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First pages

Chapter 1:

"You can't leave now, Gabby."

It was the year 2107, March 26. Kayla, who was my assistant ski coach, was throwing me a goodbye ski party. And I wanted to leave.

Trying to ignore the puppy- dog gaze Kayla kept giving me,I grabbed my small plastic glass of sprite and drank half of it in one gulp. "Sorry, Kayla." I slowly stood up. "I've got to get going."Hoping it'd disturb Kayla, I gulped down the rest and let out a huge burp. But Kayla didn't stop staring at me.

I looked away from Kayla, and my glance fell on all the party goers who were gathering around the cake table. I scowled. I'd spent the last 30 minutes trying to rush them through the cake eating process so I could say goodbye and leave.... but nobody was listening.

"My mother only let me attend this ski party because she believed it was the standard end of year celebration." I slowly turned my glance towards Kayla. "Do you know what she'd do if she found out I wasn't at the lodge?" Never mind the power outage and my lost phone... Mom would freak.

"You didn't tell her it was a goodbye thing?"

"No."Why would I? Given Hannah- my ski coach- had decided to let me go only a week ago, I didn't want to stun my mom with that information. If she knew- well, I didn't know what she does, but I was pretty sure it wouldn't be good.

Kayla had told me that a few previous skiing residents had lost their skiing privileges prematurely after their parents had gotten involved.

And I knew.... I was not willing to suffer the same fate. Especially since tomorrow would be the final day of our yearly ski games. I'd grown to love these, when skiers from all over the United states would come and compete- in the one place in Minnesota that still had a ski hill- Minnesota falls.

“It’s that trophy, isn’t it?”Kayla said.

“What? Why would I care about a trophy? Everybody who plays in the yearly ski games gets them.”

“Yeah, but...”

“I know.” It was true that all those who played in the ski games received a trophy- a participation trophy. But those who did exceptionally well always got something better.... an additional trophy.

“Why are you so obsessed with that thing?”

“I’m not!” I said. “It’s just— well, this is my last chance. To get it.”Turning back to the table, I realized somebody had swiped my cake, the cake Kyala had sliced almost 30 minutes ago. I looked at Kayla, but she shrugged. Then I looked toward the door..... and saw somebody who I hadn't seen in the table- stuffing her face with bits from a slice of half eaten cake and I chased after her.Everybody was so still she seemed to have no trouble reaching the door..... but when I tried to follow, I kept tripping and falling.

“Sorry, Gabby,”the blond girl said when I finally approached her at the front door. “I’ve got to go home. Check on my brother. ”

“Right.” I looked around the room and then reached into the closet, getting my coat and searching left and right for my shoes- but seeing only my skis, I grabbed them instead. Then I headed outside to Kayal’s front porch. As I was tightening my straps, the blond girl asked me if I’d like a walk home.

“No thanks,” I said, standing up. “I’m good.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” I couldn’t help but wonder what my mother would think if she saw me coming home with a stranger. “Thanks.”

“All right. Your loss.” The girl ate a bit more of the ice cream center before placing the plate on top of a clump of snow. “My Names Sage by the way. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you. Mine’s Gabby.”I wrapped a scarf around my mouth and neck, put on my gloves, grabbed my ski pole, and made my way down Kayla’s driveway, turning left to get on my street. Just pass one Intersection, I thought as I walked. Then I’ll be home. And I could talk to Mom.

But I never got home that night. Instead, I met two sets of barriers blocking two downed power lines. The first set blocked a straight path home- forcing me to go left, but as I thought I could simply go around, I didn't think about it too much. And when I reached the second barrier, I believed going right would get me back home. But it didn't. Instead, when I turned right at the second barrier, my ski's gave way, forcing me full speed down the dangerously sloped street.

At first, I was only mildly frightened. I quickly grabbed my ski poles, trying my hardest to slow myself down, but it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I kept speeding up.

Then, just as I was about to crash into a giant- under construction building-my ski’s suddenly stopped, and I fell forwards. I tried to scream, but I quickly realized I'd muffled my mouth- and I landed face down in the snow. Then, as I spotted the smells of a pungent gas, I realized the road hadn't led me home.

