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There are two constants in Opal’s life: her dad’s grungy green baseball cap, and her troubled pal, Marianne, whom Opal loves as a best friend . . . and even more. But nothing stays the same forever. When Opal receives the horrifying news that Marianne is dead, she suddenly must live her life and make decisions based on the needs of one person instead of two. Only with the help of her family and the story of Hannah, a runaway slave, can Opal begin to free herself from the weight of her memories, her ghosts, and her own truth.
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Tonya Cherie Hegamin decided that she would be a writer when she was eight years old. Between then and now, she has also been a social worker, an educator, a vintage clothing vendor, a vegan soul food caterer, and the program director of a poetry retreat. Tonya is a graduate of Cave Canem and a native of Pennsylvania.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Flying out of town in her Mamm’s rusty El Camino, blaring Sheila E. with the windows down. It was like thirty degrees with no sun in sight, but we never put the windows up. I played a little game—closed my eyes and tried to see all the houses and trailers and dead brown fields in my head; then I opened them again, to see if what was in my head was the same as outside. I almost knew this town by heart. Marianne was playing bongos on the steering wheel, screaming the words to “The Glamorous Life.” At each turn we made, I envisioned us in a horrible collision, our mangled bodies all over the road and the mutant hybrid car/truck flipping dolphin-esque through the air. Another little game I liked to play: What would my last words be? More important, what would M’s last words to me be? Would she finally tell me she loved me, or just say something they’d print on the first page of the yearbook? Besides her homecoming coup, there wouldn’t be much to write about this year—we’d just lost the big game to the Stetson Stallions, 32 to 6. Go, rowdy Raccoons. Marianne looked over at me and flashed her pearly whites, her hair wildly whipping about her face like so many snakes. I told myself not to fall into the pit of her, but she reached over and squeezed my thigh, making me scream inside. I wanted to throw myself out the car. I wanted to throw myself into her. I bit my nails instead.
“She wants to lead the glamorous life . . . Without love . . .” she sang off key. Marianne was like that, off-key to everybody but herself. “It ain’t much, it ain’t much.” We turned into the gravel drive leading to what used to be the mill about five miles outside of town. I didn’t know what we were doing here, but as usual, I was along for the ride. Pulling up to the back door, she honked the horn like a madwoman. She shut off the ignition but left the music on. M winked at me as she got out the car, still singing, rocking her head back and forth, jostling the sparkly tiara; somehow it stayed on. Then she went and stretched herself out on the hood of the car, like some glam-rock video skeeza. The steam from her hot breath hung around her head—her very own private fog machine. The door to the old mill slid open and out came a dude I recognized as the quarterback from the Stallions. I wondered for only a half second where Marianne’s boyfriend, Brock, was (I call him Block, as in Blockhead, but he thought it was because he’s the center for the rabid Raccoons), when this guy jumped on M and shoved his tongue down her throat. Lucky me with the front-row seat. My disgust turned to pure revulsion as he opened his eyes and stared straight into my face while kissing and groping Marianne. I pulled my green baseball cap over my eyes and put my foot up on the windshield glass to cover his bloated, ugly face. When they finally got off the car and I’d chewed most of what was left of my fingers, there was a nice size 9 shoe-print on the glass. Mr. Peek-a- Boo Quarterback went inside the mill, pointing his forefinger back at her like a gun, his thumb cocked. What a cowboy. M rolled off the hood and leaned into the open window on my side, touching my cheek with the nail of her red- polished but mostly chipped pinky finger. The pads of her fingers were puckered from the cold, and I could feel the uneven wrinkles; she wore only thin little black gloves with half the fingers cut off.
“Let’s go, girl,” she purred. “I promised you a ride.” She smelled like booze, smoke, and, well, funk. Once upon a time she had smelled of fresh earth and tasted like blackberries. “What happened to the Block?” I asked, suddenly feeling like he was some sort of fallen comrade.
M shrugged and stood up, lip curled in boredom and disgust. I tried not to care that she hadn’t brushed her teeth in a while. “I think he fell asleep in some field somewhere. He was pouting too much anyway. So I picked up these yahoos for my amusement.” She opened the car door and held out her hand to me again. I just wanted to look at her forever, her hand out like that. M sniffed, wiping her nose with the back of her other hand. “C’mon,” she said with a hint of what I wanted to believe was pleading. “You gotta celebrate with me! I’m the first black Homecoming Queen in all a Kilmee County. It’s a historic event. Who knows—maybe I’ll even win Prom Queen. Then I’ll be the Queen ’Coon!” She laughed a little too hysterically at her own racist joke about herself. I thought to remind her she was only half black, but I didn’t really want to quibble. She only remembered her dad was black when she felt like it, when it was convenient, like when she wanted to have a reason for feeling alienated, important, or “down.” Otherwise she pretended to forget iit and hoped everybody else did, too. She did that a lot, not just about her race. I sighed, stood up, and stretched. Would I ever get tired of these reindeer games?
She smiled, winked as I took her hand again.
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Book Description HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # J7-7M5I-Q6JE
Book Description Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0618495703
Book Description HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0618495703
Book Description HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110618495703
Book Description HMH Books for Young Readers. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0618495703 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.1173113