We're delighted to showcase Laura Lascarso with
When Everything Is Blue
|Cover Artist: AngstyG|
When they were kids, Chris Mitcham rescued Theo from the neighborhood bullies and taught him how to “be cool.” Now, years later, Theo’s developed feelings for his best friend that arise at the most inopportune times. Theo hates lying to Chris, but in coming out, he might lose the one person who understands him best, a risk he’s not willing to take.
When a relationship with another young man goes south, Theo is forced to confront his own sexuality along with his growing attraction to Chris and his stunted, tenuous relationship with his father. Will Chris abandon Theo when he learns the truth, or will he stand by him in this tumultuous season of self-discovery?
In this quirky coming-of-age romance, Theo’s path to manhood is fraught with awkward firsts and a few haters, but also the unexpected comfort of a friend turned lover.
Friends with Benefits
You know we’ve all done it. That casual hook-up that was only meant to be once or twice, but then became a regular kind of thing because it’s easy, satisfying and we all have needs.
In When Everything Is Blue, Theo is trying to wean himself off crushing on his best friend Chris, who he believes is straight, because there is always some contingent of blond babes hanging all over Chris whenever they go out. Additionally, Theo’s having real trouble with popping boners whenever Chris comes around, which is super Not Cool.
Then a new kid at school makes a move on Theo, and Theo embarks on his first series of casual hook-ups with Asshole Dave—if you read the book, you’ll understand how he got that name and why he probably still deserves it.
I actually got a real kick out of writing Theo and Dave’s relationship. Like most friends-with-benefits situations, you can tell that each of them want something a little different out of their situation. Theo wants to get over his best friend and Dave might actually want a real boyfriend-boyfriend relationship with Theo, only he doesn’t exactly know how to go about getting it. The tension inherent in two people wanting different things is what makes this dynamic so satisfying.
You can probably guess that it doesn’t end well for these two, but even in the most casual of relationships, there is real opportunity for characters (and people) to learn and grow. And not all relationships have to last a lifetime or be all encompassing. Many times the friends-with-benefits is what the participants need at the time—some regular intimacy without all the emotional investment and responsibility of a committed partnership.
It definitely has me thinking about a future friends-with-benefits situation that blows up spectacularly before turning into something more.
I’ve included an excerpt from When Everything Is Blue, which gives a good glimpse of the relationship between Theo and Asshole Dave. Take a look and if you like what you read, I encourage you to check out When Everything Is Blue.
How Big Is a Centaur’s Junk?
My arrangement with Dave is unusual. Even I, with my limited experience, know that. We slip into a kind of routine. I come over to his place in the afternoons. We mess around some, then settle in to play video games or watch TV. Sometimes he smokes pot, and I listen to him tell stories about his friends in North Carolina. He seems homesick, and he’s always showing me pictures on his phone of people he used to hang out with and his little brothers. Not his parents, though. I don’t think they got along too well, even before he came out.
Neither of us are too concerned with putting a label on what we have going. Nor do we let on to the rest of our friends that we’re seeing each other on the side. After a couple weeks of hooking up, we’re at school one day when Dave starts telling this story to our friends about a girl who once jacked him off so hard that he came in her eye and she was practically blind for a few hours. He really gets into it, shouting and miming out the scene. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious, except for me, because I’m the “girl” it happened to.
Chris shakes his head and says to me, “I don’t believe half the shit that asshole says.”
“Me neither,” I say, while wishing Dave would shut the hell up. He should know better than to tell that story. It makes me feel like a tool, not to mention that if Chris found out it was me, I’d be completely humiliated.
Later on, when no one else is around, Dave asks me if I’m coming over that afternoon. I tell him I’ve got stuff to do. I don’t want to give him any more material.
He keeps bugging me about it while I load up my backpack with what I need for that night. My academic classes are all AP and honors. Other than a lot of homework and some studying, the classes aren’t that hard, but I do need to keep up with it if I want to make that scholarship money rain down.
