Four years after her brother's death and her parents' divorce, things are finally starting to improve for Nettie Gaines. She is singing again, starting high school, and looking forward to a future-one that includes Andrew Wyatt. It has taken a long time for Nettie and Andrew to repair their friendship, but now it has blossomed into something more. Nettie is so grateful that Andrew is back in her life, especially as her mother remarries and her estranged father shows up on her doorstep.
Nettie is not the only one whose family has been torn apart. Andrew's sister was riding in the car with Nettie's brother the night he died. But all of that takes a back seat when Andrew is awarded the starting quarterback position on the JV football team. Under pressure from his father and his coaches, Andrew takes the field hoping to finally silence his critics. Meanwhile, two new friends, Derek and Lennon, impact Nettie's life more than she ever dreamed. Although Nettie and Andrew both feel unstoppable, they are in for the harsh reality that life in high school often brings.
In this compelling young adult novel-a sequel to The World Spins Madly On-two high school freshmen must face the consequences when secrets are uncovered that put their relationship to the test.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.65(d)|
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Too Late to Apologize
By Caroline T. Patti
iUniverse, LLCCopyright © 2013 Caroline T. Patti
All rights reserved.
"But brother how we must atone, Before we turn to stone." Turn To Stone—Ingrid Michaelson
Elisa, Nettie's best friend since kindergarten, answered the door wearing a green, strapless dress. Her red hair, swept into a pile of curls atop her head, elongated her neck making her look even taller, like giraffe tall, Andrew thought.
"Jesus, you've grown like a foot this summer," Andrew remarked as he crossed the threshold into Nettie's house.
"Not a whole foot," Elisa answered. "But enough to add a wicked top spin to my jump serve. You have to come watch me play this year."
"Of course," Andrew told her.
Elisa paused before closing the door. "Your parents aren't with you?"
"They're parking the car. I had them drop me off so I could check on Nettie. How's she's holding up?"
"Go see for yourself. She's in her room."
Andrew climbed the stairs and walked down the short hall to Nettie's room. The door stood slightly ajar. Andrew peered into the room and knocked quietly.
"Nettie, you in here?"
She stood before the floor-length mirror in her coral bridesmaid dress, her strawberry blonde hair cascading down her back. Her hands clasped in front of her, she fidgeted, picking at her nails.
Nettie pulled her glasses from her face, set them down on the dressing table and looked again at herself in the mirror. Shaking her head, she picked her glasses up and put them back on.
"Nettie?" Andrew knocked again, pushing the door open as he went.
Startled, Nettie whipped around, her glasses flying off her face. Andrew swooped down and picked them up and then, carefully, placed them on her face. "There."
"Thanks," Nettie said. "I've been standing here like an idiot for the past ten minutes trying to decide, glasses, no glasses. Glasses. No glasses. I'm driving myself crazy."
Though a smile tugged at his lips, Andrew knew that Nettie was not in the mood for humor. "Either way, you look beautiful," he told her.
"Why is this so hard? They're just glasses!" Nettie crossed the room and sank into her bed.
"You're just nervous."
"My hands are shaking," she held them out in front of her, "literally shaking."
"It's a big day," Andrew tried, "I'd be freaking out too if my mom was getting remarried."
"Your parents aren't divorced," Nettie reminded him.
Andrew shoved his hands into his pockets. "You know what I mean."
Nettie held her head in her hands. "If I tell you something, do you promise not to laugh at me?"
Andrew made an X over his heart. "Cross my heart," he swore, just like he did when they were little kids.
Nettie smiled in spite of herself, but the smile quickly vanished. "It's just that, I guess part of me always thought there was some slim chance, you know, like one in a million, maybe ..."
Andrew finished her sentence, saying, "That your parents might get back together."
"I'm an idiot."
Andrew sat next to Nettie on the bed. "You're not an idiot. I'm pretty sure that everyone who has divorced parents wishes, at one time or another, for their parents to get back together. It's totally normal."
"Nothing about my life is ever normal. You know that right?"
