Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Finest Thing

It's hard to believe it's been almost 3 years since I became a published author.   "The Finest Thing was my very first book.   I am very proud of it.  It's available from Dreamspinner Press
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 I thought I'd give you an excerpt.

My main character, Aidan,  returns to his hometown in Connecticut for his friend's wedding.  This is right after gay marriage was declared legal in the state.    There are some unpleasant memories for Aidan and he was reluctant to go back home at first, but there was no way he'd miss seeing them tie the knot.   

Aidan Mason’s weekend started off in typical fashion. He got up, put on his bathrobe, and opened his front door to retrieve the morning paper that was lying on his stoop, and then went into the kitchen and grabbed a cup of coffee from his automatic coffeemaker; thank goodness for that automatic timer he’d set the night before. He couldn’t think of anything better than a fresh-brewed cup of coffee to get his day started.

As he sat at the kitchen table with his coffee, he flipped through the paper, stopping to read a few articles; more layoffs from giant corporations, the new president trying his best to change things for the better, and a few other random ones that caught his attention. After reading about the layoffs, Aidan was glad he was a pharmaceutical salesman, a job that was always in high demand and had plenty of perks; he did a lot of traveling and the money he made in commissions was enough to buy that new hybrid Mercedes he had sitting out in his driveway.

Today was a lazy day for him, and he didn’t have any set plans besides a shower, a shave, and then heading over to the gym to work out. After that he’d just play it by ear. He glanced at the calendar that hung on the refrigerator door, hardly believing it had been two years since Kyle had died.

They’d been best friends since high school and hadn’t realized their friendship was turning into a romantic relationship until their junior year in college. Right before graduation they bought a house together in California because Kyle always said “There’s nothing like living in sunny California.” So that summer, only weeks after graduating, the two left the cold winters of Connecticut and ended up in the warm climate of San Diego. But after Kyle’s death, Aidan found he couldn’t continue to live in the house they shared because of all the memories, so he sold their home in the small city and bought a place on the beach.

He was just about to go upstairs to jump in the shower when he heard the mail pushed through the mail slot and hit the floor. He walked over to the front door to retrieve the several pieces of junk mail, a copy of Men’s Health magazine, and the never-ending stream of bills that would come throughout the month. He threw all the mail onto the coffee table as he made his way back to the stairs, one envelope falling out from between the pages of the magazine. He picked it up, noticing that it was shaped like a large greeting card.

“That’s odd,” he said aloud. It wasn’t his birthday and the holidays had been, thankfully, over for two months. He read the return address. “Peter Bergman and Elliott Gates.” He went over to the antique desk he had in the office off the living room, picked up the letter opener, and slashed open the top of the envelope. He noticed the ornate burgundy lining on the inside, sat down on the chair behind the desk, and carefully pulled out the contents of the envelope. Inside was a card with gold writing that read “And the two shall become one,” and he quickly realized it was a wedding invitation. When he opened up the inside of the card, he read that he “and guest” were invited to go to Mystic, Connecticut, to watch Peter and Elliott get married.

Wow, they didn’t waste any time, he thought. Gay marriage had just become legal in Connecticut that past November.

He and the two men had met at a GLADD fund-raiser when he and Kyle were still living in Connecticut. The two couples had become instant friends and would often visit each other’s homes and go to barbecues together. The four of them even rented a vacation home in Maine one summer. He recalled it as one of the best times of his life. He missed them when he and Kyle moved to California, but they had gotten so busy with their new lives away from all the drama they left behind in Mystic that they never found the time to get together until Kyle’s funeral.

He read the invitation, noting that the wedding was being held the first weekend of May at an inn in Mystic. He pulled out a small RSVP envelope, debating whether he would go, and placed it all on the desk, torn between wanting to go back and watch his friends tie the knot and not wanting to see his family. They hadn’t welcomed the news that he was gay with open arms, nor were they thrilled that he and Kyle had grown from being best friends to lovers.

He decided he’d think about this stuff later and went upstairs to take a shower.

Later, he stood in his walk-in closet trying to decide what to wear and decided on a green track suit he’d recently bought from the sportswear store. He had taken up jogging with the hopes of running in a marathon but found that he never had the time to seriously train for it.

He grabbed his duffel bag and drove over to the gym. After doing a short warm-up, he started jogging on the indoor track. It wasn’t long before he heard a voice from behind him.

“Hey, Aidan, do you mind some company?” Martin Styles, one of the gym’s trainers who Aidan had recently become friends with, asked as he ran alongside him.

“Martin,” he said between breaths. The two ran side-by-side for a few more laps before they both decided to cool down, doing some stretching on the soft mats lying in the center of the track.

