We can’t keep this excerpt a secret any more! IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET by Misa Sugiura is a charming new love story about Sana, a Japanese-American girl who moves to California from a small town where she never really fit in. At her new school, Sana finally starts to make new friends and meet new people, including Jamie Ramirez, a beautiful and smart girl unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. Sana and Jamie bond over their love for poetry and their interactions are all kinds of adorable! Take a sneak peek at IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET in the scene below where Sana and Jamie hang out for the first time!
Omigod, someone pinch me. Jamie—Jamie!—is
walking home with me. Right now. I know. My fantasy is coming true.
Ten minutes ago, we were all straggling out of the locker room after practice, hair still damp from the showers, hauling our hundred-pound backpacks and saying good-bye to each other as kids piled into cars or headed to the bus stop. I was starting off on my walk home when I heard Jamie complaining to Priti. “My brother spilled soda all over the laptop last night, so now I won’t be able to finish that online assessment for tomorrow.”
An idea sprang to life in my head. “Hey, wanna come over to my house?”
“Huh?” Jamie turned to look at me.
“I mean, uh. I live just a couple of blocks from here. You could use my computer. You know, to do your homework. Or whatever. And catch a later bus home. If you want.” Her eyebrows shot up. She took a quick look around her, then pointed to herself—Me? “Or . . . not. No big deal, I just, you know. Just thought I’d—”
“No, that would be great.” She hesitated. “You sure it’s okay?”
“Oh, totally. No problem.”
“Sweet. Thanks.” She smiled at me and I smiled back and after a couple seconds of smiling at each other I started to feel silly, so I looked away. But I’ve been smiling all the way home.
After a brief, mortifying, and very Japanese introduction to Mom (Hello, I’m sorry my daughter is such a loser, it’s so kind of you to be nice to her, I really owe you one), we escape to my room, and Jamie checks out my bookshelf while I run to the kitchen for some snacks.
“Emily Dickinson?” she says when I return laden with Diet Cokes, a bag of kettle corn, and a bowl of rice crackers.
Oh, no. “Yeah. I know, I’m a nerd.”
“No, that’s cool. We had to read a poem by her in eighth grade: ‘I’m Nobody! Who are you?’ I liked it.”
“That’s the poem that made me want to get that book!”
“But I don’t get her sometimes—she’s a little weird for me, you know? This shy white lady shut up in her house all day writing poems. All those white writer ladies ever did was sit around and write and sew—Charlotte Brontë, Emily Dickinson, the Little Women chick . . .”
“No, they did other things. Like knit lace and drink tea.” I giggle, and she laughs with me, which feels kind of magical for some reason.
“Louisa May Alcott,” Jamie says next.
She adds, “You should read Sandra Cisneros. She wrote this poem called ‘Loose Woman’ that’s like the opposite of ‘I’m Nobody.’ She says whatever she wants, she does whatever she wants, and she doesn’t give a shit about what people say. No sitting around inside and sewing.”
Note to self: Google “Loose Woman” by Sandra Cisneros. But I have to defend Emily.
“I don’t think she cared what people said. I mean, she didn’t mind people thinking she was weird or whatever. I thought that was kind of the point of ‘I’m Nobody.’”
Jamie chews her lip. “Huh. Yeah, I guess you’re right.” She smiles. “You need to read ‘Loose Woman,’ though. It’s pretty great.” Oh, I will. She moves on. “Ooh, this is pretty,” she says, taking down my red lacquer box.
“Huh?” She opens it.
—private. “Oh, nothing. I was just going to say my parents gave it to me.”
She admires the pearl earrings. “Wow. Are these real?”
“Best friend?” She holds up the photo of Trish and me.
“Meh. Used to be.”
She holds up the phone number.
“Someone my dad knows. I don’t know why it’s in there.”
Now she’s playing with bits of sea glass in her palm. “Where’d you get these? They’re so pretty.”
“I know, right? I used to like to collect them whenever we went to the beach—Lake Michigan. When I was little, I’d pretend they were like, magic stones from an underwater kingdom and I was actually the long-lost princess . . . kinda silly, I know.”
