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Over the Fence
Publication date: May 2nd 2023
Genres: Suspense, Young Adult
Kidnapped from her front yard in Oklahoma eleven years ago, seventeen-year old Eve Anderson lives a wretched existence in Bell Meade, Minnesota with her abductor, “Papa,” his common-law wife “Mama,” and Honey, Eve’s four-year-old daughter with Papa. Papa keeps the family hidden behind locked doors, boarded-up windows, and an eight-foot tall fence that surrounds their backyard.
Emma Love, also seventeen, recently moved to Bell Meade with her Aunt Vi to take care of her big sister Noelle, who’s in a vegetative state after being savagely beaten by her boyfriend, Jack Armstrong. He is charged with grievous bodily harm, but Emma worries that the popularity and influence of the Armstrong family will keep Noelle from getting the justice she deserves.
When Eve and Emma start talking through the fence that adjoins their backyards, they soon form a connection. Emma finds it comforting to talk to Eve about Noelle, and Eve sees parallels between Noelle’s situation and her own. She acts as Emma’s confidant, but does not reveal her own secrets, for fear of Papa’s wrath if he finds out.
But when Papa decides to marry Eve and move the family to an isolated farmhouse, Eve must risk everything to save herself and Honey. Will she have the courage to escape from Papa before it’s too late? And will Emma have the strength to help her new friend, even as she struggles to save her own sister?
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Noelle is on the fifth floor, in the Traumatic Brain Injury Unit. Before we enter her room, I close my eyes and say a little prayer. Please, God, bring Noelle back to me today…But it takes less than a second for the hope in my heart to sputter out like the air in a deflating balloon. Because today is no different than yesterday or the day before. Noelle’s lying on her back in bed, propped up by pillows, in exactly the same position she was when we left last night. Her eyes are open and fixed on the ceiling.
Aunt Vi goes to her first, murmuring in her ear and fussing with the blankets on the bed. She picks up Noelle’s chart. Her eyes skim over the top page, like maybe she’s an MD and not an archeologist.
“I’ll just find a vase for these flowers,” she says, setting down the chart and brushing past me, tears in her eyes.
I take a deep breath and approach the bed.
“Hi, Sis,” I say. I do my best to make my voice cheery and bright, but the bile in my throat adds a sharpness to it. I take Noelle’s hands and squeeze them, wishing with all my heart that she would squeeze back. But her hands, the ones that used to fly across piano keys like they were possessed by Mozart’s spirit, are lifeless.
I sit down in a chair close to the bed and start strumming my guitar. If anything can wake Noelle, it’s music. I watch her face as I play, searching for awakening in her eyes, a hint of something besides blankness. She’s still so beautiful. The bruises have faded away. On the outside, she’s herself again, just less alive, like someone put her in a copy machine. The blonde highlights in her hair are almost grown out now. Her sun-freckled skin has gone pale. She has the same brown eyes with the same thick lashes. I’ve always envied those lashes. Now I just wish those eyes would look at me again, that she would smile or laugh…
“How can I ever say goodbye to you…”
Aunt Vi comes back in the room, followed by Dr. Massey. I stop playing.
“They did another MRI this morning,” she says.
My eyes raise to Dr. Massey’s. He’s an older man with sharp but kind eyes, cropped white hair and a beard that goes halfway down his chest. He reminds me of a skinny Santa Claus, except he brings devastating news instead of presents. He shakes his head. Disappointment punches me in the gut, but I ignore it. Noelle needs me to be strong for her. For us.
I stand up and face Dr. Massey, hands on hips. “Okay,” I say. “What now?”
Debbie Schrack is the author of SAVING SOPHIE, a young adult contemporary romance, which won the 2022 Paris Book Award for young adult fiction. She is also the winner of the SCBWI Haunted States of America contest for the state of Virginia. A former teacher, she lives in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. When she’s not conjuring dark and twisty plots or hanging out with her family, you can find her riding her horse or poring over travel brochures, ready to check off another box on her bucket list of travel adventures. You can follow Debbie on Facebook or Twitter @debbie_schrack or contact her through her website debbieschrackbooks.com.