Authors: A.L. Davroe
For Your Heart
Hill Dweller Retellings Novel
By: A.L. Davroe
Author: A.L. Davroe
Cover Art: Jessica Allain
Cover Topography: Stella Price
Editing: Tina Winograd
The views and opinions expressed by characters in this novel do not reflect my official stance/position nor are they to be taken as social, political, or religious propaganda.
The alterations made to religious mythology in this series are not meant to be taken as literal gospel or slander. I have a deep respect and interest in all faiths, spiritual paths, and lack there-of. I draw on many of them in my various works of fiction – and that’s what readers should please keep in mind: that this is fiction. It’s meant to be artistic entertainment, nothing more.
In this novel, I sought to push myself as an author by portraying a character that was an unlikely combination of faith and fantasy. I hope that readers find Jeanette and her challenges to be unique and true to life – we are not, after all, completely black and white nor can we ignore certain issues that teens face, no matter how much we want to. You may not agree with how Jeanette utilizes her faith to handle her issues (and I don’t expect you to), but I hope you can agree that there is a girl out there somewhere who will read Jeanette and think to herself, “That’s me.” And perhaps Jeanette will help her in some way.
To Jane Yolen, who wrote the book that Tiger Lily held.
To Tricky Pixie, whose musical gift stirred the memory of Tam Lin and inspired me to “bring the sexy back” into this story.
Thank you for your gift of words, of song, and of inspiration.
I crouch next to Timmy and grab the end of his shirt. As we both stare into the dark vastness of Carver Hall Park, I can almost feel the trees reaching out toward us. Pressing my face into his shoulder, I whimper, “I don’t want to go in there.”
He glances down at me. There’s both a challenge and concern in his pale blue eyes. “Don’t be a chicken,” he whispers. His breath leaves a trail of steam in the cold night air.
Ashamed of my own fear, I straighten and puff out my chest. “I’m not a chicken.” Even so, I turn my eyes back to the ghostly looming woods, searching for some shred of reassurance among the barren branches. It’s too dark. “I’m just not stupid…What if we get lost?”
He reaches back and takes my hand. I feel the warmth of his skin through both his gloves and my own mittens. “Then we’ll be lost together.”
As I squeeze his fingers I grasp his upper arm with my free hand. It’s as if holding on to him lends me some of his courage and steadfastness. “Okay,” I breathe. “Just don’t let go, okay?”
Timmy smiles, cool and confident. “Never.”
We stand and he leads me into the forest.
If I close my eyes, I see his face. I recall him so clearly, sometimes I expect he'll be standing in front of me when I open them again. But it’s been seven years, and I realized long ago that I'll never see Timmy's real face again. In a sadistic way, I count myself lucky that his face haunts the inside of my eyelids– it's the only way I can ever see him.
Celeste leans over my desk in the back of Mr. Bunter’s classroom and pokes me with her pencil eraser. “Dreaming, again?”
I open my eyes and reality crashes around me. Still in my fish bowl, still in my Calculus II class at Mary Magda Academy, still surrounded by my classmates in green plaid and sweaters, with my friend staring at me. What was she saying?
Celeste’s big brown eyes are expectant, her high-gloss mouth pouts with impatience. When I don’t respond, French manicured fingernails wave in front of my face. “Hel-lo! Earth to Jeanette! Did you hear anything I said?”
I push my glasses up the bridge of my nose and stare at Best Friend #3, who is currently on probation. “Nope,” I say, trying to sound matter-of-fact – like I did it on purpose. That’s the kind of relationship Celeste and I now share. “I’m sorry, what?”
,” Celeste growls, “what are you doing tonight?”
Leaning back in my chair, I stare at the floor. “I
study for Spanish…but I’m probably gonna catch up on my Crunchyroll queue.”
She arches a dark eyebrow. “Crunchyroll?”
Already knowing the reaction I’ll get, I smirk. “Anime.”
Her nose wrinkles. “Oh.” Yup, exactly the look and tone I knew she’d give me.
Poor thing is both clueless and uncultured. Celeste has never seen an episode of Doctor Who, never read fan-fic, couldn’t pick George Takei out of a line-up, doesn’t know
, and wouldn’t understand Steampunk if Jules Verne flew over in an airship and dropped a clock-work girl on her. Despite my best efforts for most of last year, she still insists on remaining part of the ignorant majority.
I flash a teasing smirk. “Don’t be jealous of my Nerd-Foo.”
Celeste crosses her arms and rolls her eyes. “Oh, please.”
Smirk turning to grin, I try to sound encouraging. “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.”
She tosses her dark hair then runs her fingers through it. “No thanks. I’ll leave that kiddie-stuff to you and Em.”
Despite her rejection, I press the issue. She takes herself way too serious lately and if no one presses her buttons, she’ll never lighten up. “You know, in Japan, adults watch anime. I don’t understand what you’ve got against it.”
