This Raging Light

This Raging Light

by Estelle Laure


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For fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell comes a gorgeous debut novel about family, friends, and first love.

Lucille Bennett is pushed into adulthood after her mom decides to “take a break”…from parenting, from responsibility, from Lucille and her little sister, Wren. Left to cover for her absentee parents, Lucille thinks, “Wren and Lucille. Lucille and Wren. I will do whatever I have to. No one will pull us apart.”

Now is not the time for level-headed Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

"A funny, poetic, big-hearted reminder that life can—and will—take us all by surprise.”
—Jennifer E. Smith, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight 

“Lucille may not take down a beast or assassinate any super bads, but she’s what heroines look like and love like in real life.”
Justine Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544534292
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 12/22/2015
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

The debut author Estelle Laure is a Vonnegut worshiper who believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in theater arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults. She lives with her two children in Taos, New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt

Day 14
Mom was supposed to come home yesterday after her two-week vacation. Fourteen days. Said she needed a break from everything (See also: Us) and that she would be back before the first day of school. I kind of knew she wasn’t going to show up, on account of what I got in the mail yesterday, but I waited up all night just the same, hoping, hoping I was just being paranoid, that my pretty-much-never-wrong gut had made some kind of horrible mistake. The door didn’t squeak, the floorboards never creaked, and I watched the sun rise against the wall, my all-the-way-insides knowing the truth: we are alone, Wrenny and me, at least for now. Wren and Lucille. Lucille and Wren. I will do whatever I have to. No one will ever pull us apart. That means keeping things as normal as possible. Faking it. Because things couldn’t be further from.
Normal got gone with Dad.
 It gave me kind of a funny floating feeling as I brushed Wren’s hair into braids she said were way too tight, made coffee, breakfast, lunch for the two of us, got her clothes, her bag, walked her to her first day of fourth grade, saying hi to everyone in the neighborhood while I tried to dodge anyone who might have the stones to ask me where the hell my mother was. But I did it all wrong, see. Out of order.
I should make coffee and get myself ready first. Wren should get dressed after breakfast and not before, because she is such a sloppy eater. As of this morning, she apparently doesn’t like tuna (“It looks like puke—ick”), which was her favorite yesterday, and I only found out when it was already packed and we were supposed to be walking out the door. I did the piles of deflated laundry, folded mine, hung up Mom’s, carefully placed Wren’s into her dresser drawers, but it turns out none of her clothes fit right anymore. How did she grow like that in two measly weeks? Maybe because these fourteen days have been foreverlong.
These are all things Mom did while nobody noticed. I notice her now. I notice her isn’t. I notice her doesn’t. I want to poke at Wren, find out why she doesn’t ask where Mom is on the first day of school, why Mom isn’t here. Does she know somewhere inside that this was always going to happen, that the night the police came was the beginning and that this is only the necessary, inevitable conclusion?
Sometimes you just know a thing.
 Anyway, I did everything Mom would do. At least, I tried to. But the universe knows good and well that I am playing at something, pretending from a manual I wish I had. Still, when I kissed the top of Wren’s dark, smooth head goodbye, she skipped into the school building. That’s got to count for something.
It’s a balmy morning. Summer doesn’t know it’s on the outs yet, and I quickstep the nine blocks between the schools. By the time I push through the high school doors, I am sweating all over the place.
 And now I’m here. In class. The song Wren was humming on the way to school pounds a dull and boring headache through me, some poppy beat. I’m a little late to English, but so is mostly everyone else on the first day. Soon we’ll all know exactly where we’re supposed to be and when, where we sit. We’ll be good little sheople.
Eden is here, always on time, early enough to stake her claim to exactly the seat she wants, her arm draped over the back of an empty chair next to her, until she sees me and drops it to her side. English is the only class we got together this year, which is a ball of suck. First time ever. I like it better when we get to travel through the day side by side. At least our lockers are next to each other’s.
 She’s so cool, but in her totally Eden way. It’s not the kind of cool that says come and get me. It’s the kind that watches and waits and sees a lot—a thinking kind. Her thick, flaming hair virtually flows over the back of her chair, and her leather-jacket armor is on, which you would think is a little excessive for September in Cherryville, New Jersey, except for the fact that they blast the air conditioning at this school so it’s movie-theater cold, and really I’m wishing I had a jacket, wishing I had packed Wren something cozy in her backpack too, but I’m pretty sure it’s not quite so bad at the elementary school. I think the high school administration has decided that freezing us out might help control our unruly hormones or something.
They are wrong.
