Today’s spotlight is on the fascinating and delightful Laura A.H. Elliott. I recently read her work 13 on Halloween and found it to be an unique, creative story about an oddball girl and her magical journey to popularity. Today, I am pleased to offer you an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from 13 on Halloween as well as a SNEAK PEEK at 14 on Halloween which releases summer 2012.
13 on Halloween
In 13 on Halloween twelve-year-old Roxie, wants to be popular. In Roxie Speak, she wants to be a peacock…not a dodo––a loser. And so, she decides to invite all the popular kids to her 13th birthday party, which her parent’s don’t know about. The peacocks sort of freak her out because they all come, and they bring her a present that’s out of this world. Adrianne is the girl Roxie wants to be like and Hayden is the most popular boy at school. Ally is Roxie’s best friend.
13 on Halloween Excerpt:
“Ah, come on in, you guys hungry?” I say cursing myself for not heating up the pizzas by now. Forgetting everything. All I have to offer is warm Red Bull and frozen pizza. Party fail.
“Nah,” Adrienne says, examining the spider, the huge nemesis of black boas and blown-up creepy spider-i-ness winces at her touch. Like it knows something about her. Something bad. Like it doesn’t want to be near her.
Ally sort-of knife punches her stomach with her fingertips when Adrianne turns down the offer. Something Ally unconsciously does all the time now when she gets nervous. Which is almost like every other second. And it’s kind of creepier than the spider because she uses her fingertips as a gauge to check and see if she’s gained a gram, or whatever the smallest most miniscule amount is, since the last time she knifed herself with her fingertips. I look around at all the peacocks, well, the girls anyway. They don’t look like they eat much pizza.
“Did you bring it?” Adrianne asks Hayden.
Hayden nods and reaches into his leather jacket and slowly pulls out a long, narrow black package wrapped in a purple and black bow. A big purple and black bow. And I generally don’t think of putting purple and black together but all of a sudden they are my two favorite colors. Peacocks are the kind of people that do exactly the right thing. Even unexpected things.
“Roxie,” Adrianne says my name like she’s casting a spell or is in-character as either my mother after she finds me wearing make-up for the very first time, or the Wicked Witch of the West. “We brought you a little present, but you can’t open it until we say so.”
Ok. A group present is cool. Especially from a bunch of peacocks. But now I can’t take my eyes off the present. I want to know what’s inside. I have to know what’s inside. Bad. Until I stare into Hayden’s eyes. I sort of shake a little when I take the present out of Hayden’s hands. He makes me think about peacock mating rituals.
What? You don’t know about peacock mating rituals?
They are as amazing as the creatures themselves. Peacocks have long, iridescent tails that cover more than sixty percent of their body. They fan these vibrant plumes to attract females in a courtship ritual, or peacock mating dance. Yeah, that’s what I said. They do a mating dance. Cool, huh? I love to dance. I’d love to see peacocks dance to Techno.
Experts think females, which are called peahens––blech––pick their mates based on size, color and feather quality. Feathers are big in the peacock world. Very. Big. Peacocks typically have blue and green feathers with patterns at the top that look like eyes. The peacock spreads his feathers and struts his stuff to charm his beloved peahen. And I guess hair is a lot like feathers. Hayden has the best hair. So it’s no wonder I’m attracted to him because of the color and quality of his hair.
Peacocks aren’t the only ones in the wild with interesting mating rituals. Male hippos fling their poop to romance their ladies. Mosquitoes sing to females with their wings. And some scientists say dinosaurs. Yeah, right? Dinosaurs had fancy courtship rituals. Pterosaurs, flying lizards, attracted girlfriends with magnificent bulging chests and with their sail-like, stretched-out skin. I’m kind of doing the same thing in my belly dancing costume.
“You guys going to give me a hint?” I ask when I realize they’re all staring at me, waiting for me to say something. Anything. Like, maybe thank you. But, I’m a little too flabbergasted to say thank you. A little to wound up in the worlds of mating rituals to notice how not-like-a-peacock I am. Especially when I’m not really sure what is inside the purple-and-black ribboned box.
It’s not like I’m shallow or anything. I know I should just say thank you, but the spider is super creepy and it makes me feel creepy and so do the flying pterosaurs in my mind and their stretch-out skin over boney, veiny wings and I just want to be sure that the thing in the box is a good-kind-of-gift, not a joke-kind-of-gift, or worse, a lame-kind-of-gift before I thank them. That it isn’t something condescending or something they re-gifted because, not being a peacock I’d never know I got dissed anyway. I blame my inability to utter a freaking word on the creep-factor of Halloween. Otherwise-sane people do lots of bizarre things because of the creep-factor of Halloween. And I blame it on not trusting peacocks, not totally. Not yet.
