Alexei was on his way home with take out when a homeless man attempted to mug him. Rather than going to the police, Alexei decided to track down the guy who bailed on the mugging; he found him at a cathedral. As a way to help the guy out, he invited him back to his flat and offered him a job and a place to sleep. The guy who we soon come to know as August, dismissed the offer, stating that he wasn’t a whore. To that Alexei laughed and returned that he wasn’t looking for a shag. So they talked through a bit and August finally decided to take Alexei up on the offer.
Alexei can admit that it may turn out to be the stupidest thing he’s ever done, especially because he’s spent so much time keeping himself closed off and avoiding vulnerability like the plague, but he knows what it’s like. He’s been where August is and something in him wants to help. And that’s the beginning of the story.
There was a time that I wanted to have a house, I wanted to be in the position to support people who needed it for time and I kind of was for a while–helped two people out–but then I realized I’m not really built for that. I’m not built for caring–which sounds terrible, I suppose–but I don’t always have the energy. I don’t always have the mental fortitude to take on other people’s problems, so reading this and seeing how Alexei takes August in because he’s been there, he understands what being homeless is about: the desperation, the loneliness, the dehumanization. Seeing how all that goes on and how he tries to help the man back to feeling human without expressly doing so–it’s difficult and it’s amazing and I wish I really could do something like that. But I’m more of a background support person I will do things in the dark, in the shadows to help out, but that sort of overt, right out in front thing, I really wish I could, but I can’t. Not without it damaging the pre-existing relationship in someway and I don’t do well with strangers, so that’s… Anyway, I get antsy. I don’t like people in my space, even if I really want them there. There is just something in me that needs to be left alone; it’s a terrible thing, but it is what it is. At least for now. I don’t know if it’ll ever change. Maybe I kind of don’t want it to, but then again I think that maybe it’s not a good way to be. But I’ll live vicariously through Alexei.
So Alexei and August barely knew each other a month and Alexei was already falling for him. Now, I think that it’s possible, because August is a very charming guy. He’s not baroque or anything, but he is rather relaxed, relatively up front, knows how to laugh, and takes thing in stride. He seems comfortable with himself even with his present situation. But I think the impression is mostly due to Alexei tolerance or immunity. He has closed himself off for so long that being around someone constantly and living in the same space, breathing the same air, even if there’s no sort of advance in romance department, has shaken his foundation. He’s been against opening himself up to someone else, it’s something that he’s not done for a long time; not just lazily but determinedly. His parents died and it destroyed him and he never wanted to be that vulnerable again and so in order to do that he’s led a solitary life. The presence of August reminds him of what it’s like to know someone else, to be around someone else, to be in their presence and interact with them and not in a store owner-customer way, but in a just as two people way. He opened that door, so now he’s almost powerless to stop it.
The lead-up to them having sex was a very awkward 5 to 10 minutes between them where there was a little bit of give and a lot of turning away for fear of being wrong or being rejected. That led to August escaping to his safe place, the cathedral, but somebody got brave (Alexei) while somebody else (August) tried to steel themselves and made sure to pray that they would just hold on tight, resist, find the strength not to be hurt if there was rejection on the way. But they chanced a step in that direction, both hesitant, yet consenting. Still, even a month in, they don’t know each other very well, yet they’ve gone this far.
Alexei gave August a sketch of his life early on in the story; the first or second day as a matter of fact. They have sex before August returns the favor, he opened up the morning after as a matter of fact. So August tells the story of how a posh guy ends up homeless–I had it all written out, but at this point in my reading, the story is still good, so I want to encourage you to read it. But let’s say, posh or not, his family wasn’t that great and he rebelled for a while, but got himself together. However, in uni, he surrounded himself with the wrong kind of people and even though he was on the straight and narrow, he got caught up in their mess which spit him out on the other side with nothing.
Now that’s it. A good story and it’s really sad and everything and it seems like it’s on the level, but later Alexei doesn’t seem to think it’s all that cut and dry. Alexei’s story–which I don’t mind giving more details about because it’s the first thing you read–is that, at age 19, he lost his parents to a horrible crash. He was left alone; he still had family back in Georgia (the country) but he was in the UK. He dropped out of uni and ended up on the streets. Finally, he decided to ditch his pride and go into a shelter to get himself to a place where he could move on with his life. That taken care of, he gets a job and later he’s got enough cash and credit and encouragement from his boss to open his own bookstore with a flat on the top so he lives above it and this is his life until we meet him.
The morning after, rather than either of them assuming, they talked about it and decided that, yes, they want to be together. Almost hard not to be when you’re in such close quarters, though. Some time passed and the feeling that August has not been completely straight with him visits Alexei often. He doesn’t want to be the jealous or doubting person who sits and waits for things to fall apart, but that’s pretty much what he becomes. It turns out that his feeling was somewhat on point–to be honest, though, it’s not clear what the deal was at the time. Skip ahead to them being broken up for 6 months. And that all came about because Alexei was out strolling, just kind of getting things together in his head–his suspicions mounting–when he ran into August and some other bloke. He ducked back before they saw him, but he overheard their conversation. That was all Alexei needed to hear to confirm his fears.
At that Alexei called on an old friend to put him up for the night because he didn’t want to go home. He would rather face it in the morning. He returned in the morning to open up the shop and August came in from wherever he’d been, and after seeing Alexei, he told him looked like shit–this is said with a fair amount of concern. Alexei saw no point in dragging it on so went right into it. First there was a vague exchange and August was clueless, then Alexei told him that he saw and heard him. August tried to defend himself, but Alexei cut him off and challenged him to tell him that he didn’t see/hear what he saw he saw/heard. August gave up, shook his head, went to pack, and left. Which brings us to where I was a few lines ago: six months post-break-up.
The old friend tried to hook Alexei up with a Jewish guy. He, for some reason, assumed that Alexei being Jewish and August being Catholic was a point of contention in their relationship. It wasn’t. This is the point in the story where I want to call it, give my first thoughts on the next big thing to happen, basically to sum up the ending before I get there.
And my first thought was that August wasn’t doing anything wrong, quite the opposite, in fact. Alexei was going to go on the date with Seth, the Jewish guy, and go to a restaurant that happened to be owned/run by August (he bakes) and Alexei was going to see and know that this was what it was all about. And I felt that it would be exactly what he deserved for never letting August fully explain. I also felt that it should be his total loss because no one should have to put up with a lover who is not only suspicious and paranoid, but also doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt. You might say that since he had the feeling for a while and said nothing that he was doing just that, but I’m of the mind that he just didn’t want to face it and his hesitance had very little to do with whether or not August was trustworthy. Alexei didn’t want his fears to be confirmed so he said nothing, hoping August would do something to prove him wrong. And I think he was about to, but Alexei blew up at him.
So it turned out that I was correct, but not exactly. There was no restaurant, per se, but Alexei did run into August on the day of his date and it was a very good moment. And yes, there was that slap in the face moment, “you could have had all this, etc,” but it was nowhere near as harsh as I was going for. However, Lindsey’s version was even sweeter than sweet. I knew they were going to get back together, so even though I wanted Alexei to suffer because he should have just listened, I’m glad everything came about the way it all did.
I was very happy with the ending of the story and the beginning and the middle, too!