Forever Twelve is a part of the The Evers collection.
What if you were twelve for all of eternity? From the award-winning author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl comes a magical mystery about a group of kids who have been alive for hundreds of years.
At the elite West Archer Academy, all the students are gifted, but four are exceptional. Though the Evers look twelve, they're actually centuries old, possessing knowledge and talents that make them extraordinary. And boarding school is the perfect cover for their brilliance -- and their secret.
It's supposed to be a typical year in the anything-but-typical lives of these "kids" . . . until Ivy Stewart shows up. She resembles an Ever who went missing more than seventy years ago. And Ivy could be the key to unlocking their curse.
But ambitious Ivy is at West Archer to achieve her own extraordinary goals, and nothing will distract her. Or so she thinks! With the desperate Evers determined to find answers, and her former classmate -- and laid-back cool guy -- Ronan determined to protect her, Ivy soon finds herself swept up in a mystery ony she can solve.
Will her life be changed forever . . . and ever?
An Excerpt fromForever Twelve
Life is a race but not to the finish line. That would be morbid because everyone ends up dead. No, life is a race to see who can climb the highest, the fastest. At least, that was how Ivy Stewart felt.
Ivy slapped her pencil on the desk, and a few heads turned in her direction with eyes glaring. She was used to judgmental looks, but still, she hadn’t meant to disrupt anyone’s test. She’d never do that on purpose. Tests were too important.
“Sorry,” she whispered as she slid out of her seat and brought her math test to Ms. McCartney’s desk.
“That was fast,” the teacher said, which did not come across as a compliment.
“It was harder than I expected,” Ivy lied. She assumed teachers aimed to create challenging work and would not appreciate being told something was easy. If Ivy made an exam, she’d want the class average to be seventy-five. Now, if she ever got a seventy-five, she’d crawl under her seat and cry--and then beg the teacher for a retest.
“May I go to the media center?” Ivy asked. “To meet the representatives from West Archer Academy?” Students were encouraged to attend the information sessions during lunch, but if Ms. McCartney didn’t have any other plans for the rest of class, there was no point in waiting.
Of course, Ivy already knew a lot about West Archer. It was a seventh-through-twelfth-grade boarding school for only the most talented and driven students. Though, assuming she started next fall, she would not be called a seventh grader. She would be a First Year, which sounded much better to Ivy’s ears. At West Archer, Ivy could graduate from high school in as little as two years--by age fourteen. That was something she could not do at a traditional public school. Her current middle school was too rigid. Take sixth-grade science even if you’re ready for honors biology. Take gym (again!), even if you hope never to play volleyball in your entire life. Ivy planned to be enrolled at Duke before getting her driver’s license. By the time she was old enough to vote, she would be at Columbia Law School, where her hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg got her law degree. Ivy would become an attorney, then a federal judge, and finally, a Supreme Court justice. But none of that would happen if she stayed at New London Middle.
Ms. McCartney sighed and nodded, handing Ivy a hall pass.
“Can I go too?” Ronan Haywood asked from the front row. Some kids sat in the front row by choice, and some were forced to. Ronan was in the second group. If he didn’t sit up front, he’d nap through every class.
“Have you completed your test?” their teacher asked.
“Yep.” He held up his paper. He’d doodled battling robots around the edges, but it also looked like he’d answered the problems.
Ivy doubted that Ronan had any interest in an elite boarding school. He didn’t have any interest in the school he was in now. Like everyone on their academically gifted team, he was smart, scoring in the top 5 percent on the standardized tests all the kids were forced to take annually. But that didn’t make him a stellar student, because he always seemed to aim to do the minimum amount of work, and he often missed that goal.
Ms. McCartney pulled the hall pass out of Ivy’s hand and added Ronan’s name. Then the two gathered their things and quietly left the classroom.
“Why are we going to the media center?” Ronan asked in the hall. He was slightly taller than Ivy and had short black hair, brown eyes with thick eyelashes, and a mouthful of braces.
“I’m going to learn about West Archer Academy. It’s a boarding school for smart and motivated students.”
“Cool. See ya.” He suddenly turned down the hallway that led to the gym and locker rooms.
“Where are you going?” Her voice echoed in the empty corridor.
He didn’t stop. “This way. Where the unmotivated students hang out.”
