Title: When Everything Is Blue
Author: Laura Lascarso
Cover Art: AngstyG
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Genre(s): Young Adult, Coming of Age
Page Count: 216 pages
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty and Lili
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.
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Am I Being Punked?
On Saturday we load up Chris’s Volvo station wagon in the purple light of predawn and head north on A1A, which means the trip will take a little longer, but the views are prettier and we can watch the sun come up over the water. Chris has me check Surfline on the way to see what the waves look like. The man-made jetty at Sebastian Inlet creates perfect swells on a good day, great for cutbacks and aerial tricks. When a storm blows through, it’s totally rocking, and all the surf rats congregate in a few tiny pockets of surf. This weekend it shouldn’t be too crowded, though, which is how I prefer it. People, ugh. Exhausting.
“Three to five feet, rolling. Low tide’s at 7:00 p.m.,” I tell him.
“Perfect for the long board.”
“Yeah, not too shabby.”
“You surf much this summer?”
“Eh, mostly skateboarded. You?”
“Had a couple good days up at this place called Salt Creek. Water’s pretty there, but so cold. Had to wear a wet suit.”
“Bet you hated that.” Chris would probably surf naked if it was legal.
“Yeah, couldn’t show off my abs.” He rubs his belly with one hand, lifting his shirt a little to offer me a glimpse. I chuckle at his vanity. His abs are amazing—all grooved and chiseled all the way down to his dips, which he’s always showing off because he wears his board shorts super low on his hips. So tempting. And he doesn’t even have to work at it. Dick.
“I met a girl,” he says then, a little quieter.
I go still at the mention of a girl—my fugue state.
“On the beach,” Chris continues. “We messed around some one night when we were at a party.”
“Oh yeah?” I manage to choke out like I’m interested, though I’d rather not hear about it. I’ve seen Chris make out with girls before, and it’s not my favorite pastime. I’m not sure if he wants me to ask about her. I usually don’t have to, which is part of the problem.
“How about you?” he says after a moment. “Hook up with anyone this summer?”
“Nope.” I’ve never lied to Chris, except for my growing attraction to him. I’ve thought about coming clean, but that would change everything. Not that he’d care if I like guys, but he might care that I like him. Talk about awkward. Things would be way too weird between us. Losing him as a friend would be the absolute worst.
“No one?” he says. “Seems like girls are always asking me about you.”
I make some noise in the back of my throat that suggests I don’t believe him.
“For real. I was talking to Ryanne last night. She asked me if you were coming out today.”
First question: why was he talking to Ryanne? Second question: why did my name come up at all? I chew on my lower lip and stare out the window, wondering if this can get any more difficult. The silence seems to suck all the air out of the car.
“Ryanne’s an older woman, you know,” he teases. “You want me to say something to her?”
“No,” I say too quickly. Ryanne is cool, but as I’ve said, not exactly my type.
“I know you’re shy and all….” He glances over at me with brotherly affection, eyes searching mine. Being shy is the least of my problems.
“Don’t say anything,” I say again, and then with a little less intensity, “I’m not looking for a girlfriend.” Technically true. Alone is my default setting. I’m fine with it.
He shakes his head like he’s disappointed. “Handsome guy like you. The girls wouldn’t know what hit them.”
I manage a weak smile and mumble something in agreement while thinking The only person I ever want is you.
There are a few surf rats already out on the beach when we arrive. The sun is still low on the horizon, a melting blob of butter in the sky. The waves are rolling in like a pack of excited puppies, and the beach has a freshness that only a new day can bring. This spot we’re at, Monster Hole, is mostly surfers who know how to take care of the beach, so there’s no litter or trash anywhere. We know some of the people already. Surfers are a tribe of nomads in the sense that they’re usually chasing the same waves up and down the coast. Whenever there’s a hurricane or tropical depression, we end up crowded in the same campsites and cheap hotels, getting drunk on whatever we can get the locals to buy for us. Chris is a favorite among the girls. I bet he’ll have some cute blonde on his lap by the end of the night.
And I’ll be doing everything I can to ignore it.
We unload our boards and greet the few surfers who’ve already gathered. After getting an update on the day’s surf report, we paddle out to test the waves. The water’s still a little chilly, but the sun is coming up fast, spreading its warmth like a hug from a fat, happy god. Lady Macbeth gives me a hard time, or maybe it’s me who’s rusty. I spend more time underwater than I do on the board, but after a couple hours, the waves calm down and smooth out so I’m able to catch longer rides.
