I hope you’re having fun reading the Back to School excerpts posted so far this month. Today I thought I’d sneak in one of my own. It’s hard to choose a scene from my YA novella Passing Notes that is set during school, because most of the scenes are set at school. However, you can read the first two chapter for free at the Fire and Ice YA Books website, so I will choose another scene for you a little later in the book. I hope you enjoy it and want to scroll on down and download a copy today.
Mark has finally gotten the attention of the girl of his dreams. Only, his lame attempts at romance through texts and emails seem to be turning her off. When he gets put in the back of the room in an over-full class at school, he begins to discover old notes giving advice about how to write a great love letter. At first he thinks he’s stumbled on some long-forgotten notes passed in class ages ago, but every time he reads them they seem directed specifically to him. They also appear at the perfect moment each time he needs more advice. It’s like someone is haunting him. How do the notes keep appearing? Who’s writing them? Why?
And if Mark follows the ghostly writer’s advice, will he win Bethany’s love?
Excerpt from Chapter 4:
I got to British Lit early the next day and poked all around the boxes on the desk for more yellow scraps of paper. Nothing turned up. I finally gave up the search when Mrs. Hollstein and some of the students arrived. I’m not sure if I felt disappointed or dejected that I hadn’t heard from the stalker/ghost person. Relieved would have made the most sense. Glad that it really was just a coincidence and not something personal, would have been another way to look at it. Instead, I felt this strange sense of desperation. I think I was really hoping this “person” would help me understand why Bethany continued to ignore me.
I rubbed my eyes and shook some sleep out of my head, then tried to focus on Mrs. Hollstein’s lecture about vocabulary lists being done in good penmanship and not on the computer.
“I don’t want you to cut and paste from some website. Write the definitions legibly and you will learn better. And it wouldn’t hurt to do it in cursive, to make it look like you care.”
I copied the word list off the board. Then, just for laughs, I wrote them all again in cursive like she told us to. Well, as much cursive as I could remember. Flipping the paper over to write on the other side, I discovered it had already been written on. But not by me. By my ghostly companion.
Yes. I was sure now. It had to be some kind of ghost or spirit. That paper hadn’t left my hand since I tore it out of my notebook, and it had been blank on both sides at that point. I was pretty sure of that. I would have noticed several sentences written in cursive, in black ink, wouldn’t I?
It’s stupid, but I actually felt my eyes widen as I took in a long breath through my nose in alarm. I looked around warily, wondering where the ghost might be. Was he nearby, watching me?
Then I read the note.
A true love letter is shared only with your lover. Only she needs to hear what your heart has to say. Hold hands in public, but keep romance discreet. A woman needs to believe that you are hers alone, and that you will share with her what you won’t give to anyone else.
I understood it this time. The penmanship was easier to read, and his fancy vocabulary didn’t test me. He was basically telling me I’d screwed up by writing my apology in a public forum. That only made it worse because now all 382 of her “friends” knew I’d done something stupid toward her.
382 people had probably jammed her phone messages with “I told you so” and “Who is the jerk?” texts. I saw a handful of them last night on the computer. A couple old boyfriends, including Lance, probably made themselves known, too. “Dump the loser and remember what we had.” I really was an idiot. She should dump me.
I put my pen to the paper under that note, curious to see what would happen if I wrote:
What should I do now?
Letter by letter an answer appeared.
I pulled out my phone, intending to sneak online for a second and email her. That would be more private.
But bold, black letters scrawled across the page so dark and thick that I could almost hear the scraping of the invisible marker: NO!
“Okay,” I whispered. “Calm down.” I pocketed the phone.
What then? I wrote.
On paper. A fresh, clean sheet of stationery. A piece of parchment that shows that she is worth something more substantial than scrap paper.
I didn’t have anything like that. All I had was college rule, 3-hole notebook paper. Where was I going to get… I noticed Jill over at her desk, her backpack open and dangling from the back of her seat. Her sketchbook for Advanced Art class stuck out of it.
“Jill?” I whispered loud enough to get her attention. “Can I have a piece of your drawing paper?”
“No,” she whispered back over her shoulder. “It’s expensive.”
“I’ll give you a buck a page.”
“How much do you want?”
I traded my lunch money for five sheets.
I wanted to write something to Bethany right away, but I figured that was not what the ghost wanted me to do. I hardly had enough room to write neatly on this edge of desk I had to work with. To make space for an answer from the ghost, I wrote as small as I could at the bottom of my note:
What should I write?
What you feel! But practice first. Get it right.
Why are you helping me?
The ghost didn’t answer right away, but when he did his response was in neat printing, not the cursive he usually used.
A man in the army needs to be able to write to the woman he leaves at home. It may be all she has left of him if things go wrong.
I wanted to ask more, but I was out of space. I ripped out a new sheet of paper and wrote a couple more questions. He didn’t answer any of them. He was gone.
Download Passing Notes today. It’s only $1.99
(If, by chance, you don’t have an e-reader of any kind, I do have some printed booklet versions. Drop me an email, and we’ll figure something out.)
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.