Books

 

EXPLORE MIA’s YA BOOKS…

The Red Sheet

Be the change you wish to see in the world with Bryan in The Red Sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“A well-written YA novel that balances honest storytelling with a strong anti-bullying message.” Kirkus Reviews  *selected to be in Kirkus Reviews (Magazine) Issue October 1st 2015

“I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like this before. It is superb… And once everything is revealed, the reader might be more shocked than Bryan was.” Cheryl C Malandrinos Vine Voice Amazon Review

“Author Mia Kerick has written a powerful coming of age, coming-out novel that is well written and deeply profound in its sincerity.” Literary Classics

“The best young adult book I’ve read, and frankly, this ranks right up there among the best books I’ve read, period!” Wendy, Hearts on Fire Reviews

“This touching voyage of self-re-discovery is one of the best twists of the Young Adult LGBT tale I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot.”  Ulysses Dietz

 

Love Spell

Find love between the gender lines with Chance in Love Spell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“A comical, thought-provoking YA novel for those who believe in the magic of love without all the hocus-pocus.” Kirkus Reviews *Selected to be in Kirkus Reviews (Magazine) Issue July 1st, 2015

“I haven’t read a story so compelling in such a long time… I’m recommending this without hesitation, best book I’ve read so far this year.” Elisa

“Kerick’s story is beautifully written, and the author’s intuitive understanding of the isolation and confusion that young adults who don’t fit into traditional gender or sexual orientation roles have to deal with — in addition to the usual turmoil of coming of age — gives the story an authentic and believable feel.” Readers’ Favorites, Jack Magnus

 “This is a timely, hilarious book, targeted at teens who are questioning their gender identity and have feelings for the same sex.” US Review of Books, Caroline Blaha-Black

Clean 

Journey through the perils of teen addiction and physical abuse with Lanny and Trevor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“A compassionate look at the harrowing problem of addiction, anchored by strong characters and a message of hope.” Kirkus Reviews

“Mia Kerick’s young adult coming of age romance, Clean, is stunningly beautiful and perfectly paced as the two young men begin their processes of healing and self-discovery. I love this book.” Readers’ Favorites, Jack Magnus

“Kerick’s novel is a well-paced, well-written, and thoughtful approach to teen angst and the perils of drug and alcohol addiction… A compelling read, Clean adds Kerick to the likes of writers who challenge us to find the hidden humanity in others…” US Review of Books, Dylan Ward

“Sigh, young love! Merely saying that I loved this novel will not be enough. I stayed up all night to read it and find out what happens in the end… Ten shining stars for a new rising star!” Rabia Tanveer for Readers’ Favorites

 Us Three

Fall in love against all odds with Casey, Nate, and Zander in Us Three.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“What a story. What a wonderful, beautiful story.” Breann, Boy Meets Boy Reviews

“I’ll need to collect my thoughts about this book and the message it contains, but while I do that, y’all go buy this, m’kay? And then make sure every high schooler reads this too.” Sandra, Booklikes

“Overall, Us Three is powerful, moving, thought provoking and flawlessly told story, and these boys will now and for always have a special place in my heart.” Tina

“This book will shatter you. Destroy you. Take your heart and have you weeping on the ground. Seriously, I had to stop and take a walk to finish. My husband was all worried something was seriously wrong, I just held up my kindle, ‘Only that the perfect book was written.’”   GayListBook reviews

“Re-read. Just as good the second time. One of the most moving stories about bullying I’ve ever read… I have such huge amounts of LOVE for this book! It’s a truly heartwarming coming of age story.” Tess

 

Come To My Window

Gaze across the alley at a beautiful girl in the window with Justine in Come to My Window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s an excerpt:

