Chapter Reveal: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio + Giveaway (US/Canada)
None of the Above
by I.W. Gregorio
Release Date: April 7, 2015
About the Book
When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”
Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s world completely unravels. With everything she thought she knew thrown into question, can she come to terms with her new self?
Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
Are you ready to start reading?!
Dawn is my favorite time of day. There’s something sacred about being awake when the rest of the world is sleeping, when the sky is just turning toward the light, and you can still hear the sounds of night before the engines and conversations of the day drown them out. When I start out on an early-morning run, there’s a clarity to the world, a sense that it belongs to me.
The morning before Homecoming, I met Sam at the bottom of my driveway as usual. He had started to warm up, his breath coming out in puffs visible in the chilly late autumn air. He looked serious, almost solemn as he stretched, but when he saw me his face lit up and he leaned in for a kiss. For a moment everything felt perfectly still.
Then we were off. Over hundreds of runs, Sam and I had established a rhythm, a pace that we no longer had to think about, as if we were running to the same internal song. Sam pulled back his stride a little to match mine, and I stretched out just a bit to match his. On some days, it even seemed like we even breathed in sync.
We didn’t talk much at first, not until we got to our one-mile mark—the entrance to Gordon Park. Normally, Sam’s as much of a stickler about routine as I am. So it surprised me when he kept on the paved trail instead of running through the uneven paths in the woods.
“Last thing you need is to bust your ankle, too.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. It had been a week since my best friend Vee’s injury, and every day I had to talk her off the ledge. She was convinced that her Homecoming was ruined. Plus, her mom had been telling all her friends that Vee was a shoo-in for Queen, so now she was worried about losing face. “I told her she’ll still get enough votes, but she doesn’t believe me.”
“More drama that way.”
“That’s why we love her, right? Never a dull moment.”
“Something like that.” Sam had never been Vee’s biggest fan, but he tolerated her because he knew we were like sisters. “One way or another, it’ll all be settled tonight. We’re meeting at six, right?”
“Five thirty,” I corrected him. “Faith wants to get pictures of us in our dresses and tuxes while the sun is still up.”
“S***!” Sam exclaimed.
I nearly tripped over a crack in the road. “Oh my God, what?”
He looked over at me, hands held over his mouth in horror. “I was supposed to get a tux?”
I almost choked on my laughter and lunged to my right to side-check him. We ran pressed up against each other for a few seconds before settling back into our run, grins on our faces. Over the months that we’d been dating, there wasn’t much Sam and I hadn’t shared. We’d debated the merits of State versus the Big U ad nauseam, and we knew each other’s workout playlists by heart. He knew about my family’s dogged obsession with the New York Rangers, and had come with me the last time we’d made our annual visit to my mother’s grave. But sometimes I felt closest to him when we weren’t saying anything, when we were both just concentrating on the soft percussion of our footsteps, the rhythm of our breathing, and the road in front of us.
By the time we got to my neighborhood and could see the oak tree that we’d measured to be fifty yards from my house, my legs felt like molten lead and my lungs were screaming.
Time to run faster.
When we passed the oak tree, Sam and I didn’t even look at each other. As if a starter gun had gone off in our heads, we accelerated into a sprint. My body became a blur of straining muscles, and for the umpteenth time, I repeated my team’s mantra: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
Nine times out of ten, Sam beat me to my house, but that morning one of my neighbors’ kids had left their bike standing in the middle of the sidewalk. While Sam swerved to avoid it, breaking his stride, I sized the bike up and hurdled instinctively. Takeoff. Transition. Touchdown. Coach Auerbach would’ve been proud.
I slapped my mailbox two seconds before Sam caught up to me, and shimmied a victory dance in my driveway. Sam dropped his hands to his thighs and bent over, wincing.
“Nice finish,” he panted.
“You could’ve won if you’d just jumped the bike,” I said as we jogged a cooldown lap around my block.
