I’ve been busy but you’d never know that if you followed me on my WordPress page. I shall try and make a more concerted effort to keep you updated. I have a book coming out from Riptide August 8th which I’m super excited about. But first I want to mention a story I wrote for Dreamspinner Press that was one of my favorite books that I’ve written.
Will Rory bring them together or stand between them?
Eighteen-year-old Lane Graham has always relied on his braver, more confident buddy, Rory. But Rory’s sudden suicide blindsides Lane and sends him into an emotional tailspin. How’s he supposed to start college in a few months feeling this damaged?
Baron MacDonald knew Rory from playing League of Legends together. He was always intrigued by Lane’s online presence, and Rory had promised to set them up. Now that Rory’s gone, Baron has to approach Lane on his own.
On the surface, Baron and Lane couldn’t seem more different. Baron is confident and serious, and Lane is guarded and uncertain. But it’s the pain beneath the flesh that binds these two souls together like barbed wire and cement.
I guess I’m the stupid one for believing Rory.
I’m angry at him. I know there’s no point in that, because not only is he nowhere around to feel my wrath, he wouldn’t care if he was. Rory always went his own way. I needed him more than he needed me. Obviously. He proved that when he leapt into the great unknown without me. I can barely handle staying in my old familiar life, untethered from him.
Is it weird that my skin hurts? I’m so depressed my flesh actually aches. The ends of my hair feel sensitive as I watch Mrs. Greg approach with my math test in her hand. A bright red C sits at the top right of the paper. Thank God, I passed. My mom would take away my laptop if I fuck up in school again. Especially this close to graduation.
“I expected more from you, Lane.” Mrs. Greg sniffs and adjusts her black-rimmed glasses farther up the bridge of her nose.
I take my paper, feeling the eyes of the class on me. They probably all think I’m stupid. I’m not. I wonder how well they’d do on a math test if their best friend died the day before. I think a C was just fine, considering. Obviously I’m the only one who thinks that way since Mrs. Greg is still giving me a disapproving look, and the redheaded girl next to me is shaking her head. I want to skip ahead to lunch where I can tell Rory about how judgmental they’re all being. He’d rub my head and tell me to relax. You’re overthinking things again, L, he’d say with his white grin splitting his face.
But Rory’s dead.
My stomach rolls and I stand abruptly, knocking into my desk. “May I go to the bathroom?” Mrs. Greg hates letting kids go during class. But there must be something in my expression that softens her. Or maybe she just doesn’t want me throwing up in her classroom.
“Don’t be long.” She hands me the key with a huge wooden plaque attached.
I jangle my way through the hall and hurry to the bathroom. I slam into the stall and unload everything in my stomach. Then I sit breathing like a racehorse, with tears streaking down my cheeks. I don’t know what to do with all the rage I feel toward Rory. It feels like it’s eating me from the inside. I want to punch something. But instead I sit in a pathetic, crumpled heap, sobbing onto the wooden plaque with a key attached.
The bathroom door squeaks open and two guys come in. They’re laughing and fooling around. There are two stalls, and I’m occupying one. I peer under the fiberboard walls and glimpse expensive orange and black hi-tops. One person takes a piss while the other guy talks to him. I scramble to my feet and, keeping my gaze averted, go to the sink area and splash cold water on my cheeks. The guy waiting shuts up finally, and takes the stall I just left, as the other person comes around the corner and stops when he sees me. Then he continues on to wash his hands. Good bathroom manners. It’s a rarity among high school boys.
“Hey,” the guy says. He’s blond with spiky hair and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. He’s watching me like he expects a response. Of course he would. Anyone well-bred enough to wash their hands after peeing expects a response when they speak to you.
“I have permission to be here.” I don’t know why I say that. We aren’t in prison, although sometimes it feels that way.
“Are you okay?” He sounds genuinely concerned.
Of course not, I want to scream. But instead I drop my gaze and turn to the door. “Is anybody?” I say finally as I leave.
Lunch is torture. If you’re dumb enough to only have one real friend to sit with, it kind of leaves you in the lurch if he kills himself. I’m not hugely popular. I’m not actually unpopular either. I’m one of those invisible kids who flits through the school years not leaving much of a mark on anything. God, maybe Mrs. Greg and that redheaded girl are right, and I am pathetic.
Somebody punches my shoulder. Wincing, I look up from my yogurt to find Mason Price standing over me. He’s the school clown. His talent surpasses just class clown. “I’m sorry about Rory,” he says gruffly.
He’s the only person who has even said a word about Rory dying. I’d have never expected such compassion from someone who sticks straws up his nose for a laugh.
“Thanks,” I say.
He punches my shoulder again and moves off. I guess hitting me makes him feel like less of a wimp when he offers me sympathy. I rub my shoulder and watch him join his friends. Someone plops a tray down across from me. Judy from science class has decided I need a pep talk. She has her hair dyed pink, with purple tips. Her makeup is similar to an anime character’s with thick eyeliner, and long fake lashes. She pops open her grape soda while staring at me. The color of the can matches the ends of her hair.
“You should have taken today off.” Her voice is gently chiding.
I stare at her wordlessly. If it were up to me, I’d take the rest of the school year off. But my mom wasn’t having any of it. She screeched at me until I was dressed and in the car. I didn’t have the energy to fight her. I just did as she said and now here I sit with my yogurt.
“There’s a suicide support group on campus. You should probably go.”
I wrinkle my brow and just watch her.
“Not that you’re going to hurt yourself. But they help the people left behind too.” She gulps her soda, her throat muscles moving up and down with each swallow.
Left behind. Fucking Rory left me behind.
“I’ll take it under consideration.” Wow. That was oddly formal. What, am I running for Congress or something? I’m finding it impossible to be normal. Well, my normal.
Her brown, makeup-enhanced eyes soften. “Rory was a dick.”
I should slap her for defaming my beloved friend. My lifelong buddy who jumped off a parking structure and left me all alone to face this fucked-up world. I’d rather hit Rory.
She crunches her way through a bag of chips as she continues to study me like I’m bacteria lying in a petri dish. Then she says, “You can always talk to me if you want. I know you’re shy, so maybe a big group thing isn’t for you.”
Why does she care? I’ve had maybe three conversations with her in the four years of high school. Is she a psych major? Maybe that’s it. They love psychoanalyzing everyone. It makes them feel less crazy.
Somebody has carved their name into the top of the table along with a heart. Steve + Sally 4-ever. I trace my finger into the grooves, wondering if their undying love has survived high school. Steve would never off himself and leave Sally alone. The table wiggles and I notice Judy is getting up to leave.
“See you in class, I guess.” She wanders away into the crowd of students. She’s still easy to spot with her pink hair, though. Maybe that’s the point.