Excerpt for Looking for Derek by , available in its entirety at Smashwords










Looking for Derek



by N.C. Nest









Copyright © 2016 N.C. Nest

SMASHWORDS EDITION


All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
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For permissions or to contact the author, e-mail ncnest1984@gmail.com.



Dedication


The love in this story is for Bri. Infinity times cubed. He is my one and only.






Chapter One


I pretended to fall asleep next to Derek on the bus so my hand could touch his thigh. My fingers, progressing slower than an iPhone update, grazed the side of his legs. My heart raced and I panicked that Derek could hear it. Silly, I know, but it was probably also silly how much I enjoyed touching his leg. The risk of getting caught enhanced my excitement. It was the first time I had ever touched a boy in a way that wasn’t platonic. To be honest, it was the first time I had ever really liked a boy, and with Derek, the attraction was immediate. More than a precarious urge, there was something magnetic, something uncontrollable about my desire. It was like seeing an ice cream cone on the first day of summer and needing a taste no matter the cost. I couldn’t hold back. I wanted to open my eyes, to see if he noticed, to see if he reacted. Or—please God, please—to see if he liked it.

I was sixteen years old and on a charter bus from a small town in central Indiana to Kings Island amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was the summer of 2016 and I had won a trip from a fundraising company. My high school and virtually every other high school in the state used a company called For Fun and Service Fundraising, which sold everything from cookies to candles. The company was popular in schools for the prizes it gave away, and last year, they promised everyone who sold at least fifty items an entry into their Kings Island Getaway, a free trip from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. Out of everyone who sold fifty items in their particular schools, one person would be randomly selected. All you had to do was get a ride to Indianapolis and you’d get a free bus ride, overnight hotel stay, and a full day at the amusement park. I had been the winner from my school and Derek was from his. We had been driving for about sixty minutes, had first met about seventy minutes ago, and I had been . . . I guess you’d say in love or at least obsessed for about sixty-nine minutes now.

Daring myself to open my eyes, I couldn’t believe the audacity that pulsed through my veins. Maybe it was the fact that I was on a bus full of strangers, cocooned next to this boy, unaware and apathetic to all the bodies in other seats. Sure, that’s what I’d tell myself. But something made my arms shake with adrenaline when Derek reached out his hand and introduced himself to me. It was something I had never felt before.

“Hey,” he said. “Can I sit next to you?” He had thick, dark hair, gelled and spiked. Not a strand of hair would move, like a teen pop star in some outlandish magazine.

“Sure,” I mumbled, caught off guard. I was expecting a fun, random weekend just before my junior year of high school began. I expected butterflies from roller coasters, nausea from too many corn dogs, vibrations in my ears from the cacophony of carnival noises, not the tightening in my stomach when I shook his hand.

“I’m Derek,” he reached out. That’s when my arms started to shake. What was this feeling? What was wrong with me?

“I’m Nick,” I managed to say.

“Nice to meet ya. You like roller coasters?”

“Yeah. You?”

“Hell yeah. They’re the best. I can’t wait. This place has the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, did you know that?”

“Yeah,” I said, although I had no idea. “It sounds like a beast.”

“That’s what they call it!” He laughed, and a perfect smile formed across his face. I caught myself staring and wondering how anyone could have such flawless teeth.

“What’s that you’re reading?”

I looked down at a book I had brought with me. I had brought my favorite book for the ride, but in that moment, the title, the story, the characters had all vacated my mind. I looked down at the paperback on my lap, and Derek shouted, “Game of Thrones!” “Oh man, you’re on the last book, too. I won’t tell you what happens. But I’ve read it. It’s so good.”

“Yeah?” Game of Thrones. Yeah, that’s what I was reading. That was my favorite and that was his, too? Shit.

“Who is your favorite character?” he asked.

I couldn’t remember any of their damn names. I looked down at my book scrambling for a detail that would trigger my foggy memory. What the hell was wrong with me?

“I love Daenerys,” he told me. “I love how she starts so innocent and sweet, but she’s tough, you know? And she becomes a real bad ass, a fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves. She’s the best.”

I nodded, and Derek fired on about the characters and the story.

“Tyrion!” I yelled after a few minutes. The puzzled look on his face indicated that perhaps we had moved on from that particular discussion, but then he smiled.

“Yeah, I like Tyrion, too. He’s smart but always the underdog.”

“Uh huh.” I swallowed and slapped myself mentally. Get with it, Nick!

All of this felt like only seconds but when I took out my phone I realized a half hour had passed. Listening to him talk was like watching a favorite show. After a bit, he took out his phone and started texting someone. I looked out the window in silence for a few minutes. I glanced over at him occasionally and caught myself smiling at his smile.

I tried to think of something to say, but my senses overwhelmed all logic. I could feel the vibrations of the bus, a buzzing through my legs and back. I could smell the bus bathroom, an intoxicating, superfluous amount of disinfectant. Everything surrounding me stimulated my senses, but I couldn’t think of a darn thing to say.

We had been silent for several minutes, and that’s when I decided I was going to “fall asleep.” I wanted to touch him. I needed to touch him. My hands had been clasped, as if I were afraid they’d shoot out to him, enticed by some attraction I couldn’t explain. The potent force of fascination demanded a response and since my mouth couldn’t act, I let my hands do the talking for me.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t I just ask him if he has a girlfriend and see how he answers? But you see, I wasn’t thinking. And if you want to know the truth, the real kicker here: I had a girlfriend. We had been getting pretty serious, but I hadn’t thought about her since the moment Derek shook my hand. I couldn’t even think of her name in this moment. I closed my eyes, edged a bit closer to him so our shoulders were touching. I didn’t feel him move or anything, so after a carefully timed minute, I let my hand fall off my knee. One hand just so happened to have enough momentum to swing gently towards his leg. It floated, glided, and rested just above his knee, inching towards his inner thigh.

