Shelley
PROLOGUE 

Narie clung to her mother’s hand until the warmth was no more. Why, Mom? Why didn’t you fight harder? Sobs filled the otherwise quiet room as close friends tried to console the only child of another cancer victim. A cool breeze entered without an invitation and danced across Narie’s arms. Through tears, she looked up into the face of her grandmother, a woman she’d just met for the first time ever the day before. “This is so unfair! You…I…don’t even…know you….”
 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Narie sat in the window seat of the plane focusing on her favorite puzzle game she’d downloaded on her tablet at the beginning of summer. The new school year was beginning in four weeks…school in Georgia…a place she’d never been…school without her friends and without her mother.

“Isn’t that a grand view out the window?” Narie’s grandmother asked.

Narie didn’t look up from her tablet, nor did she answer the question.

“Narie, I asked you a question…Narie!”

“Huh?”

“I think you meant to say ma’am?”

“I don’t mean to say anything. I didn’t hear what you said…I was….”

“I know. You were playing your game. It can’t be nearly as interesting as that view out there. Do yourself a favor and look.”

Narie looked out the window beyond the plane’s wing. Clouds surrounded them. White puffy things are kind of boring actually, thought Narie to herself.

“What do you see, Narie?”

“Clouds.”

“Come on; there’s more out there than clouds.”

Narie pondered that thought for a moment. “If you saw a bird or something, it must’ve gone away because all I see are some boring clouds.”

“Actually I do see a bird, right there,” said Narie’s grandmother, pointing out the window.

Narie politely looked, but she didn’t see any bird. Senile much?

“Narie, keep looking. Doesn’t that cloud right in front of us look like a bird to you? And over there, that cloud looks like an alligator. Perhaps, it’s planning to eat the bird, you reckon?”

Yep. This woman’s nuts. Narie shook her head and unlocked her tablet screen again. Tapping away at the keys, she smiled as she beat her best game score.

“Well, then, enjoy the game while you can. That contraption won’t be much good once we get to the house. I don’t have any whatcha call it…Why-Fly?”

Narie paused her game, stunned. “It’s called Wi-Fi, and are you kidding me? How will I talk to my friends or check my Facebook or my…?”

“You’ll survive. Your mother, and I before her, grew up in that house, and we survived, just like you will. There’s no better place to grow up than in the country. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

“That’s a matter of opinion.” Narie sighed and put away her game. Staring out the window at the boring clouds, she didn’t see anything of any particular shape, much less a bird being hunted by an alligator. “How much longer till we get to the wonderful country?”

“About an hour. Then from the airport, we have about another hour’s drive.”

“May I stop to use the Wi-Fi in the airport so I can let my friends know I’m leaving the planet?”

“If you promise me to find something out that window besides some boring clouds.”

Narie impatiently blew a few stray hairs from her eyes. “Seriously?”

“Dead serious.”

“Okay…that one over there could be a turtle.”

“Really?”

“Yep.”

“I think you meant to say yes ma’am.”

“No, I meant to say yep. I’m not from the South. I think ‘ma’am’ sounds ridiculous.”

“Not from my viewpoint it doesn’t.”

The two sat there quietly, staring at one another. Narie was surprised when her grandmother broke the silence by asking, “What’s the turtle doing?”

Narie rolled her eyes. “I don’t know. It’s just a turtle. Turtles don’t do much, do they?”

“Well, I’ve known quite a few turtles over the years, and they’d be shocked to hear you say that.”

“Oh, really…they’d be shocked? Because they understand human language and all?”

Narie’s grandmother laughed. “Well how else would they be shocked by what you just said? Of course, I suppose there could’ve been an interpreter. But then again, I recall some conversations with them, and they understood English well enough.”

I’m moving in with a lunatic. Certified.

“You think I’m crazy, huh?”

Narie shrugged. “Just a little.”

“Well, at least I’m not boring. And, I’m not letting you off the hook. What’s your turtle doing?”

“All right, I don’t see a turtle.”

“You made it up?”

“Yep.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Narie paused and stared at her grandmother. She could see this situation was not just going to disappear. “I’m willing to compromise and say ‘yes’ rather than ‘yep’ if you’re willing to meet me halfway. Why do you want me to see things that aren’t really there?”

“You don’t get the point, do you? All I’m asking is that you use your imagination. Don’t you think that would be fun?”

“Not really.”

“Well, humor me. Look again, and pretend to see something…anything.”

“I really don’t see anything but clouds.” Narie sighed and looked out the window. After a few moments of really trying, she exclaimed excitedly, “I see a bear, Grandma!”

“Ooh…a bear is exciting! Yes, there it is, plain as day. I’m glad you spotted it. You might become a worthy opponent next time we play this game.”

“Next time?”

“Yes, your mother and I played this game often. In fact, it will almost be like playing with her again since you look so much like her.”

“You think I look like Mom?”

“Yes, there is a strong resemblance.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, Grandma.”

“About that word…grandma. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I’d rather not be called that. Let’s find another name for you to call me.”

“I’ll call you whatever you want.”

“Okay. I’ll think about it and let you know later. In the meantime, let’s talk about your new home. We have acres and acres of land. It’ll be a pleasure to hear the sound of children playing there again.”

Narie gasped. “I’m not a child! I’m thirteen.”

“That ancient, huh? You’ll discover one day that you’re never too old to play.”

“I hope playing includes a swimming pool.”

“Not where I live, but there’s a river nearby.”

“Eww! I’m not swimming in any dirty, old river.”

“Well, the river isn’t dirty, although it is old. You’ll discover very quickly that summer in Georgia gets awfully hot, so you just might change your mind.”

“Please tell me you at least have AC.”

“I do, but like I’ve already said, there’s lots of room to play outside.”

“Please, I’m not a child. I’m a teenager…for reals.”

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