Authors: Tara West
“Stay away from the ledge before you fall!”
“You can’t tell me what to do.”
“Don’t do it, Mike!”
“AJ, wake up. You’re dreaming.”
The sound of my step-dad’s voice startled me. My eyes found Ted’s and then trailed toward his fingers, which had my arm in a tight grip. My focus traveled downward, and I found myself looking at my bare toes that were hanging just over the edge of our empty swimming pool. All I had to do was lean forward, and I’d find myself at the bottom of an eight-foot concrete hole.
“How’d I get out here?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“You were sleepwalking”
“Must have been a pretty wicked dream.” Mike’s voice sounded strangely hollow, like he was speaking from somewhere miles away. I knew he was right behind me, so why did I think he was still in my dream?
The images from that nightmare came racing back and the realization sent my head spinning. Mike was the person who was falling.
My brother was going to die!
I felt my legs give way beneath me. I heard my mother scream as I fell into steady hands.
Don’t Tell Mother
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Don’t Tell Mother
COPYRIGHT Ó 2008 by Tamra Westberry
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 706
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Climbing Rose Edition, 2008
Print ISBN 1-60154-229-1
Published in the United States of America
This book is dedicated to my mom, who has always loved me unconditionally and who has given me the gift of a crazy imagination.
And for Heidi, for all the weird memories we created as kids.
My will was not my own. An invisible force pulled me closer toward the edge. Fear kept my limbs at my side, my arteries as lifeless as an empty graveyard. Only my eyes willed themselves to move—down. The earth below was shrouded in white mist, obscuring the distance to the ground, but I sensed the depth. No person could jump and live to tell. So what propelled my foolish feet forward? Was this a dream? Was I already dead? Another step and I knew I would fall.
Suddenly, I felt the ground beneath me give way. The force of the fall sucked my body into a death-grip; the icy wind slapped my face as I raced downward. I could see nothing through the mist, but the bite of the chill wind licked my arms and legs like a thousand burning whips. As the heat increased, the mist dissolved, and to my horror, I saw my final destination—grey, cold and unwelcoming.
I was going to die.
“Bob? You’re going out with
My best friend, Sophie Sinora, stared at me in mock horror, the juices of her cafeteria hamburger dripping freely onto her napkin. I’d revealed my shocking secret as she was mid-bite of her processed meat product. Bob Klinek had asked me out, and I’d said “yes”.
What made this secret so shocking was that Bob was totally different. He was a skater and a punk. I was the basketball team captain, usually scoring half the team points. Even with that, I considered basketball a warm-up season; I lived for the softball mound. My fast pitch was gaining speed, and my curve ball stumped most batters.
“Forget that he’s a freak.” My other best friend, Krysta Richards, twirled a carrot stick between the tips of her polished fingernails, her olive skin glowing unnaturally beneath too much Glitter Glam. “What kind of name is Bob? It’s so last century.”
I glared at them. “I like his name.”
“Didn’t you have a cat named Bob?” Sophie’s green eyes sparkled with amusement as she tossed her long, chestnut hair behind her shoulder, totally unaware as ketchup carelessly dripped down her chin.
I exhaled. “Yeah, so?”
I knew telling them was a bad idea, but I was trying to stay calm, especially with Sophie. Her eyes had been red and swollen since her BF, Frankie, had moved away last week. Now that she was solo again, I guess I wasn’t allowed to go out with anyone, either.
Krysta leaned over and delicately patted Sophie’s chin with her neatly folded napkin. With a stroke of her hand, she smoothed her frizzy locks down before slanting a smile in my direction. “Bob is a pet’s name.”
“Or a freak’s name,” Sophie said while spewing meat debris onto the lunch table.
Krysta glared at Sophie while making a grand gesture of sweeping the table with her napkin. “Jocks don’t date freaks.”
“In case you’ve forgotten,” I hissed, “I’m a freak, too. Just like you two.”
Which is how we ended up as friends.
We found out about each other’s gifts when we were kids. Even though I was only eight, I knew I was different, and I felt their differences, too. Around them, I didn’t feel strange, and we pledged to keep our gifts secret.
Sophie scanned the cafeteria and then leaned closer. She reeked of the nauseating, sweet-smelling school ketchup substitute. “I didn’t
to read minds and you didn’t
to have visions.”
“And I didn’t ask for dead people to wake me up all night, but Bob
to dye his hair like a parrot and get a Mohawk,” Krysta sneered. “What’s with the duct tape on his wrists? Are you going out with a cutter?”
“No, he’s not cutting.” Bob might have been weird, but my BF didn’t slash his wrists. I wouldn’t have gone out with him if he did. As far as his hair was concerned, green is our school color. Nothing wrong with school pride.
Krysta laughed. “Then he’s too cheap to wear a real bracelet.”
She sounded like a rich snob. No one would know by the way she turned up her nose that she lived in a run-down apartment. Her dad was just as poor, if not poorer, than Bob’s family. Krysta refused to accept that fact and the few clothes she owned were all designer labels.
I clenched my jaw, trying my best to refrain from saying something I’d regret later, although it was hard not to lay a verbal smack down on them—very hard.
Maybe if we talked about something else, I’d cool down. “Speaking of our gifts, I had that dream again last night.”
Sophie’s eyes widened. “The falling dream?”
“Yeah.” I shuddered. Maybe bringing up the dream wasn’t such a hot idea. I was the type of girl who liked to be in control. Plummeting from the sky toward certain death was not my idea of peaceful slumber.
