Sealskin

This is the beginning of an original fic. it's not edited. It's not anything. But I'm posting it anyway because I'd love feedback/questions/anything that anyone can get me.




“I heard they’d be publishing Jenny’s marriage banns today, Nathaniel. All the ladies at the Clip’N’Curl were patting me on the back. Vicious gossiping sows! All they really wanted was to see if I knew what happened between you two.”

“Yeah? You tell ‘em your precious son was a big ol’ fag?”

His momma kissed his cheek. “Course not. I never use language like that, and you shouldn’t either. Just said what you told me to say. You weren’t ever gonna make each other happy. Now hurry up and get ready. Show the town you still love Jenny, even if you’re not putting a ring on her finger.”

“Yes, Momma. Gimme a minute to clean up.”

***

The pews never got more comfortable, or maybe his ass never figured out the proper way to sit on one. Regardless, Nate tried to let Father Michael’s voice calm and uplift him. The mass left him equal parts soothed and unsettled. He didn’t see that changing unless a sudden rebellion happened in the church. He drifted back into thoughts of mending stalls and fixing tractors, grateful that inanimate objects didn’t care who he loved.

“Here it is. Quit snoring and smile.” Momma elbowed his side.

“Yes’m.” He tugged at his tie, plastered on a smile.

“I publish the banns of marriage between Jennifer Lianne Hodges of our parish and Brian Flannigan who will be returning to our flock within the month when he graduates from university. If any of you know cause or just impediment, why these two should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are to declare it. This is the first time of -” Father Michael paused. He stared over his spectacles with a sardonic smirk. “You have an objection, Nathaniel?”

His skin registered the hard tug of his momma’s hand, his ears the groundswell of whispered laughter. What he couldn’t figure out what how he managed to stand without knowing he was doing it.

“Well Nathaniel? Speak if you know just cause.”

He croaked out a No and a shake of his head before walking down the center aisle. He heard Father Michael finishing his announcement, This is the first time of asking, before the heavy weight of the church doors slammed behind him. Nate failed to make it off the church’s steps before he hurled into the hedges. His body continued to shake long after there was nothing left in his stomach to come up. Wracked with shivers, flashes of hot and cold, he curled himself against the stone and wept.

“Shh Nathaniel, Shh.” Momma dug a crumpled tissue and some candy out of her purse. “The town can draw their own conclusions.” She blotted his eyes, handed him a mint. “Suck on this. It’ll help to settle your stomach.”

“Momma? I don’t, I don’t understand.” Nate’s stomach clenched.

“I can see that.” She brushed his damp hair from his forehead, met him eye to eye. “You never told me how you knew. You never said.” She held him as if he were seven again and just fallen off his two-wheeler. “I never knew.”

He sniffled. “Watery laughter bubbled up from inside him. “Yeah, well, apparently he didn’t either.”

“Come on, Nathaniel. Let’s get you home.”

***

“Mom tells me you stood up, was going to spoil my engagement, but then you ran away. Embarrassed and broken-hearted she imagines. Hopes you finally realized how you destroyed me all those years ago.” Jenny’s hip rested on his door frame letting in altogether too much daylight from the hall. Her arms crossed over an impressive amount of cleavage for someone so tiny.

Nate rolled on his bed to face his wall. “Go away.”

“No.”

“Yes, Jenny. Go away.” He rolled again to stare at her, heard the priest’s words echo in his head, the visceral punch-to-the-gut pain in his stomach. “You’re my best friend. And I’ll always love you. So for both our sakes’, just go.”

“Your mom called me.” Jenny stepped over his mess of dirty clothes, around the engine he’d been cleaning, passed the books that never quite made it to his bookcase. She collapsed on the bed next to him. “I knew, Nate. Before you ever told me. I think maybe I knew before you did.”
The familiarity of Jenny’s body curled around his hurt. He shook his head. “I knew when I was seven. I knew the moment -” He bit his tongue.

“The moment Brian Flannigan joined our second grade classroom?” Jenny always said the words he never would.

“Yeah.”

“You never told me you had a thing for him. All these years, and you kept that a secret.” Her breath puffed against his neck in angry bursts of heat. “I love him, Nate. I really do. But never, not in a million years, would I have let myself, would I have said anything, if I’d known. You’re my best friend, Asshole. And I never knew.” Jenny’s tiny fist jammed into his side. “I can’t believe you had a crush on Brian all this time.”

Her words washed over him, an icy wave threatening to steal his breath forever. “You. You were never supposed to. Not really. Not until, just, not now.”

