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One Little Lie (One More Thing Book 2) by F.N. Manning (1)

Chapter 1. The Best Part of Waking Up

Surprise, it’s not coffee, it’s making out with the boyfriend.

“Hey, gay boy!” The taunt came as I walked briskly through the school doors. What a way to start the day. Small town bullies had so few targets when almost everyone in our farming community was the same, so the out gay kid known as me was a perfect choice.

Rural Lake Forest (which had neither lake nor forest) was a small city that unfortunately for me felt like a small town. But I didn’t have time to cater to this moron heckling me today. “Hi there, repressed jock,” I replied breezily while attempting to stroll past him.

There were probably a good number of queer people here, depending on which statistics you believed about the prevalence of us fairies and carpet munchers, but most people of that persuasion preferred to keep that to themselves and play it discreetly. I didn’t have that luxury.

“Where are you rushing off to, princess?” the bully asked with a sneer, stepping in front of me.

I smiled thinly. “You should really be careful about what you say. You never know who might overhear.” And there’s no way I was pretending to date this guy. You might wonder if that was even an option. You’d be surprised. But that was a story another day.

He scoffed. “I don’t need life lessons from a fairy.”

Being negative so early in the morning would surely earn him bad karma, but it wasn’t my job to stick around and teach him to be a better person. Was that uncharitable? Did my unwillingness to be kind even to those who were mean to me ensure that I would have bad karma too?

Screw it, it was too early for karma.

I resumed walking and the guy jumped out of my way so that he wouldn’t have to get up close and personal with the queer kid. Also because I had two coffees in my hand and he didn’t want to wear them. As I passed him, he said, “We weren’t done yet.” The jerk actually sounded a little sad; he was probably happy to catch me alone.

 Now that I hung around with the captain of the baseball team, Luke Chambers, there was less bullying. Reduced bullying and fewer hostile stares meant more me time, which was great since me is my favorite person in the world. Though Luke was quickly gaining ground.

“Sorry,” I apologized quickly, pausing for a moment against my better judgement. My boyfriend Luke was turning me into a softie as I almost felt bad for ruining this asshole’s fun. Remaining cynical and jaded by the world when dating such a dreamboat was a challenge. Oh god, did I use dreamboat in my inner monologue? I’ve been corrupted.

The bully snorted. “Whatever, fag.” Yep, no reason to feel bad.

“That’s the spirit,” I said and tried to go on my merry way.

“You aren’t even going to play along?” he asked with a frown. “You used to.”

True but that was a defense mechanism as I used my words to fluster bullies and then run away. I didn’t have an overwhelming amount of strength. I worked on our family farm, sure, but my diet consisted mainly of sarcasm and root beer and I spent my free time in my favorite science teacher’s classroom.

I told the jock, “I have more important things to do now.”

“Like being queer?” he smirked and held up a hand for someone to high five him for his verbal genius before realizing his friends weren’t around.

 “Is everything okay here?” The words were said by a sharp voice. After the quick click of heels, the owner of said voice, the aptly named Mrs. Sharp, was standing next to us and viewing us with keen eyes. She came by too late to hear anything, that was how it usually went, but she made an educated guess that we weren’t best buds.

The stature of this teacher in her early 30’s wasn’t intimidating, but her no-nonsense attitude, cold stare, and hair always pulled tightly into a severe bun made her the instructor that students never dared challenge.

The wannabe bully made a quick getaway and I wanted to follow, but Mrs. Sharp stopped me with her soul sucking gaze and I stood frozen while contemplating the best way to lie to this teacher who could snap me in half with just the powers of her mind.

What a way to start the day.

 

 

* * *

 

Mrs. Sharp and I regarded each other in silence for a moment. What was going through her mind? I had no idea. Through mine? Mostly panic while I screamed at myself to not look like I was panicking.

After several moments that felt incredibly tense to me and probably like a day at the beach to her-- she loved feeding off student’s panic and misery-- she asked, “How are things going?” Her tone didn’t sound particularly interested, but she wasn’t the kind of person to make small talk, so the words were warm and friendly by her standards.

“Uh, well, our crop of carrots is—" I stopped short at her glare and said a quick prayer to whoever was listening that she would at least make my death quick. I didn’t ask to be spared from said death; I deserved it by avoiding her question.

