Excerpt from Proof of
Lies – Book #1 in the Anastasia Phoenix series
On sale for 99¢!
My friends and I headed down a
row of rectangular tables set in prison-straight lines. We sat near the windows
on the outskirts, one of the few parts of the cafeteria untainted by the stench
of meatless veggie burgers and drugstore body sprays.
I bumped the backs of
carrot-colored chairs as we neared our seats. I could see a pack of baseball
players headed from the opposite direction, which was unusual given that the
popular table sat in the cafeteria’s center. It was like seeing Mickey Mouse in
the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom.
“Hey, look who it is!” said Wyatt
Burns in a voice so loud he was obviously working to draw an audience. He
hovered over a male student seated alone with his tray, two empty plastic
chairs beside him. “Where’s your Harley now, empanada?” Wyatt backhanded
the guy’s head, not hard enough to be an actual hit, but too hard to be
What was strange was that I
didn’t recognize the target. He was well-built, with black spiky hair, dark
eyes, black T-shirt, and a tattoo of a bull with curved horns showing on his
neck. Not exactly someone you could easily overlook.
I stopped en route to our table,
twisting my head toward Regina. “Who are they messing with?”
“He just started here. Some
exchange student or some- thing. I think he’s Mexican. Could you imagine moving
to a new school in May? The year’s almost over.” She mindlessly flicked the
part in her shiny black hair, which fell toward her waist like a silk curtain.
I’d kill for hair like that. Instead, my hair reminded me of my mother’s every
time I looked in the mirror—long, thick, and espresso brown.
“Sometimes you don’t have a
choice,” I grumbled, as we continued to our table. I put down my tray, but I
didn’t sit; I was too busy watching the scene.
“Oh, sorry. I forgot about your
nomad days.” Regina made a whoops-my-bad face, though it actually was nice not
to be considered the new girl anymore. At seventeen, I’d lived in nine cities,
in five countries, on four continents, and spoke four languages—including upper-class
Moroccan French. “I heard his parents work at Boston General, doing research or
something. Hey, maybe your sister knows them?”
“Maybe he’ll be invited to your
party?” Tyson added.
“Yeah, I’m sure Keira invited the
entire hospital staff and their families,” I deadpanned, still gawking. Wyatt
wasn’t letting up. I didn’t know what this kid had done to draw the ire of
three hulking baseball players, but the entire lunchroom was now involved.
“You know, I think they serve
tacos up there,” Wyatt pointed to the cafeteria line. “Did you grab a couple burritos,
The guy said nothing, and even in
his silence, I could see he wasn’t Mexican. I’d traveled enough to recognize
the basic physical differences between cultures. His features looked
European—maybe Spanish, assuming all the politically incorrect digs were based
on something other than idiocy.
“Maybe next time you cut me off
on that stupid bike of yours, I won’t slam on the brakes.” Wyatt jerked like he
was going to punch him, but the guy didn’t inch (good for him). Wyatt quickly
covered by reaching for the boy’s untouched veggie burger. He plucked it from
his tray, took a huge bite, and threw it on the dirty tile floor.
“Bon appétit!” he
shouted, probably not realizing that was French, not Spanish, though I doubted
he cared. He was laughing like he’d just told the best joke in the world, bits
of food flying from his mouth as his buddies cackled beside him. Then they
marched away, straight toward us, patting one another’s backs.
I’d watched a lot of TV in my
seventeen years, and I’d heard theories about “crimes of passion,” people who
claimed to pull the triggers of guns yet had no recollection. They swore there
was no conscious decision made, it just sort of happened. That was me in that
I stood watching the cocky smile
on Wyatt’s face, his cheesy high fives to his buddies, his undeserved swagger,
and I simply stuck out my foot. I wasn’t even sure my brain registered the
action, but when Wyatt charged past my right side, my leather sandal wrapped
around his ankle, just above his Nike, with perfect timing, and Wyatt tripped.
Wow, did he trip.
He stumbled forward in three
awkward lunges, arms ailing for balance, until he fell splat on the gritty
linoleum floor. Face first.
The roar of laughter that
followed could rival any Comedy Central performer. I pressed my palm to my
mouth, trying to hold in the giggles, but I’d just tripped the most popular guy
at Brookline Academy.
Wyatt pushed to his feet and spun
toward me, blue flames in his eyes.
“Sorry,” I sputtered, fingers
covering the laughter spurting from my lips. “I didn’t see you.”
Regina and Tyson doubled over,
crying with giggles, as Wyatt’s scruffy hands twitched into fists at his sides.
His eyes darted around viciously, but after a few heated moments, he did
nothing. He didn’t say a word. He just stomped off in the opposite direction,
preserving what little dignity a teen who trips in the cafeteria can muster.
“I think I love you,” Regina
choked. “Like, really love you.”
“Oh my God. That was awesome!”
Tyson added, patting my back with his big sweaty hand. “You’re my hero.”
Everyone in the cafeteria was
staring—the teachers, the lunch aides, probably the roaches in the walls, and
especially the new kid.
Our gazes met for a second. His
eyes were as dark as his hair, but when he smiled, they lit with the glint of a
rock star on stage. “Gracias,” he said. With that one word, I could tell
I’d been right. He was from Madrid. I’d spent only a summer there, but it was
good to realize I hadn’t lost all of my nomad skills.
“De nada,” I replied,
noticing the dimples in his cheeks. What was it about a guy with dimples that
sucked you in, like you couldn’t look away, even if you wanted to.
And I didn’t want to.
Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix series, three YA spy thrillers set to debut beginning in March 2017 (Entangled Publishing). She is also the author of three award-winning young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books); as well as a YA short-story collection based on the Narcissus myth, entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013). In 2011, she published a highly regarded essay in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins). It was the only essay chosen from the anthology by Scholastic to be used in its classroom materials. Diana is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses (Twilight Times Books, 2015), and she is currently on staff as a featured blogger for Quirk Books. In 2010 Diana was named one of the Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch by LatinoStories.com, and she placed second in the International Latino Book Awards. She is an advisory board member for the Philly Spells Writing Center, and is a Creative Writing instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia.