Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Reece Pine here today to talk about her release, In Your Court. Welcome, Reece!
Hi and thanks for letting me introduce In Your Court, part of Dreamspinner’s World of Love series, which sees Californian college grad Ray in Vietnam for a week teaching basketball and English to elementary-age kids. For Ray, the chance to hide his (often) invisible physical disability while he’s far from home is a way to have a holiday from what he hates most about it, which is being unable to play basketball anymore. So although he knows that doing a lot of physical activity all at once is a bad idea, he plans to indulge himself for as long as he can until his chronic pain catches up with him.
Translator/businessman Xin considers himself a pro communicator – he takes pride in patching up communication gaps between other people, and is frustrated when he can’t help people fulfil their desires. Secretive Ray is a tough case for him to handle, but their shared interest in seeing Ho Chi Minh’s sights and in the Vietnamese language lets him scratch Ray’s surface and get him to begin to open up. The hard part is Ray already knows that communication is the key to getting what he wants, but first he and Xin both have to figure out what they want and can realistically have in a relationship and in their futures.
The inspiration for the book came from a weird, jealous, nostalgic thrill I felt watching a lot of basketball while being myself laid up with a condition. It’s one thing to fully understand the limits physical disabilities impose, but another thing to actually obey them, so I’m sure Ray’s not the first character (or person) to want to push such limits to their breaking point for the sake of enjoying a sport. The on-court atmosphere of a tense basketball game has a lot in common with the bustling, humid streets of Ho Chi Minh, so I jumped at the chance to set the story there, since Vietnam and Singapore (which is also seen in the book) are also incredibly scenic and romantic cities. I hope you check it out, or any of the other beautiful places represented in the World of Love series.
With a shot at happiness in sight, it’s no time to drop the ball.
A back condition ruined Ray’s basketball ambitions, but he wants one last opportunity to play before hanging up his sneakers. While volunteering as a coach at a special needs school in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, he meets Singaporean Xin, who works matching wealthy corporations with compatible charities. Xin helps the American navigate the local customs in order to see the smile Xin fell for at first sight, but Ray makes sure no one sees how hard it is for him to keep upright, let alone keep enjoying Vietnam and playing the sport he loves.
When Ray’s back pain becomes too great to hide, Xin accommodates him in Ho Chi Minh and in Singapore—and in bed. Ray wants to imagine a future for them but fears he’s damaged goods, and Xin’s obligations in Asia aren’t easily forgotten. Ray won’t be another charity of Xin’s, especially when Xin also needs someone by his side. Their romance will be cut as short as Ray’s basketball dreams unless he can close the Pacific-sized distance between them.
World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.
Gray dawn and blaring big-band music that sounds like it’s been filtered through three DIY crystal radios creep in on the draft spilling under our door. The electro-pop communist march song is an effective call to arms in that I’m up and swearing, just not in allegiance.
“Good morning, Vietnam,” Xin mumbles, rolling over on his creaking cot and snaking a hand under his thin cotton sheet to scratch his stomach. A pirated copy of The Quiet American, the kind of photocopied book I saw street stalls selling yesterday, sticks out from beneath his pillow. I loved the movie they made of that. Good Morning, Vietnam too.
I have six days left. Still in yesterday’s stinking jersey and slacks, hair damp with old or new perspiration, I peel myself off my mattress to start my usual routine of push-ups on the floor between our beds. In no time, sweat drips Rorschach splatters on the concrete, on which I try to focus rather than on the dude beside me moaning as he languidly stretches his body to its full horizontal height.
“Aren’t you energetic?” He sits up, head tilted to match his half smile, and lazily reaches for my shoulder. “If I sit on your back, will that help—”
“Don’t,” I snap, wrenching straight up and crawling a step away. My morning voice rattles in my throat and in the heavy air, so I clear both with a cough before spreading my hands on the floor and recovering my rhythm within two push-ups. My lower back’s familiar ache is waking up too, but it has yet to seep into my hips. I shouldn’t have played yesterday after so long sitting in a cramped airplane chair. Not that it was that cramped for little old me, but it was too rigid, and I didn’t pace the aisle as much as I should have.
In the corner of my eye, I watch Xin quietly unlatch his hefty wheeled suitcase to extract linen shorts and a long-sleeved raglan tee. He looks comparatively casual today, but the outfit’s clearly styling. The cotton shirt is luxuriously creamy in color and texture and spills down his pale back as he dresses, eyeing me warily. “Are you against queer folk?”
I laugh. “When I’m lucky.”
Xin pauses, silent.
Shit. Did he just come out to me? Did I just come out to him? And did I imagine him calling me cute last night? Probably. “You’re queer?”
An automatic smile pulls at my lips. I stop doing push-ups at the count of a hundred and the sight of Xin’s calm expression probing my hard-to-hide relief. “’Cause I am.”
“Are you touch-averse ace or anything? Because I’ll let people know if you need. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”
“No, I’m gay. You planning on making me uncomfortable?”
“No, I’m gay,” he parrots, preening his short hair with a black lacquer comb. I can’t tell its fine teeth from the shining hair it parts. “Just… that was a pretty strong shutdown to being nearly touched, Ray. This is Asia. Guys are going to touch you, no sex implied.”
Oh wow, after being possibly called ‘cute’ last night, I’ve been shot down before my eyes are even properly opened. ‘No sex implied’—well, at least I know where I stand with him today. “Is it an Australian thing too to touch up your… mates?”
Xin laughs. “Fuck, no. There it’s only cool for men to slap around butch, strapping athletes like you, especially when you’re panting and glistening.”
It takes me a second to get that the lascivious wink he hits me with is a sarcastic stand-in for ‘Apology accepted.’ He didn’t take my snapping personally. “Do even Australians get Australian humor?”
“When we’re lucky. Shower’s three doors down on the left. It’s a faculty one, but all the teachers who live here are housed in another block, so we don’t have to share it.”
“Except with each other,” I mumble into the tangle of clothes I’ve gutted from my backpack.
“Thanks for the invite, but right now it’s all yours. Mate.”
“I take back yesterday’s request. You’re the last person whose job it should be to rein me in for stepping out of line.”
“Then I’ll just have to do it for fun.”
About the Author
Reece is a human pinball who’s moved around the world 20-odd times in the last 15 years. At the moment she’s in Australia, ignoring her handful of degrees in law, science and other subjects in order to make things up instead. She loves genre-jumping when writing and reading, and seeing diverse characters appear everywhere, as in real life. Although she’s a big fan of twists and drama, good representation of genders, sexualities, and disabilities remains as important to her as ensuring all of her stories end well, because we all deserve a happy ending.
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Personal website: http://www.reecepine.com