“Maybe. Or I could’ve wiped out.” Sam looked over at me and grinned. “I don’t have your form.”
The wind had picked up, and now that we weren’t running I had started to feel the cold, but Sam’s praise warmed me down to my toes. I grabbed at his T-shirt and pulled him into a kiss, my heart still pounding, my skin flushed from the adrenaline.
We had stopped running, but the rest of the world was just getting started. A car door slammed. My neighbor’s cocker spaniel barked. A boy on a bike sped past us, yelling, “Get a room!”
“Get a life,” Sam shouted back.
Reluctantly, I pulled away, the salty taste of his kiss lingering on my lips, but before I could head back to my house Sam bent over to whisper in my ear.
“To be continued.”
I shivered with anticipation.
Ten hours later, I stood in front of the full-length mirror in Vee’s room, thinking that I’d rather be running.
“Krissy, you know I love you. But did you have to wear sleeves?” Vee asked as we got ready for the dance, her voice a tug-of-war between admiration and horror.
As Faith zipped me up, I checked to make sure the seams I’d tailored weren’t noticeable. The dress had been my mom’s, and it didn’t have real sleeves, just wide triangular straps to hopefully de-emphasize my javelin shoulders.
“What’s the matter with sleeves?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure everyone else is going strapless,” Faith said sympathetically. Her own dress had a sweetheart neckline that perfectly showed off the jade necklace her grandmother had given her for her sixteenth birthday.
“Even the people who shouldn’t are doing it,” Vee added. “It’s, like, a Homecoming law.”
When she saw me lifting up my arms and twisting down to peek at my underarms, she relented. “Come on, are you seriously worrying? You look good in everything.”
I glanced up at the edge in her voice, and caught her running her finger against the rough fiberglass of her ankle cast, which Vee had had specially tinted to match her skin.
“I can’t wait to see you in your dress,” I said, changing the subject.
“Let me go get it,” said Faith, going over to Vee’s closet, where the four-hundred-dollar ankle-length dress she’d rush-ordered the day after her accident hung like some holy relic. Vee tossed her dirty-blond hair like a horse swatting off a fly. Just like that, the moody snarkmistress was gone, replaced by the girl who had set me up on a double date with Sam after I told her how cute I thought he was. The girl who held my hair back and gave me a Sani wipe when I threw up my first tequila shot. The girl who helped me sort out my mother’s clothes the day my dad left them on the front curb because he couldn’t deal with having them in the house anymore.
Faith and I helped her slip her dress on, and the three of us stood in front of the mirror. We’d literally been friends since we’d been born, when our mothers bonded in a postnatal yoga class. In grade school, my mom would comment on how well Vee and Faith complemented each other as friends. “Sweet and spicy,” she said. “They balance each other out.” Even then, Vee had an edge, while Faith was the sugar.
“But what am I?” I asked.
“You, my Krissy?” my mom said. “You’re the steady.”
I didn’t think that was too exciting, but my mom just smiled, stroked my hair, and said, “It may not sound exotic, but it’s the best thing to be.”
I smoothed down Vee’s dress. “See?” I said. “You can’t even see your cast.”
Vee leaned against me and turned to her side, cocking her head. “Still wish I’d listened to Ms. Green when she said we should have people vote the week before the dance.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s in the bag.”
As Faith and I helped Vee down the stairs, the camera flashes went off like fireworks. My dad was waiting at the bottom of the steps with Faith’s parents and Vee’s mom, his eyes bright with tears.
“God, you’re an angel,” he said, “just like her.” He pressed me into his shoulder and I closed my eyes, fighting off embarrassment but finding myself tearing up anyway. Even though he wasn’t wearing his warehouse uniform, he smelled faintly of metal and wet cardboard, which isn’t exactly perfume but always smelled like home to me.
