Nightmare children

Avery and his little sister don’t get along in Instalove. This might be part of a normal sibling dynamic, though love spells and the hellhound she gave him as a gift are less normal.

During breakfast, the family discuss the rules for Stella’s birthday dinner. This is a different version of this scene than the one in the novel.

~

“It’s a good time to go over the rules for dinner tonight,” Dad interjected. Ah, how to behave in front of polite company. It used to be a long series of items, written on parchment paper and permanently affixed to the fridge.  That didn’t quite yield results though, so now there were two easily digestible points.

“Don’t be nightmare children unless our cousins are doing it first,” Stella said. Those were their words, ‘nightmare children.’ And they called us dramatic when we got going. So unfair. To me at least. Stella was definitely the nightmare.

My family all looked to me.

“It’s Stella’s birthday,” I said the next rule. They kept looking at me. “Don’t be awful to Stella,” I finished reluctantly.

“Don’t be awful to Stella,” Dad repeated.

“I said that.” Why even have me say it if he was going to say the same thing?

“It bears repeating,” he said firmly.

 Why did it even matter what I did? The remaining pastries we hadn’t eaten had abandoned their spot on the obnoxious floating platter and were doing a little dance for my sister’s amusement. Everything literally catered to her; I didn’t have to do the same. Our cutlery didn’t normally levitate, but Stella liked these little extra touches on her special day.

 ‘Extra touches’ were how my parents referred to them. I called them pointless and unnecessary. We get it, Stella had magic. Stella liked magic. There was nothing wrong with magic, but there was a whole world out there and magic was just a small part of it. Magic wasn’t everything.

That was a lesson I’d learned firsthand.

Anyway, these rules were useless. “Stella didn’t abide by the rules on my birthday,” I muttered. My parents exchanged ‘here we go’ looks.

“It was a gift!” Stella hollered.

“That tried to eat me,” I pointed out.

Stella rolled her eyes, like she was annoyed I brought that up again, but a birthday present from her had tried to devour me. I had the right to bring that up for, like, the rest of time. “How was I supposed to know it would be so mean?” she asked rhetorically.

I answered anyway. “It was called a hellhound.” She was the supposed magical savant; she should have known. The kid had no common sense.

She rolled her eyes. “I just thought it would be red.” Also, she often put too much stock in her abilities. Sometimes she didn’t read the instructions fully; she thought she was a little magic expert that knew everything. It would be hilarious when things went wrong if I wasn’t usually dragged into the side effects with her.

And my Dad found Stella’s magical appetite so charming. He encouraged her to explore the magical world. Yet he wouldn’t buy me alcohol when I wanted to explore the regular world… Okay, I didn’t fault him for that one, but I had to try.

Stella and Mom left for school while Dad floated the serving tray down to the table. He grabbed my attention before I could make my escape to school. “Hey, really, go easy on Stella tonight.” He put a hand on my shoulder as he sat down in the chair next to me and looked me in the eye, his I mean it look.

“We already went through thy hallowed, revered rules,” I told him with only a little sarcasm. It was too early for more.

His sass game was strong, undeterred by the early hour. “If they’re so hallowed and revered, how come they never get followed?”

“Maybe tonight will be the first time?” I offered. Magic existed, so miracles could happen too.

 “You’re the older brother,” Dad reminded me, turning serious again. Like I didn’t know that. Though maybe sticking my tongue out at her wasn’t the height of maturity. “Treat her with respect and she’ll do the same to you.”

“You have no proof of that.”

“I’m an eternal optimist,” he quipped.

–the book is available here.

Prom

One of the big milestones at the end of high school is prom. It’s no different for the seniors in One Big Decision. Though Ryan and Luke have two promposals because they’re difficult like that. I’ll let Luke share his thoughts regarding his promposal.

Luke

Making decisions wasn’t always easy for me outside of the pitcher’s mound, and the length of time it took me to reach conclusions might be… slightly… longer than the time it took everyone else. My mom says some people are late bloomers in terms of physically maturing and others are late bloomers mentally. Hey, she was kinda insulting me, wasn’t she? Okay, I guess she had a point. But I wasn’t dumb really, I just took my time.

So, when asking my boyfriend to prom, Zach suggested I hire a focus group. Which sounded pricey and also he made the suggestion because he’s a dick, but it normally wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Except this time, I knew exactly what I wanted.