CHAPTER 2 

This little peeking-at-each-other-through-the-window game has been going on for a hella long time now. Maybe it’s been too long for my mental health, but I hang onto the hope that it hasn’t yet lasted long enough. The thing is, lately it hasn’t seemed so much like a game as it did in the beginning. Cuz the look in her eyes over the past couple days tells me this has turned into something much more like serious business. As if maybe I’m some kinda lifeline.
Tonight she’s doing sit-ups. I hold the sit-ups record at my high school, but I’d say she’s blowing me away. I’m not exactly counting, but if I had to guess, I’d say that she’s done maybe a couple hundred. So, yeah, I’m impressed cuz that shit ain’t easy to pull off. And I’m also a little bit worried, cuz she isn’t what you’d call the girl-jock type. Not by a long shot.
I grab my sketchbook and open to an empty page.
How many sit-ups?
Like always, I write with my royal blue Sharpie, and press it to the wide picture window in my bedroom.
In the matching brownstone on the other side of the narrow alley, she moves to the center of her bedroom’s picture window, which is directly across from mine. With a flowered hand towel, she wipes her forehead, and then her flat belly that’s gotten a bit damp with sweat. And she shrugs. I can see her ribs poking out beneath her cut-off T-shirt.
I write again and then hold up another sign.
You did a lot—like maybe hundreds.
Her hair is long and silky and dark. I think I read somewhere that she’s Hispanic, but I know she’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. I’d actually call her perfect. She tugs on the elastic that holds her hair in a high ponytail and the way her back arches as she does it is just so… so freaking awesome. That beautiful silky hair falls down all over her bony shoulders, and keeps on falling ‘til it’s nearly covering up her sort of sunken in chest—the sight of which makes me think about family shit I’d much rather forget. Then she shrugs again and that kinda brings me back to earth.
Kemina Lopez stands there and stares across the alley at me, her hollow dark eyes fixed on my face. She’s not smiling, but not really frowning either; what I notice most is her total lack of expression. And she has no idea that my name is Justine Laraby. But I know her name—everybody does. And though there’s nothing plain about her, we all know her as just plain “Kemina”—no last name necessary.

Not Broken, Just Bent

Test the strength of a childhood bond with Ben in Not Broken, Just Bent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Mia Kerick has a way with teenage boys. They are all the same, and yet each one is unique. Straight or gay, they see the world with a combination of needy anxiety (which they fight not to express) and stubborn resistance (which they express readily). Writing YA novels about gay teens needs a delicate hand, and Kerick seems to have it.” Ulysses Dietz

“Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! As my first Young Adult gay-themed story, I feel it has left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling and the need to read more, both YA gay themed stories and this author in particular. Did I shed a few tears? I did. But, in the end, it was well worth every gasp of lost breath, skipped heart beat and groan of emotion.” Kindle Customer

“This is a lovingly crafted, caring and honest character study that confirms the power of love to overcome adversity. And really, who can resist a good story with a happy ending?” A. Kane

“I love Mia Kerick’s writing, and this YA novel had all her hallmarks – realistic characters she made you feel for in a totally believable situation and setting. The issue of physical abuse and deprivation were sensitively tackled without hitting the reader over the head with it.” Elisa

Intervention

Touch a soul through music and lyrics with Kai in Intervention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“This book was really heavy for me. I’m not sure why it affected me the way it did. The abuse wasn’t the heaviest I have ever read and there weren’t any graphic scenes. But it shows how amazing this book is because it affected someone who doesn’t get affected very often. I found Jamie so real and raw. He was a broken shell who needed one person to show him kindness. He was like a lost little boy in so many ways and I just wanted to hug him and never let him go.

I can’t give this book any less than 5 stars. Kai and Jamie’s story is one that will stay with me for a long time. It was not an easy story to read, but I am not sorry I read it. This story wasn’t just about abuse but hope too. It was about fighting to make your life better and finding that person who will always be there for you no matter what.”  Trisha Harrington

“It was gorgeous. I cried many tears, but they were all worth it. Kai’s voice is authentic throughout this book, written entirely in his limited POV, and thus we get treated to his inner monologue and see the growth he experiences, from being confused as to why he’s so intrigued by Jamie to starting to get it to really understanding that his job in Jamie’s recovery is not to lead the charge, but to be the uplifting wind under Jamie’s wings. At its core, this book describes a beautiful first love between the two boys who must overcome difficult obstacles to succeed. 

Open your eyes to the world around you. Sometimes, all it takes is a good look at someone with different eyes, and a little intervention to help them along.

No man is an island. We’d do well to remember that.

