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"What kind of name is that for a dog?"
"Yes. That's stupid!"
"What's stupid about it?"
"It just is."
"What kind of name is Indigo?"
"A perfect name, for a perfect girl." I rolled my eyes at him, placed my hands on my hips and was about to give him a piece of my mind. But I decided not to. "How did you know my name anyway?"
He was silent for a moment, standing there with waves all in his hair, as if he slept in a doo-rag or something. His teeth were perfect, and I knew without asking that he used to wear braces. I wished my parents would spring for some braces for me, so that I could have perfect teeth like that. But instead, they were always complaining about having to pay bills and telling me that my teeth weren't that bad.
"Money don't grow on trees, Indi," Daddy was always telling me. "But you got it better than most kids. We provide a nice home for you, you eat good, and you have your own room. That's more than I had when I was your age. I had to share a room with your uncle Keith when I was coming up. Never had my own room." Then he'd go into his spiel about having to walk ten miles to school in a Chicago blizzard. Imagine that. Ten miles in a Chicago blizzard? He'd lose me at that point.
"Daddy, come on," I would laugh. "Ten miles is a lot of miles."
"Don't forget the part about the Chicago blizzard, girl'd have to laugh himself, because he knew that he was only telling half the truth.
Sometimes I loved listening to my daddy's stories about growing up in Chicago at my nana Summer's house. It was an old house, two stories tall, with an old porch and shutters that needed to be painted, but the house always smelled so good. Like fried chicken, or my all-time favorite, macaroni and cheese as only Nana could make. But she was older now, and not quite the Nana I remembered when I was little. She couldn't remember anything anymore, and was always having aches and pains somewhere on her body.
I missed the Nana that would come for visits in the summertime, creep into my room at night with chocolate chip cookies and sit in the wooden rocker next to my bedroom window. I could see my grandmother's caramel face in the moonlight, as she rocked back and forth with her eyes just barely closed.
"Don't get crumbs in the bed, either, little girl," she'd say.
"I won't, Nana." I'd promise, but still have to brush the crumbs from the sheets.
Nana and I would talk about everything we could possibly think of. I could talk to her about any and everything. Whenever something was bothering me, she always knew. Even if I tried to smile and pretend everything was okay, Nana knew. And she'd always make me laugh even when I didn't feel like it.
Nana insisted that I teach her all the latest dances. I taught her how to do the Harlem Shake and had to admit, she had rhythm. Before long, she could do the Harlem Shake better than some of the girls I knew from school.
Nana would come to our house in June and stay the whole summer. I wished she could've stayed the entire year, but she always went back to Chicago at the end of August.
"I gotta go check on my house, baby," she would say whenever I would ask her to stay forever. "But I'll be back for Christmas. And we'll decorate that old tree together, make hot apple cider and stay up all night on Christmas eve."
"Can I open at least one gift on Christmas Eve?"
"You always do, and end up picking the biggest package under the tree," she'd chuckle. "When will you learn that the best things don't always come in the big packages? Good things come in small packages, too."
She was right, too, because I remembered last year when I got that sapphire necklace with the matching ankle bracelet. It was my favorite gift under the tree, and it came in the smallest package. And in the big box was a bunch of bras, panties and socks"things I didn't care about.
I always cried for a week after Nana was gone. I'd tell her about all the ugly, stupid boys in my class and tell her how much I hated them.
"You just wait until they grow up," Nana would laugh and say. "You'll like boys one of these days, trust me."
"I don't think so, Nana." I couldn't even imagine looking at a boy for more than ten seconds without being ready to puke. And to like them? Now that was taking it a bit too far. "Why are boys so stupid?"
"I don't know, baby." I could see Nana's smile in the moonlight; her calmness is what I admired most about her. "They just are. And they don't get much better with age, either. In fact, some of them get worse. You'll see when you get married."
"I'm never getting married, Nana." I wanted to make that crystal clear!
"Never?" Nana would ask with a look of surprise.
"Never!" My mind was made up. She'd see. And I swore I'd never have kids either. Because if all little kids worked my nerves like my little cousin, Keith Jr. did, then I was never becoming anybody's mama. Good thing I only had to see him on holidays. Since my uncle Keith and his wife were divorced, he only had Keith Jr. every other weekend and on Thanksgiving, during spring break and on the Fourth of July.
