The Secret Ingredient

Insert banter/witty intro here. I would try to think of something, but this is a good-sized story, so maybe I should just get right to it. Yeah, that’s my excuse. I mean reason.

This is a deleted scene from One Little Change. In that story, Luke and his boyfriend have an awkward sexual encounter and he doesn’t want to talk about it. Instead, he’s talking to his foster sister Lydia. Lydia is dating Alicia, who is asexual. Luke is dating Ryan, who is sexual.

In this story, Luke is trying not to think about Ryan while trying to figure out how asexuality works. Luke never knows how anything works. It’s part of his charm or something.

Luke

Once upon a time, even though she could still be vicious as hell early in the morning, I used to enjoy not seeing Lydia all put together. No makeup in a tank top and pajamas, hair mussed, eyes sleepy, just a regular person. Wasn’t getting much enjoyment from that today.

But there were some bright sides to this awful day. I might not be too late for work. I definitely was going to be late but not as late as I thought when Lydia parked herself in my room and refused to leave until we talked. And now Lydia was making me breakfast. And the best part of all? Talking about her and Alicia meant I didn’t have to think about me and Ryan.

Not that any of this made any sense. Okay, Alicia couldn’t have sex. Wait, maybe she could. She just didn’t want to. Yeah, I didn’t think she had a medical condition where… no, I wasn’t going to guess. I wasn’t going to think about her private parts. Maybe it was, like, just how she was. Ryan liked guys, Lydia liked girls, I liked both, and Alicia liked neither.

No, that couldn’t be right either. She was dating Lydia. Alright, even knowing Lydia might make fun of my general ignorance, I had to ask for clarification. “You and Alicia, like, kiss?” I needed a mental picture. Wait, ew, not literally.

“Of course we kiss.” She faced the stove while she made pancakes, but I could hear her roll her eyes. She rolled her eyes loudly.

“But you don’t do other stuff?” I wondered next. Maybe this was dumb and obvious to her, but I was just trying to understand. Wasn’t even sure these questions would help me do that but maybe they would at least help me think of better ones.

Would it be possible for Alicia not to know what she liked? Like on the checklist of sexual activities, maybe she had to try each one and then decide to cross them off her list or not… that really didn’t sound right. Didn’t sound totally wrong, but it really didn’t seem like a good idea to suggest that an asexual person should do sexual stuff just to be for sure.

She turned around for a moment, regarding me suspiciously. “Why are you asking about what my girlfriend and I do together?” Fair’s fair. No, she didn’t care about fair.

“Because I have no clue?” It sounded like a question, but it was true. Duh. I just didn’t know me not having a clue was something I’d ever have to explain to her. I thought she just assumed I had no clue, like Zach did, and that made it easier for everyone involved. I didn’t know if my eye roll was strong enough to be heard when not looking at my face, but she was looking at my face, so she could see it.

“Not because you think it’s hot,” she clarified. One hand flipped a pancake while the other was on her hip as she regarded me frankly.

Why would her and Alicia kissing and stuff be hot?  Oh, because two girls. Maybe that could be hot… if one of those girls wasn’t practically my sister and the other one wasn’t… whatever Alicia was. And if I hadn’t had a terrible sexual encounter with my boyfriend the night before. “I’m with a guy now,” I reminded Lydia.

“That doesn’t mean you don’t like girls.” Guess she was appeased though because she turned around again.

“Yeah, whatever.” Yep, bi pride. I would wave my bi flag later. I focused on the topic we were discussing. “Alicia doesn’t feel whatever it is that tells her, let’s have sex, right? Well, what if you guys were kissing or whatever and she did feel that? I mean, is that possible?”

Also, did bi people have a flag? No, wasn’t the time for that.

“We make out and stuff.” The words sounded a little short, but Lydia sounded like that a lot, so I couldn’t tell if that meant something or was just regular. “Some stuff,” she added. “Not all the stuff,” she finished lamely. Lydia brought the food over to the table. She had a look on her face like she had no idea what she was talking about.

“Is that difficult? To do stuff and then stop?” Always was a challenge for me and Ryan. Or we thought it was, maybe all that had been a blessing in disguise.

“Kind of. I think because we’re still figuring out how we work together. I mean, I didn’t think this was even an option, not anytime soon at least.” She had a faraway look in her eyes for a moment, then she shook her head. “It will be easier once we know. I hope.”

“I’m sure it will be,” I assured. “If you guys do some stuff, and you’re still figuring out how it works, then couldn’t being, uh, intimate together be a part of that?”

Lydia rolled her eyes when I said intimate. “In theory.” Sounded like she had more to say… but then she didn’t say any of it.

“How do you know?” I pressed when she went quiet. “Maybe she likes you that way? You’re the right person.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Lydia said, glaring at me.

