Expensive jeans and the newest styles of desert boots and sneakers shuffle in front of us. My eyes follow denim up to a zipper then to a pocket stuffed with a hand. A blue T-shirt with a Rolling Stones logo covers what appears to be a flabby abdomen. I gaze up at a face that distorts from my angle. The guy peers down. He’s not attractive, but not ugly either.
“You have the coolest hair,” he says to Stacy.
I’ve never considered Stacy’s hair cool to be honest. Guess I’m just used to it. But looking at it now I can see what he means. Far past her shoulders, it’s parted in the middle and each side gleams copper in the setting sun.
Stacy leans back and lifts her chin. “Um thanks. We live on the other side of the park.”
“You two from Slum Hill?” the short guy blurts.
“It’s Sloan Hill, “ I snarl.
“Don’t mind him, he’s a dickhead,” says a scrawny guy, swiping at a thick head of hair too big for his body.
“You know someone around here?” the not attractive but not ugly asks.
“Nope.” I wonder the same about him. But he gazes at Stacy like he wants her to answer. Like I’m invisible.
“Your school the one being torn down?” he tries again.
Stacy does a hair flip. “Yep. We’ll be going to Carver this year.”
“Oh yeah? That’s our school.”
“What’s is like?” Stacy asks in her polite, doltish way. “Are the teachers strict?”
“Depends on who you get. Some are cool. Some are assholes. It’s sure gonna be crowded this year.”
The group continues down the road in their boy-pack parade.
Except for him.
“I could grab the keys and give you a ride home if you want.” He brushes aside straight bangs. “It’s a long walk to Slum−I mean, Sloan Hill.”
“You live near here?” I ask.
He lets out a laugh. “Yeah, real near.”
He points to my dream house, and the robin’s egg blue convertible parked in the carport.
Nancy Thorne is an award-winning author inspired by the romance and courage of youth. Her debut novel VICTORIAN TOWN won First Place for the 2019 Dante Rossetti Award.
Nancy's short stories have recently appeared in literary journals and magazines, including The First Line Literary Journal, The Blake-Jones Review, Edify Fiction, and Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Born and raised in Toronto, Nancy fostered a passion for creating stories in grade school but hid it much too well. Eight years ago she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of telling them.
Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America and Toronto Romance Writers. She lives with her family just outside of Toronto along with an energetic labrador and entertaining corgi.
Can you, for those of us who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I don’t feel that I became an author, I felt in grade school that I already was an author. It’s funny, right? I have no idea where the notion that I was meant to be a writer came from. But I knew how much I loved words and the emotions they evoked. As a child I would sit at my vanity and read aloud the events of my neighbourhood into the mirror as if I were a news anchorwoman in front of a camera. Sometimes, I daydreamed about becoming a defence lawyer so I could use words to save the innocent.
Still, I kept my dreams hidden. It felt to me as though someone would eventually pick up on my author premonition, but of course no one ever did. I was a shy child and didn’t go around proclaiming my writer ambition. I have a vivid memory of writing a story in grade school. I waited for her to shed a tear as she read my words. But she simply crossed out my grammar mistakes with a bright red pencil and handed me back the sheet of paper. It seemed to me then that I couldn’t possibly be a writer if a teacher couldn’t see any talent in my story.
It took many years for me to begin my author journey. But I had the constant itch of belief that I should be a writer, and it wouldn’t stop no matter how much I tried to scratch it away.
What inspired you to write this book?
Much of this book is true, although I have never blackmailed anyone, a crucial plot in the story. As a teenager, I spent two summers hitchhiking across Canada after telling my mother that I was taking the train to Vancouver. Memories from those two summers remained in my brain as if they were seared with everlasting ink. It was a magical time in my life, filled with new experiences and a greater understanding of life and the people within the climate of those times.
If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Easy question to answer. I would happily and contentedly spend my last day with my immediate family and our pets.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
My favorite part of the book is when Hannah’s eyes open to the realities and injustices of the world beyond her own life experiences.
If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during the day?
It wouldn’t be one character from my book – it would be all of them. I would love to time-hop back to Jasper, Alberta. The Athabasca River would still be pristine. The mountains would still be topped with snow. And all the hitchhhikers who stayed in tents in the shallow valley that bordered the river would be exactly the same.
Plus, I’d love to find out if a particular hitchhiker ever found her dog. She spent a lot of time one evening screaming for her lost dog who had run into the woods. Sometimes she’d swear, “Arlo! Where the fuck are ya, Arlo?” So, I gave the name Arlo to one of my main characters. I choose to believe that she found her dog before she went back on the road.
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