Hi there, this is a better-edited repost of my prologue. Hope I've managed to smoothe out some of the rough edges for you, my dear readers! (all two of you! :P j/k)
story warnings: slash (m/m relationships), tiny bit of language, tiny bit of het (but i promise it won't be too much!), uhhh....ranting...violence...whiny angst...embarrassing moments...hopefully some humorous moments...whatever else i can get my very tired brain to produce. it's all about the feelings, people.
Thanks for reading! (or re-reading as the case may be!)
Bryan Carter's life changed.
Now, that was the understatement of the century. If he'd had any idea of what his life would turn out to be back in college, he probably would have gone for the major in Foreign Languages and said the hell with employability like he wanted to, gone to a few more parties, been a little less responsible, watched more WB guilty-pleasure teen dramas, made less of an effort with his obnoxious roommate, wore the tight jeans, well…you get what I'm saying.
Not to imply that the changes were bad, no sir. But if only one didn't have to go through the trauma and horror of young adulthood in order to appreciate what middle-young and actual adulthood could bring. Mistakes and the learning that come with them are the building blocks of our lives. If he hadn't met her and married her, he wouldn't be where he was at this moment; safe in the embrace of the person he loved. Right?
But first you'd have to understand where it started.
Typical story—good boy goes away to good college, meets seemingly like-minded good girl after several years of random good dates and nice girls, nothing outrageously wonderful but still good…You still with me? Ok, so good boy and seemingly good girl, who has good boy completely infatuated according to her plan of snaring Potential Husband by graduation are going to get engaged. Naïve good boy takes his meager (and by that I mean practically non-existent) savings and buys a tiny diamond chip for the 'good' girl, and with shaking hands proposes the night before G-day. So, they're happy. Right?
Obviously you weren't catching all the sarcasm there or you'd know better.
The ceremony came together within two months, and so, six months after they met, they were married and living happily ever after. Luckily, instead of the Foreign Languages major, Bryan had majored in Something Useful, as had Jolene. Did I tell you her name was Jolene yet? Hm. Don't get attached because she doesn't last long. Anyway, both had secured unbelievably lucky jobs right after graduation, making a heck of a lot of cashola and living a very good life, as was appropriate for a good boy and his bride.
It was a great life!
And then…well…how many more clichés can I throw at you? After a lovely, romantic, non-stop honeymoon first year, Bryan became one of the Unfortunate Unemployed. How, you ask? Well, I don't know. He got hit with the karma stick; too much good luck all at once has to be balanced out in the grand scheme of life. So, unemployed, searching for work, with a pretty young wife, well…now what? Couldn't provide his part of the upkeep, feeling unappreciated, trying to help by taking over all the shopping and cleaning and laundry in an effort to make up for the fact that he was 'useless' to his wife…Futility, inertia, frustration, struggling for self respect…Depression sets in! Yep, you've all been there; don't tell me you're unfamiliar with the state. Trust me, all the Food Network and self-help books in the world can't quite fix it, and the constant rejection of his carefully plotted resumes, anxiously mailed off into the business world like baby birds leaving the nest, only to flop and die on the cold hard pavement of Life didn't exactly help in the self-esteem department. The bathrobe starts looking pretty good at that point, but I suppose I don't have to tell you that.
So, the pretty wife begins to get annoyed because she'd had visions of leaving her own tiresome yet well-paying job to be supported by the good boy and he just wasn't cooperating with the income anymore! How dare he?! The cad! This left her frustrated, longing for an ear to cry into and a bigger wallet to stand on. Enter Chris, office man-slut and official 'friend' to the ladies therein. Funny, he was just as much a 'good' boy as she was a 'good' girl. Yeah, they deserved each other. But we won't meet him, so don't break out the antibacterial soap just yet.
Eventually, the actual, genuine 'good' boy found out and had his heart broken. Oh, he tried to make it work but she wasn't interested. You know that saying, 'what's the sound of one hand clapping?' Well, it sounds about like how it is when only one person out of the two involved wants to fix something broken between them. Very, very quiet. And lonely.
