Tag Archives: Laurel Everywhere

New Releases: November 2020

Her Lady to Love by Jane Walsh (1st)

Country mouse Lady Honora Banfield arrives in London with one mission: to catch a husband. A perpetual wallflower, she’s going to do whatever it takes to win a proposal from London’s most eligible bachelor, including teaming up with the most popular (and least proper) woman in London.

Miss Jacqueline Lockhart is having too much fun in her sixth season to ever consider settling down, even though she’s been unsuccessful at mingling with the upper echelons of London society.

When Lady Honora agrees to exchange invitations to the most exclusive events in return for Jacqueline’s introductions to eligible gentlemen, neither expects their friendship to ignite passion. Nora and Jacquie begin an affair with the strict understanding that it will end once Nora is married, but as a proposal becomes more imminent, choosing between a conventional life without love, or certain ruination if they stay together, isn’t as simple as it seems.

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The Liar’s Guide to the Night Sky by Brianna Shrum (3rd)

the-liars-guide-to-the-night-sky-9781510757806_xlgIt’s no one’s fault that Hallie Jacob is alone. That her grandpa got sick half a world away and so her parents yanked her to Colorado the last semester of her senior year. That career-wise, she’s specialized in fighting fire, and now she’s surrounded by ice, snow, and a thousand cousins she’s half-banned from hanging around with. But that’s what’s happened. That’s what her December looks like.

On one big family weekend in the freaking tundra, Hallie sneaks off with those cousins to an abandoned ski slope. But they get caught in a random mudslide, and what started as a Secret Bonfire Party goes in a Potential Donner Party direction real fast. With several cousins in desperate need of medical attention, Hallie goes for help, and Jonah joins her. Jonah Ramirez is her troubled cousin’s extremely off-limits (absurdly hot) best friend who’s back on winter break from college.

Facing paralyzing temperatures, sharp-toothed animals strong enough to survive a climate with hardly any water or air, and weather phenomena so wicked they’ll wreck a mountain before you can blink, Jonah and Hallie have no choice but to trust each other. And THAT may be more impossible, even, than making it out alive.

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From Darkness by Kate Hazel Hall (3rd)

Sixteen-year-old Ari Wyndham has a secret. Her best friend, Alex, drowned at Stonehaven beach when she was nine, and nobody knows that Ari still blames herself for Alex’s death.

When Ari is bitten by a tiger snake, a summoner is sent from the underworld to collect her. The summoner is Alex, who has spent the past seven years escorting souls to the underworld. They recognise each other, and Alex chooses to save Ari, even though she knows there will be a terrible price to pay for this transgression.

Alex’s rebellion is dangerous; it upsets the balance of life and death, and endangers the people and animals of Stonehaven. A rift opens from the underworld, and dark magic threatens the remote coastal town. Savage dog packs roam the pine plantation and emerge at night to kill pets and livestock, fishermen catch ghostly bodies in their nets, and children go missing. And all the while Alex is hiding the truth from Ari, which is that she could be drawn back to the underworld at any time.

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Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins (10th)

What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?

Felipe gets it — he’s fat. Not chubby. Not big-boned. Fat. And he doesn’t need anyone to remind him, which is, of course, what everyone does. That’s why he’s been waiting for this moment ever since the school year began: school break. Finally, he’ll be able to spend some time far away from school and the classmates who tease him incessantly. His plans include catching up on his favorite TV shows, finishing his to-be-read pile, and watching YouTube tutorials on skills he’ll never actually put into practice.

But things get a little out of hand when Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.

Suddenly, the days ahead of him that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) end up bringing a whirlwind of feelings, forcing Felipe to dive head-first into every unresolved issue he has had with himself — but maybe, just maybe, he’ll manage to win over Caio, too.

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The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich (10th)

For the young women of Lowell, Massachusetts, freedom means fair wages for fair work, decent room and board, and a chance to escape the cotton mills before lint stops up their lungs. When the Boston owners decide to raise the workers’ rent, the girls go on strike. Their ringleader is Judith Whittier, a newcomer to Lowell but not to class warfare. Judith has already seen one strike fold and she doesn’t intend to see it again. Fortunately Hannah, her best friend in the boardinghouse—and maybe first love?—has a gift for the dying art of witchcraft.

