Gardenia

Gardenia

by Kelsey Sutton

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Overview

Gardenia by Kelsey Sutton

In this haunting young adult suspense from an award-winning author, seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson knows the exact moment when she will die, but what she does with her remaining days could end up saving more than just her own life.

"Beautifully written and fast-paced, Gardenia had me staying up past my bedtime several nights in a row!" —Pintip Dunn, New York Times bestselling author of Forget Tomorrow

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been able to see countdown clocks over everyone's heads indicating how long before they will die. She can't do anything about anyone else’s, nor can she do anything about her own, which will hit the zero hour before she even graduates high school.

A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy does her best to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep love for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister. And she struggles to cope with the murder of her best friend, another life she couldn't save. Vanessa Donovan was murdered in the woods, and everyone in town believes Ivy had something to do with it.

Then more girls start disappearing. Ivy tries to put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa's. To save lives, and for her own sanity.

The clock is always ticking. And Ivy's only hope is to expose the truth before it runs out completely.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626818415
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 02/28/2017
Pages: 260
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Kelsey Sutton is the author of the teen novel SOME QUIET PLACE. She is also the author of two novels for middle grade readers, THE LONELY ONES and BENJAMIN. Her work has received an Independent Publisher Book Award, an IndieFab Award, and was selected as a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2013. She lives in Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt

Gardenia


By Kelsey Sutton

Diversion Publishing Corp.

Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Sutton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-68230-590-4


CHAPTER 1

My eyes open and I'm not staring up at the ceiling of my room.

Instead, I'm standing beneath the last working streetlight in the park, right in the center of its glow. I wrap my arms around myself as a shield from the cold, looking at her trailer with an empty feeling in my stomach. I must have walked in my sleep again. It seems to be getting worse over time, not better. Dimly I notice that I'm not wearing shoes. My toes curl under, scraping against the gravel. My boxer shorts snap in the wind. The air has teeth and nails. It's October and another Minnesota winter is coming. But I don't care.

The lights are off in her room, of course, along with all the others. She's been gone since July. I stare at her dark window, knowing I should go back to bed.

But I don't move. For minutes or hours — I'm not sure which — I just linger in the cold, another spirit haunting this place. It's something I've done dozens of times since we buried her. I've gotten used to the stiffness afterward, the absolute silence, the exhaustion.

Only when the sky turns purple and light reaches over the horizon with luminescent fingers do I turn to go back to my own room.

It's seventeen steps back. Fog hovers over the ground. Just as I reach the steps, an engine turns over in the distance — one of the neighbors must be waking up. The stillness is further disrupted by Madonna's voice blaring through the trailer as soon as I open our front door.

There's a stale smell in the air because no one has bothered to clean the parrot's cage this week. Spencer Hille perks up as I come in, his green feathers ruffled and gleaming. "I missed you!" he squawks.

I lumber down the narrow hall. The orange carpet is so thin I can feel the cool metal beneath it. Madonna continues to serenade the morning. "Mom." I knock on her door. It rattles on its hinges. "Your alarm is going off. Get up." I'm turning toward my room before the words have completely left my mouth.

She swears, and there's a slam as she assaults the snooze button. She'll keep doing it if I don't wake her up myself. Sighing, I turn back around. The carpet does nothing to muffle the moans of the floor as I approach the door again. "Five more minutes!" Mom thunders, hearing it.

I push my way into her room. There's a pile of Dad's junk behind the door — an antique clock that doesn't work anymore, some Stephen King books, clothes, a pair of mounted antlers. I pat around looking for the light, which has become nearly impossible to find since Mom nailed a blanket over her window. I feel the switch and flip it up without hesitation.

My mother makes a sound that a vampire might make in direct sunlight. She yanks the sheets higher. "You have to be at the diner in a half hour," I tell her pitilessly. A middle finger pokes out. The alarm goes off again. Mom emerges from the covers, opening bloodshot eyes.

The numbers over her head glow brightly, and, as always, the seconds continue to count down. Annie Erickson will be alive for another thirty years, seven months, nine days, two hours, thirty-eight minutes, and twenty-seven seconds.

That's how I know waking up at 7:30 a.m. won't kill her.

Groaning, Mom manages to find the snooze button a second time. Once it's silenced she buries her face in the pillow. The latest Danielle Steel novel rests on her nightstand. "Is this one any good?" I ask, picking it up and glancing at the back cover.

"Give me five more minutes," she mumbles.

"I'm going to the nursing home before school. You need to get up now."

