Open Letter to Aspiring YA Authors by Patty Blount
You know, it's funny. I have a large family and I think maybe two people out of all of them have read my books. Not gonna lie, that hurts my feelings, but yet, I get it.
Most of my family is far outside the YA range. They think young adult novels aren't for them. Then, you have those that think romance is nonsense, so they won't read that, either.
To each, their own.
Despite the lack of interest from my family, I think YA serves an important purpose. You'll recall last month, I posted my rant against the evils of book-banning. This month's post is a bit of addendum to that. If you're an aspiring author, the first thing you need to know about YA is that it's not a genre, but an age group, usually about 13-18. My characters are typically still in or have just finished high school.
Within the YA age group, you have all genres like romance, mystery, historical, science fiction, paranormal, horror, comedy or fantasy.
I write award-winning contemporary romance for young adults. Here are my titles:
I also write adult contemporary romance, too.
What do we know about 13 to 18 year olds? Well, for me, the most important thing to remember about being this age is that they're standing on the cusp of so many worlds. There's adulthood for one. Teens are just growing into the bodies they'll have for the rest of their lives. There's career, for another. Teens are making plans for their future, deciding what work they'll pursue. There's friendship, love, sexuality, and probably a whole lot more but you get the point.
Remember, I said they're standing on the cusp...the other side of these new worlds is the familiar one. Childhood. For many teens, it's one they can't wait to leave behind. It could be marred by abuse. Or it could simply be restrictive while they long for freedom. Whatever it is, teens in this age group walk the fine line between both sides of their world.
That's where you draw from when you're crafting YA characters. You don't have to be 18 yourself. You just have to remember what it was like. Because even if you were eighteen when there was still black & white TV, the emotions of being too old for one world but far too young for the other are universal and ageless.
The next important thing to remember about writing for this age group is that the books I write--the books YOU write--are safe places for readers. This means we can write with abandon. Bar no holds, spare no feelings, avoid no emotion. In fact, write every emotion like it's the last one you'll ever experience because for this group of readers, it's likely the first time. If you want your readers to be wary of strangers on the internet, don't tell them, show them all the horrible things that happen to a character who is too trusting (Bailey in TMI). If you want your readers to understand toxic masculinity and rape culture, show them a character who's had all she's going to take and another character who's finally able to see how his actions supported the very culture the other is fighting against (Ashley and her brother, Derek, in SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW). If you want your readers to stop bullying, show them a character who's consumed by guilt from when he was a bully (Dan in SEND). If you want your readers to fall into real, everlasting love, show them characters willing to put their very dreams aside for the other (Kristen and Elijah in THE WAY IT HURTS).
Books are places where your readers can experience things for the very first time without risk, but not without pain. Because if you your job well, readers will feel all the feels for the characters you've created. Characters who look like them, talk like them, have similar backgrounds as them -- but, and this is crucial -- are NOT REALLY them. This way, when they close your book, they'll still be in their homes, in their rooms, in their world, but will emerge CHANGED, marked by the emotional experience your story gave them.
Write the gay and lesbian stories, the trans stories, the homeless stories. Write the neurodivergent stories. Write the mental health stories.
Write the stories you wish YOU had when you were this age.
You know, maybe the best advice I can give aspiring YA writers is to consider how you'd like your readers to feel by the of your story and then write that book. For example, while writing SOME BOYS, I wanted readers to feel as furious as I did about the crime of acquaintance rape. Anger and outrage were my goal and all the awards that story has earned tells me I hit it.
If more people would read YA before they criticized it, I imagine we'd have far fewer instances of book-banning.
Oh, one more thing. I think I'd like to make readers laugh this time, so I wrote a rom-com called The Christmas Strike. It's not published but I'm crossing my fingers. Here's an excerpt. Tell me if I made you laugh?
The Christmas Strike by Patty Blount
Chapter 1: Elle
FIVE MORE DAYS UNTIL December 25th.
I. Couldn’t. Wait.
Not for Christmas. For my birthday.
In exactly five days, I would be eighteen years old. An
adult. My life could finally begin on my
terms. Tingles of anticipation zipped along my skin.
Mom and I were in the mall with my best friend Crystal,
which was a minor miracle. I’d made a deal with Mom back in November. I’d asked
that in honor of my eighteenth birthday, could we scale wa-a-a-ay back on
Christmas this year and she’d agreed.
I still couldn’t believe it.
To say my mom loved Christmas was a Santa-sized
understatement. As soon as the weather turned cool, she got this gleam in her
eye. She loved Christmas the way cats loved catnip. Mom started playing
Christmas music the day after Halloween, put up a tree in every room of our
house. She baked a gazillion cookies, forced us to spend hours taking the
perfect photo, and has probably seen every Hallmark Holiday movie ever aired.
When Crystal called and invited me shopping with her to
find the perfect outfit for the big birthday event I’d planned, Mom actually
agreed to drive us. We’d been on our way to the boutique across the street from
the mall when Mom decided to pop in and pick up a gift on my little brother’s
wish list. Pax wanted the latest Legend
of Zelda game and if I didn’t I love my little brother so much, I’d never
be near the mall this close to Christmas, let alone in one.
Malls were the tenth circle of hell.
The line just to get into the game store snaked around the
food court, where the line to see Santa Claus also happened to be. We shuffled
our way along a rope queue that weaved in and around mall obstacles like huge
plants, waste bins, and the occasional bench, which people lunged for like they
were playing a game of musical chairs. Every few seconds, a ho ho ho boomed across the space,
followed by the terrified shrieks of children.
Like I said, tenth circle of hell.
“I wanna go home,” came the whine of tired little boy we’d
passed a few times now as our respective lines moved.
“If we go home now, you won’t get to see Santa and tell him
your Christmas wish,” his mom said.
“I don’t care. I hate Christmas.”
Okay, don’t judge me because, in my defense, we’d been on this
line for what felt like months and it just sort of slipped out. Plus, I hated
Christmas, too. Do you have any idea how rare it is to find a kindred spirit?
In a mall?
At this time of
So, without thinking, I blurted, “Me, too.”
He looked up at me with shock and, I like to think, a
little awe. “You do?”
His mother, on the other hand, looked at me like I’d just
oozed out of a rotting Easter egg someone only now just found. Mom gave me the
look that said, “Shut. Up. This. Minute.” Crystal’s dark eyes popped wide and
she frantically shook her head.
“You don’t really hate Christmas, honey. You’re just
tired,” his mom assured him, glaring holes through me.
“How come you hate Christmas?” The boy asked me.
Mom was still glaring at me, Crystal was still shaking her
head, so I bit my lip and turned away. A few seconds later, the lines moved. We
moved left. The little boy and his mom moved right. I breathed out a sigh of
“Noelle,” Mom said. “I have to find the rest room. Stay on
this line,” she ordered and stepped over the rope barricade. “Oh, and take all
this for me, will you?” She shoved her shopping bag, her coat, and the mega-cup
of soda she’d been drinking into my hands and disappeared into the crowd.
“Elle, are you crazy?” Crystal whispered the second Mom
“It just slipped out!”
“Well, tighten your grip! My parents are gonna flip out if
your birthday trip is canceled because you’re grounded. They moved all our
holiday plans around it.”
Crystal was right.
My mom had a hair trigger where Christmas was concerned and
I couldn’t risk her cancelling all the birthday plans. On Christmas Day —
excuse me, I meant to say, on my birthday, we were going to New York City, to
see a special exhibit at a museum that’s normally closed for the holiday. After
that, we were going out to dinner. My birthdays were usually no big deal so I
was insanely excited about this and counting the days.
At the sound of my name, my gaze snapped to the kind face
of an older woman in the Santa line, clutching the hand of a small girl.
“With a Christmas name, I imagine you have a Christmas
birthday,” she commented with a wry look that made me think she understood.
“I do,” I admitted, hope flaring like the Christmas star
“Christmas birthday? That’s so cool.” A guy wearing an elf
hat said from behind me, in the game store line. “You get double the presents.”
