomb which sets the next phase of my life in motion. The gooey residue of death will stick with my family long after the windshield wiper scrapes away the obliterated body of the insect.

My seventeen year old brother laughs. It’s a grating noise, scraping the ears and the soul. Mom glances at him in the rear view mirror, the small frown line between her eyebrows growing deeper. She doesn’t like the sound. It is proof her oldest boy is slowly slipping away, drifting to an unknown manic future with lots of highs and way too many lows. He has been for some time, but it’s gotten worse the last two weeks.

Not that she will admit this out loud.

“Butterfly suicide,” she says.

Jude laughs harder and spends the next ten minutes muttering, “Butterfly suicide.”

In the following days, it becomes his mantra, and he adds the little insect into his drawings—not that I’m supposed to know that. It should have been a clue, a warning, a small puzzle piece begging to be connected with its mate. Instead, we ignore it. Mom and I go on about the routines Jude has created for us, pretending the monster living in the house is a normal boy.

Jude Valley.

My brother. My antagonist. My nightmare.

The psycho who shoots seven students the last day of school.

*****

Three months later

“You have to go.”

I yank the blue sheet over my head, grimacing at the clinging stink of it even as it blocks the harsh light of early morning breaking through the small openings in my tin foiled windows. Most of the time the sheets smell okay—a sort of mix of my body odor and Tide laundry detergent, but it’s been six weeks since I washed them, and even to my dulled senses, the scent is offensive.

“Stephen? Did you hear me?” The sharpness of Mom’s words penetrates the fabric. “You have to get up and go to school.”

I don’t have to do anything.

I pull the sheet tighter.

Mom sighs, and even though I can’t see her face, guilt stretches its legs in what’s left of my conscience. Maybe all moms have the same super power as their magic weapon, but mine takes the art of the sigh to a whole new level.

The mattress squeaks when she sits on the edge of my bed. “I need you to get up and get dressed, Stephen.”

I need you to get me the hell out of this small town, Mom.

“Everyone is watching us. I’m already the most terrible and hated mother in the world.” Maybe she thinks I’ll correct her on that one. Keep on dreaming, Mom. “I don’t need anyone else on my back because my ninth grader refuses to go to school. Please don’t make this worse for me.”

Worse for her? Really?

I fling the sheet off and it floats to the floor of my messy bedroom as I sit up. Mom stands quickly, eyes wary, head slightly lowered as if she is bracing for an attack. I don’t know what she’s so worried about. I’m not Jude. The only thing she has to fear is the remote possibility the pile of empty soda cans on my desk will sprout legs due to the mold inside them or that the disgusting lump of laundry spilling out of the closet may harbor a small mouse or two.

Her tense posture, the defensive flex of her fists at her sides as if she’s preparing for battle—it pisses me off even more.

“It’s always about you, isn’t it, Mom? How people look at you. If it matters so much, then tell me why we have to still live here?” I grumble, slinging my legs out of bed and kicking a can of blue spray paint I hadn’t tucked all the way under my bed. It rolls forward and my mother eyes it, but before she can ask about it, I ask the same question I’ve been asking for months. “Why can’t we just sell the house, take the money, and move away?”

“You know why, Stephen!” She snaps and then takes a breath, before pinching the bridge of her nose, massaging it as if she has a headache. “Our court appointment is in November. We can’t leave. Besides, where would we go?”

“We could move out of this fucking state.”

“Hey. Watch your mouth.” She glares at me. “And you know I can’t afford to move us.”

Our small house is located in the crappiest neighborhood of Rockingham, Texas. Surrounded by homes of equally crappy value, my mother makes practically nothing at the local fast food joint, The Taco Shack. She used to work in the administrative office of Rockingham ISD, but that ended a month ago when they told her she’d used all her personal and sick days. If she’d been someone else, they might have cut her some slack, maybe even put a small fund together to help her out. But she was the mother of the Rockingham Rattler. Her boss wanted her gone.

