Cults and other weirdness

Do you ever get a weird song stuck in your head? If you are a human being, the answer is probably. And if the human being is me, then I have a song stuck in my head right now. I guess it’s just the subject matter that’s weird, because the song is oddly catchy. The subject is cults.

 

Speaking of weirdos, I write a series about a giant loser and his boyfriend. This is a cut part from One Little Lie where Ryan and Luke are hanging out in Ryan’s room being cute. They can’t be as on top of each other as they want to be because Ryan’s dad is home, they are teenagers, and Ryan’s father possibly owns a firearm. Okay, you are caught up.

~

Luke

“As much as I like your dad, you should probably open the door, so he doesn’t come back.”

“I don’t wanna get up.” Ryan groaned and buried his face in my chest. “Carry me.”

“Yeah, like that would work.”

Ryan was taller than me, though it was hard to tell when we were lying on the bed and he was clinging onto me like an octopus. I poked him in the side with a finger and he squirmed, so I did it again. He clung onto me tighter in retaliation, but I didn’t mind him being pressed up close to me in the first place, so I let him.

“Are you calling me fat?” he asked in a mock scandalized tone but didn’t pull away.

“I’m calling you a giant.” I wrapped my arms around him instead of pushing him away like I was supposed to. This wasn’t cuddling or something girly like that. It was just… a lying down hug. Okay, that didn’t sound any better.

He pulled his head back enough to glare. “You’re ruining the mood.”

“Think your dad did that,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, he’s good at that,” Ryan sighed before pulling away and getting up and opening the door.

“Too bad,” I continued. “I’m sure you were looking forward to doing that yourself.” Ryan was a smartass and could be kinda awkward, so he wasn’t the smoothest guy I’d ever dated. Well, no, he was, because he was the only guy I ever dated. Somehow, he made being weird seem attractive.

He came back and sat on the bed, hitting me in the stomach with a hand. “How dare you,” he protested. “I am romantic and sexy and errrrrotic.” He dragged the ‘r’ sound out while waggling his eyebrows at me.

Okay, sometimes he made being weird attractive and sometimes he was just weird. But still, it was cute coming from him. Even if I didn’t tell him that. “See that right there?” I asked smugly. “Ruining the mood.”

Promising Start to Gay Supernatural Series: Review of ‘Witch Eyes’ by Scott Tracey

Okay, so you know those epic book and movies series that are all intense and exciting? To set the scene, there’s a world vastly different than ours, yet still relatable. Then add in young heroes, unimaginable danger, and impossible love stories. This is almost Witch Eyes.

Imagine something like Harry Potter or Hunger Games or Divergent. Take the awesome fantasy series of your choice and insert it here. Then go to that moment where you’re like, man, this is awesome, but hey, here’s a wild idea. What if there were also gay people?

That’s Witch Eyes.

Who knew I could explain a whole story without actually giving away one plot detail? Should I go into more specifics? I guess. ‘Magical YA series’ with gays is all I need to hear, but reviews typically include… reviewing. Okay, here’s some more information about
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey.

Spoilers!

I will try to be more general about the twistiest parts, but there’s probably going to be some:

spoilers

 

I’m not sure how popular of an opinion this is, I also don’t care, but I adore River Song. So unpopular or popular opinion, River is my favorite doctor. Followed by Martha Jones, because I’m physically incapable of not being difficult. And they are both doctors even though they aren’t “The Doctor.” Anyway, there’s spoilers, sweetie.

The book has suspense and dark secrets, like any good fantasy series, so there are some big mysteries, but there’s also a lot of little ones. The plot kind of unfolds piece by piece, so you don’t really know anything until you do. Does that make sense? Basically, every single part is a mystery, until you read it, and then it’s just part of the plot.

The slowly unraveling mystery of everything is done really well. Like damn. Very nice pacing, and just when things even out or my interest started to wane, bam! There’s a twist I didn’t see coming, and it all changes.

Plot!

Braden is this kid with crazy strong magic that makes his eyes painful and powerful.  In the real word, his eyes are sensitive and he can’t see very well. In the supernatural realm, he Sees more than he should. When danger looms, he flees to get answers by going to the place where he was born. He slowly learns about his hometown and the mysteries surrounding it and his life. The story has familiar elements but feels fresh and original, and overall is incredibly intriguing.

