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23 September, 2013
Spotlight: Sapphire by Bryan Alaspa
Sometimes the most powerful force on earth is love...
Jimmy Parker is a typical high school student. Unpopular with the girls and picked on by the boys, he’s just trying to survive long enough to escape the tiny Pennsylvanian town of Knorr. With Jimmy and his friend, George, heading to the school dance, they expect nothing but the usual ritual humiliation from their peers, but when a girl in a brilliant blue dress enters their lives at the side of a lonely old bridge…everything changes.
Her name is Sapphire and she is the most alluring girl that Jimmy has ever met. Yet, there is something strange about her; something different. Why has he never seen her at school? Why does she only want to meet up near the bridge? And why does everybody keep warning Jimmy to stay away from her?
Before long, Jimmy is plunged into a decades-old mystery. The town of Knorr has many secrets; some held by powerful men, men that would do anything to keep them from getting out. Something dark happened one night in Knorr and now Jimmy is a part of it, whether he likes it or not. And Sapphire holds the key to understanding it all.
Jimmy discovers that his bond with the mysterious girl creates a unique power between them, a power that bridges time, space, and even dimensions. And it is the one thing that could save them both.
Read an Excerpt from Sapphire by Bryan W. Alaspa
Jimmy stood in front of the full-length mirror and did not like what he saw. The sleeves were too short. The white cuffs of his shirt stuck out from the sleeves of his jacket. Any dork could see that. Unfortunately, most of the student body at Knorr High School already thought of him as a dork. The last thing he wanted was feeling that way during his senior prom. However, here he was, looking at an image that could only be described as “dork.”
“No one will notice,” said his mother from behind him. She was hovering over his shoulder like a specter. She was smiling and proud. “You can take it off once you get there, and no one will even be paying any attention. Everyone will be too busy having a good time to care what you’re wearing.”
Jimmy sighed and tugged uselessly at the jacket’s sleeve. “Mom, you just have no clue.”
She came forward and hugged him. Then she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. Jimmy felt even more like a geek.
“I’m not supposed to,” she said. “Mothers are not supposed to have a clue.”
“Why couldn’t I have rented one?” Jimmy asked for the nine-hundredth time that afternoon.
“You know why,” she said, turning her back and fussing with something out of his sightline. “We can’t afford it. Your uncle had this perfectly serviceable tuxedo and it’s a shame not to use it.”
She reappeared beside him in the mirror, her hand on her hip. Her mouth was a tight line. Jimmy knew that poking at the nerve that they were not a family of means was a low blow. He had seen that look before. This was the same look she had given him as a kid when he wanted a toy that was just too expensive. It was the same look she had given him when he begged her for a cell phone. And he saw the exact same look from her whenever he talked about needing a car.
“I spent a lot of time getting the shirt and pants to fit you,” she said. “I did the best I could with the jacket. If you want, you can spend the night at home with me instead of going at all. So, either deal with this situation the best you can or don’t go. I really don’t care.”
She cared. Jimmy knew she cared. She and his father had worked their fingers to the bone to provide for Jimmy. The family had never gone hungry. They had never been without clothes. They may have shopped for their new school wardrobe at Goodwill, but they had clothes. They may have eaten more macaroni and cheese than others, but they were never hungry. Their car may have been rusted through and coughed out oily blue smoke, but they always got where they needed to go. The house may have been run down and it may have been in the part of town most of the other kids avoided, but they always had a roof over their heads. Then his father had died, suddenly, a few years ago. The pain was always there, behind Jimmy’s eyes, lurking around every corner. His dad had done what he could to make sure his family was cared for, but it had not been easy. His mother worked very hard.
Jimmy smiled his crooked smile. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I appreciate it, Mom. Come on, it wouldn’t be a weekend if I didn’t complain about something.”
His mother’s face softened and then her smile returned. Jimmy managed to turn away, searching for the bow tie, before she could plant another kiss on him. He was only willing to be gracious up to a certain point. He found the tie and fiddled with it for a moment. When he turned back toward the mirror his mother was fiddling with something behind him again. He affixed the tie and straightened it. He took another look. His image still said “dork,” but he had lived with that image for a long time.
Before too long he would be elsewhere, and all of the things he had gone through in high school would be over. He could live with looking like a dork for another night. Besides, he was going with his best friend George, anyway, so things couldn’t get too bad.
“When is George getting here?” his mother asked.
“About five more minutes,” Jimmy said.
“I wish you two had managed to find some nice girls to ask,” his mother said.
“Mom, there isn’t a girl in Knorr High School that would be caught dead attending the senior prom with Jimmy Parker or George Howell,” he said as he adjusted his tie one more time. It immediately went crooked again, and he decided that the tie really didn’t matter.
“I’m sure that’s not true,” his mother said.