“Is it because of what I said earlier?” Dave asks.
I shrug and don’t meet his eyes. I’m not the best at feelings or speaking the words necessary to express them.
“Papi,” he says, the name he uses whenever he’s teasing me, or in moments like these, to get my hackles up.
“Don’t call me that.” I’m not in the mood for his mouth.
“It was just so damn funny, I couldn’t help it.”
“I don’t want you telling other people my business,” I practically growl.
“Yeah, I got that impression already,” he says with less humor.
It pisses me off that he hasn’t already apologized and I have to explain to him why what he did was shitty. “How would you feel if I shared completely personal things about you and you had to stand around and listen to everyone laugh about it?”
He crosses his arms and stares at me. “And you wouldn’t want Mitcham to find out, right?”
“The fuck is that supposed to mean?” I glance around to make sure no one can hear us. I feel like a whiny bitch, but damn if I don’t expect some things to stay private.
He sighs. “Nothing. Forget I said it.”
“This is about your mouth,” I remind him.
“Yeah, I know. Listen, I’m an asshole. It won’t happen again, okay? Come over today. I’ll make it up to you.”
I glance up and down the hallway. Ryanne catches my eye and waves. I wave back. I wonder if anyone else could guess at the topic of our conversation. Do we look like we’re having a lovers’ quarrel? Then I think, what if Dave decides to tell people he’s gay or that we’ve been hooking up? I’m not even completely sure I’m gay. The guys at our school who are out seem so sure about it. Maybe I’m not gay enough. Like, a seven out of ten on the gayometer. Ugh, my mind is spinning and I can’t make it stop. There are all these consequences to what Dave and I are doing that I really don’t want to deal with.
“Theo?” Dave asks because I still haven’t answered him.
“I don’t know,” I say, which is the best I can muster without giving in completely. Dave is good with his hands and his mouth. And even when he’s being an asshole, he’s still kind of funny. I have fun when we’re together, and it feels really good. It’s nice to be wanted.
Chris comes up then, and Dave acts like we were talking about football, which is a dead giveaway because other than playing Madden with Chris from time to time, I don’t keep up with football and Dave knows that.
“Go, Dolphins,” Dave says like a smartass. He once went on a ten-minute diatribe about how bad the Dolphins suck, detailing just about every awful season they’ve had for the past two decades. I’m not a huge fan, but still, you don’t rip on the Dolphins to someone from South Florida. It’s poor form.
Chris glares at Dave until he bows slightly and walks away. Chris has been chilly with me lately, both of us going out of our way to be extra polite, which is a sure sign that something’s wrong. We walk out together to the student parking lot, and I try to shake off the conversation I just had with Dave.
“Your birthday’s next weekend,” Chris says. “The party’s coming together, in case you’re wondering.”
My sister and he both seem a little put out that I haven’t been involved with the planning, even though I told them from the start I’m not into it.
“I should probably practice my driving before Friday.” The party’s on Saturday, but our actual birthday’s the day before. I want to pass my driving test on the first go-round.
“We can practice now if you want.”
“Sure. I don’t have anything else going on.”
Even though it’s technically illegal, Chris is the one who’s taken me out driving most of the time. My mom works a lot, and she’s tired when she gets home and just wants to relax. She also scares easily and sets me on edge when I’m driving.
“Sounds good,” I tell him. I pull out my phone to text Dave that I won’t be able to meet up with him. He responds by telling me I’m a gilipollas.
“Who’s that?” Chris asks.
I glance over and because I don’t want to lie, I tell him, “no one,” which is probably worse.
Chris frowns but doesn’t say anything more about it. He drives us out of the school parking lot, then pulls over and lets me take the wheel. I was nervous at first driving his car, but he’s good about helping me relax. He doesn’t get pissed at me when I make mistakes. I clipped a mailbox once taking a turn too close, and he just laughed his ass off.
