Authors: Annastaysia Savage
Copyright ©2011 Annastaysia Savage
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This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
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JournalStone rev. date: April 8, 2011
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This book is dedicated to my husband, Mitch Savage, without whom it never would have been possible.
Nancy McKinley, Stephanie Riese, Rachel Strayer, Renee and “Hippie”, Christopher C. Payne with JournalStone Publications and all the things that go bump in the night.
Thank you for the encouragement, inspiration, help, advice, picking up off the floor and dusting off, love, laughs, the belief in me and my story and for the friendship.
The bright red lockers lining the school’s hallway became a blur as Sadie started to run. She could smell the all-too-heavily applied perfume of her tormentors, and it made her stomach churn. That smell alone, not to mention to whom it was attached, gave her all the get up and go she needed. Picking up speed, she ran as fast as she could to avoid the impending after school confrontation. Only one turn and I’m safe in the library.
Sadie didn’t mind running away from her bullies; at least then they wouldn’t see her cry should the tears come again. Tears, like her moods lately, were always so unpredictable. Anything could trigger them. She ran, trying to act like she had somewhere very important to go, but knowing it was so obvious she was just trying to get away. She wished she could just keep on running, going as far away as her legs would carry her, and then go even further.
“Saaa – die’s craaa – zy! Saaa – die’s craaa – zy! Look at Crazy Sadie run! Where ya runnin’ to, Sadie, to find your dead Moooom – ie?”
Sadie tried to block out the older girls’ taunts, but the sing-song way they tormented her rang in her ears and reverberated through to her very soul. Actually, it broke her heart each and every time she heard them say those things to her or about her. She often wondered how much a heart could take before it just quit and broke for good.
She ran into the school library, letting the door slam shut loudly, and leaned against it to catch her breath. They don’t dare come into the library, there are too many books in here, and they might actually learn something, the stupid, catty girls. Though Sadie didn’t know what catty meant, she thought it applied to anyone who picked on her since she overheard some teachers use the word on that very same clique.
Three boys looked up from their computer stations and snickered when they saw who had come through the doors. Sadie readied herself for the next onslaught of jeers. As if right on cue, it began.
“She really thinks her mom is still alive….”
“I swear, she said so to Kate Anderson—she’s crazy….”
“They should lock her up….”
“She’s weird anyway—just look at her clothes, she only wears black now….”
Sadie put her head down and sighed as she made her way to her preferred hiding place in the back corner of the vast room. The smell of all those books, all those worlds to get lost in, brought a small wash of relief. But it always took a little while for her heart to stop pounding. She thought she would be used to the teasing by now; in reality, it was like a fresh scab repeatedly picked off an old wound every single time she heard their nasty heckling.
Stupid boys, at least they didn’t start singing the crazy song at me, too, I hate it; I hate everyone.
She threw her backpack onto the floor in anger. As soon as it hit, three books flew down the aisle and landed at her feet.
What? Now they’re throwing books at me?
She looked around and saw no one. Sadie stooped to pick up the volumes and carried them with her to the end of the aisle. Still, she saw no one. She looked down at the books she held in her arms.
I thought all the books in this aisle were Natural History Encyclopedias. These two are about the history of Halloween, and this one’s about Mythological Beasts.
Shrugging it off to lackadaisical shelf restocking by the library aides, Sadie went back to the chair, her chair, in her self-appointed sanctuary. She plopped down in the well-worn piece of furniture, tossed the books to the side, and sighed once again. Picking at the loose threads on the arm of the rickety old chair, she kicked her feet on the wooden legs and heaved a sigh so heavy it blew the strands of fallen hair from her face. The lights flickered above her head, and one of the three bulbs in the overhead lamp popped and went out.
I guess that’s just more of my bad luck, she said to herself and then laughed. All of my conversations seem to be with myself anymore. No wonder they think I’m nuts.
She pulled the book on Irish Fairies she had recently begun reading out of her backpack and snuggled into the chair. She had at least an hour and a half before all the other kids left school, and she could leave also without anyone around to taunt her.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t focus on the words in front of her, and she stared off into the deep, book-filled room to dwell some more on what her life had become. A poster on the wall adjacent to her caught her eye. It wasn’t so much the poster as what was in the bottom corner that grabbed her attention. A small ladybug had been drawn, crawling along a branch on the poster tree. Sadie’s eyes instantly welled up.
