10 YA Novels About Being Gay in a Small Town

Some people appreciate the simple things in life, like a rustic locale where everybody knows their neighbors. At least, some people enjoy reading about a quiet country life while still having Chipotle and Target only a short drive away. And while small town life seems peaceful and idyllic, these places aren’t always paradise for those who are different, which leads to the inherent drama of trying to figure out oneself while afraid everyone else won’t understand.

These LGBT books include finding yourself and falling in love in unlikely places. Here’s 10 books about coming of age and gay romance in a small town setting.

About: A crush on his best friend is only the start of his problems when Tretch realizes how much of himself he’s keeping separate from those closest to him.

From the Official Description: When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.
Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend.

Featuring: coming of age, friendship, family, self expression, dance, identity issues

About: A typical jock decides to change his life and seeks help from the coolest, most authentic guy he knows, a guy who happens to be an openly gay artist. But it’s not like his sexuality matters… or does it? My review is here.

From the Official Description: In the small town of Spring Valley, molds weren’t made to be broken, and high school senior Jay Hall’s been living comfortably in his popular jock one since adolescence. If it weren’t for the colorful, outspoken artistic anomaly Brighton Bello-Adler, he might have been willing to remain there. Unnaturally drawn to Brighton, Jay knows he needs something from him, but is he ready to find out what that something is?

Featuring: coming of age, transformation, adventure, road trip, loneliness, slow-burn, developing relationship

About: Sky’s plan to be himself and get the guy of his dreams might be derailed by a homophobic hacker.

From the Official Description: Determined not to let anything ruin his senior year, Sky decides to make a splash at his high school’s annual beach bum party… What better way to start living loud and proud than by pulling off the gayest promposal Rock Ledge, Michigan, has ever seen?

Featuring: coming of age, transformation, adventure, road trip, loneliness, slow-burn, developing relationship

About: A proud openly gay guy and a football star have a rocky past but must work together for a common goal. Maybe they fall in love along the way?

From the Official Description: Boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.

Featuring: humor, unlikely allies, controversial, southern setting, bisexuality, family dynamics

About: Three queer boys growing up in a world where masculinity is everything and homosexuality might as well not exist.

From the Official Description: Charlie is a hardcore rocker, who’s not as tough as he looks. Hammer is a footy jock with big AFL dreams, and an even bigger ego. Zeke is a shy over-achiever, never macho enough for his family. But all three boys hide who they really are. When the truth is revealed, will it set them free or blow them apart?

Featuring: multiple main characters, Australia, serious topics, gender norms, religion, mental health

About: Zeph dreams of openly dating his ultra-closeted boyfriend when a mysterious new guy enters his life fresh from boarding school.

From the Official Description: Is it possible to have it all—even for a boy from a dying town of old cranberry bogs? Even for the son of religious zealots who will never accept his being gay?
Zeph hopes so, because he isn’t giving up on his happily ever after.

Featuring: secrets, hidden relationship, love triangle, relationship drama, HEA

About: The new boy in town falls for the popular jock who, of course, seems as straight as they come.

From the Official Description: Fairmont Boys is a coming-of-age story about friendship and the kind of love that is found in the most unlikely places.

Featuring: Sports, opposites attract, time jumps, YA&NA, series

About: Life keeps getting worse for a teen struggling with troubles no one should have to confront alone, until a new face seems to turn everything around.

From the Official Description: A breath of fresh air has blown through Emmett’s life. Not only does Noah’s mixed-race parentage make him unlike the other rich kids in town, he’s also openly gay and interested in Emmett, despite all the barriers Emmett has erected to keep prying eyes out of his life.

Featuring: coming of age, transformation, adventure, road trip, loneliness, slow-burn, developing relationship

About: A tragedy makes a flawed and complicated individual reevaluate everything.

From the Official Description: Starting with the death of someone he loves, Riley’s world beings to fall apart. As he tries to keep his head above water, he’s faced with a choice… be the Riley everyone believes him to be or he can search within himself and the hearts of those who care about him to find out who he really is and who he will someday become.

Featuring: Bisexuality, closeted, family issues, angst, bullying, growing up

About: A bigoted boy takes rash action when an openly gay couple moves in nearby. But he may have more in common with them than he thinks.

From the Official Description: In the small town of Spring Valley, molds weren’t made to be broken, and high school senior Jay Hall’s been living comfortably in his popular jock one since adolescence. If it weren’t for the colorful, outspoken artistic anomaly Brighton Bello-Adler, he might have been willing to remain there. Unnaturally drawn to Brighton, Jay knows he needs something from him, but is he ready to find out what that something is?

Featuring: friends to lovers, coming of age, coming out, inner demons, bisexuality, religion

Stuff that totally won’t go wrong

Do fake relationships ever happen in real life? Maybe! I mean… probably not, right? My guess would be no, but I’m the one who asked you the question, so I don’t have to have the answers.

And I’m talking, like, romcom pretend boyfriends scenarios only, where a successful professional has to go to their exes wedding but can’t get a date for zany reasons and must pretend to be in love with their sworn enemy. Less bearding because the world is terrible and more Hallmark movie plot stuff where everybody falls in love at the end.

The fake boyfriends trope is used in One Little Word. Then there’s a fake girlfriend and a real boyfriend in One Little Lie. So naturally for One Little Problem, it was time to switch it up. Fake break ups! Is that a thing? In real life or in fiction? Whatever.

Okay, so Ryan wants to pretend to break up because the natural answer when your parents don’t approve of your significant other is ‘lie about it.’ I think I started that sentence with sarcastic intent, but actually, that is so the logical answer. Especially if you’re a teenager and in a romcom, which is a yes to both for Ryan.

Ryan’s boyfriend Luke isn’t as sure about this plan. So this is him debating.

~

Luke

On the way home from the game, the last light from the day disappeared while the bus carrying the team headed back to school. Zach and I had a spot in the back while Joey sat across from us, asleep and stretched over his whole seat.

I thought about sleeping too until Zach spoke. “Maybe Ryan isn’t as bulletproof as you are these days.”

Huh, where had that come from? “He’s been handling haters way more than I have.”

“And maybe that’s taken a toll,” he suggested.

“But—”

“Doesn’t have to seem like it has.” He gave me an important look, like he would know. Guess he would, him and Ryan were the same way. Pretending like nothing bothered them, both much better at it than me. I was only good at it when untested. But it didn’t seem like that with Ryan as much because he let his guard down around me a lot more than Zach did.

“Maybe he just wants to enjoy being with you or something lame like that,” Zach said with a frown like just the thought of it was too sappy for him. “This could be a way to do that.”

“You think pretending to break up is a good idea?”

Zach shrugged. “No opinion, really. Might be entertaining.” I rolled my eyes. He continued. “But you might be focusing on the wrong thing. The method is breaking up, but the point is being together with less hassle.”

“So then why didn’t we do that before?”

“Might not have been able to handle it.” He sneered a little like he couldn’t help it as he said, “You guys seem totally disgusting now.”

“Thanks.” I grinned, totally unashamed.

“And pretty stable. Just, I think he means well with this suggestion? Maybe consider it? Yeah, you don’t care what anyone else thinks. Your parents will come around or they won’t. Nothing can hurt you. Maybe because you’re on the baseball team and you have a bunch of friends or you have both your parents alive but just because Ryan talks a good game, maybe it’s not as easy for him.”

Guess that was possible. Maybe I felt confident and like nothing could stop me because this whole coming out thing had sucked so much and I still survived it, but Ryan had come out a while ago. No been outed. By me. He hadn’t been ready for it either. Super annoying that Zach might have a point but just because Ryan had been dealing with haters for a while that didn’t mean it was the same when the haters in question were our parents.

I might understand that pretty well. I’d never not had my parents in my corner. Until now. Maybe it was worse for Ryan, because it was only him and his dad. This could be a really stupid idea, no it probably was, but I guess I didn’t blame him. Not getting along with your parent or parents on something so big was rough and if a little lying could change that…

I sat in my room by myself after I got home, staring at my phone. Here I was, sitting here considering it. Hadn’t done anything else once since I got home. Wasn’t really a breakup, but the idea still made me nervous. We’d talked about this once before and Ryan was so against it then. But that was back when I didn’t know I was bi and we wanted my parents off my back because they didn’t know I was bi either and now we all knew. Knowledge was power. I’d heard that before, so it must be true.

There was a knock on the door. “Do I need to come in there?” Lydia asked.

Zach told her? “You don’t think it’s a terrible idea?”

“I think I’m not having this conversation with a closed door… even though its probably about as smart as you.” Lydia never missed a chance to take a shot at me, which meant that she didn’t think this was the most terrible idea in the world or she wouldn’t have hesitated to tell me so.

