Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer Excerpt

 

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Today, as part of the Teen Book Scene tour I have an excerpt from the first chapter of Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer.

THROUGH HER EYES by Jennifer Archer : Excerpt from Chapter 1

We turn onto a dirt road and hit a pothole. The van rattles. Papa Dan whistles louder. From the corner of my eye, I glimpse Mom’s smile. “Look!” She steps on the brake, slinging me toward the dash before my seat belt jerks me back. “There it is!” Mom sticks her sunglasses onto the top of her head. “It’s perfect,” she says.

I glance through the windshield at three stories of pure creepiness as Papa Dan ends the oat-and-ivy tune and starts whistling The Twilight Zone’s theme music. He couldn’t have chosen a more perfect song. Mom’s beloved turret tops the right side of the roof where it points like a finger at the gray cloud above. A little more centered and I would think it was flipping us off. The paint on the house, which might have once been a pretty shade of blue, is faded. A shutter dangles across a second-floor window, as if it’s unsure which would be worse—hanging on to the monster or the long drop to the ground. Weeds cover the yard, and the branches on the only tree in sight, a twisted giant on the house’s right side, start low on the trunk and reach wide.

“Oh, look at that wonderful old mulberry!” Mom exclaims. She pulls the van into the rocky driveway and we climb out. As I’m helping Papa Dan from the backseat, Mom says, “Someone’s supposed to come by to talk about painting and repairs and cleaning up the yard. Eloise said the house is nice on the inside, though. She already sent over a cleaning service, and the owners left some furniture behind.”

“That’s good. We’d never come close to filling up a house this big with our stuff.”

A warm gust of rain-scented air flutters my hair. Without traffic noise, it’s spooky quiet outside. The only sounds I hear are a low rumble of thunder, the hiss of the wind, the twitter of a bird or two, and the constant chirp of insects—crickets or maybe cicadas.

Beads of sweat break out on my forehead. Papa Dan grasps my hand tighter, as if he senses my tension . . . or shares it. A quiet, strangled noise escapes his throat. I follow his gaze to the house’s dark windows. A covered porch wraps around the front of the house. On its left side, a wooden bench swing hangs crooked from rusted chains that are attached to the ceiling. “It doesn’t look like anyone has lived here in a long time,” I say, squeezing my grandfather’s fingers like he does mine. “At least nobody with flesh on their bones.”

As if on cue, another blast of wind blows the porch swing back and forth and the rusty hinges creak. “Come on,” I say to Papa Dan, tugging his arm gently. He tugs back, and I feel a shudder pass through his body. Behind his round glasses, his eyes are pale green, confused . . . and scared. “You sure Papa Dan didn’t live here?” I ask Mom.

“He lived somewhere in town.”

“Why would he have a picture of this house?”

“Maybe he knew someone who lived here. Or maybe he just liked the architecture. It’s fairly unusual for this part of the country.”

I finally coax Papa Dan to follow Mom and me up the steps. “This is our new home,” I say to him, though I doubt he can hear me, since he’s not wearing his hearing aids. He always misplaces them, along with just about everything else. We step onto the porch, and I notice it’s made of warped gray boards. A few of them look as if they might cave in beneath our weight. “I hope you got a good deal on the rent,” I mumble to Mom.

She slips the key into the lock and turns it. “We’re practically living here free.”

I feel impatient as she jiggles the doorknob. I’d never admit it, but part of me can’t wait to explore this weird place. Something about the house, that creaking porch swing, even Mom’s precious turret, intrigues me. My grandfather’s sigh gives me the impression he doesn’t share my curiosity, though. He starts whistling so quietly, I can’t make out the tune. “Papa Dan doesn’t seem very happy to be here,” I say.

“Oh, I think he is.” Mom swings open the door and steps across the threshold. “Before he got sick, he told me he wanted to come back to Cedar Canyon for a visit.”

“Maybe he changed his mind.”

A flock of birds takes flight inside my chest. The house may be interesting, but I’ve lived in too many rentals, and I dread facing more rooms full of memories that aren’t mine. I wish Papa Dan would have a clear moment and say, Don’t worry, Tansy girl, it’s just another house in another town. No big deal. I’ll show you around my old stomping grounds. Instead he squints at the swing and keeps whistling.

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