The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

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The Art of Hiding - Amanda Prowse

 

AuthorAmanda Prowse

Title: The Art of Hiding

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Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought the Art of Hiding could use some extra information in some places but I really enjoyed this book despite being so short and lacking some information because it touches on the fact that not everyone realizes that once you’ve become someones wife and mother of their children a part of a marriage and a family and a social group that you can sometimes lose who you used to be in the middle of it all, and trying to find yourself again is more difficult than you think especially when you learn that some things about the man you were married to weren’t on the up and up.

Trying to find who you are and how you lost your way is only half the battle and I wish we’d gotten a deeper exploration of that. Still, its a great read and a great book.

 

 

 

Until next time book lovers…

 

 

Krissys Bookshelf Reviews received a digital copy from Lake Union Publishing.

All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

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Enjoy An Exclusive Sneek Peek Of: Release by Patrick Ness!

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Release  
Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

LEARN MORE
 

1

THE YOKE


ADAM WOULD HAVE
to get the flowers himself.

His mom had enough to do, she said; she needed them this morning, pretty much right now if the day wasn’t going to be a total loss; and in the end, Adam’s attendance at this little “get-together” with his friends tonight may or may not hinge on his willingness/success in picking up the flowers and doing so without complaint.

Adam argued—quite well, he thought, without showing any overt anger—that his older brother, Marty, was the one who’d run over the old flowers; that he, Adam, also had a ton of things to do today; and that new chrysanthemums for the front path weren’t exactly high in the logical criteria for attendance at a get-together he’d already bargained for—because nothing was free with his parents, not ever— by chopping all the winter’s firewood before even the end of August. Nevertheless, she had, in that way of hers, turned it into a decree: he would get the flowers or he wouldn’t go tonight, especially after that girl got killed.

“Your choice,” his mom said, not even looking at him.

It’s only the Yoke, Adam thought, getting behind the wheel of his car. And the Yoke isn’t forever. Still, he needed a few deep breaths before he started the engine.

At least it was early. The late summer Saturday stretched ahead, with its hours to fill, hours he had filled with a schedule of things (he was a scheduler): he needed to go for a run; he had a few hours’ stock-taking to do at the Evil International Mega-Conglomerate; he had to help his dad at the church; he had to stop by Angela’s work to make sure the pizzas were still on schedule for the party—

Morning, his phone buzzed in his lap.

He smiled in a small way. There was that today, too.

Morning, he typed back. Wanna buy flowers?

Is that code?

He smiled again and backed out of the driveway. Fine, let go of the anger, because what a day ahead! What fun it promised! What laughs! What drinks and food and friends and sex! What a stab in the heart at the end of it because the party was a going-away one! Someone was going away. Adam wasn’t sure whether he wanted them to go away or not.

What a day ahead.

What time are you coming by? asked his phone.

Around 2? he typed back at a stop sign.

The reply was a thumbs-up emoji.

He pulled out of his wooded neighborhood onto the wooded road into town. “Wooded” in fact described everything within fifty miles; it was the overwhelming feature of the town of Frome, indeed the overwhelming feature of the state of Washington. Take it as a given, a sight so often seen it became invisible.

Adam thought about two o’clock this afternoon. There was so much happiness to be had there. So much secret happiness.

And yet, a sinking of the stomach, too . . .

No, stop that. He was looking forward to it. Absolutely. Yes. In fact, think about—

In fact, yes, that.

Another stop sign. Blood is flowing places, he messaged. Engorging things.

The reply was two thumbs-up emojis.

So consider Adam Thorn, as he pulls out onto the farther main road—wooded, naturally—the one that leads to the garden center, the one with ever-increasing traffic, even at this early hour on a Saturday. Adam Thorn, born almost but not quite eighteen years ago in the hospital ten miles along this same road. The farthest from here he’s been in his life is when his family went on a fun-free driving holiday to Mount Rushmore. He didn’t even get to go on the mission trip to Uruguay with his father, mother, and Marty when Adam was in the sixth grade. Afterward, his dad had made it sound like a nightmare of mud and evangelical-resistant locals, but Adam—deemed too young and sentenced to three weeks of four-thirty suppers with Grandpa John and Grandma Pat—couldn’t help but feel that wasn’t the point.

