Teaser Thursday- Accepting Me

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From the newly re-released version of this story, now available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.

Dad sat beside Tyler, and Mom took the last chair. Before we could eat, we each had to talk about something we were thankful for. My parents had started the tradition before I could even talk, because even though they didn’t believe in a god to pray to, they did believe there were higher powers than us in the Universe. They felt those powers deserved thanks for good things that happened in our lives. Plus focusing on good things made everyone happier.

Since Landon was still sort of a guest, he went first. I expected him to say he was thankful for V.J., like he had last time. Instead he said, “I’m thankful for being mostly moved in, and for you guys letting me move in. It really means a lot to be able to finish high school here.”

“I’m thankful because you’re here,” Mom said. “It’s going to be nice having another kid around.”

“Is that your thanks, Dawn?” Dad asked.

Mom smiled. “Yes.”

Dad nodded. “Okay. I’m thankful because I found the bug in the app I’ve been working on, so now I can finish it up and show it to the higher-ups at work.”

“I’m thankful for winter break and not having to go to school,” Tyler said.

“You’ve used that one every day since school got out,” I said.

“I’m thankful for it every day since school got out. I’d rather work on my manga.” Tyler had convinced himself he would write and illustrate Japanese graphic novels when he grew up. He didn’t know any Japanese and could barely draw people who looked like people, but he kept trying.

“It’s your turn, Shane,” Mom said.

I had to think about it. Not much had happened today other than Landon moving in, and I didn’t want to use that since Landon and Mom both had.

After a couple seconds I came up with something that went along with what I’d been thinking earlier. “I’m thankful because I have friends and don’t have to worry about relationships.”

Mom got a weird look on her face as if she wanted to say something and didn’t know what. Tyler looked down at his plate and poked at his burger roll.

“There’s plenty of time for relationships,” Dad said quickly. “I for one think it’s smart to just be a teenager and focus on things like school and part-time jobs for now.”

Maybe I should have said I didn’t think I’d want a romantic relationship even after I finished school and had a real career, but I kept my mouth shut. According to what they’d told me, neither of them had dated anyone until college. They just hadn’t wanted to. But then they’d gone to college and had started dating people, and then they’d met each other. That was probably what they expected me to do. Date in college and find my soul mate. Because those totally existed.

They could sort of understand wanting to stay away from dating while I was in high school, but I didn’t think they’d understand wanting to stay away from it forever.

Teaser Thursday- Ball Caps and Khakis

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Regardless of what time it was, or how much homework I had, I would have to ask Dad to take me to Jim’s. Life would have been easier if I had my driver’s license, but Mom vetoed the idea every time I brought it up. As far as she was concerned, I didn’t need to be behind the wheel until college at the earliest.

I knew better than to give Jim a heads-up I was going out there, though. He would argue, and if I showed up anyway, it would give him another reason to push me away. He would be angry if I went to his place unexpectedly, but not as much as if I did it after he told me not to.

Before I even got off my bed, the phone rang. Surprised, I pressed the screen to answer. Jim never called me.

“Don’t even think about coming over,” he said before I even said hello. “I know how you are. When I say Delia’s busy, I mean she asked me not to interrupt her. And it’s none of your business.”

“I wasn’t going to ask.” I took a deep breath.

“Good.” He paused. “I’m going to tell her as soon as I can. I’ll be fine until then. I’m worried, but I’m not going to do anything stupid. I’ll call my therapist in the morning, if it makes you feel better.”

“Call me too,” I said. “Or text me. I don’t care if you even just send a blank text. At least I’ll know you’re still okay.”

“You’re a pain in the ass.” He made a noise that might have been a laugh. I couldn’t really tell. “Fine. I’ll text you in the morning. I’ll tell Delia as soon as I can. Be honest. Why did you tell me about it? You had to know I was going to be upset about it.”

“You would have been more upset if you found out I knew about it and didn’t tell you.”

“Point.” He was silent again for a moment. “Okay. I promise I’ll tell Delia as soon as I can, I’ll call Terry in the morning, and I’ll text you. And you promise me you won’t come out here. If you hear anything more about your sister’s friend or those girls who came in today, you’ll tell me even if you think I’ll get upset?”

I took a second to register what he was saying. What he was asking. He almost never asked for anything. And he sounded scared. He was actually letting me hear how he felt. That wasn’t like him.

“I promise,” I said.

“Good. Go finish your homework or whatever you were doing. I was getting ready for bed.” He made the sound again. “Like I’ll be able to. Anyway, if you don’t hear from me by…. You have school tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah. No days off until Memorial Day.”

“Thought so. If you don’t hear from me by the end of your first class, you can text me.”

“Okay.”

“I’m only saying that because I don’t get up as early as you,” he said quickly. “I keep my promises.”

“I know.” I didn’t, actually. He’d never made me any promises before that I remembered.

“Good.”

I started to say the same thing, but I didn’t quite get the word out before he hung up.

I put down the phone and picked up my book again. For the next hour, I stared at the pages, hoping somehow the words would flow from there into my brain.

Teaser Thursday- Accepting Me

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If Landon mentioned his boyfriend one more time, I would probably scream. Or throw his box of books out the window. Without opening the window.

Don’t get me wrong. I was happy my friend had found a new guy. Landon had only lived in town a little while. He and his dad moved around a lot for his dad’s job, and even though Landon was an awesome guy to hang out with, some people just plain didn’t want to be friends with the new kid. Especially if the new kid was openly gay.

