Category Archives: On Writing

Hi Twitter Friends!

Hi all! If you’ve found my site from a Twitter post, welcome! You can reach me directly at dccmealy (at) gmail.com. I’d love to talk books, interviews, or about your (or my) writing! Feel free to check out my latest excerpts from my un-published books:

My Name is 13

Bleached

Rift

I’m currently querying MY NAME IS 13. It recently underwent a name change, so if you’re confused…well now you know. Here’s the elevator pitch:

It’s THE LYING GAME meets ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: A lab-created teen slave named #13 takes the identity of a murdered princess to find her killer in an underwater biodome.

Short and sweet!

Thanks for stopping by!

-d

#PromoteYAInstead

In light of a recent article, and the subsequent Twitter backlash about YA books, I’ve decided to create a list of quality, serious YA literature that you all should read. Not that light-hearted books aren’t worth reading, but the point of the article was that essentially all YA was poorly written, sappy, happy and predictably ending trash. So, I’m here to argue the point with examples.

First up, PURE by Julianna Baggott:

Pure

 

Read my review here. The PURE series is, in my opinion, one of the most beautifully written books to be published in the last decade. Seriously. If you want to argue quality of YA literature, this is the book to do it with. Her prose is exquisite, and her subject matter heart-breaking. If you’re not in tears or holding your breath from shock throughout half of this book, you are an automaton, and should just stop reading this article right now. The beauty of the series is that even with all of the despair and horror of a post-apocalyptic world, we still find hope in their survival. It’s a wonderful balance.

Next, we have the UNWIND Dystology by Neal Shusterman:

Unwind (Unwind Dystology Series #1)

 

This fascinating look at what would happen if abortion was outlawed, but retroactive “unwinding” teens for parts was the solution, will blow your freakin’ mind. Whatever side you fall on with this controversial issue, you will not be able to put down this fantastic, heart-rending read. I absolutely love this series. Read my review to learn more.

Let’s look at THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson:

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

 

Without giving too much away, this book examines what makes us who we are – genetics, our body, our mind or our experiences. When Jenna wakes up from a coma, she has to relearn everything about who she was, and who she will be. Absolutely a fantastic, mind-bending read. Read my review here.

There are so many others, and I don’t have time to list them all. There’s nothing wrong with Romance, if that’s what a reader likes. But condemning an entire category of literature as sub-par and predictable because of one sub-genre is ridiculous. Anyone who did any research would find these fascinating reads – and many, many more.

Adolescence is such a defining time in everyone’s life. That’s what’s so binding about YA lit – we’ve all been there. We all know what it’s like to question our parents for the first time, to realize we have our own opinions, and that we should fight for what we believe in. YA lit encapsulates that rocky time, adds a dash of outside conflict, and runs with it. To say that we, as adults, cannot possibly identify with YA protagonists is just plain wrong. Everyone can identify, to a degree. That’s the whole point. Just because a protagonist is an adult doesn’t mean I understand his or her POV any more than a a teen protagonist. I, after all, don’t share anything with adult characters more than I do YA characters. I’m not a psychopath in a Stephen King novel. I’m not a ravishing beauty in a Romance novel. I’m not a Queen in a Game of Thrones novel.

We, as readers, just need a small piece of humanity to identify with a protagonist. And whatever you like to identify with is fine. It doesn’t make you any less mature or intelligent. You know what does make you less intelligent? Opening your mouth before doing your research.

 

Querying!

Hi all! So I’m in the midst of querying agents (that’s where you write query letters to agents about your book, and hopefully they ask to read it). In the spirit of sharing my work, allow me to re-direct your attention to the top right portion of your screen.

Go on, look up. There you go.

See all those links? Forsaken- Excerpt / Bleached – Excerpt / Rift – Excerpt

Yup, those ones. Those are first chapters of my last three (un) published books! You should read them!

Here’s a sample of the manuscript I’m querying now:

 

FORSAKEN

New Victoria, 2170 AD

Chapter 1 – Disobedience is the true foundation of Liberty. The obedient must be slaves – Harry David Thoreau

I don’t have a name. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I’m called something, but it’s not a name. Invisibles don’t get names. I go by Thirteen, just like the number tattooed on my inner wrist. The Headmaster of the Purposing Rooms put it there the day I was bought by Mr. Avery five years ago. I am the thirteenth member of his staff of Invisibles.

