Chapter One Chapter One
Gran loves me.
This is the truth, heavy as the air this late August night. It’s stronger than the throw-away thoughts that will keep my eyes open when I crawl back into bed. It’s brighter than the lilacs that grow in tangles by the white stone marking Gran’s eternal rest: Dolcie B. Jacobs, beloved grandmother and mother.
But much as she loves me, Gran hates me too.
This is the new truth that’s tickling me from the inside out and twisting down, down, down to where I lock away her best stories. Including the one she told me when the sky was the blue of a newborn baby’s eyes. I’ll keep that one just for me, no matter what.
Because if there’s one thing Gran couldn’t ever stand, it’s a liar. “I don’t have room in this old heart for hate, Trixy,” I can hear her say even now. “Except for liars and thieves.”
And here’s one last for-sure truth: That’s just what I am. A selfish liar and a thief.
I’ve been lying to Mama, stealing my gran’s stories, and, worst of all, I’m about to break my daddy’s heart.
I’m going to run away with Raymond Crickett.
Only Raymond doesn’t know it yet.
When kids at school found out that Raymond Crickett’s dad was a famous musician who went on tours, everyone thought he must be super rich. Rumors put his house at three stories tall, contended that celebrities could be spotted on the rocking chairs on his porch, and that his dad did nothing but sing and strum his fiddle all the day long. People whispered that the only reason Raymond had lunch tickets for the cafeteria and patches on the knees of his jeans was that he wanted to blend in with everyone else.
But the truth was that Raymond’s house was a lot like mine—only my ranch house was yellow and his was blue. We both had big front porches and tiny living rooms. Both of our dads had pushed their old trucks into the yard when the engines refused to turn the last time.
There were differences too. While Mama had planted flowers around my house, Raymond’s house had plain grass right up until the porch. The paint around the trim was flaky, and a couple of railings on the porch had splintered or broken fully off.
The house was a bit like Raymond—pleasant but not quite taken care of enough.
Raymond’s dad spent a lot of time playing the fiddle, but he also had a bunch of side jobs, mostly landscaping and carpentry. Like Raymond, Mr. Crickett had big brown eyes. He also had a beard like my dad’s, only Mr. Crickett’s beard stretched into a point under his chin and his mustache curled up at the ends. Raymond told me once that his dad used “product” for that to happen. Tattoos ran along his arms and stretched to the sides of his neck. They were of eagles, trees, and words too swirly for me to read.
When Mr. Crickett sang, my heart paused.
Once, Mama and I went into the city and ate at a gourmet restaurant in the middle of winter. I wore a scratchy dress with silver ruffles and Mama had her hair twisted into a bun atop her head like a ballerina. Snow fell outside the windows, and all around us people rushed and slid on sidewalks. Inside the café, it was warm enough to fog the windows. Mama nibbled on a layered cookie that had cost seven dollars. I ordered a hot chocolate, and it arrived in a gold-rimmed red mug with a huge pile of twisting whipped cream on top. I remembered that first sip, how it seemed to pour straight down to the tips of my toes, filling me with sweetness, making every silly thing I had worried about—what the other diners thought of me, whether I was wearing the right dress or saying the right things—melt away.
Mr. Crickett’s voice was like that first sip of cocoa. I couldn’t be scared when he sang.
But unfortunately, he wasn’t singing when I crept down the street to their house in the dark of night.
I was sure I was about to be in a world of trouble. Mr. Crickett was loading the bed of the truck with bags and equipment while talking into a cell phone tucked in the crook of his neck. Sara, Raymond’s sister, leaned against the passenger side, scowling at him. I sneaked past them, moving silent as could be, toward the house.
I found Raymond sitting on the front porch stoop. He jumped when he saw me pop up beside the railing. “Trixy, what are you doing here?” he gasped.
I whispered, “I told you I was coming along with you on your daddy’s tour, didn’t I?”
“You most certainly did not.” Raymond’s head swiveled from side to side, making sure no one saw us. “You said you wanted to come along. That’s different. And then today you assaulted Catrina and got kicked out of school!” he said. “Dad saw a bunch of police cars and an ambulance going to your house too! What happened to you? I thought maybe you done lost your mind! You been saying such wild things lately!”
I scrunched my face and crossed my arms. “Raymond Crickett, my mind is right where I left it inside my head. Now’s the time to use yours. How can I get into your truck without your dad or sister seeing me?”