“That’s not what I meant,” she stated simply and raised an eyebrow for me to get on with it. She wanted to know about Luke and I.

I made a hysterical little sound in my throat then tried to verbalize it. “I can’t talk boys with you.” At least that part was honest. “You’re like the scariest teacher at this school.” Oh, maybe that was too much honesty. “No offense?”

“I take it as a compliment,” she said easily then regarded me seriously. “But I still want you to know I’m here. It can’t be easy for you or Luke.”

She was fairly petite and I was tall, so I briefly considered tackling her and then making a run for it. She crossed her arms and looked like she knew what I was thinking, which she probably didn’t; that was just a helpful expression for a teacher to have. But in the off chance she could read minds, I couldn’t tackle her anymore because I lost the element of surprise.

I realized I was contemplating tackling an educator in the hallway and I had to take a step back and wonder how I even got here and why the scariest teacher in the world wants to know about my love life.

A while back, an idiot from the baseball team, i.e. Luke Chambers, was dumb enough to be caught using a gay slur. Instead of taking his punishment, he came up with a plan… not that I was complaining about that dumb baseball player. That whole thing worked out pretty well for me.

The trouble Luke needed to avoid? Came in the form of the avenging queer angel known as Mrs. Sharp who didn’t want some careless jock abusing the system and getting out of trouble by claiming to be gay. To be fair, that’s exactly what Luke was trying to do. Only she didn’t catch him. To my eternal surprise and delight, Luke actually ended up liking me. Our fake arrangement was the real deal now.

Thanks to those shenanigans, Luke and I were able to walk the halls hand in hand. While not exactly accepting, most students grudgingly ignored it. That was as good as we were gonna get in this Midwest, god-fearing red state, and I didn’t want to rock the boat. I wasn’t sure Luke could still be punished, but we didn’t need Mrs. Sharp snooping around us.

So, how were things between Luke and I? “Everything is fine. Better than fine. Great,” I said in a hopefully normal and not crazy tone. “We’re perfect. It’s all sunshine and rainbows. No pun intended.” No, that wasn’t right. “What am I saying? Pun definitely intended.” 

Her expression went from one of neutral menace to more long-suffering as she regarded me skeptically and her hand twitched impatiently. The movement made me stare at her pointy wine-colored nails and idly wonder how much damage they could do when applied to flesh. Probably a lot.

Run away! screamed a frantic part of my brain. But whatever sanity I possessed kept me in the same spot. Maybe I should start listening to that side of me more often because her voice softened as she said, “I was where you are once.”

“Things were different then,” I replied immediately before I could start to think talking to her was a good idea. “It’s a new millennium.”

While not overly forthcoming with personal details, a few students did know that her spouse wasn’t a Mr. and was instead another Mrs. Sharp. She wasn’t trying to catch Luke in a lie anymore; she wanted to be supportive and helpful, pay it forward to the next generation of queer people or whatever. Only the more time I spent talking to her about this, the better likelihood I’d accidentally spill everything.

 “Time doesn’t move that fast in towns like this,” she countered knowingly.

“I invoke my fifth amending right to not incriminate myself.” The little part of me that was sane and logical that I should listen to more? It was so embarrassed right now. It started packing its bags and preparing to flee the country.

“Can we get back on topic?” She wasn’t smiling but her eyes held that glint I was unfortunately familiar with that said, ‘puny human, you’re only alive right now because you amuse me.’

“Do we have to?” I asked hopefully.

“Yes,” she decided. “Luke didn’t get much of an adjustment period before he was outed, did he?”

“I invoke his fifth amended right—” Sayonara sucker, said that rational part of my brain.

“You can’t do that and I fail to see why anything about that question would be incriminating.” Because she had no idea how right she was. How little an adjustment period he really had. He went from zero to gay in, well, really fast. “I thought we had resolved our differences.”

I considered leveling with her for one second about how everything had happened so fast and I did worry about Luke’s ability to handle this new normal where he dated a boy and everyone knew about. The happy little bubble we were in couldn’t last forever, could it? And what happened when it popped?

It was a nice second, imagining getting feedback from an adult who could relate to my problems. But then it ended and I said, “Luke and I are guys. We’re bad at talking about our feelings. If you want to discuss football or boobs-” Oh god, what am I saying? “Well, no, not that one. I mean, you might like that topic—” I cut off with a strangled noise and pressed my lips tightly together to avoid saying other terrible things.

