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The whole series is out now! Nook and iBooks readers: DO NOT WAIT to get your copies. After Thursday, this series will only be available on Kindle for 90 days!

Here’s a little snippet from one of Max’s chapters in Love Like We Do (Side B):

“You’re not wearing that shirt out today, are you?”

I look down at the graphic curiously before glancing back up. “Planned on it. Yeah.”

“Max, why?”

“It’s a rainbow, Mom. A natural occurrence caused by light being dispersed and refracted by rain. A rainbow never hurt anyone.”

“It hurts me.”

“Why?” I challenge her.

“You know you’re not wearing it as a statement of support for Mother Nature, Max. You know the rainbow symbolizes something else.”

“What does it symbolize?”

She returns to the stove and starts cooking her own breakfast while I begin eating mine.

“Gay pride,” she says softly.

I smile, but she’s not looking at me to see it. “And how does gay pride hurt you?”

“I’m just finding it hard to be proud of this.”

At first, her comment kind of stings, but then I think about what she said. “You don’t have to be proud of it. You probably never felt pride in Jon and Will simply because they’re straight. It is an odd thing for a mother to be proud of. I get it. You get a pass on this one, Mom. I don’t need you to be proud of me for being gay.

“But today, I take pride in the fact that I am because people think that I should hide it, and I don’t want to anymore. So I’ll wear the rainbow. You don’t have to.”

She turns off the stovetop and scrapes her eggs into the sink. “I don’t understand why you have to make such a big deal out of it, that’s all.”

“Why do I have to make such a big deal out of it?” I ask her. “I didn’t, Mom. I would have been happy to keep it all between me and Callen. But then the media got involved, and Callen’s mother fueled the fire, and suddenly it’s the only thing anyone cares about. It’s almost a bigger story than Callen being missing at all. That’s pretty fucked up.”

“Maxwell Nicholas Rosser!”

“Well, isn’t it?”

“Just because you’re declaring your sexual independence today–or whatever you’re doing–doesn’t mean you’re free to break all the rules of our household. That word is off limits here!”

“Sorry, Mom. It’s messed up. And my point is that it would have been nice to keep our private life private, but I guess that’s the price of being involved with Callen McNare anyway. It should be our decision to come out on our terms. I would rather just get it out there so people will stop hiding in bushes to try to catch me doing something to prove it to the world. It’s better for my sanity and safer for me, too.”

She busies herself with the dishes while I finish my breakfast. “Weren’t you going to eat, Mom?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Mom, come on.”

“Do you have any idea how hard this is on me?”

“No, I guess I don’t.”

After putting away the dishes, she leans against the counter and folds her arms across her chest. “I have to endure empathetic stares and endless questions at work already about this. I work at a very conservative company, Max. This is worse than a cancer diagnosis. They can treat cancer.”

“You would rather I have cancer. Is that what I’m hearing?”

She shakes her head. “Of course not. Of course I don’t want you to have cancer, but in a way, I think this is an untreatable affliction. People pity me. I feel sorry for myself,” she admits with tears in her eyes. “I pray every night for you to wake up and realize your mistake, or for me to wake up from the nightmare.”

My heart begins to race as the anger builds. I get up to grab my phone. “Don’t call Will,” she says, reading my mind. “We don’t need him here.”

“I need him. I thought we were past this. I thought you were doing better.”

“Can’t you and I have a conversation about things without you needing a buffer? You’re obviously an adult now, Max. I know this is painful for you to hear, but I need to get it off my chest and I won’t be able to with the intimidation tactics employed by your brother.”

“If you’re going to make me listen to that shit, you’re going to have to let me speak freely. Uncensored.”

“Deal. But you should know your fancy new school won’t let you talk like that.”

“I have a few weeks before I start school. I’m getting it out of my system.”

“Max, what am I supposed to tell people?”

“What people? These people you work with?”

“Those people… the people at church, at Bible study, my meetings.”

“You don’t have to tell them anything if you don’t want to, Mom,” I tell her. “Again, you don’t go to those places and talk about how straight Will and Jon are, do you?”

“Well, I talk about Jon and Livvy and my granddaughter all the time. I show them pictures. I’m proud of them. And most of them know the struggles I have with Will. We’re all just waiting for the right girl to come along. So I do talk to them about their relationships. You boys are my life. Outside of work, church and my meetings, I don’t have a personal life anymore. I made too many mistakes of my own over the years.

“So how do I talk about you?”

“Well, soon you won’t have to deliver the news that I’m gay. The media will have that part handled. So you can dodge that bullet. And right now, the guy I like is in hiding somewhere because he anticipated his parents’ intolerance of the situation, and he knew he couldn’t live under their roof like that. He didn’t think they’d want him living in their home, and with the way his mom’s been, I’m not sure they wouldn’t have kicked him out.

“I honestly didn’t think you’d react like this. I thought you’d love me unconditionally–”

“I do love you, Max. Don’t question that.”

“I don’t feel loved right now. When you tell me you think I’m sick, or that me being gay is your worst nightmare, those don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. This isn’t a sickness. It’s biology.

“It’d be like if I were born with blue eyes, and you had some aversion to blue eyes, and then you told me you hated kids with blue eyes–to my face! I couldn’t change my eye color. They’re always going to be blue.

“I could wear contacts to cover them up. I could hide them from you. But deep down, I’d know they were blue and I’d know there’s nothing wrong with their color. In fact, I’d like the color. I wouldn’t know how to have any other color eyes. Blue eyes would be all I would know.

“But every day I’d wake up, look in the mirror, and the first thing I’d think is how much you like Will and Jon’s brown eyes better than my blue ones. How do you think that would make me feel?”

She looks at me with a frown.

“This is the same thing, Mom. I like guys. I don’t know any other way to be. I’ve been this way my whole life, and I was born like this. It’s in my genes… all of this was determined way before I had any say in anything in this world.”

“So you’re saying I made you this way?” she asks, seemingly offended.

“I am. You made me into this human being with two arms, two legs, one brain, two brown eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, an additional appendage that I’m grateful for, two lungs, some other internal organs, and a heart, with the natural inclination to be attracted to guys and the capacity to love and care for another human being. Shame on you.

“I’m gay, Mom, but I’m more than that. I’ll be known for more than that. Right now it seems like it’s the only thing people care about. The only topic of conversation. Change the subject on people. If they ask if I’m gay, tell them yes, but then tell them I’m a lifeguard. Or that I’m going to some new school this fall. Or getting back into sports. I promise, I’ll do plenty of things with my life that you’ll want to talk about. Good things.”

“Oh, my sweet Max,” she says with a smile, putting her hand over mine.

“Bigger picture, Mom, okay? But when the time comes, and I bring a guy around that I really like–whether it’s Callen or someone else–I hope someday you’ll feel comfortable showing these people pictures of us. Love is love. It can never be ugly or hateful, no matter how many people try to put that spin on it.”

Love Like We Do (Side B) ©2015 Lori L. Otto

Did you miss yesterday’s post? Or do you still want more info?

To get your copies of Love Like We Do, click the links below!

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**One last thing. The title page may say “Draft Edition: September 2015” but it’s just because I failed to update that to “First Edition: October 2015.” The version you have is the final copy, don’t worry. 🙂