YAPC would like to welcome Elissa Harris to the blog today. She is here to share some info and an excerpt of her book M.I.N.D. If this looks like something you would enjoy reading, please go pick up a copy!
THINK YOU’RE ALONE? THINK AGAIN.
Imagine skydiving or bungee jumping or snowboarding off a glacier, and you never have to leave your room. Imagine hooking up with the crush-of-your-life, and you never even have to put on lip gloss. Sixteen-year-old Cassie Stewart can project her mind into other people, and she does it at will. She sees what they see, feels what they feel, but she can’t read their thoughts. It’s a wild ride, but harmless. Or so she thinks. Sure, hanging out in someone else’s body might be a trip, but what if you can’t get back to yourself? What if the body you’re trapped in is committing murder — and the person he’s murdering is you?
FROM CHAPTER 4
Something is wrong with Mrs. Snyder, and I’m not talking about a few cracked ribs. According to her last email, my social studies paper is due any minute now, which is totally nonsensical, since she won’t be back at school for at least another week. Plus, why do we have to write this stupid essay anyway? We’re not going to Hartford after all, and wasn’t that the point? If it’s supposed to be about our impressions, shouldn’t we, like, be there?
Even if I were inclined to work on it, which I’m not, I can’t concentrate. I look around. Only a handful of kids were rounded up in the sweeps. Brendan isn’t among them. At the table in front of me, Zack and Stephanie are sitting so close together they could be sharing deodorant.
How can I focus when the back of Zack’s head is taunting me with its extreme adorableness? Even his ears are adorable. I write in my notebook, “Zack heart Cassie.” Yeah, right. Not in this life. I put down my pen.
How dumb is sweeps anyway? If you’re found in the hallway after the bell, you get to miss first period. And the problem is…?
I glance at the poster on the wall. On it are the rules for hallway offenders:
1. No talking. (Who would I to talk to, Zack? Just saunter over there, la-la-la, all nonchalant? What would I say to him? So how’ve you been, and by the way, why are you with that skank?)
2. No eating or drinking. (Ridiculous. Is this not a cafeteria? Just thinking about food makes my stomach growl. Hopefully no one hears. I probably shouldn’t have skipped breakfast, but I wasn’t in the mood for scrambled tofu. There’s a Hershey bar in my backpack. I could sneak my hand in, pull out the bar, chew it softly… Not a good plan. The foil would sound all crackly, like at the movies. Funny how I always end up sitting next to someone unwrapping something complicated.)
3. No cell phones, laptops, or tablets. (More ridiculousness. No laptop? How am I supposed to do any work? No snickering, please.)
4. No reading other than school material. (Forget Cosmo.)
5. No chair rocking. (Huh?)
6. No sleeping. (After the first five rules, this one’s hard.)
Since there’s nothing else to do, I try to work on my essay, but I’m having a brain drain. How can I write about the Connecticut government without the Internet? (See Rule #3.) I raise my hand. Mr. Greene is busy fiddling with his phone, so I clear my throat. Obviously, Rule #3 doesn’t apply to vice principals.
He looks up. “Yes?”
“Can I go to the library?”
He stares at me like my nose is a pimple. Stephanie snorts, and Zack twists his head all the way around like he’s possessed by a demon. I feel my neck redden. Apparently it was a dumb idea. Can you tell this is my first time in sweeps?
Stephanie whispers something in Zack’s ear. He laughs and whispers back. “Stop it,” she says in a voice that says the opposite. She’s so obvious she could be a billboard.
Mr. Greene glares at her. “One more time, and I’m sending you to the principal.” He lowers his head and goes back to his fiddling.
A moment later, Mrs. Cramdon from the office comes into the cafeteria and hands him a note. Mr. Greene frowns and takes off his glasses. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Cassie, you’re in charge.”
What? Why me? Is my middle name Snitch? As he’s leaving, Zack makes a gun with his fist, aims at him, and shoots. Then I hear a rumbling. This time it’s his stomach, and it’s really loud. Stephanie giggles.
