Author: C.L. Gaber
Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Hosted by: Lady Amber's Tours
Revealed first on MTV
I was there. And then I was gone. My mother gave me no notice that we were relocating.
Suddenly, we had just moved without all that annoying planning and packing. Somehow my clothes were thrown into boxes with shoes that were missing mates. Someone had packed my books and CDs, and had even reached under my bed into that secret hiding place I counted on to protect my treasures; like the iPod loaded with the best and worst of everything from Nirvana to the Stones, plus my lucky green rabbit’s foot—because you just never knew when you would need a little extra luck.
My mother must have remembered the family photo album because there it was on our brand-new living room coffee table that I passed on the way to my very own bedroom and a bed I had never slept in a day in my life.
It was strange because we could barely afford to pay the rent each month, let alone buy something as nice as a hand-carved oak table imported from someplace far, far away. When I had looked, the tag didn’t say from where. It was just imported.
It was one of those times when you go from A to Z so fast that you hardly remember any of the in-between. Or as I—Walker Callaghan—senior at Kennedy High School in suburban Chicago and news editor of the school paper the Charger liked to say, “Maybe it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story.”
Flopping onto my new, handsome, four-poster bed with lovely little tulips carved into the wood, I thought it was so unlike my mother, the master planner, to do something this off-the-cuff. My mother was a woman who made a battle plan to go to the local 7-Eleven for almost-expiration-date milk. Even weirder was the fact that we had moved farther away than anyone imagined. A lot farther.
“So run this by me one more time, Mom,” I shouted. “I must have been heavily medicated or feeling really sorry for myself. We moved? You pulled the trigger. Bang-bang—relocation?”
I didn’t give her time to answer.
“A new school in my senior year of high school?” I called out to her on a murky, cold winter morning on Burning Tree Court.
Even though I was letting the heat escape and Mom had always said we didn’t live to “support Commonwealth Edison,” our old electric company, I still opened my bedroom window wide and found that the air drifting in was stun-your-senses Arctic cold. It smelled green and fresh outside and those dense marshmallow patches of white fluff in the sky could only mean serious snow because they were roasted dark on the bottom.
I tried to shiver, but couldn’t. I was perfectly warm despite the window and the fact that I was wearing faded jeans and a well- washed blue cotton tank that read: Normal People Scare Me.
In true dramatic fashion, I couldn’t resist needling the one 12
person responsible for our fate, our new house, and everything in it that was unknown and strange. “Mom, new school. Senior year. I’ll have no friends here. Are you trying to kill me?”
Without knowing how or why, I was now enrolled in this elite- sounding new school called the Academy, which sounded quite upscale and serious to a girl whose educational pursuits consisted of a generic public-school education outside of a big melting-pot city, where you were either rich (if you were lucky) or you were normal (if you were like everybody else). Our family worked hard at being desperately normal.
“Great, it will be a bunch of rich, stuck-up snobs who will hate me—and cheerleaders. There are always cheerleaders. They’re like cockroaches. You can’t get rid of them,” I concluded, yelling from my new room to hers, which was somewhere down a hallway that I had never really navigated before.
“I hear it’s quite fancy,” Mom called from her room. “A Callaghan going to a private school. Imagine.”
I didn’t have to imagine it as I was living it. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but when I had asked that question, Madeleine Callaghan, my mom, the mover and shaker in my life, had cringed and then cried hard into a brand-new washcloth she didn’t recognize—the thick kind we could never afford. The weeper was the one who had given me the odd-for-a-girl first name, which was her maiden name before she married my father, steel worker Sam Callaghan. We weren’t just blue-collar, but faded blue-collar from clothes that had far too many seasons of washings. In our family, the rule was “Don’t throw it out unless it’s dead-dead.”
Running my finger along the smooth wood of my expensive new dresser with the intoxicating just-cut-tree smell, I ducked down on the ground to read the label on the bottom. Imported from R-19877. Really? Did we win the lottery? And what was with the secret spy code?
“Honey, please, I’m begging you,” Mom answered after appearing in my doorway. “For once, let’s not do the Diane Sawyer investigation act. I can’t do twenty rounds of questions. Not today.” Her voice sounded thick like she had a cold, so I closed the window.
“There is no need to insult Diane who probably doesn’t even have a dresser this nice,” I replied.
“Walker, let me make you some breakfast,” Mom said. “Everything is always better after a little oatmeal and orange juice. You’ll see.”
Back home in suburban Chicago, Principal Amanda Stevens was toying with the loudspeaker at Kennedy High School. It was time to make an announcement that drifted across her desk once or twice a year (every year)—and it always pulled her heart right out of her chest. She couldn’t dwell on herself, but had to think of her students. Many of them knew this girl from her work on the school newspaper. What would she say about her? Principal Stevens went through the usual lines in her head: It was a terrible shame. A waste. A tragedy. It was all those sentiments that meant nothing really because they were just words.
This was a heart ripper—dead at seventeen. Good night, Irene.
Ms. S knew that she better just do it. So she clicked the on button on the PA system, took a deep breath, and said what needed to be said. Nothing more. Nothing less.
“I regret to tell the student body that we lost one of our own last night. Walker Callaghan, a well-respected senior and news editor of the Charger, has died.”
She released the on button and grabbed for a bottle of extra- strength aspirin, wishing there was something stronger. Then she clicked the PA back on again. “Of course, counselors are available,” she added.