This is the first chapter of my novel, The Pirate Episode, an YA time travel romance, the third book in my Witching Well series. Currently, Pirate only as three reviews. If you’d like to review Pirate, let me know and I’ll send you a free copy. You can also buy it here
Cami first told Joel that she loved him on a rainy spring day, although she’d fallen for him months earlier when the leaves were yellow and brown. The first time their eyes had met and held, she had stood on the corner, waiting for her turn to cross, and he had stepped out into the street, breathtakingly handsome in his uniform.
Months later, she’d waited at the corner just like every other school day, but as she crossed the street her foot caught in a muddy pothole. Water seeped into her red plastic boot, and trickled down her neck and back like small icy rivers. As the streetlight turned from red to yellow, Cami’s panic swelled. Just when she thought she’d be plowed over by the impatient mob of cars waiting to cross the busy intersection, Joel, handsome even when wet, dropped his crossing guard sign, scooped her up and carried her to safety. When he deposited her on the school side of the street, she batted her eyelashes, looked up at him, and said, “I love you.”
All around her, the other students snickered and laughed, but Joel didn’t even smile. He gazed down at her while a pink stain started up his neck and colored his cheeks.
“I love you,” Cami said again. “Someday I’m going to marry you, so I think you should tell me your last name to see if I like it.”
A boy Cami didn’t know elbowed Joel. Another slapped him on the back and congratulated him on his upcoming nuptials.
But Joel blinked at her, grinned, and said, “My last name is Flage.”
Cami thought him beautiful—even with rain streaming over the bright yellow slicker that covered him from head to knees—even if his name was decidedly not. From kindergarten through ninth grade, Cami believed she was destined to be Mrs. Cami Flage.
But then in ninth grade, an amazing thing happened. Joel joined the faculty of her school, Norfolk Comprehensive, and Cami learned his real last name.
She didn’t blame Joel for lying to her. After all, at the time, they’d both been only children, ages five and twelve.
And she didn’t blame him for not recognizing her when she’d finally been admitted into his Biology senior class, but she absolutely blamed her mom for what happened on the night of her senior Homecoming dance.
Cami shivered when Maisie pushed open the doors, not because of the cold breeze that blew into the hot and crowded gym, but because she expected an alarm to sound—if not the actual fire alarm, which was a distinct possibility, then the dreaded Mom alarm. The alarm that was silent, less visible and harder to trace than radar, and yet more powerful than any force known to man…or to at least to Cami.
She cast a worried glance toward the corner of the high school gym, where she had last seen her mother. Couples swayed on the dance floor beneath sparkling lights. Beyond the students hovering around the snack bar, guzzling lemonade and munching on cookies, Cami spotted her mother, Mags. She was busy with Marissa Lyon, a busty girl in a spaghetti-strap dress whose enthusiastic dancing had snapped a strap. Marissa would keep her mother occupied with safety pins, and if Cami was lucky and Marissa unlucky, a lecture on modesty, vanity clothing, and the general ineptitude of spaghetti straps.
Having Mags in her orbit usually made Cami want to crawl under the bleachers, but Maisie tugged on her hand and pulled her through the gym doors. After sending her mother one more worried glance, Cami met the gaze of Dr. Fleur, the hottest Biology teacher to tease the girls of Norfolk Comprehensive.
It was painful enough to have to listen to a lecture on the reproductive cycle while being surrounded by sniggering football players, but to have Dr. Fleur deliver said lecture made Cami’s insides twist in knots. Feverish for Fleur, Cami called it—referring to her own seventh-period perpetual pink cheeks.
Now, as Dr. Fleur watched Maisie and Cami leaving the school, Cami wondered if he would tell her mom. She swallowed and followed Maisie.
Ahead, Deidre and Tessa ran through the moonlight, their shoes dangling from their fingers. Cami and Maisie hurried to catch up, tripping across the blacktop, stepping over the pattern of squares where they had once played hopscotch, and then passing the jungle gym, affectionately called the “Big Toy.”
