Excerpt for Indigo Guides the Way by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Indigo Guides the Way

By Feral Sephrian

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

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Copyright 2017 Feral Sephrian

ISBN 9781634864732

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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Indigo Guides the Way

By Feral Sephrian

Chapter 1

In times of desperation, men will often turn to unconventional avenues to find what they need. In Amir’s case, that meant turning to the horoscopes in the local paper. He stood at the counter of the Summer Street Bike Shop waiting for the only current customer to come forward with a purchase. Amir was a rational and practical person, in his opinion. Horoscopes were for those who needed external validation, however vague, to assure them if they were on the right or wrong path. It was almost like a religion, but with fewer offerings and more blind faith.

Sadly, Amir had reached the point where he had nothing to offer and no idea where else to look. He was content with many aspects of his life. He lived in a nice house with the two other guys who ran the bike shop, business was good, and his social life was active enough that he didn’t feel like a hermit, but that was no substitute for a good relationship. Amir had had to admit he was starved for affection when he found himself hoping any cute male customers who gave him a cheery, “Have a good day!” after a transaction would come back and flirt with him.

At thirty-five, Amir had been through several boyfriends, some that seemed like they may become permanent fixtures before inevitable drama drove them apart, and some casual flings that had been disappointingly unfulfilling. It wasn’t that he needed someone to worship the ground he walked on or send him romantic texts a dozen times a day, but some tenderness and commitment would be nice.

Amir was aware of his star sign because some of his more New Agey friends often told him, “Of course you can’t hold down a boyfriend! You’re a Sagittarius! Few guys can deal with that kind of fire. Find yourself a Libra, or at the very least an Aries. You’ll be so much happier.”

The advice in the paper was no less vague. “You’ve been waiting for good things to come into your life, Sagittarius,” it read. “Fear not! The wait is almost over! This fall, indigo guides the way to your happiness.”

Amir read the small lettering over a few times, yet no amount of repetition could answer his one question. “What the fuck does that even mean?” he muttered to himself.

He skimmed the other horoscopes. The general astrological forecast called for a pleasant autumn, which wasn’t hard in New England, and good fortune. That is, with the exception of Libra, oddly enough. “Sorry to say, Libra, but there is heartbreak on the horizon. You hate being lonely, but sometimes you need to let go and do what’s best for you.”

“Are you sure that wasn’t supposed to be my horoscope?” Amir asked the paper. Not all his relationships had ended in heartbreak, but he had had enough “me time” to make him heartsick instead.

A testament to Amir’s track record was Ken, Amir’s coworker, roommate, and ex. They had lived together before and realized they were not going to work out as a couple. Ken had moved out for a while, which was when Amir had picked up Todd as a roommate, but Todd was straight. Then Ken’s landlord kicked him out with barely two weeks’ notice, and he wound up sleeping on Amir’s and Todd’s couch until the three of them moved out of the two-bedroom apartment into a little house outside of Taunton. Todd’s parents had owned the bike shop, but left it to him when they retired. Todd knew how to run the shop, Ken was good with intricate repairs, and Amir had enough experience with both retail and the bike trails of eastern Massachusetts that the three of them took over the business together.

Ken came out from the back room where he had been cleaning and tuning a bike for someone who had dropped it off first thing that morning. Though it was clear he had washed his hands, there were smudges of grease on his forearms.

“Slow day,” Ken remarked.

Amir nodded. The current customer was staring at their display of reflective accessories. Amir had offered to help them pick something out, but they had waved him off and spent the past fifteen minutes simply meandering. That was when Amir had picked up the paper to skim through it. The horoscope’s prediction, stupid though it sounded, had piqued Amir’s curiosity enough that he decided to show it to Ken in hopes that his ex could provide some insight.

“What do you think of this?” Amir asked, pointing to the section for Sagittarius.

Ken read it through squinting eyes, a smirk barely staying off his face. “I think I did repairs for a Mr. Indigo the other day. Should I give him your number?” He snorted at his own joke. It was one of the things Amir had found cute when they dated but grew to annoy him when they lived together; Ken considered himself witty and hilarious and therefore made himself laugh more than he did anyone else.

