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Authors: C.M. Lievens

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A Good Enough Reason

BOOK: A Good Enough Reason
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A Good Enough Reason

 

By C.M. Lievens

 

High school seniors Ellis and Dale are as different as day and night, or so Ellis believes. Ellis loves to write, while Dale loves soccer. Ellis has only a handful of friends, and Dale is Mr. Popularity. But when they’re partnered up for an AP English project, Ellis learns different can be good. Really good.

Dale Stephens has it all: friends, a hot girlfriend, mad soccer skills—and a secret. He’s bisexual, but because he’s never been in love with a boy, it’s always been easier to keep that part of himself hidden. Until Ellis changes everything.

As their love grows, Dale realizes it’s Ellis he wants to be with—only he’s not ready for the world to know about them, especially after the way his mom reacts to the news.

But when they are outed by a bully who has made a career out of tormenting Ellis, Dale and Ellis must face down their fears and try to stay together. What will happen when the bully goes too far? Will Ellis come out of it unscathed?

Laura, for helping me make this story better and for being an awesome friend. And to my family.

Chapter One

 

 

THE LOCKER
door slammed closed, and Ellis jumped away from it. He didn’t need to look to know who’d done it. It was Mark, always Mark.

“Faggot.”

Mark was already walking away, and Ellis let out a relieved sigh. He never knew how to react when Mark decided to target him. If he talked back, it would only make things worse, but then so would staying silent. There wasn’t a right way to stand up to Mark, and Ellis’s only way to avoid the bullying was to stay away from him in the first place.

He opened his locker again and quickly exchanged the books in his backpack with those he needed for his next class.

No one ever said anything to Mark. It was like he became invisible as soon as he started insulting Ellis, not that Ellis actually expected anyone to say something. It would have been nice if they’d tried, but no one wanted to become Mark’s new target. Ellis understood that. He wouldn’t want that for his worst enemy, who, ironically, was Mark.


Sooo
… are you going to help me write my essay?”

Ellis turned to face his best friend, Anna. Well, second best friend. Matthew, Ellis’s best friend since they were in diapers, had moved right after the end of the previous school year. “What, not even a hello?”

“Oh, hello, El. Now, are you going to help me write my essay or not?”

“I reminded you to do it yesterday evening, but did you even listen to me?”

Anna stuck her tongue out. “You’re such a nerd.”

“Yeah, but this nerd won’t help you with the essay.”

“Aww, come on. Please?”

“You should know batting your lashes at me won’t work.” Ellis knew he would cave in eventually. It wouldn’t be the first lunch break he’d spent helping Anna do her homework, and it wouldn’t be the last either. “You know, you could have done it yesterday if you hadn’t spent so much time on the phone with Rick.”

Anna pushed Ellis with her shoulder. “You’re just jealous because you don’t have a boyfriend.”

Ellis snorted. “As if. I don’t need any more problems right now.”

“A boyfriend wouldn’t be a problem. Everyone needs romance. It’s what makes life bearable.”

“It’s not. My life is nice and completely bearable as it is, thank you very much.”

“Your life is boring.”

“Don’t care.” Ellis closed his locker and shouldered his bag. “We’re going to be late.”

“Ugh, I hate chemistry.”

“You hate every class.”

“It’s because I’m not a nerd like you.”

“Having good grades doesn’t make me a nerd.”

“Nope, but loving
Star Trek
and
The Lord of the Rings
and all that other crap does, especially since you also read fan fiction.”

Ellis blushed. “Can we talk about something else? Besides, you love fan fiction and
The Lord of the Rings
as much as I do!”

“But I don’t write about Legolas and Aragorn having sex!”

“Shhh!” It wasn’t that Ellis didn’t want people to know about what he wrote. Okay, maybe he didn’t want them to, and school was the last place he should be talking about it. It wasn’t safe, especially not in the middle of the mostly full hallways. “Mark just passed by.”