I could only shake my head. Christmas birthdays sucked.
Christmas always came first. Even in the name, Christmas came first. Nobody
ever calls it Birthday Christmas, amirite? It was sort of a Schrödinger’s Cat
situation. People just couldn’t seem to wrap their minds around the paradox
that it was both Christmas and my
birthday, so you got the people who handed you a gift with the warning, “That’s
for Christmas and your birthday” but
was it really?
They simply bought a Christmas present and said that to
lower your expectations so you wouldn’t be disappointed.
I was, in fact,
Those presents were always the ones that said Christmas 2017 or were something to hang
on a tree.
Then, there were those who assured you they didn’t forget
your birthday and would make it up to you but they were just so broke from Christmas, but did they ever really?
Also no, because the truth was, they did forget.
It’s not like I expected diamond tennis bracelets and new
cars. It wasn’t about the gifts at all, which was an impossible point to make
because every time the topic came up, I got called spoiled or entitled. It
was the sentiment—or more accurately, the complete lack of it that bothered me. I wanted the day of my birth to matter.
“People who hate Christmas haven’t figured out that the
true spirit of Christmas comes from the giving, not the receiving,” the woman
Well, she wasn’t a grandmotherly type at all. She was a
disapproving Sunday school teacher type.
I opened my mouth to tell her what I thought about
Christmas spirit but Crystal elbowed me in the ribs.
Right. Deep breath. Do
not ruin this.
A ripple zipped
along both lines as people offered their assessments. Someone called me spoiled. Another said entitled. Tears burned my eyes, but
Crystal had begged me to stay quiet, so I did.
I sighed. We’d been on this line for eons and the boutique
was going to close before Crystal and I found our cute outfits and now, people
on two separate lines were plotting
my demise. Where was Mom? I scanned the crowd for her but instead of Mom’s dark
head, I spotted a familiar blond one.
Please, God, not now.
Could you maybe smite me later, just this once?
But God was apparently as displeased with me as the people
on line with me. My arch-rival, my nemesis, my sworn enemy locked on target and
approached, that gleam in her eyes pure, undisguised joy when she realized I
was trapped on this line and probably would be for the rest of my natural life.
“Noelle,” she said on a sneer, blue eyes skimming up and
down my body.
“Ellery.” I matched her tone for tone, and skimmed my eyes
up and down her body. Okay, that
hunter green coat looked amazing on her, and her leather boots put my grungy
Uggs to shame. Dammit.
“I suppose you’re here for the new Zelda game.” She held up her bag with a happy grin. “I sure hope
they have enough by the time you reach the end of the line.” She cocked her
head and studied me. “I could sell you this one…if you’re willing to pay.”
Oh, I was not
going there with her. “Well, actually, I’m here for the new Star Wars game, but thanks anyway.” My
phone vibrated. I took it out, hoping Ellery would take the hint and disappear.
A text from my mom waited.
Mom: Meet me at the exit! Plans
“Crystal, could you hold this?” I handed her Mom’s beverage
cup. “My mom wants us to meet her at the exit.”
“Wait, what? Now?
After standing here since dinosaurs roamed the planet? Why?”
“I don’t know. I’m texting now.” With Crystal reading over
my shoulder, I texted Mom.
Elle: We just got to the last turn
in the rope line. If we wait maybe 15 more minutes, we’ll get Pax’s game.
Mom: Noelle, NOW. Your brother
brought home his roommate. I have a TON to do to prep for his stay.
Elle: But the boutique closes at
Mom: We’ll go some other time. I
have to shop and clean and pick up another tree and register him.
My blood froze in my veins.
No. No, no, no, no. This was bad.
Tears stung my eyes. Registering
him could only mean one thing.
“Aw, looks like no game for you. Too bad,” Ellery smiled a
self-satisfied smirk. “Should have gotten here earlier. Oh, well. See you.”
As she disappeared into the crowd, the guy in the elf hat
said, “Wait, are they out of Zelda
games? Oh my God! They ran out of Zeldas!” With a curse, he left the line.