“So how have you been?” Aidan asked as he grabbed his duffel bag from beside the bench and pulled out a bottle of water and took a sip.

“Been good. My oldest son just told me his wife is expecting.”

“Son of a gun,” he said, clapping Martin on the back. “So, you’re going to be a grandpa. Congratulations.”

“Thanks, man. Carla’s so happy that she’s already talking about baby names, but that’s my wife for you.”

Aidan felt himself get caught up in his friend’s euphoria. He and Kyle had never discussed having kids, since they each led such busy lives that there just wasn’t time for a baby, but it didn’t mean he never thought about it.

“So, what’s going on with you?” Martin asked, drawing Aidan’s attention back from his musings.

“Oh, I’ve been keeping busy. I just got back from a trip to Texas, but I’ll be working locally for a little while.”

“Well, that will be a nice change of pace, waking up in your own bed, not living out of a suitcase.”

“Yeah, it sure will. I also got a wedding invitation in the mail this morning,” he told him.

“Oh yeah? Who from?”

“My friends Peter and Elliott from back in Mystic.”

“Wow. That’s great, man. I’d heard they legalized gay marriage in Connecticut. So are you planning on going?” They’d walked back to Martin’s office and were now standing in front of the closed door.

“I don’t know,” Aidan admitted.

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Martin asked, opening up the office door. He turned on the lights and then walked behind the desk and sat down, indicating to Aidan to sit in the chair opposite the desk. “Don’t you want to go?”

Aidan slowly sat down and took a deep breath before saying, “Of course I want to go. My friends are getting married, and I want to be there for them. It’s just… well, you know the history I have with my family. They weren’t happy with my ‘choice’ of lifestyle. I haven’t been back home in a couple of years.” He sighed. “I just don’t know if I want to deal with my family.”

“So just go to the wedding and skip seeing your family,” Martin suggested.

“Are you insane? I won’t be able to step foot in Mystic without everyone knowing about it. It’s a small town, Martin, one of those where everyone knows your business. Besides, I’ll have to face them eventually. I’m not going to hide like I’ve done something wrong. If anyone has a problem, it’s their issue, not mine.”

“I hear you, bud. Family can be a real bitch. I guess I was one of the lucky ones. My family and I have always been close.”

“Well, you haven’t had to tell them you’re gay and have them look at you like you have some communicable disease.” Aidan would never forget the day he came out to his family and each of their reactions. His mother started crying, and his father was in complete denial, changing the subject as quickly as possible. When he went to his brother’s apartment for dinner, Jay laughed and said, “No, you’re not. I would have known.”

When he finally brought Kyle to meet his family, it turned out to be a disaster. After telling them that Kyle was his partner, their reaction gave the two men no choice but to walk out. Kyle’s family, luckily, ended up being a lot more supportive and understanding, but after the way his own family treated his relationship with Kyle, Aidan felt he couldn’t stay in Connecticut any longer. Since they both always wanted to go out to the West Coast, they decided to make the move.

“Look, Aidan, I can’t tell you what to do. It’s your decision to make, but I wouldn’t let my family stop me from seeing my friends get married. Maybe they’ve changed. Maybe you can make amends with them. Maybe they regret what happened.”

“Then why has their only correspondence to me been one Christmas card from my mother two years ago? And even that didn’t say anything personal. They didn’t even call after I sent a letter to them telling them about what happened to Kyle. Sorry, but that hurt me more than their initial rejection of our relationship.”

Martin didn’t know what to say, so he offered the only thing he could, “I’m sure you’ll make the right decision.”

“Thanks for lending me an ear. I’ll let you get back to work. I have some things I have to do. It was nice seeing you again.” They both got up and embraced in a friendly hug.

“You’ll have to come over for dinner one night. Carla wants to see you too.”

“Okay. I’ll let you know when.”

After putting all the groceries away, Aidan grabbed a cold beer out of the fridge and sat down to watch a basketball game he had been looking forward to seeing. During one of the commercial breaks, he couldn’t help but notice the wedding invitation sitting on the end table. He reached over, grabbed the pile of papers, and looked back and forth between the invitation and the RSVP card.

There was a blank space for his name and a guest’s and two blank spaces that read “will be delighted to accept” and “regretfully cannot attend.” Just the idea of going back to Connecticut turned his stomach, so initially, he was going to check off the latter. Why would he want to put himself through that? But then he thought of all the good times he had with Peter and Elliott. He knew they wanted him there, and they had been so supportive after Kyle’s death, so he felt somewhat of an obligation to them.

He decided that Martin was right; he couldn’t keep hiding from his past. He picked up a pen and checked off the top box. He was going to go to the wedding and have a good time, his family be damned.

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