 Mr. Liebowitz gives me a look as I sit down. I have so rudely interrupted his standard cranky speech about the year, about how he’ll take no guff from us this time around, about how just because we’re seniors doesn’t mean we get to act like jackasses and get a free pass. Or maybe he’s giving me that look because he knows about Dad, too. People titter all around me, but it’s like Eden and her leather jacket muffle all that noise right out. As long as I have her, I’m okay. I never mess around much with other people anyway. Digby may be her twin, but I’m the one she shares a brain with.
 Meanwhile, Liebowitz looks like Mister Rogers, so he can growl and pace as much as he wants and it has no effect. You know he’s a total softie, that he can’t wait to get home and change into his cardigan and comfy shoes, so he can get busy taking superspectacular care of his plants and play them Frank Sinatra or something. He’ll calm down. He always starts the year uptight. Who can blame him? High school is a total insane asylum. They need bars on the windows, security guards outside. They would never do that here.
 Eden kicks her foot into mine and knocks me back into now. I do not like now, and so I kick back, wondering if playing footsies with my best friend qualifies as guff.
“Dinner,” she mouths.
“Wren,” I mouth back. Shrug.
My eyes tell her about Mom without meaning to.
She shakes her head. Then, “Bitch,” she says in a whisper. I shrug again, try to keep my eyes from hers.
“Bring Wren. My mom will feed the world.”
I nod.
“Digby will be there.” She kicks my foot again.
I make my whole self very still. Stare at Liebowitz as his thin, whitish lips form words.
“Well, he does live at your house,” I say. Superlame.
 “Ladies,” Liebowitz says, all sing-songy warning. “It’s only the first day. Don’t make me separate you.”
Good luck separating us, I want to say. Good luck with that. Go feed your fish and water your plants. Get your cardigan and your little sneakers on, and leave me alone.
 It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Won’t you be my neighbor?
When Wrenny and I roll up the hill to Eden’s house in Mom’s ancient Corolla, Digby and his dad, John, are outside playing basketball, and I want to get in the house as fast as possible, because otherwise I might be trapped here all day, staring. I get a little twinge of something seeing a dad and his kid playing ball like dads and kids are supposed to. That’s a real thing, and my hand wants to cover Wren’s face so she can’t see all that she is missing.
Which reminds me. “Wren.”
 “Yeah?” She’s wiping at her shirt, reading a book on her lap, and she’s a little bit filthy, her hair greasy and knotty in spite of my efforts this morning. At some point the braids came out, and she’s reverted to wild.
“You know how Mom hasn’t been around lately?” She stops. Tightens. “Yeah,” she says.
“Well, we don’t want anyone to know about that, okay? Even Janie and Eden and Digby and John.”
 “But Mom’s on vacation. She’s getting her head together. She’s coming back.”
 “Okay, yes,” I say, “but still. We don’t want to tell anyone, because they might not understand that. They might get the wrong idea.”
 “Like that she left us permanently?” There is so much more going on inside that Wrenny-head than I can ever know.
 “Maybe, or at least for longer than she was supposed to.” I reach for the handle to the door because I can’t look at her. “Someone might think that.”
“She didn’t, though,” she says. “She’s Mom.”
“Of course she didn’t.” Lie.
“So who cares what anyone thinks?”
“Wren, just don’t, okay?”
“Some things are private.” I open the door, then lean back across and wipe uselessly at her shirt with my thumb. “Like Mom being on vacation. So, okay?”
 “I said okay, okay?” She gets out and waits, stares at me like I’m the most aggravating person on earth. “Hey, Lu?”
“Yeah?” I say, bracing myself for what’s next.
 “Your mama’s so fat, she left the house in high heels and came back in flip-flops.”
I would tell her that I hate her new obsession with “your mama” jokes, but I’m not in the mood for any dawdling, so I half laugh and get moving. I want to get inside and quick because there’s also the other thing. And by “other” I mean what makes me sweat just standing here. And by “thing” I mean Digby, who I have known since I was seven but who lately makes a fumbling moronic moron out of me, a full-on half-wit. Ask me my name when I’m in his presence and I’m not likely to be able to tell you. I’d probably just say “Lllll . . . lllllllu . . .” and you’d have to catch the drool running down my chin.
I know. It’s not at all attractive.
 But really. Tall, sweaty, and not wearing a shirt, so the muscles are all right there for the watching. He doesn’t exactly glisten, on account of the fact that he’s whiter than white, that he tans by getting freckles, so he’s covered in them now after a whole summer outside. But seeing his hair all plastered to his forehead, his body so long and lean, looping around his dad to get the ball into the hoop, I want to fall out of the car and onto my knees in the driveway, say Lord have mercy, hallelujah, write sonnets and paint him, and worship that one little curve where his neck meets his shoulder that is just so, so perfect.
He is beautiful.
Which is why when he says hi as I pass him, I barely raise a pinky in response. There are two main problems here, aside from the fact that he is Eden’s twin and that’s all kinds of weird. One, he’s had the same girlfriend since the dawn of time. They’re pinned, she wears his jacket, their marriage certificate is practically already signed. Angels bless their freakin’ union. And two, if I ever did get a chance with him, like if he ever kissed me or something, I would die of implosion. I know I sound like a twelve-year-old mooning over some celebrity, and not the extremely self-possessed woman-to-be that I actually am, but something about him makes me lose my mind. Something about the way he moves, about his himness—it shatters me all the way down. So I hope he never does kiss me. That would be nothing but a disaster. No one needs to see me fall apart like that. Least of all him.
Actually, maybe least of all me.

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