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Authors: Leslie Connor

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Waiting for Normal

BOOK: Waiting for Normal
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Marley, this one is for you.

contents

Cover Image

Chapter 1: Tin Box on a Tar Patch

Chapter 2: Small Stuff

Chapter 3: Welcome Pie

Chapter 4: According to Webster’s

Chapter 5: The Over-Underpass

Chapter 6: A Renovation

Chapter 7: Tryouts and Friendships

Chapter 8: Gates and Bridges

Chapter 9: TV and Toast Dinners

Chapter 10: A Gift of Cream and Honey

Chapter 11: A Bunch of Numbskulls

Chapter 12: A Violent Storm

Chapter 13: Evening Interview

Chapter 14: Waiting for Mommers

Chapter 15: Late-Night Mail

Chapter 16: Another Dish of Fish-and-Chips

Chapter 17: A Different Sort of Halloween

Chapter 18: A Phone Call from the Mansion

Chapter 19: The New Blue Car

Chapter 20: All or Nothing

Chapter 21: Dwight Explaining Hannah

Chapter 22: All About Twos and Fours

Chapter 23: Bedtime at the Inn

Chapter 24: Breakfasts and Boxes

Chapter 25: A Ton of Turkey Soup

Chapter 26: From Good to Bad

Chapter 27: Willing to Bloom

Chapter 28: Twists and Turns

Chapter 29: The Counting-on Part

Chapter 30: A Frozen Good-bye

Chapter 31: An Unexpected Meeting

Chapter 32: A Few Gifts Before Christmas

Chapter 33: Waiting for Normal

Chapter 34: Jingle All the Way

Chapter 35: Another Thing to Borrow

Chapter 36: Loads of Snow

Chapter 37: A Visit from Grandio

Chapter 38: Valentine Hearts

Chapter 39: The Goosh in My Gut

Chapter 40: Fiesta Night

Chapter 41: Making Changes

Chapter 42: My Fault

Chapter 43: A Hero in the Fog

Chapter 44: After the Fire

Chapter 45: Something Familiar

Chapter 46: The Going-Away Note

Chapter 47: Defining Normal

Chapter 48: Full of Surprises

Chapter 49: All to Home

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

chapter 1

tin box on a tar patch

M
aybe Mommers and I shouldn’t have been surprised; Dwight had told us it was a trailer even before we’d packed our bags. But I had pictured one of those parks—like up on Route 50. I thought trailers were always in
trailer parks
. I expected a little grass patch out front, daisy shaped pinwheels stuck into the ground, one of those white shorty fences and a garden gnome.

Dwight crossed traffic and pulled the truck up over the curb. When he stopped, Mommers’ head bumped against the window. “What are we doing here?” she asked. I watched Dwight’s face for the answer. Dwight is my stepfather. Well, he’s really my
ex
stepfather since he and Mommers split for good. That was two years ago. (It’s best to know right from the beginning that my family is hard to follow—like a road that keeps taking twists and turns.) But Dwight had always told me, there’ll be no “ex” between you and me, Addie, girl, and I believed him.

“I
said
, what are we doing here?” Mommers repeated.

“This is the place,” Dwight mumbled.

Mommers sat up. She opened her eyes wide and looked out the front windshield. Then she screamed. “Dwight! You’ve got to be kidding me! This is the
city
!”

Dwight leaned away from her—protecting his ear—and in that quiet way he’s got about him, he told Mommers, “Come on, Denise. Let’s not go over it again. You know this is all I’ve got left. You can move in here, or go to Jack’s place.” He slid out of the truck.

Mommers swung her door open so hard it came back at her. She kicked it and it whined on the hinge. “I can’t live with Jack!”

She was talking about my grandfather on my father’s side. I call him Grandio. That’s his grandpa name, which my father taught me to say a long time ago. That’s about all my father had time to teach me; he died when I was barely three. I’ve always kind of felt as if my father
gave
me Grandio—or tried to anyway—that he left him to me so I’d have as much family as possible. Thing is, he kind of left Grandio to Mommers, too. I’ve never seen two people who wanted less to do with each other.

“I hate Jack!” Mommers hollered at Dwight. “And I hate you!”

“I know,” said Dwight, as if he had accepted that a long time ago.

I unfolded myself from the back of the cab, where I’d been squashed in the little jump seat, and slipped down to the ground. Dwight lifted our bags out of the back of his truck and handed Mommers a key.

“Go in and have a look. We can work on it some if you want,” he said. “And the computer is in for you and Addie.” He tried to say all this with a hopeful note in his throat—Dwight always did that.

But Mommers threw the key down hard as she could. It hit the ground with a tiny ringing sound like a little chime. “I suppose you want me to overflow with gratitude!” she yelled. “I get a cruddy tin box for a house and a dinosaur for a computer! Lucky me! What about the duplex, Dwight? You could have given me that!”

“The duplex is gone to pay for the house, Denise.” Dwight kept his lips in a line. Mommers kicked at her own overstuffed suitcase. Then she said all kinds of other things I won’t mention, but boy, did I hear some language.

Dwight walked away from her. That might have seemed mean to anyone who happened to be watching that day, but I didn’t really blame him. He had my little sisters to think of—half sisters, that is. They’re Dwight’s kids. I’m not. (Like I said, my family is full of twists and turns.) He leaned down and gave me a shaky hug. I squeezed him back and swallowed hard. He whispered into my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Addie, girl.” Then he looked at me eye to eye and said, “I’ll be around—you know that.”

