I’m very happy to get the chance to present my upcoming book, Symbols, for the wonderful people at The Novel Approach.
This is an exclusive excerpt of the entire second chapter, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.
The Story So Far
Matt is a student of Central High, and the school’s punching bag. This morning he saw the new senior student, Shane, for the first time. Shane is a six-feet-eight bodybuilder, with a scar on his face and tattoos all over his body. Of course, Matt is worried about what Shane might do to him and retreated to the library to consider his situation.
You can also read the entire first chapter on the book’s page at Dreamspinner Press.
MATT, SITTING on the floor in one of the far end corners of the school’s library, looked up from his book and at his watch. If he waited another quarter of an hour, the lacrosse team would’ve left the locker room for training. He could safely walk in there and get his sports clothes for the laundry as he had promised his mom. After all, it paid to memorize the schedule of all the teams. Everything paid off that reduced the risk of running into Iain.
A shiver stirred Matt, as it always did when he thought or spoke that name. It started somewhere in his guts and blazed its trail through his body before it ended in his mind. A reaction he could depend on. He could also depend on getting another bruise or leaving a Matt-shaped dent in one of the locker doors when not staying clear of Iain. His hand found the place on his waist where the blackness of the last encounter with him was still fading.
Bruises heal, and high school ends. That is, if he lived to experience the latter. Avoiding Iain and his dim-witted baseball team minions was routine. Matt had learned to melt into the dark corners of the school, and no one knew its layout as well as he did, maybe even including the architect.
With Shane, a new variable had entered this equation, and he tilted it out of equilibrium. Fear had made Matt a kind of conservative, for change could always mean change for the worse. The status quo may not have been perfect, heck, it was the polar opposite of perfect, but Matt had control over it. At least the illusion of control. Shane was wild, and there was nothing in this world that could control him. A cold feeling crept through Matt’s body, so that even the library floor felt searing hot.
How long had he gaped at Shane? Half a minute? Even less? Yet Shane lingered in his thoughts, leaning against the wall of his mind with arms crossed over his mighty chest, and glared at him. How much had that short encounter kept him off-balance.
Another shiver ran down Matt’s back, accompanied by that strange feeling of being watched. He looked around. No one was here, of course. This was his space, right behind the shelves with the yearbooks of twenty years or more, which even the library guys avoided. In this corner, Matt could exist in perfect invisibility.
“Here you are.”
Matt jumped up from the floor while some of his inner organs preferred to stay on the linoleum. The book crashed down before him, making a dull thud much too loud for such a small thing. His vision narrowed down to a tunnel as he entered full flight mode, and his heart set a breakneck rhythm that divided time into neat intervals, each long enough for a single decision.
“Perhaps you should skip some of the coffees.” Florenca’s voice, a deep alto that put even some guys to shame, always rang with sarcasm. Now it consisted of nothing else. “Even our neurotic beast of a cat is more relaxed than you are.”
Matt’s heartbeat slowed down, and the discrete tidbits of time reconnected to a continuum. His body knew the procedure of switching between all DEFCON levels at a blink. “I bet your cat is worse at sneaking up on people than you are.” So much for perfect invisibility.
Florenca shrugged, and her already short neck disappeared. “Only one of my many Latina superpowers.” She bent down and picked up the book, looking at the cover. Her eyebrows met. “Romantic poetry of the eighteenth century?”
Matt snatched the small tome out of her hand. Close to her olive skin, his looked even paler, like a specter’s. He smoothed out a page that had suffered some wrinkles from the fall. “Thanks. It’s for English homework.” It wasn’t, but telling her that he read it for fun would start another tirade of taunts and teasing. The other kids already gave him enough of that.
“Speaking of homework, I just didn’t get that function stuff in calc.”
Florenca was one of the few students who dared to talk to him in public. Being seen with him was detrimental to one’s health, something she didn’t give a shit about. To be frank, she only approached him when she needed some more “Matt-magic”—his special way of explaining things. But because she had problems with every subject, their meetings had turned into a daily thing. Another constant in Matt’s life.
“Okay. Let’s find a table, and I’ll see what I can do for you.”
MATT PUT down his pen. “And that’s all you have to know about derivatives.” Florenca scribbled down something on her legal pad. “That wasn’t that difficult.”
It never was, for she was a clever girl. If she took it upon herself to reread her notes, she wouldn’t have any problems at all, though Matt wouldn’t tell her that. First, her laziness gave him at least a minimum of a social life, and second, her Latina superpowers included a temperament that made a hydrogen bomb look like fireworks. Last semester she had poured Jell-O over Elaine’s shirt because the cheerleader had called her Florence by mistake. “Glad I could help.”
She looked up from her notepad and rolled the pencil between her fingers, leaving a gray crisscross pattern on the sheet. “Mi madre would like to meet the guy who gets at least some pearls of wisdom into her daughter.” The corners of her mouth twitched, and she averted her gaze to the table. “We’re having a small fiesta on Saturday. Only close family. She asked whether you’d like to come over. I don’t care, but she’s rather stubborn about it.”
Matt didn’t want that. Close family would mean about fifty people minimum, including a dozen of Florenca’s cousins. About forty-nine people more than he felt comfortable with. Moreover, he didn’t mix well with guys his own age. He tended to annoy them. Spending four hours locked up in a wardrobe at Iain’s birthday party some ten years ago and his entire school life served as proof. It was only on weekends that he didn’t have to watch his back constantly. That time was holy, not to be sacrificed for anything. Matt’s breathing accelerated. “My parents have planned something else this Saturday. Visiting relatives, I think.” A good lie should have enough details to be plausible and be vague enough to be bent as needed. This mess didn’t live up to any of these standards. “I’m sorry.” She would look through that lame excuse for a false smile at a single glance.