Amir rolled his eyes. “Sure, I’ll call him after we’re done with the orders from Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard.”

The lone customer came forward with a bike light, two reflective arm bands, and a combination lock. Amir checked them out and made small talk, which Ken joined. For a moment as they discussed the oncoming autumn and the boost to tourism that would follow, Amir forgot why there was a sludgy sensation in the center of his chest. One glance at the newspaper gave him a bitter reminder.

“So why are you asking the stars for advice?” Ken asked after the customer had left. “You were never the type to rely on the supernatural.” He leaned forward on the counter. His light brown eyes, which Amir to this day admired for their piercing warmth, glanced to the paper and back to Amir. “I guess some guys go slumming in bars, some guys dredge dating sites, and some…pray.”

Amir snatched the paper and rolled it up. “I’m not praying for a boyfriend yet.”

Yet. Amir, I can only do so much. Like I said the other day, we’re mature enough adults that we can live and work together despite our…history, but when you mope like this…”

“Yeah, yeah, you care enough to feel bad for me, but you’re detached enough that you want me to fix it myself.” Amir rolled the newspaper tighter. They had, indeed, had this conversation over the weekend when they were watching a movie and Amir expressed jealousy for the romantic pair. “Which is why I’m not asking for your help. I didn’t need you to help me the last time either.”

Ken rolled his eyes. “That last time only lasted a week, and you were glad to be rid of him.”

Amir licked the corner of his mouth. “The sex was good though…”

“Yeah, but he was a total shithead.” Ken sneered. “Maybe you do need my help. I can probably find you better eligible bachelors than some amateur astrologist can.”

“I don’t doubt it. My only concern is that your track record isn’t exactly spotless either.”

The door chime went off, followed by the familiar sound of someone struggling to fit through the door with a bike on their shoulder. Amir gave Ken his this conversation isn’t over look. Ken cocked an eyebrow in his usual response of a that’s what you think expression. Amir sighed before conducting himself more professionally.

“Can I help you today?” he asked the customer.

The man who was shrugging the bike gently onto the ground could have been somewhere around Amir’s age, except his smooth Korean features gave Amir pause. He had known a few older Koreans who were mistaken for being twenty years younger all the time. This guy’s style was distinctly Generation Y though, and it was clear that he hadn’t ridden his bike there. He wore bootcut jeans and a three-quarter sleeved shirt with Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” logo on it, and there were no sweat spots on any of his clothes to indicate that he had been pedaling the bike in this early September heat.

“Hi,” said the customer with a mild Mid-Atlantic accent. “I took a bad turn this past weekend and accidentally dropped this down a ditch…with me on it.”

Amir winced. “Ouch. Glad to see you’re okay.”

The customer nodded down to his leg. “A few scratches and bruises, but nothing broken. I’ve had worse.”

“Same. Still sucks. Let’s look at the damage here though.” Amir walked around the counter to examine the bike. Ken also went and knelt to see exactly what he would be fixing. The chain was gnarled around the derailleur, which itself hung at an odd angle. Amir could clearly picture the type of accident that caused this damage and understood the customer’s need for loose-legged pants after such an ordeal. He also noticed a greenish bruise poking out from under the guy’s partially rolled up sleeve, as well.

“I think it’s just the hanger that’s busted,” Ken said. “What style is this…Uh, I might have this in stock, but let me double-check.” He hopped up and dashed into his workshop.

The customer frowned in mild concern. Amir put up a reassuring hand. “Ken tries to have at least one of everything on hand. Should be fine. I wouldn’t worry about it, Mister…um…”

“Yu,” said the customer. “Jae-sun Yu. Most people just call me Jae, though.”

“I’m Amir, which is also what people call me,” Amir said with a friendly smile.

Jae chuckled. “Nice to meet you. Uh…do I need to fill out any paperwork?”

“Oh, yeah, just one sheet though. Here, I’ll get it.” Amir went back behind the counter and opened the appropriate drawer. “You can start to fill it out, but I’d wait until Ken comes back before you do the whole thing. If he needs to order the piece then that’s something we need to note.”

