Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! Here's your treat!

As promised, here's the first chapter of INITIATION (out Jan 3, 2011, but available for pre-order now!)

Oh, and because I heart Team Canterwood so much . . . I added chapter TWO! :D

Enjoy reading, be safe tonight, and have a happy Halloween!




11:59pm: Days left: 1!

Tomorrow morning! I leave home and Briar Creek for Canterwood Crest Academy. I got up to blog because I could not sleep. Usually, I’m up late on Friday’s anyway, but not like this. Blogging is than talking sometimes because I can sit down and let all of my thoughts come out unfiltered on the page. I’ve been blogging all summer—Dad’s suggestion—and now I’m totally addicted to it.

I’m scared about tomorrow. So scared. I’m still second guessing all of my decisions about everything. I’ll admit it: all of these questions keep rolling around my brain, like:

Am I leaving Briar Creek too soon?

Am I ready for the competitive riding life again?

Are Whisper and I prepared?

Will anyone find out my secret before I’m ready to talk about it or any other part of my past?

That last question is the one keeping me awake. Tonight and every night. . .

Posted by Lauren Towers



This was really it.

My breath caught, forcing me to sit on the bare twin bed. My parents and older sister, Becca, had dropped me off in my new dorm room only an hour ago.

I already had eight light blue sticky sticky notes lined up along my eggshell colored walls. At least I knew I was still me at Canterwood—the crazy-organized, to-do list compulsive girl that my friends liked to tease me about.

I stared at all the boxes with Lauren scrawled on each in grape Sharpie. My roommate hadn’t arrived yet, so I’d picked the right side of the room, hoping she wouldn’t mind.

This was surreal. I—Lauren Towers—was a seventh grader at Canterwood Crest Academy—one of the most elite boarding schools on the East Coast. The Connecticut school had a reputation for rigorous academics and, the main reason why I’d applied, an even more intense equestrian program. I picked up my Blackberry and scrolled through my photos. There were a few family pics of Mom, Dad and Becca and Charlotte—my oldest sister.

I tightened my grip on my phone’s sky blue gel case when a photo of me posing with my best friends, Brielle and Ana, popped up. In the picture, the three of us were smiling at the camera as we posed on horseback. We were—had been­, I corrected myself—riders at Briar Creek Stable. Even though it was summer in the photo, my skin was as porcelain pale as it was now in the fall. Sunlight glinted off Cricket, the Welsh-Cobb school pony that I’d ridden at Briar Creek.

I put my phone down—unable to continue looking at the pictures. They would only make me miss everyone and everything. I surveyed my room, boxes still dotting my side. Mom, Dad and Becca had helped me move in a ton of luggage, duffel bags and boxes. I imagined how it would look with my poster and my laptop. Right now, the room was empty. Once it was decorated, it would look amazing. I could tell already.

Gentle September sunlight streamed through two large curtainless windows. I couldn’t wait to decorate with my roommate. My room at home had a light blue and white color scheme. Light sky blue was my favorite color and decorating was one of my favorite things to do. I’d brought a messenger bag of pages and pages that I’d torn from design magazines for inspiration.

I lived and breathed for fashion, decorating, and riding. Hopefully, my roommate would like some of my ideas. The last thing I wanted was for us to clash on day one.

Khloe Kinsella, I said her name to myself. My guidance counselor and math teacher, Ms. Utz, had given me and Khloe each others’ e-mail addresses so we could determine who would bring what for our room. I’d started “what to bring to CC” list in a purple-with-silver-polka-dots notebook.

I’d e-mailed Khloe first just to say hi. Her reply was friendly enough, but she seemed really busy. She’d e-mailed sporadically throughout the summer and had given me just enough information to know what to bring to school. We hadn’t exchanged much personal information about each other. My stomach churned a little at the thought of meeting the girl I’d be living with for the year.

I weighed options, flipping through the Canterwood campus guide I’d gotten in the mail weeks ago. I wanted to go to the stable to see my horse, Whisper. But I was nervous about going to the stable alone. I’d been there with my parents and Becca to get Whisper settled. But everything had been so new and unfamiliar, I hadn’t paid attention to anything but Whisper. It was as if I hadn’t gone to the stable at all—I couldn’t even remember much of what it looked like let alone how to get there. It had been a whirlwind of activity around me. I did remember that Whisper had a giant, roomy box stall that she’d settled into quickly. And before I’d left, she’d taken a delicate sip of water from her pink bucket and started munching hay.

