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By BRENDA STRAUCH
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Brenda Strauch
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI Used to LOVE My Life!
It's early in the summer and my grandma and I are driving to the library. Staring out the window of the car, I couldn't help but wonder why all of this happened the way it did. Just the other day, it seemed like I could come home from school and my mom would be there waiting to make me an after school snack. She used to sit with me every day and listen to me talk about all the nothing that had happened at school. She'd even laugh at all the right parts, as if she truly loved every bit of it. I mean, WOW! How boring did her day have to be to actually think that my day at school was so great? She always wanted to help me with my homework, too – even though she knew I was able to do it without her help since I was like eight years old or something – but that didn't seem to matter to her. I think she actually liked doing homework!
Every night I'd help her make dinner and set the table while we waited for my dad to come home. We would always eat as a family, even when he had to work late. No matter how long his day was, he'd always walk in the door saying, "There's the two best girls a guy could ever want!" And his face would light up with the biggest smile as soon as he saw me. He was by far the coolest dad ever. Actually, both of my parents were and all the kids at school wanted to hang out at my house. (I had a lot of friends, and some of them seemed to practically live at my house because they were over so much!) I never thought that any of that would ever change. What kid would, right? That life seems like so long ago, like a dream, or maybe even a life that was never mine something that I'd just imagined. I'm only eleven years old and I've already lost everything that's important to me. How can I be 'normal' if I don't fit in anywhere?
The life I have now seems like it's not mine, either. My grandma is taking me to the library since it's practically the only way she can get me to come out of my room. Well, except for when it's time to eat because, let's face it, I love to eat!
We go to the library a lot since we both really like to read. It's nice to at least have something in common with her. But the hardest thing is living with someone I don't even know that well. Not to mention how hard it's been without my parents around.
My grandma has always lived in California, but my parents and I used to live in Chicago. Money was tight for her and my dad was super busy with his job, so we never really saw her much. We'd just talk on the phone and send pictures to each other all the time. And back then it really felt like I knew her, but that was before the day came that I actually had to move in with her. I've been here for about a year now, and it still doesn't feel like home. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure if it ever will.
"Oh Gia, did you find out if Kacie can meet us at the library?" Grandma asked interrupting my thoughts while we drove past Kacie's house.
"Yeah, she's gotta help her mom around the house before she's allowed to hang out today," I explained, "But she said that she's gonna be able to come over later."
"Well, maybe when she comes over she can stay for dinner. Would you like that honey?" Grandma wondered.
That would be cool! Can she stay the night if she can get permission?" I asked with my fingers crossed even though I knew she was gonna say yes. To be honest, I think that my grandma would be willing to say yes to just about anything as long as I was happy.
And, just like I predicted, she smiled at me and said, "Of course she can."
Kacie is pretty much the only reason that I like living here. She's the best friend I've ever had and only lives about two blocks down from us. I met her right after I moved here and we've been practically inseparable ever since. She's not into reading or writing like I am, but I guess that's why I like her so much. She's actually really smart, but most of the time it seems like her brain is turned off which makes her really funny and totally entertaining. She lives at home with her parents, two younger brothers, and older sister, but she always wants to hang out at my house because she likes to get away from them as much as she can. Her family is super nice and all, she just has to help out at home a lot since her mom always needs help with the little boys and stuff.
Grandma lets her come over anytime her parents give her permission and since it's still summer vacation, she's been staying over a lot. I can't believe school starts in a few weeks and we're gonna be in 7th grade! Once we go back, she won't get to come over as much, which is really gonna bite! Things are always less awkward when Kacie's here and I'm not all alone with my grandma. Don't get me wrong, my grandma's really nice, it's just that I'm still not that comfortable with all of this, yet.
We ended up driving the rest of the way to the library in silence, which was kinda nice. Most of the time she just lets me have my space. She never makes me hang out or talk to her much either.
"Oh Gia! Did you remember to bring your book so you can return it and get another one?" She asked while she was trying to park the car and almost hitting everything in her path! Gosh! Old people should not be allowed to drive!
"Yep. I told you the first time you asked me when we were leaving the house and then again when you thought you forgot your books." I had to remind her, "So I'd have to say that I've triple checked that I've brought my book, Grandma." I said trying not to sound as annoyed as I really was. Jeez! Sometimes it's like her brain doesn't seem to be working at all!
"That's my girl. It's better to be safe than sorry!" She said smiling at me, totally clueless that I couldn't wait to jump out of the car.
I took my seat belt off, hopped out as fast as I could and grabbed my bookbag, not even waiting for her to keep up. When I got to the counter and placed my book in the bin, I noticed that they'd just gotten a new shipment of fictional stories. I really love the classics, but the library never seemed to have my favorites in stock. Which is why I copied them at home myself, when I was lucky enough to find one and got to check it out, that is. Yeah ... that's right. I'm a nerd. I even copied them with paper and a pen because my grandma doesn't have a copier or printer. I mean, who doesn't have a copier or printer these days? I guess people who still don't know how the heck to work a DVD player, Satellite or VCR. (Really? A VCR? Do they even sell those anymore?!)
