Little, Brown and Company
An extraordinary portrait of true love that will move anyone who has a first love story of their own.
Axi Moore is a "good girl": She studies hard, stays out of the spotlight, and doesn't tell anyone how all she really wants is to run away from it all. The only person she can tell is her best friend, Robinson—who she also happens to be madly in love with.
When Axi spontaneously invites Robinson to come with her on an impulsive cross-country road trip, she breaks the rules for the first time in her life. But the adventure quickly turns from carefree to out of control after the teens find themselves on the run from the police. And when Robinson suddenly collapses, Axi has to face the truth that this trip might be his last.
A remarkably moving tale very personal to James Patterson's own past, FIRST LOVE is testament to the power of first love—and how it can change the rest of your life.
Little, Brown and Company
IT WAS 4:30 AM WHEN I WOKE UP AND pulled my backpack out from under the bed. I’d spent the last few nights obsessively packing and unpacking and repacking it, making sure I had exactly what I needed and no more: a couple of changes of clothes, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (good for “Shave-Shampoo-Massage-Dental-Soap-Bath,” says the label), and a Swiss Army knife that I’d swiped from my dad’s desk drawer. A camera. And, of course, my journal, which I carry everywhere.
Oh, and more than fifteen hundred dollars in cash, because I’d been the neighborhood’s best babysitter for going on five years now, and I charged accordingly.
Maybe there was a part of me that always knew I was going to split. I mean, why else didn’t I blow my money on an iPad and a Vera Wang prom dress, like all the other girls in my class? I’d had that map of the US on my wall for ages, and I’d stare at it and wonder what Colorado or Utah or Michigan or Tennessee is like.
I can’t believe it took me as long as it did to get up the guts to leave. After all, I’d watched my mom do it. Six months after my little sister, Carole Ann, died, Mom wiped her red-rimmed eyes and took off. Went back East where she’d grown up, and as far as I know, never looked back.
Maybe the compulsion to run away is genetic. Mom did it to escape her grief. My dad escapes with alcohol. Now I was doing it… and it felt strangely right. At long last. I could almost forgive Mom for splitting.
I slipped on my traveling clothes and sneakers—saying good-bye to my favorite boots—and hoisted my backpack onto my shoulder, cinching the straps tight. I was going to miss this apartment, this town, this life, like an ex-con misses his jail cell, which is to say: Not. At. All.
My dad was asleep on the ugly living room couch. It used to have these pretty pink flowers on it, but now they look sort of brownish orange, like even fabric plants could die of neglect in our apartment. I walked right by and slipped out the front door.
My dad gave a small snort in his sleep, but other than that, he never even stirred. In the last few years, he’d gotten pretty used to people leaving. Would it really matter if another member of the Moore family disappeared on him?
Out in the hallway, though, I paused. I thought about him waking up and shuffling into the kitchen to make coffee. He’d see how clean I’d left it, and he’d be really grateful, and maybe he’d decide to come home from work early and actually cook us a family dinner (or a what’s-left-of-the-family dinner). And then he’d wait for me at the table, the way I’d waited so many nights for him, until the food got cold.
Eventually, it would dawn on him: I was gone.
A dull ache spread in my chest. I turned and went back inside.
Dad was on his back, his mouth slightly open as he breathed, his shoes still on. I put out a hand and touched him lightly on the shoulder.
He wasn’t a horrible father, after all. He paid the rent and the grocery bill, even if it was me who usually did the shopping. When we talked, which wasn’t often, he asked me about school and friends. I always said everything was great, because I loved him enough to lie. He was doing the best he could, even if that best wasn’t very good.
I’d written about eight hundred drafts of a good-bye note. The Pleading One: Please try to understand, Dad, this is just something I have to do. The Flattering One: It’s your love and concern for me, Dad, that give me the strength to make this journey. The Literary One: As the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” And I want to go create myself, Dad. The Pissy One: Don’t worry about me, I’m good at taking care of myself. After all, I’ve been doing it since Mom left. In the end, though, none of them seemed right, and I’d thrown them all away.
I bent down closer. I could smell beer and sweat and Old Spice aftershave.
“Oh, Daddy,” I whispered.
Maybe there was a tiny part of me that hoped he’d wake up and stop me. A small, weak part that just wanted to be a little girl again, with a family that wasn’t sick and broken. But that sure wasn’t going to happen, was it?
So I leaned in and kissed my father on the cheek. And then I left him for real.
Copyright © 2014 by James Patterson
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Little, Brown and Company