From the book:

There was more to the world than what most people saw…. Everything that had ever happened in a place, to a person, or because of something left an imprint…

Witch eyes, my uncle called them. A “gift.” I was “special.”

Sometimes being special wasn’t a good thing.

It was every horror movie nightmare come to life… Every time I unleashed the power of my visions, it was only a matter of time before I was overwhelmed. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of memories in a place, and all of them funneled into me all at once. For as long as they ravaged through me, I was at their mercy.

Supernatural! (I started with the exclamation points, so I’m going to keep going)

There’s a magical world hiding in a regular town, so many people are unaware of the very messed up place they live. The mystical elements and battles of good and evil are interspersed through daily life. If you get bored easily, I think there’s enough action to hold your interest.

I am going to be vague and boring with a list to avoid giving away too much. The supernatural elements that star heavily allegedly involve: psychic powers, curses, werewolves, witches, demons, and wards.

Braden’s powers are especially fun because it’s a cool opportunity to change the writing up and see things in a different perspective. His eyes give him insight into the location he’s physically at and can show him the hidden depths of people. I freaking love his powers.

Bright light smacked me in the face, drawing out colors and images that weren’t there a moment ago.

Rings of purple bruising from the tears I never should have trusted him angry red stains copper on the carpet must get that fixed fire bowing down in his wake all angry oranges and gas blues money green in my purse the best job I’ve ever had. Why doesn’t he respect me as much as the resting gold dulled into unremarkable grays I am nothing he was right I should disappear.

Not Supernatural!

Right along with the magical elements are the messy human complications that pollute the town. There’s a giant feud between two families, the Lansings and Thorpes. The conflict has supernatural origins but spills over into regular life so everyone knows the town is divided between two sides.

If you have ever read a book or watched a movie, you will not be surprised that Braden’s father is the head of one side. His love interest’s mother is the head of the other side. Cue the inherent drama! And if you’re thinking this sounds like Romeo and Juliet but with magic and gay, that’s exactly what the author was going for, and it’s fantastic.

Between the magical and regular elements, and how everything blends together, there’s a lot going on. If you don’t have the memory of a goldfish, unlike me, you might be able to set the book down and come back to it. But I recommend not leaving this world too long before finishing the story or you might forget the details.

Love Story!

To sum up the romance, I think this quote works well:

You barely know him, I reminded myself. He was nice to look at, but he was kind of a dick. I definitely didn’t trust him.

Isn’t that the way it always starts? Braden and Trey don’t trust each other at first. But they are drawn to each other anyway. They have the setup for a really, really, really good love story. Like one from a movie where it’s all epic and star-crossed.

Okay, here’s part of a conversation between the two where they discuss names and nicknames.

“Cyke? Like Cyclops? From the X-Men? What’s wrong with Braden? It’s been working for me all my life.”

“Everyone gets to call you Braden,” he said, flashing me a wicked smile that was like a punch in the gut. “I’m the only one calling you Cyke, right?”

“You realize you’re annoying, right?”

Trey‘s smile was brightly comfortable. “I’ve heard that once or twice.

My note for this part was ‘dfldadgjlgfenvd.’ So I like their flirty, charged banter.

The only slight downside is that their relationship, and the whole novel, isn’t exactly incomplete, but it’s more like a set up for future events. So if you want a standalone read, this probably isn’t it. There’s a lot of promise overall, but it’s clear there’s more story to tell.

More!

There’s a lot of subtle humor in the narration by Braden that I really appreciate. And I like how the intense gravity of the supernatural crises and challenges are balanced with some comedy. So I’ll end with a few lines I enjoyed.

I forced myself to finish my homework before considering plans to raise the dead.

Something howled in the distance. It sounded like a wolf, but that was impossible. There weren’t wolves for hundreds of miles. Just some dog with delusions of grandeur.

“I’m an open book,” I said flatly. “Really.”

“Maybe in Latin. Or Arabic.”

Book News, plus dinosaurs! One of these things isn’t true.

