The first two pages:
Beauty for Ashes
Today, I am three years old. Mama—my grandmother who is raising me because my mother is now a quadriplegic—has dragged me along with her while she picks up a prescription. I don’t mind. Armed with newfound knowledge, I march up to the pharmacist and announce that I’m learning to spell. Mama beams proudly—she has sat on the floor with me from the time I could speak, trying to teach me to say my alphabet, read, and spell. The patient lady at the counter smiles serenely and requests a demonstration.
“Cat. K-A-T. Cat.” My first unofficial spelling bee, and I am already disqualified. Mortified, I vow never to misspell that word again—and I never do.
In kindergarten, we are learning to spell three letter words and even put together basic sentences. One day, after I draw a rabbit, I decide to label the poor creature so no one will be able to mistake my sketching for a dog. Unfortunately, I have not yet learned any five letter words besides my middle name (Marie). Devastated, my eyes well up with tears and I drop my head in my arms on my desk.
Lauren, the only friend I have this year, taps me on the shoulder and inquires about my tears. After explaining my dilemma, I sigh. Lauren smiles, shrugs, and blurts out, “B-U-N-N-Y.”
My jaw drops to the floor. I’m convinced—my best friend, the only person at school I know who doesn’t let my speech impediment creep her out, is a genius. She is my hero. I vow I will catch up before the first day of first grade.
I spend the entire summer cramming my head full of words and letters. By the first day of first grade, I proudly march down the hall for reading—in a second grade classroom. My hard work has paid off, and for one hour each day, I get to learn to spell big words. During my class’s spelling hour, Mrs. Denbow allows me to sit apart from the class and read chapter books. I devour Ramona Quimby and Bunnicula books by the day, while my classmates are lucky to achieve a whole Clifford, the Big Red Dog book in a week. I have fallen in love with language.
My love affair increases exponentially the following year. Upon moving across the state, I discover the Nancy Drew Files, and I spend many hours curled up in a dark corner of my bedroom, my adrenaline racing as Nancy comes face to face with the true villain of the story. I “borrow” the magnifying glass, grab a notebook, and spy on summer guests staying in the RV park. I attempt to hide under trailers, in the laundry room, and behind the public restrooms. I am bitten many times by many insects. I am now terrified of spiders. I decide detective work can wait until I turn eighteen, like Nancy. Or better yet, maybe I’ll leave it up to the professionals. Maybe I’ll just be a supermodel.