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Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (10th)

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love – and the inevitable heartbreak – is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy…a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother – and Elle’s new business partner – expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because…awkward.

When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.

But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

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Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky (10th)

Sasha MashaIn this #OwnVoices LGBTQ young adult debut, Alex comes to realize his true identity as a young woman named Sasha Masha.

Alex feels like he is in the wrong body. His skin feels strange against his bones. And then comes Tracy, who thinks he’s adorably awkward, who wants to kiss him, who makes him feel like a Real Boy. But it is not quite enough. Something is missing. Is the missing piece a part of Alex himself?

As Alex grapples with his identity, he finds himself trying on dresses and swiping on lipstick in the quiet of his bedroom. He meets Andre, a gay boy who is beautiful and unafraid to be who he is. Slowly, Alex begins to realize: Maybe his name isn’t Alex at all. Maybe it’s Sasha Masha.

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Master of One by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (10th)

Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.

But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…

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I’m in Love with the Villainess by Inori, ill. by Hanagata (10th)

Ordinary office worker Oohashi Rei wakes up in the body of the protagonist of her favorite otome game, Revolution. To her delight, the first person to greet her is also her favorite character, Claire Francois–the main antagonist of the story! Now, Rei is determined to romance Claire instead of the game’s male leads. But how will her villainous lady love react to this new courtship?!

 

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The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco (10th)

This is the sequel to The Never Tilting World

44648898After a treacherous journey and a life-shattering meeting with a twin neither knew they had, Haidee and Odessa expected to emerge from the Great Abyss to a world set right. But though the planet is turning once again, the creatures of the abyss will not rest until they have tasted another goddess’s sacrifice.

To break the cycle, Haidee and Odessa need answers that lie beyond the seven gates of the underworld, within the Cruel Kingdom itself. The shadows of the underworld may hunger to tear them apart, but these two sisters are determined to heal their world—together.

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Laurel Everywhere by Erin Moynihan (10th)

Severe loss. For Laurel Summers, those two words don’t cut it. They don’t even come close. After a car wreck kills her mother and siblings, the ghosts of her family surround her as she wrestles with grief, anger, and the fear that she won’t be enough to keep her dad alive either.

Fifteen-year-old Laurel Summers couldn’t tell you the last words she spoke to her mother and siblings if her life depended on it. But she will never forget the image of her mother’s mangled green car on the freeway, shattering the boring world Laurel had been so desperate to escape. Now she can’t stop seeing the ghosts of her family members, which haunt her with memories of how life used to be back when her biggest problem was the kiss she shared with her best friend Hanna.

After the accident, Laurel and her dad are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Her dad is struggling with his grief and depression, unable to cope with the loss of his family. He seeks a way out of his pain, leaving Laurel behind while he struggles to cope with his own mental illness. She is desperate to find a way to hold everything together again and help her father come to terms with the loss so he can come back to her.

Laurel tries to make sense of her pain with the help of her grandparents, her two best friends, and some random strangers. As she struggles to understand who she is without her family, she must come to terms with the items on her List of Things Not to Talk About, learn to trust her dad again, and—on top of it all—keep her heart open to love in the wake of her immense loss, eventually learning that it’s okay to not be okay.

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The Lady Upstairs by Halley Sutton (17th)

Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles–handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting–bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet–and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

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Synclair by Rachel Gold (17th)

SynclairThe summer before her senior year, Emma Synclair decides to find her true love: either a girl or God. Since she has a crush on her best friend―and on her best friend’s girlfriend―Synclair figures she’ll have better luck with God.

Which God? How will she know? Wicca, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity? Her atheist parents are out of the country for three months, so Synclair has the space to try some religions in peace.

Or so she thinks, until her friends decide that her house is the party house―that is: the dinner party house! How can she tell them no? She sneaks away to start her spiritual quest, but runs into her childhood friend Avery. Who grew up to be hot. And is also into girls. Is her true love Avery or God? Can she have both or is that the path to neither? Synclair vows to find out.

