Timmy had no clue that the first day of 10th grade at the Academy would rock his world. He thought it would be just like last year, with its endless bullying and recesses spent reshelving books in the library with his best and only friend Carleen. The sissy boy and the fat girl had bonded over their shared outcast status. But Carleen shows up filled with sassy confidence and declares they’re going to rule the school. By Christmas, the freaks and nerds would be the cool kids, and the mean girls and jocks would be the outcasts. Something had happened to her over the summer, but what?
And then, the two of them lay eyes on the new boy at the Academy. Doug has auburn feathered hair, veiny biceps, and green eyes the color of Sprite bottles. Plus, he’s come all the way from exotic Los Angeles, California. He rocks out to Patti Smith while Timmy loves ABBA. How does someone so cool end up in tiny, conservative Edgewood, South Carolina?
When Carleen immediately declares Doug a fox and her new prospective boyfriend, Timmy is shocked at his jealous reaction. He’s not supposed to like boys in that way, is he? Doug stirs up weird new emotions deep inside him as Timmy embarks on the adventure of his life. He and his hometown will never be the same.
|Publisher:||Ninestar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.74(d)|
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EDGEWOOD, SOUTH CAROLINA
God didn't answer my prayers and bring the Rapture on Labor Day, so I had to start tenth grade after all. I stepped in front of the mirror to assess my new back-to-school outfit. I hated it. I'd begged Momma to buy me the alligator shirt from Belk's, which really cost her a lot, but did it have to hug my body so much? I tried stretching it out, but it would only stretch so far. I thought I'd look like Tom Selleck with his big veiny arms. Instead, I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I was trying to flex my chest when Momma walked in.
"Honey, get a move on. We have to be out the door in fifteen minutes, and you haven't even touched your Pop-Tarts."
"Momma, I think I need to change clothes."
"What are you talking about?" she asked as she pulled and tugged on my shirt. "This is what you wanted. You look very handsome."
"But it fits so close."
"Timmy, I have told you time and again you're not fat. It's all in your head. You are absolutely average on the height and weight scale and exactly where you need to be at fifteen." She patted my tummy, causing me to suck in. "You'll lose that little bit of pudge in no time in gym class."
My heart sank at the thought of gym class, and I almost lost my appetite for Pop-Tarts. Almost. Momma smoothed down my cowlick at the kitchen table as I bit into the brown sugar cinnamon pastry.
"Thank goodness you inherited the Ashburn hair," she said. "Such a beautiful chestnut brown and such a noble hairline. It's a sign of your aristocratic heritage, you know, on my side of the family. All the Ashburn men had beautiful hairlines. Thank goodness you take after me and don't have your daddy's stringy mess."
I guessed my hairline was okay, but my new haircut was way too short. Daddy had taken me to get it cut only after Momma called him ten times to remind him. He and Momma got divorced when I was two, and it was always weird when he came by, which wasn't often. Naturally, he took me to the awful old barbershop next to the pool hall instead of the new unisex salon in the Augusta Mall I was secretly hoping for. He told the barber to "buzz it" and then went next door for a beer. I managed to talk the barber into keeping a little length, but not much.
"Now go brush your teeth quick as a bunny rabbit," said Momma. "Carleen's mother called this morning and said her car's not running and could I run by and pick her up for school. So, we have no time."
Carleen's house was across the tracks, and I knew Momma didn't like going over there, but Carleen had been my best friend since kindergarten. Actually, you could say she was my only friend. She was the only one I talked to for hours on the phone at night; the only one I hung out with after school; the only one to ever invite me to a sleepover, which Momma had never allowed me to do since boy-girl sleepovers just weren't done. I hadn't seen her all summer because she'd been working at her grandparents' peach farm. I was glad we'd be going to school together on the first day. I needed my friend with me.
We pulled in front of the house, and Carleen came right out.
"Good Lord, Carleen's put on even more weight this summer," said Momma.
Momma was right. Carleen had always been the biggest girl in class, and she wasn't getting any smaller. I recognized her smock top from last year. A smock top was supposed to fit loose, but hers pulled in all the wrong places.
