Chapter 1

 

 

“PLEASE,” AARON said, looking a little desperate.

Chris kept his hand on the doorknob and glared at him. “I hate you,” he said, almost a snarl, and yanked open the door. “I’m done.” With that, the man strode out the door, pulling it shut with such force that Aaron thought for a moment the glass might shatter.

Aaron couldn’t move. He brought a hand to his mouth and desperately tried to force himself to run, to follow, to plead. His whole body shook, but he couldn’t move forward, only backward, step by step until his back hit a wall, and then he slid, bonelessly, to the floor. He gulped, his eyes fixed on the door. “Chris….”

But Chris was gone. He was gone. The reality sunk into Aaron and seeped slowly into his bones and pores until the raw emotion of it hit him, and he sobbed helplessly, pulling his knees to his chest and burying his head between them.

It took him over an hour to drag his phone out and press the numbers on the smooth screen that would call someone. He knew he had said something into it, screamed something desperate into the phone that couldn’t begin to describe what he felt. Then his phone was discarded carelessly on the floor, and he was screaming, and weeping, and hugging his knees, arms around them tight as if he were holding something precious.

It didn’t take long. There was the sound of a key in the lock, and then rapid footsteps, and then Aaron was wrapped in soft arms, pulling him into the warmth of a soft and ample bosom. Fingers stroked his hair. And he cried.

 

 

Thirteen years earlier

 

AARON WAS held. But he wasn’t held the way he wanted to be. Not by the person he wanted, needed to hold him. After a few moments, she eased away to look at him.

“Better?” she asked.

Aaron shook his head. “Chris hates me.”

“Again?” Jenny asked.

Aaron swatted at her arm half-heartedly. “Stop it,” he said. “I’m being serious.”

“What did you do?” she said.

“It has to be me doing something?”

“Yeah,” Jenny said. “It does.”

“I sorta, maybe, kissed him,” Aaron said, chagrinned at how sheepish he sounded.

“You sorta kissed him?” asked Jenny. “How do you sorta kiss someone?”

“Okay, I really seriously kissed him. With tongue.” Aaron screwed his eyes shut. “He wasn’t ready.”

“Well, duh. Aaron, he’s a track star. Half the girls in the school are after him and his dad is freaking out that the poor guy isn’t dating. Except he is, honey. He’s dating you.”

“I don’t think he understood what that meant,” Aaron said, opening his eyes to look directly at Jenny. “Until today.”

“Hon, you’re worrying too much. Here’s the question, and it’s important. Before it hit him. Before he realized what it meant and how complicated his life was gonna get. Did he kiss back?”

Aaron shut his eyes and smiled at the memory. “Yeah. Yeah he did.”

“And how did that make you feel?”

“Like the world had stopped,” Aaron said. “Like it was just us. Forever.”

“Hon, not everyone is a walking pride parade. He’s still afraid, and his parents don’t know. They can’t. Hell, they hate that he even knows you, much less hangs out with you.” Jenny shook her head. “You’re lucky they haven’t put an end to that too.”

“So what do I do?” asked Aaron, leaning back to stare at the sky, his arms rigid, hands planted against the ground behind him.

“Convince him that you’re worth it.”

Aaron gulped. “What if I’m not?”

Jenny leveled a stare at him.

“What if I can’t convince him?”

“Then you try harder,” Jenny said.

Aaron stared at the sky. “It’s very beautiful out here,” he said.

Jenny set a hand reassuringly on his shoulder. “He’d like this. And you’d be alone.”

“Am I a horrible person to want to do it again? To want to do more?” asked Aaron.

“You’re a teenager,” Jenny said. “We’re supposed to be all hormones, remember?”

Aaron smiled. “I’m going to do it again, Jenny. I’m going to kiss him again.”