A winter chill might stifle estranged friends, but spring seems to be peeking around the corner for them as former buddies weather a late season blizzard in a rural Nebraska cabin.
Thirty-three-year-old gay farmer, Vladimir Wozniak IV, lives for his crops and the hard work that makes them profitable every year. Five miles up the road, former rodeo bull rider and rancher, Thomas Sullivan, is just as committed to his corn-fed beef. Once best friends until VJ kissed Tommy during freshman year in college, they stopped speaking when Tommy rejected VJ.
Ten years later, after the country doctor who helped bring them into the world dies and his will names them as co-owners of property, they decide to check out their inheritance to see which one wants to buy out the other. As they travel down memory lane through the Doc’s correspondence and visit familiar sites on the land, they work their way back to friendship—and beyond.
I don’t know why I was so nervous sitting across from VJ. We’d been close friends growing up. Hell, until he decided to kiss me, we’d been really tight. I’d told him my hopes and dreams. I shared every thought and idea I had. I’d even let him tutor me in literature class, and I‘d written a poem to him when it was assigned. I’d only kept a couple things back.
Now we were a few years past our thirtieth birthdays and shared a border between our spreads, but we hadn’t really talked to each other for a little over a decade.
“Heard you were thinking about going all organic last year,” I said, breaking the silence that had settled over us. Greta’s Café on a Wednesday morning before noon was nearly empty. The farmers and ranchers who’d come into town earlier in the day were either back home or on their way there.
“Yeah. You looking for organic corn and grain for your cattle?” VJ gave me a quick over-the-top-of-the-menu glance.READ MORE
I sighed. “Look, I’m sorry about freshman year. I coulda been smoother, you know….” I wasn’t about to say the word “kiss” out loud. Not here. Not never.
“Yes, you could have been.” VJ kept reading the menu as if it were a particularly difficult Russian novel. “You don’t need to apologize. It was both of us.”
“You don’t seem to be over it, though.”
“I’m over it. Are you? Do you want to talk about it?”
“Nope.” I picked up my menu and hid behind it. So we were just going to let the whole thing drop? Guess it was what we shoulda done in the first place.
The waitress, an older woman who was the aunt of a kid we’d gone to school with, waddled up, took our order and the menus, and then waddled back to the kitchen, returning with two full mugs of coffee.
Without the menus to shelter us, we looked like a snapshot of what we were: two rural Plains guys with nothing much to say for themselves. The silence grew louder between us.
“Okay, we agreed to check out the property. When’s good for you?” I blurted out the question. I was hoping I looked at ease, but I could feel tightness in my jaw. Damn, VJ still looked good. Too damned good.
He sat up straight and tall, making my slouch seem maybe a little too forced. His dark eyes sparkled as if he was reading me and could see that the façade was just window dressing. I still felt the connection between us like a lasso pulling us together. It had bound us as kids and seemed to have kicked in again now we were adults. Why was I always so drawn to him?
“I can take off a few days next week.” VJ’s pause lasted little under a lifetime. “The week after if I needed to.”
“Sounds doable to me,” I answered a little too quick. His eyes widened. He’d caught me, and his answering smile made me feel like I was coming home, which was stupid since my lifestyle was so completely different from his. “We could stay at the cabin. Go out and look at the land during the day. Maybe sleep out under the stars, if it’s not too cold.”COLLAPSE
Sammy on Joyfully Jay wrote:
“Thawing the frozen heart doesn’t happen in a single instant. It happens by degrees and with intention. Let spring into your heart, bit by bit, so that beauty and love can begin to grow once again.” ~ Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW
This is an endearing love story between two friends who, after many trials and tribulations, become what they were meant to be – lifetime partners, as well as friends. Thanks, Pat, for finding a way to bring VJ and Thomas back together where they belonged.
The story is told in alternating points of view with a bit more soul-searching from Tommy. In fact, I felt as though I got to know him quite well in this novella as opposed to VJ who remained more of an obscure character for me. Tommy’s emotions and his worries definitely pull at the heart strings making this an emotional coming out story, plus a friends to lovers tome. We get a real clear picture of how Tommy sought his dad’s approval over being honest with himself or VJ—to the danger of never seeing his best friend again, even though they lived so close to one another.
The Thaw relates one man’s struggle to be all things to all people and losing himself in the process. He falls victim to relying on other’s opinions to shape his life and ends up finds it empty and lacking in anything that can remotely make him happy. When he finally realizes that, he begins really living and that is a beautiful thing to see.
Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention