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  1. 1. byLaura D’Aveta
  2. 2. For my family … for bearing the burden of believing when it was too heavy for me to bear.© 2011 by Laura Ann D’AvetaFirst published in 2011 by 597G Publications,A division of Imaginary Press770 BroadwayNew York, NY 10003www.notarealcompany.comLibrary of Congress Card Number: 00-8675309ISBN 0-8675-309-0All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, ortransmitted, in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording,taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the publisher.Manufactured in the United States of America.First printing, 2011
  4. 4. CHAPTER ONE The long, knotted fingers clawing at her bedroom window scratched a franticrhythm that kept time with the slamming of Ellie’s heart. She froze, caught between thedarkness of her nightmare and the light from the night’s full moon. As the sound of hermother’s screams faded with the rest of the dream, Ellie came awake enough to realizethe hand scraping against her window was only a branch from the ancient maple treethat spread its great arms to protect her family’s weathered farmhouse. Ellie yawned as she climbed out of bed to open her window, her mind still on hernightmare. She pulled open the glass, reached out to grab the offending branch, andsnapped it free, letting the gnarled knuckles drop stiffly to the ground below. Sheshivered as the wind picked up and the temperature dipped, a warning that the clearnight sky would not share its stars much longer. Ellie grabbed the extra blanket from the foot of her bed, not wanting to lose thecoolness of the breeze against her face. She thought about going to her parents’ roomto talk to her mom about her nightmare, but remembered the sting of her father’s words. ―Ellie, you and I both need to give your mom some more time. This is all evenharder for her.‖ ―But Dad, can’t we help her? Can’t we—― ―Ellie, no. We can’t.‖ ―You didn’t let me finish.‖ ―It doesn’t matter. I said no. Leave her be.‖ Ellie wrapped the blanket tighter around her shoulders, smelling years ofCheerios and tears trapped within the fibers, and looked back out at the moon. Clouds 1
  5. 5. had stalked the breeze and slowly crawled to mask the moon’s face, only allowing itsjaw line to peek out. Ellie followed the weakened beam of light that escaped the cloud’scover and traced its path to the foot of the driveway, where it shone brightly on herfather’s face. Ellie was startled to see that all the blood had drained from her father’s face; hisskin was bleached by more than moonlight. His eyes sparked with anger andfrustration, but as much as Ellie willed her father to look at her, to meet her eyes andknow that she was there to help, he did not look her way; his eyes were drilled to theman who stood in front of him. The stranger had his back to Ellie, but even in the timid light she was able torecognize in the back of his dark hair the same cowlick that both Ellie and her father had– the one that frustrated Ellie’s mother to no end every time she gave either of them ahaircut. The man was slightly shorter than her father, and broader through theshoulders, but stood with the same posture – straight-backed, strong, confident. Fierce. Ellie noticed these details only fleetingly; she couldn’t tear her eyes away fromher father. His fists were clenched at his sides and his feet pawed at the ground, andEllie’s stomach tightened at the glint of anger in his eyes. He wore no coat to ward offthe sinking temperature heralding the oncoming storm whose thunder could already beheard winding its way from behind the house, around to Ellie’s open window, its growlschallenging the rough idling of the pickup truck. His shirt was buttoned crookedly, theuntucked tails catching in the wind, flapping, counting the seconds between flashes oflightning. A battered, threadbare duffle bag cowered at his feet. He hugged the 2
  6. 6. stranger, slapping his back, and then bent to grab the bag, tucking his chin close to hischest to shield his face. Ellie’s heart bounced off her stomach. She ran from her room, down the stairsand out the front door, flinching as the screen door slammed against its frame and theecho of her mother’s tired reprimand snapped in her ears. Her father stared at her andthen turned, throwing his bag into the bed of the hulking truck. Ellie started to run tohim, but the stranger grabbed her from behind. ―Dad! DAD! Wait! Where are you going?‖ Ellie’s words began to scratch herthroat as they fought each other to escape the lump lodged in her windpipe. Shestruggled against the arms cinched around her waist, reaching for her father even as heslammed the truck’s door shut. ―Don’t leave me! Dad, please don’t leave me!‖ Her father’s eyes never left the steering wheel, and the gears of the old truckscreeched with protest as he jerked it into gear. The force behind her spun her around,swung her over his shoulder, and carried her back into the house, faltering every fewsteps as she hit and kicked him, screaming for her father, the taillights of the truckflashing red in her eyes before it disappeared around a bend in the road. 3