She calls me a name, hot and foul. "That's sweet," I tell her. "Get up." For good measure, I turn the stereo on before leaving. I head for the bathroom and pass my sister's door, which is tightly shut. There's no reason to wake her; running a website requires no set hours. I wash my face in the sink, and water dampens the front of my T-shirt. I pat myself dry with a towel. I brush my teeth and go to my room with the taste of mint in my mouth.

In front of the cracked mirror hanging over my dresser — Vanessa broke it when we were nine, spinning so fast to a Britney Spears song that she knocked it off the wall — I braid my hair as well as I possibly can. Frizzy curls always manage to escape no matter what I do. I don't bother with makeup before putting my glasses on; my skin is clear, the one and only noticeable quality I have. The numbers above me glow like all the others, but the mirror is strategically angled so that I can't see anything above my forehead.

I move to the closet and root around for some jeans. As I yank on a sweatshirt and boots, I notice a huge hole in the knee. No time to change, though, and these are probably the last clean pair I have anyway. I grab my bag, listening for the familiar jangle of my car keys, and go.

"You're beautiful!" Spencer Hille calls as I rush by.

My '96 Buick is waiting outside. It may not be a pretty vehicle, but it's faithful, turning over on the first try. The smell of gas permeates the air. I wait for the frost on the windshield to melt a bit before driving out of the trailer park. Just as the tires bump onto the main road, I notice the rearview mirror has been tilted. Lorna must have gone out after I went to bed last night. I quickly readjust it so the reflection only shows my eyes and the sign for the park, GREEN ESTATES. Except when George Blue was sixteen he painted over the E so now it reads WELCOME TO GREEN PROSTATES.

George is now our mayor.

The sign fades behind me, and soon enough Hallett Cottages appears on my right. It's the only place in Kennedy for the elderly. It's a combination of a nursing home and an assisted living facility. I started volunteering when I was nine, reading to the residents or helping them with meals. The building is nondescript, with brown brick and ancient square windows. The trees have been cleared around it, making the poorly tended lawn its most noticeable quality. I guide my car into its usual space, park, cut the engine, and step out into the cold again. The leaves on the trees are vibrant hues of orange and red and yellow. They rustle a greeting to me as I walk inside.

Rita, the front desk nurse, nods at me as the doors slide open. In all the time I've known her, she has never smiled. "Getting colder," she says by way of greeting.

I shrug ruefully, writing my name on the check-in list. "We knew it was coming, right?"

Steam rises from the cup of coffee by her hand. My stomach rumbles as I head straight for the third room on the left to visit a woman who is always up at the crack of dawn.

Miranda Raspberry is seventy-three years old. She's one of the youngest residents of Hallett. She's also one of my favorites. I knock on the door and a soft voice warbles, "Come in." I enter the bright space. Miranda sits on her perfectly made bed. "Oh, Hannah," the tiny woman greets me, beaming. She sets her knitting down. Her gray hair curls against her head, and she's wearing pink pants and a sweatshirt. Gene Simmons peers at me from the worn material. "I was just thinking about you."

"Hi, Mom." Smiling, I take her proffered hand and note that she's attempted to paint her nails. Pink polish stains the skin around them. The walls are covered with needlepoint creations and the air smells like perfume. I look around for the hundredth time, savoring it as I always do because this will all be gone soon, as if no one named Miranda Raspberry ever lived here.

After a few moments I realize that Miranda is frowning at me. "Honey, what in the world are you wearing?" She pinches my clothes between two fingers. The pink chair by her window is a familiar place, and I like to think that the cushion recognizes me as an old friend. I sink down and it lets out a whoosh of air.

I don't answer for a moment; I'm distracted by the numbers above her. In stark, white, unavoidable truth, they tick down. Miranda Raspberry has twenty-eight days, nineteen hours, seventeen minutes, and fifty-six seconds to live. "I'm auditioning for a play today. This is a costume."

Her expression clears and she's back to smiling. "You are? You never told me you had an interest in acting!" Acting, pretending, it's all the same. I open my mouth to describe the supposed play, but before I can, Miranda stiffens. There's a sudden shadow in her eyes, and lines deepen around her mouth. "You're not Hannah." She stands. Her voice has lost its warmth, and now she sounds like a small, lost child. The tile creaks.

I remain calm. "No, Mrs. Raspberry. I'm not. I'm Ivy."

She glances at the door behind her, as if she's thinking about fleeing. "Where's Hannah?" she whispers. "Where am I?" This isn't the first time she's been lucid. It happens at least once a week. But she never remembers that her daughter and her husband died in a car accident back in 1983. Some people might tell her the truth: she's utterly alone. But I see the time she has left. This is why I come to Hallett — to create happy endings. So once again I sit back to tell Miranda Raspberry of a beautiful, fictitious past she can't remember.