“No.” Jamie looks up and smiles. “It’s not silly. I was thinking the same thing. Like, they’re pieces of your soul that got lost or something. Like who you really are, like the princess. Or like people who make it through a tough time—you know, like you start off sharp and broken, and then over time you become smooth and beautiful and like, your own piece.” If I didn’t have a crush on her before, I definitely do now. A girl-crush, I mean. “You’re laughing at me. You think I’m a total nerd. I can tell from your face,” she says.
“No! No, I think you’re . . . cool.”
“Oh, right. I heard you hesitate there. You totally think I’m a nerd.” She smiles. “That’s okay. We can be nerds together. Poetry nerds.”
“You saying I’m a nerd, then?”
She looks at me and raises an eyebrow. “Your own personal volume of Emily Dickinson?”
“Oh, okay, fine. You win. Nerds together.”
I lie on the bed and Jamie sits on the floor as we do our trig homework. She finishes ahead of me. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch her stretch, shut her textbook, and slide it into her backpack. So unfair. I turn back to working out how deep I would have to dig to reach a bed of coal that is tilted at twelve degrees and comes to the surface six kilometers from my property. Right. Like that would ever happen in real life. I struggle to put together an equation involving opposite and adjacent sides, angles and tangents. Or maybe cosines. Algebra and geometry were easy, but I just can’t put the pieces of trigonometry together in a way that makes sense to me. I don’t even really understand what some of the pieces are.
I look up to see Jamie watching me. Ack. Please let me not have been doing something embarrassing without realizing it, like making a funny face or picking a zit or something. I don’t think I was.
“Oh! Nothing,” she says, looking away. “I was just, you know. Nothing.”
Omigod. Is it my imagination, or is she blushing? I feel my own cheeks grow warm, and I pretend to play with my hair so I can cover my face. Could it be? Maybe. But I could be wrong. Slow down. Make some space. Redirect. “God. I cannot do this trig homework. How is it so easy for you?”
“It’s not hard.”
“It is for me.”
She groans dramatically and climbs onto my bed. “Scoot over. I’ll help you.”
Both of us on the bed. Okay. I scoot over as directed, and I’m still lying down and she’s sitting, but my bed isn’t that big, so there’s a pretty significant stretch of my body that’s touching hers. She didn’t have to get on the bed and sit this close, but she did. She’s so close I can feel her thigh on my ribs. But she’s just helping me with my math homework. Still, there’s the way she was looking at me before—she wasn’t just staring off into space and I happened to be in her line of sight. She was gazing at me—at me—I know she was. Well, I think she was. Was she?
“Hey, pay attention!” She nudges me with her knee.
“Sorry. It’s just so . . . boring and confusing.” And thinking about you is just as confusing, but so much more interesting.
“It’s not. Just listen.” I make a superhuman effort to focus on trigonometry. Tangent, sine, cosine. All too soon, it’s six thirty, time for Jamie to go back to school and catch her bus. As she packs up to go, she holds out the Emily Dickinson. “Can I borrow this?”
We walk to the bus stop together, and lean against the little bus shelter, so close we’re almost touching. We gaze down the street in silence. The bus appears, and as Jamie stands up and hoists her backpack, it throws her off balance and she stumbles sideways a little.
“Whoa! Sorry,” she says, catching herself on my arm. A shivery little zing! shoots up my spine. A good zing. A great zing. I try to catch her eye, but she’s already headed toward the curb. She climbs onto the bus while I stand there with my heart bang-bang-booming like a bass drum, and she waves good-bye as the door closes behind her. My hand waves back, but my mind seems to have left the premises. I turn and walk home, alternately feeling like I’m going to levitate and float away on a pink cotton candy cloud, and feeling like I’m teetering on the edge of a huge cliff, looking down into a wild and windy abyss.
I like her. Like, like her-like her. No doubt. Even more than I liked Trish. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s real, she’s romantic. She thinks pieces of sea glass are like pieces of a lost soul, for crying out loud. I like her so much I can hardly even breathe.
But I so don’t need this. After a lifetime of feeling different and out of place, I finally fit in. I’m finally comfortable. I can finally work on the subtler points of being uniquely me, instead of having to explain the obvious Asian flag that everyone can see. I don’t want to fly a new freak flag. I really, really don’t.
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