Title: Burn Baby Burn Baby
Author: Kevin Craig
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publish Date: December 11, 2014
Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby.
The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.
Trig is pretty awesome. He’s my best friend. He and I go back a long way. If I were writing my bible, it would probably start, “And in the beginning, there was Trig…”
When I finally make it to chem lab, Trig’s sitting in his regular seat, giving me the eye. He knows something has happened and he’s fiercely protective of me. He has this look on his face like he’s gonna kick the crap out of someone. All he needs is for me to give him a name and he’ll be gone. But I silently slide in beside him, with my head down. Better not to look him directly in the eye. He has a way of conjuring things out of me.
“What the fu—” he whispers.
“Mr. Fripp. Is there a reason you’re joining us rather later than usual today?” Ms. Mendel says from the front of the class. My face blooms hot and I know it just turned beet red. “Is that a late slip in your hand?”
I look at my empty hands, puzzled. “Um, no ma’am,” I say. My voice wavers and cracks all over the place. Like usual. “Sorry, ma’am. I was—”
“Forget it, Francis,” she says. “You’ve wasted enough of our time. Just sit down and be quiet. Have some respect for those of us who chose to arrive on time.”
“Yes, Ms. Mendel.” And with that, I try to bury my head in an attempt to get some of the prying eyes off me. It seems to work. Ms. Mendel goes back to her blackboard and starts the class. Let’s face it, I was only a minute late, tops. It’s not like I missed anything. Such drama. I so wish the adults in my life were like the adults in Peanuts. Charlie Brown never had to deal with actual words from the authority figures around him.
“What the hell happened?” Trig says. His whispering leaves much to be desired. “Was someone screwin’ with you? Just tell me, France. A-hole jocks again, wasn’t it? Your forehead’s all screwed up. Who did it?”
I put a hand to my forehead. I don’t feel anything out of the ordinary, but it hurts like hell. “Just leave it, Trig. I don’t want to get into any more trouble.”
“Mendel can suck my knob.”
Georgia, who sits right behind Trig— and sleeps with him whenever possible— kicks his chair. She whispers, “What the hell, Trig. You wanna stand up and announce that to everyone?”
“Oops,” he mouths to me, and laughs silently into his sleeve. But Georgia flicks the back of his head. “Ouch!”
Trig is always careless. He always gets away with everything, though. He’s a strange breed in our school. He’s kind of an untouchable, but instead of heading up the goon-squad of cool and popular kids, he chooses to be friends with the one pariah in the school. Me.
We settle down into class, and I get lulled into a half-sleep by Ms. Mendel’s monotonous voice as she drones on about scientific shit I have zero interest in hearing about. She has become a Peanuts adult after all. I watch the clock as it drags its hands slowly around to the next moment of my freedom.
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