“Wait, no!” I hastily wiped my eyes. “She’s just taunting
me. Don’t listen to her!”
But my reassurances came too late. He’d been swallowed up
by the Christmas crowd, too. Several more people left the line after the
rumbling about no more copies made it to them.
A store employee headed over to us. “Folks, we have about
500 copies of Zelda left in stock.
Don’t leave the line.”
“But that girl said there were no more games!” A woman
said, shooting me a nasty glare.
I lifted my hands in surrender. “I never said a word. It
was her—“ I pointed at Ellery but she was long gone.
“She said it to cut the line!”
“But I’ve been waiting in this line forever! And I wasn’t
the one who said it!” I protested, but no one heard me.
“She hates Christmas.” The voice in the Santa line belonged
to the mother of the same little boy who also hated Christmas.
The entire assembly of people in both lines gasped in
unison at that. People stared and glared. One guy even snapped a picture.
Apparently, I was on my way to realizing my lifelong dream of becoming an
Crystal tossed Mom’s beverage into the trash bin nearby and
clutched my arm. “Come on, Elle. We’re outta here.”
“Crystal, you heard what happened! I never cut the line and
I never said that.”
“I know, but the crowd looked like they were ready to start
roasting you over an open fire so…”
she trailed off. We’d reached the exit but Mom wasn’t here yet. “Elle, listen
to me. I saw the texts and I know what you’re thinking but please don’t have a
fit. Your birthday trip hasn’t been cancelled. Your mom just wants Nick’s
roommate to feel welcome. That’s all.”
“Okay. Yeah. You’re right,” I managed a tight grin. Mom
hadn’t said anything about skipping the museum event.
But she had said something about registering him. Those words sent a shiver down my spine. I’d
actually prefer being slow-roasted to that.
I shut my eyes and sent up a tiny prayer. Please
God, just one year. Just this year. Please.
Every year, our town holds a Holiday Spirit Contest,
which was an Olympics of sorts. The contest had various competitions that
families could enter from best decor to best greeting card. The family with
the most points in all the competitions wins the award. My parents were
absolutely fanatical about this
contest. In fact, I was pretty sure that’s why they even had Pax and Holly so
many years after Nick and me. Two kids with Christmas names was cute, but four?
Now that was a commitment.
Once the Christmas twinkle appeared in my mother’s eye,
nothing else mattered, a fact made painfully aware to me every year since the
town began this award. Last year, poor Holly caught a stomach bug and Mom left
me alone with her, holding a barf bucket, so she could still make one of the
“Here she comes. Remember, stay calm.”
I nodded again. Mom jogged up to us, grabbed her jacket
from me, and fished out her car keys.
“Mom, just go without us. Crystal and I can get ourselves
home. We’ll head to the boutique—“
“No, no, I’ll need your help, Noelle. Nick said Quintin,
his roommate, has never had a nice family Christmas, can you believe that?” She
barreled over me. “I already contacted the awards people and they said it’s not
too late to register him as a member of our team—“
My stomach plummeted to my feet and my heart cracked. “You
promised me. You promised we’d skip the awards this year—“
“Elle,” Crystal warned.
“I never said we’d skip the competition, Noelle.” Mom
quickly zipped up her jacket and slide her phone into a pocket. “I said we’d
spend Christmas Day in the city, like you wanted.”
“You mean, my birthday.”
She waved a hand. “That’s what I said.”
Oh my God, could she be any more clueless? Temper surged
deep inside me. “Mom, can you just drop us off across the street so all our
time isn’t completely wasted?”
For the first time since she left us on the game store
line, Mom remembered Crystal.
“Oh, Crystal, I’m sorry. Of course, I’ll drop you off, if
you’re sure you can get home on your own?”
“Um, well, I guess I can call an Uber or…something so I
don’t have to walk all the way home in the dark…”
Mom totally ignored the panic in Crystal’s voice but I
“Noelle, enough. I need your help and that’s the end of it.
Crystal’s a big girl and can buy an outfit without help, right?”
