Conjoined at the Soul

by Huston Piner

$5.99

A SunFire Imprint Book

Randy Clark has just looked in the mirror and figured out he’s gay. So now, all he needs is a boyfriend, and finding one should be easy enough, right? The trouble is Randy has a knack for being attracted to the wrong kind of guy, like the one who hasn’t spoken to him since he told him he had pretty eyes. Then there’s that locker-room jock who’s always putting him down. And new student Kerry Sawyer would be perfect—except for that girlfriend he left behind.

Obviously, when it comes to finding a boyfriend, Randy’s got a lot to learn. So for dating tips, he turns to friends Jeremy Smith and Annie Brock. But although Annie’s more than willing to help him find the right guy, between his own bad luck and her less than helpful advice (date a girl?), things are getting out of control fast. And while Randy struggles with bullies, bigotry, and his own self-doubts, he quickly finds that searching for love can be pitted with embarrassing misunderstandings, humiliating encounters, and hilarious missteps.

All in all, Randy’s sophomore year is shaping up to be one to remember—if he can just live through it.

Available in Print from most major retailers.

Book Info

Author: Huston Piner

Series: Seasons of Chadham High, Book Two (This book can be read as a standalone.)

Release Date: February 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948608-02-2

Format: ePub, Mobi

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Category: Romance

Genre: Contemporary, Historical

Word Count: 74200

Pages: 111

Sex Content: N/A

Pairing: MM

Orientation: Gay

Identity: Cisgender

Excerpt

Conjoined at the Soul
Huston Piner © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Of Mirrors and Locker Rooms

Today is a day of historic importance. See, I woke up this morning and discovered I’m gay.

I was brushing my teeth, and when I spit out and looked in the mirror, a pointy-nosed, sixteen-year-old with unruly blond hair stared back at me and said, “You, young man, are gay.”

I know I know I know, it’s not quite that simple. I didn’t just go to bed last night as the straight Randy Clark only to have the gay pixie come and sprinkle fairy dust all over me in my sleep. The truth is, it’s something I’ve kind of seen coming for a couple of years now. It’s like a process: one day you start adding up all the times you’ve caught yourself looking at guys or couldn’t stop thinking about a particular boy, and it just hits you—you’re gay.

It’s a lot to take in.

Luckily, I have the ride to school to think about it. When the bus stops, I check the time, and it’s running late…again. Three minutes late.

I hate being late.

My best friend, Blake, stumbles on board like a zombie. His head’s drooping, and his shoulders are slumped forward. Yup, it was obviously another late night for Blake Rogers.

I flash him my most saccharine smile and say “Good morning” with my most sarcastic cheeriness.

“Mumm-ning, Randy.” He yawns and is already dozing before his butt even hits the seat next to me. And with that, it’s guaranteed to be a quiet, peaceful ride the rest of the way.

It’s funny, but now that I’ve admitted I’m gay, I’m more at peace with myself than I’ve ever been in my whole life. It feels natural. But it’s kind of scary too. I mean, being gay isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can just announce to the world. Some people would instantly hate you and tell you so, while others would express their opinion with a few well-chosen punches—and I get more than my share of those already. It’s enough to make a guy a little nervous.

And then there’s the problem—the real problem. Something’s missing in my life—something important, something very important. See, a straight guy can look forward to the possibility of getting married, but what about me? Is there someone out there waiting for me? I mean, sure, friends are important in life, but they’re not enough. What I need is a boyfriend, my own special someone to turn me on and send me into sexual orbit. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Blake starts snoring. I elbow him in the side and shake my head. He grumbles, but at least he stops snoring. The guy sitting across the aisle from us snickers.

Blake may be my best friend, but he won’t be the first person I tell I’m gay. It’s not that he’d stop being my friend or anything, it’s just that it’s more urgent for me to find someone I can go to for advice about guys first. Blake likes girls way too much to be of any help on that issue.

For that job, I know exactly who I need: Annie Brock and Jeremy Smith. They’re in my art class. If there are any two people on earth who will be able to help me find a boyfriend, it’s Annie and Jeremy.