  7. 7. CHAPTER TWO In the end, Ellie’s choice didn’t really matter. In the end … in the beginning … Ellie wasn’t sure what to think of the past fewdays as she watched the miles fly by outside the grimy window of the musty, pock-marked truck. She had chosen her mother. Not because Ellie believed any of that ―a girl needsher mother‖ stuff. Her mother had checked out years ago. Her dad avoided the ghostthat occupied the rocking chair in the corner of the spare room every night, anchored inplace by a frayed blue blanket and a rotting nightgown. He stayed up most nights so hecould work in the garage, walls and wind between his ears and the moans that hauntedthe halls. The morning when her mother’s hunched body stood frozen at the front door,shaking, Ellie realized that her mother wanted to leave, but couldn’t. Something wasgrowing up through the seams in the hardwood, pinning her feet to the floor. Elliecringed as tension rattled her mother’s body as she fought for control over herself andlost. In that moment, Ellie chose to go with her. She chose to help her mother breakfree. She chose her over her dad, the only person left who loved her. Ellie chose her mother. Her mother needed her. Her mother just didn’t choose Ellie back. She still didn’t know what had happened. Her dad swore her mother was comingback. Ellie spent those first moments waiting for the police to show up at their house tostate they had found her. Ellie didn’t expect to see her mother again. Her dad’s words came back to her. ―You just didn’t see it, Ellie. She was stillhere. And she loved you. She wouldn’t have left.‖ 4
  8. 8. Maybe he was right. Maybe her mother was more aware of Ellie and her dadthan Ellie had realized. She had managed to survive. She kept eating, kept taking careof herself. She just didn’t engage. Ellie would catch her mother looking at her once in awhile, but she always looked away and left the room when Ellie’s eyes met her own.She avoided physical contact … Ellie couldn’t remember what it felt like to be hugged byher mother. Ellie would have been scared if she had. That was two days ago. Her mother had disappeared, and Ellie had waited,knowing something would happen. And now her dad was gone too. The storm that had ripped Ellie from sleep last night had left home ahead ofthem, but the smell of it was still wrapped around her, burning and refreshing, all in thesame breath. She kept tensing for crashes of thunder that had long since raced away.She must have seemed so strange to the man driving the truck, flinching for no reasonacross the cracked bench seat as the tires pounded out an uneven rhythm on thepatchy highway. ―Hey.‖ Ellie looked over at the man who seemed unable to say her name. It was stillshocking, to see someone who looked so much like her dad, only younger and angrier.At first, Ellie had thought they were identical, but she was now able to recognize subtledifferences. Daylight will do that for you. Unlike the night. Last night, Ellie would have sworn her dad had stood at the footof the driveway, leaning against this same truck, gesturing wildly and arguing with amirror image of himself. 5
  9. 9. If the storm hadn’t frightened her out of a sound sleep, Ellie might have missedher dad’s leaving. But that might have hurt less. ―HEY.‖ Ellie had zoned out again. His voice broke through the memories of last night,reality riding hot on the heels of a distant bolt of lightning. She jumped, and he sighedand looked back out at the road. Ellie sensed the shadow of tension fill the truck cabagain, so she focused on his face and tried not to make him angrier. ―We’re stopping for breakfast.‖ ―Okay.‖ Ellie was just glad that he remembered she needed food. Her moodlightened when they got off the highway and pulled into a Waffle House. Waffles …they really do make everything better. 6
  10. 10. CHAPTER THREE Ellie stood on the front porch of what her friends back home would have called ahaunted house. The cedar plank siding had given up its color to years of salted windsoff the ocean and now stood on the edge of a cliff, its grey shoulders hunched againsthurricanes. This place had none of the warmth of her own home – no flowers, nowelcome sign, no porch light to turn on, telling her that even endless July nights camewith a curfew. This house seemed to match Uncle Devlin’s personality: cold, distant,and completely indifferent to her presence. Even the front steps ignored her, creakingonly as her uncle climbed them ahead of her. Before her uncle could fit his key in the door’s rusted lock, it flew open andanother version of Ellie’s father came rushing across the porch to grab Ellie. Shestepped back, still off balance after eleven hours trapped in the truck with Uncle Devlinthat day, each of her questions answered with an increase in the volume of the radio.When he saw her shying away from his reach he stopped, stepped back, and then spunangrily towards Uncle Devlin. ―I knew I should have been the one to go out there to get her. Crap, Dev, whatdid you do to her?‖ Uncle Devlin pushed past him into the house, muttering under his breath; all Elliecould make out was ―all yours.‖ Ellie found herself alone on the porch, comparing a stranger to her father for thesecond time in as many days. ―Hi, Ellie. I’m your uncle Quinn. Come on in and have some dinner – do you likepeach pancakes?‖ 7
  11. 11. Ellie nodded and followed Uncle Quinn through the front door and into one of thecoziest rooms she had ever seen. The sofa cushions were bursting at the seams withstuffing, and every surface in the room seemed to absorb the heat from the fireplaceand radiate it back towards the hearth. Peaches and cinnamon had Ellie’s stomachattempting to race ahead of her to the kitchen. Uncle Quinn turned back when he realized Ellie was no longer following him. Hesmiled at the expression on her face. ―It seems scary at first, doesn’t it? There’s not much we can do about theoutside; everything seems to die out there. But we’ve kept the inside pretty nice. Itmakes up for the whole mean, scary vibe you get on the front porch.‖ ―Like you and Uncle Devlin.‖ The words were out of Ellie’s mouth before shecould stop herself. She was afraid to look up at Uncle Quinn … until she saw hisshadow shaking with laughter. ―Don’t worry; I won’t tell him what you said if you don’t tell him I agreed with you.Deal?‖ Ellie grinned. ―Deal.‖ ―Cool. Now come on – let’s get something to eat and then I’ll give you the tour.‖ 8
