- Pages: 400 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Viking Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 9780593116906
An Excerpt From
It Sounds Like This
She waves her hand to dismiss my words before stubbornly flipping through the rest of the packet, laser eyes scanning as if the pages contain the secret to my successful high school career, or the hidden clause that will ruin it. I don’t think she’ll find anything objectionable, but sometimes she latches on to details—like the Homecoming dance—and turns them into another box for me to check off.
I’m not opposed to checking off boxes; I love checking off boxes. It’s just that, going into sophomore year, my checklist is already full of an overwhelming number of super-important boxes that I want to check: get straight As, do well in my first AP class, prep for the PSAT, make friends with some teachers for future recommendation letters, keep up my extracurriculars (band), get leadership experience (first chair), and . . . How is Mom still reading the same page??
I thought that waiting until Sunday evening would make it easier to rush her through the packet, but I forgot that nobody but me cares about being late to church. Dad unhurriedly rinses dishes and loads them into the dishwasher, his button-down not yet buttoned over his T-shirt and his salt-and-ginger hair uncombed. Mom frowns at the dress code (“But they can’t stop you from painting your nails, mija!”), dressed to reverently impress as always but showing no signs of getting ready to move. Even if we leave in the next minute and a half, we’ll still be five minutes late to the latest possible mass. I take a breath and smile to keep my tone pleasant when I hint, “I’ll be ready to leave as soon as this is signed.”
Mom finally scribbles her signature on the last page and helps Dad finish the dishes while I tuck the forms into my brand-new folder and zip it safely into the polka-dotted backpack I picked out so carefully last summer.
It was supposed to give me good luck for my freshman year . . . so that didn’t work out well at all. Maybe I should’ve asked for a new backpack this year.
I’m not, like, extremely superstitious, but then again, I am currently the driving force getting most of my family out the door to go to religious services because I want this year to go well. I technically have two more weeks of summer, but tomorrow morning is the first day of band camp, so basically the start of the year. And just to add to the pressure, it’s actually my actual first day of band camp ever.
A week before camp was supposed to start last year, a tropical storm out in the Gulf agitated itself into a full-blown hurricane—Hurricane Humphrey—and aimed itself at Texas. The Sunday night when I should have been getting to bed early to make it to the marching field on time, I was instead clutching a flashlight, watching floodwater rush down our street and creep up our front lawn. We were lucky; the school was not. It took the whole semester to get things back in repair enough to have band, and by then the marching season was over. So, yeah, maybe I’m a little superstitious, and maybe I waited until the last possible minute to give Mom the forms to sign, and maybe I’m on my third Guadalupe candle burning itself out on my desk. But that’s just because I need this year to go smoothly.
I do finally get Mom and Dad out the door and into the car. We’re late, but not later than usual, so I count that as a win.
“What are you going to wear to Homecoming?” Mom asks while Dad maneuvers through the packed parking lot of St. Cecily’s.
I hold back a sigh. “My uniform. I’m going to wear my band uniform. Because it’s a band performance.”
Mom tuts in disappointment and grumbles that I should be excited about the dance and the dress too, and I can feel her grumbling sliding inevitably toward complaining that I didn’t do anything quinceañera-related last year, and then if I don’t stop her, she’ll be off on a pro-femininity rant. Her rants have less to do with me (I’m very pro-femininity, thank you! Not to lean too heavily on presentation stereotypes, but I’m literally wearing a pink skirt right now!) and more to do with Ellen, my sibling who doesn’t do dances or dresses or femininity, and even though none of that is officially my problem, Mom has a way of unloading it all on me at least once a week. Also, since Humphrey tanked her small interior design business the same way it tanked Ellen’s nonprofit job and my marching season, she’s got a lot more time on her hands to pay attention to my business.
I’m actually lucky Ellen is at work today, or else there would have been a whole separate argument where Mom tried to convince her to come to church and she tried to come up with an excuse not to go to church and I would have ended up getting lectured about that too.
But the goal is to avoid all lectures on all subjects. Part of starting the year off right. “I guess I’ll probably go to the dance after the Homecoming game,” I concede. “But I need to ask Sofia about outfits.” I’m not above invoking my best friend as a subtle reminder to Mom that I have good role models in my life.
“Oh, how is Sofia? I’ve barely seen her this summer—but you girls are always connected on your phones, right?”
“Right,” I say, smiling past an unpleasant prick of emotion. Sofia hasn’t come over much this summer. Maybe because she got an annoying boyfriend, or maybe because I was too loud about how annoying her boyfriend is. But we do talk on the phone, even if I’m bad at texting. And she’s driving me to band tomorrow. Once the school year starts and we can’t avoid each other, things will go back to normal.
Dad finally finds a parking spot, and we jump out of the car and speed-walk past the announcement board outside the chapel that reminds us to sign me up for Sunday school CCE classes (another box on my checklist, another piece in the puzzle of my schedule for the year). We make it into the pews just in time for the homily (church SparkNotes for latecomers), and then all I have to worry about is squeezing my eyes tight shut when the speaker calls for “all the intentions we hold in our hearts.”
A good year, I intent as hard as I can. Let us all have a good year.
And specifically, let me get first chair, I have to add. I figure it doesn’t hurt to ask.
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