And what really sucks is that Bryan truly is one of the 'good' guys. Nice guys finish last, right?
Maybe not. Things changed, like I said.
Everybody loved Jolene Carter.
Blonde, petite, and adorable in a blue-eyed innocent way, people went out of their way for her. She had perfected the 'I am Interested and Sincere' look during her early teens when she realized it got her a lot further than 'Rampaging Bitch'. Men tripped over themselves to let her pass by, stuttering and whimpering at her modest smile and wiggly hips. Women felt they'd known her for years as she smiled sympathetically and produced exactly the most appropriate card for each of life's occasions. Children stared up into those big blue eyes and angels sang and birds twittered and bells rang and…you get the picture.
She was just so special.
He was just so tired of it. Idiots.
He was the one that bought the cards. And there was Nothing Wrong With That.
Bryan's teeth were aching from the pressure of his clenched jaw. He gazed at his soon-to-be-ex wife across the farmhouse table, the one they had bought with their first jointly-filed tax return and upon which had occurred their big marriage-ending discovery scene, and attempted a pleasant expression. Tried desperately to fondly remember the sweet girl he'd thought she'd been. So innocent, so loving and trusting and wonderful. So unfaithful, so greedy, so insincere. Nope, couldn't do it. He'd been trying so hard, but once the affair was out in the open, it was like she'd completely disconnected from him, like he wasn't even worth the effort anymore. Knowing that probably their entire relationship had been a lie made him ill. A sickly grimace flickered and settled on his tight face.
"Now, Bryan, I think I'll just hang onto the retirement fund and give you the cash out of my share of the savings. It's not much, I know, but it'll give us both a good start. All righty?" She smiled widely, fluttering her lashes out of habit. They'd decided to split up the household without going to court for this part, mostly because they didn't really have a whole lot of money for lawyers, but partly because Jolene thought she could still manipulate him into giving her whatever she wanted. When he only nodded, her relief t was apparent. She was still blissfully unaware of how clearly her once-infatuated soon to be ex husband now saw her and how desperately he wanted this to be over with.
Bryan took a deep breath and tried to remind himself that he really didn't care as much as he did when he'd first found out and that things were looking up. He should be thankful it ended sooner than later, really, but it didn't make it any easier to swallow how much of a gullible fool he'd been.
'Really,' he thought. 'Why does that sound so, oh, I don't know…like a big, fat lie? Find a happy place, Bryan! Breathe! Divorce can be a good thing. Really.' He inhaled deeply and slowly through his nose, counting off the minutes until this nightmare phase of his life would end.
"Ok, we'll each take one of the cars. Why don't we put this furniture up for sale and split the profit? Of course, if you want to keep it, that's fine, too. I won't be taking any of it."
'Yeah,' he thought bitterly. 'No reminders, no strings. Besides, French Farmhouse doesn't really go in the Barbie Bordello.'
"I'll be taking the pieces we already talked about," he said stiffly. That walnut buffet was his, damn it! He wasn't going to give her the chance to crackle-paint that one! No taste, NO taste, I tell you!
"Great, less for me to move, right?" Her enthusiasm for the demolition of their home was really starting to grate on his nerves. She'd made her decision about twenty seconds after Bryan had caught the new couple in a delicate position on the very same farmhouse table and had been ready to make it official for weeks.
He stared at the paper in front of him, checking off the items as she read down the list. They didn't have much anyway, since they hadn't really been trying to save money and had only been married a few years.
'Good thing we never bought a house,' he thought. 'Or had kids.'
A pang went through him. Having kids had never been very high in his priorities, but now that the egg half of the equation was escaping, it was starting to look more attractive. Maybe he'd known, deep down in the more sane and aware part of his brain, things wouldn't last between them. Why bring a child into the marriage? It had seemed so perfect--she was so perfect. So perfect that the deep down, rational part of him just waited for the other shoe to drop. Which it did, hard, three months ago.
