Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Posted by Paula Mitchell with No comments
Prologue of Exposure
By Kim Askew and Amy Helmes,
Authors of the Shakespeare-inspired YA series Twisted Lit, featuring Tempestuous and Exposure (Merit Press)
Four girls in one dorm room. If it's not the very definition of hell, it's at least purgatory. Sharing a hundred and fifty square feet of living space in an ecru-painted cinderblock cell with three randoms, any of whom could turn out to have chronic Doritos breath, an unhealthy obsession with goth metal, or a tendency to slip into bizarre "baby talk" on the phone with her parents. School officials are forever insisting that roommate selection for incoming freshmen is completely arbitrary, but that never seems to explain how every dorm room ends up with a token weirdo.
For the residents of Room 315 in Birnkrant Hall, Skye Kingston was that girl. There was nothing overtly freakish about her, aside from the semi-creepy Diane Arbus photographs of circus midgets and identical twins plastered on the wall next to her bed. She was majoring in fine arts, with a specialty in photography, bur "artsy" probably didn't entirely account for her singular personality; the way she seemed to hover attentively around campus like a studious fly on the wall.
Skye didn't resemble the Quasimodo-types typically -- identified and ostracized -- within the first few days of the semester. She wasn't mousy, overweight, or sporting an unfortunate excess of hormonally induced facial hair. Rather, her looks tended to land her on the other end of the hot-or-not spectrum, somewhere between "stunning" and "drop-dead gorgeous." She was model tall, with Eastern European features: long red tresses, pale skin, and glacial blue eyes that appeared, at once, both severe and serene. Hers was an exotic beauty, in stark contrast to the tanned, toned bottled blondes with whom she shared tiny quarters on the dorm's third Boor.
Whether or not she was cognizant of her good looks was up for debate. Her striking face was usually buried in a book -- not hogging the bathroom mirror. She seemed to have a quiet confidence that was uncharacteristic of most of the freshmen girls who roamed the campus in lemming-like packs, thus singling her out out as an "untouchable." Upon occasionally emerging from the study lounge or library stacks, she'd peer out at the world through an ancient-looking 35-millimeter camera, avoiding direct eye contact with the unwashed masses of undergrads surrounding her. With a name like Skye Kingston, many presumed she had climbed straight off Daddy's yacht prior to arriving on campus. Others, including her roommates, had been speculating for weeks about the real story behind this mysterious freshman who defied classification.
"Did she live in an igloo or something?"
"No, you idiot. She's not an Eskimo!"
"I heard she lived in pitch black for half the year because the sun never rises there."
"That would explain the pasty-white skin."
"Well, I'd kill to have her skin, actually. It's like porcelain."
Skye sighed underneath her covers, listening to her roommates' gossip with a detached fascination. Like the Northern Lights in her native Anchorage, these Skye-centric chat sessions had become a nightly phenomenon, a fun pastime they routinely turned to after exhausting all of their catty comments about other socially condemned undergrads. Surely they couldn't think she'd be asleep already at quarter to ten, and even if she were sleeping, being openly conjectured about while she was less than four feet away was ludicrously ballsy of them.
"Maybe she's a vampire."
"Um . . . in that case, I'm putting in for a room transfer!"
"Well, supposedly she dabbles in the occult. That's what somebody in the caf told me at dinner yesterday."
"Yeah. Apparently she was involved with some lesbo coven of witches."
"Oh, come on, guys. You really don't think--"
"Some girl on the fourth Boor heard from her R.A. that her boyfriend murdered a dude."
"I'm serious. It was apparently all over the papers and stuff in Alaska."
Skye's heart began to race furiously underneath the covers. Being called "Ice Princess" and "Nanook of the North" was bad enough, but this time they were nearing a dangerous precipice with their idle gossip, threatening to reopen old wounds. She shifted underneath her blanket and cleared her throat. She hated confrontation -- always had -- but she had to at least let them know she could hear every word they were saying from her top bunk. Her movements prompted a shushing giggle down below.
"Uh . . . Skye? Are you awake?"
"What?" she said, knowing she was likely to regret it.
"You're from Alaska, right? And, well, it gets really cold there, right? And I'm wondering . . . " the roommate could barely stifle her laughter. "Did your butt cheeks ever freeze to the toilet seat?"
The room below Skye's bunk erupted into self-satisfied cackles.
Sleep continued to elude Skye as her three roommates performed their fastidious evening bathroom rituals and finally clamored noisily into their twin beds. As she lay roasting underneath her blanket, she reflected on her bunkmates, who, so far, seemed to be the type of girls more worried about the intricacies of performing the perfect keg stand than such trivial matters as homework or attending class. She recognized the insecurity behind their conceit, and hoped that time would help soften their cutting edges. She had survived their brand of callousness before -- barely, god knows. She didn't relish the thought of having to endure it all over again: the manipulation, the backstabbing, the selfish lust for power, the reckless disregard for people's feelings . . . people's lives.
Skye threw the blanket off her sweaty torso -- Southern California was too hot for her -- and took a deep breath. She hadn't planned on delving into her tumultuous past, but a candid discussion seemed in order. If laying all her cards on the table helped to break the ice, then it might be worth reliving the pain.
'''Murder' is a strong word, but not entirely off base," she said, breaking the dark silence. "If you insist on turning me into a movie of the week, I should at least provide you with some semblance of the facts."
She could hear the unsettled sound of sheets rustling and bedframes creaking, and saw the silhouette of one startled roomie as she sat up from her pillow.
"First, to answer some of your ongoing questions, the answers are, no: I've never seen Santa Claus. Yes: I have eaten reindeer meat, but it wasn't Rudolph. No: I would not strip for a Klondike Bar. And yes," she finally added, in a more stoic tone. "My boyfriend did kill someone . . . in a manner of speaking."
Skye stared at the ceiling three feet above her bunk. She had affixed glow-in-the-dark star decals there to remind her of home, forming the constellations of Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, and Orion. California's night sky was virtually a starless swath of smoggy gray. But looking at her artificial version of Alaska's heavens gave her little comfort. The perspective was all wrong. She was too close to the ceiling. You needed distance to really appreciate the staggering scope of it all . . . .
The above is an excerpt from the book Exposure: A Twisted Lit Novel by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
© 2012 Kim Askew and Amy Helmes, authors of Exposure: A Twisted Lit Novel
Kim Askew, co-author of Exposure: A Twisted Lit Novel, whose work has appeared in Elle and other magazines, is a content manager for the Webby-winning teen site www.FashionClub.com, for which she has covered the Teen Choice and MTV awards. Follow Kim on Twitter@kaskew.
Amy Helmes, co-author of Exposure: A Twisted Lit Novel, is co-author of Boys of a Feather: A Field Guide to American Males and is also a weekly contributor to The Rundown, a free daily e-mail service that keeps subscribers informed on what's new and cool in LA. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyhelmes.
Both Kim and Amy think Shakespeare understood the young's true love and pain like no other, from Hamlet's sorry stepdad to Juliet's trauma drama, hence this literate farce, based on "The Tempest."
For more information please visit http://twistedlitbooks.com and http://www.adamsmedia.com/merit-press-books and follow the authors of Facebook