Love & Spite, the best of both worlds

Ryan is a brainy overachiever with ivy league dreams. Luke is a bi athlete whose whole future is up in the air since he decided he’s not going to give up the first part for the second. Their love story is perfect for them, queer, overly competitive, snarky, and sweet.

But all good things must come to an end, right? Maybe.

It’s the end of senior year, and the odds are good they’ll be in different places for college. Ryan’s friends don’t want him to do anything rash that he’ll regret while he contemplates a long-distance relationship. So his friends are checking if they need to talk some sense into him in the scene down below from One Big Decision.



Ryan

“This is… a pep talk?” I asked.

“Um.” They faltered, glancing to each other unsurely. Pep? Not exactly their strength.

“Okay, not pep.” I tried again. “A crushing reality talk?”

They conferred silently, nodding. “Yeah, we’ve got this.”

They were both wearing dark clothes, looking vaguely like enforcers in some old-timey gangster movie thanks to Zach’s slicked back hair and Lydia’s general face and attitude.

“There’s no need,” I said, attempting to put myself out of my misery. “I understand. I can’t change my mind now just because Luke isn’t sure he can go to the same city. I need to think of my future and what’s best for me, not what’s best for my relationship. Right?”

That’s what they wanted to impart, albeit with more ‘dumbass,’ ‘moron,’ and ‘pathetic loser.’

“Uh. Yes.” They conferred silently again, suspicious and unsure. “This was easy,” Lydia admitted.

“I mean, I’m still convinced we’re living happily ever after and you especially,” I told Zach. “Can suck it because we’re so gonna be together, we so are. Not only do I want to be happy with Luke in general for love reasons, I also want the same for spite reasons, so double reasons.” I narrowed my eyes at him, challenging. “You just watch us, you—”

“Fine, you and Luke will be together forever and ever,” Lydia humored me, realizing I’d gotten carried away and forgot what we were talking about. “You’ll ride unicorns down the aisle to a wedding officiated by Tim Gunn and Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

“Weird combo,” I provided my opinion obligatorily. “I dig it.”

“Even in your happily ever after love story, you and Luke still go to college in different cities,” she finished the hypothetical. “Are you okay with that?”

“Yes,” I asserted immediately. “Maybe,” I amended when met with their disbelief and slightly evil faces. “Where I go to school is about me, not him. I know that.” I whispered, “Part of me wants to not know that.”

I wished I didn’t know. I wished for a lot of things.

New Release– YA LGBTQ Novel One Big Decision!

When I started One Little Word, it was an experiment in writing and publishing something for the first time. I did not give enough thought to the title or the possibility I would base all titles off this first one, and I only had a fun idea to play with and see where it went.

Starting with the jock/nerd and fake relationship tropes, I started writing. And now nearly ten books later, the final novel in the series is here. One Big Decision is out now!

These zany, slice of life novels are contemporary gay romances that aren’t for everyone as they full of so much snark and silliness, but I’ve had a great time writing them and getting to know these characters so well, and I’m grateful for everyone who went on this journey with me, Ryan, and Luke.

In this final book, Ryan and Luke must figure out their plans for the future separately and together while enjoying the remaining days of senior year. In this scene, Ryan and Luke are buying tickets for the prom. This involves talking to one of their favorite teachers, who happens to be kinda scary but has a soft spot for them, and trying to guess the prom theme.


Ryan

From a distance, the table in the cafeteria selling prom tickets resembled a Valentine’s Day explosion made more garish by being late. Up close, the glittery red hearts made of construction paper, shiny material, and naturally, a shitload of glitter… they weren’t hearts at all, rather different shapes with a central theme, the theme being a sea of… red?

“Do you know what the theme is?” I asked Boyfriend as we took our place at the end of a small line.

“Love or something?” he guessed.

“Romantic,” I noted.

When Luke bought our tickets, he asked Mrs, Sharp, “Hey, will you be there?”

“I’m chaperoning,” she answered, tone making it clear she wouldn’t sell these tickets to teenagers otherwise.

“Because you identify with the theme of A Violent and Painful Death?” I guessed.

“No,” she said shortly.

