D.J. and her dad moved far from the small town and only home she ever knew. Now she’s starting middle school in the city with kids she’s never met. She tries to make friends, but they all appear to be slaves to screen time. D.J. just likes to garden, nurturing plants, watching them grow and thrive. It seems she’ll never find a way to fit in, but then she awakens in a gorgeous garden where she meets Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She must be dreaming; her new friend can’t possibly be real—and what could she know about getting along with gamers? D.J. really needs some ideas, or she might never find her own place in a complicated world.
Daisy, Bold & Beautiful is the debut novel of middle-schooler Ellie Collins, daughter of award-winning author Stephanie Collins. Boys and girls alike will appreciate Ellie’s keen eye for the challenges of growing up that she and her friends must face. Discover the wonderful writing of Ellie now, then follow her to learn about her writing and more books to come.
|Publisher:||The Fresh Ink Group, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.32(d)|
About the Author
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"Ugh! Ah! ... Ow!" D.J. rubbed her throbbing head.
"Great. A perfect beginning to this perfect day."
D.J. sighed with frustration. This was the second time she had fallen out of this bed.
It was smaller than her old bed. Just like this room was smaller than her old room and this house was smaller than her old house.
Somehow, she had felt smaller since the move, but she couldn't figure out how that could be when the new house and everything in it seemed to be a miniature version of her old home. Dad said she'd get used to all the changes soon, but D.J. wasn't so sure. There was no time to worry about it now, though. It was time to get up and face the day she had been dreading since she first learned they were moving.
Brushing her long, sandy-blonde hair out of her eyes, she took a determined breath and picked herself up off the floor. Rubbing her aching hip, she walked over to her dresser and debated on what to wear. She had set out her favorite blue dress with sunny-yellow tulips, but that was when she was feeling optimistic and outgoing. Now she longed to just blend into the background until the wretched day was done. She grabbed her most comfortable pair of jeans and a mud-brown t-shirt and hopped into a comfy pair of socks as she made her way to the kitchen.
"Morning, sunshine!" Dad greeted her from the kitchen table, where he was eating an English muffin.
"Hey, Dad," D.J. responded with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. She wasn't particularly hungry, but she knew she'd get an earful if she tried to skip breakfast, so she grabbed herself a bagel. Not wanting to take the time to prepare it the way she normally liked her bagels (toasted with cream cheese), she plopped herself down in a chair and ripped a bite off. Not a good plan; it was hard to chew, and it sucked all the moisture out of her mouth. Setting the remainder of the offending food strategically behind the napkin holder, she hoped Dad wouldn't notice if she just left it. She casually walked over to the refrigerator and got herself a glass of orange juice. She remained standing next to the counter, too nerved up to sit back down.
"Excited for the day?" Dad quizzed.
"Ummm ... sure?" D.J. tried to sound positive, but before she could stop them, some of her honest feelings broke through. "I don't know." She sighed. "I'm worried that I just won't fit in. How could I? Everything is different here. Besides, middle school is new to all sixth graders, but all these kids have had months to get to know each other now. I'll be the new, weird kid that everyone will point and laugh at."
"Nonsense," Dad assured. "Remember when Hannah Stephenson started at your old school? I know that was in the middle of the year because I had just come in from shoveling snow when you told me about her. Did kids point at her and think she was weird?"
"Of course not; Hannah is awesome!" D.J. was frustrated, not wanting to see the comparison her father was making. This felt like a completely different situation.
"Well, sweetheart, you are awesome, too." He walked over and pulled her into a hug. "And something tells me that the kids here are smart enough that they'll see that right away."
D.J. felt like she was acting like a spoiled, bratty toddler to be so disagreeable about going to her new school. She knew she had to go, but everything in her wanted to just stay right where she was, in the safety and comfort of her dad's strong arms. She didn't want to argue, but she couldn't help but make one last attempt to avoid the inevitable. "But why do I have to go today? It's April Fool's Day, Dad! Everyone will look at me like I'm a big joke and whisper about what a fool I am when I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing. Can't I wait and start tomorrow ... or next week?"
Dad's quiet chuckle rumbled against the cheek she rested against his chest. "Nice try, kiddo," he teased. "You will be going to school today. I know you're worried and nervous, but I also know how brave and strong you are. I have all the faith that you're going to do fine. Before I know it, I'm sure I'll have to start turning kids away from play dates and sleepovers because the line will be too long."
D.J. rolled her eyes. Her dad's confidence felt good, but she seriously doubted he had any idea what he was talking about. Dad offered a final squeeze of support and turned to put his breakfast plate in the sink on his way to finish getting ready for work. He stopped and turned at the doorway of the kitchen. "Go ahead and finish getting ready, but don't think I missed your little disappearing bagel trick. If you don't want to eat that, fine, but I want you to get something for breakfast."
"Fine," D.J. responded on a defeated sigh. "I'll try a little yogurt or something." "That's my girl!" Dad cheered over his shoulder on the way to his bedroom.
