EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
by Alison Stine
Supervision is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
Something is wrong with Esmé.
Kicked out of school in New York, she’s sent to live with her grandmother in a small Appalachian town. But something is wrong with the grandmother Ez hasn’t seen for years; she leaves at midnight, carrying a big black bag. Something is wrong with her grandmother’s house, a decrepit mansion full of stray cats, stairs that lead to nowhere, beds that unmake themselves. Something is wrong in the town where a kid disappears every year, where a whistle sounds at night but no train arrives.
And something is wrong with the cute and friendly neighbor Ez’s age with black curls and ice-blue eyes: He’s dead.
My stop was the last in Manhattan before the Bronx. My building was the last on the block before the highway, and our apartment was on the top floor, up five flights of stairs. No elevator. “It builds the muscles,” my sister had said when she was a dancer.
But she wasn’t a dancer anymore.
She was waiting for me in the hallway of the apartment when I unlocked the door, which was bad. Really bad. The Firecracker never got home before me, not since she started working her real job, as she called it, that kept her late every night, sometimes until nine or ten. I checked my phone. It was six.
“The Head-of-School called,” the Firecracker said. “You’re getting a D in English.”
That hurt, but I tried not to let it. “So?” I said.
“So, they won’t let you out of the ninth grade if you don’t get at least a C.”
I followed her into the kitchen. “What does that mean, they won’t let me out?”
“That means, you’ll lose your scholarship and be kicked out of school. You can’t coast by anymore, Esmé.”
“I’m not coasting,” I said.
But I knew I was.
I did well in school when I was a kid, well enough that they made me take tests, and the tests got me into a new school, a private school. Acid and I were scholarship kids, brought in by the tests. In middle school, I had raised my hand and answered questions, and I had usually got them right. But in high school, this year, something had changed in me. I got the questions wrong sometimes, often enough that I got a new nickname.
The teachers at my new school all called us by our last names, like we were in the military or gym class. So Wong became Wrong for my classmates. Miss Wrong. It wasn’t a stretch. It wasn’t very creative.
But I still stopped raising my hand.
The Firecracker was banging pots in the kitchen. “They’ve given you multiple chances at that school,” she said.
I dropped my bag on the floor. “No, they haven’t.”
“Those were their words. Not mine. Your scholarship is a big deal, and if you don’t deserve it, if you don’t work for it, they’re going to find someone who does.”
“So?” I slumped against the doorframe. My sister was kneeling, her head and shoulders in a cabinet. “Are you actually going to try and cook something?” I asked.
“I’m home early. I thought I might as well.”
Her frame was twisted to reach into the back of the cabinet, her arm was extended, almost artfully. I thought of her dancing—and then I thought of how I was never going to see that again.
She backed out of the cabinet, holding a frying pan at a distance, as if it were something distasteful. “I can’t afford that school. If you lose that scholarship, you’re out.”
I shrugged. “Public school.”
“No. You don’t understand. If you lose your scholarship, you’re out of here. You’re out of New York. I’m sending you away.”
I had had nightmares since my parents died. Not nightmares: dreams. I dreamed about a dark space. At the end of the space was a light, a bright white light growing brighter and bigger and whiter—and in the light, my mother danced.
I knew it was my mother, not my sister, although I had never actually seen my mother perform. But the face on the dancer in my dreams matched the face I saw in pictures—like the Firecracker’s only thinner, a slimmer face than mine, with the high cheekbones I would never have, and the wrinkles on the forehead I didn’t have yet. It was the smile most of all that made me certain it was my mother. She always smiled when she danced, and I knew—I remembered from seeing her on stage—my sister never did.
My sister grimaced. She grunted and frowned and stomped across the stage, a ball of energy, a lightning bolt. She danced like she was always angry. She tore through toe shoes. Her tutus ripped. Her feet bled. “The Firecracker,” The Times called her, and the name stuck. They also wrote that she was a tribute to her mother.
My sister quit dancing, right after that.
I didn’t really remember my mother, and I remembered my father only as a voice, a deep belly laugh. They died when I was a kid, in a car crash.
But I never dreamed about that.
About the Author
Alison Stines' first novel, Supervision, will be released by Harper Voyager UK on 9 April 2015.
Alison is also the author of three books of poetry: Wait (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), Ohio Violence (University of North Texas Press, 2009), and Lot of My Sister (Kent State University Press, 2001). She has worked as an actor, an artist’s model, a high school teacher, and a professor. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Ohio University, and is an avid urban explorer.
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