Beneath the Leaves (An ba fey) – A Novel
“I don’t know if I want to do all that. Shouldn’t girls be a little more…?” Jack searched for a word.
“I think a girl should do whatever she wants to do,” Basti stated, confidently. He believed it, too. After all, the war posters were telling girls to work in factories and wear short skirts. His mother was a fairly independent woman, other than her indebtedness to Uncle George, and he would always think she was smarter and stronger and braver than any man he knew.
The sound of the band playing “Moonlight Serenade” crept up through the garden and into the window. Jack sat beside Basti on the bed. “I hate New Year’s,” Jack said, solemnly.
“It makes you think of everything you didn’t do and everything you did do and everything you lost and it just makes me sad to know that something is gone and you can never get it back and something new is coming and you don’t know what it is.” He sighed.
“Are you still sore over not getting kissed?” Basti was very blunt about things, but in an innocent sort of way. Boundaries didn’t bother him. And Jack was his best friend — they could talk about anything.
Basti could tell that Jack was growing up. In the lamplight, it was obvious how Jack’s face was changing. His eyes were intense and untrusting and he barely let his guard down, even when they were alone. The contours of his face were shaping up to be quite handsome, and for the first time, Basti really noticed it in a way he hadn’t noticed it before, and he realized he was changing, too. He loved Jack in a way that best friends love each other, and that included the feeling of wanting to take the disappointment away.
Beneath the Leaves follows the story of Jack and Sebastien and their friendship as they grow up through the tumultuous years of World War II and into the American Dream of the 1950’s.
Old Orchard Road – A Novella
A slight breeze blew and rustled the trees and a few leaves tumbled down onto the ground, the first signs of the imminent fall, and something about that welled up a hurricane of emotions inside of him. Finally, after three years, he cried. He cried because he had lost everything. He had lost his youth, and his opportunities, and his dignity all because Charlie was a worthless shit. He tried not to sob too hard. He tried to hold it in. For nearly three years he had been walking around that stupid orchard alone, waiting for this moment of release, and now it came. Now, in public, it came. The more he tried not to cry, the more he wanted to.
Pastel Girl (Working Title) – A Two Part Narrative Story
“I know this is hard on you. Coming here, you’re thinking about your mom, it’s Christmas. Gram talks about her like she was a saint. I loved her. I love her. I love her with every fiber of my being. But she is not here. She isn’t here and a part of her chose not to be here and I am lonely sometimes. Sometimes, to bring back memories, even if they aren’t great memories with Becca, it makes me feel better. God, Bear. I hope you never have to be in love with a dead person. I hope you never do.”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” I said. I felt bad that he felt bad. “It’s not that I don’t want you to have a life. Just, why do they all have to act so awkward around me? Why do they all have to be so weird around me?”
“Maybe it’s because I love you more and I’ll always love you more.”
“I thought you said there was no love.”
“Maybe there’s got to be a little bit, you know? Maybe.”
“I don’t know, Dad. I don’t know anything about relationships. You keep treating me like I’m judging you or something. I’m not. I just really don’t understand.” My lip trembled and I tried not to cry, but we had the same tells and he knew it was coming and he hugged me.
“It isn’t your fault. You never had an example. I’m always teaching, teaching, and I never taught you anything that you needed to know.”
“Yes, you did.” I looked up at him. “Let’s blame it on her. It’s easier.”
His face formed a weird smile and he started to laugh. “Are you serious?”
“Yes, I’m serious.”
He laughed harder and I didn’t know why.
“What?” I asked.
“When you said that,” he said, trying to stop laughing. “When you said that, you sounded just like her. I mean, that was just something she would say and this is the first time you ever reminded me of your mother.” He laughed some more. “And it was just delightful. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years. I knew you had to have something of her in you. And, my God, there it was.”
I stared at him, stunned that saying that would put us here.
“She was always just jumping to some rash conclusion so she didn’t have to deal with the hard stuff. I mean, here we are, me trying to figure out how to explain love to you, something I’m clearly not equipped to do, and you just say that. It’s classic Tressa. She never wanted to work on the hard stuff. Never. With her it was either a very genuine all or nothing. I think the only thing she ever truly thought about was whether she really ever liked me or not. I think she stayed up at night wondering if she loved me. But everything else was all or nothing. And the only reason she thought about me was because she certainly couldn’t give me her all, but she couldn’t give me nothing either. Here, I thought you were me, but you are her. And there it is.”
He hugged me again, and I was limp because I had finally been compared to my mother and it sounded like I reminded him of the worst part of her.
“But, didn’t that drive you crazy?” I finally asked.
“Actually, I always found it quite amusing that she could write things off so easily. It was her way of not being able to deal with the injustice of things.”
“You just said that she didn’t even know if she loved you. That didn’t hurt?”
“I loved her. And she cared enough to consider it. Does it even matter now? What happened, happened.” He sat at the kitchen table. “God, we’ve talked about her more in the last month than we have in the last eleven years. I’m turning a corner on this, Bear. I can feel it.”
I was never popular, but I was never un-popular. There was a certain charisma that went along with always being the new kid, with reinventing myself. I liked changing. At one school, I was the guy who saw Star Wars fifty times. At another school, I was a book worm. At another school, I went out for baseball. I guess I liked all of those things enough to pretend I really liked them. Perhaps what I really liked was acting, because I was always acting like somebody else as a sort of social experiment. My best results came from my rebel attitude at my last school, where I refused to make friends, sat alone on purpose, and wrote and drew in a composition book all day. I don’t even know if I played that character intentionally, or if I just got tired of reinventing myself. I do know that it was that mysterious loner attitude that attracted girls. Girls liked fixing things and I was somebody who looked like they needed fixed, I guess.
I stayed quiet and somewhat hostile through all of their attempts at melting me, and it got me party invitations, make-out sessions, and the leading role in Romeo and Juliet. I gave full tongue at every opportunity of practicing the kiss. I showed up late to parties where I stood alone until a girl would approach me and we’d usually end up in a room together. I never divulged any information about myself. I enjoyed being mysterious Charney. It might have been my best persona. It was lonely, though, and I was glad for the relief when it was over.
I thought that maybe now, in New York, I would be Charney Chamberlain, living with my grandma while my mom is in jail, enjoyer of music, reader of T.S. Eliot, fan of The Bangles, collector of baseball cards. That is, maybe in Ohio, I was going to be myself.