Marriages of Inconvenience

A Novel by William Fowkes

Available for publication.




Bronxville, New York--a handsome and affluent suburban community in Westchester County--is a throwback to a simpler, more homogeneous time whose memory fuels the collective imagination and expectations of its inhabitants. 

Among the accomplished men in this community, however, some lead double lives.  Marriages of Inconvenience tells the story of three closeted gay fathers whose lives take dramatic turns when the truth about each of them comes out.  


(85,000 words, 307 manuscript pages)



NOTE: My full-length play, Marriages of Inconvenience, is based on a portion of this novel. My published short stories, A Proper Bed and Park Avenue, are also based on excerpts from this novel, as are my unpublished stories, A Better Solution and Headlines.





Chapter 1: Chip 1996


Chip Miller tore out of the house pulling Alexandria behind him on her bike. Despite his best efforts, he was late again this year, damn it. Sally told him to go on ahead while she took care of locking up the house and strapping Jonathan into his stroller. Holidays were supposed to be for relaxing, so he didn’t appreciate feeling the same pressure that he experienced every workday morning, when he had to rush to catch his commuter train. But he accepted his fate, knowing that if he didn’t line up on Pondfield Road well before nine o’clock in the morning, he would miss the annual event that always reassured him that he had made the right life choices. Fortunately, he was tall enough to loom over the other people who were already occupying his favorite viewing spot. He picked up Alexandria and put her on his shoulders just as the parade approached and all eyes turned to the first marchers emerging from under the Metro North overpass.


He looked sharply as the Bronxville Police Department and the Eastchester Volunteer Fire Department passed by. Alexandria imitated the crowd and clapped respectfully while he inspected the ranks thoroughly. He was less interested in, though amused by, the Daughters of the American Revolution, four white-haired stalwarts waving regally from their open convertible as they had for as many years as anyone could remember. Next came the volunteers from Lawrence Hospital decked out in pink candy striper uniforms waving to their friends in the crowd. He sensed the mild disdain of some of the women standing around him, who presumably preferred a less visible brand of volunteerism.


Moments later, Alexandria cried out “Matty” when she spotted her brother among the marchers. The Scouts had arrived, signaling the end of the parade. Scouts of every stripe—Cubs, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts—filled the road from curb to curb, marching proudly down the street as the onlookers went wild. Finally seeing Matt Jr. himself, Chip put Alexandria carefully back down on her bike and followed the other fathers and mothers who darted in and out of the advancing throng with video cameras. After capturing sufficient footage of his son’s performance, he returned to Alexandria, grabbed her bike with his free hand, and stood poised for action, for when the last troop passed, just ten minutes after the event had begun, he knew the youth of Bronxville would swarm onto the road on their bikes, roller blades, and skateboards to follow the last marchers. Chip and all the other parents fell in behind, creating a river of citizenry flowing down the middle of the main street—the real Bronxville Memorial Day Parade. And every year, despite his serious reservations about living out in the suburbs, he let himself get swept up into the profound—though temporary—satisfaction and excitement of seeming to belong somewhere.


But as he worked his way along the parade route, marching as dutifully as his neighbors, one hand steadying Alexandria’s bike, one hand operating the video camera, he let his thoughts wander to places he knew he wasn’t supposed to go. Just as he let his eyes dart around the crowd and linger whenever they landed on an appealing face. Occasionally he snapped out of his reveries just long enough to acknowledge a fellow member of the Siwanoy Country Club or an acquaintance from his weekday commute on Metro North, but used his body language to indicate that this wasn’t a good moment to stop and chat.


Although he had perfected the art of fitting in to the point where many of his neighbors considered him the quintessential Bronxville man, representing the very best the village had to offer, he was always conscious of the duplicity of many of his actions and practices. Even the benign ones, like the use of the name “Chip.” His real name was Matthew; but, like many of his male neighbors, he went by a nickname unrelated to his Christian name, nicknames serving as a screening device to differentiate friends from tele-marketers and other strangers.


Like his neighbors, he believed in the myth of Bronxville. What was Bronxville, after all? A good alternative to the city, of course—an affluent haven in lower Westchester with no crime but lots of the right kind of people. But it was more than that. Filled with Tudors, Victorians, Colonials and other reliable varieties of distinguished single-family dwellings, it was a throwback to a time that may have never existed except in the collective imagination of its inhabitants. People who could afford to buy a house in Bronxville were buying a vision of America’s aristocracy, such as it was in the mid nineteen nineties. They were also buying a lifestyle that had changed little over the decades, with an astonishing percentage of the wives staying home to raise the families while the men continued to commute to work in Manhattan. Even the renegade wives who worked outside the home felt compelled to tend to the children single-handedly on weekends while the husbands were off playing golf. Chip embraced all of this. And he certainly looked the part—clean cut, his handsome features crowned by wavy blond hair that was the envy of every stylist in town, and an impeccable dresser, the very model of a 1950s Brooks Brothers man, an anachronism noticed by no one in town. Yet at times he felt almost like a Bolshevik in their midst, not that he even knew much about the Bolsheviks anymore. For one thing, he wasn’t sure he gave a damn about property values. Nor did he particularly like golf. And his notion of the right kind of people was evolving in a very particular direction that did not necessarily point to Westchester at all.  


Perhaps the greatest duplicity of all lay in the fact that he knew he inhabited a nest that was the envy of most of the people around him, consisting of four charming children, a devoted, efficient wife—one who had had an impressive career in her own right before giving it all up to tend to the Miller clan—and an impressive Tudor house on an unusually large lot by the standards of Bronxville, where open land this close to the city was at a premium. Yet he knew he stood to lose it all. And sometimes wasn’t sure he even cared.