|Publisher:||Bad Doggy Productions|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.49(d)|
|Age Range:||1 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Stephanie Saye
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Stephanie Saye
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy name is Lauren Muchmore and I am of no consequence to you. If I passed you on the street, you probably wouldn't notice, for I'm not much to look at. I'm a simple and ordinary girl, who blends nicely in a crowd. I don't like drawing attention to myself and I always play by the rules. I'm a good girl, an obedient one, with a dark secret to tell.
In a sense, you already know my story. Newspapers covet stories like mine. Rumor mills churn them. You know, the ones about high school girls having affairs with teachers more than twice their age. And whether you'll admit it or not, you quietly judge ... shaking your head ... wondering how it ever came to be that we fell so far from grace.
Whatever you think, there's nothing wrong with girls like me. We're your average teens who like malls, music and pizza. We could be your next-door neighbor or your daughter's best friend. Nothing sets us apart except for the string that binds: we've fallen victim to an adult whom we admired and trusted; an adult who was supposed to know better and keep us from harm's way.
You ask me now why I've invited you here, why I've sat you down to hear my story. I'm not proud of what I did, nor do I wish to relive the whole ordeal a second time. But I've got to tell my story. I've got to set the record straight, for I can't carry this burden any longer. I simply need it to be over and done.
I'll start now the way my father taught me: forgive me father for I have sinned. My last confession was, oh I don't know, it's been years. While I know you're not a priest, you're willing to listen and that's good enough for me. So please, for now, could you be so kind and just humor me.
My story begins innocently enough, on a Saturday morning in the spring of my freshman year of high school. I was fifteen at the time and instructing my first pupil, seven-year-old Ethan Clarke. We were confined to my parents' living room where his piano lesson was well underway when I heard voices echoing from the entry hall. They sounded foreign me, unsettling and raw. One was unmistakably that of a man, deep and forceful, like a bullhorn. The other reminded me of a squawking bird, pitchy and irritating. I swallowed several times to calm myself, to quell the lump expanding in my throat, but it didn't help me feel any less on edge. Deep down, I knew the visitors had come for me.
I wanted to leave the room, walk out the front door and lose myself in the lazy neighborhood of oak trees and ranch-style homes. Instead I stayed put, honing in on Ethan banging away "Three Blind Mice" on my parents' upright Yamaha. I wound the metronome and set it to the appropriate speed to help steady Ethan's rhythm. Its tick-tick-tocking only added to my irritation, punctuating every missed note and sorry excuse for a melody. I leaned over and placed my hands over Ethan's. "Stroke, don't hit," I told him. "Relax your fingers and then touch the keys loosely like this." I lightly shook his small hands to relax them, rounding his knuckles and gently pressing his fingers on the keys. As I did this, I was disgusted at the sight of my hands—my thick, clammy hands that reminded me of my father's. They made me feel ugly and awkward. Nothing I did could make them look any less manly. Even my silver dangle rings seemed to accentuate their size.
My attention snapped back as Ethan started to fidget under my palms. I let go of his hands and instructed him to start again from the top, this time taking care to keep his fingers rounded. The metronome clicked on, like a pesky fly buzzing in my face. Ethan glared at me, his brown eyes framed by shadows far too old for his age. He held this stare for a good while and then, as if bored with the game, turned back to the sheet music in front of him. He began to pound harder, flattening his fingers to exaggerate the thumping sound on the keys. I didn't make any attempt to correct him. I just sat there watching, letting him bang away on the ivory. I let him—as I did every Saturday morning—make a mockery of me.
I remember the partition doors swinging open, putting an end to Ethan's obnoxious behavior. It was my mother; her timing always impeccable.
"How much longer till the lesson's over?" she said to me.
"Why?" I asked, suspicious of her motives.
"Lauren," she pleaded, eyeing me with her round dark eyes that always seemed to be filled with panic. "Your father invited some people here to see you," she said, sounding almost desperate.
"Can I go now, Ms. Lauren?" Ethan's eyes brightened at the possibility of the lesson ending early. Why his mother forced him to take piano lessons was beyond me. It was obvious that the boy hated them. Before I could answer Ethan's question, my mother told him he could go watch cartoons until his mom arrived. Hearing this, Ethan bolted from the room. I turned sharply to address my mother.
"Who are they?"
"Lauren, just come to the kitchen," she urged in a hushed tone and with a motion of her hand. "Please ... don't make your father wait."
"Mom, no!" I protested. "Tell me who they are!"
"Coach Krum and Sister Louvois from Saint Agnes."
