About Charged

Charged, written by Carol Moreira, tells the story of two 15-year-old friends, Craig and Mandy, who are living through some tough times with their families. Craig’s mother is involved with a new man who Craig believes is yet another of a long line of losing boyfriends. Mandy’s parents are on the brink of divorce, and on top of this, Mandy is struggling with the guilt of causing her mother’s skiing accident. When things come to a climax, Craig and Mandy need their friendship more than ever to cope.

Moreira has written about two families and two friends. She has intertwined two stories with an ending that holds many surprises. This story is also about growing up and taking responsibility for your own actions and doing the right thing.

Reviews

“What I found especially compelling about Charged is the strong sense of responsibility, and of right from wrong, demonstrated by protagonists Craig and Manda. These are ordinary “good” kids, the kind that we all hope to raise, or that we know from down the street — not the more rare bad-seeds that often hit the media.”

“Moreira gets beyond the angst into the way Craig and Manda think, and paints a credible picture of growing up in today’s world. The story might be set in the Halifax area, but the challenges are faced by young adults everywhere.”

(Jodi Delong The Chronicle Herald (Halifax) 20081102)


“A compelling story and must read. Highly Recommended.”

(Christina Pike CM: Canadian Review of Materials 20081212)

Excerpt

I walked to Manda’s to play basketball. We’d been playing together for years. She lives about ten minutes from me in one of the fancy homes on Foxberry Hill. She has a big house with a double garage and a view of the ocean. I live in a small, shabby saltbox. It used to bother me, but I’d stopped caring — most of the time.
Manda was already outside, shooting baskets. She looked so hot in those pants and that T-shirt she always wears. I stood and watched her run around the driveway. She was doing some new drill I hadn’t seen before. Bounce, bounce, shoot, swing away, bounce, jump, shoot. She stopped when she saw me.
“My mom has a broken leg, a cracked collarbone, and two fractured wrists.”
“What?”
“She had a skiing accident.”
She looked as though she could cry. God, I’d have no idea what to do if she started crying. I didn’t want to push her on it so, to distract her, I dove for the ball she was holding in her hand. But she got it away from me.
“Ha!” She bounced the ball around her body. She was daring me to come and get it. She looked so good I found it hard to meet her eyes, even though I was wearing sunglasses.
“Come on.” Manda swung the ball behind her back and her T-shirt tightened across her breasts. I ran toward her and tried to shoot, but I couldn’t focus. The way Manda’s long, dark ponytail whipped across my face and the faint smell of sweat coming off her skin made it impossible to concentrate on the game.
“Let’s get a drink,” she said when the score was 16-10 for her. (Charged, Chapter three)



About Membrane

You can’t outrun the membrane.

For Tanya turning sixteen sucks. Her former friend Rachel is bullying her, the love of her life doesn’t know she exists and her self-esteem isn’t exactly sky-high. Thing go from bad to worse when she gets slimed at a bus stop and finds herself in an alternate universe and faced with another version of herself.

Her alternate universe double is cool and confident, if a bit bossy. P — short for Princess because in Tanya’s eyes she is one — is part of an organization called Resist. Trained in tactical defense, Resist is preparing for an invasion by the Others. But are the Others really mobilizing to take over P’s universe or has there been some kind of galactic miscommunication?

On the other side of the membrane, who can Tanya trust to make it back to her universe alive?

Excerpt

I was flinging myself around the street when I felt a hand on my arm.

“What’s wrong, dear?” someone asked.

I spun around and found myself looking at an elderly woman. At first I thought it was Mrs. Morris, the woman TOM called the seer, but it wasn’t. This woman had silver hair neatly curling about her chin. She wore a pale blue pantsuit. I looked at her serene face and nearly told her my problem, but something stopped me. Something about her wasn’t right — she just looked too interested. I shook her hand off. “Nothing,” I said.

“Come with me.” She put her hand out again and pulled my arm inside hers.

“Leave me alone!” I jumped away, frantically looking around for someone to help me. Then I saw that every door on the street had a person standing in front of it. Woodfield Road — normally so quiet — was being blitzed by a crowd of people. I turned back to the woman. Looking at her, I realized why I was wary of her. Her eyes were too intense. Although they were as gray and cold as the Atlantic in winter, they were unnaturally bright. They reminded me of the white room where Pat was imprisoned.

