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Better Than Art

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“Would it be okay if I read what you’re working on now?” Elijah asked seemingly out of the blue.

The request surprised Sean because while Elijah was aware he’d begun writing again, this was the first time he’d asked to read anything.

When Sean didn’t respond right away, Elijah assumed the answer was no. “It’s okay if you don’t want me to,” he said quickly.

“Of course I want you to,” Sean assured him. “You just surprised me is all.”

“So you don’t mind? I thought maybe you didn’t want anyone to see it until it was finished.”

Sean shook his head. “You’re welcome to read anything I’ve written.” He paused. “I just want you to promise you won’t get upset.”

“Why would I get upset?” Elijah wanted to know.

Rather than answer, Sean went to his desk, booted up his laptop, and opened the document that contained his novel. Then he stepped away. Elijah sat down in Sean’s desk chair and began to read.

******

He should have said something, Sean realized as he sat on the porch. He hadn’t planned it, but the words had begun to flow from the moment his pen had touched paper, and then he’d gotten so caught up in the work that he hadn’t wanted to stop. The writing had progressed so quickly that Sean had returned to using his laptop to write. He had to admit that he didn’t tell Elijah what he was working on because he was afraid Elijah would feel betrayed, and if that happened, he would have had to stop writing, which, if he was being honest with himself, was the reason he hadn’t said anything.

When the front door opened an hour later and Elijah stepped out onto the porch, his first words were, “You wrote about Pedar and me.”

Sean let out the breath he’d been holding. Elijah’s words had been a statement, not an accusation, which Sean took as a good sign. “If you don’t want me to continue, I won’t,” Sean promised hurriedly. “If it’s too painful for you, I’ll understand. Just say the word and I’ll delete the whole thing. The last thing I want is to hurt you, Elijah.”

Elijah took the chair next to Sean’s, dropping down into it as if exhausted. “It’s good,” he said.

It was the last thing Sean had expected to hear. “I’m glad you think so, but whether it’s good or bad isn’t the point. It’s your story, and you have the right to say whether I tell it or not.”

“Does Pedar have the right to say whether you tell it or not?” Elijah wondered.

Sean shook his head. “Not as far as I’m concerned. He’s the villain in this story, Elijah. He lost any rights he had concerning you the first time he hit you, and he doesn’t deserve to be protected from others learning what he did.”

“If you publish it and Pedar reads it, I wonder what he’ll think?”

Sean said, “That’s of no consequence to me. I’m only interested in what you think.”

Elijah sighed. “Reading it made me feel sick to my stomach—“

“Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

Elijah grasped Sean’s hand. “Let me finish, okay?”

“Okay.”

“It made me sick because reading it reminded me how stupid I’d been.”

“You weren’t stupid,” Sean protested. “We went through this, Elijah. You were young and inexperienced when you met Pedar. No one could blame you for being dazzled by his wealth and the attention he lavished on you, but what Pedar did to you after was wrong, and that’s on him, not you. You can’t ever forget that.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Elijah said softly, “but it’s taken me a while to realize it wasn’t my fault. I was only able to do that because of you, Sean.”

“I don’t believe that. I’m sure you would have come to that conclusion on your own. I’m only a supporting player in this story.”

“You’re anything but,” Elijah corrected. “It took being in a good relationship to make me realize the one I’d been in before was bad for me.”

Sean grinned. “That good relationship is the second part of the book.”

“You’re writing about us?” Elijah asked in a voice so genuinely amazed that Sean realized he’d never considered that this might happen.

“Of course,” Sean confirmed. “Unless you don’t want me to. You can object to my telling our story as well as yours and Pedar’s.”

“Our story,” Elijah repeated. “I like the sound of that.”

“So do I,” Sean admitted. “So you’re okay with my continuing with the book?“

“I’m more than okay,” Elijah said excitedly, “as long as you don’t change the ending of the story.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” Sean assured him. “Besides, I think my first foray back into writing deserves a happy ending, don’t you?”

“You mean that art should imitate life?” Elijah asked with a shy smile.

Sean smiled back at him. “I think sometimes life can be better than art.”

Elijah nodded agreement. “Ours sure is,” he said.