Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Haven Francis here today on tour with Riding with Brighton. Haven has brought along a giveaway so be sure to enter at the bottom of the blog. Welcome, Haven!
WE ARE ALL LIARS by Haven Francis
In the spirit of Riding with Brighton, I’ve decided to revisit some of the more life-changing moments that Jay and Brighton managed to flirt and laugh their way through. Stop 3 is the river (aka, where Jay loses his sh@# and finally admits he’s a liar).
Let’s talk about lying! It’s something most of us do every day, probably several times a day. If you’re thinking, maybe she does, but I certainly don’t, you might be right. But I bet that today, in response to the question, “How are you?”, you probably replied, “good”. And I’m almost certain that’s not the honest-to-God truth. Maybe you’re still pissed off at that self-righteous jackass who doesn’t think basic traffic laws apply to him, or you had a conversation with someone you care about that rubbed you the wrong way. It could be you’re just having a bad hair day or feel gross in your clothes. I could be wrong, it’s possible that you really are one-hundred-percent “good” but it’s also possible that’s just another lie, one you’re telling yourself. Which is where most of our lying occurs: in our own heads. The lies come in the form of excuses and procrastination, sometimes we even rebrand the lies as “positive thinking”. The truth is, telling yourself, I’ll deal with that closet tomorrow, or, what they’re doing to me isn’t that bad, are damn lies and you know it. They’re a-holes and that closet’s never getting cleaned.
In Riding with Brighton, this is what Jay did: he told himself one lie in order to make his life better and then, in order to make that lie become the truth, he told one more. And so on and so forth until, by the time we meet him, his lies have spun him right onto the edge of a nervous breakdown and complete identity crisis. And even then, instead of coming to terms with the one big lie he told so long ago, he decides to ignore it and forge a new path built on – yes, you guessed it – more lies.
And this time, Jay’s not keeping the fiction-foraging fun to himself. He recruits his artistic, outspoken, alternative classmate, Brighton Bello-Adler to be his unwilling partner in crime. Jay figures, if he can just become like Brighton, then all the mistakes, all the wrong roads he took in the past, will disappear and he can start over. But we all know that doesn’t work. Just because you close the door and put a padlock on it, doesn’t mean there’s not still a huge festering mess inside that closet you keep telling yourself your gonna clean. Because there is – the mess is still there. Yes, I know you can’t see it, but trust me, it’s there. And deep down you know it, and you’re thinking about that damn closet now more than ever. If you’re like Jay, you might even become paranoid and unable to look at anything without wondering how it relates to the mess you’re keeping locked up.
Eventually, it will all boil over and come exploding out. In the closet scenario it might be a literal explosion, but for Jay it’s an emotional one, and also an unintentional one. He didn’t want to tell the truth, but he did – for the first time in his life. And… it wasn’t so bad. Not nearly as bad as he had anticipated. Certainly not bad enough to derail his entire life over. Which is usually the case: lies fester and grow and take on a life of their own inside your amazing and scary brain.
But the good news is that once you tell that first truth, it’s as if you’ve scraped away a layer of mildew from your eyes and suddenly you can see clearly. In Jay’s case, he finally feels like his true self for the first time in his life and this is when the real journey begins.
Something I know from personal experience to be true is that once you open up and show others who you really are, they tend to do the same thing. Telling the truth is infectious. In Jay and Brighton’s case, so infections that they end up upheaving the entire student body…
In the small town of Spring Valley, molds weren’t made to be broken, and high school senior Jay Hall’s been living comfortably in his popular jock one since adolescence. If it weren’t for the colorful, outspoken artistic anomaly Brighton Bello-Adler, he might have been willing to remain there. Unnaturally drawn to Brighton, Jay knows he needs something from him, but is he ready to find out what that something is?