Every so often I glance over to see Chris cutting it up on his new board. They’ve become fast friends, which means now he’ll have to name her. He’s a powerful surfer. And fearless. When photographers come out, all the cameras angle toward him to capture his perfect blend of style and charisma. At the moment he’s working on his alley-oop, trying to get as much air as he can while still finishing on his board. His muscular legs pump the board for max speed, and he lifts off the waves like a surf angel before bouncing back down and being swallowed up by whitewater.
My stomach starts to rumble, so I come out to the shore for a spell. Ryanne is there as promised, and we say hello. Her eyes kind of linger on my chest, and I wonder if she likes what she sees. I never know what to do with that. Should I look at her boobs or something to return the favor? More often than not, I look at my feet.
“Haven’t seen you around much this summer,” Ryanne says with an easy smile. Not like she’s flirting, just being conversational, which I appreciate. I suck at small talk.
“Yeah, I got a job. Saving up for a car and all.” I run a hand through my wet hair and try to tame it down a little.
“What kind of car are you looking for?” She squints up at me, shading her eyes from the sun.
“Something that’s good on gas and not too expensive. And doesn’t need fixing.” I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I tell her, “I don’t know much about cars.”
“Me neither. Does it need to fit your board?”
“Nah, I’ve got Chris for that. Skating’s more my thing anyway.”
She nods. “I’ll keep an eye out for you.”
“Thanks. I’d appreciate it.” I glance around, looking for Chris.
“He’s over there talking to Kelli.” She points. Chris is farther down the beach with one of his groupies, Kelli Keyhoe. Kelli goes to our school and is one of Chris’s regular make-out buddies. She’s a junior like Chris and Ryanne. Blonde and beautiful with what the guys call a banging body, Kelli’s doing all the moves I’ve seen my sister use—hair toss, bared neck, laughing at shit that probably isn’t that funny. Guys like that, I guess.
What do gay guys like? I have no idea. I’ve never seen two guys flirt with each other before. Do they even flirt? They must, right? I could really use a few gay rom-coms to guide me. Not that it would help much. I couldn’t flirt to save my life.
I turn back to Ryanne. “I’m going to get some food. You want anything?”
“I can give you a ride. You can check out my Subaru.”
“I was just going to take my skateboard.”
“Oh, okay.” She frowns a little, and I don’t want to be rude, so I add, “But a ride would be great if you’re up for it.”
She agrees, and we walk over to Chris to get his order. He sees Ryanne with me and raises his eyebrows like this is my big chance to hook up with a real, live girl. I have to suppress a massive eye roll because if he only knew. I put on a shirt and wrap my towel around my waist before climbing into Ryanne’s Subaru, so I won’t drip on her upholstery. She brought a board with her to surf, which is cool. Most of the surfer chicks just come to lay out and flirt with the guys. Ryanne can hold her own out there in the surf. And she’s easy to talk to.
While we pick up subs, Ryanne vents to me about her sister who graduated last year and thinks she’s hot shit. I’ve seen her around school. Fast crowd, into those expensive drugs. I can relate to Ryanne’s struggle. Tabs has that same desire to be accepted and popular, at whatever cost. I worry about Tabs and her friends getting into pills or coke. Seems like they’d try some stupid shit just to look cool. Addiction runs in our family.
“She’s completely off the rails,” Ryanne tells me. “Sometimes she’ll disappear for a couple days and we’ll get a call to come pick her up from some rando’s house, totally wrecked and out of her mind. It’s killing my parents.”
I commiserate with her while we wait for the food. I tell her about my mom, who had to deal with the same thing with my dad, getting calls in the middle of the night to come pick him up from whatever bar he’d gotten shit-faced at, then having to fight with him to come home in front of everyone else, dealing with his sulky, woe-is-me attitude the next day. I can remember her actually apologizing to him for not being more understanding. What madness. My dad’s an expert gaslighter.
“That’s bullshit,” Ryanne says, and I wholeheartedly agree.
When we get back to the beach, we all dig into our subs. Chris tries to give me money for the food, but I tell him to keep it for gas. “I’m a working man now.” To get out of an awkward argument, I grab my board and head back out.