Faith’s mom asked me to take a picture of them. They were almost exactly the same height, and could’ve been sisters with their identical dimpled smiles and straight jet-black hair. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Vee’s mom inspecting her dress, moving layers of the skirt around while Vee stood stiff as a mannequin, her hand gripping the banister for support.
“Your father’s sorry he couldn’t be here,” her mom said, “but you know how busy things are this time of the year. We bought you this to match your dress.” She handed over a blue satin purse studded with pearls and crystals, and lowered her voice. “I made sure to put in some protection. Wouldn’t want you to be pregnant for prom.”
“Mom!” Vee hissed.
I stifled my grin. Obviously, Vee’s mom didn’t know that she’d gotten the birth control shot earlier that month. Vee had convinced me to get one, too.
“But I haven’t gotten my period in years,” I’d protested, which was a lie, because even before I’d started hard-core training when I was thirteen, I’d never gotten my period. Ever.
The three limos pulled up with the boys. Even though I thought it was totally over the top, Vee had insisted that we get separate cars. When I asked her why, she’d just raised her eyebrows at me until I blushed. The limos lined up along the Richardsons’ driveway in a row of gleaming black, and a morbid part of me couldn’t help thinking that it looked like a funeral procession.
I got one more tight hug from my dad, who whispered in my ear, “Have fun, and be safe,” which was the most disorienting thing that happened to me all night, if it meant what I thought it meant. My dad never really talked to me about Sam—he left that stuff to Aunt Carla, for better or worse. In fact, one of the reasons I’d never let Sam get past third base was my terror at the thought of my dad ever finding out.
But did he accept it? Maybe even expect it?
It was hard to get the thought off my mind in the limo while making out with Sam, who’d already had half of a Sprite bottle filled with champagne. He looked like a different person in his tux. Distinguished, almost. He’d put some gel in his light-brown hair, and I caught the whiff of a new cologne.
“You look killer in this dress,” he said, one hand trailing down my arm and making my skin tingle.
“Better than a tank top and a sports bra, huh?” I took a sip of champagne and leaned into him again, running my hands beneath his tux until I could feel the muscles underneath his dress shirt.
His fingers moved up my thigh, warm and strong. Before, I’d always put on the brakes at this point. But that night, I pushed closer into him and he reached beneath my underwear.
Abruptly, his hand stopped. “Holy s***, did you go to Brazil?”
“Yeah,” I lied. It had bothered me for years that I’d never grown hair down there, but when my teammates noticed it I’d always just pretended that I’d gotten waxed.
Sam grinned his GQ grin, and leaned in for another kiss.
When we got to the dance, I spent a minute straightening out my hair and dress. Just as I was about to get out of the car, Sam reached out to stop me.
“Wait—I forgot your flowers.” He fumbled in a side compartment and brought out a green orchid wrist corsage. “I thought it matched your eyes.” The shyness in his voice made me feel strangely protective.
“And one more thing . . .” He pulled a little velvet bag from his pocket and handed it to me. “Madison helped me pick it out.”
I smiled. Some people would find it funny imagining a three-sport athlete asking his twelve-year-old sister for gift advice. Then again, most people didn’t know that the twelve-year-old in question had her big brother wrapped around her little finger. I gasped as the contents of the bag sparkle-slid into my hand: a ring, two hands clasping a crowned heart studded with emeralds.
“Sam. It’s gorgeous.”
“You sure you like it? It’s called a claddagh ring or something.”
“I love it.” I gave him a kiss to prove it.
They’d decorated the entrance to the American Legion with white Christmas lights and votive candles, and I felt truly aglow as I walked in to the strains of Harry Connick Jr. crooning about love being here to stay.
Inside, we set up at a cocktail table strewn with rose petals and found a chair for Vee. Before long, she was holding court. I couldn’t keep track of everyone who kept clustering around our table—members of the Events Committee, class officers, and random underclassmen looking to get brownie points. I caught sight of one of my track teammates and peeled off to say hello, then slipped over to the finger-food table. Reaching for the cheese spread, my arm bumped against someone’s elbow, sending a pile of wheat crackers flying.