 

I’ve finally made it to fifth period after surviving a typically boring morning, and whatever it was they served for lunch. (They called it spaghetti, but I swear it was wiggling.)

Art. It’s my favorite class, and unlike some of my others, I’m very good at it. I’ve got artistic flair. Our teacher, Mrs. Pilt, is the stereotypical art teacher. She wears smocks of various patterns and colors, and they’re always stained with smears of paint.

The art room reeks of pottery clay, glue, and God knows what else. The walls are lined with shelves and paintings, and there are weird mobiles hanging like Picasso spiders from the ceiling. It’s always noisy, and the radio constantly blasts out the Bee Gees, Dire Straits, and The B-52’s, with a little Chic thrown in for good measure. There are a number of rectangular tables here and there with up to six people at each. Annie, Jeremy, and I sit at the table closest to Mrs. Pilt’s desk. We’re her favorite students.

The great thing about art class is, as long as you stay on task, Mrs. Pilt lets you chat with the people around you. At our table, Annie does most of the talking. I get in a few words every now and then, and Jeremy rarely speaks at all.

We’re starting a new project, and for the moment, even Annie’s quiet while we all consider the charcoal and paper before us. If I’m going to tell them I’m gay and enlist their help, now is my best chance. I’d better act fast.

I open my mouth, but suddenly a lump forms in my throat. I take a deep breath and try again, but my stomach flutters.

What’s wrong with me? Why am I so nervous all of a sudden? Maybe if I ease into the subject?

I clear my throat. “Did you see Andy Gibb on TV this weekend? He’s good-looking.” I manage to say it without stammering.

Annie pulls at a lock of wiry black hair and grunts out one of her peculiar snickers. “Honey, good-looking doesn’t even begin to describe Andy Gibb.”

Annie’s laugh is kind of a cross between a giggle and the sound some people make when they’re blowing their noses. Like Annie herself, it’s unique. She’s outspoken and outlandish, and she doesn’t care who knows it. And she’s definitely got more than her quota of artistic flair. It extends right down to the clothes she wears. For example, today she has on a tangerine and lime-colored disco party dress with three-inch-high clogs.

“Yeah, I really like Andy Gibb,” I say.

Without looking up, Jeremy says, “He’s okay. What other singers do you like, Randy?”

One of the nice things about Jeremy is he’s not only quiet, he gets along with everybody—except for that low-rumble, love-hate thing he and Annie have going on. It’s okay though, because in the three years I’ve known them, they always sit together, and they look out for each other, despite constantly bickering.

“Well, on the male side, I guess I’d have to say Rod Stewart. That Georgie song was just so moving.”

“The one about the gay guy?” Jeremy mumbles, and Annie starts to snicker.

“Yeah, I’m gay.”

So much for easing into the subject.

Annie freezes in mid-snort. Jeremy looks up without raising his head.

“Of course you’re gay, sugar,” Annie says with a chuckle. “But you don’t have to say it so loud.”

I quickly look around, my cheeks burning, but none of the other students are paying us any attention.

Annie’s smile softens. “Now, don’t be embarrassed. I just mean I’ve had my suspicions about you for a while. You dress too well, and you’re always combing your hair. And you even like the Village People.”

“So what? Lots of people like the Village People. What’s that got to do with anything?”

Annie stares at me. “Randy, you do know they’re all gay, don’t you? I mean, you do know what “Y.M.C.A.” is all about?”

“It’s about working out at the Y.M.C.A., of course.”

“It’s about hanging out with all the boys. You get it now?”

Jeremy slowly shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

It’s painfully obvious that Annie knows a lot more about the gay world than I do. I’ve got a lot to learn. And being the generous, take-charge person she is, Annie’s more than ready to take on the mission of teaching me, as well as helping me find a boyfriend. She immediately launches into what promises to be the first of several lessons, beginning with how to spot a gay guy.

“Now there are some basic things you need to look for. Like if he talks kind of girly, or sort of walks like a girl, it might mean he’s gay.”

“I don’t talk girly, do I?” I squeak in alarm.

“No, sugar, you don’t talk girly,” she says and preemptively adds, “and you don’t walk girly either.”

