Click on image to enlarge.
by William Neale
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: Dumped by his closeted lover only to fall for a man who's already taken, Spencer Hawkins finishes up his fellowship to discover he doesn't have a job. For anyone on the outside looking in, it seemed Spencer was failing miserably at life in general, until one phone call changes everything. The prospect of pulling up stakes and relocating to a new city provides the one thing he needs most---Hope. Hunter Harrison's partner has left, abandoning not only him but their adopted son whose heart defect has left them in limbo awaiting a heart transplant that may not come in time. It took meeting Spencer for Hunter and his son to find something new to hold onto---Hope. Building a love that can last a lifetime will take strength and the one thing they found in each other---Hope.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: July 2012
12 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [394 KB]
Reading time: 251-351 min.
From Always Faithful
As he always did, Spencer decided to sprint the last mile.
He had already worked up a healthy sweat during his long run on the trail that paralleled Neyland Drive and the Tennessee River. It was a sunny and unseasonably warm late October day in Knoxville. The fall colors were nearing their peak along the hills and bluffs above the river, matching the ubiquitous orange street banners from the adjacent campus of The University of Tennessee.
Spencer usually noticed and celebrated such spectacular autumnal beauty, but today he could only focus on the phone call he'd been waiting for since being told two days earlier to expect it "soon." He was so afraid of missing it during his run, he had removed the iPod from the arm holster that attached to his bicep and replaced it with his cell phone.
When the ring tone suddenly began blasting Rocky Top, he nearly stumbled as he stopped his momentum in mid-stride and yanked the phone from its case.
"Yes, hello!" he gasped more than spoke.
"Mr. Hawkin?" a female voice replied.
"Yes, ma'am," he breathed heavily into the phone. "This is Spencer."
"It's Gloria Hart, the human resources director at Winton Academy in Cleveland. Are you all right, Mr. Hawkin? It sounds like you can't catch your breath."
"No--I'm fine--sorry--you just caught me during my morning run."
"Oh. I'm sorry to have interrupted it. Why don't you call me back when you finish?"
"No!" he nearly shouted, wincing at how desperate he sounded. "Now's a good time, Ms. Hart--and thank you for your call."
"You're welcome," she said in what he thought sounded like a mildly disapproving tone. This was not starting out well.
"I'm calling to let you know that our committee met late yesterday afternoon to review the candidates who interviewed for our unexpectedly vacant position. They made a decision."
Her cool, dispassionate tone made Spencer's heart sink. He had really hoped he would land this job.
"I see," he answered. "I guess I didn't get it, huh?"
"Quite the contrary, Mr. Hawkin. Their vote was unanimous. We are pleased to offer you the positions of English Literature Teacher and Assistant Football Coach. The committee thought you were particularly qualified because you could fill both of the late Mr. Hill's roles here."
* * * *
After discussing some administrative details, Spencer ended the call and decided to also end his run and walk the rest of the way home. It would give him time to start thinking about the life-changing days ahead.
His immediate reaction was a strong sense of relief in having found employment. With his Coker Fellowship now ended, his bank account was like a car running on the fumes of a nearly empty gas tank.
But this was countered with some guilt at how the job opportunity had come about. Mr. Hill, the man he would replace in the middle of the school term, had unfortunately died of a heart attack at the age of only fifty.
And, he was once again grateful to Rogan and Lucas. They had used their connection with the school to get him an interview at Winton. It was considered one of the top private boys' high schools in Ohio and where Rogie was enrolled for his junior year.
Had he not gotten this job, he would have been forced to find one he didn't want--just so he could support himself. At least in a big college football town like Knoxville, he could get a job because people knew who he was, or more accurately, who he used to be when he played at UT. Most likely, some good-ole-boy alumnus named Billy Bob would have hired him so the same guy could brag to all his buddies that the Spencer Hawkin was his new assistant sales manager.
No thanks. Spencer hated the thoughts of working in sales--or anything that wasted his newly acquired master's degree in comparative literature. He had hoped all along to teach during the day and write at night, but locally the bad economy had taken its toll on school districts' budgets, resulting in more teachers being laid off than hired.
He certainly couldn't count on receiving income from his just-completed book. Its fate was now in the hands of some faceless New York editor who would eventually give it a thumbs-up or down. He knew that most first novels were rejected, but at least the Coker Fellowship tag attached to it had ensured his book got inside the door and in the publisher's queue for consideration.
Still, Spencer couldn't suppress a pleased smile as he kicked up his step a bit. This was the first good news he'd received in a long time. About time, he thought. It had been a long dry spell; a difficult six months since Carson left him. Spencer liked Knoxville but it was filled with too many people, places, and memories that almost constantly reminded him of his ex-boyfriend.
Even the Knoxville News-Sentinel added to his angst by publishing progress stories about Carson's rookie season with the San Diego Chargers. Spencer felt mixed emotions about the fact that Carson appeared to be doing very well. He was now the starter since the number-one quarterback had been injured. Spencer had still not heard a word from him since Carson moved out.