The winds have picked up and the waves are coming in faster now, rolling a little higher, breaking with more force. I love how the waves can turn on you so quickly. And the summer storms in Florida—they’re the best. I love to watch the clouds roll in like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the lightning tearing through the black sky like it’s splitting it in two. The way the winds make the palm trees bend to their will with so much power and ferocity. And then the whole thing blows over like it never happened and the sun breaks through again.
I feel the undertow tugging at my legs as I paddle out to where the water’s beginning to curl. I let a few good ones pass by, then jump on a beastly bomb, biggest one I’ve seen all day. I turn my board away, catching it at just the right angle. But when I’m about to pop up, Lady Macbeth gets caught on the wind and turns up hard. Her nose goes completely vertical and dumps me into a swirly that sucks me in deep. The dump is such a surprise that it knocks the wind out of me and I don’t grab enough air before going under. My legs are trapped in the undertow, making it impossible to climb to the surface.
I get rag-dolled by the wave, try to grapple my way out of it, and end up getting buried in deeper while the waves still pound me. My lungs are burning, and for a moment I can’t tell which way is up. I sweep with my arms and scissor my legs, kicking as hard as I can. Finally the pressure relents and I’m able to claw my way to the surface. Just as I breach the waves, two massive hands grab hold of my shoulders and yank me the rest of the way out. Chris is treading water right in front of me with a terrified look on his face.
“Shit, Theo. What took you so long?”
The alarm on his face makes me wonder how long I was under. I glance around for my board and see that Ryanne has trapped it way down the beach. It must have come untethered from my ankle in the swirly.
“You okay?” he asks and shakes my shoulders a bit.
“Should have waited half an hour before swimming,” I say weakly, still breathless and dizzy from lack of oxygen.
He pushes me away and barks a harsh laugh. “Jesus. You’re such an asshole. You sure you’re all right?”
“Yeah, caught me by surprise is all.”
We swim back toward the shore—Chris keeps me at his bow—and catch up with Ryanne and my board. I thank her for retrieving it.
“That board’s a crazy bitch,” Chris says, spitting into the shallows as we wade out. “You need to give her a rest.”
“Can’t. She’s mine now. Got to tame her.”
“Well, take five for my sake. I almost shit my pants.”
I laugh, which is more like a gurgle, then have a little coughing spell. I must have taken on some water while I was under. Chris thumps my back, and I’m not sure it helps, but it does improve my spirits. Once on the beach, I wrap myself in a towel and lie down in the warm sand. Between waking up at 5:00 a.m. and the near-drowning, I’m pretty pooped. I pass out there on the beach and wake up hours later to find our spot mostly deserted and the sun starting to set.
“Morning, sunshine,” Chris says. He’s sitting next to me, cheeks ruddy from the sun, hair stiff from the salt water but still with that cherubic curl at the ends. The freckles on his shoulders stand out more, like connect-the-dots. Is it strange that I want to lick the salt crust from his skin? Yeah, a little bit.
“Where’s the party at?” I ask, sitting up and rubbing my eyes. That’s the routine. Surf till dark, then link up at wherever the beach rats are holed up for the weekend and drink. Or in my case, watch other people drink. My dad’s a high-functioning alcoholic, so I’m not too keen to go there, even recreationally.
“I was thinking we could grab dinner and turn in early.” He stretches his arms and yawns. I resist the temptation to check him out. I also feel a little bad since I slept the afternoon away. He could have drowned on my watch. “That okay with you?” he asks when I don’t respond.
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
“Unless you and Ryanne had plans….”
“All right, then. I picked lunch. You pick dinner.”
We grab a pizza and bring it back with us to where we’re camping. I set up the tent and Chris makes the fire. It’s kind of our routine. We go in for another round of pizza, then sit around and poke at the fire for a while. Chris is quiet, on the verge of moody, which is rare for him. He’s usually the conversationalist. I ask him what’s up.
“Nothing.” He rubs his bloodshot eyes. “Just tired, I guess.”
“I’m ready when you are.” I’m not tired, but Chris won’t turn in until I do. He always has something to prove.
We each piss in the bushes and brush our teeth, dump some sand into the fire to put it out. I change out of my board shorts into some dry athletic shorts and a clean T-shirt. I don’t smell too bad, thanks to the salt water, so I skip the shower.