We’re on the bridge going over the intercoastal to the beaches. Windows down, hair blowing in the breeze. Perfect, until Chris ruins it by saying, “You and Dave have been hanging out a lot.”
I think back to the story Dave shared earlier that day. I haven’t said a word about Dave to Chris. And at school Dave and I hardly even talk to each other, so where is Chris getting his information?
“How do you know?”
“Find My Friends.”
We installed that app when I first got my cell phone a couple of years back. I checked it a few times when Chris was in California, just to see how far away he was, but I haven’t looked at it since then. Kind of strange that he has. And how does he know where Dave lives?
“I asked him if he had any decks for sale,” Chris says, then waits for me to respond. When I don’t, he says, “He didn’t.”
“You ask him to cut your hair too?” I don’t like Chris checking up on me, especially when I have something to hide.
“Why are you lying to me?”
“About Dave selling decks?”
We exit off the bridge, and I pull over into a beach access and park the car, grab my stuff from the back seat, including my deck. I so don’t want to have this conversation with him. Chris has a way of getting me to spill my guts.
“What the hell, Theo?” Chris grabs hold of my arm and squeezes. He’s strong. Even though I’m pissed, I kind of like it. I never back away or flinch when Chris touches me. I like his grip. So messed up, I know.
“We used to tell each other everything,” he says. “Now you act like you don’t even know me.”
“It’s not that.” Chris takes everything so personal. I dump my stuff on my lap. The car’s still running, so I turn it off.
“What is it, then? Are you mad at me?”
“Because of what happened in—”
“No,” I interrupt him. Chris can’t have it both ways. He can’t have me as his ever-faithful lap dog and expect me to just sit around and watch him hold court with every hot babe that struts through Sabal Palm High. It’s not fair. I’m friggin’ lonely. Dave is there, and he’s into me. He’s not Chris, but he’s not nothing either.
“Maybe I’m too dependent on you, you know?” I say to him. “Like, for the past five years, it’s just been you and me. And I do whatever you tell me to.”
“You don’t do whatever I tell you.”
I give him a look. We both know Chris gets his way more often than not.
“So, Dave is like, Chris 2.0?” He winces as though the thought physically pains him. As if.
“No, he’s not. Dave is just a guy I hang out with. He’s funny and we… get along. You can’t be the only person in my life. You have your surf friends and your family and your girlfriends and I… I just have you.”
I swallow the lump in my throat. I hate getting emotional in front of him. Makes me feel like such a baby. Chris stares at me. He no longer looks angry; he looks hurt. His gaze drifts out to the water. His lower lip juts out, tempting me still. What would Chris do if I just leaned over and pulled him in for a big, fat kiss? With tongue. Probably freak out.
“You can drive us home,” Chris says, completely deflated and still not looking at me. He cleans a patch of dust off the dashboard with his finger in a slow spiral. “I’m sorry for giving you shit. You can hang out with whoever you want. I won’t bother you about it again.”
I want to say something to make him feel better, but I don’t know what, so I toss my stuff in the back and take the shortest route home, trying to concentrate on the road and not on Chris, who stares out the window the whole way with his arms crossed in front of his chest, looking sad as hell.
The exact thing I wanted to avoid is happening—I’m losing my best friend.
I cave and end up going over to Dave’s that same afternoon. I’m too needy, a ping-pong ball being batted back and forth between Dave and Chris. Like my self-esteem is tied to one or the other, and I cling to the one who can provide me with some sense of reassurance. It’s lame on so many levels.
In any case, Dave is happy to see me. Usually we hang out on the couch and play video games, which usually segues into other things. Today it’s different, though. I’m not feeling it. I’m too stressed about Chris and how we left things. I hate that there’s friction between us. I wonder if he’s looking me up on his phone right now. I should take myself off the app, but at the same time, I kind of like that he’s semistalking me, and how messed up is that?
