Cover Reveal: EVER SINCE by Alena Bruzas
Ever Since by Alena Bruzas is an intense, beautiful debut about the power of finding your voice and sharing your story after trauma, perfect for fans of Nina LaCour and Kathleen Glasgow. Coming May, 2023!
Seventeen-year-old Virginia makes bad choices. In fact, she’s That Kind of Girl, according to the whispers. But as long as she has her tight group of best friends by her side, she’s able to ignore the gossipers. Until she finds herself spending time with Rumi, Poppy’s boyfriend. Breaking with tradition, she doesn’t hook up with Rumi. Worse, she falls in love with him.
While Virginia and Rumi’s relationship grows in secret, she discovers that his little sister, Lyra, is being groomed for abuse. The soon-to-be-abuser is a respected member of the community, and only Virginia knows who he is and what he does. If she stays quiet, Lyra will become a victim. But coming forward feels equally impossible.
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Once there were five princesses. No, I mean five witches. Actually, they were goddesses. Anyway, whatever they were, they were friends.
Once there were five friends.
And the story goes like this:
It’s finally summer and we’re road-tripping out to the coast. Poppy is driving, so of course I’m sitting shotgun. Ramona, Paz, and Thalia take photos of their faces squished together. I say we have to make a pact to keep our phones in the glove box and we’re singing to the radio until it dissolves into static and then we play the license plate game and now we’re playing truth or dare. I tell Ramona to flash the SUV next to us and she gets me back by daring me to hang my butt out the window.
“Ro!” I squeal.
“Virginia!” she squeals back, and throws a scrunchie at me and says I have to do it and so I do and I think I’m going to die when Poppy goes around a corner and I almost fall out the window.
We get to La Push in time for sunset. The floor of the car is covered in garbage and my foot is asleep and our limbs are overlapping and intermingled. Thalia is braiding strands of Poppy’s hair and I’m painting Paz’s toenails and Ro is eating the sandwich that Thalia packed for herself.
We tumble out of the car with our arms around each other, holding hands and bumping hips, and the bond of our friendship seems enduring, like nothing can break it, ever. But as Edison spots us and bellows my name and I feel Thalia’s eyes all over my skin, I’m afraid it won’t be enough.
We’re camping on the beach. No one questions whether or not it’s allowed. We just pitch our tents and lay out our sleeping bags and start drinking. The beach is crowded with bare feet and loose waves and fraying cutoff shorts. I change into my bathing suit but I don’t go swimming. Nobody swims in the ocean here. It’s too cold. Even in summer you don’t go swimming off the coast of Washington.
Ro gets the fire going after Thalia relents and lets us use her Trader Joe’s bags as kindling, and the boys wander over all casual to drink our beer and eat our hot dogs. Rumi is putting his arm around Poppy’s shoulders and kissing her neck and squeezing her thigh and she keeps leaning away and shrugging, but he isn’t picking up on her don’t-touch-me-I’m-going-to-puke signals. I can tell she’s drunk because her breath smells sweet like maybe whiskey and her eyes are wide. Poppy always gets extra innocent, like, Who, me?
Rumi probably thinks it’s no big deal because they’re going out, but I can tell Poppy is annoyed and it doesn’t help that she keeps taking shots. It’s funny how a night can change like that. How it can feel so good to sit under the salty sprawling night sky with your toes in the sand that’s still warm and the fire crackling and the sparks drifting and the ocean intoning nearby. Then suddenly you feel like you might puke and also people are probably possibly judging you right now because you’re drunk and sloppy and getting groped.
Poppy covers her mouth and stumbles toward the rocks and Rumi follows her like he probably thinks a good boyfriend should. I follow too because I know what’s coming.
“Just piss off!” Poppy says. I almost laugh because she sounds like a British gangster, but then she bends over and I hear a splatter. Rumi hovers, his hands in his pockets and looking at his feet.
“I’ve got it,” I say to Rumi.
He looks uncertain. Poppy yells piss off again and Rumi blushes and glances at me and then he leaves and I feel sorry for him. Poppy grabs my arm and I stagger and scrape my heel on a rock. She throws up again, so I just grit my teeth and let her hold on to me and keep her hair out of her face.
When she’s done I wrap my arm around her waist and she leans on me all the way back to our tent. I take off the rain flap because the sky is clear and the wind feels good. We lie down side by side, my fake blond mixed with her real black, and she takes my hand and threads her fingers through mine.
She’s quiet for so long that I think she’s asleep. When I start to get up she squeezes my hand tighter. “I love you,” she says with her eyes still closed.