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Eternal Spring (A Young Adult Short Story Collection)


  ETERNAL SPRING

  Anthology

  Flowers, vacation, baseball, prom…what does spring mean to you? From unicorn hunters and teenage exorcists to Egyptian princesses and aspiring ballerinas, this collection of thirteen stories by some of the most exciting authors in Young Adult fiction explores young love and new beginnings during the most beautiful time of the year.

  Praise for Eternal Spring

  “Eternal Spring blooms with the freshest voices in the YA genre.”

  Gwen Hayes, author of Falling Under

  “Fun, fresh and imaginative, these thirteen tales will delight readers of all ages. A breath of fresh air for the YA world.”

  Mari Mancusi, award-winning author of the Blood Coven Vampire series

  “Readers will fall in love with this diverse and exciting collection of stories by current and future YA fiction stars.”

  – Maureen McGowan, author of Deviants, Book One of The Dust Chronicles

  Eternal Spring Copyright © 2012.

  “Camp Cauldron” Copyright © 2012 by Juli Alexander.

  “Barre Hopping at Midnight” Copyright © 2012 by Amanda Brice.

  “The Vanishing Spring” Copyright © 2012 by Carey Corp.

  “The Princess of Egypt Must Die” Copyright © 2012 by Stephanie Dray.

  “Spring Perfection” Copyright © 2012 by Leslie DuBois.

  “Picture Not Perfect” Copyright © 2012 by Lois Lavrisa.

  “Potionate Love” Copyright © 2012 by P.R. Mason.

  “1:30, Tour Eiffel” Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer McAndrews.

  “Off Balance” Copyright © 2012 by Renee Pace.

  “On a Field, Sable” Copyright © 2012 by Diana Peterfreund.

  “The Language of Flowers” Copyright © 2012 by Rhonda Stapleton.

  “Dating After Dark (With Clowns)” Copyright © 2012 by Tawny Stokes.

  “Sometime” Copyright © 2012 by Alicia Street.

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights reserved under copyright above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner(s) and publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication of these trademarks is not associated with or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  Edited by Rhonda Helms (www.rhondaedits.com), Amanda Brice, and Tawny Stokes.

  Formatted by Patricia Mason.

  For information on the cover illustration and design, contact Amanda Kelsey at Razzle Dazzle Designs (https://www.razzdazzstock.com).

  Table of Contents

  Camp Cauldron by Juli Alexander

  Barre Hopping at Midnight by Amanda Brice

  The Vanishing Spring by Carey Corp

  The Princess of Egypt Must Die by Stephanie Dray

  Spring Perfection by Leslie Dubois

  Picture Not Perfect by Lois Lavrisa

  Potionate Love by P.R. Mason

  1:30, Tour Eiffel by Jennifer McAndrews

  Off Balance by Renee Pace

  On A Field, Sable by Diana Peterfreund

  The Language of Flowers by Rhonda Stapleton

  Dating After Dark (With Clowns) by Tawny Stokes

  Sometime by Alicia Street

  About the Stories in Eternal Spring

  About the Authors

  Camp Cauldron

  By

  Juli Alexander

  My phone vibrated and I hit Ignore for the fifth time. I wasn't ready to talk to Sophie after the stunt she'd pulled. Turning back to the television, I tried to convince myself I was watching the show. If I'd known she'd be so stupid, I would have taken out that dusty cauldron and unused potion book and learned how to brew a common sense potion.

  Mom had been on the land line for twenty minutes. Finally, I heard her hang up, and she stepped into the family room to check on me.

  “Emma, I talked to Sarah.”

  “Mm,” I said.

  Mom had already kicked off her heels and was walking around in her top, skirt, and pantyhose. "She told me you're ignoring Sophie's calls."

  “Yep.” I picked up the remote and muted the television.

  Mom sat down at the other end of the overstuffed couch and sighed as she sank into the cushions. “I hate it when you girls fight. It takes so much of my energy.”

