Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.
Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .
When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?
No, Izzy wasn’t drunk. She was happy. She’d needed this. She just felt…unbalanced. Not right. Something was niggling at her, but she couldn’t catch it, not without a bigger net.
Maybe it had been that stupid fight with Dex.
Maybe it had been the talk with Nick about her course.
Maybe she was just overthinking everything, which never ended well, and anyway, she never dwelled on the bad shit. Why was she even doing it now?
Maybe that was why, when she was taking a quick rest against an empty bit of wall, catching her breath, and saw a girl appear in front of her and beckon her for a dance with a tilt of her chin, Izzy went.
“What’s your name?” the girl shouted in her ear once they were bouncing up and down on the dance floor. Her breath was hot against Izzy’s skin and smelled beery.
“Izzy! Like Isabel, but, like. Shorter?”
The girl laughed and pulled back enough to catch Izzy’s eye. “I heard you the first time, love, just having a laugh.”
It should have annoyed her, and maybe it would have, had a guy done it. But somehow, it only made Izzy laugh. Flush and laugh, but luckily, she was probably pink all over from the dancing alone, so at least it wouldn’t be noticeable.
“What about you, then?” she shouted.
Izzy thought that if they hadn’t been shouting, Ruby’s voice would have been husky. It had that edge to it. She had that edge to her, anyway. She was shorter than Izzy, just enough to probably be of a height when Izzy wasn’t wearing heels. With heels on, Izzy brushed the other side of six foot, which she loved more than most people, probably. She’d once cried on her mum’s shoulder that she felt like an elephant compared to all the other girls (and, what was worse, boys) in her class, and her mum had petted her head, then said, “Isabel? Great Danes don’t produce chihuahuas.” It had been so absurd, it had actually comforted.
She liked the way she towered over Ruby, because it didn’t feel as if she should be able to. Ruby was sort of tall and lanky but had a presence about her; she felt bigger than her build. She, too, had tattoos. Seriously, was this a queer lady thing? She’d have to ask Nat later, because Nat had also already started on an arm sleeve, but Izzy had thought it was more of a Nat thing, not a lesbian thing. Ruby’s left arm was covered shoulder to midway through her forearm. Vines and sea monsters and things. It was cool. She had a lip piercing, an eyebrow piercing, and short black hair in a sort of chunky haircut where the fringe periodically fell over her darkly-lined eyes. In this light, it was impossible to tell what color they were, but regardless of anything, she was easily the coolest girl Izzy’d ever met.
Liz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee. All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.
She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.
She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.