As summer comes around, Beck’s life is unsettled in every way. And that’s before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn’t even know existed.
Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it’s time to cross the street.
CROSSING THE STREET is a funny, touching novel that brims life’s complexities. Filled with characters both distinctive and welcomingly familiar, it is a story that will entertain and enlighten.
PRAISE FOR MOLLY D. CAMPBELL'S FIRST NOVEL, KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE:
“A humorous coming-of-age-story where secrets of the past collide with the present and family bonds are stretched to the limits of forgiveness. Quirky, hopeful, and wonderfully original.”
Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
“Miranda Heath, the earnest fifteen-year-old narrator of Keep the Ends Loose, has voice for days and a genius for description. Her casually brilliant observations about her family – which is both completely screwy and entirely real – will keep you in the edge of your seat. Miranda's creator, Molly Campbell has a true humorist's touch, light and occasionally scathing, but filled with compassion all the while.”
Robin Black, author of Life Drawing, A Novel
“Keep the Ends Loose is a charming story of love, trust and beautiful locations. In her fast paced, witty style, Campbell paints a picture of an ideal family that is thrown into a world of chaos and must learn to trust one another again. I highly recommend it!”
Anita Hughes, author of Lake Como
“Molly Campbell 's writing is clear as a bell. Her novel should earn her many new listeners, many new readers.”
Liz Rosenberg, bestselling author of The Moonlight Palace
“Molly D. Campbell has conjured quite the character in 15-year-old Mandy Heath, giving her an appealing sense of humor, a disarming sense of perspective and rampant curiosity. Make time for this insightful, compelling debut. You'll be glad you did.”
Craig Lancaster, best-selling author of 600 Hours Of Edward and The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Molly lives in Dayton, Ohio, with her accordionist husband and five cats.
Read an Excerpt
Crossing the Street
By Molly D. Campbell
Studio Digital CT, LLCCopyright © 2016 Molly D. Campbell
All rights reserved.
My life isn't exactly bright and shiny. My name is Rebecca Throckmorton. I live in a small town, and I muddle along as best I can. Four scenes from my world:
Scene one: I am at the grocery store. Aimlessly wandering down the produce aisle, looking at the grocery list, as usual, in my mother's elegant hand. What the hell is a rutabaga, and why do we need one? Suddenly, I see my father, who is long gone from our family — divorce. He is wearing a gold golf shirt, his khaki slacks, crisp and unwrinkled. His hair from the back is a bit silvery, as I am sure it would be after being away from our family for all these years. My heart lurches — He's back! He came back! I abandon my cart and nearly bowl over a woman studying kiwis, knocking the one in her hand to the ground. I don't even stop to apologize, because my dad. I come up behind him, breathe in his cologne — yup, Eau de Sauvage. I reach out to touch his shoulder, and he turns around. I gasp. The man is definitely not Dexter Throckmorton. Instead of a Roman nose, this guy has a schnozz. There is awful hair growing out of his nostrils. His eyes are not velvety and black, like my father's — they are a watery gray and clouded with cataracts. He hears me gasp and asks, "Do I know you?" I abandon the rutabaga and rush out of the store, grocery list still crushed between my fingers.
Scene two: My sister's wedding. I am wearing a sleeveless, misty green satin dress with two small lines of silver sequins along the bodice. The misty green is reflected in my coloring and makes me look slightly vomitous. I feel about to vomit, since my sister Diana is marrying my former boyfriend, Bryan Dallas, who stands at the end of the aisle, beaming, his horn rims polished so highly I worry that he might start a fire with their refractions into the balcony. As D comes down the aisle on my mother's arm (see divorce, above), my mother looking for all the world like an aging Audrey Hepburn in a slender tube of taupe silk, I look down at my bouquet and stifle the impulse to hurl it in my sister's smug, highly-made-up-with-false-eyelashes-and-dewy-lip-gloss face.
Scene three: Me and my girlfriend, Ella Bowers. I sit with her in front of the TV. We like to watch really old reruns of Lawrence Welk that I found for her on the Family Network. Ella pats down her soft, fluffy lavender white hair, and every time Myron Floren comes on comments how much her mother "just loved that man and his accordion." I nod and agree, because I don't intend to hurt her feelings — Ella is eighty-three, and I don't want her to get riled up and have a stroke. I notice my cut glass tumbler of iced tea is empty, and I offer to go into the kitchen of her cozy bungalow and get us each some more.