And you can’t really know what anyone is going through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Remember that too.” Sandra

“I can’t even begin to explain all the things that happen and why, you’ll just have to read it. It’s worth the money and all the tissues you’ll need.” Marieke

“This felt like a ‘quiet’ story, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of emotions and music and art and interaction, but it felt mature, slow, a realistic development and well paced… I loved how the music and art played such a huge roll for these young men….This is a wonderful YA story. It is serious but also sweet and hopeful. The cover is amazing and the way art and music in all its forms are used to help tell the story was a highlight for me.”  Mandy, Hearts on Fire Reviews

Inclination

Explore the relationship between Christianity and sexual orientation with Anthony in Inclination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Anthony Duck-Yung Del Vecchio is a nice Catholic boy with a very big problem. And it’s not even the challenge of fitting in as the lone adopted South Korean in a close-knit family of Italian-Americans. Nor is it being the one introverted son in a family jam-packed with gregarious daughters. Anthony’s problem is far more serious—he is the only gay kid in Our Way, his church’s youth group. As a high school junior, Anthony has finally come to accept his sexual orientation, but he struggles to determine if a gay man can live as a faithful Christian. And as he faces his dilemma, there are complications. After confiding his gayness to his intolerant adult youth group leader, he’s asked to find a new organization with which to worship. He’s beaten up in the church parking lot by a fanatical teen. His former best pal bullies him in the locker room. His Catholic friends even stage an intervention to lead him back to the “right path.” Meanwhile, Anthony develops romantic feelings for David Gandy, an emo, out and proud junior at his high school, who seems to have all the answers about how someone can be gay and Christian, too.

“…This story is such a breath of fresh air from other young adult stories about young men figuring out or growing up gay. His family doesn’t toss him out. On the contrary, they do everything they can to help him figure this out. There is a bully or two, but you can’t hate them when you find out the reason they are lashing out as well.
Inclination is a beautifully written story of emotional growth and one I think many gay families should read.
If you are tired of all the angst-filled stories of young men tossed because they are gay or evil families and want a sweet emotional read full of love and understanding this is definitely one for you!” Cat

“If you are a teen who may think they’re gay and are experiencing the all-too-often rejection by churches and “godly” folks, this is for you.
If you are a Christian who feels that being gay is somehow wrong, this is for you.
If you are a parent of a gay Christian kid, this is for you.
If you are an ally of the LGBTQ youth in our world, this is for you. I highly recommend this book to all of the above, and then some!” JG Murphy

“If you know a young person (or any age for that matter) who is gay and who is trying to come to terms with what that means in their relationship with God, then this is a must read book. Honestly, I’d have to say that this is the most important story I’ve read on the subject to date.

I can tell that the author, Mia Kerick, has done extensive research of the Bible and I love how she gives a portion of scripture and then her character, David, explains what he feels God’s intent was as it pertains to His gay followers. I think she hit the nail right on the head. The God I grew up learning about in Catholic school loved everyone. Period.

This is a very moving story of a young man who is struggling to reconcile being gay while still being a Christian and serving the God he so dearly loves.

Beautifully done, Mia. I think every young gay Christian would benefit from reading this.” SandyM

A NOVELLA

A HARD DAY’s NIGHT

In the end, maybe all Fin and Lennon need is love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blurb:

High school senior Kalin (Lennon) Macready knows several facts for certain: John Lennon is his hero. Beaumont Finley Danforth (Fin) is his best friend. And—this is the complicated one—he feels more for Fin than mere friendship. For weeks, Lennon pesters Fin, who like Lennon admits to questioning his sexual orientation, for a commitment to spend twenty-four hours together exploring “the gay side of life.” Fin reluctantly agrees. Each boy will seek to answer the daunting question, Am I gay? Lennon pre-plans the day, filling the hours with what he assumes “gay life” is all about: shopping for fashionable clothing, indulging in lavish dessert crepes, boogying to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”, and yes, listening to show tunes. However, Lennon quickly realizes that in creating his plan he has succumbed to the most common and distorted of gay stereotypes. Can he be gay and not fit them? And more importantly, is it possible that spending one very hard day and night together will help Fin accept that he’s gay, too? If so, maybe Lennon has a shot at winning the heart of the boy of his dreams. “A Hard Day’s Night” is an amusing young adult contemporary romance about two boys who seek to discover if they must fulfill stereotypes to be together. In the end, maybe all you need is love.

