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.

Friendship, cookies, and bi panic. Totally normal bro stuff.

I was gonna do the talky talk talking thing here, but this is a pretty good sized scene, so I’ll just get to it. Porcupines! (Sorry, I couldn’t completely do the whole serious, professional thing. That would be too weird.)

This is from One Little Lie, and it’s a deleted scene.

Relevant information: Luke is dating a boy and wants to figure out his sexuality but most of his feelings about this are “oh god, oh god, oh god.” He goes to his friend Zach, known bisexual and avoider of feelings, for help.

~

Luke

My sister said she thought I was a boring straight guy once. I was certainly interesting now; my dilemma was multifaceted. I had no idea what I was. I didn’t think and maybe didn’t want to be gay, but what if I was? Things had never felt this good, this intense before.

That’s what I thought about after leaving Ryan’s house.

heartThen there was the other part, which was maybe worse. Maybe things didn’t feel so intense and crazy and wonderful because Ryan was a guy. Maybe it felt that way because my feelings for Ryan were more than I’d ever had for anyone else, maybe it was lo-

Nope. No. Too scary.

I’m the good guy, I’d always been the good boyfriend. I held doors open, paid for dinner, tried to listen, bought flowers, all of it. I executed all the right moves on the outside, but it never felt like this on the inside.

I’d said I love you before and I had thought I meant it at the time, but it didn’t feel like this. Real, intense. Consuming. Was I gay? Did it matter that I still liked girls?

I wasn’t the type to do awkward or self-doubting and now there was a lot of that in my life. Ryan and I were each other’s first boyfriends. Though he’d been on a few dates with Zach and had definitely been attracted to other guys. Maybe Ryan was special to me, but I wasn’t special to him.

Huh.

What a not fun thought.

That was only one of the reasons I couldn’t share with Ryan when he offered last night. Mainly, I wanted to go into his house and do anything that involved being undressed and not talking. Also because I didn’t want all of my fond, serious thoughts to spill out. And also because… it just didn’t feel right unloading all this stuff on him.

Lydia had her own soul searching to go through, so I turned to Zach. The easiest way to get Zach to cooperate was to tell him exactly what you wanted and make it clear that you would leave him alone after you got it. This wasn’t baseball. No warm up. No beating around the bush. Direct.

When it was time for our next away game, I clapped him on the shoulder and sat down next to him on the bus. “Prepare yourself for a serious conversation,” I informed him.

“Thanks for the warning.” He moved to get up. “But you didn’t inform me in writing at least three days in advance so—”

“Okay, but I want to talk about BEING GAY AND QUEER SHIT,” I raised my voice. “Whoever sits next to me will have that to look forward to.” Suddenly there were no free seats for Zach. “Come on, we can do this quickly.”

He sat back down but complained, “I don’t want to hold your hand through this. Can’t you talk to your actual boyfriend about this?”

“I’ll tell him once I figure it out.” He did it on his own.

Okay, this was what I was talking about earlier. The big reason I couldn’t let him help me. Not only did he figure it out on his own, my addition only made things more complicated. I opened my stupid big mouth and told people he was gay.

I didn’t really know him at the time. I didn’t know about being in the closet or outing people. It was an accident. I just… After that, I didn’t want to put this on him. I could do this myself.

Mostly. I told Zach, “I’m talking to you whether you like it or not.”

He idly glanced out the window, but I doubted he’d make a break for it. “Fine.”

“Fine.”

guypicsDeep, deep down he was really a good person. You just had to get through all the bullshit first. Zach liked to present himself a certain way and his family weren’t really the type to have serious, intense conversations. My parents freaking loved talking. I just didn’t think they’d want to listen to anything I had to say at the moment.

I didn’t say anything for a few moments. “So,” Zach said after a tense silence, “Are you gonna start talking then, or what?”

“Right, right.” Okay. I wanted this. “I bought some time. With the Lydia thing. But I still don’t know.” There.

