Authors: Helene Dunbar
Tags: #teen, #teenlit, #teen lit, #teen novel, #teen fiction, #fiction, #ya, #ya novel, #ya fiction, #young adult, #young adult fiction, #young adult novel, #ptsd, #post traumatic stress disorder
Jim's cell phone is warm in my hand. Kevin reaches from the front seat of the car and I just manage to delete the text before he swipes it.
He laughs. “My brother, the stud.”
I ignore him, savoring Sarah's words saying again how she really, really likes me and that she thinks I'm brave for saving Jordan. I don't know why everyone suddenly thinks I'm so brave, but I pull Sarah's “really, reallys” around me like a blanket.
No way am I sharing them with Kevin.
I smile all the way home.
“I was thinking â¦ ” I say once we're back at the house. “Now that I'm really living here, I think I need a key to the walk.”
Jim and Kevin look at each other and say “No” in unison.
Then Jim says, “You were always living here, kid. You just never believed it.”
“Come on.” Kevin tugs on my sleeve. “I've got to get out of these clothes.”
We race upstairs and strip out of our stiff clothes and pull on jeans and T-shirts.
“I left all my stuff over at the old house, you know,” I say, sinking down onto the bed.
“Anything important?” Kevin rips open a bag of chips and shovels some into his mouth. “Damn, stress always makes me hungry. Want some?”
I shake my head. I do a mental inventory of my bag and, aside from my homework, the only thing that mattered in there was Ms. DeSilva's card. But I guess I don't need that anymore. “Just a few of your shirts.”
“I don't care about any of those. And why are you being so quiet?” Kevin asks. “I thought you'd be happy.”
I know I should be flying-off-the-walls happy. I'm not sure why this thing in the pit of my stomach is telling me not to be.
“Everything that happened at that meeting was good. You get that, right?” he asks, trying again.
I tug at the band around my wrist. There isn't anything I can say to disagree. “Yeah, I guess.”
“So?” Kevin isn't going to give up, I know that. But I also know I don't have an answer he's going to like because one thought keeps circling through my head.
“What happens when he gets out of jail?” I ask.
Kevin rolls his eyes and sits down next to me, wiping his greasy fingers on my comforter. “Crap, Ice, really?”
I shrug again, wishing I could just stop worrying and enjoy things. Maybe that's part of what comes next year. Maybe that's part of normal. I hope so.
“If or when he does, it won't matter,” Kevin says. “Jim is adopting you, right?”
“So, what is it?”
I spin the band around my wrist, walk over to the window, and talk to the Kevin I see reflected in the glass. “Mr. Brooks is taking off for a year and Sarah is going to leave. She hasn't really come out and said it, but she is.” The words kind of hurt as they rush out of my mouth. I don't want it to be true, but I know it is. It probably won't be over the summer, but it might be next year or the year after. At some point she's going to leave and I'm still going to be here. “And so are you, andâ”
“Don't be an idiot.” He drapes an arm around my shoulders and looms large in the window. “Brooks will come back and I'd put money on the fact that Sarah isn't going anywhere. And us? We have a pact. Don't you understand that means you can't really get rid of me? Whether I go to school or get a job or, hell, run away to Canada, we're brothers and we need each other, right?”
I turn and look at him for real. His expression is soft like it used to be as a kid before he got angry all the time. I'm not sure he's ever said straight-out that he needs me, and it's kind of funny to think that anyone could. Then I think of Jordan, and okay â¦ maybe it's possible. Just maybe.
I walk over to my nightstand and pull out Sarah's bird necklace and drape it over my head. Then I pick up the photo of me, Kevin, Mom, and the kids and stick it on my wall.
I expect Kevin to complain, but he doesn't. He just looks at me and nods.
Everything finally feels like it's where it belongs.
I can't help but let a smile stretch across my face as I look at my brother. “Tell you what,” I say. “I won't leave you if you don't leave me.”
My eyes flutter open and it's still dark. The room is silent except for the sound of Kevin's breathing. A soft breeze floats through the window. I pull the blankets around me and wrap up in their familiar smell.
I close my eyes again to keep the dream inside me. For the first time it really
a dream, too. Not a memory. Not a spin. But a real dream.
In it, I'm flying this huge mechanical bird. Kevin is there, and Sarah, and even Jordan. And we're charging through the sky, cutting through clouds, zigzagging across blue.
The wind is in my face, blowing my hair back.
Everyone I love is laughing.
I look down and we're over the river, only the water is so clean and clear that even from up here, I can see everything. Every rock and piece of algae. Every minnow and eel and fish. And just like in Sylvia's poem, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
This book is a work of fiction, and while I tried to be as accurate as possible when telling Gordie's story, each individual copes with trauma differently. It is a common misperception that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is only suffered by members of the military. If you are having difficulties coping with a traumatic event, or you know someone who is, please educate yourself and consult your healthcare provider.
One good educational source is the National Center for PTSD: www.ptsd.va.gov//files/16/48/26/f164826/public/pages/fslist-ptsd-overview.asp.
There were people who believed in the viability of this book even before I did, and I'd be negligent if I didn't put them at the top of this list. So to Stephanie Cardel, Carmen Erickson, and Sue Kamata, I will always be grateful for your belief in Gordie's story. To Dana Alison Levy, who tirelessly read many many versions and threatened me into the correct ending, and to Lynn Lindquist, who very bravely told me when I got it right, I am forever in your debt.
To Melissa Jeglinski, for taking a chance on Gordie's story, and to Brian Farrey-Latz, Sandy Sullivan, Mallory Hayes, and the gang at Flux for letting me break their hearts and then thanking me for it, there are no words of gratitude large enough.
To the editors of the She Writes Young Adult Novel Contest and the folks at MidSouth SCBWI â¦ on the surface, awards are only pieces of paper, but they sometimes give writers the courage to go on, so
To those who read drafts or bits of drafts, I can't thank you enough.
To Scott Sitner, for friendship without question and legal advice I've probably bungled, and to Beth Hull and Susan Gray Foster, who stepped in at the very last minute to teach me that I know absolutely nothing about semicolons, I owe you each vats of chocolate and endless champagne.
To the band Spring Offensive, who somehow appear on all of my playlists
this would have been a different and lesser book without your voices in my head. Thanks also to Chris Foster for all the sneak peeks and downloads.
And, of course, to John, who believed me and
didn't flinch when I sat down one day and said I was going to write a book. With all my love.
About the Author
Â© Stephanie Saujon
Helene Dunbar usually writes features about Irish fiddles and accordions, but she's also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She's lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, daughter, two cats, and the world's friendliest golden retriever.
These Gentle Wounds
is her debut novel with Flux.