“No. It’s your birthday. It’s got to be a surprise,” Adrianne says smiling. Her surprisingly mousey brown eyes shift to Hayden’s green ones. I never noticed Adrianne’s mousey brown eyes before. I wonder if Hayden notices my jade eyeliner.
BONUS 14 on Halloween excerpt:
“Hey Ally,” I say. I rub my eye when a car goes by. I’m already at our bus stop, my feet in the grass of the empty field just across from our street on Windsor Dr. The one we’d walk down, back-in-the-day when we got up at seven and walked to middle school at eight and thought that was early.
“6:45? Really?” Ally says. She takes her place beside me. It’s the kind of day that’s hot at dawn. Don’t sweat, don’t sweat, don’t sweat, I say to myself under my breath. It’s the first day of high school. It’s the first day I ride the bus to school. It’s the first day for a lot of things.
I fuss with my hair. I’m rethinking the ponytails. Nothing says so-not-ready-for-high-school like ponytails.
“So it’s just us I guess,” Ally says.
“Did you see her?”
I don’t say anything.
“Before she, left?” Ally says.
I get this icky feeling in the pit of my stomach. I mean I never liked, liked her. You know that. But, in a weird way I miss Adrianne. Especially after the way she sucked up to me all summer. And I won’t lie to you, it felt good having someone suck up to me. Having someone like Adrianne look at me like I have magic powers. Which I don’t. So don’t think I do or anything.
“No,” I say.
“It’s so freaking weird.” Ally says putting her weight on one foot and then the other and then the other. And then the other. This habit of hers will be the thing that drives me crazy every morning at the bus stop.
“Really, it’s the first day of school and all you want to talk about is Adrianne?” I say kind of pissed about Adrianne taking off without telling any of us. Especially after everything that happened last year. And over the summer.
“No, I just wanted to know what…happened…” Ally’s voice turned into a whisper.
We both see her. A girl walking down Croydon Lane, heading for the bus stop. We stop talking. My eyes feel like lasers pouring over every detail of her silhouette in the hot sunny morning, trying to make out who it is. At first I think it’s Adrianne. But as the girl walks closer and closer I realize that this girl is shorter and her hair is darker than Adrianne’s. But not darker. Red. She’s super tan too. Which, try as Adrianne did, she never got a dark tan. As mystery girl walks past my mailbox I can’t take my eyes off her wild hair. Like Einstein wild. And she hasn’t done anything about it.
Ally and I have our new clothes on. Ally’s in a skirt because she thinks jeans make her look fat. I’m in my new jeans, True Religions. And the only reason I’m wearing those is because my Aunt Suzy bought them for me. My mom wanted to return them. She thinks kids wearing jeans that cost more than a week of groceries aren’t appropriate. But Brookdale High School is full of kids who spend a lot more money on groceries than we do, I guess. Because they wear them all the time.
“Who is that?” Ally says.
“No idea,” I say, not really in the mood for meeting anyone new so early in the morning, since meeting new people is all I’ll be doing all day at a new school.
The low roar of an engine, a bus-sized engine, wakes me from my new-girl on the block induced-haze. Epically waking me up. Like some kind of gigantic alarm on my growing-up alarm clock. High school will begin the second I step onto that bus. But, I guess, it really started the week before. When we had to go buy our books. But buying books didn’t feel exactly as epic as this because I’d just gotten back from swimming and the smell of ice cream and suntan lotion was in the air. My mom said I’d have to do extra chores to help pay for all my books and that’s when I saw Hayden after he’d been away for a month with his parents at Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. His permanently sunny hair sparkled even brighter and he stood almost a full head higher than me now. And he said, “Roxie? Is that you?”
And I said that it was, freaking out at how he didn’t recognize me. But by the smile on his face I was thinking that was a good thing, him not recognizing me.
“Wow, you look so, so…”
And my stomach went in nervous knots dying to know what the next word would be.
“I like your dress,” Haden said.
“Thanks.” I think the skin on my face went three shades darker than the reddest rose in our garden.
“Um, wanna hang out before school starts?”
“I’ll ride my bike over and we can go to the pool.”
“Great.”After that, every time my cell rang I jumped, thinking it would be him. And I kept my extra-special swimsuit ready for when he did call. And he did call. The next day. We went to the pool together. And it was the best afternoon of my life. We played categories in the diving well and had cheeseburgers at the snack shack and we got caught in a downpour on the way home and all of it, everything was so like boyfriend-girlfriend. Except we didn’t kiss or hug or anything. But it felt like we were going to maybe two or three times. And then when we said goodbye and I stood on my driveway I said, “I kind of miss Planet Popular.” On the ride home I remembered the One Enchanted Night Homecoming dance and running for my life.
Hayden got on his bike and laughed, “Roxie, stop talking about all that. None of it was real.”
Website – www.authorlaura.com
TW – @Laurawriting