Shattered World Bundle
Shattered World Bundle
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8 exciting post-apocalyptic thrillers! In addition, receive a bonus book! Dare to Resist, the first book in the Parallel World dystopian series.
Ready to be on the edge of your seat? Grab this thrilling bundle, which includes 2 post-apocalyptic survival series, as well as a bonus book -- the first book in the Parallel World dystopian series. These books will keep you reading late into the night.
This bundle contains:
- Complete Pandemic post-apocalyptic series
- Books 1-4 in the EMP Collapse post-apocalyptic series (I'm currently writing book 5)
- BONUS BOOK: Dare to Resist, the first book in the completed Parallel World dystopian series
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Save 40% over buying the books individually.
INCLUDED IN BUNDLE:
Pandemic: The Complete Story
Pandemic: The Complete Story
NOTE: This series was published in 2019, before the recent pandemic.
- Pandemic: The Beginning
- Forced Exodus
- No Safe Place
When a deadly flu sweeps the globe, the Bronson family hunkers down to wait it out. It doesn't take long for society to collapse, but when surviving neighbors band together, hope is restored.
That hope is swiftly shattered when a rogue element forms, requiring food in exchange for security and medical services. The Bronsons refuse, but when the group takes over the neighborhood, they demand the Bronsons join or face deadly consequences. With their lives at stake, they must make a decision: give in or take a stand.
EMP Collapse: Books 1-4
EMP Collapse: Books 1-4
- Chaos Begins
- Chaos Rises
- Chaos Soars
- Chaos Collides
When an EMP takes down the power grid and everything that runs on a computer chip, Melissa has no choice but to walk from her office in downtown Salt Lake City to her home in a suburb fifteen miles south. With a few co-workers to keep her company, she isn’t too worried—until they begin their journey and discover how quickly society can fall apart.
Alex, Melissa’s husband, works thirty blocks south of Melissa’s office. When everything stops working, he has to decide whether to head north and find Melissa or go in the opposite direction to see if their teenaged children made it home. Only trouble is, he’s by himself and danger is everywhere.
BONUS: Dare to Resist (Parallel World Book One)
BONUS: Dare to Resist (Parallel World Book One)
A PARALLEL WORLD WHERE IT'S ILLEGAL TO BE OVERWEIGHT
Suspended for getting into a fight with a bully, when 16-year-old Morgan Campbell is grounded, she runs away. When she returns home the next day, her world is turned upside-down. Not only is her family missing, but another family is living in her house and claims to have lived there for weeks.
As Morgan desperately works to figure out what has happened, she finds society has become obsessed with weight in a way she has never seen before. The more she searches for answers, the more she begins to believe she has somehow ended up in another world--a world where it is illegal to be overweight and where those who break that rule are imprisoned in Federally Assisted Thinning (F.A.T.) Centers.
Can she survive in this world until she can get home?
READ A SAMPLE
PANDEMIC CHAPTER ONE
PANDEMIC CHAPTER ONE
The first sign that the world was about to come to an end was when Jessica’s teenaged children informed her that Prom had been cancelled.
“Cancelled?” Jessica asked as she handed out bag lunches. “What on earth for?”
“Too many kids have the flu,” Dylan, her fourteen-year-old said.
Jessica looked at Kayla for confirmation.
Sixteen and about to attend her first Prom, Kayla frowned. “It sucks.”
“That’s because you won’t be able to make out with Ethan now.” Dylan made kissing noises to emphasize his point.
Kayla swatted at him. “Stop it.”
“Both of you stop it,” Jessica said. “You’re going to make me late for work.” She loved her job as a dental hygienist, but now that she thought about it, a lot of patients had cancelled due to illness. Maybe her family should stay home for a day or two. Let whatever bug that was going around pass them by. None of them could afford to get sick.
Then she thought about Matt, her husband. He’d gone to work already. He was a software developer and Jessica knew he’d been stressed with all the work he had on his plate. Maybe she could convince him to work from home—something he did from time to time.
