Jared sat on the sand and looked out at the blue surf, cresting and tumbling into foam with a crash and a hiss. The sun was slipping toward the horizon and he knew it was just about time to head for home. Home. That brought up a humorless chuckle. For the last sixteen years, home had meant a wife, kids, and white picket fence. But since coming out to himself and his family a year ago, home had come to mean one-room apartments and empty nights. At forty-three years old, he’d picked a helluva time to figure out he was gay.
Starting over at his age was terrifying. He’d had a few encounters, even before he admitted to himself that this wasn’t just some mid-life kink. But to let it all go, the house, the trappings... Sometimes he looked in the mirror and shook his head. At least he hadn’t let his body go. He was still pretty trim. Had a nice patch of dark hair on his chest that trailed down to a toned abdomen. The hair on his head was still full, thank God. Maybe a little longer than it used to be a year ago. Dark. Kind of scruffy, that just-tumbled-out-of-bed look. People seemed to like it. Men, that is. They also liked his eyes, a fawn brown that sometimes seemed green in the right light. A good classically Greek nose and well-shaped lips.
But there were a few lines on his forehead, a few crinkles at his eyes when he smiled. Maybe even a gray hair or two at the sideburns. What did men see when they looked at him? Did the young, lithe men think of him as the “old guy?” He resettled himself uncomfortably on the sand, his trunks riding up a bit. Had he missed out on life and was now destined for a life alone?
He’d been watching the surfers take in the last waves near the shadow of the Redondo Pier, but the waves hadn’t been much today. Only the hardcore surfer boys remained, those not really looking for the perfect wave, but a way to pass their endless days of summer rather than face the real world of corporations, 401Ks, wives, and kids.
One fellow swooped in and slipped casually off his board into the lazy waves and dragged the board up under his arm. Dripping, body glistening in the fading sun, he trudged the long way through the warm sand from the shoreline almost directly toward Jared.
Jared tried not to stare. It was hard not to when the soaking swim trunks hung low on his slim hips, offering a generous view of smooth, tanned skin, washboard abs, and just enough blond pubic hair to see that this surfer boy was the real deal.
He was also Jared’s neighbor, he realized, once his eyes bothered to travel north. He was one of many hot young men who lived in the beachfront house along the Strand, beside the tiny house that Jared rented. Jared had kept his place tidy and decorated in tasteful Ikea furniture. The house next door could have been a frat house for all the care they gave it, and for all intents and purposes, it might as well be. There was a trashcan in their front patio always filled to the brim with empty beer bottles and beer cans. A broken banana chair sprawled over the walkway, and a weedy palm had broken through a crack in the concrete patio and seemed to serve as their personal mascot. It usually sported various t-shirts and caps.
And there was always a party going on, and Jared, still a little shy about his new lifestyle, didn’t know whether he’d be welcomed there or not, despite being invited numerous times. A patio full of hot, young, beach bums in nothing but swimming trunks? It did seem a little like it was too good to be true.
The kid got closer, whipping his wet, blond hair out of his eyes with a snap of his head. His glance suddenly spied Jared. A grill of white teeth and dimples greeted him and the kid made a beeline for him. Jared straightened. He hadn’t spoken more than a few greetings to this guy—Kyle was his name—and he certainly didn’t know what he’d say now. The kid was twenty-three. As far as Jared knew, he wasn’t in school and didn’t have a job. He wondered how all of those roommates made ends meet. None of them seemed employed...or employable.
Kyle flopped down next to him with a spray of sand and salty dew. “Dude! The water was awesome today. How come you didn’t go in?”
Jared’s eyes glanced over Kyle’s nipples, taut and brown, and over the rivulets of sea water tracing down the curves and hollows of his chest. “I...uh...don’t care much for salt water.”
Kyle laughed, shaking his head and spraying Jared with said water. “Then why do you live right in front of the ocean?”
“I didn’t say I didn’t like the ocean. I just don’t like swimming in it.”
Kyle seemed always to wear a perpetual smile. It wasn’t some dumb, empty-headed smile, but one where he seemed at one with the universe and genuinely pleased to be alive. He radiated joy and it was infectious and, to a serious man like Jared, intoxicating.
Kyle cocked his head and squinted at Jared, his mesmerizing blue eyes shadowed for the moment. “You’re kind of a quiet guy. How come you never come over when we invite you?”
“It just doesn’t seem...you know. We...we....”
“Here’s the thing,” said Kyle, lying back on his elbows. His wet trunks clung to him like skin and Jared couldn’t help noticing a considerable bulge in the front of them. “Don’t be offended or anything, but I think you’re kind of hot.”
Jared nearly wrenched his neck snapping his head up at Kyle’s face. His mouth had slipped open but nothing was coming out. Kyle’s smile turned lazy and his eyes were now looking at Jared with a sparkle. “I didn’t freak you, did I?”
“Uh...no. I…I think you’re pretty hot, too.”
“Well, all right then!” He jolted to his feet. “Come on.”
He was already trudging back toward their houses along the Strand before Jared collected himself and stood, brushing the sand from his trunks. Was this—? Did he—? Fuck it.
He scrambled after the shorter man, walking slightly behind him, admiring the sleek back the color of caramel…
Get Do-Over by Haley Walsh at Amazon.com
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!