About the Author
STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE is the author of many Young Adult Christian fiction titles, including the Payton Skky series, the Laurel Shadrach series, the Perry Skky Jr. series, the Faith Thomas Novelzine series, the Carmen Browne series, and the Beta Gamma Pi series. She is also the co-editor for the impactful BibleZine, REAL. Mrs. Moore speaks with young people across the country, showing them how they can live life fully and do it God's way. Stephanie currently lives in the greater Atlanta area with her husband, Derrick, a former NFL player and author, and their three children. Visit her website at www.stephanieperrymoore.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Stephanie Perry Moore
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2005 Stephanie Perry Moore
All rights reserved.
This is the worst Christmas I've ever had in my ten years of life," I said honestly, stating how I felt to my adorable brown teddy bear, Budgie, as I went on pretending he could talk back. "What are you sayin'? Excuse me? It wasn't that bad? Yeah, right. We didn't leave the house the whole day. It was supposed to be family time, quiet time, just the five Browne family members time. Today made twenty-four hours seem like sixty. The only good thing about this Christmas is now it's nine o'clock, and soon Christmas will be over and my friends will be back home. Then I can start another day."
"Carmen, honey," my mom said as she talked to me on the other side of my closed door, "your dad and I are heading downstairs to watch a movie. You want to join us?"
"No, thanks," I uttered, sounding sort of pitiful as I looked down at my bear. "I just want to spend time with you, Budgie."
"Carmen, who are you talking to, hon?" my mom asked, obviously able to make out part of my quiet voice.
I know I wasn't headed to college or anything, but I thought myself to be pretty grown-up. I was in fifth grade, after all, ruling my new elementary school; but as I looked down at the stuffed animal that I had spent the last few minutes having a pity party with, I realized that I was still just a kid. But I couldn't let my mom know that I was talking to the bear.
When I stalled and didn't answer the question she said, "Oh, you and Budgie are talking, huh. I'm so glad Cassie found him for you. Well, relax, sweetie, you know we love you. And it's okay to still talk to your bear."
"I love you too, Mom," I said with a big smile on my face, happy, feeling good that she made me feel good about me being me.
I had been looking for Budgie ever since we moved to Ettrick, Virginia. The place was okay, but it was nothing like Charlottesville. I missed my best friend, Jillian Gray, though. We were different in skin color, but we thought a lot alike.
I couldn't be too down about her because my parents always taught me that God knew how to take care of His own. He gave me two new friends in this mostly black town, though today I couldn't talk to them. I had left Layah, my tomboyish girlfriend, and Riana, my little shy buddy, several messages; and neither one of them had called me back.
My little sister, Cassie, had annoyingly been in and out of my room several times. The only time I cared was when she brought me my Christmas present, my Budgie. He was packed away in one of her stuffed animal boxes, and since she had four boxes, the one with Budgie was just recently opened.
"I know you missed me," I said as I squeezed his ears, knowing I missed him too.
The day really was boring because, though we were all there, we didn't really spend time together. Dad was home the whole day, but he was watching football. He wanted my brother, Clay, to join him. Clay did but was there in body only. My brother wasn't as much of a sports nut as my dad, and, well, they weren't getting along at all. My mom spent most of her time in the kitchen fixing breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cleaning in between.
Since I went to the grocery store so many times with Mom, helped her prepare all the food, and wrapped a bunch of gifts for her before Christmas, I didn't have to clean up the kitchen this time. Thankfully, it was Cassie's job. So that left me alone dialing my friends' numbers over and over again. Not once did they call me back.
"Oh, Budgie, I guess it's just me and you. Let me see what else can I tell you," I said, sounding quite pitiful.
All of a sudden, I heard the greatest sound. The phone was ringing. Quickly, I picked it up so that Cassie wouldn't get it since the phone was in the hall, but I should have known she heard it. She was talking before I could say hello.
"Who's calling for her?" she asked, being a pest.
"Cassie!" Riana yelled out, "is your sister there?"
"Maybe," my sister said, still not bending.