“Sorry!” someone said, as he fell to the floor to pick up the broken crackers. I wasn’t sure if I could lean over in my dress, but I managed to bend my knees and get down low enough to pick up a few crumbs with a cocktail napkin. Our fingers touched, and when I looked up to see who it was, I grinned.
“Hey, Darren!” I said when we stood up again. I looked up at him—he was one of the tallest guys in our class, but barely filled out his rented tux.
Darren Kowalski’s face flushed when he recognized me, and he ran his hands sheepishly through his brown mop of hair. “What’s up?”
I pointed at his plateful of cheese. “I hope that’s not your dinner. Your mom would have a heart attack. Is she still trying to feed you alfalfa-hummus sandwiches?”
Darren’s mom and my dad had dated when we were in seventh grade, about a year after my mom died. I was sort of sad when it didn’t work out, because Darren’s mom was an amazing cook who ran a healthy-eating catering business. We hadn’t really kept in touch for the past few years, what with the awkwardness of our parents being broken up, but he was a distance runner, so I usually saw him a bit more during track season.
“Nah, Mom moved on to quinoa earlier this year,” Darren said.
“Exactly. Like anyone in Utica gives a crap about how much protein is in their grain if they don’t know how to pronounce it.” He flicked his head to get his hair out of his eyes, and scuffed the hardwood floor with his shoe.
“I like your tux,” I offered. “It’s sharp.”
Darren shrugged. “I feel like a stuffed penguin. But you look awesome. I totally voted for you.”
For Homecoming Court. “Aww, thanks.” Vee had been saying that Faith and I would get Duchess spots, at least. I had to admit, it’d be nice to be up there with my friends. “Who are you here with?” I asked.
“Jessica Riley’s sister, Becky.”
Jessica had helped out with the HPV-vaccine campaign I’d organized last year. She was into drama and was a glee club star. But before I could ask about her, a hand snaked across my shoulder.
“Hello, lovely lady,” Sam murmured. He grabbed my hand, pretending to smell my corsage, and kissed it. I mouthed a silent good-bye to Darren as Sam pulled me away.
“Everyone was wondering where you were,” he said. I could barely hear him above the music. He dragged me onto the dance floor to join Faith and her boyfriend, Matt. Vee sat things out, of course, listening to a sophomore chatter on about something or other while her boyfriend, Bruce, stared into the crowd. After a while the DJ switched it up with some Madonna, and a flood of my track teammates pulled me over to do the Vogue with them. Then the strobe lights went off, the disco ball started turning, and they played a slow dance—a cover of that Beatles song “In My Life.” Bruce actually carried Vee out to the dance floor without her crutches, and they swayed together. Sam and I found a spot on the dance floor next to them. I laid my cheek on the smooth satin of his lapel, feeling the beat of his heart.
I pressed close against him and his hands started inching downward. “Later,” I said, feeling eyes on us. But I kissed him to let him know it was a promise, not a brush-off. If tonight wasn’t going to be the night—one week after my eighteenth birthday, with a limo to ourselves and no curfew—when was?
Before I knew it, the music stopped and Principal McCafferty got up behind a microphone to announce the Homecoming Court. Faith and I brought Sam and Matt over to where Vee was sitting again, and we each took one of her hands. Her back was ramrod straight as she watched Principal McCafferty.
“The two Duchesses of the Court are Faith Wu and Jessica Riley.”
I whooped and gave Faith a huge hug, surprised to find that I was just the slightest bit disappointed. Princess usually went to a junior—that’s what Vee had been last year. So I didn’t make Court. I almost wished that people hadn’t mentioned voting for me, because as Aunt Carla always said, low expectations were the key to a happy life.
But I didn’t have much time to think about it all, because suddenly Principal McCafferty announced the Dukes. And one of them was Bruce.
