A heart attack leaves Miles wrangling with a slow recovery and a quiet retreat, just one cabin down from wounded warrior Drew. Although he’s unhappy to have his solitude invaded, Drew finds himself fascinated with Miles, but he can’t bring himself to push aside his skittish nerves.
Both men fear rejection for different reasons, and it will take a real change of heart to seek the acceptance they crave.
Miles was unhappy to be away from everything he valued while recuperating from surgery – telephones, faxes, cable, the Internet – all of which were part of the reason his stress had reached the level it did and caused his recent heart attack. Now he had no choice but to relax and do what his friend and doctor prescribed, change his lifestyle. The only fun he had was watching and teasing his next door neighbour Drew, a former well known surgeon and cardiologist who was also recuperating nearby. Drew had worked for a volunteer group in South America where he and members of his group had been captured in a civil unrest and he had been tortured. Some of the injuries to his fingers and throat were so devastating that he was no longer able to practise as a surgeon or speak clearly. His body would forever bear the marks of what he had endured and he could not stand to be touched by anyone. He avoided all human contact except where absolutely necessary, and to say that he was upset Miles was living next door was putting it mildly, but at the same time he was strangely drawn to him.
The more Drew ignored Miles the more the man watched him. Drew sunbathed in the nude behind his cabin and even though he was too far away for Miles to see his body in detail, he looked forward to the days when he would lie naked on his favourite lounger. Miles was fascinated with the man and tried introducing himself by knocking on the door of his cabin, to no avail; Drew wouldn’t answer and nothing Miles did seemed to get a reaction. Drew thought that Miles was absolutely gorgeous but he intruded into every part of the private and secluded world he had built, carefully shutting everyone out, and now he couldn’t escape Miles because he was always there every day and night.
One morning when Miles went outside at the usual time for Drew-gazing he was nowhere to be seen. This continued for 3 days and in addition to missing him and the music he played every day, he was worried that something might be wrong. He had become addicted to the man and was suffering from withdrawal. He didn’t even know if Drew was gay, all he knew was that he missed him. At the same time, although he liked having a bit of fun at Drew’s expense he had his own personal issues - he was worried about whether he would be able to perform sexually when he recovered from his heart attack, and he even avoided masturbating because he didn’t want to confirm his fears.
Then Drew returned and the problem of what to do about his attraction to Miles was put on hold as the weather changed, with a violent storm headed their way. He decided to warn Miles about the weather since he was unfamiliar with the area. After securing the exterior of his cabin against the elements and not seeing Miles, Drew was worried that something could have happened to him so he drove around in the worsening storm, searching the likely places where he could be, without success. Eventually he returned to Miles’ cabin where he found him injured and buried under the collapsed roof of his cabin. This new development marked the turning point of their relationship as Drew had to share his home with Miles since there was no other place for him to stay until his injuries were healed and repairs could be completed on his cabin.
The characterizations in Start From The Beginning were what drew me into the story. Both men were hurting and had undergone major health crises, consequently their lifestyles had changed considerably. The author carefully crafted how the protagonists tried to move on, each dealing with life’s blows differently, knowing that nothing would ever be the same for them again. The attraction was drawn out over a period of weeks as they learned about each other and there was a lot of tenderness and caring between them. There was very little sex in the book with more emphasis on the characters taking care of each other, combined with the implications of what giving in to desire would be like and the fear of feeling all over again. Chrissy Munder never outlined the specifics of how Drew was injured although she did describe his injuries and how they affected his ability to work in his chosen field. Rather than living in the past he had moved on, making pottery which he sold in the town, and looking after some of the local people who sought medical help.
I think you will like Start from the Beginning which, while it wasn’t all hearts and flowers, was pretty enjoyable. Recommended.
This short story was originally published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Size Still Matters.