Authors: Mia Siegert
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2016 by Mia Siegert
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the publisher.
For information on subsidiary rights, please contact the publisher at [email protected]. For more information about the book, please visit our website at www.jollyfishpress.com, or write us at Jolly Fish Press, PO Box 1773, Provo, UT 84603-1773.
Printed in the United States of America
THIS TITLE IS ALSO AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.
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For my family and friends.
“Every athlete, parent and high school kid, gay or straight, will see some of themselves reflected in
teammates and families. So will every ally who wants to see change.
is gutsy, urgent, raw and hopeful.” —Brian Kitts, co-founder,
You Can Play.
was an excellent read on the complex issues facing LBGTQ athletes, as well as their families, featuring complex, believable characters who would not be out of place in any high school across America.” —Chris Kluwe, former NFL player, LGBTQ rights activist, and author of
is an intriguing look into the world of both parents and kids as they try to navigate the difficult path to the draft. A cautionary tale and a must-read for parents and kids alike.” —Patrick O’Sullivan, former NHL player, child safety advocate, and author of
Breaking Away: A Harrowing True Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph
“Mia Siegert’s poignant, vibrant first novel deals with issues of sexual orientation, which makes it very timely, and with issues of the human heart, which makes it timeless.” —Mark Spencer, award-winning author of
A Haunted Love Story: The Ghosts of the Allen House
“Poignant in the real sense: sharply drawn, pointed, and piercing.”
—David Galef, award-winning author of
How to Cope with Suburban Stress
“From beginning to end, this book was explosive.”
This Literary Life
“Electric and explosive, yet soft and nuanced,
is a powerhouse of a debut that is bound to leave a mark on the world of YA lit.”
—Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of
“What is arguably the most important aspect of Siegert’s work, however, is the spotlight it throws on the plight of gay athletes, particularly at the high school level. In an environment where the performance of masculinity is tangled up with a million other bits of codified repressive social behavior, and where teen boys police each other ruthlessly and sometimes violently, the risk of depression and self-harm is excruciatingly high. I sincerely hope that this book finds its way into the hands of every gay high school athlete, so that they might know they are not alone.”
—Caleb Roehig, author of
Last Seen Leaving
y twin Robbie tried to die.
I guess he had since day one. My first breath was fourteen minutes after Robbie’s. He came out breach—sudden, fast, and hard—moments before Mom could be pulled in for an emergency C-section, and broke her tailbone on the way out. I came out the right way. Unmemorable, like on holidays when Mom and Dad would drink too much and tell stories about how awful it was when Robbie was born, but not even mention how I came out of the same womb just after.
I’d been walking unnoticed in Robbie’s flattened path ever since. Those fourteen minutes stayed between us like a wall. Me on the side with the shadow. I didn’t have to think about him except when the debris of his destruction lobbed over and caught me in the face. We were two countries; no shared thoughts, languages, customs. We weren’t at all alike; we just happened to have been alive in this vast world for almost exactly the same amount of time.
And in the rare instances we were forced to sit together, our lungs matched up. Our singular twin party trick. I wasn’t thinking about this as I plied through pain in my room. Robbie was far away from this part of my life.
I lowered my foot to first position—
I dipped into the first
A sudden tightness wrapped around my stomach, like someone was clenching it in hard pulses. It thudded in my ears too quickly, the noise drowning out the instructions from the YouTube video. Nausea rose to my esophagus.
For the first time in my life, I felt what Robbie must have felt during those first fourteen minutes. I was breathing alone. And I knew exactly where he was. Like there had never been a wall.
I yanked off my headphones and staggered out of my room toward the bathroom we shared. The door was shut. Through it I could hear the sound of the shower.
I pounded on it. “Robbie, need to use the bathroom.”
There was no response. My face wrinkled. I banged on the door until it rattled. “Robbie, stop jerking off. Gonna be sick.”
There was a sound, something muffled and garbled, and a thud.
I turned to the stairs and hesitated. With everything turning on its side, it was more likely I’d fall down the steps and break my neck. I pounded on the door again. “Robbie, seriously, open up!”
With a growl, I twisted the knob, almost tripping when the door swung in, banging against something that prevented it from opening completely. I squeezed through the small gap and my skin turned to ice.
Robbie was curled on the floor, fully dressed and trembling, his bleached hair dry despite the running shower. He clutched his hands over his mouth. His fingers were swollen, throat expanding and contracting like a bullfrog as he gagged. Vomit leaked through his fingers onto the tile, frothy and white.
they called it.
I called it bullshit.
He probably just wanted to get high, like he did with the guys after we won a game. Like he did with the guys after we lost one. Off-season, at parties, on the roof.
We went to pick him up on Monday, three days after the EMTs pried us apart, at first unable to tell who the victim was; we were both covered in vomit. Robbie’s vomit. I was shaking; Robbie was still as death.
“You’ve been pretty quiet, Tristan.”
I met Mom’s eyes in the rearview mirror of the SUV. Her lips were in a taut, red line. Always Revlon, Certainly Red. Dad’s hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were white. I waited to see if she was serious before softly answering, “Nothing to say.” Sometimes with Mom, it was hard to tell.
“You really don’t have any questions about it?”
I should have said no. That’s what Dad had trained us to say over the past eighteen years, just like with everything else.
You need to be prepared for interviews. Don’t give anything to the press. Hide your cards.
Mom didn’t much like questions either. Not unless she was asking them. And even then, she usually didn’t want an answer.
But still, I asked, “Why’d he do it?”
Dad’s dark eyes caught mine in the rearview mirror—a silent “you should know better.” My lips snapped together. Dad was right; I did know better.
