Excerpt from One Little Word

onelittleword

Here is the beginning of One Little Word. Enjoy!

Prologue

Luke

MY MOTHER RAISED ME RIGHT. She would say everything good about me came from her and my less pleasant qualities were inherited from my father. It wasn’t that they were divorced or don’t get along. She liked to tease him. They’ve been together 20 some years and they do that, tease and joke and then kiss right in front of me. Pretty disgusting.

But I was a good guy.

And I meant more than just good to look at. Not that I was a slouch there. I saw the way girls watched me when I walked through the halls. The ladies appreciated my sandy blonde hair, green eyes, and the muscles and fit body I developed from playing baseball and lifting weights.

My attitude attracted attention too. I strolled through the school halls as if nothing and nobody can stop me. Precisely this attitude landed me in trouble.

A few minutes before school started, me and some buddies from the baseball team walked from the gym after doing our morning weight training routine. We were sweaty and tired, not only from the exercise but at having to get up so freaking early. Still, some guys shoved each other and messed around in their typical fashion.

“My grandma can bench press more than you, Ahmad,” sneered Joey Wilson, a great catcher whose IQ fell well below his batting average… which was saying something since his batting average wasn’t very impressive.

My best friend Zach Ahmad kept quiet, not looking over at Joey. His eyes weren’t even open.

“Got nothing to say to that, Ahmad?” smirked Ted Summers, a great hitter and third baseman.

“If you expect a response from me before 9 A.M.,” Zach started haughtily, “Come up with something worth the effort of replying to.” He leaned into my shoulder and let me guide him down the halls. Lazy asshole.

“You didn’t have to come work out,” Ted pointed out.

Zach swung his arm around my back, clapping me on the shoulder. “The captain here bugged me about showing initiative.” The last words dripped with disdain.

“I will drop you,” I warned.

He opened one eyelid to peer at me, projecting a surprising amount of menace. “You wouldn’t dare.”

Before I could decide whether pissing him off would be more amusing or annoying for me, Joey switched targets. “How did you make captain anyway, Chambers? Your little sister can bench press more than you.”

I scoffed at the catcher. “That was basically the same insult you used before.”

“Whatever, you queens.” Joey gestured to Zach and me limping down the halls together. “Gonna take each other to prom?”

“How would they decide who gets to wear the sparkly crown?” Ted snickered.

Should I thank him? If we got a crown, then we won something. I directed a question towards the leech on my shoulder instead. “You gonna help me out here?”

He lifted a finger in Ted’s general direction. “Blah-blah, you’re a girl.” He pointed towards Joey. “You’re gay, blah-blah-blah.” Zach positioned himself more firmly on my shoulder. “You make a surprisingly comfortable pillow. Why don’t I sleep on you in Spanish class?”

“You’re a vain bastard who’d never do this in front of anyone else?” I guessed.

The guys watched to see if that would earn a response. Zach opened his mouth, then shrugged and closed it, conceding the point.

“You’re so gay,” Joey commented, laughing at us.

“Better than being a retard,” I responded instantly.

“At least I’m not a pussy,” Joey accused.

Zach snorted because the catcher basically admitted to being a retard. I mean, mentally challenged.

Remember, my mom raised me right. I never swear in front of my grandparents or act rude to ladies. I take my cap off for the national anthem. I hold doors open for women or people carrying stuff, and I mind my manners.

But in front of the guys, it was different. As the most popular guy in the junior class, I was likable partly because I fit in. Juvenile, off-color remarks were the only things Joey and a lot of the other guys understood, so I had to respond in kind.

Or I guess I could not say anything… maybe I was a macho, idiot jock who couldn’t be the bigger person. I couldn’t let the insults slide.

“Would you shut up already, asshole?” I groaned.

“Why, you gonna cry?” Joey teased, not shutting up. “Careful, don’t ruin your makeup.”

“Whatever, you fag,” I responded without even thinking about it, trying to remember if we had any homework in algebra that I forgot to do. No points for originality, but I flipped him off too for good measure.

The catcher huffed and rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to respond, probably with something witty and original along the lines of, I know you are, but what am I?

Except then I heard a sharp intake of breath and a stern voice behind me. “Mr. Chambers. Head to the principal’s office.”

Fuck.

1. Come ons and Coming out

Ryan

“HEY, I DON’T SWING that way, gay boy.”

