Tell On You, the story of a married teacher’s fatal infatuation with his beautiful 16-year-old student, best fits into the emerging niche genre of “Grip Lit.” These novels, usually authored by women and inspired by the wildly successful Gone Girl, are thrillers with psychological nuances and frequently unreliable narrators. Readers love the must-turn-the-page suspense, even while they may dislike the characters. The author of Tell On You is a psychologist, well-acquainted with the dark corners of the heart.
|Publisher:||Micro Publishing Media, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Freda Hansburg is a psychologist and Tell On You is her debut thriller. After earning a BA in English literature from Barnard College, Freda briefly attended Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, before completing her MSS in Clinical Social Work at Bryn Mawr in 1975 and then her Ph.D. at Temple in 1989. She has co-authored two self-help books—PeopleSmart (with over 75,000 copies sold and translated into ten languages) and Working PeopleSmart—along with numerous professional publications in the field of psychology.
Read an Excerpt
Tell On You
By Freda Hansburg
Micro Publishing MediaCopyright © 2017 Freda Hansburg
All rights reserved.
"ALL RIGHT, LADIES!"
Jeremy Barrett clapped to get the attention of his second period Advanced Placement English class. When they continued talking, he barked: "Hey!" Eleven pairs of adolescent eyes turned toward him and the buzz of their conversations died down. The Forrest School demanded academic excellence along with the steep tuition. These daughters of wealthy New Jersey bedroom communities mostly rose to the challenge. Jeremy found them a pleasure to teach.
He scanned the room, mentally taking attendance and ticking off today's borderline violations of the school dress code. Here, a bit of exposed belly or cleavage, there, some serious piercing. He frowned, but not over the wardrobe issues. No one had called in absent today, but someone was missing.
"Anyone know where Heather is?" They were all enmeshed in a tapestry of tweets, texts and posts. If one fell off the cyber trail for more than fifteen minutes it drew the herd's attention. Cellphones were supposed to be turned off, but there were always a few cheaters. Probably more than a few.
But nobody offered an explanation for Heather's absence.
Jeremy shrugged off his unease about the missing girl and began his lecture. The Great Gatsby, one of his favorite novels. The latest movie remake, combining 3D and JayZ, had piqued his students' interest when he'd shown it in class. Personally, Jeremy considered the film an over-the-top, gaudy spectacle that turned Nick Carraway into a derelict and mangled Fitzgerald's gorgeous prose and dialogue. But his students ate it up.
"So, let's come back to our discussion of how Fitzgerald used water imagery." A loud rapping on the open classroom door interrupted. Jeremy looked over to see the principal's administrative assistant, Mrs. Marvin, wearing a prim suit and a pinched expression.
He scowled at the interruption. "What is it?"
"Mr. Donnelly would like to see you."
"Now?" Jeremy's tone bore the outrage of a surgeon interrupted in mid-operation.
Mrs. Marvin looked back at him, stone-faced. "Right away, he said. I'm to stay and monitor your class."
Her words provoked a chorus of murmurs among his students, which Jeremy put a stop to with a loud "Shhh! Start reading the last three chapters. I'll be back in a few minutes."
A prickle of anxiety clenched Jeremy's stomach as he walked down the hall to the principal's office. Nothing to do with any childhood memories of disgrace, for Jeremy had been a diligent, rule-abiding student. His peccadilloes — well, transgressions — a recent development. He'd promised himself he'd get his act together. But — Donnelly. What did he know?
The principal rose as Jeremy entered his office.
A room designed to elicit tranquility rather than fear, it boasted a pastoral view of the green athletic field through French doors that led out onto a small balcony. Set on an estate, the Forrest School resembled a plantation more than an institution. Still, as Mr. Donnelly pointed him toward the sofa, Jeremy's hands felt clammy. He mentally prepared defenses, but kept coming up short.
"Thank you for coming so promptly, Jeremy." The principal wore a gray pin-striped suit today, dressing the part of CEO. Probably to stay on a par with the parents, many of whom were CEO's.
"Of course." Jeremy nodded. "What did you want to see me about?" He winced inwardly. An English teacher, ending a sentence with a preposition.
Mr. Donnelly didn't appear to notice. He drew up his hands to form a steeple, touching his lower lip. Sunlight from the French doors reflected off his glasses. He looked like a church. A folded piece of paper rested on his lap. "It's about Heather Lloyd."
Jeremy drew a breath. Bad, but not the worst. "She's absent this morning," he said. "Has something happened?"
"That's what I'd like to understand." The principal passed the paper to Jeremy. "I received this email from Heather's mother this morning."