Vee’s hand squeezed mine in a death grip as Bruce went up to collect his sash. I looked over at her in the disco-ball light, and saw her face freeze. “It’s okay,” I whispered. “King and Queen aren’t always a couple.” Even though Bruce was QB1, most people thought he was kind of a jerk. I never quite understood what Vee saw in him.
As expected, Prince and Princess were both juniors. As they went up to be crowned, they seemed so happy I felt a little catch in my throat. I leaned into Sam, who pressed a kiss into the top of my head.
“You’re up next,” I whispered to Vee, and the side of her mouth went up a fraction of an inch. I noticed a tiny little bit of her hairdo coming out, and I reached up to tuck a strand back into place. So I actually felt her freeze when Principal McCafferty announced in a delighted, booming, voice:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to announce your Homecoming King and Queen: Mr. Samuel Wilmington and Ms. Kristin Lattimer!”
My first thought was: Did she read her index card wrong?
But then my track teammates all went crazy, yelling, “Go, Krissy! Go, Krissy!” As Sam pulled me up to the stage, I looked out at the sea of smiling and cheering people, and felt awesome and like I wanted to puke all at once, kind of like the high I get at the end of a race when I know I’ve won my heat and I’m still flying inside.
Then there was a special song for the Court only, and as I watched Bruce dance stiffly with a bemused Jessica Riley, I glanced back to our table, where Vee sat wearing a stuck-on smile that was sadder than any tears.
“Do you think they only elected me because Vee broke her leg?” I mumbled into Sam’s neck as we danced.
“No way. They voted for you because you’re awesome. And you actually act like other people exist when you’re walking down the hallway. Why are you friends with her again?”
“Sam!” I gave him a little elbow. In some ways, Sam couldn’t really understand. He hadn’t moved to our school district until high school, and never saw the way people walked on eggshells around me after my mom’s diagnosis. Vee and Faith had been the only ones who made me feel normal. “This isn’t right. I should abdicate.” The initial high was fading, and I was starting to feel the wrongness of the moment, like the little aches and pains that settle in after a race is finished.
“What, you think she’s going to feel better about it if you give her that tiara out of pity?”
He was right. When Faith came over after the Royal Dance, I burrowed my face into her neck, not wanting to come up for air. “We’d better go see Vee.”
As we made a beeline back to our table, I lagged behind, not sure what to say. Faith, however, was the sympathy queen. “Oh, Vee. It’s so unfair. Why couldn’t they just have had the vote last week?”
Vee’s stuck-on smile was back, or maybe it had never left. “Don’t make such a big deal,” she said. “I mean, it’s not like it’s prom or anything.”
“You should be wearing this tiara, not me,” I said.
“Don’t be silly.” She laughed, and it sounded canned. “I’m just happy for you. It’s not like you get to dress up very often.”
Bruce came over with a sour look on his face. He yanked his sash over his head and left it in a crumple on the table. “All right, we got that crap done with. When can we go get the real party started?” Our school had set up a dry post-Homecoming bash in the gym, but the real fun would happen at Andy Sullivan’s house. Rumor had it he’d gotten four kegs and the keys to his parents’ liquor stash.
The rest of the dance was a blur of congratulations and sweaty dance numbers. When Sam and I stepped out just before midnight, the cool night air felt like heaven. Sam flipped his phone to find Andy Sullivan’s address, but I put my hand on his arm. I didn’t want to face Vee. Or the people who had voted for me. “Can we wait to go to the party?”
I didn’t have to ask him twice.
We had another glass of champagne in the limo, and then Sam convinced the driver to park at the golf course.
“Alone at last,” he said, when the privacy window went up. A few seconds later, the door slammed and we heard the driver outside, talking on his cell phone.
“I wonder if he does this a lot,” I said, momentarily self-conscious.
“What?” Sam murmured, and then his lips brushed against my ear and the world contracted.
“Never mind,” I whispered.
