Chapter 1
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I’m sitting on my bed, pillow propped up against the wall behind me, in a position that I know I’m going to regret ten years from now. My sketchbook is resting on my legs, pencil in my hand. I’ve been sitting like this, looking at the blank page, for almost forty-five minutes. I’d claim I’m distracted by what Ricky asked me after school, but that would imply that this isn’t a daily ritual.

I absent-mindedly flip back through my sketchbook. This one is mostly filled with sketchy portraits of friends and classmates, but they aren’t here to let me draw them, and I’ve drawn everything in my room like four times already. I want to be able to draw more things without a reference on hand, but when I sit down to actually do so, nothing happens. The worst part is I know I can do it, I have years of homework with filled margins and no-longer-blank space to prove that much. But ever since I decided to take art seriously and actually focus on it, I’ve been coming up dry.

I decide today is another failure and move back to my computer. I turned it off when I wanted to focus on my art, but that clearly wasn’t working anyway, so I might as well hash out details for tomorrow with Ricky. I shoot him a message and open the latest video of my favourite Let’s Play channel while waiting for a response.

Ganymede: hey
Ganymede: you there?
Bookworm on a string: Heya
Bookworm on a string: So
Bookworm on a string: Are you going to help me?
Ganymede: i said i would didnt i?
Ganymede: i still think think your plan is completely idiotic though
Bookworm on a string: I don’t see a better option

Ricky, as smart as he is, can be extremely stupid. Case in point, today he pulled me aside after classes to ask for a favour. Well, not physically pulled. He’s pretty scrawny, but then again so am I, so he still could have managed if he’d had an assertive bone in his body. Point is, he seemed to really not want anyone overhearing what he was about to ask, so we found a quiet spot and he gave me a long, rambly explanation of his situation. Some online friends of his discovered they all lived in the area, and since tomorrow was a Saturday they all decided to meet up for lunch and hanging out at the mall.

He knew them through an online writing community thing, and they sounded like nerds as big as we both were, even if the two of us were slightly different kinds of nerds, with me more artsy and him more read-y. Still, he wanted someone else with him when meeting Internet strangers, which sounded smart, and I readily agreed. The mall isn’t my favourite place to spend a Saturday, but it isn’t the worst either and this sounded important to him, so I didn’t see any reason not to help him out. And then he dropped the second part of the favour.

His friends believe he is a girl, and he wanted my assistance in keeping that ruse going. He said he’d thought it was a white lie, or not even really a lie, they’d just assumed and he never saw the need to correct them, until suddenly there was a meetup planned, and he really wanted to go. I tried pointing out that it would probably be less awkward to just tell the truth, but he just got quiet and looked away. He’s always been pretty conflict-averse, but this is a new low. Still, I decided there was no real harm here, and an opportunity for some fun, so I agreed.

Bookworm on a string: Yo, Lynne
Bookworm on a string: You there?
Ganymede: sorry
Ganymede: got distracted for a moment
Ganymede: anyway
Ganymede: just tell them the truth
Bookworm on a string: No way
Bookworm on a string: That’s way too embarrassing
Ganymede: so you want to avoid the minor embarrassment of admitting you fudged minor details of your identity online
Ganymede: by wearing my clothes in public
Bookworm on a string: They’re not minor details!
Ganymede: they really are
Ganymede: unless theres more you havent told me
Bookworm on a string: No, it’s just…
Bookworm on a string: I really don’t want to be the only boy coming.
Bookworm on a string: I mean, it’s not like a girls only forum
Bookworm on a string: But it was still mostly girls
Bookworm on a string: And they assumed I was one of them
Ganymede: yeah
Ganymede: you said that
Bookworm on a string: And to keep up the illusion I’ve posted things that I never would have admitted if they’d known I’m a boy
Ganymede: wait
Ganymede: admitted? :P
Bookworm on a string: Oh, you already know my dorkiest secrets.
Ganymede: i dont think it’s a secret how much of a dork you are
Bookworm on a string: True
Bookworm on a string: But I do try to keep my fondness for romance novels hidden
Bookworm on a string: You only know because you’re the one that got me hooked in the first place :P
Ganymede: fair enough
Ganymede: wait
Ganymede: you said you know these girls from a writing website
Ganymede: is this a romance writing website?
Bookworm on a string: Kind of.
Ganymede: do you have a secret stash of half finished romance novels i dont know about?
Bookworm on a string: That’s not important.
Ganymede: so yes :P
Bookworm on a string: I’ll show you some other time
Bookworm on a string: If you promise to never say anything
Ganymede: my lips are sealed
Ganymede: so, what time should I show up tomorrow?

