Read The Inside of Out Online

Authors: Jenn Marie Thorne

The Inside of Out

DIAL BOOKS

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, NY 10014

Copyright © 2016 by Jenn Marie Thorne

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eBook ISBN 9781101627402

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Jacket photo © 2016 by Michael Frost

Wall photo courtesy of ThinkStock.com

Jacket design by Dana Li

Version_1

For Rob, my person

1

The day she told me, Hannah showed up with iced lattes and chocolate croissants, as if nothing had changed. The day began at eleven, like all of our Sundays, except instead of travel mags, she'd brought a tote full of college brochures she'd collected all summer. We ate on our stomachs, feet kicked up, making stacks on the foot of my bed—left for “stretch,” right for “safety,” floor for “how is this even a school.”

I was folding Charleston University into an airplane when I noticed Hannah staring at my TARDIS desk lamp.

I tossed the plane at her face.

“Command to von Linden,” I said.

“Nothing to report, sir.” She went nuclear-sunset pink. “I mean—there's one thing? Maybe? Tell you later?”

I squinted at her until she hid her face against her outstretched arms so all I could see was her cropped black hair.

Today was the day, then. Channeling my tiny inner Zen master, I closed my mouth and resolved to count the seconds till “later.”

When it started to sprinkle, we ran to Hannah's car for the seventeen-minute drive to Folly Beach, debating West Coast
vs. East Coast schools and whether we were too soft to face a northern winter.

“I mean. We're not even that great at summer,” Hannah said, blasting the AC.

I saw her point. We only went to the beach on days like this, when the rain cleared it of tourists, leaving it poetically bleak.

“Pshhh,” I protested, kicking my bare feet onto the dashboard. “We're great at everything.”

The country station was on, but it took me half the ride to notice. For once, Hannah wasn't cranking it up, warbling off-key. When we pulled into the lot, she still had her lips buttoned, eyes glittering with that pent-up
later
.

On the beach, she got out the camera I'd bought for her birthday and snapped shots of seagulls swirling, shouting encouragement at them like they were fashion models. When she turned the lens on me, I tried to do a handstand, remembered one second too late that I had no idea how, and fell directly onto my face.

Hannah let out a series of hysterical snorts, trying to clean sand off me, then leaped up, horror-movie screaming at a sudden blast of thunder. I laughed so hard my nose started running. The rain let down for real then and we sprinted, hunched together, to the Grub Hub by the parking lot. I kicked the door open with such an apocalyptic bang that we both lost it completely.

The only other person in the snack bar was a middle-aged guy in an oversized polo shirt manning the counter. He shook his balding head. “You girls are crazy.”

Hannah got embarrassed. Stopped laughing. She buried her soggy hair in my back while I ordered us nachos to go.

“He meant ‘crazy' as a compliment,” I said as we ducked into her steamed-up car.

“He meant me.” She tugged her wet do so that it spiked into a floppy faux-hawk. “I do look crazy.” A few months back, Hannah had chopped her long hair off so that it barely covered her ears—and cried the whole way back from the salon. It looked awesome, actually, especially now, but Hannah smoothed it as soon as she caught sight of herself in the rearview mirror. “Like a hedgehog. Or an alien. A
hedge
-alien.”

“Okay. Yes. You are crazy. Certifiably. But you don't
look
crazy. And—
hello?
” I pinched a clump of my own hair, dingy blond until the bottom, where two inches of faded blue dripped onto my shoulders. Last year, it had been all blue, bright and bold. It might have stayed that way too, except my mom had faked an aneurism, hollered something about carcinogens, and handed down one of her most effective punishments ever—I had to
grow it out
.

I'd agreed, thinking two-tone hair would look pretty cool. I was wrong.

“We're both crazy.” Hannah let me feed her a nacho as she pulled out of the lot. “We match.”

I curled my legs under me, warmed by the sound of that. “So. You were going to tell me something?”