Too much of a reminder, too much of an uncomfortable distraction.

Apparently, Taco Shack doesn’t care who your kid kills as long as there is a warm body behind the cash register.

Most days she walks the three miles to work to save gas money. Or maybe it’s to save for the pending lawsuits.

“Maybe if I dropped out, I could get a job,” I say, desperate to find a loophole in a three month old argument. “Maybe it would be enough to get us started someplace else.”

“You can’t drop out, and as for a getting a job…if I had trouble getting one, how do you think you’ll fare?” Mom swipes at her eyes, her voice softer, almost pleading. “Come on now. Get up. Go to school. You’ve got to walk in there and show them that what he did or who he was has nothing to do with you. You’re not him! We can’t be blamed for his actions.”

But we are.

And a part of me thinks it is our fault.

Our eyes meet. Two months ago she’d been unable to get out of bed, stopped taking care of herself, and wouldn’t eat no matter what I did. She only recently started to try parenting me again, but it feels as if too much has happened. Our worlds shifted in May and I’m no longer her dependable boy.

“Stephen, I…” She struggles a moment, trying to get her thoughts out. My breath catches. There is so much we need to talk about, so much unsaid, so many questions I have. Maybe this is it; this is the moment where we get really honest with each other. Her gaze goes to the floor where the dinged up spray paint can lays. “That better not be what I think it is, Stephen. If you get caught again…”

I exhale and stand, defiantly snatching up the can. Setting it down on the worn bedside table, I say, “Well, this has been an enlightening talk as always, Mom. Why don’t you go take a pill and drift off to Oz or wherever the hell it is you go when you’re high? I’m going to get ready for school. Could you get out of my room?”

Mom’s shoulder’s slump at my rudeness, but she leaves, closing the door behind her. I win the battle of feelings this time though I’m not exactly proud of it.

Getting ready means pulling off the black Iron Maiden shirt I slept in and putting on a clean Lamb of God one. The jeans I’d worn to bed are fine for school. Not like anyone there is gonna give a shit about how I look.

The comb slides through my blond hair, settling down the rooster ‘fro I sport when I wake up. Brush the teeth. Tie the shoes. Find a back pack. Cologne or not? Screw it. Who will stand close enough to smell me?

I walk through the living room to the kitchen. An apple sits on top of a pile of bills stacked on the counter and I grab it, unwilling to keep the sarcasm at bay as I raise my voice so my mother, who has by now locked herself in the bedroom with a bottle of Xanax, can hear. “Thanks for breakfast.”

In the old days, she’d make pancakes and hash browns for me and Jude on the first day of school. Clearly, that’s all over.

Yet another thing I can thank my asshole brother for.

Outside, I stop a second, blinded by light. With my pale, blond hair and fair skin, the sun and I are not friends. An albino. That’s what Jude called me. Compared to him, I probably am one. He’d inherited our dad’s dark black hair and the ability to grow full facial hair at sixteen—something he’d capitalized on those final months. In fact, the last time I’d seen Jude, he’d been sporting a full black beard and long, greasy hair.

“What are you supposed to be? A disciple of Kurt Cobain?” I had asked, noticing even though it was May, he wore his favorite torn red flannel shirt. He probably didn’t even know who Kurt Cobain was. Mom had kept all of my deceased father’s Nirvana CDs and I’d listened to them hundreds of times. “When you gonna shave that shit off your face?”

He stood in the doorway of his room, watching me come down the hall.

“I look like Jesus would have looked if he’d been a pothead.” Jude punched me in the arm as I tried to pass, leaving another red whelp I would have to hide from Mom. He held his notebook, his sacred Bible of artwork, against his chest. “The bitches love my face.”

“I bet they love you calling them that, too.” I risked an ass whooping for daring to call him out on anything. “Maybe that’s why you don’t have a girlfriend anymore.”

