Honest June: Secrets and Spies is a part of the Honest June collection.
In the third book in this magical series for tweens, June must juggle friendship, first love, and the fallout from a newly discovered family secret involving the entire town—all while under a truth-telling spell.
After the school musical, June has to deal with the fallout of her secret blog being exposed. June’s brutally honest thoughts about her friends and family are revealed, and her community turns on her once it's known that she’s hidden her true feelings for months.
How can June repair her relationships after such a betrayal? And when she discovers a family secret about the history of Featherstone Creek, how will she keep from blurting out the truth?
An Excerpt fromHonest June: Secrets and Spies
I sat in the office of the Featherstone Post, ready for our Monday editorial meeting, uncomfortably silent. Which, for me, was unusual. I loved writing for the school paper, and I was usually full of amazing, super-juicy story ideas. But no one wanted to hear what I was thinking. Because no one wanted to talk to me. They had good reason.
I had made a hot stinking mess of things for myself at school. After living a peaceful, friendly existence in Featherstone Creek for most of my eleven years, things took a turn and I managed to insult practically everyone at Featherstone Creek Middle School. Let me explain.
A few months earlier, at the Featherstone Creek Festival, I met a woman--er, fairy godmother--named Victoria. She put me under a spell that forced me to tell the truth at all times. The truth about everything--my feelings, a friend’s new haircut, whether or not I did my homework--everything. To everyone.
The spell, according to Victoria, was supposed to better my life. Help me live my real truth. Find inner peace or something like that. Instead, it made me stir up more drama than ever. I had a massive argument with my parents at a restaurant, where I yelled at the top of my lungs that I didn’t want to go to Howard University--the college my dad went to--and be a lawyer just like him. I got put on punishment for several weeks. Then my friend Lee told me he wanted to hang out with my friend Nia. But I kinda maybe had a crush on him, and I didn’t want my best friends to be boyfriend and girlfriend. So I didn’t tell Nia how Lee felt, and Nia and I got into a huge fight when the truth eventually came out.
For my whole life I’d been used to keeping my thoughts to myself instead of telling people what I really thought, for fear of punishment or rejection or conflict. Victoria’s pushing me to share my thoughts all the time wasn’t easy for me. So I tried to get around her rules by starting a blog that would be a safe place for me to share my feelings when I thought the truth would be too much to handle. But it backfired.
I wrote down the good, the bad, the ugly, the petty, and the downright mean stuff that I thought about everyone, especially during rehearsals for the recent school musical, The Wiz. I wrote about my very confusing feelings for Lee, and how jealous I was about his feelings for Nia, and how I didn’t want to tell Nia he liked her. I thought the blog was safe. I thought a password with numbers and letters would be enough to keep it secure. Until I found out my best friend hacked it and leaked my words to the world. Shoulda considered two factor-authentication.
Now the entire population of Featherstone Creek had canceled me.
Okay, mayyyyyybe I’d done something to deserve it. I did write a journal of truths I was too scared to say out loud, truths that were both nasty and nice (okay, mostly nasty). And, yes, I talked the most trash about Nia, my best friend who leaked the blog. The karma is not lost on me.
So I apologized. I wrote a column in the school newspaper explaining myself. And I’m still apologizing. I know I messed up big-time. I know people still think I’m dirt. And I know it’s going to take time for people to forgive me.
But until they do, I try to make myself as unseen as possible, sitting quietly in the back of the room, head down, quiet as a church mouse in our newspaper meeting.
I looked down at my notes, pretending to be busy but really struggling to swallow the lump of loneliness in my throat. I wondered how long I would be left out in the cold.
Suddenly Quincy Aarons walked into the newsroom, talking quickly, his short dreadlocks bouncing with every word.
“I told you, I think it’s true,” he said animatedly to someone behind him. “I heard it the other day.”
“You sure?” his friend asked.
“I’m positive. My father’s cousin told me. And whatever he says is always true. He’s picked the Super Bowl winners three years running. I trust him.”
Quincy took a seat at one of the desks near the computers across from me, still talking with his hand flailing about whatever bit of gossip he thought was the biggest news of the day. Then Ms. West walked into the room. We all sat up and became quiet in her presence, ready to pitch stories. “Who’s got something for me?” Ms. West said in greeting.
