Eve Prince is done with college, with her mom, with guys, and with her dream of fashion design. But when her best friend goes MIA, Eve must gather the broken threads of her life to search for her.
Desperate to visit her sister, Boop, a retiree dripping with Southern charm, hijacks her granddaughter Eve’s road trip.
Along the way, Boop hopes to alleviate Eve’s growing depression—which, she knows from experience, will require more than flirting lessons
and a Garlic Festival makeover. Nevertheless, she is frustrated when her feeble efforts yield the same failures that the sulfur-laced sip from the Fountain of Youth wrought on her age.
The one thing that might help is a secret that’s haunted Boop for sixty years. But in revealing it, Boop would risk losing her family and her own hard-won happiness.
Their journey through the heart of Dixie is an unforgettable love story between a grandmother and her granddaughter.
Mary Helen Sheriff spent fourteen years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals. During that time, she also had the pleasure of dabbling in writing for children, teenagers, and adults in a variety of forms including fiction, poetry, blogs, and nonfiction. She spent several summers immersed in an MFA program in children’s literature at Hollins University. Currently, she lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia, with her two kids, two cats, and husband. Get a free guide to gifting books by signing up for her newsletter at https://maryhelensheriff.com/literary-care-package/.
Eve served her prison sentence in Biology 102, grateful that at least Tim had agreed to be her lab partner again. The reek of formaldehyde was so foul Eve had worn a mask to the previous dissections. This morning, though, she’d put on makeup (for once), which would have been made pointless if a mask covered half of her face, especially given the super attractive science goggles already covering the other half. Safety goggles were a ridiculous lab requirement. Were they afraid the pigs would come to life and gouge her eyes out? Yet another example of adults and their misguided overprotection.
Everyone said she’d get used to the smell after a few minutes, but Eve had yet to move past the nauseous stage.
Tim rolled his eyes toward the corner where several girls in form-fitting shirts with plunging necklines were squealing and prancing around like piglets themselves.
But when Eve examined the real pig strapped to the tray in front of her, thoughts of silly girls and dancing piglets vanished completely. The pig was small. Fetal. Its skin a paler and tanner version of pink than the one she’d used in her childhood coloring books. Funny, how we simplify everything as children, even colors. Eve would’ve given a great deal to be able to color her world with a box of sixteen crayons again (though perhaps not her designs).
Tim’s gloved hand sliced from the throat to the umbilicus.
Eve locked her gaze safely on the lab book. Her hands shook. Partly because, well, blood and guts, and partly because today was the day. The day everything would change. The day Eve would take control of her life and ask a boy out. Ask Tim out. In spite of her mom; in spite of her own terror. She couldn’t wait to report back to Ally. They hadn’t talked in two weeks—practically forever. Wouldn’t she be shocked? And proud?
Tim exclaimed over the pig’s scrotum.
Eve followed his pointing finger and instantly regretted the tater tots, Lucky Charms, and Devil’s Mess she’d had for breakfast.
Tim folded back the skin and muscle to reveal its gummy internal organs—the stomach, the intestines, the liver. . . .
Eve swallowed down the stomach acid leaking into her mouth. She needed to stop watching but couldn’t seem to help herself. The combination of “peer-through-fingers-while-watching-horror-movie” syndrome and Tim—with his cute chin dimple and streak of bleached hair on his otherwise dark head—was irresistible.
Did Tim find her irresistible? When she asked if he wanted to grab a coffee with her after class, would he jump at the chance? Maybe he’d been trying to find the nerve to ask her out. Just last week he’d mentioned being interested in someone, and he’d said it with heavy significance—as if the “someone” was actually her. Then, yesterday, he’d referred to her as a “babe.” Not Eve’s favorite word but, coming from Tim, she’d take it. So today was the day.
Tim held up the pig to drain its bodily fluids.
Eve’s stomach rumbled.
Now. She’d do it now. She crossed her gloved fingers. And opened her mouth.
He turned on the faucet to rinse out the body cavity, and that’s when it happened. That’s when he sprang it on her.
“So . . . I’ve got something I want to talk to you about.”
Eve blushed. Was he going to do it? Then she’d be off the hook.
A wave of relief washed over her, but Eve was surprised to note a twinge of disappointment too—now she’d never know if she could’ve screwed up the courage. Whatever—was she crazy? Tim was about to ask her out, and she was worried about tests of courage?
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time, but I couldn’t find the guts.” He held up the dead pig when he said “guts” and wiggled his eyebrows at his cleverness.
Eve gave him an encouraging smile. Her heart raced, preparing for one of those moments.
“I’m pleased to announce,” he drummed his stained gloved fingers on the lab table’s edge, “that Carrie and I are a couple.”
“I know right? Crazy. She wanted to be the one to tell you, but we flipped for it, and I won. Isn’t it awesome?”
How could Carrie do this to her? They were friends. Roommates. But then Carrie didn’t know about Eve’s crush, did she? Damn! Why hadn’t Eve confided in her?
The smile on Eve’s face froze in place like a clown’s. “Awesome. Right.” She blinked, glad now for the goggles. Sweat broke out on her forehead. They were wrong—she wasn’t getting used to the smell.
Tim offered Eve the scissors. Without giving it any thought, she took them, and snipped. The bone crunched. Eve ran to the trashcan and said hello to her breakfast for the second time that day.
“Oh, gross!” the girl nearest Eve said.
Eve could feel the eyes of the whole lab drilling into her hunched back.
Tim’s voice came from behind. “You okay? Why didn’t you say something?”