He didn’t say anything. I just expressed my doubts in such an eloquent and articulate manner and he had nothing to say?

“Okay, so this is supposed to be a conversation,” I explained.

“I’m aware,” Zach said cooly. That was all he said.

“It’s your turn to talk,” I prompted. Maybe I should jump out the window instead.

He shrugged. “I don’t know what you want me to say to that.”

Oh dear god. “Help me,” I ordered. Or maybe begged. “How do I even decide? It’s like a big decision. Straight or gay.”

“You’re acting like there’s no other options.” He rolled his eyes. “Like being bi, for instance.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I shrugged.

Zach said he liked guys and girls. That was an option, hypothetically. I couldn’t imagine it any more than I could being gay; maybe I liked it even less for some reason.

It wasn’t that simple, was it? To just say, oh, I like both and there, problem solved. That was awfully convenient. How long could that last for? Wasn’t it just putting off the inevitable? I couldn’t decide if that’s what I wanted to do or not.

“Please don’t let this inflate your ego more,” I told Zach, “But you make it look really easy.”

“I’ve known I was gay for a while now,” he said simply. He used gay and bi interchangeably sometimes, but how was I supposed to know if that was what he was doing this time? Then, seeing that I was clearly about to ask if he was gay now, he added, “I’m still bi, but I don’t have a problem with either term.”

Gay had become something of a catch all term, but it didn’t feel like it to me. If I called myself gay out loud, that meant I liked men and men only. Zach didn’t agree. Not that there was anything wrong with being gay, obviously. It just wasn’t me.

Zach sighed and his tone wasn’t exactly gentler, but for him it was almost warm and fuzzy as he continued, “You suddenly found yourself in a… situation.” Instead of boyfriend, I would have to refer to Ryan as my situation later; he’d get a kick out of that. “It might take time to figure everything out.”

I thought about that. How much time did I get? Did I have to become gay after my transitional period was over? When should I expect my membership card in the mail and how did I go about returning it?

heartyStill, it wasn’t bad advice. This was new to me. I got a little time at least. All I could come up with to say in response was, “Wow, you sound so wise and rational.”

“I know,” Zach shuddered. “I don’t like it.”

Well, that didn’t really help. But I guess it was reassuring. I felt really dumb, but I hadn’t been dealing with this for that long, that was true. But Zach had known he was gay for a while now?

“I don’t think I’ve seen you go after a guy besides Ryan,” I noted.

“Oh god, we are not talking about that,” he said firmly.

I sighed. This was probably as good as our conversation would get, so I deemed Zach’s best friend duties over with and reached into my backpack. “Hey, I brought snacks.”

Zach smiled. Now some of the guys looked jealous, which made his smile grow. Zach liked envy even more than dessert. Ryan made cookies for the road. We ate them all ourselves but shared with Joey too. Apparently, I owed him for always telling him things he didn’t want to know.

~

This is part of a continuing thing I do called More on Mondays.  Where I post extra scenes, hence the more, on every other Monday, hence the Mondays.

No one dies in this book!

Horror movies are not something I enjoy. Doesn’t really matter if the subject is actually frightening to me. If there is ominous music and something jumps out of the shadows, I will jump too, except I’m jumping due to terror.

Every time I have watched a horror movie, my first thought is, why am I watching this? Then, as it begins, I generally spend a few moments going, hey, this is nice, why can’t it just stay like this?

Because at the beginning of the scary movies, there’s calm, happy people just going about their day. Excited to go camping or to a house that totally isn’t haunted. I like those parts. And maybe it’s a lot less interesting if people just have a pleasant day and nobody dies, but I’d be okay with that.

Naturally, this doesn’t have a lot to do with the point of this post. This is a snippet from One New Start. It’s from the beginning, where life is going right. There are no monsters in this book, but there may be other challenges. Eventually. Just not in the beginning where everything is great.