My mom always called me Ladybug.
She shut her eyes tightly to stop the tears and mostly, to try and regain control of her emotions. They seemed to have a life of their own, bursting out before Sadie knew what she had said or done. Though she couldn’t control the actions of others, she at least wanted to be in control of herself. As she slowly reopened her eyes through the wet blur of unused tears, she could have sworn she saw the ladybug take flight.
Maybe I’m as crazy as they say.
She shut her eyes again, trying for once not to think about anything.
She didn’t know how long she had been asleep when Mr. Cuttle woke her, telling her he was locking up the library and that she should have gone home hours ago. As he waddled towards her, she thought his name appropriate and sized him up accordingly. His arms were always waving about, seemingly for balance. His mouth snapped open and closed like a sharp beak and his bulbous eyes, made larger by his eyeglass lenses, protruded from his head. All of these things gave him the appearance of a cuttlefish.
She rubbed her own eyes and apologized to the portly man, but he just kept on muttering. She wasn’t quite sure if he were even still talking to her, for he was yet another person Sadie tried to tune out when he spoke. She had always thought of the library as her refuge and Mr. Cuttle a neutral party; but when even he had begun suggesting she talk to someone about her problems, Sadie decided right then and there that he wasn’t worth listening to anymore.
As she stretched she heard him say, “…and I just changed those bulbs yesterday.”
Who cares about your stupid light bulbs? I’ve got bigger problems.
Still a little fuzzy from her nap, Sadie quickly gathered her things and left the school library, only stopping to see if the coast was clear once she reached the main school doors.
She looked down the left hallway—the one lined with the bright red lockers—and saw nothing but leftover Fall Festival posters littering the floor. She turned to her right and noticed that even the principal’s office was empty, a sure sign no one was around. Kicking a broken pencil that had been abandoned like last year’s school books, Sadie wondered when the janitor got there to clean up everyone’s mess. Satisfied she was alone and there was no chance of running into anyone who could give her grief, she relaxed a little and let her shoulders sink.
Checking to make sure no one was around to torment her had become almost second nature, like breathing or brushing her teeth. It was something she just did. She didn’t want it to be that way, but it was. And it hadn’t always been that way either. When her mother was still around, Sadie fit in with a small group of friends very easily. They weren’t close like spending-the-night-at-each-other’s-house close; but they were close enough that she had someone to hang out with at school, people to eat lunch with, and a partner or two for science class.
Books were her true friends, along with her mother. But all of that changed after the car crash and her mother’s death—or her supposed death. Sadie didn’t truly believe her mom was dead. No body was found, and she just had this feeling, a strong feeling, her mother was still alive.
With no father, or any other family for that matter, social services had quickly swooped in like a portentous vulture. Though they said they had her well-being in mind, Sadie didn’t trust them. She hated them actually. They reminded her constantly that she had no father or other family to take her, so she somewhat blamed them for her current state of mind.
To be fair though, her life had really changed for the worse when she went to live at the Anderson’s foster home. She made the very bad mistake of telling Kate Anderson, who was close to her age, that she knew her mother was still alive. Instead of being a confidant and ally, Kate had told her mother, Mrs. Anderson, and Sadie ended up in therapy sessions and being transferred to another home. “For the safety of the other children,” Mrs. Anderson had said. “Who knows what else is going on in that girl’s mind.”
I hate thinking about these things. Why can’t I turn my brain off?
Sadie heard the strong winds outside whip up against the front windows of the schoolhouse, rattling them with great force. She shook her head while looking down and pulled on the straps of her backpack. She bent downward and tied her shoelace that had come undone while she tried hard to swallow the lump in her throat.
The sadness could be overwhelming. She didn’t notice the potted tree to her right seemed to wilt in her presence as she subdued her sobs for what seemed like the millionth time that day. Still lost in her thoughts, Sadie opened the big metal front doors of Cranberry Grove Middle School. She stepped outside onto Main Street and into the early evening weather, which seemed just as miserable as she was.