 “You don’t identify or that’s not the theme?” I clarified.

“Both?” she tried.

“What is the theme?”

She glanced to the decorations surrounding the table. “Red?”

“Ohhh, the theme is Blood,” I realized. “I understand now. You’re what causes the blood.”

“That’s not accurate… I think. At any rate,” she continued. “The principal suggested I ought to experience one senior prom as an educator here before leaving.”

“You could say no,” I pointed out. “What’s he gonna do, fire you?” This was her last year teaching at this school before she went to greener or at least bigger and gayer pastures.

“Actually, it sounded like a good idea.” She frowned while watching me do a happy jig about having prom tickets. “Though I could be wrong.”


Almost!

The final book in the One More Thing Series is almost available! The release date for One Big Decision is May 17. This is crazy because I’ve been writing one book or another in this series for the entire time I’ve been a published author.

Here’s a book description and a scene from the novel. In the scene, Luke is asking Ryan to prom.

In the conclusion of the One More Thing Series, Ryan and Luke face prom, college decisions, and what happens to their relationship when high school ends.

Despite the fierce competition over who can pull off the best prom proposal, Ryan and Luke are ridiculously in love high school sweethearts. But high school is drawing to a close, and the boyfriends have very different ideas for college.

While the guys want to stay together, they know young love doesn’t always last. Especially when one of them is thinking more about them than him, and the other isn’t being entirely forthcoming about his future goals. Will their love be enough to ensure a happy ending, or will they go their separate ways for good?

~

Luke

“At least offer to split the therapy bill with me as a gesture of goodwill,” Ryan said while exiting his house, too busy arguing with his father to notice me.

“You think you need therapy?” Mr. Miller spoke while shutting the door behind him. “You left me with parenting PTSD.”

“You called me fat!”

“I only suggested a walk,” Mr. Miller tiredly corrected.

“Who goes on freaking father-son walks?” Ryan complained merrily in fine form.

They began talking over each other.

“We don’t both have to—”

“Which brings us back to you thinking I should lose some weight.”

“If you could be patient for five seconds—”

“Oh, are we making wishes to the never-gonna-happen-fairy because—”

“Really? My wish already came true.”

“So not fair! What did you wish for?”

“For him to put me out of my misery.” Mr. Miller nodded his head, indicating me. To me, he said, “You owe me so badly.”

“Luke!” Ryan exclaimed. “And… a giant anthill.”

My promposal did resemble a giant anthill. The brown mass nearly reached my knees, a volcano surrounded by a small island and ocean landscape. I put in the ingredient to make it blow. The ‘lava’ bubbled and foamed with a small rush of sound as it began pouring from the top and erupting over the island and spilling out into the ocean.

“Is that… root beer?”  Yep. Ryan’s favorite drink. A huge smile burst over his face.

 Lava funneled from the volcano to the carefully cut spaces below to spell out ‘prom.’ More statement than question.

“Prom?” I asked. There, there was the question.

“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!”

“Once is fine.”

He leapt into my arms, giving me just enough time to plant my feet and ensure we stayed upright instead of toppling into the display below. The first brush of his lips landed a few inches left of my mouth, though it worked as he began peppering kisses all over my face, too giddy for finesse or aim.

Yeah, this went well.

~

The novel is available for pre-order here.

A volcano, a horse with a sombrero, and more

First, a shout out to the best holiday of the year, Cinco de Mayo. This is better known as the day I’m contractually obligated to drink a margarita. While I am of Mexican descent, this isn’t why I’m obligated to drink a margarita. The reason is… because I want to.

I searched for sombrero pictures hoping I could find one with an animal, but my favorite thing about this picture is the horse is apparently ‘in disguise.’ Wait, I mean, what horse??? I only see a very festive human!

For the final book in the One More Thing Series, Ryan and Luke are at the end of their senior year in high school. Which means college decisions and figuring out whether they have a future together.

For the last two books about them, I decided to switch it up and for them to be more stable, so the drama wasn’t about their relationship. This book… isn’t like that.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Senior year means prom, and prom means promposals. So I figured I’d share a fun scene where Luke asks Ryan to prom. 