Ryan

The stars were up there above us, filling the night sky like they were meant for private viewing by us and us alone, as if we were in our own private planetarium. We were laying out on the hood of Luke’s car, and he had his arm stretched out behind me, so it was my pillow. A solid, unyielding pillow that would never sell in stores because it was odd and misshapen. No one would buy it except me, who would purchase every last one.

We shared a few quiet moments just gazing up at the sky. Together.

“I’ll keep on keeping on,” Luke said. “Being boring me while you take a normal thing like having new experiences and find ways to make it extreme or scary.”

There was no guarantee I would do that! Unless one counted past experiences and my personality as a guarantee.

“I want new experiences!” I defended. Being not crazy could be part of that.

“You’re still going to be the same person while you’re having them,” he reasoned.

“I guess.” I did like me. But there were so many options out there. “Unless I can be Cher? Can I be Cher?” I crossed my fingers and held them up so he could see them.

“Don’t want to date Cher,” he replied. Aww. Sweet.

Also, that wasn’t a no, so maybe I could be Cher… then again, one of the only things I had going for me that Cher didn’t have was that Luke Chambers wanted to date me, so I wasn’t giving that up.

“Nicholas Cage?” I offered instead. He was another guy.

“Even worse.” His disgusted face was so cute.

If the opportunity presented itself to be Nick Cage, I would totally do that just to freak Luke out, but otherwise I would be me. That sounded just fine actually. I had great people in my life, great things to look forward to, and a really great boyfriend.

This was going to be an incredible year.

Zach! Should I add more? Zach, again!

You know how I post outtakes from my fiction every other Monday? Great, that’s what this is.

Sometimes I post longer sections… and sometimes I don’t. That’s what this is. A longer or short section. Duh.

This is a little bit about Zach from the One More Thing universe, a character I love and often just start writing about whenever he appears.

Then I remember, oh yeah, this scene isn’t just a bunch of information about Zach Ahmad. Which means, regrettably, I have to take out the big chunk of Zach stuff that’s just there intruding on the rest.

If Zach were a real person, he would probably object to the point of everything not being about him. However, he’s also probably happy to be a scene stealer.

Luke

Zach being serious? That was unnatural, almost scary. He could dress up as himself for Halloween, just wearing the glasses he needs and hates wearing and saying smart or heartfelt things about people and the world, and it would terrify everyone. Or at least me.

He’d never do that though, wear the glasses.

I wasn’t as cocky as Zach. I wasn’t sure anyone could be, and especially not his best friend, the combined forces of egos that big might cause a tornado or something.

~

This has been some deleted content from One New Start.

 

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.

 ~~~

barnrainbow

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.

 

More on Mondays: Now with More Puppy

My dog didn’t get a lot of exercise or outside time today because it’s been gloomy and rainy all day, so perhaps I should have expected when we went out on the deck and it started raining. As I’m in the process of moving in and outside, and this is the second time I’ve done that while trying to write this blog post, I’m not even gonna try to connect what I’m saying now to anything relevant.

Sometimes I say something and then immediately contradict myself, which is a Ryan thing. Ryan is from the novel I’m about to share an extended scene from. See, now the random stuff I’m talking about is related!

Additionally, it’s hard to think of stuff to say when there is a nearby dog barking her head off. Not really sure what she’s barking at, because she’s looking up. She does bark at birds, but there aren’t any birds, or planes, or flying men with capes.

She doesn’t like stay inside days. I’d say she gets crazy, but really she gets crazier, which is also a Ryan thing.

Have I posted a picture of my dog yet? I’m asking in a rhetorical manner because I’m totally about to regardless of what the answer is.

img_20190809_192106022

This sums up her current mood pretty well.

img_20190809_192034450

But this works too.

Okay, only one more I swear, I need one where she doesn’t look miserable.

img_20190809_192052803

Man, she’s great. Even though she’s barking again.

Without further ado, unless I think of more ado, here is something from One New Start. Available now! Which is new development, which is why exclamation. !!!

In this part, Ryan and Luke are boyfriends about to have an adventure. The adventure involves devious behavior and being up to no good. There are many reasons Ryan would be a bad criminal, and some of them are mentioned here.

