If you’d like to hear it read by my awesome narrator, Sara K. Sheckells, just listen to this sample chapter:
My name is Portia Maddox. Last week, I turned thirteen. Hands on her hips, my grandma looked me in the eye and said, “My, you’re turning into a little lady.” Yeah, right.
Technically, I’m a teenager, but I feel no different than when I was twelve. My parents seem to think this birthday is a BFD. But I’m just the same old me.
There are a few things you should know. My father’s in the military. That means we move a lot. I’ve gone to about a hundred different schools in the last six years. Maybe a few less. People tell me I exaggerate.
You may be thinking, “What kind of name is Portia, anyway?” Well, my parents chose it because they are Shakespeare freaks. Portia’s a character from The Merchant of Venice. I haven’t read the play yet, but I hear Portia is smart, beautiful, and rich. That means the only thing we have in common is the name. Who cares? As names go, it’s so sixteenth century. Being stuck with it is a cross I must bear. And believe me, I have more than my share of those.
My life hasn’t been easy. We’ve moved so many times, the moment I start to fit in and make friends, it’s time to leave.
Oh, yeah. One other thing. I’m an albino. That’s a pigment-free person. I’m talking white skin and hair, with pink eyes like a white rabbit or a gerbil. Nice, huh? You’re probably thinking, she won’t be entering any beauty contests any time soon.
Did you know that many think albinos are evil? It’s not true, of course. I think the rumor gained traction in that stupid book by Dan Brown—The Da Vinci Code.
Have you read it? If not, I’ll save you the trouble. It’s about how the Catholic Church is weird and evil. Albinos are even more weird and evil than the church, and it’s amazing what people can do in 24 hours if they don’t eat or sleep. And, according to the book, the Louvre museum in Paris is a dangerous place. That’s it. You’re welcome.
I attend Jefferson Davis Middle School near Pensacola, Florida, where my dad is stationed. It’s in the very deep South. Southerners have a take on the Civil War that’s vastly different from what I learned in Newport, Rhode Island. As a matter of fact, Florida and Rhode Island might as well be on different planets.
Anyhow, it’s a typical day at school. Everyone is stealing glances at me or going out of their way to not look at me. Today begins my fourth week at the New School of the Month. We’ve passed the stage where the kids mutter, “freak” or “Hi, Whitey” (followed by the inevitable snickers), or go dumb as posts, gawking or turning away in horror when they see me. I am now merely a curiosity. I figure my classmates either accept my appearance or have grown less disgusted by it. Whatever. I take their behavior with a grain of salt, the way I accept anything that’s inevitable. Like the coldness of winter, or the notion that I’ll die someday. Hey, we all have to deal with these and other harsh realities. I figure my lack of pigmentation has given me a head start.
I’m sitting alone in the cafeteria, poking at the mystery lunch meat, when someone brushes against me. I hear a light tap on the bench next to where I’m sitting. I glance over at a folded piece of paper.
Looking up, I see the back of Denise Laughton’s blonde head retreating. The most popular girl in my class takes her place at a table with her many followers. It’s the same drill every day. She glances my way. It happens so fast, I can’t be sure. Maybe I imagined it.
I pick up the paper and open it. Inside, a message is written in purple ink. Beautiful penmanship. So different from my own sloppy scrawl.
The note reads: Please meet me after school by the gym. It’s a matter of life and death. Thanks, D.L.