Twelve more months, he thought, and the Yoke is off. Senior year started in just over a week.

After that, the sky.

For Adam Thorn wants to get away. Adam Thorn longs to leave, with an ache in his gut so acute it feels like vertigo. Adam Thorn wishes he was going away with the person going away at the end of tonight’s going-away party.

Well, maybe he does.

Adam Thorn. Blanched blond, tall, bulky in a way that might be handsome but is only just starting to properly agree with gravity. A-student, fighting for the college of his choice, fighting for college at all as the money troubles that are supposed to be passing don’t seem to be doing so, not helped by pointless purchases of chrysanthemums because “preachers’ houses have to look a certain way,” but he is focused on a goal, focused on what will get him the hell out of Frome, Washington.

Adam Thorn, keeper of secrets.

His phone rang as he pulled into the garden center. “Everyone’s up early today,” he answered as he parked.

“How many times do I have to tell you I’m not everyone?” Angela grumped.

Everyone is everyone. Whole point of ‘everyone.’”

“The whole point of everyone is for them to constantly do stupid things while we—not everyone—make fun of them for it and feel superior.”

“Why are you up?”

“Why else? The chickens.”

“The chickens are every reason for everything. They’ll rule us one day.”

“They rule us now. Why are you up?”

“Replacement flowers. For my mom’s garden of punishment.”

“You are so going to need therapy.”

“They don’t believe in it. If you can’t pray it away, it’s not a real problem.”

“Your parents. I’m amazed they’re letting you go tonight. Especially after Katherine van Leuwen.”

Katherine van Leuwen was the girl who was killed, which seemed impossible with a name so strong. She’d gone to Adam’s school, a year ahead, but he didn’t know her. And okay, so, fine, she had been murdered last week at the same lake where the get-together was planned (Adam had never used the word “party” with his parents as that would have closed discussion immediately), but the girl’s killer, her much older boyfriend, had been caught, had confessed, and was awaiting sentencing. She had always hung out with the meth heads and it was meth her boyfriend was amped up on when he killed her, raving about—of all things—goats, according to an equally methed witness. Angela, Adam’s closest friend, raged against anyone’s even slight suggestion that Katherine van Leuwen had brought it on herself.

“You don’t know,” she’d nearly shout at whoever. “You don’t know what her life was like, you don’t know what addiction is like. You have no idea what goes on inside another person’s head.”

That was certainly true, and thank God for that, in the case of Adam’s parents.

“They think it’s a quote get-together with three or four of my friends to say good-bye to Enzo,” he said now.

“That sentence is factually true.”

“While at the same time omitting much.”

“Also true. When pizzas? Because, pizzas.”

“I’ve got a run to do, then work, then I’m seeing Linus at two, and I have to help my dad set up for church tomorrow–”

“Dad and church post-coitus with Linus? You dirty boy.”

“I was thinking seven? Then we could go straight to the party. ”

“Get-together.”

“There will be together to get, yes.”

“Seven. Good. I need to speak to you.”

“About what?”

“Stuff. Don’t worry. And now chickens. Because, chickens.”

Angela’s family had a working farm. She swore they’d adopted her from Korea because it was cheaper than hiring a laborer for the livestock. This wasn’t true, even Angela knew it; Mr. and Mrs. Darlington were unobtrusively decent, always good to Adam, always giving him an implicitly safe place to get away from those parents of his, even if they were too kind to say such a thing out loud.

“When is it that you’ve got my back again, Adam?” Angela asked, in their usual farewell.

He grinned. “Always. Until the end of the world.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s right.” She hung up.

He got out of his car into the early morning sunshine. The lot was nearly full at a little past eight. Serious gardeners around here, getting ready for the approaching fall. He stopped a minute under the sky, only cleared of trees for the parking lot but still: open sky. He closed his eyes, felt the sun on his eyelids.