Layah chimed in on the three-way call. "Silly. Get your sister."
Pumped to hear from my girls, I said nicely to my little sister, "Cassie, I've got it. Please hang up the phone."
I was so excited to hear my girlfriends' voices that it never dawned on me that I didn't hear a click from my little eight-year-old pest of a sister.
I was just talkin' until Riana said, "I think someone else is still on the phone."
"Okay, then, good night, y'all," Cassie said in a sassy way before hanging up the phone from trying to eavesdrop.
"I've been calling you guys all day. This was the worst Christmas. Where have y'all been?" I asked, whining.
"Oh, did somebody miss us?" Riana said, teasing me. "Now you get a chance to see what it's like."
"Yep, she's the one always on the go, leaving us bored at home," Layah said.
I looked over at Budgie and rolled my eyes. My friends knew me well, which was really cool. Plus, I thought to myself, a true friend would be happy that their friends were having a good Christmas, but yet I wanted them to be bored at home like me. That wasn't right.
"Okay, I'm sorry," I said, looking up, then turning away from my bright light. "I'm glad you guys were out and all."
"Don't sweat it. We're glad you care," Layah said.
Hearing that, I smiled. The light in my room bothered me, so I quickly turned it off. Then I nestled under my covers to talk more with my friends. I was so happy to be on the line with them. I tucked Budgie into bed so he could sleep. I didn't need to talk to him anymore.
"Girrrl, we're got the perfect plan," Layah said, sorta scaring me.
"Yes, it's really good. I'm nervous, but it's really good," Riana agreed, scaring me even more.
"Well, what is it, you guys? Just tell me!" I demanded.
"I'm about to tell you," Layah said. "Here it goes. Remember how we are always saying that we are really grown and we don't need to be babied by our parents?"
"Yeah, yeah," I hurried her.
"Okay, one weekend, like in the next month or two, we are going to plan to go to the mall," Layah said in a quiet tone as if she was saying top secret info.
"I'm not getting it. We've been hanging at the mall together with our folks. What's so grown up about that?" I asked.
Layah went into a sly voice. "Good question. Here comes the good part: We'll have one parent dropping us off to another parent that will stay with us at the mall. But there won't be a parent there. We'll be alone."
That sounded really crazy to me. We couldn't lie. No way I was gonna go for that. Besides, how would we get home?
Layah continued as if she knew what I was thinking. "And we'll get home by telling a parent what time to pick us up, because the one they think will be with us will have to go somewhere other than home. They'll know all this before we go. Cool, huh?"
I waited then said, "Won't that be like lying to our parents? Come on, guys, we can't do that. We've got to rethink the plan."
"No, see, we knew you would say that," Layah voiced in a firm way. "How are we ever going to grow up if we don't take risks to show we are responsible? We've got to take a chance if we want them to see we can handle stuff. Are you a part of the threesome or not? The boys would do it, and that's why I always hang with boys. You guys threw a skirt on me, invited me to tea parties; now I want to be friends with you and do something a little adventurous, and you want to wimp out. And, Riana, you're not saying anything. Forget it."
I hit my pillow. I didn't want Layah not to hang with us anymore. We'd come so far with our friendship over the last few months.
"Okay, okay, okay, I'm in. Let's do it," I said as I heard yells through the phone. "But we've got to have every detail down; my mom is smart. I'm not trying to get caught. She did tell me I could get a cell phone when I get responsible. I'm down to show her that I am."
We talked a little longer, and though the plan was way out there, I was excited about my friends. Though the whole lying thing made me uneasy, I thought I could tell a "little fib" to gain my parents' trust and be really cool with my friends. I was still new around here. I couldn't let Layah and Riana down yet.
Before we hung up the phone, the three of us agreed to stick to the plan. We said we'd work out the details and aim to make our parents proud. I hoped it was going to work.
* * *
After the call was over, Budgie told me that he had to go to the bathroom. Oh, well, that wasn't true. I had to go. Though the clock said ten, I wasn't really sleepy, probably 'cause I'd laid around in bed all day.
