Get A Sneak Peek: Girl Crushed, By Katie Heaney
Katie Heaney’s new queer YA romance has it all: teen lesbian drama, college applications, and so many feelings. In the excerpt below, meet Quinn Ryan, who is navigating her senior year while trying to decide who the right girl is for her: Rich and hip Ruby, or her first love, Jamie.
The way I saw it, I had two options.
One: I could walk into school acting how I felt—i.e., sewage seeping out of a gutter.
Two: I could walk into school acting how I wanted Jamie to think I felt—i.e., happily single, carefree, and one hundred percent over her.
I could pretend it no longer bothered me that she’d dumped me a month before we started our senior year, thus destroying all the elaborate—forgive me—promposals I’d already started thinking up, and the love letter I’d started drafting for her year- book. Never mind how many hours I’d wasted mapping the perfect road trip course between NYU (where she’d be next fall) and the University of North Carolina (where I’d be), the perfect plan to keep us together even in the face of medium- long distance. Jamie would never have to know I’d begun the initial research on a surprise fall-break trip to Washington, DC, the natural halfway point between our colleges, because Jamie talked about it like it was Disneyland. She wanted to be the third woman president—third, specifically, because it would be pathetic and disgusting if there weren’t at least two other women presidents before she was old enough to run herself. Her words.
I looked at the dashboard and realized I’d been gripping the wheel of my parked truck in the student lot for eleven full minutes. And I was still too early. For the first time since I’d gotten my driver’s license, Jamie hadn’t ridden with me to school. After she dumped me, she texted me to say she thought it would be best if she caught a ride with Alexis for a while instead. I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, hadn’t imag- ined all the things we did together that I’d have to start doing without her. It made me wonder how long she’d been thinking about breaking up with me before she did it.
Fine with me, I’d texted back. You’re pretty out of the way.
(Obviously, that was before I’d decided to be cool and ma- ture and happy, honestly, about this whole thing.)
The upside to driving to school alone was that I could listen to any kind of music I wanted, and no one could complain, or ask me to play some horrible new indie band’s EP instead. The downside was that, so far, I’d used my newfound freedom to blast my Tragic Lesbian Breakup playlist sixty-four times in a row. A sampling: “One More Hour” by Sleater-Kinney, “Where Does the Good Go?” by Tegan and Sara, “Cliff’s Edge” by Hay- ley Kiyoko, “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman, “My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion. Maybe Céline Dion wasn’t gay (allegedly), but whatever. The song broke my heart in ex- actly the way I wanted my heart to be broken.
I thought about giving it one last listen before I left the truck, but I didn’t want to be the girl caught cry-mouthing whereverrrrr you aaaaahhhhh in the parking lot at 7:32 in the morning on the first day of school. Instead I closed my eyes and repeated in my head: I am happy. I am carefree. I am totally over Jamie. We were just going to be friends now, and some- day, if not today, I would be completely cool with that, because I had promised her I could be. Of course, being friends was her idea. This was part of her very practical reason for break- ing up with me. Jamie had told me that romantic relationships always ended, and most of them ended badly, and if eventually we were going to break up (and we would), we might as well do it early. Damage control, she called it. This way, she said, we could more likely stay in each other’s lives indefinitely. As friends.
Imagine being told the reason your girlfriend can’t date you anymore is that she likes you too much. It’s very confus- ing. I asked and I asked but she could never explain it in a way I understood. So eventually I had to stop asking.
And of course, a part of me had wanted to refuse, to tell her through tears that I don’t know how to be just friends with you anymore, because maybe if I could borrow a line from a TV show it would feel like a TV show instead of my actual life. After she’d left my house I’d paced around the living room, working up the nerve to call her and tell her. But every time I tried to imagine not talking to her, I couldn’t. It was like my brain didn’t have the right files. Does not compute. And any- way, it didn’t really feel like a choice. If I admitted I couldn’t be friends with her, I lost, even more than I already had. I’d have to be the one to sit somewhere else at lunch. I’d be the one who had to stay home when Jamie and our other friends hung out. I’d lost my girlfriend, and that was already more than I could take.
So we would be friends, and it would be fine. One day I wouldn’t dread walking into the class I knew we had together—a now-unwanted miracle, really, since Jamie was always in AP everything and I was not. One day I’d be able to sit down to lunch with her and Ronni and Alexis without worrying exactly where I sat, because the spot next to her wasn’t safe, and neither was the one directly across from her. One day I’d again be happy instead of furious that our lockers, thanks to the goddamn alphabet, were separated only by the locker assigned to Alex Ruiz, who, historically, didn’t seem to make much use of it. He was popular, and the popular boys never seemed to carry books or folders or anything, really, around school with them. It was like they were here for some- thing else altogether. I once asked my straight friends (Ronni and Alexis) to look into this issue for me, but they shrugged it off. Alexis said, “Who knows why they do anything the way they do?” They being boys, in general.
At home, and in the safety of my truck, I still ached when I thought about that last conversation with Jamie. I still held back tears multiple times a day. But I knew I couldn’t be that version of me in school if I wanted to make it through the year. It was bad enough knowing in my bones that everyone at school had already heard that the only out queer couple in Westville’s incoming senior class had broken up, and worse, that I was the dumpee—Alexis had surely been briefed by Jamie, which meant it was only a matter of time until people three school districts away found out. If I started my senior year as the tragic spinster lesbian, that would be how every- one remembered me. At our ten-year reunion, instead of ask- ing me what it was like playing for the U.S. women’s national soccer team, or how many free shoes I got as a result of my Adidas sponsorship, or if they could go for a ride in my Aston Martin, my former classmates would ask me if I still kept in touch with Jamie (who would be too busy in the Senate to attend), and from their expressions I would know they were really asking if I’d ever gotten over her.
I couldn’t let that happen. Everything I felt had to stay here, in the truck, with Céline. I slung my backpack and soccer bag over my shoulders, and by the time I’d crossed the parking lot I really did feel like a new person, almost.
Katie Heaney is a Senior Writer at The Cut, a former editor at Buzzfeed, and the author of two memoirs. To read more from Girl Crushed, you can pre-order here. It's available everywhere on April 7th.