String Boys

Okay– this book is almost done, and I’m going to be spinning down the rabbit hole trying to finish it and another project before I go to GRL.

Anyway–I love this book. It’s sort of a book of my heart. And I haven’t talked a lot about it because I love it so much, I don’t want to jinx it. But if I don’t finish tonight I’m going to finish tomorrow, and it’s all I can think about.

So here’s a pivotal moment, from the beginning, when Seth makes a rather startling new revelation about Kelly–

One day in November they were riding the bus together, late because Seth was practicing for the winter holiday performance, when Kelly gave a little yawn and slumped sideways against him. 
Seth wrapped his arm around Kelly’s shoulders and let him rest his head on Seth’s chest, and he had a small revelation.
Kelly’s face wasn’t round anymore.
It wasn’t rectangular like Matty’s, though. He still had dimples in the corners of his cheeks. He still had a little cleft in the center of his pointed chin. His eyes were round, with long, dark, thick lashes, and he had a tiny black mole on his cheek, back by his ear. 
And he smelled good.
Same soap Matty used—Seth could smell it off of Matty when they had gym class together the year before. Matty had taken gym again this year, because they had a special weight class and he took so many academic classes gym was a fun elective, and Seth knew the fresh smell of Matty’s soap.
But it wasn’t the same on Kelly.
On Kelly it seemed sweeter and sharper. Like cedar shavings. More real. 
His lips were a pink shade of the pale bronze of his skin.
And soft. And pillowy.
Seth stared at Kelly for the rest of the bus ride, trying to fit this new Kelly into his mind and wishing he didn’t have to.
This was Matty’s kid brother. Seth’s life would be… incomplete if he wasn’t there, all hours of the day, insinuating himself into Seth’s blood.
He couldn’t be seeing Kelly any different than he had since they were little kids, could he? Kelly. Who still talked the ears off a chipmunk if you let him. Who could prattle on about his English teacher and how she looked old but she was going to go out and start a revolution single handedly if it killed her, and about the young math teacher who had just had her third kid and looked like death all the time and how Kelly was going to ask his mom if she could make poor Mrs. Hennessy some hot chocolate for Christmas because that woman needed a mommy like nobody else and his mommy was the best.
Who sat in Seth’s living room and listened to Seth play and drew random pictures and smiled just at the sound of scales.
Seth must have made a sound or something—something different about his breathing, maybe—because Kelly’s eyes flew open, sparkling brown, lively, and definitely not stupid.
“What?” Kelly asked, wiping a self-conscious hand across his lips, looking for drool. “I totally got spit all over you, right?” He made to pull away and for a moment, Seth’s arms tightened.
No. Kelly was warm in his arms, and again, his smell. 
Kelly stopped for a moment, and a little red-bronze crescent appeared on his cheekbones. “Keeping me warm?” he whispered.
Seth gaped at him, unable to find a good reason for holding him so close. The moment suspended there, breathless, as the two of them stared at each other, until Kelly suddenly bounded up. “Hey, that’s our stop!”
“Sorry, kid,” the bus driver responded. “I’ll let you off on the next block.”
“Dammit,” Kelly muttered. “It’s raining outside.”
“I’m sorry,” Seth whispered, feeling stupid and caught completely unawares. “I’m sorry. I just… zoned out—”
Kelly met his eyes and shook his head then, reminding Seth so much of Kelly’s father that Seth’s tongue stopped babbling. “I know what happened,” Kelly told him, voice surprisingly mild.
And then he winked. 
Seth swallowed and stood, waiting for the bus to come to a stop.
They got out just as the rain kicked in harder, and the two of them hustled to the nearest shelter.  This stop used to open up into a small strip mall, little store fronts close together with alleyways between them and overhangs. The stores had all closed down, and the windows had been broken and boarded up and broken and boarded up and broken again. It wasn’t a safe place, no—they had to dodge needles and condoms and trash to get to the place between the buildings where the overhang offered shelter. The good news was, the back opened up to a small field, and if they could cross that field they’d be in the back porch of the first fourplex of their block, and they knew almost everyone in their set of fourplexes, and they’d be safe.
