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Taboo for You (Love and Family #1)
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Sam’s freaking out. He’s 30 in three weeks. And what has he done in his twenties? It’s pretty simple math: nothing exciting at all. But hey, he has three weeks right? Maybe that’s just enough time to tick his way through a 20s Must Do List . . .
Luke’s freaking screwed. He’s come out to his family, and his friends. Except there’s a certain someone who doesn’t know yet: his neighbor of 7 years. Who also happens to be his best friend. Who Luke needs to tell the truth, but he just . . . can’t . . . seem to . . .
Jeremy’s freaking over-the-moon. It’s the countdown to his 15th birthday, and his goal is simple. No matter what, he’s going to spend heaps of time with saucy Suzy. But first he needs to get his over-protective, no-girlfriend-’cause-you’ll-get-her-pregnant parents off his back. And what better way than pretending he’s gay?
Sam, Luke, and Jeremy. Three guys who have a lot of history together, and a lot of future too—
—well, if they can sort out their issues, that is.
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MATHEMATICS. I shrink against my seat at the word. The word that stares back at me now, on a scribbled note from Jeremy. Can you help me with my mathematics assignment? it says. And it’s funny, because that single sentence takes me back a good fifteen years to when I once asked for help too. Though, I might not have asked so much as said, “I’ll flunk unless you help me, Dad.”
Dad had shaken his head and told me that math was important, that understanding numbers and how they work could tell me a lot about the world and that I really should buckle down, quit trying to be a copycat Marilyn Manson, and do something that would help me in the real world.
Yeah, but like, it’s just numbers.
He’d said, “Numbers that can tell you about life.”
Well, he was right.
Numbers. They sure could tell a lot.
In 1 week—
420 dollars, give-or-take 10, is the number I earn in wage and tips working at the Canon Café.
180 dollars is the number it costs to rent my house.
148.20 dollars is the amount I spent on groceries at Pak ’n Save.
18.75 dollars for phone and Internet.
18.75 dollars for power too—if it’s summer.
The other 54.30 dollars goes toward things like clothes, petrol, repairing crap around the house, and a weekly movie from the video store . . .
Oh, and -33.80 dollars is the state of my overdraft.
I flatten the note on my rickety secondhand table that’s about three dinners away from collapsing. Something else I have to add to my to-do list.
But right now, all I can see is mathematics and goose bumps prickle down my arms and the hair on my neck rises.
The weekly numbers aren’t the truly important numbers, are they? In the end, they’re just money. And money is fleeting and doesn’t hold much meaning at all. But there are other numbers . . . numbers that give a more macro view of my life. Numbers that have come to mean everything to me.
These are the numbers that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Let’s start with 30. Yes. The number that has my heart pounding second to none. The number that is the reason I’m sitting here reading Jeremy’s note not with a mug of coffee next to me, but with a glass of cheap bourbon and ice.
30 is the age I’ll be turning in three weeks.
Call it a mid-life crisis if you like, but it freaks me out. I still work as a waiter. I never even managed to get a high school qualification. I live in the moldiest, most ramshackle house on the block. And I haven’t had a love life—if you can even call it that—since . . . well, that would be the next number . . .
I pick up the glass, the condensation wet and slippery against my palm, and take a long drink. A half-year ago, when it dawned on me that my twenties had all but disappeared, I’d written up a 20s Must-Do List of all the things I should have done and hadn’t.
I glance at the letter-writing desk Jeremy and I had rescued from Old Jones, who’d been about to make firewood out of it. I have the list somewhere in one of those drawers . . . I thought just writing it down would be therapy enough, that I’d come to terms with what I’d missed out on, but—
I take another sip of bourbon. It’s warm and smoky on my tongue, and exciting too, since I almost never drink.
But the thing is, I’m not okay about it. I want to do all the things on that list.
I laugh. Why the hell not? I have three weeks left before the big 30. Maybe I can reclaim a little of my youth?
Out the window, a familiar truck rolling into the driveway next door catches my eye. I shuffle back in my seat and slap the table. “Luke?” The devil’s back?
I jump up. For a second I’m on a buzz that my neighbor and friend has finally arrived home after six months up in Auckland. I put my glass down and it lands on the note. Through the side of the glass “mathematics” is magnified.
Dad’s voice is back. “. . .can tell you about life.”
In my mind, I see him shaking his head and sadly closing the door.
I’d been 15.
He hadn’t kicked me out; he’d begged me to stay, but I couldn’t.
He visits every few months and sends me a card every year. December 15th. My birthday. He always puts money in it too, which helps me climb out of overdraft. But every time I touch the cash, I think how right he’d been. How I wish I’d listened.
I watch over the green wooden fence that divides our places as Luke empties his letterbox—something I was supposed to do while he was gone and had only remembered half the time.