Have you ever played the game ‘two truths and a lie?’ Do you want to play now? Whatever you answered, I can’t hear you, so I’m just going to keep going. Okay, the way the game works is I say three things, then you guess which one is the lie. Ready? Again, I can’t hear you. Go!

1. F.N. Manning, me, has a new story available.

2. I actually have four new stories available.

3. The new thing I’m talking about is on sale right now!

Um, maybe I should build the suspense instead of just telling you the answer. I’m going to tell you anyway. Number three is the lie. Because the story is free, so there is no sale, because you never have to pay for it. Free!

When We Were Strangers is a prequel to the first book in the One More Thing Series, One Little Word. No knowledge of the series is required to read this short story. Well, there are actually four stories altogether, which are all included in the prequel.

Here is the beginning of one story. You literally need to know no information to read this, but I’m going to tell you some stuff anyway. Zach (and friends) crash a wedding, where he flirts with an older guy and goes on a quest.

~

Zach

Under no circumstances would I ever base my life choices around Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Yes, they were rich and famous, but at what cost? They were still Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Which meant that my decision to crash a wedding reception occurred for one reason and only one reason: free alcohol.

The party took place in our hotel, and we had a break from our baseball tournament. Me, Luke Chambers, and Joey Wilson made a marginal effort to blend in by splitting the dressier clothing I packed. A formality, as getting caught hadn’t even occurred to me, because who really cared?

Apparently, Samuel cared. The uptight groomsman who seemed unfamiliar with fun and party etiquette, though watching Luke fail to bond with him was amusing.

“We’re no different than everyone else here,” Luke tried with a charming smile. “We just wanna have a good time.”

“Except everyone else was invited,” said the fun police.

Never great at thinking on his feet, Luke smiled harder, counting on his all-American good looks, green eyes earnest and dimples peeking out. “Come on, Sam—”

“It’s Samuel,” he corrected instantly with a glare. “Hardly on nickname basis as we’re strangers.”

“I’m Luke. Nice to meet you, Sam.” Luke held out his hand.

“It’s still Samuel.” Still Samuel stared at the outstretched hand dubiously until it was removed.

Luke sent me a desperate look. I mouthed ‘you got this,’ gave him a thumbs up, and left him to investigate the alcohol situation. Yes, we were best friends, but this way was more fun, and I still wanted to drink.

Sorry not sorry about stealing thunder from the bride I’d never met, but everyone could see Zach Ahmad looked damn fine. With flawless brown skin, expertly styled hair, and a roguish smirk, I… oh wait. There was a reason my amazing good looks were important. I would get to that momentarily.

As Luke took my dinner jacket, I only wore the under layers, a grey vest and a long-sleeved white dress shirt. My impeccably fit body was highlighted in the tailored clothing, and my ass looked incredible in the dark pants. Joey stole my red tie for himself as he was too big for my clothes, and he always wore whatever he wanted regardless of dress code anyway. I half respected that. I would respect it fully if he had better taste.

Anyway, back to Zach.

After discovering only those with wristbands got free, no-questions-asked alcohol, I glanced back towards Luke and caught Samuel’s eyes moving away from me. So… that could work. I interrupted Samuel boring Luke to death and took care of the situation, at least 70% sure Samuel wanted me.

Sometime after being awesome and gaining us admittance and free alcohol, I lost track of my friends. I stood at the edge of the dancefloor with Samuel. A peppy song about everything being great played loudly while people danced and had fun. A good time had by all, except for or including us? Unclear.

“Look Zach,” Samuel began, then faltered. “Do you go by Zach or Zachary? Is Zachariah an option?”

“Never,” I shot down, then sent him a small smile. “It’s Zach. Can I call you Sam?”

“Um, yeah,” he answered, nervous but no hesitation. “Sure, if you want.” He definitely wanted me.

“What’s on your mind, Sam?” I asked.

“Okay, one thing.” He seemed to psych himself up mentally before managing to speak. “Crashing a party for free booze when you’re obviously underage, uh.” Samuel shook his head. “I may not condone this, but I won’t stop you.”

“You did give us the wristbands.” I held up my wrist with the neon green band attached.

“Alright, I condone it a little.” He frowned, thinking. “Enabling, that might be the better term. I wanted to make clear, I’m not judging, but I am, well.” He shrugged helplessly. “I see through what you’re doing.”

