Friday, June 2, 2017

Take Them by Storm by Marie Landry: Preview Chapter

With June being Pride Month, I'm hoping more than ever that people will give my f/f New Adult book Take Them by Storm a chance, especially people who are seeking Own Voices books. Sadie is a character who's very dear to me, and I loved writing about her journey. For anyone curious about Take Them by Storm, I thought I'd share the first chapter of the book.

About Take Them by Storm:
Sadie Fitzgerald has always been different, and not just because she makes her own clothes and would rather stay home watching Doctor Who than party with kids her age. When it’s time to leave Angel Island for college, Sadie is eager to put her old life behind her. Small-minded people and rumors have plagued her for years, but with the love of her adoptive family, the O’Dells, Sadie has learned to embrace who she is. Now she’s not afraid to admit the rumors about her are true: she’s gay.

For the first time in her life, Sadie feels free to be herself. She dives into college life and begins volunteering at the local LGBT center, where she discovers her small-town upbringing left holes in her education about life outside Angel Island.

The world is a bigger and more accepting place than Sadie ever imagined. She’s finally found where she belongs, but with the reappearance of someone from her past, an unexpected new friendship, and a chance at love, Sadie soon realizes she still has a lot to learn about life, friendship, and love.
*Please note, despite being the third book in a series, the Angel Island series is a companion series, and Take Them by Storm CAN be read as a standalone. I think a lot of people pass it up because of that #3 on the end of the subtitle, but I promise you it can be read on its own.*

(c) Marie Landry 

I scroll through my iPod, searching for the perfect song. The party is winding down, and I need tonight to finish on a good note, preferably with laughter rather than tears.

I’m sure there'll be enough of those tomorrow.

My finger freezes when I find it; this is it. I can't help the grin spreading across my face as I click Play and Katy Perry’s peppy voice starts singing “I Kissed a Girl”.

Even from across the room I hear Ella’s snort. The sound makes me laugh, makes my heart squeeze with affection for this beautiful, complicated, wonderful girl I didn’t even know a year ago, but who is like a sister to me now.

I grab a pop bottle from the snack table and hold it up like a microphone, belting out the lyrics as I shimmy across the room. The few people left at the party turn to watch, and someone giggles. Ella is always up for a show, so I sling an arm around her shoulders and hold my pseudo-microphone between us so she can sing the chorus with me.

River—Ella’s boyfriend and my best friend—watches us, his lips twitching. His eyebrows shoot up when Ella looks right at him as she sings, “I kissed a girl just to try it, I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.”

Ella and I bow to scattered applause when the song ends.

“Something you two want to tell me?” River asks.

Ella dissolves into giggles. I smell alcohol on her breath, so I’m guessing she’s had the punch someone spiked after the adults left. “When Sadie and I went to the Katy Perry concert last month, Katy looked right at us during that song and blew us a kiss.”

I grin at the memory. Ella had clutched my hand and jumped around once Katy moved down the stage. “Don’t worry, Riv, Ella only has eyes for you.” Not that he needs to be reminded. After almost a year together, these two are one of those couples you just have to look at to know they’re meant for each other.

Ella grabs River’s arm and pulls him closer so we’re standing in a mini group hug. She rests her head on my shoulder, sighing quietly. I wonder if her train of thought is chugging along the same track as mine. Is she thinking about how our lives are going to change after tonight?

A bright flash of light jars me from my thoughts. Blinking away the spots filling my vision, I see Ella’s sister, Charlotte, glancing at the screen of her digital camera. “This one’s a keeper. The Misfit Trio on the night before we all move away.” Her sigh is as wistful as Ella’s was a minute ago.

The Misfit Trio. The nickname makes me smile. River moved to Angel Island at the beginning of grade nine, and it was just the two of us for the next three years. We called ourselves the Misfit Duo since nobody else at school really bothered with us. When Ella transferred to Angel Island Secondary for senior year, our duo quickly became a trio. The three of us were different, and we embraced those differences in ourselves and in each other.

“Ezra and I are going to start cleaning up,” Charlotte says, tucking her camera into the pocket of her jeans.

I look across the room to where Charlotte’s boyfriend, Ezra, is taking down the giant Bon Voyage banner over the food table.

“Let’s all clean up, then go sit on the beach,” I suggest. It’s already eleven o’clock, and even though we’re all planning to leave early tomorrow, I don’t want this night to end.

When Ezra’s living room is back in order, I’m the first one outside. I breathe in the familiar scent of lake water and wood smoke from the nightly summer bonfire, which is glowing partway down the beach. It’s a mingling of scents I’ve come to associate with home. I wonder what Bellevue will smell like.

