Conner Beckett awaits his fate as his final basketball season begins at Trotter Academy. Frustrated with his coach who refuses to announce the starting line-up until the first home game, Conner quickly snatches up a locker room bribe from classmate Darcy Davis, who has stolen the list from the coach. He is thrilled when she tells him he has made the starting line-up. But there is only one problem: Darcy, who has already gained quite a reputation at their school, is rumored to have done much more than reveal names to all the players on the list. Suddenly, the price Conner has paid to see his fate is far greater than he ever imagined.
After his girlfriend, Kristen Kessler, hears the rumors about Conner and the girl with a sordid past, she immediately breaks up with him, despite Conner's pleas that none of it is true. As chaos races through the halls of Trotter Academy, the rumor mill implodes, resulting in a horrific tragedy.
Plagued by confusion and grief, the students of Trotter Academy struggle to understand bullying, communication, and themselves. Dr. Suzanne Carlton arrives with her daughter, Ava, to institute a program that they hope will help the students heal-and Ava, who lost a sister to suicide, makes a unexpected connection with Conner.
In this poignant story, a teenager unwittingly caught in a web of deceit must rise above his mistakes and understand the power of words.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.46(d)|
Read an Excerpt
THE POWER OF WORDS
By ALLISON PALMER KELLY
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Allison Palmer Kelly
All rights reserved.
Connor Beckett's hands trembled at his sides as he inched into the doorway of Coach Sampson's office. The coach was typing feverishly on his computer but stopped, lifted his head, and stifled a grin as he saw Connor frozen in the entryway.
"Tryouts are over, Beckett. Go home!" Coach Sampson called over his computer as he clicked his printer icon.
"Coach, I was just wondering if there was any possible way ..." Connor began.
"I could let you know if you're in my starting lineup," Coach Sampson finished.
"Yes, sir." Connor felt more defeated with each passing second.
"No, there isn't. The starting lineup is announced at the first home game of the season that's played during the school day. I've been coaching here for twenty years, and that's been our grand tradition here for even longer. You know that, Connor." Coach Sampson rose from his chair, wrenched his paper from the printer, and placed it facedown on his desk.
"I know. I just thought ..."
"You thought because you're Connor Beckett the rules don't apply to you. Well, guess what? They do. You'll find out at the first game along with the rest of the guys," Coach Sampson growled.
"Actually, the other guys are waiting out in the gym. I lost the coin toss, so I had to come in and ask you," Connor explained with a smile that resisted all efforts to stifle it.
"I can't believe this! The starting lineup has never been revealed before that first game. This is your fourth year at this school. Did you think the rules would suddenly change because you're seniors now?" Coach Sampson shouted as he stomped out of his office with Connor Beckett following behind him.
"With all due respect, Coach, you don't understand how important it is for most of us to make the starting line. If we knew, we could apply early decision to colleges with the best sports programs. Your decision on the starting line decides our futures as athletes. We get our stats and films into these schools by early decision, and we've got full scholarships. We wait, and the admissions boards shoot in the dark. And we're left to dance around like toddlers who've got to take a piss just hoping we get hit," Connor reasoned as he and the coach crossed the gym to where the remaining prospective starting line awaited.
"Don't tell me I don't understand the pressures of playing college ball, Beckett. I played college ball," Coach Sampson said as he punched a passing basketball one of the players tossed at him as a failed friendly gesture.
"Starting point guard at Arizona State from 1983 to 1987," Connor announced, his chest puffed with pride.
"Very good, Beckett!" Coach Sampson hissed as he turned toward Connor, but he refused to look at him.
"Thank you, sir," Connor accepted quickly as he walked over to join his friends, who had now formed a line along the first row of bleachers.
"The starting lineup will be announced at our first home game this Friday. Everybody, go the hell home!" Coach Sampson shouted as he turned around and stomped out the front door of the gym rather than retreating to his office, as everyone had imagined he would do.