It seemed that everybody was getting a divorce, and I hoped that it would never happen to my parents. It happened to my best friend Jade's parents. Just when she thought they were this big happy family, boom, that's when it happened. And it seemed to happen overnight. Her folks had a big argument one night and the next thing Jade knew, her daddy was loading his stuff into the back of a U-Haul. I watched the whole thing from my bedroom window. They lived next door since Jade and I were in the third grade. We had been best friends just that long.
I still remember when they moved in, and Mama made me go over and introduce myself to the little girl next door. She had baked them a lemon cake and said for me to take it over there. Jade was on her front porch playing with her Barbies, and when she let me see her Barbie doll"and I told her I had four of them at home"it was on. From that day forward we were inseparable.
In fifth grade we had our own Kool-Aid stand, selling beverages to the neighbors as they passed by our little makeshift stand. In seventh grade we both tried out for cheerleading, and neither one of us made the team because we couldn't do the splits. In the eighth grade we played volleyball together, but decided it wasn't our game. We both knew that when we got to high school we'd try out for the dance team. That was our sole purpose for wanting to attend George Washington Carver High, to join their dance team, which was known throughout the city for their outstanding performances. They often performed during parades and stuff, and the whole town recognized their talent. Articles were written about them in the newspaper. To make that team meant you were one of the most talented dancers in all of Atlanta.
It's all we talked about the summer after eighth grade. We spent hours learning all the latest dances and brushing up on our moves. We were determined to make that dance team if it was the last thing we did in this lifetime! But then her folks split up. I never knew that when I watched her daddy load his things into that U-Haul, it was the beginning of the end.
"What your mama cook for dinner?" I remember asking her that day.
"Nothing. She's mad at my daddy."
"What did he do?"
"He came home late again last night," she said, almost in a whisper. "Real late."
"Where do you think he was?"
"I don't know, but she was really mad. They had a bad argument, too," she said. "I don't think they love each other anymore."
"For real?" I asked, lying across my canopy bed and talking to Jade on my cell phone, as she sat on her bed in her room just a spit's distance away.
If I stood in my bedroom window, I could see Jade's pink-and-white comforter on her bed, her bookshelf and the Usher poster she had plastered on her wall. I knew when she brushed her teeth and said her prayers at night, and I knew when she awakened in the morning, because the light from her room would creep across my face and wake me up, too. I would often throw Skittles at her window in order to wake her up when she tried to sleep in on Saturday mornings.
"Yes, for real," she said, almost in tears after her parents' big fight. "She told him to move out."
"Do you think she was serious?"
"He's packing his stuff right now, as we speak," she said.
My heart skipped a beat when she said that. That night, I closed my eyes real tight, knelt beside my bed and prayed that God would not only keep Jade's parents together, but mine, too. I didn't ever want my daddy packing his things and moving away.
I guess he missed the part about Jade's parents, because the next day her father was gone.
Mama had sent me to the new neighbor's with a pound cake. It did something to my heart walking over there, knowing that Jade was gone. Knowing that these new people were living in her house, with different furniture and art of their own on her walls. No longer would I smell her mama's pork chops, smothered in gravy and onions, floating through the air.
"I know your name is Indigo Summer, because I used to sit behind you in Miss Everett's second grade class."
"The boy who used to sit behind me in Miss Everett's class was a bucktoothed ugly boy named Marcus Carter."
"You thought I was bucktoothed and ugly?"
"You're Marcus Carter from the second grade?"
"In the flesh."
I was embarrassed and wanted to crawl under a rock, but I stood there and assessed him from the top of his head, all the way down to his white Air Force Ones. I had to admit, he looked much better than he had in the second grade.
"I still think your dog's name is stupid," I said. "He doesn't even look like a killer."
Marcus held onto the leash which was wrapped tight around Killer's neck.
"You're much prettier than you were in the second grade. I'll give you that," he said.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I rolled my eyes and placed both hands on small hips.
"Well, first of all, you were shaped like a light pole. No shape. Nappy hair. Missing your two front teeth. I see they grew back at least."
"What about you, with your buckteeth and Mister Peabody glasses?" I asked. "It's amazing what braces and a pair of contacts can do, huh?"
"I guess it is. And when do you plan on getting a relaxer on your hair?"
"I don't need a relaxer," I said, and ran my fingers through my wild, thick hair that hung past my shoulders. "I wear my hair naturally for a reason. You don't know anything about hair. Wearing my hair in a natural style represents my heritage, for your information."
"Well, excuse me."