The Heart's Greater Silence
Mark isn’t sure he believes in love, especially when he finds himself torn between two very different men: his reliable boyfriend, Craig, and his illicit lover and priest, Richard.
Mark knows what he should do, but he can’t bring himself to give Richard up. The sex with Richard is unlike anything he’s ever known with Craig, and he hungers for it as much as—if not more than—the truer intimacy he finds in his boyfriend’s arms.
When Craig discovers his betrayal, Mark is forced to look at his life more closely, but the path to self-knowledge is never an easy one. Richard seeks the way back to God, but Mark finds no solace there. Can he ever discover the truth of his own soul, or is he too afraid of what he will—or won’t—find inside his heart?
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The door slammed shut and left me facing the darkness of painted wood. I cursed under my breath as I hunched my shoulders against the chill and pounded my fists on the door.
“Please, Craig. Let me in. I’m sorry. Please! I made a mistake, I just want to talk to you.”
No answer. I stepped back and waited. Nothing happened. Not that I really expected it to. My boyfriend’s—or rather ex-boyfriend’s—front door didn’t open an inch. I fought back tears and tried not to give in to the despair rolling round my gut.
He’d meant it. Craig thought I was nothing more than a screwed-up loser, and he’d meant it.
Jesus. He was right, too.
Taking a deep breath, I scrabbled in my pockets and flicked a cigarette into my mouth, lighting it with a hand that wasn’t quite steady. The shape of it gave purpose to my mouth. I took a deep pull, and soothing smoke entered my lungs. It tasted like freedom. As if.
I turned my back on Craig’s door and stumbled down the steps, through the broken gate and onto the street. My mind relived the accusations he’d made as I walked away, the names he’d called me—all of them true—and how I could find absolutely nothing in me to make him change his mind. God. I finished my smoke and tossed it to the side of the pavement, not bothering to crush it out. It flared for a moment in the autumn gloom before vanishing. I kept on walking, my head full only of Craig and my heart beating to a new and uncomfortable rhythm.
Around me the life of the street took on its familiar shape as the evening drew in. Jagged lines and corners of old houses turned into flats and the occasional tree. I passed the club where I’d first met up with Craig, but I didn’t go in. I didn’t even look at the entrance.
When I began crossing the river, the rain started, and a group of girls coming towards me on the bridge giggled as they reached for their umbrellas. Late-night shopping in town tonight. I’d forgotten. Craig and I had planned to go, catch the end of it and then take in a few beers, maybe even fuck. I liked doing it outdoors and there were places in this town we could go and not be seen. God, I knew them all. I wished he were here with me.
The girls passed by. One of them gave me a curious glance but didn’t press for more. They weren’t in the mood for cruising. Not that it would have done them a damn sight of good and, anyway, they were probably on their way home or off to the pub. In either case, I envied them.
Instead of heading into town as I’d thought I wanted, I paused on the bridge and leant out over the river. The air felt cool on my face and I shut my eyes for a moment. Here was where, six months ago, Craig and I had kissed for the first time. I mean really kissed. We’d met on a blind date, having hooked up over the web, and even managed a few drinks in the local gay club before he’d screwed me in the toilets. It hadn’t been very good, but I’d needed it. That, I’d thought, had been that, and we’d both started crossing the bridge on the way back to our cars when something in the water had caught my eye.
When I looked again, I saw it was a teenager, a boy, drifting down the river on some kind of dinghy. I could see him in the lights along the waterside leading to the new theatre.
“Do you think he needs help?” I asked, and was about to do God knows what, though I’m no hero, when Craig grabbed my arm.
“No,” he said, nodding towards the boy, who had already jumped out of the dinghy into the shallows and was wading to the bank. “He’s just having fun.”
“Sure,” I shrugged. “It’s warm enough. Should have known it, I suppose.”
Craig hadn’t laughed it off as I’d thought he would. Instead, he pulled me round so I was facing him, lifted up my chin, and gave half a smile.
“Sorry the sex wasn’t that great,” he said. “It’s been a while. Maybe, if I’m lucky, you might think about giving me another chance.”
Before I could form any kind of reply, he put his hands on my face and kissed me. His lips felt warm and almost tentative against mine. He tasted of beer and salt—from the crisps we’d shared, I imagined. He opened me up with his tongue but didn’t explore any further. It was up to me to draw him in and suck, but even then, he wasn’t demanding. Just easy, like all we were doing was saying hello and this was our way of doing it.
My cock tightened in my jeans, and I thought if he’d screwed me in the pub the way he was kissing me now, I might never have stopped coming.
When he drew away to breathe, I licked my lips, hoping to eke out the taste of him.
“Can you fuck me like that?” I asked him, my voice hoarse. “Slow and simple?”
He nodded. “I think so.”
“Then your second chance is granted,” I said, unable to keep the smile from my voice.
Short, realistic, terrific read. Anne Brooke is one of my favourites.
[A] somber and beautiful story of a man who had everything and lost it all because he coveted two very different men.
My first time reading anything by Anne Brooke and folks it won't be my last. Anne Brooke is an excellent writer with a gift to portray emotions.
A bitterly beautiful story.
The more I read this short story, the more I’m fascinated with the amount of detail the author squeezed into 31 pages. [A] complex story with many layers that is heart wrenching and sad. Kudos to Anne Brooke.