Jude smiled and stroked his beard, an odd look on his face. Then he’d gone into his room and started typing away on his computer, leaving the notebook resting on the desk, an ever constant companion.

If I’d known then what would happen a few hours later, I would have pushed harder for the ass whooping. Maybe he wouldn’t have done what he did.

Can’t dwell on that. I have to stay in the present, and believe me, it’s a goddamn 24/7 effort.

I trudge down the road in the direction of the high school in no hurry to get there. No need to get immersed in the fear vibe too soon. No desire to be gawked at by accusing eyes.

No hurry to step into the cafeteria.

Sure, they’d probably cleaned up the blood, maybe even got new tile to trick the mind into thinking nothing had happened. The walls would be freshly painted. There’d been talk of tearing down the cafeteria or even rebuilding the whole school, but Rockingham is a poor town. There is no building nearby which can house the student body while a new place is being built.

Easier to wipe up the blood, create a memorial to the fallen, and call it a day.

Cosmetic changes were necessary for the day to day operations of a school, but the high school administrative staff would never be able to erase what had happened. The hundred or so kids having lunch three months ago would never be able to eat in the room without thinking about my brother. No little plaque dedicated to the dead would ease the PTSD he’d created.

And what would the sight of me sauntering into the high school do to them?

One of the houses I walk by on the way has a poster in the front yard with the words Never Forget. It is black with bright, yellow cursive letters. They popped up in the weeks following Jude’s actions, dotting the yards of small town Rockingham homes like weeds or overgrown flowers.

A woman with big brown teased hair and a cigarette hanging from her lip is in the yard watering what looks to be already dead zinnias dried up by the scorching Texas sun. She glances over at me, a small frown of disapproval growing larger on her face by the second and she grasps the cigarette to keep it from falling. She knows who I am, and though the woman says nothing, her thoughts are obvious enough to fill in a comic strip thought bubble. I can practically see the one above her head.

Murderer. Killer. White trash. Just like him.

I force myself to walk past as if I don’t have a care in the world. Hell, I practically strut in an effort to show that judgy bitch how much I don’t give a damn about what she thinks. Given a few more seconds, I might even have shot her the middle finger just to be a dick. Lucky for her, I catch sight of the high school and the lady with big hair becomes nothing but a footnote in what has been a shitty summer.

Any pretense of bravery shrivels as I study the school. So easy to turn around and walk away. To run off and spend the day hiding out somewhere, listening to metal music and counting the hours until the weekend when I can hole up at home away from prying eyes.

No one will miss me.

But the admin staff will know if I’m not there. No doubt they’re on the lookout for Stephen Valley. I’m sure the counselor is prepared to pat me down, check my pants for weapons or drugs. I heard they even hired a security guard.

If I don’t go in, Mom will find out and this will lead to another verbal battle which will lead to more reasons why I need to be on my best behavior, why finding the spray paint in my room is such a big deal, why I need to not be truant so no one in authority will have a reason to harass me.

I take a deep breath, forcing my feet to keep going. In the parking lot, kids greet each other, giving high fives, bumping and jostling with their backpacks, light laughter streaking through the air. The sound is tinged with anxiety though and is made worse by the sight of metal detectors and security guards at the front entrance of the school.

They’ve changed the sign on the front of the building. It used to read “Home of the Rockingham Rattlers” with a picture of a ferocious looking rattlesnake next to it. The new sign simply says “Welcome to Rockingham High School.” A few years ago, we’d been the Rockingham Rodents, but the principal had decided he didn’t want our football team associated with rats. There had been a huge contest to find a new mascot.

Guess who won? That’s right. Problem child of the year, Jude Valley.

His design for the sinister Rockingham Rattler drew gasps of approval, and soon it became the school logo, showing up on all our district shirts, notebook covers, front office stationary—just about anything related to Rockingham ISD. The original artwork Jude had drawn used to be framed in a glass case in the long front hallway of the high school until somebody broke in over the summer and took it.

