Sample text for Burned / Ellen Hopkins.


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From Burned

Did You Ever

When you were little, endure

your parents' warnings, then wait

for them to leave the room,

pry loose protective covers

and consider inserting some metal

object into an electrical outlet?

Did you wonder if for once

you might light up the room?

When you were big enough

to cross the street on your own,

did you ever wait for a signal,

hear the frenzied approach

of a fire truck and feel like

stepping out in front of it?

Did you wonder just how far

that rocket ride might take you?

When you were almost grown,

did you ever sit in a bubble bath,

perspiration pooling,

notice a blow-dryer plugged

in within easy reach, and think

about dropping it into the water?

Did you wonder if the expected

rush might somehow fail you?

And now, do you ever dangle

your toes over the precipice,

dare the cliff to crumble,

defy the frozen deity to suffer

the sun, thaw feather and bone,

take wing to fly you home?

I, Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten, do.

I'm Not Exactly Sure

When I began to feel that way.

Maybe a little piece of me

always has. It's hard to remember.

But I do know things really

began to spin out of control

after my first sex dream.

As sex dreams go, there wasn't

much sex, just a collage

of very hot kisses, and Justin Proud's

hands, exploring every inch

of my body, at my fervent

invitation. As a stalwart Mormon

high school junior, drilled

ceaselessly about the dire

catastrophe awaiting those

who harbored impure thoughts,

I had never kissed a boy,

had never even considered

that I might enjoy such

an unclean thing, until

literature opened my eyes.

See, the Library

was my sanctuary.

Through middle

school, librarians

were like guardian

angels. Spinsterish

guardian angels,

with graying hair

and beady eyes,

magnified through

reading glasses,

and always ready

to recommend new

literary windows

to gaze through.

A. A. Milne. Beatrix

Potter. Lewis

Carroll. Kenneth

Grahame. E. B.

White. Beverly

Cleary. Eve Bunting.

Then I started high

school, where the

not-so-bookish

librarian was half

angel, half she-devil,

so sayeth the rumor

mill. I hardly cared.

Ms. Rose was all

I could hope I might

one day be: aspen

physique, new penny

hair, aurora green

eyes, and hands that

could speak. She

walked on air. Ms

Rose shuttered old

windows, opened

portals undreamed of.

And just beyond,

what fantastic worlds!

I Met Her My Freshman Year

All wide-eyed and dim about starting high school,

a big new school, with polished hallways

and hulking lockers and doors that led

who-knew-where?

A scary new school, filled with towering

teachers and snickering students,

impossible schedules, tough expectations,

and endless possibilities.

The library, with its paper perfume,

whispered queries, and copy

machine shuffles, was the only familiar

place on the entire campus.

And there was Ms. Rose.

How can I help you?

Fresh off a fling with C. S.

Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle,

hungry for travel far from home,

I whispered, "Fantasy, please."

She smiled. Follow me.

I know just where to take you.

I shadowed her to Tolkien's

Middle-earth and Rowling's

School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,

places no upstanding Mormon should go.

When you finish those,

I'd be happy to show you more.

Fantasy Segued into Darker Dimensions

And authors who used three whole names:

Vivian Vande Velde, Annette Curtis Klause.

Mary Downing Hahn.

By my sophomore year, I was deep

into adult horror -- King, Koontz, Rice.

You must try classic horror,

insisted Ms. Rose.

Poe, Wells, Stoker. Stevenson. Shelley.

There's more to life than monsters.

You'll love these authors:

Burroughs. Dickens. Kipling. London.

Bradbury. Chaucer. Henry David Thoreau.

And these:

Jane Austen. Arthur Miller. Charlotte Brontë.

F. Scott Fitzgerald. J. D. Salinger.

By my junior year, I devoured increasingly

adult fare. Most, I hid under my dresser:

D. H. Lawrence. Truman Capote.

Ken Kesey. Jean Auel.