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The Stars at Night by Gerri Hill (17th)

Self-described city girl Lexie Walton is out of her element. A million miles from nowhere.

Park ranger Kyler Clemons loved the vibe and the beach of Mustang Island. Getting caught with her boss’s wife, however, got her transferred to the wild and remote Davis Mountains State Park. After four years, she’d forgotten about the beach and embraced the mountain life, feeling like a local. She hung out at the Cottonwood Creek Bar and Grill. She watched football with Mark Walton. His parents treated her like one of the family. She’d taken up birdwatching and stargazing as hobbies. She was perfectly content. Maybe a little bored, but content.

Then Lexie Walton waltzes into her life.

After losing her cushy job in Austin―and unable to find another one―Lexie accepts her parents’ offer to join them and her brother in running a rustic lodge and restaurant in the remote Davis Mountains of West Texas. Hesitant to commit to such a drastic move, she agrees to a trial run―two months. Two months would get her through Christmas and the New Year. Two months to decide if she wanted to run back home to Austin. Or would she have found a new home?

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Ruinsong by Julia Ember (24th)

Revolution or silence?

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence is forced to use her power to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when Cadence is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must make a choice: take a stand to free her country from a tyrant — or follow in her queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.

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Just Like This by Cole McCade (24th)

This is the second book in the St. Albans duo

Rian Falwell has a problem.

And his name is Damon Louis.

Rian’s life as the art teacher to a gaggle of displaced boys at Albin Academy should be smooth sailing—until the stubborn, grouchy football coach comes into his world like a lightning strike and ignites a heated conflict that would leave them sworn enemies if not for a common goal.

A student in peril. A troubling secret. And two men who are polar opposites but must work together to protect their charges.

They shouldn’t want each other. They shouldn’t even like each other.

Yet as they fight to save a young man from the edge, they discover more than they thought possible about each other—and about themselves.

In the space between hatred, they find love.

And the lives they have always wanted…

Just like this.

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The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar (24th)

Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.

One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.

As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.

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Being Merry by Meka James (27th)

Noelle Cameron won’t let being basically homeless in a new state dampen her Christmas spirit.

Thanks to her coworker, she has a temporary housing possibility. However, her new potential roommate is about as welcoming as the Grinch. But Noelle refuses to let scowls and snide remarks about her festive attire steal her joy. Winning over the cranky Lennox will be a victory sweeter than sugar cookies.

Lennox Sutton doesn’t want to live with anyone. Unfortunately, one well delivered guilt trip from her sister means taking in the woman wearing a reindeer headband and an attitude that goes past glass half full to it completely spilling over. Now she’s stuck with a person who embodies everything Lennox dislikes about the holiday season. But beneath the ugly sweaters shines someone whose company Lennox could enjoy.

A meddling sister and a dash of Christmas magic might have these two polar opposites finding new ways to enjoy the season of giving.

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Excerpt Reveal: Laurel Everywhere by Erin Moynihan

Today we have an excerpt from Erin Moynihan’s upcoming Laurel Everywhere, a lesbian romance releasing November 10th from Ooligan Press! Here’s the story:

Laurel was named after the laurel bush, a nondescript plant that is found everywhere outside of Seattle, where she lives. Her siblings were also named for flora: Tansy after a pretty yellow flower that Laurel refuses to believe is a weed, and Rowan after a tree native to the Scottish Highlands. As the middle child, Laurel always felt boring compared to her outgoing siblings, like an outsider in her own family because of her idiosyncrasies.

But Laurel’s mom and siblings were killed in a car accident a month ago, and Laurel has begun to feel guilty about her sibling envy, her anger, and all she said and did when they were alive. As she and her dad work to figure out life without the rest of their family, Laurel is thankful for her two best friends, Hanna and Lyssa, whom she needs now more than ever. But since Hanna kissed Laurel, things have been weird between them.

Written from Laurel’s perspective, the story is sympathetic to first loves and heartbreaking loss.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Powells

And here’s the excerpt!

Hanna is the one who finds me.

Hanna, with her soft brown eyes and perfect olive skin and voice that sounds both frantic and calming at the same time. I’m lucky Hanna is a worrier and Lyssa is usually lost or getting kidnapped (it happened once). I’m also lucky Hanna made the two of us turn on Find My Friends a few years back. I told her Dad was taking me on a hike and she asked where and I didn’t respond. Then hours passed and her worry got the best of her.

She finds me in a laurel bush, with leaves framing my face and the smell of early-summer raindrops surrounding me. We’re somewhere east of Seattle—I remember Dad getting on the highway. I remember the city disappearing behind us and the mountains and trees appearing as the highway seemed to expand, lane after lane.

I’m somewhere near Snoqualmie Pass, I guess. I’m not sure if Hanna can see the irony of it all (she looks too frantic to even recognize that it’s a laurel bush)—not many people other than my mom regularly identify plants, but if anyone could, it would be Hanna. Hanna is a walking encyclopedia.

“Your face,” she says. I wipe my hand across my cheek and feel blood, as if the branches dared me to a duel, and I just sat there taking the punches. She grabs my hand and holds on so tightly her blood pumps against mine—pumping the life back into me. I’m being reborn from the bushes: a family-less Laurel Summers with raindrops on her forehead and dirt on her cheeks.

Two weeks ago I would have laughed if anyone told me the predicament I’d end up in. But in two weeks, I’ve gone from being part of a family of five to being part of a family of only two; I planned a funeral, and now I’ve gotten left behind in my namesake bush.

My first thought should be Dad. He’s not here. I’m not sure where he’s gone. Hanna looks worried and her mom is here too, standing a few feet away with the same expression on her face. A mirror image of Hanna herself, except with lighter skin and blonde hair. But my first thought isn’t Dad because maybe I’m not a very good daughter and in general not a very good person. Dad is all I have left and I should be looking for him, but instead my heart is melting and breaking into a million pieces because Hanna is holding my hand so tightly. I don’t want to let go because if I do, all the life she’s pumped back into me might spill out and I’ll end up a deflated balloon in the dirt.

“Where’s your dad?” Hanna asks me.

I open my mouth but the words don’t come out, which makes me wonder how long I’ve been underneath this bush, because my throat is dry and my lips feel like they’re glued together. It’s still light outside, so at least there’s that—the sun peeking through the rain clouds from earlier today. Instead of answering her, I point up the trail in the direction where I remember him stumbling away from me.

“You take her back to the car,” says Mrs. Jackson to Hanna. “I’ll look farther up. Hanna, call your father and tell him to get some people up here to search.” Hanna’s dad is a policeman. Hanna hates that he’s a policeman because she thinks the justice system is messed up, but Mr. Jackson says he became a policeman because he wanted to be a good one and show boys with dark skin like him they can become policemen too.

Hanna puts her arm around me and doesn’t even flinch when my damp clothes touch her dry ones. She composes a short message to Lyssa: “Found her. She’s fine.” The fact that they’re talking about me sprouts a warmth inside my chest. It’s nice to feel worried for sometimes, and it’s especially nice to think Hanna was paying attention to me and tracking my location. Even though it’s mostly because my family just died and I’m a loose cannon, lost in the woods near the pass on a trail to some unknown destination that nobody but Dad seems to know.

A loose cannon. That’s how I’d describe myself at the funeral. Dad cried the whole time: a steady, controlled flow of tears. I didn’t cry until the very end when they started a slide- show and I saw this one picture of Rowan, Tansy, and me. I realized I was the only one left alive in that picture and the realization made tears explode from my eyes. Hanna and Lyssa practically had to hold me down so I wouldn’t run away. Dad didn’t look at me; I don’t think he could bear it. If he’d seen me, he would’ve burst into tears too. Together, we would have drowned the whole funeral home—maybe the whole neighborhood—with so many tears even our rainy city of Seattle would be swallowed whole.

That was the last time I saw Hanna and Lyssa, as they were wrestling me down at the funeral. It was like the time in seventh grade when Daphne Peters threatened to report Lyssa for bringing alcohol to school and I nearly punched her in the face to stop her. Lyssa and Hanna held me back and lectured me about how if I’d punched her, we would’ve gotten into even more trouble, and how she was just talking herself up and didn’t really want to tell anyways. The funeral was like that, but much, much sadder.

