Waiting, p.1

Waiting, page 1


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  * “Hope’s memories paint a picture of sporadic sisterly bonding . . . while other incidents . . . hint at a darker reality. Williams’s decision to wait until the end to divulge the cause of Lizzie’s misery is a gamble, but one that works.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

  “A page-turner for Ellen Hopkins fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

  “Well-paced, raw novel-in-verse.”—School Library Journal







  APART. . . .

  AS CHILDREN, LONDON AND ZACH WERE AS close as could be. When he dies tragically at sixteen, the family is gutted. London’s father is distant. Her mother hasn’t spoken a word to her since Zach’s death, and each day is filled with what-ifs.

  At school there are whispers. Is it London’s fault? Alone and adrift, London is torn between her brother’s best friend and the mysterious new boy as she struggles to find herself and redemption. A gripping read by award-winning author Carol Lynch Williams.




  is the author of more than one dozen books. Ms. Williams holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she received the PEN American Foundation Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Award for Glimpse. She teaches writing and helped develop the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference (read more at her blog, throwingupwords.wordpress.com). She lives with her family in Utah. Visit her at CarolLynchWilliams.com.

  Jacket design by Lucy Ruth Cummins

  Jacket photograph copyright

  © 2012 by Anna Peters

  A Paula Wiseman Book

  Simon & Schuster • New York

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  An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020


  This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2012 by Carol Lynch Williams

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event, contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at

  1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at www.simonspeakers.com.

  Book design by Lucy Ruth Cummins

  The text for this book is set in Gill Sans.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Williams, Carol Lynch.

  Waiting / Carol Lynch Williams. — 1st ed.

  p. cm.

  “A Paula Wiseman book.”

  Summary: As the tragic death of her older brother devastates the family, teenaged London struggles to find redemption and finds herself torn between her brother’s best friend and a handsome new boy in town.

  ISBN 978-1-4424-4353-2 (alk. paper)

  [1. Grief—Fiction. 2. Family problems—Fiction. 3. Brothers and sisters—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.W65588Wai 2012



  ISBN 978-1-4424-4355-6 (eBook)


  Michael and Cheri,

  Hannah and Esther,

  Brandon and Dianne.

  Oh, how we miss you.




  There are always a million people to thank after the long process of writing a book. First cheerleaders for me are my daughters. I love all five of them! They believe in everything I write, even when I do not, and some listen to or read my stories more than once from first line to the end. With Waiting, Caitlynne was there from word one. This book began when a good friend of hers was killed. We have wept together over the past many months out of sorrow for the loss of a terrific person. Waiting is about grief—and Cait and I shared that, along with hope—during the writing of this novel.

  I also want to thank Alexandra Penfold, my editor at Paula Wiseman Books. Alexandra has read over this book more times than I have. She’s looked at every period, every comma, every line break, every space, every word. It matters to me that I have written the best story possible. I’ve never said to Alexandra, “I want to make sure every word counts,” but she has known my heart and matched my vision now on two novels. I appreciate and love her for this. Some think that just publishing is most important. For me, publication with the right editor is most important. Waiting is what it is because my editor, Alexandra, cares.






  After it happened, no one in school would talk to me.

  No one. Not even my best friend, Lauren Hopkins, who has hair to her waist, and who let me dress like her until I figured out how to dress for myself.

  She had said, “You know what, London? You homeschool types never look like the rest of the world. Even when you wear the right clothes.”

  (I had on blue jeans and a Billy Talent T-shirt and Vans, too. It must have been my face. It must have. A look. I’ve seen it myself in pictures. Wide-eyed, surprised. Happy.

  But that’s gone. That look is long gone.)

  “So teach me what to wear,” I had said, shrugging. Like I didn’t care, you know? But I did. I cared a lot.

  And while I didn’t buy anything different from normal, she did show me how to use kohl eyeliner.

  And that should be enough to keep you tight, right?


  So clichéd.

  The whole thing.