It still had been a major blow when he had found out about Jolene's treachery. It had started innocently enough—a new friend at work. Bryan never worried about Jolene's male friends for he'd been utterly certain of her fidelity and love. What guy? So what? He had plenty of female friends with whom he was able to keep professional and intellectual relationships without bringing sex and infidelity in the middle of things. Why couldn't Jolene have followed the same rules? Was it too much to ask that making a vow in church in front of family and God actually mean something in the daily grind and not just be a mindlessly parroted bunch of words? Was it too much to ask that the person you promised to spend your life with through everything that could be thrown at you not go and ditch you the moment a cloud came on the horizon? His parents had been married for over 30 years and not all of them were pretty, but hell, they were still chugging along strong. Why had it gone so wrong when it started so well?
How painfully naïve he'd been—always so proud of their marriage in the first year, supposed to be so difficult for the average newlywed, how different and together they were compared to other couples they knew. How fabulous in their little Martha-colored life, with picnics, and weekends at the cape, and wine parties, and rosemary garlic roasted baby organic fingerling potatoes with the perfectly roasted lamb from an organic and granola-approved farm with the perfectly hemstitched and monogrammed ivory linen napkins, on the afore-mentioned farmhouse table with dishes from the beautiful walnut buffet and candles and complimentary wine selections and and and…
Bryan mentally slapped himself before his tirade could be audibly verbalized. So, they hadn't had a lot of money lately for those things with him being unemployed the last six months, but he'd tried to make things nice for the two of them. The napkins were on clearance and he had a coupons, damn it! Conspicuous consumption didn't prove a successful life after all. He took another deep breath to push back the hysteria.
How ridiculous, he thought. I'm so over this. The blinders were off now, Baby, watch out! His grimace deepened as he struggled to hold in a maniacal laugh at recalling the first clues.
When Jolene's notorious appetite had faded (notorious because she was a size zero and could eat twice her weight in pork fat, the faithless cow!), he had chalked it up to stress and too many overtime hours. Maybe it was the fact that Bryan still hadn't found a job, even after months of searching. Or the fact that her angelic, kewpie-doll mask had finally sprouted enough cracks for him to see the selfish, greedy girl behind the paint.
When they stop eating, though, that's always a bad sign.
'Actually,' he mused, 'Maybe when she first tried the Brazilian wax I might have wondered a little harder. Scary!' He smiled for the first time that day.
"Bryan, are you listening to me?" She looked at him inquisitively, tiny blonde head tilted oh-so-cutely.
'Oh, gag me,' he laughed silently, shaking his head to regain focus on the task at hand.
"Looks good to me. Let's just sign this now so we can get on with it." He picked up her pen and scrawled his name on both copies of the list before pushing back his chair and turning away.
She peered at him, a little confused. Wasn't he supposed to be heartbroken? She hadn't seen this side of him, well, probably ever. She couldn't feel regret for the way things had happened since he'd found out about Chris. Wasn't her fault he'd gotten so boring, or the fact that he could no longer support her in the style she deserved be accustomed. Hmph. She quickly signed the papers and pushed back from the table.
Bryan had already made it to the door and was looking back at Jolene with an intent gaze. What do you say when your life has exploded? How had he never noticed the person she truly was? Was he so easily blinded? Why did it feel like this was supposed to go this way? Was that relief? His feelings were so muddled and complicated right now that he wasn't sure he could manage more than a few words for the woman he'd loved so completely not that long ago.
"Take care, Jolene."
"Um, you too. Bryan, I hope you find your happiness someday. You always seemed…I don't know…unfulfilled." The blonde's surprising insight made him pause for a moment, wondering if it was a once in a lifetime event as she continued on, "Like I found with Chris. He's so wonderful. I wish you two had gotten to know each other!" She smiled cheerily at Bryan, not grasping onto the mixture of pain and amusement in his expression. Hey, put enough monkeys in a room with enough typewriters…
'Oh. My. God. Do I kill her now or hope she gets eaten by wolves? I can't believe I wasted so much of my time with this…ARGH!'
He closed his hanging jaw and blinked, turning with a disbelieving shake of his head and without pausing, picked up his suitcase and looked around for the last time at the home they had made.
"So," he said to himself, "that's that. And never again."