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Start reading THE BREAKUP LISTS by Adib Khorram!

Love is more complicated than “boy meets boy” in bestselling author Adib Khorram’s sharply funny new romantic comedy, set in the sordid world of high school theater. Scroll down for a sneak peek of The Breakup Lists!


Even though I’m the Theatre Kid, my sister’s the dramatic one.
“Ugh,” Jasmine says as soon as she sees Nick, three lanes over in the parking lot. She rests her head against her car’s steering wheel, then jolts back up when her nose sets off the horn.
“You okay?”
Jasmine mutters something into the wheel. It’s got a pink fuzzy cover on it.
“I can’t hear you.”
She sits up, sighs, and faces me. “Sorry. It’s just hard seeing him.”
“It’s been months.”
“He broke my heart. You don’t know what it’s like.”
I’ve had my heart broken before. Maybe not as often or as hard as Jasmine, but still.
“Can you do his list again?”
“Jasmine . . .”
Nick is Jasmine’s m̶i̶l̶l̶i̶o̶n̶t̶h̶ latest ex-boyfriend. They dated all summer before Nick broke up with her because he “didn’t want to be tied down senior year.” But now she’s stuck sitting behind him in Pre-Calculus.
I’ve repeated his list so many times I’ve basically got it memorized. Still, I reach into my backpack, pull out my black stage manager binder, and flip to the end where I keep my lists. Given how many of them there are—and how often Jasmine needs them repeated—I have to keep them close.

Man Bun Nick’s Breakup List:
̶A̶ ̶c̶r̶u̶s̶t̶y̶ ̶s̶o̶c̶k̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶h̶u̶m̶a̶n̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶m̶
Too much Axe Body Spray
̶N̶o̶t̶ ̶e̶n̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶c̶o̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶e̶i̶r̶d̶ ̶s̶m̶e̶l̶l̶
Smacks his lips at the beginning of each sentence
Doesn’t like pickles
̶A̶l̶w̶a̶y̶s̶ ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶s̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶h̶o̶l̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶f̶a̶r̶t̶
Bad man bun

It barely even qualifies as a bun. More like a little man garlic knot or something.
“Plus there’s the whole thing where he broke up with you,” I point out.
“Right. Right.”
“And you said you wanted to focus on yourself senior year.”
Jasmine gives me a sharp nod. She takes a deep breath, redoes her ponytail, and squares her shoulders. “Thanks, Jackson. What would I do without you?”
I slip my binder into my backpack and shrug it on, grab my shmoodies, and follow her into school.
The Riverstone High School Alumni Association r̶u̶i̶n̶e̶d̶ renovated the student entrance over the summer, replacing the rows of double doors set in red brick with an ugly white façade. Huge letters spell RIVERSTONE above the doors, but they’re the same white as the wall, so you can only see them by the shadows they cast. At night, they’re lit by blue LED backlight, even though Riverstone’s school colors are purple and gold.
It looks more like an IKEA than a high school.
Jasmine taps my shoulder. “You staying late?”
“Auditions today and tomorrow. Callbacks on Thursday.”
“All right. I’ll be in the pottery studio when you’re done.”
Jasmine settles her backpack on her right shoulder and marches off toward the A Hall. I head up the stairs to the D Hall and my locker, where Bowie is waiting for me.
Bowie Anderson has been my best friend since we were in first grade. I don’t know if it’s because we were the only s̶p̶i̶c̶y̶ non-white kids in our class (with Bowie being Black and me being half Iranian), or because even at six years old we were both already finding safety in other queer people, or because Bowie was one of the few people that never made fun of my hearing aids. But we’ve been more or less inseparable ever since, except that Bowie joined the Gender & Sexuality Alliance first year, while I joined Theatre.
“Hey, Jacks.” Bowie stuffs their jacket into their locker.
“Hey. I got your shmoodie.”
“You’re a lifesaver.” Bowie shakes the blender bottle vigorously, pops the lid, and takes a big swig. They’ve got dark brown skin, the kind that looks a little purple in a certain light, and short twists. Their lean neck bobs as they swallow, and they wipe their mouth with the back of their hand. “Mango?”
