As many of you know, I’ve been working on a little contemporary YA series since finishing The Chasmaria Chronicles. After completing the manuscripts for the second and third of the four book series, I’ve finally found my way to the beginning. Known affectionately as “the underwear series,” Commando Grace chronicles the high school career of a girl who runs with the boys, but stumbles in friendship. It isn’t, in fact, all about underwear, but about life, nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty life. As such, I’ve had to get personal, going places as a writer that aren’t especially comfortable and finding ways to immerse the reader, delicately but naturally, into Grace’s unabashed world.
With that preface and an open invitation for feedback, I give you…
Life’s unfair, Grace. That’s what Dad always tells me, usually over pancakes with syrup glistening on his bottom lip. You can fight it, baby girl, but sometimes, you have to accept it.
Easy for him to say. He grew up with a younger sister in a house with a two-to-one ratio of humans to bathrooms. If he’d been the baby sister of six obnoxious boys all struggling for space in front of one bathroom mirror, he might find it a little harder to accept life’s injustices.
“Watch your aim. It’s my week to clean the bathroom.” Nathan’s voice comes through the shower curtain. He’s going to be even more insufferable now that he’s a senior.
Ed responds, the agony of morning adding to the weariness of his words. “Dude, why are you watching me pee?”
In the surge of the flushing toilet, my shower drains the last bit of warmth left in the water heater. I haven’t conditioned my hair or shaved my legs.
“Move over. I need the mirror.” Pete, fifteen and my closest brother in age, has entered the bathroom fray. “Seriously, Grace, do you have to leave your underwear in the middle of the counter?”
My underwear hurtles over the shower curtain and into the soapy water pooled at my feet. I turn off the shower and scurry to rescue the only clean pair of underwear I have left after forgetting to do my laundry Saturday. Life is unfair, but I can accept a few injustices. Someone invented leave-in conditioner. Jeans will cover hairy shins. Soaked undies, however, are a fighting matter.
I fling open the curtain, toss my wet underwear at Pete, and grab my Tinker Bell towel. Stepping out of the shower, I wrap Tink around my body. “What was that for, Peter? You heard Nathan. All last week, I’m leaving for school at 7:45 sharp. If you aren’t ready, you can walk. I don’t have time to dry my underwear.”
Pete moves aside to let Ed exit. One brother out, two to go. “It doesn’t matter. You won’t need underwear until the weekend.”
I stare blankly at him. Nathan peers at his reflection in the mirror, brushing his dark hair flat against his head. “I’m leaving in ten minutes.”
“Why won’t I need underwear?” I ask, shivering under my threadbare towel.
“The underwear thing.” Pete says. He rolls his eyes at Nathan. “Are you seriously wearing a polo shirt? Could you at least unbutton the top button? I have a reputation to build, and a dorky brother—”
“What underwear thing?” Wet, cold, and ignored. My freshman year is off to a spectacular beginning.
Reaching around Nathan to get his toothbrush, Pete glances over his shoulder. “You don’t know about it?”
Nathan closes the medicine cabinet door, almost catching the tip of Pete’s toothbrush. He frowns in the mirror. “You didn’t tell her about the underwear thing, did you?”
“It’s a family tradition.”
“What’s a family tradition?” This is what Dad doesn’t understand. I’m always last—last to be born, last to shower, last to enter high school, last to do and know everything.
“You’re making a puddle, Grace.” Nathan steps around me, careful to avoid the water collecting on the tiled floor.
As the door closes behind Nathan, I glare at Pete. “Start talking.”
“It’s like this.” He spits, rinses, then turns and leans against the bathroom counter, arms folded. “Welches go commando.”
“Welches go commando? As in, no underwear?”
Pete’s finger flies to his lips. “Quiet. Mom will hear.” He glances around the bathroom, as if checking for spies. “It’s a tradition. Kevin and John started it, then Jason, Ed, Nathan, me. First week of freshman year, Welches go commando.”
I rub a stray drop of water off my nose. “I don’t believe Kevin ever went commando. I don’t believe any of you did.”
The door opens. Nathan strides in, grabs his cell phone off the counter, and points it at Pete. “Five minutes or you walk.”
Scoffing, Pete pushes the phone away from his face. “ Hey, didn’t I go commando freshman year?”
Nathan stops in the doorway, half turned. “We all did, for the first week anyway.” His bland gaze rests on my Tinkerbell towel. “Why aren’t you dressed?”