Monday, December 17, 2018

{Blog Tour} WHAT YOU HIDE by Natalie D. Richards—Excerpt + Giveaway

PRESENTED BY SOURCEBOOKS
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What You Hide
by Natalie D. Richards


Mallory didn’t want to leave home, but it wasn't safe to stay. So she sleeps at her best friend’s house and spends the rest of her time at the library, doing her online schoolwork and figuring out what comes next. Because she’s not going live in fear like her mother.

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service for a stunt he pulled, but he likes the work. And it’s the perfect escape from his parents’ pressure to excel at school, at ice hockey, at everything. Especially after he meets Mallory.

Then there is a tragic death at the library. Suddenly, what was once a sanctuary turns sinister. Ghostly footprints, strange scratching sounds, scrawled messages on bulletin boards and walls… Mallory and Spencer don’t know who or what is responsible, but one thing is for sure:

They are not as alone—or as safe—as they thought.

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Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery/Thriller
• Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / IndieBound / TBD

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                           SPENCER
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 1:13 A.M.
Fairview Public Library
I’ve broken curfew for plenty of stupid reasons, but climbing the public library? I can’t really be thinking about doing this.
I am, though.
Not that I could tell you why. Why would a perfectly rational guy decide to take a jog at one o’clock in the morning? And why did that jog turn into a dead-panic sprint, until I stopped in this alley, sweaty and alone on the narrow strip of pavement between the parking lot and the book drop?
I can’t figure out most of tonight, but I know this: I want to climb to the top of the Fairview Public Library.
It’s not a good idea. Climbing that wall has Terrible Choice written all over it.
But it’d be easy. Thirty, maybe thirty-five feet tall, which I could scale in my sleep. Especially with all those chunky slabs of stone creating perfect crevices for my fingers and toes. I can’t believe I’ve never noticed them. Back in fourth grade, I walked here every other Tuesday for class visits. It was a building full of books then. Now it’s an unexplored vertical trail, my ticket to a view I’ve never seen.
I do this a lot: scan buildings for ascent routes. That’s what happens when you love climbing. I want to climb rocks and trees and the football stadium and the water tower. And apparently the library.
Seriously, I could do it in five minutes. Maybe less.
Which is still plenty of time to get arrested in this town.
Here, tucked close to the side of the building in the alley, I’m not easy to see from Main Street. Halfway up the wall, though, I’d be exposed.
So, don’t be stupid.
I wipe my sweaty hands down the front of my pants and move closer, dragging two fingers down the stone. Rough. Grippy.
A memorial plaque sits on the ground near a weeping cherry tree: Higher Knowledge for Our Best Future.
I flinch, images flipping through my mind like flash cards. Dad at his spreadsheet, Mom at her leather journal, and me typing as fast as my fingers will let me, stacking up rows of words that paint a pleasing story about who I am and what I want.
I don’t know that I decide to start climbing. I just kick off my shoes and socks, and it happens. I test the edge of a curved brick with one hand, and my toes find a natural perch on another. It’s a strong position. A good hold. One upward glance and the path reveals itself—a push with my foot, and my left hand will go to the slightly darker stone. My right will reach the slab below the first-floor windows. Then the edge above it. I see one smooth white stone that might give me trouble, but I can always go for the ledge of the second-floor window if I need to.
I start my ascent, slow and steady. The world slips quietly away. I can’t hear my mom listing college hockey stats, and I can’t see my dad’s postgraduation salary predictions. None of the things I should do and be matter up here.
Eyes open. Core engaged. Grip strong. There is only the steady hunt for the summit when I climb. Nothing else. And, so far, this hunt is easy pickings.
My fingers slip, and I frown, retreating to my former hold. I try again. The problem is the smooth, knobby bit I’d seen below; the one I feared might be trouble. A third attempt, and I pull back to reassess. I need an alternative, because I can’t grip that smooth section without rosin, and I don’t have rosin.
Or a harness.
I’m twenty-five feet up with no harness.
This fact hits me square in the chest, and in the span of one breath, my heart turns to a bag of worms. I grip my toes and push close to the wall to steady myself. Panic and stupidity lead to most climbing accidents, and I’ve already covered the stupidity bit.