“Go away, Lydia.”

I took a long, deep breath and leaned back in my chair. Idly glancing around my room, I realized my mom had been in here. She did that sometimes to get my laundry, but no, it was still there in the corner. She had definitely been in here though or my dad had. Some of the posters I had on my wall were gone. The ones that were just a baseball player like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Come on, Manny Machado wasn’t even attractive! He had a certain charm, I guess, but he was no Bryce Harper.

…I didn’t even realize Harper was hot until right now, but yeah, I wanted that posted back. And also the one I had of Chris Evans as Captain America, which, huh. Maybe I always found him hot and just didn’t know it.

Alright, I had to do my own laundry now and maybe get a lock so my parents couldn’t come in and try to de-gay everything. Maybe getting my parents off my back would make things easier not just for me but Ryan too and he was the one who wanted to do it.

Ryan had, like, 90 million thoughts bouncing around his head at any given time, so while he’s super smart, sometimes he doesn’t verbalize everything into words I understand, but it’s okay, because I’m learning how to read him. I didn’t like thinking about Ryan leaving for the summer. He probably didn’t either. And we couldn’t do anything about that, but there was this other problem and he wanted to fix it. So then, the him leaving thing would still suck but maybe suck less because we would get to spend more time together before the sucking part happened.

…I should not have thought of it like that. I wanted the sucking part to happen but the good sucking part, not the bad sucking part—you know what? I’m just going to call Ryan.

 

Writing!

I’m working on a bonus story to add to my mailing list bribes. Hey, speaking of that, there are lots of free stories available for joining my mailing list. Anyway, here is an excerpt from one such story. The characters are from my story Like You A Latte. In this scene, a boy thinks about his impossible crush on another boy.

~

Asher

Asher Ford has everything. That’s what people think. Life is so easy for him. It’s not that simple.

Wait, do I sound ungrateful? I’m exceedingly blessed. I attend a prestigious high school, get good grades, and am lucky enough to call many people my friends. And maybe I look alright? Jamie says insecurity looks unbecoming on Fords. He always talks all pretentious-y when I doubt myself. I’m not sure who he’s trying to imitate because no one in my family talks that way, but he manages to make me smile.

Probably, I look alright. I don’t think I look bad. Jamie says drugstores are filled with bottles of product promising the kind of blonde hair I was born with, which I have to trust because I’ve never been inside a drugstore. My height is enviable, and my eyes are hard to look away from. That’s what Jamie says. Again, I don’t think I look bad, but he’s never noticed.

We all have our weaknesses. Spencer Sharp is mine.

Naturally intellectual, Spencer still pushes himself and strives for perfection. He works harder than everyone in our grade. Maybe harder than everyone in the entire school. Maybe the whole world. He’s always so focused. I get drawn in watching him, so I’m never prepared for the moment he looks up with his cool stare, jumbling my insides and making the thoughts leave my head.

For all the fortune and esteem my name brings, I’m a dumb kid with a hopeless crush.

No, it’s only hopeless if I don’t do something about it. I will do something. Today’s the day.

I’m asking Spencer Sharp to prom.

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.”

Flirting! Yay!

Luke probably came out in the wrong order. Because he didn’t even know he was bi until long after having a boyfriend and claiming to be gay. So yeah. In hindsight, knowing you like boys is an important step to do before a clumsy, spazzy guy stumbles into your life and makes you feel all confused. In his defense, Luke has played baseball all his life and been part of a team, so he knows how to follow instructions. But when there’s no rule book or steps to follow… that’s when things get messy.

But in One Little Problem, not only is Luke aware of his sexuality and his feelings for a particular dude, he’s comfortable with those things. Ryan, the aforementioned spaz who caught Luke’s attention, is very pleased by this development. Not everyone has reached the acceptance stage, like Luke’s parents, but let’s not worry about that now.

In this scene, Ryan and Luke are holding hands at school and then they flirt… yeah, that’s what happens. And you already know the relevant information, so okay. Here’s an outtake from the novel.

~

Ryan

“Should we stop holding hands?” I asked. We weren’t always so touchy-feely. Lately, it seemed like Luke didn’t mind, but I wanted to be sure.

Luke just shook his head. “Guess there has to be some downsides to having an awesome boyfriend. I don’t care what people say to me.” Then his expression turned serious. “But if anyone messes with you? Tell me and I’ll kick their asses.”

