Authors: Jacqueline Seewald
By Jacqueline Seewald
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER
Copyright Â© 2014 JAQUELINE SEEWALD
Cover Art Designed by AM DESIGN STUDIOS
For Abby, Ella, Jonah and Leah
“What, can the devil speak true?”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I, Scene iii
When my mother talked about Lori, she always got a funny look in her eye â not ha-ha funny but strange funny. When I was little, I never understood. As I got older, I wondered more about Lori, but I hardly ever asked because it just seemed to make my mother sad.
Lori was locked away in my mother's past life like the things in the old attic trunk. I wondered about them too. But Mom would always say when I asked her to open the trunk that the past was best forgotten. Yet, every now and then, I would say something or do something that made her sigh deeply and exclaim: "You remind me so much of Lori!"
Not long ago, I was sitting on the living room couch reading a novel I found on the bookshelf. My mother walked into the room and gasped.
"Something wrong?" I asked.
She stared at me for a moment and shook her head. "No, but for a moment, it seemed like I was looking at Lori. I remember when she read
. She loved to read old-fashioned romances."
"Mom, what happened to Lori?"
I'd been to one or two family gatherings but never remember anyone mentioning Lori, Mom's younger sister. She also had a brother named Craig who lived in Portland, but that was all the family she had as far as I knew. I'd only met my relatives from Oregon once.
"Danna, I'd rather not talk about her. It only brings back sad memories."
"Sure, except I didn't bring it up."
"Just don't you read too many of those foolish books and go around confusing them for real life. And don't think too much about boys. You're still very young."
Now I was really confused. "What exactly did Lori do?"
My mother didn't answer. I could see it was hurting her to discuss her sister. Still, I couldn't help wondering. Mom had a sister who my parents never talked about. How totally weird was that?
I thought about asking my stepfather about her, but we hardly ever spoke, at least not in the way that people in a family are supposed to communicate. In our house, silence was the rule rather than the exception.
My real dad was killed in Vietnam serving in the army. My mother and he were already married and she was pregnant when he was sent overseas. I know she loved him very much. That's another thing we don't ever talk about.
My stepdad married Mom when I was two. He'd been a friend of my real father in the military. They'd served together in Vietnam. Mom says Mike, my stepdad, was charming and loving. But you'd never know that now. He's withdrawn and moody. And I know he has nightmares. The walls aren't thin, but sometimes I hear him screaming in the night. I don't know what happened to him overseas because he never talks about it, but I think it must have been terrible. I often wish he would say more to me than "Pass the ketchup," but that's the way he is.
I'm not supposed to know, but my stepdad had a drug problem. I think that's what caused him to be involved in the auto accident that crippled him. Like I said, there's a whole lot we don't talk about at my house.
Lots of the time, I think my stepdad doesn't love me â in fact, doesn't even like me. When I told Mom, she insisted I was wrong. She said he was troubled about things and the way he acts has nothing to do with me. I'm not sure I believe her. I think when you grow up without any brothers or sisters you become more aware of the feelings of grown-ups. Sometimes, I think I've never really been a kid at all, just a miniature adult.
Joyce thinks that about herself too. She's my best friend â really my only friend. She and I have been close since first grade, ever since the time a bully grabbed her glasses in the playground and tried to break them. I've always hated injustice. So I went up and kicked him as hard as I could in the shins. When he dropped Joyce's glasses, she snatched them up and we both ran. He kept chasing us, threatening to wipe us off the face of the earth. We finally managed to outrun him. Then we collapsed breathless and laughing with the satisfaction of our power to prevail. It was the start of a great friendship.
Most people don't like Joyce because she's such a brain. I think a lot of kids are jealous and some, particularly boys, are intimidated by her intellect. They don't like me either because I'm shy, quiet, reserved, and not very outgoing.
I guess I'm sensitive and my feelings hurt too easily. I don't confide in people because I don't trust them very much. Maybe I'm more like my stepdad than I'd like to admit, withdrawn and uncommunicative. Or maybe it's because I've grown up surrounded by secrets and I've always known that some of those secrets were connected with me.