Mary Higgins Clark. Danielle Steel.

I Began

To view the world at large

through borrowed eyes,

eyes more like those

I wanted to own.

Hopeful.

I began

to see that it was more than

okay -- it was, in some circles,

expected -- to question my

little piece of the planet.

Empowered.

I began

to understand that I could

stretch if I wanted to, explore

if I dared, escape

if I just put one foot

in front of the other.

Enlightened.

I began

to realize that escape

might offer the only real

hope of freedom from my

supposed God-given roles --

wife and mother of as many

babies as my body could bear.

Emboldened.

I Also Began to Journal

Okay, one of the things expected of Latter-

Day Saints is keeping a journal.

But I'd always considered it just another

"supposed to," one not to worry much about.

Besides, what would I write in a book

everyone was allowed to read?

Some splendid nonfiction chronicle

about sharing a three-bedroom house

with six younger sisters, most of whom

I'd been required to diaper?

Some suspend-your-disbelief fiction

about how picture-perfect life was at home,

forget the whole dysfunctional truth

about Dad's alcohol-fueled tirades?

Some brilliant manifesto about how God

whispered sweet insights into my ear,

higher truths that I would hold on to forever,

once I'd shared them through testimony?

Or maybe they wanted trashy confessions --

Daydreams Designed by Satan.

Whatever. I'd never written but a few

words in my mandated diary.

Maybe it was the rebel in me.

Or maybe it was just the lazy in me.

But faithfully penning a journal

was the furthest thing from my mind.

Ms. Rose Had Other Ideas

One day I brought a stack of books,

most of them banned in decent LDS

households, to the checkout counter.

Ms. Rose looked up and smiled.

You are quite the reader, Pattyn.

You'll be a writer one day, I'll venture.

I shook my head. "Not me.

Who'd want to read anything

I have to say?"

She smiled. How about you?

Why don't you start

with a journal?

So I gave her the whole

lowdown about why journaling

was not my thing.

A very good reason to keep

a journal just for you. One

you don't have to write in.

A day or two later, she gave

me one -- plump, thin-lined,

with a plain denim cover.

Decorate it with your words,

she said. And don't be afraid

of what goes inside.

I Wasn't Sure What She Meant

Until I opened the stiff-paged volume

and started to write.

At first, rather ordinary fare

garnished the lines.

Feb. 6. Good day at school. Got an A

on my history paper.

Feb. 9. Roberta has strep throat. Great!

Now we'll all get it.

But as the year progressed, I began

to feel I was living in a stranger's body.

Mar. 15. Justin Proud smiled at me today.

I can't believe it! And I can't believe

how it made me feel. Kind of tingly all over,

like I had an itch I didn't want to scratch.

An itch you-know-where.

Mar. 17. I dreamed about Justin last night.

Dreamed he kissed me, and I kissed him back,

and I let him touch me all over my body

and I woke up all hot and blushing.

Blushing! Like I'd done something wrong.

Can a dream be wrong?

Aren't dreams God's way

of telling you things?

Justin Proud

Was one of the designated

"hot bods" on campus.

No surprise all the girls

hotly pursued that bod.

The only surprise was my

subconscious interest.

I mean, he was anything

but a good Mormon boy.

And I, allegedly being

a good Mormon girl,

was supposed to keep

my feminine thoughts pure.

Easy enough, while struggling

with stacks of books,

piles of paper, and mounds

of adolescent angst.

Easy enough, while chasing

after a herd of siblings,

each the product of lustful,

if legally married, behavior.

Easy enough, while watching

other girls pant after him.

But just how do you maintain

pure thoughts when you dream?

Copyright ©2006 by Ellen Hopkins




Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Family problems -- Fiction.
Mormons -- Fiction.
Alcoholism -- Fiction.
Identity -- Fiction.
Sex -- Fiction.
Aunts -- Fiction.
Nevada -- Fiction.