Lost Days – Post 36

lost-days-4b-web

Read a book! Win a laptop computer!

This is the 36th installment of my new book, Lost Days.  The Advance Reader Copies have been printed and are on their way to me.  I’ve giving some free copies out to the folks who have joined the Lost Days Facebook group.  They’re also the only ones eligible to enter a drawing for a free laptop computer.  Join the group today and get in on the fun!

“What do you mean we can’t go out with Danny and Joyner?” Denise was screaming.

“It’s complicated,” I said into the phone.  “Just trust me.”

“Trust you?”  There was panic in her voice.  “You’ve been acting really weird lately, Hayl.  How am I supposed to trust you?”

I sighed.  “I can’t really go into it now…”

“No,” she roared.  “I’m going.  This is my one chance to get out of the social dungeon I’ve been in my whole life.  I’m not passing it up just because you have cold feet.”

“You’re not going, Denise,” I was so stern I almost convinced myself I could prevent her from going.

She wasn’t buying it.  She laughed.  “What?  You can’t tell me what to do.  I’m going.  Be a bitch and stay home!” She hung up the phone. 

I looked at the receiver for a few seconds before I hung it up.  My grandparents didn’t have anything as high tech as a cordless phone, so I’d been tethered to the kitchen wall throughout the entire conversation.  Nana Taffy was at the sink washing dishes.  She was dying to know what was going on, but to her credit she didn’t ask.  She pretended to be so wrapped up in removing the grease from a frying pan that she didn’t have time to take interest in my squabbles with my silly friends.

I jumped when the phone rang shortly after I hung up.  I picked up the receiver.  “Hello.”

“Comet?” a familiar voice said. 

“Dad?” I asked, but I knew it was him.  He was the only one in the world who called me comet.  I hated it, and I hated him.  I was in disbelief when I heard his voice. 

“Yep, it’s me.  How are you, comet?”

“Fine,” I said not really caring if it was the truth or not.  I didn’t like discussing any part of my life with my father.

“I tried calling your cell phone a couple of times, but I could never get through.”

“Maybe because I don’t have a cell phone,” I said gritting my teeth together.  I couldn’t believe how little he knew about me.

“Really?  Since when?”

“Since never,” I said.

“Really?”

“Is there a reason you called,” I snapped.

“Yes, I’m your father.  That’s why I called.”

“Whatever,” I said.

“Don’t get smart with me, young lady.  Your mother called me.  She’s concerned about your living situation.  She thought it might be a good idea if you and your brother stayed with me for awhile.”

I was too busy processing what he said to answer. 

“It’s just not a good time for me, honey.  I’d love nothing more.  It’s just with work… things are really crazy.”

I laughed.  I was confused, relieved, and devastated all at once. 

“Tell your mother for me, will you?  I have to go, comet.  I love you.”  He hung up. 

I stood against the kitchen wall with the phone to my ear long after the call ended.  He didn’t even ask to talk to Grover. 

Mom walked into kitchen and looked at me with a puzzled expression.  “Who are you talking to?”

I didn’t understand the question until I heard the dial tone.  I slammed the phone on the cradle.  “You’re stuck with us,” I said trying to sound like I didn’t care that she was trying to pawn us off on dad.

“What?” she asked.

“Dad said things are too crazy at work right now.  He can’t take Grover and me off your hands.”

“That was you father?” she asked.

I nodded and attempted to leave the room, but mom stopped me.

“Sit down, young lady.”

“I’ve got homework,” I said as she grabbed my arm.

“Sit down and hear me out,” she said as if she were begging.

“Fine,” I said in as snotty a tone as I could muster.  I flopped down on the nearest chair and rested my elbows on the kitchen table.  Nana Taffy finally gave up the charade that she was too into cleaning pots and pans to care what was going on.  She joined mom and me at the table.

“I called your father because I was concerned,” mom said.

“I bet,” I said sarcastically.