“And papaya. Dad got a huge bag at City Market.” Along with two giant watermelons, a bushel of guavas, and the biggest apples I’ve ever seen. Dad always buys way more fruit than we can actually eat in a week, which is why I started making smoothies for me and Bowie in the first place, though I pronounced it “shmoodies” once by accident and the name kind of stuck. Normally I get ̶p̶i̶s̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶f̶ ̶e̶m̶b̶a̶r̶r̶a̶s̶s̶e̶d̶ annoyed if people make fun of me for stuff like that, but Bowie’s allowed because I know they never mean it.
“How was practice?” I shake my own bottle and take a sip.
They groan and roll out their left shoulder. “Brutal. So many sprints.”
Bowie’s on the swim team. I’ve never liked swimming, since I hate getting my head wet, but I do like watching the sport. Bowie’s butterfly is a thing of beauty.
Plus, there are guys in Speedos.
I shut my locker and settle my backpack. Bowie looks behind me and cocks their chin. That usually means one thing.
Sure enough, Liam Coquyt is weaving through the hall, headed our way. He’s a senior, and the swim team captain. He’s tall and white and a̶n̶n̶o̶y̶i̶n̶g̶l̶y̶ ̶classically handsome, with azure eyes and a sharp jaw and cheeks that always look a tiny bit flushed.
He smiles and runs a hand through his raven hair, which is feathery from all the chlorine.
I’ve heard more than one rant from Bowie about how hard it is to take care of natural hair when you spend hours a day in the pool—not to mention the racism of swim cap manufacturers and the governing bodies of the sport—but Liam looks like he doesn’t even condition.
“Hey, Bowie. Hey, Jackson.” He reaches behind me to tuck in the tag on my T-shirt. His smooth fingertips graze the back of my neck.
He’s always doing that.
Liam nods at my shmoodie. “You got one of those for me?”
One time—one time!—Bowie was out sick, so I gave their shmoodie to Liam. And ever since, he keeps coming by my locker in the morning, hoping for another one.
It’s not like he’s a stranger: He and Bowie are friends, which means he’s sort-of friends with me too, but not on the level of getting shmoodies. That’s only for best friends.
Still, he comes by every day, smiling and tall ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶h̶a̶n̶d̶s̶o̶m̶e̶ and sometimes I think about making an extra.
Just to be nice.
He stands by me, radiating body heat through his T-shirt, while he talks to Bowie about practice. I tune them out and drink my shmoodie; trying to follow conversations is exhausting, and I have to save my energy for class where I can. But then Liam flaps his hand to get my attention, a gesture he must’ve learned from Bowie.
“See you this afternoon, right?”
“What? Why?”
“You’re auditioning?”
He nods, blushing a little. “I thought it would be fun.”
I glance at Bowie, whose eyebrows are arched in surprise, then back at Liam.
“Oh. Okay then.”
Liam gives me another smile; his smooth arm brushes mine as he heads down the hall, so warm it makes me shiver. I stare at his back for a moment—it’s wide and strong from all the swimming, straining the shoulder seams of his shirt—then turn back to Bowie and switch to sign.
“What is he doing?”
“Auditioning, I guess.”
“But that’s—” A terrible idea.
“What’s the worst that could happen? He doesn’t get a part?”
It’s the fall musical—Jesus Christ Superstar—so everyone who auditions is pretty much guaranteed a role in the chorus if they want one. Especially if they’re a senior. But Bowie’s in the GSA; they don’t understand the cutthroat politics of senior actors.
As a techie (and a junior) I’ve been ̶e̶x̶c̶l̶u̶d̶e̶d̶ able to avoid most of it.
“Whatever,” I finally mutter.
“You need a ride today?”
“Jasmine’s got me. Thanks.”
Bowie glances toward the ceiling. “Warning bell. See you at lunch?”
After sixth hour, I power-elbow my way to Dr. Lochley’s office. The door is open, but I still knock on it before I head in.
Dr. L’s got her phone nestled between her shoulder and ear, and she’s staring at her computer with her lips pursed. She looks up at me, smiles, then focuses back on her screen.
“Well, how am I somethingsomething done if I have to remember a million passwords?” she asks. She takes off her purple cat-eye glasses and pinches the bridge of her nose. “This isn’t the Pentagon, you know.”
She mutters something I don’t catch, hangs up, and shakes her head, which sends the ends of her graying bob dancing around her jawline. Dr. Lochley is willowy and white, but she’s got a year-round tan. She’s barely lighter than me.
“Jackson. Good. Mind giving me a hand?”
