Authors: Julie Anne Lindsey
It seems Katy has been waiting for her eighteenth birthday all her life. Raised by a grandfather who never got over losing Katy’s mother to cancer at a young age, she’s dreamed of a life free of the burdens of her family’s tragedies. But just before her birthday, she learns tragedy isn’t finished telling its story . . .
Before she can begin her new life, Katy’s grandfather suffers a heart attack, a box of her mother’s keepsakes, including a journal written to Katy while she was in her mother’s womb, at his side. Believing the only thing her grandpa loves enough to live for is her mother’s memory, Katy reads to him from the journal every night at the hospital. Night after night, line after line, Katy begins to see herself as her mother saw her in her dreams. Buoyed by her mother’s undying love and conviction, Katy vows to make her mother’s sacrifice mean something and promises to fulfill all her mother’s requests. Even the hard ones. Especially those . . .
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In Place of Never
What She Wanted
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Julie Anne Lindsey
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Lyrical Press books are published by
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Copyright © 2016 by Julie Anne Lindsey
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First Electronic Edition: July 2016
First Print Edition: July 2016
Printed in the United States of America
Mom & Dad, I am so proud to be your daughter.
I have a number of people to thank, but I want to start with my editor and friend, Paige Christian. Your unyielding support and encouragement has changed my course. Thank you for making me believe I can really do this. I hope to have the opportunity to meet you one day and deliver a very awkward and overdue hug. As always, thank you, Jennifer Anderson, for reading all my words—even the junky ones. Thank you, Darlene Lindsey, for your near-pathological support and untold hours of babysitting. I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you, Melinda Crown, my very best friend absolutely ever. You’re it. You’re my people. Just really, seriously, thank you. Finally, Bryan, Noah, Andrew and Lily: Without my crazy, quirky cast of real-life characters, I’d be bored to death, and where’s the fun in that? Thank you for making me smile.
What did I have to offer?
I’d answered the question dozens of times over the past two years. Colleges around the country all wanted to know.
What could I contribute to their campus?
The accurate answer was nothing. My bumbling essay answers weren’t much better. I needed what they had, not the other way around. Not that it mattered.
I swiveled in my desk chair, crossing too-long legs under a too-short desk. Sweat ran over my temples, despite the wildly spinning ceiling fan overhead. The brutal summer heat had dried up local creeks and forced Mark, my grandpa, to turn off the air conditioner while he was at work. He couldn’t afford to keep the house livable at these temperatures. He hated the electric bills. Mark hated everything.
I fingered a stack of college applications and tossed them at my best friend, Heidi. “I thought this summer would be amazing. So far, it’s just hot. And depressing.”
She flopped back on my bed, scattering pillows and raising the applications overhead for inspection. “It’s not too late to come with me to Kent State. You have the grades, and they have a great film school.”
“Not this year.” Mark had conveniently forgotten to sign my FAFSA or share any of the personal tax information I needed to finish the financial aid paperwork and leave town. “Maybe next.”
Packing boxes lined the far wall, filled with winter clothes, tattered books, and keepsakes from my time at Monroe Central High School. “I’m not applying anywhere else until I’m eighteen. Once I’m on my own, I’ll apply for unsubsidized loans and try to save some money. Maybe I can find a way to pay the tuition as I go.”
Heidi set the letters aside and lifted onto her elbows. Concern lined her freckled face. “Your grandpa didn’t sign the financial aid papers? He promised.” Her dead tone and sad eyes stung my heart. She still had hope for Mark.
“To be fair, he never promised. He grunted and left the room.”
Mark didn’t make a habit of speaking to me. Despite the fact I was his only family, we shared the century-old farmhouse in deafening silence. Him wishing I hadn’t been born and me in complete agreement.
I hoisted my camera from its bag and plugged it into my laptop.
Heidi rolled onto her tummy and crawled to my headboard, where I’d tacked and taped a few of my favorite photos. “Graduation.” She touched a trio of recent shots. “Look at Mr. Rand. He’s crying.”
“He wasn’t the only one. A few teachers were too. I guess they cared.”
“Small towns,” she whispered.
“Yep.” I let the
pop on my lips. “It was a good day.”
She pulled one photo loose and turned back to me. “I’m sorry your grandpa couldn’t make it.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Yeah. Well, Mom didn’t get to graduate.” Stubborn emotion clogged my throat. Everyone knew whose fault that was. Mine.