“Okay,” said Jae. As he wrote down his name and contact information, Amir took another look at the bike to see if anything else needed repairing. The wheels were fine, the chain was intact despite its mangled state, and the frame was scuffed and scratched from use but was otherwise fine.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a bike this color before,” Amir remarked. “Such a rich shade of blue.”

Jae smiled. “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to get it repainted. Runs fine after four years, but it has definitely seen better days. My last repair shop closed down, and they didn’t have this color on hand. You guys wouldn’t happen to carry royal indigo, would you?”

Amir was struck silent. He passed it off as trying to think about what they had in stock. He was going to ask Ken anyway, since that usually wasn’t his concern. This had to be a coincidence. He had read about some effect that made it seem like certain words became more common after learning what they meant, and this was surely the same case. While he didn’t see many bikes this color, no doubt someone had brought an indigo bike through their shop before and he simply hadn’t paid any attention to it. Now it was fresh in his mind, so it stood out more. That was the best explanation.

Ken came back triumphant. “I have two on hand, so we’ll be able to fix that up for you and you can pick it up in a few hours. It’s just me doing repairs today and there’s another customer before you, but once I’m free this won’t take long to replace.”

“That’s great!” Jae relaxed and looked down at his bike. “I was just asking Amir about maybe repainting it, if you could. I’d like it to be the same color, though. Do you know if you have royal indigo available?”

Ken’s eyebrows perked up. “I’d…have to check again…if that’s okay…”

Jae waved his hand. “Y’know what? It’s not important. I only need it repaired for now.”

“Are you…going somewhere with it?”

Jae shrugged. “Not yet. I’ve been wanting to take it to the Cape soon now that tourist season is over.”

“What a coincidence,” Ken exclaimed. “Our Biker Gayng is heading to the Cape next weekend! You wouldn’t happen to be free, would you?”

Amir wanted to slap Ken upside the head and tell him to shut up. Jae merely looked confused. “Uh…biker gang?”

“G-a-y-n-g,” Ken spelled out. “Started out as a cycling group for gay men, but we’ve expanded it to the rest of the community since then. Mostly we go by The Pride Riders now, but we still call it The Gayng for short. At least I do. Old habits, y’know.”

“Hey, I’d love a chance to meet up with fellow LGBT cyclists,” Jae said happily. “I’ll have to check my schedule.”

“So my gaydar was right!” Ken said as Amir silently begged for death. “Good to know I’ve still got it. Would have been awkward if I was wrong.”

“Maybe a little, but you’re fine.” Jae turned back to Amir. “Are you in the Gayng, too?”

“I am,” Amir said, using his cheery customer service voice. Inside he was already scolding Ken for being so forward. The one saving grace was that Ken hadn’t found a way to mention that Amir was single.

“Cool! Oh, I was planning to go with my boyfriend if I went at all. Is it okay if I bring him along?”

“Sure,” said Ken. Amir recognized a similar artificial pleasantness in his ex’s voice. “The more the merrier. We’ll need to get this bike fixed up first, though.”

“Sounds great,” Jae said, grinning and none the wiser.

Jae finished filling out the sheet. The three of them talked a little about their favorite trails before another customer came in with their kid asking about helmets. Jae left, Ken retreated to his workshop with Jae’s bike, and Amir wound up selling them a full set of protective gear. No one else entered the shop, so Amir quickly ducked into the workshop.

“Okay, what the actual fuck?” Amir demanded. “You might as well have started off that conversation with, ‘Hi, I’m Ken, and I’ll be Amir’s wingman for the next five minutes.’ Also, your gaydar is shit. There is no way you knew he was gay when he walked in.”

Ken gave Amir a cursory glance before returning to his work. “No, I didn’t, but I didn’t have to. ‘Indigo guides the way to true happiness,’ or however that shit went? Didn’t say indigo was Mr. Right, just that it would lead you that way. The fact that he’s gay is just icing on the cake.”

“But he has a boyfriend!”

“You are not listening, are you? I wasn’t trying to set you up with that guy. That guy may know a guy who will be the love of your life. You don’t know.”