“Say that again but this time take off your shirt.” I crossed the fingers of the other hand that wasn’t holding Luke’s.  Come on early morning strip show… that would be pretty weird, but I still wanted to see it.

“Some downsides in addition to you, I mean.” He smiled like he was cute. He happened to be cute, but still.

“You’re sleeping on the couch tonight,” I informed him.

“We don’t live together.”

Maybe one day, my brain said, and I told it to shut up.

“Want to come over after school and pretend we do?” I waggled my eyebrows in a way experts would deem excessive. “We’ll play house.”

“Roleplay already?” he asked but didn’t say no.

Oh. “Do you have a French maid’s outfit?” I could get into that.

“Okay, I’m leaving now.” Luke gave me a quick peck on the lips and we went our separate ways.

Luke recently had an identity crisis of sorts. Hopefully not a midlife one because his lifespan needed to be much longer than that. More of the sexuality crisis kind. It took him a while to figure things out and it might not always have been the most fun, but I was a supportive boyfriend and stuff.

If there was any evidence to the contrary, then I didn’t remember it and didn’t want to be reminded, but Luke was on the other side of that now. He was cool and confident and awesome. Stronger.  Comfortable. Way hot. He was always that one, but in a new way.

He was here, he was queer, he was used to it.

If only everyone else could be used to it too.

Superpowers and the Powerpuff Girls (hey, those topics are related!)

I would never repeat myself, but it’s possible I’ve said this next bit before. But I’m going to say it again anyway, even though it’s not entirely new, and you’ve perhaps heard this already. I hate repetition and also being subtle, apparently. Yes, I repeated myself intentionally in this paragraph to be hilarious. I will give you a second to laugh and collect yourself after my wit nearly knocked you over.

While I was about to say something else, I’m now off topic. Because I thought of Mojo Jojo, who always repeats an idea in new ways, and I’m going to put a picture here. Why? Evil monkey! That’s the best answer to any question ever. And in general, an evil monkey is a great idea. I know someone whose nickname is JoJo, and sometimes they like sharing their name with a cartoon monkey supervillain, and sometimes they get angry at being called ‘Mojo Jojo.’

mojojojo
When trying to type ‘Google’ after ‘Mojo Jojo, I typed ‘gogo.’ Pic from Pinterest.

Back to what I was originally going to say, the deleted scene I’m going to post talks about superhuman abilities. I’m almost positive I put my superpowers in the back of one of my books, but I’m not sure which one. I don’t think it’s in all of my books, so this might be new information if you haven’t read that one book this is also from, or if you skip the author section at the end of novels.

After accidentally building this up, my superpowers will be anticlimactic. Oops! I never trip over untied shoelaces, and I can lose anything in the most annoying way possible. Is my debit card still missing after I misplaced it a few weeks ago? No way! Ahem, those are my superpowers. And now for a character from One Little Lie talking about some stuff I also talked about.

P.S. Luke from this series is Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls. Ryan is Buttercup. I’m proud of myself for getting those names right as at first they were respectively ‘the one in blue’ and the ‘the one in green.’

~

My name is Luke Chambers and I’m a superhero. Once upon a time, I thought I was an ordinary guy. Sure, I was good looking and athletically gifted but that was genetics and practice. Now, I had a strange gift I hadn’t asked for.

That’s the only thing that makes sense. Only I could keep taking awkward, potentially bad situations and making them infinitely more complicated. I used to be suave, so my ability to mess things up had to be supernatural. It was a superpower. I was Bad Idea Man. Okay, that’s not the best name for a superhero, but like I said, I’m not so good with bright ideas.

My parents thought I was dating a girl, and I hadn’t corrected them yet, so it was time for the Luke’s an Idiot Explanation Tour. I’d done this tour before. Who did I want to face first: Ryan or Lydia? Lydia would be brutal, but maybe she’d give me some advice about how to fix this or how to tell Ryan in a way that didn’t get me in trouble. I couldn’t think of one, but as she liked to tell me, I was dumb.

Plus, getting through this conversation with Lydia meant I could see Ryan next, like a reward.

I thought about telling the truth to my parents last night. In fact, that was all I had done. I laid on my bed and worried about it, which was surprisingly exhausting as I fell asleep early and still didn’t feel rested when I woke up. Maybe if this conversation somehow went well and was over quickly, I could take a nap. I had a game later today.

