Only one more chapter release before King Beatrice is officially off pre-order!
Pretty amazing, right?
While publishing King Beatrice, I have been working hard at writing another book! No sneak peeks quite yet . . . but you can expect pre-orders for that to start in early 2019!
Okay, you forced me! I will tell you one thing . . . this one will have pictures ;P
Enjoy Chapter 3 of King Beatrice!
(adj.) deviating from the ordinary, usual, or normal type
Alex had seen enough faces for one day and he had only been in the store for six minutes. In his opinion, back-to-school-shopping day was the second worst day of the year (the first day of school being the absolute worst); this was the day when the dread set in. After that moment, there would be no going back. He already knew the summer was over.
Within the six minutes of shopping, Alex had received a total of five smirks from former classmates as if they were already preparing the nicknames and taunts for the year.
Make that six.
“Oh, honey! What backpack do you want?” His mother drooled over the variety.
Alex, on the other hand, stared blankly at the display, not caring for any of them. “My old one is fine.”
His father sighed, “You’ve had that one for a couple years. There are holes in the bottom.”
“Look!” Marianne squealed. “This one has those characters you like!”
“It’s Space Ghost,” Alex and his father said in unison, sharing a quick smirk.
“The black one is fine, Mom.”
She looked at her son, contemplating arguing with him over it, but instead put the dreadfully plain backpack in the cart. She remembered getting excited this time of year and wanting so many new and cool things to show off at school, but Alex just wasn’t the same. It hurt her sometimes, how different they were.
“Okay, what’s next?” She smiled down at her list and headed for the pencils.
Alex was convinced they had been shopping for two hours by the time they made it to the art supplies, which were only halfway down the list, but at least he could enjoy this portion of shopping. For the first time that day, he felt happy, grinning as he grabbed a variety of art sets. Placing a sketchbook into the cart as if it were a newborn baby, he sighed, utterly satisfied, and looked forward.
There she was.
The boy searched frantically for a place to hide, but his parents were too far away and the aisle was empty. She caught his gaze. Alex froze. He hadn’t seen Beatrice in four days, four beautifully quiet days, and he didn’t plan on seeing her anytime soon. Apparently, he wasn’t as lucky as he liked to believe.
She looked upset, and Alex couldn’t help but feel a little scared, fearing the very idea of retaliation from Beatrice. Why did they have to go shopping, Alex wondered, why there?
“Are you staring at that girl?” His mother had snuck up on him, making Alex jump. “That’s your new friend, isn’t it?”
Alex could see the wheels turning in his mom’s head and he panicked. “No! No way! I-I was just looking at . . . at that binder down the next aisle.”
“Oh, I doubt that! Come on, we’re going to say hello.”
“Honey, let’s not—”
But it was too late. She was making a beeline for Beatrice.
“So, what’s the deal?” David crossed his arms and glared at the scene of his wife gabbing to the girl and her father.
“There isn’t a deal,” Alex trailed off.
“Sure, there isn’t. What? You like her or something?”
“No! She’s the worst.”
He chuckled and squeezed Alex’s shoulder, pushing him forward, “Yeah, that’s what I said about your mother.”
“Finally,” Marianne sighed in relief. “David, this is Beatrice, Alex’s friend, and this is her father.”
“Name’s John.” He shook David’s hand, and then studied Alex, frowning.
Alex had never felt so many emotions in such a short time. In the five second pause that John took, Alex went from feeling indifferent to uncomfortable to confused and then he finally felt terrified. He wasn’t sure how much Beatrice had told her father, but if she had mentioned how he had yelled at her, then Alex was about to die. Her father looked extremely protective, and he wasn’t a small man either.
“So, you’re Alex.” The boy gulped and nodded, waiting for the man to lift him by the collar and slug him into next week, but the father’s expression suddenly and astonishingly turned soft as he grinned and shook Alex’s hand. “Nice to meet cha’! Beatrice told me all about you—”
“Dad . . .” Beatrice burned a hole into the floor as she blushed.
