Authors: Alivia Anderson
Tags: #Coming of Age, #mormon, #LDS, #lds romance, #inspiration and romance, #lds teen
“He told me that a real man faces the
consequences of his actions. I bet he learned that from your
Why did he always insist on talking about my
father? I reached for my sunflower. I touched the front where the
diamond met the silver. A few years ago one of the edges had
started to lift. My mother had said we needed to take it to a
jeweler to have it fixed, but we’d never gotten around to it. I
pushed my thumb into the lifted side. I wanted to feel the hard,
sharpness of pain. Why did he always insist on talking about my
He shook his head. “I can call the police and
file formal charges against you if you’d rather go that route.”
I yanked the outfit out of his hand.
Principal Schmidt lifted one eyebrow. “When
you’ve changed your clothes, you can come back and get your
assignment from Shirley.”
I stalked out and turned for the girls’
It didn’t take long to change, but I drew the
process out for a good fifteen minutes. I knew Chance would be on
the football field by now for practice. It worried me. Something
didn’t feel right. Not that anything had been right before. But, it
somehow felt worse. A silent buzz. I didn’t want Chance to know the
When I stepped out of the locker room the
front hallway sat abandoned. I entered the office and Shirley gave
me a cursory glance then went back to her typing. She wanted me to
know I wasn’t important. She smacked her gum and let tiny pops into
the air. “Madeline Sue Haven. A fire? Please, could you have done
something more original to get noticed?”
It took me aback that she spoke out my
official name so tersely. I didn’t know how to respond.
She continued typing.
“Schmidt said you’d have my assignment.”
Her big hair shook as she shot to her feet
and pointed a long, pink-painted nail at me. “You address him as
Principal Schmidt, you got that? He’s earned that respect and
you—do you know how many calls he’s taken today about that little
dumpster stunt of yours?”
I tried to look remorseful, but I could tell
it didn’t surface. They wouldn’t understand. I wasn’t supposed to
She moved to the small divider that separated
the waiting part of the office from the secretary part. “You watch
yourself.” She leaned over and poked me in the shoulder. Hard. “You
I grabbed my shoulder. My temper flared. “I
didn’t think school officials were allowed to
Shirley’s anger smothered into a smile.
“You’re not in Kansas anymore, Sweet cheeks.”
That didn’t even make sense. Not really.
Shirley walked backwards, suspicion in her
eyes as though I would knife her in the back if given the chance.
She opened a small closet and procured a big, black trash bag. She
flung it at me over the divider. “Start at the football field and
make your way toward the back parking lot. When it’s full, the kind
of full that means you’ve stomped the crap out of it, then you can
Endless trash clung to the fence next to the
football field. Seriously, did every piece of land in this town
have manure spread over it? I held a piece of trash and tried to
fight my gag reflex. Every time I picked one up near the bottom the
manure smell would surface like a dead body in a shallow
grave—putrid, musty, disgusting.
I thought about part-time jobs and how much I
could earn. But that would mean time. Time didn’t mean fast.
I scanned the circumference of the field.
Bonnie and her crew practiced to the side of the football field,
their toe touches and hand springs enough to put me off balance. I
spotted something next to a gnarly, oak tree. The tree looked
completely out of place. I squinted and then recognized her.
I walked closer and picked up pieces of trash
along the fence. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at her. Who
was she? Why was she sitting here watching football? Did she like
it that much?
Her face looked calm and serene and the
relaxed way she watched the field made it look like a luxury,
instead of a chore. Weird.
I followed her intent gaze. The sleek lines
of his uniform and the powerful way he cocked back his arm and then
released the football into the air, took my breath away. For a
second I almost forgot that I hated him.
Fire Girl. Fury burned through me. What did
Stupid. Idiotic. Asinine.
Chance leapt into the air and the football
fell into his hands, a lightning rod at Zeus’s feet. He looked
beautiful and graceful and exactly where he should be. He landed in
the end zone and the coach blew the whistle. Chance let out a loud
‘in your face’ to the other players.