“And that doesn’t prove anything anyway,” Jeremy mutters, scratching his nose and leaving a dark charcoal smudge. (He’s always talked kind of girly himself.)

“I said it might mean he’s gay, not proves it,” Annie snaps. She looks at Jeremy, points to her nose, and he tries to wipe the smudge off his own.

“I don’t get it,” I say.

“It’s part of the overall assessment you need to make before you stick your…uh…neck out.”

Jeremy sighs. “About as subtle as a wet tongue in the ear.”

Annie continues, totally ignoring him, “Another important thing is the look.”

“You mean, is he good-looking?”

“No, sugar. How he looks at you. Like, do his eyes linger on you? Haven’t you ever been in a room full of people and seen somebody you thought was really attractive?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, well, I bet you looked at him a bit longer than you did the other people in the room. Maybe you even kept coming back to look at him again.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“So if a guy looks at you like that, it may mean he thinks you’re attractive. Which would mean…?”

“He’s gay,” I reply like a first grader just realizing two plus two equals four.

By the end of class, we’ve covered a lot of ground, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the main point. It’s all in the eyes. Eye contact and a lingering glance are the keys to identifying a gay guy.

No problem.

This is going to be so easy.

 

But after Art, I go to the one place where eye contact means something completely different than finding a guy attractive. A high school locker room.

In a locker room, guys always look each other straight in the eye, or try to. See, in any group of teenage males, the first one caught looking at another guy down there automatically becomes the target for putdowns, threats, insults, and the occasional punch. It’s like a tradition, and believe me, it’s something you want to avoid. And avoiding it is not always easy—for me, anyway. I guess it comes with the territory when you’re gay, but towels provocatively rubbing against firm flesh are just hard to ignore. No matter which way I turn, a parade of legs, butts, and crotches all flex, wiggle, and bounce in front of me. The musty, sweaty boy-smell doesn’t help matters much either.

It’s not fair. And it’s not like I’m the only guy in history to ever get a hard-on in a high school locker room. For a lot of guys it’s a natural reaction to the cool moist air. But the trouble is, around certain guys, I’m radically reactionary. Like my eyes drift over to Rick Payton, and while I’m admiring his silky black hair, my body just reacts. Billy Mason and Jeff Gray also make my skin tingle. And whenever I see Jamie Becker changing—Oh God.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I drool or anything. And over time, I’ve learned to focus my thoughts elsewhere with Buddha-like concentration. But back in August, on that first day of gym class, before I could get focused, too many guys noticed my natural reaction.

It’s a month later, and I’m still working to live it down.

“Hey, faggot,” Bradley Romero says with a smirk, “like what you see?”

He shakes himself at me to a chorus of snickers.

Jamie chuckles. “Now don’t be so hard on him, Brad. You don’t want him to jump you. Remember, his name is Randy.”

I throw my clothes into my locker and turn back to face them.

“Jamie, it always amazes me how you can talk so clearly with Brad’s dick in your mouth.”

Without running—that would look too much like defeat—I dash out the door while shouted threats, insults, and laughter echo behind me.

Brad and Jamie call me a faggot nearly every day. I’m used to it. They’re just frustrated because they want the girls to think they’re jocks, and I’m better at a lot of things in PE than they are—which isn’t really saying that much. But if they knew I really am gay, they’d make my life a living hell. As it is, I’m on safe ground as long as I keep making crude comebacks.

By the way, I always direct my comebacks at Jamie. It appeals to Brad’s sense of superiority, and it embarrasses Jamie. And he just looks so cute when he’s blushing.

Ah, Jamie—if only he could be my special someone. Back in the seventh grade, we were playing kickball one day, and I remember watching Jamie sliding into home. Even then, he was tall for his age. He was tanned, and something about his legs gave me a tingly sensation that just did it for me. At the time, I didn’t really know what it was, but I couldn’t stop looking at him and just wanted to be near him.

Today, when we all get inside the gym, Coach Horne announces we’re going to play dodge ball, which he says will help us hone our reflexes. In reality, it just confirms my theory that he’s a sadist. I mean, it’s bad enough that I have to be careful in the locker room every day. It’s worse when I have to watch out for both Brad and Roderick “Ramrod” Fuller aiming a ball at me as well.

