Greetings, friends! I’m back with a sneak peek from another of my queer book projects, this one a YA novel entitled, The Boy Who Was Kissed. This book involves wholesome queer love triangles, questionable music choices, and grumpy soccer boys dancing on rainbow-bedecked Homecoming floats (or, actually, just one). Venture below for more!
(Also, if you’d like to see some awesome commissioned art from The Boy Who Was Kissed and listen to me ramble about the plot, head over to my YouTube channel and watch this video all about it!)
The Boy Who Was Kissed
Sixteen-year-old Jasper Sinclair has one big regret: When his best friend Felix Morales kissed him in fifth grade, Jasper didn’t kiss him back. Instead, he pushed Felix away and let him drift out of his life. Now, six years later, Jasper finds himself at a new school that just happens to have Felix in it, and he finally has the chance to make things right. But when Jasper tracks Felix down, he’s stunned to find that his former best friend has become unrecognizable. The sweet, dorky kid he remembers is now one of the sports gods of the school, with a girlfriend on his arm and a crowd of friends whose chief hobbies are soccer and homophobia.
Reaching the Felix he once knew won’t be easy, but luckily Jasper has help in the form of Cameron Matsumoto-Rogers, president of the school’s QSA and sunshine incarnate. As Cam and Jasper hatch a plan to throw Felix and Jasper together, Jasper can’t help noticing that he’s happier than he’s ever been, and it’s Cam, not Felix, who is making him feel that way.
When Operation Felix starts to go a little too well, Jasper is faced with a choice: Embrace the lost love he’s been pining for all these years, or explore the new love that’s been growing right under his nose.
Queer Content: Gay (M/M) , Lesbian (F/F), features transgender and nonbinary characters
“Dad, calm down, I’m not gonna be late.”
Dad wipes his hands on his sunny yellow apron and sets a plate of scrambled eggs on the table in front of me. As he takes off the apron, I notice he’s wearing his PROUD BLACK NERD T-shirt and can’t help a grin.
“I’m perfectly calm,” Dad says in his usual measured tones. His glasses slide down his nose and he adjusts them with a flour-speckled finger. “I just think you might want to consider the fact that you’re still in your pajamas, sitting down to breakfast, when you have to be at school in—”
“Twenty-five minutes,” I say. “I know. It’s plenty of time, I promise.” I laugh as I take a bite of my toast. “Anyway, I’m the new guy. If I show up late, I can always say I got lost or something.”
Dad rolls his eyes at me, but he’s smiling. It’s good to see, honestly. There were whole months after Mom left when he practically never smiled, but now it’s like he’s finally getting back to who he was before. Or maybe this is a new him, a better him. I hope this year I can be a better me, too.
“Fine,” he says, lifting his hands in classic well, I tried fashion. “You’re almost seventeen, and you’re clearly far too old to need your dear old dad’s advice. Just don’t come crying to me if you end up in detention on your first day.”
“In the unlikely event that I get detention, I promise to keep my tears far away from you.”
“Much appreciated,” Dad says dryly.
Despite my words, I wolf down my breakfast in three minutes flat, deposit the empty plate in the dishwasher, and thunder up the stairs to my room to get dressed. I’m pretty nervous, to be honest, and not just because this is my first day at a new school in a completely new town. Because it’s finally going to happen, isn’t it? I’ve been dreading and dreaming of this moment for years, and it’s finally here. It almost doesn’t feel real.
I want to just throw on any outfit like I don’t care how I look, but who am I kidding? It’s not like I think Felix will be more inclined to forgive me if I look good today, but I figure it can’t hurt. I debate a few different options and finally settle on an orange T-shirt, gray zip-up sweatshirt, and jeans miraculously free of holes. I give my black curls a quick finger-comb, cram books, notebooks, and a worn cloth pencil case into my backpack, and then there’s nothing to do but go.
Dad finds me standing by the front door a few minutes later, my backpack hanging from my shoulder and my jaw tight as I try to convince my fingers to turn the knob. His hand settles on my shoulder and gives it a quick squeeze.
“I can give you a ride, if you want,” he says gently.
Some of the nerves melt away, and I give him a lopsided smile over my shoulder. “It’s okay, Dad. I got it.”
He opens the door for me, and I head out into the driveway to the old clunker car Uncle Ronnie gave me for my birthday last year. It’s an absolute piece of crap, but I don’t think I’ve ever loved anything more.
“Drive safe, Jasper!” Dad shouts from the porch. I throw him a wave as I climb into the clunker and coax the engine into starting up.
Gravel crunches under the wheels of the car and I’m off, rattling down the road toward Nelson Springs High and the boy whose life I ruined six years ago.
* * *
The weirdest thing is, I didn’t even know it was the same school. When Dad talked about a new town, a fresh start after the divorce, I didn’t suffer from any of the angst you’d expect when asked to uproot my entire life. Honestly, I think I was a little relieved. I never really felt like I fit in at my old school, and while I wasn’t bullied, I didn’t exactly have friends, either. Not since Felix.
So when Dad suggested moving to Nelson Springs, I was actually kind of looking forward to the fresh start. And one school was pretty much like any other, right? Just something I had to get through until I could graduate, get accepted to some amazing university in Europe, and finally figure out what I want to do with my life.
And then one night about a week before the big move, I was doing a mindless late-night Insta-scroll when my eyes snagged on a familiar name.
