Authors: Jamie Mayfield
Harmony Ink Press
5032 Capital Circle SW
Ste 2, PMB# 279
Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Jamie Mayfield
Photograph Copyright: Lori Blantin
Cover Art by AngstyG, www.angstyg.com
Cover content is being used for illustrative purposes only
and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Harmony Ink Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Ste 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA.
Library ISBN: 978-1-62380-929-4
Digital ISBN: 978-1-62380-865-5
Printed in the United States of America
Adapted from the award-winning Little Boy Lost series by J.P. Barnaby
This book is dedicated to all the boys who need someone in their corner. You have a whole family of people who want to see you try, and fight, and win. When you feel like no one cares, like no one listens, know that your LGBT family hears you and that we care. All you have to do is hold on just a little longer and find us.
pounded hard against my ribs. Pressing a hand to my chest, I tried to slow my galloping pulse. Fear and excitement warred inside me, and my body felt tight as I turned toward the window and saw my family for what might be the last time. Leaving my newly adoptive parents seemed wrong. I’d lived with them for nearly seven years as their foster son before the adoption, and they were the only parents I knew. I wished they could be sitting in the seats across the aisle, but I couldn’t ask them to give up their lives just to go with me. Instead, they were watching the bus’s progress, still standing in the same place I had walked away from. I pressed my palm against the cold, smooth glass in a useless, childish need for comfort.
Richard held Carolyn in his arms, his eyes dry but sad as he rested his cheek on top of her head. Carolyn, however, was crying as she pressed the side of her face into his chest, still watching the bus. I didn’t think they could see me because of the tinted windows, but I felt their devastation burning in my chest. My parents had adopted me to keep me in their lives, and I had walked away. Feeling horribly selfish, I tried to ignore the burn in my throat and my blurred vision, because leaving was unavoidable. The stale, dank smell of the bus, something like diesel fuel and old cheese, assaulted my senses as I tried to take a deep breath and pull myself together.
It almost worked, until I looked at Adam.
He was standing like a beacon among the few scattered cars in the lot. The way Carolyn had one hand on Adam’s shoulder drew my eyes. It looked less like she was comforting him and more like she was restraining him from running along behind the bus. Adam was in the same clothes he’d worn the night before, and I could still see him slamming my bedroom door as he left, angry at my choices. Even though we’d only been friends for a few months, I would miss him so much. As I sat on that lonely bus, I couldn’t help but wonder if Adam might have at least partially filled the gaping hole in my heart left by Jamie’s absence. I thought about us going to college and rooming together. Adam would have helped me with math, and I would have helped him with his English papers. We would have had bunk beds, and a new tiny dorm fridge next to his battered television. Each of us attending on scholarships, we’d have been broke but happy. I felt sad as I imagined us in each other’s arms, kissing and touching in nothing but our boxers as we relaxed on the lower bunk. Adam loved me; it was so clear in his face when he looked at me. I know I could have grown to love him if I’d just given us a chance. He was an easy guy to love. Trying unsuccessfully to force my eyes away from Adam’s tear-stained face, I wondered if he could have made me happy enough to live without Jamie.
The bus pulled out of the station, turning left onto Government Boulevard, and I felt sick. My palms began to sweat and panic took over as I lost sight of my parents and Adam. I nearly bolted from my seat to plead with the driver to stop. In my mind, I could see myself clearly as I begged him to let me off, telling him that I’d made a terrible mistake. Instead, feeling every bit like the scared teenage boy I was, I pulled my feet up to rest on the edge of the bus seat. Holding my knees to my chest, I felt like just maybe, if I could pull myself into a tight enough ball, I could prevent everything from falling apart.
I had made my choice, forcing everyone, including Adam and my parents, to live with it. Deep down, I knew they could not understand or agree with my need for Jamie. His parents had ripped him from my life to save him from our love for each other. Since then, I had been desperate to find him. I could see Jamie’s fear in every line of the letter he’d sent, which sat safely in my backpack. He had told me never to forget that he loved me, and I never would. So I huddled on a stifling, cramped bus, leaving my family to find him, to be with him.
Jamie meant everything to me, and I was willing to risk anything to find him.
