I'm thrilled to be spotlighting Christine H. Bailey's young adult title, Waking Under Water, today...
Waking Under Water
by Christine H. Bailey
September 16, 2015
Sixteen-year-old Mia Hughes is not really a bad girl. She’s just made one bad decision after another, and her latest move has forced her parents to do the unthinkable—send her away to boarding school. Trying to make sense of her new world is only half the battle as Mia fights to survive the wicked ways of the rich, spoiled kids at Galt Academy. After falling into a deep depression, Mia resorts to the one thing she does best—running away. And just when Mia thinks life can’t get any more complicated, it does with some life-changing news. Waking Under Water is an emotional look at a teenager faced with life-altering news in the midst of an already challenging new life. goodreads / amazon
Being submerged was, at first, thrillingly beautiful. The water lapped over my bare skin, sending a barrage of chill bumps across my arms, stomach, and down the nape of my neck. I drifted and dreamed about life as a mermaid—as someone or something guarded from the dirt and filth under the feet of mortals. For the first time in ages, I felt alive as I kicked my feet like fins against the current and prayed for a torrential downpour to carry me deeper into the stormy night.
From a distance, I heard a muffled voice calling me and pulling me back to reality. I opened my eyes under water, fighting the sting from the salt, or maybe it was the soap. My lungs grew tight, and my pulse drummed inside my ears as my dreams of mermaids and underwater castles started to drift away. Just a few more minutes—hold on. Count to five to ten to ninety-seven. Almost there…a few more beats. But it didn’t matter. The outside voice grew louder, nagging me to the shore. I lifted my head out of the water, just barely, and gasped for air.
The voice and the pounding against the bathroom door became clearer as my ears popped and drained.
“Quit hogging the bathroom,” the voice yelled.
I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out—only fierce fights for breath. My breathing echoed in the tiny bathroom I shared with my two roommates, and I searched for words, any words to make her go away. Finally, I whispered, “Leave me alone.”
“Come on already,” my roommate whined, as if she had heard me over the loud whirring of the ventilating fan.
I pushed my toes against the foot of the tub and sat upright. Almost immediately, the drafty air settled over my bare shoulders, and I shivered as water fled down my back. I spotted a pinkish-white towel on the back of the door and stepped out onto the cold tile floor to grab it. The towel wasn’t mine, but I took it anyway and sobbed into the frayed terry cloth. The soured fabric bit back with its pungent odor.
“Hello?” Emmy yelled from the other side of the door. I stepped back as another round of pounding ensued from her tiny fist.
I wrapped the rank towel around my head and steadied myself on the edge of the sink. “All right! Give me a second,” I bit back. I scanned the small space for another towel and saw my other roommate’s blue robe hanging from a silver hook. I slipped it on and avoided the mirror—avoided looking at the girl with the purple circles under her eyes and sunken cheeks. I ran my fingers down my face to the visible bones in my chest.
Over the summer, I had lost nine pounds in one month, seven the next, and then it slowed to three pounds a month until I hit “an unhealthy 102 pounds for a 5’10” young woman.” Dr. Carnessi was not happy with me on my last visit to Cumberland Hills. He wanted to check me in again, but I begged Mom not to listen to him. I promised her I’d eat and stay on my meds. Part of the problem was my meds. They made me forget things, like food. It wasn’t an intentional starvation—the speculated anorexia—I just forgot to eat most of the time, or I slept through meals. Mom probably thought everything would just fix itself if she sent me away to boarding school. Boy, was she ever wrong.
“Mia? Did you hear me?” Emmy yelled.
I exhaled slowly and counted to three.
“Seriously. Come on!” she said.
I turned away from the mirror and flung open the door. “Fine. Je-sus!”
“I hope you did talk to Jesus in there,” she said.
“What?” It took me a second to register. “Whatever.”
She started to move past me and stopped. “Hey, that’s not your robe. It’s Drea’s.”
“It’s not your business.” I stormed off to my room and locked the door behind me. I had laundry to do anyway, so it wasn’t like Drea would even know. It bugged me how Emmy was up in everyone’s life all the time. No one ever asked her opinion, but she was always there handing out advice and condescending remarks with a sugar coating.
I sat down on my bed and unraveled the towel from my head, freeing strands of wet, wavy hair. In a few minutes, Emmy would be gone to play practice or study group, and I’d have the place to myself. Nights in my dorm were super-quiet with both Miss Social Butterfly and Drea usually gone. Drea, a volleyball player, was always with her teammates practicing, playing games, or studying. I figured she was with them now, cramming for our huge chemistry exam in Mr. Wafford’s class. Drea and I both had Wafford for AP chemistry, but during different periods.
I reached for my laptop and scrolled through some online movies to stream. I landed on a documentary about starving supermodels in Poland and clicked Watch Now. On my bedside table rested a small bag of candy, unopened, and I ripped the bag with my teeth. I chewed on a few gummy bears as Nadia spoke in broken English about missing her family back home. Twenty minutes into the film, Emmy called out from the other side of my locked door, “I’m done if you need the bathroom.”
I popped a yellow bear into my mouth and thought about going back. A few seconds later, I answered, “Okay.” I wiggled down into my bed and repositioned my laptop on my stomach. I stiffened at Emmy’s singsong reply of, “Okay then.”
Minutes later, I heard the front door slam shut and the lock click. Finally. I fought against the weight of my lids, but the warmth of my bed won me over. The last thing I remembered was watching Nadia stare out a plane window that was dotted with pellets of rain. The weather in the film matched the soft downfall against my own roof, creating the perfect surround-sound effect. Nadia hummed a sweet, childlike tune into the blue-gray sky, and then the screen went dark.
Christine H. Bailey writes young adult fiction and also teaches college writing courses. Before teaching English, Bailey worked as a journalist, a marketing/public relations writer, and a freelance editor. Writing both for young adults and academic audiences, she credits her love of the written word to such greats as J.D. Salinger, Franz Kafka, and Judy Blume. Bailey also blogs about all things writing, including tips and trends in YA fiction and more. The native Canadian now resides in Tennessee and has an affinity for German chocolate, good, soulful music, and happy endings. You can find her blog and upcoming events at cibailey.com.
Win an ebook copy of Waking Under Water AND an audiobook copy of Christine's other YA book,
Christine has generously offered an ebook of Waking Under Water and an audiobook of Girl in the Middle for two winners.
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