And okay, maybe there was…another reason I was stalling. Even though I knew no one recognized me—that no one paid attention to seventh graders—my nerves still wouldn’t go away. The fear that someone at the stable would look at me sideways, squint for one second too long and wonder if maybe I was that girl from TV. I tried to shake the thoughts from my head. I didn’t want to fixate on that.

Mom and Dad already spoke to Mr. Conner, I reminded myself. They’d already met with my riding instructor, Mr. Conner, and explained my background. He’d understood that I wanted to keep my past just that and had promised not to mention past competition experience or anything else that would connect me to what had happened. No one would find out anything from him—not one student on campus would know until—if—I ever decided to tell them myself.

I glanced out the window again, chewing the inside of my lip. I wanted to be with Whisper, but I wasn’t ready to face the new stable yet. Just a little more time. Maybe some unpacking would distract me. I began to visualize where I wanted to put some of my belongings. I stood, surveying the layout of the room again. The double room was even bigger than I’d expected. There were two twin beds separated by space for two beside tables. The windows above each bed looked over the gorgeous courtyard, which made the room feel even bigger.

On my side of the room, near the door, was a skinny counter with a microwave, two cabinets and space for the cheerful yellow mini-fridge that would be arriving any day from Pottery Barn Teen. Khloe and I had gone in on it together.

Each side of the room had its own closet with enough room on each side for one desk. I squinted my eyes. There was enough floor space for a small coffee table if Khloe and I decided we wanted one. I walked into the private bathroom, on Khloe’s side of the room. New white tile had been scrubbed clean, along with a shower with a glass door, a decent sized vanity mirror, and a wooden cabinet under the sink. I already had several ideas for color schemes in mind—I couldn’t wait to talk about them with Khloe. We’d learned over e-mail that both of our parents had given us “decorating allowances” to make the room feel like home.

I walked out of the bathroom, looking in the full length mirror beside the entrance. It had taken me almost all summer—no exaggeration!—to choose my first-day-at-Canterwood outfit.

Since it was Saturday, I’d decided to go for comfort-slash-chic. Skinny dark wash distressed jeans, a short-sleeve slouchy black tee with thin gray horizontal stripes, and a white tank underneath. For accessories, I’d decided on pearls. Classic and never out of style. I’d seen them on legendary icons from Audrey Hepburn to today’s hottest celebs featured in Trends Magazine.

I smoothed my long, wavy brown hair—letting the soft curls cascade down my back. My makeup was minimal—a sweep of shimmery caramel eyeshadow that made my blue eyes pop, concealer where needed and a coat of CoverGirl’s LipSlicks in Princess. Before we’d left home this morning, I’d applied a thin layer of Neutrogena moisturizer with SPF 30. I never left the house without sun block. Becca said my sunscreen obsession made me smell like summer all year round.

Footsteps stopped outside the door and a key turned in the lock. Khloe! My hand flew to my necklace—a beryl birthstone on a thin silver chain with a tiny diamond above it. Beryl stones were naturally clear, but my parents had gotten me one with a light blue tint.

The door opened and I clutched the blue stone tighter. A pretty girl with warm brown eyes stared at me. She was about my height, tan and her long blond hair hung in beachy waves around her shoulders. She looked as if she’d come from California, not Boston where she’d told me she lived. She looked trĂ©s glam in a white tier-ruffled A-line skirt, a clover green v-neck shirt and a three-quarters sleeve cardigan. Gucci sunglasses were perched on top of her head and delicate silver bangles hung from her tiny wrists.

She dropped two purple faux-crocodile bags that she’d had slung over her shoulders and they thudded to the floor.

She turned to face me, put her hands on her hips, and jutted out her chin. Her pearly pink lips pursed. “Well,” Khloe said flatly. “I guess you’ve already chosen my side of the room.”

copyright 2011 Jessica Burkhart

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