Publication date: February 14th 2016
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
“We’re just deviants, that’s all. You, me, Taka. We’re deliciously, wonderfully deviant.”
Seventeen-year-old Miho has spent years struggling to deal with the aftermath of a tragic accident. Between the nightmares, PTSD, depression, and her parents’ abandonment, the burden of being the sole survivor has her near her breaking point. The darkness whispers to her, promises of release from the pain, from being a burden, if she is willing to give up.
While the girls love classmate Shinji’s blond hair and blue eyes, to his father it’s all the proof he needs that his wife was unfaithful. Unwanted and unloved, Shinji is used to his mother’s hatred, his brother’s indifference, and his father’s violence. Male or female, he doesn’t care; his regular string of sexual partners helps him temporarily forget that he will soon have to leave the only person he loves, if he can survive that long.
As the first-born son, Shinji’s best friend Taka has known from birth that his future was not his own. He’ll go to the right schools, get the right grades, take over the family business, and produce a perfect heir with a perfect wife, just as his father dictates. Taka’s wants and desires are irrelevant; he can’t change his fate nor escape it, any more than he can protect the only person who keeps him sane.
Drawn to one another like moths to a flame, the three find themselves torn between what society deems acceptable and a happiness they never dreamed existed.
**On sale for $2.99 until April 1st only!**
Are you a reviewer?
You can request a review copy of Deviations here!
You can request a review copy of Deviations here!
Excerpt: “Shinji: Baby Steps” (Chapter 9; 891 words)
Up ahead I spotted Miho, standing along my usual route near where we’d met before. Her gaze was aimed at the ground in front of her, so she hadn’t noticed me yet. Instead, she stood flexing her hands so they grabbed and released a small handful of her long skirt. Had she been worried about our being out and decided to come this way on purpose? It made me happy to think so.
“Miho-chan!” I said in a cheerful tone. She jumped a little as she looked up at me. Her shoulders slumped when I got closer, and I could hear her breathing out a sigh. A sigh of relief?
“Shinji-kun. Good morning.” Most of her smiles were small, half-smiles, as if she’d forgotten how to really smile. Then again, she probably had. I was pretty sure she didn’t have anyone like Taka to help her remember being happy.
“Good morning.” Still smiling brightly at her, I took her hand in mine and pulled her into step beside me. “That book on Aokigahara was awesome! It had me guessing until the very end how it would turn out.”
“Oh, that’s good. Thank you.” She glanced at our joined hands a moment and her face pulled into a confused expression, then a nervous one, before smoothing back out as she gave a small shrug. It was hard not to laugh, and better still she hadn’t pulled her hand away. We’d gone a block with her giving me quick glances every few steps before she said anything else. “So…Shinji-kun…um…you’re okay, right?”
I debated lying and saying we’d just played hooky. But the thought of it bothered me. She’d been honest enough about her situation, even if we hadn’t shared details. So I nodded and squeezed her hand. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
That earned me another half-smile and a whispered “I’m glad.”
Wanting her to relax more and to chase away the morose air, I started swinging our arms between us like an elementary school kid. On the second upswing, her sleeve pulled back a bit from the motion. On the third, I again caught a glimpse of a thin white line across her wrist.
“Hey, do you like ice cream?”
She looked startled again. It was fun keeping her off her feet. “Yeah…I mean, who doesn’t?”
“No one worth knowing, at least not to me,” I replied with a laugh. “We found a new ice cream stand yesterday. It’s right near Hakodate Park. They were closed when we saw it, but they’re open in the afternoons after school. Wanna go with us to get some?”
“I…um…” She looked nervous again. “I work in the library after school.”
“We can wait. It’s still open when you get out. Come on, it’s ice cream!” I said in a sing-song voice as I darted in front of her with a big smile, my overgrown, happy-go-lucky kid persona. “My treat even! Please!”
My drawing out the word made her smile again, maybe even slightly more than half that time. “If you really want me to…I do like good ice cream.”
“Awesome! It will be so much fun, you’ll see!” I moved back beside her, making sure to reclaim her hand. “Oh, there’s Taka!”
I waved at him cheerfully too. He shook his head with a bemused expression before falling in step beside Miho, sandwiching her between us. “Morning.”
“Morning.” Her reply was soft again.
“Hey, Taka, we’re treating Miho to some ice cream from that place this afternoon, okay?”
Taka shook his head. “It’s Thursday, silly. I have work after school.”
“Oh, yeah, I got my days mixed up.” My smile fell. And after I’d gotten her to agree and everything.
“Mind if we take you tomorrow instead? Most Fridays I’m free,” Taka asked while looking at Miho.
She looked up at him as if surprised. From what I’d picked up from her so far, I bet she thought Taka had used work as an excuse not to spend time with her. “Tomorrow? Um, yeah, that’s fine too.”
“Cool, it’s a deal then.”
I smiled at her and swung our hands again, making sure to keep the arc small enough so her sleeve wouldn’t come up. She probably hadn’t realized I’d seen it, and I doubted she’d want Taka to see, not yet. We had a way to go before we could talk about all that.
We walked all the way to class together and chatted a little before the bell rang. Well, really, Taka and I chatted while Miho trudged along between us, occasionally looking at us both as if trying to figure out why we’d stayed with her. At lunch, we ate together, though she again didn’t contribute much to the conversation. Still, I was pretty sure she’d relaxed a little more.
I debated going to the library after school to visit with her, but I figured I’d pushed her enough with holding her hand so much. I didn’t want to chase her off early. There were too many things I wanted to know. Like why she wore long sleeves and long skirts. Why she’d said I’d get sick if I’d seen her naked. And most of all, I wanted to talk to her about that darkness, the darkness inside her that mirrored my own. The darkness that had led her to slit her own wrist.
Excerpt: “Miho: Their Hideout” (Chapter 10; 926 words)
After the shoe incident, Suzaki and her pack had gone quiet again. Even though I’d walked to school with the boys yesterday and even eaten lunch with them. I should have known it was just a lead-up to something bigger. At lunch, both boys excused themselves, saying they had things to do. They’d told me not to wait for them to eat since they might be gone all period.
So I ate, but I didn’t stay in the class. Instead, I’d foolishly come down to the courtyard by myself to eat. I’d only just gotten started when they came.
“You really are a stupid bitch, aren’t you?” Suzaki loomed over me with her hands on her hips, her eyebrows pulled so close together they almost formed a unibrow. “What part of stay away from Taka-kun and Shinji-kun did you not understand?”
Nearby stood three of the girls from her “cliché,” her attempt at giving the spoiled girls who followed behind her a grandiose-sounding name. I never could figure out why they let her push them around. I mean she called me stupid while calling them that silly name? At least it gave me a laugh. She probably meant clique, but I wasn’t about to tell her that.
I knew the right thing, the smart thing would have been to apologize, then grovel a bit, promise not to do it again, and let her yell at me awhile. Too bad I’d stopped being smart during all those months stuck in the hospital.
I looked at her with a well-practiced sneer. “Well, why don’t you try telling them to stay away from me? Seriously, they are the ones bothering me.”
“Wha…?” Her moment of shock faded, her face twisting into an increasingly ugly caricature of itself as her rage bubbled up. She snatched my bento box out of my hands, dumping my omurice and salad on top of my head. The other girls laughed as my bento box fell to the ground. “Get over yourself. They’d celebrate with everyone else if you’d just jump off the roof or something.”
“Jealous bitch.” I didn’t even mutter it. It was as if the dark wisps had taken over my mouth, making sure I goaded her, pushed her into giving me the punishment I deserved for my sins. Not for whatever bullshit reasons she had, no, for the real sins. All nine of them…
With a growl, she slapped me hard enough to send me falling backwards in the grass. Before I could recover, she was on top of me, slapping my face again. “What did you call me? You fucking worthless piece of trash! I’m sick of you and your ugly, dopey face! You fucking freak!”
Her voice grew louder as she alternated between slapping me and pulling me up by the shirt so she could push me back down again. The buttons on my school blouse popped, exposing my bra. Somehow, at least, it stayed on enough that she couldn’t see them. If she ever found out about those…
She pulled me up again, this time by my bra. Her nails dug into the skin of my chest before she viciously shoved me back down again. The soft grass cushioned the blow, probably saving me from a concussion.
“Suzaki, someone’s coming!” one of the girls whispered in warning.
After climbing off, Suzaki kicked out at me, but her aim was off and it ended up being a glancing blow. With a frustrated sound, she joined the other three and ran off towards the main campus.
Footsteps approached from the narrow alley behind us, which I usually used to get here. I pulled my shirt closed and sat up. There wasn’t enough time for me to escape even if I could jump up and run at that moment. A second later, the very two people whose newfound presence had led to the attack came into view.
As they walked towards me, both wore almost placid expressions, as if they had no idea what they interrupted. Taka squatted down in front of me, making a tsking sound. “Why didn’t you fight back? At least knee her or something. If you’re gonna run your mouth like that, you should kick some ass instead of just lying there and taking it.”
“They’d just come back worse the next time, so why bother?” I said with a shrug.
