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Excerpt: Anonymous

Cover

Anonymous Cover

Blurb

Anonymous is a novella -length story about Brooks, a rugby player in high school. Convinced that he’ll never be able to go pro if he comes out as gay he keeps his sexuality a secret and accepts an offer from a scout to go pro after high school.

But when he finds a mysterious note in his locker from someone calling themselves Anonymous, warning him that they know his secret, Brooks begins to have doubts. He scans every person in his school, looking for Anonymous to no avail. Yet, having the support of an unknown fellow student begins opening his mind to new possibilities.

Is it possible for him to be happy and do what he loves? Can he come out without being judged?

Excerpt

Brooks gave his eyes another rub as he stood in front of his locker. He was trying not to let his father’s words get to him. He was tired emotionally and physically. He’d had a tough game at the weekend and he was really tired of pretending that he wasn’t gay. It was draining the life out of him, but he couldn’t tell his parents that. His dad thought the world was shiny and bright, that he could have everything he wanted as long as he was honest about it. But that wasn’t how the world worked. Not yet. But it would be, he hoped.

Letting out a sigh, he dialled in his locker combination and opened the door the minute it clicked free. Then he froze. There was a piece of paper sticking out the back of his locker door. He looked around and couldn’t see anyone looking at him, so he yanked the paper free of the small air vent slats and unfolded it.

Brooks,

I know your secret. I know that you’re gay. I just wanted you to know that I’m here if you need me. I won’t tell anyone and I won’t make a scene that will expose you.

I just want you to know that you’re not alone,

Anonymous.

Brooks looked around again, viewing his fellow students a little more closely. No-one was making a show of avoiding him or looking at him. There was no-one who looked uneasy, cocky or unusually friendly. He read the note again and then panicked over what to do with it. He couldn’t carry it around in case he dropped it and someone read it. He couldn’t leave it in his locker in case anyone broke in or one of his friends grabbed it before he could stop them. He could burn it, but then he might get caught. He’d have to leave school grounds to do it, which meant he would have to wait and find somewhere to stash it until then.

Full of indecision, Brooks crouched down to the floor as if to tie his shoelace and slotted the note down the inside of his boot. He didn’t have gym class or practice today so it should be safe there until he got home and he could store it somewhere safe. Now a bigger question burned in his mind. Who knew he was gay? And why tell him they knew but wouldn’t tell anyone?

Just know that you’re not alone,

Those words rung through his head, like an old record that kept skipping over the last line. Was it true? Was there someone else who felt how he felt and wanted him to know that being happy wasn’t an elusive dream?

.

“Brooks,” Someone spoke far too close to him and he jumped. Slowly, he got to his feet and smiled at his best friend, Archie. He nodded to him in hello and set about grabbing his books for first period, trying to act casual. “You okay, bud?” He asked, clearly noticing something was wrong.

“Just a bit sore. I think I might have tweaked my back at the game.” He lied, although his lower back was aching after a rough tackle. Archie nodded in understanding and reached into his bag to hand over a bottle of painkillers. “Thanks.” Brooks managed a real smile and took two pills to try to help ease the pressure.

“So, going to the party tonight?” Archie asked, leaning back on the locker next to his. Brooks frowned because he didn’t remember being invited to any parties.

“Didn’t know there was one.” He shrugged.

“Dude, that cute girl Dixey invited you after the game.” His best friend laughed and gave him a playful punch on the shoulder.

Brooks had forgotten all about that girl. He’d been watching Ryder at the time, talking and laughing with his group of friends, completely oblivious to him. He could vaguely remember nodding his head a lot and pretending to listen while he thought about how it would be to kiss Ryder. What it would be like to date him and be open about his attraction.

He had never kissed a boy before. He could never take the risk. He was hoping Ryder would be his first; they had grown up together and been the best of friends back before high school had divided them into different social groups. Because he played sports he was popular and surrounded by a bunch of fake people; because Ryder was smart and a geek he ended up in the lower social register. Brooks didn’t care. He adored the geek side of Ryder and he felt sure that after the game when he’d been ogling him so discretely, his crush had looked right at him and smiled. He’d smiled back, unsure if he was imagining it or not, until Ryder blushed and looked away with a stupid, adorable, gorgeously embarrassed smile on his face.

“Dude!” Archie smacked his arm and Brooks reluctantly returned to the conversation. His best friend was grinning at him. “You’ve got a thing for Dixey. That’s why you don’t remember the invitation. You were too busy staring at that rack.” He laughed as if he approved.

“You know it.” Brooks lied, trying desperately to remember who Dixey was and what she looked like. He could remember a waft of blonde hair but that was about it. He decided to focus on locking his locker door instead. “I’m not sure I can go though. My parents are away this weekend and I’m supposed to watch the dog.” He explained, since it was half true.

His parents wouldn’t care if he left the dog for a few hours to go to a party, but Jareth was a fickle thing and he loved him. He was hoping to spend the weekend curled up on the sofa with the dog, watching movies. He really didn’t feel like socialising; he still had to decipher who anonymous was.

