Dare to Resist
Parallel World Book One
A PARALLEL WORLD WHERE IT’S ILLEGAL TO BE OVERWEIGHT
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Suspended for getting into a fight with a bully, when 16-year-old Morgan Campbell is grounded, she runs away. When she returns home the next day, her world is turned upside-down. Not only is her family missing, but another family is living in her house and claims to have lived there for weeks.
As Morgan desperately works to figure out what has happened, she finds society has become obsessed with weight in a way she has never seen before. The more she searches for answers, the more she begins to believe she has somehow ended up in another world–a world where it is illegal to be overweight and where those who break that rule are imprisoned in Federally Assisted Thinning (F.A.T.) Centers.
Can she survive in this world until she can get home?
Dare to Resist was originally titled Gone.
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“Hey, know-it-all,” a familiar female voice called out.
The comment wasn’t directed at me, but I had a good idea who the target was. Turning away from my locker, I looked down the school hallway in the direction the voice had come from. Sure enough, there was Shelby. The girl who thought she was all that when in reality she was just a bully. And she was focused on Rochelle, a girl I’d gotten to know since moving to Fox Run three months earlier. Rochelle was an easy target—kind of nerdy looking with her cat-eye glasses, hunched shoulders, and straight A grades. But that didn’t matter to me. She’d been one of the first people to befriend me when I’d been the new girl at school. One of the only people, as a matter of fact.
Rochelle glanced at Shelby with an expression of uncertainty.
“Yeah,” Shelby said, “I’m talking to you, dork.”
Rochelle frowned as she tried to avoid Shelby, dodging the other students in the hallway who were eager to head home after the last bell. They all ignored the interaction between Shelby and Rochelle and instead gave Shelby a wide berth, which only seemed to encourage her.
“Why’d you have to make the rest of us look bad in algebra?” Shelby asked as she blocked Rochelle’s path, her voice filled with anger and annoyance, her arms held out to her sides in a posture surely meant to intimidate. “You’re such a teacher’s pet.”
Rochelle adjusted her glasses as she stared at the ground.
Shelby’s lips twisted with loathing. “You’re gonna get me kicked off the soccer team.”
“How is that Rochelle’s fault?” I heard myself ask as I waded past the exiting students and stopped next to Rochelle. Why I needed to jump in, I’m not sure, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
Rochelle and Shelby turned to me, both with looks of surprise.
With a thumb jerked in Rochelle’s direction, Shelby said, “Einstein’s screwing up the curve, which means I’m not gonna pass.”
“Morgan,” Rochelle said, “it’s okay.”
I frowned as I looked at her. “No, it’s not. If Shelby gets kicked off the team, it’s not your fault.”
“Shut up, loser,” Shelby said beside me. “Before I shut you up.”
Hoping she would leave, I ignored her, focusing on Rochelle.
“Hey,” she said, obviously not willing to be ignored.
Slowly turning my head, when I met her furious gaze, I saw her eyes narrow as she scowled at me. Then she said, “This is between me and Rochelle.” She looked me up and down. “Go eat a donut or something.”
The jab at my weight stung. I wasn’t even that heavy—maybe fifteen pounds over where I wanted to be. I mean, sure, I had a sweet tooth. And yeah, I’d kind of given up on ever being as thin as the popular girls, but that was just rude.
Pursing my lips, I glared at her. “I can always lose weight, but you’re stuck with your brain.”
Her eyes narrowed to slits. “What are you trying to say, chubkins?”
Fury, hot and bright, burned inside me and I had to remember to relax my jaw. “It’s not Rochelle’s fault you were born with a brain the size of a peanut.” Then I challenged her with a stare. Why was I egging her on? Oh yeah. Because I hated bullies.
Her eyes bulged. “Okay. That’s it.” She was several inches taller than me and had an athletic build. Not exactly a fair fight.
“Morgan,” Rochelle said, her tone urgent, “let’s go.”
I wanted to. Badly. But the look in Shelby’s eyes told me she wouldn’t let that happen. Not unless I begged. And I couldn’t bring myself to do that.
Students had formed a semi-circle around us as if we were about to duke it out. Another reason I couldn’t flee.
With her head tilted and her hands on her hips, Shelby glared at me in a clear challenge.
Now what? With an audience it would be even harder to walk away, although I knew that’s what I should do.
Shelby took a menacing step toward me and I stepped back. Unfortunately, a bank of lockers was right behind me.
I froze. Shelby grinned.
Then I came to my senses. “Back off, or you’ll get kicked off the team for sure.”
A smirk twisted her lips. “Might be worth it. Especially since I’m probably getting kicked off because of my grades.”
Maybe I could convince her otherwise. “Why take the chance?”
She seemed to think about it, then she shook her head. “Naw.” Her hand curled into a fist, and then she lifted it like she was going to slam it into my face.
I couldn’t let that happen.
On instinct, I lashed out, stepping toward her with my arms outstretched. With adrenaline pumping through my veins, I shoved her. I’d only meant to keep her from hitting me, but to my surprise, she fell backwards and hit her head on the concrete floor.
