Chapter 1: Part One
Leaf Coneybear had to have won the award for most interesting Friday. There was just no way he hadn’t.
To start the whole spiral, Joseph Klein cornered and attempted to ask out Emily Bellechi during last period at Putnam County Middle School. Emily had locked eyes with Leaf’s friend, Gail Avel, they had a silent conversation that he could see.
“I want to say no but he’s freaking me out! Please help!” Emily’s eyes screamed.
Gail’s shone in anger, “ Hang in there, we’re coming.”
Leaf remembers the silent word “we’re” vividly because before he could asses The Situation, Gail had Leaf by the hoodie sleeve, dragging him right to The Situation.
Gail and Leaf stumbled over to Emily and Joseph. Leaf’s red bangs were in his eyes, and so he wrenched himself from Gail’s grip and shoved them aside, back to where the rest of his hair resided. Joseph took that moment to lock eyes with the approaching Leaf, and attempted to have a silent conversation with him that went sort of like:
Joseph’s eyes glittered something ugly, “C’mon, just let me have this?”
Leaf narrowed his eyes. “What? No.”
But Joseph never could take a hint, and he fully turned his body to Leaf. Then he spoke for real.
“I was just joking! Leaf knows I’m joking! Right?”
“Go away Joseph.” Gail huffed, arms crossed.
Emily nodded, parotting Gail, “Go away Joseph.”
Joseph bored his eyes into them.
“Leaf?” He growled.
Leaf was silent.
Joseph balled his fists. “Bitch!”
“Go to class Joseph.” Leaf shifted his eyes to the floor.
Joseph screamed a wordless, childish cry at Leaf, then continued to yell.
“Screw you, loser!”
He turned to a passing student and yelled to them.
“I bet Leaf’s only sticking up for Emily because she want to be in the Girl Group!”
The Girl Group was the nickname the boys at school used for the sleepover all the 7th grade girls had every month. Leaf shook his head. This was Leaf’s first year at a regular school. He had been exclusively homeschooled until now. When Gail, Emily, and some girl named Olive came to ask him about joining them for an all girl sleepover, something had held him back. That made Leaf Coneybear the only seventh grade girl at his school to not be in the Girl Group.
Leaf took a step back from Joseph, his hand clenched.
Gail moved in front of Leaf and Joseph.
“Oh shut it, Joseph!” She said.
Joseph grinned like a movie villain.
“Nah, I’d rather tell the truth about the lesbian idiot. And never tell me to shut it again. You probably eat paint for fun.”
Leaf saw red.
So that is why Leaf got detention for shoving Joseph Klein, and how unlucky for him that he accepted something quite important in detention, instead of at home while his family was still there.
Leaf Coneybear was tired. Detention was completely empty except for him. He brushed his hand through his long hair. Red, like all his siblings. They had to be at all their respective sleepovers by now. An empty Coneybear household, all because Marigold had a college visit.
Leaf scratched at his arms. Nobody had even noticed that while they would be at someone else’s house tonight, he didn’t have any friends to sleep over with.
Sure, he could’ve gone to the Girl Group, but…
He couldn’t do that to himself. Leaf had known that he was a boy for years. But only vaguely. This solidified it.
He’d rather be home, alone and tired, than be at an all girl sleepover.
Oh, boy, did Leaf want to tell someone.
* * *
Just as he had come to this conclusion, a teacher opened the door and informed Leaf that he could leave now.
Leaf speed walked as fast as he could to his locker, opened it, and then ripped his backpack open and shoved a hand in, searching for his phone.
He had to talk to Gail about this! Leaf’s hand made contact with his phone and he snatched it out of his bag. He clicked on the call symbol next to Gail’s profile so fast the phone almost didn’t register it! However, in Leaf’s excitement, he had forgotten something very important.
Gail’s voicemail cheerfully dashed Leaf’s dreams.
“Hi, it’s Abigail Avell! It’s after sundown on Friday, so I won’t be able to answer your message until tomorrow afternoon! Have a good Shabbat!”
“No!” Leaf cried.
Alas, yes. Gail was Jewish, and her family always had tech-free Shabbats. Leaf knew that even if he were to go as far as to call Gail’s home phone, no one would answer.
Leaf let his phone drop back into his bag. He re-zipped the main zipper and slung the backpack over his shoulders. Then he began his walk out of school and to home.
here we go!