He breathed.

The Yoke wasn’t even his word. It was Biblical. It was his dad’s. Big Brian Thorn. Former professional football player—three seasons as a tight end for the Seahawks before the shoulder surgery—now longtime head preacher at The House Upon The Rock, Frome’s second-largest evangelical church. “Until you leave my house,” he’d bellowed right into Adam’s face, “you are under my Yoke.” Adam’s car had been taken away for a month that time. For missing curfew by ten minutes.

He breathed again, then went inside for chrysanthemums.

JD McLaren was working the flower department. They had world literature and chemistry together. “Hey, Adam,” he said, with his usual plump friendliness.

“Hey, JD,” Adam said. “I didn’t even know you guys opened this early.”

“They saw how many people were lined up at the drive-thru Starbucks at five every morning and thought there was business they were missing out on.”

“They’re probably right. I need chrysanthemums.”

“Bulbs? Wrong time of year to plant those.”

“I need the full, blooming flowers. My brother flattened the ones bordering our driveway. My mother had a stroke.”

“Oh, my God!”

“She didn’t really have a stroke, JD.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“But I need to procure them or be denied social occasions.”

“You mean Enzo’s thing tonight?”

“I do. You going?”

“Yeah. I heard there’s going to be kegs because his parents are European and don’t care if we drink.”

“Angela and I are bringing pizzas from her work.”

“Better and better. Does it matter what color chrysanthemums?”

“Probably, but as she didn’t specify, I have the chance to blame her if they’re wrong.”

“I’ll get you the most garish.”

“And maybe . . .”

JD waited. Adam couldn’t quite meet his eye. “Maybe not the most expensive?”

“Not a problem, Adam,” JD said, seriously, and headed off into the massive field of flower pallets. Those were all in dirt, to be planted into your own gardens, but the garden center had a cooler of cut flowers, too, if you needed a bouquet. Adam wandered over to it, his brain idly moving through the day ahead, coupled with a song he was presently unaware of even humming.

A red rose, alone in its plastic bucket. He reached for it, though it didn’t really register in his consciousness until it was in his hands. A single red rose. Could he buy it? Was that something that was okay? That boys did? If it was for a girl, obviously, yes, but if it was for . . .

He had no rules for this. Which was liberating some of the time because that meant there were none to obey, not even with Linus. But sometimes a guide or history or a long-established literature would have been useful. Could he buy a rose? And give it? How would Linus take it? Did everyone else in the world know the answer except him?

If it was even Linus he gave it to.

He placed the pad of his right thumb onto one of the rose’s thorns—which, along with “crown of,” was one of the two “jokes” people told about his last name, never making anyone laugh but themselves—and slowly but firmly pressed. It pierced the skin and in the quickness of the drop of blood that flowed there, he saw—

—an entire world, fast as a gasped breath, of trees and green, of water and woods, of a figure that followed in the darkness, of mistakes made, of loss, of grief—

Adam blinked and put his bloody thumb to his lips. It was gone. Like a dream. Like vapor. Leaving behind only a feeling of disquiet and the tang of blood on his tongue.

When JD returned, Adam bought the rose. It was only two bucks.

She wakes, suddenly, to the smell of blood, of roses, as if her heart has been pricked by a thorn. She is drenched. Has she walked up from the water’s edge? Has she stepped out of the water itself?

She doesn’t know. There was flurry, there was rush, there was release—

And then a snag, as if on that thorn in her heart, a drop of blood pearling itself . . .

She sits up and the water pours off her like she passed through a waterfall seconds before. But the shore is dry, as shores go, the mud beneath her damp but firm. She runs her palm over it, like she is mystified by it, and maybe she is. It is coarse under her fingertips. She pinches a bit between her thumb and index finger, bringing it to her nose, inhaling deeply. Rich, peaty, the smell of earth, but not the source of the blood scent.