The transformation was incredible. Anna went from playful to serious in seconds flat. “Did he do something to you? Did he hurt you?”

“No, he just pushed me around, nothing much.”

“You should tell someone.”

“Yeah, right, so I can be singled out as the school’s tattletale? No, thanks.”

Oh, Ellis knew Anna was right. He knew Mark wouldn’t stop, but telling on him would only make things worse. Even if, thanks to some miracle, Mark ever stopped, he would immediately be replaced by another bully. It was the nerd circle of life, as Ellis saw it, and at least he knew what to expect with Mark.

They walked silently to their classroom. Once they got there, they took seats at the back. Ellis tried to hide as much as he could in the classes he didn’t like. He wasn’t the best when it came to science or math stuff, and the last thing he wanted was to attract attention to himself by sitting in front.

Mark shot him a nasty glare as Ellis passed by him, and Ellis danced out of the way of the foot that suddenly darted out into the aisle.

Mark wasn’t very creative as a bully, and by now Ellis could predict what he would do, at least most of the time.

The bell rang, and Mr. Wilkins closed the door.

“So, what’re you doing tonight?” Anna whispered as they took their books out of their bags.

“Homework.”

“Aww, come one, Ellis! It’s Friday!”

“So?”

“Don’t you ever have fun?”

Ellis hid the pain he felt at his friend’s words and kept his head turned toward the front of the room. “Writing
is
fun for me. Just because my idea of fun isn’t the same as yours doesn’t mean it’s not.”

From the corner of his eye, Ellis saw Anna making an appropriately repentant face. “I know, but you have to get out of your house sometimes. It’s not like you’re being paid for what you write or anything.”

Ellis ignored her and tried to concentrate on what Mr. Wilkins was saying about carbon bonding.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it,” Anna whispered again, and Ellis nodded in acknowledgment but without looking at her. He knew she wouldn’t let up if he didn’t at least nod.

Ellis wasn’t angry with her, not really. He knew very few people understood the focus he put on his writing. He wanted to make a living from his craft one day, and to reach that objective, he needed to write as much as possible. He didn’t have a lot of time to do it during the week, so he did as much homework as possible before the weekend and dedicated those two days to his writing.

Still, it didn’t mean he had to stop seeing his friends, as few as they were. He knew he didn’t see them much and that Anna just wanted a bit of time with him. “Fine, okay. I guess we could go to the movies.”

Anna’s face lit up, but before she could answer, Mr. Wilkins turned to face them again and glared at them. Anna clamped her lips together and nodded slightly. Ellis wasn’t sure if it was at him or at Mr. Wilkins, but he smiled at her anyway. He suddenly felt better about taking a whole night off from his writing.

 

 

ELLIS DIDN’T
have any friends in his next class. He knew some of the kids there, but he didn’t even talk with most of them, and worst of all, Mark was there too. Ellis didn’t have a clue as to why Mark would want to study French, but apparently he did.

Ellis shuffled toward the back of the classroom again and tried not to draw any attention. He sat by the window and took his book out, and since Mrs. Beaumont was always late, he grabbed his notebook too. Maybe he’d have a little time to work on his latest story.

Ellis was writing his first original piece, and he was both elated and terrified. He loved fantasy and was comfortable writing it, but it was
too
comfortable. When he wrote fan fiction, he didn’t have to create a world around his story, or even characters.

This new work, though, was a mix of thriller and horror. He loved already knowing how the book would end even though he hadn’t written most of it yet. Being in on the secret of who the assassin was and trying to work toward the big revelation without giving the reader too many hints was the best—and hardest—part.

Ellis flipped the pages of his worn notebook and found the last one he’d written on, but before he could even grab his pen, Mark was there.

“What’re you writing, Aylmer? A love letter for your
boyfriend
?” The last word dripped with disgust and barely hidden anger.

Ellis slammed his notebook closed and looked up at his tormentor. “It’s homework.”

“Yeah, right. Come on, let me see.”