Quincy perked up. “I’ve got something. And it’s big. Like, huge!”
Ms. West smiled at Quincy and took out a notebook. “Okay, let’s hear it.”
“A’ight,” Quincy said, pausing for effect. “I heard from my father’s cousin, who heard it from someone at the car wash. There’s a big secret behind the people who founded Featherstone Creek. Nothing is what it seems.”
“What does that even mean?” said Rachelle, raising one of her full eyebrows. “This isn’t a story.”
“Yes, it is!” Quincy said. “It’s the biggest story we all should be reporting on right now! The truth behind Featherstone Creek. Don’t you want to know? Everyone wants to know!”
“The truth is that Featherstone Creek was founded by freed slaves,” said Jaron Williams, a seventh grader with braces and fair skin, freckles splashed across his cheeks. “Black people. This town was built and settled and continues to be built by Black people. For us, by us, fam.”
“Not what I heard,” Quincy said.
“What did you hear?” Ms. West said.
“That that’s not all there is to the story.”
“But you don’t know what the actual story is?” Rachelle asked, resting her chin on her hand. Quincy stopped talking. Everyone looked at him, waiting for his answer. He stayed quiet.
“Then you don’t have a story!” Rachelle fired back.
Quincy stammered, “I--I will soon.”
The rest of the room joined in the chatter. But I sat back in my chair, silent. I was curious. Could there be a different story behind the founding of Featherstone Creek? My parents had told me the same story of the town’s founding for as long as I could remember. That it was founded by freed slaves, some of them my ancestors. That my family was part of the town’s long lineage of settlers and business owners. My mother is a third-generation doctor running a practice in Featherstone Creek, and my father founded his law firm here because he, too, wanted to be part of the tradition of Black entrepreneurs in this town.
Ms. West jumped in to keep the peace. “Everyone--your job as reporters is to go find out if there is a story. Quincy obviously has a lead on something, and he’s chasing it. Maybe you all should do the same.”
I nodded and digested Ms. West’s words. Maybe there was something to the rumor. And maybe I could crack the real story before Quincy did. At the least, maybe I could distract myself from my own drama by researching the drama behind the town’s founding--and maybe other kids of Featherstone Creek would do the same. I could use the break, honestly.
We were a few weeks out from the annual spring camping trip to Lake Lanier, and there was no way I could see myself getting on a bus to go into the woods with people who truly thought I was the meanest of the mean girls.
Blake Williams, a new friend who had transferred to Featherstone Creek this fall, was more hopeful. She had visions of us bunking together in the woods and roasting marshmallows by the fire. “Seriously, no one’s gonna remember this on the camping trip,” she said on the phone. I’d called her for some math homework help when I got home from school that afternoon, and our conversation quickly turned to the upcoming trip.
“I cannot get on that bus,” I repeated.
Blake had transferred here from Boston and had only lived in Featherstone Creek a few months. She didn’t understand the deep roots I had here. No fewer than six generations of my family had lived here, built businesses here, delivered babies here, and supported this community. Which makes my saying in my “secret” blog a bunch of real-but-not-so-nice things about everyone in town, including the old man who runs the general store that’s been here for over a hundred years, even more shocking.
“Listen, people make mistakes,” Blake said. “You’re eleven. Yeah, you said some nasty things in that blog. But you wrote an apology in the newspaper to make up for it. People can’t hate you forever.”
“They can try!” I said.
“I think you should go on the trip and do your best to win everybody back,” Blake said. “Just be extra nice to everyone. Go up to people, one-on-one, and explain yourself. Show them you really, truly mean your apology. If people can’t accept it, then move on.”
“Really, truly” sounded exactly like what Victoria had said I should do to get this spell lifted the last time I’d seen her. She said if I apologized to everyone I’d hurt with my blog and they forgave me, she’d finally remove the spell that was turning my life into a dumpster fire. I tried to imagine myself smiling at people as they threw daggers at my picture on a dartboard in the campground’s lodge. I imagined myself staying strong as people laughed in my face when I told them I was sorry. I tried to block out the worst of all possibilities, including people using balled-up copies of my heartfelt column as kindling for a bonfire. I still didn’t see my attendance at the school trip going well.