Ella yawns beside me. We’ve had a long week of packing and making moving arrangements. I’ve been staying as busy as possible; I’m afraid the minute I stop, exhaustion will seep into my limbs and I’ll be left with the endless thoughts and questions that keep trying to overtake my mind.

“Let’s dip our toes in.” I grab Ella’s hand and tug her down the porch steps. When our feet hit the sand, she pulls me to a stop and turns me to face her. Something like panic rises inside my chest, heavy and suffocating. If we go home now, morning will come that much quicker, and it’ll be time to say goodbye. I’m not ready for that. I’ve known Ella for less than a year, but when she found out how horrible my parents are, how they’ve neglected me my entire life, she offered me a place to live. She and her family became my family. Her home became my home. I don’t know how to say goodbye.

Ella must see something in my expression that gives away my thoughts, because she says, “You know what we said we’d do this summer but never actually did?” Her hand is still clutched in mine, and she gives my fingers a squeeze. Her eyes were tired a minute ago, but they’re brightening now, taking on that look that always makes my stomach jump with a mixture of nerves and excitement. “Skinny dip.”

I sputter out a laugh. “You want to skinny dip now? Here?”

Her grin is devilish, with a hint of challenge. This is the Ella I know and love. This is the Ella I’ll miss being with every day. Over the last year, her crazy ideas have rivaled mine. River is one of the greatest friends anyone could ever ask for, but he’s quiet and intense, not adventurous. Or at least he wasn’t until Ella came along. We both met our match last September when Ella walked into our lives.

I glance down the beach. The glow from the bonfire doesn’t reach this far. I bet if we turned off Ezra’s porch light, this section of beach would be completely dark.

Charlotte comes up behind us, slinging her arms around our shoulders. “Did I hear the words ‘skinny dip’?”

“That depends…” I say slowly. “Are you in?”

Charlotte bites her lip, as if trying to stop the smile growing there. I see the answer in her eyes before she speaks. “Ezra?” she calls over her shoulder. “Will you turn off the porch light and bring out some towels?”

We tell the boys what we’re doing, and they refuse to have any part of it. At the edge of the lake, the three of us giggle like children as we undress. Ella is the first one in the water. Her sharp intake of breath makes me laugh harder. Lake Ontario is almost always cold, even on the hottest days.

Charlotte squeals beside me as she starts inching in. I hesitate for a minute, then decide to just go for it. Sucking in a deep breath, I run into the lake, releasing my own long squeal as the water hits me like a thousand needles. I hear Ella let out a whoop just before I dive under. My fingers skim the sandy bottom of the lake as I glide along, eyes closed against the darkness. There’s something exhilarating about the icy water touching every inch of my bare skin.

I surface a few seconds later. The water is deep enough that it comes almost to my shoulders. Charlotte is swimming a leisurely breaststroke toward me.

Something grazes my leg right before Ella pops up beside me. “Another item checked off the ol’ bucket list,” she says breathlessly.

On the one-year anniversary of their mother’s death in June, Ella and Charlotte decided to make bucket lists, and they asked me to join them. Each of our lists was endless, so Ella came up with the idea of making a separate one of things we wanted to do this summer, before we all went off to college and had to start thinking about ‘grown-up things’.

I’ve managed to cross off almost everything on my list. Get a tattoo: check. River’s tattoo artist cousin inked the words ‘One heart, One hope, One love’ on the inside of my left arm below the crook of my elbow. Take an epic trip: check. Thanks to an extravagant graduation gift from the adults in our lives, the five of us spent a week in London last month. Do something to honour my sister, Sarah, who died four years ago in a car accident: check. I collected over $100 in pledges and participated in a three-kilometre walk in Kingston sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Those three things, along with a dozen or so others, plus an incomparable group of friends, made this summer the best one of my life. And now it’s over.

As we float along, I know I should feel weightless, but I feel heavier with each passing second. I knew this day was coming, knew summer would eventually end, no matter how hard I held onto it or how seemingly endless those perfect summer days and nights were. Part of me feels cheated, since it’s only mid-August. It seems like we should have at least a couple more weeks together, but my new school, Loyola, starts earlier than most colleges.

I’ve lived on Angel Island my entire life, and as of tomorrow I’ll no longer be a resident. There have been moments when I’ve known that’s a good thing—I spent a long time feeling like this island was a prison—but I’m not sure I’m ready for the real world.

I inhale lake-scented air, attempting to clear my mind. The night is cloudless and the sky is like an inky canvas splattered with glittering stars. The waves are pushing us closer to shore. Even they seem to be telling me it’s time for this night to end.

