Short Story: The Storm

After her boyfriend breaks up with her in front of half the school, Hailey dashes into the storm.

Clouds billowed in the south as Hailey dashed outside, her flip flops twisting under her feet and her arms pumping at her sides. It didn’t take long for summertime dew to form on her brow, but she didn’t slow. The breeze concentrated around her, brushing over her skin and through her ponytail, relieving only the slightest amount of discomfort caused by the heat. She kept running.

Her physical angst had yet to suppress her emotional turmoil. Nothing could. It pummeled her mind harder than the hot, muggy weather exhausted her physique. Heartbeats thudded in her chest as roiling misery swirled within her stomach. How could he do that? Walk away as if she were nothing? Look at her and laugh when the burning sensation in her eyes had relented to tears?

The tops of the trees waved gently just before their trunks bent with fury from the first gust of wind. Hailey watched the tempest roar toward her as she gazed southeast. There, under the glory of the white clouds, was the swirling wall of dust and sand. Her foot slipped off her sandal and onto the hot concrete, but she sped on.

She’d been warned. Not worth it. Scum. Stay away. They’d all said the same thing. Still, Burk’s silky smile and that weirdly exhilarating tingle she got when he stood close enough for his breath to tickle her neck were intoxicating.

The first flurries of sand whipped past her, stinging her eyes almost as much as the tears.

“It’s over.” He made the statement in front of half the school as she stood with books in her arms, waiting for him to walk her to class.

She giggled. “Stop it, Burk. Come on.”

How had she been so stupid as to think he was joking? The soft gleam in his eye morphed into a sardonic luster, yet it hadn’t been enough to tip her off.

“I’m going to be late,” she said.

“I’m not stopping you.” He draped his arm over Lisa’s shoulders, who smacked her watermelon gum between blinding teeth framed by cherry-red lipstick. “Lisa has algebra.”

Wind lashed at her ponytail as the dust churned in umber sheets that latched onto her, sinking into hidden creases and lining her tear-streaked face. She squinted at the sky. A dim amber shone in the southwest, nearly concealed by the storm. Her arms still pumped as pain rose from her feet into her shins.

The last class of the day had ended, and she’d stared at the empty parking lot, wondering how to get home. Her backpack had fallen from her shoulder as she’d sunk to a bench. Why would Sarah have waited? She’d gone to the chemistry early, angry at Hailey for her servile attitude around Burk.

Sarah narrowed her eyes at Hailey. “You don’t have to do everything he wants.”

“I don’t,” Hailey sputtered. “Besides, he hasn’t asked me to do anything today.”

“So I didn’t see you slip him your algebra homework this morning?”

“I, I…he just wanted to compare answers.”

“With an eraser? Sure.” She turned her back on Hailey but stopped short with her first step. “He’s using you.”

The clouds, so gloriously white before, gathered over the roiling dust and sand. Though Hailey knew they were gray underneath, the dirt spun too thickly around her to see anything but filth. It wasn’t just on the outside, though, it also laced her insides, pouring in with every breath.

She’d let him cheat off her homework, given him answers in the guise of tutoring, prepared research for reports. And it took him breaking up with her to see it. A few silky sentences had taken who she was and twisted her into something she’d sworn she’d never become. She couldn’t recover.

Though her legs tired and her lungs burned, she continued. Rolling thunder soon crashed within the sky as fingers of lightening fought to reach her. Pain seared in her side, yet she pushed on as drops of water struck the pavement, drying seconds later.

The last car in the teacher’s parking lot had turned onto the road before she started home. A note hung on the door when she got there. Went to dinner for Grandma’s birthday, expected you sooner. Leftovers are in the fridge. Grandma’s birthday. Hailey had thrown her backpack against the wall and screamed. It hadn’t helped. Yanking the door open, she’d run.

And she hadn’t stopped.