“Robbie didn’t do anything.” Each enunciated syllable made me shiver. “Understood?”
I swallowed and nodded.
“When Coach Benoit asks you what happened, what do you tell him?”
Dad pulled into the Mountainside Hospital parking lot. He parked the car and undid his seatbelt. “Food poisoning,” he said. “You tell him it was food poisoning.”
He stepped out of the car. I unbuckled my seatbelt and grabbed the handle just as Dad hit the lock button with the clicker. Through the closed door he loudly said, “I’ll get him myself.”
We watched him cross the parking lot. Mom slouched in her seat. Only when Dad was inside the building did I ask, “Should we really be picking him up this early?”
“There’s a game on Saturday,” Mom answered. “You know that.”
“But what, Tristan?” Mom turned around in her seat to face me. “You think he’s going to get drafted if he sits out a game as a healthy scratch?”
I waited to see if Mom wanted me to answer. She turned her attention to her iPhone. Guess not. I’m not sure if I would have known what to say anyway. Maybe suggest that Robbie
I looked out the window. Had the situation been different, I might have enjoyed watching the flow of people who stayed around hospitals. It would have been perfect for a character study. So many different types of people slipped in and out of the hospital’s sliding doors. Decrepit old people creeping on walkers, middle-aged lawyers in suits, crying snot-faced children, fat nurses on a smoke break—all people who looked like they belonged in a hospital. All unhappy people. All people who could have considered suicide.
Robbie didn’t belong here. He hadn’t seemed depressed, at least no more than any other senior. Everyone in high school was depressed to some degree no matter the grade. Stress from classes, cliques, extracurricular crap, SATs, college acceptances, college rejections, wait lists—it added up. High school was a time for everyone to be miserable.
It wasn’t a suicide attempt. He tried to get high. That was the only explanation my brain would accept.
As we waited, I softly murmured the song “All That’s Known” from Spring Awakening
I rarely sang around anyone, let alone my parents, but Mom was absorbed with her iPhone. If she noticed, it was close enough to a rock song that I could simply say one of the guys played it at practice and that I couldn’t get it out of my head. My best friend Heather often asked me why I never told my parents I wanted to act professionally. She didn’t get that I already had a role to play.
When Mom found out she was pregnant with twins, Dad actually wept. At the time, everyone was making a fuss over the Sedins, identical twins, now some of the best forwards in the NHL. Dad envisioned that for Robbie and me, but in his head we’d play for the New Jersey Devils. They were the only team that ever invited Dad to training camp, before he got too many concussions to continue in the ECHL as an enforcer and got his certificate from the NHLPA to be an agent—
agent—doing everything he could to sign his clients, including us, with the Devils. It didn’t matter that Lou Lamoriello was no longer the general manager after a twenty-seven-year tenure; Dad was loyal to that team and would be until the day he died. Robbie adopted that allegiance and dreamed of being drafted by the Devils, although he’d gladly wear any seal if it meant being in the league.
I didn’t dream of hockey. I never did. Maybe I would have if I weren’t always compared to Robbie. Instead, I dreamed of a Broadway stage and dancing. Of singing show tunes and making the audience
. Of being a star, taking the final bow at curtain call.
I’d never be a hockey star. At least not like Robbie, whom scouts had drooled over since we were ten. Definitely not like Robbie, who skated effortlessly, feet so light Coach Benoit sometimes called him Twinkle Toes (which actually was a compliment) or Gretzky 2.0 (which made Robbie incoherent).
Squinting across the lot, I could see Dad and Robbie emerge from the sliding doors. Robbie didn’t look pale, or sick. He seemed normal, every inch the promising draft pick he was projected to be: tall with broad shoulders and plenty of time to fill out. He already had ten pounds over my one-sixty-five. That would soon change to twenty—maybe twenty-five—of hard, solid muscle.
Robbie climbed in the backseat. He scratched the rip in his jeans, flashing me a smile like we were leaving hockey practice instead of the hospital. He wasn’t some skinny kid with a
My Little Pony
shirt and slashed up wrists. Obnoxious, smiling jocks didn’t try to kill themselves on leftover Percocet, especially not when they were going to be draft-eligible at the end of the season.
But they might accidentally overdose on leftover Percocet because they thought it’d give them a nice drug ride. Stupid.
I thought maybe I’d feel sick, or depressed, or maybe even the sympathy that family members were supposed to have for their loved ones, but I felt nothing. At least nothing nice. It was hard to think positive from my resident spot in his shadow. Robbie took after Dad, sometimes beating the crap out of me if I made a mistake that cost us a game. But eventually, his fists stopped. Eventually, he realized I just couldn’t do what he could. That was almost worse.
As we pulled out of the Mountainside Hospital parking lot, an ambulance whizzed past us in the opposite direction. Its sirens wailed, lights flashing blue and red. I imagined Robbie strapped to a gurney getting his stomach pumped and shuddered. I should have been on the ambulance with him but the EMTs left me behind.
“You okay, Tristan?” Robbie asked, touching my shoulder with the tips of his hard fingers, like I was the one who overdosed. I froze. Robbie offering a gentle touch rather than a harsh shove was weird, even though he hadn’t really hit me in about a year. Lately, what I’d get was silence. Not the mute sort of silent, but the kind where people talked without saying anything at all.
But that’d mean the EMT was definitely right, that it was intentional. That it wasn’t my twin failing at getting high, but something a lot more permanent, irreversible. Something that a normal twin should have picked up on a long time ago.
But we weren’t normal twins. And even though I shivered, nodded, and bit the inside of my cheek, I still felt nothing.