Instead, it had led me to disaster.

 

And that's that's the beginning of my story. The day when this mystery all began. The next morning, I woke up in the hospital, plagued by unbearable pain in my right arm. At first believed it was simply stiff,

but when I tried to move it, I couldn't do anything. However, I knew it wasn't paralyzed. I also could tell that somebody had body had removed my ski's..... my very special skis. When Kayla had given them to me the previous Christmas,she told me the skis been developed late within the previous

last century. I asked her who'd developed them and she told me she didn't know the name. All that mattered was that I liked them.

 

And I had liked that. Which made me even more upset that they were gone, that I didn't have them on.

I tried to open my eyes, but the harsh florescent lights above me caused them to close again. Quickly rubbing them with my left arm,I turned left and right,and found myself finally able to open my eyes.

 

Then I looked left and right again. To the left, there was a vital signs machine beeping quietly every two seconds- making me wonder if I was in the Intensive Care Unit.

To the right was a small seating area, with colors almost as drab as slushy snow. It made the door behind it, a metallic gray, appear as vibrant as a rainbow. It was almost like hospital personnel, in their efforts to make the hospital extremely sterile, eliminated all sources of flare.

The lack of beauty didn’t seem to bother my mother though. She was sitting on the drab couch with somebody I was sure I’d never seen in my life- and they were engaged in some sort of conversation- a conversation I probably wouldn’t have bothered to listen to if there’d been something more fun to do.

But all the hospital had in the way of entertainment was a television and a couple of outdated magazines. As I hated reading,and I had no idea where the TV remote us, I was forced to listen to Dr. Angie and Mom talk, unless I wanted to interrupt them. And they were engaged so deeply.....

“I am so sorry about your daughter’s accident,” the stranger said. “The fact you weren’t there to witness it makes it even more complicated.”

I looked more closely at the man. He wore a sterile white lab coat that reminded me of the ones we sometimes used in science class- usually with dissecting frogs. Then I noticed Mom looking at me, with sad eyes, but just as quickly as she'd learned, she turned her gaze away- looking again at the stranger "You can fix it, right?"

“Of course I can fix it!” The stranger shouted. “I am a doctor after all!”He paused as if he was trying to rein himself in. “But I can only figure out what happened" ... He looked towards me.... “not why or how it happened.”He stood up and I saw his head. Bald. Pretty much bald. Only two puffs of white hair reminded- wrapped around like his ears like groups of cotton balls. "Gabby Myers, it’s wonderful to meet you.”

I’d jumped back- frightened. Partly because the man had taken such an interest in me, and partly because of his face.... I’d thought he was a senior- given his white hair-but his face lacked elderly wrinkles. I nearly gasped for breath, he’d stunned me.

Mom stood up and walked over to me. “Gabby, it’s okay,”she said, though she didn’t look very confident about it. Her face kept changing too-one second she’d be smiling faintly, and the other second she’d be frowning. I really couldn’t catch my breath- they kept scaring me.

“Should I...” Dr. Angie.

“No, give her some time. Let her calm down.”The man and my Mom sat back down on the couch. “So.... err.... about... her.... how long will it take?”Dr. Angie.

Mom shrugged. I was still having difficulty calming down, and it seemed that the more I hyperventilated, the more my right arm ached. I wished it would stop hurting- so I could get back to skiing-and then I noticed the time. 12:00: PM

Today was the last day of skiing games. And I screamed.

***************

I kept panting and heaving, my arm kept hurting, and Mom and the stranger kept trying their hardest to calm me down- but they couldn't. "My skiing games,"I stammered between bouts of uncontrollable hyperventilating. "They're today..."

A stinging sensation shot it's way up my right arm, making me wince. I tried to ignore the pain- all I cared about was skiing. "I don't want to miss them, Mom.”

The man and Mom stared at both. stared at me. “Should I...” said the man.

“No. You go ahead, Dr. Angie”

 

Dr. Angie came close to me, placing a cold stethoscope on my chest. Shivering slightly, I wished he'd get this all done quickly- the sooner he got everything done, the less skiing I’d have to miss. “Everything looks good, Mrs. Myers. Gabby will be able to go home later today.”

