Summer is freedom, sunshine and the first kiss.
Like most teenagers, Jesse longs for summer vacation. For him it's a chance to get away from the bullying and the beatings, and to be the one thing he can't be at home. Himself.
An unedited excerpt of the start.
Most kids longed for the school bell. The one that signaled the end of the school year and the start of the long summer vacation. At sixteen years old Jesse Hartnell was no exception. For him the bell meant one thing; the end of nine months of the jocks sticking their feet out to trip him up and then laughing at the faggot sprawled on the floor and the shrill giggles of their girlfriends. The start of the summer vacation meant freedom of a kind that Jesse only had for a few precious months of the year and he wasn’t going to waste a single moment.
Unlike most of the kids at his school Jesse didn’t go to summer camp. His mom didn’t approve of any camps except those run by her church, but she and Jesse’s dad still had to work. She sent Jesse to stay with her sister-in-law every summer. Mrs. Hartnell knew that Vi was a godly woman and would do right by Jesse, making him go to church twice during the week and three times on Sundays. When Jesse go old enough to travel by himself she packed him onto the Greyhound bus with a lunchbox and instructions not to annoy anyone. Mrs. Hartnell was proud of her son. Jesse never complained. He knew better.
Jesse sat on the bus for the fourteen hours it took to get his Auntie Vi, staring out of the window as the bus slowly ate up the miles towards his freedom. He’d been going to Auntie Vi’s house for eleven years. When he was little it never occurred to him that she was a good woman just to accept her sister’s off-spring dumped on her for four months. Auntie Vi didn’t have kids. She’d never got married, and shared what had been her parents’ house with a roommate, Beth-Mae Larimer. Auntie Beth was a vibrant women, with a loud laugh and a penchant for colorful clothing. Jesse loved her. His mom felt Vi should find someone more demure but Auntie Vi told her to hush. She was the only one who could. Certainly not her husband or son.
Only once had Jesse’s Pa ever defied his wife, and that was after Jesse had been beaten black and blue by two of the boys from the church. Then his mom had insisted Jesse spend the summer at church camp ‘to fix what the Devil had wrought’ but John Hartnell had quietly and firmly told his wife that Jesse was going to his sister’s and that was final. Nothing more was said; not to his wife and certainly not to Jesse. That summer had been different. Instead of going to find his friends Jesse had spent it hiding in his room at Auntie Vi’s. He was broken but not in the way his mom had thought.