Chapter 8: Screw-Ups and Snow Angels

Love Stinks (10) One month before graduation, Grayson decided that it was time to stop hiding. “I’m going to do it,” he said aloud, clenching both fists with determination.

“Do what?” asked Adao.

Grayson just smiled. “I’ll tell you later, If everything goes smoothly.”

But everything did not go smoothly. In fact, if there were an award for the Worst Possible Screw-up, then Grayson was pretty sure he would have won it.

He was standing there before school, chatting with Matías Arellano – his good friend, and the love of his life. During the past weekend, Grayson and Matías had spent the night together in Matías bedroom, kissing and holding each other and talking until the sun came up. Grayson had never felt so close to anyone in his life.

“I think that I’m in love with you,” he blurted out that morning.

“What?” Matías took a startled step back, then looked around. A couple of kids had overheard and were staring in their direction, but Grayson didn’t care. This newfound spring of courage had bubbled to the surface and was spilling out of him.

“I said that I’m in love with you. I love you,” he said. He expected Matías to be surprised, and maybe even say that he felt the same way. He did not expect the look of disgust that came over Matías’ face. Love Stinks (1)Love Stinks (2)

“Get away from me man,” said Matías. “I mean it. You’re disgusting. Don’t ever talk to me again, got it?” Grayson turned and ran away, burning with shame.

Ten minutes later, his girlfriend, Erin, broke up with him in front of his entire French class. “Je te déteste!” she screamed at him. During lunch, his other girlfriend, Grace, broke up with him, too. Yeah. He’d definitely call this the worst day of his life.  Love Stinks (3) Love Stinks (4)

After school, he escaped to the art museum, which had become his secret refuge. He turned off his cell phone and let his mind get swept away in the colors and curves of art. Tears of pain and anger rolled down his cheeks, but he just let them fall. Love Stinks (7) Love Stinks (6)

“I’ve decided that I don’t want to study business at the University,” he told his parents later that evening. “I want to be an artist.”

“Don’t be stupid,” said his dad. “That’s not a real ambition.”

“But that’s what I want to—”

“Forget it!” snapped his dad. “I am not shelling out tens of thousands of dollars so that you can sit around painting pictures of trees and birds. You’re studying business. The end!”  Love Stinks (15) Love Stinks (14)

The next morning, Grayson skipped school. He went to the museum, then rode his motorcycle all around, and finally out to the river beach, which was deserted, as usual. He spent a long time just staring at the gray, choppy river, letting the cold air numb his heart. He didn’t want to feel anything anymore. Love Stinks (8) Love Stinks (9)

“Hi Grayson.” He gasped and spun around. There was Virginia, who was smiling, but her eyes held the gray, shadowed expression of someone whose dreams had slipped away. Just like his.

And suddenly, he was telling her everything. Sports. Art. Family Pressure. Losing his girlfriends and his first boyfriend. Virginia listened patiently. “And here I thought that the answer to everything was being rich,” she said with a little laugh. “Maybe that just doesn’t matter. Some of us just get stuck with the crumbs of life, eh?” Love Stinks (12)

Without warning, she leaped to her feet and was pulling Grayson along. “What are we going to do?” he asked, laughing, running beside her.

“Swim!” Virginia called over her shoulder. Love Stinks (17) Love Stinks (16)

“Are you insane?” Grayson stopped and stared as Virginia pulled off her clothes and waded into the river. “It’s like, twenty degrees outside!” Shaking his head, he pulled off his clothes and followed her into the river. The icy shock made his pores scream. But it was weirdly peaceful, too, paddling around the river while snow drifted down from the sky. Love Stinks (13)

They didn’t stay in long. They climbed out of the water, blue with cold, then flopped onto the ground, laughing and breathless, making angels in the snow. And right then, in that moment of crazy, wild glee, Grayson felt more alive than he ever had before. And he knew exactly who he wanted to be. Love Stinks (11)

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