Later today? Why not now?“We need to give her some X-rays.”

X- rays. What’s going on?I gasped... and screamed. “Gabby!” Mom rushed to my side. “It’s okay- Everything’s alright. You're not dying."

I gasped. It sure felt like it was.... “Skiing...”

“Yeah, I know.... Dr. Angie will explain.... what's going on? Please, just try- try to settle down...”

“I can’t, Mom.”I got to ski. I got to get out of here.

Mom looked at Dr. Angie. He sighed. “Look.... Gabby...”

Before Dr. Angie had a chance to talk to me, however.... the door opened. A woman stepped in, whistling to herself. She wore a lab coat similar to the man, except her’s was pink. Whenever she made a large step, her coat, along with her blond hair, swayed gently. It reminded me of my mother’s hair-swaying gently whenever she had it hanging down. Right now Mom’s hair was up- in a bun.

“Amy.” Sighing deeply, Dr. Angie rolled his eyes. “How many times do I Have to tell you- this is a hospital, not an amusement park?"

“Sorry, Dr. Angie!” Amy giggled.

"It's not funny. Not a bit."Dr. Angie grabbed Amy's shoulder. She stopped in place-maybe he was glaring at her?"I've had too many patients under my care whom nearly died because of your mishaps,"Dr. Angie said with a hoarse voice.

Amy quickly stopped laughing. Dr. Angie released his grip. For a few moments, he was quiet; when he spoke again, I realized his voice sounded calmer-a lot calmer. "I'm giving you one last chance, Amy. To improve yourself. " His voice waned for a second "But if.... Gabby dies.... you..."

Amy didn't respond. Dr. Angie approached her shoulders, she backed away, gulped, and nodded. Then, she handed Dr. Angie the f older she’d been holding under her arm. He took it, shook his head, and sighed deeply. Then Amy left the room.

Holding the folder under his arm, Dr.Angie turned back to me. "Sorry, Gabby.”He said. “Amy’s always been a pretty good nurse- but lately...”He trembled slightly as he spoke. "I don't know what's going on with her right now, she’s seeming a little absent minded.... but she’s been slacking off a bit...”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. Thankfully, I didn’t have to ask, as Mom interrupted me. “Dr. Angie.”

“Oh, yes, Catherine.” Dr. Angie said. “Have you changed your mind? Do you want to tell her now?”

“No.”Grabbing a magazine, Mom sat back down. “You go ahead.”

“Alright.” Dr. Angie turned back to me. He seemed to be pondering his words.... very carefully, he kept muttering. He turned back to Mom. “Don’t you have work today?”

“I’ve got clients.”

“Don’t’ they have trouble with patience?”

“Their patience is growing,” Mom said. “Still, don’t take too long...”

“Right.”Dr. Angie turned to me. “Sorry, Gabby, when you visit the doctor's office, it's typical for us to check your medical history..... not only does it help us determine how best to treat you- it helps in future care...”

Mm.... hmm. Hurry up. I’ve got plans for today.“The thing is.... as you’re a dependent.”.... Child, I corrected mentally-I’m only 10....“This information is shared with your parents in addition to you.”Right. “And...”

Mom, who’d been skimming through her magazine, suddenly put it down. Seemed she was also upset with Dr. Angie for taking what seemed like forever- to me, anyway. “You were rescued, Gabby.”

No, she wasn't upset with Dr. Angie. I was the one who was fluorescent, the one who kept wondering what was going on,kept wishing that Dr. Angie would give me answers more quickly, let me know what had happened-

“You were rescued Gabby.... “ Mom repeated. “Late last night.”

“By whom?”

“Stephen. Stephen Williams.”Standing up, Mom put the outdated magazine back on the hospital table. “He came last night..... to save you.”

Save me? Why? Had what happened really been bad enough for me to need rescuing from?“I don’t...”

“Gabby, you were unconscious, at the construction site," Mom said. "Stephen found you- brought you here.”She smiled faintly again. “It’s good he did- otherwise..”

