Thirty-five-year-old Jay Hendershott was tall and handsome, with a football player’s build, a quick wit, and an easy smile. He was a successful photographer, a caring father to his teenage daughter, a thoughtful neighbor, and a helpful friend.
Jay was happy. More importantly, he was a man in love.
Together, in a three bedroom ranch on a tree lined suburban street, Jay and his daughter and the one he loved, lived as one happy family – A perfect picture if perfection was something that truly existed.
But life is too complicated for perfection. And love can bring as much confusion and heartache as it brings joy – especially if you are a man in love with another man.
How being gay effects Jay and those around him is at the core of Push and Pull. Author Diane Rivoli brings to life a cast of compelling and relatable characters; each facing their own personal struggle, entwined for better or worse with the others; each trying to find answers to make life and love work.
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 3 Age: 46-65
Word Count: 82000
Setting: Upstate New York
Languages Available: English
Oh, the glory of the morning! Jay stood on the front porch, yawning and smiling into a bright blue April sky and basking in the sun. Basking - A misnomer. It was what he was trying to do, hoping to do, in that pool of sunlight, but what he was really doing was shivering there in his husky-man t-shirt and jeans, lured out coatless on a promise of warmth the sun couldn’t keep. Husky - another misnomer. No way was he fat. It was more of a ‘football player build’ kind of thing.
How different yesterday had been; twenty degrees warmer and he had almost baked on the sun-warmed bricks like a pepperoni-topped pizza in a wood-fired oven. Today frost whitened the windows on the cars in the driveway and clung snow-like to the grass in the yard.READ MORE
But morning was morning - a fresh start to a new day, and a weekend day at that. There would be no coffee sloshing around in a travel mug today, no rushed bowl of cereal as everyone hurried off for work or school. Adrian was cooking breakfast. The allure of sizzling bacon was wafting through the open screen, the clatter of pans, the chopping of knives. That was one of the things Jay loved about Adrian - the thoughtfulness and care his sweetheart took preparing those special weekend breakfasts.
Jay smiled again and breathed deep of the morning, enjoying the cool rush that filled his lungs, exhaling faux smoke into the brisk air, then he flicked the lighter and filled his lungs with what he had really come out on the front porch for - The glory of his bad habit; a long and smoky toke of tar and nicotine. He held the smoke captive, savoring his first drag of the day, before releasing it in a lazy stream through pursed lips.
Up and out the smoke waltzed, coupled with his breath. Jay watched as it meandered, rooting for it to reach the mulberry tree in the center of the yard, but the smoky dance lost steam and dissipated well before it arrived.
As hard as he had been cheering the wavering tendrils on, Jay hardly noticed now that they had never made it there. His thoughts had taken up where the smoke left off, drifting up into the tree’s spring bud covered branches, imagining the berries that would hang there, heavy and sweet, come summer. Berries that he would pluck and pop into his mouth till his fingers and teeth and lips and tongue were stained red. Like a kid again when he and his buddies had gorged from the wild mulberry tree that grew in the clearing behind the deserted log cabin in Ellison park, sticking out their tongues to see whose had gotten the reddest, and chasing each other around the streets of his small-town home of Croakers Norge, screaming and lurching like zombies, with the berries’ pseudo blood dribbling from their juice stained lips.
It was the sight of the mulberry tree standing ripe with fruit next to the For Sale sign six years ago that had sealed the deal and prompted him to buy this house over all the others he had dragged his then eight year old daughter, Mina, to see. A touch of home when he was far from it, a reminder of carefree times when all he had to worry about was not diving too deep into the brown waters of Shuck Pond and dodging clumps of mucky mud that he and his friends scooped up from the bottom and flung at each other with glee.
Nostalgia wandered through Jay’s head – Peter, Johnny, Gerry, and Mark, clear creeks and mossy stones, cattail-lined swimming holes, garter snakes in fish tanks and caterpillars in jars. And then there she was, Khaki Campbell, smiling at him from under that wild mulberry tree as she hung from its low branches; waving at him from the worn wooden dock that jutted out into Shuck Pond just before she ran to the end and cannonballed in, her knees drawn up to her chest, the sun gleaming off the smooth silk of her hair; cheering from the bleachers when he sent the pigskin spiraling across the football field; lying warm beside him in the cool evening grass discussing the stars, her voice soft in reverence of the night ‘…must have been stoned out of their minds. Cassiopeia’s like, only four stars. Even if you drew a line between those stars, there’s no way it comes out looking like a woman. The little dipper’s the only constellation that makes sense.’