Scene four: My day job and what really pays the bills. I get home from my part-time job at Starbucks at four. I stretch, try to do the downward facing dog, and fail, as usual, about three quarters of the way down. My cat, Simpson, ambles over for a purr, and then I go and pee, change into sweats, and sit down at my computer, where I pound out a scene in which four orgasms occur within the space of twenty minutes between Travis and Crystal, who are extremely talented genitally. My latest book, Boys on the Beach, is under contract and due at my publisher in two months. When I think about this, sweat pools into the cups of my bra, because I am behind schedule, and erotica pays the bills, not venti lattes.
There you have it.
* * *
Today at Starbucks, in the slate gray late winter, as I made my zillionth mocha latte, I got a text from my mom. Old school, using no emoticons and complete punctuation:
Hello, honey! How is it going? Big news! Your sister is pregnant! Due in July!
I hit "delete message," my heart pounding. I stuffed my phone back in my apron pocket, spilling scalding milk from the frother down my front in the process.
At the other end of the counter, Joe, the nerdiest of the nerds, but a great barista, despite his bifocals and saddle shoes, noticed. "Hey, are you okay?" He intoned, looking around to see if any of the customers had heard the s-word.
I felt my ribs tightening. For some reason, there were a few tears in my eyes, and I had the urge to fling a ceramic coffee mug into the wall behind me, but I replied, "No." Then I had the urge to smack poor Joe for noticing.
He shrugged and continued to wipe down the counter, which he kept immaculately clean with Clorox and soapy water, not in the employee manual, by the way. "You look like all the blood just rushed into your head. Sort of like you might explode, if you know what I mean."
I knew what he meant, because right at that moment, I figured that my face was probably the color of a tomato. My skin throbbed to the drum of my erratic pulse, and I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears. I shut my eyes for a second, and who should float into my head but my sister.
D, at aged seven, her blonde hair in an adorable fringe, skipping into the dining room carrying my favorite book, Tuck Everlasting. She flaps the pages flagrantly. They're covered with large, red splotches, drawn on with magic marker. I shriek in alarm, and both my parents look up from their tuna salad plates.
"What's wrong, kiddo?" Dad, concerned, between sips of ice water.
"D HAS RUINED MY BOOK! She marked all over it with marker! Look at it! It's ruined!"
My mother springs to her feet and hugs me, at the same time chastising D. "Diana, that isn't your book! Did you use a permanent marker?"
She did. It was indeed ruined. The outcome was one less cherished book for me, a smirk of victory on D's felonious little face, and a request for Tums from my father.
* * *
So now Mrs. Bryan Dallas was pregnant. I poured myself some ice water from the fridge, told Joe I needed a break, and bolted for the "associates' lounge." I flung myself into a rickety chair, and swept all the People magazines off the breakroom table in front of me. I laid my pounding head onto the table, covered my sweaty head with my hands, and smacked my forehead up and down onto the Formica. FUCKETY, FUCK, FUCK.
So why was the fact that Diana was pregnant so offensive to me — the least maternal person in the world? I, Rebecca Throckmorton. The last person on the planet who would want to wrestle with loaded diapers and night terrors. The woman who just the week before had watched a woman wrangle a twin stroller through the front doors of Starbucks, her lips in a tight line, her screaming toddler and drooling baby writhing in their restraints, only to arrive at the counter to request a container of apple juice and a blueberry muffin for her kids, not once glancing at the menu of the new "sip into Spring" coffee drinks. At that moment, I wanted to make her a free venti latte and give her a hug. A smug, thank God I knew enough not to turn into you hug.
I sat up and pushed my hair away from my face and took a long drink of the ice water. Restored a bit, I looked around at the break room, with its corkboard full of inspirational sayings, some of them so old that they were faded, yellow, and tattered at the edges. So this was the first day of the rest of my life. I glanced at the fridge in the corner with our lunches in it — marked with things like This is Eric's. Don't touch, you morons. And the alliterative Louise's lunch. The thrumming in my head had let up a bit. So I stood and threw my remaining water in the waste can that hadn't been emptied in what looked like weeks, spilling over with sour yogurt in half empty cups, pizza crusts, and other stinky detritus. Then I squared my shoulders and went back out there to serve caffeine to the sluggish masses.