“Okay?” I arched one eyebrow, the gesture and single word slightly dismissive out of habit. Some people had ‘resting bitch face.’ ‘Resting bitch everything’ was my default setting.

“Apparently I’m alright with corrupting a minor, but I’m not an idiot,” he explained, potentially flushing. Hard to tell with his beard. “I saw through the plan, that’s all. I want to be clear.” He crossed his arms. No jacket, sleeves rolled up, lots of hair there. “I sound silly, don’t I?”

“A little, yeah.” I smiled. “Though I do understand where you’re coming from. Going along with it is different than being duped. I’d be bothered at the impression of being outsmarted by a bunch of high school jocks too.”

His blue eyes widened with panic. “You’re in high school?”

Shit. “You didn’t know? You said—”

“21 is the legal drinking age! Which by the way, I am also younger than. Not that I’ve imbibed.”

“Gonna start?” Rhetorical, because my invitations weren’t turned down. The only thing I did better than resting bitch everything was becoming inviting.

His head bobbed up and down in a nervous nod. “Lead the way, I guess.”

I led the way.

-Read the rest here.

Fashionably Late, scene from M/M romance

On every other Monday, I post deleted scenes and outtakes and whatnot from my novels. I’ve been doing this for a while, and I never stopped at all… okay, do you see where I’m going with this? If not, then yes, everything is going according to plan, and I’m awesome.

But it’s possible I stopped posting these for a while. I guess I don’t have to point it out. I could just pick up where I left off and pretend I never got off track… I believe in honesty and transparency or something? Mostly, I’ve already started writing this post, so I’m gonna keep going.

Here is a different version of a scene from One Little Lie. You don’t need any knowledge of this series to read this, but helpful information to know is: Ryan is here, he is queer, and actually, he’s not here. Because he’s late. Ryan is trying to meet his boyfriend before school starts, but he isn’t on time.

~

Ryan

Luke Chambers is the popular golden boy who charms teachers and parents, has an easy smile for everyone, and gets along with people. Basically, he’s completely different from me, but there’s just so much I like about him. You know, in a totally mature and reasonable manner and not like I’m some tween girl with a crush who writes his name in little hearts.

Just… he has a strong throwing arm and sandy blonde hair. And he’s my idiot boyfriend who is so fun to tease. He’s ridiculous, fun, and unexpectedly sweet. Sure, he’s unbearable like 40% of the time, but we can make out now. It’s easier to forgive anything after making out.

Maybe I  have a notebook full of doodles including his name, my name, and various versions of our names smushed together, surrounded by hearts and flowers. It’s kept at home where it’s safe. I’m a scientist. It started as an experiment where I wondered if people actually did stuff like that, and then it was kinda fun to write, “Ryan and Luke 5eva.” Somehow I filled up a bunch of pages or whatever. Shut up.

Let’s talk about something less embarrassing.

My sweet, considerate boyfriend was the reason I arrived at school early. That asshole. Already ten minutes behind schedule, I moved through the halls as quickly as possible without outright running. It would be just my luck to run into a hall monitor for the first time ever while my boyfriend waited for me, tapping his foot and furrowing his brow slightly in a frown that I’d want to kiss away, but he wouldn’t let me because he’d be cranky.

Did we even have hall monitors? Would there be a hall monitor before school started? Probably not. Okay, that was one less thing to worry about.

The plan had been to meet at my locker, but I went to Luke’s anyway, figuring he gave up on me. I could already feel the pissed off vibes emanating from Luke as I turned onto the hallway where his locker was located. He was pretty good at hissy fits for someone who was supposedly macho and straight before me, but I doubted he’d take that as a compliment.

Plot Device

Have you ever read books before? If so, you know the part in every adventure/fantasy/epic series where the hero faces a mysterious journey. And nobody knows what’s going on, but then someone wise appears and is happy to tell the protagonist more about their destiny. Wow, how great is it they just happened to run into somebody who knows all the relevant information? Except then the wise person opens their mouth, wolves appear, and they totally get eaten by wolves.

To be fair, I guess that doesn’t happen in every adventure book. Only about half. In the other half, the Person Who Knows Everything has to be secretive and can’t tell the hero more because of reasons. Maybe the reasons are good. Maybe they aren’t. What the reader hears is, ‘This is a plot device, so I can’t tell you more information because that would be too easy.’

