Book Excerpt: 'The You Know Who Girls: Freshman Year' by YA Author Annameekee Hesik

By: Annameekee Hesik
September 24 2012 2:07 PM

As part of our effort to profile more authors within the LGBT community, we present Annameekee Hesik.

Annameekee came out when she was fifteen and has since been obsessed with rainbows. After successfully surviving high school in Tucson, AZ, she went to college for six years and changed her major five times. She earned her BA in English Lit from UC Davis and her MA in Education from UC Santa Cruz. She is thrilled she finally decided to become a high school English teacher (with a background in Anthropology, American Sign Language, World History, and Environmental Biology). When she isn’t helping students learn to enjoy literature or dressing up as the Super Recycler or Grammar Police, she spends her time in Santa Cruz, CA, walking her dogs, napping in her hammock, riding bikes with her wife, slurping down mocha shakes, and writing books that she hopes will help lesbian and questioning teens feel like they’re not the only you-know-who girls in the world. To see embarrassing high school photos of Annameekee, read her blog, and find out what she likes to mix into her macaroni and cheese, visit her website.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of her book The You Know Who Girls: Freshman Year, published by Bold Strokes Books, which will be available October 18, 2012:

After Kate leaves, I look around and evaluate the food court lines. I nearly join the crowd in front of Eegee’s, but the line at Hot Dog on a Stick is free and clear, so I beeline it over there instead.

I stand a little ways from the counter and gaze up at the menu to figure out what I want. Ordering french fries isn’t normally a challenge for me, but I guess riding my bike fifteen miles in the hundred-degree heat and baking under the fluorescent lights in the fitting rooms like a Big Mac has sizzled my brain.

I have a bad habit of twirling my hair when I’m thinking, so that’s what I do, as I stand there, spacing out at the menu like a moron.

Then a straw wrapper sails through the air and hits my gaping mouth.

And standing behind the counter, twirling a clean straw between her fingers, is a girl in her red, yellow, blue, and white striped polyester tank top with a whole lot of black hair stuffed under her matching striped paper hat. I have always loved those outfits, especially recently. I used to think it was because I associated the outfits with food, but now I’m definitely beginning to wonder if it isn’t something much more involved than that.

“Is the menu too complicated for you?” she asks. She’s smiling, and her teeth are bright against her cocoa-brown face. It’s a smile I feel like I’ve seen before.

I feel my face turn red like an instant sunburn, but then I do something I’ve never before done to a girl like her: I smile back. Then I stammer, “Uh, sorry. I’ll have a regular fry and a small lemonade, please.”

I watch her peck my order into the register and see that her fingertips on her left hand are rough with calluses. My dad’s fingers looked like that because he played guitar all the time. He was really good. Mostly he played the Beatles, which is why he wanted to name me “Abbey Road” Brooks, after one of their later albums. My mom said no way, of course, because she’s a total bore. So, instead, they named me plain Abbey Brooks. But now that Dad’s dead, Mom calls me Abbey Road. I’ll never get her.

Now I’m wondering how long the girl with the nice smile has been playing guitar and where the heck I know her from. I try to look at her name tag, but it’s hiding in a fold of her uniform and I’m afraid if I look there for too long it’ll look like I’m checking out her boobs, which I’m currently not doing. I mean, not really.

“That’ll be six dollars and twenty-five cents,” she says.

Where could I have met someone cool like her? It’s not like I go to concerts or coffee shops or wherever cool people hang out. Then I notice she’s reaching for another straw and I snap out of it. At that exact same moment, her name tag is finally revealed, but it’s plastered with stickers from Chiquita bananas.

As I reach into my backpack for my wallet, I can’t hold back a goofy smile. See, my dad used to put Chiquita stickers on my nose every time we shared a banana, and I’ve spent the last five years sticking Chiquita stickers all over my wallet to keep that memory close.

The girl, I’ll call her the Hot Dog on a Stick Chick, notices our shared affinity for bananas. “Nice wallet.”

“Thanks.” I smile bigger, if that’s even possible. “Nice name tag.”

More on next page...

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(continued)

I’ve only been around her for about two minutes, but I think...no, I know, I want to be like her and near her. She seems so confident, like she knows what she wants out of life and how she’s going to get it. I wonder how people get that way.

She repeats my order to the guy working the fryer and then says in a voice that’s cooler than the frigid mall air conditioning, “Y, apúrale, gringo. Tenemos una morra bien loca que tiene mucha hambre.”

With my junior high Spanish skills, I know she’s just said I’m crazy and really hungry, which is pretty much true. I smile again and then sneak a peek at her eyes while she gets my change.

They’re brown with tiny flecks of gold sprinkled in like glitter.

She asks for my name and I panic before I realize that it isn’t for any special reason; it’s so she can call me up for my order. “Tu nombre...?” she asks again and poises her finger over the register keys.