It was as if he were pure electricity, and my hand was the cord. I felt charged, alive, my heart beating faster and feeling fuller than ever before, like filling up a tank with gas but letting it spill and soak the outside of the vehicle far after the tank was full. I decided it was time to open my eyes.

When I looked at him, he was still playing on his phone, but he must have sensed something because his head shifted, turned toward me, and then he smiled.

He smiled and I about died.

“So you wanna be my partner?” he asked.

“What?” I gasped.

“On the roller coasters. Wanna ride them with me?”

“Yeah, for sure. That would be great.” My hand was still there. He didn’t seem to care. Or maybe he didn’t realize it. Could that be possible? Before I could do anything else, a kid in the back of the bus stood up.

“Anyone wanna play Bullshit?” he asked.

Shut up, I wanted to tell him, but I took my hand away from Derek’s leg as the boy approached.

“Sure,” Derek said. He turned and looked at me. “You know it? It’s a card game. You have to lie about what cards you’re playing.” I swear he then looked down at my hand that had found its way back on my lap and he grinned.

“Okay,” I answered.

“It will be fun. After a few rounds, we should be there. And then it’s time for roller coasters.”


*****


We played cards for the next couple of hours with a group of guys and a couple girls. We laughed and the adult chaperones shushed us a few times if we yelled “bullshit” too loud. But all I wanted was to be alone with Derek.

We arrived at Kings Island, and I hoped we’d be alone then, but no, the entire Bullshit playing group decided to stick together. We got to the first roller coaster, and Brandon, the guy who suggested the game in the first place, stood next to Derek in line.

“Dude, this is gonna be boss,” he told Derek. I was getting pissed now. I was supposed to be Derek’s partner. Why didn’t he come stand next to me in line? On the first ride, Derek and Brandon rode as partners, and I rode with a girl named Jackie.

“What a rush!” she shrieked after the first ride. My gaze was in the distance. Derek and Brandon had already exited and were walking to the next ride. In a matter of hours, I had felt two of the most extreme emotions I had ever experienced. This second one was not enjoyable. There was a pressure behind my eyes and a boulder in my stomach. If I had possessed Jedi mind powers, the rest of this group would have been incapacitated a long time ago.

Jackie and I caught up to Derek and Brandon at the next ride. “Hey,” Derek said to all three of us. “Should we switch up partners?”

“Sure, if you want,” Brandon said, disinterested, staring at the roller coaster.

“I’ll ride with you,” Jackie said to Derek.

Bitch, I almost said out loud. But Derek looked at me, smiled knowingly, and said, “Alright, cool. And then I’ll ride with Nick on the next one.”

This ride could not get over soon enough. We waited in line for nearly thirty minutes, and it felt like a year had passed. No one talked. It was hot, we were soaking in our own sweat, and we were reminded of what amusement parks are really like during the summer: a bunch of people baking and sweltering under the sun waiting in line for hours to enjoy a sixty second thrill.

But the ride did come and go, and in line for the next one, Derek said, “I’ll ride with you this time, cool?”

“Cool,” I tried to keep my voice calm. Of course, this ride went much more quickly. I don’t think we waited more than a few minutes, and then there we were: seated, a tired kid double checking our safety belts, my forehead burning in the sun, and a freshening breeze blowing in our faces as the ride began. And then the next amazing thing of the day happened. The ride jerked hard as it climbed a long hill, and when it jerked, Derek jumped and grabbed my knee with his hand. And he left it there.

We climbed and climbed an enormous ascension, and I never wanted it to stop. We reached the top and the ride curved before its sharp, steep descent down. I turned and beamed at Derek, and he smiled back. The ride dropped and we screamed. He squeezed my leg, and in a pure, impulsive moment of bravery, I grabbed the hand that rested on my knee. Seconds later, the ride was over. I pulled my hand away, but I didn’t want to get up. Jackie and Brandon were seated behind us. They stood up, and as I turned to get out, I saw Brandon’s gaze was locked on us. He saw Derek’s hand on my leg. I couldn’t interpret his facial expression, but he wasn’t smiling. I felt sick to my stomach for a whole new reason.

Derek and I got up and joined Jackie and Brandon. “I think we’ll let you guys have some time to yourself,” Brandon told us. Again, I couldn’t read his tone. Was he supportive or disapproving? And why did it matter what this stranger thought anyway?

“Whatever, man,” Derek said with such cool confidence. I looked at his broad shoulders and thick chest. Yeah, whatever, I wanted to say, too. Brandon was short and overweight. Derek looked like he hit the bench press every day. I was pretty thin and had never been in a fight, but one look at Derek and I felt pretty comfortable that we’d be okay if we ever were in trouble.

Brandon and Jackie left, and Derek looked at me, smiled, and asked, “So what next?”

“We have to try the fastest wooden roller coaster!”

“Absolutely. Let’s do it.”

We rode ride after ride that day. Some rides we just hollered and giggled. On one or two, I’d reach out to him. On one or two, he’d reach out to me. We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t try to explain it. I didn’t even know his last name or what school he went to or where he lived. I was living in the moment and felt absolutely perfect.

When the sun went down, we took a break to play some carnival games. The smell of fried food and sounds of bells called to us. “Should we play something?”

“Yeah. And then I think we need a funnel cake,” I told him.

He looked around at the variety of games and chose basketball. All he had to do was make one basket, and he’d win any choice of stuffed animals.

“You know the rims are smaller here?” I asked.

“I’ll take my chances,” he said, holding on to the ball, bending his knees into a slight squat, and he threw the ball high in a beautiful arch.