She shrugged. Her head still hanging low, Matt couldn’t read her face. “As I told you, I don’t care,” she said.
Florenca shoved her notes into her bag with an abrupt movement, making Matt flinch again. She leaped up from her chair and bolted toward the exit of the library. Without turning back, she uttered, “See you.”
Matt looked after her. Yes, he had a knack for annoying people, but she would come back. She always did. She had to.
He wasn’t selfish because he needed time for himself, was he? Especially if he spent at least an hour a day casting his Matt-magic for her. That argument, as convincing as it sounded, didn’t impress the tiny voice harrumphing inside his head. Matt breathed in with his eyes closed, held the air for some moments, and let it go with a sigh. He opened his eyes again. No matter what, he had to hurry to get his laundry if he wanted to be out of the locker room before the lacrosse team returned.
AVOIDING MAKING any noise, Matt closed his locker. He didn’t dare to take the time to fold his clothes, for the lacrosse team would be returning any minute now, so he just stuffed them into his backpack. If he took the north exit, there was less chance he’d run into one of the players. Ironically, the guys playing the most brutal game at Central High had mostly left him alone. Beating other guys with a stick and running over them proved how manly they were without having to pick on him. Yet he didn’t want to risk provoking them just by being around and breathing.
The sound of steps echoed through the room, perhaps two or three locker aisles away. Time condensed again. Matt’s brain switched to full-power mode. Given the noise, it was a single person. Whoever was coming didn’t know he was there. If he stayed calm and concentrated, planned his steps, kept his focus, he could get out of this trap without being caught.
This mess was Florenca’s fault. He would’ve been gone in time if it hadn’t been for her. Now he had to handle this problem alone. As always.
Matt slid one of the straps of his bag over his shoulder and pressed his body against the lockers. Like a snake, he slithered along the maroon-colored metal doors.
He paused. Listened. Silence. Maybe it was a false alarm?
Matt turned his head to the other side and glanced down the alley of lockers. He tilted his head, raised his ear, and waited for a sound—a sign, anything—but nothing happened. White stars burst before his eyes because he’d been holding his breath. It wouldn’t help him if he passed out. If he just let the air flow into him, the other guy wouldn’t notice.
He listened again, but the rushing of his blood droned in his ears and drowned out any other sound. Matt had to take the risk. One foot after the other, he tiptoed along the lockers. He had to cross two junctions where he had to leave his cover. He approached the first one and stopped. Still no sign of the other person.
Had paranoia finally fried his brain and he was hallucinating? On the other hand, as long as he could ask himself that question, probably not.
He peeked around the corner—just an empty corridor. As fast as he was able to move without making a noise, he crossed the opening.
His temples throbbed with each step as he closed in toward the next junction. He had already come this far, and he had to hold on just a little more. Matt paused again, craning his neck to look down the aisle—no one. He turned back, took another breath, and slow-dashed across the opening.
Something massive stopped him cold, and the force of the crash knocked him back. Up and down didn’t make any sense before the floor stopped Matt’s fall. This should have hurt, but the clothes in his bag had dampened the impact.
What had happened?
As if Matt didn’t know. The more appropriate questions were “Who had happened?” and “How much had Matt pissed off that who?”
He forced his eyes open, and it took them some seconds to focus. Enough time for his body to release all adrenaline reserves it had left. The awareness of every single blood cell scraping along his veins hit him. His skin glowed, and he shivered at the same time. Could goose bumps form on the inside of one’s skin? His brain shifted up another gear.
Would begging for mercy do any good? Could he buy his way out? How much money did he have in his wallet? When would the lacrosse team come back? Would they help him? Or cheer on the other guy?
The blurred mass before Matt’s eyes shaped into a person, and all his questions turned moot.
About the Book
Violence is hard to escape because of the scars it leaves—on the body, the mind, and the heart.
Small, skinny, and timid, Matt is the school’s punching bag. He suffers in silence and holds no hope anyone will come to his aid. The last thing on his mind is finding someone special. He’s sure it’s impossible, so why bother trying?
Shane is no stranger to pain. At his old school, he broke a football player’s arms for tormenting his friend, and with his size and multiple tattoos, he looks every bit the thug everyone—Matt included—assumes he is.
Building trust isn’t easy, but a sweet yet passionate romance slowly unfolds. Their road isn’t without bumps, but Matt and Shane navigate them together, finding happiness and security in each other—until another act of violence and its aftermath threatens to tear their lives—and their love—apart once and for all. But like the symbols etched into Shane’s skin, some things are made to last.
About the Author
Mario Kai Lipinski lives in Herne, Germany.
He is a spare-time author, and his evil day job, teaching mathematics at university level, isn’t that evil after all. Granted, on some days he wants to strangle his students, but it only takes a coffee or two and he remembers how much he loves them. He loves nerdy science stuff too. Does it show in his books? Of course it does.
English is not his native language, and he frequently gets asked why he writes in English. The answer has two parts. Firstly, he has slightly masochistic tendencies. Secondly, most books he reads are in English. So it feels only natural to write in this language too. English is beautiful—until it isn’t. Never, absolutely never, get him started on comma rules.
One reader described his books as “sexually explicit Disney movies.” That hits the nail on the head. Mario is into romance with a capital R and loves his cheesy. He is so good at channeling his inner teenager that sometimes he doubts he even has an inner adult.