Here is an excerpt from my forthcoming LGBT YA novel, Points of Departure.
Release date: June 16, 2016
Publisher: Ylva Publishing (book available to purchase here).
Kit and Liza have been looking forward to this trip forever.
Five girls, five tickets overseas. It’s exactly what they all need after the final slog of high school. But when Kit is suddenly forced to drop out, Liza’s left with three girls she barely knows.
There’s Mai, committed only to partying. There’s Tam, who already has her doubts about leaving her sick father behind. And there’s Olivia, so miserable about screwing up exams she’s not even sure she wants to get out of bed, let alone on a plane.
All Liza wants from this trip is to discover a new version of herself. She just hadn’t planned on doing it without Kit by her side.
And they’re all learning that travel isn’t just about the places you go, but about who you’re with at the time.
In this part of the book, the main character, Liza, has just come out to her parents and told them she wants to quit running. In this section, her best friend Kit has just found out she can’t come on the trip. Liza is worried about going on a trip with girl who are more Kit’s friends than her, and whom she barely knows.
Pedalling hard across the intersection, she leaves the busy streets behind, replacing it with the leafy tunnel of tree-lined Moore Street. She pulls the air in through her nose—air suddenly cleaner and cooler than the exhaust-ridden fug of her block. When the descent begins, she stops pedalling and lets gravity draw her down the hill. The air rushes over her bare arms and shoulders, making her smile.
Turning a hard left, she coasts past the wire enclosure on the north side of the local pool. Sunlight glances off the bleached concrete of the stands and bounces over the blue tiles. She can hear calls and laughter from the shallow end as kids begin their summer early. Breathing in that chemical—but somehow sweetly nostalgic—chlorine stink, she brakes hard and climbs down from the worn saddle of the bike.
How many days of their lives have she and Liza spent laid out on the blue tiles of that pool? Hundreds at least, she knows. They lazed through so many summer afternoons under those achingly familiar black-lettered warnings to swimmers: Danger, aqua profunda. As she secures her bike to the freckled trunk of a tree, she wonders if she had exchanged all those hours of lying around for study, would she have done better at VCE? Would she have come out of her final year of high school with a chance at university or a job like the rest of her more ambitious, together friends?
The smell of burnished wood and eucalyptus replaces the chlorine as she pushes the door open. Again, she breathes in deep. She loves the smell of this house.
“Hello?” she calls down the narrow hallway.
A voice calls back from somewhere in the belly of the house. “Hi there!”
She kicks off her shoes and pads along the polished concrete floor until she emerges into the vast wood and windowed chamber that is the living and kitchen area. Sunlight glints through the high windows, beaming down on the leafy, green plants pressed up against the glass.
Muted chatter streams from the television as commentators try to wring a story from the lack of action in the five-day cricket test. The same story that she left at her house, watched by the handful of sleepy boys scattered around the lounge room, already exchanging coffee for beer even though it’s only late morning.
“Shouldn’t you be architecting something?” she asks the back of Geoff’s head as she skates her feet across the smooth floor, the same way she has done since she was a kid. “Is that even a word?”
“Katherine,” Liza’s dad booms, ignoring her tease and her question. “You sound exactly like Liza. So, tell me something.”
She leans over the back of the seat. “Australia’s going to lose.”
“Well, we both know that.”
A shimmer of a pause hangs in the air before he replies. “Yep. In her room, I think.”
Kit squeezes his shoulder. Liza really has thrown her parents for a loop. “I’m going up to see her. Don’t strain yourself there.”
He chuckles again. “I’ll do my best.”
Upstairs, she flops across Liza’s dark blue doona, pulls a pillow into the shaft of sunlight sprawling across the bed, and lies on her back. She watches Liza unpack her training bag. “So what exactly did you say to them about it?”
“Which one?” Liza smiles ruefully as she tosses a pair of runners into the depths of her wardrobe.
“The running thing.”
“Just that I don’t know if I wanted to devote all my time to something I’m not sure I love.”
Kit nods. She’s never really understood the whole running thing anyway, no matter how much Liza has explained it to her and how many times she has watched Liza do it and win. She just knows it’s something her best friend is great at. She never thought about whether Liza loved it. It was never talked about in those terms.
She tucks her hands behind her head and stares up at the walls. She loves Liza’s room. It’s so lovely, with its wooden beams and its purposefully haphazard shelves. “Where’s your new backpack?”
“I moved it onto your bed.” Liza points up at the loft bed, built like a small cave into the space above the built-in cupboards. “Until it’s time.”
Kit smiles. It is her bed. Since the year since they became friends, it feels like Kit has woken up in that bed as much as she has woken up in her own, a much-abused old single futon tossed down in corners of rooms in a long line of rentals. When her mum and dad were splitting up, she practically lived here for a while. And Liza’s parents, angels that they are, pretended not to notice they’d suddenly adopted another daughter. Geoff just popped Kit into the draw for Friday night movie pick rights, and Pam started making an extra school lunch. Kit will never stop being grateful for those few months she hid out here.
Liza finishes sorting her washing, climbs onto the bed, and kicks her legs over Kit’s.
Kit runs her hands along Liza’s sharp, brown shinbones, feeling that familiar bubbling of envy at her friend’s ridiculously great legs. Why can’t she have a body like that, instead of this short, scrawny one?
“You have to help me pack,” Liza says. “Promise?”