Ellis held on to his notebook even harder and hugged it to his chest when Mark reached for it. He knew it wasn’t going to end well. Either Mark would manage to get the notebook and read it—gathering material for future bullying episodes—or Ellis would be able to hold on to it and would receive a good beating sometime later. He couldn’t win. He never could, not with Mark.

“Come on, man. Leave him alone.”

Both Ellis and Mark turned to look at the owner of the voice. Ellis could’ve sworn his mouth fell open in shock at the sight that greeted him. Surely it couldn’t be the popular captain of the soccer team, smoking-hot Dale Stephens, who’d just saved his skinny ass. Ellis blinked. He didn’t think Dale had ever looked at him twice. He hadn’t even known Dale was aware he existed, but he was more than aware of Dale’s existence. How could he not be? Dale was every girl’s—and every gay boy’s—wet dream come true.

He was tall and built like any other jock. No, that wasn’t true. He was tall, and his muscles made Ellis want to lick them, but he was more lithe than the football players. Ellis also wanted to drown in his chocolate-brown eyes—milk chocolate, Ellis’s favorite—and burrow his fingers into Dale’s short brown hair, maybe stroke his strong, square jaw too.

“Why?”

Mark’s voice wrenched Ellis away from his daydream before he could start drooling, thank God.

“Because Mrs. Beaumont is at the end of the hallway, and you don’t want her to see you and give you detention.”

Mark didn’t look convinced, but he glanced at the door. Ellis could hear Mrs. Beaumont’s heels on the linoleum as she approached. Mark gave him a last deadly glare and turned to walk to his chair.

“You okay?” Dale asked.

Ellis nodded. “Yeah, thanks.”

“Mark can be a dick sometimes.”

Ellis snorted. “Sometimes? Are you kidding me?”

The laughter that answered him surprised Ellis and made his stomach flip-flop. “Okay, maybe more often than sometimes, but, you know, extenuating circumstances and all.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“What, his cat died?”

Dale’s smile faltered. “It’s more complicated than that.” Before Dale could say anything more, Mrs. Beaumont walked into the classroom. Dale shot Ellis an apologetic smile and walked to sit beside his girlfriend.

Ellis followed him with his eyes, shuddering when he saw Mark watching him. No one should feel the hatred and disgust Ellis saw in Mark’s eyes. He didn’t know what he’d done to Mark, but hatred didn’t always have a logical reason.

The teacher’s voice captured Ellis’s attention, and he turned to look at her. He loved foreign languages, how one could say the same thing in a thousand different ways, and he wished he could learn how to really speak French. Mrs. Beaumont did her best, but she had to teach twenty students in Ellis’s class alone, most of whom didn’t want to be there in the first place.

Ellis tried to pay attention, but he kept thinking about what Dale had told him. He found himself imagining what could’ve happened to Mark to make him so resentful. He didn’t know much about the guy, even though they’d been in the same school for years. Ellis did remember Mark when he was younger, and he had looked much happier than he was now.

A note landed on Ellis’s desk. He looked up, but everyone appeared focused on the front of the classroom. Ellis picked up the note, knowing nothing good would come from reading it. He steeled himself and unfolded it, not at all surprised by the contents. At least Mark had been creative this time, although the execution left a lot to be desired.

He’d drawn two figures that were little more than sticks. One of them was on its knees and obviously giving the other one a blowjob. Ellis didn’t have to be told which one he supposedly was, but it took him a moment to understand who the other one was. It was only when he identified what he thought was a jacket of the school’s football team that recognition sparked.

Ellis bit his lower lip. The note was deeply offensive, and he had an insane longing to answer it. He knew he shouldn’t, but the occasion was too good to let it pass. He looked up, not at all surprised to see Mark smirking at him. That did it.

Ellis took his pen and, next to the stick figure on the receiving side of the blowjob, quickly wrote, “
Wow, is your dick really as small as you drew it? I think you need to buy yourself one of those size enhancer things
.”

BOOK: A Good Enough Reason
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