Chapter One of Untitled YA Novel
By isioma okoh
This is the beginning of a book I am planning to write, based on a true story of my realizing that I liked a girl for the first time.
It’s 5:45 a.m. on a Monday morning, and I’m smiling like an idiot.
And no, it’s not like I am about to embark on a major milestone— like, say it’s my freshman year of high school, or I have try-outs for a school sports team I’ve been dying to be on, or it’s the first day of a new school year.
’Cause one—I’m a junior.
Two—I’m not coordinated enough to even throw a paper airplane.
And three—it’s March 8th and I don’t know any school years that start in winter.
So my excitement/eagerness/nerdiness/whatever-you-wanna-call-it, is just because I really like school (and, of course, making my parents proud, wink).
So, probably unlike the hundreds of other students that attended my high school, every morning I (in this exact order), happily brush my teeth, shower, get dressed, do my hair, greet and kiss my dog Jammy, get lunch at my local deli, pick up my friend at their house, and venture off to another beautiful day of school.
⚢ ⚢ ⚢
“Shit. I really hate Mondays, Kaya. I feel like our school walks are always the longest. And it’s like— that should be good because it’s longer ’til I have to get to the actual school building but it’s like, make my day better, not worse!”
June says this all the time when I walk with them to school on any given day of the week, so I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Honestly, they just replace “Mondays” with any of the four other options. I chuckled at my friend continuing with their dramatics, now leaning back on their rhinestone/pride-flag/punk-designed cane, trying to show a convincing “I’m-really-an-average-teenager-pain” look.
“June, please know, you’re annoying. And very dramatic.” They stuck out their pierced tongue at me.
“Just ’cause you, like, jerk off to the sound of your school alarm doesn’t mean you can come at me for being in understandable distress for hiking at seven in the fucking morning.”
June playfully hit my shoulder. Then, in a more purposefully-condescending tone, they whispered, “…and if I’m being honest with you, it feels kind of homophobic of you to even come at me like that. Like the privilege.”
Despite my dark, cinnamon-brown skin, it wouldn’t take a genius to know I was blushing in embarrassment.
June sensed this and cackled.
“Oh my god you’re so cute! Babe, I was kidding! You’re my fave hetero!” And I’m not gonna lie, that always makes me smile a bit, even if I know June’s comments are always glazed in friendly sarcasm.
“Well, anyways, to what I feel like would be to your delight, we are only five minutes away from the school,” I said to June, hoping to hide that I wasn’t 100% sure we were about four-and-a-half minutes from the school’s front doors. But they only snickered and stuck up a neon-yellow stiletto-nailed middle finger at me.
Rolling my eyes, I looked down at my phone to switch my music playlist to something more upbeat. After all, I was approaching the school building and that only made me more excited to—
“Oh shit, my fault, my fault.”
I was unpleasantly surprised by the resonance of the deep voice belonging to the person towering over me to help pick up my now very cracked phone.
I tried looking up at them, but I couldn’t bring myself to make eye contact. They were at least six feet tall, with really long hair and smelled quite, well, good.
“Shit, did I crack it?”
“No shit, Sherlock. You should really watch where you’re going, dude,” June said, as they snatched my phone from the stranger’s hand.
I still mustered up my best “this-is-oh-so-definitely-fine-and-totally-didn’t-ruin-the-trajectory-of-my-whole-day” response with my best fake smile, waving my hand dismissively.
“Hey, it’s fine, June. And you know, it’s really just the screen protector so, it’s like, whatever.”
But I actually don’t have a screen protector. Made unusually nervous by this tall stranger, I couldn’t bring myself to make eye contact, but I did notice their toned biceps protruding from a black, long-sleeved top.
Distracted, I rambled on for, like, minutes about a thing I don’t have.
“Oh, a’ight. Well, sorry ’bout that, miss,” they said.
As they turned, I watched their long, dark wavy hair sway slightly past their waist.
June woke me out of my trance.
“God, that’s so annoying. Don’t worry though. I know a guy whose cousin could fix it for you for like 40 bucks.”
I mumbled, “If it’s quick, let’s do it.”
June smiled. “Okay, dork. Let’s go.”
This was sort of like a dream come true so to speak. I thought of this idea back in 6th grade and this submission deadline gave me the opportunity to put pen to paper (or at least my hands to my keyboard) and flesh this story out.
Isioma Okoh is a first-generation American from a Nigerian father and Trinidadian mother. She loves expressing herself by putting pen, pencil or paint brush to paper! She is most proud of performing a winning speech she wrote about LGBTQIA+ rights at the New York Historical Society, starting a new art club at her school and cutting her hair short when it took four years to grow out. She is excited to be in Girls Write Now because it will give her a chance to embrace her passion for writing and get feedback from someone who understands how special this art form is, too!