It was a long day. Not many customers in the late afternoon — boring. The image of my sister, pregnant and glowing, would not leave my head. By the time I left, Joe seemed convinced that I was either having a stroke or planning a murder. He must have asked me "Are you sure you are okay?" a hundred times.
I got home and choked down some leftover Skyline chili for dinner. The deadline loomed over me like a noose. I deleted five paragraphs from Chapter Twelve of Bad Boys and wrote what I hoped were steamier ones. In between paragraphs, I ran my fingers through my dry, Pepsi-brown hair, split ends crying out for a conditioning treatment. I re-read what I'd typed so far, and suddenly I wanted to jump right into bed with Travis, replacing Crystal in his arms. I wanted to feel his fingers as they gently stroked my back, sending chills down my spine. I wanted to bite his lips as he kissed me, causing us both to moan. I wanted him to push me back against the slippery cushions as he whispered my name. I felt a rush of heat between my legs. I snapped to attention with pain and realized that in my gush of pent-up passion, I had knocked my mug of chai tea directly into my lap, nearly scorching my lady parts. My life right then sucked.CHAPTER 2
Spring in Framington, Ohio. Lots of buds. That sheeny bright green that is so fleeting. Magnolias. Dogwoods. I sat on a bench in front on the bank of the Green River, which flows along the west side of town. A light breeze blew, ruffling my collar. I sat, waiting for my friend Gail, trying to resist opening the box lunches I bought us, to eat the chocolate chip cookies inside. Futile.
As I chewed, the dark chocolate chips melting in my mouth and probably all over my face, I remembered when I met Gail Boatwright in first grade. She stood proudly at the top of the monkey bars, proclaiming herself "SUPERGIRL!" and waving regally to the crowd of boys below her, not realizing that they were her minions only because that was the day she wore a dress and tights, but no underwear. Mrs. Boatwright was a hippie mom who apparently felt that vaginas needed air.
There Gail stood, her pigtails bouncing as she turned, waving to those below, her legs spread-eagled on the bars for balance. I squinted up at her as I approached, my heart filled with envy at this powerful personage, her sneakers untied, her grin triumphant. But suddenly, it all took a nasty turn. Bobby Dickerson yelled, "I see London, I see France, but Gail's not wearing UNDERPANTS!" All hell broke loose below as the boys jostled one another for a good view, and Gail nearly fell off trying to get down in a hurry.
"Go to Hell!" I kicked Dickerson in the ass. He fell down on his knees in the gravel, howling. Miss French hustled over and broke up the whole thing. But not before Gail punched Timmy Eagleston and gave him a bloody nose, and I elbowed John Parker in the eyeball.
Gail and I bonded in the principal's office while waiting for our mothers to come in for a talk.
"Thanks for hitting those boys."
"Welcome. How come you aren't wearing underpants, anyway?"
Gail blushed. "I get itchy. So Mom said today I could air out. I forgot at recess."
I grabbed her hand in consolation and unity. "That's okay. One time I jumped into the pool and my bikini top came off. I don't wear two-pieces any more. It was so humiliating."
Gail herself interrupted my trip down memory lane. "Hey, kiddo — how's the orgasm business?" She glided up, her teal silk blouse highlighting the blue of her eyes, her blonde hair in a stylish crop, frosty spikes and gamine bangs that accentuated her high cheekbones and plush eyelashes. Gail's long legs were encased in a flowy, gray paisley skirt that swirled around her espadrilles. I wondered briefly if she was wearing underwear.
I grinned and motioned for her to sit. She first examined the bench for bird droppings, brushing it off with her Coach bag before dropping down beside me and grabbing one of the box lunches. "I am ravenous. Oh, shit. You already ate the cookies." She reached out and wiped a smear of chocolate off my cheek.
"Damn, Gail. I never get away with it."
She laughed. "It's fine. I'm on a diet, anyway."
