QK AGENT ROUND: 5. Ticket to Ride, YA Contemporary

Entry Nickname: Ticket to Ride
Word count: 78K
Genre: YA contemporary
Seventeen-year-old Jack wants to escape his narrow-minded Appalachian hometown more than anything. His family’s welfare checks pay for little more than food on the table, his mom’s pastor won’t stop lecturing him about the sinfulness of lust, and the rumors about his sexuality floating around school make him feel unsafe at every turn. The only thing worth looking forward to is the full-ride scholarship with his name on it—his one-way ticket to a better life.
But his plans hadn’t involved falling for Casey, the boy from the trailer park down the road who understands him in ways no one else in their town can. With the countdown to college ticking away, there’s only a limited amount of time to make the most out of their relationship. And unfortunately for Jack, using his scholarship means leaving Casey behind.
Then, right before college starts, his mother tries to commit suicide, blaming her attempt on her son’s sexual orientation. Overwhelmed with guilt, Jack finds his mental state heading in the same direction as his mom’s. It doesn’t help that he hasn’t slept since she kicked him out of her room at the psychiatric clinic, or that Casey hasn’t returned any of his calls since the incident. Now, Jack must learn to balance the life he’s been dealt and the life he wants before he can patch up the situation with his mom and win back the guy he loves.
First 250:
Jack snapped his head around the instant he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
What was different? Had the shower curtain moved? He swiped a hand over his face to clear away the soapy water, then jerked his attention to each corner of the shower stall. Nothing, nothing, and nothing. The only thing within reach was his tiny bottle of shampoo.
Jack turned to the bar above the curtain and saw it: Nothing. No clothes hanging over it, no towel, even though they’d been there just moments before.
He rotated the lever until the water stopped flowing. Surely this couldn’t be happening. His towel must’ve fallen off the curtain rod. His clothes, too. Because there was no way someone had taken them. Right?
Jack placed a hand on the shower curtain, ready to pull it back. Then he noticed the real source of the problem: the noise level in the locker room also fell into the “nothing” category. He heard no talking, no footsteps, no lockers slamming. Had he lost track of time? Had he been so focused on his thoughts—what was he thinking about, again?—that he’d missed when the entire gym class left?
With a turn of his wrist, he peeled back the edge of the shower curtain. His gaze landed on the bare floor, the empty bench, and the vacated shower stalls. The only sound prickling his ears was his own breathing.

Everyone was gone. And they’d taken his clothes on their way out.

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