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Release; June 25

Get a sneak peek of Chapter 1 during the Blog Hop Promo Week from June 15th – June 19th.

 And make sure to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win an ARC copy of Stop!

 Check out the next excerpt from Chapter 1 tomorrow over at Reviews by Tammy and Kim.

6/16 – Reviews by Tammy and Kim

6/17 – Nose Stuck in a Book

6/18 – The Literary Gossip

6/19 – Shh Moms Reading

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STOP!

By

Alison G. Bailey

Stretch your mind, open your heart, and expand your understanding.

Chapter 1

My throat constricted as I held oxygen in my lungs. When I was on the verge of lightheadedness, I let the air slowly seep out and prayed for courage to take its place. My eyes stayed closed while I counted, waiting a beat between each number before opening them.

One.

Beat.

            Two.

Beat.

            Three.

Beat.

            Open.

For thirty seconds, my brain registered shock at the image in the mirror. Every morning for the past year I started my day the exact same way. It was like living in the movie Groundhog Day. Each night my brain reset back to a time when I was Hollis Murphy, high school senior, math geek, and normal. When the dreams drifted in, I recognized myself. I felt like myself. My mind played tricks, fooling me into believing I was the same person in the family photos scattered around the house.

Each day started with me being convinced that what I’d seen in the mirror the previous morning was a figment of my imagination. But the memory was so vivid that a glimmer of doubt always existed. In order to live in the dream for a little longer, I didn’t look at myself until it was absolutely necessary. And when time was up, what I saw caused my stomach to twist into knots and my breathing to become shallow, just like it did yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. And the days before that until I had collected an entire year of days.

As my fingertips timidly brushed over my left cheek, I wondered if the person who stared back at me would ever match the one in my dreams. I quickly pushed the thought away and forced myself to focus on what was happening today. If I lingered too long on the events of the past year I’d lock the door to my room, throw the comforter over my head, and hide from the outside world.

Been there, done that.

My parents would be understanding if I bailed on them today. My best friend, Maggie, would make a good attempt at convincing me to step out of my comfort zone. When I wouldn’t budge, she’d eventually understand and support me. No one was pushing me forward or holding me back, except me.

Three rapid knocks on the door jerked me out of my thoughts.

“Hollis, are you getting ready?” Mom’s muffled voice filtered through the door.

“Yeah.”

“How long will you be? Your dad wants to be on the road before traffic gets heavy.”

“At least an hour and a half. I haven’t gotten my shower yet.”

“Okay, but try to be quicker than that.”

“I’ll do my best, Mom.”

I owe her at least that much.

She and Dad have been by my side every step of the way since the accident. My neck and shoulder muscles stiffened at just the thought of the word, accident. I hated the term. It felt like an easy excuse, a simplistic way to understand what had happened to me. Sarah, the counselor who had been assigned to my case while I was in the hospital said that with any trauma, the person had to go through five stages of grief before they could move on.

  1. Denial and Isolation. Check.
  2. Anger. Check.
  3. Bargaining. Check.
  4. Depression. Check.
  5. Acceptance…

I had an issue with acceptance. I wasn’t in denial. I knew what had happened. It was as clear as the hideous reflection in the mirror. What I couldn’t accept was the theory that it had been a universal happenstance that just decided to blow up in my face. Maybe I was being naïve. Although, I had matured a lot over the past year, disfigurement will do that to a person. I was well aware that at eighteen years old, my outlook on things still held a certain amount of innocence. As much as I tried, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea that all the pain I’d been through was due to some random cosmic fuck you. There had to be a purpose. People didn’t suffer for no reason.

As I waited for the shower to heat, the sight of my phone lighting up with a text caught my attention.

Maggie: Mornin’, college coed!!

Me: Mornin’, goofball best friend. J

Maggie: When y’all heading out?

Me: As soon as I can get my sorry ass in gear.

Maggie: That could take years.

Me: Shut up.

Maggie: I know we said our goodbyes last night. But I wanted to remind you to call me with all the deets on your roommate, and the boy situation.

Me: Yes ma’am.

Maggie: You’re gonna do awesome. I love you, Woman.

Me: Thanks. I hope so. Love you too.

Maggie was the most amazing friend. She was a natural beauty. She didn’t load her face up with a lot makeup or spend hours on her blond curls. A genuine excitement about life lit up her chocolate brown eyes. She was comfortable in her skin. She was confident and not afraid of what the world had to offer. And next to my parents, she was the kindest person I knew.

I was told a lot of people visited me the first few days in the hospital. But I was so doped up everyone and everything blurred together. After the morphine fog cleared and I was sent home, all the visitors disappeared. Maggie was the only one who stuck with me. The first six months after the incident people were uncomfortable being around me. My face was in the process of healing and they didn’t know where to look or what to say. They didn’t want to ask rude questions, but they didn’t feel small talk was appropriate either. So, they just stayed away. Not Maggie, though. She was there every day being balls-to-the wall honest with me. She knew instinctively when I needed space to readjust to my situation and when to kick me out of my own pity party. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be taking this first step into a new life.

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