The wrinkly and decrepit Naturals say it’s bad luck and won’t take food from my trays at parties, which is obnoxious, because that means less points on their tabs. Unfortunately they all seem to love Victoria. Pretending to live in Victorian England reminds them of the books they used to read in Old America about Ancient Britain. I personally don’t get their fascination, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a slave.

“Thirteen, run and get me a hot iron. Hurry up!” Anika snaps. Born here seventeen years ago, Anika Avery is one of the main attractions for the rich tourists here at Avery Manor. She’s also a complete bitch. Spoiled beyond belief, Anika loves nothing more than to take points from me. Especially in front of the guests. But I’m her maid, and I do what I’m told. It’s either that, or be repurposed for parts.

“Do you think that this will do, my lady?” I ask in my mock-British accent. She snatches the hot iron before I can stop her, and burns her hand. She drops it on the carpet, sending up little swirls of smoke. Great. If she just let me do her hair with a simulator, this would all get done a lot quicker. It’s the only way I’m able to style my hair like the pictures in the protocol books.

“Oh dear, you’ve burned me! I ought to take a few points away from you,” she mutters, sucking on her thumb. Of course. I calmly pick up the iron with a towel, and start doing her hair myself. She eyes me in the mirror. “I suppose you’re almost to your points limit, then?”

I smile, and this is a real smile. It’s true. I’ve almost reached my points limit. But why does she care? I choose my words carefully.

“Yes, my lady. I should be at my limit by the end of next year, if not by Spring.” I finish the last curl and step back to examine my work. It’s spectacular – her pile of honey-gold curls and sparkling aqua eyes are a perfect match to her pale blue dress. She looks even better than the images she pulled from the historical docs this morning on her DigiCom. She doesn’t seem to mind that little piece of technology. I try not to roll my eyes.

“I guess that will have to do. Hopefully no one looks at it too closely.” She stands up and is about to head for the door before stopping. She turns back, a creepy smile pulling at her cheeks.

“Hold out your wrist.” The smirk doesn’t reach her eyes, and my heart shudders. I step forward and hold out my wrist, the black 13 facing up. She presses her thumb to the darkened flesh and says, “Five point deduction for burning my hand and not apologizing. You should be more careful, slave.” She says the last word with a quiet relish, knowing that it was never to be uttered in polite company. Technically, it was best to avoid referring to me at all.

As I listen to her period-accurate lace-up boots echo down the hall, I bite my bottom lip hard enough to draw blood.

READ MORE…

Let’s talk about tense, ba-by, let’s talk about you and she!

 

Okay, if you read YA you know what I’m talking about. Love it or hate it, more than half of all YA books are written in the first person (though present tense vs. past tense splits this group up a bit).

Let’s examine this:

First person-

I ran down the hall, shooting my waffle-gun at the giant humanoid bananas. “Eat batter!” I screeched, sending a wave of uncooked waffle batter over them. The bananas slipped and fell, squishing and sliding down the hall into a heap fit only for bread. They had to pay for what they had done. “That’s for the sausage patties,” I whispered, holstering my gun.

Third Person-

Glenda ran down the hall, heaving sobs. They had killed her beloved sausage patties. Eaten them in cold blood.

As they ran down the hall she turned her waffle gun on them. “Eat batter!” she screamed, sending a wave of uncooked waffle batter over them. They slipped and fell, squishing and sliding down the hall into a heap.

Both convey the same actions with the same characters. But with first person, we feel what the character is feeling as they feel it. Third person is more cinematic, pulling us back to survey the scene from above like Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

So which is better?

I’m not sure there is a definitive answer. YA seems to lend itself to the harsh highs and lows of first-person narration, pulling us through a story by our emotions. At least, that’s my opinion. My past two (now going on three) manuscripts have been in first person, though this time I’m switching to first person, past tense. Many people, however, think first person is lazy, awkward and, gasp, immature.

I’m struggling with this as I begin my sixth manuscript (yes, still sans agent). I tried writing the first chapter in third person, being a grown up and making the prose more “adult.”

