Authors: Elissa Janine Hoole
Tags: #Fiction, #Family, #english, #Self-Perception, #church
Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always
© 2013 by Elissa Janine Hoole.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either 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. Cover models used for illustrative purposes only and may not endorse or represent the book’s subject.
First e-book edition © 2013
E-book ISBN: 9780738739489
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Cover design by Lisa Novak
Cover photo: “For a Rainy Day” by Brian Oldham
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for my students, for the poems in each of them—
Thank you to my family, to D and the boys, for mostly holding it all together while I’m writing and even making sure that I occasionally remember to drag myself away for an adventure or two. Thank you to all my family and friends for their enthusiasm and their love and for letting me know that they support me in this dream. Unending thanks to the musers, for their everything.
So many thanks to my agent, Sarah Davies, whose unwavering belief in me as a writer is only a steady email away, for her calm British voice on the phone talking strategy and hope even as she tells me the truth about what I need to work on.
Thanks to my editor, Brian Farrey-Latz, for loving these characters and this story, for his understanding and his vision. To Mallory Hayes, Sandy Sullivan, and the whole team at Flux, who are amazing and helpful, and for the breathtakingly gorgeous cover art and this whole awesome experience.
Thanks also to Melanie Kroupa, for her revision notes that helped strengthen this book immensely, and to my beta readers, whose advice is always the best. Thank you Cat Hellisen, Kari Olson, Ryan Gebhart, Amanda Thrasher, Amelia Volkman, Jenny Pinther, and all who read excerpts and talked me through plot problems and helped me interpret tarot cards!
Most of all, thanks to YA readers, and to the teens who stand up to be selves worth celebrating!
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1. The three words that
best describe you …
I find out on the first day of the New Year that I am the least interesting person I know.
Okay. So there’s this stupid survey that Kayla sent me. Everyone on my friends list is doing it—tagging each other, competing to be the coolest, the wittiest, the craziest, the wildest. Even my kid sister Dicey’s answers are more original than mine, and she’s only thirteen. She has her horseback riding and her spelling bees or whatever. What do I do? Or, maybe more accurately, what do I do that is only mine?
I frown at the screen. I’ve been stuck on the first question forever.
What have you done this year that you have never done before?
There’s Kayla’s answer, bold and sassy in front of me. Kayla, who not only got her own car (okay, so it’s an old hearse, painted purple), but also lost her virginity
got to go cliff-diving in Jamaica for her dad’s wedding (okay, so the virginity thing sounds like it wasn’t all that great, and now she has to put up with the evil stepmother, but
). Looking at her answers on this survey, I feel less like her best friend and more like an inexplicably drab accessory.
“Cassandra, let’s go. We’ll be late. And what are you doing on that computer again? I know you’ve been on longer than an hour today.”
Yes, my mother still restricts my computer use, as though I’m in preschool. I had a tiny hope that some things would change when I turned seventeen—maybe my parents would start treating me like an almost-adult—but so far it’s been almost twenty-four hours and nothing has changed.
“Yeah, I’m logging off.”
Dicey sticks her tongue out at me, but when Mom looks over, she’s prim as can be, her pink leather Bible carrier clutched to her chest. “What about Eric?” she says, bouncing on her heels. “Aren’t we waiting for him?”
Mom’s lips purse together, a sure sign she’s lying. “Eric doesn’t feel well this evening, honey. We’ll go without him this time.”
Yeah right. Okay, stupid Internet survey. What’s one thing I’ve done this year that I’ve never done before? How about walking in on my brother giving his boyfriend a blow job? No need to wonder why Eric doesn’t feel like sitting through Fire and Brimstone Hour three times a week at the Joyful News Bible Church.
“Let’s go, Cass.” Mom hands me my church coat, a navy blue wool with silver frog fasteners up the front that makes me look about twelve. “Don’t forget your Bible like last time.” I nod. My Bible is safely ensconced on the bookcase beside my bed, where it’s been for the last two months. Gathering dust.
Dicey smiles at me, crossing her eyes for the tiniest of moments before trooping out the door after Dad. Dicey’s all right, if a little silly. Her presence in my life feels sometimes like a promise of good things to come—like I can see what kind of sister she’ll be to me when we’re both older, when we’ll be better aligned, somehow.
