Sneak Peak! “Don’t Look Close”

I’m still not sure on the title, but it comes! The next book! Just have to do one more once over to make sure nothing lame is leftover…at least, as much as I can.

My next book up to be released features a teen programmer who, after getting kicked out by her step-dad, moves in with her wealthy biological father. She spends the book trying to tear herself away from an emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend while making a life for herself at a prosperous school where she feels like the odd one out. While there, she happens upon an anti-social white hat hacker who’s as grouchy as he is appreciative of her poorly hidden sarcastic outlook on life.

Chapter One

I didn’t know how I had ended up here. One minute I’m living in a tiny, dirty apartment where we played ‘whack a roach’ every morning, and the next I was on the edge of New Hampshire, looking at a yellow Victorian mansion that could have popped out of Pride and Prejudice. I tried not to flinch when the owner of this huge house, my sort of long-lost dad, tried to take my old, ratty red suitcase from me. He did so awkwardly, but somehow managed to not make himself look like a complete goober going up the stairs and across the porch with it.

“I’ve got your room all ready for you, Aurora. I hope you like purple, because that’s the last color I remember you telling me you liked.”

“Yeah,” was all I managed to say, seeing as I couldn’t make my throat work. I had never seen where my dad lived. Whenever I had asked, he only told me about the weather, which I had long ago decided he was obsessed with. Not too hot. Not too cold, and a lot rainier than Nevada.

My old pink cell in my pocket went off. The five second tune was both jazzy and poppy, called ‘Bossa.’ I ignored it, and so did he.

It would be an understatement to say I felt out of place when I stepped onto the red Persian rug in the foyer. Everything was made out of dark wood and out-of-a-magazine/movie décor, fit for a princess or freaking Jane Austin herself.

And then there was me, dressed in my favorite pair of ratty jeans and a Pikachu shirt.

The Bossa ringtone went off again.

“It’s up here,” he said, starting up the stairs. “I picked the room with a turret and lots of windows. And you came just in time for Autumn. You’re going to love the colors; they’re spectacular!”

“So you’ve told me.” Like a million, bajillion times.

“Denise should be home soon, so you just tell her what you like to eat, and she’ll fix it up for you.”

I froze, foot above a step. “You’re married?” I hated the way my stomach jerk-twisted at that thought. So what if my dad was married? It wasn’t like he told me anything. Like that he lived in a freaking mansion.

He looked just as alarmed as me. “No! No, no, she’s the cook. When I get busy I forget to eat, and she came highly recommended. Had her for a few years now.”

Well, jee, I’m sorry. If I had known I had to look in the weekly cover of ‘Richest Damn People In America,’ to get updates on my father, I would have.

Another ring of blue Bossa. Dad finally took notice.

“Someone trying to get a hold of you?”

“It’s just a text.” And with a bit of warmth to my cheeks, I slipped it out and turned it down to vibrate. I didn’t have to look to know from whom the ten unread texts had come.

The phone gave my butt cheek a massage all the way up to my room, which was at the end of an equally lavish hall with warm yellow wallpaper and paintings. I almost asked, ‘who’s your decorator?’ But I knew I wouldn’t be able to say it without sounding just a tiny bit sarcastic. Sarcasm was a reason he left my mom, after all.

“Here we are.”

I thought I’d gotten over my shock in the driveway. Apparently, my dad still had more in store.

My room had been painted a soft lavender and was as big as the living room in my mom’s house. A full-size bed that screamed for someone to belly flop on it was against the far left wall, surrounded by silver and lavender curtains. On the right side, one corner rounded into a turret and was filled with huge, vintage looking windows. The sunshine outside glimmered off a TV, and what looked like to be a PS4 and a Nintendo WiiU. An empty bookshelf, with only three or four games, stood beside the entertainment center. There were two doors to either side of the bed, one which went into the walk in closet, the other to the bathroom.

My dad gestured to the video game consoles, looking awkward even as he did so. “I didn’t know what you liked, so I figured we could, um, go shopping together some time and pick them out. I put some of my favorites there for you to try. Your mother also tells me you like books so we can get some as well, that is, if none of the books in the library satisfy you, though I don’t think you’d be much into business manuals. I guess you can say I just like textbook stuff. Did I miss anything?”

“Miss anything?” I said faintly. From the small crystal chandelier on the ceiling to the green velvet Lovesac in the corner (which I remembered being at least $1,000 in the mall), what I couldn’t believe was that all of this could be mine.

And yet I could only think of the miniscule room I had back home, which I had shared with two of my sisters, one half, the other step; and where there was only enough room to walk to the closet and beds. I wanted to scream, ‘where have you freaking been all my life!’ Instead, I said “Dad, you didn’t have to do this. Giving me a place to stay is more than enough.”

He gave me a weak smile. I saw his ears perk up with it and move wrinkles up the sides of his forehead. He had dirty blond hair, like me, but had recently acquired a buzz cut. “Don’t say that, or I won’t have any excuse to take you out.”

“Why would you need an excuse?” Is that why you stopped taking me out after I was ten? Because you ran out of excuses?

“Because I have too much work; and I want to be able to tell my clients to bug off for a bit without feeling guilty. Besides, video games are awesome, and one of these days I’m going to take you to this Mexican joint next to the college.” He put on a comical look of bliss. “Mm, mm! Good stuff. And the lady there, my friend, she escaped a drug cartel and has the craziest stories, really makes you grateful for what you have.”

Dad had a lot of friends. Though, it wasn’t hard to get Dad to call you his friend, if my memory served me right. You just had to listen to him talk and then be from out of the country or some other weirdness when you talked back. I wondered if I had stopped being interesting, like Mom.

“I’ll take your word for it.” I said. “Mind if I unpack?”

He wilted with relief. “Go right ahead, though I need you to try on that uniform in the closet before dinner. They want a response by tonight on whether it fits or not.”

With that, he closed the door behind him, leaving me to my lavished corner of his castle. For a full five minutes I just stood there, breathing, smelling the faint fragrance in the air. The carpet beneath me felt squishy and thick, and I took off my shoes to feel it.

Then I tipped my head back and started to cry.

Because back home in Nevada I had been terrified to ask for lunch money from my parents because of the screaming fights that would ensue. Even now my stomach grumbled from a week of stale bread, carrots, and cereal. But my dad… he had had this waiting for me all along and then had the gall to pretend that we were best friends.

Biting my lip to try and get a hold of myself, I took out my old pink flip phone. It had been my mom’s phone, and when she got an upgrade she gave this one to me. I flicked it open and felt the pressure squeezing out the tears from my eyes increase and the cramping in my chest grow.

They were all from him. Just as I knew they would be.

I forced myself to drop the phone onto the carpet, where the vibrations would be muffled, and yet still heard. I hated myself for not being able to just turn the damn thing off.

 

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