JUST THIS ONCE
For Sydney Harrison, perfection is more than just a lofty ideal. It's her only hope of escape from the new life she will never accept. When her dad's second stroke left him disabled, she lost her best friend, her home, and her belief in God all at once. Now she's living in a broken-down trailer with her family of seven, eating donated food, and making big plans. Armed with only her scholarly prowess and unwavering work ethic, Sydney is working hard her senior year to trade in her thrift-store jeans for an Ivy League education. There is no room for distraction. But there's one thing she hasn't counted on: Sheldon Miner.
When Sydney gets stuck tutoring the rich, popular sports hero, her rigid focus on her goals becomes more of a floppy blur. Suddenly she can't remember why she should avoid mid-study-session snowball fights, or kissing boys in giant coat-closets lit with twinkling Christmas lights. Sydney is sure her only hope lies in holding rigidly to her plan. But maybe the right distraction can help her open her heart, share her fears, and accept her life as it is. If only that didn't mean forcing herself to try all the things that terrify brainiacs with plans—just this once.
My dad used his second chance at life to build a tree house.
I worked by his side, watching his every move with awe. And I felt like a child again—Daddy's little helper.
"Sydney," he said from his perch on the stepping stool, "can you hand me that board?"
I passed him the cedar plank, and he lifted it over his head effortlessly. Then I stretched up on tiptoes to hold it while he fastened it in place.
Though the days were growing steadily warmer, there was a cool breeze, and the clouds rolling in portended another spring rain. The new green leaves rustled, reminding me that everything had come alive again.
After Dad's stroke in February, that hadn't seemed likely.
Mom brought us lemonade—only an excuse to watch him. He was a gift, and she had to make sure he was real. She came onto the porch with her pitcher and stopped, her face transforming as she saw him. Joyful, yet tentative, somehow. My heart was in my throat as I watched her fill her eyes with him. My father—alive and strong.
He downed his lemonade in one long swallow. "Thanks, Evie," he said. "Should be finished with the roof by tonight."
"I'm glad," she said. "The kids are going to love this. Just don't overdo it." She smiled, but then passed her trembling hand over her forehead, shadowing her features. And I glimpsed her fear. She still had trouble believing the miracle.