Authors: Lauraine Snelling
© 2012 by Lauraine Snelling & Kathleen Damp Wright
Print ISBN 978-1-61626-560-1
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-60742-800-8
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-60742-801-5
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the authors’ imaginations or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
Cover illustration: Jamey Christoph/
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683,
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses
Printed in the United States of America.
Dickinson Press, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI 49512; February 2012; D10003168
Dedicated to basset rescue organizations everywhere
Dedicated to my parents
I’d like to thank Dawn at Daphneyland
Basset Rescue in Action, California, for time
and encouragement in all things basset.
The Daily Drool
for questions answered on what Wink might do. Thanks to Blue Water Resort in Garden City, Utah, for the free extended stays at the condo for writing; and Sue’s and Ramona’s stories to remind me why I like to write. Becky and Louise for all the reasons they know and don’t know in the adventure of girlfriend-ness. Thanks to my students for their “what box?” creativity and bug-eyed thrill that I’m publishing a story.
From both of us:
Always grateful for our husbands: Lauraine’s Wayne and Kathleen’s Fred for accepting that this is a viable way to live and have adventures. Our gratitude to God for all the dogs that have graced our lives with unconditional love, hysterical behavior, and saliva.
God, You are our Forever Home.
ive empty seats left. Five chances remaining for total humiliation.
Don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me
. Aneta Jasper’s plea zipped through her mind. Kind of like when Grandma zipped the two of them through traffic on the electric pink scooter. On this June Friday, the Oakton City Community Center auditorium was hot and crowded with sweaty kids her own almost-sixth-grade age.
The stage gaped like a monstrous mouth, the eight chairs on its edge—like teeth. A microphone stood in front.
Aneta closed her eyes as the mayor of Oakton City’s raspy voice announced the first three of eight winners of the Founders’ Day poster contest. She didn’t want to walk up in front of all these people. She didn’t want to sit on that stage. And she didn’t—
—want to speak her bad English into that microphone. She also hadn’t wanted to enter the contest in the first place. Mom’s idea. At the thought of her adoptive mom, Aneta smiled even while she clutched her stomach.
“Remember, these winners become Junior Event Planners for our Founders’ Day charity fund-raisers,” the mayor remarked, looking up from her notes. “Next winner, Melissa Dayton-Snipp.”
Junior Event Planners? Fund-raisers?
Aneta’s eyes flew open. Her throat dried up. She swallowed, adjusting the headband that held back blond hair skimming her shoulders. The words in the application had been too hard to read. Aneta had simply signed the form and handed it in. The ache in her stomach grew. She was glad Mom had left today for a work trip. She’d be home Thursday and wouldn’t see Aneta embarrass the family by losing…or worse, by winning and standing up in front of people—and Melissa—and speaking bad English.
Aneta watched her private-school classmate, a brown-haired girl with chunky blond highlights, walk the “Melissa Walk” to the stage. Her hips swung back and forth, her head tilted up. Like she was the princess. From Aneta’s arrival at The Cunningham School, Melissa had appointed herself Aneta’s interpreter and American role model.
“It will be a great opportunity for teamwork and community service,” the mayor said.
was one of Mom’s favorite words.
meant Aneta ended up doing things she didn’t like and didn’t do well. It was hard enough learning to be an Annette instead of Aneta, a Jasper instead of an orphan, and an American instead of Ukrainian. She wanted to make Mom smile, to be a Jasper the way The Fam were Jaspers: loud, smart, and—brave. So she’d said yes to the contest. The more she said yes, the less they might send her back.
Four chairs left.
Aneta shivered. Now more than ever, she did not want to, could not win. Speak and then be in a group? “Don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me,” she muttered again, hands tucked under her capris, staring down at her lime-green sandals, bright against the tan of her narrow feet. She’d rather be home in the pool.
Someone nudged her. Opening her eyes and turning toward the nudge, she looked into the curious almond-shaped brown eyes of the girl on her right. The girl’s black hair was pulled back in a high ponytail that shone under the auditorium lights.
“You okay?” the girl asked. “I’m Vee.” She stuck out her hand.
Aneta had yet to get used to Americans with their hand shaking. Vee was the first kid to do so. Aneta slowly offered her own hand, and Vee pumped it briskly.
“Me?” Aneta swallowed, reminded this was her answer to nearly every question. “I’m okay.” She would bet Vee was the confident kind of girl who would be good at everything and prob ably got picked first for PE.
“Vee Nguyen,” the mayor announced. She pronounced the last name as “new-winn.”
The girl smiled, showing straight, white teeth. “I knew it.” She leaned to whisper in Aneta’s ear as she rose. “I have an awesome idea for a fund-raiser. Plus I did a makeover of the Oakton City logo. In calligraphy.”
“Oh.” Aneta nodded as if she knew what Vee was talking about. The theme had been “Looking Back and Looking Ahead.” Her own drawing, in Prismacolor colored pencils, had been more memory than great art. The tall, stone orphanage where she’d spent the first ten years of her life had been easy to sketch, as well as shading in the outlines of stray cats and dogs that hovered around the gates waiting for fresh garbage.
Mom called it “profound.” Aneta thought it just looked sad. Animals and kids nobody wanted. She’d been one of the lucky ones, adopted by Mom, a lawyer, and into The Fam, the kind-yet-strange bundle of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Three seats left. Aneta resumed the singsong in her head.
“Esther Martin,” the mayor announced.
The dark-blond-haired girl on Aneta’s left, who filled her own chair and spilled over a little against Aneta’s leg, leaped to her feet. “I have a great fund-raiser all planned,” she hissed to Aneta and began to push past knees to the aisle. Her yellow T-shirt with big letters: A
Is? stretched tightly over her stomach. Long, dangling earrings bounced against her perspiring face.
Some of the kids whispered as Esther’s rear end bumped past. Aneta felt bad for her and thought her brave. During the school year, kids had whispered and laughed about Aneta’s bad English. She spent a lot of time hiding in the bathroom. She hoped they wouldn’t taunt this year, now that she was in sixth grade—or would be in September. It was summer; she could ride the Pink Flamingo scooter during the day with Gram, swim with Mom in the evenings and on weekends, and not worry about her English.
Two chairs left.
A yelp of pleasure echoed through the increasingly stuffy au ditorium. Across the room, a redheaded girl, shorter than Aneta—everyone her age was shorter—leaped toward the front. “Yayness!” she yelled, setting off a ripple of laughter.
That girl will have no problem speaking into the microphone
, Aneta thought, lifting her hair off a sweaty neck. Sunny’s smile looked like it was used to spreading across her face.
Aneta’s stomach twisted sharply.
Surely she was safe. She held her breath, preparing a relieved whoosh. She wouldn’t have to pretend to faint, run out of the room, or persuade Mom to let her not be a winner.
“And finally…,” the mayor said, folding her paper.
Don’t pick me, don’t pick me