Our school’s zero tolerance policy on bullying was a joke. Trivial rules only teach cruel kids to watch their backs, effectively making bullies better at their job. Which meant adults heard less foul language, and the superintendents applauded themselves for achieving an “inclusive” environment.

Educators can spend a day as the only out kid in high school, then tell me how inclusive these hallowed halls really were.

My grandma always said God doesn’t give us challenges we can’t handle. So when my perpetually late ass rushed to get to class and I innocently brushed against some homophobic jock, I wasn’t flustered or embarrassed.

I sighed. I was going to be tardy. Again. Oh well.

I stopped in my tracks, looked over the boy I bumped into, then looked him over again. Not too bad looking if douchebag weren’t a total turn off. I stared until he fidgeted and got uncomfortable, then I smiled slowly. “Honey, I may be gay,” I spoke in a lilting, feminine fashion. “But I can do better than you.”

Then I sashayed away.

People knew me as the gay boy, sure, but they didn’t really know me. Adopting a sassy persona whenever the spotlight landed on me meant people recognized me as what they saw on TV. Different yet still familiar, I could be ignored.

Well, I was ignored until some jerk wanted to heckle me in front of his buddies or a girl he liked. Or until a group of tough guys wanted to beat me up. In that scenario, I ran the hell away.

I spent a lot of time on my own. Which was lonely, and the running became tiring, but it was life.

Who cursed me with rural living? Why couldn’t I reside in a big city and be just another queer kid instead of the only one? Okay, it might be difficult for Dad to find a job caring for livestock in a busy metropolitan hub.

“Only two more years,” I spoke aloud. Or less, since junior year had already begun. “Then it’s off to college.”

“Classes haven’t started and you’re already talking to yourself?” asked Alicia Philips, my best friend. “It’s going to be a long day.”

Okay, she was pretty much my only friend. Except my theater geek bestie belonged to a group of drama misfits who associated with me thanks to her. She had bright red hair and cleavage all the guys stared at. She wasn’t popular, but many of the guys stopped picking on her once she grew boobs. If only I could grow boobs.

“How mad is Mr. Eldridge?” I wondered. Our homeroom teacher suspected I might be the only student in Lake Forest High history who will be suspended for being chronically tardy.

“He wasn’t very upset,” she responded with a shrug. “Probably because I said I needed to skip homeroom because of lady troubles.” She smiled. “There were no follow up questions after that.”

I rolled my eyes. Men. Why did a natural part of human biology freak some guys out so much?

Before my bestie and I could start chatting much, there was a commotion ahead of us. With only us truants still loitering in the halls, Mrs. Sharp’s heels clicking on the tiles sounded loud. A chastised boy followed her, head down and grumbling under his breath. A small throng of jocks trailed behind them.

“The rest of you get to class,” Mrs. Sharp ordered.

The lemmings scurried away, leaving their leader alone. Luke Chambers.

We were a large community, for a rural town at least, so it was possible to not know everyone in your class by name. However, Chambers had the kind of face a boy like me remembered and a body that made me salivate. Everyone knew Luke Chambers though.

Luke was an all-star, a golden boy. The kind of guy kids like me dream of and don’t tell anyone about. A hotshot asshole who only dated cheerleaders, mean girls, and oh yeah, just girls in general.

The jock thought he was better than everyone else. He even had the audacity to hold the office door when Mrs. Sharp tried to open it. Rumors circulated that she was the inspiration for Medusa as her glare turned mere mortals to stone. No one tried to disobey her or talk back.

Unless you were Luke Chambers. “Please, there’s been a mistake. It wasn’t a big deal.” There were those dimples as he shot her a winning smile.

I couldn’t see her react, but a displeased aura practically radiated off her. “Mr. Chambers, you’ll be lucky if you aren’t expelled.”

Wow.

While I had many, many complaints about my high school experience, life probably wasn’t abysmal on a cosmic level. Yet this felt like a gift for the torment I endured daily. God smiling down upon me, bestowing blessings for me and misfortune for others as I watched Luke Chamber head towards doom and possible expulsion.

“What do you make of that?” Alicia asked.

I smiled. “Karma’s a bitch.”

* * *

Luke

Mrs. Sharp dragged me to the principal’s office while I stuttered behind her. “Expelled? You can’t be serious!”

She was serious. No one had accused her of making a joke in her life, but I couldn’t believe it.