~

Luke

“At least offer to split the therapy bill with me as a gesture of goodwill,” Ryan said while exiting his house, too busy arguing with his father to notice me.

“You think you need therapy?” Mr. Miller spoke while shutting the door behind him. “You left me with parenting PTSD.”

“You called me fat!”

“I only suggested a walk,” Mr. Miller tiredly corrected.

“Who goes on freaking father-son walks?” Ryan complained merrily in fine form.

They began talking over each other.

“We don’t both have to—”

“Which brings us back to you thinking I should lose some weight.”

“If you could be patient for five seconds—”

“Oh, are we making wishes to the never-gonna-happen-fairy because—”

“Really? My wish already came true.”

“So not fair! What did you wish for?”

“For him to put me out of my misery.” Mr. Miller nodded his head, indicating me. To me, he said, “You owe me so badly.”

“Luke!” Ryan exclaimed. “And… a giant anthill.”

My promposal did resemble a giant anthill. The brown mass nearly reached my knees, a volcano surrounded by a small island and ocean landscape. I put in the ingredient to make it blow. The ‘lava’ bubbled and foamed with a small rush of sound as it began pouring from the top and erupting over the island and spilling out into the ocean.

“Is that… root beer?”  Yep. Ryan’s favorite drink. A huge smile burst over his face.

 Lava funneled from the volcano to the carefully cut spaces below to spell out ‘prom.’ More statement than question.

“Prom?” I asked. There, there was the question.

“Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!”

“Once is fine.”

He leapt into my arms, giving me just enough time to plant my feet and ensure we stayed upright instead of toppling into the display below. The first brush of his lips landed a few inches left of my mouth, though it worked as he began peppering kisses all over my face, too giddy for finesse or aim.

Yeah, this went well.


One Big Decision
comes out on May 17th. Pre-order your copy now!

If you come in peace

Are you familiar with familiars? These are the animal creatures that partner with witches and provide magical assistance. The most obvious potential example is probably a black cat. They exist in this world, though they work a little differently in my NA paranormal romance novel. (P.S. Yes, I laughed at my own cleverness for saying ‘familiar with familiars.’ Sometimes I’m easily amused.)

In Black Cats and Bad Luck, these supernatural entities partner with Witches who can use magic. This made things tricky for Avery Ward, magical later bloomer. At least everyone assumed this. Because nearly all the Wards, and everyone on his Mom’s side of the family too, have magical powers, even if only a little. And there’s already one family member with no gifts whatsoever, so what are the odds there will be two? Extremely slim, if its ever even happened before. So of course he’ll have powers. Probably.

The family figures Avery’s gifts haven’t been discovered yet when he’s around 8-years-old. His younger sister Stella’s gifts are active and growing and it won’t be long until she could use the help of a familiar, but he’s the oldest. It’s his job to ask the universe for a magical companion. Even though he has no powers. Yet. They’ll manifest eventually.

Except they don’t.

During the novel, Avery is 15 and the familiar who ended up choosing to live with his family, Horatio, has changed from a feline animal companion to a man. Neither truly animal nor man, Horatio is more a magical being, one of many who takes the shape of an animal. Except he’s unique when it comes to changing shapes in the middle of his familiar duties. This isn’t something familiars usually do, so the Ward family are trying to figure out how this happened while Avery thinks back on the ritual he performed to call a familiar to him. There’s a little bit of this in the novel, though this is a larger version.

~

Avery

“Even if we couldn’t mark your arrival down on the calendar,” Dad said, “we were expecting you a few years earlier.”

“I couldn’t come then,” said Horatio. As everyone stared at him, he opened his mouth to say more before faltering. “Um… the only part I know is I couldn’t come then.”

Great, the focus shifted, and I could feel everyone’s eyes on me.

“Why would he need to?” Stella wondered. “For Avery? He—”

“Yeah,” I interrupted. “I don’t have much use for a familiar.”

Horatio stared at me and I managed not to fidget. “That wasn’t it. I, I… I just.”

“Couldn’t come earlier?” I filled in.

“Precisely,” he agreed. He mouthed the word ‘precisely’ again.