Since I had to hand write them all myself, I sorta made up my own versions of them. So basically, I took all of my favorite movie scenes from each of them and combined them with the original stories in the books. Why not, right? There are some seriously cool scenes in some of those movies! Now, my copies were not only super unique, but since I changed them, it's almost like I'm reading completely different stories, which is cool because for some reason I always end up reading the same books over and over again. It's not like I'm having a hard time reading them, or that I can't understand them or anything like that, it's just that they're the best books I've ever read and I don't know why everyone doesn't read them more often.
So once again, I grabbed my favorites that had just come in and sat down with the top three books of all time ... The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and started reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the bajillionth time. Most people think that the original story is called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but it isn't. That's just what the movie was called. The book is actually called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
And it didn't take long before I was sucked into the story and found myself about half way done with it by the time my grandma came looking for me.
"Oh there you are! Now you know Gia, it's not nice to run off and scare an old woman like that. But now that I've found you, I wanted to let you know that I'm ready to go when you are darling." She said juggling a big stack of books in her arms.
"Okay Grandma, sorry for taking off like that," I replied watching her almost drop her books. "You know you'll never have time to read all of those before we come back." I said noticing that the books she was holding looked old, which made me think that she might even have good taste in reading, too.
"Oh I know that sweetie, I just can't make up my mind. I just don't know which one I'll be in the mood for later." She said finally getting a better hold of them.
When she said that, I was starting to think that we were actually more alike than I'd thought. After all, we do both like to hang out at the super cool library! She also seems to like it when she learns new words that kids say. She doesn't ever use them right, but it totally makes me laugh when she tries to sound young, or cool, or at least not a hundred years old.
"Sure Grandma, I guess I'm ready to go if you are." I told her.
As I walked away from the table, leaving the books behind she asked, "Gia dear, are you not going to get any books today?"
"No, not today. I wanted to work on my story at home instead. I already have my own copies of those at home, anyway. But can we come back soon? That way I can have some more time to decide what I want to get."
She smiled at me saying, "Oh, of course honey. We can come back whenever you've made up your mind." Hearing her say that was weird because she couldn't even make up her own mind, judging by the huge stack she was about to drop again.
I was actually ready to leave and get back to my room because I'm getting pretty close to finishing a story that I started writing when I first had to come live here. I'm not sure why, but everything in my life just feels better when I'm writing. I get to pretend I'm somewhere else, somewhere that I have control of. The story I've been working on kind of helps me to forget that my parents are gone, even if it's only while I'm writing. I don't think I would've ever started writing if I was still back at home with them and my life hadn't completely changed. Grandma says it's a healthy way to express myself, but I just like creating a place where nothing bad can ever happen. A place in my mind that's perfect, some Other World where everything's peaceful and beautiful, but also a little weird because, let's face it, I'm writing it and I am a little weird!
I still haven't let anyone read it, though. Grandma knows I've been writing a story and Kacie knows that I like to write, but I haven't really told them what it's about. It feels weird not sharing it with Kacie because we always share everything. Ever since we became best friends, we've done everything together and we really don't have any secrets. But to tell you the truth, I kinda like that the story is just mine. A place I made up just for me ... even if it's just a silly old story and not real.
On the drive home from the library Grandma and I really didn't say a whole lot, but I could tell that she wanted to. She kept looking at me through the corner of her eye, watching me. I tried to act like I didn't notice and just kept staring out the window, like I always do.
This town is a lot smaller than the one I used to live in. The houses are older, but they have bigger yards with fences around them. There are always a lot of kids playing outside, too. Where I used to live, it was more like a city than a real neighborhood. I always wondered what it would be like to live in a real house with a yard because my old house was actually a condo, which is sort of like an apartment. We didn't have a yard, but we did have a balcony. My old condo was super big and kinda fancy, but I'm really starting to like it here. Grandma's house isn't that big, but it seems big with just the two of us in it. We have a really big yard that goes all the way around the house with a white fence. She also has a lot of flowers around the house with a big garden in the backyard where she grows all sorts of fresh berries and vegetables. There's a big oak tree in the backyard too, with a tire swing on it from way back when my mom was still a kid. I wonder if it's even safe to swing on anymore.
Just as Grandma pulled into the driveway, she stopped the car and put her hand on my arm so that I couldn't just bolt out of the car, like always. Then she looked me straight in the eyes for what seemed like forever before she said anything. Now I know that I say my grandma is old and has lost her mind, but once in awhile she's just a normal lady who really does seem to love me.