I stopped before I got there. I bumped into the wall because it was dark. I didn't want to wake anybody up. Then I heard a weird noise coming from my brother's room. However, I thought I shouldn't go in and investigate because I knew Clay could take care of himself. He'd probably just go off on me for caring, so why even bother?
Then I tried to walk back to my room in the darkness. However, I couldn't pass Clay's door this time without going in. I was sure the funny noise was him crying.
I opened up the door and said in a soft, concerned voice, "Are you okay?"
When my brother didn't answer, I turned to try and walk away but went back anyway.
"Clay, listen, I know you think of me as your nagging little sister and if you don't want me in here, I don't care. I know I don't say it all the time, but I love you. I've never heard you cry like this."
I stood still, waiting for him to open up. He didn't. I couldn't give up.
"Clay, did you and Dad argue or something? What's going on? You're scaring me."
"I'm all right," he said, sniffling to try and dry up his tears.
I walked in the dark only a few steps before tripping. Walking a little more toward his voice, I thought I had a clear path, but leave it to my brother to have his skateboard in the way. I tripped over it, fell on the bottom part of his bed, and hurt my toe badly.
"Ouch!" I screamed.
"You okay?" Clay rushed over to me and asked with deep concern.
Smiling I said, "See, you care about me too."
"Were you acting?" he said, lightly hitting me with his pillow.
"No, I wasn't. My foot hurts. That stupid skateboard. Mom told you to put that thing in the closet."
"No one was supposed to be in my room. I knew it was in the middle of the floor." My brother went on talking to me like normal. Then he blurted out, "You know Dad and I, we just don't get along. I'll click more with my real dad. I want to find my family."
There was silence between us. His words hurt. Why was he saying those things? "Carmen, can you understand that for a minute?" he asked before crying again.
I didn't understand it. Though we had just recently found out that he was adopted, he was my brother and no other family mattered. Yet he was just crying so badly that it hurt me that he was hurting. Since he said that he wanted to find his family, then I had to put my feelings aside and help.
"How could parents give their children away?" he said.
"Different things happen to people, Clay. I don't know why all the stuff that happens does. I do understand being a little bummed out about it, though. God showed me that He knew what He was doing when we moved and He worked everything out. And just know He's going to show you why you're better off with us. I'm happy it worked out this way."
"What do you mean you're happy?" my brother asked in an upset voice.
"Because, Clay, if it didn't happen, then you wouldn't be my brother. Who'd nag me and who would help me with the computer? And who'd understand Cassie getting on my nerves? Only you. I'm happy you're here."
"I hear ya. I'm really sad that my parents didn't love me enough to keep me. I got to find them, Sis. I want them to look me in the eye and tell me they don't want me. I know my real dad won't be able to do that. Can't you see, Sis?" he asked.
I could not join him in imagining the happy union. If he moved away I didn't know what I'd do. He asked me if I would keep his secret that he wanted to meet his parents to myself. I agreed to honor his wishes and we said good night.
When I got back to my room, I just prayed, "Lord, please help Clay be happy with this family. And if that's not supposed to be how it goes, help me find peace with him leaving us. Also, I'm so sorry I thought today was the worst Christmas ever. Guess sometimes I'm really selfish. I just wanted today to be about me getting a whole bunch of things. Me having so much fun with my friends—the focus all on me and not on You and Your Son's birthday. Please forgive me. In Jesus' name, amen."
* * *
The next day, I helped Mom with the waffle maker. Pouring the batter through all the little grooves was kinda cool. I just push it down for a minute and when it beeps, I let it up ... presto, perfect waffles!
I was really caught off guard when she said, "So, Miss Lady, I heard you talking when I passed your room last night. Your girlfriends called you back, huh?"
I slowly nodded, hoping she didn't hear what I was planning with them. "Yes, ma'am."
"And what had you laughing so?" she asked.
With excitement I said, "We're planning a sleepover and outing at the mall."
I could have stuffed my mouth with the waffles I was making. I didn't mean to tell her what I'd just hoped she didn't hear. I didn't have any details, and I knew she was going to ask a ton of questions.
