LISTEN TO ME
Twelve-year-old Serena isn’t so much a self-imposed hermit as a dad-imposed one. When your beer-guzzling dad can barely talk, let alone walk, having friends around isn’t an option. But smart, eccentric Katie surprises her with a tempting offer of friendship until Serena’s drunken father nearly runs the girls over. Serena’s relief and guilt overflow when he’s hauled off to a work release program.
With her father gone, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms, and she slowly dares to do the unthinkable, like talk to a boy and join chorus. But a social life can’t replace a father, or fix her family’s problems, something that sours even her happiest moments.
When her dad comes home sober, he asks Serena to trust him. But heartache and humiliation are in store when gossip at school begins. Now she must choose—give Dad a chance laced with some tough love, or revert to hermit mode in case he fails.
I slouch in my seat, avoiding Mr. Henderson’s eyes as though that will make me invisible. Today he is cheerful and chirpy and enjoying himself way too much. He leans on a corner of his desk in front of the class, randomly assigning partners for our oral history reports.
“Sam Flores, your partner is—” His broad chest expands in a dramatic pause while he teases the dark-haired boy two seats ahead of me. Sam is a good student, but so cute he’d make my tongue trip me into a huge puddle of embarrassment.
The round white clock behind our teacher ticks away. Suspense holds my lungs hostage. My fingers clench the edge of my chair hard enough to hurt.
Mr. Henderson calls on someone else. My sigh is part relief, part disappointment.
Someone who likes to talk would be a good partner—the more my partner says, the less I’ll need to say. Maybe no one would notice my nerves turning me to stone.
“Serena O’Hara, you and Katie Bell will work on women of the Revolutionary War.”
Katie’s blue eyes radiate satisfaction, smiling at me. I should be happy to get someone so smart. But she’ll want to spend hours making sure we are way over-prepared. Katie also moved into my neighborhood over the summer. What if she expects to meet outside of school? For a second my heart clenches, ready to bolt. We can’t. Not at my house.
I take a deep breath. Relax. There’s no need for her to meet Dad.