Amir clutched at his face in frustration. “It was a stupid fucking horoscope in a stupid fucking newspaper. A twelfth of the population got the same forecast I did. I don’t think there’s enough indigo in the world for that. This is what you do though. You leap at the opportunity to ‘fix’ something but really you just run your mouth.”

“Oh, I run my mouth?” Ken said, brandishing the hex wrench in his hand. “How many times a day do you start a sentence with, ‘Well, I just think that,’ or ‘If you want my opinion,’ or something else that means you get to keep talking? And talk about having a need to ‘fix’ things. One of the things you can’t shut up about is giving unsolicited advice to anyone who looks like their life isn’t perfect.”

This was an old argument, one that they had had a few times before their inevitable break-up. Amir was not in the mood to have it again. He almost made things worse by saying, “Well, I just think that you need to let me handle my own relationships.” He licked the corner of his mouth, counted down from three, and said, “Well, now he’s invited, so we’ll see if your theory is right.”

“That we will.” Ken rubbed at an itch on his cheek, leaving a thin streak of grease. Amir decided not to tell him and left in as little of a huff as he could manage.

* * * *

Chapter 2

Jae retrieved his repaired bike that evening. Ken gave him the contact information for the Pride Riders’ event coordinator, Tori, who could fill him in on their plans. Afterward Amir went through cycles of forgetting who Jae was and then remembering he was coming on the trip to the Cape, which led to a few minutes of renewed annoyance with Ken, curiosity, and finally being distracted by something more important that drove Jae from his mind again. However, as the appointed date came closer, Amir recalled him with decreasing frequency. Each time he thought less and less of it until the day before it was simply, “Oh, right, that’s happening.”

The day it did happen was a fine day. Storms were predicted to arrive a few days after, but the weather had been clear enough that the trails would be free of debris and windblown sand. Ken, who had mercifully been quiet on the subject, greeted Amir that morning with, “Ready to see where Mr. Indigo leads you?”

Amir rolled his eyes, too excited for the day’s adventure to start it with pettiness. He said, “Good morning,” to Todd instead. Todd was going to be running the shop solo while they were away. He could do basic to moderate repairs, but essentially he was holding down the fort for eight hours by himself. For now, he was at the table eating waffles, still in his pajamas.

“Ready for the big day?” Todd asked.

“Oh, not you too.” Amir poured himself orange juice. He drank it to keep from making a hasty retort. “It was a stupid coincidence. Those happen all the time. Aren’t you a Libra?”

Todd shrugged. “Maybe? That or a Virgo, I can never remember.”

“Well, the paper said Libras were in for trouble, so if this is right about me then you should be worried.”

Todd swallowed his mouthful of waffle. “Everyone’s in trouble these days. That is vague self-fulfilling bullshit. This seemed…oddly specific.”

“And a thousand other people read that same horoscope, probably. Look, it’s supposed to be a nice day, the trees are starting to change color, I’m going to be outdoors with some of my favorite people, and I would be doing this with or without reading that horoscope, so let’s pretend I didn’t and just do what we were going to do, okay?”

“Okay then,” Todd said. He took a sip of his own glass of juice. “Though it would be nice if you wound up finding someone amazing. You’ve been mopier than usual recently.”

“I have not.”

“Mmhm,” Ken hummed sarcastically around his mouthful of honey toast.

Amir scowled. “I haven’t.” He prepared a few wittier comebacks, but neither Todd nor Ken pressed the issue further. Amir fixed his own breakfast in silence, making a point to look chipper and not mopey in the slightest.

Everyone was meeting up at the trail head by eight-thirty. It was a forty-minute drive for Amir and Ken. They spoke only of business, though from the way Ken drummed his fingers on the wheel Amir knew he was itching to speculate about what “Mr. Indigo” might lead him to. Amir, likewise, was keeping his words to a minimum. Ever since Ken had called him out on it the week before, Amir had tried not to dominate conversations or even attempt to get the last word.