Maybe I should offer him my chocolate bar. It would be the perfect excuse for me to go over there and talk to him, except for three things:
1. See Rule #1 for hallway offenders. Except who would report me? Me?
2. I’m a coward.
3. His hand is on Stephanie’s knee. Obviously it’s not chocolate he’s hankering for.
She turns around and gives me a long, smug look, like she knows I like him. Oh, God. If she knows, does Zack know?
Her eyes don’t leave my face as she grabs his head and smacks her lips to his, and the next thing I know they’re kissing like they’re trying to crawl into each other’s mouths. He gropes at her waist; she closes her eyes. My wounded heart can’t take it, so I close my eyes too, and as much as I despise her, as much as I fervently wish that a house will fly by and land on her overly hormoned body, at that moment there’s no other person in the world I’d rather be.
The scent of lilac swirls around me.
This time I’m ready for it. This time, despite my aching heart, despite my supreme jealousy, not only am I not terrified, I’m thinking, Yeah, baby, bring it on!
Zack probes his tongue deeper, so deep I fear for her tonsils. I can’t believe it’s finally happening. Not just me and Zack kissing, but me kissing, period. It’s true, I admit it. I’ve never been kissed, I’m embarrassed to say. I’m totally jazzed that he’s my first tongue. Too bad it’s really Stephanie he’s kissing.
Except his lips feel limp, like she’s kissing cream cheese. Plus, he tastes like sour milk and she’s trying not to gag. “Oh, Zack,” she purrs, her mouth glued to his. “Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop.” She’s saying the words, but her throat feels constricted. He reaches under her T, his hand cold and clammy as it inches its way up, sliding under her bra. His free hand glides down her painted-on jeans. She moans, except it feels forced, like she’s trying to swallow a hiccup. She grabs his neck and pulls him practically on top of her, right there on the chair.
No way, I’m thinking. How much farther can they go? What about decorum? What about Rule #5?
Seriously? If I’m supposed to feel everything she feels, could she at least not feel like a zombie? Maybe hearing bells is a little optimistic, but where are the tingles? Where’s the heat that’s supposed to course through your veins? Why isn’t her heart bursting through her ribcage? Were all those romance novels lying?
He squeezes her left boob and she gets an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. It’s like I’m seven years old again and I’m playing doctor with Jordan Weatherfield. Then suddenly I hear a whoosh! and the door swings open. Zack bounces off Stephanie faster than a trampoline gymnast. She smooths down her shirt, but Mr. Greene isn’t looking at either of them. He’s too busy stalking over to my table where I’m out cold, head in my hands. Everyone is staring at me, waiting to see what happens next.
I need to get back to my body pronto, but I don’t know how this works. What did I do the last two times? I remember wanting to get out, but that can’t be all there is to it. Can it? I concentrate as hard as I can, but nothing happens.
Oh. My. God. What if I’m stuck in Skankville forever?
“Rule Number Six,” Mr. Greene says, tapping my shoulder. “No sleeping allowed.”
Stephanie pulls out her lipstick and puckers her mouth, and all at once, as quick as one of her fake-passion hiccups, I’m back in myself.
All right! Except I’m busted again, and there’s a tsunami in my head.
“I want a five-hundred-word essay on why you shouldn’t break the rules,” Mr. Greene says, “and I want it on my desk tomorrow morning.”
Great. On top of my regular homework, my social studies paper, and that psychology presentation I have to make next Monday but still have no clue what to do it on, now this. I have a life, you know. Okay, not really, but how am I supposed to get one with all this work? Seriously, I get penalized for literally doing nothing while Casanova and the skank get off scot-free. Where’s the justice in that?
About the Author: Originally from Montreal, Canada, Elissa has been a donut maker, a librarian, a programmer and an editor — but always a writer. When not obsessing over commas and clauses, Elissa enjoys binge-watching, people-watching, photography and bluegrass. She now lives in Arizona, where she continues to suffer from an overactive imagination.
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