It was terrible. For real, guys. It’s so flat I’m falling asleep writing it. So I switched. Screw it. I’m writing this thing in first person! I’m getting in her head (and his!) and just going along for the ride. It’s easier to let them tell the story, anyway.

 

D’oh!

So I’m researching a new book and dove head-first into the inter-tubes. Ah yes, interesting stuff there. Did you know people ACTUALLY BELIEVE that there are humanoid-type beings living in Mount Shasta? Yup. For realz. And they have a nice PayPal account you can deposit into and get some fancy power crystals. They have like a million members of these ‘churches.’

(She crosses herself several times as a good Catholic with no irony whatsoever.)

Anyway…So this conversation happened at the dinner table yesterday:

Me:…And they believe that these people have a British accent – A British Accent? Now how can you have a British accent if you are descended from a tribe of people that lived on an island before the time of Christ, more than a thousand years ago, then migrated to live inside of a mountain, and somehow you acquired a British accent? Where the hell did that happen?

Husband: Um, you just told me that there is a religion where 7-foot tall benevolent aliens live in a mountain and the British accent is what’s got you all worked up?

Me: ….Well, yeah.

Husband: Okay. Just checking.

I’m going to go pray a rosary now.

#AMWriting – #AMReading

 

Hi all. This week I’m editing my latest manuscript, FORSAKEN. You can read the first bit of it here. I also stopped by the library and picked up a few new books, including TUMBLE AND FALLPIVOT POINT and ALTERED. Who has two thumbs and is stoked for new books? This girl! Heh.

Speaking of which, how great is the library? It’s like browsing at a book store and getting to take all the books you want home for FREE. Free I tell you! Yes, I have to bring them back, but I love that I can pick out books I might have been unsure of to buy, and then those books are my new favorites. It’s a great way to try out new authors! So give some love to your local library and stop by.

NaNoWriMo! Are you doing it?

So are you doing it? All the cool kids are 😉 NaNoWriMo is the month long exercise in torture that tons of people sign up for. The plan: Write a 50,000 word novel in a single month.

For real. But people do it! Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder, wrote the book for NaNoWriMo, and I’m sure many others have too. So come on, all the cool kids are doing it!

As for me, I’m finishing up my latest book. So my goal this month is to complete the manuscript. But to my friends who are out there, plugging away and banging their heads on their keyboards late into the night to meet their daily word count goal, I say cheers!

And hey, don’t forget to shower. Seriously.

Feeding the Dragon

At a PNWA Conference a few years ago, the speaker compared reading to “feeding the dragon of creativity.” Or something like that – I’m paraphrasing here. Anyway, I think it’s totally true. I find so much inspiration in literature in my genre. After reading a good book, I’m amped to start working on my manuscript.

Right now I’m reading passages from 1984 to inspire me with this upcoming chapter. I need a full on, anti-big brother zeal going before I start.

Remember that one? If you haven’t read it…You need to. Go to your local library, or get on B&N or Amazon and buy it. If you like dystopic fiction, you’ll love it. It’s one of the scariest books I’ve ever read, and arguably one of the best books ever written.

What kind of work inspires you? How do you get started on a new project? How do you find ways to keep inspired as you go on, working the sluggish chapters in the middle of your book into shining nuggets that someone might someday call literature? Or at least commercial fiction. :)

Updated Excerpt from BLEACHED, my latest manuscript!

 

I’ll just go ahead and paste it here, in case you missed the handy-dandy link in the top right corner of the page ;). And hey, while you’re looking, go ahead and check out RIFT. That’s my last manuscript. Cool.

Enjoy! And hey, here’s a cat:

CHAPTER 1

My name is Kendra. I am seventeen years old. I repeat this to myself whenever I get scared because I can’t remember. I’m told that my parents died in a car accident. I don’t remember them.

But, somehow, I remembered this. I glance around the street, making sure I’m not followed. I tuck my hair behind my ears and walk as fast as any casual person could possibly walk, eyes darting back and forth. Can they see me for what I am? Can they tell I’m running?

I had only stopped at the dry cleaners because I was bored of being stuck in the house while Jesse was off running her endless errands. She’s said ‘no’ so many times when I’ve asked to go along that I just stopped asking.