  Me sitting there, like I’m minding my own business. Eating a cheese sandwich from home. Just the right amount of mayonnaise. Swallowing, yes. But having a hard time with it. Like there’s a fist blocking my throat.

  The five chairs around me are empty because no one sits with me now. (Including Lauren Hopkins.) Maybe they’re used to me being alone? Maybe they’re afraid my tragedy will rub off on them? Maybe it’s because I can’t quite talk still? Whatever, they leave me on my own.

  Lunchroom noises . . . Popping sounds of sodas being opened. Trays dropped on the table. Forks scraping on plates. Lunch bags being smushed closed.

  The clichéd part is me on the inside.

  I am ready to bust wide open. I feel it. I feel it coming up from the pit of my stomach, like a fast-growing foam. Like vinegar added to baking soda (and there’s Zach pouring the liquid and saying, “People of Vesuvius, run for your lives.” And I’m laughing hard and so is Mom.). Like the feeling wants to burst out of me.

  I’m the volcano.

  For a moment I think, Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t. Do. It.

  That’s how strong the urge to scream is.

  The words I didn’t KNOW! echoing in my head, the o sound going on, screeching toward the ceiling. Higher higher.

  Will they look then? Will they even hear me? Talk to me?

  Sit next to me again? Leave me alone?

  I hold it in, hold the scream back with both hands on my throat, tight, tighter, and it hurts. It all hurts. From the inside out. Tighter and tightest. Black in front of my eyes, no breathing for me.

>   The next clichéd part?

  This new guy walks into the lunchroom and I gasp in air.

  So I don’t see him.

  I don’t see him.

  I don’t see him.

  Second half of the day just about over. I walk the halls alone. Check out the bathroom, make sure no one’s there. Lock myself in a stall. Take off my shirt, bundle it in a ball, and scream right into an armpit.

  Then when I come into English class late (even this is clichéd—I used to read. I know.), I see him, right there, sitting in the row closest to the windows. His long legs spread out in the aisle. He’s grinning at what? Me? Can’t be. I’m just here. Late and all, with a wrinkled shirt now that’s wet from my scream and tears.

  If my face would move, I’d smile. I’d laugh! Like before.

  I would throw back my head and let the laughter burst from me.

  But I just step over his feet, notice his dark brown eyes, dark hair, and head to the last chair in the row next to his.

  “London,” Mrs. Pray says, “I’d appreciate you getting to class on time.”

  “Yes, ma’am,” I say, not looking at her. Because I know what her face is. Full of sorrow for me. And after a screaming-into-my-shirt session, I cannot hold up under a look of sorrow. No way. That’s too much.

  Somebody snickers (about me?) and I stumble. Why do I have to care what everyone thinks? Why do I have to care that I’m alone?

  At home, all life has stopped, even though it’s been a while. You think things get going again. And they do.

  Sort of.

  Here’s how it works—

  You become a shell. Fragmented. Soul seeping through the bigger cracks.

  You walk. Move. Arms into sleeves. Zip zippers. Run your fingers through your hair. Swish mouthwash around your mouth. Avoid flossing.

  Nod when someone asks, “London, how are you?”

  Look away when someone says, “I heard about your loss.”

  Want to tear skin with your teeth when someone says,

  “Oh, he’s in a better place.”

  You pass the closed door when you walk down the hall.

  Wish things were different so we could sell. Move from this house. Get away from here. Run.

  Dad at work all day. More than all day. Sleeping under his desk sometimes.

  Drinking so much coffee that I can smell him from across the room.

  And Mom. On her knees. On her knees. Weeping into her pillow.

  Looking the other way when I’m near.


  I look up from a stack of newspapers I haven’t even read. Don’t even know the name of the top one. I look only for stories of death. And nothing touches it.

  “You’re London, right?”

  My eyes don’t focus at first. How did she recognize me out of school? What was I doing? Nothing? Just sitting here? I nod.

  She sits next to me. “Can I sit with you?”

