Yes or No
Amy unfolds the note, revealing big, bubbly handwriting.
She smiles and scribbles down her answer.
"Amy," Ms. Peters calls.
"Would you care to share with the rest of the class?"
"Yes." Slowly, she stands and faces her girlfriend, who sits across the room. "I'll go to prom with you."
His parents' eyes are on him.
His heartrate spikes. His thoughts race, his gaze downcast. Sweaty palms are clasped together on his lap. Fingers fidget.
Face them or hide. Put on an act. Deny himself. Hurt alone. His vision waters. He's fifteen, but he's done this since he was seven. He can't take it anymore.
"I-I'm gay," he confesses.
Mom scoots on the couch to his side. "We know," she soothes.
"It's okay," Dad assures, moving to sit beside him.
Built-up tension leaves him. He cries, hard.
His parents embrace him.
His head hurts, but he feels lighter, more free.
A Quick Update
Hello, everyone! Hope you're all well. While I do plan on finishing and posting an entry for the current Challenge of the Week, I also plan on writing a piece dedicated to my grandpa. He passed away at the end of last week. I think writing about him will help me through the grieving process. I'm still very much in the denial stage. His health had deteriorated so quickly. His wake will be held tomorrow and his funeral the day after. I think the next two days will be challenging for me, but I'm going to do my best to grieve and cope in healthy ways that'll be a benefit to me as opposed to relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms, like self-harm. So I won't be too active this week, but I intend on being more active next week. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate this community and I want very much to continue being apart of it. Can't wait to read more of your work! Be well. Happy writing!
A Young Man and His Dog
I took the dog. Yeah, that's right. I dognapped Bear. Tied him up, muzzled him, threw him into the back of my Jeep and as you're reading this, I'm holding him captive in a cabin in the woods that's smack dab in the middle of nowhere. If you want him (and all of his belongings) to be returned safely, leave a duffle bag or several (however many it takes) containing one billion dollars in cash to the specified address. Nah, I'm just joshin' ya. You seriously didn't think that I dognapped Bear, did you? He's named Bear for a reason. For those of you who are unaware (all two of you), Bear is a 150 pound Saint Bernard. He's not going anywhere unless he wants to. As for the money, I know that we're well off, but we're not THAT well off. I hope you didn't call the cops. Please, don't call the cops. This isn't me being reckless or spontaneous, either. If it was, I wouldn't have involved Bear in any way. So, there's no need to send a search party out for me. And yes, Mom, I remembered my meds. I'll be having phone sessions with my therapist and psychiatrist for the next year and I'll make sure Dr. Brooks sends the prescription for my medication to whatever pharmacy is closest to our place up in the Catskills. Yes, that's where we'll be for the next year. It's not in the middle of nowhere so you don't need to worry, although you'll probably worry anyway. That's just the way you guys are and that's fine and all, but I just had to get away. There's this idea for a book that I've had for the longest time. I just haven't gotten around to it because of all of the distractions at home: TV, video games (As much as I love playing CoD with you bros, it's become an addiction and I need to step away from it for a while. Here's to hoping we'll still be best buds next year so that we could play more and I could play less. A hell of a lot less.), the internet, my parents. No offense. You guys have a tendency to hover and I get why you do it, but to be honest, it's kind of annoying and as implied, it's really distracting, too. I need my own space to focus and give this story the attention it needs. (As an aside, this will be good practice for me. This will give me more of a sense of what it's like to live on my own, so I'll be better prepared for the day when I finally move out.) This story will be about a kid and his dog. Sound familiar? What sets our old dog, Max, and I apart from the main character and his dog is that they solve a series of murders by communicating with the spirits of those who have been murdered. Dark, I know, but I think the subject matter suits the main character's struggles with mental illness, if that makes sense. As you might have already guessed, the main character will struggle with his bipolar depression, same as me. The dog is there as emotional support and a protector of sorts, like Max was to me growing up and how Bear is with me now. I think spending time in the mountains with Bear will serve as a great source of inspiration for me. I hope you all will understand. I wish you all the best. See you next May.
From Your Boys,
Aaron and Bear
PS. In the event of an emergency, please don't hesitate to call. If not, and I say this in the nicest way possible, leave me alone.