~~~

Ryan

Still not going along with the incognito part of the plan, or being very bad at it if he was, Luke used his turn signal and still hadn’t cut the lights as we approached our destination. Yet he told me, “We probably shouldn’t talk when we get out.”

“I’ve been practicing my whispering voice!”

I didn’t try to whisper that, so it’s okay I said it at a volume that made Luke wince.

“It’s still too loud,” he assured me. The car slowed down.

“You haven’t even heard it.”

“Still, I’m right, aren’t I?” he replied without taking his eyes off the road.

… My vocal chords just weren’t capable of whispering. Luke didn’t have to be so accurate. “Stupid Luke,” I grumbled.

“You said that out loud,” he pointed out.

“I’m aware, stupid Luke.”

“May be stupid Luke, but I’m your Genius.” Oh pet names, my only weakness besides all the other ones. Luke slowed the car and parked, giving me a grin.

I glared. “No, this is dangerous and wrong and hot, not sweet!

He shrugged. “Can’t help being sweet, just who I am.”

We got out of the car.

The plan was to go in, get the job done, and get out. Smash and grab. Well, no grabbing. We would save the grabbing for later, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. We’d just smash. Wait, that was dirty too, wasn’t it? Everything was dirty these days, what was wrong with people?

This might not have helped with the tough, ruthless thing I was trying to do, but Luke and I held hands while we worked our way through the darkness. I could try going it alone… I’d fall over a zillion times. Also, Luke’s hand in mine. I may be a criminal now, but I wasn’t gonna turn down a good thing.

Awkward turtle. Do people still say that?

Ryan Miller and Luke Chambers do everything they do in the most terrible and awkward ways, including, well, you know… it.

Doing it.

IT!

You understand. That’s enough.

SEX! Sex was the it in that case. In case you weren’t aware.

One Little Change features Ryan and Luke navigating intimacy and a long distance relationship. Here are some outtakes involving Ryan’s feelings about all of this.

Ryan

First experiences were always weird. Right? Right. I think so. Especially if I was involved. Things would only get better! I had to remember that. Just, it was difficult. Since this was the last memory before I left.

I didn’t want to worry but freaking out and jumping to conclusions was my natural state. I had so much experience with it and much less with being calm and not panicking. This was why we had a plan. It might suck but we could get through it. Who knew that would apply to our first time?

No, don’t think about that. Just, the plan was for me leaving. Oh god. I was already leaving but at least I had been leaving on a high note. Except now. I was leaving on a not high note. An awkward note.  It might suck but we can get through it. We can handle it. I hoped that was still true.

I was the rightest person to ever right and everyone should always listen to me because I could do no wrong, but my powers were too great. The common folk feared my gifts and never heeded my advice. Too bad. Cause see, I told Luke we should freak out first. So we could get it out of the way. Granted, that was about me leaving, not about—

We definitely should have freaked out beforehand. Because I was so going to freak out now.

Luke is totally not afraid of horses.

Here’s some fiction about people riding horses. Literally, not in a euphemism way. Should I make that sound more exciting? Here’s some fiction about people riding horses!

Nailed it.

Again, not in a dirty way.

This is a scene I didn’t end up using from One Little Change. I took out anything other than vague references to the plot, so this isn’t spoilery and you also don’t need to know anything about the characters.

Enjoy! (Or don’t, you do you.)

Luke

This was the awkwardest experience ever. Happening right now. Around me. Under me. That sounded weird. I was on a horse. It was awkward.

Maybe it wasn’t that weird… it was just also really weird.

“Slow down,” I suggested to Lydia while tightening my arms around her waist.

“You are such a baby.” Swore she sped up while she said that.

“There’s a branch up ahead!” I warned.

“Stop backseat horse riding!”