Krysta bit her bottom lip, hesitating before speaking. “Did you see who it was this time?”
I shook my head in disgust. “I woke up.”
Sophie threw down her hamburger. “Why do you keep doing that?”
“Because I was about to crap my pants,” I spat. “Do you know how real my dreams feel? If you were racing toward ice, you’d want to wake up, too.” I wanted to see who it was more than anyone, but how could I see the person’s face, anyway? I was in the body of the falling person.
Wait a minute!
Fear clenched my jaw, and my spine froze.
What if the falling person was me?
“You never mentioned ice before.”
Sophie broke my thoughts.
“Yeah,” I bit back a bitter laugh. “I finally saw the ground this time. It looked shiny and grey, like ice or dirty snow.”
Sophie straightened her spine. “I’m staying away from mountains and airplanes until you figure out who it is.”
Sophie and Krysta knew my dreams came true. Usually, I have cool dreams. I knew the hottest guy in school would ask Sophie to the Freshman Formal. Last month was the first time I’d ever foretold a death, Krysta’s Grammy. I dreamt of her funeral the day before she had a fatal heart attack.
“Now that I am totally spooked...” Krysta tossed me a sideways grin. “Let’s change the subject. What were we talking about again?” She tapped her lip a few times, pretending to be serious. “Oh, yeah, tape.”
“He likes tape.” Keeping my tone even, I tried my best not to let her see I was beyond frustrated. I was ready to drop the subject of Bob. They wanted to judge him before knowing him, so I didn’t see any point in getting angry.
Maybe Bob and I didn’t look like we fit together. I’d worn my pale blonde hair in the same ponytail ever since I could dribble a ball. I didn’t need gobs of makeup or the coolest fashions to look pretty—just jeans and jerseys. Something about the way Bob’s green spikes swayed with his stride was kind of mesmerizing. Although I preferred a natural look, Bob’s clothes and his hair seemed like an extension of his unique personality. I couldn’t imagine him any other way.
“I bet he likes tape,” Sophie laughed, “especially when it’s ripping the hairs off his arms.”
I half-smiled, narrowing my eyes in Sophie’s direction, willing her to read the true meaning behind my grin—
shut your face.
“He doesn’t have hair there anymore.”
“Nice.” Krysta threw back her head. “Can I barf now?”
I sighed, pushing away my half-eaten burger and flexing my knuckles. “I’m leaving before I smack one of you.”
“We’re just looking out for you, AJ.”
Krysta’s tone was much too adult, like she was my mother, which made me even less willing to listen.
“Yeah,” Sophie said, “like when I liked that loser, Jacob, and you told me to ditch him.”
Before she went out with Frankie, Sophie liked this total vomit-heap, Jacob Flushman, but that was way different. Bob had something Jacob didn’t—a life.
a loser.” I closed my eyes and tried to count to ten, something this stupid therapist Mother took me to told me to do. It wasn’t working, because I could hear them snickering about his duct tape. Maybe they’d get tired of me ignoring them and leave.
“He’s got earrings all over the place, AJ,” Krysta nagged. “I never thought you’d go for a freak.”
“Yeah,” Sophie blurted, “and speaking of freaks. Your mom would freak if she found out about Bob.”
I clenched my forehead. Just the thought of my meddling, manipulative mother getting in the way of Bob and me made the aching vein on my temple throb with a vengeance.
I had another reason to keep Bob away from Mother. Nothing I did was ever good enough. If I brought home an A minus, she wondered why it wasn’t an A. If I threw an amazing fast pitch, she complained softball wasn’t as fun as watching my brother Mike play football.
He got all the attention and all the cool stuff. The only reason I finally got a computer was because Mike gave me his hand-me-down when Mother bought him a new one. I still wasn’t allowed a cell phone. I must have been the only girl in ninth grade without one. Things were about to change; I was tired of playing second string to my brother. This was the year I was going to make my mother treat me with respect.
“I heard a boy’s voice on the other end of the phone this morning,” Mother carefully spread her fat-free margarine across her whole-wheat toast. “Who was he?”
I clutched my Sunday comics to keep from looking up at her. The joints in my fingers felt as if they were encrusted in blocks of ice. I dared not twitch a muscle on my face for fear she’d know what I was thinking.
I’d been so careful.
How did she find out?
I told him not to call me, and I only called him when Mother was in her garden or at the store. This wouldn’t have happened if Mother would just let me get a cell phone.
“Bob,” I murmured.
“Yes, Bob.” I tried to sound relaxed, unconcerned, but I knew I wasn’t convincing. Mother had some kind of a secret, parent radar, that sliced and diced the meaning of every look, expression or thought.
“Well,” she purred, “that sounds like a nice, normal name. He must be a pleasant young man.”
“Uh.” My brow twitched. “Yeah.”
“So, is this Bob a boyfriend you haven’t told me about?” Her tone transformed from ‘I’m a sweet, loving mommy’ to ‘I want to plague my daughter with guilt for not confiding in me.’
“Well.” I shrugged, slowly easing down my paper. “Kind of.”
My gaze gradually found hers. If her brows were raised any higher, she could’ve used them to scrape the ceiling.
“When do I get to meet this Bob?” Her lips twisted into a slight snarl and then she relaxed her face into a sweeter expression while she smoothed perfectly manicured fingers through her elegant long, blonde hair.