Best Friends For Life
(This is for my own best friend for life and my first fan. I love you, Dan. <3)
It's the Spring of Brooke's last year of high school. It's a nice day out. Not too hot, not too cold. The sun is high in the sky. There's not a cloud to be seen.
Brooke spends her lunch break out on the quad with her best friend, Skye, who sits by her side on a bench. Skye has such good vibes. She's bright and full of joy, much like a dog.
She has a short bob of blonde hair and bangs. Her eyes are a light blue, like the sky. Hence her name. She has a cute gold star look that day. Two are in her ears. One hangs off her neck. More shoot through the dark blue night sky on her shirt. She wears a jean skirt, black tights with half moons and blue flats to match.
Next to Skye, Brooke feels like such a slob in her PINK sweats and white tank top. Her long black hair is tied up in a bun that is a huge mess on top of her head. It looks like a rat's nest. Skye is not one to judge, though.
Brooke's crush, Jay, is the same as Skye in that way. He stands with a group of his friends on the other side of the quad. Jay is on the tall side. He has short, brown hair and light brown eyes. He has a cool look of his own. He wears a black and white skull tee. His black jeans are ripped, his black boots worn. At a glance, he may look cold, but that is just a front to keep those who might pick on him at bay. When Brooke got to know him, she saw that he was a warm, kind guy.
"So," Brooke starts. She drags out the O. Her gaze drifts from Jay back to Skye. "I think I will tell him how I feel."
"Yay!" Skye cheers. She hops in her seat and claps her hands.
"And then, I will ask him if he wants to go to prom with me." Brooke says.
"That's great!" Skye says. "You two would make such a cute pair."
"You think so?" Brookes asks, her face warm with a blush.
"I know so." Skye grins. "I thought of a good ship name for you guys: Bay. You know, like a sea bay, 'cept you will be his bae and he will be your bae. Get it?"
Brooke laughs and nods. "I got it, Skye." She eyes Jay. "You think I should tell him now?"
Skye shrugs. "If you want."
Brooke stands. "I think I will."
"Sweet! Go for it, girl. I will be right here."
If she knew she would do this, Brooke would have worn her hair down. She would have worn that cute jean dress she wore last week. "Nice dress," Jay told her then. "Looks good on you." But it was too late for that. She does not have to tell him now, but she wants to. Prom is at the end of the month and if he does say yes, she wants his suit to match her dress.
Brooke takes the tie out of her hair. She combs her hands through the knots and mess and then ties her hair back in a neat tail. "Does this look good?" she asks. "Do I look good?"
"You look great, Brooke." Skye rolls her eyes. "Now go get 'im." Skye gives her a light push, not to shove, but to coax.
Brooke takes a deep breath in, then a deep breath out. "Here I go." With her heart in her throat, Brooke walks to him. His back is to her. "Hey, Jay," she greets.
Jay turns to her.
Her heart twirls with joy.
"Hey, Brooke," he greets in his deep, smooth voice. "What's up?"
"Is it cool if I talk to you for a sec?" she asks, then eyes his friends. "Just you?"
"Sure," he says. "Be right back, guys." He waves a hand at them.
Some wave back. Some nod.
Brooke leads him off to the side.
"So, what did you want to say?" he asks.
Brooke can't quite meet his eye. She wrings her hands. "Well, I, uh..." When did her throat get so dry? She gulps. "I know it might not be your thing, so feel free to say no, but I just thought I would ask...I mean, prom is soon and...I like you, Jay. Like, I like like you. Would you like to go to prom with me?"
"Oh," he says.
That is not a good 'oh'. Brooke's heart drops. She looks at him at last. He frowns. His eyes are wide. He shifts from his right foot to his left and back once more. His right hand rubs his neck. The thumb of his left is hooked through one of his belt loops.
"Look, Brooke," he starts. "I think you're cool and all, but I don't think of you that way." Her heart breaks. Her eyes fill with tears. She blinks them back. "I just see you as a friend. I hope we could still be, you know, friends." He laughs. The sound is full of nerves. "My bad. I'm so cringe."
Brooke does not know what to say. Her mind is blank.
The bell rings.
"I will text you," Jay tells her, then jogs to meet up with his friends.
Skye sees this and skips to her side. "How did it go?"