She puts her hand over mine – her olive Latino skin dark against my pale Germanic skin – and gives me an indulgent, too condescending expression. “Sweetie, you’ve got pictures of cartoon men in your locker…That’s weird. You should be drooling over teen idols, not playing make-believe. You need to pull your head out of the clouds and pay attention to the real world.”
Funny, it didn’t seem to bother her last fall when she was the new girl at Mary Magda and I was the only one who would talk to her. She was different then: quiet, withdrawn, awkward, and prude, Celeste had no problem joining in with the daydreaming. But her summer spent with her cousins in L.A. has changed her and now she’s like a stranger. I want my old friend back. She’s in there somewhere, I just need to find her. I need to knock Chip-On-Her-Shoulder Celeste down a peg.
A few moments of silence pass and when Celeste sees she’s not getting any more argument out of me, she pulls her hand away and says, “Do you want to come over tonight? I can help you study, if you want.”
Feigning boredom, I examine my gnawed fingernails. “Oh gee, I dunno, I was gonna have an intimate evening with my imaginary men.”
She sits forward. “Dad just bought a
.” She says Jacuzzi like it should be something tempting…And it is, really.
“Hmmm…” I exhale, like the choice isn’t already obvious. I’ll take a Jacuzzi over a night home with Dad any day, and I do want to spend some time with Celeste. I need to figure out the “new” her. But, at the same time, there’s a bitter part of me that wants Celeste to sweat. That’s the new big difference between us. She needs acceptance while I couldn’t care less and I want her to know that even though she pretends like I’m a loser, she still needs me. At least, I want her to need me.
“Hey, guys,” Amber says, her voice sweet and high as she plops beside me and slides a book in front of us. “Here’s your book back, Nett.”
Wide eyed, I blink. “You’re done already?” I gave it to her yesterday.
She beams her winning smile. Ever since freshman year, when I first saw that Cheshire Cat grin, I wanted to be friends with it. There’s something infectiously good about Best Friend #2, Amber, and I love her to bits. “I started at practice and couldn’t put it down. I read almost all the way through the night. Cameron is such an amazing character! I wish people like him existed in real life.”
I flash a triumphant glance at Celeste. Amber may not be an anime buff, but, like me and Emily (Best Friend #1), she’s a bibliophile and we happen to have a similar taste in books – and imaginary men. It’s yet another thing that alienates Celeste from us, and I wish she’d just hop on the fad already.
“Can you bring the sequel tomorrow?” Amber asks, her hands making a pleading gesture. “I can’t wait to see what happens. I can’t believe she ended it on a cliffhanger like that!”
“She does that with all of the books,” I warn.
“Aw crap,” she mutters. “You better bring the whole series then.” She takes a deep breath. “It’s gonna be a long weekend.” For a moment her eyes wander the floor, as if contemplating the wonderful task before her. Then her head pops up. “Oh! I didn’t even think. I totally interrupted you guys. I’m sorry. What were you talking about?”
I say, “Anime,” and Celeste says, “Jacuzzis,” at the same time. We glare at each other in annoyance.
Amber smirks. “Cartoon characters in Jacuzzis? You two have the most interesting conversations.” That blatant misinterpretation is Amber’s own jab – displaying how she doesn’t like this new tension between
two best friends. She wiggles closer. “Can I play? If I were going to bring a character to the pool party, I’d bring…Oh, Dorian Grey!”
I let out a laugh, relieved that Amber has this great habit of diffusing escalating situations. It’s not that I
to be competitive with Celeste. I’m not a combative person, but she brings something out in me. It wasn’t always like this. We used to be really close, but lately, it’s getting difficult to hold a conversation without one of us getting snippy. I’m not sure how it happened or how to stop it. “Good choice,” I say, encouraging her efforts at peacemaker.
“We’re planning a sleep over at my place,” Celeste says, shooting me the victory brow. “You’re invited too, of course.”
Urg. Now I
to go to her house.
“Sure!” Amber giggles. “I have to tell you what I heard at practice.”
…And now I have to sleep over, too. There’s no way I’m leaving Amber alone with Celeste. It’s bad enough they got all friendly in the first place. It sucks feeling like a third wheel to two friends who were yours to begin with. I force the fake smile again – even though I want to call out Celeste for pulling such a manipulative move. “Wouldn't miss it for the world.”
I stand outside the school and wait for Celeste. My phone vibrates and I pull it out of my uniform pocket.
“Hey, kiddo, what’re you doing?”
Spinning around, I find my Dad's shape outlined in the massive window of the main office. I put my fist on my hip and scowl at him. “Are you spying on me?” I tease.
“That depends. Are you waiting for your drug hook-up?”
I roll my eyes. “Oh please, Dad, it’s called a dealer. And no, I'm waiting for Celeste. I'm sleeping over at her house tonight.”
Even at this distance I see his bushy brown brows shoot up. “You are? And since when does my seventeen-year-old daughter think she can just do whatever she likes on a school night?” The tone of his voice lets me know I’m walking on thin ice.