Here’s my flash with the Free Fiction Friday Group!
IF YOU LOVE SOMETHING
( IYLS )
David and Jesse are childhood friends who get separated in their teens but meet up again at university in Newcastle, Australia.
They soon find out that though some things remain the same, other change… oh boy, do they change.
“So you knew you liked me that way, the first moment you saw me again?” he asked shyly.
“Yes, Jere, from that first glance.”
Seeing my normally brash and confident Jeremy so shy and giddy made me feel privileged and special. I was certain no one else had ever seen him this way.
And so our kisses and confessions continued, with a giggle and a chuckle thrown in when we discovered that each of us had endured our ‘heaven and hell’ moments while spooning in his tent. He didn’t even mind when I told him how I’d betrayed his trust—he just laughed softly into my shoulder and called me a dirty kinky boy.
“Speaking of spooning, it’s getting awfully late, and you have to work tomorrow.” Leaning over me he cupped my face, leaning in to kiss me tenderly. “You need to get some sleep, Davie.”
Turning on his side away from me, he grabbed my arm and pulled me in close behind him, sighing contentedly. And so we lay, same as we had that last morning camping; only this time I didn’t need courage to press my lips to the nape of his neck.
CHAPTER 28: THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE
What can I say about waking that first morning with Jere as part of a couple?
It was like being a kid again; lying on your back in the cool grass with the soft hum of nature in your ears and the warmth of the sun on your face. It was like popping a favorite sweet in your mouth, like the sensation of that first spray of hot water on tired muscles. It was like all the things I loved best in the world, all rolled into one. It was wonderful.
We hadn’t changed position. I was still spooning him with my arm around his chest, and my nose in his hair. With closed eyes, I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with the faintly almond and citrusy smell. I wriggled a little, snuggling even closer to him and felt him stir in my arms. In one graceful move, he rolled to face me, burying his face into my chest, his hair tickling the underside of my chin.
A frisson of fear traveled up my spine. Something was wrong.
I swallowed, pressing my lips to his curls. “Jere? You okay?”
The small shake of his head made me close my eyes as panic claimed me the way a storm tossed wave claims the beach; crashing and gobbling up the sand, inevitable and unstoppable. It left me feeling faintly weak and nauseous. I drew in a slow deep breath trying to calm myself and still the now frantic thundering of my heart. With his face to my chest I knew he could feel its erratic beat.
“What’s wrong?” I whispered.
“I’m worried… scared… about what this all means. About how it changes everything. About people seeing me differently, treating me differently. Friends… family… what I thought my future was going to be.”
His words were disjointed, and muffled by my chest, but he may as well have declared them with a loudspeaker. I held him close to me, terrified that it may well be the last time I’d be able to. Tears threatened to overwhelm me—it seemed as if once again someone I loved was leaving me.
“It all… everything hit me just as I was about to fall asleep… haven’t slept… panicking…”
His words left him in fits and spurts; garbled, half-finished thoughts and sentences.”
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“Didn’t want to worry you… hurt you.”
“I wish you’d woken me, so we could talk.” I rubbed his back, trying to soothe away his fears.
“Davie, I don’t know if I can do this.”
His voice was anguished, and if anything he managed to press himself even closer to me. I took comfort in that; at least, he wasn’t pushing me away.
“Define ‘this’,” I whispered needing to know exactly what I was dealing with.
“I don’t know if I can be one half of an out and proud gay couple.”
Easing myself down the bed I brought us face to face. “It’s not like you have to race out the front door and declare it to the world this morning, Jere. There’s no rush. Most of us need some time to process it all, and get used to the idea before we come out. I can be patient. I can wait.”
“What if I’m never ready?” he asked, his anxiety a tangible thing.
“One day, you will be.”
The look he gave spoke volumes about his doubt. I watched, helpless, as he rolled onto his back away from me and eased himself into a sitting position on the bed.
“What makes you so sure, Davie?”
I wanted to say all the right things to reassure him—I didn’t want to lose him forever because of carelessly uttered words—and so I took my time, pulling myself up the bed to sit beside him, my legs outstretched, our thighs almost touching. I’d have preferred to seat myself on his lap, distracting him from his doubts with my kisses, but I knew that would only help in the short term.