  12. 12. CHAPTER FOUR ―My dad makes peach pancakes for dinner when my mom has to work nights.‖ ―That’s because our mom used to make them for us when we were kids. YourUncle Devlin makes them better than I do, though. He won’t tell me what’s missing fromthe recipe.‖ Ellie gulped down another bite, nodding as Uncle Quinn hovered over her platewith another pancake. ―How come I’ve never heard of you before? Why didn’t my dadever talk about you?‖ ―Good questions. But here’s the thing. It’s almost midnight. I’m guessing if youhave a bedtime, you’re up way past it. Come on, I’ll show you your room.‖ Ellie followed Uncle Quinn up a flight of stairs that curved their way unevenly tothe second floor. A long hall stretched off to the left, while a smaller set of stairsdisappeared into darkness off to the right. ―Devlin’s room is up there, in the attic. We don’t bother him, he keeps the batsand rats away from us.‖ Uncle Quinn continued pointing out rooms as they walkeddown the hallway. ―This is my room – just knock if you need anything. Dev and I sharethis bathroom; you have your own. Here’s your room.‖ Ellie wasn’t sure what to expect in a house full of uncles, but she definitely wasn’tprepared for what was behind the cracked white door. ―I know it’s not home, but I think you’ll be comfortable here. It was strange.Devlin started working on it a week ago, long before we knew you were coming to stay.When I asked him why he was in here painting, he said he had no idea – he just had afeeling. Devlin’s weird that way.‖ 9
  13. 13. Ellie stood in the doorway, speechless, amazed by what she saw and lulled intoa trance by Uncle Quinn’s steady tenor. ―I’ll let you get settled. Just shout if you need anything.‖ Uncle Quinn brieflytouched her shoulder. Only a slight shift in the air behind Ellie let her know he hadstepped out, he moved so quietly. Ellie finally managed to whisper a thank you after Uncle Quinn had already pulledthe door shut. Ellie moved her suitcase from the floor to the foot of the bed and unpacked whatfew clothes she had brought with her into a hulking bureau painted white with daffodilsand stargazer lilies, wiping a exhaustion from the corners of her eyes and fighting herdark hair back into a ponytail. She smiled as she noticed the details around the roomher mother would never have overlooked – the tags on the pillows sticking out of theopen ends of the pillowcases; the comforter spread out with the flowers pointing towardthe foot of the bed; and the curtains on the windows riddled with wrinkles and creasesfrom being compressed in their packaging – they had obviously never been ironed.Ellie flopped onto the bed and let her head sink into the pillows and stared at the sheercurtains, thinking of her mom and watching as they danced in the breeze. She gaspedwhen her eyes met those of the face looking out at her from among the wrinkles. Elliecrawled slowly off the bed and crept to the window, but the face disappeared as herfingertips touched the thin white fabric. She had just dismissed it as a trick of her mindwhen the face appeared again and mouthed her name. Fascinated, Ellie grabbed anotebook and pencil from the roll-top desk in the corner of her room and rushed back toher bed, careful not to move too close to the windows in case the breeze from her 10
  14. 14. passing disturbed the curtain. She sat down, tightened her ponytail, and begansketching. Her hesitant lines were nothing like the confident, bold strokes of her father’sartwork, but the foundation was solid, and Ellie captured the details as best she could. Sleep finally coaxed Ellie under the covers of the brass twin bed, and she nestleddeep under the blankets. She turned off the lamp, and her eyelids had nearly closedwhen she saw the silhouettes of both her uncles pause outside her bedroom door. Shefought to the surface of consciousness to listen to their conversation, but lost her battleand let sleep pull her under. 11
  15. 15. CHAPTER FIVE Ellie was still savoring the salt on her lips as she threw her body against the frontdoor to force it into its frame. Breathless, cheeks flushed, she mounted the stairs butpaused halfway up as the sound of hissing finally broke through the echo of waveslingering in her ears. She crept silently up the remainder of the stairs, stepping on theoutside of the second to last to avoid its groans, and froze halfway down the hall whenshe saw her bedroom light on, two shadows tangling on the floor and dancing towardsthe threshold of the open door. Shaking, she stepped towards them, the hairs on herarms spiking in protest. ―Did you draw these?‖ Uncle Devlin had Ellie’s notebook clenched in his fist, andhe stomped towards her, bending nearly in half as he thrust his face in hers, hot breathwashing over her skin. Ellie’s body betrayed her as always. Her voice hid beneath a lump in her throat,and her eyes immediately submitted with an offering of tears. The anger she would feellater when she was alone was eclipsed by an intense shadow of guilt. ―Why did you draw these? Where did you see these people?‖ Each question stabbed at Ellie, weakened her. She tried to look past UncleDevlin to Uncle Quinn, but he matched her movements, pinning her with his glare. ―I asked you a question. I expect an answer.‖ Uncle Devlin rolled up thenotebook as though preparing to scold a puppy and raised it over Ellie’s head. Finallythe flood of fear broke, and Ellie felt anger bubbling to the surface. ―Why are you in my room? Why are you going through my things? What does itmatter if I drew some stupid pictures?‖ Ellie gulped for air, swiping and the tears that 12