I was about to discuss something in Witch Eyes, but I can’t. Because of reasons! Actually, the reasons are simple and can be stated clearly, assuming I don’t get attacked by wolves  before completing the next sentence. I wanted to talk about something I appreciated in the novel and then I realized maybe I should be less direct because it’s technically a spoiler.

Witch Eyes uses one of the methods I described, or something similar, to avoid giving too much away. But it comes in spell form, which I really respect, making the plot device something magical. Instead of just writing around the plot device, it’s literally part of the story. Cool!

 

 

Go dancing, a M/M short story

Here is a short story, loosely inspired by the song “Stay Young, Go Dancing” by Death Cab for Cutie.

 

If all the world were a stage, I preferred a behind the scenes role. Yet all eyes were fixed on me as I puzzled my way through slow dancing. I was hyper aware of his warm hand in my own and the heavy weight of my partner’s other hand on my lower back. My dance partner! A bigger commitment couldn’t be assigned. We never even had a conversation before. He only stretched one arm out towards me, and now we were in the middle of the dance floor, two guys with a crowd of eyes watching.

With his dark hair, dark eyes, and an even darker tux, I had trouble looking away. The white dress shirt was unbuttoned at the top, the tie undone but the light purple scrap of fabric hanging loosely around his neck.

“Can’t say I expected this,” I spoke. I tried to follow his lead, the motions not practiced but fluid. “This is crazy.”

“You’re not the only one who thinks so,” he muttered, hand tightening against mine briefly while he glanced toward the spectators.

“It’s just, I’m nobody. And you’re–”

“We both got invited to the same wedding,” you protested.

“And I was under the impression you were, uh that dancing with me wasn’t something you would be interested in.” I should have just said ‘straight,’ but he reminded me of a skittish animal, like he might spook and bolt. I kept talking, perhaps to soothe him, though it mortified me. “This isn’t where I expected the night to go. Me touching your arms. You have nice arms.”

“Uh, thanks.” We spun, slowly. Enough to see two girls from the wedding party gawking. “God, do they have to stare so much?”

“Think so.”

“Don’t have to take their side.” The petulant quality to his voice seemed cute, less menacing without the usual stubble and leather jacket.

“You don’t have to tell people stuff if you aren’t ready, obviously, but. What did you think would happen?”

“I had no clue I would do this until I did. Also, I wasn’t sure you were gonna say yes.”

“You have very nice arms.”

He laughed. “You mentioned.”

We managed to dance without comment for a little while.

Close together with a stranger, someone I’d only seen from afar, it felt weird. Nice too. He smelled woodsy and like the lavender from the centerpieces. The bride’s little brother, he had stood on her side of the altar with women in identical champagne-colored dresses. The groom’s older sister stood on the groom’s side. Cobbling the honorifics together, he became the ‘man of honor,’ her the ‘best maid.’

“Why did you ask me to dance?” I wondered.

He nodded, indicating the happy bride. She picked her dress up as she spun around, showing her neon pink shoes covered with sparkles. The footwear didn’t match well with her color scheme, but I heard her thought process when getting punch. She was the bride, she could do what she wanted, and those shoes were worth clashing.

Even from here, we could hear her laugh. A bright sound as she spun again, her and the groom dancing with a group of kids. The song was slower, romantic, but that didn’t stop the kids or the happy couple.

“She’s really happy,” he noted. “Ecstatic. Annoyingly so.”

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yeah.” He smiled, watching as her and the ring-bearer grabbed hands and jumped up and down while the groom danced with a flower girl on his shoes. “She said why are you frowning, you should feel just as good as me.”

“Can’t say no to the bride?

“Wouldn’t be smart. She told me to dance with whoever I wanted and not to waste time on anyone else. I don’t think she imagined her advice would play out like this.”

The song changed, upbeat now, and fear crossed his face briefly. The song changed abruptly, back to another slower one, the bride lowering her hand after indicating to the DJ he should change it. We had a little more time.

“Regrets?” I wondered.

“Only that any kind of preparation for whatever comes next would have been smart. But holding you and swaying? I can do that.”

