Amy's Choice

Amy's Choice

by Marcia Strykowski

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935462132
Publisher: Luminis Books
Publication date: 11/03/2014
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Marcia Strykowski is a children’s book author and works at a public library. She is the author of Call Me Amy. She lives in Bradford, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Amy's Choice


By Marcia Strykowski

Luminis Books

Copyright © 2014 Marcia Strykowski
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-941311-57-8


CHAPTER 1

"Hi, I'm Amy," I told the new girl, and from that moment on, our friendship blossomed. Those three little words turned the tide on my dreaded return to school. No longer was I scared right out of my lime-green sneakers to start alone, up at the huge, jam-packed high school.

That split second of bravery was how I met my new best friend: Caterina Elizabeth Fantino — a sturdy girl with long dark hair always in a braid and sparkly blue eyes behind round granny glasses. She was half Italian and half Irish and insisted that I call her Cat.

"It suits me, don't you think?" she'd said, when we first met in the library three weeks before school started.

I'd spent that whole summer of 1973 helping to get Port Wells' first library established. During the early weeks, while I unpacked books, filed cards, and organized shelves, Cat would come in and head for the big chair in the back reading room. She always smiled at me, and I'd smile back, of course, but that was all. Then, when Craig, the coolest guy in the world, told me he was leaving for Boston, I knew loneliness would be just around the corner. I decided to do something about it before it could strike me speechless. That's why I introduced myself to Cat on that same hot summer day.

Cat was a talker, and after about ten minutes, I felt like we'd known each other for years. "I love to read mysteries, play Clue, bake, and jump into the ocean for 30 seconds in the dead of winter," she said, quickly adding, "in that order." And then after a pause to catch her breath, she asked, "What do you like to do?"

For someone who'd always been shy, I felt surprisingly comfortable with Cat and soon told her all my interests as well, emphasizing mystery books and board games. I neglected to mention that most of my baking attempts were disasters and that the last place you'd find me in the dead of winter, or at any other time, was up to my neck in waves.

"We are two of a kind," she decided.

"And, you're not summer people, right? You're planning to stay?" I peeked up at my new friend and crossed my fingers behind my back. It wouldn't be the first time over the years that I'd met a kindred spirit, only to have them head for the city a month or so later.

"Definitely. Dad left his office job and bought himself a lobster boat. We're staying."

Yet even then, despite having finally made the perfect friend, I still missed Craig each and every minute. He was supposed to be gone only a short time, while his mom got treatment for her drinking problem. When he left, I think we both assumed he'd be back before school started.


And now it was September and our first day of school. Three weeks had passed since the day I'd met Cat and said goodbye to Craig. After breakfast, I found myself cheerfully grabbing my school supplies and actually looking forward to what the day might bring.

I practically hopped to the bus stop in my excitement to get there. But, of course, high school girls don't jump around like goobers, so I stuck to a slight bounce.

When I reached the bottom of our hill, I sprinted past the field and could soon make out Cat's familiar shape standing at the corner. So far, we'd mostly met up at the library, although I knew she lived in the white house with green shutters, a few doors up the road from the post office. With all the nice weather we'd been having, it was too nice to be indoors. We usually hung around the pier or took walks in our free time, when we weren't working in the library. We both volunteered there now — Cat on Saturdays and random weekdays, and me almost every day, except Sunday, when we were closed.

Unexpectedly, there seemed to be two people at the bus stop.

"Amy! Hi!" she shouted.

I waved back. The cute boy standing beside her was about the same height as Cat. He had dark wavy hair.

"This is Ricky," said Cat.

I looked from her to him, then back to her again.

"Remember, I told you I had brothers?" she added.

I gave him a hesitant smile and then turned my attention back to my friend. "I thought your brother was in college."

"That's my older brother. Joey went back to Colby last week. Ricky here," she gave her brother a playful punch in the elbow. "He's been in science camp the past three weeks." She rolled her eyes. "A tenth grader. Only ten months and six days older than me." Cat laughed and straightened to her full height. "We're having a race to see who ends up taller."