“Blake, really, how can anyone forget what I did?” I said. I certainly couldn’t. I was pretty sure this would haunt me for the rest of my life!
“Seriously, people forget things. I’m sure by the time we get back from the trip, nobody will even remember or care. They’ll be talking about something else.”
I jumped up quickly, pacing around my room. “Then I have an idea--why don’t you do something to distract people from what I did? Like start a food fight in the cafeteria, so everyone can be talking about something other than this stupid blog?”
Blake laughed. “No thanks, June. But you wait: this trip is probably the best thing for you. I gotta run--my mom’s calling. Think about it.”
After I hung up with Blake, my mind was already churning with worry about the trip. The idea of facing all my sixth-grade friends in the aftermath of the leak made me wince. But I thought about Victoria and what I needed to do to get rid of the spell. Under the truth-telling rules, I had to be honest with everyone about everything. But Victoria’s latest requirement--to apologize face to face to those I had said hurtful things about in my blog--seemed like the hardest challenge yet. It meant I would see and feel people’s reactions to my words in real time--no filters or screens or anything between us. A trip to the dentist sounded more pleasant.
But lifting the spell could also mean that things would be normal again. Or at least normal-ish. If Victoria ended it, I could live without someone watching over my shoulder. I could talk without fear of a sneeze attack, because Victoria would no longer spray fairy dust around when I attempted to lie (or even thought about lying). Because there would be no Victoria. And if I had learned anything from the last few months, there would be no lying, either.
So, like Blake said, maybe this trip would be the best thing for me.
Instead of hanging out with my friends Olive and Nia and Lee, I spent most of my time after school alone, except for the days when I went to school newspaper meetings. Since I’d written my apology column, I hadn’t been too excited to go to those. Field hockey season was over, and the school musical performances were finished for the year, but my former friend Nia was still playing basketball and Olive was busy with orchestra. Alvin, who was Lee’s best friend and who had starred in our school’s production of The Wiz with me, was tied up with STEM Club (yes, in addition to singing perfectly, going to church every week, and getting straight As). Lee was still avoiding me after the Nia/blog thing.
Since “the leak,” I’d taken a break from posting my innermost thoughts online. But I missed having an outlet. I decided to go back to the old-fashioned way of storing personal secrets--I bought a good ol’ diary with a lock on it, where I could write down my feelings about life. I resolved to keep it in a supersecret space underneath my mattress, and I hid the key behind a picture frame on my desk. After Nia’s hack of my blog, I wasn’t trusting online technology as a safe place to harbor my deep, dark secret truths. I couldn’t say that a diary was any more secure, but it was all I had for now, especially because the upcoming trip would be technology-free . . . if I decided to go.
I reached for the brand-new pink journal, the spine still stiff and unbroken. I turned to a blank page and wrote some of my thoughts about what was going on in my life.
Here I am, alone in my room after school again. This isn’t ever going to end, is it? There’s no way people will ever forgive me! I wouldn’t forgive me! I should leave Featherstone Creek. I can pack a bag and leave in the middle of the night, not disturbing my parents or anyone else, and keep walking down the main road, toward the highway. Maybe I could make it all the way to Savannah?
I sighed, tired of writing in the journal and longing for a distraction from my loneliness. I went to my desk and opened up my computer, letting my mind drift to another topic. I thought back to Quincy’s chatter about the secret of Featherstone Creek. In all my eleven long years, I’d never heard my parents talk about a secret or anything weird about the founding of the town.
“You know the real story of Featherstone Creek?”
What real story? What about Featherstone Creek? How would anything except the truth be known about the best town in all of Georgia, IMHO?
Suddenly I saw dust fall onto the top of my hand resting against my keyboard. I looked up. I knew exactly what--or rather, who--was about to make her presence known. The dust was always with me at this point, like that one character from the Peanuts cartoons who’s always dirty. A plume of dust gathered into a small funnel; then the funnel reached down toward the floor, growing into a storm cloud. The shape of a woman appeared and fine-tuned into Victoria, all as I sat, nonplussed, at my desk. I didn’t want to look her in the eye. I sighed and rolled my eyes.