  16. 16. ran down her face, wiping her nose on her sleeve. The salt on her lips now tastedbitter. Her throat constricted as she choked out the question that she wanted answeredmost of all. ―Why did he leave me?‖ The silence that followed deflated Ellie’s anger. She had never spoken to herparents in such a manner; but then again, her parents had never raised a hand inanger. She realized she knew precious little about either of her uncles, and yet she wascompletely at their mercy. She probed the floor with her eyes as Uncle Devlin seemedto suck all the air from around her, leaving her cold and breathless. ―Dev. Back off a little.‖ Uncle Quinn stepped between Ellie and Uncle Devlin,pulling Ellie close while he placed a hand on Uncle Devlin’s chest. ―She’s hiding something. I want to know what.‖ Uncle Quinn let go of Ellie and pushed against his brother, leaning in to whisperin his ear. Uncle Devlin stepped back, met his brother’s eyes, and then walked to thedoor. He turned to glare back over his brother’s head at Ellie. His feet pounded anangry rhythm, and his door cracked like a shotgun blast as he slammed it shut.Moments later he crashed past, thundered down the main staircase and out the frontdoor. Ellie collapsed on the bed, drained. She felt the mattress dip as Uncle Quinn satdown on its edge. His hand on the small of her back started a new wave of tears, andshe turned her face into the pillow to escape. ―Ellie,‖ Uncle Quinn whispered. ―He’s not really angry with you. He’s frightened.You may not have noticed, but Dev’s not exactly warm and fuzzy. He’s not good atexpressing himself. Fear comes out as anger.‖ 13
  17. 17. ―Fear?‖ ―Come with me.‖ Uncle Quinn stood, unfolding his body and stretching, givingEllie space but watching to make sure she followed him up the narrow to the attic. 14
  18. 18. CHAPTER SIX ―I don’t think we should be in here, Uncle Quinn. What if he comes home?‖ Uncle Quinn shut the door to Uncle Devlin’s bedroom behind him. ―Don’t worry;I’ll take the blame. He knows better than to try to take me on.‖ Ellie grinned as Uncle Quinn flexed muscles his willowy arms didn’t have. ―It’s probably best if you sit down,‖ Uncle Quinn laughed as he tried to steparound Ellie without bumping into anything. He crossed the room, tracing his fingersalong the spines of a row of books. All but one of the room’s walls was lined withbookshelves, overflowing with what looked like history books from what Ellie could see.Each draft that flew around the small space stirred up the scent of old paper and dust,ghosts chasing each other as they dodged the specks of dust that danced on asunbeam. The wall opposite the door was dominated by a large, round window, anunblinking eye looking out over the waves, keeping watch over Uncle Devlin’s wroughtiron bed. In the corner, shadowed between the ratty quilt of the bed and anotherbookshelf, sat a hunchbacked wooden trunk. Uncle Quinn lifted the lid gently and doveinside, finally lifting out a tattered blue afghan, and from within its folds a weatheredbrown book. Ellie tucked her legs underneath her as Uncle Quinn set the book on her lap,sitting next to her on Uncle Devlin’s bed. She gingerly flipped through the first pages,filled with childish drawings of knights fighting shadowy dragons, castles guarded bywinged horses, and motorcycles, racecars and fighter jets, all clearly drawn by a child.The drawings gradually improved, but the subjects shifted from fantasy to landscapes,with the occasional still life or geometric design. Ellie’s breath caught when she turned 15
  19. 19. a page and found a woman’s face staring up at her from the paper. As she got furtherinto the book, she began to recognize the people on the pages; the lines and curves inUncle Devlin’s book mirrored those in her own notebook. She finally remembered thatUncle Quinn was on the bed beside her, and she met his eyes in confusion. ―This is Devlin’s sketchbook from when he was your age. We all had them –even your father. Devlin’s the only one that kept his. But they all have those samefaces in them. Your father – he saw the faces in the frost on his window after a latespring storm. Devlin saw his first in a drying mud puddle on the driveway. I saw mine inthe bark of an old oak tree where we grew up.‖ Uncle Quinn stopped Ellie’s hand asshe reached the end of the drawings and began flipping blank pages. ―We never told each other about our drawings; we were all worried people wouldthink we were crazy.‖ He grinned. ―Well, crazier, in Devlin’s case. We just drew themand kept them hidden. It was your father that first mentioned his drawings, after he hadmarried your mother. In fact, it was when she was pregnant with you. That was whenyour father started to see the faces again.‖ ―Why was Uncle Devlin so angry when he saw my drawings? If you’ve all seenthe same things …‖ Uncle Quinn waited for Ellie to answer her own question. ―It has something to do with why my mom left.‖ ―I don’t know, Ellie. But I think you’re wrong.‖ ―You mean it’s just a coincidence that we drew the same people?‖ ―No. I meant you’re wrong that your mom left. She didn’t leave. She wastaken.‖ 16
  20. 20. ―I saw her. At the front door. She wanted to leave.‖ Ellie added ―me‖ silently. ―She wouldn’t leave you, Ellie.‖ Ellie studied the blank page in front of her, waiting for Uncle Quinn to continue,but he didn’t; he left the room quietly, pulling the door softly shut. Drawn in by her wonder at the drawings Uncle Devlin had done as a boy, Elliefound herself flipping back and forth through the book’s pages, thinking about thepeople she saw and who they might be. She didn’t notice that their faces had begun todarken as clouds moved in off the sea until the sound of footsteps falling heavily on theattic stairs broke her trance. Ellie jumped to her feet as Uncle Devlin opened the door,stuffing the book under the edge of a pillow and standing in front of the wrinkled quilt.Peering over her, he tried to see what she was hiding. 17
