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Two college freshmen attempt to write home about their ...
Two college freshmen attempt to write home about their experiences and finally discover the thing that their friend and sister has known all along.
There are some moments that are perfect. I'm only 17, and I know this. Sitting on the hood of the old Ford, wedged between Emma and her brother, Jake, I lean back against the windshield. I can't even guess how many times the three of us have come to this exact spot. First, on our bikes ... and later, when Jake got his license, in his car. I want to memorize every detail-the stars, white explosions on blue-black sky, their blurred reflections on the reservoir lake, rippled by the late summer breeze.
I inhale sugar clover, lake grass, and pine, scents as familiar to me as Mom's Jack Daniels or Emma's lavender perfume. I fight the growing weight, the realization that this is the last night the three of us will be together like this. Emma and Jake Jackson and me, Mattie Mays-The Three Musketeers, The Three Stooges, Three Coins in a Fountain.
"Crickets, Emma," I say, making sure she can see my lips. I raise my arm and sign it, just in case. "A train whistle far away. A plop from a fish flopping in the reservoir."
Emma nods, as if she knows exactly what everything sounds like. For the millionth time, I wonder how my friend, deaf from birth, takes in the sounds I've always tried to describe for her.
Jake sits up straighter. His legs are solong, they hang over the hood. Emma and I quit growing before high school. Jake's still at it. Big, athletic, with thick, sandy blond hair, he has never looked much like his sister. Emma, with thin, fine, red hair, has always been small and frail-even before she was diagnosed with lupus. When Jake was 12, he could hold us both at the same time, one under each arm, tucked away like footballs.
"Frogs," Jake says. "Hear them?" He leans around me to sign for Emma while he talks. "Seriously adolescent frogs. Croaks are coming from down the hill and across the reservoir."
Emma's hands move in the moonlight as she finger spells cacophony. She has the tiniest fingers I've ever seen. Her size-four class ring, the smallest the ring company had to offer, has to be worn on her index finger, with tape wound on the underside. She's been in remission for two years.
Perfect, Em signs. It's a perfect going-away night for you guys.
"It still makes me mad that we didn't get to graduate together," I complain. The school made me skip my sophomore year in high school, which put me in Jake's class instead of Emma's. Hamilton, Missouri, population 1,701 before the shoe factory closed, had never had a student score "near perfect" on national exams. The teachers tried to make me skip two years and go straight to the senior class, but I drew the line.
Still, instead of experiencing graduation with Emma, I had to walk across the Penney High stage and receive my diploma with Jake and his buddies, and a bunch of girls-like Valerie Ramsey-who acted like I'd shoved and bullied my way into their perfect-without-me class. Crossing the stage with them, I felt like a platypus in a heron parade. Em and her parents clapped as loud for me as they did for Jake, though.
Mom was a no-show.
It was the Jacksons who went to all the trouble of having a going-away party for Jake and me tonight. We hung around until our friends-mostly Jake's friends-left. Then Emma called for a moon check, and we sneaked away to the reservoir, just outside town. Sometimes I think moon checks have saved my life. I know. Pretty dramatic. But I've had my share of pretty dramatic nights, when I couldn't stand it in the house with Mom or with her "friends." I'd call Jake, and all I'd say was "I need a moon check." And he and Emma would be outside waiting for me by the time I got my jacket on.
Only thing that would have made this night more perfect, Emma signs, would have been my big brother coming through with Paul McCartney tickets.
"Don't blame me!" Jake protests. "Blame Dennis." Jake turns to me. "Did he tell you he got the last ticket-a front-row seat, no less?"
Dennis did tell me. If he'd been able to get two tickets, he was going to take me with him. We'd dated some our senior year.
"You can't blame Dennis," I tell Jake, "just because he succeeded where you failed."
"Hey, I did everything except ask the girl at the ticket counter to marry me," Jake says, signing at the same time.
"To marry you? Why didn't you just offer her good old cash?" I tease.
"I did!" Jake whines. "I would have sold my computer-or your hair-to get us tickets to McCartney."
Jake has ragged me about my hair since I was too little to brush it myself. My hair has always been abnormally thick and wild, "like a deranged Scottish woman, wandering the hills for her lost love." So says Jake. Everybody else claims they'd kill for naturally curly, coal black hair like mine. I don't much care one way or the other. But if Jake's right, and I have been looking for my lost love, I haven't found him.
"Should have sold your own golden locks, Jake Jackson," I counter. "Might as well. How old was your dad when he lost his hair?"
"That's hitting low, even for you, Matt," Jake complains. "But if you want to talk hair-"
Stop, you two! Emma's fingers shout, snapping from her palm as if they're on springs.
We're quiet for a few minutes. The steady cricket chirping overtakes us in waves, as if someone's playing with the volume control on the cricket sound track. I can't help wondering when I'll hear crickets like this again.
In the morning Jake and I will leave Hamilton and drive cross-country to Los Angeles to start classes at Freedom University. I would do just about anything to smuggle Emma into my suitcase.
I grab Em's hand and slide off the hood, taking her with me. Together we run down the hill, shedding our shoes before we reach the water.
