Boy Meets Boy, an Exclusive Excerpt from BIGGER LOVE
Bigger Love is, at heart, a love story. It’s about two improbable strangers coming together under the magical spell of first young love. Here’s a glimpse of when Truman and Mike make first real contact…and you just know things will never be the same.
EXCERPT: Boy Meets Boy
Someone was slowing down on the roadway beside him. Truman nearly came to a stop, nerves tightening. Paradoxically he was already wondering how fast he could run. He’d been conditioned to know that the sound of a car decelerating on a lonely road at night beside him could only mean one thing—teasing, bullying, or worse. Fortunately for Truman, he’d never been attacked, but he’d had his share of cars coming almost to a standstill when they spied him. A window would roll down. There’d be whistles, catcalls. A nearly anonymous voice would drift out of the vehicle to accuse him of the crime of “sashaying” or “traipsing.” He’d been called “fag,” ‘fairy,” “girlfriend,” and once even “pretty lady.” He’d been asked if he was in the mood to suck some cock. Cowardly snickering voices from inside a car or truck had wondered aloud if his ass was sore.
So Truman’s whole body tensed, and he poised himself to flee, if need be. He knew that just to his right, the embankment sloped down sharply to a little creek. Growing up, Truman had spent hours playing by himself next to that creek, which, back then he called a “crick,” so he was familiar enough to navigate it even by starlight. He also knew that farther down there was a drainage tunnel he could hunch over and creep through, even if that would mean wet shoes and spiders in his hair.
If necessary, escape was possible.
“Hey,” a masculine voice called out from the idling truck Truman now spied in his peripheral vision. Truman rolled his eyes, bracing for the suggestive remark, the name-calling. Worse, the truck could pull over, blocking his path. And he pictured several guys jumping out of it, swinging baseball bats. He’d read of such things happening in Pittsburgh to the east or Youngstown to the north.
These days, he was pretty much left alone at school despite what some might call his “flamboyant” ways—the girl’s clothes, the touch of makeup—but he knew that out here, by himself on a virtually empty road, all bets were off for being left alone. Darkness coupled with Truman being alone could be very empowering for a coward like a bully—some folks might do things they’d not otherwise consider during the light of day or when others were around to judge.
Truman nervously took a quick glance over his shoulder. He couldn’t make out the face in the dark cab of the pickup, which had now rolled almost to a complete stop. Its tires crunched on the gravel at the side of the road. “Hey,” Truman said back, cursing the feminine lilt to his voice even in that single word. He tried to swallow and discovered his mouth was dry.
“You need a ride, buddy?”
Truman stopped, drew in a deep breath, and even though everything inside him was screaming Run! he moved a little closer to the truck to peer inside. “I know you?”
Before he could even make out features, though, the driver identified himself. “It’s me, Mike Stewart.”
“Oh my God, it’s you!” Truman squealed before he could even think to censor himself, to speak in a deeper register. But why should he bother doing that anyway? Still, he felt heat enflame his face, despite being “out and proud.”
Mike chuckled. “Yeah, it’s me. You need a ride or no? I know you live over by my grandma’s place. Lula?”
Truman let out a breath of relief. “I know her. She’s a sweet lady,” Truman said, even though what he really thought of her was that she was a sad, depressed mess. Some tragic heroine out of Tennessee Williams….
“Yeah, my pop’s staying with her until he can get his own place. I’m supposed to come by for supper. Fish sticks, my favorite. Which reminds me, I’m gonna be late if I don’t get a move on. So, you wanna lift or no? No skin off my ass either way.”
And as Truman contemplated that same glorious ass, he happily opened the truck door and hoisted himself inside. Soft country music, Patsy Cline singing “Crazy,” came out of the radio’s speakers.
Mike took off down the hill. The ride was bumpy, the exhaust noisy. It was just what Truman was used to. Patsy had always been lucky enough to have a car, just not one younger than ten years old or with fewer than 100,000 miles on it.
Truman sniffed. “You smoke?” The interior of the truck smelled like an ashtray.
“Nah, not me. Pop. This was his truck originally. He gave it to me when I turned sixteen. But I could never get the fuckin’ reek of his Marlboros out. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Just wondered.” Truman stared out through the windshield at the night. He noticed a hairline crack running across the top of the glass.
“What?” Truman asked.
Mike pointed at the crack. “Rock did that. It was just a little ding to start with, and then it started to spread. Pop’s hunting around in the junkyards to see if he can find a replacement windshield before this one blows in on me.”
“Cool,” Truman said. Sitting next to this guy in his pickup, their thighs almost touching, should have been a wet dream come true for Truman, but suddenly he was very nervous. Or not worthy, or something. He couldn’t think of a single thing to say. He turned his head to stare out the window. They’d reached the bottom of the hill. There was the old American Legion hall, closed now for a couple of years, the Brew and View drive-through, which specialized in beer, cigarettes, and once upon a time, movie rentals. And a bunch of run-down houses—rusting aluminum siding, peeling paint, weed-choked front yards.
Home sweet home, Truman thought, promising himself for the one-thousandth time that he had to get out of this place. Summitville was the poster child for dying rustbelt towns. It was sad, really, because the area had such an abundance of natural beauty.
And then an obvious topic of conversation came to him. “I think your dad is seeing my mom.”