But then why would it be? she thinks, of a sudden. She is surrounded by wild rosebushes, she knows this, she doesn’t know how, but she does. She is surrounded by thorns—

And the scent shimmers away, like a voice heard before waking.

She stands, still dripping into the newly formed puddle at her feet. This dress is hers, she thinks. This dress is not hers, she thinks. The contradiction is true. It is patterned floral, light, tasteful, a young woman’s dress but either ironically retro or actually from another time.

Do I wear dresses? she thinks.

Yes. No.

There are pockets in the dress, which would seem to mark it out as very old-fashioned, but they’re distended, stretched, heavy. She reaches for the weight inside each and pulls out two solid bricks, dense enough to drag her down.

To drown her.

She stares at them for the longest while.

She drops the bricks. They each bounce once on the mud.

“Death is not the end,” she speaks aloud.

What? What was that? What does that even mean? She puts a hand over her mouth as if to keep it from speaking again, holding the words in.

A song. It’s a song. She feels the tune humming itself in her diaphragm, a melody emerging, words that she knows. A song for funerals, gravesides. Or perhaps one only written to sound so, perhaps done with the same irony that wove this dress.

She closes her eyes against the sun breaking in the trees. She sees the veins and capillaries on the insides of her eyelids, red as murder.

She breathes.

Then she vomits up more water than her stomach could possibly contain. It is only water, no bile or food, clear in the cataract that rushes from her mouth. She eventually has to kneel from the force of it, until the overwhelmed puddle beneath her opens a channel to the lake.

Finally, there is no more. She pants, gathering herself. When she stands again, her hair, her skin, her dress, are all dry, not a hint of dampness anywhere.

She breathes once again.

“I will find you,” she says, and on bare feet, she begins to walk.

Behind the rosebushes, the faun watches her go. After a moment, he follows, worried.

 

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The Flirtation (Submissive #10) by Tara Sue Me

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Author: Tara Sue Me

Title: The Flirtation

Series: Submissive

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Lynne has not wanted for anything since she began working as Nathaniel and Abby’s nanny–until the night they invite her to a group BDSM meeting. The abrupt breakup she had with her last Dom made her turn her back on the lifestyle, but now she’s ready to dive back in. When she starts chatting on online BDSM message boards, she’s shocked to discover Simon, her former Dom, is a frequent poster–and even more shocked at herself when she creates a secret identity and strikes up a conversation.

After messaging with a mysterious submissive online, Simon forms an immediate connection. Lynne and Simon’s D/s relationship grows in intensity, but can their relationship survive after the truth is exposed, and Lynne’s identity is laid bare?

 

 

 

 

Catfished but in reverse? The Flirtation wasn’t a favorite of mine. Having to trick your ex lover into being with you when things already fell apart is kinda sad, and trying to be someone you aren’t to make them happy when they aren’t fully engaging in what it is you’re both supposedly into wasn’t enough reason for me to have Lyn and Simon brought together again. The sex was okay but I didn’t feel any engagement on either side from either of them for any of it to take place which kinda bummed me out but I don’t really think it fully captured the feel and genuine relationship of a true DOM or SUB. 

 

 

 

Until next time book lovers…

 

 

Krissys Bookshelf Reviews received a print copy in exchange for an honest review from Penguin Publishing.

All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

If any of Krissy’s Bookshelf Reviews has been helpful please stop by to like my post or leave a comment to let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!

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The Final Score (Play-by-Play #13) by Jaci Burton

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Author: Jaci Burton

Title: The Final Score

Series: Play-by-Play

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Nathan Riley is ready to follow in the footsteps of his famous football player father. He’s been drafted as quarterback for his dad’s former team, and his sports future is bright. When his friend Mia Cassidy moves to the same city, their years-long friendship suddenly sparks hot, reminding him of the one night they had together in college that he can never forget. 

Like Nathan, Mia is from a sports dynasty family and embarking on an incredible new career—as founder of her own sports management company. Her friendship with Nathan means everything to her, and tossing sex into the mix again could jeopardize it all. But the chemistry between them has always sizzled, and it isn’t long before Mia realizes she wants more with Nathan than just late-night talks and pizza. 