Cami had to fight a wave of nostalgia when Deidre and Tess disappeared behind Fred, the tree where they had spent every recess and every lunch break since first grade. She couldn’t remember who had first named the tree—or why—but they had been saying “meet me at Fred” for almost twelve years.
A wind picked up and a shiver ran down Cami’s spine. She looked at her friends and tried to return their smiles—she wouldn’t let envy spoil their last Homecoming at Norfolk Comprehensive. She loved her friends. She wanted them to have shiny, bright futures.
“Hurry!” Tessa whisper-shouted.
Deidre held up her hands like a police officer conducting traffic, and Cami and Maisie both stopped.
“No.” Deidre used her normal speaking voice. “A time capsule cannot be hurried. We don’t want to look back ten years from now and regret tonight’s decision.” They had already made an oath to return to Fred on Homecoming Night ten years in the future and dig up the time capsule.
“What if we’re caught?” Tessa asked, bravely raising her voice to almost audible.
Cami thought about mentioning Dr. Fleur, but she didn’t. If they were caught, they were caught. She wasn’t nearly as worried about Dr. Fleur as she was about her own mother, but she agreed with Deidre. Something as important as a time capsule shouldn’t be hurried.
Deidre picked up the Mason jar they had previously hidden in the patch of honeysuckle that grew around Fred’s trunk and shook out four pens. “Be very careful. Your futures are at stake.”
Cami accepted the pen and a slip of paper and sat down on the stone ledge. Writing something down made it real. It also made it traceable. And accountable. She had learned that the hard way back in seventh grade when Mrs. Bartlett confiscated the note she had written to Tessa during History. She shot Tessa a glance; it was so hard to believe that Tessa, who had always been so scrawny and small, had grown up to look like Taylor Swift, but with boobs.
Tessa sat hunched over her paper, the pen sticking out of her mouth and her lips turned down. Cami wondered what Tessa was worried about—her future lay before her like a golden carpet.
She elbowed Tessa. “Go ahead, write it down, Mrs. Jackson Donnelly.”
Tessa flushed, the color spreading over her cheeks.
“Mrs. Jackson Donnelly—” Deidre began.
“Travels to China,” Tessa finished, putting her pen to paper.
“You’re writing that down?” Maisie asked.
“The China part—not the Mrs. Donnelly part,” Tessa said.
“Better not tell Jackson,” Maisie said.
“Of course I’m going to marry Jackson.” Tessa flipped her long golden hair over her shoulder. “But not yet. He has to finish law school and I…have things I want to do.”
“What things?” Deidre asked. “You never mentioned things before.”
“Things like traveling to China.” Tessa straightened her spine.
“I can see you picking out china…and crystal, but going to China?” Maisie shook her head.
“Why not?” Tessa wrote down China again, but this time in big capital letters. “I want to make a difference—help people.”
“Well—what are you writing down?” Tessa looked over at Maisie’s blank paper.
“Hot, steamy romance,” Maisie said slowly as she wrote down the three words.
Cami laughed. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
“Why not?” Maisie borrowed Tessa’s phrase.
“Hot, stinking baseball cleats sounds like you,” Cami told her, ignoring her own blank piece of paper.
“Baseball players are hot—that’s why kissing is called first base and not first and ten.”
Cami didn’t want to argue sports sex metaphors so she lifted her shoulder and hunched over her paper. She didn’t have anything to write. In fact, she didn’t have anything to look forward to. All of her friends had a future waiting for them and Cami had her mom pacing in the gym, wondering where her daughter was and how had she’d managed to get out from under her thumb. Cami twisted her lips and looked over at Deidre’s paper.
“I don’t have anything to write,” Deidre admitted. “I’ve been thinking about it all day.”
“What about the Cordon Bleu?” Cami asked.