“What’s up?” Dave asks, retreating to his half of the couch, perhaps noticing that I’m only half-present (and half-aroused). The other thing about Dave and me is we never kiss. And our touching seems very focused on getting each other off and not necessarily connection. The things I want to do with Chris, I don’t want to do with Dave. Is it possible to only be gay for one guy?
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I tell him. “I’m in a funk.”
Dave grabs his bong and packs it. The couch is small, more the size of a love seat, and Dave sits in the middle of it with his legs spread wide so his knee rests against mine, kind of territorial. Chris does that too, takes up the maximum amount of space, even when he’s sleeping. In some ways they’re a lot alike. Alpha males.
Dave offers me the first hit like always, even though I’ve never taken him up on it. I shake my head. “Hugs not drugs, man.”
Dave lights the bong, sucks up the column of smoke as his cheeks hollow out all the way—it’s very phallic. It sounds like sucking through a straw in a mostly empty glass. His cheeks puff out as he holds it in, then releases a cloud of heady smoke that makes my eyes water a little. Chris went through a pot-smoking phase last year, but he hasn’t done it much lately. He says all it does is give him the munchies and make him lazy. I tried it once when we were in Sebastian on a surf trip, at one of the older surf rats’ shithole apartment, and I ended up holding my knees and rocking in a corner, thinking I was dying because my heart sounded too fast and my breathing too slow. Chris talked me down, and I felt bad for ruining both our nights. Later he said I probably just smoked too much, or the shit was too dank. Still, I haven’t tried it since.
I don’t mind it when other people smoke, though. No one gets violent, just goofy. When Dave smokes he gets a faint smile on his face, laughs at whatever I say, and wants to talk deeply about things that probably don’t deserve that much attention. It’s kind of funny.
“When did you know you were gay?” I ask Dave.
He scratches his head and purses his lips like he’s trying to recall it. His eyes are red and glassy, and I wonder if he’s high already.
“Third grade? I tried to kiss another boy in class. On the lips. Peter Bowers—he had the cutest freckles. He wasn’t down with it, though, and it turned into this whole thing with our parents and the school. Counseling. I went underground after that. Didn’t try it again until middle school.”
“So you’ve always known?”
He nods. “More or less. I don’t think I knew the name for it until middle school. Then it was all ‘fag’ this and ‘fag’ that. Where I’m from isn’t as laid-back about it as it is here. I hid it for a while.” Dave takes another hit, holds it in until his face turns red and his eyes start to water. “How about you?” he asks. The words come out with a cloud of smoke, and I think of that caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. Whoooo are yoooou?
“I don’t know when it started.” I’ve always checked out guys, but never for too long. Seems dangerous. I check out girls too, for that matter, in a more scientific way. I like to study people—the way they move and interact with one other. Chris is the first guy I’ve really been able to study up close, the first guy I’ve imagined naked and fantasized about on purpose. Well, that’s not completely true, now that I think about it. I’ve had fleeting thoughts about underwear models and athletes. Or, like, the weatherman on WXTV, Casanova Guerra. Something about his voice. Partly it’s the name, and also how he always seems to know what’s coming. Like, the chance of rain or if hurricane is going to hit us or pass by. He’s so reassuring about it too. So, board up your windows and stock up on sandbags, West Palm. It’s better to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.
I tell Dave about my crush on Casanova Guerra and what it might be like to have sex with a weatherman, how he’d narrate the whole thing in that calming, even-keeled voice. “Ninety percent chance of an orgasm this afternoon, with the possibility of light flooding. Don’t forget to pack your raincoat.”
Dave cracks up at that, and we take turns making weather predictions that sound like a bad porno flick. It’s kind of hot. Then I ask him, “Have you ever had sex with a dude?”
He looks at me with a halfway serious expression. “Anal?” I nod. “No, but I’m game if you are. Might be a good way to see if you really are gay or if you’ve been faking it this whole time.”