"Oh, Brooke." Skye frowns and moves to hug her. Brooke hugs her back. "I feel so bad. I should not have pushed you to tell him."
Brooke shakes her head. "Don't feel bad," she says through her tears. "I told him for me. It's not like you made me tell him."
"I know, but still..." Skye trails off, but rubs Brooke's back.
They're late for their next class.
Jay texts her when she gets home. Skye is with her. They go to her room and Brooke works it out with Jay through text. Skye helps her through her tears.
'do u think we could still be friends?' he asks once more.
As much as it hurts, Brooke knows that it would hurt that much more if he was not in her life at all. So, she texts back, 'yeah.'
'cool c u @ school.'
Jay turns her down in a soft, kind way. It still hurts, though.
Skye is there to hug her once more. She stays to eat. They watch a fun chick flick when they're done. They eat ice cream. They laugh and joke and get brain freeze.
When it's time for Skye to leave, Brooke hugs her and says. "Thank you. You cheered me up big time."
"You don't need to thank me," Skye says. "That's what friends are for."
"Best friends," Brooke adds.
"For life," Skye says.
This will not be the first time a guy turns Brooke down. She will date young men in the next stage of her life. They will come and go. But through it all, Brooke knows that Skye will stay. Skye will be there for her. Brooke will be there for her, too. That is what it means to be best friends for life.
You Get What You Give
The energy you put out into the world will return back to you in kind.
Love is the Answer
The SEEDS of hatred were planted early. Ashley's parents would make examples out of people from the LGBTQ+ community whenever they appeared on the news. "Those people live blasphemous lifestyles. Men belong with women and vice versa. That is how God intended it. He doesn't make mistakes. The body you have is the one God intended for you. To tamper with it in any way is a sin against Him." These beliefs were the WATER which caused poisonous ivy vines to GROW and encase her heart in a vice-like grip.
Something else was FLOWERING alongside it. A pink rosebud. This was the happiness, love and affection she felt for her best friend, Olivia. These were feelings she should have for a boy, not another girl.
Even so, Ashley allowed curiosity to tempt her. One night, during her high school years, Ashley and Olivia were alone in her room, watching a romance movie. Ashley wondered aloud, "Do you want to try kissing?"
Ashley had gotten a taste of the forbidden FRUIT.
Her parents noticed how happy she'd gotten. Ashley lied, told them what they wanted to hear. She had gotten a boyfriend. That lie became truth.
Olivia found out. Called a SPADE a spade. Called Ashley a HOE. Gave her an ultimatum: "PICK me or him." Ashley chose him.
The poison killed the rosebud.
Desperately, Ashley searched for that feeling again in many boys and eventually men. The poison spread more and more. Made her sick inside.
It wasn't TILL she was living on her own that she began to DIG deep, upROOT it all. With help from those her parents condemned, she rid herself of the HARDY plant. Their love, acceptance and understanding created the antidote, which slowly but steadily healed her.
She could love again. With her whole heart.
While He Waited
There were two things Vito Monti didn't believe in: love and by extention, being a touchy-feely guy.
When he saw Kevin Cleary for the first time, that all changed. Vito found himself falling. Hard.
If Vito had met him back in college, things would be different. Maybe they'd meet at a dorm party. Vito would speak with him, get to know him some before he welcomed Vito's touch. Vito would lean up and whisper into Kevin's ear, "Wanna go back to my room?"
Vito imagined the pale skin of Kevin's earlobe turning red. "Yes," Kevin would whisper back, his voice soft and breathless.
A shot of hot arousal would pass through his groin (much like it did just now). Vito would take him by the hand and lead him through the halls back to his dorm room. He'd press Kevin's skinny ('Maybe a bit too skinny,' he thought, concerned) body against the door. Vito would loop his fingers through the belt loops of Kevin's beige slacks and gaze through the lens of his black-rimmed, rectangular glasses and into his warm, hazel eyes. He'd call Kevin beautiful, tell him just how much he wants him.
"I want you, too." Kevin would say. "I want you so bad."
Vito would ask Kevin what he wanted, exactly. He'd do anything and everything Kevin wanted. All the while, Vito would reach up to play with his red necktie. Kevin would answer, then Vito would caress his narrow face and freckles before he leaned up, meeting Kevin halfway in a slow, passionate kiss. He'd finally get a taste of those plump, pink lips and run his hands through Kevin's curly, red hair.
