Eko DaCosta is a college student at SweetWater University who is not only struggling with his studies but also with his inner self and sexual identity. While trying to start a new future with a new relationship with the first person he ever had feelings for, Eko tries to hide and lie but fears rejection from Olivia Parker. Though Eko comes off as androgynous, never has anyone try to question his sex since high school. Eko must battle a traumatic high school experience as well as a hidden past that can’t stay hidden forever. Will Eko’s world crumble? Or will it have a storybook ending?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.15(d)|
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I sat by the river's edge and thought about how I didn't like being so close to the water, but I liked the fresh air. I felt that it was very peaceful once you got used to it. I also like looking at my reflection in the water, and thought about how I see myself as abstract art looking back. I never did like how I looked in a mirror, so I didn't expect myself to look any better in the river. I just knew that I was a girl with what they call "androgynous features". If I threw on a plaid button down shirt some jeans and a jacket, then people would think that I was him and not me.
Even still, I haven't been my female self in so long that it takes a shower to realize that I can't always be him. Even if I like being him and he likes being me, I know that at the end of the day, I'm going to be her. Until I can accept that I am her, I will stay him, because I know that being him means that I get to see the girl across the river. In fact, she's the reason I even leave my dorm at five in the morning. I just know that she gets me out of my bed in the morning so that I could see her practicing her songs before everyone else.
I didn't know her personally, or even her name ... I just knew that we both go to SweetWater University. I see her from time to time and I give her awkward smiles, and she winks when she looks at me. I take that as an invite to keep looking at her from across the river where she goes to sing, and wait for the café to open. That is where she will go to stare at the menu that has the same thing on it almost every day, and order a small black coffee with extra sugar and a croissant with ham and cheese on it. She will then go sit at a table near a window, and stare blankly out.
She will do this until I pass by to wave at her awkwardly, to shake her from her reverie as if I were staring at her the whole time. I would attempt to go into the shop, but her muscular boyfriend will usually emerge behind her and glare at me. So I put my hands in pocket, turn the other way, and mind my own. I have no time for dealing with boyfriends when I know the body that am forsaken to have doesn't have enough muscle mass to fight over a girl whose name I don't even know.
I just scurry away with my imaginary tail between my legs, and go to my class that I already know all the material for (because I have idyllic memory, which comes from perfect genes that couldn't make the her in me not exist). I wish I could stay like "him", and everyone knows that I am "him", but my genetic code wants me to be "her". I don't see why all the her in me does is give me problems like bleeding in places that no one wants to know. I just want the her in me to fade into existence sometimes.
I love that the he in me gets so much attention from so many females at times, though. Only ... it didn't help the she in me in high school. Cutting right to the chase, the she in me was discovered by a boy. He almost exposed the she in me, but I had to give him something in return — something that made me find the he in me find himself very quickly. The he in me didn't like what the she in me had to give up, so we took ... "precautions". I also was suspended for what the he in me did to the nosey boy who didn't mind his own.
I wanted the she in me to tell someone what happened to her, but she was shut in after the occurrence. I didn't want to bother her with it too much, so I let her be to cope with her decision. Plus, no one told her to go to the extremes in trying to protect us like she did — especially when I obviously handled it with just my fists and the sheer will to make sure he says nothing.
My thoughts went on for a time, and I almost forgot I was in class for a minute. And just like that, my past didn't matter anymore. I am "him". That is all that matters. I may have her body, but my mind is stronger than hers. I have grown stronger than the she in me, because I have no regrets like she does. I only have love for the girl whose name I don't know. I watch her every day and know so well that I could possibly date her, but I don't know if she will accept the she in me. Since I am using her body, I don't want to disrespect it.
I wish I had a body of design but unfortunately these good genes took a wrong turn in the womb. I can only want a body of my own design now and work with what I have.
With class finally over, I dashed to get food at the café and didn't even think about looking to see if the girl with no name was there; I just knew that my body needed food. However, I didn't expect to leave my wallet in my dorm this particular morning. After ordering, I looked mortified. I knew they would take the food back once they found out I couldn't pay. It was that moment when a hand touched my shoulder from behind me, followed by these words said in the softest voice: "Don't worry darl'n, I got this for you. I'm sure you'll pay me back in the long run." I turned to see the face and saw the mystery girl paying for my food.
I stared hard at her, almost trembling, and the words in my throat got stuck. While she just smiled her almost perfect smile at me with her beautiful pinkish cheeks, my mind was racing. I wanted to wonder if she liked her genes or if she despised them, but I knew that now wasn't the time. "I'm Olivia Parker, but call me Oli," she said very straightforwardly. She said that so forwardly, it was like she was telling me her name was important for me to remember. I just didn't expect her to talk to me in my lifetime. I'm usually so far away in my admiration, I didn't think I'd even go under her radar.