  She’s in the chair. Why does she ask? I want to say that, be my old sarcastic self. Instead, I think shallow sarcastic thoughts that are only half feelings, really, and nod again.

  “My name is Lili.” She holds her hand out for me to shake. I don’t. She drops her hand. “I just moved here with my family. And I heard about you so I thought I’d sit here. Do you care?”

  I nod a third time, then shake my head no. Meaning yes.

  I want this warm body next to me till she finds out and leaves. Like everyone else.

  Everyone’s the same, you know?

  Even when they say they’re different, they aren’t.

  I scare them.

  No one wants what happened to me to happen to them.

  And I can’t blame them at all.

  “Oh good. It’s hard to be in a new place. Especially this close to the end of the school year. I’m from Utah. It was cold when we left. And look at the weather here.”

  She holds her hands out like I’ll see a sample of the weather—Utah, Florida—on each palm.

  I glance out the library window. The sun’s bright today, I squint. I hadn’t even noticed. And I’m sitting in a rectangle of light so hot that all the sudden my neck starts to itch and I feel all sweaty under one arm.

  Look at this. See it.

  There are dead people everywhere. Not like in that movie. I mean, everywhere.

  In real life. On the news. In the papers. In history books.

  In my life.

  I cannot wait to get away from this.

  So how do I? Get away, I mean?

  Die myself?

  Cause that much more grief.

  Tear a hole open in the universe and just get the hell out of here?

  Mom wouldn’t like it that I swear. She hates it when we do. I mean, when I do.

  Or maybe not.

  God expects more, is the whisper in the back of my head.

  Well, the truth is, so do I.

  A missionary’s kid can’t kill herself. It’s against all the rules. It’s against God’s law.


  But would He stop me?

  Would Jesus come here, right here in this library, if I was getting ready to off myself, and stop me?

  I didn’t think so.

  So I just have to stick around. No matter how I struggle to breathe. Be part of the plan. Part of the deal. Why?

  Because accidents happen.

  My whole family is aware of that.

  Lili is settled all around me. She has on shorts and a long-sleeve T-shirt with SONS OF HELAMAN MOMMA’S BOYS written across the front of it (huh?), and I don’t even see her coat.

  “It’s February,” I say. It’s hard to get the words out, but I do. Like that’s enough. But she seems to understand and smiles.

  “Isn’t that great? Back home there’s snow everywhere!” Her library books slide all over my newspapers, pushing one to the floor. I ignore it. She puts her laptop on the table. “I’m writing a book,” she says, and I think of Daddy with his nonfiction, talking about our family Before and the travels and the people we met and missionary work. I think how he used to read every section out loud to all of us.


  I look at Lili. She’s talking, but I don’t really hear her. Her teeth are so white, and when she smiles she seems happy. I wonder if Zach would have liked her.

  Would you have liked Lili, Zach?

  Here’s how I know God doesn’t hear me:

  Daddy, my daddy the missionary, traveling us all around the country, all around the world, serving others.

  Oh, what I have seen, what I have seen. Earthquakes, murders, orphans, flooding, people lying dead by the side of the road—the list goes on and on. And all that happening with us praying together, as a family, whole. All in a circle, holding hands, my daddy’s voice piercing the ceiling and headed straight to heaven.

  And not one thing changed.

  “You’re changing,” Daddy said. “Maybe God isn’t sweeping the world clean of injustice, but, London, you’re changing. You’re getting stronger. Learning more. Loving God with a fierceness no one would expect.”

  And Zach just nodded, wide-eyed.

  He believed. More than me. Always more than me.

  He held on to his faith, even through his sad times, his hard times.

  “It’s gonna be okay, London,” Zachy said. “It’s never what we think.”

  I remember it was a hot November night. Our first

  Thanksgiving in the South and here was this freak weather.

  “It should be,” I had said.

  Zach slipped his arm around my shoulder and we sat there, quiet between us, for the longest time. Then he said, “I know.”

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