Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

redemption in the most unexpected of places - One Broken Day by Melissa MacVicar

"This book was an interesting, good read that I enjoyed. I would recommend it for people who could deal with or be interested in the high and lows of traumatic experiences, like romance, enjoy all of those wrapped up into a YA novel. " - Mattie, Goodreads


Published: May 18th, 2017

After a notorious school shooting leaves her a shadow of the girl she once was, seventeen-year-old Lizzie Beringer moves to Nantucket Island. There, Lizzie vows to hide her identity as the shooter’s sister. All her efforts to fly under the radar, however, are complicated by her P.T.S.D. and the attention she receives from two competing boys.

While fending off the not-so-subtle advances of popular athlete Michael Wickersham, she must also deal with her growing feelings for her shy lab partner Gage Pike. Gage may act like he’s all wrong for her, but the pull between them is undeniable. 

Under the threat of discovery and the possibility of testifying in a televised trial, Lizzie fights to keep her secrets and start her life over.

One Broken Day is a brilliantly imagined story exploring the ways we are all broken and at the same time, offered redemption in the most unexpected of places.



My brother should be dead. Death was what he wanted, and his death might have made everything that came after that day less painful. After succeeding in so many terrible things, however, he failed to complete this one final act.

Despite these harsh words, I do not take the possibility of his death lightly. Even now, when the thought of it enters my mind, I resist it, and immediately following the shooting, I hated myself for it. My insides ached, and my head throbbed. He was my brother. My baby brother. I was supposed to love him, not wish him gone from the planet. 

Standing in his room before we left for Nantucket, I considered what to take. I wanted something of him. A talisman. An object from the scene of this crime, my own personal family tragedy, that would allow me to remember him as the boy he was before. The boy who laughed at sitcoms on Nickelodeon and swam in the pool with neon green floaties. The boy who called me Wizzie. The little brother who couldn’t possibly be locked up in a jail cell for murdering four people. 

The room itself was not special—double bed, blue walls, built in book shelves stripped of their contents. Boxes littered the floor, filled with the personal items that populated Thomas’ life. Out his windows, the picturesque view of the pool and the fir trees beyond was still lovely. 

I forced myself to try to see it as a stranger, like someone who only heard about Thomas on the news. Were there clues in the paint color? The books he read or the framed poster of Tony Hawk? No matter how hard I searched, no answers to my infinite questions were revealed. Nothing there explained what happened to us.

I spotted it then, atop a pile of books in a still open box. The horseshoe. I forgot all about it until that moment, but I knew instantly it was what I’d been looking for. We both received one on the vacation at the dude ranch with Dad although I had no idea where mine was anymore. On that trip, we rode horses and square danced and ate all our meals together. Good times. We had some good times. The rust speckled piece of metal, satisfyingly heavy in my hand, was my proof.

Turning to leave, I caught a glimpse of Thomas’ cork board. Removed from the wall, it leaned against the side of a box near his old desk. Weird drawings of scary faces, death metal concert leaflets, and a few pictures of a scowling Thomas were pinned haphazardly across it. In one corner, however, an unexpected pop of color peeked out. Without thinking, I reached to expose it. 

Thomas—a four-year-old Spiderman, me—a six-year-old Cinderella. We both smiled as we clutched our bags of trick-or-treat candy. With a little effort, I unpinned it from the board and gazed down at our grinning, childish faces. When exactly had Thomas stopped smiling for pictures? When was the precise day and time that occurred? That was the day I should have known. I should have noticed. I should have realized that something was not right with my baby brother. 

Chapter 1


Sleet clicked against the windshield of the Volvo. From the passenger seat, I peered out at the gray shingles and beige trim of Nantucket High School. Students rushed inside, trying to escape the wind-driven ice pellets. 

“You remember where to go?” Mom asked. 

I nodded, but I still didn’t get out of the car. I kept waiting and staring at the façade, hoping I’d feel something. Excited would have been nice. I would have settled for optimistic. After all, I had been looking forward to that day and that very moment for four months. This was my start over day. I got a second chance at a normal life where no one knew me. Instead of giddy enthusiasm, however, all I felt was the same numbing sadness. It descended on me like a spell on September twentieth and held me in its clutches still. 

