Authors: Erica Yang
Tags: #lesbian, #bisexual, #ya
By Erica Yang
An imprint of JMS Books LLC
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Copyright 2015 Erica Yang
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used for the purposes of review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s
imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be
made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely
Published in the United States of America.
Queerteen Press is an imprint of JMS Books LLC.
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Dedication: For J.
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By Erica Yang
Riva Corley chewed on the end of her pen,
trying to figure out what to write on the blank piece of notebook
paper in front of her. Madame Bellamy, the French teacher, stood at
the front of the classroom reviewing forms of the past tense, but
Riva didn’t need to listen to that. If she’d been working on her
French exercises, she’d have known what to put.
Riva stole another glance at Emmy Barnes.
Emmy was two years ahead, a senior, not far from graduation and her
18th birthday—in other words, not far from freedom. She looked free
already, though. Emmy was the only out lesbian at Jason Reidman
Senior High School. Not everyone was cool about that, but she
didn’t let anything stop her from expressing her personality. She
carried her stuff in a shimmery rainbow bag she’d made herself,
wore Doc Martens below knee-length skirts with glitter woven into
the fabric, and rocked a short, punky haircut that made the strands
she’d dyed purple stand out.
If she’d dressed differently, her
pink-cheeked good looks would have guaranteed her a spot alongside
the popular girls who were cheerleaders or had made the dance team.
Combined with her actual style, they gave her more edge than she
could have achieved with clothes alone. Emmy could have placed
herself in any clique she wanted, and her outfits said she’d chosen
her role and was proud of it.
Riva wished she had a fraction of that
confidence. She didn’t even know who she was, much less how to
stand up and declare her identity to the world.
She reminded herself that, at the moment, she
wasn’t writing to the world at large. This was just for Emmy. Since
she’d never said more than two words to Emmy, that didn’t make
things much better.
“Hi!” Riva tried. Even her handwriting made
her self-conscious. Was it too messy? Were her letters too bubbly
and girly? Were they too sharp and not girly enough? She gritted
her teeth and kept writing. “Want to get together sometime at the
ice cream shop downtown? Or maybe a longer hangout over Spring
Break? The mall, whatever. I’d like to get to know you.”
She frowned at the paper.
Get to know
sounded really sleazy. She hadn’t even gotten to the sleazy
part. Riva was tempted to reject this note and start over, but
class would end soon. She didn’t want to go another day without
Her eyes flicked to Emmy again. She was
definitely pretty. What did that really mean, though? Riva tried to
imagine kissing her, or wanting to. Before Riva’s boyfriend,
Benton, had gotten obsessed with the idea of watching her make out
with a girl, it had never really occurred to Riva to wonder about
what that would be like. Now she couldn’t stop thinking about
It was hard to tell if it made her
uncomfortable or excited or what. Every time she pictured it, her
mind placed Benton right in front of her, expecting her to be sexy
for him. She couldn’t figure out how she felt about kissing a girl
while she was totally worried about him and what he would be
thinking and if he would finally be proud to be with her.
Riva could think of a lot of empowerment
stuff her mom would say if she knew how desperately Riva wanted to
please Benton, but none of that changed what was true. Riva
want Benton to like her, to stay with her even though
she’d moved away and he’d gone to college where, he’d made it
clear, there were plenty of older, more experienced girls who would
be more than happy to do all the things Riva was reluctant to
Benton was coming to visit for Spring Break,
and he’d let Riva know what he expected when he arrived. He’d take
her out and spend time with her, but he wanted to watch her make
out with a girl. After all, he’d said, he could have spent Spring
Break with friends from college in a beach house, going to wet
T-shirt contests, drinking booze purchased by older friends, and
getting into all sorts of exciting trouble. Hearing that had hurt,
not just because he was threatening to find a cooler girlfriend,
but also because he talked as if he was only coming to see her out
of pity or obligation.
“You make it sound like I’m so boring,” Riva
“Aren’t you?” Even though she couldn’t see
him, she could picture the thin, reddish eyebrow raised above his
sharp green eyes.
“I’m not boring,” Riva had insisted.
“Then prove it.”
She had tried to raise objections. She wasn’t
gay, she’d said, and even if she was, she wouldn’t have known how
to find a girl in the first place. Benton had just called her a
He wasn’t wrong. Riva could come up with a
million specific excuses, but the real reason she didn’t want to do
what he’d asked was that it scared her. She didn’t like the way he
saw her, but he was close to her. Maybe he saw what she didn’t want
live her life as a
Back to Emmy it was.
She read over what she’d already written.
Leaving Benton entirely out of the note seemed like lying by
omission. She added one more line. “Maybe if we hit it off, you
could meet my boyfriend, too.”
