The Elephant of Surprise (The Russel Middlebrook Series, Excerpt) by Brent Hartinger

Posted on Wednesday, October 2, 2013

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I didn't tell Min and Gunnar what had happened until I saw them in the school hallway Monday morning before class. All around us, locker doors squealed and slammed. The air smelled like hair product and soap from all the early morning showers, with a faint hint of ammonia from the floor.

"Remember the Elephant of Surprise?" I said to my two friends, standing by our own lockers. "He stopped by Saturday night."

"What?" Min said. "How so?"

I explained how Otto and I had broken up, not because of the long-distance thing, but because we'd both basically realized at the same time that we'd somehow stopped being "lovers" and turned into "friends."

"And you didn't call me?" she said.

"No," I said. "But that's kinda the point. It just wasn't that big a deal."

"Russel, I'm sorry."

"I'm okay. Really."

"But it's not like he's gone forever, right?" Gunnar said. "I mean, you guys are still friends?"

"Yeah, definitely," I said. "And I'm not just saying that. That's the whole point: we are friends. Really, really good friends. But we're not boyfriends."

"Good," Gunnar said. "I really like Otto."

As we were talking, Kevin Land, my ex, stepped into sight at the far end of the hall. He was wearing a blue sweatshirt (spattered with red paint) and carrying a computer bag instead of a backpack. It's not like he was in my direct line-of-sight or anything. No, he was buried somewhere within the crush of people. But I guess you could say that I tended to be aware of exactly where he was and exactly what he was doing whenever he was around.

Oh, God, Kevin Land. How do I bullet-point this to make it as simple as possible for those who are just joining the story now?

* He's totally hot.

* We'd had a thing almost a year before. But he was closeted, and a total jerk about it, so it hadn't worked out.

* Then, in the fall, he'd come crawling back, desperate to make amends, even coming out to his friends. I'd almost given into him when I learned he was even more of a jerk than I'd thought before.

And before you call me a hypocrite for saying I was totally done with him, but was still obviously aware of his every move, let me just say I knew it was a problem and was working on it. But come on: I'm only human—a teenager in high school, no less. Isn't this when you're allowed to do dumb, hypocritical things like this?

Kevin yanked on the padlock on his locker, but it didn't open. Had he dialed the wrong combination?

I deliberately turned away. "I'm done with love," I said to Min and Gunnar.

Min looked up from her locker. Gunnar glanced up from his phone.

"What?" she said.

"I mean it," I said. "After that whole thing last year and now this thing with Otto, I'm done. At least for a while."

"Don't bother," Gunnar said. "I tried that last summer at camp. Remember? Em and I got together anyway." Em was Gunnar's girlfriend. She went to another school in town, but she was so great she was even humoring him on his annoying document-his-entire-life-online obsession. "Love will always find a way."

The Elephant of Surprise

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Genre - Young Adult/Gay Lit

Rating – PG13

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Website http://brenthartinger.com/


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