Crystal’s House of Queers
Publication date: May 24th 2021
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Three senior girls in rural Alaska escape their abusive pasts
by raising their dyke flag for themselves and their community.
Crystal Rose woke up at three in the morning today, drenched in sweat and breathless after another sex dream with Haley Carson. Later at school in the tiny town of Clear, Alaska, Crystal saves Haley from an assault by her abusive boyfriend.
The two girls renew a love started years ago that had to stay hidden until now. But with Crystal’s grandparents in the hospital with Covid and the possibility of her drug addict parents returning from a 14-year absence, Crystal needs Haley as much as she needs Crystal.
They connect with Payton Reed, a gun-toting artist who helps them feel proud to be gay and willing to stand up to anyone. Together they struggle to make Crystal’s house safe for those who are hated for their love.
Crystal and JD are very happy to be back in school. They’d been online from mid-March through May and then from late August until Monday, two days ago. During that time, Crystal had seen virtually none of her classmates. She’d never been very social, but she had missed seeing her art teacher and especially Haley. They’d been close friends in the elementary grades but had drifted apart in high school.
Crystal unties her hair and shakes her head. “One reason we went back this week is that special needs students don’t learn as much in remote learning.”
“Who said that?” asks Summer.
“SPED teacher.” Crystal bends over the table to grab her computer and feels her grandmother’s eyes searching her, just like she felt the moose eyes earlier.
“Crystal, why aren’t you wearing a bra?”
She lifts her eyes to Summer, who signals to hold her shirt against her chest. “Why are you looking?” She stays bent as she shoves books and her computer into her bag. “No one cared about me wearing a bra before. What difference does it make now?”
“Crystal, we’ve talked about this. You developed over the summer. You can’t be flashing everyone.”
“Am I flashing, or are you making a special effort to look down my shirt?” She feels blood rushing to her face. Her eyes throb.
“Please stand up straight.”
Crystal finishes stuffing her pack without hurrying, drags the zipper closed then swings her pack onto her shoulder as she stands. “Better?”
“Please put on your bra.”
Mac coughs. “Just don’t bend over in front of the boys, Crystal, and keep your jacket zipped.”
Crystal cocks a brow. “Because it’d be my fault if they stared at my boobs?”
JD laughs. “Gena calls them boobs too. A lot of my friends call them tits.”
“JD!” Everyone flinches when Summer slaps the table. Crystal can remember only one or two other times when she screamed at JD. He now stands with his mouth open, breathing noisily. His eyes bulge. “There’s no need to be crude. Why are you and Gena talking about her . . . breasts?”
Because they’ve been having sex for the past six months, thinks Crystal so loud she wonders whether anyone hears her. “C’mon, JD. We need to go.” Crystal pushes a chair farther under the table and heads for the door.
Summer grabs her arm. “Why are you being so defiant about this?”
“I’ve gone my whole life without my chest being strangled and bound. No one cared. Now if I don’t crush my boobs all day and much of the night, there’s something wrong with me. Guys go shirtless at PE all the time. Why can’t the girls?”
“That’d be embarrassing,” laughs JD as he moves through the door. “Hope you feel better, Mac.”
Summer releases Crystal’s arm and wrings her hands. “Now you want to go topless? Where are you getting these ideas?”
“Why do I have to get them from somewhere besides my own head? Cause I’m too dumb?” Her heart pounds in her chest and lips tighten against her teeth. She wants to say much more but is afraid to start another argument. She tries to slow her breathing. “Hope you feel better, Mac.” She exits the house and heads toward her Honda 4-wheeler where JD sits sideways behind the seat.
“I think it’s my turn to drive,” he says, just like every morning.
Crystal straddles the seat and starts the motor. “It’s not your turn until you’re older than me.”
“And what day will that happen?”
“Exactly.” She zips up her jacket, shifts gears, and races away from the house down her long driveway, bordered by spruce and aspen.
Last weekend, Kato told her she needed to wear a bra when she returned to school. He said he didn’t want guys staring at her all day. They’d been best friends their whole lives and had never even kissed. Then her boobs grew over the summer, and he couldn’t keep his hands off her. He complained she was teasing him, being coy, making him think dirty thoughts. All during July and August, she’d felt excited and confused, sometimes angry. Before this past weekend, they’d only kissed, and honestly, she’d never wanted to do anything more.
But she finally relented. The experience wasn’t very exciting, certainly nothing like her dreams of girls. Or kissing Haley in fifth grade.
At first, the dreams bothered her. Could something more be wrong with her brain beyond what school told her? She’s never fantasized about a boy. After Saturday’s session with Kato, she believes she understands why, but doesn’t know what to do or who to tell.
What’s the worst that could happen?
She could laugh. Walk away. Tell others.
What’s the best she could say?
How amazing would that be?
When the best option offers so great a reward, Crystal always ignores the danger. Witness—her encounter with the moose this morning.
Maybe she’ll talk to Haley today.
Brooke Skipstone is a multi-award winning author who lives in Alaska where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.
Some Laneys Died is her second novel. Her first was Someone To Kiss My Scars, also available in French (Embrasser Mes Blessures) and Spanish (Alguien Que Bese Mis Heridas).