Andrew knew exactly what Nettie referred to, that her parents hadn't just divorced, they divorced after her older brother, Joe, died in a car accident. And Nettie's mother wasn't just getting remarried, she was marrying their eighth grade teacher, Mr. Campbell. It wasn't a stretch for Andrew to sympathize with Nettie's declaration that her life was far from ordinary.
Andrew wasn't sure what to say, or if he could say anything that would comfort her. So he sat there with her, and like he had before, when she needed someone, he slid his fingers through hers and gave her hand a little squeeze. Nettie squeezed back.
The doorbell rang, interrupting their quiet moment.
"That's probably my parents," Andrew told her. He stood to go.
"Um, guys," Elisa said as she poked her head into the room, "I don't know how to say this."
"What is it?" Andrew asked. "What's wrong?"
"Nettie," Elisa started, "your dad's here."
Andrew's entire body tensed, frozen from shock. Nettie gazed up at him, a look of horror mixed with confusion straining her pretty face. If he hadn't known what to say before, he definitely didn't know what to say now. What do you say to someone whose father, whom she's hasn't seen or heard from in nearly three years, suddenly shows up at her door?
"Nettie, what do you want me to do?" Elisa asked.
"Does my mom know he's here?" She asked. Elisa shook her head. "Good. Let's keep it that way." Nettie's voice veered toward panic when she said, "We have to do something."
"I'm on it." Andrew rushed from the room and down the stairs.
Nettie's father, Dan Gaines, hovered by the door. He looked much like he had the last time Andrew saw him, average height, average build, brown hair spotted with patches of gray. He even dressed the same, jeans, v-neck sweater and a sport coat.
"Andrew!" He said with surprise. "How are you? Look at you, you're so tall. Still playing football, I'll bet?"
Andrew swallowed, not sure which question to answer first. "Um, yeah," was all he managed to say.
Just then the front door opened. "Honey, I'm home," Chris Campbell, Andrew's former teacher bellowed in jest. He pulled up short, assessing the scene.
"Mr. Campbell, hey." Andrew's hairline began to dampen as beads of sweat formed across his forehead.
Mr. Campbell turned to Dan Gaines and extended his hand, "Chris Campbell."
"Dan Gaines," he said as he reciprocated.
Andrew stood by helplessly as the two men sized each other up. Mr. Campbell was taller, though not by much. He had lighter hair, lighter skin, with an athletic build whereas Mr. Gaines was a tad leaner with less muscle.
The front door opened again and Andrew's parents stepped into the foyer.
"Dan, what the hell are you doing here?" Andrew's dad, Steve Wyatt asked. Though he'd once been Dan's best friend, that was a very long time ago, before Dan deserted his family.
Awkward silence. Andrew's mother scooted around the group and made her way to Andrew.
She leaned in and whispered, "Does Annie know he's here?" Andrew shook his head slightly. "I'll just go upstairs then."
Andrew wished he could go with her, go anywhere to escape this moment.
"You shouldn't be here," Steve continued, his voice stern. "You need to go." He tried ushering Dan to the door.
"Dad?" Nettie slowly came down the stairs.
Andrew met Nettie on the last step. She looked gorgeous, stunning and sad. Andrew walked with her as she edged closer to her dad.
"Nettie, you look ..." Dan couldn't finish his sentence.
"What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you."
"Did you know mom was getting married today? Is that why you're here?"
"No, I," he stammered, "I had no idea."
"You need to leave," Nettie said, her voice beginning to shake. "You can't be here."
Dan Gaines stepped forward, a pained expressing spreading across his face. "Nettie, please," he tried.
With his hands on his hips, his jacket flared out to the sides, Dan waited for his daughter to change her mind, to take it back. Andrew could see the hopeful expression quickly dash as Nettie remained adamant.
"See ya around, kid," Dan said to Andrew and then, he left.CHAPTER 2
"Who will love you? Who will fight? And who will fall, far behind?" Skinny Love—Birdy
When the door closed, Andrew's dad turned to him and said, "Why don't you kids see if everything is ready?"
Andrew nodded, took Nettie's hand and guided her to the backyard. Still holding onto her, Andrew went to the bar that was set up off to the side and dug around until he found two cans of Coke. He handed one to Nettie.