He couldn’t have read the letter. Could
He looked so
out there trash
My heart sped up and I turned to see
I lifted my eyebrows. “He’s my cousin.”
She let out a low ‘ahh.’ It sounded sarcastic
and knowing at the same time. “Right, I know Chance is your cousin,
you’re the crazy one, remember?”
I didn’t know why the tone of her voice put
me on edge.
Trina rolled her eyes. “You weren’t looking
at your cousin the way you looked at the
said it with sarcastic disgust.
Zac. She hated him, too? She might be okay
She strummed another chord. “I see things.
And, just so you know, she’s not all goo goo eyes for him, she’s
“What?” I glanced back at wheelchair
“Pathetic, right? They’re twins and Grace is
the one that gets messed over. It's not right."
“He’s such a . . .”
Twins? I looked back at Zac on the field and
then to Grace. “What’s wrong with her?”
Trina shrugged. "It's something people like
you wouldn't understand."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Trina let out a cackle. “Why didn’t you just
smoke that cigarette?”
She had that gift of knowing exactly what to
say at the worst moment to tick someone off. I knew it well. I had
the gift, too.
I ignored her and bent to pick up more
She leapt forward and closed the gap between
us. “You’re strange. And no one likes strange around here, do you
get that? You’re like the city wannabe in the small town.”
I usually tried to walk away from eccentric,
weird, crazy, but it’d been a couple of bad days. “Have you even
looked in the mirror? You’re like—goth. But the problem is, no one
else is. It’s like
a group here. Do
that?” I copied her superior tone and flipped my hair as I walked
away from her.
She rushed next to me, so close the fabric of
her dress flapped against me in the wind.
I tried to walk faster and transferred the
trash bag to the other hand.
She cupped my bicep, her fingers like
Trina jerked her hand back.
I knew there would be nail marks.
“Come with me.”
I paused, confused. I moved the opposite
direction and reached for tiny bits of a Styrofoam cup ripped into
pieces. “Please go away.”
Her black laced up boot stomped in front of
me. “Come on!”
“Seriously, get away from me!”
Trina spastically jumped in front of me.
“Yes, yes, yes! You should come!”
I flinched. “What-is-wrong-with-you?”
“I totally know where to take you.”
Without warning her face turned to a pout.
She acted as though I were some long lost friend. “I’m serious.
It’s totally cool. You’re going to dig it. And I know for a fact
that Principal Schmidt always just leaves his work people to finish
unsupervised. No one
he would do it, but that’s what
She smelled like lemon and limes and
something fruity. I tried to place the smell—skittles. “I happen to
know he’s still here.”
She grabbed my hand. “C’mon. Follow me and
we’ll sneak you into the locker room to get your clothes.”
I pulled my hand back. “Okay, first of all,
you’re . . . weird. Maybe crazy, too. And second, I’m
going with you.”
Trina clamped the talons back into my wrist.
“Come with me and I’ll tell you what I said to Antone.”
I twisted away from her. “I hate to burst
your bubble, but I don’t care
much. I won’t be here
She let out another long breath. “What do you
mean by that?”
I noticed Grandma’s brown station wagon
pulling into the school parking lot. My heart sped up. I thought of
going back to the farm with her. Going back and starting my farm
training with Grandpa.
“Who is that?”
We both watched Grandma get out of her car
and head toward the front doors, purse tucked tightly under her
arm. Her hair looked freshly reddened and styled into a perfect,
frozen ball around her head. She looked focused, purposeful. The
way she had always been.
“I’ll tell the old lady you were trying to
light a fire out here.”
My eyes met hers, the cat-like glow of them
making her whole face take on a victorious, evil glee.
The side of her lip ring rose. “I will. I
I bent down. “Go ahead.”