So I said, "Before you ask me anything, we haven't planned it all out yet."
"That's fine. I wasn't trying to get all the information now just as long as you have everything in place later. Set the waffles on the table and get the orange juice out too, please, honey. A slumber party sounds great. I trust you to make the plans. And I can go with you all to the movies. Let me know. See, moving wasn't a bad thing, after all, was it?"
I smiled. Though I had laid the foundation with my mom, deep down I felt bad, knowing I wasn't telling her the whole truth. I had left out the most important part that she would say no to ... going to the mall without parents. What had I agreed to?
To make me feel worse, my mom came over and threw her arms around me, gave me a big kiss on the cheek, and told me she was proud of me. I felt so close to her. Seemed like I could talk to her about anything ... well, anything except our plan and boys.
She said, "I love you dearly. Just keep doing the right thing. Let the Holy Spirit guide you."
Biting my lip, I once again started second-guessing myself. Mom asked me to get the rest of the family for breakfast.
"Am I letting the Holy Spirit guide me?" I asked myself in a soft tone.CHAPTER 2
Fifty-eight, fifty-nine," I counted with my arms in the air so that Riana and Layah would know when to yell out with me. "Now!"
"Happy New Year!" the three of us said together as we drank some sparkling grape juice from my mom's fancy crystal goblets. I didn't have the refreshing, fizzy stuff often, but when I did I loved it.
"Let's all say what we want this year," Layah said in her bossy tone.
We'd already talked all night, so I didn't want to talk more. Plus, I was so tried. I was happy my friends were staying over, and at first I wanted to be up all night. However, my body was pooped. I looked at them with a disapproving glare. Layah rolled her eyes. I knew she wanted me to do what she requested. And these were my guests, so whatever they wanted to do I decided to tough it out and be down for.
This impromptu sleepover turned out to be a great idea. I was so tired because my day was so much fun. We giggled all day looking in fashion magazines and modeling our new Christmas clothes. We really had a deep conversation talking about things that were bothering each of us. I didn't want my friends to have drama like me, but it was nice to know I wasn't the only ten-year-old going through things. It came out that we all had family issues. But we vowed to be there for each other.
Layah talked first. "I used to like wearing boy clothes. But now I really want to change. And I appreciate you guys saying you will help me get a little stylish. I'm getting older now and some of that cute stuff you both wear I like a lot. This year, I want to be more into fashion."
Riana and I smiled at her. Next it was Riana's turn. She laughed and laughed. Layah gave her the eye, like come on. When Riana giggled in my direction, I motioned for her to hurry up.
"I think I want my bad feelings for boys to change," Riana barely uttered before busting out with another laugh.
"Yuck," Layah said. "Who cares about them?"
I pointed to myself and quickly gave Riana a high five. Layah just shook her head in disappointment. Riana and I so admired that Layah got to hang with the boys we liked all the time because of her cool athletic abilities. She could beat all of them at everything. Riana liked a bad boy in our class, and I liked Spencer, or Spence, as we called him, the shy guy who happened to be the grandson of my dad's boss.
Layah didn't understand where Riana was coming from, but I said, "I hear you, friend."
"Quit fooling around," Layah said, sorta irritated with Riana and me.
"Okay, my turn," I said in a silly way. "I want us to continue being there for each other."
"We don't do that," Layah said to me as if what I said was so dumb.
"Yes, we do," I said with a little frustration in my voice. "Earlier today we talked about so much. We were honest with each other and really shared our feelings."
"No, we didn't," Layah said, still being difficult.
"Yeah, Layah, we did," I challenged. "You were all sad talking about your dad dating again. We listened and then made you realize that you'll always be number one in your dad's eyes, remember."
Excerpted from Sweet Honesty by Stephanie Perry Moore. Copyright © 2005 Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Soft Tone 2. On Key 3. Perfect Harmony 4. Deaf Ear5. Loud Noise 6. Dope Sound 7. Indoor Voice 8. Listen More 9. Simply Right