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A Brief History of Longing

A Brief History of Longing

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A Brief History of Longing

Length:
188 pages
2 hours
Released:
Jan 21, 2018
ISBN:
9781386721024
Format:
Book

Description

We've all known that one person – the one we wanted, but couldn't have. The best friend.

Gwen's been in love with her best friend since high school, but now that they're growing up, she wonders if it's time to look elsewhere for both friendship and romance. Without even realizing she's doing it, Gwen recounts twenty years of longing in sketches that launch the comic book career she's always wanted.

In this story about love and loyalty, friendship is tested, broken, and mended. Because as Gwen moves forward with her life, she realizes there is no forgetting that first person who ignited desire and frustration, melancholy and love.

There is no letting go of the hope that someday, they might find one another again. But sometimes you've got to risk a broken heart in order to find your one true love.

Released:
Jan 21, 2018
ISBN:
9781386721024
Format:
Book

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A Brief History of Longing - Jea Hawkins

List

Dedicated to all the Heathers I’ve loved before.

Part 1

1996

Chapter 1

It was the soft tickle of hair along her leg that dragged Gwen from sleep to semi-awareness. It was the last thing she expected to feel. Certainly the last thing she wanted to feel, and she blinked until the faces in front of hers sharpened into focus.

The first thing she saw was her best friend, Heather, fast asleep. Or, rather, probably passed out from partying too hard.

That wasn’t Heather’s leg slipping along Gwen’s, though, and as Gwen slid from beneath the covers, she grimaced at the other person in the bed. He hadn’t been there when she curled up with Heather, both of them laughing about some joke she couldn’t recall now.

Just next to Heather’s long, reddish hair was Kyle, the owner of said leg, smirking at her in invitation. Gwen shook her head, mouthed no at him, spun on her heel, and left the room.

Her cargo shorts shifted on her hips, so she tugged them up a bit as she strode through the house. There were other people there in various states of slumber, mostly sprawled out in the living room. Some were even snoring. One unfortunate guy was passed out in the hallway and Gwen had to step over him to get to the front door.

He moaned and reached for her leg, but she shook him off.

It wasn’t fun being the only gay person at a party, but she’d at least counted on Heather to look out for her. Heather was supposed to be her best friend, after all.

Scoffing, Gwen flung the door open, stepped outside, and then slammed it behind her.

Best friends. Right. The lie she’d been telling herself since high school.

A lie because she wanted so much more from Heather than friendship.

****

MORNING CAME TOO SOON and the only thing that made Gwen even get out of bed, let alone venture out of the house, was her standing Saturday morning coffee date with Heather. They had been meeting at the breakfast place every weekend ever since graduating from high school. Although they jokingly referred to it as their weekly tea party, there was nothing high class about it. It was a chance to stay in touch since they had gone their separate ways – Heather to college and Gwen to art school, and then a standard nine-to-five.

At first, the coffee dates had been fun, but now it seemed like every Saturday morning was just Heather complaining about how drunk she had been the night before. Not the most exciting conversation, but Gwen hated to put an end to the routine.

She winced as she thought about how hung up she was on Heather. With a shake of her head, she entered the restaurant, anticipating the coffee that might bring clarity to her jumble of thoughts.

Hey Gwen, the barista said as she approached the counter. Starving artist special?

As usual. Thanks, Bonnie. Gwen grinned at the pretty, curly-haired girl, and then turned to glance through the window. There was Heather, stepping out of a vehicle and onto the sidewalk. Gwen reached up to run her hand through her chin-length dark blonde hair. Her motion stalled, however, when she saw Kyle get out of the car as well.

Nausea slammed into her, liquid bitterness that filled her throat and threatened to rise up into her mouth. Ever since Heather met Kyle in college, he seemed to be a constant – and unwelcome – presence in her life. Gwen hoped he wasn’t going to intrude on their coffee date.

Here you go. The barista thrust the coffee into her hands and Gwen muttered her thanks as she turned away from the counter.

Gwen stood and watched as Heather hugged Kyle. She didn’t know why she tortured herself like this. After all, she’d wanted to kiss Heather since they met in high school – since they bonded over their shared misery of being non-athletic teenagers forced to play volleyball in gym class. From that point on, Heather had been her best friend, while Gwen watched her date guys who didn’t deserve her.

Kyle was no exception, as far as she was concerned. It wasn’t that he had done anything specific to earn her enmity... until last night, anyway. All the party did was confirm her suspicions: Kyle was a complete dog and, sooner or later, he would break Heather’s heart.

She watched as Heather dashed in and approached her with a roll of her eyes. Gwen Stanley, she squealed as if they hadn’t seen each other in years. Was last night crazy or what?

Like, oh my god, Heather Sprague, Gwen answered, affecting a shrill valley girl tone that did nothing to wash away the bitterness in her throat. It was totally wicked awesome.

Right? Damn, I need some coffee. Find us a table and I’ll be right there. Heather made a shooing gesture and then turned to the counter to place her order.

Heather was as cute now as she was eight years ago, when they met as fourteen-year-olds, Gwen thought enviously. She had shoulder-length auburn hair that was perfectly straight. She didn’t wear any makeup, either, and she looked chic in her Henley shirt and jeans.