“Um. Actually,” Crystal began, her eyes darting from Mom to
me and back again. “I really need to do this today, Mrs. Garland. My family has
plans that we made around Noelle’s birthday. This is the only time I have to
find that outfit. Please, Mrs. Garland. It shouldn’t take us more than half an
My jaw dropped. Crystal Yuet, who stood hardly even five
feet tall, had just challenged Erica Garland. I turned to Mom, who was biting
her lip and frowning and checking her phone.
“Okay. Fine. Half an hour.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Garland. Thank you!” Crystal hugged Mom
and turned to me with a huge grin on her face. I knew I should be grateful for
my best friend’s Hail Mary play but the only thing I could feel at the moment
was keen disappointment.
The Garland family Christmas would once again take
precedence over my birthday.
Chapter 2: Quintin
Words—a lifetime of them—got clogged behind my tongue while my
father, Bradford Charles Grant II, finished issuing his latest decree.
“The car will come for you one hour after your final class
ends. You’ll be packed, of course, and ready to leave.”
No way. “A-a-an hour? But—”
“You’ll fly commercial—we needed the jet here, couldn’t be
helped, but don’t worry, your ticket will be first class so you can sleep over
“Atlantic? Wait. I thought we were—”
“As soon as you arrive, we’re expected at the castle, so be
sure to wear your crested blazer and—Quintin Bradford Grant, will you stop
making that face?”
My face? My face? Was it still attached to my body? All I
felt was a tingling numbness while my father plotted out my entire mid-semester
break, just as he’d been plotting out my life since the moment of my birth
eighteen years earlier. I’d been perilously close to being named Bradford
Charles Grant III, but luckily Mom put an end to that and named me Quintin
Bradford Grant instead. It’s cool. Everybody at school calls me Quintin or QBG.
I permitted myself a virtual victory lap for that. I
doubted sincerely if I’d have found cool friends at Yale, which is why I took
great pains to self-sabotage any shot I had of acceptance there. That was how I
found myself at Quinnipiac University, my major still undeclared despite have
one entire semester under my belt, much to Bradford Charles Grant’s
One fights with the skills and tools they have and winning
a battle with my father through calm discussion has never been in my arsenal.
I adjusted the screen on my laptop and pulled in a deep
breath. My eye twitched—one of the signs of stress all my therapists had agreed
I must acknowledge to avoid back-sliding into stuttering, the embarrassing
affliction that had plagued my early years and practically convinced dear old
Dad that he’d been sent home with the wrong newborn.
Grants had no afflictions. At least none publicly visible.
Mustn’t have that,
agreed? My mother had said, like
stuttering needed nothing more to overcome it than some tenacity, maybe a
vitamin or two, and a few well-placed bribes.
“Quintin? Are you listening to me?”
Quoth the raven,
I gasped when I heard the word leave my mouth, in my voice,
though I hadn’t consciously meant to speak.
My father’s tone—along with his expression—went from polite
disinterest to foreboding. Thick eyebrows sucked together, lips turned down—it
was an expression that had sent underlings tripping over themselves to fix and
one, I was forced to admit, that had often sent me scurrying away, too. But I was eighteen now. A legal adult. Free
to do as I wished.
And I wished not
to set one foot in England, Scotland, Monaco, or wherever it was that held this
castle my parents planned to visit.
“I can’t. I can’t come, Dad. I have a… I have a project
due.” Yes, yes, a project. He’d believe that. “I’ll be working on it over the
My eye began to twitch again and I blinked and twisted my
lips into the faux sorry-not-sorry
smile everyone in my family’s social circle learned to perfect before we
finished primary school. I was sure my father wouldn’t notice the lie.
“Over the holiday break?”
The note of disbelief in my father’s voice was heavy enough
to cause beads of sweat to pop out on my neck but I remained confident my
father couldn’t see them via FaceTime.
“Quintin, I don’t think you realize how important this
meeting is with the Haversham Corporation. Jonathan Haversham expects you to
entertain Bronwyn while you’re here.”
I managed to hide a shudder.