Despite having little use for a familiar, I performed the ritual anyway at age seven or eight. Did he even hear me? I suppose I could ask him. Anyone could perform spells, the results were what differed. With prayers, well. Mom said prayers weren’t spells or magick, they were special requests. All you needed was a thought, belief, and the courage to ask. So despite not manifesting any abilities, then or ever, I performed the Request.

I faintly remembered saffron in the air, opening the big bay windows in the living room, looking up to the sky dotted with stars, and lighting the yellow candle that made me sneeze. Mom stood behind me the whole time, helping me perform the activity. There were formal words I could recite, something about seeking an ally to join me as I journeyed deeper into the craft. Or the more folksy, ‘if you come in peace for partnership, please come in.’ Though if there were something else in my heart, I should speak that instead. I remember searching for the brightest star and starting there, then finding one so distant I could barely see it, thinking maybe I would find an answer somewhere between those two points.

Please, I began, voicing the desire in my heart. I found there was nothing else to say. Please, please, please, I asked every star near and far.

That was back when we thought my powers would come one day. They didn’t. Neither did Horatio. Not until a few years later when Stella performed the request and there he was on our doorstep the very next day.

~

Meet Jonah

Magic exists in the world of Black Cats and Bad Luck, but not everyone comes into contact with witches and extraordinary powers. Though Witches have come out of the broom closet and are part of mainstream society, most people are aware of magic but don’t witness it themselves unless they are connected to Pagans and the magical community in some way.

Jonah Harris is a human teenager who’s curious about the supernatural world and excited to experience magic first hand. He figures his in is his best friend Avery Ward, who comes from a powerful magical family. But after years of friendship, Avery keeps that side of his life almost entirely hidden. So being invited on a Ward family trip the summer after their sophomore year is finally his chance to see how the magical folk live.

Until Jonah learns everybody is abstaining from using powers for the majority of the trip. While the amount of magic they’re expecting, next to none, might not be the actual amount that occurs in this fantasy novel (it’s not) Jonah seems to have the worst luck when it comes to seeing magic. So much so that he begins suspecting supernatural interference.

P.S. Very Serious Author Note? I adore Jonah. He’s kind of like Ryan from my One More Thing Series in that they’re both tall, skinny tornadoes of excitement and enthusiasm. But he’s also the lone character in this novel with virtually no supernatural contact beforehand, so it’s fun as he explores this new world with fresh eyes.

In this scene, Horatio makes the case for why qualifies as astounding magic. He’s a mystical being and magical miracle who transformed from animal to human form, but Jonah isn’t exactly impressed.

~

Mason

Jonah was still dying to see magic.

“What about me, cat given human flesh?” Horatio offered as he and Jonah began chatting.

“I guess…”

 “You aren’t impressed?”

 “This doesn’t happen often, or so I hear. That’s…” He tried and failed to summon enthusiasm. “Neat.”

“Yes, it’s extremely rare.” Horatio stood taller, proud of his exceptional nature. “If this isn’t wowing you, then I’m afraid nothing will.”

 “No, hold on. It’s not like I watched you transform into a man. I only know you as a man. Yeah, I knew distantly Avery had a pet cat.” Jonah raised his hands before the protests could begin. “Before this trip, I didn’t know about familiars or anything, so I thought the cat was a pet. And I don’t really connect you to a cat whose name I might have guessed started with an ‘H,’ but I would have said Harry or Hornbat.”

Avery asked, “Where did you come up with Hornba—”

“Or Jiggles,” Jonah interrupted, looking to Horatio. “Your name was never Jiggles?”

~

Grab your copy of this 99 cent queer paranormal romance here.

Meet Miranda

In the world of Black Cats and Bad Luck where magic exists, familiars are especially mysterious. Obviously, they’re connected to magic. They take animal form, but they’re more than animals. Where they came from or what they are exactly is unknown. Witches can’t ask these animal companions since they take animal shapes and therefore don’t talk. And it isn’t as if they morph into humans and start living a new life. Not usually. Except in Horatio’s case.

Horatio isn’t interested in providing answers about familiars. He’s already bent some rules of the universe and isn’t keen on doing more damage.