Things began to change in my life when I entered my sophomore year of high school. That's when boys really started to matter and when I realized geometry was not going to be my best subject. Normally, people do not associate geometry with boys, but when I turned fifteen, many unlikely things became associated with boys in my mind.
Joyce offered to tutor me in math, except she really becomes impatient when people don't understand things as fast as she does. So I turned her down. Besides, she was already taking Algebra II and Trig, so why bother her? I asked my math teacher how to apply for a tutor and she gave me the name of the teacher in charge of the National Honor Society. Joyce went with me after school, although she was annoyed.
"I could help you, Dani. I don't know why you want an outsider. I mean, what's a little geometry between friends?" The sunlight caught her coppery hair and made it look like a freshly-minted penny as we walked down the corridor and past a row of windows.
"You know how irritated you get when you have to explain things more than once. Geometry just isn't my kind of subject. Besides, I respond better to the authority of strangers. I know we'll just get into an argument if you try to tutor me. It might ruin our friendship."
She shook her head. "I think you're wrong, but I bow before your superior wisdom."
I ignored her sarcasm. "You've got a pretty heavy program, don't you? All those honors classes, you must have tons of homework."
Joyce sighed. She took off her brown-frame glasses and rubbed the spots on either side of her nose that had reddened from the supports. "Disgustingly true."
We had arrived at the door to Mr. Galrick's classroom. I started to open it, but just as I did, the door swung out catching me off balance. I jerked backward to avoid being hit harder by the door, and all my books fell to the floor. Two boys came barreling through the door. The first was tall, broad-shouldered and drop-dead gorgeous. He had the most devastating blue eyes which looked into mine and then darted away. I felt my cheeks flush as I stared at him. His sand-colored hair was cut short and streaked with gold. He was one magnificent hunk. The second boy bumped into me. He was huge in both directions and almost fell over my books as I stooped to retrieve them.
"Hey!" the Incredible Hulk shouted in a menacing voice, "why don't you look where you're going? You girls think you own the place, don't you?"
Joyce and I exchanged surprised looks. "Listen, bozo," Joyce said pointing her finger toward his massive chest for emphasis. "You bumped into my friend. You owe her an apology!"
The good-looking guy didn't say a word; he just walked past with what seemed to be a superior, preoccupied look. His hulking friend sneered and walked away too.
Joyce got down and helped me put my stuff together. "I really hate those jocks!"
"How do you know they were jocks?" I asked.
"Are you kidding? Wasn't it obvious? Anyway, I've seen that no-neck on the football field. And the handsome Adonis is our adored quarterback, Gar Hansen. Everyone knows who he is."
I didn't, but then I wasn't into sports. "He is something, isn't he? Too bad he's got attitude." I let a deep sigh escape.
"I agree," Joyce said. "I've heard he's totally stuck-up. People talk to him and he just walks by as though he thinks he's too good to bother with them. Like he did now. Just because he's an outstanding athlete and a top student, he's got no right to act as if he's better than the rest of us."
"No one has a right to be inconsiderate no matter how great he thinks he is. I feel like telling him that," I agreed, my indignation growing.
"Right," Joyce said. "I'm boycotting the football games this season, not that I went very often anyway."
I shrugged. Sports meant little to me. In fact, neither Joyce nor I were much into athletics. Joyce was into science and I was into art. My stepfather watched football. My mom said he played in high school. He remained a big fan. Mom would pop corn and sit down to watch college and pro games with him on the weekends when she wasn't working. I never did.
After I signed up for tutoring, Joyce and I took the bus to her house. I had the window seat and watched the landscape kaleidoscope by as my mind rambled. Wilson Township where we live is nestled in South Central New Jersey. It's large in area and a lot of it is still undeveloped. Thirty years ago, Mom says, it was hardly more than farmland. The old sections have place names that date clear back to before the American Revolution. Sometimes I think our house is that old, but Mom says it was built about sixty years ago when people thought the shore area of our town could be something of a resort. Erosion ended that idea long ago.
