Nora & Kettle
Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: February 29th 2016
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?
Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to—the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having “one drop of Japanese blood in them”—things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.
Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naïve, eighteen-year-old Nora—the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.
For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.
In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.
Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.
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Cotton candy sticks to my fingers. It winds around my hands, dyeing my skin pink. The smell is so deliciously artificial, so sweet and simple, that it brings tears to my eyes. I bring my nose to the fluffy cloud of sugar and inhale. The breath gets caught in my throat and I inhale again, startled by the feeling. I can’t breathe. I’m choking. Choking on a pink cloud. I cough, putting my hands to my neck. I try to cough again, but nothing moves. I mouth help me soundlessly.
My eyes fly open.
Darkness presses down on me, and a weight leans against my windpipe. My eyes flick to the window. I imagine small rectangles of golden light shining in the night like invitations and witnesses, though only hollow, broken-glassed holes stare back at me. I reach for them, my arms shaking, a tear caught in the creases of my eyelids.
“You knew and you didn’t tell me,” he whispers darkly, dragging my oxygen-starved body from the bed, to my feet, and then releasing me. I stumble as I drag in a breath as quietly as I can. I can’t wake Frankie. My knees knock as I brace myself against the wall. “You sad, pathetic little girl. Did you honestly think you could keep this from me?”
My head drops, my mind still catching up, still caught in cotton candy. “Keep what from you?” I manage, my voice squeezed of sound like my windpipe now has a permanent kink in it.
I can barely see him in the dark room, but I hear the deep, frustrated breath in. It’s wrapping around me like a snake constricting and squeezing. I feel the disgust in his footsteps, sharp, stabbing at the floorboards. He darts and grabs my arm, gripping so tightly that I know his handprint will be tattooed on my skin by tomorrow. “You come with me. Now!”
Like I have a choice.
He yanks hard. Every movement is punctuation to his hatred of me, to his unending anger that it was her and not me.
The hall is lit by a single lamp, and it flickers and dances happily against the wallpaper. My heart beats along with every flick and my body starts trapping itself against the pain. I fold in and in like a note passed around the classroom.
When I trip on the rug, he doesn’t even stop, just tugs upwards on my arm hard. I bite down on my lip to stop from crying. He won’t spare Frankie if she comes out of her room, and she won’t be able to take another beating.
I can do this.
The study door is kicked open, and I’m swung into the room like a discarded doll. I land, palms flat on the hard floor, the polished boards reflecting the golden spines of hundreds of books. Books that educated a man, yet failed to teach him how to be one.
He looms over me, hands on his hips. His striped pajamas and slippers softening him into a lie I can’t believe, because there’s a darkness in him, a clawing, scrabbling darkness deep within. He casts no shadow. He swallowed the unwilling likeness years ago, and now it coats every organ in his body with blackness.
“What were you trying to achieve?” he spits.
I shuffle backward on my bottom and prop myself up on my elbows, trying to think what to say, how to diffuse him. There’s nothing.
“I wasn’t trying to ‘achieve’ anything. I’m sorry, Father,” I say. “I thought Mister Inkham would inform you of the changes.”
His eyes widen at the name, but he doesn’t respond to my words. He’s stuck on the speech he wants to give. The punishment he’s holding in his clenched fists.
“Do you think it’s acceptable to lie to your father? To entertain strange men in my home when I’m not present?” he starts. Raking a hand through his ash-blond hair, he pauses. “I don’t know why I bother…”
He takes a step toward me, our feet just touching, and I’m frozen. I want to run. I want to scream for help. Fight back. But I can’t overpower him and I can’t leave Frankie alone with him.
“Please, Father. I’m sorry. I didn’t know what he was calling for until it was…”
A dark whir like a giant batwing comes at the side of my face with such force that my teeth feel as if they’re escaping through my cheek. The words, the futile words, are knocked from my mouth. I should have learned by now. But I always try.
“Get up!” he snaps, nursing his hand like it hurt him too. I scramble to my feet and start for the door. “Stop.” He swiftly closes it and turns, his face shadowed in violence. “Get the belt from the desk drawer.”
What did Mr. Inkham say? Survive, endure, for three more years…
Disappear. Sink down, down, down. Go somewhere he can’t find you. Hide.
I can do this. I have to.
“You’re nothing like her,” he says with the first crack. “You’re of no value to me.” The words are a cloud floating away as I cocoon myself, pull down the shutters, and wait for it to be over.
Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.
She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.