“Can’t you just come for an hour or two?” Archie frowned at him in disappointment.

“Afraid not. Jareth isn’t doing so great right now. He’s been acting weird since this heat wave hit last week and I’d rather not leave him alone inside for that long.” He apologised, patting Archie’s arm as they moved across the hall to their registration class. “If I stay with him he can at least go outside and I can take him for a swim to cool down.” He explained the truth of the matter. He would take care of Jareth instead of attending the stupid party he didn’t want to go to.

“Fine.” Archie grumbled and took his seat, making him smile.

Right now Archie was his best friend. But would it stay that way if he came out? If he knew what his Anonymous friend knew, would he still be insisting he go to parties with him and be his best bud? Brooks was sorry to say that he didn’t think so.

***

Brooks spent the rest of the day trying to figure out who had sent him the note. He couldn’t find anyone who seemed a likely candidate. His mind barely left the note all day until the impossible happened during the lunch break. Ryder approached his table, looking shy but curious.

“Hey,” He said, flashing a gorgeous smile at him. Brooks smiled back. “Um…is it okay if I…” He let the sentence trail off as he gestured to the seat beside him. It wasn’t the only seat at his table since none of his friends had arrived yet. He nodded, suddenly speechless as his two year crush sat down next to him. He half hoped that his next words would be to ask if he’d got his note. If there was anyone he wanted to be ‘Anonymous’ it was Ryder.

“I saw the game last weekend. You did great during that last ruck. Everyone else was frazzled but you kept a cool head the whole time.” He said, pulling the straw of his milkshake carton to his lips.

For a moment Brooks was completely hypnotised by the way his lips gently curled around the straw and the way his adam’s apple bobbed as he took a drink. But he had to shake it off. His crush was actually talking to him for maybe the first time since they joined high school. “Thanks.” Was all he could think to say. He silently cursed himself and turned back to the bacon roll he’d bought for his lunch. He now wasn’t sure he’d get it down his throat, past his twisted tongue.

“Are you going Pro after college?” Ryder asked, as if they had never stopped being friends. It made him feel good to know that he felt the way he did; that they would never have to be in the same room together with nothing to say to each other.

“Well, not exactly. A scout came to the game about six months ago and offered me a deal. I’ll go Pro as long as I complete one year of college. They’ve picked a program for me and all I have to do is ride out the one year before they can finalise a deal with a Pro team.” He explained what he could about it, since he didn’t know much more than that. All he knew was that he had to go to classes for that one year so the scout could add ‘college student’ to his CV.

“That’s great.” He beamed, like he’d done something spectacular. Brooks shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable with the praise, for no reason he could fathom. “Really, Brooks, that’s fantastic. You’re going to be great.” Ryder reassured him, placing his hand on his forearm. For a second he didn’t know why, until he realised that he probably didn’t look convinced that going Pro was a good idea. Damn his dad for putting doubts into his head.

“Thanks. And,” He stalled, not sure if he should say it. But if there was ever a time to get it out it was while they were alone. “I’m sorry that we haven’t stayed close over the last few years. It wasn’t on purpose. I’ve…missed you.” He admitted, adding a smile so that Ryder knew he wasn’t patronising him or hinting at anything.

“I missed you too.” Ryder said, giving his arm a pat and offering him a smile. “Maybe we don’t have to miss each other any more, though?” He asked, slowly reaching his hand out to his. Brooks watched with an erratic heartbeat as Ryder touched the back of his hand with light fingertips. He lowered it from his mouth, where he was about to take a bite of his burger, to the table. Ryder then curled his hand right around his fingers. Their eyes met and he knew.

He didn’t know how he felt it, but he did. Ryder felt the same attraction he felt and he was trying to tell him that without telling him. Brooks let go of his roll and swallowed as he turned his hand until it lay palm up on the table. Ryder seemed to get the message because he smiled and took his hand, linking their fingers.

“There’s a party this weekend.” He began, not sure why he was bringing it up. “I don’t really like parties, but if you wanted to go…” He offered. Ryder smiled and his heart just about stopped when his free hand touched his knee ever so lightly under the table.

“Or we could just hang out ourselves?” He suggested an alternative. Which sounded a heck of a lot better.

“It sounds stupid, but I was going to stay home with the dog and watch some movies. We could do that?” Brooks smiled hopefully, never looking away from those stunning blue eyes. Ryder nodded and suddenly let go of his hand to turn away. He was disappointed and didn’t understand why he did it until someone sat down opposite him.

“Is this where we’re sitting now?” Rick asked with a grin.

Brooks turned back to his lunch, trying not to let on that he and Ryder had just agreed to a first date. Rick was so close to Ryder that he was like a big brother to him, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t have a big mouth or be judgemental. No-one knew Ryder was gay as far, as he knew, so he was keeping his mouth shut.

“I felt like a change of scenery and Brooks was nice enough to look the other way.” Ryder claimed with a teasing tone of voice. He managed to smile and laugh along with Rick. As if anyone could ever say no to Ryder.

He certainly couldn’t.

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