Author: Nealy Wagnermore from this user
Six years have passed since the awful day when Axel and Caxton were caught making out in the woods at Church camp. They were only teenagers then, but Axel had been devastated when Cax had cut off all contact with him. After that, his best friend seemed to vanish.
So Axel is astonished to find his first love’s face in the crowd of a college basketball game he’s watching on TV—at a college which has just offered him a job. It’s a thousand miles away, in a tiny rural community. But suddenly, he can’t wait to get there.
Cax can’t believe his eyes when Axel appears in the same town where he now lives. And he’s still just as drawn to Axel as ever. But he can’t let himself go there again. Because loving Axel will mean losing everything else he holds dear.
Both men have so much to lose. But as far as their love is concerned, It’s Never Over.
It should have been like every other night I’d spent watching a basketball game on television — God knows there’d been plenty of those.
This was my first time watching the Barmuth Brown Bears in action. I’d had to dig deep into the Internet to find the small college’s game streaming on a sports site. Barmuth College in Henning, Massachusetts had just offered me a job, and I needed to know what I was getting into. Might be getting into. I hadn’t yet decided whether I was going to accept.
The job offer was in their athletic department, where I’d be joining the tiny sports marketing department. In many ways it was my dream job. I loved sports, and I knew I would be good at marketing them to the community and to the college’s wealthy alumni. But Henning was a tiny, tiny town two and a half hours from Boston. Three and a half hours from New York.
For a young, gay, single man, it was less than ideal.
Then again, I didn’t have a lot of choices. I was living in my childhood bedroom, working an internship that did not pay. And all of my friends had moved away from Columbus after graduation.
And I was already lonely. How much worse could it be out in the woods in Western Massachusetts? My boyfriend had dumped me the day before graduation. “We’re too young to be serious,” he’d said. But what I heard was, Later, sucker. Thanks for all the blow jobs that I often didn’t reciprocate.
So there I sat, my face close to the computer screen, watching a basketball team that would likely never make it to the NCAA playoffs. Barmuth was a small, private liberal arts college. It was prestigious for both its academics and its long history. I’d done a lot of reading on the school’s website, and it seemed like a nice enough place. I’d found mention of an LGBTQ students’ union, which was a good sign. And theoretically, liberal arts colleges in New England were as gay-friendly as anyplace on earth.
But would the athletic department embrace me? That was my big concern.
In my interview, they’d asked if I had any further questions. My last question should have been, “will it ruffle any feathers if the new marketing person is as gay as a rainbow parade?” But I hadn’t asked, because I wanted them to offer me the job. And the college’s anti-discrimination policy was wholly on my side.
But I had no idea—if I took the job and moved a hundred miles away, would it turn out all right?
On the screen, Henning scored a couple of three-pointers right in a row. They had some talent. I tried to imagine them as my team. In a month, I might be sitting at the officials’ table, making notes for a boosters’ press release and updating the team’s Facebook page. Unfortunately, the school’s colors were brown and white. I’d be sitting there wearing a brown tie.
But a guy couldn’t have everything. At least the mascot was cute. I wondered who was inside that giant bear costume.
The announcer mentioned that the crowd tonight was two thousand people. That was a far cry from an Ohio State game. But unlike my alma mater, Barmuth had offered to pay me for my labor. And working for the Brown Bears would be a hell of a lot more fun than ending up in a cubicle in some faceless corporation.
I leaned closer to my screen, as if the proximity would help me make the decision. When the refs stopped the game to review a play on video, I got a closer look at the officials’ table. I recognized my (probable) future boss, Arnie Diggs. As the head of the athletic department, I found him to be a stereotypical loud-mouthed jock. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if he’d populated his department with clones of himself, I didn’t see myself hitting the bar on weekends with my coworkers.
He wants to hire you, though, I reminded myself. His judgment couldn’t be that bad. Obviously.
The camera moved slowly across the stands, and I scanned the basketball-loving population of Henning, Massachusetts for clues. Could I make a life there?
Two minutes later, my night took a turn for the weird.
If I’d been watching any other basketball game, I might not have even noticed him. It was my scrutiny of the crowd that led to my crazy discovery. He was in the third row, which put him into the camera’s eye each time the Barmuth coach was shown pacing the bench. My eye snagged on a handsome face with a cleft chin. A very familiar face…
It couldn’t be him, my mind chided. But it really looked like him. Really. A lot.
Naturally, the shot cut to a view of the basket, yanking my eyes off this incredible mystery. But I was no longer interested in the players. They were just a blur to me now. Instead, I sat there quietly freaking out, trying to decide if my subconscious had played a trick on me.
The last time I’d seen Cax Williams it was here in Ohio. We were sixteen. He was my whole life back then, even if I never told him so. We went to the same church retreats from third grade to the awful day when I last saw him...