“Then I guess just focus on this part?”

“I can do that too.”

We kept dancing.

Mental malfunctions

Do you ever have a moment at three in the afternoon where you’ll like, damn I’m hungry, and then you realize you haven’t had anything to eat? Maybe not if you don’t have hyperfocus and ADHD. Occasionally, that happens to me. My two speeds for concentration are, oh hey, did you see this cute dog on the internet and on the other end, ALL FREAKING IN.

This is all I have to talk about now because  I’m very hungry, but the food I warmed up is still too hot to eat. I do have a quote from One Little Word to share, so I guess I’ll do that.

I was going to provide the relevant information here before the excerpt, but then I realized that it’s literally a guy crushing on another guy. So that’s all the details right there.

_

wordswag_1581454522791

Ryan

Luke was one of my new friends. Making nice and getting to know him seemed like a good idea at the time. He apologized and he was my boyfriend as far as the principal was concerned.

However, once I stopped despising a guy that hot, I was doomed. Hell, once I fell into his arms like a damsel in distress, I was doomed. Saving me gave him a clean slate and made him instantly crush worthy.

Hating him had provided some protection from his stupidly attractive face. Now all I noticed was the green of his eyes, the way the light looked in his hair. Anytime the dimples appeared, a small electrical fire started in my brain and I lost all cognitive function while repairs were made.

 

Ryan!

As someone who will use any excuse for a moodboard, I really like moodboards for some reason, here’s one for the character Ryan from One Little Word I have definitely made art for OLW before, but this is new art. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the “as a gay scientist” picture the first time, such a missed opportunity and travesty. Plus, I’m celebrating the new edition of the book.

 

There was a lot to Ryan.

I couldn’t force any baseball knowledge into his brain unless he thought a player was hot, but he absorbed science facts like a sponge. He listened to weird bands I’d never heard of, but they played good music. He was a devoted son, and he loved pasta but was so bad about not getting sauce on his face.

 

I’m not sure this is related, but in my head it is, so that’s close enough for me, as I’m you know, the one writing this. David from Schitt’s Creek kind of reminds me of Ryan because they’re both opinionated, sarcastic, and awkward. Which is as good a reason as any to post a clip of David being cute with his boyfriend.

 

 

 

Acting is as hard as having a fake boyfriend.

Putting on a production worthy of the stage, Ryan and Luke are fake boyfriends acting in a very weird show for dubious personal gain. And they’re actually really bad at acting, but since I’m tying this into the theater it sounded better to say they were stage worthy.  No, it still works. A comedy of errors is a thing, so that’s what they are.

It only now occurs to me that I don’t actually have to reference the theater because this story takes place after the characters see a play, but it is, you know, after that. So fake boyfriends Ryan and Luke are at an after party where Luke thinks thoughts.

While I wouldn’t say Luke was straight until Ryan came into his life, I would say he had no idea liking guys was an option for him until, well, not this part. He still doesn’t know that, but it’s helpful information to know to avoid being as confused as him.

So Luke is at a party and nothing makes sense, which is par for the course of his life lately. This scene is sort of in the book One Little Word, but this is a different version.

Luke

I expected Zach to watch the spectacle of me and Ryan like it was quality entertainment. I wasn’t even surprised when he brought microwave popcorn to lunch one day, the perfect snack while he watched the show. He was around laughing at my expense, but I secretly appreciated that.

Zach and Joey knew this wasn’t real, hell half the school probably believed the true rumor Alicia and Lydia started, but they didn’t know for sure. It helped that Zach did, that there was someone who knew it wasn’t like that and treated me just the same, like I was there to amuse him.

So while him being a total jerk comforted me in one sense, I also appreciated a break from Zach at the play. The theater wasn’t what he considered quality entertainment. Ryan and I hadn’t really gone together, but Lydia didn’t respond to my texts, so the two of us technically went together.

I had to figure out a way to get Lydia while pretending to be with Ryan. I was meeting with the scholarship guys, I would get on their radar, and hopefully things would go from there. They wouldn’t have to know I was dating Lydia; I was getting good at hiding things.