“Not smart,” I tell myself, and that’s all I allow. I’ll have to rub this lesson in later, when I’m back on the ground without an assortment of broken bones.
When my heart slows to a steady thud-thud-thud, I start looking for a better route. I’m maybe ten or fifteen feet from the top. With my adrenaline wearing off, it feels doable. This is not a difficult climb. Once I’m up, the fire escape ladder on the back of the building will make for an easy way down. I just need to do it.
I relax into my feet and start up the path closest to the second-story window. I still have that sill if I need it.
I push off my right foot as I reach up, a good pinch at a comfortable reach. Excellent. Plus, I see a perfect lip for my left hand, so I push up through that leg to snag the next hold. My grip sticks, but something snaps. My left foot drops hard, leg scraping stone. I lurch in the opposite direction, forcing my center of gravity to the right.
Was it the brick? I glance down at the wall below, seeing freshly cracked stone where my foot used to be. Bits of mortar and rock lay in the grass, and my stomach drops into my feet.
I was standing on that seconds ago. If it had broken any earlier, I’d have fallen. I lick my lips, heart pounding. Nothing about that brick looked wrong. There was zero warning.
Which means there might not be a warning next time.
Who’s to say the one I’m on now won’t snap? My worry ratchets higher with every breath. I don’t know anything about this wall. These brickscould be painted hunks of mortar for all I know. Every last one could break.
Okay, new plan. I need to get up this wall before it falls apart.
The window.
The sill beneath it will be solid concrete. It’ll hold and give me time to breathe. When my body is in line, I swing my left leg up hard. I have to get high enough to catch the window sill.
I overshoot it. My knee hits the glass with a crack. I stop breathing, mouth dropping open at the neat hole my patella punched in the pane. Cracks spider from the hole in multiple directions. For one breathless instant, all I can do is stare, my bare toes resting on the concrete sill while bits of glass clink down from the opening.
Unbelievable. I kicked in the freaking window.
A shard hits my big toe, and it jolts me into action. I drag myself to the right of the mess, my face scraping mortar. The window I broke is tall and wide with arched glass that looks…expensive.
I’ll worry about it later. I need to finish this and get down before something else goes wrong.
Nothing does. The rest of the climb passes without incident. At the top, I haul myself over the concrete cornice and drop to my backside, panting in relief.
I should bolt for the ladder, but my legs have turned to jelly. I need a minute to catch my breath. I enjoy the view, which is nothing to sneeze at. Fairview is easy on the eyes from up here. A row of postcard-worthy businesses line Main Street, embellished with flower boxes and understated window displays. Here and there, iron benches rest under neatly trimmed trees—an invitation to linger.
Beyond Main Street, the streets give way to a sleeping patchwork of lush, green lawns with curving gardens and winding paths. And houses. Large, beautiful houses.
One of those houses is yours.
My throat squeezes, and I lean forward, staring at the soft glow of streetlights and curved streets. It is the definition of peaceful and safe, but I’m not feeling either of those things. I feel like I’m peering into another dimension. Like I’m seeing something I’ve never seen. Which is ridiculous. I live down there. Fairview has always been home.
Always?
A flash of blue and white lights. The police. There’s a single cruiser six or seven intersections down Main Street, so someone must have seen me. Adrenaline floods my senses.
Get up. I have to get up.
My body is heavy. Immobile. What the hell is wrong with me? I need to run!
But I don’t. Moments later, the cruiser turns into the library parking lot, and it’s like my body is frozen. My eyes follow the car as it parks, then trail the beam of the spotlight across the library wall. Shrubs and mulch are illuminated. Then, the cherry tree. Next, my discarded socks and shoes.
I wonder what they’ll do when they figure out I’m up here.
I wonder what it’ll feel like when they take me away.

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After years as a professional paper-pusher, NATALIE D. RICHARDS decided to trade in reality for a life writing YA fiction. She lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously furry dog named Yeti. Visit her on Twitter @natdrichards or at nataliedrichards.com.







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Continue on for the giveaway! ~

Thursday, December 13, 2018

❄️ GIVEAWAY HOP: Midwinter's Eve ~ Enter to win a $25 Amazon GC!

❄️ Midwinter's Eve ❄️
Giveaway Hop

As always, very huge thanks to our hop host:
Mary @ BookHounds

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~MY  GIVEAWAY~
One winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon gift card! 

