Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 1
Arriving

I lean my head against the cool glass of the tinted windows and stare as sand flashes by, the cacti never ending. The hot, relentless sun blazes over the scorched desert, reflecting off of mica rocks and wilting desert flowers. It's beautiful, in a way, or would be- if my dad were not stranding me in this godforsaken place for who knows how long.

I sullenly sigh, my iPod plugged into my ears as it has been for the last six hours. I think over how my best friend, Meg, must be at the mall by now, buying a pretzel or dragging Stacy into Forever 21. Already I'm homesick. My room must be quiet and lonley, littered with stray clothes and forgotten possessions. All of the things I'll be needing for my stay are in my bags currently residing in the backseat of our Honda. I couldn't take Jasper, my beloved Siamese, and so I'm now ignoring my coldhearted father, only occassionally stopping in my complete unacknowledgement of his existence to shoot him a freezing glare.

I involuntarily yawn and wonder how long it'll take for us to get there, and check my watch. It's only 4:02. Unfortunately, my dad takes this momentary distraction from my iPod-induced coma and clears his throat. Great. Here we go.

"Aurora."

I stubbornly pretend not to hear him and turn the other way, taking my eyes back to the ocean of sand and dusty red rock. His voice is sharp now.

"Aurora."

I sigh heavily, yanking the earbuds out of my ears, and try to give him my most scathing scowl.

"What?"

He glances out of the window and then straight ahead, measuring his words carefully. I amuse myself by counting the freckles on his cheek.

"Now," he finally begins, "I know you haven't alwaus gotten along with your grandma."

This is an understatement. Every summer I'd been dragged out here, I'd hated it and shown that I'd hated it, and that hurt her. Grandma Lindsey had made her small town of Bitter Springs, Arizona her personal heaven on earth, and regarded my complete indifference- no,dislike- as pure Los Angeles snobbery. Plus, I'm the spitting image of my mother, and their relationship had been anything but loving. The place had bad associations for both of us.

I bring myself back to the present and snort in aquiescence. He continues carefully, keeping his eyes fixed on the windshield.

"But...she has very graciously accepted to take you into her home, and you need to remember she doesn't have to."

I roll my eyes. "Why can't I stay with Matt in San Diego?"

My father is impatient. "Because, you're here. Now, Aurora, listen, I want you to try to...get along with your grandma."

He pauses, and after a few seconds I realize he's waiting for an answer. I grudingly nod. "Ok, fine, I'll try. But I hope you know I'm gonna hate every moment of it."

He smiles, humoring me. "You'll be fine. Bitter Springs is a great little town- the people are wonderful. Why, Lindsey practically knows everyone."

I raise an eyebrow. "And that's supposed to be a good thing?"

He sighs. "Look, I know it's a lot different than L.A., but that doesn't neccessarily mean it's bad. You'll like it if you try. It runs in the blood."

My father has a particular affinity for Bitter Springs, it having been the home of his childhood, but I share no such warm feelings. I say bluntly, "Mom didn't."

I feel him stiffen instantly, and I smack myself inwardly. Why am I such an idiot? The air between us becomes tense at the mention of my mother. He continues to stare at the windshield, not acknowledging my words. I feel abashed.

A couple hours later we reach Arizona, and I soon fall asleep. I am only awakened by the sudden screech as the car comes to a halt and my father's door is slammed. I open mine to a blast of dry, dusty heat, rising straight from the ground, and step out. As far as the eye can see stretches terracotta rock and prickly saguaros. Dry, bleached animal bones litter the landscape, which is strangely fragranced by a little yellow bloom budding off of a cactus. The sunset is at its most glorious, bathing the earth in its honeylike gold and orange. I am taken aback in spite of myself.

"Aurora."

I turn to take my bags from dad and follow him towards the house. It's just as I remember it from the tortuous summer days- ramshackle corrugated tin roof, bright blue paint, and wooden patio covered with all manner of bizarre rocks, bones, and pieces of glass. Windchimes rustle in the dry breeze as we head for the creaky steps. He pushes open the screen door with a squeak and I follow him into the cool darkness beyond.

 

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