Passion has a funny way of changing the rules, and soon Nathan and Mia realize that to win it all, they’ll have to make an unexpected play for love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t judge me for the three stars I gave the book I’d actually give the book four stars but the three stars is because of me. I would have loved this book so much more if I didn’t already know who Nathan is.

For readers who have already read the Play by Play series you’ll recognize the fact that Nathan Riley is the child of Mick and Tara Riley from book one, while Mia – Nathan’s love interest is Mia Cassidy child of Grant and Katrina Cassidy in book nine. That’s where I got snagged. I felt so odd reading about Nathan and Mia being intimate because in my mind here I am thinking that even though they’re grown up that these are their babies and my mind got stuck on that. I felt like I shouldn’t be reading about them, that I shouldn’t see this part of their being adults because in my mind I wasn’t ready for them to grow up so soon.

That doesn’t prevent The Final Score or Nathan from scoring big with little Mia who isn’t so little anymore but in my mind I’m still stuck on them being my previous fav’s kids. Oy!

Fun. witty and very entertaining I just wasn’t ready for our babies to grow up so soon! 🙂

 

 

 

Until next time book lovers…

 

 

Krissys Bookshelf Reviews received a print copy in exchange for an honest review from Penguin Publishing.

All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

If any of Krissy’s Bookshelf Reviews has been helpful please stop by to like my post or leave a comment to let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

 

 

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Dark Legacy (Dark #27) by Christine Feehan

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Author: Christine Feehan

Title: Dark Legacy

Series: Dark

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In a beautiful compound hidden away from the world, Emeline Sanchez tries to blunt the pain that has wracked her body ever since her terrifying ordeal in the labyrinth beneath the city—when she was forced to exchange blood with an evil master vampire.

Now, it’s his voice that haunts her…that calls to her in the dark…that never lets her rest. And while the children that she helped to free from his clutches struggle to heal, watched over by their Carpathian protectors, Emeline knows one thing: She must sacrifice herself to keep them all from harm.

 

 

 

 

Dark Legacy is actually book 31 of the Dark Series and continues where we left off from Dark Carousel with Emeline sacrificing herself to the big bad dark Drag for a relationship she isn’t so thrilled to be in despite being a victim puts herself back in that place for her own good and the good of the others.

We continue the new mix up that the bad guys aren’t really bad guys anymore and that the real bad guys are evil or assumed to be evil must be conquered through love which is brought in by the women who don’t actually do a whole lot or serve much of a purpose other than to empower the men who don’t really fight anymore.

There’s a lot of old dogs learning new tricks, men waiting for their child brides to grow up so that they can mate with them and be whole, crazy cameos, and some ackward not so thrilling circumstances that put it all in motion. Whats the most obvious is that despite this series being so long in installments Feehan obviously doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. This book spends a lot of time building up connecting her worlds and expanding them for more future series and installments but over all it was an okay read.

Warning: Dark Legacy contains continued topics of forced sexual interactions/ rape / dominance of women and children.

 

 

 

Until next time book lovers…

 

 

Krissys Bookshelf Reviews received a print copy from Berkley Publishing.

All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

If any of Krissy’s Bookshelf Reviews has been helpful please stop by to like my post or leave a comment to let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!

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Enjoy An Exclusive Sneek Peek Of: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera!

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They Both Die at the End  
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day.

The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

 

LEARN MORE
 

PART ONE
Death-Cast

To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that’s all.
—Oscar Wilde

 

September 5, 2017
MATEO TORREZ
12:22 a.m.

Death-Cast is calling with the warning of a lifetime—I’m going to die today. Forget that, “warning” is too strong a word since warnings suggest something can be avoided, like a car honking at someone who’s crossing the street when it isn’t their light, giving them the chance to step back; this is more of a heads-up. The alert, a distinctive and endless gong, like a church bell one block away, is blasting from my phone on the other side of the room. I’m freaking out already, a hundred thoughts immediately drowning out everything around me. I bet this chaos is what a first-time skydiver feels as she’s plummeting out of a plane, or a pianist playing his first concert. Not that I will ever know for sure.