“You’re going to get in trouble.” She jogged to catch up with him.
“No, I won’t, and I don’t care if I do.”
“Well, I’m not going to let you get me in trouble.” Because Ronan’s name was clearly on the hall pass, Ivy felt it would be wrong to show up at her destination without him. Like on field trips, when you use the buddy system, losing your buddy is unacceptable.
“Sorry to repeat myself, but I don’t care.” He paused at the water fountain and took a long drink.
Ivy imagined pivoting on her heels and storming off to the media center. She wanted to be like Ronan. She wanted not to care.
Instead, she said, “Please, Ronan. Just come with me.”
For a moment, she felt ridiculous for begging. But then Ronan surprised her.
He shrugged and said, “Okay.”
They went to the media center and didn’t say another word to each other.
Ronan Haywood lived in the Haywood House, which wasn’t just a home but also a place of business, and a name everyone in town seemed to know. His mother, Margery Haywood, was a locally famous psychic, and she performed readings in their formal living room. If Ronan walked in the front door (which he never did), it was the large room to the right behind frosted-glass doors. Luckily, they also had a family room with a TV, a couch, and a wall covered in family pictures. He didn’t consider the living room part of his home. It was an area solely for answer-seeking customers.
When Ronan returned from school on Friday, he could hear his mom with someone. Most of her clients were regulars and had been coming to her for years. Potential new customers sometimes had to wait weeks for an appointment, since she only saw three or four people a day. She claimed psychic readings exhausted her, and she couldn’t handle more.
Ronan grabbed a bag of Doritos and headed for the safety of the family room. He had science homework, but it wasn’t much. He could do it Saturday, or Sunday, or during breakfast on Monday, or on the bus, or not at all.
The voice, which clearly didn’t belong to his parents or older brother, came from the front hallway. For a moment, Ronan debated ignoring the greeting. It was what he wanted to do, but if his mom found out, she’d give him a lecture on manners.
“Hi,” Ronan replied after he’d swallowed a mouthful of Doritos.
Will Myers, a former baseball teammate, sat on the bench outside his mom’s office. Since Margery Haywood didn’t give readings for kids or allow them to observe sessions, clients’ children were sentenced to a waiting area consisting of a bench and a table with a few National Geographic magazines.
“How long does this take?” Will asked.
“Depends. Like an hour.” But sometimes clients stayed half a day. His mom joked that her job only required her to be a psychic for 10 percent of that time, and the other 90 percent was spent listening.
Ronan offered Will a chip, and the kid took a handful.
“Do you believe this stuff?” Will asked. “It ain’t real. Right?”
Ronan shrugged. Some questions were better left unanswered. He couldn’t say it was fake. That would mean his mom was a con artist. Plus, it wasn’t fake--unfortunately. His life would be simpler if it were. Ronan’s mom was the real deal. Her predictions always came true. Though she’d never done a reading for him or anyone in the family. It was another one of her rules. Like a surgeon operating on her own children, it would be unethical.
On the other hand, Ronan’s aunt Britney had no issues reading for anyone and everyone. Just last week, she’d told Ronan he’d soon experience disappointment. The next day, he’d learned he didn’t make the under-thirteen travel baseball team, and he got a C on a social studies essay that he’d written during lunch. Actually, it was a pretty average day for Ronan.
“I mean,” Will continued, “if your mama could see the future, wouldn’t y’all be millionaires? She’d know the lotto numbers and stuff like that.”
“That’s not how it works.” Ronan didn’t know exactly how it did work. His mom had tried to explain it more than once. But truth be told, Ronan didn’t want to know. He wished she had a normal, boring job like a plumber, or a scientist, or a writer.
“So your mama’s not a witch.” Will laughed. Ronan didn’t find it funny, but he was used to it. He was always assuring his parents that the jokes didn’t bother him. If he said it enough, maybe he’d even believe it.
“Just don’t say that to her face. Unless you want a curse on your family.” He gave Will the rest of the Doritos and then went upstairs to his room.
This wasn’t the first time someone had called his mother a witch. Last Halloween, a half dozen kids from his class showed up at his house uninvited with a Ouija board. He gave them full-size Hershey bars and asked them to leave. Outwardly, he didn’t get upset, ever. What was the point? His older brother, Dean, had gotten into at least three fights in middle school over their mom’s career. He’d won all of them, but the reward was usually suspension--and in one case, a change of school.
