Okay, so let’s pretend that you all cannot wait to see the cover art for My Sore Hush-a-Bye, to read the Blurb and the First Chapter, right? (Well, a girl can dream, can’t she? ;))
Anyway, calm down people! They are all here, and My Sore Hush-a-Bye will be released next month worldwide. (The Goodreads page is already available, so you can mark it as ‘To Read’ right now! :))
Cover art and design: Ágata Maria C. Barcelos
Edit (10/13/2012): Well, some mixed reactions to my cover reveal yesterday… Some people said they loved the cover, some said they didn’t like it at all. And two beta-readers told me it wasn’t clear on their Kindles…
Since we had nailed down to two covers before choosing, I decided to try the second one. I have to admit that even though I loved the cover I showed yesterday (above), this one does look better, especially as a thumbnail… Plus, I absolutely adored the back cover (for the paperback edition) being really a ‘back’!
What do you think? I would LOVE to know!
Camille is a young girl stuck in the past. Classic TV shows, old music, and dresses that never made it into the 21st century.
After her mother left a puzzling note leaving her in the care of Uncle Bob, she had a rough go of it, not wanting to conform to his rigorous rules and this new life. But she learned. She learned to love and accept her sheltered life.
That all starts to change when Camille finally goes to public school once she reaches her teenage years. She meets a friend who mysteriously disappears. She has suspicions that Uncle Bob may not be the perfect man she once thought. She starts thinking about her mother.
Most important of all, she begins to grow up, and that is what changes everything…
1 – One of the Invisible Kids
School was a mess today. Everybody was crying, pretending to be Ashley’s best friend and trying to be on the news. All the mean girls at school were on it—those horrible bullies Uncle Bob had warned me about. It seems somehow ironic that I wanted so badly in those first couple of years to get out of the house and go to school, meet other people. And now that I’m here, all I want is to go back home and never leave again.
To just stay in, protected—Uncle Bob and I, watching TV and taking care of each other forever. Life was so much easier when I didn’t have so many things to sort out, so many people surrounding me. When Uncle Bob was everything and everyone, when my world was simpler, when I didn’t have to worry about Ashley’s situation.
But things are changing and I don’t know for the life of me how to change them back to the way they were…and moving on the way they are now is so much more painful than I ever expected.
People in the outside world are just mean; a lot more than TV prepared me for. Uncle Bob had told me how things were much better now, how people were more tolerant, how I don’t have to be afraid. But all I know is that I cannot help but feeling aghast every day I’m forced to be out here.
I miss being protected, sheltered. Outside, they see you’re different and you’re a walking target, no matter what you do. Whoever said to ignore the bullies so they’ll grow tired of you is either a big liar, or very naïve. They never get tired. They may choose another victim and let you off the hook for a while, but they’ll get back to you—usually sooner rather than later.
I know it’s not personal—they don’t hate me; hate is a strong feeling and no one has strong feelings for me now…not even Uncle Bob. He was the only person I thought would never abandon me, would never let me down…not even if I wanted him to.
Lately, however, he seems tired of me. My presence seems to be a nuisance to him—I’m not his precious little girl anymore. I get almost the same treatment at school. All the boys and girls mostly ignore me—I’m one of the invisible kids, either ignored or bullied.
That’s the way things at school are: they only see us—the invisible ones—when they want to have some fun picking on someone…and I’ve seen them picking on Ashley sometimes too. She was popular, but not immune to bullies, being in high school already at such a young age.
She was smart enough to be here, however, and to make loads of friends older than she. None of those mean girls, though, who were repeating to the reporters how much they missed Ashley and wanted her back—they weren’t her friends at all.
It made me sick.
Literally sick; I had to excuse myself from Mrs. Richardson’s class and go to the bathroom, where I puked soundly for more than two full minutes. Every single thing I had eaten was now floating to the ocean.
I know for a fact they don’t give a damn about Ashley…she was nothing like them. She was the only person in that hellhole who spoke to me in a friendly way. That doesn’t mean we were friends…I’m sure she would never refer to me using that word. I don’t have friends—acquaintances, maybe, like Ashley, or colleagues, if they are forced to work with me in some class. No one cares about me, wants to talk to me, to be with me.
I’m at school because Uncle Bob made me go…not to be popular, not to be normal. I don’t have such crazy desires…it would be a lost battle if I tried, anyway.