Sighing, she set her purse on the counter. “Okay. Family meeting.”
“Wait,” Dylan said. “We can’t have a family meeting without Dad.”
“I know, but this is different. He’s not here and this seems like kind of an emergency.”
“An emergency that there’s no Prom?” Dylan rolled his eyes.
“It is an emergency,” Kayla said.
“No,” Jessica said. “Not because of Prom. Because of this flu. I’ve heard a few news reports that it’s pretty nasty and it sounds like it’s really going around. Maybe…” Was this really the best idea? “Maybe we should all kind of hunker down for a few days until it’s—”
“Yes!” Dylan said, cutting Jessica off. “No school! Woo hoo!”
Kayla looked less certain. “What about, you know, missing all the stuff my teachers will be teaching?”
Dylan laughed. “You just don’t want to miss seeing Ethan.”
Kayla huffed out a protest, but Jessica knew what Dylan said was probably true.
“You can keep in touch with your friends,” Jessica said. “Just not in person.”
Kayla’s lips compressed.
Jessica smiled. “Let me call Dad and see what he says.”
Dylan had already set his lunch bag on the counter and dropped his backpack on the floor. “But we’re not going to school today, right?”
Was Matt going to tell her she was being overly dramatic? Maybe, but in her gut she knew this was the right thing to do. “Yes. No school today.”
“Woot, woot!” Dylan shouted as he pumped a fist in the air before racing for the stairs.
“Do you really think we could get sick?” Kayla asked, her forehead furrowed.
Though Jessica was concerned, she didn’t want her kids to worry. “Not if we stay away from sick people.”
“Mom,” Kayla said as she rolled her eyes.
“Let me call Dad, okay?”
Kayla nodded, then she flopped onto the couch with her phone already in her hand.
Jessica went upstairs to the master bedroom and closed the door before calling her husband’s cell. He answered on the second ring.
“What’s up, honey? I’m about to head into a meeting.”
Jessica pictured her husband—six feet tall, relatively fit, and still as handsome as the day she’d met him. “I was, uh, wondering if you could work from your home office today. And maybe tomorrow.”
“What?” His tone showed he thought she was nuts. “Why would I do that?”
“Have any of your co-workers called in sick lately?”
He paused. “A few people have, yeah.”
“More than normal?”
“I guess so, yeah.”
“Honey, the kids’ school cancelled Prom because so many kids have that flu that’s going around. Just to be safe I’m, uh, I’m keeping them home for a few days. I’m going to stay home too.”
“Really?” Shock was evident in his voice. “You never miss work.”
She heard noise in the background. It sounded like Matt had shifted the phone away from his mouth. “Hey,” he said, “I’ve got to go. I’ll call you after my meeting.”
“All right, but think about it. Working from home, I mean.”
Next, she called the dentist’s office where she worked to let them know she wasn’t coming in.
“Are you sick too?” Rochelle, her co-worker, asked.
“Too? Who else is sick?”
Rochelle named several others who worked there. Hearing the names of so many people she knew who were sick sent a beat of concern through her.
“No,” Jessica said, “I’m not sick. Just trying to stay that way.”
“Maybe you’re on to something there.”
Jessica thought about her co-worker and friend. Rochelle was sixteen weeks pregnant with her first baby. If she caught this flu, could it put her baby in jeopardy? “Maybe you ought to head home, Rochelle. Just in case.”
Sighing heavily, she said, “I can’t afford to take any more time off. You know how much time I took off when I was so sick at the beginning of my pregnancy. I used all my sick days.”
Jessica bit her lip. “Just, I don’t know, be safe. Okay?”
Rochelle chuckled. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
They disconnected and Jessica set her phone on her bedside table before turning on the news.
“…concerned about how quickly this flu is spreading,” the news reporter was saying. Jessica turned up the volume. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this strain has resulted in higher than average fatalities and they remind people to take sanitary measures after being around other people. Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and if you or a family member has any symptoms, stay home for at least seventy-two hours after the symptoms have ended. This looks like a nasty one, folks.”