“Not until you could tell him yourself and you two could have a good laugh about it?” She giggled. “If it helps, your secret is safe. Pretty sure only your mom and me know you weren’t puking up your guts over me.”

“Part of me was.” Nate allowed himself to wrap his arms around her. “I spent a lot of time hoping things could be different. That Father’d be reading about me and you.” He forced a smile on his face with new determination. We’d have been the hottest couple in Three Rivers. They would never have known what to do with us.”

“Especially when we were both in white dresses.” She paused. “You’re gonna be a beautiful bride some day. And I’ll be the one losing the contents of my stomach when the banns are read.” Jenny kissed his forehead. “I have to get going. Rachel is gonna pop any day now, so we’re down a waitress ‘til we can hire. I’ll be there until midnight. Come by for fries after the dinner rush? Your mom’s afraid you’re wasting away up here.”

“It’s been three days.”

“Three days in which you’ve barely eaten. For the rest of us that’s like a month.” Jenny stood, adjusted her tank top, smoothed her straight, dark hair. “ Get outta bed before your mom tears all her hair out..” She blew him a kiss at the doorway. “This doesn’t change the important stuff, Nate. I still love you best.”

He waited for the door to close, the sound of her footsteps down the hall before he let himself cry again. “Yeah, well, I thought he did too.”

***

Nate clutched his cellphone to his ear. His eyes burned. His jaw ached from clenching it. One ring. “Pick up the phone, Jackass.” Two rings. “Pick up the goddamned... Oh hey, Brian Flannigan, long time, no see.”

“Nate?”

“You still recognize my voice. Guess that’s a start. Tell me where to meet you or we’re having this conversation at the diner in front of Jenny, you son of a bitch.” He stared at himself in the bathroom mirror, ran his fingers through his hair before it dried too funny.

“What’s your problem, man?”

“My problem? What’s my problem? Oh that’s a good one. Why don’t you go ask the town. Stop by the post office, or the barber shop, hell Brian, swing by the Clip’N’Curl. They’ll tell you about Sunday. They’d all love to tell you about how I vomited up my insides after finding out through Father Michael that my best friends were engaged and somehow I had never known.”

“Oh.”

Nate refrained from throwing his phone against the wall. “Yeah, oh. So now you tell me a place to meet or I’m stalking the diner until you go to see your fiancee and we’re having it out there.”
“My parent’s house. I’m at my parent’s house for now.”

“Be there in ten.” Nate hung up his phone. He tugged on his jeans, toed on his flipflops. He frowned at his reflection. Not as hot as he might have hoped for, but hot enough. Fuck. Why do I care what I look like to go meet Jenny’s future husband? This was going to suck.

***

Nate skirted around town to reach Brian’s parent’s house. Nothing had changed in the last nine months but the weather. The driveway, lined with Oaks guaranteed to make Brian sneeze in the Spring and curse the leaves in the Fall, went on forever. He smacked his steering wheel. “If you stall out, I will junk you and never look back. Do not think I’m above finding a new truck.” He stepped his foot to the gas with a vigorous but satisfying growl, and peeled into the Flannigan’s pretentious driveway. His palms sweat and his breath stunk. He fished a pack of gum from the dashboard and waited for the cool of peppermint to overpower the embarrassment burning inside his stomach.

“Are you waiting for valet parking?” That smooth tenor tone with its ever present hint of sarcasm slapped at Nate like salt water on open wounds. “We can’t talk, if you don’t leave the truck.”

“I’m waiting to make sure I don’t punch you in the head. And we could always do everything just fine in here, Brian.” Nate met his friend’s eyes, hoped that their emotions would match. Damnit. Brian remained tall and put together, arrogance smoothed out by dimples and brown hair forever a mess. “Or was I just imagining the way you nearly cried the first time I offered you road head after teaching you to drive? Maybe it wasn’t you who popped my cherry in the bed of my truck two years ago? Maybe it wasn’t you nine months ago who said we’d talk about things when you got back for good after graduation.”

“No, Nate. Jesus. Okay, yeah, yes, yes, all that. Yes. That was me. Can we, fuck. Would you just turn the truck off and come inside?” Brian’s hands knew exactly how to hold the door handle to open the truck without sticking. His chapped lips nearly split with his nervous laughter. Brian’s voice held nothing of the confidence and charm that always made Nate want so much.

“Guess I better. Have things to say to you. And I’m not going to promise that I won’t punch you, still. So you may want to keep your distance.” The pleasure of Brian hurrying backwards released no tension. If anything, the wound inside Nate grew. “Careful. You might get fag cooties.”