"Hey, Carleen," said Momma as Carleen got in the car. "You sure do look pretty for your first day of school."
"Thank you, Mrs. Thompson," said Carleen. I waited for an eye roll, but she just smiled at Momma like she really believed it. I looked at her more closely, and there was something different about her. Was it confidence? If so, it was new. Was that lip gloss she was wearing?
"Hey, Timmy, did you hear we're getting a new boy in our class this year?"
"No," I said, dreading the addition of another redneck bubba to the roster.
"They say he's from California and he's real cute."
"Really? California?" said Momma. "What's he doing here?"
"I think his momma's people are here. He's related to all those Herlongs."
"Does that explain the lip gloss?"
"Timmy, don't be rude," said Momma.
"I just wanted to look pretty for the first day of school," replied Carleen.
"And you do," said Momma.
When Momma pulled up in front of Patriot Christian, Carleen looked me square in the eye and gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up.
"Come on, Timmy. We're gonna rule the school in tenth grade. Let's do it."
AS SOON AS she drove off, Carleen pulled me behind the crepe myrtles.
"I gotta tell you what happened to me this summer. You're the only one I'm telling, so you gotta swear to keep it secret."
"You know I don't swear, but I won't tell. What is it?"
"Brace yourself. Are you braced? This is big. Real big."
I put my hand on the tree trunk. "I'm braced. Carleen, what on earth happened?"
"I lost it. With a guy. We did the nasty."
"The nasty what?"
"The nasty. You know." She made a thrusting motion with her hips.
"You went dancing?"
"Jesus, Timmy, you are so dense. We bumped boots. Played hide the sausage. Made the beast with two backs. Ya get it?"
I shook my head in confusion. The bell was ringing, so we needed to go. "You shouldn't use the Lord's name in vain, and no, I don't get it. Just say it in plain English."
"I got screwed; now do you understand? S-E-X. His name is Juan."
Thank goodness I was braced because I almost fell over. Was that why she was suddenly so confident? Did that explain the lip gloss? Who was Juan? I didn't know any Juan.
"Carleen," I whispered. "Do you mean intercourse? We're too young for that stuff."
"We didn't have intercourse. I had intercourse, and it was great."
"I don't believe you."
Just then, Mrs. Morgan came striding down the walk toward us.
"Children — Why aren't you in assembly? It starts in thirty seconds. March!"CHAPTER 2
The New Kid
THE BLEACHERS WERE full of kids settling down for assembly, and Carleen and I were the last two in the gym. I was scanning the crowd looking for two empty spaces when I laid eyes on him for the first time. The new boy. He stopped me in my tracks. He had feathered hair, longer than any of the other boys — like Jon on CHiPs, only a beautiful shade of auburn instead of blond. He had green eyes the color of Sprite bottles. He wore a golf shirt with short ribbed sleeves like mine, only his had a polo player on it instead of an alligator. His biceps weren't as big as Jon's, but he had them, unlike me, and there was a little vein running through each one. He was sitting in the front row, a space or two from the next kid, and was looking straight ahead at Mrs. Holt mounting the podium. He wasn't like any of the boys around here. He wasn't like any boy I had ever seen before in my life. My pulse started pounding. I felt flushed. Why was I feeling flushed?
Carleen elbowed me in the ribs and whispered, "He's a fox." Then she pulled me over to two spaces on the front row, at the other end from the new boy. The pounding in my chest began to slow.
After the assembly started, Carleen elbowed me again because Mrs. Holt was glaring at me. I realized I was the only one not singing "Jesus Loves Me" because I was trying to spy the new boy with my peripheral vision.
I joined the singing on the last line: "For the Bible tells me so."
"Nice of you to join us, Timmy Thompson," Mrs. Holt said in front of the entire assembly. Everybody laughed. Only twenty minutes into tenth grade and already I wanted to crawl under the bleachers and die.
Mrs. Holt shook her head at me and addressed everyone. "Welcome back to Patriot Christian Academy, Christian Soldiers! If y'all work hard and praise His name daily, you will have a rewarding year, and we'll send another class of seniors off to conquer the world."
