- Pages: 480 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Viking Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 9780593116890
An Excerpt From
This Is How We Fly
I find one of the nice ballet flats Connie’s sisters sent me a few Christmases ago, buried unused. It’s thoughtful of them to send gifts—shoes and makeup kits and low-cut leopard-print blouses. But I never really grew into the girly look, or the girly hobbies, or the whole idea of being a girl.
I mean, obviously I’m not saying fashion interest (or lack thereof) is the same as gender identity. And the whole “not like other girls” trope makes it hard to tell if the voice in my head is just internalized misogyny or actual gender feels. I don’t know. Gender stuff is weird and nuanced and I can contemplate it after I fix the rest of my life, starting with my footwear.
When did Dad and I stop shopping for tennis shoes? It used to be our tradition at the beginning of each school year, back when it was just the two of us. He’d put me on his shoulders and carry me into the store barefoot so I could wear the new shoes straight home, because when I was five I cried about hurting the old shoes’ feelings. That was the year after my mom died, and everything was still a little out of whack.
It’s possible that Dad stopped taking me shoe shopping because I’m a freak.
My phone buzzes in my pocket, and I read the text message even though I know what it will say.
Every. Single. Time.
Melissa is waiting (impatiently) for me. What else is new? I toss aside a cluster of dirty socks.
Maybe Dad stopped taking me to buy new shoes when my feet stopped growing, which was when I was approximately twelve years old.
No, wait, I do remember when it was—the year he married Connie. He asked if I minded if Connie and baby Yasmín came with us on our shoe trip, to all go together as a family. Of course I didn’t mind, because minding wasn’t an option. But I decided that I didn’t really need new shoes that year after all. The special shopping trips disappeared along with my cat Dorito, Christmas trips with Grandma and Grandpa Lopez, Friday night TV marathons, and the only two dinners Dad ever cooked (enchiladas and fried rice).
We made it work.
Melissa texts me a clock emoji, then several angry faces. I give up. Converse are still basically athletic wear, right? I slip mine on and dash out of my room, down the stairs, and toward the front door.
I stand in the entryway for a second, debating with myself. What I want to do is slip out the door without keeping Melissa waiting any longer. What I’m supposed to do is “respectfully communicate” if I want to leave the house. I’ve been doing an impressive job of avoiding Connie conversation since the graduation party that wasn’t—tricky since I live with her, but easier when I spend all my time on my phone—and I don’t really feel the need to break that streak.
Nobody ever said respectful communication had to be lengthy.
“I’m going out with Melissa,” I call. “See you later!”
Connie scrambles out of the kitchen, still holding a dish towel.
“Where are you going?” she asks, a frown lurking behind her pleasant tone. “I thought we said you would help me start cleaning out the garage today.”
“Huh?” My bag buzzes three times in a row, presumably because Melissa is angry-texting me. “Melissa and I have plans.” I guess Connie mentioned the garage over dinner sometime this week, but I don’t remember—an unexpected downside to being glued to my phone. A new pet project for her? I vaguely remember her asking me questions about her “creative vision,” but I answered as noncommittally as possible.
This tension, the feeling in the air as Connie and I stare at each other, is exactly what I was trying to avoid. I know that if I play my cards exactly right—smile and grovel— there’s a good chance Connie will let me go. But if I ask permission, I give her a chance to put her foot down.
I’m not going to bail on Melissa. I inch the door open.
Connie purses her lips. “I really think—”
I don’t wait to hear the end of her sentence. “Thanks! I’ll text if I’m going to be out past dinner,” I call as the door slams behind me. I’ll have no choice but to make it up to Connie later, but right now it feels good to make a decision without her—in spite of her.
Melissa’s car is in the driveway, puffing exhaust grumpily. I slide into the passenger seat, already sweating because it’s the kind of muggy Houston hot that makes your clothes stick to you the instant you step foot outside. Good thing I’m about to go run around the park for two hours.
“Every time,” Melissa sighs. Unlike me in my end breast cancer! T-shirt (free from one of the many fundraising events and charity marathons Dad’s patronized since my mom was diagnosed) and knee-length middle school gym shorts, Melissa makes a believable athlete with a neon sports bra peeking out of her V-neck and a casual messy bun.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say, twisting the A/C vents to blow on my armpits. The air in the car feels like too-hot bathwater. “I’m late to everything. You knew this. Why is your air so crappy?”
“It would have been better if you were on time.” Melissa shrugs. “My car doesn’t like to run things while it’s idle.”
I would point out that Melissa’s ancient Toyota doesn’t like to run things ever, but I take too many free rides to mock the car.
“Are we picking Chris up?”
“Yep,” Melissa answers, accidentally grating her back tire against our curb. “How else am I going to find the place?”
I sigh at Melissa’s terrible sense of direction. “Okay, but first you have to tell me how last night went.”
Melissa had a special date with Chris last night for their four-month-iversary. “Special” included several hours alone at Chris’s house while his parents drove his younger sister to San Antonio for sleepaway camp. And from what Melissa told me before leaving for her date, she was at least considering the possibility of making the date all the way special.
We’re big dorks, but we’re also sex-positive feminist dorks who read a lot of fanfiction.
Melissa bites her lip. She is the worst at spilling exciting news, especially boyfriend news. It’s not even that she’s embarrassed—she’s just stubborn, and I think she loves to draw out the interrogation process. “I don’t know. It was fine. How was your night?”
I sigh. “We have maybe eight minutes until your easily mortified boyfriend gets into this car, and I imagine you both want this conversation to be over before that happens, but by all means, keep stalling.”
“You know,” Melissa teases, “maybe I don’t want our conversation to revolve around my relationship with a man, did you ever think about that?”
“Oh my goodness, we can pass the Bechdel test later— just tell me what base you got to already.”
I really don’t think that Melissa actually had sex, because she’s only ever kissed any of her other boyfriends. But then, she never dated any of them for more than a month, either, so who knows?
Melissa makes me wait through three tooth-rattling speed bumps before she brakes at the stoplight outside my neighborhood and turns to face me.
“Second-ish base. It wasn’t a huge deal, but, like, kind of, because I have the whole shirt thing. And it’s the Bechdel-Wallace test.”
Second-ish base. Impressive, Chris Jones. Melissa hates her freckly shoulders with a (weird and unnecessary) passion, so she is very particular about who gets to see her in a tank top, much less a bra.
“Wait, bra or no bra?”
“Bra. Sort of. Bra definitely on. Hands not definitely outside of bra.”
I giggle, because I am immature and have never had hands other than my own anywhere near my bra.
“Shut up!” Melissa buries her head in her hands and completely misses the light change, getting us very honked at.
“Chill y’all’s pants,” Melissa mutters to the rearview mirror. Her Texas shows most when she’s road raging.
My phone buzzes. Connie. I let it go to voicemail, then wait a few seconds and text her: Hey, what’s up? The ultimate level of sneaky teenage bullshit.