Hi peeps, we have Jo Ramsey stopping by today with her upcoming release Midnight Chat, we have a fantastic guest post from Jo and we have a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
For the past two years, since meeting in ninth grade, Mira MacDonald and Rob Stevens have been inseparable best friends. Rob’s struggles with depression, and his reliance on Mira, sometimes make the friendship difficult for Mira, but she wants to support Rob. Especially since he’s the victim of severe bullying at school due to his sexuality. Even though Rob isn’t out, he is gay, and the suspicion is enough for some people to torment him.
Now Mira has her first girlfriend, Talia Acevedo, and Rob’s jealousy is becoming even more of a problem. Rob insists that Talia doesn’t like him and is trying to break up their friendship. Mira tries to stay neutral, but it isn’t easy when Rob’s obsession with her escalates—along with his anger as the harassment gets worse.
One night, during one of their typical midnight text sessions, Rob tells Mira he’s decided to take drastic action at school to stop the bullying once and for all. And if she tries to stop him or tells anyone else, she’ll be first on his target list.
Helping a Friend by Jo Ramsey
The great thing about having friends is having someone to count on when things are tough, as well as someone to celebrate with when things are going well.
One of the difficult things about having friends is being the one they count on when things are tough. Sometimes the “tough” isn’t really all that hard to deal with. You can offer support and, if they ask for it, advice, and the situation resolves, and everything’s fine. But other times, the “tough” really is, and it goes on for a long period of time. You want to support your friend and make things better for them, but what they’re dealing with is beyond what you can help them fix.
When your friend has a mental illness or has experienced a trauma, that’s often a time when you’re out of your depth in trying to help them, especially if you’re the only one they’re asking for help. In those situations, you can definitely be supportive and encouraging, but unless you’re a mental health professional, you might not be able to help them with the symptoms of the illness or the aftermath of the trauma. And even if you are a professional, it might not be a good idea to try to counsel someone you’re emotionally close to.
For teenagers, often friendship is everything. Helping a friend, supporting them, celebrating with them…all of it’s important. And when a friend needs help beyond what you’re capable of giving, you try to give them that help anyway. They’re your friend. You have to be there for them, and if they won’t get help from anyone else, you owe it to them to do what you can. If you tell anyone else what your friend is dealing with, you feel like you’re betraying them, and that means you might lose the friendship.
In Midnight Chat, that’s the dilemma Mira MacDonald faces. Her best friend, Rob Stevens, is badly bullied at school, and he clearly isn’t coping well with it. The school staff doesn’t do much to protect him. And for Rob, the bullying and problems with his parents are leading him down a dark road. The only thing that seems to help him is his habit of contacting Mira in the middle of the night to talk. And every time, Mira answers, because she believes she is the only one Rob can count on.
But Rob is also battling untreated depression, and as he spirals further into the darkness, Mira realizes his problems are beyond what she can help with. He’s starting to scare her. He’s making threats, and she wonders whether he’s just venting or whether he’s serious. She knows he needs more help than she can give, but she believes if she goes behind his back to tell anyone else her concerns, she’ll be betraying him. If she does that, she fears he’ll stop speaking to her and will have no support from anyone.
Finally, though, Rob’s problems become a crisis, and Mira has to decide whether risking the friendship is better than risking people’s lives.
When we walked through the main door, shouting in one of the corridors leading off the lobby caught my attention. Loud voices so jumbled I could barely make out anything except a few swear words and a high-pitched yelp. Without even being able to see what was going on, I knew it had something to do with Rob.
I dropped my backpack, trusting Talia to take care of it, and ran.
The corridor was so packed I had to shove people to get through the crowd. A few people swore at me, and someone punched me in the arm, but I didn’t care. One of the morons should have been getting help, not standing around watching someone get the crap pummeled out of them.
Teachers should have been there anyway, since the crowd was in front of the English classrooms. The teachers had to have been in their rooms. They couldn’t have avoided hearing all the chaos. But not a single one of them was in sight.
In the thick of the crowd, a group of four guys stood clustered around something. Someone. And I knew who.
“Go get a frigging teacher!” I yelled at the girl nearest me, some tiny blonde who was probably a freshman judging from how terrified she looked. She stared at me wide-eyed for a second, then turned and started pushing through the crowd around her. At least she was small enough not to need much space to go between people.
The first bell rang. Some of the spectators headed off to class, but the guys stayed exactly where they were. One of them raised his fist.
At my scream, three of the guys turned. The one with his fist raised didn’t move, not even to lower his hand. Craig O’Donnell. One of Rob’s worst enemies, for no reason except Rob existed.
I shoved my way past a few more people. Rob was cringing against the bank of lockers, both hands raised to protect his face. Blood dripped onto the floor from somewhere on his face. I guessed his nose. They always hit him in the nose.