Nana Taffy didn’t like my tone. She raised her voice at me for the first time that I can remember.  “That’s enough, Hayley Wanda Wilkes.”

I blushed, partly because I was embarrassed that my grandmother had just scolded me and partly because I hated hearing anyone use my middle name.

Mom closed her eyes to gather herself.  She let out a quick breath, opened her eyes, and continued.  “The police have been here twice in the last week.  I don’t feel comfortable exposing you and Grover to that sort of thing.  I just thought it would be better if you stayed with your father for a while, until your uncle can sort this out.”

“You think Uncle Crew did it?”

“No,” she said.  “That’s not it.  Crew would never hurt anyone.  I know that.  I just don’t want you and your brother to have to worry about this sort of thing.  It’s an unusual situation, and to be honest with you, I’m completely confused by it, and I’m an adult.  This can’t be fun for you and your brother.”

I leaned back in the chair.  “Doesn’t matter, anyway.  Dad’s too busy to take us.”

She gently placed her hand on my thigh.  “Honey, your father is an… asshole.”

“Connie!” Nana Taffy shrieked.

“It’s true!” mom said.

Nana Taffy’s face was beet red.  “Of course it’s true, sweetie, but I don’t approve.  Call him a jerk or butt nugget even… I just don’t… please don’t use the ‘A’ double ‘S’ word.”

Mom looked at Nana Taffy cock-eyed.  “Butt nugget?”

“Is that not a term?” Nana Taffy asked apologetically.

Mom turned to me and we both busted out laughing.  We laughed until we started crying, and then mom wrapped me in a bear hug.  “Honey, I just want to do what’s best for you.”

The emotions from the funeral came back in full force.  “You’re what’s best for me,” I said sobbing like a baby.

Nana Taffy couldn’t take it anymore.  She left her chair and placed a strong hand on both our backs.  “My girls,” she said.  “No one goes anywhere.”

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Lost Days (Win a laptop!)– Post 35

 

It's coming!

It's coming!

This is the 35th installment of my new book, Lost Days.  The Advance Reader Copies have been printed and are on their way to me.  I’ve giving some free copies out to the folks who have joined the Lost Days Facebook group.  They’re also the only ones eligible to enter a drawing for a free laptop computer.  Join the group today and get in on the fun!

 

 

Uncle Crew wasn’t home.  I changed into a pair of sweats and a Chicago Cubs t-shirt shortly after my mom chewed me out for borrowing her boots without asking.  I was so shaken by the funeral that I wrapped my arms around her and begged for her forgiveness.  She agreed after looking at me like she’d just found out I had a brain tumor. 

I decided to crawl in bed and sleep for the rest of my life.  The covers had barely settled over me when Grover and Owen walked in.  I yelped in surprise.

“Owen’s here,” Grover said.

“I can see that, dink,” I said sitting up.

Owen, still dressed in his suit, examined me wide-eyed.  The way I reacted when he walked in, he must have thought he caught me in the nude. 

“You okay?” Owen asked.

“Hold on,” I said.  “Get out of here, Grover.”

“No,” he said.  “It’s my room.”

“It’s my room,” I said.  “I just let you sleep here.”

“Says who?”

“Get out!”

He folded his arms over his chest and grimaced.  I was never going to get him to leave.  “Okay, you can stay, but it just means that I have every right to beat the living crap out of you if you repeat one word of what we say.”

He put on a stoic face and nodded.

I returned my attention to Owen.  “I’m fine.  Pissed off, but fine.”

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“Wait for Uncle Crew to get home and talk to him.” I noticed my laptop on the night stand, and suddenly remembered what it contained.  “The pictures,” I said opening it and turning it on.

“Pictures?” Owen said sitting on the bed.

I looked at Grover.  “Last chance to leave because I promise you, I will give you the beating of your life.”

“I won’t say nothing,” he said.