  21. 21. CHAPTER SEVEN Uncle Devlin silently extended his hand and waited, and she gingerly handed himthe book, waiting for him to begin yelling. He began flipping through the pages of thebook, a scowl knitting his dark eyebrows together. Ellie watched nervously as Uncle Devlin reached the beginning of the pages withthe faces; the quick flash of recognition which he quickly masked with indifference. Hepaused and raised his eyes from the page, and a loud clap of thunder shook the wallsas their eyes met. Ellie let out a garbled yelp, and the sky opened on the storm’s nextreport, hailstones trying to break through the roof of the old, weary house. She startedtowards the door to escape, but was stopped by Uncle Devlin’s long, calloused fingerslocking around her arm. Ellie froze, staring at the fingers burning against her skin. She had never beengrabbed like that before; her parents didn’t even believe in spanking. She was afraid tomeet Devlin’s eyes again, but she worked up enough courage to look up at him as shefelt his grip loosen. She expected to see anger, or worse, his blank, piercing stare; butshe never expected to see worry. ―Sit down. Please.‖ Uncle Devlin reached under the foot of the bed and pulled out a large, dustycushion. He folded himself onto it, facing her, for once looking up at her instead oftowering over her. He opened the sketch book to the first of the faces and studied it fora few minutes, then moved on to the next page. Ellie almost lost his words when hespoke without lifting his gaze from the book. ―Are you afraid of me?‖ 18
  22. 22. Ellie wasn’t sure how to answer, but Uncle Quinn’s words about his brotherechoed in her mind. ―Yes,‖ she whispered. Uncle Devlin continued to study the book, nodding almost imperceptibly. Ellie watched as Uncle Devlin held the gaze of one face for several minutes, hisfingers tracing the sketch, almost as though he was really touching the woman’s cheek,the line of her jaw. Her fear began to fade as she watched her uncle’s face lose its hardedges, making him look tired and much younger, much weaker, than he had momentsago. Ellie felt her stomach turn as it always did when she wasn’t sure what to do; thatlittle fluttering of panic she felt when she was about to fail a test. So Ellie did what shealways used to do when she was faced with uncertainty. She asked herself what her mother would do. Back before her mother had givenup. And Ellie knew that in that moment, her uncle needed her as much as she mightneed him. She bent, found another cushion under the foot of the bed, and pulled it nextto Uncle Devlin’s. She sat down next to him and rested her head on his shoulder sothat she could see the book. Ellie felt the muscles of her uncle’s arm jump under hertemple, but her courage held and she stayed where she was. ―Who is she?‖ Uncle Devlin’s finger continued to touch the woman’s face, pausing softly on herlips. Ellie’s patience was rewarded with an answer from her uncle, whispered so softlyit was almost lost under the sound of the rain on the attic roof. 19
  23. 23. ―She is – was – someone that I lost a long time ago. Shortly after you wereborn.‖ Ellie waited for him to continue, but he remained silent, and eventually themoment was lost. Uncle Devlin stood and crossed to the attic door, pausing to drop thesketch book back in his trunk. ―It’s time for dinner.‖ 20
  24. 24. CHAPTER EIGHT Dinner conversation consisted of the soft clinking of forks against plates and thewet slapping of spaghetti noodles. Everyone seemed lost in their own thoughts, but thetension that had filled the house was easing as Ellie and her uncles grew accustomed toeach other. Ellie had so many questions that she wanted to ask, but she was afraid tobe the first to break the silence. Uncle Devlin’s back lab, Pavlov, walked into the dining room, turned aroundunder the table until he found the spot where he could be in contact with everyone’sfeet, and then flopped down in a heap. Moments later, the heap farted. Ellie couldn’t hold in her laughter, and her uncles soon joined her. Weigheddown by the exhaustion of the day’s events, Ellie’s silently and unexpectedly shifted totears. She kept her eyes locked on her plate of pasta, too embarrassed to look at eitherof her uncles. ―Ellie,‖ Uncle Quinn started, but the rest of his words fell off as she met his eyes,tears still pouring from her own. Uncle Quinn looked down at his own plate, uncertain ofhis next move. Uncle Devlin stood and walked around the table to stand over her. Ellie’s sobs caught in her throat. She was still unsure of him, but Uncle Devlinseemed to have shaken off the anger that had gripped him since they’d first met. Without a word, he pulled her up out of her chair, scooped her into his arms, andheld her close, his chin resting on top of her head. Ellie buried her face against his 21
  25. 25. shoulder, unable to stop shaking. By the time he gently set her down on her bed andpulled the blankets up to her chin, she had cried herself to sleep. The following morning, Ellie woke up to find Uncle Devlin in a chair beside herbed, completely out of place under a fuzzy pink blanket. Ellie could not rememberfalling asleep, but the shadows of several nightmares about her parents clung to theback of her mind. Each fractured scene had been interrupted by a strong, invisiblepresence which she had not understood at the time she fought her way through thefrightening dreamscapes, but which she now suspected had been Uncle Devlin helpingher fight her demons. Ellie looked across the room to her door, where Uncle Quinn was playingcharades, trying to get her to follow him without waking Uncle Devlin. She paddedsoftly across the room, shutting the door gently behind her. ―I have a present for you.‖ ―What is it?‖ Uncle Quinn grinned. ―Just open it.‖ Ellie ripped the newspaper off the box, wiping the black newsprint off on herpajama bottoms. ―Oh. It’s a book.‖ ―Your father sent it for you.‖ ―Dad sent it? Where is he? Did he find my mom?‖ ―It came in today’s mail. There wasn’t a note or anything.‖ ―Nothing?‖ 22
