Here is a brief excerpt from my upcoming release, Future Leaders of Nowhere, an contemporary, Australian LGBT young adult fiction story. It will be released in March 2017.
Finn’s solid. Not in body, but in being. She’s gravity and kindness and all those good things that anchor.
Willa’s confusing. Sometimes she’s this sweet, sensitive soul. Other times she’s like a flaming arrow you hope isn’t coming for you.
Finn and Willa have been picked as team leaders in the future leader camp game. The usually confident Finn doesn’t know what’s throwing her more, the fact she’s leading a team of highly unenthusiastic overachievers or coming up against fierce, competitive Willa. And Willa doesn’t know which is harder, leaving her responsibilities behind to pursue her goals or opening up to someone.
Soon they both realise that the hardest thing of all is balancing their clashing ideals with their unexpected connection. And finding a way to win, of course.
It might just be the perfect morning.
Finn opened her tent to a shockingly balmy day. The first threat of proper spring. Usually when she gets up, the sun hasn’t even come close to shredding the last, bracing traces of cold. But not today. Today smells thick and sweet and gentle. And it reminds her that when she gets back to school, she’ll only have three weeks left until September holidays. That’s a thought to wake up to.
Even the oval is looking springtime pretty, nightly rainfalls giving it a reality TV-level makeover from withered yellow to a pale, promise-of-lush green. Every night this week, Finn has woken up to a busy patter on the canvas of her tent, only to burrow deeper into the depths of her sleeping bag, enjoying that delicious feeling of being toasty while it’s raining outside. And when she emerges in the morning, the sky is blue again, and there’s that fresh smell in the air. Greenness itself.
She and Willa are back to their morning meet-ups on the oval. Even now, with the whining slowed to a near stop (face it, Amy’s never going to embrace camping), Finn still loves this quiet time. In the hushed mornings, there’s no need for either of them to lead. No need to make decisions. No need to be an example. They can just quietly be. And even though Willa joked yesterday that leading her Gandry team is much less torturous than dealing with her little sister back at home, Finn knows she likes these stolen hours too. Some mornings they talk, trading life stories, other mornings they just coexist in the sunshine. Either way, it’s become Finn’s favourite time of day.
This morning, Willa’s reading, a picture of engrossed. When Finn joins her, she’s cross-legged, back straight, her hair falling over her face. But it isn’t long until she’s stretched out, lulled by the sun, and her legs are lean, brown stretches sprawled out of her denim cut-offs to her bare feet. Her chin rests in her hand as her eyes roam the page. Only Willa could look that peaceful while reading a textbook. She could be a model for the camp brochure.
Finn flips open her pad, an idea forming. “Hey, can I draw you?”
Willa’s eyes go wide. “Me?”
“See anyone else around?”
“I guess you can.” She frowns. “But why?”
“I need the practice. And why not?”
“I don’t know. I always think you have to be someone interesting to have your portrait done.”
“It’s just a sketch, not a commissioned work of art,” Finn teases. “And, Willa, you are definitely interesting.”
Willa pulls a face at her. Then she shrugs. “Sure. You can draw me, I suppose. What do I do? Just sit here?”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing. I don’t want you to pose or anything.”
“Good.” She settles back on the grass and returns to her book. Her expression is self-conscious at first, like she can’t shake the awareness of being watched. It’s always like that when Finn draws people. She just waits patiently until she sees Willa forgetting, and then she properly begins.
Finn works more slowly than usual. She’s not great at portraits, but she wants to translate Willa just right, to render that wide mouth and those knowing eyes just as she sees them. To find the precise balance of light and shade that will create her jawline. It takes the whole hour to produce something she’s halfway happy with.
As the morning siren sounds and kids begin to appear, snail-pacing between bed and bathrooms, Willa sits up. “Finished?”
Finn frantically shades in a section around her mouth. It’s hard to work with Willa sitting there watching her, expectant. When she’s as done as she’s going to be, she reluctantly hands the sketchpad over.
Willa’s tongue is caught between her teeth as she stares at it. When she finally looks up, her eyes are glowing. “You made me look good.”
Finn flaps a dismissive hand. “You already looked good. You must know how pretty you are. Like, it’s a bit ridiculous.”
Willa’s still staring at the picture. “It’s hard to know what you look like, don’t you think?”
“I guess.” Finn tries not to think too much about what she looks like. Dan says she’s definitely cute, but Finn has no idea. When she looks in the mirror, she just sees shortness and that small snub nose that her sister Anna says is adorable but Finn thinks make her look like a kid.
“The girls at school say I am. And a lot of random guys ask me out.”
“I bet they do.” Finn looks at her, curious. “Do you ever say yes? I mean, do you—”
Willa screws up her nose and shakes her head.
“Do the girls in your group know?”
“I don’t like people knowing things about me.”
Willa stares at the picture again, her teeth scraping gently at her bottom lip as she catches an escaping smile. Her reticent pleasure sends a warmth through Finn. She gets the feeling Willa doesn’t think about herself much.
Then Finn’s suddenly wondering what would have happened if Willa had tried to kiss her in another time or place. Like, if she and Finn met as strangers at a party, without all the complications that come with them being at this camp. Would her reaction have been different?
She’s forced to abandon the thought as the breakfast siren cuts through the morning calm. She plucks the sketchbook out of Willa’s fingers with a grin. “You can’t have this one. It’s mine.”
You can read the first nine chapters in a preview here on Ylva Publishing’s website.
Emily O’Beirne is a writer of LGBT young adult fiction.
Here’s the Thing came out on October 19.
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The A Story of Now Series is available for purchase in hard copy of eBook at Ylva Publishing, or on Amazon.
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