Title: A Soul Unbroken
Author: AD Britten
Genre: Literary Fiction
Joey Christopher has never had an easy life. Hustling for over ten years with his close friend Allen, he is used to surviving on the street. Yet he never anticipated being homeless. After Allen is arrested during a drug bust, Joey is forced to enter a homeless shelter for several months. It is here where he meets Mrs. Winston, the kindly older woman who runs the shelter. Just talking to her makes him feel better about things. She's like the mother he never had. The seeds of hope she plants during their casual talks help give him what no one else ever has-a sense of importance. Though he continues to hustle, he ultimately stops, realizing that his life must change, as it does in unimaginable ways.
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. Then, toward the end of his shift, Gary showed up suddenly. He had not noticed him until he came up to the counter, 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 cash register and saw Gary smiling brilliantly at him. He was always such an open 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 Brian and Jason. Besides, Gary was probably there for business-related reasons and not just as a customer.
“I’m good. I tried to call you, but your phone was out of service.” Joey had changed his cell phone number for obvious reasons.
“Yeah, my number changed.”
“Well, I never thought I’d see you again. Anyway, some friends are having a party Friday night and well, 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. It has my cell number. Call anytime.” Gary carefully placed the card on the counter. To be courteous Joey picked it up and put it in his pocket. Then Gary furtively winked at him and left. The next customer walked up to the register, and Joey started to ring up her purchases.
Joey told himself that he wouldn’t go; he couldn’t go. He meant to take Gary’s 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 then, 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. 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 much later in the day.
So Joey left the store and told himself he was going home. He had to go home. He had every intention of going home. But somehow, in some way, he found himself standing on Gary’s porch at 7 pm, 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. The moment he did Gary planted a long and ardent kiss on his lips. “It’s been a long time, Joey,” Gary said afterwards. Gary held his hand and brought him into the large living room. There he recognized some of the people from Gary’s small publishing house who Joey had seen during his last visit.
“Hi, how are you?” Madeline said, smiling. She was sitting in the kitchen 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 had had anything to drink, not since Mrs. Winston’s funeral, where he only had one glass of wine. Why on earth was he being so celibate about everything? 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 set down the newly poured glass and went to the kitchen to get some paper towels.
Joey stood there, a little stunned and a little irritated as the cat stood on the table sniffing his glass. “You have a cat?” he asked.
“Don’t sound so surprised. I know how to take care of a cat.”
“You just didn’t seem like the cat type.”
“Well, he’s the last remains of Hollis, an old boyfriend.”
Madeline picked up the now empty bottle of wine and went to the sideboard in the dining room to replace it, while Gary and another guest cleaned 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’ve 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 finished cleaning up the mess.
“Now where were we?” He took Joey’s hand. “Before too many guests arrive, I wanted to show you something,” he said, leading Joey to his bedroom.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
I originally wrote the book over ten years ago and even after more recently updating it, I still have not come across a fiction book quite like it. I think that whoever reads this book will encounter a unique story that will hopefully stay with them, in a good way.
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A.D. Britten is a published author of two books A Soul Unbroken: A Journey and The Meeting at St. Augustine's. Britten has also written many short stories, poems, screenplays, and other writings. From the Midwest, the author now lives on the East Coast.
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