Ricky turned a little red, and I realized he hadn't yet uttered a word.

Pulling forth my new plan to be more sociable, I said, "How do you like Port Wells, so far?"

"It's pretty cool," he said. "I miss Portland, but the scenery's good here." He had a nice voice that made him even cuter than he already was, if that was possible. He adjusted his wire-rim glasses and looked out towards the road. I realized how nervous he, and maybe even Cat, must be. They'd never been in our school system, whereas I'd been with this bunch of kids forever.

Cat had mentioned how her mom had brought her into Portland to get new school clothes. Her jumper was plaid with princess seams and looked great on her. "I like your new outfit," I said.

"Thanks, your denim skirt's really cute."

I laughed and did a jumping jack, so she could see the split in my 'skirt'. "It's culottes!" Then I realized Ricky had turned back around and, feeling foolish, I immediately adopted a more mature pose.

Cat shifted her weight and peered in both directions. "Are we the only ones at this bus stop?"

"Yep, and it used to be only me."

"What about your sister? What grade is she in?"

"Nancy's in eleventh and refuses to ride the bus. She and her gang pack as many kids as they can into one of her friend's old station wagons."

"And that blond kid?" Cat asked. "The one you were with after your 4th of July speech?"

My mind went back to the day I first saw Cat, when I was up on stage at the picnic announcing my idea to turn my friend's house into a library. After spending a lot of time in Miss Cogshell's home before she died, I'd have done anything to save it from ruin. Cat had cheered and waved a small American flag in support of my idea. She and I hadn't actually talked, though, until several weeks after the picnic — and that day was a gold-star day for me. First, I had hugged Craig (yes, me, recently known as the nerd called Shrimp, had actually hugged a boy). And then I'd introduced myself to Cat that same day.

I realized she was still waiting for my answer.

"That was Craig." Now it was my turn to blush. "He's in Boston for a while." I was actually surprised she remembered seeing Craig. She must have watched me go straight from the stage to join him at the back of the crowd. Then again, he was kind of hard to miss, or forget, for that matter. He was really tall with hair the color of ripe corn and eyes that matched the ocean. I hadn't seen him since our goodbye, yet I still thought about him round the clock. There had been times I almost mentioned him to Cat, but I still found it painful to talk about the wonderful spring I'd had with him and Miss Cogshell. The three of us had taken care of an abandoned seal pup. And then, it was like all three of them just disappeared — poof! First, we released Pup back to the ocean, then Miss Cogshell died, and then Craig left, too. I guess I figured talking about him might jinx his return.

The smelly old bus pulled up, and on we got. With a friend to sit with, the ride to school didn't seem as long and boring. Ricky sat across from us.

"Enjoy your first day," I said when he left for the third floor and Cat and I headed for Room 202.

I stared after him. "Wow, I didn't realize your brother would be like that."

"Like what?" Cat turned to look at him. "You mean goofy?"

I decided to keep my mouth shut on that one. All I needed was for her to tell him I thought he was cute. "Isn't it great that we'll be in the same homeroom and English class?" I said to change the subject.

Some of the kids had really shot up over the summer. A few could easily have been mistaken for adults. Good ol' Pamela and Claire, the two girls who made my life miserable, were in several of my classes again. No matter. It would be easier to ignore them this year. I was busy with my own friend now.


Every day after school, before my library shift, I swung by the post office. Kind of like the saying "watched pots never boil," I knew watched mail slots never produced letters, but still I checked, in hopes of a note from Craig. He was my best friend all last spring and summer and when he left for Boston three weeks, three days, and three hours earlier, he said he'd write, or at least try.

And then, after my unrewarding post office visit, I always went to the far end of the pier.

Cat didn't miss much. "What are you looking for out there all the time?" she said one day.

