Losing Faith by Denise Jaden

Losing Faith

byDenise Jaden

Paperback | September 7, 2010

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A terrible secret. A terrible fate.

When Brie's sister, Faith, dies suddenly, Brie's world falls apart. As she goes through the bizarre and devastating process of mourning the sister she never understood and barely even liked, everything in her life seems to spiral farther and farther off course. Her parents are a mess, her friends don’t know how to treat her, and her perfect boyfriend suddenly seems anything but.

As Brie settles into her new normal, she encounters more questions than closure: Certain facts about the way Faith died just don't line up. Brie soon uncovers a dark and twisted secret about Faith’s final night...a secret that puts her own life in danger.

About The Author

Denise Jaden has written fiction for young adults and nonfiction for writers. Her works include Losing Faith, Never Enough, Writing with a Heavy Heart: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch Your Fiction, and Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First Draft Novel in Thirty Days.
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Details & Specs

Title:Losing FaithFormat:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1 inPublished:September 7, 2010Publisher:Simon PulseLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1416996095

ISBN - 13:9781416996095

Appropriate for ages: 14

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chapter TWOi slip into the passenger seat of Dustin’s yellow Mustang, lean over, and kiss him on the cheek. He smiles, and slides a sandy-colored lock of hair behind his ear. The dimple on his cheek makes my heart flutter.“Where to?” he asks, sliding one hand onto my knee. I place my hand on his, stopping him before he reaches the hem of my skirt.My mind works fast and I remember a barn bash one of Dustin’s friends mentioned. “Evan’s party?” I say.“I thought we were going to your place.” He inches his hand up my thigh.I hadn’t actually told him that but I guess I’d been obvious enough. “We can’t. My sister’s home.” I add a pouty huff to pretend I’m just as upset about it as he is.He looks over at me with a suggestive smile, and then past me to the backseat. “We could … park somewhere.”I follow his eyes. Oh, how romantic. Sticky vinyl clinging to my bare ass. Perfect.“I heard it’s supposed to be a big deal at Evan’s.” I make my voice sound light.“Oh.” He meets my eyes.I flinch away, not wanting to give his gaze time to convince me.“Right.” He turns and studies the mirror on his visor.I can’t tell if I’ve offended him. “It’s just …” I tug my skirt back down. “I was hoping to get to know some of your friends.”He stays quiet for a few seconds, letting the car idle on the edge of the curb. Then, without a word, he puts it in gear.I spend the first few minutes of the car ride thinking about how to make things better with him. I take about a hundred deep breaths and make a mental promise to myself to set up another night for us soon. Now that I’ve had a practice run, I’ll be much more comfortable with it next time.“Did you finish your poem?” Dustin interrupts my thoughts and with that one question, not a hint of abrasion in his voice, all is right with my world again.“Um, almost.” My face heats up. I’m flattered that he remembered what I’d been working on earlier when he called. That he cares enough to ask. But I just hope he doesn’t want to hear some of it. My poetry’s not good, not like Faith and her music or anything. Still, it gives me hope that one day I will share all my inner workings and passions with him. When I figure out what those are.He shoots me a grin and one solid nod, but doesn’t say anything else. It’s like he knows my exact thoughts and he won’t ask for more until I’m ready. I can’t hold back a little internal squee. We’re so perfect for each other.It takes longer than I expect to get to the farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere, but I don’t mind. Dustin talks about some of his classes this week and asks me what I think about every little thing. We’re in different classes, different grades even, but I appreciate the fact that he wants to talk to me about the stuff in his life so much when we’re alone, so I try to offer intelligent replies.When we pull up the dirt drive of the party house, a crowd assembles by Dustin’s door. I let myself out and stand on the passenger side while Dustin slaps a few hands and says his hellos. A couple of I-don’t-need-to-shower-more-than-once-a-week guys partying in the back of a pickup truck call for me to come over. Not by my name, but by a more endearing alias, “Hey, baby.” I ignore them.The thing about guys in Sharon, Oregon, is that the majority of them wear this tougher-than-granite act, cracking bottles open with their teeth, their jean buckles, their forearms. I figure it’s to make up for living in a town with a girl’s name.Dustin and I walk across the yard and look for our friends. Well, Dustin’s friends, if one wants to get technical, but I’m sure it won’t take long before they’ll be my friends too. I reach over and intertwine my fingers with his, pulling my shoulders back and standing a little taller. The number of people who watch our trek feels a bit unsettling, but exciting at the same time. This is my third big party with Dustin and I think I could get used to this.A bonfire blazes in front of an abandoned farmhouse on our left. The barn, missing a side wall and lit up by a half-dozen hanging lanterns, sits straight ahead with the guts of the place in plain view.Dustin and I don’t acknowledge anyone else in the yard. Mostly guys. Mostly drunk. We’re heading to where the rest of the party rages, on the upper floor of the barn. Juniors and seniors, less drunk and less biceps-flaunting than the lawn crowd, chat and joke in small groups. A large table displays a full spread of alcohol.