“Then why did you bait her?” he countered with a raised eyebrow. I stood up, dusting off my skirt as best I could while keeping the shirt closed.
“Who knows?” I lied. “She was just pissing me off.”
The bell rang, signaling the end of lunch, not that I could go back to class like this.
“So where you gonna go?” Taka asked as if reading my thoughts.
“Home, I guess. They probably already trashed my gym clothes.”
The two looked at each other. Shinji gave a small nod. Taka glanced back at me then looked at Shinji again.
“Come on,” Taka said as he led the way back towards the alley. “We planned to cut anyway, and we know someplace closer you can get cleaned up.”
I don’t know why I followed them. It could have all been part of some elaborate scheme, some hoax set up by Suzaki. Then again, she wasn’t that smart.Still, Taka was a bit of a mystery to me, an unknown. I didn’t pick up any bad vibes from him, though, and part of me didn’t care. If they were going to hurt me, so what? I deserved it.
Excerpt: “Taka: Useless Defender” (Chapter 7; 630 words)
As soon as I saw Shinji walking towards me, I knew it had happened again. The long-sleeved shirt, the stiff gait, the subtle winces as he walked. I grabbed his hand, leading him towards the mountain. He didn’t complain. He knew I knew. It was all part of the fucked-up game we played, just like me trying to act normal when I was raging inside.
“No girl today?”
“Nope. I didn’t see her where I met her yesterday. She said it wasn’t her usual way, so she probably went back to her routine.”
“Were you hoping she’d be there?”
“Maybe…” he said, his voice almost wistful before he shook his head. “Well, maybe not today. We wouldn’t have been able to talk much.”
“You have some strange tastes in girls, you know? She’s so plain and boring. Not much of a challenge at all.”
“You think so?” Shinji laughed softly as we entered the forest. “Miho-chan isn’t boring at all. She’s fascinating.”
I nearly stumbled on a tree limb as I stared at him in disbelief. “I thought you didn’t want to do her?”
“I don’t. Well, I do, in a general ‘she’s a girl and cute’ sort of way, but that’s not what makes her interesting.” He stopped as we reached our refuge. Once we were inside, I locked the door behind us, just like always. Didn’t want any interlopers stumbling on our place.
We’d found the cabin when we were kids. From the first, we considered it ours. Over the years, we fixed it up into a perfect hideaway for two boys needing time to themselves. The shiny padlock we’d installed helped keep anyone who might somehow find it out when we weren’t there.
This was a sacrosanct place—ours and ours alone. We never brought any of our girls here, or anyone else. Only those in our innermost circle were allowed, a circle comprised of just us two.
“Where?” I asked as we moved into the main area.
“Mostly my back.”
“Get your shirt off and go lie down.” While he complied, I retrieved some cold compresses from our small fridge and a tube of arnica cream from the first aid kit. After so many years of patching up his father’s handiwork, I suspected I had one of the most well-stocked kits in the world. Burns, cuts, bruises. You name it, I could fix it. When I was younger, before realizing I had no say in the matter, I considered becoming a doctor so I’d be able to help him even better.
The angry red welts marking his back stirred a familiar mix of rage and sadness. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself. It wouldn’t do him any good, and there was no place I could direct it. But pushing aside the anger left the other, the pain of seeing his beautiful skin marred. By some miracle, his father hadn’t left any permanent scars so far, but I hated every bruise, every cut. In my mind I could see them all, layered on Shinji’s skin, barely a patch left that bastard hadn’t touched.
Kneeling next to him, I touched him as lightly as I could as I smoothed on the cream. At least most of the welts were close together, making it easier to fit the compresses on them. When I was done, I stretched out on the bed beside him.Shinji turned his head so he could look at me. I wanted to turn away, unable to bear how sweetly he was looking at me when I was so completely useless. Instead I reached up and stroked his cheek, swallowing hard to bite back a sudden urge to cry. He covered my hand with his own, letting the truth lie between us unsaid.
Anma Natsu is a Texas-based writer of stories that explore love in its various forms, including how it can be both good and bad parts of our lives, sometimes at the same time. Her not quite conventional stories span a range of genres but rarely follow the standard fare.
When she isn't writing, writing, voraciously reading manga and light novels, playing too many video games, and hosting her own podcast, Anma works as a web developer and steals all the free time she can to snuggle with her sweetie and her pets.
You can find her online at AnmaNatsu.com. She's also active on Facebook, Google+, and Goodreads.
Find out about Anma's upcoming works and get exclusive content by signing up for her mailing list at http://anmanatsu.com/subscribe
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway