It can take a whole day to figure out what happened…that night.
On what was to be just another Monday morning at school, Luke’s girlfriend Jessica is nowhere to be found. Names like ‘psycho lover’ follow Luke to his locker, even from his best friend. Luke soon learns Jessica tried to kill herself at a party from the previous Saturday night, and she’s blaming him. With posts on FaceBook feeding the rumors of what happened that night, the school has to investigate.
Torn between worry, guilt, loyalty, priorities, and an urgency to clear his name and protect hers, he has to find her—he loves her no matter what. The teacher in the middle of the investigation is also the same one to provide academic and character references for Luke’s college applications due by the end of the week. Luke knows he’s not to blame, but with no contact from Jessica and everyone blaming him for what happened, he’s at risk of losing everything—Jessica and his dreams of being a mechanic—all because of what happened that night.
14+ due to adult situations
“Hey, man.” I nodded to Jeremy Waters as I started the long trek up the front lawn of the school. He nodded back but gave me a questioning stare as I walked past. Again, weird. What is with everyone today? I wondered.
I scanned the busy school grounds. Where was Jessica? I knew our break-up was inevitable, but I dreaded it. I still cared about her very much, but things were changing: me, her, and ‘us’––and I didn’t know what to do about it. Neither did she.
At first I didn’t notice anything off, but as I passed group after group of unusually silent guys and girls from all grades, I got that weird feeling, like I was being watched, like the whole school was focused on me or something.
Some of the guys pulled their buds out of their ears as I approached, their banter from moments before silencing as I passed. One guy shook his head as if in disgust. Another guy awkwardly picked at something on the ground with the toe of his shoe, as if he were avoiding something.
I kept going, trying to walk as normally as I could. Hard to do when you know you’re being watched.
Where was Jess? I checked my phone to see if there was anything from her: nothing.
I shifted my backpack and made my way up the path to the front steps of the school. With every footstep, uncertainty and foreboding gnawed at my gut.
A group of girls from Jessica’s drama club huddled on the front steps like a bunch of hens. They all gave me the once-over. One of them was crying and another gave me the finger.
That stopped me in my tracks. “What the hell?” I stared them down. “What was that for?”
“Screw you, Luke!” The one with the ornery finger spat. “Stay away from Jessica!”
What the…? Whatever. Bunch of gossips––they seriously need to get a life.
Jessica and I had been drifting apart for a while. Where she was involved in her drama club, her social life, I preferred being under the hood of a car, alone. But it wasn’t that I chose cars over her or anything. I cared about her very, very much. At one time I even contemplated the L-word thing with her. But lately, something had changed, and I couldn’t figure out what. I mean, I knew I wanted to be with her but it was like we were drifting towards each other, then away, then back towards each other again. Only to then again drift further away.
But I would never do anything to her, to earn me the middle finger from her friends. So why were they acting like that? What the…? I shook my head and kept going. I hadn’t done anything to provoke their reaction, so they could just go back to their pointless chatter about hair or whatever.
With fifteen minutes to go until the first bell, I wanted to catch up with Jess before classes started. She lived way on the other side of town, and as much I would have loved to pick her up every morning, her mom insisted on driving her. Her mom liked me, so it wasn’t anything against me personally, but Jessica said it was a ‘mom and daughter thing.’ And besides, we always met first thing at school and I would, at least, get to drive her home.
But that day, even though I wasn’t exactly about to have ‘the talk’ with her right before class, I wanted to at least see her that morning to start the day––it was our ‘thing.’ A pang of regret fluttered in my gut. If we broke up, would we still meet in the mornings? She had become part of my day and I still wanted that.
I made my way through the doors of the school. The halls were already swarming with East Clark High’s student body. I searched for Jessica as I pushed and wove my way through the crowd. But I soon realized I wasn’t pushing past anyone, anymore. The constant buzz in the halls had all but died down, and people were stepping aside giving me a wide berth as I went.
What the hell was wrong with everyone? I frowned at everyone practically plastered up against the lockers, avoiding me like I was contagious or something. Did I smell like dog sh––
“Psycho!” A familiar voice hissed in my ear, cutting off my thoughts. Great––Mark. I stuttered to a stop but tried to keep going. I, along with everyone else, was used to his stupid ways, but I had to find Jessica. I didn’t want to waste time getting into it with him right then.
But he came at me again with, “Psycho-lover!” and that definitely had me coming to a full stop. I swear I felt spit on my cheek.
I refused to swipe it away, giving him the satisfaction of … I didn’t know what. Something. I glanced up to find his buddies chuckling while Mark, the idiot himself, contorted his face into what he assumed was the look of a crazy person.
He didn’t have to try very hard. It came naturally.
And I hoped his eyes stayed crossed like that.
I stared him down, and just when I turned away he was up against me, his face so close to mine his eyes looked crossed. “Jessica almost knocked herself off the other night. Whadidja do? Screw her over?” he hissed.