“We could say the same about you, little lady! Alex has been cooped up in the house all summer.” Alex and his father felt the question before it came out of her mouth, but too late to stop it. “Would you two like to stop by for dinner sometime?”
That was it, thought Alex, his life just ended.
“That’d be great!” John beamed.
The boy could see exactly where Beatrice got her liveliness from.
“You know what, we’re about to get our groceries after we leave here. Why don’t you come over tonight?”
“Oh, honey—” David tried to protest, a true hero to his son, but she pinched the back of his arm tightly, all the while flashing an innocent smile. “That’s a great idea.”
The adults went aside to exchange information, leaving Alex and Beatrice to their own devices.
After a long silence, Alex cleared his throat. “I’m sorry.” The girl stared at him, making it the first time he had ever seen her with a blank expression. “I-I probably shouldn’t have, um,” God, he hated this. “Look, you were . . . and I got a little . . . my finger is better.” He paraded it in front of her, but her gaze didn’t shift. Gritting his teeth, Alex looked away long enough to spit out, “I’m really sorry about what I said.”
Alex expected her to grin and giggle. Maybe she would throw her hands in the air, hug him, and tell the boy how happy she was that he came to his senses. He didn’t want that, but that’s the kind of girl she was. Right?
Beatrice continued staring. Alex couldn’t read her, and, for once, he loathed silence. He felt a shiver crawl up his spine as her eyes gained a deadly presence.
She turned and strode to join her father.
The boy was too confused to move. Why did she have nothing to say? Alex couldn’t wrap his head around it. That was why he wasn’t friends with girls. They were too difficult to understand.
His four days of paradise had come to an end rather quickly. Alex simply wanted a logical answer as to why that girl kept barging into his life, and he wished his mother would have let him take down all the family pictures that hung on the wall. Beatrice most certainly didn’t need to see any pictures of Alex, especially the particularly chubby baby picture of him that hung in the hallway on the way to the bathroom.
“We are so excited to have you over!” His mother placed the last bowl of food on the dinner table.
“Of course, thank you for having us.”
Beatrice took a deep breath and flashed a refreshing smile, “Yeah, thank you.”
Alex piled his plate with food, making sure he made no eye contact with the girl.
“So how did you and Alex meet? I’m afraid Alex doesn’t share a lot.” Marianne asked as she took a sip of wine.
“At the park down the street.”
“You mean that overgrown forest?” His father chuckled, “I never thought Alex would step foot in that place in his life.”
“Rex got away, is all. I didn’t want to go,” he grumbled, wishing that they could eat in silence.
Beatrice grinned, “Yeah, he nearly tackled me!”
“He likes you, that’s for sure. He hasn’t left your side all evening.” And Rex didn’t plan to.
Alex glared at his dog and shouted “Traitor!” as loud as he could in his head, hoping that Rex would hear.
Would she tell them her nickname for Rex? Alex wondered. He was on the edge of his seat waiting for Beatrice to blurt out something about her pretend game so that everyone would see how crazy she was, but it was like staring at a candle trying to stoke a flame by prayers alone.
“So how old are you, sweetie?”
“I’m twelve,” Beatrice answered through her bite of steak.
“Same age as Alex,” David pointed out.
“Do you go to Westmoore, too?” his mother pried, and Alex yearned for the answer to be a firm “no.”
“She will be. We just moved here, so it’ll be her first year.”
Alex nearly choked on his food. Crap!
“Well, it’s a great school! Most end up going to the best high schools afterwards.” Alex suddenly lost his appetite. “So where did you move from?”
“Michigan,” Beatrice said. Something seemed off about her, but the boy just couldn’t place what it was.
Her father rested his hand on her shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. He knew the look on her face, and it killed him to witness it. “We just needed a fresh start.”
Beatrice stood abruptly to leave, her eyes growing watery and red, “Um, where’s the bathroom?”