We hash out the basic plan for the next day. I’ll arrive at his house late in the morning after his dad has gone to work, then we go meet up with his friends at the mall for lunch after I teach him enough that he won’t be a complete laughingstock. Luckily me joining in won’t be an issue, because nobody wants to meet up with total strangers from the Internet on their own, so everybody is bringing a friend.

I’m looking for another video to watch before I sleep when Ricky sends me another message. A document titled ‘Sweeter than honey’ and no explanation. I’m about to ask if this is his story, but he’s already gone offline. I smile; he would flee immediately after showing someone something like this. I usually want to flee myself when I show someone my sketches, and he’s always been a bit less secure than me. Well, not always, he used to be really intensely into stuff, but as he grew up he got a lot more reserved around people. In any case, I understand.

I open up the document and quickly scroll down to see how long it is. Hovering my mouse over the scroll bar immediately tells me it’s thirty-five pages long. That’s pretty impressive, to be honest. Skimming the first page, it seems to be well written too. At least, I can’t notice any immediate flaws, and it’s not like I don’t read that often.

It starts with the main character and her best friend bantering in the school hallways, when the main character bumps into another girl. It’s a bit of an obvious meet-cute, but it works. There’s some blushy stammering, love interest runs off, best friend exposits that she’s the new girl. They meet again at lunch, standard stuff. I almost expect a hard genre shift after that opener or something. Sure, Ricky reads romance novels, but Ricky reads all sorts of novels. If you had asked me what he wrote, I would not have called lesbian romance. Especially what feels like self-insert lesbian romance.

It’s not obvious. The main character isn’t named Rikki or anything, and even beyond the obvious difference, she has just enough of her own voice. But when she banters with the best friend character, it’s immediately clear to me. That’s the dynamic I have with Ricky. Assuming the best friend is indeed based on me, it’s a flattering portrayal. She’s witty, and helping set up the relationship between the main couple is the exact kind of thing I would do, and have done a few times. I may have been single all my life, but occasionally someoneasks me for advice on the topic. I think it started with people asking me for advice on dating Brad, but it grew out until it’s basically what I’m known for at school. Well, that and drawing.

It beats being the ‘weird girl’.

I’m about halfway through reading this sickeningly sweet sapphic sap, when a thought strikes me. I have no clue what the rating on this is. I mean, Ricky’s way less of a pervert than most guys, right? And even if he was, he wouldn’t send it to me, right? But then again, he’s made worse faux pas, and he did keep his writing habits secret from me for however long he’s been honing this craft. I begin fidgeting with my pencil and press onwards.

Despite my worries, the rest of the story is mostly the same kind of cute romance as the first half. The main couple goes on a few more dates, and at the climax the main character comes out to her parents with her girlfriend by her side. It’s a very emotional scene, and probably a vent for his anxiety on telling his dad he’s bi. Of course, his father seems alright with that kind of stuff, but the anxiety is always there. It only takes a single misjudgement to land on the streets, or worse, so I can completely understand keeping quiet.

I close the tab and shoot a short message at him telling him I liked it, when I notice it’s half past midnight and I really wanted to sleep at least an hour ago. Shutting down my desktop, my eyes fall on the open sketchbook in the light of the monitor. My fidgeting must have turned to doodling, because that is a rough picture of the main couple from Ricky’s story, in the middle of making out.

I keep surprising myself with just how gay I am.

Welcome to a novel match, the first story I've written in a long time that I didn't drop after three thousand words. At the pace I've been writing these I should be able to post about two chapters a week, but the speed will be a bit higher at first because I wanted enough backlog to be sure I wasn't fropping this halfway through.

That said, here's hoping I don't drop this halfway through anyway.