Two boys at bible camp. One forbidden love.
That’s the dilemma Jonathan Cooper faces when he goes away to Spirit Lake Bible Camp, situated along Minnesota’s rugged north shore, for a summer of fun. He is expecting mosquito bites, bonfires with S’Mores, and photography classes with Simon, his favorite counselor who always helps him see life in perfect focus.
What he isn’t expecting is Ian McGuire, a new camper who openly argues against phrases like pray the gay away. Ian is certain of many things, including what could happen between them if only Jonathan could surrender to his feelings.
Jonathan, however, tosses in a storm of indecision between his belief in God and his inability to stay away from Ian. When a real storm hits and Ian is lost in it, Jonathan is forced to make a public decision that changes his life.
Minnesota writer Juliann Rich spent her childhood in search of the perfect climbing tree. The taller the better! Perched on a branch ten to thirty feet off the ground and surrounded by leaves, caterpillars, birds and squirrels was a good place for a young girl to find herself. Seeking truth in nature and finding a unique point of view remain crucial elements in her life as well as her writing.
Juliann is a PFLAG mom who can be found walking Pride parades with her son. She is also the daughter of evangelical Christian parents. As such she has been caught in the crossfire of the most heated topic to challenge our society and our churches today. She is committed to writing stories that shed light on the conflicts that arise when sexual orientation, spirituality, family dynamics and peer relationships collide.
Juliann recently won the Emerging Writer Award at The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans.
Juliann lives with her husband and their two chronically disobedient dachshunds in the beautiful Minnesota River Valley.
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Chapter Seven, CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE by Juliann Rich
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“Hey, wait up! I’ll join you,” Ian called to me as I walked along the beach later that evening, occasionally stopping to pick up and examine a flat, thin stone. Looking for just the right one. “Whatcha doing?”
“Not much. Just skipping rocks.” Spirit Lake stretched in front of us. The sound of laughing voices carried over the campground.
“Cool. I’ve never done that before.”
“Really? It’s easy. Like this.” I leaned back, arm extended, and aimed low so the stone would skim the surface and skip across it. Except it didn’t. My first attempt flopped and sank.
“Like that, huh?” Ian mocked.
“Not exactly.” I picked up another stone, wafer thin and flat, and let it fly. One…two…three…yes, four full skips and then it too sank and disappeared, but man, it was beautiful while it flew! “More like that.” Pride crept into my voice.
“Okay, my turn.” Ian crouched and examined the rocks. He took his time. Finally he chose one, elliptical and rounded at the bottom.
“Mmm, I wouldn’t—”
He stopped me with one glance.
“Oh, okay. Whatever you want.” I grinned.
Ian wound his arm back like a baseball player and pitched the rock. The splash was even bigger than I’d hoped.
“Excellent form, McGuire. You might have broken a record…for the shot put!”
“Aren’t you just hilarious? Fine, you show me. How did you hold your arm?”
I picked up the thinnest, flattest rock I could find and reached back with my arm, waist high and parallel to the ground. Ian stepped behind me. He slid his body against mine and stretched his arm out, pressing it against my arm. The breath from his mouth, hot against my neck, stirred my hair. A shiver ran down my back when he whispered, “Like this, Jonathan?”
“Yeah, I like…um, I mean, yeah, like this. For skipping stones.” My heart pounded. I stepped away and looked at Ian.
“For skipping stones, huh?” His eyes searched mine, looking for the place I never showed anyone. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re really cute when you’re showing off?”
The rock I’d been clutching slipped through my fingers and clattered onto the beach. Panicked, I looked around.
Aaron, Sean, and Sara were sitting with a bunch of kids by the bonfire. Jake and his group were hanging down by the dock. I looked back at Ian. “Excuse me?”
“I asked if anyone has ever told you that you’re cute before. Especially when you’re showing off.”
Sara looked in our direction. A frown passed across her face.
“Ian, what are you talking about? I’m not, you know…” My voice came out like a cross between a whisper and a hiss.
“Gay?” Though a cool breeze blew off the lake, I felt myself flush with heat.
“Yeah. I’m not gay,” I whispered.
“That’s good to know. Thanks for clearing that up.” Ian turned his attention back to the lake. He wound his arm back again like a baseball pitcher, gripping a small boulder in his hand.
“Is that what you meant earlier? That I’d be a great junior counselor except that I’m…” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word. An image of the locked safe in my bedroom flashed into my mind. For my coin collection, I’d said, when I had asked for it for Christmas. No coins, just a couple of books. Rainbow High, The Boys and The Bees. And of course, the copy of Boy Meets Boy.
Reading’s just a hobby. It didn’t mean anything, right?
“Yeah, but it was just a crazy thought that flew through my head. I mean, of course you’re not gay. You spent a whole minute sucking face with Bethany today. What gay guy does that?” Ian’s voice dripped sarcasm. His arm snapped forward. The stone soared through the air and splashed into the lake. It sank deeper and deeper through the layers of water, cutting through the strong current until it probed the bottom of Spirit Lake.
I stared at the place where the rock had hit, shattering the perfect surface. The ripples expanded and drifted toward me. “Are you gay?” I whispered.
“What do you think?”
“I think you’re terrible at skipping rocks.”
“Yes, I am, Jonathan. I definitely am.” He chuckled.
As the ripples eased into the vast lake, I told myself that he was only talking about his rock-skipping skills, but I knew better.
Nothing about Ian skimmed the surface.