When the feelings I wanted didn’t come, I decided to just make my move. I inhaled a huge breath and pulled the door handle. 

“I’ll text you for a ride,” I said to my mother. 

“Good luck!” she called after me as I hurled myself out into the precipitation. 

I jogged to the entrance, backpack slung over my shoulder. Once inside, I shook off the moisture that collected on my fleece jacket and recalled my mother’s directions. Go straight through the Hall of the Whale and take a left at the stairs. Guidance is the first door on the right. 

I had no idea what a Hall of the Whale would look like, but once inside, I was too distracted by the other kids to care. They thronged the hall like a species unto themselves—saggy pants with boxers showing, mini-skirts with knee high boots, low-cut tops that revealed brightly colored bra straps. I knew public school was like this. Despite my sheltered, private school life, I still grew up in Los Angeles. I went to clubs. I had a twenty-year old boyfriend. But on that day, their displays disconcerted me.

For my part, I tried to choose clothes that would help me blend in. Jeans. Uggs. North Face jacket. I wanted as little attention drawn to me as possible. But as I made my way through the Hall of the Whale, aptly named for the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling, I realized just about everyone was looking at me. A new girl in the hall the first week of February was probably not something that happened very often in Nantucket, and it didn’t help that I had the face and body of a model. My mother, a former actress, gave them to me. My tall, willowy body combined with high cheekbones, full lips, and vibrant green eyes made me stand out—made boys especially notice me. Perhaps I should have gone with an uglier hair cut like my mother recommended. To keep my identity a secret, I cut six inches off my blond hair and dyed it brown. Along with my new hair, I had unintentionally lost about ten pounds since the shooting—gone from a four to a two and not in a good way; bony compared to my healthy body from before. 

Navigating the gauntlet of students, I managed to find the guidance office. I asked the secretary if I could see Mrs. Duncombe just as my mother told me. This Mrs. Duncombe and the principal were supposed to be the only people in Nantucket who knew my identity. Someone had to know because of my transcripts. 

A few seconds later, a woman emerged into the waiting area from an office off to the side. “Good morning, Lainey. I’m Mrs. Duncombe.” She shook my hand. “Come in and I’ll go over your schedule with you.”

She had short, dark hair streaked with gray and wore a cardigan sweater along with corduroy pants and black clogs. Once inside the office, she shut the door and took a seat beside me. 

“How was your trip here?” she asked. 

“Fine,” I answered. 

Nervous energy surged through me. People that knew who I was were generally not nice to me, not anymore. Before the shooting, my father’s fame as an award-winning movie director ensured most everyone liked me—or at least they pretended too. Afterward, we were shunned—ignored and cast off by most of our former friends. 

“I have a student coming in to take you to your first class,” Mrs. Duncombe said. “She’ll be in several of your classes.”

I held my hands tightly in my lap making them tingle and sting. “Okay.”

“She’s a soccer player and an honors student,” she continued. “I know you played tennis, but unfortunately, we don’t have a tennis team here.”

“It’s fine,” I said. 

Truly, I didn’t care if I ever picked up a tennis racket again. Despite my interest in it before the shooting, it was the last thing on my mind since. 

“And if you need to talk, I’m here. I can only imagine how hard this must be for you and your mother. She asked me to find you a good therapist.”

I didn’t want a new therapist. I lucked out with Belinda back home, and I doubted I’d be as lucky again. Plus, talking about what happened was something I avoided. Talking about the blood-shed and horror in the cafeteria at Beaton Prep only made it more real and more terrible. I wished everyone would stop encouraging me to do it. We left so I could forget. We were here so I could start over. 

“Why don’t we go meet Alex,” Mrs. Duncombe said. 

The moment of truth—or in this case, the moment of the first lie. 

Alexandra Wilcox was a tall, athletic looking girl with wide set eyes and a largish nose. She smiled politely beside the secretary’s overflowing desk when we were introduced. 

“Everyone calls me Alex,” she told me. “And we better get going because Rapisardi’s a pain about tardies.” 

