Tuesday 30 August 2016

Second Chances Chapter 1

Find out what happens to Simon and Ian after Hot Off the Press

Second Chances is available on 9/1/2016. Read Chapter 1 now!

Ian squinted in the bright sunlight as he moved the pillow that was covering his eyes. He shuffled in the tangle of blankets on the king-size bed, reaching out his arm to see if Simon was still next to him. To his disappointment, Simon was already up and about, and Ian groaned at the thought that he wouldn’t get to cuddle with his boyfriend on his last day in Cape Town before a week-long trip to Johannesburg. 

Ian turned over, exposing his naked chest to the warm summer rays streaming in through the open window. The clock above the bedroom door showed that it was only 8.30, but it already felt like it was going to be a scorcher. Ian rubbed the gentle hairs of his chest, enjoying the heat on his skin, and feeling his hormones flair at the desire to have Simon next to him. He called out in a sing-song voice: “Simon? Where are you?” and heard the sounds of bags being moved and smelled the heavenly aroma of bacon from the kitchen. Simon had always been an early bird, and even though Ian’s flight was only later that afternoon, Simon was doubtlessly making sure he got a healthy meal in his belly before he left. Always such a generous caretaker, Ian thought, and a smile crossed his lips. He sat up in bed, his rugged beard and messy hair making him look like a caveman in the nightstand mirror across from him. He would have to trim the beard and pamper himself a bit before leaving for Joburg. Can’t do a job interview looking like that.

Simon’s sweet, gentle voice called back to Ian from the living room: “Come on out here, Ian. Breakfast is getting cold and I have something to show you before you get ready for your trip.”
Ian shuffled out of bed, his naked body taking in the warm rays, the tall, muscular back and buttocks bulging. He pulled on his robe and fastened it, regretting that he had to cover up, but he knew that Simon would be anxious about their separate trips and wouldn’t be in the mood for any funny business that morning. Simon could be very rigid when it came to following schedules, and he was determined that Ian needed to be in a taxi by 9.30. Ian walked into the kitchen, seeing Simon’s smiling face stare up at him as Simon knelt down next to an oversized suitcase. Simon was struggling to fit in a few extra shirts; even though Ian would only be gone for a week and Simon’s conference would only last a few days, Simon was always overprepared. “I’m just trying to get this to close. But I’ll struggle with it after breakfast. Come have some bacon and eggs with me. I have something to show you.” Simon’s medium-length straight brown hair and slim, sharp jawline gave him the look of a schoolteacher. It was no wonder Simon was making such an excellent editor of the Ridgemont Weekly News since Ian had retired to do his master’s degree the year before. Even though it was hard for Ian to say goodbye to the Weekly, he couldn’t think of anyone better to take the reins from him than Simon. Simon was a natural editor: strict but friendly, diligent but smart enough to avoid micromanaging. Truthfully, everyone knew that Simon could run the paper almost completely on his own, but he resisted his natural instinct to overwork and let everyone do their part instead.
Ian bent down to give Simon a gentle kiss. “Good morning, handsome. Breakfast smells incredible! And you really didn’t have to finish packing for me; there’s more than enough time still before my flight. We’re only a twenty-minute cab ride away from the airport. We don’t have to stick to the schedule so religiously.”

Simon’s eyes got wide with shock, “Of course we do! We can’t have you missing your flight on such an important day. Interviewing with Walden Media Group is nothing to take lightly. I can’t believe you’re looking so calm right now. I would be jumping out of my skin if I had a job interview at Walden coming up.”

Ian shrugged and sat down at the breakfast table, taking a deep whiff of the breakfast in front of him. “I’m just planning on taking it as it comes. You know I’m still not sure about this job. If I get it, I’ll have to move to Joburg and be away from you, at least until you finish your studies. I don’t know if I can stand that. What am I supposed to do without you for six months?”

Simon sat down next to Ian, giving him a faint smile. Ian could see that Simon was just as conflicted as he was, but Simon was doing a very good job of fighting back his mixed feelings. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Working at Walden has been your dream since forever. I don’t want to stand in the way of that. I want you to have everything you’ve ever dreamed of in life,” Simon said, his eyes flickering with a brief moment of sadness. “Besides, we can visit at least one weekend a month. Flights aren’t that expensive. And I’ll stay with you over the holidays when I can get away from the Weekly. We’ll figure this out. You can’t let your dream job slip away.”

“That’s just the thing,” Ian said, holding Simon’s hand across the edge of the small kitchen table. “Being with you, living together these past few months, has been more than I could ever have dreamed of. I want a great job, and I want to be a journalist, but not if it costs me what we have together. We’re building a life that I love so much, and if I can’t have you with me, I don’t even want to be at Walden.”

