I’m thrilled to announce my upcoming novel, The Sound of Snap Dragons, will be released on October 6, 2022. I have worked quite hard this past year on this novel, and I think it’s finally ready. To celebrate, I will be posting the first three chapters (including the Prologue) for your enjoyment!
Today’s sneak peek:
Could math class be any more boring? She didn’t think so. Not to mention it was near the end of her day when she was most looking forward to going home. Home meant she’d most likely get to see her father, assuming he wasn’t working late on a case, and they could plan another outing to Folly Beach, to the Washout, where they liked to surf. But, forcing herself to focus, she sat up straight. The teacher only droned on about whatever.
Her attention turned to the far window, where there was a pleasant view of the trees outside. Their leaves were already turning a crisp, burnt orange. Not fully orange and red, no, but just beginning to turn that beautiful color that she loved so much this time of year. It made her glad to have been born in October, and her sixteenth birthday was just two days ago. She and Cat, her best friend, had a great time celebrating her birthday; they went to Kaminsky’s on Market Street for a cappuccino and a slice of cheesecake each.
Her book lay open on the edge of her desk, the pages open to a lesson on trigonometry—not that she understood any of it.
A small ball of crumpled paper smacked her cheek, startling her, and landed on her textbook. Cat was throwing her a sly grin from the next row over, and it was a grin Kylie knew well. Picking it up, she smoothed out the torn paper to read a scrawled line in Cat’s scribbled handwriting.
Party tonight at Tommy D’s house—you in? Pretty sure Chris will be there.
A crudely drawn face with its tongue poking out sat below the scribbled words. Looking back at Cat, she gave a shrug. Of course, she knew which Chris Cat meant—the guy she’d had a crush on for the last year. Not that she ever had the courage to approach him, but perhaps the atmosphere (and a little liquid courage) of a party would give her the nerve to speak to him.
Her head snapped up at the man’s voice. It was not Mr. Johnson speaking, their teacher. Instead, the principal of the school stood in the doorway of the classroom. He was a short man, standing at least a foot under the doorframe, and it was clear that his oversized suit hadn’t been tailored to his size.
Kylie’s stomach turned, and she glanced around to see that everyone’s eyes were on her, burning a hole through her shirt. Heat flashed across her cheeks. Cat, whose eyes were wide, nodded towards the front, urging her to get up already. What could she have possibly done to be summoned by the principal—in person? Everything she’d ever done wrong in her life, hell, in the last few months, flew through her brain at rapid-fire speed. Perhaps it was that time she and Cat skipped Spanish two weeks ago?
“For God’s sake, go,” Cat hissed at her.
Stumbling to her feet, she quickly gathered her textbook and things, shoving them into her backpack, and headed down the aisle of desks as hushed murmurs, giggles, and quiet oohs sounded around her. She couldn’t bear to look at anyone else, instead watching the floor with every step until she reached the principal. Mr. Peterson waved his hand, signaling for her to follow. Something somber about his face, a certain sadness and anxiety, made Kylie’s stomach churn. As far as she knew, Mr. Peterson had never been a particularly stern man, so she had that going in her favor, whatever she was in trouble for. Still, she swallowed down her fear, her throat tightening, and her nerves burst into flames as Mr. Peterson allowed her into his office.
There sat her mother in one of the hard, wooden chairs. Dried, smudged mascara left stains on her cheeks, traces of it wiped away amid the wetness shining in the lights.
“What’s going on?” The words came slow, rolling off her dry tongue, like a desert in her mouth.
Peterson gently closed the door and eased himself around the desk. Leaning his fists against the surface, his eyes darted to Kylie’s mother.
“Go ahead, Mrs. Lewis.”
Her mother’s hands trembled as much as her chin and her lips. “Um, sweet pea,” she began, finally meeting Kylie’s questioning gaze. “The reason I … the reason I’m here … is, well …”
Kylie’s heart pounded wildly in her chest, beating madly against her ribs, so hard it almost hurt. A million different reasons for her mother to be here bounced back and forth, and her brain vacillated between all the possibilities. Her parents were getting a divorce … No, she wouldn’t be here for that. The small room seemed utterly silent as she waited for her mother to speak.
Her words quavered as she continued, “Your father … he’s … he’s gone.”
“Gone? He left?” Kylie prompted, her mind dumb and slow.
A heaving sob escaped her mother’s mouth as her entire body crumpled into itself. “No,” she cried, “he’s dead. He was shot early this morning while on a case.”
It felt as though a bucket of ice had dumped itself over her head. Cold trickled down the crown of her head, spreading through her core until all of her was frozen. She couldn’t move. This couldn’t be right; she just saw her father last night. He had returned home late from working on a case with his partner at the station. Two days ago, he had come home early with a bouquet of her favorite flowers to celebrate her birthday. Snap dragons.
When she was little, her mother kept snap dragons in their garden, and her father would squeeze the sides of their petals to make them talk, giving different colored snap dragons different voices. She would laugh and laugh, demanding that her father continue to make them talk.
But her father couldn’t be gone. He just couldn’t. Her expression didn’t betray her, although her eyes widened. The rest of her, however, remained a cold statue.
“No,” she said. “Dad can’t be gone.”
“He’s gone, sweet pea.” Her mother placed a hand on her arm. Cold radiated from her mother’s palm, her fingertips icy and slightly sweaty. “Eli saw him get—”
But something inside her snapped. She snatched up her backpack and stood abruptly, causing the chair legs to scrape against the floor as she shoved it back, and the back smacked against the wall. Her face was now hot, her cheeks flushed, and she slammed open the door.
“He’s not gone! Eli is lying! I just saw Dad last night!” she shouted.
“Kylie, please,” begged her mother.
Kylie threw her bag onto the vinyl tile, and something inside it made a sad crunching noise. Probably her cell phone. As she stared at her mother, a lump rose in her throat. Tears warmed at the corners of her wet eyes, but she blinked them away, fighting her urge to break down.
He just couldn’t be gone.