Mike snorted. “Really?”
Was Truman not supposed to say anything? Mike seemed surprised at the news.
“Yeah, Patsy Reid?”
“Oh, I know who your mom is. I eat at the diner where she works once or twice a week. My ma, she don’t cook much. So she gives me a few bucks and sends me on my way, which is fine by me, because Ma can’t cook worth shit.” He laughed, and Truman noticed how deep and melodious it was. Mike’s laugh actually warmed him a bit, made him feel a little more at ease. “But, uh, I didn’t know my dad was seeing her.” Mike stared out the windshield, and Truman wondered what was going on in his head, what was causing those bushy eyebrows to furrow. “She’s pretty. Your ma.”
“As far as I know, it’s only been going on for a little while.” Truman hoped minimizing his mom’s relationship might make Mike feel better. He decided Mike didn’t know that Mike’s pop, George, was now spending a night or two every week at Truman and Patsy’s house. Why didn’t Mike know that? Truman guessed it was because he lived with his mom.
They rode in silence the rest of the way to Truman’s neighborhood. Mike pulled up right in front of Truman’s house. He knows where I live? Truman’s heart skipped a beat.
But then Mike pointed to Lula Mason’s house, just down the street. “Gram’s,” he said.
“Yeah, I know.”
Mike laughed. “Of course, you would. You always live here?”
Truman met his eyes, which shone icy blue, even in the yellowish light from the streetlamp shining down on them. “All my life,” Truman said. He ventured, “I would have thought we might have crossed paths before, what with your grandma being so close by.”
Mike shook his head. “Nah. I just moved here middle of the summer.”
“Wow,” Truman marveled. “A long way away.” Truman couldn’t begin to imagine the Pacific Northwest, beyond what he’d seen in the Twilight movies.
“Yeah, close to Seattle.”
“Didn’t Frasier live there?” Truman cursed himself. Not everybody had pop culture references for geography.
“Never mind. So what made you move all the way here?”
Mike shrugged. “I didn’t want to, but when my parents were busting up, they decided, for whatever reason, to come back to their hometown. Who knows why? I know my dad wanted to be close to his ma. She’s getting up in years, and ever since Pap-pap killed himself—” Mike stopped suddenly and corrected himself. “Ever since my grandfather died, she’s been pretty low. He’s stayin’ with her.”
“You do? Oh, that’s right. My dad’s seeing your mom. Wonder why he never told me? If he thinks it would hurt my feelings or something, he’s sadly mistaken. Or if he thinks I’m like some little kid hoping Mommy and Daddy will get back together, well, dude, I have news for him.” Mike turned away to stare outside the driver’s-side window. “No skin off my ass if he has a girlfriend.” He snorted with laughter, but Truman detected a bitter edge. “Anyone’s gotta be better than my ma.”
“Do you have one?” Truman asked, a little nervous, thinking the question made it all too obvious that he was interested in Mike, who from all outward appearances was as straight as they come. Looking as he did, Mike could have his pick of any girl at Summitville High.
“What? A girlfriend?” Mike laughed. “Fuck, no. Who has time for that shit?” He looked away from Truman, staring out the window.
“Yeah, who has time?” In the dark, Truman grinned.
“Listen, I gotta get to Gram’s. She’ll be holding supper for me.”
“Oh sure,” Truman said. “I didn’t mean to keep you.”
“No problem.” And with those words, Mike reached across the seat and grabbed hold of Truman’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Truman all but melted at his touch. I will never wash this shoulder again.
“Hey, Truman. I, uh, don’t really have any friends here. That’s why I signed up for the play thing.” Mike swallowed, and Truman noticed that he seemed a little nervous, which had its own charm. It made Truman feel like they were on the same page. “You maybe wanna hang out sometime?”
This guy, this gorgeous butch guy wants to hang out? With me? This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Truman. Well, not so much. Once upon a time there was this butch guy who liked hanging out with me down on the riverbank. But he was a user…. Truman forced the thought—and the images it brought on—right out of his head. He attributed Mike’s interest to being new in town, otherwise why would he give any attention at all to a big sissy like Truman? Now that’s just the kind of thinking that makes you feel less-than, makes you feel down! Even Mom says that you’re just as good, just as lovable—more so, in her opinion—as anyone else.
“Sure,” Truman said. “Anytime.” He barely got the words out on account of his heart being in his throat. He thought of Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey at that moment. He liked the way the gregarious, head-in-the-clouds fellow would always pin folks down when they suggested getting together. So he tried the technique now, guessing his heart was about to be crushed. Of course, Mike had only made the suggestion to be nice…. But in for a penny, in for a pound. “Um, when are you thinking?”
Mike turned his head to smile at him. “How about tonight? After supper? Since I’m already here and parked? Sometimes I couch surf at Gram’s.”
“Tonight?” Truman tried to play it cool, to pause for a moment as though he were considering. But inside his heart was going rat-a-tat-tat-tat like a machine gun. It almost hurt. “Sure,” he said, grinning back at Mike. “No skin off my ass,” he added, then felt like a fool, sure Mike would pick up on Truman’s appropriating his catchphrase.
Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can't wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first gender-fluid star to ever win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen.
Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He's quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman's directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman's mother is falling for Mike’s dad?
Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms.
See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self….