Jeremy unfolded the paper and read the message, his mouth turning to dust. Finishing, he looked up at Mr. Donnelly in silence.
"Jeremy," the principal demanded, "what is this all about?"CHAPTER 2
STEELING HIMSELF, JEREMY BEGAN.
"Sir, the thing with Heather built up for a while ..."
"Thing?" The principal frowned. "What kind of thing would that be, Jeremy?"
"You know. We're reading Gatsby. Love stories — they give girls ideas sometimes."
"Go on. Explain it to me."
So Jeremy did. The problem, he told Donnelly, first became obvious during a particularly animated discussion about the novel.
Jeremy explained how he'd challenged the class. Jay Gatsby — steadfast knight, or obsessive fool? Did Fitzgerald want the reader to admire or pity him? Jeremy described how he'd drawn out their responses — at first, halting and tentative, then turning rapid and eager — and stoked their debate. Hip to be cynical in their world, yet most of them defended Gatsby. Something of a romantic, Jeremy had always identified with the character.
He didn't mention that part to Donnelly.
"So there they were, getting into it," Jeremy continued. "And I looked over at Heather." An uneasy chuckle. "I could see she was in la-la land."
She'd been looking his way a lot lately, Jeremy explained, but that day her stare was — hungry. Hungry as Gatsby's gaze at Daisy's small green light across the blue water. "I tried to avoid looking at her," he told Donnelly, shuddering inwardly as he pictured Heather's moon face. No mistaking the way she'd hung onto his every word. "Not like that's never happened before," Jeremy went on. He'd seen that look on plenty of schoolgirls. It came with the territory.
Jeremy didn't mention how Heather's lovestruck stare had pissed him off. Or that, as a rule, he kind of got off on those looks. At least coming from prettier girls than Heather. Riffing on love and literature brought Jeremy as close to rock star status as he'd ever get. An English teacher served as high priest, guarding the secrets of the heart and initiating eager young women to its mysteries. Exhilarating, but harmless — awakening their innocent passion for literature. No harm, no foul. But under the ardent gaze of awkward, pudgy Heather Lloyd that morning, Jeremy's irritation had mounted.
"So," he told Donnelly, "I wrapped up the discussion and assigned them a short paper, due that Friday. Five hundred words on the question: Why does Daisy stay with her husband, Tom, instead of running off with Jay Gatsby?"
As Jeremy concluded his narrative, the principal regarded him with narrowed eyes. "So that was when you realized Heather was attracted to you. And what did you do about it?"
"Nothing." Jeremy shrugged, playing it light. "You know, adolescent girls read love stories and get crushes on their teachers. It happens."
Mr. Donnelly absorbed this information in silence.
"Anyway, I've found it best to ignore it. Sooner or later, they move on to their next infatuation." Too cynical?
The principal frowned again. "So that's what you did? Ignored it?"
Jeremy paused. "Until I read what she wrote in her paper."
He'd graded more than half their essays, Jeremy explained, before coming to Heather's. Her usual pedestrian prose, until that startling paragraph. He remembered it well enough to quote to Donnelly verbatim:
Daisy was selfish and materialistic. She didn't deserve a man like Gatsby. Real love means seeing past superficial things, like money, cars and houses. It means seeing someone's inner beauty. Like I see yours. I'm watching for your green light to shine for me, Mr. B. (Hint, hint.)
Jeremy remembered the sudden heat flushing his face, the combustible mix of emotions. Did that silly, presumptuous sixteen year old really imagine he'd be aroused by such sophomoric crap? He refrained from sharing that with Donnelly. Nor did Jeremy admit that he'd felt a tiny bit flattered, angering him all the more. Damn the twit. Heather, the last girl in the class from whom he'd want this type of attention. Light years from ... Jeremy remembered snapping his pencil in half.
"Jeremy?" Donnelly stared at him.
Jeremy startled back into the moment. "So then I realized I had to put a stop to it, sir." Nip it in the bud. "So I checked though the rest of Heather's essay, then gave her a grade."
"And the grade ...?"
"Uh, C+." Jeremy had scrawled it across the top of the paper — quickly — to be done with the matter.
"Anything else?" Donnelly asked.
Traces of perspiration rose at the roots of Jeremy's hair. "I wrote a comment." The principal waited.
"Uh — not consistent with acceptable standards of scholarship. Something like that," Jeremy said.
Mr. Donnelly pursed his lips. "Why didn't you discuss this situation with me after you read Heather's paper?"
Jeremy wracked his mind. "I didn't want to blow things up and embarrass her even more." Or myself.
