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Out of My Heart (Out of My Mind #2)
Author:Sharon M. Draper

Out of My Heart (Out of My Mind #2)

Sharon M. Draper



This book is dedicated with love to

my two daughters,

Wendy and Crystal,

who taught me to appreciate

the power of wheels,

the beauty of dance,

and the giggles of little girls.





CHAPTER 1


The firefly hovered over the back of my hand, then landed—slowly, effortlessly. I could hardly feel its delicate touch. Two wire-thin antennae, flickering, protruded from its tiny round head painted with a small red dot. I tried not to tremble. My hands often move on their own, whether I want them to or not, so I focused intensely, willing myself to remain still.

Its black wings, so shiny, opened and closed like scissors. I barely breathed. Dark lines that looked like they’d been painted on its back with a fine-tipped pen separated the crimson from the ebony.

The firefly seemed to be in no hurry to leave. It looked right at me.

I wondered about the magic of having iridescent floaties attached to my body—what it would feel like to lift into the air and glide on a whisper of wind.

What are you thinking, Mr. Firefly? As if it could hear me, its wings flexed out and in. And then it happened. One tiny bloom of bright yellow-green light gleamed from its body. It spoke to me! I know quite a bit about speaking out loud without saying a word.

As we sat there in the purpling twilight, just me and that lightning bug, I sighed with happiness. I might have breathed out too hard, because at that moment, the tiny insect lifted its wings and took off on an unseen breeze.





CHAPTER 2


“Ooh! Look! There’s another one—and another!” my sister shrieked. She raced across the grass of Mrs. V’s front yard, a jar clutched in her hands, trying to convince one of the tiny glowing insects to zoom into it. If my firefly had joined that swarm, I’m sure that he and the others had to be laughing at Penny, sky dancing away from her.

“Come help, Mrs. V!” Penny pleaded. “They won’t listen to me!” She plunked down on the grass, her face scrunched into a frown.

Mrs. V, who was our next-door neighbor and Mom’s best friend, lounged on a padded recliner on her front porch. She winked at me before saying, “Well, maybe they don’t want to live in a bottle—maybe they just want to boogie tonight!”

“Just one?” Penny put on her most pitiful face.

“All right,” Mrs. V replied. “But we’re gonna let it go after we look at it, okay?”

“Fine,” Penny grumbled, folding her arms across her chest. “But why?”

“Would you like to live in a jug?” Mrs. V asked.

Penny laughed. “I’m too big! But a bug in a jug even sounds right!”

“Well,” Mrs. V countered, “what if I found a jug big enough for you to fit in? Would you want to live there?”

Penny seemed to think for a moment. Then she said, “I guess not. I’d feel smooshed and stuffy.”

“Exactly! So, what do you think we should do?”

Penny rolled into a somersault and popped up with an ease I couldn’t help but admire and said, “Okay—we’ll catch us some bugs, then we let them fly!”

Mrs. V, whose full name was Violet Valencia, turned to me. “Let me go help her before she scares them all out of town!” she said, double-checking to make sure the locks on the wheels of my wheelchair were secure. The two of them whirled across the lawn, laughing and reaching for the tiny lights. I couldn’t join them, but for once I didn’t feel left out—a firefly had already found me.

I could see Mom’s blue SUV pulling into our driveway next door. Butterscotch, our golden retriever, raised his head in recognition. Mom works at a local hospital as a nurse, her days filled with taking care of people who have diseases or broken bones or heart attacks. She tells me her job is a challenge, but she loves it! She often comes home tired, but still has to take care of me. And, no joke, I’m a handful. An armful! She’s never, ever complained, but sometimes that makes me feel bad.

During the school year, the belching yellow bus used to drop me at Mrs. V’s house after school. But now that we’re on summer vacation, Penny and I spend most weekdays with her.

Every morning she has us do stuff like spelling, math, and language arts, but before I start to feel all bad like it’s summer school or something, Mrs. V makes it so much fun it hardly seems like schoolwork. Scrabble equals spelling lessons for me, and easy word puzzles become vocabulary fun for Penny. I learn math from a bingo game and clips from old movies help us learn history. I try to complain, because, duh, it’s summer vacation! But honestly, I really like it—at least for a couple of hours. Then in the afternoon we make Popsicles or play games or watch movies. Once a week we go to the neighborhood library. Penny fiercely chooses her own picture books—she rarely needs anyone to help her.

I’ve got this really awesome computer-like device that attaches to my wheelchair. It’s called a Medi-Talker, but that sounds way too boring and grown-up, so I named it Elvira. It’s how I talk to the rest of the world. By using my thumbs, when they decide to cooperate—which, luckily, is most of the time—I can tap or type just about anything that pops into my head, then push the speak button, and Elvira will say it for me. I can do complicated stuff like a book report or a math project, or I can ask any question that might pop into my head, like What makes clouds float? Or Where do farts come from? Or Why do my armpits smell funky? Instead of answering me, Mrs. V, of course, makes me look up the answer on the internet through Elvira.