The anchor went on to another story and Jessica shut off the TV, then used her phone to look up more information. She spent a good hour reading articles about the flu, each one making her concern notch up higher than the last.
She hoped Rochelle would change her mind and go home.
An image of her mom popped into her head. Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, her mom lived out of state. Alone. Jessica had already arranged to take time off the following week to fly out for a visit. She hadn’t seen her mom in several months and wanted to spend time with her. She and her mom had always been close—being the only child of a single mother did that sometimes. It was important to her to be able to give her mom the support she needed.
Briefly wondering if this flu would affect her plans, Jessica shook her head. Surely by the next week the whole thing would have blown over. It had to.
“Mom?” Kayla said as she knocked.
“Come in, sweetie.”
Kayla opened the door and sat on the bed. “What did Dad say?”
“He’s in a meeting. He’ll call me when he’s done.”
“But you told him about the flu?” She seemed much more worried than she’d been earlier.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
“Nothing. I mean, I just…” She frowned. “I looked some stuff up. Just now? About the flu? Yeah. So. It sounds like it’s not the regular flu.”
That was the same conclusion Jessica was beginning to reach, but she wasn’t about to share her worries. Not yet. Not when there wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it. “People are working on it.”
“What people?” Kayla asked. “What are they doing to fix it?”
Jessica struggled to come up with an answer.
Her phone rang, saving her from having to make something up. “It’s Dad,” she said as she looked at her phone.
Kayla frowned, then left the room.
CHAOS BEGINS CHAPTER ONE
CHAOS BEGINS CHAPTER ONE
When the power went out, Melissa Clark’s first thought was that she hadn’t saved the changes to her PowerPoint presentation before her computer had abruptly shut off. The presentation was due at the end of the day and it was already two-thirty. How was she going to get it done now? Groaning in frustration, she realized how dark it was. With her cubicle in the basement of the building in downtown Salt Lake City and no window in her cube, the darkness was nearly absolute.
Like a moth drawn to a porch light, when Melissa noticed sunshine trickling in through a high but small window in her co-worker’s cubicle across the way, she pushed back from her desk and headed directly there. “Hey,” she said to Tamara before sitting in an empty chair beside her friend’s desk.
Tamara was frantically writing something on a notepad in the dim light. “Hang on a sec.” After a few moments, she set the pen down and turned to Melissa. “Sorry. I was in the middle of writing a great email response when the power went out.” She grinned. “I didn’t want to forget my brilliant reply.”
Melissa chuckled, until she remembered her PowerPoint. “Yeah, I lost some of my brilliant work.”
Tamara grimaced in reply, then she smiled. “Maybe we can go home early.”
“I wouldn’t mind that,” Melissa said, “except I have to finish that presentation.” She softly sighed. “Guess I can do it from home. I’m sure the power’s on there.” Craning her head to see a strip of blue sky out of the high basement window in Tamara’s cubicle, Melissa smiled. “In the meantime, maybe we can enjoy the rest of this beautiful day. I mean, even though it’s March, it’s not too cold out.”
Tamara nodded. “True. It’s at least forty degrees.”
Another one of Melissa’s co-workers, Rob, stepped into the space. “Hey, let’s go into the hallway. There should be emergency lights on out there.”
The women agreed and followed Rob through the dark office space toward the door that led to the hallway. Rob opened the door, which was when they saw that the hallway was just as dark as their office.
“That’s weird,” Rob said. “The emergency lights should be on.”
“Maybe they don’t come on right away,” Tamara suggested.
Melissa reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell. “Let me turn on my flashlight app.” She pressed the button to wake her phone, but nothing happened. “Huh.”
“What’s wrong?” Tamara asked.
Continuing to press the button, Melissa frowned. “My phone won’t turn on.”
In the darkness, she could barely make out Tamara and Rob trying their phones.
“Mine’s not working either,” Rob said.
“What the heck?” Tamara said. “Mine’s dead too.”
