Excerpt from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My Heart Underwater

by Laurel Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo X
My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo
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  • Published:
    Oct 2020, 320 pages


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Catherine M Andronik
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Print Excerpt

Then one time someone peed on him from the high window of an SUV, but he only told that story once.

"Just watch out if ever you think it's raining," he said, cutting off any of my childish questions. "It's not always rain."

He smiled, but his smile folded into something hard and far away.

My dad drives away to work in the demanding client's yard.

I bargain with myself and with Mary again. I'll give my whole mind to my homework. I'll give up sleep, Facebook, staring into space, staring at Ms. Holden. No, no, no, no more Ms. Holden. She doesn't exist. My crush is fleeting. My GPA is forever.

Except I remember her smiling at me today, asking me about history, and all my resolve gets thrown out the window like a defenestrated Catholic official in 1419 Prague.

I run up the stairs to my desk. I spread my homework out.

This is what I know about her:

  1. She graduated from my high school herself, class of 2003.
  2. She surfs! I looked at her old Honda Civic one day and saw a longboard!
  3. She has a tattoo of a black, jagged tree on her right arm. The only time she revealed it was when she absentmindedly rolled up her shirt sleeves on a warmer day. "The principal will fire me for corrupting you," she joked, realizing her mistake, and she rolled her sleeves back down, covering the tree forever.
  4. Ms. Holden was living with her mom again in Thousand Oaks, finishing her European History dissertation at UCLA. She took over as a last-minute substitute because our first AP European History teacher, Mrs. Carmody, had to take a leave for mysterious "health reasons," aka she never seemed quite sober during our morning classes.
  5. There is a black-and-white photo of Grace Holden from her junior high-school year. The same year I'm in now. I was looking at the Saint Agatha's Facebook page, and there it was. I memorized it. In the photo she's standing at her open locker and her eyes are closed. Her books are scattered on the floor, and she's laughing. Her hair is in her face. She looks happy. She looks like she likes who she is.
So in my history notebook, I write this list:

  1. 2003
  2. Surfer!
  3. Tree tattoo OMG
  4. Knows Germannnnn
  5. UCLA genius
  6. Best photo ever, wish it were me almost

And then I cross out everything.

  1. 2003
  2. Surfer!
  3. Tree tattoo OMG
  4. Knows Germannnnn
  5. UCLA genius
  6. Best photo ever, wish it were me almost

I do this instead of reading about Martin Luther and European peace treaties in the 1600s.

I look at the cross-outs. Then I look again at item three. I start to draw.

It's an automatic thing my hand does sometimes, drawing.

I think of Ms. Holden's arm, and the shirt sleeves slipping closer to her elbows as she lectures and quizzes. I draw the branches of the tree, and I imagine the trunk beneath the sleeve. I draw the outline of her hand.

It doesn't look as lifelike, of course. It looks like a cartoon trying to be real. But I keep going. I draw the shape of a surfboard, and an outline of the letters UCLA.

I hear my mom turn on the radio. She arranges our leftovers on plates. The ghost of her sigh travels up to me. I know she's sitting alone.

I fight to climb back into the moment. To be the version of me that would make them happy.

I go downstairs. My mom is back at the table, playing Sudoku again. I reach under the couch. I pull out our old sungka board and a dusty pouch of shells.

"Sungka? So ready to lose to me again?" my mom teases.

"You said it's time for me to succeed always," I say. "Why not try now?"

Excerpted from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo. Copyright © 2020 by Laurel Fantauzzo. Excerpted by permission of Quill Tree Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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