body found in a motel room, alone
Someone just ripped off my eyelids.
Thank God youre stronger than she was. Jennifer drains her coffee mug and wipes the crumbs from the corners of her mouth.
The knife slides into the butcher block with a whisper. Yeah. I reach for a plate, scrubbed free of blood and gristle. It weighs ten pounds.
She snaps the lid on the box of cookies. I have a late settlement appointment. Can you take Emma to soccer? Practice starts at five.
Richland Park, out past the mall. Here. She hands the heavy mug to me, her lipstick a bloody crescent on the rim. I set it on the counter and unload the plates one at a time, arms shaking.
Emma comes into the kitchen and sets her cereal bowl, half-filled with sky-colored milk, next to the sink.
Did you remember the cookies? she asks her mother.
Jennifer shakes the plastic container. Were late, honey. Get your stuff.
Emma trudges toward her backpack, her sneaker laces flopping. She should still be sleeping, but my fathers wife drives her to school early four mornings a week for violin lessons and conversational French. Third grade is not too young for enrichment, you know.
Jennifer stands up. The fabric of her skirt is pulled so tight over her thighs, the pockets gape open. She tries to smooth out the wrinkles. Dont let Emma con you into buying chips before practice. If shes hungry, she can have a fruit cup.
Should I stick around and drive her home?
She shakes her head. The Grants will do it. She takes her coat off the back of the chair, puts her arms in the sleeves, and starts to button up. Why dont you have one of the muffins? I bought oranges yesterday, or you could have toast or frozen waffles.
Because I cant let myself want them because I dont need a muffin (410), I dont want an orange (75) or toast (87), and waffles (180) make me gag.
I point to the empty bowl on the counter, next to the huddle of pill bottles and the Bluberridazzlepops box. Im having cereal.
Her eyes dart to the cabinet where she had taped up my meal plan. It came with the discharge papers when I moved in six months ago. I took it down three months later, on my eighteenth birthday.
Thats too small to be a full serving, she says carefully.
I could eat the entire box I probably wont even fill the bowl. My stomachs upset.
She opens her mouth again. Hesitates. A sour puff of coffee-stained morning breath blows across the still kitchen and splashes into me. Dont say itdontsayit.
She said it.
Thats the issue. Especially now. We dont want
If I werent so tired, Id shove trust and issue down the garbage disposal and let it run all day.
I pull a bigger bowl out of the dishwasher and put it on the counter. I. Am. Fine. Okay?
She blinks twice and finishes buttoning her coat. Okay. I understand. Tie your sneakers, Emma, and get in the car.
Hang on. I bend down and tie Emmas laces. Double-knotted. I look up. I cant keep doing this, you know. Youre way too old.
She grins and kisses my forehead. Yes you can, silly.
As I stand up, Jennifer takes two awkward steps toward me. I wait. She is a pale, round moth, dusted with eggshell foundation, armed for the day with her bankers briefcase, purse, and remote starter for the leased SUV. She flutters, nervous.
Excerpted from WINTERGIRLS © Copyright 2009 by Laurie Halse Anderson. Reprinted with permission by Viking Juvenile. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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