After completing ten thousand words for July Camp NaNoWriMo, I didn’t want to stop writing Lost and Found. I figured the only motivation to continue was to create my own challenge of another ten thousand words. A typical middle grade novel is anywhere between forty to sixty thousand words. Since I wrote over ten thousand words in August, I thought I’d share a few more snippets of my writing.
Of course, my September writing goal is the same but a few other writing ideas have tried to take over my brain instead. Perhaps rereading what I’ve written for Lost and Found will “reignite” my inspiration for it.
A few years ago, Mom signed me up for an online reading group called the Night Owl Book Club. She thought it would be helpful for me to adjust to our new house, new school, new everything after she and George were married. Something stable in my life. Somewhere I can make friends that won’t ever get left behind. Plus, we get to read books and talk about them. I’ve always been “ahead” in reading, as Mom says. Reading books for several grades above my own. She wanted me to get good recommendations for reading.
But the cool part? The book club only takes place late night. So every third Friday around 9:30 p.m., I hunker down in my room with Mom’s old laptop and a usually beat-up copy of the book of the month, sign into the website, and join other avid readers my age to chat. Sometimes our discussions last an hour, sometimes longer. Mom lets me stay up until we’re finished, no matter what.
We’ve read all types of books. From Hatchet by Gary Paulsen to The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. We’ve read books that seem more for girls, more for boys, and in between. Our fearless leaders, Mr. Riley and Miss Anna, lead the discussion with questions. And they always share a yummy recipe that ties into the book. Like for the first Percy Jackson book, they came up with a recipe for blue pancakes!
“Rory,” Levi mutters. “Your ice cream is, uh, everywhere.”
I glance down and let out a squeak. At some point during my staredown with Josh, my hand tipped the bowl I was holding slightly so now melted ice cream is slithering over the lip and down the side of the bowl and across my hand. I scramble toward the nearest table and set my sticky bowl down before grabbing handfuls of napkins. I awkwardly wipe at my hands, my shirt, even my shoes. In the midst of my scramble, I drop the extra flyers and they scatter across the parlor floor.
Josh, being the gentleman he is, scoops to pick them up at the same time I bend down to wipe the ice cream off my shoe. Our elbows bump, I almost slip and fall, but he grabs my arm ever so gently and tugs me upright. I let out a small breath, something between a gasp and another squeak, and look up into his blue eyes. He’s smiling. A real smile.
Then his eyes shift to the flyer in his hand, and his eyebrows furrow. He holds up the flyer. “Isn’t this your dog?”
An awkward, embarrassing snort laugh slips between my lips. “Uh, yeah. I mean, no. I mean…”
“No,” Levi’s voice pipes up, and I have never wanted to strangle him more than in this moment. “She just found the dog. Well, she rescued her. But Mom says we have to see if she belongs to anybody before we can keep her.”
I jolt to my head, almost kicking Josh in the face. Fortunately, puberty has graced him with wonderful reflexes and he pulls away from me before my clumsy feet can do any damage.
“What?” I ask Levi, who continues to lick hurriedly at his melting ice cream cone. “Mom never said we could keep her.”
Levi shrugs. “Maybe not to you. But I heard her talking to Dad about it. About the ‘what ifs.’” He takes another lick of his cone. “What if nobody claims the dog? What if she doesn’t have an owner anymore?”
I stare at Levi, my heart still thumping but now it’s for another reason. Josh finally stands up and holds out the flyers to me. I stare at the picture of the dog, my thoughts whirling. Levi, rolling his eyes, takes the flyers from Josh and shoves them into my hands. Chocolate ice cream smears across the top flyer from my fingers.
“What did Mom and George say?” I ask Levi in a daze. He smiles up at me, ice cream moustache and all.
“If no one claims her, George convinced Mom we should keep her.”
I let out a slow breath, tears pricking the edge of my eyes. We might get to have a dog. Finally.
“Rory?” Josh’s voice is soft, gentle, but it jerks my attention from the flyers to where he stands a few feet away. His hands are stuffed into the pockets of his khaki shorts.
“Your ice cream is melting.” He shrugs toward the table where the crumpled, ice cream stained napkins are piled around my styrofoam bowl. Most of it has melted into a puddle of ice cream soup, but I suddenly don’t care.
The dog is going to be mine. I just know it.
“No way! No way! No way!” Maddie screams. Bits of carrot fly out of her mouth and across the lunch table. I grimace.
“What happened?” I say, wiping carrot spit off my chin. Maddie winces and mouths “Sorry” to me. I just shrug and smile.
“She’s going to ask Josh Mackenzie to the dance,” Lily says. Her eyebrows narrow ever so slightly, but she quickly hides it by scooping a spoonful of applesauce into her mouth.
“What?” I say. My ears feel stuffy, all the noises of the lunch room muffled like I’m underwater. “You’re asking… Josh?”
Jess smiles smugly. “Just to see what happens. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll say yes.”
Maddie screams again and practically jumps across the table to give Jess a hug. She’s acting like Jess is already going with Josh Mackenzie to the dance. I give Jess a quick smile before smashing my peanut butter and honey sandwich into my mouth. But it doesn’t taste good. My stomach feels all twisted like I just rode the spinny ride at the county fair.
Jess and Josh?
I can’t picture it. Jess is so outgoing and flamboyant. She’s so sure of herself. Josh may look sophisticated and ready to conquer the world, but inside he’s a big softie. I think back to our conversation last week near the creek. How he’s afraid of water and can’t even swim. How he refuses to learn because he can’t get the image of his father drowning in a boat in the ocean out of his mind.
There are so many hidden sides to Josh that he doesn’t reveal to the world. Would he take the chance to reveal them to Jess if she asked like he’s revealed them to me?
After I swallow the sticky chunk of bread and peanut butter and honey, I decide to leave. I can’t sit at this table anymore. I can’t think about Jess and Josh going to the dance together. Dancing together. Jess is probably going to get a gorgeous dress—brand new, sparkling, the perfect color to match her hair and eyes. And me? I think Mom mentioned a thrift clothing store we could try.
It’s not that we’re poor and Jess is rich. It’s just that Mom doesn’t want to spend “unnecessary” money on a dress I’ll wear once. Jess is an only child. Her dad is lawyer, and her mom doesn’t even have to work. She’ll get to have whatever she wants.
Including Josh Mackenzie.
It isn’t long after we headed into the woods that the beam of a flashlight chases after us. We both turn together and find George running to catch up with us. George is a tall guy, but he’s also somewhat skinny, somewhat muscular, so when he runs it kind of looks goofy. Like the kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after he’s stretched out from being tiny. But Mom says we shouldn’t laugh when we see someone run because at least they are running and not sitting on the couch being unhealthy.
“Nothing yet?” George says through hurried breaths. His hair is soaked and I see Mom giving him the side-eye. He’s not even wearing a jacket. He must have been in that much of a hurry to leave the hospital that he forgot.
“I said you didn’t have to come. We’ll find him,” Mom says. She purses her lips together and if she wasn’t holding a flashlight, I bet she would have crossed her arms over her chest too.
George tilts his head slightly to the side. “It’s a slow night. Plus, this is Levi.”
George isn’t always good at showing his emotion. It’s not that he’s a robot, but after working long shifts at the hospital and trying to cram in study time, he’s tired. Most days, he doesn’t even watch TV or read a book; he just goes straight to bed. But the way his voice catches when he says “This is Levi” tells me that he does care. A lot.