Dr. Lochley nods to a cardboard box filled with random props: a small sword, a plunger, a beach ball, a picnic blanket—and that’s just what I can see on the top.
Seventh hour, Dr. Lochley teaches Theatre IV, which is only for seniors. But because I didn’t have any better classes to take, I signed up as her teacher’s assistant, which means I get to sit in on Theatre IV a year early, and then take it for real next year. I grab the box as Dr. L straightens out her desk and grabs her tote bag.
“Improv today?”
“Yeah. You want to join in?”
I suppress a shudder. Improv means lots of people, all talking over each other, and maybe I can follow and get in a joke, or maybe I’ll be lost and confused and people will get annoyed with me for not keeping up.
Most people seem to think that, just because I wear hearing aids, I hear n̶o̶r̶m̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ 100 percent of what they say, but I don’t.
“I’m good,” I say. “I was thinking I could go set up for auditions?”
“All right. I still think it’s somethingsomething.”
“Say again?”
“It’s a shame you’re not auditioning. You’ve got the perfect look.”
I’m not sure if she’s saying that because I’m short, and would ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶d̶s̶ ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶t̶a̶l̶l̶e̶r̶ create interesting mise en scène; or because I’m half Iranian, which is ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶ ̶b̶r̶o̶w̶n̶ vaguely the right part of the world. But still: There’s no way. Some people aren’t meant for the stage, and I’m one of them.
“Who would stage manage, then?”
Dr. L chuckles. “Fair enough. Here, I’ll write you a pass.”


I open the stage right door and poke my head out. A row of folding chairs lines the hallway, right in front of a glass case full of charcoal ̶s̶k̶e̶t̶c̶h̶e̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶t̶s̶ still lifes of peaches from one of the art classes, Jasmine’s among them. Hers is clearly the best: Iranians know their fruits.
I glance around. “Liam?”
His head snaps up.
“You’re next.”
He gets off his chair and gives me a grin, but there’s a tiny wobble in it, like he might actually be nervous, and worse, him being nervous makes me so nervous my heart does a little flutter. Which is weird, because he’s basically guaranteed a role in the chorus. Everyone gets a part in the musical.
W̶e̶l̶l̶,̶ ̶a̶l̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶r̶y̶o̶n̶e̶

Still, it would be hilarious if he got a big role. The senior actors would be p̶i̶s̶s̶e̶d̶ surprised.
He pauses right in front of me, so close I can smell his citrusy deodorant. “Wish me luck?”
Some of the other auditioners glare at his back, and based on facial expressions I’m pretty sure one of the sophomores just hissed like a cat.
“Never say that!”
“You never wish someone luck in a theatre. Or even near one. That’s actually super bad luck.”
“Yeah, that’s why we say ‘break a leg.’”
“How am I supposed to act with a broken leg?”
I roll my eyes. I don’t have time to get into the contradictory origins of the phrase.
But Liam’s face lights up. “Oh. So I’ll be in the cast?”
“Come on.” I tug him into the theatre, my thumb sliding along the cord in his forearm, and I let go as the door swings shut behind us. He takes his mark, raising a hand to his brow to look out into the audience before dropping it back to his side.
I take Liam’s audition form out to the front-of-house table where Dr. Lochley and Mr. Cartwright, the choir director, are stationed.
Liam introduces himself. He runs a hand through his dark hair as Mr. Cartwright asks, “What are you singing for us?”
Liam clears his throat. “‘Gethsemane.’”
I take my seat at the end of the row in front of the table as our accompanist, Miss Dawson, starts playing.
I can’t tell if his singing is very good or not; without him mic’d up, I have a hard time discriminating his voice from the piano, no matter how much he projects, and I’m pretty sure he’s not even projecting.
But he looks great onstage. He’s tall and statuesque well proportioned, and after a couple of bars he seems to relax into the song. His shoulders unclench, and his body loosens, and it’s like he’s leaning out into the audience, pulling us in.
And even though I can’t make out the words, I can just tell. He’s good. My heart beats in time with the bass notes on the piano; the hairs on my arm stand up as I notice Liam’s Adam’s apple jiggling from his vibrato.
I glance back at Dr. L, who’s leaning in too, lips parted slightly in surprise. The corner of her mouth has turned up a bit. She doesn’t have any obvious tells, but after two years of shows, I’ve started to pick up on the more subtle ones.