Her face mostly looked horrified, but she huffed out a laugh like she couldn’t help herself before making an observation that, “You are always so weird when broaching this topic.”

“I’m not hiding something!” I hollered like someone who was totally hiding something.

“All evidence always points to the contrary,” she told me. Oh god, had I given things away anyway? Could I get away with pretending to faint? However, she wasn’t done. “Despite your… eccentricities, I do believe you.”

“You do?” Was this a trap? I prepared myself for a trap. My muscles clenched in anticipation like she was actually going to spring a physical trap.

She must have noticed because her tone was almost gentle when she said, “I have eyes and I know you and Luke are genuinely together. Everyone does.” She did smile then and it amazingly didn’t look out of place on her face. “So instead of offering you my support, I’ll give you some advice instead.” She put a hand my shoulder. “Relax. Enjoy it.”

Then she sauntered away. I had no idea what to do with almost that entire interaction, but she was right about one thing. I planned to enjoy every second I got to spend with Luke Chambers.

 

* * *

 

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

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

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

Let’s talk about something less embarrassing.

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

Did we even have hall monitors? Would there be a hall monitor before school started?

Probably not. Okay, that was one less thing to worry about.

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

He had no right to be annoyed. I was early. I woke up before the sun, guzzled coffee, and rushed off to school. Okay, I left out the getting ready part, which took considerable work. Not that I was wearing anything fancy. I aimed for that “no, I woke up this way” casual perfection look, but it took hella effort. Worth it though. Luke was a 10. I didn’t want to contemplate my own number, but it was lower, so there was no way I could leave the house without putting my best effort forward. Had to keep my boo interested.

“I’m here before class,” I told his frowning face when I arrived.

“You’re 15 minutes late.” Luke crossed his arms in front of him, so I don’t know how I was expected to pay attention when his arm muscles bulged out like that. He sighed and put his arms down at his sides like he knew what I was thinking. His serious expression turned a bit bitchy as he waited for an answer from me.

“I got you a coffee,” I said, holding it up enticingly and batting my eyes at him.

“Do you stop to get coffee every day?” asked my pretty, stupid, jerk boyfriend. Hostility wasn’t as prominent in our relationship as it used to be, but it was Luke and I, so it wasn’t at zero either. I wasn’t feeling charitable after dragging my ass out of bed so early and doing verbal gymnastics with Mrs. Sharp.

“No,” I lied. We didn’t have a Starbucks, but the diner in town was undoubtedly cheaper and they gave me extra whipped cream for free.

Luke radiated judgement and disappointment. “I was hoping you’d actually get here when you said.” Luke had a classic Midwest, buff farm boy look made better by gorgeous blonde hair, green eyes, and dimples. He has strong arms, a tan, and a fit body from spending so much time outside playing baseball and working on his family’s farm.

“Technically, I’m still early,” I pointed out and grinned. “This is cause for celebration.” We may not be able to make out in front of my locker but that didn’t mean we couldn’t find a secluded spot to spend some time together.

“Yeah, that’s what I planned on doing,” he nodded then made an exaggerated face of realization. “Except, wait, school starts in five minutes.”

I pouted. “You can’t say that and not follow through.”

 “You’re the one who didn’t get here when you said you would! It’s time to get to homeroom.” He shoved me lightly in that direction, but I stepped closer to him instead.

“I’ve barely seen you.” I increased my pout. My friends Alicia and Lydia thought I couldn’t pull off this look at all, which I might have to concede as Luke appeared unphased. That was so unfair because his pouty look was irresistible. But most of his looks were irresistible.

“Whose fault is that?” he said matter of factly. Even him being a bossy know-it-all held appeal.

I didn’t give up. “I’m here before the bell. Don’t you want to encourage this behavior? If a lecture is my reward, why would I show up early again?”

“I see what you’re doing,” he informed me seriously.

“I thought you were supposed to find an incentive,” I coaxed.

“It won’t work,” he assured me, but I saw his fingers twitch like they wanted to reach out and touch me.

“Wanna bet?” We drifted closer. Our chests touched. The fog in my brain started to lift as my body touched Luke. He was better than coffee.

