Author to Author presents a special Sneak Peek for N.K. Smith’s new novel: Are You Mine? Set to release August 7!
Fox and I sit in awkward silence as Myka leaves.“So,” he starts. “She’s cool, huh?”“Yeah. She’s. . .Myka,” I finish when I can’t think of a complete enough word to describe her.“I didn’t mean to, like, crash your day or anything. She’s sort of forceful.”This makes me laugh because it’s the truth. “Yeah, she is.”“Did you have plans or anything?”Obviously this dude doesn’t know me. Plans beyond watching TV? Yeah, right. “Um, nothing important.”Again, the conversation stalls, and we sit in silence. The ticking of the grandfather clock he pointed out earlier sounds as loud as a steam engine chugging down the line. That seems like a great beginning. “So, this graphic novel we’re apparently now writing, can you draw machines and not just humanoids?”His eyes sparkle. “Yeah. I don’t have anything with me, but I went through an industrial phase in ninth grade.”“Which one?” I bite the inside of my cheek hard when it comes out of my mouth.“Which one what?”“Never mind.”Fox widens his eyes a bit. “No, which one what?”I let out a breath and prepare for an altercation. I doubt he’ll let it drop, so I answer, “Which ninth grade.”I hope that he’s too stupid to understand my meaning because I didn’t really mean to ask that question, but I can see in his eyes and in the way the constant grin gets smaller that he gets it fast.To my surprise, Fox’s voice is calm and even when he speaks. “Yeah, so about that. Just so you know, it didn’t take six years for me to graduate. Only five. I was held back in ninth grade, but before that I retook third grade. And if you’re going to keep bringing that up, you should just tell your friend we’re not going to work together.”I open my mouth but then close it again when I find nothing to say right away. Thinking about Myka and her instructions to be nice, I try to find a way out of the hole I’ve dug with this guy. I hate arguments even though I find myself instigating them regularly.In the end, I figure a simple apology will be good enough, so I say, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”“Maybe not today, but you meant it on Saturday. You don’t know me, and you shouldn’t assume I’m stupid because my academic record isn’t perfect.”Is he joking? Not perfect? Please, he repeated two grades, and I bet he didn’t even take the SATs. “Sorry. I don’t think you’re stupid.”I can tell by his expression that he doesn’t believe me, but I don’t know how to change that since I do sort of think his intelligence isn’t as high as mine. I’m sorry, but he can’t be that smart if he just graduated at age twenty.He wants to say something else, but he’s holding back. I can’t meet his eyes. This is now beyond awkward. Why can’t I keep my mouth closed sometimes?Finally after what seems like hours, he asks, “What’s white and black and white and black and white and black?” He only waits for me to look up before he answers himself. “A penguin rolling down a hill.”I shake my head at the stupid joke but allow the corner of my mouth to rise in a smile.Fox pulls out a pad of drawing paper and says, “So I can draw and you can write. We should be able to come up with something for Myka. How do you think the story should start?”“With an old-timey train pulling into a wild west station where ladies and gentlemen stand waiting in their Victorian style clothing.”He’s smiling at me again, but I don’t know why. He moves his hand over the page. It’s fascinating to see how the white paper starts to fill up with gray strokes, then suddenly, there’s a train where once there was nothing.“I don’t know what Victorian clothes look like,” he admits when he flips to another blank page.As I grab my laptop, I start to wonder again about his intentions. He barely knows Myka. I know he’s supposed to be an ultra-friendly guy or whatever, but people don’t do stuff for nothing. What’s he getting out of this? I’m not anyone’s first choice on who to spend their summer with.“What’s in this for you?” I ask as the images of Victorian fashion load.“What do you mean?”“Why are you doing this?”He stops drawing and trains his warm eyes on me. “Because Myka asked.”I could study him for hours, but somehow I know that superficial answer is the truth for him. She asked, he agreed.My breath hitches for some reason when he moves to sit on the arm of my chair to see the images on the computer. Are boys supposed to smell this good?I don’t understand it, but now that he’s sitting so close to me, there’s a flutter in my body that can’t be controlled.And there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to control it.