Could one little word really ruin everything? My parents taught me hard work would be rewarded. I worked hard, got decent grades, and excelled at playing baseball. All that became less important than my stupid mouth?

“What do you think zero tolerance means?” she asked in that way where she wasn’t really asking.

I started working on an impassioned plea about free speech in my mind.

“What seems to be the problem?” Mr. Simmons asked, grinning at me like a kindly grandpa. The short, stout man always looked cheerful, the type of caring yet out of touch educator who might say something lame about putting the “pal” in “principal.”

“I heard Mr. Chambers use a derogatory slur,” Mrs. Sharp spoke without preamble.

The smile dropped off his face.

Dread gathered in my stomach. As Mrs. Sharp lacked the required facial muscles to smile, I thought Simmons was physically incapable of not smiling until now.

“Well, come in, have a seat so we can discuss this matter,” he talked while ushering us into his office.

While cool, calm, and collected up to bat, both on the field and with the ladies, I had no composure now. As soon as my butt hit the seat, I blurted, “Am I really going to be expelled?”

“Mr. Chambers doesn’t seem to understand our zero-tolerance policy,” Mrs. Sharp voiced smoothly. Her face remained blank, but I heard a smile in her tone.

“Apparently, you aren’t as familiar with our policy as you should be either,” Mr. Simmons told the teacher.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew I could count on Principal Grandpa. I mean, Simmons.

“We do not tolerate behavior that—” she started, but he interrupted.

“That bullies or harasses others, or leads to an unsafe school environment,” he finished. “I know, I helped write the policy.”

“I’m not expelled?” I asked, smiling hopefully and widening my eyes, trying to look as innocent and non-threatening as possible. My mom thought this act doesn’t work with guys as tall or broad shouldered as me, but Simmons seemed to take pity on me.

“The policy states our commitment to take action when bullying occurs instead of giving the impression that we tolerate or condone problem behavior by letting it continue unchecked,” he explained patiently. “We respond to every incident.” He looked at me with what passed for a stern expression on his face but was still mostly kind. “Bad behavior has consequences. No one gets special treatment.”

“Of course not, sir. I don’t expect that,” I rushed to agree. I would love special treatment right now, but I went along with him anyway.

“Depending on the circumstances, we must find a suitable punishment. Who knows, a suspension might be more appropriate,” he mused aloud. “Or even—”

A suspension?!?

The adults kept talking around me. I tried to listen, but my mind couldn’t get past the word ‘suspension.’

How many games would I end up benched for if suspended? At least a few… Oh no. What about my spot as captain? I’ll be demoted! And how would a suspension look to scouts, to schools? Certainly not great.

Shit, everything spiraled out of control so fast. I stood on top of the world this morning. I had everything: popularity, team captain status, a bright future. Now I could lose it all.

There had to be something I could do.

“Mr. Chambers?” Simmons spoke, interrupting my internal panic. “Would you care to explain your side of the story?”

“It’s not what you think,” I started. I had no idea where I was going with this.

Mrs. Sharp looked amused while Simmons’ smile turned down at the corners. “Well, I’m afraid there’s not much to it,” he said. “Either you used the word or you didn’t.”

“Okay, I did,” I admitted while Mrs. Sharp looked victorious. “But it’s not that bad.”

Simmons opened his mouth to speak, no doubt to give some lecture on sensitivity and how words could hurt, but I couldn’t let him say anything.

I had to do something. I uttered the only words I could think of. “I’m gay.”

2. Out of the Fire and…

Ryan

THE WORLD HAD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. The whole school buzzed with rumors, even a lowly outcast like me heard the theories. Luke got expelled for taking performance enhancing steroids. Or Luke and Mrs. Sharp were having a torrid affair and were caught doing it on the principal’s car. Unless Luke was the ringleader of an illegal boxing ring that operated secretly in our school’s basement.

The particulars failed to interest me… though I’d be annoyed I missed sweaty, shirtless boys wrestling if that rumor were true. But the gossip’s content didn’t really matter, it was just that people were whispering about the popular boy. Okay, everybody always did that, usually because of curiosity and awe. Now students were treating him as a sideshow. What a nice change of pace. Luke could do no wrong. Until now.

“Miller, if you’re this late, there’s no reason to show up at all.” Mr. Eldridge glared at me from his desk.

I guess that meant I could head to lunch early. I gave him a lazy wave and turned around to leave.

“Get back here,” he hissed. “What’s your excuse this time?”