I turned stinging eyes to the computer screen and added a few new photos to my picture journal. “Did you see the butterfly garden opens this weekend?”
“I love that place. My mom’s taken me every summer since I was in diapers. Hey, you want to come? We can go opening day and get ice cream after.”
“Yes.” I spun to face her. “But guess who gets paid to go this time? Three hundred dollars for enough shots to make a publicity brochure.”
Heidi pounded her feet. “Shut. Up. That’s almost enough for your security deposit.”
“Yep.” I disconnected my camera and stuffed it back into its worn leather bag. The desktop image snapped back in place. New York Film Academy. A place I’d dreamed of attending since I’d learned of its existence in fourth grade.
I grabbed the packing tape and bounced to my feet. “I already have enough in savings to pay the difference plus first month’s rent. I just need to hurry up and turn eighteen so I can sign that lease agreement.” I dragged a line of tape across the top of one unsealed box.
Heidi squealed. “We’re going to have so much fun in your new apartment this summer. It’ll be even better in the fall, when you go to Kent with me.”
“There won’t be room for another freshman in the dorms by the time I have my birthday and apply. Kent’s too far to commute.” I glanced at my laptop. The flags outside the New York Film Academy billowed in the wind. I’d researched every photography school in the world, looking for my dream escape, and that was it. NYFA had been created by Jerry Sherlock, a veteran producer and sheer genius. He’d designed the school to put students into their craft immediately. He believed in learning by doing. I’d be surrounded with students like me: film students, performing arts students, peers studying acting, cinematography, and my favorite, photography. That was the short list. My heart sank impossibly lower. “Next year, okay?”
She deflated. “At least try.”
“As soon as I move out, I’ll apply for student loans and look at job options near Kent, but there are no guarantees. I’m sure they’re already full for fall semester, and I’m awful at essay writing.”
“I’ll help.” She shoved the picture from my headboard at me. “Was this taken in town? I don’t think I know this place.”
“It’s in Caldwell. I went there to sell some of my old comics.”
“Oh.” She tapped the photo of a young mother and child against her palm. “You want to get out of here?”
“Can’t. I have to make dinner. Mark will be home soon, and he’ll be cranky.”
He worked as many hours as he could to make ends meet, though it wasn’t clear where the money went. Most of my wardrobe was three years old, and I bought whatever I needed with money from the photography studio. As far as I could tell, he hadn’t bought anything new in ten years. More likely, money was another excuse to avoid the replacement daughter he’d never wanted.
“I’ll help. I mean, I can’t cook, but I can entertain.”
I swung the bedroom door open and cursed the stifling air. “Deal. Whatcha got?”
“How about some juicy gossip?”
Heidi followed me down the steps and through the house, rattling off details from the big bonfire last weekend. “And…”—she paused for dramatic effect as I lined hamburger patties on aluminum foil—“guess who’s home for the summer?”
I lifted a shoulder. “Everyone?”
She poked me then pointed a silent finger at my backyard.
“Oh.” I stared through the kitchen window at a yellow cottage in the distance.
Butterflies assaulted my stomach like a horde of angry bees. “Great.” I lifted the tray and moved toward the back door, hoping she’d take the hint and open it.
We filed onto the back porch.
“Well?” she asked.
I set the tray on our patio table and lit the gas grill. “Well, that’s good. I’m sure his mother missed him while he was at school.”
Heidi swung her chin left and right. “You’ve had a crush on Dean Wells since eighth grade. He’s the literal boy next door, and you’ve never had a conversation with him. Don’t you think this is finally the time for that? You’re leaving town in a couple months.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re the only one who thinks I still have a chance at starting college in the fall. Plus, he’s leaving too. He doesn’t live here anymore. He’s only visiting.”
“He might move back after graduation.”
I went back inside and opened the fridge. “I want to be gone by then.”
“Fair enough. Why not send your application to a real photography school? Why not apply to New York?” Heidi perched on the counter, swinging her bare feet. “Don’t answer. Just think about it. Do you have any lemonade?”
My odds of being crowned Miss America were better than getting into NYFA. “I can make lemonade.” I piled lemons on the American cheese I pulled from the fridge.
“I’ll get the pitcher.”
Heidi rounded the corner to the dining room, her satin baby-doll blouse flowing behind her. “The blue one or the yellow?”
I followed. “Doesn’t matter.” The china cabinet groaned with mismatched cups, plates, and serving things, remnants of another life. “Yellow.”