Maybe her hormones or sex drive or whatever were just idling, the engine on but the car not moving, until the right person got in the driver’s seat and stepped on the gas. All she had needed was to find the right girl. Though, huh, maybe that was bad. I remember my parents hoping I’d find the right girl and get over Ryan. Maybe it didn’t work like that.

In case there was any doubt, I still had no clue how this worked. There probably wasn’t any doubt.

“Do you know how it works?” I didn’t tell her my car analogy because that might be offensive to compare women to cars. Being a car sounded pretty cool to me though.

“Of course!” Lydia glared at me.

Lydia glared at me a lot, and it was early, and I had pancakes to eat, so I began cutting my food without paying her much attention. She didn’t usually mind being ignored, think she preferred it, but when she was expressing how little she thought of something or someone, then she wanted attention.

I started paying attention because I had accidentally earned her wrath, I did that a lot, and sometimes violence followed the wrath. Looked like Lydia wanted to take the knife she was using to cut her pancakes and stab me in the throat with it instead.

Lydia’s reaction to not being in control, feeling insecure, and a whole lot of other stuff was anger, so none of that fazed me. I wasn’t a complete moron, so I paid attention in order to defend myself, but I wasn’t fazed. I waited her out and she sighed.

“I thought I understood how it worked,” she admitted quietly, staring down at her pancakes and biting her lip, then she shook her head. “Might be just as clueless as you.”

“Sorry,” I told her sincerely. I was as clueless as me all the time and it wasn’t fun. “I don’t think I’ll be able to help you with this.”

She rolled her eyes. “I never thought that was an option.” She could at least pretend!

“I hate you,” I told her sincerely.

“Oh Luke, you’re my only hope,” Lydia said. Her voice was dry and not at all believable. “I need your big brain so badly.” Her face turned wicked. “Did Ryan say that to you last night?” Just swapping out the word brain for a different part of the anatomy, her eyes seemed to suggest.

I was the one who wanted to grab my knife and stab her. I tried to. Well, I mimed doing that but wasn’t really going to, and Lydia brought her knife up to block mine anyway, so we had a mini swordfight with our butter knifes for a minute until we calmed down and ate our food.

Holy crap, these were good pancakes. Maybe better than my mom’s, and just having that thought made me look around wildly for a second, afraid she’d jump out at me from the shadows and ask why I betrayed her, but nothing happened, so I told Lydia, “These pancakes are good.”

“Family recipe,” she told me easily, then what she said registered with her. “Old family.” As in the one she had before this one, her biological family. “I mean, uh. Mom used to say the secret ingredient was love.”

“You cooked for me with love?” I asked in amusement. First good food and now this; the day was turning around.

“No! That’s bullshit.” She scowled. “The secret ingredient is a shit-ton of butter.”

Butter. It was better than love.

At the moment, yeah, that sounded about right.

Spooky, scary.

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday because my birthday is in October, and I like candy. Nightmare Before Christmas is a great movie. My dog went trick or treating last night and had no idea what was going on.

These are my random Halloween thoughts.

My youngest nephew went as a character from Five Nights at Fredys and my older nephew was the grim reaper. Pretty easy costume, long black robe and scythe thingy and mask. Whoever made his costume really went the extra mile though. He had these little cufflinks and the cufflinks were tiny skull buttons.

Tiny skulls!

I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Actually, what I told him was that was really cute. I’m sure that’s exactly what he wanted when he chose the costume, to be cute. Still, tiny skulls. Adorable!

A brief oral history of farming and other more interesting things

Can you call something an oral history if it’s in someone’s mind? An oral mental history.

Hi. Hola. Bonjour.

(I don’t know how to spell bonjour, and the spell checker thing offered ‘bourbon instead, which I know is wrong, but I was tempted to put anyway.)

Now that we got the greetings out of the way, here’s some fiction! Some of this is in One Little Lie, and some of it is extra.

