We're a mere 12 HOURS from the official release of my debut novel Ugly Stick! I am brimming with such excitement that it occasionally splashes over, and when that happens I feel I can't wait another moment to share this story with the world. Right now is one of those moments, SO...
Here is another quick sneak peek inside the story. Hope you enjoy it! And be sure to check back after midnight tonight for an exclusive link and coupon code to get $2 off the paperback list price.
Thanks for your interest, and happy reading!
We watched from the living room as Mom’s car rolled out of the driveway. Ani wrestled with her typical curiosity for about four seconds before bursting out, “So what’s with your mom and yearbooks?”
“I know, right?” I said, throwing up my hands and dropping onto the couch. “The weirdest part is, when I talked to Grandma, I specifically asked her about Mom’s yearbooks, and she swore Mom has them.”
“What?” Ani said with a gasp. “Your mom lied? Your mom doesn’t lie.”
“I know,” I said, “so I’m kind of freaking out right now.”
Ani sat down next to me. “Have you ever seen a picture of your mom in high school?”
I thought, and suddenly it dawned on me. “I’ve never seen a picture of her from before I was born,” I said slowly. The picture of Mom holding me at three days old, which sat on the shelf above my dresser, between my baby rattle and my old teddy bear, was the earliest picture of Mom that I had ever laid eyes on.
“Not even a wedding picture?” Ani exclaimed.
“No, their photographer forgot to take off the lens cap… oh, snap, do you think that was a lie, too?”
My head was spinning. One little white lie about the whereabouts of Mom’s yearbooks was bad enough, but the thought of her systematically lying to me for most of my life? It made me dizzy.
“Why wouldn’t there be any pictures of her?” Ani mused. “Ooh! Could your parents have been spies or something? Or may-be you’re all in the witness protection program, and you don’t even know it!”
“But my dad puts his picture everywhere for work,” I pointed out. “His name and office phone are on every ‘for sale’ sign he puts out.”
“Have you seen any younger pictures of him?” Ani asked.
“Yeah,” I said, “he’s got a few pictures on his desk of him and his dad on fishing trips and stuff from when he was little.”
“So, what is it about your mom, Apes?” Ani questioned. She laughed suddenly.
“What?” I said.
“I was just thinking it’s funny,” she explained, “that this seems like a mystery your mom might read for work… only it’s about her.”
“Huh. Yeah.” I wrinkled my nose. What would one of Mom’s detectives do? Either look for clues or interview witnesses, I sup-posed. Interviewing anyone was out of the question; Mom wouldn’t talk, and neither would Dad or my grandparents, I expected. That left looking for clues.
I glanced at Ani, who must have been reading my mind. “Attic?” she asked me.
“I’ll grab flashlights,” I said, jumping up and sprinting to the laundry room. We ran up the stairs, through the office, and into the large closet that hid the stairway to the attic.
I only went up there twice a year, to help with Christmas decorating and de-decorating. Our attic was unfinished and cobwebby, with exposed beams and puffy pink insulation poking out here and there. Ani shifted her weight uncomfortably. She was petrified of spiders.
“Where should we start?” I asked, eyeing the stacks of cardboard boxes and plastic bins. “We’ve got an hour, tops.”
Ani and I surveyed the massive hodgepodge doubtfully. “Well, let’s ignore anything marked ‘Christmas,’” I decided aloud, “and focus on things that look like they haven’t been disturbed in a while.”
I felt proud of my limited detective skills. I started pawing through a pile of dust-covered boxes in one corner while Ani gingerly worked her way across a metal shelf.
After several minutes of hard labor, I spotted a large, extremely dusty trunk in the corner, behind some of the boxes I had moved. “That looks like it hasn’t been moved in forever… do you think?”
Ani and I approached the trunk, which had a combination lock with four digits slipped through the brass latch on the top. “What should I try?” I whispered. For some reason being hushed seemed necessary.
“Maybe your mom’s birthday?” Ani suggested. I dialed 1-1-2-6. Nothing.
“I’ll try my parents’ anniversary,” I said. I turned the digits to 0-5-3-0. Nothing again.
“Your birthday? Grandparents’ anniversary?” Ani said. I tried my birthday, both 0-2-0-8 and 2-8-9-8, with no result. “Maybe we need to invert the numbers European-style,” she muttered.
If we tried that, we would be spinning dials for hours. I turned the digits to 0-8-0-9, Grandma Jo and Grandpa Frank’s anniversary. It produced a satisfying click, and the lock fell open.
“I can’t believe that worked.” I whispered. I lifted the lid with shaky hands.