Authors: Mel Bossa
Quiet and imaginative, Derek O'Reilly spends a lot of time watching a movie in his head. His fiancé Nathan, aka “Mr. Alpha,” wonders why Derek hasn't taken any interest in their wedding planning. Aunt Fran—his spiritual guru—would like to know when her guilt-tripping nephew became some kind of kept boy. One evening, she drops Derek's childhood journal on his lap, forcing him to remember the name he's been trying to forget since he was eleven years old. Nicolai Lund.
Nick was Derek's neighbor—and first love.
Weeks before Derek's engagement party, a chance meeting with Nick catapults Derek into the past. Nick could flood Derek’s stale existence like a blond tidal wave, but Nick isn't that sixteen-year-old rebel anymore. He's a man hardened by invisible scars.
As Derek reads through his diary, Nick and Derek’s powerful relationship sways between past and present, sweeping over their emotional landscape, revealing what they were, still are, and might yet be to each other.
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© 2011 By Mel Bossa. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-515-4
This Electronic Book is published by
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 249
Valley Falls, New York 12185
First Edition: April 2011
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Editors: Greg Herren and Stacia Seaman
Production Design: Stacia Seaman
Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])
Thank you to Radclyffe for her guidance in the early stages of the manuscript. Special thanks to my editor Greg Herren for his keen eye and spot-on advice. And a very resounding thank you to the Bookish Butch for being such a great critique partner…and friend.
Aunt Fran dropped by today.
She wanted to see the new condo. Her face had some color to it this afternoon.
She set her thin fingers on my cheeks and kissed my mouth. She still smokes those rotten cigarettes, even with this terrible prognosis hanging over her head. She thinks I don’t smell it on her breath, but mint or not, I do.
“Very neutral, Derek.” There was a hint of dissatisfaction in her raspy voice. “
I helped her slip her coat off.
“A little bland to my taste.” She ran her finger along the mantel and cocked her head, scanning the premises with her sharp, keen eyes. Though the cancer has eaten half her weight away, she still carries the same energy, and because of her frail build, that energy seems to have expanded. “This is new.”
Of course it is. Everything in the condo is brand-new.
From the rugs to the blinds.
“Looks expensive too.” Her eyes shrank a little.
Yes, expensive too. Very. She has no idea.
And as a matter of fact, neither do I.
“The lighting is nice. Very crisp. Soothing.”
I suppose. I haven’t really had time to pay attention to the lighting. I do work eighty hours a week.
“Can I see the bedroom?”
I bowed, pointing to the far end of the three-bedroom condo.
She walked slowly, as one walks through a museum, stopping often to observe and comment.
White blinds. White oak bedroom set consisting of two nightstands, a six-drawer dresser, a commode, and a corner desk. The white room is punctuated with black and red accessories. A large painting of oriental birds hangs over the four-post bed.
They may be oriental, I’m not sure.
“And you and Nathan have sex in here?”
I flicked the light off. “Aunt Fran, you promised.”
She gave a quick nod and turned on her heels.
She went straight to the kitchen.
Stainless steel appliances. Marble counters. Bay window overlooking a third-floor terrace.
Aunt Fran plucked the cupboards open, and pulled a bag of dried Porcini mushrooms off the shelf. “Thought you hated mushrooms.”
I held her ardent green gaze. “It’s an acquired taste.”
Her eyes were two slits of suspicion. “I see.” She set the bag down. “Let’s have a glass of rouge.”
She isn’t supposed to drink, but what’s chemotherapy to Aunt Fran?
I uncorked a bottle of Jacob’s Creek. “How’s Dimitri?”
She ran her painted fingernail along the rim of the glass and sighed. Very theatrical of her. “Still trying to find himself. I’ve cut him loose.”
A soft chuckle escaped my lips.
Dimitri is Aunt Fran’s new boy toy.
“I thought Nathan would be here.” She had already finished her glass and was pouring herself another. “Or maybe I misunderstood. Those filthy drugs they’ve been pumping me with have me just about as clear-headed as Keith Richards.”
