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The Curious Thing About The Apartment Vent

by R. D. Noland

Just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean someone doesn’t know your business…

Lucas, the closeted son of a preacher who just graduated from Florida Atlantic University, returns home and is forced to make a life-changing decision––can he live a lie and marry his lifelong BFF, who his overbearing parents have been plotting to matchmake him with for years? Or, will he stay in Florida and start a new, more open life that he knows they will never approve of?

Tyler, a talented artist on the edge of seventeen, is about to finish high school, and is looking forward to becoming a proper adult and fully exploring his sexuality. However, he soon discovers there’s a kink in his plans––his father has decided to rent out the studio apartment he’s been living in, putting an end to the independence he’s enjoyed until now.

Lucas answers an advertisement for the apartment, and sparks fly from the very first moment the boys meet––though both are reluctant to explore things further, since it wasn’t what either of them had planned for their futures.

But sometimes life isn’t that simple, and doesn’t always go exactly as planned…

Excerpt:

Prologue: I Do?

Lucas

I should be happy because it’s my wedding day and I’m marrying a wonderful woman, but I don’t know why I let myself get talked in something I know is wrong.

Yes, I do––to make my parents happy and show them I can be the man they expected me to be, not the person I really am. I’m the son of a well-known preacher in the Midwest, and my parents think I should settle down with Ivy, my best friend, a girl I’ve known since kindergarten. She was a scrappy little girl with long black hair and braids, who stood up to anyone who got in her way. I was smart that I never got on her bad side. Her parents and mine have been close friends for years, and so they’ve always had this thing in the back of their mind that we would eventually get together and have beautiful children together.

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This wedding has been planned since we were in kindergarten. I hoped they would drop it after I went to college, but then I made the mistake of making a deal with my parents. Talk about making a deal with the devil. They wanted me to go to a perfectly respectable Christian college, but I didn’t––so I promised them when I came back that, if Ivy and I hadn’t found any potential suitors to marry, we would get hitched to one another. That little arrangement allowed me to pick any college I wanted, and I went to FAU in south Florida, far enough away and very different from my small town in Indiana.

Four years later, they are pressuring us both to tie the knot. I was hoping that Ivy would have gotten hitched by now, and I would be off the hook. She had many boyfriends over the years, but wouldn’t put up with any of their bullshit, so never got serious with any of them. Meanwhile, I don’t want to get married––I never did.

I love Ivy, but as a friend and a sister. Still, it’s almost impossible to say no to my family, especially my father, when they set their sights on something. My father always gets his way, no matter how hard I protest. Ivy and I haven’t even kissed, being the “good Christian girl” she is. But I know her better than that; we’ve talked about her having fun with a boy or two over the years. I also knew that everyone thought we had a thing going on, and I just never corrected them.

As long as I hung around her, I hoped my parents wouldn’t discover my secret––that I wasn’t interested in any girl. I’m gay. And now I was trapped in this lie of my own making, and afraid to escape it.

I look at everyone in my father’s church, all dressed up for my wedding, and feel like I don’t know these people––I never really did. There is only one face that I see. The smile of my best friend and roommate from college, who is my best man.

I met Alex during my freshman year at college. He was my roommate for most of my time at FAU, and I lost my virginity to him. The only problem is that he is bisexual, but is probably more interested in girls than guys. Still, at least I can think of all the hot stuff we did together.

My heart skipped a beat as he looked my way, and smiled his perfectly gleaming smile. He walked over and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Lucas, how are you holding up?”

I took a deep breath and let it out. “I just hope I don’t throw up over everyone.”

“Come on, let’s go get some air.”

We turned down a hallway, leading to a side room no one was using. I walked over to a window and stared out of it, listening to Alex’s calming voice.

“If you’re having second thoughts, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have anything to prove to your parents. I know you don’t want to marry Ivy––I know what you like. So unless Ivy is into strap-ons, I think you’re always going to be missing something. Bro, I care about you a lot and wish I could be the one for you. I like messing around with duds, but now I want to have a family and make babies. You’re both still young, and I’m sure Ivy will get over it––she deserves to marry someone who feels the same way she does. Have you ever talked to her about how you feel, and does she know that you like duds?”