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International entries are welcome! My full giveaway terms can be viewed here. Please take a peek before entering if you have any questions or are unsure of anything. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below (after the page break)! ^-^


DON'T FORGET TO VISIT THE REST OF THE BLOGS/SITES PARTICIPATING! ^-^
>> CLICK HERE <<

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Good luck & thanks for visiting!
Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

{Blog Tour} DARE TO FALL by Estelle Maskame—Excerpt + Giveaway

PRESENTED BY SOURCEBOOKS
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Dare to Fall
by Estelle Maskame


The higher the stakes, the greater the fall.

MacKenzie Rivers knows the kind of impact death can have on those it leaves behind. She’s felt that grief firsthand. So when Jaden, her crush and almost-boyfriend, loses his parents in a car accident, MacKenzie steps back. It might not be the right thing to do, but with an alcoholic mother and a father who deals with their family problems by not dealing at all, self-preservation is her only option.

Then the pair meet by chance one night, reunited for the first time in months. Before MacKenzie can throw up her walls again, old feelings resurface and new memories are made. MacKenzie has missed Jaden more than anything. But can she dare to fall for the one person she’s so afraid of growing close to?

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Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
• Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Add the book on Goodreads!
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / IndieBound / TBD

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                           1
I’ve never known why Monday gets all the credit for being the worst day of the week. I disagree entirely. Sundays are. There’s just something so quiet and still about Sundays that I’ve really grown to hate. Maybe it’s because half the town goes to church in the mornings, while the other half attempts to cook a pot roast before giving up and finally ordering takeout. That tends to be the case in my family at least. Or maybe it’s because half the people we go to school with are at home rushing to finish all those assignments that have been left until the last minute, while the other half spends the entire day in Dairy Queen because there’s nowhere else to go. We belong to the latter half.
“Do you want another?”
I didn’t realize I’d zoned out until now. Tearing my gaze up from the table, I blink a couple of times at Holden while straightening up a little from my slouched position in the booth. I didn’t even notice him get up. “What?”
Holden looks down at me and nods to the remainder of my iced coffee. There’s only a small dribble left. “Do you want another?” he repeats.
“Oh,” I say. “No thanks. I’m good.”
As he turns around and heads to the counter to order again for what must be the fifth time tonight, I rub my hand over my face, remembering too late that I’m wearing two thick layers of mascara. I curse under my breath and grab my phone from the table, opening up my camera. My eyes are now smudged and rimmed with black. I reach for a napkin and try my best to clean up the mess I’ve made, but I only seem to make it worse.
Will lets out a laugh, and I fire a heavy glare across the booth. He’s chewing on the straw of his chocolate shake, but he quickly ducks when I scrunch my napkin into a ball and hurl it at him.
“You’d think you were hungover,” he says as he sits back up, flicking his hair out of his eyes.
I can’t remember the last time he had a haircut, but he definitely needs one.
“I’m just tired.” I breathe a sigh and turn my attention to the trash that’s amassed on our table. I swear, all we do on Sundays is eat because there’s nothing else to do in this town. There are at least half a dozen empty cups, three of which are mine, and most of the food wrappers are Holden’s. The ice-cream tubs are Will’s.
“Have you noticed who’s here?” Will asks, lowering his voice. He tilts his head down and leans over the table, subtly giving a pointed glance over my shoulder. “I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen her out.”
I shift in the booth and steal a quick glance behind me, and I spot her immediately: Danielle Hunter.
Over in the booth right by the door, Danielle is sitting with her hands wrapped around a cup, her black hair falling over her eyes. She’s with three other girls, all of whom are engaged in conversation, but Danielle is staring blankly at the table as though she is entirely tuned out of her surroundings. As I study her from across the restaurant, a lump forms in my throat. It’s a surprise to see her here. She rarely goes out. No one ever sees Danielle Hunter anywhere other than school these days.
“Well,” I murmur as I turn back around to face Will. “That’s new.” I steal another glance over my shoulder, feeling strangely unnerved by the sight of her. I haven’t spoken to her in a long time, so I am praying she doesn’t spot me, but I am intrigued by how alone she seems.