For my prom date: Ryan.

For my ask: some of his favorite things.

I also wanted him to look completely different. Okay, not completely. From the top of his unruly brown hair to his amber eyes bursting with life and down to his ridiculously freaking sexy long legs, which always seemed on display in months with nice weather, he looked good.

Except his shirt, which featured a giant picture of… a tacocat? Cat-taco? Yeah, half taco, half cat. Taco-cat. And today might be the warmest day yet this year, so he’d gotten into popsicles or something which stained his lips an artificial blue color.

Sexuality is not a school subject

Luke wonders about his sexuality. Ryan wonder about Luke. Here’s a small deleted bit from One Little Lie.

Ryan

Luke’s favorite subjects in school were lunch and baseball, which weren’t even real subjects. Maybe Spanish was his most liked actual class… but that was because he could fall asleep during lessons. My favorite was science. It was a shame neither of us liked math; I wasn’t familiar with a formula to figure him out. He could be surprisingly thoughtful and empathetic sometimes and had no problem discussing something if I got upset.

Then there were other times when he closed off. He thought about labels a lot. I could tell, but I didn’t know what to do about it. He talked to me about lots of things, but I worried some barrier had gone up that I couldn’t see regarding this and I didn’t know how to break it down. There was an equation going on in his head and he was trying to figure it out on his own and that was stupid because he wasn’t good at math. Okay, math wasn’t my favorite subject either, but maybe I could help if he just told me about the problem.

Hindsight

So I’m sort of patting myself on the back here, but one thing has become clear when sharing this deleted scene from Black Cats and Bad Luck: I made the right call. When I decided not to use this scene and write another instead, I felt bummed out about it and tried to convince myself to use it anyway. Looking back, I can tell it was the better decision. All the main characters hiding in a bed together is adorable, but it really didn’t fit with the rest of the novel.

I took out some of the more spoiler-y elements, so all you need to know is that after an attack all the main characters are huddled together and trying to figure out what to do next. And the ‘wendigo incident’ is an event from the past that the Ward cousins swore a blood oath not to mention and I had a lot of fun with it.

~

Avery

Could only girls have slumber parties? Maybe. I mean, I had spent the night at friend’s houses before. I typically never invited people over. I worried they’d get the wrong idea, see the magic my family could do and start to expect those things from me.

There wasn’t a ton of experience for me to draw from, but I hadn’t attended a slumber party ever. Even though I’d spent the night at friend’s houses, even a group of us. Some component had been lacking to call it a true slumber party. Not pillow fights or something cheesy and stereotypical like that. S’mores? Sleeping bags? No, camping came to mind for those items. Prank calls? Huh. Maybe.

Actually, good thing I never attended a slumber party before. If fond memories of them existed, they would pale in comparison now. Not that this was exactly fun, but it was certainly an experience, one that would have blown any others out of the water.

Why did this qualify as a slumber party? Maybe because we were all on one bed. It was actually sort of weird. We probably wouldn’t all sleep here. We ended up here, Mason freaked out in a nightmare, and Horatio freaked out in turn, not sure if Mason was hurt because ‘nightmare’ definitely applied but that didn’t mean it wasn’t real. Mason was certainly the go to guy for reality-bending dreams.

He was okay, but we were all spooked, so instead of meeting anywhere else, we went to Horatio and Mason’s room. Mason and Horatio’s room? Probably Mason’s room, where Horatio stayed. Horatio only moved away from him to open the door when letting us in. Mason hadn’t gotten out of bed, so… we were all on the bed.

Mason at the head, leaned on the pillows propping him up and Horatio. Miranda on the other side. The rest of us inserted somewhat awkwardly near the foot wherever we could find space. Weird though also comfortable, only the bedside lights on, a little island of light in the dark. Perfect for huddling together and talking in quiet voices.

“Are we sure about this?” Miranda asked after we formulated a plan. “Between Horatio and his shape shifting to the mystical bond you two share, there’s too much that could go wrong.”

“We don’t want a wendigo,” Horatio said.

Stella made an urgent noise, shaking her head and indicating Miranda should stop talking. Miranda put a hand over her mouth. I made an important gesture, then asked Jonah if I did it right.