He sat alone in his kitchen. A small, red haired boy with girl’s clothes and a bowl of ice cream.
Leaf's parents and older sister were at a college visit. That seemed to be all they’ve been doing this year. Knowing his oldest sister would soon be in a college and away from home made Leaf's new found Boy-ness feel insignificant.
Speaking of Boy-ness, since no one was home and Gail couldn’t be reached, Leaf had not been able to speak to anyone about it since three hours ago in detention. He sighed, and turned to his ice cream.
“You love me as a boy, right?” He asked the ice cream, who said nothing.
Leaf looked deep into the ice cream’s eyes which weren’t there. “And you don’t mind that I’m practicing telling my parents by telling you?”
Ice cream said nothing.
Leaf smiled. “Thank you. I’m going to eat you now.”
And he did. Well, he started to. Because as soon as Leaf took a spoonful of that ice cream, the front door to the house banged open and then slammed shut.
Leaf lowered his ice cream carefully as someone thudded up the stairs. Another door slammed and Leaf deduced that it was his older sister, Marigold, because no one else in his family slammed doors like that.
Leaf checked the time on his phone. It was 7:13 PM, three hours before his parents said they would be home. Leaf’s bedtime was in two.
Loud thuds came from above him. Leaf scrunched his nose up. He really wanted to tell Marigold about himself, but he was also a little nervous. Leaf un-scrunched his nose and stood up. By the time his parents would be home she would have to be in bed. And none of his siblings would be back till Sunday. It was now or never, he told himself as he made his way upstairs.
She's here :)
Leaf stood in front of his sister’s room, silently listening to the rush of water from the adjoining bathroom. He took a breath, wondering if he would ever be able to force his arms to extend far enough for him to knock on the door. Leaf tried to make his arm go up a bit, but it went to fast and bumped the door a little.
The water noises stopped and Leaf stepped back from the door in shock. That was a good move on his part, because the door flung open and Marigold, red hair wet and flying, began to yell.
“Go away, Leaf!” She yelled.
Leaf jumped back from noise. “Marigold I just wanted to-”
Marigold waved her hand to make Leaf stop talking. “Shut up! I just told you to go away!”
Leaf paled, confused. “Wait Marigold, please-”
“No! Go downstairs!”
The door shut in Leaf's face. He was scared, and looked over to the stairs, debating whether he should wait another day to tell anyone or brave the bull of teenage angst that was Marigold. Leaf rolled his shoulders and knocked on the door, for real this time.
Marigold opened it, slower this time. She looked like she had aged years in twenty seconds.
“Leaf, please, I-”
Leaf interrupted her, “Marigold, I need to talk to you. But first you gotta calm down.”
Marigold was quiet for a moment. “Fine. Come inside.”
Leaf inched his way into his sister’s room, and peered into the adjoining bathroom. Bottles of hair dye rested on the counter of the very full sink. Leaf remembered the colors well. Each one corresponded to a different year of Marigold’s life.
Black was her first time dyeing her hair.
The pink and orange were an act of rebellion when a teacher told her that the black was “loud”.
Blue was for a special National Women’s Day that ended up lasting seven months.
Marigold spoke, voice wavering. “I tripped.”
Leaf turned to look at her. “What?”
“We were walking through a hallway on our way to an exhibit room and I tripped.” Marigold sighed. “Mom got mad and yelled at me in front of everyone there. Over me tripping.”
Leaf wasn’t sure how to respond.
“God, I sound so stupid.” Marigold cracked her knuckles loudly. “Complaining about this to a ten year old-”
Leaf straightened to his full height. “I’m twelve.”
Marigold whipped her head around to look at her. “I’m losing my mind!”
Leaf looked to the floor.
Marigold sounded apologetic. “I’m sorry. It’s just, like, mom and dad always supported me. When I dropped out of jazz band, when I started doing the school musical, when I dyed my... and now it’s like, they just aren’t those people anymore.”
Leaf squeezed his eyes shut.
Marigold got up and bounced her arm against her hip. “They hate everything I do. Every move I make...is wrong and I can’t fix it. I’m not even allowed to control my own appearance! They were never like this during high school applications but now they’re freaking out about college! Freaking me out! It scares me! They were always on my side and now it’s like I have no one…”
“You have me!” Leaf cried, looking back at his sister.
Marigold met his gaze with soft eyes. “You can’t help me get into college though.”