  26. 26. ―I know, it sucks – crap, forget that. I didn’t say sucks. Or crap. Stop laughing.What I’m trying to say is I know that it’s not fair to be going through all this without anyanswers. Read the book; it will help prepare you for what we have to teach you.‖ ―Teach me?‖ Uncle Quinn grinned at Ellie. ―You want to be able to help your father, don’tyou?‖ Ellie’s heart sped up at the thought of being able to do something, anything, tohelp get her mom back. She started to ask Uncle Quinn more questions but he cut heroff. ―Just read it.‖ 23
  27. 27. PERSONAL REFLECTION ON “THE FACE IN THE CURTAINS”This story has wanted to be written for a long time. After several years of intentions tostart, I decided to use the concept for our class this semester. Of course it immediatelybegan to stretch into areas that are way outside my comfort zone, in part thanks to theamazing feedback, and in part because I realized what I thought was the direction thestory would take turned out to be completely wrong.I wanted to write a story that dealt with subject areas in which I am always struggling:science and faith. I’m intrigued by what we don’t know; I’m drawn to the idea that thereis the potential for reconciliation between the two. Every brainstorm, every nugget,every fragment of an idea that I’ve had for the past few years have been focused in thisarea. But like every idea that really excites, it has been elusive as well. Whenever I sitdown at the computer, or with a journal or notepad, it seems to dart just beyond myreach. That I have enough pages to meet the requirements of this portfolio is a victoryin itself, because it’s proof that I’m getting over whatever fear keeps me from filling thepages. I will miss the structure of our class, and the amazing encouragement andfeedback, because each word, each thought, is another arrow in my quiver as I take uparms in the battle for a completed novel.Ellie has been my idea-catcher. She has already learned more from Devlin and Quinnthan I myself understand; we’re actually learning together. I’m anxious to put so muchmore down on the page, but at the same time, I’m afraid that Ellie and I will hit a wall.After all, there are some big answers out there, and we’re just not meant to have them.But we won’t stop asking the questions. 24
  28. 28. CRITIQUES FROM CLASSMATESPost 7.6: Critique by Katie HoegVery cool concept. I love the "fear" factor in your story and how it would be enticing toyoung readers. My own students LOVE the "Goosebumps" books and I just know theywould be into this as well. Youre an excellent writer with a flair for details. I loved howyou mentioned the over-stuffed sofas and the scent of the peach pancakes.Of course - I have some questions. Does Ellie have any personal experiences with this"strange" and "unusual" stuff? In "Harry Potter," Harry very much believes he isdifferent - before he knows. So, I wonder if Ellie is similar? I also have interest in whatELSE was happening. It seems like you introduced the house very quickly, but thatthere was a lot more room for you to slow down and explain. That house must beterrifying to Ellie, so I would like to hear even more about the chipped paint anddecaying flowers. I would like to hear how the sofa felt. Did her feet dangle? Was shelifted up because the cushions were overstuffed? What ELSE can you tell me? Itseems that the house is so important; I would like to know everything you can possiblytell me about it.Great job with this story, Laura. It is exciting and interesting - and I cant wait to readmore!- Katie HoegKatie’s critiques were immensely helpful throughout the weeks I spent working on thisproject, as well as other writing samples submitted to the group. Her insight into thepace of the samples, especially regarding where things were moving too quickly, was agreat asset when it came to plotting out future chapters and revising existing ones. Itend to get too anxious to move the plot forward once I’ve laid the foundation of a story;I also tend to withhold information from the reader in order to attempt to build suspense.Obviously there is a risk in doing so, as you can very quickly lose your reader. Katiebrought these areas to my attention with precision that make going back and revising apleasure, rather than a chore. She had excellent insights into character as well; hercomments above regarding Ellie are an example. She is the type of reader I hope toearn in the future. 25
  29. 29. Post 8.6: Critique by Sarah FischerLaura,Your plot is getting better and better! I am so grateful for you to share Ellie’s story withus each week. In this excerpt, we learn more about the relationship Ellie’s uncles havewith one another, and also the fact that they have something in common with Elliebesides a biological connection. Not only does Ellie see these faces, but her uncles andfather do as well. I thought it was interesting that Ellie’s father began seeing them againwhen her mother was pregnant with her. It was a clue I thought to be important, butcan’t quite connect up yet which is adding to the suspense.Again, you do an excellent job of showing. The figurative language you use is such astrength. I also love your ability to sense when to give information and when to withholdit. You are building so much suspense. I know you said you focused on dialogue thisweek and I think you wove it together very naturally. My only picky comment is thatQuinn is always calling Devlin “Dev” and it feels a little bit overdone. Other than that, Ithink your narration balanced your dialogue wonderfully. I have a lot of my favorite partsnoted below, so please check them out!There were a few places I thought you might want to reconsider your word choice, and Ihave those noted below. I have also noted some of my initial reactions as I was reading.One thing that did confuse me was Ellie and Quinn’s transition to Devlin’s room. Is it inthe attic? I think it is, but you say Ellie followed him “up the narrow to the attic.” Youmight have just left out “stairway”, but I was imagining his room on the same floor asEllie’s.One big question I had was Why didn’t Quinn show Ellie his drawings? Why instead didhe show her Devlin’s? I am also still asking myself why Ellie had never met her uncles.Such a great job! I am sad we only have a few more chances to read about Ellie thissemester!