She paused and looked around at us, her half-rimmed glasses perched on the end of her nose. Carleen squirmed in her seat.
"All right, boys and girls, everyone proceed in an orderly fashion to your first period. Teachers? Take charge."
Mrs. Morgan stood and beckoned us tenth graders to follow her to first period. She moved in a brisk march, her crepe-soled shoes squeaking as everyone in the class sprinted to keep up.
"Move with a purpose, children."
It was her favorite phrase.
"Move with a purpose. Two by two, that's right. Keep an orderly line."
Mrs. Morgan had taught us sixth-grade English, seventh-grade American history, and she would now be teaching tenth-grade Good Citizenship. Patriot Christian didn't have a whole lot of teachers, so they had to double up. Mrs. Means taught math and art, which seemed kind of weird, and Coach Duggins taught driver's ed and South Carolina history, which seemed weirder.
Mrs. Morgan was shaped like a top and walked like a penguin. I thought if I pulled a string off one of her pastel mix and match pantsuits, she'd spin around until she fell over. I choked back a giggle.
"Did you see the new boy? He's so cute," said Carleen, walking beside me. Carleen had a way of whispering so her lips didn't move and nobody knew it was her speaking.
"We're not supposed to talk in line," I whispered.
"Do I hear talking in line?" said Mrs. Morgan, on cue. She always heard me but never Carleen.
"Old Lady's not gonna tell me what to do," whispered Carleen. I could barely hear her, but I was shocked just the same. When did Carleen start saying stuff like "Old Lady" when she was talking about our teachers? And why did I feel annoyed that Carleen called the new boy cute?
We got to our classroom, and each desk had a name written on masking tape and a new book titled Good Citizenship in the United States of America, published by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. On the cover were pictures of George Washington and Robert E. Lee with crossed Confederate and American flags. Carleen sat right behind me, and the new boy sat on my right.
Carleen immediately passed me a note that said, I want to screw him. I was shocked again. Hadn't she screwed enough? I looked up in panic and saw Mrs. Morgan was busy at the blackboard, so I quickly stuffed the note between the pages of Good Citizenship. When I caught my breath, I used my peripheral vision again to see what the new boy was doing. He was looking straight at me. I turned away fast.
Mrs. Morgan began speaking. "Welcome to tenth grade. You're out of the baby grades now. That means it's time to buckle down and work hard so you can graduate with the class of '83. Let's get to it. Who can tell me the answer to this question ..."
She droned on with her question, but I wasn't listening. The new boy had his elbows on his desk and was looking forward. He reached his right hand over and slowly ran it up his left upper arm, under the ribbed shirtsleeve. He held it there, caressing his bicep. I couldn't take my eyes off him.
"Timmy Thompson! Pay attention," said Mrs. Morgan.
She rapped her wooden pointer on her desk.
"I don't know what you've been doing with yourself all summer, but you're back in school now. It's time to straighten up and get serious. Now that I have your attention, perhaps you would like to answer my question?"
The new boy stopped stroking his arm and turned to watch me. I looked straight at the teacher.
"Well, young man? We're waiting. I asked a question, and I expect an answer. I was addressing a very important topic."
She folded her arms and tapped her crepe-soled shoe. Since I didn't know what the question was, I sure didn't know the answer. I sat there for what seemed like forever as everyone stared at me. The only sound was Mrs. Morgan's sensible toe tapping.
Finally, Kimberly Ann Mingees stuck her hand in the air. "I know the answer, Mrs. Morgan!"
"I know you do, Kimberly Ann," said Mrs. Morgan. "And don't blurt it out. I'm sure you were listening, unlike Timmy, here. Well, Timmy? Kimberly Ann's not going to give you the answer. The whole class is waiting for you."
I had no idea what to say, so I blurted out the all-purpose answer for Patriot Christian Academy.
Everybody laughed except the new boy who just looked confused. Mrs. Morgan threw up her hands.
"First day of school and you're already daydreaming. You'd better get your head out of the clouds and buckle down, young man. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. Remember that. Kimberly Ann, please inform Timmy what the question was and answer it."