Mr. Cartwright, on the other hand, has no poker face whatsoever. He’s bobbing his head and beaming at the stage in wonder.
I can’t watch them for long, though, not with Liam onstage, drawing my attention like a magnet. His eyes meet mine for a second—in the stage light, they sparkle like a summer sky—and my heart skips a beat, because there’s nothing more awkward than having someone sing right at you. It’s too intense.
The music finally ends. Mr. Cartwright and Dr. Lochley sit back, stunned. Onstage, Liam relaxes, breathing hard, cheeks flushed, and it’s like someone turned down the dimmer on the sun. The theatre seems darker and colder, now that he’s not singing. I give a little shiver.
Mr. Cartwright recovers first, pushes his glasses up his large nose. He’s white, but his nose could give Dad’s Iranian nose a run for its money. “Thank you, Liam.”
Dr. L says, “What’s your monologue?”
Liam scratches the back of his neck. “It’s a poem, actually. I heard that’s somethingsomething?”
Dr. L nods, her eyebrows quirking up. Poems are allowed, but not many people do them.
Liam meets my eyes again before he starts reciting, and I can’t make out a single line. I pull out my phone and use the app to turn up the sensitivity on my hearing aids. When I look back up, Liam’s looking right at me as he speaks, and it’s still intense—his eyes really are a s̶p̶e̶c̶t̶a̶c̶u̶l̶a̶r̶ ridiculous shade of blue—but less than when he was singing, so I let myself lock eyes with him. Just so he knows I see him.
Auditioning can be really lonely. Not that I’ve done it since first year. Being a techie is way better.
Halfway through, the air in the theatre changes. I don’t know how he does it, but we’re all leaning in again, like he’s cupped water in his hands and all of us are thirsty. My skin buzzes with the sensation, and suddenly I’m aware that my shirt tag is sticking up again, but I ignore it, holding my breath as Liam finishes.
“One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To somethingsomethingsomething not to yield.”
My chest flutters as I finally exhale.
That was a killer audition.
I glance toward Dr. Lochley, and she’s got an eyebrow raised, which is even more powerful than a lip quirk.
“Thank you, Liam.”
“Thank you.” Liam cracks his usual smile, and the difference isstark, like he’s pulled on a coat, hiding all that talent shining within.
I sit there, staring at him, too stunned to move, until Mr. Cartwright says, “Jackson? Next?”
My feet are leaden as I escort Liam out. He asks me something but I don’t catch it.
“Sorry.” He waits until we’re by the door, his face lit by the glow of the exit sign. “How’d I do?”
A̶m̶a̶z̶i̶n̶g̶. “Well, you didn’t fall off the stage, so that was good.”
He laughs and reaches behind me to tuck in my tag. He’s got little beads of sweat along his hairline, and the scent of chlorine off him is stronger than usual. It’s not bad, though. He just smells aggressively clean.
I open the door to let him out, glance at my clipboard to see who’s next.
But how could I forget?
“Cameron,” I say, careful to keep my voice neutral. “You’re up.”
Cameron studies Liam as he brushes past, then turns to me. He’s got these deep brown puppy-dog eyes, the kind that make you want to automatically like someone, but I stare at my clipboard to avoid his gaze.
“Here.” He lays his form on my clipboard, and I open the stage door wider to let him in. As he brushes past, bumping my shoulder, I catch Liam watching me.
“Callback list goes up Wednesday morning,” I tell him.
“Got it.” He gives me a thumbs-up before I shut the door and follow Cam into the theatre.
I hand over his form and take my seat, pulling out my phone again to turn my hearing aids all the way down, because I do not need to hear Cameron sing. He’s got a beautiful voice, and he’s a phenomenal actor, but seeing him onstage is ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶s̶t̶ complicated.
Cameron and I used to date, back when I was a first year and he was a sophomore. He was my first boyfriend. My first kiss too. Until he got a part in the fall musical (a gender-agnostic production of My Fair Lady), and I didn’t. Suddenly he was too busy with the other actors and didn’t have time for a boyfriend who was just on stage crew.
When Cam dumped me, I was so hurt, and angry, I threw myself into the show. Making lists of props and scene changes and costume changes and everything I could, just to distract myself, but that paid off. The stage manager for My Fair Lady was a senior named Caprice; she noticed all my hard work, and Dr. Lochley did too. They made me assistant stage manager—a big job for a first year—and when Caprice decided to act in the spring play, rather than stage manage, I got to take over for her.
