Today is the day!
When I signed the contract for Crazy Joe back in March, June seemed very far away, but now we’re here, and I’m so glad that it’s time for Jonas and Abe to be let out into the world.
I’m super excited about this story because now I can say I have another series. Most often when I write a story, I’m thinking that I should write a sequel, and then I seldom do, but Up North is happening! Yay!
Now, series… Up North is a series of standalone stories. They’re contemporary and they all take place in the same area. The first story is Turning Wood, the second Crazy Joe, the third is called When Skies are Gray and will be published on July 18th, and the fourth is called Banger Challenge and will be out August 8th. But they can be read in any order.
But for now, let’s focus on Crazy Joe! It’s been sixteen years since Abe last saw Crazy Joe, and he has a bad feeling about why he disappeared.
Abe Cooper tried to swallow, but his mouth had gone dry. How many times had he wondered what had happened to Crazy Joe? Jonas. The last day he’d seen Jonas before he disappeared he’d had a horrible feeling and he’d spent many years trying to shake it, but every time Crazy Joe had popped up in his mind it was followed by unease.
Something terrible had happened, and he wasn’t sure, but maybe he was part of it. Joe—Jonas—had been a year after him in school, but everyone knew who he was. Crazy Joe—swishy Joe with glitter stains on his jeans who’d argue his opinion in every matter. He’d been brilliant, though. Abe had always been in awe of the way he expressed himself. In retrospect, Abe had realized how smart he was, and how much he must’ve read to know what he did back then. Sure, he’d argued conspiracy theories left and right and always had a rather grim view of society, but they’d been teens—a certain amount of fuck-the-world and know-it-all attitude was to be expected.
Abe had had it in spades.
Many believed Joe was crazy for real, but Abe was sure it was just a case of being different. High school wasn’t the most forgiving environment. He sighed, wished he’d done things differently, but he hadn’t been very brave back then.
“Well, it was nice seeing you, Abe. Take care.” Joe turned, and before Abe had time to blink, he was several steps away. Panic rose in his chest.
“Wait! Joe…nas.” Abe didn’t stop to see if Jonas would wait. He trotted to catch up with him. “That day—”
“Forget about it.” The smile Jonas gave him was haunted and an invisible fist punched him in the gut.
Not only had Abe played a part in what had happened, but Jonas knew it.
“I… can’t. I-I… what happened? I need to know.” There had been so many rumors. Crazy Joe beaten to death, sold into trafficking, gone into rehab, kidnapped. The kidnapped theory had the biggest following since Jonas never came back to school after the weekend. But Abe had seen him on the Sunday, so he was sure he hadn’t been abducted. He’d heard his mom tell one of the neighborhood women about how perhaps it was for the better to move a boy like that to a different school.
A boy like that.
Jonas’ grin was too bright, the shrug too careless to be believable. “I don’t remember.”
Given a little time, Abe could remember the outline of the bruises on his face. The sun had been shining and at first glance, Abe had thought it was some strange shadow falling over Jonas where he’d stood behind the ice cream stand where he used to work on the weekends, talking to an older man Abe had assumed was the owner. His lip had been split and swollen, he’d had a Band-Aid behind his left ear, and a butterfly strip over a cut on his cheek. Someone had shaved off part of Jonas’ thick, wild hair.
Abe shook his head, not wanting to remember the stark fear in Jonas’ eyes when Abe had walked closer to him. They hadn’t talked. A jolt had shot through Abe when he’d met Jonas’ gaze and he’d… walked away.
Coward, he’d been such a coward.
“Are you… erm…” He rubbed his neck. “You wanted to work with the theater, right?” Abe remembered he’d had a part in some school play, though he couldn’t say which one, he’d been too busy making out with Stephanie Samuelsen to know what it was about. He shuddered at the memory of her sticky-sweet perfume mixed with the bubblegum she always chewed.
Jonas tilted his head and a lock of his brown not-quite-curly-but-not-entirely-straight hair fell into his eyes. “No, I never wanted to perform.”
He hadn’t? He’d always hung around the art kids, and he’d never hesitated to speak up if he wanted to say something, had never feared attention. He’d held presentations in front of the entire school, had debated one thing after the other. Abe recalled him being in the school orchestra for a short time, and he definitely remembered him being part of arranging an art show in favor of some charity.
They’d had an away game that night so Abe hadn’t gone—probably wouldn’t have if he’d been home either. He wasn’t ‘a boy like that’… except, in a way, he was. Not artsy, not openly passionate about stuff, not fighting to right some injustice. But, no matter how hard he’d tried to hide it, he’d been a boy like that… even back then. “O-okay.”
“It was nice seeing you, Abe.” Jonas didn’t look like it was nice seeing him. Abe curled his fingers into fists so he wouldn’t reach for him. He tried to speak, tried to halt Jonas’ escape, but he was already halfway to the checkout.
It was just as well. He’d moved here to start over, and Jonas couldn’t be part of his life if he wanted a fresh start. His heart ached, the words he wanted to speak turned into ashes on his tongue, but it was for the best.
Now that he’d seen Jonas and knew he was well, he could put the memory to rest.
Abe Cooper is starting over. For fifteen years he’s lived the life that was expected of him, but not anymore. He’s packed up his things, bought himself a cabin in Northfield, and managed to secure a job at the local high school teaching gym and coaching the football team. But his new beginning didn’t include running into Crazy Joe on his first trip to the grocery store.
Jonas Raghnall has everything he needs—good friends and a job he loves. He’s worked hard to get over what happened sixteen years ago, but one run-in with his past and all the memories come flooding back. Seeing Abe Cooper, The Abe Cooper, sets everything out of balance.
Abe had pictured a fresh start with no ties to his past, but now that Jonas is there, he wants nothing more than to be close to the man who had butterflies filling his belly when he was in high school. Jonas doesn’t want to come face to face with his past, but if he sees Abe every day, it’s not really meeting up with your past, is it? It’s more like a date with your future.