Instead of writing something new, I'd like to share with you something I wrote earlier this year that stretched me outside my Adult Romance comfort zone into more sinister waters. I guess I'd label it Middle Grade Suspense/Horror. It's so outside my norm that it got rejected for inclusion in an anthology for which I was a shoo-in. (I did manage to write an acceptable story for the anthology, but was forced back into my box to write it...and I *hmphf*ed the whole way.)
The story is just over 3000 words, so I'm going to break it into three posts, which I'll put up over the course of three Sundays, appropriately culminating on Halloween. This is the first time I'm sharing this story publicly. I hope you like it.
An Icky Valentine's Day
Isadora Cuthbert Karp was weird. The way she looked, the things she said, the way she smelled. Even her name was weird. And it didn’t escape the notice of the other children at school that her initials spelled ick, not with Danny Eldridge around to kindly point it out to anyone who may have missed that little tidbit.
The bus squeaked to a high-pitched stop in front of Icky, and she hoisted her backpack resolutely onto her shoulders and ascended the steps. The bus was usually pretty full by the time it reached her stop, and today was no exception.
Most seats were two and three full, but about halfway back one was completely empty. This seat was always empty when Icky arrived. It was the only way the other children could ensure they wouldn’t have to sit by her. The arrangement was just peachy with Icky, especially today when she’d be able to lay her extra-full backpack gingerly on the seat next to her.
She was hauling precious cargo: her Valentines for the fifth grade Valentine’s party. And these were no ordinary Valentines. These were the Valentines with which she was going to exact her revenge on Danny Eldridge.
The bus pulled forward with a jerk and Izzy looked out the window, thinking about the fourth grade Valentine’s party, exactly one year ago…
She hadn’t been able to believe it when, a month before the party, she’d discovered them on-line—a full set of Valentines featuring the greatest team of superheroes ever. The Bronze Goatee and Poindexter. They were unstoppable: brave, smart, and most of all, underestimated, misunderstood and unappreciated.
They didn’t sell these Valentines at any of the big chain stores, or any stores for that matter. But there they were at an obscure Web site, just waiting for her.
Icky had printed out the page and brought it immediately to her parents. She had heard in her mother’s sigh the familiar but no longer spoken lament: “Why can’t you just be normal?” But all she’d said aloud was, “What about those kitten and puppy Valentines I brought home yesterday? Don’t you think that will be more like what the other girls are handing out?”
Icky didn’t say a word, just stood with her thin, winter-chaffed lips pressed together and her overly-large brown eyes leveled at her mother. She stared not with pleading, not with resentment, not with any emotion at all.
“Come now, dear,” her father had chided her mother. “We know our little Izzy isn’t one to cave in to the tastes of the outside world. She makes her own rules,” he’d said with the air of someone who was convinced that his child was going through a phase and that if he simply surrounded her with forced optimism, she’d one day snap out of it.
He nearly reinforced his encouragement with a pat to his daughter’s head, but seemed to think better of it when he noticed that a few extra snarls had mysteriously appeared in her dark hair.
So she’d gotten the Valentines and signed them proudly. She was bringing the Bronze Goatee and Poindexter to St. Ingnatius Elementary; this would be a Valentines Day for the history books. The children would open their Valentines and know that they were looking at something special, something unique, something worthy of their notice.
Getting up for her third cup of Valentine’s punch (red Kool-Aid with floating mini-marshmallows, as far as she could tell), Icky had seen Danny Eldridge’s Valentines lying in a mess on his desk. Most of them were bent and had a white blob of raw paper in the middle from where Danny had ripped off the candies that had been taped to them—which was precisely why Icky had gone candyless that year. She would do nothing to risk marring the flawless images of her heroes.
As she passed Danny’s desk, her eyes were drawn to Poindexter at the top of the heap. Fitting, she thought. Then she looked closer.
Underneath Poindexter’s pointy nose, curving over and past his lip and swirling up into two symmetric curly-cues was a black moustache! In ink. Permanent ink. Icky’s plastic cup had crumpled in her clenched fist.
Danny was turned backwards in his chair, carefully aiming spit wads at Tricia across the room, and so was oblivious to the furious glare Icky leveled at him. She stood in place and shook for a full twenty seconds, trying to decide the best way to go about dismembering those horrid fingers that had done this to her Poindexter.
But then she thought: What would Poindexter do? He wouldn’t use brute force. No. Poindexter would use his brains to deal with the villain, and so would Icky. Even if it took a whole year. Which it had…
To be continued
Read Part Two
Read Part Two