I slung my backpack over my shoulder and nodded to Mrs. Duncombe like a soldier headed into battle. Everything about my life had become a battle. That was what depression felt like, according to my mother, and that was why I took my pills. 

“So, California? This must be a big change for you,” Alex said.

We climbed the open staircase in the Hall of the Whale amidst a crush of other students trying to get to class. 

“Yeah, it’s okay.”

Minimal details—that was the protocol. Whatever questions people asked about the past, I told them as little as possible. 

“Hey Alex, you got a new friend?”

A pack of four boys surrounded us as we reached the second floor. Two of them wore navy and white letterman jackets with their numbers and names on the sleeves. 

Alex gestured at me. “Yeah, this is Lainey.” 

“Hi Lainey,” one of the jacket boys said. 

He had a sly grin, and he took his time examining me. All of me. Up and down and back up again. Real subtle. His jacket sleeves proclaimed him to be Wick 87 TE. He had deep brown eyes and dark, perfect hair. 

“Michael Wickersham. Are you headed to English?” 

He finally met my eyes, having finished his surveillance of my body. 

“Yes, we are,” Alex answered, trying to maneuver past them. 

Thankfully, Wick and the others stopped at a row of nearby lockers. “See you there,” he called after us. Then, to his friends, “Dude, I call it.” 

He didn’t even attempt to be quiet about it. 

“Don’t worry about them,” Alex told me. “We don’t get many new kids here.”

I cringed at how universally stupid boys were. As if a boy could call dibs on you. As if I’d date a boy in a letterman jacket who tried. For a moment, my old sense of ego rose up inside me. How dare he? Who does he think he is? Boys at Beaton Prep would never have treated me that way. They knew better than to mess with Lizzie Berringer. But I needed to remember who I was in Nantucket. Things would have to be different for Lainey Darwin. Lainey Darwin was a whole new girl—a girl with no past and no friends. She’d have to make it up as she went along. 

Chapter 2

Hannah and I lounged in the family room watching Next Top Model.

“Kiara’s going to get sent home,” Hannah said. 

“I don’t know. I think Heidi really likes her.”

“Yeah but that shoot was horrible.”

Thomas came in from the kitchen with a plate of food. We both ignored him. 

“This show sucks,” he finally said after a few minutes of standing behind the sectional and watching with us.

“Then go away,” I said rudely.

“Like who cares about fucking models? You should be more concerned about falling into the ocean and dying when the big one hits. Could be any day now.”

Thomas’s latest obsession was the San Andreas fault and how an earthquake would break California in half. 

“Shut up,” I told him.

“Fine. Don’t come crying to me when you’re stuck under a pile of mansion rubble. I might save you, though, Hannah.” 

“Oh, gee, thanks,” she answered and rolled her eyes at him.

Thomas walked away toward the stairs. “Fine. I won’t save you then either,” he called over his shoulder.


When we reached English class, the twisting vine of anxiety that lived in my chest began to grow and spread. I was only vaguely aware of the other students around me. They sat at desks and chatted with friends, but they were all blurry and misshapen. I only saw a small focus area directly in front of me. 

“You should go check in with Mr. Rap,” Alex said.

I blinked several times in rapid succession to try to clear the tunnel vision. When unsuccessful, I pressed my thumb and index finger into my eyelids. Alex was looking at me when I stopped, her head cocked to the side. Thankfully, however, my vision was restored. I walked on shaky legs to the teacher’s desk. 

Mr. Rapisardi smiled and said hello when I arrived. Black hair and grayish sideburns framed his ruddy face. 

I handed him my schedule, and after checking it, he said, “Welcome to Nantucket. You have good timing. We’re reading short stories so it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up. We are in the middle of The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Have you read it?”

“No,” I said, but it came out as a whisper. Sometimes, my voice failed me. 

“Great. I’ll grab you a copy and give you the code for Google Classroom.” 

He headed for a cabinet in the corner where he retrieved a battered paperback with a Victorian woman on the cover. 

“You can sit right here,” he said as he handed me the book and tapped the top of a nearby desk. 

