Spring is now in the air, and I am excited to have my first male/male romance novel, The Right to Be: A Christopher Family Novel, launched. As with the previous five novels in the series, it will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For those who have been following my Old School New Kid column, I have shared excerpts of it. For this installment, I am sharing an intergenerational aspect of this family: Allan Christopher Davis’ gay great-uncle, Sammy Christopher. The excerpt below is a reminder that it’s never too late to find love, and you can receive a second chance:
After 16 years, Sammy still liked to watch Darnell sleep sometimes, although he’d never let his husband know it. There was a peace about him, knowing their ranch was in good hands. If they weren’t spooning, Darnell usually slept on his right side with one arm under the pillow, as he was now. Sammy finished putting on his lightweight pajamas, his eyes resting on Darnell’s work-toughened right hand. At that moment, his heart and his mind were filled with memories of a special night:
Memorial Day 2008 found the couple in Hawaii on a getaway vacation. They loved sightseeing, the first stop being the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor. It was easy for them to spot other World War II vets there with their families, and Sammy and Darnell soon found themselves sharing their stories with the other vets, the common bond of a wartime nation 60-odd years ago.
A day of sightseeing brought them back to their hotel suite for a nap. As the owners of a working ranch, it was rare that they dressed for dinner unless they were eating out with a client, but Darnell had insisted upon it when they woke up. Darnell still cut a dashing figure in his custom-tailored, navy blue suit with his dress Stetson and boots, and Sammy ate up the way his man checked him out, dressed in his white dinner jacket and black dress slacks, saying, “Mmmm, mmmm, mmm.”
The hotel’s five-star restaurant was blessed by the panoramic backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. Their table, graced with a red rose and placed in a semi-private location, gave it an air of romance and intimacy. Sammy’s curiosity was piqued. From the glint in his eyes, he suspected that Darnell’s plans commemorated the day they met. Wisely, Sammy sat back to enjoy the meal and the ambiance.
“To us,” Darnell said as they lifted flutes of sparkling grape juice.
“To us.” Sammy gave him a loving smile.
“You do know what day this is.”
“How could I forget? Your grandnephew and my younger cousins fixed us up on that blind date when I went to Atlanta. That was the start of something special.”
“Indeed. When we started dating, I remember how concerned you were about how I’d adjust to life on a ranch after all those years in Paris. But that’s only part of the reason we’re here.” Darnell’s voice wavered a little.
Sammy reached out and took his hand. “I’m listening, honey.”
“Sammy, we’ve had many years together. When Rene’ died, it never occurred to me that I would find love again. I simply went on with life as a widower. Then, thanks to our meddling relatives, we were brought together. I thank them for that. There are people out there who say gay men of a certain age can’t find mates, and yet here we are. I can never replace John Lee, and you can never replace Rene’, but together we’ve created new memories of us as a couple. They wouldn’t have wanted us to be alone.”
Sammy’s eyes grew watery as Darnell continued, “I love you so much. I love the way I feel about myself when you’re around. I love holding you in my arms. I love the touch of your lips on mine. I love how much you care for our horses and all the animals you’ve treated. I love the times we spend watching old movies after a long day of tending to the ranch. I love having you as a partner when we play Bid Whist with James and Lovell. I love the way your eyes crinkle up when you and Mister Magic have a moment. I love our circle of friends and family. Life didn’t stop; it went on, and it became amazing.
“When we were young men, we never thought that one day we could legally marry. It seemed like an impossible dream. But now, the time is here. It’s time to seize the moment.”
Darnell lifted the cover dish that mysteriously appeared at their table to reveal a small velvet box. A tear trickled down Sammy’s cheek when he opened it. Resting inside was a platinum ring, engraved with the infinity symbol and the words, ‘My 2nd Chance.’ His heart encouraged him as he looked deep into Sammy’s eyes. “Samuel David Christopher, will you marry me?”
“In a heartbeat, Darnell Brian Smith,” was Sammy’s heartfelt reply. He extended his left hand for a euphoric Darnell to place the ring on his finger.
Their wedding was two years ago, during the window of opportunity when same-sex couples could marry in California. With the support of their ranch family and friends, they drove into San Bernardino in their classic 1965 Buick Wildcat to the county clerk’s office, ready to apply for their marriage license. One phone call to Beckley brought the entire Christopher clan to California where they had a beautiful outdoor ceremony at the ranch on July 26, 2008. Beckley proudly stood up for his brother as best man while best friend James Wilson stood up for Darnell. By this time, Bernie, Sherman, and their sons had established their residence there, their new house having been completed on the property the previous year. Inspired by Sammy and Darnell’s joy and happiness, James and Lovell Wilson were married two weeks later.
Proposition Eight, of course, made national news. At the time, the only saving grace about the whole affair was that their marriage, as well as the thousands of couples who tied the knot before it went into effect, remained valid. In the midst of the mess, one thing kept them hopeful: the conversation he had with Eli at their wedding. How it would play out was unknown, but he knew the power of his cousin’s visions.
And it was playing out. Currently, five states and D.C. had marriage equality.
Believe in dreams and never give up.
W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”
W.D.’s tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits, and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.
W.D. is a book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper in the Twin Cities. His column is titled, “Sharing Our Stories.”
His Christopher Family Novel series can be found on the shelves of 12 public library system collections in Minnesota and the Des Moines Public Library system in Iowa. Current works in development are a continuation of his series: two M/M romance novels, “The Right to Be” (coming of age) and “To Thine Own Self” (a 30-plus couple), and “The Rise of Sherry Payson,” a story seasoned with humor, romance, mystery, and a story within.
Mr. Evans has reported and written for print and on line media outlets including the HuffingtonPost, The Washington Post, The Advocate, Bilerico, BaltimoreOUTloud, Washington Post, Baltimore Gay Life and the Washington Blade. His series of articles on issues such as Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A), Relationships, Depression, and Racism strongly resonate with the LGBTQ Community and its Allies.
To read his work for HUFF PO, visit: https://huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/
Mr. Evans has written an in-depth, multi-part and award-winning series on racism within the LGBTQ Community for Bilerico..
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