The dry cleaners where Jesse takes her pantsuits is in a little strip mall across from Joe’s Diner, where she sometimes takes me after a good test score. I remembered the crunch of their onion rings as I glanced over at the painted windows advertising two-for-one sandwiches. I dashed across the street, throwing open the door of the dry cleaners. A little bell tied to the handle chimed like it was any Saturday. How did I know it soon wouldn’t be?

Hallo, good morning,” said a voice from behind the racks of clothes. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

“Sure thing,” I replied. I looked around the shop, noticing the pictures of old castles on the wall. They looked like something out of a Disney fairy tale. A tall, white-haired woman appeared from behind the racks. She had bright, friendly blue eyes and rosy cheeks. Kind of like a tall dwarf from Snow White. Tall-y. The thought makes me snort, but I compose myself.

“How can I help you?” she asked. Her accent sounded like a song, lilting over her words.

“Picking up some suits, please.” I handed over an orange ticket with “Jesse Thompson” written on it.

“Rainer, Frau Thompson’s Anzuge, bitte,” she had called to the back. She smiled at me.

Ja, ja. Warten Sie bitte,” a man said from somewhere in the back of the store. I narrowed my eyes and listened hard. That’s when I knew something was wrong. My stomach lurched like I had fallen out of a chair as snippets of conversations poured in to my mind – conversations I couldn’t have had.

“Are you well today?” the woman asked, frowning. I nodded and forced a smile, sucking in air through my nostrils. Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to work we go. I forced the stupid song through my head to drown out the voices clamoring to be heard.

“Yes, thank you. And you?” I asked. The woman didn’t look convinced. I tried to smile wider, but couldn’t. I felt like a gray curtain was lifting, and everything was suddenly too bright. Funny-sounding words began to echo off the sides of my skull.

Ich kahn ihn nicht finden,” the man called from the back. “Was haben Sie aussehen?

Einer ist schwarz und einer ist blau,” I had called out, before I even knew what I was doing – one is black and one is blue. I slapped my hand over my mouth in shock. And to my horror, the woman smiled. This was a thousand times worse than when I had realized how fast I was at solving puzzles at school, or how quickly I was able to run the 20-meter dash. I had left the boys in the dust that day, and hid in the locker room until I was late for my next class. I couldn’t face anyone.

Ah, sprechen Sie Deutsch?” the woman asked if I spoke German with obvious delight. I shook my head, frantically looking around to see who had heard our conversation. I clenched my fists and demanded my heart to slow down. I am Kendra. I am Kendra. My heart obeyed, but my mind was still whirring with possibilities.

Nein. I mean, no,” I snapped. The woman frowned hard and stared me down, but I wouldn’t let her sway me.

Sein Sie sicher?” she asked. Are you sure? I shook my head again. I knew exactly what the woman was saying, and it made me want to vomit. How could I understand German? How did I even know it was German? I could even tell the woman was from Munich by her accent.

An older man, with equally white hair, came out, holding the two pantsuits in a plastic bag. I threw the money on the counter and grabbed it from his hands.

“Thanks,” I yelled, running from the shop. The door slammed behind me, silencing their foreign words that were not so foreign to me. Words that I remembered. It was like the worst fairy tale ever.

I squeeze the bag in my hands as my chest grows tight again. I push the wave of panic down. If I can just get home without being seen, no one will know. No one will know I’m different.

The house is quiet as I run in to the mud room.

“Jesse?” I call. I hang the suits up on the drying rack next to the washer, and step slowly in to the house. “Jesse, are you here?” I am greeted by silence. For the first time I’m thankful she’s left me alone again. Thank god. I need answers.

I tiptoe to the office upstairs that overlooks the garage, where Jesse’s work computer is tucked away. I’m not allowed to use it, since it belongs to Jesse’s office.

“Don’t go in to my office. That’s my work place, and I can’t have you messing things up in there,” she had said on my first night here. Then she broke out in to a smile, and told me to call her Mom. Obviously I still call her Jesse.

I skulk in to the room, hyperaware that someone might be watching. For a delusional second, I look around for video cameras, but of course find nothing. Keep it together, Kendra, I snap at myself. Don’t freak out and get all weird. I touch the power button on her laptop, and the buzzing computer noises disrupt the silence. I can’t stand the idea of another foster home. Jesse can never find out.