I hesitate in the parking lot, knowing I haven’t been seen yet.

“You coming in?”

The deep voice behind me is jarring. I jerk with guilt.

“Sorry.” A man steps beside me. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”

Teacher. Has to be. This guy has the vibe about him. Tall. Dressed in black slacks and a casual blue dress shirt. A brown satchel slung across one shoulder. The smidge of gray in his brown hair tells me his going to go for the classic salt and pepper look in his old age. He pushes his tortoise shell glasses up his nose, hiding the slight lines I see there while he studies me with an apologetic smile.

“I’m Thatcher March,” he says. “New English teacher. I’m taking on the Theatre class, too.”

To my surprise, he sticks out his hand.

Not knowing what else to do, I shake it.

“You have a name?” He seems amused when I don’t immediately respond. “I didn’t quite catch it.”

“It’s…it’s Stephen Valley.” I wait for the dawning look of comprehension to come to his eyes. Any second he will realize who I am.

“Nice to meet you,” he says, not batting an eye. “You a freshman?”

“Yeah.”

“First days are always tough. I’ve been teaching for about ten years now, and it doesn’t matter if you are a teacher or a student. Everyone has butterflies the first day.”

I study him, curious about how old he is. I’m guessing…early thirties. Still youthful, but not trying too hard to hide the fact that time is creeping up on him.

“See you in class then.” He nods toward the building when I don’t say anything. “Shall we?”

Aw, hell. I guess there’s no getting out of it now.

School is in session.

Chapter 2—Monica

It’s 7:30pm. The evening shadows in the hallway have grown long, and the door to Simone’s room is still locked. I study the large, diamond door knob wondering why this realization is in anyway a surprise. After all, my sister has been dead for almost three months and the room has been locked up tight, a shrine of what once was.

My finger traces the fine grain of the oak door while I imagine Simone is off at camp or she’s moved on to college like she was supposed to. I try not to think about her last moments.

They say she begged Jude, that she even kissed him goodbye.

It’s tempting to get the thin, silver skeleton key above the door frame and go in. Simone can’t stop me now. She can’t scream and holler if I want to borrow her clothes.

“Get out, Monica! You are such a little brat!” she used to say.

What does Stephen Valley miss about his brother? Anything? What does he think of when he stands outside of Jude’s door?

Why did his brother kill my sister?

It’s the big question—the hot topic still discussed around the dinner tables. The easy answer is Jude killed Simone because she broke up with him. He took it bad or something. The other six kids killed were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But that’s not it. I just know it. He didn’t kill Simone because of the breakup.

I wonder if Stephen knows why. Would he tell me?

Stephen Valley.

Talk about bad boy yummy. Super blond hair and bright blue eyes. He always looks a little “far off”, like he’s thinking deep thoughts or something. I think he is a secret reader, but I can’t prove it. I only surmise this because one time a copy of The Giver fell out of his backpack in the hall between classes, and he picked it up really quickly like he was ashamed or something.

The quiet whispers which have always surrounded the younger Valley boy grew louder after what Jude did. Some said Stephen liked to graffiti things in the park like picnic tables or tag the pristine fences the city council paid for with dirty words and phrases. A few kids claimed they saw him once murder a dog in the street using a pocket knife. Apparently, the cops had been called out to his house before due to a shooting (something the news people made a really big deal about), but no one seemed to know what had actually happened, just that Stephen had been fooling around with a loaded gun or something.

My mother clings to these stories as proof Karen Valley produced nothing but bad seeds. She rants on and on about it when she is drunk, patting her salon chocolate colored hair as she talks, her perfectly made up face twisting into an ugly mask of fury. Even though I nod my head at her tirades about the Valleys, deep down I know Stephen is not some weird, vandalizing pervert.

I once dissected a frog with him in seventh grade science class. He was funny and let me pop out the frog’s eyes when the teacher said we could. I know it sounds gross and sadistic, but most of the other boys were all about arguing over who got to do it. Stephen asked me if I wanted to do the honors at our table. When I said yes, he chuckled and surrendered the scalpel without a second thought.

