Misplaced Lessons released on Wednesday. I thought I’d try to entice you…in hopes that you’ll want to read more! Here are the first five pages of my latest release.
Amelia Wesson—Amy to her friends—wandered around Harper Shaw’s house in Chicago and resisted the urge to pinch herself…again. She was in America. She was really here.
For most of her life, she’d dreamed of traveling abroad, seeing foreign countries, experiencing different cultures.
Hazel Sullivan, the matriarch of Farpoint Creek Cattle Station in Australia, told Amy she had a case of wanderlust, and according to Hazel, she had it bad.
Her boss didn’t have to tell her that. Amy’s best friend, Josephine, had wallpapered every square inch of her room with pictures of Daniel Johns and Silverchair when they were growing up, but Amy had opted to display the photos of foreign places she’d torn out of old calendars. She’d spend hours looking at the pictures and imagining herself walking the city streets of New York or London, Rome or L.A.
And now she was here, in Chicago, in the United States of America. Yep. Definitely a pinch-worthy moment. Meeting Harper online had probably been the best stroke of luck Amy had ever had in a life full of nothing special.
Her mobile phone rang. Speak of the devil, she thought as she glanced at the screen.
“Hey. How you going?” Amy asked.
Harper chuckled. “You’re going to have to start working on your American lingo, Amy, if you want to fit in. I’m doing just fine. Sitting in Sydney Airport waiting for the connecting flight to Cobar. Your friends better be there to pick me up so I can take over your life. Figure I’ve only got two weeks to completely wreck the impressionable minds of your students. I’m anxious to start.”
Amy felt a twinge of homesickness as she thought about the life she’d so willingly traded away for this adventure. She was the teacher on Farpoint Creek Cattle Station, and her charges—children of the jackaroos and families who worked on the station—ranged from kindy to year six. Once her students entered their seventh year, they finished their education via School of the Air.
Amy’s mastery of Algebra and the upper maths courses was shaky at best. Two plus two—no problem. Add in a bunch of wonky symbols and things took a bad turn.
“I’ve seen your lesson plans, mate, and I know you’re a great teacher. I’m not worried about you messing up anything. Besides, the kids are so excited about meeting you and hearing all about their American pen pals firsthand, I don’t think you’ll have time to teach them much of anything. They have a list of questions as long as the Murray River.”
Amy had come up with the idea of starting an international pen pal program a year ago and had gone searching on several educational blogs for an American teacher willing to join forces. Through some long, meandering series of clicks—she could get lost on the internet for days—she’d come across Harper Shaw, a fourth grade teacher who was also hoping to find pen pals for her students. They’d begun emailing, making quick introductions and exploring their ideas for the letter-writing lesson. Then the emails turned to IMs, in which they shared work war stories and lesson plans. Finally, about nine months ago, they’d started Skyping, chatting for hours each weekend about anything and everything. Though they’d never met face-to-face, Amy considered Harper one of her best friends.
“So what do you think of the house? You’re there, right?” Harper asked.
“I got in about half an hour ago. It’s gorgeous. You made a mistake offering this life swap. I’m squatting here permanently.”
She heard a voice announce the departure of a flight to London through the phone. Amy could imagine exactly where Harper was sitting as she waited to begin the next leg of her journey. She’d be sitting in that same place in a couple weeks as she returned home.
Please don’t let the fortnight go by too fast.
Harper scoffed. “The way I remember it, it was you who came up with this Freaky Friday idea of switching lives.”
They’d been Skyping one Saturday morning in March—actually it had been a.m. in Oz, Friday night in Chicago—and Amy mentioned a movie she’d watched the night before. She couldn’t recall the name of the film, but in it, two women had decided to swap houses, one woman traveling to America as the other took off for England. Amy had remarked that it was a great idea and probably the only way she’d ever be able to afford a big trip to America.
“I merely mentioned the movie. You were the one who said we should try it.”
“I’m glad we did. Jesus. I can’t believe I’m sitting in an airport in Australia. I’m bone-tired from seven hundred years on that international flight, but so freaking excited I feel like pinching myself.”
