A Kirkus Reviews “Best of 2018” Pick!
“A love letter to the intricacies of family and multitudinous black girlhood.” Kirkus, starred review
“A stunning tapestry of texture and culture.” – Nic Stone, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin
“You'll wish you were friends with Tasia Quirk." – Emery Lord, author of When We Collided
“This book is an emotional touchdown.” – Lily Anderson, author of Undead Girl Gang
Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She's a senior, she's got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school's team.
But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find thembut only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.
|Publisher:||Page Street Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
|Age Range:||16 Years|
Read an Excerpt
GAME 1 – WESTVIEW VS. SANTA MONICA VIKINGS
I take a major hit.
My midsection is screaming.
I forced the fumble, the ball flying out of the receiver's arms and landing sadly on the turf like a bird with a bad wing, but I failed to recover because Santa Monica's Olinemen are built like bison on steroids. They fall on the ball — and me — and I wonder if someone should just bury me here, now.
For two seconds, while I'm on the ground catching my breath, the static chatter of the crowd in the stands fades out. Immediately it comes back, acute. Sharp. Right along with a red blob. A red jersey. That is a body inside padding, all underneath a Westview jersey.
Josiah, my quarterback, holds his hand out to me. "Get up here, girl, we got a ball game to finish."
I shake off the rest of my haze, put my hand in his, and let him haul me up. The crowd cheers with a relieved sort of loudness when I make it to a full stand, and Coach signals Siah and me over.
"That hit was nasty, Tasia. You good?"
"You good?" he says again. He likes us to vocalize when we take hits to the head. Answers to these questions don't have to make sense and they don't even have to not be bullshit. They just have to be loud enough to slow-stroke Coach's moral fiber.
"Yeah, Coach. I'm good," I say through my mouth guard.
I spy my mamma shoving her way up to Coach's side.
"Baby, are you —"
Glancing around fast and then looking straight back at Mamma, I nod at her. I'm good, I'm fine. I'm okay.
Even the water boy is laughing at me. It's the kind of situation I try to avoid, lest they think I'm just some little girl who can't take a hit. I can.
My shoulder is screaming and I'm a little panicked about going back out there after that. It happens every time I take a hit: The anxiety sets in. Then the whispered What if it happens again? Worse. I almost always swallow it down, but here, now ... Mamma grabs me by the wrist before I hit the field again, pulling my lighter-skinned hand between both of her darker ones. She rubs them fast, the friction warming my fingers. Under her breath she says, "Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." It's a chant, nearly a song.
We're not very religious. Not at all, actually. But this is a prayer. The same one I've gotten from her for every skinned knee and every hangnail.
Finally, she squeezes my hand and releases it. "You're okay. Yes?"
It's not even really a question. She is telling me that I am okay. The way I need her to. The way I always need her to. I nod.
As I turn and run back out to the huddle on the field, Josiah high-fives me and then makes his way back to the sidelines.
"You didn't chip your nail polish or dislodge your tampon, did you, Taze?" That gift of a child is Los. Carlos, but Los. Number forty-four. He plays cornerback, like me. Or he tries to, anyway. Don't get me wrong — he's great at it, so I kind of respect him, but he's not so good at being a decent human, so the default for me is typically a little hate. Plus, he's no me, and there are rules about getting too friendly with your competition.
"Fuck off," I grumble. See? Hate.
I chuck my head at Los as the other team wraps up their huddle with a grunted, baritone-heavy "Break!"
"Pine is yours, Carlos," I say through my mouth guard, signaling that he should take a seat in his rightful place on the bench.
He shakes his head — and I know, I fricking know, he's about to argue with me — but then Coach whistles and we all look over.
"Tasia's in! Bring it in, Forty-Four."
Los gives me the finger before heading off to our sideline, and I fight a million internal battles with myself about retaliating. That'd only get me kicked off the field.
The other team's QB, an Asian kid, calls hike and then, in seconds, the play is in motion. I sit low behind my linebacker, Israel, and then as soon as I see the play lining up, things slow down. I feel it. I know exactly where that ball's heading, so I break away and truck down the field and parallel myself right up on their wide receiver, who's setting himself up to catch his quarterback's long pass.
And I intercept it, using my quads to get high in the air. Their wide receiver doesn't like it, grabbing me clean out of the air in hopes that I'll miss the catch.
I won't. I haven't.
And when he full-on body slams me right to the turf in the end zone, I experience both a moment of elation and a second of Christ on a pink bike, this will bruise tomorrow.
I don't stay planked for long though, because the clock has run down, and then, beautifully, that's game.
I curtsy and mime-fluff my hair in the end zone for a couple seconds, skipping right alongside the other team's WR who tried to take me out, and then Josiah and Israel are there, grabbing me by the facemask, bashing their helmets against mine, giving me a few platonic swats on the ass.
Josiah's grinning like a fool as the rest of the team floods us on the field. "Atta-baby, Tasia! Way to be, Taze. Atta-girl!" We high-five as we line up off to the side of the field to greet the other team and congratulate them on a well-played game.
As we make our way down the single-file line, I take off my helmet and prepare myself for the other team's comments and quips.