“Because of the man you are, Jeremy. You’re not the type of man to live a lie. You’re not the type of person who is capable of pretending to be something, and someone, you’re not.”
“I’m not so sure.”
Hearing the uncertainty in his voice was like taking a dagger to my gut. I absolutely hated hearing him sound so hesitant. I wanted my confident and sure of himself Jeremy back. I moved to straddle his thighs, reaching out to cup his face in my hands.
“Well, I am sure. I’m sure because I know you, Jere.” Leaning in, I placed a chaste kiss on his lips, relieved to feel them soften and reciprocate. “Jeremy, I doubt there’s a gay alive that hasn’t been where you are right now. We’ve all questioned and doubted ourselves. We’ve all been scared and worried. The details and circumstances might differ, but the basic emotions are pretty much true for all of us. It’s hard. I know it is. I’ve been there. I’ve been where you are. There truly is no rush. We can take as long as you need.”
“But it doesn’t seem fair to you. Dragging you back into the closet, I mean.”
“I wouldn’t be back in the closet. A couple of your mates already know I’m gay. They know we’ve known each other since we were toddlers. We just need to be careful… discrete. I can do that. I can be discrete until you’re ready.”
His face was still clouded with doubt, his bottom lip firmly in the grip of his teeth.
“Do you want me? This? Us?” I asked, waving my hand and indicating the air between us. Please say yes. Please say yes. Please say yes, I silently chanted, almost willing the words onto his tongue.
“Yes.” Thank fucking Christ!
“Then we’ll get there. We’ll get there together. I know we will.”
“Do you really believe that, David?”
I knew he needed me to be strong and sure now—if I showed any of my fear or doubt he’d crumble, and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him before we’d even had a chance to be an ‘us’, and so I infused my voice with as much confidence as I could muster.
His eyes searched mine and I prayed to every deity known to man that he’d see in my features whatever it was he needed to give him the strength to see this thing through with me. I did not for one moment underestimate just how difficult or confusing some aspects of it would be for him. Finding out you’re gay as a teen is tough, but at least I’d had a few years to get used to the idea before I spoke of it to anyone. For Jeremy, it more than likely felt as if he’d been hit by a bus.
The moment stretched on, his gaze unrelenting in its quest for God only knew what. Please see what you need to see, Jere… find what you need to find. Please don’t pull away from me… not now when we’ve only just connected with each other. Give me, give us, a chance. My nerves felt as if they would snap from the tension, like a branch pushed beyond its capacity to bend.
Unable to bear it any longer I leaned in, desperately needing to have my lips make contact with his. My heart pounded in fear as the excruciating silence continued between us, and I realized if I couldn’t convince him that this may well be the last opportunity I’d ever have to taste his sweetness. With our lips so close that I could feel his warm breath wafting over the moist surface of my mouth, I closed my eyes, only to pull back at his unexpected words.
“David, maybe you’d be better off with someone like Phillip?”
For a moment I stared at him blankly, my mind not connecting the dots. Phillip? I searched his face for an answer, but with his eyes downcast the only clue lay in the blush staining his cheeks. Oh, Phillip, Phillip! Now my brain was connecting the dots at lightning speed, and had I not been feeling so unsure of Jeremy at that very moment, I might even have felt proud of myself at the speed with which it all came together for me. He’s read Phillip’s note. That’s the only possible conclusion. When? Fuck, it has to have been yesterday when he came to pick me up for work… when he came with coffee and I was in the shower.
“Who is he, anyway?”
In my mind’s eye, I saw myself as I’d been that morning after my night spent with Phillip, carelessly throwing the note, along with the rest of the contents of my pockets, on the kitchen bench before I’d dived into the shower. It was probably still there, considering I’d never gotten around to punching it into my phone. Between Jere turning up on my doorstep convincing me to go camping with him, work, and our getting together, I’d hardly been home.
Was the note what had motivated Jeremy to come into my room and kiss me? Would he have, had he not read it? Had he felt jealous? Why hadn’t he said anything until now? Why did he read it in the first place? If I were in his shoes, would I have? I liked to think not, but I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t like feeling that doubt.
