Published: July 2013
Word Count: 65,000
Genre: Literary Fiction, Coming of Age
Content Warning: Adult themes and sexual content
Age Recommendation: 15+
Chelle isn’t a typical 13-year-old girl—she doesn’t laugh with friends, play sports, or hang out at the mall after school. Instead, she navigates a world well beyond her years.
Life in Dawson, ND spins on as she grasps at people, pleading for someone to save her—to return her to the simple childhood of unicorns on her bedroom wall and stories on her father’s knee.
When Troy Christiansen walks into her life, Chelle is desperate to believe his arrival will be her salvation. So much so, she forgets to save herself. After experiencing a tragedy at school, her world begins to crack, causing a deeper scar in her already fragile psyche.
Follow Chelle’s twisted tale of modern adolescence, as she travels down the rabbit hole into a reality none of us wants to admit actually exists.
Morgan huffed and turned her back on me. Just as she stepped toward the door to retrieve her bag it swung open, revealing my father swaying in the sunlight. His glazed eyes looked her over and a crooked smile appeared on his lips.Short Excerpt from White Chalk by Pavarti K Tyler:
“What’re you doin’ ‘ere?” He slurred, lumbering through the door and closing it behind him.
“Hi, Mr. Whitney.”
“‘ey there pretty thing. ‘R you ‘ere to visit my Chelle? Michelle ma Belle? But she’s not nearly as pretty as you now, is she?” He leaned against the dining room table, letting his weight settle to one side of his body. With one hand he reached forward to touch Morgan’s face, but she drew away before he made contact.
“Dad, this is Morgan. Remember?”
“Nope.” He popped the “p” at the end of the word and winked his blue eyes at her. A smile spread across his face, a look that probably got him any woman he wanted when he was out.
It made me throw up a little in my mouth. “My friend Morgan?”
I stepped in front of him, blocking his laser focus on her chest. She slunk behind me. Her discomfort vibrated from her body, joining my embarrassment until the air around us crackled with tension.
“You ain’t got any friends,” he sneered, craning his head to see behind me. “Certainly ain’t got none that look so sweet. Come ‘ere baby, tell me what yer doin’ ‘ere.”
“I’m....” Morgan shook her head, silently pleading with me for help.
“She’s just leaving, Dad. Leave her alone. Why don’t you get another beer?”
“You think you can tell me what to do?” He lumbered toward me, stopping close enough for me to smell the cigarettes and beer on his breath. “Just like yer Ma, always thinkin’ you know best.”
With his focus off Morgan, she was able to sneak past and grab her bag. “See you later,” she blurted before whipping open the door and rushing out.
“She’s a pretty girl,” Dad muttered, staring after her, his eyes distant.
I grabbed my snack from the coffee table and hurried toward my room.
“A real pretty girl.” His words slurred, his heavy lids began to lower, and the couch groaned when he flopped down to pass out.
My door was heavy, but I held the handle so it would close without a sound.
Long Excerpt from White Chalk by Pavarti K Tyler:
Outside, the sun bore down. I’d hoped being outside would make it easier to breathe, but as we made our way to his truck, the heat sucked all the remaining energy out of me. Sweat beaded on my back where Troy’s arm rested. June had never been this hot before.
I inhaled, trying to fill my lungs, but the faint scent of Langston’s fire still lingered in the air. He’d died—killed himself over nothing more than throwing a party. What did Langston know about trouble? What gave him the right to just die while I was stuck here, forced to live, fighting for each breath?
An oily residue covered every surface in town, due to the drifting of particles from the fire—something about the oil floating away with the ash, spreading itself through town. I liked that idea—letting yourself disintegrate into pieces, only to suffocate everything with your presence.
Troy opened the passenger side door for me, and even leaned in to buckle my seatbelt. I laughed, but no sound came out. It must have just been in my head, but my body shook nonetheless.
Someone had seen me at the hotel. Everyone knew.
Troy started the car and pulled out of the parking lot without saying a word. His hand finally settled on my thigh.
This was something I’d dreamed about for months—maybe even my entire life—but I couldn’t feel it. My nerve endings had all burned away with the realization that there was nothing special about me at all. Not for Mr. Harris. Not for Troy. Not for my parents.
Everyone had someone or something else that was more important.
I leaned against the window, the heat from the sun beating down on my head, my dark hair absorbing it and passing it onto my brain. Maybe if I let it boil in my skull, I wouldn’t have to feel like this anymore.
I longed for the cold, for winter, for a time before Troy came, when it was just Morgan and me and nothing else mattered. I longed for anything but this slow, suffocating death.
Troy’s thumb beat out a silent rhythm on my leg.
As we pulled into my neighborhood, I realized my day could always get worse.
“Shit,” Troy muttered, stopping his truck in the middle of the road. My father’s car sat in the driveway. “What do you want to do?”
I shook my head, unable to make words. I couldn’t go home or deal with him. The last time he’d been home, he’d punched Troy. Part of me believed he’d never come back, and that the end had finally come. But there he was sitting in my house, on the couch, drinking beer and waiting for me or Ma to come home.
“I can’t....” The words tumbled out and I slammed my hand over my mouth, terrified of what might follow. Instead, I continued to shake my head, letting the momentum carry me away until my entire torso swayed back and forth, slamming against the door.
“Shit. Okay, um, let’s... we can go to my place, but Shauna’s there with the kids and—” He glanced at me, brows pulled together.
I saw a glimpse of what he’d look like when he got older, with a furrowed brow and lips turned down—someday when worry and work and stress ate away at his beauty.
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