Best friends since kindergarten, Ben and James are separated after college graduation by their different choices. Ben stays in their small hometown while James heads off to New York with dreams of money and success. Ben works to make his life follow the path he wants, and dreams of the day when James realizes he made a mistake and comes back home.
Each man promises to stay in touch, but this pledge falls by the wayside as James’ life in the big city takes off, leaving Ben yearning for a dream that gradually fades as the years pass.
But in New York, James finds that not all dreams are worth the cost of a wrong choice...
Heat Level: 2
Length: Extended Amber Kiss (16k words)
...“Keep an eye on Suzie, though,” Ben said. “That sister of mine is just at the age to develop a crush and I think she’s picked you.”
“Suzie? But she’s just a kid.”
“She’s almost fourteen.”
“I can remember her being born,” James said softly. “I can hardly believe it’s been fourteen years.”
“I know, or seventeen years since that fateful day when you tried to stick your square peg in my round hole.” Ben fought to keep the smile from his face. That was exactly what had happened when the five-year-old James burst into his life, but the way he felt now it carried so much double entendre it was ridiculous.
“Seems like that should’ve told us something about the different ways we view life, instead of making us band together against the world.”
And now they were going their separate ways. Ben sighed. “I can’t say I truly understand your choice, but I do see it’s what you want and I’m happy you got your wish. As far as I’m concerned, you’ll always be a part of my family and you’ll be welcome any time you want to come home for a visit.”
Ben didn’t say what he really wanted to. He didn’t believe it would be appreciated just then. Ben hoped that one day, hopefully not too far distant, James would realize he’d made the wrong choice and move back home.
“That could be a while,” James said. “I want to put down strong roots, and running back home for every holiday isn’t the way to do that. Anyhow, you’ll be too busy sorting out your own life, won’t you? You thought any more on taking up that architecture course your Dad recommended?”
“No. I looked at the syllabus mostly to please Dad, but the truth is I’ve had enough with schools and teachers. I want to learn by doing. There’s something about creating with one’s own hands, you know? I want to build stuff, not just draw diagrams on paper for other folks to work with.”
James shook his head. “For someone who gives the appearance of being so laid back, you always seem to choose the hardest path.”
“It’s only the hardest path if it’s not the one you want to take.”
He didn’t think James would ever understand the way he felt, but then he couldn’t follow James’ thinking either. Why would he want to put his future under someone else’s control? It made more sense to Ben to be his own boss one day. Offer up bits of himself on his own terms—that way he could maintain control of his life.
James thought going to the big city and starting out being a small cog in someone else’s wheel would eventually bring him what he wanted: money and success. However, to Ben’s way of thinking, it would also tie that success to another person’s wheel, without having any control over its ultimate direction. It was an old argument between the two of them and Ben knew James would never understand his point of view because James couldn’t see that, to Ben, power and money were the least valuable things. Ben saw value in the small things in life—small to some folks’ thinking that was—family, home, trust, peace, and perhaps most important of all, knowing his place in the scheme of things. Contentment perhaps summed it up. There was only one thing missing and Ben hoped it would come with time: the love of that one person who was the other half of his soul.
“It’s not as hard as chasing a rainbow, James.”
James scowled. “Not chasing a rainbow; setting out to live my dream. I have a skill I can use to get what I want from life and I intend to make the best of it.” James took the last item from the closet and slipped his coat on. “Time to go if I’m going to catch that plane.”
Ben picked up the suitcase, grunting a little because it was so damned heavy, as James slung a backpack over his shoulder. James took a last look around, and Ben noted only relief in his expression. James was standing in profile to Ben and Ben couldn’t help but admire how handsome James was. He was almost six feet tall with a slim, athletic build. His nose wasn’t quite straight, as it had been broken playing football, yet somehow it added to his good looks rather than detracted. His eyes were hazel and his hair, which James wore long enough that it curled on his collar, was a warm brown. Ben longed to run his fingers through it as he kissed James, a fantasy to which he often fell asleep...