Of course, Cam got cast in that play too, and he was even more insufferable, treating me like I was some sort of servant: walking over the stage after I swept it, ignoring me when I tried to get him to be quiet during rehearsals, leaving his props everywhere for me to chase down between acts.
He’s been in every single show since, and he’s only gotten worse. The problem with Cameron is, he does this thing where he’ll look at you with his puppy-dog eyes and his button nose and floppy hair and you’ll just want to forgive him for being awful. His was the first list I made for myself, rather than Jasmine. I’ve updated it so often, the original paper’s not in my binder anymore: I had to copy it over. Twice.

Cameron’s Breakup List (v.33):
̶A̶r̶r̶o̶g̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶j̶e̶r̶k̶
Total prima donna
̶F̶u̶t̶u̶r̶e̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶b̶l̶e̶m̶a̶t̶i̶c̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶t̶e̶ ̶b̶o̶y̶
Treats techies badly
G̶l̶o̶w̶e̶d̶ ̶u̶p̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶n̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶s̶i̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶w̶e̶ ̶d̶a̶t̶e̶d̶
Basic white boy looks
Allergic to onions
Always makes the cast

After Cameron’s monologue (Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, which remains his favorite play despite all the racism and N-word and white savior-ism stuff), I show him out. His shoulders are tense. I don’t know why—I already know he’s going to get a part. He knows it too.
But as we reach the door, he looks back past me, toward the proscenium. He can’t see Dr. Lochley or Mr. Cartwright from the door, but he bites his lip before he catches me watching him. He rolls his eyes and pushes out into the hall.
I fix my face and call in the next audition.
Once we’re done, I help Dr. L close up the theatre. It’s nearly five o’clock, and my stomach is growling. If this were a rehearsal, I would’ve ducked out for an afternoon snack, but with auditions there’s no breaks. And food isn’t allowed in the theatre.
Not that anyone else seems to obey the rule. Not even Mr. Cartwright, who was munching on Mike & Ikes—he calls them “the original gay candy!”—the whole afternoon. But as stage manager, I’m supposed to set a good example.
“What would I do without you?” Dr. L muses as I sweep the stage using a wide dust mop withRHS THEATOR (no idea) stenciled on its head.
I shrug and try not to blush. Sometimes Dr. L acts like the whole department would come crumbling down without me, but she’s always careful not to say that with an actor around. Probably because she knows their ego would melt, like a halogen lamp with oily fingerprints on it, if she ever acknowledged that anyone else in the world might have talent. So she heaps praise on them and treats me like a ghost, haunting the theatre in my show blacks.
Actors get standing ovations. Techies get fiberglass splinters.
But it’s fine. I like being backstage.
I rack the dust mop, grab my backpack, and head for the exit. But when I swing the door open, it stops with a soft thump.
“Sorry.” I look around the door. Liam’s there, rubbing his elbow and shaking his head, but he’s got a tiny smile.
“My bad. I forgot they opened outward.”
“Still. You need that to swim.” I nod at his arm. His sleeve is riding up a bit, showing off the little vein down his bicep. Liam has really n̶i̶c̶e̶ strong arms. I think I do too, but mine are just kind of big from all the work on lights and scenery. His are c̶u̶t̶ defined.
His grin widens, and I can’t help mirroring it a little. He steps closer to me, and his body heat washes away the last chill of the theatre.
“Yeah. Or act, if I get a part.”
I back up, but the door is right behind me. “If you’re fishing for intel, it won’t work. You’ve got to wait for the callback list like everyone else.”
But I can’t imagine him not getting a callback. Not after an audition like that.
I turn and head toward the Art wing, but Liam hurries ahead of me and turns to walk backward, so I can see his face as he speaks.
“Not even a hint? To make up for all the shmoodies you owe me?”
“I don’t remember owing you any shmoodies. You’re not on the shmoodie list.”
There is no shmoodie list. I only bring one for me and one for Bowie.
“If I get a role, will you put me on it?”
“No.” But he gives me the biggest, goofiest frown, and I accidentally crack a smile.
He laughs. “Just you wait. I’ll make that shmoodie list someday.”
And then he spins on his heel and walks next to me. His shoulder brushes against mine, and for a second I wonder if he’s doing it on purpose. As far as I know, Liam’s straight, and most straight guys would drop a no homo after brushing against another guy. Especially a gay one.
