Neon Saturday Night
Audie and Calhoun continue their long-distance relationship through college. They sneak off to Myrtle Beach. Audie drives to Charleston when Calhoun gets the flu.
They meet for a fake fishing trip on the Outer Banks. But Audie needs to belong, and because of his traumatic past, he feels like he has little to offer in a committed relationship. While he and Calhoun have fun together, they also have a difficult time negotiating Audie's need to give as much as he takes and build an authentic relationship together.
Calhoun says his job is to learn to be loved. But Audie wants to be more than a fun top and a tragic boyfriend.
Series Blurb:The Southern Seduction series chronicles the interconnected lives of a group of well-off, high society young adults in Savannah, Georgia, most of whom have known each other since kindergarten. Their complicated relationships (and unconventional sexcapades) form the meat of the series, along with a careful attention to chronology, character, and prose. More than romantic erotica, the Southern Seduction series details a fully realized world of drama, theme, and most of all, memorable characters.
“You know what it means to be hurt,” Jax says finally. “I don’t know what hurt you, not really. Same’s I talked around it and didn’t tell you all of it, not the whole truth or the real part of it. But you know. You saw it right away and so did I. Henry and Calhoun don’t know what that means. That’s why they can try to put us back together and maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t.”
“I’m afraid of sharks,” Audie says suddenly. He can’t hold it suddenly, can’t stop it. “But I’m really just afraid of the ocean and I swore I’d never get in it again.”
Jax cocks his head at him. “Someone did something to you.”
Audie tells him about his father and the pontoon boat in the Charleston harbor, about being eleven years and told to swim, just swim to his daddy and they could go home, about the four hours of sheer terror, the thirst and his father’s laughter. ‘
“You’d get in, if you made that go away,” Jax says.
“You can. And you need to tell Calhoun this story.”
“I’m not telling Calhoun this. I never should have told you.” Audie casts again. He tosses an empty back up above the high tide line.
“Henry taught me I owe him the truth.”
“I told him the truth. I have a shark phobia.”
“You didn’t tell him shit and we both know it, Currell. Same’s I told Henry I slept around. I told him something. I never told him why. Never told anyone why.”
“Why’d you do it?”
Jax looks over the horizon and squints into the sun. “I was fucking lonely, Audie, the hell do you think?” He straightens up. “How deep will you go?”
“Go out to your thighs. I’ll go with you.”
“I’m not your father and you’re not eleven. Do you trust me enough to tell me that fucking story?”
Audie hesitates. “Yes.”
“Did I trust you enough to tell you why I slept around?”
Audie stares at the vast expanse of water and wonders at its secrets. “Yes.”
“Then trust me enough not to get your ass eaten. I’ll go ahead of you so you know there’s nothing there.”
Audie begins shaking. But he looks at Jax and realizes that he’s right, for some goddamn reason he does trust him. Jax takes his hand. It’s not sexual; it’s not the way you hold the hand of a lover. More the way you’d lead a blind man, or the way Audie imagines a preacher leading someone down into a river. But Jax holds Audie’s hard firmly and takes him into the water, one step at a time. Audie looks down anxiously, watches his feet. Jax suddenly laughs and points. “See the teensy ray?” he asks, the water at their knees. “Like a little pancake.” And it is, small and gray. They keep going until they stand up to their waists when the waves come in. “You’re safe,” Jax says. “Look how clear the water is.”
Audie stops. Turns. He can see in every direction. He looks. There are no sharks. None that he can see. He knows there are sharks, knows it in his bones: this is Nag’s Head, the Carolina coast, sharks up and down it, black-tips and makos, duskies and sand tigers. But the sharks are far away, and the chances of them hurting him so small. He stands and dives. Stands. Dives again. Suddenly he’s swimming, swimming strong, the way he learned as a boy in the Low Country, in the creeks and estuaries of the Cooper River. Jax swims next to him. Audie flips, backflips. He rides the waves and swims under them, a part of this vast, mysterious thing, just one more creature in this strange universe governed by the pull of the moon. A world of undrinkable water, of whalesong, of menace and beauty, crashing whitecaps and glass-calm. Jax doesn’t leave him alone. They finally swim back to shore.
“You aren’t eleven anymore,” he says quietly.
“I’m not,” Audie says.
“And you never have to be again.”
They share a towel.
“Your trunks are wet,” Calhoun says, when Audie comes into the living room.
“Do you want to go swimming?” Audie asks.
“I’ll be fine, if you go with me.”
Calhoun scrambles to his feet. “I’ll put my suit on.”
They hold hands as they walk into the waves. When the waves roll at their chests, when the water is clear, after Audie looks around them, he wraps around Calhoun, tips his chin to the side, and kisses him hard. They hold each other as the saltwater crashes in front of them, as they bob in the waves. Audie feels Calhoun harden in his suit, tent it out. “That was the best kiss ever,” Calhoun says, when Audie sucks his lower lip and pulls back.