“Cool,” Dustin says. “Let’s go.”He pulls my hand, but I don’t move. My feet are wrapped in lead weights. The open-air platform—with no railings, fences, or even chicken wire—combined with all levels of inebriation, terrifies me. I swallow at the lump lodged in my throat.“Why don’t we just stay down here for a bit,” I say.“Yeah, right.” He looks at me like I’ve just suggested we play hopscotch on the mounds of manure. “Let’s get a drink.”I scan the yard around me looking for an excuse, but there’s nothing. Nothing enticing about ditching the fun crowd above for the guys who are vomiting by the swing set, or the ones lying flat on their backs with draining beer bottles propped in their mouths like frothing baby bottles.I try a different, more honest, approach. “Um, do you really think it’s safe up there?”Dustin belts out a laugh like I’ve just said the funniest thing he’s ever heard, then gives my arm a good yank toward the barn entrance.My mouth feels like I’ve sucked on a lint ball. The loft is probably safer than it looks, I tell myself over and over and over again on the thirty feet it takes to get to the barn. Dustin wouldn’t take me there if it wasn’t. And so far tonight, no one’s fallen. I scan the ground around me to make sure.Inside the barn, a stereo above cranks out some old Fergie tune. Halfway along the wall, there’s a staircase. It’s a curlicue access that looks like the fries they make in the school cafeteria. Dustin drags me toward it while I try to keep my mind on cafeteria food. Fries, ketchup, that disgusting, overcooked pasta.I take deep breaths and concentrate on the rickety railing and cross-mesh metal of each stair. When the light from the top floor comes into view, I back up a step. Dustin almost trips, and gets his bearings before tugging on my hand once again.When I force myself to step onto the platform at the top, vertigo hits me and I drop Dustin’s hand to grasp the wall. The dim lanterns streak across the ceiling like a crazed disco ball. People, laughing and talking, come in and out of focus.“Let’s just hang out here for a bit.” I focus on the dusty wood-plank floor and force some steadiness to my voice. By the time my breathing evens and I look up, Dustin stands across the platform, filling a shot glass at the booze table. Did he even hear me?He chats with a group of guys, knocks back the drink, and makes a face that for a second I can’t recognize as someone I would ever be attracted to. Someone comes up the stairs behind me and I’m forced to slide over so they can get through.My BFF Amy stands a few feet away from Dustin, talking to a group of girls near the ledge. Actually, Amy’s not really my BFF. Not like Faith and Celeste, who’ve been attached at the hip since kindergarten. Amy and I are more like BFFN—Best Friends For Now. Or BFWIW—Best Friends While It Works.Amy has Big Plans, just like everyone else in my life. Hers include makeup artistry and working at MAC Cosmetics. I’ve learned to apply perfect eyeliner and toenail polish, but try as I might, I can’t drum up the kind of excitement it would take to organize my life around flawless foundation.I wave. She holds up a drink toward me, her eyebrows raised.I smile back, because Amy doesn’t really drink. She had too much at the first pep rally last year and ended up passed out half-naked in the school parking lot. Since then, she discreetly nurses one drink throughout a whole party.She gestures for me to come over, even though she knows about my fear of heights. I can hardly remind her from here. I shake my head, and then motion for her to come over to where I’m glued against the wall.She nods and holds up a one second sign to me before turning back to finish her conversation.Perfect. At least I won’t look so completely alone. Dustin now holds a beer in one hand and a shot in the other, though he still doesn’t seem to be making a move back in my direction. Maybe I should have just parked with him somewhere. I let go of the wall with one hand and try to wave him down, but he’s caught up telling one of his jokes and doesn’t notice.I’m startled by a vibration in my pocket, and at first I slap at it, thinking a bug crawled on me. Then it dawns on me, and I dig for my cell to look at the display.My parents. Crap.The deal is, I can go out late on weekends because my parents are actually pretty cool despite their heavy church involvement, but I always have to tell someone in the family where I’m going and I have to answer my phone when they call. One time I forgot to charge the stupid thing and got grounded for two weeks because I didn’t pick up. And that was on a Sunday afternoon.Of course they might alter the rules a little if they knew about the booze table, the lack of parental supervision, and the guy who picked me up. I press my cell to my ear, cupping my hand over my mouth to help deaden the music and voices.