Lauren Rousseau doesn't want to be her sister's keeper, but somebody has to watch Wendi. Ever since Grandmother Winifred ended up in a Sacramento care facility, just two hours away from Lauren and her family in Reno, Wendi has gone missing.
Their parents don't see the changes in blond, athletic Wendi. Their freelance painter father is trying to balance advertising work with his own art. Their CPA mother is trying to expand her business. If anything they might think Wendi is a little more daydreamy and disconnected than usual, but she's 17. They expect it.
It's Lauren who sees that her older sister's lost interest in her passions, like running, playing softball and teasing Lauren. And there's the way the family cats react to her, hissing, growling and running away. The way Wendi seems to fade until she's almost transparent. The way she doesn't talk anymore, or eat. Or smile. The way, sometimes, she's not there at all.
Lauren also sees Wendi's terror every time the family visits Winifred, the way Grandmother perks up at the same time Wendi shuts down. The facility staff is thrilled to see the family arrive, every time; family visits change Winifred's violent bad days into good ones. Their father is awed by his older daughter's effect on his mother. Only Lauren sees Wendi's repulsion as their bitter, angry grandmother strokes her face and calls her pretty, and steals something from her, every time. By the end of each visit, Wendi is a little more wraith, a little less Wendi. A little less of a sister, or anything at all.
Lauren sees their grandmother looking back from her sister's eyes, sees Grandmother become alert as Wendi becomes unresponsive, and Lauren believes the impossible is happening: Grandmother Winifred is taking Wendi's life. When Winifred's health declines and Wendi starts disappearing physically, Lauren is ready to do anything to save her sister, even follow her into worlds that exist only in the imagination of the three Rousseau women, real worlds that appear when there's need and disappear without warning, the same way memory does.
I am a member of Oregon Writer's Network, and a graduate of Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop. A long-time desert rat, I live in Reno, where Ghosts of Rag & Bone is set. To date I've sold 145 short stories, to anthologies and magazines, including a story in "Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers," which also featured stories by John Updike, Peter Straub and T.C. Boyle, and a story in Cosmos (circ. 300,000). As a ghostwriter, I've seen 18 nonfiction books come to print.
I've pasted the first 250 words of Ghosts of Rag & Bone after this letter, and can provide a full synopsis. Ghosts of Rag & Bone is a YA contemporary fantasy, complete at 85,500 words. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
Jennifer Rachel Baumer
The first 250 words
The frayed wood sign over the shop door read: "Remains: Rags & Bones" and Lauren wanted – maybe needed – to see what wonders waited inside. She knew in the back of her mind she ought to wait for Wendi. If she were honest with herself, it wasn't even back of the mind stuff. It was front and center. She needed to wait for her sister. Her mother had turned them loose within the cul-de-sac of eclectic Sacramento shops and only because the street looked like a craft fair, self-contained and crowded. Even then they were only to be out of mother's sight for a short time and with the prohibition that they go nowhere without each other.
It was hardly any kind of freedom at all except Lauren knew how very easy it was to slip away from her careless, dreamy sister. So they wandered together, until something distracted Wendi.
The inside of the shop was dark, and colder than she expected. When the bell over the door chimed a voice called from somewhere in the back, "Make yourself at home," or maybe it was, "Make yourself a gnome," which totally made as much sense as anything else she might expect in the crazy, jumbled shop she'd stumbled into.
Just a quick look around to identify all the clearly unrelated glories and she'd go find Wendi.
The sunlight shoved its way into the shop with her, then hung suspended, seemingly uncertain how to proceed under the weight of dust.