Uneasiness coiled in my belly, making me feel a little queasy—I had to admit, I didn’t like that he’d invaded my privacy, reading something of mine that wasn’t intended for his eyes. I didn’t like the idea of not being able trust him to respect my personal space. I badly wanted to trust him, and for him to trust me. I wanted us both to be trustworthy. If there was to be an ‘us’ I didn’t want our ‘us’ to be riddled with fear, jealousy, and doubt. Biting down on my negative feelings, I focused on his question. Right now he was feeling apprehensive and unsure of himself and needed some answers and that, I decided, was more important—the whole privacy and trust thing was an issue to be tackled on another day… if we actually went on to have ‘another day.’
Racking my brain, I tried to remember the exact wording of the note, sighing when it escaped me, the knowledge hanging tantalizingly just out of reach of my seeking mind. Abandoning my attempt, I drew in a deep breath because, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter how innocent or explicit the message had been. It was enough that he knew it was from a man who was a potential love interest.
He was uncharacteristically patient as he waited for my reply, his normally fearless, direct gaze remaining focused on his clasped hands as they rested in his lap. I wondered if he really wanted the truth from me, or merely an illusion of the truth he could live with. For me, though, there was no choice—if this was the start of something with him I would not begin it with lies and half-truths, and if it was the end of all but our friendship, well, I couldn’t end it that way either.
Smothering a sigh, and resisting the urge to inch that bit closer, I softly answered him, “Phillip is a guy I had a one-night stand with.”
“I didn’t think you were like that?” he said, raising his gaze to briefly look me in the eye before tilting his face down and away from me again as he plucked at the sheets with his long fingers. His faintly accusatory tone set my gut on edge. I had a strong sense that things were going to get worse before they got better—if they got better.
“I’m not usually,” I stated. “But after what Mrs. Gilmore said and our argument—”
“Hang on. What? It was last Wednesday night? You hooked up last Wednesday night?” And now his eyes were on my face, twin hot pokers scorching me. The shock and horror in his voice seemed to have a physical presence, lashing me and causing me to flinch involuntarily.
“Yes,” I whispered. That the knowledge would upset him, I could understand, I wouldn’t have liked it either, had our positions been reversed, but surely he could see that whether it was recent or not was unimportant. It was, after all, before him, before us.
“Jesus, Davie!” he exclaimed. “So much for fucking wanting me from the moment you saw me again.”
He moved as if to push me off his lap, but I stopped him, trapping beneath me, my hands on the bedhead on either side of his head. I was sure in my gut that if I let him escape me now we’d be over before we’d even really begun. More than ever, I ached, absolutely fucking ached, to kiss away the anger I saw on his beautiful face, but kisses weren’t going to solve our problems. Words would. I needed to find the right words.
“I did… I do. Jere, but I thought you were straight. That I had no chance. It was before you… before us.”
“So you just substituted me with someone else? Just went out and picked up some random guy to fuck instead? Kind of makes a lie of me being the one you really wanted.” The look of mocking cynicism sat badly on his young face.
Really? To be honest his statement seemed a little naïve and unfair to me. By his own admission, he’d had his fair share of one-night stands and brief flings, so I felt sure he understood the concept of being able to have sex with someone that you’d just met and didn’t necessarily care for, but one look at his closed off expression told me now was not the time to point that obvious fact out to him.
Now, if I wanted him to give us a chance, I had to ignore his sarcasm and do some talking… and fast.
“Jeremy, I thought you were straight. I thought there was no hope for me,” I repeated, in the hope that this time my words would penetrate. “Was I meant to go through life as a monk, never having sex again because I thought I could never be with you?”
Unable to resist the desire to touch him any longer I brushed the hair back from his forehead, needing to see his face. “After we argued, I realized Mrs. Gilmore had been right and I’d spent the previous sixteen months moping, only living a half-life, and so I went out. Not with the intention of picking up, but yeah, I have to admit, I was definitely open to it.”
“I don’t like it. I don’t like that you were so recently with another guy…” he trailed off, his face flushed and his gaze avoiding mine.
“I don’t like the thought of you having spent the last few years fucking a whole bunch of women either, Jeremy, but they’re the past… or at least, I hope they are.”