“Hello!” I yell. My parents’ meeting shouldn’t be over for at least another hour. I can’t believe one of them ducked out to check up on me.A muffled voice sounds on the other end. I plug my other ear to hear better.“Hello?” I say again.“Brie … can you … are you …”“Dad, there’s a band here at Café Rio. I can barely hear you.” I step into the stairwell and crouch down, pulling my arms over my head to deaden the sound. Things are slightly quieter, in the way a football game might be quieter than a rock concert. “Dad, you there?”“I need—” He sounds like he’s choking or sick or something. I’ve never heard him like this. He’s always so … composed.“Dad, are you okay?”“… the hospital … I can’t …”The hospital? “Are you hurt?” I bring my fist to my mouth. Or maybe it’s Mom. “Dad?”“Just come … the hospital …”Silence follows and I look at the display on my phone. It reads CALL ENDED.I click on my phone book and dial Dad back. It goes straight to his voice mail. Following the tone, I ramble on in a panic. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m coming to the hospital as soon as I can. I hope everything … everybody’s okay. Is Mom with you? Okay, I guess I’ll see you soon.”Next, I scroll to my sister’s number and hit send. Hers also goes right to voice mail. Faith always has her phone on, even when she’s at home. She’s the super-responsible one. Never been grounded for anything.Turning cell phones off must be a hospital rule. Which means she’s already there and I, of course, will be the last of the family to arrive.One minuscule step at a time, I move along the wall toward Dustin, who’s now near the open edge of the platform.I can do this, I tell myself. I focus on the floor and attempt to slow my breathing.At least I’ll be there for only a second. Long enough to drag Dustin out so he can drive me. I slide my hand along the wall until I reach him. He doesn’t notice me right away and laughs too loudly at another guy’s joke.Keeping one hand on the wall, I reach over and tug at his plaid overshirt. He finds my hand, laces his fingers through mine, and with a sudden tug, I’m at his side. By the edge. My heart beats like a thunderstorm in my chest.He looks over. “Hey, babe. You gotta hear this.” He turns back to his friend. “Evan, tell Brie about this guy.”“Dustin, I gotta go.” My sweaty hand nearly slips from his. I wrap my other hand around his wrist for some sense of security.“It’s the funniest thing,” he says, as though he doesn’t hear me. “Tell her what his mom made him do.”I pull him toward the staircase. “I mean it, Dustin. There’s some kind of emergency with my family. I need a ride.”Dustin takes a big swig of his drink, and then passes it to Evan. “The girlfriend wants to get out of here. You know what that means.” He raises his eyebrows at Evan. His words slur, but I don’t care. Nor do I care about the show he’s putting on for his buddy. I force my mouth into a smile and hold my lips tight to keep my teeth still.When Dustin reaches in his pocket for his keys, the motion knocks him off balance. The edge is so close. Suddenly, he jerks me down by the hand. The whole barn spins and I scream, squeezing my eyes shut. A roar fills my ears, Dustin’s hand slips from mine, and black spots blur my vision. The next thing I know, someone else’s arms grip my waist and I’m pulled, lifted … saved. I pry open my eyes and am amazed to see I didn’t go over.Dustin rummages on the floor of the loft, still near the edge. “Where the hell are my keys?”The group around him laughs, but he doesn’t notice. Evan, my apparent savior, leans over me, asking if I’m okay. I still hear my scream echoing into the night.I nod. “I just … I gotta go.”I crawl away from the edge, over to Amy, and grab her leg.“Yeah, he’s so cute. I swear—” She stops and stares down at me like I’m some kind of psycho poodle.“Amy, I need a ride. It’s an emergency. I have to get to the hospital.”After a second, recognition crosses her face. She glances at the girl she was talking to, then back to me with more concern. “Oh. Okay. I’ll drop you off.”She doesn’t say anything until we get into her brother’s beater Hyundai, and I’m glad. I just need to concentrate on my breathing for a few minutes.“So, are you and Dustin on the outs, or what?”“Huh?” I rattle the door to make sure it’s shut. “No, he’s just drunk.”“I don’t know.” She shakes her head. “I wouldn’t leave him there like that. You better be careful. He could have anyone—”“I’ve kind of got more important things to worry about at the moment, Amy.” She hasn’t even asked about the hospital. I could be dying of internal bleeding for all she knows.As if she can read my mind, she asks, “So someone’s hurt, or what?”