Today we welcome Sue Brown and
The Next Call
Mark Grayson volunteers for an LGBT helpline, the same one that helped him through his teenage years. One day he takes a call from “Ricky,” a suicidal man being forced into a marriage he doesn't want. For weeks Mark talks to Ricky and provides support, but he’s frustrated by the lack of information Ricky provides and the decisions he’s making. In the meantime, Mark starts a relationship with another volunteer. Then tragedy strikes and Mark takes time away from the helpline, but when he comes back, Ricky is waiting. Mark realizes Ricky is stronger than before and their relationship changes, but Mark isn’t sure what their future holds if their relationship is destined to be at the end of the phone.
“NOT TODAY, please not today. I haven’t got time.” It wasn’t true. Mark Grayson had all the time in the world today as he had a day off from his IT job, but some days he just didn’t want to take on the world’s problems. Today he’d promised himself a drive in the countryside and a pint at a pub.
There was no reason for the man to attract Mark’s attention. It wasn’t unusual to see people staring over the valley, and the view was spectacular—rolling, verdant hills in the foreground bisected by a long, rambling river. The road went over the river and then followed its path on the other side before it reached the next village.
Mark lived on the outskirts of Greater London, but he worked forty miles from home and preferred traveling by the country roads rather than sitting in endless traffic jams on the M25. He used the bridge on his way to work and bypassed tourists nearly every day, sometimes almost knocking over oblivious ones as they stepped back to take photos.
As Mark drove past, the man was standing stock-still, but he wasn’t looking at the view. He had his hood pulled up, so Mark couldn’t see his face, but the man had leaned forward and peered down at the forty-foot drop to the river and jagged rocks below, and that alone made the hairs stand up on the back of Mark’s neck. The temptation just to drive by was strong, to avoid making it his problem, but Mark was never one to pass on the other side. He sighed and parked his car close to the barrier, considerate enough to allow other cars to pass by. He walked back to where the man stood, not wanting to startle him and force him into a hasty decision.
The man didn’t glance up, didn’t acknowledge Mark’s existence until they were five feet apart. “Go away.” His voice was raw and strained. He wasn’t ordering—he was begging.
Mark stayed where he was, but he didn’t retreat. The instinct that had made him stop the car was screaming at him even louder this close to the man. He recognized the slump of the guy’s shoulders, the set resolve in his voice. He sounded so young. Twenty? Twenty-one? Too young to be standing there.
“I don’t think I can do that,” Mark said softly.
“It’s not your business.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. It’s very much my business.”
“Just drive on and forget you ever saw me.” The man drew in a shaky breath. “In a few minutes, it won’t matter anyway.”
“How long have you been standing there?” Mark asked.
“That’s a long time to be making a decision.”
“I made it a long time ago.”
Mark shook his head. “I hate to disagree with you, friend, but if you’d really made it, you would have jumped by now.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, I do.”
The man turned to look at Mark for the first time, but the hood and large sunglasses obscured his face.
“I’m going to do it. It’s the only choice I have.”
Mark didn’t bother to argue or tell him he always had options. When you were that far down the road, you really didn’t care. “What is your name?”
“Richard. My name is Richard.”
He still cared enough to have an identity. That was a good sign. Some of the people he dealt with had lost everything, including their souls.
“Richard, I’m not going to stop you jumping.”
Mark shook his head. “I’ll stay so I can call the emergency services. It’s not fair that some poor soul has to find what’s left of you.”
“Do you think they’ll find me? Won’t I be washed out to sea?”
“Not this far up.” Mark smiled a little. “Let me take care of you.”
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About the author:
Sue Brown is owned by her dog and two children. When she isn't following their orders, she can be found plotting at her laptop. In fact she hides so she can plot and has gotten expert at ignoring the orders.
Sue discovered M/M erotica at the time she woke up to find two men kissing on her favorite television series. The series was boring; the kissing was not. She may be late to the party, but she's made up for it since, writing fan fiction until she was brave enough to venture out into the world of original fiction.
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