The biting October wind whipped her hair around her face, framing it to look like a crazed lion’s mane. Its icy fingers stung her eyes, making them water, and her own fingers began to ache from not having on gloves. Sadie fought the blustery weather, leaning into the wicked wind, as she made her way down the sidewalk towards the center of town.
Leaves didn’t have time to crackle and crunch under foot as they were torn from the tree limbs with great ferocity and flung about town like so many ragdolls. Sleet began to fall in sideways torrents, causing the sensation of a thousand little wasps stinging her cheeks all at once. Pulling her coat tighter to combat the chill, Sadie thought about her upcoming birthday, wondering if her foster family would make a big deal out of it.
Since she had only been there a few months, even though it was a few months more than usual, she didn’t think so. The Argyles were kinder to her than the Andersons had been. Mrs. Argyle always had fresh cookies, treats, and hugs waiting for Sadie at the end of the day—which kind of annoyed her. It made her feel like Mrs. Argyle was putting on an elaborate show to win her over. But she was pleasant, caring and motherly nonetheless. And Mr. Argyle, though he worked an awful lot, always had a smile on his face.
They were definitely nicer than the Moatses, whom she had been transferred to after the Anderson fiasco. Mrs. Moats criticized everything and everyone, always on the verge of screaming her head off. You could monitor her anger by the vein on her forehead; it was like a mood meter. If it was pulsing and pounding, get out of the way. Mr. Moats, though, was even worse. You had to be nearly perfect to please that man. Sadie assumed it was his military background.
But, as per her track record, she had made a grave mistake there as well, saying she could have sworn she saw her mother’s face in the clouds one day. And she did see it; Sadie was positive about that. Sure enough though, Mr. Moats had told her counselor at school and her state appointed social worker. He said he thought she wasn’t adjusting well and that, for the sake of the other “normal” children, it would be best if she were placed somewhere else. Plus, he told them she didn’t like to follow rules. Who could even keep up with, let alone follow, his never-ending list of rules? Her mother’s only rule had been for Sadie to let her know where she was, always.
So off to the Argyle’s house she went. Mrs. Argyle was a hospice worker, and Mr. Argyle was a bereavement counselor. So Sadie’s social worker thought this would be the best place for her. And she didn’t mind adding that this was probably the end of the line before Sadie would have to go live in a state operated orphanage if she didn’t “straighten up and fly right” at the Argyle’s home.
As soon as Sadie had heard mention of an orphanage, she tried to change right there on the spot, if only for show. From that point on she kept all her innermost thoughts and feelings to herself. No one would ever know what she was really thinking—ever again. On the outside, she would agree with people when they would speak of her mother in the past tense. She even began to believe it herself, somewhat.
Yet, another summer conceded (three to be exact) and another fall had begun before she really and truly began to accept the fact that her mom wasn’t coming back. Not now, not ever. Three whole long years had passed, and it still hurt every day to think about it. Sadie wondered if the pain would ever go away. She remembered the day the policemen, with counselors in tow, had come to school to tell her.
They led her from the classroom to the principal’s office without speaking. All the while Sadie had a strange feeling in her stomach. Still without talking to her, they sat her in a chair while they surrounded her in a semi-circle, as if she had done something wrong. And indeed, Sadie began to recount that morning’s actions in her mind to try and remember if she had broken any rules. Now that act seemed so silly to her.
Dr. Miller, her elementary school principal, had been the one to break the news. No sugar-coating, no sympathy, just matter-of-fact, “Your mother has died, Sadie.”
Now, every day, Sadie wakes up with that in the forefront of her memories and hears his voice in her head. “Your mother has died.” She could never forget her mother was dead; her life had changed so much as a result. “Your mother has died.” It was like a CD with a scratch on it that she couldn’t find the button to turn off.
Sometimes though, she still let herself believe her mom was alive. As a matter of fact, she knew her mother was still alive, somewhere, out there. Sadie just didn’t tell anyone these things anymore. Sadie knew she had to be alive; there were too many unanswered questions about the car crash for her not to think this way. She didn’t care what the counselors, her foster parents or anyone said.