A large pile of pictures and papers sits on the desk, seemingly in no particular order. I thumb through a few pictures of dahlias and gerbera daisies, interspersed with what seem like old shopping lists.

Milk, Betaxolol, Splenda, pseudoephedrine – What are these things? Betaxolol sounds like some sort of medicine. I wonder for a minute if Jesse has some horrible disease, and that’s why she’s she’s so secretive about this room. Maybe she has cancer. Oh god, cancer? Then where will I live? I shake my head and instantly feel guilty. What the heck is wrong with me that I worry about where I’ll live if this weird woman dies?

The computer monitor turns on, distracting me.

I immediately open Google, and type “German phrases” in to the search box. Ten pages of results pop up, and I quickly clicked on the first link after glancing out of the window in paranoia. I scan the words, sounding them out silently to myself. After nearly five minutes of reading polite dinner conversation, I can no longer deny the truth.

Ich spreche sehr gut Deutsch,” I whisper, closing my eyes and feeling my stomach turn to stone. I speak very good German.

An idea floods my brain, though I don’t know where it comes from. It’s like a hot tingling sensation in the back of my mind. I search for “Conversational Russian.” Again, lists of common phrases spring to life on to the screen, and again I immediately recognize everything. Not just a word or sound here and there, but every freakin’ word and phrase. And not only that, but I can tell when the translation isn’t as natural-sounding as it could be.

I think I’m going to pass out. I press my eyes closed with the palms of my hands, racking my brain. Who is this person who can speak three different languages? I’m just some foster kid with a broken brain who nobody wanted.

The sound of the garage door opening breaks my reverie. Jesse’s tan Kia pulls slowly up the drive. I duck out of sight of the window, and quickly shut down the computer. She’s not usually home this early from her errands.

“Hurry up, come on,” I plead with the computer, drumming my fingers on the desk. The garage door is closing under my feet. I can feel the vibrations. I know Jesse will be furious if she catches me snooping in her office. She won’t even let me use the laptop to write my papers for school, and I have to sign up for computer time in the library with all the other losers.

“Would you like to install updates?” a message box pops up. I slam my finger down on the mouse, closing the window. The machine makes whirring noises as it begins to finally power down, and I curse Dell as the screen mercifully goes black.

“Kendra?” Jesse calls from downstairs. I wince at the sound of my name, slowly lifting myself from the rolling office chair. I desperately try to step soundlessly out in to the hall as I close the door.

“I’m here,” I call, trying to act casual. I hope I don’t sound as breathless as I feel. To my horror, the chirping melody of the computer program shutting down rings out, clear as a bell through the closed door. I immediately force a loud cough to cover the sound.

“Thanks for getting the suits,” Jesse says. I exhale slowly. Maybe she didn’t hear the computer after all, and my secret is still safe.

That night I lay in bed, eyes wide and staring in to the dark.

He is on my mind tonight, even with all that’s happened today. Though, to say he’s not on my mind every night would be a lie. Like the vapors of a steaming bath, he slips between my fingers on to the pages I furiously write about him in my journal. His face, obscured by shadow, hides from my minds’ eye when I dream about him.

I can’t stop thinking about him. It’s like he was my other half for a very long time, and now he’s gone.

I know that’s not true because Jesse says so. He isn’t some lost memory from my past. He only exists in my dreams – a figment of my broken, bleached mind.

In my dreams he and I are always running – but from what, I don’t know. I never know why we’re running. I just know that in my dreams, I’m as fast as a cheetah. I stretch my hand to the ceiling, tracing the cracks as if they’re constellations. I hope he’ll visit my dreams tonight and erase today.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

My mind wanders as I tie my sneakers, blankly staring at the dirty shoelaces. The grey curtain that began to lift in the dry cleaners has not descended, and the brightness feels overwhelming. I anxiously pull at the strings, making the knot tighter and tighter while cutting off my circulation. For the thousandth time I wish he was real – he would understand. I know it.

“Miss Kendra, would you like to join the rest of the class?”

I look up from my shoes, shocked to see the girls lined up against the wall already. I feel the back of my neck grow hot and tingly as I slip into the last spot in line behind Jen. She smiles at me, and I shrug. This is going to be the longest double gym class period ever.