“What were you going for?” he asked.

“Sign of the cross.”

“Then no,” he answered. Damn.

~

BTW, the who paranormal romance novel is here and free.

Wood…

Black Cats and Bad Luck is a magical fantasy novel with witches and familiars. And magic! Obviously. While one of the main characters, Mason, has strange dreams that might be magical, unless he’s crazy, Mason himself isn’t part of the magical community. He does have one strange power in this deleted scene from the novel.

~

Mason

Different elements resonated with different people. Some possessed the fiery temperament of a raging inferno. Others were steady and calm as a peaceful river. Many Pagans were at home in the forest, the earth welcoming them in while birdsong created a melody, the perfect natural soundtrack.

Mason Lewis wasn’t any of those things.

If I guessed my affinity, I’d go with… wood. Which either sounded boring or suggestive. Though if wood spoke to me, then the message it delivered was extremely specific. Maybe because I worked with wood often or because the jobs I did on the side had a magical component, the first time I rested my hand on a wooden piece, I could get a sense of its creation. Here in the reception area of the hotel, I rested my palm on the tall counter at the front desk and a clear sense of mass production filled my mind.

Heh, this place came across as rustic and woodsy, all the furniture resembling pieces someone could hypothetically craft with their own two hands. There were spacious, oversized wooden coffee tables, desks, and chairs, all polished until gleaming in dark browns. No woodworker in a secluded forest hideaway made any of it. I touched it and heard ‘assembly line’ loud and clear.

These were my idle thoughts as I waited for my guests. At this relatively early hour, the place still smelled strongly of wood polish with something fresh in the air too. An older couple leisurely made their way in, and the man checked in while the woman with him walked right over to me. Her honeysuckle perfume couldn’t be detected until she wrapped her arms around me in a hug.

Instead of saying hello, she greeted me with, “Aren’t you going to shave your beard?” A hand moved to pat my cheek and rub at the scruff there as if it could be scrubbed away with a little elbow grease. “The pictures from this event will be with us forever.”

“Good to see you too, Grandma,” I greeted, unable to keep the smile off my face as we separated.

~

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.

The weight of things

Can someone go boy crazy if they are already crazy in general? I don’t know, but here is a deleted scene from One Little Problem. It is about a boy who may or may not be crazy thinking about his life and his relationship. There is some discussion of the shenanigans that occur in the book, but I don’t think you need to know about it to understand this scene. All you need to know is a boy wants to keep dating another boy, and he’s afraid he won’t be able to.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

~

Ryan

Scales were one of the worst inventions ever, right? Yeah, they provided helpful information: the weight of something. That probably had numerous real-world applications. There was nothing inherently evil about knowing how much something weighed, but there was just so much bad that came along with it. Because once you knew how much you weighed, you could feel terrible about that, you could make false promises to exercise, say the weight was going to come off tomorrow and then just perpetually hate yourself when it never did.

Or you could weigh a perfectly healthy amount but still want to weigh a few pounds less, and then criticize yourself for not being better. It felt like my life was a set of scales, and someone somewhere decided the weight on the good side and bad side had to even out for some dumb reason or that having a disproportionate amount on the bad side and a tiny amount on the good side was okay but not the other way around.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe I actually wanted to fake break up but maybe that would finally tip the scales, let me have more good than bad. Not this weird cosmic balancing act where things with Luke were good so things with our parents had to be bad. Things with Luke were good, so things with my dad had to be weird. Things with Luke were good, so it had to have an expiration date. I had to go away for the summer, and what if everything changed?

Oh, who am I kidding, things with Luke were good and that’s what I cared about, about having that for as long as possible. So, it was pretty easy to break up. We did it without fanfare, no public spectacle that usually went with the more important moments in our relationship. We were less obvious at school but most people either had gotten used to the gays being weird gay or tried to pay us as little attention as possible or just didn’t believe we would stay broken up.

The Three Amigos (and Ryan)

Baseball bros for life, Joey, Zach, and Luke have a conversation about solidarity, sex, and how stupid the current conversation they’re having is. Luke’s boyfriend Ryan observes the scene. This was almost a scene from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas.

For context, here is a two word description of each of these characters.

Joey: Dumb Jock
Zach: Cool Prick
Luke: Clueless Boy
Ryan: Very Awesome

This was like 75% of an idea, which I meant to find a place for but never did. Which means that when posting on the blog, this was a fun exercise where I needed to fill in certain spots even though I did not remember what my original intent or plan was.

~

Ryan

The kid hassling Zach or Joey, or Zach and Joey, must be a colossal idiot. Because if antagonizing Joey, it kinda looked like a fly buzzing around a cow’s ass, where eventually the big, dumb animal got tired of the buzzing sound and swatted the insect with its tail. Not sure if that was what happened, probably not because nobody had a tail. It seemed like someone tried to give Zach a hard time. A foolhardy task because vain divas who thought they were better than everyone generally did not give a single flip about the opinions of lesser beings. Still, random heckler did his best.

Seriously, I heard a few comments which boiled down to ‘eww, a gay!’ My guess about the reasons for these comments? Zach likely never received his quota of prejudice from small-minded high schoolers for being bi. He escaped some homophobia when he came out after Luke and wasn’t actively dating another guy, and the homophobes could not let a gay go un-insulted for being gay or god would cry. So heckler heckled, and Joey decided to respond.

“Grrr!” Joey said. Okay, I walked over after this part, so the words remained a mystery, but the general message and tone definitely meant ‘grrrrr.’ The person still didn’t want to quit, so Joey made a threat, then followed it up with, “Seriously. I will hurt you and then,” he gestured to Zach. “He’ll make fun of you, and it will be a really good time for us, but you’ll hate it.” I would buy tickets to that movie. “And Zach will take all credit, and then you’ll have gotten your ass kicked by a f—” a teacher walked close by. “Friend of mine.”

A little shaky at the end, but all in all, pretty supportive. Especially as he glared at the person who walked away and draped a friendly, protective arm around Zach’s shoulder. Which actually, considering what they were just talking about, looked a little gay, but no one said anything. And Zach looked too close to actually almost having feelings to warn him.

This aside wasn’t as random as it appeared, but Luke loved when I acted like a huge weirdo for some reason. I guess I understood because I loved when he covered his eyes during scary movies or acted like a huge dramatic baby. Like now! He turned on Joey, all indignant. “How come you’ve never defended me like that?

“Oh dude, come on.” Joey crossed his arms and rolled his eyes, which would not protect him from the dramatic baby.

“No, I’m your best friend too,” my boo insisted.

“Has anyone considered,” Zach offered quietly, “That having a discussion about who exactly is whom’s best friend forever and what any special BFF privileges would entail will, in fact, be the dumbest and gayest thing ever.”

Luke and Joey thought about that for a minute.. I gave Zach a dirty look for using ‘gay’ in a pejorative light, but he gestured to the two dummies lost in thought, which I translated to something like ‘I know my audience.’

The time for quiet contemplation had ended.

“I’m your best friend too!” Luke quietly hollered at Joey, which served to only make it more dramatic.

“I think we have to risk it, dude,” Joey told Zach, squeezing his arm one more time and then removing himself from the other’s close proximity. “I can’t say I would ever go after dick—”

“Good,” I interrupted. “Or else I’d owe Lydia $20 bucks.”

“But if someone doesn’t have similar compunctions,” Joey talked loudly over me.

“Compunctions?” Zach judged his word choice. “Dude, are you studying for the SATS or something?”

“How dare you. I’m just saying.” He raise a hand. “Here’s all the girls Zach could be with,” He raised the other hand. “Here’s all the guys. Put it together, it’s more potential action.” He brought his hands together with a clap, which hopefully did not mean anything because the clap was not a fun, sexy thing.

“I get action!” Luke defended.

“And if you want that action to continue,” I filled in smoothly.

“It is a private and special matter between Ryan and I,” he wisely finished with.

“Being with one person is stupid, playing the field is smart,” Zach said. “Have you never seen a 90’s movie, listened to a rap song, or talked to other human males before?”

“So it would be better if I was having lots of gay sex with different people?” Luke wondered.

“See, that you can’t even understand shows how bad it is,” Joey said seriously.

“This is the dumbest conversation we’ve ever had,” Zach told them both.

“Okay, I get that you wear glasses and want to seem smart in front of your nerdy gay friend,” Hey that meant me. I allowed the description because I enjoyed the idea of Zach trying to impress me. “But that is so not true,” Joey said. He apparently did not understand that glasses did not translate to IQ points.