Once seated, I scanned the room. Twenty desks were arranged in a circle. The kids seemed like a varied group—Wick TE 87 and some other athletes along with Alex and some other trendy looking girls. A nondescript girl read a fantasy novel with a scary looking beast on the cover, and a few geeky looking guys were deep in conversation around a Chromebook. The seating arrangement meant that everyone would be able to examine me for the entire class, including Wick and his friends. This idea reignited my panic, and I knew I needed to think about something good. Something happy. That’s what Belinda taught me. 

In my mind, I went to Malibu Beach with Dylan. He shredded a wave while I watched from my towel, lying in the hot sand beside Hannah. Dylan’s tan torso was ridged with muscles, his biceps and shoulders perfectly flexed. As the wave broke, he timed his jump-off perfectly and disappeared under the foaming surf. I watched him do it hundreds of times, and like always, I hoped this was his last ride. I hoped he’d join me on the beach, lying beside me on his towel, intermittently kissing me and touching me and whispering sexy things to me. 

I wore my favorite bikini with the navy and purple swirls. Hannah giggled. We just smoked. I tried to remember what I used to giggle about with Hannah when we got high. I could hear her in my head—soft, rolling silliness. A small smile lifted my lips. 

A loud tone sounded over the PA system. I flinched, drawn back to the here and now. A very bored sounding woman droned the morning announcements, and when she finished, Mr. Rapisardi started class. As he spoke, I drifted away again, and this time, Dylan came out of the water to see me. 


Lunch was inevitable. Two blocks before, the anxiety started to build. For me, anxiety was not just butterflies in my stomach. It was not just a racing heartbeat. Anxiety was a full body illness that pervaded every inch of me. Before that day, I thought I was ready. I longed to return to some sort of teenage normalcy, but eating lunch in the cafeteria now seemed as difficult as climbing Mount Everest. 

Would I go full on post traumatic? Lose my nerve and run screaming from the building? Maybe I’d start crying and hear non-existent gunshots like a war veteran. In the time I’d had to think about it and imagine how it would go down, I knew anything was possible.

“Don’t talk about Wick in front of Amber,” Alex advised as we approached the double doors that led into the cafeteria. “In fact, just stay away from Wick if you can.”

Wick and this Amber person were the last people on my mind. Seriously, I wished high school relationship drama was my biggest concern, but it wasn’t. Getting through the next ten minutes was my only goal.

“I wasn’t planning on it,” I mumbled.

“Okay, good. Because trust me, you don’t want to get in the middle of that on your first day.” 

Alex pulled open the door, and the cacophony of voices inside seemed to hit me like a wall. Despite feeling as if my legs weighed two hundred pounds each, I still followed her through the doors. Right away, I noticed that it was different than Beaton—smaller and not as nice. Adrenaline flooded my system, and I had to fight the urge to turn and leave. 

“So this is the lunchroom,” Alex said. “The other side, by the back door, is the middle school side so don’t go over there.”

Ahead of me was the food service area. Lines formed at various places, but I only saw one cashier. Alex and I stood in a middle aisle with long tables extending in rows on either side. Many of the tables were already full. 

“That’s where we usually sit,” Alex pointed at a table on the left, all the way down by the windows. “Did you bring your lunch or do you need to buy?”

I exhaled the breath I was holding. “Brought. Thanks,” I said softly, glad the words were willing to come. 

This meant I was coping. Coping was what Mom said we had to do. Before, I never had to cope with much of anything, but after, every minute revolved around doing just that.

“Okay, this way,” Alex said. 

We made the short journey to our designated table and stopped at the far end. 

“Hey, guys. This is Lainey. She’s new.”

I get various greetings and smiles from the girls. Alex introduced each of them, but there was no way I could remember all their names except for maybe the aforementioned Amber. She definitely would have stood out anyway. Clearly, these girls were cool. They wore American Eagle jeans and Patagonia jackets and Steve Madden boots. They all had long hair and well done makeup, and they were all examining me with that knowing look girls have when they recognize you’re pretty, and they try to decide if they can still like you or not. It happens very fast. First impressions really do matter.

“You can sit here,” Alex said.

