A Wealth of Unsaid Words
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by R. Cooper
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Alex has always known his bipolar disorder made him too flawed for his boyhood hero, Everett. So when his feelings for Everett became overwhelming, he forced a separation that saddened them both but gave Alex the clarity he needed. Now a year has passed, and he and Everett are together again when Everett's noisy, imperfect family reunites for Christmas, pulling Alex into their chaotic warmth the way they always have. Can Everett convince Alex that, in spite of his fears, starting a relationship would make for the perfect holiday?
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: January 2012
10 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [121 KB]
Reading time: 80-112 min.
If there was one thing to be relied upon in this world, aside from the obvious finalities like death and taxes, it was that even a bitter, crazy nonbeliever like himself could be warmed by the bustle and cheer of the Faraday clan at Christmastime.
The whiskey in his coffee didn't hurt either, but even before Everett's father had poured a generous amount into his cup, Alex had felt himself relaxing into the cushioned bench of the breakfast nook and smiling a little at the familiar, welcoming chaos of arriving sisters and brothers and cousins.
Family came in through the side door, banging into walls as they tried to squeeze their luggage past the laundry room and through a kitchen already filled with Everett's mother and sisters as they prepared plain sandwiches for an increasing number of guests.
The number seemed to be getting larger by the minute, but maybe it only seemed that way since Alex hadn't been here since last Christmas and so had missed new babies and roommates and growing children. He would wonder where they were all going to fit for the next three days, but he knew without asking that room would be found for everyone.
As though to prove his unspoken point, Rachel's four-year-old adopted daughter climbed onto the bench seat of the nook, and everyone shifted to give her space. Already wedged in the corner between Everett's father, George, and his sister's new best friend-slash-roommate, who hadn't had a place to go for the holidays, Alex slouched back to give himself a sliver more room.
George responded to that by shifting over again to grant him a speck more breathing space and then poured more whiskey into his cup. With all his newfound clarity of thinking, Alex knew that drinking too much wasn't the best idea, but he couldn't formulate a very convincing argument against it, not with the whiskey warming up the shivering butterflies in his stomach. The whiskey was honestly too good to be wasted by pouring it into coffee, but he didn't protest.
"It's Christmas." George must have read the uncertainty in his expression and offered a flawless counterargument which earned him a toast from Alex before he took another small sip. Christmas. There was a power and magic in the word that allowed the rules of the everyday to be broken with impunity, and which promised untold treasures for those who respected it.
Alex hadn't lit the candle, but he was warm with hope. That it was most likely the whiskey warming him didn't stop him from wishing for one moment to be a child who could make Christmas wishes and expect them to be answered. A child, or a braver man. He cleared his throat.
"Are you sure?" There was a devil in Alex that never let him stay silent when he should. But when he gestured at the garlands of pine and twinkling lights on the walls and the rainbow of hanging, blinking bulbs visible through a window, George chuckled. His cheeks were red, but it was more his nature in general than the whiskey that allowed him to be so forgiving of Alex's sarcasm. It was no wonder Everett was Everett with such a figure for a father.
Most people, even those lucky enough to have relatively stable childhoods, did not have parents like George and Ally. Most people dreamed of a Christmas that looked like this one.
"I've never seen anything like it outside of a movie." The roommate, the earnest type with the styled hair and clothes of someone determined to prove he was cool, was staring around the kitchen with wide blue eyes, as he had been since he'd arrived with Everett's younger sister an hour ago.
Alex smiled into his cup with sharp sympathy. His own disbelief hadn't faded in nearly twenty years.
"This is all family?" The boy paused when he looked over and caught Alex's smile.
"Mostly," he murmured, only to be overruled by Everett's younger sister and George. Molly hip-checked her father and scooted her way onto the bench next to him. Alex rolled his eyes at her as he was crushed once again. If he'd been standing when she'd shown up, she would have hugged him. Hiding behind the table of the nook was just trading one brand of Faraday family closeness for another.
Molly had the same height as her brothers, but where Everett and his other sister Rachel had taken after their mother with strong, supple limbs and a sort of tireless grace, Molly, like Robert, had George's chubby, rosy cheeks and dimpled arms and a tendency to be caught either frowning or laughing. She did have Everett's dark, coarse hair, but she'd cut it short and dyed it a flaming red sometime since he'd last seen her.