“Now, today we’ve got a treat for you. A military style obstacle course. Of course, instead of razor wire I just used string,” Ms. Carlson says, motioning to the zig-zagged white string propped up by sticks about a foot off the ground. A few of the girls giggle nervously. “Today we’re sharing the gym with the boys’ class. We’ll alternate between their class and ours. The student with the best time wins a free Kingston High t-shirt.” She holds up the paltry gift, and a few of the girls snicker. It’s huge and clearly meant for a guy. She tosses it against the wall and pulls up her men’s basketball shorts. Good lord, I think, she’s built like a tank.

“Wow, can’t imagine who they think will win,” Jen whispers bitterly to me, and I nod.

“Clearly some Football douche,” I whisper back, and she snickers. We’re not big fans of the jocks, if you can’t tell.

A loud creaking door introduces the boys class, led by Coach Peters, and the girls go silent. I watch as the klatch of Barbie’s in front of us, led by Stacie Jenner, begin to preen, running their hands through their flat-ironed hair. I cross my arms tightly over my chest.

“Now it’s getting interesting,” Jen says, and I shrug. Just more people to witness my mortification. But, I know Jen will do well, so extra audience is what she always wants.

“Alright, let’s get started,” Ms. Carlson barks, motioning for the boys to approach. She lines them up, and drags Katie Jordan to the front of the group. On her whistle Katie springs forward, running up the small ramp and jumping down. By the time she finishes the monkey bars and hops on to the finishing mat, red-haired Justin Schulz takes off like a bullet, barreling toward the ramp and leaping from the top. He finishes in a fraction of her time, only blundering through the army crawl under the white string.

I glance at the guys in line, anxiously hopping around and slapping each other on the back. The jocks even chest-bump each other like idiots. Unlike the girls, who are annoyed that this might smudge their eyeliner, they’re excited to show off how fast they can propel themselves through this ridiculous setup. Except, of course, for the Barbies. What better way to strut than to prance around an obstacle course in their ridiculously rolled up gym shorts? I swear I can almost see Stacie’s butt-cheeks.

My eyes catch for a moment on the guy at the back of the line. He’s not anxiously twitching or glancing at the girls. He stands, quietly, arms folded over his chest like mine. He almost seems bored. I know his name is Liam and he plays football. But for some reason, I don’t think he’s a douche. I do know that the girls in front of me are giggling about him. I can hear his name sliding between Stacie’s whispers and giggles.

Suddenly, his blue eyes flick to me, catching me watching him. Shocked, I snap my gaze back to the course, just in time to see Selena fall off the monkey bars. I don’t dare look back at him. I force my heart to slow its’ ridiculous rhythm. He was clearly looking for Stacie.

As if she can tell I’m thinking about her, Stacie slowly turns around to glare at me, her hawkish blue eyes tearing me to pieces. When I don’t blink, she sneers and turns back to her followers, whispering. I wonder if they’re recounting the prank she played on me last week. It had taken nearly an hour to scrub the inside of my locker clean of the ketchup she squirted through the vents. Bitch.

When it’s finally her turn, Stacie saunters over to the obstacle course, giving her shorts another good roll before she begins. I glance at Jen, who openly rolls her eyes. I’m surprised Stacie doesn’t give herself a wedgie, they’re so high. She walks slowly up the ramp, and picks over the pretend razor wire like a doe in the forest. She giggles as she attempts to swing from a monkey bar, and plunks down on the finishing mat. I sneak a glance at Liam, but he’s still standing, arms across his chest. His face is blank. Interesting. The other jocks clap boisterously, and she rewards them with a wink and a grin.

“Wish me luck,” Jen says, and I smile. She takes this class seriously, bending one knee like a sprinter waiting for the pistol. When she takes off, her golden hair flies behind her. She does amazingly well, sailing from one obstacle to the next. I gaze in awe as she easily swings from monkey bar to monkey bar, landing on the finish mat with a top of the class minute and fifty seconds. I wave at her as she stands against the wall, grinning.

The only ones left are Liam and I. I try not to look at him as he waits patiently for his turn. I notice Stacie and her entourage are watching and waving at him, cheering him on like this is the state track meet and he’s our anchor. As his name is called, he slowly steps up to the starting line.

