Best friends Aubrey and Joel have spent most of sixth grade planning to run away. It’s just a game, Aubrey figures—a distraction from Joel’s bullies and Aubrey’s gnawing feeling that Aubrey might not be the gender everyone assumes. But when Joel disappears for real, Aubrey treks after him on a journey that might push Aubrey to finally acknowledge what they've been scared of: they’re nonbinary.
Sometime in the last two days, ever since Joel Gallagher disappeared, I became a liar. I didn’t mean to turn that way. I didn’t even realize I was lying as I did it—not at first, anyway. Mine were mostly lies of omission. I lied by not saying things. Those kinds of lies feel like a different category, if you ask me. They feel like something you just let happen instead of something you actively do.
But Father Jacob says lies of omission are still lies. They count with God just the same. Which is too bad, I guess, because the more I think about it, the more sure I am that even before Joel disappeared—even before any of this—I’ve been lying by omission all over the place.
It’s Monday morning now. Joel disappeared from the woods behind my house sometime late Friday night, or maybe early Saturday morning. Disappeared isn’t the right word, but no one in town can come up with a better one. Disappeared sounds like a magic trick. It sounds like Joel just up and vanished, poof, from a patch of woods in the middle of Kentucky. There one minute, gone the next, like a miracle but not the good kind.
“He can’t have just disappeared,” everyone in town keeps saying. But no one can figure out what actually happened to him, either.
Except me, I guess. I have a pretty good idea.