He’d met this guy V.J. at a basketball game when our team played against V.J.’s school, and since then Landon hadn’t talked about much else except V.J. It was kind of fun at first. I’d never seen Landon all blushy and stuff before. It got old pretty fast though, when he couldn’t have a conversation without bringing V.J.’s name in after less than a minute. I was glad he was happy. I just didn’t want to hear about it every five seconds.

I was going to have to get used to it, because Landon was moving in with my family. His dad’s company was shipping him off to someplace in the Midwest, and Landon wanted to finish high school in our town, so they’d talked to my parents. My parents liked Landon and hadn’t had any problem letting him move in. He was at our place most of the time anyway.

“You’d better not bring him over here to have sex in my room,” I said while I sat cross-legged on my bed and watched Landon try to find space for his books on my bookcase. Our house only had three bedrooms, so he and I would be sharing. My little brother Tyler got to keep his own room.

“Yeah, Shane, because I’d totally do that.” Landon looked at me and rolled his eyes. “After his dad walking in on us, we might not be having sex anywhere for a while. What’s up your ass today anyway? Every time I mention V.J. you have this look on your face as if I’m making you smell dog crap.”

“Sorry.” I wasn’t, really. I couldn’t be sorry for something I wasn’t doing on purpose. “You mention him kind of a lot. Maybe we can talk about something else. Like how weird it’s going to be for you to open Christmas presents here.”

“I’m opening them at home.” He paused. “Dad’s house. Whatever I should call it now. He wants to have Christmas morning be just him and me.”

“Okay.” Not having him at my house first thing Christmas morning would be less weird for me, too. Landon was a good friend, but I hadn’t made up my mind how I felt about him moving in.

He crammed a few books onto one of the shelves. “You need to find someone to go out with. Then you wouldn’t get so ticked when I talk about V.J.”

“I don’t get ticked. Just bored.” The thought of having “someone” was beyond boring. Just trying to figure out how it would even work made my stomach hurt. I’d watched my friends have boyfriends or girlfriends, and it seemed to be a lot of work. And a lot of hanging on each other and agonizing about kissing and sex.

None of it interested me at all. My friends and my parents asked me all the time why I didn’t date someone, and the only answer I had for them was that I just plain wasn’t interested. It didn’t make sense to them.

It didn’t make sense to me either, really. Everyone else I knew was pairing up or between pair-ups and wishing they were paired up. The older I got, the more couples I saw around me. I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t figure out why they wanted to be joined at the hip to someone.

Teaser Thursday- Accepting Me

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I talked to my parents about a lot of things. They were that kind of parent. They didn’t judge and didn’t come down hard on me when I’d done something they didn’t approve of. All they did was talk to me and help me solve problems. If I’d done something they thought I shouldn’t have, they gave me consequences that made sense.

Sometimes they didn’t even give me a consequence, because whatever I’d done came with built-in punishment, like when I was seven and stole a candy bar from a grocery store. My parents didn’t punish me, exactly. Instead, Mom took me back to the store, found a manager, and made me pay for the candy bar and return it, since I hadn’t eaten it yet. Admitting to a total stranger that I’d stolen, and losing even a little bit of my allowance, did a lot more than grounding me or something would have. I hadn’t stolen anything since.

My parents were awesome, but I didn’t know if I should talk to Dad about this. He might not really want to hear it.

“Relationships just bug me.” I paused. “I don’t mean bug. I mean… You know, this isn’t as easy to explain as I’d hoped.”

“Try again.” He probably had a pretty good idea of what I meant, but he wouldn’t fill in words for me.

“I don’t have a problem with other people’s relationships. I just don’t want one of my own.” I started paying a lot of attention to the dishes in the sink, because focusing on something else made it easier to talk than looking at Dad. “I don’t understand why people want to pair up. I mean, why go to all the trouble when you can just be friends and not have to deal with fighting and messes and stuff?”

“Messes?” He chuckled. “You mean emotional or you mean the wet spot?”

“A little bit of both.” Dad joking about sex didn’t bother me. Like I said, my parents didn’t think teens should have sex, but they were realistic enough to know it happened and were open about discussing it. “Okay, let’s start there. Why do people have sex anyway?”

“It feels good,” he said. “And when you’re with someone you really care about, it strengthens the connection between you. People enjoy being close to each other, physically and emotionally, and sex is a way to be close to someone you’re in love with.”

“Okay. Why do people want to be in love with each other?”

“Wow.” He paused. I still didn’t look at him. “I don’t really know how to answer you, Shane. I’m going to have to think about that one.”

“Okay.” When my parents said they’d think about something, they actually did. Sometimes they came up with an answer after Tyler or I had forgotten we’d asked a question. Dad might not be able to answer this one, but if he couldn’t, he would at least say so.

“Shane, I need to ask you something,” he said. “I hope you’ll try to answer. If you can’t answer, it’s fine, just tell me.”

“Okay.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear his question. My chest got a little tight and I held my breath waiting to hear what he would say. I kept working on the dishes, even though they were pretty clean by now.

“I’ve never heard you talk about a girlfriend. I thought for a while maybe you were gay and weren’t ready to accept it yet, or maybe you just weren’t ready to tell us. Now, after what you just said, I have to wonder. Do you think this is something that will change as you get older? The not wanting or understanding romantic relationships, I mean.”

I held up a finger to let him know I wanted to think before I spoke. As much as I wanted to avoid the question, I would answer it. I just had to figure out how.