by Joyce Scarbrough
[Editor’s note: This story is an excerpt from Scarbrough’s book TRUE BLUE FOREVER.]
Jeana and Mickey generated heat from the beginning.
Take when they met. It was almost the second quarter of the 1978-79 school year, and the temperature still hovered near ninety. Even for southern Alabama, that kind of heat was unusual for so late in October. The box fans at both ends of the room in Mrs. Langston's sophomore English class barely stirred the humid air, their somnolent drone only adding to the lethargy typical of sixth period classes.
Jeana took her alphabetically assigned seat at the front of the last row. Her hair clung to her neck in sweaty, auburn tendrils, and she lifted it optimistically, hoping for a breeze from the open window. When she felt something move across her damp hairline, she shivered and heard a familiar laugh.
"Is that a hickey on your neck?" Wade Strickland asked as he took the seat behind Jeana. "Oh, wait. Smart girls don't go in for no neck sucking, right? Unless maybe it was for a homework assignment." He leaned up and made kissy noises at her shoulder. "Want to help me with mine, Jeana-baby?"
She flipped her thick curls into his face. "What would you know about homework, Wade Strickland? Besides getting one of your girlfriends to do it for you."
"I know enough to copy it in my own handwriting," Wade replied. "Sandi dots all her i's with hearts, and I sure wouldn't want Old Lady Langston to think I had the hots for her." He mimed an attack of nausea, getting laughs from his buddies Jimbo Sullivan and Lamar Pruitt.
Jeana rolled her hazel eyes and took out her notes on The Crucible for a last-minute review before the test. For the hundredth time, she silently cursed the luck that had put Mrs. Sutton's regular English students in the advanced class after the teacher's car accident. Jeana felt Wade playing with her hair so she jerked her head, also cursing the luck that put all the jocks' names in the same part of the alphabet as hers.
She tried to concentrate on her notes, but her interest was piqued when she overheard Wade and the others talking about the new boy at school. Jeana had been hearing about him all day but hadn't seen him herself. He obviously didn't take advanced classes. Probably just another jock.
"You seen him yet, Wade?" Lamar asked.
"Yeah, no big deal." Wade sounded bored. "He's a Yankee from Oregon or Washington. Somewhere like that."
"Bubba said he's wearing a frigging New York Yankee shirt." Lamar's forehead creased in confusion. "Did they move to Washington?"
"No, you dumbass." Wade whacked Lamar in the back of the head and Jimbo snorted.
"He's in my World History class," Jimbo said, still laughing at the sight of Lamar rubbing his head. "Looks like he's in decent shape. Who knows, Wademan? You might finally have some competition on the old gridiron."
Wade looked disgusted. "You're both full of it."
Mrs. Langston walked into the room, followed by none other than the subject of the discussion, and Jeana saw that his shirt indeed bore the logo of the New York Yankees. The boys might have been interested in his shirt-this was Atlanta Braves territory, after all-but Jeana suspected it was the exquisite way he filled out his boot-cut Levi's, the wavy brown hair that virtually cried out for fingers to be run through it, and the biceps flexed slightly on the arm holding his books that held the girls' attention. Jeana couldn't help taking an appreciative look herself, even if he did appear to be just one more of the Locker Room Set.
"He is a dang Yankee," Lamar said with a derisive curl of his lip.
Tiffany Pearsall tossed her feathered blonde hair and added, "A fine Yankee."
Jeana was surprised to realize she felt sorry for the boy being gaped at by everyone. He didn't seem arrogant like most good-looking guys, and he didn't emanate attitude like Wade. While Mrs. Langston looked at his transfer form, he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and although he could obviously hear the whispers all around him, he pointedly avoided the twenty-five pairs of curious eyes. When he licked his lips and twin dimples flashed on his cheeks, Jeana drew a sharp breath.
Mrs. Langston looked up over her half-glasses and noticed her students' rapt attention. "Since everyone seems so interested, I'll introduce our new student. This is Mickey Royal and he transferred to Vigor from Kent-Meridian High School in Washington State. Let's see . . ." She took off her glasses and looked in Jeana's direction. "Everyone in the last row, please move back one seat. Mr. Royal, you may take the seat in front of Miss Russell."
An odd look crossed Mickey's face momentarily, then he smiled at Jeana and said, "Hi."
"Hey," she replied, mentally wincing. Why couldn't she have just said hello?
"The Yankees suck!" echoed from the back of the room, drawing raucous laughter from all the boys and bringing Mrs. Langston to her feet.
"Who said that? I will not allow that vulgar term in my classroom!"
"Do you mean 'suck' or 'Yankee'?" asked Wade, invoking more laughter.
SOMEDAY SHE’LL BE MY GIRL
At the fifth grade honors program, three eleven-year-old boys are captivated by a brilliant little red-haired girl named Jeana Russell as she recites the poem she wrote. They know Jeana is a special girl, and each boy secretly vows to win her heart. As these four unconventional teenagers grow up together on the Alabama Gulf Coast in the late 70's, they are bound to each other in relationships that are volatile and complex.
Jeana is an unpretentious heroine who refuses to be anyone but herself--a smart girl who thinks she'll never find a boy like the men in the books she loves to read. But when Mickey moves back to Alabama from Washington after the death of his father, Jeana is baffled by her instant attraction to this three-sport athlete with the bluest eyes she's ever seen. When she discovers he is also honest, dedicated, and a whiz at math, she thinks she's finally found the hero of her dreams.
Wade is the first boy Jeana ever kissed, and he's also the reigning football phenom until Mickey arrives, setting them on a path to violence from their first meeting. Billy Joe is Jeana's curly-haired best friend, and he bonds with Mickey instantly because of their shared dislike for Wade. He keeps his feelings for Jeana a secret because he doesn't want it to ruin their friendship, but his love for her is clear to everyone but Jeana.
A savory Southern blend of love, friendship, rivalry, and raging hormones, served up on a richly satisfying nostalgic setting, True Blue Forever is comfort food for the soul. An emotional journey back to the days of first loves and first kisses, tough choices and temptations, this coming-of-age story makes the reader believe that fairy tale love is truly possible, and that the most romantic heroes can be found where you'd least expect them, even in your own hometown.
Read the entire first chapter free of charge at the
author’s web site
WRITER’S BIO: Joyce Sterling Scarbrough was born in Chickasaw, Alabama, and currently lives in Semmes. The valedictorian of her graduating class at Vigor High School in 1980, she still possesses a fierce loyalty to this second-oldest high school in Mobile County. She is the mother of three gifted children and has been married for twenty years to Tony Scarbrough--a public school teacher and coach.
True Blue Forever is Ms. Scarbrough's first novel. She is currently writing her second and also has plans for a middle-grade novel and a children's picture book, as well as a sequel to True Blue Forever.
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