"Huh?"

"You're constantly watching the water."

"Oh, that. I'm looking for an old friend. Last spring ..." I proceeded to tell her all about Pup, the little harbor seal Craig and I had nursed back to health.

"It was so sad when we said goodbye and let him return to the sea a couple of months ago." Then I brightened. "I've seen him. Twice now. And better still, he has a friend." I smiled at Cat. "Pup and I both found new friends."

"That is way cool," said Cat. "Maybe I can get to know Pup, too."

I glanced back out to sea. "Let's hope so." It would be great if Cat could meet Pup and Craig. But would Craig ever return to Port Wells?

CHAPTER 2

"Ya know, Ricky has a crush on you," said Cat the following Saturday morning as we were shelving books at the library.

I glanced over my shoulder to make sure Mrs. Baldwin, our head librarian, was busy elsewhere. "Right," I said, kind of flattered, but disbelieving.

Cat tossed her thick braid back over her shoulder and spun around to stare at me. "He does. He won't admit it, of course, but he's constantly asking me questions about you — What's her favorite color? What's her favorite book? What kind of candy does she like? I finally screamed at him — ask her yourself! Gosh, ever since that first day he saw you at the bus stop, it's like he can't think of anything else." Cat shrugged. "He was never much of a talker before, so I guess it's a good thing."

I was stunned. That explained Thursday. It had taken Ricky a half hour to ask me which I liked better — baseball or basketball. When I told him they were equal, he seemed relieved, like I had passed some big test. I almost considered telling Cat that my heart belonged to Craig, but no matter how I figured out the words in my head, they sounded way too corny.


Later that afternoon, Cat said, "It looks like rain. Why don't we hang out at my house for a while?"

"Sure." I was eager to see the inside of the white house with green shutters. Old Man Turner had lived there for years, but he never opened up for company. Then, after he died, the house stood empty for another couple of years while his heirs argued about what to do with it. Lucky for me, they finally sold it to the Fantinos and I got a best friend out of the deal.

The library closed at two o'clock on Saturdays and by then the waves were choppier than ever. The sky was gray as a gull's wings and filled with the scent of wet kelp. We crunched along the gravel drive leading to Cat's house. Mr. Fantino's shiny red pick-up truck was parked to one side beside a stack of lobster traps. I took in the shape of the house as we moved closer.

"I love that neat pointed section in the middle," I said, looking at the roof.

"That's the boys' loft up there," said Cat matter-of-factly.

A tarnished ship bell hung by the door. Cat gave the cord a few swings, and it rang loudly. "Wanna try it? Nobody's home."

I glanced at her dad's truck and then remembered her mom had a car, too.

"My parents went into Rockland today for an exhibit," explained Cat.

I closed my eyes and took a big breath of salty air. Then I knocked the pendulum back and forth, each time impressively louder.

"Okay, enough!" Cat covered her ears, and we both laughed.

The first thing I saw when we entered the living room was a big, shiny black piano. "Oh, cool! Who plays this?"

"I do." Cat sighed. "I didn't mention it in my list of favorite things because I hate to practice." She patted the piano fondly. "It's growing on me."

A mason jar filled with broken sea glass was displayed on top of the piano, along with family photos. Music books were spread out on the bench and colorful, striped afghans swallowed up the sofa. Everything looked comfortable and lived-in, like the Fantinos had always been there.

After climbing a ship-style ladder in the front foyer, we peeked into Ricky's room.

"The empty part is Joey's," said Cat. "Most of his stuff is with him at college."

On Ricky's side, there were science posters on the wall and a large half-built model ship. Empty chip bags littered the carpet. A pile of dirty clothes was partially stuffed under the bed. It felt weird to be in a boy's room. My mother would have a field day cleaning this house. I looked around in curious amazement.

"Yep, he's a slob." Cat laughed. "And he'll kill me if he finds out I let you see his mess."

