The holidays are a time for family and friends, which makes today’s exclusive excerpt a perfect fit. Jacqueline Sheehan’s RT Top Pick! The Center of the World is a story of love, family and discovery — and it’s available today!
Fifteen-year-old soccer star Sofia believes that she was adopted from Mexico, but a posthumous letter from her stepfather brings a new story to light. Although the truth is painful, Sofia must adjust. As she embarks on a journey of discovery and love, she’ll find that confronting the past can yield many rewards.
By the time she was seven, she no longer told her mother when she dreamt of her brother. She used to tell her but her mother said, “No, you were the only one when I searched for a child to adopt and I picked you. There was no brother. Dreams are different from waking life. They are like a story.”
But still, he came. And he came because she asked him to come. Here is how the brother dreams came. First, Sofia brought a glass of water to the porch and set it beside, never in, the geraniums. This was the summer plan; in the winter, she brought the geraniums into the kitchen. She put one hand on each clay pot, with the glass of water in the middle. She scratched each pot with her fingernails, scritch, scratch as if her fingers were running. Her fingers were legs running like little puppets.
Once, she thought her mother had seen the way she called the brother. Sofia turned around and there she was in the doorway of the porch, watching. It seemed for a minute that she knew Sofia was conjuring the twin, because Mom was so smart and she saw everything. Then Mom had smiled and said, “Sofia, are you listening to those plants?” That’s how her mother was. She worked for Fish and Wildlife and she was on the river all the time, looking at plants and birds. When Sofia was little she used to call it Wild Fish Life, but later, when she was bigger, she understood the real title.
She said, “Yes, I’m drumming a song to the geraniums.” The drumming song was really for her brother, not the geraniums, and she thought for sure her mother would see through this. Maybe the flowers heard the running of her fingers as a song, but it was a side effect, just like Grandpa had a side effect to taking Tylenol PM, which was that he had bad nightmares.
Back to her secret brother. After she did the geranium thing it was time to go to bed, after saying goodnight to Mommy and Martin. She took the blanket off the bed and turned it over. She had discovered all these steps through something called trial and error. Her mother told her that when scientists want to see if something is true or not, they keep trying different ways until they get it right; it was a scientific thing.
The science review:
Step one: Put the glass of water between the two pots of geraniums.
Step two: Stand with one hand on each pot. Her fingers turned into legs and they ran and ran on the pots.
Step three: Turn the blanket over so that it’s the flip side up.
Step four: Do the same thing with the pillowcase; turn it inside out and put it back on. Then she put her head on the pillow and closed her eyes.
Here was the most important step. Sofia wished and wished for her brother. It was a smoke signal, a laser beam, or a horn, honk, honk. She made space for him in her dreams. And sometimes, he came.
Sometimes when she dreamt of him, she couldn’t see all of him, but she still knew it was him even though she could only see his feet. His feet were brown like hers and shaped like hers too, broad from big toe to little toe. Sometimes she heard a sound and it was his voice, braided into her voice, vibrating in her chest.
But now her mother had told her that he had existed; he was dead, killed, not listening to her call. It was as if her mother had reached into her dreams and stolen him.
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