Sam nuzzled my neck and his boutonniere brushed up against my nose. I took in a deep breath to smell the rose, but it was the kind bred for looks and shelf life, and all I got was a mix of booze and aftershave.
Sam fumbled with the zipper on my dress, only getting it halfway down before it stuck. He pushed his hands up the bottom instead, and I had a burst of anxiety that he would rip my mom’s dress.
“Careful,” I said. My hands shook as I helped him.
“You’re cold,” he said, draping his suit coat over my shoulders.
I let the coat drop to the floor and leaned into his chest, sighing at his warmth. “No,” I said. “Not anymore.” The memory of Vee and her mannequin’s smile faded as I felt Sam’s chest rise and fall.
The first time Sam and I ever spoke, I looked like I’d just gotten in a fight with an alley cat. It was sophomore year, and I was on a high after winning my first race ever. My teammates had celebrated by dumping blue Powerade over me, and I hadn’t even had time to dry off completely before I ran my second race, where I clipped a hurdle and ended up crashing into the infield. But there’s no crying in track, so I brushed myself off and went with my friends to watch the men’s 4x100 relay with bruised, bloody knees.
There was this new boy running anchor, a guy with a stride so effortless it looked like silk. After he broke the tape—of course he came in first—a couple of my teammates went to scope him out and get the story. Was he a transfer? I hung back, watching him as he brushed his sweaty hair out of summer-blue eyes, and when my friends finished congratulating him he looked up and gave me a smile that made me shiver even as I felt a blush creep over my cheeks.
“Nice job,” I said shyly. I might have given a little wave, or something.
“You, too,” he said, holding out his hand. “You’re Kristin, right? Hundred-meter hurdles? I’m Sam.”
I was too stunned that he knew who I was to answer. But I reached out my hand anyway, and he shook it. For days all I could think about was the comforting strength of his grip, and the way his smile made me feel like a goddess even when I looked like a bedraggled rat.
We didn’t start dating until more than a year later. By Homecoming, it’d been five months. We hadn’t gone all the way yet, but in the limo, with two glasses of champagne bubbling through my system, I couldn’t remember why not. I guess I had been scared. Concerned about STDs or something.
Whatever it was I was nervous about, it didn’t exist in the limo. Blanketed by darkness, protected by tinted windows, the only sound besides our breathing was the soft piped-in jazz. Sam traced his finger up down my neck before letting his hand stop just under my shoulder blade. He kept it there for a long time, and for the first time all day I relaxed. As soon as we started kissing I felt the need tingling down my spine, making the jumbled-up mess of thoughts about my accidental tiara evaporate. I reached for Sam hungrily. This time, I wanted more.
“You sure?” Sam whispered. I nodded, afraid that if I spoke my voice would shake. Sam untangled himself to get a condom, and when he came back the feel of him on top of me was headier than any champagne.
And then, oh my God. Pain.
It felt like someone had taken an electric drill to my insides. I gritted my teeth and tried to power past it, but it was too much. Sam shifted, trying to go deeper, and I whimpered.
His weight lifted. “You okay?”
I nodded, and tried to blink away the tears. I was an athlete. I was used to pushing through pain. “Yeah. Just give me a minute.”
“Want me to try to . . . help get you ready?”
I nodded again, my eyes closed. A second later, my hips jerked. “Aaagh.”
Sam swore. “I’m so sorry. I barely . . . Usually—” He broke off.
I froze, wondering how many other girls Sam had done this with. He must have felt me shrink away, because he got up and sat on the seat, pulling his coat over his crotch.
“It’s okay,” I whispered, already feeling cold. I took a deep breath in, and let it out slowly. He’d been so patient. “I’m fine.”
So we tried again. He’d barely started before I made him stop. Sam wouldn’t try a third time.
After we’d cleaned up, Sam just held me for a little while, stroking my arm over and over.
“It’ll be better next time,” he promised.
I nodded, because that’s what I wanted to believe.
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