SOUND OF SILENCE cowritten with Raine O’Tierney

Blurb:

Renzy Callen exists on the periphery of life, and not just because of the horrific childhood event that robbed him of the ability to speak. Walling himself off from the rest of the world as a means of protection, he occupies his time with art, music, and an obsession with self-help groups—whether he needs them or not. His isolation protects him, and he’s immune to drama and emotional games… or so he believes. Everything changes when he meets Seven and Morning Moreaux-Maddox, the wealthy, jet-setting siblings who move from a life of sophistication in Europe to humdrum Redcliff Hills, Missouri.

Both Seven and his sister are impossibly beautiful and elegant, like the stars in magazines and high-fashion models on the runway. When Renzy is pulled into their push-and-pull of affection and rejection, he realizes there is more to both haunted Morning and cold, diamond-sharp Seven than meets the eye.

The three teens embark on a quest to learn the reason behind Renzy’s selective mutism, and something more than friendship blossoms between Renzy and Seven. It’s during this trip of a lifetime that the three realize the truth they seek might be found in the sound of silence.

 

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Coming April 19, 2018…

THE WEEKEND BUCKET LIST

Published by Duet Books

 

BLURB:

High school seniors Cady LaBrie and Cooper Murphy have yet to set one toe out of line—they’ve never stayed out all night or snuck into a movie, never gotten drunk or gone skinny-dipping. But they have each other, forty-eight hours before graduation, and a Weekend Bucket List.

A lot rides on this one weekend, especially since Cady and Cooper have yet to admit, much less resolve, their confounding feelings for one another—feelings that prove even more difficult to define when genial high school dropout Eli Stanley joins their epic adventure. But as the trio ticks through their bucket list, the questions they face shift toward something new: Must friendship play second fiddle to romance? Or can it be the ultimate prize?

 

Here’s an Excerpt…

Cadence

Since it’s only Friday, we decide to start small. We have plenty of time this weekend to screw up our lives in monumental ways.

“You go first,” he says. “Ladies before gents.”

I’m a consummate eye-roller and I can’t hold back. But still I bend over, grab the hem of my denim skirt, yank it to my ankles, and then kick it into a pile of leaves. “And you’re such a gentleman.”

He stares at my bare legs. “Does this one count as facing a fear, too?”

“No—it only counts as skinny-dipping. Now take something off.”

Cooper whips his Mario Kart 64 T-shirt over his head. If a pale, freckled belly has the capacity to blush, that is what’s happening to his. “We been joined at the hip since freshman year, Cady, so how is it we’ve never caught a glimpse of each other wearing nothing but a smile?” he asks. He’s trying to distract me from accomplishing our list’s mutually agreed upon number one.

“Well, you’ve seen my boobs before—and don’t try to deny it.” I unbutton my plain white blouse. I’m not one for flamboyant patterns, lace, or frills. My twin brother Bradley labeled me a tomboy when I refused to put on the dress that Mom picked out for my first day of kindergarten. I won that standoff; the other moms at the bus stop thought Bradley and I were twin brothers until October. “Remember Halloween night of sophomore year, when we went trick-or-treating?” I shimmy my shoulders until the blouse hits the forest floor.

And he has the balls to laugh. “Yeah… your toga slipped.” Cooper hesitates, but finally pulls his shorts down without unbuttoning them. “For Sparta!” He tosses them high in the air and they get stuck on a low branch.

We gawk at each other. “Plain white boxers? How dull,” I say, although they work for me.

“Your bra doesn’t match your panties,” he counters.

“My underwear. ‘Panties’ is a porn word.” I rip them off quickly, before I have a chance to change my mind.

In a blur of sudden movement, Cooper’s boxers take a swift trip down his skinny legs to the forest floor. There follows a frantic scramble and a splash in the marshy part of Tamarack Lake, which is thankfully well beyond the public beach.

“That was graceful, Murphy.” Pale and freckled from head to toe, I think as I unhook my bra. “Good thing you’re gay, ’cause my boobs are going to underwhelm you.”

“Who says I’m gay?” Cooper corrects in a defensive tone. He takes me in from head to toe as I march my ninety-two-pound frame in the direction of the water—head held high. Not that he’s looking at my head. “And no worries, Cady, I don’t have my glasses on.”

