But when Adam graduates and takes an off-Broadway job in New York--at Nate's insistence--that certainty begins to flicker. Nate's friends can't keep his insecurities at bay, especially when he catches Skyped glimpses of Adam's shirtless roommate. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it's the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.
Tender, thoughtful, and unflinchingly real, Don't Let Me Go is a witty and beautifully written account of young love, long-distance relationships, and learning to follow your heart.
"Don't Let Me Go is a charming story. Trumble's love for the characters is evident on every page, and it's contagious." -- Robin Reardon, author of A Secret Edge
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
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Don't Let Me Go
By J. H. TRUMBLE
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2012 J. H. Trumble
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSaturday, July 26
One. I lied. All that crap about me wanting you to go, about me needing to know who I am without you. Lies. Every stupid, lying word of it. I don't want you to go. God, I don't want you to go. And not only do I not need to know who I am without you, I couldn't care less. There is no me without you. The yin and the yang. You, yin; me, yang. Adam and Nate. Two parts of a whole. Existing together in beautiful harmony. Without you, I'm just a broken piece.
Two. You had to know that.
I veered my car sharply into a Shell station a few blocks from Adam's neighborhood.
"You're kidding," he said, glancing at the time on his cell phone. "Nate ..."
"What?" I maneuvered the car next to a pump and hit the brake a little too abruptly. "You want to get to the airport? We need gas."
He huffed, one of those irritated and irritating noises he'd been making all morning. "Why didn't you put gas in the car yesterday?" he said, turning down the stereo. "We don't have time for this."
"We don't seem to have time for a lot of things lately." I killed the ignition and popped the handle on the door.
"Come on. That's not fair. We spent the entire night together."
"Sleeping," I muttered and dropped my head back against my seat. This was the part where he was supposed to console me, whip out his ticket and rip it up into a million pieces right in front of me, toss it out on the concrete, beg me to turn the car around, profess his undying love, confess he couldn't live without me.
Instead he lit up his cell phone. "Shit," he said softly. He dropped the phone in his lap and growled, which might have been sexy if I hadn't been so angry and if he hadn't been so freaking anal. "Are you trying to make me miss my flight?"
So much for love. "I don't know why you're in such a damn hurry. At the rate we're going, we'll have time to wax the stupid plane before they board passengers."
"You're being a brat," he said. "You know that?"
Brat? He called me a brat? He'd called me a lot of things in the last ten months and nine days, a lot of sweet, beautiful things. But brat? Never brat. Not even close.
He opened his door. "I'll get the gas."
"I'll get it," I said, and got out.
I jabbed the nozzle into the tank and locked the trigger, but I kept my hand on it. The other hand I shoved deep in my pocket. I watched the air shimmer around the pump handle.
Adam leaned against the car and watched me. When I didn't look up, he tipped his head low and fingered my T-shirt at the waist. "Just to set the record straight," he said, "we didn't sleep all that much either." The tiniest of smiles tugged at the corners of his mouth. My eyes locked on his and my heart lurched in my chest. It was an unexpected moment of intimacy standing next to a gas pump on a stifling July morning, sweat trickling down my back and the smell of gas strong in the air, the moment so brief that in the days and weeks ahead, I would think I had imagined it. But for three, maybe four fleeting seconds, I saw in his eyes the guy who loved me, the guy I loved back so much that it scared me sometimes.
His eyes shifted past me to the spinning dial on the pump, and as suddenly as it had arrived, the moment was gone.
He took the handle from me and released the trigger with a thunk and seated it back on the pump. I stared at the dial, not quite believing what I was seeing—five gallons. Five gallons? That was all he could give me this morning? A five-gallon delay? I stood, stunned, as he secured the gas cap and smacked me on the butt. "Let's go, handsome."
As I pulled back onto the road, he checked the time on his cell phone again and then tucked it back in his pocket and resumed patting his thigh to the song. I thought if he pulled that freaking phone out one more time, swear to God, I was going to pitch it out the window. The gas gauge nudged just past a quarter tank, but my internal gauge was quickly slipping toward Empty.
"You won't miss your flight," I said, the hurt coating my words, weighing them down so that they tumbled out, heavy and muted.
He put his hand to my ear and rubbed my earring with his thumb. "I'm going to have to send you a new pair of earrings."
I kept my eyes on the road but shifted my head and my shoulder to trap his hand just for a moment. "I don't want another earring." I swallowed hard past the lump in my throat. How could he even think I could part with this one? When I'd woken up in the hospital, one of the first things I'd noticed was that they'd taken my earrings, the ones he'd brought me from New York. He'd taken a black stud from his own ear then and put it in mine. I hadn't taken it off since that day. I didn't intend to take it off ever.
I glanced at him. He smiled and dropped his hand and looked back out the window. I could sense his thoughts slipping away again as he picked up the song and the beat.
"We're pulling apart," I said.
"Hm?" He looked over at me.