Mason is a human who has dreamed of Horatio for years without knowing where to find him. When he’s checking on Horatio’s story, he talks to his best friend Miranda, who has some trouble processing the information she’s given.

~

Mason

“WHAT?” Miranda yelled despite being in a public lobby. “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?”

“Miranda.”

“Sorry,” she said to me, raising a hand towards the guy at the front desk too. “Sorry, I’ll use my indoor voice.” She turned to me with urgency as we made our way further into the hotel. “Horatio the familiar? The cat who works with Stella on her magic, he’s your Horatio?”

“So this doesn’t happen everyday, huh?” I tried to make it a joke, but the words felt strangled.

“Yeah, you could say that. Are you serious?” she hissed the words, quieter than yelling but with force. “Are you joking or are you being serious right now? Tell me the truth.”

“For real, I’m being serious.” At the elevators, I hit the button to call one.

“Okay, because it’s not wise to get into a prank war with a witch.” Heed my words or beware, her tone indicated.

“I’m not—”

“At least, it’s not wise to legitimately get one over on a witch in a prank war because that just makes the stakes higher for you.” She wiggled her fingers menacingly, perhaps threatening hexes or curses, if those were different things.

“Miranda, I’m not kidding.” Ding, an elevator arrived, and we stepped inside.

“Just checking.” She hit the button for our floor as she spoke. “Okay. Alright… no, one more time. Is this real?”

How the hell should I know? I tried to be patient. “I was hoping you would tell me.”

“Honestly, this does not happen often.” Oh god. “Or ever.” Oh god. “At least not that I’m aware of.” Oh god.

When Horatio and I went our separate ways, I immediately sought out Miranda so she could confirm his story. It wasn’t that I really thought he was lying. His story was just so incredible, it had trouble sinking in. I kept thinking it would eventually. Sink in. Not yet.

From all accounts, Miranda mastered the craft quickly. I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen her baffled by something witch-y. Great. This was just fucking great.

“Wait, is this impossible?” she asked rhetorically. “No, I don’t think so. It’s… wow. Him showing up is a trip in itself, but being a familiar? Wow. Just wow. Wo—”

“Miranda.”

“Sorry.” Shaking her head, she snapped out of it. “How are you?”

“I have no idea,” I answered with feeling.

“Yeah, that sounds right.”

~

The rest of the novel is available here.

Meet Mason Lewis

Mason Lewis is one of the main characters in Black Cats and Bad Luck. While magic exists in his world, it’s not really part of his life growing up. Except for one thing. He’s been dreaming of his true love for as long as he can remember. The same visitor keeps appearing when he sleeps, a boy with black hair and green eyes. He grows up along with Mason. His name is Horatio.

Mason is eager to meet Horatio, though he tells himself the waiting makes the whole thing sweeter. It will all be worth it one day. Even if the guy is nowhere to be found and Horatio isn’t the most common name. He’s lucky. Not everyone gets this. The surety, the knowledge that their other half is out there somewhere, a comfort telling them to hold on because he’s not here yet but he’s coming. One day. He’ll hold the dreams close to his heart until he can hold the guy in his arms.

When the novel starts, the years have passed and things have changed. Mason is a 23-year-old who stopped waiting for Horatio. The death of his father put things in perspective and made him realize that the life he lives with his eyes open is most important.

The excerpt below comes from a scene where Mason is talking to his best friend Miranda about his strange dreams. They’ve become more frequent, which he doesn’t like.

I leveled with Miranda. “Look at us now. You’re about to be a High Priestess. I’ve got a great job lined up and a serious girlfriend. We’re downright stable and well-adjusted. When we first met, did you ever think we would get here? If past-you could see you now, what would you think?”

“Impossible,” she answered quietly. “I’d call this impossible.”

Miranda and I met in the Dead Parents Club. That was what we called our old support group. I lost my dad while both her parents were gone. If the ‘dead parents’ nickname sounded dark, the reality was even worse. As sullen, maladjusted teens, we sat on folding chairs in a church basement, scowling at everything and sobbing at the unfairness of the world in turns, trying to make sense of grief.