So furious I could barely see straight, I slugged Craig’s other arm. “Leave him alone!”
Craig looked down at me and laughed. “Seriously? What are you going to do if I don’t?”
“That’s enough!” Mr. Jameson, my English teacher, hurried over to us, trailed by two other teachers. He pushed between Rob and Craig, facing Craig, and looked at me and the guys. “All of you, office. Now!”
The rest of the crowd, muttering and whispering, started walking away. The other two teachers started herding Craig and his buddies toward the main office. One of them touched my shoulder, and I shook her off. “That’s my best friend. I’m not going anywhere until he does.”
“She’s fine,” Mr. Jameson said.
The teacher nodded and moved along. Rob bent over, sobbing and gagging. “Why?” he asked in a thick, nasal voice. “Why again?”
I quickly moved beside him and put my arm around him. “It’s okay. They have to get suspended. The school can’t let this go.”
“That isn’t—” He broke off in a coughing fit.
“Let’s get you to the nurse.” Mr. Jameson took Rob’s arm and helped him straighten up.
Sure enough, Rob’s nose was swollen, and blood and snot streaked the lower part of his face along with his shirt. When he looked at me with wet, red eyes, something in his gaze almost made me run from him.
From my best friend. Someone I would never turn my back on. But the way he looked right then scared the hell out of me. He wasn’t afraid. He was somewhere beyond fury, and at that second, I didn’t know what he might do.
I breathed in and held it for a couple of seconds before letting go. Some of the tension left with the air. Of course Rob was angry. He had every right to be. He wouldn’t hurt anyone, though. Rob never hurt anyone.
“I’ll have the office send a janitor to clean that up,” Mr. Jameson said. “Come on.”
I stayed right beside Rob with my arm around his back, while Mr. Jameson held Rob’s arm. Rob moved like a zombie, shuffling one foot in front of the other so slowly it felt as if we took an hour to reach the lobby. As we walked to the nurse’s office door, I glanced into the main office.
Craig slouched in one of the chairs by the counter, along with two of his pals. One of the teachers stood beside them, arms folded. The other guy was nowhere in sight.
I started to shake. None of the bullies had ever hurt Rob this badly before. Those guys had hurt my best friend, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I’d never been able to do anything except remind Rob I cared about him. One of these days, that might not be enough.
Rob gagged again, and we stopped. “Are you going to be sick?” Mr. Jameson asked.
Rob shook his head. “Swallowed blood.”
“Not surprising.” Mr. Jameson narrowed his eyes. “Don’t worry about those guys. Mr. Shorey and Ms. Cramer will take care of them.”
“Sure. Just like they’ve done all the other times, right?”
“They’ll take care of it,” Mr. Jameson repeated. He didn’t sound as confident. He knew damn well this kind of thing had happened to Rob before. No one ever “took care of it.” None of the bullies had ever gotten more than detention, and they’d only gotten that the rare times when a teacher had witnessed what was going on. Most of the time, adults were nowhere around, and Rob’s and my word about what happened didn’t mean a whole lot when everyone else denied it.
We reached the nurse’s office. The nurse stood from her desk, took one look at Rob, and grabbed him from us to guide him to the bench beside the door. “Sit here. Don’t tip your head back. I’ll be right back.”
She bustled over to the closet where she kept the first aid supplies. I sat beside Rob and put my hand on his. He was shaking worse than I was. If I could have taken away his pain, I would have. But all I could do was ask stupid questions. “Do you want me to call your stepmom? She can bring you a new shirt.”
“And then bitch at me for getting this one dirty.” Rob shook his head slightly. “No thanks.”
“We have to call your parents,” Mr. Jameson said. “You should probably be checked out by a doctor. Your nose is in pretty rough shape.”
“So?” Rob glared up at him. “It doesn’t matter. It’s only going to happen again.”
Mr. Jameson opened his mouth and closed it again. He couldn’t argue with the truth.
The nurse came back with gauze and a cold pack. She handed a wad of gauze to Rob. “Hold this against your nose. Don’t squeeze and don’t press. Just hold it there.”
He followed her directions, and she looked at me and Mr. Jameson. “Another fight?”
“Unfortunately.” Mr. Jameson sighed. “You’ll call his parents, right?”
“I have to.” The nurse frowned. “Maybe it’ll go better than last time. Mira, are you okay? You didn’t get hurt, did you?”
“No. I got there at the end of the fight.” I turned to Mr. Jameson. “Do I have to go to the office? I didn’t fight anyone. I just yelled at them to stop.” Being interrogated by the vice principals was the last thing I wanted to do, especially since they wouldn’t believe a word I said anyway.
“Mr. Shorey and Ms. Cramer will probably want to hear your side of the story,” Mr. Jameson said. “You saw at least some of what happened.”
“So did a few dozen other people,” I muttered.