Luke’s voice drew me away from my thoughts. “The whole point of you being here early is for you to make it to homeroom on time.” Making it to homeroom on time wasn’t high on my list of goals but the threats from my homeroom teacher were increasing.

“And I will,” I assured. Luke didn’t like when I got detention. He was helping me avoid the teacher’s wrath, what a sweetheart.

“So that you don’t get a detention,” he carried on. “Again.”

“We still have a few minutes. The sooner you agree with me, the sooner we can start kissing,” I told him while brushing a finger against his arms that had crossed again in his attempt to stay strong and send me off to homeroom. “The sooner we start kissing, the sooner we can stop.” Not that I looked forward to that part. Luke frowned. The giddy feeling running through me at being in contact with him doubled because he didn’t like that part either. “And then we can make it to homeroom. The more you protest, the less time we have,” I concluded reasonably.

He glared at me. A muscle in his jaw twitched. “Come on,” he said, taking my hand and dragging me with him. I got a little thrill out of his hand in mine.

“You sure know how to make a girl feel wanted,” I teased. “Don’t you have any sweet nothings to whisper in my ear?” Truthfully, angry, glaring Luke wasn’t a turn off. I loved that I could rile him up.

Most people were busy heading towards classes or trying to wake up and gave us no mind. Sometimes people still stared though. We try not to be too obvious, but I think us standing within 10 feet of each other and looking in the other’s direction is too much for some of the most small-minded here.

Luke pulled me along easily until I saw where he was taking me. “No,” I said and stopped moving. “People don’t actually make out in storage closets, do they?”

“This is the closest place for privacy.” He raised an eyebrow pointedly. “If we had more time…”

Ugh, fine. We rushed inside and closed the door. I told him, “We can argue with each other later.”

“Let’s set up the place and time,” he muttered before our lips crashed together. Oh funny, could Luke be funny before he started dating me? I blamed my good influence.

“Why?” I asked between kisses. “You know I’ll just be late.”

Luke shook his head as his arms circled around me. “Hate you so much.”

“No, you don’t,” I said and set about proving that.

I was late to homeroom anyway.

 

* * *

 

Luke

My stupid boyfriend couldn’t be on time to save his life. He made me late too, but coach would probably just make me run a few extra laps, not give me a detention since it didn’t happen every single day like with Ryan. He would have only been a little late if he just went to homeroom once we heard the first bell ring but instead he walked with me. We were back by my locker.

“We never have time to see each other before class,” Ryan told me. “Why are you so quick to deprive me of that?”

Realistically, I wasn’t going to get Ryan to homeroom in time. It had already started. That didn’t mean I was going to give up. Showing up was better than completely ditching. “We never do that because you’re never on time.” My tone was serious while he stood smiling and batting his hazel eyes at me like a big goofball.

“And I never will be again,” he replied quickly. “Don’t waste the moment, Luke.”

He fluttered his lashes and bit his lip and tried to act all coy, but he appeared a bit deranged instead. It should look ridiculous on a tall guy with masculine features and it did, but Ryan was ridiculous, so it was endearing instead of repulsive. I had weird taste in guys.

Well, I didn’t know if I liked guys. In guy. I had weird taste in guy.

We weren’t the only ones who weren’t where they were supposed to be. My best friend Zach Ahmad strolled past us to towards homeroom, which we shared because a lot of the baseball guys had homeroom with the baseball coach. It was dumb Ryan’s homeroom teacher was the football coach, but Eldridge didn’t care enough to make sure his team had him for homeroom.

I grabbed Zach’s arm before he could get too far. My best friend had seemed content to walk right by us, which might be rude if it were anyone else, but he also operated under the general rule that nothing important enough was ever happening before 9 am, so he was on autopilot until then.

“Wait for me,” I reached out a hand to stop him.

He stopped reluctantly. “Wait for you?” he repeated but in a much more judgmental tone.

“Yeah,” I repeated with a little huff. I already had to deal with Ryan’s chronically late ass, he didn’t need to make things more difficult. “That’s what I just said.”

We were like ten feet from the classroom we were supposed to be in, but we started a discussion instead of heading in there while Ryan seemed pleased that instead of me getting him to homeroom, he made me late instead.

“I’m already late and you want me to wait for you so we can walk 10 feet?” Zach questioned with one raised eyebrow. He had black hair, light brown skin, and always looked flawless.

