How To Be Straight

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Secrets

School loomed closer by the minute. I was panicky. I didn’t want to get there a second after Shay, and she was always on time. I walked around the block because I knew I was too early. I knew I was too nervous. I took a deep breath, and began to recall my math facts. It always helped me think to remember the never changing rules.

Area of a triangle is A= bh/2.

Area of a circle is πr2.

I started with the easier ones and got harder and harder until within ten minutes I was doing advanced calculus. I took a breath. Much better. But then the panic set in again. Having just reviewed my formulas, I began counting down from ten thousand, relaxing into the seemingly unending sequence of numbers. Ah.

“Hey babe.” I felt a hand around my waist and stiffened.

9,964

“Hi, John.” I squirmed away from his grasp, and coughed into my hands, trying to look miserable, which wasn’t hard.

9,960

“Sorry,” I added. “I’m feeling kind of sick. You might not want to touch me.”

9,957

“Oh, is that so?” He smirked, seeing my lie. But he stepped back. I sighed in relief. John intimidated me, but there was really no reason. He hit on me every once in a while, but he always backed down when it became clear I was not interested. I think I just disliked the reminder of what I would never be.

9,954

“Thanks,” I whispered. He winked at me. I took a breath.

9,952

And then it hit me.

9,950

The reminder of what was happening when I got to school.

9,949

49

49

49

My mind froze. I was stuck on the same number.

49

49

49

I squatted down, touching my fingertips to the ground. Breathe in. Breathe out.

John squatted on the ground, putting a hand on my back. Breathe in. Breathe out.

49

Breathe in.

48

Breathe out.

47

Breathe in.

46

Breathe out.

45

44

43

42

“Thank you,” I managed. “Thank you. I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened. I’m so sorry.”

John was rubbing my back. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Hey, everything is fine. It’s okay. Everything’s okay.”

Everything was fine. He was right. Everything was fine. I stood. So what? I only had one year left in this small town anyway. I could manage to avoid everyone for one year. It would be fine. Everything would be fine. I stood slowly. “Th- Thank you. Thank you so much. I- that- I mean- that isn’t normal. I’m not like that normally.”

He smiled. “Yeah. That’s okay. I’m glad I could help” He smiled sheepishly.

“I- yes. Um,” I attempted to change the subject. “Have you picked a college yet?”

He said that he had been focused on Yale for as long as he could remember, but there was no word yet. I nodded and smiled and we talked about college and what happened after for a while. He didn’t ask me why I was walking around at 7:30 in the morning, almost a half hour before I should have to leave, and I did him the same favor.


By the time we got to school, I had forgotten all about my nerves. John could be my net. If I was accused of the crime I was guilty of, I would argue my point, and then ask him out that night. It would be regrettable, but necessary to string him along like that. I had been acting for seven years. What was one more? I intended to forget Shay once I got to college. I intended to forget all of this insanity.


“Hey, babe.” I greeted Charlotte in the hall, trying to act as nonchalant as possible. “How was the date?”

“Oh, he was amazing!” Charlotte exploded into talk of various details of the afternoon, stringing them into something like a story. She would make a good author. Her chit chatty way of speaking and the way she doubled back on herself would be a part of her charm, though some might try to use it against her.

I told her such, and she laughed. “No. I wouldn’t. No one would understand a word I wrote. They might buy the book if there was a picture of me on the cover though. Maybe for my memoirs. Do you have to be famous to write your memoirs?”

I chuckled. “No, but I think you should have something interesting to tell, you know, a triumph or tragedy.”

“My dog died when I was five, maybe I could write about that?”

“Maybe.”

I was distracted. She seemed her normal, peppy, annoying self. She didn’t seem like she suspected me of being who I was. She didn’t seem like she had any reason to suspect me. “Hey,” I interrupted suddenly, “Have you seen Shay?”

“Yup. We talked this morning, why.”

They had already talked? Shay had already had a chance to out me and she hadn’t? That didn’t sound right. Half of the day’s gossip was generally dished out between giggles in the two minutes between the courtyard and the first class. None of us would normally withhold something for this long, especially something this big. “Um, I wanted to know if you knew about Grace,” I said absentmindedly.

“Oh, yup. Shay caught me up completely.” She paused briefly and then added, “Hey, you okay?” Her bouncy voice was replaced with a serious concern for her friend.

“Of course. I’m fine. Yes. I didn’t sleep very well last night. Two hours of homework after an hour and a half of coffee with Shay. I didn’t get to bed until after midnight and I woke up before five and couldn’t get back to sleep.”

“Oh! You poor thing! I’m so sorry! We could bail you out of a class if you need to sleep.”

I laughed. “I’m okay for now, but I might just take you up on that.”

I smiled. Maybe Cece was right. Maybe Shay would say nothing. Maybe I could keep this wonderful life I had built with my own two hands.

“Consider me warned,” Charlotte said.

We walked on in silence for a while, before that redhead, I really should start calling her by her name, appeared around the corner, surrounded by friends. She laughed, and I imagined happy little fairies escaping her mouth every time she did. After she had passed, I said to Charlotte, “God, she’s beautiful.”

Charlotte looked behind her for a moment and then shrugged, “Yeah. Shay’s gonna have a tough time getting her to be friends with us.”

“Yeah.”

I smiled slightly. I loved my friends. I really did. No matter what they would think of me if they knew the real version of me, they honestly cared about this version, and that was the most I could ask for right now.

“She seems pretty happy in her current life. Does Shay have a plan for getting her into ours?”

“Jamie,” she answered seriously, like it was obvious, “at some point in every girl’s life, they have a moment where they wish to be like us. Shay just needs to tap into that moment.”

I nodded. It made enough sense to me. I added, “Preferably without disturbing the peace between us and her group. They could dethrone her without too much-- Oh! Hey, Shay!” I waved the pretty blonde over to us, forcing myself to smile at her. “We were just talking about Grace,” I said without thinking, then instantly regretted it. I wanted nothing more than to get Grace out of her head.

She nodded. “Yeah, Vicki is also wondering how I’m going to get her. I have a plan, just you wait.”

She looked at me, straight into my boring, brown eyes, and I met her gaze. God, she was gorgeous. It occured to me that she was actually the exact definition of my type.

I scolded myself. Shay was off limits. Shay didn’t like me that way. Shay was straight.

But the whole time, her eyes were gazing intently into mine.

God, was all I could think. She really does know.

So why hadn’t she said anything?

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