-SarahSarah’s critiques were so challenging, and somehow were in perfect balance with theother critiques I was receiving. When someone else focused on plot, Sarah zeroed inon dialogue. When it seemed that pacing was the main area needing improvement,Sarah asked questions that drove me to question myself and work harder to hold herattention. It was wonderful! The questions she asked, like those above, focused notonly on what I had written, but also on what I was going to write. Too often, in a writinggroup (not this one), the comments focus only on what is on the page, and do little otherthan help you line edit and clear up technical details within the story. But Sarah – and 26
  30. 30. really, the entire writing group – would provide me with questions about the story ―yet tobe‖ … which helped me to realize where I wanted to go, and what I needed to go backand strengthen in order to get there. What an amazing asset to a writer! 27
  31. 31. CRITIQUES FOR CLASSMATESSarah Fischer: Post 3.7 (The Johnstown Flood)I love that you’re taking what is a familiar historical topic for a region, and changing theperspective to one that many people likely never considered. I wonder if there are anyhistorical writings – journals, etc. – from any of the children of the country club ownersat the time you describe? I’m sure you’ve researched this (what first captured youridea, being 10 years old, about the story?) but it’s one of the first things that came tomind for me as far as research, so I thought I’d throw it out there anyways.There are WONDERFUL moments in the sample you have provided. Theforeshadowing in this line is incredible: Behind them, a wave quietly swells in thedistance. The girls are unaware of its gathering strength. I also love this line: Fifteenyears is more than enough time to disguise a boy behind a man’s face.There were a few moments where I thought you could ―show‖ more than ―tell.‖ (I knowwe hear reference to ―show versus tell‖ a lot as writers … I’m sorry if I’m repeatinganyone!) The one that stood out to me the most was this: you wrote I saw nothing but awhite rectangle outlined against the dusty aging plaster. I would assume that a paintingwould leave a white rectangle; I think if you used something like ―I saw nothing but itsghost outlined against dusty, aging plaster‖ might work. You’ve done an excellent job atcreating the setting, but I wanted slightly less detail and slightly more emotion. At times,it felt as though the voice was too ―tell‖ and not enough ―show.‖ I hope that makessense.You have a great start here, and a great topic to work with … as someone who knowsnothing about the flood, you have definitely piqued my curiosity! Keep up the greatwork!Katie Hoeg: Post 6.4 (Plot Discovery)I had a little bit more trouble finding my footing with this weeks sample than I have withprevious submissions, and I think Ive finally pinpointed why. There are times when Imnot getting a clear sense of Ardens voice. My understanding of this piece thus far asbeen that at a chosen age, individuals cease to age; they are frozen at that age - atleast biologically. However, the concept of family still exists, and even if someonechose to freeze their age at a given point - say, for example, the age of eleven - theystill mature emotionally and psychologically - they can get married, have a family(although not in the conventional sense), etc. Arden, when we meet her, has not yetchosen her Age of Choice, so she is a "true" child - both physically and psychologically.And yet she is frustrated with her mother in the passage below because her motherdidnt follow a rule, which (I assume) frightened Arden.I think youre trying to set up an ironic twist on the parent-child relationship with thispiece, but Im losing Arden for some reason. Some lines ring true of a child/adolescent, 28
  32. 32. whereas others make her seem as though she had chosen her Age of Choice a longtime ago, and has grown weary with her parents. I think this is what is tripping me up.Somewhere Im getting a sense that Ardens "parents" are still behaving like children,but this confuses me, as they reached their Age of Choice and should have "matured"by now. The mothers voice seems to shift between obstinate toddler wanting to watchcartoons, and someone wise who no longer has anything to offer in the way of advice toArden.The images youre using are wonderful, and Im still very intrigued by the plot yourestructured; I just feel as though theres something as a reader Im getting mixed up inmy head. (I fully admit this could be my fault!) If you want to discuss this more, or if Imnot explaining something clearly, please feel free to reach out to me directly - you can e-mail me at laura.daveta@gmail.com or call me at 330-416-0602.Keep up the great work - youve got me hooked into the story now! The fact that Imthinking through it so much is a compliment! 29