  My mother and Sophie's mother were good friends, which was great most of the time, but not so great when we fought. “She told you why, didn't she?” I maybe whined as I said it.

  Mom's brown hair, frizzy from her long day at work, bobbed as she nodded. “I'm sorry, honey. I know you were looking forward to that Spring Break trip.”

  “What kind of idiot gets caught sneaking out of the house three weeks before Spring Break!”

  My mother narrowed her eyes. “I'm going to ignore your emphasis on 'getting caught' for now.”

  Sophie and I were finally old enough to have a modicum of freedom when her mother took us to the beach. I had been looking forward to this for months! My first Spring Break trip in high school. "Mom, this stinks! I'm already packed!”

  With a frown, Mom said, “I noticed, and I'm pretty sure you would have needed some of that underwear before your trip."

  “Mother!”

  “I am sorry, Emma. I wish we could take you somewhere, but your father and I both have to work.”

  “I need a new best friend.” Sophie and I had grown up together. Our families were magic, and there weren't a whole lot of witches in Athens, Georgia. At least, not real witches. A whole lot of crystals and flowing skirts though.

  “She let you down,” my mother said.

  I had the perfect bathing suit ready to go. Five shopping trips and two Internet orders wasted. Instead of flirting with hot guys on the beach, I'd be stuck here in town. Alone. Everybody went to the beach for Spring Break.

  The grinding of the garage door opener alerted us to my father's arrival.

  “Don't tell Dad!” I pleaded.

  My mother paused, and I knew I had her. “We have to tell him that the trip is off, but maybe we could postpone telling him some of the details.”

  Mom and I were well aware of my dad's opinion of Sophie. He didn't much like her. He thought Sarah was too easy on her, and every time he saw Sophie, he said, “That girl is headed for trouble.”

  Dad walked into the room, taking off his suit jacket and laying in across the armchair. “Honey, I'm home.”

  Dad said that every day. He thought it was funny. I guess.

  He leaned down and kissed my mother. Then me.

  “How was your day, Em?” he asked.

  I glanced at my mother.

  “Not so great,” I said.

  “Sarah canceled the beach trip,” Mom added. “Emma's a little disappointed.”

  “What?” He looked from Mom to me and back. “Isn't it a little late for that?”

  “You would think,” I grumbled.

  “She must have a reason?” Dad sat down in the recliner and waited to hear the rest.

  “Um,” I said.

  “Actually,” my mother interjected, “Sophie is going to be a counselor at Smack Camp.”

  Smack Camp? “She is?” I hadn't listened long enough to find out what her punishment wa
s going to be.

  “Sarah just told me.”

  My father grimaced. “Why would Sophie Singleton want to be a counselor at the Spring Supplemental Magic Management Camp? She isn't exactly the do-gooder type. Or the sleep in bunk-bed type now that I think about it.”

  “Sophie is, um—.”

  “—more mature than you realize,” my mother said, saving me.

  “Well, good for Sophie,” my father said. “I guess I've been underestimating her.”

  We should have taken that opportunity to come clean with him, but neither of us did. Then it was too late.

  My dad turned to me and said, “Can you get in on this, Emma? Was there a deadline to apply? You have the week free now, and I'm sure they could use the help.”

  Me? I gasped. I hadn't seen this coming at all. I turned to my mother with desperation.

  Wide-eyed, my mother stared at my father.

  My dad laughed. “Why so shocked, Sheila? I'm surprised you didn't suggest it yourself.”

  “I can't go to Smack Camp, Dad!”

  “I'm not sure Emma is a good fit,” my mother stammered.

  We were going to have to tell him the truth. It would feed his dislike for Sophie, but I would be saved.

  “Mom!” I urged.

  Mom stood. “I'll check into it, hon, but I'm sure it's too late. Let me make some calls.” She turned to me and gave me a pointed look over the top of her glasses. “I'm sure they've filled all the counselor spots by now.”

  Dad got up and followed her to the kitchen. “Volunteering should buy her some goodwill from the Council. I don't know why we didn't think of this sooner. We've been trying to find a way to get her more interested in her witch heritage.”