What a gentleman.

He is kind of skinny. I tend to like boys with a little more meat on them. And his taste in music is terrible. Metal bands? Really? Ugh. But he seems to have a shirt for every loud and angry group out there.

Yes. I’m attracted to Stephen Valley. The realization makes me shudder and I press my forehead to the door, trying to channel my sister and search for the anger I’m supposed to have towards him.

I’m attracted to the brother of my sister’s killer.

My therapist would make lots of little notes about me in her file if she knew. My parents would freak out. My friends would think I’d lost it.

Maybe I have. But they don’t know I’ve harbored a crush on him for well over a year, long before Jude went nuts in the cafeteria, or that I used to daydream about kissing him, wondering if his lips would feel soft against mine. We bonded over that damn frog, and I’ve never stopped liking him.

Of course, those feelings are mixed up now. My emotions have mostly been in muffled shock mode and have cocooned me from all my senses. Other people’s compassion has swallowed me whole, and I’ve had no time to think about anything real.

Until today.

Today when I saw Stephen for the first time in months, a new emotion entered my stream of consciousness. Empathy. I sensed his pain. The first day of high school, the day where you are supposed to make the transition from preteen to teen, had totally sucked for me—the sympathetic stares from kids I didn’t know, the kind pats on the shoulder from teachers trying to be supportive—it was too much. I’d come home and swallowed a shot of vodka, letting the harsh burn of the alcohol wash down my throat and hoping it would provide the same peace it appears to provide my mom.

Stephen and I aren’t supposed to have any classes together. The theatre class must have slipped by the counselor though. Something about Stephen when I saw him seated in the back of the auditorium, isolated from the rest of us…the dark circles under his eyes, the way he can’t quite look at anybody…it tugged at my heart in an unexpected way.

It’s easy to think about the pain my family is going through and feel sympathy for that.

But what about Stephen?

He must hurt, too. And he’s just a kid, stuck here, stuck in this little fishbowl we live in with no escape in sight. I know I look to the future and think, four more years of this crap?

I can’t even imagine what Stephen thinks.

I wonder if he remembers the frog.

My relationship savvy sister would know what to do about this. I knock on Simone’s door, knowing she isn’t in there. Simone is dead and buried even if it doesn’t seem real. For a moment, I am positive I will hear her voice though.

“Simone?” I say softly.

No answer.

Depressed, I go to my own room and lock the door behind me.

********

The next day I wake up on edge. Butterflies dance in my stomach and my anxiety skyrockets. This is the way I get before a big test or before I go out on stage. I love performing, but I’m always torn between wanting to get it over with and wanting to put it off.

But today all I’m planning is to go to school.

There is no need for this anxiety, for this nervousness—and yet, it has hung around me since May, a weird companion which never lets up no matter what I do. My therapists prescribed me some sort of anti-anxiety medication, but I don’t like to take it because it messes with my sleep.

The kitchen is empty when I go downstairs. I spy the orange juice sitting out and the vodka bottle, uncapped, next to it—my mother’s signature sleeping tonic. Sometimes I wish I was brave enough to fill my water bottle with vodka. I imagine myself sipping on it the whole day, oblivious to the world around me, getting a decent night’s sleep.

But I don’t do it. Instead, I go to the cabinet where we keep the allergy medicine and help myself to a couple of Benadryl. Last year, I overheard two teachers at school talking about how they always take a few before a big meeting with the principal. Apparently, it acts like a sedative if you’re already nervous.

Can’t hurt to try it.

I wash them down with the orange juice and then root around in the fridge for something to eat for breakfast. No one has gone shopping in a while and there isn’t much to choose from. My mother’s purse is on the table. I dig through it until I find a couple of dollars.

Guess I’ll stop at the Coffee Place on the way to school.

