Entry Nickname: A Burning Dilemma
Title: Burn, Baby
Word count: 62K
Genre: YA Contemporary
The fates must have been laughing their asses off the day sixteen-year-old Ziggy's crack-head mom poured gas all over his sister and lit her on fire. The tragedy that wrecked Layla's future gave him the life he'd always wished for, and too much guilt to ever enjoy it.
His mom got thirty-to-life for attempted murder and now the brother and sister are living with a crazy but cool uncle in the suburbs, far away from the public housing apartments where they grew up. They’re going to a private high school and Ziggy's driving his own car and excelling in kickboxing. Unfortunately, his once kind, smart sister now hates everything, but mostly she hates him, for saving her.
Until she connects with her poetry teacher, who falls in love with her angry words, and slowly draws her out from her prison of scars. But Ziggy isn’t happy about eighteen-year-old Layla dating a teacher. Should he try to come between them, or wait to see if Mr. Osterman – despite the taboo – is just what his sister needs to move on with her life? And will Layla's forgiveness allow Ziggy to finally let go of his guilt?
Lightning streaked across the Tampa sky, illuminating the cockroaches that feasted on the kitchen counter. Thunder cracked, slow and building until vibrations shuddered the tiny living room of our crap apartment, where I sat cross legged on the couch. My sister sprawled beside me, reading a book while I watched some dumbass reality show, pretending not to listen for Mom’s john on the stairs with his twenty bucks and baggie of meth.
Aside from a couple of mattresses in the bedrooms, that was the extent of our furniture. A Goodwill couch which doubled as my bed and a junk TV on a milk crate. I held a box of Lucky Charms where Layla could reach, enjoying our family sit-down dinner.
“What’re you reading?” I asked during a commercial.
The rain messed up the picture, so I fiddled with the rabbit ears, only making things worse. Frustrated, I flopped back down beside her, catching the cereal box before it bounced to the floor.
She looked up, her fake scowl only highlighting her anomalous beauty. Freckled apple cheeks and gorgeous blue eyes that turned heads wherever we went. I know that’s weird for a brother to notice, but I was counting on that face to end up in magazines or on TV, and thereby financing our escape from the crack smoking gorgon who used curses and fists to turn her kids to stone.
Layla waved the cover of some teen romance in my face. “A book. You should try it sometime.”