"You let a girl play in this game?"
"That shouldn't be legal."
"She's hot — for a Black girl."
"I can't hit girls, but I can tackle this one? That's messed up."
"I'd do her."
I look that particular spitwad right in the eye and say, "You'd try it, and I'd chop your dick off. Try me." And after a moment I smile and say, "But hey, good game."
Taze Quirk doesn't take anybody's shit. Not on my field.
When I finally find my mamma in the crowd, she pulls me in for the tightest hug. My mamma is the best hugger. Her hugs are solidifying and re-focusing.
"That's my baby! That's right. You played tough. How you feeling now, from that last hit?"
I shrug. "Little sore. I'm okay."
"You'll take an Epsom salt bath when we get home."
I pull away a little. "Okay, but ... the guys and I sort of had plans? To go to Duke Ellie's to celebrate."
Her hands feel around my back, meeting only padding. "How's the new sports bra? Think we picked a good one this time? These are supposed to have better hold."
"Oh, God." I bat her hands away, twist my torso so she can't even think about trying to get her hands up underneath.
"Baby, don't get shy now. We need to be sure we're not risking any damage to your —"
She's not the kind of woman who uses some weirdo stand-in word for private parts, like hoo-hoos or mosquito bites. My mamma's a professional. Breasts. That's more her style.
"Mom. They're fine. It's fine. But I really gotta get changed or the guys — they'll leave without me."
Mamma has this way about her chastisement. It's nonverbal. Involves only a lifted eyebrow and maybe pursed lips. "Tasia Lynn."
"I'll be home way before curfew."
She hesitates, but then says, "Not too late —"
"Yes, ma'am. No later than, like, eleven."
Mamma raises one of her perfect, thick eyebrows. She knows as well as I do, I'm not coming home anywhere near eleven p.m. Not with the win we just pulled off still singing in my veins.
"Thirty," I say. "I meant to say eleven-thirty. Probably." Maybe.
"Mm," she says, hugging me again. "Daddy wanted to be here. He got stuck at the office."
Solomon Quirk. Forever choosing work over his family. Or rather, me. It's really just me he's never been able to choose. Our relationship has always been just a little bit different. I nod at Mamma, and you know what? I don't even roll my eyes that hard. "I know. Where's Tristan?"
"Home." Mamma smiles gently. "He has that test. He's panicking."
What's the term for when your brother is a lamewad? "So he's studying."
"What you should be doi —"
"I did!" I didn't, actually. So I amend it: "I will. Tomorrow and all weekend, I'm staying in." I cross my fingers, kiss them, and spit on the ground.
Mamma cringes then gives this look as if there's Botox gone wrong in the bottom of her face.
"I'll text you where I am; the boys are waiting." I gesture over my shoulder.
As I start to jog toward the girls' locker room, where I'll be changing my pads out for a hoodie, Mamma calls, "I love you."
I glance back and grin hard, but don't say it back. I wave instead. Little moments like that, they creep up on you the way a spidering crack spreads. Later, you might wonder what else you were thinking about that was so important. So vital that you couldn't spare two seconds to call three words, eight letters, back.
I should have said them back.CHAPTER 2
Stacy "Slim" Lim is my best friend in the entire world, which is the weirdest phenomenon, considering we aren't much alike. We've got similar features, big curly heads of hair falling down our backs — hers chocolatey, mine the queerest sort of bronze blond — full lips that neither of us know what to do with during Los Angeles's wannabe winters, skin somewhere between beige and brown, a tawny terracotta mix, hers just a shade or two lighter than my pale gold. We've been mistaken for twins on more than one occasion. More often than Trist and I have been asked whether or not we're siblings.
Tristan and I look nothing alike.
The main difference between Slim and me sits in the eyes. Mine are almond shaped, Slim's are sharper — her dad's Korean genetics.
As I run into the locker room amid all the changing cheerleaders, I find Slim shimmying out of her cheer skirt.
"How was that last hit?" she says.
"Grimy. Felt good after I got up, though."
She grunts. "Pain slut."
I kick off my cleats. "Come to Duke Ellie's," I say. Duke Ellie's is an all-night diner just north over the hill.
She hesitates, shirt hovering over her head. "Will Josiah be there?"
Will Josiah be there? Of course he frigging will. Josiah is QB1. She knows this. She also knows she's crazy about him and that he's very, very taken.
"Please come?" The rules of best friendship state, loosely, if you beg they must concede. "Slim."
She looks up at me as she wiggle-squirms into her jeans. I do the same, having pulled off my football pants, the nylon-spandex combo sticking to me where I'm still sweaty at the back of my thighs.
Neither of us can speak for at least seven seconds while we try to tuck our hips, suck it in, and do up the buttons.
"I won't leave your side," I say.
"You won't ditch me when all the boys start talking about football?"
"No. In fact, I'll go out of my way to change the subject."
She laughs, and that feels really good to me. "To what?"
"To ..." Hell if I know, but it ceases to matter when, speak of the devil, Josiah's girlfriend, Kat, trots over.