I sank in my seat and fixed my eyes on a spot on my desk while Kimberly Ann stood up.
"The question was, what is the greatest duty of a Christian citizen in an election year such as this one? The answer is, the greatest duty of a Christian citizen is to vote for a Christian candidate like Ronald Reagan. That's what Jesus would want."
She sat down.
"Very good, Kimberly Ann," said Mrs. Morgan. "It's nice to see someone came to school ready to learn."
Kimberly Ann flipped her long blonde hair behind her shoulder and clasped her hands on her desk, a small smile on her lips.
I hated Kimberly Ann.
Then, I suddenly realized how to redeem myself with Mrs. Morgan, so I raised my hand.
"Jimmy Carter's a Christian, and my aunt Melanie is voting for him, so she's doing her duty as a Christian. Is that what you mean?"
"Absolutely not!" said Mrs. Morgan. "All those race-mixing ideas of his are certainly not Christian. Deuteronomy 7:3. Then there's all his un- Christian ideas about money and such. I know he goes to a Baptist church, or at least he says so. Maybe Georgia Baptists don't think the same way as us South Carolina Baptists, but a good Christian politician is first and foremost a good steward of the economy. Do you know what I mean by the word steward, class? It means to take care of. The president takes care of the nation's economy for us. Wealth must be protected for those who work hard and earn it. Why, Jimmy Carter wants to give it all away to all the lazy types who expect a handout, and they'll all be voting too — don't you doubt it. And don't even get me started on that trashy brother of his, hanging around a gas station drinking beer all the time."
I sank back in my desk.
"Well, enough of that because I have somebody to introduce. We have a new boy in class this year. Let's all welcome Doug Appleby. Stand up, Doug."
The new boy stood and put his hands in his pockets. He looked around the class and met my eyes for a moment. My underarms went damp.
"Doug has come to us all the way from California."
California! But it was so far away. How did he get all the way over here? I bet California was the most perfect place to live.
Mrs. Morgan rolled down the map of the United States that was mounted above the blackboard.
"Doug, why don't you come up and show us exactly where you came from."
Doug walked to the map. Mrs. Morgan handed him her pointer, and he placed it on California.
"Southern California, LA," he mumbled, then went back to his seat, leaving the pointer on the teacher's desk.
"LA stands for Los Angeles, class," said Mrs. Morgan. She pronounced Los Angeles as "Laws Angie-lees." "It's a great big city all the way across the country on the Pacific Ocean. It's near Hollywood."
She picked up a pointer from the chalk tray and slid it across the map from South Carolina to the Pacific coast.
"I'm sure LA, as he calls it, is glamorous and exciting, but I know Doug is glad to be here in South Carolina with good folks and small- town values, aren't you, Doug?"
She smiled and nodded at Doug, waiting on him to agree. He stared back in silence.
She pressed on.
"He's only lived here for a week, and this is his first time ever in South Carolina, even though this is where his people are. So, let's show him what true Southern hospitality is all about, all right, class?"
She started clapping. The entire class joined in. Doug stared at his shoes while we applauded him for coming to Patriot Christian.
As the applause died off, something occurred to me: If Doug Appleby sits beside me in this class, he's probably going to sit beside me in every class. Oh my gosh, if he's going to sit next to me in every class, we could be like study buddies or trade notes or if he loses his pencil, I could give him one or if I wear down my eraser, I could borrow his or we could talk about what we're going to do next weekend or how much homework we have or we could meet up after school and plan our outfits for the week ...CHAPTER 3
I Don't Think Boys are Good-Looking
THE BELL RANG, and we all gathered our books and filed out of Good Citizenship for Math. In the hallway, Jimbo Abernathy bumped me, knocking my books out of my hands.
"Smooth move, ExLax." He smelled like cigarettes and red clay.
The entire hall full of kids laughed. Carleen helped me pick up my books, and we went to math class.
"Screw those dummies," she whispered to me. "They don't matter."
It made me feel better, but I would have to have a talk with her about her new potty mouth.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "New Boy at the Academy"
Copyright © 2019 Sam Hawk.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
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