When they graduated from high school in 1962, best friends and secret lovers Jim McCutcheon and Ronnie Mayer had high expectations for the rest of their lives. Six years later, both are back in the small Nebraska town they called home, and worse, no longer together.
Once the golden boy, Jim now works on his grandfather’s farm, ignoring the disappointed looks he gets from everyone who expected him to end up at NASA. Ronnie lives in his parents’ basement, recovering from the blast that sent him home from Vietnam. Neither one is where they want to be, but it takes a special request from Ronnie’s mom for Jim to swallow his pride and visit.
Though the trip doesn’t go well, it opens the door for the two young men to start communicating again. One question haunts them, though. Have they changed too much to find their way back to each other?
Genres: Gay/Nostalgic Contemporary (1960s-Era)
Heat Level: 2
Length: Novella (22k words)
Read a short excerpt...
...“Fine,” Ronnie said. “Let’s get this over with.”
He stared at him in confusion. “Get what over with?”
“The inquisition. Whatever it’s going to take to make you feel better about visiting your old crip buddy after ignoring him for six years.”
“I didn’t…” Anger burned away any chance he had at eloquence. Ronnie’s bitter tone made his accusation sound valid when Jim knew it was at least partially wrong. “You have no idea what my life has been like since you went away.”
“You mean, since you went away. You left first, remember?”
“I was always going to leave first. That was the plan!”
“Really? All you did when you came home that first Christmas was boast about all your new friends and how much better everything was in Omaha. You didn’t even care about what was going on here.”
“That’s not true.”
“All of it?”
Ronnie cocked a quizzical eyebrow. “So you didn’t spend two weeks talking about that stupid fraternity you wanted to get into? And all the girls who wouldn’t leave you alone? And that flake Howard you were tutoring who couldn’t find his ass with both hands and a flashlight?”
He had, but the fact that Ronnie remembered all of it, even down to Howard’s name, surprised him. “You acted like you weren’t even listening to me.” That was why he’d laid it on even thicker. He’d been desperate for Ronnie to keep believing in him when Jim knew he had every right not to.
“I always listened to you,” Ronnie replied bitterly.
“Have you been mad at me about that this whole time?” It would explain his chilly reception and why he’d never written once after he’d been shipped off. Jim hadn’t written, either, but that stemmed from guilt. He’d always thought Ronnie was bigger than that.
Ronnie’s gaze slid sideways. “No,” he muttered. “But I was mad enough then to sign up.”
The confession cut off any further argument Jim might’ve made. His world felt like it had dropped out from under him, even more than it had when he’d first found out Ronnie was gone. “I thought you were drafted.”
“That’s what I made everybody think. I didn’t want Mom to be upset that I picked enlisting over everything else.”
“So you went off to Vietnam because of me.” He was going to be sick. “You got hurt because I was an asshole.”
“No, I got hurt because we hit a bomb in the road and it blew up the truck,” Ronnie countered. “Not everything is about you, Jim.”
Such a simple sentence. It put him in his place, though, because he would be the first to admit he’d always liked considering himself as the center of Ronnie’s world.
“I hated thinking of you over there,” Jim admitted.
“I learned how to take care of myself. I lasted four years before I got sent home. It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been I never came home at all.”
That really would’ve been worse, though Jim couldn’t imagine feeling lower than he did right now. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“What do you mean, why? You’re alive. That’s what matters. That’s all I’ve ever cared about...”