“Go!” Coach Peter’s yells. Liam takes off, gracefully diving from one skill to the next. I can see why he does so well on the field – he’s easily the fastest guy in the entire class. His tall, bulky frame even slinks down for the army crawl under the string, and as he swings from the monkey bars to the finish mat, he comes up with the fastest time of one minute, forty-two seconds.

“Wow, Liam. That was amazing,” Stacie coos, strutting up to him and placing her hand on his arm like a terrier marking his territory. He shrugs and looks bemused. I didn’t think a teenaged guy could ever look bemused, but there it is. And even if he is some popular douchebag jock, I don’t see how he can stand Stacie. I see Jen roll her eyes, though whether it’s from being beaten or Stacie’s syrupy endearments, I don’t know. Jen hates losing.

Coach Peters tosses the balled up t-shirt to Liam, and Liam catches it with what might be a guilty look in my direction. At least he seems a little guilty.

“That’s so cool you won,” I can hear Stacie fake-whispering to Liam. I don’t look to see his reaction.

This is it, I think, stepping up to the mat. Do I go for it? My muscles twitch in anticipation. I long to leap forward and run the course in to the ground. But, most of all, I want to melt into the background.

Thankfully, the rest of the class doesn’t seem to notice me. Liam has been absorbed by the klatch of Barbie’s and everyone else is talking. Only Jen pays me any attention. I close my eyes and breathe through my nose, slowing my heartbeat. I’ve never done an obstacle course before, at least, not that I remember. That seems to be the chant of my life – not that I remember. And I certainly don’t have the cute-factor that Stacie has to pull off her ridiculous prance through the course. And furthermore, I don’t want to.

My name is Kendra. I am seventeen years old. I open my eyes, and take off on my mark from Ms. Carlson. Running up the ramp, I leap from the edge, landing clear on the other side of the landing mat. I dive under the white-string barbed wire, pushing myself forward with legs and elbows. As I scurry away, I begin to register that the room has gone silent. It’s too late to stop now, and I keep going. Jumping on to the balance beam, I steadily jog down the narrow four-inches without looking down. I jump off and spring back up in one motion, catching a monkey bar in my right hand. I’m already swinging to the next bar, never resting. As I gain speed, I begin to skip bars, swinging wide to gain ground. I feel electricity coursing through me. I feel so alive. I hop off at the end on to the finish mat, and finally let myself breathe.

The gym is silent, except for my slow, even breaths. Damn.

“One minute, twenty-seven seconds,” Ms. Carlson stares at me. “That’s unbelievable.” I immediately cross my arms over my chest again, dying to fade against the wall. I no longer feel electric – I feel more like lightning rod waiting to be struck. She stares at me as Coach Peters opens and closes his mouth like a guppy. He gives me a long look, obviously annoyed I just wiped the floor with his star football player. Part of me wants to say, yeah, that’s right, suck it. But I don’t. I just stand there.

“Well Kendra, I guess you win the t-shirt,” Coach Peter’s says grudgingly, snatching the t-shirt from Liam and tossing it to Ms. Carlson. She hands it to me without comment as the class begins to disperse with the class bell.

“Good job,” says a deep voice beside me. I look up and see Liam, suddenly next to me. His stare is level and hard, and I don’t blink. Then, just like that, he smiles and walks away, back to Stacie. She looks like she sucked on a lemon wedge, before sweetly rearranging her face into a Cheshire cat smile. As he passes Coach Carlson, Liam gets a loud smack on the back of his head. I distinctly hear him whisper about, ‘losing to a girl.’

“Oh my gosh, that was amazing,” Jen says as we leave the class, though I can tell she’s annoyed. Her eyes don’t sparkle like they usually do. “Have you ever done one of these before?”

I shake my head in reply. Jen is really the only person at school who knows about my lack of memory. Why would she ask me something like that?

“No, I don’t think so,” I say, and she twists her lips in response like she doesn’t believe me. Then, she smiles.

“Well, that was awesome. Let’s go get changed,” she says, leading me to the locker room.

I look at the huge t-shirt with regret. I know I’ll never wear it to class. This stupid shirt proves one of the only things I know for sure about myself – that I am different. When Jen isn’t looking, I toss it in to a garbage can.