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an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

Chapter One

Part 2

I turned down Morrison Street, the main avenue of Morrison, Connecticut, my quaint hometown, which was lined with Mom-and-Pop businesses, the town library and the obligatory Gap. The wind was biting against my face, but I couldn’t help smiling. I felt like I was riding down memory lane as I zoomed by Häagen-Dazs and the Morrison Diner, the only two hangouts for kids in this town. I rode through Veterans’ Park and the bench where Chad Martin had given me my first ever kiss—and the last kiss for a long time. (It was so sloppy! Who wanted to do that again? Little did I know that Chad was just a smooching novice like me. Over the last couple of years I’ve definitely improved, though I don’t know if Chad can say the same.)

Finally I came to Morrison High School where class was in session. The American flag on the front lawn whipped around in the wind, and as I looked up at it, I couldn’t help recalling when it had flown at half-mast last year for a month after the senior prom.

If it hadn’t been for me it never would have been lowered, a little voice in my head taunted me. I pulled my cap down to cover my ears and raced away, pushing the thoughts from my mind. (I’m an expert at issue-avoidance.) As I hit the corner the bell pealed behind me, signaling the end of classes. I pedaled even harder. The last thing I wanted was a reunion with some of this year’s seniors. I took the Donnybrook hill at a rate that would have made Lance Armstrong proud.

On the other side of the hill, I normally would have just coasted, but I felt the need to escape—to put as much distance as possible between myself and the school—so I pedaled just as hard as I had on the way up. My insane momentum toward the bottom of the hill sent my heart into my throat, and I slammed on the brakes, stopping just seconds before hurtling into traffic at a four-way intersection. I placed my feet on the ground and caught my breath. Wanting to escape was one thing. Endangering my own life was another.

Get a grip, I told myself. If I couldn’t be out on the streets of Morrison without having a nervous breakdown, then I was in for one tough winter break.

Across the street was the Morrison Police Station, my mother’s home away from home. I saw her Taurus parked in the spot marked “Reserved for the Chief of Police” and smiled, my heart swelling with pride. My mother had worked so diligently to become the first female chief in the county. I bet she grinned to herself every morning when she pulled into that space.

When the light turned green I pushed my bike through the intersection, deciding to surprise my mother with a visit. She had gone in early that morning and would be off in about an hour. Maybe I could hang out for a while and then we could go chow down on a pizza together. The only thing better than the bliss of a good ride was the reward of a steaming pepperoni pizza afterward.

I locked my bike up outside and barreled through the front door of the station, into the rustic front office. Chief Knox, the man who had abdicated the position of police chief to my mother, had been an avid hunter and fisherman. He’d had the station outfitted like a log cabin with wood-paneled walls, benches made of cut logs, and paintings of various fish indigenous to the lakes and streams of Connecticut. My mother had taken the helm only last year, and redecorating hadn’t been her top priority, so the vestiges of Chief Knox remained.

“Hey, Selma!” I said to the diminutive female officer who always worked the desk.

She was the only other woman on the squad and couldn’t have been more different from my mom. Short, skinny and sweet, Selma had managed to infuse her immediate area with some feminine touches, placing framed pictures of her kids and her cats on the front desk and always making sure there was a candy jar full of M&Ms for the taking. She even changed them with the seasons, making sure to buy the orange and black ones in October, the pastel ones around Easter, and the red and green ones at Christmastime. You had to love that kind of attention to detail—or be slightly afraid of it.

It was January now, so the M&Ms were back to being multicolored. She’d probably tossed any superfluous red and green candies first thing in the morning on December 26. But even for all her quirks, I liked Selma. She always had a smile for everyone.

“Kim! It’s so good to see you!” she trilled, grinning up at me. “How’s school?”

“Fantastic, thanks,” I replied honestly, wishing I was back in my dorm right about then. The emotional bike ride had taken a lot out of me.

“Here to see your mom?” Selma asked.

“Yep,” I replied, pulling off my knit hat. Selma’s eyes traveled up to my hair, which I was sure was sticking out in a million directions due to static. “Is she busy?”

“She’s in with Tad and Quincy,” Selma said. “So probably not,” she added with a little wink.

Tad and Quincy were the two detectives on the Morrison squad, and there was no love lost between them and Selma. The two men were always derisive of Selma’s positive outlook, mocking her love of animals and her tendency to believe everyone was innocent. Selma thought they were sophomoric and annoying and never missed an opportunity to point out that they had yet to solve a case together.

I wasn’t fond of Tad myself. I could tell he was jealous of my mother’s ascent to power, and their relationship was acrimonious. Quincy, however, was harmless. He respected my mom and was always nice to me. He just wasn’t very self-assured and was therefore malleable. He thought Tad’s ribald sense of humor was hysterical and went along with whatever he did, just like those sorry kids at school who followed the “cool” kids around like they were the end-all be-all.

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