After a very uncomfortable and way too long moment, she broke the silence with a shaky voice and said, "I know you miss them sweetheart. I miss them too. But please remember how much they loved you and that you will see them again someday."
"I know." I replied, trying to act like I believed her. But how could she say that I'm gonna see them again? What does she even mean by that? Like, when I'm actually dead too?! Yeah, thanks! Like that's supposed to make me feel better!
Then she turned away, looking down and said, "I want you to know how sorry I am that they're gone. I can't believe this had to happen to you, Gia."
Chapter TwoIt was starting to get late and we hadn't had dinner, yet. But right now, I wasn't even in the mood to eat, which is totally not like me because, like I said before ... I love to eat! I'm sure I'm still gonna have to eat something because, let's face it, she is a grandma and they do not let you skip meals ... no matter what. Plus, Kacie's on her way over for dinner right now ... so there'll definitely be no getting out of it this time. I went to the bathroom to try to hide the whole balling-like-a-baby thing and pull myself together because I did not need my grandma to start getting all emotional and cuddly with me right now. I stood in front of the mirror, took a couple of deep breaths and washed my face. I opened the door, flushing the toilet on my way out to make her think that I was just in there using the bathroom.
I headed back to my room and sat on my bed for a few minutes, wanting to be alone for awhile. I really wish she'd stop saying that I'm gonna see them again someday because it's not like they're gonna pick me up from school or something.
I thought back on all the days that my mom would surprise me at school just so I didn't have to take the bus home. On those days she'd take me out for ice cream or, if I was lucky, we would go to Starbucks. I would always order the same thing every time ... Grande-Decaf-Caramel-Mocha with whip. I can even remember her favorite drink ... a Grande-Decaf-Nonfat-Caramel-Macchiato, like she needed to lose weight or something- which was so not the case for her!
After sitting alone for awhile, I glanced up at the clock and noticed that I'd been lost in my thoughts for way longer than I realized. I knew that Kacie would be showing up any minute now, so I got up and went to the kitchen with the hopes that Grandma was still done talking about them.
When I walked into the kitchen, I saw that she was already getting things out of the fridge for dinner. (Ohmygosh! I so hope it's not gonna be her leftover meatloaf ... again!) How long does that even stay good for anyway? AND ... whoever thought that meat would be good just because you bake it to look like a loaf of bread?
Luckily, after watching her for a second, I saw that she was making a homemade pepperoni pizza. Since we're Italian, my grandma can definitely make some good pizza!
"I hope you're in the mood for pizza tonight, sweetie." She said rolling out fresh dough. "I know how much you liked the meatloaf that I made last week, but even I need to have a break from it. But don't you worry. I'll make it again just as soon as we go shopping in the morning."
"No! That's okay." I said way too fast, hoping that it didn't sound obvious that I actually, absolutely positively without a doubt, hated her meatloaf! So I quickly added, "I could use a break from it, too." (Yeah right! A really, really long break!) I thought to myself with a smile as I watched her put the pizza in the oven.
I tried to help her with what I could, but after all, setting the table was what I was best at. Just then, there was a knock at the door and I ran over to answer it shouting back towards the kitchen, "I got it Grandma! It's probably just Kacie."
Excerpted from Tragic Endings by BRENDA STRAUCH Copyright © 2011 by Brenda Strauch. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 I Used to LOVE My Life!....................5
Chapter 2 No More Meatloaf!....................15
Chapter 3 It's Just Not Nice!....................21
Chapter 4 Left Behind ....................29
Chapter 5 The Other World....................41
Chapter 6 I Want it Now!....................51
Chapter 7 I Grow My Own Chocolate!....................59
Chapter 8 Talk About a Surprise Party!....................69
Chapter 9 Really Bad Table Manners!....................79
Chapter 10 Kacie Visits the Other World....................89
Chapter 11 What The Heck are Cocoa Beans?....................97
Chapter 12 Talk About a Bad Hair Day!....................107
Chapter 13 Keeping Kacie Happy And Out of Trouble!....................117
Chapter 14 No More Classics!....................127
Chapter 15 Is it Really MY Fault?....................135
Chapter 16 No Time to Party!....................143
Chapter 17 Old People are SO Weird!....................155
Chapter 18 Those are Some Really Smart Cookies!....................165
Chapter 19 The Unwritten Creature ....................177
Chapter 20 The Worst Night of My Life!....................185
Chapter 21 My New Nightlight....................195
Chapter 22 What the Heck is Up with All the Tea?....................203
Chapter 23 Anger Management....................213
Chapter 24 A New Part ....................221
Chapter 25 A Maze of Notebooks!....................229
Chapter 26 Unexpected Changes ....................235
Chapter 27 Where are All the Notebooks?....................243
Chapter 28 !Talking Backwards Learn We....................251
Chapter 29 The Not-So-Unwritten Lands....................261
Chapter 30 Grandma's Secret ....................271