In my new book Addis on the Inside, the children of drug-addicted Addis stuck inside domes around cities get taken from their parents and placed in a rehabilitation center. There, they must go through withdrawal from the drug, called morphoid, before they can join the other children and wait to be adopted by a clean family.
Some of the crews within the New Orleans center smuggle morphoid in, but Jayla, the leader of a crew of the girls who call themselves Royalty, makes her friends swear not to do the drug or else they’ll be kicked out. In the excerpt below, someone at the center has set off the morphoid detector—and Jayla will not be happy when she finds out who did it.
Will she follow her rules?
Or save her crewmember?
Exclusive Excerpt from Chapter Four of Addis on the Inside
The search went on for hours. We were eventually all gathered together in the cafeteria, where I did a quick headcount: 101 girls. That meant the smoker was in the room.
After I found our table and planted Jo there with the others, I slowly began circling the cafeteria. Like a hound dog searching for its prey, I sniffed the air and sorted through the smells, casting aside body odor, deodorant, and the just-cleaned linoleum. I passed Leah and her crew, then several of the younger crowds, and right past the kids, who couldn’t have afforded the costly price of Mo-D.
Breakfast from that morning, its cheesy eggs and chocolate pudding, threw my nose off for a while, but eventually I tuned them out like a radio dial and found what I was looking for: morphoid.
I stopped in my tracks. The first thought had been mine, said in a deep baritone like the announcer of a scary movie, but the second had not come from me at all. My head whipped from table to table, and then eventually landed on my crew and a pair of bashful white eyes.
Sorry. I meant to tell you first.
What the hell is going on?
It’s the eyes. Jo tapped the bridge between them. They’re not just a birth defect. They’re a part of something much bigger, though I’m not sure what.
The smell of morphoid grew stronger, and I turned away from her to find it. Later there would be time for questions, but for now, I had a more immediate problem. If morphoid ran rampant in the school, the girls would fall on their knees, one by one, in front of a new queen.
There. Yes. Back in the center of the cafeteria, back through the middle schoolers, back to….
I looked her in the eyes, but they flickered to the ceiling.
“Are you holding?” I asked softly so that no one but our table could hear.
“Jayla, it’s not like that—”
“Answer me,” I hissed. “Are. You. Holding.”
“You know my rules. Now listen and listen closely. I’m going to sit next to you, and you’re going to slip the baggie into the top of my combat boot.”
“Now!” This I yelled, my temper flaring at her insubordination, and the other tables around us turned to stare.
After I sat down, Tree did as she was told. The weight of the small baggie felt like an iron ball around my ankle, especially now that I sat so close to Tree and could smell its scent. My blood pumped faster in anticipation.
“What are you going to do with it?” Jo whispered after the cafeteria went back to their whispers.
“What Tree should have done the second she got it.”
I stood up and approached one of the security guards on duty. They wore uniforms made to imitate police officers’, but in reality, most of them were harmless old women. No men were allowed in NORCC after the Investigation of 2097, when a scandal between an officer and some of the girls came out, and since then most of the officers hadn’t changed. It was a pretty easy gig, considering we Addis didn’t have anywhere to go.
“Excuse me, Miss Aggie,” I said to the nearest officer, using my sweetest please-make-an-exception-for-me voice. Yet another perk of being the longest resident: all the officers knew and loved me. “I really need to go to the bathroom.”
“Headmistress Cain won’t like you leaving the cafeteria,” Miss Aggie said, but her face was already softening into a smile.
“I know, and the last thing I’d want is to get you in trouble, but you see….” I leaned forward. “It’s an emergency—of the feminine kind.”
“Oh my.” Miss Aggie imitated my posture, and I smelled her powdery scent. “You mean…?”
“Yes. I’m afraid if I stay here much longer, everyone will realize it.”
“You poor dear.” In any other setting, she might have hugged me. “Of course you can go. Just leave your bag here and come back for it once you’re done.”
“Thank you so much.”
Before any of the other guards could notice, I was through the door and down the hall. The fourth-floor bathrooms were stalls, so I went to the last one and locked the door before anyone could see me. The bathrooms were always freezing—apparently the heating system did not extend to this part of the building—and I shivered in my thin flannel shirt.
The baggie had slipped down to my heel, so I fished it out and looked at it. Inside was gray powder the color of ash, perfectly packed like pressed snow. At its purest, morphoid was white, resembling snow even more, but no Addi could afford such unpolluted product. The desire to stick my pinkie in and take a taste was unbearable, an all-consuming lust stronger than anything I’d ever felt. Once the morphoid greed took over, I wouldn’t even remember why I’d ever wanted to flush it.
Isn’t it beautiful, my mother used to say as she stared down at the aluminum foil holding her Mo-D. My father would hold the lighter below the foil, and then she would use a toilet paper tube to suck up the smoke. The most beautiful thing in the world except my precious girls.
Quickly, before I could change my mind, I scattered the drug into the toilet bowl and held my breath as it swirled.
Jayla is the daughter of morphoid-addicted Addis, and like so many others, she’s been pulled away from her family and placed in a group home called NORCC—the New Orleans Rehabilitation Center for Children. Her parents and those like them are imprisoned in domes across the country… but maybe not for long. Jayla’s sister, Jo, arrives at the orphanage with news of a sinister plan. The Authority plans to gas the domes and kill those within.
Jayla and her crew of orphan girls—including love interests both old and new—are the only ones who can stop the Authority and save their people. But first, they must escape the NORCC. During their journey, several secrets come to light, including Jayla’s supernatural powers and the depths of the Authority’s depravity. But before she can face her enemies, she’ll have to confront the adversaries within herself.
About the Author
If there’s one thing author Annabelle Jay believes with all her heart, it’s that there is no such thing as too many dragons in a book. As fantasy writer with few other hobbies—does being bribed to run with her partner or dancing awkwardly in the kitchen count?—she spends every day following her imagination wherever it leads her.
A hippie born in the wrong decade, Annabelle has a peace sign tattoo and a penchant for hugging trees. Occasionally she takes breaks from her novels to play with her pets: Jon Snow, the albino rabbit who is constantly trying to escape; Stevie, the crested gecko that climbs glass with the hairs on its toes; and Luigi, the green tree python that lives at the foot of her bed despite her best efforts to talk her partner out of the idea.
During her day job as a professor of English, Annabelle is often assumed to be a fellow student playing a prank on the class—that is, until she hands out the syllabus. When people stop mistaking her for a recent high school graduate, she will probably be very sad.
Author’s Website: www.annabellejay.com
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14191901.Annabelle_Jay
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Annabelle-Jay-376249719245415