A flash of lightning lit the sky, followed almost immediately by a crash of thunder. The sky burst open. Rain fell too fast for the dry ground to soak it up. Hailey’s ponytail plastered itself against her neck. Loose strands of hair stuck to her cheeks. Gritty skin softened, and Hailey jumped into the water rushing down the gutter. Water splashed her thighs. She stopped running. As she glanced up, the rain pelted her face and streamed toward her ears. Opening her mouth, tiny droplets caressed her dry tongue and throat. Arms wide, she spun in a circle.

So she’d been stupid—fell for a guy because he sent tingles down her spine? She wasn’t the first. Probably wouldn’t be the last. It hurt, but she could climb beyond the storm, start anew, blossom in a different way. But first…

She spun one last time and looked up the block. The house hadn’t changed. That was a good sign, right? After knocking, she waited.

“What?” Sarah had opened the door a crack and peeked through. “You’re soaked.”

“Yeah…” Hailey scratched the ground with her foot. “Burk broke up with me.”

“Oh.”

Hailey crinkled her nose. “You were right.” She startled as a crash of thunder ripped through the sky and the rain tempered. “I screwed up.”

“You did.”

“I’m not going to fall for that kind of thing again. I shouldn’t have in the first place.”

The corner of Sarah’s mouth raised, and she swung the door wider. “Well, he is pretty cute.”

“Not that cute.”

Sarah giggled. “Want some dry clothes?”

Hailey held her t-shirt out and glanced at it. “Nah. I’m good in these. See you tomorrow, okay?”

The door shut behind Hailey as she shuffled down the driveway. Sore muscles and exhaustion brought a smile to her face as she gazed at the street. A few fallen tree limbs blocked the sidewalk, and sand blanketed the road where water had run toward the retention basin. Lifting her eyes, she gazed at the sky. The last of the sunlight set behind the hills in the west, leaving red, pink, and orange painted across the remaining wispy clouds. Listening, she heard lizards rustling under the bushes and reveled in the fragrance of creosote and mesquite as it wafted through the fresh air of the renewed desert, cleansed by the churning monsoon.

                  Photograph by Alan Stark 2011
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Book Review: The Spec Set

Spending several weeks of his summer at a geeky science camp babysitting his odd younger brother isn’t the highlighted path E wants to travel.

Spending several weeks of his summer at a geeky science camp while babysitting his odd younger brother isn’t the highlighted path E wants to travel. Then, to top it all off, paths surround him as he and his brother become the focus of the FBI in The Spect Set.

Taya Okerlund creates a remarkable story that follows two brothers on the unexpected adventure of their lives. And though Max, the younger brother, knows of his talents, Emile (E) is just discovering his. A fun YA story filled with excitement, The Spec Set is one I enjoyed reading.

My Thoughts on the Spec Set:

Told through the eyes of Emile, the Spec Set brings the fun vernacular of a teenage boy burdened by too much responsibility for a younger sibling. What makes it worse? Max doesn’t speak. On the rare occasion he does, the single word response hardly covers the required answer. Though watching his brother at science camp isn’t an idea E likes, he still stands up for him regularly. Luckily, Lilly, the latest pain in his side, likes Max and helps out as much as she can. Eventually, when E’s own reality seems to explode, Lilly and Max let him in on a little secret, and he meets the rest of the Spec Set.

I quite enjoyed reading this fun story. Much of Max’s characteristics are obviously written in a way that leads the reader to believe he has Autism with selective mutism. Having a child of my own with Autism, I found the writing well-done. In fact, the story follows kids with conditions who have developed superpowers. The story states clearly they are not savants, but, wow, do they have talents!

So often, incredible children with neuro-diversities are left by the wayside, uncelebrated despite their amazing talents and qualities. The Spec Set may be science fiction but the preface behind it isn’t.

The book could use a good proofread. There are several instances of simple mistakes, usually out of place or incorrect words. It did affect my attention to a degree, and I would preface this point before handing it to my children to read. The story is squeaky clean and perfect for both boys and girls of any age, though readability probably begins with middle graders.