  My dad had been freaking out, or as he put it, “voicing concern” about my reluctance to practice magic. He was never going to let this idea go. I grabbed my phone and texted Sophie. She had ruined my life just to spend a couple hours with her stupid boyfriend. Smack Camp was remedial camp for the kids who wouldn't follow the magic rules. These kids were walking time bombs, and now I was headed for the blast zone.

  Three weeks later, my legs glowed neon white as I stood with the other counselors in my khaki shorts and navy Camp Cauldron hoodie. Sophie hadn't bothered to tell me she had used some self-tanning cream on hers. I glanced down at her golden legs, smiling when I noticed that she'd missed a spot behind her knees. Still, my legs were a one on a scale of one to ten right now. Hers were a solid nine. Well, maybe an eight. None of us were spared from goose bumps on the cool late March morning.

  The two guys for cabin four were Greg and Greg. Seriously. The other two girl counselors were Jenny and Jenna. I was already thinking of them as “The two J's.”

  “My fingers are twitching,” Sophie whispered.

  The camp director, Mrs. Laverdiere was fiftyish with curly, red hair, a plastic sun visor, and heavily lipsticked lips, which had been curved into a big, bright smile since we'd arrived. She had confiscated all of our cell phones upon arrival. We were each allowed an hour in the evening with our phones to touch base with family and friends. Otherwise, the campers required our full attention.

  “We'll survive,” I said. It seemed like I had lost a limb, and I'd already reached into my pocket three times forgetting I no longer had the phone. On the other hand, I didn't mind having some time with Sophie. She'd hardly paid me any attention since she started dating Cole three months ago. Even when we had girl time, she was constantly texting him.

  Mrs. Laverdiere ended the call on her own cell phone and came forward to address the eight of us. “I apologize,” she said, tucking her phone into the pocket of her navy jacket. “I had to discuss some late developments with a parent.”

  “Why does she get to wear pants?” Sophie whispered.

  The camp director turned our way, and I elbowed Sophie.

  Ignoring Sophie's resulting squeak, Mrs. Laverdiere said, “I'll be honest with you. We are short-handed. I don't know what we would have done if Sophie and Emma hadn't volunteered just in time.” She smiled in our direction. “Luckily, we have a light week. Most school systems in Tennessee and Georgia opted for other spring break weeks. If we work hard, stay alert, and pull together, we'll provide the campers with a terrific week of Spring Supplemental Magic Management Camp. Oh, and that reminds me, no one here is to use the derogatory term ‘Smack Camp.’”

  One of the guys from cabin two, the tall, ridiculously good looking one, laughed. The shorter guy next to him rolled his eyes. They definitely weren't best friends, like the two J's, but the director had paired them in the same cabin. The taller one was Scott. Mrs. Laverdiere and the other, Ian, shared a look.

  Kids had been calling this Smack Camp since it started a few years ago. Besides the acronym, S.S.M.M.C., the idea was that the kids who ended up here were going to get in trouble no matter how many times they got smacked upside the head. The kids were the ones who kept brewing self-serving potions or using self-serving charms. All magic children went to Magic Orientation Camp after second grade. The ones who didn't learn to control themselves repeated the next year. I vaguely remembered a couple of kids who repeated their summer when me and Sophie went. Milo and Zoe were their names. They'd gotten kicked out the year before, even though the kids they'd made bald were all bullies.

  The council had started with interim training a few years ago. Fall break weekends. Holiday camps. And the Spring Smack camp. The problem with self-serving magic was the punishment. Something bad would happen to our appearance. When your typical witch went bad, he or she ended up with green skin, rotting teeth, a crooked nose, giant wart, you know. The ugly witch stereotype. Kids' punishments were usually more bizarre and unpredictable. I wasn't a very good witch because I was terrified to brew a potion. I didn't even study the stuff they wanted me to. I just avoided it. I didn't want Dumbo ears or giant clown feet.