"Yes," she and her father said in unison, but only Molly continued after that. "Yes, Ty, it's all family. Not the great-aunts or anything, but the close family members. Even Alex here." She slid the whiskey bottle over to look at the label, but didn't open it. It had probably come from her brother Robert, who worked in liquor distribution and often gave pricey bottles as gifts. "He's like a brother and Everett's soul mate."
"That's enough out of you, miss." Ally swooped in from nowhere, dropping off a tray of sandwiches and silencing her daughter. There was more gray in her hair, or so it seemed, but the year between visits could have been playing with his mind. Maybe nothing had changed here. Or perhaps everything had.
Alex's butterflies were growing decidedly more anxious, but he winked at Ally and smiled wider when she winked back. Then he took a sandwich before she could force him to eat one. The alcohol was a bad idea, never the depressant with him it was supposed to be, and the caffeine was slowly adding to the tremors in his hands. Food would help.
He stopped after a few bites and ran through his thoughts for the last few minutes, checking to make sure none had been too grandiose or intrusive. It was easy to fall back into bad habits, not eating, not monitoring his thoughts or his lithium levels, thinking too much and too darkly. But he knew his own mind, knew which pitfalls to look out for, and he saw none of them now, only an understandable anxiety at reaching his self-imposed deadline.
One year, it had been one year since the last Christmas, since the last time he'd visited with everyone and sat in this kitchen and listened to Everett's parents scold Everett for putting his life on hold and not dating enough, and watched Everett get irritable and defensive and look in all directions but his.
One year since realizing exactly how tired he was of not getting the same lectures from them, only sidelong glances and carefully phrased questions about his work, and for the first time in his life, thinking that he could do something about it. He wasn't perfect, but he was better, and that just might be enough.
It had been no easy thing. It was hard enough to admit his therapist might have had a point all along in telling him his fears weren't as insurmountable as he was thinking. He had sat, almost in this very spot, and become aware, suddenly, shockingly, that he could possibly get what he'd always wanted if only he was willing to risk losing it.
Alex put a hand to his stomach and then resolutely shook his head and kept on eating. He picked at the bread, eating that first and thinking of tomorrow when the bread would be fresh and Everett would smell like warm dough and butter, and Alex would fall over himself to help him however he could.
Ty's eyes were intent on Alex when he looked up. It wasn't the bright interest or heated stares he usually received, or even the admiration of his writing students, though it had some of that about it too. Ty had a slight frown on his face, and it gave Alex the feeling that he'd been recognized or was about to be. He had no idea what Molly had told her roommate about him before they'd arrived here, but he was guessing she'd been unusually discreet.
"So you aren't a blood relative?" It was a lot like the way the people in town usually asked about Alex, in roundabouts and vague inquiries. Those nice, oh-so-decent folk no doubt wondering just what the hell a good family like the Faradays was doing with a crazy McAllister. Sometimes they'd add something about how kind it had been of them to take him in, he assumed in an attempt to guilt him into being more grateful--something truly impossible. His heart swelled with love for this family, and his gratitude for what they'd done for him was immeasurable.
There were a few who tried to soften their prying, or their guilt, by asking how his father was doing. In a town this small, they had undoubtedly known about his father's condition, so Alex usually answered with the truth; his father was dead from what had been ruled an overdose that had in all likelihood been a suicide. But he did always thank them politely for asking, because he'd learned manners with Ally Faraday's fingers pinching his ear, and he wasn't about to forget them.
"He's more than that." Ally was back with a jar of mayonnaise and some mustard. Alex glanced up at her, then back at his turkey on wheat. Her fierce stare said she wasn't having any nonsense. There was some Everett in her as well, or some Ally in Everett to be more accurate. Her hazel eyes were hidden behind oversized glasses right now, but when he'd first looked into them, they had seemed the kindest eyes he had ever seen. Over the years, he'd seen her furious and frightened, had seen her cry while holding her youngest son, but that initial impression of unearthly kindness had never left him.
"Oh right, he's mister big-time poet now, isn't he... a mystery but mine / in unrepentant thoughts / in held breath and wounded cries / never the slippery lines of you...." Molly was happy to play along. Alex tried to slouch back again, but there were too many bodies in his way. They pressed in, too hot, too close, and he looked toward the side door. He should have removed his sweater. It was out of place inside the warm kitchen, and black, as he always wore, lacked the proper Christmas spirit. He pulled up his sleeves, but stopped at the sight of the thick silver bracelets. He was the only man in the room wearing jewelry, if he didn't count Ty's earring, and with the longest hair, though it didn't reach his shoulders. Black clothes or jewelry wouldn't matter to these people, but they were the only people who mattered, so he pushed his hair behind his ears and sat up.
