A group of Southern Californian teens learn pivotal lessons about sexuality, friendship, love and life.
It was different this time; we weren't acting on a dare. I knew our motive; we were practicing the act, hoping to impress the right boy when it came time. But then something happened in the mix of the moment, in the mix of the alcohol. It wasn't planned, but somehow our kissing experiment turned into something else. Things went further . . . and once they had, once I returned to earth from the euphoria . . . I wrestled with my feelings at that frank realization, questioning whether our said objective was entirely true.
When fourteen-year old Krista McKinley transfers from Catholic school in Ohio to California's public Crestmount High, she discovers she has a lot to learn. Luckily, she is befriended by Carrie and Brandon and things start to look up. But when a simple dare tests Krista's values, it sends her entire world spiraling into a confusing series of events that leaves her questioning her identity as well as the people around her.
Sunday night. I sat perched on the chair behind my desk with only the faint glow from my reading light. By 10:00 p.m. the night air was crisp as it floated through my bedroom window. I had been by myself for hours now.
I closed my math book and abandoned my homework. I couldn’t concentrate; wandering thoughts continued to distract me. I bit my lip and thought about my options. I wanted to talk. I needed to talk, and Brandon was the only person in whom I could confide. It was late, but I picked up the phone and dialed, praying he would answer.
After the third ring, Brandon said, “Hello?”
“Hey, gorgeous.” He sounded remarkably awake.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Daydreaming about Daemon?”
“Try bored. Josh is on a date and basically told us not to expect him home. Marc had an emergency call from the hospital. Just thought I’d see if you wanted to come over—hang out.”
After a moment he said, “Sure.”
“You’re the best, Brandon.”
“That’s what they all say.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “See you when you get here.”
I hung up the phone, then sat back on my bed and began thinking. I was scared to be alone in the house at night, but I had other things on my mind, too. Tonight would be the perfect opportunity to talk to Brandon. I had a daring question for him—that is, if I got up the courage to ask him. I’d been tossing around an unlikely idea in my head ever since he had surprised me with his boyishly sweet kiss. Just as Carrie and I practiced I began to wonder how things might be if I were doing the same thing with a boy.
Was it horrible of me to consider it? Was it something I had no business asking? Would he hate me or be offended if I did? I was afraid. I couldn’t be sure how he would react. Well, there was only one way to find out.
Twenty minutes later, Brandon rang my doorbell.
“Coming,” I yelled, sliding down the tile of the foyer in my stocking feet to come to a skidding halt at the door. I flung it wide open.
“Hey, you,” he said through a brilliant smile. He wore well-fitted blue jeans and a silky, short-sleeved, button down shirt in a deep shade of blue. He looked beautiful in blue. He came inside and closed the door behind him. We hugged in greeting, and I inhaled a sweet hint of his cologne.
“Thanks for coming.”
“You can pick the movie,” I said as we walked into the living room. “Over by the cabinet.” Brandon headed toward the entertainment center while I went into the kitchen.
I returned with two cans of Coke, then flopped down Indian-style on the couch. “Did you find one?” I said.
Smiling, he handed me Can’t Buy Me Love.
“Again? We’ve only seen it a hundred times.”
“But Patrick Dempsey’s irresistible in this role.” He gave me one of his ridiculous grins.
“Fine. But I’ve never understood your taste in men.”
Brandon put the movie in, then sat down beside me. I tossed him a bag of Skittles. The usual hard-fast rules about not talking didn’t apply to this movie, since we knew it by heart. Sometimes it seemed as if we played it solely for background atmosphere. I made myself comfortable as the opening credits began to roll.
“How’s Carrie?” he asked.
Carrie hadn’t been at school for the past two days. In fact, her school attendance over the past month had been erratic. I really had no answer. When I had called Carrie’s house, her mother stated that she wasn’t accepting phone calls. So far, she hadn’t let me in on what was going on.
“She still hasn’t talked to me about it.”
I turned my attention back to the television and watched half-heartedly.
The movie had been on for a while as I considered my dilemma. I wrestled with the idea of approaching the subject; it had the potential to turn things weird, real quick. Brandon laughed at a scene from the movie.
I made a tentative beginning. “Brandon.”
He turned to look at me. “What’s up?”
“I kind of . . . need to talk to you.”
“How many girls have you slept with?” Not very subtle. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” I added quickly.
He studied me. “That question’s left field even for you,” he said.
“So what’s up?” Grabbing the remote control, he lowered the volume.
“Just curious, I guess. You’ve never really talked about it.”
“There isn’t much to tell.”
“But you have. . .”
I reached for my soda trying to act casual. “Did you like it?”
“The first time was kinda weird,” he said as if he were summoning some far‑off memory. “Very vague. I don’t know . . . I was really drunk. Barely have any recollection of it at all.”