The picture! Alex sank in his seat. Crap, she was going to see it and never let him live it down.
“Down the hall, sweetie,” Marianne answered.
John whispered to his daughter, “Are you okay?”
The girl smiled big and nodded, but she wasn’t and they both knew.
“You chose a great town!”
“We certainly hope so.”
“Is it just the two of you?” David asked.
John took a deep breath, “Yes, just me and her now.”
Alex felt the air in the room grow unbearably thick and was grateful that, for whatever reason, the subject wasn’t pushed.
Conversation continued as his mother brought dessert and Beatrice rejoined the table. Neither of the children bothered to join, or even do as little as listen. They stared at different objects in the room, and while Beatrice tried locking eyes with Alex, he was determined to avoid her.
By the time the parents had ventured into the living room, Alex thought that perhaps he had died and gone to a special kind of hell. Beatrice, however, just hated the silence and the feeling of intrusion. In fact, she started feeling as if the walls of the house closed in on her more and more the longer she sat at the empty table with the boy on the other side obviously ignoring her.
She cleared her throat, “Would you like to go for a walk?”
“Alex used to come down those stairs butt naked—” Alex heard his mother laugh from the other room and he didn’t dare wait for her story to finish.
“Yes. Now.” He grabbed her hand and wrenched Beatrice from the house.
It was quiet outside. Beatrice listened to the rustling leaves, far-off crickets, and the whizzing of cars down busy streets. She found that though the air had a slight chill to it, it felt warm if she didn’t think about the cool breeze. The girl had counted the stars, but she could never get past twenty-four before forgetting which she had already counted. There were more stars in this part of the city, Beatrice observed, and she liked that very much.
Alex drove his hands deep into his pockets, frowning. It was cold and Rex kept pulling on the leash.
“I forgive you.” Alex didn’t have much of a reaction, so Beatrice repeated herself. “I forgive you for the other day.”
He stared at her for a minute, wondering why she hadn’t just said that earlier; then he nodded.
“So, is this school actually great or is your mom just saying that?”
Alex sighed, not thrilled that she of all people would be adding to his already awful student body. “It’s fine.”
“Your mom is a really happy person, isn’t she?” Alex nodded. Sometimes too happy. “I like her. She’s nice.” Her words came out as a whisper, “You’re lucky to have her.”
He shrugged and kept his eyes on Rex.
“Oh, that’s my house.” Beatrice stopped them and pointed to an average house with . . . was it a garden? It was too dark and they were too far for him to tell.
But, yes, it was a garden. Beatrice and her father had worked quite hard to keep it flourishing in the stead of the elderly woman from whom they bought the home. “It’s not that far.” She paused, “You can come over whenever you want. I mean, it would be really nice if you’d still like to play before the summer is over.”
Alex only nodded, and they continued their walk. He was quiet while Beatrice spoke passionately about this and that. He thought that she was the kind of aberrant person who would pick up an encyclopedia and claim it to be the most thrilling book in the world.
Beatrice was one big puzzle to him. He just couldn’t understand what she saw in him. Alex wasn’t talkative, he wasn’t friendly, he was far from playful, and, for the most part, he resented her, yet she couldn’t get enough of the boy.
When Alex retired into the house, their parents still yapping in the living room about God knows what, Beatrice lingered in the yard. The young girl reached into her back pocket and pulled out a folded photograph, something she only carried with her when she was feeling lost. Its edges were worn, some of the color was fading, and there were a few tears from the photograph being folded. She opened it with care, feeling a mixture of relief and despair when her eyes fell upon her mother. The most beautiful woman Beatrice had ever seen. Her mother’s smile was bright and infectious. Perhaps that’s why the child kept it so close. Beatrice missed her mother. She missed the smell of her clothes, the sound of her laughter as Beatrice made terrible joke after terrible joke, but, most of all, she missed the safety of being wrapped in her mother’s arms.
One day, the girl thought.
Somehow, one day.