"So, these allegations of Mrs. Lloyd's —" The principal took back the copy of the email from Jeremy. "— that you made sexual advances toward Heather ..."
"Completely untrue. Never even alone with the girl." Jeremy shook his head. "God knows what she may have told her mother. But, no, absolutely nothing to it."
Mr. Donnelly nodded. "I want a copy of that paper."
"Of course," Jeremy agreed. "I archive all their papers until the semester is over."
"There'll be an official inquiry."
Jeremy's jaw went slack. "Is that really necessary?"
"I'm afraid so." The principal's mouth twitched as if he'd tasted something sour. "I must say, it sounds like you were unduly harsh with the girl."
Jeremy swallowed. Perhaps he had been.
"I'm putting you on suspension, effective immediately," Donnelly said. "Suspension!" Jeremy protested. "That's crazy! I didn't do anything."
Mr. Donnelly put up a hand to silence him. "I'm sure we'll wrap this up quickly, and everything will get back to normal."
"But how will I support my family?" Jeremy fought a wave of panic, picturing Melissa's reaction. And, worse, her parents'. His in-laws hardly held him in high esteem.
"If — when you're cleared," Mr. Donnelly corrected, "you'll be paid retroactively for administrative leave. I'm sorry." He didn't sound it. "But we can't ignore this kind of thing. We have procedures for these circumstances. Legally, morally and practically, I have no other choice."
Jeremy sat, speechless. They were already in a deep financial hole.
Mr. Donnelly stood. "Assuming everything you told me is true, I'm sure you have nothing to worry about."
Jeremy rose unsteadily to his feet. "Sir, I have nothing to hide. I'd never do anything to hurt a student, or the school."
"I'm relieved to hear that." Donnelly gave him a frosty smile. "Now, can I rely on you to collect your things and leave the premises immediately? Without the embarrassment of a security escort?"
Not much of a choice. "Of course."
He slunk out of the principal's office, his mind reeling. For all his bravado, he had plenty to hide, and everything to worry about.CHAPTER 3
IN HER BEDROOM, PLAYING Candy Crush on her faux bling-covered iPhone, Heather Lloyd had nearly cleared her mind of the mess she was in. Pretzels, her brown and white long-haired guinea pig, purred in his cage, doing his happy dance for love of her company. She smiled and clucked at him.
Her phone rang, displaying Nikki Jordan's name on the screen. Much as Heather craved solitude right now, she'd never have the nerve to blow off Nikki.
"Hi," she said tentatively.
"Why aren't you at school?" Nikki demanded. "You sick?"
"Uh huh." Heather's palms slickened with sweat. Nikki had that effect on her. "Kinda."
"But you didn't call in, right? In first period Mr. B didn't know where you were. Neither did I." The chill in Nikki's tone carried the message that Heather should have kept her better informed.
"I know. I'm sorry. Kind of a last minute thing."
"I'm worried about you, Heather. What's wrong?"
Something in Nikki's words gave Heather a spooky, woo-woo feeling. How did Nikki do that? Say the exact right words of caring and concern, yet make them sound like a threat? "I'm — I have a really bad headache. I took some Advil but it didn't even help."
"Poor Heather! I hope it's nothing ser-i-ous." Drawing out all three syllables. Heather's face burned. Making fun of her? They were supposed to be friends. Heather helped her with stuff, like replacing Nikki's cracked cellphone screen last week. "I'll be okay," she muttered.
"You know ..." Nikki paused. "When Mr. B gave back our Gatsby papers the other day, you looked pretty sick then, too. I kind of wondered if there was a problem, or what."
How did she do that? Nikki always knew things. Like some kind of witch. "Well ... he didn't give me a very good grade," Heather admitted.
Nikki waited, her silence as powerful as her voice.
"A C+." Heather's voice wobbled. "And he wrote some nasty stuff on my paper."
"Heather?" Her mother's voice coming from the bedroom door made Heather jump. "Who's that you're talking to? Why aren't you resting?"
"Gotta go," Heather murmured.
"Call me later." Nikki hung up.
"Sorry, Mom." Heather slipped the phone onto her dresser. "Nikki got worried because I missed class."
Her mother eyed Heather's Hello Kitty pajamas. "I think you should take a shower and put on some clothes."
"I had a call from your principal, Mr. Donnelly. He said an investigator from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency will be coming over here to take a statement from you."
"Child — what?" Heather stared at her mother.
"The child welfare people," her mother said impatiently. "You know. They used to be DYFS."
Heather puzzled over it. "Why'd they change their name?"