Temporarily ditching his old life, Jay climbs into Brighton’s Bronco and finds himself on a whirlwind road trip through parts of his small town he didn’t know existed. When the excursion takes an unexpected turn, Jay is cracked wide open, and the person who’s revealed does strange things to Brighton’s heart.
But just when it appears they could be headed toward their own shared piece of paradise, the road takes a sharp right turn into Jay’s life—where the real trip is about to begin.
In an unconventional love story that defies labels, two young men embark on a journey toward growing up, coming out, and finding their place in the world. It’s a trip that ranges from heartbreaking to uplifting, funny to sweet, but always unique and personal.
“I’m detecting a theme here as far as your little crisis goes,” he says with humor in his voice.
“It’s not too hard to figure out. I’m sick of living this life I made for myself and am mourning the guy I could have become, the life I could have had, if I had just grown a pair and done what I wanted to instead of what people expected me to do.”
“So what’s your plan when you go off to college? You’re gonna get a fresh start, be who you want to be…. Who are you gonna be?”
“I don’t know.”
He knocks his boot into my shoe again. “Yes you do. If you can’t even talk about the things you want to do, how are you gonna actually do them?”
Shit. Does he know? Is he trying to get me to admit that I’m gay? Do I want to admit that to him? Am I ready to say that out loud? I suck in a long breath, and as I’m exhaling it the words I think I might be gay are running through my brain, but when the words come out they’re “I want to write.”
I turn my head to Brighton. He’s staring right at me. His face is mostly blank, but I can see the confusion. Slowly, though, a smile creeps in. “Yeah?”
“That’s cool. I’ve always been shit at writing. What do you write?”
I shake my head. “Nothing, really.”
“Come on, Jay. You need to get over whatever it is that’s holding you back. You can say whatever you want to say to me. I’m not gonna judge you. It’s not gonna change my opinion about you. In fact if you’d open up and give me something… one thing… I might feel better about the fact that I’ve been talking about myself all day.”
I want to talk to him. I want to tell him things. But the truth is that, for whatever reason, I care about his opinion of me more than anyone else’s. “It’s stupid.”
“Is it time for the pep talk? Do we need to do a rundown of all your redeeming qualities?”
“Umm… hell no….”
He ignores my request. “You’re the most popular guy at our school; we’ve already established that you’re decent-looking and, with me out of the game, you could have any girl you want. Your body’s on point; I’ve heard you’re a pretty good athlete; you’re smart; you’re cool; you’re thoughtful; and you’re funny…. So where’s all this insecurity and self-deprecating crap coming from?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m not usually like this. I think it’s just… you.” Oh shit. Immediately I can feel my veins pulsing under my skin, and all my muscles go on lockdown at this confession. I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack, and I’m already regretting the words that just came out of my mouth.
“Why would you feel insecure around me?” he asks.
Okay. That’s not what I meant. I mean it is, but I thought the implications were obvious. But maybe they weren’t. So I hold tight to the out he’s given me. “Because everything about me is superficial and nothing about you is, so I guess I just naturally feel inferior around you.”
“That’s such bullshit,” he says, his face turning intense, borderline angry. “I mean, come on, man. I just gave you a hella long list of all the reasons I think you’re cool. And you haven’t even opened up to me. If you did that, all it would do is make me like you more. ‘Inferior.’ That’s such a crap excuse.” He’s propped himself up on his elbow now, and he’s practically raging at me.
I can literally feel my body temperature rising. I want to yell back at him; I want to get all this shit out of me. I want to jump on him and take all my pent-up aggression out with him. I want to grab his hair and kiss the shit out of him. And Jesus, now I’m hovering over him, sitting on my knees, my hands pulling on my hair. I close my eyes and try to rein myself in.
“Just fucking tell me,” he says, and the tone of his voice, a painful whisper, snakes through my body and releases the hold that I’m keeping on all of the secrets inside me.