I nodded. “And you’ll bring Brynna and Katie, right?”

“Of course. As often as I can.”

“Then it’ll be all right,” I said, and I faked a big old smile.

Dwight got back into his truck and raised a hand to wave good-bye. He turned his wheels away from us and with a screech and a lurch, he was outta there.

I stood next to Mommers, both of us looking at the trailer. The thing was dingy and faded. But I could tell that it’d once been the color of sunshine. It was plunked down on a few stacks of cinder blocks at the corner of Freeman’s Bridge Road and Nott Street in the city of Schenectady—in the state of New York. It was a busy corner—
medium
busy, I’d say. The only patch out front was the tarry blacktop bubbling up in the heat of the late summer afternoon. No pinwheels. No garden gnome.

“Can you believe this, Addison?” Mommers said. She stared at the trailer door. “That reprobate.”

“Reprobate?”
I said. “There’s one for my vocabulary book.”

“Yeah, Addie. And for the definition, you just write
Dwight
!”

She fell into a heap and started to cry. I stooped beside Mommers. I gave her shoulder a pat, tried to get her to look at me, but she wouldn’t. Then the little flash of silver caught my eye. I reached down and picked up the key.

chapter 2

small stuff

I
’ve always sort of liked small places like tents and bunk beds. You can make them all your own just by being there to fill up the space. I rolled the key over in my palm. I wanted to see the inside of that trailer.

I climbed the metal steps—pretty sturdy—and stuck the key into the lock. I gave it a twist. Suddenly, there was such noise! The rushing and whooshing filled my ears, and my legs went weak underneath me. The key quivered in the lock of the trailer.

“Yah!” I jumped off the step and started to run back to Mommers. “It’s starting up!” I yelled. The loud clack-clack-clacking noise at my back drowned me out. Mommers covered both her ears, her mouth wide open in a silent scream. She had big round eyes fixed on something over my head. I was sure the trailer was falling off its blocks—about to crash. I turned in time to see the blur; a silver train streaked by on the tracks right above our new home.

Silence followed. Then Mommers wailed, “We’re living
under
a train!”

“Well, sort of
in front of
,” I said, glancing back at the empty tracks. My heart was still pounding.

“What’s the difference?” she said.

I braved the metal stairs again, took a breath and pulled open the door to the trailer.

It really
was
a little house inside—more of a home than one of those camper things, and it wasn’t going anywhere unless something came to get it; there was no steering wheel. I had to laugh about that when I thought of Mommers and me standing outside screaming all because a train was going by.

“Look at the kitchen,” I said to Mommers. “Isn’t it perfect?” She rolled her eyes at me. It was kinda shrimpy, like it was made for sixth graders instead of grownups, but that made me smile. I’d be starting sixth grade in about a week. I flipped a light switch and a bare bulb came on above the sink. Mommers squinted.

“How classy,” she mumbled.

“Hey, look,” I said. “Everything is six steps.” I counted out six baby steps from the front door. That put me right at the kitchen sink. I counted six more and that put me in the living room, which was also the dining booth
and
had an extra sleeping bed. In a pinch, we could drop the table down and cover it with the seat cushions. Six more steps and I stood in front of the bedroom, the only real bedroom.

“This one’s yours, Mommers.”

“Wow,” she said, “I get a folding door. And a window with a view of—what the heck is that? A Laundromat?” She let a sigh buzz through her lips. “I got me a regular Luxury Suite. Oh, and it’s near the bathroom. What more could I want?” She tossed her splitting suitcase onto her new bed. Her elbow hit the doorjamb and she muffled a swear.

I didn’t mind Mommers getting the Luxury Suite. I got the bunk tucked up high, way at the other end of the trailer. I climbed up the ladder—six rungs, by the way—and pushed open the curtain on a string to try it out. I straightened up on my knees, inched a little higher and let my head thunk the ceiling a few times. I fell down giggling. I put my nose to the little square window and looked out onto the tar-patch yard and out to the steep, grassy bank that led up to the train tracks. Meadow flowers grew on the slope, the same kind I’d seen growing out at Grandio’s farm fields across Freeman’s Bridge.

I turned and pulled the curtain shut across my bunk. Then I poked my head out. “Look, Mommers, I have my own sleeping cupboard!”

She looked over her shoulder. “Looks like a chintzy mattress on top of a closet and a dresser to me,” she said.

“There’s a closet?” I tipped my head down to see below my bed and almost flipped out of the bunk.

Mommers let out a tiny laugh. “You like it here, don’t you?”

I climbed down and crawled into the closet. I tucked up my knees and looked out toward the minikitchen, grinning. “It’s not bad,” I said. “I like small stuff. I’ll make dinner tonight.”

Mommers went to get settled into the Luxury Suite. I pushed up my sleeves and got to work in the kitchen.

Out on Freeman’s Bridge Road the cars and trucks bumped and rumbled over the rough pavement while Mommers and I ate our first trailer supper—macaroni and cheese with peas—from the groceries Dwight had left for us. Mommers leaned on her elbow and looked out the front window. I saw her sniffle into her napkin once or twice.

“I’m going to see if that old computer still works,” she said after dinner.

“I’ll do the dishes,” I said.

She turned on her computer and soon she was on the Internet.

“Pretty nice Dwight gave us the computer. And the
Internet
, too,” I added. “Are you on the Web?”

“I’m just looking for a chat,” Mommers said.

BOOK: Waiting for Normal
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