Of course, I’m the first one to get hit. Billy Mason’s long, muscular legs distract me. Ramrod notices I’m not looking in his direction, and the next thing I know, I’m limping off the court, doubled over in nut-crunching pain. The coach gives Ramrod a five-minute timeout and tells me to hit the showers while I recover.

Actually, by the time I get to the locker room, the pain in my groin isn’t that bad anymore. But there’s absolutely no way I’m going back in that gym when I’ve got a great excuse to shower off in peace.

After stripping down, I walk into the shower room and freeze. There before me is the hottest body to ever stand only five foot six. It’s Gene Murphy, a senior with big, light brown eyes and long sexy lashes. Shampoo is streaming over his broad shoulders and sliding down a muscular but not chiseled chest. My gaze involuntarily slides down with it, and Oh my God. My jaw drops.

In less than five seconds, I go from still being in pain, to tingling all over, to rock hard. It’s like I’ve just been turned to stone.

I’ve had a thing for Gene since last year. One day, an upperclassman called me a faggot while shoving me out of his way, and as I stumbled into a wall, I came face-to-face with Gene. He grinned at me, while I turned so red I must have looked sunburned. It was a case of pure lust at first sight. I didn’t even know his name until I spent a half hour looking him up in my yearbook. From then on, my eyes have been glued to him every time I see him.

“Hi,” he says, bringing me out of my trance.

Oh God. I’ve been standing there staring at him—well, it really—for God knows how long, with only a bar of soap to cover me.

I quickly look away and turn on the water.

“I said hi.”

“Hey,” I say, desperately trying to will down my hard-on.

But when I finally get up the nerve to look back at him, I catch sight of those big, pretty eyes staring right at me, and it’s like being charmed by a cobra.

“What’s your name?”

“Uh, Randy. Randy Clark.”

“Hi, Randy. I’m Gene Murphy. What grade are you in?”

It takes me a second to remember.

“Uh, t-tenth grade.”

“Got your license yet?”

“I, uh, no. Not yet. I’ll be going in for try number three next week.”

He tilts his head to one side and says, “Don’t feel so bad. I was surprised I passed on my second try. I’m sure you’ll do fine this time.”

My other natural reaction is blushing. Even the littlest thing can bring it on. And what again draws my attention before I can look away isn’t very little at all.

Gene breaks into a devilish grin. “You’re looking at me, and I think we both know why.”

I couldn’t blush any harder. Here I am, naked, with a hard-on that could break rocks, staring at him, and he’s not only caught me looking down there, he’s calling me out about it.

Without warning, he tosses his shampoo my way. Somehow, I catch it, dropping my bar of soap in the process.

“Go ahead,” he says. “Use as much as you need. You’ll like it.”

Almost unconsciously, I pour some in my hand, and toss the bottle back to him. The shampoo has a light, enticing aroma. I rub it into my hair, and it lathers instantly. At last, I’m able to take my eyes off him. But the shampoo is sliding down my back and around my butt, and it just makes me more aware of being naked in front of him.

I do my best to invoke my Buddha focus, and by the time I rinse off, I’m partly successful. Of course, it helps that by then, Gene has already left the shower. But when I walk into the locker room and find him still there, dressing, it’s like I haven’t even been trying. Mercifully, he either doesn’t notice my condition or pretends not to.

He keeps the conversation going while I stumble around trying to dry off. It turns out we don’t have a lot in common, but I pretend to like a few of the things he mentions—anything to keep those eyes aimed my way. I’m so mesmerized by them I end up just sitting there with the towel draped over my lap, hoping he won’t notice the tent.

“So, are you dating anybody?”

“No,” I say, and hesitate before adding, “not at the moment. You?”

“Me? No, my girlfriend broke up with me.”

“She didn’t deserve you,” I mumble in spite of myself. He breaks into a soft smile and keeps me locked in eye contact while my cheeks burn and I become even more conscious of the tent in my lap.

After he’s finished getting dressed, he sits down close to me to tie his shoes. The more he shines those beautiful eyes on me, the more I’m attracted to him. And even though he’s just mentioned a girlfriend—well, ex-girlfriend—I get the feeling he might be attracted to me.