“Lady troubles,” I answered, looking him in the eye. “My period came early.”

“That explains it. Miller’s a girl,” chuckled some douche from the football team.

“Pipe down,” the teacher ordered without looking, narrowing his eyes at me, but I didn’t budge. He sighed. “Go sit down.”

“Lady troubles?” Alicia asked when I took my seat in the back next to her.

I shrugged. “You seemed to have success with the excuse.”

“Well, you’ll probably only get to use that once. He won’t be off guard next time.”

“Damn, I should have saved it.” Oops.

She nodded. “That’s what I’m saying.”

Alicia leaned towards me and lowered her voice. “But we have more important matters to discuss. Did you hear Luke’s an undercover detective and they called him back to the precinct?”

Before we could start comparing rumors, Cara Lewis turned around in her seat. As a cheerleader, her face twisted unpleasantly when speaking to nobodies like us. “No, that’s not what happened. Someone from the mob put a hit on him.”

“We don’t have the mob in Lake Forest,” I shot down.

“Then why was he covered in blood when he came into school?” Cara asked smugly.

“He wasn’t,” Alicia explained “We saw him.”

That got her attention. “You did? What happened?” She suddenly saw our value. “Tell me everything.”

I traded a smile with Alicia.

“Well, he’s getting expelled,” I started.

“No way, he’s too pretty to be expelled,” Cara argued. She had a point.

Privately, I admitted I would miss the eye candy if he was expelled. Luke resembled the man of my dreams with bright green eyes, hair I wanted to run my hands through, and those freaking dimples.

Plus, the glimpse I’d gotten once of him shirtless told me that the athlete was in fine form. I nearly had to fan myself just thinking about his physique. I’d miss his body but not him.

Focusing on Cara, I told her, “What Luke did was so bad that expulsion would be getting off easy.”

Alicia smiled as inspiration struck. “He’s a public health hazard,” she spoke gravely.

The cheerleader frowned. “What? Luke has a disease?”

“Well, he’s very contagious to pretty ladies. He’s gotten four girls pregnant already. He might need to be castrated.” Alicia made a gesture to demonstrate and the cheerleader’s eyes widened as her face paled.

I struggled to keep from laughing until the guy who heckled me earlier turned around and smirked at me. “Oh yeah, that’s why he’s looking for you, Miller?”

“What?” No way that could be right.

“He’s been trying to find you since first period.” His look turned nasty. “Did he knock you up?”

The lunch announcements started, saving me from answering.

I had enjoyed the gossip until then. That might be the weirdest rumor of all: Luke Chambers was looking for me.

* * *

Luke

“Excuse me?” Principal Simmons asked with extreme confusion.

Abort, abort! I yelled internally. I doubled down instead. “I’m, uh. I’m gay.”

“Gay?” He frowned. “But you’re the captain of the baseball team!”

I nearly laughed. “Are you serious?”

Mrs. Sharp sighed. “What he means is that this seems a little… convenient.”

“Yes, that’s a good point,” he agreed. “Personally, I had no idea your people could play sports.” He chuckled to himself. “Well, see, I’m already learning.”

“Do I really need any other ‘proof’ of why I’m not out yet?” I gestured to him.

While not exactly conceding the point, Mrs. Sharp also supplied no defense for his remarks. Was this working?

“I’m doing the best I can,” the principal defended. “There aren’t many gay people here.”

“That’s heteronormative,” I called out immediately. Wow, my annoying liberal older sister’s words came in handy for once.

“What?” the principal asked, looking towards the dish on his desk. “No, these candies are organic.”

I gripped the side of the chair I sat on tightly to avoid grinning in triumph. I looked at Mrs. Sharp, trying to appear as innocent as possible.

“Mr. Chambers,” she spoke evenly. “Why don’t you explain—”

“You can’t force a student to tell you about his sexuality,” Simmons interrupted. “I know that much.”

“Mr. Chambers,” she repeated, authority clear in her tone, making the principal shut up. “I’m not asking you to reveal anything too personal. Simply help us understand. Let’s see.” She straightened in her seat, a neutral expression on her face.

Trap, this was a trap, but one I couldn’t avoid.

“Perhaps you could share your perceptions of LGBTQIA culture?” she asked. “Or give us a general idea about the challenges a gay teenager may face in a small town?” The corners of her lips twitched, like she was laughing at me internally. “Who are your favorite queer icons?”

