Some days are brighter than others, but Penelope Finnel has been taught she can be invisible behind the colored lenses of her heart-shaped sunglasses.
Her mind is her worst enemy, and simply waking up in the morning is risky. For a kid like her, staying in bed is easier, especially when the day has come to start school in a new town with new kids who don’t understand that the clouds are not the only reason everything is so gloomy.
Dillon Decker is a typical boy from a typical small town who radiates light and happiness. Under the hovering glare from her father, Dillon leads Penelope around on his bicycle’s handlebars, hoping he is the cure to her madness.
But when friend turns to lover, and lover turns to caretaker, how much can either of them tolerate before they’re swallowed whole?
A story about moving trucks and rollerblades, candy for smiles, and notes across lawns.
First loves and the struggle to keep it sane.
The true love way.
My dad stares at me like I just told him there’s a dental theories’ seminar for nerd dentists like himself he wasn’t invited to.
No, better than that.
His face reminds me of that time he realized a grown man had stolen his lucky molar spreader from his office after an extraction and was forced to buy a new, unlucky one.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Dad clears his throat, shutting the door so that Mom doesn’t hear our conversation.
Sex is natural, it happens, and it’s a part of becoming a man. Dad told me all of this when he was naming parts on a plastic uterus, and now he wants to know if I’m ready. I wasn’t ready for hair to grow on my balls, but that happened.
I wonder how many M&M’s Coach Finnel will give me if I make Pen smile during sex.
Those should count as double.
“Considering Penelope’s condition, Dillon, committing to a physical relationship with her isn’t very wise.”
“She’s sad sometimes,” I say, swallowing my anger. “Not dying.”
Pulling the rolling chair out from behind his desk, he sits and takes his glasses off. Dad pinches the bridge of his nose before continuing. “There’s more to it than that, Dillon. Especially in children, and that’s exactly what the two of you are.”
We’re tangled limbs and naked skin, breathing heavily and touching curiously. My bare back stings under the summer sun, and her pale, undressed chest practically glows. A cage of stark white bone, red blood and muscle, and blue veins protect the fragile beating heart beneath. I brush my lips over the diamond-shaped collection of freckles at the base of her throat and push my knees up, opening hers around me.
She’s tired-wild and lifeless-living.
The dense wall of trees around us protects her from being seen, and the blanket over the grass keeps her comfortable. Far enough out into the woods, only the wildlife will hear her screams.
She’s all that matters and safe with me.
Sliding my hands up her thin stomach and over her round chest, my girl tilts her head back, and her brown eyes move under her translucent lids. Chapped lips part, and a sound so small escapes I don’t know if I heard it and question my own sanity.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” I ask, unbuttoning my shorts.
Penelope’s long lashes flutter, and she opens her eyes against sun rays so strong red blotches slowly appear on her outstretched arms. She has green blades of grass in her grip, holding on to Earth so she doesn’t fly away as I slowly push my fingers into her warmest spot.
My girl circles her hips over my hand, and I shove deeper, like either one of us knows what this really means.
Leaning over her small body, I kiss the length of Pen’s neck and pull her earlobe between my teeth.
“We can stop whenever you want,” I say, licking the single tear that bleeds from the side of her eye.
“I don’t want to,” insistence answers with a breathless voice.
My only experience of Mary Elizabeth’s writing is a short story included in an anthology, so I went into reading this not knowing much about her writing style. I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed the previous novella I’d read and was looking forward to reading True Love Way.
Right from the beginning, the book had a real eighties feel to the story. It wasn’t clear from the beginning when the story is set which enabled me to revel in the visuals of my eighties childhood. Told from Dillon’s POV, I could quite easily imagine the summery and dusty day the story begins.
The day Penelope moves in next door to Dillon, he is infatuated. From her bubble blowing to her sunglasses. Something about her, draws him in, the only way a twelve year old can be.
It was very clear that Penelope has ‘issues’ – I have to admit that I guessed the truth about her. Elizabeth deals with subject (no, I’m not spoiling it for you, you’ll have to read it for yourself) in such a classy and sympathetic way which I applaud her for. Through Dillon, the reader gets to know Penelope and her problems in such a way that you can’t help to want to support their relationship. However, it’s realistic enough that it’s not entirely plain sailing.
Caring for Penelope takes it’s toll on Dillon and her parents (btw, her dad was weird and I wasn’t sure if I liked him). Naturally, they all struggle, in some ways just as much or more than Penelope herself, to cope day to day with keeping their loved one able to work through her issues.
The reason I’m not giving True Love Way the full five stars is simply because in places I was a little disappointed in Pen’s parents. I can’t put my finger on what it was about them, but often the way they dealt with her rubbed me up the wrong way slightly. Maybe it was frustration on their part after having to deal with her for so long, but… yeah. I don’t know.
I will definitely read more by this author – in fact, I have Dusty on my kindle, calling my name.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Elizabeth is an up and coming author who finds words in chaos, writing stories about the skeletons hanging in your closets.
Known as The Realist, Mary was born and raised in Southern California. She is a wife, mother of four beautiful children, and dog tamer to one enthusiastic Pit Bull and a prissy Chihuahua. She’s a hairstylist by day but contemporary fiction, new adult author by night. Mary can often be found finger twirling her hair and chewing on a stick of licorice while writing and rewriting a sentence over and over until it’s perfect. She discovered her talent for tale-telling accidentally, but literature is in her chokehold. And she’s not letting go until every story is told.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”–Jeremiah 17:9