Hearing my mother say their names angered me, validating my suspicion that the decision was made—that the deal was sealed so to speak. You're probably wondering what this decision entailed and why it could be so upsetting to a 15-year-old. I'll reveal it to you soon enough, but for right now, I need you to be patient and keep your focus on me.
I remember making it very clear to my mother that I wasn't interested in talking to anyone from Saint Agnes. In fact, I was in such a huff, I jabbed my bony hip on the edge of the piano as I marched out of the room. Rubbing away the pain, I walked swiftly down our dark hall toward my room, my long, lanky legs taking two strides at once. I shut the door and sat hard on my bed, which felt like a mushy marshmallow under my rump. As the bed sank under my weight, the stuffed animals piled on my floral comforter toppled to the ground. I sat there zoning off into space, not wanting to expend the energy to lean down and pick them up off the shag carpet. They no longer held the same importance as they had when I was a child, and seeing no need for them now that I was a teenager, I shoved them under the bed like a horrible secret, hoping they'd just go away.
Sitting there in my room that morning, I remember the air feeling musty and damp and the odor of stale cigarettes burning my nostrils. Feeling suffocated, I walked over and pulled back the dingy orange curtain that for years had been baked by the sun. Rays of sunshine beamed into my room, dulled slightly by the mucky film of tobacco built up on the windows. I ran my finger along the windowpane in a downward motion leaving a clear line in its path. I thought perhaps if I stood there long enough, the stupid people from Saint Agnes would go away. It's not that I was a brat or difficult 15-year-old; I just wanted my life simple and uncomplicated. I just wanted to play the piano and be left alone. But my father envisioned another path for me that didn't involve a single melody. The people he had invited to our house that day were part of his grand plan of making me a star—a plan he reminded me of over and over, any chance he got.
"I never had anyone encourage me like you have," he would tell me when he was feeling particularly lowly. "You should be thankful."
"Yes, I am, father. I am thankful," I would say, trying my best to sound convincing.
"It's God's will that makes you this way ... gives you such talent."
"Yes. God. It's His will," I'd repeat, letting him know I was listening.
"God didn't think I deserved it when I was your age, so he gave it to you. And now we must treasure it and use it wisely, as if we were going to die tomorrow. Let's bow our heads and ask God for wisdom."
And then we would pray—no matter where we were or what we were doing. My father would expect me to bow my head in prayer, no matter how many people would stare. "Let them," he'd say. "For they are of the weak-minded."
But on that Saturday morning, I was the one feeling weak-minded ... and intimidated upon seeing my father standing before me in my room, ordering me to look him in the eye, and explaining to me why I would be switching schools. Yes, that's why I was so upset. To a high school freshman, switching schools was like the end of the world.
"Coach Krum has seen you play, Lauren, and he wants you on his team," my father said that morning, in a deep throaty drawl. We sat there on my bed sinking into the mattress. The sides of our thighs touched, so I rose up slightly and moved over, for there was something strangely awkward in having physical contact with my father. I distinctly remember folding my arms over my chest to downplay the size of my breasts; I didn't want him to know that I had grown into a woman. Despite what you might think, I was a modest young girl, not wanting to draw attention to what puberty had done. My father must have sensed my uneasiness that day, because he cleared the phlegm from his throat with an abrupt and forceful cough, and began speaking as he always did of God, our Heavenly Father.
"We've talked about this before. God has blessed you with tremendous talent," he said. "You must know this."
I did know. I knew exactly what he was talking about. I knew that I could easily score 20 points in a single basketball game. I knew I could take on two defenders at once, juke them and come away clean without exerting as much as a bead of sweat. From the day my father handed me a basketball, I knew exactly what to do with it. But what I didn't know how to do was break the news to my father that I wasn't as in love with the game as he was. Looking back, I probably hadn't realized this yet for myself.
He began again, this time in a more authoritative tone. "Lauren, you'll be starting next fall at Saint Agnes. Now it's time for you to come meet your new coach."
Looking back—and I'm sure you'd agree—it was a good deal. All I had to do was play basketball and maintain a B-plus average, and in return, I would get to attend the most prestigious Catholic all-girls school in the city. I should have been grateful for the opportunity. I should have considered myself lucky that the leaders of this elite institution—whose student body was overrun with trust fund babies—were giving me, an ordinary teenage girl of humble upbringing, a shot at greatness. Instead, I wanted to close my eyes and make it all go away. The truth was that I just didn't want to start over again at a brand-new school, even if Saint Agnes did have the best girls basketball team around.