Gail spread the napkin in her lap and delicately peeled the waxed paper off her tuna sandwich. She munched one small bite, and took the bottle of water I held out for her. Setting her sandwich down carefully on her lap, she wrested the cap off the bottle and said, "If only this were vodka."
"My God. What's wrong? Did you lose a listing?"
Gail is a realtor. High-end. She gets the listings for the McMansions on the outside of town that sell to the bankers, the doctors, and the hot-shit entrepreneurs that move to Framington because they don't want to live and work in Columbus. Framington became a bedroom community when urban sprawl first took over. Despite the long commute, people of affluence like to live in Framington, and Gail is their go-to gal.
Gail capped her water and put it on the bench beside her. She re-wrapped her sandwich and put it back in the box, setting that down, too. She leaned back against the bench and tilted her head to the sun, closing her eyes. "I am so damn sick of being single. All I have is listings, for God's sake."
"Beck. We are in our thirties. We are unmarried. We have no children." She opened her eyes and looked at me. "Okay. You hate kids. But my biological clock is ticking the crap out of me."
"Gail. Today isn't about you. It's about ME." I wiped my mouth with my napkin.
Gail raised one beautifully waxed eyebrow, grimaced, and indicated with a manicured nail that I had something between my front teeth. "Damn, Beck! I had no idea you were in crisis mode. Your text didn't warn me that we couldn't even have any conversational foreplay. Okay. What does this meeting all about you concern?" Gail lifted her dill pickle out of the lunch box and crunched off a bite. She chewed and made the "go on" motion with her other hand.
"I have been in denial about this for as long as I could, but it is no longer something I can try to ignore. Diana and Bryan are having a baby, due in July."
Gail spit out her pickle, appropriately thunderstruck. It landed on the front of my brand new Ralph Lauren polo that I paid full price for at Nordstrom in Columbus. Bright orange. A gift to me from me. I picked off the pickle piece and looked at the wet spot. "This will probably be permanent. Of course it will, because my whole life is in the dumper right now. I don't deserve nice things." I brushed at the spot, then held it out, fanning the shirt in a futile attempt to dry the spot off.
"D is preggers? And you have kept this to yourself for how long?"
I looked down at my sandwich. The turkey/avocado combo suddenly smelled a little off. I scrunched the whole thing up into a waxed paper ball and put the whole box lunch on the bench beside me. "Mom told me a few weeks ago. I have been in stunned disbelief. Or denial. Or both."
Gail shrugged. "I mean, this isn't actually a surprise, you know. D always said she wanted to have — how did she used to put it — 'Six kids and a rich husband?' So yeah. It is just starting to pan out. You know. Married people do tend to have children eventually. But I get it that you are blown away by this, because well — Bryan. But certainly you don't envy her being pregnant? You, the child-hater?"
I drew myself up and poked Gail in the ribs with my elbow. "I have never said I hate children. Not exactly. I just don't think I have the talent for enduring them. You know. Patience. Being able to tolerate their turbo-charged enthusiasm levels. Arts and crafts. Row, Row, Row Your Boat. It's a gift that I just don't possess."
Gail actually chortled. "So you are upset by this whole thing because you are jealous of what? You walked out on Bryan for this exact reason: kids and the white picket fence. You don't get to have it both ways."
I had a brief flashback to the day I left the loft in Chicago. Boxes packed, the burly Two Men and a Truck guys hefting the last of my possessions into the truck. All that was left in the center of the room was that one tarnished brass lamp that Bryan found at the estate sale around the corner for a dollar. Its moth-eaten, rose-colored shade with the tassels, and the claw footed base — we thought it must have come out of some brothel during prohibition, it was that cool looking. Bryan had one fist hooked around that lamp, white knuckled. Claiming it. I shook my head with pity and said something like "Go ahead. Keep it. They like stuff like that in suburbia. Antiques that give the home 'character.' I wish you well." And as I walked out of the loft to climb into my Prius to follow the movers, I stubbed my toe on the concrete and sobbed.
"Right? Beck. Hey." Gail put her arm around my shoulders. "You knew this was coming, eventually."
Excerpted from Crossing the Street by Molly D. Campbell. Copyright © 2016 Molly D. Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Studio Digital CT, LLC.
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