Half of the Pride Riders were there when Ken and Amir pulled up. Stocky blond Tori was there with his much taller boyfriend, Henry. The three Jakes were there, two of them dating each other while the other had his genderfluid partner, Sam, there as well, but it was easy to tell them all apart; Jake R. displayed his Italian heritage with dark features on tan skin, Jake V. was Lebanese with frosted tips, and Jake H., Sam’s Jake, was Columbian with a tattoo of barbed wire wrapped in silk ribbon around his left bicep. Kayla and Roan, the Riders’ trans members, were sitting on a bench together, chatting. Jae had arrived early as well, his biking outfit cutting off at the knees and elbows so the healing bruises and remnants of scratch marks on his calf were visible. Amir could only assume that the man standing next to him, three inches taller with his beard two shades redder than his brown hair, was his boyfriend.

“Hey, guys!” Tori greeted. “Hayden and Noelle should be right behind you. Greg can’t make it after all, unfortunately, but everyone else has confirmed that they’re on their way.”

Jae, seemingly glad to spot familiar faces, brought his boyfriend over to Amir and Ken. “Declan, these are the guys from the bike shop I told you about.” To Ken, he said, “Thanks again for the repairs. Did you do anything else? I think my bike rides better now than it did before.”

Ken shrugged. “Might have been your chain was coming loose before you crashed. I did have to take the whole thing off and put it back on.”

Jae smiled. “Well, like I said, it runs great. And this is…Amir, right?”

“Right,” Amir said. “Hi, Jae.”

“You should have seen when I got here,” Jae said, his smile wider. “The three guys named Jake all thought I was going to be the fourth one. They were actually disappointed when I told them my parents named me to sound more like I was called Jason.”

“Oh, neat,” Amir said with genuine interest. “My parents just named me after my great-uncle.”

Declan cleared his throat then spoke with a subtle Boston accent. “Um, if you don’t mind me asking, uh…where are your parents from?”

Amir’s first impression of this guy had been that he looked alright, though he considered Declan to be a douchey name. Now he was sure this guy was kind of an asshole. “My dad was born in the States, and my mom was born in the U.K.”

“Okay, but like, where are their parents from?”

Jae shook his head with a small grimacing smile on his lips. He mouthed “Sorry” to Amir. Amir wasn’t so sure Jae was that great either.

“I’m not trying to be offensive,” Declan said. “I’m trying to make sure I don’t accidentally assume the wrong thing.”

Having worked the store front at the bike shop for over a year now, Amir was used to people, mostly white, wanting to know “where he was from.” They were only marginally better than the people who did make assumptions and yelled at him to go back to Iraq or Iran or somewhere else too far west. Amir really wanted to give Declan a long, complex answer detailing where his grandparents had grown up, the stories he had been told as a child about why his grandparents had left, maybe even broken out his smattering of Hindi and Urdu to be really impressive, but he felt Ken giving him a look.

Using his customer service charm, Amir said, “Well, my dad’s family is from the west side of India and my mom’s family is from the southeastern part of India, so I’m technically full-blooded Indian, but I’ve only ever visited my dad’s side of the family once when I was a kid.”

“That’s cool,” Declan said. “Jae’s parents are from Yo…Yeo…” He grimaced sheepishly. “Help me out, Jae-bae.”

“Yeosu,” Jae said. “It’s a nice port town on the southern coast of Korea. I go visit my grandmother there whenever my family can afford the trip.”

“Sounds nice,” Amir said.

Hayden and Noelle arrived and introduced themselves to the newcomers. Noelle had her brightly colored pink-purple-blue striped helmet tucked under her arm and she shook Jae’s and Declan’s hands with her free one. “It’s been so long since we’ve had new gay members,” she said. “Hayden, weren’t you the last one to join?”

“I joined around the same time as Roan, but he’s straight, so, yeah, I guess. Everyone else has been from different parts of the community.” Hayden smiled one of his usual brief yet affable smiles. “Still good to have new blood around.” With a wink, he added, “Gives us someone else to compete against.”

Noelle rolled her eyes. “Men.”

Hayden snorted. “Oh, don’t act like you don’t try to beat some of the other guys.”

“Didn’t say I didn’t, but at least I’m subtle about it.”

“Uh-huh, right.”