 

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.

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.

Life advice I’ve never taken: be slightly less unhinged

For some reason, I uploaded a bunch of image quotes I made for One Little Word all at the same time. I guess I was trying to be helpful and have them all in one place, which mostly means I have no idea which ones I’ve used already. This might not be a problem for those with better memories, but I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say I don’t even remember how I started this sentence.

Every time I post a quote, I resist the overwhelming urge to add that I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted this one yet. But maybe I have, so let’s just gloss over it if I posted this last week too. I figure putting it out there once is enough. In summation, if I post quotes more than once, please be cool about it. Thanks!

Also, yes, I did only say be cool because it’s in the quote below.

This excerpt involves a boy flipping out because he’s about to have lunch with another boy. This second boy is open to the possibility of being attracted to the first boy, which is where the insanity comes from. I could have just used their names instead of calling them boys, but I’m telling myself it’s too late to change that now.

Being attracted to someone is a totally understandable reason to be a lunatic. No, that’s not true at all. It’s not okay to be a lunatic in a dangerous way when you like someone. But it is okay to be a gigantic nervous weirdo in the romance department, lots of people aren’t smooth operators.

By reading this, you might think Ryan is a gigantic nervous weirdo when he has a crush. I want you to know that’s not true at all. Ryan is a gigantic nervous weirdo always, but in this case, he happens to be a weirdo and have a crush at the same time. This is an important distinction (no, it’s not.)

 

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Ryan

I had butterflies. Stupid, gigantic butterflies, furiously beating their wings inside my stomach. Was I going to burst into song? Was I going to throw up? Maybe!

Hopefully, I wouldn’t do either of those things. I just couldn’t say for sure.

I willed myself to still from where I was vibrating out of my skin. Be cool. No, that was impossible… be slightly less unhinged. I could try that.

Okay, I would walk into the cafeteria and sit down with the baseball guys, something I’d done multiple times before. No big deal.

Only…

There was a particular guy at the table. One who was interested. In me! He may not be Luke, but the problem was that Luke wasn’t interested.

Surely I’d gotten the neuroticism out last night. I went through every piece of clothing I owned trying to find the right thing to wear. I eventually picked out my best fitting pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, and a green plaid shirt to layer with. No need to dress up too much. Or drive myself crazy.

Or drive myself crazier? Because I was jumping up and down, just a little, where I stood. I tried to stop… nope, still rocking on my heels. I felt extremely excited.

 

Kissing Complications

Luke’s life quickly gets out of hand when his stupid mouth and dumb ideas lead to strange new places in One Little Word. An excerpt and image quote will follow after my nonsense.

The idea that immediately came to my head for a title was, Luke’s experiences aren’t universal. Maybe that needs more explaining. That’s a quote from Kimmy Schmidt. As I’m really lazy right now, and most of the time, I’m going to roll the dice and hope I spelled Schmidt right even though there’s no way. Oh, I spelled it a different way the second time and the red squiggly appeared, so hooray, I got it right once and still don’t need to open a different window to look it up. Small miracles, y’all. I will take it.

I’m not sure whether Luke’s experience with kissing a boy is universal or not. Maybe not exactly but it’s also not uncommon. Many guys kiss other guys. The part that’s less universal is kissing another boy as part of a fake dating scheme. Well, it is universal in romance novels. Like this one.

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Luke

Lunch went… awkwardly.

Duh. I had just sucked face with a guy in front of everyone in the cafeteria.

And I thought the stares were bad before.

No, everything was perfectly normal…

Yeah right, that wouldn’t work.

This wasn’t a video or a rumor. I had kissed a guy in public. Naturally, the atmosphere at the baseball table felt incredibly tense.

I insisted the earlier kiss wasn’t real. I told the team that Ryan and I weren’t together. Then I kissed him in front of everyone, and now we were having lunch with my shell-shocked team.

There had never been this much quiet at the table before. Without anyone speaking, my thoughts were loud. My mind kept repeating that I had kissed Ryan in front of everyone. It wouldn’t let that go.  I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around it.

I kissed Ryan. Yep, there I went again. I hoped it would stop being true somehow. Wait, oh god. Instead of helping, I made things worse.

Because I couldn’t just say I kissed Ryan. That wasn’t enough. It had happened more than once, so the specific time would need to be specified.

I was a guy who had kissed another guy enough times to need clarification when referencing the touching of our lips.