She and Harper were destined to be friends for life. “I know the feeling, believe me. I’ve been so busy the past few days, getting everything settled at home, and then packing that I don’t think it had time to sink in. Now that I’m standing here, it’s just…bloody hell, it’s incredible.”
Amy had jumped at the chance to see Chicago, accepting Harper’s unexpected offer before her friend could change her mind. For days they’d tried to find a time that would work best for both of them. They’d settled on Harper’s spring break from work. Though the actual school holiday was only a week long, Harper had a week’s worth of vacation days she was willing to tack on as well. Rather than push the trip off until summer—neither of them had wanted to wait that long—they’d booked flights for April.
“I guess you managed to find the key?” Harper asked.
“Yep. Right where you said you’d leave it. Under the third flowerpot from the left on the front porch. The house is so beautiful. I’m afraid this trade isn’t exactly fair. I live in a tiny cottage twenty minutes from the station’s main homestead. Nothing fancy.”
Amy had rushed through every room of Harper’s home when she’d first arrived. Harper and her brother, Andrew, had inherited the large house from their father upon his death nearly a decade earlier. While Andrew still kept a room there, the house primarily belonged to Harper.
As she and Harper spoke, Amy wandered upstairs once more, thrilled to bits with the idea that this gorgeous place would be her home for two whole weeks.
She returned to Harper’s bedroom at the top of the stairs. The classic décor and understated elegance reflected Harper’s love of simple beauty. Her friend was lovely in an unassuming way. She didn’t need makeup to enhance her natural healthy good looks. The room, though humble, echoed its owner.
The walls were mint green and that color was pulled out in the leaves of the soft floral doona covering Harper’s queen-sized bed. There was a chaise lounge next to a bay window that looked out onto a well-kept garden bursting with flowers that screamed of spring. There was a dressing table with a chair and mirror—the sort of set Amy had always wanted when she was a young girl. The hardwood floor was covered with a soft off-white rug. Amy sucked in a deep breath and caught what she assumed was a whiff of Harper’s perfume. The fresh, clean scent matched the room and the person who lived here.
Amy sank down on the bed. “I love your bedroom. It’s so comfy and inviting.”
“It’s just a room. I cleaned the hell out of it right before I left. You’re seeing it on a good day. Usually it’s a disaster area.”
“I did the same thing to my house. Scrubbed it from top to bottom. Of course, Thomo and Blue helped, so it wasn’t too bad.”
“Thomo and Blue?”
“Those are Keith and Marc’s nicknames. You’ll probably hear them called by those more than their given names. Listen, if you need anything, just find one of them. They’ve promised me they’ll look after you. I reckon life on a cattle station is way different than what you experience in Chicago. Everyone at Farpoint is nice, but there are a couple blokes you want to look out for. Marc and Keith will make sure no one comes on too strong.”
Amy had grown up on Farpoint Creek, and while there were plenty of women on the station, her closest friends were Marc and Keith. She grinned when she recalled the bon voyage party they’d thrown for her three nights ago. Amy rubbed her temple. She could still feel a bit of the hangover.
Her two mates knew what this trip meant to her. They’d even given her a going-away present—one hundred American dollars to spend on whatever the hell she wanted. Well, with one caveat. Marc had pulled her aside later to beg her to buy him a souvenir. As if she wouldn’t. Her friendship with the two men was the only thing that made life on the cattle station bearable. Although she loved her home and her friends, she constantly longed to be somewhere—anywhere—else.
“I wish I could offer you the same protection, but I sort of purposely timed this vacation so that Andrew would be out of the country the whole time I’m away.”
Amy shook her head. “I still can’t believe you didn’t tell your brother about your trip. Given his line of work, I’m sure he would have told you to go and have fun.”
Andrew was host of a big cable show, Off the Beaten Path on the Travel Channel, and his job kept him constantly on the move. Amy continually pumped Harper for details about Andrew’s adventures. The man was living her dream, traveling all over the world, exploring different customs, religions, foods, and she couldn’t imagine a more spectacular life.
