Graham thinks Wyatt would feel more secure if they were married. Wyatt doesn’t want to spoil Graham’s wedding plans. So who’s really doing who a favor?
(This 9.5K short story is the sequel to Perfect Day)
This is a Josh Lanyon novella/short story. For me, that's enough said but since not everyone has his work as an immediate "1-click", I'll expand my review a wee bit. Now, normally when I come across a story, no matter how short or long, is based on a bride or groom's cold feet, it's not overly appealing to me. I know that "cold feet" is a real thing that every bride or groom deal with and for that reason I find it a bit cliche. Now, having said that, this is a bit different. Yes, Wyatt is having cold feet but in his mind I think it has more to do with his inner fear that Graham is doing the wedding thing simply to please him combined with his paranoia that there will be three people in the marriage because he can't completely let go of the idea that Graham isn't over his deceased lover Jase. I really enjoyed watching Wyatt "ruin" the wedding, work it out in his brain and heart, and then have to "fix" everything-and all under 10000 words. If you liked Perfect Day, you'll love Wedding Favors and if you haven't read it yet, now is a perfect time to check it out.
“I wish to buy a boy.”
A warrior from the Northlands purchases a young man for purposes both secret and perhaps sinister.
This is a little fantasy ditty from the minds of Josh Lanyon. An author note at the end tells us "Once upon a time, a long time ago, I really, really wanted to write fantasy and speculative fiction. This dusty little story was my first published attempt." Although at one time it seemed Josh had plans to make this into a series, it doesn't really seem to likely now but this reader can tell you that if ever does decide to further the adventures of Faro and Jaxom Re, I will read them. This story is outside the norm of what we usually find from the writings of Mr. Lanyon but still excellently done. Multi-dimensional characters, intriguing storyline, great scenery, and just pure fun.
I was holding a bag of frozen peas against my eye when Graham walked into the kitchen.
“No use,” he said. “Mind control won’t work on pea brains.”
“You’re telling me.” I lowered the bag of frozen veggies.
“Whoa. What happened to you?”
“Tenth grade biology.”
He dropped his leather utility tote on the table, and moved to where I sat. His work-roughened hands were gentle as he tipped my head back to study the puffy bruise on my cheekbone. “Ouch. How the hell—”
“I walked into it.”
“You walked into a punch?” His touch was still gentle, but his gray eyes were searching.
“Yeah. I did.” I replaced the cold bag against my hot face. “So stupid I can’t believe it.”
“Mitch Frankel tackled Richie Nunn.”
“What, your two football stars? I thought they were best friends.”
“They are. Were. Since they were kids. Little kids, I mean.”
I moved my head in negation. “Who knows. Hormones probably.”
“Is it mating season?”
“It’s always mating season when you’re sixteen.”
“True.” Graham’s smile grew thoughtful. “Five days before the wedding.”
I said shortly, “I know. It’ll ruin the photos. Maybe we should postpone.”
I was kidding, of course. Until I said it, I thought I was kidding. Graham thought I was kidding. Or at least he laughed. But then his smile faded. His dark brows drew together. He stared at me for a moment.
“You okay, Wyatt?” he asked finally.
“No,” Graham said slowly. He drew out the chair next to the table and sat down, facing me. “No, you’re not.”
Not much for talking, Graham, so this was a major effort on his part.
“I’m just stressed.”
I huffed out an exasperated breath as he trailed off.
“What’s going on?” His gaze met mine, serious and steady.
I shook my head. I didn’t begin to know how to explain this to Graham, when I was still trying to explain it to myself.
“Cold feet?” He sounded curious more than anything. The geologist observing shearing forces, noting pressure and temperature.
“Do you think maybe we’re…rushing into this?” I watched his face, but Graham didn’t give anything away unless he chose to. Even after more than a year together, I couldn’t always read him.
He said finally, evenly, “You do.”
“Maybe.” I took a deep breath. “Yes.”
“You don’t think maybe you should have brought this up earlier?”
“Yes, I should have brought it up earlier.”
“Why didn’t you?”
I said with a hostility that caught even me off guard, “It was hard to get a word in edgewise between the discussions of cake flavors and wedding favors.”
His eyes narrowed. “I see.”
I don’t think he did though.
Because I didn’t. A few months before I wouldn’t have been able to think of anything that made me happier than the idea of being married to Graham. I’d been overjoyed when he’d brought the subject up. Proposed. That was the official term for it. But that was before I figured out that we were getting married for the wrong reasons. Marriage as relationship therapy.
Probably not a good idea.