No, that was being unfair. To myself. Maybe I was having a conscience. I had no time for anything pesky like that. My family wasn’t rich, so I needed scholarships as much as anyone. And I was an ally, I was part of that whole LGBT+ thing, right? So, I counted. I knew this should be wrong. Why didn’t I feel that guilty about it?

This was the perfect time to make something happen with Lydia, but I ended up babysitting Ryan.

Maybe that wasn’t fair. He was normally pretty entertaining, but he was hilarious when drunk. I’d get distracted and turn back to Lydia, but Alicia was keeping her company, so I’d make sure Ryan didn’t accidentally kill himself somehow. He broke his leg totally sober, so it could happen.

Lydia and Alicia were giggling about something on one side of me, and Ryan’s head fell on my shoulder. We were supposed to be dating, so I let it happen, but the moment felt weirdly intimate as a slower song started to play.

Well, it felt weirdly intimate for a second or two, until a third wheel stood in front of us.

“Zach!” Ryan yelled right in my ear, the full force of that dopey drunk grin now turned on my best friend.

What was he doing here? “You didn’t even come to the show,” I pointed out.

“Gross,” he said. Then he nodded to Alicia. “No offense.”

“I had to sit through a baseball game for these two.” She gestured to me and Ryan. “I totally get it.”

“That’s like a party foul,” I insisted.

“I brought booze,” Zach added, holding up a dark-colored bottle of something he purchased with his fake I.D. It wasn’t like he could steal liquor from his house. Oh yeah.

He really should know this, but in case he didn’t, I informed him, “Muslims aren’t supposed to drink.”

He sent me an incredulous look. “No one here is supposed to drink. We’re all minors.”

So as I understood it, “That makes you, like, double wrong.”

“Ignore him,” Lydia said to my best friend while keeping her eyes on the alcohol. “You’re totally welcome.”

 

Being friends with your boyfriend is important. Maybe.

Luke Chambers is captain of the baseball team as a junior. That’s pretty cool. Starting with a positive is better than not starting with a positive, because of science, so that’s the good part. His personal life is a lot more complicated due to his grumpy boyfriend.

Wait, he’s straight. His boyfriend is not straight, but that’s okay because Ryan is actually his “boyfriend.” They get along really well, if you say it like this: Ryan and Luke get along “really well.” While that is not the biggest problem in Luke’s life right now, he thinks it’s the only issue he can solve.

So in this scene from the new edition of One Little Word, Luke is trying to smooth over the animosity between them so they can be friends. You cannot say it like this: Ryan and Luke are going to “be friends.” Because when put like that, it sounds like they won’t really be friends but are something else instead, it’s almost suggestive, and that is very bad.

~

Luke

I drove Ryan home after my baseball game.

“Can we at least try to get to know each other?” I asked. Might as well take this opportunity to clear the air while he can’t run away.

“What’s the point of making nice? You’re just using me to get out of trouble.” Ryan spoke while staring out the window, wanting to ignore me as much as possible.

“Well, have you ever heard about making the best of a bad situation?”

“Yeah, it’s called high school and I do that every day. Though you’re making it especially challenging lately.”

“Maybe you’d have a better time if you weren’t so busy trying to embarrass me,” I reasoned with more patience than I felt.

“That’s the only good part.”

I reminded myself I wanted to make peace. “If we tried, maybe we’d get along. Who knows what we have in common?”

“Nothing,” he responded immediately.

Patience wearing thin, I snapped, “How would you know if you never stop for two seconds to find out?”

“Let’s see, I enjoy microbiology, hot guys, and embarrassing straight jocks with big mouths. How many of those interests do we share?”

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There was no need to answer. I obviously wasn’t a fan of the last thing, and science confused me and wasn’t my best subject.

“I don’t understand why you have to make this so difficult,” I said instead. “Why even do this?”

“For my dad.”

“Even though you clearly hate me and spending time with me?”

“Duh.”

Which wasn’t a great answer for me, but I stopped being annoyed with him. He lived to torment me, yet now I remembered he didn’t hate everything. He really cared about his dad.

“Well, I appreciate what you’re doing for me,” I told him with as much sincerity as I could.

“Does baseball lead to brain damage? I told you, it’s not for y—”

“I’m still grateful. Did I ever thank you? Thank you, you’re a good son.”

~