“Cold,” Charlotte says. “And something just touched my foot, so that’s my cue to get out.”

We swim in, then run for our towels, which we left with our clothes by the water’s edge. I wrap the huge, fluffy towel around me and scoop up my dress, shaking sand from it.

“That was fun,” Charlotte says through chattering teeth. “The perfect end to the perfect summer.”

The sisters return to Ezra’s to say goodnight to the boys while I head for our house next door. I’m lying on my bed half an hour later, freshly showered and wearing my favourite pajamas, when they come in. Charlotte pauses in my doorway to say she’ll see me in the morning, while Ella goes straight for the shower.

It’s not long before the water turns off and I hear Ella moving around in the bathroom. Light spills into the hallway when she comes out, and a second later she’s standing in my doorway, a small towel in one hand and a brush in the other. Her damp hair falls around her shoulders, dripping onto her nightgown.

She crosses the room and flops onto the bed facing away from me. “Braid, please.” As I’m towel-drying her hair, she says, “I wasn’t nervous about tomorrow until right now. It sort of just hit me, you know?” I make a sound of agreement, but don’t speak. “Are you nervous? Or is this the next big adventure for you?”

A noise somewhere between a sigh and a laugh comes out of my mouth. Before last year I couldn’t wait to leave this island and start a new life. I did see it as an adventure. Now, though, I finally have a home and people I consider family, and I’m afraid of what being apart will do to us.

“I am nervous,” I say slowly, watching my fingers work through Ella’s long brown hair. “Not so much about moving or starting a new school. More about…us.”

Us? You and me?”

“Yeah. And Charlotte, and even Ezra. We say we’ll always be friends, but I’m sure everyone says that after high school. What if…what if we drift apart? What if we get too busy for each other? What if you make new friends and…” I stop, not knowing how to word it without sounding pathetic. What if you like them better? What if you forget about me? It’s what I’m thinking, yet I can’t bring myself to say it out loud.

Ella remains silent as I finish her braid. The moment I secure the elastic in her hair, she crawls further onto the bed and faces me, sitting cross-legged. “I can’t promise you things won’t change, because they’re going to. That’s life. That’s part of growing up. Nothing will ever be the same after today.”

My stomach sinks. “If you’re trying to cheer me up, you’re failing miserably.”

She laughs and swats my arm. “You know what I mean. We’ll always be friends.”

I play with my own damp hair, trying to keep my fingers busy so they don’t shake. “How do you know?”

“Because…because I just do. I’m the great and powerful Ella, I know all.”

She’s trying to make me laugh, but I can see it in her eyes—she’s worried, too.

She clears her throat. “Sadie. You’re my best friend. The best friend I’ve ever had. But you’re more than that. You’re family. We might not have grown up together, but to me you’re as much my sister as Charlotte is. You came into my life at a time when I didn’t think anyone but my dad and Charlotte could possibly love me. You brought colour and sparkle and laughter to my world, and you helped me find the courage to really live. You helped me find myself. That’s not something you forget just because we’re not in the same place anymore.”

My eyes are stinging like crazy. I’m not surprised when tears break free and slip down my face.

Ella inches closer, taking my hands before continuing. “So yeah, we’re going to get busy, and we’re going to make new friends, and we won’t see each other every day. But we’ll come back here and we’ll have weekend sleepovers, and we’ll spend holidays together, and we’ll watch each other get married and have kids. Someday we’ll be two little old ladies sitting together on a front porch, swapping ‘remember when’ stories. This is your home as much as it is mine. This island, this house, you…” Her voice wavers, and she swallows audibly. “You’re my home, and nothing can change that. Okay? Not time, or distance, or other people.”

The tears are flowing hard now. They drip off my chin and onto my chest. “Okay. Thank you.”

Ella’s eyes are shining, and she blinks rapidly. She rises on her knees to give me a quick, tight hug, then settles back on my bed and reaches for the remote. “Since we’re crying anyway, we might as well watch some Doctor Who. Oh, and I’m sleeping in here tonight.”

I can’t help but laugh as she cues up the DVD. I introduced her to Doctor Who the first time we hung out, and it’s been our thing ever since.

I lay down beside her, brushing my shoulder against hers. I’m going to miss this, and I’m going to miss Ella. But she’s right: nothing can change what we have. The O’Dells welcomed me into their family and made me one of them. They didn’t just give me a place to live, they gave me a home, something I’d never really had, not even when Sarah was alive.

So tomorrow is an ending, but it’s also a beginning. A new adventure. And I’m always up for an adventure.

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