It’s 1992, and seventeen-year-old Ben Carpenter has everything all figured out. He’s gay, with a supportive family; he makes decent grades; and in Ted, Hope, and Doris, he’s got three great friends he can always depend on. If he only had a boyfriend, life would be perfect, and he’s working on that.
But things are getting complicated. First, Doris drags him into an ill-fated matchmaking scheme that could destroy their friendship with Ted and Hope. Then, Grandpa Marty moves in, throwing the whole Carpenter household into a total uproar. If that’s not enough, the only way for Ben to get in his community service hours is to volunteer at the senior center, even though old people give him the creeps. And then there’s that little matter of his feelings for Ted’s brother Adrian that confuse him and threaten to expose a secret Ted must never know.
Ben’s journey is littered with misunderstandings, tender moments, and unexpected ghosts from the past that reveal a two-decades-old mystery. As events unfold, Ben is forced to reevaluate what friendship, family, and love are really all about, and he discovers that, sometimes, there’s more to life than a happy ending.
Seasons of Chadham High explores the evolving experience of gay teenagers in different eras—from the psychedelic sixties, through the me generation seventies and eighties, to the nihilistic nineties and beyond.
Title: The Breaths We Take
Series: Season of Chadham High, Book Three
Author: Huston Piner
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Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: November 19, 2018
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBT, historical/early 90s, YA, high school, first love, coming-of-age, aging relative, family issues, weddings, HEA
The Breaths We Take
Huston Piner © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Ted and I shared our last ride from school together, and as soon as we got to his house, I raced home, excited to see my car parked in the driveway. I let myself in and found a note from Dad on the kitchen counter next to a set of keys. The note said to take it easy and be careful—the kind of thing you’d expect from any parent under the circumstances. But it ended with a happy face. I got in the car, so excited I was giggling, and even more so when I noticed the radio had a built-in cassette player—how cool was that?—and proudly began my first drive in it.
By the time I got to the center, I was feeling good about life. Things were good at home, I had my own car, I had great friends, and I had the most amazing boyfriend a guy could ever want. And volunteering at the center was a breeze. Artie had been right. The more time I spent around the old folks, the more I liked being there. It might not necessarily be something I’d want to do for a living, but I was beginning to think I could see myself volunteering with the elderly for the rest of my life.
I’d just finished spending time with Mrs. Kadelburg, a chubby little woman with a great sense of humor, when Jamal, one of the staff members, beckoned to me.
“Benjamin, would you mind taking over in the bookstore for a few minutes?”
Taking a turn in the bookstore was by far the easiest part of volunteering at the center. You just parked yourself on a stool near the register and waited to ring up any sales. Given the time of day I was volunteering, that meant it was basically time spent reading or daydreaming. And to think they actually gave you community service credit for it. Wow.
I’d been there only a few minutes when a man came in. He appeared to be in his thirties, had stylishly cropped brown hair, and was wearing a very fashionable suit and tie. He looked around and came over to me.
“Excuse me. I’m looking for Bobby Warren. Would you know where I could find him?”
“Bobby Warren? I don’t think I know him. Is he a client or a resident?”
“No, no. Bobby’s one of the staff, or that’s what his brother told me.”
“I’m kind of new here, but so far, I haven’t met anyone named Bobby. Are you sure you’re in the right place?”
“Yes, this is the right place—” He sighed and shook his head. “—unless Oscar didn’t really want to help me. I guess I should have known.”
He looked so sad that I felt sorry for him.
“He still might work here, Mister. I just might not have met him yet. You should probably ask some of the other staff members.”
“No, if he was here, I’m sure you’d have heard of him. This just turned out to be a wild goose chase. I don’t know why I thought Oscar would help me anyway.”
“Really, sir; don’t take my word for it. I’ve only been volunteering since Wednesday.”
“No, I’d better go.”
“Wait, what if it turns out he does work here? Where can he reach you?”
He pulled a card out and jotted down a number.
“Here, I’ll be at that number while I’m in town. If you do find him, tell him to please give me a call.”
I grabbed a pencil.
“You said his name is Bobby Warren, right?” I said, scribbling on the back of the card.
I turned the card back over and glanced at the name—Vincent Marcel.
Opening the register, I pulled out the cash drawer and dropped the card underneath. Whoever counted the money would find it and contact that Warren guy, if he did work there.
It wasn’t long before Jamal came back, and I went out into the hall. Herman Topolski was wagging a finger at a thin bearded man with a high forehead.
“Cheat! Cheat! You’re a cheater, you old fershtinkiner!”
The bearded man raised his hands and looked up at the ceiling.
“Why oh why do I have to put up with such a shmo?”
Melvin was trying to calm them down, but they were only getting louder.
I hurried over.
“Hi, Herman. What’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter? I’ll tell you what’s the matter. This old shnorrer is nothing but a lowdown yentzer!”
“Who are you calling yentzer, you nudnik?”
“Mr. Lehmann, why don’t you come with me,” Melvin said, giving me a nod to Mr. Topolski.
“What were you playing, Herman?”
“Backgammon, but he cheated. He’s always cheating.”
“Backgammon? Is that a good game?”
He stopped and looked at me with wide eyes. “You never played backgammon before?”
“No. Is it hard to learn?”
He broke into a grin. “Are you kidding? It’s easy.”
Huston Piner always wanted to be a writer but realized from an early age that learning to read would have to take precedence. A voracious reader, he loves nothing more than a well-told story, a glass of red, and music playing in the background. His writings focus on ordinary gay teenagers and young adults struggling with their orientation in the face of cultural prejudice and the evolving influence of LGBTQA+ rights on society. He and his partner live in a house ruled by three domineering cats in the mid-Atlantic region.
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