I refuse to let him in on my intense relief—both at his insistence that he’s not necessarily gay and his serious nearsightedness—and I go with some distraction of my own. “I hope there aren’t any leeches in here.”

“Ewww…”
I have a fairly good idea of his mental image.

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My Crunchy Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Harmony Ink Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLURB

John Lennon fought for world peace, but sixteen-year-old hippie hopeful Kale Oswald’s only made it as far as tie-dying his T-shirts with organic grape juice. Now he’s ready to cement his new hippie identity by joining a local human rights organization, but he doesn’t fit in as well as he’d hoped.

 

After landing herself in the hospital by washing down a Ziploc bag of pills with a bottle of Gatorade, Julian Mendez came clean to her mother: she is a girl who has been seen as a boy since birth. Puberty blockers have stopped the maturing of her body. They’re also supposed to give her time to be sure she wants to make a more permanent decision, but she’s already Julia in her heart. What she’s not sure she’s ready to face is the post-transition name-calling and bathroom wars awaiting her at school.

 

When Kale and Julian come face-to-face at the human rights organization, attraction, teenage awkwardness, and reluctant empathy collide. They are forced to examine who they are and how they want to present themselves to the world. But until Kale can come to terms with his confusion about his own sexuality and Julian can be honest with Kale about her gender, they cannot move forward in friendship, or anything more.

 

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT

Kale, noon

I don’t know why Dad thinks it’s my job to chaperone Hughie on this ridiculous farce of a lunch date with his topless go-go dancer mother. Jeez, I’m too busy to be anybody’s babysitter. I have Grateful Dead music to download and garbage to compost.

“Can’t believe Uncle Sam is forcing me to meet up with my mother,” Hughie complains as I pull the minivan into a parking spot.

“Making us meet her,” I correct him.

“Uh, yeah… sorry about that, Crunchy.” We get out of the minivan and head for the restaurant.

“If you’re so sorry, dude, then tell me to take a hike. I’ll come back and pick you up at one. Not a problem for me.” I don’t even try to hide the sarcasm in my voice as I make this suggestion.

Hughie gasps, and for a second I think he’s choking on his chewing gum. Then he barks, “No! You’re coming with me or I’m not doing it!” I don’t get why he’s so freaked out. After all, it’s just his mother.

We get out of the van and head for the Sinking Stone Mall’s food pavilion where the Shopper’s Retreat Café is slowly lling with mostly girls clutching plastic bags lled with their nds at the Saturday Morning Biweekly Sale Event. Mom has been here for hours already, as Dad dropped her off at precisely 9:30 a.m. when the doors opened. She tells us time and again that all the good deals are gone by noon. Lucky that Mom rents a storage unit downtown, or we wouldn’t have room in the house for all the “good deals.”

“We have to pick up my mother at one fifteen outside of the Shoe Depot so I can get her to her pedicure appointment across townby one thirty. We have seventy minutes to get this lunch thing done, not a minute more.”

Hughie looks at me sideways and mumbles something about lunch with Mary Pat being seventy minutes too long.

The abject horror I see in his eyes leads me to conclude that the kid is under some serious, if inexplicable, stress. It won’t kill me to stop being a complete asshole.

“Look Hughie, I know this isn’t exactly what either of us wants to be doing with a Saturday, but… but the sweet potato fries here don’t suck at all and… and you like vanilla frappes… and I’m buying.” Well, Dad is forking out the dough for lunch, but it’s basically the same thing.

Hughie just shrugs, as usual not too talkative, but at least he doesn’t look like he’s about to projectile vomit anymore. We head across the parking lot.

Aunt Serenity is waiting for us in the lobby of the Shopper’s Retreat Café. She rushes over and hugs Hughie rather aggressively. His body goes limp as a rag doll, and he doesn’t hug her back.

“Hi, Kalin! Hey, my little Hughie-bear! Hope you’re hungry for lunch.” Serenity looks like she just stepped off the beach. Her leathery skin is perfectly tanned and her long waves of shiny blonde hair are stiffly windswept off her face. She’s wearing what looks like one ofthose fringy, white, shift-thingies that ladies wear to cover up their bathing suits. With thigh-high spike-heeled boots. Jeez—it’s January.