I open my mouth with every intention of telling her my name, but all I can think of to say is Chunks. “Um-uh,” I say to try to buy time, but she’s already typing something on the keypad.

The name Amara illuminates on the screen.

“Okay, Amara, I’ll call you in a sec.” Then she turns away to get my drink and...did she just wink at me? Whoa, this is definitely a first, but then I get a reality check and convince myself that she just got some lemon pulp in her eye.

I sit down at a nearby table because, for some reason, my knees are shaking and I feel like I might collapse. I want to look at her a little longer, but instead of staring at her like a hungry puppy, I count the Nikes walking by. A minute later the Hot Dog on a Stick Chick calls Amara on her loudspeaker, but I don’t make the connection because I’m too busy trying to count the Nikes walking by and trying not to obsess over how she is making me feel. Then she says it again, follows it with a laugh, and I finally realize she’s calling me.

I bolt up to the counter, but then slow down so I won’t look too desperate for the french fries or to talk to her again.

She slides the tray to me and flashes her stunning smile again. “Here you go, Amara. Enjoy.”

I look down at my tray because she makes me feel so shy. Then because I’m a professional idiot I say, “Oh, uh, I paid for a small lemonade, not a large. I mean, I don’t want you to get in trouble,” and pick up the drink to hand it to her.

She takes it, but puts it back onto my tray. “Sure, Amara, the lemonade police are going to bust through the door to take me away for giving you a bigger size.” Then she laughs and winks again, and this time I’m almost sure she winks on purpose.

I laugh, too, because I don’t know what to say or do with myself. I’m on uncharted ground, so I stand there, hold tight to the tray, and wait for my brain to send the message to my feet that it’s time to go.

Just as I’m about to finally make my escape, she puts her hands on my tray, her right index finger nearly touching my left pinky. “Hey, Amara,” she says easily, as if this new name is the one my parents had finally decided on.

I don’t dare move an inch. I’m sure if our fingertips touch I’ll implode.

She leans across the glossy red counter. “Come here. I’ve got some advice for you.”

I move in a little closer, but I can’t speak or even blink. I reach for my ponytail to twirl but force my hand down and wait for her next words.

“Amara, the next time you are given more than you expect, just say thank you and walk away.” Her voice is heavy and sweet now, like cold maple syrup.

Then the Hot Dog on a Stick Chick just looks at me, and something about the way she does this activates a memory I didn’t even know I had. She’s that girl from elementary school. I still can’t remember her name, but I know she’s at least three grades ahead of me. She was the one who beat every boy at tetherball, and she never wore socks or hair bands that matched her outfits. And then I remember how she ate her string cheese very carefully, tearing each strip with the precision of a surgeon, unlike me who would just bite into it like the ogre that I am.

The memory feels like a jolt of something unfamiliar in my body, and all I want to do is get out of there. “Okay, thanks,” I say way too loudly and yank my tray toward me. The giant lemonade teeters but doesn’t spill.

“Wait a minute, Amara.”

I freeze again. Oh my God, she can tell. What she can tell I’m not so sure of, but maybe she knows me better than I know myself, which seems very possible.

“Do you go to Gila High?” She leans on her elbow and squints at me. “You look really familiar.”

I mumble something about being a freshman.
“Oh, then you went to McCormick Elementary, right?”
I nod and wonder why no one else in the whole entire mall wants a corn dog or fresh-squeezed lemonade. It’s like we’re suddenly alone. Very, very alone.

“Yeah, I remember you now. What was that crazy Halloween costume you wore one year?” She taps the counter with her hard fingertips.

I beg the greater beings of our universe to help her forget, but I know from experience that the universe works in magical and sometimes hateful ways.

“Oh yeah, you were a guitar-playing rock.” Then she laughs at me for the third time. I like her laugh, though, even if it’s at my expense. “Very creative.”

I could save the entire moment by simply saying, “Thank you,” but instead I say, “Well, I was actually a piece of metamorphic rock. Gneiss, to be exact, which is formed by the intense heat and pressure surrounding it. It was supposed to symbolize the pressure rock stars are under, kind of. Um, I mean, well, it was my dad’s idea. I wanted to be a unicorn.” My dad would have been so pleased that I remembered the rock facts, but I totally regret the words as they leave my mouth.

“Good to know, Amara.” Then the Hot Dog on a Stick Chick nods at the woman who has apparently been standing behind me, waiting for her turn to order. “I guess I’ll see you at Gila next week.”

“Yeah, I’ll probably be there. I mean, of course I will. I have to go to school. It is the law. Besides, where else would I go?” Oh, how I wish I could go back to being a smiling, but voiceless, idiot. “So, see you soon. Or whenever,” I say, then grab my tray and hurry away like an Olympic speed walker.

And this is how my crush on the Hot Dog on a Stick Chick begins.

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