The Layover – novella
The Layover – novella
Eight years ago, Ondro Smrek fled Slovakia and the bigotry that drove his first lover to take his own life. The demons proved impossible to outrun, though, and now, desperate for somewhere to belong, Ondro is returning to start over. During a layover in Basel, Switzerland, he meets Jamie, an American living in Scotland who is as brilliant as he is beautiful.
Jaded Ondro would never have guessed he could fall in love during a brief layover—until now. When he is put in a position to offer Jamie comfort without hope of recompense, Ondro doesn’t hesitate. Soon, he catches a glimpse of the home he longs for. But with their separation looming, confessing his feelings would only lead to pain and humiliation.
He exhaled long and closed his eyes.
“It’s fine. You’re fine.” What an inadequate thing to say. Luckily, Jamie was probably too exhausted to panic properly.
“You speak German,” he mumbled accusingly. I had to bend my head and put my ear closer to his pale lips; he spoke so softly.
“With disgust and only when forced,” I said, trying lamely to lighten up the situation.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
I hugged him tighter. “I don’t know, honey. You seem to have a fever.”
“I feel like shit.”
Despite everything, I chuckled. “Yeah. You’ve said that.”
He burrowed into my hold, still shivering. “Your flight….”
“I don’t care. I’m not leaving you alone in a foreign hospital. Forget the flights.”
“They won’t let you come with me.”
“Do you want me to come with you?”
He nodded, hiding his face in my chest.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” He was scared. Of course he was.
“I’m not leaving you.”
“Tell them you’re my boyfriend.”
“They’ll make you leave.” He was irrational, but I understood.
In the middle of the dark fear I felt for him, there was a giddy spark. He wanted me to stay, to protect him and take care of him. Me. I felt grateful for the weakness that made him dependent on me. I imagined that had been my most selfish moment so far.
“They won’t. I won’t leave you.”
A referendum on banning same-sex unions was held in the Slovak Republic on 7 February 2015. The referendum was initiated by the religious conservative campaign Alliance for Family (Aliancia za rodinu), aiming to block gay couples from gaining rights in the future. The referendum failed with only 21.4 percent of citizens casting a vote. However, there continues to be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Slovakia, and same-sex marriage is banned by a constitutional amendment. According to an EU poll, Slovakia has high rates of assault and harassment against LGBT people. The overwhelming majority of LGBT people in Slovakia avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of being assaulted, threatened, or harassed.