STOP. KISSING. FINN. - Chapter 20 + A NEW Way to Read SKF
I still didn’t know what everyone would think. But I did know that I was done with hiding all the important parts of myself. And that was something I just couldn’t do anymore.
Chapter 19 recap: Charlie admits to Gram that she doesn’t recognize herself lately—maybe she’s past the point of no return. Gram delivers a pep talk straight up, no sugary coating. Things are changing, but they’re going to be OK.
The whole world likes to talk about New Year’s Day like it’s a fresh start. But, honestly, there’s no clean slate or reinventing yourself when you’re on a school year calendar. You’re stuck with the same classes and teachers and term paper that you haven’t started that’s due in a week. If you tripped in the hallway or tucked your skirt into your tights the last day before holiday break, everyone will still remember when you come back to school the first week of January. You’ve got to make the most of a handful of new sweaters and just try to hold on until summer vacation.
I mostly still believed that and probably wouldn’t have done anything differently if it had been any other year. But after losing Jackie, Gram’s heart attack, belly-flopping on my independent study, and everything with Finn, I was willing to think of January first as a kind of reset button. I couldn’t erase anyone’s memory, but I could at least change the way I was navigating my life. Whether I was still within my radius of action, or past the point of no return, it felt like my only choice was to keep going.
I had a plan. Or at least the beginning of a plan. To set it into motion, I had to do four things before the end of the night. I sat down at my desk and turned on my computer.
Dear Mrs. Trousseau,
Was it weird to start an email to a teacher with “Dear?” I shook my head and kept typing. I didn’t have time to overthink everything.
Thank you for your email. My grandmother is doing much better and should be out of the hospital in about a week.
In your note, you said to let you know if you can help in any way. There is actually something you could do to help me. Can I see you after school on Monday? It’s about my independent study.
I reread it once and hit send. Step one: done.
I picked up my phone and typed, “You are needed.” It had become a sort of code between Andy and me. He would know that I needed him to bring his A-game. Immediately.
My phone buzzed with his text.
Your house or mine? A hint?
“Mine.” I texted back right away. I stared at the screen, thinking about what hint I could possibly give him.
“Reinventing the cookbook. Need help with concept and pitch,” I typed and hit send.
Bringing my espresso pot and homemade energy bars. See you in 30, he texted back.
Step two: done.
Step three was the one I’d been dreading the most. But I had to do it before step four, and I wanted to get it out of the way before Andy arrived so that he and I could focus.
I picked up my phone and opened Instagram. I scrolled back through almost two hundred posts to my very first poem. I remembered the day I’d posted it over two years ago. I’d thought about hitting publish and then sending the link to Jackie and Liz, but stopped myself. I’d had the same thought a million times since then as I’d felt my writing getting stronger, my poems better. But, for some reason, sending that link seemed harder with every day that passed.
I stared at the screen and took a deep breath. I was still afraid. I still didn’t know what everyone would think. But I did know that I was done with hiding all the important parts of myself. And that was something I just couldn’t do anymore.
I tapped on “Edit Profile.” I’d already decided to keep “Moledy Verses” as my username. But, under “Name,” I hit backspace and typed “Charlie Wolfe.” I changed the photo from a shot of my Moleskin to one that Andy had taken of me at Scones during one of our study sessions. I was holding a to-stay mug of coffee and surrounded by open books and notebooks. I was smiling, and I looked calm. I looked happy.
Step three: done.
I felt strangely okay. I knew I had a grace period of sorts. The chances of someone finding me on their own were pretty slim. It would probably stay a secret for a long time. Unless I told someone.
That was step four.
I opened up my computer and started a new email.
Sorry I never got back to you about Jackson’s party. A lot has happened in the last week and a half.
I know we haven’t talked in a while, so this will probably sound totally random. But, I should have let you read my poems when you asked. I remember you telling me once that I hold myself back, and I think you were right.
If you’re still interested, you can check out my Instagram account, Moledy Verses. (confession: I’ve been keeping one for two years).
There’s this one poem – I Know Better. If you only have time to read one entry, I think you should read that one. I think maybe you’ll like it.
Actually, in the spirit of no longer holding myself back, I’d like to formally submit my poem I Know Better to the premier issue of Blank Magazine.
My phone rang, breaking my concentration. It was Andy.
“Hey,” he answered over muffled background noise. “I’m at the grocery store getting beans. You have a grinder, right?”
“What? Oh, you mean coffee,” I said, glancing back at my monitor. Was I Know Better the right choice? I thought about switching to something that had nothing to do with Finn.
“Yes. We have a grinder.”
“Do you need me to pick up anything else?”
“Um…” I clicked over to the I Know Better post and tried to imagine what it would look like through Finn’s eyes.
“You sound weird. What are you doing.”
“Writing an email to Finn,” I admitted.
“Seriously? One that you’re actually going to send?”
“I think so,” I said, clicking back to my email.
I Know Better was the right choice. It was my favorite memory with Finn. When everything was new and surprising and just beginning. Before it was complicated. Before I really knew better.
“I mean, yes,” I said firmly. “I’m sending it.”
“Do you want to read it to me first?”
“No. I mean, no thanks. I’m going to send it. I might edit one thing, but I’m going to send it. And then I’m not going to think about it for at least 48 hours.”
“I’ll hold you to that, you know.”
“I know you will.” I smiled into my phone.
“Getting in the express line,” Andy said. “I’ll see you in a minute.”
I threw my phone on my bed and turned back to my keyboard.
Also, happy new year, I wrote.
I hit send and closed out of my email. 48 hours.
Knowing Andy would be ringing my doorbell any second, I headed downstairs to the kitchen to find Gram’s coffee bean grinder.
We had a lot of work to do.
I know that was a bit of a short chapter, but I also wanted to share with you a new way to read STOP. KISSING. FINN.
A few weeks ago, I began publishing on Wattpad. It’s a platform that blends elements of social media with self-publishing. I thought it would be a fun experiment and a way to get in front of a completely different audience. If you’re interested in checking it out, here’s my profile. While some content is behind a paywall, it’s completely free to join and most stories (including mine!) are currently free to read.
You may notice a couple of differences between the Wattpad and Substack versions:
I changed the title! Kissing Finn is actually an older title I kicked around for a while.
The chapters are much shorter, and I’ve even edited out certain parts. (Based on my research, Wattpad stories tend to move along more quickly than your average novel.)
New cover art! (Thank you, cheap stock photos and Canva templates.) Cover art is really important on Wattpad. (And, honestly, the spicier the better!) I’m not a graphic artists by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m kinda proud of this one.
Also, I realized a few days after I posted it that it’s kind of reminiscent of the original “Footloose” movie poster, which I’m not mad about.
I’ll keep posting here until we reach the end (it’s getting close!), but if you’re curious about how the story plays out on Wattpad (or just want to follow me and throw a few stars my way:) I invite you to join me over there, too!