"You okay?" he asked her.
She didn't answer right away. It was like she'd gone into shock. Andrew waited, counted to one hundred and then he couldn't stand the silence.
"Nettie, talk to me, please."
Nettie looked up him, her eyes pleading when she said, "I can't breathe." She let out a hiccup/sob and the Coke she'd been holding fell to the ground. "I can't breathe," she said again.
Andrew drew her to him. He knew that he was smushing her dress and ruining her hair and make-up, but he also knew that she didn't care. Her fingernails dug into his back as she held onto him.
Andrew looked up to see Elisa crossing the lawn. "Nettie, your mom sent me out here to get you."
"Does she know?" Andrew asked.
"Yeah," Elisa answered. "Your mom told her, but she's okay, really. She's worried about you, though."
Nettie pulled away from Andrew. She wiped her face. "God, I'm a total mess."
"Yeah, you are," Andrew teased. "But you're still the most beautiful girl in the world."
"That's what Joe used to say to me," Nettie said, her tears drying.
"Come on," Elisa told her, "let's go fix your make-up."
Andrew stood and watched them go, Elisa shouldering Nettie as they disappeared inside the house.
What a day, he thought. Alone in the backyard, Andrew sunk his hands into his pockets and looked around. Beyond the tables and white tents he saw everything as he remembered it. The lawn where Joe taught him how to do a three-point stance, the tree that Nettie fell out of and the spot below where she landed and broke her arm, and even the window that shattered after Joe showed him how to throw a spiral.
Up until the night of the accident, their families were nearly inseparable. Every holiday, every long weekend, there was always a Wyatt/Gaines get together. And then, somewhere along the way, everything changed, everything broke. It wasn't just that Joe was gone. It wasn't just that Dan and Annie got divorced. The ripple effect stretched much farther than that.
Andrew's family was torn apart too, but not in the same way, not in the obvious way that Nettie's had.
* * *
Andrew stepped out of the car, clenching and unclenching his hands to keep them from shaking. He followed closely behind his mother as they double-timed it across the parking lot.
The automatic doors opened with a whoosh, a blast of bleach mixed with ammonia assaulting his nose. In front of him was a long hallway, dimly lit and deserted. To the right, at the nurse's station, three women milled about, sorting charts, answering phones and eyeing monitors.
One nurse smiled thinly as they passed, giving a compassionate and knowing nod. Andrew's mother did not smile back. She pressed on, her gait calm, yet purposeful. Pausing briefly before room 107, she adjusted her purse strap on her shoulder and gently pushed the door open.
Jenna lay in the bed, tubes sticking out of her arms, layers and layers of bandage around her head. Her right eye was purple and green and swollen shut. A jagged and nasty cut zig-zagged from her forehead to her chin. It was as though someone took a dull box cutter to her face.
The machine to the left beeped steadily. Next to the bed, bags of fluid hung from metal stands.
Andrew's mother walked to the edge of the bed and lifted Jenna's hand to her chest. She brushed her forehead, careful not to disturb the bandages. Jenna's eyes fluttered ever so slightly.
"Mom," Jenna eked out.
"It hurts," Jenna whispered.
"I know, honey. They'll bring you more medicine soon. Do you want to drink some water?"
Andrew leapt into action filling a small, plastic cup from the pitcher on the tray at the end of the bed. He dropped in a straw and handed it to his mother. Mrs. Wyatt tipped the straw to Jenna's lips and told her to take a small sip.
When she finished, Andrew replaced the cup on the tray and sat in a stiff chair at the foot of the bed. His mother fussed around, straightening blankets and readjusting pillows.
"Joe," Jenna whispered. "Where's Joe?"
They hadn't told Jenna that Joe didn't survive the accident. Joe. Dead. Andrew still couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it.
"You should rest now Jen," their mother answered.
"Mom, what happened to Joe?" Jenna asked.
"Honey, we'll talk about that later," their mother said as patted Jenna's shoulder.
"Mom," Jenna croaked out the word as if trying to yell.
Mrs. Wyatt gave Andrew a worried look. He rose to his feet and came to stand next to her. He scanned his broken and bruised sister knowing that none of her injuries could possibly compare to the agony that lay ahead.