I quickly dropped into place and busied myself retrieving my lunch from my bag—peanut butter and jelly on soft oatmeal bread. This was one of the only things I could choke down that didn’t cause me stomach spasms. 

When I glanced up again, I met Amber’s deep blue eyes. “Where in California did you live?” She had long, stick-straight brown hair and a bitch-on-wheels pout. 

“San Francisco,” I lied.

“Wow. Must be weird coming here.” Her tone let me know I was boring her. My presence and the day and the whole entire world seemed a terrible bore to Amber.

“Yeah, my parents got divorced.” In reality, my parents had been divorced for years. I don’t ever remember them together. Mom kept the Beverly Hills house, and Dad headed off to Malibu as per some secret script that ruled those matters in Hollywood. 

“So who dragged you here?” a different girl asked.

“My mother. She used to summer here, and she wanted to get away.”

Another lie. My mother never set foot on this island before last week. One of Dad’s lawyers who grew up in Massachusetts recommended it to us. Beautiful place, good real estate investment.

“I guess this is getting away,” Amber replied. 

Wick appeared beside the table with a tray of food and another jacket clad boy I remembered from the morning, Perk 56 LB. 

“Hi ladies,” Wick said. He sat directly across from me. “You being nice to the newbie?”

“Lainey,” Alex told him. “Her name is Lainey.”

“I remember,” Wick answered. “Did everyone have a good weekend?”

Lunch proceeded as follows: everyone shared their weekend stories, Wick eyed me, Amber eyed Wick, and I eyed my peanut butter and jelly. If Amber could have killed Wick with just her eyes, he’d have died that day for sure. I, unfortunately, was familiar with this look—the look of both love and hate. It was all the more reason to stay away from the likes of Michael Wickersham. Wick and Amber. Amber and Wick. They were the stars of that show. They were the biggest sharks in that little pond. 

“So what do you think of our little island so far?” Wick asked. He kept his voice low, trying to interact with just me. 

“It’s okay. The weather is kind of hard to get used to.”

“Yeah. Right now, for sure. It gets better though. Summer is amazing.”

He held me fast in his gaze. I glanced away and back, and he hadn’t waivered. He licked his lips and lifted them in a smile that was probably intended to be sexy. 

“Did you have a boyfriend in California, Lainey?” The blonde seated beside Amber asked loudly. 

My face flushed with heat. “Umm, no. Not really.”

Dumb dumb dumb. I should have had a better answer planned.

Amber chuckled. “What exactly does not really mean when it comes to a boyfriend?”

Perk almost spewed chocolate milk, his body shaking with laughter. Wick tried to hide his own smile with his hand, clearing his throat and shifting in his seat. 

When Perk pulled himself together, he said, “Oh I think you know exactly what that means, Amber.” 

“Shut up, Tyler,” the blonde snapped. She and Amber stood and stormed off, probably headed for the bathroom where they could refresh their lip gloss and vent about the boys. 

For my part, I wanted to melt into my seat from embarrassment. Being the new girl was bad enough without coming between the it couple of the whole school. I spent the rest of lunch trying to avoid looking at anyone while Wick kept trying to give me some kind of knowing look that I refused to accept. When the bell rang, I jumped to my feet and went to throw out my trash. I found Alex again near the door despite the sea of other students leaving for class. 

As we walked to physics, Alex explained Amber and Wick. “She swears she’s over him but they always hook up at parties and stuff. It’s very dysfunctional.”

“It’s fine. I’m not interested in him.”

“Really?” Alex wrinkled her forehead. 

I should have been interested, I guess. Wick was the kind of boy that everyone was automatically interested in because of his looks and his status and his all around cocky attitude.

“Yeah. He’s not my type.”

Alex dropped her tone to low and conspiratorial. “What’s your type?” she asked. 

“Older. College boys. I only dated high school boys when I was a freshman.”

This was not a lie although no one would have been able to tell from the way I behaved so far that I was ever confident and experienced enough to handle myself with guys.

“Oh,” was all Alex said in response. She seemed to be pondering my revelation as we continued walking toward the science wing. 