Audie does a backflip. “Why?” he asks, when he comes up.
“Because you weren’t afraid anymore.”
Calhoun touches the bottom and leads him out of the water. They walk right to the bedroom and take off their suits. Audie sheds his rashguard.
“Now we can,” Calhoun breathes.
“Yeah,” Audie says.
“You’ll taste like saltwater.”
“So will you.”
They fall into the bed, side by side, hair still soaked. Audie wraps around Calhoun and kisses him. And he tastes like seawater, oh god he does, like the ocean, like all the secrets of undiscovered whales and unknowable depths, of dolphin names and even the distance tang of shark menace. But Audie knows now you can’t have one without the other: the fear makes the beauty bloom, magnifies it from the everyday to something wild and perfect. He sucks Calhoun’s lower lip the way he likes. Audie doesn’t close his eyes to Calhoun’s beautiful sun-browned skin, blond beginning to streak his wet mermaid tangles.They press against one another, both hard, Audie almost overcome by the sudden depth of his need.
Why I Love Neon Saturday Night: Story by Story
Neon Saturday Night:
- This is my favorite title of anything I’ve ever written. Ever.
- It has some of my favorite lines ever in it. These include: “At least it’s not the one where the kid fucks the sheep” (referring to James Dickey’s poem “The Sheep-Child”), and the last line of the story, which I won’t ruin for you, but which I like more than any last line in any of my stories. I also love the almost throwaway meditation on South Carolina’s vanished Native American tribes, and “I’m running out of blasphemy.”
- I got to write about the Kurt Russell God and, in the epilogue, the Gay Dolphin, both of which are real, neither of which endorse me, and both of which are utterly fantastic and spectacular and amazing.
- Myrtle Beach is this weird theater of the absurd tinged with seediness and danger and heartbreak and possibility: in short, it’s South Carolina all wrapped up in an amusement park. With alligator farms.
- I have Calhoun’s tattoo. I got it after I wrote the story. And yes, while it has deep personal meaning for me, I also got it partially because it’s Calhoun’s freaking tattoo and I’m not ashamed.
Here We Fucking Are:
- How often do you get to put the eff word in a title? And there’s a legitimate reason for it, too.
- You get introduced to Bastian McCarthy for the first time — I went back and added him post-ARC; he’s in the published version. I adore Bastian and I’m thrilled for readers to see meet him and have him in the backs of their heads for later on. Remember that he’s the one who argued for early day-drinking in the garage.
- In fact, I love all of Audie’s friends. Justin Holmes is based on a college friend of mine, who shall remain forever nameless, as is Patrick. While Justin got some tweaks, Patrick is simply … Patrick. I still go over to his place and watch industrial music videos in his garage; my first author pic was actually taken there.
- I wanted Calhoun to get angry and dramatic for once.
- Audie really did wait his whole life to bring Calhoun Gatorade. I love that sentiment and I think it hits the very heart of who he is and what he craves.
The Sharks Create The Ocean
- I have always suspected that dolphins have names, and I finally got to write it down.
- I got to bring in Jax for the first time. If Jax Littleton ever shows up at my door. I’ll be leaving my husband, sorry baby. I didn’t set out to write him that way, but he sort of ended up like that. The conversation he and Audie have in poetry remains one of my favorite exchanges in any short I’ve ever done. It’s so true to both the characters, and was the perfect way to make them friends, which is very important later on.
- Jax smokes Parliaments because I used to smoke Parliaments, and for no other reason.
- I loved writing the sex/sea parallels in the last scene of this story. I don’t care if it was too easy, too pat, or too simple. I adored writing it and I adore reading it aloud. It has some of my favorite lines in the story from it.
- This story’s also really special because my husband helped me with it more than any other I’ve ever written. I know nothing about fishing, and he had to walk me through it. When I thanked him profusely, he laughed and said, “This is like me writing about horses and thanking you for telling me not to call a saddle a ‘horse-chair.’” He picked up little details I needed to get right, then edited the damn thing before I handed it over to Elli West. He even told me sex details I messed up. That’s some real love, when your straight husband tells you that you can’t hold a penis a certain way during gay sex.
- A little extra: this is the first piece Elli West ever worked on for me. She’s a fantastic editor and I’m so thrilled to work with her on other things.
Julia McBryant is, as the saying goes, Southern born, Southern bred, and when she dies, she’ll be Southern dead. When she’s not riding her horse or writing, Julia likes to play with her German Shepherds and rescued greyhounds, make all the crafts (especially those involving glitter), and hike, especially in the North Carolina mountains. She is grateful her husband tolerates both the dogs and the glitter.
However, for the most part, when she isn't writing, she's writing. Her favorite authors include William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pat Conroy, and Flannery O'Connor. She knows next to nothing about pop culture, and always loses at Trivial Pursuit but can kick your ass at Scrabble.
Julia is giving away a $20 Amazon gift certificate
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