"No powers of persuasion, Connor. No wonder Kristen won't give it up," Larsen Meyer scoffed as he shook his head in disappointment.
"What the f—?" Connor began as Larsen walked toward the locker room, and several others followed him.
"I knew he wasn't going to tell us, anyway. He's a jackass!" Larsen fumed as he punched the nearest locker and managed to conceal his pain from the others.
"This sucks! I need to know. I wanted to apply early decision. Early decision applications need to be postmarked by Thursday. If I don't find out until Friday, I can't mail my fucking application on time!" Greg Monahan said as he removed his shirt, forced off his shoes, and began kicking them about the locker room.
A girl suddenly joined the boys at the bench in the center of the room. She smiled, staring at Greg as she held one of his shoes.
"Who the hell are you?" Greg snapped, startled, as he jerked his shoe out of her hands.
"Darcy," the girl said, sounding a bit nervous.
"Go-Down Darcy," Larsen said as a smile crept across his face.
"Excuse me?" she snapped as she turned and glared at Larsen.
"You're excused. I know your story. You went down on Shane Patrick in the dugout after school the very day you transferred here," Larsen informed her with a raised eyebrow.
"Whatever. I've got something you want," Darcy said as she looked at Larsen and then Greg and Connor.
"Yes, you do." Larsen laughed as he surveyed her body with his eyes.
"Not quite, asshole! Look, bottom line here. I took the list with the starting lineup on it while Coach Sampson went into the gym to yell at all of you. Give me fifty bucks a piece, and when you pay, I'll tell you if you're on it," Darcy offered with a devilish grin.
"Where's the list?" Connor asked impatiently.
"In my bra. I memorized it," Darcy said, offended that he doubted her.
"Show it to me. I'm not handing you fifty dollars with no proof that you've seen the actual list. How'd you even get in here?" Connor smirked in disbelief.
"I used the door, dumbass! Nobody was watching. I thought I already said this. Look, you're 'not just gonna hand over fifty dollars.' Connor Beckett, you wipe your ass with more money than that. I have the list. Trust me," Darcy said.
"I don't trust you. I'm out of here," Connor scoffed as he began to walk toward the backdoor of the locker room.
"Connor, Con!" Larsen called as he jogged to catch up to him.
"What are you doing?" Larsen laughed in bewilderment.
"I'm leaving," Connor said as he turned his back on Larsen.
"Connor, this is your future. It only costs fifty bucks. Go-Down Darcy's going to read your palm. It's unbelievable, Con. She's like a little slut angel who's been sent here to save us from uncertainty. You could get your Duke application in the mail tonight," Larsen said as his hand rested on Connor's shoulder.
"I could actually apply for early decision if I knew," Connor agreed quickly, his breathing shallow and fast.
He searched Larsen's cloudy blue eyes for reassurance; he found something inside them, but it wasn't reassurance. He didn't know what it was he had seen in them—something mysterious.
"This is it, Con. Your new life starts tonight," Larsen promised, his thin lips spreading out across his perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth.
"Say we're doing this—together," Larsen commanded, gliding a sweaty palm through his light brown hair, forcing it to stand on end.
"We're doing this," Connor agreed as he then inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly, and committed himself with an uneasy smile.
As if time propelled forward, yet he refused to move, Connor found the next few moments a whirl of confusing action. He found himself waiting in line, and then suddenly two hands took hold of his shoulders and pushed him into a locker room shower stall.
Standing against the blue tile of the shower stall, Connor breathed in a mixture of sweat and soap as he stared at Darcy. She smiled at him, rubbed her fingers together, and whispered the words starting lineup.
"Okay," Connor stammered as he removed his wallet from his pocket and withdrew a crisp fifty-dollar bill.
"My first customer," Darcy smirked with pride as she moved slowly toward Connor and began opening her shirt to reveal her bra.
Connor said nothing. He merely exhaled and felt his stomach twist into knots. It felt as though he were being ripped apart from the inside. He felt tears approaching, but he fought them back.
"Thank you," Darcy sang as she snatched the money from his hand.
Connor studied her hands as they reached into her shirt. He saw her lavender painted fingernails slip down behind the black lace of her bra. From beneath the lace emerged a white sheet of paper. She opened it with her hand beneath it to prevent Connor from seeing through the sheet. She folded the paper precisely as if forming some masterful origami bird of prey. She then turned the folded strip to face him. The bright white paper framed by her auburn hair revealed the long awaited fortune.
Point Guard: Connor Beckett
Connor was stunned. He said nothing. He just stood there fixated on the slip of paper that bared his name.
"Life is good if you're a pretty, little rich boy. If you're Connor Beckett. Isn't it?" Darcy asked as she turned the slip of paper back around and placed it inside her bra for protection.
"Thank you," Connor said softly as he stared into Darcy's eyes.
They were hazel green, as if the green struggled to hide from view beneath a veil of pain, disguised as confidence. These eyes expanded before him in disbelief that she had received a word of gratitude from him. She smiled again and pressed her body against his. Connor grew confused and worried. He lifted his hand and patted Darcy's back in an attempt to give her a thankful hug as he felt her hand slide into one of the pockets of his shorts. She had returned to him the money he had given her. She held him to her but then withdrew from him quickly, leaving him with an overwhelming sense of relief.
"Bye. Next!" she called as Connor felt someone take him by the arm and pull him out of the stall.
"Keep the line moving," Larsen Meyer demanded as he lightly shoved Connor to the back exit of the locker room.
Connor exited the locker room and stood alone in the parking lot behind the gym. It was early evening on a cold autumn night. He saw his breath circle his face as he looked up at the stars. Now alone, he once again felt tears form in his eyes, and he allowed them to do so. He allowed them to fall. He allowed himself to believe that he could reach the destination he felt was reachable only in his dreams. One of the finest high school basketball players in the state was now the starting point guard for the one of the highest-ranked high school basketball teams in the country. All of those nights lying in bed dreaming of playing college ball were not wasted. All of those days, evenings, and weekends that he had spent practicing were more than worth it. Beautiful, devious Darcy had delivered this dream from inside a black lace bra. Never before had Connor Beckett been more grateful to any other human being.
Connor drove away from the school in silence. Normally he would have cued up all of his favorite music on his iPod, but tonight he just wanted to hear himself think. He heard himself tell his girlfriend he was in the starting lineup. He would tell her he trusted her with an important secret, and she would understand its importance. She would squeal, throw her arms around his neck, and laugh as he spun her around her bedroom. He heard himself say that he loved her. He heard her say the same. He heard her further say that they had waited long enough and that tonight was the night that they would have sex for the first time.
Kristen Kessler, Connor's girlfriend, was the mayor's daughter. She was the picture of allure and luxury. Her father, the president of Community First Bank, inspired fearful respect in Connor. Mrs. Kessler, the honorable mayor, flirted shamelessly with Connor; therefore, she inspired confusion and nausea.
The twenty-minute drive to Kristen's house from the school gave Connor the opportunity to think about his future. He reminded himself that he was supposed to tell no one of his good fortune. No one was to know who the starting lineup would be until the first home game that Friday. Reminding himself that he was, in fact, not living a daydream, Connor decided not to tell Kristen he had made the starting line. He did not know what kind of scandal might brew if he revealed that secret to her. Connor forced down the corners of his mouth as he exited his car and walked up the front steps to Kristen's home. Act normal. That was what he told himself to do, but he didn't think he could do it. He had never felt more abnormal in his life. He was going to live his dream!
"Toot, toot! Hello, dreamboat!" Mrs. Kessler called as she flung the door open to let Connor in the house.
"Hi," he greeted politely as he patted her back lightly as she hugged him.