I wondered how she knew where I'd been-then I realized Stephen must have told her. Clearly, he’d taken me to the hospital-but why..... why hadn’t he simply taken me home?

“Was I at death’s door?”

"You were unconscious, Gabby,” Mom said. “But that’s not the point...”

"Let me guess,"I said. "Somebody poisoned me with smelly stuff."

“It was a construction site, Gabby,” Mom said. “Might have just been some chemical accidentally left out. Or a large beam that accidentally fell on you.”

“The point is,” Dr. Angie interrupted, “We know what happened to you, Gabby, just not how it happened. It doesn’t really affect much-even if we knew everything, we’d still have to monitor your progress,because different people heal at different rates-it just means your recovery’s more up in the air....”

Okay, so what happened?

“You’ve broken your wrist, Gabby,” Dr. Angie said “Badly. And mildly broken bones usually take at least a month to heal.”

*****************

I looked down at my arm. It was encased in something white- plaster- and strapped to my neck with something also white- a sling. No, I thought, gasping again for breath. This can’t be happening- I.... Hoping I was dreaming, I blinked, tried pinching myself, and even tried closing my eyes very tightly-as if I’d wake up from this terrible nightmare in Mom’s car.

“Gabby...”

I could feel my eyes watering up, filling with tears..... tears that I couldn’t control. “Gabby, it’s going to be okay...”

“How can you say that?” I said. “Skiing...” I couldn’t get the words out, my tears were keeping my vocal cords from functioning properly. All I knew is I didn't know what I was going to do without skiing-after all, it was the one thing I'd always lived for."

“You’ve got to calm down, Gabby,” Dr. Angie said. “We’ve got a lot of patients here in the hospital-they can’t hear you’re crying...”

“Shut up.” I snapped at him. Who dare he tell me what to do?He was a stranger- a stranger. “Who are you? An idiot?"

“He’s your..." Mom suddenly went quiet. Dr. Angie picked up the manila folder that Amy had brought in earlier and opened it. Then he closed it. "Of course, Catherine," he said. "This is Gabby's first time her since her baby days."He handed Mom the medical records, but she didn’t even bother looking at them-she just put them down. “Heck.” .... Dr. Angie shook his head. “I don’t even think Gabby remembers her first shot.”

“I remember my first photo shoot.” I hissed.

Dr. Angie backed away. “Alright- Vaccination. That’s what I meant.”

“What’s a vaccination?Is that like a vacation?”

Dr. Angie grabbed his head with his hand and leaned forward. As he learned, I saw his bald head glisten in the bright fluorescent lights. Mom saved him from speaking. "No, Gabby, you've been on several vacations as a baby- but you were never vaccinated. What."She looked at Dr. Angie, whose fingers had turned red. "What?. It’s not my fault. It’s the frigging internet’s fault,those... Yeah, I know their myths- but my husband-he'll believe anything he sees on the internet..... I wish people would start caring more about the accuracy of things alone, things would get better.”

"There are some things scientists can't prove, Catherine,” Dr. Angie said, “But I feel your pain.”

“You do?”

Dr. Angie nodded. “I once got stuck with this classmate in medical school We were supposed to work on a persuasive paper on the value of yearly appointment, but he was so against them, he soaked up the "vaccine's cause autism, tried to use the info as a source. We both ended up getting F's.

“Terrible!” Poor boy.”

"probiotics..." Dr. Angie shivered. "I mean, I was the lucky one, the hard worker, the one who’d spend hours and hours studying-so.... well, I had to appeal.... but I managed to stay in school. My parents.... well,they were relieved.”

“The boy?”

“Oh, yes. He got kicked out."Dr. Angie scratched his bald head. “Well, put on probation and then kicked out.... but I'm surprised.... he even got in. Medical school is very rigorous..."

“Rich parents? You think?”

“Yeah... probably,” Dr. Angie said. “But... well.... I never saw him again. Though I’ve heard on the news-he got sick with A.I.D’s and then Ebola.”

“Poor boy.”

