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Chapter 1

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Sean had been staring at the faded, plastic glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to the ceiling for the last five minutes.

"Sorry," he finally mumbled to the boy next to him, but his voice sounded out of place swimming in the silence between them.

"Me too," Jesse said, sitting up. "Do you wanna try again?"

"I think we should take a break."

They both stared at each other a moment.

Jesse's eyes searched Sean's. "Like...break up kind of break?"

"...Yeah," Sean breathed as he climbed out of bed and started pulling his clothes back on. In a weird way, it felt like a weight had lifted off his chest.

"Wait, what did I do wrong?" Jesse said defensively.

"Nothing," Sean paused. "It's not you."

"Really, Sean? You're gonna pull the 'it's not you, it's me' thing on me?"

"Well-"

"It's always the other person when people say that."

Sean shifted uncomfortably before leaning down to put his shoes on. He didn't know what to say. He just didn't want this to be a thing.

"So just because I don't want to beat you like some sicko when we're—"

"Wait, what?" Sean snapped. "How do you even make that kind of a leap?"

"I just don't know what you want from me," Jesse said, throwing up his hands as he drifted closer to the door with a dejected expression.

...That weight that felt like it had been lifted? Yeah, that came crashing back down like an old box tv on a stand bought from Walmart. He'd just wanted a little more... something. Passion, maybe?

And worse still was that now Sean's chest was aching like he wanted to go home. But they were in his bedroom... with his books, and posters, and crystals, and altar, and the lingering scent of palo santo... Yet somehow Jesse had made him feel like he wasn't welcome in his own space.

A break. That was all Sean wanted right now. He sighed, as he finished lacing up his high-top sneakers.

"Sorry," he repeated, and he meant it, even though he wasn't sure if Jesse heard him.

A few moments later the screen door slapped closed behind Sean as he cleared the front porch just behind Jesse. He didn't think to lock it. Nobody in Aspenview really locked their doors.

"There you are. Was wondering when you two were planning on showing up for supper," Sean's cousin, Annalise, said from the sidewalk.

Jesse blew past her without a word, and climbed into his Jeep.

"Okay, 'hi' to you too," Anna said, before giving Sean a raised brow.

"My mom and dad at your place already?" Sean asked as Jesse drove off, barely tapping his breaks at the stop sign at the corner of their street.

Annalise nodded. Her dad was an interstate trucker, so he wasn't home much. But when he was, it was tradition for the family to come over for 'Tyron Erikson's famous gumbo'.

Sean couldn't begin to tell anyone what all his uncle put in it, aside from the Cajun holy trinity, but he could easily eat his weight in the stuff, and too much comfort food sounded perfect right now.

"Sooo... we just not gonna talk about that?" Anna wondered, motioning towards the now vacant curb.

Sean shook his head and started towards her house. A few minutes into their walk, Annalise pulled Sean's attention from the pavement beneath his sneakers to the line of trees on the right side of the road. "That looks cool."

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