Khaki, with her bright colors and black hair… She had always known… And she had whispered in his ear…
Suddenly nostalgia imploded. Jay’s drifting thoughts scattered and flew. Adrian was calling him from the house. He crouched down, stubbed out his Newport 100 in the frosty grass, grabbed the morning paper off the step and hurried into the house.
“You called, my love?” Jay asked, grinning, as he tossed the paper on the kitchen table.
“Yes,” Adrian replied, intently chopping something into bite size bits on a bamboo cutting board. That was another thing Jay loved about Adrian; even that simple word ‘yes’ was like a song, wrapped as it was in a Colombian accent. “I’ve got meat and potatoes all over my hands,” Adrian continued, “and I forgot I wanted an onion too.” One final chop-chop and Adrian finally looked up, deep set brown eyes smiling at Jay from under curved, dark brows. “Would you mind grabbing me one? A small one.”
“No problem. Anything for you, my darling. What are you making?”
“I came up with the perfect use for the leftovers from the pot roast last night. I’m making roast beef hash to go along with our bacon and over easy eggs. Or would you rather have scrambled?”
“Either/or, as long as there’s no veggies.”
“LOL. Veggies are good for you.”
“You know I don’t like things that are good for me. Except for you.”
“How do you know I’m good for you?”
“How do I know? Because you try to make me eat veggies. Because you put a smile on my face and a boner in my pants! What could be gooder for me than that?”
Jay walked over with the onion, deposited it on the granite countertop and put his arms around Adrian, nuzzling kisses into the nape of his sweet one’s neck and pressing the firm bulge in his pants hard against the slender globes of Adrian’s backside to demonstrate just how ‘good’ good was.
“Ooooh…,” Adrian breathed, low with desire. Then suddenly, “Jay!” warning him away as slippered feet shuffled into the kitchen from the hallway bringing with them a blank-faced and dopey-eyed Mina.
Mina’s not quite awake morning face burst to life in an instant - a grimace of disgust. “Eeeeew! Dad! Is this the first thing I have to see when I get up in the morning? You and Adrian having sex!”
“Having sex? We were just hugging,” Jay countered as he moved away from Adrian, trying not to look guilty as charged, and headed for the coffee pot.
“Yeah. Right. I bet if I hadn’t come walking in you would have been having sex. You’ve always got your hands all over Adrian. I never saw you and Mom doing this sort of stuff.”
“It’s called affection, Mina. Something I’m sad to say your mom and I didn’t have. All you saw us do was argue and scream at each other or try to ignore each other completely,” Jay began judiciously, losing his sensibility at the last moment and storming ahead, “Did you like that better? Do you want me and Adrian to start doing that too? Scream at each other all the time?”
“You know that’s not what I mean. You know it!” Mina accused, her voice climbing with each word. “And maybe it would be better. Maybe I don’t want to see two ….”
“Hey Mina, guess who I heard was going to be playing at the Downtown Armory next weekend?” Adrian interjected, excitement hanging on the words, hoping to grab Mina’s attention and yank them all back from the looming precipice, “That local band you like so much. Surf Shifters! And they even played one of their songs on the radio yesterday. You know, that one with the great beat. BaBam BaBam BaBam.” Adrian started humming, trying to remember the tune, boogieing in place, and thumping to the rhythm.
“LOL. You mean Maze Shifters?” Mina laughed at Adrian, but her hostile face began to soften. “I already know. It popped up on Facebook last night. Some other band was on the schedule but they had to cancel so they got Maze Shifters instead.” The angry line of her mouth became a smile. “They are so hot. OMG!” Brightness twinkled in her widening brown eyes. “Beth’s gonna ask her parents if she can go. Can I go, Dad? It would be so awesome.” And then she was dancing along with Adrian, gyrating her hips and waving her arms to Adrian’s mimicked beat, as the disheveled frizz of her chestnut hair bounced around her head.
Relief flooded over Jay. And gratitude. Adrian always had a way of lightening the mood, smoothing over the rough surface that Jay and Mina constantly grated up. Another thing he loved, another reason why Adrian was his sweetheart.
He filled his mug with hot coffee, anxious for the soothing warmth it would bring, and stood grinning as he sipped, watching Mina and Adrian bop and sway.COLLAPSE