I survey myself in the front hallway mirror, wincing at how much I look like my dead sister. People used to joke we could have been twins—though our interests were completely different. I’m the sci-fi, theatre geek who can sing the libretto to Hamilton. She was the popular, dance team girl with lots of friends and horrific grades.

Simone would have loathed my outfit for the first day of high school. It consists of my favorite pair of ripped shorts and a black tank top. After some debate about washing my dark hair and styling it, I opt to pull it up in a ballerina bun. My skin actually looks decent, though there is a telltale red mark on the side of my forehead. Damn. A zit in the making.

I don’t wear much makeup. Don’t need to. But I am big believer in lipstick. Unless you want to look dead, you should always add color to your lips.

I slide into a pair of flip flops and head out the door.

Our town is too small for a Starbucks or a Dairy Queen. Instead, we have to settle for the Coffee Place. It’s a silver food truck parked near the high school and acts like the Pied Piper of Rockingham, drawing people to it with its sweet aroma. As usual, there are lots of other kids in line as I wait to place my order, but even though it’s a small town, there are a few people I don’t know.

They know me though. Several girls give me sympathetic looks. Poor little Monica Monroe. Forced to live in the shadow of her dead sister.

I softly hum the opening number to the musical, Hairspray. It’s a habit which comes out when I’m nervous. If I don’t get my coffee soon, I’m likely to start working my way through the whole show.

“Hey, kid.”

Derek Andrews is standing with some of his buddies. He strolls over, a smile on his face, charisma and charm exuding from him in a way which always draws people in. Several girls stare openly at his butt as he passes, and while I’m sure he’s aware of their attention, he keeps his eyes on me.

Derek has never impressed me, never left me tongue tied. I barely know him even though he has been to my house. My interactions with him were solely based on his brief friendship with Jude who brought him around a few times. On these occasions, Derek used to flirt with Simone, flashing a white toothed smile and laughing at every twisted thing Jude said. You couldn’t find two more opposite guys. Where Jude was tall with dark hair and a goatee, Derek was clean shaven and never had a strand of his brown hair out of place——my mother’s dream match for her daughter.

So why is Derek talking to me? I’ve heard all about his thoughts on what he would have done if he’d been at school that last day, how he would have put a stop to psycho Jude Valley. The day of Simone’s funeral, I overheard him running his mouth outside the church.

I would have tackled him…

I would have told that little punk ass coward off…

I would have beaten the living crap out of him…

Blah, blah, blah, Derek. I often wonder if Jude would have shot him if he’d been in the lunchroom in May. I suppose it would have depended on which table he was sitting at.

“Hey kid,” he says again. “How you doing?”

“Um...I'm okay,” I say. “Thanks for asking.”

“You coming to the game Friday?”

“I’m on the dance team. We have to dance during half time.”

“Great. I’ll look for you.”

He walks back to his friends, picking up the conversation there as if he’d never spoken with me at all.

I hate how he called me kid. I mean, c’mon. He is a senior. I’m a freshman. Three years difference does not really make him that much older than me. He can’t possibly have the kind of world experience allowing him to call me a kid.

Asshole.

After I get my latte, I follow the heard of kids drifting to school, reminding myself to do basic things. Nod. Say “hi.” It costs nothing to be polite. Everyone is so anxious around, but it’s not just me making them nervous.

It’s school. It’s going back to a place where you should be safe, and yet—well, people died there a few months ago. A two month summer break hasn’t eased us back into the groove of adolescence. What if it happens again? Jude didn’t seem like the type to go around shooting people. That’s what makes this whole thing so scary. The unpredictability of it. What if the loner kid has a gun? What if the athlete everyone admires loses it in math class and pulls a Jude Valley?

What if? What if? What if?

The mantra ticked through the air yesterday at school, the nervous tension of an emotional bomb. Will it be the same on Day 2? No one commented on the disappearance of the mascot from our school sign—at least not around me. Is that supposed to make us feel safe? Does not seeing the past make the future better?