I clicked on the image viewer and opened the album of pictures from Elizabeth Starling’s camera.  I handed the laptop to Owen without telling him where they came from.  He started to click through the images.  He turned to me when he got to the picture of Ginger Starling.

“Is this…?” was all he could bring himself to say.

I nodded.

“Where did you…?”

“Uncle Crew,” I said.

Grover looked at us dumbfounded.  “Stop talking in code.”  He walked over and sat next to Owen.  “Who’s the girl?”

We didn’t answer.  Owen continued to click through the pictures.  He didn’t make any comments.  He got to the last one and started scanning through them again.  At one point he pursed his lips together, and I could tell he was going back and forth between a series of pictures.  He turned to me with a furrowed brow.  “There are some pictures missing.”

“What?” I said darting forward and looking over his shoulder. 

“You see this file name?” He asked as he pointed to the upper left hand side of the screen.

“Yeah,” I said.

“It’s IMG00012,” he said.

“So.”

“Yeah, so,” Grover said.

Owen clicked to the next image.  “This one is IMG00026.”

“So,” Grover said again.

“It should be IMG00013,” I said in a haze.

“Right,” Owen said.  “It’s the default naming protocol. Images have sequential numbers.”

“Sesquent-what?” Grover asked.

“In order,” I said.  “The images should be numbered in the order in which they were taken.  It jumps from 12 to 26.”

“Which means someone deleted 14 images,” Owen said.

“Oh,” Grover said yawning.  “Guess they were bad pictures.”  He stood.  “I’m leaving because, for top secret stuff I’m not supposed to tell anyone, it’s pretty boring.”  He stomped out of the room.

“Image number 12 is a picture of your uncle,” Owen said.  “Picture number 26 is of that other guy.”

“J-Rob,” I said.

“Which means 13-25 were probably of them, too.”

I turned and sat back-to-back with Owen, pressing my feet against the wall.  “Uncle Crew deleted them.”

“Looks like.”  I could sense him turn his head toward me.  “You okay?”

“That’s the second time you’ve asked me that since you got here.”

I heard a car pulling into the driveway.  I jumped up and nearly knocked Owen to the floor.  I darted out of the bedroom and headed down the hallway to a window overlooking the front yard.  Owen wasn’t far behind.  It was a police car.  Owen’s cousin was helping Uncle Crew out of the backseat.

“What’s going on?” I asked Owen.

He looked at me dumbfounded and simply shrugged. 

I ran down the hall and bounded down the stairs.  I was on the front porch so fast I wasn’t even sure how I got there.  I looked to my left and Owen was standing right beside me.  He hopped off the porch and made a beeline for his cousin.  Uncle Crew made brief eye contact with me and then quickly dropped his head.  He stomped awkwardly down the driveway toward his FROG.

I heard the door to police cruiser shut, and turned to see Owen climbing back up the porch steps.  “Well?” I begged.

Owen looked at me sheepishly.  “My cousin brought your uncle in for questioning.  There was a call to 911 the night Mrs. Starling… died.  The server crashed and they thought they lost it so nobody heard it until this morning when some IT guy was able to recover the call from one of the corrupt hard drives.”

“I don’t understand.  Are you saying someone called 911 about Mrs. Starling the night she was killed?”

“Yes.  The best they can determine the caller used Mrs. Starling’s cell phone to make the call.  My cousin said the second he heard the voice he knew who it was.”

“Uncle Crew.”

Owen nodded.  “Apparently, he wouldn’t talk, and they didn’t have enough to hold him.”

I leaned back against the porch railing and folded my arms over my chest.  “They think he killed her,” I said to no one in particular.

Owen rested on the railing next to me.  “Do you blame them?  I thought you were leaning that way, too.”

“I was… this is all my fault.  I should never have said anything to anyone.”  I grabbed Owen’s arm and squeezed.  “You can’t tell anyone about the pictures.”

