Title: Never Forgotten
Author: Kelly Risser
Age Group: New Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Romance
Release Date: June 14, 2014 by Clean Teen Publishing
How can one day go so very wrong? One minute Meara Quinn is making plans for how she will spend the Summer before her senior year and the next she’s finding out that her mother’s cancer has returned and they are moving away from the only home she’s ever known.
Now every day is a struggle as Meara is trying to cope with her mother’s illness, being forced to move to another country to live with grandparents—whom she thought disowned her mother—and having weird visions of a father who was absent her entire life. Top it all off with one whopping secret that everyone seems bent on keeping from her, and Meara has the perfect ingredients for a major melt down.
The only things keeping her from coming unglued are some new friends and Evan—the son of her mother’s childhood friend—who seems to know Meara almost better than she knows herself.
Together with Evan and her friends, Meara embarks on a new journey to unlock the secrets that will not only tell Meara who she is, but what she is.
READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF NEVER FORGOTTEN NOW:
(Please note that the below first chapter is being revealed prior to edits. Please ignore any editing errors.)
All changes, even the most longed
for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;
we must die to one life before we can enter another.
– Anatole France
“Meara, come visit the ranch. I’m sure Uncle Jake won’t mind.”
It was the second to last day of my junior year. I sat on the low brick wall in front of Cedarburg High with my best friend, Kim. We waited for her boyfriend to pick her up. I didn’t care for Mark. I kept my opinion to myself so I wouldn’t hurt Kim’s feelings.
Kim would be working at her uncle’s farm in Minnesota this summer. I was staying here. We wouldn’t see much of each other unless I visited her.
“I don’t know, Kim,” I said. “I’m scheduled to work most of the summer at the shop.” My mom’s friend owned a sewing and fabric store in downtown Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Mom and I both worked there. Rebecca and Mom taught classes, made quilts and ran the store. I maintained the website and worked the cash register.
“You could get away for a week or two,” Kim persisted. “Just ask your mom, Meara. You’ll never know unless you ask.”
“Alright, I’ll ask!” I laughed at her scolding tone. I said it to appease her, but the idea was interesting. Why couldn’t Mom and Rebecca run the shop for a week or two without me? They did it during the school year.
“I’m heading home.” I stood up and walked down the sidewalk. Mark pulled up to the curb in his crappy old truck. No point exchanging words with him so I avoided eye contact.
“Don’t forget to ask!” Kim yelled after me.
I turned back and grinned. “Why do you think I’m leaving now?”
My smile slipped when I noticed Mark eyeing up a group of freshmen girls. He exchanged meaningful looks with a tall blond. I wouldn’t doubt if they hooked up at a party or something. Kim trusted him too much. When was she going to wake up and see him for the jerk he was?
“Mom? Hey, Mom, I’m home!” I yelled into the house as I always did and tossed my backpack on the bench in the front hall. When she didn’t respond, I figured she wasn’t home yet. Sometimes she stayed late to help Rebecca restock or change the window display. I went to the kitchen to find a snack. Mom stood at the sink.
“What’s for dinner?” I asked and kissed her cheek. Not waiting for an answer, I took a carrot off the cutting board and opened the refrigerator. I was so preoccupied in my search for something tastier than a carrot that it took me a few minutes to realize she hadn’t responded. I turned and looked at her. “Mom?”
She didn’t respond. She washed the same dish over and over and stared out the window. What was going on? My mom was many things, but a daydreamer wasn’t one of them. I walked over, placed my arm around her waist and gave her a small squeeze.
“Meara!” She jumped and squealed. “You startled me. I didn’t even hear you come in.”
“Are you okay?” I asked. Her eyes were shadowed and sunken with dark circles. Mom never looked this exhausted. She was the most optimistic, dynamic person I knew. She exuded so much energy that she tired me out.
“Fine.” She wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I’ve been talking to you, and you didn’t answer.”
“Oh, sorry,” she said, “I didn’t hear you.”
“Or notice when I kissed your cheek,” I added.
She looked startled. “I guess I was lost in my own thoughts.”
I touched her arm. “What’s going on, Mom? You’re not acting like yourself.”
She smiled at me. Mom had a great smile, but this one worried rather than comforted me. It was fleeting, and it never reached her eyes. She touched my hair and motioned to a chair. “Honey, why don’t you sit down? I need to talk to you about something.”
