A search for true love and self-acceptance
Annie Luka has always been home-schooled, but she's convinced her mother to let her attend public school for her graduating year. When it is learned that Annie Luka is actually Attila Luka; a beautiful cross-gender guy struggling with his identity, it tears a small group of friends apart. Only when they all reunite ten years later is the full extent of Attila's deception revealed, bringing some of the group closer together, and pushing others further apart.
What transpires over the next few years after the reunion leaves Attila wondering if he'll ever find true love.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Steambath Press
Pairings: MM, NB
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay, Transgender
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 3 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Bad Breakup, Coming Out / Closeted, Coming Out Later in Life, Fated Mates / Soul Mates, First Time, Forbidden Love, Friends to Lovers, Love Triangle, Slow Burning Love, Star-Crossed Lovers, True Love, Unrequited Love
Word Count: 100575
Languages Available: English
Chapter One - IntroductionsREAD MORE
Mr. Price looked across his desk at the two people sitting in front of him and discreetly sighed to himself. When he'd become the principal of Tekla Senior High some twenty years ago, he never could've anticipated the dilemma he was facing today.
He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, trying to decide what the best course of action would be. The school board and the provincial government required that each student complete a mandatory level of physical education to graduate, but as he studied the mother and daughter watching him nervously, he realized that wasn't going to be feasible in this case.
"I think the best thing to do is try and get a doctor's note excusing Annie from physical education," he said. "I'm not sure what your doctor will list as the reason, but I'm sure they'll come up with something." He paused. "Mrs. Luka—"
"Please call me Cynthia."
"Yes, of course," Mr. Price replied. "Cynthia, might I ask how Annie managed to avoid this requirement in the past. This is her final year of high school. Surely this has come up before."
Cynthia rubbed the side of her temple and tried to compose herself. They'd only just moved to the small community five hours in from the west coast of Canada, and she'd been hoping they'd be able to blend in, but apparently, that wasn't going to be the case.
"We've only just moved here," she said. "And up until now Annie has been homeschooled, but he—"
Annie grabbed her mom's arm.
"Mom! Please! She!"
"I'm sorry, Attila …Annie. I'm trying, alright?" Cynthia took a deep breath. "My …daughter wanted to attend public school for …her final year. God only knows why."
"I want to make some friends," Attila said. "And I want to go to prom like everyone else. I'm alright with who I am."
"But the other kids might not be," Cynthia retorted anxiously.
Mr. Price leaned forward on his desk and caught Attila's eye. "Your mother has a valid point," he said, "but if you hadn't told me, I never would've suspected."
Attila blushed, pleased with himself.
"How do you intend to play this out?" Mr. Price asked Attila.
"I'm not planning on telling anyone." Attila turned to face his mother. "Mom, I'm not stupid. I'll play it safe. No one will ever suspect I'm a guy. I promise."
Cynthia nodded her head in resignation.
"Alright," Mr. Price said. "Welcome to Tekla, Annie. If you have any concerns at all, please come see me."
Attila stood and took Mr. Price's hand in his and gave it a light, delicate handshake. "Thank you. I'll see you tomorrow."
Mr. Price dropped back into his chair as the pair left his office, and reached for his phone. He was going to have to put both vice principals, the police liaison officer, and the counseling office on alert, just in case.
Shaun Desmond shuffled the books around in his backpack, trying to get them to fit, but finally gave up in exasperation. He pulled everything out to start again and gave the backpack a good shake to make sure it was empty. His heart sank painfully as a small, folded note drifted onto the floor.
This had been the longest summer Shaun could ever remember, and even though he was running late, he'd never wanted to go back to school as badly as what he had these past few months. The loneliness of being without his best friend had been the most excruciating experience of his life.
He slumped onto the floor and picked up the note. It was a reminder about a homework assignment from last year, but the writing it contained was as recognizable to Shaun as his own would've been. He ran his fingers over the swooping letters that spelled out Daniel's name and rubbed his sleeve across his face, attempting to wipe away the tears that had escaped.
Daniel had been Shaun's best friend since kindergarten and they'd planned on rooming together next year at university, but everything had come apart near the end of the last school year. Daniel had always been smaller than the other kids and hadn't been very adept when it came to playing sports, so he'd often been the object of ridicule. But what Daniel lacked in physical strength, he made up with mental acuity. He'd been exceedingly bright and had enjoyed the company of the other like-minded kids in his math and science clubs, and he'd become quite accomplished on the violin. But all of these achievements had only drawn additional negative attention. When he'd been caught making out with one of the guys from his band program, the bullying he'd already been enduring had reached epic and unrelenting proportions. It had become too much for Daniel to handle, and two days before the end of the last school year, he'd hung himself in his room.
Shaun remembered the conversation he'd had with Daniel just moments before he'd taken his life. Daniel had been extremely depressed, but Shaun had thought they'd worked through his emotions for the day. It had become a nightly ritual between them, talking about the events of the day over the phone, trying to gain some perspective on the trials and tribulations of high school, and how things would be different once they headed off to university. They'd ended the conversation with Daniel sounding almost hopeful, but Shaun realized now that Daniel's emotional upturn was because he'd made the decision to end his pain.
The sun streamed in through the torn portion of the drapery that hung haphazardly across Curtis Bantam's bedroom window. He turned away to keep the light from hurting his eyes and rolled directly into a pool of vomit he must've thrown up during the night.
He pushed himself up and looked at it, wondering how the hell he'd managed to throw anything up at all. He'd barely eaten a thing in almost three days. Then without warning, his bedroom door flew open and crashed into the wall, making his head scream in agony, but he managed to scurry to the far side of the mattress and drop down onto the floor before his dad entered the room.
