I Am Me by Kai Strand
Despite—or perhaps because of—her fancy car, private school education, and life of privilege, Lola Renaldi has become a volunteer junkie. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, visiting the elderly—if it’s a good cause, she’s done it.
Lola’s favorite stint, building affordable houses, puts her directly in the path of Rodney. He refuses to discuss why he’s doing community service, but it’s clear he’s hiding something dark about his past. As their friendship grows, Lola begins to question the true reasons for her obsessive volunteerism and her view of those she has pledged to help.
She is only beginning to understand how lucky she truly is when her life falls apart. After losing friends, her boyfriend, even Rodney, Lola finally recognizes which parts of her life she wants to hang on to and what specifically she wants to go after. But with all she’s been through, will she be able to hang onto who she wants to be? Or will she lose all that defines her?
Is it my imagination or are me and my figure-hugging pencil skirt getting the evil eye from more than half of the girls stuffed into the room? Maybe it’s my doe-in-the-headlights expression. I feel like I’m in some sort of awkward-girl spotlight.
“Excuse me,” I mutter several times until I finally stumble into the hall and find myself surrounded by more kids who all seem to zero in on me as soon as I’m among them. I’m still trying to convince myself it’s all my imagination until I make eye contact with several people who look less than welcoming. Guess I should have tagged along with the other girls after all.
I’m temporarily turned around and start in the wrong direction. When my panic fades a bit, I realize I’m headed away from the auditorium and spin around. I smack into a boy’s chest and stumble backward. My purse slips off my shoulder, and I only just manage to grab it before it falls to the floor, but it swings up and hits the boy on the side when I yank the strap.
The kid grabs me to stop me from falling. I clutch his arm in return.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have turned so suddenly. Are you okay?” I rub my nose, its impact with the boy’s chest still stings. When I look up I’m surprised to recognize him. I place my hand on his chest as I exclaim, “Rodney!”
He goes still, which doesn’t really make sense, because he hadn’t actually been moving before I said his name. His eyes scan me, but his expression doesn’t change, and he remains mute.
I realize I might look different being that I’m clean and dressed up, so I clarify. “Lola. We worked together on Saturday. I taught you how to caulk.”
His eyes quickly scan the passing students like maybe he’s checking to see if anyone’s listening. Or maybe watching?
“Are you okay?” I repeat, only just stopping myself from rubbing the spot on his chest where my nose made contact.
One of his hands slides down the back of my arm and cups my elbow. The touch is so light, little shivers of expectation resonate through me. He lets me go without warning and walks away.
I spin and watch his head bob down the hall, my mouth hanging open. “That was rude,” I say to no one. Finally, I turn in the direction I need to go, reposition my purse on my shoulder, and return to the auditorium.
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About the author:
When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.
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