How many of you remember Chapter Books? I devoured those as a child. According to Wikipedia, Chapter Books are story books intended for the 7-10 year old range. They are more complex than picture books for beginning readers, yet are short enough for children without the attention span to finish books that are longer and more complicated.
I adored Chapter Books when I was little, but now that I’m an adult, and a published writer in my own right, I wondered how I could incorporate something I loved into what I do. So, I have created a story…in Chapters…to be loaded on my blog each week. This is a free read, work-in-progress story that will take you from the beginning, through a journey of discovery of life, love and acceptance.
This is the story of Cayce Harper, from his struggle into adolescence, the angst in learning he is gay, to the good—and bad relationships and choices he’s made. This is entirely fictional and is ultimately a love story. It will take you on a hard road to a happily ever after that will make laugh, cry and get angry.
Enjoy the journey…
Cayce ducked his head and raised his arms, trying to protect his face. He didn’t have time to worry why his best friend Megan was yelling his name. Not with Dane Flanders trying to pulverize him.
“You are such a wuss.”
Cayce didn’t argue. He was. Dane had been picking on him since they both started school. Why, Cayce didn’t know, but he was used to it by now. The bigger boy had always had it in for Cayce.
“Dane! Leave him alone!”
Megan. Why was she here? Cayce’s humiliation doubled at her defense of him. It was bad enough he was so much smaller than Dane that he couldn’t defend himself, but to have Megan, who was bigger than him too, stick up for him? He would never be able to show his face in school again.
“Go away little girl.”
Yea, Megan. Go away. Cayce didn’t need a girl showing him up, not that he was doing very well as Dane slammed his fist into Cayce’s head and knocked him to the ground—again. He could taste the coppery blood in his mouth from the first blow. Could feel his eye swelling. God, his mom was going to kill him! He’d already been grounded for fighting. Not that this could be called a fight. More like a beating. But there was no convincing his mother that he hadn’t instigated it. Cayce had a smart mouth, so his mom just assumed he asked for the bruises he sported nearly every day.
“Dane! I told you to leave him alone. Mrs. Penski is on her way!”
Oh, that was just fucking great! Mrs. Penski, the Assistant Principal and the second bane of Cayce’s existence. A woman that agreed entirely with his mother. He shook his head, trying to disperse the ringing in his ears. He heard Dane’s running steps, along with his two cronies, making a hasty retreat. He felt Megan’s cool hands on his arm, trying to help him up. “Stop. Leave me alone Meg.” His voice rasped and he jerked his arm out of her grip.
“Come on Cayce; let me at least help you up.”
“I don’t need your help.” Cayce looked up at Megan in time to see the hurt on her face. Damn it!! He didn’t mean to hurt her, but this was embarrassing. And, personally, Cayce would just as soon get the hell out of there before Mrs. Penski showed up. He shoved his way to his feet, ignoring his backpack that Dane had emptied all over the concrete walkway for the moment. His legs were wobbly and his head was pounding. He felt sick to his stomach and could feel the bruises on his side beginning to throb where Lance Chambers had kicked him. He kinda hoped he didn’t have any broken ribs. He didn’t want to listen to his mother gripe at having to take him to the hospital. She’d already warned him to knock it off the last time. And he sure as hell did not want to come under his father’s notice. No way, no how!
“Are you going to be ok?” Cayce cringed at Megan’s small voice. He ignored the question and slowly started to gather his school papers and text books and stuffing them back into his backpack.
“Just watch out for Mrs. Penski.” He growled at her.
“She’s not coming Cayce. I lied to get Dane to leave you alone.”
Cayce sighed in relief and then gave Megan a small smile. “Thanks Meg.” He didn’t mind that kind of help. She just nodded at him and then knelt to pick up a few pencils and a ruler that had skidded over by the boy’s bathroom door. She handed him what she’d gathered and then fell in step with him when he turned to make his way off the school grounds. He limped, his hip, where Lance had also kicked him throbbing with his head. Maybe he could sneak in without his mother noticing.
“I have my foundation with me.”
Cayce nodded silently to Megan’s whispered words. He’d borrowed her makeup plenty of times over the last two years to cover the evidence of Dane’s bullying. He’d hoped, at thirteen and in junior high that Dane would find other things to occupy his time, but apparently, beating up on Cayce was Dane’s favorite thing to do. Megan remained silent by his side as they headed across the football field towards the woods that separated the school from their neighborhood. They would stop in the middle so Cayce could use Megan’s makeup to hide the bruises he knew peppered his face. It wouldn’t conceal the puffiness of his black eye, but maybe his mother wouldn’t notice. She wasn’t really that observant and tonight was her ladies poker night, so he probably wouldn’t see her at all. He counted himself lucky that Dane’s fist had missed splitting his lip this time.
Cayce stopped by their favorite tree, a weeping willow that had to be twenty or thirty years old. It was tall, thick and Cayce and Megan had made a hideaway under the sweeping branches almost seven years ago. It was their place. Cayce had found it first, hiding from Dane. He’d brought Megan here after they had fought over a soccer ball at the park and Megan pinned him to the ground laughing. They had become fast friends, best friends and Cayce loved Megan like a sister. Now, years later, they had added touches that reflected each of them. Megan’s favorite books, Cayce’s flair for multicolored rugs, all hidden under a water proof tarp to protect them.
Cayce pushed aside the branches, making his way to the center, Megan glancing around and then following him closely. They pulled the tarp off the ground together, hooking it to the nails that were buried in the tree trunk and tying it to some of the more sturdy branches. While Cayce finished securing the tarp, Megan started unfolding the rugs and making sure her precious book collection was dry and safe. Once she had things situated, she beckoned to Cayce.