“Yeah!” I cheered as the ball swished through the net.

“I’ll take that one,” he told the attendant, pointing at a stuffed lion. He then handed it over to me and said, “For you.”

“Thanks.” All the dentists and all their drills in the world couldn’t remove the smile from my face.

“You’re really cool, Nick.”

“You’re really cool, too.”

He gently punched me in the shoulder. I wanted to hug him, but we were surrounded by who knows how many people, and it was time to go. The fundraising company paid for a hotel stay for the group so we didn’t have to drive home late at night. Unfortunately, the adult chaperones had already arranged who was staying with whom. We each were stuck staying in a room with four people, and Derek and I were not assigned the same one.

After we checked in, I showered and got ready for bed. My brain was buzzing, and I could even still smell the funnel cakes and elephant ears. Like salt from an ocean swim, it lingered in my senses. I was rooming with Brandon and two other guys from the trip I didn’t know, and I was eager to get to bed so I could see Derek again in the morning. It may be hard to sleep, but all I wanted in that moment was to fast forward time until I got to sit next to him for the long ride home. But right when I went to bed, there was a knock on the door.

Brandon opened it. Derek stood outside in the hall. “Hey,” he said. “Can I stay with you guys?”

“This room is already full,” one of the other boys yelled.

I sat up. Of course he could stay! But before I found the will to speak up, Brandon told Derek, “Go back to your own room, faggot.” And he slammed the door shut. He looked at me, as if testing me. I was frightened. I was mad. I didn’t know what to say or do. It was late at night. I opened my mouth, but again I couldn’t find any words to speak. Brandon stared at me, like a wolf trying to control a pack. A million thoughts swirled in my mind, infinite roller coaster loops. I should stand up, I should leave the room and go to Derek if nothing else, but Brandon turned the lights off and I sat up in bed staring at the wall. I could just talk to Derek in the morning, right? It was late after all. He’d understand, right? I rolled over and tried to fall asleep, dreaming of the ups and downs of the day, like riding the coasters all over again.


*****


The next morning we loaded the bus to get home. Derek sat in the back next to someone else. “Hey,” I greeted, confused. “Wanna sit up here with me?” I asked ever so quietly.

“Nope. I’m good.” He pulled out his phone and ignored me. My heart snapped. Like literally—I felt such sudden, quick pain in my chest and that force in my head behind my eyes.

“Derek, I’m sorry,” I said.

“GO AWAY.” He didn’t take his eyes off his phone.

I sat by myself on the ride home. Brandon, Jackie and some others played cards, but they didn’t invite me or Derek to join them. I stared at the same page of my Game of Thrones book the entire ride home. I kept thinking of things I could say or do. I kept asking myself why I was such a coward. Why didn’t I leave the room and go after Derek? Why didn’t I say something when Brandon called him a faggot?

My phone went off and I had a text from Darcie, my girlfriend. ‘How was the trip?’

I thought of replying: well, I met this guy and kinda fell in love I think. Surprise. I had the best day of my entire life with him yesterday. And then I blew it last night. Fuckin’ blew it. He won’t talk to me or look at me or anything. Of course, what I really typed was ‘fine. How are u?’ And of course I didn’t really care how Darcie was.

The bus had arrived in Indianapolis. It was time to go home. I exited first and thought of what I should say, what I could say to Derek to make up. It was my final chance to try something. I found a piece of paper in my bag. I wrote my full name on it, my cell phone, and my e-mail. Derek walked right past me in the parking lot.

“Derek,” I called. He turned around. His eyes: I swear to you I had never seen such sadness in someone’s eyes before. It was clear to me then that I had really hurt him. That I had completely messed up. “I don’t even know your last name. Or where you go to school.”

“I know,” and he turned away from me.

“Wait,” I said.

“What?” he snapped, and if it was possible, his eyes were even darker.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. Here, take this.”

“What is it?”

“My name and info. I’m really sorry. Will you at least call?”

He took it, then crumpled it up, threw it on the ground, and turned around without giving me any response.

If it only takes a moment to fall in love or feel infinite happiness, let me tell you: it takes even less time to fall into bottomless depths of sadness. I watched him walk away, I looked down at the crumpled piece of paper I had tried to give him, and all I could think about was that he was gone. Completely gone and out of my life.

Forever.


Chapter Two


I had two weeks until school started again, marking the beginning of my junior year. I spent those two weeks locked in my room listening to every sad song I could find. I even searched the internet and YouTube for “saddest songs ever.” Eighties ballads, current rock and pop, and even some country found its ways on my playlist.

I had never felt like this before. Seriously. And no, I’m not some Bella Twilight chick in a dude’s body. I’ve never been one to lock himself in his room, to ignore the world, to hate the world. But then I guess there’s a first time for everything.

My name is Nick Revel. You must be wondering about me. Who is my girlfriend? Am I some gay closet case? Well, let me tell you. I’ve been dating Darcie McCoy since last April. She’s the first girlfriend I had who let me feel her up, but that’s as far as we’ve gone. I’m a virgin.

Confused? Yeah me, too.

Okay, I’m kind of lying. I’m not confused. I just don’t know how to be me. Yeah, I’ve always been attracted to guys. On the basketball team last winter—oh yeah, I play basketball, and I’m pretty good—I remembered our former captain Adam started what he called a “sword fight” in the locker room. He got all the guys to compare dick sizes. They were shaking their penises at one another, and I wasn’t at all confused then: I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw but I had to hide in a bathroom stall. My sword was standing straight, and that wasn’t something I wanted them to see.