It’s crazy. One minute ago I was reading yesterday’s blog entry from CountDowners—where Deckers chronicle their final hours through statuses and photos via live feeds, this particular one about a college junior trying to find a home for his golden retriever—and now I’m going to die.

I’m going to . . . no . . . yes. Yes.

My chest tightens. I’m dying today.

I’ve always been afraid of dying. I don’t know why I thought this would jinx it from actually happening. Not forever, obviously, but long enough so I could grow up. Dad has even been drilling it into my head that I should pretend I’m the main character of a story that nothing bad ever happens to, most especially death, because the hero has to be around to save the day. But the noise in my head is quieting down and there’s a Death-Cast herald on the other end of the phone waiting to tell me I’m going to die today at eighteen years old.

Wow, I’m actually . . .

I don’t want to pick up the phone. I’d rather run into Dad’s bedroom and curse into a pillow because he chose the wrong time to land himself in intensive care, or punch a wall because my mom marked me for an early death when she died giving birth to me. The phone rings for what’s got to be the thirtieth time, and I can’t avoid it any more than I can avoid what’s going down sometime today.

I slide my laptop off my crossed legs and get up from my bed, swaying to the side, feeling really faint. I’m like a zombie moving toward my desk, slow and walking-dead.

The caller ID reads DEATH-CAST, of course.

I’m shaking but manage to press Talk. I don’t say anything.

I’m not sure what to say. I just breathe because I have fewer than twenty-eight thousand breaths left in me—the average number of breaths a nondying person takes per day—and I might as well use them up while I can.

“Hello, I’m calling from Death-Cast. I’m Andrea. You there, Timothy?”

Timothy.

My name isn’t Timothy.

“You’ve got the wrong person,” I tell Andrea. My heart settles down, even though I feel for this Timothy person. I truly do. “My name is Mateo.” I got the name from my father and he wants me to pass it down eventually. Now I can, if having a kid is a thing that happens for me.

Computer keys are tapping on her end, probably correcting the entry or something in her database. “Oh, apologies. Timothy is the gentleman I just got off the phone with; he didn’t take the news very well, poor thing. You’re Mateo Torrez, right?”

And just like that, my last hope is obliterated.

“Mateo, kindly confirm this is indeed you. I’m afraid I have many other calls to make tonight.”

I always imagined my herald—their official name, not mine—would sound sympathetic and ease me into this news, maybe even harp on how it’s especially tragic because I’m so young. To be honest, I would’ve been okay with her being chipper, telling me how I should have fun and make the most of the day since I at least know what’s going to happen. That way I’m not stuck at home starting one-thousand-piece puzzles I’ll never finish or masturbating because sex with an actual person scares me. But this herald makes me feel like I should stop wasting her time because, unlike me, she has so much of it.

“Okay. Mateo’s me. I’m Mateo.”

“Mateo, I regret to inform you that sometime in the next twenty-four hours you’ll be meeting an untimely death. And while there isn’t anything we can do to suspend that, you still have a chance to live.” The herald goes on about how life isn’t always fair, then lists some events I could participate in today. I shouldn’t be mad at her, but it’s obvious she’s bored reciting these lines that have been burned into memory from telling hundreds, maybe thousands, about how they’ll soon be dead. She has no sympathy to offer me. She’s probably filing her nails or playing tic-tac-toe against herself as she talks to me.

On CountDowners, Deckers post entries about everything from their phone call to how they’re spending their End Day. It’s basically Twitter for Deckers. I’ve read tons of feeds where Deckers admitted to asking their heralds how they would die, but it’s basic knowledge that those specifics aren’t available to anyone, not even former President Reynolds, who tried to hide from Death in an underground bunker four years ago and was assassinated by one of his own secret service agents. Death-Cast can only provide a date for when someone is going to die, but not the exact minute or how it’ll happen.

“. . . Do you understand all of this?”