I stared at him in confusion. My face numbed. My neck heated. What was he talking about? What did he mean, ‘knock herself off’?
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Playlist for Luke and Jessica from THAT NIGHT – Lisa McManus
(Evernight Teen/Evernight Publishing)
Luke Hannon and Jessica Lowry are teens living the typical teen-angst world. Although their journey together is not a happy one, however ending on a happy note thankfully, they got through it – together. Here are a few songs they would have been listening to – Luke in his ’67 Chevy Impala, Jessica in her room. As you can see, they are very much alike, Luke and Jessica….
The Threat is Real – by Megadeath
Throne – by Bring Me The Horizon
Kryptonite – by 3 Doors Down
Locked away – by R. City feat. Adam Levine
We’re in this Together – by 9 Inch Nails
Wherever You Will Go – by The Calling
Say You’ll Haunt Me – by Stone Sour
Thick and Thin – by Tom Keifer
Without You – by My Darkest Days
Maps – by Maroon 5
Wherever You Will Go – by The Calling
Here’s to Us – by Halestorm
Anytime You Need a Friend – by Mariah Carey
XO – by Beyonce
Sorry – by Buckcherry
No Matter What – by Papa Roach
Without You – by My Darkest Days
Apologize – by The Last Vegas
THAT NIGHT – Lisa McManus (Evernight Teen/Evernight Publishing, 2015) www.evernightteen.com www.lisamcmanus.com
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Dreams, Goals and Aspirations:
What Would Lisa Do?
I’ve been writing for too many years to count – would be too revealing of my age – but I stopped for a while when my kids were babies and my brain cells were all-consumed by sleepless nights, countless feedings and dirty diapers. But as they grew older I ventured back into the creative world that began when I was a kid sitting on the back porch surrounded by Nancy Drew mysteries and SweetDream teen romances (those were from the 80’s – oh how I miss the 80’s!). I wrote my first story – a ‘thriller’ – about an acid-spewing spider and then a poem riddled with teen angst which won me awards in high school.
My writing career grew along with my ever-growing kids. Just as they were learning about life and how to be their true selves in it, I was learning right alongside them. I was learning how to juggle motherhood with an outside-the-home job – no easy task – as well as a slowly blooming writing career. I learned when to give and when to take, and to always do what is best for ME and my family. I learned to do what ‘Lisa would do’ in certain situations: staying to true to myself, to not ‘go with the flow,’ and to keep perspective. Priorities would change and so would I.
And I learned I had to do all this while keeping my dreams, goals and aspirations in focus.
Phew – not easy.
As years went by and my kids got older, I was able to write more – ever-able to juggle and keep goals in focus – however there were always new challenges in family life that sometimes kept me away from my writing. But as I got older, my juggling skills strengthened, as did my perspective on things; on what’s important, on quickly passing time, and realizing I am the one responsible for achieving or not achieving my goals. But still, despite everyone getting older and more independent, I struggle with doing things FOR me – achieving my goals – and with the guilt of pursuing my goals and the time doing so can take away from family.
In my young adult book, THAT NIGHT (Evernight Teen, November 2015), Luke Hannon has a goal of becoming a mechanic. But when social perceptions fueled by gossip and misunderstanding threaten his goals, he has to clear his name and get to the bottom of what happened to his girlfriend, Jessica, ‘that night.’ But during his anxious quest to unravel the truth, he struggles with feelings of gulit and disloyalty, as if being so focused on clearing his name is disloyal to Jessica, especially given when she has gone through. He worries that protecting his goals and dreams is wrong and selfish.
But I think loyalty to someone else and loyalty to ourselves goes hand in hand. We have to stay loyal to our true selves – our dreams, goals and aspirations – if we can honestly maintain loyalty to anyone else. For me it’s setting an example to my kids of attaining goals while keeping perspective. For Luke it was being able to turn getting to the bottom of what happened that night not only to clear his name, but for the sake of Jessica, as well. There is nothing wrong with looking out for your own needs, I say, as long as you don’t fully lose perspective of what it’s important. Like Luke, I struggle with doing anything that fosters my dreams and goals that might take away from my family, just like he felt guilty about focusing on himself to preserve his goals and future.
It’s all part of growing up, both as a teen boy like Luke, or a (ahem) forty-something mother like me. Juggling and maintaining balance, perspective, learning how to win and lose, and staying true to yourself is constant. This little thing we call life is a never-ending cycle of learning and growing, and learning from growing. Just as Luke learned about ‘what would Luke do’ and staying true to himself in the book, I, too, am constantly defining and redefining ‘what would Lisa do’ in real life. Luke learned that honouring his true self only helped Jessica more than he realized.
And like Luke, I have found ways to stay true to myself in keeping perspective of what’s important to me – my family – all while keeping focus on and achieving my goals.
Every written word of the way.
Thank you for having me and thank you to your readers for stopping by!
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