Curtis peered across the floor from beneath his bed as the drunken excuse of a man scanned the room looking for him. He breathed a sigh of relief when the threat stumbled back out through the door with the belt he'd been wielding dragging behind him.
He waited for a few minutes until he heard his dad shout something at his mom and fire up his car, and screech out of the driveway. Once everything was quiet, Curtis ventured out of his room into the bathroom to get ready for school.
The mirror above the chipped porcelain sink was cracked and faded with age and neglect, but it had enough surface area left to reflect the image of the stunningly attractive and enduringly innocent face staring into it.
Curtis roughed up his shaggy blond hair and turned his head from side to side trying to see if the swelling below his left eye was going to be visible. His last date of the night had turned rough on him, forcing him to sniff an excessive amount of poppers, even by his standards, while pounding his ass mercilessly.
He'd relaxed into it and let overwhelming nausea from the drugs sweep over him, getting off on the buzzing sensation in his head. He'd been startled back to reality, his body aching, when he was pitched out at the curb, surprisingly close to where the guy had originally picked him up. He figured he must've hit his face when he was dumped from the car, but he wasn't really sure.
Curtis quickly stuffed his hands into his jean pockets and pulled out a fifty-dollar bill. At least the guy had paid him. Maybe he'd even fed him, but he couldn't remember.
Stripping off his clothes, he cringed with every movement; the impact of too many mostly sleepless nights was wearing on him. He turned the shower on and splashed the cold water on his face before he stepped into it. There was nothing like a freezing cold shower to get the blood flowing after working all night.
The doorbell rang and a commotion instantly erupted in the foyer as the family's five Pomeranians went wild with excitement to see who was at the front door.
Dixie finished the last stroke of mascara and rechecked her appearance in the mirror. She'd added a bright blue streak to her sleek black hair and pushed a new piercing through her lip the night before. It didn't appear to be swollen and it complemented the new ring she'd added to her nose last week.
The sound of feet pounding up the stairs had her turning toward her bedroom door in anticipation. Her best friend Ming Fujiwara had been away all summer visiting his family in Japan and had only just arrived home that morning in time for school.
Dixie shrieked with laughter as Ming flew in through her door.
"Oh! My! God!" Ming exclaimed, and leapt at her, tipping her face up to look at him so he could examine what she'd done.
"What do you think?" Dixie asked, posing for him.
"That you're absolutely gorgeous as usual." Ming shoved Dixie over and leaned on her makeup table, studying his own face in the mirror. "What I wouldn't give to have skin like yours. Some girls have all the luck." He gave himself one last look and then sorted through a few earrings strewn about on the table. He decided to change out the ones he was wearing for a pair of hers.
"Your skin is practically flawless," Dixie said and laughed when Ming looked at her suspiciously.
Ming picked up her face powder and brush and tried to lighten up the area just below his jawline, but the powder was about three shades too light. "Says the girl that doesn't have to fight a constant battle against afternoon shadow." He set the powder down in disgust. "Do you have any idea how much time and money I spend each month trying to look fabulous?"
"Whatever you're doing. It's working. You're divine."
"Aren't you just a sweetheart this morning?" Ming wrapped his arm around Dixie and kissed her cheek. "I am so happy to be home again. My relatives do not understand me …at all."
"Is your Japanese a little rusty?" Dixie grinned, knowing he was referring to something else entirely.
"Hah. Hah. You know exactly what I mean."
Dixie watched as Ming applied some of her light pink lip-gloss to his lips and started rooting around in the little purse he always carried with him. She sighed with heavy concern as he removed a small vial, tapped some of its contents onto the top of his hand, and snorted it. He repeated the process in the other nostril then reached for a tissue from Dixie's bedside table.
"Now I'm ready to face the first day of what, I pray, is the last school year of my miserable, depressing existence," Ming said and then swooned dramatically. "Unless, of course, the fair and gallant Eric of Quarterback is overcome by my seductive ways and abandons his quest to seek out cheerleading maidens, preferring the loving hands of one, such as myself, that is intimately acquainted with the male form and what it truly desires."
Dixie's eyebrows shot up with amusement and she snorted. "God, I missed you."
"Little consolation for the broken-hearted, my dear." Ming dabbed at a feigned tear falling from his eye then grinned at Dixie. "At least you appreciate me."
"Always." Dixie stood and reached for Ming's hand with a prayer of her own that this would be the year Ming found true love because he deserved it more than any other person she knew.
What readers are saying:
"As the story progressed I started to realize that the author chose to write about a serious topic in a very conflicted way. Many transgendered people struggle with body dysphoria and the answer to the eternal question of "who am I?"... Attila shows the angst that goes along with knowing that you don't fit into a predetermined role in life, that the people that you are attracted to can't love you the way you really are, and he struggles for years trying to find a way to live happily. Overall this story shows the struggle that members of our GLBTQ community go thru on a daily basis. It shows that sometimes life should just be fluidity in motion."
"I Loved loved loved this book. Attila really had a tough time in life but ended up where he should be. The message in that is very touching. I Loved reading about the group of friends and what they all went through. I really did not expect the end but I was so happy the way it ended. The people that deserved a happy ending got it. I would definitely recommend this book. I could not put it down. You won't be sorry."
"I dried my eyeballs crying, reading this book. I love Curtis with all his mental issues. Attila is a sensitive soul, but his slutty attitude is a bit overrated. One of the best books I've read. Well done Leigh Jarrett."
SIMPLY MARVELOUS: Tekla Series
Author: Leigh Jarrett
Genre: Gay/Transgender Romance
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