Melissa turned back the way they’d come and squinted in the direction of the main part of the office where there was a bit of light coming in through a pair of small, high windows. Though she couldn’t see a whole lot, she could see there were people there and she could hear them talking. “Let’s see what everyone else is doing.”
The three of them began to make their way toward the voices, careful not to run into anything in the weak light. They joined the larger group who stood near the windows. Light seeped into the space, but it was less than adequate. One of the men was tapping at his cell phone. “Hey, Colin,” he said to another man in the group, “is your cell phone working? Mine won’t turn on.”
Colin pressed a few buttons. “Nope. Mine’s dead too.”
“So are ours,” Melissa said to the group as a sense of foreboding washed over her.
“That’s really odd,” Colin said. “I mean, even if all the cell towers were disabled somehow, that wouldn’t kill the phones completely.”
“What about some sort of power surge?” someone else asked.
“What kind of power surge would be strong enough to take out cell phones that aren’t even plugged into a wall outlet?” Colin asked.
The more she mulled it over, the more Melissa thought she knew what might have occurred. As a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, she’d read about this kind of thing, although she’d never imagined it would actually happen. Shoving aside images of all the horrible things that might be on the horizon, she softly exhaled before speaking. “An EMP would do it.” Her voice was soft, but all eyes swiveled in her direction.
“An EMP?” a man in a suit asked, his voice filled with incredulity.
Wondering how many of her co-workers knew what an EMP was, she said, “An Electromagnetic Pulse could take out the power grid and our cell phones.”
“Holy crap,” someone muttered.
“What would cause an EMP?” a woman asked.
“I can think of two things,” Melissa said. “One, a nuclear explosion detonating miles above us in the atmosphere. Or two, a really big solar flare called a Coronal Mass Ejection.”
“A solar flare wouldn’t cause this,” a man said, disbelief thick in his voice.
“Actually,” Rob said, “it already has. Ever heard of the Carrington Event?”
Melissa was grateful to have someone else back up her claim. Not that it really mattered. Something terrible had happened whether people wanted to believe it or not.
“No,” the man said in reply to Rob. “What’s that?”
“Back in 1859 there was a CME,” he nodded toward Melissa, “a Coronal Mass Ejection. It was called the Carrington Event. It wreaked havoc on the telegraph system, in some cases sending sparks through the lines and setting paper on fire.”
“That doesn’t sound like that big of a deal,” the man said.
Rob chuckled. “Not if your biggest technology is a telegraph system. But nowadays, with everything computerized, imagine everything being hit by something that powerful.” He did a chin lift toward the space where they stood and all the desks with computer monitors on them. “Now it would be a big deal. A very big deal. Like, catastrophic.”
“So, you think it was a CME?” someone asked.
He nodded toward Melissa again. “Or a nuclear explosion high in the atmosphere like Melissa said. That would take out all the electronics.”
“I think it’s time to go home,” Tamara said.
“If our cars work,” Rob said.
Oh crap. Melissa had forgotten that an EMP would kill most of the cars.
“Our cars?” Tamara asked.
“Yeah,” Rob said. “Unless it’s a really old car. Like, pre-1970’s old. Anything newer has electronic components. An EMP would take those out which means those cars won’t work.”
“Are you sure?” Tamara asked with hope lighting her voice.
Desperately hoping that she and Rob were wrong, Melissa said, “Only one way to find out.”
The group began moving toward a nearby stairwell that would take them up to the ground floor. Following them, Melissa didn’t bother to stop and get her car keys from her purse stashed in her cubicle. The usefulness of her nearly new car would be obvious soon enough when her coworkers tried to start theirs.
Feeling her way up the stairs, she eventually reached the first floor along with everyone else. With large glass doors at both ends of the hallway, plenty of light filled the space. A few people were standing around talking in small groups.
“Where are you guys going?” one man called to Melissa’s group.
“To see if our cars will start,” Rob answered.
“Why wouldn’t they start?” the man asked in obvious confusion.
“We think there’s been an EMP,” Rob answered.