It's better than talking about the future I know she won't have.

CHAPTER 2

Everyone has moved on.

I make my way through the halls of Kennedy High, holding my books close and trying to tune out all the chatter around me. While I am still stuck in a day that happened over two months ago, while I keep thinking that Vanessa will never experience her senior year of high school, the only thing my peers want to talk about is the new girl. Apparently she moved here from Minneapolis and she was kicked out of her old school. There was once a time when I would have been just as curious. Now no one will look me in the eye, much less tell me the latest town gossip.

Well, not no one. My gaze meets Brent Nordstrom's — the sheriff's stepson — for an instant before skittering away. Most people I would glare at or make some snarky comment to, but not him. I can feel his stare boring into my back as I hurry to class. Just seeing Brent makes me feel nauseous.

The door swings shut behind me, a welcome barrier. Like every other day, I go through the motions. Taking notes in astronomy. Listening to the teacher talk about a script during drama. A discussion about Of Mice and Men in English. I write so hard in my notebook that the words sink into the page beneath. The empty desk in each room still doesn't escape my notice.

I see her everywhere. I hear her voice. So serious, Ivy. Come on, live a little. All the while those numbers over her head ticked down, down, down, and there was nothing I could do.

"... had many obstacles to overcome. Does anyone have an idea what those obstacles were? Ivy?" Ms. Jones asks.

I try to shove Vanessa out of my head.

During lunch I sit in a corner, picking at the lasagna. A group of children sit farther down the table; our community is so small that all grades share the building. The clock on the wall taunts me and I lower my gaze. I'm so absorbed in the contours of the tray that I don't see the shadow standing over me until it's too late. A moment later milk splatters over all my food, onto the table, and soaks into my pants. I jump up and look at Mitch Donovan. He has the same bright eyes, the same red hair as his twin. It's still like seeing a ghost every time.

"I would tell you to go fuck yourself, but I'm pretty sure you'd be disappointed," I say through my teeth.

He doesn't say anything. He doesn't smile, smirk, or insult me. He just clutches the milk carton in his hand — the cardboard crumples loudly — then turns his back and walks to his table.

Everyone is staring now, which I absolutely loathe. I hurry to dump my tray and flee the cafeteria.

After school I drive to Nick's, where I work part-time as a dishwasher. It's the only place in town that will hire me ... and that's only because my uncle happens to own the place.

The bell over the door jingles as I push it open. A gust of air greets me, laden with the scent of grease and coffee. The dinner rush hasn't started yet and most of the booths are empty. The chrome counters are clean and stocked.

Mom is standing at the far side of the room, nodding at something Hubert Gill is saying. His hands move emphatically as he speaks. He owns the local grocery store and has had a longtime crush on my mother. At the sound of the bell Mom gives me a distracted wave. She looks tired and a bit exasperated. Wisps of hair fall into her eyes and her mint-green uniform is wrinkled. Susie — Nick's other waitress and my godmother — cheerfully smacks an order on the counter. I wave back to Mom and head straight for the office to clock in.

"Ivy!" Amar shouts from the kitchen, raising his spatula in a salute. A burger hisses on the grill. His eyes gleam with excitement. "Did you know your heart beats one hundred thousand times in one day?" "Keep the fun facts coming, Amar." I wink and walk past the kitchen doorway, into the narrow back hall.

The office door is open, so I go in. Smoke hovers in the air and tickles my throat. Uncle Nick looks up from his paperwork. "Hey, kid," he says around the cigarette in his mouth. "How was school?"

"Typical." I jam my card in and out of the stamper before putting it back. I reach for a clean apron on the wall hook and drop it over my head, reaching back to tie the strings. Thankfully, it covers the milk splotch on my jeans. "You know you're not supposed to smoke in here," I chide halfheartedly.

He inhales. "Hank wouldn't fail me. I've known him since he was three."

Hank is the current health inspector. Since he, too, smokes like a chimney, I don't think this place is in much danger of being shut down. I change the subject. "Do you mind if I leave a little early today? I want to go to the nursing home before visiting hours are over."

My uncle raises his brows at me. There's a trail of ashes across his desk. "Again? How many times does that make this week?"

"What can I say? They're the only people that can stand me." I shrug, as if it doesn't matter.