Our house is really not much more than a cottage. Joyce's house isn't as old as ours and it's a lot nicer. Her father is a police detective in Wilson. He had the house custom built, doing a lot of the work himself. I like their house because it has a sense of identity and individuality, not like the luxury condos and townhouses that are being thrown up all around our township for commuters from New York City. We seem to have been getting a lot of New Yorkers moving in.
I don't mind the wide mix at the high school, but I feel awkward with some of these rich city kids who dress so well and have a lot of money to throw around. With my family, money is always tight. My mom is frugal; she has to be. I can't remember a time when she didn't work hard to supplement my stepdad's disability payments.
Still, Mom won't let me work until I'm sixteen. I try to help by not asking for things that I know we can't afford. It's not so hard, because after awhile, doing without becomes a way of life. Mom has always made it like a game, managing to live decently on their combined income. We always look for bargains and sales in the supermarkets and at clothing stores.
I've seen Mom work long hours for minimum wage ever since I was very little. Every Sunday, I help her clip coupons for the supermarket from the newspaper. And Mom is the family barber. She says she wouldn't go to a beauty parlor, because the beauticians call everybody "honey," and once Mom passed thirty, she found it annoying. But I think the real reason is that she considers it an unnecessary expense. Not that I wouldn't mind having my hair done professionally once in a while!
Still, we don't live badly. There's always food in the house. Mom says there's plenty of people poorer than us. She considers herself lucky to have a job, what with so many folks unemployed. As for me, I've decided I'm going to get an education so I can find a better paying job. I haven't discussed my plan to go to college with Mom because I know that would only worry her. Finding the money to pay for college, even a state school, wouldn't be easy. I'd have to earn a scholarship. I wish I was smart like Joyce!
I have dreams of becoming a commercial artist and going to work in advertising. I'm not really sure right now. All I know is I want to go to a good art school. My art teacher says she thinks I have talent, but having money for tuition would help too. I'm trying to keep my grades up so I'll qualify for a scholarship, except sometimes I think it's just a wild dream that will never come true. I get this awful fear that I will spend my entire life ringing up milk and newspapers in a convenience store just like my mother.
The landscape flickered by like the frames of a silent movie. And then Joyce started nudging me.
"Come on, Dani! Stop daydreaming. It's our stop." I rushed off the bus behind Joyce, and the mud-splattered, yellow bus moved on. "You're awfully quiet. Are you thinking about Gar Hansen?" For a moment, the image of his strong, muscular body and handsome face popped into my mind and I felt my heart skip a beat.
"No way, not my type." But then who was? I wasn't exactly deluged with admirers. That was something else Joyce and I shared, lack of boyfriends. I wasn't likely to be asked out by Gar Hansen or anyone like him. I wasn't Miss Popularity and wasn't going to be.
Both Joyce's mother and her little brother were home. Mrs. Winslow called to us from the kitchen.
"Milk and cookies are on the table. Help yourselves." Mrs. Winslow smiled at us. She's a nice person and really attractive for a woman her age. She's trimmer than my mom. I often wonder if I'll be heavy when I get older. I refused the cookies and settled for milk.
"When will Dad be coming home?" Joyce's brother asked.
"Hard to tell," Mrs. Winslow answered. "By dinnertime, I hope."
"Think he'll come to my soccer game on Saturday?"
"We'll have to wait and see."
Bobby looked dejected, wrinkling his freckled pug nose. "He's always working."
"You're always complaining," Joyce told him.
The argument, which seemed silly to me, escalated and had to be settled by Mrs. Winslow. It was amazing how alike Joyce and her brother looked, both copper-haired and cute, both freckled. But Bobby didn't wear glasses, at least not yet, and he was built much sturdier than Joyce although he was only eleven years old.
"Dani and I are going to study in my room," Joyce said. She sniffed the air in her brother's direction and wrinkled her nose as if she smelled rotten fruit. "I'd appreciate it if you kept this creature from disturbing us." With a regal gesture, worthy of the queen of England, she motioned me to follow her.
"I think you're so lucky to have a brother. I can't tell you how lonely it is being an only child."
"Anytime you're willing to adopt him, let me know. He's such a pain."