“Oh please, don’t get all mushy on me.” She slapped my hand. “Why is it that every time I see you, you look more beautiful? Look at you. You’re candy for your old auntie’s eyes.”
Aunt Fran always managed to fluster me. I think she enjoys it.
She winked. “So where is Mr. Alpha anyways?”
“Why do you insist on calling him that?”
“Let’s see. Because Nathan is domineering, arrogant, completely self-absorbed—”
“He’s also consistently charming, immensely driven, quick-witted, and passionate.”
“And what about his—” She cleared her throat and leaned in. “Performance in the sack?”
“Aren’t you dying to know?”
She exploded into a fit of laughter, but soon, the laughter turned into a coughing spree that had her wheezing and struggling for the next breath.
I clutched the counter and watched helplessly, waiting for it to subside.
Her eyes filled. Her fingers turned white from the effort. Slowly, the air settled into her dying lungs and she cracked a sardonic smile. “That one wasn’t too bad, now was it?” She left her stool and went to fetch her bag. “I’ve got something for you, hon.”
As she pulled a black binder out of her large printed purse, my cell phone buzzed on the counter.
On the other end of the line, Nathan’s voice was full of sleep. “Hey, babe.”
I glanced down at my watch. Montreal. Eight p.m.
One a.m. London time.
“Hello, stranger,” I said discreetly. “Can’t sleep?”
Aunt Fran refilled her glass before stepping out on the terrace. She huddled in the far corner, hunched over like a thief. Obviously smoking.
“How was your day off?” There was tension in Nathan’s voice.
He’d been pushing it lately, but there’s no sense in trying to slow him down. The man is a machine.
“Nice. I got ahead on a few things.”
“Derek O’Reilly. Tell me you haven’t been working on your only—”
“Nathan Ross, if you intend on lecturing me about over-achievement, I suggest you rethink your—”
“All right.” A smile seeped into his smooth voice. “But promise me you’re going to take it easy tonight. Get yourself a movie, or read one of your dreadful books.”
“I will promise no such thing. Now go to sleep.”
“Not until you tell me you love me and miss me.”
Aunt Fran gently inched the patio door open, as if a smooth entrance would absolve her of all guilt.
“Der? You there?” asked Nathan.
“Yes, Nate. Consider yourself loved and missed. Good night.”
An uneasy silence filled the line.
“Derek, why don’t you ever say it?”
Aunt Fran’s eyes roamed over me as if she had heard Nathan’s question.
I pressed the phone closer to my ear. “My auntie is here—”
“That old bat? She better not be smoking in our—”
“Nate. I have to go, call me in the morning, okay? Good night, sleep tight.”
I flipped the phone shut.
Aunt Fran pushed the black binder my way. “Found this in the old Verdun apartment. I was there today, cleaning it up a little. New tenants are moving in in three weeks.”
I glanced down at the binder. “What is it?”
Her eyes danced on my face. “Open it.”
I stared at her a little and flipped the cover back.
My heart leaped.
Memories rushed through me in one big jolt of past tense.
My dearest Bump.
I had forgotten about you.
Seventeen years have passed since I last wrote to you.
“I have to tell you, Derek, I was dying of curiosity, and I did read a few pages. Hope you don’t hold it against me?”
My eyes were still glued to the page.
“You have a gift for storytelling.” Aunt Fran’s voice grew stronger. “Hon? You listening? I think you should pick that habit up again. Would do you some good.”
That long winter of 1987.
Seems like a million years ago.
I set my fingers on the pages written by a skinny redheaded boy who had struggled to make sense of the world around him.
And that beautiful name, the one I had managed to push into the deepest corners of my soul, now, like a forgotten prayer, an ancient chant, echoed through my mind.
“Wonder what happened to them all,” Aunt Fran murmured, her gaze searching the horizon.
I tore my eyes away from the meticulous handwriting of a boy I don’t know anymore.
I didn’t know it was possible to be brand-new, then dead on the same day.
You know, I waited a long time for you. I had marked August second with a red
. Instead, you came the day before yesterday. You came, but never home. I’m not really supposed to talk about it though.
