?Human by day and skeleton by night, Cindy is definitely cursed. It doesn't help that her mother recently died, only to be replaced by an evil stepmother who makes her do gross things like eat liver and clean rooms with only a toothbrush. It really doesn't help that her father is scared of her strange nightly body appearance and that there's no way she can attend the school dancing “dressed” like a skeleton.
What ensues is a hysterical tale of a young girl who, while coping with the loss of her mother, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, love, and forgiveness, all the while learning to deal with an evil step-mother and her "skeletal" abnormalities.
About the Author
Bethanie Borst is an all-rounder. She is a spunky 12-year-old who plays viola in her school orchestra, enjoys video games, and is quick on her toes when it comes to tricky situations. When she is not writing, she swings on a star.
Read an Excerpt
By Amie Borst, Bethanie Borst, Rachael Caringella
Jolly Fish PressCopyright © 2013 Amie and Bethanie Borst
All rights reserved.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away ... oh, who am I kidding? That's how fairy tales begin, and my story is anything but a fairy tale; it's true.
It was a cold day in February and quite possibly the worst day of my life. I would say it sucked (because for most people it would, especially if they're only eleven and three-quarters like me), but if I did, my dad would give me a look. You know, the one that says, If parents could still wash their children's mouths out with soap, I'd scrub your tongue with a bar of Dial. So, instead, I'll just say it was awful.
I sat at my desk in Mrs. Femur's sixth grade science class, taking notes from the board, completely minding my own business. As I always do. Except for that time I nosed into Vicki Larson's science project, but that doesn't count since she asked me to help. I can't help it if I'm not a professional science person. What did she expect? I mean, it's not like I knew the thing would explode. Besides, what's so important about the skeletal system anyway? It's just bones. We've all got them.
I glanced around the room, watching my classmates and realized something. Even though middle school started off pretty cool, it really wasn't any different than elementary school. Teachers still nagged for assignments. Boys still acted stupid thinking they looked cool, and girls were still desperately trying to get their attention. Then there was Principal Petto (with his nasty-looking comb-over), who was a lot like my last principal. He paced the halls as if his sole purpose in life was to make us miserable. Rumor had it he was nice, long ago, when he was the shop teacher, carving wood and collecting shavings. But becoming principal turned him sour, like a little boy without his candy.
Ethan McCallister strode into the room and sat across from me. My heart leapt a little. Maybe it was his wavy brown hair. Or the way a little dimple appeared in his right cheek whenever he smiled. He turned and made googly eyes at Vicki Larson and I wondered why he never seemed to notice me.
It was time to commence with Operation Lip Balm, a.k.a. Operation Chapstick because, once I looked in my backpack, I realized that was all I had.
I smeared a heavy line of cherry-flavored Chapstick across my lips. Then, I smacked them loudly for dramatic effect. I stood up really slowly, making my back as straight as a supermodel's. Even my legs did the supermodel walk, crisscrossing in front of me as I approached the head of the room. Ethan was for sure going to notice me!
I strutted past him, puckering my lips so I looked all pouty, because that's what the magazines portray as awesomeness. I knew I looked mega "kewl" because everyone stared at me. My supermodel crossed-legged walk was a hit!
Mrs. Femur tipped her head. "Cindy, do you need to use the restroom?" The lenses of her cat-eye shaped glasses reflected the ceiling lights, casting a glare on her eyes. It made me stare at her, trying to figure out why she would ask such a crazy question.
"Uh, no, I, um ... need to sharpen my pencil."
"Don't you think you need a pencil in order to do that?" Mrs. Femur pushed her glasses back.
"A pencil?" Shoot. This wasn't working out the way I'd planned. I would just have to go back to my desk, get a pencil, and do my super strut again. Then Ethan would notice me. Twice!
On my way back, I lucked out. Ethan was watching me! Unfortunately, I paid too much attention to him — smiling so wide my cherry-flavored lips stuck to my teeth — and not enough attention to my untied shoelace. I tripped. Then I fell. In slow motion. "I'm faaaalllliiinnngggg ..." I said, even though I didn't mean to say it out loud.
Everyone laughed. Every. One. Including Ethan.
The worst part? Ethan's face changed from a huge dimpled smile, his laughter echoing in the whole room, to an expression of Oh, no!
The worser than worst part? I landed right on Ethan's desk, smacking his face with my fist in the process. That was probably why his face looked so scared. Blood gushed everywhere.
"Omygosh! Cindy gave Ethan a bloody nose!" someone yelled.
Ethan looked at me, horrified. He touched a finger to his nose, saw the blood running onto his palm, and raced out of the room.
I guess I managed to get his attention this time, even if it wasn't exactly the way I'd hoped.
Mrs. Femur pointed to a boy on the other side of the room. "Hurry and follow Ethan to the nurse, please. Make sure he's all right." Then she cleared her throat. "As soon as Cindy takes a seat, we'll get started."
"Looks like she already took one," Vicki Larson said. It was so funny I forgot to laugh. Face flushing hot, I rolled off Ethan's desk and crawled back into my own seat.
