Title: Two Natures
Author: Jendi Reiter
Release Date: September 15th 2016
Genre: LGBT fiction, MM Romance
Two Natures is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer in New York City in the early 1990s. His faith in Jesus helped him survive his childhood in the Atlanta suburbs with an abusive alcoholic father, but the church’s condemnation of his sexual orientation has left him alienated and ashamed.
Yearning for new ideals to anchor him after his loss of faith, Julian seeks his identity through love affairs with three very different men: tough but childish Phil Shanahan, a personal trainer who takes a dangerous shortcut to success; enigmatic, cosmopolitan Richard Molineux, the fashion magazine editor who gives him his first big break; and Peter Edelman, an earnest left-wing activist with a secret life.
Amid the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and the racial tensions of New York politics, Julian learns to see beyond surface attractions and short-term desires, and to use his art to serve his community.
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2016 Rainbow Awards: First Prize, Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction; First Runner-Up, Debut Gay Book
Named one of QSPirit’s Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016
The back of the warehouse had a fire escape that you reached by crawling through one of the windows that was propped open with a stick. Refugees from the dance floor came and went, seeking brief hits of sobriety from the sting of cold air on their flushed faces, or trading smokes and other items in hand-to-hand transactions with a studied casualness. I followed Phil out there. He was hunched over the rusty railing, flicking ash down to the street two stories below. I leaned on the railing next to him, saying nothing. He wasn’t able to ignore me for long.
“What’re you doing here?”
I shrugged. He didn’t know what to make of my silence. Next to us, two guys in knit stocking caps shook hands a little too long and then ducked inside through separate windows. I wished I’d brought my own hat and coat, like Phil who’d had the sense to retrieve his parka before braving the elements.
“You think you’re too good to fight with me?” he needled me again. “You gonna call your rich daddy to teach me a lesson?”
“My daddy would kick your faggot ass into next week,” I said, “just like he did to me.”
Phil took a long drag on his cigarette and tossed it over the edge. “Sucks to be us, huh.”
“Guess so.” I almost caught him smiling, but then he turned away, pretending to watch this boy and girl at the far end of the terrace who were sucking each other’s faces hard enough to create a vacuum seal.
“So what’s the problem here?” I asked. “I thought we sort of connected that first night at New Eden, but now you’re being a jerk.”
“Don’t play dumb.”
“I’m not playing.” I dared to touch the back of his hand lightly. What if we were wrong and he wasn’t one of us, just slumming in fairyland? The pavement was a long way down.
He flinched but didn’t shake off my touch. “Frank told me you were talking shit about me,” he muttered. “How you didn’t think I was good enough for him because my pop drives a truck for the paper company.”
“Oh, shit. First of all, that’s not what I said, and second —”
“I’m proud of my pop, okay? He might be an asshole, but he works hard for every damn thing in his life, and so do I.”
“Phil — ” I grabbed his shoulders. He loomed over me like a prizefighter awaiting the bell. Why couldn’t I fall for a pretty boy like Tomas, who would never risk damaging his hands in a fistfight? “Phil, listen. I like where you come from. I like everything about you. I only talked trash to Frank because I wanted to put him off you.”
He blinked, confused, breathing hard. “So now you have…are you happy?”
“No…I’m sorry. It was a stupid thing to do. But, I mean, I’m happy you’re here with me…alone, right now.”
He stepped back, out of reach. “Why should I believe anything you say?”
In response, I sneezed, twice. Yankee weather wasn’t kind to me. Phil made for the window, to continue our conversation inside, I hoped. But the tonsil-hockey couple had already had the same idea and, with the obliviousness of lovers, had pulled the stick in after them. Phil rattled the unyielding window frame. I added my useless efforts to his.
“Must’ve latched itself from the inside,” he said. “I know how these places are built.”
“Did you work at the paper factory too?”
“What is this, a job interview?”
“Just making conversation.” I sneezed again. Phil kicked the window. “You think you can break in?” I asked.
“The panes are too small, dumb-ass. We couldn’t get through.”
“No, but you could break the one near the latch and reach in and open it, like a burglar.”
“Because I’m just a poser.” I flicked my wrist at him.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I was really pissed off.”
“Try taking your aggressions out on that glass.”
“And then what? My hand’ll get cut to shreds.”
“In the movies, the burglar usually wraps his jacket around his arm or something.”
“I see you’ve appointed yourself the brains of this operation.”
“You said it, Bugsy.”
Phil scoped out the window, looking for the best spot, but the panes closest to where he thought the latch might be were boarded up.
So much for our caper. I shifted from foot to foot, trying to warm up.
“Here, put your arms through my sleeves.” Phil arranged his parka over us so that he covered my back like a cape. I tucked myself into the curve of his body, feeling his growing hardness through his jeans.
“I never thought you would like me,” he said after awhile. His breath was hot against my neck.
“Because you’re one of those, what are they called, the beautiful people?”
“You look pretty fine yourself,” I said. One side of my face was warm where his stubbly cheek was pressed against mine; the other side was whipped by the wind.
He heated up my whole body by kissing me right then. I opened my mouth to his tongue. Just then, under the cold black sky, we were the two luckiest boys in the world, to have found this corner where nobody would notice us falling into each other’s arms.
Of course, we couldn’t go further than that without risking frostbite in some very inconvenient places. Disengaging from my embrace, Phil suddenly hoisted himself up to sit on the railing. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of that.”
“We’ll climb down. It’s no big deal.” To prove his point, Phil lifted his hands off the railing, with the crazy grin of a kid on a rollercoaster, balancing only on that beautiful rear that I worried would never be mine if he took a tumble onto the cement.
“Am I scaring you?” he teased.
“Don’t be an idiot.”
“Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” He took hold of the railing again, and I went back to breathing. “I’ve done roof repairs since I was sixteen and my pop kicked me out of the house. My balance can’t be beat.” He nudged me with the toe of his boot. “Come on, just do what I do and you’ll be fine.”
Slowly, following his lead, I gripped the icy metal and swung myself over the edge, inching my hands down the bars until my feet were dangling just shy of the railing one story below. There were stairs between the levels, but they were gated off with a barrier that was too high and sharp to climb over.
“Phil — ” I called out, my voice sounding thin as a thread blowing in the wind. What I really wanted was to ask him to catch me, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. “Is it true what they say, that you shouldn’t look down?”
“I dunno, try it and let me know how it goes.” He swung his legs in toward the lower level, letting go of his handhold once his feet were secure. Sparing me further humiliation, since my pants were sliding down, he pulled me in. The ladder attached to the bottom of this level ended eight or nine feet above the street, child’s play compared to what we’d just done. He stole a couple more kisses while I got my second wind.
“Why’d your father kick you out?”
“Found my magazines.”
“Reading or posing?”
“Hey, I never thought of that — would’ve beat freezing my ass off on old man Henderson’s shingles.” He gave mine a love tap. “Up you go.”
Swinging over the railing was no more fun the second time around, but the squeaky ladder managed to hold our weight, and at last we smacked down on hard ground.
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About the Author
Jendi Reiter’s books are guided by her belief that people take precedence over ideologies. In exploring themes of queer family life, spiritual integration, and healing from adverse childhood experiences, her goal is to create understanding that leads to social change. Two Natures is her first novel; a sequel is in the works. Her four published poetry books include Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015) and the award-winning chapbook Barbie at 50 (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). She is the co-founder and editor of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site for creative writers.
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