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Monday, January 2, 2012


The mystery is in full swing! This is an excerpt from Building Houses at the beginning of the eighteenth chapter.

(Longer excerpt as I planned to post a review today but Goodreads/Blogger were being stupid.)


The first thing Janna told me when she opened the door was, “I found some friends.” I paused from my spot in the door and said, “Already?”
Really. She was so amazing. I shook my head in disbelief. Somehow, less than twenty four hours, Janna had started our case. It was barely eight thirty in the morning and she was up. I hadn’t even bothered to look at the list of interviewee ideas since I’d read it the day before. Janna beamed and slid the door open wider. Two people stood behind her. I squinted, looking at them. One was an older black woman that looked like a grandmother. Long white curls framed her eyes and made her chin appear bigger. Sweet, charming age lines filled her cheeks and wrinkles framed the edges of her mouth. She wore a wide, flouncy dress patterned with flowers and old Mary Jane shoes.
“This is Mrs. Ellis,” Janna said.                                                
“Oh.” I put on my sweetest, sugary smile. I could have licked ice cream off the sugariness of the smile. “I don’t think we’ve met before.”
Mrs. Ellis laughed. Her stomach rolled, her feet shook, her hair quaked. “Oh sugar, I think we have.”
Uh, no. I tried to keep my eyes off her rolling stomach. “Ma’am, I don’t think so.” The old woman answered this question by letting out another belly laugh. Janna gently leaned over and placed a hand on her shoulder. This seemed to be some kind of reminder; almost instantly Mrs. Ellis exhaled a deep sigh and fell silent.
“Remember the day they found Lily?” Janna asked, ending the embarrassing silence. “I was talking to Mrs. Ellis. She lives in this building, upstairs.” Mrs. Ellis let out another belly laugh. She seemed to be suppressing herself this time, and thankfully the laughs were quieter.
“Room three hundred fourteen,” she said with a smile. Janna smiled, echoing the grin, and turned to the girl beside her. The girl grunted. She sounded almost like some kind of prehistoric monster. I turned slightly to the right to see her better.
This girl was obviously a teenager, with long blonde hair that nearly fell to her feet. She wore a shirt that purposely was designed to look shredded and pants. If I squinted, she almost looked like a crazy blonde monster. Ahh. Great, now I’d have nightmares. I shook the image from my mind, shaking my head so wildly I got a headache.
“This is McKenna,” Janna said. McKenna – teenager, monster, whatever creature she happened to be – grunted again. She crossed her arms over her chest in some kind of stereotypical angry pose. “She’s Lily’s sister.”
I recognized her. She’d been on TV when they found Lily. In person, she seemed skinnier. The camera put on all those extra pounds of weight. Pixels didn’t always help a person. “Hi,” I said. “I’m Jaycee.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard.” McKenna sighed. “So let’s get onto this interview.” Sassy and cranky like me. Somehow I liked her.
“Well, I’ll be interviewing Mrs. Ellis,” Janna said smugly. “She asked for me herself.” I rolled my eyes. There were only two possible interviewers, duh. Mrs. Ellis beamed and patted Janna on the head. She nodded towards the closed bedroom door.
“Can we go in there?” the woman asked.
“Sure. Fine.” There wasn’t anything in the bedroom that  the two of them could mess around with. And it wasn’t like I really cared. The bedroom was more like a storage closet than a bedroom. Mrs. Ellis beamed again and threw open the door. Through the crack she opened, I could see my bedroom: the unmade bed, the pile of books on the dresser. Janna and Mrs. Ellis shared a look and then the two of them walked into my bedroom and slammed the door.
“Well, that’s over.” McKenna snorted. “So we get to have a discussion now.”
“Yep.” I gestured towards the couches. A pile of old romance novels littered the couch coushions. Quickly I slid the worn paperbacks off the couch and set them on the floor. “Sit down.” McKenna raised an eyebrow.
Crap. She definitely wouldn’t sit down. “Okay, fine. You don’t have to sit down.” Why were we even arguing about this? McKenna smirked.
“I was playing you. God, you’re stupid.” She rolled her eyes and collapsed into one of the chairs. I sat down on the couch across from her. McKenna grabbed the remote from a side table. With a click, the TV turned on. The television was turned to some kind of war history channel. An aging man sat in a rocking chair, posing for the camera. A small white line below his name showed that he was some kind of historian.
“The battle was certainly crucial, mostly because it showed the many inferiority complexes,” the man said in a slow voice, “that the culture had provoked, leading to war, disaster, and eventually deaths.”  I rolled my eyes.
“Are you going to change the channel?”
McKenna stared at me. “Why? War history’s not that bad,” she answered, snarky tone still intact.
“I guess. It’s violent.”
“Everything about this damn world is violent.” She rolled her eyes.
“I guess.” It was a lame argument, but “I guess” seemed to be the only thing I could say. McKenna fell back into her chair with a deep exhale.
“What are we supposed to interview about?” she asked. I shrugged. There hadn’t been any time to think of interview questions. Maybe if Janna had told me before that I would be interviewing McKenna, I could have splashed down a few ideas, but now there was no time.
“How you feel about your sister, I guess.”
“How I feel about my sister.” McKenna repeated the question slowly. “I guess I have no fucking idea how I feel about my sister. And I’d like to – sure as hell – not talk about her.”
I frowned. “Then why did you say we could interview you?”
“Why do bad things happen in this world? I don’t give a shit and neither do you, either. That girl came up to me on the street, said a bunch of crap and then I said yes to get rid of her and she got a stupid smile on her face,” McKenna said.
“Oh.” Figured. Janna annoyed everyone. McKenna shrugged.
“So what shit do you want to know on my sister?”
“Um….” I cast around in my head for some kind of notes, some far-off idea I had slid to the back of my mind. Nothing came. I decided to go for the easy question. “How does she act?”
McKenna raised an eyebrow. “She acts like a teenager. Moody, distant. What did you expect?”
Fine, I’d have to get better with my questions. I leaned against the chair, letting myself sink into the warmth of the pillows. “Does she act different now that she’s back home?” There. That was better. I leaned back with a smirk. McKenna paused for the faintest second—a millisecond or a decisecond would have been a better term – and said, “Of course.”
“Okay.” I looked around frantically. Mom had set a legal pad on an end table. I scooped the pad up and flipped it to a fresh lined yellow page. A pen lay beside the pad. I poised the pen against the page, ready to write fantastical words. “How different?”
McKenna leaned back. She furrowed her brow and frowned in an exaggerated pose. “I guess she’s just moodier. Doesn’t talk as much. My mom hates it. It’s as annoying as hell when she acts like that, y’know.”
I nodded. Made sense. “So your mom gets upset. Do other people in your family get upset?” Oh crap. I sounded like a psychologist, asking all kinds of questions in an overly formal tone. McKenna didn’t seem to mind.
“Yeah, basically all of them get upset. My mom, my dad, my sister Rosalie, my brother Josh, and the baby, Sadie.” She sounded so casual.
McKenna rolled her eyes. “You’d make a horrible psychologist.”

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