The teacher babbled on in science talk while I gazed at the empty desk on my left. If only my BFF Sarah would hurry home from her vacation. She had been gone for, like, ever and I really missed our girl talk and master plans on how to nab Ethan. Obviously, my latest attempt was an epic fail. Tripping in front of the entire class and falling into him wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind. And my previous attempts (Operation Bathroom Stakeout, Mission Mascara, and Task Force TOO-Skinny Jeans) only resulted in a toilet paper-covered shoe, a black-smeared nightmare, and a rip in the butt of my pants.
Mr. G. Petto, a.k.a the super-enthusiastic, woodcarving shop teacher turned overbearing school Nazi, buzzed in on the class intercom. "Mrs. Femur?"
The class broke out in a chorus of hisses and oohs. There were even a few chuckles. Great. I was in trouble. The last thing I wanted was a visit with Mr. Comb-over. Dad didn't need the stress of another mess up. Not now. Not while ...
"Settle down." Mrs. Femur glared at us, placing a finger to her lips. "Class. Hush!"
"Can you hear me?"
Mrs. Femur wiped her brow. "Yes, yes, I can hear you."
Principal Petto cleared his throat. "Good, good. Um, if you would, please have Cindy pack up." He sounded nervous and it made my stomach drop to the floor like it does when I'm on a roller coaster.
It seemed everyone turned around at once and stared at me. "Oooooh ... Cindy's in trouble!" I heard someone hum from the back of the room. But that's not what made me feel sick. I knew it was something much worse than being in trouble.
"She needs to go home ... for the day," the principal finished. It wasn't his voice that grated on my nerves worse than Vicki's "googly" eyes at Ethan, but the words he said.
It really shouldn't have been a surprise. I knew it was coming.
Still, I didn't want to go home. I knew what waited for me there.CHAPTER 2
After I checked out of the office, I headed home. Dad wouldn't dare leave to pick me up.
My chest ached. I didn't want to face what lay ahead, so I dragged my feet hoping that would make my worries go away. I wished the six-block walk were twenty, and that the row houses were country homes, each with ten acres of land instead of little postage stamp lots.
When I reached the house, a single light shone in the upstairs window. Despite its glow, the house seemed dark and gloomy. I longed for school and my friends.
Anything but home.
Once I pushed through the front door, I knew where to find him. I climbed the stairs, one at a time, my heart pounding in my chest, my stomach in my throat. I'd never felt so sick in all my life. Maybe I didn't have to face this. It wouldn't be that horrible if I turned in the other direction and headed back to school. There was still time. And maybe — just maybe — there might be something I could do to change this ... make it better ...
Dad stood in the doorway of Mom's room, his arms crossed tightly over his chest.
I stared at him, hoping that if we locked eyes long enough, it wouldn't be true. He'd smile, tell me it was a false alarm, to go back to school. Be with my friends.
After a long moment — my palms sweating, throat aching — Dad stepped forward. "It's time, Cindy." He motioned for me, waving his hand in the direction of her bed.
No! Not those words! I'd been dreading hearing them. Even though Mom had been sick for a while, it seemed like this day came way too fast. It was just yesterday that we were watching movies and laughing. Only the other day she walked me to school and I acted embarrassed, even though secretly I was glad she was there. Because middle school was scary. Or so I thought. What I was about to face was a whole lot scarier.
The smell hit me like a wall when I entered Mom's room. It was like a bunch of old people had decided to move in, a mixture of herbs and medicines floating in the air. I sat on the edge of her bed and kissed her moist cheek. Beads of sweat formed a line on her upper lip.
"I love you, Cindy," she said as she stroked my hair with a sweaty palm. The smell of her perfume so faint it almost wasn't there. I wondered how long before she'd fade away, too, and I'd forget her altogether. Her voice garbled and cracked like she was in a lot of pain. "You be strong for me."
I didn't want to hear it. Not goodbye. Not that it was over. None of it. "Don't worry." I brushed a strand of her soft brown hair from her face. "Everything's going to be all right. You're going to be okay."
It was a lie. I knew nothing would be all right, and that she wouldn't be okay. She was dying, which meant she'd never be with me anymore. There would be no more singing funny songs (most of them about Dad) or playing games, and there'd be no more late nights telling stories. There'd be no more watching scary movies huddled under a blanket together. There'd be no more ...
Mom's weak arm gave way and dropped on my lap. She gently gripped my hand and patted it. "Promise you'll be good." Her voice was so small, fading away. Just like her. "My dear little Cinderella."
A small smile pulled at my lips. Even though I wasn't little anymore, and I definitely wasn't a princess, I didn't mind hearing the nickname again because it would probably be the last time. My dad would never call me Cinderella. I was his "Lovie." The princess thing was all Mom.
"I'll always be with you," Mom said. "You know that. Right?" I could see it took every ounce of everything Mom had left to utter those words, her frail body shivering, her lips hardly moving.
I nodded. "Uh-huh." After swallowing hard, I said, "Always." But I knew she wouldn't. I could feel her disappearing all ready. She'd be gone and I'd forget her, no matter how hard I tried to hold on. My chest ached as I held back a sob.