Then again, Liam’s never been homophobic, ̶u̶n̶l̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ ̶b̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶n̶i̶c̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶m̶e̶:̶ ̶S̶t̶r̶a̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶g̶u̶y̶s̶ ̶b̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶n̶i̶c̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶g̶a̶y̶ ̶g̶u̶y̶s̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶k̶i̶n̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶h̶o̶m̶o̶p̶h̶o̶b̶i̶c̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶i̶s̶.
Still, he makes sure to give me some space. I’m just h̶o̶p̶i̶n̶g̶  imagining things.
He is really beautiful; the kind of beautiful that guys shouldn’t be allowed to be. The kind where I can’t always tell if I’m jealous or attracted to him or both. But I shake the thought off as I stop at the door to the pottery studio; Liam keeps on going for a few steps before turning back quizzically.
“This is me. See you.” I give him a wave before letting myself into the studio.
There’s a weird, wet earth smell to the pottery studio, like the way the ground smells after it rains.
“I’m all done,” I tell Jasmine, who’s hunched over one of the tall worktables, poking a little wooden stick into the corner of a tiny box. There’s a smear of brown clay on her cheek, and her hair is pulled back into a ponytail.
I don’t catch her answer, but she gets up, takes her tiny box to the closet thing that stores the pottery, then grabs her tools and takes them to the sink in the back.
I hop onto one of the high stools and pull my binder out to organize my notes from today, but I pause when I feel warmth on my back, like someone’s looming behind me. I jerk away.
Liam has followed me in.
“What?” I say. “Don’t loom over me like that.”
“Sorry.” He backs away. “I was just checking this out. I never took pottery. Or any art class, really.”
“Oh.” I can’t imagine that. I’ve been in one (or more) Theatre classes every year. “My sister does pottery.”
I nod toward the back just as Jasmine emerges, scrubbing at her cheek with a flimsy brown paper towel.
“Ready to go?” she asks, but then she notices Liam standing over me. Her lips quirk, and her cheeks flush, and she reaches for her hair to play with it before realizing it’s still in a ponytail.
Oh no. I’ve seen this process before.
“Hey.” Suddenly her stride has a lot more hip in it.
“Hey. Jasmine, right? We had APUSH last year.”
“Yeah.” Her eyes slide from Liam’s face to his swimmer’s shoulders to his arms and then back up.
“I was just trying to convince Jackson to put me on his shmoodie list.”
Jasmine laughs. “I’m his own sister and he won’t put me on it. He only makes them for Bowie.”
Jasmine hates shmoodies, for the same reason she hates soup: a firm conviction that food should be eaten and never drunk. But my chest tightens at her jab. Making me sound like a bad guy.
“Fine.” I huff and pull my backpack on. “If you get a part, I’ll add you to the list. Okay?”
Liam beams. “Really?”
I nod and move toward the door, but Jasmine doesn’t follow.
She’s studying Liam, bottom lip curled under the top one. “You need a ride? We’ve got room.”
Liam chuckles and rubs the back of his head, which makes his shirt ride up, showing off the bottom of his abs. Actual abs. I’ve seen them at swim meets before, but never up close.
Jasmine’s looking at me expectantly.
“I said, let’s go.”
“Oh. Yeah. See you, Liam.”
I push my way out the door.


As we walk to the car, Jasmine’s got this dreamy smile, and her head’s bobbing like she’s listening to music only she can hear. Sure signs of a crush.
I’ve had crushes too, of course, though most have been straight guys. Last year, the photos for our Thespians troop were right after the photos for the wrestling team, and let’s just say the parade of guys in singlets was something to behold. But that’s all they are: crushes. They never went anywhere. Not since Cam.
Jasmine’s crush-to-date ratio is in the ninetieth percentile. My sister is always falling in love. Or out of it. As if love is something you can toss around like handfuls of glitter. (Dr. Lochley is adamantly opposed to glitter, which, once introduced to a theatre ecosystem, can never truly be eliminated.)
And Jasmine’s crush-to-love pipeline is extremely efficient. By next week, she and Liam will be holding hands. By October, they’ll be making out in the little alcove by the trophy case that separates the Art wing from the Music wing, like all the other senior couples. By November, she’ll be planning the wedding. It’ll all be awkward and insufferable, especially since I’ll have a front row seat to the whole thing.