After choking down a small bowl of yogurt, D.J. made her way to the bathroom to brush her teeth and run a comb through her hair. Studying her reflection in the mirror, she realized that she would have no chance at all of making new friends if she didn't find a way to wipe the surly sourpuss look off her face. She knew just who could help her with that. This was a job for Fern.
She quickly made her way back to her room and threw herself heavily into the bean bag chair by her window. "Well, Fern, this is it. It is time for me to face my DOOM! I know, I know ... Drama queen much? It's just ... I just don't know how to do this! I've never been 'the new girl' before. ... But I get why we needed to move here. It's easier for Dad; he doesn't have to drive nearly as far to work here. He's always been there for me, so I suppose the least I can do is try this for him. Okay ... I'm gonna do it. Wish me luck. And have a good day ... at least that way one of us will!"
D.J. flashed a quick smirk at her favorite houseplant as she gathered her backpack, grabbed a sweater, and threw her shoes on. Fern had been there for her for as long as she could remember and had helped her through a lot of tough days — especially when her mom was sick. She always listened patiently and never judged, so D.J. felt completely comfortable being honest with her, which always seemed to lighten the weight on her shoulders.
"Okay, Dad, I'm headed out," D.J. yelled from the front door.
"Hold up! You're not getting away without a last hug goodbye, young lady!" Dad scolded playfully, as he approached her down the hall. "Are you sure you don't want me to walk you to the bus stop?"
"Thanks, Dad, but I think I've got this." D.J. shuddered as she imagined how it would look to have her dad at the bus stop when the bus rolled up. She pictured him doing something utterly embarrassing, like kissing and hugging her goodbye and yelling, "Have a good day, honey!" as the bus pulled away. It was a horrifying scenario.
"Alright," Dad conceded as he pulled her into a side hug and kissed the top of her head. "Smile when you can today and just be yourself. I know you think I don't know what I'm talking about here, but trust me, sweetheart, everything will work out fine. Maybe we can even celebrate your success tonight with a nice dinner out."
"What? We hardly ever eat out!"
"Ah, that's a benefit of living in town now, kiddo." He opened the door. "There are lots of restaurants close by. Some of them even deliver, so we could order out if you don't feel like a night on the town."
"Thanks, Dad; that sounds fun! Have a good day and I'll see you this afternoon." D.J. smiled, truly feeling excited for the first time all morning. She took a deep breath and took her first step out the door.
D.J. traversed the short path of stones that led to the sidewalk, then turned to her left as she surveyed her new neighborhood.
She quickly passed the walkway to the house that made the other half of their duplex. Their old house had stood by itself, and the closest neighbor had been about a half mile away, so it seemed strange to D.J. that they were now sharing a house with a whole other family. She didn't mind, really; it was just another new and different thing to get used to.
She continued toward the corner where the bus was due in a few minutes. She liked her street. The low hum of background noise was new to her, like occasional jets passing overhead and cars working their way through busier areas of town. A garbage truck hissed and clanked a few streets away and a dog barked from a few doors down. Familiar sounds helped to make her feel more at home — birds chirping their welcome to the spring weather and a light breeze whispering through the branches of trees lining the street.
The trees were one of her favorite features of her new neighborhood. Two long, magnificent rows of maple trees ran the entire length of her street. They were big enough that their grand canopies might nearly touch in the middle of the road when they reached their full bloom of summer. For now, their leaves were just beginning to peek out after a long winter's rest, showing off their fresh, bright and brilliantly green beauty. She spied what looked like small bird nests in two of the trees. She made a mental note to remember where they were, so she might catch sight of the hatchlings later in the spring when the more mature leaves would better camouflage their locations.
Movement at the end of the street brought her attention back to her destination. Four or five kids were gathering at the bus stop. Adrenaline rushed through her veins, and for a split second she contemplated running back home. She pushed herself forward, though, focusing on putting one foot in front of another, until she was standing near the other kids. She avoided eye contact, feigning interest in anything that would keep her gaze elsewhere — cracks in the sidewalk, daffodils in the flower bed on the corner lot, window boxes on the house closest to the stop, and the scuff on the toe of her right shoe. The bus couldn't get there fast enough; she didn't know how much longer she could elude the eyes of the other students without seeming rude.
Both boys in the group looked older. They were probably seventh or eighth graders. Laughing and roughhousing with one another, they didn't appear to notice D.J. at all. Of the three girls waiting for the bus, two stood together, whispering back and forth. Out of the corner of her eye D.J. caught them skeptically assessing her up and down. When they giggled, she suddenly regretted her wardrobe choice and wished she had tried harder to convince her dad that today wasn't a good day to start school. She wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.
The third girl stood quietly to her side, and finally curiosity had D.J. sneaking a quick peek. She had long shiny black hair and a cute colorful outfit. She was slightly shorter than D.J., which was saying something, because D.J. was far from tall. The girl was lovely, but what made her beautiful was the warm smile she offered when she caught D.J.'s eye.