“Break it up!” Principal Cunningham shouted as he forced his way through the students who were watching.
Why couldn’t he have shown up thirty seconds earlier?
With a stern look at me, he knelt beside Shelby, who was pushing herself into a sitting position. “She hurt me,” she said as she rubbed the back of her head and tears welled in her eyes. Fake tears, I was sure, but since I was standing and she was on the ground, it didn’t look good for me.
Principal Cunningham helped Shelby to her feet, then he turned to me. “In my office. Now.”
Lips pinched in frustration, I made my way to his office.
By the time I walked out the doors of the school with my furious mother by my side, I’d been suspended for the rest of the week. It didn’t seem to matter that I’d been standing up for Rochelle. It was Shelby’s word against mine.
Fox Run was a small town—too small to afford cameras in the school hallways. So, bedsides Rochelle, no one wanted to speak out against Shelby and become her next victim. And the principal didn’t seem to care about the circumstances or that Rochelle would back me up. Evidently, he only cared about the conclusion he’d reached—that I was the aggressor and Shelby the victim. She even had a large bump on the back of her head to prove her case.
As I snapped my seatbelt into place, Mom turned on the engine and backed the car out of the parking space, her mouth tight. “I can’t believe you shoved that girl, Morgan.” She frowned at me. “She got a knot on her head.”
“She was about to hit me.” And she called me fat. But there was no way I was going to tell her that. How mortifying would that be?
Mom shook her head and pursed her lips. “Look, Morgan, I know you were trying to help Rochelle, but there’s no excuse to hit first.”
I didn’t bother pointing out that I hadn’t hit Shelby, just shoved her. “What was I supposed to do? Let her hit me?”
Mom gave me a look of incredulity. “You should have walked away.”
She hadn’t been there. She didn’t know what it was like. She didn’t understand that I couldn’t back down. Because if I had, Shelby would be all over Rochelle the next day and the next.
Softly sighing, I stared out the passenger window, and when we pulled into our driveway, Mom turned to me with a deep scowl. “You’re grounded until further notice.”
She cut me off with a raised hand. “Do not argue with me, Morgan. Do. Not.” Then she held her hand out. I knew what she wanted, and with my lips clamped shut, I placed my cell phone in her palm.
Without a word, I got out of the car, slung my backpack over my shoulder, then marched into the house.
I couldn’t believe what had happened. Not only the fight with Shelby, but Mom’s refusal to see my side of the story. It was so unfair.
My mind racing, when I started climbing the stairs to go to my room, I almost ran into Amy, my thirteen-year-old sister. “Watch it,” I muttered.
She rolled her eyes at me. “You watch it, Morgan.”
I gave her a murderous glare, then continued up. When I reached my bedroom, I sank onto my bed, fuming. Stewing in my anger, I stared at the blank wall. Then, as I pondered how much my life sucked just then, I heard my younger brothers running around outside making their usual racket. I went to the window and looked into the backyard. As I watched them kick a ball back and forth, their breath coming out in frosty clouds in the November air, I frowned, jealous of their lack of worries.
“Zac. Brandon,” Mom called out to my brothers from downstairs, “come inside and finish your homework.”
I watched as they walked toward the house before they disappeared from view. Even though I couldn’t see them, I could still hear them. They were always in motion—I guess most eight and ten year olds are—but it still irritated me.
I walked away from the window and slumped onto my bed, then stared at the wall.
“Morgan?” Mom called out as she knocked on my door a few minutes later.
The sound of her voice reminded me how unfair everything was. Gritting my teeth, I called out, “What?”
She walked in and glanced at me before looking at the clothes strewn around the room. She sighed, then met my defiant glare. “I want you to write a letter of apology to that girl you…,” her jaw clenched, “that you hurt today.”
What? No freaking way would I apologize to Shelby. She’d called me fat and she’d almost punched me. She should apologize to me.
Of course I didn’t say that out loud, but that’s what I was thinking.
Mom frowned before continuing. “And I expect this room to be picked up before you come down for dinner.”
Forcing myself to remain calm, I said, “You realize how unfair all of this is.”
She tilted her head as she frowned. “That’s the way the system works, Morgan. You break the rules, you face the consequences.”
Hoping I could still change her mind, I softened my tone. “I understand the school’s rules, Mom, but I don’t think I should be grounded.”
She pursed her lips. “What do you think I should have done?”
I threw my hands into the air. “Nothing. Because I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just standing up for Rochelle and Shelby overreacted.”
That didn’t sound like she’d changed her mind. “So, I’m not grounded?”
She laughed—actually laughed. “Good try, Morgan.” I must have looked annoyed that my ploy had failed, because she added, “When you’re on your own you can do things your way, but as long as you live here, you’ll follow our rules.”
The unfairness pressed down on me and I wanted to scream with frustration.
Mom pointed to the clothes on my floor. “Clean your room and write that note of apology. Don’t come downstairs until you do.” Then she turned and left.
I closed the door behind her, forcing myself not to slam it, fresh fury welling up inside me like a geyser before it erupts.
Her words rang in my head: When you’re on your own you can do things your way.
Maybe it was time for me to get on my own. Like, right now.
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