Well, its almost finished; the last book in the Pam of Babylon Series. I’m going to post an excerpt here while I am figuring out how to make it show up on my new website. Prayers for the Dying is my attempt to tie up the loose ends of the Pam books, but its a struggle. I love the characters, and having the minutia of their lives swirling around in my thoughts will be difficult to quit. But how much detail do my readers want? Once things are underway for Pam, Marie and Sandra, there’s not much more to tell but the day to day stuff, and how many shopping trips to Organic Bonanza do you really want to read about? I think about Bernice and Nelda and what happens to them, but it would be the nursing home edition of Pam and do you really want that? After the drama and excitement, boredom might set in for the reader and I want more for you.
So here’s a little taste of unedited Jack.
Ashton Hageman was sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library, waiting for his lover to arrive. He had the Home Style section of the Sunday Times resting on his knees, but it was a prop. Certain that something important in his life was about to come to an end, the paper was a convenient screen to hide behind if too much thinking lead to tears. I deserve better than this, he thought. Young and in love, Ashton allowed himself to be at Jack’s beck and call since they were boys, when Jack discovered his friend would do anything for him. Jack didn’t set out to manipulate him; it just happened. And when he found the ability gave him power over Ashton, he couldn’t help himself. He would control Ashton until he died.
At precisely the time expected, Jack came into view in his larger than life way. Exquisitely dressed, Jack drew attention wherever he went. It was ridiculous really, him strolling down Fifth Avenue, a suit jacket thrown over a shoulder, but Jack pulled it off like he was playing a part in a 1940’s Broadway play. Ash, his heart rate picking up exponentially watched while people stood aside for the handsome and debonair Jack Smith. He sauntered down the street, his smile visible all of the way to the steps of the library. The old fashioned words used to describe a man dressed to perfection were appropriate. Natty, dapper, suave and elegant; gorgeous Jack knew it about himself, and played it for all it was worth. He walked like a model on a runway with broad shoulders held still, one hand in his pocket and the other holding on to that jacket. Women reacted as he got closer, giddy and animated. Ashton had to smile as he watched the fuss in spite of what he knew was about to take place in his life. Jack finally made eye contact and turned to dash up the steps. He held out his hand and pulled Ashton to his feet. This was nineteen-eighty New York; gay men, especially one about to get married to a woman, did not publicly embrace midtown.
“Were you waiting long?” Jack asked as the two men descended to the sidewalk. “Thanks for meeting on such short notice.” Ashton wasn’t as tall as Jack and he fought the urge to look up at him, tears too close to the surface for eye to eye contact.
“You’ve definitely got my curiosity going. And you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?” Ashton asked as they continued walking down Fifth.
“Do you want to get something to drink? I’m thirsty,” Jack said. “Don’t be scared. Our life isn’t going to change that much.” There, Ash thought, he’s admitted it. “Let’s get some lunch and we can talk, okay?” Jack looked sidelong at his companion. Ashton was clearly struggling to maintain control, breathing deeply, sighing out loud. Arms touching, Jack could feel the tension in Ashton’s body as they walked along together. “Let’s go to Faye’s. We can have some privacy in there.” Ashton nodded his head.
“How long do you have?” He looked up at Jack. “I mean, is this just lunch?” Jacked nodded his head yes.
“Just lunch, but just for today, okay? I have to meet with my mother at two,” Jack said, the intention clear. They were going to start planning Jack’s wedding. Biting his lip to keep an audible sob from escaping, he thought, how had it come to this? He thought Jack would have at least tried to live a dual life. If any choosing was to be done, it would be in Ash’s favor. Wouldn’t it? Not get married. Not abandon him.
“Oh God, I don’t know if I am going to survive,” Ash admitted. In a rare public gesture, Jack put his arm around his shoulders, an innocent movement providing something intimate Ash needed. They got to the restaurant and Jack took his arm away, opening the door and holding it for him to walk through. Not bothering to look around to see if they were observed going in, Faye’s was one place in town where they could be together.
“You’ll be fine,” Jack responded shortly. “I’m not leaving the city, for Christ’s sake.” Ash didn’t add you might as well be. “What we have is not going to change that much, Ash,” Jack said. He grabbed menus and led the way to their own table in back of the dark room. The booths were hard and uncomfortable, but the backs were high, giving them some privacy. They slid in across from each other.
“I won’t be fine. And it will change. Really Jack, you are being a little naïve,” Ashton said. “For one thing, you won’t be able to sleep over anymore.” He put his head down on his crossed arms and silently began crying. Jack grabbed his hand.
“Ash, try to pull it together,” Jack pleaded. He hated seeing his friend so sad. But he had to get married. He wanted a wife and children, a home of his own, a family. He wanted a normal life. Jack took Ash’s hand and kissed the fingertips, and then the palm. “I love you, but you knew it would be this way. Come on, Ashton,” he said, losing patience. Jack hated drama in spite of being the author of much of it.. “Man up!” He laughed a light chuckle, just loud enough for their benefit. But it didn’t work.
“No, I don’t want to,” Ashton complained. “We’ve been in love since we were twelve. Why would I think it would ever come to this? Leaving me to get married to a woman. I think I might throw up.”
“Oh stop it,” Jack said, picking up the menu. “If you want to spend our lunch together whining, go ahead. It is what it is. I want a normal life. Somehow, I just can’t picture you pushing a baby carriage, or carrying a kid around on your back.” He started reading the menu. They had been regulars at Faye’s high school, and it hadn’t changed that much. “What do you want to eat?”
“Turkey on rye. Are you going to tell Miss Fabulous about me?” Ashton provoked. Jack put the menu down and looked at his face carefully, like he was checking him out for an acne medication commercial, the sort of look Jack gave that withered Ashton’s self-confidence.
“No. And neither are you. She isn’t what you think she is, Ashton. Pam is lovely, gracious and kind. You will meet her soon, I promise. Even if you were cruel to her, she wouldn’t get it anyway, so don’t even try. She’s made of different stuff than you or I,” Jack explained. “Besides, I might have to kill you if you ever hurt her.” Jack let go of his hand and picked up the menu again.
“Oh, I don’t think I’ll be the one hurting her,” Ashton said. “Get me a Tab, too. I have to go the bathroom. He slid out of the booth. The bathroom was near the rear of the restaurant, and Ashton let a few sobs out on his way back. I’m such an !@#$%^&*, he thought. I’ve wasted all of these years thinking Jack would make the decision that he wouldn’t be able to live without me. He looked in the wall mirror, at his puffy eyes and swollen lips. Great. Just the look to drop a man to his knees. He washed his face and hands. Enough, he thought. He would make it an act of his will to be pleasant and charming, just what Jack liked about him. And later, if he was lucky, he would take Jack to bed and do things to him that only a man could do.