LENGTH: 53,401 words
Brian Thompson is living a lie. A successful businessman, Brian can’t stay focused in a real relationship and cheats on Timothy, his longtime lover. A phone call from his younger brother Joey, whom Brian hasn’t spoken to in years, makes him recognize the uncanny resemblance between the two men.
Joey is, in a word, perfect. In Brian’s eyes, he always has been. When their mother is hospitalized, Joey asks his older brother to come home. He tells Brian he needs him, which is just what Brian wants to hear. But the long trip north gives Brian plenty of time to think about his brother, and he comes to realize an unsettling truth — he is in love with Joey.
Suddenly Brian admits that he wants Joey in ways he knows he shouldn’t. Can he come to terms with the way he feels before his unrequited love threatens to tear him — and his relationships with Timothy and Joey — apart?
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At the stoop, I avoid the steps and instead climb up the brick banister, the way I used to when I was a kid. On the top step, I peer through the screen door and call out, "Joe?"
No answer. That image of him asleep on the sofa flashes through my mind and I picture myself tiptoeing through the house to find him in the living room, one arm thrown over his eyes, mouth open as he snores softly. I imagine pinching his nose until he sputters awake, or maybe surprising him with a quick kiss --
I open the door and step inside as if to outrun that thought. "Joe?" I say again, my voice lower now that I'm in the house. The kitchen is cut from my memory -- same round dining table like an island in the center of the room, anchored in place by four ornately carved chairs with braided cushion covers on their seats. The brown refrigerator, a color they don't even make anymore I think, the scratched surface covered in a myriad of magnets. Directly in front of me, the door to the laundry room is ajar, and to my left is the unpainted wooden stairway that leads to what my dad always called simply the boys' room. On the other side of the kitchen table, a narrow hall leads to the living room, master bedroom, and downstairs bath. If it weren't for the open screen door behind me, I might be the only one home.
As I'm looking around, I notice little things that solidify this place in the here and now -- a church bulletin tacked to the corkboard by the wall phone, a brand new coffee maker, a small stack of mail on the kitchen table. I leaf through the mail, nothing but bills, and for the first time wonder just what I thought I'd find here. The nostalgia is a given, but what are my parents like now? Would I know them? Would they recognize me? I should go, just turn around and drive back home, back to Timothy and the office and whatever life I've managed to create for myself in the time I've been away. I don't want to see my parents as old people, I don't want to see my brother again.
Suddenly from the front of the house, his voice drifts over me as if I've dreamed him into being. He's on the phone, I hear the wall unit beside me chirp the way it does whenever the cordless is in use. "I'll be there shortly, Dad," he says -- I freeze where I stand, hold my breath at the sound of that voice, not a hundred miles away and staticky through the phone line but here, here, with me. I hear his soft footsteps as he comes down the hall towards me. "Brian said he was on his way ..."
He steps into view and my heart stops as our eyes meet. He's my height, with the same short wavy hair and the same damn blue eyes I remember. The dark beard is trimmed close to his chin and doesn't hide his full, perfect lips. Twin spots of color stand out high on his cheeks, just above the beard, where Timothy gets flushed after sex. The thought stabs through me and my hands clench at my sides, my nails biting into my palms. Into the phone he holds at his ear, Joey says quietly, "He's here, Dad. We're on our way."
Because a dozen different emotions are whirling through me and I don't know what to make of them yet, I don't know what to say, I settle for a simple, "Hey Joe."
"Brian," he sighs, a sound I've dreamed of time and again. Setting the phone on the kitchen table, he comes to me and before I can move away, before I can even think, his arms are around my shoulders, hugging me close. I keep my hands fisted at my sides, my eyes open, my breath held in so I don't swoon from his clean, musky scent. As his breath tickles along my neck, I count silently to myself, one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three ... the numbers keep my mind busy and maybe, just maybe, they'll distract me enough so my body doesn't respond to his.
But his arms are strong and tight around me and his body fits so nicely against mine. It takes everything I have to push him away.
If my hesitation bothers him, he doesn't show it. "I'm so glad you're here," he says with a laugh, running a hand through his thick hair so that it sticks up in a crazy, sexy way. "God Brian, ever since you called last night I've been counting down the hours until you'd come ..."
Abruptly I push by him, heading down the hall. "Bathroom," I explain over my shoulder. Behind the locked door, I unzip my jeans to alleviate the pressure on my rock-hard cock and want to sob as I clench my hands into my thighs, unable to touch myself, unwilling to get off. Who was I trying to kid? Who the fuck did I think I was fooling?
When I was still a small boy, my mother would tell anyone who cared to listen how good I was at being an older brother. So protective, she called me. I can still hear her announcing to the bridge club, "He loves his little brother."
No Mom. I'm in love with him. Always have, probably always will be. That's why I haven't been in touch lately. That's why I don't come home. That's why Timothy and every fucking man I've ever dated has the same facial hair as my brother, the same sparkling eyes, the same quick grin. I love him, yes, but in so many more ways than a brother should ...
And it hurts.
- Chewing the Bone Reviews:
- "Snyder leaps out of the comfort zone to explore the forbidden love between two brothers, and does it with good taste. Her strong, formidable characters pull the story together while keeping me engaged. Brian seems at first an uncaring, self-centered man, who is actually confused and struggling with his perceived intimate notions regarding his brother. Joey is a tender man who loves his brother unconditionally, but is definitely the stronger in spirit between the two. The story moves fluidly, at a pace wholly maintained by the characters. I appreciate this story and highly recommend it -- you'll be pleasantly surprised with its outcome."
- Literary Nymphs Reviews: 3.5 out of 5.
- "A well-plotted and thought-provoking tale of brotherly love gone amiss ... [The ending] left me with the hope that Brian’s life would work out, and that this miserable and unhappy man could find the joy that had always eluded him, but which he had always desired."
- Rainbow Reviews: 5 out of 5.
- "The plot is one that draws you in slowly and propels you towards the climax. Snyder's story is compelling and had me reading it in one sitting."