Jimmy turned to face her. “Mom, trust me on this one. George and I are not the most popular kids in school. In fact, we are far from it.”
She reached out and pinched his cheeks. This was the one thing worse than the kiss on the cheek. One thing was certain: his mother had some kind of cheek fetish.
“But you’re such a smart, nice kid,” she said.
Jimmy snorted. “Mom, even in your day the smart and nice kids were not the popular ones in school, were they?”
She put her hands on his shoulders. “I found your father in high school. He was smart and nice.”
“He also played football,” Jimmy said.
“He was the kicker,” she said. “You know, back in the old days when dinosaurs walked the Earth, and your father and I were young.”
“Kickers still wear uniforms,” Jimmy said. He paused to make sure his hair looked OK one more time. The cowlick towards the back of his head was still there despite the industrial strength hair gel he had put in there.
Just then, the phone rang. Jimmy’s mother vanished into the kitchen and Jimmy turned back to the mirror and adjusted his tie for the millionth time. He also tried to plaster his hair down, but to no avail. He sighed. He was always going to look this way, right?
“Jimmy,” his mother said, returning to the bedroom. “It’s Jesse.”
Jimmy smiled. Jesse was the town’s librarian. The library was small, but filled with wonder, as far as Jimmy was concerned. It overlooked a river and was surrounded by touristy attractions, but inside it was all books and musty smells. Jimmy had buried himself there when his father died and Jesse had taken a kind of liking to him. It may have been a stretch to say that Jesse was a father figure, but their relationship was pretty close. Jimmy ran to the phone.
“Hey, Jimmy! Are you looking sharp in your suit?” Jesse asked.
Jimmy laughed. “Jesse, I would not look sharp wearing a suit full of razor blades.”
“Come on, you know that isn’t true,” Jesse said. “I’m sure you and George will have a good time. Maybe try to get up the nerve to ask a girl to dance.”
“I wouldn’t put money on that,” Jimmy said. “I’m betting most of the girls there arrive with dates.”
“You just never know,” Jesse said. “I had a pretty amazing time the night of the big dance when I was your age. And I ended up going with a beautiful girl, to boot. You need to be a bit more positive.”
A honk came from outside. This was followed shortly by a sound that was only slightly quieter than a Howitzer shell going off in the living room. George had arrived with his car. The engine settled into a low rattle as the car set about trying to shake itself to pieces again.
“Yo, Jimmy!” came the bellow from the car. That could only have been George leaning out the driver’s side window. George was not known for being subtle.
“That sounds like George,” Jesse said.
“Yeah, that’s him,” Jimmy said.
There was a pause. It seemed like there was more to say, but anything else would have crossed some line between them and that line was still held by Jimmy’s father, even though he was gone.
“You be careful tonight, Jimmy,” Jesse said. “Come by the library when you can and tell me all about it or give me a call tomorrow.”
“I will,” Jimmy said, and paused, then added. “Thanks for calling.”
“You bet,” Jesse said.
Then he was gone, and Jimmy ran back to the bedroom. His mother was there with her hands to her throat in an unconscious anxious gesture she often did, looking as if maybe she had been crying. His mom appreciated how Jesse looked after him, but the pain of losing his father was still there. Jimmy smiled and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Another honk came from outside, so Jimmy had to move.
Jimmy tried to move past his mother, but she grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him back and looking him full in the face again. She smiled, and, much to Jimmy’s consternation, he saw tears swimming in her eyes. She was about to give him some sort of speech about how proud she was of him. It would be similar to one she had given him when he had first gotten the scholarship to attend Clark University.
“Be careful,” she said instead, her voice quavering. “And have fun.”
Jimmy smiled. This time, he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. He left quickly just because he did not want to see her cry. He ran down the hall and through the living room.
Jimmy bolted through the door and heard it bang shut behind him. George was hanging out the window of his car, his tuxedo jacket already tossed in the backseat. He had a huge grin on his face, his hair already wild and windblown from driving with the window down.
“Come on, the party awaits!” he yelled in the rather odd way of speaking that George had and that so marked him as an outsider, and leaned back into the car, reaching over the passenger’s seat to unlock the door.
“What’s it waiting for?” Jimmy asked as he opened the large, rusty door with a loud screeching sound.
“Us, my man,” George said as Jimmy planted his ass on the passenger seat and slammed the door. “It is waiting for us.”
Jimmy laughed. “You do live in an amazing fantasy world.”
George leaned around the passenger seat to peer out the back window as he shifted into reverse. “You should move into my world, my friend,” he said. “Plenty of room, and the fun never stops.”
Jimmy laughed again. He thought that maybe it would be a night to remember, after all. Once Jimmy was situated in the passenger seat, as often happened when he was with George, Jimmy’s own form of speech slipped into the oddly formal way that George spoke.
“Then lead on, sir,” he said. “Lead on!”