"Heather!" Her mother got that harried look. "How should I know?" She rooted through Heather's dresser drawers, selecting a suitable outfit. "Whatever they call themselves these days, it's a good thing they're coming. Honest to god, the things that awful man did. It's a crime! My god, you're only sixteen." Her voice rose. "Of course DCPP is going to investigate! It's only right. So I want you to get ready." Her mom tossed clothing onto Heather's bed. "Here, this should be —"
A spasm gripped Heather's stomach. Groaning, she clutched her belly and sprinted for the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Her mother droned on, but the closed door cut off the sound of her voice.
When Heather emerged, her mother had gone. The outfit she'd selected for her lay spread across the bed. Heather stared at the clothes for several moments before taking off her pajamas. She pulled the cotton sweater over her head and pushed her arms through the sleeves.
Smoothing the garment over her chest, Heather wished, as usual, for bigger breasts. A smaller waist. Anything but what she saw in the mirror. She hated the way she looked in pale pink. Mom had chosen an outfit that made her look innocent and girly. For a miserable moment, Heather wondered if her mother had selected the sweater in full awareness that pink wasn't her color. A statement for the DCPP worker: Look. She's not even that attractive. What a sick pervert that man must be.
Only he wasn't, Heather thought. Mr. B, a skeeve? So smart, sensitive, funny. Handsome, too, in a brainy sort of way that made her dream he'd notice someone like her. Heather grabbed a brush and jerked it furiously through her hair to keep from crying. Why did he have to go and make her feel like such a dork?
She hurled the brush across the room.
He'd led her on. He had! Glancing her way in class all those times, during his lectures about Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, about love and longing. She hadn't imagined it. Heather had been so sure, when she wrote that stuff in her paper, that he wanted her, too.
After all, what was Mr. B supposed to do, if he liked her? Teachers can't exactly come out and say: "Hey, you wanna hang out?" So he had to be careful. Subtle. And she, Heather, had gotten the message. Knew! But then he'd gone and written those mean comments and given her a lousy grade that her mother was bound to question and get all bent out of shape over. So what was she supposed to do?
Heather retrieved her hairbrush and placed it on her dresser. Her stomach clenched and made a hideous noise. She'd had to come up with some explanation when Mom insisted on looking at her paper. And so she'd stretched the truth a little — but really, only a little. She'd made it like Mr. B had actually said some of the things his looks were suggesting. That was all. She'd interpreted.
Like he'd taught them to do in English class.
Excerpted from Tell On You by Freda Hansburg. Copyright © 2017 Freda Hansburg. Excerpted by permission of Micro Publishing Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I knew going in this would be a twisted emotional read, and it was. When will adults ever learn? And it shouldn’t surprise me how distorted teenage girls can become with all of that angst building up inside them. Jeremy Bates is a popular teacher in a private school. His class is exciting and innovative. So it’s no surprise that some of the girls develop a crush on him. One girl in particular, Nikki Jordan, sets her sights on him and the repercussions are enormous. Reading about how Jeremy struggled with and justified his actions had me squirming. The author made it believable and, as we’ve read in the headlines, it’s actually happened all too many times. I wanted to beat him over the head with a baseball bat. What was he thinking. By the end of the book I didn’t feel any different for him, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the story. And Nikki. Sheesh, what a mess. Her poor mother. She needed to rein her in. Easier said then done, I know. This girl has such a warped idea of how things should be. She’s totally self-absorbed and has a one track mind. For those that get in her way, it’s a train wreck waiting to happen. Even though I’ve read other books with a similar plot, along with some movies. this came across as fresh. It brings out all of those feels and has a killer ending. Well worth your time.
The one thought that I had while reading Freda Hansburg's "Tell On You" was, 'Wow. These people are pretty horrible". It's not that she did a bad job of making characters, it was the characters themselves that were just horrible people. "Tell On You" is a web of lies and backstabbing, and no one is really immune. I've read that this book was along the same lines as "Gone Girl", but I disagree. Mainly because the biggest factor in that book was the big twist and reveal. "Tell On You" is written with multiple points of view, so the reader is clear on what each character is thinking and scheming, making it hard for any twists to be present. This makes he book less suspenseful, but it's still a quick read and the story keeps moving forward. As I already said, the characters are not the greatest people. This made it hard to really root for any of them to come out on top, but i guess I did root for one or two to fail more than the others. One thing that I wished was different was the ending. It happened so quick that the reader doesn't really get a lot of closure with all of the story lines and dirty dealings that had been happening. I wanted to see what kind of consequences as a whole the characters would be facing. While it lacked suspense, I did keep reading until I was done. So you might not fall in love with any of the characters, but it is an entertaining read and a good way to spend a day or two.