But then by December they’ll have a fight and break up. Or drift apart and break up. Slowly start annoying each other and break up. Go off to different colleges, try and fail at the long distance thing and break up. ̶H̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶t̶e̶r̶r̶i̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶s̶e̶x̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶b̶r̶e̶a̶k̶ ̶u̶p̶. And I’ll be left making another list.
I toss my bags in the back of Jasmine’s car and buckle up. She says something to me, but I don’t catch it. Between classes and auditions, my brain is more or less done listening for the day.
“Say again?”
She turns to face me fully. “I said, Liam seems nice.”
“I guess. He’s more Bowie’s friend than mine.”
“Ah.” That tiny smile makes another appearance as Jasmine starts the car.
My sister is a lost cause.
My predictions all come true:
Jasmine does have a crush.
Liam does make the callback list.
And the senior actors are p̶i̶s̶s̶e̶d̶ m̶u̶t̶i̶n̶o̶u̶s̶ concerned.
“He’s never been in a show before,” Cameron tells Jenny, this sophomore who did tech for one show before falling in with the actors a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶u̶r̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶o̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶o̶n̶s̶t̶e̶r̶. “He doesn’t have the chops for a lead.”
I keep quiet. None of them saw Liam’s audition. He does have the chops.
“You never know,” Jenny says. “Sometimes Dr. Lochley does weird stuff. I mean, remember The Bad Seed?”
“I guess.” Cam catches me watching. “What do you think, Jackson?”
“I can’t talk about auditions. You know that.”
“Whatever.” He keeps talking to Jenny but turns away, and I lose the thread of the conversation.
I sigh and turn back to the Theatre Board, this huge corkboard to the right of Dr. Lochley’s office, covered with flyers for shows in town, news about alumni, release forms, and of course, right in the middle, the callback list, with Liam’s name near the top.
I pull down the old audition sign-ups and replace them with a small flyer I designed advertising tech crew: how it’s fun, how it’s cool, how you can earn Thespian points, how it goes toward lettering in Theatre.
Most people just want to act, though. If it weren’t for Dr. Lochley’s Theatre I students who have to volunteer for one show during the year to pass the class, we wouldn’t have crews at all.
Last year I had to beg Bowie to run a followspot for the musical, but they drove a hard bargain: In exchange, I had to design a flyer for the GSA’s annual drag show fundraiser.
It’s not that I don’t like drag shows—they’re great—it’s that Bowie knows I don’t like the GSA. Ever since first year, when they did Rocky Horror Picture Show in the Main Theatre and managed to damage line set 5. No one’s even sure how they did it, but what used to be a straight steel pipe came out of Rocky Horror with a pronounced bend right in the center.
And since the GSA doesn’t have any budget—all the funds they raise go to charity—the Theatre budget had to eat the costs. Granted, the GSA has been banned from using the theatre ever since, and granted, the charities are all important ones, like the Trevor Project, but still. I just don’t trust them.
̶I̶t̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶b̶a̶b̶l̶y̶ ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶h̶e̶l̶p̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶C̶a̶m̶ ̶u̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶G̶S̶A̶,̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶.̶


Dr. Lochley and Mr. Cartwright are huddled together at their table once more, heads bowed and muttering. I watch from my usual spot and wait for them to decide who they want to see next. Mr. Cartwright keeps shaking his head, but Dr. L does her karate-chop-for-emphasis every other sentence.
Finally they split apart. Dr. L calls out, “Jackson, could you ask Liam and Cameron to come in?”
“Copy that.”
I pop my head out the backstage doors. Liam’s staying well clear this time, sitting on the floor against the opposite wall, but his head snaps up. His hair flops into his eyes for a second before he shakes it off and stares at me, his blue eyes looking guarded but hopeful.
I nod at him and clear my throat. “Liam? Cameron?”
While they settle onstage, I run out to grab their sides from Dr. L.
“For Liam.” She passes me a couple pages with Jesus’s part highlighted. “Cameron.” Cam’s sides are for Judas.
I stare at the sides. Is she really thinking of giving Liam the title role? On his first audition? Without ever being in a show before?
I knew he was good, but wow. I run the sides up and hand them over.
“Thanks.” Liam looks over his script and then back at me, a w̶e̶i̶r̶d̶l̶y̶ ̶e̶n̶d̶e̶a̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ mix of panic and excitement in his eyes.