I keep telling myself It’s just my imagination. But I don’t believe it.

“Well,” he says, “it was nice talking to you, Randy. I hope we get a chance to do it again. You seem like a real cool guy.”

Then he reaches over and gives my knee a squeeze before standing up to leave. It’s nothing more than a friendly gesture, but it goes all over me. He walks out, leaving me blushing, and dripping.

When the guys come back in, I’ve only just barely calmed myself down. While they shower and change, I wait for the bell in the hallway. The lingering smell of Gene’s shampoo flirts with my nose, and I keep reliving the memory of the two of us naked in the shower room.

Gene Murphy is now at the top of my boyfriend wish list.

 

The bus stops, and Blake disappears out the door. Time to stretch out again. I’m on my own for the rest of the ride.

My eyes drift over to Theo Hayes. I can’t help it. He’s on the baseball team this year, and he’s really developing that hot, young athlete look—you know, super fit with an air of innocent cuteness.

I’ve only been looking at him for a second or two when he sees me and scowls. I quickly look away.

Theo hates me, and I’ve got no one to blame but myself. See, I’ve got this bad habit of letting my imagination run away with me. I start daydreaming, and the next thing I know, I’ve said or done something stupid.

Theo’s the perfect example.

One day last spring, we were chatting in the courtyard outside the lunchroom, and I slipped up and made a fool of myself.

I found myself staring at him, and I said, “You’re lucky.”

“Yeah? Why am I lucky?”

“Because you’ve got good skin and the most beautiful dark green eyes I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Let’s just say we’re not on speaking terms anymore. It’s a shame, because not only is Theo hot, but up until then, we’d been getting to be good friends.

The bus stops, and I walk the half block to my house. Home sweet home. The Clark family is a by-the-book picture of domestic bliss. There’s me, my parents, and my little brother. But don’t expect a lot of hugs and kisses in this house.

My mom’s happy enough—as long as I fit in and don’t do anything weird to embarrass her socially. Dad, on the other hand, is never happy. And he’s never forgiven me for that time in seventh grade when I slipped up and said I thought Jamie was cute. Around the house, he’s like a drill sergeant, and as far as he’s concerned, I’m Private Snafu. Sometimes, I think he goes out of his way looking for opportunities to humiliate me. And when he’s not railing about the Blacks, it’s the Mexicans, or it’s the Asians, you name it. And the worst part is he’s even been known to do it in public. Really, it’s so embarrassing.

And then there’s my brother Wally. He’s four years younger than me, and he’s the classic younger brother—you know, a turd. “The Turd” is kind of like that old nursery rhyme about snails and puppy dog tails. He’s got the intelligence of a slug, and he’s about as well house-broken as a Chihuahua. Unfortunately, he’s also following right in Dad’s footsteps, and he’s so prejudiced he makes Archie Bunker look like Iggy Pop.

As soon as I get inside, I sneak upstairs to my room, close the door behind me, and hear that satisfying click when I turn the lock. My room is my private sanctuary from the world and all its troubles. I used to have to share a room with The Turd. But when I turned fourteen, my parents gave in and let me have the guest bedroom. It was either do that or face the fact that sooner or later one of their children was going to kill the other.

I drop my book bag, flop onto the bed, and switch on the record player. The sound of Kansas kicking out “People of the South Wind” fills the room, and I start daydreaming. It’s time to choose an object for my daily exercise in adolescent lust.

Ah, memories. I’ve got like a mental catalogue of images to choose from. Okay, even though I always use my Buddha focus in the locker room and showers, I am an artist, and appreciating the human form is a sign of the artistic temperament. I mean, Michelangelo had to have some familiarity with the human form to sculpt his David. And let’s face it—David is one good-looking statue.

Today, I don’t even need to open my mental catalogue. After that shower in PE, Gene is the perfect choice to inspire my artistic temperament. I see myself rubbing my hands all over him and imagine him kissing me. It’s amazing what a little inspiration can stimulate in a guy. I bet he’d make the perfect boyfriend.

Twenty-three minutes and some minor clean up later, I’m again ready to face anything the world can throw at me—even Wally The Turd.

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