We’re so excited to announce Tashie Bhuiyan’s novel Counting Down with You as The Tempest Book Club May read. Counting Down with You centers around a reserved Bangladeshi teenager, who has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy. It’s a story posing the quintessential question: How do you make one month last a lifetime? Read the first chapter below.
As always, we’re collaborating with HarperCollins to give away three copies. Enter here!
Airports are the true chaotic evil.
There are too many things happening around me. Too many people in a hurry, too many people lazing around, too many announcements on the overhead speakers, and way too many tearful goodbyes.
Anarchy reigns in my little corner. My mom is on the phone, saying goodbye to her ten million friends, and my dad looks like he already regrets agreeing to go on a month-long trip to Bangladesh with her. Even with my earphones in, JFK Airport is too loud.
I wish I were anywhere else.
My younger brother, Samir, stands next to me as I sip the drink I forced him to buy me at Starbucks. In my other hand, I have a book flipped open to pass the time.
Dadu, my grandma on my paternal side, is busy fretting over my dad’s shirt. “Tuck it in,” she says in Bengali.
I hide my smile behind my drink when he reluctantly tucks in his shirt. Dadu isn’t someone to mess with.
“How much longer do we have to wait?” I ask Samir, taking out an earphone.
“Who knows,” he says. “Whenever Ma finally gets off the phone.”
That was decidedly unhelpful. “So…never.”
I still think the beginning of March is too chilly to go on vacation, but knowing my parents, plane tickets were probably the cheapest today.
Even though I love my parents, I’m happy to see them leave for a month to visit my mom’s side of the family. I’d never say it out loud, but I would’ve considered breaking a leg or something if they’d tried to make me go with them. Thankfully, high school takes priority over seeing extended family. Being sixteen is a good thing sometimes.
My mom finally gets off the phone and gestures to their suitcases. “Come help me, Samir.”
While my brother helps them check in their luggage, I sidle up beside Dadu and lean my shoulder against hers. She’s been at our house for a few days now, helping Ma and Baba pack for their trip.
“Hi Myra,” she says, calling me by my dak nam, my familial name. I prefer my legal name, Karina, the bhalo nam all my friends use, but I don’t mind when Dadu calls me Myra.
“Hey Dadu. Ready for your second Uber ride?” I ask. “Baba said we’re going to have to take another one home.”
“Another one?” she asks, squeezing my wrist. Her skin is wrinkled from old age and hours of hard work, but it’s warm and familiar. “Do you think they’ll try to kidnap us this time?”
“Inshallah,” I say jokingly. God willing.
Dadu laughs and swats me on the shoulder. “Don’t make silly jokes, Myra.”
I grin. “Sorry.”
It’s nice to have a light and easy conversation like this. We don’t have them often, because my grandma lives year-round in New Jersey. Every summer, I beg my parents to let me stay with her. They usually refuse until Dadu steps in and says she misses me, which is as good as saying Your daughter’s coming to visit me whether you like it or not.
My parents return carrying only their handbags. My mom is shaking her head at my dad as he shows her something on his phone.
“Samir, you can download things from Netflix on your phone right, right?” my dad asks, looking pointedly at my mom.
Samir nods, but Ma narrows her eyes. “I told you already, I don’t have any space.”
“That’s because you have a million prayer apps on your phone,” Baba says under his breath. “Even Allah would agree one is enough.”
My mom smacks his arm. “Don’t say that in front of the kids. You’re going to set a bad example. You know it’s because of Candy Crush and Facebook. Why don’t you download some movies for me?”
Baba snorts. “You wish. I already downloaded every episode of Breaking Bad. No room for your dramas.”
Ma pinches the bridge of her nose. “We’re all checked in. We have to leave right now if we want to make the flight,” she says to my grandma before she turns to me, her gaze expectant.
My stomach flips uncertainly. I count backward in my head, trying to push away the uncomfortable weight pressing against my heart. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.
I know I’m supposed to be emotional. I’m saying goodbye to my parents for a whole month, after all. We’re going to be nearly eight thousand miles apart with a time difference of ten hours.
It’s a lot.
It’s too little. T-28 days.
But they’re still my parents, and I can’t let them go without saying goodbye.
I lean forward to hug my mom. She smells like roses and citrus shampoo. The material of her salwar kameez scratches my cheek. I’m torn between wanting to hug her closer and wanting to be far, far away.
“Bye, Ma,” I say, and then I hug my dad, who smells like some God-awful cologne, probably worn to impress my mother’s relatives. I smile and brush some lint off his shoulders as I step back. “Bye, Baba.”
“Myra, make sure to call us every day,” my mom says. “Dadu might be staying with you, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do whatever you want. Make sure to behave properly and try to spend more time studying than reading these silly little books.”
My smile strains. I feel like a dog being told to roll over.
I have to remind myself she’s saying it with my best interests at heart. “Of course, Ma.”
My mom turns to my brother and starts cooing, brushing back his hair. I bite the inside of my cheek and try not to scowl. Naturally, she has nothing condescending to say to him. “Tell Dadu whenever you’re hungry, okay? She’ll make you whatever you want, Samir.”
“Stop it, Ma,” my brother says, batting her hands away. He’s grinning a hundred-watt smile that’s hard to look at for more than one reason. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled at my parents like that.
My dad steps forward, gaining my attention. His expression is only slightly easier to look at.
“Keep us updated on your grades, Myra,” he says, squeezing my shoulder. “It’s junior year. You know you need all As if you want to become a doctor.”
And what if I don’t want to? What then?
“Of course, Baba,” I say, because there isn’t any other answer. “I will.”
Between one blink and the next, they’re walking toward security, leaving the three of us alone. I can still hear them bickering about Netflix.
“Come on, Myra,” Dadu says, nudging my shoulder. I look away from my parents’ retreating backs. “Let’s find an Uber.”
“I’ve got it,” Samir says, whipping out his phone and waving me off as we start to walk to the exit.
I roll my eyes, unsurprised he wants to take the lead. I can’t help but cast another glance over my shoulder at my parents, but Dadu gently tugs my ear.
“So what’s your book about?” she asks.
I turn to her in surprise. I closed the book after my mom’s rebuke, but the story is still fresh in my mind. “You want to know?”
“Of course,” Dadu says, smiling warmly at me. “You can tell me during the Uber ride.”
Something dislodges in my chest as we approach the exit. “That sounds great.”
When I look back this time, there’s no sign of my parents anywhere.
Even though I know it’s wrong, all I feel is relief.
Excerpted with the permission of Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.