I just hoped she’d get the word out about me not being interested. Blending in was my goal and dating the most popular junior boy would only serve to draw attention to myself. This starting-over stuff was turning out to be more complicated than I anticipated. I was not the same person I was before, and I had no idea who to become. Maybe I should have spent more time figuring that out. School used to be so easy for me—the academics, the socializing, the tennis team. But in Nantucket, it all seemed kind of overwhelming. 

Alex said, “I don’t have this physics class with you. When it’s over, head down to the gym for P.E. and I’ll see you there. That’s our last class today.”

“Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.” 

“No problem.”

Alex seemed to have good intentions towards me, and I felt truly grateful for her help. 

Once alone, I tried to ground myself again. Two more classes. Two more classes. I can do this. Nantucket High School was better than the alternative—better than tutors and solitary confinement. I inhaled a deep breath and stepped over the threshold.

Chapter 3


New Girl walked in. As soon as I spied her in the doorway with her schedule clutched in her hand, I knew I’d get stuck with her. The odd number of students in physics had worked so well in my favor, but with her arrival, I’d be saddled with an unwanted partner.

She approached Smithson. He leaned on his cane near the back table, counting supplies. Kids were always stealing his crap—pulleys and magnets and steel balls. Teenagers, in general, are kleptomaniacs. 

As I watched her, I could see what all the excitement was about. Her face was smooth and blemish free. Cheekbones, lips, chin, eyebrows—all stunningly arranged. Her hair was kind of plain—brown and straight and to her chin, and she was a bit skinny for my taste. Like, someone needed to give her a cheeseburger and a cupcake, quick. From what I overheard in the locker room after P.E, though, her eyes were the kicker—pure green and sexy as hell. Wick said her eyes alone got him fired up. Smoke show he called her. 

She stopped beside Smithson and cleared her throat. 

“Hello, young lady, may I help you?” he asked when he noticed her there.

“Yes. I’m new, and I think I’m in this class.” Her voice was soft and not too high. She even sounded pretty. 

Smithson cocked his head to the side as he peered down at her. “Welcome. Schedule?” 

She handed it over, and he examined it about two inches from his reading glasses. I suspected he had a cataract, but I might have been wrong. He glanced back up at her. “I assume you were enrolled in honors physics at your previous school?” Smithson had little tolerance for weak students.

She nodded. 

“Fantastic!” He thrust the schedule back at her. His quick motion and sudden excitement made her flinch. “We’ll be performing a lab today. I have one student without a partner. Gage!”

I blew out my breath loudly before answering. “Yeah?” 

“This young lady…” He paused to read her name again. “Ms. Lainey Darwin will be your new lab partner. I am entrusting her to your care, and I am confident that you will be an excellent ambassador of our class and school.”

“Yes sir.” I gave him a lazy salute. 

“Fantastic. Good luck Ms. Darwin. Mr. Pike will get you everything you need.”

New Girl seemed a little panicked. She glanced between me and Smithson, opening her mouth like she might object. When nothing came out, however, Smithson hobbled his way back to his desk. 

“Have you done a pendulum lab before?” I asked her, figuring it was best to just jump right in. I stayed half straddling my stool, wanting to appear unfazed and uninterested in her presence. But when she looked at me (like I mean really looked at me) that’s when the trouble started. Her eyes. Wick was right; there was something about them. I could see the danger in looking at her for very long. I could already feel her clouding my judgment, giving me stupid thoughts like God she’s gorgeous and Wow, I hope she likes me. 

“No.” Her answer was quiet and sort of emerged as a sigh. She set her backpack on the floor beside her stool while I tamped down the warm feeling of nervousness in my chest. Meeting Lainey and talking to Lainey was disconcerting—her face a mix of attractiveness edged with some acute sadness she couldn’t hide. She was trying, of course, as anyone would, but it wasn’t working. 

“Fantastic,” I answered, imitating the elderly Mr. Smithson but with far less enthusiasm. “Let’s get started.”

I hoped I could keep myself together and get through the lab without turning into a bumbling idiot in her presence. 


