Besides BLOOD OF ESTA, I have a few other ideas floating around in my head. Below is the first chapter of a middle grade fantasy novel I’ve been working on (very slowly) over the last year or so. It doesn’t have a title yet.
Today’s the day. Today’s the day I find out if Wyatt Anders likes me.
Carmen strode into homeroom and took the seat assigned to her on the first day of school last month. She was early. The three other eighth-graders in the room looked bleary-eyed and miserable to be sitting in a classroom at 8:00 a.m. But not Carmen Leary. She looked forward to homeroom every day. She couldn’t wait for homeroom, or first period, fourth period and seventh period. Ever since Jasper Parkins had sent her the text containing Wyatt Anders’ schedule, Carmen couldn’t wait for summer to end and school to begin. She screamed so loudly when she read that she had not one, but three classes with Wyatt, that her mom came running to her room thinking she’d been stabbed or something.
And today she’d find out if Wyatt liked her. She was sure that today would be the day. She’d been planning for it for a month.
She knew from his tweets that Wyatt liked to sit in the row closest to the windows. But she also knew that he wouldn’t sit too far from the front board because he needed glasses. So on the first day of school Carmen arrived early, as usual, and chose a window seat one desk back from the teacher. And sure enough, Wyatt took the seat right behind her.
She knew that sitting in front of him meant that she wouldn’t be able to see him, but she figured she could stare at him all she wanted during the two other classes they had together. For homeroom and first period, she wanted him to be able to see her.
She thought of the old saying: out of sight, out of mind. “Well I’ve been in sight,” she muttered under her breath. And today, hopefully, I’ll be in mind.
She ran an olive-toned hand through her flat-ironed, mocha-colored hair and waited. Wyatt took the bus to school and his locker was by the gym. The bus kids began piling into the room. Wyatt should only be another minute.
Carmen took a deep, calming breath. She didn’t want to jump the gun and read Wyatt’s mind before he’d even noticed her. She only got one shot at it. If she wasn’t careful, she’d end up hearing him think about what he ate for breakfast that morning. If that happened, she’d have to wait a whole other day before she could try again. There had been twenty-five school days so far this year, and twenty-five times Carmen tried to find out whether or not Wyatt liked her by listening to his thoughts. And twenty-five times he was thinking about something other than her when she did it.
Carmen was determined to get it right today.
Eye contact, she thought. Make eye contact with him while he’s walking to his seat. He should be thinking about me then.
Mr. Harmon, her homeroom and first period teacher, strolled into the classroom. He had a tattered, leather messenger-bag slung over his shoulder and a styrofoam coffee cup in his hand. He tossed the bag behind his desk. Then he took a sip of coffee and began writing math equations on the blackboard.
Homeroom hadn’t officially started yet, and first period math wouldn’t begin for another fifteen minutes. A couple of her more nerdy classmates opened their notebooks and began copying the equations from the board. The others held whispered conversations, completely ignoring Mr. Harmon and the blackboard.
The homeroom bell rang. Carmen stared at the door as the bell chimed a final time. Wyatt hadn’t arrived. She closed her eyes and put her head in her hands. Fudgers. Why’d he have to be absent today?
“You’re late, Mr. Anders.” Mr. Harmon’s voice pierced her ears.
“Sorry.” The sound of this voice made Carmen’s heart flutter.
Her head shot up. Wyatt Anders was on the shorter side of Jackson Middle School’s eighth-grade boys, but Carmen didn’t care about his height. He was taller than her, and that’s all that mattered. What she loved about Wyatt was his ginger-colored hair and his bronze skin. He was a genetic oddity as far as she could tell—a redhead that could actually tan—a ginger kid who couldn’t really be considered a ginger kid. His family rented a beach house on the shore every summer. The long days on the sand gave him a bronze tan that wouldn’t completely fade until February. And it probably helped that his mother was from Venezuela. That was something she and Wyatt had in common. They both had mothers from South America.
Wyatt was looking at the board when Carmen caught sight of him. As soon as she saw his short red hair, that little trigger in her mind that enables her to hear the thoughts of others went off.
“Thank God I didn’t get detention.” Wyatt’s voice resonated through her head, but his lips never parted.
“Fudgers!” she swore.
She felt thirty pairs of eyes stare at her.
“There’s no need to curse, Ms. Leary.” Mr. Harmon said, his back still to the class.
She slid low in her chair. Wishing she had the power of invisibility instead of mind reading. “Sorry, Mr. Harmon … I-I stubbed my toe on the desk.”
“Don’t do it again or I’ll have to give you detention.”
She hid her face back in her hands.
“And it’s definitely detention for you, Mr. Parkins. Homeroom’s almost over.”
“My mom made me miss the bus, it’s not my fault I’m late.”
Carmen looked up just as her best friend, Jasper Parkins, flopped into the seat next to her.
“You don’t take the bus, Mr. Parkins. Detention today.”
Mr. Harmon took another sip of coffee and kept his back to the still chattering class.
Carmen leaned over to Jasper.
“What took you so long to get in here? You said you’d only be at your locker a minute.”
Jasper’s ebony skin and short dreadlocks were damp with sweat. He had grown several inches over the summer and seemed too tall for the desk. He pulled his math book from his backpack and shoved the bag under his seat. He huffed out a breath, “I had another vision.”
Carmen’s large, brown eyes became two round orbs. “Really? What was this one about?”
He held up a hand. “You first. Were you able to do it today?”
She sighed and shook her head. “Now I have to wait until tomorrow.”
“Not tomorrow.” Jasper’s dreads shook with his head. “He won’t be in school tomorrow.”
“How do you know that?”
“That’s what my vision was about. He’s gonna eat some bad sushi tonight and have the runs tomorrow.”
Carmen crinkled her face. “Eww. That’s gross, Jasper.”
“Yeah, well you only had to hear about it. I just got detention for spending the last three minutes watching Mr. Skinny Jeans doubled over and moaning as he ran to the bathroom. And the sound coming from the other side of the door wasn’t pleasant.” He shook his body as if he were shaking off dozens of slimy insects. “I wanted to puke.”
“You should be sorry. I can’t believe I’m wasting my visions looking into your future with Skinny Jeans. I should be finding out when our next pop quiz’ll be. You have your own dang ability.”
“Yeah, great ability I have,” she whispered sarcastically. “I can read peoples’ minds, but only once each day. That’s really helpful. At least your visions happen more often.”
“But there’s no rhyme or reason to them. I can’t make them happen on will like you can with your mind reading.”
Three, short, dull tones sounded marking the end of homeroom and the beginning of first period. Carmen centered herself back in her desk.
Mr. Harmon turned to face the class for the first time. “Pop quiz on the board. Ten questions … you have fifteen minutes.”
“Fudgers!” Jasper said.
“And add a lunch detention to that too, Mr. Parkins,” Mr. Harmon said as he took a seat at his desk.
Jasper shot Carmen a foul glare.
She mouthed the word “sorry,” and gave an apologetic expression. Then she copied the math equations from the board.