“But tasty.” Cami looked down at her own blank piece of paper. She tried to imagine her future, but she couldn’t muster a smidge of enthusiasm for the life her mother had planned for her. First, graduation, then Columbia—her mom’s alma mater—then law school, followed by an associate position at her mother’s firm, Bailey and Kelp. Trying to think of what to write, she tried to drum up past happy moments and places. She remembered a vacation her family had taken before her father left. Sun, sand, clear skies, and an endless blue ocean. She wrote down Florida.
Tessa lowered her pen. “This is supposed to be serious.”
Looking over her shoulder, Cami spotted Dr. Fleur standing near the playground, his arms crossed. Although shadows hid his expression, she knew he was looking for her. Or at least, that was what she wanted to believe.
Every day she sat in his class, willing him to look her way, waiting for him to speak to her, to say something that didn’t relate to ecosystems, photosynthesis, or the relative position of the sun or moon. She wanted something personal, and she wasn’t talking about her grades or assignments.
Knowing that any minute he would find her and her friends, Cami shushed the girls, pointed at him, and braced herself while the others slipped into the trees bordering the school grounds.
“Where are you going?” Tessa whispered.
“Don’t worry, she’ll handle him,” Maisie whispered back.
“Maybe I want to handle him,” Tessa said.
Everyone shushed her, and someone mentioned Jackson’s name.
Cami pulled off her shoes so she could run noiselessly across the field. Dr. Fleur had his back to her, so he couldn’t see her, but she liked to imagine that he was as sensitive to her as she was to him. She wondered if he felt it, too—the magnetism. Sure, as a man of science, he probably didn’t believe in love at first sight, soul mates, or divine destiny, but she was pretty sure he would believe in pheromones, and she knew that all her pheromones were screaming his name. She had a bad case of Fleur Fever, and she wondered if he could possibly feel the same heat, prickles or whatever it was that plagued her whenever he was around.
The dew-heavy grass soaked her stockings as she circumvented the playground, heading for the wide double doors that led to the gymnasium.
“Hey, babe.” A hand on her arm stopped her. “Whatcha doing out here?”
Cami whirled to face Chad Beckman, a kid she’d known almost as long as she’d known Dr. Fleur. Chad, with his red hair, pale skin, and multiplying freckles, had been nothing to look at in second grade. Since his tattoos and body piercings now nearly outnumbered his freckles, there were all sorts of things to look at, but Cami would really rather not.
“I had to get something from my car,” Cami lied, jerking her arm free of Chad’s grip.
Chad sent Dr. Fleur a meaningful glance. “Something or someone?”
Chills that had nothing to do with the weather or the dew soaking her stockings ran through Cami. “Shut up, Chad.”
Chad grinned. “I’m thinking you came out here for a hookup with a teacher.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Why not? Maybe I could get something out of this…you know, hush-hush money.” He leaned toward her, close enough so that she could smell his yeasty breath. “Only I’m a lot more interested in flesh than cash, if you know what I mean.”
Rage flashed through Cami, and before she could think of the consequences, before she could stop and count to ten as her mom had always taught her to do when she was angry, Cami clenched her fists. Summoning strength in her legs, she pretended that Chad was her trainer at the gym where she’d enrolled in self-defense classes at her mom’s insistence. Cami punched Chad in the nose.
One moment Chad stood in front of her, and the next he squirmed on the ground by her feet, holding his face, trying to stop the blood squirting between his fingers, and wailing like a baby.
Cami looked down at him, not knowing what to do now. She didn’t have a lot of remorse, well maybe a little. Her trainer never cried or fell over when she hit him. She’d thought that Chad with all his black hair and kohl-rimmed eyes would have been made of steelier stuff.
She looked up when she heard footsteps rapidly approaching. For once, she had Dr. Fleur’s immediate and undivided attention, and she knew that in a few seconds they would have a discussion that would have nothing to do with ecosystems, photosynthesis, or classroom assignments.