“Let’s have some fun, dear,” she said. (Membrane, chapter 13)

Membrane Prequel

Hidden is the prequel to my YA fantasy Membrane. Hidden features the voices of two genetically identical teens from different universes—the girls even have the same name, Tanya. In this story, in which they both go to get a tattoo, the first voice is of the less confident girl, who is from our universe. The second, is the voice of her super confident double.


“Physicists are increasingly accepting the idea that there exists an infinity of realities stacked together like the pages of a never-ending book. So there are an infinite number of versions of you, living out an infinite number of different lives in an infinite number of parallel realities.”

Marcus Chown, The Universe Next Door: Twelve Mind-Blowing Ideas from the Cutting Edge of Science, Headline Book Publishing, 2001.

Hidden

It’s taken me a long time to gather the courage to come here. Now I should be striding into Kendra’s Tattoos and asking for the design I want. Instead, I’m standing in the rain on the darkening street as I peek into Kendra’s window and try to ignore the anxiety that’s threading hot and disabling through my veins.

What made me think I could be brave enough to get a tattoo? Is it even bravery? Maybe I’m a coward. Perhaps I’m trying to copy the cool girls at school, the ones who have tiny birds and butterflies or Chinese symbols engraved on their skin-- the confident girls, the mean ones. Maybe they’ll accept me or at least leave me alone if I have tattoos like them.

I swivel my head, glancing up and down the street to make sure none of them are strolling toward me. I can picture the grins of interest on their faces. “Hi there, what are you doing? Are you thinking of getting a tattoo?” They would smirk and glance sideways at each other. Who is she kidding!

No, I don’t need to see Mandy or Alicia right now, or Daniel-- definitely not Daniel. I stare into the darkness, senses alert for the outlines of their bodies, their footsteps, the angle of their heads and patterns of their voices. I know more about them than I’d ever want to and I’m relieved not to see them among the people streaming by. It’s an ugly evening, unexpectedly cold and wet. The tattoo studio has no clients because people are distracted by the weather, watching their feet in the puddles. That’s why I’ve chosen to come here tonight.

I sigh as I turn back to Kendra’s window. The truth is I'm not really being either brave or cowardly. Fitting in and escaping the bullies is important, maybe even life-saving, but I'd genuinely love to have a tattoo of Lyric, my sailboat, on my skin. I love Lyric. Her white sails and sculpted hull are beautiful. She means freedom to me—the freedom and peace I feel when I’m alone on the ocean, bursting through the waves, relishing the sun and the whipping breeze on my face.

I can see strange, boxy things hanging from hooks on the wall of the studio and what appear to be thick needles protruding from them. The skin all over my body prickles at the thought of one of those wide needles puncturing my body. Not just one puncture either, but many. The needle would have to strike again and again. How long would it take to get Lyric engraved on me? How long would I have to sit, enduring the pain and trying to make small talk with the tattoo artist? It would take ages, hours even. It would be worse than getting a haircut.

My mom wouldn’t be happy about me getting a tattoo. I’m almost sixteen and should decide for myself. But Mom would proclaim her disappointment, look at me with sad eyes and tell me I'm short-sighted and how will I ever get rid of it when I decide I don’t like it any more. And we have already argued, suffered enough.

Maybe I could hide the tattoo from her, have it engraved somewhere private and hidden, like my butt cheek. I blush at the thought of exposing my flabby white flesh to the slim young woman I see cleaning the reclining chairs. But at least she's a woman and not a man. She has very short brown hair and a tiny slender body. She looks busy, preoccupied, but she probably knows I’m watching. I wonder if many people lose their nerve and hover outside the studio instead of boldly walking in. She must have encountered other scared ones, self-doubters, like me.

Of course if I hide the tattoo, it won’t be seen by the mean girls, but at least I would still have it and my mom wouldn’t know it was there.

The young woman turns and moves across the floor. She's walking toward me. I contemplate fleeing but my legs feel heavy and it's already too late.