Everyone who had been standing around in the hallway was listening to the exchange.
“Are you kidding?” someone asked.
Rob shook his head, then moved toward the door that led to the parking lot. Melissa and everyone else followed. Those who had their car keys went to their cars. Melissa watched as they climbed in.
Tamara stopped next to Melissa. “Do you really think they won’t start?” she asked.
Still hoping she was wrong, when Melissa saw someone get out of a car wearing an expression of both fear and disbelief, she knew she was right. Heart clenching with the realization that this was the beginning of something unimaginable, Melissa bit her lip and glanced at Tamara but didn’t reply.
One by one, each person who had tried to start their car stepped out of their vehicle wearing the same shell-shocked look.
“This is crazy,” Tamara murmured.
Pushing aside her concerns, Melissa turned to Tamara with a grimace. “Now I wish I’d worn more comfortable shoes.”
“Why do you say that?” Tamara asked.
“Unless you have a bicycle stashed somewhere around here, you and the rest of us will be walking home.”
“Oh my gosh,” Tamara said. “That’s, like, fifteen miles.”
Melissa glanced at her own three-inch-heel boots that she wore with her slacks. They were comfortable enough to wear at work but walking home in them would be a challenge. “I know, Tamara. I live twenty miles from here.” As she thought about the time it would take to walk that distance, she knew there was no way she would be able to make it home before dark. As she imagined the dangers she might face on her trek home, panic surged within her.
Watching the people walk away from their useless vehicles and back toward where she and Tamara were standing with a group of other observers, Melissa thought about her husband and children. Her husband, Alex, worked several miles south of Melissa’s office—on the way home. But she had no idea what his next move would be. They had never discussed what to do in this kind of emergency. Why would they? Who could have imagined something like this actually happening? She’d always believed that the fiction she’d read was just that. Now though, she regretted not taking the idea of this happening seriously.
Shaking away the thought, she pictured her three children. All of them were at school, but both schools were less than a mile from home. Both seventeen-year-old Jason and fifteen-year-old Emily were at the high school. Thirteen-year-old Steven was at the middle school, which was only a few blocks from home. Melissa fervently hoped they would all head straight home and not go off to friends’ houses. Even so, the thought of them being at home completely on their own until she or Alex could get there was unsettling. Not because they were irresponsible—in fact, they were all really good kids—but because of the chaos that would inevitably ensue when people realized that society was in the midst of a collapse.
DARE TO RESIST CHAPTER ONE
DARE TO RESIST CHAPTER ONE
“Hey, know-it-all,” a familiar female voice called out.
The comment wasn’t directed at me, but I had a good idea who the target was. Turning away from my locker, I looked down the school hallway in the direction the voice had come from. Sure enough, there was Shelby. The girl who thought she was all that when in reality she was just a bully. And she was focused on Rochelle, a girl I’d gotten to know since moving to Fox Run three months earlier. Rochelle was an easy target—kind of nerdy looking with her cat-eye glasses, hunched shoulders, and straight A grades. But that didn’t matter to me. She’d been one of the first people to befriend me when I’d been the new girl at school. One of the only people, as a matter of fact.
Rochelle glanced at Shelby with an expression of uncertainty.
“Yeah,” Shelby said, “I’m talking to you, dork.”
Rochelle frowned as she tried to avoid Shelby, dodging the other students in the hallway who were eager to head home after the last bell. They all ignored the interaction between Shelby and Rochelle and instead gave Shelby a wide berth, which only seemed to encourage her.
“Why’d you have to make the rest of us look bad in algebra?” Shelby asked as she blocked Rochelle’s path, her voice filled with anger and annoyance, her arms held out to her sides in a posture surely meant to intimidate. “You’re such a teacher’s pet.”
Rochelle adjusted her glasses as she stared at the ground.
Shelby’s lips twisted with loathing. “You’re gonna get me kicked off the soccer team.”
“How is that Rochelle’s fault?” I heard myself ask as I waded past the exiting students and stopped next to Rochelle. Why I needed to jump in, I’m not sure, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
Rochelle and Shelby turned to me, both with looks of surprise.
With a thumb jerked in Rochelle’s direction, Shelby said, “Einstein’s screwing up the curve, which means I’m not gonna pass.”
“Morgan,” Rochelle said, “it’s okay.”
I frowned as I looked at her. “No, it’s not. If Shelby gets kicked off the team, it’s not your fault.”
“Shut up, loser,” Shelby said beside me. “Before I shut you up.”
Hoping she would leave, I ignored her, focusing on Rochelle.
“Hey,” she said, obviously not willing to be ignored.
Slowly turning my head, when I met her furious gaze, I saw her eyes narrow as she scowled at me. Then she said, “This is between me and Rochelle.” She looked me up and down. “Go eat a donut or something.”
The jab at my weight stung. I wasn’t even that heavy—maybe fifteen pounds over where I wanted to be. I mean, sure, I had a sweet tooth. And yeah, I’d kind of given up on ever being as thin as the popular girls, but that was just rude.
Pursing my lips, I glared at her. “I can always lose weight, but you’re stuck with your brain.”
Her eyes narrowed to slits. “What are you trying to say, chubkins?”
Fury, hot and bright, burned inside me and I had to remember to relax my jaw. “It’s not Rochelle’s fault you were born with a brain the size of a peanut.” Then I challenged her with a stare. Why was I egging her on? Oh yeah. Because I hated bullies.
Her eyes bulged. “Okay. That’s it.” She was several inches taller than me and had an athletic build. Not exactly a fair fight.
“Morgan,” Rochelle said, her tone urgent, “let’s go.”
I wanted to. Badly. But the look in Shelby’s eyes told me she wouldn’t let that happen. Not unless I begged. And I couldn’t bring myself to do that.
Students had formed a semi-circle around us as if we were about to duke it out. Another reason I couldn’t flee.
With her head tilted and her hands on her hips, Shelby glared at me in a clear challenge.
Now what? With an audience it would be even harder to walk away, although I knew that’s what I should do.
Shelby took a menacing step toward me and I stepped back. Unfortunately, a bank of lockers was right behind me.
I froze. Shelby grinned.
Then I came to my senses. “Back off, or you’ll get kicked off the team for sure.”
A smirk twisted her lips. “Might be worth it. Especially since I’m probably getting kicked off because of my grades.”
Maybe I could convince her otherwise. “Why take the chance?”
She seemed to think about it, then she shook her head. “Naw.” Her hand curled into a fist, and then she lifted it like she was going to slam it into my face.
I couldn’t let that happen.
On instinct, I lashed out, stepping toward her with my arms outstretched. With adrenaline pumping through my veins, I shoved her. I’d only meant to keep her from hitting me, but to my surprise, she fell backwards and hit her head on the concrete floor.
“Break it up!” Principal Cunningham shouted as he forced his way through the students who were watching.
Why couldn’t he have shown up thirty seconds earlier?
With a stern look at me, he knelt beside Shelby, who was pushing herself into a sitting position. “She hurt me,” she said as she rubbed the back of her head and tears welled in her eyes. Fake tears, I was sure, but since I was standing and she was on the ground, it didn’t look good for me.
Principal Cunningham helped Shelby to her feet, then he turned to me. “In my office. Now.”
Lips pinched in frustration, I made my way to his office.
By the time I walked out the doors of the school with my furious mother by my side, I’d been suspended for the rest of the week. It didn’t seem to matter that I’d been standing up for Rochelle. It was Shelby’s word against mine.
Fox Run was a small town—too small to afford cameras in the school hallways. So, bedsides Rochelle, no one wanted to speak out against Shelby and become her next victim. And the principal didn’t seem to care about the circumstances or that Rochelle would back me up. Evidently, he only cared about the conclusion he’d reached—that I was the aggressor and Shelby the victim. She even had a large bump on the back of her head to prove her case.