“Yeah,” Luke agreed. “You’ve actually taken part in way dumber conversations than this.” And then they proceeded to list them with glee while Zach tried to walk away and they wouldn’t let him.

-the end, I guess, because the words stopped at this point.

Boys. Baseball. Bisexuality?

Luke is not gay, but his boyfriend is. Also, Luke does have a boyfriend. To make sense of his life, he seeks advice from his best friend. Zach is bi, but interests include having fun, baseball, himself, his hair, and avoiding serious discussions. So Luke corners him when the baseball team is on a bus for an away game. This is a deleted scene from One Little Lie.

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.

Then 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.”

Deep, 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 any 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 it, 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? Still, 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.

Shenanigans

Shenanigans are afoot in One Little Lie, and Ryan tries to figure out what he thinks about these antics and what he should tell his father. This is a different version than what appears in the book, with some extra content.

Ryan

Should I cut the old man some slack? At least he knew I had a boyfriend, unlike Luke’s family. Which was totally fine and I wasn’t bothered at all. I should probably be storming off or sitting down in a huff so we could sulkily watch TV together, but I got distracted thinking about Dad and Luke’s new scheme.

“Anything else?” Dad asked when I just stood there.

“It’s just—” I’d been tempted to run this whole thing by Dad, but I couldn’t when he was being like this. It’s not like he was being very accepting anyway and I didn’t want that to get worse. “Never mind.”

He eyed me keenly. “What is it?”

“I’m wondering if we should switch our home insurance provider.” I am so bad at lying on the fly. Isn’t that a skill all teenagers possess in their genes, like instinct?

Dad called me on the obvious and terrible diversion I tried to use. “You’re hiding something.”

“Should I get a tattoo?” I asked. That was better for distraction and if he said yes, I could get a tattoo. Too bad needles kinda scared me.

“No,” he responded instantly, then thought about my shifty behavior. “Is it about you and Luke?”

I grabbed the remote and hastily turned up the volume while telling my father to, “Leave the questioning to Stabler and Benson.” Then, like it just occurred to me, I said, “Hey, isn’t it time for them, anyway?”

“Stabler isn’t even on the show anymore,” he said while holding his hand out to me. I gave him the remote and he flipped channels.

Stabler was hot for an old guy and I heard he used to play a character who had forbidden gay relationships in prison. We should look into getting HBO. Before I could tell Dad that, he told me, “I don’t know what’s going on with you and Luke, but if you have to lie to me about it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”

I left then instead of watching TV. It wasn’t like I could say, ‘hey, Dad, you know how Luke’s dating me and you’re already so super cool with that? He’s gonna pretend to date Lydia while he goes out with me.’ Yeah, I didn’t see that going well. Did that mean something or did Dad just not understand? He never had to come out.

No, everything was totally fine. I was totally fine.

I wasn’t fine. Acting like the chillest, awesomest boyfriend ever meant I was only on duty when Luke was around. So maybe I did freak out a tiny bit. Stupid Dad and his stupid words. The less said about that unpleasantness the better. And it wasn’t my finest moment, so I only want to focus on the parts where I’m super great instead.

Okay, fine, maybe the freak out went like this:

Luke pretending to date Lydia? How could that go wrong? Oh, only in a million ways. He could realize how hot she was and dump me. He could realize how easy dating a girl was in this town and dump me. He could see how easy dating anyone other than me was and dump me. Or worse, maybe he’d decide he was both bi and a stereotype and not dump me but instead date Lydia and me behind the other’s back.

Anything could happen. However unlikely it seemed, their fake dating could go so well that they decided to make it a reality. It didn’t sound so crazy since that’s what happened with Luke and me. Wait, no, our fake dating had gone terribly. Yet we still ended up together anyway. Aww.

I could handle this, right? And even if I couldn’t, did I have any right to complain? Luke went from zero to gay, or gayish, really fast. He had no adjustment period. I couldn’t ask him to speed things up on my behalf. Especially when we were already cruising at warp speed. Dammit, I should have talked to Mrs. Sharp about this. No, that would be insane. And this plan was what, perfectly logical and normal?

Okay, maybe I was still in the middle of my freak out when my cell phone vibrated on my desk.