"Come on, Jake!" I slide, as the ground turns mushy under my toes.
"You're crazy!" Jake hollers back.
Emma rolls up her jeans, and I do the same. The Big and Little Dippers wink down at us. In one glance I take in Cassiopeia's M and Orion's armor.
We step through cattails into silk-bottomed water, so cold the shock tingles my feet and travels to my fingertips.
Emma frowns and jerks her head toward Jake.
I pass the command. "Jake, you better get down here right now!"
Grumbling, Jake thunders down the hill and kicks off his shoes. Then he trudges into the water and stops between us.
We stand there in ankle-deep water that barely moves. I can almost feel Emma praying. Everything I know about God, I've gotten from her. The world feels as if Emma's God is holding his breath, waiting for something. Jake's waiting too. I can tell he's watching his sister's hand, as if expecting a divine message.
Slowly Em stretches out her arm so we can both read her fingers by moonlight. I want you to promise me something.
"Name it, Em." I struggle to hold myself together.
This year, while I'm finishing high school, you two have to be my ears and my eyes. Experience life for me! I need that to be a great writer.
I can't speak. Em has wanted to be a writer since before she could hold a pencil. She has so much talent. She should be the one going off to college.
"We'll e-mail you every day, Em," Jake promises, signing it as he speaks.
That's great. But I want more.
I can sense that she's going somewhere with this. I've always been able to tell when Em has something worked out and is just waiting for the rest of us to catch up-like the time she roped Jake and me into putting on a jitterbug exhibition in the community theater. By the time she let us in on her plan, the event was on the front page of the Hamiltonian. Emma definitely has an agenda now.
"Out with it," I beg. "You know we'll do anything."
Love, she answers. It's a simple hand sign, the first Emma taught me-arms crossed over her heart. I want to know everything you learn about love.
"Be careful what you wish for," Jake jokes.
Emma laughs, then signs, Trust me. I have no interest in the details of your love life, big brother. I want research, but not that kind.
"I don't get it, Em," I say.
I want you to go off to the university and discover the truth about love. Observe it. Live it. Figure it out.
"Oh, is that all?" Jake splashes her, then hurries toward safe ground.
Em's fingers snap together, and Jake turns back. No! I want you two to get together once a week and come up with a principle you've discovered about love. A rule a week.
This is so Em. "You want us to e-mail you love rules?" I ask.
No! Her fingers and thumb snap together again, signing no. E-mail is great, better than the phone for me, right? But as a writer, I don't consider e-mail messages as writing. People use a small i and misspell things intentionally. It's like chatter. I want something permanent, something I can save in my writing files and journals. I want ... Her eyes grow big, as if she's only now thought of this brilliant idea. Postcards! Get together once a week and send me a postcard.
"But what if we don't see each other during the week?" I ask. "L.A. isn't Hamilton, you know. Jake and I aren't just going to bump into each other."
Emma has her answer ready. Okay. Then promise me you'll get together every Monday night, no matter what. Send me one "Love Rule" every week you're away.
Jake and I exchange skeptical looks.
You asked what you could do for me, Emma signs. She gives us her pitiful puppy look. This is it. This is all I'm asking.
She looks at Jake and finally gets a nod. Then she turns to me.
I've never been able to say no to Emma Jackson. I sigh. "Deal."
Good! she signs. Then her hands clap above her head before her fingers spell LOVE RULES!
Excerpted from Love Rules by DANDI DALEY MACKALL Copyright © 2005 by Dandi Daley Mackall. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted November 10, 2009
This book is kind of confusing at the begging, because there is more than one character that speaks. one the things i really enjoy from this book, was the messages that had. if you really think about it, this book has something that meany readers look for in a book. Daniel Delay Mckall did a really good job on givein out the message. the message that i found in this boook was, "That sometimes love is were you least espected to be" and is a charming book. when i started to read it,, i stoped for a while, but then i realized that the book had more to it, than just two young adult going to college and startint what many call the real life. or college life. i think this book was intendet for young adults in college to read. Because everyon ethat goes to coollege not just goes to study, they also go with the purpose of fingding something new. this is a fun book to read. it gives you a different view of love.it makes you see that is hard to find love if you are searching it in the wrong place,also it has alot of detai of what goes oo in the main characters life. This is a great bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2009
Ok, so when i first started to read this book I was a little lost. It was hard keeping track of which character was speaking. The book didn't get good untill the two main characters went off to college. The first few chapters were extremly boring to read i almost returned it. What made me keep reading was the fact that I've read other books from this author that were incredible. Once you get past the first and second chapters the book gets really good. Its a story of two people that were looking for love in all the wrong places when all along the person they were ment to be with has always been right in front of them. I didnt want the book to end!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 18, 2006
This book teaches great lessons in love and relationships. Sometimes yu can't see it when it is right in front of your face. The main characters are witty and fabulous and best of all is that the book is CLEAN! Finally something in the teen sections worth reading!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 16, 2005
This is my favorite book of all time. I bought it and read it the same day all in three hours. I could not put it down. The characters are unique and the story is very funny and touching at the same time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 2, 2005
Posted August 27, 2009
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Posted November 27, 2008
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Posted October 21, 2008
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