“Hello.” The door opens and she stands there as if she has stepped down from one of the many pictures of tattoos I see on her walls. I stare at her. Tattoos wind their way up her bare arms. They are Celtic symbols—looping, interwoven knots, and trees and harps I recognize because I know a little about Scottish culture and dancing. A thin tattooed snake twists in vivid green around her neck. She is even tinier close up and I feel big, chunky. But she looks at me with kind brown eyes and her gaze is so open, so accepting that I begin to relax. “Can I help you?”

I sigh, “Maybe. I want a tattoo-- of my boat. It would have to be somewhere where it can’t be seen.” I blush and my eyes dip to the sidewalk, “Maybe my butt.”

She nods. “What color? Have you thought about that?”

I pause for a moment, just to be sure, although I already know what I’m going to say. “Blue. Blue like the ocean, like the sky where the water and ocean meet.”

She smiles and holds the door wide. “Come in. I’ll show you some designs.”

I look at the open door, at the lighted studio behind. I'm curious about the Chinese dragons, Chinese symbols and other designs on the walls. I'd like to go in and look around. I'm cold and wet. I want to sit down and get my tattoo of Lyric. I feel it will comfort me, like a secret message. When those girls call me ‘Stupid fat slut’ or some other new insult, I can think of Lyric, of my little inked boat inscribed on my skin, and feel free.

I want to go in, but my feet won’t move. My stomach heaves as I try to make them. I pause and take a deep breath, inhaling from my belly like my therapist Sally Smith showed me. I breathe in-- one, two, three, four-- then out-- one, two, three, four. I do it again and again, and slowly I feel better.

The young woman says nothing, just watches me without dislike or curiosity, despite my weird breathing. I like her more. Most people’s faces and eyes would be saying, Uh-oh, I’ve got a weird one here.

“I don’t think I can do it,” I say, “Not today anyway.” I feel like I’m letting her down. She's so patient. “But I do want to get a tattoo,” I add, as if wanting will definitely make it happen. I feel silly. Beyond the money, there’s no reason why she should care what I want. Why explain? And it will probably cost a lot of money. Babysitting doesn’t pay much. I doubt I can afford it.

“No problem,” she says, “It’s a big deal, getting a tattoo; maybe another time. My name’s Kendra, by the way. What’s yours?”

I smile. I’m still breathing deep, although my pulse and stomach have calmed. I feel almost okay. I’m impressed that she’s so young and she is Kendra with her own tattoo studio. But I can’t do it.

“I’m Tanya,” I say and I turn and walk down the street.

***


I am not getting the Chinese character ‘wo’ meaning ‘I’ or ‘me’, inked onto my skin out of vanity. I have a realistic assessment of my talents and shortcomings. I am smart and attractive, that is undeniable, but probably no more than millions, possibly billions, of others throughout the multiverse.

I lost my self-importance, my sense of myself as the perfect center of anyone’s world, including my own, when I was 11 years old. That was when my mother burst into tears and demanded that I stop correcting her all the time. My habit of pointing out her mistakes and weaknesses was driving her crazy, my mother said.

I had assumed that my mother would be happy to learn why it is important to chop an onion into regular-sized segments instead of irregular chunks or long, looping tendrils. But it seemed there was a limit to how much my mother wished to know and how much she wished to be told by me.

That day I learned two things: firstly, not to articulate every thought that comes into my mind and, secondly, that my mother is emotional and dislikes the fact that I am cleverer than her. From that day on, I ceased revealing my every thought and feeling to my mother. The 16th century English poet John Donne wrote that ‘No man is an island’. But I learned the opposite—that we are, each of us, little islands complete unto ourselves, although that does not, of course, release any of us from the moral responsibility of caring for other humans.

I stand on the dark street and stare in the tattooist’s window. I am intrigued by the mirrors and soft chairs, segmented for easy access to all parts of the body. Enlarged photos of tattoos line the walls.

Chinese dragons and characters seem so popular I wonder if getting a ‘wo’ tattoo is merely banal, but the thought does not lessen my determination to have ‘wo’ inscribed somewhere on my body. Still, I feel lonely as I stand beneath the sign ‘Kendra’s Tattoos’.

As I watch the young woman inside wiping down the chairs with what is probably some kind of antiseptic, I try to imagine myself walking in and lying down on one of those reclining chairs and a feeling of isolation slips over me. Loneliness is not something I feel often. The scene with my mother—her pink, tear-strewn face and my own puzzlement-- come to my mind. I was surprised by my mother’s tears. I had failed to realize I had the power to hurt her. I thought mothers held all the power. I remember feeling upset. I did not wish to make my mother cry.