“You don’t know Andrew. What’s good for him is not good for his baby sister. He takes overprotectiveness to new extremes. If I’d told him what I was planning to do, he would have invited himself along to keep an eye on me. It’s kind of hard to do something impulsive and spontaneous with your overbearing, older brother hovering.”
“I’m sure he’s not that bad.”
Harper laughed. “Trust me, I’m painting him in the best possible light. He’s actually a lot worse than that. As far as Andrew knows, I’m spending my spring break at an educational conference and I’ll be too busy to call. Figure that’ll buy me at least one week of vacation free and clear before he starts his daily checking-in routine. It’s going to be tricky catching his calls the second week, what with the time change.”
“You know, I think it’s kind of sweet that he calls to talk to you every day.” Amy was one of three girls, but she and her sisters argued more than coddled. Harper had become the sister of her heart, the one she reached out to in times of need.
“Yeah. Truth is I love him more than the White Sox, despite his caveman tactics. But even so, I’m glad for the respite.”
“Well, I hate to break it to you, but you may have traded one bossy brother for two. Blue and Thomo can be just as domineering. They gave me an ear-bashing for days before I left about how I shouldn’t do this or to be careful of that. We may not share the same blood, but those buggers have appointed themselves the role of my keepers. I’m afraid you might be facing more of the same.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Crap, I took a Dramamine to keep from getting motion sickness on this next puddle jumper, but it’s starting to make me drowsy. I hate flying in shoeboxes. Hope I didn’t take it too early.”
Amy looked at her watch. She’d adjusted the time as soon as she landed at O’Hare Airport. Mentally, she did the maths. Australia was fifteen hours ahead of Chicago. “It won’t be long now. The connecting flight to Cobar is going to feel like an up and down one compared to the long-arse flight you just did. Keith and Marc will be there to get you. If I know Hazel, she probably pushed them out so bright and early it was still dark, just so they wouldn’t make you wait. She’s as excited to meet you as Thomo and Blue.”
“I hope she likes me. It was really cool of her to let a stranger come to teach. No way that would happen in the States.”
“Hazel will love you. Promise.”
The Sullivan family owned Farpoint Creek. It was Hazel Sullivan who’d convinced Amy to go to Chicago and agreed to Harper taking over her position as teacher for two weeks. Hazel said letting her take the extended holiday was the least she could do, since it was probably her sons’ fault that Amy was so unhappy on the station.
Dylan and Hunter had found American girlfriends in the past year. Actually, Dylan had married his artist, Monet, and was currently on his honeymoon. Monet and Hunter’s girlfriend, Annie, had taken up residence on Farpoint and Amy spent countless hours talking to them about their lives in New York, as well as their travels to other amazing places.
“I guess I should get off here. It looks like they’re about to start calling for passengers for this flight,” Harper said. “Then I’m off to see your cowboys.”
“They’re not cowboys, Harper. Marc’s a jackaroo, cause he’s only in his early twenties and Keith is a stockman cause he’s an old bastard of twenty-eight. You might want to brush up on your Aussie vocab too.”
“Jackaroo, stockman. Got it. Oh hey. Before I forget, there are some staples in the fridge to keep you going until you get to the store—milk, eggs, stuff like that. The fresh towels are in the closet at the top of the stairs and the keys to my car, if you’re brave enough to attempt driving in America, are on the hook by the foyer table. Just remember, we drive on the right side. You crazy fools drive on the wrong side.”
“Bloody hell. I’m fine taking taxis or the train. Dying to try those things anyway. There’s no way I’d risk my life trying to tackle your roads. I reckon I’d have a heart attack every time I had to make a right turn, fearing I’d smash into somebody. Those car keys will stay on the hook.”
“Chicken shit. Fine. I planned a big surprise for you too. It’s something you’ve always wanted.”
Amy perked up. She loved pressies. “What is it?”
“If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise.”
Misplaced Lessons is available at Ellora’s Cave, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.