So am I just another classic closeted high school gay boy? I don’t know. I mean, I do like girls, I think. I like Darcie. She’s fun. She’s a great kisser and I have rather enjoyed playing with her boobs. Until I met Derek though, I had never felt something so powerful, and whatever it was I felt towards him I had never felt towards Darcie or anyone else.

Which brings me to my two weeks of sad music. I found this really cool song by Phil Collins called “I Wish It Would Rain.” I’ve been listening to that every day, and not once has it actually rained. It’s been hot, dry, and depressing. That’s August for you. That’s love and life as well, I guess.

It hasn’t stopped me from jerking off though. I’ve been rubbing one off to pics of Vin Diesel every night. I guess that should tell us something. I listen to sad music and then rub one off: it’s the only way I can get to sleep. Don’t judge me. I’m sixteen. What sixteen year old doesn’t jerk off pretty much every day?

Now it’s the Saturday night before school starts, and I’ve got a date with Darcie. We’re going out to a movie again. That’s all we ever do, and most of the time we don’t even watch the movie. We get there early, sit in the back row farthest from the screen, and make out. I don’t even know why we pay the money to see a movie when all we do is make out. It’s been getting kind of boring as of late.

But here I am, finally out of my depressing room, sitting in a dark movie theater with my arm around her shoulders, and the previews are finally over, which means she’ll probably lean in to start sucking face anytime soon. Moments later, like clockwork, she kisses me and sticks her tongue down my throat. We’ve been playing a lot with our tongues, like a thumb war in our mouths. It’s something to do. I put my hand up her shirt and feel her boobs. She has nice tits. They feel like small water balloons, and I like how hard her nipples get and the tiny bumps around the nipple. We did this for a few minutes, and then she did something to me for the first time ever.

She put her hand in my pants. She felt my penis. She’s never done this, and I panicked for a moment. She held it at first, and then squeezed a little. Then she slid her hand up and down. I moaned a bit out loud, my panic increased, and I tried to keep quiet. I considered telling her to stop, but then the pleasure jumbled my thoughts into an incoherent nothingness. Numb. That’s how my brain felt. Thankfully, no one else sat up here by us. We typically picked movies that have been out for a few weeks so they aren’t too crowded.

She stroked me faster and faster, and I took pride in how hard I felt. It’s as hard as concrete, a tree trunk, pure steel. I got to that point where I’m about to shoot, and I didn’t know if I should warn her.

Oops. Too late.

My pants felt wet, and she removed a hand that looked like it’s been covered with glue. She gave me a look somewhere between hot and gross and whispered in my ear, “I’ll be right back.” I assumed she needed to wash her hands, and I hope she does, or I’m not sharing my popcorn with her.

When she returned, we watched the rest of the movie in silence, and later I dropped her off at her house and kissed her goodnight.

“Did you have fun tonight?” she asked me.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Really? You barely said anything the rest of the night.”

“We were in a movie,” I defended.

“Yeah but on the way home. You didn’t even suggest we get food or anything. You drove me right here.” She frowned and stared at me with those sad, puppy dog eyes. Darcie was a very pretty girl. She had these cute freckles all over her face and shoulder-length auburn hair, more brown then red, I guess. She looked cute when she was sad, but that cuteness was beginning to wear off on me.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know where my mind is. I think you distracted me,” I tried to joke.

She laughed, and I smiled thinking my lie of a joke worked. “Oh, okay. That’s good.” And she kissed me again. “Okay, text me when you get home.”

“I will,” I lied again. I’ve spent all night with you and you want me to text you in five minutes when I get home? Jesus.

“Good night.”

“Night, Darcie.” I hooked my iPod up to my car radio and listened to that Phil Collins song again on the way home.

It’s hard being a teenage boy. I’m always divided that life is too much about sex or not enough about sex. What she did to me tonight felt great, but it makes me feel sad, too. It’s weird how you can be happy and sad at the same time.

When I got home, my mom was waiting up for me as usual.

“Hi, mom.”

“Hi, honey. How was your date with Darcie?”

“It was fine.”

“Just fine?”

“Yeah.”

“I made you a snack. Mac and cheese in case you were hungry.” She went to the kitchen, took the food out of the fridge, and put it in the microwave to heat up.

“Thanks, mom.”

“I’ve been worried about you,” she said handing me the heated up mac and cheese. “You’re always so active. This last week or so, you’ve been alone in your room a lot. Care to tell me what’s up?”

“I’m okay.”

“How about you and Darcie?”

“I don’t know. I’m just kinda bored anymore.”

“Hmm,” she said and sat down at the kitchen table with me. “Well,” she continued, “that can happen when you’re dating. Especially when you’re young. The best thing you can do is be honest with her, you know? If you really like her, suggest doing other things than going to a movie. But if you don’t really like her and you’re really bored, then maybe you need to consider moving on. The longer you wait, you know, the harder it is going to be for the both of you.”

“I know,” I said even though I didn’t. I had never broken up with anyone before.

“Is there anything else?” mom asked. I often wondered if she knew more about me than she was telling. I always cleared my internet history and used Google Chrome’s incognito feature whenever I looked up Vin Diesel pics or porn, but maybe she knows more because she’s my mom.

Tonight wasn’t the night to talk about the anything else though. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t feel like I’d ever be ready.

“No.” I stuffed my face with the rest of the mac and cheese, hugged her, and kissed her goodnight.

“Thanks, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Nick.” I felt her watch me as I walked upstairs to my bedroom. But she didn’t follow me or call out. She was a pretty cool mom, and I sensed that she made a deliberate effort to make herself available and give me my space.