Unfortunately, they weren't students in college. They were in a shared therapists' office. Kevin was one of the therapists. Vito was his client.
The Hero's Newfound Steed
The hero rescues a captive dragon.
Love Conquers All
Two princesses unite their warring kingdoms.
Midnight on the Balcony
Two princes find love under moonlight.
Taking a Chance
As I turned into the parking lot, I spotted him standing outside of the Japanese restaurant. My heart made its presence known inside of my chest, beating in a panic. I made sure to park a little ways away so that he wouldn't see me.
One look at the clock told me what I already knew. 4:45. I was supposed to meet him here fifteen minutes ago. But I spent a little too long deciding what to wear. I didn't know how long he'd been waiting. Although I felt bad for running late, I had to take a moment to recompose myself.
Everything suddenly felt way too real. I texted, spoken to him over the phone and on Zoom. While those interactions were nerve-wracking in their own right, this was different. I couldn't see him over text or during a phone call, unless it was on Zoom in which case, there was a screen in between us. Now there was nothing for me to hide behind. No wall of text or laptop screen. I was out in the open, exposed. It was overwhelming.
Part of me wanted to speed on out of there, go home, lock myself up in my room and never come out again. To be honest, I was still relatively new to the dating scene. I'd only really been on one date before and that was years ago.
I was scared of the uncertainty. Nothing was set in stone. There was no telling where this relationship would go or even if it'd go anywhere at all.
More than anything, I was afraid of being hurt. I was afraid of making mistakes, falling short and ultimately getting rejected.
This fear has kept me from really trying or putting effort into anything for my entire life. I half-assed everything in school, even creative writing assignments. I didn't try much for myself, either. Not in my writing or my personal life. Sure, I sought help for my mental illnesses, but I hadn't done much to get out of my comfort zone. I didn't try to make new friends or put myself out there. Not until recently, anyway.
Now that I thought about it, I guess what I was truly afraid of was putting in the effort, giving it my best and then being told that my best wasn't good enough. That I wasn't good enough.
As much as I wanted to run and hide, it wouldn't feel right to turn back now. I wouldn't just be letting him down. I'd be letting myself down, too. If I gave up because of this fear, I'd only be feeding into it. That'd make it bigger, that much more of a beast than it already was. It'd be that much more difficult to face down the road. That was why I had to face it now. I had to start working on making it smaller, more manageable to deal with.
I owed it to myself to see this through. Come what may.
I produced a stick of gum from my purse, glad that I carried a pack of Trident with me. I could use something to soothe my nerves. Besides that, I could use something to keep my mouth from going dry while I spoke with him. One bite and there was a burst of flavor. A strong taste of peppermint spread through my mouth.
I took some deep breaths then met the determined sky blue eyes of my reflection in the rearview mirror. "You got this," I encouraged myself.
With that, I stepped out of the car and made my way through the parking lot towards him. He looked so handsome. I mean, he always looked handsome. He was an attractive guy. He was tall, dark-skinned, had a slim build. He looked especially handsome today in his red, plaid, short-sleeved button-up top, black slacks and matching dress shoes. It was reassuring to see that I hadn't overdressed or underdressed, for that matter. The extra time I took picking out this little black dress, matching stockings and heels was worth it.
When he saw me, he beamed, flashing his pearly whites. "Hey, Jess," he greeted.
"Hi, Roy." I greeted back with a smile.
He held out his arms a bit and I met him halfway in a hug.
"You look beautiful," he complimented as we pulled back.
My face grew warm with a blush. "Thank you," I replied, tucking some hair behind my ear. "You look handsome."
"I try." He shrugged.
"And you succeed." I added before I remembered to apologize. "I'm sorry for being late, by the way. Were you waiting long?"
He shook his head. "Nah, it's all good," he assured. "I wasn't waiting that long."
He moved to open the door for me. As I walked past him, I complimented him again, pleased. "What a gentleman."
"Milady," he responded, tipping his imaginary fedora at me.
I couldn't help but giggle.
Inside, the restaurant had a posh style with colored lights and kanji writing in places. The staff certainly dressed the part in their monochrome formal wear. The only nonelegant aspect about the atmosphere was the Top 40s music playing in the background. But it was just that: background music. It wasn't too loud or anything so it didn't detract from the experience any.