I was still unable to speak for a little while longer, but I finally introduced myself stuttering out, "I-I'm ... Eko ... Eko DaCosta." She batted her eyes and looked at me like I've never been looked at before. I was unsure if she didn't like my name or if something was wrong — but then she finally asked, "You're that boy who watches me sing in the morning, aren't you?" My heart sank to my feet like it was cased in cement, and I was afraid to speak again. I didn't want her to think I was a freak, a freak who was a girl that thought she was a guy — and one that liked to stalk.
I hesitated a bit before nodding, and Oli's face turned bright red as her smile went from ear to ear. I turned, smiled my awkward smile back at her before telling her great her voice was, which made her squeal. I felt like I made her day with my comment, and feeling confident about how the situation was going, I gestured for her to sit with me. While making sure her muscle brain boyfriend didn't randomly show up, I put my food down and pulled out her chair for her. Making sure we were in her favorite seat by the window I admired her beauty as she spoke about how she had been watching me watch her, and how she thought I was cute.
As we talked, she reached over and put her hand on my knee. I didn't know to react to the sudden curveball, and ended up blurting out "Don't you go out with that guy?" while gently sliding her hand off my leg. Watching her face return to its normal structure, I felt that I asked something wrong.
I tried to play it off by saying that I wasn't trying to ask her out or anything, but from the looks of things I felt like I was just digging myself into a deeper hole. Seeing her quietly get up, I didn't want her to leave — or at least, I didn't want her to leave like this. I mumbled a quiet "... Wait ..." in hopes that it would stop her, but she turned and said "I'm sorry Eko, but I have to go." I lowered my head and before she left, she said she would see me tomorrow. The end result of all this? The she in me was calling me an idiot, while I personally wanted to just punch myself in the face, watching her disappear from my view.
"Tough break!" yelled a familiar voice from behind me. As I turned to see who it was, my jaw dropped. I didn't expect to see the boy from high school again, but there he was sitting behind me ... with a shit-eating smirk on his face. I tried to get up and leave as he made his way over to me, as if to hug me ... but the she in me wouldn't let me move. I just stood there, stiff and unmoving, and he hugged me as if he was hugging Oli or the she in me. Whispering in my ear "did you miss me?" sent shivers down my spine as I choked on my words, seeing confused people looking over at us with their eyes piercing through my soul, like they were looking straight through me at the she in me.
I pushed him away, and he yelled "There he is! My old pal ... uh, what do you call yourself nowadays?" I balled my fist up, ready to swing straight for his face, when I noticed that there was a tear forming in my eye. I gained control over the she in me's body and didn't stop running, even as I heard the boy from high school yell "It doesn't matter what you call yourself, you still run like a —!". I never heard the last part, I was already too far. But I kept running. Running ... running until I was a far away from him as I possibly get, but now I know that he could tell people about us. I thought I was in the clear and away from him for good! Why was he here?! Was he here to torture me?
I felt the she in me break down, and without noticing it I started to as well. I was under the she in me's control ... and it was bittersweet to say the least. I just wanted to scream, but I felt that I had no voice. My mind was hazy, but there was one thing that stuck out in that fog: that I had class to get to, and not enough time to not end up late. I wish I could tell my professor the she in me made me late, but I know professors don't really care as much as they say they do. Though I think if they did, then some professors would be fired for caring too much for their students after hours.
I know this professor could care less if I talk in her class or not. She just looks sad, and she teaches like she lost someone dear or knows my struggle. I just ignore her face at times, because it's as abstract as my face is in the river. I wonder if she is married with little abstract-faced babies, or an abstract-faced husband that has her make normal faces when they try for abstract-faced babies? I wonder what her mother looks like, when she knows her daughter looks like she's sad all the time ... not knowing how your child really feels because their eyes look like they are always watery and puffed must be stressful.
I got to class and was magically on time, but through the window I saw the boy from high school sitting in the seat next to where I usually sit, and I felt like I couldn't breathe as his eyes met mine. I went to turn around, but the late students surrounded me and left me with nowhere to go but inside the classroom. I was also forced to sit next to him from the students going around me and getting the seats they were used to being in.
Sitting next to him, I couldn't help but notice his hand making its way to my knee and every fiber of my being tried not punch him, while the she in me was nowhere to be found — as if she died at his sight. I pushed his hand away with all my might, even though I knew it would do nothing. I just wanted the professor to end early so that I could leave to and get away from him. Watching his every move, I found myself wishing that what happened this body happened to him. Flashing back to what he did made my skin crawl, and I won't let it happen again. Even if I don't care for this body's genetic code, I have to live with it.