“Okay, but honestly, Hayley, it’s not looking too good.  The three guys last night, the camera, the missing pictures, your uncle is mixed up in something. And, even if he didn’t kill Elizabeth Starling, it’s pretty clear he’s involved in some way.  You’re going to have to tell someone sooner or later… someone besides me.”

I didn’t say a word.  I knew he was right.  I didn’t want him to be, but there was no sense denying it.  Uncle Crew was hiding something.  I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.  I felt an obligation to Ginger Starling to find out what he was hiding because I was pretty sure it would lead to the truth of what really happened to her mother.

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Author to Give Away Free Laptop – Skull-boy byline

Skull-boy Ace Reporter

Skull-boy Ace Reporter

Dateline Chucktown:  R.W. Ridley is  giving away a free laptop to promote the release of his new book, Lost Days!  Watch the video below and then join the Lost Days Facebook group!

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Lost Days – Post 34 (The drawing for the laptop grows nearer!)

ARC Cover for Lost Days!

ARC Cover for Lost Days!

This is the 34th installment of my new book, Lost Days.  The book will be released the first week of December.  I’ll also hold a drawing for a free laptop computer shortly after that.  Join the Lost Days Facebook group to get updates on rules and news. 

 

Ginger looked beautiful.  I’m sure I was the only one who thought so because as far as I could tell no one seemed as fixated on her as I was.  She was still… dumpy, her posture, her build, her overall demeanor was no different than she had been before.  It was her eyes that were somehow different.  They were big, and bold, soaking in the sadness of the moment, and not letting it go.  It was a look of total devastation, and while that shouldn’t have been beautiful to me, it was.  She loved her mother so much it damaged her knowing she would never see her again.  I found it reassuring that someone could love another person so much.  I thought I loved my mother and little brother that much, and even Nana Taffy and granddaddy, too.  But I knew I wouldn’t ever be sure until I stood in a cemetery staring at one of their caskets.  That’s the hell of it, as my granddaddy would say.  You don’t know how much you love somebody until they can’t love you back.  Realizing this, I started to cry in big painful sobs.  Everyone around me assumed I was crying for Ginger and her family, but I wasn’t.  I was crying for me, and when that thought occurred to me, I cried even harder for being such a selfish brat. 

After Ginger’s little brother threw his rose on top of the casket, the family walked away in a huddled mass.  Ginger caught a quick glance of me and attempted a smile.  I nodded and attempted one back.  I was sorry the school had let us all attend.  Everyone but me was there for the wrong reason.   You wouldn’t think a thing like that mattered, but it did. 

Joyner put his arm around me and lead me across the cemetery grounds towards his father’s truck.  It felt good being nestled up against him.  Someone who felt this good couldn’t be bad. 

I saw someone approach out of the corner of my eye and was relieved to see Owen.  He was wearing a pressed black suit.  I did a little double take when I saw him.  His eyes were puffy and red.

“You been crying?” Danny Perry asked Owen holding back a giggle.

“No,” Owen insisted.

He had been.  I knew it.  Anyone with half a brain knew it.   “You changed,” I said.

“Figured you were right,” he said.  “Called mom from school and she brushed off my one and only suit for me.  Doesn’t really fit.”  He tugged on the collar.

“Looks nice,” I said.

“Yeah,” Denise said.  “You look like a normal person.”

“Normal person who cries,” Danny said.

Joyner slapped his shoulder.  “Shut up, dude.”

Danny flinched and rubbed his shoulder.  “Jeez, I’m just jerking his chain.”

“Well, don’t,” Joyner growled.

Owen looked appreciative but confused by Joyner’s action.  He cleared his throat and said, “I gotta go.”  He looked at me.  “Saw your grandparents.  They asked if you were here.  Maybe you can catch a ride home with them.”  He gave me a very serious look.  “Unless you’re riding home with Teddy.”

My heart began to thump.

Joyner didn’t even acknowledge that Owen had referred to him as Teddy.  He just said, “Sure I can give you a ride home.”

“Yeah,” Denise said.  “Let’s ride home with the guys.”