Spencer knew he needed a fresh start in a new city with different people and possibilities; and now he would get that. As of today, he had a job--a good one with decent pay and benefits that would allow him to live modestly but comfortably.
And he already had close friends living in Cleveland who would be a strong support system during his first months there. Rogan and Lucas had already insisted that should he get the job, Spencer would live with them at least until he could get settled in his new environs.
Maybe there was even hope that against overwhelming odds, the publisher in New York would accept his novel. Even a paltry royalty check every now and then would offer tangible encouragement that he might one day be able to make a living doing what he loved most.
And, perhaps most importantly, maybe this new path would lead him to the loving, committed relationship he physically wanted and emotionally needed. He'd thought--he still thought--his close friend Cade could have been the love of his life. But now, for the first time, he allowed his hopes to float toward an even loftier height. Maybe in this new life he was about to begin, he might meet the man fate had intended for him all along.
Heck, maybe one day, he might be able to look back, recall his hurt in losing Carson, his unrequited love for Cade, then he would simply smile, take his husband's hand, and thank God for unanswered prayers.
Yes, he thought with rising buoyancy he hadn't felt in a long time, maybe there's hope for me after all.
* * * *
At six-o'clock that early November morning Spencer Hawkin made a final sweep of the empty, two-bedroom apartment that smelled of fresh latex paint and Lysol. Sleeping bag, shaving kit, and wet towel from his shower already thrown into his car, he was ready to leave after three full days of working to get the place ready for his landlord's final inspection.
The blood stains on the beige carpet from where an angry Carson had--during one of their fights--used his fist to punch a hole in the wall, were now gone--thanks to that miracle stain stuff from the late-night infomercial where the annoying pitch-guy shouts more than he talks.
And the hole itself? Fixed; the thrift store picture hiding it relegated to the trash. Spencer's amazing mother--a single parent who was widowed years before--had come with her big box of handy-woman supplies and patched the drywall for him.
They had even filled and sanded all the nail holes in the walls and repainted the place with four gallons of flat white found at the Habitat for Humanity salvage store. It was worth the investment of time and money. The bank account was getting mighty slim these days and he needed all of that seven-hundred dollar security deposit back to help pay the bills until the new job supplied his first paycheck.
The place actually looked better now than the day a little over three years earlier when he and Carson had moved there from their shared dorm room at the University of Tennessee.
Spencer tossed both sets of keys--his and Carson's--onto the white Formica counter separating the kitchen from the living room and took his final steps to the door. He opened it, twisted the lock on the knob, and shut both it and his history there behind him.
The eight year-old Ford Explorer waited below in his assigned parking spot, packed as full as an SUV could be stuffed. This was almost every material thing he owned, all inside one dinged and slightly dented cherry red vehicle with one-hundred-fifty-two thousand miles on it. It still ran almost as good as the day he'd bought it. He just hoped the thinly treaded tires held up a little longer until he could afford to replace them; hopefully before snow arrived up north in Cleveland.
He was taking no furniture--what he hadn't thrown in the dumpster had disappeared off the curb within a couple hours of placing it there. Such is the tried-and-true cycle of disposition and acquisition in a place where all the neighbors are college students. No, he was only taking his clothes, his keeper books--the ones he would never part with--and, of course, his Mac and boxes of back-up CD's. Many of his other possessions, including his football awards and trophies, were now boxed and stored at his mother's house in Johnson City.
The CD's contained many years of his stories, his journals, his research, and his works-in-progress. And most important of all, they included the triple-backed up novel now awaiting a review and judgment from the publisher in New York. His writing fellowship was now finished but it had enabled him the time and income so that he could complete his first novel; now it was in the hands of fate whether a mystery about the murder of a gay college football player would interest the editors. He had all of his fingers crossed that the review would be positive but he also was aware that the success of first time authors was rare.
He started the engine, readied his hand on the gear shift, then hesitated.
Just one more look.
He gazed up at the balcony where he and Carson had sat together so many nights--Carson with his beer and Spence with his nightly glass of wine. They were some of the best times and memories he'd had with Carson. Out of earshot from neighbors or the street, those evenings were the closest they'd ever come to acting as an "out" couple.
It was just the two of them, surreptitiously holding hands behind the protective shield of the railing. Talking about a future together. Planning and dreaming about the day when they could emerge from their joint closet, no longer afraid of the consequences of being labeled queer.
Or at least it was my dream.
But as Spencer shook his head back to the present and kicked the car into gear, he decided that maybe such hopes and wishes were just for people who believed in storybook happy endings. As much as the realist inside him knew better, he still had hope there could be such a happily-ever-after waiting somewhere in the future for him.
And today, as he started the next chapter in his life, he needed the solitude of a long drive to his new home. An uninterrupted trip into his mind, his memories, and the lessons both learned and ignored--paused only by the necessity of getting gas, peeing, and brief trips through drive-through windows.