Release Date: February 4, 2016
Pages or Words: 246 pages
Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: C.B. Messer
"Speakerphone. Put me on speaker so you can use your hands. You're going to need both hands, and I won't be held responsible for you mucking up your phone. Speaker."
Teddy set his phone on the counter and switched to the speaker, then stood waiting.
"Hello?" Jules said. "Is this thing on?"
"Sorry," Teddy said. "I'm still here."
"It sounded like you'd suddenly disappeared. I was starting to believe in the rapture," Jules said, and Teddy heard, again, the nervous chuckle.
Their conversation was awkward and full of strange pauses in which there was nothing right to say, and they focused mostly on how awkward and strange it was until Jules told Teddy to dump the almond paste on the counter and start to knead in the sugar.
"I'm doing it, too, along with you," Jules said.
"I'm not sure whether that makes it more or less weird," Teddy admitted, dusting everything in front of him with sugar.
"It's just like giving a back rub," Jules told him. "Roll gently into the dough with the heel of your hand, lean in with your upper body. Think loving things. Add a little sugar each time—watch for when it's ready for more. Not too much at once."
Several moments passed when all that held their connection was a string of huffed and effortful breaths and the soft thump of dough. Teddy felt Jules pressing and leaning forward into his work, felt the small sweat and ache that had begun to announce itself in Jules's shoulders, felt it when he held his breath as he pushed and then exhaled in a rush as he flipped the dough, felt it all as surely as if Jules's body were there next to him, as if he might reach to the side and, without glancing over, brush the sugar from Teddy’s forearm, a gesture which might have been, if real, if the result of many long hours spent in the kitchen together, sweet and familiar and unthinking.
"My grandmother and I used to make this," Jules breathed after a long silence, "when I was little. Mine would always become flowers. She would always make hers into people."
Teddy understood that he needn't reply, that Jules was speaking to him, yes, but speaking more into the empty space in which he stood as a witness, talking a story into the evening around him, and he, Teddy, was lucky to be near, to listen in as the story spun itself out of Jules and into the open, open quiet.
When the dough was finished and Jules had interrupted himself to say, "There, mine's pretty done. I bet yours is done by now, too," Teddy nodded in agreement—and even though he knew Jules couldn't see him, he was sure Jules would sense him nodding through some miniscule change in his breathing or the invisible tension between them slackening just the slightest bit. And he did seem to know, because Jules paused and made a satisfied noise that sounded as if all the spring-coiled readiness had slid from his body. "This taste," Jules sighed, "is like Proust's madeleine."
They spent an hour playing with the dough and molding it into shapes they wouldn't reveal to each other. Teddy felt childish and happy and inept and far too adult all at once as he listened to the rhythmic way Jules breathed and spoke, the way his voice moved in and out of silence, like the advance and retreat of shallow waves that left in their wake little broken treasures on the shore.
Only his fingers moved, fumbling and busy and blind as he listened, his whole self waiting for Jules to tell him the next thing, whatever it might be.
Buy the book: Amazon
Meet the author:
Alysia Constantine lives in Brooklyn with her wife, their two dogs, and a cat. When she is not writing, she is a professor at an art college. Before that, she was a baker and cook for a caterer, and before that, she was a poet.
Sweet is her first novel.
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Q and A with Alysia Constantine1. Let’s start out by getting to know you. Tell us 4 things about yourself that are not in your bio.
One: I don't like birds--especially pigeons--and especially when they fly over my head. They defecate with no warning, sometimes in mid-flight. Who wants to be near that?
Two: I walk with a cane due to a disability, but I cannot give up wearing modest heels. I may be a lesbian, but I refuse the stereotypical Sister George orthopedic shoes. Thus, I sometimes get snarky comments from jerks who think I must be faking my disability.
Three: I was goth (albeit a natural blonde one) before goth was a thing--back in the early 80s. I had a purple streak in my hair, listened to Echo and the Bunnymen, and thought I was really counter-cultural.