“No,” I barked.  “We’ll get my grandparents to take us home.”

Denise grabbed my arm.  “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

I gently released myself from her grasp.  “In the car…”  I turned to look for Nana Taffy and granddaddy.

“Over there,” Owen said pointing to my right. 

I followed his finger and saw them talking to some people in the neighborhood that I had seen a few times before.  I had to keep myself from taking off in a dead sprint towards them.  I awkwardly said goodbye to Joyner and yanked Denise along with me as I stumbled in my high heels across the uneven grass to join my grandparents.   I glanced over my shoulder once and noticed Joyner staring at me with a raised eyebrow.  Somewhere in my panicked flee, Owen managed to leave without me noticing.  He was nowhere to be seen.  When we reached Nana Taffy and granddaddy, I wanted to collapse into their arms.  I felt as if I had narrowly escaped with my life.  I wanted them to hold me and tell me everything would be alright.  Instead, I greeted them as if nothing was wrong.  The guy I was falling for had something to do with the three goons who broke into Uncle Crew’s room, and could very well have something to do with the death of the woman who’s funeral we’d attended. But I couldn’t tell them any of that.  I just smiled and for the first time in my life wanted desperately to see Uncle Crew.

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Lost Days – Post 33 (With Two Possible Front Cover Designs)

This is the 33rd installment of my new book, Lost Days.  The short description: When Hayley learns her crazy uncle vanished for more than a year when he was a child, the intrepid teen sets out to solve the mystery of his lost days, unmasking a legendary creature in the process.

I’m releasing it in installments every Sunday on this blog, and I also plan to be releasing it in paperback very soon.  Click here to join the Lost Days Facebook Group.  What do you get for joining the group?  For one thing, you’ll be eligible to enter a drawing for a free laptop computer.  For another, you’ll get editorial updates on the current manuscript, and for yet another reason, you’ll get first crack at giving your feedback on various design elements of the cover.  Here’s a taste.  I’ve posted four possible front covers on the Lost Days Facebook page, and to date, the two covers you see below have received the most positive feedback.  What do you think? 

Cover 1 - The hooded girl hits on the mystery element of the story!

Cover 1 - The hooded girl hits on the mystery element of the story!

To my disappointment, Owen was not waiting for me after class.  I thought for sure he would be anxiously standing by the locker ready to tell me what Joyner’s first name was.  In fact, I didn’t see him for the rest of the day at school.  Joyner either.  I began to imagine horrible things.  Owen got too nosy.  Joyner caught on.  He got his three goons to keep Owen quiet, permanently.  I tried to tell myself that I watched too many movies, that I was inventing crazy conspiracies about Joyner that couldn’t possibly be true.  He was a high school kid.  What would he want with Elizabeth Starling’s camera?  I chuckled to myself as I walked the halls. What did I think, that Joyner was some crime boss, some kingpin that had people killed?  He was popular, sure, but I was pretty sure that he wasn’t running some criminal organization after school. 

 

Denise found me after third period.  Those of us planning on attending the funeral had been given the green light to leave an hour earlier than planned because of the anticipated turnout.  My guess was the administration was starting to regret letting the students attend the funeral.  The crowd was going to be large and given the maturity level of most of those in attendance, there was sure to be some embarrassing behavior.  I could see Dr. Claymeyer wringing his hands as he watched the students walk by his office. 

Joyner and Danny Perry caught up to Denise and me as we exited the school.  I wanted to be happy to see Joyner, but I couldn’t quite manage it.  As ridiculous as it seemed, I had the lingering feeling that he was more than a high school kid.  He was the leader of a crime syndicate.  

 

Cover 2 - People just seem to like this girls face!

Cover 2 - People just seem to like this girl's face!

“I’ll drive,” Joyner said.

“Oh,” I said.  “I promised Owen that we’d ride with him.”

“He’ll get over it,” Denise said with a grotesque smile.