I only turn my attention away from her when Holden returns to the table with another burger, his third of the night, and slides back into the booth next to me. The football team lost against Pine Creek yesterday, so he’s in a sulky mood, disappointed with his performance, and Will and I have agreed not to mention it.
“Last one, I swear,” Holden says as he takes a huge bite.
I shoot him a repulsed sideways glance.
“Sure it is,” Will says with an air of sarcasm.
I think he likes to push Holden’s buttons sometimes, but it’s always harmless, and I find it entertaining to watch. He leans back against the window, closes his eyes, and angles his head away from us.
I pick up my phone to check the time while Will snoozes and Holden devours that gross burger of his. It’s just after nine thirty, and pretty soon the manager will begin making her way around the booths to kick everyone out so they can close up. I nudge Holden. “Let me out for a second.”
With his burger still clenched tightly in his fist, Holden begrudgingly moves his legs aside just enough to let me slide out.
Sighing, I gently whack his bicep. “And stop beating yourself up,” I tell him, breaking the pact I made with Will. Football season has only just started; I can’t put up with months of Holden being grouchy every time the team loses a game. He gets temperamental every single season, but he’s been even more so this year. He’s barely said two words to us all night. “You’re playing Broomfield on Friday, right? You guys will win that game for sure!” I reassure him as I squeeze past.
Holden shrugs his shoulders. Reluctantly he flashes me a small smile. “I guess we’ll see,” he says.
“I guess we’re still being monosyllabic,” I retort, rolling my eyes.
Will heaves a sigh and opens one eye, though he doesn’t move an inch. “Broomfield isn’t that great though, right? So maybe you’ll actually catch a pass this time.” As he closes his eye again, he’s smirking.
Holden seizes the opportunity to throw his balled-up burger wrapper at Will, hitting him square in the forehead.
“Catch that, asshole,” he says, grinning.
Idiots.
I leave the two of them goofing around and head to the restroom. The closer it gets to ten o’clock, the more empty Dairy Queen becomes, though there’re still some people from school hanging around. Once the manager kicks us out, that’s it: there’s nowhere else to go other than back home. I briefly give Jess Lopez a smile and a “hey” as I pass her table, but she’s with some girls I don’t know all that well, so I don’t stop to chat.
I continue into the cramped restroom instead and lock myself in one of three tiny stalls. While I’m there, I send my dad a quick text to let him know I’ll be home within the next hour, resigned to the fact that Sunday is almost over. I slip my phone into the pocket of my jeans as I unlock the door and swing it open. My heart stops for a split second when I glance up and there’s someone there, standing motionless in front of the sinks. I hadn’t heard anyone come in, and the moment I realize it’s Danielle Hunter, I freeze on the spot. Her back is to me, but in the mirror’s reflection, her eyes meet mine.
I haven’t said more than a few words to Danielle since last year. I’ve barely seen her, and when I have, I’ve never known how to act or what to say. So I just don’t say anything at all. What are you supposed to say to someone who’s grieving the death of her parents? I don’t know. No one does.
But right now, I can’t just turn my eyes to the floor and keep on walking like I would do otherwise. I’m suddenly aware of how small it is in here, and she’s watching me with those blue eyes of hers. They are such a stark contrast with her newly jet-black hair that it just doesn’t quite look right. Her entire face is blank, emotionless. I swallow and shift past her to the sink farthest away. I turn on the water, staring robotically at my hands as it cascades over my skin. Do I say something? I know I should, but I don’t know what and I don’t know how. My cheeks feel hot from the pressure bearing down on me while I deliberate over whether now is the right time to finally say something to Danielle Hunter. I have always wanted to talk to her again but never could.
I glance back up at Danielle in the mirror, only to find she’s still staring at me. I am going to go for it. I am going to talk to her, and I am going to do it right now before I overthink it. With as much courage as I can muster, I force myself to look directly at Danielle. The smile I plaster upon my lips is supposed to be normal and sincere, but I’m trying too hard, and she knows it. “Hi, Dani,” I say. Saying her name gives me goose bumps. “It’s really nice to see you out.”
Danielle narrows her eyes at me, and I allow my smile to slowly collapse because I know she can see the reality behind my expression. I’m looking at her the way most people look at her: with pity. There is a hint of surprise in her blue eyes that I’ve actually spoken to her, though she doesn’t say anything in response. Her frown doesn’t so much as tremble as she looks back to her reflection in the mirror, pressing her hands to the edge of the sink.