At that I sober up instantly. I probably shouldn’t have put it on the table. It was more a survey than a proposition. “I don’t think I’m ready for that.” Not to mention it involves at least one of our assholes getting pounded, which I’ve heard can be painful at first. Something tells me between Dave and I, I’d be the one getting the raw ass.
I’d do it for Chris, though, if that’s what he wanted. I’d pretty much go either way for him. Sigh.
“Saving yourself?” Dave asks.
I narrow my eyes at him, annoyed at how easily it seems he can read my mind. “For what?”
“Not what. Who.”
I know who he means. I fiddle with the controller where it lays abandoned on the couch between us. “Chris is straight,” I say, though I’m having my doubts. Maybe I should just ask him, but what if he is straight? Then I’ve just challenged his masculinity or something. And me asking kind of reveals myself, doesn’t it? Outside of him telling me himself, there’s no easy way to find out.
“We should come out together,” Dave says. “I could ask you out to Homecoming in a really over-the-top way. Spray paint the BOA with a proclamation of gay love. Rainbows and unicorns and centaurs with really big junk. The works.”
I laugh at the thought of it. My rep would be forever ruined among the skater punks. It shouldn’t matter, but they might not take me seriously if they knew I was gay. I also haven’t thought about what it would mean to be out at Sabal Palm High. I’d just as soon keep it under wraps.
“I don’t think so, Dave.”
“You don’t want people to know you’re gay or that we’ve been messing around?”
“Neither,” I say before realizing how awful it sounds. His face goes slack. “It’s not personal.”
I study him, wondering if I’ve really hurt his feelings or if he’s just using this as a way to manipulate me into giving him a blowjob. Dave’s pretty crafty that way. “You don’t even like me.”
His face screws up and he leans toward me in a slightly aggressive way. “Why would you say that?”
He’s always teasing me about stuff, making fun of the things I do or say, and it seems pretty obvious that we’re using each other for sexual favors. Companionship too, but that comes second.
“Why don’t you think I like you?” he persists.
“I don’t know.” I glance around, feeling super uncomfortable. It’s kind of like the first week of school, when he claimed he was “hitting on me,” and I thought he was just being an asshole. But maybe it’s me who’s not fully invested in the feelings department of our relationship.
“It’s not for the lawn maintenance part of it,” Dave says, “though Becca told me to do whatever it takes to keep you happy.”
His yard does look pretty tight. I even planted some leftover impatiens to make him and his aunt matching garden beds next to their front doors. When I don’t respond, he continues.
“I’d totally be your boyfriend, Theo, if you weren’t so hung up on Mitcham.”
I lean forward and stare at my hands, ashamed of my own impossible desires and how transparent they are. By being silent, I basically just acknowledged I’m using him. Dave wants to be in a committed relationship, like boyfriend-boyfriend, and I just want sex without any complications or responsibility.
Jesus, maybe I am like my father after all.
“I’m trying to get over him,” I tell Dave, which is the honest-to-God truth.
“So let me help.” Dave sets down his bong and lays a proprietary hand on my thigh. He waggles his eyebrows at me. Maybe it’s guilt or maybe it’s my libido, but I totally crumble, and we end up giving each other what we mutually agree are the best blowjobs of our lives, which for me is much higher praise because Dave is something of a blowjob connoisseur.
And that’s why Dave and I work. Because every situation that could potentially end badly turns into another opportunity for Dave to get me to pull my pants down and vice versa.
Somewhere inside me I know it’s not going to last, but I’m willing to ride it out for the time being. And maybe that’s me being selfish, but for the moments when we’re together, Dave makes me forget about Chris and all the things I can’t have with him, and in my situation, that’s really the best I can hope for.
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About the author:
Laura Lascarso wants you to stay up way past your bedtime reading her stories. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of storytelling to heal and transform a society. When not writing, Laura can be found screaming “finish” on the soccer fields, rewatching Veronica Mars, and trying to convince politicians that climate change is real. She lives in North Florida with her darling husband and two kids. She loves hearing from readers, and she’d be delighted to hear from you.
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