The Official Blurb:

Copernicus Science camp looks harmless enough on the surface, at least no one will tell you otherwise, least of all Max McKenzie, who doesn’t speak at all. He can’t even defend himself when he’s implicated in a high stakes chemical theft from the camp lab. Or can he?

His brother Emile is desperate to help, but he’s waking up to his own problems–chief among them the fact that he’s developed an incredible (and incredibly dangerous) new ability. He doesn’t know how to control his awesome new power, and turns to the one person he’s loathe to ask: Lilly Fang.

Lilly has everything under control, including other people’s biochemistry. (Or is Emile really that crazy about her?) Either way, she’s hiding a boat-load of secrets (and secret powers).

Lilly assembles a team of friends like none Emile’s ever dreamed of to help Max.

There’s Fetu, a near giant, whose presence alone seems to suck the air out of the room. Or does he do that literally?

And Danika, who’s so shy she seems to fade right into the background. Or does she actually become invisible?

And Eliza, who never lifts a finger–but is that because she lifts things with her mind? 

The Spec Set will need all of their combined strengths (and their weaknesses) to combat a threat reaching all the way go to another universe.

More info:

Purchase your copy of the Spec Set on Amazon
Follow Taya Okerlund on Goodreads

I received an ARC copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
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Book Review: Diving for Love by Jenny Rabe

What do you do when you realize you’ve fallen in love with your best friend and he’s dating the girl that’s tormented you all year? Mariana set out to fulfill a new goal: forget about it. See how it all works out in Diving for Love by Jenny Rabe.

Book Review: Diving for Love

Jenny Rabe, a wonderful YA author and one of my favorite online personas, went on more than 150 dates before settling down with her husband and having soon-to-be four children. Certainly, this plays a part in her romance-writing abilities, which she demonstrates clearly in Diving for Love. This story may be for young adult readers, but ladies, you are bound to enjoy it, too.

My Thoughts:

Who of us hasn’t enjoyed the tingle of young love? I’m all for the rich and fulfilling love twenty-three years of marriage has provided me, but remembering the feelings of teenage love still puts a smile on my face. And though Disney stories are fun, my favorite young love stories include characters who don’t experience love at first sight.

Diving for Love starts with the classic story of a girl who falls in love with her best friend. When events turn against Mariana, due to the thick blinders Dennis wears when it comes to his mean girlfriend, she sets goals to forget the whole crush idea, focus on earning money for college, and to take care of Abuela. Having the new employee, Sam, diving with her at the snuba shop seems to help, especially when he shows interest in her.

The situations Mariana finds herself in float readers through a fictional reality that I quite enjoyed. Her love for Abuela and confusion over Dennis and Sam don’t come across as contrived, but as the emotions everyone feels at one point or another. I found myself laughing with and talking to the characters as if they could hear me, as well as worrying about what might happen next. The author’s casted ripples of mystery that appear throughout the story riveted me. Well-written, filled with plenty of punny humor, and completely clean, every romantic is sure enjoy Diving for Love.

Official Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Mariana Rodriguez is devastated when her best friend and long-time crush, Dennis, chooses to date her tormentor over her. She plunges into work at her uncle’s dive shop, determined to sink her feelings for Dennis. When the new employee, Sam, shows interest in her, Mariana feels like she’s found the perfect springboard to moving on.

After both the shop and her abuela’s house are vandalized, Mariana can’t help but suspect that the two events are connected. She reluctantly calls on the one person who can help her, but allowing Dennis back into her life only makes her feelings for Sam murky. To protect her family from financial ruin, Mariana must decide who to trust. And with any luck, she’ll get her chance at true love along the way.

More Info:

Purchase your e-book or print copy of Diving for Love on Amazon.

Follow Jenny Rabe on Facebook   Twitter   Goodreads
Visit Jenny’s website and her newsletter.

Receive your free download of Sometimes A Bird Has to Fly, my favorite flash fiction piece by visiting KameoMonson.com, where you can also find more book reviews, recommended reads, flash fiction, and stories about me.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.
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