The Secret Keepers: A Novel

The Secret Keepers: A Novel

by Jeanette Perosa

ISBN: 9781515211570

Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in Children's Books/History & Historical Fiction, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Children's Books/Literature & Fiction, Children & Teens (Young Adult), Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


When an act of violence drives Mandy and Jolee from their South Carolina home, the sisters seek out the grandmother who abandoned them…only to discover a long-kept family secret.

Sample Chapter

Pa was home: the rising rattle of the motor became louder be- fore shuddering off underneath Mandy and Jolee’s bedroom window. There was only one slam of a door—only one occupant.

Mandy could hear him as he stumbled in through the door, heavy boots pounding across the bare floors of the house. His footfalls trembled into the room, rattling the pictures that sat on the dress- er. Mandy began praying under her breath, digging her fingers into her tattered quilt, pulling it around herself. She shifted to her side, gazing over to the sleeping form in the bed next to hers.

“Jolee? Jolee, are you awake?” she asked.

The soft rise and fall of the covers gave the appearance that her little sister was sleeping. Sleep had eluded Mandy. She had spent the last hours squeezing her eyes shut and trying to clear her mind. But she knew. She knew when she came home from school and Pa’s old pickup truck was missing from its spot next to the porch that there was going to be trouble. It had happened every time before. Mandy furrowed her brow, thinking of how Jolee had held out hope.

“Maybe he’s just working late. Got caught up at the repair shop,” Jolee had said, squinting her eyes against the sunlight.

Mandy frowned at her and nodded. “Let’s hope so. But he probably went drinking. Happens all the time,” Mandy had said. She placed her hand on the small of Jolee’s back and moved up the porch steps.

“Hope the sheriff don’t bring him home this time,” Jolee had said before bouncing across the wooden floor.

“Maybe he won’t come home at all.” Mandy’s words had been more for herself than for Jolee. She smiled down at her little sister and opened the door to go inside.

“Don’t worry,” Jolee had said.

Mandy did worry. Mandy worried all night, staring at the dark ceiling. Her anger had faded, and now she lay there full of regret, stomach souring. Now, he was home—drunk. Mandy closed her eyes tight and prayed that sleep would help her escape, but her heart was pounding too loud in her ears; every inch of her felt as if it was ready to leap out the window.

The moonlight trickled through the cotton curtains, lacing the floor with glowing light. The room was as neat as a pin, the bare wooden floor covered with mismatched area rugs bought from Mrs. Mattern’s table at the church rummage sale. Handmade art- work dotted the shadowy walls, finger paintings and Elvis Presley record jackets cut and taped to cover fist marks.

Mandy closed her eyes as she listened to her father’s voice drip in through the thin walls.

“Mandy...Jolee,” he said. “Pa’s home,” a small voice said from the other side of the room. “Try to be quiet. That way he’ll just go to bed.” “Mandy, I left my homework book on the kitchen table. I don’t

want him to touch it when he’s like this.” Jolee’s eyes went wide, glistening in the pale moonlight.

Boots pounded the floor next to them, shaking the walls like tremors as he lumbered his way downstairs.

“Mandy, girl, git here!” Pa slurred a shout into the stillness. “Why does he have to be like this, Mandy?” “Close your eyes tight! Don’t concern yourself with him,” Mandy

said. Jolee’s big eyes shone with tears. She pulled the blanket over

her head, leaving strands of blond hair poking out for the moon- light to play in. Mandy twisted in her bed, nausea rising in her stomach. The crashing and thumping became louder and closer as her father made his way through the small farmhouse. He was humming. The tune swirled and blended in her mind as his foot- falls made their way down the hallway.

“Mandy, where’s my dinner?” “Maybe we should have left dinner out for him,” Jolee said. “Maybe I would have if we even had a real dinner,” Mandy said

back as the emptiness of her stomach soured her thoughts. Their dinner had consisted of apples leftover from the school lunch line and a loaf of bread that Mrs. Mattern had wrapped in a red-and- white checkered cloth and left in a small metal bucket by their door. It was soft and warm as Mandy bit into it. Jolee’s hands shook with worry when Mandy insisted they eat the whole loaf.

“Don’t worry about Pa, Jolee. He sure has no concern over us,” Mandy had said, holding the last fluffy piece out to Jolee with her other hand perched on her hip, letting her elbow point out. Jolee hesitated for a moment before snatching it from her like a starving wild animal.

“I think there even might be a spot of preserves left in the icebox to put on it.” Mandy jumped up and raced into the house, Jolee hot behind her as they raced into the kitchen toward the icebox. Jolee’s smile was as sweet as the teaspoon of preserves smeared on the bread. It left them licking their fingers, their mouths dotted with raspberry seeds, sitting together in the kitch- en on their mother’s kitchen set. The shiny metal legs and bright yellow plastic seats looked odd against the backdrop of the rustic kitchen.