“It’ll be better if we go in together.” Coach didn’t like it when we trailed in one by one after the bell. “Don’t be an asshole.”

Zach decided to be an asshole anyway. “How about I go in now and text you when I get there so you know I made it safe?”

I threw my hands up in annoyance. “Fine, forget it, just go.”

“No, I’m waiting for you now.” Zach planted his feet and leaned his back up against the lockers. “I hope the reality of this situation lives up to the expectation.”

“You guys are cute,” Ryan interjected.

Zach blinked like he forgot Ryan was there and his bored disdain for me faded until his face was blank. Weird, I thought they got along. In fact, they’d gotten along a little too well. If I hadn’t wised up and realized how I felt about Ryan, those two might be dating instead. If Zach could manage having a relationship longer than a week.

Before I could say anything, the principal walked towards us and stopped in front of us. Principal Simmons lived in a magical world where non-violent conflict resolution solved everything, writing things down in a handbook meant the students actually the abided by the rules, and having a tolerance policy was the same as having a tolerant school.

The principal was like my biggest supporter. I was pretty sure he’d never met gay people before. Or at least they didn’t tell him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought Mrs. Sharp had a husband instead of a wife. He was nice but a little too enthusiastic to support our differences or whatever.

He was elderly and out of touch, but he was also earnest and nice, so I kinda liked him anyway. The principal didn’t seem to care that none of us were where we were supposed to be.

“Well if it isn’t the dynamic trio,” Principal Simmons said happily.

I groaned. I had a lot in common with Zach. We both played baseball and had been friends since we were five. Zach and Ryan were both sarcastic assholes, so they probably had a fair amount in common. But the three of us together? There was only one thing I could think of.

“Us?” Zach asked. “The three of have barely anything in common except- oh, I get it now.”

Hey, I figured that out before Zach. I’m proud of myself. We were the three openly gay kids at school. Oh god, that was how people thought of us. Thought of me. I couldn’t handle that, so I teased Zach instead. “Dude.” I shook my head and gave a little chuckle at his expense. “Even I knew where he was going with it.”

Ryan nodded to Zach. “I’m a little disappointed in you.”

I was surprised Zach could summon so much hostility so early in the morning and doubly surprised he leveled it at Ryan. He didn’t like Ryan now that he wasn’t going to get anything from him? Figures. I’d have to talk to him about that later.

Now, Zach said, “It’s early and-” he started telling me and paused. “You know what? Do I need to explain myself?” It seemed like he was talking mostly to himself now. “No,” he decided with a nod. “No, I’m just going to walk away.” He started to go into class and the Principal stopped him.

“Have you heard back from the interviewer yet?” Simmons asked. Zach had met with someone from a foundation who gave college scholarships to openly gay athletes. Before he could answer, something occurred to the older man. “Even if you did hear back, I suppose I should make sure, are you still bisexual?”

“Uh.” Zach stared at him, his mouth hanging open for a moment before he shut it lest he look silly.

“I mean, you don’t have to tell me,” Simmons rushed to add, “but if you’ve chosen one…” This was still super awkward but at least he asked the question. Now I wouldn’t have to ask it myself and face the withering look he directed at the Principal.

“Let’s just always assume I’m still bisexual,” Zach said slowly.

“Oh, oh, how progressive.” The Principal nodded. “What a good attitude.”

Zach looked to me and Ryan. “Do I have to respond to that? Does he want me to respond to that?” Okay, I guess the principal didn’t really have a right to ask. Still saved me from doing it instead, so I felt charitable towards him.

Until Simmons kept talking. “You know there’s so many opportunities to take advantage of here. Maybe you should start an official club, a straight-gay alliance? Or I could take a picture of you for the board.” I was already gawked at by students. I didn’t a group of adults acting like I was a zoo exhibit too. “Or—”

“Huh, look at that,” Zach cut in. “I picked one. I’m straight. Bye.” He moved to walk away again.

“Well,” the principal rallied, “You could still be an ally.”

“No, I’m very homophobic,” Zach insisted. He gestured to me and Ryan. “These two? Ew. Sickening.” Zach frowned. “Did that sound-?” he asked Ryan, who tilted his head, face reading ‘kinda.’ What?