I took off my clothes, changed my sticky underwear, and laid in bed. With my headphones on, I listened to my music and stared at the stuffed lion Derek had won for me at Kings Island. I thought of what Darcie did to me tonight, and then I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I felt ridiculous, like a coward, like a baby. It was the first time I had cried I think since I was a little kid. I rolled and cried into my pillow so no one else would hear me. The problem with happiness, I had begun to understand, is that sometimes you get a taste of what is possible but either never get enough or have future possibilities taken away from you. That’s what made me sad. I got every tear out and then I made myself a promise. It’s time to move on, to be honest, to start junior year as a new person, a stronger person. Yes, I could do that. I will do that.

I fell asleep listening to my music, dreaming of the person I wanted to be, dreaming of the person I wanted to be with. Learn from the past, I told myself, but don’t linger on it. That’s what I intended to do. That’s what I needed to do.

Chapter Three


I feel like I get great ideas in the middle of the night, but then I wake up and forget the things I wanted to change, the new things I wanted to do, as if they were all a random dream that resided strictly on a temporary basis in my brain to get me to fall asleep. The next day I spent all of that Sunday afternoon before school searching for Derek online. I woke up thinking about Derek as often as I woke up with morning wood, which was pretty much every day. Maybe I’d move on soon, but I had to try everything I could, right?

Going online, I searched for every combination I could like “Derek Kings Island” hoping he’d have posted something on the internet that would take me to him. I tried the fundraising company website to see if they listed winners. All their website said was “congrats to all of our winners- you will be contacted directly.” I searched every “person you may know” on Facebook named Derek. I tried Twitter, Instagram, and everything I could possibly imagine.

And I came to this conclusion: I will never find him online. I don’t have enough information, or maybe he’s not online at all.

I stared at my computer screen for several minutes, thinking. And then I reminded myself of what I promised before bed last night: move on.

Hopefully my obsessions would last no longer than my morning wood.

I shut off my computer and went downstairs for breakfast.

My sister Jen was already eating. “Hey, save me some,” I said messing up her hair.

“I have to get here first to get any before your fat butt eats,” she snapped back. Jen was about to enter the fifth grade at a new middle school. She had the same hair as me, only longer, a shiny brown that turned almost blond over the summer. At this time of year, we were both almost blond, but not quite.

“WHAT. EVER,” I said. Whatever had become her new favorite word, as it does for most middle school kids, I suppose.

“Oh my gosh, what ARE you eating?”

As I tossed away the skin, I said, “We call this a banana in first world countries.”

“You usually go right for the bacon. Mom cooked us each three strips.”

“Maybe I’ll have some later.”

“Are you sick? What is wrong with you? You don’t turn down bacon. Ever.”

I laughed. “That grease is getting to your head. I’ll be outside if Mom or Dad ask.”

“And now you’re going outside?”

“I’m going to read for a bit. I thought it’d be nice to be outside. That’s all. Don’t get all problem child on me.”

“Whatever. More bacon for me.”

Peace and quiet. That’s all I wanted, as I sat down on a bench we had in the backyard. That’s when my cell phone went off.

It was a text from Darcie. Of course it was.

‘Morning, sunshine. What are you doing today?’

Not replying to you, I thought, and put the phone away. I sat and read for nearly an hour without distraction until my Dad decided to come out.

“Hi, Nick. I was thinking I’d trim all the bushes today. Feel like helping your old man?”

Dad was a pretty good guy. Naive, in a Modern Family Phil Dunphy kind of way. He worked hard supervising construction projects. He was thick like the bushes he wanted to trim, but mostly muscle with a little beer gut. Dad did like his beer.

“Not really. But I can. If you really need the help,” I generously offered.

“Funny. Grab both trimmers from the garage. This bush is getting as hairy as you. Time for a trim.”

“Dad! I’m not hairy. I have like two hairs on my chest.”

“Man to man, Nick. You may want to consider trimming the downstairs, too. I know it’s not your sister who’s dropping pubes all over the toilet.”

“Dad! That’s gross!”

“Don’t say I didn’t tell you when YEARS DOWN THE ROAD your girlfriend complains.”

“Can we just trim the bushes?”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” He grinned.

“Something is seriously wrong with you.” I got the two trimmers, and we teamed up on a series of bushes on the side of the backyard.

“Mom tells me that you and Darcie are having problems. Everything okay?”

I really didn’t want to talk about it anymore, but there was something about working with your hands and being outdoors that made me feel more open.

“I’m just bored. I spent every weekend with her, and she texts and calls all the time. We’re not married. A guy needs his space, don’t you think?”

“Young love can be very passionate, Nick. If you felt as strongly about her as she obviously does about you, I don’t think you’d mind all those calls and texts.”

“I guess. So does that I mean I should break up with her?”

“Life is funny. There was one girl when I was in high school that I dated every year except for freshman year. We’d date for a few months, break up, get back together, and we repeated that cycle until we graduated.”

“What happened in the end?”

“She went away to college, and I met your mother. I suppose, like you, I got bored with the first girl. But then I got bored without her. It was a no-win situation. Bored with, bored without.”

“So you’re saying I might end up back with her even after we break up?”

“Maybe. What I’m saying is you have to find something that excites you. Friends, hobbies, or the one girl that’s just right for you. Then even when you’re bored, you’ll be happy. You know, I think kids worry too much about being bored. When you’re bored, you have time to think. That’s not bad. And if you’re happy overall, those moments of boredom aren’t bad. They’re relaxing, in fact.”

Dad looked over the bushes and at me. We hadn’t talked like this in quite a while. I suspected Mom put him up to it, but I didn’t care. Dad was genuine. He wasn’t much of an advice-giver throughout my childhood, but when he did, it seemed real and from his heart.

“I’ve been bored a lot this summer.”

“We’ve noticed. I’ll tell you something else. You may want to give your old friends a call. Bros before . . . Well, you know, as they say. You guys seemed to drift apart this summer.”