“Owen left, anyway,” Joyner said.  I tried to detect something sinister in his tone, but it was flat.

“Left?” I asked.

“Saw him checking out in the office right after second period,” Joyner replied.  He held up a set of keys.  “Got my dad’s truck.  King cab. Satellite radio.”  He winked.

Denise grabbed my hand.  “Of course we’re riding with you.”

“Well, alright!” Danny screamed like an idiot.  He put his arm around Denise and guided her to the truck.

Joyner looked at me with concern.  “Are you okay?”

I shrugged.  “I don’t like funerals.”

He nodded and just said, “Yeah.”  He reached down and took my hand in his.  “Sure you want to go?”

I shivered from his touch.  I couldn’t decide if it was fear or desire.  “No, but I have to… you know, for Ginger.”

He grinned.  “That’s why I like you.  Every other kid in this rotten school is going to the funeral to get out of class.  You’re actually going to support Ginger.”

“What about you?” I asked.  “Why are you going?”

He didn’t even hesitate.  “Because you’re going.”  He kept hold of my hand as we walked to his father’s truck.  The shiver came back, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t fear this time.  I closed my eyes and prayed that he wasn’t a bad guy.

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Lost Days – Post 32 (Join Facebook group for a chance to win a laptop computer!)

This is the 32nd installment of my new book Lost Days.  Here’s the one sentence description:

When Hayley learns her crazy uncle vanished for more than a year when he was a child, the intrepid teen sets out to solve the mystery of his lost days, unmasking a legendary creature in the process.

I’ve created a Facebook Lost Days group.  Join the group and keep updated on a drawing I’ll have when the book is released.  The prize will be a laptop computer. 

I saw Owen outside my second period class, and pulled him to the side.  “What is Joyner’s first name?” I asked.

He mulled over the question.  “T.J.,” he said.

“His first name isn’t T.J.  Those are his initials.  What’s his first name?”  The frantic timbre of my voice was coming off as angry.

Owen became defensive.  “I’m not the one in love with him.  What do I care what his first name is?”

I bit my lip and then broke my promise to Uncle Crew.  “Three guys broke into my uncle’s room last night.  I heard one of them say something about somebody named Teddy?”

“You heard them?” Owen said.

“It’s a long story.”  I leaned against a row of lockers.  “I told Joyner that Uncle Crew was a Bigfoot researcher yesterday.  One of the guys who broke into Uncle Crew’s room said ‘Teddy was right. This nut job is into Bigfoot.’”

I thought I detected a faint smile on Owen’s face.  “Wait a minute… you think the guys who broke into your uncle’s room know Joyner… T.J. Joyner… Teddy Joyner.”

“If that’s his name,” I said.  “What else am I supposed to think?”  I thought of the implications.  “Oh my god, what if Joyner sent them there?”

He smirked.  “Why would Joyner send three guys to your uncle’s place?”

“To find the camera,” I said without thinking. 

“What camera?”

I placed my hand over my mouth.  “What camera?” I asked because I didn’t know how else to respond.

“That’s what I asked,” Owen said. 

The bell rang, and I immediately backed away.  “Gotta go.”

He looked at me suspiciously.  “If I find out what the ‘T’ stands for in T.J. Joyner, you have to tell me about the camera.”

“I’ll just ask Joyner,” I said confidently.

“No,” he snapped.  “If he is Teddy, and he did send three guys to your uncle’s, then I don’t want him thinking you’re on to him.”

“You don’t want?” I asked. 

He fumbled over his words.  “I… you know… It just isn’t a good idea.  Let me find out.”

I reluctantly nodded and then disappeared into my second period class.

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Lost Days – Post 31 (Get a free book)

This is the 31st installment of the book I am currently writing. It is Sci-Fi/Adventure for young adult. It is not part of the Oz Chronicle series. Click on the “Lost Days Book” category on the right to read from the beginning. Or you can click here

**Special Announcement: Due to the unexpected response to last week’s announcement about the free ARC give away for “Lost Days” I’ve decided to double the offer.  I’m giving away 10 more.  Contact me via email with the subject line “Send me a free ARC.”  Remember I can’t send it to you without your mailing address.  You can click here if you want more information. 

