This is my stop during the book blitz for Freak by Erin Lee. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 27 June till 3 July. See the tour schedule here.
Regret Comes in Every Color of the Rainbow
Based on Erin Lee’s novella, Her Name Was Sam, Freak is the story of Kelly and Morgan, the mother and sister of Sam Harris, in the aftermath of her suicide. Bullied for being brave enough to show her true colors to the world, Sam has been gone exactly one year and Kelly and Morgan are left to tackle the grief that comes with regret in her absence.
But Sam’s story is far from over…
Through the love of Willow, a teenager intent on standing up for her “Freak” best friend at all costs, Ryan is able to finally come out to family and friends. His transformation from ashamed to proud with Willow’s help gives new meaning to Sam’s story and how things could have been.
Because love comes in all shades too.
At some point, someone is going to need to do something. This is the third time in just as many months that I’ve patched my daughter’s best friend up after a fight. This time, they tell me from our tattered leather couch patched with electrical tape that fails to hide a thing, that it was Colby Brown who started it. Colby, a sophomore middle linebacker on the Conant High School junior varsity football team, is a kid I’ve known since he was in grade school. In fact, I used to be his Sunday School teacher. It’s hard to believe that the kid who was the first to remember the Lord’s Prayer is now the first to throw a punch over something as stupid as how another kid walks. But times change and so do people.
“Hold this to your head. And not like last time. Put pressure on it. We need to stop the bleeding. Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the doctor? It’s totally fine. I could get a sitter…”
“Really, Mrs. Schoen. I’m okay. I’ll be fine. Sticks and stones, right?” Ryan brushes his long blond bangs away from his eyes, pulling gently at the hairs wet from the blood gushing from his eyebrow. He throws his neck back and waves one hand at me while holding my new white towel to his head. “Really! I’ll be fine.”
“No you won’t. Why don’t you just let my mom do something? I’m sick of this. It’s not fair, Ry. It happens like every single day. Mom could like call your mom or the school or something. They have all that bullying crap up now. They have to take it serious. It’s not like they are blind…”
The skinny boy on my couch who doesn’t look a day over thirteen but is technically sixteen, glares at Willow; my daughter and his best friend since the first grade. “Yeah. And that will help. Be serious. It will only make it worse. Like I don’t already have a target on me? Like they can’t tell? Why do you think this shit—he looks up, ‘sorry, Mrs. Schoen,’ and continues—keeps happening?”
I sigh, turning back to the kitchen to see if I have a bag of frozen peas or something for the welt that’s already forming on his face. I have no clue how he thinks keeping a fight like this a secret is going to be any easier than being gay. I pretend not to ease-drop on the duo but can’t help myself as they wrestle with what to do about kids at school, the administration and, most importantly Ryan’s parents who have no clue he’s gay and would likely disown him if they knew. What the hell is wrong with people? He’s a great kid. Why does it matter?
Digging through the freezer and wishing I hadn’t used up the last of the chilled ice packs for John’s lunchtime cooler, I try to put myself in Ryan’s parents’ shoes. I want to believe that I would be okay and supportive if Willow was gay, but I’m also realistic. I know it might be something I’d have trouble with at first. It makes me hate myself for feeling that way. What I do know, though, is that ultimately I’d come around. Willow’s happiness has been all and John have ever really wanted for her since I first learned I was pregnant.
I linger at the freezer, spying on their conversation and trying to come up with a plan of how to help this kid who I’ve also known since he was chubby with coke-bottle glasses. Ryan was once the happy kid who met Willow at the bus stop every morning with a bright smiles and sometimes a handful of dandelions. Back then, I swore they’d end up married someday. His mother, Mary, and I had joked about what gorgeous babies they’d make with Ryan’s chubby cheeks and Willow’s naturally curly hair. Even now, listening to them bicker like an old married couple about the best way to handle another round of bullying from Colby and half the jocks at the high school, it seemed hard to imagine that they’d eventually go their separate ways. For as long as I can remember, they’d been stuck together at the hip. Still, most of their free time is spent either Snap chatting each other on the latest gossip or practicing together for the school marching band or choir; extra-curricular activities they joined together back in middle school.
“Dude! I’m just not, okay. Let it go. You don’t get it. And I don’t know why you don’t. You’re the kid who has to sit with the freak at lunchtime. And you know what? Don’t.”
“Oh hell no, you don’t. That’s BS and you know it. I’m not like that. What’s wrong with you? You aren’t taking this crap out on me, Ry. Chill out. I’m only trying to help you. Team you, remember? Loyal, remember? Don’t piss me off.”
I suck in a sharp breath, waiting for Willow to continue her rant. She doesn’t. All I can make out now are whispers. I throw a gallon of ice cream on the counter and reach for the scooper, forgetting entirely about the peas for Ryan’s head. I need to get back in there. Then again, I really don’t. Willow can hold her own. She’s always been this way. Somehow, she came out of the womb an old soul. Never one to care what people thought or said, my daughter was born with an innate self confidence that never really made sense to me; the woman who still worries about straightening her hair for parent-teacher conferences or a school bake sale.
I return with two bowls of mint chocolate chip, which Ryan happily takes and Willow pushes to the side on a coffee table. I sit across from them in a reclining chair prepared to give Ryan the lecture my daughter’s already begun. I’ve known Mary and Tom longer than their son and can’t imagine they’d be that difficult to talk to. Sure, I know they are big into church and might not be thrilled with the idea of Ryan living a different lifestyle from theirs. But still, being gay doesn’t mean you can’t be spiritual or don’t believe in God. Mary would see that, eventually. No mother would want their son going through something like this alone. Would they?
“What if I called your mom and explained things to her?”
Ryan puts down the spoon he holds in one hand and removes the towel from his head with the other. He shakes his head.
“Listen, guys. I appreciate it. I really do. You just don’t get it. This isn’t something that would be cool. I’ll deal with this eventually. I’m just not ready to. I mean, hell, do you guys even comprehend that my mother asks me at least ten times a day who I’m asking to the homecoming dance? She’s just not ready for it.”
“Shoot. I forgot the peas. Put that thing back on your head. At least it’s cold.”
“Yes. For your head. That bump is huge,” I say, uncertain about why I’ve never heard anything about the homecoming dance myself. “I’ll be right back. Willow, eat that ice cream. You’re too skinny.”
“Gee, thanks, Ma.”
You can find Freak on Goodreads
You can buy Freak here on Amazon
Erin Lee is a freelance writer and therapist chasing a crazy dream one reality at a time. She is the author of Crazy Like Me, a novel published in 2015 by Savant Books and Publications, LLC, Wave to Papa, 2015, by Limitless Publishing, LLC and Nine Lives (2016). She’s also author of Alters, Host, and Merge of the “Lola, Party of Eight Series,” When I’m Dead, Take Me As I Am, Greener, Something Blue, Once Upon a Vow and 99 Bottles. She also penned Her Name Was Sam, an LGBTQ awareness novella. She is author of Losing Faith, and co-author of The Morning After with Black Rose Writing. These days, she spends her free time working on the sequels to this novel, Jimmie’s Ice Cream and Thing Fifteen.
Lee is a co-founder of the Escape From Reality Series. She, along with authors Sara Schoen and Taylor Henderson, are working with twenty other authors to bring the hopes, dreams, fears and terrors of a tiny fictional town alive. The town and its setting is exactly the type of place a man like Jimmie might escape to as the bodies thawed.
Lee holds a master’s degree in psychology and works with at-risk families and as a court appointed special advocate. She cannot write horror with the lights off. However, these days, she’s getting braver and dimming them. She’ll get there . . .
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