Certainly there were cheaper methods—given that a relatively small wedding cake started at around a grand. Thank God it was June, because out-of-season flowers? We could probably landscape the front yard for what we’d spend. Not that we would ever landscape the front yard. Not that we’d ever change so much as a shrubbery or a lighting fixture at the house on Startouch Drive. The house Graham had shared with Jase.
“Do you want to call it off?” That was practical and straightforward Graham cutting right to the heart of the matter. And cutting my heart out at the same time.
My swallow was audible. No. I didn’t want to call it off. But I didn’t want us to be married for the wrong reasons either. Marriage was challenging enough without entering into it because we were afraid we wouldn’t make it if we weren’t legally bound and gagged.
I mean, a few years ago I hadn’t even thought marriage was a possibility. Let alone imagined what was turning out to be my big fat gay wedding.
“I…don’t know,” I admitted.
The planes of Graham’s face grew harder, the lines more pronounced. But his voice was level as he said, “That sounds like a yes to me.”
“I love you.”
“But you don’t want to get married.”
I said again, “I don’t know.”
“I do.” The chair scraped noisily as Graham rose. His back was to me as he went to the sink and stared out at the redwood deck and the green clouds of tree tops.
I rose too. “I do want to get married,” I said. It was hard to get the words out past the increasing tightness in my throat. “But I want it to be at the right time for the right reasons.”
He said without turning around, “And love isn’t the right reason?”
“It’s not the only reason to get married.”
He finally turned. “Then what do you want?”
“I wish to buy a boy,” the stranger said.
His shadow separated from those of the flames. It loomed across the wall as he pushed back his hood. His hair was black as night, tied back in warrior fashion. He wore a patch over his left eye. His cloak carried the scent of night and autumn in this place that smelled perennially of sweat and boiled cabbage and hurried sex.
“Buy?” Across the table, Quix’s own eyes went round and dark as counting beads. “Buy? You mean take with you?”
Faro stole another look at the stranger as he filled his goblet. Despite the triangle of black that quartered his face, he was beautiful, and though his garb was simple, he had the manner of a lord. The clasp at his throat was finely wrought, the emblem of some old northern family. What could such a man need with a whoremaster?
Ignoring the wine, the stranger recited, “Tall and slim. Blue eyes. Chestnut hair.” His good eye, which was the fierce amber of a hawk’s, rose to meet Faro’s curious gaze. “This one will do,” he said.
Quix nearly choked on his wine. “Th-this one?”
Faro went very still as the stranger looked him over. That dispassionate gaze turned him cold, as though he stood naked, as though the winter wind licked his bare bones. Instinctively, he turned to Quix.
Reading his face, Quix made some stumbling objection.
“Faro is not—that is—Faro is—well, he’s—” he gestured vaguely at their filled goblets and then at the statue-still youth, indicating his exclusive status. Or perhaps his history; something the whoremaster took perverse pride in.
“Indeed. Thirty silver pieces?”
“Thirty!” Quix was insulted. “Why, the boy is worth triple that. Look at him. Look at that skin, that hair, those eyes. This one’s got all his teeth. He’s clean, he’s healthy. Healthy as a horse. And educated! He can read and write. Why I wouldn’t sell him for—for double that!”
Faro put the decanter down. His hand shook a little. The stranger noted it with his pale eye. A tiny sardonic smile touched his mouth.
“Seventy-five pieces of silver,” he said urbanely.
“I tell you he’s worth his weight in gold. One of my most requested boys.” Quix faltered under Faro’s searing gaze. “Well, I don’t much use him anymore—”
“How old is he?” the stranger inquired. “Nineteen? Twenty? Surely growing long in the tooth for this game? Your customers favor them softer, pinker, still wet behind the ears, no?”
From behind the thin walls came shouts and laughter. Someone began to sing loudly and off-key. And from inside the walls, the sound of rats gnawing at the woodwork.
Quix chewed his lip. “He’s not…” he muttered. He reached for the wine cup once more.
“As for reading and writing,” the stranger’s voice grew mocking, “I don’t suppose most of your customers read and write. I don’t suppose you do yourself.”
Quix was red with anger—and with shame—as his eyes met Faro’s. The boy opened his mouth but the words would not come. It was not pride that stilled his tongue. As many times as Quix had promised to give him his freedom, he had never done it. Faro saw now that he never would, fond of him though Quix was in his way. There was no point in begging.
“Enough haggling,” the stranger said. “Fifty gold pieces.”
The stranger pulled a leather pouch out of his cloak and tossed it to the table where it landed with a plump and satisfying jingle.
“Sold,” whispered Quix.
Wyatt loves Graham. Graham is still in love with Jase. But things could be worse. They could be camping.
A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.
Wedding Favors #2
Perfect Day #1