Title: 12 STEPS FORWARD
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 78,000
After years of giving haircuts and shaves in her father's barbershop, seventeen-year-old Aubrey is most comfortable hanging out with guys…until it comes to romance. After admitting to herself that three years is too long to crush on any one person without making a move, Aubrey confesses her feelings to Ben, the guy who makes political commentary sound sexy. When he turns her down, she challenges him to give her one good reason why. He gives her twelve.
Aubrey has no intention of following a list that accuses her of being everything from insecure to vain and even judgmental, unless doing so involves explaining to Ben the difference between being constructive and being an ass. But as opportunities arise to check things off the list- like becoming a student assistant for the girl’s the basketball team- she won't miss out just because it might validate Ben's low opinion of her.
As each check mark and its associated challenges reveal more to Aubrey about herself, she wonders what Ben is really trying to tell her with the list. And since suggestion number six pushes her in the direction of another guy, she needs to figure things out- like now.
The quickest, most direct route to a guy’s friendship is sports. Navigating the route to more ethereal places like his heart requires a completely different skill set. A skill set I’ve yet to master. According to my sister Nia, this is my greatest failure.
While I rummage the drawers of my station at my father’s barbershop, looking for a clipper guard, Nia gives me a pep talk about exactly how to use my elusive skill set on Ben— the crush of my life— today.
“…Girl, either you need to find out what he wants or move on.” She garbles into the phone as she brushes her teeth. When she spits and turns on the faucet, I take my chance to get a word in.
“What if—” I turn away from my station to go into the break room— even though I have no idea why my clipper guard would be in the break room— and Ben is standing right behind me wearing his usual khakis and a short sleeved, button down shirt. “Um, Nia, I have to go. My customer’s here.”
That’s the easiest way to get her off of the phone. She knows Dad thinks talking on a cell phone in the presence of a customer is unprofessional. Thank God for texting.
“Hey. You need something?” I ask him.
He stands there scratching the inside of his collar with his index finger for a minute before he responds.
“I was going to ask you that. Are you looking for something?”