“Nice to see you, Aunt Serenity.” I glare at my wet noodle of a cousin who is casually slithering out from beneath his mother’s purple pointy-nailed grasp.

“Well, don’t you have something to say to your momsie?”Serenity latches on to Hughie’s shoulder again, tighter than before, and gawks at her son with wide baby blue eyes.

Once again, Hughie looks super close to barfing, but he grunts,“Nice claws, Mary Pat.”

I shudder at Hughie’s rudeness, but Aunt Serenity howls withlaughter. “You likey, baby boy? Got ’em done over at the Inspired Fingernail Crafters in Jamestown. See the tiny panthers stenciled on my thumbnails?” She releases Hughie just long enough to display her thumbs, side by side. Then she growls and claws the air. “And you know I don’t like it when you call me Mary Pat. It’s Momsie.” She reattaches herself to his lifeless arm and adds, “Or Serenity.”

Hughie sighs too deliberately for my comfort, and I decide it’s past time to find a table. Since it’s a seat-yourself restaurant, I lead our group to a table in the most distant corner, farthest from the windows that overlook the mall. All I need is to be seen by kids from school breaking bread with my socially challenged cousin and his mother, a middle-aged go-go dancer from the town’s only strip joint.

Tough to talk my way out of that one.

And there it is again—haunting memories of Judy and REHO—and of course, Julian—and the fact that my cause in life is human rights activism. It shouldn’t matter to me how much Serenityresembles a weathered Dolly Parton in skimpy beach attire, or which body parts she has to wiggle to pay the bills. But… yes, there’s a big but here and it isn’t Serenity’s backside I’m referring to—her butt is small and tight from all of the dancing. It’s just that Aunt Serenity ismso self-centered. Not that I expect her to be a pole-dancing Mother Theresa, but she could actually listen to what her kid says every once in a while.

As soon as we’re seated, Aunt Serenity starts in on Hughie. “So, baby, I saw your name in the newspaper the other day.” She stops talking, bats her thick, black eyelashes, and clears her throat.

“You read the newspaper?” Hughie asks, surprised.

“Ah, who am I trying to kid? The only thing I read is the channel guide on DIRECTV.” A long sniff and a snorting sound follow her confession. “One of the guys at the lounge told me he read that you won some sort of science fair. Your momsie would’ve liked to have seen your project.”

“You wouldn’t have gotten what it was about.” Hughie stares at the placemat on the table in front of him. I don’t think he has looked his mother in the eye yet. Not that he ever looks anybody in the eye. But today he’s different than usual, more distant than I’ve ever seenhim before. I wonder if being forced to see his mother today might be some kind of a last straw on his back.

“Try me, son. Your momsie is smarter than she looks. Hell, you got your brains from somewhere, and it sure wasn’t from Big Al at the town garage, who I strongly suspect is your daddy.”

“My sperm donor,” Hughie mumbles, and I will admit to feeling bad for him.

“So, you got yourself a girlfriend yet?” Aunt Serenity is now resting her ginormous breasts on the table, one on either side of her bread plate. In her defense, they’re too heavy to hold up without help.

“I study, Mary Pat. I’m not looking for friends or girlfriends— I’m just looking for a college scholarship that gets me the hell out of Crestdale.”

“Well, that attitude certainly isn’t going to get you a girlfriend.”

Thankfully, the waiter comes and rattles off a list of today’s specials, none of which is vegetarian, but his little food speech serves as a necessary distraction.

After we order, Aunt Serenity’s inquisition of her son continues. “Listen, sugar bear, I was thinking… there’s no reason you can’tcome back and live with me. I have a one-bedroom apartment now, and a nice pullout couch that could be all yours. And I’m closer to the school than you are at Sam’s house. It’d only take you twenty minutes to walk, and if you stuck your thumb out, you could get to school in five. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it, sugar bear?”

Talk about detached. Hughie is staring at Aunt Serenity’s five-inch heel, purple-suede thigh boots, and instead of appearing righteously scandalized, he looks just plain distraught. His wild green eyes scream, Save me, Kale!

So I step in to pull Hughie’s backside out of the fire. “It’s like this, Aunt Serenity—Hughie’s all set up at our house. You know, he’s got his books and his computer and his clothes, and it would be hard for him to move—” My argument is shabby at best, which is why it’s so easy for my aunt to cut off midsentence.