Zach cleared his throat. “Sickening,” he said in a monotone. “There. Bye.” He left that time.

“What an interesting young man,” Simmons remarked, “My granddaughter has a crush on him. Too bad he’s gay.” He waved and went on his way.

“He doesn’t understand bisexuality,” Ryan commented about the principal.

True, but I wasn’t sure Zach did either. He really did seem gay when he was going after Ryan. Since then, I hadn’t seen him express interest in another guy. I had seen him flirt with girls and occasionally even make out with girls despite not really wanting to see that. He was basically straight now.

“You can use the principal as an excuse for being late,” I told Ryan. I don’t think Mr. Eldridge even cared that much. He just did what the rules said, but getting stopped by the principal would probably be sufficient reason for being late.

Ryan shrugged. “Let’s just cut our losses and go make out some more.”

Tempting, but I didn’t want him getting another detention. “Go,” I shoved him away. He grumbled but went.

I sat next to Zach in homeroom. What he and Ryan had been talking about clicked in my brain. Sickening.

“You sounded like you were from that,” I lowered my voice and looked around conspiratorially before whispering, “drag queen show Ryan watches.” That was how he said sickening, like they did. Yes, I was dating a guy. I still didn’t need anyone else to know Ryan had subjected me to a marathon of drag queens. Thankfully, it was too early for anyone to pay attention.

Zach just shrugged.

 “You like that show?” I asked. It was like our world, only different. All the girls were boys, shade was apparently a bad thing, and lip syncing held a great deal of importance.

The guys on there were all gay and I guess Zach was too? I could assign some gay stereotypes to him like that was fashionable, but I still couldn’t imagine him being that gay.

Zach rolled his eyes. “I’m human, gay, and I have a TV. Of course I like it.”

I frowned. “I don’t.”

There wasn’t even actual racing. It didn’t have to be NASCAR, but it was just a bunch of guys in women’s clothes walking down a runway and insulting each other. Even something like the Amazing Race would have been fine. That also had race in the title and actually involved, you know, a race.

“Oh my god,” Zach looked like talking to me pained him, but he looked like that a lot. “You don’t have to—”

“You just said that all gay humans with TVs like that show,” I reminded him. “I fit all those things, I think.” Unless I wasn’t really gay. I was definitely human and owned a TV.

“Luke, it really doesn’t mean anything.” He sounded annoyed he’d been dragged into this conversation but still earnest.

“Okay, whatever.” I didn’t sound convinced.

 “Look, I have better style than absolutely everyone in this town, right?” He asked but didn’t let me answer. “And I love both making and hearing bitchy comments, right? So, isn’t the show pretty much made for me?”

He let me answer that time.

“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” I conceded.

Then we’d missed whatever morning announcements we were supposed to hear, and it was time to go to our first class. I hadn’t even meant to get into a discussion about this first thing in the morning. These days, I was able to put thoughts about who I was out of my head for a little while, but they never stayed gone for long.

I used to know. I was Luke Chambers, popular and good looking, I made captain of the baseball team as a junior. I was confident and in charge. I was athletic, I had a loving family, I did okay in school, and I worked on the family farm when I had free time.

Also, I was supposedly one of three openly gay kids in a conservative, Midwest town.

Though in my case, I was only openly gay because I hadn’t thought I was actually gay or whatever. Which sounds confusing but wasn’t. I was in trouble for using a gay slur once and I didn’t want a suspension, so I said I was gay. And then maybe to make it extra believable I said I was dating Ryan Miller. And then there was kissing and outings and, well. Maybe it was a little confusing.

I was sure as hell confused.

I got a boyfriend out of necessity and didn’t know I’d actually like him. Now I was already out and proud even though in reality I’d barely gotten to the out part, let alone the proud thing.

My life made no sense anymore, so I did as little thinking about it as possible. Finding time to make out with Ryan throughout the day? That made perfect sense when it was happening but when I thought about how I was dating a guy… it was a little hard to believe.

If there were a checklist for being straight, I would check every item on the box. Or I did until recently, but not having a boyfriend when you were a guy was probably right there at the top of the list. However, when it came to being gay, I didn’t hit any of those boxes either. And I couldn’t say I liked guys and girls because I didn’t like guys. Just the one.

Was being gay supposed to fit into the rest of me with ease?

It didn’t.