Four: I know I really love someone when I want to kill her in her sleep. The less close I feel to someone, the nicer and more solicitous I'm inclined to be--strangers get the best treatment, and family sees all my meanness. It's messed up, but I was raised by a very stern immigrant father, and public politeness was the top commandment. Hate is a luxury of intimacy.
2. If you could go anywhere, all expenses paid, where would you go?
I know it's not very exciting, but my partner and I have talked for a long time about visiting Iceland, and we're saving our pennies for that. I'd like to go there. But if all expenses were paid, I'd probably go to the most expensive restaurant in the world, or the best spa for a free massage.
3. List three books you have recently read and would recommend
The Dream Songs by John Berryman (though perhaps that's cheating, because it's a re-read)
Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
Small Wonders by Courtney Lux (which just happens to be a book released by Interlude Press... that is why I read it, but certainly not why I wound up loving it!)
4. What do you always order in a favorite restaurant?
I always judge a restaurant by how good its veggie burger is. But I'm inclined to order anything of seitan, especially skewers with peanut sauce.
5. What do you hope to accomplish in the next 12 months?
I would really like to finish writing this new book I'm working on, and to find a good, happy place to live (my partner and I are in the process of moving to the west coast from NYC). We're hoping to start up a new business out there, and I'm thinking of working with that instead of professing, so it will be a huge life change in many ways. I'm hoping to do all that smoothly, and happily.
6. What do you like to read?
Books! Nah, okay, I guess that's not fair. If something is well-written, I'll enjoy it, regardless of genre. But I always return to poetry, to cultural theory, and to really good realistic contemporary fiction.
7. What do you look when choosing a book to read?
If a friend suggests it, I'm there. If I find a free copy on the street, I'll try it, too. Usually, I read the first few pages, and if I'm pulled in, then I keep going. What gets me hooked is feeling conflicted--it's why I enjoy reading theory. I like to argue, and I want a book to prove something to me I was initially against--it might be an idea, or the merits of a character or situation. I like to get schooled, I like to get shut up, I like my expectations dashed by a good book. I like to get my world a little rocked.
8. What do you need someone to invent right away?
I think it would be really awesome if someone would invent a compassion pill. Like, something you could slip into someone's orange juice if they're being rude to their waitress at Denny's, or something that could be put into the afternoon coffees of despots and dictators and, uh, American congresspeople to make them care more about the folks who are too poor or too disenfranchised to be taken into consideration in "official" decisions.
9. What does the word "romantic" mean to you?
I suppose it means "unrealistic," which can be a good or bad thing. Realism is great, but it's kind of the opposite of dreaming. New discoveries, new ways of being and thinking, don't happen because of realism; they happen because someone imagines the world as it could be, not as it is.
10. Can you share something about your works in progress?
I am currently working on a novel that takes place in a circus. All the characters work in the circus; there's a tight-rope walker, an underwater mermaid, a "danger-eater," a fat lady. Most of the characters work in the circus freak show.
Tour Dates & Stops:
4-Feb - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Book Lovers 4Ever, Hearts on Fire
5-Feb - A.M. Leibowitz, Love Bytes, Bayou Book Junkie
8-Feb - Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Divine Magazine, MM Good Book Reviews
9-Feb - Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance, Kirsty Loves Books, Just Love Romance
10-Feb - Happily Ever Chapter, My Fiction Nook, Havan Fellows
11-Feb - V's Reads, Kiki's Kinky Picks, Lee Brazil, Elisa - My Reviews and Ramblings
12-Feb - Jessie G. Books, 3 Chicks After Dark, Book Reviews and More by Kathy
15-Feb - Wicked Faerie's Tales and Reviews, Three Books Over the Rainbow, BFD Book Blog
16-Feb - Dawn’s Reading Nook, Inked Rainbow Reads
17-Feb - Prism Book Alliance, Up All Night, Read All Day, Molly Lolly, Alpha Book Club