Simon’s eyes went wide again, and he opened his mouth in surprise: “Don’t even say things like that, Ian! You’ll jinx your interview. I want you to give this your best shot. I’ll be done with my studies in a few months, then I’ll come up and join you in Joburg full time and find a job there. We can survive a few months apart. Trust me, nothing will keep me from being with you. Not after everything we’ve been through to be together.”

Simon bent across the table and kissed Ian lovingly, and Ian smelled the fresh flowery fragrances of Simon’s shampooed hair mixed with his intoxicating deodorant. Simon’s soft lips rubbed against Ian’s as his hand gently caressed Ian’s cheek. Simon whispered, looking deeply into Ian’s eyes, “I love you, Ian. I never want to lose you.”

Ian smiled contentedly, his heart swelling at how lucky he was to have someone like Simon in his life. When they were working together at the Weekly, Ian had always felt like he needed to hide the feelings he had for Simon, like it would be wrong to overstep his boundaries as editor. Now, they could share their love freely, and there was nothing standing in their way.

“Enough about me,” Ian said, taking a bite of his breakfast, “you should be excited about your own week. You finally get another chance to interview President Baleka. How are you feeling?”

Ian saw Simon’s eyebrows crease and a look of worry was written all over his face. Simon tapped his fingers nervously on the table as he looked down at his plate. “I don’t know. It’s a big deal to be able to represent Ridgemont University at the Youth in Journalism Summit. And the president himself agreeing to attend and hold a press junket with all of the university journalists? It’s a lot of pressure.”

Ian squeezed Simon’s hand, trying to ease the worry written all over Simon’s face. Ian softened his gaze, trying to project a look of calm and reassurance. Simon had always questioned his own abilities, even though he really had nothing to be afraid of. The year before, Simon had missed out on a chance to interview Harry Baleka when he was still just a candidate for president. A rival journalist at the Weekly, Margeaux Chamberlain, had stolen the opportunity from Simon when he was too slow to act on it. But now, he was being given a second chance to redeem himself for that missed interview. This was his chance to prove that he was able to interview one of the greatest leaders South Africa has ever had. Ian knew that it was an immense amount of pressure, and for someone as self-conscious as Simon, it was almost surely causing him sleepless nights. But Ian also knew that there was no one more talented at finding and pursuing interesting and important stories than Simon. He was an incredible writer and a brilliant investigative journalist. He had proven that point when he had uncovered a scandal of homophobic bullying at Ridgemont that was being covered up by the university’s management. Simon’s bravery had inspired Ian to be brave himself and admit his feelings for Simon. It was one of the best decisions of Ian’s life.

Ian felt himself almost become choked up watching Simon doubting himself. He felt his love for Simon swelling up inside of him. Ian said: “The work you’ve done as editor of the Weekly has been amazing to watch. You’re the best journalist I know, and you’re going to blow them away this weekend. I’m so proud of you, Simon. And I love you more than I can say.”

Simon’s eyes rose from the table and he looked Ian in the eye. The connection between them had only grown stronger, and there was no doubt how much they loved and valued each other. “Thanks, Ian,” Simon said, blinking quickly, his cheeks becoming rosier with modesty. “That means a lot to me. Oh! That reminds me: I have a gift for you.” Simon walked over to the kitchen counter and brought over a rectangular box with a red bow around it. 

“For me?” Ian asked, his smile broadening. “What’s the occasion?”

“I just wanted you to have a good luck charm for your interview. Something to remind you what you’re there for.”

Ian opened the box and saw a beautiful silver pen. An engraving was etched onto the side of the pen: To Ian, My Inspiration. He looked up at Simon, feeling emotion in his chest. “Thank you, Simon. This means a lot to me.” Ian hugged Simon tightly, feeling extremely lucky to have such a caring, considerate boyfriend. Suddenly, a flash of regret surged through him. Ian had tried to push away the thoughts of what he would do if he was offered the job at Walden, but now the time had come to decide once and for all. He knew that he loved Simon, but long distance relationships are notoriously difficult and Ian was concerned about what would happen to their relationship if Simon couldn’t join him. Besides, what if Simon didn’t want to move to Joburg? Was it really fair to make Simon move across the country, away from his mother and little sister, just to follow Ian’s dream? Ian’s plan had always been to put his career first; he was still young, and didn’t see himself falling so deeply in love at that age. But Simon was the one, and Ian wasn’t willing to do anything to jeopardize their relationship. He tried to push aside the thoughts. He still had to get through a week of interviews to get the junior position at Walden Media Group, and if he didn’t make the cut it would take away the need for these difficult decisions. 

“Finish up,” Simon said, pointing to Ian’s half-eaten plate of food. “We both have to be out of here soon. Maybe we can squeeze in a shower together before you need to go…”

Ian immediately perked up, and every thought about the future melted away. “You know just how to make me happy, don’t you,” Ian said with a wink. A week away from Simon would be torture, but Ian was happy to know that he would come back to the happy home that they shared together.