Gage Pike was a cruel joke. After what I had already endured my first day, I would have much preferred a normal, run of the mill lab partner. But when this boy stood and unfurled himself for me to behold, I could see that he was anything but run of the mill. Instead, he was six foot three, at least, with broad shoulders and a lanky frame. He wore Doc Marten boots, slim cut khakis, and a faded concert tee-shirt. A tousled head of spiky, blondish hair along with chiseled cheek bones and wide set blue eyes rounded out the picture making him really hot even though he exuded a bit too much of the skaterboy/musician/rebel attitude for my taste. 

“This way,” he said. And, like a good partner should, I followed him to a nearby supply closet. Inside, it smelled like freshly cut wood and mothballs. Gage began rifling around on the shelves looking for materials. The aisle was narrow and the shelving was deep, so he had to lean way in. I tried not to look at his back and arms and butt when he did it, but it wasn’t easy to avoid. Eventually, he found something he was looking for, and he extended his hand backward to me without turning around. 

“Hold these,” he said, dropping two silver discs, two stopwatches, and some string into my hand. I struggled to take it all, but enjoyed how his fingertips felt warm when they grazed my chilly palm. After that, he bent way down to pull two wooden stands off a low shelf. When he popped back up with his hands full, our eyes met, and I froze in place. He squinted down at me and seemed to wait for me to read his mind. And I tried. I really did. Unfortunately, I had nothing. 

Finally, he said. “Okay, back to the table now,” and bobbed his head in that direction. That’s when I realized he just wanted me to move. He wasn’t trying to have a little staring moment with me after all. Dear God! What was wrong with me! 

I mumbled, “Oh. Okay,” and backed out of the closet, my cheeks burning with the red-hot intensity of embarrassment. 

Once we reached our table, Gage thankfully went about setting up the lab without another word except to direct me to a side table where I picked up all the hand-outs. The experiment itself required two pendulums with different lengths of string which we had to time and observe at intervals. Gage set everything up and pointed to a spot on my lab sheet for the data when he was done. 

“You watch this one. Time and write down how many swings per thirty seconds.”

“Got it.”

As I watched, the swinging motion of the disk mesmerized me. My head buzzed and my eyes grew tired. I rested my elbow on the lab table, chin on my hand, and kept track of the swings.

After a few minutes, Gage asked, “How’s your first day going?”

I shrugged and jotted down a number. “Okay.”

“Just okay?”

“Yeah. But it’s not over yet.” 

“So it could still go either way, I guess,” he said. “Fabulous or suckish. Or maybe it will stay just okay.”

I focused on my pendulum and kept counting as a small smile lifted my lips. “Fabulous is doubtful,” I replied.

Gage Pike grinned in my peripheral vision. “You never know, New Girl. Things could take a turn for the fabulous when you least expect it.”

“I guess there’s always hope,” I bantered in return.

When we cleaned up at the end of class, Gage said, “We have to do the write up for this tonight. Did you get a school Google account?”

“Yeah. I think it’s with the stuff guidance gave me.”

Gage slid his phone out of his bag. “Give me your number so we can text and meet up in Google docs. Have you used it before?”

“Yeah. It shouldn’t be a problem.” 

“What’s your number?” 

I recited it for him and heard my phone vibrate in my bag. 

“You should have mine now. Can you carry these to the closet?” Gage dropped the disks and string back into my palm. The contact only lasted a moment and really, it was no big deal, but I still liked it. Being with Gage and doing the lab with him, this was why I came. I wanted to be a normal teenager again doing normal teenage things. No one ever appreciated normal. 

“I hope at least this class wasn’t suckish,” Gage said as the bell sounded.

“No. This class was good.” And my answer was definitely not a lie.

About the author:
Melissa was born and mostly raised on Nantucket Island, and she currently lives there with her husband and two teenage children. When not being a wife and mother and teaching writing to seventh graders, she enjoys binge watching shows like Big Little Lies, House of Cards, and Outlander. Despite the rumors to the contrary, she does not actually wish she was a teenager again, nor does she see ghosts like the main character in her first novel, Ever Near. She does, however, love to hear from readers so send her a message on social media or at her email: melissa.macvicar@gmail.com


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