Eventually, the urban sprawl morphed into greenery and sparse neighborhoods along the much larger highway that, judging by the sun, was heading almost due west toward California. A giggle from across the aisle reminded me there were other people on the bus. Sitting up a little straighter in my seat, I dropped my feet back to the floor and really looked around for the first time since boarding. Passengers occupied a few of the seats, lined up in perfect rows like teeth around me. Closest, and most likely the source of the giggle, a girl about my age rode alone. A white plastic band kept her hair from her face, and her eyes were glued to the phone on which she typed furiously. She looked excited, almost carefree, and it made me wonder if maybe she was on her way to college for the first time.
I should be on my way to college. Walking away from the scholarship to the University of Alabama was one of the worst mistakes I’d probably made. I just couldn’t bring myself to regret it—not yet. It was as if my life had split into two different lines, with the decision to go to San Diego at the very center of the divide. On one line, I would go to find Jamie, get a job, and learn to love the California sunshine. On the other, I would have stayed with Adam, lived in the dorms, gotten an education, and had a completely different life. Each decision we make as human beings fractures our lives onto a different course, and we have to hope we’ve made the correct choice.
Logically, it made no sense at all for me to set out on my own, barely eighteen, with nothing but a few grand in the bank. Odds were good that I would return home within a year, broke and wishing I’d taken the scholarship. My heart didn’t quite understand that logic, though, because every time I thought about heading to college without Jamie, my chest constricted so painfully I couldn’t breathe. I had felt unloved and unwanted for most of my life, passed from one foster home to the next without anyone caring what happened to me. I was never quite cute enough, smart enough, or good enough. At least until I was sixteen years old, and Jamie Mayfield sat on my bed that day after school and told me he loved me. My foster parents to that point had never even said that to me. I’m sure my biological parents had said it, but I couldn’t remember them. I couldn’t remember anyone having said it.
No college, no scholarship, nothing could make me walk away from that.
Suddenly, a little face popped up over the seat in front of me and smiled. The boy couldn’t have been more than five, the perfect age for my class at Sensei’s dojo. I was going to miss working and having sessions there. My last class had ended the week before, and Sensei and I had said our good-byes. The moment was bittersweet because while I was moving on to different things, I was leaving the man who had taught me so much about life and about myself. It struck me that he was one more person I was leaving behind, and I wondered if I’d have felt the same sense of sadness if I’d chosen to go to college instead.
I smiled at the boy and gave him a little wave before my smile faltered. His mother wouldn’t want him talking to the queer, and at any moment, she would pull him back over the seat like I was contagious. The boy’s little hand bobbed back and forth, waving as if he’d just met his favorite cartoon character. His black curls bounced with each bump the bus hit, and the light in his eyes made me think he was probably having the time of his life riding the bus.
“Nicky, honey, sit down and don’t bother the nice boy,” his mother told the boy quietly while turning to give me an apologetic smile. A little stunned, I waved her off, and it occurred to me that I was finally at least a hundred miles from the hateful little town of Crayford. No one would know I was gay, and therefore no one would have any reason to hate me, belittle me, or hurt me for simply being here.
It was the start of a completely new life.
When I pulled the schedule out of my bag, I saw that we still had a couple of hours before reaching our first stop. Gazing out the window, I settled back in my seat. The landscape had changed to lush green acres dotted with dense patches of trees. At regular intervals, I saw highway signs, speed limit signs, and huge advertisements for fast-food chains, hotel chains, and one for the NRA that looked rather intimidating. I was considering starting one of my old, battered paperbacks when I saw another sign, blue with a fiery swipe of red. The bold white lettering caused my breath to catch.
Welcome to Mississippi—Home of America’s Music
I’d never set one foot outside of Alabama. No matter what different home I lived in, who my foster parents were, or what my situation was, I’d never had any reason to travel. That one simple sign staggered me. On one hand, I was incredibly excited that my journey had begun and I was on my way to find Jamie. On the other, it emphasized powerfully that I was truly on my own. It was time for me to start making my own way in life. While Richard and Carolyn were legally my parents, they were in a different state, and there would be no going back.