Bronwyn Haversham. At eighteen, she’d already had body
parts fixed, spoke with a haughty
accent with her sculpted nose in the air, and thought it was great fun to sneak
cigarettes and alcohol and me into
her suite. While she was outwardly attractive enough, I always had the sense
she was measuring me for something… ball and chain, maybe? A directorship in
her father’s empire? We had absolutely nothing in common and after several
meetings with her, I began to hate
her for not being interesting. My parents had raised me—well, my parents had
hired the staff who’d raised me—to treat women with respect. I wanted to like somebody before I—well.
There was the shudder. I could not suppress it this time.
“Are you ill?”
I rolled my shoulders and waggled my head from side to
side. “I’m not sure yet. I may be coming down with a cold. I’ve had a sore
“I see. And this…project. When do you expect to complete
I patted my desk searching for something, anything—ah. My
hand curled around the notebook I used for assignments. “We’re expected to use
this time for research on our topics, hand in an outline for the project, and
then spend next semester completing the work.”
The lie expanded, its cells splitting like some blastocyst
into a new life. Is this how God felt, conjuring up Creation in six days?
“And your topic is?”
Crap, crap, shit.
Okay, so not God. Dr. Frankenstein, I presume?
I needed more material for this lie. I opened my mouth,
felt my throat grow tight and my tongue thicken. I tried to form words, push
them through the blockade, but I couldn’t manage a croak.
“Christmas traditions of typical American families.”
I whipped around just as a hand landed on my shoulder.
“Hey, Mr. Grant.”
My father narrowed his eyes and assessed the person beside
me…starting with the hand on my shoulder.
“Ah. Nicholas, is it?”
“Yes, sir. Nicholas Garland.”
“And you’re working on this…this project with Quintin?”
“Yes, sir. We’re partners. Q’s coming home with me for the
break, sir. My parents are Christmas tradition experts.”
One of Dad’s dark eyebrows lifted. “Experts?” He echoed.
And then his eyes bulged. “Partners?
Quintin, are you, is he —”
While Dad sputtered, words were still a level or two up for
me, an achievement I couldn’t seem to unlock.
“Gay, sir?” Nicholas, my roommate, helpfully supplied. “No,
we’re not. He’s not. I’m not. It would be completely cool if either of us
were…but we’re not. When we got this assignment, I told Q about—”
“Q? Who is Q?”
“Quintin, sir. We call him QBG, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg is
RBG? Sometimes, we just call him Q. Anyway, my parents have this contest—”
“His name is Quintin. But you call him Q.”
“For short. Yes, sir.”
I could practically feel the heat from the flush crawling
over my father’s face, even though we were an ocean apart. I tugged at my
collar, cleared my throat, and shot Nick a look as he scraped his desk chair
over beside mine. Despite the generous donation my father had given the
university, I had nevertheless been assigned a double room where I met Nicholas
Garland, a tall skinny guy with floppy dark hair and a boisterous laugh.
Dad would say it—that he—was
I thought he was chill. We’re good buds now.
Took us a few days to figure each other out. When Nick
asked me something and I’d managed no more than a grunt in reply, he snatched
the phone out of my hand, programmed in his own number, and shot me a text from
his bed, which was all of three feet from mine.
You don’t like to
talk. So let’s try this, K?
No one in my entire life including my parents had ever been
that cool about what I wanted. And just like that, we’d become friends.
I didn’t have many of those. Oh, I had dozens of people who
wanted to befriend me, but that’s only because I was Quintin Bradford Grant,
son of Bradford Grant II, one of the wealthiest CEOs on the planet. Dad didn’t
run Amazon or Tesla or anything glamorous like that.
He ran an international container shipping company that
sailed those enormous cargo ships across the ocean. I was his only child and
so, was expected to take up the reins at the BG Group when I finished school.
“Does calling him Q actually save time rather than calling
him Quintin?” Dad asked and when Nick opened his mouth to reply, his hand shot
up. “Never mind. Quintin. This project of yours inconveniences me
significantly. I’ll make your excuses to Bronwyn but you’ll need to smooth
things over. Perhaps send a token of your affection?”