“Yeah.... I kinda feel bad for him- but again.... he kinda got what he deserved too.”Dr. Angie shrugged. “I take you wouldn’t want that to happen to your daughter, though?”

“Of course not.”Mom said.

“Then it’s settled. Next week, when you bring Gabby in for X-rays, she'll also get her first set of vaccinations. I will need to give her a blood test today to determine what virus she's already been exposed too.... but that is a really simple procedure." Mom grabbed her purse. "I take it you must leave now?"

Mom nodded. “Are you...”

“Husband.”

“Right.... that’s what I thought...”

I caught a glimpse of Mom sniffling-and then, without another word, she turned around and walked out of the room.

Chapter 2

I knew I’d see Mom later but that didn’t keep me from missing her. Especially here- in this hospital, with this stranger. Sure, I knew he was my doctor now.... but that didn’t make me feel any more comfortable. “Dr. Angie...” I even stammered his name. “Is it true.... true that I was rescued?”

“Yes, it’s true,” Dr. Angie said. “It’s also true that you have a broken wrist but I think.... I think you can deal with it.”

I wasn’t so sure. “You know, Gabby, you’re very lucky,” Dr. Angie said, “Things could have been much worse. I, for one, am glad they aren’t.”Dr. Angie looked behind him at the metallic gray hospital doors. “You’ll be able to go home soon.”

I didn’t see the joy in going home, not with a cast on anyway. Sure, the hospital was sterile and all, but at least it matched the way I felt. I’d feel more out of place at home.

Dr. Angie sat next to me. "They are so many people who'd love to go home, but their hospital treatment prohibits it." I looked away from him, finally looking out the small hospital window, at a dusting of snow. It was almost like I'd been thrown into prison, with no hope of escape- with the best case scenario being transferred to a lower security prison. "Besides, I have a patient coming in who needs your bed for tonight.

I sighed and deciding I really didn't have much choice, I turned back with Dr. Angie and told him I was ready to go home. But I didn't feel ready..... not even after Dr. Angie got me a wheelchair- and wheeled me through the hallways- letting me see nurses jump out of the way as he wheeled through-sometimes dragging an elderly patient. One of them screamed, “I’m too old for this.”I didn’t laugh.

Dr. Angie suddenly came to a stop. Confused, I looked up, noticing a photo- a photo of a skier standing on top of a mountain- the words DETERMINATION in bright gold letters. I felt like bawling-but not prepared to disturb the other patients, I simply held my feelings in.

Dr. Angie wheeled me into a big X-ray room. There was a chair in the middle, with a b big robotic arm above it. Dr. Angie transferred me to the chair and after placing a piece of dark film, removed my sling-making my cast feel 100 pounds heavier. He covered my checked with a thick vest,and then headed behind a shield, snapping a couple pictures.

A few minutes later, he was finished. “Looks good, Gabby.” He returned, put my sling back on, and helped me back into the wheelchair. As he wheeled me again through the hospital halls, I thought he was taking me back to the bedroom.

But he didn’t. Instead, he wheeled me into another room. The room contained a single table, topped with a thin flimsy white sheet-standing in the middle of the room. To one side of it, cabinets and counters stood against the wall,and to the other side contained chairs..... and behind the table- was a standard size window showing the light dusting of snow.

Dr. Angie helped me onto the table and then rummaging through the cabinets, pulled out a cast care Pamphlet, a deflated get well balloon and a small bag with the hospital's logo on- which was simply the name of our city- Minisotta Falls-plus the word Hospital.

He threw the Cast Care pamphlet and deflated get well balloon into the bag and hung it on the wheelchair. Then he dug into the cabinets again, this time pulling out a needle and several vials, some disinfectant, and a bit of cotton gauze. After disinfecting the crease under my left elbow, Dr. Angie poked a hole in it with the needle. The resulting pain reminded me of a mesquite bite. They were part of the reason I preferred winter over summer.

Dr. Angie quickly filled up the vials with blood from my elbow, and then pulled the needle out. He quickly bandaged the wound with a piece of cotton and a bandage taped over it. "That's it?" I stared at the pinprick cut.....