Jeanette Perosa

The Secret Keepers

“Mrs. Mattern makes the best bread,” Jolee said as she swal- lowed her last bite. Mandy smiled as she poured more water into the Coca-Cola glass that sat perched on the linoleum-covered table.

“Yes, she does. Maybe she’ll leave some fried chicken tomor- row night.” Mandy smiled at her sister as they giggled for dessert. Mandy snapped the radio on and started dancing, taking her lit- tle sister by the hands and dragging her around to Elvis, laughter filling the air of the house while their mother watched—smiling from a photo beneath the weight of a magnet on the refrigerator.

The bread had filled their bellies for a while, but it sat hard and sour in her stomach as her father clanked around, breaking glass and knocking things over.

“Mandy! Jolee! What was in the bucket? Where’s dinner?” The bucket met the wall, tossed hard against it. The sound thumped into the room, metal hitting against the plaster.

There was silence for a moment. It fell over the house like a sheet of ice, catching everything tight within its grasp. Mandy didn’t want to move or breathe. Her heart pounded in her ears, causing them to ring. Small beads of sweat glazed her forehead and dampened her hair as they rolled down the sides of her face. Several more thumps broke into the night air before the radio belched static rough and hard and then smoothed out with the sweet sounds of Patsy Cline.

He was moving again. His boots shuffled up the stairs as he sang along with the song in a slurred voice laced with sobs.

“He’s thinking of Momma,” Jolee said, her voice small and urgent.

“Jolee, be quiet! He’ll hear us and come in here.”

The humming became louder and more rancid, stinging Mandy’s ears as if bees were caught in her head. She pressed her hands to her ears, trying to block out the sobbing that intermin- gled with the tune. There was a loud crash followed by a cry.

“Pa fell!” Jolee said, sitting straight up in bed, eyes wide.

“Jolee, he’s drunk! He always falls when he’s drunk. Now hide yourself and go to sleep.”

“What if he’s hurt?” Jolee asked as they heard him screaming before drifting back into soft sobs that bounced up the stairs.

“Jolee, go to sleep!”

The sobs became louder as light from the hallway drifted under the flimsy door. Mandy gritted her teeth and drew in a breath. His footfalls hammered in her ears as they came closer, the hum dwin- dling. The doorknob turned slowly after another large bang in the hallway. The door swung open and flooded the room with light; a silhouette casting a long shadow touched the foot of Mandy’s bed. She flinched and moved away from it.

“I know you’re not sleeping, Mandy.” Mandy said nothing. “I want to know why there is no dinner for me.” She pulled the covers tighter as she heard the jingling and

clanking of his belt buckle, as he moved deliberately and clumsily about the room.

“You live under my roof, and this is the treatment I get,” Pa said, sauntering around the room, landing in strips of moonlight before drifting into the darkness. “I could have sent you to live with that bitch in Virginia, but no. I kept my girls. My girls. Now this is how I get repaid. Disrespected!” Pa’s breath was hot and poured out over her face as he bent down over the top of her, burning her skin.

“We were hungry, Pa. There was nothing in the house to eat,” Jolee said from the other side of the room.

Pa whipped around, eyes flashing in the glowing light. “Are you sassing me?” he said, taking one step closer to Jolee. “Leave her alone. You’re drunk. Get out of here,” Mandy said,

panic lacing her voice. Pa whipped around, his face twisting with anger. He reached

out for Mandy, grabbing a corner of her blanket. His fingers snaked

up her bed quilt, pulling and tugging at it. Mandy held it, tearing her fingernails into it. His fingers were cold and rough as they brushed her skin. She kicked at him, flailing against the covers.

“Leave me alone! Mrs. Mattern gave that dinner to us!”

Her eyes met his as he stared at her, licking his lips. His face was a ghostly white, eyes dark and deep. He smelled like sour beer and body odor as he towered over her.

“Always got something to say, don’t ya?” “No, sir.” “You need to learn to respect your pa.” Mandy’s heart was pounding in her ears. She sat up straight

like an arrow and drove her stare into him. The sound of the slap left ringing in her ears. The sudden sting of his thick flesh hitting her cheek caught her off guard. She scrabbled to grab the covers and pull them tight against herself, mouth gaping. Jolee began to wail, the sound muffled by her quilt.

“Next time, you don’t touch nothing until I get my share!”

Pa’s eyes appeared like two black holes in his face, and he swayed slightly from the force of the slap. Mandy kept staring at him, her eyes like thin slits and a red handprint glowing on her cheek. He turned and left, stomping out into the night.


Excerpted from "The Secret Keepers: A Novel" by Jeanette Perosa. Copyright © 2015 by Jeanette Perosa. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Jeanette Perosa

Jeanette Perosa

Jeanette Perosa lives in Limerick, Pennsylvania, with her husband, four children, a pack of miniature schnauzers, and a cat. She holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Arcadia University.

View full Profile of Jeanette Perosa

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