She repositioned herself next to me. “Don’t
believe me.” She sang it out. “But your life’s gonna be even
“Ahh, Ms. Boyce. Doesn’t surprise me the two
of you have taken up together.” Officer Justice strode across the
fence-line toward us. He looked as though he would protect the
small town of Sugar Valley from the world’s greatest super villain
if it were the last thing he’d do. He raised a bushier than average
eyebrow. “An arsonist and—” He looked back at Trina and his lips
curved distastefully. “What do they call you? Goof? Goop?”
“Goth.” Trina cocked her head to the side and
saddled him with a dangerous smile. “Oh, Officer Justice, right,
like you’re some kind of bizarre-oh-world super hero?”
Officer Justice stuck his chest out and
scowled. “Watch yourself, Ms. Boyce, insulting an officer of the
law is a crime in this town, even if your dad thinks he’s a hot
shot attorney up north.”
His eyes clouded. He turned to me. “Please
get back to your duty, Ms. Haven. You’ve strayed from your assigned
I turned toward the school.
Principle Schmidt puffed down the steps.
Grandma dashed for the station wagon.
Grandma—running—in her newly done town
I took off toward her.
“Now, wait just a minute, young lady!”
Officer Justice called out.
Grandma peeled out of the parking lot.
Principle Schmidt turned red cheeks to me.
“Maddie, quick, your Grandpa’s had a heart attack!”
I rushed through the hospital doors.
Officer Justice clutched my bicep. “Getting
there any faster won’t make things different.” But he walked fast
The hospital smelled—hospitally. I covered my
nose. Ugly beige furniture. Everything grossly sterile and old
1960s kind of hospital looking.
I couldn’t explain the fear that gripped the
outer reaches of my heart. Just because I wanted to leave Sugar
Valley, just because I wanted to leave my grandparents, just
because I hated my life, didn’t mean I ever, ever, ever wanted
Grandpa or Grandma or Uncle Bill or Chance to die.
Officer Justice stopped next to the nurses’
“Let me go!”
He examined my eyes. “You may think people in
this town don’t know how dangerous you are, but I do.”
“Let go!” I struggled away from him. My mind
flashed back to that night, the blue curtains, Carrie’s hands
pushing me into the car.
“Can I help you?” A nurse stepped to the
“Where’s my grandpa?” I stepped away from
She paused and looked between us.
This hospital wasn’t big. She had to know who
I was talking about. “Where?”
She pointed to the end of the hall. “The last
room on your right.”
I took off at a sprint.
I turned back. He wore his football gear and
jogged toward me. “Is he okay?”
“I don’t know. This way.”
I moved into the room. Uncle Bill stood from
a couch next to the bed. “Hey.”
Grandma stood next to the bed, her hand
pressed over Grandpa’s chest, her head bowed.
A swell of emotion swept through my chest. I
choked as tears filled my eyes. He could NOT be dying.
Chance went to Grandma. “Is he okay?”
Grandma covered her face and released a
I went to her other side.
Grandpa opened his eyes. “I ain’t dead
Chance jumped. “Grandpa!”
My chest eased.
Grandma laughed and mopped her face.
Grandpa looked at Grandma. “You aren’t lucky
enough to get rid of me yet.”
Grandma gently kissed his cheek.
He closed his eyes.
“What happened?” I blurted it out.
Grandma turned and took my hand. “I don’t
know a lot of details.”
Uncle Bill stepped forward. “They’re still
not sure. He’s had a mild heart attack. We’re waiting to hear what
Chance laid accusing eyes on me. “Stress can
All my emotion turned to lead weights. He’d
read the letter.
“I’m fine.” Grandpa’s voice came out soft.
“The good Lord has his own time table. He still wants me around for
Chance gave me the same look he’d given Jimmy
Henry the summer before sixth grade, when Jimmy had tripped me
while we were at the canal swimming. The look that told me he
wanted to put me to the ground. “Maybe somebody shouldn’t be
burning stuff down.”