It’s a girl, just a scrawny anorexic-looking girl, about my age, fair-haired and pale, with fake-looking cobalt-colored eyes. She’s one of those girls with an upturned little nose and perfect teeth. Flawless complexion. Makeup. Teeny-weeny, clean white shorts. Tanned cheerleaderish legs.
I gasp, trying to catch my breath.
“You scared the crap out of me.”
“Man, you scare easy.” Knuckles on hips, she cocks her head to the side, pale hair falling over those bright blue eyes.
I press my hand to my heart. Puke climbs up my throat, and then slides back down again.
“What are you so jumpy about? There’s nothing to be scared of around here. Not like it’s an epicenter for crime.”
There are definitely shades of cheerleader in this girl, yet none of that high-pitched perkiness. Clouds of sadness seem to be leaking from her eyes and her smile and her voice, despite the faultless exterior. A tiny diamond-like chip glints on her nose.
“We don’t even lock our doors around here,” she says.
I heave myself to a standing position. My heart’s still racing in a marathon of terror.
“What did you think I was?” the girl asks and I shrug.
“A wacko. Weirdo. Murderer. You never know.”
She barks out a laugh.
“All of the above,” she says. “You better run.”
I try to smile.
“Here,” she says, reaching down to pluck a flower. “Peace offering.” She holds a red-nailed hand toward me––her thumb and finger, daintily holding the stem of the red flower.
I take it. Our fingers graze.
“Servants also used these gazing globes to be sneaky and watch their bosses,” the girl says. “Pretty far-out, huh?”
I’m still shaking, but I nod.
“Cool shirt. I can tell that you’re not from around here.”
I look down, suddenly super-aware I’m about fifty pounds bigger than this chick. This makes me irritable, and I shove the red flower into the pocket of my shorts.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” I ask. “Don’t they have laws about trespassing around here?”
“Just checking out the new neighbors,” she says with a shrug of bony shoulders. Her voice is like cornhusk: raspy and rough.
“Where’d you come from?”
“Over there.” She points with her sharp little chin. “Through the field and to the left. When the corn’s down in the winter, you can actually see our place.”
“I’m Brit Dannon,” she says. “Brit with one T, not two. You’re the new preacher’s kid, I presume? Got any pot?”
“What?” I almost laugh.
“Got any weed?”
“No, I . . . don’t smoke.”
“Man. You really aren’t from around here. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Lake Millay.” There’s a final feeble clank of thunder, like beaters in an empty metal bowl, and then the sun comes out, shining. Brit Dannon seems to shimmer: shiny hair and makeup and nails and that perfect-girl sparkly shirt, with sequins spelling out the word Princess.
“Welcome to Badger Gap, Lake Millay,” she says. “The Center of the Universe! The most happenin’ location on the planet! The place that’s going to freaking change your life!”
who lives in Lancaster County, PA. She’s published more than 20 books for
children and teens, and her books have won many awards and honors, including
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) “Perfect Ten” awards. Linda also writes for
adults, and her short story NICKEL MINES HARDWARE, based upon the Amish school
shootings of 2006, was honored in England in 2012 with the Sunday Times EFG
Short Story award shortlist. Linda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and
Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she presents at schools
from K-college both nationally and internationally.