Mom grunted as she lifted her hand and placed it on my face. She stroked her thumb across my cheek, closed her eyes, and hummed out a bunch of words I couldn't understand. It almost sounded like a chant of some sort.
Dad ran into the room, stumbling over his own feet. "No! Tabitha!" He reached for my mom's hands. The desperation on his face scared me and I wanted to stop him, but froze. "You promised."
Mom gazed at Dad. "Please forgive me, Roger." Her face scrunched up like a rotten apple as she fought hard not to cry. But a tear escaped anyway and rolled down her cheek.
My gaze darted between the two of them. I grabbed Mom's hand, squeezing tight — an uneasiness settling in the room. "Forgive you? For what?" A strange feeling sank to the pit of my stomach. It was like millions of needles in my belly were doing acrobatics, making me want to vomit. But I didn't.
Dad sat on the edge of the bed, holding his face. "You promised, you promised," he whispered, shaking his head. "It's too dangerous. Someone will find out."
Mom smiled weakly and fluttered her eyes. Then she let out a soft breath. Her face looked so peaceful I knew she was gone.
I threw my arms around her. "Mom! No! Don't go." My voice came out broken, just like my heart. I put my head to her chest and cried. Well, actually, I sobbed.
First of all, no, I'm not a baby. Second of all, you know all that stuff they say about being strong? Well, that stuff is stupid. No one is so strong that they don't cry when someone they love dies. And if they are, then there's something seriously wrong with them. Seriously.
Dad pulled me up and hugged me. I squeezed him once in return, then pushed away. Tears streaked my face as I ran to my room. My mom was dead and gone, and I knew she'd never be with me anymore. It was over. There was no love in death. Death was blackness and misery. And forgetting.
A mixture of sadness and anger flooded my chest, making my insides burn. All I wanted to do was sleep. Forever. Just like Mom.
Pastor Stan arrived moments later. He stood in the doorway wearing a black suit. One arm cradled a book, the other he used to run a hand through his slicked back hair. Dad motioned for him to come in and they stood there wordlessly for a long time. The pastor led Dad into the kitchen, where they sat at the table. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but as soon as I saw Dad's shoulders heaving, I covered my ears to block out his sobs.
I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to a houseful of people. The funeral director and a few men in dark suits took Mother's body away on a stretcher, and our house immediately felt like something was missing, empty. But worse, it made me feel like a piece of my heart was gone. Our house and my heart were nothing more than a shell.
Dad spent most of the remainder of the day on the phone and I wandered to my room and slept in bed.
Well, I tried to sleep, but all I did was toss and turn. I longed for the feeling of Mom's arms wrapped around me, but instead my bed poked me with its uncomfortable springs. Plus, my stomach was on fire and all my bones felt like they would explode.
Days passed and on the afternoon of the funeral, I marched to the closet and pulled out a black dress. Perfect. It was just what I'd seen people in movies wear to funerals, plus it matched my mood. Miserable.
My head throbbed as I walked as slowly as possible, dragging my feet all the way down the stairs. Dad stood by the front door in his best pinstriped suit. He wore Mom's favorite red tie, the one with the whimsical gold swirls. "You look better."
I gave him a look. It said, My stomach feels like a thousand snakes are squirming inside it, my bones ache, I lost my mom, and you think I look better?
Dad stretched out his hand to mine. "C'mon. The limo's waiting."
I nodded, reaching back, letting his large, strong hands swallow mine. All I could do was squeeze his hand because if I said anything I'd either break down and cry or throw something and watch it smash into a gazillion tiny little pieces. I would have been okay with that, though I think Dad would have been a bit peeved.
The limo driver, in his freshly-pressed navy suit with gold buttons, held the door open for us. Then he drove super slowly. Like so slowly I could have walked to the services.
At the church the organ music pounded in my ears. Pastor Stan shook Dad's hand. Then he bent down to me. "I'm so sorry for your loss."
It wasn't long before the church filled with Mom's friends. There were a lot of handshakes, head tips, and sad-eye looks. Once everyone was seated, the organist finally stopped playing the loud, irritating music. Pastor Stan took his place at the pulpit and gave a speech. Then, other people got up and shared all their stories about my mom.
Hours passed as I stared at the stained glass image behind the pastor, trying to block out all the talks, tears, and sobs. Reliving memories wasn't my idea of fun. What I really wanted was my mom with me to make more memories.
Finally, the service ended and everyone filed out the door. Dad put his arm around me. "C'mon, kiddo." He handed me a bouquet of daisies from the pulpit. "For the grave," he said. Then he led me to the limo.
At the cemetery, they lowered Mom's casket into the ground. With each inch, I felt like a piece of my soul died. Pastor Stan said a prayer and tossed a handful of dirt on top of the casket.
Rain sprinkled from the sky and I clenched the daisies in my hand even tighter. Mom's two favorite things were daisies and rainstorms.
"It never rains in February," someone whispered.
They were right. Not in New York. Snow maybe, but never rain. Still, I was too upset to care.
Excerpted from Cinderskella by Amie Borst, Bethanie Borst, Rachael Caringella. Copyright © 2013 Amie and Bethanie Borst. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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