“So if you liked guys, why did you bother with girls?”
“I guess because I was kind of lost. I knew I felt differently, but at the same time, I was afraid someone would find out, so I tried to ignore it. Basically went along with what everyone else was doing. All anyone ever talked about was how great sex was. There was always talk about what girls did what.” He shrugged. “My curiosity got the better of me. I figured I was missing out on something.”
“And . . . ”
His lips crooked into a smile and then he laughed. “It was . . . interesting.”
“When was that?”
“Two years ago.”
“Were you nervous?”
“Considering I had no idea what I was doing, yeah, I’d say so.” After a moment he added, “Well, at least I tried it.”
“But I saw a talk show that made it sound like gay men are totally turned off by women.”
“You watch too many of those damn talk shows. I can’t speak for everybody, but not all gays feel that way.” Brandon studied my eyes. “Am I going to have to drag out what’s bugging you?”
My stomach fell and my heart rate quickened. A lump formed in my throat.
“Does this have to do with Carrie? You know. . . I’ll help in any way I can.”
He might live to regret those words. “Thanks,” I managed to say. This was it. If I was ever going to have the nerve to ask him, it had to be now.
“Are you feeling well?” he said suddenly.
My voice, barely audible, struggled to get the words out; I had officially reached panic mode. “I need to ask you a favor.” Looking down at the couch, I picked at the fabric. “A big one.”
“All right. What is it?”
I couldn’t look at him, but I mustered up all the courage I had and took a deep breath. “Would you . . . ” I stopped, cleared my mind and tried again. My voice was barely audible. “Will you be my first?”
Heat rushed to my cheeks so fast that I thought I would surely pass out during the awkward silence that followed. I felt like an ass. I flicked a nervous glance at him. His face was utterly blank.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.” Why had I opened my mouth?
“Kris, you can have any guy you want. Why me?”
“I trust you. I don’t know . . . all these things have been going on with Carrie . . . it’s so confusing,” I said. “Anyway, I—I want it to be you.” There. I said it. “Will you do it?”
There was no way to know what he was thinking because he didn’t answer me for a while. His voice had lost all humor. “You kinda caught me off guard.” He looked at me again. “How long have you been thinking about this? Have you actually thought this through?”
I ignored his first question. “I have. I’m completely sure.” I wasn’t, but I had to do something. “If I’ve offended you . . .”
“It’s not that.”
He sat perched on the edge of the couch, tipped forward with his elbows resting on his knees. He stared at his hands, brows pursed in concern. “You’re serious.”
“I can get the keys to the beach house on Monday. We’ll—”
“No.” I swallowed hard. “It has to be now. You know Carrie and I are leaving for dance camp next week and I want to know…well I don’t now what I want to know but I want it to happen before then. And tonight, no one will be home tonight.”
He fell back into the couch, almost pale. “Tonight?”
“I need to know before I see Carrie again.”
Brandon opened his mouth but silence filled the air. He closed it when he couldn’t find a thing to say.
“Kris . . . ”
“I understand. It was ridiculous of me to think . . . ” I looked down, shifting my attention to my fingers. I finally made the admission. “At the party, I tried with Eric, but—”
“What? You really must’ve been on drugs! That’s craziness, Kris. I can’t believe you even considered it.”
His vehemence surprised me, and I sat there, silent.
“You’re afraid,” I said finally.
“Terrified.” He rubbed his hands together. “For more than one reason. If anything went wrong, I’d hate myself for it. And won’t you regret it not happening with someone you really like, maybe even someone you love?”
“I thought you didn’t believe in love.”
“We’re talking about you.”
“I just want to experience what most girls do. Doesn’t that make sense?”
“Make sense? You really don’t believe this a typical request, do you?”
“I’m not expecting it to be perfect. I know the first time is generally a disappointment. I read Seventeen magazine.”
His expression was wary. Maybe he didn’t want me to decide my sexual preference based on an experience with him.
He rubbed his hands over his face. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.
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At age 22, author Amber Lehman began researching and writing what would become the novel TORN. Her writing occurred during a chaotic period of her life and she was often forced to set aside writing time to tend to family and personal matters. It was 5 years before TORN was completed to her satisfaction. It went through too many editing stages to count, and the end result was quite different than what was originally an 1100 page novel. After years of setting it aside, Amber finally revisited it and it was trimmed down to the 404 pages you now see. Then she waited another 9 years before she got the courage to publish it. Although TORN is closer to what Amber calls “faction” than fiction, TORN draws upon experiences from her life as she observed and participated in the social dramas surrounding her friends lives and past relationships.
A native of southern California, Amber loves to write and illustrate every chance she gets. She spends most of her days conversing with her cat, Mouse. She enjoys German culture and language, and while it’s no secret that she holds a special affinity for the LGBTQ community, she does also look forward to writing books in many different genres.
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