For a long time, I wanted to hurt. Screw moving on and healthy coping and whatever else the counselor talked about. Then I just wanted to breathe easier without every inhale feeling so labored, a near impossibility dragged from my lungs.

Somehow, I did get past the grief. I was doing better than I ever would have imagined. So maybe Horatio and I shared some impossible connection, but what I accomplished in the waking world seemed impossible too. My dad had been gone for close to a decade, which was a long time in some regards. And also not very long. I never thought I’d be able to pick up the pieces by this time.

“I need this, Miranda,” I said. “Because there’s always this thing, if not holding me back then holding me in place. I’m ready to go on. I need to go on.”

There was this moment not too long ago. My apprenticeship was wrapping up and there were two potential jobs waiting for me. The first one was a side project Miranda and I started on a whim a few years ago and could turn into a full-time business. The other was a position with an established home building company. The latter meant moving away, but a fresh start wouldn’t be so bad, and I was getting serious with Rachel. The future never looked better. Maybe I have things under control, I thought. I’m really going to be alright. That was when the dreams started again.

At the heart of every dream, the problem was the same. I desperately desired someone who didn’t exist, someone I never really met. The dreams had too much power over me. It felt like they could destroy everything I worked so hard for.

~

For my new novel and series, I put together some posts that are an introduction to the world and characters of Black Cats and Bad Luck. This paranormal romance is available for free. It’s a new adult gay romance about magic, familiars, dreams, and monsters.

Former Feline Familiars (is this a tongue twister?)

For my new novel and series, I put together some posts that are an introduction to the world and characters of Black Cats and Bad Luck. This paranormal romance is available for free. It’s a new adult gay romance about magic, familiars, dreams, and monsters.

One of the main characters is Horatio, a former familiar who is seeking his true love. You know how shapeshifters are a hot trend in fiction now? This is kind of like that, except it only works in one direction and only once. He spent some time in cat form, though he isn’t really a cat. Because when I try to write shapeshifters, apparently my brain cooperates to a point and then does its own thing.

In this scene, Horatio meets up with the young witch he lived and worked with, her older brother Avery, and his friend Jonah.

~

Avery

“Horatio is a cat.” I went over the facts, seeking comfort from them. “He eats from a black dish with little stars decorating the outside. He gets hair all over my pillows, he smacks me in the face with his tail. Because he’s a cat, our—”

“I hope you weren’t going to say pet,” he interrupted sternly.

“He’s right, Avery,” Stella said. Great, they were both glaring at me. “We don’t own him, we never did.”

Rubbing my face with both hands, I groaned. What the hell I did not even believe in? What the hell? All I could say was, “He’s not Horatio.”

“I am Horatio,” the guy argued.

“And you were lonely, so you followed us here?” And also grew human parts.

“No, you’re where I need to be, and I can sense you strongly. You’re my bridge between worlds.”

Not sure what to do with that, I only weakly said, “Horatio is a cat.”

“I was,” he agreed. “But no longer.”

Everyone had gone insane. I did not have enough sanity on my own to bring them all back to reality. So I did the only thing I could. I gave up, falling back on the bed, closing my eyes, and wishing the world a fond farewell. It would have to get along without me.

“Oh my god.” Jonah laughed. “Awesome! Are you serious?”

Distantly, a reasonable part of myself tried to mount a defense. It argued I shouldn’t allow a naked, possibly deranged guy to waltz in here just because he guessed the name of our cat.

 If anyone else showed up out of nowhere buck-naked claiming to be a family pet, or a rough equivalent, they would be full of shit. But this guy? I believed him. While the shape of him changed, he was still Horatio.

— the rest is available here. For free!

quicksand, a black hole,magnets, and other stuff that pulls you in

Luke has a boyfriend and a fake girlfriend in One Little Lie. Which is sort of crazy, but what’s really crazy is thinking Luke is bisexual. That’s really insane and laughable. Except no one is laughing. Anyway, in this extended scene, Luke and Lydia are coming back from a fake date where they went to the fair with her family.