Cam takes his sides without even looking at me. He just nods, like I’m a server at a restaurant refilling his water. But his brows crease before he schools his features.
I take my seat again as Dr. L gives them both a few instructions I can’t hear. They’re doing the scene from Act I where Judas is yelling at Jesus for hanging out with Mary Magdalene, though Dr. L has them saying their lines instead of singing. I’ve never actually read the Bible—Dad being a lapsed Bahá’í, Mom being a lapsed Methodist, and me being a lapsed heterosexual—so I’m not sure how much of the scene is biblically accurate.
At first, it’s just Liam and Cameron reciting lines at each other. But then? I don’t know how to describe it. One moment Liam is just Liam. Yeah, he looks great onstage, the lights kindling his eyes and highlighting his cheekbones, but still: just a hot guy talking.
Then I blink, and I’m looking at a different person entirely: His voice, his body language, everything changes. He transforms.
And Cameron responds by doing the same. He’s no longer Cam,ex-boyfriend senior actor. No longer someone who barely knows Liam. Instead, a whole life of friendship and arguments and history blossoms between them, as if it had always existed.
The hairs on my arm stand up as Judas takes an aggressive step toward Jesus, but Jesus stands his ground. He’s taller than Judas, but that’s not what makes him so impressive: It’s the set in his shoulders, the jut of his jaw, the blue fire in his eyes I can feel from thirty feet away. At auditions I had to lean in, but now I have to lean away or risk getting burned.
They finish their scene staring at each other, breathing hard as if they swam a race. Chests rising and falling. Cheeks flushed. They might even be sweating under the stage lights.
Then they blink. The spell bursts like a bubble. Cam looks toward Dr. L, but Liam’s eyes find mine.
̶I̶ ̶s̶n̶a̶p̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶m̶o̶u̶t̶h̶ ̶s̶h̶u̶t̶.̶
“Thank you,” Dr. L says from the table, and Liam looks to her instead. I can breathe again.
That’s all: “Thank you.” But I’m pretty sure, if she wasn’t a professional, Dr. Lochley would be up and dancing in the aisle.
Liam clears his throat. “Um. Thank you.”
He looks back down at his sides. Cam’s staring at Dr. Lochley like he’s not sure what just happened.
It’s quiet in the theatre until Dr. L waves at me. “Jackson?”
Oh. I’m supposed to grab their sides. I run up the aisle, take the steps onto the stage two at a time. “I’ll take those. Here.”
I lead them both out. At the door, Liam pauses and turns to me. “Was that okay?”
“You know I can’t talk about it.” But then I realize maybe he doesn’t actually know that. I try to soften my voice. “I’m not allowed to discuss callbacks with anyone. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. But don’t forget your promise.”
Out in the hall, Cam turns around, looking between me and Liam with a frown on his face.
“What promise?” I ask.
“If I get a part, you’ll put me on the shmoodie list.”
I forgot about that. But he’s certainly earned it now.
“Don’t worry. I’ll add you. If you get a part.”
He smiles so wide you’d think I told him he got the lead. (Which I’m pretty sure he just did.) It’s alarmingly like standing in the hot spot of a Leko, warming my face while also slowly burning a hole in my retina.
Cam comes closer. “What about if I get a part? What do I get?”
He’s got his puppy-dog eyes on again, dark and twinkling. Cam does that sometimes: He’s attractive and charming. He knows how to turn it on. I remember how it used to be, when he’d turn his attention on me, right before we kissed. It used to take my breath away.
And he still likes to use it on me, mostly to mess with me. Remind me of how we used to be together. Of how ̶I̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶g̶o̶o̶d̶ ̶e̶n̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ he thinks he’s better than me.
It doesn’t work this time, though: Liam outshines him.
“Attention,” I say. “Like usual.”
For a split second his eyes widen like I’ve actually hurt him. Cracked him open and exposed something he doesn’t want other people to see. But then his eyes narrow. “Don’t you have work to do, Jackthon?”
Liam stiffens next to me. My own shoulders tense.
When I was little I had a bit of a lisp. Well. More than a bit.
And I still do, sometimes, despite the speech therapy. Especially when I’m tired, which I always am by the end of the day.
Cameron used to think it was cute. Now he’s just being a̶ ̶d̶i̶c̶k̶ cruel.
I close the door behind me and go see what Dr. L needs next.

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