“Yes, wonderful!” Simmons sounded delighted. “Another learning experience.” He nodded at me. “Go on, son.”

Shitshitshit.

“Well, I like dudes. Obviously,” I began. Not the best start. “Any guy can be into other guys. Like me, for example,” I emphasized, looking them each in the eye with great difficulty. I thought I was a better liar than this, but I felt so off guard.

Bumbling on, I continued with, “Our society is incredibly patriarchal and gender norms, those uh, they suck too so…” Which question did this even answer? “My favorite gay icon is, uh.” Say anyone. Anyone gay! “Elton John?”

“Really, not Michael Sam?” Mrs. Sharp asked. Who?

“Uh, he’s good too.” I nodded. “Anyway, um. Inclusion and tolerance are important to stop the hegemony of microaggression.” I tossed around any words I remembered my sister ranting about. “It’s time to end homophobia, racism, and reverse racism… stop all the isms. Well, maybe not feminism. That’s good, isn’t it?”

They only stared at me.

“Plus, love is love,” I continued. I saw that on a bumper sticker once. “And, uh, love makes the world go around? So uh, in conclusion, give peace a chance.”

Simmons seemed quietly befuddled while Mrs. Sharp resembled a predator closing in on prey.

Time for a Hail Mary.

That was more of a football thing, but I couldn’t stop the idea once I had it, terrible as it might be.

“To be honest, I don’t know much about this stuff,” I admitted. Before Mrs. Sharp could go for the kill, I kept going. “My boyfriend knows more.”

The satisfied smirk disappeared from her face. “Boyfriend?” she asked, suspicious but more hesitant.

I jumped on the idea with gusto… and it worked.

I escaped. With only minimal consequences. I received a long lecture and a detention for using inappropriate language at school, but I was no longer in danger of suspension.

Simmons considered this a ‘learning experience.’ The administration hadn’t discussed whether using a derogatory word that applied to the speaker counted as bullying. He decided they’d review the school policy, and even invited me to contribute input, a request to which I nodded politely.

Did that really work? I couldn’t believe it. I felt dazed. I stood outside of the office, trying to catch up with everything that happened. Mrs. Sharp fumed silently next to me at justice denied and me… I had no idea what I was.

Gay, apparently.

I couldn’t even deflect Mrs. Sharp’s stern look with a charming comment as I usually would. My mind felt almost blank, only the word ‘gay’ rattling around in my head.

“That was quite a story you told to avoid trouble, Mr. Chambers.”

“It’s the truth,” I argued weakly.

Her eyes narrowed. “Nevertheless, be careful with your language. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“I don’t kiss my mom.” I grimaced. “That’s gross.”

She appeared unimpressed. “I’ll be watching you.” She did, for a few more moments, then stalked away.

I should walk to my next class.

I stood there. I kept waiting for sanity to return to my life and for the world to make sense again but that didn’t happen.

Simmons and Mrs. Sharp probably couldn’t tell other students what I told them in confidence, but were they allowed to discuss it with teachers? I didn’t totally trust them, especially Mrs. Sharp. Even if they both kept quiet, this whole ordeal may not be over. Simmons took this no bullying thing seriously. What if they wanted to make sure I wasn’t lying? And even if this matter were settled, there could still be consequences for intentionally deceiving a teacher along with the freaking principal.

I’d dodged some trouble but stumbled into a whole other mess. Which was a problem because of what finally convinced them. I said I was dating Ryan Miller.

3. Into a Gay Relationship!

Ryan

“PEOPLE WILL TALK,” I leered as best I could while trapped between a locker and a solid body.

Usually that did the trick. Insinuate a straight guy wasn’t so straight and they backed away as if they were burned. Only Luke Chambers stayed where he was, which was right against me.

As the only openly gay boy in a conservative town, I got exactly zero action. I might hate Luke Chambers, but my body didn’t hate being so close to him. Not at all. He needed to back off or he’d know exactly how much I didn’t hate this position.

He was so strong. I tried to push him off, but he wouldn’t budge. It was annoying but also sent a thrill through me. A hint of sweat lingered in his scent along with cologne or body spray that I couldn’t quite identify. I wanted to lean into his neck and take a big whiff.

“I need to talk to you,” he spoke, staring right into my eyes with his green orbs.

“This seems like more than talking to me.” I pressed forward a bit, trying to highlight how close we were by rubbing his chest against mine without bringing our hips into contact.