Ty straightened with a jerky nod and pointed, as if he had finally tagged Alex's name to his reputation. Alex didn't look at him, trying to minimize the damage by appealing to Ally when he saw her excited flutter.
"Ally, I beg of you, not the clippings."
"I've saved all of them." Ally was a juggernaut of smiles and scrapbooks, but with her hands full of condiments and sandwiches, at least she couldn't sweep into the other room to collect her albums. "Don't be silly, Alex. The book just keeps getting bigger. There's so much more these days, reviews, essays. I've run through so much ink printing them out, even the negative ones. And you still haven't signed the copies you sent me. I'm keeping a copy from every edition of everything, you know."
The crowd was starting to spill into the living room now that they'd been offered food, but the noise didn't diminish. Alex made himself take a moment to process every laugh, every smile and tiny, grubby hand closing over a sandwich, until it sank in that these external sounds were of happiness. Then he realized there were eyes on him. He met them, but it was not without effort.
One of the most painful things about finally being in his own mind was realizing just how much these people loved him and how much he had doubted that even into adulthood. He must have hurt them in ways he didn't want to imagine, not that that had ever stopped his mind from trying to imagine it anyway. Nothing had ever stopped his mind but pills.
"I thought you looked familiar! I have your first book, and your picture was on the jacket. You looked different then." Ty couldn't contain himself. Alex had met fans before, but never in the Faraday kitchen. He glanced away and licked breadcrumbs from his lips.
"Yes, I was about your age then." Ty was probably in his mid or late twenties; Alex didn't really feel like asking which. "And I wore my hair shorter." He would rather talk about his hair all day than anymore of his writing while in this kitchen under these sharp eyes, but Molly and her roommate weren't having it.
"Now you're such an old man?" Molly made a rude sound. "I guess there's nothing for it but for you to quit the wild poet thing and settle down." Her eyebrows went up. Alex had known her since she'd had braces, but he wasn't above the urge to strangle her. There were hints in her eyes of things she was too young, even at almost twenty-seven, to know about.
"I'm not actually a poet." Alex looked away. Molly could snort all she wanted, but it was true. Alex didn't consider himself a poet at all. Most of his writing had been prose, often frantic or dense based on his state of mind at the time, it was true, but prose. The poems had been a distraction, a challenge to himself to release a wealth of unsaid words, and their popularity in a world that seemed to never read anymore remained a surprise to him.
"I loved that book." Ty's gaze grew hotter, his voice lower. "Then after the second one came out.... What did they call you in that really snarky interview at that one blog again, after you'd stopped answering all their questions about your sex life?"
"Nosy jerks." From across the kitchen, Rachel stood firmly on his side, but her voice seemed distant. Alex dropped his gaze to the table. Without any more details, he knew exactly which interview Ty was referring to. It had been just after he'd been photographed a few times at events in the city, and they had posted the pictures alongside the interview; Alex with his jacket gone, his black hair once again in his face, wearing a loose shirt with the top buttons always undone, bracelets and rings visible because his sleeves were rolled up. They'd find him when he was holding a drink and had his reading glasses on, he assumed to make him look the part of a hedonistic writer.
On the blog, they'd paired those pictures with candid stills from his younger years that had made their way online. Without context, the pictures of him driving a borrowed sports car while naked, or fall-down drunk, or kissing men and women in fuzzy, out-of-focus moonlit streets made him seem devil-may-care, madcap, perhaps even romantic. The kissing pictures had been especially popular. The pictures of actual sex that had appeared later, even more so. He was finally healthier now, had a decent body and some strength to him, but then, living off little sleep and in constant motion, he'd been some people's ideal, strong and thin and young, if shorter than he'd always wanted to be. Dark of hair and eye, prone to heavy jewelry and tight clothes when he'd worn them at all, they'd described him as having a wicked glint in his eyes and a burning energy only supplanted by a seductive intensity.
As Alex could barely remember driving that car and absolutely couldn't recall the names of most of the people he'd been kissing or fucking, he had a hard time looking at those pictures without flinching. Even now he felt sick to think of them. As for the seductive glint in his eyes, he thought he seemed lost, his gaze always off-center, always peering into the distance. There was nothing wicked about it, at least not to him. But he took another drink against all doctors' advice and smiled anyway as he answered the way he answered all questions about his past or his love life.
"I can't recall."