I have to admit that if there’s any trope I love in fiction — particularly in romantic fiction — it’s the U-turn.
You know the story — the two romantic leads (perhaps a guy and a girl, two guys, or two girls) just can’t seem to make it work. In fact, they’re starting to hate each other. They want nothing to do with each other. They’re better off single — or with other people.
But then … something happens. Something makes them do a dramatic U-turn and it has them careening in the opposite direction. Suddenly … what had seemed to be so hopeless and non-existent mere moments ago is now possible.
They hated each other … but now they love each other.
When it comes to gay or lesbian fiction, U-turns can take other forms too. Someone is determined to be straight — or the guy/girl is in love with their friend who they assume is straight — but then the truth comes out, feelings are revealed, and that seemingly impossible love story is suddenly possible.
I generally include the U-turn in almost everything I write.
There’s just something about the unexpected and sudden surge of emotions that I get from those scenes that makes me all tingly. I love reading these scenes and I love writing them.
Earlier this year I wrote and published my first gay young adult romance — Gay Love and Other Fairy Tales. It’s become my bestselling book by far, so I’m suddenly looking at starting a new line of young adult fiction books. (Talk about a U-turn in my writing life! All smut all the time to suddenly putting considerable focus on a smut-free line!)
In this scene, we’ve got closeted Ben who had a hard crush on his gay friend Jordan. Ben is not ready to come out — in fact, he’s not even able to say the word “gay” in relation to himself, so he wouldn’t be able to utter those words. But he knows he wants to kiss Jordan. He wants to get closer to Jordan. He wants to become more than friend.
Sweet, innocent Jordan thinks he’s just hanging out with his straight friend on New Year’s Eve, eating nachos and watching the ball drop. He’s never thought of Ben in any sort of romantic light — why would he? Ben is straight and that’s that.
But on this New Year’s Eve, there may be a surprise in the works, one that will lead to a sudden U-turn for both characters…
A burst of music from the television pulls us back to it, someone I don’t recognize is belting out some song I’ve never heard. I’m sure she’s famous. Whoever she is.
“Would you be okay with a hug?” I ask, staring hard at the TV. “Like, it’s tradition to have a kiss to ring in New Year’s, but we could, you know, hug or something. I’m okay if you don’t want to. You know what, never mind, forget I asked.” I want to kick myself. Coward.
He puts a hand on my forearm to stop my negative rant — and it also clears the dressing down I’m giving myself in my head — and instantly it feels like heat blooms from that touch of his hand on my arm. My only regret is that I’m wearing long sleeves and I can’t feel his hand on my bare skin.
“A hug would be great,” he says.
My heart beats and it’s like my whole body pulses with it. I can feel it throbbing in my neck. He’s going to hug me. I’m going to hug him. I sip my beer slowly as I watch the clock in the corner of the TV — they’ve displayed a countdown to midnight.
Twenty minutes until my hug. Twenty minutes until I have Jordan in my arms.
Nineteen minutes and thirty seconds.
I can’t keep counting down like this. I’m going to drive myself insane. I’m going to kill the mood if I’m glued to the clock. I hear some rustling beside me and I see that Jordan has pulled out his phone and he’s scrolling through Instagram. He suddenly angles his phone away from me.
“What?” I ask.
He hesitates, then says, “Nikki’s posting pics of her and Winston.”
“I’m not her boyfriend,” I say automatically. I’ve never actually said that to anyone. I’ve always just let people make their own assumptions and I was happy to play along with it. “We were never together.”
“Really?” Jordan asks, raising an eyebrow.
“I make her look good in photos, but I have no interest in her,” I say. I can feel a bead of sweat forming at my temple.
He scoffs. “You put on a good act then.” He goes to her profile and scrolls down until he finds pictures of me and Nikki. Together. Kissing.
“That’s exactly what it is. An act.” My heart is beating so hard it feels like it’s going to punch through my ribs.
He looks at me like he’s assessing me. “She’s gorgeous,” he says. It’s like he’s pushing me, like he knows what I want to say, even though I don’t think he has a clue. “She’s a control freak sometimes, yeah, but she’s gorgeous.”
“Not my type,” I say.
“Oh?” He shuts off his phone and tosses it on the couch between us. “What is your type?”
You. You’re my type. But can I say those words out loud? Hell no. Coward.
Instead, I turn my attention to the TV. Fourteen minutes left.
“I’m still figuring that out,” I say.
He seems to accept that as an answer, or at least accepts that I’m not ready to talk more about it. We silently watch the rest of the countdown and inwardly I’m kicking myself again — way to ruin the mood right before the hug! I’m saving my last mouthful of Bud Light for midnight, so I’m just sitting here idly holding an almost-empty can of beer.
Finally, what seems like ages later, we’re down to less than a minute. Slowly, the energy in the room warms up. I lean forward, like getting closer to the TV is going to somehow make this more exciting. Beside me, Jordan does the same.
“Ten!” he says out loud, joining the cheering people on the screen counting down.
I join in with him. “Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!”
I take that final swig of beer, letting the alcohol give me a burst of courage. I stand up and hold my arms out and Jordan stands up and comes into them. I wrap my arms around him, holding him tight.
“Happy New Year,” I whisper.
“Happy New Year,” he whispers back.
I know I should let go, end this hug, because it’s getting too long — it’s past the limit of how long friends hug. But I don’t want to let go.
I never want to let go.
Jordan feels so right in my arms.
But there’s something I want even more.
I loosen my arms a little bit and he backs up just an inch or two and he looks up at me. His eyes sparkle in the light and I can see a question behind those clear, brown eyes. He knows something is different.
With the alcohol pushing my decisions, I angle my head in and kiss him.
He puts his hands on my chest like he’s ready to push me away, but I keep kissing him, even though he’s not moving his lips, even though he’s as still as a statue. Panic starts to rise in me and I can feel myself starting to shake. Jordan isn’t responding.
Cameron D. James is a writer of gay smut. His most recent publication is the (surprisingly smut-free) gay YA romance, Gay Love And Other Fairy Tales, under his YA pen name, Dylan James.