The hostess led us to a table for two and handed us our menus. Since we both drove here, we started off with two glasses of water. Having something to quench my thirst, I put the chewed gum back into its wrapper and into my bag. It wasn't long before we gave the waitress our orders.
As she left, he leaned forward and asked, "So, what have you been up to lately?"
"Well," I began. "I actually started writing again recently."
"Oh, really?" He asked, his hazel eyes lighting up with interest. "So, you're a writer?"
"I guess you could say that."
He wasn't wrong. I have been a writer for half of my life. Most of that time has been spent on fanfiction, though. It wasn't until recently that I truly began to focus on writing my own original stories.
"That's cool. What do you write? Poetry? Stories?"
"I like to write stories. I've written some nonfiction pieces, if you could even call them that. They're a bit on the short side, only a few hundred words. What I really want to focus on is writing fiction stories."
"What kind of fiction stories do you write?"
"I've gravitated towards writing some slice of life stuff about mental illness. I'd like to spread more awareness and help people who are suffering feel less alone. More heard, really. More seen."
"I have some ideas for family dramas and tragedies that I'd like to write." I continued, encouraged by his approval. "I also have some romance ideas. I'm all-inclusive so I'd like to write more LGBTQIA+ romance stories, too. I do have a supernatural and fantasy story in mind. I just need to get them down on paper. Honestly, I just want to write about real, genuine, healthy connections between characters that people could root for."
"That's all kinds of based."
"Let me know whenever you're finished with any of 'em. I'd like to read your stories. If you're comfortable with sharing, that is."
I smiled. "I'd be happy to share. I'd definitely like to hear your feedback."
"I don't know how much help I'd be." He grimaced with self-deprecation. "But I'll help in any way that I can. I'm not much of a writer myself. Art is more my area of expertise, as you already know."
I nodded. Roy did commissions online for manga art and he has shown me some of his work. The way he drew his characters and backgrounds were so detailed and expressive. He was well on his way towards becoming the professional comic book artist he strived to be.
"You don't have to show me anything now, of course, but what is your writing like? I mean, how would you describe your writing? I know that there's a term for it, but I can't remember what it's called."
"You mean writing style?"
"Yeah! That's it."
"Well, hmm..." I hummed in thought. "If I had to put it in a word, I'd say emotional. I always do my best to convey how the characters are feeling. I want the reader to be able to resonate, really relate and connect with the characters."
This was nice. Talking with him, being with him felt so natural. It was like I'd known him my whole life.
Our food arrived and in true weeb, otaku fashion, we talked about anime and manga over sushi. We had an equal (or equivalent, for those who get it) exchange of praise and criticism for multiple series that we liked and disliked. Both the meal and conversation were satisfying in their own way.
Roy insisted on paying for the bill. I gave him some resistance at first, saying that I'd feel bad if he paid for me. But then, he argued back by telling me not to feel bad. He was having such a good time and he wanted nothing more than to pay for the woman he was falling for. Besides, he asked, what kind of gentleman would he be if he didnt? I swooned so hard. How could I possibly refute that?
By the time he paid for everything (tip included, of course), it was dark outside. I held his hand as he walked me to my car.
"We'll have to do this again soon," he suggested, taking my other hand as he turned to face me.
"Definitely," I agreed, giving his hands a squeeze.
"I had a good time tonight."
For a second, I was worried that it might be too soon. This was just our first date, after all. But it wasn't like we didn't know each other and I really liked this guy. He was kind, considerate, funny, creative. We had a lot in common, but we had our differences, too, which wasn't a bad thing in the slightest. That just made everything all the more interesting. It didn't hurt that he was a looker, either. In that moment, more than anything, I wanted him to know just how much I liked him. That I was falling for him, too. So I showed him.
He must've thought something similar because he met me halfway in a kiss. It was a simple brushing of lips, but there was a spark, a warmth that stayed with me for the rest of the night.
"Good night," he murmured, pulling back.
"Good night," I replied, breathless.
Roy gave me another hug before he left.
I got back into my car with a big, goofy smile on my face.
There was no telling what the future held, but I had a good feeling about this. About him. About us. About myself.
High on this newfound optimism, I sang a cheerful song as I drove home.