“Of course.” Kit pouts. “And you have to promise you won’t have too much fun without me.”
“Highly doubtful.” Liza inspects the ends of her hair, pulling the wiry coils straight.
“And you won’t find a new best friend?”
Liza just looks at her. “I’ll be gone four weeks, Kit. Four weeks. I’m just hoping I can manage a conversation with these girls, let alone make friends with them.”
“You’ll be fine,” Kit tells her for the thousandth time. “Mai’s fun. Tam’s a sweetheart, even if she seems tough. And Olivia’s awesome.”
Kit frowns as she thinks of Olivia yesterday. Kit’s never seen her friend so miserable. Olivia’s usually so assured and self-sufficient. But she’s so messed up over her exams and Will. Poor thing. She wants to tell Liza to look out for her while they’re away, but Olivia begged Kit not to tell anyone about exams. So instead, she just says, “Hey, Olivia might seem kind of, I don’t know, distant or whatever, but she’s going through some stuff, that’s all. Give her a chance. You’ll like her.”
Liza shrugs, like she’s only half listening, and continues to inspect her split ends.
Kit taps her fingers on Liza’s leg. “Anyway, who knows? Maybe you’ll meet someone on this trip. Have an exotic one-night stand with some Mediterranean hottie.”
“Maybe.” She stares out the window, her eyes closing against the sunlight streaming through the window. “Doubt it.”
Kit watches the pink staining her best friend’s cheeks fade slowly.
Liza’s cheeks were even pinker the night of the end-of-school party, when she dragged Kit out to sit on the kerb, an uncharacteristic bottle clutched in her hand, and told her about this Alika girl.
The fact that her best friend was telling her that she had spent the last couple of months in some fraught, unspoken thing with a girl didn’t surprise her, exactly. But that Liza was finally saying anything to her about it did.
The fact that Liza might be gay had crossed Kit’s mind a couple of times over the years. It would explain why she’s so damn shy around guys. And it would explain why, at eighteen, she’s never had a boyfriend despite some of the incredible talent Kit has spotted at those athletics comps.
But even though she’d thought about it, Kit never said anything—in case it hadn’t actually occurred to Liza yet. And Kit had known that her best friend would tell her if and when she had anything to tell her.
And that turned out to be the night of their final classes. Liza was so drunk and fevered with her need to tell Kit about this mess she had gotten herself in, she skated right past the liking-girls news. Instead, she went straight to the part where she had started some clandestine thing with a girl in her training squad, an impossibly withdrawn, beautiful nineteen-year-old who was apparently barely willing to admit she was a lesbian to herself, let alone to someone else.
Kit kept her arm wrapped tightly around her Liza’s waist as she told Kit about this girl. Liza swiped tears from her eyes, telling her how the only time this girl seemed to acknowledge Liza was when she was jumping her in the car after competitions or climbing into her bed at night at the training institute. Not that Liza didn’t want to be doing that, she said. She just didn’t want it like that. And Kit just held on and let her cry it out. And when the tears were done, Kit wiped the tears from her friends face and told her to dump her.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that they even broached the topic of Liza being gay in general, when Liza admitted how nervous she was about coming out to her parents, and about dropping two big revelations on them at once. But by then her coming out to Kit just didn’t seem like a thing. So why make it one? At that point, the fact that Liza had stopped talking to this girl who kept treating her like crap seemed way more important than workshopping her sexuality. That kind of seemed like a done deal at this point.
“Hey, does Alika know you’re leaving next week?” she asks
Liza shrugs. “Don’t know, don’t care.”
“Good,” Kit tells her, even if she doesn’t one hundred per cent believe her.
She looks over at her friend. She’s gazing out the window, a small frown on her face. Kit hopes Liza does meet someone. Someone who likes her out loud and who makes her feel like the awesome, beautiful person she is. She deserves it. Maybe even needs it a little. She’s the sweetest, most quietly funny and wickedly insightful person Kit has ever met in her life. And she thought that about Liza when they were eight. Now Liza and the rest of the world need to know it.
“I wish you were coming with us,” Liza suddenly moans.
“So do I.” Who wouldn’t choose four weeks of travelling in Europe over four weeks of working double shifts all week to pay off one party? Not even a good party. A party where she found Liam lying in the bath fully dressed with that stupidly hot Rachel perched on the end with her perfect pixie hair and MAC red lips.
Liza shifts across the bed so she’s lying next to Kit. She wraps her hands around Kit’s arm and squeezes it. “You were, like, the social glue.”
“I know,” she says again, resting her head against her friend’s shoulder. Kit’s already keenly aware Liza’s terrified she won’t get along with the others. What she doesn’t know is that everyone feels like that. Her cousin was furious when Kit broke the news. Olivia was even more depressed, and Mai told her outright that she was a stupid, freaking idiot.
She sighs. She will get her shit together this summer. She will. She grabs her friend’s hand and shakes it. “I’m so sorry, Lize,” she says for the zillionth time.
“It’s okay,” Liza says softly.
They lie there in a shaft of muted late afternoon sun. Kit listens to Liza breathe slowly next to her. She’s going to miss her so much.
“I’ll miss you,” Liza whispers, as if she’s heard her thoughts.
Kit snuggles up to her friend and smiles. “I’ll miss you, too.”
Emily O’Beirne is the author of the A Story of Now series, published by Ylva Publishing.
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