Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Back to School Hop

Giveaway! The winner will receive a paperback, autographed copy of both Thundersnow and Clothed in Thunder. (The covers will not be those pictured.)

Enter to win below the excerpt.

An excerpt from Clothed in Thunder, Sarah Jane's first day at a new school:

Chapter 3--New School

My aunt took my arm, and we walked in the direction the girl had pointed. Before we rounded the corner, I turned to give the girl one last look.

The teeming students hurried orderly to their classes. The girl stood amidst them, as if in an oasis, and gave me a small wave. From this distance it looked as if concern furrowed her brow.

Near her was a male teacher. Shorter than most of the students and balding, yet still with a shock of black hair, he narrowed his dark eyes when his gaze fell on us. No wonder the girl looked concerned.

A sense of dread filled me that I tried to shake off. Clutching the tablet, pencil, and my syrup-can lunch pail so tightly to my chest that my knuckles whitened, I followed my aunt into the office.

She stood at the counter and fidgeted under the scrutiny of the secretary. “Miss Ballard, I wish to enroll my niece.”

Was she nervous for me? I placed a hand on her arm to comfort both of us.

Miss Ballard gave a curt nod. “Yes, Mrs. Barnett. I heard your niece and nephew moved in with you.” She pushed some papers across the counter. “What grade will she be entering?”

My aunt glanced at me, and I swallowed. Technically, I had never finished ninth grade. And now, also, I had missed the first two months of tenth grade.

I swallowed down the fear rising in my throat and raised my chin. “Tenth, Miss Ballard.”

“Where did you last attend school?”

“Sterling School in Covington County.” I looked down at my new pair of shoes. Sturdy brown leather whose soles didn’t flap.

Miss Ballard handed a list to my aunt. “These are the books she’ll need. The prices are beside each one.”

My aunt’s eyes widened. She shook her head as Miss Ballard came around the corner. “There aren’t any cheaper books?”

“Oh, yes.” Miss Ballard nodded vigorously. “You can get them used. As a matter of fact, I have some here you can choose from.”

She walked to a cupboard and pulled down books in varying degrees of decrepitness. She pointed out the prices until my aunt cut her short.

“We’ll take the cheapest ones.” She glanced over at me, apologetically.

I gave her an encouraging smile. At least I had books for school, and that was all that mattered.

"I'll show you to your homeroom," Miss Ballard said. She stood by the door and waited.

Aunt Liza straightened my collar and gave my shoulder a squeeze. I gave her a quick hug, breathing in her smell of vanilla. I released her and followed Miss Ballard.

The empty hallways echoed the sounds of our clacking shoes. Sunlight streamed through the large windows but did little to dispel the gloom from the tall, dark, wood-beamed ceilings.

The hallway was eerily silent. For such a large school, the students seemed exceptionally quiet. Either that or the walls were thick enough to muffle all sounds.

She stopped at a door and turned to face me. "Sarah Jane, please let me know if, if . . ."

"Yes, Miss Ballard?"

She eyed me anxiously. Highly efficient until now, her sudden indecision worried me.

"Just let me know if you ever have a problem. Okay?"

"Yes, ma'am." What did she mean? A problem with a teacher or a student?

Before I had time to ask, she knocked briskly on the door.

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