Daphne Peters never did tell on Lyssa. I’d like to take credit for that because I scared her with my menacing twelve-year-old fist-swinging. (I’m not violent, I swear. Only when people are mean to my friends.)

Except at the funeral when they were wrestling me, I didn’t have anyone in front of me to punch. I wanted to punch the guy who was driving the truck but why would he dare be at the funeral? He probably can’t sleep at night. I can’t sleep at night. I wonder what the man who drove that truck looks like. I wonder if he feels bad about it all or if he couldn’t care less. I imagine him as a villain, large and intimidating, laughing in my face and at my mom’s little car, broken and smashed to pieces while his giant truck remained intact.

We slide into the backseat of Mrs. Jackson’s car. Hanna dusts off my pants and grabs my hands to stop them from shaking. The sun shines in through the windows and warms me up. Normally I’d be excited at the first sign of the season truly transitioning to summer, but instead I can’t stop shivering. My hands won’t stop shaking. They’ve been shaking almost nonstop for the past week, so I think it might just be one of those things that comes intertwined with death that nobody warns you about.

Hanna’s hands are warm against mine. Before the funeral, we hadn’t really spoken for a few weeks. She says it’s because she was busy, but I know it’s because we kissed and things got messy between us. But then my family died and I guess that made us forget about everything else, at least for a bit.

“I’m gonna call my dad,” she says.
“OK.”

Her voice sounds like it’s underwater. Like I can hear it but I can’t totally understand what she’s trying to say. She hands me a half-empty water bottle while she talks to her dad on the phone. I chug the water and it burns against my throat, which tells me I was lying underneath the laurel bush for longer than I thought. Long enough to become parched and for the sun to move across the sky.

“My dad is on his way,” she says. Hanna often talks to fill awkward silence, but lately she’s been running out of things to say to me. I stare out the window at the trees and shrubs sur- rounding the trailhead. Laurel bushes are scattered all over the ground. They’re everywhere. They make my chest tighten and a lump rise up in my throat.

“OK.”

She hesitates before asking, “Where—where do you think your dad went?”

I don’t know the answer. There’s a voice in my head that tells me he probably flung himself from the mountaintop, and another voice wonders if he was mauled by a bear. Yet another wonders why in the world Dad would leave me lying there in my namesake bush all alone.

He’d suggested we go hiking. The two of us hadn’t left the house in a few days and he’d said, “Why don’t we go on an adventure?” I should have known then. He sounded far too chipper to be serious, but I hopped into the car and went along with it anyways.

I mean, he did take us hiking. We pulled over at an un-marked trail and before I even zipped up my jacket, he was powering up the hill. “Laurel bushes,” he kept saying, pointing to the ground every time we passed a bush. “Look Laurel, you’re everywhere.”

I said something like “They’re everywhere,” and we both knew I wasn’t talking about bushes. Mom was always the one who loved to point out our namesake flowers. Mom was a gardener, and she named us after flowers because of course she did. Rowan, Laurel, and Tansy.

Now: just Laurel.

After I said and thought all of that, my legs turned wobbly and I needed to rest. I lay down in a laurel bush and listened to Dad’s footsteps slowly disappear into the distance. I thought he would come back for me.

He didn’t.

Dad and I were always close. Mom and I were close too. I didn’t have a favorite. I lapped up Mom’s stories about astrology and herbal supplements and listened to Dad drone on about the difficulty of teaching English courses to freshmen who aren’t majoring in English.

But now that Dad left me alone in a laurel bush, Mom should probably be my favorite.

I didn’t have a favorite sibling either. Tansy and I would play games in the backyard, and I went to Rowan’s soccer games and cheered for him with all my heart. I’ve always been neutral in matters of family. Mom said it was because I am a Pisces. “You’re agreeable. You feel for others.” Mom blamed most of our actions on our star charts, like the time Rowan got caught hooking up with a girl in a school janitor closet and Mom blamed it on him being a wild Gemini rather than the fact that he was an idiot.