“Bones heal on their own, Gabby.”Dr. Angie transferred me to the wheelchair.

“Like a shield?”

“No.” Dr. Angie wheeled me out of the room. “More like a bandage.”

As Dr. Angie wheeled through the hallways and into the elevator, I couldn't help but let my eyes glance to the cut on my arm. I almost didn't realize that Dr. Angie had brought me downstairs to the lobby..... until I saw Dad-stomping through the hospital's automatic front doors. "Oh..... you must be Mr. Myers...”

Dad tried to wrench the wheelchair out of his hands, but Dr. Angie clenched onto them tightly, suggesting calmly that Dad goes get the car and return. Scowling, Dad turned around, stomping out of the hospital-if the hospital doors hadn’t been automatic, he’d probably have slammed them too. “What’s his problem?” I asked.

Dr. Angie shrugged. "He keeps saying this is not an accident.... but I don't know what else it could be..."

“Murder?”

“Nah, too drastic...” Dr. Angie shook his head. “Least for a broken bone.”

For a few moments, we sat in silence..... until Dad returned with the car, still looking angry. I couldn't believe it-how could he be so mad?Especially when it was more typical of my Mother to get angry with me.... not him.

Covering my arm with a blanket, Dr. Angie wheeled me outside. Even though I’d seen a light dusting of snow earlier that day, the snow had stopped falling,and only a few clumps told me it was still winter. March 27th, 2107 now.

How much more snow would we get before summer came-I didn’t know. March was always iffy in Minsiotta- especially given we lived near water-but higher north....

After transferring me to the back seat of Dad’s care, Dr. Angie buckled me in and covered my arm with the blanket. Then he closed the door- and knocked on Dad’s window. Dad rolled it down.

“You’ll take good care of her, right, Johnny?”

Dad scoffed. Dr. Angie handed him the bag..... and Dad almost slammed the window on Dr. Angie’s face. As soon as he’d closed the window, though, I heard the car engine revving and Dad sped out of the hospital-barreling onto the highway ramp.

“Ouch! Dad!”The sharp turn Dad had done had created an unbearable force that shook my whole body, including my casted arm. It felt like my skin was banging against the outside of the cast-I wished Dad would slow down..... But he didn’t....

Instead, he sped up-almost like a punishment for me talking....... and the pain in my arm quickly raised in severity.... Frightened and scared,I gasped for breath.

“Shut up, Gabby,” Dad shrieked, “I’m trying to drive here. Can’t have you screaming and distracting me...”

I nearly felt like crying again, especially given the discomfort in my arm. But I didn’t. Instead, I turned towards the window and tried to ignore the pain. But the pain only got worse-and more intense-that when dad turned onto the scenic road leading to our neighborhood, I shut my eyes tight and didn’t open them.....

“Johnathan Edward Myers!”

“I wasn’t speeding!”Dad pulled the car into the garage and parked it.

“Oh, yeah?" Mom crossed her arms. "Officer Nicholas just called. Said he saw a reckless lawyer on the loose.”

"I am not a reckless lawyer, Catherine Myers.” Dad climbed out of the car. “And don’t berate me for driving fast- we both know you're not so perfect either."

“I never said I was perfect, Johnathan,” Mom said.

"Of course not,"Dad said. "You've got clients dealing with overprotective parents and then you come home and try to restrict Gabby's activities..... you’re just a hypocritical therapist."

“Don’t slam the door, Johnathan.”

Dad slammed it. "Johnathan,” Mom said. “My client is 30 years old and her parents are being extremely strict- Gabby is only 10 and I am only trying to do what’s best for her...”

Grabbing an ice scraper, Dad started scraping the windshield-I could hear the friction the scraper created against the window-enough force to crack the ice. Shaking her head, Mom helped me out of the car and brought me inside to the house.

“I’m really sorry, Gabby,”she said softly. “I’m really sorry you’re going through so much pain-I wish I could take it all away from you- but I can’t. You know that? Right?”

I nodded. Mom gave me a gentle hug- a hug that made me feel numb. “Come on,”she said. “Let’s go upstairs.”I followed her upstairs, without a single word.