Ronan would never hit anyone. A snarky reply was the most he’d ever conjured up. Still, he wished he could go someplace where not everyone knew about his mom’s paranormal abilities. Someplace where no one would joke about his family. Someplace where it would be easy to ignore his psychic situation. Someplace like West Archer Academy. The thought had been with him for a few days.
When he’d asked to attend the information session earlier in the week, he did it to get out of class. And once he’d accomplished that, he only went because Ivy Stewart had asked him nicely. He’d worried she might start crying if he didn’t go. He didn’t know her well, but he knew she was intense.
Ronan hadn’t expected to like the school’s sales pitch. The representatives talked a lot about classes and the choices offered to students. That was fine, but Ronan really loved the idea of staying in a dorm, eating in a dining hall, going to the gym, and having the freedom that came with leaving home. He liked the idea of living in Determination Hall instead of the Haywood House.
In his room, Ronan turned on his laptop and opened the enrollment application.
Why not, he thought. He doubted that his mom would have predicted this move.
Ivy and her dad wandered the West Archer Academy campus, just like countless other kids and parents. Competition is good. It makes people try harder. Would an Olympic sprinter run her hardest if no one else was in the neighboring starting blocks? But still, there might be too much competition here.
Over the past month, Ivy had become a West Archer expert, learning everything she could about the school online. Now she was even more certain that this school held the key to her future. WA alumni had served in the US Senate, become astronauts, won Nobel Prizes, and played professional soccer. WA sent more students to Ivy League colleges than any other school in North Carolina. She also learned they’d had a water main break last year that flooded two dormitories, and a student went missing from campus in the 1940s, but she didn’t tell her dad that. He didn’t seem eager to let go of his little girl. When a family consisted of two people--three if you counted the dog--it was not easy when one member declared her intentions to leave the nest.
“This place is quite impressive,” her dad said as they walked across the Square--a grassy area with various sculptures and a few large trees.
“Yeah, nice campus,” Ivy replied without looking up from her phone. She was reviewing vocabulary on digital flash cards. She only had twenty hours to gain an advantage over the other potential students wandering around.
The school was vague about the entrance exam, and they didn’t use the ISEE, which was the standard test for most boarding schools. But vocabulary seemed to be on every type of exam, including the ones for college, like the SAT and ACT. Ivy had never taken one of those officially, but she’d done them online for fun and had scored very well. (Top 10 percent!)
Her dad stopped walking, and Ivy bumped into him. He turned and snatched her phone. On the screen was the word incorrigible, meaning “not able to improve or reform.”
He looked at it and shook his head. “You are incorrigible. You can’t cram for this kind of test.”
“Cram? You make it sound like I haven’t been preparing for this opportunity my entire life.”
“Plus, we have a real tour later. I’ll pay attention during that.”
He handed her phone back, and she tried not to look at it--at least not constantly.
They wandered toward the library, which Ivy knew was the newest building on campus. The construction had been completed last summer. The three-story structure was all glass and metal, a modern facility that somehow fit with the older, historic brick structures.
“I need more coffee,” her dad said. They’d gotten up extra early for the six-hour drive. “Do you want something?” He motioned toward the café on the lower floor of the library.
“No, thanks. I’ll wait here.” Ivy pointed to a wooden bench. As soon as her dad turned toward the café, she opened her phone again to review vocabulary. Even if she couldn’t cram for this test, Ivy felt better focusing on something academic.
The excited shouting made Ivy look up from her screen. On the far side of the Square, a girl was running toward her. Ivy turned around, expecting to see someone--someone named Grace--behind her. But Ivy was alone.
“Grace?” This time, the name came out as a question.
The girl stopped a few feet from the bench. She had long brown hair with a natural wave, and her cheeks were pink, probably from running. She wore faded jeans, red Converse, and a Grand Canyon T-shirt under an army-green jacket. Ivy guessed the girl was about her age.
“You’re not Grace,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. My mistake.”
“Um, that’s okay.”
The girl smiled wide, but it didn’t hide her disappointment. Ivy knew that look because she’d used it when she stood on the stage during an assembly as one of three finalists for the antibullying essay contest and the vice-principal announced Jesse Haas-Kolalewo as the winner.