Release Date: 09/16/14
Summary from Goodreads
Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson's life lately. Her dad died, her mom numbs the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends have slowly abandoned her.
Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe and should NOT have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt that made her desperate to escape the final moments of Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details to herself and trust no one.
Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky boy, recently transplanted from New York City and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she can't let him get too close. And summer is just long enough and hot enough to keep a boy like that at arm's length.
But by the time Rex's charm wears down her resistance, it's too late. He's put Ellen on the "just friends" shelf and has shifted his romantic attentions to the impossibly annoying and perky anti-Ellen. Even worse, the teacher who tried to get her to sleep with him is still at it, preying on other girls while Ellen struggles to come to terms with what happened.
With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about the well-liked teacher and risk retribution, tell Rex how she really feels about him and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside. After all, it's the only safe place she knows when the only thing louder than words is the fear of being rejected.
I look up as Rex takes a seat on the bench directly opposite the boy on my right. He smiles first at Byron then at me. I choke on my soda, sending it out my nose in two perfect streams. The children laugh and try to copy me without success. Only Rex is able to deftly duplicate my liquidy feat. I should be mortified, but I'm not. I'm laughing and everyone around me is laughing, and inside I feel a tiny crack open just wide enough to soak up some of this joy to save.
And then the crack snaps shut. Outside the window facing the street, I see her peering in, her hands cupped against the glass. She looks awful—dirty, skinny, strung out. Her hair hangs in strings around her face and she's wearing no makeup. Inside my head I'm chanting, "Please go away, please go away," but she doesn't.
"Excuse me. Be right back," I say as I get up from the table and race-walk for the door.
I'm met by the center’s director, Gary Larson, a round man with thinning hair, who forces a smile, and then asks in a patronizing voice where I'm going.
"I just ... my ... aunt is out there and she needs to speak with me … briefly."
I am still trying to quietly talk my way out the door when Gracie yells across the room, "Hey Ellen, your mom just passed out against the building. I think she's"—she pauses after glancing toward one of the children's tables—"ill."
Gary looks to me for confirmation, and I give the tiniest of nods. He follows me outside, cell phone in hand. He announces he’s dialing 9-1-1 as I try to revive my mother. She reeks of alcohol. Inside her purse, I find a nearly empty bottle of vodka, a wallet with two dollars, a bus pass, and an expired driver's license. In the side zip pocket, I find a baggie of pills. I toss the bottle and baggie in the trash, but as I do my mother revives.
"Ellen? Do you know what today is? I just need … where’s my bag?” She searches for her purse and begins to flail about when she can't find it. "Where's my stuff?” Her words are slurred and her eyes glassy. Today is my father’s birthday, or it would have been.
I walk over and return her purse to her. She's swaying on her feet but is lucid enough to snatch it from my hands. A mean glint in her eye, she searches inside before she turns a red and angry face to me.
"Where are they?" She's yelling at me in front of the rec center and has attracted the attention of passersby. I try to usher her away from the window. "You took ‘em! You had no right,” she growls then pops me on the side of my face with a wild swing of her open palm.
Stunned, I fall back, my hand on my cheek. She's never hit me before.
Gary moves in and grabs her by the elbow. "You need to get going before I call the cops. You got no business here with the kids inside and all."
"She took my medicine!" she yells as he drags her down the street.
There's nothing more I can do. I give my cheek one last soothing stroke then head back inside. When I get to the door, Rex is there and he’s watching Gary and my mother. The expression on his face tells me he’s seen everything.
About the Author
Iris St. Clair is the pen name for a long-suffering cubicle worker by day, a Walter Mitty-like dreamer by night. (Her alter ego Tatiana Ivanadance also choreographs gravity-defying routines in those fantasies, but that's another bio.)
No matter what genre she writes, she prefers witty, insecure heroines and kind, persistent heroes able to break through to the gooey heart inside.
In high school she was voted most likely to win at Monopoly and Clue, but least likely to throw a ball anywhere near a target. Thank goodness writing requires less hand-eye coordination, punctuation errors notwithstanding.
Iris believes in the two-year "fish or cut bait" dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two teenaged sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area.
$10 Amazon gift card + ebook of Louder Than Words (INT)
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