Brian gained ground, cemented his spine as if a flagpole now lodged inside it. “Stop saying that. We’re not talking until we’re inside. And you’re not a fag.” He stepped to the porch, held open the screen door that led into the Flannigan’s kitchen.

“What?” Nate’s legs wobbled. He dropped to the front step. Surely, Brian hadn’t? He couldn’t have? The promising warmth of the kitchen, memories of too many school days sitting at the island doing homework while eating home baked cookies, evaporated into cobwebs. “What are you talking about?”

“Come on inside.” The nod of his head shook his tangled thatch of brown hair in front of his eyes. He flicked it away. “Nate, my parents will be back soon.”

“Too fucking bad. What do you mean I’m not a fag?” Nate picked at the frayed cuff of his jeans. “Because gotta tell you, last I checked we both were.” He watched Brian’s skin blanch, freckles in sharp repose against ghost pale skin.

“I am not. Don’t joke like that.” Brian fingered the door frame, stared past the driveway and the parking spaces. “We didn’t know what we were doing. It would have been a sin, but we, we didn’t understand.”

“Fuck you.” His legs stiffened.

Brian sat down on the steps, held Nate’s clenched fists in his hands. “You’re my best friend, man. But I can make Jenny happy. Jenny makes me happy. Don’t you get it? What we did was wrong. Love the sinner, hate the sin. You understand, don’t you?”

“You’re an idiot. You fucked this sinner, you loved the sin.”



From: [identity profile] j525.livejournal.com


Ok, I am totally hooked. Please tell me we're going to be able to see more of this? Sometime soon?

From: [identity profile] nouveau-monday.livejournal.com


i don't know about more for awhile. Really i just wanted feedback. Does it work? Does it not? What questions do you have? Etc. Etc. Etc.

From: [identity profile] qafaddiction.livejournal.com


Oooh... I liked this! Love the dialect; it adds so much character to the piece.

“Are you waiting for valet parking?” That smooth tenor tone with its ever present hint of sarcasm slapped at Nate like salt water on open wounds. “We can’t talk, if you don’t leave the truck.”

“I’m waiting to make sure I don’t punch you in the head. And we could always do everything just fine in here, Brian.”


Excellent! Loved that part. Original, interesting.

The very last line is great too.




From: [identity profile] nouveau-monday.livejournal.com


The dialect was hard. But i'm trying to write other than how I write. Huge struggle.

The last line of this bit popped into my head while I was showering a week or so ago, and I've been waiting to get to the point that i could put it in.

From: [identity profile] indigo-5.livejournal.com


So you already know how much I adore this. I love the new parts. The last line totally works. And I really like the scene with Jenny. She has no idea, and it makes perfect sense. Nate's sadness and desperation really come across in that scene, especially the end of it.

Are we going to see more of the Brian/Nate conversation, or are you leaving it at that? I'd vote for more, if you're curious. I'd like to hear more from Brian about how he's justifying it all in his head.

Yay for this story! Pom poms waving wildly!

From: [identity profile] mightyten.livejournal.com


Oh! There's more!! Did you get my e-mail? Love LOVE this.

From: [identity profile] sweetiejelly.livejournal.com


Is there more of this soon possibly? Please? Love this whole small town feel. Like Rachel, would love to read more of the conversation. The last line is so lovely and memorable. Just...more soon, please? ♥

From: [identity profile] gradgirl-07.livejournal.com


Oh, I am completely hooked. And you know I’m gonna get gushy now. I was reading and not sure what to expect at first. Part of your wonderful writing is that even though I felt slightly bad for the girl who was left, I was heartbroken for the man who left her—Nate. Usually more sympathy for the girl, but you pulled me around, so you know, brilliant.

You really captured the essence of the small town—where everyone knows everything and live and breath the gossip. I feel this world is real and in such a short amount of time.

Loved when Nate objected, because I didn’t realize he was doing it until he did. And the description? I felt his mother’s hand on my arm.

And this… The familiarity of Jenny’s body curled around his hurt. So unbelievably painful. He should be able to take comfort from the familiarity and he doesn’t? My stomach is completely knotted with Nate’s pain.

You’ve completely created Nate. I can feel his whole personality. In the short span of this fic, you feel his utter pain and difficulty in talking to Jenny. Then he’s so angry with Nate. He’s determined and furious. He knows exactly what he and Brian shared and he’s going to make it happen.

And the last line…Perfection. Please tell me there’s more and it will be coming soon?

~Ali
.

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