This morning the sun rose like a loaf of sweet banana bread. That's because today is the last day of school and we're free before lunch! And if that's not the best news ever, check this out: it's my two-year anniversary with Marlena, the love of my life. Her summer vacation started yesterday. She's expecting me at her place so we can celebrate. I can't wait to get out of this boring last class to visit her!
Sister Asunción—better known as Fart Face—is at the board writing the titles of the texts we'll need next year. What kind of a wacked-out thing is that? I'm secretly reading the love letter Marlena gave me yesterday. I've got it hidden inside my math book.
Happy anniversary! I never thought I could love someone soooooo much. Remember our first kiss?
I close my eyes.
Wild, galloping rain and booming thunder shakes my apartment. Pedri, my little bro, is spread out on the orange living-room sofa watching MTV. Mami and her boyfriend, Osvaldo, sit in the garlic-smelling dining room, yacking and drinking after-dinner cafecitos. Marlena and I are chillin' on my bed, listening to hip-hop.
She tells me, "My dad's crazy to think rap is evil."
"Yeah. I wish he wasn't so strict and let you come to parties with me." I shake my head. "He's so messed up."
She smoothes my hair away from my face and kisses my forehead. "That's why I love coming here." Her black eyes sparkle. "Dancing with you is what kissing must be like: the best feeling in the world." With a flick of the finger, she changes the music to a slow, romantic bolero and just lies there looking into my eyes.
I bolt from the bed, rush to the music shelf, grab a Cuban CD, and put it on. Heart- thumping beats vibrate the walls.
I hoist my button-down hip-hugger jeans and mess up my long, straight black hair so it's crazy-wild. "Come on!"
Marlena jolts out of bed and lands in front of me. She tries to mimic my wild, freestyle footwork and bouncy rhythm, but her feet get all tangled up. I rotate my hips before stepping into a twirling cha-cha-cha. "Superslick or what?"
"You're the best!" She jams up the music. "I'm going to break dance."
"You? To this music?" I let out a piercing laugh. "Right! And I'm growing a pin-striped eyeball on the tip of my nose."
"You'll see!" She stands on her head and stares up at me from the floor.
"A dry head spin? No way! You'll break your neck! Start with the six steps."
She doesn't listen and lands smack on her chunky butt.
We laugh our heads off.
The CD ends, and for a second there's a sharp silence. We stand face-to-face. A whooshing wind dives in through the bedroom windows, making her long, jet-black curls wave around in the breeze. We look deeply into each other's eyes. Her black eyes seem liquid under the dim light of my purple lava lamp. A beautiful sweetness pours over me, reminding me that she's becoming one of my closest friends.
The walls around me fade. I feel as if I'm swimming inside her soul. Something different is happening inside me. She leans into me. Her velvety lips touch mine, and I get goose bumps all over. I feel as if silvery threads of rain are covering my entire body. I'm turning into the sea, becoming one with her, melting.
We kiss for a long, long time.
I stroke Marlena's face with my hands and outline her lips with my fingers . . .
"Didn't you hear my question?" I'm snapped cold out of my thoughts when a looming shadow stands in my way. I look up. ¡Ay, ay, ay! Gray-haired, wrinkly Fart Face tears Marlena's letter out of my hands. My heart thumps in my chest something furious.
She faces the class. "Would you like to hear what's in this highly important letter?"
She can't read the letter out loud. She can't!
"Yeah!" everyone except my best friend, Soli, blasts.
"Please give it back." I try to grab the letter forcefully out of her hands, but instantly she pulls it away.
Fart Face puts on a disgustingly fake smile and walks slowly to her desk. "So this letter is that good, huh?" She sits poised on the chair, lowers her reading glasses, and begins:
"You're the greatest kisser in the world, Scrunchy. I can't wait till tonight, when your family leaves for your grandmother's, so we can be alone and make love."
The guys whistle and shout, "Way to go! Scrunchy is finally hooking up!"
Fart Face walks toward me with almost silent steps. She stops a few feet away from my desk. "Wait until your mother finds out. She'll just love it." She turns to the class.
"Should I continue reading, or is this too boring?"
"Read on!" Everybody except Soli goes nuts. She sits wagging her head.
"No! Please, stop," I beg with my heart in my mouth.
"Quiet!" Fart Face stomps her foot and shuts me up.
My whole body quivers. I want to run for my life, but my feet are glued to the floor.
She clears her raspy voice and continues . . .
"I feel I've known you all my life, and I know we'll be together till eternity. You mean everything to me, Scrunchy."
"Scrunch-Munch is a beast!" Rodrigo cheers.
"Scrunch-Munch! Scrunch-Munch!" the guys yell.
Soli is widening her eyes as if telling me, "Grab the letter and run!" But I can't move.
"Every day I love you more. I'm glad you love me too. I can feel it deep, deep in my heart."
Rigoberto teases, "Who's your secret lovey-dove, huh, Scrunchy?"
My chest hurts as if a Mack truck is parked on it. I think about a white horse picking me up and galloping me full speed out of here. Mami's going to kill me. They're going to expel me from school. I've got to do something before everyone finds out!
"What we have is special . . ."
I'm trapped by Fart Face's rasping voice, hurting my ears, killing me slowly. She's really enjoying this. I know that the line that's coming is going to be the end of me.
I cover my face with my hands.
"I know we are girls, but a guy could never make love to me the way that you do. I never thought being with a girl could bring so much pleasure. I love you with all my heart and soul. I'll love you till forever, my beautiful Laura Sofía. . . ."
After a roaring "What?" the room becomes hushed.
I feel darts shooting at me from my friend Cecilia's eyes as she shouts, "You're a tortillera?"
My good friend Yasi snaps, "Revolting!"
Aracelis's stare pierces right through me. "I can't believe we've been your friend all these years and you never told us."
Bookworm Margarita speaks up. "Give her a break. Don't be so dense. It's no big deal."
"Wait till she wants to hook up with you!" Olivia remarks. She sticks her index finger in her mouth as if she were about to puke.
I gulp down my pain and put on a stern "I don't care" face. I won't give them the satisfaction of seeing me hurt.
Soli rushes over and puts an arm around my shoulder. "Hey, jerks. We're in the twenty-first century. So what if she's homo. Don't you morons watch MTV?" She gives attitude just by being her curvy self, with those big watermelon boobs, flat stomach, tiny waist, and double-basketball bootie.
Gustavo lets out a gutsy laugh. "I got no problem hooking up with lesbos. Let's have a threesome!"
"Yeah!" The guys get all riled up, laughing hysterically, clapping and stomping their feet. "Let's do it! Threesome! Threesome!"
"Shush!" Fart Face reprimands. She juts her long, pointy chin at Soli. "Go back to your seat, Soledad."
Soli squeezes me harder to her.
Fart Face untangles Soli's arm from around me and raises her voice. "Laura, follow me."
As I head out the door, Cecilia spits in my face. ¡Tortillera!Down to the Bone SNY. Copyright © by Mayra Dole. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.