“I was. I am.” She drew and held a breath. “When we get to your house.”

I turned up the radio as a distraction. Met with an overproduced mess of banjos and auto-tune, I made a vomit noise
and switched to a station playing normal music. Hannah swatted at me until I changed it back.

“I will never understand your obsession with country,” I said.

“How could you not understand?
You
made me listen to it when I moved here.”

“I introduced you to barbecue and Halloween and trashy American TV too, and you're not addicted to those.”

“I
am
addicted to Halloween.”

“And trashy TV,” I admitted. “Okay, my fault, whatever. There
is
better American music out there. There's probably better
Austrian
music out there. Like . . . um . . .” I tapped the dashboard. Was polka Austrian?

“Mozart.” Hannah went full Smug Face. “Eighteenth-century Austrian composer. Kind of a big deal, you might have heard of him.”

“Nice. Mozart.” I licked nacho cheese off my pinkie. “I love how you just won that argument for me.”

“I do like country.” She shrugged. “It's unpretentious.”

“A lovely word for ‘without merit.'”

Hannah stuck her tongue out and turned up the radio. But she didn't sing. And her hands stayed clenched at ten and two the whole ride home. She was nervous and I was catching it. Why couldn't she just blurt it out?

I glanced at her canvas bag and spotted the bright blue corner of this month's Moleskine poking out. The sacred notebook—repository of all of Hannah's lists, thoughts, preparations, neuroses, and other evidence of her brilliance. It was always with her, but today it felt more present than
ever. If I were the betting sort, I'd have wagered my cat that somewhere in that book was an outline for the conversation to come.

It took her another hour to work up the nerve, Moleskine dangling from two taut fingertips.

“Daisy.” Pause. “There's something important I've been wanting to tell you for a little while now, but I wasn't sure what the right moment was. Since school's starting again tomorrow and things are about to get frenetic—”

I snorted. Hannah froze.

“Sorry!” I clamped both hands over my mouth. “I just think it's adorable that you wrote a speech to come out to me and it has the word ‘frenetic' in it.”

Silence. Then Hannah sputtered a series of non-words ending in “
Daisy!

“Oh. Shit.” I winced around my fingertips. “I stole your line. That
is
what this is, though, ri—?”

“I like girls!” She waved her arms. “There. Let
me
say it.” Hannah drew a breath. “
I like girls.
That's the, um, abbreviated . . .” She held up her Moleskine and let it flop back down, along with her head. “Ugh, life is so much easier on paper.”

I grinned. She'd done it. I was probably supposed to hug her. Instead, I cocked my head. “Wait. You like them as . . . lab partners? Presidential candidates?”

Hannah crumpled until she was sitting, pressing her face into her wrists to muffle her laughter. “Oh my God, I think I hate you.”

“You love me and I love you and I am dying to hear the rest of your speech.”

“This is serious.”

“I know.” I dropped my smile as she looked up at me. “It's huge. Go on.”

I motioned to the notebook. She flipped to one of the last pages.

“This is just one aspect of who I am and it took me a long time to figure it out. Now that I have, I wanted to make sure . . .” Hannah's voice dwindled, her eyes rising from the book. “How did you know? I thought this would come as a
little
bit of a shock.”

“You had a plan for that, didn't you? For if I fainted?” I peeked at her Moleskine, grinning. “Cold water on pulse points? Smelling salts?”

Hannah sat up all the way. “Seriously, Daisy, have you known all along? Were you just waiting for me to—to announce it?”

“I've had my suspicions,” I admitted. “Little things. Like you stopped participating in Who's the Hottest Actor on
Triple-cross
. And you'd get flustered when that one waitress would come to our table at the coffee shop. What was her name? Kenzie? You're not dating her, are you?”

I glanced over to see Hannah's face purpling.

“No!” she groaned. “Oh my
God,
Daisy.”