"The line. It's we're pulling apart."
I looked back at the road. "Never mind."
He smiled distantly and turned back to the window. Up ahead, the freeway split. I slid into the right-hand lane and made the wide sweep onto the toll road as Adam butchered yet another line.
It was stupid, stupid, getting pissed off over something I did myself all the time. Who cared whether he got The Fray's lyrics right or not? Except that he'd been doing more and more of that in the past few weeks—feigning attention, smiling vaguely when I said something or asked a question. Sometimes it felt like he was already gone, like his brain had been unplugged from the here and present and plugged back in to the there and future. Maybe I was to blame. I'd pushed him to take the job. This is your time. Please, go to New York. Be fabulous. I just never thought he'd go for it with such gusto.
"You're wearing the green underwear," I said.
"What?" He turned down the AC.
"I said, You're. Wearing. The green. Underwear."
"What? You're complaining about my underwear? You want me to take them off?"
"We don't have time for that, remember?" I said, sullenly.
He rolled his eyes. "Why does it matter what underwear I'm wearing?"
"Because I bought them for you in Key West."
"I remember. I like them. A lot. I promise, they're clean."
"I just don't know why you're wearing them today," I mumbled.
Okay, now I was being a brat.
I popped the cover on the storage compartment in the console and felt around until I found a thin jewel case. One-handed, I flicked it open and popped out the CD. The case clattered to the console, then dropped into the space between the console and Adam's seat. I hit the eject button and switched the CDs, then dropped The Fray back into the storage compartment sans case and smacked the lid shut. Three Dog Night wailed about some stupid bullfrog named Jeremiah.
"Is there something we need to talk about?" Adam asked.
The heat was creeping back into the car. I turned the AC back up and stared at the toll booths up ahead, considering the penalty for crashing through the gates. We'd get pulled over for sure. I'd probably have to take a sobriety test—walk the line, breathe into some little tube. I'd get a citation for failure to stop and pay a toll and probably a hugely inflated bill for replacing the gate. And then Adam would miss his flight. And for just a little while longer he'd stay. But there were other flights. There would always be other flights.
I hit the brakes and fumbled in the tray at the base of the gear shift for quarters. I counted out five. "Dammit, I should have gotten some quarters before we left." The tray held some loose change, mostly pennies and a stray nickel or dime. I slid the coins aside until I found two more quarters. I pinched one and added it to the five in my hand, then flung all six at the basket. Three overshot and fell to the concrete.
"Great." I got the last quarter out of the tray. "Do you have any quarters?"
"Just back up and go to the full-service lane," he said, clearly annoyed.
"I can't just back up." A horn blared behind us. I glanced in the rearview mirror, then popped the door handle and gestured to the dickhead behind us as I got out. He leaned out his window and called me a faggot. I found two of the coins and made some suggestions to the guy about how he might amuse himself while he waited for me to move, then got back in the car, slammed the three coins into the basket, and hit the accelerator, almost taking out the gate anyway.
I couldn't stand any more joy to the fishes. Gag me. I jabbed the track button. After a pause, an electric guitar ripped from the speakers. I'd burned this CD of rock anthems years ago when I first decided guitar was more than just a way to blow a few hours after school each day. I might have lost myself in the music if it hadn't been for the stupid lyrics.
Well, I'm hot-blooded ...
Oh, hell, no. I hit the track button. From the corner of my eye, I could see Adam staring at me, but I kept my eyes on the road. The airport exit was just ahead, three-quarters of a mile. I considered staying in my lane, driving until we ran out of gas. (How far would five gallons take us? Galveston, maybe? I could finish my senior year at Moody High. Surely there was a theater company Adam could perform with. It didn't even matter. We could be beach bums, sell T-shirts to tourists in a beach shop, live on love. That's all we needed, right? The toll road to I-45, then Galveston. It would be so easy.)
A jet screamed overhead. The noise—the jet, the AC blowing full blast, the music, the roar of traffic around us—it was all too much. I turned off the AC again and flicked on my blinker and slid into the exit lane.
Fame (fame) lets him loose, hard to swallow.
I jabbed the button again, twice, then a third time.
"What's wrong, Nate?" Adam said.
I shook my head, not trusting my voice. The heat was creeping back into the car. This time it was Adam who turned the AC back on.
And then "Free Bird" was playing and my fingers ached with the urge to hit the track button again, but I could feel Adam's eyes on me, so I didn't. Death by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"Hey," he said, running his hand up and down my thigh. "Let's do Key West again next June. It'll be my graduation gift to you this time. No parents."
I gripped his hand tightly and hoped to God I could make it to June. Key West was magic. And I was afraid I was going to need some magic by then.
Chapter TwoTwo months earlier Graduation party and Key West
"Open it! Open it!" Mea cried, bouncing impatiently in her chair.
