In a small town in Arkansas, two lives that seemingly have nothing in common will converge and change each other forever. A brilliant but tormented street artist and an ex-track star whose career was cut short by a heart condition.
Aimee DeLuca had a promising athletic career before her heart gave out during a high school track and field contest. Aimee struggles to find her way after spending time with a deceased grandmother during a near death experience. Reizo Rush is a street artist whose torment fuels his desire to add color to the gray walls of the city. But Reizo’s tagging and the two voices only he hears land him in perpetual trouble with both his teachers and the law.
During a chance encounter, the two quickly find out they have much more in common than love. When they stumble upon a century-old storm cellar hidden underground on Aimee’s uncle’s ranch, they unearth a cellar full of artifacts and a hundred-year-old Will. Once the news of the discovery leaks out, a drug-dealing teen and a mysterious soul named General are determined to bury the truth along with anyone who gets in their way.
Forty-three minutes without a heartbeat—a little longer than a sitcom. About the time it takes for first period at Theodore High. It’d been five years since I’d seen Grams. She looked amazingly happy, considering she was dead.
After waking up from heart surgery, the first words I uttered in the recovery room were “Did my team win?”
“Miracle, miracle,” a nurse whispered. I guess she thought I’d have brain damage.
Another nurse cried. A male nurse asked me if I’d experienced anything strange. He said some patients have what they call a “Near-Death-Experience”—NDE for short. After all, I’d been officially pronounced dead before the doctors brought me back to life.
I told him, “No, nothing worth mentioning.” Lying was easier than telling the truth. There’s no way I’ll ever talk to anyone about those forty-three minutes—especially not Mom or her boyfriend, Hank. What would I tell them? “Hey, remember when I was dead? Well, I hung out with Grams on a bright day at Uncle Pete’s pond.”
Not a chance. I’d get tagged a wacko and locked up at Willowgate, just like the crazy kid from school.
The nurses told me it’d been a miracle that I had survived with only chest compressions until I arrived at the ER. I agreed, of course, but I knew different. Grams had said, “It’s your choice, dear. Stay here or return.”
Being a track star and honor student, I wanted to return.
And so I did.
I blink away these thoughts and slurp in a mouthful of milky flakes while peering at the track star on the cereal box. The glint of excitement in the athlete’s eyes is familiar. But the feeling of adrenaline and winning races is a distant memory.
Gardenia perfume invades the kitchen as Mom scurries in and fills up a travel mug with coffee. She smiles while sinking a teaspoon of sugar into the mug. "Aimee, aren't you excited?"
I place my bowl in the dishwasher and not. "I guess. I'm mainly looking forward to painting at Uncle's pond."
Mom takes a paper sack out of the refigerator and hands it to me. It's been part of our daily routine for as long as I can remember. She send me into the world each day with a kiss and a packed lunch.
"Uncle Pete will pick you up early, but you'll still need lunch. The artist must be fed." She winks.
Her cell blasts some upbeat tune from the ancient past. "Let's go. I'm presenting closing arguments in court this morning."
I swim in Mom's flowery wake as we walk out the door and into the garage.
Mom answers her cell, connecting it to the car's hands-free device. "I'll be at the office in twenty minutes."
As usual, I push in my ear buds to avoid listening to lawyers' ramblings while we drive. Hopefully, junior year will be better if I get a car, like she promised.
Mom raises her voice. "I'm ready...I know, I know...it's our responsibility."
I gaze out the car window. My pulse quickens and my stomach churns. Even with the music distraction, I still feel Mom's emotions. I let my mind drift as she navigates morning traffic.
Cancer took Grams’ life five years before my NDE. But when I saw her that day, she looked beautiful, like in the framed picture Mom keeps on her bookshelf. “It’ll be hard, darling,” Grams had said. “But I hope you’ll decide to return. There are still things for you to do.”
A couple of years later and I still have no clue what “things” she meant.
I glance at Mom gripping the steering wheel and feel her nervousness and anxiety. It must be a big legal case for her today.
I remember the day I left the hospital. It was a shock, feeling the energy from things around me. It’s like suddenly feeling hot in an air-conditioned room or feeling chilly when it’s ninety-degrees outside. It’s hard to explain, exactly, how I can feel excitement coming from saw grass swaying in the wind and strength emanating from oak trees baking in sunshine. I’m not psychic or anything, but my intuition is off the charts. It sounds ill and delusional, which is why I’ll never talk about it.
The first day back to school after my heart surgery was the worst. I quickly realized the people around me were crushing me with their emotions. Feelings of worry, excitement, anger, love, and hate swirled the school hallways from my classmates and hung over my head in class. Trying to concentrate on schoolwork while being flattened by so many emotions all at once was impossible in the beginning.
At first, my friends had been supportive when I needed my space. But soon they realized I’d changed for good. Gossiping about Kelly’s ridiculous shoe purchase and texting about Sharon and Roger hooking up after a Friday night football game became boring. Going to a pep rally to wait for the crazy kid to attack another mascot turned into a ridiculous waste of time. What’s the point of rushing around, worrying about what people think, or worrying about saying something stupid? All the little things used to stress me out. Not anymore. Now people do.
Mom drives the car up to the curb and stops in front of Theodore High School in the heart of Franklinville, Arkansas. Waves of anticipation and excitement from kids walking through the school gates roll over me.
I hesitate before pulling out my ear buds and fight the overwhelming urge to run. I’d usually pretend I was sick and ask Mom to take me home, but today is the last day of the school year.
I can do this.
A man’s voice from Mom’s office blasts from the car speakers.
Mom mouths to me, “I’ll call you later.” Then she leans over and kisses me on the cheek, exactly like she always does.
At the start of freshman year, I’d been the girl who set track records. I was the popular girl with friends, the fashion trendsetter, and the designated shoulder to lean on.
I was all of that before I died.
When Rick isn't dreaming, you'll find him trying to discover why, figuring out how, uncovering ancient mysteries, writing a crazy fun middle-grade or young adult novel, inventing something seriously cool, or learning something new. He enjoys participating in science camps, writing conferences and talking to groups about creative topics such as the process of inventing, building worlds for science fiction and fantasy stories, and the importance of dreaming big.
Rick is a lifelong inventor and a named inventor on over one hundred patents. He has degrees in Avionics Systems Technology, Computer Science and an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology. His experience includes a wide range of engineering, technology development and management roles ranging from aerospace systems to gaming systems. He is a proud member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Delta Mu Delta Honor Society, and the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
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