“Nice,” was the first thing Joyner said to me.  He met me at the front entrance to the school and walked me to my first class.  He was wearing a suit.  I was a little surprised, because I wasn’t sure if someone of his stature would actually be going to the funeral, but by the looks of everyone in school, they were all planning on going mainly to get out of afternoon classes.  It was almost like the school was buying mourners for Elizabeth Starling.  I hoped it would make Ginger feel loved.  I had a feeling she was smart enough to see it for what it really was.  “You feeling better?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Nothing serious.”

“Can I give you a ride to the funeral?”

I nodded.

“Got any crazy uncle stories for me today?” he asked.

I chuckled.  “No.  He might not be as crazy as I thought he was.”

“Really?  That’s kind of disappointing,” he said jokingly.  “What changed your mind?”

I looked at him.  Should I tell him about Uncle Crew and Ginger’s mom?  I cleared my throat and only told him half of the story.  “He’s not into Bigfoot.  He’s into owls.”

“Owls?”

“Short-eared… something.”

“He hunts them?” Joyner asked.

“No,” I said.  “He takes pictures of them. Studies them.  He says they’re endangered.  He’s trying to preserve their territory.”

“Cool,” he said. 

“I guess,” I responded.

“He takes pictures of them… where?”

I shrugged.  “Shawnee National Forest.  Little Grand Canyon.  Just around.”

“And he’s got pictures?”

I thought about it.  “I saw some owls, but I’m not sure if they’re the endangered ones.”

“Can I see them?” he asked with unexpected enthusiasm.

“You want to see pictures of the owls?”

“Why not?” he asked.  “Is that so weird?”

I smiled playfully.  “Kind of.”

He smiled back and squeezed the back of my neck.  Shivers went down my spine and I could feel goose bumps pop up all over my body.  As corny as it sounds, it felt like I had never been touched by a boy before, and honestly at that moment, I couldn’t remember if I had been.  “I’ve just never seen an endangered animal before… I mean close up.  I think I’d like to get involved with the cause.”

I looked at him cockeyed.  “Okay, but Uncle Crew isn’t really the type who works well with others.  You might have to help the owls without helping Uncle Crew.”

“I was hoping I could meet him.  Pick his brain, you know.”

“Not a good idea.”

We stopped in front of my class.  “Okay, I’ll settle for the pictures for now,” he said. 

The bell rang, and I turned to go into the classroom when he grabbed my arm.  “When?”

“When what?” I asked.

“When can I see them?” he asked pulling me closer.

I resisted, but he kept pulling.  “Wow, you really want to see those pictures.”

“So, shoot me for caring about one of God’s creatures.”  His tone was hard to read.  I think he was trying to be funny, but he sounded a little frustrated.

I was a little unnerved by his sudden keen interest in owls.  “I have them on my laptop.”

“Cool, I can swing by your house after the funeral and look at them.”

I shook my head.  “I don’t think that would be such a good idea.”

“Why?” This time I knew he was frustrated.

“It’s just that it’s my grandparent’s house, and I really shouldn’t have any uninvited guests over.”  I was pretty sure that Nana Taffy and granddaddy wouldn’t mind if he came over, but I was really unsettled by his need to see the pictures. 

He shrugged.  I think he sensed my tenseness.  “Cool, Friday then.  I’ll pick you up a little early for pizza.”

I nodded.  “Friday.  That’ll work.”

Danny Perry ran by and yelled out, “T, we’ll be late for Mr. Hammond’s class.  He’ll have coach all over us.”

“Coming,” Joyner yelled back.  He smiled and said, “You look really good today.”

I blushed and walked into my class when a bell went off in my head.  ‘T.’

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