Uh oh. Whatever this was, it wasn’t good. Mom sat first and waited until I sat down. She took my hands in hers, holding them so tight that it was painful. I resisted the urge to cry out or pull my hands away. She seemed to need the contact. We sat in silence while she clenched my hands, then she sighed and closed her eyes. Tears escaped in a trail down her cheeks.
“I saw Dr. Maxwell today.” Her voice was so quiet that it took me a moment to understand what she said.
“Dr. Maxwell?” I was confused. Dr. Maxwell was my mom’s oncologist; he treated her breast cancer five years ago. “Why didn’t you tell me you had an appointment today?”
She sighed and touched my cheek, “I didn’t want to scare you. I actually went in for some tests about a month ago, and he asked me to come back.”
I couldn’t believe that she kept this from me. “You’re okay, right?”
When she tried to smile, her lips just quivered. She shook her head and began to cry in earnest. Big, wet tears slid down her pale cheeks. “Meara, he said the cancer is back. Only this time, he found it in my intestines, liver, and kidneys. This new growth is aggressive. ‘Stage 4’ Dr. Maxwell called it.”
I blinked back my own tears. While my mother, who was so strong, sobbed next to me, I thought about the first time she had cancer. I was in sixth grade, and the severity of her situation hadn’t sunk into my twelve-year-old brain. Mom had been so strong, first going through a lumpectomy and then enduring months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She lost her hair and got so thin. I remember feeling each individual rib in her back when I hugged her. It was agonizing to watch the person I loved most in the world wither away in front of me. Thankfully, the treatments took effect and she slowly got better. The doctor gave her a clean bill of health a year after her original diagnosis.
“You can fight it, right?” I asked.
“Dr. Maxwell recommends slowing the growth with chemotherapy and radiation.” Mom composed herself a bit and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. I followed her movements, and my eyes tracked the long, black streak her mascara left on her hand. I handed her a paper napkin. She dabbed at her eyes and added, “He says surgery is not an option. It’s too far spread.”
“What does that mean?” I was angry now. Why would the doctor advise her not to operate?
Mom took a deep breath, and I sensed how much it pained her to say these next words. “If they open me up, I might never heal. My prognosis is six months to two years, perhaps a little longer with intense treatment.”
It wasn’t what I expected to hear. The horror of it made me jump from my chair and bolt into her arms with a gut-wrenching sob. “Oh, Mom. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Oh, baby, and I don’t want to leave you.” Mom held me tight, and we clung to each other and cried. Her body shook as she sobbed. I held her as tight as I could. I hoped to give her comfort and take my own in return. When we couldn’t cry anymore, we simply sat together, each of us lost in our own miserable thoughts. After a while, Mom straightened up and pulled away. She wiped her face with another napkin.
“We’ll make the most of our time together, okay?” Mom touched my cheek. “And, I’ll do everything I can to fight this.”
“Okay.” I took a napkin and wiped my nose.
Mom patted my knee and stood up. “I’m turning in for the night.”
I glanced at the clock. “It’s not even six, Mom.”
“I know,” she said. “But I’m exhausted.”
She looked at the vegetables on the cutting board and smiled apologetically at me. “I didn’t get too far with the dinner preparations, but there are leftovers in the fridge or lunchmeat if you’re hungry.”
“I’ll be okay, Mom,” I said. “Thanks.” I stood and kissed her on the cheek. “I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Once she left for her room, I put the vegetables away, took out a container of leftover chicken salad and a Diet Coke. I went into the living room and flopped down on my favorite recliner. Aiming the remote control at the TV, I mindlessly grazed through the channels. I couldn’t tell you what was on that night. I barely noticed what I ate. I was seventeen years old, and my mom was all I had. What was I going to do?
I smelled the smokiness of bacon before my eyes even opened. Most weekday mornings were all about cereal and yogurt. We reserved hot breakfast for the weekend. Mom must’ve woken up early. I dressed fast and went downstairs.
I yawned as I came into the kitchen. “You’re cooking?”
Mom smiled. Although her eyes were puffy, she seemed better. “I figured that I owed you one after bailing on dinner last night.” She set a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon on the table. “Do you want some orange juice?”
“I can get it,” I told her. “Go ahead and fix your own plate.”
“Alright. Pour me a glass, too, please.”
We sat and ate in silence, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. When we finished, Mom gave me a considering look. “I think that it’s time to introduce you to your grandparents.”