As I snapped my seatbelt into place, Mom turned on the engine and backed the car out of the parking space, her mouth tight. “I can’t believe you shoved that girl, Morgan.” She frowned at me. “She got a knot on her head.”
“She was about to hit me.” And she called me fat. But there was no way I was going to tell her that. How mortifying would that be?
Mom shook her head and pursed her lips. “Look, Morgan, I know you were trying to help Rochelle, but there’s no excuse to hit first.”
I didn’t bother pointing out that I hadn’t hit Shelby, just shoved her. “What was I supposed to do? Let her hit me?”
Mom gave me a look of incredulity. “You should have walked away.”
She hadn’t been there. She didn’t know what it was like. She didn’t understand that I couldn’t back down. Because if I had, Shelby would be all over Rochelle the next day and the next.
Softly sighing, I stared out the passenger window, and when we pulled into our driveway, Mom turned to me with a deep scowl. “You’re grounded until further notice.”
She cut me off with a raised hand. “Do not argue with me, Morgan. Do. Not.” Then she held her hand out. I knew what she wanted, and with my lips clamped shut, I placed my cell phone in her palm.
Without a word, I got out of the car, slung my backpack over my shoulder, then marched into the house.
I couldn’t believe what had happened. Not only the fight with Shelby, but Mom’s refusal to see my side of the story. It was so unfair.
My mind racing, when I started climbing the stairs to go to my room, I almost ran into Amy, my thirteen-year-old sister. “Watch it,” I muttered.
She rolled her eyes at me. “You watch it, Morgan.”
I gave her a murderous glare, then continued up. When I reached my bedroom, I sank onto my bed, fuming. Stewing in my anger, I stared at the blank wall. Then, as I pondered how much my life sucked just then, I heard my younger brothers running around outside making their usual racket. I went to the window and looked into the backyard. As I watched them kick a ball back and forth, their breath coming out in frosty clouds in the November air, I frowned, jealous of their lack of worries.
“Zac. Brandon,” Mom called out to my brothers from downstairs, “come inside and finish your homework.”
I watched as they walked toward the house before they disappeared from view. Even though I couldn’t see them, I could still hear them. They were always in motion—I guess most eight and ten year olds are—but it still irritated me.
I walked away from the window and slumped onto my bed, then stared at the wall.
“Morgan?” Mom called out as she knocked on my door a few minutes later.
The sound of her voice reminded me how unfair everything was. Gritting my teeth, I called out, “What?”
She walked in and glanced at me before looking at the clothes strewn around the room. She sighed, then met my defiant glare. “I want you to write a letter of apology to that girl you…,” her jaw clenched, “that you hurt today.”
What? No freaking way would I apologize to Shelby. She’d called me fat and she’d almost punched me. She should apologize to me.
Of course I didn’t say that out loud, but that’s what I was thinking.
Mom frowned before continuing. “And I expect this room to be picked up before you come down for dinner.”
Forcing myself to remain calm, I said, “You realize how unfair all of this is.”
She tilted her head as she frowned. “That’s the way the system works, Morgan. You break the rules, you face the consequences.”
Hoping I could still change her mind, I softened my tone. “I understand the school’s rules, Mom, but I don’t think I should be grounded.”
She pursed her lips. “What do you think I should have done?”
I threw my hands into the air. “Nothing. Because I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just standing up for Rochelle and Shelby overreacted.”
That didn’t sound like she’d changed her mind. “So, I’m not grounded?”
She laughed—actually laughed. “Good try, Morgan.” I must have looked annoyed that my ploy had failed, because she added, “When you’re on your own you can do things your way, but as long as you live here, you’ll follow our rules.”
The unfairness pressed down on me and I wanted to scream with frustration.
Mom pointed to the clothes on my floor. “Clean your room and write that note of apology. Don’t come downstairs until you do.” Then she turned and left.
I closed the door behind her, forcing myself not to slam it, fresh fury welling up inside me like a geyser before it erupts.
Her words rang in my head: When you’re on your own you can do things your way.
Maybe it was time for me to get on my own. Like, right now.