Her silence is worse than any other possible reaction because now I’m unsure how to navigate the situation. I’ve done what I should have: I’ve told her it’s nice to see her out. That’s what I’m supposed to tell her, but she doesn’t seem to appreciate it. Her expression is so blank, so empty, that it is impossible to read.
It’s been a rough year for the Hunters, and the entire town of Windsor knows this. I’ve witnessed how drastically Danielle has changed, how broken she’s been, how big an impact her parents’ deaths have had on her. I remember when her hair was triple its length, when it swayed down her back in blond waves, when her cheeks were always flushed, when she was known for having the loudest laugh in every single one of her classes. She’s not the same girl she was a year ago, but who can blame her? No one has forgotten the Hunter tragedy, and no one knows how to deal with those left behind. Especially not me.
The thing is, I haven’t just been avoiding Danielle for a year now. I’ve been avoiding her brother too. Jaden, the second half of the Hunter twins, who still smiles at me whenever he sees me. Jaden, who I’m not brave enough to stop and talk to. Jaden, who I don’t know how to act around anymore. Jaden, who I’m terrified has changed just as much as his sister has. I can’t bring myself to be around either of them. I can’t deal with the constant fear of saying the wrong thing. I can’t cope with the effects such a devastating loss will have had on them. It’s not that I don’t want to. God, I want to. But I just…can’t.
With water dripping from my hands, I turn off the tap and quickly dry them on my jeans. I try to look at Danielle again, though I can’t exactly meet her eyes now. They look so much like Jaden’s. She is still quiet, and the time has passed for her to reply, so I know I have to say something else. I feel anxious at the thought of bringing him up, but I gulp back that fear and quietly murmur, “How’s Jaden doing?”
I don’t know how Jaden is doing because I have never asked even though I know I should have. I am afraid the answer is anything other than “okay” or “fine.” That’s why I am waiting with bated breath, my eyebrows pinching together with sympathy.
Danielle immediately tilts her head, and her bangs fall over her eyes. “Why do you ask?” she responds quietly, and I’m taken aback at the defensive tone to her voice. “It’s not like you care.”
I stare back at her, stunned by her words. A year ago, Danielle and I were friends. She used to joke that if Jaden and I ever got married, we’d technically be sisters, and she had always wanted a sister. What I never told her was that I had always wanted one too. “Dani…”
“Because if you really did care,” she says slowly, turning fully toward me, “then you would have asked that question a year ago when…” Her sentence trails off, but I already know what she was going to say. She was going to tell me that if I really cared, I would have asked how he was doing a year ago when his parents were killed.
“Dani…” I shake my head and take a step closer to her. The last thing I expected to do tonight was confront Danielle Hunter in the Dairy Queen restroom. “You know I care.”
“You have a funny way of showing it, MacKenzie,” she says, her tone softer. She turns back to the mirror and moves her bangs back out of her eyes, then reaches for the door. However, she pauses and looks back at me over her shoulder before she leaves, mumbling, “I’ll tell Jaden that you asked.”
In that moment, as I stare after Dani, her words left hovering in the air around me, I feel like the smallest person in the world. I don’t know why I am so surprised. It’s not as though I expected her to treat me the way she used to because I don’t treat her the way I used to either. I guess this is why I have been dreading this moment for so long. I knew from the second I pushed the Hunters away that things would always be different between us, but I had no choice.
I don’t want Holden and Will to wonder where I am, so after a deep breath, I leave the restroom and head back to our booth. I notice that almost everyone has left, apart from us and Dani’s group, though they seem to be getting up to leave. I nudge Holden as soon as I reach him, urgently shoving him farther into the booth so I can slide back in next to him. My face feels hot.
My discomfort must be evident because Will immediately sits up. “What’s up with you?” he asks.
“I just spoke to Danielle,” I tell them, my voice a whisper. “It’s the first time I have since…” I can’t say it out loud. I glance back and forth between the two of them, trying to gauge their reactions.
Holden frowns and moves away from me, leaning into the window and turning his attention to the parking lot, whereas Will looks curious.
“You spoke to her?” he asks, clarifying that he did actually hear me correctly.
