Rhyme and the Runaway Twins: An Excerpt
Good news, Chicken Girls fans, Rhyme and the Runaway Twins is officially available for order! Scroll for a sneak peak at Brat’s first novel:
Later that evening, Rhyme walked home, exhausted from the day of sinusoidal functions and sixties hairdos. She glanced at her phone— no new messages. No gossip, no selfies, nobody to commiserate with about her miserable summer. It felt as if all of Rhyme’s friends had abandoned Attaway for the break. Ellie and Kayla were back at the dance camp where they’d first met last year. Quinn was staying with her dad for the summer. Rooney and Birdie were traveling through Alaska on a teen tour. Even the PowerSurge girls had disappeared for family trips and study abroad programs.
And then there was T. K., who had waited until the night of the Spring Fling, the night they shared their very first kiss, to announce that he’d been accepted to an internship all the way out in Los Angeles. T. K. and his friend Flash were staying with Flash’s dad—a big-shot director in Hollywood—and learning to make movies.
Earlier in the summer, Rhyme and T. K. had exchanged a few texts and calls, mostly about how sunny it was in California and how boring it was in Attaway. But now, it had been over a week since they’d talked. Then again, why would T. K. want to hear about Ms. Sharpe and the county fair, when he was probably surrounded by glamorous celebrities at fancy parties? Rhyme was happy for T. K.— he was off having the summer of his life. But she couldn’t help but feel like, once again, they were stuck in some kind of in-between.
As she turned down her street, Rhyme sighed and looked around her neighborhood. Row after row of nearly identical houses stood empty, hardly any cars in the driveways, few lights turned on. The power lines crackled in the heat, and she could hear the faint sound of a jet engine, the plane cabin probably filled with people going somewhere way more exciting. Outside of old Mrs. Simpson’s place, an unfamiliar station wagon was parked too far from the curb. Mrs. Simpson had been Rhyme’s neighbor her entire life. Growing up, the old woman had always babysat Rhyme and Harmony—until last year, when Rhyme finally convinced her parents she was old enough to stay home alone. Rhyme passed the car, hoping it meant Ellie or Quinn had hitched a ride home early. But the plates read North Carolina. Weird, Rhyme thought, as she headed up her driveway. Who would ever take a trip to Attaway?
Rhyme opened the front door and kicked off her shoes. She plunked down on the comfy ottoman, staring out the window. The fire- flies hadn’t come out yet. At least I still have my family. They’ll hang out with me, Rhyme thought. In the summers Rhyme and her family would walk to the town green, laying out a picnic and catching the shimmer- ing insects in Mason jars. Harmony never wanted to let them go, but Rhyme always liberated the insects, for fear that their lights might go out forever. Rhyme smiled. Maybe there were still things to look forward to that summer. Her mom’s chicken salad. Iced tea. She’d even be willing to sit on the back porch with her dad and his telescope, as he droned on about Scorpius and Lyra and all of the other summer constellations. Just then, Rhyme’s father came barreling down the staircase, looking totally frazzled. Rhyme noticed a pile of suitcases sitting by the landing. “What’s all this?” she asked her dad.
“Didn’t Mom tell you?” Her dad looked exasperated. “Here, can you sit on this to get it to shut?” he said, gesturing at a bulging bag.
“Are we going somewhere?” Rhyme asked hopefully.
Her father, a slight, serious man with brown eyes like Rhyme’s, looked guiltily at the floor. “I’m sorry, honey, but Harmony’s rehearsal schedule moved up two weeks.” Rhyme stood still for a second, and then turned away from her father, already knowing what was coming. “Your mom and I need to take her to LA tonight, and we won’t be back until Labor Day.”
Before she could respond, Rhyme’s sister sashayed down the stairs. Dressed to the nines in a turquoise halter top, sparkly black pants, and white sunglasses, Harmony’s curly hair was straightened past her shoulders. “No photos, please,” she cooed at her older sister. “I’m simply not camera ready.” Rhyme rolled her eyes. Their mom, following in Harmony’s footsteps, rushed to hold the door, as if the precocious nine-year-old was a really big deal.
The problem was, Harmony was sort of a big deal. That spring, she had been discovered by a casting agent in Malibu for a new TV show called Hotel du Loone. Playing a kid detective named Jazzy, Harmony had filmed a pilot episode earlier in the summer, to see if the network executives liked the idea. Apparently they were so impressed with her acting that they were bringing Harmony back to film an entire season. Rhyme could only imagine how much her tiny sister’s ego would balloon once the show actually started airing on TV.
It took over an hour to pack up the car. By then, Rhyme’s dad was in a sweat, and her mom was huffing and puffing about missing their flight. Harmony, meanwhile, lounged in the back seat, firing off texts to her castmates. Suddenly she was using phrases like babe and sweetie. When she wasn’t applying lip gloss, with exaggerated, pouty smacks, Harmony fired off orders to their parents. “I wanted the rainbow scrunchie!” she screeched through the open car win- dow, hardly looking up from her phone. Before they drove off into the sunset, Rhyme’s parents came over to the stoop, where Rhyme had been sitting in a daze.
“Look on the bright side,” said Rhyme’s mom, as she pulled her dark brown hair into a bun. “Mrs. Simpson has a diving board, and if you want to have any of your friends stay over, you officially have her permission.” She smiled at Rhyme’s dad, who nodded with encouragement. “You’re staying at Mrs. Simpson’s,” her mother said, as if she had already told Rhyme this. Which she definitely had not. “It’s perfect, actually. She broke her hip this spring and is still having some trouble getting around.”
“WHAT?! I thought we decided I could stay home by myself last year!”
“Not overnight, dear,” her father said, shaking his head as if it were ridiculous. “Mrs. Simpson’s doing us a huge favor.”
“Why can’t I just come with you?” Rhyme said, not bothering to listen to her parents lecture her once again on school and the library and “responsibility.”
“You know we would bring you if we could,” her dad said. “But if you don’t pass your exams in the fall, the school said you might have to repeat a grade.”
“So that means studying with Ms. Sharpe,” her mom chimed in. “Here’s some pocket money in case you need it, though I happen to know Mrs. Simpson is an excellent cook.” She handed Rhyme an envelope stuffed with dollar bills.
“Don’t spend it all in one place!” her dad laughed. Rhyme rolled her eyes.
“Remember to thank Mrs. Simpson,” her mom added. “And to help with Reggie!” Rhyme had almost forgotten about Mrs. Simpson’s yapping Boston terrier.
“Great. Another chore. Just what I needed,” Rhyme tried to say, pocketing the envelope, which felt more like a bribe than spending money. But her parents had wrapped her in a bear hug, muffling her complaints.
“We’ll call you every day before bed!” her mom said, as they hurried off to the car. “Love you!”
Rhyme stood to watch as the car pulled out. Through the open window, Harmony blew her a series of kisses.
So much for fireflies, Rhyme thought. Across the way, she saw that the station wagon in front of Mrs. Simpson’s had vanished. It hadn’t taken long for the unknown visitors to realize they were bet- ter off in North Carolina. With a sigh, Rhyme sat down by the rose bushes that separated her house from Mrs. Simpson’s.
Inhaling deeply, Rhyme paused and pulled out her phone. Quickly, she typed up a text to T. K. “Hey. Harmony and my parents are on the way to LA Maybe u will see them.” For a long moment, she waited to see the three dots that told her he was writing back. But there were no dots.
It had always been like this with T. K. Maybe yes, maybe no.