Inside the tent I expect Chris to pass out right away, but he doesn’t. I can tell by his breathing and the way he keeps glancing over at me to see if I’m asleep. It used to be a thing between us, whoever fell asleep first got punked in increasingly bizarre ways—toothpaste mustache, words written on your forehead, Vagisil in your hand. We haven’t done that in a while, so I don’t think that’s what’s keeping him up. But honestly, a part of me still worries I’ll wake up tomorrow morning missing an eyebrow.
“Can’t sleep?” I ask.
“Thinking about ways to punk me?”
He chuckles. “Now I am.”
We’re each sprawled out on top of our sleeping bags because it’s hot as hell in here, even with the fly off. I can smell him inside the tent, rising up like heat from the pavement. Salt spray and sunscreen and something sharp and manly. So tangy I can almost taste it. The scent of him is so familiar, even while the desires it triggers are not.
“That girl I was telling you about earlier,” he says, picking up the conversation right where we left it. It’s something he does; he’ll start a conversation, then drop it for hours or sometimes days, until he’s ready to share more.
“Yeah, what about her?” I’d rather not know about Chris’s exploits, but this must be something he needs to get off his chest, and what kind of best friend am I if I don’t let him?
“We were at this party, in some back room. It was dark and we were on the couch. There were other people around, but it wasn’t like they were paying attention. We were making out and she, like, wanted me to finger her. Right there.”
I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly. When Chris left for summer, he was a virgin, as far as I knew. Maybe not anymore. How do I feel about it? Doesn’t matter. He needs his best friend right now.
“So did you?” I ask.
“How was it?” I’m mildly curious myself.
“Mmmm….” Chris has a habit of humming while he gathers his thoughts, also while he’s eating. I don’t think he even knows he’s doing it. “It was… squishy.”
I laugh out loud. I can’t help it. “Squishy?”
“Yeah, like a jellyfish.”
“Did it sting you?” I chuckle again.
“No,” he practically shouts. “It just had that… consistency, you know?”
“I don’t know, but that’s a pretty good description.”
He’s quiet for a moment and then he goes, “She wanted to blow me.”
I feel my eyebrows crawl to the top of my forehead. Chris has no concept of TMI, at least not with me. “Did you let her?”
“No, but man, she wanted to,” he says again.
I don’t know too many guys who would turn down a blowjob. That’s, like, the thing at our school. Guys are always talking about who gave them a blowjob that weekend and how it rated with the rest. It makes me feel bad for the girls at our school, how meaningless and one-sided the guys make it seem.
“Why didn’t you?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I just met her, like, the day before. Felt… empty or something.”
I say nothing, just imagine my best friend with a girl, his fingers all up in her jellyfish, her offering up a blowjob and him turning her down, even though it probably would have been easier to go with it. I’m kind of proud of him. And jealous of her that it was even a possibility he entertained. If Chris wants a blowjob, I’d totally take one for the team, but I’m guessing that’s not what he has in mind.
“You would have let her?” he asks, like he might have done something wrong.
“No, I mean, I don’t know. No one’s ever offered. But, in your situation, I probably would have done the same thing.”
We’re quiet after that. Chris is so open and honest. It makes me want to give something back, but whenever I think about expressing myself to him, my stomach gets all tied up in knots and my mouth cements shut and my brain screams no, no, noooo.
“Wow,” Chris says.
“What?” I ask again, feeling paranoid that he somehow read my mind.
“I am so hard right now.”
My breath hitches and my head swivels toward him. His eyes are aimed at his crotch, the tent that’s formed in his basketball shorts, the shiny material pitched in the middle like a beacon. I’ve seen his dick before in passing, but not when it was hard. Never on display.
“So hard it, like, hurts,” Chris says and curls his shoulders a little, like the sensation is uncomfortable.
My fingers dig into the fabric of my sleeping bag while my eyes travel to the tip of his tent, where his hard-on strains against the material, down the slope of his shorts to the waistband, the exposed skin, and the narrow trail of hair that leads to the hard lines of his abs.
“Take a look at this,” he says and pulls down the waistband of his shorts so his dick pops up into full view, a little paler than the rest of him but just as hearty. Thick and meaty with a slight curve to it. Even in the dark, I can make out the swollen vein branching along his shaft. The head nods like a small man in a wide-brimmed hat, and a little drop of dew has collected at the tip. My heart races and my throat goes dry as my own cock starts to pitch and froth inside my shorts.
