Farewell from the Bookshelf!

Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.

Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!


Don't Go Away by Jayne DeMarco

Storyline by Jade -- inspired by the illustrations; written by Jayne DeMarco

The lights are soft among the trees. Lamps mark out the boundaries of our camp like lonely guardians trying to hold out the dark. But you can’t hold out the dark. I’ve tried for so long, and so hard, and in the end – where am I?

Here, under a cypress tree, listening to crickets and watching the stars burn in a deep blue sky while I wait, and wait. Looking inward, intent on my own thoughts while I wonder, deep down, if I’m wasting my time here, and this time he’s not coming back at all.

I wish ... I wish so many things, some that can be put into words, others that defy words, even defy thoughts But everything I wish comes back to him. He’s a man now – young and inexperienced, yet still a man. He’s drifting away, but, being a man, it’s his right to drift if he wants to ... and, gods help me, he wants to.

We are Zapatasti, and we’re proud of it. Some of us are proud of it. Mischa doesn’t seem to be. He wears the tattoos, as every man of the tribe wears them, but he’s drawn to the lights and the music, they call him away from the family. Away from me.

We’re camped three miles outside the city. The forest shields us from the road but if you listen hard you can still hear the traffic, and in the west the sky is orange and the stars are dim. The lights of the city wipe away the night as they overwhelm the world. My world, at least ... the world Mischa wants to leave.

Every night this week, since we camped, he’s followed the sounds of music and revelry into the city, and I know he’s met people -- alluring, fascinating people who’ll seduce him away. When he left tonight was dressed to kill ... or to dance. I don’t even know where he got the clothes, but intuition tells me he won’t keep them on for long. Long enough to finish the dance? Maybe. But I know where he’s been running, this last week, and who he’s been running with. He comes home before dawn and I can feel the difference about him.

If this is what he wants – if the yearning to live the city life, dusk till dawn, dance in smoke and lights, sweat and writhe and groan with strangers – there’s nothing I can offer him to tempt him back to the family.

For a thousand years the Zaparasti have wandered – Romany, gypsy, people of the steppes, the forest and the open road. But even in my lifetime it’s all changed, and I’m still young. The horses are mostly gone now; we travel in trucks, we’re told where we can park, we need papers and licenses and documents, or borders are closed to us. I don’t blame the ones who wander away. The life isn’t what it used to be; the magic is vanishing.

But I worry for Mischa. Too young, too beautiful. The city will devastate him. He’ll dance ... he’ll love, and he’ll be betrayed. They’ll use him for his beauty, and they’ll scorn him for what he is. I’ve tried to tell him how it is, but he won’t listen. The truth? We’re outsiders, wanderers, people of the roads – always the first ones suspected if there’s been a crime, and the first ones expelled in times of trouble.

He promised me he’d come back tonight, and I don’t really believe him, but still I’m here, waiting, hoping. Wishing. And I’m tired – it’s been a long day, full of withering apprehension as well as the hard work of the life on the road. I put my back against the tree a while ago; I slithered down, not intending to doze, but dozing just the same.

My dreams are weird. I see things, people, places that shouldn’t exist, faces that are lost in the past, events that should never take place in any reality. I wander in these phantasms for long enough to have lost track of time –

His voice surprises me. My eyes jolt open and I see him clearly against the sky and the lanterns, which have started to flicker out. It’s late. I struggle up, palms pressed against the coarse bark of the old cypress.

“You came.” My voice sounds strange. “You came back.”

“Of course.” He moves like a shadow, a little closer, avoiding the light. He’s beautiful, my Mischa. I’d have said he was the best of us, if he shared the Zaparasti pride. He’s my fifth cousin – an ocean of unrelated blood washes between us, but we share the same name as if by a trick of fortune. “Vanja.” He speaks my name reluctantly, and I hear the catch in the word.

Then I see the bruises. This is why he’s holding to the shadows, trying to prevent me from seeing them and at the same time desperate to tell me, have me know, so I can chew him out, get the anger out of my system, and then hold him. Heal him.

But I don’t want to chew him out – maybe tomorrow, when the fear isn’t choking me. My hands shake as I reach out to him. Bare skin is cold, prickling. “Mischa, what’s wrong? What happened? Where did you go? Are you –”

“I’m all right.” It’s a lie. I hear the untruth in his voice, but I know what he means on the superficial level. His bones aren’t broken. His skin isn’t gashed. He’s not bleeding, he was ‘all right’ enough to walk three miles back to camp, even after his beautiful face was bruised.

He comes hesitantly into my arms, as if he thinks I’ll push him away. I crush him against me instead, hear him yelp and flinch. Ah, so the bruises are not all on his face. I release him a little and he relaxes again. “Mischa —” against his cheek, breathless with dread “— you need a doctor?”

“No.” He buries his face against my shoulder. “I’ll be fine. I’m ... done, Vanya. No need to go back.”

“No need?” I go down on the turf under the tree, take him down with me into moonshadows. The lamps are going out. “You danced?”

He pushes me down on the turf and I look up at his face against the stars. “I danced ... you should’ve seen me, Vanya! I was good. They threw money onto the stage. I was going to come home and show you more money than you ever saw before. I was going to take you to Prague and ...”

He says no more, but I can guess. It would have to be the thug, the one with the broken nose, I don’t even know his name. I don’t have to ask – he took the money. I think the bastard also took my Mischa, but I’m not going to ask. He’s learned a hard enough lesson tonight, he doesn’t need to have it said out loud. The words would flay him alive.

His hands on my skin fetch me up in prickles of delight. I squeeze shut my eyes and struggle for the words. “No need to go back? To the city?”

“To the city,” he whispers, touching my face.

“We’re leaving tomorrow.” I can barely speak. “You’ll be with us?” With me?

“I came back,” he said simply, as if those three small words answer everything. Maybe they do.

I go down onto the turf under the weight of him, delighting in the press of his bones, the sharp jab of his knees and elbows, the murmur of his breath on my neck, smelling a hint of ale and spirits. He’s been drinking, too, but I don’t care because he came back. He came home. Nothing is wrong that can’t be fixed –


Illustrated by Jade -- inspired by the artwork,
written by Jayne DeMarco.
Posted by Jade.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jade and Jayne,

    A Wonderful Collaboration!

    Such lovely, lovely artwork.

    An intense, sincere and heartfelt tale.

    Best wishes,


Gay Boys - Abstract by Jade