Title: A Soul Unbroken: A Journey
Author: AD Britten
Genre: Literary Fiction
Joey Christopher has never had an easy life, but living with his boyfriend Allen-a hustler like Joey-made everything better. His mere presence made Joey happy and made the world seem much more manageable despite Allen's serious faults. However, when Allen is arrested during a drug bust Joey must learn to live on his own for the first time. He even spends some time in a homeless shelter, while he does everything possible to get Allen home to return to the life they once lived.
Joey had been very busy that day; there was a major book sale and a well-known local author had stopped by for a reading and book signing. He was thankful for the distraction, because he was having one of his weak days. Toward the end of his shift an old friend suddenly reappeared: it was Gary. Joey had not noticed him until he came up to the counter, being the next customer in line, and Joey happened to be the cashier who was free.
Even before he could turn in his direction, he heard Gary’s voice and recognized it immediately.
“Well, well, well, I’m going to have to come here more often,” Gary said with his characteristic bright and easy smile. “How are you, Joey?”
Joey’s heart stopped for moment after hearing his name from such a familiar voice. He looked up from the register and saw Gary smiling brilliantly at him. He had always been such an honest and friendly person, albeit a little too friendly at times.
“Hi, how are you, Gary?” Joey managed to say. He did not want to repeat the mistake he made with his earlier exchange with his old friends Brian and Jason. Besides, Gary was probably there for business-related reasons and not just as a customer.
“I’m good. I had been trying to call you, but your phone was out of service.” Joey had changed his cell number for obvious reasons, trying to distance himself from his old life as much as possible.
“Yeah, my number changed.”
“Well, I never thought I’d see you again. Anyway, some friends and I are having a party Friday night. Would you like to come?”
“I don’t know,” Joey said honestly. “I remember what happened the last time.”
“All that’s over. Folks have moved. No more drama.”
That’s all Gary needed to hear. “Here’s my business card,” Gary said carefully placing the card on the counter. “It has my cell number. Call anytime.” To be courteous Joey picked it up and put it in his pants pocket. Gary then furtively winked at him and left. The next customer walked up to the register, and Joey started to ring up her purchases.
For the rest of that day Joey told himself that he wouldn’t go to Gary’s party; he couldn’t go. He meant to take the card out and tear it up before leaving work, but forgot. When he got home later that night he meant to take it out and rip it up, but he was so tired that he just got ready for bed and went to sleep. The end of the week came and the card was still there in his jeans pocket. He happened to wear the same pair of jeans that Friday that he had worn on the day of Gary’s visit. Joey took a deep breath as the last customer left and he went through the store rearranging misplaced books on the shelf and tidying up the store. At around 5:30pm, Mr. Griffin came out of his office and told Joey that he could go home early. He would finish up.
The next day was going to be busy with another book signing and Joey was going to be the only person that morning. The older woman who had worked there last time, Mr. Griffin’s cousin, could not make it there until later in the day.
So Joey left the store and told himself he was going home and he meant to go home. But somehow he found himself at 7 pm standing on Gary’s porch, one of the first to arrive at his party. He lived at the same address he always had. As soon as Gary looked through the peephole and saw Joey standing at his door, he opened it and invited him in.
Joey, looking a little uncertain, walked in. He had not taken two steps when Gary drew him close and planted a long and ardent kiss on his lips. Joey was surprised by it but didn’t resist. It had been so long that although he was never deeply attracted to Gary, he relished the feeling. “It’s been a long time, Joey,” Gary said afterwards. Joey wanted the kiss to continue, against his better judgement, but Gary’s attention turned to the room. It was then that he noticed some of the familiar faces in the living room and kitchen, all people from Gary’s small publishing house.
“Hi, how are you?” Madeline said smiling. She was sitting at the dining table with a few other people, a man and a woman, with whom she had been talking. She raised a glass of wine to Joey, having recognized him from the earlier party. Joey wanted to melt. He suddenly realized that it had been a long time since he’d had any alcohol. Why on earth was he being so celibate about everything now? He asked Gary for a glass of wine, which he dutifully poured for him, until a previously unseen large, fluffy, gray cat hopped up on the table, spilling the bottle in the process.
“Awwwww!” Madeline said, standing up to avoid the spill. “Silly cat!”
Gary went to the kitchen to get some paper towels.
Joey stood there, a little stunned. “You have a cat?” he asked.
“Yes, what’s wrong? Are you allergic?” Gary asked concerned.
“No,” Joey replied. “You just don’t seem the cat type.”
“Well, he’s the last remains of Hollis, an old boyfriend,” Gary said with a slight weariness to his voice.
Madeline picked up the now mostly empty wine bottle and went to the sideboard to replace it, while Gary and another guest continued to clean up the mess. “I told you, you should’ve gotten rid of him,” Madeline playfully chastised. “As soon as he was gone, that cat should have been gone too. Why keep memories of Hollis around anyway? You’re over him now, or so you say.”
Gary just smiled at Joey as he got up from the floor, threw away the red, wet paper towels and took Joey by the hand, leading him to the back of the house where Gary’s bedroom was.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
I originally wrote this story over 10 years ago. The story is now more expanded and relevant today. But in all this time, I have not come across another fiction book like it. The story seems to be very singular, very different.
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A.D. Britten is a published author who has also written various short stories, poems, screenplays, and other writings. From the Midwest, the author now lives on the East Coast.
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