"You guys comin' to Duke's? I just convinced my dad to let me go, even after he caught me and Josiah in my room last week." She laughs and it's dang cute. But don't tell Slim I think so.
Kat moved here from the Midwest. Toledo, to be exact. Her a's stretch fat and flat and damn near ugly. This being-from-out-of-state thing, plus Kat's huge tits, make her infinitely cooler than I'll ever be. The accent loses her some Cool Points, but she's still pretty cool nonetheless.
But never, ever cooler than Slim — and best-friend law also dictates that I remind Slim of this, often.
Slim slaps on a good smile, a prettier-than-you-without-even-trying smile, and says, "We'll be there. You driving, Taze? Or am I?"
I'll never get used to the way Slim takes curves in her tiny Miata, so I tell her we can take my Jeep and hope to Christ she doesn't fight me on this, because I know my driving isn't her dig either.
As soon as we walk into Duke Ellie's, the table filled, like, twenty deep, a group of our friends lets off a round of cheers. Josiah stands and pulls up chairs for Slim and me. We don't plan it, but she definitely ends up in the seat next to him, and I in the seat next to her. So the seat order goes: Kat, Josiah, Slim, then me. But Josiah is a good boyfriend, and so he effectively angles his body so that the majority of his attention is focused on his girlfriend. I can't decide if Slim likes this trait or loathes it. Probably equal parts of both, which is pathetic and heartbreaking all in one fell swoop.
Slim and I share a plate of chocolate chip pancakes. We double down on bacon and whipped cream, and I make multiple comments about having to run it all off later, as though I'm the only athlete at the table.
But despite all that, we have fun. We talk to the boys and, yes, we flirt with them. Only, I don't flirt with my teammates because that's like flirting with your pain-in-the-ass brother whose idea of fun is science puns.
Slim and I take selfies together and post them all over social media. Ones where I stare at the camera and Slim closes her eyes and kisses my cheek. Ones where Slim and I stare into each other's eyes and grin hard, showcasing our profiles. We both agree that this is the best pose, and I post mine to Instagram, with a filter that I don't think changes much about the photo but that I absolutely cannot post without, and caption it, "PROFILE GAME IMMACULATE w/ @SlimJimSandwich." Slim does the same: "My best friend > your best friend w/ @dontTazemebro."
After everyone's polished their plates and we've split the bill, I can tell Slim is a little bummed at being literally shoulder-to-shoulder with Josiah all night but having only been able to say two words to him ("Hi, Josiah"), and so I basically invite myself over to her house to help cheer her up and to pick all the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms I know she has in her pantry. But before I can drop her off at her car back at school, I get a text from my dork brother Tristan.
come home STAT, something going on, mamma's about to call you
That worries me. Urgency isn't Tristan's standard mode of operation. It's not Mamma's or Daddy's either. My family is that family — we do things at our own pace. People march to our beat, not the other way around.
And aside from that, I've always worried about my family a little. I worry about their safety. It's the way I was raised. I worry about how I sometimes see Mamma get weirdly manic when she's under a lot of work stress. I worry when I see Daddy get frustrated when he's trying to put something together — maybe some furniture, recently the ceiling fan in my room.
My parents worry about us, too. Mamma stays awake on the couch in the living room whenever Tristan or I are out late. I always know Daddy has checked on me at night when I fall asleep with my lights on and I wake up tucked in, lights off.
A minute later, I see my phone flash with MAAAA plus her photo. It's a great picture of her. I don't know why I think of this before I pick up the call. The picture is from maybe a month ago. Mamma at some CEO gala charity fundraiser dinner event her company put on to honor her. Her smile is big and bright, her skin is mahogany smooth, and her lifelong dreadlocks are in some complicated updo that probably took forever or cost hella cash money or both.
I swipe my thumb across the screen.
"Hello?" My stomach bottoms out before she ever says a word.CHAPTER 3
"Hey, baby," Mamma says. "On your way home?"
I gesture a thumb over my shoulder, as if she can see me. "Um, I was gonna go to Slim's."
I pause. She sounds unsteady. It makes me feel unsteady.
"Is everything all right?"
"Yeah, baby. Fine, fine. Everything's ... everything is going to be just fine." She says it too loudly. "Baby, I've, um. I've got my hands full just now. You have fun at Josiah's."
She ends the call and all I can do is pull the warm phone away from my face and stare as it reverts back to my home screen a second before going dim again.
Something like butterflies sits in my stomach. Butterflies but worse. Butterflies on meth or something.
I fixate on two things before turning back to Slim.
1. She said to have fun at Josiah's. I know it's not a big deal. Slim's mom used to mix up our entire friend group for years, and none of us look anything like each other. But Mamma, she's different. She's involved. If I say I'm headed to Slim's, she knows all the details before I do.
I wonder idly if she really did have a hundred things on her mind. Enough things she just couldn't take on one more — even if it is my whereabouts.
2. She said everything is going to be just fine. As in — it's not right now, but it will be. She sounded desperate. Like an addict telling himself he could totally have "just one."
It felt like a lie.
Slim steps closer to me, grabs my wrist. "Hey. Everything cool?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Home and Away"
Copyright © 2018 Candice Montgomery.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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