Someone I vaguely knew from school had liked one of his posts, and now here was his name, staring up at me from the screen like an accusation. I probably should’ve had some long moment of hesitation, weighing the pros and cons of Insta-stalking my former best friend, but I clicked on his name so quickly I’m surprised my mouse didn’t catch fire.
There weren’t that many pictures on his page, and his profile pic was just an artful shot of a boy-shaped figure by a lake at dusk, but my stomach got all funny and fluttery as I scrolled. There were a lot of pictures of a criminally adorable white dog, some shots of blue skies and sunsets, and one photo of a good-looking guy standing with his soccer team in front of a red brick school building.
The good-looking guy, I realized when I zoomed in on the picture, was Felix. When I’d known him back in fifth grade, he’d been scrawny and awkward, but the Felix in the photo was tall and lean and really looked like someone who’d be posing with a soccer team after a successful match. His face had lost its childhood roundness and now was all chiseled angles, and he’d grown out his hair so it hung in soft brown waves around his face. His posture was different, too, exuding an easy confidence as he cradled a soccer ball against his hip.
I realized I’d forgotten to breathe and sucked in a lungful of air.
And then I noticed the sign in the back of the photo, bronze letters on the school building that read, NELSON SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL.
Everything fell into place.
My mind buzzed with so many thoughts I thought I’d never get to sleep that night, and when I finally drifted off, my dreams took me to the last place I wanted to go.
Straight back to the worst day of my life.
Two boys sit together on a playground. They’ve been best friends forever, which is to say they met the previous September on the first day of school. They talk, laugh, play video games, have sleepovers at each other’s houses, and spend every available second together.
It’s a beautiful May afternoon and they’re lounging on the grass behind the school swing set, spending their recess plucking dandelions from the ground and throwing them at each other. This turns into playful wrestling, and somehow they end up with one boy beneath, one boy above, their faces an inch apart. The one on top hesitates, then ducks down and presses his lips to the other boy’s, sweetly and quickly.
Everything goes still. There’s blank astonishment on the lower kid’s face, but a smile starts pulling at his lips. He’s just opening his mouth to say something when an eruption of sound jolts the two boys apart.
A girl stands behind them, pointing and making a disgusted face. “Ew, he kissed him!”
Other voices sound, other faces appear, and there are pointing fingers and laughter, a group converging to stare and mock. The boy who kissed watches this transpire with gentle confusion on his face, but the boy who was kissed backs away and contorts his own face to match the onlookers.
“Yeah, gross!” he says, even though it wasn’t gross at all.
The boy who kissed him stares at him, and something dies in his eyes.
They don’t talk or even look at each other for the rest of recess, and there are no more sleepovers after that, and no more sitting next to each other or being best friends or any kind of friends at all. The boy who kissed gets laughed at more often, and shoved sometimes, and eventually it gets bad enough that his parents decide to move him to another school, far away from the laughter of the bullies and the accusing eyes of the boy he kissed.
The boy who was kissed misses his friend, practically aches for him when he’s gone, but it’s a long time before he figures out why. And it’s even longer before he has a chance to make things right.
* * *
My pulse thrums in my ears as I pull into a parking space in the student lot, and suddenly I’m thinking about ten-year-old Felix curled up in a sleeping bag on my bedroom floor, telling me about how he gets panic attacks sometimes and the only way he can calm down is by thinking about me.
“I just imagine you’re there with me,” he whispers. His brown eyes look huge and luminous in the moonlight streaming in from the window. “And you’re saying, ‘You’re fine, Felix, you’re completely fine,’ and then I just am. I’m fine. When you tell me I’m okay, I always believe it. Even when it’s just the you in my imagination.”
My gut twists with guilt all over again, and I take a deep breath and let it seep out slowly through my lips. Then I gather up my stuff and head up the front steps to Nelson Springs High.
I’m not late but I’m not early either, and there are a lot of kids milling around the halls, retrieving books from their lockers, talking to their friends, or leaning sleepily against the wall staring at their phones. My eyes snap to the face of every person I pass, but none of them are Felix, and I start to worry that maybe he doesn’t even go to this school. Maybe his soccer team was at an away game here and just decided to pose for a picture, and I’ll never get the chance to make things right with him after all.
I pass a bulletin board full of notices, one of which is a rainbow-colored poster about a lunchtime Queer Straight Alliance meeting today in room 215. I discover my locker a few steps later, and it takes me three tries to open it because I keep glancing over my shoulder at every person who passes.
I’ve just finished dumping in my afternoon books when a blur of movement catches my eye, and I turn to see a locker five or six down from mine swinging open. When it swings shut, I stare straight into Felix’s brown eyes.
There’s a moment of blankness, and then his eyes widen and his mouth opens and I know he’s about to say my name, I know it. I can’t get over how tall he is now, taller than me, or how I can glimpse tan biceps beneath the sleeves of his T-shirt, muscled legs beneath his loose, sporty blue shorts. He’s about as far removed from awkward little fifth grade Felix as I can imagine, but his eyes are the same, soft and brown and staring into mine like he can see straight into the deepest heart of me.
And then the moment breaks and he walks away.
I stand there, stunned, and watch him go. He trades greetings and fist bumps with a bunch of athletic looking guys along the way, and a girl with a long, honey-blond ponytail slides her arm around him and leans her head against his shoulder as they walk. I don’t jolt out of my daze until the first bell rings, and then I gather up my books and my wounded heart and head to first period.