Leaf stared at his sister. Marigold’s hair was at her shoulders, naturally red, just like Leaf's. Even though the 12 year old loved his sister’s hair no matter how it looked, Marigold was miserable without hair color. Leaf remembered the day where their dad told Marigold she had to keep her hair red until she was accepted into a college. There had been this look of shock on her sister’s face.
“So you...you thought they would act one way but they...won’t? What...how do people do that?” Leaf asked.
Marigold stared. “Do...what?”
“Change into...bad people....”
Marigold shook her head. “Well, wait. They aren’t like, inherently bad people. That’s a little dramatic. I guess I am overreacting a bit. I just always knew them as my supporters. I never thought they would ever turn on-”
Leaf understood that. “You thought you knew they would support you but they actually didn’t and now you’re sad and yelling and you can’t have blue hair and you can’t wear pants or bring boys toys to school and-”
“Ellie.” Marigold interrupted.
Leaf swallowed. “Yeah?”
Marigold put an arm on Leaf's shoulder. “What’s wrong with you?”
Leaf moved away from her. “Nothing’s wrong, I’m not wrong!”
Marigold stared at Leaf, who was frozen standing up. Marigold sat on her bed and patted the space next to her. Leaf sat.
“What… did you want to tell me?” Marigold asked.
Leaf didn’t respond.
He had practiced with the ice cream but no matter what he said it was a freaking ice cream and Leaf felt incredibly unprepared. It was like he was so excited he couldn’t do it. A million different ways Marigold could react flashed through his head.
He could do this.
“I’m-I…” Leaf stammered.
Marigold smiled encouragingly. “You’re?”
Marigold laughed. “Leaf are trying to say you’re gay? Because that’s like, totally cool.”
Leaf shook his head. “But I-...wait...uh…”
“Y’know I go to school with your friend Gail’s older brother and he likes boys so you don’t have to worry about Gail caring.’ Marigold smiled wide. “Really, I’m so proud of you for telling me I-”
Leaf stood and the words came flooding out. “I said guy not gay! There’s nothing wrong with being gay but I’m not, because I’m not a girl but I still like guys so actually maybe but that’s not- that’s not what I’m trying to tell you- I said guy not gay!”
A silence like detention. Except this time Leaf couldn’t even think because he wasn’t alone and it wasn’t quiet because there was this buzzing that wasn’t really noise but oh god, it filled up his head, his brain, his toes, his body, and now Leaf couldn’t see because the buzzing was tangible, blocking his vision like a grey hornets nest and-
What. Did. That. Mean.
Leaf's breathing was heavy. “What...does that mean?”
Marigold stood and re-placed her hand on Leaf's shoulder. “I’m glad you felt safe enough to tell me. I love you, y’know? You’re my little- brother.”
Leaf grinned. “I love you too, I love you too!-”
Someone knows. Someone says okay! In a weird way, that made it feel all the more right to Leaf. He always knew, but he liked other people knowing. Leaf couldn’t wait for the feeling when he’d tell Gail! He smushed his sister into the tightest hug he could manage!
Marigold laughed “Oh my god! Wait- okay, so you know how we have all those old pants and button downs of Paul’s that mom said we were gonna ‘give to our cousins’ but we only have girl cousins?”
Leaf looked up at her. “Yeah?”
“We can make boy clothes for you out of them!” Marigold said, trying to make jazz hands while her arms were pinned.
Leaf loved making! Those were undoubtedly the best kinds of clothes.
Leaf squeezed tighter. “Thank you! Thank you Marigold, thank you!”
“You can try them on after I re-dye my hair!”
Leaf let go to look directly at Marigold. “You’re re-dyeing your hair?”
Marigold clapped her hands together. “Yep! And mom and dad won’t be home until after the deed is done!”
“Then let’s do it quick, stupid!” Leaf cried, dragging his sister into the bathroom.
* * *
Later that night, Marigold and Leaf's parents would return home to two wide awake kids, one with blue hair and the other with blue hands. Both were wearing pieces of cloth and eating ice cream. They said they would talk, but talk after they all got at least eight hours of sleep.
So, yes, Leaf Coneybear had to have won the award for most interesting Friday. He had gotten detention, made friends with a bowl of ice cream, helped his sister break their parent’s rules, and gone to bed forty three minutes after his bedtime. That alone made him an award worthy boy.
thanks for reading! Thank you copper 4 always inspiring me 5 ever