Riva’s heart pounded. She hadn’t come out and
said anything about making out in front of him, but even the little
she’d written made that idea seem real. She watched Madame Bellamy
with a studious expression, hoping her pulse would slow down again.
She couldn’t shake the thought that everyone knew what she was
trying to set up. The things she hadn’t actually put into the note
might as well have been written on her forehead.
After a minute or two, Riva realized that she
wasn’t going to calm down. She told herself not to be a boring
coward, signed and folded the note, and wrote Emmy’s name on the
outside. She underlined the name and drew a couple stars to either
side of it. That made the whole thing look friendlier, she thought.
She doodled a little more, hoping people would assume she took art
with Emmy or something.
The hands on the clock zipped forward. Class
was almost over, and Benton would definitely text her after school
to see if she’d made any progress finding a girl to hang out with
them. Riva took a deep breath and nudged the guy in front of her.
When he glanced back at her, she slid the note under his elbow,
careful to do it at an angle Madame Bellamy couldn’t see.
She held her breath and watched the note
progress three desks forward and one to the right, where Emmy sat.
Her blonde eyebrows lifted as she took it, but she knew the score.
She tucked the folded sheet of paper under her notebook and waited
until the next time Madame Bellamy turned her back.
Riva bit her lip as she watched Emmy smooth
the note flat and begin to read. The older girl stiffened suddenly,
her relaxed spine straightening into military school posture. She
shot Riva a look over one shoulder.
Hoping things weren’t going terribly wrong,
Riva tried a smile, but she knew without needing to see it that
Emmy would read it as fake and awkward. Emmy snapped her head
forward, re-folded the note, and wrote something on the outside in
large block letters.
Riva’s stomach was twisting and sinking. Why
hadn’t she had the guts to go up to Emmy and talk about this out
loud? Then she might have had a chance to laugh this whole thing
off, or explain something, or at least find out right away exactly
how ridiculous Emmy thought she was.
The next several minutes were slow-motion
torture. Emmy finished writing whatever it was, glared one more
time at Riva, then passed the note to the girl on her left, not
bothering to be discreet this time. The girl glanced down at the
note, guffawed, and covered with a cough when Madame Bellamy fixed
her with a stern expression.
,” the girl said quickly,
then staged more coughing. The near miss slowed the progress of the
note, as the other students waited for Madame Bellamy’s attention
to return to her lesson before shunting it back onto the path to
—the boy in front of
Riva bent to scratch his calf and, in the process, slipped the note
under the toe of Riva’s sandal. She leaned down immediately to
retrieve it, so anxious to relieve her suspense that she barely
remembered to keep track of Madame Bellamy. He met her eyes as she
snatched it off the floor, and smirked.
“Let me know how that works out for you.”
Riva jerked upright as if he’d slapped her.
Her hands shook as she placed the note on the desk in front of her.
Emmy’s reply made Riva fling her elbows onto the desk in hopes no
one else would see those giant, easy-to-read letters.
“Sorry, you’ll have to find someone else to
have a threesome with you and your gross boyfriend,” Emmy had
written. She’d added a sarcastic, “Thanks, bai!!” complete with a
smiley face and stars to match the ones Riva had drawn.
How had Emmy known? Riva had worried that the
note sounded sleazy, but she hadn’t actually written anything
Frantic, Riva counted and recounted the desks
between herself and Emmy. At least three people had definitely seen
the note. All of them, plus Emmy, were sneaking glances at Riva,
obviously dying to know her reaction. She wished the floor would
open below her and allow her to fall to an immediate and
face-saving death. She wished she’d approached Emmy any other way.
She wished she weren’t a boring coward who had also failed.
Riva wanted to drop her head to the desk and
hide her face in her arms, but she couldn’t afford to give the
others the satisfaction. She folded the note into the tiniest
square possible, shoved it deep into her jeans pocket, and did her
absolute best to pretend she’d suddenly developed a keen interest
in the pluperfect.
Now, of course, the clock hands slowed way
down. She could almost have believed someone had frozen time. Hell
would certainly be a place where she was trapped forever in this
moment, getting stared at by people who knew about the most
mortifying thing she’d ever done, trying to figure out how she
could ever show her face in French class again, totally uncertain
of what to say later when Benton texted her.
When the bell finally rang, Riva avoided eye
contact with everyone and stuffed her textbook and notebook into
her backpack as quickly as she could. If she’d believed she’d
escape the room without further humiliation, however, she was dead
wrong. The toe of a studded gold boot tapped the tile floor beside
Riva. She took a deep breath and forced herself to look up at a
very angry Emmy.