Orange Clouds Blue Sky by J. Hale Turner

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By Index Admin May 31, 2014 12:50

Orange Clouds Blue Sky by J. Hale Turner

Summary:

Skye Patterson will be turning sweet sixteen very soon. She and her best friends plan to shop ’til they drop at their favorite mall, but Skye’s Mom throws a wrench in their plans by sending Skye’s autistic younger sister, Starr, to tag along.

Life can’t get any worse when Starr disappears. Now Skye must find Starr in order to save her family from spiraling into confusion and despair. Will her once “perfect” family ever recover from the drastic change of events?

The author has rated this book PG (not necessarily suitable for children).

Excerpt:

This is the worse day of my life.

Starr is missing.

My sister just vanished into thin air – gone. She’s got to be somewhere nearby, except I can’t control the panic that’s brewing and my hands rush to my mouth to stifle my scream.

I pass through a maze of blank faces, my eyes darting, searching as I keep mumbling my woeful prayer, pleading forgiveness for my carelessness, muttering for her protection and safety. With every forced step, staring down each cramped aisle, I feel hope moving further away and dread quickly in its place.

I retrace my steps through the jigsaw puzzle of CDs and DVDs with music loud enough to pop a pacemaker.

Dead end.

How can this tiny place swallow up my sister? I run down another narrow aisle imagining her footsteps to illuminate and shout, “follow me, follow me,” or for her to just pop up out of nowhere grinning with her usual, “Hey you, Skye, surprise.”

But neither happens.

In just a few months I will be officially sixteen and free to date – within reason of parental law, of course. My friends and I have already had our pre-celebration party for my upcoming ladyhood. To keep it safe the mall is the place to meet my girls and our un-official boyfriends. Jeff will be there, something we’re both looking forward to.

I should’ve known something was gonna go wrong as soon as Mom announced Starr was joining me.

Mom.

I’m so dead. I’m really, really dead if I don’t find Starr.

The way I feel I may just save Mommy from killing me, because I’m about to collapse dead away. Where are you, you little brat? On some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed no matter how sunny and cheerfully spring it is outside. My perfect plan has fallen through the cracks and if I don’t find my sister soon, this may be the last day of my life.

***

Why was she trusted in my care? Didn’t Mom just say I’m totally irresponsible at times? So why leave the love of your life with the likes of me? Now, what do I tell her and Dad? That Starr simply walked into a black hole and swish disappeared?

She was right beside me just a minute ago agitating me to death about getting the ice cream I had promised her. I just needed to finish talking to my friends for just a moment or two, to get the latest scoop of school gossip and later join them to eat and shop ‘til we drop right after I got the little pest her treat – anything to keep her out of my hair.

Be careful what you wish for, Nana’s words echo inside my head. Okay, so let me clarify. I don’t mean I actually want Starr out of my hair. I just want more time alone with my friends, that’s all.

Where are you? I try to focus on being more angry than scared, but can’t convince the lump that’s swelling in my throat. And to think I berated a mother on this week’s TV news who was frantic over her missing little boy she lost while shopping, and here I am in the same mess.

Can’t allow my imagination to get the best of me, I can’t, I can’t – but it’s too late.  Already it’s on overdrive and worse I envision my sister’s face plastered all over the country, “Have you seen this missing person?” Her sweet school picture staring innocently back at me with her lopsided grin, asking why did I lose her.

Guilty thoughts plague one side of my brain to another. “Starr where are you?” My voice pitches on panic mode prompting startled heads to turn my way.

“Have you seen my sister? She’s about this tall …” I just get blank stares as if I grew an extra head.

The more I think about it the more I become annoyed with my folks for making me Starr’s official babysitter. Not that she’s a baby. She’s a teenager just like me, a little younger – but a curious teenager all the same. She doesn’t understand that it’s important to stay close to me when we’re together. She thinks everyone is either her friend or someone to watch and follow.

Spoiled rascal.

Starr Alexandra, as soon as I find you I’m going to kill you myself. I know my parents wanted their special time together after working all week, passing brief greetings between shifts, which obviously isn’t enough – but what about me? Why do I have to take her out to the mall of all places? There’s always Nana or Aunt Nell.

They knew I planned all week to be with my friends – my friends – alone with them, not to have her to tag along all the time. Now this is happening. Don’t get me wrong. I love my little Starr, but she’s been more than a handful as of recently.

If only Mom had given in to my incessant pleadings, dramatic sighs and a combination rolling eyes – believe me I did it all. But Mom stood her ground and got downright ugly about it to be honest. Rarely do I go out except for the after-school activities, just to avoid our ritual, but she seemed cool when I approached her about today’s plan.