That day she burst into tears, I had been feeling lonely at school—no one else seemed to share my interests—and I wondered if loneliness had contributed to my mother’s over-reaction. My mother is a fashion designer by profession. She works from home and her business does quite well. But I realized that perhaps she found the hours spent striving alone in the house unsatisfying.

Of course, it’s odd that any of us should ever feel lonely when there are more than seven billion humans on our earth alone and Heaven only knows how many intelligent, sentient beings on the other 100 billion galaxies in our universe. Still, I do feel lonely as I stand on the damp, cold street. I wish for a confidante, someone to counsel me as to the wisdom of the step I am contemplating.

It seems a big step, possibly a foolish one. But I feel compelled to inscribe ‘wo’ on my skin because, since I started my training with Resist, the word has assumed particular significance to me. This is because training to outwit, and possibly fight the Others, has taught me that, although team work is important, I must rely on myself. Someday, my life may depend on whether or not I am able to decipher a code, unarm a combatant or fly my plane with speed and accuracy. I have always been independent, but I think that having that little Chinese character inscribed somewhere on my body may offer subtle encouragement and remind me I must work alone.

The way the character ‘wo’ is written also feels significant. The character requires seven carefully and artistically aligned strokes of a pen (or a brush, in the case of the ancient art of calligraphy). It takes time and attention to transmit the character to paper, unlike the English word ‘I’ which can be scribbled in one swift movement of the wrist. The time it takes to write ‘wo’, the careful assemblage of strokes required, reminds me that I must be not only self-reliant but also cautious and patient. I don’t know who I can trust in this new world. The enemy may already have infiltrated our society; their space planes have been attempting to break through our sky for many years now. Cautious self-reliance- -that is the frame of mind I need at this time.

I am about to push open the door when I pause and wonder where on my body I should hide this tattoo. My mother, as I have mentioned, is somewhat hysterical. I would not wish her to see the character and remark on it, disapprove of it, question me regarding its significance, or give her opinion as to its degree of beauty or otherwise. I want this tattoo to be a secret message to myself. I need it to be a talisman, a word that gives me strength when I recall, when I feel, its power on my skin.

My buttock is probably the only place where I can guarantee the tattoo will not be seen. I sigh as I realize this and study the tattoo artist beyond the glass more closely. She is small, elfin almost and, for a moment, I wonder if she might be a Fabricist escaped from Monterey Marsh. I make my mind blank, fearing she can read my thoughts. But I tell myself not to be foolish. She is probably just an ordinary young woman. Still, I put all thoughts of Resist from my mind, just in case.

She senses my eyes on her and comes to the door. She moves so swiftly I feel as if she has stepped into my thoughts. I consider leaving with a small apology, but running from my desire would be foolish and accomplish nothing. Also, tonight is perfect. The darkness of the evening, the rain, have kept other clients away, as I anticipated.

“What’s up?” she says in the slang of the street. She smiles, a pure, white smile. Her arms are covered in Celtic knots and harps and there is a green snake that curls, extravagantly, around her neck. The whole effect is overdone, but perhaps that is to be expected of a tattoo professional. Her hair is cut so close to her head it reveals her skull. Her eyes are huge, brown and outlined with black kohl. She is not a normal person composed of predictably regular features. Instead, she has just one or two features that shout This is me!

“Are you coming in?” She smiles again. I decide I like her and wonder if she is the ‘Kendra’ of Kendra’s Tattoos.

“Very well.” Nervous, I take a deep breath. “I would like the Chinese character ‘wo’ inscribed onto my right buttock. It means ‘I’ or ‘me’. I will draw it for you first, so you can copy it.”

“Okay.” She nods. “What color would you like?”

What color? I consider for a moment then tell her blue, “Pale blue.” And I think of the beautiful, peaceful sky that enfolds my plane when I pull back the throttle and lift into the air. It is the same blue sky that the Others push their vile space planes into. It is the sky of my universe, which I must protect.

“Blue,” I say again, “Pale-- sky blue.”

She nods and opens the door wider, inviting me in. “I’m Kendra. What’s your name?”

“Tanya,” I say and I step inside.