I’ve been out of the world for so long I’m not sure I’d know how to interact anymore—if an interaction were necessary or possible. All I want is to finish another day and go back to the safety of Uncle Bob’s house, behind the locked doors that made me feel so reassured, so secure.
It’s my first year at school—not at this school, I mean at any school—since I was seven. It makes me different, which is ammunition to some kids’ cruelty and others’ oblivion. I’m not popular, I’m not into fashion, makeup, or anything like that. I don’t really know much about what’s going on in the world right now, and I’m not sure if I care. I dress differently, and my head is surrounded by an enormous black mane that I like to let free. I don’t talk much. I don’t have a Facebook account, Twitter, any of that. In fact, the first time I’ve heard of those things was at school just the other day. I don’t look like any of them—I don’t feel like any of them.
I enjoy studying, reading, and I grew up listening to old songs and watching old movies and TV shows. When I say old, I mean really old. As in I love Lucy, The Brady Brunch, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Gone With the Wind (my favorite movie), The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca—and many others that gave me a little light while growing up and made me smile when everything real was asking me to cry…
Since the age of seven, the only songs that have made their way into my ears were from David Bowie, the Beatles, Johnny Cash, and others from the fifties, sixties, and seventies. And most of all, there was her voice, the woman who sang to me for all those years, comforting me since that first day with Uncle Bob, going into my core and caressing my soul from the inside out…Mama Cass. Her inspiring voice is my safe place, where I can go to escape, ‘cause she makes all the darkness bearable…she puts light where there was none.
I’d love nothing more than to see her, to tell her all of it. And yet I will never be able to do so. Her hair reminds me of my mother’s, I believe. I could be mixing them together into one person, because I don’t really remember my mother much. But I remember brushing her hair once—perhaps one of the last memories I have of her before she left—and I could swear it was just like Mama Cass’ when I saw hers in a picture.
It’s not a special mother-daughter moment, this memory that I recall. But we didn’t have many special moments to remember, anyway. Our life together was more practical than nurturing.
When she left I had to find comfort in the past, with TV shows and music from a different and simpler time. Uncle Bob encouraged me to lose myself completely in that ancient world—a world closer to his own, considering his age. Even the clothes he bought, the kind I wanted, were according to this throwback world I was living in.
Therefore, my outfits resemble someone from the sixties, maybe the seventies. Like a hippie, people might say. For me, because of everything that surrounded me until now, I was absolutely normal, and thought I’d blend in with the crowd by wearing light or bland colors. However, at my first day at school, I saw the mocking faces. I looked at them, then at myself, neck to toe, and wanted to hide.
I thought about changing my clothes to something more modern the next day, to look at least a little more like the other girls, and couldn’t understand why Uncle Bob hadn’t told me anything. Why he’d let me walk out the door like that. Maybe he didn’t know, I reassured myself. What do men know about fashion, anyway? He would never do anything to hurt me, right?
It would be better to look more like one of them, but I realized I’m not like them in any way—it would have been even more ridiculous had I tried to fit in. Besides, they would mock and tease me for any and no reason, I was sure. And to be honest, I find some comfort in my outfit, some much-needed resemblance of my former, confined life. I don’t think I’d be able to handle so many changes at the same time. I need to at least recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror, no matter how sorry I feel for her sometimes.
None of my fellow students talk to me, but Ashley did. We had some common interests, and she was a kind girl. Beautiful and nice, which is an extremely rare combination, as far as I know.
When I first saw her, all I could see was how she was blonde, beautiful, bright, cheerful, and…so young—everything I’m not, and I felt my heart shrink at that.
She approached me once during lunch, interrupting my reading by partially blocking the light with her petite body. I looked up and there she was, all smiling and hair up in a loose ponytail that let locks of hair fall on her face. She said she just wanted to introduce herself and that she loved my style.
I thought she was teasing me and didn’t respond, got my eyes back to my book, pretending to ignore her entirely. She touched my shoulder and whispered, “I know you think I’m mocking you, because all these stupid people here are, but I’m not. I really envy you. I wish I were as brave. I love the way you dress and I think your hair’s amazing… I wish I could be like you.”
She seemed sincere, and she had used the proper subjunctive, which made me think she could actually be smarter than most. I nodded, befuddled, and she left, leaving her email address in a folded piece of paper near my hand. I took the paper and read it, memorizing it just in case, not sure why.