“Yeah.”

“Log on to death-cast.com and fill out any special requests you may have for your funeral in addition to the inscription you’d like engraved on your headstone. Or perhaps you would like to be cremated, in which case . . .”

I’ve only ever been to one funeral. My grandmother died when I was seven, and at her funeral I threw a tantrum because she wasn’t waking up. Fast-forward five years when Death-Cast came into the picture and suddenly everyone was awake at their own funerals. Having the chance to say goodbye before you die is an incredible opportunity, but isn’t that time better spent actually living? Maybe I would feel differently if I could count on people showing up to my funeral. If I had more friends than I do fingers.

“And Timothy, on behalf of everyone here at Death-Cast, we are so sorry to lose you. Live this day to the fullest, okay?”

“I’m Mateo.”

“Sorry about that, Mateo. I’m mortified. It’s been a long day and these calls can be so stressful and—”

I hang up, which is rude, I know. I know. But I can’t listen to someone tell me what a stressful day she’s been having when I might drop dead in the next hour, or even the next ten minutes: I could choke on a cough drop; I could leave my apartment to do something with myself and fall down the stairs and snap my neck before I even make it outside; someone could break in and murder me. The only thing I can confidently rule out is dying of old age.

I sink to the floor, on my knees. It’s all ending today and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I can’t journey across dragon-infested lands to retrieve scepters that can halt death. I can’t hop onto a flying carpet in search of a genie to grant my wish for a full and simple life. I could maybe find some mad scientist to cryogenically freeze me, but chances are I’d die in the middle of that wacky experiment. Death is inevitable for everyone and it’s absolute for me today.

The list of people I will miss, if the dead can miss anyone, is so short I shouldn’t even call it a list: there’s Dad, for doing his best; my best friend, Lidia, not only for not ignoring me in the hallways, but for actually sitting down across from me in lunch, partnering with me in earth science, and talking to me about how she wants to become an environmentalist who will save the world and I can repay her by living in it. And that’s it.

If someone were interested in my list of people I won’t miss, I’d have nothing for them. No one has ever wronged me. And I even get why some people didn’t take a shot on me. Really, I do. I’m such a paranoid mess. The few times I was invited to do something fun with classmates, like roller-skating in the park or going for a drive late at night, I bowed out because we might be setting ourselves up for death, maybe. I guess what I’ll miss most are the wasted opportunities to live my life and the lost potential to make great friends with everyone I sat next to for four years. I’ll miss how we never got to bond over sleepovers where everyone stayed up and played Xbox Infinity and board games all night, all because I was too scared.

The number one person I’ll miss the most is Future Mateo, who maybe loosened up and lived. It’s hard to picture him clearly, but I imagine Future Mateo trying out new things, like smoking pot with friends, getting a driver’s license, and hopping on a plane to Puerto Rico to learn more about his roots. Maybe he’s dating someone, and maybe he likes that company. He probably plays piano for his friends, sings in front of them, and he would definitely have a crowded funeral service, one that would stretch over an entire weekend after he’s gone—one where the room is packed with new people who didn’t get a chance to hug him one last time.

Future Mateo would have a longer list of friends he’ll miss.

But I will never grow up to be Future Mateo. No one will ever get high with me, no one will be my audience as I play piano, and no one will sit shotgun in my dad’s car after I get my license. I’ll never fight with friends over who gets the better bowling shoes or who gets to be Wolverine when we play video games.

I collapse back onto the floor, thinking about how it’s do or die now. Not even that.

Do, and then die.


12:42 a.m.

Dad takes hot showers to cool down whenever he’s upset or disappointed in himself. I copied him around the time I turned thirteen because confusing Mateo Thoughts surfaced and I needed tons of Mateo Time to sort through them. I’m showering now because I feel guilty for hoping the world, or some part of it beyond Lidia and my dad, will be sad to see me go. Because I refused to live invincibly on all the days I didn’t get an alert, I wasted all those yesterdays and am completely out of tomorrows.