Jae and Declan were introduced to the other Pride Riders as the last few joined them. Declan further cemented Amir’s opinion of him when, rather than asking Erin’s pronouns, he followed his introduction by saying, “So…I’m guessing you’re a guy, but correct me if I’m wrong.”

Erin, who had the patience of a saint regarding people misgendering them, simply gave him an understanding shake of the head and said, “I’m agender. They/them pronouns.”

“Oh, sorry. Sorry.” Declan whispered something to Jae. Jae said nothing back, but he lightly elbowed Declan on the arm. Amir regretted Ken inviting the two of them along.

With everyone assembled, the Pride Riders took off down the Cape Cod Rail Trail. It would be a couple hours before they reached the Salt Pond Visitors Center then followed the Nauset trail around the marshes to the beach. The scenery was well worth it. This was one of Amir’s favorite trips that their group took together, not simply because it was one of the longest with the second-best destination after P-town itself. The New England foliage wouldn’t hit full color for another few weeks, but the high for the day was going to be seventy-six and the warm sunlight illuminated the leaves that had turned to shades of scarlet and gold. Every so often, Amir took a deep breath to fully appreciate the sylvan air tinged with a faint hint of sea salt from the nearby coastline.

As usual, the ride was divided into half-hour segments, alternating between a leisurely pace where everyone could chat without running out of breath and picking up speed so they could get in a good workout while keeping themselves on schedule, pausing as needed for water breaks or basic maintenance. Jae and Declan, as the novelties of the day, were popular during the conversational legs of the journey. Amir was usually talkative on these trips, but he hung back, following the scuffed indigo bike, and simply listened. Through this, he learned that Jae was an electrician, Declan was a window installation specialist for a contracting company, they had been together for three years, both enjoyed outdoor music festivals, and they had two pet hermit crabs named Dottie and Melville. How this was supposed to guide him, Amir had no idea.

It was nearly noon when they finally reached the Coast Guard Beach. The first order of business was lunch. It was a sort of potluck affair. They couldn’t exactly bring coolers with enough food for everyone, but most of them rode with light backpacks in which they had brought boxed fruit juice, trail mix, dried fruit, and other snacks that didn’t need to be chilled. Hayden had brought a picnic blanket in the crate strapped to the back of his bike, which they spread out at good distance from the water and gathered around to eat.

Amir still thought Declan seemed like an asshole, but when he and Jae went down the beach hand-in-hand to look for shells that might fit their growing crabs, he did feel a pang of jealousy. Ken, noticing Amir’s envious gaze, offered him a protein bar.

“Maybe you should follow them?”

Amir snorted, but accepted the food. “The bike is indigo. That horoscope was a piece of shit.”

“Aw, c’mon, it had to mean something. Why else would something indigo show up right after you read it?”

“We’ve had this fucking discussion already. It was chance. Of all the people who read that horoscope, one of them was bound to run into something indigo the same day they read it.” Amir took a bite of the bar. He watched the couple down by the water, carefully picking through the assortment of shells. To offset how sad he was to not have someone to do that with, he said, “Plus, Jae’s boyfriend is kind of a douche.”

Ken rolled his eyes. “He’s not that bad.”

“Ugh, he pulled out the whole, ‘So where are you from?’ question. I hate that.”

“He said he wasn’t trying to be offensive.”

“Which is what most people say when they know they’re being offensive. You wouldn’t get it. You’re white.”

“I can get offended by stuff,” Ken said with a light scowl.

“Clearly.” Amir chewed his second bite. “Dude has the tact of a drunk goose.”

“You’ve known him less than a day. You can’t go deciding whether you’ll like someone or not based on first impressions all the time, or if you do, you have to at least learn to change your mind afterward.”

Amir picked a piece of oat out of his teeth with his tongue. His nose was wrinkled for other reasons as well. “Maybe the happiness I’m being guided to is the happiness that I’m not dating someone named Declan. Who the hell even names their kid Declan?”

Ken rolled his eyes again and sighed. “Oh, great. You’re in one of your moods. If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go talk to someone rational.”

Before Ken could push himself to his feet, Jae called out from the water’s edge. “Seals! Seals!”

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