Hello again, Ofelia and Ofelia’s fabulous readers. It’s me. Nell. I’m visiting so often I should be awarded VIP status, don’t you agree? 😊 I’m immensely grateful to have friends as awesome as Ofelia who lend their space for me to promote my stories. Friends like that are the greatest!
Today I’m here to talk about my new short story Wake Him with a Kiss.
“He’s going to get his first tattoo. Write me a story.” That was the message I got from my dear friend Kris T. Bethke, followed by a link to this picture. I’d complained to her that I needed to write a short story for a thing but had no inspiration. And she’s great; I often turn to her when I need a listening ear or someone who understands, and this time was no different. And she delivered.
“He’s going to get his first tattoo.” Who is he? Why is he getting his first tattoo? Is there a particular reason, is he commemorating something? And how can I turn this into something romantic in less than 10K words? These were all questions swirling around in my head after receiving the message until I was struck by an idea. If I’d been a cartoon character, a light bulb would have gone off above my head.
A picture can be a great inspiration. My very first published story, Unconditionally, was inspired by an image. One day, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and stopped on an amazing picture of a sad-looking man, sitting down, dressed only in a veil. Lots of questions popped up in my head. Who is he? Why is he sad? Why is he only wearing a bridal style veil and nothing else?
Questions, questions, questions are often the thing that inspires my stories. Whether it’s from a picture, a line in a song, or something I watch on TV. Sometimes it’s something I observe in real life. And I find it very interesting. Inspiration is an intriguing thing. Intriguing and weird and funny and awe-inspiring, and when it hits me, I grab it with both hands and don’t let go.
Where do you find your inspiration?
But whatever it is she’s referring to, it lessens Lo’s tension. He meets my gaze, and this time when he opens his mouth, words spill out. “I came out to my family. It’s ridiculous to wait until you’re thirty-four, but they’re very religious, and…I’ve heard them say things that led me to believe they wouldn’t accept me.”
My stomach drops. I can’t believe people are still bigoted assholes in this day and age. And it doesn’t help how many stories I’ve heard over the years; it never gets easier.
I lean closer. “How did they take it?”
Lo’s grimace says everything I need to know. “Not great. Not as horrible as I feared, but not good. They asked me to give them time and don’t come see them for a while. Despite that, I’m…relieved. Living a lie is fucking exhausting.”
I nod. “I know.”
He looks at me, taking all of me in. His gaze lingers at the pride tattoo on my left wrist and the rainbow bracelet on the other then finds its way up my body until he meets my eyes. Searching. Finding whatever answers he’s looking for if the barely noticeable nod is something to go by. “How did your family react? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“I don’t mind. It was a long time ago. I came out to my parents before going to university. Always the rebel, always at odds with them. They probably took it worse than your family. My mom never spoke to me again, but my dad reached out to me after she died. We’re trying to mend fences but it’s not easy.”
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“Thank you. But I’m fine. We weren’t close. I tested their limits at every turn, and they resented me for it. And anyway, a long time has passed since. I don’t know if I’ll ever trust my dad again, but it means something that he reached out, you know?”
His gaze on me is intense and I can feel it all the way in my stomach. “Yeah. But how do you forgive someone for rejecting you for who you are?”
His question makes me lean back in my chair. I’ve never thought about it. Just continued my life as I did before my father called me after twenty years of radio silence. As though I’m waiting for him to hurt me again. Never fully trusting his intentions or opening up to him.
“I don’t know,” I say.
Lo nods as if saying “yeah, that’s what I thought.” He has a point. But it’s also not who I want to be.
“But I can’t let that define me,” I say. “I refuse to be a tragic statistic. Maybe kids are unrealistic in thinking their parents will have their backs no matter what. It’s not like you become a great human being just because you created a new life; anyone with functioning equipment can do that. If you were shitty and bigoted before, becoming a parent won’t magically change that. Changing who you are take lots of work. So I guess I gave up hope on them and found my own family instead. Much like you’ve done.” I nod to Nina, who nods at my words.
Lo reaches out and tugs her ponytail again, and this time she lets him. “He’s right, Lo-Lo,” she says. Lo smiles at her, and nods. The look they share is private and I avert my eyes and let them have their moment.
“All right,” Nina says a few seconds later. “Let’s get this show on the road. I haven’t got all day.”
That breaks the intimacy of the moment and we all straighten our backs and go back to business. “Tell me what you’d like,” I say as I take out my portfolio for him to look through.
“I’m probably a walking cliché, but I’d like a rainbow. On my wrist.”
“Nah. Nothing cliché about it,” I say
When Lo is dragged into the tattoo shop by his bossy cousin, he steals everyone’s attention. The big man is afraid of needles but wants a tattoo to celebrate an important moment in his life. And he wants Amos to do it.
Tattoo artist Amos is mesmerized by Lo from the moment he lays eyes on him. He’s huge but kind, strong but gentle, and his freckles…God, his freckles.
They hit it off immediately, but Lo grows nervous as the big moment approaches. Will Lo flee from the tattoo machine before they have time to get to know each other? Before they have the time to see if the sparks will turn into something more?
M/M Contemporary / 6926 words
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Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bonafide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)
Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.
Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.
Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.
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