Andrew's parents, woken in the middle of the night by two uniformed policemen, were told that Jenna had been in an accident and they needed to come to the hospital. They'd run to Andrew's room and told him to get dressed as quickly as possible. Groggy from sleep, he could barely comprehend what they were saying. Still in his pajamas, he rode with them to the hospital.
They ran from the car to the emergency room, his father shouting, "Where's my daughter!" as soon as they were through the double doors.
Andrew was told to stay outside while his parents were led behind a curtain. He could hear them gasp. Then his mother started to cry.
When his parents finally emerged, they grabbed Andrew and pulled him to them, squeezing him to the point of suffocation before someone, he couldn't remember who, told him that Jenna was going to be all right.
"What about Joe?" Andrew asked. His father shook his head, and at that moment Andrew knew the awful truth.
Joe was dead.
Andrew's face scrunched and his knees buckled. His father was quickly by his side with a steady hand and another crushing hug. "I'm so sorry," he whispered into the top of his head.
Andrew's grandmother arrived at the hospital a little while later to take him home. At some point his parents returned, showered and packed a few things. Andrew volunteered to return with his mom. He was trying to be brave, trying to be strong, like he knew Joe would want him to be.
But as he stood beside his sister's hospital bed, bracing himself for what was to come, he wished he'd stayed home.
"I'm sorry, Jenna," Mrs. Wyatt said, her voice catching in her throat. "He didn't make it."
The moan that came from Jenna's throat was almost inhuman. The beeping of the heart monitor morphed from steady to frantic as Jenna's body trembled, her head rolling back and forth against the pillow.
Mrs. Wyatt leaned forward, trying to hold her daughter. Jenna found the strength to fight her off. Andrew stepped closer and was about to say something when a nurse arrived, her shoes squishing against the floor as she walked. She jabbed a needle into the tube attached to Jenna's arm. Almost instantly Jenna quieted, her body stilled, her breathing steadied.
"She'll sleep now," the nurse said and left the room.
Mrs. Wyatt backed away from the bed and sank into a chair.
Andrew pulled a chair over to his mother and held her hand. Together they sat, quietly crying, listening to the beep, beep, beep.CHAPTER 3
"Summer has come and passed. The innocent can never last." Wake Me Up When September Ends—Green Day
Beep! Beep! Beep! Andrew's mind came awake. He shook off the dream like an Etch-A-Sketch, erasing the memories from his consciousness, but the beeping continued. Beep! Beep! Beep!
He threw back the covers and stretched. Beep! Beep! Beep! As he walked toward the noise he stubbed his toe on something hard, "Ouch!" He hopped over to a heaping pile of clothes. The beeping grew louder as he dismantled the pile. Reaching down he picked up his Nike watch. He was about to chuck it across the room when someone knocked on his door.
"Andrew? You up yet?"
Andrew checked the time. 5:00 AM. "I'm up, Dad," Andrew replied as he yawned.
"Get dressed. Bring your running shoes, and meet me downstairs."
Andrew thought about arguing, about defiantly crawling back under the covers and getting a few more, much needed, hours of sleep. But then he thought about the wrath he would incur and he chose instead to throw on a pair of shorts and an Under Armour t-shirt and head downstairs.
In the kitchen, he found his father pouring something from the blender into a tall plastic cup.
"Drink this." Andrew's father handed him a frothy, pink-colored drink.
He sniffed hesitantly. It smelled of strawberries and other suspicious, yet undetected, flavors. Andrew sniffed again.
"It's a protein shake. Drink it," his father instructed. "I'll be right back."
Andrew tilted the glass to his lips and took a small, nervous sip. At first, the taste was pleasant, like fruit punch, but after a few swallows he felt like he needed to wipe his tongue on a towel.
When his dad returned he was dressed to run, carrying the watch that had, only moments ago, been in Andrew's room. "Let's hit the road," he said, clapping his hands together.
Excerpted from Too Late to Apologize by Caroline T. Patti. Copyright © 2013 Caroline T. Patti. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, LLC.
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