But for the moment, they’d walked to the back of the tiny alleyway and were looking out from the overhang, waiting for the rain to stop pounding like it was going to drill a hole in their heads.
“Sorry about the bus stop,” Seth muttered. “This place is pretty gross.”
Kelly nodded. “Yeah—Matty says Castor Durant hangs out in the old laundromat—but not when it’s raining. The roof’s no good. It floods.”
Seth grunted. They’d all kept an ear to the ground for Castor Durant—he was back in the high school Matty had been headed for before he got his grades up. The rumors about him were unsettling—he’d been suspended once for hitting a teacher with a balled up roll of tape. The only reason he hadn’t been expelled was that she hadn’t seen him do it, but everybody knew. 
And what he did to students unwary enough to fall in his sway was worse.
“So we’re lucky it’s raining?” Seth wrinkled his nose and Kelly laughed at him. They’d both grown, but where Seth probably had two or so more inches to go, Kelly had stopped about two inches from where Seth was now.  He was going to five-six, maybe five-seven, for the rest of his life, and his childhood plumpness had washed away, leaving him slender and tightly built. But the smallness never seemed to stop him. He always stared up at the world with that same laughing-eyed joy that he was giving Seth now.
Seth stared back at him, just as entranced as he had been on the bus, but now it was worse, somehow. 
Kelly was biting his lip, his eyes wise.
“You just saw it, didn’t you?” he asked, the dimples popping out.
“Saw what?” Seth asked, helpless. He wanted to touch Kelly’s cheeks, feel the little dent in skin.
“Saw my face and thought, ‘Oh, it’s Kelly,’ and not ‘Oh, it’s Matty’s little brother.’”
Seth shook his head. “You’ve always been Kelly,” he replied with confidence. And then, shaken. “What’s different?”
Kelly let out a soft chuff of air. They were standing so close it brushed Seth’s chin, and he moved his finger to his own face, trying to still the tingle.
“Last year, I went to dances,” he whispered. “Remember?”
Seth nodded. “Yeah. Your mom got mad because she couldn’t chaperone.”
“Thank God,” Kelly returned with feeling. “So I made out with two girls at those dances. Cause they were funny and they wanted to dance, and making out seemed like what you were supposed to do.”
Seth’s stomach went cold. “Awesome,” he muttered. He hadn’t made out with anyone. It was just… just… getting home and practicing his next piece always held such a fascination. Being there to walk Kelly home, to have their own quite after school club, just the two of them, seemed so much more important.
“No,” Kelly said, shaking his head sadly. “I mean, pleasant, but not awesome. And then, Jimmy—you remember him? We used to sit at lunch together because the grades couldn’t mix?”
“Jimmy Durreson?” Seth remembered. White kid, which wasn’t that common. Dark blond hair, a big dent in his chin. Green eyes. 
A wave of panic crashed into Seth, like it had just been waiting to douse him as he stood on the shore of oblivion.
Jimmy Durreson was damned cute.
Kelly nodded, the mischief in his smile. “Yeah. Jimmy frickin’ Durreson. We were at the dance together, and we got bored, and we went outside to use the bathrooms and didn’t come in right away. And it was spring and just us, and he stops me. Says, ‘Wanna make out?’ And I did. And it was awesome. And he wanted to do it again. Wanted to be boyfriends.” 
Oh God. “You have a boyfriend?” Panic in his voice.
Kelly patted his cheek gently. “You’re so pretty, but oh my God. There’s shit you don’t see. No, I don’t have a boyfriend. Not yet.”
Seth nodded, trying to still the surge of jealousy that had followed the panic. “But if you thought it was awesome—”
Kelly kissed him.
Oh dear heavens, Kelly kissedhim. 
His plush little mouth soft on Seth’s, that amazing smell Seth had just discovered filling his senses. His warmth blocking out the chill of the November rain.
Seth gasped, and Kelly pushed his tongue in, just enough to taste, and Seth closed his lips and sucked lightly. 
Kelly pulled away and smiled, biting his lip. 
“It wasn’t that awesome,” he whispered. “It was good. Jimmy Durreson is a good kisser. But he doesn’t taste like you.”

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