I had a few good friends, mainly from the basketball team. “Yeah, Darcie took all of my time.”

“You gave her all of your time. You have to find balance.”

“Open gym for basketball starts next week. I’ll get back into the game, back in shape, and back with my friends.”

“Good. Now, hand me that hose. This bush looks quite dirty.”

Without thinking about it, I handed Dad the hose and turned on the water. It wasn’t the bush that he found dirty, evidently.

“Dad!” I shouted as he soaked me. Mom and Jen ran outside. I grabbed Dad and wrestled him to the ground. Mom and Jen got the hose and soaked both of us.

“Ugh, what’s wrong with you people?” I yelled.

I ran towards them, pulled the hose out of their hands and got them back. We were all so wet that we fell to the ground laughing.

It was moments exactly like this one, you see, that I was scared I would lose if I ever told my family the truth.


*****


I took Dad’s advice and later that day got ahold of my friends.

I texted Asantà first. He was one of the forwards on the basketball team. I wasn’t very tall, but I was quick and had a decent shot, so I played guard. Asantà was tall and fast, a very talented ball player. ‘Hey- been a long time, sorry. Ready for school tomorrow?’

‘UR ALIVE? We all wondered where u been.’

‘With Darcie a lot. Sorry. I miss ball and you guys. We playin after school?’

‘YEP. Will be good to kick ur ass again. Ball is life!’

‘I will bro.’

I decided to text a few others from the team and call Darcie back. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for sure, and with school just starting, it would be nice to have someone to go to all the football games with. So I didn’t mention anything about being bored or wanting more space (or, you know, preferring boys over girls).

“So you’ll sit with me at lunch tomorrow?” Darcie asked as I was about to hang up and go to bed.

“Come find me and sit with the guys. I’ve barely seen them all summer.”

“I thought we might have our own table,” she whined. “Or you could sit with my friends.”

“Tomorrow I want to sit with the guys. We have to talk about the upcoming season, okay? But maybe I can alternate days. One day with them. One day with you.”

“Fine,” she said in the way that was nothing but. I wasn’t going to press the issue though and I pretended that I thought everything was fine.

“I should get to bed,” I said.

“Okay.” Long pause. Are we still doing the who-is going-to-hang-up-first game? Am I thirteen? Jesus.

“Okay then. Good night.”

“Nick,” she said followed by another long pause. I swear I was about to hang up when she said, “I love you.” It was the first I love you in our relationship.

Well, fuck, I thought. I’m not not saying it. She’ll be pissed and I don’t want a fight on the first day of school. So I did the only reasonable thing I could. I told her, “I love you, too, Darcie. See you tomorrow.” And I hung up quickly. We had plenty of nights where we’d say good-night over and over again to each other till the point I thought my brain was going to explode. I wasn’t about to start that with “I love you.” Not tonight.

Would you think I was a total loser if I slept with the stuffed lion Derek had won me? In case you might, I won’t tell you that I did exactly that.


*****


My school was called Worthlapp High, about thirty minutes outside of Indianapolis. It had developed the more common name of Worthless High by the student body. And of course in an attempt for fun alliteration, we were the Worthlapp Wasps. The cheerleaders would wear stingers on their butts during pep rallies. It was all rather absurd, which is synonymous with high school.

We had one openly gay kid at Worthless High. His name was Steve. He was a sophomore and I swear he must have come out of the womb flaming and waving a rainbow flag. He started a gay-straight student alliance that I never attended. As far as I know, only a few empathetic freshman girls attended his club. You might hate me for what I think, but I really didn’t like Steve. I just wanted to fit in. I never had dreams of coming out or taking a boy to prom. I didn’t want to go to parades or start a rally. I just wanted to be seen as a regular dude, not the gay kid in school.

All in all, I always thought things weren’t so bad for Steve or gay kids today. We had a President of the U.S. who for the first time came out in support of gay marriage. More and more states across the country kept legalizing it, and then one day the Supreme Court made marriage equality law of the land. There was a gay character or two on almost every TV show. Sure, every now and then, there’d be some completely idiotic program like Duck Dynasty or a ridiculous politician that would have something negative to say about being gay, but overall, I thought the world was okay.

I also think all of this knowing what an idiot I am.

You see, if there wasn’t still some kind of problem, then I wouldn’t have this attitude that I just wanted to fit in and not be seen as different. It shouldn’t be seen as different, not really. Different as in there are guys and there are girls and they are certainly different, but not different like there’s good and bad. And to some, especially in a smaller school like mine, there is different good and there is different bad. But I don’t want to make a damn difference. I just wanted to be happy and fit in. And if you can’t tell, my mind loops around in this poor circular reasoning over and over again.

So I wasn’t Steve, and I wasn’t going to be. I don’t know why some guys acted like girls. They just do. I was a guy who acted like a guy. Who happened to like other guys.

My skin crawled when people made jokes about Steve though. Maybe the vast majority of people didn’t hate or discriminate, but they still made fun of differences.

“There’s Princess and his paparazzi,” Asantà joked after school as Steve and the girls who attended his club meetings walked by. The rest of the team laughed, and I forced a smile.

Part of me wanted to speak up and say something to Asantà, to say that it wasn’t cool to talk or think like that. But he wasn’t hating on Steve, not really. He was trying to be funny. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I also didn’t want to be the one who had to stand up and speak out. I hoped someone else on the team would do that.

“He walks like he has a thong lodged up his ass,” Jared, our tall basketball center, added.

“I’m sure there’s more than a thong up there.” Zack laughed. Zack was our other guard, short and quick like me.