Chapter 3

Upstairs, Mom helped me in bed. As she pulled the covers up to my neck, tucking them underneath my cast, I sunk my head into the pillow. It felt strange lying in bed like this. Still, unmoving.... on my back. “Do you want a milkshake?”

“Yes, I’d love one.”I looked down at my arm- my left arm- where Dr. Angie had put the band-aid on.

“I could take that off now if you want.”

"Sure," I mumbled.

“Do you want me to cover it again with a fresh one?”

I shrugged. I really didn't care what Mom did. Taking off the band-aid and replacing it-it didn't really matter-it wouldn't do what I really wanted. Get Skiing back. Nothing would.

Mom pulled off the band-aid and got me a fresh one..... from my bedside drawer. "There,"she said. "Is that better?"

I shrugged. “Oh, come on, Gabby,"Mom said. "You've got to make choices."

Yeah? How come I couldn’t choose not to go through this pain?That’s just it- choices are nothing but illusions. Brand name vs generic?You think it’s all you, but it’s simply the brand name packaging that draws you in.... "Buy me some Tostitos, Mom.”

"Tostitos? Yes...I...”

Dad barged into the room and I realized he'd heard us. “Junk food?”he said. “You guys talking about junk food?”

I quickly tried to deny it..... Dad had always had a strange attitude towards junk food.... not that it was completely prohibited, though ...

"You know junk food's reserved for special occasions, don’t you?”

The phrase Special occasion was a bit of an understatement. Junk food at our house was rarely provided-and when it was, Dad would usually make healthier versions-frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, fruit juice popsicles instead of ice cream bars.

It was one of the reasons why I'd loved Kayla's hot chocolate so much.... sweet, chocolaty, made it feel like it was Christmas all over again.... the one day when Dad would buy me a big chocolate cake covered with green icing, the words Happy B-Day and Merry Christmas written in red.

Yeah, my B-Days on December 25. Christmas Day. You may think it’s the best day in the world, but honestly, it's the one reason I don't have two special days a year- like everybody else I knew- even Kayla Phipps had that privilege. "Being born on Christmas is very rare,” Mom would say when I complained. “You’re very lucky.”

Lucky? Lucky to be born on Christmas. I didn't think so. Especially given this.... this broken wrist-this sitting in my bedroom- this inability. Double whammy. “I know it’s not Christmas, Johnathan,” Mom said. “But our daughter, Gabby,has been suffering through some pain lately, and I think it’s best that we help her deal with it.”

Dad scoffed. “You’d like me to do the same to you, wouldn’t you?”

After a curt remark of how bad it was to placate people with food, Dad left the room,and Mom quickly told me she’d have Stephen get the milkshake and chips. Then she left the room, advising me to get some rest. But I couldn’t sleep.

Instead, I lay there, almost completely still, turning my head only occasionally to look out the window. The late afternoon sky slowl

y gave its way to darkness and I looked at the alarm clock on my bed. 5:00 PM. I sighed. Why couldn’t it be July already?I turned back to the window and saw the ice outside had adopted a strange glow- taunting me by becoming darkness proof.

Once I get better, I thought. I’ll shut you up. Somehow.

Hearing the door opened, I turned my head. It was Mom.... she’d entered my room, bringing along a boy I'd never seen before. "Gabby, meet Stephen. Stephen Williams.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Tampa Tyson was born in USA’s North Neighboring country, Canada, and immigrated when she was just a toddler. Born a few years before the turn of the 21st Century, she has a first account of the advances in technology and remembers using late 20th century toys. Her current favorite game is Candy Crush, which she considers as an alternate form of chess, one more suited to her playing style.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
Mysteries have always been my favorite sort of books to read, and if I had a choice between a mystery movie, a suspense movie, or a documentary, I’d pick the mystery. If a movie has elements of mystery in it too, I can easily grow to love it.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The inspiration for this book came from a word that is used both in the medical field and the detective and crime field. Victim. Then came the hardest part, the “gimmick” Eventually, I was able to settle on the concept of “victim/detective” which creates the limitation of an “attempted murder

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