“Come on. Let’s get you prettied up.”
Cayce would have rolled his eyes if his face didn’t hurt so badly. Megan was always calling him pretty. Even accused him of being prettier than most girls she knew. Cayce didn’t think so. He thought Megan was beautiful. She had light blond curly hair that was thick and silky and fell past her shoulders. She had huge blue eyes with long sandy colored eyelashes, and a pixie face that any guy should like. She had a bubbly personality with a shy streak that came out when she was complimented. Cayce was kind of surprised Megan didn’t have a boyfriend already.
He limped his way to her and slowly lowered himself to the rugs she’d laid out. He winced as he crossed his legs and scooted closer to her.
“Aww, he ripped your shirt.” Cayce could hear the disgust in her tone and looked down to see a large hole at the bottom of his t-shirt. He would have shrugged, not caring, except the shirt was one Megan had given him on his birthday a couple of months ago.
“Sorry Meg.” He mumbled. Dane was always ruining everything. Cayce had gone through a lot more clothes then most boys his age did. Dane ripping, stretching, staining with food or blood, burn holes. Another thing Cayce's mother complained about.
“It’s ok Cayce. I’m just glad you aren’t hurt too bad.”
Cayce didn’t say anything as Megan pulled her foundation from her bag and began to softly apply it.
“At least he didn’t make you bleed this time.”
Cayce gave a snort to that observation and held up his hands, palm side up for Megan to see. Cuts across both oozed blood.
Cayce didn’t want to hear the sadness in her voice. He just leaned away and pulled an old towel from the crate that sat against the trunk of the tree. He wiped his hands, ignoring the stinging, and then tossed the towel back into the crate. He rummaged around and pulled out a tube of antibiotic ointment. Slowly, over time, both Cayce and Megan had added to what they called the “Dane-aid kit”. Antibiotic ointment, burn ointment, band-aids, ace bandages, gauze, tape, antiseptic wipes, iodine and a multitude of other things. Even a bottle of Pepto-Bismol for when Dane hurt Cayce enough to make his insides churn with pain.
Megan took the tube of ointment from him and set it aside. She finished with his face, and then searched for a couple of antiseptic wipes, before adding ointment to the cuts. They were in an awkward place, so she didn’t bother putting band-aids on him.
“When is he ever going to stop?”
Cayce could hear the despair in Megan’s voice. He shrugged. “I don’t think he’s going to quit until we graduate, or he kills me.” He ignored Megan’s gasp. Dane had hurt Cayce enough to go to the hospital on several occasions. Cayce didn’t doubt that Dane could kill him. Why he would want to he still didn’t know, but knowing wouldn’t change anything anyway. Megan didn’t say a word and Cayce looked up to see tears in her eyes. He sighed and leaned forward enough to gather her into his arms. He hugged her tight. “Thanks Meggie.” He whispered. Megan carefully hugged him back and then extracted herself from his embrace. She dug in her bag and pulled a bottle of aspirin out. She shook out three, handed them to him and grabbed a bottle of water from their stash next to the crate.
“I just wish he’d leave you alone Cayce. You don’t deserve what he’s doing to you. I mean, what the hell did you ever do to him? I wish you hadn’t made me swear not to tell anyone.”
Cayce shrugged tiredly. He had no answer for her. He took the aspirin and then lay out on the rugs, staring at the swaying branches above his head. Megan made herself comfortable, resting her head on his chest, entwining their fingers together, but being careful of the cuts on his palm. They remained silent listening to the crickets and cicadas. There had never been any need for them to fill up space talking.
Despite Megan’s comment, she was well aware why Cayce had her swear not to tell anyone about the bullying. Cayce’s father. The man was ex-military, high tempered and as macho as they came. He was also the local Sheriff. Cayce had been a sore disappointment to the man since his birth. Cayce was always extremely glad when his father went out of town because of the arguments between his parents. Arguments that were always about him. Though his dad had never laid a hand on his mother, Cayce had felt his temper plenty of times. The more he stayed out of Jordon Harper’s spotlight, the better.
The silence wore on and Cayce’s eyes drooped. He even thought he might have dozed for a while. When he became aware of his surroundings, it was just starting to get dark, the lowering sun painting the sky in vibrant colors.
“Come on Meg, I need to get you home.”
Megan hauled herself up, stretching and giving a groan from the stiffness of the hard ground. Cayce sucked in a breath as he eased himself to a standing position, his entire body crying out in agony. He would have to take some more painkillers when he got home.
“How’s my makeup?”
Megan smiled, which was his intention. Anything to get the look of worry off her face.
“You are gorgeous as always Cayce.”
Cayce snorted and shook his head at her. He turned to grab his backpack and slowly made his way under the branches until he could see past the outer edge of them. He glanced everywhere to make sure they were not observed and then led Megan on towards their homes. Megan’s house was first, and then two doors down was Cayce’s house. He groaned when he saw his mother’s car in the drive. She shouldn’t be home.
“Are you going to get in trouble?” The worry in Megan’s voice was back.
“Probably.” Was all Cayce could answer. Unless he could sneak in fast enough to get to his room. That he was getting home before dark was a plus. Then his mother wouldn’t have reason to reprimand him.
“I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”
Megan tsked. “Should you be coming to school tomorrow?”
“I have to Meg or mom will know something’s up. You know that.”
Megan looked sadly at him. “Ok, I’ll see you.” She gave him a hug and then trotted across her front lawn, disappearing behind her front door.
Cayce turned towards his own house and took a deep, steadying breath.