A Harmony Ink Press Title
At seventeen, Sasha is a little lost and a lot lonely. He craves friendship and love, but although he’s outwardly confident, his self-destructive tendencies cause problems, and he pushes people away. Making sculptures out of the broken glass he collects is the only thing that brings him any peace, but it’s not enough, and every day he feels himself dying a little more inside. Until he meets Thomas.
Thomas is shy but sure of himself in a way Sasha can’t understand. He makes it his mission to prove to Sasha that he is worthy of love and doesn’t give up even when Sasha hurts him. Little by little Sasha begins to trust Thomas. And when Sasha is forced to confront his past, he realizes accepting the love Thomas gives him is the only way to push back the darkness.
Excerpt: (as at Dreamspinner website)
I should have said no….
“SO YOU’LL model for me, right?”
Reluctantly, I looked up from my sculpture. It was hard enough to concentrate in art class with all the noise, and this girl just wouldn’t drop it—Jessica Cassidy was a dog with a bone. I shook my hair out of my eyes and regarded her wryly as I sucked the bright bead of blood from the cut on my finger. Most of the time I tumbled the glass to take the edge off, but this sculpture needed to be sharper, more defined. I needed to be careful with it.
I’d been sort of noncommittal when she’d asked me earlier, and now she wanted a definite answer.
Relenting, I nodded. Mainly so she’d go away and stop bothering me—so far she hadn’t left me alone all morning. She just wanted to take a couple of photographs, theatrically posed, she said—naked, of course. It wouldn’t be like the last time I’d posed naked for someone. At least I didn’t think it would be.
The smile she gave me near split her face in half. I hoped to God she didn’t think I was doing this because I liked her.
“Great! I’ll have the keys to the art room from half seven tomorrow morning, so meet me here, yeah? It’s going to be awesome,” she burbled. “I saw the photos Jeff Deal took of you last year. They were amazing.”
Involuntarily I shuddered. I’d rather not have been reminded. Though the photos she was likely to have seen at school were tame compared to the pornographic ones he had all over his basement.
As she turned away, the sunlight coming through the window caught the tiny metal screws she wore as earrings, glinting across my retinas like a warning light. I pulled a face and went back to arranging the pieces of broken glass into color order in front of me.
Chapter One point Five
Modeling for Jessica Cassidy turns out to be a huge mistake….
I’D FORGOTTEN it was sports day. The air was sticky and warm, my skin clammy beneath my uniform. The urge to bare my skin to the sunshine was near overwhelming, but that was part of the reason I was in this mess, so I didn’t. A lawn mower droned somewhere, the sound heavy as a swarm of bees. There was no breeze.
I watched as 1400 nobodies in white school T-shirts crowded onto the overgrown playing fields to make arses of themselves, for the most part glad I wasn’t one of them.
Sitting on the grassy bank near the school perimeter, I was as far away from them as it was possible to be and still remain on school grounds.
No one seemed to have noticed except Thomas.
“Hey,” he said, ambling over and flopping down heavily on the grass next to me. “You not running or anything?”
I glanced at him, figuring he must be close to overheating in those thick tracksuit bottoms. “I’ve been suspended.”
I was sort of glad he didn’t ask me why I was still here at school.
“Because of what happened this morning? I know you checked out of art quite spectacularly. Cole said Mr. Sparks chucked you off the course. I didn’t believe him…. Is it true?” he said instead.
I shrugged, more interested in watching Luke Jones fly down the long-jump track, nutsac swinging. Even at this distance I could see it.
“Aren’t you gonna appeal or something?”
I looked at him blankly.
“I don’t mean about the suspension, about being chucked off the course?”
“No,” I replied dully. Appealing would suggest I thought the judgment unwarranted in some way.
Knitting his dark eyebrows together, Thomas picked at the stubby grass. “But what about your final exams? It’s only a couple of months now.” He spoke quietly, but the ever-present flush staining his cheeks grew darker.
I didn’t know why this was bothering him. We weren’t friends. He just talked to me sometimes. Art was the only lesson we had in common. Just his luck he was absent this morning, so he missed the excitement of me getting marched from the art room bollock naked, covered in red paint.
As requested, I’d been modeling for Jessica Cassidy’s art project. The clock on the art room wall had been wrong, our time there spilling gracelessly over into the first lesson. Mr. Sparks called it obscene. I think he meant me. He wanted to call the police. He probably would have if he wasn’t such an uptight dick, too embarrassed to explain the situation.
Sand flew in the long-jump pit as Luke Jones lost his balance, landing mostly on his face. Unaffected, he loped back for another run up.
“Jessica Cassidy’s put a picture of you from this morning up on her Tumblr page. She’s such a bitch.”
Jessica Cassidy had spent the day in isolation as a punishment. Apparently what I did was far more serious.
Pushing boundaries in art is fine as long as you’re not the one being pushed, it seems.
I turned away from Luke Jones for a moment, shielding my eyes from the glaring sun to regard Thomas full-on. Even though he was shy, he had an aura of calmness about him. He was probably the most easygoing person I was aware of. He was nice. He didn’t call people bitches or dicks or wankers or anything. It made me wonder sometimes why he ever talked to me, since I was probably a bit of all three.
I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t even know if I wanted to.
I looked back to the field, catching Luke on the very edge of his jump, every single muscle in his thighs standing taut as he leapt. Sometimes my mind was a camera taking a thousand pictures a second. He appeared so serene and focused in the air, I wondered if he knew he looked like a golden eagle swooping down on a mouse. Like he’d found his place in the hierarchy of things.