Even if Mr. Shorey and Ms. Cramer talked to every single person who’d watched the fight, it wouldn’t matter. Most of them would probably say they hadn’t seen anything, even if they’d been standing right beside the guys. Anyone who admitted there had been a fight would probably blame it on Rob solely to get him into trouble.
“They’ll talk to everyone they can.” Mr. Jameson touched Rob’s shoulder. “I have to get to class. I’m sorry this happened, Rob. Whatever I can do to help make sure those guys are punished, I’ll do.”
“You can’t do anything.” Rob closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. “No one can ever do anything.”
The hopelessness in his tone sent sharp blades into my heart. I’d heard it way too many times before. He’d gone from anger to giving up. To wanting to die because he saw no other way to stop the pain.
I didn’t have anything to say. I should have reassured him. Given him back some hope. Told him things would be okay. Except I wouldn’t have believed it, and neither would he.
I hated this frigging school. So far, Rob had always come out of the darkness, and he probably would this time. But I didn’t know how much more he could take.
“Mira, come to the office with me, please.” Mr. Jameson didn’t sound much better than Rob.
I didn’t want to leave, but I wasn’t doing Rob any good just sitting there. At least if I talked to the administrators, I would be doing something useful. There was always a tiny chance they might listen.
I squeezed Rob’s hand. “Hey. I’ll come back after they talk to me, okay? Hang in there.”
He opened his eyes to tiny slits. “It won’t do any good.”
“I don’t care.” I stood. “I’ll come back.”
His mouth twitched. “Thanks. At least you give a shit.”
“Damn right.” I stood so Rob wouldn’t see my eyes watering. More people should have cared about him.
I followed Mr. Jameson to the main office like the good, obedient little student I was. Craig wasn’t around this time. His other buddy had taken the chair. The other two guys hadn’t moved.
Mr. Jameson led me around the counter and pointed to the chair beside the attendance secretary’s desk. “Mrs. Chaffee, please make sure those boys and Mira don’t talk to each other.”
I narrowed my eyes. As if I would talk to the idiots. I didn’t care whether they said anything to me. I almost hoped they would, because Mrs. Chaffee might actually step in, unlike most of the school staff. She was one of the good ones.
“No problem.” The secretary gave me a tentative smile. “Everything all right, Mira?”
“That depends on how you define all right.” Realizing I sounded disrespectful, I sat. “Sorry.”
“She’s waiting to talk to Ms. Cramer and Mr. Shorey about the fight,” Mr. Jameson said. “She’s a witness. Other students might come in as well. I need to get to my class, but I’ll talk to Mr. Shorey and Ms. Cramer later.”
“All right. Not a problem.” Mrs. Chaffee turned back to her computer.
Mr. Jameson left. Tense and trying to avoid looking at the morons on the other side of the counter, I stared at the bulletin board on the opposite wall. All of the notices on it were for teachers and other staff members, probably nothing I should have even been reading. Then again, if they didn’t want students reading it, they shouldn’t have put it in the main office.
The guys mumbled and whispered, and I caught my name a few times. I wanted to scream at them to shut the hell up, but I kept my mouth shut. If I said a single word, they would claim I’d tried to start a fight. Besides, talking to them wouldn’t have done any good. They knew they were jerks. They didn’t care.
After a little while, Craig came out of the vice principal’s office with Ms. Cramer. He glared at me, and I looked away. Even making eye contact might come back to bite me.
“Mrs. Thompson, have you called these boys’ parents?” Ms. Cramer asked the other secretary.
“I haven’t been able to get hold of Jack’s,” Mrs. Thompson said from her desk beside the bulletin board. “The other parents are on the way.”
“Mr. Jameson brought Mira in to speak with you,” Mrs. Chaffee said. “She saw what happened this morning.”
Ms. Cramer nodded and gestured at me. “Come in, Mira.”
I stood on shaky legs. Between leftover adrenaline and trying not to go off on the guys, my whole body trembled, and my heart raced a zillion beats a second.
Ms. Cramer led me into her office. Mr. Shorey, the other vice principal, was sitting at Ms. Cramer’s desk. He had a separate office, so I guessed he and Ms. Cramer wanted to be together to interrogate everyone.
“Have a seat, Mira.” Ms. Cramer sat in one of the two cushioned chairs in front of her desk.
I took the other chair. “I only saw the end of what happened.”
“Tell us what you saw,” Mr. Shorey said. “We’ve already talked to the boys involved, other than Rob. We’ll be talking to him in a few minutes.”
“He’s in the nurse’s office,” I said. “They made a mess of his nose.” They shouldn’t have wanted to talk to him. He was the one who’d been hurt. That was all they needed to know.
“I know.” Mr. Shorey sounded irritated. “Just tell us what you saw.”
