Book of the Day: Saving Mr Fox by Meredith Russell

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Saving Mr Fox by Meredith Russell

How can you hope to find love if you cannot love yourself?Eric Fox is an actor faced with his most difficult role yet—being himself. Seven years ago, on the way to his high school prom, an accident drove him from the arms of his young love, CJ. Eric ran away to LA, and CJ was left to pick up the pieces of his broken heart and broken life.

Guilt and regret has eaten away at Eric since that day, leading him to turn to the darker side of celebrity—to sex and alcohol. On a downward spiral and after a series of bad choices, Eric makes the difficult decision to return home. But returning home and having to spend two weeks with the man he left behind could be an obstacle Eric is nowhere near ready to face.

Can Eric find the strength to ask for CJ’s forgiveness? And more importantly, can he find the courage to forgive himself?

Excerpt:

To describe that night seven years ago as ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ didn’t even come close to what Eric remembered. Rain had fallen in thick sheets and the wiper blades of his old Ford had barely made a difference. Dark clouds had blocked out the moon and the stars and the car’s headlights had done little to illuminate the dark highway. The storm had knocked out the power for what had been the third time that month and, as always, nobody had seemed in a hurry to get it fixed. There had been something in the road, maybe a deer or a dog. The animal had run out from nowhere and he’d swerved. He hadn’t thought he’d hit it and certainly nobody had told him he had. Maybe if it hadn’t been raining things would have been different. There had been so much rain. His car had skidded and hydroplaned across the road and into the other lane. The rest of the story blurred into white and red. There were gaps in his memory and all he remembered were the screams, the bright headlights of the truck and the blood on his hands.

“Eric?”

Eric Fox leaned forward and focused on the floor. He held his hands in the space between his knees and rubbed them together as he bounced his legs up and down. Composing himself, he raised his head and eyed the lady therapist sitting in the chair opposite him. Despite what many people believed, he wasn’t crazy. He didn’t need some shrink to rationalise his behaviour. He’d fucked up. Simple as that. The past was the past and it was nobody’s business but his—his and the bottle of Jack.

“You don’t want to talk about it?” she said and lowered her notebook. Her eyes were rich brown in colour and held questions, lots of them. “You know anything we discuss here is confidential.”

“Sure, unless you consider me a danger to myself or others, right?”

Madeleine Keaton gave a short nod. She was here to assess him and see if he was a risk to himself or anyone else. He wasn’t. She’d realise that and then this little venture could come to an end.

“Well, I’m not. It was a mistake. It’s the business, right? Sex and partying?” He frowned. “I didn’t mean for it to happen. I didn’t mean any of it, and if I was anyone else, no one would care. But I’m not, I’m me, so instead I have the press at my door, and men and women lining up to sell my dirty little secrets.”

“Is that how you see your relationships with them?”

There it was again, the topic of relationships. In the hour session, Madeleine had already prompted discussion of his family, friends, colleagues and lovers. The woman seemed obsessed with attaching blame. There was no one to blame, just his own stupidity, every single damn time something went to shit in his life.

“No. I’m not ashamed. I’m not some confused kid.” He was a twenty-five year old man living in LA. He had slept with men and women, and refused to be put into a box—gay, straight, bisexual. What the hell did it matter anyway? As long as he was happy, right?

I am so fucking happy.

Male or female, he was attracted to both, but he had to admit he did have a type—dark, tanned, athletic. With a heavy sigh, he tried to push away the memories of the man he’d just described. The man his lovers mirrored—the first person he had ever loved. Tension swept through him as he was brought back to that night seven years ago. They should never have been out on the road. The weather had been crappy and it had just been some stupid high school dance. But he had insisted. He’d wanted to have fun and dance and hold hands. He’d wanted to say, “Fuck you,” to anyone who gave a damn about two boys doing all those things. As it turned out, it had been a mistake. He’d been an idiot.

Clearing his throat, he met the therapist’s curious eyes. She’d have a field day with all that. He tried to imagine her concocting some theory about his behaviour. Something about him trying to relive his first love through strangers, but never quite finding what he needed—the same emotional attachment. Tiredly, he rubbed away the twinge in his chest. She wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

CJ.

He smiled at the memory of the man, or rather the boy as he had been back then—eighteen years old and the most beautiful soul Eric had ever been fortunate enough to meet.

Madeleine had seen the smile. “What are you thinking?”

CJ was the first guy Eric had ever had feelings for. Senior year had been the one time Eric had truly felt close to someone. For eight months, life had been perfect. CJ was maybe the only person who had ever got to know the real Eric. Yeah, Eric had screwed his way through life and LA for the last seven years, but nothing and nobody had ever come close again.

“If you want me to help you, you need to start trusting me.”

Trust. He didn’t trust anyone anymore. People were always waiting for him to fuck up so they could say, “I told you so,” and stab him in the back.

“Eric?”

Eric glanced from Madeleine to the clock above her head. “Time’s up,” he said and got to his feet. His agent had insisted he get himself straightened out. Apparently, no studio would touch a suicidal drunk. He was a drunk, yes, but suicidal? As he’d told the cops and doctors, it had been a mistake. After a little too much Jack and partying, he had been rushed to the ER at five in the morning, gotten his stomach pumped and had been spoken to by the head psych. And, as he’d been told in no uncertain terms, whether he was suicidal or not, he was a twenty-five year old with the insides of a man in his fifties. Drinking day in and day out wasn’t doing him or his liver any favours.

“Next week. Same time,” Madeleine stated in her silky and professional tone. Despite the shrink thing, she was kind of hot. Her hair matched her eyes and was pulled back from her face in a tight ponytail. To Eric’s disappointment, there wasn’t a hint of cleavage. Her silk blouse was buttoned to the collar and tucked into her bootleg-cut dress pants. The hint of three inch heels, however, peeped enticingly from beneath the black material, and Eric was halfway to interested in the seemingly straight-laced Doctor Madeleine.

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