We were at the camp where Alicia worked, picking up my little sister Lily. Camp was over for her group, but there were still counselors around and they’d soon be getting ready for the next batch of kids. No one seemed to care or question us when we went to the stables and checked out the horses, all the employees too excited for the downtime between cycles, so I followed Lily and Alicia’s leads.

Lily decided we were going to go riding, which I didn’t really know how to do, but she seemed comfortable getting the horses ready.

While Ryan and I patching things up was good for my heart and mind and soul and everything, maybe it was good for my body too. The Millers didn’t even have horses yet, and Ryan and I were in no way married, but my little sister Lily was acting like their imaginary horses were as good as hers.

Our family didn’t have a barn of our own, and the ranch I worked on had different livestock, so I’d never ridden. Maybe a few times at the fair when I was a kid and then horses seemed girly. Why? Yeah, girls liked horses. Sometimes to a scary degree. But the animals were giant and they had strength and what about them was girly, and even if it was, what about that was girly in a bad way?

I told the girls they could ride and I would just wait for them, maybe go back to my car. And now somehow I was behind Lydia on a horse.

The horse Lily rode had a chestnut coat, was obviously named Chestnut, and was fast, as she charged ahead and lost us pretty much immediately on the path.

Alicia’s tan horse, Blondie, they didn’t dig too hard for names, looked like it had the ability to catch up or at least get close to Lily’s horse even though it moved at a slower pace to accommodate me and my steed.

My horse was named Button and had a white coat with grey spots. No idea if its coat was always like that or that just happened when a horse was, like, 90 years old. If he tried to go as fast as Chestnut, he would probably die.

I liked Button. He was an old guy that was just doing his best.

While I probably wasn’t in any danger, I clung onto Lydia for dear life.

“Just be careful,” I told or reminded her.

“Stop telling me what to do.”

“I will if you be careful.”

“I’ve done this before.”

Yeah and so had Button, 900 times, and I think he’s had enough. It’s a big job carrying two people.

~

Solving World Hunger

Here’s an excerpt from One Little Problem. The series follows Ryan and Luke, high school sweethearts, and their mocking friends.

Ryan POV

“I’ve solved all our problems,” I announced to the table.

There was a pause as everyone stopped their individual conversations and focused on me. “Like, of the people sitting at this table or globally?” Alicia asked.

Lydia watched me with an amused, superior little smile. “I’m particularly interested in your solutions for world hunger, our current president, and people who take up two parking spaces.”

Zach rolled his eyes. “Smaller scale guys, he’s totally talking about him and Luke.”

Oh yeah, I was at a table of people who wouldn’t hesitate to mock me, which could be bad sometimes when there was stuff about me that was mockable but also this was totally where I belonged, so I had to endure it. However, maybe I didn’t need to share this idea with group. “No, I totally got an idea for that world hunger thing.” Um… “More food.” Nailed it.

Luke nodded. “Good idea, babe.” Way to be supportive. He looked at my plate. “You gonna donate that pizza?”

I eyed him knowingly. “Donate it to you?”

Exaggerated realization played across his face, like that thought had just occurred to him as I said it. “I am pretty hungry,” he admitted, putting on his best innocent face. Not sure how well it worked, but I’m pretty sure all higher brain function ground to a halt whenever he showed me the dimples, which he was doing, so I was a goner.

I slid my plate towards him and he took the pizza off it. “You’re lucky your cute,” I told him.

He smiled. “So are you.”

“I’d argue but I can’t.” Our shoulders brushed against each other companionably, occasionally nudging playfully as we smiled at each other. I liked having a group of people to sit with at lunch but sometimes it would have been okay if it was just Luke and me.

“You can have my food now,” Zach offered to Luke. “That put me off eating.” See, there he goes proving my point.

“We have a game today, choke it down,” Luke ordered.

Zach raised an eyebrow. “Are you that romantic with your boyfriend?” Zing. He may be insulting us but that was still a good one.


You can read the whole story here.

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.”