Nothing fools Uncle Nick. He gives me a knowing look, tightening his grip on a pen with one beefy fist. He takes one more long drag of his cigarette and then crushes the glowing orange tip on the ashtray with his other hand. "This town is full of idiots, kid. You won't be here forever. Remember that. Hey, how about we go on another fishing trip soon?" They're kind words, meant to encourage, but they have the opposite effect. Because the fact is, I'm never going to leave Kennedy. I'll never escape this place. I'm destined to be trapped among this hate and death and pain for the rest of my life.

While I struggle to give him an optimistic response, my uncle bends to open a drawer. The numbers hovering over him move into my line of sight before I can look away. Nick Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live. Those numbers are the reason why I've never hesitated to love or grow close to this man.

He doesn't know it, but Uncle Nick and I are going to die on the same day.

CHAPTER 3

I've seen the numbers my entire life.

I've always wondered why I am the only one who is tormented by them. I have hated them. I have fought a futile fight against them. There were times I delved into my past, even the details of my birth, to find out why I see what no one else sees. In secret I have gone to psychics and called neurosurgeons. Most of them were dead ends; I wasted precious money for empty babbling about gifts or mental disorders. One doctor had an interesting theory about neural processes, but I quickly hung up when he asked for my name.

The only real answer I could come up with is that some of us are just born cursed.

I didn't know what the numbers were, though, until my grandmother had a heart attack in front of me. I was three, and had learned to count down from ten. I still remember sitting on the orange carpet with my Barbie dolls. The TV was on. Grandma was standing at the counter in the kitchen. The phone was lodged between her ear and shoulder as she chopped some cucumbers. "Grandma, watch me count your numbers!" I called. "Nine, eight, seven," I said to my Barbies. "Six, five, four, three, two, one!"

Grandma dropped the phone. It clattered to the floor.

"Ivy," she gasped, clutching her chest. She grabbed at the counter with her other hand, but she missed and fell down beside the phone. Thinking it was a game, I laughed and hurried across those diamond-shaped tiles to reach her.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Gardenia by Kelsey Sutton. Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Sutton. Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
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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Gardenia 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JenacideByBibliophile More than 1 year ago
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Diversion Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review. AHHHHH! THIS book! THIS FREAKING BOOK! You are probably thinking to yourself Wow, WHAT about this book. WELL, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THIS BOOK! I have been searching high and low for a specific genre of story to read for WEEKS now. A story that will make my heart hurt and my stomach flip due to eloquent and depressing sentences. You know the kind of story I am talking about. The sort of tale that doesn’t just make you sorrowful, but a story that makes you MAKE yourself sorrowful because you don’t want to stop feeling what the characters feel. Well, this story comes pretty close to that. Call it a gift or a curse, but ever since Ivy was a child she knew when the people around her were going to die. The ability to see a countdown of each person’s remaining time over their heads has proved to be most difficult for Ivy, especially when her own death has been approaching quickly over the past few months. After the murder of her best friend, Ivy falls into a downward spiral as she realizes that she can’t save the people she loves. But the need to find out the truth about what happened begins to consume her, and soon Ivy finds herself on the trail to figuring out who the murderer is. As Ivy’s last weeks begin to draw near, she fights to live her final days instead of just watching them tick by. I can’t express enough how much I loved the concept for this story. Ivy is forced to watch the people around her die as their life clock comes to an end, while feeling helpless the entire time because she has no way to save them. I felt like I had a truly strong connection to this character. She is a loner at school and made to feel like an outcast because of events from her past, but she has a snarky attitude and is quick to fire off amazing zingers. When first introduced to Ivy, the reader quickly learns that there is a sense that she has already given up in life. With the death of her best friend being so recent and her own clock only being a few months before ending, Ivy has an overwhelming sense of despair and sorrow engulfing her. She has nobody close to her that she can talk to, and her family is very distant and wrapped up in their own lives. As the story progresses, Ivy starts to become obsessed with finding out who killed her friend and why. In regards to the mystery aspect of this story, I was pretty surprised to figure out who it was. I had about one or two main suspects that I thought had definitely done it, but I was pleasantly surprised to have been wrong. The point where this story starts to get truly heart wrenching, apart from the already depressing events, is when the reader learns about Myers. Myers is the ex-boyfriend of Ivy, and let’s just say that relationship ended horribly on a night when everything else shattered Ivy’s world. I found that this author EXCELS when she is describing a sorrowful or dark moment. Not many authors know how to capture a feeling in words, and I thought Kelsey Sutton did a great job of it. This story is riddled with amazing descriptions of sadness and regret, and I adored every single minute of it. To see the rest of my review, head over to my blog: Jenacidebybibliophile.wordpress.com