I couldn’t turn around and look at him; it would betray how I felt, and I didn’t want him to look into my eyes as I tried to hold back the tears.

“No. She may suspect that I like guys, but I never came out and told her. Actually, I never told anyone but you. I’m surprised that Ivy agreed to marry me. We never said that we had feelings for each other, but we just gave into the lie our families set up for us. They would hate me forever––after my older brother died overseas, I felt like it was up to me to carry on the family name.”

“But Lucas, will you be happy? Eventually, the lie will come out, and it could tear everyone apart. I’ll be here for you whatever you decide, though––I’m your best friend, and that’s what I’m here for.”

We heard a knock on the door, and my father walked in. “It’s time, Lucas; everyone is here, and we’re ready to get started.”

“Okay, Dad, we’ll be out in a minute.”

When my father left the room, I headed for the open door. Alex grabbed my arm, closed the door, and kissed me. My eyes widened in shock.

“Now, why did you do that? You don’t kiss guys––screw them, yes, but never kiss them. You’ve never even kissed me before.”

“I know, Lucas, but I just wanted to show you how much I care about you, and that if this doesn’t feel right, there is always another way for you.”

I shook my head and opened the door. “No, I have to see this through. Come on, everyone is waiting.”

We walked into the chapel, where my father was standing at the podium, with the bridesmaids off to the left. Alex and I took our place on the right, and when the music started to play, everyone got to their feet.

Ivy’s father walked her down the aisle, bringing her to me. She looked so beautiful in a modest white and cream wedding gown––not her taste, but still stunning. She took my hand, and then we turned to my father. My father gave a little speech, welcoming the congregation, and then we turned to each other and recited our vows. I turned to Alex one last time, but I knew that looking at him would break my heart.

Then my father asked everyone at the ceremony, “If anyone knows a reason why this couple should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:lucy on Queeromance Ink wrote:

The Review

The Curious Thing About the Apartment Vent by RD Noland is a sweet, low-angst romance between Lucas, who escapes before committing to a potentially disastrous marriage and Tyler, who until recently was living in his father’s basement apartment while finishing his senior year in high school.

This was a darling, well-written story that brings Lucas back to Florida, where he had recently attended college. After pulling a run-away-groom and leaving his best female friend behind at the church where his father is the conservative pastor, Lucas stays with his college roommate while he finds a job and apartment in the Sunshine State. He rents the basement apartment from Tyler’s dad, throwing a wrench in Tyler’s plans. The studio apartment had been Tyler’s refuge and chance to transition from high school student to young adult. Shortly after Lucas moves in, Tyler inadvertently eavesdrops on Lucas through the air vent that leads from the apartment into Tyler’s bedroom.

There were so many things to enjoy about this story, from the meet-cute of the eavesdropping via air vent, to the fun side characters, to the developing relationship between Tyler and Lucas. I even, possibly weirdly, enjoyed the references to Covid-19 and the recent hurricanes in Florida. For me, those real events deserve some acknowledgement in the ways they affect everyday lives. The author, RD Noland, did a great job using those things as cultural reference points for the story.

This story had great, well-developed characters, a fun meet-cute and plot, and ended with a sweet HEA. The writing was great, with good timing and flow. It was hard to put this one down.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Curious Thing About the Apartment Vent, a wonderful introduction to Noland’s writing. I look forward to reading other works by this author.


About the Author

R.D. Noland was born in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. During his last two years of high school, he attended M.C.J.S. studying art, photography, and printing. He took some classes at the Sinclair Community College to continue his education. He was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunt, all of whom shaped the way he viewed the world. Mr. Noland moved to Florida in1989 with his significant other and their two cats. They closed the chapter on that relationship after many years and sadly the cats went with his ex. Later he adopted two dogs that he fell in love with; they became his baby girls. He was accepted by some major art schools but could not afford to attend, so enrolled in a local college to study art. He has worked as a custom picture framer and a freelance artist in some several galleries and frame shops. Mr. Noland feels at his best when he is creating, so please join him on this new creative adventure and see where his imagination takes us.