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We Now Return to Regular Life
Author/Writer of Book/Novel:
0735227829 (ISBN13: 9780735227828)
A ripped-from-the-headlines novel that explores the power of being an ally—and a friend—when a kidnapped boy returns to his hometown.
Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.
Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.
And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared.
As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.
For fans of thought-provoking stories like The Face on the Milk Carton, this is a book about learning to be an ally—even when the community around you doesn’t want you to be.
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“Something was wrong with a world where people came and went so easily.”
—Anne Tyler, Saint Maybe
We’d been studying on his couch, our Advanced Chemistry textbooks sitting on the coffee table, suffering through questions about alkali metals and noble gases, when Donal made a joke about gas being ignoble. And I’d laughed, like I always did at his dumb jokes. And then our knees touch and our shoulders bump and suddenly we start kissing each other. Like, a real kiss, deep and forceful, sending gentle sparks up my back. I’m wondering how in the world this happened when my cell phone starts ringing.
It’s Mom—I know from the ringtone, I don’t even have to look. The one day I cut out from school early. The one day I break routine. I pull away from Donal, instantly wishing I hadn’t. I let out a little laugh and instantly feel this ridiculous mix of nervousness, because Mom is calling, and regret, because we stopped kissing too soon, and then confusion, because why were we even kissing to begin with?
“Damn,” Donal says. “Let’s not stop.”
I stare into his blue eyes, which look a little dopey right now. He isn’t my boyfriend. He’s my friend, just my friend, ever since freshman year. Why did I like kissing him so much? I wipe my lips, but I also have the urge to lean into him again and start all over.
But the phone keeps ringing. I can’t ignore Mom. I’m her dependable daughter. And if, for once, I’m not, she’ll freak out.
I scoot away from Donal and make a move to go to my purse on the floor at the end of the couch, but I stop.
Did he plan on kissing me all along?
“You gonna get that?” Donal asks. “Or can you just ignore it,” he says, breaking into a smile while raising his eyebrows again and again in a silly way.
It must be close to three o’clock. I’m skipping sixth-period soccer practice. We both are. I hurt my ankle last week and have a doctor’s note—a light sprain. I’m not out for the season or anything. But I’m still supposed to sit on the sidelines and physically be there—you know, be a team player, rah-rah-rah.
But I snuck away with Donal. He’s on the boys’ team, but his coach had the flu and their practice was canceled. It was his idea, skipping out. “Let’s get this chemistry assignment done,” he’d said. And then he added, “at my place.” He knew I didn’t like to spend a lot of time at my own house. So yeah, maybe he planned this. Makes total sense. Except it doesn’t. And now my phone won’t shut up.
I finally hop from the couch and grab my phone from my bag, squatting on the floor. I don’t answer, I just stare at the word “Mom” flashing on the screen. Then the ringing stops. “Great,” I say. Somehow she’s figured out that I’m not at school. Maybe Coach Bailey called her. All I can think about is my mom’s worried face, the thoughts that must be swirling through her brain.
Donal runs a hand through his red hair then leans forward, his eyes on me, but he’s not making the funny face anymore. Then the phone starts ringing again, and he leans back on the couch, laughing.
I try to gather my thoughts. Okay, quick—what’s my excuse? Screw it. “Hello,” I say after the third ring. I brace myself. But I don’t hear any words. I just hear something like a moan. “Hello?” I say again.
The moan turns to some sort of heavy breathing, and then I hear Mom’s voice: “Beth?” It sounds like she’s been crying.
“Mom, I’m here,” I say, feeling sick to my stomach. I was worried about being in trouble. But now I’m just afraid.
“Thank God I found you!” Mom says. I hear her take a few deep breaths. She sniffles and says, “They said you weren’t at school. I thought, I thought—I didn’t know what to think.”
I’m used to hearing my mother cry. For over three years it’s been a fact of life. She can be laughing one minute and then, wham, she’s leaking tears. Like she feels bad for ever having fun. I’m so used to it, it hardly ever phases me. I’m always there to hug her, rub her back, play the good daughter. But the way she sounds now is different. “Mom, I’m okay. I’m at a friend’s—”
“Just come home. Come home.” Then she makes some kind of gurgling noise.
“Mom?” My heart is revving up. I hear a voice in the background—my stepfather’s, probably. I think I hear him say Tell her.
Oh God. I look over at Donal, but he’s still staring up at the ceiling, smiling in an exasperated way.
“Beth,” Mom says, her voice sounding shaky.
I hold my breath, close my eyes.