Here’s a little sample of my latest release, Love Like Crazy, an upper YA love story. Enjoy!
Available exclusively on amazon for just $1.99!
I jumped out of a second story window when I was eight.
There weren’t any white-hot flames licking up the walls, forcing me to resort to a twenty-foot free-fall escape route. There was no masked predator slinking into my room, under my covers, and into my nightmares. It wasn’t even the fantastical childhood desire of flying that propelled me out of that window and onto Mrs. Tompkin’s wax myrtle hedge, thick and padded with evergreen.
You couldn’t always blame these sorts of things on others. Sometimes the blame landed squarely on your own shoulders. Even if they happened to be those of a boney, freckle-faced, third-grade girl.
No one really looked at you the same after doing something like that, as would be expected. Some might call that a tragedy. For me? It was sort of a relief, because now they were giving me the very same gawking stare the mirror had reflected most of my adolescent life.What on earth is wrong with her?
Good question, truly.
In fact, this question was my proverbial elephant in the room, and that imaginary pachyderm had been hanging out in our house for far too many years. I was really beginning to hate elephants.
I also didn’t love mirrors, but that was likely a result of today’s reflection not looking too different from the girl of days ago. Sure, I was slightly older. A little curvier, but just barely. Breasts where a shallow, concave chest used to be. Hair a bit thicker—longer—with a burnished luster. Not quite black, not truly brown. Somewhere in between, nearly mahogany.
I almost looked like the adult I would legally be in just a few short months, but something was still off. The exterior appearance had some catching up to do, though my interior mindset had made that swift transition years ago.
For most kids my age, taking ownership over your own life often happened when you turned eighteen: flying the nest, embarking on a college adventure, being empowered through your patriotic vote and all that jazz. But in my case, it had been years since someone else held the title to mine. In fact, sometimes it even felt like I was the original owner, like I’d tacked on every mile.
And there were many miles in the long road of my short life. That might sound like a cheesy paradoxical metaphor, but in my seventeen years, I’d witnessed a lot of life. That’s what the counselors always said, at least: “You’ve seen so much for such a young girl.” It struck me as ironic that this was a phrase reserved for those who’d mostly experienced the ugly side of things. Death. Sickness. Sorrow. Betrayal.
I’d agree there was a lot of ugly out there. But there had to be an abundance of beauty to be found, and I made it my mission to seek that out and live it daily. Strangely enough, the easiest place for me to locate the beautiful was at school. Learning meant growing, and growing meant you were moving forward in life, which I considered to be a beautiful thing. Keeping the wheels in motion. One foot in front of the other. When you stopped moving, that’s when the trouble settled in. That’s when it got a foothold and shook things up. That’s when the wheels fell off.
I planned to always keep moving.
Which was exactly what my own feet should’ve been doing with only five minutes left until the chime of that first period bell down at Masonridge High.
So I grabbed my canvas rucksack, threw it over my shoulder, and raced out the front door, the winter cold smacking my cheeks as I trekked down the street, not quite running, but faster than a walk. Like those grandmas that power-walked with their water bottles in hand, tiny hips swishing side to side. When I got to the light post, I dug my nail into the shiny metal knob, waiting for that geometric red man to flash. Almost there.
I had to admit, this part was most embarrassing, worse than looking like an elderly exerciser. The first block wasn’t so bad because I was tucked into the camouflage of houses and fences and tree-lined sidewalks that sheltered me from view. But this last stretch toward campus was an exposition. Everyone could see me, and I could see them as they guided their parents’ gently-used luxury vehicles into the parking lot, the motors so quiet they could sneak up behind you like a panther stalking its ignorant prey.
Since I lived less than a mile from school, it wasn’t like I needed a car to get me there—that wasn’t my issue—it was that everyone else had these boxes to hide inside. These pretty, expensively packaged exteriors, so captivating it didn’t even matter what was contained within them. I didn’t want a car; I just wanted an outer identity other than the transparent one my parents had wrapped me up in. Where my peers had these thick, solid facades with their pristine tract homes and hand-me-down wheels, I had clear cellophane wrap, wrinkled and torn that left me naked and undone.
I was the daughter of a woman I hadn’t seen in roughly ten years and the spawn of an apathetic alcoholic.
And I was also the girl that everyone thought tried to kill herself when she was eight. I’d slapped that unfortunate title on myself. Maybe this was where those doctors got their whole “she’s seen a lot of life” thing from. Probably the case.
My dad was on the receiving end of those same eyes that glued on to mine as we walked throughout town. But where I’d grown somewhat comfortable with them, he despised those stares. “Who the hell do they think they are?” he’d scream in a voice that used to rattle like thunder, but now had become so raw and gravelly from the four packs a day that he only sounded like an old man gurgling for air. He’d sputter when he spoke as he strangled the neck of a 40 and swayed side to side. He couldn’t even keep his feet planted long enough to attempt the act of intimidation. He looked like reed, not a towering oak. Nothing about him was frightening, except the fact that this was what our existence had boiled down to.
Dad didn’t bother to hide his drinking from me. You hid things you were ashamed of, I figured, the things you didn’t want exposed by the light of day. Dad just wasn’t all that ashamed. There was no wrong in it. Go ahead, turn the floodlights on. They all had it wrong.“They think they’re better than us?” he’d slur like his tongue was too thick for his mouth. “Try walking a mile in our shoes and then they’ll see how things really are.”