Noting my indifference and that my mind was adrift, my father exhaled a long sigh. I could sense he was at odds with me and didn't know quite how to proceed. And that's when I heard a rap on my bedroom door.
"Come in," my father spoke.
The door opened slowly. I distinctly remember that detail because the jingle bells dangling from the door hook remained undisturbed. Next thing I remember was feeling the blood rush from my face when I looked up and saw who was entering my room.
"I hope I'm not interrupting. Mrs. Muchmore said it was OK to poke my head in."
It was Coach Krum. Coach Daniel Krum to be exact. The very famed and beloved Coach Krum who had led the Lady Lambs to two consecutive district titles in just five years. The same man who was credited by the local sports media for helping put the all-girls Catholic high school on the map in a city where public school athletics ruled the roost. The same Daniel Krum who had managed to do all that before the age of 35.
"No, not at all Daniel," said my father. "Please come in and join us."
There was a moment of awkward silence as Daniel Krum looked around for a place to sit. There in my room was the head basketball coach for Saint Agnes and only a few inches away from his feet rested a wadded pair of my underwear in plain view. You think that's funny but all I wanted to do was curl up and die. I watched in silent panic as Coach Krum moved the wicker chair from my desk—the one with the dirty clothes hanging over the backside—to the middle of the room. He mounted it like a motorcycle and leaned his weight forward on the chair's legs. Trying to avoid his gaze and nervously chewing my bottom lip, I glanced up long enough to see that he had on khaki pants and a white Saint Agnes golf shirt. After a moment or two, he spoke his first words to me.
"Lauren, I'm Coach Krum."
Feeling uneasy and still soured by my parents' decision, I paused before I shook his hand, which he so abruptly shoved in my direction. When I finally placed my hand in his, he held it firmly, confirming without mistake the reason for his visit.
"Let me get right to the point," he said with strained authority. His eyes dotted his face like marbles; yet despite their small size they were memorable and piercingly blue.
"Four years ago, I started to build my team. I had nothing but freshmen, a few sophomores and a couple of juniors and seniors. By the time those freshmen were juniors, we had won state. Now those same freshmen are graduating and I need to find the next generation to keep our winning alive."
As he spoke, his thick reddish-brown mustache drew my gaze to his lips, which were pink and swollen like a woman's genitals. Naturally, that was the first thing I thought of after squatting on the bathroom floor with a mirror just a few days before to examine my own private parts. What can I say? Puberty had piqued my curiosity. I suddenly felt ashamed at the thought and redirected my attention back to Coach Krum, not that it was difficult.
"Every year we do a bit of scouting and your name keeps coming up."
I could tell right away that Coach Krum liked talking with his hands. I would come to find later that he enjoyed hearing himself speak even more.
"I've watched you and I like what I see. Never mind the Saint Agnes game." He paused for a moment, unsure of how to go on. "Your nerves got the best of you that night and with some solid coaching, I can help you overcome that. I can make you better."
Ah, the Saint Agnes game. After that night, I vowed to never, ever, play basketball again. It was one of the last games of the season and probably the most important. There was less than a minute to play and I had the ball about mid court. I was looking for an open man but the Saint Agnes girls were all over us. Out of nowhere, the Saint Agnes crowd (we were on their home turf) started chanting five ... four ... three ... two ... one ... and I panicked. Under the impression that time was literally running out, I heaved the ball as hard as I could at the basket from half court. It was a perfect air ball and ended up in the hands of a Saint Agnes forward who quickly ran a fast break play for a bucket. I stood there stunned, unaware that there was still more than a minute left in the game. The crowd had tricked me. They gym roared with laughter and I was quickly benched. The memories of that night, along with the embarrassment, came rushing back, like a wound being torn open. Humiliated, I continued to sit there on my mushy mattress, staring down at my sneakers and the stuffed animals on the floor, not saying a word.
I think at that point, Daniel Krum thought he had lost me. If he had known me a little better, he would have realized that my silence was my way of submitting to his request—or rather to my father's request. My father was making this all look very democratic, but in the end, it didn't matter what I wanted. It never did in the first place.
"I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to come play for Saint Agnes," Daniel Krum said blankly, balancing his weight on the balls of his feet as he leaned lower on the chair. "What happened that night was a hard lesson. But the crowds you'll face down the road in college will be twice as ruthless—especially if you get recruited by any of the Big 12 teams. And you will, I guarantee it, if you come play for me."
Excerpted from Little 15 by Stephanie Saye Copyright © 2011 by Stephanie Saye. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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