And boy wasn’t that the truth. I didn’t like it. Not one little bit. The thought of Jere with a woman put the fear of God into me. I was fairly certain he was bi rather than gay and that meant he could fall in love with a woman, one who could offer him something I couldn’t—a picture postcard life just like his parents had. With a woman he could have his socially acceptable life complete with a white picket fence and 2.2 kids…
However, I wanted him and I was damned if I would give up on winning his heart without a fight. Whether he knew it or not he already had mine, had always had it.
“Jere, Phillip is most definitely the past. God, he barely registered on my Richter scale.” Shuffling closer, I cupped his face, my thumbs stroking the rosy apples of his cheeks. “I hate that something I did upset you, Jeremy, but I’m not going to feel ashamed or apologize for doing something that gave me back a sense of myself. I needed to cut loose and do something like that. Besides if I hadn’t, I probably would have sent you packing the next morning, and then none of the last couple of days would have happened. We wouldn’t have had yesterday and last night. I wouldn’t be here now.” His eyes still avoided mine, his breath coming in shallow pants. Fuck, maybe he doesn’t want me here now. Dropping my hands from his face, I turned my face away, suddenly feeling too drained to look at him any longer. Bracing myself, I asked, “Do you still want me here? Would you prefer me to leave?”
Silence met my questions. Fuck, why do I always have to be so fucking honest? Why couldn’t I just lie and tell him I was sorry and leave it at that? I’m going to lose him over someone who meant bloody nothing to me. Maybe I should tell him he gets me more excited with one look than Phillip did after twenty minutes of sucking my cock? Maybe I should tell how deep my feelings really do go?
Knowing I needed to man-up and accept his decision, whatever it was, I turned my head to face him. His normally lush and smiling lips were pressed into a hard, uncompromising line and I hated seeing them that way. I wanted them back to their normal soft fullness. I wanted them rosy and swollen from my kisses. My mind emptied of thought as I leaned in and covered his mouth with mine, my tongue begging for entry. After a brief moment of hesitation he opened to me, surrendering his mouth to my needy plundering. I tried to control the desperate edge to my kiss, but failed miserably, feeling it leak into his mouth with every stroke of my tongue.
He was saved from being consumed by my weakness by the sounding of the alarm on my phone, it once again being the instrument to bring me back to reality with an unwelcome thud. I’d set it to go off early, ensuring I had plenty of time to get ready for work as I certainly didn’t want to push my luck with Howie by being late two days in a row. Reluctantly, I pulled back a fraction, planting one last chaste kiss on his lips before pressing my forehead to his.
“I should get ready for work.”
Easing myself back on his thighs, I smiled softly at him, a shaft of pain piercing my heart to still see the shadow of his ire on his face. Panic fluttered in my belly, tightening my chest. I didn’t want to go to work and leave him alone to stew over things, and I knew that is just what he’d do. Sometimes it sucked knowing him so well. The temptation to ring in sick was almost overwhelming. I wanted to keep myself front and center with Jeremy, I didn’t want to give him time to doubt me, or to brood and think we would both be better off by not pursuing a relationship.
“Are you going to ring Laurence before you leave or when you get to work?” he asked, once again taking me totally by surprise. I stared at him stupidly, at least, I think I must have looked stupid, because he felt the need to explain further. “You know, to cancel your date tonight.” Fuck, what else has he spent the night brooding over? The range of possibilities had the seed of fear he’d already planted in my guts put down roots.
My shoulders slumped in defeat before I even opened my mouth to reply. I just knew he wasn’t going to like what I had to say. Fuck, how did this morning start out so wonderful and spiral out of control so quickly? I’d woken happy and content and now felt as if my balls were on the chopping block.
“I feel I owe it to him to explain it all to his face,” I whispered, steeling myself for Jeremy’s response.
He didn’t disappoint.
Wriggling out from beneath me as if my touch burned, he climbed from the bed and put some distance between us. He glared at me, his lips once again narrowed to an uncompromising line. “You’re still going to go on a date with him?”
“No, not a date. I’m going to meet him, and over one drink, tell him that I am seeing you and therefore unavailable and apologize if I misled him.” I spoke quietly, but firmly, hating that what I felt was the right thing to do was putting me at odds with Jeremy.
“He wants to fuck you! You’re a smart guy, you have to know that,” he exclaimed, his body visibly vibrating with anger. “If you go tonight he’s going to put the moves on you!”
