Leah Tyler Mystery Party: Part I

IN LEAH’S WAKE BLOG PARTY

FOUR GREAT AUTHORS – ONE NEVER BEFORE RELEASED MYSTERY STORY


Hosted by Terri Giuliano Long

December 12 – 16


December 12… Terri Giuliano Long, author of ‘In Leah’s Wake.’ With her parents, Zoe and Will Tyler, away for the evening, Leah decides to have a P-A-R-T-Y! Her boyfriend, Todd, invites his cousin Alex Kosmitoras, who happens to be visiting his grandparents nearby. Alex brings his friends and schoolmates, Shapri and Simmi. At some point that night, things go awry.

Read on to participate in the fun and to compete for your chance at the prizes. Today’s question is: Where is Justine? Answer it in the comments section below and you just might win $500!

Narrated by Leah and Justine Tyler
from In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

Leah rips her family apart by choosing her trouble-maker boyfriend over a promising college soccer career.

Although she is only twelve, it’s up to Justine to be the rock as the rest of her family plunges into depression.
 

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The second her sister left, Leah called Todd to say the coast was clear. Tonight was going to be awesome. She got goose bumps, just thinking about it. Todd would be here shortly. He’d invited his cousin Alex, who just happened to be visiting their grandmother in Boston for winter break. A few days ago, Todd had shown her Alex’s picture on Facebook. Sure he was a little bit younger than Leah, but he was also totally hot. Not as hot as Todd, but close.

For once, Leah had the house to herself. It was perfect. Better than perfect! A gorgeous night-plus her parents were out. Imagine! Her parents hardly ever went out; when they did, they were home by eleven. Tonight, they’d gone to Boston, almost an hour’s drive away, and wouldn’t be home until late. And Justine was sleeping at her friend’s house. The stars were aligned! Leah could barely contain herself.

‘Calm down,’ she said aloud. Breathe. In, out. That’s it. In. Hold it. Out.

She stretched her arms in a luxuriant circle, and then she went to the family room, selected a CD from her father’s collection, put it on, and began to move all the furniture.

The music reminded her of a John Travolta movie she’d seen on cable, shot in the 70s, when the world was full of possibility, life open and free. ‘Love, love, love,’ she sang, the sweat dribbling down her back as she pushed the sofa across the carpeted floor.

Once the furniture was out of the way, she lit a stick of patchouli, to set the mood, dimmed the lights, and went to the dining room and living room, at the front of the house, and turned off all the lights, all the while fighting a tiny voice in her head, saying don’t.

Her parents would kill her if they knew she’d invited kids over while they were out, never mind boys. Never mind she had a soccer game in the morning, and needed her rest. Never mind-now she really felt guilty-she’d lied to Coach Thomas. Coach had been good to her. She videotaped all Leah’s games for a CD she planned to include in the packet she was sending to college soccer coaches next year, and she helped Leah find news clippings to submit with her applications. It was wrong to lie to your coach but it wasn’t as though they’d be doing anything bad. Like drinking or drugs. It was a little get-together, a small gathering of friends, hanging out, supporting each other. Sort of noble, really. Hanging out with friends relaxed her, which helped with her game. You could almost say she was doing Coach Thomas a favor. Yes. She liked the sound of that.

She switched off the floodlights in the kitchen, dimmed the cone-shaped halogen lamps over the island, and set out paper napkins and cups. It was almost seven. She was dialing Todd, intending to ask him why he was taking forever, when the doorbell buzzed.

Leah flew down the hall, skidding across the tiled foyer, and flung open the door.

Todd had stopped at 7-Eleven, bought four liters of Diet Coke, Sprite, and two super-size bags of vinegar chips. He set the sacks on the steps and wrapped her in a bear hug.

 

Two hours later, the house was packed. Todd’s cousin had shown up an hour ago, with a carload of kids. As she opened the door to let them in, two more cars had arrived, and then a van carrying a bunch of Todd’s friends from his roadie days-crazy looking kids Leah had never even heard of, never mind met, including this weirdo named Theo. The Theo kid scared her. She’d have thrown him, but Todd assured her that he was OK.

Leah shoved through the human wall blocking the arched doorway to the family room-kids sitting on the step, others slouched against the columns, talking, laughing, slurping beer-and fought her way to the kitchen. Todd’s cousin, Alex, was in here a few minutes ago, leaning up against the counter and tentatively sipping at a Dixie cup mixed with beer and something strangely bubbly. Now he was out on the deck with two girls.

Leah squeezed her temples. The thumping dance music had given her a headache.

The kids had made a wreck of the house. She’d never have it cleaned before her parents came home. She could kill Todd for leaving the house to smoke weed.

From the window in the nook, she could see her boyfriend, with Theo and some other kids, trekking into the woods. There was a pond in the forest. It was pretty far in, a quarter mile or so. The pond attracted deer and other wildlife and the water was ten or twelve feet deep, making it dangerous, especially at night. She hoped they’d steer clear.

Leah flipped the lights. ‘Time to go.’ She didn’t even know most of these people. ‘Guys,’ she said, louder. ‘Party’s over. Time to go home.’