Dad said, “Derek. You better be quiet when Mom gets home, and you don’t say his name. Not one time.”
I don’t think I’m supposed to write about you either, so I’ll just call you “Bump.” That’s what Mom used to call you when she found out you were coming. I had an asthma attack that morning. I sucked on my medicine and let her comb my hair. “Don’t get so tight, Red,” she said. “Your little brother’s gonna like soccer. Your dad won’t mind so much about all your reading anymore.”
I was looking forward to that.
Now, not only are you not going to play soccer with Dad, you’re not even going to be alive.
Since she came home, Mom’s eyes are like Grandma’s dish soap and our apartment is like an empty coconut. Dad is the only one allowed in the bedroom.
I’m not allowed past the bathroom.
That’s the second to last door before hers.
After dinner, I have to yank some weeds, but when I’m done, Boone says he has a surprise for me.
Boone is my best friend. He’s a Lund kid. The Lunds are our neighbors. We share the same yard. Their parents are from Norway, but the kids are from here. Born in Verdun, same as me. All three of them. Boone is the middle one. He’s been in my class since kindergarten.
Their father is a locksmith, that means he opens doors when you need a door opened.
an electrician for a company called mothahumpin-asslicor, but he was laid off last fall. That’s probably why he was upset when Mom said you were coming.
They fought about you until June.
You were supposed to come in August, but you came in July. Like me.
July is a good month to have your birthday. You can have a pool party. If you have a pool. We don’t have a pool, but we have a sprinkler. It belongs to the Lunds, and they let us use it sometimes.
It rained on my birthday, so we didn’t get to use it.
Mom cut all her hair off yesterday.
She left some on top, but not much in the back. I noticed how small her face is. Or maybe her eyes are bigger than I thought. Dad doesn’t like it. I can tell because he keeps staring at her ears. They stick out a little.
Like an elf I guess.
I didn’t tell you about Boone’s surprise.
It wasn’t much. Just a dirty magazine he stole from his cousin. He made such a fuss over it. I thought he was going to reveal something important to me. Thought maybe he’d found a treasure map, but it was only a bunch of jiggly boobies.
He asked me to meet him by the river, behind the auditorium. “O’Reilly, you’re not gonna believe this.”
I waited for him for ten whole minutes.
Boone shot out of nowhere, riding his BMX down the steep hill like he was made out of rubber. He almost rammed into me.
“Check this out,” he whispered, pulling a sticker album out of his backpack. “But you can’t have it. Not even for a day. I gotta bring it back before my cousin finds out it’s missing.”
“What is it?” My heart thundered with sweet anticipation.
His blue gaze scoured the bank. “It’s naked girls. All kinds.”
Boone is obsessed with girls. In kindergarten, he’d have pockets full of bubble gum and coax the girls into showing him their privates. He thinks I don’t know that, but I used to watch him do it. It’s funny, none of the girls ever asked for the gum afterward.
I ended up chewing a lot of gum that year.
“Lene wants to kiss you on the mouth on Tuesday.”
We were trekking back home.
“No, Boone. Don’t want to-to.”
Lene is Boone’s sister. She’s nine. She has a crush on me. She always sticks love notes in my running shoes. I’m probably going to marry her, but first I need to travel to Asia. All the grown men I know have two things in common: they drink too much brown liquor, and have never gone to Asia. I think there’s something there. If I want to be successful, I need to visit Peking.
Mrs. Lund asked me to stay for supper. She was making something colorful. It wasn’t meat, and it smelled nice. I wanted to stay, but the last time I stayed for supper, I puked. On account of my nerves, you know. My throat closes up like Dad’s fingers around his beer mug. I can’t blink.
I forget how to breathe.
My face burns.
My brain hums.
And sometimes, I get this funny feeling deep inside my stomach, like a hot liquid pouring into my shorts.
It only happens when Boone’s older brother sits at the table. He mostly doesn’t because he’s fifteen.
But I can’t take that chance. Sometimes, Boone’s brother doesn’t come until dessert is served, and that’s the worst because I love Mrs. Lund’s tapioca pudding, but I just can’t seem to swallow it when Nicolai Lund is around.