Feel free to read the first few pages of the book here.
October 4, 1967
My first day at Valencia High started with a bloody nose. I had physical education class right after homeroom, and I wandered around the sprawling school, looking for the gym, for ten minutes. When I finally found it and changed into my PE uniform, I saw that the other girls were playing volleyball. I groaned. I loved nearly all sports, but I had always loathed volleyball. Something about spiking the ball and charging the net never worked for me. But of course, I didn’t have a choice. The teacher assigned me to a group with another white girl and two black girls, who eyed me with suspicion. That kind of thing happened in every school. I was the perpetual new girl, the one nobody trusted.
Sure enough, as soon as we started playing, one of the black girls elbowed me in the nose. Immediately, blood spurted all over my clothes. I lay on the floor and tried not to cry. The girl apologized and helped me up, and the teacher gave me a towel to hold over my nose.
She told the white girl from my team to take me to the nurse’s clinic.
“Thanks,” I said to the girl when we were on our way. “I don’t think I could have found the clinic on my own.”
“Sure. Not a problem. I hate volleyball.”
I glanced at her to see if she’d read my mind and was making fun of me, but she seemed serious. I tried to remember her name, but pain and embarrassment drove out that information.
“Me, too,” I said, sniffing back blood. “It’s my first day here.”
“Not a great way to start at a new school. But your mom will probably come and take you home or at least bring you clean clothes.”
“Really? Why not?”
I sighed. There was no way I was going to get into my family’s weirdness with a girl whose name I couldn’t even remember. I held the towel more tightly on my nose and mumbled from beneath it,
“She’s really busy.”
“That’s too bad. Your nose isn’t great.”
That was cold comfort, but I nodded, trying to be polite.
She guided me through a maze of hallways to a door marked Nurse’s Clinic. Smiling, she said, “See you around,” before turning away.
UNSURPRISINGLY, MOM said she was too busy to come to the school. Luckily, the nurse helped me clean myself up enough to attend the rest of my classes. My nose looked like a balloon and felt like a hammer was pounding into it, but I held my head down and tried to cover my face with my hair.
Just before the end of the last class, the principal gave announcements for the next day over the intercom. I listened with half an ear and thought about my crummy life. Moving all the time, new schools every few months, walking into classrooms and having everyone stare at me—I could go on and on about my woes, but it did absolutely no good. Nobody cared how I felt.
“Should meet at the track tomorrow…”
Wait. Had the principal said something about the track team? I tapped the guy in front of me on the shoulder, and he turned to look at me. “What did he say about track?” I asked.
He glanced at my nose then quickly looked away. “They’re looking for some new kids to be on the track team. Tryouts are tomorrow.”
“Do they take girls?”
“I don’t know. I guess so.” He shrugged, nodded, and turned back around.
Suddenly, my nose didn’t hurt so much. I loved to run. I ran around all the time on the farms where we lived, just for the fun of it. Being on the track team would give me something to do other than go right home after school and start on my chores. And it might also give me a life of my own, for however long it lasted.