The fat kid snorting coke on the counter looked at her and laughed. She gave him the finger. ‘Where’s Corbett?’ somebody asked. ‘Outside,’ someone else answered.

Half these kids appeared underage. With all the beer, calling the police was out of the question. They’d arrest her for hosting an illegal party. Tears dripped from her eyes.

Someone tapped her shoulder.

Infuriated, she swung backward. ‘What?’ she shouted. ‘What do you want?’

‘Whoa.’ It was Alex in all of his tall, dark, and-oh god, blind-glory. How had she not noticed before? He backed away, palms up. ‘Just looking for the toilet.’

She wanted to lash out at him, but something in his face stopped her.

‘Straight ahead,’ she said, thumbing directions. ‘Actually, I’ll show you.’

‘Cool. Thanks.’

She waited outside the bathroom while he peed. Not for his sake. Whatever interest she felt before had now completely vanished. This was simply a place to hide, a place where she could think.

She dug in her pocket for her cigarettes and clear purple lighter. She felt the tablet of Ecstasy Todd’s friend Hope had given her earlier after school. She fingered it. Maybe.

No, she thought. Not tonight. She shook a cigarette out of the pack. Her hands shaking, it took several tries before she managed to light up. She inhaled deeply, trying to relax so she could think. She tipped her head back, blew smoke rings into the air.

The door clicked. She stepped aside, and Todd’s cousin came out, shaking his wet hands.

‘I’ll get a towel,’ she started to say, but she was interrupted by an Indian girl.

‘Hey,’ the girl said softly, in a strange and rhythmic accent.

‘Hey,’ Alex said. He seemed to be looking past her. ‘Where were you?’

‘Outside. With Shapri.’ She slipped a hand through the crook of his arm. ‘We met these kids,’ she said, ‘and they gave us…’ Waving to Leah, she led him away.

 

Justine followed Holly to the den, a small room off their kitchen, where Holly’s parents kept the family computer. Holly wasn’t allowed to use the computer after eleven. Normally, Holly’s mom and step-dad were up, all hawk-eyed, monitoring her. Tonight, they’d watched two episodes of American Idol on their DVR, and went to bed early.

Maybe it wasn’t so bad being an only child. Usually, Justine felt sorry for Holly. Justine couldn’t imagine not having a sister. Leah was her best friend. When Leah turned twelve, their mom had started leaving them alone for a few hours in the afternoon, while she worked. After a while, their parents left them at night. Leah took care of Justine. She read her stories, and rubbed her headaches away, and sat with her when she was scared.

Now that they were older, Leah often went out with her friends, and they saw less of each other. Sometimes Leah acted as if she didn’t like Justine at all. Her sister, Justine knew, thought she was a pain. Still, they were sisters, and that was big and important and real.

Justine had carried a chair in from the kitchen. She set it down, pushing it close to Holly’s seat, while Holly pulled up the Facebook page and tapped in Justine’s password.

‘Oh my God,’ Holly squealed. ‘That loser Jackie wants to friend you.’

‘She’s not a loser,’ Justine said, annoyed by the Queen Bee act. ‘She’s nice.’

‘Nice?’ Holly looked appalled. ‘You obviously don’t know the girl.’

‘Do too.’ Justine knew Jackie Hall well enough to know that she wasn’t a loser. ‘She sits behind me, in bio,’ Justine said.

Holly tore open a large bag of peanut M&Ms and spilled some into a bowl. ‘Well, she’s a freak. Clay, OK? He saw her Frenching this kid at a party. He said it was gross.’

‘He’s a jerk,’ Justine said. ‘He always lies about girls.’

Holly clicked to Jackie’s Facebook page. ‘See? Told you. Total loser. She’s only got…’ Holly giggled. ‘…a hundred friends. Look at her wall. Vampire girl.’

The poems Jackie had posted were dark, all about suicide and depression. Justine took the mouse from Holly and clicked through the pictures in Jackie’s photo album. They were all of her family, her brother and sister, her sister’s two kids. Justine felt bad for her, having few friends. No wonder the poor girl was depressed. ‘I’m gonna say yes.’

‘Sucker.’ Holly shrugged. ‘I wouldn’t add her to my friend list.’

You don’t have a list, Justine considered pointing out, but that would be cruel.

Justine pretended to focus on Facebook, but she couldn’t get her mind off Leah. She worried about her sister. All alone. She’d looked so pale. Justine felt horrible for having thought, for a single second, that Leah might be faking sick. No wonder Leah hated her. She was a horrible sister. The worst sister ever. A blight on sisterhood.

‘Justine,’ Holly said, rattling Justine’s arm. ‘What’s wrong? Wake up.’

‘Nothing,’ Justine said, standing. ‘I’ve got to go. My sister needs me.’

 

[box title="Terri Giuliano Long"]Terri Giuliano Long grew up in the company of stories both of her own making and as written by others. Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and a writing teacher at Boston College. She was grateful and thrilled beyond words when her award-winning debut literary novel, In Leah’s Wake, hit the Barnes and Noble and Amazon bestseller lists in August. She owes a lot of wonderful people – big time! – for any success she’s enjoyed![/box]

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Terri Giuliano Long

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