“You say that like you’ve been there, Zack. You and that big black dick.” Toby snorted. Toby was our other forward along with Asantà. Zack, Jared, and Toby were seniors, while Asantà and I were juniors, but we got pulled up to varsity last year. The five of us were the Worthless High Wasps proud starting line-up.

“You just be jealous of what I’m packing,” Zack told Toby, grabbing his own package for emphasis. I had to look away.

“We playing today or talking about your dicks?” I tried to change the subject.

“Didn’t mean to leave you out, suga,” Zack said and grabbed my balls. “You got a nice package yourself. For a white boy.” The rest of the team laughed, and I smacked Zack’s hand. I often wondered why straight guys liked talking or thinking about dick as much as I did. And these guys could get pretty friendly, like their legendary locker room sword fights. It was messed up.

“Let’s play some ball, yo,” I joked back, desperate to stop thinking and start playing.


*****


Guess who was waiting for me after practice? Yes, of course it was Darcie. She sat in the bleachers by herself watching us for about the last half hour. It was the five of us starters and a few other guys, nothing formal, only open gym this time of year. Basketball season wouldn’t start for several weeks. First we had to get through the school’s proudest sport: football. I wanted to support all the sports and not be a douche, but the football guys made it very hard. They were confident that their sport was the only one that mattered, and they were always happy to point out that they had bigger crowds.

“Hey, you wanna play some Call of Duty later?” Asantà asked me. I looked over at Darcie who waved too enthusiastically. Asantà saw her too and followed up, “Oh. Never mind. I see the ball and chain is here.”

“No, man, I’ll play. Let me say hey to her and I’ll be over in a few.”

“Cool.” Asantà held out his fist and I bumped it with mine. “The rest of the guys will be there, too.”

I jogged over to Darcie who wrapped her arms around my sweaty shoulders and kissed me long and hard, tongue and all. She held on for about ten seconds before I broke free and caught my breath.

“Well, hello to you, too.” I laughed.

“I just missed you.” She frowned.

“And I missed you,” I lied, putting my hand under her chin and pulling her head up.

“Really?” She smiled and her eyes grew. This was another game I always had to play. She needed me to say every compliment at least twice.

“Yes, I really missed you,” I repeated and pulled her auburn hair back over her ears. I kissed her on my favorite, or what used to be anyway, freckle on her cheek.

“We haven’t talked since last night. You hung up so quickly.”

“Oh, sorry. I knew it was going to be our first day back and with practice and all I wanted to be fully rested.”

She frowned again, clearly dissatisfied. She remained silent. I think she was hoping I would be the first to say those other three words again. But I held my ground and stared back at her. She lasted about six seconds.

“I love you,” she said.

I blinked, swallowed, put on my poker face and said, “I love you, too.”

“Really? You mean it?” Here we go again repeating ourselves.

“Yes, I love you,” I lied. God, am I a terrible person?

“And I love you,” she replied. “Yay! My parents are cooking a big meal in honor of the first day back at school. You should come. They’d love to have you over.”

“I promised Asantà I’d hang with him and the guys.”

Her lower lip completely sucked in her upper lip. The classic Darcie disappointed frown. “First, you have lunch with them. Then you play after school. And you’re gonna hang with them tonight? Where do I fit in this picture?”

“Darcie, I haven’t seen them like all summer. It’s important for a team to bond. I can’t ditch them whenever my girlfriend wants to hang.”

Her upper lip went entirely missing then. I regretted what I did next, but I couldn’t help it. I laughed. Out loud. At Darcie’s disappointment.

“What is so funny?” she snapped.

“Sorry.” I laughed louder. “It’s just…” more laughter. “When you’re mad… you look like you only have one lip.”

She gasped and her eyes went wider than I’ve ever seen them and that made me laugh even louder.

“I’m sorry,” I tried. “What I meant was…” Poker face, Nick, poker face. “You look so freakin’ cute when you’re mad. It’s adorable. I can’t help but smile.”

That did the trick. Her face softened, her upper lip slowly escaping the trenches of disappointment. “So, you still gonna ditch me tonight?”

“I’m not ditching you. I had plans with the guys first. I promise I’ll sit with you at lunch tomorrow, okay?”

“Ohh kay.” She pouted. “I love you.”

Sigh. “I love you, too. See ya tomorrow.” I gave her a quick peck on the lips, far less passionate than the soul sucking kiss she gave me earlier, then turned and sprinted out of the gym. Somewhere behind me I heard, “Call me when you get home tonight.”

I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, I thought.

Chapter Four


Friday was the first football game of the season for the Worthless High Wasps. I managed to talk Darcie into going with me and the guys. She wanted to go just us two, which was code for she wanted to hang under the bleachers and make out. I was tired of Darcie’s tongue in my mouth, if you couldn’t tell, so I told her we should hang with the guys. I had been rebuilding my friendship with them over the last couple of week since school had restarted. I enjoyed the guys, even if they were a bit crude at times, but hey, look who’s talking here.

“You know what pisses me off though,” Asantà started as we climbed the bleachers for a seat. “We come and support the football team every week. Rain, snow, it don’t matter. How many of them come to our games?”

“Not enough,” Jared added, taking a seat in the midsection of the bleachers.

“Hey,” some mom called from behind Jared. “Can you boys please sit higher up? You’re so tall, I can’t see.”

Jared laughed and looked at Asantà, who even as a junior was the unofficial leader of the group. “Sure, ma’am, we’ll move up a few rows,” Asantà agreed.

“I’d rather sit at the top anyway,” Zack said.

“Yeah, we can spit on people walkin’ under the bleachers,” Toby grinned.

“You guys are disgusting.” Darcie shook her head, holding my hand. “No wonder you don’t have girlfriends.”

