Word count: 30,000
When eleven-year-old Mary-Jane “MJ” Lennox’s mother dies and her father is deployed to Korea, she never cries. Not once. Sent to live with her grandmother on the icy tundra of Alaska, she thinks her young life is over, until she discovers an abandoned and forbidden greenhouse. And inside is a neglected garden full of hope.
After MJ receives word that her father is missing in action, she throws herself into saving the garden. With the help of her friend Nanook Tuktoo, MJ restores the dead garden to life as the Alaskan summer brings twenty-four hour light. She hopes the rejuvenating power of the garden will also help cure her young neighbor, Colin, of his cancer.
But as the sun begins to set, the flowers slow their blooming, Colin worsens, and her father remains missing, MJ thinks all is lost. Now she must find the strength to overcome her pain and learn that crying isn’t a sign of weakness, and hope can carry anyone through darkness.
When the minute hand on the clock above the whiteboard ticked to the fourteen mark, I shot my hand up so fast my shoulder popped in its socket.
Mrs. Nashoalook stopped her rambling on photosynthesis. “Yes, Mary-Jane?”
It’s MJ, I thought, but the last time I corrected her she’d said my record didn’t show a nickname and I’d have to go by Mary-Jane. Grams must’ve filled out the registration papers. Daddy would’ve put MJ.
“May I please use the commode?” I said, my hand still waving in the air with urgency.
She blinked. “The commode?”
Did they not call it that in Alaska? “The toilet, ma’am. I gotta go real bad.”
A wave of giggles washed over the classroom.
“I know what a commode is.” Mrs. Nashoalook focused her eyes back on her sixth grade science textbook, but I saw a secret smile spread on her brown lips. “Be quick.”
“Thank you!” I sprang out of my tush-numbing seat-desk combo and waited in the hall for the door to close. I didn’t want Mrs. Nashoalook to see me turning left instead of right.
At the front desk, the secretary’s back was turned, so it wasn’t hard to sneak past her to the exit. But the bronze glare of Eben Hopson, my new middle school’s namesake, caught me. He was just a statue, but his hollow eyes gave me the heebie jeebies.
I stepped outside and my nose hairs froze, a feeling I’d never get used to because it felt like I had a big booger wanting to be picked.