I don’t think you need a lot of background information to understand this scene, but just in case, Ryan and his dad are going to build a barn. Maybe. Ryan’s dad is trying to teach him things, and because Ryan is Ryan, it’s not going great.

 ~~~

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It was a nice spring afternoon. My father and I stood outside in the light with nothing around to provide shade, but the sun felt nice on my skin. We were out back on our property, surveying the spot where our old barn used to be. Did this count as exercise? I was totally going to count this as exercise.

My dad’s family used to have their own farm, but it took a lot of work. The Miller operation used to be family owned and run, so there wasn’t a big budget to hire new staff with once the number of family members dwindled. Grandpa came from a bigger family, but Dad only had a brother who didn’t live in the area anymore. I was an only child, and Mom had died when I was young.

We didn’t have livestock anymore but that could change once we had a barn again. Dad had traded favors with a bunch of guys he knew to help knock the old structure down after he, Luke, and me attempted it ourselves, and he paid a crew to remove the remains.

There were some supplies at our feet like a big sketch pad, pencils, a tape measurer, and even a freaking protractor that was metal and different from the one I had to get for school. My dad owned a protractor. I really needed to mock him for that.

Before I could, he turned to me and asked, “So what’s the first thing we should do?”

“Go inside and order a pizza?” I suggested even though I didn’t have much hope the answer would be yes.

Dad sighed, though it was more for show than out of true annoyance. He had a pretty high tolerance for annoyance, which he had me to thank for. “I’m going to force this knowledge into your brain one way or another,” he informed me. “So you could at least cooperate.”

Learning about blueprints and construction probably wasn’t the worst idea in the world. I already had some experience as I built a dunk tank for a science project, and there were all kinds of engineering jobs out there in the mythical Real World for science nerds like me that might require these skills.

Still, being totally obtuse made this way more fun for me. I feigned obliviousness. “It’s a barn. Build a big square and put some dividers in it, how hard could that be?”

Dad smacked me lightly on the head. “You can’t even understand how dumb you sound right now.”

Father of the Year, right there.

 

Familial Love

I’m now reading Just a Dumb Surfer Dude: A Gay Coming-of-Age Tale by Chase Connor. Supportive families are a must in YA LGBTQ fiction, but sassy families are great too. Here’s a quote:

“Why are you having trouble with the fellows? I mean, I don’t understand wooing other men, so I can’t help much, but…”
“For crying out loud, dad.”
“I’m just saying, you must be doing something wrong. ” He shrugged. “I lost my virginity at 15.”
“Yeah,” I scoffed. “To mom. And then you guys dated the rest of the way through high school, college, and then got married.
“One sexual partner doesn’t make you a stud, dad.”
“At least I’m not a virgin. Nerd.”

Blast From the Past

father-2770301_960_720My absent father wanted to speak to me, maybe meet up, and I… I could barely stand to think about reconnecting or whatever.

“I can’t deal with a nightmare from my past right now” I told my mother.

She laughed at me. “You’re so dramatic. That’s a bright side, huh? You won’t even have to come out to your dad, just say that.”

“Ugh,” I groaned. “Shut up.”  Drinking and denial were better than drudging up the past. This conversation was proof. Shit.

“I’m just asking,” she said gently. “It’s your decision.” She was using a weird kind tone I didn’t like. Mom typically took the tough love approach with me these days. Her parenting advice normally involved stern words and phrases like ‘stop being a dumbass’ and ‘make smart decisions because I’m not paying for bail.’

“What would we even talk about?” Dad and I hadn’t had anything in common, something he worried about often. I wasn’t a ‘normal boy’ who’d liked sports and bugs and whatever normal boys were supposed to like. “Maybe dad and I will just hug and go play catch?” I quipped. Oh god, what if he really did want to play catch? He didn’t hide his disappointment at my inability to play sports very well when I was younger, but I was stronger now.

Mom thought about it. “Maybe you could guilt him into buying you beer.”

I laughed. “Tempting.”

She walked to stand in front of me. “I’ve got to go to work.” She bent down and kissed my forehead. I scowled as she smiled back at me. “Make good decisions, dumbass.”

Excerpt from What Love Means

Daily Prompt: Guilty

Deleted Scene

This a moment between Cal and his brother Brendan that got taken out of What Love Means.

We left the house to get away from worrying about the bee. I’d thought he’d suggest go-karting or mud wrestling or whatever sports people did, but we ended up just walking around the neighborhood. We didn’t talk much at first, but there was fresh air and the sun shining down on us, so I think we both felt better.

We likely meandered for hours, until it got darker. It was still and quiet. All the fancy homes had their lights on, so the neighborhood looked warm and cozy.

Brendan eventually loosened up. I didn’t want to destroy that as we headed back to the house. I cast about for something to talk about. We had nothing in common but the bee. “Wanna help me with my trig homework?” I joked.

He shook his head. “I don’t know anything about your fancy math problems, but I can help you with your Max problems.”

I looked at him in shock. “What? What are you talking about?”

Brendan grinned. “Oh man, you are so guilty.”

“No, no, I just.” I cleared my throat. “What are you referring to?”

“Mostly April,” he admitted. Brendan wasn’t supposed to have social messaging apps on his phone, but I didn’t call him on it, or on finding the time to gossip with April. “She said Max is— am I allowed to say pissed off in front of you?”

“Max is pissed off at me?” he sky was grey and it was a little chilly, but it beat the warmer but somehow more frigid stillness of home.