“I had to. She was right there.” I prop my elbows on the table and throw my head into my hands, closing my eyes and releasing a muffled groan. The last person I expected to deal with tonight was Danielle Hunter, and I certainly didn’t want the Dairy Queen restroom to be the time and place where I did speak to her again for the first time. I wish I could have said something more or at least something else. “She hates me. I can just tell,” I mumble against my palms.
“Well,” Will murmurs. His words are slow, his expression cautious, and I slowly raise my head to look at him. “You can’t exactly expect her not to… After all, it’s not like she knows why you cut her off.”
“That isn’t helpful,” Holden cuts in, snapping his head around from the window again. “Sure, she’s avoiding them, but everyone’s kind of been avoiding them. It’s not like she’s doing it be cruel.” He glances sideways at me, searching for confirmation. “Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Right, Kenzie?”
I can only nod.
Before either Holden or Will can say anything more, the manager pops up in front of our booth out of nowhere, politely asking us if we can get a move on because they want to start cleaning the place up before they close in ten minutes. When I look around, I realize we’re the only ones still here.
We gather up our trash, then head outside to the parking lot where Will’s bright red Jeep Renegade is waiting for us. He had it detailed this morning, so the glossy paintwork shines underneath the streetlights, and Holden is scowling as we stroll across the lot toward it. Will’s parents are pretty rich, whereas Holden’s are in debt. They sold his car last fall, so now he’s forced to rely on Will the same way I am. Mom does let me borrow her car sometimes, but it’s not the same.
I call shotgun and quickly clamber into the passenger seat, slamming the door shut behind me before Holden can fight me over it. His scowl deepens, so I stick my tongue out at him as Will slides into the driver’s seat. I automatically reach for the climate control and turn up the heat. Now that it’s September, the nights are beginning to grow colder. Holden climbs into the back seat, but he is over six foot, so even in this huge car, he still has to slump down a little. I always find it hilarious the way his head touches the roof.
There’s not much to do in Windsor on a Sunday at this time. Most places are closed, and most people are at home. The nights are darker, colder. There’s school in the morning. Work to go to. We go for a drive anyway, a quick circle around the town, along the stores and fast-food joints on Main Street and all the way out to the open fields at Windsor’s outskirts, before Will asks if it’s okay if he takes us home.
He drops me off first, just before eleven o’clock, and I tell them both that I’ll see them in the morning when Will picks us up for school. They don’t drive off as soon as I get out of the car, but instead wait until I’ve pushed open my front door and given them my usual wave, then they head off until I can’t hear the sound of Holden’s music anymore.
Instead, I hear the sound of my parents. Dad’s voice mostly. They’re arguing in that gentle, soft sort of way that they do when they aren’t mad, but concerned, rather. A quiet disagreement, something that is all too familiar in this house.
I kick off my flats by the door and lock up, then pad my way down the hall carpet and into the living room, where the NFL highlights from tonight are rolling across the TV at a lowered volume. Mom’s sitting bolt upright on the edge of the couch, her eyes sunken and tired, her thin lips pressed firmly together. She’s in a tracksuit, hair clipped back, makeup washed off—nothing new for this time on a Sunday. Dad’s standing opposite her, on the far side of the room. The coffee table between them bears an empty wineglass, a smear of lipstick on its rim. I remember Mom pouring a glass of chardonnay before I left earlier, fresh out of a new bottle. She promised it would be her first and last for today. But she always says that, and Dad has the empty bottle in hand to prove otherwise.
“Oh. MacKenzie,” he says, exhaling. As though I haven’t already noticed the bottle, he moves his hand behind his back, hiding it. He frowns. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
I give him a closed smile, but I don’t say anything because I’m more focused on Mom. I take my height from my dad, but I take everything else from her. We have the same deep brown eyes, the same high, hollowed cheekbones, the same strong jawbone. “I’m going to bed, Mom,” I tell her softly as I kneel down on the floor by her side, looking at her with a gentle expression. She’s not drunk. No, not after one bottle, that’s not enough now, but the ugly grimace on her face is one that only appears after a couple of glasses. “Maybe you should too?” I suggest, reaching for her hand.
Mom stares at the floor, motionless for a moment, before she lifts her heavy eyelids up to Dad, looking at him as though this is his fault, as though it was him who opened the bottle in the first place. Then she relaxes, heaves a sigh, and nods as her eyes meet mine.