Uncle Bob had never let me use the computer by myself, without his presence—and even then, all he showed me were pictures of Mama Cass and stories about my TV shows and their actors. But now that I’m back to school, he knew I’d need one. He unwillingly bought me a laptop, and put some strict parental control on it. He explained that I could check my email—one he created for me and whose password he has, of course—and go to a few web sites, but certainly not all of them. He monitors everything I do on the World Wide Web, like he always did with everything else in my life. I don’t mind, because I like when he protects me, when he cares about my safety. In fact, all I want is to be under his wings forever, I’m so used to it…but he will never totally believe that, I suppose.
I thought I had the solution to make him believe me, to make him let me leave school and stay with him the whole time, like before…but nothing changed. He seemed happy at first; he was overwhelmed by my offer, I could see. But after, he seemed even more distant.
I think I’ve made a mistake—I should have thought it through better—but I have no idea how to mend things now.
Invisible at school, a shadow at home. Someday, maybe, I’ll look in the mirror and see nothing, like they do…
I sent Ashley an email later that day, and we started chatting every day after school for a few minutes, talking about the old stuff she enjoyed too. In spite of Uncle Bob’s firewall, I was surprisingly able to access a chat site she taught me how to use with just an email and a username. She was really a smart girl, and she truly enjoyed the sixties and seventies. She even knew who Mama Cass was, which created an instant bond. We had been chatting for the past month, almost everyday after school, but never anything too personal.
They’re saying Ashley simply disappeared—vanished into thin air, on her way back home from school yesterday. She was supposed to be home by four at the latest. When the clock hit the five, her parents frantically called the school, then, all the friends they knew, and, finally, the police. Nobody had any information for them.
She used to walk home by herself, since her friends took the bus or walked in the opposite direction. The last time anyone claimed to have seen her was yesterday, leaving school. The police and her parents think that nobody from school has the slightest idea about her whereabouts after that…they have no idea that I know.
Nobody is going to ask me anything, because I’m not worth talking to. I’m indistinguishable mostly—until the bullies have nothing better to do, anyway. So, what I know will remain a secret. My secret…eating me alive from the inside.
I saw her mother’s tears and thought of talking. Thought of stepping forward, raising my hand and saying, “I know where she is; she’s okay, don’t worry”, but of course, if I did that they wouldn’t let it go. They’d want me to take them to her—and that I couldn’t do.
I simply couldn’t…but she was fine the last time I saw her, and I could bet her mother would like to know that—if only I could tell her…
Nobody at school has the foggiest idea about my knowing what happened to her. Not one soul would ever imagine cute Ashley and freaky me having anything in common. Apart from that one day at school when she gave me her email address—and nobody was going to remember that moment or give it too much thought—we didn’t even exchanged greetings at school. She wanted to talk to me, but I convinced her not to. I knew it would damage her reputation, and I didn’t want people to look at us together, pointing, asking her why she was wasting time with me.
No one knows about our chats, and, probably, they are not going to easily find out. I used an alias, and our Internet connection at home is very secure. I don’t know the details, or really much about Internet, but Uncle Bob says it is and he knows loads about computers. Plus, they were live chats and the site claimed to keep no records of them.
I keep talking about her in the past tense, because I know she’s not coming back…I mean, she might come back, but the person she was is never going to fully return. I know how it is.
I have no idea what I would say if the police had asked—I don’t suppose it would do me any good to tell what I know. But they don’t even look at me, going straight to the people who claim to be her friends. Then, they go to her real friends, according to Ashley’s parents and school employees.
I don’t belong in any group, as usual, so I grab my things and walk unbothered through the chaos to the school gate. It’s too soon; we only had two classes before the police arrived. The principal talked to all of us for some time in the auditorium and then released everybody, saying the police might want to talk to some of us. I had lunch at the cafeteria because I had to wait anyway. I stayed under a tree in front of the school, reading for a long time, waiting for Uncle Bob, before going to the spot where he should be waiting, as usual, to take me home.
Except he’s not there.
For the first time in all of our years, I’m alone in the street, as I’d wished with all my might for so long when I was a child. Nothing restrains me from simply running away, going anywhere I want.
Sadly, it’s too late. My desire to leave is long gone, well buried in my childhood. The only place I want to be now is at home, with him…but he’s tired of me…tired of the woman I’ve become.
Staring at the empty spot where his car should have been I feel so lonely my chest hurts.
Silently, I cry.