"Mom, please," Kristen whined from behind her mother. Her arms were crossed, and she was trying not to smile.
"If I were seventeen ..." Mrs. Kessler began.
"You'd have to get through me, and no one can do that when it comes to Connor," Kristen assured her mother with a confident smile.
She was beautiful, there was no denying that, but her face took on a devilish distortion when she smiled. It was almost impossible to detect if one weren't searching for it. Connor wished he wasn't always searching for it.
"Hi," Kristen said affectionately as she hugged him.
"Hey," he greeted as he held her and breathed in her scent.
He didn't know why he always did that. From a distance, she smelled intoxicating, but when he breathed her in, the smell always stole his breath. He let out a timid cough, cleared his throat, and slowly backed away.
"You're late," she reported with a smile, one that sought to stifle its accusations.
Act normal. He had to act normal.
"Yeah, sorry about that," he spoke abruptly.
He hoped she wouldn't interrogate him further. Thankfully, she didn't, as her cell phone began ringing.
"It's Summer. I have to talk to her," Kristen said as she accepted the phone call and wandered down into the entertainment room of her home.
"Connor, can I offer you some dinner? I'd be happy to reheat something for you," Mrs. Kessler said as she took Connor's hand and he watched Kristen walk away from him.
Act normal. He was starving. That was normal.
"That would be great. Thanks," he said.
Mrs. Kessler led him by the hand into the kitchen. He sat down at the table and glanced at the newspaper that was lying there. His eyes skidded across the article regarding the destruction of youth at the hand of bullying. Suddenly, Connor began to think of Darcy. She had tattoos, an eyebrow ring, a nose ring, a dark, sordid past, and the rumor mill churned out stories of an absentee, drug-addict mother. That same rumor mill spread throughout the school that Darcy had bounced from one foster home to another, as many as three per year since she was four years old. Currently, she resided with Reverend Dr. Charles Dockery and his family. Connor, like Larsen, had also heard the rumors that Darcy had performed oral sex on Shane Patrick in the dugout the same week she had transferred to their high school. Connor wasn't sure if it was true or not. He didn't like to think about those kinds of things. Kristen had informed him, however, that rumors were always true. Why would people make it up? That was her go-to question when they evaluated the validity of rumors.
Rumors bound and gagged Darcy Davis. Students at Trotter Academy constantly whispered to one another the various twisted and distorted stories that they had heard or concocted about Darcy. Connor likened it to fishermen swapping stories about their catch, or the fight a particular fish had put up prior to a phenomenal catch. Each predator existed, as did their tales, to outdo and downgrade another. What it ultimately did was downgrade everyone, tellers and audiences alike.
"Here you go, sweetheart!" Mrs. Kessler announced as she placed a heaping, steaming plate of delicious-looking food before Connor.
"Thank you," Connor accepted quickly.
"You're welcome. Where is that rude girl? She's been on the phone forever!" Mrs. Kessler complained as she exited the kitchen to search for her daughter.
Connor ate hurriedly, still fixated on the newspaper's article on bullying. It told the story of an English professor from Hilton University who had lost her daughter to suicide as a result of bullying. Following her daughter, Laura's, suicide, Dr. Suzanne Carlton took a sabbatical from Hilton University and developed an extensive anti-bullying curriculum that had been adopted by a wealth of high schools. The number of schools adopting the program was rising exponentially every day. The improvements it had made to so many schools just in its first year of implementation had the country singing her praises and demanding her attention. Connor wished he had something or someone that he believed in as powerfully as Dr. Carlton believed in her daughter and the fight to end bullying in America's high schools. He was devoted to sports, his friends, and school. He supposed that he was devoted to Kristen as well. He folded the newspaper, placed it back on the table, and began cleaning his dishes.
Excerpted from THE POWER OF WORDS by ALLISON PALMER KELLY. Copyright © 2013 Allison Palmer Kelly. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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