  33. 33. PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF CHILDREN’S LITERATUREWhen we first started this course, I hadn’t given much thought to what I loved about thegenre of children’s literature; I simply knew that if given the choice, I spent what fewhours I had for reading on young adult fiction. The books I chose seemed to ask so littleof me while they offered so much in return. The pretension and inaccessibility thatseem to creep into the pages of ―grown-up‖ fiction seem to look down their nose aschildren’s books.As someone who has always loved writing, but never really challenged herself to putforth any serious effort in any one project, I made the decision to pursue this course asa source of discipline to try to get started on writing the type of book I love to read. Ihad spent a few semesters in Penn State’s program on Children’s Literature, and I feltcomfortable enough with my ability to recognize what is good in the genre to be able tobegin my own project.I’m so naïve sometimes.Being able to appreciate talent, and being able to imitate talent, are two very differentthings. I found myself cowering in the corners into which I had written myself; I wasanxious about getting feedback from my writing group as I felt out of practice, clumsy,and intimidated by what I was seeing from others.But I powered through. I faced down the monster, and I won the battle … simply byputting pen to paper and trying.Because after all, this is the beauty of the genre. When we read these books, we are allchildren. We are Harry Potter, Lucy Pevensie, Katniss Everdeen, Meg Murray; we arenone of us perfect, yet all of us heroes. We simply have to find within ourselves thecourage to show up; to trust ourselves, and to take that first step, wherever it mightlead.I’ll never feel that I’ve gotten everything I can out of the genre of Children’s Literature; Iwill never outgrow it. There is always something new to learn about myself; there isalways another story to share with the children in my life. I can travel back in timewhenever I choose, simply by picking up a cherished book and allowing myself to shakeoff the burdens of being an adult, even if only for a few hundred pages.And that is why I will never grow up. 30
  34. 34. A NOTE FROM THE AUTHORPraise is nice. Everyone likes to hear praise. I’m no exception. But I also love to hearcriticism.Okay, so I don’t LOOOOOVE it.But I try to learn from it.This semester has been the best writing course I have taken in a while, and quitepossibly the best ever. My writing group had amazing insight; they were bothencouraging and honest, and I walked away each week with a great sense of how toimprove my writing. This doesn’t always happen in writing groups.The structure of the course was challenging. I came into the course a week late, andhave been out of breath ever since – but in a good way. The assignments were difficultbut productive; the texts were a pleasure to read; and there was an enthusiasm on themessage boards that was contagious.Typically, by the last two or three weeks of the semester, I have grown tired of a courseand am ready for it to be over. And while I still have a slight measure of that feeling withthis course – after all, it’s nice to have a break once in a while! – I am also disappointedthat the course is ending. I have more story to tell; I still need help in knowing when thatstory is succeeding or failing. But I also have confidence that I’m a few steps closer tobeing able to tell that story with some measure of success, and I owe that confidence tothis course.I hope that I have been able to return that feeling to some of you. We are all successfulwriters this semester.Congratulations everyone! 31
  35. 35. ABOUT THE AUTHORBorn in Parma, Ohio and raised for her entire childhood in a small Cleveland suburb,Laura D’Aveta remains an avid reader of young adult literature, and she is constantlysearching for new favorites. She will complete her Master’s degree from ThePennsylvania State University in the Spring of 2012, and Ms. D’Aveta will be anxiouslyawaiting the University’s acceptance decision for their PhD program. If she had herway, Ms. D’Aveta would attend college for the rest of her life; but since that gets to beexpensive, she is hoping to teach at the college level so that she never has to leave theclassroom. She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio and spends as much time as shecan with her nieces and nephew because playing with them allows her to be as childishas she wants. 32
  36. 36. When Ellie’s father disappears in search of her mother and leaves Ellie in the care of her uncles, Ellie thought her biggest concern would be having nothing to do all summer. But she soon finds herself in the center of a spiritual war, where her world is beginning to blend with another dimension, and every action has eternal consequences. Ellie must choose between remaining in the oblivion of her childhood and trusting her uncles to teach her to fight for those she loves.“I am truly impressed and I think this is a great start. Within the first twenty pagesmy attention was completely grasped and I wanted more! ~Denyelle D’Aveta, Charlotte, NC“Laura has honed her talent for writing with this entertaining, roller coaster, pageturner that leaves the reader in anticipation of what is to come.” ~ Sandi D’Aveta, Brunswick, OH“D’Aveta delivers an intelligent, captivating and suspenseful drama which keeps thatreader glued to this exciting literary thriller.” ~ Jeanine Cazares, Columbus, OH“This is a truly engaging tribute to the struggles of childhood. Filled with love,uncertainty, and acceptance, it captures the essence of the emotional journey thateveryone encounters at some point in their lives.” ~ Haley Daugherty, Seville, OH“I kept wanting to compliment you on your ability to paint a scene with description.It’s straight-up pro material! At no point did I have a tough time seeing a scene …” ~ Robert D’Aveta, Charlotte, NC