“No problem, sweetie, you need time away with your friends. Have a blast.” That’s what she said and now this.

I should’ve known better. Mom never keeps her word when it comes to me. She gave no reason for changing her mind, just that I had to do what I was told and that’s that. I get this feeling that she’s punishing me for something. I rarely misbehave, my friends spend most of their time at my place than theirs, and I study hard and do mostly what I’m told. Actually, I’m a pretty good kid – hardly the likes of the kids I hang out with. If Mom knew half of what they do, she’d ban them from our house forever and lock me in the attic for safekeeping.

“Not everything is about you, Skye. There are others in this family to consider – particularly the main ones who work their butts off for you to go spending your heart’s desire at the mall…” yadda, yadda, yadda.

She always forgets that I work every day, too. This is my money from my baby-sitting job that I put together with my teeny tiny allowance that my stingy parents award me every week. It’s not like they’re short on funds or anything like that.

“Why are you ashamed of being with her, Skye?”

That was a low blow.

“She’s your sister for goodness sake.” Her voice would always climb an octave higher to prove her point.

“But, Mom, you promised—”

“Girl, I didn’t promise you anything. I said your plans sounded great, but I never said anything about not taking your sister …”

My heart cracked because my mom could be so wrong at times. I’m not ashamed of Starr, I shouted in my head, I just wanted to see my friends, alone for a change.

“What’s going to happen to her should anything happen to your father and me, hm?” I dropped my eyes, afraid she’d read that ugly thought that fleeted through my brain. She was being so unfair.

“Look at me when I talk to you. Do you really think we’re going to live forever for your sake – have you ever thought about that?” She was inches from my face. I wanted to pull away but thought better not to.

“Are you going to throw your sister in some institution so you can enjoy your all-about-Miss-Skye life, while people who don’t give a flip about your sister take charge over her, abuse her and God-knows-what-else to her?”

Her allegations stung hard and she knew it. No matter how much I try to shake her words, they’re stuck inside my head like Crazy Glue. I remember I had finally looked away from my mother’s angry face before she saw the irritating tears surfacing.

Starr was quietly at the dining room table with her Crayolas and paper, drawing and coloring – her favorite pastime – an escape I always envied.

With Mom’s words ringing in my head, I snatched Starr’s sweater in one hand and reached for my sister with the other.

Starr resisted, fully aware of my foul mood. She looked at her drawings scattered on the table and back at me. I knew she wanted to clean up her mess. She’s such a tidy-widy. Instead she relaxed and rewarded me with a pensive grin. Another rare moment.

“It’s okay, Starry, I’m not mad. We’re in a rush,” my voice lightened as I kept pulling against her restraint. “We don’t want to miss the bus. How about getting your favorite ice cream at the mall?”

“Strawberry shortcake, mmm.”

“That’s right, favorite ice cream for the Starr, mmm.”

I calmed down and eased my grip, forcing myself to return a smile of reassurance. No matter how I felt, I couldn’t resist that sweet face. She always had a way of doing that a lot, as if knowing how to put ointment on a “boo-boo.”

Without withdrawing she allowed me to put my arm around her, seldom permitting anyone to enter her space – except for Mom who holds the honorary key of affection. Dad and I just go with the flow. But that’s the way we are. We understand there’s a place and time for everything, and at that moment Starr knew I needed her consolation.

I heard Mom’s mules noisily clump on the polished parquet floor behind us as we exited the house. I didn’t bother to look back or wave goodbye when she called after me, mouthing her repetitious warnings “…and don’t let Starr out of your sight and be careful …”

I rolled my eyes heavenward and sucked my teeth low enough not to be heard by Mrs. Bat Ears. She wasn’t being fair to me nor to Starr.

“Bye-bye, Mommy, bye-bye.” You’d think we were heading for a year’s expedition around the world – wishful thought.

Starr yanked her hand free to run back and give our mother a kiss and hug. Still fuming, I refused to watch their exchange of affection and slowly walked down our walkway, relieved to hear Starr’s sneakers bounced off-beat with her slight limp toward me.

Her hand slipped in mine to reassure me that all is okay. I looked into her comical smile that only pushed out a grin from the corners of my own rigid mouth.

She and I both inherited our dad’s Hershey cocoa coloring and bright smile, and as tots Mom always called us her little chocolate drops that made us giggle hearing it. How could I deny that face full of love and ignorant joy?  In spite of my remorse, Starr reached into my heart and let in her sunshine.

Copyright© J. Hale Turner. All rights reserved.

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Index Admin
By Index Admin May 31, 2014 12:50
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