Gwen wished she could look as relaxed and confident. Try as she might, she’d never fit in with the other girls. Part of the problem was the person shopping for her at the time was her grandmother. A grandmother who also insisted Gwen get perms until, in a fit of adolescent frustration, she’d cut off her own frizzy blonde hair into a short, shaggy pixie cut before ninth grade.

Ah, best liquid lunch ever, Heather chirped as she joined Gwen at one of the tables. Especially with a hangover. I don’t even remember last night, but I do remember waking up this morning with Kyle all over me. The guy has no restraint, I swear.

Have you ever considered, I don’t know, not dating guys with no restraint and not drinking so much? Gwen asked dryly. She barely bit back the words not dating assholes, but she knew enough about the girl rules not to judge Heather’s boyfriend. It wouldn’t make her see the error of her ways. If anything, it would just make her cling tighter to Kyle and defend the relationship.

"What? Are you kidding? I’m a senior in college. Drinking is part of life in a frat. You know, if you had gone to Bridgewater with me, you could have joined, too. Co-ed frats are the best! Speaking of which, you might consider growing up and going to college or finding a real job since you stopped doing the art school thing."

Excuse me? Gwen glared at Heather across the table. Her job as a legal secretary was as real as it got.

Well, when I graduate, I’m going to be able to work as a teacher. But you can’t keep drawing your silly little comics, hoping to make money off of them. That’s not a living.

Gwen rubbed her hand over her forehead. Heather, do you even know what I do anymore? I work forty hours a week. And, yeah, I want to be a comic book artist, but until I can get there, I’ll keep busting my butt at the office.

Or, Heather said, you could just keep working the job and enjoy life when you’re not on the clock. Seriously, Gwen, the comic book stuff was fine in high school. All of us put up with it. But now you need to grow up.

There was no holding in her next words or hiding the frustration behind them. Says the girl who’s hungover. Again.

When Heather looked away, her cheeks going pale, Gwen worried that she’d gone too far. Heather was, after all, the leader of the little group of friends they had formed since high school. It was Heather who mostly remained in touch with them to this day. From the moment they met during freshman year of high school, it seemed the two of them attracted more and more people until their group of friends had grown. And the person responsible for making everyone laugh – usually at someone else’s expense – was Heather.

All too often, that laughter was directed at Gwen. Sometimes it was at Heather for her quirky antics, like her ridiculous outbursts in public places. Gwen couldn’t keep track of the number of times Heather simply yelled, I forgot to wear underwear! just to see how people around her would react. Of course, if Gwen tried anything like that, it just came out awkward and pathetic-sounding. Relegated to the status of sidekick, Gwen learned that letting Heather have the spotlight was better for her.

She dipped her head and glared down at her coffee, hating herself for feeling bitter about that. Their high school days were three years behind them. But Heather was supposed to be her best friend. Not the person who treated her like some kind of court jester.

Sorry. You’re right. I’m in no position to tell you how to live your life.

When Gwen looked up, she saw Heather’s forehead creased slightly, her eyes sad. I appreciate that, Gwen told her and, as it so often did in her friend’s presence, her heart gave a leap that stole her breath. After so many years of crushing on Heather, she almost hated that she had any feelings for her. It wasn’t like there was any hope of ever fulfilling her longing, after all.

I guess it’s just that I always thought you would outgrow this comic book thing and the writing about superheroes. But when you dropped out of art school, I couldn’t fathom why you didn’t want to keep going. I mean, I’ve been having such an awesome time in college. I thought you would, too.

Higher education isn’t about awesome times, Heather. It’s about learning something so you can contribute to society in a meaningful way. Gwen almost regretted her words. After all, it would be easy enough for someone to turn them around on her, the way she’d already done to Heather. The thing is, my contribution is art. At least, I hope it will be someday. And yours is... what’s it going to be, again?

Heather chuckled. Her cheeks had regained their normal, rosy hue, a natural blush that highlighted them no matter her mood. Teaching. Can you believe it? Who would let me be a role model to a whole classroom of children?

It was the kind of opening Gwen could have used to make a jab at Heather, the way Heather would do the same to her. But Gwen didn’t. She just shrugged and picked up her coffee. What grade? she asked.

Elementary education, so I’ll be corrupting young minds.

If you get a job, Gwen pointed out, before taking a long drink of the still-hot coffee. It felt good as it burned its way down her throat, a delicious distraction from her meandering thoughts. Why did her friendship with Heather have to be so damn complicated?

With a tilt of her head, Heather conceded, If. Yeah. I know you’re right about that. So, listen, about the other night and Kyle getting into bed with us, I do remember that and I know it wasn’t cool...

Bile lunged back into Gwen’s mouth, made acrid by the coffee, and she clamped her lips shut against it. She gave a wave of her hand and shook her head.

I know, right? I’m sure it was icky to you. I’ve told him again and again that you aren’t into guys at all. He never listens, though.

Gwen picked up her coffee again to sip at it and glanced over at the counter, where the barista was still bustling from the cash register to the machines, mixing drinks for customers. No, I’m definitely not, she agreed softly when she felt capable of speaking again.

So, you’re not pissed about it?

Gwen did not want to tear her eyes away from the barista. There was something wonderful about a simple relationship with someone in the service industry. You walked into the establishment. The person there smiled and asked how they could help you. You made your request and they fulfilled it. She wished friendship could be as straightforward.

When she finally turned back to

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