Release Date: December 2014
Summary from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Mya Jones is cursed. She is, hands down, the most beautiful creature on earth. But beauty can wound, and Mya finds herself reviled and shunned by her peers. If there is even a chance that she could start over, Mya longs to take it, no matter the risks. So when the strange Mr. Merk offers her a new life away from home, Mya is hesitant but hopeful. Only she didn't count on the mysterious Ross, or her feelings for him. BEAUTIFUL CURSE is a contemporary retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid.
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The weekend ended way too quickly, and on Monday morning, everything went back to my new, horrible version of normal. By the time I showed up to the art room after my classes, I was in a foul mood.
Ms. Amboulia took one look at me and declared, “Chopping wood is just what you need.”
She led me around the back of the shed to a pile of discarded lumber. “We need this chopped smaller for the wood kiln. Make the pieces about this big,” she held up her hands in front of her torso, “but don’t worry if you chop them smaller.”
The art teacher hesitated for a minute. “Can I trust you not to do harm to yourself with that axe?”
I looked up at her, startled. True, I’d been depressed lately, but I didn’t think I’d been that low. “Of course! It’s just been a really crappy day.”
“Fine. Take your frustrations out on the wood, not yourself.” Ms. Amboulia disappeared back into the shed, and I pulled out my iPod and set it on shuffle. With music filling my ears, I fell into an easy rhythm with the axe, and was surprised when I ran out of pieces of wood to chop. The pile had seemed so massive to begin with, but now I was surrounded by small logs ready for burning in the kiln. I hadn’t even noticed the work, not really.
I set the axe down and went inside, taking my ear buds out as I walked. Ms. Amboulia looked up in surprise as the door creaked, and I smiled.
“That’s done. What else do you want me to do today?”
Ms. Amboulia looked at the clock and then looked back at me. “That’s a lot for one day. Why don’t you head home and take a nice bubble bath?”
I stared at her. Ms. Amboulia didn’t seem like the bubble bath type. She chuckled.
“You were attacking that wood with a vengeance, girl. Soaking your muscles is just what the doctor ordered.”
When I got home, I took her suggestion and filled the tub. After a moment’s hesitation, I grabbed the jar of mint and lemon scented bath salts that Mom used to love. She had left them, but
I still felt guilty using them. I dumped the salts into the water, inhaling deeply. The sharp scent brought tears to my eyes.
I used to sit on the edge of the tub in my bathrobe and paint my toenails while Mom soaked in the water. It had been one of our weekly rituals: spa time, Mom had called it. Some weeks, we would braid each other’s hair, and other weeks we experimented with Mom’s vast makeup collection. I never really cared much about the makeup, but Mom enjoyed it, and I liked spending time with her.
As I eased myself into the hot water, I felt a pang of loneliness. I missed Mom so much: maybe things wouldn’t be so bad if she was here to talk to. But she’s gone because of me. I lowered my head into the water and blew bubbles through my nose, trying to ignore the gnawing guilt I felt whenever I thought about her.
I stayed in the tub until my skin was wrinkled and the water was lukewarm, and I would have stayed longer if I hadn’t started to shiver. When I was getting dressed, I checked the clock and felt a twinge of anger. It was almost eight, and there was still no sign of Dad.
The weekend had been perfect, but once Monday came around, I should have known better than to expect that things had changed for good. I checked the garage to be sure, but his car wasn’t there.
“Come on, Rex. Duty calls.” The dog panted up at me happily as I clipped on his leash and we headed out into the crisp, cool night.
I shivered, pulling my light fleece closer around me. Fall was certainly here; I’d be wearing boots and a winter coat soon. I hadn’t really minded the walk to Mac’s every night this fall, but once I was faced with another harsh Ohio winter, the short walk would really become a chore. Maybe, I thought, Dad would stop going to the bar once the weather got cold.
About the Author:
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).She is also a former reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and proud member of SCBWI, NCWN, and SCWW.
A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga.Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.
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