I’m still thinking about the survey when Pastor Fordham stands and launches into his Neverending Sermon.
What was your biggest achievement this year?
Making it through a semester of Trigonometry without asking Ms. Mueller why she doesn’t wax her mustache? Speaking a nearly coherent sentence to Flynn Roberts while making eye contact? (Okay, so I actually looked at his eyebrow, and the sentence in question was more of a fragment—“Broken pencil?”—which was fairly idiotic anyway, since he was standing there behind me in line for the sharpener. It was no surprise that Flynn raised an irritated eyebrow and said, “Are you done, then?” instead of whispering seductively the exact time I should ask for a bathroom pass to meet him for a secret make-out session in practice room three, as I may or may not have fantasized about him doing.)
I mean, Eric and I have our foster pigs—right now a sweet pair of sisters named Pumpkin and Nutmeg—but fostering the guinea pigs was Eric’s idea, a service project for youth group, actually. And I did manage to get a job of sorts doing the page layout for the church newsletter, but that’s only because my mom is computer illiterate. Is that it, then? My greatest accomplishment this year? Not stellar SAT scores, not building housing for homeless with my bare hands (okay, so Emily Friar probably didn’t use her bare hands or even really build anything, but you wouldn’t know that by reading her precious, self-congratulatory, long-winded answer to that stupid question), not winning a graphic novel contest like Kayla did and getting flown out to Seattle to meet all the artists she worships. Not making first-chair violin like Cordelia Mandelbraun wrote about, but like, does she realize that nobody in the entire violin section is any good? Most of us only pretend to play.
Dicey’s sharp elbow digs into my side and I sit up with a start. “I wasn’t sleeping,” I whisper-hiss, elbowing her back.
“Daydreaming,” Dicey murmurs, her eyes fastened piously on the preacher, or rather on the projection of him that fills the front wall of the church, since Pastor Fordham is prowling the aisles—his holy spittle raining down on the sinners in his wake.
“I’m contemplating various methods of suicide,” I whisper back. Dicey smirks and pulls her eyes away from the front for a brief moment.
“You’re going to hell, Cass,” she says. She’s teasing, but she also believes it, a little bit. Or she’s too scared to
I nod slowly, looking around the gigantic church. Heads sway rhythmically in time to the preacher’s rocking cadence. “I’m already there, Dice,” I say.
It’s funny, okay? A joke. But in truth, it’s like all of this is part of it. Part of this feeling, like nothing I am, nothing I
, is coming from me alone, from some essential core of who I am as a person—what makes me my own. Church is my parents. Church is this family, my sister. My brother, in a way that gets a little messier. But it’s not me.
My sister gives me a long look. “Melodrama,” she says, her whisper barely audible. “I’m telling you, you need to try out for the school play.”
“Girls.” Dad glares at us from the end of the pew, but I see the angle of his frown and I can tell it’s all for show. He reaches his arm around my mother and squeezes my shoulder lightly, his eyes fastened to the screen ahead. I try to shrug away from his hand—from this patriarchal display of possession. But he’s my dad. I watch his profile until Mom glances over and nods pointedly at the screen, where Pastor Fordham speaks fervently about the sinfulness of what he calls sorcery. What normal people call fiction.
2. One thing nobody
knows about you …
Terry, our youth group director, sits at the head of the table, clutching his guided discussion questions, ready to lead our discussion on the topic of tonight’s sermon: fantasy books. “I’ve read all of those vampire books,” confesses Drew Godfrey, slipping into the chair next to me. Her hair, as usual, is not quite clean.
I force myself to smile. Terry notices I’ve “forgotten” my Bible once again. The muscle beneath his eye pulses twice, rapidly, and his mouth turns down.
“We can share,” Drew says quickly. She scoots her chair a few inches closer, her elbow brushing mine. I try not to recoil.
“It’s okay. I’m an auditory learner.” One hour of this, followed by cookies and paper cups of warm, watery Kool-Aid and I can go home. One hour. Anyone can endure one hour, right?
Terry directs the discussion toward the “literature” that Pastor Fordham referenced in his message. A few kids, Drew included, tentatively defend the vampire books, and they talk for what feels like forever about wizards or maybe werewolves.