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An Unstill Life
by Kate Larkindale
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
When your whole world is falling apart, what are the chances you’ll find love in the most unexpected of places?
Livvie feels like she’s losing everything: her two best friends have abandoned her for their boyfriends, her mother continues to ignore her, while her sister, Jules, is sick again and getting worse by the day. Add in the request Jules has made of her and Livvie feels like she’s losing her mind, too.
Her only escape is in the art room, where she discovers not only a refuge from her life, but also a kindred soul in Bianca, the school “freak”. Livvie’s always felt invisible, at school and at home, but with Bianca, she finally feels like someone sees the real Livvie. As the relationship deepens and it comes time to take the romance public, will Livvie be able to take that step?
Livvie’s about to find out if she has what it takes to make the tough decisions and stand up for herself—for the first time in her life.
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Bianca pulled up in front of my house, which sat in darkness, not even the porch light on to guide me. I must be late. Mom always switched off the light at midnight, whether we were home or not, letting us know she was aware we’d missed curfew. I’d hear about it tomorrow. Or maybe not.

“Thanks for the ride,” I said. “And … thanks. Again. Like I said, you’re always rescuing me.”

“Maybe I think you’re worth saving.” Bianca wasn’t looking at me. Her eyes were turned to the open window. The words sounded simple, but they weren’t. They lay across the seat between us, pulsing in shades of pink and red.

“Thanks?” The word felt awkward in my mouth. Would she still think I was worth saving if she knew I was thinking of ways to kill my sister? I shoved the thought away as I climbed out of the car. “See you in school.”

“Yeah. See you.” Bianca turned, her eyes glittering under the streetlights. “Hey, Livvie?”

“Yeah?” I ducked my head back through the door.

“I really like your painting.”

I jerked back in surprise, knocking the back of my head on the door. “My painting? You mean the still life?”

She nodded. “Yeah. It’s really good. It’s like everyone else is painting the surface of the things, but you’re painting what’s underneath. The real apple. The real flowers. It’s got—” She stopped, searching around as if she’d find the word she was looking for hanging in the air, ripe for plucking. “Well, it sounds totally corny, but it’s got soul.”

My face grew warm. “Thanks,” I mumbled. “But yours is way better.”

She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “No. Mine’s clever. It’s thought out. But there’s no passion in it. Yours has that.”

I giggled. “Passion? For a bunch of fruit and flowers? I hope not.”

She smiled, too, the flicker of movement so small I could have missed it. “Well, yeah. It’s not the most exciting subject. But if you can inject that much life into something so stupid, just think what you could do with something you really care about. Like that thing you did with the song. That’s something special.”

I sank back into the seat, the springs wheezing beneath me. My ears blazed, and I knew my cheeks were just as red. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. Even Mrs. DeWinter dismissed my music pictures as irrelevant swirls of color, while Mom considered all painting and drawing to be a frivolous waste of time.

“Thanks.” I stammered again.

“No, thank you.” Bianca lit another cigarette, the fiery end punching a hole in the darkness.

“What for?” Smoke burned my eyes, making them tear. At least, I thought it was the smoke. I couldn’t remember the last time someone complimented me or made me feel special. I brushed at a wet spot on my cheek.

She took a long drag and turned to her open window before exhaling into the night. “I’ve always been the best at art. I never had to work hard to be the best either. Now I have something to work for.”

“Oh.” I admired the ease with which she admitted to being the best. “Okay.”

Silence filled the car, but it was a warm, comforting silence.

“I have to go.” The reluctance in my voice surprised me, and I realized I didn’t want to leave. And not just because Bianca’s words flattered me. I recognized the truth in them. “I have a curfew. And I’m late.”

“Sure. Wouldn’t want to get you in trouble.” She turned the key and let the engine struggle to life again.

I watched the way the light gleamed off her shiny red lips. Surprised, I realized I wanted to lean over and kiss them, wanted to see if she tasted of the raspberries I always tasted while in her presence. I scrambled out of the car, putting distance between us as fast as I could. My heart raced in my chest.

Having spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale is currently residing in Wellington, New Zealand. A marketing executive, film reviewer and mother, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much. As a result, she can usually be found hanging out near the espresso machine.
Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.
She has written fourteen contemporary YA novels, a few of which other people are allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance. She is currently working on a new YA novel and ghostwriting an autobiography.
Connect with Kate here:
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