“I'm kidding!” I crouched, pressing my hands to her cheeks to stop the flood. “Hey, listen, it's because we're us that I guessed at all. I mean, come on. How much do we hang out? Like, every day for the last five years.”

“Not
every
day.”

“Thus the ‘
like,
' Miss Literal.”

She scratched her nose with her shoulder. “It took
me
a while to figure it out, is all. I didn't realize it was so obvious.”

“It's not obvious. I'm just terrifyingly observant. Like Sherlock. But less of a sociopath. Slightly.” She didn't laugh. “Seriously, Hannah. Nobody else would know unless you told them.”

That thought seemed to slow her heart rate. It sent my own ratcheting up.


Are
you going to tell them? The world, I mean? Or is this just a you and me thing?”

“No,” she blurted. “I'm out, or whatever. I mean, I'm not planning to hide anything.”

“So . . . what's next?”

Hannah looked confused. I bumped her with my knee.

She blinked. “Junior year starts tomorrow?”

“Not that. Oh wow.” I covered my mouth. “Hannah. We need to figure out how to tell your mom.”

Hannah looked bewildered. But just as I was about to suggest shooting a heartfelt confessional video for maximum impact, she shook her head.

“Oh. Daisy, no. I told her already. She's the first one I told. I mean, obviously.”

“Oh.”

Right. Of course she'd want to tell her mom first.

“Don't get mad.”

“Why would I be mad?” I forced a smile. “So how did Mama Tan take it?”


Well,
I guess?” Hannah picked at her thumbnail. Bit it. I nudged her and she stopped. “Almost too well? She had this weird look the whole time, like I was joking and she was humoring me. Like I would take it back later.”

I could just picture Tan von Linden, Hannah's stylish Vietnamese American mother listening to her daughter's revelation, eyebrows arched incredulously. I'd seen that expression so many times, starting from sixth grade, when we'd run into her antiques shop in downtown Charleston claiming to have seen the ghost of a Civil War soldier prowling the Battery. To be fair to Hannah's mom, I might not have believed her either.

“Does she think it's a phase or something?”

“I guess.” Hannah rubbed her temple. “All she said was ‘Okay.' And then she changed the subject. Asked me if I needed new clothes for the school year.” Her forehead scrunched. “Oh God, I
hope
that was a subject change.”

“You know what, Han?” I rested my head on her shoulder. “It could have been way worse. She could have started crying. Or
disowned
you.”

Hannah craned her neck to stare at me. “Thank you. So much.”

“No! All I'm saying is . . .” I inched away, drawing a frustrated breath. “It's gonna be awesome. It already is. I'm so glad you told me.”

At last, those seemed to be the magic words. I could tell by the way Hannah's shoulders relaxed that we were back on the script she'd planned.

“I want you to know,” she said, her voice resuming a rote
quality, like a kid in a school play. “This doesn't change anything between us.”

“Of course not!” That was loud. It echoed weirdly against my bedroom walls, and Hannah read it as a cue to go.

“You want me to take these?” She motioned to the piles of college pamphlets on my bed.

“Leave 'em. We can divide them up geographically next time you're here.”

“Keep them sorted.” Hannah eyed them as I shut the door behind us.

“I'm making no promises.”

The sound of gunfire erupted from my dad's office down the hall. Hannah jumped.

“I'll never get used to that.” She laughed. “What's this one?”


Warpath
Seven. Eight
?” I sighed. “Best not to ask.”

We hopped down the steps in a synchronized trot. Old Zelda was stretched on the bottom step, waiting. At Hannah's ouch, she let out a gentle purr, then turned to me and hissed with the frothing fury of a rabid possum. Zelda liked two humans, Hannah and Dad. She tolerated Mom. And she plotted dark, dark things against me. I kept my ankles out of range as we beat a retreat.

Out in the driveway, Mom was finally replacing her yellowed
Reelect Lawrence
bumper sticker with one that said
Broccoli, Not Bombs
.

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