Adam grinned. "I'm opening it." He painstakingly worked the envelope flap loose just to tease his little sister. Adam's parents had waited until the party guests had gotten out of the pool, dried off, and gone home to give him their graduation gift.
Clearly, the wait had been almost too much for his little sister. "It's an airplane ticket," she blurted out before he could finish the job.
"Mea!" Mrs. Jensen said, putting her hand over the six-year-old's mouth.
Adam stuck his tongue out at her and removed not one, but two tickets from the envelope. He looked at them, said, "Wow," cleared his throat, then held them up for me to see.
"What?" I said, surprised, because one of the tickets was issued to Nathan Schaper.
"Family trip," Ben said before we could get the wrong idea, which was approximately two seconds too late.
Mrs. Jensen slinked her arm around her husband's waist. "We've already cleared it with your mom, Nate. We have a lot to celebrate and, well, we're really hoping you want to go."
A week in Key West with Adam? Was she kidding? Even with his family, it was still a week in Key West with Adam. Just a week and a half ago I'd been girding myself for a second trial, a repeat of the painful and humiliating experience that had been the first trial in March. Facing the second assailant in the courtroom, reliving that horrible night five months ago, laying out the most intimate details of my relationship with Adam, and feeling like I was the one on trial. And then, at the eleventh hour, a plea deal.
Just like that, it was over.
I hadn't felt this free, been this happy since last New Year's Eve, until Mea innocently blabbed half an hour later, "Adam's going to be a star."
I was helping her get her toys out of the pool while Adam helped his mom and Ben carry the food back inside.
"Adam's already a star," I said, hooking a yellow raft with a net and dragging it toward the edge.
"No, he's going to be a for-real star. In a play and everything. In New York. He even said I could visit him. And he's going to take me to the zoo in Central Park. And let me feed the pigeons and ..."
New York? New York?
Over the next week, I kept waiting for Adam to hit me with New York, my excitement over the trip to Key West marred by a new impending sense of doom. But he said nothing. And by Friday afternoon I was beginning to think that Mea had gotten it all wrong.
Adam was rummaging through my suitcase when I got out of the shower.
"Why do you have so many books packed?" he asked, flipping through the pages of a novel I'd picked up at a used bookstore after work a few days earlier. "When do you think you're going to have time to do all this reading?"
"I always read at night before I go to bed."
"Not this trip. You're sharing a room with me."
"What?" I froze in the middle of towel-drying my hair and stared at him, shocked.
He laughed and tossed two books over his shoulder. "Mom and Ben finally gave up trying to figure out room arrangements. They could only get two rooms at such a late date, so they were going to have me sleep with them and Mea. And then that seemed ridiculous when there was an empty double bed in the room right next door. So ..."
A slow smile spread across my face. "So I'm stuck with you for a whole week? In Key West? Me and you? Together? Like alone? All night?"
He laughed and held up a pair of pajama pants. "You won't be needing these either." He tossed them over his shoulder too. I threw a box from my nightstand into my bag and he read the label. "Trojan natural lamb. For a more sensual feeling." He held it up to me, smiling. "A twelve pack? Are you kidding me? I hope there's a First Aid kit in here somewhere too."
Key West—the southernmost point in the United States, a mere six square miles, the last in a string of keys off the tip of Florida, and a place where, as one Web site claimed, closets have no doors. But thankfully, the rooms did, with locks. Ben handed over the key with a slightly amused grin.
"I expect you two to behave."
Fortunately, our room wasn't next to theirs after all.
The week was pure magic. We filled our days with long walks on the beach and lazy swims in the ocean. We explored the island on bicycle, taking in the nineteenth-century architecture, dodging the free-roaming chickens, and chatting up barefoot hippies with tiny dogs nestled in their bicycle baskets. We wandered through Ernest Hemingway's house and speculated about Tennessee Williams's life as we stood, hand-in-hand, outside the bungalow he'd lived in decades ago. And when we got hungry, we ate Cuban sandwiches or conch fritters at a sidewalk table or sitting on the curb and watched other lovers in fearless public displays of affection.
Our nights we filled with passion and long soft gazes and sweet words. We weren't behaving ourselves, and we didn't for one moment feel guilty about that.
On Thursday evening, I paid a street performer twenty-five dollars to borrow his guitar for five minutes. It was the first time I'd played Adam his song, the song I'd written for him as a Christmas present, the song I'd not had the heart to play for him before then. And it seemed right that I'd waited. I played it for him sitting cross-legged under a street lamp in Mallory Square with the crowds and tightrope walkers and jugglers as a backdrop. He cried.
Too soon it was the last day, the sun on the beach just as intense as it had been on the first, but the water cooled our feet as we walked through the surf. Adam took my hand.
"Can I ask you something?" I said.
He smiled and strengthened his grip.
"When were you going to tell me about New York?"
Excerpted from Don't Let Me Go by J. H. TRUMBLE Copyright © 2012 by J. H. Trumble. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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