“I don’t know who the hell I am,” I say, seething, my eyes still closed tight. “I wake up every morning in that fucking house and look in the mirror, and I don’t know who the hell I am. I’m scared shitless of the thoughts running through my head. I’m terrified of the feelings that erupt in me when I’m around you, and I don’t know how long I can keep denying the truth. How long I can keep lying to myself. But I know I have to. I know I’ll never get to be who I want to be. And the fucking truth….” I let out a long, exasperated breath and fall back on my hands, finally opening my eyes and looking at him. “Is that I think about you all the time.” I’m breathing hard like I just ran a marathon. My vision is blurry, but I can see that Brighton is sitting up now too. And he’s smiling at me.
“Yeah?” he asks.
I nod and let out another long breath, trying like hell not to pass out. “Yeah.”
“That’s cool. I mean, I’m flattered.”
“Shit,” I mutter to myself, running my hands over my face before collapsing back on the ground. It’s like everything inside me just got ripped out of my body with those words.
The longer I lie here, though, the more the panic and fear evaporate and something else is taking its place. Relief? Excitement? Happiness? I’m not sure. It’s something I’ve never felt before.
“You okay?” Brighton asks.
“Yeah. I think I am.” I can’t help but laugh.
“I thought you were gonna go all hulk on my ass for a minute there the way you were practically vibrating.”
“I can’t believe I just said that to you. It’s scary as hell.”
“You want to talk about it?”
Jesus, no. “I think that’s about as much as I can handle for now.”
“All right,” he says easily. “So, you want to get out of here?”
I turn my head to him, cracking one eye open because it’s about all the physical activity I can handle at the moment. He’s propped up on his elbows, his legs kicked out in front of him, every part of him looking totally content. No signs of worry or stress on his face, which seems wrong, seeing as how he’s sitting so close to me. How can this hurricane of emotions I’m in the middle of not be sending at least a little gust his way? “Can I have a minute?”
“Yeah, take all the time you need.”
I close my eyes again and try to put myself back together. It’s like a bomb just went off inside me and tore everything apart. Which sounds gory, but maybe I can dig through the gooey mess and assemble something better than what I started with. Maybe this time I can get it right.
I lay there until my bones no longer feel weak and my head doesn’t feel like it’s completely covered in mud. When I open my eyes again, Brighton is gone, and I swear to God, a slimy vise clamps down on my heart. Shit. What the hell is that about? And when I see him, a little ways down the shore, skipping rocks into the water, I smile. Oh crap, am I giddy? For sure I’m nervous as hell.
What the hell do I do now that he knows how I feel about him? I mean in my fantasies—because, yes, I’ve had a ton of them—I confess how I feel about him, and he immediately takes control of the situation and practically rips my clothes off. I mean, he totally rips my clothes off. But, dang, that didn’t happen.
I search through the fog of my memories from the last however many minutes it’s been since I had my meltdown, trying to remember his exact reaction. He looked happy. But all he said was that it was cool and he was flattered. I don’t know why I assumed that just because I was into him he’d be into me too. Just because he’s gay doesn’t mean he’s gonna automatically want me. God, that’s a blow to the ego. And a total wrecking ball to my alternate fantasy world.
About the Author
An escapist filled with wanderlust, writing is Haven’s responsible adult version of getting in the car and driving without aim. Reading and music are close seconds. She and her husband can often be found checking out their favorite bands locally or hundreds of miles away via road trips. Reading is something they don’t have in common, but he tolerates her dimly lit late-night habit.
Haven once made a living writing about trends in interior design but thoroughly enjoys that fact that people, unlike furniture, can fall in love. She especially loves when they fall desperately and into a forbidden kind of love. Haven also works as a graphic designer but considers Mom her most important title.
She has a slightly embarrassing fascination with the period of life that sits awkwardly between childhood and adulthood; the years when nothing is certain, lots of mistakes are made, falling in love is inevitable, and finding yourself is a struggle. For her it’s a fun place to escape to and she hopes her readers agree.
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