“I didn’t say that.”

“How do you know it’s my fault?”

He stared at me smugly. “It so is.”

“Maybe,” I admitted. “I don’t know what to do about it though.” He ran somewhat hot and cold with me. No, he generally seemed to want me, it just sometimes annoyed him that he felt that way.

“I could help.”

I smiled at Brendan but said, “No, I don’t think so.”

“I know you like him.”

“What?” Oh god, how the hell did he know that? How obvious were we? Everybody in Max’s life knew, that was pretty clear. I’d been able to handle that perhaps because I didn’t need to say anything and I could kind of ignore it. Actually telling people in my life and having them know. That was a different story. Wasn’t it?

The panic rising swiftly stopped suddenly. “He’s a good friend,” Brendan explained. “He’s a lot better than your other friends. You like him better than them too.”

“I’m not comparing,” I tried.

“They’re boring.” Brendan summed up simply.

“Max is too exciting then.” That was entirely true. It didn’t stop the wanting though, maybe was even part of why I liked him. We had been so similar once. Our friendship was comforting, easy. Now I didn’t know what to expect. It was different, but maybe not bad.

“So what? You should apologize, you need one exciting friend in your life.”

“Words don’t go so well for us.” We certainly knew enough of them, just not the right way to use them.

“Then show him in a different way,” Brendan said like it was easy. Perhaps it was.

“Wait, wait. When did you become smarter than me?” I asked Brendan.

“Always, I just didn’t want you to feel bad.”

“I guess I’ll have to become good at sports then.”

He scoffed. “Yeah right.”

“Race you to the house,” I said and took off.

Presents

For my nephew, Christmas is probably the best and worst time of the year. He gets time off from school, he loves snow and there’s an absolute mountain of toys waiting for him on Dec. 25. The downside though, is all the days before Christmas. He’s a wonderful ‘just because’ shopper. If it’s a slow day, the best way to brighten it up is to buy something.

That doesn’t work in December. “You don’t need any toys,” I told him. “Christmas is almost here.”

“Let’s just go look,” he said instead. “I won’t ask for anything.”

I shook my head. “No way, I’m not falling for that.”

“I mean it this time,” he tried, but I didn’t budge.

He has a big Christmas list already. He wants lots of toys and video games, a few clothes and some accessories for the sports he plays.

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I don’t know why he likes this thing so much.

My younger nephew took a more imaginative approach this year, asking for whatever his heart desired no matter how impossible. He listed a few toys, mostly things from Minecraft like a creeper stuffed animal, but he wants both a toy version and real version of the witherstorm.

 

 

He also asked for ten baby kittens.

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He wants the creepiest thing ever, then the cutest things ever.

I’m slightly more prepared this year than last year, getting my Christmas shopping done a whole five days before the actual event. I guess that means I can think about what I want now. So, in the spirit of materialism, I mean, Christmas, I decided to come up with my own wish list. I’ve been good this year Santa, I swear.

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Oh well, here’s my wish list:

 

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Black Sails DVDs – Bless everyone that had the idea to take Treasure Island and make it really gay. It’s a crazy beautiful show that’s brimming with action and adventure while also being well-plotted and full of excellent character moments. It’s like a book and movie at the same time, but it’s actually a TV show and a super gay one.

 

 

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Godiva Chocolate – If I’m going to indulge, I might as well go big.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – This book had my interest with the first words of the description, “A young bisexual British lord.” Plus, it promises a zany journey filled with humor and best friends falling in love.

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Stranger Things Collectibles – Maybe this is my nephew’s influence, but I want at least one toy of my own.  My current obsession is Stranger Things. When I saw some ST action figures at Game Stop, I was definitely tempted to convince my nephew he wanted them instead of a Minecraft zombie. I managed to resist, so that is at least one good deed I’ve done this year, Santa.

I don’t know why the one version of Steve I found from Funko Pop Television is all bloody. They have Brenner and Mr. Clarke, they can’t make two Steves? But I want it anyway. He even has a little bat!

That’s my Christmas wish list, what’s on yours?

 

 

 

 

Optimism

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Today is grey and bitter. There’s no snow yet, but the winter is truly here. The sky is empty, the trees are stripped bare of leaves, and no one is venturing outside more than they have to.

I’ve been having some trouble with positivity lately. It’s easy to get discouraged as a self-published author. The weather doesn’t reflect my mood, it’s not pathetic fallacy, it’s just December in the Midwest.

Being a self-published author isn’t the easiest thing. I won’t moan on about all my struggles and difficulties, but I’ll just say it has some challenges. Doing it on your own means you have to do so much from writing, editing, making graphics, marketing and more all while competing against people with bigger teams and budgets.

I received a lesson in optimism from my nephews. Every day they want to go to the park. The cold doesn’t bother them. Or more likely, they just don’t care that it’s cold. They still want to go outside and run around and play. They don’t let the weather ruin their fun.

Their favorite response last year when someone said it was too cold to go outside was to say, “Well, to me it isn’t.” Naturally, no one bought this. Ignoring reality didn’t work or produce results, so they’ve adapted. Now they just don’t care. Yes, it’s cold outside, but they want to go out anyway.