“I don’t know. I mean, my dad sounded awful, and what if—” I stop myself. Faith’s big on speaking things into existence. Not that I believe in that stuff, but still. We sit in silence through the next traffic light. Small beads of rain land on the windshield, and when she turns on her wipers they sound much too loud in the quiet car.“Wow, I sure hope everyone’s okay,” Amy says.But something’s really wrong and she isn’t driving fast enough. When we round the corner and the hospital comes into view, I fling the door open. “You know what? It’s fine. Just drop me here.”She screeches the brakes. “Are you nuts? I’ll drive you, Brie. I’m driving you, aren’t I?” She shakes her head. “Shut the door and stop being such a bitch about everything.”Amy calling me a bitch is like Faith calling me religious. But Amy’s the least of my problems. I yank the door closed. The quicker I can get there and find out what’s going on, the better.She turns into the parking lot. “Look! Your dad’s van!” She uses her “making amends” voice.“Great.” I jump from the car and force out my reply. “Thanks a lot for the ride, Amy. I really appreciate it.” I wave as I run past her car. She doesn’t offer to park. To come in. To find out if my family is okay. Instead, she nearly hits a light post when she zooms backward to spin in the direction we came from.Amy’s always been pretty self-absorbed and I don’t have time to be offended about it now. I race through the automatic doors and straight for the elevator, accosted by the antiseptic smell. Pushing the up button, it hits me that I have no idea what floor they’re on. I scan the wallboard and see EMERGENCY CARE— 4TH FLOOR just as the elevator doors open.When I step off the elevator onto the fourth floor, the first thing that strikes me is the seriousness of it. Nurses and doctors bury their heads in clipboards. A man inches along with a walker as though it’s stuck in sludge. I’m almost positive people don’t have cute, healthy babies on this floor.At the nurse’s station, I spot my sister’s blond hair, and the frumpy gray sweatshirt I saw her in earlier tonight. She leans over the counter toward the receptionist. I let out my breath and march over. At least she’ll be able to tell me what’s going on.As I’m about to grab her by the shoulder, the red stitching on the seam of her top makes me stop. It’s not the same shirt.She turns to face me, the striking blonde who’s not my sister, and moves aside so I can speak to the nurses.“It’s awful,” one heavyset nurse is saying to another, completely ignoring me. “They must be having a horrible time.”“Excuse me?”They both stop and turn to me.“Jenkins?” I say as a question, since I’m not really sure who I’m looking for. My mouth tastes like metal when I speak.The gossiping nurse frowns. She glances at the other nurse, and then points down the hall. “Uh, yes. The last door on the left.”By the time I’m halfway down the wide hallway, the word “Chapel” posted above the last set of doors comes into view. Of course. Where else would Dad be? Must be on his knees in there with the hospital chaplain. My parents’ Big Plan is called predestination, and this is what they do in times of crises. Or anytime, really. They meet with other churchies.My heart still beats hard against my ribs, especially when I notice the police officer pacing in front of the chapel door. I shimmy past him and nudge the door open. My parents are both inside, alone on either side of the small room, and I let out a small breath at the sight of them. The wood walls and ceiling seem jarring after the sterile hospital hallway. Mom perches on a chair to my left, bent forward, and in shadow. The solitary light from the far side of the room shines down on Dad, hunched over the pulpit.“I got here as fast as I could. What’s—”Dad looks up with tears streaming down his face. I glance from him to Mom, then to the rest of the sparse room. The four empty benches. The plants in pots along the side of the room that look too similar and too perfect to be real. Dad holds a gray sweatshirt, one without red stitching, and crumples it in his tight grip.“Where’s Faith?” I ask.There’s a pause and time stops. Suddenly, Mom and Dad come at me so fast and so panicked that I feel like a baby choking on a penny. Having no idea what’s going on or how to react, I ball my fists and pull them to my face. My parents throw their smothering arms around me and I feel explosive heaves from their chests, as though the only air in the room is coming from them.At least they’re breathing. My lungs are stuck together with Krazy Glue. “Where’s Faith?” I ask again, but it comes out in little more than a squeak.Mom lets out a howl of a cry.My parents squeeze me tighter and pet my head as though I’m a dog or a farm animal, and suddenly, I understand.Faith isn’t here. Isn’t coming here.I gasp, and my Krazy-Glued lungs tear apart.I’m no longer the black sheep of the family.I’m the only one.© 2010 Denise Jaden

Editorial Reviews

“This thoughtful first novel explores early grief and shows how it can tear at the structure of a family that cannot mourn together…. [R]eaders are taken on a ride through a secret world of religious zeal gone haywire….With pitch-perfect portrayals of high school social life and a nuanced view into a variety of Christian experiences of faith, this first novel gives readers much to think about.” --SLJ