“Look, maybe he does want me.” One look at Jeremy’s face had me rephrasing. “Okay, so yeah, the guy wants into my pants, but his wanting does not equal his getting, Jeremy. How many times do I have to say it? I want you. Only you. Christ, the only reason I said yes in the first place was because I felt I had no chance with you!” I could hear my frustration seeping into my voice and tried to rein it in. My hand went to my hair, clutching and tugging at it painfully, but I welcomed it. It served as a great counterpoint to the anger and pain warring in my heart over the whole stupid argument.
“I don’t want you to go,” he replied, his voice loud and mulish, matching the stubborn tilt to his chin. I knew that look, having seen it more than a few times in arguments with his mother. “I don’t trust him.”
“You don’t have to trust him, Jere, but you do need to trust me.”
“He’s older… he’s more experienced than us. He’ll shmarm his way into your bed,” he persisted.
“No, he won’t.” My voice rose to match his in pitch. “He won’t because all I can think about… all I want is you, and you are too important to me for me to even notice someone else, let alone be tempted to screw around with them.” Fuck, I was practically telling him I loved him. Couldn’t he hear that?
“I don’t like it.” Part of me admired his persistence—he wouldn’t be the Jeremy I knew and loved if he didn’t strive to get what he wanted to the bitter end, but I needed to get through to him. How could I make him understand?
“Jeremy, I’ve been taking him flying for six months now, and even though you’ve made it clear you don’t like him, he’s become a friend to me. Jesus, I’ve seen the man at his most vulnerable. I’ve seen him shaking so badly with fear his own legs wouldn’t hold him up anymore, and I couldn’t even get him into the bloody plane—we just sat on the ground for an hour and half staring at it.” My voice was heated as I tried to make him understand why I felt this obligation to tell Laurence of my feelings for Jeremy face-to-face. “The next three flights were spent sitting in the plane in the fucking hangar, for God’s sake, while he puked into a bucket. That creates a bond, you know. I know he acted all weird and flirty when you met him, but honestly, I’ve never seen him act like that before. If you got to know him you might even like him. He’s led a very interesting life.” Seeing the look of skepticism on Jeremy’s flushed face had me rushing to stop him from jumping to the wrong conclusion. “I don’t mean in a guy-guy way, Jere. He’s a doctor, just like your dad, and he’s spent quite a few years doing missionary work in Africa, too. Same as you and your family did. He has the most amazing stories.” Jeremy’s expression didn’t soften. “At the end of the day, I feel I owe it to him to say what I have to say to his face and not via a text or even over the phone, and I have to do what I think is right. Please at least try to understand, Jere.”
Seeing his body sag as the anger left him, his ass coming to rest on the corner of the bed, frightened me more than the rise of it had. “Fuck, Davie, what am I doing? This is not me. Maybe you really are better off with Laurence or that Phillip guy. They at least know who they are and what they want.” The look in his eyes scared the crap out of me, as did his words. No! Fuck, no! Don’t damn-well give up on us before we’ve even really fucking started!
My inner voice was screaming, but somehow I managed to keep my voice calm. “No. Do not fucking say that. I want you. The last twenty-four hours have been the happiest of my life. They eclipse anything and everything that came before.”
And then I did it. Something I’d once promised myself I would never do. I begged.
“Please, Jeremy, don’t do this. Don’t push me away. Don’t give up on me… on us. Please… I can be patient… I can wait. Please give us a chance.” I love you!
“David, I can’t lie to you. I hate the fact that you’re going to have a drink with the guy, but at the same time, you wouldn’t be my Davie if you didn’t do the right thing by him.” His eyes were on his hands as they twined and untwined themselves in his lap, but all I could hear was his ‘my Davie’ and in an instant I was on the floor, kneeling before him.
“Jeremy, you can trust me. I would never betray you, never, and I most certainly wouldn’t do anything to intentionally hurt you, not ever.” I placed my face on his thighs, beyond dignity, beyond pride. “Tell me what you want. Do you want me to go back to my flat afterward, or do you want me to come here?”
“Come here,” he whispered, and I hoped he couldn’t feel the relieved moisture that filled my eyes on his bare skin.
Oh boy, that was one tough chapter.
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