“Why did you do it, anyway? I mean, let her take pictures of you like that… naked.”
Thomas, however, hadn’t found his place in the hierarchy of things and didn’t know when to shut up.
“Why’d you eat so much when you know it’s just going to make you fat?” The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
The realization I’d hit a nerve was akin to receiving an electric shock.
Thomas stared at me for a second, a hurt expression on his face, and then he looked away, his shoulders sagging.
The irony was he wasn’t actually fat. He just had a round face. If he worked out a bit, the muscle he would gain would suit him. Being skinny like me wouldn’t.
Huffing out a breath, I lay down and closed my eyes, trying not to notice when Thomas left. I’d found my place in the hierarchy of things a long time ago.
I WANDERED around a bit after the farce of sports day was over. Everyone disappeared quicker than daylight, and I let the weird little part of my brain consider following Luke Jones home just to see where he lived. But a Mercedes 500 picked him up outside the school gates, and I made two circuits of the estate looking for pieces of yellow glass instead.
Until I remembered I wouldn’t be needing any more yellow glass.
I never liked being home much before six in the evening. Two hours stuck in that grim top-floor flat before Corinne got home at around eight was more than enough. Any longer and I might have found myself giving into the dark whisper of the balcony.
For someone who couldn’t stand heights or enclosed spaces like lifts, the thirty-second floor of a tower block was just about perfect. Perfectly ironic, anyway. Not that I had much choice of where to live. It was either there, or it was nowhere. Dad had left long ago, and now that Mum had fucked off too, Corinne was the only family I had left.
Four hundred and fifteen concrete steps and not a single other soul all the way up. I could have sworn everyone else in this block lived on the first two floors.
I opened the door to the flat and reached in to turn on the hall light, waiting until the damp electrics stopped flickering, before I stepped inside to be greeted by the cold moldy smell that was becoming all too familiar. I’d worked out that the greenish carpet covering the kitchen floor stank the worst, although my room was probably the dampest overall. It faced out to the northeast, and the noise of the wind buffeting the building kept me awake some nights.
Even though I promised myself I wouldn’t, I plugged in the power-dead laptop in the living room. I left it loading up while I went to make a sandwich. Corinne was on some new wonder diet, so all we had in the fridge was reduced fat cottage cheese and cucumbers. I yanked open the freezer drawer instead and put a box of frozen chips in the microwave. They always ended up soggy cooked like that, but on the plus side, they only took three minutes.
When the laptop was loaded, I sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of the small coffee table and signed into Tumblr. The machine whirred away unhappily. Every screen took a minute to pull up. Mindlessly I put chip after chip into my mouth, chewing and swallowing without really tasting them. I could hear this weird high-pitched whine. I wasn’t sure if it was just in my head.
Jessica Cassidy. She updated her page a lot. Mine was empty. No photographs, no messages. The only links on my page were to the usernames of half a dozen people I’d added before I got bored with the whole pointless exercise in popularity.
I found a link to all her art projects and clicked on it. Two seconds later I slammed the laptop shut. The whine in my head was like nails scraped across a blackboard. My chest felt squeezed tight. At least Jeff Deal hadn’t plastered me cock and balls all over the fucking Internet. Even if I couldn’t bear to think about the pictures he had taken, I didn’t have to see them!
I got up, spit the food out of my mouth, and then put everything left on my plate in the bin before locking myself in the bathroom, where I brushed my teeth so fiercely my gums started to bleed. I sank down behind the bathroom door, my hands over my ears, waiting for the noise in my head to pass.
Sometime later my phone rang. I’d left it next to the laptop. I ran my hands quickly over my face and got up off the bathroom floor. It was nearly seven o’clock.
The caller ID was unknown. I stared at it for a few seconds and then answered it. I didn’t know why. I think I just needed to hear another human voice.
“Hey.” It was Thomas.
I frowned. I didn’t remember giving him my number. Briefly I wondered how he got it.
“I was, um….” He paused and then spoke really fast, like a kid drowning in a room full of helium. “Thinking about your art exam, and I mentioned it to someone and they said you can still enter independently—you don’t need to do it through the school. You just need to have all your coursework and stuff.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“I just thought you might want to know as you worked so hard on your sculpture, and art is, like, your thing and all….” He trailed off. I could hear him breathing, heavy and tired-like.
“Thanks,” I said before the silence grew too large to fill with words.
I was strangely touched, but it sort of hurt too that someone had thought about me, making it hard to speak. He must have heard it in my voice or sensed it somehow through the phone signal translating itself around us.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
I could imagine him frowning at his feet in that way that he did when he was thinking hard about something. I couldn’t remember anyone ever showing this much concern about me before.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t…?” I croaked, unable to finish.
“I mean, I know I would feel pretty bad if… if it was me. Do… do you want to come over?” His voice wavered even more than mine just had.
“Okay,” I answered, wincing, hardly able to believe I’d just agreed to that.
I did not go over to people’s houses.
I didn’t have friends whose houses I could go over to. I wasn’t a friendly person. That required feelings, caring… kindness. Thomas must be even more of a masochist than I first thought.
But I needed to get out of the flat for a while.
With quick enthusiasm he reeled off his address and directions on how to get there.
I grabbed my bag and headed out the door.
Available now at Dreamspinner, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and ARe