Does he know what he’s doing to me right now?
Instead of putting it away, Chris grabs hold of it and gives it a long leisurely tug, like he knows I’m watching. My eyes are transfixed on the motion of his hand over his cock, so casually confident, and the soft, shushing sound it makes in the quiet tent. When I glance up at him, he’s already looking at me, looking inside me, seeing the jumble of emotions I still haven’t sorted through—desire, friendship, trust, and fear all mixed together in a riot of indecision.
“Feel how hard it is,” he says and slowly moves his hand away.
I lick my lips and question him with my eyes. Is he for real right now? He wants me to touch his dick? Like, with my hand?
Chris nods, so slight I almost miss it in the dark. I don’t know what else to do. He’s the boss in this two-man show. I swallow down my nerves, reach over, and grab hold. All five fingers wrap around his thick cock. It’s alive. Pulsing and warm, so smooth and ready. A real show-off, just like the rest of him. Chris closes his hand over mine and moves it up and down like it’s the most natural thing in the world. He curls inward a little bit, shuts his eyes, and moans, and I don’t need to guess what he wants me to do next.
He slowly moves his hand away and raises his hips off the ground to give me a better angle. I grip him tighter, rolling my hand up and down in a rhythm I’ve used on myself countless times, teasing the head with my thumb. Chris groans and puckers his lips. His eyebrows draw together and he gasps like he’s in pain, but I know he’s not. Sweat droplets collect at his temple, and I focus on his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat, nodding at me to keep on.
“Yeah,” he utters from somewhere deep down as my palm rides him. “Oh shit, Theo,” he exclaims, so I pump faster, gliding up and down his shaft while his face contorts into one I’ve never seen before. I jerk him off until he erupts, his warm goo spilling over my knuckles and into his curly light brown pubes. I pull my hand away, staring at it in disbelief. Not knowing what else to do, I wipe it on my shirt. The smell of him is everywhere, his skin and sweat and cum. My shirt is stuck to me from the dampness of my own exertion. My hands are shaking. Mind racing and breathless, I feel like I’m trapped in that swirly all over again.
“Let me do you,” Chris says, sitting up in the tent. He’s tucked his junk back into his shorts and his eyes have a drowsy, dreamy look. His mouth still hangs open, pearly pink lips shining with spit. I know he hasn’t been drinking, so this must mean he really wants to? I lean back on my elbows, and he reaches inside my shorts for my own throbbing junk, tugs at it until it’s at peak mass. It doesn’t take much.
“I guess it’s true what they say about tall guys,” he remarks, and I have to hide my smile. Yeah, my junk’s pretty big.
I watch him work me over, still struck dumb with disbelief and unable to process that this is really happening. Chris handles me with such ease, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. His tongue edges out the corner of his mouth and curls on the side as he jerks me off with a look of deep concentration on his face. No one has ever touched me like this before, and even though it’s Chris, my best friend, my straight best friend, it feels natural and right and sofuckingawesome.
The sensation builds until I’m bucking my hips in rhythm with his hand. A ragged growl erupts from my throat as seismic tremors roll through me in quick succession. My mind explodes, my body convulses, and my dick shoots out stars like the Milky Way. I don’t even see where my spunk lands. Maybe the next galaxy over.
“Damn, Theo,” Chris says and leans back, chuckling. “Been saving up for that, huh?”
“Ha,” I utter, a little disoriented, a little delirious, clawing my way back into this new reality where my best friend touches my junk. Is Chris gay? My heart still pounds in my throat and a thin sheen of sweat covers my body and upper lip. I clench my teeth because I’m afraid to say anything that will break the spell. Chris lays back and spreads his arms, ruffles my hair, and generally takes up way more than his fair share of the tent. I listen to his breathing and wait for him to say something. Anything. Any day now. I count his breaths until at last, I risk a glance over and see that he’s already fallen asleep.
I take a few deep breaths, trying to settle my nerves, then adjust my boys, who are still reeling in shock. I drag my hand across my shirt to find Chris’s cum trail has dried into a thin crust, proving I didn’t just dream it. Finally I roll over onto my stomach with the smell of him soaking into my pores, wondering what the hell just happened.
This changes everything.
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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