But I wasn’t sure it was possible to walk a mile in the shoes of someone who was going absolutely nowhere. Dad wasn’t a forward mover anymore, and as much as I’d tried to push him along the road with me, children just weren’t meant to do some things.
In a way, that made me feel sorry for him, though I realized kids shouldn’t feel sorry for their parents, either. That wasn’t the way the world worked. But when that flimsy line between adult and child was blurred with the fuzz of alcohol and the coating of a lifetime’s worth of mistakes, it was just one human empathizing for another. That, I figured, made it okay to feel just a little bit sorry.
I was still thinking about my dad’s non-movement when the traffic lights finally changed and the WALK sign pulsed red like a beating heart drawing me across the street. I loved school. For me, it was my beautiful, golden ticket. School was the arteries and veins that pumped knowledge and information into me, giving me a real chance at a successful adulthood. Sure, the education system was screwed up, people would say. Public school was a joke. Maybe so, but I’d already had an education of my own within the four walls of my home. I’d take whatever lessons my teachers could offer me over that.
And I only had five more minutes until today’s lesson would begin.
I might actually get there in time to talk with Sam before chemistry lab started. She had a date with some junior college guy last night and I was eager to hear the details. Sam never left anything out. Sometimes that was awkward, leaving my imagination very little to imagine. Most of the time it was refreshing.
The first warning bell sounded and I stepped out into the temporarily paused flurry of traffic. Two gangly senior boys slunk past me, one slamming into my shoulder as they traded a blunt back and forth, quickly attempting to get just one last drag before their feet crossed onto campus property.
I wasn’t in a daze when it happened because I always tried to be aware of my surroundings. Having a parent with fewer than five lucid minutes per day put your senses on high alert permanently. You became their eyes, ears, and brain, too. Sometimes at school I would let that slip a little because I was only responsible for myself while I was there. But right now, I was still out in the open world. Still overly aware, standing at attention.
So when the locking of tires violently trying to grip the road like Velcro crashed into my eardrums, I heard it and picked up my stride to safely hop onto the opposite curb before I could even see the beater of a truck careening straight toward me.
Unfortunately, the dog that bolted out into the lane at exactly the same time didn’t.
Maybe that was due to the fact that his eyes were on either side of his head, spaced too far apart to take it all in. Maybe it was because he was a dog, and dogs had dog brains. Whatever the reason, there was no mercy in the act, no softening of the blow of oversized tires and twisted metal and fur and bone that collided so brutally they almost became one, like some instant osmosis.
And there was also no mercy in the way the man—his thin yellow beard curling down to the middle of his chest, his cigarette sticking to the inside of his lip like it was attached permanently—looked my direction, locked remorseless eyes upon mine, and sped off as though the life of that furry and four-legged creature was somehow less important than his own.
The light hadn’t even turned green yet, but he gunned it, disappearing from sight.
Then the school bell rang.
“No, no, no, no, no, no!” I gritted, staring at the unmoving animal ten feet away. Blood seeped from his mouth. His leg was a twisted hanger, bent and contorted. Blond tufts of hair floated through the air like the aftermath of a dandelion wish.
I made a wish of my own. A cruel one. One that hoped he was dead, for his sake. Maybe a little for mine. Probably a lot for mine, truthfully.
Expelling a breath that lifted my sweat-laden hair from my forehead, I held up a hand, acting as both crossing guard and guardian as I walked over to the crumpled mass on the road. I was amazed no one else stopped—not even slowed down to witness the train wreck unfold.
I wanted to close my eyes the closer I got, but that wasn’t fair—to shield myself from someone’s pain because it was too messy and real to handle. If I did that, it would make me no better than an animal. I was human. I still felt sorry for things.
I could see his chest ballooning, which meant he wasn’t dead. In shock, probably, if animals also had the ability to do that—to shut down in order to sustain. There was no collar around his neck, and even though I was certain it was the accident that left him looking mangled and disheveled, the thick layer of grime that clung to his matted coat had to be several weeks in the making.
He belonged to no one.Double damn it.
I crouched down onto my haunches and shoved my hair from my face with the heel of my hand.
“It’s okay,” I lulled, pressing a light hand to his ribs. He flinched, eyes flashing. They were dark brown, a cat-like rim of black lining their edges. “You’re gonna be okay.”
I didn’t know that. But that’s what you said, right? It wasn’t like I could blurt out, “How are you not dead?” Even though that’s exactly what I thought. How had the impact not killed him instantly? How had his small frame—his bones and muscle and flesh—withstood the unfair discrepancy in the size and weight of his opponent? Why hadn’t someone, somewhere, in some universe or heaven or whatever it was, had pity on him? Why hadn’t my cruel wish come true?
I didn’t have time to ask those questions because the traffic light changed again, and now I was no more visible than the golden-haired dog as I sat, bent down next to him, eye-level with the bumpers and hubcaps that filtered past. It must’ve been one of those superhuman moments when endorphins laced with adrenaline fed strength to your muscles, because even though he had to weigh at least forty pounds, I lifted him from the asphalt without struggle, not even hobbling with difficulty as I carried him back to the curb.
And in that moment I was my dad.
And I wondered if he’d made the same selfish wish about me years ago.
(Copyright © 2014 by Megan Squires
First Kindle Edition: 2014
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or business establishments or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Cover art by Tiffany Willett at On The Spot Studio
Editing by Tiffany Tillman of Redhead Book Services)