And what would that be, I wondered. An empty jar?
A box of cotton?
A shipping container full of silicone?
The mind boggled.
“I’d better have Kristen handle it,” Dad said.
And I’d better text Dad’s assistant myself, make sure she
did NOT send red roses.
My father checked his phone. “We’ll talk next week.”
The screen went dark. That was Bradford Grant. Never wasted
“Q, what the hell, bro? I figured you were exaggerating but
that dude is cold, man.”
Yeah. Yeah, he was. I looked away. Nick and I may have been
friends, but I wasn’t a talk-about-my-feelings kind of guy. Hell, I was a
could-hardly-talk-at-all guy. Yet, I had in fact shared a few details about my
parents with him—mainly, to make their excuses for never visiting me.
“So…what are you really planning to do over the break?”
I shrugged and cleared my throat. “Hang around here, I
“That is like, ridiculously sad.”
I laughed. Yeah, I supposed it was.
“Come home with me. For real.”
I lifted my eyes to his. He was entirely serious.
“Come home? To Long Island, you mean? No, I couldn’t
“Don’t worry about that.” He waved a hand. “My parents
really are freaks for Christmas—I wasn’t making that part up—and if they heard
you were planning to sit here all alone over the break, they’d kill me. You
know, good will toward men, and all that?”
“Nick, I appreciate it, really. But I’ll be fine. I like
Nick’s forehead creased and he tilted his head. “One of my
sisters says that all the time. I don’t get it. How does anybody actually like being alone?”
Easy, I thought. Alone
is the only time I can stop pretending.
Time for a subject change. “How many siblings do you have
again?” He’d told me this more than once, but I knew Nick couldn’t resist a
chance to tell me about his big, noisy, wacky family.
“Two sisters and one brother, all younger,” he said with a
roll of his eyes.
I’d wished for siblings. Used to beg my parents to have
another baby when I was younger. When they looked at me like I’d suggested they
divest their blue chip stocks, I knew, even at age five, I’d be alone.
So I got used to it.
And now, I preferred it.
But…Nick’s invitation intrigued me. What was it like?
Living in a normal house without staff, with siblings, celebrating Christmas at
home instead of in some hotel?
There’d be tree-trimming, cookie-baking, and probably
caroling. I’d never done those things. They’d all been hired out.
“…and of course, hanging up the stockings, which my sister,
Holly, goes crazy for. No one really knows why.”
I blinked and nodded like I’d been paying attention.
“Then there’s Pax. He’s a year older than Holly, but really
chill. You’ll like him. He won’t talk your ears off your head. Then again,
neither will Noelle, but—” He broke off, made a face. “Better shut up now or
you won’t come.”
I indicated the pictures he had tacked up over his desk?
“Tell me who’s who again.”
He scooted his chair back to his side of the dorm room and
took a family picture off the wall. “That’s me holding Holly. That’s Noelle,
and Pax. My dad’s Kevin and my mom is Erica.
I studied the image. Nick, Noelle, Holly and Pax—my head
shot up. “You each have a Christmas name?” How had I never noticed that before?
Nick squirmed and then he shrugged. “I told you. My parents
are cuckoo for Christmas. Noelle’s the only one of us with the Christmas birthday,
though. December 25th.
She’ll be eighteen this year. My parents had kids in batches. Me and Noelle
back to back and then they caught their breath for a while before having Pax
and Holly.” He laughed.
I went back to studying the photograph. Everybody smiled
but no one looked forced into it. Holly had a handful of Nick’s hair and Noelle
had both arms wrapped around Pax in a squeeze just a bit too tight, judging by
the grimace that hid just beneath Pax’s grin.
A real family, the kind they produced sitcoms about.
“Well,” I said, stalling for time. If I went with Nick, I’d
escape all those Bronwyn duties, I’d avoid the jet lag from traveling, and I’d
have more time to come up with a gift for my parents that they didn’t already
have and actually appreciated. “Sounds like fun.”
It sounded like heaven and I couldn’t wait.