I bit my lip. I had to be completely neutral in front of them. If I sounded emotional at all, they wouldn’t listen to anything I said. They never did. That was part of the reason they overlooked what Rob reported: he always cried. “Um, I came into the building and heard a lot of shouting and stuff in the English corridor. I went to see what was going on. A bunch of people were standing around, and Craig, Jack, Allan, and Seth were in front of the lockers. Craig had his hand up like he was going to hit someone.”
“Who was he going to hit?” Ms. Cramer asked.
She already knew the answer. Aside from hearing Rob had been injured, she and Mr. Shorey had probably listened to the guys blaming Rob for the fight. Everyone knew he had a temper, so of course Craig and the others would try to convince people he’d started it. And some would believe them, even though there had been four of them and Rob wasn’t that stupid.
Ms. Cramer and Mr. Shorey were supposed to be objective. Just the facts. If the guys had said Rob started the fight, Ms. Cramer and Mr. Shorey should have been smart enough to figure out they were lying. I had to make sure they did.
“Rob Stevens,” I said. “They had him up against the lockers, and he had his hands up like this.” I demonstrated. “He was bleeding.”
“Did he try to hit anyone?” Mr. Shorey asked.
I shook my head. “He just tried to keep them from hitting him. He didn’t touch anyone.”
“What did you do?” Mr. Shorey folded his arms.
“I yelled at the guys to leave Rob alone.” I paused. Craig might not even have noticed me touching his arm, but just in case, I figured I’d better mention it. “I tapped Craig on the arm to get his attention so he wouldn’t hit Rob. Then Mr. Jameson and the other teachers showed up and took care of everything.”
My heartbeat sped up again. I’d told the complete truth, but there was no guarantee they would believe me. It all depended on what the guys had said. If anything didn’t match up, Ms. Cramer and Mr. Shorey would probably believe the guys because there were four of them. Numbers always won. Rob would back my story if he was thinking clearly, but that would still only be two against four or more, depending on whether Mr. Shorey and Ms. Cramer talked to anyone else who’d been there.
If they decided I was lying, I might end up in detention or even suspended.
“Thank you.” Ms. Cramer stood. “We’ll let you know if we want to talk to you about anything else. Get a pass from Mrs. Chaffee. Do you need to go to your locker, or are you ready for first period?”
“Um.” I didn’t know what Talia had done with my backpack. “I think I’m ready for class. Talia had my bag.”
Mr. Shorey rolled his eyes. “You kids need to stop making other people responsible for your things. Go to class and see if your bag’s there. If it isn’t, come back down here.”
I tensed and pushed myself out of my chair. He sounded pissed off, which I didn’t appreciate. I’d been trying to save my best friend from getting beaten into the hospital. Obviously I hadn’t cared too much about my bag at that point.
But I didn’t say another word, just walked out to Mrs. Chaffee’s desk, got my pass, and headed to Mr. Jameson’s room. Where, fortunately, I found my backpack beside my desk.
I didn’t see Rob for the rest of the day, and he didn’t answer the texts I sent. I assumed his stepmother had taken him to get his nose checked out and brought him home afterward, but I was still worried. He might not have had a chance to tell Mr. Shorey and Ms. Cramer his side of the story before he left. Without hearing from him, they would have even more reason to believe the other guys.
I didn’t see Craig or the other guys either, though, so maybe Ms. Cramer and Mr. Shorey hadn’t believed them. Maybe for once, the school was actually punishing the people who should be punished.
After school, I sent Rob a couple more texts while Talia and I walked to the grocery store. I kept my phone in my hand until we reached the store, but Rob still didn’t answer.
Jo Ramsey has been telling stories since she could talk, and has been writing them down since age five, when someone finally showed her how to make those funny little squiggles on paper. Her first written story was about a girl named Maria who went to live with her uncle. Out of desperation to keep Jo occupied, her kindergarten teacher encouraged her to write stories based on books in the classroom library, and the writing addiction was born.
When Jo was a teenager, she started writing young adult fiction, and still has some of the stories she wrote during junior high and high school. And no one else will EVER see them! Many of her stories involved “normal” teenagers who ended up doing or seeing extraordinary things. Her main influences were Susan Cooper and Madeleine L’Engle.
Although Jo never stopped writing entirely, real life interfered for a while after she graduated college. She worked as a special education teacher, married, and had two daughters. During that time, writing was both an escape and therapy. Continuing the themes from her earlier stories, Jo wrote for the teens she knew who were struggling with academics and with their lives, hoping that someday they and others like them would read and find encouragement from those stories.
Jo’s first young adult novel was published in 2010. Although her books vary widely in plot and characters, they all have one thing in common: The belief that anyone is capable of being a hero, whether to others or in their own lives, no matter who they are or what they’ve been through.
Jo lives in Massachusetts with her husband, daughters, and three cats, one of whom, like Jo, has refused to grow up.