I reach for her hand and stand up, pulling her with me, our fingers interlocked. Her hands are warm, and some of her nails are broken. She doesn’t care enough these days to fix them. Dad watches me with gratitude on his face, but his eyes tell a different story. They are apologetic, almost guilty. I wave him away with my free hand and lead Mom out of the living room and down the hall, into their bedroom. When I flick on the light, I grit my teeth when I see the mess that greets me. There’s a pile of fresh laundry that has been carelessly tipped onto the floor and left there. The bed is still unmade from this morning, and the drapes are closed as though they haven’t been opened all day. Usually, I consider it a good day if this room sees sunlight.
Mom sits down on the edge of the bed, but the watery smile of reassurance she gives me does little to appease my irritation. “I’ve only had a few glasses,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Your dad is overreacting.”
I don’t think he is, and I don’t think it was only a few glasses either. But I don’t tell her this, only grab loose clothes from the floor, fold them back up, and put them away. Atop the dresser—next to the framed photograph of Dad and me so many years ago, back when he still had hair and I had no front teeth—is another wineglass. Empty, on its side, abandoned from yesterday.
I draw my lower lip between my teeth and tilt my head down, slowly pushing the drawer closed. Mom’s back on her feet now as she shuffles around their small room behind me, so I pick up the glass and turn around to look at her, hiding it behind my back. Masking the disappointment that tugs in my chest, I force a smile onto my face. “I’m super tired, so I’ll talk to you in the morning,” I tell her. “Will’s picking me up at seven thirty.”
Mom doesn’t say anything else, but she does frown when she notices I’ve stolen the wineglass from her dresser. Her lips twitch, and her eyes narrow slightly, yet she goes on to pretend that she hasn’t noticed that it’s gone. Instead, she slowly fluffs up her pillows, and I back out of the room, pulling the door shut behind me, leaving her alone.
I stand in the hall and hold the wineglass up to examine it. My grip tightens so firmly around the glass that for a split second I think it might just shatter into pieces, but Dad interrupts me before I get the chance to squeeze any harder.
He’s leaning against the frame of the living room door, his features ridden with guilt as he says, “I can take that.” He straightens up and steps toward me, placing his hand over mine as he pulls the glass free from my rigid grip. The other glass, the one from the living room, is already in his other.
Dad’s too young to be bald, and he’s also too young to have so many wrinkles. But he is bald, and he does have that many wrinkles, and I hate that saddened look in his eyes that appears every time there’s another glass to wash because it makes him look even older still. He moves past me, making his way down the hall and into the dark kitchen, and I stand there, waiting, listening for the sound of the faucet.
As the water runs, as Dad scrubs Mom’s lipstick from that wineglass, I find myself looking at the hall table. There’s a framed photograph of Mom and Dad on their wedding day, and there’s one of me on my first day of kindergarten with horrendous pink scrunchies in my hair, and then there’s the frame in the middle—the one that’s a light pink and never gathers dust because Mom cleans it at least twice every day. Inside the frame there are five pink letters, cursive and delicate. Those five letters are all we have left of her, as simple as her name, our only memory because we weren’t given the time to create any others.
Baby Grace, who we never got to meet, but who we will never forget.
Danielle Hunter may think I don’t care about them, her and Jaden, but I do care, probably more than most people do. The truth is, I’m scared to be around them. I’m scared because I know the impact losing someone can have. I know just how badly grief can affect someone. I know how much it changes people.
I know because I’ve watched it change us too.

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Hey! I'm Estelle Maskame and I write the DIMILY trilogy! I'm a total bookworm and YA addict, not to mention a hopeless romantic. I've always adored books and writing while growing up, and all throughout primary school I loved to write stories about talking dolphins and pirate ships. Admittedly, I've moved away from the eight-year-old fantasy genre and now focus on writing YA romance.

I grew up in a small town called Peterhead in the North-east of Scotland, and I belong to a huge fishing family! My favourite things include books, hot chocolate (with cream and marshmallows, of course), road trips, new clothes, my best friends, and chicken nuggets. On another note, I absolutely hate terrible drivers, snow, the dentist, and people who wake me up before 10AM.

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