I’m not going to tell anyone. Except Dad, but he’s not even awake so it doesn’t really count. I don’t want to spend my last day wondering if people are being genuine when they throw sad words at me. No one should spend their last hours second-guessing people.

I’ve got to get out into the world, though, trick myself into thinking it is any other day. I’ve got to see Dad at the hospital and hold his hand for the first time since I was a kid and for what will be the last . . . wow, the last time ever.

I’ll be gone before I can adjust to my mortality.

I also have to see Lidia and her one-year-old, Penny. Lidia named me Penny’s godfather when the baby was born, and it sucks how I’m the person expected to take care of her in case Lidia passes away since Lidia’s boyfriend, Christian, died a little over a year ago. Sure, how is an eighteen-year-old with no income going to take care of a baby? Short answer: He isn’t. But I was supposed to get older and tell Penny stories of her world-saving mother and chill father and welcome her into my home when I was financially secure and emotionally prepared to do so. Now I’m being whisked out of her life before I can become more than some guy in a photo album who Lidia may tell stories about, during which Penny will nod her head, maybe make fun of my glasses, and then flip the page to family she actually knows and cares about. I won’t even be a ghost to her. But that’s no reason to not go tickle her one more time or wipe squash and green peas off her face, or give Lidia a little break so she can focus on studying for her GED or brush her teeth or comb her hair or take a nap.

After that, I will somehow pull myself away from my best friend and her daughter, and I will have to go and live.

I turn off the faucet and the water stops raining down on me; today isn’t the day for an hour shower. I grab my glasses off the sink and put them on. I step out of the tub, slipping on a puddle of water, and while falling backward I’m expecting to see if that theory of your life flashing before your eyes carries any truth to it when I grab hold of the towel rack and catch myself. I breathe in and out, in and out, because dying this way would just be an extremely unfortunate way to go; someone would add me to the “Shower KO” feed on the DumbDeaths blog, a high-traffic site that grosses me out on so many levels.

I need to get out of here and live—but first I have to make it out of this apartment alive.

12:56 a.m.

I write thank-you notes for my neighbors in 4F and 4A, telling them it’s my End Day. With Dad in the hospital, Elliot in 4F has been checking in on me, bringing me dinner, especially since our stove has been busted for the past week after I tried making Dad’s empanadas. Sean in 4A was planning on stopping by on Saturday to fix the stove’s burner, but it’s not necessary anymore. Dad will know how to fix it and might need a distraction when I’m gone.

I go into my closet and pull out the blue-and-gray flannel shirt Lidia got me for my eighteenth birthday, then put it on over my white T-shirt. I haven’t worn it outside yet. The shirt is how I get to keep Lidia close today.

I check my watch—an old one of Dad’s he gave me after buying a digital one that could glow, for his bad eyes—and it’s close to 1:00 a.m. On a regular day, I would be playing video games until late at night, even if it meant going to school exhausted. At least I could fall asleep during my free periods. I shouldn’t have taken those frees for granted. I should’ve taken up another class, like art, even though I can’t draw to save my life. (Or do anything to save my life, obviously, and I want to say that’s neither here nor there, but it pretty much is everything, isn’t it?) Maybe I should’ve joined band and played piano, gotten some recognition before working my way up to singing in the chorus, then maybe a duet with someone cool, and then maybe braving a solo. Heck, even theater could’ve been fun if I’d gotten to play a role that forced me to break out. But no, I elected for another free period where I could shut down and nap.

It’s 12:58 a.m. When it hits 1:00 I am forcing myself out of this apartment. It has been both my sanctuary and my prison and for once I need to go breathe in the outside air instead of tearing through it to get from Point A to Point B. I have to count trees, maybe sing a favorite song while dipping my feet in the Hudson, and just do my best to be remembered as the young man who died too early.

It’s 1:00 a.m.

I can’t believe I’m never returning to my bedroom.

I unlock the front door, turn the knob, and pull the door open.

I shake my head and slam the door shut.

I’m not walking out into a world that will kill me before my time.

 

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