The bus came to a stop in front of them and everyone began climbing on. D.J. started to make her way toward the back of the bus out of habit. She found it generally warmer than in the front, although she guessed that wouldn't be as important here, where it didn't tend to get so cold in the winter as it did back in her old town. Black-haired girl slid on her seat toward the window, subtly patted the seat next to her, and flashed D.J. another winning smile. D.J. smiled back and sat next to her.
"Hi. I'm May Chan," black-haired girl said. "You must be new to our school?"
"Hi. Yeah. I'm D.J. Daniels. Nice to meet you, and thanks for sharing your seat with me," D.J. returned with a shy half grin.
"Nice to meet you, too! What grade are you in? Where are you from? Where do you live now?"
"Uh ... I'm in sixth grade, I'm from North Bend, and we're in the sixth house down on the left side of Grant Street ... on the left side of the house? It's a duplex." D.J. wondered if that was how people usually described their address when they shared a house with another family.
"Oh, so you're really close, then; I'm right around the corner on Fir Street! Well, howdy, neighbor!" May laughed.
D.J. couldn't help but smile along with her, and the tension she didn't realize she held in her shoulders started to melt away. "I'm a little nervous, because my old school was a lot smaller than yours," D.J. confessed. "I'm worried I'm going to be lost all day ... probably all week."
"Nah. My first day was a little confusing, but I got the hang of it pretty fast. You're gonna love Kirkland Heights Middle School; I just know it." May's attention shot to the front of the bus and she excitedly grabbed D.J.'s arm. "Oh! Here's Payton's stop," she announced with a little bounce in the seat. "I can't wait for you to meet her!"
D.J. followed May's line of sight as new kids began filing onto the bus. One tall, thin girl with auburn hair in a sporty bob cut made immediate eye contact with May. D.J. assumed it was Payton and guessing from the way Payton knew right where to find May, D.J. figured this was their usual seat. She wondered, nervously, if she had taken the spot Payton usually did and if that would make Payton mad.
Payton calmly got in the seat in front of them, pulled her backpack off, and turned toward them. "Hey," she greeted, looking at D.J. with a blank expression. "Who are you?"
Once again D.J. found herself longing for a rock to hide under, interpreting Payton's dry tone as irritated or displeased.
May either didn't notice it or didn't care. She dove into introductions with gleeful enthusiasm. "Payton Parker, this is D.J. Daniels, my new neighbor. D.J., this is Payton, one of my best friends! And don't let her scare you away, D.J.; she's a sweetheart who just doesn't always think about how things will sound when she shoots them out of her mouth."
"Hey! What are you talking about? All I did was ask who she was!" Payton protested. "So, you're new, huh?" She directed her attention back to D.J. "Sixth grade?"
D.J. nodded, signaling Payton had guessed correctly.
"Do you know your class schedule yet?" Payton quizzed further.
"No, not yet," D.J. admitted. It was bad enough not knowing where all the classes were; she didn't even know what classes she'd be looking for!
"No worries," Payton comforted her. "We'll get you to the office and get you pointed in the right direction."
D.J. breathed a sigh of relief. She was going into this nightmare of a day with a few allies. That warm feeling was nearly washed away and replaced with a wave of cold panic, however, when she looked out the window to find they were pulling up to the school. Such a monstrosity of a structure intimidated D.J. by itself, but when she imagined the number of people that building housed, she suddenly regretted eating yogurt for breakfast. She worried she might see it traveling in the opposite direction soon.
But May flashed her excited and supportive smile and grabbed her hand as they got up to leave the bus, so D.J. was able to find her calm center again.CHAPTER 2
It was chaos, pure utter chaos, D.J. decided as they stepped off the bus. She had never seen so many kids all in one place. A dozen or more buses lined up and students were filing off. That was creating a huge mob of chatting, laughing, raucous tweens and teens in front of the school building. Payton led the way, clearing a path through the crowd to the big set of double doors. May followed closely behind Payton and dragged D.J. along by her hand.
Inside the school was significantly quieter than outside, but no less intimidating. The girls led D.J. along a maze of hallways with doorways and rows of lockers that all looked the same. A bit dizzy from it all, she worried she'd never successfully navigate her way to her classes. She breathed through her panic attack just in time to realize they had turned left and were walking through the main office doorway.
"Good mornin', ladies; how can I help y'all today?" greeted a smiling, kind-looking, middle-aged woman behind the desk. D.J. was surprised to hear such a strong southern accent from someone in Washington state. She couldn't remember ever hearing one like that before, other than from the television.
"Morning, Ms. Honeywell," replied Payton. "This is D.J.; she's new and needs her schedule."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Daisy, Bold & Beautiful"
Copyright © 2018 Ellie G. Collins.
Excerpted by permission of The Fresh Ink Group, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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