Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, heart-pounding, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.
But when Adam graduates and takes an off-Broadway job in New York--at Nate's insistence--that certainty begins to flicker. Nate's friends can't keep his insecurities at bay, especially when he catches Skyped glimpses of Adam's shirtless roommate. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it's the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.
Tender, thoughtful, and unflinchingly real, Don't Let Me Go is a witty and beautifully written account of young love, long-distance relationships, and learning to follow your heart.
"Don't Let Me Go is a charming story. Trumble's love for the characters is evident on every page, and it's contagious." -- Robin Reardon, author of A Secret Edge
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December 27, 2011
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Excerpt from Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble
One. I lied. All that crap about me wanting you to go, about me needing to know who I am without you. Lies. Every stupid, lying word of it. I don't want you to go. God, I don't want you to go. And not only do I not need to know who I am without you, I couldn't care less. There is no me without you. The yin and the yang. You, yin; me, yang. Adam and Nate. Two parts of a whole. Existing together in beautiful harmony. Without you, I'm just a broken piece.
Two. You had to know that.
I veered my car sharply into a Shell station a few blocks from Adam's neighborhood.
"You're kidding," he said, glancing at the time on his cell phone. "Nate . . ."
"What?" I maneuvered the car next to a pump and hit the brake a little too abruptly. "You want to get to the airport? We need gas."
He huffed, one of those irritated and irritating noises he'd been making all morning. "Why didn't you put gas in the car yesterday?" he said, turning down the stereo. "We don't have time for this."
"We don't seem to have time for a lot of things lately." I killed the ignition and popped the handle on the door.
"Come on. That's not fair. We spent the entire night together."
"Sleeping," I muttered and dropped my head back against my seat. This was the part where he was supposed to console me, whip out his ticket and rip it up into a million pieces right in front of me, toss it out on the concrete, beg me to turn the car around, profess his undying love, confess he couldn't live without me.
Instead he lit up his cell phone. "Shit," he said softly. He dropped the phone in his lap and growled, which might have been sexy if I hadn't been so angry and if he hadn't been so freaking anal. "Are you trying to make me miss my flight?"
So much for love. "I don't know why you're in such a damn hurry. At the rate we're going, we'll have time to wax the stupid plane before they board passengers."
"You're being a brat," he said. "You know that?"
Brat? He called me a brat? He'd called me a lot of things in the last ten months and nine days, a lot of sweet, beautiful things. But brat? Never brat. Not even close.
He opened his door. "I'll get the gas."
"I'll get it," I said, and got out.
I jabbed the nozzle into the tank and locked the trigger, but I kept my hand on it. The other hand I shoved deep in my pocket. I watched the air shimmer around the pump handle.
Adam leaned against the car and watched me. When I didn't look up, he tipped his head low and fingered my T-shirt at the waist. "Just to set the record straight," he said, "we didn't sleep all that much either." The tiniest of smiles tugged at the corners of his mouth. My eyes locked on his and my heart lurched in my chest. It was an unexpected moment of intimacy standing next to a gas pump on a stifling July morning, sweat trickling down my back and the smell of gas strong in the air, the moment so brief that in the days and weeks ahead, I would think I had imagined it. But for three, maybe four fleeting seconds, I saw in his eyes the guy who loved me, the guy I loved back so much that it scared me sometimes.
His eyes shifted past me to the spinning dial on the pump, and as suddenly as it had arrived, the moment was gone.
He took the handle from me and released the trigger with a thunk and seated it back on the pump. I stared at the dial, not quite believing what I was seeing--five gallons. Five gallons? That was all he could give me this morning? A five-gallon delay? I stood, stunned, as he secured the gas cap and smacked me on the butt. "Let's go, handsome."
As I pulled back onto the road, he checked the time on his cell phone again and then tucked it back in his pocket and resumed patting his thigh to the song. I thought if he pulled that freaking phone out one more time, swear to God, I was going to pitch it out the window. The gas gauge nudged just past a quarter tank, but my internal gauge was quickly slipping toward Empty.
"You won't miss your flight," I said, the hurt coating my words, weighing them down so that they tumbled out, heavy and muted.
He put his hand to my ear and rubbed my earring with his thumb. "I'm going to have to send you a new pair of earrings."
I kept my eyes on the road but shifted my head and my shoulder to trap his hand just for a moment. "I don't want another earring." I swallowed hard past the lump in my throat. How could he even think I could part with this one? When I'd woken up in the hospital, one of the first things I'd noticed was that they'd taken my earrings, the ones he'd brought me from New York. He'd taken a black stud from his own ear then and put it in mine. I hadn't taken it off since that day. I didn't intend to take it off ever.
I glanced at him. He smiled and dropped his hand and looked back out the window. I could sense his thoughts slipping away again as he picked up the song and the beat.