~

We were basically babysitters for Lydia’s younger siblings at the fair while her parents checked out all the religious singers that performed there, but the fair was the best place to be a babysitter because we got to ride all the rides we wanted and play the games and no one could judge us cause it was for the kids. Plus, her siblings were way better behaved than Lily and her friends.

The deep-fried Twinkie was glorious and kinda gross and after having the deep-fried Oreos too, l was okay with never eating anything else unnaturally fried for at least another year. All in all, it was a good day. I had some of the prizes the kids won in my car, so Lydia rode with me and I dropped her and the winnings off at their house. We stood near the edge of the driveway and she gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek while her parents looked on. They went in the house, but she lingered outside with me.

I thought I didn’t have to think about this stuff anymore now that I had a girl on my arm. Okay, maybe I didn’t want to think about it. It was like quicksand, a black hole, or magnets: something that pulls you in. I start thinking about it and then it’s hard to stop and I only end up with a headache and no answers. What was the point of putting myself through all that if I never seemed to get anywhere?

I leaned against my car next to her. Was I bi? “That would mean I liked guys and girls.”

She nodded. “You do.”

“I like Ryan and girls,” I pointed out.

“You want your boyfriend and also to be straight?” She raised one eyebrow.

“Is that not possible?” I asked without much hope.

“I guess it is,” she conceded. Hey, alright, that was—but then she kept talking. “But have you considered the possibility that’s not what this is?”

I sighed, gesturing for her to move over and she and I sat on my car.

All the homes on this block were small and quaint and some of the properties had their porchlights on, but it was after dark and the street was pretty dead. There was never anything to do in town after ten or so, but there was a breeze in the air and just sitting outside was kinda nice.

“You should talk to Zach,” I told her. I mostly got where she was coming from, but my parents weren’t religious like hers. My parents went to church, but faith was only one part of who they were.

“Um. I mean. I guess.” She frowned.

I’d had some bad ideas in my time, but this wasn’t one of them. “It’s just a suggestion. He might know more about the religious aspect than me,” I defended myself.

“It’s not a bad idea.” She gestured vaguely. “I just can’t actually picture how that would go.”

Yeah. They had stuff in common, and would probably have a lot to say, but I couldn’t imagine either of them biting the bullet and having an awkward talk about feelings. They’d both just stare at each other having a too-cool-to-care contest.

“Our parents aren’t the same religion anyway,” she said after moment.

“Does it matter? You’re as Muslim as he is and he’s as Christian as you are.”

She didn’t respond to that as she thought about something and I let her work out whatever it was.

Zach was third generation and his parents were devout privately. They believed in balancing their life here with their ethnicity and religion, that it was all parts of a whole instead of one over the other. They didn’t forget their faith but wanted to fit in here. They were doing a good job in that regard; their son was very acclimated.

“I’ve seen his parents before,” she said eventually. “At their store.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you shopped there. I could maybe get you a discount.” Oh, I wasn’t really supposed to tell anyone my family got a discount. As my parents liked to say, they were crowdfunding raising three boys between them, Zach’s parents, and Joey’s. When we were both 10, Zach started coming with us on summer trips to a lake house in the Ozarks. My grandparents owned it and our extended family shared it. After that, his parents said we might as well get the family discount.

“I used to go into their store when I was like 13,” Lydia told me. “It was my way of rebelling back then.”

“Your parents don’t want you shopping there?” Maybe they were Kroger people.

“Um. Muslims, you know?”

I shrugged. I didn’t really. Some people had a thing about it. Hey, why couldn’t sexuality be like that? The Ahmads occasionally dealt with assholes but didn’t like receiving sympathy for it and wanted to be treated normally. And I knew how to do that; I’d known Zach as long as I could remember. They were normal to me. It wasn’t like we pretended everything was fine, they just wanted to focus on other things. Why couldn’t people just treat me normally?

“They seem nice though,” Lydia said of Zach’s parents.

I laughed. It always shocked me when his parents welcomed me into the store before they realized it was me. Don’t get me wrong, they were totally nice. But I was like a member of the family, so I’d never pick my Monopoly piece first at their house. And Lydia’s parents were like a whole other level beyond his parents or mine. Like under their politeness and hospitality, there was just more politeness and hospitality.