My comment made him blush, sending a sick surge of glee through me. I may not like him, but I was definitely jerking off to this memory later.

He backed up, saying, “Okay, just hear me out.” Our bodies weren’t touching, but he still crowded me. “I kinda did something stupid.”

“And we’ll miss you,” I assured sarcastically. “Hey, on the bright side, you’ll have plenty of time to develop new hobbies while you’re expelled.”

He rolled his eyes. “No, I’m not expelled.”

I frowned. “There is no justice in this world.”

He had the nerve to look annoyed. “You don’t even know what I did.” True, but he failed to explain.

“Are you going to tell me?” I prompted when he didn’t make things clearer.

Luke looked away. “It’s probably better if I don’t.”

“Well, this is a super fun conversation and all, but what’s the point of it?”

“I need help.” His eyes were hypnotic and pleading. I had to look away from them but staring down at his body wouldn’t help either.

I shook my head to knock away the distracting thoughts. “You need help with the thing you won’t tell me about?”

“Okay,” he relented. “I said a word. A bad word.”

“And it involved me?” Not exactly surprising. Lots of people said bad words about me, they just didn’t get caught.

“No, but your group.” He didn’t mean my group of friends.

A cold feeling settled over me. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. At least when that someone was me.

“Say it,” I commanded.

“What?” His eyes widened in a totally un-adorable manner. “No, I already got in trouble.”

“There’s no one around, say it.” I stared at him while speaking, but we were probably alone. I couldn’t hear anyone else.

Luke looked around, saw the coast was clear, and yet kept being difficult. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Most jocks had no problem spitting insults at me. Did his brush with trouble rattle him that badly?

“You’re the one who needs my help,” I reminded him, not backing down.

He sighed. “Fag,” he whispered, not looking me in the eye.

“And not even the whole word,” I tutted. “You might as well go for broke if it was going to get you expelled.”

“Suspended actually.” Luke fidgeted, still avoiding my gaze. “I could have been suspended. I got detention instead. Because, uh.”

The moment felt solemn. I’d never seen the big man on campus act less than totally confident and self-assured. I waited with bated breath, almost afraid I would pass out. That’s how long it took him to speak again.

Finally, the wait ended. “I told them I’m gay.”

The solemn mood evaporated. I burst out laughing. He looked annoyed at my outburst, but this was the most hilarious thing I’d ever heard. I couldn’t stop giggling.

“I also said we’re dating,” Luke told me next.

That shut me up.

“No. No way,” I voiced when I regained the ability to speak.

The words sounded distant. I almost had an out of body experience, seeing this moment from far away. How the hell was this reality?

“Please, just—” He put a hand on my shoulder.

I shook it off. “I don’t owe you anything.”

“I know. But—”

“And you should get what you deserve,” I cut him off hotly.

“I could pay you,” he offered.

I called his bluff. “No, you couldn’t.”

“Well, if you just—”

“What, date you?” I laughed even though it wasn’t funny.

“No, of course not,” he said instantly. Yep, not funny at all. “Not for real.

He was trying to save his own ass, but for some reason the words still hurt.

“Hang around me and my friends,” Luke continued. “For a few weeks, that’s all. So Sharp and Simmons won’t be suspicious, so they won’t doubt what I said. Then we’ll break up.”

“I’ll be subjected to you and your merry band of idiots for a few weeks? No thanks.”

I walked away, intending to not look back.

“Your dad would like this, wouldn’t he?” Luke asked my retreating back.

I froze.

I rarely interacted with Luke. I knew of him, but I didn’t know him. Unlike my father. One of his job’s duties that my father professes to love was teaching the ropes to young farmhands, who often end up being high school guys whose families don’t have farms of their own. Luke spent the past two summers working at the same farm as my dad.

Also, the saddest part of my life might be that my dad was more popular than me.

“He used to tell me that he wished you had more friends. I could make you more popular,” Luke offered. “Then he wouldn’t have to worry about you so much.”

“This is dirty,” I whispered.

Dad did his best. He was a single father who might as well have a son who was an alien, that’s how familiar he was with queer culture. My father tried though. He might not understand me, but Dad would do anything for me.

I felt the same way. I would do anything for him, and Dad might cry tears of joy if he saw me hanging out with the baseball guys.

“This might be fun,” Luke tried, aiming for a positive attitude.

“I doubt it.”

I could make sure it wasn’t.

–The rest is available here.