"We're pulling apart," I said.
"Hm?" He looked over at me.
"The line. It's we're pulling apart."
I looked back at the road. "Never mind."
He smiled distantly and turned back to the window. Up ahead, the freeway split. I slid into the right-hand lane and made the wide sweep onto the toll road as Adam butchered yet another line.
It was stupid, stupid, getting pissed off over something I did myself all the time. Who cared whether he got The Fray's lyrics right or not? Except that he'd been doing more and more of that in the past few weeks--feigning attention, smiling vaguely when I said something or asked a question. Sometimes it felt like he was already gone, like his brain had been unplugged from the here and present and plugged back in to the there and future. Maybe I was to blame. I'd pushed him to take the job. This is your time. Please, go to New York. Be fabulous. I just never thought he'd go for it with such gusto.
"You're wearing the green underwear," I said.
"What?" He turned down the AC.
"I said, You're. Wearing. The green. Underwear."
"What? You're complaining about my underwear? You want me to take them off?"
"We don't have time for that, remember?" I said, sullenly.
He rolled his eyes. "Why does it matter what underwear I'm wearing?"
"Because I bought them for you in Key West."
"I remember. I like them. A lot. I promise, they're clean."
"I just don't know why you're wearing them today," I mumbled.
Okay, now I was being a brat.
I popped the cover on the storage compartment in the console and felt around until I found a thin jewel case. One-handed, I flicked it open and popped out the CD. The case clattered to the console, then dropped into the space between the console and Adam's seat. I hit the eject button and switched the CDs, then dropped The Fray back into the storage compartment sans case and smacked the lid shut. Three Dog Night wailed about some stupid bullfrog named Jeremiah.
"Is there something we need to talk about?" Adam asked.
The heat was creeping back into the car. I turned the AC back up and stared at the toll booths up ahead, considering the penalty for crashing through the gates. We'd get pulled over for sure. I'd probably have to take a sobriety test--walk the line, breathe into some little tube. I'd get a citation for failure to stop and pay a toll and probably a hugely inflated bill for replacing the gate. And then Adam would miss his flight. And for just a little while longer he'd stay. But there were other flights. There would always be other flights.
I hit the brakes and fumbled in the tray at the base of the gear shift for quarters. I counted out five. "Dammit, I should have gotten some quarters before we left." The tray held some loose change, mostly pennies and a stray nickel or dime. I slid the coins aside until I found two more quarters. I pinched one and added it to the five in my hand, then flung all six at the basket. Three overshot and fell to the concrete.
"Great." I got the last quarter out of the tray. "Do you have any quarters?"
"Just back up and go to the full-service lane," he said, clearly annoyed.
"I can't just back up." A horn blared behind us. I glanced in the rearview mirror, then popped the door handle and gestured to the dickhead behind us as I got out. He leaned out his window and called me a faggot. I found two of the coins and made some suggestions to the guy about how he might amuse himself while he waited for me to move, then got back in the car, slammed the three coins into the basket, and hit the accelerator, almost taking out the gate anyway.
I couldn't stand any more joy to the fishes. Gag me. I jabbed the track button. After a pause, an electric guitar ripped from the speakers. I'd burned this CD of rock anthems years ago when I first decided guitar was more than just a way to blow a few hours after school each day. I might have lost myself in the music if it hadn't been for the stupid lyrics.
Well, I'm hot-blooded . . .
Oh, hell, no. I hit the track button. From the corner of my eye, I could see Adam staring at me, but I kept my eyes on the road. The airport exit was just ahead, three-quarters of a mile. I considered staying in my lane, driving until we ran out of gas. (How far would five gallons take us? Galveston, maybe? I could finish my senior year at Moody High. Surely there was a theater company Adam could perform with. It didn't even matter. We could be beach bums, sell T-shirts to tourists in a beach shop, live on love. That's all we needed, right? The toll road to I-45, then Galveston. It would be so easy.)
A jet screamed overhead. The noise--the jet, the AC blowing full blast, the music, the roar of traffic around us--it was all too much. I turned off the AC again and flicked on my blinker and slid into the exit lane.
Fame (fame) lets him loose, hard to swallow.
I jabbed the button again, twice, then a third time.
"What's wrong, Nate?" Adam said.
I shook my head, not trusting my voice. The heat was creeping back into the car. This time it was Adam who turned the AC back on.
And then "Free Bird" was playing and my fingers ached with the urge to hit the track button again, but I could feel Adam's eyes on me, so I didn't. Death by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"Hey," he said, running his hand up and down my thigh. "Let's do Key West again next June. It'll be my graduation gift to you this time. No parents."
I gripped his hand tightly and hoped to God I could make it to June. Key West was magic. And I was afraid I was going to need some magic by then.