“I date after basketball season. Dump ‘em right before. That keeps my head in the game,” Asantà told her and then gave me a disapproving look. For as close as I had been getting to the guys, it felt like they weren’t all that enthused about Darcie.

I didn’t say anything and made the mistake of smiling. Darcie took her hand away and crossed her arms. But that didn’t stop her from following us to the top of the bleachers.

“Look at all the cheerleaders.” Toby sighed. “They have a squad twice the size of ours. Stupid football.”

“You know who else has something twice the size of yours?” Zack laughed and grabbed his crotch.

“Your mother?” Toby asked. “Yeah, she’s a fat ass.”

Zack hit him on the shoulder. “Don’t you diss my ma.”

“Don’t diss my junk,” Toby told him. “I’ll pull it out right now.”

“How can you take this?” Darcie asked me.

I laughed. “Welcome to my friends’ world.” She frowned and shook her head again and then looked down beneath the bleachers.

Asantà saw her staring. “Thinkin’ of joinin’ the herpes club? I wouldn’t go down there and touch anything. Bunch a nastiness down there.” She looked at him with a snarl on her face but didn’t say anything.

The game was about to begin. The other team, who knows who they were or where they were from—we didn’t pay attention to those details unless it was basketball—kicked off and the Wasps received. Our football team was supposed to be great this year. They made it to state nearly every year, although they hadn’t won a state championship since before I was born. Always so close, but never good enough. The story of our lives, right?

Receiving the kickoff, one of our star players caught the ball and ran all the way to the end zone, scoring on the first play of the game. Everyone jumped up and cheered. Almost everyone. We slowly stood up and clapped to be polite, but Asantà and I rolled our eyes at one another and clapped as enthusiastically as you would at a golf match. It was jealousy, sure. We never had screaming crowds like this at our games, but dammit we worked just as hard. Whatever.

By halftime, the Wasps had a 21-0 lead, and the stingers on the cheer squad had about fell off from all the ass-shaking. The best part of a high school football game finally arrived: halftime. This is when we’d walk around, talk, say hey to other classmates, grab some snacks, and most likely not care enough to watch the second half of the game.

I ordered some nachos, to which Jared helped himself. “You could get your own, man.”

“It’s more fun to eat yours,” he mumbled while crunching on a chip.

“Hey Asantà!” It was some of the JV basketball players gathered around the entrance of the stadium.

“What up?” He nodded. Never too social with the younger classes, Asantà was friendly but distant, the perfect way to be looked up to, he said. “If our program is ever going to be as popular as football, the kids have to want to be like us. So stay cool.”

We walked around, the four guys, me, Darcie. She tried to reach out and hold my hand, and I ever so cleverly moved my nachos to the hand closest to her. Sorry, girl. This guy prefers processed cheese.

As I looked around at all the kids, parents, and teachers here at the game, I wondered: was high school so boring that everyone has nothing to do but to watch a bunch of teenagers run up and down a field? Yeah, it was that boring. And I felt even sadder for the older people here. Sure, you could say they were supportive. But supportive is another way of saying they have absolutely no life. And you know what Monday in every class would be like, right? All of the teachers who went would spend the first ten minutes of every class talking to the players about the game. Congratulating them, insulting the other team, applauding Coach God or whatever his name was, and making sure the kids knew how cool their teachers were to go and support the students’ athletic efforts.

It was bullshit. It was like school existed to support the football team and that was all.

“What do you say we egg the football players’ cars?” Zack suggested.

We laughed. “Hell yeah,” Jared said. “Dude your house is closest,” he said to Toby. “Your mom got any eggs? Besides the dried up ones between her legs?”

“Fuck you. And yeah, we got eggs.” Toby turned to Asantà. “What do you think?”

He looked at the crowd, ten times the size of the ones that supported our team. “Yeah, I’m in. Their cars will be easy to spot. The cheerleaders will have written on all the windows about how much they love them.”

“Or how much they just want to suck their dicks,” Jared said.

“Ain’t that the truth?” Zack agreed. “They get blown for every point they score.”

“I am having nothing to do with this,” Darcie barked. “And you’ll get in trouble, Nick. Don’t you dare.”

“You don’t understand. Why don’t you go home and I’ll call you later?” I told her.

She huffed but replied, “You promise you’ll call?”

I had to think about that. Would I really call her? Probably not. So instead I kissed her on the forehead and said, “I’ll be careful. You shouldn’t be here though in case we do get caught. Go. I’ll talk to you later.” I turned, threw one arm around Asantà and tried to throw one around Jared, but his waist was about my shoulder level. “Let’s egg some football bastards,” I said, and they all laughed.

We had to be quick. We knew that by the fourth quarter, people would start leaving. It would be best to egg sometime during the beginning of the third quarter. People would return to their seats, and the start of the second half would provide a temporary distraction.

Toby lived about two blocks from the high school. We jogged to his house and waited out back while he ran in the kitchen. He came out with one of the big boxes of two dozen eggs. Jackpot!

“Ma must have just went shopping. She’ll be pissed as hell when they’re missing, but I’ll blame my little brother.” Toby laughed.

He put them in a white, plastic grocery bag and we ran back to the school. As we had hoped, no one was in the parking lot. The roars of the stadium let us know that the second half had started. Closest to the academic side of the school, two rows of cars had been decorated with “we love you” and “sting your way to victory.” Yeah, these were those jackasses’ cars. We each took a handful of eggs and aimed for the windshield of every one.

“Now this is a new kind of ball practice I could get used to.” Zack grinned.

“Yeah, at least this way you score.” Jared laughed.

“Whatev, freak,” Zack joked back. We threw the eggs, splattering the cars, ruining some of the sweet letters of love the cheerleaders had written. We laughed so hard snot came out of Toby’s nose and Jared snorted. It was awesome.


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