School starts.

I ignore the sympathetic looks. I raise my hand and answer questions. I act like a normal person and try to please those around me by pretending nothing is wrong. Someone drops their books accidentally during English and the sound echoes in the room like a gunshot. Everyone jumps, but no one says anything. A few people glance at me.

Outside the library, I nod at Ms. Johnson, noting her gray wig is perched on her head like an old, worn hat. She smiles warmly as if we share some bond because of her heroics on the last day of school. She was the final person to see my sister alive and the teacher who stopped Jude’s rampage. I have heard her version of events over and over since the news reporters practically fell in love with the old spinster librarian who could spout all sorts of heartwarming quotes at the drop of a hat, and had no trouble giving the world her opinion on the terrible youth of today.

“No one was paying attention to that boy. That’s just bad parenting.”

Ms. Johnson and my mother should form a club.

At lunch I eat in the courtyard, not daring to go into the cafeteria. Many of the older kids do the same. The few who eat inside come out looking shell shocked. Maybe it’s just the food.

At last it’s time for Theatre. Last year in eighth grade, it seemed the highlight of going to high school would be taking a real theater class. I’m still stoked about it, but not as much as I should be. My whole life is about playing a part right now.

Stephen Valley is sitting in the back row again, isolated from the rest of us, his blond hair a beacon in the dim light. Dirty and scuffed black Doc Martens encasing his large feet are propped on the seat in front of him. This little display of careless swagger is an affront to other students who look at him with open hostility and derision.

“Good.” Caitlin Wessel whispers when she sees who I’m looking at. She pushes back her long, red hair and wrinkles her freckled nose. “That spaz should stay out of sight.”

I don’t say anything. Sometimes it’s easier just to keep your mouth shut, and it’s hard to argue with Caitlin. Though she is a year older, we’ve hung out off and on since middle school because she lives on my street and her mother is good friends with mine. Catlin has a gift for taking a simple sentence and turning it into the most damning statement. You don’t want her on your bad side.

Mr. March comes out on stage and smiles. Soft, girly giggles erupt from the front row. I don’t know if the new teacher realizes it or not, but he’s already considered a major cutie by the freshman girls. Next to me, Caitlin licks her lips like she’s about to eat a juicy steak and I can’t help but roll my eyes.

He’s cute, but c’mon. Mr. March teaches Theatre and English. He’s got to be in his thirties and he’s not wearing a wedding ring. My guess is that he is gay with a big, fat capital G.

“Today we are going to do some partner work,” he announces. “I’d like to see where we are at as performers.”

I can tell him where we are at. Nowhere. I wasn’t sure where Mr. March had worked before, (the rumor was some all-boys school in Colorado) but I hope he wasn’t expecting child stars in our midst. He’d be lucky to find someone who could say a line with actual feeling.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Mary Ann Loesch has been a Fine Arts teacher for eighteen years, working closely with children of all ages. She is the author of the Bayou Myth teen voodoo series, as well as, the urban fantasy, Nephilim. When not trapped in her theatre classroom beneath a mountain of scenery or tattered scripts, you can find Mary Ann hanging out with her family and two dogs while she searches for the next great story waiting to be told. Visit her at www.maryannloesch.com.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
Butterfly Suicide touches on the topic of high school shootings and how they affect the people left behind. We hear a lot about the grief of the victims' families, but how does the community treat the family members of the shooter? That's the question I wanted to explore in writing this novel.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I love young adult fiction because teens look at things in a different way than adults. They are more open, more willing to explore ideas, more apt to call you out when something doesn't ring true. YA readers always keep me on my toes and I learn so much from my readers!
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
I just finished 13 Reasons Why. Before that I tore through Dumplin' and The Rest of Us Just Live Here which made me laugh so hard. Next on my reading list is Fault in Our Stars. On the adult side of the book shelf I just reread The Shining and am planning to start Big Little Lies.

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