“All of those things will fit nicely on the shelf in my living room and in the skinny hall closet, once I clean out last year’s cowgirl costumes… I’ve got a half-dozen pairs of assless chaps that have seen better days, you know?” She sends me a “shut up or I will make you suffer” glare and then refocuses on Hughie. “Baby, I miss having you with me. I swear that I won’t bring so many of my gentlemen friends back to the room after work. And when I do, we’ll keep the door shut and the volume down, and I mean it this time.”

Hughie’s jaw drops in the way I’m accustomed to, but this time I don’t reach over and shut it with the side of my hand. I can’t. I’m in shock too.

“I’m gonna talk to Sam about when we can move you home. I still haven’t scraped up enough cash to buy a car, so we’re gonna need to use your aunt Kathy’s minivan to move you back in, but that’s no biggie.” Aunt Serenity isn’t aware that her son is freaking out. “Like, I’m thinking maybe we can do it next Sunday, but it can’t be ’til after I throw this naughty nighty party I promised Amy Jo I’d have. She just isn’t making ends meet, now that she’s only dancing afternoon shifts. FYI, it’s true that businessmen don’t tip as good as truckers.”

We both stare at her. My mouth is now hanging open too, as what she’s saying is an uncomfortable combination of TMI and what the hell? And something about Hughie is different. He’s not just distant—he has completely checked out of this lunch date.

“What are you guys looking at me like that for?” Aunt Serenityis defensive. “The tips aren’t as good in the afternoon as at night. And tips are the lifeblood of the professional dancer.” Once again, she’s missed the point.

I do this shrug-nod thing—I’m not sure what Hughie does—but I’m relieved he doesn’t say what we’re both thinking: Serenity, you’re a stripper. You did not attend the Juilliard School to study modern dance.

We’re served lunch, which my brosin and I stuff down rather hastily. Both of us just want this lunch date to come to a premature conclusion.

“God, you two must be starving! Isn’t Aunty Kathy feeding you boys?” Aunt Serenity asks. “No worries, Kalin, you can come over to dinner at our place any time you want. My specialty is heating up those frozen chicken pot pies—the ones with dark meat and peas and those little pearly onions.”

Hughie doesn’t even look up when he says, “Kale’s an herbivore. Remember?”

She tilts her head and asks, “Kalin smokes weed?”

“Mary Pat, Kale’s a vegetarian. He won’t eat chicken pot pie.”

Aunt Serenity turns to me. “So you think you’re too good for my chicken pot pie? I have a feeling Mrs. Stouffer would have somethingto say about that.”

This conversation is going nowhere. And fast. “We need to head out soon. I have to pick up my mother at the Shoe Depot in a few minutes.”

“I have to run too. Got me a double shift of bootie shaking coming up. Two in the afternoon till two in the morning.” Aunt Serenity places one pointy thumbnail between her teeth and bites down on the tiny panther stenciled there. “I figure I’ll roll my hips two thousand times in twelve hours, at fifty cents per rotation, which adds up to—cha-ching—the big bucks. How’s that for mathematics, Hughie-bear?” Again, she claws the air, purring with satisfaction.

Hughie groans softly and then goes to that place in his head where he seems to find shelter.

“Well, thanks for meeting us, Aunt Mary—I mean, Aunt Serenity. I’m gonna head over to the cashier now to pay for lunch.” I glance at Hughie, who has momentarily returned from the land of the lost. There’s an unhealthy dose of panic in his eyes at the prospect of being alone with his own flesh and blood. “It’ll only take two minutes,” I say to calm him down, but it doesn’t work.

“I gotta take a leak, so I’ll catch ya later, Mary Pat.” He’s off of his chair and on his way to the men’s room before I can blink.

Looks like I have to step up to the plate. Again. I lean over the table and give Aunt Serenity a hug, trying to avoid brushing her boobs with my wrists, which is challenging. “It was nice to see you.” The standard goodbye—my father raised me right while my mother was at the mall.

“Thanks for paying for lunch, Kalin. And I’ll leave the tip. I have too many singles bills to count!” She squeezes my arms and winks at me. “Occupational hazard.”

buy