YAPC would like to welcome Anne Wentworth to the blog today. She is here to share an excerpt and some info about her book Shake the Spiders. If this looks like something you would like to read, please go grab a copy!
Life hasn’t been kind to Kim Baylor. She’s fourteen going on old. After losing her dad seven years ago, life has gone downhill. Her mom’s drinking is taking a real toll on both their lives and Kim just wants to survive the chaos. Kim is dumped off at her grandma’s farm in small-town Manitoba for the summer, though she hasn’t seen her grandma since before her dad died. Life really starts to change—Kim finds Grandma Haley and her two odd friends aren’t the country bumpkins she’d thought they’d be.
Then life on the farm takes on a spooky twist with paranormal sightings and the legend of Rawlings Mannakee’s lost gold. With Jammer—her grandma’s huge black cat—at her side, she embarks on a summer filled with trying to understand the mysterious events at Haley’s farm, solving the mystery of the missing Mannakee gold and beginning her own process of healing from her mother’s destructive drinking.
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The arguing had long since stopped. Only silence, the fourth passenger in the vehicle, remained. Kim allowed her gaze to wander out the car window and into the passing landscape. For hours it had been the same—flat. No, that was a lie. There had been some variation. Prairie grass, vast fields and more—wait for it—flat!
Her mother sat in the front seat, busy filing her nails. Kim shot her mother’s boyfriend a daggered look in the rear-view mirror. Normally he was the one who took her side. The reliable voice of reason between her and her train wreck of a mother.
“Kim, it’s only for the summer. We just couldn’t afford it. The prize was for two adults. You know I can’t change the rules. Please don’t be angry, Kimmy.” Drew peeked over the top of his thick, black-framed glasses to give Kim a sheepish smile.
Kim blew her breath out hard to stop herself from screaming. She hated it when anyone called her Kimmy. That was a baby name. She was fourteen years old, and no baby, not with some of the things she’d done. Drew would be surprised if he knew.
“It’s Kim, not Kimmy. I just don’t see why I can’t stay at home. I’m used to doing everything for myself.” The jab at her mother was not missed.
“You know damn well why not. We’ve gone over this, Kim. I already made arrangements with Grandma Haley. She hasn’t seen you for years. It will be good for her to have some company now that Grandpa is gone. I can go away and not have to worry about either of you.” Lillian turned in the seat, giving Kim the full effect of her exasperated expression.
Bitch. You selfish cow. It isn’t about me or Grandma. It’s all about you. The only reason I haven’t seen Grandma in years is because you keep her at arm’s length. Kim allowed the silence to build a wall, filling the space between them until her mother turned back to adjust the stereo. The twang of country music filled the car.
Drew had won the trip from a work draw over Easter. Two weeks at a lake resort in Manitoba with all expenses paid. They had decided to take it over the summer holiday. She really shouldn’t be so hard on Drew. He had tried to include her. It wasn’t really his fault the resort was adults only, and he had sincerely apologized for not being able to take her along. It was her mother who had soured everything else. The trip was two weeks, not the entire summer. Drew had tried to convince Lillian to let Kim stay at home with a friend over, but Lillian didn’t want that. Her mother had decided that it might be good for her and Drew to have the rest of the summer after they got back. So, the plan to unload Kim at Grandma Haley’s had been hatched.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like her Grandma. She just didn’t really know her. Years had passed since she’d really seen her. Going to stay with someone she didn’t know left Kim feeling a bit apprehensive. First, Grandma lived on a now-defunct farm in Manitoba. Second, the nearest town was very small and would have nothing of interest in it. Third, well, did there really need to be a third after that? Besides, Grandpa Zack had died and Kim knew in her gut that things would be different. The last time she’d ever really spent time with them was when she’d been six. They’d stopped for a week at the farm. A flash image of her father went through her mind and Kim immediately felt a small pain shoot through her heart. She swallowed the memory down, instead trying to picture her grandpa. Grandpa Zack had been fun. He’d mimic everyone and do funny faces. Time had changed their lives and not for the better.
They’d left Calgary and stayed overnight in Regina. Kim and Lillian had shared a hotel room. Drew had had his own. That had given him some reprieve from her mother’s nasty habit. Lillian thought that was more than enough of a ‘fun trip’ for Kim before they dropped her off and went on to the resort. Kim knew they would have driven all night if Lillian had gotten her way. Drew had insisted that the overnight stop was necessary. He’d let Kim hit the mall one last time. At least the man had a heart. It was more than she could attest to for her own mother. This trip would be the longest continuous time Drew and Lillian had ever spent together. Kim wondered how long it would last once Drew found out the truth about her mother.
She rested her head against the soft fabric of the seat back. It was almost nine in the evening and twilight was fast becoming night. The roads had gotten much rougher over the past hour, but the car pushed on, leaving a trail of dust in its wake.
It was going to happen. They didn’t care if she was happy or not—just out of the way. That’s what it felt like, being swept aside because your very existence was an inconvenience. Since her dad had died seven years ago, her mother had become a whole new person. Or had she? Was this horrid creature the true Lillian? It shocked her how another person’s presence could make such a difference—until they went. After they left, reality settled in, bringing an ugliness with it. Had her father really been that much of a buffer zone in their small family of three? From the day her dad had died, Lillian had made her feel like she was an intrusion in her life. It wasn’t that she said anything directly to Kim, but she sure could feel it. Until Drew had come along, Kim had wondered if she and Lillian would be able to tolerate one another for much longer. Despite the other men that had meandered through Lillian’s love life, none had eased the strained relationship between mother and daughter. They had simply been around, never providing any respite from the chaos and the fighting. When Drew had shown up, he’d essentially become the replacement buffer zone, except the majority of the time he got the nice façade Lillian, and she got the nasty Lillian. His presence in their lives meant Lillian had had to be sober more of the time.
A small cluster of lights in the distance caught Kim’s attention. Was that the town? She remembered Clanwilliam being small, but that small?
“Are we going through town so I can have a look—” But Kim was cut off before she could finish.
“Just keep going, I don’t want this to take all night. Besides, nothing is open. It’s a small town, for God’s sake!” Lillian practically had her hand on the wheel to make sure Drew didn’t try to turn off.
“Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay here for the night?” Exhaustion showed in the dark circles under Drew’s eyes in the rear-view mirror.
“No. I already arranged for us to be late at the resort. It’s only two more hours to get there and they will hold our room.” Lillian’s shrill voice snapped.
And so the journey continued until they had turned onto smaller roads with strange names then no names at all.
“Is that it?” The worry in Drew’s voice hung heavy in the car.
About the Author: Coffee, chocolate and writing = a happy heart. Follow the compass of your heart – you matter!
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