Everyone has a dark side. Mandy’s just moved in with her.
The last time sixteen-year-old Mandy Matteo broke a rule, her sister died. Since that day she has done only what is expected of her, but life as a goody-goody has made Mandy so boring her friends have all but abandoned her. And she’s given up on ever getting Ethan, the boy she’s liked forever, to notice her. Desperate, Mandy makes a wish to simply be happy.
Her wish is granted and happiness arrives in the form of Lexi, her childhood imaginary friend come to life. Magical wishes have conditions though: Once started, the wish cannot be altered or stopped. And once Mandy is truly content with her life again, Lexi must go back to where she came from. But Lexi loves being alive and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay that way.
It had been twelve years since I’d broken a rule. I found that life flowed along more easily if I didn’t rock the boat. Expectations were understood and outcomes predictable. Tonight was going to be different though. Tonight I’d step out of my carefully controlled comfort zone. If I wanted to have any friends at all, it was my only choice.
I’d promised Brooke and Crissy I’d go to the party tonight, even though it wasn’t my kind of thing and they knew it. But I really wanted the three of us to be together and this was what they agreed on. Besides, if I didn’t go I’d spend my sixteenth birthday alone.
Things weren’t going as planned though. Brooke had promised to pick me up at seven-thirty. At ten minutes to eight I’d received a text saying her brother had taken her car and she’d gotten a ride from someone else. So there I was, ready and willing and no way to get to the party.
Well, there was one way. My birthday present from my uncle, an old Ford Escape he’d been fixing up for months, was waiting in the barn for me. There was the minor detail that I didn’t have my license yet, but my road test was scheduled for tomorrow morning and I knew I’d pass. So what the heck, I was already stepping out of my box, what was one more step?
Brooke was supposed to bring me her silver sequined miniskirt so I was back at the I-have-nothing-to-wear stage. The whole time I stood there staring into my closet, an invisible Jiminy Cricket sat on my shoulder reminding me that I was breaking a rule. You know what happens when you break a rule.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said, flicking Jiminy to the floor, “civilizations collapse and planets implode. Alert the media, Mandy Matteo is about to break a rule.” But the room spun a little and my stomach flipped as those words came out of my mouth. I looked down to see if Jiminy was still there. He wasn’t, of course, so I called out, “It’s just one party. Mom won’t be home ’til Sunday. No one will ever know I took the Escape.”
Finally dressed in something other than sweats, I grabbed the “sweet sixteen” key ring from the rack by the front door, ran out to the barn, and hopped in the car. At the end of the driveway I paused, waiting for a sign that planets were in fact imploding. With my luck, the first party I ever went to would get busted. But no space debris fell out of the sky to block my path. My phone didn’t ring with Mama intuitively calling to ask what I was up to. No voice from above told me to turn away from the dark side I was about to cross into. So I pulled onto the county highway and headed for town.
Shawn McGuire started writing after seeing the first Star Wars movie (that’s episode IV) as a kid: she couldn’t wait for the next one so wrote her own episodes. Sadly, those notebooks are long lost, but her desire to write is as strong now as it was then. She grew up in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Winona, Minnesota, the small town that inspired the setting for Sticks and Stones and the upcoming Break My Bones. After graduating college she moved to the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin (Go Pack Go!) where she lived for many years. She and her family now call Colorado home and when not writing or reading, Shawn enjoys cooking and baking, crafts, interior decorating, and spending time hiking and camping in the spectacular Rocky Mountains.