“My grandparents?” I repeated. “Mom, I don’t understand. You haven’t talked to them in years.”
“I thought about it last night,” Mom continued. “Your grandparents are the only other family you have, Meara. When…” I gave her a look and she corrected herself. “If I go, I don’t want you to be alone.”
“But don’t they live in Canada?”
She looked at me expectantly, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. Finally, I asked. “Are they coming here?”
“No,” Mom said. “We’re moving to Peggys Cove.”
“For the summer?” Now I’d never go to the ranch with Kim, and Peggys Cove sounded boring. It was a fishing village in Nova Scotia. Super small and probably full of smelly old people. I couldn’t think of a worse place to spend my vacation.
Mom shook her head. “For good.”
For good? My heart sank. “We can’t move. All my friends are here! It’s my senior year. I can’t start over at a new school.”
“Meara.” Mom’s voice took on that no nonsense tone. “We’re moving.”
“But, Mom…” I whined and hated myself for it.
“No buts, Meara. I’m not giving you a choice. In two weeks, we’ll be in Peggys Cove.” Her eyes filled with sympathy, but her voice remained firm.
“This is so unfair!” I was about to say more when I looked at my mom’s pale face. Oh god. Unfair was the fact that she was dying. “Oh, Mom. I’m so sorry.”
“I understand, Meara.” Mom’s voice softened. “I know this is hard for you. I wish there was another option.”
I stood and put my plate in the sink. I had to get out of here before I said something I’d regret. How could she move us to Canada and not even ask me first?
“I’ve got to leave for school,” I said.
“Do you want a ride?” Mom asked.
“No thanks.” I tried to keep my voice light. “I’d rather walk.”
I slung my backpack on my shoulder and headed out the door. I barely noticed the walk to school. I was moving to Canada, where I knew no one. What kind of people were my grandparents? Would I like them? Would they like me?
My life was about to do a complete one-eighty, and I felt helplessly unprepared.
“Did you ask her?” Kim bounced up next to my locker before first period. When I stared blankly at her, she added in an exasperated tone. “About coming to my uncle’s place?”
Instead of answering, I burst into tears. Kim’s arm went around my shoulder. “Omigod, Meara. What is it?”
“It’s my mom,” I sobbed. “Her cancer’s back.”
“How awful!” Kim hugged me.
“It’s terminal.” I closed my eyes as I said it.
“She’s dying, Kim.” I bit my lip to hold back more tears. “She’s dying.” My voice shook as I repeated the words, bitter on my tongue.
Although Kim was a good five inches shorter than I was, she wrapped her arm around my shoulder. “I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
“That’s not all,” I whispered. Maybe if I say it quiet enough, it wouldn’t happen. “We’re moving.”
“Where?” Kim looked bewildered. “When?”
“In a couple of weeks, I think,” I said. “Mom wants us to move to Canada so I can get to know my grandparents.”
“You’re moving to Canada for the summer?”
I met her eyes and felt miserable. “Not just for the summer, Kim. We’re not coming back.”
“What? No! What about our big plans for senior year?” Kim waved her hands in the air and her curls bounced. The tears rolled down my face. I didn’t know what to say. Kim slapped her hand over her mouth. “I’m such an ass! As if I should be worried about me with all you’re dealing with. What can I do?”
“I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “I won’t know anyone there. I’ll be miserable.”
“I’ll come visit you,” Kim said. “And, we’re going to Europe, right?”
“Sure.” I smiled weakly. Kim raised one blond eyebrow, her signature sign of skepticism, but then she linked her arm through mine and chatted about our European vacation plans to distract me. It worked. I listened to her, nodded occasionally and felt myself relax. Everything was going to be okay. It had to be.
ABOUT KELLY RISSER:
Kelly Risser knew at a young age what she wanted to be when she grew up. Unfortunately, Fairytale Princess was not a lucrative career. Leaving the castle and wand behind, she entered the world of creative business writing where she worked in advertising, marketing, and training at various companies.
She’s often found lamenting, “It’s hard to write when there’s so many good books to read!” So, when she’s not immersed in the middle of someone else’s fantasy world, she’s busy creating one of her own. This world is introduced in her first novel, Never Forgotten. Never Forgotten, a YA/NA Fantasy, will be released by Clean Teen Publishing in the Summer of 2014.
Kelly lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two children. They share their home with Clyde the Whoodle and a school of fish.
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