The guy from high school snaked his way to my ear in the blink of an eye and whispered "I bet you enjoy the lie you're living, don't you?" I shrugged him off as everything in front of me went black, and all I could feel was his presence. I heard his whispers now as if we were in conversation as he continued to whisper "You seem to like playing boy, so much don't ya?" I closed my eyes and wished that my ears could close too. The room felt like I had entered a sauna, as he enjoyed torturing me with his words.
He spoke with a silver tongue, like his voice could cut through butter, saying "Did you enjoy becoming a woman by me? I bet you did ... or else you wouldn't have become the bitch of a man you are now." I clenched my fist, finally finding the words to tell him to shut up, and heard him laugh quietly.
"Aww, did I make the little girl mad? I'm sorry. I just thought I'd get to know you before I asked you if you still want me to keep your secret. I mean, I bet that girl that was rubbing on you must think that the road her hand was traveling, must have actually went somewhere and not just to a dead end."
I opened my eyes to see the darkness again, and wished it away and not be stuck in my mind. When I heard a different voice of the person behind me ask the guy from high school if he had a pencil, everything returned to focus. I looked at the guy go for his bag, and I stood up to leave the class. With my hands shaking and breathing off, I made it out of the building and finally broke down completely. I punched the wall as hard as I could, in hopes that it would ease my frustration and pain that I held inside. This was the pain of knowing that he was capable of hurting me physically, but would rather mentally show me that I couldn't escape him ... or the she in me.
I wanted to disappear, but instead I went back to the cafe in hopes of seeing Oli instead. I never was out of class so early, so I didn't know where she was at this time to make me feel better. I wanted to talk to someone so badly about my struggle, but I knew that no one would understand that the me or the she in me. I sunk down the wall I punched, feeling the world on my back for the first time and wished it away. Sitting at the bottom of that wall, I began feeling that wishing away things was all I was good for anymore. I felt that at this point I didn't know who controlled me ... was it me? Or the dormant and hard to reach she in me?
I covered my head and felt blood trickle down my arm from my knuckles, but felt no pain. Well — no more pain than what I was already feeling internally. That stung more than any open wound that could eventually heal. I felt like I was at my all-time low, and that was when a voice spoke to me. It was girl with big glasses and gap in her teeth that I had never seen before. She had a cigarette in her hand gestured toward me taking a hit, which threw me off quite a bit. I passed on it, and she took a very unhealthy looking drag on it that came out her nose as she exhaled.
It was almost like she was a dragon from the way she smoked, and she leaned next to me like she knew me, and she smelled of peppermint and smoke. Her hair looked like it hadn't been done for a few days and her clothes made her look like she was Pippy Long stockings or someone that was very unorganized in life. She was fidgeting like she was on some form of a drug and asked if I was having a bad day or something while standing over me. I looked at her like she was a clown and felt numb but happy to talk to someone else that wasn't myself. I nodded and she asked "Well, is it boyfriend issues? I mean, only a man can drive girls like us through a wall like that." I froze and couldn't tell how she knew that the she in me existed, when I try so hard to hide any sign of "her" existence.
I stood up to look at the girl and she was a bit shorter than me and looked as if she was one of those girls who are on their special diet of air and water. Her body was so skeletal, I was afraid a breeze could blow her off campus. I just didn't expect her to be so small (even if she acted like she was on crack), but I didn't want to assume anything. So, I stared at her blankly and shook my head before opening my mouth to try to ask how she knew. When she laughed hysterically asking why I was dressed like a guy and if I were a lesbian or something, I shook my head and finally said "I'm a man ... I'm not woman ... you must be mistaken or somethin'." She squinted her eyes and took another drag of her cigarette, which she accentuated by saying I must be the prettiest man she had ever seen.
I blushed and scratched the back of my head before correcting her with "handsome" instead of "pretty" but she was set on pretty. I enjoyed her humor, and felt I needed it after the day I was having with the guy in high school and scaring Oli away with my stupidity. I went to smile at the girl, and she batted her eyes with a shy smile as if she was about to start flirting with me. I tried not to be cocky, but before I could get into my charming let down she pressed up against me. She was closer to me than any girl has ever gotten, and I had let my guard down slightly as she asked if I wanted to know her. Her eyes looking magnified and beautiful aside from her skeletal looking face made me lose my focus, and I said "Sure." She wrapped her arms around my waist and said, "Call me Crystal."
Excerpted from "Sweet Water"
Copyright © 2017 Khadijah Law.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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