Maybe it’s too soon to call my dead brother an idiot, but he was. I didn’t—don’t—have a favorite sibling but objectively I can say Rowan is the least agreeable of the three of us. Was—is—I don’t know.

“We’ll take you back to your house,” Hanna says, filling the silence again. “I can see if Lyssa wants to come over. Or do you want to come to my house? We can do that too. That might be better. And then my mom can feed all three of us and we can watch old TV shows on Netflix.”

I don’t say anything and she decides that we’re going to her house. I would’ve picked that anyways, even if her voice didn’t sound underwater and I had the ability to speak again. Despite chugging the remains of the water bottle, my throat is still on fire.

“I’ll ask Lyssa to come over. Do you want Lyssa to come over?”

I nod. Lyssa helps—she gets it. Her mom is dead and she doesn’t know her dad because she’s been in the foster system since she was ten. She just tells people both her parents are dead because it’s easier than telling them that her dad was just really messed up. Right after the accident, Lyssa and Hanna came over. Hanna tried to help by cleaning the house, cooking food in the kitchen, and offering to help my dad with planning the funeral. Lyssa just sat on my bed and talked to me about things that weren’t my dead family, like music and the most recent season of The Bachelorette. Both were helpful in their own ways, but Lyssa feels calmer and less frantic. It’s less like she’s trying so hard to help and more like she just helps by being there.

Mr. Jackson pulls up in his police car, jumps right out, and meets Mrs. Jackson at the trailhead. They talk for a few minutes and then he disappears into the woods alongside a few more men and women in uniform. Mrs. Jackson makes her way back to the car, without my dad.

Did he leave me? Would he leave me? My parents left me one time in a Walmart. Mom said it was because I was the quiet one. Tansy was a baby and so she was attached to my mom in a backpack and Rowan was always talking and making noise. I got lost among the aisles of games and art supplies, and I didn’t even notice they’d left until Mom came frantically running around the corner and wrapped her arms around me. I sometimes wish she hadn’t told me they left and hadn’t made a big deal about it, because I often think about how they left me. I think about it a lot. If she’d just grabbed my hand and said, “Laurel, it’s time to go,” I would’ve had no idea they’d ever left.

Being left behind seems to be the plight of the middle child. Even without my brother and sister standing beside me, living and breathing and taking up space, I’ve still managed to be forgotten somewhere.

“John is looking for your dad,” Mrs. Jackson says. Her voice is calm but underneath I can tell she’s a storm. She sounds just like Hanna when Hanna tries to hide that she’s afraid.

“Thanks for picking me up.”
“You don’t have to thank me, honey.”

The trees pass by my window like we’re in a race and they’re trying to beat me home. The sun continues to dip, turning the sky above us dark. I should be back there in the woods, looking for Dad, but my legs are tired and my face is covered in cuts and scrapes. I feel as though I’m running low on gas, and if I stay and look for Dad, my engine might give out. Maybe it’s already given out.

What if they don’t find him? Or worse, what if they do and he’s…I can’t think about that. So, I watch the trees and I imagine how it would feel to get squished by a car and how I’m going to ask Tansy how it felt to die when I see her in heaven—if there is a heaven. I wouldn’t ask Mom or Rowan because both of them would lie. They’d try to tell me it felt like falling asleep. But Tansy, she’d be honest with me.

The trees pass by the farther we get from wherever Dad disappeared to. My phone lights up with a message from Lyssa linking to a Tumblr post full of Stranger Things theories. Hanna’s foot taps nervously against the floor of the car so loudly I can hear it over Mrs. Jackson’s music. I breathe in the air and wonder if ghosts are following me around now. If I breathe hard enough maybe I’ll consume them and I’ll be able to hear Mom and Tansy and Rowan inside of me.

Mom always told us ghosts were real.

***

Erin Moynihan is a debut novelist from Seattle, Washington, where she spends many rainy days typing away in coffee shops. Her editorial work has appeared on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, The Mighty, and various other outlets. She has a background in social work, which informs the subject matter of her writing. She is passionate about elevating young female voices and breaking the stigma around mental health. When she’s not working, she’s likely spending time cuddling with her dog or adventuring around the Pacific Northwest. You can see what she’s up to at www.erinmoynihan.com