The stack of books I checked out to him two days before was on the floor. Kurt Vonnegut's recent bestseller, Breakfast of Champions, teetered on top. "When does he get a chance to read all these?" I asked.

"Hah. He doesn't read most of them. He just likes to visit you."

My face got warm as I considered this possibility.

We climbed back down from the loft and moved on to Cat's room, which was — except for a scraggly troll collection — all pink and perfect.

"Whoa, pretty!" I said.

"Don't make fun. As soon as I'm allowed to cover this paint, I'm going for something wild and dramatic, like avocado or burnt orange."

"That makes more sense," I said with a grin.

Cat rummaged through a pile of stuff on her bureau. "Look at this," she said, slipping a green and orange plastic ring onto her finger.

"Cool! I have a Rat Fink ring, too. Mine is a yellow rat on a blue ring. Hmm, I wonder where it is." A few years back, the rings had been a real fad in Port Wells. You could buy them at Al's for a dime. All the kids had them. We'd wear them to school, and if the teacher wasn't looking, we'd pull the chubby rats off their ring holders and play with them under our desk lids.

Cat picked up one of her long-haired trolls. "I've got a few of these from when I was little, too."

I laughed. "Me, too. My favorite troll has orange hair and is dressed like a wizard."

We hung around Cat's room for a while longer, until we got hungry.

We were in the kitchen finishing up ice cream sundaes, when Ricky arrived home from his newspaper route.

"Is it raining yet?" said Cat.

"Nope, still holding ..." Ricky did a double-take in my direction. "Oh, hi, Amy."

"Hi," I ducked my head quickly, surprised to feel my face get hot.

I stood up and brought my dish to the sink, preparing to leave. Cat stood in my path.

"Ricky, Amy wants to know about science camp," she said with a mischievous grin. "How about you fill her in while I start my homework? Is that okay, Amy?"

"Sure. I've got to go soon, anyway." I sat back down and felt my face redden again. Why did he have to be so cute?

Ricky got himself some ice cream and plunked it down across the table from me. "What would you like to know?"

"Well, like, what did you do there? I'm figuring you didn't swim and boat and do the usual camp stuff."

"Right. Some of that, but lots of classes in science, too. We'd fire off rockets and shoot potatoes out of homemade cannons." Ricky became animated, conducting with his ice cream spoon, as he described several hazardous situations.

"Wow, sounds dangerous."

Ricky laughed. "Yeah, I guess it does. There were some close calls, but it was a blast, and we were pretty careful."

"Yes, blowing things up must be a real blast. I'll keep my distance though, thanks."

After Ricky finished his ice cream, I decided it was time to go. Ricky got up, too. We went out the back door together and headed towards my house. I smiled at the thought of being escorted home. A wet drop landed on my nose. I could actually see a few sprinkles of rain bounce off the ground. Then I felt them, hard. Huh?

"Oh, cool," said Ricky. "Hail!"

I grinned. "I like hail, too. I haven't seen it in years." As I spoke, the mini clusters of ice enlarged until they were pelting us left and right. "Ouch!" We both couldn't stop laughing. I tried to duck between them while Ricky attempted to catch them in the palm of his hand. "We're surrounded!"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Amy's Choice by Marcia Strykowski. Copyright © 2014 Marcia Strykowski. Excerpted by permission of Luminis Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Amy's Choice 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Booklover899 More than 1 year ago
Drift back to an earlier time, when life was slower paced and romances were innocent. Strykowski's gentle novel depicts the early 70s with charm and grace. Amy, the main character from CALL ME AMY, is missing her boyfriend Craig, but her friend's brother, Ricky, would be happy to take Craig's place. Now Amy's torn between two relationships and must find a way to balance the many problems that come her way as she takes an unpopular stance following the town arson. Covering many topics such as bullying, budding romance, loyalty, friendship, and integrity, this coming-of-age novel will find a place in the hearts of teen readers who like sweet romances and strong female BFFs.