The Man I Love<br/>

Author: Suanne Laqueur
Publisher: Cathedral Rock Press
Published: 2014-06-16
ISBN(s) 1499715609
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Literary, Women's Fiction, Romance Read Excerpt >

Erik wondered how many important conversations had taken place while he was either up a ladder or holding one.

He was holding one now for Joe Bianco, who was replacing a section of Christmas lights on the porch of La Tarasque.

“You having nightmares?” Joe asked.


“How often?”

“Few times a week,” Erik said.

Joe grunted, yanking at the strand of lights which was caught on a nail. “Every night for me when I came home from Vietnam.”

Erik pictured a younger version of Joe, maybe longer hair and a moustache. Bolting out of bed, gasping and sweating, waking up from the war.

“For how long?”

“How long every night? Years. The bad dreams. Jumping at loud noises. Always looking for danger. Years, it took.”

Still holding the ladder, a foot on the first rung, Erik looked out over the property, at the last light of day turning the horizon pink and orange. The leaves were dead on the Japanese maples. Francine’s gardens were neatly wrapped up for the coming winter. Shrubs encased in burlap, the mulch piled high. Wood smoke hovered on the air.

“Was it different dreams?” he asked. “Or just the same one over and over?”

“A handful of different ones.”

“And you still have them?”

“Sometimes. Some things still have an effect. The sound of a helicopter. Not something I hear often but if I do, it makes me nervous. And thunder. I still hate thunder. Catch.”

Erik caught the string of dead lights and handed up the new one, then the hammer, which Joe hooked through a belt loop. “For me it’s always the same dream. Just the one.”

“What about Daisy?” Joe’s accent always seemed stronger when he was speaking names. Daisy’s name, especially, which softened and slurred into Dézi.

“What about her?”

“Is she having nightmares?” He glanced down at Erik and raised an eyebrow. “I never pretended you weren’t sleeping with her. You want me to start now?”

Erik smiled at his shoes then looked back up at him. “She has them, too,” he said. “She wakes me up or I wake her up. I’d say at least three nights out of a week, someone is waking somebody up.”

Joe held down his palm and Erik put a few nails into it. “I went to war, Erique, and saw death rain from the skies.” He kept speaking, punctuating each quiet sentence with a blow of his hammer. “I took apart land mines so my men could get through, then I put mines back together to kill other men. I blew up bridges and set fire to trees. I saw children gunned down in the fields where they played. I saw women with their bellies sliced open and men with their limbs blown off. I heard screaming in the night I cannot ever un-hear. But I did my tours and came home to build a life where my own child could be safe. I deal with the nightmares because I think of them as extra insurance. I take them on. I can carry the burden, just as long as my family is safe.”

He stopped, a forearm on the top of the ladder, the hammer poised in the air. “Then a boy with a gun goes after my daughter. Now it is my own child with her leg sliced open. My Dézi screaming in the night. And it turns out nothing I did made any difference.”

Erik looked at him, seeing Daisy’s mannerisms and expressions flit in and out of his face.

“What can you do with a world like this? No insurance exists. You can’t control who lives or who dies. All I know, Erique, is if my only daughter is having nightmares, then I want you sleeping next to her. Not just because you love her. But because you understand her.”

Joe indicated the switch with the handle of the hammer, and Erik threw it. The porch lit up, gold and twinkling.

“Ça y est,” Joe said, and carefully came down the ladder. He was struggling with an arthritic hip, resigned it would eventually need to be replaced. He was touchy about being coddled though. Erik helped him fold up the ladder and stow it as unobtrusively as possible.

“Come with me a minute,” Joe said as they went back inside. They hung their jackets on the pegs in the mudroom, then Erik followed Joe’s limping gait down the hall to the small study next to the living room. The inner sanctum. Joe’s desk and bookshelves, antique map collections, and his two beloved Meyer lemon trees by the southwest windows. Both were in bloom, and the citrus smell from the blossoms was strong.

“I’d like you to have something,” Joe said, opening a drawer in his desk. He drew out a small box of navy blue leather, a double, flourished rectangle embossed in gold on its top. He handed it to Erik.

Erik looked at him a moment, then opened the lid.

“I can’t take this,” he said, staring down at the Purple Heart.

“You can,” Joe said. “I am giving it to you.”

Erik shook his head, bewildered. “Why?”

“Because, Erique, this is what you do for the boy who looks a killer in the eye and calls him by name. The boy who crawls through broken glass to get to your daughter. The boy who stares down her wounds and is there when the thunder wakes her up in the night. Technically speaking, a Purple Heart is not the right medal for this situation. But it’s my medal. And I would like you to have it.”

Erik couldn’t speak.

“And one other thing,” Joe said. “If you cross paths with your old man someday, and he has nothing good to say to you? You show him your medal. And you tell him Joe Bianco is proud to call you his son.”

If Joe had smacked him in the chest with a two-by-four, Erik could not have been more felled. “You’re killing me,” he whispered, clutching his decoration.

“You and me both, mon pote.”

The Man I Love   by   Suanne Laqueur   |   See Bio >
One look brought them together. One bullet tore them apart.

From author Suanne Laqueur comes an astonishing debut novel, The Man I Love, which follows a young man's emotional journey to salvage relationships destroyed in the wake of a school shooting.

As a college freshman, Erik Fiskare is drawn to the world of theater but prefers backstage to center stage. The moment he lays eyes on a beautiful, accomplished dancer named Daisy Bianco, his atoms rearrange themselves and he is drawn into a romance both youthfully passionate and maturely soulful. Their love story thrives within a tight-knit circle of friends, all bound by creativity and artistry. A newcomer arrives--a brilliant but erratic dancer with an unquenchable thirst for connection. And when this disturbed friend brings a gun into the theater, the story is forever changed. Daisy is shot and left seriously injured. And Erik finds himself alone in the aisle, looking down the muzzle of a pistol and trying to stop the madness. He succeeds, but with tremendous repercussions to his well-being and that of his loved ones.

Traumatized by the experience, Erik and Daisy spiral into depression and drug use until a shocking act of betrayal destroys their relationship. To survive, Erik must leave school and disconnect from all he loves. He buries his heartbreak and puts the past behind. Or so he believes.

As he moves into adulthood, Erik comes to grips with his role in the shooting, and slowly heals the most wounded parts of his soul. But the unresolved grief for Daisy continues to shape his dreams at night. Once those dreams were haunted by blood and gunfire. Now they are haunted by the refrain of a Gershwin song and a single question: is leaving always the end of loving?

Spanning fifteen years, The Man I Love explores themes of love and sexuality, trauma--physical and mental--and its long-lasting effects, the burden of unfinished business and the power of reconciliation. Through Erik's experience we reflect on what it means to be a man, a son and a leader. A soul mate, a partner and a lover. What it means to live the truth of who you are and what you feel. What it means to fight for what you love.

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