I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.
If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.
Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.
And every single one of my tears could fill a book.
But stories, with all their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.
This is how I dare to move forward and to believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.
Waiting leaves room for the voices.
Somewhere between water and sky, I'll find a way to burn these voices to the ground.
Jessa and Ren have taken to a game they call Figure Out the Stephanie. All I have to do to participate is say yes or no. I placate them—for now. What I really want is to dig in to this massive plate of cinnamon dusted french toast.
“You were part of a circus.”
“You’re a foreign exchange student from Canada who’s running from the Mounties.”
“You’re part of Olivia Pope’s team of gladiators.”
I blink at Jessa.
“I have no idea what the fuck you are talking about….”
Jessa makes a face and looks at Ren. “So obviously she doesn’t know television. Noted.” Her eyes widen. “Oh! You’re totally running from your Amish community.”
I sigh. “No.”
Ren snaps his fingers and points. “I got it. You’re the love child of some has-been actress and you’re trying to find your roots.”
I shake my head. “You guys are reaching. Like…far out reaching. These don’t even make sense.”
“But you are running.”
I pause and Jessa pounces.
“She paused! She paused. She’s running.” Her eyes grow in diameter.
“I’m not running. I’m very comfortable in my moderately priced hotel room. I don’t plan on going anywhere.” I hold out my hand. “I have a job. I wouldn’t have a job if I were running.”
I swallow, forcing myself to stop explaining. Simple answers are always best. The table goes quiet for a few moments and I finally chance a look up from my french toast to find them both staring at me.
“Do I have something on my face?”
Jessa smiles and shakes her head.
“You’re new to California, right?”
Where is this going? I think.
“Um, yeah. I guess you can say that.”
She laughs, picking up her fork again and waving it around before stabbing her eggs. “You’re either new to the state or not, Steph. It’s not a difficult question.”
“I moved here in December.”
I grimace slightly—remembering those weeks of hiding. I spent Christmas holed up in my hotel room, binging on Swiss Miss rolls and watching a marathon of America’s Next Top Model. A week later, on New Years’ Eve, I found two bottles of champagne waiting outside of a room down the hall. I didn’t even second guess my impulse of grabbing them and running back to my room.
I drank both of the bottles that night while reading through my journal. In a rage, I shredded every single page and set them on fire in the wastebasket. I decided two things that day: I can set fire to the silence before it sets fire to me, and I’d never keep another journal again. My words are too volatile. Too meaningless. The stories once deeply embedded in my bones have been replaced by hollow pieces, ashes of words I thought would stay forever.
Words like you can trust me.
And I love you.
And all of the million ways they crashed into hopes and dreams and promises of future.
A future I had to take in my own hands when it collapsed right in front of me.
I blink and realize Ren’s hand is waving in front of my face. Blushing, I look back at him and Jessa. Her eyebrows are raised and she has a slight smile.
“You okay? You went somewhere for a while.”
She waves off the waitress, stopping by to see if we need anything else, and looks me in the eye.
“So, if you just turned 18, and you moved here in December, did you graduate early?”
“Um…” I can feel my heart rate increasing. The overhead lights suddenly feel really warm on my skin. I shift in my seat, trying to figure out how to answer this question.
Ren coughs and nudges her arm.
“What?” She shrugs and scratches a spot underneath her shoulder. “I’m just trying to get to know her. She intrigues me.”
“I tested out of high school once I moved here.”
She nods and studies me.
“Listen. I’m trying not to be nosy. But it’s kind of ingrained—you can thank the sociology lessons my father started giving me when I was five—so I apologize for the third degree. But like I said earlier—I can tell when someone needs a friend, and you have this neon arrow above your head that’s blinking like mad.” She lifts her hands to her eyes and flashes her fingers open and closed, signaling the blinking effect. I clench my fists underneath the table. She reaches for her water and takes another sip.
“Whenever you’re ready, I’ll be here to listen.”
I clear my throat. “Thanks,” I whisper.
Oh. My. Soul!!
Excuse me while I pick up the pieces of my shattered heart!!
This book was amazing in every way and it left me breathless. Every Shattered Thing tore me to pieces, and when I heard about this book I could not wait to see if Kevin would find Steph, and if they'd work things out. But mostly I wanted to see if Steph would finally find the peace she so deserved.
Although this story still held the dark undertones of the first book, it was filled with so much more hope and the promise of a better and happy future for Steph. A bit closed off at first, her walls slowly but surely started to come tumbling down, and it had a lot to do with her new friends, especially Jessa, who was the best friend a girl could ever ask for.
I was shocked when Sam Tiller came back into the picture and started with his threats again. He was so brazen but so sneaky at the same time. But, I was really glad that Steph was willing to fight. There was a fierceness in her that intensified the more this story developed, and I was almost afraid it would force Steph to do something stupid. The final showdown was brutal and gut-wrenching and by the end of it I was an emotional wreck. Just when I believed things were turning up for everyone involved, things turned south and I just kept praying that it wasn't the end. That both Kevin and Jude would be okay, that Steph would make peace with the circumstances as they were, and that finally, finally promises would stay intact.
The end of this story was just beautiful. Heartbreaking to a point, but complex and stunning at the same time. Emotional from start to finish, this was a spectacular read!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elora Ramirez lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband. At the age of four, she taught herself how to read and write, cutting her teeth on books like Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space--including her Fisher Price kitchen set, the pages of picture books and Highlights Magazine. Since then, she's grown to love the way words feel as they swell within her bones. Writing holy and broken is her calling, and pushing back the darkness and pursuing beauty through story is her purpose. She embraces the power of story and teaches women from all parts of the world how to embrace theirs. She has a knack of calling things out , the truth and the detail, the subversive threads that make a life a story. She loves hip-hop, wishes she lived by the beach and cannot write without copious amounts of coffee, chocolate, music, and her husband's lavender liqueur.
Enter Elora's fantastic giveaway!!
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