  My mother usually defended my reluctance with magic, but I think it's because she loved her job at the University and was afraid she'd have to quit to homeschool me.

  "Let's start with a tour of the grounds. It's been a few years since you guys went to Orientation Camp." We walked down the meandering path through the pines to the campfire site by the lake. The rock sculpture of a giant cauldron was smaller than I remembered.

  We'd completed twelve hours of online training in the last two weeks, but apparently Mrs. Laverdiere had more to teach us. After the tour, we trained in CPR and environmental disaster aversion in the new building with the great room. We went over the camp policy—to avoid using magic unless a child's life was in danger. After all, we were training them to selectively use their magic. Then she briefed us on each of the campers with a high tech PowerPoint presentation.

  After hearing about five of the “very troubled youngsters” as Mrs. L. called them, I realized we were in trouble.

  Sophie covered her face with her hands. “Oh my God,” Sophie said, peaking at me through her fingers. “We're doomed.”

  Later, as we stood in the parking lot waiting for the kids to arrive, Sophie continued her tirade. “We're going to end up in the hospital,” Sophie whined as the school bus pulled up with our campers.

  “No kidding. And it's all your fault,” I snapped. “When are you going to apologize for losing our beach trip and getting us stuck in this nightmare?”

  Sophie crossed her arms. “I'm not taking the blame for what happens here. I couldn't have known we'd end up here. Besides, if you're mad about the hot guys, there are hot guys here.”

  She wasn't wrong. Scott and one of the Gregs were pretty cute. And Ian wasn't bad either. The second Greg was rather unfortunate looking. “Not the point,” I ground out. Not anymore.

  The first kids climbed off the bus. The boy with the elephant trunk growing from his nose glared at the other kids as he walked.

  Ian greeted him with a high five. “You're in my cabin, Owen. Lose the tough act. We have a zero tolerance policy for bullying.”

  The kid stiffened.
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  “You've got to take it easy on the other guys,” Ian finished.

  Owen relaxed, and if I could have seen his mouth under the trunk, I thought he might have been smiling.

  “That one's ours,” Sophie said, pointing to a cute, redheaded girl in a navy t-shirt. “Thank God. She looks normal.”

  We'd gotten lucky. Britney's dragon tail had shrunk down to about six inches. In the pictures we'd seen, the tail had been six feet long. Now, she was able to tuck it inside her shorts. Neither of us said it, but Sophie had to be thinking what I was. From behind, she looked like she had a big load of poop in her pants. Poor kid.

  Our only other camper with an issue, Kelsey, had two quarter-sized knots on her forehead. A month ago, they'd been massive elk horns. At one point, the child hadn't been able to walk around without help due to their weight.

  Stephanie, Kelsey, and Leslie hadn't gotten into any recent trouble. Kelsey had a mischievous past though, and we were supposed to keep a close eye on her. Stephanie had a permanent scowl, and Leslie hadn't stopped moving since she arrived.

  Our first activity after the welcome lunch and name game was crafts. Britney didn't stay in her seat as we worked on making lanyards with the boys from Ian and Scott's cabin. I wasn't sure if it was hyperactivity or if sitting on the tail just wasn't comfortable.

  I stood up and tried to communicate with Sophie. “My butt is killing me in this hard chair,” I said. Usually, I wouldn't be caught dead saying that in front of two teenage guys.

  Sophie wrinkled her nose but didn't look up from the mess of plastic lanyard. “Thanks for sharing.”

  “I'm sure I'm not the only one,” I said, biting off each word in hopes that my friend might catch on.

  “It's probably because you don't have a real behind. You're just flat back there.” Sophie handed Kelsey the lanyard she'd untangled.

  I huffed, afraid I'd have to give up my attempt to help Britney. Sophie knew I was sensitive about my flat rear.

  “Emma's right,” Ian said from the next table. “These chairs must be from some torture chamber somewhere.”

  Shooting him a grateful look, I said, “I'll go ask Mrs. Laverdiere if there's something we can do.”

 
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